Monday, May 21, 2012

Vital Viewing (and Listening)

In Memoriam: Donna Summer 1948-2012

“This music will always be with us...I mean, whether they call it disco music or hip-hop or bebop or flip-flop, whatever they’re going to call it, I think music to dance to will always be with us.”       





In Memoriam: Robin Gibb 1949-2012

"We were always writing the kind of music we do now but we weren't putting it down right. We  were writing R&B, but we weren't going in an R&B direction."

A fellow Australian introduces the Bee Gees:


Not a good week for disco, huh?



















Tuesday, May 15, 2012

God's Odds

Originally posted on 6/14/2009 

I'm not a religious person. While I haven't completely written off the idea of a Supreme Being, neither have I committed it to incombustible paper with indelible ink. At best, Our Heavenly Father is scrawled on a Denny's napkin with one of those little pencils they give you at putt-putt golf and filed away between a rejected Jack and Jill Magazine manuscript (I knew I shouldn't have patterned that talking squirrel after Simon Cowell, and based the kidnapped princess on Amy Winehouse), and a rough draft written with a Sharpie marker on the back of some High School Musical-themed holiday wrapping paper of a pilot script for a proposed Englebert Humperdinck sitcom. I'm sorry, but stuck as I am on this third rock from the Sun (I've got a decade old rejection slip from them, too, along with a Jane Curtin refrigerator magnet), I see no evidence of divine intervention, divine revelation, miracles, guardian angels, the supernatural, the paranormal, Bewitched-caliber magic, or even an 8-ball reading not fraught with internal contradictions. No, the closest I've ever come to spiritual transcendence is the occasional coincidence.

The occasional coincidence.

Now, that might be something to grasp at, a reason to make that leap of faith. If you could only form a religion around a coincidence. Hmm...

I remember one time I was driving home and decided to put on an oldies station. The first song I heard was "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head". About halfway through the song, guess what happened? It started to rain! I pulled my car to the side of the road, got out, and started dancing with joy. A coincidence had occurred! Suddenly, the universe made sense! Hallelujah!

Just as suddenly, landing smack dab in a puddle, it made no sense at all. What exactly was I supposed to do next? Cast aside all my possessions and follow B.J. Thomas to the ends of the Earth? I didn't even know where the hell B.J. Thomas was! Was he still alive? Was he performing in Branson, Missouri? Was he on The Surreal World ? So many questions. So few answers.

No, if you're going to form a religion based on a coincidence, I'm afraid it would need some other savior than B.J. Thomas. Well, I suppose you could also throw in Burt Bacharach and Hal David. That would be some Holy Trinity, huh? Still, it just doesn't seem weighty enough. It doesn't seem historic enough.

There are indeed historic coincidences. One involves September 11 and the twenty dollar bill. It came out shortly after the terrorist attacks that if you fold a twenty a certain way, you'll have a picture of what looks like the twin towers on fire.  Fold it another way, and you'll get a burning Pentagon.

Well, that's certainly a historic coincidence. But there's already far too much religion surrounding the events of September 11. Also, a sect based on the twenty dollar bill? I think our society worships money enough as it is.

When I was a kid, I had a comic book that featured an ad for a two-headed Lincoln penny. Why Lincoln's head was on both sides, I have no idea. I suppose it could have been a mistake made at the mint, and thus worth a lot of money, but numismatists have their own publications, don't they? Or the coin could have been simply fake, but a counterfeiter is taking quite a risk advertising in a comic book.  Can't G-men read X-men? Anyway, in the ad's sidebar, there was a list of some of the amazing similarities--coincidences!--between the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations, such as:

Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846. John F. Kennedy was elected to congress in 1946.

Lincoln was elected President in 1860, Kennedy in 1960.

The names Lincoln and Kennedy both contain seven letters.

Both were involved with civil rights.

Both lost children while living in the White House.

Both were shot on a Friday.

Both were shot in the head.

Both were assassinated by Southerners.

Both successors were named Johnson.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808. Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.

John Wilkes Booth was born in 1839. Lee Harvey Oswald in 1939.

Both assassins are known by their three names.

Both assassins names are comprised of fifteen letters.

Booth shot Lincoln in a theater and was caught in a warehouse. Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and was caught in a theater.

WOW! Those are coincidences of historic proportions, ones you could build a major religion around. Welcome to the Church of Coincidental Assassinations. Lincoln could be the Old Testament, Kennedy the New. And just as Judaism has Jerusalem, Catholicism has Rome, and Islam has Mecca, so, too, this religion could have Dealey Plaza as a place of pilgrimage. Or maybe it should be Ford's Theater.

Hmm. I see a possible schism developing.

Another historic coincidence involves the very founding of our country. On July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both signatories to the document, died within hours of each other. Well, I don't have to tell you the religious implications of that coincidence. The United States is God, and God is the United States. American exceptionalism by divine decree! We can do anything, because God is always on our side! We can invade other countries! We can invade countries with oil fields--

As with any religion, any god, Doubt soon rears its ugly head.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In Memoriam: Maurice Sendak 1928-2012

Children's book writer and illustrator. Little Bear (illus.) Where the Wild Things Are. In the Night Kitchen.

"I don't believe that there's a demarcation. 'Oh, you mustn't tell them [children] that. You mustn't tell them that.' You tell them anything you want. Just tell them if it's true. If it's true, you tell them."

"Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters, sometimes very hastily, but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, 'Dear Jim: I loved your card.' Then I got a letter back from his mother, and she said, 'Jim loved your card so much he ate it.' That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it."



"And now," cried Max, "let the wild rumpus start!"

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vital Viewing

The Dean Martin Show, circa 1966:


The first song in the medley had been a hit for, of all people, Jerry Lewis.

I once read in a biography of Dean Martin that Bing Crosby was his primary musical influence. Now, it so happens that Crosby frequently collaborated with Louis Armstrong on such songs as "Gone Fishin'' and "Now You Has Jazz". Bing was one of the first white performers to sing jazz-based music, and helped popularized it in the late '20s and early '30s. In fact, Armstrong was said to have been Bing's primary musical influence, just as Crosby was Dean's. Yet, by the late '50s, after years of crooning the more sedate June/moon/spoon standards, Bing seemed, at least to me, a bit restrained swinging along side to the more ebullient Armstrong.   Perhaps he thought he was, or the public thought he was, or he thought the public thought he was, a bit too dignified for that kind of thing by then.

But, man, watch "Deanie" let it all hang out! No restraint there. If Martin's influenced by anyone in that clip, it's not Crosby but the man performing alongside him. And the always energetic Armstrong seems even more energized alongside Martin. A musical chain reaction is what we're looking at here. But you're not supposed to look at music, are you?  So close your eyes and listen. Dino and Satchmo could be brothers.