Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - The resurrection edition

So, I haven't been following my own blogging rules for some time now.  I've neglected my regular weekly obligations, including WTF Wednesday and this one. My bad.

I've been busy.  Honest.  Here goes.

Life's.Not.Fair.

I have a friend laying in a hospital bed being kept alive by machines right now, and it's not fucking fair. (she'd totally disapprove of my language just then, by the way).  Life sucks ass sometimes, often without warning.  Bad things happen to good people.  It's wrong in so many ways that I can't even begin to put it into words.

Cat bastards

It's not just the deep life-altering things that piss me off lately though.  Sometimes it seems like everything does.

Like my cat.  He's an asshole.  Truly.

It's to the point where I call him that now, and he responds.  Mostly by scowling at me in his special way. He hates me, always has.  I'm not sure why, honestly.  I'm a nice person.  I don't beat him or fling him across the room in the middle of the night when he attacks my feet.  I begrudgingly share my space with him, even though I'm completely allergic to everything he is.

He spends literally all day trying to figure out how to escape from the house.  In a normal neighborhood, with a normal cat, that wouldn't be an issue.  But, I have a crazy neighbor, and he's a klutz.  He'd get hurt in a hurry, before the crazy neighbor even got a chance to screw with him.  The cat can't even jump on the couch without falling off.  You know I mock him for this.  So does he.

Consequently, I can't let him out.  And he's pissed.  He's decided to take it out on me, one stealth attack at a time.  Told you he is an asshole.

Political Phone Calls

First of all, if you think a phone call during dinner is going to make me change my vote, you're delusional.

Second, it's freaking July people.  I so do not want to put up with this shit for four more months.


Third, I despise the fact that these annoying phone calls somehow are excluded from the Do Not Call Registry.  What the hell???

Fourth, if you're going to call me, there had damned well better be a live human being on the other end.  I do not take calls from robots.  Especially political robots.

Save your money and pay for some more terribly misleading ads on television, eh?  Ah, the American way.

Helicopter Moms

Before you go getting your panties in a wad, I have to confess that I have my tendencies.  I work very hard to control my obsessive mom instincts.  I get it.  I do.  Having said that, sometimes these ones piss me off.

Like during swimming lessons.  You know, the ones that I paid good money for.  The same amount that they paid for their kid.  Who is 5, not 2.  Get out of the pool, mom.  Seriously.  The class is only 30 minutes long and you are just encouraging your kid to freak out more. Toss him in or pull him out.  Now.

Thanks for wasting ten minutes of time I paid for.
Mommy and me class is over there.  The kid has to learn to sink or swim on his own.  And he will.  Honest.  Now stop being such a damn distraction and let the teacher do what you are paying them for.

Chick fil-A

We live in a world where, for the first time, active duty service members were allowed to wear their dress uniforms in a gay pride parade.  Where more and more states approve gay marriage with each passing year. Where actors and politicians and professional athletes can openly admit their sexual orientation.

And where a place that makes chicken sandwiches can steal the spotlight because their owners don't seem to live in that same world.  Where they donate money from profits to organizations that fight not just against gay marriage, but against gay rights in general.  Openly preach about how righteous they are for being married to their "first wives".


Whatever.  People don't go there to be pontificated to.  They go there because you make a damn tasty sandwich.  This isn't about freedom of speech or freedom of religion.  I respect those 100%.  What I won't do, however, is help fund hate. I love your sandwiches, Chick fil-A, but you will never get another penny of my money again.

Talkin' About My Generation

This is a post that I decided to write about halfway through the Summer School of Rock series, and in some ways was one of my inspirations for doing it in the first place.

I've always loved music, and I've always been surrounded by others who did as well.  The difference between me and a few of them?  They could actually play it.  They could pick up an instrument and hear the notes and put them together.  Some of them have spent their lives sharing that gift with others, and a couple are on their way to becoming full fledged rock stars.

I'd like to introduce you to a few of them.

Up first, a guy that I asked for his permission to mention and I'm still waiting on him to give it.  I highly suspect his modesty keeps him from agreeing outright.  I have to write about him, though without his name, for the simple reason that he made a huge impact on my affection for music over twenty years ago.  He was a laid back, soft spoken kid with great hair who could already play a mean guitar at the age of 14.  


Let me tell you this, there is only one person in my life who has ever played me a song, and it was him.  Bret Michaels will never do Every Rose Has it's Thorn justice in my eyes again.  I tend to think that if a guy can play a guitar and sing a song to a girl, he's just guaranteed that she will remember him forever.  To this day, this friend of mine shares his gift with others around him.  You can find him on stage as often as he is teaching his craft to those who want to learn.  

Another friend, Tim Plaster, bonded with his guitar from a very young age.  He uses this instrument as a way to share his love of music, to celebrate his connection to his church, to proclaim his love of his family.  His career is built around teaching others music, and for those in Southern California, you can find information about his lessons on his website here http://guitar.timplaster.com/.  He also has a page on Facebook.

Next, one of my oldest and dearest friends. Spencer Fischer.  Wait, did I just call us old???  Strike that.  We're totally not old.  He's someone I've known since we were in preschool, and he's the kind of guy that you couldn't ever forget if you tried.  Pretty much the coolest guy I know, even if he's a bit goofy as well. He has a charisma beyond anyone else I've ever known, and his personality is what got him into the music industry.  He's spent his entire career behind the scenes, working his way up from being an event DJ to commandeering his own morning radio show in SoCal.  




