Trapped Under Something Heavy

There’s a scene in a movie that I love a lot, Rob Reiner’s 1989 film When Harry Met Sally, where Harry (Billy Crystal) leaves a message on an answering machine (remember those?!) for Sally (Meg Ryan) that goes like this:

If you’re there, please pick up the phone, I really want to talk to you.

(silence)

The fact that you’re not answering leads me to believe you’re either:

A.) Not at home;
B.) Home, but don’t want to talk to me; or
C.) Home, desperately want to talk to me, but trapped under something heavy.

All that’s to say that Fish & Bicycles has been quiet for quite some time because I’ve been figuratively trapped under something heavy:

  • Buying a house
  • Selling a house
  • 19-year old son moving out on his own for the first time

Yeah, heavy.

Nothing bad is happening, so that’s good, but not much time to blog.

Hopefully I’ll figure out how to fit blogging back into the routine sometime soon, probably after the house we’re in currently has sold, because I’m super excited about the new house and looking forward to sharing some creative projects we’ll be doing to the place and on the property.

Seeya soon!

 

The “West Wing”-to-TrumpCo. Communications Continuum

c-j-westwingI have a confession to make:

I have watched every episode of all seven seasons of The West Wing three times.

It’s an obsession.

Anyway, over the course of the Trump campaign, the transition, the inauguration, and the first month of the presidency, I have found myself, not a religious man by any means, praying for some cosmic event to happen, some time-space disruption that results in the Trump administration being replaced, wholesale, by the fictional West Wing Bartlet administration.

I know, Stephen Hawking, wherever he is, is laughing at me right now.

Well, while reading about President Trump’s hissy fit press conference today, I thought about The West Wing once again, but for a very particular reason.

Anyone who watched much of the show is familiar with just how careful the administration felt they needed to be about any statements they made to the public and the press.

Whether it was C.J. Cregg, the Press Secretary, during her daily press briefings, or the president himself during a speaking engagement, whenever there was even the slightest remark that could be misconstrued, the rest of the administration would react as if they would all be out of a job, hearings initiated, or wars begun, as soon as the press took up the ball and ran with it.

By contrast, TrumpCo. (my favorite epithet for our current administration) does not appear to be governed by any such concern, with near daily statements coming from the White House and its surrogates that would have caused Toby Ziegler, The West Wing‘s Communications Director, to suffer a fatal heart attack.

There is a continuum, on one end of which is a commitment to the highest standards of governmental communications etiquette, exemplified by the fictional West Wing administration, and on the farthest possible opposite end of the continuum is TrumpCo.

Video Fridays: The Beatles In The Studio, “Hey Bulldog”

john-paul-bulldogThough there’s a risk here of hyperbole, it’s a risk I’m willing to take:

Today’s Video Fridays installment features one of the greatest videos of ALL TIME!!!

There, I said it, and I mean it!

Via GuitarWorld.com:

Even though the Beatles hired a film crew to document the 1969 recording sessions for what would become Let It Be, it’s a bit uncommon to see studio footage of the band at work before that time.

Which is why the “Hey Bulldog” music video is so unique.

The February 1968 footage seen in the clip was originally utilized in the “Lady Madonna” promotional video, until someone (perhaps a talented lip reader) noticed the band was actually recording “Hey Bulldog” (The band recorded both songs during the same sessions). The footage was later re-cut to fit “Hey Bulldog,” one of many standouts from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack album.

I have LOVED Hey Bulldog ever since I first heard it as a kid, particularly because it was not one of their ginormous hits that have been played to death on the radio. And so, getting a glimpse like this, of The Beatles in the studio at their peak, performing this song, is a like discovering hidden treasure.

I love everything about Hey Bulldog: from the tempo and vibe-setting piano opening, to the James Bond-esque signature guitar riff, Paul’s punchy and bouncy bass, George’s wicked solo, Ringo’s stuttering tom work, John’s quirky lyrics, and John’s and Paul’s vocal harmonies (if ever two voices fit together as one!).

But without a doubt, the highlight of the video is watching John and Paul having so much fun singing this song together, a poignant contrast to the breakdown in their relationship that would begin very soon after this recording session.

Anyway, there’s a lot of crappy stuff going on in the world right now, so it’s more important than ever to celebrate the good things like this.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

 

 

Video Fridays – Inauguration Angst Edition: American Tune

statue-of-libertyIf you are like me (aka, a proud leftist), the urge to catastrophize today is considerable.


BTW, here’s a must-view Video Fridays bonus video: Samantha Bee and Masha Gessen getting right to the catastrophizing. LOL!


And yet, I find the strength to resist catastrophic thinking in the following:

With numbers like that, it’s not surprising that almost immediately after the election there were demonstrations with protesters wielding signs that read “Not My President“, signaling the beginning of a growing and organized resistance movement all over the country.

There’s no doubt in my mind that holding out hope for these resistance efforts and, better yet, joining in and actively resisting, are really better alternatives to resignation and waiting around for the apocalypse.

But it won’t be easy, and it’s only natural that there will be times of despair.

I didn’t go looking for a song for this post that captures the Trumpgeist. It just came to me this past week, a song I love a lot and have enjoyed singing in the past, but I hadn’t really thought of it in a while.

