Charity, growing up, politics, Responsibility

The April Of Dimes

As a Baby Boomer kid, I remember The March Of Dimes https://www.marchofdimes.org as my first exposure to charities. I was handed a collection card at school, and expected to fill it by begging dimes from my parents and their friends, or even (gasp!) contributing my own meager allowance! Even during the Great Depression, every “buddy” was expected to at least have a DIME to spare, right? https://youtu.be/nLZTdhY1GVE

The thing is, I’ve always had a thing about money. While I didn’t think our family was “poor”, I knew that we didn’t have a lot of “extra” – certainly not enough to go splashing money willy-nilly into other people’s hands. And by the late 1950s, most kids my age had been vaccinated and polio was no longer the scourge it had been when the March Of Dimes charity was started by FDR in 1938. Ella Fitzgerald, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe and even Elvis still made appearances in support, but they had a LOT more dimes than I did! – and besides, I had better things to do with MY dimes, like saving for a piano! https://marilyn801.wordpress.com/2019/05/30/i-love-a-piano/

I don’t like to think of myself as stingy. I’ve donated blood. I donate books to the library and assorted items to Goodwill. I volunteer my time and energy to worthy causes. However, my reticence to make hard cold cash contributions has persisted my entire life, and even increased in recent years; for one thing, I’ve noticed malfeasance on the part of some charities and seen various “Matildas” take-the-money-and-run-Venezuela. For another, I’ve become aware of ulterior motives creeping into and polluting original causes; internet scams, email entreaties, GoFund Me campaigns and even mainstream media reporting on the horrors of war all muddy the waters of what constitutes giving. When gifts-in-kind aren’t accepted, but only MONEY welcomed… well, that raises a red flag for me about the nature of the actual charity.

easy for YOU to say, my billionaire buddy!

And I abhor being shamed. That just doesn’t work for me. I think being bullied into making a contribution is appalling and the opposite of sincere generosity.

So what exactly IS our responsibility? I like the idea that charity is kindness and compassion – both qualities that have a lot more to do with maintaining a state of heart and mind than making financial donations. My responsibility comes down to owning my own actions – or inactions. There are so many ways to delude and blame others for our lives – so many ways to be distracted and irresponsible. Being honest with myself and the world is the most charitable thing I can do.

and what I need for and from myself
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growing up, learning, music, music biz, politics, self-acceptance

A Curmudgienne’s Gratitude List

Not to go all-Pollyanna on ya, but here we go!

I’m grateful to have been born an American, and to still “thrill to see Old Glory paint the breeze”.

I’m grateful to have dear friends and family in my life, who listen to my concerns and respond with honesty, reason and loving support.

I’m grateful to have most of my original body parts, and not to miss the ones that aren’t there anymore.

I’m grateful to have my own row to hoe and not be held responsible for the dreadful state of rest of the farm.

I’m grateful to have experienced breathtakingly beautiful music. ❤️🎶🎵🎶🎵🎶❤️ And to have created and recorded some of my own that I’m still proud of.

I’m grateful I can still laugh when I hear blatant lies. Sometimes. Other times, I’m grateful I can still cry.

I’m grateful to have eluded COVID so far, to still be able to smell horse manure and to still have the agility to DUCK when it’s comin’ at me!

There! That wasn’t so bad, was it?

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music, music biz, politics

Nothing Personal – It’s Just Business!

The older I get, the more I understand THE GODFATHER. I first watched the film by myself after moving to NYC in 1972 and still shudder recalling my visceral reaction to certain scenes. The Corleones had no compunction about imposing their brutal “justice” on anyone or anything that stood in their way.

Since then I’ve noticed as life became less “friendly”, with fewer instances of kindness and compassion, especially in the corporate world. As technology progresses, people feel more connected while in reality living at more of a distance. This somehow seems to make previously unsociable behavior more accepted among many.

A couple months ago I got a notice from google that a website in Russia was illegally hosting almost 50 of my recordings online, without permission or payment – available for free to anyone and everyone to stream or download. When I went there to check it out, I noticed that the quality of the recordings was substandard (i.e. worse than most mp3s), but I know there are many people who literally can’t hear the difference, and to whom it wouldn’t matter even if they did; the most important thing to them is that the music is FREE!? I did some more snooping around the site and found that a couple dozen of my musical colleagues had much of their recorded catalog similarly posted for free on this website as well.

