Find Your Own Rhythm

Charlie Watts passed away Tuesday, at the age of 80. For nearly 59 years, he was the drummer for the Rolling Stones… “the greatest rock and roll band in the world” according to none other than Bob Dylan.

On stage, while Mick was strutting around like a peacock and Keith was firing off those classic guitar riffs — usually while a cigarette dangled from his mouth — Charlie was the quiet guy in the back, just doing his job, keeping time.

Off stage, while Mick was hanging out with Andy Warhol at Studio 54, and impregnating Brazilian models… while Keith was ingesting every drug under the sun, Charlie was hanging out with his wife Shirley. They got married in 1964 and remained married until the day he died.

Picture: Getty/ SWNS

In Robert Greenfield’s STP: A Journey Through America with The Rolling Stones, a documentary of their 1972 American Tour, it is noted that when the group was invited to the Playboy Mansion, Watts took advantage of Hugh Hefner’s game room instead of frolicking with the women.

From this article about Charlie Watts in the Independent

Rock and roll drummers are supposed to be the crazy ones. Keith Moon of The Who practically invented the port of trashing hotel rooms. John “Bonzo” Bonham played 20 minute drum solos during Led Zeppelin concerts, and rode a motorcycle through the lobby of a Hollywood hotel. Actually, he rode one through the lobby of three different hotels.

(It’s also worth noting that Keith Moon died of a drug overdose at age 32, and John Bonham also was 32 when he drank so heavily (the equivalent of 40 shots of vodka in a 24-hour period) that he choked on his own vomit and died.)

At some point in our lives, most of us want to be the rock star or the the guitar hero. But maybe it’s better to be in the background, keep a steady rhythm, and stay true to the beat of your own heart.

R.I.P. Nanci G.

Singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith passed away Friday at the age of 68. Not only did she write some amazing, and amazingly literate songs — like four minute novels — she also had the voice of an angel. Her singing and writing skills would be enough for most, but she also was a brilliant interpreter of other folk’s songs… the best proof is her Grammy-winning Other Voices Other Rooms album from 1993 where she covered such luminaries as Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt and John Prine… and did their songs justice. It’s also worth noting that she was the person to record Julie Gold’s “From a Distance”… a more bombastic (and inferior, IMHO) version became a big hit for Bette Midler years later.

That pattern of other folks having bigger hits with the same songs was part of Nanci’s lot in life. Kathy Mattea covered “Love at the Five and Dime” and Suzy Bogguss hit the country Top 10 with Nanci’s “Outbound Plane.” She was too folk for country, and too country for folk.

She told Rolling Stone in 1993 that “the radio person at MCA Nashville told me that I would never be on radio because my voice hurt people’s ears.”

From the New York Times obit here

Her live ’88 album One Fair Summer Evening was my gateway to the magical stories that Nanci could weave. I was working at a commercial country music station at the time, and the album was in the throwaway pile. If you ask me, it would’ve been better to take 99% of the stuff the station was playing and throw it away, and play that album on repeat.

She didn’t shy away from social commentary either. Check out “Trouble in the Fields” or “It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go” or “Deadwood, South Dakota” (videos below).

A brilliant songwriter in her own right, she was always willing to shine a light on others. I saw her in concert a handful of times, and if she covered someone else’s music, she was sure to credit them and promote them. Other songwriters loved her as well.

She was then afforded the special compliment of being asked by Bob Dylan to perform his “Boots Of Spanish Leather,” which she’d recorded on Other Voices, Other Rooms, at his anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden in 1992.

From this appreciation on Yahoo: A Light Beyond These Woods: An Appreciation Of Nanci Griffith (yahoo.com)

Nanci was basically retired from music – her last album came out in 2012. But her influence is still strong. R.I.P. Nanci Griffith – folks like you come along only once in a very blue moon.

As the World Turns… and burns

The West Coast is on fire… after suffering through a “heat dome.” Lake Mead — which supplies water to multiple states — is drying up. What’s going to happen when places like Phoenix are uninhabitable? Where will the people go when there’s no water left?

We thought The Twilight Zone episode called “The Midnight Sun” was just a fever dream… but it’s coming true.

