Friday, May 29, 2009

25 Random Things - #2

2. I've been on television in six countries (United States, South Korea, Germany, Angola, Latvia, & Slovenia)

I’m not claiming any type of fame off of this. It’s more timing or circumstances than anything else. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really mean anything, and I haven’t gone out of my way to be on television. In some cases, I’ve went out of my way to avoid it. I don’t care for the media, and think they are mostly hacks who sensationalize everything for ratings, and don’t really care about the real story. It was a couple of interviews, a couple of game shows, my own little ‘Band Stand’ moment, and just being where they needed someone at the time. Some long shots and just shots where I happened to be in the picture. Which also includes my great acting job. I’ll break them down by country.

United States:

The first time I was on television was back in 1975, when my mother won a slot on ‘Bowling for Dollars’. My two brothers, myself and a friend of my older brother went with her for the taping. It wasn’t that big of a deal. You stand up and they introduce the family members. It was taped, so I got to watch it at home when it aired.

When I got out of college, I moved to Rapid City, South Dakota, and got a job at the Hilton, in the banquet department. We would do some of the main events in town, and the news crews would come down at times to do interviews, or get shots, or whatever it is they do. I got to know them, mostly because there were only two channels in town at the time. They would do some extras at the end of the interview, like filming the buffet, or things like that. Every once in awhile, they would ask me to add a comment or make a remark about something. It was all silly, and pointless, but it happened several times.

This would lead to my big break later. More on that at the end.

I was on television a couple of other times in the states that actually kind of meant something. The first of those was at the end of Desert Storm. I got lucky and was on the first plane out and back to the states. We landed at Fort Stewart, Georgia. There was going to be a big ceremony, obviously, but not for me and the guys I was with. We were stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and had to catch a connecting flight. While they were getting everything set up, they decided to take us out the back door of the plane and get us out of the way so the ceremony could go on at the front door, for the soldiers stationed there.

We didn’t really care, we were just ready to go home. I was sitting by the back door, and when they opened it, I was the first one out because I was the closest. CNN thought that was the start of the ceremony, so they started filming. So I was the first soldier filmed landing back in the states after the fighting was over. I didn’t even know it. My aunt told me about it. She thought it was me, and a friend called and asked her about it, but she said it couldn’t be me, because I was still in Iraq. We hadn’t had a chance to call anyone and tell them we were on the way home. It was only a few weeks later that we figured out what happened.

The other time I was on television was when I was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, during Somalia and Kosovo, and other operations. I volunteered to go to all of them, but they wouldn’t let me go. They said I was too valuable where I was at. Yeah, right. Anyhow, I was running the MARS station, which was a radio station/message center for the troops. We were able to do radio/phone patches so the troops could call home from overseas.

I’ll leave it at saying we did a lot of good work. If anyone is interested, give me your e-mail address and I’ll send you what happened. Anyhow, we started to get some publicity for what we were doing. We started on the back page of the weekly post paper, then started moving up page by page every week. Finally, I got a call one day from the Sergeant Major telling me to get to his office. He threw the paper and told me to explain myself. I was a little nervous until I looked at it and realized he was giving me crap. We were the top story on front page, above the fold. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

The next day, the Colonel ran into me picking up the distribution, called me into his office and showed me the front page of the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle, where we were once again top story above the fold. In full color. We were all pretty happy and proud of ourselves. Then the next day, the Sergeant Major called down to the station and asked if we all had proper haircuts. I replied that we did, and asked why. He explained that one of the stations from Nashville had seen the story and was on the way up to interview us. Lead story, 6:00 news, and third on the 10:00 news. Let’s just say that everyone from the Post Commander on down was very happy with us. I still have a tape of the interview somewhere, and will need to get it transferred to CD. Neeve might want to see it someday.

