monoblogue music: “Fight To The Death” by Paul Maged

It took about 6 to 8 months longer than I would have anticipated, but the long-running trilogy of EPs intended for release by New York-based artist Paul Maged has finally come to its conclusion with this six-song compilation “Fight To The Death.” (To bring you up to speed, I reviewed the first leg “Light Years Away” in November 2017 and second part “The Glass River” in May 2018.) As Maged explains in the release notes, “FTTD was delayed when Maged decided to release his political protest song, The Resistance, in October 2018.”

The Resistance is the penultimate song and last full-length on this final portion of Maged’s work. It’s one of two angry songs on the EP, the other being the title track which leads it off. In turn, the final song snippet, Illusions Go By, is a bit of an extension on a earlier version of the prelude to Life Goes By, a short track found on The Glass River.

The now-full length and restyled version of Life Goes By included here on Fight To The Death is more snappy, hip-hop, and upbeat. So perhaps Illusions Go By will be a leadoff for the next album whenever Paul brings it out.

But when you compare the three parts of the trilogy, Light Years Away seemed to be fun with some introspection, a theme that yielded to a more political tone on The Glass River given the subject matter of its songs. This one, on the other hand, is rather angry and Paul doesn’t care who knows it. To say he’s not a fan of the Trump administration would really be sugar-coating it.

However, I’m here for the music, and to be honest the two angry songs are pretty good. In particular, The Resistance has its share of Trump-like blather, but in reverse where the message is, “you will not kill the resistance.” It’s not your Baby Boomer father’s protest song, though: it’s heavy and amplified, so I enjoyed it (and got a good chuckle, too.) Fight To The Death is more power-pop on steroids, but it serves as a good introduction.

Actually, I can’t complain about the other two, either: Nightstalker brings together a number of disparate elements, while the ballad Off In The Distance not only evokes memories, but tosses in a little reference to a well-received previous album of his.

I don’t think this is the strongest of the three legs of the trilogy, but it’s definitely supportive enough and was worth the wait. As always when I can, I invite you to listen for yourself.

As I’ve said before, besides good songwriting talent Paul has his share of marketing genius. Now that this trilogy is finally put to bed, it will be interesting to see what comes next.

Let the revamp begin

I mentioned this on social media the other day, but in cleaning out some boxes I found a tin with some gift cards (bonus!) and, more importantly for this narrative, several thumb drives. One of those thumb drives had about 2 years’ worth of photos, neatly categorized into various folders.

That in and of itself wouldn’t be blogworthy except for the fact that many of those photos were taken at a time when I was using a free Photoshop service from Adobe to hold my photos because there was a limit on how much server space I could take up with monoblogue and the photos would have quickly exhausted it. All those photos were linked, and when that particular photo service went defunct I had a lot of dead links and no photos. (Someday I may have the same issue with another one I’ve used for several years called Photobucket as I’ve been using a legacy plan of theirs for some time – it’s been many months since I’ve added photos there, though.)

On a few articles I recreated them thanks to the Wayback Machine archive, where they were still extant, but many more were lost. I had planned on seeing if they were archived on one of my old computers but the most recent laptop had multiple hard drive issues so many of those files are gone. Fortunately I’m a pack rat so this thumb drive was a find.

Among the photos I found were some of those I used for Examiner.com slideshows. For a couple years I did articles for them, placing the teaser paragraph here on my site and directing them to the Examiner site. But now those are dead links, too. So in order to not let good writing go to waste, I may see just how many of those I can fish out of internet purgatory and bring back to life.

I’m not setting a timetable for this project, and I’m probably not going to link to posts as I do them. But since I’m promoting a TEA Party book right now, it seems appropriate to point out the first two pieces I did were accounts of meetings of the Wicomico Society of Patriots, one of the offshoots of the original TEA Party gathering. (Another was the local chapter of Americans for Prosperity.) I’m working backwards through the folders I found and those were among the events I photographed.

So if you want to take a stroll back in time (throwback Sunday?) to 2012, feel free to check out two of the WSOP meetings I attended, in their restored and enhanced glory.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: June 2019

So far it’s been a memorable season for Shorebird fans. Who would have thought that, by the end of June, they would have won more games (57) in their first 80 games then they won in an entire season from 2011 to 2013, and already punched their postseason ticket?

There have also been some great performances, with two players and two pitchers previously being rewarded as Shorebirds of the Month. This month we make it three straight with a new pair; in this case they are a pair of holdovers from last season (but first-time winners.)

For Cadyn Grenier, Delmarva is the only pro team he’s ever known. Plucked out of 2018 NCAA champion Oregon State’s lineup with the “Competitive Balance A” pick (37th overall), the former Oriole regime decided to pre-emptively advance Cadyn past Aberdeen and onward to Delmarva. His July 2018 debut was highly anticipated, but for a player known as a great-fielding shortstop in college, neither the fielding (10 errors and a .939 fielding percentage in 39 games) nor batting numbers (.216/1/13/.630 OPS in 43 games) were enough for Grenier not to repeat here for 2019.

