Saturday, December 31, 2011

I Didn't Think He Had It in Him

When I got home from work last night, I went right to the Internet. After I got online, I checked out the news headlines on my ISP's Website and saw this:

"Gingrich weeps as he recalls his mom."

The man who served as this country's House Speaker from 1995 to 1999- who wants to get back into politics by going right to the very top- was at a coffeehouse in Des Moines to give his campaign one final pre-Iowa caucus push.

At some point or another, the discussion came to memories of the woman who adopted the Harrisburg, PA native when he was a child (she died in 2003).

Newton Leroy McPherson Gingrich (that's his full name, folks) told the coffeehouse crowd about how his adoptive mother had to battle bipolar depression, talked about how she lived a happy life, and then...he teared up.

I just hope that his tears the other day were truly genuine.

When USA Today did the story, the reporter told the world that Gingrich's tears were reminiscent of when, in early 2008, then US Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) answered a reporter's question about the rigors of campaigning for the most talked-about job in politics...only to shed some tears.

I remember how those same reporters, coming into 2008 itself, talked about how Rodham Clinton "lacked the warmth" supposedly needed for her to succeed as a presidential candidate. (They'd been after the former first lady since 1992, after all!)

Now many of these same media people are out there speculating over the idea of HRC trading in her gig heading up the State Department for the vice presidency.

Anyway, after the story about Rodham Clinton's tears broke, she ended up getting plenty of support- especially from the reporters who savaged her over events like her and husband Bill's 1992 interview on 60 Minutes

And now, we're told that Gingrich's teardrops might pull more people toward supporting the former US representative from Georgia.

We shall see.

All I know is this: Many of the things NLMG has done since coming on the national political scene in the 1980s (especially masterminding two government shutdowns during the Bill Clinton years) have driven many people to tears.

And then you've got some of things Gingrich has said here in 2011 alone...especially his desire to rip the textbooks out of inner-city children's hands and replace those books with brooms and dustpans. (To say nothing of his contention that there's nothing American about the man who's got the job the ex-college prof and six other Republicans are after: Barack Obama.)

Above all, I'm wondering if Newton ever weeps as he recalls the two marriages he walked out on before he met a woman named Callista.

Oh, was just a thought.

Well, that's all I've got for now...except: I'm Jim Boston, and I'll see you in 2012! Thanks for reading this blog!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Are You Ready?

Well, I am.

I'm ready to get going with the 2011 edition of a would-be, could-be, should-be NCAA Division 1-A college football playoff...especially after watching Wisconsin-Whitewater take down longtime nemesis Mount Union, 13-10, to keep its (Real Life) NCAA Division 3 football title. (And as I'm typing this, I'm checking out a Division 1-AA semifinal. Right now, with 7:54 to play in the third quarter, Sam Houston State leads Montana, 28-14. They're both after the championship Eastern Washington picked up in 2010.)

Tomorrow, the fairy tales- oops, I mean the D-1-A bowl games- get started. And for this season, it all ends on 1-9-2012 with the Extra Bowl. (Oops...I mean the BCS championship game. And that game's Louisiana State-Alabama matchup ought to be a big reason to switch 1-A football to a playoff system instead of this bowls-and-polls crap.)

So, manana, I'm going to my computer and start the first round of this version of this year's 1-A playoffs.

If you're new to "Boston's Blog," I like to run a 24-team playoff that includes the champion from each of NCAA Division 1-A football's eleven conferences (not just the six wealthiest ones- the ones labeled "BCS" leagues) along with thirteen at-large teams. To get all the teams seeded, I use a point system that's kind of like the one your state's high school athletic association probably uses to determine football playoff pairings in each class.

This point system goes like this:

A playoff team gets 50 quality points if it beat a Division 1-A team that had a winning record, 45 points for every victory against a 1-A club that had a .500 record or worse, 40 points for stopping a Division 1-AA squad that won most of its games, and 35 points for defeating a nonwinning 1-AA team.

And that playoff team has to give up quality points for every loss it racks up: 50 for every loss to a winning Division 1-A club, 55 every time the qualifying team loses to a nonwinning 1-A squad, 60 for any loss to a D-1-AA team that won most of its contests, and- that's right- 65 points in case a 1-A playoff team gets beat by a 1-AA club that stank.

All undefeated 1-A playoff teams receive 55 bonus points apiece.

And yep, the system uses tiebreakers, too. The first tiebreaker involves the number of victories the tied clubs' Division 1-A opponents racked up. If those numbers end up exactly the same, head-to-head competition is used. If the two teams didn't play each other, their conference records are examined. In case the records are dead even, point differential in conference games is used. If the teams had the same number there, I take a look at the point diff in all games.

If the point differential in all games is the same for both teams, well...a coin flip breaks the tie.

In this system, the bowl games aren't taken into consideration; just regular-season play. And the Associated Press poll and its ESPN-USA Today and Harris Interactive counterparts have no bearing on this system, so there's no media bias.

This system stresses how a team did this season, not its popularity or longtime reputation.

And with that in mind, it's time to announce (drum roll)...the 24 entries in this season's NCAA Division 1-A football playoff (well, at least THIS version):

1. Louisiana State (13-0; SEC champ)/ 2. Houston (12-1; Conference USA at-large)/ 3. Boise State (11-1; Mountain West at-large)/ 4. Oklahoma State (11-1; Big 12 champ)/ 5. Stanford (11-1; Pac-12 at large)/ 6. Alabama (11-1; SEC at-large)/ 7. Virginia Tech (11-2; ACC at-large)/ 8. Oregon (11-2; Pac-12 champ)

9. Wisconsin (11-2; Big Ten champ)/ 10. Southern Mississippi (11-2; Conference USA champ)/ 11. Michigan (10-2; Big Ten at-large)/ 12. TCU (10-2; Mountain West champ)/ 13. Kansas State (10-2; Big 12 at-large)/ 14. Arkansas State (10-2; Sun Belt champ)/ 15. South Carolina (10-2; SEC at-large)/ 16. Arkansas (10-2; SEC at-large)

17. Clemson (10-3; ACC champ)/ 18. Michigan State (10-3; Big Ten at-large)/ 19. Georgia (10-3; SEC at-large)/ 20. Northern Illinois (10-3; MAC champ)/ 21. Oklahoma (9-3; Big 12 at-large)/ 22. Nebraska (9-3; Big Ten at-large)/ 23. Cincinnati (9-3; Big East champ)/ 24. Louisiana Tech (8-4; WAC champ)

Oh, by the way...the top eight seeds get to duck (or Duck) the first round.

You're probably wondering: "Hey! How come West Virginia didn't get in? They were ranked!"

Well, here's how it happened: West Virginia, Louisville, and Cincinnati shared the 2011 Big East title by posting identical 5-2 conference records (both the Mountaineers and Bearcats went 9-3 overall, while the Cardinals turned in a 7-5 showing).

In head-to-head-to head competition, the three teams had 1-1 records, so it came down to point differential: The Bearcats got the automatic bid because they outscored Louisville and WVU, 46-40. (When the Mountaineers took on Cincy and Louisville, it came out a combined 59-59 tie; and the Cards were outscored by their two fellow trichamps, 60-53.)

Even so, Bill Stewart's club would've made the playoffs on its own if Clemson hadn't toppled Virginia Tech, 38-10, to snatch the ACC title away from the Hokies. (Result: The Tigers get in for the first time in four years; in 2007, Central Florida stunned Clemson, 28-14, in the first round.)

