Saturday, November 28, 2009

A misguided kind of weekend

For merchants, this weekend is one of the most important weekends of the year. Though Christmas and other decorations have been hanging in stores for weeks, this weekend begins the holiday shopping season in earnest.

Based on the many reports I have read, sales that occur during the remaining weeks of the year will make or break many businesses. This is usually true during normal years, but when we consider how bad the economy has been, the stakes are even higher.

For consumers, this is likely good news. Businesses are practically begging us to buy their merchandise so there are a lot of good deals out there.

For example, it is a great time to be a book reader because there has been an on-line war of sorts going on between Amazon and Walmart for the last few weeks. Even new releases can be bought for substantial discounts.

Though on-line purchases can be convenient, we need to remember how important it is to make most of our purchases here locally. Sales tax revenue is a primary driver when it comes to funding government services. This is not just true here but all around the state as well.

Simply put, why go to Murfreesboro, Nashville, and Chattanooga and fill their sales tax needs when there are plenty of businesses to shop at here? Not only can good deals be found locally, but we will save money on gas and meals that we spend when we travel abroad.

So, we should think twice about where we will spend our holiday dollars.

Despite the importance of this weekend, I will not be spending one second shopping. I hope all our stores are blessed with big crowds, but I will not be part of them. This weekend is not for me.

It's just madness. I've seen and experienced too much over the years to have anything to do with this scene. I like good deals as much as anyone, but I do not have the will to sacrifice for them.

Many, many years ago I worked in the retail business, and trust me; this weekend is not a pretty sight. Lines are long. People are impatient, and they are not shy about making their feelings known.

Sometimes people are justified in complaining, but in many cases, they are not. Often times, people do not have realistic expectations about what to expect on this weekend. Long lines and inconvenience are a natural by-product of all the shopping that is going on, so people need to suck it up and understand that.

Adversity does a good job of revealing character. If this is the case, then many of us need a tutorial on how to handle it.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this weekend is that it can overshadow the very holiday meant to be observed: Thanksgiving.

I have always had a soft spot for Thanksgiving. However, its meaning has gotten watered down over the years. Once thought of as a day set aside to consider God's blessings on our country, it has become nothing more than another work day for many.

More and more businesses were open last Thursday just so they could squeeze out one more dollar. I know times are tough, but we should not lose perspective. There is a time to conduct business and another time to reflect on life.

I am just happy I did not have to work that day. Morale for those who did could not have been too high.

My guess is they will be looking for a new job when the economy improves.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving thanks...

We are now about to celebrate Thanksgiving, and I hope the holiday will be a great one for everybody reading this.

Thanksgiving can mean different things to different people. With a nation as diverse as the United States, it will be fascinating to watch the different ways in which we observe the holiday. Most importantly, I hope all of us will take time on Thursday to give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy.

We all have problems that we struggle with both as people and as a nation. However, despite these problems I believe we can all agree we have been tremendously blessed.

On a personal level, I appreciate God's blessings on my life. I am grateful Jesus acted as a sacrifice for my sins. Additionally, God has blessed our country in many ways, and I hope those who don't realize that will understand it soon.

Also, I am thankful that I will get to spend Thanksgiving with my family.

There are people scattered all over the world who are separated from their loved ones. However, I will get a chance to spend the day with mine. It is a blessing that is easy to take for granted, and I hope I never do.

I am thankful for my good health. Like I wrote earlier, we all have challenges that weigh us down, and for many, their primary challenge is with their health.

As I move through middle age, my body is changing in ways I never thought possible, but other than that, I am grateful my problems are manageable.

I am grateful that I live in the United States. True, we are a country with a lot of struggles. Despite this, we are also a wonderful country.

Our nation has been blessed with a tremendous amount of liberty and freedom, and I know for certain that I take that for granted. I know I do not make the most of this blessing, and maybe all of us are guilty of this to a certain extent. Fortunately, this is an attitude we can all reverse if we will commit ourselves to it.

Making the most of our liberty and freedom can manifest itself in many ways. Many times, it is simply being a lot more aware of what is going on around us. This is more important than ever.

As we head toward the New Year, 'accountability' is a word that we should focus more on in terms of how our politicians govern us. Especially on the federal level, there has been a lot of turmoil regarding the direction in which our nation should go.

This is especially apparent when it comes to health care. I believe everybody reading this agrees that our health care system needs reforming. Of course, the big controversy is what approach we should use.

