Archive for June, 2009

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TORMENTED TITAN

June 27, 2009

TormentedTitanLOGO

As a professional musician, I have enormous respect for Michael Jackson’s contribution to music. MJ01Of the 12 solo albums he released, the three that really spoke to me were Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad. That music, put to electrifying live performances that have never been matched – and often poorly copied – produced a once-in-a-lifetime entertainer.

 

MJ02

 

 

 

That’s the Michael most of us will remember.

 

 

There was, of course, the tormented Michael that succumbed to his “demons.”

MJ03

 

We witnessed, with dismay and concern, his album-by-album physical disfigurement, the unhealthy desire to be child-like, the accusations of pedophilia and the anorexia that took him from a vibrant, energetic singer and dancer to a 5’10” man whose stage outfits probably weighed more than him when he passed.

 

MJ04We can only speculate about some aspects of his life: the strained relationship with his father, his unusually close friendships with Diana Ross and Elizabeth Taylor, the sister who seemed to be closest to him (La Toya) and the one who seemed the most distant (Janet).

 

 

MJ05

 

Michael’s “inner circle” kept him a mystery to us, often misleading the press of his whereabouts, his health, his relationships and his lifestyle.

 

 

MJ06

 

 

There was the Michael that donated millions to fight childhood hunger in this country and around the world.

 

 MJ07

 

Those that believe he was a pedophile (he was acquitted in one trial and settled out of court in the other) say that his desire to help children was his way of getting close to them.

 

 

MJ08

 

Their reasoning is that pedophiles notoriuously take jobs in venues that keep them in close proximity to children such as schools, little league sports, Sunday school, etc.

 

 

MJ09

 

I’m glad we will never know for certain. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

At 2:26pm on June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson left a painful life here on earth to be in peace.  

The hurt is now gone.

 

MJ10

 

Those of us still on this earthly plane will be inundated with story after story about his life – the triumphs and the tragedies – and his death.

 

 

MJ11

 

 

We’ll grow weary of hearing about how great he was, or how pathetic he was, or the combination of both.

 

 

MJ12 

 

Once all this has passed, we will be left with the incredible gift he gave to the world – his music.

 

 

 

Sing and dance with the angels, Michael.

They will welcome you.

MJ14

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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MAN-CRUSH?

June 26, 2009

Man-Crush copy

One of them is married to a very wealthy woman – the other has never been married.

Every time one speaks on an issue,

the other follows on the same issue, using nearly identical words.

Both can be seen together in hundreds of pictures – everywhere!

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So, what’s the deal?

I know many are throwing around the idea that Lindsey Graham is gay. If that’s the case, why is he so enamored with John McCain? It’s doubtful that McCain is gay.

And while we’re on the subject of being enamored with McCain, what is Joe Lieberman’s story? Why does it seem that Joe and Lindsey – who don’t appear to be close friends – both have a man-crush on McCain, while Cindy seems very aloof around John? What do they know about McCain that neither Cindy nor any of us know about him?

Being the imaginative person that I am, I could speculate on a variety of scenarios, some of which could create lingering mental images that I don’t want to be held responsible for.

Apparently, Vanity Fair doesn’t share my concern.

VanityFair

I hope I’ve maintained my dignity.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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20TH CENTURY FOX

June 24, 2009

20thCenturyFoxLOGO 

We all know that FOX News has always topped the TV ratings  for cable news.

That’s a problem – for FOX News.

Millions of people are moving away from watching news on TVs to watching news on their PCs and cell phones.

FOX has been outfoxed in the last two election cycles.

What’s the most visited online news website? MSNBC. According to the latest Nielson Ratings, in March, 2009, MSNBC topped the online ratings list with 39,900,000 hits to FOX News’ 16,800,000. Add to this the tens of millions that went to YouTube during the last two election cycles, and it’s not hard to understand that traditional TV news viewership is rapidly decreasing.

Internet traffic numbers are only part of MSNBC’s website success.

MSNBC’s parent company is a partnership between Microsoft and NBC (which is owned by General Electric). With Microsoft as one of your owners, there’s a good chance your website is going to be second-to-none – and theirs is. Add to that the fact that NBC News uses MSNBC’s website for THEIR programs and you have a very powerful online news website. It even beats CNN’s online traffic.

