Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Main Entrance or Service Entrance?

Weekend before last was a lot of fun. Friday night was a Voodoo Blues Band gig at the Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse at the new River City Casino in South St. Louis. We were there with our wonderful singer, Roland Johnson, who uses the Voodoo band for some of his gigs. (Roland also makes frequent use of some of the members of Kim Massie's band - really wonderful musicians.) Roland really works well with the band, and tailors his material to the Voodoo band's and his mutual strengths - the Otis Redding, James Brown and Al Green "soul" songbook, breaking out some old Otis tunes in particular that featured the Stax lineup of Booker T & the MG's plus the Memphis Horns.

It was a treat in particular because "the boss" showed up - Cincinnati Restauranteur Jeff Ruby was at the bar checking out his newest spot: http://www.jeffruby.com/. Mr. Ruby thought the music was a bit loud for his taste, but a few cocktails later he was up on the bandstand with us, and by darn he knew some of tunes cold - not half bad on Knock on Wood!

The next night was the Siteman Cancer Illumination Gala. It was a fun evening with a good table - everyone knew each other and was happy to hang out. It was also fun to see the high-end auction and the special host - basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He is of course amazingly tall (7'2"), but his hands were so big and his fingers so long - imagining how he used to grip that basketball like most of us grip a softball. He was an excellent host, and it was fun to think about the fact that he is the NBA's all-time leading scorer. That's a pretty amazing feat. Like all records, it will fall some day, but to think of how many great players who have come before and since, and he outscored them all.

So I was thinking - it is nice to use the main entrance and be one of the "in" crowd (even if not that far in - I wasn't in a position (like some) to pony up a $100,000 donation on the spot). But I also like being the "help", having to slip in through the service entrance, toting my own gear, and accompanying the "boss-man" when he wants to take the stage. I wouldn't want to give up that aspect of my life.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How ya doin?

Nathaniel has taken to watching the Sopranos. Every few days we get a new disc from Netflix with 4 episodes of gold, featuring Tony and all his pals: Sil, Paulie, Big Pussy, Christopher (Christafa), Uncle Junior, Meadow, Anthony Jr. (AJ), Father Phil, Artie Bucco, and, of course, Carmela and Livia. And now Janice has entered into the scene.

We are surprised at how hilarious and just plain weird some of the shows are. And the more bizarre the shows, somehow the more believable they are (I guess because, face it, life it just plain weird).

Favorite moments include many a comment by Paulie (Saul: "Don't mess with those Jews - they're Hasidim." Paulie: "Hasidim - but I don't believe 'em." Or this gem: Pussy: "They gave him the 'Moe Green' - you know, shot him in the eye because he saw too much." Paulie: "You mean they shot him in the glasses.").  Or Sil's admiring his new shoes.  Or Livia telling Artie Bucco that Tony burned down the restaurant.  Or Tony: "You'd think I was Hannibal Lecture or somethin'".

The written episode descriptions on the disc are themselves great little nuggets of entertainment ("Janet is pulled in to Livia's treacherous web of self-pity and spite." [you bet]. Or "Something's got to give - and Tony's in the giving mood" [hoo boy - someone's getting whacked!].

And of course, the ubiquitous "How ya doin?" from Tony.  James Gandolfini was born to play this role.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Where's the diversity?

I think it is remarkable that we are headed toward our third female Supreme Court justice (assuming Elena Kagan is confirmed, obviously). And mostly for the fact that the mere fact that she is a woman is no big deal. A long time coming!

And we have a dead-conservative African American on the Supreme Court (not that I agree with much of any of Justice Thomas's views, but that's not what this blog's about). And of course Latina Sonia Sotomayor.

There has been discussion in the media about lack of a Protestant Justice with the retirement of Justice Stevens. That doesn't overly trouble me, although having six of the nine of the Catholic faith strikes me as a bit unbalanced.

But what I have not heard much about is the fact that all of the new Supremes will have attended Harvard or Yale. All of 'em (Justice Ginsberg attended Harvard but graduated from Columbia).

Now those schools are diverse, to be sure. But they represent a tiny fraction of the legal pool, even of the so-called "elite" law schools. And those institutions (Harvard and Yale) no doubt promote diverse thought within their walls. But it strikes me as plain weird and scary that graduates from these schools so absolutely dominate the SCOTUS. Plus, then there's the current President. Oh, and Bush II. Oh and the current Secretary of State. And Bill Clinton. And Bush I (all Yalies except Mr. Obama).

Group think can set in with even the best of minds. I think there should be more written and said about getting a SCOTUS with a more diverse educational background. I just can't believe that there is too narrow of an educational mind-set being served up to our highest leadership positions. Don't you think there is possibly something different about the way folks approach things at the University of Chicago? Northwestern? Berkeley? Stanford? What about a fine state institution like Michigan? To analogize to sports, Magic went to Michigan State, a big-time Big 10 school in basketball at the time. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor, as my brother might fondly recall), went to the vaunted UCLA program, of course. But I seem to recall Larry Bird did just fine out of lil' ol' Indiana State University.