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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Rant #1,684: 20,000 and Beyond

How was your Memorial Day weekend?

Mine was relaxing to the max, as I did pretty much nothing for the three days.

And that was fine with me. Sometimes, you just need some time to decompress ...

On May 29, picking up my son from work--yes, he worked this holiday weekend--and driving both of us to get a haircut, I passed a milestone on my car, and it is a very important milestone given the circumstances.

At a little after 2 p.m. in the afternoon, I passed 20,000 miles on this car, exactly two years and one day from the time I finally got this car from the dealer.

That would be a nice accomplishment as it is, but to me, it is really a time to rejoice, and also to look back at why I even have this car.

It was a rainy Saturday on May 10, 2014, and I was driving my wife and my son to a place of business where my son was going to fill out a job application. I was driving my 2008 Kia Spectre, a vehicle that I absolutely loved, one that never gave me a speck of trouble in all the years that I drove it.

Minding my own business, out of nowhere came another car, who evidently never saw us.

He t-boned my car, we spun, turned upside down and ended up at the side of the road.

Witnesses said the other driver, a young kid, went right through a stop sign, and hit us so hard that we tumbled over.

I never lost consciousness, and thank God all we had were some scrapes and bruises.

But my car was totaled, a complete wreck.

But even in its last moments, the car protected us, kept us whole.

We are darn lucky to be alive, to be honest with you.

There is no need to show you a picture of the wreck. I put up a few photos after it happened, but I would rather not do it again; bad memories, which would be magnified by seeing the smashed up car again.

Everything was settled with the other driver and the company, and insurance assessed him 85 percent liability, me 15 percent, something I still can't figure out to this day.

I was told that since I was "there," I had to be assessed some responsibility.

And you wonder why your car insurance is so high?

Anyway, I decided right then and there that since I was going to be screwed anyway--the insurance didn't give me back anything near what the car was worth to me, or to buy another decent car outright--I would not only get another Kia, because of its dependability and the fact that it protected us when we most needed it, but I would get a brand new one--because my family and I deserved it after what we went through.

I ended up purchasing a 2014 Kia Optima, a nice car that gave me piece of mind after the horrific accident my family and I went through.

It is another excellent vehicle, and after some early trepidation brought on by a mild case of PTSD, I have grown to enjoy this car.

So to pass 20,000 miles with it really is a celebration of not only this car, but also to the fact that if it wasn't for the other Kia, I wouldn't be here--or at least in one piece--to have purchased another car and made it to 20,000 miles.

There really isn't much more to say.

As I peaked at my dashboard, and I saw the 19,999 turning to 20,000, I did feel a sense of accomplishment. If this type of car accident didn't stop my family and I, nothing will.

And happily, the story had a happy ending, so it made 20,000 miles even feel better to me.

Here's to the next 20,000, which at this rate, I should reach in 2018.

I can't wait.

Classic Rant #330 (September 10, 2010): Dumb But Quick

Ah, the dumb seem to be getting dumber while other things seem to be getting faster.

First, we have the case of that idiot pastor who wants to burn the Quran this weekend to "commemorate" the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

He first stated that he was postponing the book burning because he was assured that the Muslims were going to move their Ground Zero mosque to another site. Later, he recanted, saying that a local Floridian imam lied to him about the move. Supposedly, this pastor and the imam are flying to New York to meet with the imam behind the downtown Manhattan mosque, but that the New York imam now says that this is news to him, no such meeting was planned, and he isn't moving the mosque.

Enter Donald Trump, Mr. Over-the-Top (and I am not talking about his hair), who reportedly offered the imam several million dollars and other benefits if he would move his mosque somewhere else.

Leave it to Trump to grab publicity and make headlines with his offer, which evidently was turned down by the imam. But Trump got what he wanted--publicity--so the overture wasn't worthless and useless, at least to Trump.

In a completely unrelated story, Google's search engine now displays results before users can even finish typing their request.

Named Google Instant, this item can cut about two to five seconds off any Internet search.

Well, why does anyone need to shave off two to five seconds off their Internet searches? Are we in such a rush that we need those two to five seconds for something more constructive, like maybe actually doing some real research on the subject we are searching for?

Heck, to take two to five seconds off a search for people like Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Donald Trump, and yes, that idiot pastor and the imams, will really make my day so much more fulfilling.

