Monday, February 20, 2006

Team of Rivals - Doris Kearns Goodwin

I am not yet finished reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals," but the book does a stellar job of portraying a large part of what made Lincoln one of our greatest Presidents; the strength of character to seek out dissenting opinions and differing views, and the willingness to adjust his thinking when he was wrong or something did not work. The book is teeming with examples and serves as a dramatic contrast to a failing presidency that can only be characterized by its circle of like-minded voices and "yes men" who, especially the top dog, cannot admit error in any case and is wholly unwilling to change course.

One quote in the book, attributed to Fred Seward, the son of Secretary of State William Seward, sums up Lincoln's greatness and Bush's complete lack thereof. It reads: "Presidents and Kings are not apt to see flaws in their own arguments, but fortunately for the Union, it had a president (Lincoln), at this critical juncture, who combined logical intellect with unselfish heart."

Woe are we for our national lack of a Lincoln to steer at the helm of our current crises at home and abroad.

I highly recommend reading "Team of Rivals" if you are into U.S. history and the Civil War. It is a well written and detailed account of Lincoln and the other men who helped save this nation.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Poem: Little Boy

Little Boy

The little boy in me
Keeps me real.
The little boy in me
Helps me feel.

The little boy in me
Holds an impish smile.
The little boy in me
Has a playful style.

The little boy in me
Treasures ice cream so.
The little boy in me
Is always on the go.

The little boy in me
Hides my mother’s bags.
The little boy in me
Every cookie grabs.

The little boy in me
Excites in each new passion.
The little boy in me
Brings a sure compassion.

The little boy in me
Can fill a heart with joy.
The little boy in me
Will stay forever boy.

Copyright SGW 1998

Footnote: I worked in the town next to where my mom and her husband used to live. On Friday mornings, they would pack suitcases and leave them in the hallway by the door. When they would come home that day after work, they would load up the car and head to their country house in the Poconos for the weekend. I would sneak over at lunchtime and take the suitcases and hide them throughout the house.

"Every cookie grabs?!" Don't leave out chocolate cake either!

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Lauren Hart: 5 Lifetimes

Lauren Hart has a flaw: She is not a Rangers fan. Boo!! However, musically she is right on the money. The voice of the Philadelphia Flyers has recently released her third CD, "5 Lifetimes," and, with it, Hart has again let fly with the beautiful soul and gifted musicianship that makes her so special.

"5 Lifetimes" will have an air of familiarity to old fans of Lauren Hart. "What If Lonely" is reminiscent of her own "World Away" from her second CD, "Girl Keeps On." It is a reminder of the outsider and lonely call for love and warmth that Hart often speaks of. "Words Like Water," too, reminds me of "One Last Time" from "Painted Bride;"my favorite Hart song, in its message. However, in this case, perhaps the lesson has been learned and simply needs to be laid out to be understood.

For all the comforts of the sounds Hart's fans will recognize there is also much newness to the music on "5 Lifetimes." This is where the album finds its truest strength. "I Might Be" holds an air of sullenness, yet is also tender and hopeful. "Nothing But Happiness" puts on display Hart's pure power of voice and message.

"Watch That Girl" and "Queen Of The Scene" reveal Hart's own empowering, growing comfort in her own skin and hopefulness that she has begun to find her own space. While she is also self-evaluating, "It's when you think you can't move, that's when you need to be quick," she reminds herself, too, "No one is the boss of me." The listener is convinced that Hart has burst free of much of what had contained her in life and music, and she is ready to say, "World, here I am, hear me!"

Perhaps my favorite track is "Five." Midway through the CD, it shifts the emphasis of the songs to the hopeful and strengthened place Hart wants to let us know she is finding. "Five" is love told in a gentle voice, but with the sureness of patience that knows what it wants and will get it; "Five years or five days. Five lifetimes, I'd wait for you."

One interesting theme of the CD, that is partially revealed and in part subtle, comes about in different ways. Hart covers Paul McCartney's 1980 hit, "Coming Up" in a funkafied version that best captures the essence of her live shows. She adds soul to the song and has clearly made it her own. Whether intentional or not, there seems to be some Beatles referencing going on, too, as lines mention "Here comes the sun" and "Ticket to ride." Hmm.

All in all, anyone who listens to Lauren Hart, walks away moved and inspired, and "5 Lifetimes" is a worthy contributor to Hart's message. While she is a huge favorite in the Philly area, as the city seems to have embraced her as sister and daughter and friend, her's is a voice, spirit and sound for anyone who needs good music. "5 Lifetimes" is a welcome addition to my collection. It should be to yours.

Oh, and Lauren: LET'S GO RANGERS!!!

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Poem: State Of The Union

State of the Union

State of the Union is completely a mess
President Chen ... um Bush ... should be forced to confess
Talks of Iraq, as successful, he's thinking
Can't help but wonder what exactly he's drinking
Troop strength is slipping, while insurgency lingers
Osama bin Laden has escaped through our fingers
Threatens Iran, but it's empty and hollow
Imperialistic designs, now the world will not follow
Ahmadinejad is crazy; he's a threat to this nation
But so are police states and their secret creation
Wiretaps, surveillance, the Constitution dismissed
Declare people traitors who attempt to resist
Meanwhile the country is awash in division
When a leader won't lead us, there's no hope to envision
Sacrifice New Orleans through negligent planning
While flames of corruption he is willingly fanning
Our resources, play things, he will sell with no thought
When it comes to the planet he is paid for and bought
And so on and so on, it's a litany of failing
No matter the lies he insists on detailing
The State of the Union has been sullied and tainted
Least with his daddy, the worst was he fainted

Copyright SGW 2006