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Thursday, November 10, 2016

And Yet, Here We Stand

The land was laid bare and the bodies of the dead littered the streets; streets that were covered in blood.  In the distance, the screams and lamentations of women and children pierced the air and threatened to shatter eardrums.  The smell of death and destruction permeated the air and created a weight and denseness to every breath.  The fear and sadness surrounded every living thing that remained; it was as though any hope of life and joy had been sucked from the human existence and left in its wake was nothing but despair.  The skies were permanently darkened, buildings and institutions that had stood the test of time were decimated, and survivors were fearful to even consider a future. 

Okay, not really, but reading some of the post on social media after the election, one would think that the end of the world had come and stripped all Americans of their humanity and dignity.  Hillary Clinton lost in her bid to be the country's first female president, defeated by one of the most disliked men in all of politics, Donald Trump, and far too many people are taking it personally.  Trump was called every name in the book by the elitists on either side of the aisle and yet he triumphed and that really pisses people off.  Even today, there are people who have lost their damned minds and are protesting in the streets!  What in the hell is wrong with us?

This country will survive.  We survived Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton.  The country will survive Donald Trump and perhaps it will awaken the establishment douchebags to see their douchebaggery.  Maybe, just maybe, terrorists will take us a little more seriously now as well.

On a local level, there were some serious surprises.

SQ779:   While I believed that our teachers and children deserved better than this proposal, I really figured that it would pass.  After all, they had Toby Keith in the ads...but I digress.  It was believed that the initiative would pass, teachers would receive a pay raise and administrators would have s slush fund to play with, but no.  It didn't happen.  Teachers still need a pay raise and we need to do something better to fund education because the lottery wasn't the magic bullet, was it?  Hopefully, the legislature can do something honest to address the issue and make sure that the administrators keep their filthy paws off of the money that will be for the classrooms and for teachers.

SQ790:  I really thought that Oklahoma would pass this measure and not because it was the right thing to do, but because of our desire to mix God and government at every turn.  Perhaps Pastor Paul Blair's loss in the primary was a harbinger of things to come that Oklahomans understand that we need to be careful what we ask for, because we might just get it.  First, it would be spending money on the 10 Commandments (the ones we couldn't keep and so Christ had to die for us), then it would mean that Islam would get a monument, then Hinduism, and so on so forth.  Tax dollars spent on one religious institution would mean, by necessity, an entitlement from all religious expressions.  Kudos to the voters for shooting this one down.

Oklahoma County Sheriff:  Whetsel got another four years, defeating an aggressive and determined Republican Mike Christian.  Whetsel will now face the County Commissioners about financial wrongdoing.  This was a surprise.  Even though Whetsel was a recognized name, he spent money on television and frankly, that was a big plus for his campaign because Christian was pretty much nowhere to be found.  Maybe he spent too much on his consultants...but again, I digress.

Yet, amid all this madness, here we stand.  We still live in the greatest country on the planet to say or believe anything different is just silliness.

We can do this. 

Of course, these are just my opinions and I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it.


Friday, November 04, 2016

Ballot Questions & Election Muck

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to one of the most bizarre times in American history and from an election standpoint, we are through the proverbial looking glass.  People are confused, frustrated, and more than likely voting from a posture of fear of a candidate rather than love of the opponent.  It's a horrific election cycle and we've seen scandal unlike any other time in our recent past.  From the County Clerk disaster to the Sheriff to the now embattled Superintendent of Public Instruction, voters are pissed off and they will be going to the polls with a vengeance this year.

I really wish I could say that I have the answers or that I have a good grasp on all of the elections and ballot questions, but I really don't.  I have opinions about them and I have been asked how I'm leaning, so, I'm sharing them with you.

State Questions
Posted by News 9's Lacy Lowry
SQ776 (Death Penalty)  NO :  I'm voting no on this one for a number of reasons but let me give you two words - Joyce Gilchrist.  We do not have the death penalty down to a science and we in Oklahoma don't have the best record of lawful convictions either.  Executing one person who is innocent is one person too many.  Yeah, I'm pro-life across the board; no inconsistencies with me.

SQ777 (Right to Farm)  NO:  We already have the right to farm in this state and unfortunately, the number of foreign firms buying up ag land in the state is increasing (not to mention the number of Texans buying up land in Oklahoma) and the last thing we want to do is tie the hands of regulators to bust someone's ass for ripping up the land and polluting it.  But then again, the Corporation Commission hasn't really done much regarding the fracking earthquakes, have they?

SQ779 (Education Tax)  NO:  Sorry, kids but the slush funds for administrators and the fact that it is a permanent tax turn me off on this one big-time.  The teacher's unions have fought against administrative consolidation at their own peril and while teachers do deserve a pay raise, administrative slush funds aren't the way to make this happen.  We deserve better, our kids deserve better, and our teachers sure as hell do.  

SQ780  (Crime Bill)  YES:  Simple drug possession (not intent to distribute) would be reclassified as misdemeanors rather than felonies.  Law enforcement largely opposes this bill and I'm not really sure why.  I saw we leap into the 20th century and reduce the amount of money we give to private prisons and use effective means as in SQ781.

