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Davey Jones of the Monkees has died at 66

By ANDY GREENE

Davy Jones of the Monkees has died of an apparent heart attack at age 66. The singer, who had been on a solo tour this month, complained of chest pains last evening and was admitted to a hospital this morning in Stuart, Florida.
Jones was born in Manchester, England and started acting as a child. In 1964 he had the misfortune of appearing in the cast of Oliver! on the same episode of The Ed Sullivan Show where the Beatles made their debut. The next year he was cast in The Monkees, a comedy show/band inspired by the success of the Beatles. They were an instant hit in the ratings and the record shops, scoring massive singles with "Last Train to Clarksville," "I'm a Believer," "Stepping Stone" and "Pleasant Valley Sunday." Jones – who played tambourine in the band – was the lead vocalist on the classics "Daydream Believer" and "I Wanna Be Free." At the peak of their popularity in 1967 the group sold more albums than the Beatles.
The Monkees' music was written by some of the best songwriters of the day, including Carole King and Neil Diamond. As the group grew more popular, they insisted on writing their own music and playing their own instruments. Although their later work has attracted a huge cult audience over the years, their mainstream success quickly dwindled and the group split in 1971. Jones went onto a solo career, and he memorably performed his song "Girl" on an episode of The Brady Bunch.
Jones returned to acting in the late 1970s when his solo career failed to take off, but he found it difficult to escape the shadow of the Monkees. By the mid-1980s Monkees mania was reborn when MTV and other stations began regularly airing old episodes of the TV show. The band (minus Mike Nesmith) reunited for a highly successful reunion tour in 1986. They toured off and on through 2001, when infighting led to another split. Last summer they patched things up for a 45th anniversary tour, though it was called short because of what guitarist Peter Tork called a "glitch."
Nesmith posted a tribute to Jones on his Facebook page. "I will miss him, but I won’t abandon him to mortality," he wrote. "I will think of him as existing within the animating life that insures existence. I will think of him and his family with that gentle regard in spite of all the contrary appearances on the mortal plane. David’s spirit and soul live well in my heart, among all the lovely people, who remember with me the good times, and the healing times, that were created for so many, including us. I have fond memories. I wish him safe travels."

Craig Morgan: Releases new cd 'This Ole Boy'

Photo's by Ray Tharaldson all rights reserved 2011

Story by Vernell Hackett
Craig Morgan prefers to say his debut album came out ten years ago, not a "decade."

"It sounds better -- doesn't sound as long, does it?" laughs the singer, who looks about a decade younger than his 47 years. He seems genuinely surprised that his career has been around for that amount of time, despite the fact that he's releasing his sixth career album, 'This Ole Boy,' today (Feb. 28) on his new label, Black River Entertainment.

"I'm not where I thought I'd be!" Craig says with more laughter, explaining, "I thought I'd try country music for a couple years and then I'd end up back in the Army. We've surpassed any and everything that I've ever expected. I'm a member of the Grand Ole Opry. We've had 14 Top 10 hits. A lot of guys that have been in country music as long as I have aren't in it anymore. So, I'm extremely grateful that we're still working a lot and we're still here."

The Tennessee native is looking forward to fans hearing the new album, with its title track already getting great response. "We're still very vital to this industry, and we still have a lot to bring," says Craig. "It's hard to do that, unless you reach a certain level by a certain point in your career. A lot of the industry kinda writes you off. For some reason, the industry still lets me be here, and we're still doing a whole lot."

He points to his television show, 'Craig Morgan All Access Outdoors,' which is in its second on the Outdoor Channel, as well as the potential for him jumping into the acting arena, as some of the new career opportunities that have been afforded him.

"We still have a whole lot to accomplish," he concedes. "I would expect that this first week's sales on this album will be my biggest first week's sales ever, and that's saying a lot because I've been on Atlantic, Sony and Broken Bow [Records], where we'd accomplished a lot. I have a lot of that same feeling that we had at Broken Bow early on – I have that here (with Black River Records). But the feelings that I had then, and that I have now, I will experience those feelings with this label for a long time. I don't think I'll see the changes with these guys that I'd seen there. It's exciting. It's a wonderful place to be."

His first album in nearly three years, 'This Ole Boy' was co-produced by Craig and longtime writing partner Phil O'Donnell. Craig is a co-writer on seven of the project's 12 tracks.

Craig Morgan Explains New Album, Track By Track

"It's funny, there are a lot of people out there who don't necessarily consider themselves country music fans, but they sure talk about all the stuff I'm singing about on this record," Morgan notes. So, whether you're a country fan or not--sit back, put on the album, and enjoy reading Morgan's track-by-track take on living life!


"This Ole Boy"
I called [the writer of the song] and told him, I'm cutting this song, and I'm confident it'll be a single. So we cut it, and here we are. Just one of those songs that talks about the kind of people that we are--and the kind of people who listen to country music, I believe, are those same people.