Because history tends to repeat itself, Paul Simon‘s American Tune, written in 1972 — with the Vietnam War still raging, racial conflicts commonplace, and Richard Nixon winning re-election even though five men paid by the Committee for Re-election of the President were arrested in June 1972 for breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s offices at the Watergate Hotel  — the song sadly remains relevant 45 years later.

So, without further ado, here are the lyrics, following by the video for this installment of Video Fridays.

Hang in there, brothers and sisters!

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I’ve often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I’m all right, I’m all right
I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For we’ve lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
We’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help but wonder what’s gone wrong

And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying

Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come at the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune
Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest

Video Fridays: The Search For “Presence of the Lord”

blind-faith
Blind Faith

The strangest thing happened to me last night.

A fragment of a song that I hadn’t listened to in years popped into my head in the early evening, a very small fragment, a simple descending chord progression…

C  F/C  Em/B  Dm/A  C

…that opens the song and repeats as a kind of theme throughout.

The strange thing: I knew exactly what song this fragment was from — Presence of the Lord, by Blind Faith — I’d heard it many, many times and have loved it, I’d known all of the lyrics, all of the particulars of the arrangement — the gorgeous, pining vocals and Hammond B-3 organ of Steve Winwood, the swirling guitar work of Eric Clapton, the expressive drums of Ginger Baker that threatened to deliver thunder like Thor at any moment, and the steady bass of Ric Grech — but as this fragment popped into my head, inexplicably, I could not conjure up anything else from the song, and…

…it nearly drove me crazy!!!

Part of the problem stems from the fact that this fragment — these few descending chords — is a common musical element used in many songs, and every time I tried to pry the rest of Presence of the Lord from some mysterious, dimly-lit place in my brain, I stumbled upon other songs, but not the one I was looking for.

Despite my best efforts, I could not find the opening lyrics — “I have finally found a way to live, just like I never could before…” — perhaps because the lyric describes the finding of something, the exact opposite of what was happening to me.

I did have a memory that there was a dramatic instrumental bridge in the song, with a corresponding tempo change, but I couldn’t quite make it out.

I thought if I could only recall one other fragment — a slice of that bridge, a snippet of melody from a verse or chorus, some riff or phrase from Clapton’s epic solo — then I could follow it like a breadcrumb left behind by Hansel and find my way back home (Blind Faith fans will know that the pun here is intended) to the rest of the song.

But no, I could find nothing, and it tortured me.

At 2:00 AM, I awoke for some reason and immediately heard the presence of the Presence of the Lord, and my brain set to work straight away, continuing the search for the rest of the song, consequently preventing me from falling back to sleep for nearly two hours … on a work night!

Finally, over breakfast, I gave up, opened YouTube on my iPhone, searched for the song, found it, played it, and put myself out of my misery.

And, oh what a song to relieve misery!

I chose to listen to the version of Presence from the 1969 Concert in Hyde Park (video below), because, though I am by no means a religious man, if the Lord does happen to be real, his/hers/its presence is most certainly revealed in the tone of Eric Clapton’s Fender Telecaster guitar in that performance.

Interestingly, Presence of the Lord, and this experience I had with it, are symbolic — in a number of ways — of the meteoric history of Blind Faith, centered around the theme of brevity:

  • I could only remember a simple 5-chord instrumental sequence from a 4:5o-long song.
  • Trying to remember the song left me with too little sleep.
  • The song only has, essentially, one verse and one chorus, repeated three times respectively.
  • Blind Faith formed, recorded their one and only album which went to the top of the charts, toured Europe and the U.S., and disbanded … ALL between January and October of 1969.
  • The eponymous album contained only 6 songs, for a total running time of 42:12, average in those days, but all you have to do is subtract one song, the 15:20-long cut titled Do What You Like, and what remains would be an EP by today’s standards.
  • The very fact that Blind Faith had so few songs on their album was a contributing factor to their demise. Eric Clapton had quit his previous band, Cream, because he was tired of playing their songs and the baggage that came with being in that band, and yet, when Blind Faith toured, since there were so few Blind Faith songs, the band filled out their concerts with songs by Cream and Steve Winwood’s former band, Traffic. By the end of their U.S. tour, Clapton had had enough and moved on.
  • The first rehearsals of what would become Blind Faith, with Winwood, and Clapton & Ginger Baker, both from Cream, occurred just 9 weeks after Cream disbanded, despite Clapton’s promise to Cream bassist Jack Bruce that if any of the three members played again together all three would be involved.
  • The version of Presence in the video below, was performed before their album was even released, and Clapton was very unhappy with the concert, feeling that the band had not had enough time to rehearse.

So, ironically, all this talk of brevity and it’s taken me this long to get to what put the “video” in this installment of Video Fridays.

Enjoy the music, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Santa As A Role Model: The Dark Side

santa-clauseSo, there’s this Christmas movie starring Tim Allen called The Santa Clause, wherein Santa falls off of Tim Allen’s roof on Christmas Eve, he dies, his body vanishes, leaving behind the empty Santa suit, Allen’s son convinces him to put the suit on and fill in for Santa that night, only, by doing so, he unknowingly enters into a contract to permanently become the next Santa.