Wouldn't it be great if Google Instant allowed you to punch in these people and be rid of them forever?

Now that would be high-tech at its best!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Rant #1,683: Sunday With a Cherry On Top

This is a rare, a very, very rare, Sunday post on the Ranting and Raving Blog, but I feel it is warranted.

"Monkees Week" ended on Friday, but honestly, it hasn't ended for me personally.

I am still on the Monkees, and won't get off of them here for at least this one, last Rant.

I finally received the physical album of "Good Times!" this weekend, and after hearing both the digital and physical collections, I feel that it is only right the I conclude "Monkees Week" today, by reviewing the album.

"Good Times!" is a paean to their first two LPs, the original Monkees LP and its followup, "More of the Monkees."

On those albums, before they took over control of their music, they used a variety of styles, a variety of songwriters, and a variety of musicians to make up these records--and by "they," I mean the powers that be at RCA, the parent company of Colgems, the Monkees' label.

And yes, it was Don Kirshner who put together these two records, and in a funny way, I think that the new album is vindication, 50 years later, that in spite of what happened, he did know what he was doing.

Yes, the Monkees put out some great records after the first two--"Headquarters" and "Head" are absolute masterpieces in the pop/rock/psychedelic genre--but "Good Times!" mirrors more their first two albums than any of their other LPs.

It is a conglomeration of a lot of pieces to make a unified sound, and that was the formula for making the first two originals, less much actual musical participation from Micky, Peter, Mike and Davy.

The new album has plenty of participation from the surviving Monkees, but producer Adam Schlesinger has used numerous other tools at his disposal--namely, some very talented younger generation songwriters--to craft what could already be called the surprise album of the year.

Let's go song by song, and see where we are headed:

"Good Times" is a collaboration of sorts between Micky Dolenz and the late Harry Nilsson, who demoed this 50 years ago. Through the magic of the studio, Micky has added his new vocals to the mix, so it sounds like Micky and Harry are dueting in 2016. The song is a fine opening number, sort of a meld of "See See Rider" and the Monkees' own "We'll Be Back" snippets that they used to remind younger viewers that a break for a commercial didn't mean that the show was ending. It opens the album up quite strongly.

"You Bring the Summer" sounds more like a Beach Boys' song than a Monkees song, and being that, it is incredible that Britisher Andy Partridge of XTC fame wrote this. If it wasn't for the final minute of so of the song, you would have thought he misplaced this song with the wrong band, but when it moves into Beatles territory, you know that he knew exactly what he was doing.

"She Makes Me Laugh" is by Weezer's Rivers Cuomo, and it is the lead single of the collection. Think Squeeze's "Black Coffee in Bed," and you have its next of kin here. When I heard this song, I knew the Monkees' had at least one winner on this collection. Little did I know that so many would follow as the album's tracks started to come out. If this isn't the perfect summer song, what is?

"Our Own World" by producer Schlesinger sounds like it came right off one of the two albums I mentioned earlier. It could have fit right into the Monkees' coda at the time, and even though it is a relatively minor little ditty, Schlesinger got it right.

"Gotta Give It Time" ... ditto for this one, although there is a reason for this to sound like it was from that era--it was! It was a leftover from that time, written by Jeff Barry and Joey Levine of Buddah bubblegum renown.

"Me and Magdalena" was another early release of this album, and when I heard this song--by Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie fame, I knew that this album was not just going to be bathed in bubblegum. This is one of the most adult tunes the Monkees have every recorded, and is truly the one of a few tunes here that demand repeated listenings.

"Whatever's Right" is a leftover Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart song from way back when, and this entire album is so strong that this one might get lost, but it is a bubblegum gem that I kind of enjoyed.

"Love to Love" has been called an unearthed Neil Diamond gem, but it has been around in Monkees' circles for ever and ever. Davy Jones is on fine voice on this lesser "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" soundalike, and it was slightly updated to get Jones on this record. Being that even when I first heard it in the late 1970s, I thought that it should have been released when it was recorded remains my feelings on this tune, but its similarity to "A Little Bit Me" probably doomed it. I have always enjoyed this tune, and Davy is in fine voice here.

"Little Girl" has been called an "I Wanna Be Free" sequel by Peter Tork, and this is the one song that even many Monkees fans don't like on this album. Not me ... I love it. Tork wrote it with Davy Jones in mind, and when Tork sings it, you can almost hear the parts that are most Davy Jones-like. And yes, Peter is in fine form here, so what's not to like?

