The Voodoo Economics Of Morgan Freeman And A Bunch Of Fish

March 11, 2012

My concerns are more than some sensationalistic ballyhoo.

They are more than some flimsy, baseless caterwauling from someone possessed by the spirit of a carnival barker, newsstand tabloid, or Republican pundit.

No, I fear that, sadly, there is considerable truth behind it.

Like many people, I have been a fan of the award-winning thespian, but I now realize that I might have been lulled into a false sense of admiration.

I used to look at him as a kindly fellow – compassionate and wise. I mean, if he wasn’t offering rides to cantankerous, elderly women, you might find him engaging in the much-needed rehabilitation of falsely convicted criminals or lending logistical support to masked vigilantes wishing to rid our cities of such criminals.

(of course, lily-livered, bleeding-heart types would rather that we not rid our streets of falsely convicted wife-killing bankers and, instead, target bankers who merely engage in casual games of multi-billion dollar three-card Monte)

The existential threat posed by Morgan Freeman to America’s economy didn’t really register until this morning when I saw a commercial for Visa before I’d ingested enough caffeine to think straight.

(oftentimes things only make sense when you don’t really think about them)

In this commercial, serene images of undersea flora and fauna fill the screen accompanied by the soothing strains of The Moody Blues’ Tuesday Afternoon.

Then, the earnest voice of “the only guilty man in Shawshank,” asked, in a somewhat accusatory tone, “When was the last time you went to the aquarium, with your daughter, on a Tuesday?”

Sure, an aquarium crawl sounds like a lovely way to spend the day after Monday. One of the finest aquariums in the country is a two-hour drive away and, though I have no daughter, the way some of my co-workers squeeze out offspring of both sexes as though it was a bodily function, I could likely borrow one…

But that is exactly what Morgan Freeman wants me to do. In other words, he is promoting not only truancy, but he is espousing a fiscal policy that encourages absenteeism from work.

This would all be well and good for aquarium barons, fishmongers, and oceanographers who would likely see profits that would make those of Exxon be mere pocket change, but at what cost?

The rest of the economy would fall into a death spiral. If people were relaxing at aquariums instead of engaging in the daily grind of commerce, consider the revenue lost simply by those treating bleeding ulcers, intense malaise, and depression.

And think of the children…

Instead of learning how to take tests at a level that places them smack dab at mediocre compared to the rest of the world, these kids might end up as ichthyologists or marine biologists.

Fortunately, today is Sunday and I suggest we all give Morgan Freeman (and his dubious, probably Socialist economic theories) the finger and head to the nearest aquarium today.

Here are four Sunday songs…

Blondie – Sunday Girl
from The Platinum Collection (1994)

From the beginning of my real interest in music in the late ’70s/early ’80s, Blondie has been a favorite. The fetching allure of lead singer Debbie Harry and the percolating Heart Of Glass provided the first hooks, but it was soon the musical diversity of the group that charmed me.

On Sunday Girl, which according to Wikipedia topped the charts in the UK where Blondie has received more consistent love over the decades, the chameleonic quintet recreates a ’60s girl group vibe that drew me in the first time I heard it.

Joe Jackson – Sunday Papers
from This Is It! (The A&M Years 1979–1989) (1997)

Speaking of musical chameleons, I’d certainly classify Joe Jackson as such. Though best known in the States for the sophisticated pop of the hits Steppin’ Out and Breaking Us In Two from his breakthrough album Night And Day, Jackson has jumped between styles including rock, big band, swing, and classical.

On Sunday Papers, Jackson opts for staccato, reggae-inflected tones as the musician takes to task both the media and those who drive the demand for meaningless fluff pawned off as newsworthy information.

John Prine – He Forgot That It Was Sunday
from Lost Dogs And Mixed Blessings (1995)

Not long ago, I recounted the good fortune of having had a preview listen of folk singer John Prine’s Lost Dogs And Mixed Blessings with a small group of people that included the artist.

The loping He Forgot That It Was Sunday would seem to be a cautionary tale punctauted by Prine’s offbeat take on things which includes a chartreuse, foor-door Lincoln, Charlie Parker’s teddy bear, and a masterbatory Beelzebub.

The Pretenders – Everday Is Like Sunday
from Boys On The Side soundtrack (1995)

Paloma and I tend to be fairly sympatico, but I have never been as enamored by The Smiths as she is.

(appreciative, yes, but far from devoted)

This difference of opinion was seemingly benign until the day she declared The Smiths to be a more formidable musical entity than Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.

(I quickly branded this claim as kooky talk)

However, we both seem to like The Pretenders in equal measure, so here is Chrissie Hynde and company’s rather faithful take on a Smith’s classic from Boys On The Side, a flick that may or may not have been about cannibalistic lesbians.

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Monday Rears Its Ugly Head Again

January 24, 2010

Like grim death it does.

No sleeping past six. No lounging on the couch nursing an extra cup of coffee. No plotting out whether to take that nap after breakfast or hold off ’til after lunch.

As a kid, the weekend essentially ended the moment that I heard that stopwatch ticking to open 60 Minutes. As my parents settled in to watch the weekly news program, I knew that the clock had run out on my weekend.

In college, the transition from Sunday to Monday was far less jarring. Monday morning hardly loomed as some ominous, unstoppable force because liberation was as simple as noting with bleary eyes that I had forty-five minutes before my first class, rolling over, and waking two hours later, refreshed and ready to skip my afternoon classes to watch Twilight Zone reruns.

By refusing to play with Monday, an implacable foe, or even acknowledge its existence, I won.

