Sympathy for ‘Sympathy for the Devil’

“Sympathy for the Devil? No. I don’t like that fellow. He makes a lot of trouble. I’m not listening to no song that has sympathy for the devil.“

That was my sentiment for 50 years. It will still be my sentiment, but not so much, until my grave—which maybe will not arrive anytime soon, and if I play my cards right and the ducks line up, maybe not at all. Funny how you can live life as though the system may end tomorrow, and also as though it may not end before your natural death. Yikes! Cognitive dissonance! I hate that stuff!

Nah—cognitive dissonance is a topic worthy of a pamphlet, perhaps, but no more. It is what used to be called, ‘Coming to grips with the fact that you don’t know everything.’ People used to be able to do that without their heads shorting out—before ‘critical thinking’ became all the rage.

“You will still dislike the song, but ‘not so much’ Tom?” You going warm and fuzzy on the Devil these days? No. I still don’t like him. But somewhere along the road I came to recognize that ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ the Rolling Stones song, is not really about sympathy for the Devil. It is about exposure of him.

For years I refused to listen to the song. For years I slapped it down if it reared up on the radio, and later skipped it over if Pandora served it up. I still will, of course, at least if in anyone’s hearing. “Wow, brothers—great song! Sympathy for the Devil! I love it! Let’s give it a listen—right here at the congregation picnic!”—can I picture myself saying that? No. There is stuff that you tuck out of sight when the respectable people come calling. I always did that with the Keith Richards/Mick Jagger song. It’s a little too bad, because if you like rock music, you really can’t do better than The Rolling Stones. On the other hand, there’s a lot of music—you don’t have to chug down everything that comes down the pipe;

The song exposes the works of the Devil nearly as well as the Bible itself—in fact, better—if we are going for specifics and exclusive focus—that is, not being diluted by anything else. The obscenities of history—the Devil’s behind them all. He’s pulling the strings.

A fellow with the handle “Apollyon911” says of the song, that Satan is “implicating humanity for the evil they have committed” and “expresses glee for the crucifixion and other atrocities that he helped orchestrate”—Hitler’s reign, murder of the czar, murder of the Kennedy’s. “He is a ‘man of wealth and taste’...just as the SS had impeccable manners, listened to Wagner and drank fine wine, there is a powerful desire to be impressive...to be admired (or, more to the point, worshipped).”

What is the polar opposite circumstance that triggered for me memories of this song? It was this verse from Isaiah and a subsequent video included in the mid-week JW meetings during June 2020–a video on highlighting God’s name in the countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. “I am Jehovah. That is my name,” says Isaiah 42:8 (NWT). But the King James Version, and the majority of translations, say, “I am the LORD. That is my name.” How can translators be so dense? “The LORD” is a name? What’s with the all-caps?

You don’t translate the tetragrammaton as “The LORD.” The first is clearly a distinctive name—the name God gives himself—a name that makes clear his power to transform: “He causes to become.” The second is no more than a title, gussied up with all-caps, but clearly a title. Sometimes I call people’s attention to Psalm 110:1 to expose this idiocy: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies as a tool for your feet.’” Who is talking to who? Why is one Lord all caps and the other not? There is a Charlton Heston movie—I think it is ‘The Ten Commandments’—in which the Israelites are distressed early on because “We don’t even know our God’s name.” Later on, they are as happy as pigs in mud, for they have learned it: it is ‘The LORD’—how much sense does that make?

Even Mick Jagger knows better. “Pleased to meet you—hope you guess my name,” his devil says—and later in the song he gives his name! It is not ‘The DEVIL.”—it is ‘Lucifer!’ Now, as it turns out, ‘Lucifer’ is not a name either; it is a translation of the Hebrew word “hehlel’ and means “shining one.” But the intent is there—Jagger has his head screwed on straight. He knows that if you say Satan has a name, you don’t tell people it is SATAN. And if God has a name, you don’t say it is The LORD. He has put his name in scripture nearly 7,000 times. You don’t think he might be a little peeved that churchmen paper it over, essentially taking it out? Wouldn’t you—if you wrote the most beautiful letter that people sighed in delight over and praised it for its beauty—after crossing out your name, as though it were a putrid thing?

Richards and Jagger are more on to matters of truth than they know. Sign them up for the Kingdom Hall! Of course, they’ll have to clean up their acts first. They can’t quite carry on the way they do, can they? But having declared a “been there, done that—time to move on,” let them do one of the ‘original songs.’ Why—with their background, let them even do two! Seriously. Prince did this—cleaned up his act—whereupon they let him do an original song. Well—they didn’t, actually, they slapped his hand when he tried to rework their own—but they would have today. I wrote up a nice chapter on Prince. It heads the book ‘Tom Irregardless and Me’ and is even in the free preview section. You don’t think that I would do the same for Mick and Keith if only they would behave a bit more?

These guys are on to something with their ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ even if they don’t nail every little detail. They do better than Apollyon911–he has a little too much ‘churchiness’ in him. The reason I had to quote excerpts from him and not the entirety is that he screws it up in part—whereas the Stone’s song I can let stand untouched. Apollyon says in full:

While Satan is clearly implicating humanity for the evil they have committed, he is not absolving himself. He expresses glee for the crucifixion and other atrocities that he helped orchestrate (not realizing, until it was too late, that Christ’s Crucifixion – and Resurrection, were all part of God’s Plan).

He is a ‘man of wealth and taste’. This does not simply mean he is sophisticated. He does not deny his evil but, just as the SS had impeccable manners, listened to Wagner and drank fine wine, there is a powerful desire to be impressive (and perhaps, in the case of humans, to deny the evil they commit). He wants to be admired (or, more to the point, worshipped).

Satan or, as he prefers to be called, Lucifer, his pre-Fall name, is also warning mankind to treat him with respect or he will destroy us. As Martin Luther (the Reformer) noted: ‘Satan cannot bear to be mocked’.

Satan is not denying he is the author of evil. He is merely implicating mankind and also emphasizing his power.

Satan, the Devil, is the Father of Lies and this is implied when he talks about ‘lay[ing] your soul to waste’. Satan does not have full authority over mankind. Only what is allowed by God (his Creator). But, Satan wants us to believe he has all power.

Well, maybe it’s not so bad. But isn’t it a little too glib on how things like the Holocaust is “part of God’s Plan?” (capitalized, no less, though it includes the Holocaust!) It reminds me of the time I passed the church billboard that read “‘Don’t Worry, I’m in Charge’—God” Two days later planes flew into the twin towers in New York City, and I began to wonder if that stupid sign was still there. I returned to read the modified version: “God Bless America.” Had the priest swapped the letters at 3 AM, hoping no one would see him? Even the new didn’t fit. Would you have carried on about God’s blessing in the big city at the time?

