Monday, September 27, 2004

Friday, September 24, 2004

WPAQ: Voice of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Category: Music
Genre: Country
Artist: Various Artists

This is the review done by Tom Sheridan at allmusic.com:

These on-air recordings made between 1947 and 1950 at the Mount Airy, NC radio station offer a fascinating snapshot of the musical milieu of the time. From breakdowns like "Old Joe Clark" by the Gurney Thomas Band to the gospel harmony of "I'm Living Down Here on Borrowed Land" by the Silvertone Gospel Harmonizers, it's priceless material.
-----------------------
I'll add to it that these recordings hearken back to a long gone era for me. Sure, we had TV growing up but our family spent alot of time listening to the radio and to old albums. My Dad's folks had a 78 record player too. But most of all these recordings make me think of my Grandpa Orville, Mom's Dad who was a Kentuckian through and through.

For anyone who has a music library and appreciates old timey music, this CD is for you

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Lucky Girl

I suppose it would be about 10 years ago this summer when I first met the spunky & delightful Gwen Plouhinec, a.k.a. "The Lucky Girl". Gwen is from Rennes, in Brittany (France) and I met her through happenstance. She was working as a traveling occupational therapist down in a rural hospital in Tennessee. She was in the United States on an H1-B nonimmigrant Visa and was working for a company who assigned her to facilities they contracted with for 6-12 weeks at a time. It just so happened she was working in the same hospital as another traveling therapist, Heidi Shubert, an Australian who originally came to the United States to work with me. Heidi and I had known each other for about three years when she brought Gwen up to Indianapolis for the Memorial Day weekend and my Indy 500 race party. Now I had a huge crush on Heidi, with her constantly messy hair, big smile and awesome Aussie accent, so when she said she was bringing a friend I said sure.
I knew I would like Gwen almost from the minute we met. She had only experienced the southeastern and mid-south US, so I spent alot of time telling her she needed to really travel to get a true sense of what the country was like. At some point in time I even told her that if her current job didn't work out she should let me know and I would see about sponsoring her myself and she could work for me.
Well it's a pretty long story as you can see, but 10 years later Gwen and I are still great friends. She's practically an O'Connor as she spent several holidays at my parents house and stays in close contact with my Mom. Our friend Monty and me visited Gwen when she lived in Georgia and I was honored to stand up for her at her wedding in Arcata, CA. I met her family in Nashville years ago and had the pleasure of their company this summer when AW and I traveled to France for Gwen's brother Gildas' (see my archived posts) wedding.
.Gwen and her husband Jack continue to live in northern California and she never cesaes to amaze me. She's one of those people that is so efficient and so energetic that from time to time you just sort of step back and shake your head, because just watching her makes you tired. To top it off, she's very French and very stubborn. The problem for the rest of us is she is usually right. Gwen and Jack have two lovely daughters who are blessed with two sweet sisters from Jack's first marraige. She is very busy.
Shortly after I met Gwen I started calling her The Lucky Girl, because it seemed to me that luck followed her wherever she went. When she was traveling with her brother Gildas, they just stumbled across a Clemson football game and managed to get in...when she went to Lake Tahoe and followed my advice to stop in Alpenglow, she met a world class climber who took her everywhere and introduced her to wonderful people. She's just lucky that way.
I heard from Gwen today. She contacted me because she was a little upset at the "down" tone I used in a previous post about my breakup with AW. She reminded me to be positive and to let good things happen to me. I think she was giving me one of her secrets to life. And, after spending far too little time with her family in France this summer, I gather the way she lives her life has been heavily influenced by her very large, happy and loving family. She really is a great person and a wonderful friend

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Missing Posts

Over the weekend I thought I posted a couple of stories about Dr. Dave's wedding and the rehearsal the night before. Apparently they are floating out there in blogspace.

I attended a fabulous outdoor wedding, amidst not so fabulous outdoor weather. It was the wedding between one of my employers, Dr. Dave and his fiance Pamela. It was held out at Dr. Dave's river place, also known as Tarkio. There were about 300 people in attendance. Rain has been falling over Missoula constantly for about 10 days and even though Tarkio is 45 miles west, the rain was constant there too. But as these things often do, the rain stopped just about 15 minutes before the ceremony was to begin and held off long enough for us to gather down on the beach and watch the wedding celebration take place. They wrote their own vows, which they recited at the same time and were wed under an alter made of river driftwood. It was lovely.