Cadyn, who was initially drafted out of a Las Vegas high school by the Cardinals in 2015 before heading to OSU, now shares time at shortstop with fellow prospect Adam Hall, with the odd man out usually playing second base. And it looked for a time like that transition wasn’t going to work well for him, but Grenier has slowly picked up the pace: a .229 mark through April had edged up close to .260 by June’s end thanks to a .278/3/11/.832 OPS month that was good enough to win him Shorebird of the Month honors. Cadyn hit in 16 of 17 games at one point and that’s bound to increase the average.

The test will be in the next couple months, as the now-22 year old wore down a bit at the tail end of last season – however, given the fact Grenier now has a full season under his belt one would think he’s a bit more accustomed to the routine. Another question is whether the Orioles will keep him here to participate in playoff baseball – it’s a spot where the CWS experience may come in handy but the case could also be made that, since he’s already won a College World Series, Cadyn needs to compete against a higher level after a full season at A ball.

And speaking of Adam Hall, for the third month in a row he was right there in the mix for position player of the month in what really became a two-person race once Will Robertson was promoted. Had he not missed a few games with a family issue, Hall may have taken the award.

On the pitching side, this month’s honoree has overcome a mid-season demotion last year to step up his game at this level in 2019.

Gray Fenter was placed here to start last season but never really got untracked, allowing runs in his first seven appearances and 10 of 13 overall before being demoted to Aberdeen once their season began. The numbers weren’t stellar but certainly good enough to give him another bite of the apple this season, and Fenter began June by pitching his first 13 2/3 innings as shutout ball, finally yielding a single run on June 30. He wrapped June with a 2-0 record, 0.59 ERA, and 0.72 WHIP for the month.

Fenter’s been in the system awhile as he was the 7th round selection out of West Memphis High School in Arkansas back in 2015. He turned in a nice 2015 GCL season and would probably have been ticketed for Aberdeen to close the 2016 season, but missed the entire campaign due to TJ surgery. Basically Gray had to start all over in 2017, repeating the GCL except for one forgettable Aberdeen appearance. Perhaps the intention was to demote Fenter all along last season, but his mediocre performance here didn’t change anyone’s mind off that idea.

He has been very successful this season as part of a tag team with May pitcher of the month Drew Rom, but at some point those training wheels have to come off. Fenter has pitched seven innings once in his career, doing so last season in a start for Aberdeen; his longest appearance this season was six innings in a doubleheader start against Augusta. (Both were shutouts, by the way.) So he has the ability, just has to develop consistency.

This month was a tight contest between Fenter and starter Nick Vespi, who turned in his own outstanding month (and arguably deserves the honor based on slightly lesser numbers but several more innings pitched.) But the head-to-head favored Fenter so I went with him.

Since this is the post for Independence Day, I hope you have a happy one! And in case you’re wondering, the Shorebird of the Week has never taken a break for the July 4 holiday, although the leap year calendar has meant the concurrence has only come once: pitcher Matt Taylor was that fortunate honoree back in 2013. (Maybe that was his career peak: the lefty never made it past Frederick in two subsequent seasons.) I suspect we may do better with at least one of these two monthly honorees.

Radio days volume 22

It took me about a week to get to this for a couple of reasons, with the most important being that I was hoping to stack this up with a second appearance I was working on – alas, through a series of misadventures and perhaps missed opportunities that stop of the Rise and Fall radio tour appears to have gone by the wayside, hopefully just for the time being.

The second appearance for the RAF tour came at a non-local station, WNTW-AM 820 and its repeaters, W249CI-FM 97.7 and W224EB-FM 92.7, out of Richmond, Virginia. So how did I get on a station like that? Well, let’s just say I’m doing a little bit of research and marketing and in that effort I came across a local host by the name of Craig Johnson, whose on-air persona is Brother Craig, the Hatchet Man. The show is called “The Really Real Deal.” It’s also simulcast on social media.

So why local hosts? I figure it’s easier to get on those shows in the medium and smaller markets, which is where a lot of my target audience lives. Would I like to be on Rush, Hannity, or Mark Levin? Yeah, but that’s not something a heretofore small-time author can realistically aspire to out of the gate. I figure I can start small like a ball player does, working my way through the minor leagues of local hosts before making my pitch to the major syndicated programs.

As I found in doing the research, this station is quite conservative in content and it appeared Brother Craig would be the most receptive host. So I sent him my elevator pitch and was on the air with him less than two weeks later.

To say the least, he has the confidence and bravado swagger of a Rush Limbaugh. He is also a snappy dresser – thank goodness this wasn’t on Skype because I was in my work clothes (business casual.) Since this is a Facebook video I’m not sure it will properly embed by itself but I think I got it to work:

If you don’t mind a lengthy Bible study Brother Craig goes into feel free to watch the whole thing; otherwise I come on about the 1:15:00 mark.

