A few cheers for George and Ringo

My friend Jill did an excellent piece yesterday on John Lennon, so I have been humming tunes of The Beatles all day. Without question, The Beatles owe their amazing success to the collaborative song writing of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Yet, to overlook the contributions of George Harrison and Richard Starkey (aka Ringo Starr) does a disservice to the band.

Harrison was the very young lead guitarist who learned how to play from banjo music. He was three years younger than McCartney and was only seventeen when they played for months on end in Hamburg. Lennon at first thought he was too young,

George Martin, their famous producer was walking the halls after Brian Epstein was unsuccessfully pitching the young band he managed to a Martin colleague. Martin overheard Harrison’s guitar playing on record and popped in the office and decided to take them on.

Harrison would flavor the Lennon and McCartney songs with his picking. He also penned some outstanding songs for the band such as “Something,” “Taxman,” “Here comes the Sun” and “Within you, without you” to name a few. He was accredited for introducing an amalgam of eastern/ western music which is unique to both cultures.

As for Ringo, he did not join the band until 1962 after the band fired their first drummer Pete Best. Starr had been following them even though he was drummer for another band. He liked to wear rings, hence the stage name.

I did not know this until later, but Starr is a left handed drummer who plays on a right handed drum kit. So, his style yielded an interesting sound. He also likes to record in the same room with the others to see and feel how they are playing. Starr collaborated with many artists following the band’s break-up, as he was easy to get along with and could play.

While he sang lead on a few songs “Little help from my Friends,” “Yellow Submarine,” and “Octopus’ Garden,” besides his playing, his main contribution was his effervescent fun loving spirit. He was the beloved jester in a band full of cut-ups.

One final thought comes from the excellent Ron Howard documentary “Eight Days a Week,” which highlights their touring period. Starr said he could not hear his band mates in the big arenas, as the sound systems were not ready for the challenge at that time. So, he watched their body language to keep in time with them. Now, that is professional.

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Prayers are not enough

There is an old joke where a man prays and prays for God to let him win the lottery. After years of praying, he asked God why have you forsaken me and deny me winning the lottery? The clouds parted and God said “It would help if you bought a ticket.”

After yet another gun tragedy, many have offered prayers in public places for the victims and their families, even in the halls of Congress. Being a religious man, I am all for praying, but after so many gun tragedies, it is time we “bought that lottery ticket” and take legislative action. The status quo is not working and legislators are simply not doing their job.

I have written variations of this several times and will have to write it again in the future as our Congressional representatives are too concerned with upsetting the NRA than trying to solve an obvious problem. For example, we have 300 million guns, one for each person in the US, and have over 30,000 gun deaths per year. Japan has an average of one gun per 100 people and had 27 gun deaths for the whole country last year. And, that increased from 8 the year before.

Yes, gun deaths are a mental health issue. They are also a lack of civil discourse issue, they are a drug crime issue, they are a violent entertainment issue, but make no mistake they are an access to gun issue. This is especially true for guns that can kill far too many at one time. But, mass shootings are only part of the problem – the bigger problems happen every day, suicides and homicides. 2/3 of our gun deaths are suicides.

There are measures that can be taken that will help if done holistically. We could begin with by unwinding the horrible legislation that Congress passed and Trump signed that allows 75,000 Social Security mentally health disabled people to be left on the OK to buy a gun list. We could also stop attacking the ACA and its Medicaid expansion which provide mental health benefits. These two practices fly directly in the face of calling gun deaths a mental health issue,

We could follow the lead of states with tighter gun laws and lower gun death rates and start conducting background checks on all purchases and have more elongated waiting periods. We could require gun safety training that must be renewed. We could encode all bullets to help with crime solving and finger print control weapons to prevent child deaths.

And, I am firm believer that no citizen should have fully automatic weapons or even semi-automatic weapons. These weapons have no place in a non-military person’s hands.

King Solomon encourages us to use our brains in Proverbs. Why would God give us this wonderful creation between our ears, if He did not expect us to use it? I have spoken before that people pray for miracles, but isn’t our brain a wonderful miracle that can help solve problems? We are the solution to the problem.

We must act. Our legislators must act. If they do not, we need to share our concerns and share them again. It is obvious doing nothing is not working.

Some needed humor

America is in need of some humor. With such an unnerving man at the helm, it seems we could run aground so easily. Here are a few thoughts, which I hope will bring a smile.

The President says he is for the little guys, but we did not realize he actually meant short billionnaires.