Also, while stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, I did some part-time security work for the Tacoma Dome, the Seattle Mariners, and a few other places. We would also be seen in the long shots, but enough that people would mention that they had seen me. Oddly, the most time I ever spent on television was 12 consecutive hours, at the Seattle International Speedway, working the start line for drag racing. I was on ESPN all day, and no one knew it was me. Mostly because I was wearing sunglasses and a ball cap, and they couldn't recognize me. Oh, well.

South Korea:

Germany should have been next, chronologically, but I wrote it like this originally, so it will stay. I was actually on television several times in South Korea, to include the Armed Forces Network and Korean television. The Koreans are very supportive of their military, and have game and talk shows geared exclusively to them. It’s kind of nice to see. They don’t just use the military to bump the ratings when something bad has happened, then turn around and shed a tear when public opinion is high. Anyhow, I was walking down the street in Seoul, and a television crew stopped me and asked if I would help them out. They were doing a segment where someone would say things in English, and the contestant would try and guess what the subject was. It wasn’t a big deal to me, and I like to support this kind of thing, so I said okay, not thinking much of it. It aired the next Sunday, and all of a sudden I was a huge star. Every Korean I met for 2 weeks told me they had seen me on television and how much they appreciated me supporting their military by doing that. Yeah, sure.

The other time I was on television in South Korea was on the Armed Forces Network. My roommate was ‘dating’ one of the girls who worked there, and she would come out with crews to do interviews and on the spot report type of things. Whenever she would see me, she would always get me in the shot, or get me to say something for the spot they were doing. Nothing big, but other people didn’t get to do it. People would actually come up to me and ask me if I worked for the Network, and if I could get them on camera. Yeah, don't think so.


There wasn’t much to it in Germany. I was just in the shot, and didn’t do anything. But it counts as being on television. I worked in a Special Weapons unit, and the tree-huggers would protest, and the stations would come out and film. Because of the job I did, I moved around a lot, while others stood guard. Somehow I ended up in some shots, and some German people I knew told me they saw me on television. Yay!

Side note --- do you know the best way to save a tree? Kill a tree hugger and use the body for fertilizer!!


I was on television twice in Angola. The first was for a visit by the Deputy Chief of Staff for the European Command. He flew into visit the Angolan military, and his wife came with him. It was acceptable, as he has to pay all of her costs out of pocket. There is also an expectation that she will do a Humanitarian Assistance project while she is there. She brought a bunch of toys and medicine and medical equipment for a pediatrics hospital we had helped to refurbish. I was her official escort for the visit, as my boss was escorting the General (there were only two of us), and we needed to come up with something to do with her. We had some money left over, so I suggested we have her donate that to the hospital while she was there. Everyone seemed to like that idea, and it all went ahead.

Unknown to me, the Public Affairs office had arranged for the local news station to show up and cover it, and do an interview with her. I was just in background shots and tried to stay out of the way as much as possible, and told them ‘not’ to mention my name. Anyhow, the General (the official visitor) got page 6 on the newspaper, and his wife got the lead story on the 10:00 news. The General’s wife was happy, the General was happy, my boss was happy, and I was happy when the aide came up and said, ‘The General’s wife is happy. What do you need? Give me a list?’ Happy days. Because when the General's wife is happy, we're all happy.

The second time was at a fundraiser the President’s wife gave for a children’s charity. $100 a pop for tickets. I went, and took a date. We had a good time, the wine was flowing, the band was playing, ‘other things’ were going to happen, and we started dancing. We were doing some pretty good swing dancing, and there was hardly anyone else dancing, and we stayed out there quite a while. So for some reason we ended up getting more air time for the story than the President’s wife. My own little ‘Band Stand’ moment.


There wasn’t really a lot of television time in Latvia. We did have the biggest NATO exercise in the history of the Baltics going on, and I was in on the planning for that. I ran a lot of it. We had visiting dignitaries at times, and a NATO Chiefs of Staff summit while I was there. Actually, the Latvians really ran those, but I was heavily involved and ran the American portion of things. Mostly I was on while they were there filming the big shots, and was the guy telling the aide to tell the big shot that it was time to stop talking to the press and get on with the next meeting. No big deal, as far as the television stuff. A big deal as far as the summit.