"Birth of An Accidental Hipster" has an odd name, but don't let this Noel Gallagher/ Paul Weller tune get lost by the title. I have yet to figure out exactly what this song is about, but along with "Me and Magdalena," this is a song that demands multiple listens. It is sort of a cross between the Monkees" "Magnolia Sims" and "Auntie's Municipal Court," and I loved it.

"Wasn't Born to Follow" is a Carole King/Gerry Goffin leftover, and it is another tune that might get lost on this very strong album. Peter Tork might be at his best here, and it kind of leans back to the strong folk influences he had and the band had.

"I Know What I Know" is an actually startling song. It is one of the best songs Mike Nesmith ever wrote for the Monkees, and its understated vocals and on the surface simple lyrics underly one of the more complex tunes Mike has every been involved with. I absolutely love this song, and even if you are not a Monkees fan, this is the song that will make you one. As a sleeper, it is probably the best overall song on the album.

"I Was There (And I'm Told I Had a Good Time) harkens back to Micky's standard response when asked about the 1960s. It is sort of a mix of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and Micky's own Jesus rock sides that he cut in the early 1970s. It is a fitting close to the actual album ...

There are a few extra tracks that were left off the original album but included in various configurations of the album, including a different version of "Me and Magdalena" that is more orchestrated and will force you to decide which version you like best; "Terrifying," which might be looked as a throwaway but which I enjoyed; and "A Better World," which should have somehow found its way onto the original album, but didn't, sadly. Yet another track--"Love's What I Want"-- will eventually find its way out into the world, but that won't happen for several weeks.

All in all, this is an extremely strong album, in particular because it literally came somewhat out of nowhere to be one.

It is not as good as "Headquarters" or "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd." and "Head," and it is nearly as good as "The Monkees" and "More of the Monkees." It is light years better than "Pool It" and even the underrated "Justus," and it is in another stratosphere than "Changes." It is also better than "The Birds, the Bees and the Monkees," "Instant Replay," and "Present."

I give it a very, very strong B+.

And just for kicks, here is how I rate the other Monkees albums:

The Monkees: (A)
More of the Monkees (A-)
Headquarters (A+)
Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd. (A)
The Birds, the Bees and the Monkees (B)
Head (A+)
Instant Replay (C)
Present (C+)
Changes (D)
Pool It!(C-)
Justus (B-)
Good Times! (B+)

And now, that is really it for "Monkees Week" ... or is it?

Hope you are having a great holiday weekend, and I will speak to you again on Tuesday.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Rant #1,682: Good Times!

"Monkees Week" continues, and the past four days have all led us up to this ...

The album has finally arrived!

Yes, "Good Times" is in your local record stores right now, and you can also download it off of iTunes and the other download services.

Me, that is fine, but I want to have the actual album in my hands, and I know that the CD will be knocking at my door soon enough (the vinyl album will take a bit longer to come, but it will be worth the wait, I'm sure).

"Good Times" has won almost universal raves, including everyone from Rolling Stone Magazine to the New York Times. The professional critics say that the album harkens back to a different time and place, yet is as current as a pop/rock album could be in the current musical environment.

But who listens to rock critics anyway? They are all frustrated musicians, and they are finally jumping on the bandwagon after 50 years? Please. Where were they before this?

That being said, I am finding that it is a really good time to be a Monkees fan, especially one who has been with them since day one in the late summer of 1966 when "Last Train to Clarksville" debuted, and then when the show premiered in September of that year.

I remember the dark ages--basically from 1971 to 1985--where seemingly few cared anything about the Monkees. Sure, there was reason to care--Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart, a few solo and reunion tours, and Mike Nesmith's blossoming solo career--but we fans were few and far between during that period.

Heck, it it wasn't for Maggie McManus' late and lamented "Monkee Business" fanzine, which came out a few times each year, I would have felt like a man without a country.

But myself and many others stuck through it, 1986 came, and bang--the Monkees were hot all over again through MTV ...

And during the past 30 years, they have stayed somewhat hot, sometimes lukewarm, but always on at least the back burner.

There have been numerous reunion tours with one conglomeration or another of Monkees, there has been the re-emergence of Nesmith into the Monkees family, and then, there was the turning point, an unfortunate one if there ever was one ...

