Happy Birthday to my Mom!

Today is my lovely mother’s birthday.  I’ve got nothing to say about it but “Yay!”  So here’s one of her favorite songs.  She used to play the soundtrack to Songwriter in the car constantly, and this song was on a loop for her.  (Of course, back then, you had to rewind the cassette to go back to the beginning of a song.)  But I defy anyone not to love it.

Besides, who wouldn’t want to fool around with Kris Kristofferson?

“Dream Baby”

Today would’ve been Roy Orbison’s 78th birthday.  He was one of the original greats of Rock & Roll, recording on the Sun label alongside the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, and he influenced just as many other Rockers as those superstars did.  But Orbison hasn’t gotten the same recognition showier contemporaries have.  He’s not as charismatic or good-looking, to be sure, but there’s something fascinating about him.

He wore black and dark glasses when performing most of the time.  (According to Wikipedia, the sunglasses came about because he left his regular glasses on a plane, and found that he preferred them.)  It gave him an air of mystery, a certain gravitas.  The image came in handy, since his stage presence was, frankly, a little stiff.  He didn’t dance around or chatter with the crowd.  He didn’t clown for attention; he didn’t need to.  He had that voice.

He was by turns wispy and melancholy, sexy and enticing, broken and desperate.  Roy Orbison’s voice was one of the greatest instruments nature ever devised.  That voice is what made it impossible to ignore him.  Bruce Springsteen once said that he was trying to sing like Orbison on Born to Run.  When Tom Petty, George Harrison, and Jeff Lynne convinced Orbison to join up with the Traveling Wilburys in the 80s, they were dumbfounded that that magical voice would be singing with them.  (They talked to him backstage after a concert, and were practically giddy when he said yes.)

Working with those legends (and some guy named Bob Dylan) in the Wilburys was a huge shot in the arm for Orbison’s career, but the revival had begun a couple of years earlier in 1986 when David Lynch used “In Dreams” in his surreal classic Blue Velvet.  The next year, he recorded an unbelievable new version of his hit “Crying” for the soundtrack of Hiding Out, which became a slow-burning torch duet with k.d. lang.  There was also a televised concert film, Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night. That’s where the clip of “Dream Baby,” probably my favorite Orbison tune, comes from.  (It’s one of those perfect little songs–not a single extraneous or misplaced note.) He’d been honored earlier with his induction into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.  1988 saw him recording with the Wilburys, as well as a new solo album (with a song penned by Bono and The Edge, “She’s a Mystery to Me”).

In December of 1988, I was sitting in a doughnut shop, enjoying an iced devil’s food doughnut before I went out to the bus stop to catch the number 93, when word came over the radio that Roy Orbison had died.  I don’t remember tasting the rest of that doughnut.


Kevin Sharp

It’s Earth Day.  (Hey, Earth!  I’d ask how you were feeling, but I’m afraid of the answer.)  Do something today that reduces your carbon footprint.  No, seriously, get up off your overprivileged, Western Hemisphere ass and do something.  But that’s not what today’s post is about.

Over the weekend, news came out that Country singer Kevin Sharp died at the age of 43 due to complications from his battles with cancer.  Sharp wasn’t exactly a household name these days.  He was best known for his 1996 cover of Tony Rich’s song “Nobody Knows.”  His music career went on after that, but he did better work as a motivational speaker for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  I don’t know exactly what that job entailed, but I’m sure his work for that organization helped sick kids feel a little bit better.  That’s an excellent way to spend your days.

If you’ve got the time or money, you can help, too.

“Loose Ends”

Quickie tonight.  Jeopardy! is on in a few minutes.

Much of this weekend was taken up with putting my CD collection back in order (and purging a few discs that I just don’t want anymore).  I had the contractors put up the shelves in the office closet so that it’s no longer a closet.  It’s now . . . the CD Nerd Cave!

I’m not an audiophile in any sense.  I have some vinyl, and a few cassettes left over from my teenage years.  There’s no storage issues with my digital copies.  But since I had the house re-done, I haven’t had access to my CDs (except for the few on top of the piles).  Now, I have shelves to put them on, along with my pretty big collection of box sets.  I’m so happy I could just spit.  (Okay, not really.  But I did go in the cave after everything was up and smile.  A lot.  And I touched all of them again.)

One thing that did surprise me was that I only have enough individual discs to cover just under two-thirds of the shelves.  Which leaves me a little more than a third to fill up.  (And I’ve still got a gift card to Fingerprints to use up.)  I also had the fun of listening to some of the discs I hadn’t pulled out in years (if ever) to see if I still wanted them in my collection.  About twenty got purged, but I kept more than I thought I would.

