Video Fridays: The Sapphires

The_Sapphires-posterIt’s been several weeks since I saw the wonderful film, The Sapphires, at Bellingham’s own art house emporium The Pickford Film Center, and I just can’t stop thinking about it.

I went into the experience with few expectations. The brief description I’d read gave me the impression that it would be a fairly lightweight, feel-good, possibly a little silly movie. BUT, man, take four Australian aboriginal gals with amazing voices, introduce them to a washed-up white soul musician played by Irish comedic actor Chris O’Dowd, and then take the show to Vietnam in 1968 to entertain American troops and you’ve got one dynamic, fantastic film!

As I’ve mentioned several times before (Just two examples: Post 1, Post 2), I LOVE Soul music. It has become my go-to genre when I’m burned out on nearly every other type of music, I eventually get fatigued by everything else but I can always come back to Soul music.

So, it’s Video Fridays, and thanks to The Sapphires, I’ve got some wonderful Soul music to share, first a clip from the film, with the gals doing the 1968 Linda Lyndell tune What A Man, then a sampling of the soundtrack in the trailer.

Seriously, see this movie if you can, whether in the theatre or at home. It’s a gas!

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: Dire Straits Didn’t Give A Shit

dire_straitsA few weeks ago, I received an email from Keith, one of my High Fidelity friends. (For a full explanation read my January 2012 post titled I Lived High Fidelity Before High Fidelity Was High Fidelity!. Shorter explanation: Keith’s a longtime friend who, like me, is a music geek.)

Anyway, the email had no subject line, and the entire body of the email consisted of this:

Toro, Toro taxi. See you tomorrow my son.

I’ll pause a minute as folks try to place it…

Ok, so, it’s a line from a song called Skateaway, from the third album, Making Movies, by now-defunct band Dire Straits.

And even though I hadn’t heard the song in years, in fact hadn’t listened to any Dire Straits, except on accident, if it just happened to come on the radio, I recognized the lyric and the song it came from instantly, within seconds of reading it I opened Spotify to intentionally listen to Dire Straits, and I’ve been listening to them off and on ever since.

This morning, I wrote this, in response to Keith’s original email:

Keith, I hold you personally responsible for sending me off on a Dire Straits binge.

Thank you. I haven’t listened to this stuff in years.

Seriously, their first three albums are frickin’ incredible…

(Yes, there’s some great stuff after that, like Telegraph Road, a very Springsteen-ish song from their 4th album, Love Over Gold, and some of the stuff on Brothers In Arms.)

…and I think it’s stunning to think about them in the context of what was going on in music at that time, the late 70s and early 80s, so dominated by punk, post-punk/new wave, etc., and there wasn’t much else out there that sounded like Dire Straits. Maybe Tom Petty and a few others.

Early Dire Straits was like a great early to mid 70s rock and roll band, full of American roots music influences, who stubbornly decided to just keep making great early to mid 70s rock and roll.

And there I was, thinking I was making a keen observation, perhaps even a unique observation, but as I was researching for this post, I came across this in the Wikipedia article for Dire Straits’ 1978 debut album (emphasis in bold added):

In his review for Rolling Stone magazine, Ken Tucker wrote that the band “plays tight, spare mixtures of rock, folk and country music with a serene spirit and witty irony. It’s almost as if they were aware that their forte has nothing to do with what’s currently happening in the industry, but couldn’t care less.

Oh well.

Since this is Video Fridays, this post must include a video, and boy what a video I’ve got for you, nearly an hour and half of early Dire Straits, a 1979 concert that includes songs from their first two albums, tight, clean, rootsy music in a year dominated by wholy different, seminal albums by The Clash, Joy Division, Talking Heads, The Police, Elvis Costello, B-52s, etc., proving that Dire Straits, indeed, didn’t give a shit.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: Gas Station Karaoke

karakokeOk, I know that my selection for today’s installment of Video Fridays, a clip from The Tonight Show, has already gone wildly viral.

I even know that some controversy has kicked up around it, with some suggesting that the whole thing was staged.

I.Simply.Don’t.Care.

Because, it’s frickin’ awesome! If this was a Saturday Night Live skit, I’d still enjoy it, so why should I care if it was staged or not?

The couple are just plain endearing and entertaining and willing to let it all hang out there in public. I love that!

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Video Fridays: Long Live Hippies

Originally Published: July 26, 2011


A friend of mine recently tweeted a wonderful YouTube clip (video embedded below) of a joint performance by The Flaming Lips and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros of the Lips song Do You Realize?, filmed in a cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.