These days he is the morning personality on 103.3 The Vibe.  Taking over the world, he is.  It still seems a bit surreal to me that I can turn on the radio and hear a voice I've known forever.  You done good, kid.  You done good.  The station's website can be found here, and it includes a feature to listen live online...which is something that this Cali girl appreciates all the way out here in Colorado.  He recently started his own page on Facebook too, and you can follow him there. 


Then, there is Paul.  Paul, Paul, Paul.  Where do I begin?  I met Paul Givant in junior high, and just knew that someday he'd be on a stage.  He became one of my best friends at a very turbulent time in my life, and for that I will always be grateful.  




Through the wonder of Facebook, I found out a while back that he did exactly what I thought he'd do.  He'd gone and formed a band and was out touring the country.  




Rose's Pawn Shop took shape in 2005 and recorded their first album in 2006.  It was a huge hit, winning Billboard Magazine and Discmakers : Independent Music World Series.  They took a leap of faith, quit their day jobs and went out on the road.   They have been on tour pretty much ever since.  Their sound is an amazing combination of rock, folk, country and bluegrass with the speed of punk.  It's hard to describe, so instead I just encourage you to check them out.  The band's website is http://rosespawnshop.com  and they have a page on Facebook as well.  Seeing the pictures of their live performances, I can still see the guy I knew all those years ago, living the dream.  Congratulations, Paul.  


Finally, my cousin Jared Christianson, the rock star. I'm so proud of him. His band, Arkaik, is solidly death metal, but they draw on influences from all genres of music.  Their sound is unique for sure.  It's hard and it's fast and they've built a huge following in a relatively short period of time.




Jared and Chance Strickland formed the band in high school and it only grew from there.  They have recorded two albums, the second set to drop in October. 




They have spent the better part of the last three years on the road, complete with all the stories that a band on the road can generate.  They just wrapped up the Insurrection Tour.  You can check out their website here http://www.arkaik.net/.  Check out their Facebook page here


I owe each and every one of these people a debt of gratitude.  They've added to my love of music, they've shared their gifts with the world, and they've helped me convince my son to take up guitar.

If music be the food of love, play on.  ~ William Shakespeare

Play on.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Storytime

Since I've gone and messed up my series, I might as well keep screwing it up more, right?

I have a big surprise for you all tomorrow, and it fully coincides with the series.

As I mentioned before this series may never actually end.  Instead, what I may do is dedicate a couple days a week to bands until I feel like I've done it justice.  But don't hold me to that.  I tend to get distracted by shiny things easily.

In the meantime, I think you all have earned a story.

One that has a happy ending, in particular.

We took the kids to Disneyland a few weeks back.  Though we used to live in Southern California and went all.the.time, we hadn't been there in 6 years.  Even with all the trips back and forth, we never made it to the happiest place on Earth, mostly because the happiest place is also the most expensive place.

We left home, the kids eager with anticipation.  Suitcases full of Disney character themed shirts, cameras and sunscreen ready to go.  Got halfway to Vegas and from the back seat of the car, a question.

Mom, did you pack my Cinderella dress?

Shit.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

You see, a few months ago, my little girl had a princess party.  For that, and for this trip that we had already embarked on, my mother in law made her a beautiful dress exactly like Cinderella's.  Light blue satin, sheer capped sleeves, a princess neckline and a little bit of magic fairy dust to transform the wearer into an actual princess.

My little girl, with Tinkerbell.
The dress, hanging in a closet back home.

My first reaction was to tell her that I was sorry, that it would be okay, that things happen and sometimes people make mistakes.  And I did tell her all those things.  She was upset for a while, but got over it mostly.  (This child never gets over anything completely)

Meanwhile, I was beating myself up in my head repeatedly at my obvious failure as a mother.  The last time she was at Disneyland, she was a baby.  She didn't remember it.  At all.  This was my one shot to get her there in the time frame when she still believed in princesses and fairy tales and magic. It was going to be perfect. And I messed it up.

Even if she forgave me, I knew I'd never be okay with a mistake of this magnitude.

So, I did what I had to do.

Asked a dear friend watching our house to rummage through the closets.  To find the dress and ship it to the place we were staying.  She did, but I dared not to tell my little girl just in case it didn't get there in time.

It didn't.

We left for Disneyland, me feeling like an abysmal failure as a mom.

We went to California Adventure the first day, and about halfway through the day, my mother in law received a phone call.


The eagle had landed.

It arrived at the house we were staying shortly after we left.  The owner of the house, also a dear family friend, had a plan.  She worked with a guy who lived in Anaheim, and the hand off began.  It was dropped off at the hotel lobby the night before we planned to step foot in Disneyland.

And, thanks to the help of a bunch of people, this happened.

Putting it on at the hotel.
She was treated like royalty as she walked through the park, with total strangers bowing and curtsying towards her.  For a few hours that day, the magic was real.

Meeting another princess.
They say that when it comes to raising children, it takes a village.

The same could be said for creating princesses.

Thank you all.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Reasons

I apologize in advance for this.

I haven't really been fully invested in writing much for the last week.  I've been almost completely distracted the entire time, and admit to having done a poor job of forcing myself to focus.

Of course, the migraine I've been nursing for the last 6 days isn't helping either.

I am supposed to write not one, but two posts in my summer music series today, but I think that I'm going to have to do this instead.  I will keep going with the music eventually, and as I've already admitted to a few people, I will be extending it.

