Thursday, August 27, 2009

"The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die."

-Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democratic National Convention, August 1980.

Bill Day, Memphis Commercial Appeal

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Summertime Blues

I don't know just what the problem is but I definitely have the Summertime blues. Could it be the heat that is making me feel this way? Its been so hot I'm spending most of my time indoors.

Could it be because I feel like I am still playing catch-up after being ill for over a month? Could it be the traveling I've been doing? I spent last weekend in Denver helping my niece move into her new apartment. Moving included some wall and kitchen cabinet painting. I'm not complaining since painting is so satisfying and gives you instant work results, I just feel like I've been traveling too much and I still have a couple of trips to take before the summer is over.

I don't want to work on my blog, I don't want to read other blogs, I don't even want to look at a computer screen. Is that because of the AARP Driver Safety Online Course that I just completed? It will be helpful to me in that it will lower my insurance premiums but is was an excruciatingly slow process and left me feeling frustrated at the end of each session. You know how time flies when you are on the computer? Well this program made time slow down to a bug crawl. It was like using dial-up after being on broadband for most of your life. I wanted to bang my head against my computer several times but since I was using a laptop I knew that if I did so I would be causing serious damage to both myself and the laptop screen.

Could it be that time I'm spending on the computer at the library helping to create a online data base of all the books in our collection by entering them one by one has made any computer time less than enjoyable?

I think it is a combination of all these things and instead of leaving you hanging and wondering just when I am going to be posting again I will take a break until the end of the month. Maybe doing this, no matter what Eddie Cochran sings, will cure my Summertime blues.

I'm gonna raise a fuss, I'm gonna raise a holler
About a workin' all summer just to try to earn a dollar
Every time I call my baby, and try to get a date
My boss says, "No dice son, you gotta work late"

Sometimes I wonder what I'm a gonna do
But there ain't no cure for the summertime blues

Well my mom and poppa told me, "Son, you gotta make some money,
If you want to use the car to go ridin' next Sunday"
Well I didn't go to work, told the boss I was sick
"Well you can't use the car 'cause you didn't work a lick"

Sometimes I wonder what I'm a gonna do
But there ain't no cure for the summertime blues

I'm gonna take two weeks, gonna have a fine vacation
I'm gonna take my problem to the United Nations
Well I called my Congressman and he said quote:
"I'd like to help you son but you're too young to vote"

Sometimes I wonder what I'm a gonna do
But there ain't no cure for the summertime blues

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Boy, Boy, Crazy Boy, Get Cool, Boy!

New Mad Men episodes are less than nine days away which is very good news for all us Mad Men fans. I have been getting my Mad Men fix by reading the Lipp sister's blog Basket of Kisses each day. They cover everything Mad Men, including production, actors, writers, and cultural references.

Last Wednesday guest blogger B. Cooper wrote about "The Long View" that historians take when critiquing any presidential administration. Historians say you must wait 40 to 50 years for, as B. Cooper writes, "the ripple effects of its policies and decisions to fully come to light." Then Cooper goes on to say that,"...our popular culture reflects best on past eras after about that same amount of time." Cooper then provides examples of this in past television decades. It is an interesting post and I highly recommend it.

One thing that really caught my eye in B. Cooper's post was the last sentence, "Maybe in another 50 years, Jimmy Barrett will be funny again." The first thought that popped in my mind after reading this was, "Jimmy Barret was never funny."

(Jimmy Barret, for all you non-Mad Men fans is a comic hired by the advertising firm Sterling Cooper, where a large portion of Mad Men takes place, to shill one of their client's products on television.)

Cooper's statement and my reaction to it got me thinking. Would a comedian like Jimmy Barret be considered funny 40 to 50 years down the road? Will his kind of "in your face" style of comedy become timeless like Buster Keaton's or will he be perceived the same way as Blackface comics now are, as nothing but a huge embarrassment? I have no idea.

