151 Band

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Casino Competition

Sara Evans
If you've spent any time on the road in Oklahoma, you've no doubt seen the billboards promoting any one of the multitudinous Native American Casinos we have in the great state of Oklahoma.  I saw one for the Riverwind Casino over by the Fairgrounds for an upcoming Sara Evans concert and it dawned on me...

Isn't a bunch of taxpayer money being spent to improve the building formerly known as the "Ford Center" as well as the Cox Convention Center?  Weren't these to be billed as new concert venues, blah, blah, blah?

Seems that perhaps we were wrong.

There is built-in competition now for large music venues and how the Oklahoma City Zoo Amphitheater stays alive with all the casino competition befuddles me.  And it isn't like the casinos are drawing in lesser-known artists...they are getting the big fish in the musical pond.

Just makes you wonder a little, doesn't it?

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Empty Club

Business owners in this economy have to make hard decisions about their business plan and during the holiday season, it's sometimes more difficult to create a consistent cash-flow strategy for obvious reasons - beginning with how consumers are spending what little discretionary income the have right now.  And this is particularly true where clubs are concerned.

Bars/clubs known to host live music understand that it is the atmosphere and excitement of live music that brings people in and the more energy the band has, the more customers appreciate it and the more willing they are to spend money.  If the music is good, the customers will stay longer and the longer they stay, the more they spend.

With all of this in mind, why would a club/bar have live music one night of the weekend and not both nights of the weekend?  Sure, there's an additional cost for the bands, but they more than make up for that investment.  Last evening, I went out with a few musician friends to see what was happening in the local music scene on a wet, windy Friday night.  One location, with a reputation for hosting some of the top bands in Oklahoma had literally two people there.  Two.  When we arrived, the numbers tripled.

With the plethora of talent in Central Oklahoma, why any club owner would decline booking bands every night of the weekend eludes me.  It would be like McDonald's shutting down on Saturday because "it's the weekend."  Live music is a significant selling point to consumers and this is very true when choosing an entertainment establishment on the weekends and with the economy being what it is, owners have to provide value-added services to draw in more customers and to get the same customers to stay longer. 

Of course, that's just my opinion and I could be wrong...but I seriously doubt it. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Moment of Zen

The holidays are upon us, the maddening crowds filling the malls and the arguments over the "war on Christmas" ensue.  Thought it would be nice to just relax for a moment, enjoy some amazing music from an incredible talent.  Mr. Steve Vai.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Music News: Echofist Together Again

From their press release:
In 2007 Echofist was one of the most powerful, explosive, and by far the most original progressive metal band on the Oklahoma City music scene. The collaborative efforts by the five musicians involved weaved a sound and style all unique to their own. Masterfully blending elements of jazz, blues, classical, and modern rock with bone crunching metal tones, Echofist commanded the stage with authority.

Although the project dis-banded in late 2009, their influence is still felt. Currently Joeix Deadboix, known for his theatrics and soulful lyrics, is fronting one of the fastest rising bands in the market with "Ugly Seed".

The architect, or prog-father Roy Limon, continues to create mind blowing compositions as the lead seven string guitarist for the crushing hard-core metal band "Indeed Sir".

Jon Parr, whose chord playing and finger tapping five string bass style added depth to the Echofist sound, also has found success co-forming the highly acclaimed southern rockers "Shotgun Rebellion".

Classically trained keyboardist Carter Cox and English native punk drummer Gor Hudson also have remained active in various projects in and around the area.

After a tribute video to their iconic single "Cut Your Tongue" was created and posted by Gor, the former band-mates began to receive requests and pleas for a reunion. As winter approached in 2011, the schedules began to open up creating the possibility.

Finally the prayers of the OKC metal scene has been answered...

Echofist is together again.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shocker: Obama Doesn't Mention God During Speech

A lot of tumult is being created as a result of President Obama giving his Thanksgiving without mention of the Sovereign Creator.  Conservatives, Christians, Conservative Christians, Moderate Christians and pretty much every hardcore Republican is up at arms because the President failed to mention God in his Thanksgiving address.

Well, I have a few thoughts about it.

First, so what?  We elected a President, not a Priest or Pastor.  There was a time in this country (election time) when we cared about issues such as the economy, the war on terrorism, the crumbling infrastructure, energy independence and even education.  Perhaps because it's a slow news week, it's become an issue that the President did not mention God in his speech.

Secondly, this is a country wherein our founding fathers wanted government to stay the hell out of religion.  They didn't want a state-run religious system and that's pretty much what we have.  While I could argue quite easily that government has become a religious institution for individuals on both sides of the aisle, the essence of what our founders believed remains intact.  My, how times have changed.

Thirdly, the God in whom I believe is still God - regardless of who acknowledges His existence or doesn't.  His sovereignty is not dependent upon whether some elected official mentions Him or not in a Thanksgiving Day speech.  Frankly, this same sovereign Creator of all that exists probably doesn't even care that I am contributing my opinion because He transcends me, the President and yes, even Sean Hannity.

Thanksgiving is to each of us something different.  Many are at their core thankful for God's grace, and at the same, thankful for family members, friends and even this wacky thing called the Internet.  Thanksgiving isn't just a time to thank the Father because if we really want to be technical about it, we are to live in a perpetual state of thankfulness. 

It's interesting how sometimes we watch professional ball players giving thanks for a touchdown and we chuckle a little bit - because we know that in the grand scheme of things, God doesn't really give a rip about a touchdown, or extra point.  He cares about the person who made the touchdown and everyone watching.  He cares about people that He created in His image.

Of course, this is just my opinion and I could be wrong.  And I doubt God cares one way or the other whether I'm spot-on or not.

Friday, November 18, 2011

NBA Alternatives

There may still be hope for an NBA season this year, though remarkably abbreviated and the fans pretty pissed off.  But if there is no season, no Thunder games at the CHK arena, there are still plenty of entertainment alternatives out there for your discretionary income and some of the alternatives may actually pay dividends in the end.  Here are some ideas...

Support Local Music.  An incredible thought, I know, but one that even the pro-NBA Oklahoman can get behind.  There are literally hundreds of venues in Central Oklahoma where local musicians entertain and provide a real boost to the economy...without government-backed payroll tax incentives.  On any given evening, you can find folk music in the Paseo, some ear-splitting rock at the Thirsty Hog, country music in Bricktown, and many coffee shops feature acoustic sets from solo artists with incredible talent.  And when you support these local venues, the money stays in our community.  And while you're at it, check out some of the locally owned music shops like The Horn Trader or Dancing Dragon Music.

Donate.  If you're a high-roller and the economy hasn't ripped a hole in your check book, you could do something exceptional with your extra dough - you could help places like City Rescue Mission.  CRM, Jesus House (under new management) and local churches are busting their chops this holiday season to make ends meet as they help those who cannot help themselves.  Another great organization is the Mid America Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America.  They host events, advocate for veterans who have been hurt and are a group of men and women who are absolutely phenomenal in their service to those who have served us. 