I was absolutely right about not being able to limit that series to 31 days.

But first, this.

The last ten days around here have been the kind of days that don't make any sense at all.  Where things happen, and it's difficult, if not impossible to see where the reasons may lie.

Though the shooting wasn't in my town, it wasn't that far away.  I struggled with it enough as it was before it was thrust into my face in a personal way.  Scary enough to think about the fact that it could have easily been my son and my husband in that theater, scary enough to think about the fear that must have been in the hearts of those who were there, scary enough to envision a world where things like this happen at all.

And then, Monday.

A friend of mine, fighting for her life, fighting to come back to us, fighting to stay herself.  Fighting for reasons that I can't comprehend and that make no sense to me.  For many hours that day, we weren't sure what was happening.  By that evening, we found ourselves holding up walls in a waiting room shared with the families of the shooting victims.

All of us waiting.  Wondering.  Asking why.  Holding hands and bowing heads together, this room full of strangers.

In that moment, I saw the best and worst of humanity.  I've seen it many days since.

My friend and this innocent victim, in beds not far from one another, fighting a fight that in many ways is no different, but for completely different reasons.

Neither of which make sense.

I've had so many people tell me about how things happen for a reason, and how we aren't privy to those reasons.  How we are supposed to trust that somehow these tragedies are part of a plan we get no part in drafting.  We are supposed to be strong and be hopeful and be resolute in our faith.

I'm just not so sure.

There is too large a part of my soul that needs reason.  That craves explanation.  That wants to know why horrible things happen to good people.

I have found myself asking that question far too many times these past few years.  For my family, for my friends, for complete strangers, for myself.

Why?

Sitting here with my children, we watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics a few nights ago and I pondered who would sing. Two years ago, k.d. lang sang Hallelujah in the Winter opening, and simultaneously touched my heart and broke it.  A thousand miles away, my father was engaged in the fight of his life that evening. We'd come close to losing him only a few days later.


In a split second, I both hoped that Annie Lennox would sing and that she wouldn't because I knew exactly which song she would sing if she did, and I wasn't sure that I could hear it right now.  It would be this one.


I'm grateful she didn't sing it.  I have spent many years perfecting the art of shielding my children from my own sorrow, but songs like that one strip me of my defenses. It took me a few days to work up the strength to even write this post.

I want to believe that there are reasons.  I do.  With every ounce of my being I want to believe it.

I just know that sometimes those reasons don't show themselves to us.  That sometimes it never makes sense.  That time doesn't heal all the way some people say it is supposed to, that sometimes all it does is put more distance between then and now.

I'll pick myself up in a bit here.  Build the shield again.  Get back to the tasks at hand.

For a while though, I'm going to be staring at the sky, looking for a reason.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer School of Rock - The Who

They've often been referred to as the greatest rock band ever.

They started out with roots in bluegrass, competing against a ton of other bands that sprung up in the years after The Beatles hit it big.  They had to do something to set themselves, to define them, and did they ever.


Instrument destruction became a routine part of their act, and many guitars and drums have been sacrificed on stage as a result.  They gained popularity in England gradually, then hit is big here with My Generation in 1965.


Known for many years for their singles, the band made a clear shift toward full length performances, which would eventually come to be referred to as rock operas.


They performed much of Tommy at Woodstock.  Quadrophenia would be their second rock opera, released in 1973.  Their Who Are You album was their best seller, but was followed shortly by Keith Moon's death.  More tragedy hit the band when 11 fans were crushed to death in Cincinnati in 1979.


The band broke up in 1983, but reformed not long afterwards.  In 2005, they released their first studio album in over 20 years, and toured to go along with it.  They are still currently on tour.

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and the living members of the band, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are recipients of Kennedy Center Honors as well.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Summer School of Rock - Eric Clapton

There is exactly one person in this world who has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times.  Yes, three times.

Eric Clapton.


As a member of Cream, as a member of The Yardbirds, and as a solo artist.


He's one of the most gifted guitarists of all time, and has a gift when it comes to songwriting.  There is a soothing richness to his voice.

His time with both bands was relatively short, especially given the length of his career overall.  By the early 70's, he was on his own.


Clapton was friends with, and inspired by Jimi Hendrix.   Layla, one of his most famous songs was recorded during the time he was working with band mates in Derek and the Dominoes.  That band didn't last long, as it seemed to attract tragedy.  Clapton's drug use began to spiral out of control, and by the 80's he was fighting alcoholism as well.



He's always been a bit of a mess personally, with a long sordid history of womanizing.  He has cheated on just about every woman he's been with, and pursued Pattie Boyd while she was still married to George Harrison.  A good many of his songs reflect his pursuits in this department.


One of his most famous songs, Tears in Heaven,  was written as a tribute to his son Conor after his horrific death resulting from a fall from the 53rd floor.

He helped thrust reggae onto the mainstream stage when he covered Marley's I Shot the Sheriff.   He's worked with just about everyone in the music world by now.  His songs have been featured in many movies and television shows.  He just released a jazz collaboration album with Wynton Marsalis, showcasing his musical depth.


There truly are but a handful of artists who are at this level, who will ever be.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer School of Rock - The Cure

I wasn't originally going to write about The Cure today, but I feel like it's the only choice for today.

It would be hard to imagine a world where vampires are sexy, black nail polish is worn by even the most mainstream guys, and Marilyn Manson sells out shows without them.  I think you could make the argument that emo wouldn't exist at all without The Cure.