Now let me preface this by saying I didn’t listen to the previous day’s show, but one thing I was very disappointed by was the lack of promotion for me as a guest. I would hope he didn’t treat people like David Horowitz or Walter E. Williams (among the roster he claims as previous guests) that way. But the average listener had no idea I was coming on until I was put on coming out of the commercial segment. I’ll grant, though, that the date of my appearance was (unbeknownst to me until I visited his social media this week to find out if this show was up) was among his last at the station. (From what I’ve gathered, Brother Craig has a brokered program, meaning he pays for his time. Fortunately, I have also found he will soon have a new radio home in an even larger market.) So I’m sure I wasn’t foremost in mind – I just appreciate the opportunity.

As for the interview itself, I thought I did a reasonable job of explaining my book and its points, except I wanted to top off the statement about Doug Hoffman by noting the TEA Party’s shotgun marriage to the GOP began with the 2009-10 Scott Brown Senate campaign before I got a bit sidetracked by something Brother Craig said. It was interesting to note that he also spoke at his first TEA Party in 2009 as a longtime activist. Certainly I had enough time to make most of my points, since I was held over through the bottom-of-the-hour news (my segment began at 5:20 p.m.)

All in all, I thought I did a reasonable job of selling the book – yes, I could have done better and hopefully I will with the segments I have already scheduled – at least one and likely a second that should be nailed down this week. (On that one, I may see if I can do it after the holiday instead. Meanwhile, in the interim between when I first started this Saturday and now, I found out I have two more hot prospects!) The one I already have a date for is a return to one of my old stomping grounds so I look forward to it.

Finally, pinned to the top of my social media page for Rise and Fall is the video of my reading from last Saturday, in case you’re interested.

Believe it or not, we get another one!

Today marks a bittersweet anniversary: it was four years ago today that the best Republican choice entered the Presidential fray. Unfortunately, Bobby Jindal never got any traction in the race as it was already apparent that Donald Trump was going to get all the media attention after he announced just eight days before.

But while Jindal was the unlucky thirteenth to enter a 2016 Republican field that was still to expand by four more aspirants (Chris Christie, Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Jim Gilmore were still to come), the Democratic 2020 contender who announced yesterday is the 25th in what’s become a massive field. Needless to say, he won’t be in the debates this week and that’s a shame because he may be the only one running in a centrist, foreign policy-focused lane.

Retired Admiral and former Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania is probably not going to play the game of “can you top this?” in the headlong rush to the left that the Democratic field’s Overton window is undertaking. Moreover, in a more perfect world for him, he would have been in the race already but there were some health issues in his family which came first. Maybe he figures better late than never.

As Joe notes:

What Americans most want today is someone who is accountable to them, above self, above party, above any special interest … a President who has the depth of global experience to restore America’s leadership in the world to protect our American Dream at home … and one who is trusted to restructure policies where too many see only the growth of inequity not of the economy.

Announcement by presidential candidate Joe Sestak, June 23, 2019.

I don’t think Sestak has a chance to win the nomination, but I believe his entry will impact the race. He may only get a few percentage points but those will come from voters who may have backed Joe Biden until he moved left on a number of issues. Your old-line Democrat voters in rural areas will like Sestak because of the military background and the fact he represented a working-class state. If Biden weren’t from Delaware, Sestak would do well there and may do reasonably well in Maryland should he still be in the race. He may well punch above his weight.

Thinning the field

I missed this last week, or should I say I didn’t get to post on it right away. But we learned who was in and who was out of next week’s first two Democrat presidential candidate debates. Obviously the front-runners made the criteria established by the Democratic National Committee, but there were a couple surprising omissions in light of how I seeded the race a few weeks ago. (See how useful that is for constructing a narrative within my website? Now you have to go back and check that out.)

Each night’s field was somewhat randomly set, and there was the idea of spreading “top-tier” candidates out so that neither night was overly weighted toward one group – but as it turned out they unwittingly came close to the “kiddie table” debate concept employed by the 2016 Republicans.

Without further ado, and listed in my previous seeding order, this is the lineup for debate #1:

  • #5 Beto O’Rourke
  • #6 Elizabeth Warren
  • #7 Amy Klobuchar
  • #8 Cory Booker
  • #14 Bill de Blasio
  • #16 Jay Inslee
  • #17 John Delaney
  • #18 Julian Castro
  • #19 Tim Ryan
  • #21 Tulsi Gabbard

To be quite honest, the star of this debate is probably Warren, who’s picked up some polling support lately. But there is an interesting dynamic at play among the three women included and this field could end up helping Tulsi Gabbard.

As for the men, the five lower-seeded men are fortunate to be placed in a field that has the fading star of Beto and gaffe-prone Cory Booker. If any of them have a robust debate, they could move up in the polls – especially as the front-runners take shots at each other.

Here’s debate #2:

  • #1 Joe Biden
  • #2 Bernie Sanders
  • #3 Pete Buttigieg
  • #4 Kamala Harris
  • #9 Kirsten Gillibrand
  • #10 John Hickenlooper
  • #12 Michael Bennet
  • #13 Andrew Yang
  • #15 Eric Swalwell
  • #22 Marianne Williamson

The top 4 are either going to destroy each other or bury the other six. It sort of reminds me of the old Big 10 days when all the teams played each other but you knew it would be Michigan-Ohio State for the title at the end – we just have four teams instead of two, but they are all way ahead of the rest. And I would be curious to see what sort of Ron Paul effect the non-politicians Williamson and Yang have on the field here – after all, you can’t out-outsider them in this group.