Another thing: For the first time since 1989, the team with the Heisman Trophy winner didn't make the playoffs...and this year's Baylor squad would've left 1985 Auburn, 1987 Notre Dame, 1988 Oklahoma State, and Houston's 1989 edition as the only teams that had the Heisman winner and no place for them in the playoffs if the help Art Briles' club needed had come. (It was a 16-team playoff from the would-be event's 1982 inception through 2000.)

The Bears and their old Big 12 foes from Lincoln totaled the same number of quality points here in 2011: 265. But Bo Pelini's squad saw its Division 1-A opponents get 81 wins of their own this year, while the men from Waco saw their 1-A foes pick up 77 W's this time around.

But the Cornhuskers beat Iowa, 20-7, to keep Robert Griffin III (the latest to lug The Trophy out of New York City) off the computer.

And Penn State (that's right, scandal-ridden Penn State) could've gotten in at 9-3...but South Carolina stopped Clemson, 34-13, to deny the Nittany Lions a place.

Speaking of scandal...USC got left off the field despite its 10-2 record. That's what the Reggie Bush/player agent antics of the mid-2000s did to the Trojans.

Well, that's it. I'm fired up about running Lance Haffner's 3-in-1 Football, computer vs. computer style, to find out which team's going to replace Ohio State (which beat TCU last season, 28-22) at the top of this playoff heap.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Hope They Keep It Up!

That's right...I mean the members of the Occupy Wall Street movement and its offshoots not just here in the United States, but all over this planet.

I wholeheartedly support the protesters.

I mean, what would you do if you were coming out of college (and facing a mountain of debt)...only to find the nation's biggest businesses are just not hiring right now?

What would you do if you'd just come back from Iraq or Afghanistan (be it your only tour of duty or your umpteenth), where you'd just gotten through fighting to keep America on the map...and you're ready to get back to civilian life...only to find there's no place left for you in this country's workforce?

The Americans who're coming out of college and are coming back from this country's two long-running, unfunded wars- as well as the Americans who've recently been thrown out of jobs through no fault of their own- have done it all the way they've been told they're supposed to do it. And that goes for the nation's rank-and-file citizens who are lucky to right now hang on to their jobs.

And the thanks they get are supposed to be wages that largely haven't gone up since the day a man who spent 27 years (1937 to 1964) making movies and 13 other years (1953 to 1966) hosting TV shows put his left hand on a Bible and raised his right hand in front of an international TV audience?

And all that time, CEO pay zoomed up anywhere from 240% to 300% since that day in 1981!

I mean, come on! You mean to tell me that when average, everyday people are kicked down- let alone repeatedly over a 30-year period- they're not supposed to rise up and fight back?

When everybody in the United States except the country's three million wealthiest citizens is paying the financial freight, the time is definitely right for the other 304 million Americans to protest.

Not only's time to keep on protesting the nation's income disparity and Wall Street's role in it.

And it'd be great to see the Occupy movement do the same thing to Capitol Hill. After all, this country's legislative branch- especially the Republicans in it- has been just as implicit, getting its marching orders from those financial leaders and only those financial leaders.

I mean, forces such as OWS are more effective when they keep sounding the message (and sounding it repeatedly) that it's long been time for America's wealthiest to step up to the plate and reinvest in this country and in its citizens...rather than acting like traitors and shutting down plant after plant after plant (and opening up plant after plant after plant in countries whose citizens can't afford to BUY the products they're making, because they're paid so doggone little).

Change isn't easy. And it isn't always quick.

Yet if the changes we want don't happen as quickly as it takes to brew a cup of instant coffee, we're not satisfied.

That kind of attitude didn't bring about the big social changes that took place during the 20th Century.

Change isn't easy. And it isn't always quick.

And that's why we've got to keep fighting for the changes we want.

Also: If we can't go out in the streets and march, we can support the people who are able to get out there.

And contrary to what Newton L. Gingrich keeps telling people, the Occupy protesters aren't vagrants in need of a bath.

Regardless of what St. Rush of Cape Girardeau says, those protesters AREN'T human debris.

Don't let Bill O'Reilly con you into believing that OWS and its offshoots are finished. And don't let others tell you the movement doesn't have a clear focus.

That's right...this movement is about to hit its stride.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Whatever Happened to the Piano Lady Gaga Used When She Filmed Her "You and I" Video in Springfield, NE?

Guess what?

That piano is now located at Hollywood Candy, a combination candy store-antique mall located at 1209 Jackson St., Omaha, NE 68102.

Seven days ago, I had the chance to play it (it's a 1905 Schilling upright; the serial number is 47120)...and only after I saw a little boy and a little girl (one after the other) give the upright a try.

The pictures you're about to see below were taken yesterday afternoon...and I can't wait to get at that old Schilling again!

Who knows...maybe the staff at Hollywood Candy will allow the Great Plains Ragtime Society to have a meeting or two there each year (as long as the store's still got the piano Lady Gaga played in a cornfield).

By the can reach Hollywood Candy at 402 346-9746.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Maybe...Just MAYBE...She'll Understand

I felt stung over a question that was posed of me this past Tuesday.

As I was getting ready to leave the apartment building I live in to go off to my factory job, a young woman who came to visit the family living in the apartment across from mine saw me head out the door.

After I said "Hi" and asked her how she was doing, the visitor asked me: "One bedroom or two?"

She was a young mother; her infant child was in her arms. And I thought she wanted to ask about renting one of these apartments.

So I answered: "Two."

I wasn't ready for the next question: "And only one living there?"

"Yes. I live here."

"A two-bedroom apartment, and only you living there."

I just wasn't very happy about where this was going...and I realized that if the conversation continued, I'd be late for work.

So I told the young visitor: "I'm okay with it."

As I hurried out to my car and drove off to my job, I felt stung. (Let's face it...I felt insulted.)

In fourteen years of living where I presently do, I'd never been asked to defend living single in a two-bedroom apartment.

Until 10-18-2011, that is.

I feel comfortable living in an apartment of that size. (Why shouldn't a person feel comfortable where he or she lives?) What's more, this two-bedroomer gives me all the space I need at the present time.

For the next nine hours, I couldn't help thinking about whether the questioner came from a country where housing laws- if housing laws exist in that kind of a nation- are harsher than they are here in the United States.

And then I got to thinking about the millions of Americans who put their lives on the line so that the nation could finally, in 1968, put a fair-housing act on the books.

I thought about how some of those millions of Americans were forced to face firehoses and barking dogs...firehoses and barking dogs unleashed by officials bent on keeping apartheid (okay, segregation) alive and legal in this country.

In addition, I remembered how some people were put to death because they wanted these Jim Crow laws overturned for good.

To top it all off, I thought about a 1965 headline in The Omaha Star (the legendary newspaper started in the 1930s by Mildred Brown): "Omaha and Birmingham Run Neck and Neck in Housing Discrimination."

That's right. Birmingham, AL...where, two years before that headline, police chief Eugene "Bull" Connor ordered barking dogs and powerful firehoses to be trained on people seeking their BASIC human rights.

Thinking about all these things made a young mother's question hard for me to take.

You see, as long as I'm still able to get my rent paid (and paid on time), and as long as I enjoy living where I do, what's the problem?

I don't know if that visitor has access to a computer; don't know if she's ever come across this blog (or anybody else's blog) before.

But if she EVER reads this post, I sincerely hope she understands why I feel uncomfortable having to explain and defend living single in a two-bedroom apartment.

Either the United States of America is a free country or it isn't.

No buts.

And I'd like to ask this young mom- if I ever see her again- this: "Which country is this- a free one or not? WHICH??"

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Renaissance Woman

That's exactly what Burns Davis was.

Was rather than is.

The Monday before last month's Great Plains Ragtime Society meeting (held 9-25-2011), I'd sent the massage therapist from Lincoln, NE a copy of a flyer touting that September meeting. And it was all about trying to get more Lincolnites interested in traveling those 52 miles to Omaha to check out what GPRS has been doing to help promote old-time piano.