I dare anyone to watch the video and NOT have the word “hippies” come to mind, and I’m reminded of a post I wrote back in April 2010, a lament on the fact that for some, in my opinion too many, the word “hippies” carries a negative connotation.

I watch that video of Do You Realize? and it’s quite bittersweet for me. While it’s heartening to see hippie culture surviving, it breaks my heart to think of how squashed the movement got, as I wrote previously, by cynicism and conservatism.

What I see when I watch that video is a crowd of people being incredibly peaceful, lovingly joining their voices together in song, singing about how precious life is and how we should, together, make the most of every single second. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the pleasure of similar experiences, and while I was raised Jewish and now dabble in Buddhism, I’d have to say that gatherings like that, especially when they involve making music, are really the only church I’ll ever need.

Back in April 2010 I quoted a line by Pete Townshend of The Who, a line that I remembered but couldn’t recall exactly where it came from. Well, I’ve since remembered.

In 1993, Townshend released an album titled Psychoderelict, a concept album about an aging rock star lamenting the fact that back in the late 60s and through much of the 70s artists and their fans really did believe that their music and art, along with their love and community, could change the world for the better.

Townshend’s aging rocker says at one point, “Whatever happened to all that lovely hippie shit?”

Well, despite all the cynicism in our screwed up world, that hippie shit is alive and well and recently showed up in a Los Angeles cemetery. And, it really has very little to do with how people dress or how often they do drugs and drink, and everything to do with a sincere belief that love; peaceful, supportive, inclusive community; and freedom of expression, are the most important things.

Video Fridays: R.I.P., Allan “Sidney Freedman” Arbus

allan-arbusI’m late getting to this, but I’m sad that I’m posting my second obituary in one week.

Following my post on Monday on the loss of Richie Havens, I heard the very next day of the death of actor Allan Arbus, at the age of 95, mostly known for his role as the psychiatrist, Dr. Sidney Freedman, on the TV show M*A*S*H.

(In a creepy example of the urban myth that celebrities die in groups of three, since I started writing this, I’ve learned of the death of country music legend George Jones at the age of 81. I may or may not be able to post an obit for George later today.)

Anyway, I mentioned once before that I practically grew up on M*A*S*H. In fact, it was such a central experience for me, as well as for many of the people I knew, including my best friends, who would talk about it constantly, reciting our favorite lines, analyzing it’s ups and downs, that it is not unsurprising to me at all that Allan Arbus’ passing would inspire more than just a brief note about how I used to enjoy him on television.

(If you aren’t a TV geek who enjoys exploring the themes of a show, if you are someone who simply likes entertainment, that’s cool, but you might want to skip ahead below, to the video part of this Video Fridays installment, a montage of clips of Allan Arbus from various M*A*S*H episodes.)


Now, the fascinating thing here, for me, is that Allan Arbus and his character, Sidney Freedman, actually represent the epicenter of an aspect of M*A*S*H that divided its fans into two opposing camps:

  1. Those who preferred the earlier seasons of the show, when comedy far outweighed drama, and when the comedy was, as I would argue, of a more sophisticated style.
  2. Those who loved the evolution of the show from mostly comedy toward increasing amounts of drama, and despite the shift in comedic style.

You see, although Arbus only appeared in 12 of the 251 episodes of M*A*S*H, and although his earliest appearances were in Season 2, when the show was still firmly mostly-comedy, I contend that the very fact that Sidney Freedman became a recurring character is symbolic of the evolution of the series towards drama.
Gradually, the show became less and less about the farcical absurdities of war, in the style of, say Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 — the style, incidentally, of the original source material, the novel by Richard Hooker and the film by Robert Altman — and more and more about the emotional, dramatic, traumatic and tragic nature of war.

That said, a convincing argument could be made that, once you delve into the ugliness of war, as would, let’s say, a psychiatrist, digging through the horrible toll it takes on humans and humanity, that it necessarily gets harder and harder to make light of it. A sitcom about war, then, could eventually become shallow or even insulting to those who have faught in, been injured by, or have lossed loved ones to war.

And, nothing underscores Sidney Freedman’s central role in this evolution than his central role in the very last episode of the series, 1983′s Goodbye, Farwell and Amen, M*A*S*H‘s swan song, the show’s last statement on the subject of war, which centered on therapy sessions between Sidney and Alan Alda‘s Hawkeye Pierce, who had suffered a nervous breakdown over a traumatic experience involving a mother who silenced her baby, thereby suffocating and killing it, in order to protect Hawkeye and the other passengers on a bus that was under enemy fire.

