Let’s face it, we have too much to worry about as we age — from cholesterol readings to sun overexposure to osteoporosis. Guess what —  here comes “tech neck.” Yes, that’s right, as we age, most of us need to be aware of this thing that experts call, “tech neck.”

“Tech neck” comes courtesy of our ever-growing dependence on digital devices. Apparently, staring at devices like your Smartphone, tablet, e-reader or laptop causes those pesky saggy necklines which make us look far older than our actual present ages. How many times are we looking down at these devices? Those who conducted the studies on our digital use say that many of us look down at least 150 times a day at our devices. The experts say that bending the neck harms its delicate skin and muscles. Combine that digital usage along with sun damage and you have a “tech neck” problem on your hands.

Great, here’s another affliction that advances the aging process. In the case of tech neck,” life literally flies by in a heartbeat.  One minute it’s acne and the next it’s “turkey neck.” Some doctors are saying that a great number of  “tech neck” patients are in the 18-39 age group.

I say expect an increase in those proverbial “anti-tech neck” oils, creams, ointments and pills to come to market. I’m sure there are some out there, but we’re not seeing these products heavily marketed at the moment.  The ads for “anti-tech neck” products will most likely be sandwiched between those obnoxious Arby’s spots and trans-vaginal mesh ads.

Remember these products are for those who have had the damage done. Reversing “tech neck” will probably be a zillion dollar business if it is not already. What can be done for “tech neck” prevention? Doctors recommend using plenty of moisturizer on our delicate necks. They also say to stay out of the sun for good measure. Dermatologists say that these preventative measures will hopefully make creases, dropping jowls and sagging skin a rare thing.

For the “wine and cheese set,” I’m sure there are plenty of plastic surgeons out there in Beverly Hills already running those “tech neck” specials. You know that all the latest fads happen out in California before they hit the rest of the world. Fortunately, we’re in a good market that isn’t too far behind Los Angeles. Again, “tech neck specials” could be happening in more places than I realize, but I have yet to see any billboards with doctors claiming that they can reverse the ravages of “tech neck.” Indeed there are pricey procedures that use radio waves to treat those sagging necklines, but by and large, the “tech neck marketing scheme” has yet to take hold. If the topical solutions and plastic surgeons aren’t cutting it for you, most likely there are or will be a myriad of “tech neck exercises” offered in health clubs and spas. Stay tuned.

Obviously the best “tech neck” prevention method is not to look down at your devices over 150 times a day. Could you take a “Tech Neck Challenge” whereby you limit your digital device usage for about a week, a month or more? I doubt I could take on such a challenge.  If not taking on such a challenge, what do you think is the best method for preventing “tech neck?”

March Madness is upon us

Posted: March 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

I never quite got the whole “March Madness thing.”  Being on the periphery of sports-related fanaticism, it took me ages to understand the madness behind March. I’ll explain from my mostly-uniformed perspective what this “phenomenon” truly is these days. For the “March Madness unaware,” the world of college basketball whittles down the winners of great competing basketball teams who will finally meet in a championship of some sort one day in the near future. To me, it seems like the distant future. This scheme is depicted in a bracket graphic where the competing teams are shown from what looks like hundreds to suddenly 8 to the final four and then obviously two teams meet to win the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s big trophy. It seems like it takes forever.

As one can tell, I’m just not that into March Madness.

To me, March is all about saying goodbye to winter, dealing with Daylight Saving Time, full moons, a Friday the 13th, Saint Patrick’s Day, spring cleaning and  gearing up for spring break. March Madness is not on my radar. In all honesty, March Madness just seems to be something that distracts way too many people when there are so many other important things going on like eating, sleeping and watching “Charles in Charge” reruns. Just jesting on that last one, but seriously, this March Madness is quite consuming.

