Remembering Our Happy Warriors

March 1, 2013

memorial_Breitbart_140Today marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Andrew Breitbart, the quintessential happy warrior of the contemporary Conservative blogosphere. Others who knew him will do a better job of memorializing him. Although I never met Mr. Breitbart, I greatly admired him for his intelligence, his humor, his moxie, and his staunch defense of Conservative prinicples. I think one of the purest example of of his combination of humor, cojones, and all-out brains came when he wandered into a press converence meant for Anthony Weiner, former Congressman from NY (and currently best know for Tweeting inappropriate photos to the world at large) and basically took over and defended himself against allegations then-Rep. Weiner had made against him. It is pure 24-carat gold however you look at it. This is our happy warrior at his very best and brightest.

Mr. Breitbart is not our only lost warrior, however. As I reflect on the loss of his Conservative voice, I can’t help but remember a few other clarion voices gone far too soon.

memorial_seipp_cathyCathy Seipp was probably the best writer you’ve never heard of.  A first-class writer and blogger from California, Ms. Seipp passed away in 2007 from lung cancer, which, as she was a non-smoker was both tragic and ironic. As she wrote during a period of remission, “I just want to let everyone know having cancer hasn’t made me a better person.” Andrew Breitbart was one of many friends, and he remembered her as a “package of joyful contradiction.” What  a fantastic description! Charlotte Hays mentioned her as ” lovely in person and wicked in print.” For me, Ms. Seipp never expressed herself better (or more entertainingly) than when she went head-to-head against uber-liberal Lawrence O’Donnell. I wish the video were available, but you can read about it here and here (scroll down to the “neck-vein popping moment”).

memorial_deanbarnett3Dean Barnett‘s was one of the first blogs I ever read regularly, and I think it was there that I made my very first blog comment as Stoutcat. I followed his Soxblog from its early days, up until the time he passed away in 2008, finally succumbing to cystic fibrosis. In his blogging career, he wrote very frankly about his illness, but he never let it stop him from climbing up the ladder from small-fry local Sox-fan-blogger to big-time writer for National Review Online, the Weekly Standard, Townhall, and finally as a regular guest host for the mighty Hugh Hewett, whose fans affectionately referred to Dean as “Chowda” for his unmistakable Boston accent. Dean was intensely loyal, strongly conservative, and funny as heck.

He was also a very early, extremely staunch Romney supporter back in 2007.  I can’t help thinking that if Dean had still been around in November of last year, we’d be talking about President Romney right now.

memorial_gerry ashleyWe lost our very own Gerry Ashley in January of this year, due to complications from heart surgery and a very aggressive brain tumor. I still can’t say much about him, as my heart is still too sore over his loss. Fortunately, as with the souls mentioned above, the essential Gerry is still available to anyone who cares to hear his voice via his prolific and entertaining writing.

But right now, we’re still trying to deal with the Gerry-shaped hole in our lives where the man himself used to be.

Remember them all with a smile of gratitude, and gear up. We definitely need more happy warriors to rise up to take their places!

Stoutcat


Saying Goodbye to A Dear Friend

January 26, 2013

gerry_2It is with heartfelt sadness that we report the passing of our friend and co-blogger, Gerry Ashley.

Gerry lost his battle with a brain tumor earlier today after a months-long fight against the growth and emerging lesions on his brain.

We will write more later but right now we are dealing with the grief of losing our dear friend.

May flights of angels (including Carl and Dennis Wilson) sing thee to thy rest, Gerry.

Stoutcat


Now That We Have Your Attention, Mr. President…

November 14, 2011

My long-time friend Giuliana called me from San Diego on Sunday. She mentioned that a friend of her Navy SEAL husband stationed at Coronado Island had tickets to a very special NCAA basketball game that was played on the Aircraft Carrier USS Carl Vinson out in San Diego on Veterans’ Day. You may recall that it was the USS Carl Vinson that handled the disposal at sea of Osama Bin-Laden’s body recently.