The word that Mrs. Bronson is unable to put into the hot, still, sodden air is ‘doomed,’ because the people you’ve just seen have been handed a death sentence. One month ago, the Earth suddenly changed its elliptical orbit and in doing so began to follow a path which gradually, moment by moment, day by day, took it closer to the sun. And all of man’s little devices to stir up the air are now no longer luxuries—they happen to be pitiful and panicky keys to survival.

Rod Serling’s intro to the episode

We thought Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Aqueduct” was merely science fiction. But when people are desperate for water, bloodshed could follow.

We take our daily conveniences for granted – cranking up the AC, taking long showers, watering the lawn. But the clock is ticking, and the world is burning.

Rocking the Vote Boat

Take a gander at the map for Ohio US District 1:

An example of gerrymandering at its finest. Courtesy of the Republican party. Because if you can’t win fair and square, you have to try to win unfair and trapezoid… or rhombus… or whatever shape will give you the edge. But sometimes gerrymandering isn’t enough, and you have to resort to voter suppression.

Source: https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-may-2021

This paragraph from an editorial in — of all places — a music magazine, really sums it up nicely:

Having lost the Presidency, the House, and the Senate over four years by margins so wide that Democrats were able to overcome the structural bias, Republicans have not responded as Democrats did, by trying to expand the elctorate, or convincing the existing one that their own policies and platforms merit a change. The entire story of 2021 so far has been Biden and his party trying to govern, at least trying to tackle dire emergencies it inherited , largely from four year of Republican inaction, incompetence, or inadequate response — a pandemic, economic devastation, worsening inequality, alarming climate change, decayed bureaucracy, etc., etc. — while the Republican party has spent all its time tackling the problem of… too many people voting.

The Big Takeover, Issue #88

The best response is to A. fight these voter suppression laws and B. vote, no matter the extra hurdles. (Easier said than done, I realize, when you are elderly and/or handicapped and the only mail ballot drop box is miles away. )

Here’s more from The Big Takeover editorial (bold emphasis mine):

But the ultimate effects of all this suppression and a fresh round of gerrymandering this spring won’t be seen until the next round of elections. Over the next two years, Democrats and others who believe in democracy had better stay vigilant, instead of making the classic midterm mistake that all is OK if their side won and is now in office. Memories fade, and the Capitol riot will too, especially if half of us insist upon it. But the effort to defend democracy against a party that has largely lost faith in it, will be as much the most important long-term effort we engage in alongside climate change mitigation and getting out of the pandemic alive. A responsible, accountable right of center party is crucial to our politics. But until the G.O.P. pays a steep enough electoral price for its big lies and continual partisan sabotage, it will never reform itself from within.

The Border Crisis is really a Climate Crisis

There are many reasons why folks from Central America are trying to migrate to the U.S. Some are fleeing violence and/or persecution in their home country. But an overarching reason that thousands make the arduous and perilous trek from their homes is poverty.

“I want a better future for my kids. Like our parents wanted a better future for us. That’s why we’re forced to take steps and leave our own country and risk our lives here, because necessity forces us.”

Honduras migrant Irmana Morado, as quoted in this ABC News story

And an underlying cause for that poverty is climate change. Check out this excerpt from a March 31st piece in The New Yorker, written by Bill McKibben:

To give an example: owing in part to climate change, there was a record hurricane season last year, with the last two storms, Eta and Iota, striking Central America. As Nicole Narea explained in a recent article in Vox, the Northern Triangle countries—Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—have been afflicted by climate-induced drought for a decade, leaving 3.5 million people facing food insecurity, but the floods from those two storms produced even more savage damage. Twelve hundred schools were damaged or destroyed; forty per cent of corn crops and sixty-five per cent of the bean harvest were lost. As a percentage of G.D.P., the damage is greater than that done by the worst storms ever to hit the United States, yet the people of these countries did comparatively little to cause the climate crisis—whereas the four per cent of us who live in this country have produced more greenhouse gases than the population of almost any other nation. So there’s really no way to pretend that migrants arriving at our southern border have no claim on America. Honduras could have built the biggest, most beautiful wall on its northern border, and our CO2 would still have sailed right across it.