SQ781  (Funding Drug Courts, etc.)  YES:  Drug courts and rehabilitation programs do work and regardless of what you may think, prison overcrowding is a problem and it is a problem because we're locking up those who need treatment rather than hardcore jail time.  It's the humane and common sense approach to some social problems.  

SQ790  (Tax Dollars for Religion)  NOPE:  I don't care what Lt. Governor Todd Lamb and others have said about this bill allowing ball players to "pray" before a game, this has unintended consequences that could do exactly the opposite of what the dominionists desire.  If one religious expression is funded with tax dollars, all must be funded.  If this bill does pass, it is going to be overturned in the Supreme Court and will no doubt cost Oklahoma taxpayers millions and millions of dollars to defend.  As Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, but render unto God what is God's."  Jesus suggested implied that the Apostle's should pay taxes.  If the Church wants the government to fund them, they should pay taxes too.  Vote NO on this silliness.

SQ792  (Alcohol Sales Reform)  YES):  This would allow grocers to sell booze and for liquor stores to sell mixers and the like.  This is the most simple "yes" vote that we have had in a very long time.  It's time to launch ourselves into the 21st century and vote yes on this one.

Well, there are the State Questions and no doubt I have pissed some of you off; particularly the supporters of 790.  Sorry, but these are my opinions and my thoughts on this mess and if you open your mind and think for a change, you'll see that my choices make good common sense.  Sure, it's all confusing, but we have to start voting a little smarter, don't we?  We've seen what bad votes have gotten us in the past and now is the time for a renewed mind.

Those are my opinions and I could be wrong, but you would be wrong in saying that I'm wrong.

Ron "Gorilla" Black

Thursday, October 27, 2016

What A World

It's been a little while, so I thought I'd better catch up and provide a little color commentary to the already jaded political and social landscape.  It's what you expect from me, so I choose not to disappoint.  Let's get after it, shall we?

POTUS:  What a train wreck.  How in the world we ended up with these two candidates is something that OU Political Science Professor Keith Gaddie will be writing about long into the future, but it befuddles the rest of us.  The Trump Train exists, in my opinion, as a rebellion move against the establishment of the GOP that has been virtually indistinguishable from the mainstream of the Democratic Party over the last decade.  Fortunately, we have three branches of government so two out of three will have to get us through the next four years.  I truly have no pony in this race at all and it looks like I may have to vote for the Libertarian just so I can preserve what is left of my tattered soul. 

Oklahoma County Sheriff:  This has turned into a barn-burner of a race, hasn't it?  The State Auditor released findings that basically showed that incumbent Democrat Sheriff John Whetsel has not been so adept at handling financial issues.  Of course, most of us with any functioning brain cells whatsoever have seen the disaster that is the Oklahoma County Jail; but at least we don't have to deal with Joyce Gilchrist any longer.  But I digress...  Representative Mike Christian is the GOP hopeful for the race and I've known Mike for a long time; we used to hunt and consume adult beverages together "back in the day."  I think I may even have some film from my old TV show with Mike on a hunt with us.  He has survived the turmoil of the Randy Terrill/Debbe Leftwich disaster that sent Terrill to jail.  Now, he is gunning for the Sheriff's badge.  This will be a close nail-biter of a race to watch and it's anyone's guess as to who will win this one.  

Oklahoma County Clerk:  David Hooten surprised everyone and found himself in a runoff with Carolyn Caudill and then he defeated her in the runoff.  Embattled former Speaker of the House, Lance Cargill, helped run the campaign and it is a pretty significant one to win.  There is a lot of taxpayer dollars involved in that office and a whole lot more than one would suspect.  Garnering the endorsements of two previous governor's, David Hooten will be facing the perennial Libertarian candidate, Chris Powell.  Hooten will run away with this race and soundly defeat Powell.  What will be interesting to watch, however, will be who Hooten brings into the County Clerk's office to work with him.  Who will be his Chief Deputy?  That pick will set the stage for either reform, or more of the same.  

As far as the Congressional races go, expect the incumbents to win easily.  The Oklahoma Congressional Delegation will remain in the grasp of the GOP as will House and Senate seats in the Oklahoma Legislature.

What a world in which we live.  God help us.

Of course, these are just my opinions and I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it.


Wednesday, September 07, 2016

And Another Thing...

Sometimes, I really hate politics.  The underhanded nature of things, the back room deals, the secret support of questionable candidates, the cover-ups, and the big-mouthed blathering of pundits (myself included) make the process a messy, disgusting aspect of American life but I can't seem to back away from it.  Maybe it is just a part of who I am, or maybe it's my innate desire to stir things up that keep me interested and as someone who likes history, it's fun to watch it repeat itself.  While a free electorate is what our forefathers intended, it's kind of become something altogether different, hasn't it?  It's just a big pile of rhetorical goo and we have to choose between candidates whom we think will do the least amount of damage rather than the most good for the country.

