Thursday, September 21, 2017

Seven Miles High, Thinking About Vietnam

I was seven miles high last week (in a literal sense, not a Snoop Dogg sense), returning to the East Coast from a brief work trip. I had Maron's WTF podcast filling my ear-holes while I tried to subtly disperse methane amid my comrades in Economy Plus. I am lactose intolerant and have spent my whole life ignoring that fact, much to the chagrin of family, friends and others who have crossed my path. I need to give up dairy. But I digress.

I have been touting Maron for a while to you fockers. I have to admit that after 800+ episodes, he's running out of intriguing guests. No offense to Edie Falco or Jay Baruchel, but I have plenty of podcast options these days. So I skip many episodes. But I was excited to see Ken Burns and documentarian colleague Lynn Novick were going to be guests. I recently finished the podcast. It was the first time I heard Burns speak at length. He is an unbelievably articulate and elegant speaker who has the ability to weave curse words into the spoken word without having it detract from the power of what he says. Not sure if that makes sense the way I want it to, but let's just say he is no revanchist.

So why was he on WTF? As many of you have probably seen/heard by now, Burns did the interview as press for his ten-part documentary on The Vietnam War. It started last Sunday night on PBS. I strenuously urge you all to set your Tivos accordingly. I set my DVR on my cell phone from 2,500 miles away when I realized the series was starting. The whole process took about fifteen seconds. Technology is neat.



You all know Burns' work by now. I was immensely moved by his WWII documentary, which I can't believe came out a decade ago. I was equally moved by his Civil War doc, but merely whelmed by his baseball doc. Sorry for being honest. With that said, I am excited by this new documentary, even though I know it will keep me awake a few nights and bring up plenty of uncomfortable emotions. Burns documents war like no others.



Episodes 1-4 have aired already. There are ten in total. The wifey and I watched Episode 1 and part of Episode 2 so far. The doc provided a lot of new information to us. You can make a legitimate case that the whole issue can be blamed on the French, which you should naturally do, because, France. Sacre bleu!  I won't divulge much more, but the story has been fascinating so far. If you're going to give the benefit of the doubt to any creator of art these days, give it to Mr. Burns. Do yourself a favor and go get some history. It may make you cry, but it will make you wiser.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Nothin' But the Dog in Me

Y'ever wonder what kind of dog breed your fellow Gheorghies would be, if they were canines. Teejay's obviously a lhasa apso, but for everyone else, the Internet has come to the rescue.

Courtesy of what-dog.net, here's something to debate for a while. I'd have done the whole team, but the site stopped working for some reason. Maybe we'll have a sequel.









Sunday, September 17, 2017

In Memorium

I never met Len Wein. And I'm not a huge comic book guy. But Mr. Wein's recent passing caught my attention nonetheless.

Within the past year, I read Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, so I feel fairly expert regarding the comic book business. Based on that hard-earned pedigree, I'm confident that I'm on solid ground when I say that Wolverine, a character created by Wein, is the greatest superhero of all time.

Brooding, conflicted, and yet completely badass, Wolverine doesn't rely on extrahuman capabilities like the ability to fly or shoot lasers out of his eyes. He doesn't have billions of dollars with which to outfit himself in technological superfluity. Sure, he's got an adamantium-enhanced skeleton and the ability to heal himself from nearly all injuries. Big fucking deal. He still feels pain. And he still wades into the fray to rep the forces of good.

So rest in peace, Len Wein, and may your adamantium casket preserve your brilliant brain.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Move Over Dad, 'Cause I'm a Double Dipper

Tuesday night was a humdinger for music junkies like me.  I began the evening at the historic Naro theater in the Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk.  As I mentioned that day, they were part of the one-night-only theatrical release of the documentary on the Avett Brothers.

The film is good fun. Now, I can't recommend the film if:
  • You like your music documentaries to have sex, drugs, violence, arrests, and general mayhem throughout the picture.  This film is the opposite of the "Behind the Music" on Mötley Crüe. Two musically inclined brothers whose feelings about each other are the diametric opposite of the Gallaghers.
  • You want all concert footage.  There's a lot of studio footage, backstory clips, family time, and behind the scenes of the process. Good live stuff, but it's not Stop Making Sense.
  • You don't like overly emotive bad banjo players.  These dudes emote heavy.  Seth Avett describes the band as guys who read their diary on stage.  Scott Avett says it's never crossed his mind that people might not want to hear his innermost feelings.  And he admits that's really stupid at times.  That's just who they are.  
Some cool stuff includes clips of them as a wanna-be grunge band in the early 90's; lively performances; closer looks at a couple of the other band members, including my friend's old co-worker at IBM Joe Kwon who's now the cellist; some emotional moments surrounding the health of bassist Bob's child; Deb from "Dexter"; and a cool segue from scratching out lyrics to them performing the song live.