"More Trucks Than Cars"
That was an easy song to write. Kind of about where we're from. Where I live, you always see a whole lot more trucks than you do cars. And here again, it's just talking about the kind of people that we are.

The cool thing about this song--what I love about this song--is where I threw in a bit of a tribute to the military without making it the major source of content. Having been in the military, I never wanted anyone to think that I was taking advantage of my service, so I always try to steer clear of that sort of material to a degree. And this was a song that I thought we got to pay tribute and talk about it, without it being the focal point.

"The Whole World Needs A Kitchen"
Just a song that talks about...a political perspective, in a non-political way. You know, there's a lot going on in the world, and it's one of those songs that talks about the reason we're having so many problems is because we don't gather as a family anymore.
In my house, the kitchen was the place where everybody gathered--still does to this day. As a kid, I remember growing up, I used to sit on the bottom stair, it came right outside the kitchen, and my mom would cut my hair there. There's something special about walking through the house, or into the house and through the kitchen...the smell of supper cooking on the stove. These are things that verbally we created such images that you don't even have to close your eyes to see it. It's just a wonderful song talking about how the world is a better place when you have a good kitchen.

"Country Boys Like Me"
Here again, another song that I felt was real strong, talking about who I am and how I feel and what I believe. One line in particular, when I played it for the label, they were like ehhhh....I don't know. It says "black kids bleed red just like me." Everyone was like ahhh...I don't know. But I was like, "Why not? That's the real deal. That's what it's about. That's life." And that's what we're supposed to sing about. And now that we've cut it, everybody's over-the-top excited that we did.

"Show Me Your Tattoo"
There was one reason and one reason only behind that song. So that we could see things on the road touring (laughs). I'm kind of kidding; kind of serious. I just thought it was a funny song.

"Love Loves A Long Night"
One of my favorite songs on this project. I've always wanted to have a sexy song, but I've never really found one or wrote one that I felt was workable on the album or "Craig Morgan-like." We wrote this, and as soon as we finished writing it, I knew that it was something I was never gonna pitch--that I absolutely had to cut it myself. And I'm so glad, because in my opinion, it's one of my strongest songs vocally on the project. I get to show off my vocals in ways that I've tried to do in the past.

"Being Alive And Living"
Completely autobiographical. It was easy to write, because I'm not the kind of guy that just sits back and watches motorcycles race around the track--everyone knows I race dirt bikes. I talk about jumping out of planes, I can't just watch it happen, I gotta do it. I have a bucket list. When I go to heaven, my bucket list will be empty, I hope! (Ed's Note: When asked what was on his bucket list, Morgan said he'd like to climb Mt. Everest.)

"Fish Weren't Biting"
I love how throughout the entire song, you think that the ol' boy is talking about one thing, when in fact he's referring to the very thing you think about but in a different way! So just absolutely love it. They payoff on that song for me was really huge.

"Better Stories"
Another autobiographical song, but I didn't write this one. Everybody who knows me knows I run at about 90 miles an hour, and I love my life, and I'm not scared to take a chance or two. So, I do have a lot of scars, but at the end of the day when we're sitting around and those guys that have been extremely careful their whole life and haven't really lived, they won't have near as good of stories as I will!

"I Didn't Drink"
Heartfelt song. I tried to imagine what it would be like if I didn't have my wife around. I'm not a big drinker--I don't drink much liquor or beer at all, I'm a wine drinker...glass or two at home. But I can imagine what it would be like if I lost someone who was close to me like that. I would go into a place...and I wouldn't know what to drink, but I'd want them to give me something. It's probably the deepest song on the record.

"Corn Star"
It's a fun song. I'm not trying to change anybody's lives, I just want people to laugh--and appreciate that country girls are stars in their own way!

"Summer Moon"
Just a fun, simple, easy listening, sittin' on the creek bank kind of song. And that's what that's all about. A lot of that came from real-life experiences.



Related links: craigmorgan.com/

DesertXpress project to California faces rising costs

The 188-mile DesertXpress project would benefit from low land costs -- it would hug Interstate 15 almost all of the way, using government-owned right-of-way.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

