Wednesday, February 19, 2014


"Karen Carpenter's white-bread image and sad fate — she died of anorexia in 1983 — have overshadowed her chocolate-and-cream alto voice. But other performers know the score: Elton John called her "one of the greatest voices of our lifetime," and Madonna has said she is "completely influenced by her harmonic sensibility." Impossibly lush and almost shockingly intimate, Carpenter's performances were a new kind of torch singing, built on understatement and tiny details of inflection that made even the sappiest songs sound like she was staring directly into your eyes. Still, she's a guilty pleasure for many. "Karen Carpenter had a great sound," John Fogerty once told Rolling Stone, "but if you've got three guys out on the ballfield and one of them started humming [a Carpenters song], the other two guys would pants him." Rolling Stone

For those of us who came of age in the Seventies and early Eighties, her sound is still amongst the most recognizable on earth. Over thirty years have passed since her death from anorexia, but Karen Carpenter's voice remains an indelible part of the soundtrack of our lives. And John Fogerty was right, she was a guilty pleasure back then and missed dearly now.

Thanks to a highly rated 1989 TV story of her life, there has been a narrative arc in our minds of her life and her death. In his 2011 book on Karen, Little Girl Blue, author Randy Schmidt did much to correct the historical narrative that turned her passing into the punchline of tasteless jokes and her life into a vessel for whatever cause crosses the beholder's mind. Between those lines, lies the fact that her brother Richard has worked mightily to control whatever truth hit the public domain. The convergence of these factors has conspired to obscure how great of a talent we enjoyed and lost. And to perhaps forget how tragic her loss actually was. 

She was not a Streisand or a Dion, in the sense of wishing to dominate a song. She was a microphone singer. Karen Carpenter was never guilty of vocal excess. It was always real, and she always seemed informed of the realities of life. Frost once wrote of being "well acquainted with the night." and even when she was too young to have experienced much of what she sang of, Karen's voice was informed by an understanding of real life. Even when the material was upbeat, she seemed aware that times could also be dark.  

The greatest artists have the knack of forging that special connection. that holds you in the belief that the artist is singing about their lives and yours. It becomes a conversation, then an intimate dialogue that is defined by the beholder's hopes and fears. They become our companions, some for the rest of our lives. They become the familiar people we have known through the newsreels of our lives. The ones who are truly indelible, are merchants of hope and the message that says in our moments of dark, we will always see the dawn.  Of the handful of those having this sort of talent. their scarce and precious talent is often taken from us way too soon. It's what makes my heart ache whenever I read Randy Schmidt's take on Karen, hear her work, or contemplate how we needed to hear even a musical voice that was undefined by cynicism. 

It's ironic, that The Karen Carpenter Story (the movie produced by her brother), meant to be a sanitized version of their family life, would star Louise "Nurse Ratched" Fletcher as mother Agnes, an actress whose portrayed her as one who made every word drip with passive-aggressive spite. It made an accidentally compelling portrait of what happens when a family dynamic evolves in a manner that marginalizes one of its members. How that translated into her anorexia has been the subject of decades of speculation.  What is not speculative, is how wounded inside that daily realization must have made her. How else to explain a person with all those gifts embarking on a process that made her literally disappear physically?

We occasionally forget in today's culture, that there are real people behind the headlines on "E". And in the case of an abrupt passing or tragedy, the tasteless jokes do inevitably follow.  A generation was guilty of the odd Karen Carpenter joke in college days, and many remember what Bette Midler said about her jokes at  Karen's expense.  The "Divine Miss M" felt guilty for adding to the ugliness in the world.  Of course, back in those days her comments made were about the conservative Nixonian values and image of the Carpenters, rather than what ultimately came to pass years later.  But it is so true, that our humor at someone else's expense, truly does add to the level of pain that exist in our world, even if they are famous.

Rediscovering Karen Carpenter's voice and story after all these years has meant trying to come to terms with her death. Hearing her work and realizing she had every gift but length of years, and a sense of truly being loved feels as if some outside force is excavating hearts out of bodies.  Like the many others who passed too young, there is nothing to do but remember her, and make certain others remember her as well.  Not as a poster child for eating disorders, or family dysfunction, or a member of the pantheon of those consumed by fame. But as a good and decent person, who opened a window to a world of hope and the possibilities of love, in a time when we needed to be reminded of those things. We still do.  




Thursday, February 13, 2014


As a matter of general philosophy, though, the National Football League is the last bastion of fascism in America. - The Great Shark Hunt by Hunter S. Thompson

Its no secret to those who have read past posts on the "Basic Blogger", that the author is a recovering fan of the National Football League. It's indifference to the bullying scandal in Miami, retaining the racist moniker of a team representing our national capital, and the tragedy of football-related dementia amongst many former NFL legends began the process of withdrawal. The reaction of many in the league to the prospect of an openly gay player joining their ranks, makes one wonder if caring about our national pastime is on the same moral level as voting for Vladimir Putin's re-election. 

Amongst the storm of stories about Michael Sam's revelation, the most heavily critiqued was the story in this week's Sports Illustrated. The comments within were those of several NFL front office types, who honestly stated (anonymously of course) the objective truth that the vast majority would not want to deal with the media coverage and the disruption of that special locker room culture of gay and racist slurs that the unfortunate Richie Incognito reminded us of (again) this week. The blogs may explode with fury against SI for publishing the comments, but it would be hard to deny the transcendent window into the league's soul. My personal favorite was this gem, 

"I just know with this going on this is going to drop him down," said a veteran NFL scout. "There's no question about it. It's human nature. Do you want to be the team to quote-unquote 'break that barrier?'

