Pussy Riot


This is not about the music.  This is about the freedom to make music.  This is about the freedom to protest against government and religion without fear of prosecution or persecution, also known in the U.S. as the First Amendment.

This is Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist punk band.  I don’t understand any of the lyrics, but I know what this song is about.  It’s about being young and angry and passionate, about caring enough about the world you live in to get up and do something about it.  These girls felt powerless, so they decided to get some of the power back by telling everyone else to fuck off.  That’s what punk was, once: one giant fuck you to society, so-called morality, consumerism, and politics.  This is actually really good punk rock–angry and funny at the same time.  Right now, Russia is reverting back to what it was during the Soviet days, and a lot of people there don’t like it.  They don’t like the way Putin seems to be creating a totalitarian state and consolidating his own power.  I don’t like it either.

This is Pussy Riot protesting at a church in Russia, protesting the way the Russian Orthodox Church seems to be getting into bed with Putin.  This is also them getting arrested for it.  Now in the U.S., this might have resulted in some charges like trespassing or disturbing the peace or protesting without proper permits.  It would have been resolved with a slap on the wrist–maybe a fine and some community service or a suspended sentence.  In Russia, it gets you two years in prison.  (There’s a nice little article at Slate that not-so casually mentions the consequences when religious institutions are allowed to influence civil law, and reminds Americans what’s really at stake when churches start sticking their judgmental noses into civil and Constitutional rights.  Like the right not to be religious.)

Be grateful for the First Amendment, boys and girls.  Be grateful that churches do not currently make federal law, and do EVERYTHING in your power to stop that from happening.  The Founding Fathers made it very, very, very clear that the United States of America is not a church state; they knew firsthand the dangers of creating laws based on religious morals.  Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.  Civil law is COMPLETELY separate from church law.  Period.  There is no argument otherwise.  And if someone wants to claim otherwise, remind them of what the First Amendment actually says:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Then tell them to shut up.

“That’s Alright Mama”


Had my tests this morning; everything seemed to go okay.  If I don’t get a phone call in the next couple of days, I should be good to go.  Now that I’ve had all my fun booby squishing and squashing for the day, it’s time to move forward.  Or backward, as the case may be.  Time is just a bunch of timey-wimey. . . stuff, after all.

Today’s the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death.  I remember the way the whole world just seemed to stop with the news of his passing.  People were stunned.  There was non-stop coverage on TV.  I was eight, and we’d just moved into a new house.  Star Wars was well on its way to world domination.  And Elvis was gone.  It’s a little difficult for us to imagine today how Earth-shattering that news was.  I can’t imagine a single musician today that would merit the same kind of attention.  Maybe Paul McCartney or Bob Dylan.  But that’s about it.

It’s also a little difficult for us to understand today just how much he changed the world.  John Lennon once said that before Elvis, there was nothing.  That pretty much sums it up.  Oh, sure, Rock & Roll existed, but Elvis was like the big bang of popular music.  Even Bob Dylan, who became famous as a folkie, Woody Guthrie-wannabe, first picked up a guitar because he wanted to be Elvis.  He was one of the most important entertainers and cultural icons of the 20th Century.  To honor him today, I want to go back to the song that launched him with Sun Records.  I can’t think of a better way to remember him.


“I’m Alright”


I’m a little stressed out right now because I have to go back for a second mammogram (“spot compression and a possible ultrasound”).  I’ve had to do this before, and I know several women who have also had to do this before.  But I am a hypochondriac, and therefore, I am stressed out.  I managed to snag an appointment for tomorrow, and they’ll let me know right away if there’s anything bad; it could take a week if there’s nothing.  This is all by way of explaining that today’s post is the best you’re gonna get out of me.  Although it’s a nice little mantra right now.

The gopher might have been my favorite part of the movie when I was a kid.

Ron Palillo


I loved Welcome Back, Kotter as a kid, and my favorite Sweathog was always Arnold Horshack.  He was sweet and nerdy and people never seemed to pay much attention to him; I think I identified with him to some degree.  It makes me very sad that Ron Palillo has died at 63.  That show was one of those wonderful childhood memories.  Of course, watching the show now, I realize it was pretty dismal for the most part.  The first season was okay.  Gabe Kaplan’s jokes at the beginning and end of each episode were always the high points (which should tell you something, since those jokes were pretty bad).

