Jimi Hendrix, Korean Style

jimiSo, a friend of mine posted the following video of a young Korean woman, Luna Lee, playing Jimi Hendrix‘s Voodoo Child (Slight Return) on a traditional Korean stringed instrument called a gayageum, this morning and it just…

…blew.my.mind.

In fact, it blew my mind so thoroughly, especially affecting the language centers in the left hemisphere of my brain, that it’s making it difficult for me to fully express my thoughts on this video.

Suffice to say, the timing is very interesting.

Back in February, on a little getaway to Portland, Oregon, my wife, son and I stopped into a Japanese art gallery, where the gracious host, without our asking, played some beautiful traditional music for us on a Japanese koto, which is a VERY similar instrument.

Then, just this past weekend, my family and I, who have hosted foreign exchange students in our home for many years, welcomed into our home for the first time a student from Korea.

Anyway, I’ll get my mind back eventually, but, in the meantime, here’s the video (though I dare not watch it myself again right now, or else I’ll be fairly useless today), as well as a clip of Jimi doing the original.

Enjoy, but don’t plan on being functional for a while afterward.

Video Fridays: Steve Miller

steve-miller-bandYou know, there was a time when I thought I’d never again need to hear the music of Steve Miller.

His many hits were ubiquitous on the radio in the late 70s and early 80s, too ubiquitous, over played, and I burned out on them.

Not Steve Miller’s fault, and not the fault of the music.

Then, a couple of years ago, I was playing an open mic night at a local tavern, just me and a friend, both of us on acoustic guitars, and in between songs, seemingly out of nowhere, I started playing the bass line from The Joker, my friend recognized it and started playing the chords, I started singing it and miraculously remembered all of the words, and…

…the small crowd at that tiny tavern — a tiny tavern not at all known for dancing — got up and danced.their.asses.off!

That still stands as one of the best musical moments of my life. We jammed on that song as long as we could, repeating verses and the chorus, and to see all those people having so much fun, moving to the tune and singing along, well, as a performer it just doesn’t get any better than that.

My current band has just added The Joker to our repertoire, in a full-on rockin’ electric version, and I can’t wait to debut it at our upcoming gig on March 2nd.

For now, in honor of that first magical music moment, on nothing but acoustic guitars, here’s a wonderful solo-acoustic version, performed by Steve Miller, at a radio station right here in the Pacific Northwest, Portland to be exact, which is fitting, given all of the Portland content I posted this week.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Portland Postscript: The Disgrace of Homelessness

Click to enlargeI had intended my post this morning, a photo I took while crossing the Burnside Bridge on foot, to be the last post related to my recent trip to Portland, Oregon.

But then, my blogging friend Naomi Baltuck (whose awesome blog, Writing Between The Lines, is very much worth checking out!), left the following comment on that post:

This is a gorgeous photo! I love the color and composition! Very artful.

I know. Sweet, and a wonderful compliment, right?

Truth is, I can’t, with a clear conscience, accept the compliment, because…the photo is a fraud.

You see, there’s nothing gorgeous, colorful, or artful about the fact that, just out of frame, several buildings down, there was a line of people two blocks long at the Portland Rescue Mission.

We’d been warned by a Portlander, at a streetcar stop on the south side of the Willamette River, that our plan to walk over the Burnside Bridge wasn’t the greatest, that there were several buses we could take across, that the neighborhood just on the other side of the bridge was, he said, “…unpleasant. Not unsafe. You won’t get mugged or anything. It’s just unpleasant.”

I had a feeling I knew what he was referring to. My wife and 15-year old son had seen numerous homeless people on our walking excursions throughout the city. But, nothing had prepared me for the sight of so many people lined up at the mission on a cold night, nearly a stone’s throw away from one of Portland’s proudest achievements, the Pearl District, a section of downtown that had once been a crumbling mess of urban industrial decay, transformed in the late 1990s into an upscale neighborhood of pricey restaurants, shops, and condominium complexes.

So, the Portlander we spoke to was right, it was unpleasant, but not for the reasons I’m almost certain he was hinting at.

There was nothing unpleasant about the people who were lined up at the mission.

No, the unpleasantness, for me, was that they served as a stark reminder that we continue to allow, in our country, 1% of the population to hoard unthinkable amounts of wealth, living in decadent luxury, while the middle class is shrinking, and poverty is on the rise.

It’s a national disgrace.

Here’s a photo taken outside of the Portland Rescue Mission…

portland-rescue-mission

…in the late 1940s, during the post-WWII economic boom.

