Sunday, April 24, 2011

What is Freedom?

I have been struggling for quite a while with various topics, and which ones I would like to bring forward to anyone who might care to read my thoughts and ramblings. But these days, the future has been solidly on my mind - in particular the changes that have taken place in our society over the time I've been on this earth, and changes that will certainly effect my step-kids as they finish school and head out into this world of ours. So one of the topics I wish to tackle and publicly wrestle with is the concept of "Freedom" and how the freedom we have come to expect inside the United States is being systematically removed from us right before our eyes.

What is "Freedom"?

Much of today's society has twisted the true philosophy of freedom. How many people have you seen complain that their "freedom of speech" has been infringed when they write "{insert person, place or thing here} sucks" on a public forum, only to find their statements stricken from the public record by moderators? In fact, they have forgotten the companion element of freedom, which is "responsibility". You have the "Freedom" to say whatever you want, as long as you accept the "Responsibility" of those statements.

And so it is - in my opinion - that to be free, means to be responsible. It is so evident that so many of us have either forgotten that true freedom requires the component of responsibility, or we have abdicated our freedom because we no longer wish to be responsible.

Consider the "typical" person who lives on public assistance (not the person who most would argue "truly needs help" of course). How much of their freedom have they given up, and how much responsibility do they abdicate? In the obverse, how much freedom does the person have who qualifies for public assistance, but chooses another (legal of course) way to survive? How much responsibility have they accepted? Who of the two people in these examples is more "free"?

Another grand example is how people deal with adversity or natural disaster. How many of the people who found themselves trapped in New Orleans after the hurricane were truly "free" when they opted to depend on the Government to help them? In contrast, how many people in Gulfport, MI found themselves in trouble after they opted to take responsibility for their own lives?

How about the right to bear arms? In so many places, weapons are now illegal - if not impossible - to own or carry, all in the name of freeing ourselves from danger. But at what cost? There is an incredible amount of responsibility that goes with owning and carrying a firearm, but why are we not given the freedom to accept that responsibility?

I'm sure there are literally thousands of examples, but I believe there is one single truism that you will find in nearly every example. The more responsibility you take, the more free you become. The more responsibility you release, the less free you are. It is this truism that shapes my personal and political views of today.

How many laws or regulations has our Government has passed over the past 5 or more decades that relieves us of some kind of responsibility? In effect, how much freedom has also been relieved? One huge issue today is healthcare. Prior to the healthcare law passed by Congress in 2010, how much responsibility did one have to have to protect themselves and their families? It is argued that people now no longer had to worry about paying for health care - they were "free" from that burden. But at what cost? According to the law, everyone now must pay for some kind of health insurance or be "taxed" because they chose not to. Freedom taken away. In all cases where a similar system has been tried, it has lead to less access to care, and a lower level of care than we have experienced in the United States. Responsibility removed - along with the freedom to choose or freedom to quality health care.

To be truly free is to be responsible for ourselves and our loved ones. This leads to true independence. And when you look back to what our Founding Fathers fought for and crafted through our Constitution, isn't that what they had in mind? They knew that true freedom required responsibility of the individual, to themselves and their families, and people who took that responsibility seriously could achieve true independence.

While this may seam to be a foreign concept to many (and I believe we have been conditioned to forget these simple concepts), I strongly believe this is the roadmap we need to follow to drive our way out of this terrible mess we find our country in today. We don't need the Federal government - or state or local government for that matter - to be the one stop shop and final regulatory say for every individual it serves, and history proves that it's certainly not sustainable. The Government cannot be all things to all people, and was it never designed to be.

The challenge many of us face now is how to turn back over a half century of "change" that has negatively effected our freedoms. While we would like to blame Democrats or Republicans, the real blame rests with those of us who have remained asleep during these changes, or have accepted the lie that these small changes and erosions of our freedoms are somehow necessary.

The question becomes - "what will you do now that you know what must be done?"

How you answer could change our world - or allow he slow, painful demise of our once great nation.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


"I'm moving through some Changes - I'll never be the same. Something you did touched me - there's no one else to blame..."
Changes by Yes - 90125

Nothing lasts forever. Whoever said that was a genius, if not obvious. But human nature being what it is, we rarely realize this bit of obviousness until we're in the middle of that change. Today, I find myself at such a crossroads - or, a "Y" as it may be. It is scary, uneasy, and exciting all at once. It also means leaving a part of myself behind as I spread my musical wings into other areas.

