Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How About Something Frivolous (amid all this serious stuff)!

Where’s the showbiz glitz? Or the inspiring message about Spring’s arrival? Or an amusing anecdote about my dog ... or some music news? Okay, yes, nothing makes my typing and piano fingers sing (actually, I guess what they do is more like a dance) as do these, my favorite topics.

Right now, Spring is on my mind and in my heart; I feel more optimistic and energized at this time of year than any other. I rather like the early daylight savings time, too.

Musically speaking, I’m looking forward to doing the outdoor gigs and need to be making my calls this week. I spoke fondly of sequins and glitz in an earlier post; they are (a treasured) part of the past. In these contemporary times, gig-wear is geared for comfort. Well, it needs to be, as we pack, carry in and out, set up, and break down so much equipment. But it’s all worth it for the joy of playing music.

Dixie, my dog, loves the extra daylight we have now. During each November, she develops the same winter seasonal funk I get, so she and I are on the same wave-length and get revitalized in March! She’s playing with her toys again and fully enjoying our trips to the park. See pictures of Dixie and read about her on my personal website at, where you'll find three of my song clips and lots of pictures!

So, for a little while, shall we all take our minds off the candidates’ campaigning, tax time, the economy, the state of the world, the wars, the fears ... and pause to look out a window at the daffodils, blossoming saucer magnolias, forsythias, flowering crabapple and wild cherry trees; even better would be a walk along a greenway, country lane, or city street, just to enjoy and welcome Spring. I’m even glad to see the dandelions – when I was a child, dandelion greens were our "salad vegetable" all season long and it was my job to go out and pick them (they’re very nutritious, but I haven’t eaten them since those childhood years). How wonderful it is that the seasons faithfully turn and turn and the renewing spirit of Spring visits us each year!

Moderated Comments

I’ve very recently re-set my Blog so that comments will come to me to be moderated before being posted on the blog. Comments can still be submitted anonymously (or with your Google or other account) ... the only difference is there will be a bit of time elapsing (during which I’ll review incoming comments) before they are accepted on the site. A few days ago, an anonymous person posted a website address (nothing else) as a comment to my post about pet and human food safety, food imports, and government and industry ties. I quickly removed the potentially dangerous web address, to protect readers from clicking on a site that could possibly carry some kind of malware. Now that I am moderating incoming comments, I have the ability to prevent any questionable web URLs from reaching my readers. As always, I welcome my readers' comments.

Giving, Volunteering, Doing --

Yesterday I got a book which is authored by Bill Clinton and entitled "Giving (How Each Of Us Can Change The World)". I’m a couple of chapters into it. I agree with its philosophy. Doing things and giving things that help others -- especially when it’s to help others help themselves, improve their lives and have a higher sense of self-worth -- is at the top of my list of what could be called "angels’ work on earth". Remember my post about my prison concert and how good it made me feel, as well as the obvious benefit for the inmates? (scroll down into Older Posts). I’ll be going back to prison, hopefully, in a couple of months to do another concert. Volunteer work, whether local or large-scale is very satisfying and can make a major difference in the recipients’ lives, too. Some of my most glowing experiences are and have been my volunteer work with children, animals, and the elderly (and now prison inmates). Whether you’re wealthy, comfortable, (not-so-comfortable) middle-income, or on the struggling end of the economy ... if you’re looking for a new lease on life or a new experience or venture, I heartily recommend the "giving and doing" concept.

Cartoons Of Note ...

I don’t know how widely published the Bizarro cartoon is; however, it does appear in the Sunday issue of the daily newspaper here in Knoxville. I read it because it really isn’t bizarre, as the name implies; rather, it often puts a type of unique, artistic focus on topics that would be hard to bring up in discussion. Well, that surely is one of the main purposes of the art forms ... I know, from my own experience, it is characteristic of music to express truths, even socially suppressed and/or repressed truths, that the artist feels need airing. The cartoonist, Dan Piraro, really is both clever and wise. This past Sunday’s strip shows a peaceful garden scene with a man and a woman and animals of several different species, against a peaceful tapestry of trees and foliage. From a cloud in the sky, the voice of God is heard speaking to the two people and it instructs them to eat fruit and to learn how to multiply and it explains that, in so doing, they would be healthy, would not negatively impact the planet with animal farming methods that would cause pollution or pain, and they would, by virtue of their math multiplying skills, know enough not to populate the earth with more people than the planet could sustain. In the next frame, the couple realizes that they should have written down the instructions ... they then sum up what they remember as ‘be fruitful and multiply’.