I was eleven days too late.

I received an email from Nan Bostick; she'd written to find out if I'd heard about what happened to Burns.

Opened up the link Nan sent with that email and found out...the unthinkable happened.

Burns Smith Davis passed away on 9-8-2011.

It happened- unexpectedly- at home. (She would've turned 64 on 11-13-2011.)

I found out that Burns wasn't actually her birth name. She was born Bonnie Jill Reimer...and the birth took place in Enid, OK. (The proud parents were Barney J. and Martha Louise Smith Reimer.) Burns went on to take her first and last names from a couple of highly influential piano teachers of hers.

In 1968, Burns received a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Oklahoma...where she went on to, in 1972, earn a master's degree in literary science.

In previous posts, I'd called Burns a Californian-turned-Nebraskan. Actually, she was an Oklahoman-turned-Arkansan-turned-Washingtonian-turned-Californian-turned-Nebraskan. (Fresh out of college, BSD held down library jobs in Fayetteville, AR; Yakima, WA; and Red Bluff, CA. In Yakima, Burns went back to college...and got another master's degree, this time in botany.)

Burns Davis moved from Red Bluff to another California city, Cupertino, where she became a nursing home administrator.

In addition, she became a ragtime enthusiast the point where she became active with a rag group and a local festival.

Her next city was Los Gatos, CA...where she got involved in business consulting and design.

And then, in the middle 1990s, Burns came to Nebraska's capital city; in Lincoln, she joined the State Library Commission. On top of that, she launched Davis Business Systems.

The Star City was the place in which Burns' life reached a real turning point.

In 1998, Burns decided to become a massage, she enrolled at the city's Myotherapy Institute.

And that's where people found out that she had The Knack.

Not long after studying at the institute, BSD started her own massage therapy business, Ehaweh Arts. (The firm's name came from one of Burns' great-grandmothers, an Oklahoman known for her own ability to heal.)

Meanwhile, Burns began to land jobs as a substitute organist at a succession of Lincoln churches: St. Mark's Episcopal, St. David's Episcopal, St. Paul's United Methodist, St. Paul's Congregational, and Trinity United Methodist. (At Trinity, Burns served a while as its main organist.)

She even went back to Enid to attend Phillips University...and to intern on the organ at that city's Central Christian Church. The high point was a concert in June 2000.

Five years and one month later, I met Burns Davis for the first time.

And it wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for Gil Lieberknecht.

Gil gave me a list of performers he'd been playing alongside at different ragtime get-togethers nationwide (especially the Sutter Creek outing in his- and Nan's- native California). The list came in handy, because I was trying to find performers for the first annual Ragtime to Riches Festival, then held at a church in Council Bluffs, Broadway United Methodist.

Jim Radloff was on that list, too...and he and Burns answered the call. (So did two other performers I'd competed alongside at the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest: Marty Mincer and "Perfessor" Bill Edwards.)

Burns went on to play every last one of the R to R Festivals we've had thus far, from the first (where Gil was the guest of honor) to this year's event (the first held at Omaha's First Central Congregational Church).

She ended up doing the last Sunday concert at every R to R only because her Ehaweh Arts schedule and her work as a church organist in the Star City combined to leave her with the last Sunday concert...but last year and this, Burns got R to R Sunday (at least the afternoon part) off.

In fact, at the 2010 festival, Burns gave a workshop about Gil, the highly-prolific ragtime composer who moved, as a teen, to Nebraska in 1947 (his dad Henry was born here) and died in 2008 at age 76. 

And it was one heck of a workshop! (In fact, Burns' tribute to her old buddy- of "Goldenrod Rag" fame- was the workshop I could only hope to do about the man nicknamed "Gil Lieby.")

Burns' 2010 R to R workshop had the same thing her festival concerts had: A kind of quiet elegance that featured Burns' wit (who else would list CDs as some of her musical instruments?) and great analytical intelligence.

By the way, she was no slouch as a singer. In fact, one of her Ragtime to Riches concerts began with BSD singing and playing "Everybody Rag with Me." (Earlier this year, Burns- a new convert to Judaism- became a cantorial soloist. All of that after membership in the St. Mark's Episcopal choir.)

Massage consultant...instrumentalist...singer...animal lover...ragtime enthusiast...Burns Smith Davis was no slouch as a person.

Burns, I'm glad to have met you.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Whole New World

A couple of months ago, the staff at Film Streams at the Ruth Sokolof Theater (1340 Mike Fahey St., Omaha, NE 68102) asked me about doing something I've never, ever undertaken in my life:

Cue a silent movie.

It's all part of the theater's upcoming silent film festival, a cycle that begins on 10-4-2011 at 7:00 PM. Each movie in the series (the series ends on 12-15-2011) will feature live musical accompaniment from a different performer or group of performers...and the music will run the gamut from hard rock to ragtime.

Well, they're letting me go up to bat on 12-15-2011. At 7:00 PM that evening, I'm playing alongside one of Buster Keaton's best movies, the 1926 classic "The General."

I'm in another club around here, the River City Theatre Organ Society, and one of its earliest activities happened in 1986. It took place at the Orpheum Theater, and it was "Those Were the Days." One of its components was a showing of "The General," and Jack Moelmann- later the president of the American Theatre Organ Society- cued the film at the theater's Mighty Wurlitzer.

That showing was what I remembered when Film Streams chief Rachel Jacobson asked me about doing a silent movie.

Film Streams has the piano, all right; it's an 1899 Steinway upright that had, for a long time in its life, been used at Boys Town. I ended up finding the instrument a couple of years ago at the former Renier's Pianos and Keyboards (then located at 49th and Dodge Sts.).

Renier's had the old upright in the store's basement, and I ended up paying $50 for the instrument itself and $50 for moving the piano.

And it all started because I wanted to donate an old piano to a local venue (such as a coffeehouse) that area performers Adam Swanson (2008, 2009, and 2010 Regular Division titleholder at Illinois' World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest as well as the event's 2003, 2004, and 2006 Junior Division champ) and Marty Mincer (he won the contest's Regular Division crown in 1990 and 1993) could get more opportunities to play around here.

As things turned out, no local coffeehouses or restaurants were interested in taking in an old piano. (They kept saying they had no room for a piano...not even an 1899 Steinway upright.)

But Film Streams had room...plenty of room.

Rachel, Casey, Maggie, and the rest of the Film Streams staff have been nice enough to let me come in and get practice on the old Steinway at least once a week. (Well, a piano isn't just a prop or just a piece of furniture!)

Today, I went to and saw "The General" in its entirety (for the first time since I saw the film at the Orpheum); a week earlier, I went to that Website and was able to check out 65% of the movie...and only because I ran out of time.

Last week, though, I started working out my own take on that Buster Keaton classic (in spite of the fact that at least two original scores have been written in support of "The General"). And I went off to Film Streams to make sure I can cover "The General's" length- 78 minutes.

And this morning, I finished up figuring out how I want to accompany the film, then went off to practice at another rehearsal spot, Pella Lutheran Church (at 41st and Harney Sts.), with its 1909 Behr Bros. upright. (Practice today went very well...okay, I really felt comfortable.)

I'm really looking forward to cuing "The General" with 16 days left in 2011...and I hope you can come to see one, all, or any number of films in Streams' upcoming silents showcase. If you're already a member of Film Streams, tickets are $8 each; if not, they cost you $12.

And if you'd like more information, call 402 933-0259 and/or visit

I'm Jim Boston, and thanks for reading this blog!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

He Wants It Back!

And I hope he gets it back.

