Saturday, December 23, 2006

Prison reform

I just sent this off to the governor of California. Arnold is having a lot of problems with prison reform. Perhaps this will give him some ideas on how to effectively deal with the problem.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

I couldn't sleep this morning. It's now 1:40 a.m. and I just watched part of a TV show entitled "Lockup". It outraged me beyond belief that we are paying for these animals, who have been sentenced to long terms in prison including life without parole, to be "rehabilitated" inasmuch as they are encouraged to "behave" so that they can be "released” into the general prison population. My immediate question is "Why?" As I see it, there is no reason to allow criminals to have any type of relationship with other criminals. All that results from such stupidity is to educate criminals on how to be better criminals. It also is the source of riots and mobs scenes. Libraries are full of books that document criminal's stories of how they learned to be better at beating the law in jail. And we're paying for it!

To my way of thinking, there is only one solution to crime. Anyone who is sentenced to jail time for any crime whatsoever should be in solitary confinement. Criminals inflict cruel and unusual punishment on their victims regardless of the severity of the crime. If you've never been the victim of a crime such as a mugging or a burglary of your home or a drunk driver killing one of your relatives, you probably have difficulty understanding it's cruel and unusual punishment for being a law abiding member of society. Any way you look at it, prisoners that have been convicted of a crime should not be allowed to learn how to commit more crimes in a more efficient manner. That simply means learning to commit crimes without getting caught. And that's exactly what U.C.I. (University of Crime Instruction) does for the bumbling fools that get caught. It makes them "better" criminals because they learn from old time criminals how to beat the system. They should also not be allowed to stir up trouble amongst the prison population. After all, isn't that their history from their earliest times in school?

When you actually delve into the prison systems that allow interaction between all members of a prison population, you find that about 80% of the populations of every prison system are recidivists (repeat offenders). When you study the prison systems that deal with solitary confinement, the repeat offenders are much less. When interviewing these former inmates, the information comes out that most of them swear up one side and down the other that they don't ever want to go back to prison like that again. Which makes them into good citizens and ex-criminals. Is there a message there? I think so.

Prison problems, particularly riots, are caused by interaction amongst the inmates. There are no riots in prisons that deal in solitary confinement. Look up the definition of "mob" and "riot" sometime. Both definitions revolve around a "crowd" of people, the definition of which is three or more persons. If you remove the "crowd" you cannot have a mob or a riot. That can only be accomplished in a prison with solitary confinement.

Let's look at how easy it would be to take care of a prisoner in solitary. There should be no meals delivered because nutritious food will come out of a faucet that is turned on for ten minutes three times a day at 6:00 a.m., 12 noon and 6:00 p.m. Don't laugh. Scientists can now produce a 100% nutritional slurry that can be pumped through pipes. It has all of the necessary nutrients to insure healthy living in all humans. Of course, the multi-billion dollar food industry that services just prisons will be really bent out of shape, won't they? The amount of bribery that takes place to insure that a company gets the contract to provide food to a prison is unbelievable. However, it does take place because there is a LOT of money to be made just with this one service. Check it out. People will do just about anything for a lot of money!

All cells should be 100 percent soundproof. One of the things that cause problems is a prisoner who goads other inmates with words. The only communication with a prisoner should be through the television via the computer. A camera mounted on the top of the television is adequate. If people wish to communicate with a relative or friend in prison, they can do it through the use of the computer. Do you realize that this will throw the prison guard union into an absolute frenzy? They won't be needed anymore to escort prisoners to and fro. The number of guards needed will decrease almost to zero and the subsequent savings in payroll will turn out to be astronomical.

How many times have you seen stories about prisoners carrying on about not being able to see their favorite shows on television? What kind of facilities are we running here? Education should be the primary reason for a television in an inmates cell. It should be installed behind bulletproof glass and should be on from 6:00 a.m. until 8:00 a.m. at night with one educational program after another on how to get along in society without being a crook. The inmate is not entitled to any control over what is shown on the television. They are CROOKS, not special members of some fancy club. They are NOT entitled to special privileges. The only control they should be able to exercise is voice commands to look at an educational show. In case you hadn't noticed, voice recognition software is now standard operating procedure for most big companies.