So much has changed since then, but sadly, some things have stayed the same.

Movie Scene Doppelgänger: The Futility of Trying to Recreate a Magic Moment

VDayMoviesGroundhogDay_gallery_primarySo, rewind a few weeks, to February 2nd, Groundhog Day to be precise, and, as corny as it sounds, my family and I watched, as we do every year, the 1993 Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day.

We’ve watched the movie many times, each time I tend to notice something I hadn’t noticed before, or a particular scene strikes me as funnier than it had before, or something like that, and this time was no different. It took me a couple of weeks to fully piece this year’s revelation together, and here it is:

    The snowball fight scene is the cinematic doppelgänger of the lobster scene from Woody Allen‘s 1977 film Annie Hall. (see the lobster scene below)

The photo shown above is from a scene where Bill Murray’s and Andie MacDowell’s characters are having a magical moment. Murray’s Phil has been harnessing his experience of reliving the same day over and over again in order to learn as much as he can about MacDowell’s Rita, a strategy which, at first seems to be working. Phil deftly manages to shift Rita’s impression of him as a cynical, arrogant, and selfish jerk to a sensitive guy with deep interest in her as a person, as well as someone who seems to share her values. They build a snowman together, and, after a spontaneous snowball fight with some kids, they kinda inadvertently fall close to each other in the snow, their eyes lock, and they kiss. It’s sweet and playful.

But, Phil overreaches. Managing to persuade Rita to come see his room at the B&B, his selfishness returns, he becomes extremely pushy with sexual advances, culminating in a slap to the face and Rita’s swift, angry departure.

His attempt the “next day” to recreate the magic moment is painful to watch, so forced and fake and duplicitous, the antithesis of what Rita would want:

And, of course, it doesn’t work. It will never work. That’s why the original moment was magical. It was the coming together of two people whom at first didn’t seem at all well-suited for each other, yet in the surprise that they could actually get along and have fun, affection and even love, or at least the possibility of love, happened.

Now, rewind 16 years, and try to remember, if you can, a scene from Annie Hall, Woody Allen’s Alvy and Diane Keaton‘s Annie are on a little getaway to the seaside, when hilarity breaks out in the kitchen, as Alvy and Annie are trying to cook lobsters, but the lobsters have somehow scattered about the floor.

Once again, you have two VERY different people coming together, taking delight in the fact that, despite their differences, they are having a lot of fun.

But, as we know, sadly, Alvy and Annie grow apart. And, Alvy, like Phil from Groundhog Day, is under the mistaken impression that he can recreate that magical lobster moment with someone else.

Here are both scenes spliced together:

As one YouTube commenter wrote:

This is perhaps the best scene about what chemistry is. And how it can only be found and lived, not recreated, not replaced.

So, yeah, it’s chemistry, or magic, or something, and it has a shelf life.

As I said, it took me a while to fully formulate this post, to connect the dots across 16 years of film history, but it finally came together this past weekend, in Portland, Oregon, where, as I mentioned, I was on a mini-vacation with my wife and 15-year old son.

On Saturday, we, along with, it seemed, 95% of the population of Portland, visited OMSI (the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry). We went to OMSI not only because it’s supposed to be an amazing place, but also because our son had been there several years ago on a class trip, having stayed the night on the premises, and it was…

…magical!

We were careful to honor the memories of that magic, and asked him if he was sure that he wanted to go, he was now 15 after all, and perhaps, we wondered, he’d think it was for younger kids and not his thing at all anymore.

And yet, when asked, he enthusiastically said, “YES!!! OMSI’s AWESOME!!!”

Fast Forward, and we’re standing outside in the rain, waiting to get in, or we’re wandering around the museum checking out the exhibits, and he’s noticeably quiet, a quiet that, we’d soon find out, represented disappointment.

The magic could not be recreated, for whatever reasons, maybe the fact that he’d been with his classmates and friends last time, or the fact that they got to have a sleepover in a museum (how cool is that?!), and the fact that he’s now a little older and he’s there with his parents, etc.

Anyway, the lesson here is pretty obvious: Should you have magic moments, savor every frickin’ drop, breathe it all in and gather it up and store it away in your heart and mind, take some photos and video if you want, so that you can think of and feel those precious, unique memories, whenever you summon them.

Just, please avoid the disappointment and don’t try to manufacture them again.

Trust me. It.won’t.work.