On Friday they had a rehearsal dinner for 100! It was held at the Pearl Cafe, Missoula's new hot spot for fine cuisine. I knew I had to give a roast of Dave so I decided to have some wine to "loosen" me up a bit: I'm not much of a wine drinker and so I wasn't ready for how quickly it hit me. My stomach got all warm and fuzzy and the next thing I knew I was plain ol' drunk. My roast was a huge success, despite the fact I can't remember much of what I said. Needless to say I paid the price for this indiscretion Saturday. Wine headaches are not to be messed with. All I could do was suck it up and work through the pain.

Watch Out for Neon Drivers

This afternoon I had to run an errand at lunchtime that involved the use of my car. Now I normally don't drive during the weekday, especially at lunchtime, merely for the reason that a gazillion people are all trying to cram as much as possible in an hour and are generally rude and inconsiderate on the road while doing so. So it was with a certain dread that I got into my car and headed across town to the busiest and most McDona-Wenda-Old Navy-Best Buy'ed part of town, the Reserve Street corridor. This is a section of town where all the new development is taking place, where Reserve Street serves as a connector between US Interstate 90 and US Highway 93 and where all the box stores are located. I was heading to the Eye of the Beholder, a custom framing and art shop located in a strip mall next to a mini Pizza Hut. The Pizza Hut was packed with painters, construction workers, truck drivers and a few office folk looking like ducks out of water...all enjoying the $5.99 all you could eat buffet.

I picked up my framed print and started to head back towards the relative safety zone of the 'northside", all the while thinking to myself, "this wasn't as bad as I thought". And then I spotted the Neon. For those of you living outside the USA, the Neon is a sort of poor man's sports car. It's a Dodge model and it is usually driven by 18-25 year olds with a need for speed, a total disregard for others on the road and little to no knowledge of road rules. Many Neon's are tricked out or crumpled and their outer bodies are pretty cheap. This afternoon, my nemesis was in a Kelly Green version with hot pink pin striping. I saw him, about a 1/2 block in front of me in the same parking lot. I hate parking lots anyway, but put a Neon in the same parking lot near me and my palms start to sweat. Sure enough, this idiot had his seat reclined so that you could barely see his head above the steering wheel. He had flashy spoked rims too, which caused me to take my foot off the accelerator and move it to the "hover" position atop my brake pedal. I was in a lane between two parking areas and was heading towards the lot exit, with cars in front and behind. As I neared he of course gunned it, turning left in front of me and cutting off the car coming from the opposite direction. The car driver slammed his brakes, causing the car behind to do the same and the car behind it to hit him. Meanwhile, the little shit in the Neon did the same as he turned onto Reserve Street and sped away.

Dodge Neon's and Honda Civics. I think there ought to be some extra IQ or driving tests or something to weed out all the punks, pricks and idiots who are somehow all driving these vehicles.

That's my salty bitch for the day.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Straight Story

If you thought David Lynch could only make movies that were a bit off center, then you need to see the movie The Straight Story.

It's a great movie that will pull at your heart strings and have the whole family in tears. It's slow, and I mean s-l-o-w, moving but at the same time it feels just right. The movie is based on a true story, about a man who drives his lawnmower across Iowa and Wisconsin to see his ailing brother. Harry Dean Stanton is in the flick, a plus for just about any movie. It also stars Sissy Spacek and Richard Farnsworth, Farnsworth in particular does an outstanding job.

The scenery is fantastic and the stories created along the journey help make the movie a success, at least in my book.

Check it out this month on the Independent Film Channel (IFC) here in the states.

Multiply

Oh this blogging type thing is getting out of control. I just joined another service called Multiply. It allows you to upload photos, keep a group calendar, share recipes and do just about anything else you want. And since (as my Austrian friend Martin so aptly pointed out in my newly added guestbook)my blog is more of an online diary, the multiply site will let me expand outside of the diary concept...thanks for the kick in the pants Martin.

