Video Fridays: Joe Strummer

It’s been a while since I posted a video of one of my favorite music artists, Joe Strummer, but today I’m just in that kinda truth-telling, rockin’ out kinda mood.

If you loved The Clash, especially if, like me, you loved their work from the 1979 London Calling onward, it’s impossible for me to understand how you wouldn’t like Joe Strummer’s solo work, especially the three last albums he released with The Mescaleros.

What was so mind-blowing about London Calling was how a band known for fairly straightforward punk rock music broke out with a double album of songs with influences ranging from reggae to jazz to disco and more.

Well, Joe never stopped listening to and being inspired by music from a wide variety of genres, including music from all around the world, and nowhere was that more evident than on the 2001 album Global a Go-Go.

This song, Bhindi Bhagee, plays around with his international influences, with food acting as a metaphor for how international music is. If you haven’t heard the Global a Go-Go album, I really can’t recommend it enough.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Eyecatchers: Mark Powell

Ok, I know I posted an Eyecatchers installment yesterday, but the following just astounded me.

So, sue me! :-)

Via Colossal, I’ve discovered the work of Mark Powell, an artist creating absolutely stunning portraits on vintage used envelopes, using only a Bic Biro pen.

Powell has a particular fascination for old, deeply wrinkled and haggard faces, and you could even say it’s a nearly morbid fascination (not many smiles here). And yet, I detect a clear empathy and compassion for his subjects, evident in the emotion you can see right below the surface or oozing out in particular facial expressions, especially via the eyes.

As a result, the work doesn’t come across as overly depressing, and some of the portraits even come ever so close to caricature, in a good way, without actually going there.

The texture and patina of the envelopes, along with the postmarks, stamps, addresses, and handwriting somehow seem fully integrated into the compositions, enhancing both the aesthetics and themes.

Do treat yourself to some time at the artist’s website, but in the meantime, here are some of my favorites:

Eyecatchers: “Bad” Photos By Good Photographers

Here’s a fun diversion!

The Guardian has a short but fascinating slideshow up today, consisting of selected photos from noted photographers, who’d been asked to talk about what they considered to be their worst shot.

Now, naturally, since these are VERY good photographers, their “worst” shots are still, in most cases, very good photographs, and sometimes the explanation they give has more to do with the subtext surrounding the subject, rather than anything technical about the shot itself.

Anyway, I love reading about the creative process behind works that don’t immediately, by themselves, tell the whole story.

Here’s my favorite shot of the bunch (But you’ll have to click on the link above to find out why it’s considered “bad” :-)):

R.I.P. Earl Scruggs

It’s always sad for me when people of legendary talents pass away, especially when it’s someone who had a talent doing something that I happen to dabble in.

Thus, as a musician, because I deeply revere the masters of the art, I experience their loss acutely, almost as if the person was someone I knew, and it feels like I did really know them on some level, because they ultimately shared so much of themselves in their music.

And so it was this morning as I learned of the passing of Bluegrass music legend Earl Scruggs.

There are many items in the news today on this great banjo innovator and virtuoso, so I won’t go into details of his career here, except to say that he developed what became the quintessential Bluegrass banjo style that so many players after him adopted. Bluegrass is practically synonymous with the Scruggs-style three-finger rolling picking technique. (I would highly recommend a moving tribute to Earl that Steve Martin wrote in New Yorker earlier this year, a love letter to a man who deeply inspired him and with whom he was eventually fortunate enough to have played with and befriended.)

For me, I’ll always think of Earl Scruggs in the context of the great fortune I’ve had to make music over the years with a dear friend who plays the banjo, and even though she plays the older clawhammer style, she was the gateway for my learning of the banjo in general.

And now, without further ado, Earl’s signature tune, humbly (chuckle) named Earl Scruggs Breakdown:

Moving, Bellingham Style

I’ve lived in Bellingham for nearly 20 years, I’ve written numerous times of my affinity for bicycles, I’ve been a bicycle commuter for most of my last 10 years of employment, and I mention on my About page that the “bicycles” in Fish & Bicycles resonates with the fact that bicycles have an iconic presence here.

So, naturally, I strongly identify as a quintessential Bellingham resident.

Well, back in November 2011, I wrote about how my family and I moved to a new home here in town, and how that move kicked my ass.

But today comes a story of one man’s move across Bellingham that makes me question my B’ham street cred. The move looked like this:

Via The Bellingham Herald:

Bicycling caravan moves Bellingham man into new apartment

The mere thought of hauling a sofa, a dinette set, a bed and a bed frame down a flight of stairs and into a moving truck is enough for some of us to break a sweat.

Now imagine hauling all of that five miles across town, by bike.

Oh, and also bringing along everything else you own. Basically in one trip…

On Tuesday evening, March 27, [Tim] Flores recruited a few friends and acquaintances who offered to bring a ton of his things – literally, he estimated it weighed about one ton, in all – from the outskirts of northwest Bellingham to the Puget neighborhood.