On a local level, we have a battle for County Sheriff that looks pretty interesting, but more than likely, it will turn out to be a tempest in a teapot.  The incumbent Sheriff, John Whetsel, is looking to win re-election with ease primarily because his opponent hasn't defined himself or worked to change the impressions of days past.  Mike Christian is a State Rep who was embroiled in the controversy that saw former Representative Randy Terrill spend time behind bars.  Christian was rumored to have testified against Terrill to save his own hiney, and that's what the vast majority of the public can remember about him.  He doesn't have any substantial legislation that changed lives in Oklahoma, he hasn't cured cancer, and he has failed to get his message out.  Mike is a good guy, but his consultants haven't done him any favors. 
Another race is that of the County Clerk.  Carolyn Caudill was defeated in the Republican primary by David Hooten; a man best known for his musical abilities and meat sauces available in many area grocery stores.  He will face Libertarian Chris Powell who hasn't really put forth too much effort in the campaign.  Hooten will win this one in a walk and then he and his consultant Lance Cargill (yes, that Lance) will find themselves in strange territory in Oklahoma County government.  But then again, the voters could surprise us all and vote for Powell.  Probably not, but maybe.
On a personal note, if y'all are available, stop by Bourbon Street Saturday night and listen to the reorganized Signal 8 Band.  We kick off the party at 9pm and play until the bartender throws us out or tells us to shut up.  Katie, Cal, Merv, and myself invite you to take a break from politics, a break from the madness that is every day life and slip away to music mayhem with us.  We'll be playing some of your favorite classic rock tunes as well as a couple originals that Katie wrote herself.  In other words, you will have a blast and we hope to see you there.  

See you soon!

Ron "Gorilla" Black

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Blair, Caudill, Reynolds Go Down

The Tuesday runoff election was one of the most entertaining to watch in a very long time.  While the voter turnout stank to high heaven, the results were surprising to say the least.  It's sad to see so few people heading to the polls but given the political climate, we should expect as much.  Campaigns have become mud slinging propaganda-fests that are void of truth and reality and most often filled to overflowing in lies and deceit.  

The 20-year incumbent in the County Clerk's office was unseated by a business owner who is best known for his trumpet and not for his prowess in political affairs.  Not only was Caudill defeated, but David Hooten beat her with an almost 2-to-1 ratio.  Caudill's office has been plagued with problems for many years; hell, I remember pointing out problems with her office back when I was the afternoon drive host on WKY.  There were those who thought I was being too mean, but it turns out that I was spot on in my analysis.  Caudill will, of course, get to take her retirement and ride off into the sunset but she will be riding out of town on a hog rather than a steed.  Hooten will take over in January and he will have his hands full.  Not saying that the County Clerk post is the most difficult and complex in all of County government, but it is certainly one of serious responsibility and sitting on the Budget Board to allocate dollars to and fro can be a daunting task.  Will he rubber-stamp the desires of the senior members of the Board or will he trumpet reform and accountability (see what I did there)?

Former State Representative Mike Reynolds ran for Cleveland County Court Clerk and was defeated by almost 1,000 votes by Marilyn Williams.  Reynolds was known for his "smaller government" stances while in the House of Representatives.  There were plenty Republicans in Cleveland County who were shocked that Reynolds lost to Williams and they will probably analyze that race for many weeks to come.  Williams went after Reynolds on her Facebook page calling him a "career politician," which is terribly ironic because Reynolds advocated for smaller government; except where he decides to run apparently.  No doubt we'll see Reynolds again somewhere because he is very active in the GOP and rather enjoys politics.  

The biggest and most fascinating race was Senate District 41 in Edmond where Air Force pilot Adam Pugh faced the Goliath that is the former football player-turned-pastor, Paul Blair.  Blair racked up a ton of endorsements including those from members of the State House and the former "Dr. No" of Congress, Tom Coburn.  In the past, an endorsement from Coburn almost guaranteed a victory. Blair even received the endorsement of Congressman Steve Russell who was involved in the capture of Saddam Hussein!  Blair also picked up the endorsement of former Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane and current Oklahoma County Democrat District Attorney David Prater.  Neither endorsement carried enough weight to push Blair beyond the relative newcomer, Adam Pugh.  Somehow, Pugh became the David of this David and Goliath match up and came out on top. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Good News Wednesday

Bad news, negative news, and depressing news have dominated this week and it has worn me slick.  Every now and again, we just need positive things to say to each other and to read about.  Today, I am doing my level best to provide something a little different to read and maybe put a smile on your face.  Let's start with police shootings...

Shootings:  The police officers killed in cold blood this last week were and are being memorialized in their communities and it is right that they be honored.  As a result of the shooting, those communities have largely rallied their support for the families of the officers and while their deaths are tragic and deplorable, people are starting to see just how dangerous the work of law enforcement can be and hopefully, are seeing how important a part of our society they are.  I know that I make sure that I stop and thank them whenever I see them for putting their lives on the line every day for people like you and me.

RNC:  Yes, it has been a circus and a series of mistakes and silly behavior, but we had the opportunity to meet the Trump family and get to know them just a little better.  So far, Donald's son has stolen the show and won the hearts of the GOP faithful.  See?  That's good news!  Oklahoma's Governor Mary Fallin will also get a chance to shine for a few minutes before The Donald's speech tomorrow evening as well, and let's face it; our Governor is a media darling.  

