Thursday, December 17, 2009


Every once in a while I need to be reminded that I like music. Kind of odd for a guy who makes a third of his income in the industry, but I'm an odd lot anyway. I've written about this before. Being fed up with the state of things assaulting my eardrums. The local classic rock station working the same playlist they had when I was in high school, the dearth of good metal these days, the church choir (Hey I saw a whole flock of red faced warblers the other day. You were bird watching? No I was at choir practice.... Sorry, I'll be here all week.)

So last week I remembered Queen. Yeaaaaaah Queen. There was a time, back when that I wore the grooves out of Classic Queen and Greatest Hits. That's a reference to vinyl for the younger readers who may be thinking that I just got tired of the grooves. I played that shit till there was daylight showing through from the other side.

Anyway, I got on YouTube and started soaking up some live performances. The sad thing about Queen is that their heyday was back when concert films were few and far between. Fortunately they played some really big shows that got put down for posterity. After a few views though, the decided lack of cell phone video more than made up for the quantity of material overall.

So there's the Wembley show that PBS always plays at midnight on the last night of the summer membership drive.

There's the Budapest show from '85 that sometimes plays back weird because of European video conversions.

There's Queen playing We Will Rock You in double time to a really confused audience somewhere in Eastern Europe.

There's Freddy in flowing locks and tight pants in the seventies.

There's Freddy in a mustache and tighter pants in the eighties.

There's that call and response thing he did with the crowd at Live Aid, one of the timeless moments of rock.

And then there's the one that got me...

Hammer To Fall has always had a deep effect on me. No good reason why. It may be the line about growing up tall and proud, in the shadow of the mushroom cloud. In elementary school we were still shown cold war Civil Service films about preparation for nuclear war. Maybe it's the eloquently expressed futility of modern life, "build your muscles as your body decays". Maybe it's the thirst for relief, "let the anesthetic cover it all" the same reason I liked Comfortably Numb so much. At any rate, it would not be entirely outside the realm of possibility that you could catch a certain sound guy with a small tear in his eye while that song is on.

But the one that really got me...

I stumbled on a version that Brian May and Roger Taylor did with Paul Rogers. It starts with Brian May way out in the crowd, alone in the spotlight on a bar stool. Empty bar stool next to him... no Freddy (sniff). Not that he ever really looked young but now he's looking a little worse for wear, the voice starting to get a little raspy, like aged whiskey. It's just him and that one of a kind guitar, he's using a 10p piece for a pick and it's just gently chiming out of a Vox that's away up out of sight somewhere.

I pretty much openly wept at the sheer, aching, shimmering beauty of it. That's my drug. I might not get another hit for months or years. But tonight... I got a hit. For six minutes and seven seconds nothing sucked. There was no boss, no kids, no grinding, no straining. Just the pleasant strains of the wire choir. That's my drug.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's A Mad Mad Mad World

The world is just nuts. Cultures. Paradigms. I flipped open Effbook this morning and the same person had posted an article about Darfur and photos from Pet Society within minutes of each other. I'm not putting that out there with any sort of negative inference or anything. My life is full of the same sort of thing. At work, patients lie in the ICU on ventilators while I complain about the HVAC computer being slow.

It just strikes me now and then how wide a range the human experience encompasses. My kids fight over my iPod Touch like it's the end of the world, while a billion people walk this earth having never made a phone call. I'm pretty poor compared to some in this country who live in big houses, but even here I'm far above the bottom of the barrel. And even the people who are the poorest of the poor would be considered wealthy by comparison in a lot of other places.

That's one of the nice things about civilization. The farther up the ladder you climb, the more free time you have to think about and do all the things that make us civilized. When "keeping the wolves at bay" starts to mean paying the water bill and not keeping real wolves from eating your babies you start to have time to think about flower beds and network television.

The thing that really makes us civilized though is when we sit atop our piles of riches and scoop up a handful for our fellow man. Not to toot our own horn too much but that's the very reason our family is involved with Habitat For Humanity to help out folks in our own neighborhood and Heifer International to give a leg up to people on the other side of the world whom we'll never meet.

We've seen with our own eyes what a powerful difference the right kind of giving can make for someone. We've chosen organizations that "teach a man to fish" instead of just offering a simple hand out. This didn't start as a pitch for holiday giving. I could have written it in June and meant it just as much. Maybe I'll re-post this next summer. A reminder to enjoy your present circumstances and keep things in perspective.

And since I may or may not post again this year depending on my level of exhaustion I'd like to wish everyone who still reads me a Merry Christmas, and also a Happy Hanuka (I thought there was a "C" in there but apparently my spell check is even more goyem than I am) and also a Joyous Kwanza, Pleasant Solstice, and whatever other holiday you choose to celebrate. Think of the poor, the hungry, the huddled masses and break 'em off a lump. Share the warmth y'all.