For much of the past decade, the debate surrounding the proposed DesertXpress bullet train has focused on one name: Victorville.
The fault line that separates proponents and critics is whether it would make sense to have a 188-mile high-speed train terminate in the high-desert city of 115,000 on the northeastern fringe of metropolitan Los Angeles. Critics like to call it a fast train to nowhere. Backers tout it as good for the local economy -- a faster and more comfortable way for tourists to reach Las Vegas.
But as the federal government trudges closer to deciding how much taxpayer financing should go to the privately owned DesertXpress Enterprises LLC, the growing cost of the audacious project has started to attract more attention than the bedroom community that would be its southern endpoint.
The project's estimated construction cost, now estimated at $6.5 billion, has risen by 85 percent in the past four years. And that may be on the low end, if studies of other high-speed rail lines are any indication.
Moreover, high-speed trains elsewhere have covered their operating expenses, but rarely make enough to recoup construction costs. That's critical because the private company pushing DesertXpress now seeks a direct loan of as much as $6.5 billion from the little-known federal Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program. A decision is expected this year.
While the proposal calculates that ticket sales would generate enough profit to pay off the construction debt, serious questions remain.
A MOVING TARGET
For decades, people have floated concepts for a train to zoom people from Southern California, the single largest source of Las Vegas visitors at 26 percent of the total, according to a 2010 survey by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Yet Amtrak halted its poorly performing service on the route 15 years ago, and nothing yet has taken its place.
With several key environmental and other regulatory approvals in hand, DesertXpress has come closer than anyone to reaching the elusive goal. Majority owned by an entity controlled by company Chairman Tony Marnell, a prominent Las Vegas builder, with real estate investor Gary Tharaldson and veteran transportation executive and engineer Tom Stone as partners, DesertXpress gained a political boost three years ago with an endorsement by Sen. Harry Reid, a longtime proponent of high-speed rail as a way to create jobs and attract visitors to Las Vegas.
If built, DesertXpress would be the second high-speed rail line in the United States. Amtrak's Acela Express, which runs the crowded Washington D.C.-Boston corridor, hits 150 mph.
The basic concept has remained the same since DesertXpress was incorporated in 2002, but key details have changed. Four years ago, the plan was for a $3.5 billion train financed entirely by private investors. Now, the budget has grown and the company would like taxpayers to fund it.
The DesertXpress timeline calls for finishing design by the end of this year, but there is no groundbreaking date.
Budgets for high-speed rail are a moving target, as seen in California, where the latest blueprint for a statewide system was revised late last year to between $98.5 billion and $117.6 billion -- more than double what voters were told four years ago in relation to a bond issue that included $9 billion to start a statewide network.
DesertXpress executives declined to be interviewed for this article, but did answer written questions. They blame rising costs on factors outside their control, principally changing federal standards and general inflation of labor and material costs in recent years.
"DesertXpress continues to adjust to these factors and will not be able to lock in pricing until (Federal Railroad Administration) requirements for high-speed rail are solidified," the company said in an email. "DesertXpress, however, does expect that cost savings will occur as the final design is completed and the regulatory environment stabilizes."
Other developers, while not building railroads, say construction costs have dropped due to the Las Vegas real estate collapse.
Dennis Smith, president of the Las Vegas consulting company Home Builders Research Inc., estimates that the vertical costs of subdivisions -- excluding land -- have dropped about 40 percent in the past six years.
John Knott, executive vice president of CB Richard Ellis, which handles commercial real estate, said, "The cost of construction has fallen from the peak because labor is less and there is less demand."
A Federal Railroad Administration spokesman declined to comment on DesertXpress, and could not cite specific regulatory ambiguities.
It's hard to compare high-speed rail projects because costs vary widely based on factors such as geography and the technology used. And as a private company, DesertXpress isn't required to make detailed financial plans public. But according to a standard transportation benchmark, cost-per-mile, DesertXpress' cost estimates have always been on the low side.
The current estimate runs nearly $35 million per mile. DesertXpress said its numbers "are verified to be appropriate for the project scope."
But a 2009 Government Accountability Office survey identified a high-speed rail line in Spain as the least expensive at $37 million per mile. The most expensive: $143 million per mile in Japan.
A 2010 World Bank report found a "typical range" of $55 million to $133 million per mile.
And estimates for the California state system, which includes higher-cost construction in urban areas, range from $84.8 million to $109.3 million per mile. Experts now reviewing that plan warned in January that costs could go even higher.
However, rail experts acknowledged that local conditions cast big influence over costs. The GAO noted that the high-end Japanese line between Takasaki and Nagano came with high land purchase costs and required numerous bridges and tunnels, as well as expensive seismic bracing.
DesertXpress, by contrast, would benefit from low land costs -- it would hug Interstate 15 almost all of the way, using government-owned right-of-way -- and would largely avoid steep climbs and sharp turns. It would also have just two stations, with no intermediate stops.
Asked about the cost comparison to California's plan, DesertXpress replied, "We do not have sufficient information on California High Speed Rail to make a comparison nor should we."
WHO PAYS?
DesertXpress executives four years ago pledged to secure 100 percent private funding, but cold markets forced them to backtrack. Documents from the Federal Railroad Administration, which hired a consultant to review the company's confidential loan application, describe the potential size of the loan as $5.5 billion to $6.5 billion to be repaid over 35 years at government borrowing rates, which are generally lower than what commercial lenders charge.
Adding DesertXpress to the portfolio would mark a departure for the federal loan program, which has generally financed existing small freight-rail projects such as laying new spur lines or reconfiguring switch yards. Its only passenger rail money has gone to Amtrak and for a station in Denver. DesertXpress hopes to borrow four times more than all loans made by the program since its creation 10 years ago.
