Wednesday, March 27, 2013



Why is it that some people seem to have too much of it, while others don't seem to have enough?

I'm sure we've all had run-ins with someone that ended badly, simply because of pride and principle.  That's not always a bad thing, but sometimes it can be.

I also see people who don't seem to really have any pride.  They don't seem to take pride in anything they do or create.  Why is that? 

Well, for an adolescent (remember, I've been teaching middle school for seventeen years), it can be difficult.  It is much easier for a middle school kid to take no stance, than to take a stand.  For, or against, anything.  just ride the fence.

I see it with their artwork.  We have students who create beautiful artwork, yet seem to be embarrassed to take it home on the bus.  Why on earth is that??  They should be proud of their work.  Especially, if that work has won some sort of an award. 

I remember once, after an awards assembly, finding one student's award for poetry crinkled up in the trash can.  What's up with that? 

It's because of what they think is cool, or not cool. 

What I don't see are sports trophies in the trash.  It's cool to be good at sports.  Most of the athletes are quite popular and beam with pride and self-confidence.  Shouldn't the kid with the starring role in the school play behave in a similar manner?  I sure think so.  But they don't.  Singing and acting, although loved by everyone as a SPECTATOR, simply doesn't receive as much respect, it seems.  At least in my small community, they don't.  Especially for the boys.  I constantly have to remind our male musicians to take pride in what they do.  Because they are GOOD!  They SHOULD be prideful.

Like with many things in life, there is a balance.  A delicate balance between not enough, and too much pride. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013


The older I get, the more lists I have.  No, these are not the normal type of lists that remind one of things needed to be purchased or accomplished.  Rather, these are lists of things you "cannot tell people."

Not things that are inappropriate to say, but rather things that people won't fully understand at the time.

For example...

I have a list of things you cannot tell a 12 year old.  Cannot, that is,  because a 12 year old does not possess the wisdom and experience to understand the point you might be trying to get across.  I also have a piece of advice.  Do NOT tell them that they do not understand and will not until they are older and more wise.  Trust  me, this won't help the situation.

I also have a list of things you cannot tell an 18 year old.

A 25 year old.

A 30 year old.

Wisdom is something that combines knowledge, experience and maturity.   Until one gains a certain about of it, one just simply will not understand.

Mike Izzo said something similar today, at the conclusion of the MSU/VCU basketball game.  He said that until his team believes that they possess the talent and skill to go all the way, they will not.  He also said that he cannot be the one to tell them, because they won't believe him.  He then made the analogy of a 12 year old looking at you like you're crazy after telling them something.  He said, "you know, they look at you like you're the dumbest person in the world."

Have faith.  Someday, they will get it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Time Flies

The understatement of a LIFETIME!!

Time flies.  

I remember my father's mother (may she rest in peace) telling me, 20 years ago, "Jeff, every year seems to go by a little bit faster than the one before it."  Grandma Cos was a very wise lady, for sure.  She is still dearly missed today!

Recently, I heard a few advertisements on TV that made me sit up and question, "Oh my God, where has the time gone?"  These advertisements were for shows that started near, or shortly after, the beginning of the "Reality TV" era.

One was an ad for the talk show The View.  Now, to me, The View is a "new talk show."  It's obviously something that started long after Oprah started, as well as all the ones we remember from childhood (Mike Douglas, Phil Donahue, Merv Griffin, and later, Jerry Springer, Montel Williams, etc. etc.).  What boggled my mind was that the advertisement for The View stated it was their SIXTEENTH YEAR!  WHAAAT?  How can that be?  Like I said, I consider this to be a "new daytime talk show."  Now, I suppose Ellen would be a bit newer, but come on!  Holy cow, I just checked.  Ellen has had a talk show for TEN years.  Where has the time gone?

Another one was Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?  In learning that they have recently announced a new host in Cedric the Entertainer, I also learned that show first aired in 1999.  Fourteen years???  Really??

Then, the kicker.  The straw that broke the proverbial "you've got to be kidding me" back.
Dancing With the Stars is starting its TWELFTH SEASON!  Come on now, NO WAY, I thought.  Then a colleague pointed out that they basically do two seasons per year, so it's not exactly twelve years old.  That made me feel better.

But, I'll tell ya what, kids...
If you lead a busy lifestyle...  If you have kids that you have to transport to many and varied activities... PLUS, If you have hobbies yourself like bowling, golf, softball, fishing, hunting or crafting... the "middle years" of your life will simply FLY BY!

One day, you will be thirty (or younger), with two (or more) kids in daycare (which involves a ton of work and money, even though they are in daycare!).  And suddenly you will wake up and be in your mid to late forties and your youngest will be a teenager!  It's then when you'll ask, "where did the time go?"

