Rocketman and Yesterday

Yesterday, my son and I saw the movie “Yesterday” about a young singer who is in an accident caused by a blackout leaving him injured, but also the only person on the planet who remembers The Beatles. The movie stars Himesh Patel as the singer and Lily James as his manager and largest fan among very few. Yet, it is abetted by the role Ed Sheeran plays as himself recognizing the genius songwriting and Kate McKinnon as both performers greedy manager.

Last month, my wife and I saw “Rocketman,” a biopic about Elton John and his songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin. While it differs from “Yesterday,” both feature the musical genius of the songwriters and performers. “Rocketman” stars Taron Egerton as John with Jamie Bell playing Taupin. “Rocketman” also stars Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh as John’s unsupportive parents, whose best adult support came from his Nan played by Gemma Jones

In both movies, the stars sing the songs. Egerton does a highly credible job of singing like Elton. Patel does not sing as well, but that is a key part of the story. He is an unsuccessful singer who starts singing great music, while Egerton is playing the singer. “Yesterday” is directed by Danny Boyle with the story and screenplay written by Richard Curtis and Jack Barth. “Rocketman” was directed by Dexter Fletcher with the story and screenplay written by Lee Hall.

Both movies are worth seeing. “Rocketman” reveals the musical genius of Elton John who could play songs after hearing them for the first time, even as a young boy. He was classically trained after his Nan helped him, but he could only go as he benefitted from a scholarship. Billy Joel, who toured with John later in their careers, noted John wrote backwards from most songwriters, writing the music to the words of Taupin.

“Yesterday” introduces the breadth of music by The Beatles to a younger audience featuring the songs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney with a few of George Harrison’s thrown in. The movie includes songs from early in The Beatles’ career as well as songs off The White Album. Please stay around for the credits as well, as you will fade out with a well-known song.

It is hard to pick which movie is better. Since, I am a huge Beatles’ fan, I would have to give the nod to the latter, although the critics liked “Rocketman” a little better. It should be noted, I also liked the movie of a few years ago “Across the Universe,” which had young actors singing The Beatles’ songs as part of the plot, not unlike “Mamma Mia,” which uses ABBA’s music. I think both movies are just shy of the success of “Bohemian Rhapsody” about Queen which won some Academy Awards last year, but they are still highly entertaining.

Since my wife could not join us, I am likely to go see “Yesterday” again. I think it is worth another go. It should be noted Lily James also played in the sequel to “Mamma Mia” which came out last year. In “Yesterday,” her singing is relegated to playing a chorus in early recording sessions, but she adds greatly to the movie.

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There is no such thing

Having lived sixty years, you do glean experiences from the important to the pedestrian. Here are a few thoughts to ponder.

– there is no such thing as a squirrel-proof bird feeder; the inventive four legged creatures will find a way. We have tried many feeders and watching the squirrels shows they are the best safecrackers around.

– there is no such thing as an honest autocrat; power corrupts, absolute power makes you protective – the truth is a commodity. Beware of those who want more autocratic power. Turkey’s parliament gave Erdogan more power – that was not the best of moves in any country, regardless of the perceived veracity of the leader.

– there is no such thing an unbigoted person; we all have our prejudices, the key is to recognize them and listen to people who do not look, worship, believe, or love like you. A black man named Daryl Davis has talked over 200 KKK members into leaving the KKK and giving him their robes. He does it by asking them questions and starting a conversation.

– there is no such thing as clean coal; it can be made cleaner, but it will pollute the environment and humans in its acquisition, transport, burning and its residual ash storage. Fortunately, we are passed the tipping point on coal energy’s demise with renewable energy surpassing coal energy in the US and Germany this year.

– there is no such thing as an apolitical politician; some are less political than others, but be wary of fear-mongers and name-callers. The inability to make a logical, fact based argument is a tell-tale sign. Ask many why questions to ferret out the truthtellers. My favorite quote is from former Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, when he was caught in a lie by a reporter who asked questions. The Senator said in paraphrase you mistake my words with the truth (in other words, it is your fault I am lying).

– there is no such thing as a redeemable domestic violence abuser (there are very few success stories) as it is power based. If your significant other is beating you, leave. He will not change. One-third of the homeless families an agency I supported helped were due to domestic violence. A friend said none of his six siblings knew their sister was being beaten by her husband until he killed her. He also beat their kids by lifting them up and bashing their heads into the ceiling. Summon the courage, find an advocate and leave. He…will…not…change.

– there is no such thing as a free award; there is always a catch or a cost. Be wary of the more strident offers as it is indicative of a better deal for the one making the offer. As the cartoon character Ziggy once said, the nicer the presentation, the worse the message. There is a correlation between the marketer’s zeal  and the size of the profit potential. Stores where salespeople are on commission greet you at the door, e.g. while salaried sales people will greet you later.