Access to a computer for education only can be provided with a flat table that comes out of the wall with a keyboard that has pressure sensitive keys - nothing that can be removed. The TV becomes the monitor. Fool with the table and it slides back into the wall.

Consider the cost of laundering a prisoner's clothes. If the prisoner does not get out into the elements, why is there need for more than one change of clothes per week, preferably simple clothes made out of paper? What a blow to the garment industry that is making a fortune at our expense to clothe these bums!

A portable shower can be wheeled up to the door of a cell and locked in place. The inmate has ten minutes to undress and take a shower. Soapy water comes out on voice command and rinse water the same way. Air-drying is just as good as towels.

A simple treadmill under a rollback door in the floor of each cell can provide daily exercise that will keep most of the prison population in good physical shape. Simple diagnostic machines can be used to monitor the health of each and every prisoner. Placing the hands on the computer keyboard table can give a very adequate readout of blood pressure. Bunks that fold up into the wall can prevent inmates from lying down when they are supposed to be exercising. A horn in the ceiling can generate a noise loud enough to encourage anyone to exercise when they are supposed to. For those who have mental problems, psychiatric care can be made available via the television since there is absolutely no excuse for face-to-face meetings between criminals and any other human being. They are CROOKS and have ended up in prison because of their anti-social actions. Until they have served their sentence, they should be denied all social amenities. They have given these up by committing crimes against other human beings.

Keep in mind that this is not supposed to be a country club. It's not supposed to be a place that someone would be willing to return to because the living is easier that being out in society making your own way. This is not cruel and unusual punishment when you consider it's a clear and just result for the pain and suffering that the inmates have inflicted on their victims.

Today, we are in the wrong era. In England in the late 1700's and early 1800's, the really hideously bad eggs were hanged and the rest were shipped off to the penal colony in Australia. Since they had no manufacturing base that could build the ships that would take them back to England, they never left Australia. And England became a low crime country. Why do you think the police there used nightsticks and no guns? They didn't need them.

A couple of hundred years from now, when space exploration is really part of the civilized world, humanity is going to come across a planet that is empty with a marginal, earth like climate. Then we can take the criminals, stick a parachute on them and push them out the door. As they go out the door, the message will be "You don't like living and getting along in our society? Well, here's a place where you can build your own. That's if you can survive. Goodbye!"

Now let's address the bleeding hearts who say that "Isolation has been documented as a cause of paranoia, problems with impulse control, extreme motor restlessness, delusions, suspiciousness, confusion, and depression." No fooling! All of those symptoms exist in just about every criminal BEFORE they ever end up in jail. Why do you think they're in prison to start with? I don't care if you've had a hard life, if your father was an alcoholic and your mother was a prostitute. Lots of upstanding citizens of all races, creeds and colors, came into this world under similar circumstances and are doing just fine. Because a person refuses to adapt because life has thrown them a bad hand is no excuse.

Once the word gets out that prison is the last place you want to be, there will be a radical change in the behavior of the young criminal. When they've had a taste of just how bad it can be, most of them will do everything they can to avoid going back. Isn't that true progress?

Saturday, May 06, 2006


It was June 30, 2005 and the end of my 1st six months of teaching piano for 2005.

For the first time since 2001 we were going to take a two week vacation. We had finaly gotten to the point after 9/11 that it looked like we just might keep the business going.

It was just after 7:30 p.m. and I felt very good and very relaxed.

I said to my wife "Let's go to dinner" and she replied "that sounds great! Where?" I suggested the Outback, one of our favorite restaurants and off we went. I love the appetizer at the Outback called "Grilled Shrimp on the Barbie". Soon as we got there I ordered the appetizer plus a steak, salad and steamed vegetables. I don't often drink and Lynne is on a diet (on which she has lost a spectacular 22 pounds!) so without any drinks, we just relaxed, I watched a little bit of the baseball game and we chit chatted some.

