Sunday, August 31, 2014

Is This What You Want, America?

Funny...I remember being told that the United States entered World War 2, sent troops to Korea, and put soldiers in Vietnam- to say nothing of deploying fighting men and fighting women in Iraq and Afghanistan- to stop totalitarianism.

I didn't think totalitarianism (in one degree or another) would get a foothold, let alone thrive in too many places, on these shores.

It's been 22 days now since 18-year-old high-school graduate Michael Brown was shot and killed in his home town of Ferguson, MO, by one of that city's police officers, Darren Wilson.
Several nights of tense protests ensued after Wilson and his fellow Ferguson Police officers gave conflicting reports about the events that led to Brown's killing; the protests came about, too, because of mounting frustration over the lack of detailed information made available to the general public about just what took place to cause Wilson to fire those six bullets.

Within a couple of days of the death of Brown, armored trucks and other military hardware were seen in the streets of Ferguson.

Not Kiev, Ukraine. Ferguson, MO, USA. 

To top it all off, that same police department fired tear gas (8-13-2014) at an Al Jazeera America TV crew to prevent that crew from taping coverage of the protests taking place in this St. Louis suburb. 

And two other reporters- The Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly and The Washington Post's Wesley Lowery- were detained by another FPD officer at a local McDonald's the very night the Al Jazeera America crew faced tear gas. 

It didn't make one bit of difference that Lowery, Reilly, and the crew from Al Jazeera America were just doing their jobs. 

Things would've been much worse if Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon hadn't called on Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Patrol to take over the policing of Ferguson from the St. Louis County forces and the Ferguson Police. (Johnson- a man from the St. Louis area- even walked with the protesters the night he took over.)

Yes, at the core of it all was the robbery of a convenience store in Ferguson. And yes, the FPD named Brown as a suspect. 

It's also true that Brown was unarmed and had no criminal record coming into 8-9-2014...and that the initial contact between the 28-year-old Wilson (a six-year FPD veteran) and the 18-year-old Brown had nothing to do with the robbery...a theft that took place ten minutes before the killing.  

Wasn't it enough for Darren Wilson to just take Michael Brown to the police station?

Since when did being suspected of robbery warrant death to the unarmed suspect at that?   

I mean, James Holmes got treated better by police. 

Me, I don't know about how the same Aurora, CO police responsible for catching Holmes would've treated the Ferguson protesters.

But I do know I've read where, in the past, Ferguson's Finest (?) have harassed school children...including one who was just going to the mailbox of the child's own home. 

And if you're walking down one of Ferguson's thoroughfares, even if it's the one you live on, chances are one of Ferguson's Finest (?) will stop you...just for the hell of it.

I've been thinking that that city of 21,135 (2012 estimate) doesn't have a police department.

It's got a Gestapo.  

And this country's got too many cities where, depending on what you look like, you'd just better not be caught walking down this or that street- even if it's the street where you live and you're trying to get home.  

I recently read online about a man from St. Paul, MN, who was waiting at a shelter over by the First National Bank Building there. He was waiting on his children...but that didn't stop a bank employee from calling the police on him and getting him arrested. (Supposedly, it was his dreadlocks...and, oh, yes, his skin color.)  

If you're an American and you happen to stumble onto this post, you might want to ask yourself if the city you live in, if it isn't Ferguson itself, is a Ferguson-to-be...or has already had a Fergusonlike incident in recent years.

There's just no reason for a SWAT team to invade a rather peaceful protest. And there's no excuse for a police officer to let his dog desecrate that makeshift memorial (flowers and candles) at the spot where Brown died- the spot where Brown lay for four hours without medical attention.

48 of Ferguson's 53 officers are a city where two out of every three residents are Black.

Are you adding this all up? 

Despite US Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) calling for an end to the militarization of America's police departments, many of Paul's fellow Republicans keep saying we shouldn't continue to shine the Big Light on Ferguson. They're also angry over efforts to get more Fergusonites to get out to their neighborhood polling places...especially on 11-4-2014.  

