Tag Archives: Prince

Our Coddling Society

It all began, I think, somewhere near the turn of the 21st century. All over the country the youth of that time were practicing their skills for upcoming games against their peers. It did not matter whether the sporting season was baseball, basketball, or soccer. When game day finally arrived the excited kids would lace up their shiny new cleats or expensive fashionable high-tops, grab their gear, and show up at the proper venue. The games began innocently enough, with the enthusiastic boys and girls proudly donning their typically oversized and itchy jerseys for all to see, but inevitably the hard fought contests would end with many players and fans alike feeling a bit empty inside – an internal sense of incompletion, if you will. A majority of the kids, and a few daring parents, would ultimately ask the pertinent question, “Who won?”

Most often though the question would not be answered. That once sensible inquiry had freshly become quite taboo and deemed as a politically incorrect question to ask. Somewhere along the way the idea of winning acquired a negative connotation. I believe the thought process behind this new way of thinking was that if there’s a winner then there has to be a loser – which I guess was no longer okay. Almost overnight that undeniable fact of life apparently grew unacceptable to many adults somewhere around the turn of the century. I think that is when our coddling society began. And it has only gotten worse (unless you’re into that sort of thing). Those children, first exposed to the unnecessary pampering, are now our nation’s 30-year-olds holding onto a sense of entitlement while shamelessly living comfortably with their parents.

Nowadays, everyone gets a trophy. Little Timmy finished tenth in a field of ten? Congratulations! The first place winner is no better than you, Timmy. Be proud of that shiny trophy (your parents undoubtedly had to pay for) atop your dresser. I’m proud that I’m old-school in this area. I subscribe to the more honest notion that 2nd place means you were the first loser. I’m sorry, Timmy, but the truth is you finished last amongst the losers. You can either be content with your placing, work harder for next time, or maybe find some other activity that fits your skillset better, but absolutely no trophy for you this time. (I suppose a participation certificate might be alright.)

Our decades of catering to a coddling society have led to forced diversity and all-inclusiveness, all of today’s silly political correctness, and in turn the pampering practice has ignored common sense, shunned Biblical principles, and diminished our “acceptable” personal preferences. For instance, I have no desire to see the blockbuster movie Black Panther. That does not make me a racist. I have no interest in watching the highly acclaimed Wonder Woman movie either. That does not make me a misogynist. I simply don’t care much for superhero films. I have not seen any of them since Batman in 1989, and I only went to the theater back then because my favorite musical artist, Prince, provided the entire soundtrack.

However, in our coddling society I’m expected to wholeheartedly embrace the recent aforementioned hit movies because they supposedly “broke the glass ceiling” for all the Black actors and women in Hollywood, regardless of my personal preference of cinema. And the guilt trip shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. I’m prepared to be callously labeled a homophobic for not wanting to attend the new flick Love, Simon. The movie is being lauded as the first major studio picture to focus on a gay teen love affair. No thank you. It has also recently been reported, via the Newton Daily News (4/4/18), “A new study finds the film industry’s move toward diversity has largely ignored people with disabilities.” Oh no, now I’ll surely be accused of handicapism if I happen to not be extremely enthused about whatever movie is first to cast a disabled person in the lead role.

I tend to mainly blame the parents of the millennial generation for creating our coddling society – which has over time incorporated the acceptance of irresponsibility, senseless premature celebrations, and quite frankly has led to today’s youth running the show. There are now an abundance of middle school, elementary school, and even kindergarten graduations to celebrate our youngsters’ glorious achievements. Kindergarten graduation? Congratulations, kid – you’ve mastered naps and playtime. I suppose conquering playtime might actually come in handy when you and your folks sign your first videogame contract. Wait, what? Last month The Wall Street Journal (3/15/18) reported that Tencent Holdings Ltd., a Chinese videogame company, will soon be introducing digital contracts which will allow kids and their parents to negotiate reasonable play times. The youngsters can even gather their friends to witness the signing of the contract. Here’s a novel idea: how about if parents just parent and make that type of decision on their own.

