David Letterman’s Frack You To Fracking

Fracking is, by now, old, terrifying news.

Grassroots efforts to combat fracking have been struggling mightily and losing frequently, but when a mainstream media legend like David Letterman takes a stand on his show, watched by millions, perhaps the tide is turning.

Thanks, Dave!

And folks, please consider clicking on the “Stop Fracking Now” graphic below and adding your name to this nationwide petition.

fracking

Obama’s Monica Lewinsky Moment?

lame-duckNo, there’s been no sex with interns, as far as we know. But, anyone who was around and paying attention during Bill Clinton’s second term should find the current state of American politics sadly familiar.

The GOP, not content with their no-holds-barred obstructionism, seems to be reverting to their late 1990s playbook in hopes of rendering Obama the lamest possible duck. (Hmmmmm. The Lamest Duck. Sounds like a reality TV show. I should copyright it!)

The vultures are swarming over Benghazi and the IRS thing, and they will try to bury Obama with a mountain of scandal and pseudo scandal in order to thwart his second term agenda.

It’s not really a question of whether or not the GOP will proceed in this manner. Rather, it’s merely a matter of how successful they will prove to be at the strategy.

In the meantime, we’ll have to endure this latest in a long line of episodes illustrating just how broken our system is.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Phil Ochs: Is it ever ok to give up?

Originally Published: August 9, 2011


I try really hard to keep things positive here at Fish & Bicycles. There are already plenty of blogs and websites out there wailing about how bloody awful things can get in this world. I should know. I used to write one of them.

That’s why I go looking for positive news (e.g. my Celebrating Progress series) to write about, or for the latest on less overtly political topics like the arts.

And yet, I’ve been thinking a lot about the 1960s and ’70s lately (Post 1, Post 2), feeling pretty sad about how, despite the cultural revolution of that period, we still have a world dominated by corruption, war-mongering, environmental destruction, and plutocracy.

So, what do I do? The other night, in a kind of masochistic impulse, I watched a documentary on Netflix, Phil Ochs: There but for Fortune, that just broke.my.frickin’.heart.

I’ve known some of Phil Ochs‘ music for years, knew he was a folk singer from the Greenwich Village glory days, and I even knew he descended sadly into alcoholism and madness before killing himself at the age of 35.

But I didn’t really understand the depth of his passion for and commitment to social causes until I saw this film, and it was nothing short of brutal to watch as Ochs’ dreams were violently dashed, over (Medgar Evers), and over (JFK), and over (Malcom X), and over (MLK), and over (RFK), and over (1968 Democratic National Convention), and over (1973 Chilean coup d’état), and over again (Victor Jara).

How is anyone expected to withstand that kind of relentless defeat? Can you really blame Ochs for trying to soothe his aching soul with alcohol? Is it ever ok to give up?

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.

Tweet of the Day: #NoXL

Can’t think of a better tweet for today’s Earth Day Edition of Tweet of the Day than the following.

On this last day to submit comments to the US State Department, please consider adding your voice to the widespread opposition to this horribly destructive project.

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.

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.

What Part Of Equality Don’t You Understand?

LoveSeriously, I don’t get it.

The Supreme Court of the United States started to hear arguments today concerning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages until the proposition was deemed unconstitutional by both the Federal District Court in San Francisco and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Consequently, the social interwebs are abuzz with activity on the subject, and many of my Facebook friends and I have temporarily changed our profile photos to the marriage equality symbol you see above, as sign of solidarity with our LGBTQ friends.

Still, one of my “friends” posted on Facebook that he disagrees, accompanied by this graphic:

inequality

And you know, I find that absolutely stunning.

I mean, what kind of people come right out and say that they are in favor of discriminating against a certain other group of people and believe that said group of people do not deserve the same rights as everyone else?

Exactly! And so, I wonder how my “friend” feels about being in that company.

Whenever I think about this issue, I always think of that document that means so much to so many Americans across the entire political spectrum, irregardless of party affiliation, the Declaration of Independence, which famously states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Now, I’ve researched this, and I’ve been totally unsuccessful locating that other draft of the Declaration, where that quote continues, “…except for gays and lesbians.”

