Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My Old Friend

Some of you may wonder at the picture of the fellow at the top of this blog.  He was my good friend, adviser, colleague, and hiking buddy before his passing on March 7, 2009.  His name was Arthur H. "Bud" Wilson.  He was a few years older than me and retired from a successful career in the corporate world, living life as he pretty well pleased.

Married and divorced twice, he was a committed bachelor.  We co-founded the National Funding Association together, a financial networking group which merged with the Commercial Finance Association in 2012.  I leave his name and the picture of him hiking in the Black Mountains as a sort of memorial to a truly memorable man.

He was a fitness buff, woodsman, canner of food, great hiker, association leader, and investor.  I don't know if he was "the most interesting man in the world" as a beer commercial describes its lead character, but he was an interesting individual. He was always great to talk with, bounce ideas off of, and to just shoot the breeze.

He loved backpacking and he taught me much about the art, hazards, and beauty of the sport.  It is truly a way to experience nature like no other - just a good walk in the woods, mountains, or desert with no aim in mind except, as Bud would put it, "wilderness travel."

He was a man of strong opinions and long time friendships. He could be hard nosed when one disagreed with him, but his loyalty to his friends was never in doubt.

One does not have many true friends in this life, and when you lose one, it hurts. I noted when they held visitation at the funeral home, those most affected, outside his family, seemed to be his hiking buddies. They were the ones who shared the joys and the hardships of the trail, and had the time to get to know him away from the noise and clutter of everyday life.  That's why Bud Wilson's picture and dates of life are at the top of this page. He was one of a kind.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Songs to Remember?

I have always been and still am a big fan of good music of all descriptions, from Johnny Cash to Bach, from Jimi Hendrix to Percy Faith, from The Who to Enya.  I stand in awe of the artistry, creativity, and beauty that these and others bring to the art of music.

I recently watched a "docudrama" on a cable channel about the sad story of Phil Spector, a brilliant but very troubled individual, who was convicted in the killing of a young woman at his home. He was the creator of the "Wall of Sound" music production technique that won great acclaim in the early sixties and made stars of people like Ronnie Spector and The Righteous Brothers.  TRB's "You've Lost That Lovin's Feeling" still reigns as the most played song on the radio in history with over seven million airings.

The film opened with The Righteous Brothers' version of "Unchained Melody."  I was stunned again at the incredible beauty of the melody, and the soaring vocals of Bobby Hatfield, the tenor half of TRB. His range was simply stupendous and his handling of the lyrics and melody were transcendent.  Since I saw the Spector film, that melody has played in my head a thousand times.

I researched it and learned that it was a song written for an obscure prison movie called "Unchained."  It later became known as "Unchained Melody."  As a writer, the title to me seems a clever double entendre, since I always took it to mean that the melody itself was unchained and free to soar like the eagles. Whether or not that double meaning was intended, the song certainly deserves the appellation.  In my opinion it is truly one of the most beautiful and evocative melodies ever written, lending substantial power to its simple lyrics.

Needless to say, I am a big fan of the song, and rank it up there with other great songs.  Here is a list in no particular order or genre that I think are the very best.  What do you think?

O Come, O Come Emmanuel - Author Unknown
Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon and Garfunkel
Canon - Pachelbel
Watermark - Enya
Gettysburg (Movie Theme) - Randy Edelman

I am sure I will think of others, or they will simply come into my mind like phantoms in the night and gently guide me back to their unique and colorful world.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Of Mice and Men and Government Shutdowns

I know it may come as a terrible surprise to many, but there are worse things than a partial government shutdown.  I am sure there will be some inconveniences, and perhaps some will be more severe than merely not getting to hike in the Pisgah National Forest.  However, I for one have noticed no difference in my daily life.  Have you?  I would love to hear it if you have.  I doubt seriously that more than 1% of Americans felt any change at all (except of course federal government employees in "non essential" positions).  

The upside is we are actually saving some money.  The normal operating costs of many of these non-essential services is temporarily on hold.  Heaven knows, we could use a break.  With a $3.8 Trillion dollar budget and an almost $17 Trillion federal debt, the poor, over-burdened tax payer desperately needs some relief!  

And the notorious sequester?  You mean the government cannot operate with 2-3% less in revenue?  They sure thought the working taxpayers could when they raised the payroll tax 2% at the beginning of the year.

All these government "services" are not free. Sure, they may be free to those who do not work for them, but somebody has to pay.  That somebody is the taxpayer and most of us are a little sick and tired of being soaked here and there by every government agency coming and going.

Here is a list of taxes Americans pay, put together by

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
Capital Gains Tax
CDL license Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Court Fines (indirect taxes)
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel permit tax
Gasoline Tax (42 cents per gallon)
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax Interest expense (tax on the money)
Inventory tax IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Local Income Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Septic Permit Tax
Service Charge Taxes
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Taxes (Truckers)
Sales Taxes
Recreational Vehicle Tax
Road Toll Booth Taxes
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone federal excise tax
Telephone federal universal service fee tax
Telephone federal, state and local surcharge taxes
Telephone minimum usage surcharge tax
Telephone recurring and non-recurring charges tax
Telephone state and local tax
Telephone usage charge tax
Toll Bridge Taxes
Toll Tunnel Taxes
Traffic Fines (indirect taxation)
Trailer registration tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft registration Tax
Well Permit Tax

Workers Compensation Tax

Some of these are very small taxes, and some, like the federal income tax, are substantial. At some point there has to be a taxpayer revolt.  The TEA Party folks are getting a start on this.  For too long the takers in society, the Washington elite, and others have had their way, raising taxes and fees and spending like drunken sailors.  Wait, it's worse than that. When drunken sailors run out of money, they quit spending.  The government does not.  It's like the great Ronald Reagan once said, "Government is like the alimentary canal of a baby, with an insatiable appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other."

It is past time for a change. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My Woeful Neglect

Among all the various tasks any busy human undertakes, there is always it seems (at least in my experience) one area which, while important, remains set aside like some valuable antique of great value but which by time and exposure becomes more of a relic than a useful object.  Such is my blog, which has always been important, but yet now has been neglected yet again, set aside for more pressing business, or so such business seems.

I will endeavor to be more diligent (shouldn't be too hard given the level of diligence in the past year) and hopefully provide insights, information, writings, etc. that will hopefully enlighten, entertain, and uplift the reader.  It appears that readership of this blog is better than it was a year and a half ago, when I still posted semi-regularly.  That is encouraging.  I will try to make it worth your while.

It has been said that bloggers must blog.  So be it.  Here's to more regular verbal interlocution.  Comments are always welcome.