News From The Woods - June 24, 2008

NEWS FROM THE WOODS

By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published June 24, 2008


(NOTE: I have been writing my autobiography for the past few months, and that is why I haven't had time to write much for this column. I am almost halfway through the book after four months of writing, so it may take a while longer to finish, so I apologize here right now for any future ommissions of regular contributions until I wrap up the book - Bob Ketchum)


"It's funny what you think about while driving"


I was driving home this morning after dropping my son off at the city swimming pool for his swim team practice, and on the way back home I was listening to my favorite oldies station. The song "Share The Land" by the Guess Who came on and as I listened I was thinking to myself "Why was this song such a hit?" Sure, it was the Guess Who and almost everything they ever released became a hit, so that accounted for a lot of it. Still, it's kind of a down tempo song, and while I know they had more than a few hits that were slow in tempo ("Laughing", "Undun", "These Eyes", etc.), I preferred their more up tempo hits like "American Woman", "Shakin' All Over", "No Sugar Tonight", "Hang Onto Your Life", "No Time", and "Bus Rider". It also occurred to me that another reason this song was so popular was because of the lyrics. The year was 1970, which was during a very tumultuous time for this nation. "Share The Land" was a major hit for the Guess Who, most likely because of the social implications during this time of "Peace and Love".
Check out these lyrics:

Have you been around
Have you done your share of coming down
On different things that people do
Have you been aware
You got brothers and sisters who care
About what's gonna' happen to you
In a year from now...

Maybe I'll be there to shake your hand
Maybe I'll be there to share the land
That they'll be giving away
When we all live together.

Did you pay your dues
Did you read the news
This morning when the paper landed in your yard
Do you know their names
Can you play their games
And coming down a bit too hard...

Shake your hand, share the land
Shake your hand, share the land
You know I'll be standing by
To help you if you worry....

No more sadness, no more sorrow, no more bad times
every day coming sunshine, everyday everybody laughing
walking together by the river, walking together and
laughing, everybody singing together, everybody singing and
laughing, good times good times, everybody walking by the
river now, walking singing talking smiling laughing loving
each other.

That's about as "touchy/feely" as you can get. Can't you just picture them performing that song in concert in 1970? The kids are all standing and waving their BIC lighters back and forth high over their heads. Well, that's the image I had in my mind while driving. And I started thinking that those "kids" in 1970 were in their late teens and early twenties. Now its 38 years later and those same kids are now the adults running this country today. So where are those social and moral changes and ideals we all talked about back then? This was after they killed Jack and Bobby Kennedy. The Cold War was starting to wind down. We had plenty of opportunities to begin to implement those ideals we held so high. I haven't researched this but I'd wager that many of those kids from the 70's entered the political ring shortly after the beginning of the 1980's. I'm sure many of those same people today have lots of horror stories about trying to change the system and meeting up with brick walls at every turn. There have been many books and many movies with similar plotlines. So what's the deal?

I certainly do not lay claim to having a handle on political science but as I look back now and see how many BAD changes we have undergone since then, I can't help but wonder what the core of the problem is. Special interest groups? Yes. Powerful lobbyists? Yes. Corrupt politicians? Most certainly. But we can't blame all this on subversive foreign powers controlling our politicians, or the Tri-lateral Commission or the Masons. No, my gut feeling tells me we are corrupt from within. I have never been a party man, and never even followed current political events enough to say I am a devout Republican or a Democrat. I did take stock of the presidents that I admire (based on their accomplishments) like Trumann, Franklin D. Roosevelt, JFK, Jimmy Carter and yes… even Bill Clinton. Then I suddenly realized that they were all Democrats. The only Republicans that I admired were Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ike. My mom loved Ronnie Reagan but I have a problem with that actor/president thing, although I am sure the last two presidents could easily score a leading part in Hollywood if they tried.

Are we Americans in total denial? Have we just caved in and like sheep we accept whatever fate hands us? Are we so disillusioned that it's easier to turn our backs on the problems today than to stand up and say "Enough!" ? It appears so. In this free democracy we have always elected our own city, county, state and national politicians since George Washington's time. Is our collective political intelligence and common sense THAT far off? Are all these people that we have elected been corrupted since taking office, or were they already corrupt when they were stumping for votes on the campaign trail? It cannot be that ALL of our collected elected politicians that WE put into office have ALL been neutralized by some sinister power hell bent on ruining the United States.