On any given evening, I completely forget that some of my favorite restaurant spots double up as quasi-sports bars. Thus, it can take several minutes to finally get seated at some of these places due to more patrons in the establishment grazing at the tables viewing March Madness games while indulging in their favorite adult beverages. Hats off to the March Madness fans, but I’m quite hungry and I would like to get my quesadillas sometime this year. I jest. It is a free world and these college basketball fans have every right to enjoy themselves.

It always sounds like the usual suspects are in these tournaments. Villanova, Notre Dame,  Louisville, Wake Forest and UCLA seem to make news. I confess that I wasn’t aware of some of those schools until recent years. It warms my heart when a Georgia or Ohio team gets some “March Madness notice.” I spent a lot of time in both states so it’s great when a team like Cleveland State gets some national press. Still, those “little teams that could” rarely seem to get to the final tournament. It’s typically UNC or Connecticut who take top prize.

Just like professional sports, the college version is big business. I cannot imagine how much money these events must generate in ticket sales, merchandise and total revenues. Speaking of money, it was recently reported that March Madness is the culprit for companies losing a lot of cash, like $2 billion! That estimate comes courtesy of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Inc. Apparently employees invest time in “working on their brackets” to reading all about March Madness to streaming events. Aside from employees getting into March Madness, it seems like the president spends some time on his brackets as has been shown on cable sports network ESPN in recent years.

I don’t scoff at college sports fans. Admittedly, I occasionally enjoy viewing professional or even college sports. Certainly most of the March Madness fans could barely understand why I like viewing the Tour de France during most summers.

I don’t knock the folks who get into March Madness – even the president. I just don’t get the hype.

After a teaser in autumn 2014, Apple finally unveiled its Apple Watch. Only time will tell if this watch will catch on throughout the world. One group of experts stay that it all depends on the apps. Others say success will happen for ease of use. Still others say style matters.

No matter what the analysts are talking about, Apple is taking the plunge.

‘App-wise’ the watch looks like that ‘apps’ will not be a problem, but how many apps can a user load before the device’s memory explodes? The functionality of those apps look like they will be fine, but I wonder if certain apps will cause glitches. If I owned such a watch, any exercise or health app would be my ‘number one app.’ The Apple Watch’s portability cannot be beat, but the devil is in the details. Apparently I would still need to take my iPhone along to make the GPS feature happen. In other words, this device is useless to me. In a perfect world, I would be able to track my runs while most likely listen to iTunes while out and about. Still, even if I did not have to take my iPhone along, I wonder how good the battery would hold up over time with such use.

The Apple Watch’s ease-of-use looks like it could be a challenge for some, especially for those with larger fingers. I’m at a loss as to how those with size large fingers are able to text on their Smartphones. The Apple Watch brings to mind my first watch that did more than just tell time. I once owned a Casio calculator watch. In those days, I thought it was quite cool with its myriad of number buttons. About three years in, I lost a button or two, but I still thought the watch looked cool. About the time I was 13, I created a sketch poking fun at how many fingers it took to operate the thing,

Even though I liked the calculator watch as a young teen, I became a tad more fashion conscious and ceased wearing it around age 18. I vacillated between an old school analog watch and a more basic Casio digital watch. I missed the calculator function, but not the bulkiness of the large watch. What’s old is new again with the Apple Watch as far as the size goes, but this new watch looks a bit better than my old Casio calculator watch. Style-wise the Apple Watch looks good for a device that is basically a mini-computer.

The Apple Watch will apparently have a multitude of functions including e-mail access, health information and phone features. I have no idea how the phone feature will be used. I cannot imagine a world in which folks have their watches to their ears.

There’s no doubt that there have been attempts at creating a ‘smart watch’ with the Pebble and others. The Apple Watch looks like it could trump all of the competitors’ previous attempts at such a device. If successful, this device could be a game changer like the iPod and iPhone devices. Obviously copy cats will happen if the watch becomes a phenomenon.

