Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Review: The Words and Music of Brian Wilson Author:Christian Matijas-Mecca by Peter Reum

Review of The Words and Music of Brian Wilson
Christian Matijas-Mecca, Author

By Peter Reum 

The Words and Music of Brian Wilson
By Christian Majitas-Mecca

The history of books covering biographic material regarding Brian Wilson has been hit and miss. Certain books have hit the target admirably, such as David Leaf's Beach Boys and the California Myth, Heroes and Villains by Steven Gaines, Timothy White's exceptional multi-generational book on the Wilson and Love families, Peter Carlin's biography of The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson, the excellent Jon Stebbins book on the life of Dennis Wilson, and Paul Williams' overview of the music of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. The recent "assisted autobiographies" of Brian Wilson and Michael Love add irreplaceable first person recollections of two Beach Boys whose perspectives differ at times from each other. Also the coverage of the first years of The Beach Boys' career by James Murphy is a comprehensive book  written about The Beach Boys' early career. 

Books about Brian Wilson are always incomplete up to the time they are published, because Brian Wilson is still creating great music and playing concerts with his excellent band. The most recent biography of Brian Wilson is focused on his artistic output instead of the drama that usually accompanies any author's perspective on Brian's musical output. Christian Matijas-Mecca, a person whose career has been dedicated to music and dance both academically, and in performance is a native of the South Bay section of Los Angeles and is familiar with what the area's influence was for The Beach Boys, and the dramatic change in demographical composition that has taken place since The Beach Boys' exit from the area to other parts of California's Southland.   

The best books addressing Brian Wilson's music have been those that skip the melodrama and get right to the music that Brian has created as a Beach Boy and a solo artist.  For too many years, criticism of Brian's music has been filtered through an opaque filter that either shades it by giving him a free pass due to his mental health or by evoking some sort of savant theory. In the latter scenario,  Brian is presented in a manner similar to someone with autism who can play any song on the piano that he is asked to play perfectly on his first try without delay. 

Obviously, neither of these situations remotely present Brian in valued and important roles that he has demonstrated as a young man and as an adult who has been responsible for three families, his parents and brothers, his first wife and their two children, and the family he has currently with Melinda Wilson. 

The approach taken by Mr. Majitas-Mecca has the luxury of writing about Brian and his music with nearly sixty years of perspective in looking backward. The ability to focus on the music is useful in that Brian spent roughly 25 years as a Beach Boy, and 30 years as an artist performing with a selection of accomplished musicians he hand selected. There is something refreshing about being able to look back without having to qualify one's criticism and not having to make explanations for any reason. Suffice to say, there are enough books about anything except the music Brian composed and produced. There will be arguments over the decades as to who was the finest songwriter, recording producer, arranger, lyricist, innovator, live performer, AND people...learned people, working folks, other musicians, and scholars will vigorously debate their strong opinions.

Mr. Majitas-Mecca has the advantaged position of being the latest scholar to tackle the complex story of Brian Wilson's life and music. Personally, I envy his timing. His outlook is the freshest, and he is one of those people who somehow understands Brian's music and life narrative. This is becoming a rare approach, as folks who like to read about men and women in a biographical light, often prefer People or US Magazine's gossipy content. This biography is one that is sympathetic but not fauning. It is very apparent that the author has listened closely to Brian's music and has done a thorough review of the literature spanning at least 45 years.

My criticisms of this volume are general, and not necessarily directed at Mr. Majitas-Mecca. Scholarly publishing houses like Praeger have thematic series which often have very structured formats with fairly strict guidelines as to length, illustrations, and source citation. It appears to me that Mr. Majitas-Mecca was under some contractual limitations regarding this book. There are no illustrations,  with the emphasis centering on a thorough review of previous books and articles being the important research emphasis. This is evidence of an exhaustive literature review with excellent footnotes and clarifications throughout the book.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the author's deep interest and affection for Brian Wilson and his music. In reading the book, it was apparent that Mr. Matijas-Mecca explained not only the details in Brian's life that impacted his music favorably or deleteriously, but what music of Brian's in his Beach Boys years and solo career was significant to him as the author critically. His book is a very welcome addition to my music library.

Copyright 2018 by Peter Reum- All Rights Reserved. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Opioids: We Didn't Sign Up For This by Peter Reum

The trip to my post office box today began like every other day. The contents were like every day.....except for a Time Magazine that had a cover I looked at and made me do a double take. You see, my last job before I retired was as an inpatient substance abuse counselor. Of all the therapeutic and rehabilitation psychology jobs that I have passed through in my life, this job was the most rewarding and bittersweet. To be candid, one of the steps I resolved to take was that I had to leave the field behind completely after eight years doing substance therapeutic counseling.