DesertXpress has said it also expects to raise some private debt or equity, and to include "collateral that provides the appropriate amount of protection for the lender." However, it did not provide specifics, partly because the project is still in development.
"This project is unique in that the private sector has assumed all the liability up front," said Las Vegas transportation consultant Tom Skancke, referring to the expense of the ongoing planning and approval process. "I don't think they would have made this investment if the DesertXpress weren't feasible."
Forecasts of 6.5 million annual round-trip riders when service starts, rising to 8.9 million trips in 35 years, "demonstrate that revenues from passenger fares will cover project and financing costs with a going concern valuation that exceeds the (federal) collateral requirements," Marnell wrote last July.
But the World Bank concluded that high-speed rail generally produces only enough revenue to pay for daily operations.
"The evidence is that it is very difficult for a stand-alone high-speed railway to recover much of its capital costs from the passenger revenue stream alone, except in the very densest corridors," the World Bank warned. Governments pursuing high-speed rail "should also contemplate the near-certainty of copious and continuing budget support for the debt."
One of the few lines that covers both capital and operating costs runs from Tokyo to Osaka, Japan, carrying more than 140 million passengers a year in a corridor with a population of about 55 million. By contrast, the DesertXpress would link Southern California, with about 20 million people, to Las Vegas, with about 2 million.
Even in Japan, high-speed rail has not always been a winner. The Japanese National Railways was broken up in 1987 as it buckled under the debt amassed in building bullet trains.
"In each of the three countries we visited (France, Spain and Japan), the central government paid the up-front construction costs of their country's high-speed rail lines and did so with no expectation that its investment would be recouped through ticket revenues," the GAO reported.
WILL PEOPLE RIDE?
The question of how many people would use DesertXpress elicits widely different answers.
The company expects close to 90 percent of its passengers will drive to Victorville, park their cars and then take the 84-minute train ride rather than fight the "overcrowded I-15 corridor at Victorville."
When traffic flows smoothly, the drive from Victorville to Las Vegas is about two and a half hours, or just more than an hour longer than the proposed train ride.
"I think the train is a great opportunity," said Robert Lovingood, chairman of the Victorville Chamber of Commerce. "People will want to ride rather than face the stress and all that traffic on 15."
When asked about I-15 congestion, California transportation officials refer questions to Lance Todd, program director for Highway Radio in Barstow. He said the only northbound I-15 chokepoint is on Fridays north of Victorville, where I-15 narrows from four to three lanes, and then to two.
On Sundays or holiday Mondays, there are four southbound trouble spots, the worst being the agricultural inspection station at Yermo, about a dozen miles east of Barstow, he said. There, drivers must slow down, causing traffic to back up for several miles on peak days.
But there are alternatives to ease I-15 congestion. Nevada DOT estimates that it costs about $5 million per mile to add a lane in each direction to an interstate in a rural area, or about $750 million to make I-15 six lanes from Primm to Victorville.
Even if I-15 stays just as it is now, will enough freeway-hardened Angelenos choose the train, rather than just keep driving, to pay for DesertXpress?
According to Nevada Department of Transportation figures, about 40,300 cars each day crossed the state line at Primm both ways on I-15 last year, for a total of 14.7 million vehicles for the year.
The state doesn't track where those cars came from, how many people were in each or where they were going, but the Convention and Visitors Authority says about 10 million Southern California residents visited Las Vegas last year. That includes an unknown number who flew.
DesertXpress, then, expects about two-thirds of all Southern California visitors will take the train, paying $110 for a round-trip ticket -- comparable to flying nonstop most days from one of Southern California's six commercial airports.
DesertXpress said three outside consultants have reviewed its ridership estimates, including an "investment grade analysis" last April.
But a paper written for the Monorail Society in 2001 noted that passenger estimates for the bankrupt Las Vegas Monorail were also reviewed by three outsiders, including one report termed "investment grade." They concluded that the 3.9-mile overhead line would draw at least 19 million paying customers a year. It carried 4.9 million last year.
Two of the monorail consultants, URS Corp. and Wilbur Smith Associates, have also helped formulate DesertXpress numbers. One of the three authors of the Monorail Society paper, Tom Stone, did work for the monorail and was the DesertXpress CEO until he retired in late 2010.
What some critics call the "optimism bias" has shown up elsewhere. A survey of 25 high-speed railways around the world by Oxford University professor Bent Flyvbjerg found that actual ridership averages only half the amount stated in preopening studies. This would bring DesertXpress down to about 3.25 million annual round-trips during its initial years.
DesertXpress also faces a basic belief of transportation planners: People who start a trip on one mode of transportation don't like to switch.
"There is a lot of psychological baggage that comes with having to transfer from one mode to another. People don't like to do that," said University of California, Berkeley professor Robert Cervero, who has studied the issue elsewhere.
One solution, raised by DesertXpress in the past, would be an extension from Victorville to Palmdale, about 50 miles to the west, to connect with the proposed California high-speed system.
But with the California system in doubt because of that state's budget problems, DesertXpress now refers to Palmdale as a Metrolink station, part of the Los Angeles-area commuter rail network.
When evaluating DesertXpress as a whole, Skancke said history will view it as inaugural segment of a national high-speed system.
"Once Americans see what 200 mph trains really are, they'll be clamoring, screaming for it in communities all over the country," he said.
But the World Bank calls for a more measured approach:
"(We do) not suggest that public financial support may not be justified, but argue for a candid prior weighing of the overall economic benefit against 'likely' public financial support, rather than just 'picking up the bill after the feast.'"
Contact reporter Tim O'Reiley at toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.
For more information visit: DesertXpress.com/