Out of Office: Mini-Vacation Edition

Portland_Oregon_Union_train_stationTomorrow morning, at around 8:45am, the family and I will be boarding the Amtrak Cascades line at the Fairhaven Station here in Bellingham, and at approximately 2:55pm we’ll arrive at Union Station in Portland, Oregon (pictured in the photo here).

It’s been a while since I extolled one of the many virtues of Bellingham, Washington, my adopted hometown of nearly 20 years, namely its proximity to SO much awesomeness:

  • 90 minutes south: Seattle, Washington
  • 90 minutes north: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 60 minutes east: Mt. Baker Ski Area and the Cascade Mountains
  • 90 minutes west: The San Juan Islands
  • 6 hours south: Portland, Oregon (5 hours by car)

This trip will be particularly fun, for us treehuggers, since we’ll be leaving the car behind, enjoying a long, relaxing train trip to and from, and then we rely on Portland’s famous mass transit system to get to everywhere we want to go. Part of the appealing adventure is navigating our way around, using Google Maps’ transit feature, TriMet’s excellent mobile-optimized website, or just asking people for info on the go.

In the meantime, while I’ll have occasional internet access during the trip, I likely will not have the time to blog.

But fear not, while I’m gone, 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, so you might not even notice the difference, especially if you’re new to Fish & Bicycles.

Additionally, feel free to browse around the vast Fish & Bicycles archives in any of the following ways:

  • Tags: In the sidebar, under Stuff About…, you can click on any of the Tags and see all the posts I’ve done that have at least something to do with those topics.
  • Recurring Series: At the top of the page, hover over the Recurring Series drop-down menu and select from options like Celebrating Eco-Progress, which applauds businesses adopting sustainable practices; Eyecatchers, a collection of photos, graphics, and videos that have, well, caught my eye; Video Fridays, my favorite video of the week pick; and more.
  • Monthly Archives: Towards the bottom of the sidebar, select a specific month to see everything I posted in that time period.

Cheers!

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Portlandia: Why Am I So Defensive?

Originally Published: January 20, 2011


Listen, I don’t even watch TV, except the occasional episode via Hulu.

But, when a new series comes along set right here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s impossible to not hear about it, and when everyone around me is talking about this great new thing, I have to admit that I invariably cave and at least check it out. (Sometimes it sticks and I’m hooked: 30 Rock. Sometimes it doesn’t: Modern Family.)

Anyway….(geez! sometimes I even get tired of how long I take to get to the point)…I’ve now watched the inaugural episode of the new comedy series Portlandia, starring SNL’s Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein of Wild Flag and Sleater-Kinney fame, which is set…painfully obvious…in Portland, Oregon, and while I laughed heartily throughout, I had a curious delayed reaction.

This morning, Salon has an article posted titled Can The Left Laugh At Itself?, and the premise of the article is summed up nicely at the very end:

Armisen and Browstein’s masterstroke is showing how certain flavors of modern leftist sensitivity/engagement can seem (to outsiders) like passive-aggressive self-absorption laced with contempt for the unenlightened.

Now, I can get behind the value of an ego check for us well-meaning lefties, and I realize that the best comedy makes us laugh when we recognize peculiarities, not just of others, but of ourselves.

However, I have to say that I did find my defenses rearing up as I watched the show and read reviews that applaud the lampooning of the left. I very clearly saw aspects of myself in the show’s characters, folks who are earnestly trying to be part of the solution rather than the problem, by buying local, buying organic, eschewing their cars in favor of bicycles and transit, challenging our culture’s tendency towards homogenization by exercising their right to adopt an alternative, non-9-to-5-ladder-climbing lifestyle, etc. In my mind, we need more people like this, and if we are marginalized we’re in deep trouble.

Hilariously, the Salon writer has me pegged:

The series rather pointedly teases a core section of IFC’s audience — a portion that will watch Armisen and Brownstein’s antics very closely, with an eye for accuracy, and then either roar with recognition and approval, or go on the Internet immediately and write a blog entry about how “Portlandia” doesn’t get Portland, or Oregon, or feminist bookstores or urban bike culture.

Now, I laughed a lot as I watched the show, and I’ve watched the clip of just the opening song, The Dream of the 90s Is Alive In Portland, numerous times because it’s so freaking funny, so it doesn’t seem like my sense of humor is lacking.

