Category Archives: Entertainment

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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Filed under Current Events, Entertainment, Movies, Philosophy, Politics

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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Filed under Entertainment, Humor, Movies, Music, Politics, Uncategorized

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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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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Things

1) Pretty sure I saw the big DJ from Maloney’s circular bar a few weeks ago when I was at the shore…I did a double take and may have even stared a second or two too long…but that guy played Bon Jovi and Bruce and kept the party going until hours I only see when my baby cries in the middle of the night (because my two year old woke her up crying and I am useless).

2) Where in the world did Tia Carerre (her real name is Althea Rae Janairo, BTW) go? First off…her real name is Althea. I love the name Althea. But she was one the hottest actresses on the planet for a hot cup of coffee in the early to mid-90s…almost ubiquitous. Then she took a wrong turn with Pauly Shore and a second misstep with Eric Roberts and then found herself mired in B-Movie hell with a veritable who’s who in the netherworld of straight-to-video C-Listers from Stevie Baldwin to the pro’s pro, Steven Seagal…

3) A day on Venus is longer than a year on Venus. That’s right…look it up (or just click this link). Not only that, Venus is the only planet in our Solar System that spins counter-clockwise…so the sun rises in the West and sets in the East. Talk about an Axis that’s Bold as Love

4) These two guys:
Things 1 and 2

5) I just finished watching The Wire, which was tops on my list for shows to be snarfed down like a box of Bugles or Thin Mints or anything else that it is extremely difficult to stop eating/drinking/doing once you start…binge watching at its finest. As promised, the show now rests firmly in my own pantheon of top five dramas of all time (where, exactly, I am still not sure)…but I can say this unequivocally: Whereas The Sopranos and Lost had endings that irked and disturbed me because they were executed somewhere between questionably and poorly (for Lost, that might be kind)…David Simon’s opus (vastly different than Mr. Holland’s) disturbed me at its end because the subject matter is just incredibly frustrating and vexing and well, disturbing…from beginning to end and everywhere in between.

6) I recently learned that Quentin Tarantino has the exact same IQ as none other than Steven Hawking…yeah, I wasn’t sure what to do with that either, but on some level it just makes sense. You will all get a kick out of this link

7) And lastly, there is a time when you and your partner/spouse/significant other are pregnant, but you are mired in the delicate period of “loose lips sink ships,” unable to tell anyone but the closest of relatives for fear of jinxing everything. It’s a weird couple of months, and as the safe zone approaches, I find it more and more difficult to keep the secret. Recently, in our eleventh week, I ran into a couple while out with friends (wifey wasn’t with me)…the woman was probably eight months preggo…it was so obvious I felt comfortable breaking rule number one for men when speaking to women…assuming (or asking) if she is, in fact, knocked up. I was excited as a father-to-be and so I found myself blurting it out to these two complete strangers just because of the bond of pregnancy.

Anyway…that’s my show for today. Enjoy the day and fruits of your labors.

Love and peace,

IDROS

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And With Freedom Comes Responsibility

flag-day-fireworks

There are a great many options when it comes to spending (I prefer investing) our free time in today’s world.

We can take ridiculous “tests” that determine which Kardashian we would be, or which character in Silver Spoons we would be, or which nursery rhyme villain, Disney World ride, Lady Gaga outfit, extinct animal, Spielberg film, Shel Silverstein poem, Chinese Food menu item, etc…

We can crush Netflix original programs four episodes at a clip;

We can pore over, troll and contribute to various social media platforms;

We can have sex (alone or with others), pamper ourselves, shop, exercise, eat, travel, play sports or games, read, nap, Prancercise, meditate, go to the movies, do a crossword, enjoy time with friends or family, volunteer…

We have choices…lots of them. And for that, we are fortunate. God bless America.

I urge all of you to take an hour or so and read The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates, an intriguing and very well written piece recently featured in The Atlantic.

I have no idea how you will feel while and after reading the article. I read it a few weeks ago and still haven’t fully determined how I feel, what I think, and what, if anything, I should do now that I read it, given that it definitely affected me in profound ways.

A few of my personal takeaways:

Reading this piece made me feel ashamed and embarrassed to call myself an American in much the same way most of the W Bush presidency did (especially in the aftermath of Katrina – “Heck of a job, Brownie,” the invasion of Iraq and failure to find WMDs and his continual buffoonery that made him a global laughing stock) – and a great deal of the current Obama presidency is doing (Obamacare, the IRS scandal, his hypocrisy in solving the financial crisis – thank god we bailed out GM so they could continue to be so poorly run that their shoddily built cars have killed hundreds – and aren’t we all equally proud that our tax-dollar bailouts were used to bestow giant bonuses on Wall Street’s wolves just days after they fleeced us and the Federal Government out of billions. And don’t get me started on Obama’s consistently shameful treatment of Israel, arguably America’s most loyal and important ally, but alas that is for another article and another time.

My own black history education is shameful…and I know I am at least partly to blame for this. Worse still, I believe I received a top 1% education in our country, and still feel this is true, so I can’t imagine what is taught (and more importantly, what isn’t) in classrooms and curricula that unfortunately fall in the lower tiers of the American education system. I expect the world, and most importantly all Americans, to be educated on the Holocaust as I believe this will at least help to preclude something that awful from ever happing again…and I know there is a complete systemic failure right now in our country in making Holocaust education mandatory and in ensuring it is carried out professionally and effectively (watch this video if you don’t believe me). I similarly believe black history and race relations need to be taught at every level of education in our country. Ignorance nurtures racism…education combats ignorance.