What Apollyon downplays is that Satan, not God, is described as the “ruler of this system of this world.” Satan is the one who is “blinding the minds of the unbelievers.” Satan is the one who is “misleading the entire inhabited earth”—that covers a lot of territory!—so it seems that Apollyon might expound at least a little on how Satan has managed to hijack the world God created. He doesn’t do this because he doesn’t know—all he can do is offer up some muddled alteration: “‘Don’t worry (much), I’m in charge, even if it seems I am sleeping at the switch’—God.” No. It won’t do. Satan is the “ruler of this world,” says the Bible repeatedly. (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Revelation 12:9)

Jagger and Richards nail it, but they don’t go far enough. Jesus has come to “break up the works of the Devil,” 1 John 3:8 says. The first thing you do in breaking up the works of the Devil is to expose them. If they went far enough they would come to the indictment of Babylon the Great, the party identified by Jehovah’s Witnesses as “the world empire of false religion.” “Yes, in her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” (Revelation 18:24) Of all those? Yes, for it is not just the acts of commission we speak of, but it is far more for the acts of omission. Had religion trained its members to be peaceable, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do theirs, they would have held their ground when the king tried enlist them in his latest war; they would have “paid Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God”—they would have told Hitler to take a hike, as Jehovah’s Witnesses in Axis lands did. That Babylon the Great has been so negligent is why it can be fingered for the blood of all.

The Daily Text under consideration for Friday, June 26, was John 16:2. “The hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he has offered a sacred service to God.​.” The commentary included: “How ironic that in committing such evil crimes as murder, religious fanatics violate the very laws of the One whom they claim to worship! Clearly, their consciences are treacherous guides! How can we prevent our conscience from becoming ineffective? The laws and principles contained in God’s Word are “beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16) Therefore, by diligently studying the Bible, meditating on what it says, and applying it in our lives, we can train our conscience to be more sensitive to God’s thinking, and it can thus serve as a reliable guide.”

We hear the remark all the time that so and so will be guided by his or her conscience—and it sounds good, it plays well—how can anyone go wrong if he listens to his conscience? But as history demonstrates time and time again, the local king and the prevailing mindset is more than a match for any conscience. That conscience must be trained by God’s thinking—otherwise it will be trained by Satan’s. We ought not be as “children, tossed about as by waves and carried here and there by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in deceptive schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14) It requires training in God’s thinking to stand firm. Had religion not so quickly bent over for the sake of anything claiming to be “science,” it might still be able to draw upon Genesis as a credible source to explain some of the deeper questions that science cannot touch. Had religion held fast to its core, it would not find itself acquiescing, to various degrees,—sometimes only partially, and sometimes completely—to the humanist and Satanic lie that humans are capable of self-rule.

Mick and Keith are on to it—they even nail the too-frequent reversal of roles, with their, “Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints”—but they still haven’t gone far enough. They even nail the “refinement” of those under Satan’s influence, who may very well be men “of wealth and taste”—but they still don’t go far enough. They still deserve an honorable mention, not me burning their record. I’ll burn it anyway, for—let’s face it—‘Sympathy for the Devil’ is not really a kingdom song, is it? But they deserve better. Ah, well—there are greater injustices. There are bigger fish to fry. I’ll stick with the other songs on the Martin Scorsese movie ‘Shine a Light’—which is the Stones in concert—and I’ll reaffirm my favorite scene: that of Buddy Guy standing like a mountain while two of the scrawny Stones buzz around him like gnats, blown away by his fierce guitar work.

 

Please allow me to introduce myself

I'm a man of wealth and taste

I've been around for a long, long year

Stole many a man's soul to waste

And I was 'round when Jesus Christ

Had his moment of doubt and pain

Made damn sure that Pilate

Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guess my name

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game

I stuck around St. Petersburg

When I saw it was a time for a change

Killed the czar and his ministers

Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank

Held a general's rank

When the blitzkrieg raged

And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guess my name, oh yeah

Ah, what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, oh yeah

I watched with glee

While your kings and queens

Fought for ten decades

For the gods they made

I shouted out

Who killed the Kennedys?

When after all

It was you and me

Let me please introduce myself

I'm a man of wealth and taste

And I laid traps for troubadours

Who get killed before they reached Bombay

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah

But what's confusing you

Is just the nature of my game, mm yeah

Just as every cop is a criminal

And all the sinners saints

As heads is tails

Just call me Lucifer

'Cause I'm in need of some restraint

So if you meet me

Have some courtesy

Have some sympathy, and some taste

Use all your well-learned politesse

Or I'll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guessed my name, mm yeah

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game, mm mean it, get down

Oh yeah, get on down

Oh yeah

Oh yeah

Tell me baby, what's my name

Tell me honey, can ya guess my name

Tell me baby, what's my name

I tell you one time, you're to blame

Oh, right

What's my name

Tell me, baby, what's my name

Tell me, sweetie, what's my name

 

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Turn Me On, Dead Man—The “Paul is Dead” Hoax

“That reminds me of people who claimed they used to play Beatle's records backwards ( I don't even know how you could do that ...) , and claimed you could hear voices saying "Serve Satan" or some such nonsense.”

You do it by putting the turntable in neutral and spinning it backwards with your finger. When you do, you hear repeatedly and very distinctly, “Turn me on, dead man.” (Revolution #9) When you play “Strawberry Fields Forever” forward, you hear at the very end, “I buried Paul.”

The rumor was that Paul, of the wildly popular only-game-in-town Beatles, had died some years ago and that the other three had covered it up, hiring a look-alike to take his place. This look-alike was referred to as “Billy Shears” from the Sgt Pepper’s album, who worried “what would you do if I sang out of tune?” but took solace that he would “get by with a little help from my friends.”

The Beatles cross the street “Abbey Road” in single file on the cover of the album of that name. John leads, dressed in white—he is the preacher. Ringo is next, in black—he is the undertaker. Paul is third—barefoot as a corpse would be, out of step, with cigarette in hand, though he supposedly quit them years ago—he is the dead man. George is fourth, dressed in workman’s clothes—he is the ditchdigger. The license plate of the VW just over the curb is “28 IF,” the age Paul would be IF he was still alive. The first song of that album, “Come together,” incorporates a sound that could best be characterized as a shovel piling on dirt, as in a burial. References abound to the group going on without Paul: “He says, ‘one and one and one is three,’ Hold on to his armchair, you can feel his disease.”

The Sgt Pepper’s album cover features the old Beatles looking down upon the new Beatles, recostumed and renamed Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The scene is of a burial—“Beatles” is spelled out in floral arrangement, and a host of other famous, though dead, people—Albert Einstein, Mae West, Edgar Allen Poe, about thirty in all—join the old Beatles in looking on.