Davy Jones died on Feb. 29, 2012, and this seemed to bring the Monkees to the fore again, because when Jones died, it seemed like a piece of our own lives went with him.

On the other hand, this energized the peripheral fans, who joined the rabid fans in praising the Monkees for what they were, not what people thought they were, and the press, which had been kind of on the fence about this, started to go on the side of where they should be, and all of a sudden, the Monkees were being praised like they never were in 1966, 1967 and 1968, when they were perhaps the hottest rock and roll band on the planet.

It has taken some time, but even staunch Rolling Stone Magazine has started to see the light, getting behind the new album, praising it, and finally, they are not "Rolling Stain" anymore when it comes to Monkeedom. Can a Hall of Fame nod be in the offing later this year?

Whatever the case, the Monkees are hot as a pistol again, and the wonderful reviews that the new album has garnered are a testament to the original Monkees project--not just the out-front foursome, but all the people that worked to make this machine work--and to the four who were the faces of the operation, who really are smart, talented guys who took what they were given and ran with it as far as they could.

And back to the new album ... it is a pastiche of a lot of different styles, put together by not only the people at Rhino Records, but also by some young songwriters who consider it an honor to write songs for the Monkees.

It is a mix of pop, rock, folk, a little country, maybe even some alternative thrown in there for good measure ... in other words, it is much like the earlier efforts by the foursome, albums which were a real mix of styles but which created a real Monkees sound.

Sure, some say that Peter, Micky, Mike and Davy were given everything on a silver platter, and in some respects, they were, but they had to be able to carry it off ... and they did, musically, emotionally, spiritually, and with a lot of smarts.

The four were talented, but they were also smart, and I think, at least to me, that is what a lot of people miss about this project and why it was so successful. You had to have four guys who could literally think on their feet, and these four guys were no dummies. They pretty much knew the territory, they had to be able to navigate it, and they did, and did it with panache.

So, even if you are a skeptic, at least go onto YouTube and listen to the new songs. If you go there with an open ear as well as an open mind, I think you are going to be pleasantly surprised.

And as a life-long Monkees fan--OK, since I was nine years old, but that was in 1966, when they started, so I was there--the circle has finally been closed.

All is well in the world--at least when talking about the Monkees.

And you know what--the fans were/are/will always be parts of the machine too, and we deserve a lot of credit.

We knew what was good and stuck with it through thick and thin, and now, we are getting our reward for doing so.

Yes, I am a Monkees fan, and darn proud of that fact, too.

Have a great holiday. Next week, I will be in and out of this column. Speak to you again on Tuesday.

EXTRA: Just a little add on, exclusive to those who read the blog directly from this sight.

Here is my observation of the new Monkees album, now that I have heard it loud and clear.

"Good Times!" is a really good album. No, it is not "Headquarters." It is not "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd." It is not "Head."

And I think that that is what the detractors were looking for, an album along those lines.

I respect what they have to say, but I think they were missing the point on this album.
"Good Times!" at least to me is a celebration of the earliest of the Monkees LPs, the first two albums. 

It is a pastiche of different styles, different types of music, 50 years removed from the fact.
And I think that if the detractors look at it that way, they will have a greater appreciation of what this album sets out to do.

"Pool It" tried to do this and failed. "Justus" tried to be "Headquarters" but didn't make the cut.

"Good Times" hits the bull's eye. It is as much a celebration of the earliest of the Monkees LPs as it is a celebration of the Monkees legacy.

Let's go with it from that vantage point, and take it from there.

Classic Rant #329 (September 8, 2010): Stupid, Stupid, Stupid

Here is my open letter to the Florida minister who plans on burning copies of the Muslim Quran to protest the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks:

Dear Pastor Terry Jones:
Please do not go ahead with your desire to burn copies of the Quran to protest the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Your deed serves no good purpose, and could put American troops overseas in peril.

As an American, I also carry a scar from that attack. It is something that I will never forget. I was not there--maybe 40 miles or so away--but I can still smell the burning odor that permeated the air even where I was.

But to burn the holy books of a group of people just because a group of extremists did this is reprehensible.

Hitler burned books during World War II. I don't think you want to be linked to him in any way, so why do what he did? It serves no purpose.

It only serves to incite groups against the U.S. We have so few true friends around the world, and making more enemies is just not too smart.