This is why you hear FOX News commentators railing against NBC and GE, with conspiracy theories, conflicts of interest stories, etc. Here’s one of many, many examples:

It’s not surprising that they’ve created this dialogue about the NBC family. FNC’s parent company, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, lost over $6,000,000,000 (that’s BILLION dollars) last year.

So why doesn’t FOX News’ TV ratings translate into big ratings for website viewership?

Most of FNC’s TV audience is above the age of 45. Generally speaking, that demographic is not nearly as internet savvy as the 34 to 45 and 18 to 33 demographics. They are also less educated in the latest technologies. Ten years ago, that didn’t matter. Today, it’s critical. The 45+ demographic that watches cable TV news, while having very loyal FNC viewers, is no longer large enough for FOX News to help Republicans win national elections. The 21st Century has moved beyond FOX News.

I can attest to these facts based on the people I know that are avid FOX News fans. Most are not computer literate. Many are at least my age or older. Those that are younger than me do not spend time researching information. Whether it’s from a lack of computer knowledge, or a lack of desire, I can’t be sure. These are the people that FOX News counts on – what I called the “Low Information Voter” in Faith Trumps Fear. Some of these people are family members as I wrote in Twelve Words and Yes, I’m Going There.

MSNBC, whose TV ratings are still far less than FNC’s, does not seem to be worried. Their ratings are increasing drastically and they managed to edge out CNN during primetime in March, 2009.

One more thing that gives MSNBC TV an edge is NBC. Contrary to what FNC spews about NBC, Brian Williams is #1 in the 6:30pm news ratings. Their news department is one of the most widely acclaimed in the industry for its fact-based reporting.

FOX News will never have the talent or gravitas of NBC, Microsoft or MSNBC.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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CRANIAL FLATULENCE VOL. 3

June 22, 2009

Flatulence

One of the things that separates us from other mammals is the power to reason.

Then there’s this guy.

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I’m not sure I want to see the next slide.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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CRANIAL FLATULENCE VOL. 2

June 22, 2009

 Flatulence

Now that it’s summer, I thought drivers would be a fun topic for the series.

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There’s nothing to add.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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TWELVE WORDS

June 21, 2009

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“Anyone who can make you believe absurdities,

can make you commit atrocities.”

I know. I know. It’s just a bumper sticker.

But words are powerful. I wrote them down and drove off. As I continued running my errands that day, the sentence stayed with me. When I had the opportunity, I did a little “googling.”

With the exception of one word, the sentence is a quote from François-Marie Arouet, whose pen name is Voltaire. (He used the word “those” instead of “anyone.) After doing a little more research, I learned that this man was a bit of a non-conformist in his day. A contrarian, much like me.

A few days later, I was visiting with family and as is often the case, I started hearing FOX News/Rush Limbaugh talking points. “We’re losing our freedoms, one by one.” “We’re slowly becoming a European country” and “Our image around the world is weakening.” I listened to about three minutes of it, temporarily excused myself, and called my wife to tell her I was on my way.

As I was driving home, I remembered the Voltaire quote. While I know that no one in my family is capable of committing atrocities, I also know there are those who listen to hateful language from TV commentators and radio talk show hosts, day in and day out, that take these words to heart. Sadly and pathetically, some act on them.

Police officers killed in Pennsylvania because the shooter believed that President Obama was going to take his guns away. Where did he get that idea?

Dr. George Tiller murdered for performing legal medical procedures. Where did this gunman get the idea that Dr. Tiller was illegally killing babies?

To be sure, Bill O’Reilly is not Walter Conkrite and Keith Olbermann is not Tom Brokaw.

The 21st century, while bringing us incredible information technology, has also forced conventional media to move away from truth-telling to what has been called “Tabloid Television” and “Shock Radio.” The days of truthful television and radio “news” programs are all but gone.