They didn't just change music, they put a name and a face on goth, even if they've always resisted the label themselves.

The band has changed members several times, the only constant being Robert Smith.  Him and his crazy hair and his makeup and black clothes and darkly depressing songs.

The band started in the mid 70's in England, and began more as a punk act.  As Smith took control of the band more, the songs turned darker and more tormented.  They wanted to define themselves as unique and different in a world of standard rock bands, and they did.  Smith was known to end shows in tears.

They released several albums before they became a household name in the United States.  It really wasn't until Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me in 1987 that they got into heavy rotation here, though by that time they had a fairly decent following.  Just Like Heaven followed soon after, becoming their biggest hit.


1989's Disintegration was the album that achieved the greatest commercial success, including some of their most popular songs Pictures of You and Lovesong.


The band played the MTV VMA Awards that year, at the peak of their fame.  Albums released since haven't been as successful.  Many members of the band reunited last year for a series of Reflections shows, and they are playing a music festival this summer.

Robert Smith is still keeping it weird after all this time.

The band was nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on their first year of eligibility this year, but narrowly missed.  They'll get in.

For sure.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer School of Rock - Aerosmith

In the world I live in, I seem to have a direct connection with music, and the cosmic radio gods often understand that.


Late last night as I drove home from the hospital, my most favorite song by this band came on the radio, and I did what I had to.

Turned it up all the way, sang my heart out and cried.

Sing with me, sing for the years.
Sing for the laughter and sing for the tears.
Sing with me, it's just for today.
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away.



It came at just the time I needed it.

I've always loved Aerosmith, and I'm not alone.  It's impossible to have a successful career in music spanning  over four decades without the support of a lot of fans.


They formed in 1970, and were the American answer to all the British bands that popped up in those days.  They wanted to be the greatest rock band that ever was.

Steven Tyler's voice and Joe Perry's lead guitar have meshed together in perfect harmonies for years.  The remaining members of the band, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer and Brad Whitford have all been with the band since it's inception or very shortly thereafter.  They've played together for what seems like forever.

Walk This Way, one of their breakout hits, was famously covered by Run D.M.C. in the 80's.


Through the 70's, they enjoyed a ton of success and had a string of platinum albums.  Drug abuse almost did the band in more than once.  Perry left the band for about five years, and neither he nor the band did very well during that time.  They reunited in 1984, but sales were slow until 1987's Permanent Vacation - their best selling album in a decade.  It contained the songs Dude Looks Like a Lady, Rag Doll and Angel.


Pump, released in 1989, was another smash hit and earned the band their first Grammy for Janie's Got a Gun.  Get a Grip churned out more radio hits including Crazy and Cryin'.  The band is widely credited with helping Alicia Silverstone shoot to fame after her appearances in their videos.


Their only number one song was I Don't Want to Miss a Thing, from the Armageddon soundtrack in 1998.

They've played halftime at the Superbowl, and inspired their own version of the Guitar Hero games.  Tyler was a judge on American Idol.  Though there has been a lot of tension between Perry and Tyler, the band is still together, still recording and still performing.  They are currently on tour.

I saw them live in the late 90's, and absolutely LOVED the show.

In their 60's now, and still kicking ass.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer School of Rock - Elvis

The look, the raw talent, the mysterious voice, the gift of talent, and the hips.  He had it all.  

Elvis.

He'd become the King.


Actor, singer, legendary performer and heartthrob.

There can't be many people over the age of 20 or so who don't know at least part of his story.  Born in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1935, he began his career in Memphis.  He loved the sound of the music being made by the African American bands and artists, and wanted to do what he could to bring it to the masses in the 1950's.

What made Elvis a sensation were his television performances.  He shook his hips and rocked the world.  One of the most famous of his appearances was seen on The Ed Sullivan show by over 80% of the viewing audience, unimaginable statistics for any time or place.


His live shows drew crowds full of screaming girls, the crowd just couldn't get enough of his new sound.

He starred in movies as well, he was a media whirlwind.

Then, like so many other young men in those days, his draft card was pulled.  He enlisted in the Army, and would meet a 14 year old Priscilla while in Germany.


After he was discharged honorably, he returned to music in the States.  The drug use he'd picked up in the Army continued, as did alcohol abuse.  He married Priscilla and churned out marginal movies and soundtracks.  His costumes got more elaborate, the hair got bigger, he became more and more about excess.


By the time of their divorce in 1973, he was overdosing on a fairly regular basis and his health was declining. He struggled to get through concerts, when he bothered doing them.  He was found unresponsive on the bathroom floor August 16, 1977 and pronounced dead.

What he left behind is a to-this-day unrivaled string of hits.  He changed music, he changed performances.  He crossed lines and brought different kinds of music to people who'd never heard it.  Thousands have spent their entire career just impersonating him.

He is the King.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Summer School of Rock - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

There aren't many bands that can say they've stood the test of time, with careers lasting over 30 years, but Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers can.  The band that formed back in the mid 70's played on SNL's season finale in 2010.  




Petty decided that someday he'd be a rock star when he met Elvis Presley at the age of 10.  He formed a couple bands, including Mudcrutch before the Heartbreakers lineup solidified in the late 70's. They recorded and released a couple albums in those first years, none of which were huge hits.


The third album Damn the Torpedoes went platinum.  They wrote songs that people could relate to, about love and the challenges of life.  Their musical style was consistent and enduring. They were never the loudest, the hardest, the most drugged out, the most political, the most outspoken.  What they were, and still are, is popular.  Period.


