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!

AbaloneFest 2013: Back, But Not Really

ab

Me on the left, my friend Dennis on the right.

As I mentioned last week, I’ve just been gone on a 5-day road trip to camp, dive for abalone, and to revel around the campfire in that age-old male ritual.

And, while I might physically be back here in Bellingham, the rest of me has not caught up yet. After a combined 1,600 miles of driving, 34 hours on the road, VERY late nights, and sleeping in a tent in the cold, I feel weary to my bones…but filled with epic memories, the warmth of friendships, the gorgeous images of Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Shasta, the rolling countryside of Washington, Oregon, and California, the majestic redwood trees, and the rocky Pacific coast.

The weather was absolutely perfect, the water clear and filled with abundant sea life, the abalone plentiful and delicious, and the music around the fire fan-frickin’-tastic!

jam

Best of Fish & Bicycles: AbaloneFest 2011: Of Mollusks and Men

Originally Published: May 4, 2011


If you’d asked me a couple of years ago if I could ever see myself driving over 1,600 miles in one long weekend, from Bellingham, Washington to Mendocino, California and back, so that I could don a full-body wetsuit and snorkel gear and dive into the frigid springtime waters of the Pacific Ocean in search of food, more specifically a mollusk called abalone, that I’d never even seen much less consumed…

…well, I would have said, “That’s just crazy talk!”

And yet, here I am, a few days after having returned from that very adventure — AbaloneFest 2011 — and I can honestly report that it was, indeed, the very best variety of crazy.

A man needs a little madness, or else he never dares cut the rope and be free.

Zorba The Greek

Now, I’m not an adrenaline junkie. That’s right, I’m decidedly NOT one of those guys who feels more alive when I’m doing something that could badly injure or kill me. And yet, at the same time, I do occasionally think that I’m too careful, too addicted to my comfort zone, that I miss out on some fun things, and that I could do a lot of those fun things if I pushed myself a little, worked at those activities, to gain the skills and confidence I need in order to not be so scared of injury or death.

So, that freedom that Zorba talks about, maybe it’s a freedom from fear, maybe it’s that exhilarating feeling of having accomplished something for the first time, perhaps something that you’d never thought you could do.

Not everything about this trip presented risk to life and limb, of course. But being in a car for many, long hours and sleeping in a tent with nighttime temperatures in low 30s are not the most comfortable conditions, and the diving, well, it was scary, I did it anyway, and doing it made me feel alive in an exquisite way.

Middle-aged Man And The Sea

Continue reading

Out of Office: AbaloneFest 2013 Edition

diver

Me, at AbaloneFest 2011

Back in May 2011, I wrote two posts about a journey I took, a journey of discovery, of conquest, and of male bonding. (Post 1, Post 2)

That journey, a guy-only road trip to Mendocino, California to dive for abalone (aka: sea snails), camp, and jam on guitars around a fire was also known as AbaloneFest 2011, the 17th annual occurrence of the event, but my first time in attendance.

Sadly, I had to miss AbFest 2012, but, as you read this, I’m in a car with three Bellingham buddies, tearing down Interstate 5, en route to our first stop in southern Oregon, and then tomorrow our destination.

Needless to say, I could have done without reading this news just a few days ago (via Salon):

Three recreational abalone divers died in separate incidents over the weekend in Northern California, where powerful rip currents were reported…

Deaths from abalone diving are common during the recreational harvesting season. However, three in a single weekend was a shock, even to authorities…

Since the early 1990s, dozens of people have died in their quest to collect the prized sea snails. One diver was decapitated by a shark in Mendocino County in 2004.

I immediately emailed the article to my buddies, and the following exchange happened between me and one friend who happened to pass on going diving the last time:

Me: I might be hanging out with Tom on the beach this weekend.

Tom: Very important job, holding the beach down. I could use some help, thanks!

Me: I’m thinking we need a flask of something to sip on while we’re “holding the beach down.”


And so, I’ll be away from the interwebs at least until I return from AbFest 2013 on Monday, potentially longer if I do decide to dive and something bad happens.

In the meantime, as I’ve done the last few times I’ve been away from the blog, I’ll once again be featuring some older posts of mine, as part of my continuing Best Of Fish & Bicycles series. I’ve selected a post that will appear each day, and I’ll start later today by reposting my piece on AbaloneFest 2011.

Cheers!

Bellingham’s Coal Train Blues: An Open Letter To Bellingham Mayor, Kelli Linville

Coal_TrainIn this latest addition to my continuing series of posts on the battle, here in my beloved Bellingham, Washington, over a proposed coal shipping terminal just north of town, some great Earth Day news on the subject prompted me to write to Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville, to implore her to take a stand.


Dear Mayor Linville,

It was with tremendous pride in our beloved Pacific Northwest that I learned of the Earth Day announcement yesterday by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn concerning the newly-formed Leadership Alliance Against Coal.