New 9 Street View (or something):  News 9 was showing off their new digital gadgetry for their helicopter today and to be honest, it's pretty cool.  As the camera man pans across the land, the streets and businesses show up superimposed on the area itself.  Imagine a see-through Google map overlay of the terrain and then, you will understand.  It is a big deal for law enforcement and for first responders who are chasing a bag guy, that's for sure  It is also going to come in handy on their storm chasing weather moments.  Plus, Oklahoma City is the first city to have such wizardry.  

Maybe I'm getting old or sentimental, but like the song goes, "we're all in this together," and political party doesn't matter where lives are at stake.  We all know better.   Let me leave you with this:

It could always be worse.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened at the GOP Convention

The entertainment level at the GOP Convention in Cleveland may take the title of "greatest show on earth" soon because the hits and misses just keep coming.  Whether it be the Colorado delegates stomping their feet and marching out of the Conventional Hall like a bunch of dope-smoking weenies, you have the doggone POTUS candidate's wife using Michelle Obama's speech!  What a bloody train wreck it has been and we've only just begun!  It is hilarious and tragically sad at the same time.  

It's insanity.  It's as thought the whole of the convention has been turned over to the children who are busy playing with their crayons and wetting their pants.

There is even a contingent who are staying away from the convention, headed up by the ever-pathetic John Kasich from Ohio who is by far the most liberal Republican to come of out the Republican Party in the last two decades.  Key Senators are avoiding the convention and it simply makes them look like petulant children who can't stand the heat and only proves that the people did the right thing by not voting for them at the polls (particularly Kasich).

And speaking of foot-stomping points of interest...

State Senator wanna-be Paul Blair, who happens to also be the pastor of one of Edmond's more active Baptist churches had a meeting/press conference where announced that his opponent had slandered him because of a photoshopped picture of the Pastor Blair.  Well, first, he's a public figure and as a result is open to be lampooned predicated on the 1st Amendment of the Constitution that he claims to have read and so vehemently supports.  Second, It is highly doubtful that his opponent has the ability to use Photoshop itself but rather an opponent of the former football player turned pastor turned candidate for State Senator.  

From the Oklahoman: 
Blair said Pugh’s supporters have also posted on social media that he has ties to Kansas’ Westboro Baptist Church.  
“These kind of baseless vile accusations can destroy a man’s reputation forever. And can destroy the reputation of a church forever,” Blair said Monday afternoon from the fourth floor press room inside the Oklahoma state Capitol. 
Pastor Blair had for himself quite the all-star lineup backing him; he had Congressman Steve Russell, term-limited House Rep Kevin Calvey, and other supporters by his side when he proclaimed that his opponent had slandered him.  The Scripture is clear about issues between brothers that they are supposed to take issues to one another in private and then if it isn't resolved, kick it up a notch.  Seems to me that Blair ignored the very Scriptures he preaches from.  

But I could be wrong.  One of the "tricks" in talk radio is to have someone known to the host call in to the show to disagree and to so with tenacity.  The aggregate result is that the loyal listeners circle the wagons and call in to support the talk show host.   Blair would never do that with his campaign, would he?  I don't think so.  

Blair doth protest too much, methinks.  You have to ask yourself why a former football player who heard the "call from God" to be in ministry now thinks the time has come to move to the realm of elected office.  From what I recall about the New Testament, Matthew 23 was pretty clear about what Jesus thought of the religious/political leaders of his day.  Thought the role of the Church was to make disciples, care for the sick, the elderly, the poor, the widows...not push for voters.  And he's talking about "slander?"  What?  He wants to be a State Senator but the pastor seems to have thinner skin than when he played football.

But what do I know?

On another local runoff front, things have been pretty quiet in the Oklahoma County Clerk race.  The embattled incumbent of about a hundred years, Carolynn Caudill, will  be facing trumpet-player and musician to the elected elite, David B. Hooten.  Hooten ran for the State Senate a couple years back and lost and now he found himself in a runoff with seasoned campaigner, Carolynn Caudill.  If Hooten thinks that she's just going to lay down and do nothing, he has a few things to learn about the incumbent County Clerk and her supporters who are already elected down at the County.  This is not going to be a walk in the park for the newcomer, but the talk is that he has former Speaker of the House Lance Cargill running his campaign.  This one has the potential to be an awesome race or fizzle and be a dud.  Wooten tends to be a bit soft-spoken, but giving credit where credit is due, the musician has gained the endorsements of former Governor Frank Keating and Governor Mary Fallin which means he must be pretty tough.  Hooten has the chance to blow Caudill out of the water, but he is going to have to start sounding his horn (see what I did there?).care 

Of course, my opinions don't really amount to much these days and I've been horribly wrong in the past.

The whole political climate right now is very sad and frightening for the GOP; or at least it should be.  The future of the party depends on its ability to be more inclusive, to recruit more women to run for office, and to have more people of color run and actually receive the support of their respective party offices.  So far, we're coming off like a bunch of xenophobic, redneck, racist dingleberries who are completely out of touch with culture.  Something has to be done and it isn't going to come from plagiarism nor will it come from pastors who are jumping the pulpit to run for public office.  

