Tunesday Preview: Be Good Tanyas–Light Enough To Travel

I’m starting to work back into the daily post thing–is it too cute to reconstitute the weekly music video as Tunesday…?  Seeing as it’s a pretty long stretch to call any business I’m about “cute,” I think I’m going to go for it–starting next week.  Since I already wrote the following introduction for today, we’ll call this a Special Preview.

It was still 4 degrees when I came in from shoveling snow this morning around 9am.  In the past 2 months I’ve had to heft, scrape, push, throw and chisel some sort of wintry substance–it’s been steadily frigid, so things have been consistently lovely, aesthetically speaking, rather than grey and brown and slushy, but I’m ready for the next step: daffodils.  I suppose they’re down there, somewhere, under all that snow, but until I see ‘em for myself.
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In the meantime, let’s forget the chill for a moment with one of my very favorite songs, “Light Enough To Travel” by the old, long-gone Be-Good Tanyas.  It’s warm enough to melt the ice from our shoulders, at least for a while.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwkFySJmEJY

 

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Illogical–A World Without Nimoy

color_nimoy_headshotSo, if you haven’t heard–and I hadn’t, until just this moment, Leonard Nimoy has died. He was famous for many things–acting, directing, producing, the old Hollywood trifecta–but for all his accomplishments we all know him for one thing above all: Spock. Yep, Spock is dead, and there’s no reason to write a grand summary of his accomplishments when perfectly adequate obituary-type articles are available here, here, and here.  As the hours and days pass, there will be others–dozens, hundreds.  Blogs will explode, all of us wanting to say something about this man who, for me, has been a constant media presence in my life since my earliest recollection, despite that fact that the show that made his career, Star Trek, went off the air right around the time I was born.

Nimoy made a great effort to distance himself from the character, and it must have put limits on his career as time passed and, inexplicably, Spock grew from science fiction sidekick to cultural icon, but in the spirit of Shakespeare, which was repeatedly Spock614echoed in that show, I think Mr. Nimoy’s protests were a little bit contrived, his ambivalence a little too pragmatic.  In American cinema, there are maybe a dozen characters that transcend the screen along with their actors: Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones or Han Solo, Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry,  Arnold Schwarzenhegger, Stallone, Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, but he is the only one who arguably wasn’t the leading man.  In the new incarnation, it can be argued that the Kirk/Spock pairing is a buddy movie, but the original show was cut out to be The Captain Kirk Show.

Spock, as it turned out, couldn’t be kept down.  Ironically, it was Nimoy’s layered performance of the supposedly emotionless alien who became the heart of the show, and that struggle against his emotions the core of what set Star Trek apart from so many other shows.  As Kirk said, eulogizing Spock, “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most–human.”  That’s the core of it, right there.  Nimoy as Spock became a mirror against which not only the other characters, but any man, was reflected. And if Nimoy didn’t understand that, he died today without truly realizing how great an accomplishment his career represents.

 

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Dishwasher Vindication

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This is not my kitchen, but my kitchen is this color.

Strange people, really odd people, live at my house.  Not only is there no dishwasher (listen to the gasps), but we do have a purple kitchen.  We didn’t set out to have a purple kitchen–it just happened that way.  It used to be yellow, but after more than a decade we suspected that the bright color was contributing to a general unease in our family–it was vaguely energizing, but in a room that didn’t benefit from additional nervous energy, so when we decided to replace out horrid vintage laminate counter top with something more attractive we opted to go the whole way.  We looked at the entire palate of bland neutral colors and nearly settled on some sort of sandy speckled yawner when my wife pulled out a purple sample card and said “What about…?”

“Yes!” I blurted, nodding conspiratorially.  So we’ve got some purple counters–not lavender, not violet, but purple. Think artificial grape. We expected to get some criticism, as we did when we first moved in and painted the living room Very Bright Green.  My aunt, ever sensitive, stepped into the living room of our newly purchased and refitted house and remarked, “It’s going to look great once you do something about this awful paint.”

Nothing like that has sprung from the purple kitchen, but we’ve noticed visitors looking at things a lot more closely, and from them we’ve heard a lot of surprise from rsporkfolks who are shocked to discover we don’t have a dishwasher.  They don’t know how we do it.  They know they could never survive.  There’s a touch of surprise, but a strong current of pity and not a little fear–could this happen to us?  Could we not have a dishwasher?  They whisper to each other when our backs are turned, and act surprised when we don’t serve them on paper plates with plastic sporks.  As if we’re savages.

