The Circle of Life (A Non-Disney Rendition)

Lion KingThe past month has been mind-bogglingly painful for IDROS, as I am sure it has been for many of you. It’s basically been like Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire Part Deux…in thirty friggin’ days. Another horrific mass shooting, nuclear war somehow becoming more likely to invoke Nena-like apocalyptic nightmare scenarios for the first time in 25 years, natural disasters out the yin yang (is that still a saying?), celebrity deaths that leave us shaking our heads (IDROS was particularly saddened by Walter Becker’s passing), the only Vice President IDROS likes these days got diagnosed with Breast Cancer, various examples of racism and homophobia, terrorist attacks, This is Us got the axe (kidding), another oil spill, the best quarterback in the NFL broke his collarbone (and ruined IDROS’ chances of winning his fantasy football championship this season), Kaepernick still doesn’t have a job and the movement he has spawned has caused a caustic environment throughout the nation, our president’s lack of empathy (demonstrated in numerous ways this past month) continues to embarrass and frustrate many Americans…and on, and on, and on.

But the story currently gripping the nation, sending shockwaves through the entertainment industry and beyond, finally motivated IDROS to make time in his busy schedule to hunt and peck for a stretch in an effort to make sense of all of the hopeless and catastrophic BS that haunts us as we enter the fourth quarter of 2017.

You know…the story that ensures you will never look at a potted plant the same way….ever again.

IDROS is not surprised by the news, to say the least. And obviously that is part of the problem…pretty much nobody was. Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg penned a well-written post about his Golden Goose named Harvey and the role the silence of those around him played in the sick and twisted mogul’s twenty-plus-year (likely much more) run harassing hundreds of unsuspecting women (click here if you haven’t read it yet).

While entertaining, IDROS did not find the piece to be enlightening…in fact it served only to reinforce the feeling IDROS already had upon first hearing the news…of course everybody f-ing knew. And to think: Disney owned Miramax during the time Harvey really rose to prominence. Wholesome Disney…meet your sinister underbelly. We shall see if the brass over at Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse knew about the rat they had lurking inside their Magic Kingdom.

Disney inadvertently helped create Harvey Weinstein when they purchased Miramax in 1993. Disney also created The Lion King, a mostly accurate portrait of earth’s animal kingdom and the symbiosis necessary to perpetuate the health of life on our planet. IDROS wants to discuss these themes as they relate to pretty much all of the awful news gripping our planet. Grab a drink and a snack and make yourself comfortable…this could take a while.

Bullying is a topic of concern among most parents in America, and likely the world. It has emerged and jumped to the forefront of national dialogue in recent years in the wake of various school shootings and an increase in suicides among America’s youth. But bullying is not new. We know this because Biff Tannen, pretty much the poster-boy for bullying, was brought to the big screen in 1985, more than three decades ago. But bullying has been around since the dawn of man…in fact since the dawn of LIFE.

Animals of all species have bullies, and always have. Darwin explained the phenomenon using his theory of “Survival of the Fittest.” Alpha males of various species assert themselves in a myriad of behaviors in order to gain access to the best feeding territories, clean water, safe terrain free from enemies, or at least more easy to defend, and most importantly, to suitable mates. Females, for their part, are generally open to this display of male dominance, and often to the point of allowing (or at least accepting that) their mate is also mating with several other females, because mating with an alpha male improves the odds that her offspring will be stronger, faster and more able to survive. Bullying is a trait necessary for survival in the Animal Kingdom.

Humans have evolved. But our base instincts are still derived from our pre-civilized time as animals.

Bullying is a major problem. In fact, IDROS will go so far as to say, as far as the future of society is concerned…bullying is THE problem. It is the singular greatest problem man has…and always has been.

All conflict is a direct result of bullying. All fights are a direct result of bullying. And all wars are a direct result of bullying. Think about that. Let it sink in. Any time a person or group of people attempt to assert themselves over another, for ANY reason…they are acting the bully.

Awful criminal activity is pretty much universally some form of bullying. From blackmail to rape, human trafficking to armed robbery, pedophilia to organized crime.

Furthermore, there are more subtle forms of bullying. Bribery (which unbelievably is legal in the form of LOBBYING), harassment (sexual and otherwise) and racism. While all of these types of bullying can be overt, often they manifest in less public ways…especially in the anonymous age of the internet. But acts such as racism are learned…and so just being racist assholes in the confines of your home, around your children, without directly committing any racist acts to anyone else, can have deleterious effects.

Not only are humans wired genetically to be bullies, but we pass on bullying behavior socially and educationally as well. Children and adults alike witness aggressive or ignorant behavior at home, at school, with their friends and even in the workplace, and become infinitely more likely to act similarly.

Maybe more impactful than all of that is the cyclical nature of experience. People who are bullied, especially as children, are more likely to become bullies themselves. Children whom are molested and/or abused are exponentially more likely to become predators themselves.

Bullying is a true circle of life. Scar was a bully in The Lion King. And when he rose to (read: murderously seized) power, the kingdom became a desert wasteland. Sound eerily like any scenario that seems more and more imminent every day in the actual world?

Power is the drug that fuels pretty much all bullies. And all forms of bullying are an assertion of power over a bully’s prey.

Americans elected a friggin’ bully to be the leader of the free world. If that isn’t a complete nod to the fact that bullying is in our DNA, and that Americans have all been bullied themselves and so are now subconsciously (and unfortunately, in many cases, consciously) becoming bullies themselves by placing the king of all bullies on the proverbial Iron Throne! And our Confederacy of Dunces isn’t the only nation to have a bully in its highest office. Russia, North Korea, Syria, China, and the Philippines among others fit the bill. But our bully-in-chief has displayed a rare aptitude for bullying, demonstrating his prowess in a multitude of ways over the years: Racism, verbal abuse, threats, and of course, sexual harassment/abuse.

Sexual harassment and abuse is rampant around the globe. Vile rapes and sexual mutilations occur with ridiculous frequency…and those are the ones we find out about through the media. 50% of our society is disrespected on a daily basis…and always has been. Even some of the male population gets sexually harassed and abused. And women can be perpetrators as well.

The god-damned Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street…wait for it…Fearless Girlwas commissioned by a hedge fund that was recently outed for unequal pay practices. Hypocrisy emanates from every scandal that is uncovered. We are all guilty.

The Harvey Weinstein scandal is important. It helps pinpoint the focal point of all that is wrong with modern society. If we can identify a problem, we can then work to address and overcome it. But it won’t be easy.

When IDROS was in middle school, a bully was tormenting some peers in the hallway. The bully was pretty much twice the size of the then awkward 11-year-old IDROS. Rather than confront the bully and tell him to stop, IDROS chose to laugh at his classmates. IDROS didn’t even go and report the bullying after the fact, in private…not even anonymously. The guilt still lingers. It is compounded by the fact that IDROS felt good whilst chuckling at his peer’s misfortune. Good because IDROS wasn’t in the crosshairs himself, but also good because IDROS definitely felt better about himself at that moment because for whatever reason, this gargantuan troglodyte decided that IDROS did not deserve his wrath…which in your author’s sophomoric mind…must have meant that the asshole liked IDROS more than the unfortunate souls he was targeting. It meant IDROS was higher on the social hierarchy, in the view of our school bully, than those other “losers”…some of whom, incidentally, were my friends. The bully caught two of my scrawny classmates by their shirt collars as they tried to run away from him. I could hear one of their shirt necks rip and stretch. “You think they’re fags?” the bully asked me. “How would I know?” I answered. He then forced the two boys together face to face, draped their arms over each other’s shoulders and forced them into a hug. “What about now?” he asked, laughing. I laughed nervously. But I laughed. I said nothing. I did nothing.

I’m not saying it was putting a bag of dog-shit on my best friend’s porch, lighting it on fire and ringing the bell type behavior. But the bully wasn’t one of the cool kids, either. I think about that day sometimes. I try to make sense of it. I see the fear in the eyes of my two friends. I hear my nervous laughter. And I think about what I should have done…could have done differently. I also think about scenarios like in the aforementioned Can’t Buy Me Love, about whether if the bully was not merely a giant jock strap, but someone who was cool and revered at my school…what would I have done? What would I have been willing to do to impress them? IDROS was bullied and teased at a young age. And so this instance of not being bullied when I definitely could have been was a game changer. Rather than risk becoming a rat, a tattle tale, and thus give new reasons to Mr. Asshole to turn his charms on me, I did nothing. I said nothing. I laughed. And I even enjoyed it on some incomprehensible level.