What made my reaction so strong was the depth of tragic misery and sadness that chemically dependent people experience. Chemical dependence therapy is unusual. Generally, the type of therapy I did was an experience of an intense and time limited nature. Because our funding source was public, it was limited to roughly a little over five clients a month. In the years that I worked in this capacity, I heard a little under 2000 stories.

There were some common threads across all the people I worked with. The first was that the folks I counseled were completely unable to manage their lives. The second was that their health was so poor that further use of the various chemicals  would kill them. A third was that they had virtually no friends or relatives who would help them....their habit had made their best friend a chemical, one that was totally demanding. Their "friend" would avenge being ignored by making the addict miserable even unto death.

The issue of Time featured several areas around the United States that have epidemic levels of opioid use with frequent deaths and hospitalizations. The Time Magazine, dated March 2, 2018, showed in pictures what it would take me or any therapist many thousands of words to communicate. The photographer who spent a year taking pictures is named James Nachtwey. His photos are not pleasant to view. However, they convey in images what would take hundreds of pages to explain. Mr. Nachtwey's photos in this issue are haunting.

The issue of Time was entitled "The Opioid Diaries." It was the first time that a single topic has been addressed in Time, going past their short newsy appoach to a more quiet and less confrontational approach to  recording.

The late Seventies offered a mild increase in the number of people who were willing  to confront the opioid crisis.  The trouble that primarily African Americans, Hispanics and impoverished Caucasian addicts ran into was that an already highly addictive array of opioids were sold at very low prices until the people who started using became opioid dependent. Then, prices became high, inverse to the normal arc of dependence on opioids, in which higher potency and/or larger amounts are needed to maintain the same high experienced during first use.

The areas of the United States which were covered in the Time Opioid Crisis issue are "The streets of Boston and San Francisco (with opioid users), first responders in New Mexico, Ohio, and West Virginia, inside jail cells in Kentucky, in funerals in New Hampshire,  and in prayer meetings in Massachusetts."  Being a person from New Mexico, I was especially interested in learning about my home state's opioid problem.

The photographs that Mr. Nachtwey took were hitting a raw nerve in me because of my history of treating and counseling of opioid, meth, alcohol, and other substance addicts. Not only were the New Mexico photos jarring in their manner of opening up the use and consequences of opioid dependence, but they were taken in my home county in New Mexico,  each photo within a 15 mile radius of my childhood home. It is no secret that Rio Arriba County has had a long-term issue with usage of and dependencies on a wide variety of illegal substances since the beginning of the Eighties.

In an ethnography on the use of opioids amongst the impoverished Hispanic and Indigenous peoples of the Espanola Valley and Rio Arriba County, Dr. Angela Garcia's The Pastoral Clinic: Addiction and Dispossession Along the Rio Grande (2011 University  of Californa Press) documents the increasing dependence upon opioids amongst the low income people living in Rio Arriba County in New Mexico over a  three year period.  In what is perhaps a controversial method of gathering data for her book, Dr. Garcia not only spent research time at a clinic in the Espanola Valley, but also worked as a staff member for the clinic.

The opioids that come into this rural New Mexico situation tend to be from areas not near Rio Arriba County, or in the Espanola Valley.  Using quality as an adult indicator of life experiences, it is a valuable idea to remove any contaminants from the sample's data set. Some early research shows promise. Ms. Garcia's time employed as a detoxification assistant was considered a potential unconscious bias by a few journal critics who read her work.

A far more important point is that the clinic staff of  people who do these programs usually require family members to take a role in the family program segments with the opioid addict if the family truly wants their relative to be clean and sober. Research has revealed the importance of family and sober friend showing strong support in response to the detoxification and treatment outcomes.

There must be a circle of support for the family and the addict who is entering aftercare. In an ideal world, the family would attend a week of therapy and education to learn how the progression of opioid dependence occurs, with the provision of separate classes and support services to families by the clinic. Often called Family Week, the clinic will provide housing of town relatives and spouses of the person in treatment.

As the field of substance abuse grows and improves,  there must be ongoing program evaluation and accreditation to keep services up to speed with important scientific advancement and program innovations. Environments of many types  are examined in substance abuse clinics, innovations in their program is often shared in local, regional, and national programs. Two of the major accreditation  organizations also require a site visit by peer professionals to ensure that the program is in line with program and financial standards.

In the Espanola Valley, the clinic at which services were performed as documented in Ms. Garcia's book, was grossly underfunded.  An air of the feeling of hopelessness was documented.  There, people who received detoxification services anticipated a return to the clinic after discharge. The overwhelming prevalence of opioids' availability in Rio Arriba County, combined with poverty led to higher than average crime in that county and surrounding counties. Most homes have alarm systems and steel bars over windows.