Sun rises under Rupert Murdoch's watchful eye

Rupert Murdoch's Sun on Sunday is launched on Sunday with a manifesto that attempts to set out a fresh agenda for the tabloid replacing the News of the World, which was closed by the media mogul last July.
Murdoch spent Saturday afternoon at the Sun's London headquarters as the newspaper before he headed off to see more than 3 million copies come off his printing presses just north of London.
Murdoch wants the title, edited by Dominic Mohan, to adopt a less strident, more female-friendly tone, as he hopes to regain market leadership on Sunday with a sale of at least 2 million – and preferably at or around 3 million. The Sun's six-day sale average is 2.75 million
He has also been closely involved in a seven-figure marketing campaign, pledging the Sunday newspaper to hold its reduced 50p price point to at least the end of the year. The News of the World cost £1, as did the Sunday Mirror and Daily Star Sunday before this weekend.
But as the new title arrived, there were allegations that former Sun editor Rebekah Brooks received details of the original failed phone-hacking investigation into the News of the World from a senior Metropolitan Police officer. There is no suggestion that the officer was paid or that Brooks is implicated in the investigation, being conducted by the IPCC police watchdog. A spokesman for Brooks – also a former chief executive of News International and close Murdoch ally – declined to comment.
At the same time, one of the Sunday Sun's columnists, Toby Young, author of How To Lose Friends & Alienate People, was embroiled in a Twitter controversy after writing about the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler – the revelation by the Guardian, which added to pressure to close the News of the World. "That murdered girl thing? Check the Guardian story. Turned out to be balls. Get off your high horse," he tweeted, in an online spat with Graham Linehan, writer of Channel 4's The IT Crowd.
The Guardian report that the then missing Milly Dowler's mobile was hacked by the News of the World has not been disputed. What the paper did correct was its report that the News of the World had been responsible for deleting voicemail messages left for her, giving her parents hope she was still alive.
Linehan responded that Young had an "amazing take on the Milly Dowler story. I guess you tell yourself that so you can go to sleep," and that Young should, "go away and start lying for the Sun. A marriage made in heaven".
Meanwhile, the Leveson inquiry is due to hear evidence from detective assistant commissioner Sue Akers about developments in the Elveden police inquiry into corrupt payments made to public officials by journalists, which has seen 10 Sun journalists arrested since last November.
Leveson will also hear from long-time Murdoch critic and former deputy prime minister John Prescott and former senior Met officer Brian Paddick. Both are expected to question the relationship between the Met – which had previously failed to investigate allegations of phone hacking comprehensively – and News International.
Meanwhile, Murdoch is spending freely on marketing the Sunday edition of a title he took over in 1969 and described this month as "part of me", on his return to the UK to announce the long-predicted launch. News International aired "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" adverts during every major ITV programme on Saturday night, and was fighting to hold off rival tabloid publishers by taking the 60-second spot just before ITV's evening news.
Columnists signed up in addition to Young include Katie Price, the model formerly known as Jordan, who said, "I'm writing to show people I'm not just boobs, lashes and fake tan"; the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu; Nancy Dell'Olio on fashion, and Jose Mourinho, the Real Madrid boss who will write on Sunday's Carling Cup final.
But Murdoch is wary of promoting too heavily. Cardiff City are playing Liverpool, and memories of the Sun's coverage of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster may lead to a protest at the match.

Happy 80th Birthday, Johnny Cash!

photo's by Ray Tharaldson
all rights reserved 2012

From picking cotton to help his impoverished, Depression-wracked family; to his exhausting tour schedule; to struggling with a serious drug addiction; to his songs about guns, murder, revenge, punishment and repentance—Johnny Cash was a troubled man who sought redemption through his music.