The Grilled Shrimp came and I started in on it feeling like I'd died and gone to heaven. Just as I finished the shrimp, here comes the steak, salad and the veggies. I really wasn't that hungry so I ate about five bites from all of it and told Lynne that I wanted to bring the rest of it home - as I said, it's "great chow for tomorrow."

We left the restaurant about thirty minutes later after Lynne had finished her Grilled Salmon and arrived back home about 9:30 p.m. I told her I was tired and going right to bed. She stayed in the living room to read and I went to the bedroom.

Now what I am about to tell you is really bizarre. Seems like a full fledged hallucination. I don't know if it really happened or if I was dreaming or what but who can tell? It sure seemed real at the time!

About four minutes to midnight, someone came after me with a big blow torch and proceeded to burn the middle of my chest. The pain was EXCRUCIATING! It was like I was on FIRE! The only pain that ever came close was the pain from the severe arthritis in my back three years before. I bolted upright in the bed, opened my eyes, and looked right into the face of the devil! The traditional one - I mean with the horns and the red color, etc. He had both his hands around my throat and was squeezing unmercifully. When I looked down, his barbed tail was going right through my heart. It was simply unbelievable but it still scared the living hell out of me. Then he opened up his mouth and screamed "MM-RR-OO--RRR-WWW-RRR!!!" into my face as he breathed fire and smoke on me.

It was at this time that my wife's sister saved my life. She lives in California so she wasn't there but six months before she had sent me an article by Dr. F. Daniel Rochman. The title of the article was "How to survive a heart attack alone". I had made a bunch of copies and left them in the waiting room for all of my students. It fit my case because I was alone since my wife was in another room and she can barely hear. When she stays up late to read, she usually ends up sleeping on the big sofa in the living room. If I had not been able to get out of the bedroom to where she could see me, I truly believe she would have found me stone cold dead on the floor the next morning.

As instructed in the article, I started to cough very vigorously with about two seconds in between each cough. I would cough and then say "One, Two". You have to deep breathe to do this and this gets extra oxygen into the lungs. The coughing movement squeezes the heart and keeps the blood moving. This provided me with the energy I needed to get up from the bed and stagger to the living room. She looked up from her book and said "What's the matter?" I just pointed and led her into the kitchen still coughing. I managed to point to the heart and ask for my keys on which I keep a small stainless steel container with nitroglycerin tablets. I managed to get one of them under my tongue and pondered the events that caused Dr. Clement Eiswirth to give me the prescription seven years before "just in case". Meanwhile, she got on the phone and called 911.

At this point in time, she used the right words. The police told me later on that most women blubber about how their husband is in pain, please help, etc., etc., etc. so the dispatcher sends the police. That's about ten or fifteen minutes of very critical time gone because when the police arrive, they call for an ambulance right away. She told the emergency dispatcher "we have a medical emergency here, please send an ambulance". During all this time I could hear her answering a couple of questions as I looked around our beautiful, newly renovated kitchen and it dawned on me that "I may never see this kitchen again!" About seven minutes later, the front door bell rang and New Orleans Finest Fire Department was at the door.

Now I know the Fire Department has to train their personnel on how to approach an accident or heart attack victim. I don't know if they specially trained this particular fireman who walked into my house. I did have a direct view of the front door from my seat in the kitchen. When my wife let him in, he didn't just walk in, he swaggered in and his whole attitude was "All right! Where's this stupid, puny heart attack that thinks it's going to steal one of OUR citizens?"

I can't tell you how happy and relieved I was to see him and that attitude! He caught sight of me and came right over to where I was sitting, knelt down on one knee, patted my knee and said "All right, Podnah, your in good hands now!" He grabbed hold of my hand. shoved some stuff in it and said "Here, chew this up". It was partially crushed aspirin. Ten minutes later I was laying on the gurney, strapped in and out in the street with all of the gawking spectators, even at midnight. I looked around at the outside of our beautiful house thinking "I may never see this again". Ten minutes later I was in the ambulance and on the way to the hospital. Twenty minutes later a doctor at Baptist Hospital was working on me with an angiogram and inserting a stint into a blocked artery. Talk about quick response! It doesn't get much better than that!