You know what, Republicans? That's YOUR tough luck!

If you're going to continue to talk glowingly and eloquently about freedom, then you've got absolutely no business calling for the transformation of "the country whose very name means freedom" into a police state.

I applaud those Fergusonites who now are calling for an end to their city's record as an Information-Age East Berlin.  

How about you? 

(By the way...sources for information for this post included Wikipedia and

Monday, August 18, 2014


Yesterday afternoon, I made it out to the Rose Blumkin Performing Arts Center (20th and Farnam Sts., Omaha, NE 68102) to check out the River City Theatre Organ Society's (a club I joined in 1984, the year it celebrated its first birthday) annual extravaganza.

Darn right it was a humdinger!

The featured artist was Portland, OR native- and theatre organ legend- Jonas Nordwall. 

Right from the start of the concert, Jonas showed the style that's enabled him to perform on four continents (North America, Asia, Australia, and Europe). It's a style where he's equally adept at both classical playing and pop music.

The outing was titled "A Sentimental Musical Journey," and Jonas started out with (what else?) "Sentimental Journey."

Right after that, he told the Rose Theater's audience (the place was 90% full) that a sentimental musical journey doesn't always have to be confined to the songs of the 1930s and 1940s...then he went out and proved his point by going back to the venue's three-manual, 21-rank Wurlitzer pipe organ (built in 1927) to fire up three tunes that were popular in the 1960s: "Spanish Flea," by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass; "Unchained Melody," which was popularized in the 1950s by Roy Hamilton, Al Hibbler, and bandleader Les Baxter (in separate recordings) before the Righteous Brothers got hold of it a decade later; and Frankie Valli's first smash as a solo artist, "Can't Take My Eyes Off You." 

Jonas didn't leave the 1950s behind, covering that decade with Erroll Garner's most famous tune, "Misty." And the man with thirty highly-acclaimed recordings to his credit jumped into the 1980s by stringing together four numbers from "Les Miserables," including "Bring Him Home" and the one that made a name out of Susan Boyle, "I Dreamed a Dream."  

Just YOU try to tell someone it's impossible to feel sentimental about the Carter-Reagan-Bush the Elder years.  

Jonas showed his classical side by playing Manuel de Falla's "Ritual Fire Dance," and to top off the first half of the extravaganza, our featured artist cued a 1929 silent movie, "Big Business." (In it, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy tried to sell James Finlayson a Christmas tree. And no, Stan and Ollie weren't successful.)

Jonas Nordwall's got the kind of music you can close your eyes and really visualize. 

Well, I like to think so!

The organist for Rip City's First United Methodist Church came back out for the second half of the show by knocking out "Pietro's Return," a 1913 march by accordion legend Pietro Deiro. Jonas- who took up the squeezebox at the age of four- then shared an anecdote about Pietro's brother Guido...who happened to be married for a time to Mae West. (That's right...THAT Mae West!)  

Then Jonas turned the show over to another accordion legend...Omaha's very own Johnny Ray Gomez.

Jonas actually turned it over to a two-man band, for it was Johnny Ray and his namesake son, keyboardist Johnny Ray Gomez IV.

Johnny Ray- actually Johnny Ray III- teamed up with Johnny Ray the Younger to deliver a lighthearted, freewheeling, rollicking set that started out with a mashup of "12th Street Rag" and "The Glow Worm." The Two Gomezes then fused together "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "Only You (and You Alone)," two of the biggest hits recorded by the Platters...the singing group Johnny Ray IV served as music director/pianist during the second half of the 1980s before he came back to Nebraska to start his own music production company, OnTrack, Inc.

Johnny Ray the Elder then stated: "We haven't done a polka."

And that was all the more reason for the Two Johnny Rays to switch the music to the durable "Just Because."

JRG IV got the spotlight next as he and his dad eased on into Floyd Cramer's "Last Date," followed by JRG III musically paying tribute to those veterans (and veterans' spouses) who'd made it to the Rose.

Their last tune together was Vangelis' "Chariots of Fire," featuring the keyboard work of IV.