The President wants to MAGA, but we did not realize “great” was spelled “grate” as we are getting on the nerves of our allies.

The President threw a lawn party in May for the House Republicans when they passed an ACA repeal and replace bill. His staff did not have the heart to tell him it needed to go through the Senate. “Aw, we have to go through this again?”

After Hurricane Maria, the President visited  the US Virgin Islands. Later he said he had a terrific meeting with the President of the Virgin Islands. Ahem, excuse me sir, but aren’t you the President of the US Virgin Islands?

Have you noticed a trend that the President likes to grade his efforts? I think I got a ten on my handling of Puerto Rico. None of my predecessors have done as good a job at reaching out to families of our deceased military. Maybe students should try this after a test.

There is an old line that when your boss says you are doing a great job to the media, you better get your resume ready. When the President holds a press conference to tell everyone you and he have a terrific relationship with you standing there, watch your back. You may be Brutus, but this Caesar has the knife.

That is all for now. I hope some of this brought you a smile. Have a great week.

 

 

Two movies, two thumbs-up

We caught two of the recent movie releases and can give them both a thumbs-up. They are two very different movies – “Blade Runner 2049” and “The Battle of the Sexes.”

“Blade Runner 2049” is a sequel of a cult classic movie with Harrison Ford. It was a dark futuristic movie and the sequel does justice to the original. Ryan Gosling and Robin Wright star along with Ford, but the other supporting roles add greatly to the movie, especially Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Mackenzie Davis and Jared Leto. If you did not like the first Blade Runner, you won’t like this one. But, it does have a good plot and theme. I would add what seemed so science fiction when the first movie was made in the early 1980s, seems less so now, which is a little unsettling.

Gosling plays his role quite well as does Hoeks. De Armas’ role is quite interesting too, and she is ideally suited for it. I will try to stay away from further reveals, but encourage you to watch it. Some have called the movie sexist given some of the roles. I understand their point and would agree that parts of the movie are. I would counter that Wright and Hoeks have a lot of screen time and play key roles, so I will let you be the overall judge.

“The Battle of the Sexes” is about the lead up to the famous tennis match between former men’s champion Bobby Riggs and current women’s champion and advocate for women, Billie Jean King. Riggs was a renowned hustler who loved to gamble in conflict with his wealthy wife’s wishes. At the age of 55, he saw a chance to make money by challenging King, who initially turned him down.

King knew Riggs for what he was, a showman, and she was deep in the middle of the start of the women’s tennis circuit called the “Virginia Slims circuit” when they boycotted the USTA for the much smaller money being paid to women. Riggs did find another opponent in Margaret Court, who was married with one child, playing her on Mother’s Day. Although, the current number one player, Court was not prepared to play that day (and greatly underestimated the situation) and Riggs easily beat her, which drew a match with King.

I remember this national prime time match between King and Riggs, so the movie brought back a lot of memories. The other key subplot is King was dealing with her own Lesbianism which began to manifest itself during the Virginia Slims tour. To say, she was conflicted at this crucial time is an understatement. Her husband Larry stood by her for awhile, but to see his angst through this is also important, as she loved him and respected his input and support.

The movie stars Emma Stone as King and Steve Carell as Riggs. Sarah Silverman, Alan Cumming, Andrea Riseborough, Elisabeth Shue, Bill Pullman and Austin Stowell also play key roles. Stone and Carell are excellent in their roles. Cumming, though, eats up the screen with his role, in my view.

Check them both out. Let me know what you think. Is Blade Runner too sexist? Do you remember the King/ Riggs’ match?

 

Hypocrisy abounds with the NFL

Colin Kaepernick, a proven talented quarterback, cannot get a job in the National Football League (NFL). Even non-football fans know the reason is he chooses to exercise his First Amendment rights and kneel in protest during the playing of the national anthem. Kaepernick does this as he feels blacks are not getting fair treatment in the US and too many are being needlessly killed.

Yet, this protesting prevents NFL football teams from hiring him since his release from his previous team. You would think the man is radioactive. Many fans are stridently against him given a bent to jingoistic behavior. But, before you decide to do the same, let’s speak of three hypocrisies in the NFL leadership ranks.

First, the NFL likes to portray a patriotic theme, with heavy military showmanship. Looking under the covers, your tax dollars pay for that show. Our military pays the NFL for the privilege to advertise their service for employment recruiting purposes. I am not saying we should not be patriotic, but this payment for jingoistic advertising may be the key reason he is not being hired.