I do know that in the show Jimmy Barret is comedy-wise a dead man walking. The fourth episode of Mad Men had a scene where several of the men in the office are listening to Bob Newhart's The Button Down Mind Of Bob Newhart. That album became the first comedy record to reach number one on the Billboard charts. In an NPR interview about how Newhart and that album changed comedy Conan O'Brien had this to say about Newhart:

He's the opposite of what they used to call a "Sweat Act." I think that was an old vaudeville, maybe it's vaudeville term, an old club term. Someone's a sweat act, someone who's running around begging for the audience to laugh. And uh, Bob Newhart's kind of the iconic image of the comedian who's timing and his material is so good, he's not begging for it, you know. You have to go to him.

Jimmy Barret is definitely a sweat act in the mode of Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason, and Don Rickles. Those guys were hot while Bob Newhart was, not cold, but cool and in the early sixties cool was in. Cool like soon to be president John Kennedy. Cool like Dave Brubeck who's recording Take Five was to become the first jazz single to sell a million records in nineteen sixty-one. Cool like Hugh Hefner. Cool like Don Draper. You never see that man sweat.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

I Tried To Die Young

Melanie Safka, professionally know as just Melanie, was one of only four women who headlined Woodstock back in nineteen sixty-nine (FYI-The other three were Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, and Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane.) Melanie wrote a hit song about her experience at Woodstock titled Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) but is best known for two other quirky little songs, Brand New Key and Look What They've Done To My Song.

For most people, if they have heard of her at all, Melanie is just a footnote to music history. A missing flower child from the Hippie Sixties. A "What ever happened to.." unanswered question. So what has she being doing since Woodstock and its aftermath? She's been out there living life, writing songs, and performing. Cowtown Pattie posted one of Melaine's recent performances on her blog Texas Trifles a few weeks ago and wrote that the song Melanie was singing, I Tried To Die Young, now was her new mantra. After listening to the song I understood why.

If any song catches that slightly out of control, fearless, fearful, I don't want to grow old, angst of youth better than than this one, I can't think of it. At the same time it shows that growing older allows you to look back at your life and accept, even laugh at, the person you used to be. The wisdom you've gained with growing older also allows you to see that that person you used to be is still inside you. The only difference between the you of then and the you of now is life experience and better impulse control.

Anyway, that is the way I interpret it.

I tried to die young
Boy, did I try
But the voice deep inside would not let me succumb
And I laugh at the things that I’ve done
When I tried to die young

I took a plane through the dawn
Threw myself on the tracks
But the train didn’t come and I had to walk back
I jumped into the whirlpool, I thought I get sucked in
I just kept spinning around ‘til I learned how to swim

And I tried to die young
Boy, did I try
But the voice deep inside would not let me succumb
And I laugh at the things that I’ve done
When I tried to die young

And my heart kept on breaking
And the crack sought the edge
Where the hands of a shadow grabbed the hand in my head
There were demons, I know them
And they still come by
But we’ve become friends, my demons and I

I tried to die young
Really I tried
But the voice deep inside would not let me succumb
And I laugh at the things that I’ve done
When I tried to die young

I took a razor to the wrist of reality
Hell bent in my way toward futility
I got a reason to believe that it won’t go on forever
But reason to the heart is a message undelivered

Oh, I tried to die young

Now I’m the old girl, I never thought I’d become
Does it get any better asks the little girl in my song
I’m still learning the answers so I make up things, you see
She laughs, you’re still the same and you never kill me

I tried to die young
Boy, did I try
The voice deep inside would not let me succumb
And I laugh at the things that I’ve done
When I tried to die young

Oh, I laugh at the things I’ve done
I laugh at the things I’ve done
Oh, I laugh at the things I’ve done
When I tried to die young

Boy did I try, really I, really, I tried
I tried to die young

I tried to die young

I tried to die young

And I laugh at the things I've done
When I tried to die young

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Colonel Thursday, Captain York, Fort Apache, And America's World View

Can a John Ford movie from 1948, Fort Apache, give us insight into the Bush and Obama administration's contrasting approach to how America handles its perceived enemies? According to New York Times movie critic A. O. Scott it surely can. Watch his video review here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Vienna Waits For You

One of Billy Joel's most haunting songs is simply titled Vienna. He wrote back in the late 1970's after visiting his father in that city. In the song he uses Vienna as a metaphor for old age but why?