Movies.  Chances are you're not a big Twilight fan, but equally plausible is the fact that someone in your family probably is a fan.  Go to the movies and do so with a mission.  Hit each of the major theaters in Central Oklahoma over the course of a couple months and just enjoy some mindless entertainment.  Mindless entertainment is what the NBA brings anyway, but you can enjoy some movies with the whole family and not have to worry about traffic problems in downtown.

Eat.  Take the family out to eat - and I don't mean at one of the chain restaurants, but rather locally-owned restaurants.  Try something different like Flat Tire Burger in Edmond, up by UCO.  Or you could take the family to Ted's for some good Mexican food.  On 23rd and Classen, you'll find some exquisite Asian cuisine that the whole family can enjoy and yes, they are largely locally-owned.

There are alternatives to the NBA and if you're a die hard basketball fan, support local universities' basketball programs.  There are a lot of ways to spend the money that is burning a hole in your pocket, lusting for some Thunder, and you can do so in such a way that you can sleep well at night.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day Rant

Veteran's Day.  A day when we pause for a moment and thank all who have served this great nation by raising their right hands, taking an oath like this:
I, Ron Black, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God. I swear that I am fully aware and fully understand the conditions under which I am enlisting.
It's the oath I took, the oath Mike McCarville took, the oath Bob Dani took, the oath my brother-in-law Nathan Murphy took, the oath my father and uncles took and it is the same oath that men and women who right now stand a post to protect our freedom.

Men and women are, right now, laying down their lives overseas and some have given the same in service to our country and while we're the greatest nation on the planet, we have a long way to go.

We have elected officials, attorneys and judges who work their asses off to twist, redefine and hide from the very Constitution we veterans have sworn an oath to defend.  They use it as toilet paper, wiping their collective asses with it, forgetting that without the sacrifices made by those who raised their right hand in service to this country they wouldn't be driving those new sports cars, plopping their asses down court side at a Thunder game, playing footsie with one another behind closed doors as they craft legislation that takes away our freedom rather than expands it.

It isn't the Tea Party that is the guardian of freedom.  It isn't the Occupy Wall Street crowd that is the guardian of freedom.  It isn't the mainstream media that is the guardian of freedom.  It isn't Bob Stoops, Mike Gundy or any of the ball players who protect our freedom.  It is the member of the United States Armed Forces.

I am a veteran and will say that my service to this magnificent country was an eight-year period of my life filled with joy and excitement.  It wasn't perfect, but I fulfilled my service obligation with pride and honor.  Today, I see and hear so many talk about their dedication to our veterans, but can't find the time to do anything about it because the Sooners are playing ball on television that day.  I hear elected officials give long-winded speeches about military service in one breath, but in the next they are authoring legislation that precludes a pay raise for service members.  It's sickening, and yes, it pisses me off to no end.

We have a ridiculous number of veterans who are unemployed, homeless, sick and whose home is a place like City Rescue Mission.  It's easy for people to sweep this reality under the carpet because it's not "sexy."  Helping veterans in need, helping men and women who have served or are currently serving is nowhere near as fun and entertaining as having cocktails at the boathouse - but it's because of these men and women that we even have a boathouse to begin with.

It's a problem that I pontificate about every year on Veteran's Day, but usually with little response.  The problem continues and will continue as long as the ruling class elites want it to be so.  They would never desire their offspring to lay their lives down or even pretend to stand a post because to do so would force them to sacrifice their time on the lacrosse field and heaven knows we can't have that, can we?  We'll let the poor and the middle class make the sacrifices so the oligarchies can continue their reign. 

If you want to do something for veterans today, I mean REALLY do something, thank a veteran for their service.  Hire a veteran looking for work.  Send a check to City Rescue Mission and tell them to dedicate it to one of the veterans under their roof.  Then, when you've done that, send a letter to your elected officials telling them that you're watching them, that you will fight them tooth and nail if they author any legislation or support any legislation that hurts veterans or their families.  And for some of you, this would be a huge sacrifice:  Give your college football tickets to a veteran and his/her family and tell them that you realize that without men and women willing to put their asses on the line for freedom, your ass wouldn't have freedom.

We now return you to your daily programming of sanitized for your protection, syndicated hyperbole.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Axis Entertainment Taking Submissions for Rocklahoma 2012

There's the main stage, the Hard Rock stage and then, there's the Axis Entertainment stage at Rocklahoma.  And to be perfectly candid, the Axis stage was nothing short of incredible, showcasing Oklahoma talent you're bound to hear about at any moment. 

Rocklahoma promoters have asked Axis Entertainment to feature their stage once again in 2012 and they are currently taking submissions for bands right now.  In 2011, they featured bands such as Blackwood, Rocker Lips, David Castro Band and many more.  In short, they rocked the house.

If you're a member of a band and would like to enter a submission, check them out here.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Movie Classic: "Falling Down"

Michael Douglas is one of the greatest actors to grace the screen.  He is intense, comedic when the part calls for it, but deeply passionate.  One of my favorite movies of all time and my favorite Michael Douglas movie is "Falling Down."

Douglas plays William Foster, an unemployed engineer whose day begins tied up in a traffic jam as he is traveling to see his daughter on her birthday.  His ex-wife, portrayed by Barbara Hershey, plays a more pivotal role than most realize and film buffs have overlooked.  What was once a happy and joyous marriage that produced a wonderful little girl, things went south - and in this movie, she is less than thrilled to have the father of her child visit, even on her birthday.

The movie follows Foster from the traffic jam on a Los Angeles freeway, to a convenience store where everything is over-priced, to an altercation with gang members, to a run-in with a bigot at a surplus store.  There's a run-in with wealthy golf course patrons, and more.  As the movie progresses, we see more closely the inner struggle and turmoil of a man who has lost everything, is forced to live with his mother and whose ex-wife is painfully reluctant to interact with the father of her daughter in any shape or form.

Foster is a deeply troubled character whose heart is in the right place, but circumstances create the perfect storm for meltdown.  And meltdown, he does.

At the end of the movie, if you have no soul, you'll fee no sympathy for Douglas' character.  You'll simply see him as a law-breaker, someone who is mentally unstable.  For the rest of us, it's an "a-ha" moment where we see another human being reaching a breaking point.  The "system" fails and on his mission to do the right thing, some bad guys face their demise.

It's a classic movie, and I highly recommend you see it.  Available on Netflix.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's True...Time For Change

For two decades, I've been involved in or pontificating about the political processes and frankly, the words of Solomon ring true - "there is nothing new under the sun."  Politics has largely remained the same and it is what it is, both good and bad.  We have elected outstanding politicians and we have elected some bottom-feeding piles of human waste, but at the end of the day, we're still the greatest country on the planet and God willing, we'll continue to be as much.

Politics is, in many ways, a form of entertainment.  Every couple years, the cast of characters change, but the tunes remain the same, orchestrated and choreographed by recognizable names in the business.  But it is fun, it is entertaining, it is often painful, and it is always gratifying - even when our candidate loses. 

