Friday, October 02, 2015


Yesterday was October 1st.  I love October. October is my favorite month of the year. We had tickets to see the "Rise of the Jack-O-Lanterns" at Desconso Gardens to kick off the Halloween season. I was looking forward to writing about the amazingly artistic and creative ways artists had carved Jack-O-Lanterns. They truly are works of art.  But something else happened yesterday that tainted my will to write about art.  Yesterday there was another shooting at another school. It's a scary time to be alive. Even before the body count was official, newscasters and police were saying, "We don't know what the shooter's motive might have been."  and "We'll have to wait and try to learn why the shooter did such a horrible thing."  When the shooter was killed in a final shoot out with police, they said, "We may never know what his true motive was." 

Motive? Reason? Why did he do it? WTF and why does it matter. It's as if there is some motive we can discover through our research that would justify his rationale.  Is there any reason that would make us say, "Well those students had it coming. I mean it was the first week of class. They knew education was dangerous when they decided to get a degree."  No, there is no reason, there is no idea that could ever justify mass murder. 

One unsuccessful mass murder tries to blow up a plane with a shoe bomb and instantly everyone flying on an airplane has to take off their shoes before boarding. One unsuccessful bomber tries to take down a a plane with and underwear bomb and now everyone is X-rayed before getting on a plane. Several rumors circulated that terrorist might be bringing explosives on board planes as liquids, and everyone has to declare their toothpaste.
According to CNN from 2004-2013  a total of 313 people have been killed by violence associated with terrorism.  During that same time 316,545 people have been killed by fire arms.  Where is our outrage? Why is it that I need to provide more information about myself to get on an airplane than I do to buy a gun?  There are lots of people who are on "no fly" lists, where are the "no gun" lists? 

Since 1950 there have been 339 shootings at schools around the country. That's only schools not post offices, liquor stores, movie theaters or churches, and the only thing that has been done is well, nothing. I assumed that after Sandy Hook when children were slaughtered the country would finally address the situation.  We were outraged, we set up teddy bear memorials, we said never again, we were all agreed that none of those children  "had it coming" at Sandy Hook.  Yet the sale of guns increased.   

I know that there are some NRA supporters who will now quote the second amendment to me and say that more not less guns are needed.  If those students had been armed then, By God, there wouldn't have been a mass killing. They will also say that we already have laws that keep some people from buying guns.  And if you keep good people from having guns then only the "bad" guys will have them.  
So the solution is to regress to the Wild West where everyone openly carries a gun. Two guys can get into a fight in a Saloon and take it out to the street where the fastest draw will prevail.  Well, I can guarantee that if it comes to that, the "bad" guys will be the fastest draw.  
Oh yeah, but we have the second amendment so that we can protect ourselves from a government take over.  Believe me if the government wants to take over, your 9 millimeter is not going to be a lot of protection against a Bradley Fighting vehicle and trained soldiers with rocket propelled grenades. I suppose you could use that pea shooter to kill your wife and kids so they won't have to suffer, or better yet shoot yourself in the head and just avoid all of it.  
This morning I heard someone criticize President Obama for taking a stance against guns before the facts of this case were known.  Facts? Motive? Reason?  How about 316,545 deaths in nine years as a fact? How about 316,545 shootings as a motive? How about 316,545 deaths because someone one had a gun as a reason? If 316,545 American deaths occurred in nine years from any other reason than shootings it would be considered an emergency epidemic and Americans we would be screaming for a vaccine.

At one time the fact that thousands of people were dying from smoking was covered up in the name of making money for the tobacco industry.  These huge companies did not care that they were making a product that was killing people, they just wanted more money.  

The military Industrial complex that General Dwight Eisenhower warned against is here.  From small hand gun manufacturers to the government contractors providing nuclear missiles, it is a multi-Trillion dollar industry that feeds on fear.  They make us afraid so they can sell us "their" solution. They tell us the bad guys have guns so we need bigger guns. They then sell the bigger guns to the bad guys and tell us to be more afraid so they can keep the escalation going. They convince the public that the NRA is protecting our American rights, when the truth is the Military Industrial Complex is actually using them. They think they are being patriotic,  when instead they are helping weapon manufactures continue to make trillions of dollars.  As of this writing it has been determined the college shooter in Oregon had 6 guns with him and another 7 at home.  
Do not be afraid of a government taking our guns, but be very afraid of the immoral capitalistic manufactures that are selling them.  Money trumps everything in a capitalistic economy. Money trumps ethics, morality and truth. Money even trumps the lives of the 10 people killed in Oregon yesterday just like it did  three years when 20 elementary school  children in and 6 of their teachers were shot. 
It is October, Halloween season. It's a scary time to be alive. 
As you were,

Thursday, October 01, 2015

They Kill Dogs....