The non-contenders who didn’t get in:

  • #11 Steve Bullock
  • #20 Seth Moulton
  • #23 Mike Gravel
  • #24 Wayne Messam

They are still soldiering on, hoping to get into the next round of debates in July. Bullock claims he’s already qualified, which is possible because he got a very late start in the campaign – obviously that will knock someone else out if he makes it in. Moulton is probably the one serious candidate most likely to drop out because Messam is whining about not getting a town hall meeting and Gravel was simply in it to get on the debate stage.

This has inspired another post but I think I’ll save it for next week, just before the debates.

Odds and ends number 94

I’ve been meaning to get to this for maybe a month or so as my e-mail box kept filling up. So finally I’m writing all these quick takes of a couple sentences to a few paragraphs as I have done 93 times prior. Let’s begin with this one.

The Biden Rules

Because I was on the American Possibilities e-mail list, I’m now on the Biden 2020 e-mail list, and that gives me no shortage of amusement because the e-mail come across to me as gaffetastic as the real thing.

First came the e-mail where Biden pledged to not take money from “corporate PACs, federal lobbyists, and registered foreign agents.” Better than his old boss, I guess, but all that means is that some entity will be laundering the money through a series of contributions first. So this is essentially meaningless.

But even better was the one where Joe took it as an insult from President Trump that he “abandoned Pennsylvania.” I always like it when he talks to me:

Well Michael, I’ve never forgotten where I came from. My family did have to leave Pennsylvania when I was 10 — we moved to Delaware where my Dad found a job that could provide for our family.

Let’s be clear Michael: this isn’t just about me. This is proof that Donald Trump doesn’t understand the struggles working folks go through.

He doesn’t understand what it’s like to worry you will lose the roof over your head. He doesn’t understand what it’s like to wonder if you’ll be able to put food on the table.

Biden e-mail, May 21, 2019.

Bear in mind that Biden could have moved back to Pennsylvania at any time once he reached adulthood. But Joe made his life in Delaware, or at least got his start there since he’s truly a creature of Washington, D.C.

But my real point is that there were a lot of people who faced that issue when Barack Obama was in office. I’ll grant that Obama’s was a situation inherited from the Bush administration but the “jobless recovery” we struggled through meant a lot of kids had to hear that same sort of news. And speaking of Obama…

Who does the gerrymandering?

Another legacy e-mail list that’s led to some howlers is my ending up on the list of an entity called “All On The Line” – that’s a result of being on the Organizing For Against America list. Every so often AOTL sends me what they consider egregious examples of blatant gerrymandering: one was Wisconsin’s First District (until recently represented by Rep. Paul Ryan), for which they claimed:

You won’t look at Wisconsin’s districts and see weird shapes. State legislators have used a more sophisticated, subtle form of gerrymandering — but the intentional manipulation is undeniably there. That’s why even though Democrats won 54 percent of the state’s congressional votes in November 2018, they won only 38 percent of the Congressional seats.

“All On The Line” e-mail, May 22, 2019.

By that same logic, Maryland Republicans should be more fairly represented as they won 32% of the Congressional votes but only got 13% of the seats – a larger disparity than Wisconsin’s.

Another of their complaints came about from North Carolina’s 11th District, which was once competitive (but won by Democrats) but now – not so much. And it has crazy boundaries in the city of Asheville to boot. In this case, they blamed the idea of exactly equal population. It’s now represented by Mark Meadows, who chairs the Freedom Caucus – that’s why they are upset.

Before that, I got a missive about Jim Jordan’s Ohio’s 4th District, where they whined about Oberlin College being included therein. Yes, he’s another member of the Freedom Caucus, and yes, that map was drawn by Republicans. In other words, you will never see them complain about Maryland, which is arguably the worst example of gerrymandering.

I have some ideas on how to address this, but it will be a future post.

Saying the right things

This was an interesting article from the Capital Research Center, as it talked about how language is used to shape public perception of an issue. It’s the first part of what I consider a must-read series from the group, which is really worth following if you’re into being a policy wonk.

I also have the CRC to thank for revealing that, while the Left howled in protest about President Trump’s short list of judicial nominees, they’re quite reticent about who they would select. Wonder why?

Old ideas become new, or just stay timeless?

I know that education needs to be reformed, but perhaps our old friend Bobby Jindal can do a little better than just dusting off an old proposal. Perhaps setting the groundwork for a 2024 or 2028 run, Jindal’s America Next group dusted off the e-mail list to send me this, which I noticed was from 2015 – just before he got into the 2016 race. Good stuff, but a bit dated. And of course, it was enclosed with a fundraising appeal.

The force for good

Last week my update from API has an item that hit a nail on the head. From their blog:

John Watson, then the chairman and CEO of Chevron, once was asked how the natural gas and oil industry is perceived since so much of the climate discussion is aimed solely at producing fossil fuels.