Three days ago, former Nebraska State Sen. Ernie Chambers announced that he wanted to get his seat back from his District 11 (Omaha's north side of town) predecessor, Brenda Council (a one-time Omaha City Council member who twice- unsuccessfully- ran for mayor here in town during the 1990s).

Chambers (he's a barber by trade) first was elected to this state's legislature in 1970; after taking the oath of office in January 1971, the Creighton Law School graduate went on to serve another 38 years...the longest tenure of any state senator in Nebraska history.

Here's the reason:

Chambers has spent his whole professional life speaking up for this state's rank-and-file citizens...especially Nebraska's downtrodden people.

He'd still be in Nebraska's Unicameral right now...except in 2000, most of those Cornhusker Staters who went to the polls that November decided it was time to put term limits on the state's senators.

As a result, if you're a Nebraskan and you want to be a state senator (yep, it's a $12,000-a-year gig), you're restricted to a pair of four-year terms. Want to get back in once the eight years are up (if you didn't get voted out of office first)? Wait another four years.

That's what gives Ernest W. Chambers the legal right to run next year for his old seat in America's sole one-chamber legislature.

If you've ever seen a 1966 documentary called "A Time for Burning," you might remember watching Chambers (cutting a customer's hair) talking to an official from Augustana Lutheran a time when (let's face it!) Omaha was running neck-and-neck with Birmingham, AL in housing discrimination.

When your state's got a one-chamber legislature, the chances are more likely that a lot of bills that really don't help citizens in your state will get to become law than in a state with a two-chamber government. In America's other 49 states, their senates often act as checks-and-balances to those states' houses of representatives (and vice versa).

Here in the state that gave us Carl Curtis and Jim Exon, the state's voters are supposedly the legislature's buffer.

For 38 years, Ernie Chambers was a much more effective buffer than any group of voters.

He helped make sure a lot of bad bills didn't get out of committee, let alone become law.

Dig this: In the two years since Chambers last served as a state senator, lots of those questionable bills got proposed; some even became law. (For example, Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont introduced a bill allegedly designed to curtail illegal immigration here in the state where Taylor Martinez is finishing up his formal education...but the bill was really set up to allow Nebraska's law enforcement officials to use ethnic profiling, a la Arizona's bill. And earlier this year, another bill was announced designed to restrict the presidential and vice presidential field to those candidates whose parents were born here in the United States. And then there was the bill designed to abandon Nebraska's "winner take all" system of allocating electoral votes...because John McCain didn't get to pocket all five of the state's electoral votes in 2008. On top of all this, you've got a bill calling for teachers and school administrators to carry guns to class!)

Chambers will tell you that many of the things that should've gotten done in the Unicameral these last two years (such as a few remaining state senators not fighting hard enough to keep bills out there that DO help most Nebraskans) haven't been getting done...and that's why he wants back in.

Nope...I don't live in EWC's district (I live in District 23). I still admire him because he speaks his mind and makes a lot of sense.

Common sense is what Chambers brings to the table. He wants people to start using their minds more and start thinking for themselves more; in addition, he wants us to start fighting for the things we really want instead of waiting on Someone Else to hand them to us.

CTI (Cox Cable Channel 22 here in the Big O) just got through rerunning his Tuesday night call-in program. Ernie talked about how we've become reluctant to vote whenever there's an election...yet we want to start petition drives (especially a drive to wipe out the law that makes affirmative action illegal here in the state that gave us Bob Gibson and Gale Sayers).

Can't sign a petition of this kind if you're not a registered voter.

Yes, there's a big hole in the Nebraska Legislature now that Ernie Chambers isn't a part of that legislature anymore...and, as he likes to put it, nobody's really stepped up in Lincoln to speak up for those America's Establishment likes to step on. (Sadly...that also means Council.)

And I hope he gets back in next year.

This state's legislature could use a real wake-up call.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

One Fine Day...and Night (Part 2)

Well, the lone workshop at the 2011 Ragtime to Riches Festival went fine.

The next measuring stick for the festival happened immediately afterwards...and that stick was the first of two concerts at this year's event at Omaha's First Central Congregational United Church of Christ.

And I felt really at home up there...really comfortable.

I started my one-hour set with 1899's "Tickled to Death," written by Charles Hunter (a man who also went by the name Robert Hampton). That number got included because I felt lucky that the folks at First Central UCC came to R to R's rescue.

"Tickled to Death" was also the first competition piece I ever heard at Illinois' World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest. I started going to that event in 1993, when it was held at the then Holiday Inn in Decatur, IL; that year, thirteen-year-old Julie Ann Smith (who was still living in and going to school in her home town of Hastings, NE) got the competition going by playing "Tickled to Death." (Julie Ann grew up to become one of the world's top classical harpists.)

Julie Ann...thanks for getting me interested in learning "Tickled to Death!" 

Wanted to get in a tune that marked a first of some kind, so I followed "TTD" with Bob Cole's 1906 biggie, "Under the Bamboo Tree." (Bob was one of the first African-American songwriters in Tin Pan Alley history...and one of the first to hit it big in that Alley.)

This time, I felt comfortable enough to do five rags in my eleven-song set (including "Funny Folks," the 1914 W.C. Polla rag I botched up at the 2009 OTPP Contest- the last time I'd been able to make it to the Hotel Pere Marquette in Peoria, IL, OTPP's current home).

When I put together a set, I like to get this time, I managed to get a dig in on two now former US representatives from New York- Chris Lee (R) and Anthony Weiner (D). (Okay...I dedicated one of Irving Berlin's first songs to the two ex-lawmakers. The song was..."Telling Lies," a 1910 number where Irving's words were set to Henriette Blanke-Belcher's music.)

And since I had the local weather and the flooding taking place along the Missouri River on my mind, I added Nellie Stokes' 1906 rag, "Snowball."

Well, it was all that snow in North Dakota that triggered the flooding along the Mighty Mo.

NCAA baseball's Division 1 World Series had wrapped up (South Carolina won it again, this time sweeping Florida)...and that's why Scott Joplin's "The Easy Winners" (from 1901) and a 1915 novelty from Ray Sherwood and Bert Rule, "I'm Goin' Back to Old Nebraska (Goodbye)," got in there.

And I closed it all out with "Golden Slippers," James Bland's 1853 winner that they used to play all the time on Gunsmoke. (A month before this year's R to R, James Arness died...a year after his younger brother Peter Graves passed away.)

Well, that was it...and Burns Davis picked up the baton and took R to R 7.0 home.

This time, Burns came up with a five-part concert, "From There to Here;" in it, the Californian-turned-Nebraskan spotlighted rags that contrast changes and reflect similarities in rag styles.

Burns (she's a massage therapist in Lincoln when she isn't playing piano or organ) kicked her set off with folk rags, topping it all off with 2000's "Sutter Creek Strut," the final rag written by another Golden Stater-turned-Cornhusker Stater, the late Gil Lieby (who died two years before Peter Graves did).

Dance rags were next up to bat...and they included, if I remember right, Joseph Lamb's final composition, 1960's "Ragtime Bobolink."

Burns' elegant style of playing continued on in the third segment of "From There to Here;" this segment consisted of three marches/two-steps, led off by Scott Joplin's 1908 "Pine Apple Rag."

Then it was rags based on blues. Two of the four such tunes that made it into Burns' concert were Kathi Backus' 1985 "Omaha Blues" (you don't have to be a Nebraskan to love it) and a number that David Thomas Roberts wrote five years later, "Roberto Clemente." (That one's one of the most poignant rags ever devised...and you don't have to be a baseball fan to appreciate this most famous of all the rags David's come up with.)

The last four rags put over in this year's festival fall into the category Burns called "Band Shell, Bring on the Brass Band, Rags."

