Nudity: A Juxtaposition

Serendipitous synchronicity really is an amazing phenomenon. If your eyes, ears, heart and mind are open, you’ll actually notice that it happens all the time. As I move through my life, I’m often stopped in my tracks by two or more items that I discover, in close succession, from different sources, that happen to be related in some way.

Sometimes it’s sad, as in one case I noticed and blogged about back in May.

But these experiences can elicit a wide range of emotional reactions, and the one I came across this morning made me chuckle heartily.

From The Atlantic:

The Naked World of Spencer Tunick

For 20 years now, New York-based photographer Spencer Tunick has been creating human art installations all over the world, calling together volunteers by the hundreds or thousands, asking them to remove their clothes, and photographing them in massive groups. His philosophy is that “individuals en masse, without their clothing, grouped together, metamorphose into a new shape.” He aims to create an architecture of flesh, where the masses of human bodies blend with the landscape, or juxtapose with architecture.

From McSweeney’s Internet Tendency:

Spiritually Cleansing Naked Places: Some Insider Advice

By Dani Burlison

So you’ve been stressed. You need a vacation. The nagging tendonitis from hours of editing your unpublishable manuscript has left you frustrated, tense. A friend suggests you join her for a day trip to the semi-local Hot Springs resort. You can’t drink there, but you can get a massage and soak your aching, overworked body in hot mineral water while surrounded on all sides by rolling hills and wildlife and fresh air and naked men. Here are some crucial insider tips for making the most of your experience:

Always wear big, dark sunglasses. Again, the sun is bright out there in the wild, wild world of naked hot springs. You need protection. You also need those glasses to shield your delicate eyes from so many unwanted soul stares that are guaranteed while visiting the magic crystal lands of spiritually cleansing naked places. They also serve as a softening screen when presented with the many, many pale white asses and tenderly scalded crispy pink buns that come frighteningly close to your face. Bonus: Dark glasses make it possible for you to ogle the rare attractive man or woman lounging near the pool without looking like a total perv…

Be sure to check out the entirety of both pieces, the former as long as you don’t have a problem with images of nudity, especially at work, and the latter, as long as you can handle some explicit language, slang and otherwise, describing specific body parts.

Video Fridays: Freddie Mercury

Every time I hear the song I’ve chosen for today’s Video Fridays installment, Queen‘s Somebody to Love from 1976, I’m deeply, deeply moved.

I heard it last night, and broke down, thinking about Freddie and his struggles as a gay man in a world even more hostile to homosexuals than, sadly, it is today, thinking how he tragically died at the age of 45, thinking of all the amazing music he might have continued to make if he had lived.

There have been some great Rock & Roll vocalists over the years, but Freddie Mercury was in a league WAY above the rest and all his own. He had a self-trained, 4-octive range that could growl with intensity, soar like an eagle, or sing the sweetest falsetto, and you can hear it all in Somebody to Love.

The song, heavily influenced by gospel music, is a pleading prayer, a desperate expression of desire for the healing power of love. There are aching lines about how hard he works, how he wants to break out of what feels like a prison cell, and I can’t help interpret this as representing his years of attempting to come to grips with his sexuality. After all, when it was released, he was still married to a woman, but had begun an affair with a man that led to the end of his marriage.

It’s a truly virtuosic piece of music, and I’m gonna shut up now and let you enjoy it.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Star Trek-iPad Debate Revisited

In October of 2011, I wrote a post about a scene in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that really freaked me out.

There, right before my eyes, was Commander William Riker, sitting alone at a table in Ten Forward, the Starship Enterprise bar and lounge, he’s sipping on a shot of the hard stuff, and he’s staring down at a tiny device on the table, poking at it with his finger, reading and stroking his beard.

It freaked me out, because that’s what I look like every single day at lunch in the dining hall on the campus where I work, using an iPhone 4 that came out in June 2010, while that episode of Star Trek was broadcast 22 years earlier.

Anyway, as I mentioned in my original post on this subject, all you have to do is Google “Star Trek + Apple” to see that, for years, there’s been extensive discussion on the similarities between Star Trek props and Apple iPhones and iPads, and today I’ve come across a new addition in The Atlantic.

The article makes the case that a Star Trek device called simply PADD actually proves that a device larger than the iPhone but smaller than the iPad is really the ideal size for a tablet, the latest in a growing number of arguments that Apple really should release a 7-inch iPad Mini.

Personally, I don’t own an iPad and a tablet hasn’t really appealed to me, because I have my iPhone, which is awesome for doing everything I need/want to do in terms of mobile communication and entertainment.

So, I don’t have a horse in this race.