After that, I was hoping that the three men would take the next tune(s).

Didn't happen yet...for Jonas went back to the Wurlitzer and covered the next two numbers by himself: "My Way" and "The Stars and Stripes Forever," the former a tribute to Joyce Markworth, the RCTOS member (and club president Bob's wife) who unexpectedly passed away this past March. 

The two numbers proved to be enough to merit Jonas a well-deserved standing ovation...and that ovation proved to be enough to lead Jonas and the Two Johnny Rays to, at last, team up...for "Sweet Georgia Brown."  

Well, that did it...RCTOS really nailed it. Made those hundred of people at the Rose happy...happy to be witness to three legends.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

It All Started with These...

You're looking at the first two records I ever owned in my life. 

The bad news is: I don't have the original 45-RPM singles anymore.

But the good news is this: I went on to find the Four Tops' "Baby I Need Your Loving" and Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street" on albums.

It was fifty years ago this month that I started collecting records (with Dad's and Mom's financial help, of course...heck, I was eight-going-on-nine years of age!). 

The real impetus for launching a personal record collection was still going some kind of strong in August 1964...six months after that impetus originally took hold here in America.

That's right...just as Elvis Presley's entry onto the Billboard pop chart in March 1956 ended up causing a boom in the record industry (and transforming everything else), so the Beatles' arrival on that same chart in January 1964 (and- the absolute clincher- their live appearance on TV's The Ed Sullivan Show on 2-9-1964) caused an even longer-lasting boom in the record business (and transformed everything else).

Started collecting records at a time when, to tell the truth, I was actually away from home...and not of my own choosing.

Where I was forced to stay, I heard the records that some of the other children at that same facility had bought and were playing. (Once a week or so, we'd go into the rec room down in the basement and stack that portable record player with 45s; once in a while, an album would get heard...and, more often than not, the LP was "Meet the Beatles!")

At that time, music was on many Americans' minds...especially the minds of the youngest citizens. If it wasn't the Fab Four, it was the Dave Clark Five or the Searchers or Gerry and the Pacemakers or Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas or Manfred Mann or Herman's Hermits or the say nothing of the Rolling Stones.

Or it was some of the acts those British bands learned the Miracles and the Contours and the Supremes and the Temptations and Martha and the Vandellas and the Four Tops (to say nothing of Chuck Berry, who'd found his way back on Billboard's charts at that very moment). 

Besides those rec-room moments, the radio was always playing (when the TV wasn't on), and it was always tuned to a Top 40 this case, KWWL in Waterloo, IA. (I lived in Eastern Iowa from January 1964 to June 1967.)

And starting my own record collection helped make that three-and-a-half year period easier to take. 

Me, I didn't want to stop at Motown...or at any one genre of music.

And so, the next three singles I happened upon are now the oldest surviving 45-RPM releases I own: "Come a Little Bit Closer" by Jay and the Americans, "Selfish One" by Jackie Ross, and "Michael," Trini Lopez' remake of the Highwaymen's 1961 Number One smash.  

Anyway, I started buying albums in mid-1967 while continuing to purchase 45s (by then, I was receiving an allowance); over the next fifteen years, my collection grew, slowly-but-steadily.

By 1982, the cache exploded.

It was all because I found out about Kanesville Kollectibles (530 S. 4th St., Council Bluffs, IA), the biggest used record-tape-CD store in the Hawkeye State.

I got to the point where I'd go shop at Kanesville once a month. (Now I'm lucky to stop in twice or three times a year.)

Thanks to Kanesville Kollectibles and the chance to go to record shows every year since 1984, I now own roughly 2,000 records, tapes, and CDs. 

And since 2007, I've been working on digitizing these records and tapes, burning them onto a hard drive and converting the vinyl to compact discs. What's more, thanks to online music services like Rhapsody and eMusic, the computer I'm using to type this post now has about 5,000 items...and the items have been saved to a flash drive.  

One thing about this fifty-year (and counting) journey: This is one addiction I'm proud to have.

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