Monday, June 28, 2010

A Day in the Life - A Night in the Underground

June 27, 2010

The Beatles and Elvis
If you saw the movie Pulp Fiction, you may remember the conversation Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) have at Jack Rabbit Slims just before their twist dance. Mia states that everyone is either an Elvis fan or a Beatles fan… you can’t be both. Although I would be the first to agree (for the most part) with her assessment, there are a very very few of us that really enjoy both.

The Beatles and Elvis each defined a decade and their fans are terribly possessive, each in their own way. Their respective impersonator/tribute band fan-bases are a bit forgiving. They enjoy the memories, the songs, and the whirlwind of nostalgia that whips through a venue whenever their respective ‘favorites songs’ are played. It is for this reason you see so many impersonators/tribute bands that aren’t exactly ‘right on’ vocally, musically, or visually but still maintain unfailing loyalty from the fans. To this fan base NO person can recreate the magic of the King or the Fab Four, so they really don’t expect them to. No priest could walk across water or turn water into wine… so what’s the use in expecting it?

For those that perform exclusively for these audiences (at conventions, contests, and showcases,) the unending accolades and standing ovations can be a sweet assumption!

I, on the other hand, have spent the majority of my two decades as a professional entertainer singing, performing and impersonating in front of much more critical and discerning audiences. Nothing against my brother Elvi on the contest circuit, there just aren’t that many contests and opportunities between Chicago and Las Vegas. I’ve been forced to take on a greater breadth of characters, a wider scope of eras and a more challenging range of styles – from big band to 90’s. At times, this eclecticism has made me ‘persona non grata’ in the Elvis circles, but that’s for another blog… this one’s not about me.

Okay… after all that verbal foreplay I’m finally getting to the meat of what I wanna say.

The presence, charisma, and vocal magic of Elvis… and the harmonies, absolute musicality and soul of the Beatles are all terribly, terribly difficult to recreate for a non-fan-base audience! You have no idea how difficult! This was evident and fully in play in a show I saw tonight.

Tonight the “Captain Quirk and Friends” performed the Abbey Road Show at the Soiled Dove Underground club. It was a fundraiser for Craig Hospital and PHAMALY (a wonderful organization that assists those with a wide range of disabilities.) I am better than casually familiar with a number of the musicians. The drummer, Larry Ziehl, is one of the finest percussionists I have ever worked with, and is the drummer for my band Sock Hop. Keyboardist Donna Debreceni (again, one of the finest in her field) and the equally talented Mitch Jervis and I have worked together before and aren’t members of my band only because I can’t afford them and their schedules are too booked. Austin Hein on bass I knew by reputation. So I assumed the show would be good.

I was wrong.

It was SPECTACULAR… GREAT…. AWESOME… choose your adjective! The harmonies were spot-on (which is not an easy task with Beatles’ songs!) Mitch’s guitar licks and Larry’s tempos were not only note-for-note precise, but the subtle inflections and hits were straight off the record albums. I have never ever enjoyed hearing cover songs as much as I did tonight. I almost feel guilty pointing out only a few musicians because each person on stage was just as professional and entertaining as the next. There is no keyboardist with the talent, spunk, and energy of the Awesome Goddess herself, Donna! The vocalists – Dan Langhoff and Regan Linton were both of a level that they could be the lead in any band. I was a bit disappointed the soundman didn’t have the bass levels a bit higher (considering how McCartney’s bass was such a mainstay of Beatles songs) and from what I could hear, Mr. Hein was every bit up to the caliber of the other band members. But aside from that, I couldn’t find any noticeable shortcomings in the entire 2-hour show.

And it wasn’t as if they leaned back on the 5-chord blues basics of the early 60’s. They took on the complex, intricate and impossible tempo-changing songs like “A Day In The Life” and “Dig a pony!” The highlight, for me was hearing “Because” – starting with the keys…vocals and Mitch’s guitar only (a subtle, almost imperceptible tempo being playing - almost inaudibly -by Larry.) As in the original, the rest of the band fills it out about halfway through. It was intoxicatingly beautiful!