Now folks, in regards to the ride to the hospital, I don't know how many of you have had the great misfortune to have to be carted off to the hospital in an ambulance but I doubt any other ride would have been as painful or jarring as that short trip to Baptist Hospital, less than 4 miles away. We all know that the streets in New Orleans are in terrible shape but to put an accident or heart attack victim into a vehicle that has NO shocks and NO springs is nothing short of criminal. A good set of shocks and springs can make a trip on very rough roads very tolerable. Without them it is HORRIBLE! I intend to pursue this as soon as I get back on my feet because I feel that under other circumstances, the trip in that ambulance could have killed me.

The treatment I received at the hands of the entire emergency crew, and from all the people at Baptist hospital involved in helping me recover from my heart attack, was first class. I don't think I'd be alive if it hadn't been for them. Thanks to all of you - someday soon I intend to thank you in person.

Copyright 2005 by fritz owens, hendersonville, NC 28792

May 2006 - a few additional notes. Less than two months after I was released from Baptist Hospital, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and Baptist Hospital was wiped out. The last information I got about a week ago is that neither Baptist or Mercy hospitals are ever going to open again. I hope it's not true but I certainly wouldn't be surprised.

We have left New Orleans never to return because of the avoidable flood that put five feet of water in our home and destroyed everything we held dear after 42 years of married life. The crooked politicians who are responsible for this disaster won't give up easily as is evident from the things that have gone on in the last six months, particularly the lack of meaningful action in fixing the levees to handle a Category 5 storm. We are not going to live in fear, wondering if it's going to happen again every June and tremble everytime a hurricane hits the Gulf until November. We are NOT going to live like that. The weather people are predicting a worse hurricane season than last year. I sure don't want to be around for that!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Sight Reading at the Piano


I had a long running battle with some hard nose teachers on an Internet newsgroup several years ago. They made it quite clear that there was absolutely no room in their book for anyone who cannot sight read well. Guess that leaves me out because although I am a concert trained pianist and a commercial performer by trade for over forty years, my sight reading skills have never been very good. I do it better than the average pianist but that's because I've been at it a lot longer. And if I've been working a job where it's required that I sight read a good bit, after a couple of weeks I get in the groove and am much better than usual at it. So my contention is this:

Living in the United States, we are both going to go to Chicago from Los Angeles. You're going to take the direct route via Denver, Colorado and I'm going to go by way of Phoenix, Arizona. It's going to take me a couple of days more to get there than you but who cares? It's not important for me to get there quickly, it's just important that I GET there.

I would think that you can see the analogy right away. We're both going to learn the same piece of music and memorize it for performance purposes. (NOTE: We memorize for performance simply because it is easier to play without the music) Because of your better sight reading skills, you are going to learn it faster than I do. So what? Eventually we're both going to perform the same piece of music in public from memory. What difference does it make whether you learn it and memorize it in ten days or ten weeks? The proof of the effort comes from the PERFORMANCE, not the learning procedure.

The howls of rage from several members of the newsgroup were deafening. They contended that there was absolutely no room in the business for someone that didn't learn to sight read well. In their mind, sight reading well was imperative to being a good musician. I guess the same principle should apply to anyone playing basketball - you're no good unless you can play as well as Michael Jordan. That is patently absurd! I dropped out of the newsgroup and have not been back.

Let me tell you about someone who was a good sight reader. I was a freshman at the University of Notre Dame and either volunteered or was elected to turn pages for the accompanist of a hot shot baritone who was giving a concert on campus, probably because I was one of the few in the music department that had the white tie and tails outfit. She came in about ten minutes before show time and talked to the star of the show about a few notes she had made in the margins of the music on the plane.

When we started, I was standing next to her thinking that when she got to the end of the next to last stave on the second page, I would put my hand up to the music, get ready to turn the page and do so a measure or two before the end of the line. There were three staves (lines) of music to go when she said "Turn the page". I was dumbfounded. I said "Ma'am?" "TURN THE PAGE!" So I turned the page and watched in amazement as this woman continued to play the three lines that had been on the previous page FROM MEMORY! When there were three lines left on the next page, I put my hand up, looked at her, and she nodded her head. So I turned the page. This went on through the whole two hour concert.

