Sunday, February 05, 2017

Songs with spelling in the chorus

With ubiquitous spell-check options, tiny keyboards, communication doled out by our bulky thumbs, and a public-educational system in constant flux, I'm concerned that our ability to spell is falling by the wayside. Case in point: I just had to look up how to spell "ubiquitous." I hope next time to get it right the first time.

Will songs that spell out their choruses help? I don't know—couldn't hurt. Let's celebrate spelling in song, spelling the lyrics out the R-E-S-P-E-C-T-take-care-of-TCB way.

Bo Diddley - "I'm a Man." Who is the man? Bo Diddley is the man. He spells it out succinctly right here. The originator of seriously rhythmic rhythm guitar, he influenced an untold legion of rock n rollers, especially mop-topped 60s-era British fellows who needed a healthy outlet for their pent-up class angst. The Rolling Stones revere him, as should we all.

Bay City Rollers - "S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y NIGHT!" I'm sorry but no one gets out of here without some bubble-gum rock by Bay City Rollers. Partly because this was a huge hit that hugely featured spelling in its chorus. But also because when I was ten and taking piano lessons from our neighbor down the street, I went out and bought the sheet music to this song and made my opera-loving teacher Mr. Nicholson listen to my solo-piano efforts with it. He was very patient with me but we soon parted ways after I followed up with Sweet's "Fox on the Run." That's how it goes.

Tammy Wynette - "D-I-V-O-R-C-E." To protect the kids from the emotional onslaught of a marital split-up, Wynette wishes she could spell out the word. A very sad use of spelling.

Patti Smith - "Gloria." Putting Smith's version here because she builds a mighty momentum before unleashes her spelling power. It isn't just about Gloria; it's about the spelling of her name, as part of some goddess ritual of pagan dimensions. At least that's how I see it. Them's "Gloria" is great in the earthy sense, as in "Van Morrison has an awesome girlfriend and her name is Gloria."

The Cure - "Fire in Cairo." Robert Smith felt like spelling and it works in great new-wave literary cheerleader fashion. The best musical geniuses, and geniuses in general, mash all their influences and elements together and with careful editing and taste, create something new. I love his nervous, catchy guitar-work here too.

Kate Bush - "The Dreaming." Apparently Bush is spelling out the chorus and it goes something like this: Dree-ee-ee-ee-ee A-a-a-a-a (woomera) / M-m-m-m-m / Ti-ti-ti-ti-ti / I-i-i-i-i / Me-me-me-me-me / Dree-ee-ee-ee-ee / A-a-a-a-a / M-m-m-m-m / Ti-ti-ti-ti-ti. I had to look it up. She always did things her way, and that includes spelling.

Pixies - "Velouria." My theory of Pixies has altered over time. Studying their early releases, the art, the sound, the liner notes, I concluded that they were a band fronted by a genius guy who called himself Black Francis, with Kim Deal adding nuanced, fresh vocals and bass lines that resulted in elevating his songs to a higher level. That would make her the assistant genius. Over time and many listens to her discography, and after reading various biographies and interviews with Deal, I've come to realize that she was the innovative musical prodigy and genius, and Frank Black was therefore Pixies' assistant genius, who grabbed that genius mantle for himself, early on and often (my emphasis). And this led to tensions within the band, as you can imagine.

I will not post my findings here, but all you have to do is listen to every Pixies album in their release order to notice how Deal's haunting, melodic voice is, over time, shoved into the deep, deep background before disappearing completely in the mix, leaving us with some undistinguished Frank Black material. I'm not down on Frank Black material per se and perhaps Deal stepped aside at some point and wasn't always present for rehearsals and recording sessions. But if you accidentally find yourself in a newly formed band and the bass player alongside you turns out to be a musical genius, here's what I recommend: you step aside and let her do her thing. You contribute too, of course, but she's the innovator in the pure sense. Recognize and abide by that. You'll save your band and our ears.

Also, being in a band is hard—like a marriage but with multiple partners and little-to-no makeup sex to make the arguments go away. Anyway, she spells out the chorus here, and shortly thereafter, they broke up.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Spot-on BART dancing

Take a break from our excessively distressing news cycle by taking a ride through the Transbay Tube with these fine BART dancers. There will be turfing and bone breaking and other fine self-taught choreographed moves. I shot this footage while on the way to the massive SFO immigration-ban protest, so I had my "good" camera. Jackson put it up on his transit channel. And here we go.