These are just my opinions and I could be wrong, but, in this case it is highly unlikely.

Ron "Gorilla" Black

Friday, July 08, 2016

We Never Learn

I woke up to the news this morning that 12 police officers had been shot and five were killed in the line of duty.  Apparently, a couple snipers took them out during a rally in the city of Dallas.  I watched the television with my mind racing but my heart saddened for this country and sad for all of the victims of gun violence over the last week.  It was one of those moments where I was almost speechless.  

The reactions have been predictable; some are blaming guns themselves as though they were/are self aware and that the only way to repair the damage is to increase gun control laws.  On the other hand, there are a few who are taking it in stride as though the events were merely casualties of freedom.  What is truly disturbing to me are the number of people who are trying to blame everyone; as though the guy down the street is responsible for shoplifting in Ardmore.  

No, we are not all to blame.  As a matter of fact the only people who are at fault are those who pulled the trigger and committed acts of murder.  Those people are responsible for the lives they took and should be prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law.  And don't blame the gun culture.  The guns used by law enforcement to kill innocents were assigned to them appropriately and history indicates that these officers had been investigated for excessive force previously.  It isn't the "gun culture," but rather the "idiot culture" that has seemed to permeate the fabric of society.  

It's a lesson that we never seem to learn; we try to blame everyone but the individuals directly responsible.  It's as though we feel that every tragedy is a mandate for some massive legislative shift when in fact, it's simply an example of how idiots behave when left to their own devices.  There are no laws against being an idiot, but when that idiot breaks existing laws, they should be prosecuted appropriately.  It doesn't make sense to take away the freedoms of all just because of an idiot.  

After the events of this last week, the hope is that we pull our collective heads out of our butts and begin to work together to address the disease of our culture rather than treating symptoms.  Here are some suggestions from your friendly Gorilla:

1.  Contact:  We need more time in person with one another.  Socialization that transcends social media will begin the process of experiencing the world outside of our little Facebook bubble.

2.  Compassion:  We are all created in the "imago Dei," (image of God) and need to express a little compassion towards one other once in a while.  If we have more human contact, compassion will be a natural result.  

3.  Common Ground:  When interacting with those around us, it's important to find common ground.  Rather than looking for things that separate us or divide us, diligently search for aspects of our human existence that tie us together.

There are exceptions, of course, and sometimes we will be able to identify the idiots who will never learn and in the process, we'll teach ourselves how to deal with them.

Of course, these are just my opinions and I could be wrong, but it's doubtful.  

Ron "Gorilla" Black

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Long Weekend Recovery

Independence Day weekend saw thousands of Oklahoma families hit the lake and campgrounds to enjoy a celebration of our nation's independence.  Some had fireworks, others had copious amounts of  alcohol to accompany said fireworks.  For yet others of us, we gathered with friends and family at the house; having a much more quiet and intimate celebration.  Either way, it was awesome to see people out and about enjoying the holiday.  

The long weekend came after what was decidedly a long week that was frustrating, shocking, disappointing, and it was capped off with a revelation that an Oklahoma City "icon" would be leaving.  The weeping and gnashing of teeth could be heard as far north as Nebraska as Oklahoma sportscasters announced with tears in their eyes that Kevin Durant was heading to San Francisco to play for Golden State.  

First, we had the weird results of the GOP primary, and then the news about Durant.  I suppose I was surprised at the sadness and mourning experienced by Oklahomans at the announcement that Durant was to take a two-year deal for around $50 million.  Two years; $50 million.  Oklahoma City is a good media market but there is no way we can compete with San Francisco; regardless of how many ferris wheels Kirk Humphries puts by the river.  We probably could have handled the salary, and there is no doubt whatsoever that the legislature would have made available even more tax breaks to the Thunder to keep him here.  But alas, his departure has caused great dismay.  

Take a breather for a moment and think about how Seattleites like myself felt when Clay Bennett and his band of boys took the Sonics from Seattle and moved them to Oklahoma City.  Perhaps now some Thunder fans will get an inkling of how we felt.  

Just remember OKC Thunder fans: The team could have been moved to Denton, Texas.

To top it all off, the FBI Director said that Hillary was careless with classified information but did not recommend that she be prosecuted.  In essence, they found plenty, but because her intent was not untoward, she should be allowed to go about her business.  To me, it's tantamount to letting a drunk driver off because he/she didn't intend to kill the innocent family, but rather it was nothing more than an accident and shouldn't be prosecuted.

We live in some seriously jacked up times.

When I was in the Navy, there was no way in hell that intent had anything to do with whether or not you were prosecuted for the mishandling of classified materials.  I suppose times have changed, but you can rest assured that if it were you and me under investigation for what Hillary did, our asses would be tried and hung long before it became public knowledge.  This once again proves that there are two sets of justice in this country:  One for the rich, one for the rest of us.  It's time to tip the scales and change things by almost any means necessary.

We will have a long time to recover from the events of the previous seven days and in November, it's time to take no prisoners.

Of course, this is just my opinion and I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it.