And so I come back to Scott Rosenberg’s post. A rising tide lifts all boats…even if said tide happens to be a tsunami. At a certain point though, those boats gets smashed on the rocky shore just like everything else. He knows it. You can feel his shame, his guilt emanate from the screen you are reading. He is trying to get that monkey off his back, as he clamors for others who rose on Weinstein’s coattails to do the same. It’s got to be cathartic. But is it enough?

Look, if anyone has ever watched Beautiful Girls, a vastly underrated film that put Rosenberg on the map back in 1996, there is a scene toward the end where Mo (who was likely a bully in high school), played by Noah Emmerich, is pounding on the rich cuckold Steve’s door. When the door opens, Steve’s friends are pinned into a snowbank, and the target of Mo’s fury begins to cower and beg for mercy, Mo sees his genuine fear and also, through the open door, his young daughter. He sees the lives that hang in the balance from his and his friend’s (Matt Dillon’s) actions. He feels guilt and shame…and he feels EMPATHY, and the audience experiences it with him. Both the writing and acting are stellar.

And if Rosenberg understood this well enough to create that moment, I am going to accept his apology. Heaven knows IDROS hasn’t been perfect. We are all human. We are all bullies. We are all bullied.

But things do need to change.

Hollywood has championed a recent trend to feature television shows and movies that center around flawed anti-heroes…most of whom are BULLIES (think Tony Soprano, Frank Underwood, etc.) Even women are portrayed as bullies…Cersei Lannister, Selina Meyer, Norma Bates, etc. We, as the audience, are demanding this, and consuming it at alarming speeds thanks to on demand streaming services. Americans are living vicariously through our favorite bullies, allowing them to satisfy our subconscious desire…our INNATE desire…to be the bully ourselves.

Who among us, when Dr. Melfi was raped, didn’t secretly or openly yearn for Tony to find that piece of shit rapist and do unspeakable things to him. The writers were actually smart in not satisfying our craving, because truth be told, their closure would never have measured up to the horrors each of us likely unleashed in our own imaginations. We want this. We enjoy this.

So much so that we (and by we, I in no way want any credit for it) as Americans actually elected a head of state that reflects this inner bully.

But still, things need to change.

And it will be an uphill battle to make positive change regarding any aspect of bullying if the leader of the free world is as big a bully as the world has ever seen. I don’t care what side of the political fence you tend to occupy…the man who our countrymen elected to sit in the Oval Office is so lacking in empathy it is terrifying. So perhaps we should start there. I mean if Big Harv was fired from his own company, unceremoniously removed from its board and banished from all things Hollywood, I believe Agent Orange has earned a similar fate. Who’s starting the “Your Fired” campaign on Change.org?

Second, we need to adopt the same credo for all bullying that we do for terrorism (which is, itself, a form of bullying). See Something, Say Something. Especially for those of us who witness acts of aggression but aren’t victims ourselves. Victims often remain silent because they were traumatized, and don’t want to be traumatized a second time by reporting their awful experiences…especially given there is a chance their account will fall on deaf, or unsupportive ears. It is up to the rest of us to create an environment where bullies cannot operate, where the silence of victims and witnesses alike actually aids and abets the perpetrators.

And finally, we need to LISTEN. We need to value and respect the women (and men and children) who are victimized. We need to really hear them, and comfort them and offer to help. Sometimes we need to make hard choices, and help even when we are told not to do or say anything. IDROS is not a trained therapist, so would recommend consulting one before going rogue. But we all need to listen.

We’re all in this together…and overcoming our genetic predisposition for bullying, our psychological and physical damage from bullying as well as our awful behaviors that were taught to us by our parents, friends, peers, colleagues, siblings, teachers and other “role models” from the time we were born will be hard.

But in the incredible words of JFK, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Slow clap finale as the screen fades to black.

#MeToo

IDROS

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13 Reasons Why

Earlier this year, my wife and I (yes, IDROS is married…sorry ladies) watched the titular Netflix show thinking it might be good for us, as parents, to learn a little about what the youth of today may be experiencing. Also, perhaps we could glean why the series became such a viral sensation so we could seem in tune with “Non-Fake News” topical subject matter at the proverbial water cooler, or while mingling with our counterparts at kiddy parties or activities. I can’t say I hate-watched it…In all honesty, IDROS was generally entertained by many aspects of it, and found some eerie similarities to Season One of Twin Peaks (which I might just discuss in another post)…but what your author enjoyed most about the series, hands down, was the music.

Which brings me to the much more interesting event of 2017, IMHO, that plays on our triskaidekaphobia for the low and totally worth-it price of 13 easy installments of $74.99 plus whatever applicable fees and charges various sources inexplicably get away with shaking us down for these days.

And I suppose now is as good a time as any to forewarn you. This will be a long(ish) post. Not quite as long as that Lawn Boy Supreme served up on July 25…but let’s just say it might run you a deuce and a half or even two jaunts.

This Baker’s Dozen run has been extraordinary from the starting gun. Even people who aren’t phans have taken notice, and if they haven’t, they should. Phish sets the gold standard for a live convert experience. This was going to be special from the moment it was announced.

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So without further ado, here is the MEAT of this post. 13 reasons why IDROS loves the foursome named Phish:

  1. It’s my thesis, man – Let me first say that I have never witnessed a full Gamehendge set in its entirety. Until TBD, the closest I ever came was a group of four shows I caught where they played all but 2 songs (non-consecutively). I don’t know how many of you faithful readers actually researched, wrote and defended a thesis, be it in college or grad school, but it is no joke. Still, when I think of someone writing a thesis I don’t usually harken back to my own terrible experience. I tend to conjure up images of the guy in PCU who apparently spent his senior year watching every movie that featured Gene Hackman or Michael Caine. When, toward the end of the cult favorite (which starred a young Ari Gold, obviously before he found a dentist), said thesis writer stumbled upon a movie that starred both Caine and Hackman, he yelled out “this is my thesis man!” It was pure comedic gold…but it was funny because to those who have toiled in the stacks for hours, coughing up dust from never before read tomes, scouring microfiche, developing blisters from banging on a Mac keyboard at all hours of the night, pumping our bodies full of Mountain Dew (or worse), blinding ourselves staring at the small endlessly blinking cursor on a screen the size of a pack of cigarettes, editing, re-editing, and then waking up in a cold sweat the night before our defense/presentation…we only wish our thesis could have been that entertaining to research…and that fulfilling when proven. We all know the plural of thesis is feces. But Trey Anastasio’s thesis at Goddard College, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, is a masterclass in and of itself. If you’ve never listened to the Gamehendge chronicles from beginning to end, played a rare cassette tape until your car radio ate the tape, permanently scratched CDs from overuse, or were lucky enough to attend one of the rarest of Phish shows where the band played the rock fantasy operetta in its entirety…my advice to you is take an hour and do it. Oh…and read the friggin’ Book!
  2. Then Once More – every band has a gateway drug…a song that speaks to so many, inviting them in for further inspection with its pleasant beat, catchy hook and major chord melody. Bouncing Around The Room is a song guaranteed to bring a smile to pretty much every face at a Phish show because of all of these things. An early Phish tune, BATR has been reeling in Phish phans since 1990, but the thing I love most about the song is that it really encapsulates, and even showcases, the strengths (and to a lesser degree, the limitations) of the band. Fish establishes the beat from the jump and Mike lays down the bassline. With the structure in place, Trey and Page harmonize the vocals, with Page quickly demonstrating he has greater vocal range, but Trey, ever consistent (vocally), holding down the melodic fort. Page and Trey sprinkle in some keys and guitar as appropriate. The song slowly builds…Mike eventually spearheads the vocal and musical magnificence that ends the song in a round with his limited but deep baritone voice. Trey and Page beautifully layer both their voices atop Mike’s and begin to really unleash their respective instruments in what amounts to three minutes or so of pure musical bliss. All the while, the Wolfman’s Brother keeps the whole thing together.
  3. Deep Cover – Phish is a super talented band…not only do they prolifically write their own music, tour often, and sit in with other musicians…but all four lead their own side projects, experimenting in a multitude of musical genres, from funk to bluegrass to jazz to classical and even some dabbling in musical theater. It should be no surprise then that Phish, when together, is able to draw on these experiences as well as their vast talents, channeling their musicianship in ways few bands can. They play other people’s music with respect, but also have the courage and ability to take songs and give them a personal and unique take. I won’t say that every Phish version of a covered song is better than the original, and vocally, most of the time, Phish versions fall short. But musically, and occasionally, comedically, most Phish versions are superior, if not simply more entertaining. They have covered artists across pretty much every major musical genre, primarily alone, but a number of times on stage alongside the musicians they are covering. From Aerosmith to ZZ Top, BB King to Jay Z, Katy Perry to Chaka Khan, Miles Davis to Rage Against the Machine, Neil Diamond to the Beastie Boys, Jimi Hendrix to Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell to Elvis Presley…they are not afraid to take chances, and they have added hundreds of songs to their repertoire. And during this current TBD run, they are adding dozens (pun intended) of new and exciting covers to their songbook. Which leads nicely into…
  4. Ghost – One of IDROS’ favorite differentiators of the band has to be their Halloween costumes. Instead of dressing up in traditional costumes, however, Phish, beginning in 1994, has donned musical costumes, playing a full album of one of their inspirational musicians or bands. This has included the Beatles’ White Album, The Who’s Quadrophenia, the Talking Heads’ Remain In Light and The Velvet Underground’s Loaded, which IDROS was lucky enough to witness live. These musical costumes are stuff of legend…and for some lucky fans, unexpectedly in Utah in 1998, just after that year’s Loaded Halloween show, Phish played Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, leading many phans to speculate that the band rehearsed both albums for Halloween and made a game time decision to go with the VU album. Many classic songs from these Halloween shows remain fixtures in Phish’s normal tour set lists.
  5. Say Yes to The Dress – With everything going on in the world today, and especially in our own country as it relates to discrimination, hostility and the giant step back basic human rights and equality seem to have taken this past year, Fish’s donut-laden muumuu, which has been a fixture for decades, seems to say to the LGBTQ community, “feel free to join us….you are safe here.” This makes IDROS happy.
  6. The Women Are Smarter – Phish have written some amazing songs about women over the years. From Suzy to Esther, Tela to Eliza, Reba to Olivia, Jennifer to the incomparable Landlady…and have mentioned many others (Liz, Millie, Jill, Vanessa, etc.). So here’s a shout out to the women of Phish. IDROS is partial to Esther, which is one of the most terrifying but beautiful songs ever written. A short story…Phish rarely plays Esther anymore. This has been the basic trend for over a decade. Many times, the band eschews the song for entire tours, even years. IDROS has attended exactly one Phish concert with his beautiful bride (who was merely IDROS’ girlfriend at the time). At that show, Phish played Esther. We were engaged the next day. To give you an idea of the odds – since 1998, there have been about 635 Phish shows. Phish has played Esther exactly 12 times in that stretch. That is once every 53 shows, or less than 2% of the time. Since our “engagement show” Phish has also played the song on my wife’s birthday as well as on another very significant date to us. In other words, the song Esther is very important to my family, and the cosmic Phish gods know this.
  7. Somewhere between Erie and Pittsburgh – Many great bands have at least one movie/documentary that captures them, realistically or fictitiously, at the peak of their popularity and creativity. From A Hard Day’s Night, to The Grateful Dead Movie, to Stop Making Sense to Purple Rain to IDROS’ personal favorite, The Last Waltz. Phish’s movie, Bittersweet Motel, came out in 1998, pretty much capturing the foursome at the height of their powers with footage from their 1997 tours. It is funny, filled with great live concert footage and captures the band members in rare candid moments most fans seldom see of their idols. In retrospect, the film is also aptly named as it is poignantly capturing the beginning of the end for the band, who would break up for the first time a couple years later. Fortunately for all of us, the band was able to put their differences aside, Trey was able to get the help he needed to move forward, once briefly in 2002-2004, and again hopefully for good in 2009-present. So now, hopefully a sequel is in the works, capturing Phish 3.0 in all its glory. Maybe it will be called Blissful Bed and Breakfast, or perhaps, just, JOY (oh, wait…).
  8. A Higher Purpose – There have been many articles written about the “religion” of The Grateful Dead and Phish. Loyal fans who follow them, an earthy way of life, drug based and sober “religious experiences,” and the artists themselves, assembled upon the pulpit or bimah, rifling through the newest testament of all…the music. Like the Dead, Phish has a number of spiritual and religious songs, both originals and standards, that they play regularly. From Daniel Saw the Stone, and of course Avinu Malkeinu all the way through Trey’s opus, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, which is as spiritual a story as any you would find in the Bible, there is no denying that there is a large spiritual element to both Phish and its congregation of phans. Every time IDROS sees TMWSIY->Avinu live, your author hopes Fish or Mike would say “Tekiyah Gedolah” into the microphone, and TMWSIY would be played on shofars, or rams horns to kick it off. IDROS’ favorite version of a spiritual song ever played by Phish is Yerushalayim Shel Zehav, which ends their song Demand on the Hoist album, but has only been played as part of the song Demand once live. Phish has played YSZ twelve times in history (here is a favorite)…. And yes, to IDROS, Chris Kuroda is the Ner Tamid.
  9. Page side, rage side – IDROS plays the piano. Page plays the piano. IDROS believes Page is the greatest pianist in the world. Trey may be Phish’s “front man,” but for my money, Page is the MVP…a close race to be sure, but it is what it is. When given the choice IDROS sits or stands on the left side of a venue facing the stage…cause that’s where Page’s keyboard surrounded throne sits on the stage.
  10. A Festival to End All Festivals – Ever notice how SOAM can be a viable acronym for both Split Open and Melt AND Scent of a Mule? Yeah, I know I’m deflecting. There are not a lot of positive things to say about the great mudfest of 2004 (IDROS refuses to mention its name). The storm-ravaged fairgrounds resembled a third world country that had just been decimated by a hurricane…to those of us lucky enough to make it in. Thousands were stranded on a highway that could have been a scene right out of an apocalyptic movie where everyone is trying to flee the cities. And poor Cactus…the ace of bass was clearly forced to announce on the Phish radio channel set up for the festival for everyone to turn back and go home. Well my group persevered. We made it, came equipped with fly fishing boots we picked up along the way, hiked miles to and from the fairgrounds, slogged through the muck and the general malaise and melancholy that hung like a guillotine over the downtrodden faithful, and bid our farewells to our favorite band. Oh yeah…Phish was hanging their instruments up after this “Un-festive All.” Calling it quits for good this time. I mean, they say nothing ends well…that’s why things end. Well if this were to be the end for Phish, they were going out in a spectacular pool of vomit and putrescence. And for that, and because I had been to three other glorious Phish festivals, I got to see my musical hero, Page, melt down and cry on stage during Wading in the Velvet Sea, and because it wasn’t really the end…but rather an end to a bad time in the arc of the band’s story…I can include those three awful days in Vermont among my 13 (you can have good without bad…and sometimes it takes hitting bottom to rise up and attain true greatness).
  11. Dancin’ On My Lawn – Phish is an amazing band if you wanna dance. When the band is bringing the funk, almost any song could be an opportunity to showcase your Camel Walk. Some songs (like MOMA, SOAM, Jibboo, Boogie On) let you break it down from start to finish. Other tunes, like YEM, begin with a composed section, which is difficult to dance to (read: sober), but builds into a funkier, free-flowing dance party after a few minutes (think Bowie, Hood, DWD, the Lizards, etc.) Reba, in IDROS’ opinion, is in a class all by itself. While it seems to fit into the latter category of a song that builds to a dance fan’s crescendo (it does), the beginning is not so much the orchestral building block that is the staple of many other early (read: core) Phish songs. In fact, deep into Reba at the opening show of TBD, IDROS came to the following conclusion: Reba, as a song, is very much like the love scene in the move Armageddon. The whimsical silliness of the beginning is like the animal cracker-based foreplay, which gets more and more inane, until…even if Liv Tyler and/or Ben Affleck aren’t your thing, you get the idea. Out of the ludicrous comes pure, unadulterated bliss…some of the best dance jam music Phish ever unleashes.
  12. Atama Ga Shock – Because a long time ago, IDROS lived in Japan and developed a working knowledge of the Japanese language, your author was over the moon when, in 2000, Phish toured Japan and unveiled the Japanese lyrics to the chorus of their song, Meatstick. It would have been incredible to have lived in Japan during said tour, but I have seen Meatstick performed half a dozen (yes, we are counting in dozens for this post) since 2000, and every time I hear them break out the Japanese lyrics it brings a huge smile to my face.
  13. You Can’t Always Get What You Want – TBD has taken Phish’s unique live concert experience to new heights. No repeats in 13 days (this was posted after 12 shows but IDROS has faith) ensured not only every show was unique, but that every song was as well. Phish fans know, however, like Dead fans, that a lack of repeated songs aren’t what make this band so fun to see live…rather, it is the freshness of the setlists, and the trill of the chase. Phish has a number of rare songs that they play once in a blue moon. They also can be full of surprises, playing new covers, or old songs in new ways. We all treasure those shows where we can say “we were there when.” And just like the Stones forewarned all of us…we may not hear the exact songs we were hoping for when we had that ticket stub in our hand…but we always get what we need…and the Phab Phour always give us everything they have.