Lincoln's massage therapist-church organist-ragtimer started this subset with another 1908 tune, May Aufderheide's "The Richmond Rag." (Me, I'm still working on getting the hang of that one!) The next number, Max Morath's rousing "The Vindicator Rag," also stood did the last song in R to R 7.0, the piece that put rags on the map for good.

Nope...not "The Entertainer."

It was "Maple Leaf Rag."

One of the things the audience enjoyed about Burns Davis' concert was how she, from time to time, passed around the sheet music she was playing from. Because of that, we got a chance to see exactly what the composers were out to convey when they put these selections together...especially the effects the Scotts and Josephs and Mays and Maxes built into their rags.

Speaking of built...this time, Burns and I had two pianos to choose from: A Mason & Hamlin grand from the 1920s and an Anderson & Newton upright from, I'm guessing, the turn of the 20th Century (if not the 1890s).

Instead of clashing, the two pianos were in tune with each other. Matter of fact, the A&N upright turned out to be the hit of the least that's what one of the audience members told me.

The secret was...well, after the workshop about Maceo Pinkard ended, all the talk about Tin Pan Alley gave me the idea of sticking a thumb tack into each of the upright's hammers for that tinny sound. (Don't worry...all the tacks got removed from the Van Wert, OH-built piano before the church emptied out.)

The next day, I made it over to the Omaha Street School and handed staff member Tami Saunders the R to R proceeds- $100. (Man, the staff was happy to get the dough!)

And I'm happy that we were able to pull off a festival that had to find a replacement venue FAST.

On top of that, I can't wait 'til we get to do it all over again in 2012...and I hope you can join us.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

One Fine Day...and Night

That's all the Great Plains Ragtime Society needed (as things turned out) to stage the 2011 version of the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area's Ragtime to Riches Festival.

It took place on 7-10-2011, and would've also taken in the previous day if it hadn't been for a double whammy: First of all, the festival's 2007-10 venue, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, raised its rental fee for the use of the Strauss Performing Arts Center's Room 105 (the center's choral rehearsal room). Second, the Nebraska Board of Regents stepped in with a new rule for 2010-11...and it involves insurance policies.

The regents now want any outside organizations seeking to stage events at any spot at any of the schools in the U of Nebraska system to take out two insurance policies- a $1 million policy per occurrence and a $3 million one against UNK, UNL, UNMC, or UNO...depending on what campus is used.

Going back to a church (the first two R to R Festivals were held in a church) seemed more economical, so that's what happened.

Ragtime to Riches is patterned after a January event called the Eau Claire Ragtime Festival, which is held at that Wisconsin city's First Congregational United Church of Christ. During a mid-January weekend, proceeds from that event (the first one took place in 2000) go to help a different nonprofit effort in the western part of the Badger State.

Holding such an event here in the Omaha/Council Bluffs/Bellevue area seemed like a great idea. (When I initially looked into trying to get a festival started around here, we were going to use a playhouse that was then located in a strip mall- the Grande Olde Players Theater. But the GOPT board of directors shot that down...and the first two R to R Fests- 2005 and 2006- happened at a Council Bluffs church, Broadway United Methodist. When the staff at Broadway said "yes," I decided to say "yes" to handling the proceeds the Eau Claire way, too.)

Now that R to R had dropped out of college, it sounded like a great idea to pitch the idea of hosting the event to a local United Church of Christ, First Central Congregational.

The 2011 version still could've been a two-day event if (1) Broadway UMC hadn't installed a new senior pastor in time for the very weekend of this year's festivities and (2) First Central UCC hadn't scheduled a wedding for 7-9-2011. (So that makes it a triple whammy!)

But this new, slimmed-down R to R worked out fine.

Okay, we didn't get the sizable crowd we were able to have in 2010, and half as many performers played this time around...but the ten people who listened to this year's two performers still had plenty of fun.

It all got started at 1:00 PM (Central time) with an open-piano session; at 2:00 PM, I had a chance to give a workshop about one of the three men who came up with "Sweet Georgia Brown," Maceo Pinkard.

Maceo lived from 1897 to 1962; he was born in, raised in, and educated in Bluefield, WV. (He graduated in 1913 from what's now called Bluefield State College; it went under a different name during its early years...okay, it was called the Bluefield Colored Institute.) Within a year of graduation, Pinkard wrote his first song, "I'm Goin' Back Home." He formed his own orchestra and was able to tour the United States.

That's how he got here to Omaha and started a theatrical agency.

By 1915 or so, he'd outgrown the Big O and headed for the Big Apple, where he launched Pinkard Publications. Two years later, MP founded Maceo Pinkard Music, where he sold compositions to bigger publishing companies (like New York City's Leo Feist, Inc. and Chicago's Frank K. Root firm).

But Maceo's best contributions were in the field of songwriting, and that's how he got hired by Shapiro, Bernstein, and Co. in 1918; his first big efforts were that year's "Don't Cry, Little Girl, Don't Cry" and the next year's "Mammy O'Mine."

During the 1921-31 period, Pinkard hit his stride, penning hits like "Sugar," "Don't Be Like That," "There Must Be Somebody Else," "At Twilight," "Congratulations," "That Wonderful Boyfriend of Mine," "Them There Eyes," and, of course, "Sweet Georgia Brown..." as well as "Is That Religion?" and "Gimme a Little Kiss, Will Ya Huh?"

Maceo also came up with his own Broadway musical, "Liza," a production (Irvin C. Miller did the book) that officially ran from 11-27-1922 to 4-21-1923...after a trial run during the summer of 1922.

"Liza" was one of five 1922 shows trying to cash in on the success of Eubie Blake's and Noble Sissle's landmark "Shuffle Along," the musical that gave us "I'm So Wild about Harry."  "Liza's" still got a place at the table was the first place where the Charleston (that's right, THAT Charleston) was done on any stage in the New York City area. (The honor went to Maude Russell and the Dancing Honey Girls.)

Another thing you can chalk up to Maceo Pinkard was his having introduced Duke Ellington (that's right, THAT Duke Ellington) to the business end of the music business.

It all started when Pinkard met Ellington at a New York City nitery, Barron's. After that, MP took DE downtown and introduced him to Fun City's music publishing district (also known, of course, as Tin Pan Alley, the area between 40th and 55th on Broadway).

Duke met Irving Mills at Mills Music...and that resulted in the "Mood Indigo" man gaining a manager.

On top of that, Edward Kennedy Ellington got a chance to record some Maceo Pinkard numbers, such as "Is That Religion?" as well as "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Them There Eyes."

When I come back, I'm going to talk about the festival's two concerts. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Watching "A.N.T. Farm"

You read it right. It's not a typo.

You're probably asking yourself: "What's a grown man- one in his fifties, at that- doing watching a show meant for two-to-fourteen year-olds?"

Well, I'll tell you: I find A.N.T. Farm to be a truly funny show.

What's more, I think it's got something to say to the adults in the lives of those two-to-fourteen year-olds the show's network, Disney Channel, aims its series at.

It comes on Friday nights (8:30 PM Eastern/Pacific, 7:30 PM Central/Mountain) and has been on since 5-6-2011, when Disney Channel aired the show's pilot. A.N.T. Farm became a weekly series a month ago (6-17-2011, to be exact).

The show revolves around three of the students in a gifted program (the "Advanced Natural Talents," or "A.N.T." program) at a San Francisco high school, Webster.