During the last several months, there has been a lot of frustration regarding how this issue will shake out. The frustrating aspect is how many of our politicians are trying to push their agenda while shutting out the attitudes of the public. Sometimes, the political acts we have seen have literally been done under the cloak of darkness.

For example, when the House of Representatives passed its version of health care reform two weeks ago, the vote was done at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night. That seems like an odd time to conduct a vote on an issue so important. Perhaps they wanted to vote when they knew many would not be watching.

Beware of tip-toeing in the darkness.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

'Green River' by Creedence Clearwater Revival is a perfect album

When a person refers to art as 'perfect,' the word is used in a subjective way. After all, artistic creations impact different people in different ways. This fact is one of the great elements that stimulate impassioned artistic debate. With this in mind, I believe Green River by Creedence Clearwater Revival is a perfect album.

Released in 1969, it was CCR's first album to top the charts, and the band was performing at its peak. John Fogerty (vocalist, lead guitar), Tom Fogerty (rhythm guitar), Doug Clifford (drums), and Stu Cook (bass) had been performing for years, and by the point of this album's release, they were as tight and sharp as any band on the planet.

Four songs on the album are still radio staples today. The title song hearkens to the joys of youth, and it comes across as a musical cousin of the band's first big hit 'Proud Mary' (though the lyrics are very different). 'Bad Moon Rising' cloaks itself in apocalyptic imagery and says a lot in only two minutes and eighteen seconds. 'Commotion' also sings of unrest. Songwriter John Fogerty was correct to dip both 'Bad Moon Rising' and 'Commotion' in images instead of specific events when it came to the lyrics. Because of this, the songs are just as relevant today (maybe more so) than they were back then. For example, even though Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young's powerful song 'Ohio' strongly delivered the outrage of the Kent State massacre in 1970, the song has lost some of its punch today because that specific event was so long ago.

The last song heard a lot on the radio from this album is 'Lodi.' It is a song about a struggling band playing in a dump and wondering if they will ever make the big time. It is a song every band can relate to, and even a non-musical person like me can relate as well. Haven't we all been struggling at some aspect of our lives and found ourselves somewhere we didn't want to be?

The rest of Green River is full of strong album cuts. 'Tombstone Shadow' is about a whimsical visit to a fortune teller. 'Wrote a Song for Everyone' is a poignant ballad about the inability to communicate on a person-to-person level. 'Sinister Purpose' deals with a Rasputin-like person with evil on his mind. 'Cross-Tie Walker' is a country-flavored delight.

Green River was the second album in a remarkable five-album run for the band. In 1969 and 1970, CCR released five albums all of which made the Top 10 and sold more than one million copies. That is a career for many bands.

Green River is a remarkable achievement. If it is not in your collection, then get it right now. You've lived too much of your life without it already.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The appeal of Kim Kardashian escapes me

I acknowledge that the title of this posting is misleading. I do understand the appeal of Kim Kardashian. She is very pretty and is on a popular television show.

I guess I do not understand why such a cult of personality can rise up around a person who has not accomplished much. I know that might sound too harsh, and I am sure she is a very nice person. I just do not understand how 'stars' of reality television programs become such objects of desire.

After all, reality programs really scrape the bottom of the barrel when it comes to entertainment. Her show, Keeping Up with the Kardashian's, is not any better or worse than other programs of its type. It is lightweight, and the story lines are predictably self-centered. The fact that it airs on the E! channel should tell you all you need to know.

Still, when I watch this program (and others like it), it makes me feel like the audience has thrown in the towel and will now watch anything. Because of this, Hollywood tries less hard to produce good programs because they know people will tune in like barking seals waiting for a fish.

Too bad.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Evil moves quickly...

I am sure everybody reading this has had a job that they have either deeply disliked or been on the receiving end of work place injustice.

The impact of this can deeply injure us. After all, many of us spend at least five days a week at our job. If a person has to put up with anything for 40 or 50 hours a week, it would be easy to let that overtake our lives.

Now, imagine the impact this would have if a person had to put up with a situation like this for years or decades. It is a position that none of us would like to experience.

Of course, some would argue that if somebody had to put up with something they genuinely hated, then they should just get another job. After all, life is too short to put up with a situation like that. This is easier said than done.

Unfortunately, the national unemployment rate is now 10.2 percent, and the rate has been above 10 percent in Tennessee for some time. It would simply be too risky to leave a job without having another job lined up. Jobs are scarce so people likely are forced to put up with circumstances they might not have a few years ago.

