Sunday, February 18, 2018

Neil Diamond: I Am... I Said (1971)

Aspirational Change

Neil Diamond [born in Brooklyn, NY in 1941]: I Am... I Said (1971), a song about personal aspirations and fears, the type written by persons on the cusp of change.

I was saddened by the news of Mr. Diamond’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease; and as a result, he recently announced that he will stop touring, which he had done commendably and remarkably for more than 50 years. His music has brought much joy to millions of people around the world, and the songs are much more reflective than some critics say, tapping into universal fears: But I got an emptiness deep inside/And I've tried/But it won't let me go/And I'm not a man who likes to swear/But I never cared for the sound of bein' alone.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Patti Smith: Changing of the Guards (2007)

Patti Smith [born in 1946 in Chicago] singing her wonderful interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “Changing of the Guards,” the seventh track on her tenth studio album Twelve (2007), her album of cover songs.
Via: Youtube

This one was written and released in 1978 by Bob Dylan, the poet-songwriter who was given the Nobel Prize in Literature (2016) for his words to us. You can view Dylan [here] singing the song, a rare performance, in a 1978 concert in Charlotte, N.C. The song is the first song on his 18th studio album Street Legal (1978)The song is full of biblical allusions and symbolism, particularly from the New Testament. Its social commentary, right on the mark, is spoken and understood by the common man, by the meek of the earth who carry some hope in their hearts. Desperate men, desperate women divided/Spreading their wings ’neath the falling leaves.

Changing of the Guards by Bob Dylan

Sixteen years
Sixteen banners united over the field
Where the good shepherd grieves
Desperate men, desperate women divided
Spreading their wings ’neath the falling leaves

Fortune calls
I stepped forth from the shadows to the marketplace
Merchants and thieves, hungry for power, my last deal gone down
She's smelling sweet like the meadows where she was born
On midsummer's eve, near the tower

The cold-blooded moon
The captain waits above the celebration
Sending his thoughts to a beloved maid
Whose ebony face is beyond communication
The captain is down but still believing that his love will be repaid

They shaved her head
She was torn between Jupiter and Apollo
A messenger arrived with a black nightingale
I seen her on the stairs and I couldn't help but follow
Follow her down past the fountain where they lifted her veil

I stumbled to my feet
I rode past destruction in the ditches
With the stitches still mending 'neath a heart-shaped tattoo
Renegade priests and treacherous young witches
Were handing out the flowers that I'd given to you

The palace of mirrors
Where dog soldiers are reflected
The endless road and the wailing of chimes
The empty rooms where her memory is protected
Where the angels’ voices whisper to the souls of previous times

She wakes him up
Forty-eight hours later, the sun is breaking
Near broken chains, mountain laurel and rolling rocks
She’s begging to know what measures he now will be taking
He’s pulling her down and she’s clutching on to his long golden locks

Gentlemen, he said
I don’t need your organization, I’ve shined your shoes
I’ve moved your mountains and marked your cards
But Eden is burning, either getting ready for elimination
Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards

Peace will come
With tranquility and splendor on the wheels of fire
But will bring us no reward when her false idols fall

And cruel death surrenders with its pale ghost retreating
Between the King and the Queen of Swords

Dylan is enigmatic, which is the way a poet ought to be, sayin’ what needs sayin’ in his collected writings. Take, for example, his 1984 interview in Rolling Stone.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Finding Grace

Our Better Selves

Grace: (n; 12c) [ME, fr. OF, fr. L. grātia favor, charm, thanks, fr. grātus pleasing,
grateful; akin to OHG queran, to sigh, Skt grnäti he praises.
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1987

“Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”
C.S. Lewis [1898–1963], Book III; Chapter 8
(“The Great Sin”) in Mere Christianity (1952)

At one time the wealthy could at least be counted on for good manners; such does not appear to be the case today, especially among the cohort of multi-millionaires and billionaires who make money quickly and easily and as a result think themselves “better than others.” Their world is a competitive one, their ambition fueled by pride. In such a ruthless world, manners, gratefulness and kindness are not important, these being a sign of humility (or “weakness”).

More’s the pity, and society suffers as a result of its lack, even as many others are blithely unaware of its importance. A society in which everyone is competing is a horrible one in which to live. It becomes unbearable. When something is lacking or gone, its absence becomes more pronounced. Such is undoubtedly the case with grace. Where can she be found? Well, an old memory that recently returned to me, tells a story.