A.N.T. Farm's lead character is Chyna Parks (China Anne McClain, formerly of House of Payne, one of Tyler Perry's TBS shows), an eleven-year-old who's been admitted into the Webster program because of her immense musical talents. Chyna's ambitious, witty, sometimes helpful, sometimes vengeful, and- of course- talented. One of the things she likes to do is solve problems by writing songs about them (which happened in the show's third episode; Chyna had a crush on an older student, so she broke out her flute and came up with a ditty about her crush; last week, she used her guitar playing to get votes when she ran for the A.N.T. representative spot on the WHS student council).

By the way...Chyna's eleven other instruments are violin, piano, trumpet, saxophone, cello, harp, bagpipes, French horn, drums, harmonica, and spoons. (And to top it all off, she sings!) can't convince me that twelve-going-on-thirteen-year-old China Anne is faking the funk, not after she cowrote (with four other composers- two of them her sisters) and sang the series' theme song, "Exceptional."

Sierra McCormick plays Olive Doyle, a talkative, rather insecure girl who's got an eidetic memory. (When you've go an eidetic memory, that means you remember everything you've ever heard, read, or seen.) Olive not only is the show's science wiz...she's also its goof-off. (I liked the payoff scene in the 7-1-2011 episode; in it, Chyna and Olive wrestled with the remote control to the zeppelin Olive had built for Webster's Science Fair. And when the zep crashed into the power line of another science project, Olive quoted 1930s news reporter Herb Morrison, the man who was on the scene when the Hindenburg crashed in 1937: "Oh, the humanity!") 

I've got the feeling Olive's going to grow up to make a great, great voter.

Another thing about Olive: She's afraid of all kinds of things, from ghosts to disorganization all the way to...curly fries (so you'll never catch Olive eating at an Arby's).

Fletcher Quimby (Jake Short as an artistic genius) built the project that used those power lines. But the power lines he'd like to use are the verbal kind...and he'd like to use them on Chyna. (In the premiere episode, Fletcher told Chyna: "You're beautiful." But then, he ended up backing up and referring to her music as beautiful.)

When Fletcher isn't trying to paint portraits or erecting wax versions of himself and of his fellow ANTs, he's doing magic tricks.

Sometimes, you'll get to see Aedin Mincks on the show. On A.N.T. Farm, he's Angus Chestnut, the show's computer genius. Angus likes to run illegal programs, and, as a matter of fact, he's rigged the A.N.T. Room to drop a disco ball and switch the stereo to smooth jazz or soft rock whenever the would-be object of his affections- Olive- pays the least bit of attention to him.

Now to the older students:

Lexi Reed (Stefanie Scott) is a WHS cheerleader, the student body president, the perennial lead in the school's musicals, and...the school bully.

Lexi feels so threatened by Chyna's presence that, the night the show's viewers saw Chyna and Olive try out for the school's cheer squad, Lexi and Co. roughed Chyna up so badly that our multiinstrumentalist couldn't sing worth a hang when it came time to try out for this year's school musical. (But then, Lexi didn't get the lead this time, either!)

In other episodes, Lexi had bullied Angus (stuffing him into a cannon) and Cameron (forcing him to crawl into a trash barrel to find her sunglasses...that were in Lexi's purse all along).

If Ann Coulter ever gets a chance to watch this show, she'd truly like Lexi Reed.

Carlon Jeffery portrays Cameron Parks (that's right, Chyna's big brother). When the Parkses are in school, he tries to stay away from her and her A.N.T. buddies (they embarrass him, as was the case at the party Lexi threw the night we first met the A.N.T. Farm gang). He likes girls and money (but of course!), and that makes Cameron a successor to Hannah Montana's Jackson Stewart. (For that matter, Chyna and Olive are A.N.T. Farm's version of Miley Stewart and Lilly Truscott.)

Cameron's decision to start the school's "End Hunger Today Club" sounded Jacksonish in that it consists of its members stuffing their faces with buffalo wings...but Cameron sticking up for Chyna when it really counts lifts him above the character Jason Earles just got through playing.

I guess a show like this one has got to have someone who's clueless, and on this newest Disney Channel sitcom, that someone is Lexi's buddy Paisley Houndstooth (played by Allie DeBerry, who, I can assure you, is anything BUT clueless in Real Life).

I watch Paisley and wonder about today's American educational system...and I wonder about all those Real Life Paisleys out there (people who are going to end up voting for the first time later on in this decade of the 2010s!).

Geez...who else could refer to a violin as a "chin guitar?" And who else could, later, turn to that same "chin guitarist" and turn down a chance to elect that "chin guitarist" to the A.N.T. spot on the student council...on the grounds of being too young to vote? 

By the way...Cameron ended up winning the A.N.T. seat. (Okay...he isn't really an A.N.T. student. But he was tabbed to replace Angus in that seat because Cameron's in the same height range as the show's three leads. Matter of fact, Carlon stands 5-1...and I found that out by going to

The Parks parents are played by Finesse Mitchell (he's a cop in the SFPD) and Elise Neal (she's a children's party organizer).

Well, there you have it...a show that right now is averaging 3.9 million viewers a week (after grabbing 4.4 million of them for the premiere episode).

It makes me laugh out loud, and that's why I'm staying with this Farm. In fact, I'm putting every episode on DVD.

And I've tried to tape or DVD each first-run episode of just one other sitcom in my life.

And that series happened to be...Roseanne.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I'm Sure Glad They Finally Said It!

I turned on my TV set after coming home from my factory job four days ago, and I tuned into MSNBC. Toward the end of The Ed Show, I heard something that really made me feel happy about a day that, for the most part, had otherwise left a lot to be desired.

Here's what I heard:

"Unfortunately our Republican colleagues in the House and Senate are driven by putting one man out of work- President Obama."

And I also heard this:

"Do Republicans really oppose a tax cut for businesses that created jobs? This is sort of beyond the pale. If they oppose even something so suited to their tastes ideologically, it shows that they're just opposing anything that helps create jobs. It also makes you wonder if they aren't trying to slow down the economic recovery for political gain."

That first quote is from US Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and the second one is from US Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and their responses came at a Capitol Hill news conference the day after Republican senators blocked an economic development bill the GOP used to like.

It's about time the Democrats took the gloves off!  

Matter of fact, I don't wonder if the Elephants are trying to slow down America's economic recovery so that they'll get enough sympathy to insure that they'll get 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue back next time this country has a presidential election.

I'm more than convinced that the Republicans are out to sabotage the nation's economy.

We've been constantly told that since the 1940 presidential election, no incumbent commander-in-chief has been able to get reelected with the country's unemployment rate at 8% or higher.

With that in mind, officially-declared 2012 GOP candidates (you know, former governors Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, ex-House Speaker Newton Gingrich, current US Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, one-time US Sen. Rick Santorum, and business executive Herman Cain) are really licking their chops; just tasting the opportunity to give history's next US presidential inaugural address.

It won't be a sweet taste, I'll tell you that.

All Barack Obama wanted to do was install a new temporary payroll tax cut- something to bring more jobs to the United States. This was an idea the Elephants liked in the past...but now, all at once, it's not such a great idea to them. 

The Republicans would rather have permanent tax cuts.

And this isn't the only about-face the Republicans have pulled since 1-20-2009. What's more, John Boehner's and Mitch McConnell's party used to dig the Economic Development Agency (it gives grants to local projects). Now the party's opposed to even reauthorizing the agency!

Schumer talked about how the GOP doesn't want infrastructure investment. (Never mind that one of the party's leading cheerleader groups- the US Chamber of Commerce- wants this investment to take place.)

Durbin, the Donkeys' Senate whip, really nailed it when he said: "They want to play political games at the expense of getting this economy back on its feet. They believe a weak economy is their best chance of winning the next election."

Needless to say, McConnell (the Senate Republican leader) and Boehner (in the gig Gingrich used to have) didn't utter a word in response to Durbin's and Schumer's charges. Not immediately.