I thought of this following the mass shootings last week in Texas and Florida. One shooting was executed by a career military man at the base he worked at and the other was done by somebody at a place where he formerly worked.

In both cases there were deaths (13 in the case of the shootings in Texas) and multiple people wounded. The obvious question in both circumstances is: What causes a person to finally snap and decide to kill as many people as possible as a solution to his problem?

I wish I could write that the solution chosen by the shooters was uncommon. However, we all know that is not true. Just a couple of years ago, a killer went on a shooting spree at Virginia Tech that resulted in 32 deaths.

These stories are almost as common as the suicide bombers that we hear about in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the battle lines in the conflicts there are drawn more clearly. The events there are expected as a part of war. We do not see that here.

Still, I believe that the events we saw last week are also part of a war. It may not be a war that includes tanks, missiles, and planes, but it is still a war.

The war between good and evil is as powerful today as it was when the universe began. It is also a struggle that we all deal with on a daily basis. It is not always easy to do what is good. It is also tempting to give in and do what we know is wrong.

I would like to believe that both of last week's shooters wrestled long and hard with their decisions before following through with them. We will never know for sure if they did.

Even if we did know, it obviously would not reduce the evil they did. All that was accomplished in these situations is that evil 'won' and a lot of innocent, hard-working people went to their graves too soon.

Lives ended. Families shattered. More confusion and madness scarred our nation.

That pretty much sums up what happened. It is only a matter of time before we are confronted with another event like this.

If that is not a sobering thought, then I do not know what is.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Questions...I get questions

I don't often publicly respond to questions I receive, but I have made an exception in this case.

Question: The name of your blog is The Nightly Daily, but you don't post stuff on a daily basis. What gives?

Answer: What gives? I get tired; that's what gives. I try to publish material that is reasonably interesting instead of grinding out material just for the sake of posting something. Therefore, it takes a few days between postings.

Just don't want things to get stale.

Thanks for reading.

Sorry for being cranky tonight.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 was likely rock's greatest mass concert

The most consistent characteristic of rock festivals, generally, has been their inconsistency. When they are successful, the attendees romanticize them far above what the experience really was. On the other hand, when they go bad, critics brand them as the worst of what society can offer. For every Bonnaroo and Woodstock '69, there seem to be four or five like Altamont or all the Woodstock re-tries.

The grandfather of the modern festival was the Monterey International Pop Festival held in Monterey, Calif., in June 1967. In 1992, Rhino Records released a four-CD boxed set (cover art shown in photo) of the event that includes performances from 21 artists and more than 60 songs. Though the original Woodstock soundtrack usually gets the nod for best festival album, the Monterey performances are better and more diverse.

Several acts became stars because of their performances here. For Jimi Hendrix and The Who, this festival was their first important performance in America. For Otis Redding, after years of just missing the big time, his performance here finally gave him the success his exceptional talent deserved. Unfortunately, he died six months later in a plane crash. For Janis Joplin, the Port Arthur, Texas, outcast finally found a place where she belonged as singer for Big Brother and the Holding Company.

Of all the performances represented here, it is Otis Redding's blistering set that is the best. I really wish I could have seen Redding in concert. Redding and Roy Orbison are the two best singers I have ever heard. A skilled Artisan created both their voices. Backed by Booker T. & the MGs, Redding's songs leap off the disc and kick the listener in the butt.

He has five songs on this compilation, including 'Respect.' Aretha Franklin had a big hit with the song, but few people remember that Redding wrote it. Also, he does his version of Sam Cooke's 'Shake.'

However, the best is 'Try a Little Tenderness.' Because of his trademark raspy vocals, folks nicknamed him 'Mr. Pitiful,' and he used that persona to the fullest on this song. Beginning quietly and gently, his voice guides the song as it slowly builds power. By the end, the music is exploding, and the crowd is going crazy. A truly memorable moment. Days later, while on vacation, he wrote the lyrics of his most well-known song '(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay.'

Though they had found success in England, the Jimi Hendrix Experience had yet to break through in America. The only footage people usually see of Hendrix at Monterey is when he sets his guitar on fire during the finale of 'Wild Thing.' By focusing on the flash, however, many listeners miss an electrifying set.

All of his major early songs are represented here. 'Purple Haze,' 'Foxey Lady,' 'Hey Joe,' 'Can You See Me,' and 'The Wind Cries Mary' are straight performances of the studio versions with little improvisation. His version of Bob Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone' is best remembered by me because he refers to Dylan's grandmother at least three times during the set. Your guess is as good as mine.