I found Multiply while visiting the blog of a Brazilian girl featured on the blogger home page. Since her site is in Brazilian Portuguese, I just started clicking on links to see where they would take me. in addition to some info on chocolate and some cool photos, she has links to Multiply, Friendster and Fotolog.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

My Friends, the Superheroes

Today I realized just what superheroes some of my friends are, day in and day out. I happen to work for a group of surgeons and I also consider all three of them my friends (Two of them have been my friends long before I moved to Missoula).

I work as their Practice Manager, meaning I run their business. My office is across the hall from the main clinic and my interactions with patients are usually brief (when I'm across the hall and cross paths with them) or about issues related to patient care or their bills. I am not a clinician and I'm never involved with actual patient care. The patient care issues I hear about are usually related to appointment wait times, confusion (or complaints) about their bills or when they want to pay a compliment to our staff or the doctors. It's pretty cool to work in a doctor's office where the patients oftentimes bring in treats or send cards or make things (painting, carvings, etc.) for the doctors and staff. It's a testament to what good doctors and great people they are.

Today was a another rough day, in a series of rough days, for two of our doctor's, the ones who happen to be my close friends. One doctor got called into the emergency room of a local hospital for an incoming trauma; an entire family was involved in a terrible automobile crash that caused the death of a child at the scene, sent another one into the ICU with awful injuries and a third one to the ER where our doctor was called in to try and assist. The injuries were extreme to this young boy, who couldn't know that another sibling was somewhere else in the hospital struggling for his life. As our doctor worked on him he realized this child, if he was going to be saved, needed to get to Seattle and fast. And while all this was going on he became aware that the other sibling was "coding" at the same time. It was heart wrenching for him, to say the least. To have to speak to the parents in such a time of crisis and tell them they needed to send their child immediately by emergency flight to Seattle is just something I couldn't imagine. I happened to meet my friend, the doctor, on the street as he was coming back to our office...he still had an afternoon full of patients he needed to see and needed to give all his attention to: He looked pretty troubled and I asked him how things were going. As we talked about how heavy his mind and heart were, the helicopter carrying the patient took off from the roof of the hospital...it was totally heart breaking for me and I wasn't even involved in the process. To top this off, his colleague, another one of our doctors and also my friend, was seeing patients in our office, trying to use the same compassion and give them all his attention as well...yet in the past week he's had to inform two people they will not live because of cancer that has spread through their bodies.

Most of the time when people think of doctors they think about how much money they make. Doctors don't get much sympathy when it comes to financial issues as the general public doesn't see the exploding costs for doctors and has no idea about what they go through on a daily basis...heck, I've worked here for two plus years and it wasn't until that helicopter took off over my head and I imagined that frightened boy inside & his devastated family sitting somewhere in the hospital that I looked at my friend in amazement. What an unbelievable thing he does with his life and what a heartbreaking day he also must have gone through...all the time not letting his other patients care be effected.

As with every profession, there are good doctors, okay doctors, not so good and just plain bad. It just so happens that many of my friends are doctors and it also is the case they are all great doctors, great persons and they are all superheroes in my mind.

A Note About My Guestbook

Just a quick note, the guestbook I am using is a free tool that has a few glitches. in the case of my guestbook, I thought it was customized so it would show the person's name, what country they were from, a link to their homepage (if any) and their comments...doesn't look like that is what they activated. I will try to fix it tonight.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Sign my Guestbook!

When you visit the Blogger website, you not only can find out about blogging, but can also learn about other bloggers. Tonight I dipped into the website of an Armenian blogger, who happens to live in the long disputed region of Nagorno-Karabagh. The blog is super cool and the blogger, Ara Manoogian, has a great feature I decided to add to my site...a guestbook.

On the right hand side of this page, right under my profile, you'll find a new link that says, "sign my guestbook". Click on it and a new window should pop up allowing you to sign the page. don't worry, I'm the only one who will see your email address and url (if you enter them). I just added it tonight and it should be live by tomorrow morning (or whenever the $1.99US clears paypal).