Phish – Thanks for a great three weeks, and for an amazing 35 years.

And to my faithful readers, IDROS hopes you caught at least one show during this outstanding Baker’s Dozen run.

Let’s all live while we’re young. We can still have fun!

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Summer School

So I’m driving toward Longport on Tilton Road for my family’s annual pilgrimage to my childhood beach community down the shore, and we pass the Shore Mall movie theater. I was instantly transported back to my adolescence, and in particular, one jaunt to that theater occupied my thoughts on this passing. After all, it had been pretty much 30 years to the day when two of my favorite guilty pleasure movies were released. Because I was 14 and did not have my license yet, getting a ride off the island to one of the two Cineplexes (Cineplexi?) in the vicinity happened pretty infrequently (i.e., when my friends’ or my parents wanted quiet, or when any of them were headed to the movies themselves due to rain). We were otherwise confined to the limited selection at the Margate and Ventnor Twin theaters, but more often than not, had seen all four of the movies offered in pretty short order.

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Summer School and The Lost Boys came out the very same weekend during the summer of 1987. At the time, I wasn’t entirely over my childhood fear of horror movies (I went to see Poltergeist with an older cousin when I was 9 years old and had nightmares for a full year). So despite the fact that pretty much everyone I knew was talking about TLB…especially the girls…and I was at an age where I definitely preferred to go places where girls might be present…I made the difficult choice to see Summer School, a movie I knew little about and which proffered a B-list cast (other than one of the stars of my then-favorite television show Cheers). As an aside, I had no idea who Mark Harmon was at the time, and would see the movie Stealing Home later that summer for the first time. Melrose Place wouldn’t put Courtney Thorne Smith onto the map for a few more years.

To this day, I am not disappointed in my decision. Summer School was great. Mr. Shoop, roller skates, Wondermutt and all, saved the day, against all odds. Ana Maria was great (and would go on to play Alotta Fagina in Austin Powers). And the dude who spent the entire summer in the bathroom was, put plainly, my favorite character in the movie. Summer School did highlight a great deal about why America’s education system is so horrific…from the emphasis on standardized testing, the tenure system, the lack of resources in the public school system and of course the complete neglect of those students, whom for whatever reason (and this particular film highlighted a multitude), failed to grasp the basic skills to move forward in their education, as determined by a Scantron test. But nevertheless, it was a fun summer movie chock full of classic quotable lines and characters, and is a movie I will seldom turn off if I happen upon it flipping through the channels.

It wasn’t until The Lost Boys made it to the premium cable channels the following year that I finally found the courage to watch it. And watch it again and again and again. This movie featured a cast of mostly male youngish actors who were heartthrobs. This was not the reason it resonated with me. I did not subscribe to Seventeen, Tiger Beat nor Teen Magazine. I did not find any male member of the cast dreamy, not the Coreys nor Jason Patrick nor Jack Bauer nor William “Bill” S. Preston, Esquire, for that matter (I did have a thing for Jamie Gertz for a hot minute, but it wasn’t a love that was pursued after the credits rolled). The movie won me over because its script was well written, its plot was intriguing and suspenseful and its soundtrack…all I can type is wow. In the opinion of IDROS, whatever that is worth, TLB has a Mount Rushmore level soundtrack for movies not about music or musicians (this idea alone is worthy of another post sometime in the near future, so stay tuned).

TLB is one of those movies that is sneaky good in so many ways. Among the many reasons it is nearly impossible to turn off whenever I happen upon it are the fact that its themes are timeless (brotherhood, being the new kids in a strange town, family dynamics, the dangers of love and how clueless we can be when falling under its spell, etc.) The movie also offers plenty of comic relief throughout, be it from the Frog brothers or Grandpa, to cut the horrifying tension and counteract the overarching evil that lurks beneath the seemingly innocuous teen romp the movie often appears to be. And finally, at the base of it all, TLB is a Vampire movie. Before True Blood, the Vampire Diaries, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Blade, and a generation before the Twilight saga, one could argue that TLB was one of the first (no, IDROS did not forget Anne Rice) to successfully expand upon Bram Stoker’s themes and package them for teens and young adults thirsting for a blood-sucking Brady Bunch story…or at least a more modern twist on Vampiric lore.

Anyway, during a recent viewing of TLB, which spawned the idea for this post, IDROS began to see Max’s family of undead in a new way. My epiphany occurred during the most unpleasant scene in the entire movie, IMHO, which is when David and his Lost Boy brothers take Michael out to “hunt” for the first time, and they horrifically feed on a group of partying young adults around a bonfire. As I watched the awful scene unfold for the umpteenth time, I realized that Vampires, particularly those in this movie, are a terrorist organization not unlike ISIS, or Al Qaeda. Think about it…they kill innocent people in gruesome ways; they recruit others by promising eternal youth (a trip to heaven surrounded by virgins); they blend into society, even having jobs such as the friendly town video store proprietor; they use caves as a hideout/lair/home; they are vengeful; and the greatest connection of all – Kiefer Sutherland who plays David, arguably the most fearsome terrorist, I mean vampire, in TLB, would basically reinvent himself more than a decade later playing the foil to terrorists worldwide as Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) superman, Jack Bauer.

If you want to know how this post came to be…the truth is it was on a dare. Someone who reads IDROS gave your author four themes, and threw down the gauntlet. “You seem to be posting less and less frequently. Here’s some motivation. Combine the themes ‘Summer,’ ‘Education,’ ‘Terrorism,’ and ‘Tina Turner’ in your next post and I will bestow upon you my own version of a Pulitzer” (when pressed for details on said prize, IDROS was told that it involved a ticket to an upcoming concert).

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

Oh, and as for Ike’s ex-wife: The shirtless, long-haired saxophone dude who plays on the amusement pier in TLB (“I Still Believe”) is none other than Ms. Turner’s chief of brass on tour. Check him out here basically pleasuring the venerable pop star with his horn in an amazing version of Private Dancer.

Happy Summer all.

IDROS

Trivia:

Did you know that TLB was originally written to be an updated take on Peter Pan, in which Peter (which was David’s original character name) was a vampire? It’s true. There are a multitude of Easter eggs from that storyline that remain in the movie, including the title itself, that point to that original theme. IDROS is glad Joel Schumacher, who directed, insisted on removing the overt Peter Pan references.

There is one actor/actress who appeared in both movies referenced above. Can you name him or her?

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Kilroy

mr-roboto

The problem’s plain to see

Too much technology

Machines to save our lives

Machines de-humanize

I apologize to the loyal readers of IDROS for my long radio silence.

I do not want to get political, and have tried to refrain from joining, and invariably contributing to, the awful vitriol that has engulfed our nation and all media and social media outlets over the past year.