There is an article online at Mashable about the Dog Racing industry in Australia. I am fairly certain the same is true of dog tracks everywhere. According to this article, the Australian Greyhound racing industry kills between 13,000 and 17,000 Greyhounds a year. They are killed not because they are old, sick or disabled, they are killed because they won't race or don't race well enough. With a live rabbit strapped to a lure the dogs are "trained" to chase after the prey.  If they don't they are killed.  Eventually when they slow down with age, they are killed.  As awful as this fact may be to dog lovers everywhere it is only an example of a point I am trying to make. 
These Greyhounds are bred and raised for only one purpose to race and make money for the owner/trainer/gamblers. If they are not able to race and win, they are of no use to that industry. If they are not making money, they are costing money, and the only solution is to eliminate them. It is not about sport, it is not about the beauty of a dog running, it is not about pleasing the dog, it is about money. It is a business. It is capitalism at its apex. 
Business is the same for every industry, every profession and every career. If the product of that particular industry does not make money, it is of no use.  It is the same in Show business, the only difference is we do not kill performers who do not make money for someone. 
Since I began to perform I was always amazed that some actors I thought had exceptional talent did not make it, and some with minimal talent seemed to rocket to the top. For a long time I just assumed that the breaks were with some and not with others.  Or I thought, some had the right combination of Agents and Managers who were able to guide them to success.  While some of those factors may contribute, the only thing that is true of huge success or crushing disappointment is money.  The more money an actor or act can make for someone else, the more exposure they will get.  Sad but true this industry is not Show Art... it is Show business.  

Art is the game of expression, business is the game of numbers.  The more numbers you can control, ticket sales, record sales, book sales or product sales, the more money is made and there is an industry of people who make a living siphoning off some of that income.  Like mosquitoes they go where they can feed. 
As cold as that statement seems it is simply an economic fact. If your goal is to make money, do something that creates the greatest numbers of people wanting to own, see, experience or use what you are selling.  If your goal is to express the highest qualities of your talent all you have to do is seek perfection, but that is not a guarantee it will generate numbers.   
Certainly be the best you can be with the talent you have and develop it to the highest level you can, but remember one thing:  Popularity (numbers) usually trumps  talent on the capitalistic scale of success. 
Great talent is never to be confused with great economic success. Great talent can bring great success as long as one understands that the true definition of success does not involve money. Only in today's world, and today's economy (particularly in America) do success and wealth become synonymous.
The American Dream is the freedom to do what makes you happy and to rise to the level of your own desires.  Sadly today the American Dream has become the desire to become extremely wealthy. There is nothing wrong with either Dream, but we must understand what Dream we have chosen and by what standards we judge its success.  To understand one's own abilities and happiness is success, not the numbers in your bank account. 

"Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life thinking it is stupid" Albert Einstein

As you were,

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Does "America Got Talent'?

"Their takin' our jobs."
I thought it was satire when I heard that British Ventriloquist Paul Zerdin won "America's Got Talent".  Isn't there a "Britain's Got Talent" Show? Why didn't he try out for that one?  I thought this was a competition like the Olympics, you have to be American to compete for America's Got Talent. If you win the American Contest then you get to compete in the "World's Got Talent", the winner of that gets to represent the World in the "Universe's Got Talent". That's when the competitions gets really tough. At the "Universe's Got Talent" one has to compete against Arrillian Gorp Jugglers and the best Ear Whistlers from the Nebulon system. 

If anyone can enter any of the "Got Talent" franchises in the world, why aren't we all trying to win "Romainia's Got Talent" or "Slabovia's Got Talent".  I'm saying, crossing borders to win talent contests causes all kinds of problems.  Where are the Trump supporters using Paul Zerdin as an example of immigration out of control. 

Trump: "These Brits are coming over her, they're thieves, they're drug smugglers, ventriloquists. And I assume some are good people." 