The next morning, Allen believes it had all been a dream, but very quickly his body starts transforming, he gains weight at an alarming rate, his hair turns white, and however often he tries to shave, the beard grows back, voluminously, overnight.

The movie is described as a comedy, but let me tell you, there is absolutely nothing funny when you, yourself, start transforming into Santa.

See, since Thanksgiving, I have been off the wagon of my low-carb diet, a grain-free and sugar-free regimen that has worked really well for me, effectively controlling my weight and reducing inflammation, keeping me energetic, healthy, and happy.

As a result of this lapse, and with ubiquitous, seductive, and decadent holiday foods everywhere I turn lately, um, let’s just say that I have put on some pounds.

Then, because I completely spaced out and didn’t participate in No-Shave November — the goal of which is to grow cancer awareness by not shaving or cutting hair, because cancer patients often lose their hair during treatment — I stopped shaving right before December 1st, figuring better late than never, and within days I remembered one of the reasons why I do shave: my facial hair is mostly grey/white now, and I look MUCH older with facial hair.

So…

Getting Pudgy + Grey/White Beard = Yikes!!!

Now, why can’t I just think of what a wonderful, generous, happy guy Santa is and enjoy the emerging resemblance? Why can’t I just emulate his Ho, Ho, Ho!!! attitude?

Well, at 52 years of age, I am face-to-face with the challenges of aging, aware that my physical, psychological, and emotional wellbeing depend, more than ever before, on taking good care of the only body I will ever have, and sustaining a youthful attitude.

Yet, when I look in a full length mirror right now, particularly if I’m naked (my apologies for the visual), I’m clearly failing on both of those fronts.

Truth is, I honestly don’t know how I didn’t see this coming!

I grew up watching Santa Claus Is Coming to Town every year on television, wherein, in less than an hour, this strapping, fit young man…

santa-claus-is-comin-to-town-skinny

…balloons into this quadruple bypass waiting to happen:

santa-fat

That’s the subliminal setup for where I’m at right now!

Fictional Santa will of course continue enjoying the gift of immortality on a diet of milk, cookies, and egg nog, but it’s not really gonna work out so well for us mere mortals.

So please, for your own sake, don’t take after Santa.

Stuff We Don’t Need: Yet Another “Progressive” Vanity Organization

progressive-groupsSo, there’s this guy Van Jones who has been saying a lot of good things, for a while, and this week he announced the start of a new campaign called the #LoveArmy, a new initiative of his Dream Corps organization.

Sadly though, for quite some time, I have been VERY suspicious of how much ego is behind seemingly well-intentioned people like Mr. Jones.

I see it play out something like this, time and time and again:

Super smart, charismatic, articulate progressive takes a firm stance on something and gets regional and/or nationwide attention; said person gathers a team of collaborators and followers and starts their own new organization, with a spiffy new logo and website, like Van Jones’ Dream Corps; meanwhile there are already dozens, hundreds, even thousands of existing progressive organizations all over the country, many doing similar work, many of which overlap and compete with each another for donations or attention or nitpicky differences in their platform or approach.

The left/progressive wing in this country is utterly fractured, totally susceptible to and thwarted by the divide-and-conquer tactics from the masterfully manipulative right wing, but all I see is this parade of emerging leaders starting up their own vanity projects rather than building a movement that unites the existing progressive organizations.

One could argue that many if not most politicians running for office resemble this formula. Once they are in office, they are quickly assimilated into business-as-usual, without the time and/or will to build on the movement that got them elected, to make it bigger and stronger and capable of supporting an unwavering agenda of real change.

Now, to be fair, every once in a while I see a glimmer of the right idea, and here are three examples.

1. Bernie Sanders certainly met the “super smart, charismatic, articulate progressive” criteria I mention above, but in VERY different ways.

Smart as hell, for sure, but his unlikely charisma resided in his unpolished, scruffy, gesticulating appearance and demeanor, and his articulateness was not about flowery oratory or wonky policyspeak, but rather, it was his dogged consistency of message, a message of a need for a political revolution that united millions and millions of Americans around common causes, an articulation that powerfully wielded a “we” rather than “me” orientation.

The Bernie Sanders-inspired Our Revolution group says they are about continuing Bernie’s work of building this national grassroots movement, and I’m eager to see if they will reach out to all of the progressive organizations already out there, to unite them and coordinate efforts.

2. Back in June, shortly after the mainstream media declared that Hillary Clinton had clinched the Democratic Party nomination, 3,000 activists attended The People’s Summit in Chicago, a hastily thrown-together event, also aimed at taking up Bernie’s torch. Notable was the extensive list of “partners” posted on the event’s website, seen here in this post as a collection of logos that both highlights what I said above about how progressives love to start new organizations, but also seems to represent at least an attempt to bring these groups together.

3. Just today I read of a brand new effort to fight the Trump-elect proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Protect Our Care Coalition pulls together representatives from 20 different existing organizations to “pool resources and work together to ensure people in America understand the damage of repealing the ACA.”

Now THAT is stuff we need!