Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When Hell Breaks Loose...

...look the Devil right in the eye.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Be Realistic

Elwood P. Dowd: Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.

Harvey (1950)

Nothing great was ever achieved by being “realistic.”
“Be realistic,” is the rallying cry of mediocrity, bellowed by morons and cowards.


Friday, February 20, 2009

"What do you fear....?"

A cage.
To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them, and all chance at valor has gone beyond recall or desire.

from "The Lord of the Rings"
painting by Ruth Haggerty

Monday, February 16, 2009

Advice from an Old Lion

Hub: Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love... true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn't matter if it's true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.

-- from the film Second-Hand Lions (2003)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

All Ya Need Is Love.....

I had a strange dream last night in which I was trying to explain how all songs ever written are about love, in one way or another. I even drew a diagram. Pretty impressed with myself. When I woke up, the idea stuck with me and I had to put it on paper.

Somebody once wrote that there are only a handful of “plot devices” or storylines, and all the thousands of stories told are variations on one of them.

The same is true of love songs.

There are all kinds of love.
You might love your mama, love your country, love your dog, love your job, love a sunset, love a good whiskey. Despite the fact that we use the same word – a four-letter word we really SHOULD be careful with – to describe all of these experiences, I would submit to you that they are quite different from each other. You will find songs about each of these kinds of love, but far and away the most common topic of a love song is romantic/sexual love.

One of the first things we write about is how THIS love is different from all other loves (“higher than the highest mountain….”) and, of course, the most recent one is the best EVER.
I went though this a lot as a kid. Fell in love about three times a week and each new one was the “true” love, as distinguished from my mere infatuation of 48 hours earlier.

Now sometimes the songwriter uses the word “love” to mean “sex.” “I loved her all night long” doesn’t make any sense otherwise. I wrote that way, too, once upon a time.
I guess I thought it was clever, or cute. But hey, I was about 13 years old!

I don’t think sex and love are the same thing, and they ought not to be confused. Sex is like the rum in a Cuba Libre. It adds the kick to what would otherwise be a dull drink ( “I get no kick from champagne…..but I get a kick out of you”)
Sex is good.
Love is good.
Sex with someone you love may be EXTRA good.
But, hell, sex with someone you don’t even KNOW is pretty good, too.

Here are some love-song story-lines I came up with. Can you think of any others?

1. You’re in love with someone who’s in love with you.
In music, as in real life, this one’s the rarest, I think. You’re in love with your ideal, perfect love and your beloved loves you right back. Not sure I can even imagine it.
Love may start out this way – maybe it ALWAYS starts out this way. But “perfection” is a hard act to follow and there’s only one place to go from there.
Love has an enemy: time.
Things change. People change – or reveal themselves. You find that you were deceived or mistaken. Or familiarity breeds boredom. The human brain thrives on stimulation, change. Try eating your favorite food every meal, every day and let me know how it tastes to you after about a month. The sweet love you can’t live without today may be the love you can take or leave tomorrow.
No, it doesn’t ALWAYS happen that way and I’m sure your current love is the one exception known to humankind.
And the race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong – but that’s the way to bet.

2. You love someone who doesn’t love you.
I suppose we could stop here. Maybe it doesn’t really matter WHY your beloved doesn’t love you. But we try to figure out why not, as if figuring out could change it. And sometimes we DO figure it out and try to change ourselves n order to be someone our beloved will love.
Ring me up the next time THAT works out.

Meanwhile we have a rich panoply of variations on that theme like,
if only you could get their attention, surely they’d love you.

3. You love someone who doesn’t love you YET.
“I’m gonna MAKE you love me…” “She loves me but she doesn’t know it…”
Yeah. Good luck with that one. Only works in songs.

4. You love someone who doesn’t love you ANYMORE.
I recently learned that there’s no federal or state law that requires this to be the theme of EVERY country song. There are variations on this variation stemming from what you’re going to do about your beloved not loving you anymore. You can try to win him/her back. You can lament over the lost cause. You could even decide to remain “friends”
Friends. Uh-huh.
Who’s kidding who?

5. You love someone who loves someone else.
The preferred someone else is your best friend. This is a lot like envying your friend’s hot new car. You only think about how good it looks and how much fun it would be to drive. You don’t think about the poor gas mileage, up-keep and insurance.

Whether or not it’s your best friend, it makes for a better song if your beloved’s love is a BIG Mistake. You make a musical compare/contrast powerpoint presentation explaining why the wise romantic consumer should pick YOUR brand of love over their current favorite, Brand X.

If it is your best friend and your friend isn’t a Big Mistake, you console yourself that it’s better this way, that they’ll be happy, that your beloved will be better off and you love him/her so much that their happiness is more important to you than your own.
We can call this one the Sour Grapes Martyr Song.