She was told that because the tickets were for “special VIP” seats, she would be subjected to an intensive background check.  Why a background check for an NCAA basketball game? Because her seat would place her adjacent to President Barack Obama and the First Lady, who attended the game as part of their Veteran’s Day “Let’s spend more taxpayer money on an unnecessary trip to San Diego” program.

Ready To Play

The President wound up getting an earful from Giuliana, who is not one to shy away from speaking her mind. It wasn’t long before she made it clear to the President that she was proud to vote for him in 2008 (being part of history in electing our first African American President. And yes, I do have many Liberal friends). But then she told the President that now she was embarrassed that she voted for him because, “You turned out to be totally different than the way you presented himself in your campaign speeches.”  When Obama asked for some specific examples, Giuliana mentioned a number of topics.

When the President asked her what her sources of information were that she was quoting from, she said, “From a blog written by my friend Gerry Ashley… it’s called Grand Rants.”  She told me that Obama stared at her and smiled as he wrote it down.

POTUS Watches Michigan State Spartans Vs. #1 Ranked North Carolina on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson

It’s a bit unnerving to know that The President (the most liberal and dangerously close to socialist President in our nation’s history) chose to write down the name of the blog himself. We already know he and his staff are skilled Internet users.

I spoke to Alan last night by phone and he assured me there’s nothing to worry about. “Grant Rants isn’t even a blip on their radar screen,” he tried to reassure me.  I thought back to the scorching 8-part piece I wrote on the Abject Failure of the Obama Administration over a year ago.  And I replied,“Well, so far, perhaps, but then that’s because they probably didn’t know we existed. That’s all changed now. Did you hear me, Alan? Barack Hussein Obama wrote down our blog address. Do you think that’s so he could send us an invitation to a beer party in the Rose Garden?

Alan laughed and said, “The most that will happen is that he’ll give this to a low level intern with instructions to check it out at their convenience. There’s nothing to worry about.”

Reassured, I hung up. But one question still remains: Should I offer coffee and donuts to the guys in the Black SUV parked across the street?

Gerry Ashley


From Ground Zero Japan: A Moving Display Of Loyalty

March 17, 2011

There are some who just don’t get the bond between a man and his dog. But even I was unprepared for the level of “humanity, compassion and loyalty” within the canine community you’re about to witness below.

It’s a video that will move any animal lover to tears: Rescuers searching the remains of the debris that was once a seacoast town in the Arahama area of Japan come upon a dog that has somehow managed to survive the earthquake and the tsunami that followed. The animal is clearly in shock, disoriented and in distress.

The workers attempt to get the dog to come to them so they can take it for food, water and medical treatment. But the dog steadfastly refuses to leave with them. He turns and walks away, walking in a stagger that seems to confirm the exhaustion and confusion that has engulfed it.   

As the rescuers watch the dog walk away, they discuss his plight:

We are in Arahama area. Looks like there is a dog. There is a dog. He looks tired and dirty. He must have been caught in the tsunami. He looks very dirty.

He has a collar. He must be someone’s pet. He has a silver collar. He is shaking. He seems very afraid.

Then, they notice why the dog has walked away from them. There, some 50 feet away from them, another dog lies in the debris motionless.

             Oh, there is another dog! I wonder if he is dead.

Where?

Right there. There is another dog right next to the one sitting down. He is not moving. I wonder. I wonder if he is alright.

The dog is protecting him.

Yes. He is protecting the dog. That is why he did not want us to approach them. He was trying to keep us at bay.

I can’t watch this! This is a very difficult to watch.

Oh… Look! He is moving!  He is alive! I am so happy to see that he is alive!

Yes! Yes! He is alive!

He looks to be weakened. We need to them to be rescued soon. We really want them rescued soon.

Oh good. He’s getting up!

Let me assure you, that there IS a happy ending to this story: Both dogs have now been rescued and taken for treatment and are recovering.

In the military, soldiers take a great deal of pride in “never leaving a  brother behind…”

It would appear that’s true also in the canine world.