There is a lot more to life and I'm really starting to see and feel that.  Granted, it has taken me far too long and I can't recover the lost time, but I can redeem the time right now, right here.  I've lost some good friends over the years, friends who have gone to be with the Father and those losses have had a profound impact on me.   A trip last year to my home state of Washington was revelatory as well, learning more about my past, my childhood and my family than imaginable. 

This blog is going to change.  There will be a different, more diverse focus.  I'll be posting stories about music, about entertainment in Central Oklahoma, culture and yes, I'll still have the occasional post about politics - but I'll do my best to eliminate partisanship and just get to the heart of what's important. 

So, what is important to me?  My struggling faith, my family, music, culture and community.  Hopefully, you won't be too disappointed. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It Could Always Be Worse

Political partisan fighting in America has maintained its fervor over the years and with a Presidential election coming next year, chances are the intensity will increase.  But remember:  It could always be worse.

In a story published by Reuters, the following proves that things may be bad in America, but they aren't THAT bad:
(Reuters) - Italian deputies exchanged blows in parliament on Wednesday as tensions over a tough economic reform program came to a head.
At least two deputies from the Northern League, a member of the ruling center-right coalition, fought with members from the opposition FLI party of speaker Gianfranco Fini. Two deputies grabbed each other by the throat as other parliamentarians rushed to separate them.
The parliamentary sitting was suspended for several minutes after the fight, which broke out because of sarcastic remarks on television by Fini alleging that the wife of League leader Umberto Bossi had retired at 39.
See?  It could always be worse - Coburn hasn't come to blows with anyone yet.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Weird, Wacky Political World

October has been a bizarre month for weather, Sooner football and as odd as the political world can be, it has gotten even more strange than usual.  Generally speaking, elections and politics have become tiresome for the artist formerly known as the 400lb Gorilla, and next to cleaning a dog kennel, following politics has plummeted on my list of entertainment options.  Here are some reasons why I believe we are through the proverbial looking glass:

Bob Dani
Representative Marian Cooksey draws an opponent.  Cooksey is an Edmond fixture much like the sculpture of Shannon Miller at the public library, so to hear that she is drawing a primary opponent was, and is, shocking.  Who is her opponent?  Bob Dani - founder of the High Noon Club, business owner and uber-conserverative 2nd Amendment champion.  Dani has secured seasoned talent to work on his campaign, a consultant who has been a part of virtually every successful Oklahoma County elected official's campaign.  This House race will be entertaining to watch and it will be even more challenging to see just how the current climate of conservatism bolsters Dani's campaign.

State Senator Steve Russell bows out.  Steve Russell, author of an open-carry bill, has announced that he's done and won't be running to retain his seat in the State Senate.  Russell campaigned on his military background, his work in the events surrounding the capture of Saddam Hussein, but apparently working in the Oklahoma Senate is just not his game.  Russell will be out pushing book sales and there is rumors abounding that he may be a new voice on NRA Radio.  Who will run for that seat?  It's going to be hard to tell, but there is talk that State Representative Mike Reynolds is considering a run, Kyle Loveless may be running again and if he does, his relationship with Red Chair Productions will be prominent in the race.   Red Chair is by far one of the most talented production firms in Central Oklahoma.  It will be a Republican primary race, whereas no Democrats are going to be strong enough to carry that Senate District.

Romney, Perry, Cain, oh my!  The Republican candidates for President have taken off the gloves and are maneuvering to out conservative each other.  It's bizarre to watch Romney back track on his previous record, to see Governor Perry explain away some of his statements regarding illegal immigration, and then there's the Herman Cain train.  It's as though the Republican party is just pushing anyone who looks like they can defeat Obama...forget talent, common sense and ability.

Rep. Randy Terrill
Randy Terrill draws an opponent.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The McCarville Report is reporting that Representative Randy Terrill has actually drawn a Republican opponent - Republican businessman Mark McBride.  Fascinating.  Terrill has been a target of the business community ever since he pushed, passed and defended the legendary House Bill 1804 (at the time, one of the nation's toughest illegal immigration bills).  Terrill has seen opponents come and go, but has been able to withstand the test of time and loyalty from his constituents in his House District.  I have stated previously that Terrill will own that House seat as long as he wants it, but I don't know that he's seen an opponent of McBride's pedigree - Terrill is going to have to work his rear off in light of the charges he's facing in Oklahoma County and let's face it; the Oklahoman isn't a big fan of Terrill either.  McBride looks to be a real contender in this race, but never underestimate the loyalty Terrill has from his constituency.

Coburn consistent, shocks some.  Senator Tom Coburn campaigned in such a way that there would be no surprises if he were to be elected and he's living up to that campaign ideology.  Coburn is a conservative who believes that our government is bloated and spends too damned much money.  What is shocking is that some are shocked that he's trying to reduce the size and scope of government, cutting programs that he believe to be pork.   Silliness, I tell ya.  Coburn is one of those few elected officials who is truly consistent and he's not afraid to reach across the aisle and work with members of the opposition party when there can be agreement.  Take, for example, government transparency - he worked with then Senator Obama to accomplish that feat. 

As you can see, things are just plain weird in the political world right now. 

Hugs Concert Conclusion

The rain rolled in, but thanks to the Edmond National Guard Armory, the bands and participants were kept dry and the music rolled on to support the Hugs Project.  Organized Chaos, Nikki Jackson, Kerry Folsom, Wild Heart and the always awesome Shotgun Rebellion all did their level best to support the Hugs Project by performing and raising awareness for a very worthy non-profit. 

A special thanks to everyone who worked so hard to pull it off.  It was truly a lot of fun as well as enlightening.

See you next time...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October 22nd, A Unique Happening

Every year, the Hugs Project sends hundreds (if not thousands) of care packages to our troops serving overseas.  The Hugs Project is based in Oklahoma, providing "Hugs" (cooling wraps) to service members as well as other necessities that aren't easily available at their duty stations.  It's an important and very needed service that sometimes is difficult to understand for those who have never served.

For military personnel serving overseas, anything received from home is like a ray of sunshine.  Being separated from family, from familiar surroundings and facing the dangers of being an active duty service member is stressful.  Fear of loss, wondering what's happening back home, the thought of possible death is intense and even a postcard can restore a few moments of peace.

The Hugs Project does just that - sends our troops pieces of home and it has gotten expensive.  Postal rates have increased and it isn't as though the federal government has opened its wallets and decided that communications from home are a top priority for our service members, but you know, the Hugs Project takes on this task with vigor and a sense of duty.

On October 22nd at the National Guard Armory in Edmond, just north of Hafer Park, there is a fundraiser/music event to help the Hugs Project raise awareness and some much-needed funds to get that last influx of revenue to pay for Christmas mailings to our troops before the holidays.