Johnny Cash was born to farmers in Kingsland, Ark. on Feb. 26, 1932. As the fourth of five children, he recalled in a 1969 TIME article that although his family was dirt poor, “I was never hungry a day in my life….at breakfast it was just fatback and biscuits—but that was plenty.” After high school, Cash worked at an auto plant in Pontiac, Mich. (where, as far as we know, he did not actually construct a car from stolen parts, as he later pretended to in his 1976 song “One Piece at a Time”). He joined the Air Force for a few years, and then in 1954 he married Vivian Liberto and the couple moved to Memphis.

To commemorate what would be the county-music master’s 80th birthday on Feb. 26, several celebrations, projects and events are scheduled throughout the year. Cash’s boyhood home in Dyess, Ark. is being restored. Columbia/Legacy will release a series of archived recordings, starting with a collection of his gospel and spiritual songs from 1970s and ’80s called Bootleg IV: The Soul of Truth, which will be available in April. A Johnny Cash Museum is scheduled to open this summer in Nashville.

Cash then embarked the grueling journey that all newly-successful musicians must endure: days and weeks and months of endless touring. By 1957, he was giving more than 200 shows a year (by some accounts, he may have played closer to 300). His marriage was faltering. He drank too much. He became addicted to amphetamines. He accidentally started a forest fire in California. He was arrested for smuggling pills into the U.S. from Mexico. In 1966, his wife filed for divorce. And yet still he released hit song after hit song: “Ring of Fire,” “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town,” “I Got Stripes.” Johnny Cash was troubled man, but not so troubled that he couldn’t turn his haunted words into song.

Cash had always been musical—as a child he sang at the Dyess Central Baptist Church and he reportedly learned to play the guitar while in the Air Force —so when he moved to Memphis, he hooked up with two musicians, Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant, and auditioned for Sam Phillips at Sun Records. He recorded “Hey, Porter” and “Cry Cry Cry” for Phillips, the latter of which became his first hit, peaking at No. 14 on the Billboard’s Top 20 in 1955. He followed it up with “Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Walk the Line,” which shot up to No. 1 and stayed there for 43 weeks. It would sell over two million copies. (Cash’s stint at Sun Records was relatively shortlived; he switched to Columbia in 1958 because the Phillips wouldn’t let him record gospel music).
Cash toured with the Carter Family in the 1960s—and of course he would ultimately marry June Carter in 1968, after she helped him overcome his addiction and find his faith. The couple’s live recordings at Folsom Prison and San Quentin, in 1968 and 1969 respectively, are still two of the best concert albums ever released. They were married for 35 years, until her death in May 2003 from complications from heart surgery. Cash made it only four more months before joining her in September of the same year.
But this glossed over retelling of dates and events isn’t what’s important about Johnny Cash. The reason we remember him so fondly—and why we’re celebrating his birthday nine years after he passed—is the gift he had for music and the way he made us feel. Cash’s world-weary bass-baritone voice expressed a forlorn pain that, until we heard his songs, we didn’t even know we had. He gave a voice to the working man, the luckless, the outlaw, the convict—and to those of us who weren’t any of those things but who sometimes identified with them anyway.

“Well, we’re doing mighty fine, I do suppose / In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes,” Cash once sang, “But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back / Up front there ought ‘a be a man in black.”
Thank you for being that man, Johnny Cash. Happy birthday.
Claire Suddath is a staff writer at TIME Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter at @clairesuddath or on Facebook.
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Act of Valor' SEALs are the real deal!

What makes "Act of Valor" so unique is that it stars active duty Navy SEALs doing a whole lot of impressive Navy SEAL stuff like sniping bad guys and blowing up jungle compounds. Because the SEALs in the movie are active duty none of their real names can be used (but their faces can?), but it also means they actually know what they are doing, well, at least when they have a gun in their hands.
The performances are rough, which is to be expected because these guys are soldiers and not actors. It is awfully uncomfortable because you are rooting so hard for them to do well. It's kind of like watching your dad perform in a skit at the church talent show, all you can do is quietly cringe and hope for the best.
The good thing is that there isn't a whole lot of acting because the silly little plot — which involves terrorists trying to sneak suicide bombers into the U.S. — hardly matters at all.
Because the Department of the Navy clearly saw the recruiting potential of this movie, the full force of the United States Military was at the disposal of the filmmakers.
This means lots of jumping out of planes and cool shots of submarines, swift boats, helicopters, aircraft carriers and some weird little mini-sub thing straight out of a Bond movie that I didn't even know we had. Hollywood is good at portraying military might, but not as good as the Pentagon.
Plus a lot of the action scenes feature live-fire which means real bullets, real rockets, real tracer rounds and real big booms.
Directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh use a lot of hand-held cameras to put us in the action as we follow the SEALs on their efficient tactical maneuvers. Early in the film the SEALs go to rescue a captured CIA agent from a heavily armed compound in Costa Rica in what is probably one of the greatest action sequences ever committed to film.
These are the dudes who killed Bin Laden and take down Somali pirates for breakfast, so to see the real guys in action, even in a movie as ridiculous as this, is a sight to behold.
In the Costa Rica scene, there is a moment where a pair of hands rise silently out of the water just before a bad guy on a dock is shot by a SEAL sniper. The hands catch the body before it hits the water, thus preventing a splash that would alert the other bad guys. That degree of deadly efficiency is so cool it is worth the price of admission alone and makes you really glad these guys are on our side.
Look, there's not a lot in "Act of Valor" that works as a movie and you can even make the argument that it is nothing more than shameless propaganda. However, so much of it is unprecedented in the history of action movies (with the exception of the bad acting, for examples see: Segal, Steven, or Van Damme, Jean-Claude) that die-hard action fans will find it worth their time.
For everyone else the movie just wants you to be sure you learn one very important lesson: do not screw with Navy SEALs. But then, you already knew that.
"Act of Valor" is rated R for strong violence including some torture, and for language.