Using data gathered by the New Mexico Department of Health,  the 2012-2016 prevalence of intentional and unintentional death by overdose in Rio Arriba County came in at 89.9 per 100,000  people. The band of confidence (95% probability of accuracy-range of 75.6 to 105.2) indicates that the total, adjusted for probability is significantly stable at the 89.9 figure. The table measuring severity of Rio Arriba's opioid death rate as "Reason for Concern" on a range classified by level of significance from "Excellent to Reason for Concern." Reason for Concern is defined as Rio Arriba County's 89.9 opioid death due to overdose is statisically significant at a 95% band of confidence when compared with the State of New Mexico's 24.6 or the United State's rate of 16.4 deaths due to opioid overdose from 2012-2016 at a 95% band of confidence.

Further analysis of the overall health data for Rio Arriba County indicates that while opioid overdose rate of 89.9 is the highest in any county in New Mexico, there are statisically similar findings of Reason for Concern in the difference between Rio Arriba County and the State of New Mexico. Rates of Deaths per 100,000 people for Alcohol are in the Reason for Concern category at 144.1 Deaths per 100,000 with the difference being statistically significant at a 95% band of confidence (126.8 to 161.3).

Perhaps the prevalence of
hospitalizations for diabetes is germane to the rates of alcohol and drug deaths per 100,000, being a health condition that accompanies alcohol and opioid dependence.  The rate per 100,000 for diabetes hospitalization falls at 34.3 for the period of 2014 to 2016. This is with a band of confidence at the 95% band of confidence (28.1-40.7).

Why I have taken the time to cite these findings from the State of New Mexico Health Department is the idea that the deaths of Rio Arriba County citizens as delivered by the New Mexico IBIS system is of sufficient concern to the Health Department to show that the prevalence of Deaths for Rio Arribans due to drug overdoses, some 90+ percent were opioid related. This is from 2012-2016. The deaths for Alcohol consumption in Rio Arriba County were 150% ABOVE drug deaths per 100,000. Hospitalizations  for diabetes, often brought on by substance abuse were again statistically significant at the 95% band of confidence.

I am not sure how Rio Arriba County compares with the other locations in the Time Magazine Opioid issue. That comparison is beyond the scope of my article. What I will say, as a final point is that my sister Susan died from complications of diabetes. She went into status epilepticus, a continual and fatal seizure brought on by disregard for her personal health while using IV opioids and alcohol.  She was my best friend and companion until I went to college. Her death occurred in Albuquerque,  but most of the use was in Rio Arriba County. For me, substance abuse has been a personal situation due to her use. That is the point Time Magazine made eloquently. Death due to opioid abuse was a personal issue for surviving family members, including me.

I would like to cite Angela Garcia's valuable book, The Pastoral Clinic: Addiction and Dispossession Along the Rio Grande (copyright 2011-University of California  Press), and Time Magazine's March 2, 2018 issue as a source for this article. The excellent statistical information on the New Mexico Department of Health IBIS website was invaluable in the preparation of this Reuminations article.

This article copyright 2018 by Peter Reum
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What Albums Do You Consider Perfect Records? by Peter Reum

How would you define an album that is flawless musically, lyrically, and technically? In 60 years of listening, there are only a few that are, for me, so satisfying that I can listen to them anytime, anywhere. What brought me to write about this topic was that today, I pulled out an album that still shines brightly nearly 50 years after it was first released.

Marvin Gaye's What's Going On happened to rise to the top of a bunch of cds I like. My late sister Susan had excellent taste in music, and I first heard Marvin's masterpiece on her little stereo. Not being an expert on quality of sound mixing, I heard the album as a complete gestalt type of listening experience. I went out and bought my first of many copies of the album.

The years immediately preceding What's Going On being released were difficult years for African Americans.  Fed up with token help, frustrated after the deaths of leaders, the advent of rioting began to show up in a number of United States cities. Foreshadowing the talking protest albums from Gil Scott Heron,  the protest music from Sly Stone, and the militance of the Black Panthers, What's Goin' On  delivered passionate music by a passionate recording artist. No one who heard What's Going On ever doubted the deep passion and emotional turmoil artists like Marvin Gaye expressed in their music.

I will not spend time speaking about the relationship between Marvin and his father. That Marvin and his father did not get along would be a generous description of father and son. Marvin's death after being shot by his father is a tragedy that is hard to accept. Marvin's father, a Pentecostal minister, had emotional issues with Marvin that took their toll on both men.

In 1970, Marvin had an idea for a concept album that would express the love he felt for his family and fans.  In a sense, the nine songs making up the What's Going On album are meditations on the problems of the era. Marvin describes his perceptions in a manner that empowers his mind to identify the various issues and to express his thoughts and impressions of why life  problems are a serious dilemma for him. The author tied young African Americans who are trying to stay prayerful about the numerous barriers to a better quality of life. It is clear that Marvin Gaye found some inspiration in exploring barriers to equality in mind as well as in the projects, jobs, breaking open new paths to success at radio, tv, and unique press stories once the album got airtime.