Hoping to see some lady dancers someday soon. Hoping I have my camera ready. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

SFO Protest of Trump's Immigration Ban - January 29, 2017

I marched on down (BART'd on down, actually) to San Francisco International Airport on Sunday the 29th, for the second day of protesting of our big-baby bossman's insane, gutless, confusing and Constitutionally illegal immigration ban. I had my video- and still-cameras in tow and I went alone with no signage or motive other than to capture the day's events. I'm so glad I did. It was a wondrous occurrence, completely organic and happening in the moment.

I filmed my journey throughout the long, cavernous International Terminal, filled to capacity with demonstrators, musicians, dancers, sign-makers and impromptu free-snack-bar volunteers (with donated snacks, sandwiches and water). My heart filled with gratitude and wonder at the kindness, passion and focus on display.

Since then, I've been recommending these videos to my friends who are fatigued and fighting despair on a daily basis since Trump started signing his ridiculous and dangerous dictatorial edicts. Currently it looks like a coup is taking place within our Federal government. I'm hoping the Democrats will rise to the occasion but they've been noble and polite (and in many cases complicit and lazy) for so long. Is it too little too late? This has happened before across the world. Are we equipped to deal with amoral sociopaths who use loopholes to get their way throughout their careers?

I cite our shameful history when the Federal and State governments were complicit in incarcerating thousands of legal citizens of Japanese ancestry to bleak internment camps in the California deserts during World War II, at a moment when we should have, as a nation, stood up and protested.

This is no different. This is a religious ban that goes directly against the First Amendment and will not lead to our safety. This is an arbitrary list drafted to appease the far right, that doesn't include a single Muslim-majority country that's housed a terrorist who's targeted our country. It's also a list of seven countries that the corrupt fear-monger in office has no financial ties with, unlike Saudi Arabia, where he has business interests—Saudi Arabia is not on the list.

I hope these images and sounds will raise your spirits.

SFO Protest Anti-Immigration-Ban Marching Band:

Anyone involved with this marvelous band, please get in touch with me so I can credit them. They were fabulous musically and riveting to watch. The "extended-cut" version follows the length of the concourse from the BART entrance to the end and back again. Two marching-band performances, lots of chanting, Sufi dancer, lovely humanity. Rated: very uplifting.

Some images from the day. It's surreal and amazing to protest in a huge international airport while police stand gamely by, cordoning off the domestic terminal and letting the people have their say. SFO airport personnel were polite. They smiled as they answered my questions about the day's events. According to The East Bay Times, five travelers entering the U.S. had been detained this weekend and the last one was released from the airport on Sunday afternoon.

The presidential order was signed on Friday and TSA officials weren't clear on how to enforce this hastily drafted shock-tactic document. We need to get it together and fast. Our standing as, "Land of the free, home of the brave," is quickly heading toward, "Land of chaos, home of the corrupt."

UPDATE, February 3, 2017: "Judge in Seattle halts Trump’s immigration order nationwide" - from The Seattle Times:
"In a 19-page complaint, Ferguson alleged Trump’s executive order violates constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and equal protection. The state of Minnesota has joined as a plaintiff, while attorneys general in several other states have also taken legal action against the controversial ban.

Ferguson’s lawsuit includes quotes by Trump during his presidential campaign, including his original pledge for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” The lawsuit alleges are evidence that the order was “motivated by animus and a desire to harm a particular group.” - (Jim Brunner, Jessica Lee and David Gutman)

UPDATE 2, February 9, 2017: "Appeals Court Rejects Bid To Reinstate Trump's Travel Ban"

From Robert Reich's Facebook page:
In a unanimous, 29-page opinion, three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit flatly rejected Trump’s claim that his travel ban should be resumed immediately because of national security -- and that a president’s decisions about national security cannot be reviewed by the courts.

Trump’s almost immediate response was to tweet: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

 As usual, it’s not clear whether Trump is a knave or a fool.

 1. “See you in court” makes no sense. After all, it’s the court that made this decision. If Trump is referring to the Supreme Court, he’s got two problems. First, the Supreme Court may not agree to hear the case. Rarely if ever does the Supreme Court review a lower court decision to temporarily stay a law or executive order. Second, even if the Court does hear the case, it’s likely to split 4 to 4 on it – keeping the court of appeals decision in place.

 2. Trump doesn’t seem to understand the appeals court decision. It wasn’t that Trump isn’t allowed to keep the nation secure. Of course he is. The Constitution gives a president that power as commander-in-chief. It’s that he can’t do it immediately, without a thorough judicial review of whether he’s also trampling on other constitutional rights – such as the First Amendment’s ban on establishing a religion or prohibiting its free exercise.