Unflinchingly, Watson countered that his industry is a noble one – delivering light, heat, transportation, food, clothing and other benefits to people every day – and that natural gas and oil are foundational for almost everything that we use and do. Simply put, Watson asserted that natural gas and oil are forces for good in human development and far from a deterrent (and instead an enabler) of climate progress.

It was an argument for the societal value of natural gas and oil and the opportunities they create, thanks to U.S. energy abundance. Connecting communities with energy and opportunity remains a pillar of our industry today – especially when you consider America’s growing capacity to share energy with the rest of the world, where many areas haven’t benefited from abundant or reliable energy.

“A Force For Good”, Megan Bloomgren, Energy Tomorrow blog, June 13, 2019.

Of course, she works for API, but working for them doesn’t discount her point of view. When our CO2 emissions are on the decline while those of many other nations are increasing, you have to say we’re on to something.

It boils down to this: at this stage, the top renewables are not the top reliables. While we are at the time of year we receive the most sunlight per day, it doesn’t mean you won’t have a cloudy day… and unfortunately, those warm, still days of summer are the days you don’t receive a whole lot of wind to push those turbines around.

The career stepping stone?

You know, I’ve never thought of my humble little site as a job provider. Shoot, as little as I’ve blogged here over the last three years it’s a wonder the lights are still on.

So I was somewhat surprised to get an e-mail from “Jessica Stewart,” who’s leaving her “role” as a finance and business writer to building a freelance portfolio. But this is what she told me:

I have some ideas, I think your monoblogue.us audience will enjoy.

Are you open to accepting free guest post content for publication on monoblogue.us?

Her ideas were (and I’m quoting verbatim):

  • Why Direct Lending is Surging in 2019
  • Why the Small Business Administration can’t help in a small Business loan?
  • Why rising interest rates are creating refinancing headaches for small Businesses?

Problem was – I did a Google search of the titles and found them on other sources. So I wonder what overseas writer making a pennies a day is really writing as Jessica Stewart?

After all, if I had a paying writing gig why would I leave it? Why do you think I’ve stayed with Patriot Post for all these years?

That’s enough for these odds and ends, until next time.

Weekend of local rock volume 75

While I have seen live acts here and there over the last several months, I didn’t feel like I had enough of a flavor to write a quality WLR post. I like to catch a good selection of songs that have my attention, so seeing a band in passing, such as at a couple recent Third Fridays, doesn’t really make the cut.

My intention last Friday was to arrive early enough to catch the back half of The Permilla Project as they opened up for the Paul Reed Smith Band. Unfortunately we finally made it there just as TPP was concluding their set, so we heard it – and they sounded really good – but we didn’t see it.

What that meant was we had to endure a (thankfully short) changeover which featured the tunes (and I use the word loosely) dished out by a DJ team that had two strikes against it: one, they were playing a horrible mix of music and, two, they had the most obnoxious ID loop that they played all too frequently. Look, I know you want people to know who you are but I really don’t need to hear it about every 60-90 seconds. And don’t try to come off all ghetto when we can see you’re a couple white guys.

If it’s cultural appropriation you want, done well, then you should have come to see the band. Then again, is it appropriation when the party is evenly split between races and the female lead singer is balanced out by the older white guy namesake of the band?

I used this photo as the tease the other night, but this is most of the Paul Reed Smith Band at our downtown amphitheater.

There’s no doubt PRS crafts a fine guitar, or so I am told, but he can certainly play the instrument, too. And the best part was that he looked and sounded like he was having a lot of fun. This wasn’t just a gig he was doing as stop 23 on a 40-city tour.

I’m what you would consider a recovering ’80’s hair metal fan, and although my musical horizons have been expanded quite a bit by doing four-plus years of record reviews, I still love my blues-based music. PRS had a heaping helping thanks to the good rhythm section provided by the Grainger brothers. (Besides PRS and the Graingers, the rest of the band is Michael Ault and Bill Nelson on guitars, and Mia Samone as the lead singer you just can’t miss – and not because of her electric-blue hair.)

Unlike a lot of other bands which play local events, the PRS band stayed away from doing cover songs – one exception was a long, drawn-out version of B.B. King’s The Thrill Is Gone – and instead played a variety of original songs. Presumably these came from the two albums PRS has put together over the years, 2011’s self-titled release and 2017’s Time To Testify.

(Interesting note in looking up the band’s history: they are a very big hit in China, of all places. I never thought of China as a nation that liked American blues, but it goes to show that music is a global language.)

Yet the beauty of the band came in how restrained the leader was. Obviously everyone knows there’s a virtuoso-grade guitar player on stage, and certainly he played an outstanding lead guitar where needed. But to his credit PRS didn’t make the music about him, which is probably why the band seemed to work together very well. As they are not a constantly touring band, I think that keeps them more fresh when they do play out.

A closer view of the Paul Reed Smith Band playing at last weekend’s Downtown Salisbury Festival. Worth checking out if you’re in the area.