Initially I felt panic – and then anger! Who are these Russian thieves to steal our music and then give it away for free to people all over the world? This practice breaks international copyright law, for starters; at the very least it’s bad karma! And with the political situation being what it is now, it isn’t as if our government is going to jump to aid creators, as was done with napster 20 years ago! No one is going to dare threaten Russia to defend our rights at the moment!? They’re too busy trying to avoid World War III these days!

I don’t know the solution to this conundrum; I’m frustrated at the injustice inherent in the situation but don’t want to work myself up into a lather over a problem that has no apparent solution. After much consideration, I’ve decided to allow this to remain unresolved, to acknowledge that it exists; it’s an unpleasant fact of life. And it’s not “just business” – to me, it’s also personal.

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politics

The Sky Is Falling (and it’s all your fault!)

I’ve personally received many emails re. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine from friends over the past couple weeks, with admonishments that I MUST check out THIS video, or read THAT long-winded article – and always with the guilt-generating expectation that I have to DO something about this horrible situation. This strikes me as more than a little hysterical and reminds me of a children’s story. As it’s been around for at least a couple centuries, there are several versions of “The Little Red Hen” AKA “Chicken Little” – from the more violent to the supposedly-more-suitable for children-happy-ending.

We’ve all been over-subjected to media spin – more in the past five or six years than ever before. As of 2017 it even has its own name; Alternative Facts (Otherwise known as complete and utter BS)

Today I was moved to respond to the latest email entreaty to panic about matters that are above-my-pay-grade and writing my reply helped clarify my own thoughts thus:

I completely understand your skepticism re. how the media reports the news, and how various governments, our own included, attempt to skew public opinion in matters of war, as well as info about vaccines, pandemics, the economy, etc.  The talking heads have all demonstrated beyond a doubt that they can be unreliable, they can be “bought” – and that no one’s hands are completely clean. So I mostly trust my own guts – which tell me that most so-called experts are untrustworthy.  My visceral take is revulsion for virtually all of them. 

That said, I’m not sure how much it actually avails us to ascribe BLAME to guilty parties in this particular shit-show. Since I’m only really responsible for my own choices and behaviors, I recognize more and more that I have ZERO control over what other people think, say, and do. So more and more, I’m letting it go. In my experience, time spent paying attention to theorists, pundits and politicians is time wasted – it only makes me upset and angry. And I can generate enough of that drama without their input.

I look to find enjoyment in every day, remembering that I’m sharing my life with a wonderful, thoughtful, kind and loving man (and our brilliant dog!) I’m fortunate to be in virtual-touch with most of my other loved ones all over the globe, and residing in beautiful surroundings. Why should I spin my wheels over crap that’s out of my control? I work to keep my head OUT of that toilet since I know what’s in there!

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music biz, politics

The Cruelest Month

My mother always maintained that February was the cruelest month – even tho both hers and my dad’s birthdays occurred then. (Double-cake! YUM!)

Artist Kim Dingle apparently feels the same way I do re. CAKE!

And weather this month CAN be problematic, especially in the midwest and back east, where our family comes from. This year life seems especially harsh, what with the pandemic virus, China cheating at the Olympics, ongoing political shenanigans, rising prices at the grocery store, along with supply chain shortages, etc.

It’s been cold in southern AZ; every night when we take Schultz 🐾 for a walk before bedtime, we see a lone bird perched in the corner of our loggia, shivering on the window sill. He’s there from sundown to dawn.

And I’ve felt blue lately; having identified some troubling realities about myself, the music biz, the world at large – things I have been in denial about for most of my life, in some instances. It’s been challenging to find GOOD stuff to feel happy about – sometimes very elusive, no matter how much I seek out these things.

But then today this bird made such a racket in the backyard, I had to acknowledge him and his song. He went on endlessly, and kept returning even after Schultz chased him away. The whole world may be going to hell, our American democracy may be under attack and, like Chicken Little cried, “the sky is falling”. But this bird ain’t buyin’! He’s on Match-dot-com-for-birds! CLICK HERE to hear him!