Random thought: show me an important article on race that doesn’t feature an embarrassing nugget about a Philadelphia mayor…

Unfortunate thought: I am once again sickened by Donald Sterling, and he wasn’t even mentioned once in this article. (And Dan Snyder is no prize either).

History is littered with examples of man’s mind-bogglingly evil inhumanity towards his fellow man. Vonnegut built an incredible career upon that fact. Kubrick’s 2001 showcases man’s inhumanity as a core theme. Women (i.e., 50% of the world population) have been mistreated since the dawn of time, and unfortunately continue to suffer in many parts of the world. Same for homosexuals, mentally and physically challenged, vertically challenged, Native Americans and countless others. Bottom line, I am not sure reparations can ever fully repay everyone…or anyone, frankly, who has been egregiously wronged throughout history.

As a Jew and a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, I kept waiting for the author to relate his argument to a situation in which reparations have been paid in the recent past. I know Germany paid reparations to Israel and to survivors of the Holocaust. I was glad to see the parallel drawn, but was also upset that important lessons, themes and facts regarding Germany’s reparations were omitted. While Germany and some other groups did pay approximately $7 billion in today’s dollars to Israel and direct survivors of the Shoah, Jewish and otherwise, the payments were quite small (a few hundred dollars a month)…let’s say 500,000 people were paid, that total would amount to $14,000 per person. Furthermore, families of those who died received little or nothing. And payments typically only endured for the lifespan of the survivor, so once my grandfather passed away, his payments ceased…same with my grandmother. But what of their children? What of their parents, brothers, sisters and children that perished? The reparations contemplated by Coates are quite different to those paid by Germany in that money would only be paid to descendants of victims (obviously there is no choice at this point). And Coates fails to explain who actually footed the bill Germany paid, how it was funded, how news of it was received in Germany, who received payments, who didn’t, and who was responsible for determining all of this. At least for me, some if not all of that information would have been interesting if not essential for a true thought-provoking comparison to be made.

Among the issues not discussed are the feelings of resentment many Germans felt when these payments were announced – particularly Germans who believed they were innocent and whose families did not participate in the horror show. Also not discussed is the rampant Anti-Semitism raging through Germany and the rest of Europe today…so perhaps the cathartic act of reparations helped quash some racism in the immediate sense (though I doubt that), but the deep-seeded fear, hatred and ignorance always lingered just below the surface and were just waiting for time to pass, memories to fade and hard times to fall in order to resurface. Sure, Germany is not the most blatantly anti-Semitic country in Europe right now…so whoop-dee-doo…I guess the nation deserves a prize for that…but as a Jew, would I dare to live there right now? Would I be comfortable walking alone anywhere in Germany wearing a yarmulke, or a visible Star of David?

That said, I believe it was a good thing that Germany did anything at all even though you could never put a price-tag on the horror of the experience endured nor on the lives and livelihoods lost. But I am not sure I can ever forgive Germany despite the act of contrition. The problem is, it could never be enough, and the powerful and unimaginable anti-Semitism that it took to allow the Holocaust to be perpetrated had been ingrained into the fabric of German and Eastern European life over hundreds of years. Paying money most Germans never authorized or actually supported in reparations did not extinguish that ignorance and hatred.

And then there is this…I am honestly not sure how I feel about the premise of paying reparations given my ancestors were not in America during the time of slavery. My suspicion is there are many people who would feel similarly. Furthermore, my grandparents were treated just as horrifically in Germany and Poland and Russia, if not more so, were left with nothing, and faced awful racism themselves, even in America.

But when the time came to start over, even with nothing, in America…let’s just say that I concede it was fortunate my grandparents were white. Being white is a blessing in many ways for most Jews. If Jews were blue, or green or any color other than white, I am not entirely sure there would be any Jews left on our planet. Hell, we flirted with extinction more than a few times even with our light skin. But being white allowed many Jews to blend in with non-Semitic whites in many parts of the Western world and rise to some modicum of wealth and status. And for American Jews, it can be argued that many direct and indirect benefits we experienced as a result of being lucky enough to have light skin came, at least in some part, from the same exploitation of black people Coates argues quite convincingly benefitted (and continue to benefit) all white people in America. So we reaped and continue to reap the benefits, even if we aren’t culpable for the gruesome and unconscionable acts that enabled the benefits to exist.

Given the above sentiment, I am reminded of the seminal moment in Soul Man, when Darth Vader asks Pony Boy what he learned from his experience as a “black” man, and CTH replied, “if I didn’t like it, I could always get out…” I heard JEJ saying, “you’ve learned a great deal more than I thought” quite a few times as I read the piece.

Other pop-culture references I recalled during and after reading the article:

Dazed and Confused teacher, Ms. Ginny Stroud, to her class after the bell rings: “Okay guys, one more thing, this summer when you’re being inundated with all this American bicentennial Fourth Of July brouhaha, don’t forget what you’re celebrating, and that’s the fact that a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, white males didn’t want to pay their taxes.”

The Wire, when Prez quoted the first few lines of The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar, and nobody had any idea what he was saying…the opening lyrics of that song are haunting.

Coates’ piece accomplished exactly what the author set out to do, in my opinion. He frustrated me. He made me feel guilt. But most importantly, he made me think. This is an important topic, and if nothing else, my hope is that the education requirements and curriculum for black history and race relations education are expanded as a result of this article.

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend. I am interested in hearing/reading your thoughts on Coates’ piece. Feel free to comment below.

Best regards,

 

IDROS

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