For up to the minute movie reviews and more follow Mathew DeKinder on Facebook at www.facebook.com/suburbanjournalsmoviecritic.

Tim Tebow: Signs With Hollywood Agency In All Off-Field Areas

EXCLUSIVE: For one reason, the Denver Broncos starting quarterback’s NFL jersey is one of the best-selling in the country. I’ve learned that the Hollywood agency WME signed Tim Tebow for endorsements, public appearances, speaking engagements, TV, film, books, the works — even helping with his foundation. With his unorthodox NFL quarterback skills, very public religious devotion, and incredible team success (they made it far in this past season’s playoffs), Tebow has attracted tons of praise, criticism, and attention from the sports world and national media. He’s already been lampooned on Saturday Night Live.
He played college football at the University of Florida, winning the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and appearing on BCS National Championship-winning teams in 2007 and 2009. After graduating, he was drafted by the Broncos as the 25th overall pick in 2010. Tebow is known as a dual-threat quarterback, adept at both rushing and passing. Plus he’s eye candy.

US general urges calm at base where Afghan soldier killed 2 American troops

By Associated Press, Updated: Friday, February 24, 3:26 PM
KABUL, Afghanistan — The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan called on his troops to resist any urge to avenge the death of two American soldiers killed in riots over the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base, even as renewed protests Friday claimed at least seven lives.
The anti-American demonstrations by thousands of Afghans who took to the streets after midday prayers were further evidence that President Barack Obama’s apology has failed to quiet the outrage over what the U.S. says was the inadvertent destruction of the holy books
The killing of the two U.S. soldiers and the civil unrest have further strained Afghanistan’s relations with the United States. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is trying to negotiate a long-term partnership agreement with the United States to govern the activities of U.S. forces in his country after 2014, when most foreign combat troops will have left or taken on support roles.
The violence against coalition troops also comes at a time when many countries contributing to the force are seeking to accelerate their withdrawal from what has become an unpopular and costly war that has dragged on for more than 10 years.
In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest acknowledged that the burning of Qurans had created “difficult circumstances.”
“It is our view that we will work through these difficult circumstances and remain on track to making progress on our goals,” Earnest said.
At least 20 people, including the two U.S. soldiers, have been killed in four days of violence.
Protesters have ignored appeals by Karzai, parliamentarians and some clerics for an end to the violence until an investigation into the incident at Bagram Air Field is concluded in coming days.
Afghan officials said seven people were killed around the country Friday by Afghan security forces trying to disperse crowds or responding to gunfire from protesters.
One of the dead was part of a crowd trying to storm a Hungarian military base in northern Baghlan province. Six others were killed in western Herat province, including three people who died when a truck full of ammunition exploded after protesters set it ablaze, the governor’s office said.
Anti-American protesters also gathered in several locations around Kabul, including in the city’s east, where a demonstrator, his clothes covered in blood, was carried from the scene as about 200 police tried to push the crowd back.
Police sprayed volleys of automatic rifle fire over the heads of protesters chanting “Death to America!” in an effort to prevent them from reaching the defense ministry, located close to the American Embassy.
U.S. Gen. John Allen, who commands all U.S. and coalition troops, traveled late Thursday to the American base in the east where an Afghan soldier opened fire on U.S. troops, killing two Americans.
“There will be moments like this when you’re searching for the meaning of this loss. There will be moments like this when your emotions are governed by anger and a desire to strike back,” Allen said in comments NATO released Friday.