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growing up, music biz, politics

A More Perfect Union

I grew up surrounded by unions; union-made clothing, union-employed family members, unionized teachers, union awareness… I vividly remember the grape boycott in the 1960s due to the farm workers’ strike. https://www.history.com/news/delano-grape-strike-united-farm-workers-filipinos My first paychecks had union dues deducted from the net – the woman who trained us to be cashiers at E.J.Korvette was a die-hard union gal! There were jingles on the radio; “Look For The Union Label” and films like NORMA RAE and THE PAJAMA GAME presented unions in a supportive light.

I joined Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians in 1973 and worked “on the card” as much as possible. While I never got a gig from hanging out at Roseland, I went through reams of manuscript in my years as a music copyist and joined AFTRA & SAG when I began singing on recording sessions. When I moved to Chicago, I joined 10-208 – when we moved to Los Angeles, I joined Local 47.

With my own favorable experiences working in unions, I was distressed when Ronald Reagan (a former SAG union president himself!) took aim at the air controllers union in the early 1980s. Workers’ unions have always been under attack, but especially so over the past 40 years, as politicians and corporations have tried to divide us by vilifying the very idea of workers pulling together to demand safe work conditions and fair wages. (the nerve! how DARE we?)

There have been as many changes to unions over the years as there have been to the world at large, and some of them are not positive; more than once we’ve brought a problem to the union and not had our concerns taken seriously, or taken at ALL! (I’m remembering a New Year’s Eve gig where I had a signed contract with a club and got stiffed… and then there was the time the union didn’t follow up on thousands of dollars in residuals that were due to us and the singers we’d hired! A Dime A Dozen). Graft and corruption have seeped into the handling of pension plans, for example, and, as in many other business dealings, there’s always been the tendency for contractors to hire others on the basis of friendship (or kickback!) rather than merit.

But most musicians I know have only fantasized about enacting some of the behavior in ON THE WATERFRONT. In a more perfect world, unions would be more perfect, but in the world we actually HAVE, they are plenty good enough.

AND should be done under safe conditions, with fair wages!
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Jingles, music biz, politics

Deconstructing The Con

Lately I’ve come across some interesting recordings while archiving old cassettes to mp3s on my computer – including jingles I composed over 40 years ago. This has led me to ponder the “art of persuasion” that is advertising itself.

Not as overt as 3-card monte, the jingle is still a bit of a con, as it makes assumptions; about who you are, what you need, your self-image and identity, and a host of other attributes that the advertiser hopes will lead you to embrace their product, service or idea.

…with special attention to #3, #14, #16, #21, #22 and #30!

The following lyrics were for a Honda motorcycles pitch, and the only “given” from the ad agency was the tagline “what life oughta be”; an idealistic, dreamy message, full of hope and promise. My first attempt:


I was told this was too confrontational, ominous and maybe even a little threatening. So, back at the drawing board, I softened the message:

(You can see I was pretty enamored with the phrase “dreamin’ out loud” and wasn’t going to give it up without a fight!) But my attempt to express the urgency of how riding a Honda would change your life tracked as impatience – the underlying message being WTF is WRONG with you? Get GOING already! So – once again, a new tune with a more authoritative “leadership” narrative and slightly less punitive tone:

Ultimately I don’t think I managed to capture the right balance of the Carrot & Stick approach because I didn’t sell any of these jingles, but I certainly tried! Listening to them now, I can’t help but notice the similarities between my ultimatum messages (of life fulfillment-via-motorcycle) and that of the Trump re-election campaign; the promise of making America “Great Again!” coupled with the threat of dystopian apocalypse should anyone else win the White House.

With this much apparently at stake, it behooves us to remember that there’s only one sure-fire way to win at 3-card monte:

Refuse To Play!
Just walk away!
If the Associated Press says it, it MUST be true!?!
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family, growing up, music biz, politics

The Mail Must Go Thru

All the current scuttlebutt about destroying the Post Office brings to mind the many times I’ve interacted with the USPS; from early childhood I remember how special it was to receive a card or letter from Nana – with MY NAME on the envelope! – and how I signed up for penpals thru ‘TEEN magazine (which I subscribed to and received in the mail every month!!)

Getting mail is a privilege and a right for Americans thru our Constitution and it’s illegal and immoral to attempt to destroy this precious service that helps us communicate and stay connected.