At this point, I would let the more wealthy folks purchase these devices to ‘Beta test’ them. Once they work the bugs out, I would consider the watch mostly for exercise if Apple put GPS technology into the actual phone so that I could ditch my iPhone.

Our winter weather woes

Posted: March 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

One day I’m doing my late winter afternoon run on a spring-like day and the next, there’s threat of black ice. Welcome to a typical early March. Early March has always been non-committal when it comes to the weather as far as I am able to remember. When growing up, there were certain years on Ohio’s North Coast when we would be teased with a beautiful thaw in late February and/or early March. We enjoyed the mild temperatures for a few days and then, “Bam,” a snow storm and a few more weeks of snow covering the earth.

I confess that those late winter/early spring snowy days were depressing to me. Perhaps others were and have always been OK with those northern Ohio snowy days, but I think there have always been more people like me. Gray days filled with dirty snow never helped my psyche growing up in one of Cleveland’s east side suburbs.  I think that Clevelanders never asked for much.  I recall folks who were living around me being so grateful that the roads were clear just so that they could get to the grocery store. I have a feeling that humbles people which quite honestly, makes folks in places like the Midwest and Northeast quite genuine.

I’m still not sure how folks in the northern states deal with these drastic weather patterns. Winter 2015 more than put those folks to the test with record-breaking cold and snow. I’ll say it again: I hope they will all enjoy a beautiful and quiet summer, spring and fall. We deal with the roller coaster weather here in the southern states, but on a different scale. I suppose the key to dealing with these changes is to plan ahead, but no matter how much one plans, it’s still not easy. I doubt that there is any way one’s mind is able to completely prepare for these winter weather changes.

I would rather get the temperature forecast only by checking out my Yahoo! Weather app so I can plan for the next few days. “Will I or won’t I wear a sweater on that week’s Tuesday or will I put on a short sleeve Polo on that day?” Those are the questions I ask myself in early March.

Still, I get drawn into watching the local television stations’ winter weather coverage. Maybe there’s a part of me that loves the drama that the locals love to bring to viewers. Obviously drama equals higher viewership which translates into larger profits. Let’s remember that television news is a business. With that said, the stations lay on the drama by finding where the worst weather is happening. With the Peach State’s geography, the weather can be quite different from Peachtree Corners or say, south of Atlanta around McDonough to the north like Brasstown Valley. Reporters standing on a deck with the mountains serving as a backdrop, like to wear those station logo-emblazoned jackets with flakes hitting them.  Of course the television talent will be reporting from North Georgia where the snow will be falling while little will happen in the metro area. I’m still not sure why I wish to view the spectacle. I feel that if I don’t watch the spectacle, then bad weather will hit the metro area and I’ll feel uninformed.

With or without drama, it’s tough to deal with these wild weather swings. Some years we experienced severe spring-like weather such as the mid-March 2008 twisters which skipped through downtown Atlanta of all places. On the other end of the spectrum, there was the mid-March 1993 snowstorm which blanketed the metro area for an entire weekend.

Our living quarters also deal with these weather changes. One day we’re running the furnace and the next, the air conditioning. It’s funny how I give my climate control system a personality, but if it has one, it must get confused at this time of the year.

C’mon “Weather Gods,” decide what you want to do these days.

With the weather woes and school closings – or in the case of Gwinnett, school openings – there has been much brouhaha this last week in February 2015 in the Atlanta metro. Whether one agreed with how the leaders responded, no one can disagree that there was a smattering of opinion on the social nets and traditional radio and television concerning how the metro area handles winter weather. When anything like this hits the general population, it seems like many folks elect themselves governor, mayor, school superintendent, lawyer and/or meteorologist. Let’s face it: predicting any type of weather has been and looks to be an inexact science. The bottom line is that folks in charge wish to do what’s best for his or her community. Who wants to have a regional or worse yet, national embarrassment on his or her hands?