It's crazy, this thing we call life on Earth.  Enjoy it while you can, kids, because it's wonderful, awesome and sacred.

I am secretly hoping my grandmother was wrong in her statement that each year goes a little faster.  I'm hoping things will slow down a bit as I get older, especially in retirement.  In reality, I'm betting Grandma was right.

So, as the kids say, "live while we're young!"

Monday, March 11, 2013

Classic Rock (with a dash of Heavy Metal)

What makes rock classic?  Why is rock from a certain era considered classic?

I tell you my opinion...
Because it's good.

Folks, there is a reason why the majority of music radio stations feature some sort of a "Classic Rock" format (this statement is purely based in opinion and not research - to me, it seems like they are the majority).  It's just simply GOOD MUSIC that stands the test of time.

When I listen to one of the four West Michigan Classic Rock stations I have programmed in my car stereo, I hear approximately one 1990s song for about every 50-100 1980s song.  Even songs from the 1970s, get more airplay.  Is it simply because they are older, and therefore, "more classic?"  No.  They are just better music.

The 1970s really saw the music industry take shape, in my opinion, thanks to a concept known as Artist Development.  Most bands in the seventies went through a lengthy period of "paying their dues," by playing clubs and simply working on songwriting, before every being allowed to go into the studio to work on a full length album.  Listen to almost any band from the seventies and you'll hear well executed music from talented and SCHOOLED musicians.  Oh, and no Auto-Tune.

By the time the eighties came around the record labels had the classic rock sound down to a science.  Back then it was called many things.  Formulaic.  Corporate Rock.  Faceless.  In other words, generally it was not critically acclaimed.  However, bands like Jouney, Kansas, Styx, Boston, Foriegner and REO Speedwagon sold out 20,000 seat arenas night after night, all across the country, and around the world.  Little did they know, they were creating a genre of music that would go on to stand the test of time far longer than the majority of other styles of Contemporary Commercial Music.

A couple years ago, on a 14 hour drive, my family and I heard Journey's Don't Stop Believin' nearly once an hour by bouncing from station to station as we rolled through different broadcast markets.  Later that year, it was announced that the song was the most downloaded song in the history of music downloads.  I thought it was so cool that a song that was on the radio when I was in the 8th grade was actually MORE POPULAR two years ago, when my daughter Kacee was in the 8th grade, than it was when it was originally released.  The song peaked at only #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1981.  I'd say, it's definitely been a "bigger hit," in the past five years than any #9 single.

In the latter half of the 1980s, things got a bit out of control, unfortunately. The sub-genre of rock known as Heavy Metal became very popular, thanks to many videos receiving heavy rotation on MTV.
As a result, Heavy Metal became a few things it wasn't prepared to become:
1. Extremely popular worldwide
2. Overexposed
3. WAY too overdone and over the top

As a result of #1, businessmen rushed in to make a quick buck by signing hundreds of bands that fit the mold.  "If you had a drummer with two bass drums and a singer that sang high, you got a record contract."
                 -Frankie Banali (drummer for Quiet Riot)

The above caused #2 to happen, while we were all enjoying the party.

#3 happened because, as a result of #2, bands felt the need to outdo each other in aspects such as... um...
HAIR, for one.  Lights.  Amplifiers.  Stage shows.  Pyrotechnics.  Budgets for videos, etc. And more Hair.

All of this lead to the crash and burn that the harder edged rock from the late 80s suffered as a result of bands like Guns and Roses, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains.  Gone, was the big hair.  Gone, was the makeup.  Gone, were the Marshall stacks and banks upon banks of pretty chrome stage lights.  BOO!

And, those bands completely disappeared for about fifteen years.  They were laughed at.  Considered a joke of the music world.  Meanwhile, guys who played de-tuned guitars where you could play an entire chord by holding down ONE FINGER across four strings, were dominating the airwaves and selling out those same 20,000 seat arenas.  The musicians of the world were aghast!  How could this be?  They didn't even sing high (or well, for that matter).  They had no harmony vocals.  Their guitarists didn't even play solos!!!  This was the rock that was popular???  It just didn't seem plausible.

Today, and for about the last eight years (thankfully), many of the 1980s bands, as well as some from the 1970s have reunited and are enjoying success as the quality live acts that they were, and still are today.  Some are even playing those same 20,000 seat arenas again!