No matter how good a vocalist you are, there is a wonderful security when you know there are brass, keys, guitar, bass and drums to help mute any possible mistakes you may make. To go out there acapella (or very nearly to it) you are really hanging yourself out there… just begging to have your faults displayed for all the world! It’s the vocal equivalent of walking onstage bare naked! So I heard that opening riff of Because and thought…wow! Are they really gunna’ try ‘n pull this off? Most bands and singers wouldn’t even go NEAR that song! But they attacked it with the charisma and confidence they showed in every other one of their songs! And sure enough, they nailed that…. song, harmonies and all!

I’ve heard concert performances by Ringo and McCartney, and even they don’t sound like the original recordings. In fact they don’t even try to replicate the original versions. As someone who has made his living trying to replicate styles, inflections, and ‘tonality’ as one director described it… I can tell you it is exasperatingly difficult to replicate anywhere close to such well-known and often heard legends as Neil Diamond, Nat King Cole, Orbison, Holly, Louie Armstrong, and Dean Martin. The Beatles and Elvis? That’s a whole level higher still! And every musician on stage… Larry on drums, Donna on keys, Austin on bass, Mitch on guitar and the melodic voices of Dan and Regan accomplished the task with command and apparent ease. Even Larry took a shot at vocals with Octopus’ Garden and did better than Ringo. Okay, that’s not saying that much. Okay.. Larry was GOOD! As was Donna with her vocal lead. (A little Help?!.. not sure)

The Abbey Roadshow was a unique and magical once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – the chance to hear exactly the songs you want, exactly the way you want to hear them. It felt like a private performance of favorite songs flawlessly played! It was a show I would return to time and again, just to hear the melodies… to hear the Beatles as the Beatles should be played!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Speaking out while I still can

I'm re-entering the National Guard soon, so I'm getting out some venting before I have to take that oath of obedience and submission again....

June 25, 2010

According to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, Obama’s disapproval rating is higher than it has ever been at 48 percent. What amazes me is the remaining 45 percent of “true believers” that refuse to face the facts. I have one such friend myself… a very good friend that just baffles me! The other day I asked him “If G W Bush had taken over the auto companies, ousted a corporate CEO and began dictating the day-to-day affairs of the company, he’d be rightfully accused of being a power-grabbing dictator… but Obama does it and nobody seems to have a problem with it. Why?” His response was simple.
“Because it’s Obama.” And he was completely serious!
Really? Are you kidding me?!?!
There are so many actions taken by this president – that had anyone else had even attempted them, liberals, the media, and everyone else would be up in arms!
 He promised transparency, but has conducted everything from BP meetings to Health Care negotiations behind closed doors and in the shadows.
 He promised bills would be online for the entire public to view before any major issues were voted on, yet health care, cap-and-tax preliminaries, the stimulus package, TARP II, and the omnibus bill were all shoved down our throats without even a SINGLE DAY of the bills being placed online.
 He promised that the age of lobbyists’ influence would be ended, yet has signed countless waivers in order to appoint dozens of lobbyists to his administration.
 He promised to represent not ‘red America’ or ‘blue America’ but the United States of America and yet never before – not even under the supposedly demonic GW Bush administration- has the language from the White House been more vitriolic and partisan.
 He has failed to support the most patriotic, loyal, and devout Americans among us, in particular our police (Cambridge,) our CIA (pressing forward with criminal investigations,) our military (prosecution of Navy SEALs,) and even the governors of our states (Jindall and Brewer.)
 He has betrayed our closest allies (Israel and Great Britain as well as his removal of defensive weapons from our Eastern European allies) while embracing enemies like Hugo Chavez.
 Defying the will of over 60% of Americans, he shoved the socialized health care bill down our throats.
 Defying the will of 70% of Americans, he is taking an oppositional position on the Arizona law regarding illegals.
 His department of labor created a public service announcement featuring Secretary of Labor Hilda Salis telling illegals that they are entitled to fair pair whether they are documented or not.
 When the democrats and the administration couldn’t get bills passed by the legal and constitutional manner demanded by the Constitution, they reverted to sleazy and underhanded parliamentary tactics to shove the legislation through.
 Obama refused to even mention the attacks against men and women at Ft. Hood until he gave a ‘shout out’ to a guest at the press conference – spending a full two minutes before addressing the attack on soldiers and civilians – clearly showing the lack of concern he has for those who wear the uniform of our country.
 Also along the lines of disrespect and disregard for the military, Obama has consistently taken contrary positions to his military advisors (re: troop levels as well as the don’t-ask-don’t tell policy) completely discounting the opinions of military experts, choosing instead to dictate his terms and social policy regardless of the effects on the performance, moral, or effectiveness of the Armed Forces.
 He has strong-armed not only private businesses, but individuals in congress, invoking practically fascist attitudes in coercion; embracing the philosophy of ‘not only the force of persuasion, but the persuasion of force.’ His administration as intimidated, threatened, and coerced anyone foolish enough to get in their way.
 To unprecedented levels, he has demeaned, insulted, and put down America on the world stage – choosing to blame America first and utterly failing to embrace or praise the land of his birth… err… the land he represents.
 He has defended and befriended domestic terrorist groups including the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground.
 Obama has created a virtual ‘shadow government’ of advisors and Czars unconstrained to the checks-and-balances ensured by Senate confirmations. These Czars have included self-declared communists, socialists, and radical revolutionaries with admittedly anti-American and anti-capitalist beliefs.
 When a court struck down the oil-drilling ban, the administration disregarded the court orders brushing aside judicial jurisdiction and pressed forward with yet another ban.
 According to the New York Times, Obama is now considering giving a blanket amnesty to illegals by fiat – also called ‘executive order.’
 Then there’s all the things that haven’t come to light, such as the billions of dollars Obama’s friends have to gain from Administration policy regarding BP and drilling (Soros and Petrabus,) Cap and Trade (Shore Bank and Obama’s Chicago cronies,) the Smart Grid (Immelt and General Electric.) These are SO far beyond anything that happened regarding Halliburton under the Bush administration – we’re talking about literally TRILLIONS of dollars of business just in the case of the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX!)
 In order to justify the moratorium on oil drilling, the administration tampered with a peer-reviewed recommendation, adding two whole pages to the review after it had been signed-off on by the experts. Those two pages entirely misrepresented the views and conclusions of the experts, who later condemned this fraud perpetrated by the administration.
The corruption and cronyism as well as the lack of transparency – the Chicago style politics – have risen to a level never before experienced in this Republic! So again I ask –