For anyone who has known me as a musician, you know that I've spent the last 19 years of my life playing keyboards and singing with Cincinnati's Bad Habit Band. Bad Habit has been a part of my life for so long that Jim Oldfield, Richard Sciutto, Rob Nadler, and Brian Lee Broomhall have become "Brothers By Another Mother." Because of my association with them, I have experienced so many great times, along with the pain and disappointment that any extended family experiences.

It is with a somewhat heavy heart that I announce my departure from the Bad Habit Band after 19 years with this fantastic group of musicians. It was not entirely by my choice, but my choices have led us to part ways. Confused? Don't be. Like so many other creative people, I have found it necessary to expand my horizons into other areas. However, this made booking commitments with Bad Habit difficult to impossible to keep. Jim, Rich, Rob and Brian want - no, NEED - to keep playing - and therefore have found it necessary to replace me with another keyboardist to fulfill those commitments.

As for me, I have joined DV8 as keyboardist, vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and musical director. But the point of this blog post and my subsequent posting to facebook pointing here is to not only inform the public as to what is going on, but to somehow put the last 19 years of my musical life into perspective for the multitudes of people who are fans of the Bad Habit Band, and in many cases have became personal friends of mine.

Bad Habit became a labor of love and a true melding of the talents and emotions of 5 diverse musicians - actually more than that if you include all of the drummers that we've had flow through our project over the last 19 years. Like any other "birth", we struggled and fought, cried and wrestled, but through the pain and efforts we created something that I consider truly exceptional on a musical level. Few bands could ever pull off the songs we've played at the level that we performed them. And while we may have wanted to take the easy way out on occasion, we always found our way to do songs that were exceptional on many levels. I will always be proud of our accomplishments - not because any one of us was "all that," but our combined talents made us so much better than any one of us could have been as individuals.

I'd like to take a moment to express my gratitude to my brothers:

Jim Oldfield:
Bad Habit wouldn't have been possible without Jim Oldfield, his rehearsal site (down on Seymour Ave at the time, now part of the U-Pull - U-Pay lot), his used U-Haul truck (then his white trailer), and most importantly his PA system. Jim spent an extraordinary amount of money on equipment - both front of house and monitors - to make sure Bad Habit had an edge with our sound. And not only did he spend the money on our sound system, but he set it up and tore it down many times on his own. He replaced blown speakers, damaged or stolen cables, and paid for equipment repairs, yet never charged us for the use of his equipment or the extra demands on his time. How fortunate we were! He even paid for Rich and Rob's in-ear monitors when we decided to go in that direction! He also booked the band, and when the funds were available he had t-shirts made to promote us. Thank you Jim O for all of your hard work and the efforts.

Richard Sciutto:
True Italian brothers we are - to the point where we would fight like factions from the Godfather, and yet came together in times of trouble like few people could. You may never believe me, but I have a level of respect for you that you'll never realize. The biggest fight we had was at the U-Turn in Middletown after a slammed Friday night - we were moving our gear from stage 1 to stage 2 when comments about keeping girlfriends led to a most vicious physical altercation. I'm sure everyone working at the bar that night thought we were done, but less than 20 hours later we were at the bar lifting a shot of Jack celebrating our friendship. It's how we rolled. It's how we survived. It kept us human and grounded. I wouldn't have had it any other way. ;)

Rob Nadler:
Mr. Golden Voice and the owner best guitar sound I've EVER heard short of Jay Aronoff's "Mount AmpMore", much less had the pleasure of working with. I think you have one of the best sounding studio's in the Greater Cincinnati area, in part because you have an awesome ear, and you've learned over time how to use the equipment you have to your advantage. I'll never forget the work you did when we felt it necessary to play as a 4-piece group - you continued to improve, even up to and including the last time we played together. And I expect that you'll continue to improve as long as you continue to play and stretch your abilities

Brian Lee Broomhall:
In my opinion, your the best rock drummer in Cincinnati who's never signed a professional contract with a national act. Playing with the fury of a hurricane, the explosive nature of a volcano, and the dynamic range of a symphony - in my opinion, you should be on tour with someone. Rock solid yet flashy, and nearly always in the pocket - how incredible. And what few people know is that you play guitar and bass as good or better than you play drums. I truly hope that one day you are granted the opportunity - and the freedom - to follow that musical dream to its fullest extent. Your talent really does deserve that opportunity.