In somewhat related news, a California girl made headlines in January 2013, for drugging her folks just for the sake of being able to use the internet beyond her set curfew. Oddly enough, the American Psychological Association began identifying internet addiction as a disorder that same year. Therefore, we are expected to accept that the poor girl had no choice but to lace her parents’ milkshakes with sleeping pills due to her “condition.” Our indulging society simply does not recognize the tried-and-true practice of personal responsibility as an asset anymore. We should all know by now, in this day and age, once something is labeled an illness or an addiction, or a trend is declared an epidemic, then all blame seems to be laid at the foot of everything else rather than where it truly belongs – at the feet of the actual person whose choices led to their undesirable actions. Only in our coddling society can a man cheat on his wife, gamble away their savings, become obese, and get high – and none of it is his fault. The cheating, irresponsible, fatso druggie is regarded as the VICTIM of sex, gambling, and food addictions, and a sweeping epidemic.

Case in point, I came across an intriguing obituary late last year that I think unwittingly exposes our society’s perverse modern way of thinking and victimhood mentality. A young man died from a heroin overdose just two days before Christmas. Tragic, for sure. However, I was taken aback when the obit went on to point out that the 28-year-old Iowan was “preceded in death by 13 of his friends who lost their life to the opioid epidemic.” Thirteen! There may very well be an opioid crisis at this time in history, with enough blame to go around, but I find this particular situation to be something entirely different than what’s being proposed by the surviving family. I think it’s much more probable the deceased and his buddies were regular drug users, voluntarily in search of euphoria, rather than helpless victims of drug manufactures and negligent doctors.

Our children should certainly be heard (not just seen) and loved unconditionally, but we need to refrain from enabling them, making excuses for their unflattering behaviors, and prematurely treating them as our peers. For example, regardless of my preference for better and stricter gun regulations, I am not in favor of high school students taking on adult issues and skipping their classes in doing so. I happen to agree with the view William McGurn conveyed in The Wall Street Journal (2/27/18). The opinion page columnist wrote, “Quick show of hands for those with children: How many of you look to your teens for political wisdom, whether it’s the daughter obsessing over her Snapchat streaks or the son who would spend his day eating Doritos and binge-gaming ‘Grand Theft Auto’ if you let him?” By the way, many teens in favor of gun rights have been peacefully counter protesting the protesters, even though their stance has been (presumably) intentionally less reported by the often biased media. The truth is every generation will be divided on this hot-button issue.

While we’re at it we should also be honest and debunk the great American lie, we keep passing on to each generation, that contends you can be whatever you want to be and do whatever you want to do. In this life, all things are not possible. I unequivocally believe Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” but only within the parameters of the Scripture’s intended meaning. God can do all things, but surely I cannot be our nation’s next Olympic champion, Miss America, or a rocket scientist. I can’t even become a bona fide journalist because my mind is just not capable of comprehending STUPID algebra – which unfortunately is a prerequisite for obtaining a journalism degree. Only in our coddling society does one truly believe that anything is possible.

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Cleveland?

This past February my lovely wife surprised me on my birthday with a planned vacation – ALL ABOUT ME. My reward for turning a half century old included us visiting Cleveland. Yes, Cleveland. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked, “Cleveland? Why Cleveland?” after sharing the news with others, about the generous birthday present I had received, before our impending June departure. The answer to that incessantly proposed question is easy: because Cleveland rocks! The Ohio city is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and as a former music store owner, music connoisseur veteran, and Rock and Roll historian (I aced my Rock and Roll History class during my one year of community college) it makes perfect sense that I would desire to one day wander the esteemed museum’s halls.