This is just for starters. Supposedly, the three surviving Beatles had planned this for years, hiding clues in their records.

Why do I know this in such detail? I was a college student at the time. When this story broke, campus life came to a standstill. Kids were glued to campus radio, which cancelled all other programming to run with this 24/7. There was radio tie-in with major schools, which were also at standstills as regards academics activity. Students would call in with the latest theorizing. There were many in our school who cut classes so as not to miss a word. My roommate urged me (unsuccessfully) to install a reverse gear in my record player so as to play all Beatles songs backwards in search of additional clues. Had it been feasible, I probably would have done it.

Outlandish rumors were bandied about and accepted as gospel. The feed station—from UCLA, perhaps—featured neverending call-ins and interviews featuring the latest “research.” On the back  cover of the Sgt Pepper’s album, one of the four—Paul’s replacement, I think—is conducting the band. Superimposed on the cover are the lyrics to the songs within. By this means, “Paul’s” finger points to the words from “She’s Leaving Home,” “Wednesday morning at five o’clock.” If you called a certain number at that time—the number also listed in the album somewhere, I think—you found yourself connected to hell. I think that if you pressed the matter, you risked losing your soul. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that they are “young adults” in college. They are big children, reveling in the [then] newfound freedoms of drugs and sex, free of parental supervision,  ideally on their way to becoming adults.

This Beatles’ plot was  the dominating concern of students then and it lasted for days on end.

The weekend came. Maybe it was even some holiday. I went home, about 250 miles away. NOBODY KNEW ANYTHING ABOUT THIS! On campus, NOBODY KNEW ANYTHING ELSE! I couldn’t believe how oblivious the out-of-touch farts were to the greatest story of our time! Finally, after a day or two, there was a brief snippet at the end of the “World News Report” and it was in the form of a scolding. Walter Chronkite or someone ran a line of two, briefly acknowledged that the Beatles—those precocious kids—were having a laugh on the whole world, but what a sick laugh it was.

I wrote this up long ago. It does me good to recall it:

Wikipedia (11/18/19) calls it a conspiracy theory. What! Are they nuts? A conspiracy theory is when you put a gullible spin on innocuous facts. In this case, it it the obvious spin on elaborate staged facts. Do you think that Paul showed up for the album cover photo and said: “Well, what a coincidence! I came dressed as a dead man, John is a preacher, Ringo an undertaker and George a gravedigger! Well, well, well!” ?

There is such a thing as “an educated fool” who really ought to be out digging ditches somewhere or unplugging toilets. That same Wikipedia entry references a few:
 
Author Peter D writes that, while the theory behind "Paul is dead" defied logic, its popularity was understandable in a climate where citizens were faced with conspiracy theories.” 
 
Ian D says that the Beatles were partly responsible for the phenomenon due to their incorporation of "random lyrics and effects", particularly in the White Album track "Glass Onion" 
 
What does he mean, “partly responsible?” They were fully responsible, and unless you knew that they were pranksters, it was emanantly logical to draw the obvious conclusion that they had “carefully concealed” in their Word.
 
During the 1970s, the phenomenon became a topic of academic study in America in the fields of sociology, psychology, and communication. [Of course] among sociological studies.
 
Barbara S recognised it as, in Schaffner's description, a contemporary reading of the "archetypal myth wherein the beautiful youth dies and is resurrected as a god". [and to think I wasted my career caring for the developmentally disabled].
 
Oh—here’s a beaut: American social critic Camille P locates the "Paul is dead" phenomenon to the Ancient Greek tradition symbolised by Adonis and Antinous, as represented in the cult of rock music's "pretty, long-haired boys who mesmerize both sexes", and she adds: "It's no coincidence that it was Paul McCartney, the 'cutest' and most girlish of the Beatles, who inspired a false rumor that swept the world in 1969 that he was dead."
 
Ding dong.......Excuse me, I’m expecting Paul to return. Hello?
 
It’s him!!! Squeeeeaal!! Wheeeeeeee!!!! Paul!! I’ve been keeping on the watch! I knew you would return!!
 
The one quote that is believable in all this aftermath polishing is from Paul himself [The Beatles Anthology]: “Well, we'd better play it for all it's worth. It's publicity, isn't it?"
 
Oh, and this one: 
 
In November 1969, Capitol Records sales managers reported a significant increase in sales of Beatles catalogue albums, attributed to the rumour. Rocco Catena, Capitol's vice-president of national merchandising, estimated that "this is going to be the biggest month in history in terms of Beatles sales"
 
Do you think?
 
This is the antitypical myth of the meandering Greek god Cashco beholding, not the reality on the wall, but the artificially superimposed image that is all his educated and drug-altered brain can take in.” — The Sheepandgoats Guide to Heroes and Has-Beens.
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At the Toledo Zoo

We told the border officer at the Ambassador Bridge, en route from Windsor to Detroit, that we had planned to go to the Detroit zoo, but we might go to the Toledo one instead because we had heard that it was better. He agreed that it was. He thought that because he was a member himself. The Detroit zoo was okay, he said, but it meant a lot of walking to see not that many animals.

These are not guys that are known for chit-chat. Upon being waved through, we headed straight for Toledo, though the bridge itself empties directly into Detroit.

The hour drive down, along I-75, was not pretty. I thought of some Vietnamese friends, who had yet to master the language, describing a certain picnic at which they had all sat on the ground, as “not beautiful.” This drive was also not beautiful. Detroit went bankrupt in 2013, long-ago dethroned as Emerald City of the automobile. It is a pretty gritty place today, though the downtown itself is vibrant and we will return someday to explore more thoroughly. I-75 itself was under heavy construction. A billboard whizzed by for the Detroit Pistons; only then did it occur to me: Of course! Pistons—what else would you name the team from the motor city?

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You can see Detroit from the Windsor shoreline, a narrow strip of park. It is very pretty and the GM building dominates. Peter Lynch once wrote that the nicest thing that he could say of General Motors was that it was a terrible company—bloated and inefficient, but that was long ago. No doubt it is firing on all cylinders now. Do not say that these stone figures became such when they fled the sinking town and disobediently looked back, as though fleeing Sodom. It is a cheap shot. Don’t go there. No. This is a statue of Canadian people doing something else.

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We had spent the night in Windsor because, from upstate New York heading to Detroit, you are better served crossing into Canada and traveling “atop” Lake Erie.

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Phone service dies, because we don’t have Verizon, and you have to drive those things they have there instead of miles, but the trip is shorter. We stayed at a Best Western—it was once called the Waterfront Hotel. The next morning in the elevator someone commented on how Justin Trudeau had also spent the night there.