Now that North Georgia and the metro area has thawed out, hopefully we’re done with any threat of a snow or ice event for this winter season. Nevertheless, let’s not forget how the metro area was hammered in mid-March 1993. We still have a bit of winter left.

As the winter weather brouhaha was simmering down, there was another one brewing in the state legislature in the form of Senate Bill 139. The Georgia Senate would like to make things a bit more simple by banning the ban on plastic bags. On Thursday, February 27th, the Georgia Senate voted to prohibit cities and counties from banning the use of plastic bags. SB 139 is meant to make things a bit more clear to business owners as to whether they can allow customers to collect their goods in a paper or plastic bag.

In other parts of the nation – and perhaps world – governments have banned the use of plastic bags. Those very governments feel that plastic bags contribute to quickly filling up our landfills as well as being  environmentally detrimental. Plus, the production of plastic bags and other plastic products require more oil production. That last concern is most likely more pressing overseas, but it could be highlighted a bit more in the U.S. in the future.

Down along the Georgia coast, plastic bags can end up around sea turtles and their cousins who may eat the bags thus suffocating or choking on them. To some, that scenario can be far-fetched, but upon thinking about it, how many times have you seen plastic bags on the side of the road? Local Georgia coastal governments have been concerned about plastic bags getting into the wrong hands – or in this case, paws. They would like to craft bills that could protect sea turtles and other marine life in their areas. Some officials in Tybee Island and even inland in Athens are wishing to enact a plastic bag ban.

Aside from environmental concerns, folks who are against SB 139 argue that local governments ought to make the call on the use of plastic bags. They say that cities and counties should make the call on paper or plastic. SB 139 passed the Georgia Senate and is going onto the House. If the governor signs the legislation, then local governments essentially give up their decision-making power on the plastic bag use.

Leaving the environmental debate out of this issue, it’s interesting that local governments, who have been fighting for local control all these years, could possibly make the exception on the use of plastic bags.

Obviously, any decision on bag use impacts restaurateurs, grocers and retailers alike. I am impressed with what grocer Aldi practices. Aldi charges for the use of bags which gets the consumer to think about the production costs. So, if I wish to save money at Aldi, I bring in my own cloth bags.

As a consumer, would you be OK with your local government banning plastic bag use thus requiring you to buy your own reusable bags or using only paper bags?

After the large heavy snowflakes descended upon our neck of the woods, I’m thinking about what’s happening within other corners of the globe. What? Have you gone mad? Perhaps, but after negotiating myself and loved ones through these winter weather events over the years, I’m curious as to what it’s like in places on the other side of the Equator like Johannesburg, South Africa or throughout Australia. The Aussies are in the dead of summer in late February. I know, it’s beyond a challenge to have “summer empathy” for our friends down under, but the fact is, it’s in the high 80s in Darwin, Australia. Darwin is in the northern part of the country. Melbourne and Sydney towards the south certainly have their warm and dry spells, but hardly like their neighbors to the north. Remember everything is reversed down under – warmer in the north, cooler in the south.

Darwin, Australia’s late February 2015 temps are not too bad for summer compared to our temps in our typical late July/early August days. I know, those sweltering summer days are somewhat of a “dream” for many of us in the metro area at the moment. Summer can be a bit brutal to Australia  with droughts so bad, prime ministers in the past prayed for rain much more so than a Peach State governor who prayed for rain in summer 2007. Remember that one, folks? We were hitting over 100 degrees Fahrenheit that summer. Another problem for Australia: sweeping forest fires.

Let’s amp this thought up: Singapore is hovering in the 90s at this time of the year. Perhaps those folks are actually jealous of our current temps minus the way snow and ice paralyzes the metro area. Those in Singapore are well-equipped to handle this city state not terribly far from the Equator.