I include this meme, which might come in handy over the next few years. Use it freely.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Women's March Oakland, January 21, 2017

Among 100,000 people in Oakland, I managed to meet up with my friend Joy and my family members from Seattle and San Francisco. Then our phones collectively and figuratively blew up due to mass usage and anyone else we knew, we bumped into the old-fashioned accidental way. That was part of the magic. Never have I been part of such a large protest and never in my long protesting history has a protest been this peaceful and joyous.

There was music, laughter, dancing, sign-waving, adorable babies, people in wheelchairs braving potholed terrain, BART delays, shuffling progress due to walking the streets alongside SO MANY PEOPLE—of all ages, backgrounds and affiliations. It was uplifting to be with one another, walking in sunny Oakland.

This administration is without a doubt our nation's shittiest (and that's saying something), but they are the minority, and they gained their power through subterfuge and gerrymandering. We are the majority and we will prevail. That's not rhetoric. That's a fact. As a wise man (Jerry Springer—surprise!) once said, "Liberals always win (in the end)."

Some dancing in the streets courtesy of the fabulous drumline from SambaFunk!.

Snippets, shot hastily while in a protesting glow.

Some photos of the day.

Me, Joy

Tom, Linda, Jenny, me (hats made by Linda—thank you!

My Pussy Riot sign. It's a keeper.

My friend Sherry LaVars, who shoots for the Marin Independent Journal, gave me permission to post some of her personal work here. Thank you, Sher.

Sher in the middle with two friends

See you at the next march. If you can't make it, there'll be more.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Thanks, Obama

Obama holds a koala.

I know he's going to keep working for the greater good because that's in his DNA.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Charlie Watts Is Not Into It

Though I deeply appreciate Keith Richards' stellar rhythm-guitar stylings and Mick Jagger's commitment to prancing frontmanism, I believe at heart I'm a Charlie Watts gal. Out of all the Rolling Stones, he's the one who seems the most decent and forthright as a person and a drummer. The way he calmly and competently holds that left stick, like a groovin' jazz cat that's been accidentally time-traveled into a rock band—how does he do it? He's like a MAGICIAN! Plus he's been married to his wife for close to 150 years, he raises horses and he's always had killer style.

Part of that style is his psychological remove from whatever's going on within the Stones, and a lot has gone on within the Stones (read Rich Cohen's The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones for an excellent take on that). Watts' intelligence seems tuned to a wavelength set to "healthy distance," and he's calibrated that distance with wit and reasoning skills in order to survive the ongoing juggernaut that is his band. Richards and Jagger were smart to hang onto Charlie Watts because he's just Not Into It and that's probably saved them all on more than one occasion. Witness his skill-set in these fabulous Charlie Watts clips.

An in-depth 1966 interview with Mr. Watts ends with a whimper when the off-screen questioner wants to know Charlie's take on how sex affects a band's sound and psychological impact. "You could sing about sexual intercourse all night," says Charlie, noting it wouldn't matter to anyone unless you happen to be very attractive. Then he admits that the whole thing is a bit shallow and nauseating. That's because Charlie Watts, even at the dawn of The Rolling Stones, Is Not Into It.

In Jean-Luc Godard's "Sympathy for the Devil" footage from his movie of the same name you see everyone contributing their sonic "Whoo whoos" except for one man. Slightly obscured by the microphone, crossing his arms, with lips resolutely sealed, Charlie Watts stands in solidarity but refuses to sing—resigned while they whoo whoo more than 30 times That's Charlie Watts and He's Not Into It.

Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil - 1968 - by jc-shaffino

When grim-faced, small-handed bassist Bill Wyman married his 18-year-old girlfriend Mandy Smith after dating her for five years (do the math, then immediately shudder), Charlie Watts was asked for a comment at the wedding reception. Whereupon he said honestly, "I don't see it as a good match," before wishing his bandmate happiness and disavowing any knowledge of the entire affair ("I don't know anything about it.") It's clear to me that Charlie Watts Is Not Into It. Stick around for a classic Keith Richards exchange, punctuated by phlegm-filled laughter that says much about the day's events.

TOP 10 CHARLIE WATTS INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS screams this YouTube clip I added the screaming element, so blame me for that). But all you need to know is Interview Highlight #3. Asked if after 25 years of touring, he still enjoys playing with the Rolling Stones, this is what he had to say.