IDROS has basically sat stupefied, mouth agape, head in hands, alternating between muttering and outright screaming streams of four letter words since the election cycle got into full swing last year…the histrionics picked up after the primaries, and the past month has been a giant shitstorm of head-scratching, visceral pain, recurring nightmares and abject horror.

The dystopia that has enveloped what I once believed to be the greatest nation on the planet is NOT the fault of the Orange Twitter Troll. He is merely a symptom (think diarrhea, or migraines, or vomiting, etc.) of an amalgam of problems that all came to a head over the past decade…but how anyone in this once proud nation of ours with a true second grade education or higher can look me in the eye and honestly tell me they are 100% confident in having a male Kardashian, a narcissistic man-child with thinner skin than refrigerated pudding, a lying, misogynistic, shallow, science-denying troglodyte at the helm, influencing global and national policy on a daily basis…is beyond my comprehension.

But still, trying to avoid politicizing this post, it is not the doofus played by Alec Baldwin’s fault that we are in this position. DT did not create the rampant pay-to-play, corporate controlled political system mired in a “no-win,” corrupt, two-party system that ensures whomever escapes the gauntlet with the presidential crown will be beholden to many rich and powerful people and companies and other nations, but never to the actual people who vote en masse. And DT is not responsible for the racism that flows effortlessly from sea to polluted sea (even if he has become its champion), nor the firmly entrenched institutional racism that continues to divide our nation long after the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln and the fall of John Crow.

The Donald, toupee wearing ass clown that he is, and his band of unqualified, upper-crust, out-of-touch, swamp-dwelling-extraordinaire, racist losers that comprise his cabinet, has become a scapegoat and the ultimate target for the leftists in our nation. They will spend the next year, or two or four, or god forbid, even eight years fighting these f-wits’ every move…and with good reason. But what really needs fighting…and their full attention…are the reasons he “won.” The underlying cancer(s) that have thrust our nation into this mess, that made it possible that a self-conscious 12-year-old in a 70-year-old’s body could ascend from the celebrity C-list circus to the highest office on earth.

Or so I thought…

We have a bigger problem than Trump, his mostly unqualified and undeserving cabinet, and the reasons most research and media outlets point to as why Trump won…a much bigger problem, one that threatens all of humanity, frankly.

Maybe you are wondering why I titled this post “Kilroy,” and led with a song lyric that seemingly has nothing to do with anything I have written to this point.

Maybe IDROS simply really loves Styx, and fondly remembers roller skating at Young’s Regency to songs like Mr. Roboto. Maybe IDROS was hearkening back to a simpler time, in the early 80s, when IDROS was 10 and hadn’t a true care in the world…when the man-sized Oompa Loompa was still married to his first wife and had not yet opened any casinos in Atlantic City.

Or perhaps IDROS speaks Japanese, spent some time living in Japan and appreciates the references to the Land of the Rising Sun, and the Japanese language in the lyrics.

Or…the band’s name really seemed apt today. The mythical river, after all, was as divisive as our current Halloween Marshmallow Peep-led administration, and I suppose many would be pretty satisfied with the analogy of POTUS Chump to Hades. Even Cerberus, the mythical 3-headed beast guarding Hades, is well-represented by Bannon-Spicer-Pence. Hades himself is described throughout the mythical canon as being cold, stern and wrathful, with a childish stubbornness, rage and poor self-image (which derived from him basically drawing the short stick, which banished him to lord over the underworld, while his two brothers inherited the air and sea).

While A, B and C are all solid guesses, and pretty spot on in their own right, the truth is IDROS recently read the scariest article ever and realized humanity, especially for those in the 99%, is in greater peril than imagined. Even by great thinkers like Carl Sagan, who in 1990, warned: “We live in a society absolutely dependent on science and technology and yet have cleverly arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. That’s a clear prescription for disaster.”

The article in question: Click here

Please find a quiet spot, take a deep breath, click on the hyperlink and try to make it through this piece without flying off the handle.

I am sorry for sharing that with you. But here’s the thing. I reiterate…it’s still not Trump’s fault. He harnessed [read: purchased] the power and used it for his own brand of evil, sure. But this technology is up for grabs. If it wasn’t him, it would have been someone else…and it will be seized upon by people and entities far worse than the giant Cheeto. And used in ways far more sinister. Think about it. And by the way, this is only the beginning. This technology will improve, and become even more accurate. The data it uses will only become more accurate and more pervasive. And I hate to say it, but just as Sagan (and Orwell, and a litany of others) warned, the majority of the world population will become more and more ignorant to the increasingly advanced technologies that drive this Orwellian nightmare.

After a rough stretch, I sat down and pondered the situation. I believe we can make a concerted effort to combat those who might seek to exploit us through technology. My thoughts are below. As always, IDROS welcomes and encourages all of you to comment and add to this list:

  1. We really have become way too dependent on technology in general. Whatever you can do to ween yourself off the teat of Silicon Valley, even just a little bit, will be helpful. I realize this is a platitude, so find a way to unplug every now and then…put down the smart phone, read an actual book or magazine, write an actual letter…learn or embrace a non-tech-related hobby…exercise more…go acoustic…find your beach;
  2. Make yourself difficult or even impossible to map by these BIG BROTHER wannabees. This is where it gets interesting, and even fun. Don’t be so predictable when using technology. Visit sites that have content opposite or vastly different from your own beliefs. When shopping, hit up online stores that go against all of your fashion sensibilities, your musical taste, and your general preferences. Go to dating sites where you never in a million years would think to go. Same with porn. Same with news, sports, blogs and anything else. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, don’t buy shit online if you can help it…(I realize that organic baby food your baby loves isn’t sold in stores, and you need your anonymity to buy those Civil War and Third Reich relics…and I know the convenience is pulling you like gravity, but think of it as saving the retail real estate industry. I know. That is going to be tough. But if you want your freedom, think of IDROS as Morpheus, and this advice is the red pill (and the removal of the tracking device);
    • ***On a related topic, we are already way past the point of no return with how we buy things…because of credit cards, debit cards and all sorts of electronic payment options, tracking our spending habits gets easier every day. I am not sure how we reverse this, or ensure complete privacy, but how we consume is and will continue to be a leading driver in how tech companies and those that control them can map us, our personalities and ultimately anticipate how we behave and thus influence our vote (if we even have a vote anymore);
  3. Turn your devices off whenever you can, and be sure to disable any cameras unless you are using them – who knows who might be watching, or hacking;
  4. Know that whatever you post, email or blog will be permanently inscribed for eternity, and will be searchable and likely used against you either directly or indirectly. Be careful, and teach your children to use caution as well;
  5. Stop taking those ridiculous tests (IQ, Which Facts of Life Character Are You? How well do you know the movie Sixteen Candles? What Color Is Your Personality? ETC…) This goes double for those social network games, by the way…you know who you are, and to what I am referring…just stop;
  6. We need to find out which tech leaders are with us [read: good people], and empower them to assist us in preventing a 1984/Matrix/Terminator tech-driven dystopia. People were very quick to #deleteUBER, and screamed bloody murder when Elon Musk joined Trump’s advisory team…but if any of these tech leaders (Gates, Zuckerberg, Ellison, Brin, et al) truly have humanity’s best interests at heart…we need to figure that out, and we need those men and women to join ranks with the likes of Trump and Theresa May, and to ensure that harmful technology does not end up in the wrong hands; and,
  7. If I am missing anything, and I am sure I am, because this is complicated and mostly above my paygrade, please add to these ideas in the comment section below.

IDROS is frightened by recent events. There is a lot going on, and much of it, unfortunately, is awful. While the media is in many ways as bad as it is good (and in, fact, is largely responsible for an ego like POTUS rising from Reality Star to his current perch), what is happening vis-à-vis Cap’n Hell-Toupee and multiple media outlets is unacceptable.

F-it. I tried to avoid getting political, but I can’t do it.

IDROS promises not to ramble on too much more, but here is my general take, if you couldn’t crack my code already:

Trump is bad….and embarrassing. But none of this is his fault. The system was clearly broken before his ascent from the bowels of the underworld. With a great deal of assistance from technology, which is pretty much terrifying, and a little more from Russia, which is scary too, especially since they seem to employ technological warfare quite well, here we are, on the precipice with all that is sacred, watching as the foundation supporting us is eaten away and compromised more quickly than a sand castle in a rising tide…during a hurricane.