There’s an immediate aura of greatness when entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The phenomenal facility exudes energy and excitement. There’s also an overwhelming feeling of unity amongst the sea of assembled fans; People of all shapes and sizes, age, and color have come together in celebration of Rock and Roll. The sizable, uniquely designed building boasts seven levels filled with all things music related. Inside the remarkable museum is the complete history of Rock and Roll and how it relates to the world. There’s also numerous exhibits and displays, countless memorabilia, and a few mini-theaters that continuously show video clips of those who’ve been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The first theater my wife and I just so happened to enter was showing some footage of my beloved Prince, so we quickly found a couple of empty seats and nestled into them with anticipation. Seeing my all-time favorite performer on the big screen was surreal. I was fraught with mixed emotions as I watched the recently passed, enigmatic superstar wailing on his guitar. Not even my wife was aware (until now) how close a teardrop, balancing on the rim of my right eyelid, was from toppling over and trickling down my cheek. Thank goodness the auditorium was dark.

Prince’s accomplishments and contributions to Rock and Roll are extensive, but The Hall also recognizes the “Rude Boy’s” significance in how the Parental Advisory labels on recorded music came to be in 1985. The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was a committee whose goal was to slap warning stickers on any music they deemed too sexual, violent, or drug related. The organization compiled a list, known as the Filthy Fifteen, which included the most “objectionable” songs during that time, and Prince was on it for his sexually explicit “Darling Nikki.” Supposedly, PMRC committee member, Tipper Gore, had found her 11 year old daughter singing the words to Prince’s less than wholesome song when she decided the government should intervene to prevent minors from listening to such “filth.” (Here’s a novel idea: maybe parents should better monitor their children’s choice of music rather than getting the government involved.) The results of the mandatory Parental Advisory labels were far from what the PMRC had intended. In fact, there was an increase in sales of Rock and Roll music after the warning stickers were introduced.

I know there’s been some pushback over the years concerning Rock and Roll music. I’m well aware Elvis Presley was initially banned from The Ed Sullivan Show due to the King’s inability to control his swaying hips. However, I did not realize the extent as to how long it has been going on or how relentless politicians have been in their attempts to silence Rock and Roll. It does appear politicians and the music world have mended some fences in recent years though. The saxophone that former President Bill Clinton played, during his first presidential campaign in 1992, is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Clinton became somewhat of a “rock star” after integrating music with the political world. The unlikely partnership between the two entities has flourished ever since. I’m not too keen on government officials attacking the music industry, but I certainly don’t care for entertainers publically endorsing politicians either.

After 6 hours of leisurely roaming The Hall (bless the missus for humoring me that long) I decided I had probably had my allotment of all the sights and sounds the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had to offer. My wife and I then set out for a nearby duct tape event. The aptly named Duck Tape Festival was precisely what one might expect from the event’s unambiguously titled celebration. The Duck Tape brand festival featured all things duct tape. There were seemingly endless rolls of every color and design imaginable of Duck Tape for sale, duct tape crafts for the kiddos, and several famous landmarks crafted from the sticky stuff. My field of expertise is not critiquing works of art, but I must say the Eifel Tower, Liberty Bell, and Mount Rushmore displays, concocted almost exclusively out of the “fixes everything” product, were truly sights to behold. “Mt. Duckmore,” an amusing and clever replication of South Dakota’s magnificent landmark, included Trust E. Duck, Duck Tape’s mascot, sculpted alongside the carved busts of the four former U.S. Presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt.

The Duck Tape Festival was interesting enough (and FREE), but we were actually there to see the evening’s musical guest (also FREE). The event ended with a performance by 80’s MTV darling, Lita Ford. The Heavy Metal queen began her set over an hour and a half late, but it was worth the wait (at least to me). It was a little hard to complain since the price was right (FREE). FREE is good. Besides, attending a Rock and Roll concert just seemed like the perfect ending after an entire day spent at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cleveland? Absolutely!


Whose Chair?

It’s my chair today. That’s definitely not always the case, and it’s all because of Richard. I’m only aware of Richard’s name because that’s what everyone (the staff and customers alike) calls him at the Starbucks I frequent in Sun City, Arizona. The scene there is reminiscent of the Norm from Cheers situation – cue the music- “where everybody knows your name.” I’m one of the few exceptions though; the folks at this particular Starbucks don’t know my name, and I truly hope it remains that way since I prefer to stay “off the grid” as much as possible. Even though Richard doesn’t know my name, or anything about me, I’m sure he thinks of me as “the guy who steals his chair.”