It starts at 5pm on the 22nd.  You're asked to bring a chair and donation items to send to our troops.  The FREE music concert features some darned good talent who have practiced countless hours to get ready to support the Hugs Project:

Nikki Jackson - An up and coming local talent who performs a folk/country style with a great deal of flair.
Wild Heart - An established progressive country band featuring the vocal talents of Tonya Mandrell, singing everything from Sugarland to Gretchen Wilson.
Organized Chaos - A new band (mine) with Tad Osborne and Jennifer Leigh (from KMGL) on vocals, Rick Jackson on bass, Jim Blalock on drums and myself on guitar.  We will be performing some Tom Petty, Heart, Billy Squier, The Cranberries, and even some Cash.
Shotgun Rebellion - An Oklahoma band that is absolutely incredible.  Their style of red dirt rock is unsurpassed and has been the influence of many new Oklahoma bands.  Their new guitar player is a veteran of the Iraq war and has an incredible story.

Watch this video about the Hugs Project.

Again, it is a FREE event that is family-friendly and it is all about supporting our troops and those who support the troops, namely, the Hugs Project. You're cordially invited to be a part of this event that we hope is a blessing to you and we KNOW it will be a blessing to the troops.

There are a lot of opportunities to serve non-profits in Central Oklahoma, but there are few with the magnitude of this one.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Losing Bill, Gaining Perspective

Governor Christie, Libya, Wall Street protests, clashes in Saudi Arabia, The Simpson's budget cuts...it's all just crazy right now.  But then, something happens that jars human reason, cuts to the very heart of our existence.

The untimely loss of a friend to heart attack.

Bucket Truck Bill, as he was known by many in the days of Shannon & Spinozi on KRXO and later on WKY, Bill Frank was comic relief for many radio listeners, but he was more than that.  He was a business owner, a father, a grandfather and a good friend.  He passed away last week after a couple days in the hospital when he was pulled from life support.

Bill played in my band for a while, prior to his first heart attack a few months ago.  Bill was the kind of guy who always made you smile or laugh in even the most inappropriate moments.  He was wild, often unpredictable, but he was always a loyal friend and I believe he left us far too soon.  His positive attitude was infectious, permeating the fabric of everyone's being within his sphere of influence.  He was very often a "larger than life" person who could cut quickly through all the bologna of life and get to the heart of what really matters.

Bill's death was shocking, surprising and forced my emotional nose in the corner for some time of introspection and at the end of the day, I gained some perspective.


It all matters.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

An Opportunity, Not Politics As Usual

The headline on the Drudge Report today reads, "Poverty Soars, Sets New Record."  The main picture is that of President Obama apparently working/serving at a soup kitchen.  The headline and accompanying photograph is clearly intended to lay blame for our economic woes on the President.  It's politics as usual, pure and simple.

My take on the economic problems we face and the record number of poor (46 million), is that this is an opportunity for us as a nation to come together and meet need.  No, I'm not proposing some "liberal" agenda wherein we raise taxes to meet the needs of those in poverty through more government programs, but rather it is an opportunity for us to do that which this "Christian nation" has been commanded to do.

From a theological perspective, those in poverty (financial and otherwise) are there for us to reach out to, to help, to provide assistance whenever and wherever possible.  No, we're not to overlook the realities of what put those people into poverty to begin with, but we are to deal rather in the here and now.  Today, these are people and families who could use some assistance and it is of no consequence how they got in that situation.  True, there are some who refuse real assistance - like the alcoholic who just hasn't hit bottom and come face-to-face with their issues.  But I would argue that we have a responsibility to seize the opportunity.

Christ said, "the poor you will have with you always."  His words have been proven true.  He also said, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat." 

We don't need government doing the job that those of us who claim to be believers are supposed to be doing on our own.

I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Jeff Cloud Resigns From Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Statement from Commissioner Cloud:

It is with mixed emotions that I announce that I will resign my position as Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner in order to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

This decision has certainly not been an easy one. It has been my personal privilege and honor to serve on the Commission for more than eight years. In that time, many positive changes have been implemented that affect industries the Commission regulates. The issues that Commissioners and the agency’s staff tackle every day continue to grow in complexity. However, what certainly has not changed is the commitment of this agency to the public and industry to ensure the economy of Oklahoma continues to develop in a way that benefits both the consumer and the businesses we oversee and that treats citizens and regulated entities fairly.

I especially want to express my sincere thanks and gratitude to the people of Oklahoma for their support and for allowing me to serve and to the employees of the Commission and my fellow Commissioners for their hard work and commitment to excellence. On a personal note, I want to thank my family. I could not have done this without them.

I will be working closely with Governor Mary Fallin as she prepares to name my successor and to see that the transition period goes smoothly and the Commission’s critical work will continue without interruption.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Paycom Celebrates Grand Opening of New National HQ

From Governor Fallin:

OKLAHOMA CITY – Today, Paycom employees and Oklahoma City dignitaries cut the ribbon and celebrated the grand opening of Paycom’s new 90,000 square foot headquarters located on 14 acres on the north side of Memorial Road between Rockwell Ave. and Council Road. The beautiful, state-of-the-art, employee centric headquarters currently houses almost 400 employees with plans to hire and fill the remaining 200 seats within the next year.

In addition to a tier-3, fully redundant data center and on-site training facilities, the new Paycom headquarters has a colorful and multi-functional cafeteria where employees can gather and enjoy affordable meals, subsidized by Paycom. They also have a gym with a running track, a basketball court, outdoor fields and fully equipped locker rooms. “Our employees are our number one asset and this new building allows us to treat them as such,” said Chad Richison, Paycom’s CEO. “We have a fast-paced culture. We work hard, but we have fun in the process. This new building fits our culture and our employees are excited to utilize every square foot.” 

Governor Mary Fallin said, "This is an exciting time for Paycom and for the State of Oklahoma. They find themselves at this important milestone today because of their innovation, resourcefulness, financial responsibility, and cutting edge customer service. They are a great model for business in Oklahoma."

Founded in Oklahoma City in 1998, Paycom pioneered the Internet payroll market as the first 100% online payroll provider. Serving customers in all 50 states from 18 offices across the country, Paycom is the largest exclusively online provider of full-service payroll and HR software in the U.S. Paycom is a nine-year honoree on Oklahoma City’s Metro 50 list, and a six-year member of the Inc. 500/5000 for being one of the fastest-growing private companies in the country. Paycom continues to grow revenues at rate of 40% year after year by expanding into new markets and adding new services. In 2011, Paycom released Applicant Tracking, E-Verify, On-Boarding, Document Storage and Expense Management services to its already robust Payroll/HR application.

“It’s our vision to be the industry leader in the payroll business. We will accomplish that by continuing to develop our cutting-edge payroll/HR technology and by hiring bright, talented and passionate individuals to sell our product and care for our clients,” said Richison. “This new building is just the beginning.”
“We are thrilled that Paycom has chosen to invest in Oklahoma City,” said Roy Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. “Paycom is growing steadily and continuing to add jobs to the local economy. They are a great example of how a company can thrive in this market.”

