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August 1, 2014 / jeffnward

Learn to be still…

…written by Don Henley and Stan Lynch and sung by Eagles bassist Tim Schmidt, has to be one of the best songs of all time. You know how much I love good lyrics and it doesn’t get much better than this:

We are like sheep without a shepherd
We don’t know how to be alone
So we wander ’round this desert
And wind up following the wrong gods home
But the flock cries out for another
And they keep answering that bell
And one more starry-eyed messiah
Meets a violent farewell-
Learn to be still

And this song immediately thrust itself into my consciousness upon reading a New York Times Article covering a Journal of Science study measuring just how far Americans will go to avoid introspection.

eaglesWe’ve talked about that phenomenon here in tangential terms – mostly in regards to my frequent bewilderment at local politicians who consistently fail to see their own reflection in the mirror. Vampirism would explain a lot of it, but then the sunlight seems to have no effect on ‘em either.

The thing is, these shallow creatures don’t suddenly appear out of nowhere to take the reins of power and start sucking our political blood. We actually elect them because they’re a perfect reflection of our own capacity to avoid any internal dialogue like the plague.

And that’s why I found this study so fascinating

“We had noted how wedded to our devices we all seem to be and that people seem to find any excuse they can to keep busy,” University of Virginia professor and lead study author Timothy Wilson said, “No one had done a simple study letting people go off on their own and think.”

The study consisted of 11 separate experiments and more than 700 subjects. The end result was the vast majority of participants found it distressing, disconcerting and difficult to be alone in a room for just a short 6 to 15 minutes.

In fact, when left alone with just their thoughts, after saying they’d pay money to avoid ‘em, 65 percent of men and 15 percent of women began administering self-inflicted electric shocks to avoid having to endure any self-examination.

The NYT article author posits that it’s the negative nature of this kind of contemplation that feeds the drive to keep us busy at all costs right down to risking our lives by texting in the car.

Left to our own devices, we tend to think about bad relationships, money problems and our own failures in general. And in a culture where every beer commercial insists you have to be “up” and happy all the time, that prospect utterly terrifies us. This is why the national case of ADHD of which I frequently speak has become an addiction. And that’s why that Eagle’s song popped into my head.

I want to be clear that we’re not talking about the repetitive parent borne critical voices that regularly besiege some of us, but more of a quiet central sadness that begs for the rectification of a part of our lives that’s gone down the wrong track.

The problem is, when we do everything within our power to stay busy and ignore these negative thoughts, they become that much more powerful and put us at risk for depression, asthma, obsessive-compulsive disorders, insomnia, drug and alcohol addiction, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and all sorts of skin conditions.

Think about what we’re doing to and teaching our children in this regard. They are so over-scheduled that they never have a quiet second which does not bode well for their – or our – future.

But what’s even worse is, a number of similar studies concluded that, by disowning ourselves in this manner, we lose the capacity to empathize with others and proceed to project our shortcomings on that nebulous “they.” Take some time to think about the current political debate and tell me if that doesn’t sound far too familiar?

On the other hand, similar researchers and Zen Buddhists have been extolling the virtue of an unburdened mind for quite sometime. Contemplation fosters creativity. Think about how Newton, Einstein and Galileo all came up with earth shattering discoveries while virtually in a meditative state.

There certainly is a boatload of wisdom in rock and roll my friends! So perhaps the solution to our current political gridlock is a collective time out. Considering where we seem to be headed, it certainly couldn’t hurt because ain’t no one gonna save us from ourselves.

Learn to be still.

August 1, 2014 / jeffnward

God I love this kind of stuff!

Now, you all know what kind of a geek I am including, but not nearly limited to, comic books, computer equipment, Dr. Who figures, and sound systems. So you can only imagine the nirvana-esque heights to which I soared as my wife and I got to sit with 7th Heaven soundman extraordinaire, Dino Manzella, last night.

Watching him run the sound board from an iPad app was an utterly fascinating and rather complex proposition. This isn’t a matter of simply setting up each song and sitting back. Like an aural athlete, Dino is constantly moving around and adjusting the mix to make the band sound just right.

7th heaven

He brought up the vocals during the harmonies, the guitars and vocal sustain on Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” and inserted the appropriate touches of reverb on a variety of numbers.

What I also discovered is, there’s a philosophy of sound. My favorite Dino quote of the evening was “You can’t make everything louder than everything else.” In other words, if you need the vocals to pop a bit more, instead of bringing them up, sometimes it’s better to drop the guitars.

He also talked about leaving room for a big finish, how to make the band sound good when they move between singing and talking, and the unique challenges each venue presents

So my wife and I would like to offer Dino a hearty “thank you” for being so gracious and making it a much more interesting evening.