I’ve been aware for some time that no politician or industry wants to talk about overpopulation, (Al Gore mentions it briefly in his excellent book, "An Inconvenient Truth") even though our species has passed the 6-1/2 billion mark and is growing exponentially. Several years ago, a minister at a church I attended asked the congregation to submit their questions (on little pieces of paper) around which he would later prepare his answers and build a future kind of smorgasbord sermon. I remember carefully wording a question about the topic of human population growth and its impact on earth’s resources and the other species with which we share the planet. He later told me that he could not include my question because the topic is too controversial; I did notice, though, that there were several other questions in the smorgasbord sermon that were about very serious issues. Anyway, kudos to Mr Piraro, for his courage and artistry. The strip’s website URL is

Another comic strip I admire is entitled "Mutts". It is animal-friendly and always warm and fuzzy, even when conveying an important humanitarian message. The two main characters are a cutely-drawn cat and dog named Earl and Mooch; often included are their pals. They and their friends shine light on the concept of kindness to animals, adopting homeless animals, getting pets spayed or neutered, and taking good care of the earth that is home to all. Patrick McDonnell is the thoughtful and gifted cartoonist and the website URL is

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Let's Demand Safe Food For Ourselves & Our Pets!

Remember the pet food recall, brought about by the illness and deaths of many pets due to poisonous, chemically-tainted ingredients imported from China? Our federal government really needs to be prodded to actually do something to prevent this from happening again. We are the only ones who can do the prodding.

At this very moment, there is a so-called website for public comment about Docket 2007n-0487 (regarding the FDA's need to regulate the processing and labeling of pet and human food ingredients). I say "so-called" because it has been inoperable and inaccessible since its supposed inception. Do a web-search for Docket 2007n-0487 and you'll find plenty of comments ... from people who want to access the site but can't; you'll find the site address there, too. I just have to wonder if the site is a planned failure or hoax being perpetrated on the public -- you know, maybe the industry or importers want it to be inoperable; or, maybe it's just another government blunder. I just finished writing a letter (yes, I know that takes more time and seems like a hassle, but it feels important to do) to my two U.S. senators and U.S. congressman, requesting that the FDA institute effective regulations regarding importation, processing, and labeling of food ingredients for pet and human food products.

Our pets have been the canaries in the mine-shaft ... alerting us, via their illnesses and deaths, to the dangers of foods and additives imported from China. Last summer, there was a comprehensive, revealing magazine article I read while in a doctor's waiting room; it was either TIme or Newsweek ... I think it was Time. It had photographs I will never forget -- about the thousands of Chinese "factory" workers (folks, we would call these places something other than "factories") who are lined up like robots in long lines that stretched on and on, uniformed and hooded and masked from head to toe, as they stood there, very close to one another, working on whatever product line to which they were assigned; their uniforms were color-coded by product; each photo showed a different product and its workers. The article said that they live in dormitories above the work area and one photograph showed massive amounts of garbage that had been thrown out the little dorm windows to the building surface below. I had to wonder how any product made under these conditions -- where everything was being done as cheaply as possible -- could be trusted to be safe or reliable. Also, in my mind, these are inhumane conditions under which workers should not be forced to work (and live) ... all so that we in the US can see "made in China" on practically every product we buy at our favorite stores? But, see, that label doesn't appear on food product ingredients.

I would like to see the imports from China stopped or restricted ... and, most definitely, regulated!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Hard Drives...

I have a way of fusing my energies with the machines that are important in my life. I've written about Lance, my truck (see earlier post "Vehicles And Their People") and Buddy, my piano. Of course, my computer, Clarence III, got to know me really well.

Over the past month or so, I became aware of what I'll call e-mail fatigue ... or, if you prefer, electronic overload. The subscriptions to listservs and a volley of e-mails generated in relation to committee work, were taking their toll. I'd noticed that my houseplants, usually the picture of health and meticulous care, were reflecting the affects of the minimal attention they'd been receiving from me lately. Dixie Lee, my dog (see mention of her in various previous posts, on my website, and on Dogster) was sometimes wearing a furrowed look of concern. Yes, the e-mail volume and, in some cases, intensity, was gobbling up huge chunks of my time and energy. I was stressed. The result? Brain Cell Rebellion -- but not only mine -- Clarence's, also. Last Thursday, after several weeks of intermittent, teeny-tiny brownouts, Clarence bit the dust, due to a problem with his hard drive and probably something more. I think he can be salvaged, or at least, most of his parts can be (he's just 16 months old).

So the past week has been a strange mix: a time to step back and think about the reasons for and ramifications of "overload"; affirmations to re-order my life; a time of exasperation because I couldn't take care of anything needing a computer (a writer without a keyboard and needing to revert to handwritten scribbles on many odd pieces of paper is a very off-kilter entity); and, last but not least, a time of smug bliss because I actually had a bona fide reason for not playing in electronic traffic!

I decided to share this experience, just in case a reader may be going through similar energy and time crunches.

Thanks to a very generous friend, I was able to get online and take care of some important matters. One of those chores was unsubscribing to two lists and one daily cartoon!