Could it be? The Chrysler Theater was right next door—there is even a connecting passageway—and there had been a long line wrapping around the night before. I had gone out to investigate, but I assumed it was for a music concert, as the marquis suggested. Quite a few cops were there, too, but not that many—I mean, Trump would have shut down half the city. A protester there had been shouting that Trudeau was a racist, and though it made no sense then, afterwards I found out that some college photos of him in blackface (“face-darkening make-up,” a friendly news source said) had been discovered and published by those who didn’t like him. It occurred to me that protests are pretty much the same everywhere—just plug in a fresh set of faces and you are good to go in any land.

It turned out that he had not stayed overnight. That was just rumor encouraged by the guest having seen a SWAT team. He had just been there to give a campaign speech—he was in and out. Moreover, the relatively small police presence occasioned remarks afterwards of how nice they are in Canada, how just a few cops will do for a visit from the Chief of State—you really don’t need too many—and how even the terrorists, should they feel obliged to shoot up the place, are invariably polite and apologize for the inconvenience.

My wife and I were on the final leg of our Zoo tour. We had signed up as members to the Cincinnati zoo last year so as to get in at half price; the clincher had been when they told us that we could then get into other zoos at half price. We had planned to see about 20, but life gets in the way, and we only made four: Syracuse, Buffalo, Hershey, and now, Toledo. Even Rochester, closest to where we live, we did not get to.

We did not even need our membership at the Toledo Zoo—it was senior day—“Senior Safari”—and oldsters that we are beginning to resemble were admitted free! They were trucking them in, hauling them around in golf carts, and lining them up for vendors and agencies who would pitch services to them.

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It was all sponsored by the Office for the Aging. The old people didn’t look too healthy, many of them—old age is not kind—and one of them (who did look healthy) keeled over right behind us in line for no reason at all. He suffered no injuries, fortunately, except for pride. It was a splendid day weather-wise—sun, mid-seventies, with low humidity.

They offered seniors a special deal for lunch, just five dollars per head, so of course, my wife and I signed up. I absolutely refuse to wear the “Where’s My Senior Discount?” tee shirt that some nutty friend gave me a while back, but when a bargain falls right into your lap, of course you take it. So did hundreds of others—when I saw how long the line was, I began to regret it. But it moved quickly, and once inside, we were seated at round tables of ten—with tableclothes—and waiters placed identical meals of a hamburger and a few tiny side dishes before each old person.

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And then, lo and behold, the master of ceremonies, standing before the aquarium, introduced the Contours, that Mo-Town band of the 60s! I had seen them entering from the other side of the building and had not known who they were. There may have been close to 1,000 in attendance to hear these guys. Who would have thought it? See them here on-screen, but also in person away to the left in the connecting room. They only sang four or five songs. The topper was: “Do You Love Me?”—a 1962 hit that became a hit all over again from the 1988 movie “Dirty Dancing.”

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They are still the showmen they once were. One of them exclaimed: “There’s a lot of good-looking women here!” What was he smoking? Even local realtor Sam Morreale, extrovert like you’ve never seen an extrovert, who thrives on people-contact and has done several deals for family members—I would recommend him in a heartbeat—told me that he doesn’t go to class reunions anymore because “the women don’t look so good” (as though the men do). There may have been a few good-looking women there in Toledo, but it WAS senior day, after all. One band member introduced another—I wish I could remember the names—and observed that even after all these years—even with his store-bought teeth—even with his store-bought teeth, that he got from K-Mart, he can still “really shake ‘em down.”

I love the scene from “Dreamgirls,” code name for the Supremes, where Eddie Murphy croons some song nice and bland, so as to appeal to the white people, and breaks down mid-song. “I can’t do it,” he cries. He then lets out a shriek and launches into pure funk, at which point the all-black horn section exits the bleachers and parades single file past him, joyously blowing for all they are worth. Let’s face it—modern music doesn’t really get interesting until the black musicians get their hands on it.

The Toledo zoo is rated by the Ranker.com site as the seventh best zoo in the country. Is it just a coincidence that the #2 (Columbus) and # 3 (Cincinnati) zoos are also in Ohio? As good zoos do, it intertwines people pathways with animal quarters. The former get many viewing angles—see how you can look through this aquarium and see folks on the other side?

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The animals have varied terrain and relatively spacious quarters. Probably not as spacious as Detroit, which is still in the first half of the Ranker list—after all, if you have to walk a lot to see not that many animals, it means that the animals have more space. The American Zoo Association mandates 5000 square feet for every two wild animals. When I was a boy, zoos used to be jails for animals—they have come a long way. Still, that is hardly the space that they would have in the wild, and my brother (the one who cheats at Scrabble) doesn’t like zoos for that reason. They represent one segment of humanity protecting animals from another segment that would kill them off in one way or another. I don’t know how the animals might feel about that.

Toledo used to be one of those jails for animals—most zoos were. The former gorilla enclosure literally looks like a jail, but it is now a restaurant where people come to dine behind the bars. It opened in 1993–it is called “Carnivore Cafe.” As I panned my camera, so as not to be obvious that I was honing in on a couple of diners, the woman wasn’t fooled a bit, and she began waving even before I pointed toward her—how can people be so clever? Later, when I sat back there myself, my wife exclaimed that they still do have great apes back there—see what I have to put up with?

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These days the gorillas get some revenge for their forebears being jailed. They can soak visitors if the latter happen to be standing in the wrong spot and the former are quick enough.

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And the translucent mannequin simulating how the body reacts to venoms and stings, who in this case represents just an ordinary joe cleaning his house gutters, dies after disturbing a nest of wasps! I mean, they went out of their way to have him die—ordinarily he wouldn’t have, but this fellow had a specific allergy.

The New York zoos that we went to—Syracuse, Buffalo—and we know Rochester from before—are all down near the bottom of the Ranker list. They are well done—almost all zoos are improving—and reflect people dedicated to their care, but they are smaller. Even ZooAmerica in Hershey, Pennsylvania—with a name like that we figured it must be spectacular, but it actually meant that it contained, as a refuge zoo, only animals native to North or South America—one would never describe as “bad.” Sometimes less is more, and having defined their more modest goal, they go on to do more with it.