A great country. Not as great as Latvia, but still great. I was there for a NATO-integration meeting, and we had a day to kill while we waited on our flights. A bunch of went into the city square and did some sight-seeing and shopping. There was a television crew doing man on the street interviews. They asked me, but I don’t speak Slovenian or Russian, or any of the other common languages, and my German isn’t good enough for that kind of thing, so I declined. A couple of the others did it, and there were shots of me in the background. We watched it on the news that night at the hotel. That was it, really.

So the big break I was talking about?

While working at the hotel in Rapid City, we would get most of the entertainment acts that came into town. They would play the Convention Center, and until they built a hotel next door to it, we were the closest place to stay. A week before the Ice Capades came into town, the advance lady came in and stayed at the hotel. She was going to address the City Council that night and needed someone to go with her and wear the costume representing the show. My boss suggested me, as I was big enough to wear the suit, and would be available. I was asked, and agreed and went down to the council. We went into the meeting, handed out flyers, I shook hands with all the council members and the Mayor, and the crowd, and got a big cheer. The news channels were there and filmed it all for the 10:00 news.

What part did I play, you might ask?

Poppa Smurf.

Yup, the original Blue Man himself.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Brits show good taste in music

This is the results of a poll I found:

Which British band do you think is the best ever?

The Beatles......................30%
Pink Floyd.........................6%
The Rolling Stones.............5%
The Clash...........................1%
The Kinks...........................1%
The Stone Roses..................1%
Depeche Mode....................1%
The Streets.........................0%

I don't know......................10%

Much like me, the most votes went to the Beatles. Great, they are the best. Queen at 26% surprised me. I like Queen and they are without a doubt a top-10 band for me, but I was surprised they got that close to the Beatles. I guess the demographics matter also.

The Pink Floyd result doesn't surprise me, finishing 3rd, or at 6%. They aren't every one's favorite and you have to learn to like the music. I was surprised, and happy to see the Rolling Stones finish so low. I'm not a fan, and never have been.

What I don't get is 18% (almost 1/5 of the vote) going to Others or I Don't Know. Who are these others that are so good? And how can you not know? Jeez, pick someone.

But the main thing is, the Fab Four continue to rule. Eleanor Rigby might even approve.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A new thing

A bonus for people today. Two new posts. Well, actually three if you count this, but I don't.

In the first one below, I passed on some information about a blog a friend of mine in the Sudan is writing. Check it out. You'll enjoy it.

Below that, is the first installment of my 25 Random Things. I threatened, and now I've done it.

Each week, on Friday, you'll be treated to my ramblings about my 25 Random Things.

For those of you who don't know what it is, it's something that started on Facebook. People will write 25 random things about themselves, then post it on their Facebook profile for everyone to read. Pretty simple, really.

I did it there, and posted it here one day.

I need to be on here more, writing and posting, so I'm going to use this as a way. I'll still write about Neeve, of course, but things are going well, mostly, and there isn't much too write about now except for the weekend visits.

Those will still be up on Mondays, and the 25 Random Things on Friday. So you'll have those to look forward to. In between, I'll do my best to find something worthwhile to post here.

Monday is a holiday here, like in the states, so maybe nothing then. But I have a visit with Neeve on Sunday, so Tuesday for sure.


Under This Blue Sky

I've been lucky in my life, and done quite a few things. And lived in a few countries. I've loved every minute of it, for the things I did, and mostly because of the people I've met. There are more than I can remember, but a few stand out.

One in particular, from Angola, is Gabi. She was an aid worker living in Luanda, running the office, and doing a lot of good stuff. I met Gabi when I first got there, and she introduced me to a lot of people, and helped me learn my way around.

Gabi is a Hungarian, who grew up in Switzerland, and has lived in Angola and Madagascar, and speaks about six languages. She's married now, to Vinnie, a Canadian, they have two children and live in the Sudan right now. Yup, that's right. The Sudan. Oh, the life of an ex-pat.