What's Going On has nine songs that, help frame the optimistic and pessimistic feelings that make the record so powerful. The discussion of topics that were timely in 1971 are minimally expressed, causing there to be a certain optimism to be absorbed by the listener. Each of the nine songs on What's Going On is a prayer for action or justice. If a listener comprehends Marvin's spirituality, this album that is as powerfully in 2018 as it was in 1971.

The incredible title single from the album opens with a conversation between a person who has been away from the neighborhood for awhile. The returned traveler receives his answer from a friend from the neighborhood who answers his questions. The friend answers by confirming there are no jobs, cannot pay the rent, children are hungry, and other problems. 

The person from the neighborhood answers his returning soldier friend by explaining how addiction has made his life impossible. His friend goes on to elaborate that there is no reason addicts can see to get off the dope because things are so desperately awful. His friend asks "who really cares to save a world that is destined to die?" "Such a bad way to live..." The friend then seems to experience a revelation, and says "Let's Save the Children....save the babies...."

As the meditation or prayer continues,  Marvin says "God is my friend." All God asks is that people love each other.  The answers continue to the newly returned traveler. The friend who continues to tell him about how things are ecologically. He says the sky's are grey, poison is carried in the air, and that oil spills kill the animals, fish are laced with mercury, radiation above and below ground is killing animals and people. The question raised is " how much more abuse from mankind can our Earth take before the Earth dies. 

Then, suddenly a meditation on what is going well in the world arises as if to make the point that only love can conquer the world's darkness.  Helping people like nurses, ministers, and people who follow God make up the core of the new world, a world that is full of true love. Love is the way our world can transform itself into a beautifully happier and more peaceful way. 

Marvin's beautiful meditation on the state of the world in 1971 pleads with his listeners to save the babies and the children of the world as an act of love, and even if futile, to do so because it is the spiritually correct thing to do.
Marvin saw our world's destruction and defiling as a act of suicide as a species. The bridges between tracks segue each song (meditation), helping his listeners see the state of this small world through his eyes, bringing a sense of immediacy to the problems of our planet. In one sense, the songs are a prayer to action, to examine our state of mind, and to come into harmony with the world, instead of treating the Earth as our personal playground to plunder.

The two songs that are formally prayers, Wholy Holy and God is Love are placed at critical locations in what may be a song cycle. God is Love is placed after the reunion of two friends, one who is getting back from a war overseas and wants to know all that has changed while he was gone. His friend answers his questions with information about hunger and poverty in the neighborhood, and horrible drug addiction. Following God Is Love, the friend from the neighborhood about the pollution that is ruining the Earth and killing people.

The friend then tells the soldier that pure love that is from God will conquer the  evil and suffering that people are feeling. especially on their mutual neighborhood. What follows next is Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler), which many listeners have interpreted to be a return to expression of anger and frustration about their neighborhood. Personally, I have always seen the song to be a call to action.  If we continue to accept conditions as they are, such as stereotypes about other races and ethnicities,  the planet and life on it will die. Furthermore, I see a strong sense of frustration with having to put up with being stereotypically judged based on skin color or national background. What the person from the neighborhood does, is to ask his traveling friend to settle down and help the world get better after being in a very unpopular war. probably Viet Nam. Love conquers hate. 

Shall we begin??

Copyright 2018 by Peter Reum
All Rights Reserved 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

What Constitutes Music of the Old West? by Peter Reum

Perhaps, like me, you grew up listening to Western Music. This music is, by definition, not the music of the Nashville variety. In my mind, Western Music would belong more to a popular style often constituted of a single vocalist and a guitar. The Western Music genre was made popular by artists who were not always  natives of the Western United States. Folkways put together a Cowboy Song album in the 1950s, which was derived from folk music research.  The artists on the album are varied, with some being better known as folk song singers.  When I was a young boy of 3 or 4 years of age, my favorite thing to do was to listen to the radio, which featured cowboy bands and singers.

A brief review of cds sold by Amazon using the words Western Music yields a wide variety of  choices. In strictly the Cowboy/Western genre, there are at least 10 to choose from, including two boxed sets. Having purchased a wide variety of cds from Rhino, the set I chose to buy first is called simply Songs of the West, and was issued by Rhino. The only way this set is available is by purchasing it used. My affection for this set is great, as my mind and heart were reawakened while hearing it. Those of you who have followed this blog are aware that I have generally chosen to focus my posts around issues around the Western United States. That said, this is the first blog entry here that  focuses on Cowboy/Western Music.