When it was over, I told her I had never seen anything like that before. She said that it was a special talent that she had worked very hard to develop. Because of her ability and talent and hard work, she had earned a reputation as being someone who could play it right the first time and every time. It also had made her a very highly paid accompanist. Anytime someone got sick and couldn't make a concert, they knew she was dependable and could get it right. If she was available, no one hesitated to hire her. She was also in very high demand for concerts where people knew about her talent. I asked her if she had ever played the music that she played for this concert. She said "I think I played a couple of them about ten years ago." Mind Boggling!

That, ladies and gentlemen, is true sight reading. I don't have that talent so why worry about it? When I go on a job to perform for some event, I play approximately 2,000 tunes from memeory. At that point in time, does it really matter how long it took me to learn any of them? I don't think so.

Here's a little side note. The sight reading talent is not very common. Those who can do it usually end up in the major recording studios in Nashville, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York etc. The reason is very simple. The last I heard, recording studio rates for musicians were about $750.00 for a three hour session. If they go into the fourth hour, it's automatically another $750.00. If you have an orchestra of thirty musicians, the basic rate is $22,500. 00 for the first three hours. If the musicians can't cut it and get it right in the first three hours, add another $22,500.00 to the basic rate. This is truly a good example of how time is money! The better sight readers the musicians are, the better shot the producers have at keeping the cost down.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Gouging Oil Companies

Let's teach them a lesson!

This was originally sent by a retired Coca Cola executive. It came from one of his engineer buddies who retired from Halliburton. It 's worth your consideration. I got it from one of my students last year but never followed up on sending it to other people. However, I have NOT purchased any gas or other products from the two big oil companies since then.

Join the resistance!!!! I hear we are going to hit close to $4.00 a gallon by next summer and it might go higher!! Want gasoline prices to come down? We need to take some intelligent, united action. Phillip Hollsworth offered this good idea. This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the "don't buy gas on a certain day" campaign that was going around a couple of years ago! The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue to "hurt" ourselves by refusing to buy gas. It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them. BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can really work. Please read on and join with us!

By now you're probably thinking gasoline priced at about $1.50 is super cheap. Me too! It is currently $3.09 for premium unleaded in my town, $2.99 for regular. Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50 - $1.75, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace..... not sellers. With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action. The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas! And, we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves. How? Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying gas. But we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price war.

Here's the idea: For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit. But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and Mobil gas buyers. It's really simple to do! Now, don't wimp out at this point.... keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people.

I am sending this note to 30+ people. If each of us sends it to at least ten more (30 x 10 =300) ... and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 = 3,000)...and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth group of people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers. If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted! If it goes one level further, you guessed it..... THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!!

Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people. That's all. (If you don't understand how we can reach 300 million and all you have to do is send this to 10 people.... Well, let's face it, you just aren't a mathematician. But I am, so trust me on this one.) How long would all that take? If each of us sends this e-mail out to ten more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days!!!

I'll bet you didn't think you and I had that much potential, did you? Acting together we can make a difference. If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on. I suggest that we not buy from EXXON/MOBIL UNTIL THEY LOWER THEIR PRICES TO THE $1.30 RANGE AND KEEP THEM DOWN.

THIS CAN REALLY WORK. It's a reasonable boycott and will do the trick. We should see much lower prices by Christmas.

Take a tip from Nike, the only company with a really good slogan: "JUST DO IT!"

The Death Merchants

The Doom and Gloom sayers.

Someone sent me an article from a blog entitled "Gates of Vienna" which is all about how the Muslims are supposedly going to take over the world. I responded with the following e-mail:

I'm sorry but I don't find the doom and gloom journalists very interesting. I try to avoid them as much as possible because it's news designed to make everyone worried and wondering and seeking more information from the very same death merchants. I think they are all vultures feeding on the hopes of dead bodies so that they can sell more ads. If there were some tragedy in my family that caused news people to flock to my home, I would carefully advise them immediately that if they put one foot on my property I would protect it with every legal means available including shooting them if I felt threatend by their actions. They would soon go away.