It was great, I miss it, and I had more fun than anyone could ever imagine.

Anyhow, Gabi is now in the Sudan and writing her very own blog. She's just starting to find her way with it, and is doing well. I suggest you go by and see what it's like to live and raise a family outside the mainstream.

And leave comments. She loves them.

Under This Blue Sky

25 Random Things - #1

1. I think the 5 greatest musical acts in history are the Beatles, Elvis, Merle Haggard, Pink Floyd, and Allison Krauss. You don't have to agree, but then it just proves you don't know what good music is. I love music.

I have absolutely no musical talent, and can't sing at all. I wish I could. I would love to play an instrument or being able to sing. I can't, so I'll listen instead.

I like a lot of different types of music. Rock, southern rock, country rock, classic rock, Motown, classic country, the 60's British invasion, the 80's British invasion, country, blue grass, jazz, blues, early country, pop, original 50's rock, swing, current country, big band, etc. I have albums in all these forms of music. I think people who limit themselves to one type of music to listen to limit themselves in life. They're missing out on so much. Variety is the spice of life, and everyone should be able to enjoy different types of music.

Even though I'm not big on opera or rap, in its way, to those who enjoy it, it's good music. I've been to the opera, and would go again. It was fantastic. But I wouldn't buy any records. Same with rap. I've listened to it. Some of its good, some of its crap, and I just don't enjoy it that much. Just the way it is.

My musical tastes come from my family more than anything else. I think most people would say their friends, but not with me. Some, yes, but mostly my family. My older brother is 5 years older than me, and he started listening to music in the late 60's/early 70's. And there was some great stuff there. Music, rock music mostly, changed during that period and several new genres appeared. My brother listened to lots of different music, and I used to hear it from his room.

My parents also were a big influence. They used to listen to a lot of different types themselves. My mother grew up as teenager in the 50's, with Elvis, the Everly Brothers, etc. My father was a country boy who listened to Webb Pierce and Tex Ritter. I also remember my father listening to ZZ Top when he was in his 50's. Lots of music, lots of different types of music, and the ability to listen to it for the value of it individually, and not because it fit into a genre or someone told you it was good.

As an example, I could care less about the Rolling Stones, and I'm not really a Bruce Springsteen fan. But I love del Amitri and Queen. I prefer Earl Thomas Conley over Garth Brooks. Frankie and Deano over Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart. It doesn't mean I don't like all of them. I do. I just don't pick my music based on the popularity of the performer. I pick it based on whether I like it or not. Some people might laugh at that statement, but we all know people who only buy their music based on what's popular. Popular doesn't mean good.

And so on to my picks:

The Beatles: simply the greatest, in my mind. They changed music in a way that no one ever has. The top 5 songs in Billboard in one week. No one has ever done anything like that. My parents were in England in '63 and '64. I was born there. I remember them telling me about watching the Beatles on television before they ever made it to the states. The first pop movies with 'A Hard Day's Night' and 'Help'.

One reason I refuse to listen to REM is because Michael Stipe, lead singer of REM, said the Beatles were no big deal and had no influence on modern music. Yeah, he's an idiot and I hold grudges.

Favorite song: I Should Have Known Better
Bonus Track: Help

Elvis: forget about the movies and listen to the music. Buy a CD, open a bottle of wine or a beer, and listen to the songs with no distraction. I didn't like Elvis for a lot of years. He died on my 13th birthday, and ruined it. It was the only year my mother actually remembered my birthday on the day of my birthday. And then she sat and cried all night. Good times. And in the 70's, in Kansas City, Channel 5 used to have a 3:00 movie every afternoon. And at least every two months there was a week-long Elvis festival. And never King Creole or Jailhouse Rock. It was always Viva Las Vegas and the ones where he played twins, or something.

