17Aug

Whistling

By the time you read this, we will have been a week deep into a very dark place, a place void of laughter, quick-thinking, brilliant-funny, and sometimes heart-breaking emotions, with the loss of Robin Williams and his cast of characters, including Mork from Ork, sitting on his head in a chair, and John Keating, a professor taking a stodgy, aristocratic school of boys and helping them see the world differently by standing on his desk whistling the “1812 Overture” in Dead Poets Society.

Sometime around 1978, I was living on Beacon Hill in the fine aristocratic city of Boston. I have never been one to engage in an outpouring of vocal belly-busting laughter, but on one particular day (and for decades to come) Robin Williams was able to invoke that behavior in me.  Then in 1989, he brought me to tears in the Dead Poets Society as a professor bringing humanity and real learning to a brain-numbing line-stepping school. I know how that can be, having spent two years in such a place until I convinced my father I would get thrown out if he didn’t take me out. Good old dad decided I would indeed disgrace myself in private, so he figured it was better I do it in public, and I was released from those gates, and off to public school I went. Fifty years later I am still marching my own line-step and to my own beat. John Keating was that type of true Teacher.  Mork from Ork, John Keating, and other memorable characters have left us, but fortunately for us all the memories remain. 

People ask why such gifted people end their own lives--by drugs and alcohol in a slow death or more quickly.  Personally, I think the powers-that-be do not always give great gifts and an unconquerable soul. The mind and heart are often veiled behind the gifts they give us. Emotionally, I am standing on my desk, whistling the “1812 Overture.”

Speaking of whistling, we also lost Lauren Bacall to a massive stroke this week at age 89. Lauren Bacall had the level of sophistication and sensuality I look for in every woman I have ever known.  Just check out the film To Have and Have Not and the “whistling” exchange between the characters played by Bogart and Bacall. From the voice to face no one will take her place.

 There is so much spinning around in my head right now, and this blog has only touched the surface. Our learning to lock-step in blind obedience starts in the first year of school. Somewhere, I hope there are a lot of students who, if not now, will someday stand on their desks on their own two feet. I'm going out now to do what I have been doing all my life: whistle into the wind and hope someone catches the tune.

I have no idea what we may find on the shores of Rambling Harbor this week, but join me there and give a listen.

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10Aug

Radio, Budweiser, Facebook, and Ice Water

As you know, I have been a big critic of one Mr. Kanye West—and Jesus knows he has given me plenty of reason—but I do give credit where credit is due.

 On August 30 in Philadelphia and August 31 in L.A., the Budweiser Made in America Festival will take place.  Held to benefit the United Way, Kanye, who had previously been confirmed as the Saturday night headliner of the flagship fest in Philly, now entering its third year, will perform alongside main stage acts like The National, Steve Aoki, J. Cole, and Chromeo.  After his performance, he'll head to L.A. to headline with John Mayer and Juanes on Sunday. 

The inaugural event was held on September 1–2, 2012 at Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia and attracted nearly 80,000 people, grossing $5 million in ticket sales.  Philadelphia city officials reported that the festival generated at least $10 million for the city and covered all municipal costs associated with the event.  While I will hold my breath and hope the West Wind doesn’t blow in a preacher’s direction, leaving that to the rapper slapper in sandals from Galilee, it’s good to see Kanye and all the excellent stars involved in this going out to help people.

Remember the giant sinkhole in Siberia that suddenly appeared? It seems my speculation that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were going to break out in a fiery fury and head hell-bent for the Westboro Baptist Church is not going to happen. Scientists are convinced, though, that the sinkhole opened up because of global warming, the phenomenon that 21% of all Republican politicians refuse to believe. In fact, the pols probably won’t change their stance until they are standing in freezing glacier water up to their Yoo-Hoos.  Now that’s real numb nuts for you, the opposite of fiery fury but perhaps scarier.

Speaking of ice water, Rachel Maddow, an MSNBC commentator I particularly like, did the water bucket thing—you know, where you accept a challenge to allow a bucket of freezing ice water to be dumped over your head in exchange for a donation to one of your charities. I’m all in favor of giving, but I’m not sure self-flagellation with ice water makes my charity more worthy. It does make the dumpee more human, though, at least for that moment, and maybe that’s the appeal.

In the blog last week I promised a story in the podcast about Linda Ronstadt “maybe” being the first person I ever played on the air, and I forgot to do that. But there will be that and oh so much more, including a few words about Bob Rivers, B.J.  Shea, and Mark Zuckerberg, in this week’s get together on the shores of Rambling Harbor. Join me there and give a listen.

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8Aug

Lucid Moments

I was having a lucid moment this morning.  Going lucid by yourself is not a good idea because you can never be sure about the reality of it at all, so a guide into lucidity is always recommended.

In those early morning hours, just after waking and the sun is not quite up yet, you can see lucid in the sky with her telescope and parasol. So you lie there all alone, it’s summer, the windows are open, you can hear the birds singing, softly in the distance at first, a song you’ve heard before, as the singing becomes a little louder, yes, singing birds in the morning, yes, there it is, The Byrds, singing something about being born not to follow.

As I said, I was having this moment of lucidity, and then I remembered that Heidi Klum’s house is on the market for $25 million, and I thought to myself I would not pay that for her house, even if I had the money, not even if Heidi Klum went with it. It was at that time I realized I had slipped back in to lucidity, maybe? I could not be sure without my Native American guide, Brave Tune, who is away writing a song about Ted Nugent called “I’d like to stick my arrow in your nuggets, Nugent,” this after he called Native Americans vermin and less than human.

I learned last week 33-year-old supermodel Gisele Bundchen earned a whopping $47 million in 2013, according to Forbes Magazine, which the New York Post broke down to $128,000 a day, or $5,333 per hour! Life is so much fun in America.

