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Lessons Learned from the Pit

2015 June 25
by robertnew
Playing Bass for Shrek the Musical

Playing Bass for Shrek the Musical

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to play bass with some amazingly talented people. I played for the Spotlight Acting School’s performances of Shrek the Musical.

The fact that this is a school was appropriate, as this was a learning experience for me. I’ve played bass for thirty-some odd years, and actually my guitar was older than most of the folks in the show. I’ve had the opportunity to play with a lot of different people on different kinds of music, but in all that time, I have never performed for a live play. Starts, stops, long periods of dialogue, and key changes that I didn’t even know existed proved to be quite challenging.

In an old episode of Andy Griffith, there is a line where Andy is getting ready to play some music with the Darlins. Brisco Darlin tells Andy, “Just jump in where you can, Sheriff, and hang on.” That’s how I felt. So now I can say I’m sort of an alumni of Spotlight Acting School.

I was not only amazed at the level of talent in this show, but also by the way everyone, of all ages, conducted themselves. On Saturday night the air conditioner stopped working, and it grew hotter than the boiling lava surrounding Fiona’s tower prison. On top of that, about half way through Act 1 the curtain broke and wouldn’t close. A very crowded back stage area became a chaotic choreography as they had to turn down the lights to do set changes using characters in costume already enduring the extreme heat. During the intermission, we managed to fix the curtain for Act 2.

If you’re thinking about sending your kids to Spotlight Acting School, I recommend it. Not only will they learn singing, choreography, drama, set building and all the things you would expect, they will also learn skills that will help them in life no matter what path they take: problem solving, hard work, and perseverance. And those traits deserve a standing ovation.

Lessons from Paula Deen, Chief Justice Roberts, and Harold Meyerson

2013 June 29
by robertnew

history-futureThis whole Paula Deen media feeding frenzy really irks me. I don’t condone what she said, or how she has handled it, and I especially don’t condone the stupidity of the people who are so outraged by it. If we go back through history we can’t help but find things that happened or language that was used at the time that is not accepted now.

Should we go back and scrub history to get rid of any record of slavery in the U.S., or the Nazi holocaust, or any war we every fought? Our best teacher is our past mistakes. If we go back and clean up our history books of events or language that we have since moved on from, how will generations to come after us know of the consequences? Won’t that make them more likely to repeat many of those mistakes?

When Paula Deen grew up in the south the “N-word” was not considered as offensive or as much of a racial slur as it is today. Hypothetically speaking, let’s say in 30 years the word Latino is deemed to be just as offensive to Hispanics. What will happen to all the politicians and journalists who are on record the last few weeks uttering the “L-word” when talking about the amnesty bill being batted around Washington? Will they lose their jobs, their companies, their book sales?

Paula Deen came forward and told the truth about something that was ingrained in the culture in which she was raised. Instead of vilifying her we should be thanking her for her honesty and for reminding us of a time when things weren’t as good for all Americans as they are now. We still have work to do and we still have wounds to heal, but we don’t have separate water fountains, bathrooms, or restaurants. Every legal citizen has the right to vote which wasn’t always the case.

This week the Supreme Court struck down portions of the voting rights act passed during the 1960’s as part of the civil rights movement declaring that you cannot use abuses that date back a half a century, but have long since disappeared, to justify indefinite federal discrimination against the American South. Some applauded the move while others, just as in Paula Deen’s admission, were so outraged they let their true bigotry shine through while ignoring facts.

 Consider Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson who wrote the South is the home of the “…virulent racism of the white Southern establishment. Its anti-unionism was rooted in more than right-wing antipathy toward worker rights; it was also underpinned by fear that industrial unions would be racially integrated and become vehicles for African American power, as they were in the North. Today, Jim Crow laws are long gone, but the Southern suppression of worker rights and incomes…” and he drones on and on with speech direct from his days from the Democratic Socialist Organizing Party.

In his opinion Chief Justice Roberts noted that black voter turnout in 2012 was higher in Mississippi than in Massachusetts. The truth is people like Paula Deen and Chief Justice Roberts are looking forward and trying to tear down walls that hold us back while small minded people such as Harold Meyerson make their living dredging up sins of the past.

In Meyerson’s editorial he suggested “…if the federal government wants to build a fence that keeps the United States safe from the dangers of lower wages and poverty and their attendant ills — and the all-round fruitcakery of the right-wing white South — it should build that fence from Norfolk to Dallas. There’s nothing wrong with a fence, so long as you put it in the right place.” Perhaps Mr. Meyerson should forego his native California tofu for a big bowl of shrimp and grits with a tall glass of sweet tea and a little Southern hospitality. That is if he can get over his fence.

 

To Stand or Not to Stand?

2013 April 23
by robertnew
My stand up desk set up.

My stand up desk set up.