Dryyyyyy wit and Not Into It.

Keith Richards and Mick Jagger are rock 'n roll's legendary glimmer-twin frenemy duo. Their on-again off-again partnership was truly off in the early 80s. An excerpt from Keith's audiobook, "Life," tells the story of that time when impeccably dressed Charlie Watts threw his "drummer's punch" at Mick. At five in the morning, Mick had drunkenly demanded, "Where's my drummer?" Charlie Watts Was Not Into It.

No, he was not.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Political-Action Time! (links)

Hi everyone in the USA. It's time to get political. I know modern living is not easy. Wages have not kept up with inflation and cost-of-living expenses, including housing, utilities, food and education. We have a generation of college grads mired in horrible debt. We have a huge population and not enough industry to keep us gainfully employed. Our coastal cities are slowly going underwater as ocean levels rise. And I haven't even mentioned the lunatic that was stupidly and probably illegally voted into office as our leader.

I will get to him in a moment.

Meanwhile, it's time to call your elected officials and tell them how our laws and regulations affect you and your loved ones and communities. I know, it's kind of a pain to squeeze this into your schedule, but it only takes a few moments and it's so satisfying. Sometimes calls can't get through on hot-button issues; voicemail boxes get full, people go out to lunch. Keep trying. Phone calls will be tallied by office staffers and those tallies go directly to our elected officials. They are counted. They do count. Your experiences and opinions will be counted.

Handwritten letters are also tallied. Get out your favorite pen and lovely stationery and write your missive. It's good penmanship practice for when the apocalypse comes and we're living in a dystopia where communications consist of string tied to two tin cans. Emails tend to get lost, but are better than nothing. I also use twitter and Facebook for messages of a personal nature. But phone calls to political offices are golden.

Links for political action:

Find and contact your Senators

Find and contact your House Representatives

Are you out and about? This Medium article tells you how to use nonpartisan POPVOX's simple phone app to contact your Senators during the Senate confirmation hearings for Trump's proposed cabinet. Hearings started this week, with Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump's pick for Attorney General. Here is my nonpartisan response to that: *GAG* It's not political—it's just a reflex I'm having.

Stay informed:

C-SPAN - Live broadcasts of Federal-government dealings, no commercials!

BBC News - Answers the journalistic questions: Who? What? Where? Why? with nice accents

Al Jazeeza World News - It's not all about us

NPR - News, plus streaming alternative music—still a decent combination

"19 Activists Who Are Changing America" - from The Huffington Post

"How Trump’s cabinet picks compare to Obama and Bush’s nominees" - from The Los Angeles Times

Subscribe to these fine news outlets - a free press is a crucial part of oversight and checks and balances. On a budget? Try a digital subscription:

Washington Post

New York Times

Los Angeles Times

Mother Jones

The Atlantic

The New Yorker

Help support organizations doing good work:

Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence - There are 100,000 victims of gun violence in the U.S. every year - inhumane and unacceptable

Everytown for Gun Safety - Advocating for common-sense gun laws

Planned Parenthood Action Fund - Healthcare equity for all

Center for Reproductive Rights - Legal advocacy based on Constitutional laws for reproductive freedom

Sierra Club - Protect our planet, the only one we have

The Movement for Black Lives - 50 organizations meeting the needs of black communities

National LGBTQ Task Force - Promoting civil rights for gay and transgender communities

National Immigration Law Center - Defending the rights of low-income immigratns

She Should Run - Working to get more women elected in leadership roles

American Civil Liberties Union - Protect our civil liberties

Médecins Sans Frontières - Doctors Without Borders cares for people in the most desperate need throughout the world; this is holy work

(Thank you to my friend Audrey Ng and to Bust Magazine for this list of good organizations)

You can do it! Don't bey shy. Use your voice - you're democracy in action!

On another note, I noticed whenever I post about Trump I seem to receive hundreds of views from Russia. Coincidence? Perhaps. But whenever I don't post about Trump, I receive zero views from Russia. That's a difference of hundreds vs. zero. So here's an experiment. Let's see what happens when I type this:

The majority of American voters do not want Trump as President, spawning the title #NotMyPresident. Some people won't even say his name with the title of "President" attached. What if we call him by his own self-described criteria? Some sample titles, based on his own words: "Pussy Grabber Trump," "Higher IQ Than You Trump," "Potential Shooter Trump," "Groveler Not Mocker Trump."

Any more? Russia, do you want to weigh in on this one?