Here's Johnny - Farewell, sweet Prince
I have no Prince albums, though I heard and played plenty of his music as a Navy disc jockey in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. If a friend or Dear Reader insists on lending me a few, I'll happily listen, because I believe Prince was one of the greatest musical artists of the rock era. I prefer the work of Neil Finn (mentioned last week) and Radiohead and Elvis Costello - but I know Prince was darn good. I am also struck by the differences between many of today's most popular artists and Prince, whose years of greatest popular (if not artistic) success were the 1980s. Today, most of the musical acts selling most of the records have these traits in common: an inability to play an instrument, an inability to sing, and an inability to write good or at least clever lyrics. Prince, on the other hand, often played all the instruments on his albums and, in concert, was a wizard on the electric guitar. He wrote thought-provoking lyrics, was a great singer, and, for what it's worth, looked rather like the offspring of Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix. Prince fused pop, funk, hard rock and dance music together in a way few today would attempt for fear of alienating their audiences, and the gifts he was blessed with required tens of thousands of hours of practice to hone. Many of his successors require only a flashy name, an arrest record and a willingness to appeal to the lowest common denominator. I wonder what Prince thought of them? I dunno if seeing people with a fraction of his ability and work ethic outsell him bothered him, but, now that he's gone, it sort of bothers me. Today, we have more information at our fingertips than scholars with access to the best libraries and labs had just a few years ago, yet our "smart" devices are making many of us stupider and shallower. Life is, for an increasing number of people, especially young folks, Short Attention Span Theater. And thus ends this sermon. Rest in peace, Prince. Thanks for your music and the hard work it took to bring it to us. A pay raise for Midway officials And now for something completely different. I borrowed that line from the newscaster John Cleese played in the Monty Python's Flying Circus television show. The short news desk bits allowed the Pythons to segue from one sketch or animated bit to another and, I think, to poke fun at the "I'm serious!" expression of many television anchors. But I digress . Before I lay out the case for doubling the pay of Midway's mayor and city council, let me assure you that none of them asked me to lobby taxpayers on their behalf. I once shared an after-council beverage with less than a quorum, but insisted on paying for my own brew - either that, or none of them spoke quickly enough while the waitress waited me for to reach for my wallet. Midway City Council members are paid $50 a month; the mayor, $100. This might be ample financial reward if all they were asked to do was attend twice-monthly full council meetings, most of which last an hour or less. However, their hours spent in Midway City Hall are merely a very small fraction of the time they spend serving their community. Most every day, they receive phone calls, letters and emails from constituents wondering exactly why the pothole up the street hasn't been repaired and just what in the heck are they going to do about it. They also attend semi-regular committee meetings and explore issues on their own. None of Midway's leaders got into politics to get rich, and if they did, they ran for the wrong seats. (Try Congress if you want a $174,000 annual salary, free flights to and from home every weekend and plenty of free food and favors.) Doubling the pay of Midway's mayor and city council would cost Midway taxpayers an additional $4,800 a year and might make the often lightly contested races more competitive. Might it also make the good men and women presently serving this lovely town more likely to purchase this reporter's next after-council beverage? Perhaps so, but it's an ethical risk I'm willing to take. Besides, they might need a few extra bucks to buy a Prince album or two.