Sign away and welcome

Monday, September 13, 2004

50 Cents and the Meaning of The Koran

Some time back I spent 50 cents on a book written in 1953 by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall. The book was published then by the New American Library as a Mentor Religious Classic and is entitled, The Meaning of the Glorious Koran. Over the ensuing years I picked it up at various times (usually whenever I reorganized my bookshelves or moved) but never gave it a serious reading. The paperback cover is torn and the pages are yellowed.

I originally bought the book out of sentiment, as the first girl I can honestly say I loved was Ela, a Turkish-American girl from a Muslim family who I dated in College and pined after for many years afterwards. My experiences meeting her family and some of the things that happened during those stays (like the fact she couldn't speak directly to me in her parents house and also was not allowed to make eye contact) made me want to know more about Turkish culture and Islam. Long after we broke up (err...I mean, long after she broke up with me 'cause that's how it went down) I saw the book at a book sale and bought it.

Ever since the rise in the insurgency in Iraq, specifically since Al-Sadr's increase in popularity, I've been visiting the Al Jazeera website on a daily basis. And I've been deeply troubled and become more fearful from reading the posts by Muslim readers who not only feel like America and Americans are evil but who state emphatically that non-Muslims are infidels that need to be either expelled from Muslim countries or killed. So about a month or so ago, I started reading my 50 cent explanation on the Koran. While this book is not the Koran itself, it is a great work on the Koran. I guess if I had to use an analogy, it's a good precursor to the "for dummies" series.

What I find very telling, and completely against what some of the more radical clerics are preaching, is the attitudes and teachings of both early converts to the Muslim faith...many of whom survived by fleeing to the safety of a Christian country, Abyssinia, and what the Koran itself actually says. The teachings of the prophet, as Muhammad is called, include making women equal to men, striving for universal brotherhood and the creation of a common law. That's not to say that Islam is not a faith of violence, in the 10 years between the time Muhammad left Mecca and when he became the defacto ruler of north Arabia, he and his followers participated in 38 "wars" against those who persecuted them, other Arabic tribes, Syrians, Byzantines and Jewish clans allied with tribes who opposed them. I've read quite a bit so far and have more to read, but thus far I've found no mention of the claims made by the martyrs in Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, Indonesia, The Philippines, Morocco, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the USA.

And I suppose what also troubles me, as I try to maintain some sort of rational opinion about the state of our World, is there seems to be no organized effort on the part of the mainstream Muslim community to reign in these extremists. Extremists aren't the sole possession of the Islamic faith, their are plenty of other religious extremists in the world, but at present there doesn't seem to be so much death and terror coming from any other religious sector.

I've been in a four-day discussion on this topic with my friend Pete in Thailand and Bruce in Chicago...it's been very educational and though provoking. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this book and perhaps readig further so that I may speak from a position of knowledge and not one purely of trepedition.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Well, This Explains quite A Bit

Late last night, while watching highlights from yesterday's college football games, I saw a commercial for an Internet dating service called eHarmony. Although I've played around with Internet match services in the past, it's not something I'd normally consider. But the combination of AW and I biting the dust (at least I think that's what happened, I'm still unclear on this), my emotions of the day and a spontaneous, "what the heck" that sort of popped into my head at the moment, I decided to visit the eHarmony site.

eHarmony touts itself as being the perfect way to find a match, using a 29 dimension profiling system to properly match people. I spent about an hour filling the thing out, almost quitting three or four times. But I battled through all the psychological profiling (you know, where you're asked the same thing 5 different times in a slightly different manner) and carefully read through the terms of the agreement before I pushed the submit button. Then I waited for eHarmony to pump out my matches. And I waited some more, and some more. There were none.

Now I didn't choose the option limiting my matches to my city, nor did I pick the one for limiting to my state...or even my country. I selected the "find my matches anywhere in the world" option and eHarmony had zero. Ouch! That explains quite a bit.