Cowboys are an American phenomenon, having begun in Mexico and Latin America. When the United States became an Atlantic to Pacific Ocean country, the parts of the USA that were previously Mexican territory and the music sung by the Mexican vaqueros became part of the Cowboys' life. This set is excellent, as are most boxed sets prepared by Rhino, a mix of  popular Cowboy Music, dating from 1935 through 1960. The selections from Songs of the West tap into a feeling of nostalgia. The 72 tracks on the 4 cd set are themed. The first cd focuses on popular Cowboy/Western Music that are most likely to be familiar to people who listened to the original 78 rpm discs, or the movie soundtracks in the genre. This first of four articles will focus on the better known Western Music artists.

Cover Art for the Rhino Songs of the West cd Boxed Set

The first cd in this set emphasizes the tunes and artists that are recognizable due to their popularity at the time they were hits. The artists featured here are top flight, including Sons of the Pioneers, Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, Patsy Montana, Marty Robbins, Riders in the Sky, Rex Allen Sr., Ian Tyson, Dale Evans and Roy Rogers, Tex Owens, and the Riders of the Purple Sage. Walter Brennan, known best as Grandpa McCoy on the tv series The Real McCoys, calls the play by play on the Gunfight in the Okay Corral, which makes him sound like an ancient cowboy recalling the fight when he saw it first hand. 

Gene Autry, a pioneer of Western Music who eventually became a wealthy owner of the Los Angeles Angels, opens disc 1 with his iconic Back in the Saddle Again. Autry became a producer and star of Western motion pictures and theater short films. Autry would go on to record hundreds of Western songs, but his most famous tune was always Back in the Saddle Again. Cowboy Blues, another Gene Autry performance, is somewhat of a cowboy lament type of song. Autry draws sympathetic thoughts from the listener. If there could be blues music in Western themed songs, Cowboy Blues would be a blues song, often termed a lament.

Tumblin' Tumbleweeds is perhaps one of the best known songs in the Western genre of songs. The tune appeared in the eponymous motion picture, Gene Autry's first. The song went on to become the theme song of the Sons of the Pioneers, Roy Rogers vocal group. The song, along with Cool Water, was written by Bob Nolan, one of the original Sons of the Pioneers.

Cattle Call, written by Tex Owens, and first performed by Owens, is a popular song recorded by dozens of Western singers. The version on this Songs of the West set is the 1934 Owens version.

To late 20th and early 21st Century listeners, Tex Ritter may be better known being the father of the late tv comedian John Ritter, best known from the television series Three's Company. For older Western Music listeners, Tex Ritter's classic Western Music recordings are in the vanguard of the genre. (Take Me Back to My) Boots and Saddle was one of Tex Ritter's finest performances and an early hit. Ironically, the song was written by three Tin Pan Alley songwriters.

The 1964 Western film, Gunfight at the OK Corral, recounted the Tombstone, Arizona gunfight between the Earps and the Clantons. In contrast to the 1956 movie with Burt Lancaster, the 1964 film featured music. Music may be a generous description of Walter Brennan's spoken word performance, as it is more of a narrative. 

The song Big Iron appears on the Marty Robbins Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs album. Robbins had a tenor voice that was immediately recognizable. The album is perhaps one of the best concept albums in the Western Music genre. Some 62 years after it was first released, it remains in print. One interesting fact is that the Beach Boys' tune Heroes and Villains from the Smile album was lyrically inspired by this Marty Robbins album.

Ian Tyson, a Canadian singer and songwriter, has recorded a number of Western Music albums over a nearly 50 year career as an artist. Initially he cut more folk music themed with Sylvia Tyson. As the years passed, Ian Tyson moved into a Western Music style. and has had a successful recording career. Leavin' Cheyenne, featured in this set, is pulled from Tyson's 1983 album Old Corrals and Sagebrush. Tyson is a rancher by trade when he is not touring.

Patsy Montana, a pioneer female Western Music performer, and the scion of the famous Montana family, who have ridden in every Rose Bowl parade for decades, contributes her composition I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart, the first million selling record by a female performer in Western Music. Her group, The Prairie Ramblers, were mainstays on clear channel radio station WLS for nearly 20 years.

Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage, an early Western Music group, had a long and fruitful recording career. On this first disc of this set, they sing the Tin Pan Alley standard Ragtime Cowboy Joe. The tune is closely identified with Western Music, although it is derivative of early Western Music recordings. In the Seventies in San Francisco, members of several rock groups formed the New Riders of the Purple Sage in tribute to the original group.

Riders In the Sky, a modern Western band, are a trio of Western Music performer's, who were quite well known in the 1990s and 2000s. They are very popular with fans of modern Western Music. On this cd, they offer Ride Cowboys Ride, a tune co-written with Rex Allen Jr.