If you are looking for the truth, unfortunately, you have to search for it. Fortunately, we have the internet. Yes, there’s plenty of spin there as well, but there are also plenty of facts. It’s not hard to discern the difference. The internet was responsible for the outcomes in the 2006 and 2008 elections. People started researching the “facts” heard on TV and radio, learned the truth about those “facts,” and voted accordingly. The corporate “noise machines” were not able to control the message, regardless of how many TV affiliates, radio stations and newspapers they owned. TV and radio ratings are becoming less and less significant. Internet traffic to news and information/video websites is the future.

Hearing absurdities from commentators is entertaining. Hearing them repeated by family members is something entirely different. My reaction is a mixture of surprise and sadness. The surprise is that these are educated people with good jobs and young families. The sadness – and concern – is for the children. What’s the take-away message for them when they hear their parents talking like this? No hope? No freedom? No future? No security? Hate? Fear?

Just a bumper sticker?

Really?

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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THANK YOU, TIM

June 16, 2009

ThankYouTimLOGO

One of my co-workers walked over to me on that June afternoon, with a sullen face. He knew I followed politics, so he thought I might be interested.

“Tim Russert just died.”

“What? No. You mean his dad just died – his name is Tim, too.”

“No, the TV Tim Russert died.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Tim was only five months older than me. How could he have passed at such a young age? I immediately took a minute to read the breaking news on the MSNBC website. It was true. One of the most beloved newsmen on TV was never again going to share that smile with the world.

Later that Friday evening, my wife and I sat on the couch, literally in tears, as we watched the story unfold.

Neither one of us realized how much this man was a part of our lives. His was always the most insightful, intelligent, well prepared and executed Sunday Morning News program. Nothing else came close. If you wanted the truth and the facts on the issues, it was always Meet the Press with Tim Russert.

His wife, Maureen and their son, Luke, both exhibited extraordinary strength through what had to be the most difficult days of their lives. No amount of consoling can reduce that sense of loss. Only time helps.

As I sat on the couch that night, it dawned on me that Tim, sitting at his desk, passed doing what he loved. His passion for life, combined with an unyielding work ethic that no doubt doubled the forty-hour work week was evident in everything he did. He had an energetic zeal that few could match. Some might say that’s what killed him. True or not, he left this earth living life to the fullest.

This event made me take a look at my life. At the time, I had a forty-hour-a-week job. I also helped out with our small church’s needs by handling the administrative work, the website, recording and mastering the CDs of the service and performing every Sunday morning. It added an additional twenty-five hours to my “work week.”

Late into the night, I silently asked myself this question: “Although each week is filled, is it fulfilling?” I enjoy my job – but it’s just that – a job. I work with very nice people in an environment that most would call enviable. The service to my church, while gratifying, encompasses so much in so many areas, that by Sunday afternoon, I am exhausted. Then it starts all over again Monday morning at 6:00am.

So the answer to my question was… no.

As sad as it is to think Tim’s passing helped wake me up to my life’s reality, that’s exactly what happened. I have a feeling millions across this country took a hard look at their lives in much the same way. Knowing what I know of Tim, he would be happy to know that he once again helped others, even at this sad time.

That was a year ago.

Today things are different. I relinquished my responsibilities to the church. The minister completely understood.

Now that I’m no longer exhausted from seven day work weeks, my desire to be involved in something creative is front and center. I’m in a new musical group which is still in rehearsals and will be ready to go public late in the year. In addition, I’ve started blogging, of all things. Who knew I would enjoy this? (Actually, my son, Adam, did.)

To say that both projects keep me busy is an understatement. My creativity is surfacing in so many different ways. Musically, my vocal and instrumental skills are growing – even at my tender age of fifty-eight. I’m improving my “chops” on the keys, singing styles of material that are new to me, and really expanding my repertoire.

TypewriterKeys

Blogging is the surprise. I never enjoyed writing when I was in school. I did only what was required to get a decent grade. The rest of my time was spent at a piano keyboard, not a typewriter keyboard. (Insert age joke here.) Now? I can’t wait to get to my next post. The ideas are endless. I’m not able to get to them fast enough.

PianokeysBecause I create a graphic for each post, I am also tapping into a different creativity. In addition, blogging has taught me a great deal about how to write with precision and clarity. It appears I may have learned a few things in those English Literature Classes.

Imagine that!

Thank you, Tim.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com