I would just like to take this opportunity, as I did in October 2011, to remind all of these folks making the Apple-StarTrek comparisons, that the very first iPad was actually envisioned 20 years before Star Trek, by Stanley Kubrick in his 1969 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Tweet of the Day: @Glen_Hansard

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of Irish singer/songwriter Glen Hansard.

I’ve also mentioned how much I love the band R.E.M., and so it’s such a treat today to discover this version of a beautiful, obscure R.E.M. song performed by Glen Hansard on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Free Larry!

I can go days and days scanning the news headlines and only come away from the exercise depressed as hell.

But, every once in a while I see a headline and a story like this and I feel incredibly grateful for something so refreshingly heartwarming.

Man frees 17-pound lobster from Conn. restaurant

WATERFORD, Conn. — A Connecticut man purchased a 17-pound lobster at a Waterford restaurant, then released the crustacean back into Long Island Sound.

Don MacKenzie of Niantic tells The Day of New London ( http://bit.ly/MGvGHb) he knew the lobster, nicknamed “Lucky Larry” by local children, would have to be about 80-years-old to reach his current size and felt it deserved to live.

MacKenzie won’t say how much he paid The Dock restaurant to take Larry off the menu.

He took the lobster back to sea Tuesday, releasing it in a secret location.

MacKenzie received a send-off from a group of children chanting “Let Larry Live” and the lobster was given a salute from the Niantic River Bridge operator who sounded the lift bridge’s siren as the boat carrying it headed back to sea.

Eschewing The Dangerous Rock & Roll Myth

There’s a great interview out today in Rolling Stone, with Steve Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and it could not have come at a better time.

Rewind: Over the nearly three years that I’ve been writing Fish & Bicycles, I’ve mentioned my musical pursuits and aspirations a number of times, usually when something related to my longstanding dream of being in a performing Rock & Roll band was thought-provoking (e.g. Regrets Over Not Pursuing It When I Was Younger, Wrestling With The Idea Of Giving Up The Dream) or momentous (e.g. Finally In A Working Band!).

Fast Forward: In that last post, I wrote of a marathon week my current band was having — 4 gigs, 4 venues, 4 towns, in 4 days.

Sounds like a dream come true, huh?

Well, this past weekend we had two more gigs, and in order to get closer to the point of this post, let’s describe these gigs:

  • Friday night’s was an hour’s drive away, we left for the bar at 6pm, started playing at 8-ish, and I didn’t get home until 3am.
  • Saturday night’s was a half-hour’s drive away, We left for the gig at 7:30pm, started playing at 9-ish, and got home sometime after 2am.

Now, it’s no secret, in fact it’s legendary: Rock & Roll history is littered with bodies, bodies that have been beaten up, diseased, and destroyed by alcohol and drug excess.

And, I can already attest, just from this short span of time playing in a bar band, that while there have been some wonderful moments — e.g. there are very few things as fun as being on stage, making music, with a throng of people out there dancing, and the feeling is incredible when the band is really at the top of our game, when we’re all listening to each other well and hitting our cues and nailing the endings — there have also been some not so great aspects to the experience, and it’s hard, painful even, when you find that this thing you’ve dreamed of doing for so many years isn’t all fun and games.

There are the exhausting hours, and then…

…there’s the booze.

You see it’s like an atmospheric condition, it surrounds you, envelopes you, and it seems like you can’t escape it. The bar owners don’t just hire us because they like music. They hire us because good live music brings more customers, more customers means more money from the sale of booze, and bands that play music that people can dance to, like us, are particularly effective at this, since a lot of people only dance once they’ve loosened up with alcohol, and as they dance and sweat and work up a thirst they drink even more.

And so, with each new gig, as I pay closer attention to what’s really going on out there on that dance floor, even that great feeling I mentioned above, of making music that people enjoy so much that they get up and dance, feels tainted. It starts to feel less about how good our band is and more that we just manage to keep a good beat and keep it going, something any good DJ can do.

Meanwhile, though I never have more than a couple beers before or during a gig, because I can’t play well if I drink more than that, if I’m even just a little bit buzzed, I look out at the drunken world around me and I start thinking that we’re all one big mess and really lost to all the excess.