 Is it time to scream, "They're taking our jobs... and stealing our puppets." 

Full Disclosure. I rarely watch America's Got Talent, and I  don't know Paul Zerdin.  From what little I have seen of his act on Youtube Paul seems to have great technique and good stage presence. I do, however, know Ronn Lucas and David Straussman very well, they also have great technique and great stage presence. All three now seem to be involved in a controversy over intellectual property, original ideas, and the difference between instruments and art. 

I do not always agree with the "ventriloqual trickle down theory." That is the idea that what is good for one ventriloquist at the top is good for all the others down line.  It doesn't work in economics, why would it work with variety arts?  In this case,  is winning a talent contest so important for all other ventriloquists that we will look the other way when we know some winning bits were  lifted from someone else's act?  We'll get back to that.

Think of it this way. Ventriloquism is like music. The puppet (mask, electronic, soft puppet, knee figure) is like the instrument.  The act that a ventriloquist does with this puppet instrument could be equated to music.  Any one can play the piano if they want to. No one owns the rights to piano playing. You practice and get good enough and you can become a great pianist.  You might even become good enough to play like Dave Brubeck (look him up if you're not sure).  You might develop a style that audience members hail as the next "Dave Brubeck like" sound.  Everything is kosher until you play, "Take Five" and claim credit for writing it.  Then you have crossed over from being a musician to being a plagiarist.  Other musicians would not let that claim go unchallenged.  

David Strausman may not have exclusive claim to the "instrument" of a mechanical remotely controlled puppet. Ronn may not have exclusive claim to the "instrument" of a moving vent mask, (although he makes the legal claim he does.) These things are instruments and are like saxophones for sale to anyone who wants to lean how to play them.  What seems to be the issue at hand now is did Paul Zerdin use these instruments to play songs written by David and Ronn? That would cross the line of intellectual property, courtesy and integrity. 

It does not matter if some piano player says he has been playing "Take Five" since 1997 when he saw a piano for sale at a pianist convention. "Take Five" was composed in 1959.  End of story, end of claim.  It belongs to someone else, write your own song. 

We are back to trickle down ventriloquism.  If it is so important to have ventriloquism win for the benefit of all ventriloquists that we turn a blind eye to the original "song" writers: that becomes its own reward.  But it's a slippery slope. Ventriloquists will be encouraged to watch others and instead of saying, "Wow, I wish I had thought of that... it's brilliant", they will be saying "Wow, I can use that in my act."  That is not trickle down that is poisoning the well. 

I'm not stirring the pot or trying to take sides. I'm just pointing out the truth. In life you have to  "do your own work".  Whatever grade you get in life's exam, make sure it is your work.  That is the definition of originality and the soul of a musician, artist, dancer and ventriloquist.
As you were,

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The GOP Debate

Not going to watch tonight. However, knowing the candidate that is leading I know how part of it will go.

CNN Reporter: This one is for you Mr. Trump.

Trump: I am going to make America Great again. I will be the best jobs president this country has ever seen. Because I think the country is being run by crazy people. And look, I don't need to be....

CNN Reporter:  Mr. Trump. I haven't ask the question yet.

Trump:  I'm sorry I thought you said Kurds.  I was referring to her persona.

CNN Reporter: So here is the question Mr. Trump.

Trump: I will build a wall on the border, make Mexico pay for it.  Maybe even make China pay for it.

CNN Reporter: Well that wasn't close to the question I was going to ask but,  why would China pay for a wall across our borders?

Trump: China is beating us on trade, they are taking our jobs, they speak a very funny language no one can understand. I am very good with China. I will negotiate a deal that will make this country great again. You'll see.

CNN Reporter: Mr. Trump can we get to the question.

Trump: I will make sure that every veteran has the best possible health care.  I love the vets. They love me.

CNN Reporter: The question is this, although you are leading in the polls some people think, even some standing on the podium here tonight, that you are not qualified.

Trump: Not true I have some great qualities. I never...

CNN Reporter: That's not the question.

Trump: Folks, I'm not going anywhere.

CNN Reporter: Here is my question, sir. High ranking members of the GOP think your popularity is based on potential voters who are either ignorant or apathetic. How would you answer those charges?

Trump: Ignorant or apathetic? I don't know and I don't care.