I’m certain that the PRS band sent the folks hope happy – and not just because they were giving away copies of their CD’s to some lucky fans. I suspect they may be back for another event in the coming months because they probably gained quite a few fans in Salisbury.

Thoughts on the Downtown Salisbury Festival 2019

It used to be one of three events I looked forward to; the trio of spring harbingers which came and went each April: opening night for the Shorebirds, Pork in the Park, and the Salisbury Festival to wrap up the month. Regarding the latter two, I made it to most of those over the last decade of their runs, missing a few because of prior engagements but generally having a good time. Pork in the Park came to an inglorious end a couple years ago when the county decided to focus its efforts on other events.

By that same token, after its 2015 rendition the Salisbury Festival went on hiatus, or in the description of the new incarnation, the concept was “retired.” In its place last year, moved back on the calendar to a new early June timeframe, was the newly-rechristened Downtown Salisbury Festival. Unfortunately, the 2018 event was marred by the same rainy weather which seemed to dog us every weekend last year.

While I attended last year’s event on Saturday, with the vendors strung along a couple blocks of East Main Street, this year our one opportunity to show up was Friday night. And thanks to construction along East Main Street as well as the completion last summer of the riverside amphitheater, the venue was set up a lot differently.

Instead of their traditional placement in Lot 10 or closer to the library, this time the rides were placed across the river from the amphitheater. To me that made things more festive.

The food court pretty much stayed where it has always been, and the selection wasn’t too bad. (We decided on dinner at a different venue, though. *Read to the end for a mini restaurant review.)

Some of the selections in the food court. It used to be just booths and tents – for many years the Wicomico County Republican Club was a staple there selling hamburgers and hotdogs right off the grill – but now it’s a fair number of food trucks, too.
More of the food court. It was a cloudy but not overly hot Friday night, so I thought the crowd was a little on the modest side.

I would have thought there would be a few more people down there, although the threat of rain may have dampened things a tad bit.

But because I was there on Friday night, all of the action was centered around the riverwalk. It made for a nice overall photo from the pedestrian bridge.

Looking eastward from the pedestrian bridge toward the amphitheater. This was the crowd as The Permilla Project was wrapping up.

In years past, I remember going to the old Salisbury Festival a couple of times on a Friday night and this was where the musical stage was set for that particular party. Now that’s become the main stage as opposed to using the steps of the Government Office Building or the makeshift space in the Plaza. So I gotta hand it to the city: the amphitheater is truly a nice venue to watch this size of show. There were probably 200-300 people there – maybe more – but it didn’t seem overly crowded at all. It probably could have (and should have given the talent level of the performers) held twice or thrice that many just fine.

So the question I have for anyone who read this and remembers last year: were there the same number and quality of vendors on Saturday? I missed it this year because of a previous engagement, but I thought it was misleading that the maps showed vendors but didn’t point out they were only there on Saturday (and maybe Sunday, although that was pretty much a washout.) In that respect, though, they really haven’t departed from the Salisbury Festival tradition – all they have done is moved the venue out of the Plaza and over to the riverfront. I suppose this works well for making it different from Third Friday.

Still I think the June date is a bit problematic. I’m not sure what the target market is for this event, but at least this year they picked a weekend that wasn’t crowded by high school graduations. On the other hand, we are also into beach time as well as vacations for the family. While the weather wasn’t as cooperative, I think as a regional event this always worked better in late April. If the idea is a little bit lower-key event, then June is okay.

The DSF wasn’t hurting for sponsors, at least. But there are a number of charitable and government entities here as opposed to local businesses. That’s why I wish I knew what vendor turnout was like.

I’m not done with the posts on this, though. Most of the reason I stuck around was to bring back a series dormant for too long. Here’s a hint.

Headlining Friday night was the Paul Reed Smith band. This weekend will feature a brand new edition of Weekend of Local Rock. Yeah, it’s been awhile!

Once they get through with remaking downtown perhaps this festival will get back to its peak, just like the Salisbury Festival did in the mid-aughts. (They had some great local bands there, to be sure.) I know a lot of the air gets sucked out of the lower-tier events because the city of Salisbury is concentrating on the National Folk Festival and its post-2020 successor but this is one worth fighting for if they can make a few tweaks.

*Oh, and by the way: I almost hate to say this because we literally pretty much had the run of the place by the time we left, but if you want to try something good, the new Salisbury Pit n’ Pub was excellent. It’s right by the old Monkey Barrel (site of several renditions of WLR) across from SU. We actually ate at the 28th Street OC location on a church couples’ retreat over last winter so we were glad to see one opened here. It definitely made me miss Pork in the Park.

Shorebird Player and Pitcher of the Month: May 2019

If there were ever a month I could have done co-players (and pitchers) of the month, this month would have been the case. The proprietary formula I use to figure it out came out razor-close in both instances. But after a little bit of overtime figuring, two players came out on top and they are being honored this month.