I hope those in the US have a safe and enjoyable holiday. Stay hydrated. For those abroad, thanks for bearing with us as we sort our mess of politics and I wish you the best in your endeavors.

 

Make me smile

Humorous things pop up when you least expect them. In this spirit, here are a few surprising and funny things that make me smile. I hope you will as well.

We called my grandmother Big Mama which was not an unusual moniker in the south. While Big Mama had a piano, I never saw her play. One day she saw me chop-sticking and sat down. When she obliged my request to play, I expected something classical. What I heard was flat out boogie-woogie. And, it was well-played. She added to my surprise saying she played by ear.

My mother surprised me by telling of the time my father was visiting her at a pond near the female college dorms while they were dating. Lingering near the female dorms was frowned upon in the late 1940s at this small college. When she espied the female dean watching them, she playfully pushed him and he fell into the pond. That certainly disarmed the situation.

My date and I were at a community theatre which was held in a church hall. The audience sat in fold out chairs on chorus risers. We were in the last row about eighteen inches off the ground. After intermission, unbeknownst to me, one of my rear chair legs moved off the riser. As I sipped my wine, my date appeared to be going forward, but actually I was falling backward and crashed on the floor with a loud boom. Everyone turned. I was not hurt, but it sure was funny later.

Finally, another date became offended when I asked if we could use her car, so my visiting friend could borrow mine. Unfortunately, she told me she did not want to go out after I arrived. In a huff, I tried to back down her diagonal and downhill driveway. Unfortunately, I backed into a rock garden and got stuck. Her father had to tow me off the garden with her watching from the living room window. Oops. It was funny by the time I told my friend, but at the time…

What are your unexpected funny stories?

I remember when

As I dressed for a long walk this morning, I was reminded of an old dressing habit. This prompted a reflective post (you can hum Nat King Cole’s “I remember you” as you read with me):

I remember when we used to cut the tops off athletic socks to make footies, as they did not make those when I was growing up, at least for boys and men.

I remember when phones were dialed and not keyed; if you did not complete the dial, the phone might call the wrong number.

I remember when there were three serious US news anchors whose words were gospel; Nixon once said when he lost Walter Cronkite, he lost the country.

I remember a time when we lived in blissful ignorance that all priests, pastors and evangelists were above board and not participating in criminal behavior.

I remember when both parties cared that the US President was exactly what he said he was not; Nixon said “I am not a crook,” but that was a lie.

I remember when Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assasinated, but was too young to remember JFK’s,

I remember the moon landing and Neil Armstrong’s words of “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Sadly, I remember the Challenger blowing up with citizen astronauts aboard. It showed how difficult it is to leave and return to our planet.

I remember when the US celebrated its bicentennial and when we prepared for computers programmed in Cobol to recognize the new millennium.

On this last comment, my wife and I hosted a New Millennium Eve party. We got so interested in shooting fireworks with the kids, we forgot to put the lamb in the oven. That was the only time we cooked lamb, and almost did not then. We were eating at midnight when the year 2000 rolled in.

I hope I spawned some memories. Please share a few of yours. I remember when…

A funny thing happened

Work does not sound like fun, but it offers plenty of comic relief. We need to find moments to laugh at ourselves to break the monotony. Here are few true stories to earn a grin or chuckle.

Two people I knew at a client were arguing over an issue. The funny thing is without the other knowing, each one called me to ask for my input on the argument. Through this process, I was able inch them closer together to see the other’s point. “You know Fred, Andy is making a reasonable point.”

A colleague was looking into a past precedence on a process a client was using that did not make much sense. He shared with me what he found in the archived files. I asked “Who would ever give such advice?” He showed me the email, “You did.” Oops.

This story ended well, but it offered an opportunity to tease a demanding colleague who had a high sense of self-worth. Our senior consultant was meeting with a client who had traveled from London. He was a heavy-set man and began to profusely perspire and get red-faced during the meeting. Our colleague felt he was having a heart attack and called the ambulance. The client turned out to be fine, but it was scary. Our colleague was a perfectionist which made him a good consultant, but a demanding one. After this episode, when he was extra hard on us, we would feign a heart attack in front of him acting like comedian Redd Foxx would on “Sanford and Son.” He did not find this amusing. “Elizabeth…I’m coming to join you!”

When I went to work for one of my clients, we had a greatly appreciated employee wellness program including mobile mammograms and health screenings. The woman who ran the program shared with me all the upcoming wonderful plans for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. As I described it to my boss and a few others, I left off the word “cancer” by mistake. She slowly corrected me, that would be Breast CANCER Awareness Month.