Rob, check it out.  Rootsy, probably don't.

--THEN--


As soon as the credits rolled, my friend Jeff and I trucked it downtown to the Norva, where St. Paul and the Broken Bones had just taken the stage.  
A friend gave us VIP passes (her cousin Allen is the trumpet player), and we spent the night overlooking the band from immediate stage left. They were outstanding -- extremely enthusiastic performers and pure purveyors of soul. Lead singer Paul Janeway spared not an ounce of sweat, and his moves were... well, he had a lot of moves.  

I hadn't seen this Birmingham-based act before, but I'll see them again.  Based on their gratitude at the crowd going bonkers, I expect they'll come back to Norfolk.  At least I hope so.
Yes, the mic is lying on the floor
Check out the video.  Paul Janeway had crawled under the drum riser mid-song, and sang a verse from under it. Just silly.  Here's when he comes out...

Tons of fun.  Great night. Damnation, I enjoy music.

video

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I've Got Love

"You can't stop me. You can't break me. I'm too loving. These songs are going to change the world."

In today's American society, those words from an octogenarian African American woman speak with a bullhorn's turned-to-11 volume. And while I've found it so very easy, too easy, in fact, to dwell on division, and hate, and stunned disbelief, Mavis Staples' new song, 'If All I Was Was Black' is a little bit of a light in the darkness.

The legendary soul/spiritual singer collaborated with Jeff Tweedy on a new record, due out November 17 on Anti-Records. Per Tweedy, "I've always thought of art as a political statement in and of itself – that it was enough to be on the side of creation and not destruction. But there is something that feels complicit at this moment in time about not facing what is happening in this country head on."

Man, does it feel like something we need by the bucketload.




Monday, September 11, 2017

Hope and Scoop

I may not do this enough every day, but today is certainly a day to think of others.

The Islanders (not the hockey team), Texans (not the football team), and Floridians -- especially GTBers traumatized by 100+ mph winds and storm surges taller than Gheorghe Muresan.  God bless.

Mexican earthquake victims, just the latest natural disaster to plague the planet's inhabitants. With more such events to come along soon, sadly and assuredly.

All of these catastrophes remind me of two things. Weirdly.

One, the line "we care a lot about disasters, fires, floods, and killer bees. Faith No More.



The other is Gheorghe Carlin's typically irreverent take on our planet and those who would assert it needs saving.  It's all good Carlin, but jump to 6:30 for the best.




Well, there's a slew of Mother Nature ass-whippings taking place out there this week, and I am hopeful that casualties are few and far between.  It does seem like Irma could have been far crueler to the Gulf Coast (thus far).  At least compared to what was "forecast" from the meteorologists.  The weather folks appear to be chucking darts at a board for their predictions, now more than ever.  Actually, Dave throws darts far more accurately than they predict weather.

Me wishing good things for those that have endured these irrevocably life-changing disasters doesn't really do a whole lot, as our curmudegonly fratre Malone posted this weekend (see meme at right).

As such, for those that are inclined, click on this link to go straight to the Red Cross donation site.  I will make a donation so as to not be a total hypocrite.  Or give blood. I'm Type O+ so they need my blood, amazingly.  It's more pure than in the old days, so I give every few months.
Anyway, today is September 11, so there's more to think about.  This morning 16 years ago a lot of things changed for the worse.  This far removed, it remains important to keep the spirit of fallen brethren (and anyone who perished that day) alive.  We frequently highlight our friend Lud, in part because he always seemed to think of others first, and because the elder GTBers were simply much closer with him, his sister, and his parents. For sure, never let the vitality of Mark Ludvigsen ever fade.

At the same time, it's just as important to remember that, accordingly a school official, six undergraduate alumni of the College of William & Mary died in 9/11, and three of them were members of our fraternity separated by just six years. Uncanny.  Crappy.