The most glaring difference between today’s liberals/progressives and the conservatives lies in the fact that if GW Bush had been guilty of any number of the above usurpations and draconian power-grabs, they would have been the FIRST calling for Bush’s resignation or impeachment. It says so very much about the progressives that they have no problem with dictators, fascists, and autocrats – as long as it’s their fascist dictator or autocrat!

I haven’t even included the typical partisan Washington BS – like blaming Republicans for ‘obstructionism’ when it is numerical impossible for them to obstruct anything! The Democrat party has a supermajority in the House and is only one vote short of the same in the Senate. That means there is absolutely NOTHING the GOP can do to obstruct ANY bill going through Congress! The Republicans could stay home and not even show up and it would make no difference.

This administration is the absolutely worst in history, far outpacing the fascism of the Wilson administration, the corruptions of the Harding or Nixon administrations (I mean really – breaking into a campaign headquarters to get dirt on hookers-for-donors seems rather tame today, doesn’t it?) The dictatorial lengths to which this administration has gone have already outpaced the New Deal and the current socialist tendencies have dwarfed the Great Society. The one-trillion discrepancy between GW Bush’s inherited surplus (based upon the emasculation of the military by Clinton)and the deficits he bequeathed to Obama (due more to the internet bubble burst, Katrina, 9-11, and the wars rather than the tax cuts) have been completely eclipsed by the quadrupling of the debt by Obama! I know the lefties screamed the hyperbole “the worst president in history” through the 8 years of Bush, but point by point by point, there are FACTS that support the argument when it is applied to Obama.

When lefties screamed about Bush’s suspension of Habeas Corpus regarding terrorists, there was a precedent in the Lincoln administration – unwarranted wiretaps and the Patriot Act, a precedent set by Clinton in the War on Drugs - military tribunals, a precedent set by FDR during World War II. The only precedents applicable to the actions of the Obama Administration lie in the Weimer Republic, The Soviet Union, The Peoples’ Republic of China, and the Third Reich of Germany. No, I’m not saying Obama is replicating all the aspects of Nazi Germany – only that his actions bear a striking resemblance to those of 1930’s Germany – pre-concentration camps.

“Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”
- George Santayana
“Those who never learned the past to begin with… they will recreate the past without even knowing it!”
- Charles King Byrne

Friday, June 18, 2010

Oil, Arizona and Dads....