Several weeks ago I changed my work desk to a standing desk. I spend 10 hours a day working at a computer. After a year and a half of discussing it, one of my coworkers changed over. A couple of weeks later I pulled the trigger. Our two desks was quite the novelty for sometime, people kept coming by and looking at them, standing behind them, commenting on them, and asking us questions.

We went cold turkey, no easing in to it, no sitting part of the time and standing part of the time. From sitting 40+ hours per week to standing. The first week or so was pretty rough. By the end of the day I would be pretty sore. Now, I can’t imagine going back.

Now we have a third coworker who is in process of changing over and a manager from a different department who has adopted a stand up desk routine. Perhaps more will give it a try in the future, I’ll keep you posted on the process.

The first lesson learned: good shoes and an anti-fatigue mat are a must!

Standing desks may not be for everyone, but if you decide to try it out, let me know. We can compare notes.

Sequester: The Cut That Isn’t

2013 February 22
by robertnew

printing_moneyIn the State of the Union address this year, President Obama made the following statements:

“Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion – mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

Now we need to finish the job. And the question is, how?

In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They’d devastate priorities like education, energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as “the sequester,” are a really bad idea.”

In his TEA Party response, Rand Paul pointed out:

“The President does a big “woe is me” over the $1.2 trillion sequester that he endorsed and signed into law. Some Republicans are joining him. Few people understand that the sequester doesn’t even cut any spending. It just slows the rate of growth. Even with the sequester, government will grow over $7 trillion over the next decade.

Only in Washington could an increase of $7 trillion in spending over a decade be called a cut.

So, what is the President’s answer? Over the past four years he has added over $6 trillion in new debt and may well do the same in a second term. What solutions does he offer? He takes entitlement reform off the table and seeks to squeeze more money out of the private sector.”

Over the next few weeks we are going to hear the rhetoric on the sequester ratchet up to an all new level. We should all remember that this sequester law was approved by both parties when it was written and the President was happy to sign his name to it.

Politicians love to tell us how cuts are going to affect teachers, firemen, police, and hospitals because that scares us. What should scare us our spiraling debt with no end in sight. Or the fact we are spending our kids and grandkids money. Money that even the ones who aren’t born yet hasn’t even earned is being frittered away in the name of “investment”. Investments should have a return, we are barreling toward a point of no return.

What You See Isn’t Always What You Get

2013 February 2
by robertnew
FRANKFORT, Ky. (January 14, 2013) – (Left) Representative Ryan Quarles, R-Georgetown (62nd District) and Representative Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster (36th District) listen to a presentation on the floor of the Kentucky House of Representatives on Friday, January 11. Quarles and Shell are two of three House Representatives under the age of 30, all Republicans, and two of eight House legislators under the age of 40.  Seven of the eight under 40 members are Republicans. (Photo: LRC Public Information/Kentucky House Republican Caucus)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (January 14, 2013) – (Left) Representative Ryan Quarles, R-Georgetown (62nd District) and Representative Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster (36th District) listen to a presentation on the floor of the Kentucky House of Representatives on Friday, January 11. Quarles and Shell are two of three House Representatives under the age of 30, all Republicans, and two of eight House legislators under the age of 40. Seven of the eight under 40 members are Republicans. (Photo: LRC Public Information/Kentucky House Republican Caucus)

A couple of weeks ago Kentucky’s General Assembly started their 2013 session. They started this year with a short session, only meeting 4 days. Being the political junkie I am, I was thrilled to learn that KET had a website that streamed both the House and Senate Sessions. I couldn’t wait to tune in.

On the first day I logged in and watched the House. It went something like this: gavel in, make some announcements, give the representatives a few minutes to make comment and introduce their guests there watching them, file some bill numbers with the clerk, and adjourn. The entire process took about an hour. The next three days followed about the same format.

I was left thinking what the heck just happened? Our state has a huge fiscal crisis facing us. I remember thinking I would be pretty pissed if I were elected to office and had to drive all the way to Frankfort every day for this!

But this is what happens on the surface, the part we see. What was really happening was going on before and after the session. The first day, after they adjourned, the Republican and Democrat caucuses met individually in different rooms and elected leadership. There is also time for committees to meet, which is where the actual bills are written before being brought to the floor.

While I was disappointed that there wasn’t more to watch, I know that may be hard to believe, I know that my Representative and Senator was at work. We need to remember that there is a lot more to politics than what we see on the surface. On the positive side there are groups meeting to write and refine legislation. On the flip side, there are the backroom deals securing votes and meeting with lobbyists (watch “Lincoln” and think of Ben Nelson (D-NE) and the Cornhusker Kickback deal during the Obamacare passage).

That is why it is important for us to be ever vigilant and be an informed voter. In politics what you see is not always what you get.