As an aging rocker myself, every time I hear a concert advertisement on the radio for Def Leppard, Journey, Styx, Loverboy, Motley Crue, Pat Benatar or REO Speedwagon, I can't help but feel good for them.  I also feel vindicated in a way, as you may have guessed.  This was a style of music that I fell in love with in the late 1970s when I discovered Journey when I was in the sixth grade.  It makes me feel good to know that "my music" is a style that has stood the test of time.  I would also like to call out Mr. Aris Hampers on this one.  In 1995 Paris Blue participated in the Hometown Rock Search at the Orbit Room (then, Club Eastbrook) in Grand Rapids.  We made an eleventh hour decision and decided to play our 12 minute Journey medley instead of a couple originals because we felt it showed our strengths:  Our musicianship and our three-part harmony vocals.  Well, that decision didn't fare well with the judges (especially in the category of originality).  In a discussion with Aris (the local legendary DJ who hosted the event) after the show I asked him if he thought "my music" would ever come back into style.  He said he didn't think it would.  Well, I believe he was wrong with that prediction.  Classic Rock is alive and well today.

Now... If the fans would only "allow"' those bands to record new material...

Monday, March 4, 2013


Tonight at parent teacher conferences, I heard some things that surprised me.  The most surprising, and sad, story was of the girl who has been raised by her grandparents because her mother has a serious drug problem.  We were told that mom has had several overdoses and usually ends up in jail.  She now has brain damage and epilepsy, as a result of doing so many hard drugs.  Mom is currently in jail.

This 12 year old girl was also subjected to a nasty divorce/custody battle where dad took her away from grandpa and grandma for a year, without allowing them to see her.  Then, upon the finalization of the divorce, dad handed the girl over to grandma and grandpa and left the state.

This young lady is not blessed with a great deal of intelligence, but she is a sweetheart, is always cheery and is a joy to have in class.  I'm guessing that might be because school is where she is most happy.

Grandma then shared with us that the girl's birthday is soon approaching.  Her golden birthday, at that.  She said that the one thing her granddaughter wished for was a big family birthday party like the ones her friends talk about.  It broke grandma's heart to remind the young lady that she is an only child and that most of her extended family lives out of state.  At that point, I jumped in and asked, "when is her birthday?"  I assured grandma that we would have a party for her at school.  Plans are already in the works.  I spoke with our counselor later about it.  These things can be delicate though with middle school aged kids.  They LOVE attention, but not TOO MUCH attention.  I'm sure it will be great.

The final heartbreak moment of this conference was when grandma confessed that she had dropped out of school in the tenth grade, and that she prays that her granddaughter didn't "inherit this from her," as the young girl is currently struggling in many of her classes.  Before she shared this with us, she paused.  I could tell she was feeling uncomfortable.  After sharing of her dropping out, she confessed, "that was really difficult for me to say."  We comforted her and thanked her for sharing.

There are millions of kids like this in this country.  And millions upon millions more outside this country.  Many of them living in situations far worse than this young lady who has a nice home with her grandparents.  I just read a statistic that said 50% of the world's population is under the age of 30.  Let's help these young people.  Volunteer.  Get involved at church, a youth center, anywhere you can.  Time is quite possibly the most valuable thing you can invest in young people.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The American business model

I am not a businessman.  I know next to nothing about the business world.  But I know one thing.  According to the American business model, a business is considered "successful" if they make more money this quarter than they did last year, this same quarter.  PERIOD.  This is not the case in all other cultures.  If you don't believe me, do the research

Well over a decade ago, upon discovering this piece of "business knowledge," I immediately wondered, "how much is too much," and "how far will this go?"  

Well... It appears as though that for some companies, there is absolutely no limit.  In fact, some corporations appear to be demonstrating that the desire for profit greatly outweighs the desire to "do good."  When I say, "do good," I mean many different things.  Doing good can be something like NOT selling out to the big corporations, because you know they would eliminate your current employees.  

On a grander scale, there are huge corporations in the food industry who have made decisions that, according to some, are the equivalent to "genetic roulette."  I'm referring to GMO foods.  Genetically Modified Organisms, again, according to some, can cause serious health issues.  Probably the most likely being food allergies.  It's no great secret that there has been a drastic increase in food allergies in the recent past.  Does anyone in their 40s remember a classmate with a "deadly peanut allergy?"  

Research is starting to indicate that the body doesn't recognize GMO foods as food.  Because it is comprised of a different DNA strand than "normal food," the body, instead, rejects it.  In many cases, it responds to these foods as allergens.  Many say that this is part of the reason why there are so many more food allergies today.  

My wife, several years ago already, once did a research report for a college class involving Wal-Mart and Toro.  The short version is that Wal-Mart informed Toro that "we will sell your snowblowers at THIS price."  Toro's response was that this selling price was lower than their production costs and, as a result, this "American Made company" was forced to have the "Wal-Mart version" of their products manufactured overseas.  

So, if you are a business owner, will you have the business ethics (I believe that is a college class ALL business majors are required to take) to do what's best for the greater good of humanity?  Of your employees' families?  Or, will it come down to the one thing that seems to drive most corporations...