I guess it is me after all. Damn, that's cold.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

9/11 Thoughts

I got up early this morning, while the sky was still grey and the morning air cool. I put out my American flag, more of a traditional act of respect in my family than anything else, but I thought it appropriate nonetheless. It was early enough that I stepped outside in my boxers and a T-shirt, I knew no one else would be around. I came inside and started thinking about what to do next. The house needed cleaning, the yard needed cutting and my laundry needed to be done. I turned the radio on and the Weekend edition of All Things Considered was just starting. The host started talking about New York and how residents of the city were marking the third anniversary of the events of 9/11. I hadn't planned on participating in any sort of memorial to those who died, American, Bangladeshi, Honduran, British, South African and others alike I'd thought my flag was enough. But as I stood in the living room, thinking of how to go about the morning, I found myself drawn to the story on the radio and plopped down in my chair. Over the next hour or so I listened to various stories about those who died and those left behind. I have to say, the tears were flowing and I became pretty somber.

I spent most of the rest of today keeping busy around my house and just reflecting. It started raining mid-afternoon and I found myself standing on the porch, listening to the rain falling and watching the flag flow in the wind, sticking to itself. One of the stories today, about the wife of the Fire chief who died in the Towers, held my thoughts for a long time and it popped back into my head while the rain fell gently. It wasn't just the things she said about their 30 years of marriage or about how hard it has been since he died,it was also the things that weren't said and it really shook me up to think about all the individual stories of heartache. My mind being what it is and doing what it does, this thought soon led me to think about heartache caused by War throughout the world, sadness and futility.

It really is too much to bear, if you allow it to consume the joy of living. So tonight I decided to try and concentrate on the joy. I went to a fundraiser, a dinner for the charitable foundations of the two local hospitals. The foundations support various charitable causes, from relieving patients financial burdens to providing services to ease pain and grief. It did the trick, as shallow as that might sound, by allowing me to see people smile and to know that I was helping others will having a good time myself.

I hope that no one, anywhere in the world, will have to go through another terrorist attack, It is a hope I know cannot be fulfilled, but I'll hope nonetheless.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The Politics of Dancing

This has been a fun week in Johnny O's blogland...I seem to have somehow gained an international following. My Mind: Lifesized has gotten all kinds of crazy hits this week and even some comments. I think that is totally cool.

When AW and I were in France this summer we had one of those days from Hell that has a way of turning into a great story. It's a long story but let's just say it involved getting stuck on a bus at Charles de Gaulle Airport outside of Paris which then got delayed by a bomb threat, which then got stuck in traffic, which then dumped us in a slum and so on. During this 6 1/2 hour ordeal I first exchanged glances, then hellos and then a conversation with an Iranian guy named Hossein. Hossein was in Paris for a quickly arranged business meeting and had somehow gotten himself into the same predicament as AW and I...turns out he's a pretty cool guy. We've stayed in touch via email, first exchanging pictures of where we live (my pictures were of mountains and river streams as Hossein is a fisherman and his eyes lit up when I described the fly fishing here. His pictures were of some of the ancient cities in Iran I told him I yearned to visit), then talking about Art and Culture and lately about politics and religion. It's been really enlightening and exciting. As AW said to me the other day, I'm the World's best pen pal (this is of course not true and I seem to remember she said it with a bit of sarcasm, but I like to entertain myself with the notion that friendships can still be made via the pen or the keyboard).

At the same time all this has been going on, I also reconnected with a longtime friend and guy who holds a special place on my friendship shelf, Dick Coons. Dick and I went to high school and college together and we were inseparable during an important stage in both our lives, so our friendship runs deep despite the fact we've drifted apart over the past decade. He and his wife live outside of Dallas, Texas and he recently started a new career working for a company that basically sells pre-emptive cyber security. We've been catching up on life and such and I invited him to read my blog. He made a comment about my politics, which I found a bit strange, and told me about his wife's involvement with the Republican Party and how she got to attend the national convention. Personally, I think it's pretty damn cool whenever anyone is committed enough to attend a convention, regardless of their politics.

I guess this long meandering introduction brings me to the point of this post...politics. I define myself as a conservative liberal who has an independent streak. Haw! Did that statement make you spit up your milk? Seriously...when I was in high school I worked on the campaign of Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut, a successful Republican who helped transform our sleepy "nap-town" into a thriving community. I then worked on the gubanatorial campaign of one of the Hillenbrand's, a Democrat. My first presidential vote went to Reagan, my last to Nader (as a write-in in Indiana, a staunchly Republican state on the Federal level). I've marched on Capitol Hill for Peace & Justice in Central America & South Africa (during the infamous Barbie Nation phase) and voted for Perot. In short, I'm all over the board. What I say to my conservative friends is that if there were no such thing as greed and if the private sector truly was as benevolent as they advertise, EVERYONE would be a Republican (well, everyone except the Libertarians, Socialists and Communists that is)...somewhere between the Republicans and the Democrats is where I sit.