We just never got around it.  My father in law brought us a nearly new machine that my wife’s sister had  rejected from her new home–it didn’t match the decor or something–and I kept it in the garage for a decade, all with the intent of installing it someday, but we finally dragged it to the curb last autumn, still practically new but considerably more dusty.  It was gone within minutes, presumably to a good and appreciative home, but then who doesn’t appreciate a good, solid dishwasher?

49cbd4a8e2285eea89d069a68ca97be4a477bd5b7400ee0f68c613f216b40b3dIt’s just–I’ve spent too much time in other people’s kitchens, watching them scrape and spray off, chisel at, and actually scrub their dirty dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, and I don’t get it.  Why do they wash their dishes before they put their dishes in the dishwasher–if you’re going to do that, why not just have a “dish rinser?” I can wash by hand as quickly as any machine, probably more quickly in many cases, with a lot less noise. I don’t have to embark on a major engineering project stacking the dishes in the machine, then extricating them, and I don’t have to stand around later picking all the dried food particles off of the glasses and silverware before they get put away.

It makes no sense.  I can’t think of another machine that requires us to do all the work before we use it.  Imagine browning starting a small fire in order to brown bread before we put it in the toaster, or sweeping your entire house with a broom before running the vacuum, or shaving* with a razor before using an electric shaver?  It’s ridiculous.

And now it seems that the reason so many people have sniffling, sickly kids may be because of the damn dishwasher not, as I presumed, their innate genetic inferiority.  See, I knew something was funny with that machine.  I never trusted it one bit.  Who is the paleo-housekeeper now, Mouseketeers?  Now, I know this is science–so those of you on the right side of the theater might not believe in it, but maybe there’s something to it.

*I’ve heard some men actually do this to their faces.

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Iran’s Plywood Posturing

6a00d83451af9f69e2016300460737970d-640wiI admire defiance.

I have a grudging admiration for Iran.  I’ll admit it. They consistently thumb their nose at America, however toothlessly, which is impressive enough on it’s own, but they also have a valid point: western nations have been messing with their internal affairs for the better part of a century and they’re pretty sick of it.

Mostly, it’s the way their military occasionally expresses it’s defiance that I appreciate–trotting out not so secret weapons like miniature submarines, “flying boats” and fast attack boats (think power boats, but with machine guns or small missiles instead of hot chicks and water skis).

hqdefaultWhen I was a kid, back when kids were allowed to roam wild and free in the summers, one of our neighborhood adventures was to play in “the crick”–Marsh Run–a relatively lifeless strip of stream that provided a band of wildness through the center of our town.  The receptacle for street drains and downspouts across our neighborhood, it could rise from 8 inches to 8 feet in the course of a summer deluge, but on bright sunny days it was a pleasant and shady, if not particularly clean place to while away an afternoon. One of our favorite endeavors was to catch leeches, stick them on rocks, and either impale them on twigs or salt them to death–a leech stuck to an ankle was a particular treat: we’d watch it swell with our blood for a while and then, just when it looked like it would get away with it, we’d salt it, watch it fall off, flail, and die. We were vengeful little sods–sometimes we’d cheer the sticky, convulsing critters.

Next up, the building of boats. Any cast-off piece of lumber would do–old 2×4 chunks were ideal–that we could float down the stream and target with rocks.  Or, on a smaller scale, we would buy packaged of balsa wood from the hobby store on our thriving main street, carve at them with pocket knives, and fashion entire miniature navies which–are you seeing a theme here?–we would then throw rocks at until we got bored, which was pretty quickly.

I was thrilled to discover this week that the Iranian Navy has embarked on a similar strategy, albeit on a slightly larger scale.  I built 6″ battleships out of balsa–but the Iranians have constructed near-to-scale versions of American aircraft carriers.  The similarity is that neither vessel can fire back, producing for a rather lopsided engagement.  But I’ve got to hand it to them: how much FUN must this be:

I’m  not one to embrace demonstrations of military packing, but I won’t lie to you: from a strictly recreational point of view I’m a little envious.  My repressed inner 8-year-old would LOVE to explode a life-size fake ship.