Paycom is currently hiring 15-20 new employees each month and anticipates adding at least 500 jobs over the next three years. Jobs include positions in sales and software development, client support and general headquarter administrative positions. The new 14-acre Paycom campus has plenty of room for growth.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Genre? "Red Dirt Metal"

Typically, the rants here are related to politics and current events, but I have had a few delightful conversations with Rick Davis of Shotgun Rebellion and I thought I would share and perhaps get your thoughts on the topic of what is being dubbed, "Red Dirt Metal."

Rick described it to me as a genre that is similar to the Black Label Society, but with roots in, well, areas where red dirt is dominant.  Two of the bands that are the embodiment of RDM would be Texas Hippie Coalition and Shotgun Rebellion.  Texas Hippie Coalition (THC) is from Texas, Shotgun Rebellion from Oklahoma.

It's hard to describe the style, but it's kind of like Black Label Society with more attitude.  Take a peek at a THC video and see for yourself whether or not one of the fastest growing genres in the south is to your liking...

And here is a taste of Oklahoma's Shotgun Rebellion:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Another School Year Arrives

Other than serving as a reminder of my advancing age and mortality, getting the kids ready for another school year is an exciting time in many ways.  The kids are all sending texts to their friends about which classes they have, which classes they are looking forward to and which classes they believe to be exceptionally challenging.  I can remember those days, minus the texting and the Facebook updates, of course.  Back in my day, we either called on a land line or walked to our friends' houses to have such dialog.

Two have already started the school year, one has started half-day classes for bio-med/health sciences at Francis Tuttle, the youngest starts Friday.  Excitement, nervousness and anticipation fills the air around the Gorilla household.  But it's to be expected.

This will be an interesting year for education as a whole.  The Oklahoman is reporting that ACT scores are down and Janet Barresi is less than happy about it.  The Oklahoman and Tulsa World have also reported that higher education spending has increased, even though we're suffering under wicked budget problems.  So, the question will remain as to how much money will be allocated by the legislature to ensure that education is funded in a manner that makes all the teachers happy, yet does nothing to curb administrative costs.  At one point during the last election cycle there was a great deal of talk about the possibility of consolidation of administrative positions at the superintendent level, but we've pinned our hopes on that previously, only to be smashed on the threshing floor of election year politics.

So, we all wait to see what happens this year.  It's a time of change for all of us, really.  Things aren't what they used to be and I think many of our children are starting to realize this fact as well.  All the stories we shared about how it was for us "back in the day" are in stark contrast to the reality of what is right now.  Increased violence in schools, increased peer pressure, more bullying...kids need to just be kids and worry about academics, not the latest Facebook trends.

Good luck to all of the returning students, and good luck to the teachers who are tasked with their education and oversight.  Strap in...it's going to be a bumpy one this year.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Huggin' The Hugs Project

There are a LOT of worthy non-profit organizations out there, but there is one that really stands out...the Hugs Project, based right here in Central Oklahoma.  I have learned that when things are going rather rough, it's time to reach out and be a blessing to others - just like the Hugs Project has done for so many of our fighting men and women overseas.

You're invited to attend, September 17th, 5pm at Paradise Farms - one mile north of Waterloo on Western, southwest Logan County.  Bring your lawn chairs, your support for the troops and be prepared to enjoy some great music and fellowship.  Featuring Caravact, Tad Osborne, Organized Chaos and Wild Heart!

Rumor Mill: Charles Key Counting For County?

Politics can be frustrating, aggravating, and make you want to toss your cookies on your brand new shoes.  And in Oklahoma, we take it to a new level.

Candidates who have bemoaned the very existence of government find themselves getting elected and rather enjoying the steady income, not to mention the healthcare taxpayers provide.  During the last election cycle, former State Senator and gubernatorial candidate railed on the ineffectiveness of government, the fact that we needed to desperately put the brakes on government spending, only to take a job with the Insurance Commission.  As did some of his supporters.

Now, the rumors are flying that term-limited State Representative Charles Key will be running for an Oklahoma County post.  While it is in the rumor stages, the question remains as to whether or not the irony train is about to leave the station.  Key is one of the uber-conservative, borderline Libertarians in the House and whether his Ron Paul brand of government will fit in Oklahoma County is hard to determine.  Just can't see Charles Key, Leonard Sullivan, David Prater and Ray Vaughn sitting down to have a cup of coffee and discussing budget plans.  I could see them sitting down to discuss their pension plans, however.

Charles Key is an interesting cat.  He is an unashamed Ron Paul supporter, has posted some pretty negative links about Governor Fallin on his website, and works in the insurance industry.  He is definitely a firebrand of conservatism in the House, but will that kind of fire play well in downtown Oklahoma City where Thunder tickets are all the rage and dinner at Red Prime or Republic Gastropub is the staple of the political entertainment diet?

Perhaps the time for the Libertarian viewpoint to get a hearing in Oklahoma County is due.  Perhaps Key can pull it off.  Perhaps the rumors are unfounded and mean little.  Either way, it does make for interesting dialog, don't you agree?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Saddle Up

This has been one wild series of events over the last month and the heat just keeps coming.  Whether it be the shocker of the Ersland case to the hot temperatures, it's been a wild one.  Let's review for a few minutes...

Ersland:  When 1st Degree Murder charges were filed, it was surprising because I can recall when Prater ran for District Attorney, he supported the right to keep and bear arms with impunity and figured that Prater simply had forgotten his campaign promises.  But when I saw the Medical Examiner's report and the pharmacy tapes themselves, I understood a little more clearly why the decision was made to charge Ersland at all - and then the realization of the 1st Degree Murder charge and the justifications therein.  Ersland was wrong, no doubt.  He should not have gone back, grabbed a second firearm and pump the would-be burglar full of lead.  He should have been charged, he should spend time behind bars, but not for the rest of his life.  The jury has spoken, however, and the truth is that I agree with the synopsis provided by Mickey Homsey (here) that the Oklahoman needs to start asking questions of the defense counsel.  It was and is a bizarre trial and I highly doubt that it will go away or fade into the recesses of our memories.  We'll remember this and opponents of Prater will be sure to remind him when he's up for re-election.

The 2nd Amendment is still intact, the right to defend ourselves is still the law of the land, but just don't go back, reload...

And the rumors continue to fly as to whether or not Kevin Calvey will run in 2014 against David Prater.

Heat:  Oklahoma is experiencing a run of record temperatures and it is making a lot of people very, very grumpy.  It is evidenced by the increased crime statistics as well as the increased number of law enforcement officers on patrol, writing tickets. 

Turkey Lurkey:  How many of you are aware of the fact that a handful of our legislators made a trip to Turkey recently?  Supposedly, it had something to do with Charter Schools, but your guess is as good as mine.  Rarely will elected officials refuse a junket overseas.  Kind of interesting though, isn't it?

Caylee's Law:  Representative Paul Wesselhoft has taken the mantle from Representative Randy Terrill where headline-grabbing is concerned.  Looks like there will be multiple bills filed dealing with "Caylee's Law" this next session and regardless of the Constitutional merits, emotion will win the day.