If you don’t want to feel left out, you can find the 7th Heaven tour schedule here (and their new CD “Spectrum” here). So grab your significant other and go out and see the band! Considering that most of these events are free, how could you possibly go wrong?

 

July 31, 2014 / jeffnward

Here’s the July 31st, 2014 edition of Left, Right and You!

 

Larry and I want to offer a big thank you to author, blogger and Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg for coming on the show today. His acute observations on the state of newspapers, the fact that he hasn’t left that job, and his clear understanding that he’s not an indispensable part of the Sun-Times future, are certainly worth the price of admission.

steinberg2

Remember! You can find his new blog here (everygoddamnday.com) and you can pick up his most recent book, “You Were Never in Chicago,” right here. I highly recommend it!

Then former Police Chief Larry shared some interesting insights  as to why the new hand-held cell phone ban isn’t working.  It kind of boils down to enforcement issues and an American mindset that prizes individual freedom over the collective safety.

Enjoy the show!

 

July 31, 2014 / jeffnward

On rocks in my driveway, political pandering and why it all becomes white noise

The first time I found one of those stone filled baggies sitting on my driveway, I thought it was a very original way of advertising your landscaping business. And it worked in that I actually made an effort to read the small enclosed flyer.

Fast forward a decade later and, unless I clear them off the apron a couple of times a week, my driveway starts looking a lot like the remnants of a long-abandoned gravel quarry. And sure enough, another set of rocks was deposited this morning which I tossed into the trash without taking a second glance.

rocks

This, I believe, aptly describes the Sisyphean nature of trying to get your message out there. As soon as you get the boulder anywhere near the top of that mountain, it rolls right back down again or, in this case, a once interesting concept becomes just more white noise.

You either have to accept that a very small percentage of homeowners will read your stuff and adjust your expectations accordingly, or you have to come up with something that pops even more.

Then, like those shampoo label instructions insist, you have to consistently rinse and repeat.

The interesting thing is, the same dynamic applies to the too-regular pandering efforts of our political parties. With the 24 hour news cycle providing constant input and our national case of ADHD, even the best message generally fades away faster than a summer hailstone. But because, on rare occasion, someone’s sound byte does take off and exhibit staying power, the pols keep throwing the figurative spaghetti against the wall, hoping something  sticks.

The thing is, it takes the unique confluence that occurred during the 2008 presidential election for that to happen. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month, two wars weren’t going well, and we had a gifted orator who relentlessly drove the “hope and change” message home. For the first time since Ronald Reagan’s first campaign, a sustained political sentiment carried the day.

But despite the fact that virtually none of these partisan thrusts ever gain any real traction, buoyed by the cheers of the choir to whom they preach, it doesn’t stop the folks in Washington from coming up with their next silly slogan.

The problem is, like it is with our landscaping stone throwers, you have to come up with an ever increasing list of crazier contentions to get anyone’s attention. And, in a kind of hoist by their own petard circular circumstance, that’s exactly what the Republican Party is doing.

Mainstream Republicans – we’re not talking about the crazies here – have shut down the government, attempted to repeal the Affordable care act 50 times, and basically accused the President of everything short of treason, but none of it’s sent him fleeing back to Kenya.

Sure, his approval rating has taken a hit, but it’s not that far off the second term average and Congress’s 15 percent makes his 41 percent look stellar.

So now, to continually feed that eternally ravenous conservative beast, the GOP has to come up with something even bigger to keep their minions from turning on them. And just when I thought they had nowhere left to go, they managed to surprise me and pull it off!

It started with Sarah Palin getting the impeachment ball rolling, which, given her sliding media personality fortunes, might’ve been ignored had not the House moved forward with a lawsuit against the President over a variety of executive orders.

And while suing the President will certainly stir up your base, 60 percent of Americans are not amused.

However, in a massive irony, even House Speaker Boehner clearly understands how damaging any impeachment proceedings will be because a full two-thirds of the country is against that prospect.

In fact, Boehner even went as far as calling this move a ploy on the part of Democrats to rally their faithful and win November votes. But that insight didn’t stop him and his House cohorts from suing the President.

This, of course, begs the question, “what’s next?” Just how do the Republicans plan on topping themselves next time?

The truly fascinating thing is, they either have to make an effort to do just that, or finally get back to governing and risk incurring the Tea Party’s black and white wrath. All I can say is, it will be very interesting to see what happens when the leaves start turning colors.

July 30, 2014 / jeffnward

And speaking of the Great Western Trail…

It doesn’t get any better than that!