Drama indeed. Nothing funny about that.

Now, I should make it clear that, despite my preference for the earlier seasons, I do appreciate the significant achievement of keeping the show on the air for 11 seasons, while maintaining a huge audience and mostly positive reviews. After all, I kept watching and never missed an episode.

Truthfully, my beef with the show wasn’t really with the trend toward drama-over-comedy. Rather, as mentioned above, I found the comedy that did remain to be lacking in sophistication, too often heavily laden with silly puns, slapstick arguments and personality clashes.

Whatever you make of this analysis, regardless of which camp you reside in, I think we can all agree that Allan Arbus was wonderful as Dr. Sidney Freedman. As Alan Alda said, quoted in the Los Angeles Times Arbus obituary, “He was so authentic in the role it was hard to believe that he wasn’t that person.”

R.I.P., Allan Arbus. Thanks for the memories.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Video Fridays: Marvin Gaye

A friend of mine, in response to the news this morning from Boston, wrote on Facebook:

Here come the drum beats, the war cries, the schizoid retaliatory crimes…

Sadly, I think he’s right. This is how the cycle of violence rolls on and on and on.

As I tried to think of a video for today’s Video Fridays installment, I thought of an old favorite song of mine, a song that speaks to the senselessness of violence, but, as it turns out, I already featured this song in a Video Fridays installment, back in September 2011.

And so, since I kinda like what I wrote back then, I thought I’d just make this a Best of Fish & Bicycles post, and republish it.


What can I say, it’s been a pretty musical week here at Fish & Bicycles, with my posts yesterday and Tuesday, and now today’s Video Fridays installment features a song that came on Pandora this morning, a song I love a lot.

Marvin Gaye was a deeply soulful artist, a troubled human being like so many before and after him, and his untimely death at age 45, at the hands of his own father, was one of the harshest tragedies in a music history littered by untimely deaths.

In the 1971 classic What’s Going On, Gaye sings about mothers crying and brothers dying, and those lines always make me think fathers need to cry just as much as mothers.

Instead, in a sad foreshadowing of sorts, Gaye pleads, “Father, father, we don’t need to escalate.” (It should be said that he’s most likely referring to God the Father, but who knows?)

Anyway, the song speaks directly to my hippie heart (“Only love can conquer hate.”) and is filled with such intense longing, both lyrically and in the lush melodic arrangement.

Happy Weekend, everyone! Enjoy.

Video Fridays: R.I.P., Jonathan Winters

jonathan-wintersVery, VERY sad news today…the brilliant comedian Jonathan Winters has died at 87.

I know I’m dating myself, but, because I was raised on television, I saw a LOT of Jonathan as I was growing up, on a wide variety of TV shows and in many of the movies he appeared in, and he always stood out as one of the most unique people on the tube.

There was a wild unpredictable quality to his presence and his work, born from a virtuosic improvisational style that was WAY ahead of his time. Winters was the proverbial box of chocolates, you never knew what you were going to get, and you never knew when he’d change characters, which he could do at the drop of a hat.

I remember distinctly the occasional awkward silences created when he’d abruptly switch gears and the television actors he was working with were caught off-guard, needing a moment to catch up. Rather than being jarring, I always recognized these moments as refreshingly unscripted, the product of a fearless master artist who was not afraid to take chances, and as a result mostly succeeded.

Anyway, the internets are abuzz with this news, along with loving and admiring tributes from his fans and colleagues, and of all the stuff I’ve seen so far my favorite has been the following video, in a tweet from Patton Oswalt, a stunning example of Jonathan Winters’ genius for improv, many, many years before the rest of the world would discover the “prop game” on Whose Line Is It Anyway?.

Rest in peace, Jonathan, and thanks SO much for all of the laughs!

Video Fridays: A Tooth For An Eye

20130322-120449.jpgThis week’s Video Fridays installment is not your average music video.

Thanks to yet another wonderful find at Vimeo, I’ve discovered musical artists I’d been unfamiliar with: The Knife, a Swedish electronica brother and sister duo.

And, the video for their song A Tooth For An Eye, is a moving and fun experience, thanks to an ambitious and powerful theme: gender inequality.

From the description of the video at Vimeo:

“A Tooth For An Eye” deconstructs images of maleness. Who are the people we trust as our leaders and why? What do we have to learn from those we consider inferior?

In a sport setting, where one would traditionally consider a group of men as powerful and in charge, an unexpected leader emerges. A child enters and allows the men to let go of their hierarchies, machismo, and fear of intimacy, as they follow her into a dance.