Therein lies the problem with my newfound nemesis. Once or twice a week, for approximately the past year, I’ve been patronizing the Sun City coffee shop mostly on days when I really need to focus on my writing. My words just have a tendency to flow from my pen a little better when seated at that location. However, I assume Richard has also been a faithful customer, of the same establishment, but for a much longer time than I have been. In addition, he visits the store at least 6 days a week (I’m never there on Sundays to know if it’s actually 7). Therefore, apparently Richard (and seemingly most everyone else) thinks he’s entitled to the chair of his choice, which happens to be the exact one I’ve grown fond of, whenever he walks through the front door.

The whole ordeal has added much undesired drama to my life. Whenever Richard shows up, and I have already established position, he’s visibly irritated with the situation. He rarely says anything (at least loud enough for me to hear) about the “injustice” I’ve supposedly done to him. He doesn’t have to because many customers, and even some of the staff, freely mention it nearly every time this scenario occurs. They never say anything to me directly, when relentlessly referring to the chair I’m occupying as being Richard’s, but they don’t lower their voices either when discussing the matter amongst themselves. I pretend not to notice their senseless dialogue.

The most absurd thing I’ve overheard thus far, regarding the seating arrangements, was when my archrival was away on vacation. One Starbucks’ employee was telling another that Richard had called and said he was going to be gone an extra day and to not let anyone take his chair while he was away. To my knowledge, neither Richard’s name nor mine is stitched into the chair’s dark brown leather to suggest any type of ownership. Neither of us purchased the piece of furniture as well, so I would assume becoming the chair’s occupant is on a first-come, first-served basis – as it should be. That is certainly not the case (at least at one time) with a booth located at a rib joint in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In the mid-eighties Rock and Funk legend, Prince, bought the rights to a specific booth, inside Rudolphs Bar-B-Que, during his reign over the music industry. Only the artist’s most devoted fans are aware of this little-known fact about him. Of course, that’s the reason why I know. No one was to ever inhabit his booth, regardless of how crowded the place might be, in case Prince had a sudden hankering for some ribs. His unconventional purchase guaranteed him a reservation at a moment’s notice. Aww…to be disgustingly rich. I still like the entertainer nonetheless.

The funny thing about the Richard saga is that there are three other identical chairs at the Sun City Starbucks, but apparently neither my nemesis nor myself fancies them as much as we fancy the one in the corner. That’s right. There are a total of four indistinguishable chairs, arranged in pairs, at my favorite Starbucks, yet obviously Richard and I are only content, for whatever reason, occupying the same one. I suspect it’s because our chair is snugly positioned, surrounded by windows, and is furthest away from the incoming traffic and all of the noisy regulars. In addition, there are two other Starbucks nearby; however, they have some challenges for a guy such as myself who depends on a little peace and quiet when attempting to write his next masterpiece.

The coffee shop to the east (in Glendale) opens a little later and is usually overrun by as many as seven construction workers. They invade the compact area, with the only comfortable chairs in the store, at the precise time I prefer to tackle my writing for the day. They’re predictably boisterous, and sometimes even obnoxious, while utilizing the stereotypical language of blue-collar workers. It’s no mystery why it’s difficult for me to concentrate in the midst of all of that. The main obstacle I encounter at the Starbucks up north (in Peoria), a mere mile from my home, is that I’m constantly interrupted by people who’ve come to know me there. I sometimes feel like Norm at that location because people tend to want to sit by me and carry on conversations. Not good if your main objective is to be productive. Besides, the chairs up north aren’t nearly as comfy as the one in Sun City.