A pleasant surprise was the one and only album by Bash & Pop, one of Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson’s post-Mats projects.  I’d only listened to it once after I bought it, and then I was pretty disappointed that it wasn’t a Replacements album.  I gave it a listen fully expecting to put it in the purge pile, but it turned out to be a fun, tuneful disc.  Stinson isn’t the wordsmith Paul Westerberg is, but he’s got a good feel for hooks.  I especially liked this track.  It’s loose and relaxed, and I’m not sorry I paid money for this album at all.


Happy Easter!

I don’t really want to detract from the holiday spirit, but I just wanted to note that former boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter has died at 76.  Carter was convicted of three murders he didn’t commit in 1967, and finally exonerated in 1985.  Bob Dylan wrote the terrific “Hurricane” about Carter’s ordeal in 1975.


It’s Easter.  It’s also 4/20.  Do with that what you will.

I am neither a Christian or a pothead, so really today is all about dying Easter eggs for me (I like hard-boiled eggs).  The whole colored eggs and other assorted imagery that isn’t directly related to Christ stems from various pagan and cultural traditions.  (Whether anyone likes to admit it or not, early Christians “borrowed” a great deal of their holiday timing and rituals from pagans in an effort to attract people to the Church.  Get ‘em in the door, and then hit ‘em with the Gospel.  It was a better system than going out and preaching, and getting yourself martyred for your trouble.)  Whatever your reasons for celebrating today, I hope you have a wonderful time filled with the treats and/or people you love the best.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

As a writer, I am enmeshed in words—my own words and those of the writers around me.  But I will never, ever, write words as magnificent as those of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  His voice brought more beauty and sadness and joy to my world than I could ever quantify.  He was one of the finest writers who ever lived.  Word has come today that he lives no more.

Although writers, like all artists, live forever in their works.  Although Garcia Marquez was more lauded for 100 Years of Solitude, my favorite will always be Love in the Time of Cholera.  It was the first book I read that had a perfect ending.  I don’t mean perfect as in what I would have wanted to happen, but perfect in that it was the most completely appropriate and believable ending to the story that unfolded before it.  The language in that book was so lush and wonderful, so full of magic.  I still recommend it to anyone who asks me about good books to read.  If you haven’t read it, go get a copy.  Right now.  Steal one, if you must.  It’s that good.

Garcia Marquez was a native of Colombia, although he ended his life in Mexico.  So it seems totally appropriate to play this song by Los Lobos in his honor.  Oddly, it’s the first music I heard in my head when thinking about his life and death.

“Southern Girls”

I was kind of ranty yesterday.  Really, I don’t quite know where that came from.  So I figured I’d balance it with something a little less . . . intense.

This is one of my all-time favorite Cheap Trick songs.  It actually might make it on a Top Hundred of songs I’d need on any sort of medium.  It’s just that cool.  There’s a hint of something more serious behind this bit of Power Pop, like maybe there’s some peanuts in this musical candy bar (listen to the chorus).  But it’s hard to want to dig too deep into it.  It’s just a great beat, great guitar, and some sexy singing.

Back in the day, Robin Zander and Tom Petersson were pretty damn hot.  But at least half their hotness comes from their talent.  Pretty and sexy don’t mean that much if there’s nothing to back it up.  I need a brain, or at least some good music to listen to.  They’re eye candy, to be sure.  And Cheap Trick’s music is ear candy.  Addictive ear candy.  I’ll listen to “Southern Girls” two or three times in a row before I move on.

That’s about all there is to say about this sweet little nugget.  It might lack substance, but it sure is delicious.


“Alienation’s for the Rich”

I guess I’ve just got money on the mind right now.  It might be all that money I sent to the government yesterday.  It might be my piddling paycheck.  It might be that we’re going to have to pay off the contractors in a couple of days.

I’ve always been middle class–although if my mother wasn’t here helping with my bills, I’d probably be destitute.  And I never really used to have anything against rich people.  They earned it.  Or inherited it.  Either way, it’s their money.  And they’re allowed to do whatever they want with it.  If they want to spend it all on parties, drugs, and ugly shoes, well that’s just peachy.  Whenever I have extra money, it goes to music, books, and socks, so I’m not really one to judge.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how much class and financial equality is tied to so many things it shouldn’t be tied to–things like sex and race.  Poverty is a generational problem, distinctly linked to so many factors that aren’t in the control of the poor that I don’t even know where to begin.  So many young African-American men are depending on their bodies instead of their brains because sports is one of the only ways to break the cycle of poverty so many of them feel trapped in.  But that’s just one of the mythical traps that powerful people sell to the powerless to keep them from questioning the real problems of inequality.