The other highlight of every episode, even after Kaplan left (the show had already jumped the shark and was rapidly sinking anyway) was the theme song.  John Sebastian wrote and performed this sweet little song that belied the tough setting and revealed the marshmallow heart of Welcome Back, Kotter for all to see.

So this is for all the honorary Sweathogs out there.  So long, Horshack!

“Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose?”


Today is August 13th, and you all know what that means.  It’s International Left-Handers Day!  Hug a southpaw today!

I’m not just a lefty in politics, you know.  I am the only living left-handed person in my family.  My paternal grandfather was a lefty until they tied his hand behind his back and made him learn how to use his right.  My dad was a lefty until he was six and broke his arm.  My mom’s older sister was left-handed, and I wish I’d gotten her to teach me how to crochet before she died.  She did teach me how to tie a bow, something my parents struggled with for years.  One Christmas (I was eight), I wore a red velvet dress with a lace up bodice.  So Aunty Judy stood behind me, showed me how to do it a couple of times, then walked me through it.  I remember thinking at the time, “This is what they’ve been trying to teach me?  This is easy.”  And it was, but only from one lefty to another.

I’ve had a lot of left-handed friends over the years, too, including my BFF.  (Happy Left-Handers Day!)  I don’t know if it’s because we’re all creative, idealistic types, or if we tend towards those things because we’re lefties.  Lefties are well-known for being more creative and artistic.  I’ve heard this is because the left side of the body is controlled in part by the right side of the brain, and the right half of the brain is the part that controls those qualities.  I’m not sure I believe that, but I’ll take what I can get.  If you’re not a lefty, then you don’t fully understand what it’s like.  Everything is designed for right-handed people.  Desks at school.  Coffee mugs.  Scissors.  Cars.  None of this is anything we can’t adapt to, and certainly none of it affects us that badly.  But it’s awkward sometimes.  I tried getting a left-hander’s spiral bound notebook once and kept opening it from the wrong side; I only use notepads that are bound at the top now.  I hate writing in pencil because my hand drags across the page and I get what I call “graphite fist.”  Calligraphy is simply out of the question.  Being a left-hander hasn’t ruined my life, but is does make it occasionally frustrating.

What does any of this have to do with Tony Orlando & Dawn’s cheesy 70s pop? Absolutely nothing.  I heard “Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose?” on the radio today for the first time since I was a kid, barely in double digits.  I used to love this song, and I think I still do.  It’s just on the right side of schlocky, with a touch of the risqué.  It’s just a fun little tune, put here today in the hope that it makes someone smile.

“Imagine” (redux)


Hope is a pretty powerful thing, almost as powerful as love.  It gives millions of people a reason to get up in the morning, helps them fall asleep at night.  readncook gave me this fabulous little homework assignment, to write about hope (she also wrote a nifty post about one of my favorite poets, Walt Whitman).  It’s a bit of a daunting task, because even though I feel hope pretty regularly, even though I say I hope for things all the time, I don’t really think about what that means to me.  “Hope” is one of those abstractions I always used to warn the students I tutored in writing about.  Abstractions are great because the encapsulate a really big idea or ideal into one or two words.  But they are awful because they lack specificity, a concrete definition.  Oh sure, there’s a definition written next to “hope” in the dictionary, but that just tells you what the linguists have decided it means.  It tells you nothing about what it really means in the world.

I hope for a lot of things.  Right now, I’m hoping like hell all my medical tests come back normal and negative (my mantra of the last few days).  I hope I continue to have good health, and that the people I know and love continue to have good health.  I hope President Obama wins the election because I am not prepared to live in a country run by a used car salesman (even though I spent eight years in one being run by a shrub).  I hope I win the lottery, so that I can give animal shelters and libraries tons of money, and still have enough left over to support my parents and my BFF’s amazing but disabled child.  I really hope someone does something about catastrophic climate change (you gotta put that catastrophic in front, or no one will pay attention).  I hope I get a real job soon.  I hope for a lot, and sometimes it feels a little overwhelming to realize there are so many scary things in the world and so much to hope for.