They played Live Aid in 1985, then Petty branched off to pursue other interests for a while.  He teamed up with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynne in the group The Traveling Wilburys, the released his wildly popular solo album Full Moon Fever


That album included the songs Runnin' Down a Dream, Free Falling and I Won't Back Down.




The Heartbreakers got back together for 1991's Into the Great Wide Open, which generated the hit title song and Learning to Fly.


They recorded Mary Jane's Last Dance for a greatest hits album, which would later become a subject of controversy when Red Hot Chili Peppers released Dani California, a song with several similarities.  The band never pursued legal action though many thought they should, because in Petty's words, there are enough frivolous lawsuits in this country without people fighting about pop songs.


Petty would release a few more solo albums, but also continue performing with the band.  He started his own  show on an XM radio station.  A documentary, Runnin' Down a Dream was released in 2007.

They've played the halftime show of the Superbowl, something not many performers can put on their resume.

Reflecting on the band's admission to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Petty said this:

It's very easy to be cynical about the Hall of Fame.  But on the other hand, it's a really beautiful thing for someone like me.  I've dedicated my entire life to music.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summer School of Rock - Bob Marley

On the list of people who have single-handedly influenced music the most, Bob Marley has to be near the top.  His influence extends far beyond music, though.


Marley was born in Jamaica in 1945, and his music was inspired by the place where he grew up.  He struggled with his own identity.  His father was a white plantation owner and often absent even though he was married to Marley's Jamaican mother.  He identified himself as an African, and his music reflected his strong beliefs in restoring the rights of those taken from their homelands.

He quit school at 14 to pursue music, playing with local Rastafarian musicians.  At 18, he formed The Wailers, a predominately ska band.  He embraced the Rastafarian lifestyle and began growing his trademark dreadlocks.  Over the next ten years, the band would record a few albums, and move toward a more reggae sound.  He was a powerful figure in Jamaica, and quickly became the spokesman for the Rastafarian movement.


Finally, in 1974, with the release of the Burnin' album, Marley got some international attention.  Eric Clapton covered I Shot the Sheriff and Get Up, Stand Up started seeing a heavier radio rotation.  The Wailers were offered the chance to open for Sly and the Family Stone, but we fired after a few performances because they were more popular than the band they were supposed to be supporting.  The Wailers broke up  shortly thereafter.

Marley found new band mates and kept recording.  No Woman, No Cry would become his first international hit in 1975.  Marley, his wife and his manager were shot by an intruder in his home in Jamaica.  Marley left for England and continued recording and performing. He wouldn't return to Jamaica until 1978, and during his concert, the two fighting parties called a truce, the leaders shaking hands on stage.

His songs weren't just music, they were politically charged messages to the people.  Fighting against oppression, fighting for justice, fighting for the poor, calling for peace.  He gave voice to those without one, he brought power to the people.

Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny.  ~ Bob Marley


Marley died of cancer in 1981 at the age of 36, and received full State honors for his burial in Jamaica.  Redemption Song is widely thought to be about is coming to terms with his own mortality, as it was recorded after his diagnosis.  Though the government there had long opposed the Rastafarian movement and the message of his music, they adopted his song of unity, One Love, as the theme song of the tourism board.


His legacy is a great one, though his life was short.  He spread music about peace and harmony throughout the world.  He influenced ska, rock, r&b and pop.  He brought reggae to the masses.  He was a cultural force that can't be denied.

His music is as relevant today as it was when he recorded it.  One of the things I miss the most about living in San Diego was 91X's Mandatory Marley every day, though I hear they no longer do it.

At his posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Robert Palmer said this:

No one in rock and roll has left a musical legacy that matters more or one that matters in such fundamental ways.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The legacy of the Dark Knight

The stories that will be written in the years to come about the legacy of the Dark Knight series will not be glowing and positive. These films won't just become a part of the film history of this country, they will become a part of it's history, period.

The role of the maniacal villain The Joker would prove to be the one that pushed Heath Ledger over the edge. He infused himself into that role too much, many would say, and it rocked him to his core. Haunted him, even. The demons that would sneak into his brain as a result would lead to his self-medication and death.

His body, found lifeless in a hotel room in 2008. A posthumous Academy Award for the role he will forever be associated with. His greatest work, undeniably, his last.

Little did we know that tragedy was not the last to befall the series.

Today, in a place not far from where I call home, another.

A gunman, self-proclaimed to be inspired by The Joker, opened fire on a theater full of fans. There to be thrilled with the first release of the movie, some of them would never live to see the end.

I will not name him. I will not feed into his pursuits for notoriety. I will not show a picture of his face.

I will not.

Instead, I will try to spell out my feelings, as disjointed and disorganized as they still are.

When the last few major mass shootings have occurred, they've been far away. They've been at workplaces. They've been over there. They weren't close to home. They weren't things I felt threatened by as much. They weren't things I had to sit my children down and try to explain to them.

A friend just had a little girl a few days ago, and related her concerns. About how she doubted why she would bring a child into this world after the horrors of today, and I commiserated. I felt exactly that same way 11 years ago. Morning sunlight streaming through my bedroom windows, my newborn son asleep at my side, I was awakened by a panicked phone call from my husband. I turned on the television just as the second tower fell and I questioned what right I had to bring a child into this world.

That feeling wouldn't go away for months. Years even.