The real problem, as I see it, is Richard has gone to great lengths recently in preventing me from claiming his chair. He used to mosey into Starbucks around 6:00am, and he’d stay for about an hour and a half. I normally was already there by that time, consistently arriving around 5:00am, since I’m an early riser and that particular store opens at 4:00am. Suddenly, Richard began coming to the coffee shop earlier and earlier until one day he was finally sitting in my chair when I showed up at my usual time. I can’t believe my adversary has decided to rearrange his entire life just for the sake of a piece of furniture.

On second thought, I can somewhat relate because I countered with a minor adjustment myself. I began setting my alarm clock instead of just waking up on my own, as was previously the case, so I’d have a better shot at seizing the all-too elusive chair. I’m fully aware the Bible says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” but my alpha dog mentality has been too strong for me to resist. Now when I pull into the Sun City Starbucks’ parking lot at 4:15am, many times Richard is there. I’ll be darned if I’m going to resort to standing at the front door of any establishment, waiting for the business to open, just to capture a desired chair.

Whenever I see Richard already relaxing in my chair I don’t even bother stopping anymore; I simply continue on to one of the other two aforementioned Starbucks. I’m positive Richard does the same thing, if I get there first, because we haven’t been inside the same coffee shop at the same time for quite a long while. I only wish to patronize the Starbucks in Sun City once or twice a week, as I mentioned before, so I’m astonished by Richard’s selfish shenanigans especially since he has easy access to our chair the rest of the week. I guess one Starbucks just isn’t big enough for the both of us.


Prince

This summer marks the 30th Anniversary of Prince’s career-defining Purple Rain, both the album and the movie, so in commemorating this special occasion I would like to share a portion from a paper I wrote, about the eccentric artist, during my one year of college. It’s titled, “Rock’s Majestic Years.” It is not a coincidence I have chosen today to post this blog, but it is in celebration of Prince’s 56th Birthday. I hope you enjoy this essay whether you’re a fan of the legendary artist or not.

It was the summer of 1984, and my beautiful girlfriend and I were making our usual date night plans consisting of dinner and a movie. After hearing my girlfriend’s preference as to which movie she wanted to see I reluctantly responded with the question, “Isn’t that the one with the short, gay, black guy?” I was correct, at least about his stature and skin color, but as a teenage boy with raging hormones I figured honoring her request would be in my best interest. That evening the star of Purple Rain became my favorite singer, musician and performer, and as the movie credits scrolled down the screen I insisted we stay and watch it again.

Prince Rogers Nelson, named after his father’s jazz trio, entered the world on June 7th, 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to his awaiting parents, John Nelson and Mattie Shaw. When Prince was seven years old his musically-gifted father left the family, but fortunately he left behind his piano which the young boy then used to teach himself how to play it by ear. At the age of fourteen Prince moved in with his friend, Andre Cymone, and the teens taught themselves to play several instruments. The talented teen added guitar, bass, and drums to his repertoire, and the boys performed at school events and small local venues as the band Grand Central . In 1976, Chris Moon, a little known promoter and record producer, invited Prince to his house to experiment with a four-track recording desk that he kept in his basement. Realizing the budding artist’s talent, but not having the resources to sufficiently expand his career, Mr. Moon referred Prince to Owen Husney, a key figure in the Minneapolis advertising industry.

Mr. Husney founded a management company, American Artists, after meeting Prince and listening to his demos, so he could enable his client a clearer path to success. He then negotiated a guaranteed, three album, six figure deal with Warner Brothers in 1977. Owen Husney insisted Warner Brothers allow Prince, although he was only 19 at the time, to produce his debut album on his own because he thought Prince should be presented as a prodigy similar to how Stevie Wonder had been marketed. His first album, For You, was released in April of 1978, and credits Prince as the album’s producer, arranger, composer, and performer (something that has continued throughout his entire career). In addition, the debut album’s credits confirmed he played all 23 instruments heard on the recording, and the album itself was later credited as introducing the “Minneapolis Sound” (a distinctive synthesized horn sound) to the public.