6. You love someone who’s married.
This may or may not work out well in the short term. But I’ll tell you right now, he/she’s NOT going to leave his/her spouse for you. And even if they did, if they’d double-cross their spouse, what makes you think they wouldn’t double-cross you when they bump into a new “true love,” or better meal-ticket? Might as well sing about that uncertainty.

Sometimes the song reveals that the married person you’re in love with is your own spouse.
Now ain’t that just cute?

7. You love someone who hates you.
This one can be interesting, depending on why your beloved hates you. Some people say hate is the opposite of love. I’m not convinced. I think indifference is the opposite of love.

8, You love someone whom you’re forbidden to love (race, age, class)
This is the Romeo and Juliet Song. Whether he’s the “leader of the pack” or she’s a “rag doll” this one is a song of impossible love doomed to failure, of course.

9. You’re in love with someone whom you’re trying not to love.
This works about as well as trying not to be hungry or thirsty. You try to resist your feelings because of any of our panoply of other reasons. You KNOW it’s a Big Mistake and your trying to “wash that man right out of your hair.”
Better stock up on that shampoo, darlin.’

10. You’re in love with someone you hate.
I wouldn’t wish this one on my worst enemy. But it has some great song possibilities, in a sort of battered-songwriter-syndrome sort of way.

11. You’re in love with someone who’s gay.
Not one that’s specifically been done a lot. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see that change some.

12. You’re in love with someone who’s incapable of love.
The ne’er-do-well and the ice queen.
I guess this would have to include being in love with someone who pretends to love you, but it turns out is lying about it, for some reason, probably to get something else they want. Maybe your money. Maybe your body. Maybe your soul.
There’s no bigger mistake than to fall in love with a psychopath – that’s not necessarily a serial killer, but rather a person who is incapable of feeling empathy, and who has no conscience. They don’t love you because they can’t. They don’t love anyone but themselves, and they’re not really even sure about themselves.

Here’s one suggested by a good friend:
13. You love someone again, someone you loved before, but hurt and discarded, only to finally realize you still love them after all this time --- but it's too late for them to love you. You destroyed their love for you.

That’s a nasty bit of poetic justice, don’t you think?
As my old pal, The Rat, used to say, “Karma. It’ll kick your ass.”

Well, class, there’s a covensworth of love song possibilities. Can you think of any others? Got a favorite love song or ten? What category does it fit into? Maybe more than one? Compare and contrast.
Ya gotta love it.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Which one of these two buildings “collapsed due to structural failure caused by fire?”

On the left is the Mandarin Oriental Hotel where a blaze fully involved the entire building, roaring flames consuming all 34 floors of the structure.

On the right is WTC 7 where there were limited fires on 8 floors.

WTC 7 collapsed within it’s own footprint.

The Mandarin is still standing.

In fact of ALL the similar steel-frame structures known to have had fires in them, only 3 have ever collapsed.

All 3 were in New York on September 11, 2001.

I guess the demise of the rule of law in America includes the laws of physics.



Monday, February 9, 2009

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences
Gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
I can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in.

"Don't Fence Me In"

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Angels Too Soon

Somewhere in a nightmare a little girl is screaming as she jumps from a high second-story window, her hair and clothing on fire…

I wake up with a jolt, drenched in sweat.
It’s 3 A.M.
There’s no going back to sleep.
Squeezing past my dogs so as not to disturb them, I get up, pad across the cold floor to the bay window and look out at the frigid moonlit night.

I was only seven years old on that afternoon when fire broke out at Our Lady of the Angels school in Chicago. We might still have been living in the city; I can’t remember. Don’t know how I got the image of that little girl seared into my brain. Maybe I saw it on the news, or someone described it, or – hell, I don’t know.

92 children and 3 nuns died.
It was stupid.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Everyone knew damn well what fire safety measures that school ought to have had in place. But the school got “grandfathered” by them. So no fire doors, inaccessible fire extinguishers, inaccessible fire escape, not enough fire alarms, no sprinkler system….

Just a fire door on the second floor might have prevented ANY fatalities.
One damn fire door.
95 lives for a fire door.
Doesn’t seem like a good trade to me.

I wonder if we’ve learned anything since then. I still see people -- even firefighters -- stupidly ignore important rules -- rules designed to save lives – of civilians AND firefighters. But these rules too often get lip service with a wink and a nod and nothing more. That’s what happened at Our Lady of the Angels, too. We had rules, GOOD rules. We just didn’t obey them.

That’s stupid.

In my nightmare, I try to reach in, grab that little girl, pull her to safety.
Maybe one day, I will.
Then she and I can both rest easy.