This time though, even if the tragedy is smaller in scale, it hits home just as much. My eldest child, that one sleeping next to me the morning of 9/11, wanted nothing more in the world than to accompany his father to a midnight showing of this film. Last night. My husband seriously contemplated going, as he's done to several other movies of this genre. Decided at the last minute to wait until the weekend to see it.

It could have been them in that theater. It could have been any 11 year old boy and his father. It could have been anyone.

This shooting makes us all unwilling victims. It makes the place that so many of us look to as an escape from the reality of our lives dangerous now. It takes us back to the world we lived in post 9/11, although this time we'll not be scanning the sky for planes constantly, or subconsciously deciding if those in the crowd are threats solely based on their ethnicity. Instead, we'll be afraid of everyone. We'll be afraid of grad students. In ordinary places.

Choosing not to fly, okay. Many did that after the attacks without hesitation.

Choosing not to live normally, and go on about your normal lives, go to your normal places, enjoy the normal things we do every day? Harder. And, I would forcefully argue, is something we should not do.

Though this threat does not appear to be an organized one of terror, the disorganization of it is perhaps even more scary. The fact that there are deluded, armed people out there in the world, plotting for things like this to happen, without any connection to a larger organization, to me, is terrifying. But it is what it is. And we cannot let it dictate our lives. And we should not.

People like this exist.  There are many more like him out there. It's ugly, but true.

If you let their mere existence scare you into hiding, though, they have already won.This is, in many ways, no different than the war on terror.  It's just a more diffuse, homegrown variety.

What is absolutely imperative, though, is what we can take away from this experience. I am not, by the way, referring to the debate about gun control/freedom to bear arms that has already popped up in social media.

That does deserve mention, though. I am a flaming liberal, I've admitted as such before. I support the 2nd Amendment's right to bear arms, but I refuse to believe that our forefathers would have supported the kind of weapons used in this crime, particularly the 100-shell magazine involved. There has to be a limit of reason, a line where people can't honestly argue that something is necessary for recreational hunting or incidents of self defense. This, in my opinion, is far beyond that line.  This, in my opinion, gives unstable people a way to hurt others in unimaginable ways.

What I am actually referring to is the discussion we must, as a nation, have about our mental health system.

Up until the 1980's, there were places often unflatteringly referred to as insane asylums. People were categorically and often unfairly deemed "crazy", and locked up. President Reagan deinstitutionalized the treatment of the mentally ill. HIPAA came along a while later and ensured that every patient has a right to determine their own care.

Which is great...for stable and/or medicated, safe patients who are aware of their conditions, and actually seek help before they pose a threat to others.

For the rest of us, including the entirety of the rest of mental health patients, it is not great.

The homeless numbers have skyrocketed. Many of them suffer from mental illnesses and have nowhere else to go. Incapable of truly caring for themselves, they have no safety net left. The system has been defunded. Places that used to offer inpatient care, not just for the benefit of the patients, but for society, no longer exist in large part.

In addition, It is impossible, legally and ethically, for anyone to do anything about a patient, regardless of how unstable they are, without their consent under HIPAA. Trust me. I know this one well.

Inside and out.

If they say they are fine, they are fine.

If they refuse diagnostic procedures, medications, testing or therapy, fine.

Fine.

So long as they do not actually hurt themselves or someone else, or make a blatant threat to do so, everyone else's hands are tied. Including law enforcement. Including mental health professionals. Including family.

Now, I am in no way making an argument that the system should go back to the way it was, but - and this is a BIG but, this case proves that it is not working now.

There has to be some kind of happy medium, where inpatient hospitals are adequately funded, and those who pose a legitimate threat to others are able to get the help they need, even if (and maybe especially if) they don't necessarily consent to it.

This is a murky area for me personally, particularly since I studied bioethics in the years that HIPAA was enacted. I worked in hospitals, labored under the weight of ethics commissions and found myself in heated discussions all the time about this. I saw these patients and their families in a professional context. I walked past the locked wards of the psych unit weekly. I dealt with the harm they'd done to themselves, to their spouses, to their children.

Trust me when I say that you only need to see one 14 year old boy, burned over 90% of his body by a raging father, to see things the way I do.

Do I believe wholeheartedly in a patient's right to control their own health care? Absolutely.

Do I believe that their right should be allowed to endanger others? No.

And this is where the murkiness begins. Where there is no obvious line to differentiate between those who can make clear, levelheaded decisions about their bodies begins and where those who can't see the threat they pose to others begins.

It's hard, if not impossible to tease out.

We've done a terrible job of it. We must do better.

There must be some lesson we can take away from this. Something that gives us hope in a time of fear. Pushes us to resume our normal lives as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

There must be something aside from destruction.


Batman would want the people of Gotham to do better. Superheroes aren't real, though, and we must do this on our own.

We must.

Summer School of Rock - AC/DC

Apparently when you take a pair of brothers from Scotland and move them to Australia, you get one of the most successful rock and roll bands in history.

Angus and Macolm Young, those brothers, are the only two members who have been with the band since it's inception in 1974.  They chose the name AC/DC in reference to electrical currents, and their energy as a band.

They went through quite a few lineups in the early days, and became famous in Australia pretty quickly.  In 1976, they signed an international deal with Atlantic Records and went on tour with bands like Aerosmith, Black Sabbath and Cheap Trick.  They were regarded mostly as a punk band back then, and adopted their trademark school uniform look.