If you think Singapore is hot at this time of the year, think about what’s happening in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This area is not only seeing temps in the 90s, but it is experiencing an exceptional drought. Reservoirs are drying so badly, folks are asked not to use water after 1 p.m each day. For a country that has 12 percent of the world’s fresh water supply comes from Brazil. Much of that fresh water comes from the Amazon Basin, but only four percent of the country’s population live. About 21 million people are concentrated in the Sao Paulo/Brasilia area where there is little water supplied. There are some reports of doctors cutting short kidney dialyses for patients.

Certainly Sao Paulo would love to have the water from Boston’s massive snow if it ever melts while Boston wishes for Sao Paulo’s temps, but obviously that’s all a pipe dream. These out-of-balance climate examples could go on and on, but just think when it’s snowy, icy and cold here, it’s hot and dry somewhere else.

ice

I have been through scores of winters here in the Southeast and most of them are an adventure. One day, you could be strolling in a public park feeding the ducks or walking the dog and the next, you’re holed up within your four walls protecting yourself from temperatures in the teens. For those new to the Atlanta metro area, welcome to Winter 101.

When I came down from Ohio’s north coast more than 25 years ago, I recall folks telling me about how terrible the winters could get down here. I scoffed at the idea since those recollections were told to me in the hot August heat and humidity. Those Atlanta winter veterans couldn’t have been more right as the subsequent years presented many winters with frigid temperatures.

When folks from up north would call and make fun of our then-minor snowfalls, I explained to them how much more dangerous it is down here with the lack of snow removal equipment. Our roads are far more treacherous than their treated roads up there – most of the time. After much thought, it made sense to have little equipment since there have always been few snow or ice events each winter.

With snow removal equipment, the thinking always went, “Why waste the money on things you would barely use?” That thought was challenged over the years when the area was hit with a massive snowfall in March 1993 and recently in late January 2014. Last year’s Snowmaggedon/Snowpocalypse caught the area off guard much like a similar “catastrophic” event during winter 1982. This year, the state invested in improved prevention methods with the introduction of the salt brining trucks.

For what it’s worth, the use of the brining trucks is a good plan for the Atlanta metro’s interstates. Of course, most of us have to take secondary streets to get to those treated interstates. So if there was a massive area icy event in late February 2015, many of us would stay off the roads, stay home from work or school. The benefits of keeping the interstates treated is good for commerce. Most likely those truckers are grateful for the treated roads.

While late February 2015 is nothing like late January/early February 2014 in the Atlanta metro area, we still got our dose of the cold. Furnace and automobile troubles, pipes bursting and frost bite are major concerns for us when we hit a cold snap. For our brethren to the north, those issues are far more minor since they are veterans at dealing with those concerns. Besides, folks up in the Northeast have “bigger fish to fry (if they could only thaw them out)” with issues like running out of places to pile up the snow.

Right now, North Georgia has been hardest hit from winter 2015’s snow and ice events. I’m amazed at how those folks survive living up there with no electricity for days on end. The payoff to mountain living is that you cannot beat its serene nature.

So keep that furnace checked. Wrap those pipes. Be safe when heating with generators or kerosene heaters. Watch it with the chainsaws when slicing those fallen trees and limbs. Most of all, stay warm. With some positive thinking and maybe luck, we don’t have much more winter ahead of us as of this writing. Here’s hoping that we avoid having to deal with a major ice or snow event this season or for any other season.

There we were, shivering 17-year-olds standing outside at the top of a ramp leading into the back of the arena in Richfield, Ohio.

“I know his manager, we can go back stage and get our shirts signed,” my friend Chuckie announced.

“This is ridiculous,” I replied. “Plus we’re missing the encore.”

As I’m hearing the muffled sounds of the 1977 song “Only the Good Die Young,” I was thinking to myself that no one outside of my circle friends will know about what we attempted on that chilly late March 1984 evening. On that evening, my and friends and I wished to meet with the legendary musician/piano player/singer/songwriter Billy Joel. What were we thinking?