After struggling through a horrific April, you had to figure that Nick Horvath would begin slowly seeking his level in May. But being about 70 points below his overall average, you would further believe he would right the ship by the midseason break – instead, Horvath basically did it in one month. It turned out he was a hit shy of being 100 points above his April average in May, and while a .264/3/13/.841 OPS slash line isn’t the best ever, it was good enough to be among the top Shorebirds in a league where pitching has dominated thus far. (As of last night, Delmarva’s .251 team average was just off the overall lead, and only 4 of 14 teams have an aggregate OPS over .700, a mark which is considered about average. So pitchers are ruling the roost.)

To be sure, Nick did most of his damage in the first half of the month, starting it out 17-for-42 (a .405 clip). Toward the end he was struggling like several other on the Delmarva nine, which has been carried most of the way this season by its pitching. But add in a solid job in center field, and last season’s 25th round pick out of the University of Florida is working on improving his standing in the Orioles organization. Considering he was not a highly regarded prospect out of Palm Beach Gardens High School in the Sunshine State and only attended UF after a season at a local community college, Nick impresses me as an overcomer. As he’ll turn 23 next month, Horvath is a tick about league-average age but has played well enough to keep his job so far. (If it doesn’t work out, Nick can always attempt to resurrect his career as a pitcher: he made 45 relief appearances for the Gators over a three-season span.)

Nick barely edged out Cadyn Grenier for the honor, as Cadyn put together a good month at the plate as well. It could have went either way.

We’ll stay in SEC country for my pitcher of the month. But while Drew Rom is a Kentucky native – attending Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio – he had 650,000 reasons to be pried loose from a commitment to the Big Ten’s University of Michigan to play for the Orioles. Unlike Horvath, who was probably brought on to fill a roster in the hopes that he may blossom into a prospect, Rom was already highly sought after as a fourth-round pick.

Now Rom had a pretty decent April; well, decent in comparison to an average team and not the studs Delmarva has this season – as a staff they allowed just a .204 average in May – but he rose to the challenge in May. Rom didn’t allow an earned run in his four starts until the fourth inning of his fifth and final start for the month, at a point where the Shorebirds were safely up 8-0. That 0.35 ERA was complemented by a 0.78 WHIP, a 32-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25 2/3 innings, and three wins – he was one out short of getting a fourth W in a game Delmarva was leading 2-0 and could have gotten a fifth win had Delmarva scored before the tenth inning – Drew left a 0-0 pitcher’s duel in Kannapolis after five shutout frames.

Drew made a significant jump over the winter – he and fellow high-school draftee (and last month’s SOM pitcher) Grayson Rodriguez were two of the few bright spots on a dreadful GCL Oriole team. Like Rodriguez, Rom is having his innings watched fairly carefully and he has often piggybacked with fellow starter Gray Fenter to cover most of the nine innings needed.

Just like Horvath, Drew had spirited competition for the award, and in his case it was reliever Zach Matson who had really good numbers to show for his month as well. Both are being rewarded with a trip to the SAL All-Star Game in West Virginia later this month. Also picked besides Rom and Matson were pitchers Grayson Rodriguez and Ofelky Peralta, catcher Daniel Fajardo, shortstop Adam Hall, outfielder Doran Turchin, and designated hitter Seamus Curran. The Shorebirds have a league-leading eight representatives, their best number since at least 2009.

Hogan takes a pass…on 2020

It’s no surprise that Larry Hogan, the now term-limited governor of our fair state of Maryland, decided to disappoint the #NeverTrump whisperers in the moderate wing of the Republican Party and skip his chance at being cannon fodder for Donald Trump on The Donald’s way to the Republican presidential nomination in 2020. As CNN put it:

“I truly appreciate all of the encouragement I received from people around the nation urging me to consider making a run for President in 2020,” Hogan tweeted Saturday. “However, I will not be a candidate.”

Hogan said that he would instead focus on his second term as governor and his upcoming role chairing the National Governors Association.

“That work is important, and I believe both of those roles will give me the opportunity to make an impact on the direction of my party and our nation,” he added.

“Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan says he won’t challenge Trump in 2020,” Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN, June 1, 2019.

I’m sure Larry won’t be voting for Trump next year given our governor’s track record, and truth be told he’ll have the advantage of a fairly dull campaign year in 2020. Barring a heretofore unexpected vacancy in the U.S. Senate, there are no statewide races on the 2020 docket, and aside from the possibility of a spirited race in a redrawn Sixth Congressional District, the House races will likely be decided in their respective primaries. So Larry won’t have to demean himself by campaigning for any of those icky conservatives – not that he has much in the way of practice.

However, Larry has established an eerie parallel to his abortive 2010 campaign for governor; a campaign that barely got out of the starting block before he pulled the plug, deferring to his old boss Bob Ehrlich. Out of that came Hogan’s Change Maryland organization, which served as a foil to the governorship of Martin O’Malley and paved the way to Hogan’s 2014 victory – a victory he gloats about.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is not a career politician. He spent nearly his entire career as a small businessman. Fed up with high taxes, politics as usual, and decades of a one-party monopoly, he started Change Maryland, the largest non-partisan grassroots citizen organization in state history. In 2014, out-numbered in party registration by more than 2-1, and outspent by more than 5-1, Governor Hogan pulled off the biggest upset in America to become only the second Republican Governor elected in Maryland in 50 years.