Interesting, ain’t it? So if we want to help alleviate the border crisis, we should worry less about building walls, and focus more on reducing our oversized carbon footprint. The rising tide of border crossers is caused by the rising tide of the oceans. Illegal immigration is a symptom, not the disease. And the disease is spreading rapidly.

And it’s not as if this is an isolated case. As early as 2017, according to the organizers at climate-refugees.org, sixty per cent of displaced people around the world were on the move because of “natural” disasters, not civil conflict. In the past six months, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, about eighty per cent of displacements have been the result of disasters, “most of which are triggered by climate and weather extremes.” As Axios reported last week, using a projection model created by the Times, ProPublica, and the Pulitzer Center, “migration from Central America will rise every year regardless of climate change,” but, “in the most extreme warming scenarios, more than 30 million migrants would head toward the U.S. border over the next 30 years.”

From the same March 31st Bill McKibben’s piece in The New Yorker cited above

VP Kamala Harris can say “do not come, do not come” all she wants. But let’s pretend the shoe is on the other foot for a second (ignoring the fact that shoes might be considered a luxury in the tiny villages of Central America). If your schools were destroyed, your food sources were wiped out and your livelihood was lost, you’d still come. No matter the cost, no matter the odds.

you only leave home when home won’t let you stay

From the achingly beautiful poem “Home” by Warsan Shire… Hat tip to Rickey Dobbs of Hitting the Trifecta for bringing it to my attention in his great post about immigration during the Trump era.

“I want to emphasize that the goal of our work is to help Guatemalans find hope at home.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, at a joint press conference with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei

If we want to help our friends to the south find hope at home, we also have to change how we treat the planet. And that starts in our home.

Hey, hey, come on, I need you more than ever
Hey hey, come on, we’re running for our lives
Hey, hey, come on, there’s refuge in your heartbeat
They’re closing in
They’re closing in

from the song “Footsteps in the Shadows” by Alejandro Escovedo, from his brilliant album The Crossing.

[HT to my friend Phil for leading me to The Climate Crisis email newsletter from The New Yorker. It’s written by Bill McKibben, and you can sign up here. ]

Super Scholars

“The 2021 Presidential Scholars represent extraordinary achievements for our extraordinary times,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a news release. “I am delighted to join President Biden in saluting these outstanding young people for their achievements, service, character and continued pursuit of excellence. Their examples make me proud and hopeful about the future. Honoring them can remind us all of the great potential in each new generation and renew our commitment to helping them achieve their dreams.”

Like the Secretary of Education, I’m proud and hopeful about the future too. I’m also proud that half of the Presidential Scholars semifinalists in the entire state of Ohio — 11 kids — hail from the Cincinnati area. Two of these scholars (Aidan Finn and Anna Rahner) started their scholarly journey in the same Montessori classrooms as my kids. Three of the semifinalists attended Walnut Hills High School, where all four of our kids attended junior high, and three attended (or are still attending) high school. Another semifinalist went to McNicholas High School, also the alma mater of our oldest child and my lovely bride.

I’m not claiming any sort of transitive property that makes my kids super-scholars by association. But I do think grade schools like Sands Montessori lay a strong foundation for all the kids going to school there, and high schools like Walnut Hills and McNicholas help them blossom. The kids get the awards, but the teachers deserve a ton of credit for bringing out the best in their students.

“Our chief want in life is someone who shall make us do what we can.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can read more about the semifinalists in this story from Cincinnati.com. And you can read about the two area Presidential Scholars in this article. Aidan Finn, who started at Sands Montessori, is one of them. We know his family well, and couldn’t be happier for them. The qualities cited by the Secretary of Education include “service” and “character” and Aidan and his younger sister have that in spades.

Aidan founded Tutor Teens with his sister, Erin, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The volunteer tutoring program matches Cincinnati area high school tutors to students across the region. There are tutors from more than a dozen local high schools in the program tutoring students from more than 70 local schools. The program is virtual and free. 

From this Cincinnati.com story
Aidan Finn – Lisa Binns Photograpy

A few years from now, no one will care what these Presidential Scholars got on their ACT or SAT… but “service” and “character” will matter for the rest of their lives.

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