Feds:  It's hard to discern just what in the heck is going on in Washington.  First, the discussion about the debt ceiling, then the arguments over the budget, then budget talks break down...  It's hard to tell just who is in charge out there.  One would think that with the previous Republican landslide victories, negotiations would be much more smooth and something would get accomplished.  Perhaps too many are looking to the next Presidential election to pay attention to what's happening in the here and now.

Yes, my friends, it must be the head because things are just plain weird.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Feelin' It Friday

Jammin:  The weather has been a beast with which to contend but fortunately, it's going to cool down.  Preparations are just about complete for the Jam In June event to benefit Bikers Against Child Abuse (Oklahoma) on June 25th and I admit, I am excited about it.  Not only will my band be performing, but some of Oklahoma's most incredible talent will be there.

The outpouring of support for such an event has really been humbling.  What was initially just a thought of a couple musicians getting together, passing the plate for BACA and calling it "good," has really been transformed into something much larger.  People have volunteered to get the location prepped, bands have come out of the woodwork, desirous of participating...it's been phenomenal.  Heck, even State Senator Andrew Rice has sent a donation check in lieu of attending.    We have Tad Osborne, Collin Houchen, the Amazing Bobzilla, Caravact, Wild Heart, my band (Organized Chaos) and headlining will be Oklahoma's very own Shotgun Rebellion.

Fox 25's Jaclyn Schultz
Fox 25's Jaclyn Schultz has volunteered to come out and emcee the event and we are all extremely flattered that she would take time from her schedule to do this for us and for BACA.  Jaclyn's commitment to community is outstanding - she's even going to sacrifice her own skin for Children's Hospital Foundation, volunteering to get a tattoo on live television to benefit Children's.  She is a class act and we are grateful to her for her willingness to come out and be a part of the Jam in June.  We are fortunate to have her as a local anchor for Fox 25. 

The event is June 25th, Saturday, beginning at 5pm.  It's located one mile north of Waterloo on Western - far northwest Edmond, southwestern tip of Logan County.  You head north on Western, pass Edmond, and look for the signs when you hit Waterloo.

Politics:  I've been hammered with emails about Oklahoma's Senate District 43 race and frankly, just haven't been following it.  Since Paul Wesselhoft dropped out of the race, I figured there was/is some shenanigans we just don't give a hoot about and now, the fix is in anyway.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Conversation With An Old Friend

Moving to Oklahoma back in 1998 was a bit of a shocker.  The development downtown was largely a rumor, though the whole Moshe' Tal issues had not yet been fully discovered.  Bricktown was in the planning phases, and even then, the I40 crosstown was a gamble for vehicles with less than stellar suspension systems.  Things were remarkably different then, and things have changed, but there are always those little nuggets that remain in your mind, bouncing around and coming to light just when it seems it is needed most.

I remember sitting on the balcony with a friend and mentor of mine, talking about the ways of the world.  We had been discussing an obscure and often debated passage in Scripture, 2 Corinthians 8, and it was quite revelatory. 
Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;  How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
In essence, the passage Paul writes about those who had virtually nothing but yet were immeasurably blessed and more than willing to give all that they had.  Not exactly something that any of us really relish because we are, by nature, selfish. 

Things have been tough all around and the lesson I learned from that conversation with my friend had somehow been tucked away in the deep recesses of my mind until recently.  You've heard the term, "pay it forward," but analyzing that conversation and the lesson I learned, I don't know that even that is the right attitude to have.  I would say that the lesson really lies in the reality that we should simply give without expecting a return.  Like the church in Macedonia, the blessings received are ancillary to the blessings of simply giving.

Just a thought...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tom Cole On Libya

It has been almost three months since President Obama sent U.S. forces to Libya -- without bothering to seek authorization from Congress. This action violates both the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution -- both of which clearly identify Congress as the sole governmental body with the responsibility to declare war and raise and support the armed forces. With U.S. troops and resources still embroiled in the Libyan conflict, Congress recently moved to reclaim its constitutional authority by holding two important votes.

On June 3, Congress passed H.Res. 292. This legislation establishes that President Obama has not sought congressional authorization, reaffirms the constitutional role of Congress to fund military operations, asserts that there should be no troops on the ground in Libya, and requires the president to specify a process for withdrawal. Additionally, the bill gives the White House 14 days to hand over files relating to consultation with Congress, or lack thereof. This provision is similar to legislation I introduced in April to require the Obama administration to release any State and Defense department documents pertaining to the president's decision.

A president launching military operations without adequate congressional consultation sets a dangerous precedent, and it is vital to examine the administration's actions to ensure the Constitution is protected.
Congress also voted on a resolution calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Libya within 15 days.

While this legislation did not pass, I supported it for several reasons. Gadhafi is certainly an evil man with a long record of atrocities, but the fact remains that Libya has not attacked the U.S. or our interests, has not served as a safe haven for terrorists, and has actually cooperated with the U.S. in turning over its stockpiles of nuclear-related materials and WMD. Given these facts, the situation in Libya does not meet any of the conditions under the War Powers Resolution by which presidents have constitutional authority to introduce our armed forces into hostilities There is simply no legal authority or compelling U.S. interest to justify intervention in Libya -- especially when our armed forces are already fighting two wars. Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates admitted that Libya does not represent "a vital interest for the United States."

The military operations in Libya stand in stark contrast to those under way in Afghanistan and Iraq. Public opinion may vary regarding these missions, but there is no denying that they were only initiated after Congress granted authorization. Furthermore, Congress has held regular debates and votes to authorize funding and provide direction for the ongoing operations. More than 80 days into the Libyan operations, the Obama administration has still not defined clear objectives, established an exit strategy or provided sufficient cost estimates.

The Founding Fathers had very good reasons for ensuring that the power to declare war is subject to congressional deliberation and authorization rather than the decision of any one individual. All Americans hope for peace and freedom in Libya and throughout the Middle East, but the constitutional process has not been followed. It is good for the country that Congress has now voted to to enforce the Constitution and hold the president accountable.

From Congressman Cole's Page.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

More Election Rumors - 2nd District and District Attorney

Mad dash.  That's the best way to describe the inside view of the many candidates with their eyes on the prize for both Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District (being vacated by Dan Boren) as well as the Oklahoma County District Attorney spot in three years.  Republicans are excited at the opportunity to take a clean sweep of the Congressional District and with the Ersland case hanging over the D.A.'s office, as well as the targeting of Representative Randy Terrill, Representative Mike Christian and former Senator Debbe Leftwich, Prater now has Republicans frothing at the mouth to win back the District Attorney's position.

GOP revolution will continue as before.
And the Republican tsunami looks to continue.

On the 2nd District side of things, McCarville has a pretty adept analysis of the situation and Faught's son even has a story he posted about his father, George Faught, forming an "exploratory committee" (translated:  Fundraising apparatus) for the 2nd District.  McCarville is correct - this will be a national race, meaning that there will be national attention drawn to it and whomever the Democratic candidate ends up being, that person will have a ton of money thrown his/her direction.  Right now, Kenneth Corn seems to be the odds-on favorite to win that nomination but on the Republican side, it is tough to tell.  Faught is the first to aggressively discuss the issue, but you can rest assured that Republican consultants are even now out recruiting candidates with deep pockets.