Most zoos undertake the mission to educate as to how to be better stewards of the planet. The aquarium building had photos—they are spotted only as you are close to the exit—of just how damaging human pollution is to marine life. Some birds will feed on small discarded plastic items, filling their stomachs and causing starvation when real food no longer fits, one sign informed. And the next one of the turtles speaks for itself:

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Another exhibit of the Cassowary bird even illustrated a Bible verse for me. The creature defecates thousands of seeds that sprout and serve to repopulate the rain forest in which it resides. That called to mind the derisive title given the apostle Paul by the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, who wanted to know “what is it this chatterer is trying to say?” (Acts 17:18) Literally the word means “seed-picker” and it denotes a bird that picks up a seed here and poops it out there—it is not as though they held him in high esteem

Just as some other creature did something so amazing that I was overwhelmed with appreciation for God’s design, some evolutionist behind me exclaimed: “It seems almost a miracle that natural selection has resulted in these ingenious behaviors!” So I spun about and threw him into the lions den behind me, where he was instantly devoured, as the three Hebrew lads had not been. Look—I gave him a chance to prove survival of the fittest—don’t judge me. I admit that it was an overreaction, but I was tired of his type carrying on about how the Chinese steal intellectual property, whereas nobody steals intellectual property today more than scientists themselves. The way jet wings tip up at the extremities, the way they never used to? That comes from watching buzzards, eagles, and storks. It wasn’t the brainchild of any human, but of God. Fortunately for them, it was not patented, and God doesn’t begrudge them for copying it. But they have no right to pass it off as their own brilliant idea and not give credit where credit is due.

 

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“I Ain’t Going to Work on Maggie’s Farm no More”

I haven’t written any Bob Dylan posts for a long while, and I wouldn’t have written one today, except that the dryer broke. That meant—with my wife looking on approvingly—that I would be spending precious time hanging stupid wash on the line! It’s ridiculous!

Of course, as I was doing so, the lyrics of Maggie’s Farm came to mind:

Well, I wake up in the morning/Fold my hands and pray for rain

I got a head full of ideas/That are drivin' me insane

It's a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor

I ain’t going to work on Maggie’s farm no more.

This prompted me to investigate further in (of course) Wikipedia, where....gasp!....I discovered that the most bedrock and undisputed fact in the musical universe is, in fact, not so!

Bob Dylan rose to fame on the strength of his folk ballads. We all know that. We also all know that he reinvented himself, and has done so several times since. We all know that, at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, he was roundly booed, and we know the reason why: he went on stage with electifried sound, and the snooty purists there stuck up their nose at anything not acoustic. I mean, we all know this!

We all knew wrong! It is another “Everything You Thought You Knew About Such and Such is Wrong” headline. I am coming to think that there is no reason to accept anything anymore. If a pitch is not to your liking, just lay back like Casey and wait for one that is. Unlike Casey, you will get more than three. You will keep getting pitches until the cows come home. Just wait for one you like. Everyone else does—why should you not as well?

They booed because they didn’t like the electric guitars? No, they booed because the sound was terrible and they couldn’t hear the words! Look at what Pete Seeger (termed Dylan’s harshest critic that day) said:

“There are reports of me being anti-him going electric at the '65 Newport Folk festival, but that's wrong. I was the MC that night. He was singing 'Maggie's Farm' and you couldn't understand a word because the mic was distorting his voice. I ran to the mixing desk and said, 'Fix the sound, it's terrible!' The guy said 'No, this is what the young people want.' And I did say that if I had an axe I'd cut the cable! But I wanted to hear the words. I didn't mind him going electric.”

It was all a lie! The folk people didn’t mind him going electric that night. Someone else on the program had already gone electric and nobody had lost their cookies over it. This is just the result of some revisionist falling over himself to paint a titanic “Clash of the Cultures” when in fact there was none! “Bob’s going electric?” is more like it, “Well, what d’ya know? Wish we could hear the words.”

Now, if this is a big lie about a bedrock and undisputed fact, it must be conceded that it is not a big lie about a very important bedrock and undisputed fact. (Unless you are a musician, in which case it overshadows everything else) “Who cares?” is a reasonable reaction. However, though trivial—or maybe it is even magnified because it is trivial—it serves to illustrate the quicksand that those of critical thought stand upon as they presume to instruct those less mentally disciplined. As with the Christian ministry, the “ministry” of conveying human knowledge is carried in earthen vessels—humans. In fact, not just “earthen vessels,” but sievelike earthen vessels that leak most of the water before it ever gets to you. In fact, worse than sievelike earthen vessels that leak most of the water before it ever gets to you, but sievelike earthen vessels that leak the most of the water while various yo-yo’s are replenishing the supply with their own water, which turns out to be contaminated—so that what finally gets to you is not the real water at all.. I mean, if you can’t believe that the folk singers booed Dylan because they were elite and snooty, what CAN you believe?

This is only the beginning of the woes for ones who suppose that critical thinking will save us. For the ones steadfastly filling the leaky vessels are not the careful and wise ones, intent upon safeguarding knowledge. As often as not, they are yo-yos and liars, concocting their own version of events so as to sway viewpoints their way. Sometimes they are deliberate frauds. More often they are sincere persons truly doing their best but, since we are all molded and skewed by our own individual experiences, one must analyze in detail even the most mundane and obvious statement—in this case that the folk singers were shocked at Dylan changing the genre. With him, there is almost nothing that has been related accurately. Even his supposed leadership role as a counterculture icon is all wrong.

Are people inclined to analyze in detail even the most “mundane and obvious” statement? You know that they are not. But even when they are, the fact remains that nobody has the resources to do it—the disposable time of any given individual is very, very small. For many, it is effectively zilch. Plus, there is much to compete with that disposable time, and most often entertainment wins out over research. Stacking the odds even more is the habit of some to hide matters in a barrage of irrelevance (that is not to say that THEY regard it as irrelevance), muddying the waters, to the point where people say: “Ah, to blazes with it! They’re all liars anyway!” When this happens, as the saying goes, “the terrorists [to human knowledge] have won.”

And yet those of critical thought strut around on the world stage as though their grasp on the “facts” makes them invincible. It is as Jack Nicholson said to Tom Cruise in the movie: “You can’t handle the truth!” We leak away the true facts in no time at all, and compensate for it by tapping the minds of pillars who have also leaked away the true facts. 

Alas, “critical thinking” will not save us. It may even make matters worse, for who has not noticed that those who harp with greatest tenacity about critical thinking invariably assume that they have a lock on the stuff? One of our first conclusions as to critical thinking ought to be that we are not very good at it. Nope. It is the heart that will save us—not the head—the heart refined by spiritual principles that are true, that have emanated from a Higher Source, that have the greatest odds of mending the earthen, leaky, flawed vessels that are us.

.....