Governor Hogan quickly got to work and set an example for the nation, accomplishing what many believed was no longer possible: reaching across the aisle, and working together to achieve real bipartisan, common sense solutions.

As Hogan was taking the hard pass on a 2020 run, he traveled a familiar road in setting up an organization primarily dedicated to keeping his name in the limelight. Dubbed An America United, Hogan is obviously setting this group up to prepare for a centrist run for the GOP nod in 2024 – basically the same lane John Kasich had in 2016 and held prior to that by guys like John McCain and Jon Huntsman. When most of the news glowingly featured on the site comes from the Washington Post, New York Times, or CNN – the farthest right source of his front-page news is the now-defunct home of #NeverTrump establishment Republicans The Weekly Standard – it’s a pretty safe bet that the group is not going to venture too far right of center.

Naturally the group has its goals, expressed in the standard bromides about “bipartisan, common-sense solutions to create more and better jobs, cut taxes, protect the environment, build our infrastructure, and improve education.” Unfortunately, based on his record in Maryland, what he considers “common sense” is just slowing the long-standing drift away from the ideals that made the nation great. After all, he turned his back on creating jobs in the energy industry (private-sector jobs), squandered opportunities to cut taxes further by asking for ever-larger budgets, and contracted the Democrat disease of believing that to “improve education” is to spend much more money on it rather than allowing the billions that’s already there to follow the child.

In 2024 the nation will be in a quandary: either facing an uncertain political future after eight years of Donald Trump or dealing with the backsliding which will be occurring should one of those in the Democrat “clown limousine” be running for re-election. I honestly suspect that’s what Larry is hoping for, knowing that only once in the last 90 years has a Republican president been elected to succeed a fellow Republican (Bush 41 after Reagan.) John McCain in 2008, Gerald Ford – who served as President but was never elected in his own right – in 1976, and Richard Nixon in 1960 were the last three to try, but you have to go back to Herbert Hoover winning in 1928 after Calvin Coolidge chose not to run to find the previous example before the late George H.W. Bush.

(However, the string is even longer for Democrats: the last time a Democrat succeeded a Democrat, aside from death in office, was 1856 as James Buchanan served one term after fellow one-termer Franklin Pierce. To tell you how long ago that was, Pierce in 1852 succeeded the last Whig to be President, Millard Fillmore. Your Presidential tidbit.)

So don’t think Larry is uninterested in the 2020 race. He’s just choosing to bide his time, perhaps believing that America electing a far-left President will allow him to escape the crocodile that will call any Republican “extremist.” But I have news for Larry: even if he became a “blue dog” Democrat to run, he would still be on the menu regardless.

monoblogue music: “Story Of My Life” by Kevin West

This album will come out June 15.

To read the actual story of Kevin West’s life – or at least the biography he provides with his upcoming release, slated to drop June 15 – you would see that he’s never really settled into a location, or for that matter a musical genre. (Speaking of changing locations, it’s a shame he stopped updating his travel blog because it was interesting reading.)

Anyway, this is something I may have expected from a musician just starting out, but this upcoming six-song EP will be West’s fifth album spanning eighteen years. So this variety is a little bit perplexing, but I give him credit that he’s all but abandoned hip-hop, a career direction he attempted in the mid-aughts.

His soon-to-be-released compilation begins with a song called Best of Mine, which I thought was kind of a mashup between rock and country. It’s something like Neil Young may have tried, but didn’t come across quite as well to me. (There’s a video out for the song, but it didn’t want to embed into my post. Perhaps that’s a setting on his end; regardless I could only link.) This leads into what I thought was the best song of the six, the bluesy and boozy One Too Many.

After that, it’s a mishmash of styles – sometimes within one song. Those who like traditional country overtones might be into My Only Sunshine but it’s the sudden morphing of the saccharine Sweet Innocence into a jarring hip-hop style toward the end that really bothered me – not that it was playing out as anything overly special but just the placement and juxtaposition was too much.

Kevin then makes another changeover on the final two songs, grabbing a horn section and going to a jazzy feel on the title track Story Of My Life and instrumental Not For Nothin’. One distinction about this EP is that it has well-versed players on it – while Kevin didn’t always have the same personnel on each cut, he employed solid musicians (and Whitney Hanna, who was a good female backup singer) to create the EP, which he co-produced. Aside from the wrong move on Sweet Innocence, I can’t complain about the production aspect within songs. But the variance makes me wonder if Kevin will ever come up with a distinct sound of his own or keep trying on different things to keep up with some unknown set of musical Joneses he believes will be his meal ticket.

Or perhaps Kevin will ever be the traveling musical troubadour, sometimes living out of his van as he tours the country, jamming and playing for awhile in bands along the way. It may be the story of his life, but let’s hope this EP isn’t the final chapter because I think Kevin can find a better direction with his talent. And since I can’t share anything aside from the video, maybe the best place to judge for yourself would be his website or social media. Perhaps that changes two weeks hence.