Over the years I wrote and received letters and cards I treasure to this day; a letter from a neighbor who had moved away, encouraging me to keep writing poems and songs when I was a teenager, a stack of love letters and greeting cards from when my husband and I were courting, the final PAID-IN-FULL invoice from my college loans, and decades of letters from my dad… might not matter to anyone else but they sure mean a lot to ME!

One of my favorite memories of receiving mail was when Mark and I lived in NYC and would receive thick envelopes every month or two from his dad, who lived in Tucson. Enclosed with his note would be a stack of coupons he’d clipped from newspapers and magazines. In the early 1980s, Tucson was a test market for a lot of new products, so there would be coupons for items we’d never even heard of…! Dad LOVED his bargains and we felt like we could splurge trying out new things because we had those coupons he’d sent to us!

Mostly we knew he was thinking of us, and that was the best thing of all. Nothing takes the place of a letter from home.

We depend on our postal service to ship our sheet music and CD recordings to our customers. Reliance on the USPS is a non-partisan issue; personal and professional. The difficulties being heaped on our postal service now are indefensible; at every turn, postal employees are being cheated, service hours are being truncated and critical deliveries are being delayed. Today I spoke with our carrier who delivered a shipment from Germany, bills and advertising circulars and a box of vitamin supplements – and I reassured her, “we have your back. We’re union people, too. And America will not let the postal service die!”

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music, politics

I sang with Gabby Giffords tonight

There are heroes in our midst and sometimes they just appear from the dark on a Sunday evening in the park.

In addition to the fresh air, one of the greatest pleasures of attending an outdoor concert by the Tucson Pops is conductor László Veres. He is a man of steady habits; every Pops concert begins with The Star Spangled Banner and ends with the gorgeous Carmen Dragon arrangement of America The Beautiful. Every time I hear them, I get a little choked up. Between those two selections, there may be musical trips to other lands, but they’re always colored by the affection the Maestro has for the USA; he makes the audience proud and glad to be in America, just as he is.

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The Maestro is a naturalized American citizen who escaped from his native Hungary during the Holocaust, and he treasures his adopted country with a fierce passion that’s apparent in everything from his repertoire choices to his stories and patter between numbers. He’s written an excellent autobiography about it:  No Regrets.   László is a survivor, much like our former congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords.

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We sang “Edelweiss” from THE SOUND OF MUSIC, accompanied by the Tucson Pops Orchestra in Reid Park tonight. After the intermission, Gabby had ridden up on her recumbent bike nearby to where we were seated and while the audience hummed the tune, her voice rang out clear and strong through the dark, unmistakably Gabby; “Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow… bless our homeland forever”.  It brought me to tears, knowing how she has blessed Arizona with her leadership, and continues to bless the world with her example of fortitude and courage.

I just had to tell her how much we love her – how much it means to see her persisting in spite of challenges – how much strength it gives me to know that she’s still with us, carrying on with grace and perseverence. And how much I want her husband Captain Mark Kelly to become Senator Kelly (AZ). And how wonderful it would be to hear President Giffords sing “Edelweiss” someday.

It could happen, I assure you. Tonight, after we sang together, I shook her hand, and she’s one strong woman!

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politics

Vacationing In SorkinWorld

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I didn’t watch Sports Night when it first ran on ABC from 1998-2000 – having never been a fan of sports, I figured it just wasn’t for me. But I’d enjoyed Aaron Sorkin’s writing in A Few Good Men and The American President, and then experienced the buffering relief that The West Wing brought to the Dubya Years; watching smart people doing admirable things for the best reasons was a balm for my soul. So eventually I got around to appreciating Sports Night, to the extent that we purchased the DVD set, to be able to revisit the characters again whenever we wanted.

And lately, we have wanted… in a big way.  The nonstop insanity of current events has made it imperative to once again spend time with the fast-talking smartypants-es at CSC, reveling in their rapid-fire banter, good humor and mutual admiration. I can overlook Sorkin’s inability to create multi-dimensional female characters who, though bright and beautiful, can never manage to handle their love lives with any degree of aplomb. And I don’t have any trouble with his personal drug struggles, as I’ve been battling a few addictive tendencies of my own this lifetime. The show reminds me of happier times when I, too, was employed in an office filled with creative types who were passionate about their work; when choices were at least sometimes made on the basis of meritocracy, and not totally on nepotism, greed and self-interest.

I know we can’t turn back time, but I like that I can at least visit, 22-minutes at a pop.

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