Like Hendrix, the Who played many of their major early songs though most folks at the festival had never heard them. To this point, their biggest hit in America had been 'Happy Jack,' which got to only number 24 on the singles chart. They played it, but the rest of the songs were an assault on the senses.

Opening with 'Substitute,' it becomes quickly obvious that they are playing way too loud for the sound system. Other songs include: 'Pictures of Lily,' 'Summertime Blues,' and 'A Quick One While He's Away.' The finale was 'My Generation,' which ended the set with smashed guitars, microphones, and drums. I wish I still had that type of energy.

There are many other acts in this collection including: Jefferson Airplane, the Mamas and the Papas, the Byrds, the Butterfield Blues Band, and the Steve Miller Band. If anything, there is too much material here. There is just way too much music to digest in even three or four listenings. However, that is a good problem to have.

This set is worth owning for the Redding and Hendrix performances alone. If this boxed set is too much, look for an album that was released in the early 1970s that had just the performances of those two. It provides an appetizer of the best of Monterey Pop.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Antoine Walker blew $110 million....what more can be said?

During harsh economic times, it is only natural that people would look at money as an important stabilizer of their lives.

Let's face it; times are tough. The unemployment rate has been at or above 10 percent in Tennessee for months, and adversity does a good job of forcing people to appreciate things they don't have, which in this case is money.

However, as we all know, money does not solve all our problems. In studying the lives of rich people, money often brings hardship if it is not managed well. For every problem money solves, it often creates two more.

I thought of this recently when reading about the plight of former professional basketball player Antoine Walker. Walker played professionally for 12 years, primarily for the Boston Celtics. He earned approximately $110 million during his career. Despite this, creditors are pursuing him regarding $4 million in debt, and he is facing felony check fraud charges in Las Vegas, according to Yahoo! Sports.

So, how does somebody spend that much money? Here are some of the details provided by Yahoo!

"(Walker) liked to move in an outsized entourage; his mother estimates that, during his playing days, he was supporting 70 friends and family members in one way or another. And speaking of his mother, he built her a mansion in the Chicago suburbs, complete with an indoor pool, 10 bathrooms, and a full-sized basketball court.

"Living in the Bishops Forest condominium complex in Waltham, Mass., during the Celtics season, Walker turned the pavement surrounding his home into a virtual luxury car lot – two Bentleys, two Mercedes, a Range Rover, a Cadillac Escalade, and a bright red Hummer. Often, the vehicles (had) custom paint jobs, rims, and sound systems at considerable added expense. He also collected top-line watches – Rolexes and diamond-encrusted Cartiers."

The Yahoo! story also includes examples of Walker's generosity to others, and anybody who spends that kind of money to build a house for his mother has to be a good-hearted man. Still, we can all be excused if his lack of financial discipline makes us shake our heads.

For people having problems making ends meet, his story will likely cause steam to shoot out their ears. Still, it is important to maintain compassion and understanding for Walker. The United States is a very materialistic society, and many people fall into the trap of believing extravagant items can bring lasting happiness.

Simply put, materialism is a big, fat lie. And, as we all know, the bigger the lie, the more enticing it is to people.

In Walker's case, he kept spending and spending and spending until there was nothing left to spend. Though his is an extreme case, the recession has provided us many examples of people who financially overextended themselves.

Part of the reason for the mortgage meltdown that we've seen the last couple of years is because people bit off more than they could chew when it came to purchasing a house. It is too easy to simply blame the banking industry as the sole reason for this mess.

Additionally, easy access to money through credit cards has caused many to dig holes too deep to quickly escape. If a person thinks otherwise, all he has to do is observe all the television commercials from companies promising to help people pay off their debt for only a fraction of what they owe.

The bottom line is the Walker case may seem uncommon, but it really is not. Think twice about casting stones at him.

We may be more like him than we realize.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Jesus has a lot to say about anxiety and worry

If we are honest, worry and anxiety are a couple of our biggest sources of distraction. Financial pressures, frayed personal relationships, and career demands are only three sources of anxiety that have become staples in today's society. It is human nature to worry or be anxious about things that are often out of our control. The pressures we face are very real and can become a huge source of bondage if we do not deal with them in a healthy way.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6-7: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

On first reading, these verses likely fall into the category of 'easier said than done.' Don't worry about anything? When I first became a Christian, those verses were ones that I threw up my hands and said, "Impossible!" However, Paul was not being critical of our worrying. He understood that it is human nature to experience anxiety. The bigger point he was making is that prayer needs to be our first line of defense when it comes.