Highway to Hell, released in 1979, was their breakout album in the United States, and demonstrated their shift towards pure rock.  In 1980 Bon Scott, at the time the lead singer, died of alcohol poisoning.  The band regrouped and chose Brian Johnson as their new front man.


Back in Black was recorded with the new man on vocals, and is by far, their biggest commercial success.  The album is the second highest selling of all time in the entire world, behind only Thriller.  It spawned hit songs like Back in Black, You Shook Me All Night Long and Hells Bells - one of my personal favorites.


Incidentally, if you lived in San Diego in the late 90's/early 2000's, the song is inseparable from Padres pitcher Trevor Hoffman.  He was a kick ass reliever, and this song accompanied his walk to the mound.  It spelled certain doom for any visiting team.  This kind of stuff could make anyone a sports fan.  Good lord, I miss Trevor Time.


AC/DC would never come close to the sales of that album, but later ones would still do well, notably The Razors Edge in 1990 that had a few hits including Thunderstruck.  That song is the theme of the Denver Broncos mascot Thunder...are you sensing a pattern yet?


It's impossible to think about sports in my life without AC/DC.  Those bells, those chords, they can only mean one thing.

It.Is.On.

They were rightfully inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, and are still kicking ass.  Rumored to be recording another album, their eager crowd awaits.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Summer School of Rock - Pink Floyd

What band could possibly come between a movie in the Transformers franchise and a subtitle?  Pink Floyd, of course!

The third movie in the series was to be subtitled The Dark Side of the Moon, but that name already belonged to an English rock group from the 60s and 70s.  Not many people can honestly say they are the reason Michael Bay didn't get his way.


Pink Floyd began in the mid 60's as part of the London Underground movement.  They started out as essentially a psychedelic pop band, but moved towards a more progressive rock sound over the years.  Not everyone liked or understood their music at first, with more than a few concert promoters refusing to pay them after the performance, claiming that what they did was not music.


Their first single, Arnold Layne, released in 1967, was banned in some markets because of the references to cross dressing.  They recorded their first album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, but by that point original member Syd Barrett's LSD use was rampant and contributing to his mental downfall.  He would be kicked out of the band shortly thereafter.  Several other members had already been added.

They were part of the BBC's live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing, in part because their style of music was often referred to as space rock. This instrumental piece, Moonhead, accompanied the broadcast.  It's long, but an interesting piece of their history.


They would tour and release several albums in the early 70s, but it wasn't until Dark Side of the Moon, that they achieved huge commercial success.  Long, often hard to follow songs filled the album, which had mixed critical reviews, but appealed greatly to the psychedelic rock audience.

By the time The Wall was recorded and released in 1979, the band was suffering greatly at the hands of fighting and drug addiction.  The amount of studio time required to intricately weave all the sounds together tested the will of the band.  It would become their hugest success, selling over 23 million albums worldwide and spawn their quintessential song, Another Brick in the Wall.


Their stage shows had become elaborate, long affairs with huge props and groundbreaking speaker set-ups.  The tour for The Wall would be made into a movie as well.

The band would break up and briefly attempt reunions several times, members releasing their own albums in the meanwhile.

After over 20 year of fighting, in 2005, the entire lineup performed together at the Live 8 concert.  Since then, two have died, leaving no chance of a full reunion.

Last year, the remaining members of the band signed a five year deal with EMI to ensure that their music would be kept only in album form, as they had always vehemently opposed the idea of singles being released.

They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer School of Rock - The Eagles

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair.
Warm smell of colitas rising up through the air.
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light.
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim.
I had to stop for the night.

Hotel California resides in my top ten favorite songs for a reason.  The Eagles had a way to play rock and roll, but infuse it with a mellower country side and appeal to just about everyone in the process.

Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner formed the group in 1971, and their first album contained three Top 40 singles.  They didn't wait around for fame.  Their second album, Desperado, marked  the time when Henley and Frey took the reigns of the group, writing almost all the songs and shaping the direction they were headed.  As the years went on, they started to move away from the country inspired sound.  Tension grew between them and the other members of the band.

That tension would never go away, and would eventually destroy the band.

Their One of These Nights album pushed them into international stardom.  They were on a roll at that point, releasing new albums all the time.  The Eagles first compilation album, Their Greatest Hits 1971-75, would become one of the highest selling of the decade.




In 1976, they would reach the pinnacle of their career with the release of Hotel California.  Subsequent albums failed to live up to that, and the band eventually broke up in 1980.  By that point, Leadon and Meisner had already left the band.  They were replaced by Timothy Schmidt, Joe Walsh and Don Felder.  The ending was not pretty, with an entire performance involving threats of violence being screamed at one another between songs.

Each member spent time on solo careers after the band dissolved, some more successful than others.  Henley was by far the most popular and enjoyed many years of popularity.  Some of my favorite songs are Henley's including this one he played with Bruce Hornsby.



The band reunited in 1994, and ended up going on tour and releasing another album Hell Freezes Over, a reference to the time they claimed they'd ever play together again.  The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, and all 7 members managed to be civil to one another.  They even played a few songs.

A few years later, the band went back on tour, then abruptly fired Don Felder.  He sued and the case settled out of court.  There are rumors that they may try to record another album.

For the record, we never broke up.  We just took a 14 year vacation. ~ Glenn Frey

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer School of Rock - Ozzy Osbourne

He's known as The Prince of Darkness, The Godfather of Heavy Metal, or simply Ozzy.  He's one of the artists who's earned the single name, as no one needs to speak his last name to know who you are talking about.  There is only one Ozzy.