Second, Kaepernick is exercising his rights to free speech, which is preventing his being hired. That is more representative of our freedom than a national anthem. But, digging deeper, the NFL has little problem with employing convicted or suspended players who have committed crimes such as domestic violence, drug possession, drug distribution, theft or steroid use. Advocating for Black Lives Matter is perceived to be worse than these crimes.

Finally, it would be well within the rights of Kaepernick to protest the NFL for its role in hiding their concussion problem that led to brain injuries that may not appear until after the players stopped playing. This active and prolonged obfuscation of the truth caused even more players to get concussions and be exposed to brain injury. The NFL eventually settled the law suit against them for $1 Billion which went to impacted players. While this is a major step, the league still tries to avoid some painful truths.

When I see commentators and fans denigrate Kaepernick for exercising his rights, I think of these hypocrisies. The answer for his problem rests with the other players. Unless more than a few kneel out of respect for his rights and his legitimate protests,  Kaepernick will not play again in the NFL. In the meantime, we fans need to understand why he is protesting and support his right to do so.

 

 

 

A few distractions from unexpected guitarists

With so many things happening in the world, we could use a few distractions. The following music factoids on some interesting guitar collaborations are quite unimportant, but may bring a moment of relief and reflection.

Joe Cocker covered several songs making them his own with his unusual style, including The Beatles’ “Little Help from my Friends.” What I just learned this week, the beautiful guitar lead-in to and throughout the song was played by none other than Jimmy Page. Page had left The Yardbirds and had not started Led Zeppelin with Robert Plant.

– Speaking of great lead guitarists, Jeff Beck, who also played with The Yardbirds and with several famous performers like Rod Stewart, Mick Jaggar, Tina Turner et al, was captured in a collaboration on a very famous song with a Motown star. Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” has a pulsating and memorable guitar riff throughout, played by Beck.

– Another guitar collaboration married a very talented songwriter and performer by the name of Michael Jackson with lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen. Jackson’s famous song “Beat it” has a Beck-like guitar riff and solo player by Van Halen, whose own band is quite successful.

Eric Clapton is arguably the best known guitarist in the world. He also played briefly     with The Yardbirds – an amazing line-up of guitar talent. Before he died, Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers joined with Clapton on his most famous song “Layla.” Allman was an expert slide guitarist, so he played the plaintiff crying sound on “Layla” for the last half of the song.

– Finally, although not quite the capable guitarists as the above players, two other famous musicians played on “Carolina in my Mind,” James Taylor’s song. Taylor was signed by Apple Records, which was The Beatles’ self-created label. Needing a bassist and additional guitarist, Paul McCartney and George Harrison decided to do the honors for Taylor. That was quite the set of studio musicians for the 18 year old Taylor.

I find these collaborations fascinating. When I learned of them much later than when the songs were hits, I enjoyed the songs even more. Give them a listen and hear past the singer for the guitar sound. There are some famous fingers strumming along in these songs making them even more memorable.

Interviewers – ask your question then be quiet

My friend Lisa, who is the pied piper of Ecuador as an involved and involving American expat, offered a comment specific to Fox News about interviewers talking over the answers of people being interviewed. While Fox is far from perfect, they are not alone in interviewers who trample over their guests’ answers. I was planning on writing a piece before I saw her comment, as I get so frustrated when I see this happen.

Two of the worst at this are Gayle King of “CBS Morning News” and Bill Maher of “Real Time with Bill Maher.” I like both of these folks and think Maher is one of the more informed interviewers around. Even though his show is a comedy show, he welcomes guests that have varying views to discuss the topics of the day. King also has a lot to offer, but in a format with two other capable interviewers, she sometimes overshadows the guest to hear herself talk.

What frustrates me more, is when they have a very knowledgeable, but less pushy guest, who is in the middle of making a well-thought out and experienced based point. What happens too often is the point remains incomplete and the guest has to go in a different direction in response to the interruption. My wife teases me when she hears me exclaim “Let the person talk!”

An equally troubling approach is fully deployed by “60 Minutes” interviewers. John Oliver on his news-based comedy show “Last Week Tonight” does a piece which illustrates this approach – giving the answer to the person being interviewed who parrots what the interviewer just said. When Oliver shows about a dozen of these clips in sequence, it is hysterical.

So, interviewer do us all a favor. Ask your question, then be quiet. Let your interviewee finish the answer. Do not talk over the answer to show us how smart you think you are. I would prefer you do your homework beforehand and ask good questions. What ends up happening is the interview falls short of what it could have been. And, don’t give the person the answer – let them use their words.