And just for the record: the floating truck image I attached above is not really an Iranian frigate, despite the obvious visual similarities.  It is an artfully crafted Photoshop rendering.  I’ve seen this vehicle, a home-made craft that a Cuban man built to cross over to Florida.  The Iranian flags, machine gun and moons were added by the unknown artists.

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Found Winter Photo: Princess

Another busy set of days–lots of catching up to do, and I’m going to do it too, so beware: a flurry of posts awaits.  This is just a hint of the promise of things to come, a cool winter photo I grabbed from a Tumblr search with the keyword “winter.”  I am nothing if not a scupulous found photo detective.  Enjoy.

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The Maddox Brothers & Rose

It’s been rewarding to have hip people falling all over themselves, infatuated with American “roots music,” having put in my time as a kid in the back seat of cars without seatbelts, subjected to sonic brainwashing from the old country radio my dad would blare: all that Hank and Merle, Willie and Waylon–the long trips to Tammy Wynette concerts, the all-day music festival in muddy second rate fairground with Roy Clark and The Statler Brothers at the top of the bill.  The Statler brothers 1971countless hours of Hee Haw, The Grand Ol’ Opry, and even Pop! Goes The Country–how I hated it all, how I yearned for the King Biscuit Flour Hour, how I cursed Buck Owens and that bitch, Loretta Lynn.

After an embarrassing daliance with moribund art rock (I own several Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer LPs on vinyl) I turned to punk, new wave, even a little bit of proto-goth (I own all the Siouxsie & The Banshees up to Tinder, also on vinyl) although I was an unkempt, wool and flannel rural kid who would have slit his wrist before wearing eye shadow.) I’d give anything a chance except hard metal, twinkly R&B, and country.

I guess it was Stockholm Syndrome. My dad, long estranged,  got into oldies and I fell in love with pedal steel guitar.  When, after close to two decades out of touch, we found common ground, I was excited to share with him infatuations like Uncle Tupelo, Lone Justice, The Cowboy Junkies–and my full blown love for Gram, Emmylou, Johnny Cash–and don’t even get me started on Townes Van Zandt.  I thought I cold burn him some discs, you know, but he’d given up country for Sha Na Na.  It was hard to blame him–there’s little in the world more cloying, more bile-inducing than mainstream radio country.  When it comes down to it, my dad didn’t turn on Nashville–Nashville gave up on him.  I might have shown him the light, but he died before I burned those discs, or conned him into seeing a Lucinda Williams concert.  Man, he would have loved Lucinda Williams.

There’s an old song–not that old–“I lost you but I found country music.”

And all of the sudden the Avett Brothers are the biggest band around, selling out shows wherever they go. Old Crow Medicine Show got inducted into the Opry, and the Lumineers are on magazine covers.  Banjos are cool. Kids are agog over Mumford & Sons.

It’s against this backdrop that I want to introduce you to The Maddox Brothers and Rose–not a roots music band, they ARE roots music, and they’re incredible.  A hard-driving, pure and wild and unsophisticated, boot-stompin’ blur of attitude who billed themselves as “America’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Band,” not necessarily maddox-bfbecause of their penchant for brightly colored, highly ornate costumes. The group ripped it up some and Rose Maddox, known for her “reputation as a lusty firebrand”, which in pre-feminist days likely meant she had a mind of her own and didn’t take any shit from the country music patriarchy, was one of the most unapologetic in-your-face lead singers in the history of country music. She was, by all accounts, an absolute force of nature compared to her contemporaries.  She was also a fashion trend-setter, one of the early musical customers of legendary rodeo tailor Nudie Cohn–whose work would become popular with many of the greatest
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names in music and who deserves his own post.

The Maddox Brothers weren’t incredible musicians, and they weren’t middle class kids finding themselves while trying to find something to do with all those violin lessons foisted on them when they were in Montessori school.  The progeny of failed sharecroppers, they turned to music because their wasn’t much else, and they had that rare illusive quality so many more refined acts have lacked–they “rocked.” Or, as I’ve put it in posts about other bands, “they got it.”

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Found Winter Photo: Surfing NYC

Brrrrrr.

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