On the more local level, rumors are still flying that former State Representative and Iraq war veteran, Kevin Calvey, is considering a run for Oklahoma County District Attorney.  While Calvey authored the "Stand Your Ground" law, he was on Fox 25 providing analysis that what Jerome Ersland did was wrong, which, on the surface, makes it appear as though he is in agreement with Prater on the prosecution of Ersland. However, the anti-Prater movement is picking up steam and petition drives have started to free Ersland and encourage the Governor to commute his sentence (whatever it may be) or to pardon him completely.  This translates into increased drive and revenue for whomever the Republican candidate will be - and lest we forget, the Republican tidal wave is still in effect.  Prater's discussions about the armed robber in the Ersland case wherein he described him as a "young boy," rather than an "armed robber" will come back to haunt him in the next election cycle, as well as some other issues that have taken place under his watch.  There is also some talk that someone within the District Attorney's office, a registered Republican, is considering the possibility of a run against him as well. 

In this next election cycle, no one is safe if there is a "D" after his/her name.  Every Democrat in Oklahoma will have to answer as to whether or not they support the present administration and why they have not been outspoken against the policies therein.  It will be a virtual bloodbath.  Bring your lawn chairs, a cool beverage and watch the fireworks.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Boren Bonus? Stand By...

Congressman Dan Boren is going to be leaving the halls of Congress, more than likely to pursue a job with the Grand River Dam Authority (according to McCarville), and that would most assuredly mean a pay raise and much better scenery than what he is used to.  It would be a major bonus for the Congressman, as the politics of Washington's lone Democrat from the Oklahoma delegation must be wearing on him.

Possible Democratic candidate, Kenneth Corn
What does this mean for Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District?  Well, it means that the Republicans will be lining up for the job like kids at a doughnut give-away.  George Faught is but one of the names being mentioned right now, and there will no doubt be plenty more who will feel as though the time is right for a Republican takeover of the 2nd District.  You can rest assured that Republican consultants are already on the hunt for a candidate with deep pockets and Matt Pinnell, Oklahoma's GOP Chair, will work his tail off to ensure the Republican candidates get all they need.

But not so fast - there will be a few hardened Democrats running for the seat as well.   Movement is already underway to recruit former State Senator Kenneth Corn for the job.  Corn is a Blue Dog who is a gun owner and has worked well with House Representatives like Richardson to pass legislation regarding hunting and fishing in Oklahoma.  Corn is also a friend of many veterans groups in the state of Oklahoma and is regarded as an honest, hard-working man of his word.  Truth is that I have hunted with Kenneth Corn in Southeast Oklahoma and he is very well-regarded in those parts.  And he is a hoot to hunt with.

Other Democrats such as Brad Carson have been mentioned, but Carson has been out of the loop for a long time.  Another is Mike Brown, but again, doesn't have the stroke of a Corn.

In any event, this should be the political race of the century and whomever the Republican candidate will be for the district, he/she will receive support from virtually every statewide elected official because, well, they are all Republicans.

Words, Labels Have Meaning

I've been on this planet for almost 47 years now (good Lord, I'm getting old) and I have seen a massive shift in how we see things in this country.  When I joined the Navy in 1982, military service had a sense of honor and privilege.  Virtually every male in my family had served including my father and all of my uncles.  Service mattered and it was something to be looked upon with a sense of pride and duty. 

I remember standing in a crowd of people at the recruiting center, all of us raising our hand and swearing an oath to defend the Constitution against enemies both foreign and domestic.  After the oath, there was a brief moment of silence, the air in the building stood still for just a moment as the magnitude of that oath permeated the fabric of our beings.  It was a seminal point in my life, a moment that I will never forget and it is something I hope my children can understand.

As we look around us today, we see a different mindset.  We see issues of Constitutional relevance being relegated to the colloquial trash heap by the mainstream media, labeled as "social policy."  The Constitution is not "social policy," as though written by a homeowner's association about how tall your grass can be or whether or not you can paint your fence pink.  It's about issues like the 2nd Amendment - the right to keep and bear arms.  It's about the right of the citizenry to have access to the courts for the redress of wrongs.  It's about the right to practice our religious affections with no government intervention. It is about ensuring our borders are protected, our citizens kept safe from intrusion.

How are those issues merely "social" in nature?  I don't get it.

These words, these labels make a difference and it is the slow, steady erosion of a worldview wherein the Constitutional issues men and women have died for become little more than a catch-phrase or platitude.  I am not saying that the Constitution is to be held up to the same standard as the canon of Scripture, mind you, but it was important enough for our founding fathers to have a document that meant something to forge this great nation from the bedrock of freedom from tyranny.  If it's good enough for them, why isn't it good enough for us?

We're fixated on ridiculous scandals in politics and meanwhile, the issues that really matter, the points of freedom that should get our attention do not.  Corruption, cronyism, political prosecution and hypocrisy of the highest order are commonplace in government and we seem to accept it because the issues that matter most are merely "social" in nature.  We've allowed the mainstream media to create this bizarre little oligarchy wherein their precious few squander the rights and freedoms of the many for the express purpose of lining their pockets and ensuring a new form of intellectual tyranny. 

It puzzles me.  Words and these labels have meaning and they are not created by happenstance.  They are intentional, devious and cunning, and the authors are counting on our ignorance, our willingness to choose the path of least resistance and let them "lead the way." 

Every two years, we have the opportunity to shun the mainstream media, to go to the polls and do the right thing.  We have horribly short memories and sometimes it's difficult to remember what was promised when contrasted with what was delivered.  Together, however, we can remind one another of that which is important.  And the next time you read or hear someone calling issues of Constitutional import "social issues," get in their collective faces and remind them of those who have laid down their lives and paid the ultimate price to preserve our freedoms from tyranny.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Summers Long Past

I don't know when it changed for me, but over the course of the last few years, summers have taken on a remarkably different flavor and feel to them.  Perhaps it's the convergence of all these technological wonders, but it has become clear that my youngest kids are far less interested in the things that gave me such joyous memories growing up.  Here are just a few:

Camping:  It seemed to me that we went camping frequently when I was a child.  It was an inexpensive way to get out of the house and enjoy God's creation.  Spending time in the mountains (both the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges), fishing in the rivers lakes and hanging around campfires was just too much fun.  I have fond memories of listening to my father and mother tell tales of their youth, making legendary their lives when contrasted with what was then contemporary Americana.  No cell phones, no pagers and certainly no WiFi.  For the most part, my kids don't "mind" camping, but their technology is a must - there has to be the cell phones, the iPods and video games, otherwise it is unbearable.  And forget about the telling of tales of days gone by because my kids think me to be a relic anyway.  Unimaginable is a life without an iPod.  Well, I have a news flash for the youngins - we're camping this summer and no, they won't be playing their damned games the whole time either.  And they may be forced to listen to some of my silly stories too.