Let's go back to the music for a moment. Activism and protest songs are no longer popular with today's teenager. I mean, other than rap music. Rap protest is more often against "the man" than against a corrupt government per se. For my money rap music is protesting mainly against discrimination than any other social problem. I am speaking in broad general terms here, because for the most part I cannot understand what the lyrics are in today's rap music, and I don't listen to enough of it to look up lyrics on the Internet. I'm sure I will draw fire from some element of the music buying public, but then I don't listen to much of today's rock music anyway, for different reasons. As you know I am a professional audio engineer and I am supposed to be professional enough not to pass judgment on music styles and genres. I try to embrace all forms of music, where the best and most talented artists rise to the top. However, that model has changed as well, because now anyone can sound like they are good thanks to modern technology. Is the singer singing flat? No problem, just auto-tune the track and it's "fixed". Too lazy to sing the same chorus three times? Hey, let's just cut n' paste that first chorus into the other two places. Did the guitar player hit a wrong note? Okay, let's take that good note from the previous verse and superimpose it in the bad spot. But this is all material for another article, and I digress. The original point is that no one wants to hear people singing about poverty or social injustice in our own country, or what to do about the homeless, or how to deal with escalating crime, or even global warming, aside from a few groups like U2. It's not popular because the former generation tried that and it plain didn't work. In the late 60's and early 70's we were all polarized by the social awareness of the times. Our lyrics reflected how we saw things and how we felt about the bad things in our lives. Those popular songs were purchased in the millions by teenagers who would someday soon be voters. But as time passed, so did our hope that we could actually make these changes from within and in a passive manner. I would imagine that the current generation has looked back on the nation's timeline and decided "Well, THAT didn't work, so what's the point?" However, my question is why didn't MY generation (apologies to The Who) take those reigns and implement some of those idealistic changes that we felt so strongly about 30+ years ago? Did we really try and were thwarted by the already established power structure? Or were we "assimilated" like the Borg? Or was it easy once we were in office to just look the other way whenever something unpleasant surfaced? And don't get me started on "political correctness". We are (not so) slowly "politically correcting" ourselves into a corner. And if you agree with me in Spanish, press 1.

Here's something else to think about: Maybe things are so fouled up in the government that no self-respecting and intelligent individual would WANT to run for office. This idea occurred to me last month when I was contacted by a local politician who wanted to hire my services to produce a television commercial. We talked on the phone and he gave me the general direction and we set up an appointment for the following day. He never showed up the next day and didn't bother to call until the day after, when we set up another appointment. He didn't show up for that either, but at least called (after being 30 minutes past time) and said he got held up. Okay, I'm easy. I understand. Politicians are busy people. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He asked if he could come out that afternoon and I told him I could shuffle a few things around as to accommodate his hectic schedule. He showed up (thirty minutes late) with some notes sketched on paper. He wanted three commercials; each one dealing with an important subject that he felt would aid his cause. And he had a large poster board with pictures that he wanted me to scan to use for the images to accompany the narration. We shot his live tag asking for support here at the studio. I was to create the spots from stills with his live tag, and then he left. I started writing the narration, based on his notes, and scanned all the images we would need for the 3 spots. He was to return the next day to see the results but called me in the morning to say that he couldn't make it out that afternoon after all, and also to tell me that because he had seen a recent TV spot by his competition, he wanted to change some of the verbiage to address the latest mud slinging. By the next day he hadn't called so I took the initiative and called him, only to get his recorded message. He finally called and said to hold everything because he wanted to make a completely different group of spots and did I have time that afternoon for him to come over. I replied that I did and at the appointed hour…….. He didn't show up. I didn't even bother to call him. He finally called me an hour after the appointed time and apologized for missing the appointment, and then set up a "definite" appointment for the following day. By now you may have guess what happened…. He didn't show up. To make a long story short (and believe me, I could go one for at least three more days) he frittered away so much time that voting day came and went and he never did get any TV spots completed. To his credit I will say that he did pay me for the time I had spent on his project, but I thought to myself "So if this is any indication of how he operates, what would this say for his future work ethic if he actually got elected?"

Maybe the only people who aspire to office are opportunists, forked-tongue specialists, and puppets whose strings are manipulated by those with agendas of their own and who are too smart to stand directly in the line of fire. And on the national level I can't help but wonder why someone would spend millions of dollars campaigning for a $400,000 per year job that offers little more than constant pressure and uncertainty. And finally, the irony has not been lost on me of a party nomination offering a woman or an African-American as the Democratic choices. Does anyone else but me wonder if this hasn't somehow been orchestrated by the same power that steers the Republican party?

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