To Bad Habit's other drummers - Jim Sullivan, Todd Farler, Rick Lonza, Stephen Schwarz, and Shawn Wells - all great in their own right - thank you for rising to the opportunity and making Bad Habit a part of your resume!

To Bad Habit's fans and my friends:
I want to also thank the multitude of fans that have followed Bad Habit for the last 19 years. Many of you have become my friends - THANK YOU! I hope to see you out at some of the other places that I play of course, but PLEASE keep supporting Bad Habit through this transition, and please keep supporting the bands who play great live music as well as the clubs who put their capital at risk to pay their bands a good wage. One stand out is Gary and Cole at the Knotty Pine - please continue to support these clubs and the bands that play there.

I don't know who will be replacing me on keyboards and for my purposes here it really doesn't matter, but I'm sure it is someone with the chops and skills to rise to the level that Jim O, Rich, Rob and Brian have attained after all of these years. I would bet there will be an announcement very soon, so keep your eyes posted to or the Bad Habit Band facebook page where I'm sure that info will be released.

My brothers, I wish you all continued success and I expect that things will only be better for you all moving forward. Keep playing great music and continue being the model musicians band in Cincinnati.

Never settle - ever. :)


Jim Questa

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fitting 20 lbs in a 5 lb bag…

Last Sunday (January 23rd) was the day for the broadcast of the Eukanuba National Championship and the Eukanuba World Challenge. I was wondering how they were going to cram so much of this two day event into a 2 hour TV show, so I'll use this blog post to break it down for you.

If you've been following my blog or Jennifer's blog over the past couple of months, you'll know that the event was two evenings long. And it was interesting how they made subtle changes to the ring and the surrounding areas (such as the bloggers table, the signage, etc) between the two nights. But only now did I realize why they did it that way. During the show, they're making it appear that there are two separate rings - very nice way to do it. The ring with the Rhodamine (that's the official Eukanuba Pink color) runway is described as the "Eukanuba Ring", while the full blue arena is the "AKC Ring"

Of course, any show that is recorded can be edited for content, and at this particular event there were a couple of handlers that fell either bringing their dogs into the ring (the winner of the Breeders Stakes with her Doberman actually hurt herself and had to be replaced for the balance of the World Challenge) or after they won their breed (the handler of the whippet jumped up on the winners circle after she won, only to loose her footing and taking a dive - luckily only hurting her pride). But in this case it also allowed for the broadcast of more detail into what the judges are looking for, and some great candid shots of how loved these dogs are.

I enjoyed the mix between Todd Grisham and Gina DiNardo. If I had any complains, I would say that some of the conversations felt "forced" or "read." But one of the benefits of having someone who knows and understands dogs and confirmation the way Gina does is giving credibility to the information she's presenting. It was great the way dogs were displayed with descriptions of what the judges look for. For the typical person who loves dogs but knows nothing about dog shows, that was a huge help.
I was glad to see the special segments such as the ACE awards - a group of very special dogs working as service or therapy dogs, the junior handlers, "Meet The Breeds" segment, and "Best Bread By Exhibitor to name just a few. And they took some time to show the dogs and handlers having fun or relaxing - a very nice touch. And it was also nice that they showed some of the "qualifying" competition held in the convention center earlier in the day. I wish they would have shown the obedience winner - there were a few seconds of that segment shown, but the entire demonstration was REALLY cool.

After the show, facebook lit up with terrible reviews, but you could tell these people were more in tune with the dog show world. From someone who has studied media and the "short attention spans" of a typical audience, I understand why the show was split up the way it was. It's so hard to balance the desires of a small segment of the audience (dog show people) with the general public. But the constant shifting between "rings" kept everything moving - that's what you need to keep the average Jane or Joe watching.

So at the end of the day, I was impressed with the way the National Championship was put together for TV. Well done AKC and Eukanuba! Hopefully next year, Jen and I can be a little closer to the action with either Hank, Ivy or Izy. :)