The late Frankie Laine and his group, the Muleskinners, are represented here on this disc with the tune Mule Train. The recording, which dates from 1949, is a Western Music standard,  and has been covered by many other artists. Mr. Laine performed well into his nineties, keeping the music alive.

Marty Robbins is also represented in this cd of Western songs by The Strawberry Roan. The song is a tribute to a horse that was never successfully ridden, despite many attempts. The Western rodeo, a series of events intended to tap into the various skills used by horse wrangled on ranches.

Riders In the Sky have a second song placed on this Western Music anthology entitled The Line Rider. On larger ranches, the job of riding the barbed wire fences that keep cattle in and rustlers out of huge parcels of range that are used to let cattle graze. This type of raising cattle has become less used with the advent of feedlot. During cattle drives, line riders kept the herd moving.

Rex Allen Sr. appears on this disc singing the Western classic The Last Roundup. The tune was written by the well known Billy Hill. Perhaps people who are not familiar with Western Music know Rex Allen Sr. best as the deep voiced narrator of numerous Disney nature films.

Tex Ritter appears a second time on this anthology of Western Music with the standard The Wayward Wind. This tune has been placed in numerous motion pictures to help viewers to comprehend the vast and diverse vistas and lands of the American West. On many Western highways, it is still possible to travel hundreds of miles without passing through but few communities, many of them sparsely populated,  the rest being ghost towns.

Completing this sampling of Western Music standards is the duo of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing their theme song, Happy Trails to You. There are very few of the Baby Boomers after World War 2 who were not familiar with these ambassadors of the American West. Simply put, the couple were, along with Gene Autry, the best known and familiar Western Music performers of the post World War 2 era.

This collection of Western artists can be found most easily on YouTube. The four cd set is out of print, and pricey when it can be found. Kudos to the folks at Rhino who assembled this set. The article covering the second cd from the set will be focusing on the music of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
Copyright 2018 by Peter Reum 
All Rights Reserved 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Reum

The last few years have been fascinating as to what constitutes a fact versus an opinion. In the last election, it seemed that the national mood was exasperation. It became apparent that the nation's voters were paralyzed and did not care to investigate the arguments that various office holding incumbents used to explain their votes in legislative assemblies such as Congress.

In an election where most of the focus in 2016 seemed to be on which issues that the candidates coyly evaded, the word obfuscation took on new significance. The old adage emerged that candidates should nod their heads empathetically to constituents while not giving honest opinions about anything of consequence. It seems that being "warm and fuzzy" trumps being principled and honest. The honesty is reserved for dark money campaign contributions.

Since the Vietnam War, the trust of the American people has been repeatedly and cynically taken for granted by public servants who listen to campaign donors and pretend they hear the voices of voters in their home States and Districts. Should a concerned employee indicted for being a whistleblower be treated as a traitor? The Pentagon Papers, released in 1970 to several United States newspapers, had been kept classified for years prior to their dramatic entry into the public court of opinion. Through defying the norms of the Departments of State and Defense, Daniel Ellsberg was able to show the citizens who took the time to read the Pentagon Papers the dysfunctional, irrational, and wrongheaded manner in which the USA set post World War 2 policy in Indochina.  The USA's failure to understand was that the Vietnamese people simply wanted France and later the USA TO GET OUT OF THEIR COUNTRY.

The newspapers of the United States are privately held, the First Amendment allowing them an unfettered and critical role in the close examination of governmental policies, actions, and degree of success or failure that results from them. The tension between the constructs of freedom and authority, obedience and personal action of conscience, and cultural maintenance and innovation could be termed the checks and balances of a nation's society. The architects of our nation's beginnings were keenly aware that the effect that rigid/absolute or underdeveloped models of decision-making were toxic to the development of a long- term nationally prioritized agreed system for social change. 

The current tension between the Executive and Legislative branches of our government over the possible meddling of the Russian government in the 2016 election cycle calls into question the manner in which then possible future members of the Executive Branch interacted with the Russian Government while  involved in Republican campaigning for the Presidency.

The democratic model of national government is vulnerable to espionage precisely due to the independent media and the Constitutional freedom to vote, protest, financially influence, and offer dissent regarding various stands on issues at all levels of governing--family, city or county, state, and national. Such dissent creates huge  forces pushing for their desired outcomes which can be manipulated by subtle or secret espionage interactions not easily traced back to their origin.

When one of the three branches of our government is permeated with toxic foreign influences systematically and secretly advanced, the only possible counterintelligence answer is to ruthlessly self-examine by backward engineering the espionage strategies that worked and eliminating them.

If the targeted or victimized government branch is uncooperative to the counterintelligence systems,   the counterintelligence is hobbled, making the operations of the enemy espionage more likely to be successful.  The self-serving and ruthlessly ambitious politicians become blind to the fact that they are being played like a banjo by forces hostile to free elections in a democracy. 