Ron "Gorilla" Black

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Still Shaking My Head

When you stop for a moment and critically listen to what is being said or being portrayed in the news, more often than not you will find yourself shaking your head and wondering just what in the hell it was that you just watched.  It's not limited to media, however; voters sometimes surprise us all with their decisions.

This past election cycle provided us with evidence that people have a tendency to be lazy and rarely look closely at the candidates.  The County Clerk race in Oklahoma County is a great example.  The aggregate result was a runoff with a beleaguered incumbent who should have been gone years ago and a trumpet player who is apparently a friend of the Keatings and of the Fallins.  We get to choose on the Republican side between a candidate with lots of really bad experience and another who really has no clue what goes on in the Clerk's office.  

We are so screwed and yes, I'm still shaking my head.

Then there is the terrorist attack madness in Turkey.  I watched video of terrorists shooting people and then blowing themselves up.  More than 20 people were killed and others injured by these animals and CBS showed it in all its horror but then they criticized Donald Trump for his hard line on terrorism and contrasted Hillary Clinton's more soft approach to interrogation techniques.  

I really shook my head after that one.

We live in increasingly bizarre times and I am still wondering how in the hell we ended up with the two candidates we have for POTUS in this day and age.  Look, I get the anger and frustration, but damn.  If this is the best we've got, we're in a whole lot of trouble.  The POTUS race is just one of many examples of how the decline of western civilization continues at an alarming pace.  We're afraid to handle terrorists as they should be handled, we elect career politicians with impunity, the news is filled to overflowing with death and destruction, and yes, we still have men and women in uniform fighting overseas with their hands tied behind their back.

If that doesn't make you shake your head, you're part of the problem.

What are some of the solutions?  Here are my recommendations:

1.  Limit the amount of news we watch and when we watch the news, stick to local news and leave the national news to the mind-numbed dill weeds.

2.  Limit negativity.  There are some people in our lives who live to be negative, to find a problem in every little thing.  Eliminate these people from our lives and at least limit our exposure.  There are people who wake up every single morning with a million excuses and rants about why you can't do something and they are full-tilt energy sucking leeches.  Scrape 'em off.

3.  Be positive.  Challenge ourselves to spend a few moments each day to do the whole positive affirmation thing.  It may seem corny at first, but there is a lack of positivity and when you encourage yourself and encourage those around you, the possibilities become endless.

4.  Be happy.  We are alive, we are breathing, and we still live in the greatest country in the world and that should make us happy.  Share some happiness with your friends and loved ones and watch how the environment begins to shift.  

Yeah, there are times that make us shake our heads as we look around and see the soup sandwich that is our screwed up culture, but there are also opportunities to be an agent of change.  I challenge you to be the change; to be the person that inspires others.  We can do this.  

Of course, these are my opinions and I could be wrong.  Or not.

Ron "Gorilla" Black

Sunday, June 26, 2016

What A Week!

It's been a fun, exciting, and challenging week and I thought I would take a few moments to share some of the excitement with you!

First, Signal 8 Band (my band) is starting to really come together with the new members.  We are pumped up and looking forward to our maiden voyage at the Blowout Club in Guthrie, July 15.  We have an intense set list, great entertainment, and a group of guys who are chomping at the bit to perform for you.  If you can clear your schedule, you're invited to come out and watch us jam the night away with classic rock, contemporary country, and even some pop tunes by folks like the Gin Blossoms.  

Second, you have no doubt seen the Fox 25 report about the County Clerk's race wherein the incumbent Carolynn Caudill had former Governor Frank Keating on a mailer endorsing her.  The truth of the matter is that she did not, in fact, have Governor Keating's endorsement or anything like it.  She also listed endorsements from a couple folks who are actually deceased.  Of course, this isn't the first time that she's run into trouble; she was arrested for DUI and leaving the scene of an accident and had most recently tried to get the record expunged.  In my not-so-humble opinion, she has become the poster child for everything that is wrong with politics.  This is not an ad hominem attack, but rather stating the facts.  One can only hope that the taxpayers and voters of Oklahoma County realize that it's time for a change and will vote for someone with private sector and public sector experience who won't be an embarrassment to Oklahoma County.  Which is why I support Charlie Phillips whole heartedly.  She is the real deal and I don't toss that kind of a statement around.  There is more to the story about some of Caudill's shenanigans and will be reported on Monday on Fox 25.  Phil Cross is the only television reporter with the stones to report this stuff.

Third, floods on the east coast have cost people their lives and then, the news of the Duncan boy with autism came out that his body was recovered and that he is deceased.  It's tragic and horrifying and to hear of a young child losing his life is nothing short of heartbreaking.  Seeing his picture on the news brought forth images of grieving parents, friends, and supporters and it makes one wonder just what in the heck is happening to us as a nation and as human beings.  We can only hope that the boy is now with the Father and that his parents will somehow find a way scratch and claw their way back.

Fourth, I don't know if you know about this cool little place by downtown where there is music on the weekends, food trucks and a light atmosphere.  We saw a friend perform some folk music there and it was absolutely amazing.  It's located just north/behind the OKC Farmer's Market and it is most assuredly a family-friendly environment; some people even brought their dogs.  Highly recommend it to you and the family.   These types of places are popping up all over Central Oklahoma and in my estimation, it is a good thing for the City.  There is an added element of culture that one comes to expect from much larger metropolitan areas.