The time is now, Mayor Linville, for you to take a stand against coal and join this coalition.

I appreciate that, up until now, you’ve been taking a cautious approach to the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) project, careful, as of course you would and should be, not to be too hasty in opposing a project that could bring some badly-needed family wage jobs and tax revenue to the county.

However, members of the Bellingham community, your constituents, through groups like ReSources for Sustainable Communities and CommunityWise Bellingham have done a fantastic job researching the possible local and regional impacts of the GPT, and there’s more than enough evidence out there already, even before the EIS scoping is determined, to see that the terminal would be a disaster, both environmentally and economically, for Whatcom County, Bellingham, and the region.

And now you see, from this new alliance of regional leaders and tribes, as well as from the fact that the overwhelming majority of comments received during the scoping process were in opposition to the GPT:

via TheNorthernLight.com (emphasis in bold added):

The report categorizes comments based on where and how they were received as well as by their issue of concern. Of the 124,889 comments, 108,995 were received as signatures on bulk form letters from various groups in support or opposed to the project, 1,207 were verbal comments submitted during scoping meetings and 14,687 were submitted individually in writing.

…and finally from recent reports that the demand for coal from China is on the decline, as they make massive investment in renewables, that there is a groundswell and momentum, a perfect time for you to announce that you’ve had time to consider all of the implications of the GPT and have decided to join the Leadership Alliance Against Coal.

Again, I appreciate your leadership and your initial decision to not rush into a stance on the coal terminal. But, Bellingham has become nationally-known for our community’s commitment to sustainability, and the GPT project is entirely antithetical to Bellingham’s hard-earned reputation and proud identity.

Thank you for your consideration.

Bellingham’s Coal Train Blues: Coal Kills

Coal_TrainHere’s just a brief addition to my ongoing series of posts on the ongoing battle here in Bellingham, Washington, Whatcom County, over a proposed coal shipping terminal.

In my last post on the subject, I mentioned that we’re in a holding pattern, waiting for the local, state and federal oversight agencies to determine the scope of the study of environmental impacts (Environmental Impact Statement, aka EIS) that must be completed before the project is approved or denied.

The big money behind the project — the coal mining companies, the railroad, and the company that will build and operate the shipping terminal — as well as the proponents of the terminal, seduced by a promise of jobs and new tax revenues, would like the scope of the EIS to be limited to the site of the terminal and the impacts on the property alone.

It’s an outrageous attempt to ignore the very real, devastating impacts of continuing to mine coal, to ship it in uncovered trains halfway across the country by rail, releasing toxic coal dust into the air of every community along the route, sending it halfway around the world in ships that can and do spill, and then burning it and releasing toxic smoke into the air and greenhouse gases into the already dangerously carbonated atmosphere.

Appropriate, then, to post the following video of Bellingham treasure Mike Marker, singer/songwriter, activist, and educator, performing a beautiful version of the gut-wrenching Stanley Brothers song Dream of the Coal Miner’s Child, a stark reminder of coal’s long history of tragic impact on humans.

Last Flowers: A Promising Bellingham Band

Last-FlowersSince I write about music a fair amount here (245 out of 1,172 posts), I get contacted fairly often by musicians or band managers who’d like me to write about them.

It’s a bit flattering, but most of the time the music samples they provide are not my cup of tea and therefore do not inspire me to write about them.

It was a VERY nice surprise, then, when I was contacted yesterday by Nik Vinish, singer/songwriter and member, with Benjamin Lemons, of Indie duo Last Flowers, two Whatcom County, Washington natives (Bellingham is the county seat). Nik directed me to their SoundCloud page, specifically to this, a song called Lullaby For Nobody (Part 1) from their forthcoming LP, From A Piano Room:

I was immediately captured by Ben’s lovely piano intro, and when Nik’s vocals came in I could immediately tell that these were two very talented young men. The song continues, and at the 1:35 mark Nik goes into a falsetto and the song builds into a gentle crescendo, with drums and bass and horns entering, followed eventually by lush strings, all adding up to a very sweet, melodic gem.

On their Bio page at ReverbNation, they claim as their influences The Beatles, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Death Cab for Cutie and The National, they say they’re a little bit Post Rock, a little bit Alternative, and so they’ve coined a new genre for themselves: Post Alternative.

But genre labels can only illuminate so much, and the ultimate test is the music. The other Last Flowers tunes available on SoundCloud now are from their approximately year-old EP and show tremendous promise, but I’ve spent a little time now listening to the rest of their upcoming LP, which they were kind enough to send to me, and I can already tell that it fulfills that promise.

Nik reports that he and Ben were both classically trained in piano, Nik mostly plays guitar and sings, and Ben plays keys, writes melodies and arrangements, and even does the majority of work on production and mixing.

Nik and Ben grew up at opposite ends of the county, met through mutual friends, and it’s clear that it’s a very, very good thing that they found each other. Kindred musical spirits indeed.

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!