Our firm bought another with some highly paid consultants. My boss, who I have written about before, looked over the compensation data and uttered one of his folksy sayings. “We sure are peeing in the tall grass with the big dogs now.”

Finally, I had a colleague who was getting final quotes from various insurance companies for a bidding process for a client. He had not heard from one, so he called around 6:30 pm to see if they wanted to improve their quote. Apparently, the night janitor picked up the phone. After listening to my colleague explain what he needed, the man uttered, “I told you as much as I know when I said hello.”

Let me know of some of your funny stories at work. Please change the names to protect the innocent. I might throw in a couple of more in the comments.

Alcoholism – Feherty, Watson and me

I am an alcoholic, yet I am approaching the twelfth anniversary of my last drink. I bring this up today as I learned in an interview yesterday that David Feherty, a retired golfer, golf announcer and truly comical person, is also an alcoholic, along with some other demons he has to manage.

Several things about Feherty’s interview with Real Sports host Bryant Gumbel are worth noting. First, he credits his second wife for her tough love – after a final straw, she said you have 30 days to get clean or I am gone.

He also credits Tom Watson, one of golf’s greatest players, whose own career was almost derailed by alcoholism. As Feherty was interviewing Watson, the latter asked Feherty if he was alright. Feherty said he was not, but asked how could he tell? Watson said “I saw it in your eyes.” He then answered Feherty’s question of what did he see? Watson said bluntly, “I saw myself.”

Watson invited Feherty to his home and helped him through managing his demons. Feherty was sober for ten years, but fell off the wagon when his son took his own life after fighting a losing battle with the same demons his father faced. It should be noted Feherty’s alcoholism masked that he was clinically depressed and bipolar. His son inherited the problems. After renewing the fight, Feherty has returned to being sober.

Alcoholism or any addiction are tough enemies. You never fully defeat them. You put a lid on them, but they still simmer on the back of the stove. Over time, the heat is turned down, but it never is fully extinguished. In my case, I still want to have a drink, but it is a fainter flame today.

The key lesson I learned from a colleague, whose husband fought alcoholism, is to say this mantra – I am not going to drink today. This is a key reason recovering alcoholics know how many days they have been sober. The other piece of advice is to find a substitute for the alcohol. It may be green tea, fruit, fruit juice, near-beer, tonic or soda water or a piece of candy. Now, for me, it is hot tea and all kinds of fruit, dried or fresh.

Life is hard. It is not uncommon for some people to use some form of anesthetic to sand the edges off difficulty. If you think you may have a problem, you do. Be honest with yourself, first, but be honest with your spouse or partner and your doctor. Most addicts lie to all of the above.

People ask me what was my trigger to change? Another colleague’s wife, who was as vivacious and funny as David Feherty, died from complications due to alcoholism. She was only 59, one year less than I am today. I was a train wreck waiting to happen. So, I got off the train. It was and still is hard. But, remember the mantra, I am not going to drink today. Then, don’t and say it again tomorrow.

Brussel sprouts, breathing and beaches

“What an odd title?” you might be asking. “Outside of the alliteration, what does it mean?” These three terms represent a list of things I learned more about as I got older.

Brussel sprouts were nowhere close to being something I would eat when I was young. Okra, orange marmalade, spinach, etc. would also be in that category. Now, to my wife’s surprise, I will even eat brussel sprouts, preferably broiled or sautéed in a pan with bacon bits and olive oil. The brussel sprouts are a good metaphor for many things I now enjoy.

The breathing is an odd one. As a high school athlete, I was taught to breathe through my mouth as I worked out. Inhale when lessening the exertion and exhale when exerting. With yoga, more measured breathing is suggested, breathing in and out through the nose, exhaling through your mouth as you need it.

The yoga advice is sound. But, I read recently that breathing normally is better for your lung and heart health, as the sense of smell is activated and it better maintains the  breathing organs. The other observation is I find out I snore less at night by breathing in this manner when I exercise.

Now, what about beaches? I was thinking of the “Sunscreen” song where an older person shares a few pieces of wisdom including wearing sunscreen. I grew up twelve miles from the ocean. So, we hit the beaches often. Sunscreen was sparingly used especially with high schoolers. Yet, as more information emerged at the same time my scalp did so through my thinning hair, caps and sunscreen became paramount. And, don’t forget to re-apply the sunscreen after being out on the beach more than an hour. The sea breeze masks the burning.

So, breathe more naturally, protect your skin, and eat your veggies, including brussel sprouts. And, try other things you passed on. Our great-niece used to say to her mother when asked to try something, “I don’t think I could like that.” That feeling will change.