Almost 40 years ago, I met a few such old-school, old-money individuals when I was a student working part-time at McGill University; they came from noted English and French families and they were different in a good way, in a way that I found appealing. They were well-mannered and had all the social graces one would expect of such people. I, who came from a working-class background, took note and learned much from them.

I don’t want everything from the good ol’ days, but grace—both social and Christian—would be good in greater abundance. It would be a fine thing and good for society’s individuals to take in. If you accept the position that it is God who has bestowed on you certain gifts or benefits, including monetary, then you are more inclined to view others in a similar manner—with similar grace. In God’s economy no one has merited such gifts; everyone is equally undeserving.

Such a thought goes against the idea that we always must earn it, that it is a result of our own efforts, that only the best and brightest obtain it. Yet, grace contains none of these ideas, and because it is none of these things, we have difficulty accepting it. It is a heavenly gift of love (and acceptance) available to all who seek it. Truth be told, grace confounds the human mind, perhaps because it is a mystery which is wrapped in simplicity and humility.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

In the Midst of a Canadian Winter (2018)

The 4th Season

Yesterday Morning in Toronto:  After receiving some snow, such is the view from my sixth-floor balcony. Moreover, it is as cold as it looks; temp: –12°C (or 11°F). Take heart, fellow Canadians; we are at the halfway point.
Photo Credit: ©2018. Perry J. Greenbaum

We are half-way through winter. Actually, we are two weeks past the midpoint (January 15, 2018) of meteorological winter (December 1 to February 28, 2018), but a few days from the midpoint of astronomical winter (December 21, 2017 to March 20, 2018).  However way you look at it, we are just around the halfway point, and looking at the backside of winter—although it does not yet appear this way.

While some adults like winter, I am not part of this group, since I no longer skate and have never taken up downhill or cross-country skiing or snowshoeing; similarly, I have never owned a pair of mukluks. I do, however own a Russian fur hat (ushanka), which I wear on the coldest of days. My fond recollections of winter rest in childhood memories from the 1960s in and around Montreal’s Mont-Royal, “the mountain.”

I now welcome winter’s end, its temporary demise, and look for signs of its dismissal from Canada, at least for a short while—a respite from the cold and dark dreary days. There are also feelings of being shut in. While it still remains cold, and the first week of February is often the coldest of the year, there is encouraging signs, such as the days becoming noticeably longer. This is always a good thing to beat the winter doldrums—more daylight.

Today in Toronto, for example, sunrise is at 7:35 a.m. and sunset at 5:27 p.m., thus totaling 9 hours and 52 minutes of daylight—almost a full hour more than the beginning of the month. The end of next month will bring another hour of daylight and so on till June’s summer solstice. There is something encouraging in seeing and knowing that the days are becoming longer, that more light is making its way to us.

Today is also a rare event: the second full moon of January (a Blue Moon), coinciding with a Super Moon (the moon is at the closest point to Earth) and a total lunar eclipse. Joe Rao for writes (“Get Ready for the ‘Super Blue Blood Moon’ Eclipse of Jan. 31!; January 19, 2018): “Interestingly, this will be the first time in over 150 years (since March 31, 1866, to be exact) that a total lunar eclipse will coincide with a Blue Moon in North America.”

That’s enough excitement for one day.

I am taking a short winter break and will return in mid-February.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Foghorn Leghorn: Little Boy Boo (1954)

American Comedy

America’s Pastime: Eggbert Jr., the bookish son of Miss Prissy, the widow hen, picks up baseball quick enough, even if he takes things literally, like “putting some pepper on the ball.” For more background on “Little Boy Boo,” go [here].

The large Rhode Island rooster, Foghorn Leghorn, sporting a a central Virginia accent, appears earnest in his attempts, even if he comes across as obnoxious and overbearing. The boy’s skills are out of this world and do not match what his small stature suggests, leaving Mr. Leghorn to declaim: “There is something going on around here that just don’t add up.”

Probably so; the events are far beyond his understanding, limited by his lack of awareness, his lack of sensibility, and his lack of humility. Such character traits are rare, and at times used to be found in leaders, whether economic or political. Now, all it takes is ambition, drive, a take-charge attitude and money, not exactly a good combination for their subordinates.

As for the rooster, he remains blithely ignorant; such incongruity makes for some funny moments in that the actual does not meet expectations, and where the quiet thoughtful one outwits the loudmouth and thus comes out on top. It is all the more funny because today this rarely takes place. In America, for example, un gros bouffon can become president.

Such is American (tragi)comedy at its best.