And Gen. David Petraeus warned that your actions could incite extremists to carry out attacks against our servicemembers around the world. Why would you want to put them in greater harm's way than they already are?

Another reason not to do this is that I am sure you are aware that Jews are entering their most holy period of their calendar. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the High Holy Days, represent holidays where Jews reflect on their lives. To carry out your actions during such a holy part of the calendar is something of sacrilege.

Although legally you have the right to burn these books, others also have the right to burn the American flag. You say that you are doing this for America, but are you any better than those that burn our flag?

Please, do not carry out your plan. Even some members of your church will not follow you when you do this.

Think sensibly. What is this accomplishing? Is it remembering all those who perished during these attacks, or is it creating further hatred?

Please think about not doing it. That is all anyone can ask.

(And for Rosh Hashanah, I am taking the next day off. I should be back on Friday. Hopefully, by this time, Jones will come to his senses and decide not to do this. I saw him interviewed on the CBS Evening News last night, and he seems open to not doing this if God tells him not to. Hopefully, he will see the light.)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Rant #1,681: Cereal Box Records

We continue with our "Monkees Week" paean to Davy, Micky, Mike and Peter with a look back at among the rarest of the Monkees' records during their heyday.

This is a reprint of an entry I wrote in the late, great Colgems Blog--which was also infected with a virus, as readers of the original Ranting and Raving Blog know all about--and it has some new information in it, bringing it up to date.

In 1970, the Monkees project was pretty much completed. Peter Tork was the first to leave, followed by Michael Nesmith, and Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones soldiered on as a duo for as long as they could.

Colgems, their record label, was also floundering. Although it had success with the "Oliver" soundtrack, its fortunes were directly tied into the Monkees, and with that project reaching its near end, it was time to make a somewhat daring move to try to revive sales ...

All because the Monkees TV show was becoming a staple of Saturday morning TV on CBS.

Incredibly, while the first generation of Monkees fans generally were now listening to heavier sounds, kids born in the mid to late 1960s were making the Monkees TV show a hit all over again, albeit on Saturday mornings. This gave Colgems hope that a new album, "Changes," could revive the act, now down to a duo. While it didn't do the trick, Colgems was not yet done with a major marketing ploy to keep the Monkees in the spotlight, at least with little kids.

One of the Monkees original sponsors on NBC was Kellogg's, but they had moved onto other things by 1970. However, one of Kellogg's major competitors, Post Cereal, needed its own marketing ploy to at least keep in the game with Kellogg's. Post Cereal, like the Monkees franchise, needed a boost, and out of this marriage came ...

Cereal Box Records.

These records--found on the backs of cereal boxes--had been around since the late 1950s. I believe I remember seeing Mousketeers and Alvin and the Chipmunks cereal box records around this time, and this marketing tool was also used in intervening years, and not just on cereal boxes. For one, the Dave Clark Five promoted its film "Having a Wild Weekend" by having a cardboard record available on packages of Fresh Start Medicated Cleansing Gel.

Anyway, Post started to sponsor the Monkees TV show on Saturday mornings, and three of its cereals were involved in the cereal box record campaign: Rice Krinkles, Alpha Bits and Honey Comb.

These three sets of records each contained four individual songs, meaning that there were a total of 12 Monkees cereal box records available. All kids had to do was have their moms buy them the cereal, carefully cut out the record on the back, and place them on their turntable.

What they got were low-fidelity tunes that these kids' older brothers and sisters probably had already, but the marketing ploy was a hit. In fact, the next to last Colgems LP was actually a mail order item accumulating all of the cereal box records tunes on a single LP.

Although short-lived, the Monkees cereal box records established them as the first human rock group (remember the Chipmunks had them too) to be featured in a series on these records, and this was so successful that later bubblegum acts like the Jackson 5, Bobby Sherman and the Partridge Family had their own cereal box records--and so did another cartoon creation, the Archies.

Cereal box records continued to be used as a marketing ploy into the late 1970s or very early 1980s. At around this time, soundsheets emerged, and, later, when CDs replaced vinyl as the listening format of choice, cereal box records became artifacts of a different, simpler time.

As for the Monkees cereal box records, there were three designs. Design No. 1, which was found on the Rice Krinkles records, featured Micky, Davy, and Mike and a green label with guitar logos between each head in spiral. The four songs on these records were 1. The Monkees (Theme) 2. Teardrop City 3. Papa Gene's Blues 4. The Day We Fall In Love.