In my personal knowledge bank is information that most people don't believe but I have verified it many times over. The scenario goes like this: the missing girl is dead. Little Mary's body has been found mutilated and sexually abused. One news group has the exclusive story. They all have groups of telemarketers. The telemarketers are notified that the exclusive story will be running on the five o'clock news. The telemarketers get on the phone and call all the big money clients to tell them that WXXX has the exclusive story on little Mary's demise with all of the gory details and it will run at five p.m. - Do you want to advertise?" Guess how many say "of course!"? Runs about 80%. Out of the other 20% about two thirds of those say "I wish I could but the budget for the month has already been exceeded." Check it out if you can. It's a pretty closely guarded secret but it does go on.

Since I don't watch the news I'm not exposed to this type of garbage but how many people do you know that refuse to watch this crap? My kids used to ask me "Daddy, why are there so many commericals right in the middle of my favorite program?" I told all of my girls - the tv exists for one reason and one reason only - and that's to sell you stuff. The only exception is PBS. I know one family that threw away the TV about 25 years ago and they seem like the most well adjusted and comfortable members of society that you could possibly find. Is there a message there? I get questions all the time from friends and family inquiring about some news story and I say to all of them "I have no idea. I don't watch that garbage."

If the Muslims do take over Europe, so what? The end of the world is far, far away. These machinations of one religious group are the actions of a small bug on a gnat's ass on the rim of the world in geological terms. The chances of it affecting you or me or our children is remote so why lose any sleep over it? This is just another attempt to stir up a lot of controversy to sell more ads. That's all these big shot TV personalities do is stir up controversy so that more people will watch their show. The ratings go up and they sell more ads. They don't exist to inform you - just to make money. No controversy, no money, no job. End of story!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hippy Dippy Bebop Progressive Jazz Junk

Being a professional musician for more years than I like to count, this definition came rolling out of my mouth about 40 years ago. The reason? Very simple. I had hired a goofball musician to play alto sax and clarinet in my quartet. So many people had said what a great musician he was and their opinion was wrong, wrong, wrong. I can remember spending the better part of four hours one night after the gig trying to explain to this hard head that a commercial job did not consist of playing anything you god damn well please. It did no good. He argued up one side and down the other about why what he was doing was the way to do it. If you could play eighty thousand notes instead of just eight, that was better in his book.

He was worse than a drummer I worked with years later. That dude is a really talented musician. He owns a drum shop and gives drum lessons. He knows every phrase, every "lick" as musicians call it, every trick of every drummer and he plays them ALL for every tune. It's a constant drum solo going on regardless of what is being played. By the time I got involved with him, I knew better. Towards the end of the Mardi Gras Ball season, I went to the orchestra leader and told him I was quitting because of the drummer. When the leader told me it wouldn't be necessary as the drummer had already told him that he wouldn't be returning for the next season, I told the leader I would stay on. The fact that I quit the band after the last ball is immaterial. I quit because the idiot leader refused to pay us on time and I was tired of that kind of treatment. He had more money than he knew what to do with and used this tactic to hold control over his musicians. The excuse was that the people who hired him hadn't paid him yet, as if that was our problem. What a bum! Live and learn.

Back to the sax player: I didn't have the experience to realize I should have fired the deadbeat immediately because he did not want to do what you have to do as a commercially performing musician. You have to play what the guy who is paying your salary wants to hear. And I'm not talking about the guy who owns the club. I'm talking about the guy who comes into the club with his date and planks down his hard earned cash to buy a drink or dinner or pay for a cover charge or whatever. If he wants to hear "Come back to Jesus Cha-Cha" you'd better play it if you know it or tell the customer that the next time he comes in you'll play it for him.
They WILL come back to see if you've done what you've said you were going to do. If you really want to impress them, you start playing it when they walk in the door and you have a fan for life.