Now, as long as we are at it with my hanging clothes on the clothesline until the repairman comes—if he comes, because when this post is written I will explore fixing it myself—I fixed the dishwasher, after all, when it did not heat, so maybe the dryer will also surrender its secrets to me, even though I still remember that time decades ago when I scorched the clothes in an attempt to fix another recalcitrant dryer. At any rate, Dylan’s Clothesline Saga comes to mind (I am done with ramifications to critical thinking; read on only if you care about Dylan):

After a while we took in the clothes

Nobody said very much

Just some old wild shirts and a couple pairs of pants

Which nobody wanted to touch

Mama come in and picked up a book

An' papa asked her what it was

Someone else asked, what do you care

Papa said well, just because

Then they started to take back their clothes

Hang 'em on the line

It was January the thirtieth

And everybody was feelin' fine

 

The next day, everybody got up

Seein' if the clothes were dry

The dogs were barking, a neighbor passed

Mama, of course, she said, hi

Have you heard the news he said with a grin

The vice president's gone mad

Where? downtown When? last night

Hmm, say, that's too bad

Well, there's nothing we can do about it, said the neighbor

It's just something we're gonna have to forget

Yes, I guess so said ma

Then she asked me if the clothes was still wet

 

I reached up, touched my shirt

And the neighbor said, are those clothes yours

I said, some of them, not all of them

He said, ya always help out around here with the chores

I said, sometimes, not all of the time

Then my neighbor blew his nose

Just as papa yelled outside

Mama wants you to come back in the house and bring them clothes

Well, I just do what I'm told so I did it, of course

I went back in the house and mama met me

And then I shut all the doors.

It took me years to realize that this song is a parody of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Jo,” which dominated the charts in 1967. That song revolves around a horrible tragedy—Billy Jo jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge, and what hidden and unnamed inner torment might have caused him to do that? The event is related in the first person at a rural Mississippi dinner table, where it must compete for attention with the most banal and ordinary conversation of the adults. It is a “teenage self-pity song,” as Garrison Keillor would have put it.

In Dylan’s parody, the conversation is even more banal, and the “tragedy” is outright ridiculous:

Have you heard the news he said with a grin/The vice president's gone mad

Where? Downtown When? last night/Hmm, say, that's too bad

Well, there's nothing we can do about it, said the neighbor/It's just something we're gonna have to forget

Yes, I guess so said ma/Then she asked me if the clothes was still wet

and Bob sings it in the most laid-back and uninterested drawl that is a hoot in itself. He really is pretty clever. Alas, I can no longer find it on YouTube. There is a pretty good version of it from The Roches, but to a purist, such as I used to think they were at the Newport Folk Festival, only original will do. It may even be that the song will get increased recognition in a modern context, from political zealots, on account of it underlying tragedy: “The Vice-President’s gone mad.”

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“Rochester, I Think We’ve Got This”

“Rochester, I think we’ve got this,” said Eli Paperboy Reed, venturing opinion at the onset of rain that would drench his listeners while he stayed dry. As though to show him that the city had more to offer than rain, his mike went dead. But he didn’t miss a beat, belting his soul out as the sound tech fixed it. He is a must-see artist who deserved more than the handful of weather-proof diehards that he got. One of them hollered that he must come back, for the weather is not always like this. What had he been smoking?

Actually, it was not like this last year. The ten-day Lilac Festival was picture-perfect almost every day. What are the chances of that happening two years in a row? I had heard Rochestarians grumbling all way from god-awful 90 degrees muggy Florida the prior week, and I had said “No worries. It will all clear out in time for the festival.” What had I been smoking?

I was there, all right, for I had come prepared with blue raincoat to slip over a warm grey jacket, which also wasn’t needed when I arrived after 4. When he waved everyone in close for the final number or two, I was close enough to get a decent photo or two, even with the crummy phone camera. Mrs. Harley doesn’t come to the Lilac Festival when the weather looks surly, so I was on my own.

It took him the entire set—I mean, he really must work on timely delivery—but at show’s end, the sun did indeed begin to pierce the gloom. A half hour later, it was full sunshine for the next group, who probably didn’t even thank him. I’d never heard of they or Eli, but that is only because I don’t keep up. The devoted fan next to me was aghast at my ignorance.

Garnering attention over the last decade, Eli was named Breakthough Artist of the Year by the MOJO awards people in 2009. Anyone who savors R & B must not miss this fellow when he comes to town, enhanced by a phenomenal backup band. How can you go wrong with someone who starts his set with ‘Go Tell That Long Tongued Liar’?

http://www.elipaperboyreed.com

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At the Beatles Tribute Mr. Mustard Concert

I got my Mr. Mustard pin because I was the first to show up, with my party of four. I chatted a little with the band, not too much, just a few words, because they were tuning up and I did not want to be responsible for a lousy concert because they had failed to tune up.

I set up our chairs, and then we took off to see the other sights of tiny Honeoye, such as the spectacular view of the lake from the Harriet Hollister State Recreation area. Surely, our visiting friends would like the Mr. Mustard Beatles tribute band as much as we had 5 days before. Though the audience was to be tiny compared to the prior show in a much larger facility, I liked this concert more. It had more of a ‘hoedown’ air about it, the five guys on the town gazebo.

Honeoye concerts start surprisingly late, at 7 PM. This time of year, it means darkness falls during, and the guys soon enough said they could only see silhouettes, nothing more, so the audience should make noise, which they did. Then someone figured that waving flashlight trick with the smart phones, which many did but not me because I don’t know how to use that feature.

The second person to get a Mr. Mustard pin was a woman with a dozen years on me, no spring chicken, even more than I am no spring chicken. Whoa, you should have seen her shake it. When she got up for a second time, I checked with HQ, then with her husband who said “Go ahead, I can’t keep up with her,” and joined her in bouncing. Presently, my wife and several others all scooted up to the front and jumped in, sort of a group hop.

They don’t dress like the Beatles or pretend to be them. Their website says they have enough hair between them to make up one Beatle. The instrumentals are near perfect, and the vocal timbre is surprisingly close and seems to improve as the show goes on, as the five (not four) faithfully replay Beatles tunes old and new. They hiccupped with the opening vocals of Paperback Writer (which I should have sung because I, too, want to be one), but that was the only blemish that I heard. Got to Get You Into My Life, the only Beatles song with french horns more than made up for it. They do the flipside medley of Abbey Road. Come to think of it, though, I have never actually heard them do their namesake, Mean Mr. Mustard.

Two or three times one of the guys even did his own Ed Sullivan voice, as though he was Ed himself introducing the boys. They took note of a kid in the audience who was most attentive and for the final encore song, let him sing the lead to “When I Saw Her Standing There.” Presumably someone was ready to turn down the mike in case he was horrible. Instead, he turned out to be a highlight of the show, with vocals as strong as any one of the guys. The guys are great fun, highly recommended. Most of those there are old-timers reliving the music that they grew up with. Still, the liveliest one in the dance area was a teenage girl, hopping more energetically than everyone else put together.