Prayer is often the court of last resort for many Christians. However, Paul understood that anxiety and worry are major elements of spiritual warfare that Satan uses to drive a wedge between a believer and God.

The Apostle Paul probably knew this topic all too well. When he wrote his letter to the Philippian church, it was likely during his first imprisonment in Rome when he was under house arrest. Paul repeatedly faced harassment during his ministry resulting in multiple stays in prison and finally, in his execution.

Believers can take heart because the people in the Bible were flesh and bone just like us. True, we likely will not face execution for our faith, but we all share many of the same worries. We can learn from each other, and when dealing with worry, Paul knew from his personal experience how God had delivered him during times of strife.

Paul encouraged us in those verses to take our worries and cares to God because God is the ultimate caregiver. Despite all the obstacles he faced, Paul knew his number one source for strength and encouragement was his relationship with God. Through prayer, he received the peace from God to remember that all things in this world are temporary and are only a drop in a bucket when compared to an eternity in heaven.

That is why an active prayer life is critical for everybody. Jesus repeatedly withdrew to pray as was recorded in Luke 5:16. Prayer is often the only point during the day where we can step aside and just pour everything out of our heart.

The bottom line is that no matter what role worry plays in our lives it does not help us one bit. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

We are all very busy and have lots of responsibilities to other people. However, God longs to have a personal and intimate relationship with all of us. People change, but God does not. Spill your heart out to Him. He is right there waiting for you.

Source material: The Holy Bible, ‘The Glorious Journey’ by Charles Stanley, ‘Pressing Toward the Goal: Philippians, Colossians’ by the David C. Cooke Ministries

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

President Obama misguided in picking fight with Fox News

The struggle to manipulate and control information is a constant battle for most politicians. They want to control how their messages reach the public.

As the media's size has exploded over the last couple of decades, this has become much more difficult. The expanded presence of newspapers on the Internet, 24-hour cable news channels, and talk radio have all played major roles in causing headaches for politicians.

This is good news for the public. The public needs access to information from many different outlets in order to develop a well-rounded viewpoint on issues. However, the battle between politicians and the media remains a spirited one.

A recent example of this was when the Obama administration began a campaign of sorts to discredit the Fox News cable channel. Administration officials like White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel have appeared on high profile shows to criticize Fox.

The main point being made by officials is that Fox really is not a news reporting organization. They claim it is really a televised form of talk radio, and because of this, the network should not be considered on the same level as organizations like the Cable News Network (CNN).

The timing of the administration's efforts is curious. Right now, President Obama is grappling with how to handle the war in Afghanistan and guide our economy out of its severe rut. Yet, despite all these problems, the president is apparently expending quite a bit of time to discredit a news network.

Officials representing his administration have been making the rounds for several weeks to press the criticism of Fox. These are not casual, off-the-cuff remarks. These officials are repeatedly criticizing the network.

The purpose of this column is not to defend or criticize Fox. As a reader, if you are taking time to read this blog, I trust that you are capable of coming to your own conclusions about what Fox does. The issue is how upfront the Obama administration is being in its dislike of the network.

However, cloaked in the administration's attacks, there are traces of hypocrisy. Though branding Fox as nothing more than an extension of the Republican Party oversimplifies the issue, this is what they are doing.

The hypocrisy enters this debate when the administration fails to criticize news outlets that are friendly to him who use the same general approach as Fox. For example, MSNBC is unrelentingly supportive of President Obama, and their prime time line up of shows takes the same approach as Fox except they have liberal commentators.

So, apparently, the president does not have a problem with a talk radio approach on television as long as it supports him. In fact, the president is apparently going out of his way to assist MSNBC.

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that private briefings are being given to MSNBC commentators Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. Olbermann and Maddow are both in MSNBC's prime time schedule and compete directly with Fox shows that are giving the administration the most heartburn.

Again, the hypocrisy here is pretty compelling. The next question is obvious. Why is the administration doing this?

If nothing else, President Obama did not receive a lot of strong criticism leading up to his election last year. Saturday Night Live lampooned this fact last year in a devastating sketch that illustrated how much tougher the press was on Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

Because of this, the president appears ill-prepared for some of the criticism he has been receiving.

He says he doesn't lose sleep over Fox. The reality appears otherwise.