Anyone who thinks the life of a performing musician is all sweetness and light doesn't have a clue as to what goes on behind the curtain on the bandstand. You really have to love it beyond words to stick to it. That's why when these youngsters come up to me and gush all over me about how great I play and how that's what they want to do, without exception I tell them "Don't even consider it. Stay out of show business. It's too damn hard!" My philosophy being that if that is enough to keep them out, then they don't have what it takes.
My Dad tried to convince me for years to quit playing every night and go to teaching full time. I kept telling him that I probably would when I had had enough. Unfortunately, in 1985, I made the mistake in getting really angry thinking I'd had enough of not getting paid what I though I was worth.

So I went to teaching full time. I'd always had students but very seldom more than a dozen and I didn't mind it. I didn't think twice about going to do it full time. My Dad did nothing else for 40 years and it literally killed him when he had to stop. I did it full time for twenty years and it almost killed me with a heart attack last July. I had no idea what was going on until the cardiologist came to see me the day before I was being released from the hospital. He is a very well educated man and a very good cardiologist and he took very good care of me in New Orleans. He told me that he wanted me to do this, that and the other to which I said ok. Then he asked me what I thought was a very stupid question: "What are you going to do after you get home?" I told him that when I got to feeling better I was going back to work. He replied: "Oh? Doing what?" and I said :Doctor, you know that I teach piano. I'll be going back to teaching." His response was: "Are you out of your mind? How the hell do you think you got here?" I was dumfounded and had no reply. He next said "Mr. Owens, teaching is one of the most stressful occupations you can have!" It took me about thirty seconds to respond: "Well, guess what Doctor. You're talking to the ex-piano teacher!" I quit at that moment on the basis of his expertise. Over the next couple of days, I gradually came to the realization of just how much I despised the damn job! Out of almost 50 students I had about five that were doing well. The others were driving me nuts - enough to put me in the hospital! I resolved to go back to performing, my very first and only love as soon as I was well enough. Then came Hurricane Katrina. More on this later.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Sunday, April 16, 2006

The last straw came last night. A survey by Countrywide Mortgage Company to see if we are satisfied with the way they are handling our account. What an insult!

You be the judge. Over the years, we have paid thousands of dollars in interest on our home in New Orleans to Countrywide Mortgage Company. Last July 1, 2005, I had a heart attack. At that time, our second oldest daughter negotiated a deal with Countrywide whereby the loan was put on hold until January of 2006 with no payments due.

On August 27th, I went to a local car wash in New Orleans to get our antique Cadillac ready to travel because of the impending hurricane. I had inherited the car from my Dad and Mom in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1994 and had it shipped to New Orleans. Somehow or other, the car wash place shorted out the main motor for the windows and when I got home the windows on the driver side would not go down and the windows on the passenger side would not go up.

My wife has always fought me tooth and nail about leaving town when a hurricane threatens and this time I just didn't have the stamina to argue about it. I told her that if she wanted to stay we would stay. On Saturday night, she got frightened out of her wits by the man at the hurricane center in Miami. She came to me and said she wanted to get out of town. I told her we would have to go in the antique truck that I use for hunting and fishing because the Cadillac was unusable. She despised the truck at that time and didn't like it but had no other choice if she wanted to leave.

I was all in favor of leaving so we started getting some things together to get to our oldest daughter's home in Baton Rouge. In the meantime, one of our cats went out the pet door before I could close it and we were stuck until he came back. Dundee had lived with us for ten years and we were not about to abandon him. The other cat, Buster, a black persian and Hobo the dog were inside so we waited...and waited...and waited. Finally, at 4:00 a.m. Dundee showed up at the back door. Once he was inside, both of us were exhausted and laid down to get some sleep.

We got away from the house at 8:15 a.m. without boarding up the windows because it was so late. It took us five and a half hours to go 80 miles to Baton Rouge. It was really funny later on as my wife talked about all the late model cars we passed that had broken down and we were chuggin along in our old, 1969 Ford truck with no problems at all other than it was hot. Since that happened, she has nothing bad to say about the truck which got us out of harms way.

Two days later the levees broke and thanks to the political hacks responsible for this disaster, who were all on the take as far as I could see, that was the end of our life in New Orleans (see the pictures following).

