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A walking anniversary

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A walking anniversary

Today I celebrate a personal anniversary. Last October, a year ago, I started taking a walk around the neighborhood every day after work. For the past 12 months, 5 days a week, rain or shine, I have gotten up out of my office chair, put my iPod in my pocket and my music in my ears, and enjoyed this self-propelled program of exercise and relaxation.

If you remember October 2012, you may remember that here in the USA we were in the final weeks before a Presidential election. Down the block from me there was a house on the busiest through street in our neighborhood which had been flying the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag — an anti-Obama symbol through the mad logic of politics — and I was ready to demonstrate to the neighborhood and whatever small part of the world that passes through it that we pro-Obama people were not intimidated. So I put on my Obama baseball cap and I started walking.

Down the street past the offending banner. Up and down the sidewalk of the through street, joining the dog-walkers, the bicyclists, the do-a-little-yard-workers, the mailbox checkers, the joggers, the kids at play as part of the outdoors world.

I learned that my neighborhood was more pro-Obama than anti. I pass maybe 100 houses on my circuit. Perhaps half a dozen had Romney signs on the lawn in October 2012. About three times that many had Obama signs. There were a lot of Obama bumper stickers in evidence — as there still are on the anniversary of my first walking day.

Last week Angelika and I were vacationing at the beach while the government shutdown farce played out in D.C. and on the national news channels. It’s not clear which the so-called “Tea Party” faction hate more, the fact that we have a black President or the idea that insurance companies will have to let poor people get health care. Today (October 22) was my first day back at work, and I read reports of polls showing that these “Don’t Tread On Me” hatemongers have lost a tremendous amount of public support and a fair amount of political capital by their tactic of putting the world economy in jeopardy in hopes of getting their way.

Today was my first day back at work, so it was my first day to take my walk around the neighborhood again. As I approached the corner, my spirits were lifted to see the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag gone and the American flag flying on its own.

Does this mean that my anti-Obama neighbor is experiencing a change of heart? A moment, at the very least, of shame? I’m not sure I believe it. Maybe it’s just laundry day for the offensive flag. But for the moment, it does add a bit of celebration to my little anniversary.


The Beatles – I’m Down

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Counting down the 10 WORST BEATLES SONGS – “I’m Down” is my pick for the worst of all the Beatles’ songs. Paul evidently set out to write a replacement for the Little Richard shouter “Long Tall Sally,” a frequent closer for the Beatles’ live performances. It has the same tempo and the same stops-and-starts approach, but unfortunately “I’m Down” does NOT have everything that Uncle John needs. The tune is lame — three chords and a melody totally lacking inspiration — and the lyrics are pathetic. Here’s a youtube video so you can read the words even after you’ve turned off the sound.

“I’m Down” reached our ears as the flip side of “Help!” and never sullied any of the canonical albums in either Britain or the States. Even when Capitol did the “Beatles Again”/”Hey Jude” collection of singles and flip sides as far back as A Hard Day’s Night, “I’m Down” didn’t make the cut.

The Beatles – Sexy Sadie

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Counting down the 10 WORST BEATLES SONGS – “Sexy Sadie,” stinking up side 3 of the white album since 1968, tells John’s story of his disillusionment with the Maharishi. This turns out to be even more boring than the story of all four Beatles’ sudden infatuation with the Maharishi. Spite is a poor substitute for wit. This is the dreariest, ploddingest chord progression ever heard from the Beatles. Bad lyrics, bad chords, what am I leaving out? Oh yes, bad melody. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.

Nevertheless, I’d like to assure you that my list of 10 WORST BEATLES SONGS is strictly a representation of my tastes and my opinions, and that of course we all have different tastes and opinions — please don’t take it badly if we disagree. I have a note here saying that “Sexy Sadie” is one of Julian Lennon’s favorite songs by his dad. I’m not about to tell Julian he can’t have a fondness for this, and the same goes for you about this and all the other songs on my list.

To reprise, this is how we got here: 10 Bad Boy, 9 Mr. Moonlight, 8 Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, 7 Ask Me Why, 6 What Goes On, 5 Maggie Mae, 4 Dizzy Miss Lizzy, 3 Old Brown Shoe, 2 Sexy Sadie … and tomorrow I’ll put the cherry on top.

Saying goodbye to an obsolete old friend

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Saying goodbye to an obsolete old friend

Years ago, one of the things I did for fun was to make cassette tape collections of music for listening at leisure, in the car or at home, for parties where there’d be dancing or parties where there wouldn’t, etc. There was a bit of an art to it, choosing the right tunes in the right order so that each new song would make an interesting “segue” from the last, keeping the party rolling, and being able to eyeball just how much time was left on a tape so that the last song on the side wouldn’t be cut off and wouldn’t leave a big gap of silence at the end.

Then came Sony’s MiniDisc system, featuring a little CD about 2-1/2 inches across encased in flat arrangement of hard plastic. Each one held a convenient 74 minutes of music AND (important advantage over cassettes) the order of the songs could be rearranged, songs deleted or added at will, so that if some “segue” didn’t quite work, I could fix it. As with cassettes, I could record straight from LP or CD with the MiniDisc recorder hooked up to my stereo. I guess it was around 1998 when I bought into this technology, and I’ve still got about 50 of these little “MD 74” discs sitting around, the portable player that runs them, and the adapter to get that to work through a car’s cassette player.

It’s been years since I’ve had a car with a cassette player, but what REALLY killed the MiniDisc was iTunes. Now I have an iPod Touch, a smaller gadget than the Walkman-sized portable MiniDisc player, which holds THOUSANDS of songs, HOURS upon HOURS of songs, in as many different playlists as I like without even needing a pile of MiniDiscs handy for swapping out. The only thing I’ve lost is the ability to record from an LP (and I could pay for that technology if I wanted to take the trouble), but I’ve gained a wonderful amount of convenience and flexibility. So today the dusty old MiniDisc recorder is out of my possession and on to the land of antique curiosities.

The Beatles – Old Brown Shoe

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Counting down the 10 WORST BEATLES SONGS – “Old Brown Shoe” claims the #3 spot and finally puts George Harrison into the spotlight. George was like a bystander in the never-ending competition between John and Paul to write the best songs, but his contributions were usually tasty. (“You Like Me Too Much,” “Taxman,” “Within You Without You,” etc.) This one I don’t care for. The jangly piano sound is trite, it’s stuck on one chord for too long, and the chromatic changes when he finally gets to them are at best false cheer. The lyrics, as epitomized by the title, are suitable for throwing away. I suspect John of urging this as the B-side of “The Ballad of John and Yoko” so as to be sure his A-side would get all the attention.

The Beatles – Dizzy Miss Lizzie

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Counting down the 10 WORST BEATLES SONGS – “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” comes in at #4. This must have been one of John’s favorite old rock and roll songs. The Beatles played it at such iconic venues as Shea Stadium and the Hollywood Bowl. John even cranked it out again post Beatles at the Live Peace in Toronto 1969 gig. It’s an undistinguished three-chord boogie of a tune which gets boring by the second verse.

Larry Williams is one of the only two songwriters the Beatles covered three times (Carl Perkins is the other), and the only non-Beatle songwriter represented twice in this countdown. (His “Bad Boy” started us off as #10.) I actually like his “Slow Down” quite a bit, so I’m inclined to forgive him. In the UK, “Dizzy Miss Lizzie” was the closing song on the HELP! album. In the USA, we heard it on BEATLES VI.