Despite this performer’s success, generally it wasn’t “cool” for a male high school student to like this guy in those days. In my school, it was cool to like Black Sabbath/Ozzy, AC/DC and for a bit more mainstream flavor, The Beatles or Bruce Springsteen, but Billy Joel? Really? The “Uptown Girl” guy? “Not cool, dude,” some would say to me in the hallways. But, guess what-the “Uptown Girl” guy was cranking out catchy hit after hit while dating a super-model. What’s not to like? I’ll never figure that one out.

So I carried on through high school keeping that admiration to myself. Even with all of the snide comments about Billy Joel, I didn’t pipe up to argue, I just secretly liked this guy. Actually I liked this guy since I was 10-years-old when my sister brought home The Stranger LP and later on, the 8-track version that could be heard on her 1970 Camaro Delco player.

I never understood that 8-track format – with its breaking up of longer tracks like “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” – but, I loved listening to that record in the car, being able to independently visualize those descriptive songs. I’m thankful that concept music videos were rarely produced in the late 1970s because I was able to use my imagination.

I realized even at a young age that this guy was producing not only hits, but excellent full-length albums, entire 45 minute LPs that have always been a treat to listen to from start to finish. I recall each time my sister brought those Billy Joel records home. When those records were brought into the house, I would secretly spin them, just marveling at their craftsmanship.

Then there were the legendary concerts where this guy with unruly wiry hair like mine was dressed in jackets and tie along with tennis shoes. That was “cool” to me. I heard that he jumped from his piano and ripped up bad reviews on stage. I would later feel that he spoke to those of us who were not in suburban America’s “cool club.” My sister saw Billy Joel during those piano jumping days during her college freshman year when his sixth solo album 52nd Street was getting released in autumn 1978. Oh how I wished to go to one of those concerts, but was far too young to attend.

I would go on to watch his performance and concept videos as well as the breakthrough Concert from Long Island on cable TV. By that point, Billy Joel was already in the pop star stratosphere while also getting quite deep with the release of The Nylon Curtain. Here we and Billy were in the early 1980s living our idyllic lives while Billy himself produced songs about unemployment, the effects of the Vietnam War and dealing with “Pressure.” To me, that was beyond gutsy in a time when Billy’s contemporaries like Huey Lewis was asking us, “Do You Believe in Love?” Kool and the Gang demanded that we “Get Down on It” and Loverboy was pondering why so many out there were “Working for the Weekend.” The Nylon Curtain turned out to be Billy Joel’s own Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. He spent an unusual time producing this masterpiece which was both aesthetically and technically ahead of its time.

Then came An Innocent Man, a fun album derived from the pop sensibilities of my parent’s time. The album draws some inspiration from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and Martha and the Vandellas. The anti-Joelites were all over this one.

“Now he thinks he’s Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show? So stupid, man!” one fellow student/Joel naysayer proclaimed, referring to “Tell Her About It.”

“Why’s he sounding like he’s on Sesame Street?” another one shout out to me in a literature class, criticizing the single “Leave a Tender Moment Alone” which contains harmonica verses courtesy of a man named Toots Thielmans.

At that point, I was old enough to drive with my friends to see a show on the From a Piano Man to An Innocent Man tour. From the moment Billy hit the ivory keys to ”Angry Young Man” on that March 1984 evening, I was mesmerized from my perch which seemed like miles from the stage below. Sure there was pop hit after pop hit in that night’s performance, but the sounds were that of true rock ‘n roll. This was not just a piano man sitting there with cigarettes replicating a lounge act, this was a full-on house rock ‘n roll. So, the encore came and we headed for the ramp. When the rumbling from the arena ceased, suddenly a convoy of police cars, limos and trucks quickly shot up the ramp and out of the arena’s parking lot. To this day, I wonder if Billy saw us suckers standing there with concert shirts in tow as he drove off into the Ohio night.