And it's all happening at a time when Joe Biden and a bipartisan (that's right, bipartisan) group of lawmakers are trying to hammer out a deal to cut America's deficit and raise this country's debt limit. (They've got until 8-2-2011; if no deal is finalized, the United States of America joins Greece- a country plenty of our Republican officials have laughed at these last two years- in the Default Zone.)

Keep in mind that the Republicans' policies and attitudes did the lion's share of the work in bringing about this current economic crisis. For starters, the debt nearly doubled during the George Walker Bush years, reaching $6.3 trillion in public debt (and $10.6 trillion in total outstanding debt) when Bush the Younger relinquished his job to Obama on 1-20-2009.

And yes, yes, YES; right now, the total outstanding debt is $14.34 trillion (with private investors holding $8.3 trillion of that entire US debt; that's a figure that dwarfs China's chunk- a comparatively measly $1.15 tril). Public debt accounts for $9.7 tril of that $14.34 trillion figure. 

No, no, NO; I'm not making any of this stuff up. I went to and got these figures. 

Think about what's going to happen if the Bush family's colleagues fully get their way- okay, think about what's going to take place if, at the very least, the debt ceiling isn't raised.

Failure to hike the debt ceiling will affect EVERYONE'S wallets and purses

Now...think back to the 1-20-2001 to 1-20-2009 period if you're an American. Did you lose a job (or more than one job) during that span of time? If you ended up getting back on this country's workforce during that period, did your next job pay less than the one that was pulled out from under you? If you were jobless, how long were you unemployed?

Finally, think about this: If you're in a low-to-middle-income household and you're thinking about voting next year for whoever replaces John McCain as the GOP standard bearer, what's going to be in it for you financially...especially when you consider that, for all the Republicans' talk about how we should cut spending, they refer only to slashing domestic spending (and won't touch defense spending)?

Ever thought about what you can do with that $8,000-$15,000 voucher Paul Ryan wants to give you to replace that Medicare payment?    

I still think about that "trickle up" chart Ed Schultz likes to show on his MSNBC series. In it, the wealthiest Americans saw their earnings zoom roughly 240% from 1979 to 2009...while wages and salaries for the rest of this country's population basically flatlined during the period, as did production.

Ed keeps daring GOP figures to come on his program to defend such a state of events and to tell him and The Ed Show's viewers how this massive income disparity's so great for America.


In fact, I found a real message when reading when researching the Republicans-sabotaging-the-American-economy issue. He said it right: "It is very painful to watch this play out as they (Republicans) attempt to make a point. The costs are way too high for such selfishness."

They certainly are...and I hope the Democrats keep bringing this message home.

(By the way, I also researched Greg Sargent's Washington Post blog and Michael McAuliff's column at to get information for this post.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

See Why I Don't Listen to Talk Radio Anymore?

Regardless of what it's going to cost me to bring this up, I've just GOT to bring this up.

Right now, I'm watching The Ed Show, and I'm still thinking about the antics of Glenn Beck and Neal Boortz...yep, two of Rush Limbaugh's disciples.

Earlier this week, Boortz got on his radio show to call for his listeners to go get guns and bump off "urban thugs" in the city from which his set of tirades originates, Atlanta, GA.

And we all know who he meant by "urban thugs," don't we?

Also earlier this week, Beck went into another one of his tirades on his own TV show...and toward the end, he, too, called for his followers to start packing heat.


Because of, as Beck put it, the need to prepare for "tough times ahead."

And then he pointed to a picture of Barack Obama.

You talk about irresponsible!!

I'm wondering what these two were doing the afternoon of 1-8-2011, when Jared Lee Loughner- in his attempt to kill US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)- wounded Giffords and thirteen other addition to murdering six other people.

Were Beck and Boortz throwing parties? Were they and other so-called talk-radio hosts doing "high fives" over the phone?

You can disagree with a president's politics all you want...but that doesn't give you the right to call for bumping that chief executive off. YOU JUST DON'T DO THAT!!!

You know, it's a shame that the army of hate-radio (oops, I mean conservative talk-radio) hosts constantly gets away with this inflammatory kind of talk. These hosts- with few, few exceptions- rarely get punished.

Let a nonconservative host call for something just a fraction of what Neal Boortz got on radio and demanded from his listeners...and that nonconservative host is run out of broadcasting. Forever.

They won't even let him or her go to a garage sale and buy a used boombox!

When I was little (back in the 1960s and 1970s), we actually had talk radio here in America. The station I listened to (WHO in Des Moines, IA) had hosts of different points of view. And me, I found it not only informative...but fun, too.

Granted, the Fairness Doctrine (it became law in 1961) drove a lot of that. But still, chances were that your point of view WAS represented on talk radio in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. (So was mine.)

Then in 1987, with the Great Communicator still riding high, the Fairness Doctrine was struck down.

The next year (7-4-1988, in fact), Limbaugh's Sacramento-based tirade (oops, I mean show) went national...and the man from Cape Girardeau, MO moved the show to the Big Apple.

Ever since then, producers at news-and-information stations nationwide as well as at the broadcasting companies that give these stations nationally-syndicated shows, in explaining the overwhelming majority of right-wing voices, have loudly proclaimed: "Conservatism sells!"

That may be so...but, ultimately, a news-and-information radio station has a responsibility to the community in which it operates.

It can't always be about ratings. 

The stations have forgotten about that (or ignored it) these last 23 years. And for that reason, I've stopped listening to talk radio. 

I won't even listen to Omaha's most popular AM station...not even to catch Husker football.

And don't misunderstand me: I'm not for shutting those conservative voices up.

We need to hear from the conservatives, because we need to know what kinds of minds these people have.

We also need to hear from liberals, moderates, people of other points of view.

Besides, if we don't hear from as many people as possible, we can't make informed decisions.

And what's wrong with an informed, well-thought-out decision?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Holes Are Plugged Up!

Nope, I don't mean the potholes here in Omaha.

I'm talking about a project I got started with the year I bought a personal computer for the first time, 1992.

All this time, I've been conducting a version of a sports event the NCAA is too reluctant/unwilling/chicken to bring about: That Division 1-A college football playoff.

That's right: The NCAA crowns champions in every remaining sport and in every division in each remaining sport- Division 1, Division 2, and Division 3. Even in football, the organization annually gives you a Division 1-AA title (last season, Eastern Washington won it, 20-19, over Delaware), a Division 2 championship (Minnesota-Duluth defeated Delta State, 20-17, last year), and a Division 3 crown (the 2010 winner was Wisconsin-Whitewater, which stopped ten-time D-3 champ Mount Union, 31-21).

Nothing like that in college football's most lucrative sector.  

Instead, the two teams that play in the so-called BCS national championship game (I call it the "Extra Bowl") are, basically, selected by the media (the ESPN-USA Today Poll and the Harris Interactive Poll)...with help from a whole bunch of computers.

So, if you want a REAL national champion in NCAA Division 1-A football, all you've got to do right now is...go to your desktop or laptop or handheld, download a football simulation game, download from four to thirty-two teams, develop a playoff format, your thing.

And that's what I've been doing all this time.

Been using Lance Haffner Games' 3-in-1 Football and going computer vs. computer, beginning with a used Commodore C-64, then going to a 386, then a 486, then- finally- a P3. And I'd been buying teams disks from LHG until life circumstances kept me from being able to send in for a new 3-in-1 teams disk each year, so I started going to the company's Website,, and getting free downloads of teams disks that included all the D-1-A clubs that participated in bowl games during this or that season. (By the way...this version of a big-school playoff starts with the 1982 campaign, the first season in which the NCAA's current guidelines for membership in the governing body's Division 1-A and Division 1-AA took effect.)