Billy Strange, Musicians Hall of Famer and Longtime Friend to Country, Dies at 81


BillyStrangeMusic.com
Turn on any Oldies radio station and you’re bound to hear the guitar or penwork of Billy Strange, a talented writer, musician and actor who died on Wednesday morning at the age of 81. The versatile guitarist and songwriter performed with everyone from Roy Rogers and Spade Cooley to Count Bassie, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.
Strange’s website meticulously documents his 50 plus year-long career in music and show business. Perhaps his most recognizable credits are as the writer of Presley’s ‘A Little Less Conversation,’ or as the one who arranged Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking’ and Frank Sinatra’s ‘Something Stupid.’ The Sinatras were always grateful to Strange, and there are numerous photos of the group chatting socially at the website.
“My dear friend, the legendary guitarist/arranger Billy Strange passed away this morning in Nashville,” Nancy Sinatra tweeted on Wednesday. “My heart is shattered.”
According to his biography, the talented conductor was also the musical director for the first five ACM Award shows. He recorded with Willie Nelson, Bob Wills and Dean Martin. Strange also wrote Presley’s ‘Memories’ and ‘Viva Las Vegas’ and had a role as “Speedy West” in the 1980 Loretta Lynn biopic, ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter.’
Family and friends have been sharing memories and stories of Strange at the message board on his website. He leaves behind wife Jeanne Black Strange and several children from previous marriages. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

7 Marines killed in midair helicopter crash

By John Bacon, USA TODAY
AH-1W Cobra helicopter
CAPTION
USMC
Seven Marines died when two helicopters crashed last night at the Yuma Training Range Complex, the Marines announced today.

Updated at 11:52 a.m.: The service members with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing were based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Lt. Maureen Dooley with Miramar Air Base in California says. The helicopters collided in a remote portion of the traning range complex on the California side of the Chocolate Mountains very close to the Arizona border, Dooley tells the Associated Press.
Updated at 10:48 a.m. ET: Cpl. Steven Posy, with Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, tells The Arizona Repulic that the weather "was pretty mild last night."

Updated at 10 a.m. ET: The aircraft collided in a remote portion of the Yuma Training Range Complex. "We're still gathering a lot of details as the sun comes up," Lt. Maureen Dooley with the Miramar Air Base in California tells CNN.

Updated at 9:42 a.m. ET: A military official says the helicopters crashed near the Chocolate Mountains in southeast California, the Associated Press reports.

Updated at 9:25 a.m. ET: The Marines statement, in full: Two helicopters belonging to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing collided in a remote portion of the Yuma Training Range Complex killing seven Marines Feb 22.

The aircraft, an AH-1W "Cobra" and an UH-1Y "Huey", were conducting routine training operations around 8:00 p.m (local time). Identities of the Marines will be withheld until next of kin have been notified. The incident is currently under investigation.

Update at 9:08 a.m. ET: The Yuma base's website says the base includes approximately 4,000 active-duty Marines and sailors. "With access to 2.8 million acres of bombing and aviation training ranges and superb flying weather, MCAS Yuma supports 80% of the Corps' air-to-ground aviation training." CNN, citing a Marine Corps official, says the aircraft involved were a UH-1 and a AH-1W.

Original post: Seven Marines were killed when two helicopters collided Wednesday night near Yuma, Ariz., NBC News reports, citing Pentagon officials.

The Marines, from the 3rd Marine Airwing based at Miramar in Southern California, were conducting a training exercise when their Cobra and Huey helicopters collided in the air. There were no survivors, NBC says.
The cause of the crash was under investigation. The identities of the seven killed have not been released pending formal notification of family members.

Miracle on Ice 32-Year Anniversary

by Neil Hartman
Where were you on Feb. 22, 1980? I was a production assistant for ABC Sports at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. It was a job I landed for three weeks during my sophomore year at Ithaca College. Upon my arrival in Lake Placid, I learned that I was assigned to figure skating and hockey for the Winter Games, and my responsibilities were to assist the announcers for the respective sports.  

Little did I know that I would witness a series of games which would quickly captivate our country. Then, it happened, on this day 32 years ago.

The US hockey team shocked the world by beating the feared Soviet Union 4-3.  There were 8,500 people packed in the Olympic Center for that game and I was one of them, but not in just any seat. I was next to Al Michaels when he said his infamous line, “Do you believe in miracles?” What are the odds that a budding sportscaster would find himself in such a spot?
I was a casual hockey fan growing up, but when I left Lake Placid that year, like many Americans, I became a hockey fan. The US of course won the gold medal, beating Finland, and I remember watching team captain Mike Eruzione calling for his teammates to join him on the medal stand before the national anthem was played. The scene was about as patriotic as I have ever seen. It was a surreal moment for me in my life and I can’t believe over three decades have past since that day.  

About 10 years ago, I was able to play golf with Eruzione and we reminisced about the greatest moment in his life and one of the most memorable moments in mine. I have very few keepsakes from my Lake Placid experience. I have my Olympic credentials and ABC winter coat, but I can’t seem to find any pictures. I have audio tapes from my radio reports, but that’s it. 


Like many things in life, I appreciate it more now than I did at the time. It’s hard to believe 32 years have passed, but those memories will remain with me for a lifetime. 

E-mail Neil Hartman at nhartman@comcastsportsnet.com.