That ride should have come to an end upon graduation, but, fortunately, my commencement from school coincided with the rise of slacker culture, a glorious period when it was no more acceptable to put off grown-up nonsense, but doing so had a nifty name. It was a good excuse to take an extra year or ten to live on noodles, attend shows on guest lists, and continue to ignore Mondays.

Monday had been reduced to merely the day before Tuesday, the day new albums were released, and life was good.

These days, that damned 60 Minutes stopwatch is, once again, a harbinger of the impending work week. As soon as I hear its ominous ticking, I switch the channel to The Simpsons and spend the final couple hours of the weekend with cartoons.

As a kid, I’d usually shuffle off to my bedroom, turn on the radio, and dial up 101.3 from Richmond which would be rebroadcasting that week’s American Top 40. I’d listen to Casey Kasem count down the songs and the weekend.

Here are some songs that were on Billboard‘s Hot 100 for this week in 1983…

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Shame On The Moon
from The Distance

One of my best friends in our neighborhood as a kid was a big fan of Bob Seger, so I was familiar with his music, but I wasn’t impressed. And, at the time, I wanted nothing to do with Shame On The Moon when it would come on the radio. It was far too rootsy for my tastes.

Then, somewhere along the way, I realized that I had a greater affection for the music of Seger than I had known. That included the loping and wistful Shame On The Moon, penned by Rodney Crowell.

Joe Jackson – Breaking Us In Two
from Night And Day

Another artist that I have had a major reassessment of since I was a kid, Joe Jackson’s sophisticated pop was a bit too mature for me to truly appreciate at the time. I hadn’t cared for Steppin’ Out and though I liked Breaking Us In Two a bit more, my interest was still tepid at best.

But it’s hard to resist the charm of the song with its hypnotic, tick-tock melody and yearning lyrics.

Greg Kihn Band – Jeopardy
from Kihnspiracy

Greg Kihn got a lot of airplay from the stations in our area and his engaging power pop always sounded great on the radio. It wasn’t just his bigger hits like the infectious The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em), but even lesser-known singles like Reunited and Lucky got airplay.

Jeopardy was a monster. Of course, between a friend of mine who was a devotee of Kihn and wore out Kinhspiracy and the mammoth success of the song on radio, I did get burned out on it, but my ears perk up when I hear it these days.

ABC – Poison Arrow
from The Lexicon Of Love

ABC garnered heaps of attention and accolades when the group issued its debut, The Lexicon Of Love, particularly in their native UK. Their first single, The Look Of Love, was all over the radio during the autumn of ’82 and Poison Arrow arrived with the new year.

The song possessed the same air of drama as well as being flawlessly produced by Trevor Horn. It practically glistened. For whatever reason, the radio stations I was listening to – that had so embraced The Look Of Love – didn’t show Poison Arrow nearly as much love and I rarely heard the song outside of its appearances on American Top 40.


Baseball

July 16, 2009

For the first time in I have no idea how many years, I watched the MLB All-Star game the other night. It surprised me a bit to realize how rarely I’ve watched the game in the last twenty years.

I stared quizzically at half of the players during this year’s introductions as though I was trying to identify someone from a police line-up.

As a kid, the All-Star game was appointment viewing. We knew all of the players and most of us could rattle of a relevant stat or two.

In a world where summer had no internet, no mp3 players, only the most rudimentary of video games, and no cable television, baseball was often our favorite waste of time.

By ten o’clock in the morning, most mornings, the first pick-up game in our neighborhood would have already ended (usually in an argument, sometimes to steal strawberries from the patch out beyond our first base line).

The afternoon game that would come together (once tempers cooled and boredom set in) was like an Ironman competition and a test to merely endure in 95 degree heat.

Over the years, my interest in the sport has waned. I think it’s mostly due to the disparity in spending between the teams.

But it’s also football. Now, even in the middle of July, my focus is not on baseball but rather that my favorite team has signed some free agent linebacker and how that signing might affect a season that won’t really be underway for another three months.

It’s an onslaught of information that is, in the middle of summer, mostly empty calories. Even a dedicated fan doesn’t need to be so in the loop (and, if you do, you might have a serious gambling problem).

The first All-Star game that I vividly remember was 1979. Maybe it’s because my grandfather, a lifelong Pittsburgh fan, had passed away a few months earlier.

Almost every evening during baseball season, he’d sit on the couch with my grandmother. They’d hold hands and watch the Pirates on television or listen to them on radio.

(that autumn, the team would win the World Series in dramatic fashion)

Baseball was far more important to me than music in 1979, but perusing the Billboard charts from July of that year revealed a number of songs that, even as a casual listener, I recall hearing…

John Stewart (with Stevie Nicks) – Gold
from Bombs Away Dream Babies

The man who wrote Daydream Believer, Stewart was joined by Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks on the timeless-sounding Gold. It’s a pretty perfect pop song.

If Paloma and I ever open up a bait shop in the Southwest (I always pictured this song taking place on some dusty, desolate stretch of road in Arizona), I’d insist this song be on the jukebox.

The Knack- My Sharona
from Get The Knack

I had little interest in music in ’79, but, like all of us, I knew My Sharona. I don’t recall the mania surrounding them or the backlash, but I’ve wondered if it was similar to Oasis a decade and a half later.

Joe Jackson – Is She Really Going Out With Him?
from Look Sharp!

OK, I can’t honestly say that I ever heard Is She Really Going Out With Him? at the time. In fact, I’m positively certain that I didn’t hear it ’til several years later after Jackson had hit with Steppin’ Out.

Better late than never, though, and Is She Really Going Out With Him? is classic stuff.

Supertramp – Goodbye Stranger
from Breakfast In America

I’ve declared my affection for Breakfast In America before. But, as a non-music fan in 1979, I thought Goodbye Stranger was the brothers Gibb.