Tag Archives: art

Video Fridays: A “Morning Dew” Extravaganza

morning-dewI often think of myself as a pretty decent pop music historian, because in conversations with music geeks and non-geeks alike I very regularly can reference what others consider to be obscure music factoids.

And yet, paradoxically, I regularly learn something new that takes me totally by surprise.

Yesterday was one such time, thanks to a friend who posted a YouTube clip, not only of a British band from the mid-1960s that I’d never heard of, Episode Six, but of Episode Six covering a song I’d only ever heard before as performed by the Grateful Dead: Morning Dew.

I’d known that the song predated the Grateful Dead, but I never noticed that the song was written by Canadian folksinger Bonnie Dobson, and I certainly had no idea, until I did my research, just how many artists and bands covered the song, nor how wacky a variety of artists and bands it’s been.

As I commented on my friend’s Facebook post, “Any song that can be covered by the Grateful Dead, Jeff Beck, Lulu, and Devo, just to name a few, is one helluva song!” And, perhaps it’s the song’s heavy subject matter that has inspired so many to interpret it.

Per Wikipedia:

The song is a dialogue between the last man and woman left alive following an apocalyptic catastrophe: Dobson has stated that the initial inspiration for “Morning Dew” was the film On the Beach which is focused on the survivors of virtual global annihilation by nuclear holocaust.

Appropriately then, for this week’s Video Fridays installment, I’ve selected a handful of versions of Morning Dew to best capture this wacky variety, starting with the wackiest I could find.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

(Disclaimer: The first is a fan-made video, and the second is audio-only, as there were no live performance videos available for these two.)

Wacky, because Devo:

The songwriter’s own recording:

Nazareth, because hair and tank tops:

Jeff Beck Group, because soul, funky bass, and general awesomeness:

Lulu, because campy earnestness:

And finally, magical, because, as I wrote two weeks ago, 1977 Grateful Dead:

Eyecatchers: Little Plastic Army Men, Revisited

yoga-joes-2A week ago, I wrote about Yoga Joes, the brainchild of designer, entrepreneur, and Yoga enthusiast, Dan Abramson, who put his own spin on the classic little plastic army men of yesteryear, placing them in a variety of Yoga poses, evoking a wonderful tension between images of war and peace.

I shared my own childhood experience, having been raised on war movies on television, having played with these little plastic army men, until, that is, I became a pacifist and embraced the concept of Ahimsa that is central to the Buddhism and Yoga practices I came to dabble in.

Amazing timing, then, that yesterday, when my wife and I stopped in at the Smith & Vallee Gallery in nearby Edison, Washington, we should see this piece by Pieter VanZanden, a woodworker in Smith & Vallee’s Woodworks shop, working here not with wood but with little plastic army men, riffing on Auguste Rodin‘s most famous sculpture, The Thinker, and conveying what could be interpreted as an anti-war sentiment similar to that of the Yoga Joes:

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If you can’t quite tell what’s going on here, click on these images to enlarge them.

I think this is fantastic and a powerful statement. Titled Think About It, clearly the suggestion here is that, perhaps, if we would think more about the consequences of war, the horrific loss of life, symbolized by this pile of bodies, then maybe we might be less inclined to rush into military conflict.

In a related work by VanZanden, the centerpiece of his exhibit, standing a good six feet high, he uses this same material on a huge scale, recreating one of the classic little plastic army men poses:

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Here’s a closeup of the soldier’s head, which you can click on to enlarge for more fine detail:

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Subversive and oh so cool!

From The Bluff At Ebey’s Landing

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R.I.P. Joe Cocker

cockerwoodstockMan, it’s been a brutal December for rock & roll.

Joe Cocker, Iconic Rock Singer, Dead at 70

Even if The New York Times insists that the “celebrities die in threes” thing is a myth, I know I wasn’t alone in wondering who would be next, when music legends Bobby Keys and Ian McLagan died on two consecutive days earlier this month.

And, while it took a couple of weeks, it’s one of the creepiest things ever that the third to fall turned out to be Joe Cocker.

As I mentioned in my post mourning the loss of Keys:

…while most who do know and love his music associate him first and foremost with The Rolling Stones…I most closely associate Bobby Keys with his work on my all-time favorite live album, and the film for which it was the soundtrack, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen.

I even included a clip from Mad Dogs & Englishmen, featuring a gorgeous Bobby Keys solo.

And then, in my post honoring Ian McLagan, I listed the many musicians that McLagan played with, among them…Joe Cocker.

How strange is life and death, that these three — two of them 70-years old at the time of passing, the other 69, all of them major players in the glorious rock heyday of the 1960s and 1970s, and all three having made music together — should pass on within the span of three weeks?!

Well, what else can I say about Joe?

My cousin Richard gave me a vinyl copy of the 1970 release Mad Dogs & Englishmen, approximately 10 years after it came out, and I admit that I was slow to take to it. I didn’t recognize many of the songs, and I had yet to fall in love, as I decidedly am now, with the R&B and soul music that Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, et al. were clearly channeling at the time.

But, something led me to hold on to that record, and now, as I’ve said, it really is my undisputed, all-time favorite live album.

If I had to use one word to describe Joe Cocker’s greatness, I would use the word commitment, because, when you watch and listen to Joe perform, you see and hear a man committing himself to the music to the fullest extent possible, giving himself over to it completely, giving all of himself without reservation.

There’s no way to fake what he did, and it’s my personal opinion that if you don’t find the following at all stirring, if this 20-piece band, replete with full-blown choir, doesn’t course through you with the power of love, well then, you might want to check yourself for a pulse.