The citizens of a democratic republic owe it to themselves to understand the deleterious  impact of a successful espionage disinformation campaign. Instead, they must decide to hold accountable the elected or appointed officials who refuse to ruthlessly seek the truth to remedy a successful espionage disinformation campaign. To do less is to open the door to demagoguery and lies from the very people who were elected to seek the truth without exceptions.

To seek truth, the public official must remember the principle that government is only possible if the official in question remembers that he or she serves  by consent of the people.

Copyright 2018 by Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Heroes Are Hard to Find by Peter Reum

The impact that television and similar media present daily has  been life changing, mainly making the viewer's access to world events instant, and, at times quite shocking. With news channels available 24/7, there is very little left to the imagination pertaining to the people whose lives are closely intertwined with stories that broadcast news shows tell.

Pete Townshend's The Seeker conveys glimpses of the interface between television viewers and witnesses to tragic events. The person who is the target of a truth seekerin real life may be an introvert or feel indifferent to the public as a whole, yet is capable of finding the needed presence of mind to respond in a manner that is empathetic in a given situation.

The advent of email, message boards, and sites that are socially complex, like Facebook, has led to the shrinking of the emotional  gulf between family and friends. In my situation,  I have friends that  I have made over a 50 year span who share a strong interest in music. They live in 50+ countries around the world, and we often Skype or chat in real time to keep up with each other.

The advent of use of sites like Facebook for raising money for friends who have been touched by some sort of tragedy has made the world a smaller place and perhaps less xenophobic. Recently, I used Kickstart to help produce a film on a poet whose work deserves more attention than it has gotten. The ease that large nonprofit organizations have in raising funds for short term or long term projects has allowed nonprofits to use their websites to  seek people  from highly diverse backgrounds to discuss how a given project will be structured.

The overwhelming flood of media stimulation that the person who uses online news sites and network national/local news is the effect upon the viewer in question. That person is flooded by media output and is desensitized to the human tragedy or joy.  The most dramatic effect for viewers is that they have lost the ability to empathize or really internalize the implications of worldwide news stories. Part of the problem is the rapid pace that serious and tragic stories are presented. The death of hometown newspapers, combined with the local television and radio stations being gobbled up by national news giants, as well as the blurring of news and opinion on 24 hour news channels has made the world more connected, whether wanted or not. The overall net effect is that events that are tragic on a large scale happen what seems like every week. The desensitization and loss of the effect of feeling empathy due to loss of perspective is profound.

One sad example of this pattern is the high frequency of the massacre of innocent adults and children through terrorism and senseless wars. The reaction that people who are usually nervous regularly have is that the frequency of violence combined with the immigration of traumatized war refugees into their various countries who do not speak the national language of the host nations frightens or offends the sensibilities of some nations' citizens. If the economic picture of such a nation in question is  stagnant, fear rises and normally quiet citizens express their fears openly. Through the media, especially television, the fears of the worried population can be manipulated by unscrupulous politicians and heightened, making despots, once thought impossible to rule to be successful.  The rise of fascism in Germany, Japan, and Italy in the years between the two World Wars was often attributed to economic depression and inflation. In the case of Germany, an added factor is the terrible terms that Germany was forced to adopt to end the World War 1.

The scope of heroism as a paradigm has both broadened and shrunk. To be a true hero in today's world, the heroic consistency and stability of national, local, and family leaders has risen in the collective mind of families, regions, and nations. Today, due to the high rate of divorce worldwide, the couple that stays together and raises kids or exerts local leadership is often considered heroic. Partners in marriages that last with kids who reflect the best aspects of society's norms are heroes. Conversely, for other people, heroes are people who are entertainers or athletes. There are a few other avenues to becoming a hero. People who are towering examples of moving forward their vocation dramatically could include Nobel Laureates, scientists who improve quality of life, Peace Negotiators, and Leaders of Nations and Regions that improve quality of life.

The question directed to you as a person is Who Are Your Heroes and Why Do You Hold Such Heroes as exceptional persons in your life?

Here are some of mine...

Brian Wilson

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer

Georgia O'Keeffe

George Gershwin

Soren Kierkegaard


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Montanans in Disneyland: Some Observations by Peter Reum

Over the holiday break, my wife, the kids, and I spent 6 days in Southern California. Our plan was to visit Disneyland and the newer California Adventures Park. Our trip to and from Anaheim was paid in advance, including airport transport to and from LAX. Anaheim's local transit  system was also excellent, taking us from outside our hotel to the admission gates of both parks. We paid everything in advance through Disneyland Travel Services, who were very helpful in giving us choices for the decisions we had to make.