Finally, getting back to Steve Van Zandt and Bruce Springsteen, it was an incredibly inspiring treat to read this quote from the interview I mentioned:

A lot of people are surprised at [Springsteen's] physical shape. You hear people joking and whispering at shows, “He’s gotta be on HGH or something! How else can he be doing this at 62?”
There’s nobody at 22! What are you talking about? [Laughs] No … he’s the opposite of a drug-created monster. [Laughs] He’s in good shape by not doing drugs. It’s something he doesn’t have to preach about. He’s a living example of what happens when you never do drugs your whole life. [Laughs]

I mean, I’m sure he’s taken a drink or two a few times in his life, but he was never a drinker either. And he eats right and he’s in the gym. Well, that’s what happens. [Laughs] Don’t do drugs. Don’t drink, eat right, go to the gym and you can rock & roll at 62, too. [Laughs] It isn’t rocket science. This is real old fashioned common sense. [Laughs]

TRULY an amazing accomplishment, living and thriving in the rock and roll world for 40 years and never falling for that stupid, self-destructive, it’s not rock and roll without drugs and alcohol, trap, while providing air-tight proof that you don’t have to be a drunk or an addict to be a great artist.

As it happens, for the last two rehearsals, all I’ve had with me is a water bottle, and I’ve already noticed that it’s making a HUGE difference in the quality of my experience.

With that water bottle by my side, I get this quiet pleasure from making a healthier choice, I stay hydrated, which makes me ultimately more comfortable, gives me more stamina, and keeps my fingers loose and dextrous. And, most importantly, I’m better able to concentrate solely on the music, to play the very best I can, to listen closely to my bandmates and make sure that I hit my cues and remember the arrangements and remember all the lyrics.

And I suspect that, at my next gig, when I look out at the folks in the crowd in their varying stages of drunkenness, I might not be as turned off by it somehow, I just won’t allow myself to get judgmental, which I think I had been doing, because, subconsciously, I was worried that I was part of the problem.

I.Hate.Guns.

Sorry to start out the week on such a downer, but I just can’t hide my deep sadness at the relentless gun-violence madness in the news lately.

July 14, 2012

Father shoots 3-year old son, himself

Same exact day: July 14, 2012

Boy, 3, accidentally shoots, kills father in Indiana home after finding his loaded gun

July 20, 2012

Colorado shooting victims total 71, with 12 dead

If not madness, what else can this be?

Gun proponents, whether you’re shooting at animals that you intend to consume or paper targets at a range, how important is this pastime to you? Is it so important that you’d oppose gun control that could prevent senseless deaths of men, women and children?

How many accidental domestic gun deaths will it take before the lesson is learned that guns in our homes don’t necessarily make us safer, but rather, all too often, result in the antithesis of safety?

Given the oft-quoted definition of insanity, that it is marked by doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results, for the long-term survival of humanity, isn’t it about time that we try something different?

Isn’t it about time that we put down our guns and focus our attention on preservation rather than destruction?

Video Fridays: My Embarrassing Southern Rock Phase

Ok, I admit it! When I was in high school I went through a brief but intense immersion in Southern Rock, listening almost exclusively to: Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels Band, Marshall Tucker Band, The Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, and others. The first two concerts I attended were the Allmans and The Outlaws respectively.

I was an ignorant white kid from a white suburb, drawn to the driving electric guitars and the gritty attitude of the music, and as embarrassing as it is to confess, I even put a Confederate flag on the wall of my room, because many of the bands from that era included the flag as one of their icons.

Unbelievably, as if I’d slept through all of my U.S. History classes, I never made the connection between racism and the southern pride that the Southern Rock world was infused with.

But I remember, very vividly, when the light bulb of awareness came on.

I was with my family visiting my older sister who was attending the University of Georgia, and during that trip we went to a county fair, and everywhere I looked there were Confederate flags and tough looking guys in leather and cowboy hats, and I suddenly remembered that I was a Jew.

Gulp. I was scared. And as soon as I got home the flag came off the wall, and I stopped listening to Southern Rock.

Now, years later, I’ve been able to compartmentalize the music from the culture, and if the music is good and the lyrics aren’t offensive I’m now able to enjoy it again.

Fast Forward: As I mentioned in a Video Fridays installment two weeks ago, the band I’m in has been gigging a lot lately, and it’s been a blast.

But when we played a bar in a rural community last weekend, several times, in between songs, some very vocal folks in the audience screamed out, “Skynyrd! Skynyrd!” and we had to disappoint and respond that we didn’t have any Lynyrd Skynyrd songs in our repertoire.

Our bass player, who, in the past, had played this bar with another band, had suggested for weeks that we work on Skynyrd’s song Gimme Three Steps, but we brushed it off…and I couldn’t help thinking about the lyrics of that song.

See, the narrator is being threatened at gunpoint and begs the gunman to give him a three-step head start toward the door, that he might have a decent chance to run away unscathed.

Heeding this cautionary tale, we’ve since rehearsed Gimme Three Steps, we’ve been asked back to that same bar, and we’ll be debuting it there tomorrow night.

All we have to do now is not screw it up, so that we don’t have to wonder whether or not we’ll need those three steps towards the door.