I hope, for some of you, watching this video will bring you one step closer to understanding that there’s no such thing as “just a dog.” They come from God, like us, equipped with a heart that is capable of loving, with the courage to defend that which he/she believes in and the compassion and loyalty to NOT leave a friend behind to die alone.

Do they have the same reasoning power of humans? That is, perhaps, open to debate. But they share the basic elements that supposedly make us “human.” They know joy. Sorrow. Happiness, Contentment, Fear, Anger. And for those of you who suffer from one form of depression or another, dogs also share that state of mind.

Watch the video and you’ll witness a prime example of canine loyalty.

Then, to put it into some perspective, think about how many other humans, dogs and other assorted pets didn’t make it through or, worse, made it through but are in a place where time will run out before they are rescued. Welcome to the real toll in terms of human and animal life.

H/T Theblaze.com

Gerry Ashley

Addendum: Having a better understanding about the loyalty of dogs and their ability to experience confusion, disorientation, loneliness, loss and depression, now think about the dogs  who sit in shelters waiting for someone to give them a new lease on life. If you are in a position to provide a home for such a loving animal, I hope this video will move you to do so. I did three years ago last month and my life is forever changed for the better because of it.

If you are not in a position to do that, however, a donation to your local humane society or no-kill shelter is always put to good use.

As for the two dogs in this video… well, I certainly believe in the power of prayer. And that doesn’t cost a dime.


Lest We Forget What’s Really Important

September 8, 2010

If it seems to you there’s been a lack of input from me lately, it’s not your imagination. Perhaps it’s been a lack of mine. The promise of Grand Rants is to discuss our world, not just politics. Unfortunately, the most important news over the past 2 years has been political in nature. And make no mistake: We intend to cover political issues as needed. Expect a lot of it from now until the mid-term elections.

But every now and then, I need to step away from the sewer of politics and just breath in the beauty of life itself. And the older I get, the more beauty I discover. Some of the most special moments can be found in the examples some people give us of their selfless devotion to causes. Sometimes it’s just a touching moment or lyric that makes me realize the beauty of a phrase or a simple act of kindness. These moments are easy to miss if we are so steeped in the argument of politics that we close our eyes to the awareness of that which sometimes surrounds us. I needed to open myself up to an awareness of these things, and so I stepped back from the body politic for a brief period in an attempt to bring something a little more uplifting and positive to the table.

I believe my efforts have paid off.

Meet Kristian Anderson, from Australia. Last October, Kristian was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Because he waited so long to be tested, he discovered it had also spread to his liver. Anderson, 35, is married and the father of 2 little boys. He’s not ready to leave his two children fatherless, so he’s stayed positive with the support of his wife Rachel. Together, they are fighting the disease.

Recently, with her birthday coming up, he wanted to make it very special… and he chose a very special way of accomplishing that goal: In addition to a surprise party, he created a video birthday card for her. Through a local radio station, he was able to get actor Hugh Jackman to make a cameo appearance and, because his wife is from New Zealand, Andeson managed to get New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to appear also.  The video has found its way to youtube and I predict it will go viral. I hope it does, because in the four minutes it takes to watch, it acts as a reminder to us all of just how important it is to get checked periodically for any unusual health issues that might benefit from early detection. And it also teaches us how important it is to stop and smell our own roses:

Kristian has kept a blog to chronicle his journey since becoming diagnosed with cancer. It’s called “Days That Matter.” I invite you to follow his journey. Something tells me that as this video goes viral, he and his family are going to have the prayers of a lot of people pulling for him.

I know he’s got mine.

Gerry Ashley


England’s Revenge?

July 21, 2010


Hoo boy, times sure have changed, haven’t they? Time was, when heads of state went to visit each other, they presented each other with meaningful and symbolic gifts, embodying not just the bounty and artistic abilities of the country bestowing the gifts, but also the importance and significance of the relationship between the visiting leaders countries and their nations leaders.