The meme around here, for those who know me, involves my daughter’s dog, who we care for right now, and whose purpose in life is to chase cats. The guys will not use these lyrics because the audience would stone them for it. Besides, they are mine. Still, if they offer to serve as backup, maybe someday I will sing ‘With a Little Help from You Chumps.’ (sung to the tune of ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’)

~~~***~~~

Fleas, fleas, fleas….

What would you do if I swallowed your cat?

Would you stand up and walk out on me.

Give me a break, it was juicy and fat.

You should take it not so personally.

Oh, I get by with a little help from you chumps

Please understand when I bark you should jump.

Here is a shovel – go pick up my dumps.

 

How do you feel when you’re left by yourself?

‘Don’t worry about it, I’ll be fine.’

What do you see on the counter or shelf?

‘I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine.’

Oh, I get by with a little help from you chumps

Please understand when I bark you should jump.

Here is a shovel – go pick up my dumps.

 

Do you need anybody?

I just need someone naïve.

Could it be anybody?

So long as he is naïve.

 

Would you believe they’ll catch on to your tricks?

‘No, I’m certain it won’t happen anytime.’

How do you know they won’t give you the slip?

‘Cause they’re stupid, and their heart is mine.

Oh, I get by with a little help from you chumps

Oh, understand when I bark you should jump.

Here is a shovel – go pick up my dumps.

Yes, I get by with a little help from you chu, with a little help from you

CHUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH UH UMMMMPPPPPPPS!

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'It's My Party' Plays at the CharBroil Corral

The fellow on the left (stage right) is the driving force of It’s My Party, a recreation of the all-girl groups of the 60’s. Some of the performers (it is an 8 or 9-piece backup band) are high school students, as I’m pretty sure the girl in the middle is. She stood by as I spoke with the one on the right, a college student from out-of-state. Even while working both hands, the drummer beams at the audience for long takes, as though he is P.T. Barnum, so pleased that the audience is enjoying his greatest show on earth. And they did enjoy it. By the end of the show, during which the girls had changed into new outfits (closely resembling a certain sister at the Kingdom Hall), they convincingly transported geezers in the crowd to ‘back in the day.’

 

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The group is thirty years old, and the female performers have been allowed to ‘age out’ several times so as to preserve authenticity. It is a temporary gig, and everyone knows it going in. Hopefully, those who are students get credit for it somewhere, and I said to my wife that they must be drama or music students, but when I spoke to the oldest singer it turned out that she was an economics student. Some of the performers have gone on to professional recognition. They have toured the country, which somehow came as a surprise to me given its local founder and the age of its participants.

Toward the end of the first set, the girls sashay down and invite persons of the audience to dance through a tune with them. Of course, all the guys in the audience remain firmly ensconced in their lawn chairs, for fear of their wives, as did I, but finally one old duffer whose wife had probably died took them up on it. This prompted a few children to join in also, along with their mom.

Later still, the audience was invited onto the dance stage for another number. It was an unusually docile group of bumpkins present. No one responded, save for one awkward couple who essentially leaned on each other for support so that the two-party pile would not collapse in a heap. Therefore, with plenty of space available, I led the lovely Mrs. Harley (don’t kid yourself – the woman’s a looker) up front to do the slow number and then the performers tricked us into remaining by saying they had another one. The other one was much bouncier and that is what we did – bounce. Seldom, in fact probably never, have we had such floor space to show off our moves, and the girls commended us later, I don’t think patronizingly, but you never know.

When they finished the first set and disappeared I predicted that they would emerge with new outfits. My wife took this as a no-brainer. “Oh yeah. Freshen up. Take a potty break. Have a drink. (Atypically for her: “Smoke a joint. I mean, get real.”) But it is hard to think that these girls would know how to smoke a joint if they wanted to, unlike those at the Grateful Dead tribute band that played on another occasion, where it was hard to believe that they would do anything else. Afterwards, I observed to Sienna, the economics student, that it must be strange for them to transport themselves into a much different age. I mean, these are not exactly feminist songs they are rolling out for the crowds. But she said that the music they were performing was from ‘a better time.’ Maybe she was just placating the duffers and the three collapse on each other in laughter afterwards, but it seemed reasonable to suppose that she was sincere in saying it. Even the duffers in the audience rolled their eyes at some of the corn, for they are not immune to contemporary times, even if they have not fully been molded by them.

This is the third time I have heard the group. The first time, with a different set of singers, was entirely by accident, back when I was working at the group home, and I wrote about it here:

After the meal, we drive over to the Fairport commons area - Liftbridge Park - to hang out a bit. We're in luck. Lots is happening - a classic car show and a live band. I wheel Doug near the band, an all-girl group called It's My Party, who perform songs from the early 60's, and perform them very well. They have matching outfits, just like in the 60's, synchronized gestures, and ... um...some campy 60's dialog between songs. The drummer is their producer, and their website says they have performed for 20 years. How can that be, since the singers themselves are yet high-schoolers? Ah, the producer has been around that long, and maybe some of the backup musicians, of which there are 8 or 9 - are some of them high-schoolers, too? The girl singers have been replaced once or twice.

Many in the audience are older folk - revisiting their youth, one suspects - and after the show, a woman remarks on the lankiest singer's long limbs. "Yeah, it's hard to get clothes," the performer replies. Actually, I thought she said it's hard to get close. That would fit too, for the trio accentuate their songs with 60's cheerleading gestures, arms flailing like windmills.

Doug is captivated by all this. You want to leave? I ask after a few songs. Slight but emphatic shake of the head no. You want to stay? Slight but emphatic shake of the head yes. You want one of their CDs? Yes. So we wait in the lineup, which really isn't wheelchair accessible, and they sign his copy with hugs and kisses - xxooxxoo. Of course, Doug solicits actual hugs and gets them from the girl or two closest to him. Backing out, he keeps it up and gets several more hugs from other girls....you know...girls in the audience, girl friends of the singers, and so forth!

Back at the home I write up a report - they like to keep track of social progress and "if it's not documented, it didn't happen." I tell about all the hugs and conclude with the question: "How does he do that?" I mean, it's not as though anyone offered to hug me. You don’t think I need hugs, too?

Though you cannot see him at all, positioned behind the middle singer as he is, the male guitarist had the most clear voice and playing for covering tunes such ‘Our Last Kiss’ whilst the girl singers wailed accompaniment. Garrison Keillor called such songs ‘teen-age self-pity songs’ and it is not hard to see why:

“The squealing tires, the busting glass, the painful screams that I heard last…

Well, when I woke up the rain was pouring down,

There were people standing all around.

Something warm running in my eyes,

But I found my baby somehow that night.

….She said ‘Hold me darling for a little while,’

I held her tight, I kissed her our last kiss,