Then, last year, I joined a Haffner Games discussion group.

And because of that, while keeping my version of a 1-A playoff current, I'd been able to fill in the gaps that came from not being able to buy some year's teams disk or download one of LHG's free samples.

For the last dozen years, I hadn't been able to do the 1999 playoffs...until this past weekend.

And so, without further ado, here's how each of these Division 1-A playoffs I've conducted finished:

1982- Nebraska 24, New Mexico 18
1983- Michigan 30, Texas 17
1984- Maryland 20, BYU 17 (1 OT)
1985- Oklahoma 41, Maryland 7
1986- Oklahoma 31, Miami (FL) 14
1987- Oklahoma 24, Auburn 21
1988- UCLA 31, Clemson 17
1989- Nebraska 26, USC 10
1990- Nebraska 16, Clemson 10
1991- Washington 27, Florida State 21
1992- Miami (FL) 55, Syracuse 7
1993- Nebraska 24, Notre Dame 21
1994- Penn State 63, Kansas State 14
1995- Florida State 17, Nebraska 16
1996- Ohio State 34, Arizona State 18
1997- Nebraska 52, Auburn 28
1998- Florida State 31, UCLA 25
1999- Nebraska 28, Kansas State 14
2000- Florida State 21, TCU 17
2001- Miami (FL) 42, Illinois 21
2002- Iowa 31, Colorado State 24
2003- USC 30, Michigan 0
2004- USC 49, Oklahoma 47
2005- Ohio State 31, Texas 27
2006- Boise State 28, Ohio State 14
2007- Ohio State 35, BYU 0
2008- Boise State 38, Oklahoma 14
2009- Florida 28, TCU 7
2010- Ohio State 28, TCU 22

The 1982-2000 playoffs were 16-team affairs; every playoff cycle from 2001 on has involved 24 teams. Each team is seeded, and the top eight seeds get to sit out the first round (the exact same format the NCAA currently uses in its D-2 football playoff; its D-1-AA playoff involves 20 clubs while the D-3 version is a 32-team fight).

Right now, the D-1-A playoffs I've been going through involve eleven automatic qualifiers (that's right: All eleven Division 1-A football-playing leagues get to send their champs to these playoffs, from SEC to Sun Belt) and thirteen at-large clubs.

Each of these 1-A cycles I've run has had plenty of surprises, from Number One seeds losing to Number 16 squads under the old format (something that happened six times) to top eight seeds [including four Number One seeds- Miami (FL) in 2002, Hawaii in 2007, Utah in 2008, and Auburn in 2010] squandering their byes in the new format.

With this system, just two Number One seeds got through the playoffs unscathed: Nebraska in 1993 and Miami (FL) in 2001 (which makes the Hurricanes' fall the next year- a 44-24 loss to Colorado State- even more of a shocker).

And two of the titles were won by Number 13 seeds. What's more, the two teams that turned such a low seeding into championships are in the same conference. And what's even more, the schools they represent are located in the same city!

Yep...I'm talking about UCLA's 1988 team and USC's 2003 squad.

Husker fans (especially those really anxious about when the next time will come when Big Red tops a poll at the end of a season) can take comfort in the six titles won by Nebraska in this version of a 1-A playoff (five by teams under Tom Osborne and the sixth by a team headed up by his successor, current Ohio head coach Frank Solich).

But if you like one of the SEC're bound to cringe.

That's because no Southeastern Conference contingent was able to get it done until Florida went all the way in 2009. (And the Gators were an at-large club that year!)

I'm going to be writing more about the Division 1-A playoffs in the time to come (when I'm not writing about other things on this blog).

Until then, stay tuned...and whether you're a newcomer to this blog or remember it from its previous platform, thanks for checking out "Boston's Blog!"

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Watching "American Experience"

This past Monday, my favorite PBS series, American Experience, presented one of the most riveting documentaries in the program's history.

Nebraska's PBS stations (they're called NET) have since been rerunning this week's American Experience, and as a matter of fact, the program's back on the air right now this afternoon...just as I'm typing out this post.

This week's AE focused on an event that took place fifty years ago this very event that helped shape the America we've got now.

On 5-4-1961, twelve people set out on regularly-scheduled buses from Washington, DC, with the goal of making it to New Orleans, LA, two weeks later.

All they wanted to do was test- and put an end to- America's Jim Crow laws, especially as they pertained to interstate travel.

The Freedom Rides of 1961 were designed as a way to, among other things, get this country's brand-new chief executive (and his people) to start thinking about- and acting on- putting domestic issues (especially the BIG one, civil rights) on the front burner.

That's right: John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech was more than "the torch has been passed" and "Ask not what your country can do you for you...ask what you can do for your country." During that address, JFK talked about spreading freedom all over the world.

He just didn't talk about spreading that freedom all over these fifty states.

Two buses- a Greyhound and a Trailways- pulled out of the nation's capital that first Thursday in the fifth month of 1961.

The Greyhound bus didn't make it, because a mob at Forsyth & Son Grocery, just outside Anniston, AL, firebombed it.

But the six people who'd traveled on that Greyhound bus made it alive.

The Anniston incident didn't stop the Freedom Riders. Neither did mob violence in Birmingham and Montgomery, the Camellia State's two biggest cities...and neither did then Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett's decision to throw one rider after another- 340 in all- in jail (Parchman Farm, one of the worst jails in the world).

And not even Bobby Kennedy's plea to get the Freedom Riders to get off the road and let the government do its job could stop the trips.

RFK's plea came not long after Montgomery was put under martial the wake of vandalism directed at that city's First Baptist Church. (First Baptist was the one where Ralph Abernathy- the man who became the head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated almost seven years later- preached.)

Martial law came to Alabama's capital city all of eighteen days into the Freedom Rides.

At last, thanks mainly to MLK's and RFK's frequent telephone conversations, did the US government finally decide to give the riders protection.

And you can bet the whole planet was watching.

They were watching a country whose very name is supposed to mean "freedom" continue a situation that couldn't possibly mean "freedom."

Like it or not, the mob violence- and Barnett's and John Patterson's (Alabama's then governor; in fact, George Wallace's predecessor) endorsing of said violence, to say nothing of Birmingham Police Chief Bull Connor's hand in creating and endorsing that violence- gave the United States a real egg stain.

And that violence couldn't prevent the September 1961 ruling that, at long last, outlawed segregation in interstate travel...from the bus stations to the buses themselves.

The documentary, "Freedom Riders," showed interviews of people on both sides of the Jim Crow-in-travel issue...from original Freedom Rider John Lewis (now, of course, a US representative from Georgia) to Patterson himself.

To this day, I'm not really sure if Patterson ever showed any, any, ANY remorse for his hand in helping to make the Freedom Rides some kind of difficult.

One thing I'm really sure about is this: People such as Lewis, Jim Zwerg, Diane Nash, Hank Thomas, Genevieve Houghton, Benjamin Cox, Jim Peck, Bernard Lafayette, and hundreds of others, did something completely and totally courageous...and America is much the better for it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Just Glad to Be Back!

Hi! I hope things are going fine in your lives at the present time!

This is my first post for Blogger. Since April 2008, I'd been posting in a different platform (and you can still see my previous postings if you log on to that company's site).

I'm going to touch on a variety of subjects, just as before. That means I'll dwell on personal interests such as sports, music, history, politics, current events, local name it.

Nope, I didn't quit my day job (actually, it's a twi-night job) at a plastics factory here in Omaha (nope...not the one George Walker Bush visited when he still ran this country's government).

In fact, I'm heading off to the factory right now.

Until we meet again, fasten your seat belts! (Mine are on already!)