But over the years, I listened more and more and came to realize why they call him the King. Remember, at one time, this guy had more #1 singles than anyone in history. He sold more records than anyone else. Some of that was the hype, but not all of it. He was that good. There was a lot of schlock involved with Elvis, and he didn't go out the best way. But the man could sing.

Favorite song: Suspicious Minds
Bonus Track: Always On My Mind

Merle Haggard: of all the country performers, he's my favorite. I don't know why one person makes an impact more than any other, but the Hag Man does. He writes most of his own songs, he's lived a hard life, and made a success of himself. He doesn't have the greatest voice, but he can sing. But more importantly, he tells a story that gets you to listen to it.

He was the first concert I ever went to. And he has an unusual show. He walks and says hello. Then he sings to you. About half way through, he'll stop and say thank you for coming to see him. Then he sings some more. Then he says thank you and goes home. No light shows. No laser shows. No dancers. Just the music and song. What a concept.

Favorite song: Kern River
Bonus Track: My Favorite Memory

Pink Floyd: I was never a huge Floyd fan, at least until I saw 'The Wall' for about the 5th time. I loved the movie, and the music was good. But I never really listened to it. It was just a part of the movie, without being individual songs. That's a hard concept to get used to, unless you're into album rock, which I never was. Then one day I bought the sound track and listened to it without the movie. And I was hooked.

When I was in Turkey, I found a store where I could buy every (bootleg) Pink Floyd album for $2. So I did. And there wasn't a lot to do in Turkey, so I listened all the time. And I was hooked. There is one thing I know. Put on the sound track to 'The Wall', open a bottle of wine (or other means of relaxation) and by the time the song 'Comfortably Numb' comes on, you will be.

Favorite song: Comfortably Numb
Bonus track: Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Alison Krauss: I usually buy greatest hits albums. I would rather spend my money on an album that has 7 or 8 songs I know I want to listen to over an album that's popular and might have one or two songs I might like. The first album I ever bought based on one song and nothing else was 'I've Got That Old Feeling' by Alison Krauss. The video of 'Steel Rails' come on and I loved the song. I went out right away and bought the album, and have bought every album of hers since. I don't care for every album she has. Some are straight bluegrass. Some are straight country, or variations. Some are a combination. She's even performed with Robert Plant.

She's a very versatile performer. She's an award-winning fiddle player, a Grammy-award winning singer (among many others), and is extremely talented. You never hear a lot about her, which is good. I don't care about performer's personal lives. I care about their music.

Favorite song: Steel Rails
Bonus track: Carolina On My Mind

That's it. Not much, really, but this is the first post. My favorite performers and a little about them, and why I like them.

So who are your top 5?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

One year in

I've been in country now for 1 year. Well, 1 year and 5 days as of writing this. It's not that big of a deal, really, just a mark on the calendar. I've lived in a lot of other countries for longer than this. Those were different situations, obviously, but mostly harder than this. In some aspects. In other ways, this is still the hardest thing I've ever done.

Some of the negative things that have happened this year:

I still don't get Neeve for overnight visits.
I still don't get a lot of time with Neeve.
I went for 7 of those months not working.
I'm still living in a room in a shared house.
I'm still broke most of the time.
I've left Bournemouth twice since I've been here. Once to Southampton, and once to Bristol.
I still don't have a car.
I still don't have a girlfriend.
I owe my solicitor £2500.

Some of the neutral things:

Still don't have a good relationship with her mother (that just makes it harder on Neeve)

Some of the positive things:

I get to see Neeve more than ever.
She knows I'm her father, and there are no issues with that.
I have a job.
I'll have a place to live soon.
I'll get overnight/weekend visits soon.
I'm getting the bills paid instead of putting them off.
I have a great group of friends who have made my time here good.

And the most important thing:

I get to see Neeve more than ever.

So, some good, some bad, some indifferent. All-in-all, it's been a good year, if a rough one. But I'm glad I'm here, and I'm not going away.

It's just hard to believe a year has passed already.