IDROS is generally optimistic, however. All of what was broken before Brexit and Trump still threatens us… more so even than Trump and his Fourth Reich. Had anyone else won the 2016 US election, nothing would have changed. None of our systemic failures would have been fixed. And we would continue to plod along in a broken world, becoming more and more marginalized. IDROS believes that our current assclown-in-chief is so loathed, and so bad for humanity in general that he will serve to actually unite enough people to not only remove him and his cronies from office, but also to fix much of what created the perfect storm that led to his election in the first place.

Anyway…keepin’ it light pre-Oscars. Enjoy the show tonight. RIP Bill Paxton. And if I am wrong/misguided regarding my optimism above, in one of his great character’s immortal words (using a bit of poetic license), “we’re stewed buttwads.”

Thanks as always for reading,

IDROS

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Game of Thrones

As much as I enjoy that show, I apologize for the misleading title of my first post in quite some time. Wrapped up in those child rearing years, I haven’t been afforded the time to sleep much, let alone formulate some [rational/cohesive/non-incriminating] thoughts, type them and inscribe them in the book of life that is the internet.

In returning to my long-neglected blog, I wanted to make a splash. And so I chose a subject that is near and dear to my heart…and one on which I am a bit of an expert, if you get right down to it. That subject is none other than bathrooms. These idyllic sanctuaries of thought, chambers of solitude in which I escape my yelling children and the stresses of life…blessed houses of the unholy; day and night spas, where we all cleanse ourselves in myriad ways, by purging ourselves of the wretched and putrescent filth within us as well as by rinsing away and sanitizing ourselves from the accumulation of unpleasantness and detritus that clings to our exteriors, and mats itself in our plumage…oddly, these havens have taken center stage in our national political scene, just in time to add another layer of excrement to what is already a giant compost pile of an election cycle.

Ok…I realize the lavatories that have the Bible Belt’s collective panties in a bunch are not the wonderful and relatively clean oases depicted above, but rather the terrifying, rancid, god-awful bowels of society better known as public restrooms, the necessary evils that demonstrate to all of us that we humans truly are still wild animals, barely removed from primates who fling feces at one another; and we continually remind one another of that fact by doing unspeakable things in public facilities, and just leaving it there, in all of its glory for those that follow…one after another until some poor, unfortunate soul paid what I can only imagine is minimum wage, summons their dignity and courage, dons some industrial gloves and heads on in with enough ammonia to kill all living things in a small country.

Not sure public bathrooms have received so much attention since George Michael was arrested…or perhaps that congressional game of footsie. That said, I have had some time to reflect on this hot button issue, and can say that while it is complex, and does not and will never have a clear-cut and satisfying solution for everyone on the planet, I believe I am close enough to an expert on private residence bathrooms (and half baths too) to effectively weigh in and provide my faithful readers some insight into the hysteria that is boiling over in North Carolina and many other areas of our nation where the average constituent believes the earth is younger than my grandmother, evolution is a myth, the second amendment is the single greatest edit to a document in the history of the world, even though said document governs a nation his or her great grandpappy and mee-maw tried to secede from (they still believe their family was right in doing so and that the South will rise again), and no, they are not so fond of Jews, Muslims, Immigrants, Blacks and most other minorities, including homosexuals…certainly not trans-gender people.

Most of the people clamoring for the status quo are the same homophobes and ignoramuses that willingly send their children to church related activities, the Boy Scouts, duck hunts and clan rallies…and even subject them to long and uncomfortable family dinners with their estranged, drunk uncle two-first-names.

But when I say most, I am afraid that is misleading, as I see far too many people who do not fit those redneck characteristics all over social media, and even on my own feeds…people in my network…who believe Caitlin Jenner and her ilk should continue to hike up their skirts at urinals in men’s rooms rather than use the ladies’ rooms where they would be most comfortable.

I GET IT. I understand and empathize with the argument that this law would potentially endanger women and children as it opens the [bathroom] door to perverts, pedophiles, sexual deviants and rapists, who are willing to throw on a skirt and some make-up to gain access to public ladies’ rooms, then thus use this new loophole to prey on their newly vulnerable targets. And frankly, I don’t put it past some sickos in our society to do just that – peeping toms will ogle, perverts will cop feels, pedophiles will endanger our children and perhaps take photos or videos and share them in their disgusting online circles, and rapists…well you get this sordid picture.

But we are not a society who limits or withholds rights from people, no matter the size of that group, because doing so would possibly endanger others. Sure, our history books are littered with examples of the opposite of what I just typed…but that is not the ideal America we seek. Freedom, liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness are FOR ALL in this country, despite what prejudices and fears and built-in hatred and ignorance many in our populace might have…and certainly despite our own history, which is despicable on so many levels.

Furthermore, it is not the trans community that we have to fear. The miscreants and dregs of society many fear will take advantage of this new legislation to perpetrate evil will unfortunately continue to exist, whether these laws are enacted or not. We, as a society, will have to fear them either way. We cannot withhold rights and freedom from some in order to make evil people less able to enact evil. We cannot let the minority who truly don’t matter in our society – the criminals and perpetrators of evil – limit and effect the rights of upstanding citizens in any way…no matter who those upstanding citizens may be and what they may believe.

I see and hear and read a lot of rationalizations by those opposed to this new legislation based on the comparatively small size and therefore insignificance of the trans community. People fail to realize that allowing minorities equal rights, no matter how small a minority may be and no matter how uncomfortable said minority may make you due to your own belief system and narrow mindedness, means that anything you are able to do, buy, experience and enjoy in your life should be available to all…even if it creates discomfort, and yes, even if it might put some in danger from time to time. The trans community has been teased, bullied and tortured since the dawn of man. What they endure within their own psyches is unfathomable. Their entire lives, they deal with not only their own struggles and demons, but the very worst society has to offer. Anything we can do to make things better, easier and more human for the persecuted in our nation and the entire world should always be done. It is up to the rest of us to deal with the ramifications the best we can…for the instances we all fear are few and far between. The persecution and societal exile minorities like the trans community are subjected to are constant…every second of every minute of every hour of every day.

Hypocrisy reigns supreme in our country. People believe only what is in their own personal best interest. We cannot be a nation where the company line includes sentiments like “we can’t stop living our lives and visiting popular places and traveling, etc. because if we do, the terrorists win,” and also deprive our own citizens of rights because it might endanger our wives and daughters. Seriously…how can we allow people to have guns in their homes for protection, when it is clear as day that doing so is extremely dangerous to children who live in that home? How can we allow people to swim or surf in our oceans when some will inevitably be attacked by sharks, or drown? And how can we allow white men to become police officers when we all know some will abuse their power and profile and even kill innocent minorities?

Public restrooms are already awful, scary places. Allowing all people to use the appropriate restroom really doesn’t change that fact. It just makes us a little less of a society of assholes and hypocrites. It makes America better. Girls and women already tend to use the loo in pairs. Men and women bring their small children into public restrooms with them, whether those children are boys or girls. So TEACH your children the importance of vigilance and safety should they ever need to use a public restroom when you or another adult is not with your child. Teach them to always go in at least pairs…especially the girls, but the boys too. (And while you’re at it, teach your children to be more tolerant…the fewer assholes we raise, the better our country will be in the long run). And now even adult women need to be more alert and sensible when using public restrooms. There is always a price for freedom. Not just our own freedom, but our neighbors’ as well. If you haven’t served our great nation in combat, then please ask someone who has (or someone who lost a son, daughter, husband, wife or other loved one on the battlefield) what the true cost of freedom really is…and then thank them.

Tywin DiesSPOILER ALERT for GoT fans late to the party – To come full circle, George R.R. Martin made a humorous nod to his own first book title (which became the HBO series title) by having one of its most competent, strategically gifted and sinister characters meet his untimely demise on the proverbial throne, the can. Because just as with the Iron Throne, the porcelain throne is a place where men and women are quite vulnerable (go ask Elvis, or Lenny Bruce, or Top Gun Producer Don Simpson, or the others on this list). And now, that will be even more true. But this legislation must pass.

Thanks as always for reading.