After a morning practice run, Flores and Caleb Brown, a coworker at the downtown Comnunity Food Co-op, loaded about 600 pounds of stuff onto two bikes and bike trailers.

By 5 p.m., eight more bikers had arrived at his apartment complex at 915 Mahogany Ave. to help with the move, using only their cycles, trailers, bungee cords and backpacks.

I don’t know what’s more admirable, the fact that he actually pulled this off, or that he lives minimally enough to have made this possible.

Tweet of the Day: @nickibluhm

I never thought in a million years that I could ever again listen to, much less enjoy, a Hall & Oates song. (No offense, messieurs Hall and Oates, it’s not your fault that your music was played to death on the radio when I was growing up.)

And yet, I have to admit, thanks to Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, performing this song in a moving vehicle, with two acoustic guitars, an iPad, a kazoo, Nicki’s spot-on gorgeous voice, and absolutely perfect harmony backing vocals, I thoroughly enjoyed a Hall & Oates 1980s chestnut I’d sworn to detest for life.

Spring In Bellingham Is A Fickle Mistress

Seriously, just this past Saturday my friend texted me the photo you see here, with the message:

Back deck, sunshine, beer, get over here now!

While we are blessed with mild winters here in Bellingham and springtime often comes early, which I’ve written about before (Post 1, Post 2), it’s rare that we have the kind of sunshine we just had this past weekend, with temperatures in the mid 60°s F, and I swear, this is what the conversation was like, out on that deck, basking in the glorious sun:

My Friend: Can you frickin’ believe this?!

Me: It’s amazing!

My Friend: I’m wearing flip-flops for godsake!

Me: It’s amazing!

My Friend: It’s like California out here!

Me: It’s amazing!

But then Monday came, heavy sigh, and this is what I woke up to:

Stuff We Need: Plastic-eating Fungus

Just about a year ago, I blogged about an article that prompted me to reconsider my just-say-no-to-plastics mantra.

No, it didn’t convert me into a lobbyist for the plastics industry. Heck, I still believe that the absolute best thing would be for humans to end the production of plastics. Rather, I just haven’t ruled out the possibility that plastic could someday become a renewable resource. We’ve already made great strides in recycling (how cool is fleece made from recycled plastic bottles?!), and there are a number of different plant-derived plastics already on the market.

However, one problem that isn’t going away anytime soon, thanks to the fact that plastic takes forever to biodegrade, is waste: landfills overflowing with plastic, waterways polluted with it, animals dying from ingesting it, etc.

Well, thanks to a team of Yale University students with a passion for fungus, we have a good subject for a long-overdue Stuff We Need installment!

Via Fast Company:

[A] group of students, part of Yale’s annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory with molecular biochemistry professor Scott Strobel, ventured to the jungles of Ecuador. The mission was to allow “students to experience the scientific inquiry process in a comprehensive and creative way.” The group searched for plants, and then cultured the microorganisms within the plant tissue. As it turns out, they brought back a fungus new to science with a voracious appetite for a global waste problem: polyurethane…

The fungi, Pestalotiopsis microspora, is the first anyone has found to survive on a steady diet of polyurethane alone and–even more surprising–do this in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment that is close to the condition at the bottom of a landfill.

How frickin’ cool is that?!

Now, knowing how careless humans can be while tampering with the natural order, it’s not hard to imagine this going very, very badly.

Here’s the synopsis of a sci-fi/action/thriller movie that would almost certainly be made based on one possible outcome:

The Fungus Among Us
A global environmental crisis is mounting, stemming from humanity’s lust for plastic. Landfills are full, toxic chemicals are leaching and poisoning ground water, humans may have switched to electric cars, but oil is still fought over, as the plastics industry tries to keep up with worldwidee consumers’ insatiable demands for cheap, disposable products of all shapes and sizes. Meanwhile, in a small village in the Amazon, living amongst a tribe of indigenous people who have been spared contact with the outside world, a reclusive biologist (played by Brad Pitt) discovers a fungus that eats plastic. Despite his disdain for the developed world, knowing that even his oasis in the jungle will eventually be destroyed if the plastics problem isn’t addressed, the scientist reluctantly returns to the U.S., where his discovery is at first shunned by environmental bureaucrats. Turning to the private sector, a plastics manufacturer realizes they can insure their future billions in profit while earning billions more by selling the fungus that will clear up the landfills so that they can be filled again, over and over and over again. Only, after initial success, the fungus, which they genetically altered in order to boost its consumption rate and capacity, starts to reproduce at an alarming rate, it becomes airborne, and soon it starts consuming plastic everywhere it’s found. Personal property, modes of transportation, infrastructure everywhere starts crumbling apart, and it’s up to the reclusive biologist to find some way to kill the fungus. Will he succeed?

So, hopefully they can figure out how to use this fungus responsibly, perhaps by cultivating it in massive containers, into which they add the plastic waste, where it can be eaten in a controlled, sealed environment.

See, they just have to consult me!