The Music Business’ 1%

buskerSo, I saw this headline on PasteMagazine.com, and I was like, “WTF?! This guy is EVERYWHERE right now!”

The CW to Air Justin Timberlake’s Album Release Party

And then I read on, and, yeah, he’s EVERYWHERE right now!

Justin Timberlake, who recently hosted another highly rated SNL episode and is in the middle of his weeklong guest appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, is keeping the TV ball rolling.

According to Deadline, Target will present “The IHeartRadio Album Release Party With Justin Timberlake” on the CW.

The special will be an hour-long TV event including performances and interviews with Timberlake in an effort to promote his upcoming album, The 20/20 Experience.

Now, usually when I think about economic inequality I think of corporations and corporate executives as the overly-privileged 1%.

Yet, even though it’s always been the case that a relatively select few musical artists rise to the level of superstar, it didn’t really hit me until just now the extent to which the current state of the music business resembles the 1% vs. 99% economic inequality problem.

99% of musical artists either don’t make a living from the music they make, barely get by on the music they make, or struggle to sustain any ounce of success they do manage to achieve, often slipping back down the ladder or giving up on music entirely, and they all work their asses off!

Enter Justin Timberlake, who is already a mega-mega-megastar, many, many, many times over a millionaire, and when he comes out with a new album, he’s automatically gonna make many, many, many more millions by merely releasing the album on iTunes, Amazon, etc. and circulating a press release to announce its arrival.

But no, that’s not enough. He gets to appear on Saturday Night Live and has a week-long residency on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and an hour-long infomercial!

Meanwhile, a good friend of mine, like millions of other musicians, is straining his marriage and his family’s expenses to pull off a brief regional tour of tiny, tiny venues in order to promote his album, with absolutely no support from a record company. He will likely spend more money on transportation, lodging, food and other expenses than he’ll make at the gigs, all in the hope that people will like his music and maybe, just maybe, buy his album and spread his name around, and it breaks my heart that, in the vast, vast majority of cases, not even that will happen.

It’s ridiculously unfair and it pisses me off!

(Disclaimer: Yes, I know that this is also the case for the arts in general, and the same could be said for athletics as well, but since I’m a musician, this is what struck me today.)

Bellingham’s Coal Train Blues: China, Please Hurry Up!

Coal_TrainIt’s been over a year since I last wrote about the ongoing battle over coal happening here in the Pacific Northwest, where efforts are underway to build multiple shipping terminals to send millions of tons of coal to China, with one of the terminals proposed here, at a site just north of my Bellingham, Washington home.

Ironically, and perhaps fortuitously for us here in Bellingham (via Bloomberg.com):

China Drives Record Solar Growth Becoming Biggest Market

The $77 billion solar-energy industry is forecast to expand the most since 2011, as China becomes the biggest market for the first time and drives annual global installations to a record…

China, after building scores of factories that helped cut panel prices 20 percent in the past year, is poised to become the biggest consumer of the devices after doubling its 2013 target for new projects in January…

China, the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, is forecast to unseat Germany as the largest solar market in 2013… Projects have multiplied as the nation provides financial support to its solar companies in a bid to diversify the coal-dependent energy industry.

The Chinese government expects 10 gigawatts of new solar projects in 2013, more than double its previous target and three times last year’s expansion.

Tripling their solar implementation in one year! THAT is good news, whether your hometown is threatened by coal or not.

The latest on the proposed shipping terminal: The backers of the project, SSA Marine and Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad, will have to conduct a thorough study of environmental impacts, resulting in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that they will have to submit to the local, state, and federal government agencies (aka Co-Lead agencies) overseeing the project. The Co-Lead agencies will study the EIS and either approve or reject the building of the terminal. The scoping of the EIS — identifying exactly what impacts must be studied and reported on — was recently conducted, via a series of statewide public hearings and an open comment period. 124,000 comments were submitted.

It’s unclear how long it will take for the government agencies to review all of the comments and to announce the scope of the EIS, but it is estimated that the EIS will likely take two or more years to complete.

So, wouldn’t it be nice if China’s rush to liberate itself from its coal dependency resulted in a severe enough decline in demand that the building of the shipping terminal would ultimately be cost-ineffective?

One can hope, can’t one?