June 17, 2010

Arizona is taking the lead in telling the Federal Government to go suck lemons. The feds have failed miserably to respond to the murders, kidnappings, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and drug wars brought about by the porous border situation. As a result, Arizona is picking up this dropped ball and running with it.

Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana could be next… if we’re lucky! (Florida should be too… but who can trust Crist?!)Bobby Jindal (Governor of Louisiana) seems more and more at his wits’ end with the federal stupidity, inaction, and posturing. Jindal knows this disaster could have been avoided had the feds acted with urgency and purpose. But President Obama, Secretary Napolitano and the others from Washington were more interested in pressing through their pet projects, spending more billions of dollars, enslaving more Americans, and playing golf… or going to a Paul McCartney concert than tending to the threats against American citizens.

So I’m praying (literally) that Governors Jindal, Haley Barbour, and Bob Riley take a hint from Governor Brewer in Arizona and take matters into their own hands. Show exactly how inefficient and ineffective the federal government is! Make it clear once and for all that the STATES are better situated and equipped to handle the problems of American citizens.

These three states can combine with Arizona to create momentum of subtly separatist states. Not revolution so much as a strike of states. The states need to go on strike, collectively telling the federal government, “We can do this without you thankyouverymuch!”


This has to be the easiest of all holidays for me. Obviously (to those who know me) my Dad died the week I graduated from High School – makes it easy to remember what class reunion is coming up. My paternal grandfather (P. Harry Byrne) passed away 8 years before my birth and my maternal grandfather (Mason Avery Lewis) died five years before I was born. I had two uncles, Ed (passed in ’81) and Harry (died when I was 2 years old) who are no longer around.

So I have no ‘dads’ to wish Happy Father’s Day to… except my adopted Dad Jim… who will soon be my legal Dad-in-law. SOOOOOooooooooooo
I can wish a Happy Father’s Day to Eric, Derrik (my adopted brothers) and all my other friends – especially here on FB. So HAPPY FATHER’S DAY guys!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Case For Small Government Part 2

If you didn't catch Part One, read the entry below first....

TRANSFORMING BACK… how to go back home.

So, how do we keep all the good things that government provides – the social safety net, consumer protections, benefits, and other niceties while keeping the Federal Government small? They are dichotomous intents… you just can’t have both! Either you accept the bloated Federal Government and all it provides, or you slash and burn the Federal structure and say goodbye to Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, The Departments of Education, Commerce, Labor, Interior, and all the other things that combine to create the greatest Civil monster ever designed by man.

Once again we venture into a briar patch of debate misled by intentional or accidental diversion. In the struggle for civil rights, from the reconstruction era all the way through current times, certain words and phrases that have a meaningful place in discourse have been bastardized and deemed “verboten”. Allow me to start off by saying that the phrase “states’ rights” has little – almost nothing – to do with slavery or Jim Crow laws! Unfortunately, the liberals, Southern Democrats, carpetbaggers, and Dixiecrats so intertwined that one phrase with their own desire to keep the black culture “down” that we are almost inured with a sense that any State calling upon its Constitutional rights is somehow advocating the return of Poll Taxes, lynchings, and even slavery itself.

States DO HAVE RIGHTS and those rights are specifically protected by the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. It’s not some archaic, antiquated, cute little law like horses needing to be properly tied to a hitching post when downtown; it is a very instrumental, structural support for our bottom-to-top government. We need to recognize the necessity and irreplaceable nature of the States in our system, and call on them to restore our Republic.

The first step is to spend a significant amount of federal money to build Government Contact Centers in the one hundred most-populated cities and towns. These would be large and inclusive buildings or campuses able to house remote offices for the majority of federal departments. Labor, Commerce, Agriculture, Transportation, Interior, Veterans’ Affairs, Social Security, ATF, Immigration… ALL federal departments would have a local presence and a centralized location.

NOW HERE IS THE DANGEROUS POINT that must be handled carefully!!!

If the federal government is allowed to just fill those offices with new employees, WHILE KEEPING THE main offices in Washington DC, all would be lost! The intent would actually be subverted and the purpose would be flipped 180 degrees. The country would at this crucial point be vulnerable to another massive growth in the federal government, potentially the largest federal power grab in history… which is the LAST thing we need!!