Oops, lucid again, and no diamonds, not even on the soles of my shoes. In November 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau said more than 16% of the population lived in poverty, including almost 20% of American children. Guess they will not be able to afford to see an L.A. Clippers game (I’m glad Donald Sterling is history!) or a Rolling Stones concert. Something hurts about this vision.

To end on a happy note, happy birthday to Mick “let no moss grow on me, Rolling Stone” Jagger. The skinny kid with the big talent turned 71 on July 26. I wish I had moves like Jagger, and I hope he rocks till he drops somewhere around age 100.

In the favorite female category, I have to admit it’s always been a neck-and-“necking” competition between Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. Linda was born July 15, 1946, and is now unable to sing because of Parkinson's disease, but she told her own story in her recently published memoir Simple Dreams. Linda Ronstadt was possibly one of the first people I played on the air (and I’ll explain that possibly in the podcast). Happy Birthday to Linda Ronstadt.

There’s more on Big Money, birthdays, Rock and Roll, and highlifes and lowlifes in the podcast. Grab a piece of driftwood and take a seat.


respond by email www.ramblingharbor@creative-treehouse.com

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27Jul

Strange Days and Punks for Salvation

My mind sometimes befuddles me. I don’t know why I think the things I do, but I think them anyway. Here are a few from the past week.

In 1980, poet and punk musician Jim Carroll wrote “People Who Died,” which was on his album Catholic Boy.  Ironically, the song could have been titled “People Who Died  in July,” including punk rocker Tommy Ramone, who wrote a song called “Too Tough To Die.” It still bothers me, as I said in last week’s blog, that his death went largely unnoticed, as did the passing of Johnny Winter and Muddy Waters.

As the list grows on, here’s another name for you: Dick Jones. You probably wouldn’t know him if he were sitting next to you, but you have heard his voice many times. Dick Jones was the voice of Pinocchio, and he died on July 7. James Garner, the “Tall Dark Stranger” named Maverick, died July 19.

Under “Man, is that a strange day, indeed,” we can post that a pine tree, planted near L.A.'s Griffith Observatory in 2004 in honor of George Harrison, was killed by his band's namesake insect. The Beatle's memorial tree was killed by beetles! Harrison's pine had grown to more than 10 feet tall by 2013, and the good news is the tree will be replaced, time and place to be announced.

In other bizarre and unexplained news, Russia seems to be sinking. Russian scientists conducted a primary examination of a giant sinkhole in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District. There was no dangerous radiation detected on the site, and the scientists, who arrived to examine the sinkhole on the instructions of the regional governor, said it appeared “as a result of a natural phenomenon, the nature of which is impossible to establish yet.” Personally, I’m expecting the four horseman of the apocalypse to burst out of there in a frenzy of flaming glory and head directly to the Westboro Baptist Church, consisting of a collection of hate-mongering protesters who have targeted everyone from the singer Lorde to Brad Paisley, of all people. Recently this bunch of ghoulish protesters met their match with a bunch of punks. They planned on protesting at a “Panic! At The Disco” concert, announcing plans to picket the pop-punk band's Sunday night show in Kansas City, Missouri, but Brendon Urie of the group retaliated. He said that for every member of the Westboro church who showed up he would donate $20 to the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest civil rights organization, working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality at home, at work, and in the community. Brendon said, “This is pretty much the perfect way to render the protesters' hateful intentions useless” and would actually be useful and raise money for a good cause.

In the podcast, you’ll hear a few minutes about Ted Nugent as well as other topics. Come on shore and give a listen.

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20Jul

Tommy Ramone and Other Punks (Also More Rock and Roll)

On Friday July 11, Tommy Ramone died.  Born Tamás Erdélyi, he was the drummer and last survivor of the Ramones, whose members adopted the last name used by Paul McCartney to reserve hotel rooms as a Beatle.  

The Ramones were not known as great musicians, but the band has been acknowledged by many as the inventors of punk rock. They began life in Forest Hills, Queens, about the same time I was growing up on Staten Island.

In 2002, the Ramones were ranked the second-greatest band of all time by Spin magazine, trailing only the Beatles. On March 18, 2002, the Ramones—the founders and drummer Marky Ramone, who succeeded Tommy when he left the band—were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2011, the group was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Ramones performed 2,263 concerts, touring virtually nonstop for 22 years. In 1996, after a tour with the Lollapalooza music festival, the band played a farewell concert and disbanded. Among the Ramones best-known songs was "I Wanna Be Sedated,” a song I still sing to me-self, especially after watching the evening news or for that matter the morning news and the mid-day news.  I don’t like the term rest in peace, so I’ll just say rock on, Tommy, rock on!

Another group, associated with but not totally affiliated with punk rock of the 1970’s, was Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. I say not totally punk rock because they were what is known as proto-punk, which is the music from the mid-1960’s to mid-1970’s that influenced punk rock and is not a distinct musical genre, covering a wide range of musical backgrounds and styles including garage rock. Boston can claim the Modern Lovers as our own even though Richman moved to California in 1975. He recorded a few tunes, came to his senses, and moved back to Boston and formed a new version of the Modern Lovers in 1976.

Oddly enough, according to a survey taken by voters on the punk forum at musicianforums.com, neither the Ramones nor the Modern Lovers made the top 100, but Boston’s own Dropkick Murphys came in at number 16.

From country to punk, I still believe that those in my age group grew up in the best of all musical times with artists like Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers, the Ramones, The Cars, Pink Floyd, Queen, the Rolling Stones, The Who, The Doors, Jimmy Hendrix, of course Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, the Eagles, Creedence Clearwater Revival…. Sorry, kids, you can’t touch this.
There’s more on music and other topics on the shores of Rambling Harbor. Give a listen.

 

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