Design No. 2, which was found on Alpha Bits, featured a large Monkees logo in the middle, with Davy, Mike and Micky's heads around logo on a black label. The songs included in this series were 1. Last Train To Clarksville 2. I Wanna Be Free 3. Forget That Girl 4. Valleri.

Design No. 3, found on Honey Comb cereal, is my favorite, a red and white Monkees logo and musical notes on a purple background. The tunes in this series included 1. I'm A Believer 2. Pleasant Valley Sunday 3. (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone 4. Mary, Mary.

You knew what song you were getting because in lieu of an actual catalog number, the number of the song was pressed into the cardboard. Each of the records played at 33 1/3 RPM.

As artifacts of a different time, they are among the most fun records that I own.

Let's push ahead to the current time ... in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Monkees, Rhino Records decided to return to those days of yore, and they released a set of Monkees "cereal box records" earlier this year.

The set was as cheesy looking as its predecessor, with four records each containing one song apiece, for a total of four songs:

Record #1: Last Train to Clarksville
Record #2: Words (TV Mix)
Record #3: I Never Thought It Peculiar (TV Mix)
Record #4: Valleri (TV Mix)

And as cheesy as they looked, the sound quality was even worse, and many people--this guy included--had trouble playing the cardboard records on their turntables.

There were complaints that those that bought the set--yes, this one did not come free with purchase of anything, and it was kind of costly for what it was--should have gotten a download code so they could have obtained better-sounding versions of these tunes.

But whatever the case, Rhino's heart seemed to be in the right place, but their execution was poor.

I know that personally, I bought the set, played it once, recorded the songs (a difficult thing to do) and I put the set away for posterity.

It was nice to revisit the cereal box records, but although it was a nice place to visit, I wouldn't want any more of these things produced. At this point in my record collecting life, struggling to get a record to play is not part of my overall plan.

Anyway, more tomorrow.

Classic Rant #328 (September 7, 2010): High School Daze

Today is a big day in my family's world.

Today, my son goes to high school for the first time.

He is not the first one of my kids to go to high school--my daughter was a freshman all the way back in 2002, I believe--but now I guess we have completed the circle. Two kids, two kids into higher education.

My daughter pretty much breezed through high school, and I don't mean that as a positive. I think she was bored, at this point, with education. And I don't mean to make a pun with this description. I just think by this time in her life, she really wasn't that much into education, and she basically got by in high school, doing what she had to do to get in and get out in four years.

Once, she went to college, she returned back to the overdrive mode, and did very nicely.

My son is a different story entirely. He has to work hard for everything. He has a learning disability which holds him back quite a bit. I have helped my daughter with various educational questions she has posed me, but with my son, my wife and I really have to work with him--and his grandmother works with him, too--and it is difficult.

For him to reach high school is just another notch on his belt of achievements.

If you have never been confronted with a child with a learning disability, it is something that can't be explained in a paragraph or two. The only way I can describe it in just a few words is to imagine a person who needs glasses but doesn't have them, or needs a hearing aid and doesn't have them. When they go to school, without these devices, they might be able to get some of the stuff thrown at them, but because they can't see or hear properly, a lot of it goes out the door.

Kids with learning disabilities go through this every day. They have to learn to learn differently than others. And that's what makes it such a difficult task to go up the ladder from grade to grade.

And add to that going to a new school. Remember your first day of high school? It can be a dizzying day. The school is so big, you don't know where your classroom is each period, and there is a lot of hustle and bustle during the first day.

It is so different from the other schools you have gone to, and for the first time in your life, you don't feel like a "kid" anymore.

Oh, I know my son is going to make it. His teachers have told us from kindergarten that he has the drive and the will to succeed. He wants to learn, it's just that he has difficulty doing so.

But he will succeed. He will see to that, and my wife and I--and yes, his sister too, even though she lives 300 miles away from us, as well as his grandmother--will help him.

So, I wish him a lot of good luck today. Those high school years can be the best time of your life, or the worst time of your life. There seems to be no in between. I hope for him that these are days he fondly looks back on.

And I know he will succeed. My wife and I are proud of him for what he has already accomplished, and there is no reason to think that he won't continue to do as well as he can now that he is in high school.

Good luck!