So I go to visit my father in Vienna, I'm walking around this town and I see this old lady. She must have been about 90 years old and she is sweeping the street. I say to my father "What's this nice old lady doing sweeping the street?" He says "She's got a job, she feels useful, she's happy, she's making the street clean, she's not put out to pasture". We treat old people in this country pretty badly. We put them in rest homes, we kinda kick them under the rug and make believe they don't exist. They [the people in Vienna] don't feel like that. In a lot of these older places in the world, they value their older people and their older people feel they can still be a part of the community and I thought 'This is a terrific idea - that old people are useful -and that means I don't have to worry so much about getting old because I can still have a use in this world in my old age. I thought "Vienna waits for you..."
-Credited to Billy Joel, An Evening of Questions & Answers and Perhaps a Few Songs on the Internet but not sure that is correct.

Slow down you crazy child
You're so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you're so smart tell me why
Are you still so afraid?

Where's the fire, what's the hurry about?
You better cool it off before you burn it out
You got so much to do and only
So many hours in a day

But you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want
Or you can just get old
You're gonna kick off before you even get halfway through
When will you realize
Vienna waits for you

Slow down you're doing fine
You can't be everything you want to be before your time
Although it's so romantic on the borderline tonight, tonight
Too bad but it's the life you lead
You're so ahead of yourself
That you forgot what you need
Though you can see when you're wrong
You know you can't always see when you're right, your right

You got your passion you got your pride
But don't you know only fools are satisfied?
Dream on, but don't imagine they'll all come true
When will you realize
Vienna waits for you

Slow down you crazy child
And take the phone off the hook
And disappear for a while
It's alright you can afford to lose a day or two
When will you realize
Vienna waits for you.

And you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want
Or you can just get old
You're gonna kick off before you even get halfway through
Why don't you realize
Vienna waits for you

When will you realize
Vienna waits for you

And just what our own lives are going to be like when we reach Vienna is up to us.

Monday, August 03, 2009

By George, He's Got It! I Think He's Got It!

I've figured it out. I've figured it out.

What? I'll Tell You.

Everything. Why everything sucks.

Here's why. In the 1950s, late '50s, early '60s, a bunch of advertising guys got together on Madison Avenue and decided to try to sell products to younger people. We should try to sell to younger people because then they will buy things their whole lives. We'll try to sell them soft drinks, or bread, or cigars -- or whatever the hell they were trying to sell them. It was just an advertising thing, they didn't mean any harm by it, just a bit of market research.

So they told the television companies, and the movie companies, and the record companies -- and everybody started targeting the youth. Because the youth was the place where you were going to be able to sell things.

What happened was, in a strange kind of quirk of fate, youth began to be celebrated by society. This was in a way that it had never been at any time in human history. What used to be celebrated was experience, and cleverness. But what became valuable was youth -- and the quality of youth was being a consumer.

I know what you're thinking, you're saying "but wait a minute, Craig, in Ancient Greece they deified youth." No they didn't. They deified beauty. Different.

What happened is youth became more important and became more important. Society started to turn on its head. Because youth has a byproduct -- inexperience. By the nature of youth you don't have any experience. It's not your fault. You're just kind of stupid.

So the deification of youth evolved, and turned into the deification of imbecility. It became fashionable to be young and to be stupid. And that grew, and that grew, and that grew, and now that's what all the kids want to be. "I just want to be young and stupid!" But you know what? That's not what you want to be. You do not want to be young and stupid.

Then what happened is that people were frightened to not be young. They started dyeing their hair, they started mutilating their faces and their bodies in order to look young. But you can't be young forever, that's against the laws of the universe.

All of these horrible trends, all these terrible movements. Nobody meant it. Nobody meant any harm. But now we're in this terrible place where we have the f#@%ing Jonas Brothers!

I love this man.