Their lack of experience and vulnerability shines through, as they perform the choreography. Amateurs and skilled dancers alike express joy and a sense of freedom. There is no prestige in their performance. The child is powerful, tough, and sweet all at once, roaring, “I’m telling you stories, trust me.” There is no shame in her girliness. Rather, she possesses knowledge that the men lost a long time ago.

I know. Wow.

There are few things more pressing, in my mind, than for humans to be examining the state of boys and men. They are in crisis, continuing to exert a level of dominance over and violence toward women and each other that is tragic and not at all sustainable.

Boys are not born this way! They have simply, as The Knife put it, lost the knowledge, by having been raised as warriors in a dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest culture.

As someone who has worked with men on these issues, helping myself and them to regain the knowledge that we can be just as sensitive and compassionate as females, I’ve seen amazing successes and I know that a different paradigm is possible.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: Hey Marseilles

hey-marseillesAs I was driving my son to school this morning, we were listening to CBC Radio 2 (a major perk of living so close to the Canadian border!), and a beautiful song came on by some Indie band, I didn’t catch the name of the group or the title of the song, but I remarked to my son that it seemed to me that the Indie scene these days is pretty solidly dominated by bands who specialize in music on the mellow side, dominated by acoustic instrumentation, guitars, mandolins, banjos, strings, accordions, piano, etc.

It’s a stark change from where Indie music was at when I first moved to Bellingham, Washington, in the early 90s, at the height of the so-called Grunge era, which was all about very loud, electric-guitar-centric rock music.

Anyway, as I was browsing around this morning for something to feature in this week’s Video Fridays installment, I came across the following in-studio performance by Seattle band Hey Marseilles, a relatively new group, having just released their second album, and it seems to me they epitomize the (excuse the horribly mixed metaphors) mellow that is all the rage right now.

I have to admit that I’ve been noticing a certain degree of regrettable replication going on. For instance, I do not need to hear one more band that sounds like Mumford & Sons.

But, I’m happy to report that I do not have that reaction to Hey Marseilles. Oh, sure, you can hear all kinds of influences in their music and similarities to some other bands, but I found myself really enjoying them, particularly the gentle, expressive vocals of Matt Bishop, and the consistently beautiful, expertly crafted melodies. NPR referred to Hey Marseilles as “worldy chamber pop” and I guess, if you had to put a label on it, that one would be a pretty apt.

So, enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: The West Wing

west-wingA few weeks ago, I wrote about the new Netflix TV series House of Cards, expressing that I strongly dislike the show, comparing it to a political drama that I did like, very much, the 1999–2006 series The West Wing.

Well, I’ve started to re-watch The West Wing, and last night I caught an episode that inspired a thought about why I liked the show so much, and I suspect that many fans of the show might feel the same.

As you know, that is, unless you’ve been living under a rock for a long, long time, the U.S. government is all kinds of fucked up. We either have one party in power that trashes everything, or we have the other party “in power”, but actually nearly powerless to get anything substantive done, because they are too busy cleaning up the mess left by the previous party in power and face absolute obstruction by the opposition to anything they want to do. We have a deeply entrenched and polarized two-party system, third parties face prohibitive disadvantages to challenging that system, and BIG money heavily influences elections and policy.

It’s ugly, and it’s easy to lose all faith in the entire system, even the people who make up that system, like, say, President Obama, whom we believed in and supported, who made us feel hope again after eight long, dark years of the Bush II era, only to hit the brick wall of our governmental dysfunction.

Enter fictitious President Bartlet, his Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman, Communications Director Toby Ziegler, Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn, Press Secretary C.J. Cregg, whom we get to know in ways we can’t know the real world administration, we laugh at and with them, we occasionally cry with them, and suddenly we remember that these are merely human beings. Sure, they screw up from time to time, in fact they screw up badly from time to time, but they care, they work ridiculously hard, and they have the best of intentions.

The final scene of last night’s episode is a perfect example of this. It’s a scene that starts in the Oval Office and ends in the Chief of Staff’s office, it very well may be that there have been scenes like this in real life, but we’d never know it because those are two offices where we’re NEVER allowed to be a fly on the wall.

Anyway, I think we who love The West Wing love the show because, though it’s not an all-out, sugar-coated fantasy where the administration you like does everything right and everything goes well for them, we’re at least given comfort that at least there are real human beings in there trying to do good. It’s about possibility and hope, two things seemingly in short supply from our real world perspective, looking in on our government.

Happy Weekend, everyone!