Two weeks till Memorial Day…

IDROS

 

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Gunning for Changes

Gun Sight

Let me begin by saying, and then reiterating, that I am not seeking legislation that would take everyone’s guns away, or render gun ownership unconstitutional…

I believe guns are here to stay and like it or not (I don’t), they are part of our society.

But I also believe guns play a role in far too many catastrophes in our nation, and that some changes would probably prevent some of the tragedies, the senseless loss of lives, wrought by the mind-numbing, head-scratching proliferation of mass shootings, Darwin Award nominations and unacceptable “accidents.” I write “probably” not because I don’t 100% believe the right changes would make a difference, but because I, for my part, am willing to concede that until my proposal is enacted and given a proper sample size of time to take hold of our society (which has pretty much devolved into the Wild West of Spaghetti Western fame), I honestly don’t know whether things will measurably improve. But if one life is saved per year, changes are warranted. I believe many more will be spared…I am not alone…we have done things “their” way for too long already and have plenty of “ammunition” (pun intended) to push for change…now let’s enact that change, give it some time, and then compare.

Because the gun lobby has become stronger than the BO of a longshoreman after a two day shift, stronger than the active ingredient in SNL’s Colon Blow (Phil Hartman RIP…another tragic victim of a senseless shooting), stronger than Obi Wan threatens Darth Vader he would become should old Ani strike him down, stronger than the Mountain, stronger than a tech stock circa 1999, stronger than death itself (and death, we all know, is undefeated since the dawn of time)…those of us who believe the 2nd Amendment as imagined by the NRA and staunch gun supporters today is a complete fraud, and is interpreted as loosely (and falsely) as that geography textbook that was recently found to have referred to slaves as “workers” need to get creative.

Here is my plan:

You know who gets totally screwed in today’s campus/school shooting every day hum-drum, Groundhog Day if it was directed by Eli Roth world we live in? I mean, besides all of us, especially those of us with children in school who fear every day and night that the horrible story interrupting the crawl on every television, the nightly news story du jour will feature our own children’s institution…because that’s a given, right? RIGHT?

No, I am referring to the teachers, principals, team coaches, school nurses, admins, professors, and other college campus employees who seem to be thrust onto the battlefield daily in the scariest war imaginable by virtue of their profession. I am guessing none of them, even the rent-a-cops and public safety officers at most schools, signed up for this new fine print inserted into their job descriptions. Sure, there is probably a Sergeant Tackleberry type at some schools…a wanna-be hero, an ex-military type trained to kill by our government’s finest, a gun nut or two and a few other vigilantes and loose cannons, but by and large, the majority of those who dedicate their lives to educating and bettering our children are not looking to be charged with protecting our children from mass murderers and terrorists, with performing daily and weekly drills hiding the kids from danger “just in case,” and with potentially being shot and even dying in one of the historically safest professions out there.

Because of this, I propose all of these school employees, public and private, from elementary school all the way up to graduate school, across the USA, go on simultaneous strike. And I propose they continue to do so until changes are made. And I guarantee changes will be made. (Just imagine…)

I am not trying to insert myself into other people’s livelihoods…to force people already grappling with awful fears and potential scenarios unimaginable to most of us…to take up a selfless cause that could have difficult, unacceptable side effects, economic ramifications and even outcomes. But I am trying to get some of the people closest to the current trends, who have everything to lose, who already must struggle with “what ifs” and nightmares regularly because of the increasing prevalence of these tragedies, to help put an end to the madness, or at least to mitigate it…to act…to do something that might…just might reduce the number of these awful crimes from occurring.

The changes we should enact:

All guns must be registered like cars, with VIN numbers. Those who have guns registered already, need to do nothing else for registration purposes.

All guns not currently registered need to become registered (there will be those who do not comply here…primarily criminals).

To buy and register guns, a licensing and testing period must be passed, just like becoming licensed for a car. All gun owners and gun USERS (even if you are just using your dad’s or brother’s gun at the range), must get licensed, and keep their licensure up to date.

Anyone with a registered gun (see above) must become licensed, or the registration is forfeited.

To qualify for a license, there must be age limits (I propose 18), eye sight minimums (like with driving), and mental health examinations. These last two must be re-affirmed every two years for mental health, and six years for eyes.

All guns must be insured, and all licensed people must also be insured.

Gun Shows will be outlawed.

A hefty tax will be placed on ammunition which will pay for all the services and labor required to enact these new requirements – which will be overseen by the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

This will be Federal legislation, and apply to all states in the union (sorry Texas…and those who wish they were Texas).

New protocols will be implemented to allow for police and ATF personnel to make sure guns and their owners are in compliance with all of this – including but not limited to having random gun checks, not unlike sobriety checkpoints on the road.

Those caught with unregistered guns, uninsured guns, etc. will be jailed.

And the kicker: To qualify for a license, applicants must have already served two+ years in the US military in some capacity. Those who have not, must enroll. It’s part of the 2nd Amendment (trust me…it is…and all the friggin’ NRA supporters deserve to live the actual words of our Constitution, rather than the falsified Fantasy Land interpretation they forced upon us for the past thirty years). Plus, the training prospective gun owners will receive is vital.

And to all of you psychopaths who think we need to arm our teachers and school personnel:

I just keep getting images in my head of what it is, exactly, that you ignoramuses are calling for…schools filled with teachers and rent-a-cops and principals and sports team coaches, armed to the gills – and by the way…if these unfortunate, underpaid and underappreciated but generally noble people pack heat on their person, how many of them, when push comes to shove, would actually shoot one of their students? How many would/could get overrun by high school/college bullies and miscreants (I had a middle school teacher get beat up by a 7th grade student in front of an entire homeroom class…no joke…and fortunately, no guns). And if these teachers, et al, kept the arsenal locked away, as they should, for safe keeping, then what good would it really do anyway in the instant it was needed? And how many good teachers would be dissuaded from pursuing that career out of fear of having to pack heat and possibly use a gun one day…on one of his or her students? The idea of a veritable weapons bazaar at an institution of learning, at any level, is in fact, the most disturbing and preposterous idea of all I have heard.

I would love to hear some of your ideas…mine might not be the best, but it is something, and I believe it would work.

Thanks for reading.

IDROS

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Fare Thee Well – Seven From The Vault

It has been a full three weeks since I embarked on the emotional rollercoaster weekend of music, friends, community and fun that was Fare Thee Well: Three Shows in Chicago. I finally caught my breath, had time to reflect and find my voice (my external voice, which was spent from exuberance, singing and cheering; and my internal voice, which has been sorting through and processing the full spectrum of emotions and experiences GD50 provided). I have been combing through the attics of my own life since first discovering the band in 1985, reading reviews and articles, re-listening to the shows, juxtaposing those performances with some of my favorites from throughout the ages (thank you Archive.org and Sirius 23), and really trying to wrap my arms around not only last weekend, but my all-encompassing thirty year love affair with the band. (Find a link to my last GD related post here… this post received the honor of Freshly Pressed by Word Press)

I read a while back about the origins of the band name. Jerry sifting through a large tome (Funk & Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore and Legend) at Phil’s house one night, hanging out with the band in their formative years…presumably playing as the Warlocks. He comes across an entry where the two words jumped off the page at him…numbingly black, bordered by gold…just staring him in the face. Grateful Dead. And beside the words began a short parable, a folk story of a hero who came upon a throng of people who were mistreating a corpse…kicking and spitting at the dead body, speaking ill of the man it used to be and refusing to bury him. The hero inquires as to why the throng would desecrate a man’s honor in such a way, and was told the dead man had not paid his debts to the townspeople. Upon hearing this, the hero gives the townspeople every last cent he has as well as all his worldly possessions to ensure a proper burial for the corpse. The townspeople obliged, and the hero was on his way. Later, he comes across a wanderer in his travels who accompanies him on the next leg of his journey. His new traveling companion helps the hero amass a small fortune in short order, and also saves the hero’s life. Later, he reveals to the hero that he was the corpse that the hero had honored.

Or maybe the psychotropic drugs the band was using at the time helped Jerry embellish his memory, and he just really liked the name. Either way, I never let the facts ruin a good story.