Now my friend Dick made a good point, he said he just votes and hopes whoever wins will do a good job. The part of that point that is good, of course, is the fact that he votes. Too many people in this country don't even bother, even though they sure bother to complain. I do believe a vote makes a difference and I do believe that despite all the riders, pork barrel's, filibusters and scandals, good politics can and does take place. I like grassroots stuff, even though I still haven't found my legs here in Montana (talk about a crazy ass state politically...this place is wacky).

I really don't think either one of these jokers running for President can do much in the next four years...Iraq will still be struggling with forming a future after we shattered their past (a past worth shattering by most standards but not the way we did it), the Afghans will still be trying to figure out the best way to enter the modern world, Islamic fundamentalists will still be trying to push their version of Islam on the rest of us, corporations will still be directly and indirectly helping and hurting people at the same time and so on. I think it was Nader who said we've got a bunch of Republicrats and Demublicans running the show around here and I suppose I feel the same way.

I'm still going to vote, I'm still going to volunteer and I'm still going to speak out about things that I believe matter. And I'll still be doing it as a very independent conservative with strong liberal leanings!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

A Labor Day Scorcher

Busy, busy, busy is the story of my life these days. Since my post last Thursday I've been to Boise and back ( a 7 1/2 hour drive from Missoula), played in another Ultimate tournament, experienced the unpleasant task of having to terminate an employee at work and spent countless hours wrestling with my own thoughts (ohhhhhh, cruel world).

This past weekend was Labor Day weekend here in the States and, like most Americans, I used the three day weekend to get out of town. I headed south to Boise, Idaho to participate in the Boise Scorcher ultimate tournament with a team from Missoula. The drive to Boise is really spectacular and I saw a bull moose on the way down through the mountains. The weather was perfect and the sunset on the way down was added to my list of great sunsets. Our team had won a tournament the weekend before in Jackson Hole, Wyoming but we weren't really expected to make much noise in Boise. Scorcher is a tourney that brings out some very good teams and this year was no exception. Quite to my surprise (and that of all my teammates, I believe) we won the tourney in grand fashion, beating an established team that went to the national championships last year. It was an awesome weekend. On the way back I saw a red fox, a bald eagle, some mountain goats, plenty of deer and some incredible whitewater all along the way.

The weekend was a nice diversion from the things I've been wrestling with lately; my quickly disintegrating relationship with Annie, all the garbage at work, my current financial state and thoughts of home. I got home late last night and didn't sleep much. This morning I had to get to work early so I could prepare for our new employee (who is replacing the one I terminated last week). It was a crazy day...I just hope she comes back!

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Holy Crap, Did George Bush just Speak Spanish?

What genius! What bravado. GW Bush is giving his convention speech right now and I'll be damned if he just didn't stammer through, "we will leave no child behind" in Spanish. That was pure genius. Now you may wonder just what the heck a fiscally conservative Democrat like me would be doing watching the RNC...I believe this is important, important to know what all (notice I didn't say both as I am also following Nader...sorry, the Libertarians lose me with some of their crazy gun ideas) sides think.

The RNC has been truly amazing...I cannot believe the bullshit flying out of the mouths of some of these speakers. Gov. Patacki tonight said the Bush inherited a recession...that is untrue [sidebar...GW just through out his first salvo for a pro-life, anti-gay, pro religion, right wing constitutionalist agenda and the crowd went crazy and now he's launching into his anti-Kerry bit].

This election will be incredibly close. The RNC has been tremendously effective, as Arnold the Terminator was simply fabulous and GW is pleasing his constituents.[Wow, demonstrators are interrupting Bush's speech. There have been two so far], They are effectively painting Kerry as a flip-flopper. I must admit, I'm impressed. It will be interesting to see how Kerry responds.