As you were,

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

You Follow Opera?

The Muse. It is like when a friend comes to visit for a while. When the guest arrives everything else stops and all attention is paid to the visitor.  One does things the friend wants to do, even if you were not planning on that activity. That is the way we entertain the Muse.
Right now it is the Muse of writing which has come to visit. She has completely taken over and there has been no activity in my life for the last three days but writing.  I can't tell if it is the project or the process that has me hypnotized because the result is the same, an obsession to keep writing. Even when I have hit a wall in the story twist of my project, I still have to write. So, this blog becomes the vamp until I can get clear on how to proceed with the other writing.

Some time ago I was at a dinner party. I love dinner parties. Parties where friends get together for a meal, conversation, stories and laughter. This party was ebb and flow of several conversations going on at once when anyone could jump in and add commentary to the various subjects being discussed.
I remember telling a story about the Horn in Santa Monica.  It is a club where I worked when I moved to LA.  It was mainly a singers room, but they had two comics a night. I was one of them for a while.  The story involved the struggle to follow a singer on stage who had just finished a set of depressing, heart wrenching music leaving the audience suicidal.  And now the comedy of... Jay Johnson.  Brutal, but you learn quickly.
Seemingly out of the blue the man sitting next to me said, "Have you seen the latest version of Pelleas and Melisande?" When I said no, he launched into a review of a production he saw. He mentioned that the director had also done a production of the Marriage of Figaro, and asked if I liked his work, I was stumped.  He might as well have been speaking foreign language. Then he started naming people I found out later were up and coming Opera stars.  This man was passionate about his Opera and continued to pepper questions at me designed to solicit my knowledge or interest in Opera. Finally the hostess heard him say to me, "I thought you said a minute ago you followed Opera?" I briefly tried to recall the conversations up to that point but did not remember ever saying that I knew or even liked Opera. The hostess jumped into our conversation and in one sentence recognized the problem and source of the confusion.  She said,
"CB, Jay did not say he followed Opera.  He said at the Horn he had to 'Follow Opera.. SINGERS'."
As you were,

Friday, September 11, 2015

Remembering again... and again.

In the 14 years since 9/11 I have watched both my sons graduate from College, was joyful when Sandi got hired on a television show that is now premiering its 9th season in a couple of weeks; I won a Tony for a one man show I wrote and performed on Broadway. Somewhere along the way I started writing this blog. 

9/11/01 seems so long ago, until I start to recall that specific day in my life. It then becomes altogether too fresh like it only happened months ago.  In this time of memorial to all that did not see 9/12/01, I reprint what I have written before.  During this unpleasant anniversary, I find it easier to cut and paste the past rather than relive it to write about it. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

So much has happened since then.  So much has changed... but my raw emotions never seem to change.  Here is the way I will always remember it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11 Remembered...

Reprints from the past:

Those of us who did live past this day in 2001 we will never forget those who didn't.  They were all of us.  There were no blogs, no tweets, no texts, no smart phones connected to social media back then,  but it was seared into my consciousness nonetheless. It was seven years before I thought I could write about it here.

Written on: 
Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. No one of this generation will forget where they were when they heard the news about a plane hitting the World Trade Center that morning. Most of us were watching CNN by the time the second plane hit. I was in Boston, which immediately became part of the crime scene.

I was performing for an Insurance company. A week earlier they called and asked if I could move my performance/presentation to Tuesday morning instead of Monday afternoon. They had a scheduling problem and that would help. I had no problem with coming in and leaving a day later. I didn't think much about it until after the events of 9/11. My manager at the time just switched my flights around and adjusted everything by 24 hours. That change in schedule saved my life.

My traveling MO is to catch the first nonstop home to Los Angeles the morning after my performance. In most major cities American Airlines is my carrier of choice. I am a two and and a half million mile American Airlines AAvantage member and in 2001 had Executive Platinum status. It was of no help when all air travel stopped for a week after the towers fell.

Until the company delayed my performance by 24 hours I was booked on the first non stop home after my Monday afternoon show. I was booked in seat 4E non stop from Boston to Los Angeles, Tuesday, September 11, 2001, American Airlines #11. I remember at the time thinking that flight #11 on the 11th of the month seemed lucky. That plane hit the north Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 am. Because the show date changed I wasn't on that plane. I was waiting to go on stage.