Flying economy is difficult in traveling anywhere. Our United Airlines flight attendants made our flights less stressful by pleasantly talking with our kids, who are 8 and 9. Our time at the Anaheim Disney Parks was compromised by enormous attendance at both parks. For anyone planning to go to both parks, I would suggest traveling at a time that is not a vacation period for schools. Crowds at both parks were very large, and park visitors have to be respectful of Indigenous tribe's traditional practices, as they  as they wind their way through park rides and themed sections (e.g. Frontierland).

My last visit to Disneyland was in 1986. I had a two year old child on that visit. I was fortunate to have had several visits. I went to Disneyland for the first time when I was four, in 1957, when Disneyland had been open for two years. The memories from that first visit are somewhat hazy.  Fantasyland and Frontierland are the areas that made the biggest impression 60 years ago. Disneyland has always been crowded on the visits I have made.  As time has marched onward, Disneyland has changed the exhibits and rides to reflect the nation's changes. This is excellent.

I remember Monsanto having had a home of the future, and using the slogan "better living through chemistry." This was in my 1957 visit. Parking was ample, and the way the parking lots that were set up made it easy to find our 1955 Mercury when we were done with the park. The Matterhorn coaster was still on the development plan. Crowds were large, but waits for park attractions were much shorter. As the Fifties passed into the Sixties, Walt Disney World took up more of the Disney Company's time.

When Disney World opened, for a time Disneyland was less crowded on my visits. It seemed that Disneyland was given less attention by Disney Corporation.  Despite the company's priorities being mostly shaped by Disney World, new attractions were periodically opened at Disneyland. As time moved along, new attractions opened at both parks regularly.

The story of Disneyland after Walt Disney's passing in 1966 was for me all about the Disney family carrying on Walt Disney's vision and staying true to the vision Mr. Disney had for the Disney Company's various operating divisions.   There was a point when Disney Corporation appeared  to have lost some of the clarity Mr. Disney brought to the operating divisions of Disney Corporation. At some point in the Eighties, the Disney family holdings in Disney Corporation became a minority interest with other investors holding majority interest.

The Disney Corporation's priorities moved into an international platform with Disney amusement parks opening in Asia and Europe. Disney Corporation placed themselves in the burgeoning cable television market. The Disney Channel and it's offshoots were dominant in the cable television market for programming targeting young viewers. In the Fifties and Sixties, Walt Disney's weekly show dominated Sunday night programming on ABC. In the Nineties, Disney Corporation bought ABC....!

Disneyland, the former flagship park in the Disney chain of amusement parks sadly began to show its age. An intense long-term  development plan brought Disneyland into the Twenty First Century. Attendance at Disneyland expanded and grew. New attractions boosted the public's interest. New areas of Disneyland and the new California Adventures Park made Disneyland competitive with parks like Six Flags and Magic Mountain.

The Disney name became synonymous with excellent service to customers.  Disney patrons were called "guests" and other service and vacation sector market corporations used Disney's customer service model with similar successes. Disney's  reanimated pictures experienced a rejuvenation of box office success that brought awards and an anticipation of each new Disney film that had not been witnessed since the Sixties. Disney rereleased Walt Disney's masterpiece,  Fantasia. The film finally received the artistic adoration it had always deserved, and Roy Disney, Walt's brother, oversaw the release of a 21st Century sequel to Fantasia that was acclaimed.

Over the first decade of the 21st Century,  Disney became an entertainment giant. Disneyland was expanded correspondingly.
That brings me to our visit to the park over the holiday just passed.

Disneyland/California Adventures combines the traditional vision of Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom with the overpowering Star Wars franchise. There are the original sections, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland, and new attractions in Mainstreet, plus all of the attractions in California Adventures.   The price for a day in Disneyland is $125 For an adult and $95 for young children.

Price stated, I would like to offer some observations about my family's experiences in both parks - Disneyland and California Adventures...

1) The two park's "cast members" were unfailingly helpful. We misplaced our son's diabetic medication and testing kit one night. We were given excellent  instructions on who to see and report the lost kit. The staff's instructions were given clearly, and as they predicted,  the kit was in lost and found the next morning as they had predicted.

2) The abuse of the so called "fast pass" insofar as the disparity how fastpass buyers and regular patrons are treated is a very disappointing. The wait time  fit most popular rides until 40 to 50 fast pass holders got their ride on an attraction.  Regular customers are admitted at roughly one regular customer to fifteen fast pass  holders. The regular customers are called "standbys" and on high attendance days have wait times averaging rights times longer than fast pass purchasers. This often results in a 3 hour wait time for popular rides.

3) We found that food quality at both parks was generally fair to good, but that the prices were excessive for what you buy. The problems centered on food quality and presentation. But for the price, helpful staff tried to speak with a supportive understanding tone to our family.

4) The staff people we met were pleasant for small talk. Disney Parks seems to attract high quality staff.  Their loyalty to standards of the original founders has a solid positive impact.