Lastly, do yourself a favor and shake the hand of a veteran and tell him or her thank you.  We have so much hero worship in this country and have a disgusting propensity to forget the ones who lay down their lives for our freedoms.  There are a lot of idiots in politics, but it's because of our veterans that we can even have idiots in politics.

These are just my opinions and I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it.

Ron "Gorilla" Black

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cretins in the Mist

Nobody likes vandals.  Nobody likes to see the damage that vandals do on a regular basis.  But when it comes to political vandalism, it is an indicator that there truly is trouble in River City.  

I've written about Charlie Phillips previously in her bid to rehabilitate the staggering Oklahoma County Clerk's office and a few things have changed since our last correspondence.  Charlie has been doing all of the right things that politicians should do; parades, presenting her position, knocking doors, putting up signage, and meeting with future constituents.  Apparently, she has done a great job because politically-blind cretins have attacked her numerous signs and your lowly Gorilla has a few ideas as to why this is happening.

First, I am convinced that whomever recently sawed Charlie Phillips' billboard in quarters is a person who probably needs to have face time with a mental health professional.  For the reasons below, the type of individual or individuals who have defaced and destroyed her signs are a danger to our city and our county and should be dealt with according.

Charlie Phillips
Second, we often try to destroy what we fear.  Whomever defaced and destroyed her signs are afraid that now Charlie is the front runner and they need to reduce her name recognition by any means necessary; even if it means destroying private property.

Third, Charlie's opponents or opponents' supporters have committed a crime, but because it is a political set of signs, law enforcement might be reticent to get involved.  If they did and found out who was responsible, the news would probably rock the county at its core.

Fourth, political insiders often find it funny to destroy their opponents' signage.  That's right, there are those who are greatly amused by taking or destroying political signs.  It's sad, but during the election cycle, the cretins are easily awakened and they always find something with which to amuse themselves.

It's true that I've done work for Charlie and that I unashamedly support her for County Clerk.  If you recall my days on WKY, I was always critical of the incumbent and while there was another host who supported her because of his "regular employment," I never budged for even a second.  I haven't changed my mind and for those of you who know how greatly I despise the little oligarchy of elected officials in county government, it shouldn't be a surprise to you that I support Charlie Phillips for County Clerk.

Oh, and some of the signs that were vandalized yesterday were vandalized again today.  Bless their little pea-picking hearts.

Some of you reading this may consider defacing or destroying political signage to be no big deal or merely something to be expected in politics.  That's how bad things have gotten in politics when we expect bad stuff to happen.   However, I also say that you're part of the problem with the political process.  If you think it's funny, cute, sly, or even "the right thing to do" to vandalize the property of others, do us all a favor and don't breed.  

Of course, this is just my opinion and I could be wrong, but I'm not.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What Did You Expect?

To lighten the mood a bit, I've decided to take tidbits from the news and from social media and ask one of the most profound questions in all of history:  What did you expect?  These are morsels of truth that no one really likes to swallow but are as necessary for survival as oxygen; and we need to laugh at and with ourselves once in a while.  

Journalist Who Profiled Melania Trump Files Police Report After Getting Threats:  What did this journalist expect?  She pulls no punches in a story about the wife of a bombastic and incendiary POTUS candidate and she gets threats.  This should be under the "profound grasp of the obvious" file because there is no doubt she knew (Julia Ioffe) that it was inviting trouble.  You can't jump into a pit of vipers and then bitch about the fact that your dumb little butt got bit.  I'm not saying that threats are a good thing and neither am I justifying them.  I'm just saying that when you're in the media and you stir up some poop, you have to expect to get some poop on you yourself.  

Raising Taxes to Solve Revenue Problem:  Our legislature in Oklahoma as well as the Governor herself have considered that one way to solve the "problem" of an income crisis is to raise taxes on citizens, but to leave in place countless incentives for the richest among us.  For example, the Thunder organization is not required to pay payroll taxes on their massive payroll.  This benefits the multi-million dollar players and the millionaire owners, but doesn't do a damned thing for the average working Joe in Oklahoma.  Yes, I know that the Thunder has become a sacred cow in Oklahoma City, but the truth is what it is.  They receive a ridiculous incentive that they just don't need.  Yet, it is not just limited to the Thunder, but rather extends to the rich and famous in Oklahoma.  Instead, they are planning to raise taxes on cigarettes (again) because Medicaid needs the money and they want to toss some by way of the education infrastructure.  But what did we expect when we elected this particularly raw group of narcissists?  We knew that it was fame and fortune for them and for most of them in office, it's the best job they will ever have.  What did we expect, really?

American Ninja Warrior at the Capitol:  ANW is filming in Oklahoma and they are filming in the parking lot of the methane gas filled dome.  Seriously?  What did we expect?  It's the perfect location for horseplay such as that.