As an aside (and I know I do a lot of asides), it crossed my mind that maybe Clarence didn't like being Clarence III; maybe he'd have preferred to have his own identity instead of being number 3 of the Clarence ilk. Last night, I bought a new computer, an updated, close relative of the stricken Clarence III. The new computer has been named Dexter. And let's give him a middle name, too: Dexter March. February was a rough month for me, so the advent of March is welcome! Happy pre-Springtime!

What's In A Name?

I mean, there are people with surnames of Roach, Ratz, Katz, Cabbage, Pope, Rich, Queen, Prince, King, Butts, Bugg, Buffalo, Bird, Worms, Mutz, Pigg, Stout, Ruff, Little ... and people with first names of Cookie, Candy, Rose, Lilly, Earth, Summer, Spring, April, Mae, June, Leo, Tuesday, Dakota, Washington, Georgia, and Carolina. If you had time and desire to pursue this, probably many more names that are descriptive of animals, plants, seasons, months, days, locations, constellations, confectionaries, and regal position could be found just by looking in telephone directories. The names I've mentioned above I've personally come across in my life wanderings. It's interesting to ponder how people react to their own names and how they are or are not influenced by the name of another person if it happens to be on the unusual side.

For a while during my youthful show biz life, I often found myself cast in the same productions as another girl whose main act was dancing, although she would precede her dance number with a sung verse of the song. Her stage name was Sheila Rose. Now, doesn't that have a beautiful sound?

Someone told me he had never eaten, and would never eat ... yogurt ... because its name sounds so "homely". If "they" would change its name, he said, he could be convinced to try it.

As a babe in arms, I was compared to a "loaf of pumpernickel bread" by one of our neighbors, thus dubbing me "Pumpkin". This was the explanation given to me when my parents, neighborhood kids, aunts, uncles, and cousins called me by the evolved version, "Punkin", with my cousins later innocently shortening it further to "Punk". I didn't think too much of it until my other acquaintances overheard it and were quizzical. Fortunately, it gradually faded out, though my father clung to it out of habit, as did my step-father.

My mother often told me she'd wanted to name me "Melody". I do love my name of Clara (which was also my mother's name), though "Melody" reminds me of the song "A pretty girl is like a melody", a sentiment that I like.

I began this post about names because I wanted to tell how Dixie Lee (my dog) got her name. She's a very regal, pretty, rather aloof, intelligent, and polite dog -- so any name that conveys those qualities (Monique, Celeste, Athena) would have been appropriate for her. She likes the timbre of her name. When I say the two names together, she immediately pays more attention than if I just say "Dixie", much like a child when his mother says "Gregory Peter, you come here this instant"! Gregory Peter has a bigger, better punch than just "Gregory". I once knew someone whose son had these names.

My dog was named after Dixie Lee Junction (!), a crossroad, where Route 11 intersects with Route 70 in Lenoir City, TN. When I first moved to Knoxville (in late 1986), I heard someone mention Dixie Lee Junction ... probably they were trying to tell me how to get to places in the area. The name sounded exciting to me and I pictured a glitzy, busy, touristy place and wanted to see it! For those of you who are not Tennesseans or familiar with the area, DLJ has none of the above-mentioned characteristics; it is quaintly picturesque, mainly marked, at least in my mind, by a fireworks store, a liquor store, and a gasoline station; there is a Dairy Queen several miles down further on Route 11. It was rural, too, back at that time. But the name was rhythmical, intriguing, even melodic. My Dixie Lee, by any other name, would be a Rose, an Athena, a Monique, a Celeste, or a Dixie Lee!

Friends ...

The people who give of themselves in order to help -- their time, their goods (even when it costs them money), a sense of caring -- that would be my definition of "friend". I've always been an autonomous kind of person. When I was a kid, my lifestyle didn't really allow for close friends; plus, during times when I wasn't thrown in with a bunch of people, I really valued my solitude. Later, as a teen and young adult, I probably took my friends for granted. I'd like, if I could, to reach back across the years and miles and tell them "thank you". Today I know I'm very fortunate because I have true friends.

Horses, Wolves & Polar Bears...

There is legislation pending in Washington, DC that would protect American horses from being shipped into Canada and Mexico, under horrendous conditions, and then being cruelly slaughtered for a foreign market. These beautiful animals, so much a part of American history, can only be helped if enough people write, call, or e-mail their senators and congressmen as soon as possible, requesting passage and enactment of S. 311 (Senate) and H.R. 503 (House), the Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. For complete information, contact Front Range Equine Rescue at; visit Get names and addresses of senators and congressmen at and

Unfortunately, the powers that be recently removed U.S. wolves from the protection of the Endangered Species Act. This is bound to result in resumption of the large scale and inhumane killing of wolves that stained so much of our country's domestic history. When I have legislative word on what can be done to undo this blunder, I'll report it on my blog.

Similarly -- polar bears are in trouble. Unless they are recognized as the important part of our ecosystem that they truly are, rather than as disposable impediments to North Pole industry, our world will soon have no more polar bears. We can't let that happen.