Just say no to snakes.
Playing Ball:  We always had baseballs, softballs, basketballs or volleyballs laying around and if we spent more than 30 sedentary moments in the house, my mother or father was on my case to "get outside and play."  Remember those days?

Fruit-Picking:  I know it sounds odd, but in Washington State, there are apple orchards, berry fields and endless opportunities to go out and pick some fruit.  Not exactly on most people's top ten list of things to do, but there is just something really cool about going out, picking some fruit and coming home and enjoying a bowl of blackberries, a little milk and some sugar.  Every time we did this, there was some event to discuss.  Like the time we picked wild asparagus...my mother and I were never big fans of snakes and my uncle Cliff had teased us about the significant number of snakes in the area.  We rolled our pants legs into our socks and in one picture, I actually have my sweatshirt hoodie over my head because I was convinced that the snakes would somehow climb up the trees and pounce on me much like a cougar might.  Again, hilarious times.

Today, everything moves so terribly quickly.  Time seems to fly by as my head spins in a feeble attempt to keep up (and yes, it fails more and more every day).  There is always "something to be done" and the time to just relax and enjoy summer slips by and before we know it, we're back to the point when the kids are in school and a whole new schedule is created.

Technology has been a blessing to all of us, enabling us to communicate with one another expeditiously, but it also ties us down.  I can't imagine for a moment that I would have been allowed to run through the sprinkler while texting my friends from school.  Nor would my mother have allowed video games or iPods around the campfire.  Just wouldn't happen.

Maybe, just maybe, I'm getting old...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Violent Times

Any law enforcement official worth his/her weight in salt will tell you that during tough economic times, increases in violent crime are to be expected.  But I don't believe anyone has expected what has taken place lately.  Take a look at some of the headlines from the Drudge Report:

'I was scared for my life'...
Poet 'Da Real One' Gunned Down In Front Of Miami Poetry Cafe...
Violent crime explodes in Myrtle during Black Bike Week; 8-hour hell...
Rib Fest At Rochester beach turns rowdy...
Riot On Long Island...
Urban Melee In Charlotte...
Chaos causes DNC concern for convention...
Unruly urban crowd shuts down Nashville water park...

And it is only getting worse.  It's bad here in Oklahoma as well:

Man injured in late night Oklahoma City shooting...
Arrest made in Oklahoma City homicide...

I suppose that desperate times call for desperate measures and as Romeo said to Paris, "Good gentle youth, tempt not a desperate man..."  When the "system" as we know it begins to fail society, when otherwise reasonable and decent people descend into the darkness of violence against another in order to take that which is not theirs, all of us must awaken from our slumber.  Things are never quite what they seem and the "least among us" are rising up, tired of the platitudes and inescapable feelings of desperation and acting upon them.

We were temporarily comforted by the "conservative landslide" in the last election cycle.  We were told that our freedoms, our rights, would be preserved and jobs would be created.  The magic pixie dust of the Republican Party was to bring solidarity, a time of peace and prosperity.  While only a handful of the elite have truly prospered, what we see before us is evidence that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  And people are very, very pissed off.

Law enforcement is on high alert, working diligently to ensure our safety and they need our prayers and support.  Real support - not the kind of "vote for me (and/or my proposition) and we'll put more cops on the street" bullcrap either.  And we all need to take measures to protect ourselves, lest we be the next victim of the desperate men.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Looks Like We Made It

Oklahomans are a hearty, beefy bunch.  Bad weather seems to focus its attention here in red dirt paradise, but even the worst of the storms can't stop the best of Oklahomans from being revealed. 

As the storms ravaged much of the Sooner State, the local meteorologists did a splendid job of getting us nervous and anxious first (which proved to be a good thing), then guided us through the mayhem that ensued.  Other than a snotty comment from Gary England about the "excitement" of other meteorologists out in the midst of the mess, they handled themselves exquisitely.  Lest we forget, it was Gary England who some time ago made some rather aggressive comments about loss of life and is still lampooned for it.

We did, sadly, have a few Oklahomans taken from us and at the time of this blog, one child is still missing in Piedmont.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to those families and the hope is that the little one is found soon and found doing just fine.

A hat-tip to Oklahoma's first responders as well.  We have proven to the world time and again that the best and brightest first responders reside right here in Oklahoma.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Time Flies, Times Change

Looking at this blog, I realized that I hadn't written anything in a few days and I was shocked - SHOCKED, I tell you.  As a man who rarely is at a loss for words, perhaps it was merely my subconscious mind telling me that I had actually written, primarily because I had spent so much time answering emails.  Alas, I was wrong and I offer my most sincere apologies.  Well, maybe not so sincere, but apologies nonetheless.  Time flies when you're living life.

And speaking of time, times have changed a great deal since I was in school.  I remember awards ceremonies being a big deal because receiving awards was, well, a big deal.  I attended Mason and Madison's Bridgecreek Middle School awards ceremony last evening and I suppose what shocked me is how many students received awards which, in my mind, detracts from those who actually busted their humps to do well in academics.  My son, Mason, received awards for being well above the curve in his mandatory test subjects, a Student of the Month award, and another for being a part of the academic team.  My daughter two awards for her academic achievement.

Proud of them both.

What was surprising, however, is that the school gave out awards not only for the students who received straight "A's" on their report cards, but each teacher gave out a male and female favorite student award.  And if that wasn't bizarre enough, the school gave out awards for students who received "A's" and "B's."   Maybe I am just getting too old, but it seems to me that rather than raising the bar of academic achievement, but we're actually decreasing our standards to such a level that in a few years, schools will be handing out awards for kids who merely attend class.  Worse yet, maybe they will give out the "Superintendent's Parolee Award" - given to students who were out on parole.

I am proud of all my kids - they all do very well in academics because they have been raised to understand that academics are a priority.  Football is fine, DECA is fine, but what really matters is hunkering down and studying on a daily basis and being the best they could possibly be.  My kids know that school is all about academics and not extracurricular activities, though they too can be important when taken in moderation.  Their school experiences right now, will shape the rest of their lives. 

Yes, my friends, times are changing.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Jam In June Finalized

The 1st Annual "Jam In June" has been finalized and the bands are fired up and ready to entertain as well as increase awareness for Bikers Against Child Abuse - Oklahoma Chapters.  Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) is an incredible organization and we're proud to have this awesome opportunity to show them a little musical love.

We have The Unmanned Blues Band, Wild Heart, Organized Chaos, Collin Houchen opening up the festivities, The Amazing Bob Zilla keeping us entertained, and the headline band is Oklahoma's very own Shotgun Rebellion.  Needless to say, this is going to be an incredible event and yes, you're invited.

When:  Saturday, June 25, 2011
Time:  Kick-off at 7pm and running as late as we need to!
Location:  One mile north of Waterloo Road on Western in Southwest Logan County.
Bring:  Lawn chairs and beverage of choice.

A special thanks to Frank and Pat Paradise for allowing us to use Paradise Farms for the event.  They are incredible people with incredible hearts for non-profit organizations here in Oklahoma.

For more information, click here.