That’s what John Lennon’s “Imagine” is about.  Hope that people will someday learn to see past all the stupid things they fight over and just get along.  Hope that everyone will learn that skin color and religion and sex/gender and all that other stuff doesn’t matter, that every single person on the planet is the same.  Hope that maybe, just maybe, we might realize that stuff and money are less important that justice and fairness and equality.  Hope that we can make the world a better place.

Yeah, I hope for a lot of things.  And you may say I’m a dreamer, but I know I’m not the only one.  Be the change you want to see in the world.  Easy to say, not that hard to do.  Vote.  Volunteer.  Eat less meat, more local produce.  Spend your money on companies you agree with.  Turn off some lights.  Wash your clothes in cold water.  Do something.  Do anything.  Then maybe a better world won’t be a dream anymore.

This post is part of the Blog Relay for Hope started by Melanie Crutchfield.  Amy at readncook passed the baton to me.  I am passing it to Sandee at 1800ukillme .  Please check out these blogs.

Here are the instructions:

Step 1: Write a blog post about hope & publish it on your blog.
Step 2: Invite one (or more!) bloggers to do the same.
Step 3: Link to the person who recruited you (me, in this case) at the top of the post, and the people you’re recruiting at the bottom of the post.

Melanie Crutchfield will gather up little snippets from people who wrote about hope, so make sure you link back to her as the originator of the relay.



“Not Just Another Girl”


It’s hot and muggy today.  Which made me think of reggae music, which made me think of Bob Marley, which for some unknown reason made me think of the Neville Brothers.  Which led me to today’s song.

Ivan Neville is the son of Aaron Neville, although he’s not blessed with his father’s unbelievable falsetto.  He has a huskier voice, which sounds like too many nights playing in smokey clubs.  In 1988, Ivan released his first solo album, which charted the single “Not Just Another Girl.”  Now this was the late 80s, so most music was burdened with synthesizers and other electronic geegaws.  But there’s a heart to this song that shines through all that overproduction.  It’s the story of love at first sight.  Guy in a bar lays eyes on a beautiful girl in a bar, and he’s instantly smitten.  This is the story of a million songs, not to mention quite a few drunken hook-ups.  What makes this one different?

Well, what makes one person different from another?  What makes someone fall in love with one person and not another?  There’s more to it than chemistry, more than listening to the same music or going to the same church.  There’s a randomness to love that befuddles pretty much everyone.  “Well the place was jammed, the music loud.  I could see her face standing out in the crowd.  She winked at me.”  That’s the start of this songs love story.  Completely ordinary.  Average.  Random.

Maybe that’s why I like this song.  There’s nothing special about the way this guy and girl meet.  It’s just life happening.  Sure, he says she’s wealthy, possibly of royal descent, but there’s wealthy people all over the place.  And that’s not what’s special about her.  Neither is the fact that she’s got “her old man’s ways and her mother’s eyes.”  He loves her, she loves him.  That’s what makes her special to him.  I’m not saying love is some kind of magic potion that solves all your problems or makes people’s faults disappear.  But it is powerful.  Love bestows joy and happiness, pain and anger, protection and obligation.  And it’s all there in the lead up to the chorus.  Ivan’s voice drops from his usual husk to a desperate whisper, begging to be noticed in the din of the world, shining like a beacon in the fog. “The crowd got up, the band was playing, and in my mind I could hear her say, ‘I love you.'”

Three words and the world is transformed.  “She could have been from anywhere, she could’a had most anyone.  I’ll bet the girl’s in another world.  Not just another girl.”

Note: I really thought long and hard about including a video for this.  But the only one I could find for this song was not the music video I remember, but a compilation of clips from the dismal movie My Stepmother’s an Alien.  It’s very well done, but ultimately, I just didn’t want this song to be irrevocably attached to that awful movie for anyone.  It’s available  here  if anyone wants to listen.  It really is a great song.