Possibly the best known gift of this type is the Resolute desk, a gift from Queen Victoria to President Hayes in 1880. Possibly the second-best known is the set of gifts from Prime Minister Gordon Brown to President Obama in 2009, comprising an ornate pen-holder made from the timbers of a British anit-slave ship, and the original commission papers of the HMS Resolute herself.

Possibly the best known failure of this type of gift was President Obama’s gifts in kind to PM Brown, which consisted of a 25-DVD set of American movies (in an incompatible format for playing in England); included for the PM’s two little boys were off-the-shelf models of Marine One.

Which brings me to today. In an act which could be described as poetic justice (or which could truly reflect both the artistic talent available in the UK today as well as a thoughtful gesture in keeping with the recipient’s taste), Prime Minister David Cameron has presented Obama with a painting by local graffiti “artist” Ben Eine.  While not as well-known as the American serial plagiarizer who helped propel Obama to the presidency, this boost to his career will no doubt ensure Mr. Eine’s continued success.

In the meantime, Eine’s “Twenty first Century City” could now be keeping company with the Resolute desk in the White House. Revenge or reward? You decide.

Stoutcat


Valentine’s Day Gift To You From Grand Rants

February 14, 2010

Proof positive that life provides us all with an embarassment of riches whether we are wealthy or poor. Today is the day we set aside each year to remind ourselves as much as our loved ones that, perhaps, love is the greatest of all riches.

I wanted to post something for Valentine’s Day that says, very simply, how much we appreciate our readers.  The task was enormous for several reasons. First, “Thank you” doesn’t cover the enormity of gratitude we feel for our readers who have boosted Grand Rants into one of the top blogs in our first year.  It seems perposterously inadequate.  But since sending candygrams to each of you is, let’s just say, out of our budget, I wanted to do something else today that says “Thank you” in a special way. I think I’ve come up with just the thing.

Claudio Baglioni - 1978

A quick back story: in 1978 I was working for a major computer manufacturer as a senior software instructor. I was chosen to represent the company to provide training for scientists at the Institute for High Energy Physics in Serpikov, several hours outside of Moscow in the former Soviet Union. While spending week-ends in Moscow, I met and fell in love with a beautiful young Russian woman who would later become my wife.

She had a cassette of a young Italian singer named Claudio Baglioni. He was not only a talented singer whose every note exhuded his passion for life, he was also a brilliant composer and arranger. I didn’t understand a word of what he was singing, but that’s what made it so interesting. His phrasing and his emotion rang true in a way that transcended any language barrier. I guess it also helped that I was a  young and hopeless romantic.

Baglioni Circa 2010

Over the years, I have followed Baglioni’s career, even though he has never actively pursued the American market (outside of a brief tour early on in his career).  His more recent works include the official Anthem for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin. He has worked with such musical luminaries as Vangelis,  Youssu N’Dour, Phil Palmer, Tony Levin and many others. 

For years, I worked through a record importer in Washington DC just to locate and obtain Baglioni’s records. Indeed, my love for his music has lasted longer than my marriage did. I take some comfort, believe it or not, in thinking that she still listens to his music as well. The hopeless romantic lives!

The advent of the Internet has made it much easier to follow his career. Today, Baglioni is still seen as one of Italy’s top singers/composers and continues to enjoy a huge following. Yet he remains all but unknown here in America.

What does this have to do with you? Me?  Grand Rants? Simply this: I wanted my “gift” to give you something memorable that would take you by surprise rather than merely just being another song by Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles that you all know by heart. Something of serendipity, that takes you to a place you’ve never been, at least musically. And where today’s subject is all about “amore,” what better way to present this than by a singer, composer and arranger whose work has defined passion for over 30 years? 

My gift to you all is “Ora Che Ho Te” (I believe the translation to be “Now That I Have You”) by Claudio Baglioni. May his music help you to rediscover your passions in life wherever they may lie.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Grand Rants. And thank you.

Gerry Ashley

Bonus: If you would like to see more on Claudio Baglioni, here’s a link to a recent live performance of him doing one of his most popular songs, Strada Facendo.

Also, he now has his own Youtube channel, Claudio Baglioni TV.