He's had a career that has lasted over 40 years and is one of the most dynamic stage presences in the history of music.

John Michael Osbourne picked up his nickname in school, where he struggled with learning disabilities and dyslexia.  Drawn more to the stage than academics, he would drop out at the age of 15.  He formed his first band a few years later, that would later become Black Sabbath.


Geezer Butler read a book about the occult and he and Ozzy found that people had a strange fascination with it.  They starting writing songs that were heavier, darker, all infused with Ozzy's eerie sounding voice.  Black Sabbath rose to fame quickly, though their first few albums didn't receive much critical acclaim.

They had a way of disturbing people, of getting under their skin.  Their lyrics and antics didn't sit well with many people.  By the late 70's, they were so drugged out that they could hardly get through recording sessions.  Their tour with Van Halen in 78' was deemed uninspired.  Ozzy was fired from the band, the others claiming his drug use was interfering too much.

Ozzy picked himself up, found new musicians and recorded Blizzard of Ozz.  The album never had a single Top 40 hit, but would become one of the best selling albums of the 80's.  His most famous song, Crazy Train, comes from that album.


One of my proudest moments as a mother was the morning my three year old woke me up playing air guitar standing on my bed,

dun dun. dun dun. dun dun dun dun. aiiii-aiiiiiii-aiiiiiiiii

It was also around the start of his solo career that he began biting the heads off animals.  A dove after signing a record deal, and a bat on stage.  He was heavily criticized for these acts, and often accused of promoting Satanism, and accusation that began back in the early days of Black Sabbath.

He successfully defended two lawsuits brought by families of young men who committed suicide, alleging that his music drove them to take their lives.  Though the courts sided with Ozzy, it was just another reason for a lot of people to hate him.

During the tour for Diary of a Madman, guitarist Randy Rhodes was killed in a plane crash that resulted from low passes over the tour bus.  Buzzing the bus with cocaine in his system turned out to not be such a good idea, but it was part of the catalyst to get Ozzy to clean up his own act.

By the 90's, he was playing with so may musicians from different bands that he finally decided to start Ozzfest - one of the most successful and longest running heavy metal festivals in the world.


He is still recording and performing now as a solo artist, as well as a rumored Black Sabbath reunion tour and album.

Ozzy gained a new audience with the MTV reality show The Osbournes, though he claims that he's never seen a single episode of it himself.  He claims he was stoned the entire time, which is plausible given his life long struggles with drug and alcohol abuse.  He is said to be sober now.

Ozzy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the other members of Black Sabbath in 2006.



I love you all, but you're all f***ing mad.  ~Ozzy

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer School of Rock - Pearl Jam

There would be no way to talk about rock music in the 90's without mentioning Pearl Jam.  While it's impossible to say what might have happened had Nirvana's front man survived the decade, the fact of the matter is that he didn't.  Nirvana dissolved and Pearl Jam emerged as the ultimate grunge band of the 90's.


As with most bands, it took a few years for the band to take shape, adding front man Eddie Vedder in 1990.  They were actually named Mookie Blaylock initially, after the basketball player, but changed it after legal naming concerns arose.


Ten was recorded in Seattle the following year, and would become their most commercially successful album.  Full of songs about depression and suicide, anger and loneliness, it spoke to the youth of the time.  Vedder's soulful voice combined with anthem style rock made a recipe for fame.  Rock without the flash.  You were just there for the music.

Flannel.  As far as the eye could see.

At the time, some accused Pearl Jam of being the sell-outs of the grunge movement, including Kurt Cobain, primarily because Pearl Jam's music was played more in the mainstream market than other Seattle based bands at the time.  Alice and Chains and Soundgarden were heavier and Nirvana was just...well, Nirvana.

Ironic, considering Pearl Jam has basically spent the rest of their career trying to prove they are anything but sell-outs.

By 1992, they were touring with Lollapalooza and playing SNL.


The fame got to the band quickly, and they started to pull back from what was expected of them.  After winning awards at the MTV music awards, they refused to make videos.  Vedder explained that videos, though wildly popular at the time, stripped some of the meaning from the songs and took away the listeners ability to interpret them.

They started refusing interviews and television performances.  They set a cap on ticket prices to concerts, then got to the point where they boycotted Ticketmaster.  Refusing to play any arena where Ticketmaster controlled tickets and assessed their fees, Pearl Jam finally canceled their 1994 summer tour.

The band never fully recovered from the fight with Ticketmaster.  They stood their ground, but quickly realized how hard it is to book venues without the ticketing giant.  In the late 90's, they recorded a few more albums and changed drummers several times.

Pearl Jam contemplated quitting altogether after 9 fans were crushed during a concert in 2000 in Denmark.  The band was initially blamed because they didn't heed the promoters requests to stop playing when the crowd swelled, but was later found innocent of blame.  Between that incident and 9/11, the band took some time off to contemplate their own (and everyone else's) mortality.


Just Breathe is one of my favorites, and shows the depth of their experiences, speaks to the power of lyrics and shows why they never needed videos in the first place.

2009's album Backspacer yielded their first music video in years.  Since then, they have been back on SNL and other television shows.  They are currently on tour in Europe.

Pearl Jam will forever be known as much for their music as for their refusal to comply with the rules.  They are loud and opinionated, often speaking out on everything from the environment to abortion to the war.  They have played a great many charity concerts, and will most certainly continue to do so.

The only reason they aren't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?  They aren't eligible yet.

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