Rather, it’s impossible for me, a 46-year old lefty, to watch Portlandia and not think about how soundly the 60s counterculture had its ass kicked by anti-hippie backlash, by many in the movement hypocritically transforming from hippie into yuppie, and how lefties are still so easily marginalized and dismissed by the right simply by calling them liberals.

Additionally, it seems all the more concerning to me that, in the case of Portlandia, young artists like Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, who have both been part of the counterculture dream of the 90s, might be contributing to their own marginalization, rather than letting the right do all the work.

So, I’ll definitely be watching more episodes, and I’d really love to hear what other lefties think about the mixed feelings I’ve expressed here. I mean, I’m always open to good reasons to lighten up.

In the meantime, I think I’ll watch the video of that opening song one more time.

Tweet of the Day: @colinmeloy

Back in July 2011, I wrote of my excitement at the pending release of a young reader’s novel, Wildwood, the first of a planned trilogy by Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy, with illustrations by his wife Carson Ellis.

Well, Wildwood was fabulous, a wonderful, imaginative adventure through a fictional fantasy world in a wooded area in modern day Portland.

And now my excitement is renewed, with the news that the follow-up, the second book in the trilogy, titled Under Wildwood, is due out September 15th!

Check out the link to the article, which contains a teaser video interview with Meloy and Ellis:

Portlandia Redux

Just about a year ago, I wrote about my mixed reactions to the then-new IFC comedy series Portlandia, written by and starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.

Well, thanks to Netflix, I’ve since watched all six episodes from the first season, I’ve overcome my initial knee-jerk defensiveness, and I can’t wait to see season two.

Just yesterday, I read a great interview with Armisen and Brownstein in Salon, as well as a long feature article on Brownstein in the current New Yorker, and I’m incredibly impressed by how smart and talented they are.

As I wrote last year, the defensiveness I felt initially was rooted in my feelings that many if not most of the progressive causes and lifestyle choices being lampooned in Portlandia are actually critically important movements for the long-term survival of human beings. I’d already lived through the tragic death of the counterculture of the late 1960s, and I felt really uncomfortable with the stereotyping and making fun of progressive people, which could serve to marginalize them, creating a real barrier to the growth of important movements like organic farming, local living economies, alternative transportation, sustainability, etc.

But watching past the first episode, it became clear to me that there is a gentleness to the fun being poked at alternative culture in Portlandia, rather than some vicious attack, and there’s a key part of the Salon interview that speaks to this:

There’s this gentle mocking of these groups, but we all consider ourselves part of them at the same time. Do you ever feel pushback? The well-meaning and the earnest are used to being applauded; they’re not necessarily used to being made fun of by their heroes from indie-rock and comedy…

CB: Right. You know, I think it is hard, because I think there’s an inherent sensitivity that I know that I possess, and I think Portland and cities and communities of its ilk also possess this kind of hyper-sensitivity. I think that’s part of what makes us tick — this constant self-reflectiveness, and self-awareness. And so yeah, to have it come back at you on television, I think might be weird. But I also think that I am so much from this world, and I think it seems more like part of a conversation. We’re not talking at people; I feel like we’re sort of engaged in this conversation that people are having anyway. So I haven’t felt a lot of backlash, even though I’m sure there’s….

A Tumblr blog about how “Portlandia” is hurting the world…

CB: I’m sure it exists. And if I want to cry for the next hour, I can probably go online and find some anonymous commenter somewhere and make myself feel really shitty. But yeah, I think for the most part, the show is earnest — or, I should say, it’s not cynical — which I think helps people relate to it. It’s not a cynical show. We’re trying to be specific; we’re not trying to be realistic. I think there’s a difference. And I think you just can’t worry about insulting people with what you create. If you start at a place where you’re considering your audience’s feelings, you’re already stuck. You’ve already lost. So I think the idea is just to put something out there that hopefully people can relate to, and not worry about whether they’re going to be angry, or not get it. And hopefully, not everyone will get it. I’ve never liked things that are benign — or banal. So, I’m OK with it. Haters, hate on.

FA: I get confused, too. You know, we shot this one thing, in season one, where I was in this “technology loop,” where I had my iPad and everything else out. We wrote it as this sketch, but I straight-up do that all the time. I’ll sit on my couch, and I have every device out, and it’ll make perfect sense to me. That’s where it gets blurry, because it’s like, are we making fun of anything? Or are we just — it’s just ourselves, really.

It’s kind of refreshing when you think about it. Two big stars who see the humor in their own idiosyncrasies and the culture they call home, a kind of defense against hubris, really.

Count me in as a fan!