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  Never mind that you never got the same opportunities.  Never mind that your school was inferior because funding has always been linked to property taxes, which were artificially depressed in your neighborhood because all the financially secure white people moved out the minute a family of color moved into the area.  Don’t even think about the fact that your professional opportunities were taken away when corporations moved all the factories to other countries because they would’ve been forced to pay a living wage here.  Ignore the fact that housing and healthcare costs have skyrocketed, but the federal poverty line (you know, that magic number that determines eligibility for social services) is still calculated according to the cost of feeding a family of four.  (Which also fails to take into account all those families of more than four.)  And of course, even if you are eligible for SNAP or Section 8, or any other social safety net designed to help raise the poor out of poverty by increasing their standard of living, you can’t get enough help or you go on long waiting lists because programs like this have had their budgets slashed into near non-existence.  And never, ever, ever mention things like mental health, addiction, domestic violence, or child abuse.  Those topics are still taboo.  Just get off your lazy ass, and get to work.

Your corporate masters, of course, are allowed to pay you a criminally low wage.  And they can cut your hours to below full-time so that they don’t have to offer you insurance (which they charge too much for anyway).  They’re also allowed to prevent you from unionizing, donate as much as they want to their political causes, and a myriad of other things that are meant to keep you dependent on them for everything.  They’ve rigged the system so that not only can you not pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you can’t even afford to buy bootstraps.

The tax system is rigged to favor the rich, just like everything else.  You’ll hear stories about how much certain politicians pay in taxes, but that’s for show.  Stories like that are put out there to keep people from asking how much CEOs pay (not much).  So here’s a lament for everyone who’s realized just how hard it is to overcome this system.

Lunar Eclipse Tonight . . .er, Tomorrow

To celebrate tax day in a couple of hours (Pacific time), the universe will be presenting us with a “blood moon.”

Okay, the red appearance of the moon during tonight’s total eclipse is really just coincidental to the fact that I, like so many other Americans, just sent out a bunch of money to the IRS.  I guess Dad’s partially to blame, as the big check was related to his estate.  But he’s also getting a refund that more than covers the payment and will pay the mortgage for a couple of months, so I guess I can’t complain.  Much.

I’m looking forward to tonight’s eclipse.  I think I’m going to try to stay up for the main event, which is well after midnight.  I figure I can sleep in a little bit tomorrow.  I prefer the moon to the sun, anyway, and I don’t need special glasses to observe a lunar eclipse.  I don’t know if it’s visible in other areas, but it is streaming live on the Griffith Observatory’s website if anyone is interested.  And awake.  (There’s not much going on right now, 10:12 PM, PST, but I can hear some astronomer sort talking about what lunar eclipses look like.)

I refuse to buy into any talk of this being a sign or omen of anything.  The moon will turn a funny color tonight because of the way orbits and shadows are crossing paths, not because some deity has decided to frighten us.  Really, the scientific explanations for how things work is much more interesting than any religious ones.  But for anyone so inclined to believe this is an omen of things to come, please contact me for an address to send your life savings to; I could use the cash.


Freaky Friday: “Elvis is Everywhere”

I’m a little off today.  The contractors stayed late working on the laundry room (and apparently went on a heroic quest for the new back door).  But if there’s anything that can pick me up, it’s the thought that Elvis really is everywhere.

I’m sure the conspiracy theories and tabloid stories began within just a few days of Elvis Presley’s death.  If Americans love anything more than Elvis, it’s a good conspiracy theory.  Elvis didn’t die; he was abducted by aliens.  Or he grew a beard and became a long-haul trucker.  The denial of his passing was just the way some people dealt with losing their idol.  It’s almost a secular version of Jesus’ death and resurrection (appropriate since Easter is almost here).

Now that I’m thinking about it, that seems to be what most conspiracy theories are about: denial.  Holocaust deniers.  9/11 truthers.  Kennedy assassination hobbyists.  Civil War re-enactors who rig it so the South wins.  Fanfiction “fix-it” stories (which might explain what’s been wrong with Agents of SHIELD all season).  If they deny something traumatic or unpleasant happens, if they find “evidence” that something else happened instead, then the thing they’re denying didn’t really happen.  Or at least it didn’t happen the way everyone else says it did.  You can see it happening in real time with Malaysian Airlines 370.  Those people demanding answers and proof that the plane crashed into the ocean are trying to find a way to cope.  (Of course, to be fair, there is something really hinky about the whole thing.)

We all want life to be easy, for there to be answers to all of our questions.  My biggest question right now is how I got from Mojo Nixon to conspiracy theories, but hey, let’s just roll with it.  As a Buddhist, I do believe that in some sense, Elvis never really left the building.  No one is ever really gone; they’re just on another plane of existence.  Their energy is still part of the universe.  But that doesn’t answer all the questions, and it doesn’t make actual life any easier knowing that.  I’ll still have to get up and deal with bills and dishes tomorrow.  Chop wood and carry water.

But at least I know that I’ve got a little Elvis in me.


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