By the end of the week, our youngest daughter had persuaded us to move to Western North Carolina to be close to her, her husband, a seven year old boy and a baby on the way in March.
So we went. The saga of the trip and subsequent two trips back to New Orleans to try and salvage a few things is another story I may write some day.

Needless to say, heart attacks wipe out your stamina and make it almost impossible to live a normal life until you get through cardio rehab and start exercising regularly. I'm getting there but the mild infarction left me with one completely blocked artery and one with a stint in it. Not a good thing.

In late October and early November, because of the stress factor and my complete lack of stamina, our second oldest daughter again negotiated with Countrywide Mortgage Company to have them accept the payout for a total loss from American National Insurance Company as final payment on the loan. It took some doing but they agreed - VERBALLY. Unfortunately, she is very gullible and didn't take the time to get the agreement in writing. Can you see what's coming?? We were woefully underinsured thanks to the negligence of the insurance agent and because we had no wind and rain damage, the flood only paid us $24,500 for personal property loss which actually comes to over $300,000.00

The daughter has gone on to other things and now, Countrywide is hounding us unmercifully. They never heard of the agreement, they don't do business like that. We owe them $15,000.00 over and above the $209,000.00 the evil insurance empire finally deigned to send us. Of course, the check is made out to me AND the mortgage company. I have made it quite clear that I will tear up the check and they can have the property to do what they want with it. I have been told that they don't want the property because they know that the best offer we have had is $105,000 for a home and land that was worth $250,000.00 before Katrina but they still want us to agree to pay them an additional $15,000 in interest. What a bunch of blood suckers!

These vultures are going after an elderly couple (I'm 71, my wife is 70) who lost EVERYTHING in the flood produced by Katrina except for a few things above the five foot line that hadn't been destroyed by the black mold. We have no income because I cannot go back to work yet because I lost all the tools of my trade and my health is still poor. The only thing coming in is Social Security and a small pension from the American Federation of Musicians. FEMA is helping us out by paying half of the $1,000 rent and utilities we are spending every month. That will probably end soon. Other expenses have knocked the hell out of the little bit we got for the personal property loss and it's getting less and less by the month. Now the mortgage company is trying to gouge another $15,000 out of us? There's something wrong with this picture, don't you think?

And to top it all off, some woman called last night to find out if we were satisfied with the treatment we were getting from Countrywide. I'm surprised my wife didn't have a stroke!

That's the way the ball game has gone so far. We'll see what happens but it doesn't look too good right now.



$75,000.00 Recording, Sound,
Performance and Computer
Equipment in new studio.


Four and 1/2 feet of salt water
destroy it all.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Religious slaves

All you (substitute your religion of choice: Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, Hindus etc.) are trying to do is create a whole culture of religious slaves. It's built on fear. Fear of retribution from God. As Robert Heinlein wrote in the notebooks of Lazarus Long, "most men dream up gods that have the manners and morals of a spoiled child". The thought that God sits on his throne on high (or low) just waiting for you to step out of line so that He can crush you is absolutely ludicrous. It flys in the face of the very definition of God which is all loving.

It seems pretty obvious that the rule of thumb of just about every religion is "get them early, brainwash them, and they'll be yours for the rest of their lives." Teaching children to hate as the fanatical Muslims do is one of the biggest violations of human rights. Children should have the right to grow up free of fear of retribution from anyone if they think differently than others. It is not in keeping with human nature to be a carbon copy of everyone else. What else can you be if you let them know you are different and you are punished severely for it?

The hazing, haranguing and harassment of young children is abominable. It is my sincere wish that they who do it all burn for all eternity! Of course, the very definition of God precludes the existence of a hell, doesn't it? Is it possible that the devil (whom apparently no one has ever spoken to with reliable witnesses present) and hell and all of the accoutrements of various religions is just a ploy to keep the slaves in line? Again to quote Robert Heinlein: "the largest, most useless, non-productive business in the world is religion." More wars have been fought and more lives lost in the name of religion than for any other reason.

Is there a message there?