The officials, staff members, and personnel in Washington DC MUST BE RELOCATED and sent out into the country. The offices in Washington DC must be left with skeleton crews of no more than 10 individuals in each department!!

While these Government Contact Centers are being built, the President must have intensive and inclusive meetings with the governors of every state. The subject of these meetings will be the seamless transfer of most benefits and responsibilities from the federal level to the states. Incorporated into these discussions will be how to mitigate the transfer of tax collection. The feds and states would have 35 months from the President’s inauguration to devise a plan by which the federal government can hand-off the responsibilities to the legislatures of the separate states.

By January 1st of the President’s third year, the IRS would for the most part be dissolved. A three percent Value Added Tax (federal sales tax) would be implemented to provide for the military, State department, and to pay off Federal debts. The cost of all other services would be assumed by the states. Therefore, the vast majority of taxes on the state level would rise, in some ways skyrocket, but when balanced to the suddenly negligible federal taxes, the transfer shouldn’t present a panic or spike in taxes. The analogy would be a person paying fifty dollars to “John” every month. On January 1st he would begin paying ten dollars to John and the other forty to Jim. The state legislatures should be encouraged to fix their state taxes to total no more than twenty percent of personal and corporate income, and work within those guidelines to assume the costs of federal programs.

The federal and state governments would have nearly three years to make sure the transfer is as seamless as possible.

This rosy scenario is assuming the Congress is equally interested in limiting its own power and influence. Fat chance! So the solution is to move forward with the Government Contact Centers as well as negotiations with the state Governors and legislatures without Congress. Plan the transfer and build the infrastructure. As the head of the Executive Branch, the President transfers the staffs of Executive Departments to the state offices. He/She decentralizes nearly every executive department unilaterally. When the budget is approached during the transfer period, the President presents to Congress a budget assuming the transfer of departments to the states… he asks for the smallest federal budget since Teddy Roosevelt. If Congress insists on a bloated, expensive federal budget the President would just transfer those funds to the state offices. If the Congress places restrictions on how the funds can be spent, the President places those funds into a trust fund to be released when the restrictions are removed.

By its very nature, this process will create a ‘showdown’ between patriots and progressives. Throughout the entire process, the message of “returning the power to the citizens’ and ‘taking power and influence from Washington’ must be hammered home! As with any massive change, the citizens must be firmly on one side supporting and demanding the transfer of power. If handled correctly, this should not be difficult.
Power to the citizens… the federal government is overgrown, ineffective, and malignant… power should be local… power in Washington is held by multimillionaires and huge corporations that can buy influence and access… the arguments for decentralization are filled with populist and individual-centered arguments that already fill the political discourse!

Make no mistake, those with entrenched influence and power will fight passionately and without reservation! They will paint the program as anarchistic, undermining the federal structure, starving kids, putting people on the streets, disenfranchising minorities…they will hold no punches, and will not be constrained by the truth (just look at how the current argument over Arizona’s new illegals law is being misrepresented and lied about!) In fact, it will return power and influence to the hands of the individual citizen. It would no longer matter how General Electric outspends the mom-and-pop barber… the barber would have his rightful influence and voice! As power diminishes in Washington DC, the federal government’s influence would increasingly become irrelevant – AS WAS INTENDED by the founders!

So what do we do if we don’t have a President or Congress willing to gut the federal government? It is my firm belief that if such a President isn’t elected in 2012, we may well be venturing beyond a point of no return… a tipping point beyond which we can no longer claim our American birthright… our government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” If Obama, or a similarly Socialist-Progressive President takes office after the 2012 elections, we must, we MUST take matters into our own hands! The last hope is to engage the failsafe last-ditch, safety catch provided us by the Founders… the Constitutional Convention. We, as citizens, through our State Legislatures must push for the adoption of new, restrictive Amendments to the United States’ Constitution. It is for this very reason I have bought the domain names and and am currently developing this ‘central clearing house’ for all Constitutional Convention movements! Beyond that action, the ONLY option is rebellion and bloodshed – which is NOT an option! Neither is continuing with the status quo! Our system of government, our culture, our very essence as a civilization is under attack… it is being purposefully killed, destroyed, and transformed! If we do not act NOW, we will never again see the liberty and freedom on which we were built and thrived!