But nonetheless, Fare Thee Well certainly honored the life and memory of one of rock music’s greats. And it also honored the entire band, its revolutionary contributions to the music world, its community of fans…and the incredible 50 year journey we all have helped make so memorable.

The number seven (7) played a key role in Fare Thee Well. The musicians on stage numbered seven…and July, the month of all three performances, is the seventh calendar month. The letter G, which begins both the band’s name and its founder’s surname, is the seventh letter in the alphabet. There are seven letters in Chicago, Soldier, Shapiro, Madison and in Bob Weir. Even our mail orders were sent to GDTSTOO. (It’s been hot for seven weeks now, Too hot to even speak now, Did you hear what I just heard?)

In keeping with the number seven Gematria, here are my seven most pressing takeaways from Fare Thee Well:

1) Jerry – Let’s discuss the elephant in the stadium right up front. I like to think that the real reason Bobby and Phil couldn’t keep this thing going TOGETHER after Jerry’s passing is that it was just too hard. He meant so much to all of us as fans, and certainly to the music, but he meant so much more to his brothers…his band mates for thirty years. Hearing Phil’s words before his donor rap Friday night, you could tell what Jerry meant to him. And if you watched The Other One, Bobby’s recently released documentary, you get a clear picture of exactly what Jerry meant to him. Jerry was the straw that stirred the drink. He was the engine, the driving force and de facto leader of the band, who had a magical voice I have described to my wife as what I believe the fabric velvet would sound like if it were audible. The sadness we all felt when Jerry died must have been exponentially more intense for the core four, and for at least some of them, being together and playing the music and living that life together would just bring his memory back…magnify the fact that he was missing and reopen the wounds. It must hurt…and I get it.

BUT…there were moments each night, when the band was in synch and emotions ran high, when I could feel Jerry’s presence right there on stage. It brought tears to my eyes. And the well thought out two-song encore on Sunday…TOG and Attics…well that was almost unfair in its perfection. We will get by…we will survive. Because even when there are no strings to play, he played to all of us. Jerry is eternal through the beautiful musical legacy he left us.Jerry FTW

We, as fans, never had the chance to say a proper goodbye. Maybe the band didn’t have that chance as well. Fare Thee Well provided everyone with a perfect opportunity to bid Jerry farewell, and to celebrate all that his life and legacy have given to us.

Five themes (Music/Dreams/Children/Love/Gratitude) were constant throughout the weekend, within the lyrics of the songs the band played, within the Grateful Dead songbook as a whole (which provided a backdrop to our collective experience in our hotel rooms, in our cars, and all over Shakedown Street), and as abstract or overt messages in the event itself.

2) Music is the unifying force, and is central to why we made the trek to Chicago in the first place…and that is true for the band and the fans. The band’s lyrics are rich with musical references, allegories and imagery. We are all players in the Heart of Gold Band. Our weekend was, in fact, replete with fireworks, calliopes and clowns.

Coming full circle, and opening with BOR, the very song that would be the last played by the band with Jerry in the same venue, was ethereal. This simple but well thought out gesture signified to the throngs that the band understood, and was on our collective wavelength. It demonstrated the band’s commitment to its fans and the history of the Grateful Dead and to Jerry to, for the next three days, create a bridge back in time twenty years and deliver a proper farewell…one none of us ever truly experienced…and a true celebration of the band, the fans and especially the music.

And the music we heard was great. Frankly, it might have been, overall, the best three day run of music I have seen the band play since the early 1990s. It wasn’t perfect, but when has it ever been? There were moments of transcendence, and others that certainly wouldn’t warrant an ante in a game of Jacks or Better…but that is what makes this band so special. There is a 400+ song musical treasure trove from which they can choose from on any given night, and to only repeat two songs over the course of five shows was amazing. To put that in perspective: U2 just put on two shows in MSG over the weekend and there were 19 songs out of a 23-25 song show that were repeated both nights. And the Fare Thee Well set lists were chock full of fan favorites and rarities, and offered a nice representation of the evolution of the band’s full oeuvre across four decades.

Music is why we came…and the music delivered, on all levels.

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine; And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung; Would you hear my voice come through the music; Would you hold it near as it were your own?

3) Dreams, like good music, take us places only our imagination will allow. There are no limits. Dreams and dreaming are a constant theme in the GD canon. We all dreamed the band would get together again one day…

All the years combine, they melt into a dream.

When there was no dream of mine, you dreamed of me.

4) Children: In the two decades since I last saw the Grateful Dead, a great deal has changed in my life. The greatest and most important change was/is the birth of my children. I know I am not alone. Children are found throughout the GD oeuvre. Playing the songs for my children, watching them dance and tap their feet to the music is priceless. Jerry lives on through his music…and also through his children. We all do.

God bless the child, who rings that bell.

And the kids, they dance and shake their bones.

5) Love: My wife and I shared our first dance together as husband and wife to They Love Each Other. Love is a ubiquitous theme throughout the Grateful Dead songbook. Even the songs the band covers tend to focus on the greatest of all of life’s forces. There was so much love in Chicago. I couldn’t make it to Santa Clara, unfortunately, but I am sure love ran ram shod at Levi as well.

A box of rain will ease the pain and love will see you through.

You know our love will not fade away.

6) Gratitude: There was so much to be thankful for, the shows may have been better served being played the fourth Thursday in November. The band’s lyrics are littered with gratitude, as is the band name. But Fare Thee Well was really a giant forum for us, as fans, to thank the band we all love one last time, and for that band to thank us for an incredible ride. And for all of us to thank Jerome John Garcia.

Shapiro certainly deserves praise and thanks for his efforts. It was no small task to put that incredible three (five) day run together, and to basically tie-dye the city of Chicago. I frequented his first club, Wetlands, in NYC for years, listening to Dead cover bands and other Jam band offshoots, so I know firsthand where he came from, and booking the Phish cover band Stash to play for 150 people, mostly from the same Long Island town the band hailed from was a far cry from Fare Thee Well. Who knew?

001It wasn’t always pretty, but as Dave Chappelle so eloquently put it from the witness stand during his Michael Jackson trial bit…”He made ThrillerThriller.”

Trey also earned high praise and gratitude from most in attendance and those in the cheap seats on couch tour. He performed admirably in a role that featured a higher degree of difficulty than the Triple Lindy. In many ways, he was in a no-win situation…and yet, somehow managed to prevail, proving he was the right man for the job and delivering some memorable takes on a number of songs most feared could not be properly interpreted by anyone other than JG.

But you know who else deserves more thanks than he got in Chicago…and in general over the years? Robert friggin’ Hunter, that’s who. That cat can straight up write lyrics…maybe Bob Dylan was better….maybe. But he’s on a very short list at the tippity top of whatever Mount Rushmore of lyricists our world has ever seen. And I can’t tell you how many times his words have brought a smile to my face.

7) Chicago/Soldier Field – Chicago was, in typical fashion, the Second City yet again. But this paid off, as the band found their footing and began to really gel by the time they made it from Santa Clara to Chicago.

Soldier Field was not ideal in any way. Stadia in general don’t offer the best acoustics when it comes to music. And this particular stadium had the most god-awful ingress-egress issues that it made an all-cash toll booth during rush hour seem like an Easy Pass lane on a rural freeway. It seemed like some evil genius was watching through one-sided glass as he funneled the crowds slowly toward a torture chamber.

But…we all made it in to the shows…and back out into the Chicago nights with giant smiles on our faces.

Soldier Field, like Fare Thee Well, was built to honor and remember heroes. And on this Fourth of July weekend, it served both causes equally. Furthermore, Soldier Field in its present form mirrored the band, as it combined historic architecture, its original look and feel, with modern additions and amenities featuring walls of glass levels and luxury boxes. Soldier Field

As the twentieth set of Days Between approach, and still glowing from the exuberance of Fare Thee Well, we can now move forward with the closure we weren’t afforded back in 1995. Constant reminders of the popularity of this event continue to resonate, both within the Grateful Dead community as well as in the strangest of places if you look at it right…take this article as exhibit A.

I thank Peter Shapiro, Madison House and the band and crew for a real good time. Here’s hoping for another celebration of equal or greater quality sometime soon…and please let it be somewhere on the east coast.

All the best,

IDROS

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