Even with that graphic life changing example, I sometimes forget that everything happens for a reason. One small decision is sometimes the one that changes your life. Only with perspective do we understand it as either good or bad, and ultimately even good and bad are human judgments.

It would seem natural to thank God for saving my life, but doesn't that make him responsible for the 3000 souls he didn't save that day? There were people on flight #11 much more "deserving" to live than me, or at the least equally deserving. They prayed for protection and deliverance that morning.

I would have been sitting on the plane next to David Angel who was the very talented writer/creator of the television show "Frazier" had my show date remained as contracted. He was deserving to have another day in his life, but he rode the plane into the tower. Who did God love more, me or him? It is a stupid question.

That event does not define me. I do not count the days since I was saved. I have not used it as a testimony in Church. I don't think I was given a celestial "do over". I rarely even remember it unless prompted by some event. All I know is I am here to write briefly about it and David Angel is not. I wrestle with the name Angel trying to make it some sort of metaphor. It is as fruitless as thinking flight #11 on the 11th was lucky. It was what it was. Those who have moved on are not looking back, but here's to all of us who are left behind to try and figure it out.

We will never quite be as we were,

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Church or State?

Kentucky Kim the Conservative Christian County Clerk - sounds like a cartoon character. In reality there is nothing funny in the way Kim Davis is conducting government for Rowan County Kentucky.

If you have been in an isolation chamber since June you might not know who Ms. Davis is. As the elected clerk of Rowan County Kentucky it is her $80,000 a year job to issue licenses, collect fines and court ordered fees. She is responsible for enforcing and overseeing misdemeanor cases in the county.  Her job is making sure the law of the county is carried out.  

Since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of granting same sex marriage in June, Ms. Davis has refused to issue ANY Marriage license, to anyone wishing to be married in her County. Although her job is to carry out the law, She is refusing to obey this particular law.  Her reasoning? She is obeying God's law. 

Kim Davis should be the poster girl for the Separation of Church and State.  The situation in Kentucky is created when zealots in power try to blur the line between church and state. America is founded on the idea that the will of the people trumps any Religious authority.  It was Liberty and Freedom from the authority of Religion that lead us to settle this country.  Religious rule in Europe was a failure, so we chose to be a country of law not mythology.
There is no attack on Religion in America.  The attack is coming from Christian zealots trying to dismantle the separation of Church and State in America. It is the same battle in the middle east, Isis is not a political ideology of laws.  Isis is not a rule by the people, but it is rule by Religion.  It is a draconian way to govern and its failure is guaranteed.

Tomorrow... (Thursday) Kim Davis and the other clerks, some of them related to her, will appear before a Judge.  We will find out what laws that Judge has chosen to obey.  Being an unauthorized friend of the Court, I submit this brief in letter form for the record,  if anyone chooses to read it at the hearing.

Open Letter to:

Rowan County Clerk

Kim Davis

West Main Street Room 102
Morehead, KY 40351

You Go, Ms Davis:

You go and practice your piety without impunity from anyone. This is America... you can do that. The laws of the land guarantee that you will be free to follow whatever rules your God demands. Because we have a right to freedom of religion in this country you are well within in your rights to believe whatever you wish. No court, no government, no Governor nor group can tell you what to believe nor keep you from your own belief. You are free to worship and believe anyway you wish.

However, If your job as an elected County Clerk is conflicting with your religion you have two choices.  

1) Do the job you were elected to do and find a way to make it work with your faith, or  
2) Quit the job as County Clerk  and become secretary at your Church.  You can not have it both ways.  You can not keep a job that administers the law then decide which laws you will obey or enforce.  In your own words you say you will not resign, and will not issue any marriage license. Sorry, Lady you have to choose.  The court says it is time you decide. 

As for me, I have decided paying Income taxes to the United States government is against my religious values. God said very clearly, "Do Not Kill".  It is a big Christian NO NO.  Bigger than this same sex marriage thing, which didn't even make God's list of  Top Ten "Thou shalt nots".
The United States chooses to send thousands of soldiers around the world to kill and be killed with the money I have sent to the government.  God will punish me if I am implicated in the act of killing. So assuming your interpretation of theology, County Clerk Kim Davis... I don't have to pay my income tax, right?
The offense rests.

As you were,