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.

Advertisements

Random Brushes With Greatness

January 19, 2012

For a decade plus following college, I participated in an extended childhood, existing on the periphery of the music industry, close enough to see behind the curtain, yet not so involved to reap financial rewards that would have sullied the experience.

The time afforded me opportunities to do things and meet people that I would have thought unthinkable as a kid growing up in Sticksville, listening to music and devouring liner notes.

Sometimes I will escape the office and the mind-numbing engagement in capitalistic endeavors to enjoy tobacco.

I’ll set the iPod to shuffle and a song will pop up that will remind me of some cool experience that I’d almost forgotten.

A song by Richard Thompson shuffled up the other day and I suddenly recalled having lunch with the legendary guitarist. Afterwards, he took the small stage at the club and generously performed a handful of songs – including 1952 Vincent Black Lightning – for a dozen or so of us.

How does such a wonderous experience get lost in the shuffle and shoved into some corner of the mental attic?

It might not even have been the most memorable time that I’d spent in that club. Several years earlier, I’d had a chance to see Jeff Buckley perform there and, afterwards, share a drink with us, months before his acclaimed debut was released.

Sometimes I stop when a song reminds me of a chance I’ve had to interact with that artist and tried to imagine what I’d have thought as a fifteen- or sixteen-year old music junkie had I known of what was waiting for me.

We couldn’t even get cable.

So, here are four songs that shuffled up on the iPod for which I was able to draw on some personal experience with the artist…

John Prine – Ain’t Hurtin’ Nobody
from Lost Dogs & Mixed Blessings (1995)

I hang my head as I confess that I am not as familiar with the catalog of John Prine as I – or as friends who are devotees of the acclaimed singer/songwriter – feel I should be.

I doubt that I knew more than a handful of songs by Prine when, because of my position as a buyer for a large record store, I was invited to his manager’s office to hear the then-forthcoming Lost Dogs & Mixed Blessings.

And, joining the half dozen or so of us for the listening session was John Prine.

(among our group was our receiving clerk, a surly malcontent who had been a road manager for several punk bands in the ‘80s, hated everything, and, yet, often told us that there were Prine songs that reduced him to tears)

I still haven’t explored much more of Prine’s catalog than I knew at the time, a situation that for the past fifteen years I have, despite good intentions, failed to rectify.

A Flock of Seagulls – Nightmares
from Listen (1983)

Long ago I recounted the night that I played pinball with the singer of the first band that I claimed as my own.

And, Nightmares is a nifty number by a band that most folks likely only know for I Ran.

Cheap Trick – A Place In France
from Sex, America, Cheap Trick (1996)

I love Cheap Trick and met them once. For a few brief seconds I thought that it might conclude with me getting my ass kicked by guitarist Rick Neilsen following a discussion of cigarettes and songwriter Diane Warren.

(it ended quite amicably)

As for A Place In France, the song appeared as a previously unreleased track on Cheap Trick’s box set, and though it won’t change your world, it’s a groovy, little rocker and not a bad way to spend four minutes.

The Beatles – Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?
from Anthology 3 (1996)

OK. I don’t have a story actually involving meeting any of The Beatles, but I’ve had near secondhand encounters.

One involved an English co-worker at a record store who may or may not have been tight with the Fabs – as well as Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, and The Stones – during the ’60s.

But years before, while in college, my dog’s vet was a friend of Paul McCartney.

(and how a vet in a small, Midwestern town becomes chums with a Beatle is another tale)

During the summer of ’89, McCartney was touring America for the first time in a decade plus following the release of Flowers In The Dirt. Meanwhile, I was studying abroad, ten-thousand miles from home.

And Doc had invited my girlfriend to accompany him to see Paul.

She had recently graduated and intended to decline the offer as she had just started a new job with a high-powered accounting firm.

“You have to go,” I told her from the other side of the world. “You can always get a new job, but this is the chance to meet a Beatle.”

She didn’t go.


Today Is A Hammer Day

August 16, 2008

It has absolutely nothing to do with hardware stores, bankrupt MCs from the ’90s, or stupid people (as in “dumber than a bag of hammers”). Today is a Hammer day because of the atmospheric and meteorological conditions that exist outside my window as I sit here babbling into cyberspace like a game show host doing bong hits.

The term was coined by a friend with the moniker the Drunken Frenchman (I assure you that nickname is well-earned) who has a great affection for all things cinematic involving Messrs. Cushing and Lee – more to the point, the classic horror films produced by British studio Hammer during the late ’50s through the early ’70s.

Hammer days occur when the sky is dark or, to give a nod to Uncle Monty, “bruised.” Healthy gusts of wind are also a necessity to the point that there is the occasional banshee-like howl. Rain isn’t a must but, if there is rain, it’s preferable that it is a dreary, misty drizzle as opposed to the jungle rain that we actually have right now. Shards of lightening help complete the setting as well as the low rumble of thunder.

The Drunken Frenchman likes nothing more than to spend such days prostrate on his well-worn couch, the door open to enjoy the conditions, with a bottle of his favorite Scotch and one of the Hammer films flickering on his television screen. Few things – aside from young girls, British rock from the ’60s, or more Scotch – will more quickly bring an orthodontically-challenged smile to his craggy, unshaven mug.

Personally, Hammer days usually make me feel more creative. I’m not sure why – maybe there is some actual science to the stormy weather that makes me feel more juiced, meteorological stuff into which I have no insight. Or, it might just be in my head. Maybe it’s nothing more than the fact that bad weather outside makes it easier to be productive inside.

That’s not always the case, though. Sometimes the wind and the rain, the moody state of Mother Nature outside prompt me to be no more motivated than to take a good nap. And, if that is my fate today, there’s something comforting in the knowledge that no more than six blocks away The Drunken Frenchman is on his couch, Scotch bottle in hand, enjoying a Hammer day while watching Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein bring life to his creation played by Christopher Lee.

I just hope he’s wearing pants (both The Frenchman and Christopher Lee).

So, here’s a quartet of hammer songs (see if you can find the non-musical legend amongst them).

The Beatles – Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

Bob Marley – Hammer

John Prine – Nine Pound Hammer

Zoe – Hammer