For those of us who read passionately about the game's history, it's interesting to see how many aspects of football remain mired in the America that existed before the Civil Rights Years. Or how things may have regressed from the glory years. Vince Lombardi had a gay brother, and Bill Walsh had a son die from AIDS. 

It's doubtful either would have discriminated against Michael Sam anyway. Perhaps the most crushing thing one can say about the state of the NFL today is that one must wonder if there is an owner or coach willing to give Mr. Sam anything approaching a fair shot for the same reason Tim Tebow is out of the game. Politics of a different stripe for certain, but politics just the same. 

In the years I lived in Dallas, I never was a huge fan of WFAA's Dale Hansen, or any boosterism for the local teams. But Hansen shows great courage in speaking truth to power, and his comments about the NFL this week is on a par with his reporting about the legendarily corrupt SMU football program. 

Here's a sample of his comments as noted in the Dallas News....

“Michael Sam would be the first openly gay player in the NFL, says he knows there will be problems... and they've already started, 

 Several NFL officials are telling Sports Illustrated it will hurt him on draft day because a gay player wouldn't be welcome in an NFL locker room. It would be uncomfortable because that's a man's world.

You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs, pulling her hair out by the roots? You're the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft. You kill people while driving drunk? That guy's welcome.

Players caught in hotel rooms with illegal drugs and prostitutes? We know they're welcome.

Players accused of rape and pay the woman to go away? You lie to police trying to cover up a murder? We're comfortable with that."

You love another man? Well, now you've gone too far.

It wasn't that long ago when we were being told that black players couldn't play in 'our' games because it would be 'uncomfortable"

There's nothing more to add really.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Where once there was hope and life, sits a burned-out house and the memories of what was for a quarter century, a place of miracles, a sanctuary for equines.  The end of the equine sanctuary that once resided there was messy, inexcusable, and animated by what Booby Kennedy termed, "the darkest impulses of the human spirit" ...It was simply put, a tragedy. It demonstrates why Wild Horses and Burros in the west live such tenuous existences. And that is one reason why, the Circle of One Equine Sanctuary in Chino Valley, AZ and other groups like it, deserves your support.

Rescued animals still live a very tenuous existence. Imagine as noted above, a board of Phoenicians with no ties to the local community,  driving out the leader of a 150 resident organization that existed for a quarter century with no stated grounds. Imagine these same people choosing to resign at the same time, unwilling to address the consequences uninterested in their fate. Imagine the ringleader/ realtor still leaving animals in a place she claimed to despise while moving Heaven and Earth to get donors to stop buying feed, in order to “save” the animals by forced starvation. 

Imagine the same person, filing papers with a state corporation commission, listing a fake corporation board, and almost selling the property to an allied entity for a dollar. Imagine doing anything you can to keep animals from being adopted by loving homes, because it was not a dramatic enough ending or rebuke to the sanctuary founder.

Imagine an endgame hastened by the current Board President’s annual Italian Sojourn, and a roundup punctuated by cattle prods, roping techniques banned from rodeos, and the deaths of several healthy but the older animals for convenience sake. Picture the anger it must take for a woman to post negative comments on old stories about a place shut months ago. Or the cynicism of sending out fundraising appeals for a place after its closure, to pay old friends debt.

There was never a thought given to the creatures. Most are said to have been taken to Texas for no reason, in a cloud of obfuscation and deceit. No one has yet explained, why burros were sent to a state that has thousands of abandoned equines dying of drought, and home of a State Parks department committed to shooting burros whenever they can because of perceived overpopulation?  Was it to escape the questions that came afterward?  Was it to escape accountability, or simply to avoid speaking the truth as far as the fate of individual residents? 

Our friends once again found themselves victim to the same species that destroys so many things that wildlife need. Over the nearly one year their home was winding down, most all of the residents were offered homes, pastures, and local rescues were interested in assuming operations. Those seeking an adoption policy consistently were thwarted in favor of this Kafka- inspired and tragic end.

Many of us are still searching for our friends, trying to find their outcomes. Great efforts were made to obscure the true destination of residents, and nobody will say what really happened to so many. Their gather was executed without any effort to find out names, family groups, or backgrounds. Nobody asked seems willing to let us know the true outcomes for our friends, or really any of the herd. Their wall of silence makes one fear the worse. So do the threats that inevitably come whenever a person asks a question of these alleged humanitarians.

For many, there was a place to go, an escape plan from the uncertainty and terror, a place just around the corner, a forever home.  Sadly, the choices that were made that served ego and hate and the darker impulses of the human character. Though we cannot change history, we can support Wynne Zaugg and the Circle of One Equine Sanctuary and other equine rescues. A note from Circle of One follows.....



Like many non-profits, the first month or two of the year are more difficult, and the animal care and support are still very necessary.  
If you are willing and able to help now, please consider:

1) a call to our feed store, Warren's Hay 'N More, Chino Valley, 928-636-1303

or, a check or money order to
Circle of One Animal Sanctuary
PO Box 1184
Chino Valley, AZ 86323

or a donation via PayPal, link on our website

Thank you!!!
Wynne Zaugg

Executive Director