Rest in peace, Joe, and thank you, thank you, thank you for the many years of beautiful music!

The Poet Makes Grief Beautiful: Revisited

gillian-welchI just read a terrific column at Salon.com by someone known more for setting words to music than journalism, the wonderful singer-songwriter Gillian Welch.

The crux of the piece is best explained by Gillian in her opening paragraph:

I want to talk about the tradition of tragedy in Southern folk music. This tradition connects with why people make art – to deal with the gnarliest, most painful events that occur. Things beyond your control, almost beyond human understanding. This is why we sing about them: the sinking of the Titanic, hurricanes, rapes, assassination, murder, suicide, drugs …

I highly recommend reading the rest, but the reason I’m sharing it here is because it reminded me of one of my earliest posts here at Fish & Bicycles, published five years ago in only my second month, something titled The Poet Makes Grief Beautiful.

In that post, I covered some of the same territory visited by Ms. Welch, and so I thought I’d share this excerpt:

[Poet James] Stephens writes:

For, as he meditated misery
And cared it into song — Strict Care, Strict Joy!
Caring for grief he cared his grief away:
And those sad songs, tho’ woe be all the theme,
Do not make us grieve who read them now —
Because the poet makes grief beautiful.

This is why art is so important. It is nothing less than our humanity in action. We work through our experiences, experiences of grief and hardship and joy, shaping them into words, melodies, images, movements, theatrics, structures, etc., and the care we take to make something meaningful of these experiences is an incredibly powerful, positive, hopeful thing. And we receive these gifts from artists and find that these works speak to similar experiences we’ve had, making us feel sympathetic solidarity, enabling us to feel less alone with the pain and love and even terror we have been through.

I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that discovering great music, literature, and visual art saved my life, and I can’t imagine surviving a life void of this Strict Care.

More Chandeliers From Recycled Bicycle Parts

light-1Similar to a post I did back in October 2012, this could easily belong in my Tweet of the Day, Eyecatchers, or Upcycling series…

…AND, both posts involve chandeliers made from recycled bicycle parts…

…AND, both posts were sourced from tweets by Christopher Jobson at Colossal.

…AND, since Fish & Bicycles LOVES all things bicycle, this was a no-brainer.

The amazing bike part lighting here, titled Ballroom Luminoso, the work of Joe O’Connell and Blessing Hancock, is installed in a highway underpass in San Antonio, Texas, taking street art to a whole other level.

Via Colossal:

Ballroom Luminoso references the area’s past, present, and future in the design of its intricately detailed medallions. The images in the medallions draw on the community’s agricultural history, strong Hispanic heritage, and burgeoning environmental movement. The medallions are a play on the iconography of La Loteria, which has become a touchstone of Hispanic culture. Utilizing traditional tropes like La Escalera (the Ladder), La Rosa (the Rose), and La Sandía (the Watermelon), the piece alludes to the neighborhood’s farming roots and horticultural achievements. Each character playfully rides a bike acting as a metaphor for the neighborhood’s environmental progress, its concurrent eco-restoration projects, and its developing cycling culture.

Anyway, here are some more photos of this amazing work:

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Random Logo Puzzlement

So, I was sitting on an interview panel this morning, the third interview for the position we’re currently trying to hire for, and before me was a clipboard that I’ve been using, not only for each interview, but off and on for a good 5-6 years, and for the first time after all that usage I noticed the logo of the company, Charles Leonard, Inc., from whom the clipboard was purchased, who knows how long ago:

clipboard

And I thought to myself, “What the HELL is that?!”

Seriously, it seemed to be made up of three elements, none of which were immediately identifiable, from the top down:

  1. some kind of vaguely gun-shaped thingy?
  2. a kitchen measuring tablespoon?
  3. a very flat shoe?

…and, certainly, nothing really resembled anything related to office products.

By the time my lunch break rolled around I knew I wanted to blog about this, and I couldn’t wait to do some research. My blog post, I was sure, would be all about how the logo fails, how a logo should decidedly NOT be puzzling, that a company’s brand should be immediately recognizable and tightly associated with the company’s business.

And so, my first stop was Google Image Search, where I found this Charles Leonard logo:

charles_leonard

Now, regardless of whether or not a trained graphic designer (which I’m not) would consider this a good logo, or even whether or not anyone would find this aesthetically pleasing, it IS abundantly clear what it is: CLI = Charles Leonard, Inc.

But then, a funny thing happened.

As I was pulling together the two versions of the logo for this post — taking a photo of the clipboard and editing it, downloading the other version, looking at them closely, comparing them — I suddenly and shockingly noticed something best displayed with my embarrassingly rudimentary Photoshop skills:

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I’ll wait as you scroll up and down and it all sinks in.

I happen to have some experience with logo design, having served on several committees charged with developing new logos, and one of the things we always included in our development process was a stipulation that the final design must work well in a variety of applications: in print, on the web, on t-shirts, with one color, grayscale, or multi-color. And so, in this very narrow regard, and with the aforementioned need for the logo to be immediately obvious as to what it says and is, you could determine that the clipboard application of the CLI logo failed…

…OR…you could say that it’s a VERY cool optical illusion!

As with most optical illusions, once you’ve figured out the trick being played on the eye you’ll never NOT notice it again. Check it out. Scroll up now and look at the first photo of the clipboard and you will not be able to miss the “CLI”.

So, ultimately, is it a successful logo?

Well, it got me to spend a good half hour of my lunch break thinking about Charles Leonard, Inc., something I never saw coming.

Therefore, I’d have to answer with a resounding, “Yes!”