Axl Rose Singing for AC/DC:  The response has been tepid at best where the Guns-N-Roses front man heading up AC/DC is concerned and really, we shouldn't be surprised.  Live performances when Rose was in his prime were always a crap-shoot, and now that he is forced to sit on a throne because of a broken leg and screech out what we thought were AC/DC tunes, he sounds like a cat that needs to be put down with impunity.   

Hillary Targets Female Voters, Attacking Trump's Standing With Women:  Hillary has most meat-eating conservatives on the right chomping at the bit to see her in jail and most of the Hillary-haters are men so, it should not be a surprise at all when we see Hillary trying to cuddle up to the female voters in the attempt to make Trump look like a big meanie who hates girls.  Trump doesn't have the greatest family values record, to be sure, and admittedly, neither do I.  But there are a ton of Americans who have grown tired of the chest-thumping of the dominionists who want to run the country (and state) like a theocracy.  They want efficacy and a no-holds barred approach to problem solving; not a bunch of hand-wringing bed-wetters who are strong only on religious issues, but are sissies where issues of Constitutional import are concerned.  It was predicted that this would be the way she would steer her strategy.

These were just a few issues and problems that were just too funny not to mention and do so with a sense of humor.  We live in wickedly weird times, my friends and it's only going to get more strange.

Of course, these are just my not-so-humble opinions and I could be wrong.  But, no.  I'm not.


Monday, May 09, 2016

HLK Bombshell Review

Hard Luck Kings is a small manufacturer of custom guitars in California and have been known for their ability to make what they call "tour ready" guitars that are sturdy, inexpensive, and sound great.  When they put their "Bombshell" guitar on special, I had to have one and the price was absolutely right.  I thought that this would be the deal of a lifetime.

I was wrong.

Pictured right is their website and there is a lovely picture of the guitar I purchased.  The matte green and black just made for a badass looking guitar and after listening to some reviews and samplings on YouTube for that model, I was sold.  The "Tour Ready Gear" advertisement was a bonus because most guitars require a ridiculous amount of adjustment before they are ready to gig.

I couldn't tell you how excited I was when it arrived.  I opened the shipping box and made sure that everything was there and after the satisfactory inventory, I pulled it out of the box, plugged it in and tuned it.  The first thing I noticed was that it was a sonofabitch to keep in tune.  I attributed it at first to new strings but after a few hours of tuning, playing, tuning, playing, and tuning again, I could tell that something was wrong.  

The finish was as nice as they said it would be but there were blemishes on the head stock and on the body.  The plastic cover on the pick guard was trashed and it was obvious that this guitar had to be a return because it had clearly been played hard.  For the price, I thought that it was still going to work out okay regardless.

The next thing was the buzzing of the strings all over the fingerboard.  This meant that a truss rod adjustment was in order and after the adjustments, the buzzing was reduced a bit.  The next problem was the intonation itself and that became a serious issue.

At the 12th fret, the strings were almost a half step sharp with all of the strings so, again, my trusty tools were busted out and adjustments were made on the bridge itself and then, more of the truss rod adjustment.  After contacting customer service and then watching countless videos about the problem, I came as close as I possibly could to fixing the problem, but it will always be an issue to some degree because of how the guitar is made/put together.

The last problem I had was when I noticed that the nut was uneven in string position.  The low E and A strings were higher than the others.  I replaced the strings with lighter gauge strings (which I did not want to do), it was still a problem but when I was tuning, the notch for the low E just busted clean off of the nut.  

Of course, weeks had passed and therefore I had gone beyond the "return policy" so it looks like I am going to have to have another nut set on the neck and ignore the rest of the problems or just never ever play live with it ever.  

The neck feels and felt great, but the pickups aren't "hot" as advertised and in addition, I was not prepared for the amount of noise they generate.  Some noise is to be expected with a single coil setup, but this sounded like a cheap tape recorder microphone was used for the pickups rather than something with even marginal quality.  In all fairness, the bridge pickup isn't bad; it just isn't great.

So, what is the Gorilla's recommendation with regard Hard Luck Kings?

Always remember that you get what you pay for and rarely will you find discounted music gear being a good value.  This was the case with my Hard Luck Kings Bombshell.  If you want to try your luck with Hard Luck Kings, I recommend you do so with a note on your calendar for the return policy and stay within those parameters.  I've seen people who are amazingly satisfied with their HLK gear, but I wasn't one of them.  "Tour Ready" doesn't necessarily mean "gig ready" in my opinion.  Perhaps what they mean is that you can use these guitars on tour as a distraction for would-be thieves to steal them rather than your real live gear.  

Many have had great experiences with HLK and I applaud them for that.  I'm sure that they purchased gear that was not on sale or were simply fortunate wherein I was not so fortunate. 

Conversely, I went out to Shawnee to Music Unlimited and picked up a Jackson on sale for the same price and guess what?  It is spot on.  They adjusted it before I left and it has been one hell of a work horse from day one.  The staff and ownership at Music Unlimited were all really helpful and they were happy to see folks from outside of Shawnee come down to visit.  They have a great selection of Fender, Jackson, PRS, and other brands that you expect to see at another, larger store.  It's a great place to make purchases.  Highly recommended.

Of course, these were all my personal experiences and opinions and I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it.