In addition to Jim Connor '85, a resident of Summit, NJ at the time, we lost Mike Edwards '90.

Scoop, as we called him for some reasons unbeknownst to me, was a couple of years older than Dave, Rob, and I, and he mocked us mercilessly.  Deservedly.

It's funny that in college you know someone for just a few years, but because back then we crammed 37 guys into 19 tiny rooms without cable access, we got to know each other -- and our faults -- really well.  Of course, then you read someone's obituary, like that of Michael Hardy Edwards:
One way he found joy was through athletics. He was a crack hurdler in college, and he continued to run. In fact, name just about any sport, and it seemed that he did it: golf, skydiving, scuba diving, snowboarding, skiing.
Crack hurdler?  I don't even know what that is, but if it's akin to papal elector, I guess that could be right for Scoop. I don't remember him doing a whole hell of a lot athletic, maybe simply because his permanently affixed do-rag and tie-dye don't exude "SPORTS."  Anyway, I do like that on a memorial website there is this:
Education:Garden City High School
College of William & Mary 
Affiliations:New York Athletic Club (where Lud's memorial service was)
Garden City Golf Club 
Hobbies and Interests:
Pi Lambda Phi
running
golf skiing
playing guitar
scuba diving 
Special Interests: Scuba Diving, Skiing, golf, the Grateful Dead, Central Park, Cuban cigars, Dave Matthews Band, Allman Brothers, Traveling, his friends, family
I trust that last section isn't in order.  Anyway, what I remember most about Mike Edwards is whiling away the afternoons when others went to "class," lounging with a Milwaukee's Best or two and some crap cassette of Hartford '83 or the like.  In his honor, here are three shows that we would have enjoyed, each performed on September 11.

Scoop... have one.

GRATEFUL DEAD -- AUDITORIUM, WEST PALM BEACH, FL 9/11/82

GRATEFUL DEAD -- CAPITAL CENTRE, LANDOVER, MD 9/11/87

GRATEFUL DEAD -- WILLIAM AND MARY HALL, WILLIAMSBURG,VA 9/11/73


Sunday, September 10, 2017

That's My Fun Day

As you certainly know, because you're an educated crowd and you dig your music, the late Prince Rogers Nelson was a prolific songwriter. Wikipedia credits him with writing (or co-writing) 171 songs, which seems low, given that he recorded 260 songs on his own. In any case, the dude wrote a lot of tunes.

That first paragraph isn't particularly relevant to the topic at hand, but I needed a way to stretch this somewhat thin post idea. Some filler, if you will. You see, one of the songs Prince wrote was Manic Monday, recorded by The Bangles (and the supercute Susannah Hoffs).



"It's just another Manic Monday. I wish it were Sunday. 'Cause that's my fun day."

And today, in a complete lack of coincidence, is Sunday. See how it all comes together?

What I really want to talk about is statues. Not the ones Nazis are defending, though they've probably got an opinion on this one. No, we're talking about a different rapacious and divisive historical figure than those from the Confederacy.

The State Capitol building in St. Paul, Minnesota features a statue of Christopher Columbus. And Wintana Melekin and 2,000 others want to replace it with a monument to a son of their city. They want Columbus to come down, and Prince to rise in his place.

Says their petition, “Across the nation, city governments are choosing to remove statues of white supremacists, slave owners, and those who threatened the livelihood of Black people. Here in Minnesota, communities are reigniting the demand to bring down state’s monument to Christopher Columbus, a man who murdered, raped and enslaved Black and Native peoples in the Americas. We, the undersigned, do not believe that Columbus represents the values Minnesotans carry. Rather than glorify a man who wanted to extinguish Black and Native peoples, we should honor members of our community whose leadership we find inspirational.”

I think we can all agree that this is an inspired solution to a problem that's plaguing us as a nation. It might even be a sign...o' the times.



But why let Minnesota have all the fun? Let's get rid of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville and replace him with Dave Matthews. Let's raze Birmingham's Confederate monuments in favor of Patterson Hood and Jason Isbell (Muscle Shoals is close enough) and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Down comes Stonewall Jackson in Atlanta, and up goes Outkast.

We could do this for a while. It'd be more fun than arguing with ignorant revanchist assholes. Play along in the comments if you've got a mind to.