Sawyer Fredericks

I don’t make a point of watching television talent contests. Flipping through the channels, a chance introduction to Sawyer Fredericks changed all that. Fredericks auditioned for “The Voice”, his presence dictated setting my PVR to record.

Week after week, this farm boy from upstate New York commanded full attention. I found myself rushing home on “Voice” nights, impatiently fast forwarding to his performance. Tonight, 17 year old Fredericks won The Voice.

Every so often we’re gifted with extraordinary talent, people born for no other purpose than to sing. Sawyer Fredericks is destined to become one of America’s great musical voices.

Take a moment to watch these video clips – ponder the pure joy of Sawyer Fredericks.

My Farewell To B.B. King

News of B.B. King’s passing on May 14, 2015 opened a chapter of personal experience. Others can write about his life, my farewell is to the man I met one night in 1998.

My position at the arena dictated impeccable implementation and  supervision of all catering requests – media, private, suites, dressing rooms and “backstage”. Backstage demanded certain levels of finesse and patience – I won’t name names, suffice to say painting nails red on bowls of raw chicken feet or sanitizing and individually wrapping every last knife, fork and spoon where just another day at the office. Every so often, along came artists void of absurd demands, obnoxious sense of importance or frivolous indulgences. Artists who didn’t insist I fire any employee who look them in the eye. Artists like Carlos Santana, Harry Connick Jr. and B.B. King.

King entered with barely a whimper of introduction, oblivious to the magnitude of his gift. If joy could be packaged, King would be the one wrapping parcels. His presence enveloped the room with an energy so extraordinary, I witnessed impromptu bouts of unabashed laughter erupt. He wasn’t there for the media, money or affirmation of self. I doubt it would have mattered if a dozen or 20,000 were in the audience – he needed to play.

Watching him before the show, I was struck by the effortless interaction between King, his musicians, road crew and my staff. In his world everyone was equal. His road crew didn’t coddle or scurry about in a state of precautionary nervous tension. It didn’t take long to realize genuine fondness and respect obliterated the need for anything other than King’s desire to play.

After the concert I expected him to hastily leave the building, most artists made a B-line for their hotel. Not King, for him the evening had just begun. He didn’t retreat to a dressing room or sequester himself away, King sat down backstage, smack dab in the middle of the concourse, talking to anyone inclined to pass by. I assure you, scores of people found themselves drawn to his impromptu court. An hour passed, then two. Sometime around 2 AM King motioned as I passed by. “Darlin’, I could really use some BBQ potato chips”. When I returned a few minutes later, chips in one hand, he took my free hand pressing something into the palm.

To this day, one of my treasured possessions is the gold necklace King placed in my hand. A pendant commemorating the tour with cities and dates. To ponder B.B. King is to appreciate the magnitude of his ability to elicit a celebration of life. King embraced his life’s purpose, never once forgetting that every voice counts.

12 hours spent in the presence of B.B. King profoundly altered my perception of living with an eye to a greater good. B.B. King taught me to slow down, enjoy the moment and relax – farewell Mr. King, I’ll miss you.


Foul Bush

I’m a firm believer in remembering certain events – events possessing unprecedented magnitude, implications, historic value or perspective altering ramifications. Pondering collective memories in my lifetime, I find it difficult to capsulize “events” without evoking the personal anguish of news coverage the morning 9/11 unfolded or the absurdity of Hurricane Katrina.

9/11 played out on a Tuesday morning – rather than the kids breakfast before school, or dressing for work, our family sat together in a state of collective paralysis, struggling to comprehend the enormity of witness. 9/11 meant fundamental changes to the world we knew, our lives would never be the same. 9/11 was pivotal in my lifetime, a moment etched in the annuls of profound historical shake-ups. 9/11 will never languish in dusty corners of memory, it can’t be forgotten.

Hurricane Katrina on the other hand teeters on the precipice of obscurity. For all the horror and emotion of 9/11, Katrina is the one responsible for painting a public face on the underbelly of America. To this day no amount of pondering can make sense of the absurdity.

Enter the George W. Bush Museum and Library in Dallas, Texas. Since May of 2013 scores  have crossed the threshold,  falling down a rabbit hole into a revisionist parallel universe ruled by the hubris of George W. Bush. Visitors are presented with interactive installations offering “choices” of action in the face of adversity. “what would you do as  Bush” games give 3 response scenarios post Katrina, all aimed at how to “restore order”. Would you rely on local forces, send troops without police powers or use the Insurrection Act? Don’t hold your breath in expectation of  implementing humanitarian aid or evacuation – put yourself in the shoes of a inept imbecile overwhelmed by the burden of “restoring order”.  No mention of nincompoops at FEMA, no hint of abysmal failure to respond, not a whiff of anything but contempt for hordes of desperate citizens.

To this day,alarming numbers of white Americans scratch their asses while clucking over the mentality of poor urban blacks. Viewed as morally vacant, assumed to be lawless looters responsible for the rift in polite acceptance of the status quo. The George W. Bush Museum epitomizes the ignorant assumption of disorder once the Negroes get “uppity”.

Take a moment to watch this video from the Rachel Maddow show. America needs to remember Hurricane Katrina, it’s every bit if not more important than 9/11.

Curious Martian Sunset

April 15, 2015 NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover spent the 956th day of its’ Martian mission deploying “mast cameras” from a position within the Gale Crater. Hoping to capture a transit of Mercury, Curiosity took 6.51 minutes to immortalize this time-lapse compilation of a Martian sunset. Ponder Curiosity’s first colour sunset from Mars.

View larger. | Mars sunset in Gale Crater, Sol 956, Wednesday, April 15, 2015.  Image via 34mm MastCam on Mars Curiosity rover.  Image via NASA / JPL / Malin Space Science Systems.



Pondering Light Years

Technology capable of imaging cosmic formations at unattainable distances from Earth, led to pondering light years. Most everyone knows the terminology, understanding at some level the vast, unimaginable scope of our universe. I find myself wondering how many actually comprehend the magnitude of a light year. In the spirit of imagination and wonder – my armchair grasp of light years….

Light reigns as “fastest” in the known universe – 186,000 miles per second to be precise. To put this in perspective, in a single second traveling at the speed of light you would circle the equator 7.5 times. Multiplying the number of seconds in a year by the speed per second, you would have to cover 5.88 trillion miles in a year. Putting close to 6 trillion miles a year in perspective is mind numbing. Try picturing a light minute – it takes about 8 minutes for sunlight to travel 93 million miles to Earth. Visualize 525,600 minutes in a year, ponder 8 of those minutes evaporating in 93 million miles to the Sun.

American astronomer Robert Burnham Jr. published Burnham’s Celestial Handbook in various forms between 1966-1978. Burnham popularized the astronomical unit or AU. One AU = 93 million miles and/or 8 minutes of light speed. Coincidentally the number of AU in a light year and inches in a mile happen to be 63,000. All you have to do now is draw a mile long line in the sand to represent a light year – one inch of that line is the distance to our sun.

Extend that mile long line to slightly over 4 miles, you’ve arrived at Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to our own, 276,000 times the distance from Earth to the Sun. If modern technology attempted the 4 light year road trip to Alpha Centauri – it would take well over 100,000 Earth years.

Ponder 26,000 light years to reach the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, estimated to be over 150,000 light years wide. The Andromeda galaxy is 2 million light years away.

Contemplating light years is heady stuff. The next time you gaze at night’s sky, take a moment to wonder. Ask yourself how  long it took for starlight to cross the cosmos.