So, where was this so-called “wimp factor” too many in my world so labeled Billy Joel with for years? Sorry didn’t see it that night in 1984 or the next three times I saw Billy Joel over the years. I faithfully bought Billy’s albums when he was making them, subscribed to a newsletter and saw him at The Omni in summer 1990, with Sir Elton John over 20 years ago at The Georgia Dome and then eight years ago at Philips Arena. I finally scored decent seats to that show. I was not only mesmerized that time, but simply stunned. On Saturday, February 28th, I won’t be there at the end of a ramp waiting. I hope to be in the arena watching the encore finally confessing to the naysayers that I’m truly a “Joelfan” and proud of it.

Billy Joel plays Philips Arena, Saturday, February 28th, 2015 at 8 p.m.

It took several years, but it finally happened: a proper set of traffic signals at the Peachtree Parkway/Woodhill Drive intersection. Over my 25-plus years in the area, I drove, ran and biked through this challenging intersection. Aside from this intersection’s heavy use, the traffic signals have been dated. Attempting to go either go straight, left or right from Woodhill Drive onto Peachtree Parkway has been tough without a protected arrow.

Finally this past week, the signals have been updated. Those flashing yellow arrows which have been popular in nearby Johns Creek for years have finally made their way into this set of signals. The signals should make drivers, cyclists and pedestrians a tad safer with the emphasis on “tad.” If anything, there is a bit of a piece of mind with the new signals.

Much like most of metro Atlanta’s thoroughfares, Peachtree Parkway is essentially a freeway that attempts to function and appear as a main road serving a community. In other words, it’s a challenge to negotiate. As most folks who are familiar with the area know, Peachtree Parkway is a far cry from Main Street, USA. With high speed limits, shops and offices set far back from the thoroughfare, there’s no doubt that there is not much of a hometown feel to Peachtree Parkway. It’s a massive road that is designed to quickly usher folks from Point A to Point B. Unfortunately, that original intention is dated because many times throughout any given day, Peachtree Parkway is jammed with traffic, a far cry from a hometown road that makes citizens and visitors feel safe.

We indeed make attempts to give Peachtree Parkway a homey feel with some hard-working folks who have beautified the center strip. Certainly, the pretty shrubbery and trees planted on Peachtree Parkway’s center strip are eye-pleasing, but doing these improvements is like putting nice paint on a hideous house. Let’s face it, it’s tough to make rush hour look pretty.

I also hate to write this, but those plantings can be obtrusive in a few places on the road. During many of Peachtree Parkway’s rush hours, local first responders need to go down that road through the stopped traffic. There are plenty of areas where the unfortunate commuters in those cars may have a tough time pulling over where the plants exist to make room for the fire trucks and rescue squads. I witnessed such an event a few weeks back. I’m sure that it’s nerve-wracking for first responders and the commuters.

I love the Peachtree Parkway, but cannot stand its traffic, but who would enjoy the traffic? Most likely it would be folks who love sitting in their cars listening to satellite radio perhaps – hopefully they don’t enjoy texting.

Speaking of traffic, I noticed more pedestrians attempting to cross four or more lane roads well outside of any crosswalk. The latest observation on this trend occurred on Norcross’ Beaver Ruin Road. I witnessed a woman with her three kids, one in a stroller, making the trek across multiple lanes on a busy Saturday morning. Another time, I witnessed a gentleman running across Pleasant Hill Road in heavy traffic, fast-food bag and all. Could more crosswalks be the answer to those playing Frogger on our roads? Many would argue that even if more crosswalks were installed, those folks would still not use them. I could be wrong, but more crosswalks could save lives.

Could more improved crosswalks and traffic signals make us safer out there?

Will the music day one day?