Prince Rogers Nelson has been an electrifying, and many times controversial, entertainer since the beginning of his well-documented career. His very first tour featured a simulated sex act between a white woman and a black man which fueled the taboo fire since mixed relations were extremely frowned upon during that era. Adding more contention to his reputation, after performing on American Bandstand, Prince refused to answer any questions from legendary host, Dick Clark. In 1981, the Rolling Stones invited the “Rude Boy” to be an opening act on their tour along with George Thorogood and The J. Geils Band. This was viewed as a great opportunity for him to attract a wider audience, but on opening night, in front of over 100,000 restless and unimpressed Stones’ fans, Prince left the stage in defeat after only twenty minutes. Two years later Prince found the success he was aiming for with the release of his fifth album, 1999. The double-album contained the hit single “Little Red Corvette” which is thought of as the song that changed the dynamics of his audience from a predominantly black fan base to a much more multiracial one.

Prince finally reigned over the music industry beginning in the summer of 1984: after “When Doves Cry,” the first single from the forthcoming album, Purple Rain, was released. The song eventually became his first U.S. #1, selling over 2 million copies, and remains the best selling single of 1984. Likewise, the album, Purple Rain, erupted worldwide as it spent an incredible six months at #1 in the United States. The movie, Purple Rain, (a somewhat authentic depiction of the life of Prince) opened nationally on July 27, 1984, and eventually grossed almost $70 million. A trio of other tracks emerged triumphantly from the album with “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Purple Rain,” and “I Would Die For You” obtaining the #1, #2, and #8 positions respectively on the U.S. Charts. The success of everything Purple Rain is even more amazing when considering Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Lionel Richie, the other legendary performers of that time, were all competing for chart success as well.

Contrary to his justifiable reputation as a sexually expressive artist, both lyrically and on stage, Prince unveiled a portion of his religious side to the public with his album, Lovesexy, released in May of 1988. “Lovesexy is the feeling you get when you fall in love, not with a girl or a boy, but with the heavens above,” was his quote professed on the inner sleeve notes of the album. Controversial once again, he posed naked on the album’s cover, although not explicitly, and his supporting tour was dubbed as a combination of lust and salvation. During the numerous band personnel changes, throughout Prince’s career, one constant has always remained: he strives to have a racially mixed band made up of both male and female musicians (even if they’re not the best musically) because he appreciates diversity, and he desires to maintain fans of every race.

On June 7th, 1993, his 35th Birthday, Prince announced he had changed his name to an unpronounceable Symbol. It was suggested by some that the name change was a strategy on his part to void an unprecedented, multi-million dollar contract he had recently signed with Warner Brothers; however, Prince claimed it was God’s idea. He then added his own suggestion to the media that they should now refer to him as “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” or “The Artist,” for short. Say what you will about Prince, Symbol, The Artist, or whoever, but he has purposefully maintained his visibility in the music industry, through creative and clever marketing, for many years.

Prince is not only a musical genius, but he’s also an entrepreneur, innovator, and has written countless songs including the “Uhh-huh” song used as a jingle by Ray Charles in a Diet Pepsi commercial. Prince wrote the rock ballet, Billboards, performed by the Joffrey Ballet, is a designer of clothing and jewelry, and was the first musical artist to issue a cd-rom, “Symbol” Interactive, in 1994. Borrowing a famous quote from the movie, Forrest Gump, I’m inclined to say, Prince “is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” Prince Rogers Nelson has been a deserving recipient of numerous awards including seven Grammy’s, an Oscar, and in 2004, his first year of eligibility, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Thirty years have now passed since that incredible date night, at the movie theater, during the summer of 1984. My hormones are still raging, that girlfriend is now my lovely wife, and Prince is still one of my favorite singers, musicians, and performers of all-time.

Sources
Clarke, Duncan. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.
Connecticut: Longmeadow, 1995.
Nilsen, Per. Prince: A Documentary . London: Omnibus, 1993.
Michaels, Scott. Find a Death . Rick. 28 Sept. 2009.
The Smiley Group. 2004-2009. 20 July 2009. 28 Sept. 2009.