I’ve run the streets of Rome and I’ve dodged motorcycles on the sidewalks of Paris. I’ve run the hills of Orcas Island, the canal trails in Phoenix, and the beach in Charleston. I’ve run almost every inch of the Chicago lakefront, the streets of Seattle and the lakes of Minneapolis.

GWT

I’ve run in Pittsburgh, Buffalo, the Napa Valley, Virginia Beach, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Mexico, but the best place to run on the planet – bar none – lies squarely in the heart of Kane County.

It’s just a thin strip of an old trolley line, but from the forested early stages to the open farmland, that trail can take you anywhere you want to go. It’s almost magical to find yourself out there on an early Sunday morning. To quote the great Aliotta, Haynes and Jeremiah, “there ain’t no road just like it anywhere I found.”

But it gets better because while it’s really rare for a particular route to make you a better runner, I’m not sure why, but I’m faster, my heart rate’s lower, and I can go further on the Great Western Trail.

Though you will generally find an amazing fellowship among all runners, the athletes who avail themselves of the GWT seem to set the bar a little bit higher. There’s something about a shared experience that somehow makes it easer and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve waved at a familiar GWT face only to ratchet it up for the rest of the run.

And the people we have to thank for such a magnificent venue are the fine folks at the Kane County Forest Preserve because, in addition to its natural and inherent beauty, the trail is always safe and well maintained.

Though the GWT may be their crown jewel, the Kane County Forest Preserve has applied the appropriate vision, fiscal sensibility, and consistent effort to bring a number of quality sites to their constituents.

Think about it! Leroy Oaks, Tekakwitha, Nelson Lake, the Fox River trails, the Randall Road trail and so much more. I know it’s fashionable to mock and make fun of government employees, but the Forest Preserve District’s collective prudence on all fronts has made Kane County a much more fun and fascinating place to live.

The best thing about this whole thing is, when I think back to that 2011 referendum providing the KCFP with $30 million to purchase additional land at bargain rates, I have absolutely no regrets about voting yes. It certainly turned out to be money well spent.

So here’s to the Kane County Forest Preserve and The Great Western Trail – the most magnificent running forum anywhere. Maybe I’ll see you out there sometime!

July 30, 2014 / jeffnward

This is your 7-31 Left, Right and You promo

steinberg

That’s right! This week Larry and I have premier Chicago columnist Neil Steinberg!

We’ll talk about his new blog, “Every Goddamn Day,” his latest book, the state of the Sun-Times and if there’s hope for newspapers in general. Given Neil’s propensity to speak his mind, this is one Left, Right and you don’t wanna miss.

So be there Thursday, July 31st, from 3 to 4 p.m. on WRMN AM 1410 because Larry and I know – you can handle the truth.

 

July 29, 2014 / jeffnward

A challenge to all my Republican friends

Perhaps I should amend that to “all my moderate Republican friends” because there are far more of us than the wacky variety who currently dominate the political debate. Who needs those lunatics anyway?

So here goes! Tonight, 14th District Democratic Congressional nominee Dennis Anderson will be hosting a town hall meeting at Elburn’s Town and Country Library from 7 to 8:30 P.M.

Since I’m still waiting for someone – anyone – to name just one of Randy Hultgren’s accomplishments, I’m asking all my moderate GOP compatriots to head out to that get together and give Dennis a chance to impress you as much as he’s impressed me.

anderson

Now, before you stomp your foot and summarily say “no!,” please try to remember that no one understands just how exasperating the Dems can be like I do. So before you relegate all members of that party to some sort of contagious form of leprosy, please allow me to point out that Pat Perez turned out to be the best Sheriff in Kane County history.

And I backed him from the very beginning so you have to give me some credit for a capacity to pick good candidates.

C’mon! Could listening to Dennis for a scant hour and a half really cause any kind of permanent damage? You might even consider asking a question or two. Because if you’re as tired of the D.C. gridlock as I am, then it’s time to color outside the party lines and vote for the best candidate.

Despite what the tea baggers will tell you, most of us want:

  • To have reasonable gun control
  • To take care of our veterans
  • To get our college graduates out from under unsupportable debt
  • To have a strong middle class
  • To have everyone pay their fair share
  • To improve our flagging national infrastructure
  • To have Congress implement a reasonable jobs program
  • To have reasonably priced health care available to everyone

And by taking a stand for those simple stipulations, Dennis Anderson represents all of us and not just the ones who carry the most cash or regularly scream the loudest.

Randy Hultgren signs on to the obstructionist Washington minority, who accomplish absolutely nothing, simply because he wants to hang on to the best paying job he’s ever managed to blunder into. That’s not a good reason to reelect someone.

So what could it hurt? Head out to the Town and Country Library this evening and listen to what a sane politician really sounds like. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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