Posted: February 1, 2015 in Uncategorized
I once ran across one of those Parade magazine question and answer features a number of years back when someone asked Marilyn Vos Savant if we’ll run out of music one day. So will we run out of an original combination of music notes? Will the music die one day thus literally taking singer-songwriter Don McLean’s “American Pie” come true? The gifted Ms. Vos Savant replied through her massive intellect that it is impossible.
In general, I believe Ms. Von Savant that original music will always be possible, but there are times when the thought gives me pause. Take for instance what happened in the music world in late January this year. Singer Sam Smith settled a lawsuit from fellow musician Tom Petty. The suit charged that the chart-topping Smith single, “Stay with Me” contains a number of similarities to Petty’s 1989 hit, “I Won’t Back Down.” I confess that when I first heard Smith’s single on the radio, I would start singing “I Won’t Back Down” to myself. On a side note, I would never do that with anyone in the car including my teen daughter who would immediately start screaming for me to stop. I sing everything Morton Downey, Jr.-style, so sue me! On second thought, don’t and a note to Morton’s people, I’m jesting and I promise that I’ll will never be the late great Morton. Hey, that’s the fun about getting older: I can go on a “side note” here, make obscure Morton Downey, Jr. references and break out into song when the urge hits me. OK, I’m turning into my grandfather. I’ll stop.
Nevertheless, I kept singing the Petty song in the car solo every time Smith’s “Stay with Me” came on the radio. Low and behold, the lawsuit came out and I shrieked, “I knew it! They are similar!” I didn’t want to say anything for all of those months because people would have thought I was crazier than I already appeared. Of course the younger set who don’t know Tom Petty said that there are no similarities. The geezers like me said yes and guess what? We won! It was confirmed that there are unintentional coincidences between the two compositions. At the end of the day, Petty’s folks said that they will take about 12 percent of the song’s credit. All parties agreed that if there are any accolades for the song, Smith will receive them. Fair enough. Tom Petty and fellow writer/producer/performer Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra fame, have had their moments in the sun.
So, how does this happen? Smith says that he wasn’t thinking about the Petty tune when he and two others penned “Stay with Me,” but was “I Won’t Back Down” on their minds without them realizing it? Obviously no court can go back in time and read what a songwriter was thinking, but certainly a huge 25+-year-old hit was in the songwriting team’s subconscious and there’s nothing wrong with that fact.
One could go back to recent examples of how songwriter’s derive ideas, chord progressions, beats, inspirations and more from previous works. Singer-songwriter-piano player extraordinaire and one of my personal favorites, Billy Joel enjoys conducting master classes. In one clip, Joel explained how the 1977 song “Movin’ Out” was constructed. Joel said that the song was constructed off of Neil Sedaka’s 1974 hit, “Laughter in the Rain.” That revelation is surprising to me and I’m sure, many others out there. I would say that Joel’s 1983 song, “An Innocent Man” mixes parts of The Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk” and Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number.” It could be argued that Joel derived 1993’s “River of Dreams” from the “Happy Days” theme (listen for the part that I think is similar) or 1989’s “The Downeaster Alexa” from Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Critics charged that Joel is too derivative, meaning that he’s not as original as his contemporaries. Still, these songs take inspiration. An inspiration does not equal a rip-off. One could probably go through many others’ catalogs and detect derivation. The critics are flat-out wrong with Joel.
One song similarity suit happened in the mid-1980s with the Ghostbusters theme song. After the Ray Parker, Jr. song shot up the charts in 1984, Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and the News charged that his 1983 song, “I Want a New Drug” was similar. I thought Huey and company were wrong. When listening to both songs back to back on my cassette player at the time, I heard the same rhythm. Huey and Ray later settled.
Other examples of song similarities include the late 1980s duo Milli Vanilli. Their song “All or Nothing” drew heavily from the 1968 Blood, Sweat and Tears song, “Spinning Wheel.” That lawsuit said that Milli and company used the melody without their permission. That lawsuit stands in stark contrast to those who sample music. Obviously, artists like Eminem get permission when using the sampling technique for their works.
The question remains: Will the music die one day? I think Ms. Vos Savant is right. The music will live on and so will these lawsuits and challenges.