I found the love I knew I would miss..”   and so forth.

Keillor responded with his own ‘dad self-pity song’ in which ‘the car slid through the mud, they heard a sickening thud. “Oh, Daryl,” Janie cried, “Is it bad?” “Yes,” he choked back tears, “it is my mom and dad.”

Daryl cradles his dying daddy’s head to hear this last words….and it is the same drivel that the old man said when he was healthy, matters pertaining to going to college and getting a good education, but also matters more mundane, like changing the oil every 3-4000 miles, and ‘when you go into the fridge to pour yourself some milk, don’t open a new container. Pour from the one already opened.’

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You Have to Support Your Local Buskers; You Just Have To

Summer is concert time in the city, and two days after the Skycoasters event by the shore, I went to one at the Public Market Friday eve. The public market gains in visibility each year; the city has lately poured some money into it, and starting mid-July through August, there is a series of free concerts (bring your own chair, and you can only bring in a bottle of water before resorting to the venders) called 'Bands on the Bricks.'

I got my timing mixed up and arrived when the AC/DC tribute band, Bonfire, was playing, so I had to sit though them. Don't misunderstand; it is not that they were bad - they were very good. It is just not my g-g-generation. The Led Zeppelin tribute band, Kashmir, is what I'd come to see. My wife had stayed home. Zeppelin is not her thing.

Isn't AC/DC an example of the "heavy metal" that Witnesses used to carry on about, along with rap? (so it was clear no one was playing racial favorites) They petered off on that per se, perhaps because, as my son told me, those genres mutated into other names and they still were saying 'heavy metal' and 'rap,' dating themselves with the kids and thereby making themselves look a little silly. Nowadays they just say 'inappropriate' entertainment. They never named any specific groups. They probably never knew any by name.

I dutifully scowled throughout the heavy metal AC/DC session, until the Led Zeppelin tribute band appeared, which was only slightly less heavy. In fact, THEY probably represented the greater slide into decadence, and AC/DC was just one more step. I didn't really frown for either one. A 30-year-old was holding his toddler son aloft, bouncing him to the music, and I said, "Yeah, train that boy right!" What are you going to do?

For that matter, it was thought to be the Beatles by my folks, who raised an uproar when I started to grow my hair long like theirs. My 'long hair' was laughably short by today's standards (though it later grew longer still), but Pop was raised on a farm and was familiar with the concept of shearing animals. As a young dad, he purchased a set of clippers and sheared his kids the same way, though they were barnyard animals, leaving just an upright tuft of hair front and center, like a hood ornament. Deviating even a little from that pattern was giving in to the decadant Beatle influence.

Or maybe it was Elvis. After all, HE was 'Elvis the pelvis,' not any of the Beatles.

Leaving a little before the crowds, I encountered a busker playing away on his guitar with his dog laying at his feet. I told him he had put his greatest fan to sleep and bid him a good night. I had only walked twenty feet, when I doubled back and dropped a buck in his hat. You have to support the musicians, you just have to; they play their hearts out. "Yeah, we can use it," he said, and I continued on.

57B9A82B-8FD5-4D8A-B02E-00DD2FA4EEF5Boys night out at the Led Zeppelin tribute concert.

 

C5CBBAFE-580B-4DBF-A39E-33D3343162A3Sometimes, for lesser volume, you hang out off to the side, behind the food guys.

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Skycoasters on the Lake


After the umpteenth costume change into garbs alternately goofy and gaudy, my wife paid the Skycoasters band singer the ultimate compliment. "I have to go home and watch Dr. Who, because this guy reminds me of him." At the time he was wearing LED lit lapels, as were flanking band members in lights of different colors, having just lost his sharkhead hat. There was pentup demand for the Wegman's concert by the shore. Two weeks ago it was cancelled due to rain, one week ago due to obscene heat. Wegman's mans the food tent and passes on the instinct to make profit. Hog dogs are two bucks, and other items are reasonable. I like Wegmans. Most here do.

It is the brilliant name that seals the place of Skycoasters as Rochester's premiere party band. They might win the crown in any event, but the name clinches the deal. It recalls the L-shaped wood roller coaster of Roseland Park on the shore of Canandaigua Lake, a park that existed long ago, and is now townhouses. You used to have to drive through the darkened country to get there. Today, all is one great suburb in between.

The band has been playing 50 years. They were hawking a CD of their songs, apparently with one from their first ever concert at Brighton high school in 1968. No, I was not there. I was at a different high school. They also sent someone through the audience with a hat, announcing that not all expenses were covered, and asking persons not to be stingy. This is something I have not seen before at a sponsored concert. However, it was sort of like Jehovah's Witnesses (who nonetheless do not pass hats or plates): people look around themselves, feel they obviously are getting much value for very little money (in the case of the concert, none at all), and are mostly willing to chip in something. After all, it is a nine-piece band with a significant support team and seemingly endless props.

I am practically the only Jehovahs Witnesses who has attended the Theocratic Ministry School AND the meetings of Toastmasters, since the two are essentially similar. But I was a little bit grumbling over some things at the time, and when the Toastmasters events came up my wife and I would skip the meeting at the Kingdom Hall. After my first Toastmasters talk, the moderator said: "Either you are a born natural or you have done this before." In the local chapter was the Skycoasters public relations person (I think that's what he was) brushing up on his public speaking skills. It is a curious side effect of theocracy that most of Jehovah's Witnesses can speak publicly with minimal fuss, whereas the prospect of public speaking terrifies the average person.

A co-worker of the time kept inviting me and other employees to the Toastmaster meeting. He was almost evangelical about it, as though one could be saved there. In a sense, he counted himself saved. He was painfully shy and he credited Toastmasters with making him less so. Several co-workers attended once or twice. My wife and I stayed for the longest interval, but when we finally drifted, this fellow was a bit put out, almost as though we were going apostate.

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I Didn't Know it When Lynard Skynard Went Down

Forty years ago their plane went down, killing six. I didn't know it at the time. It was during my righteous period when I was not listening to music. But in the years since I have heard song after song that I have liked, starting with 'Sweet Home Alabama,' only to find it is one of theirs.

My righteous period lasted nearly 20 years. It didn't end until my kids reached the age where they wanted to attend concerts like their friends and I wasn't too happy about it. But I realized you cannot stop lava and so I gave in, with the stipulation that I would go along too. The first concert was Weezer. Everyone held their hand out in line to get stamped, so I held mine out too. "You don't need a stamp," the attendant said - I little disrespectfully, I thought. So I shot back: "Aren't there any grownups here?" Oh, yeah, the boy was thrilled to have me along. But I rather liked Weezer, or at least I did not dislike them.

I used to play a game with my kids which, in hindsight, was a little sick, but the purpose was noble and I think ultimately successful. I didn't want them idolizing any band members, so we would play: 'How did they die?' Was it suicide, overdose, or plane crash? It's amazing how long that game can be played.

Lynard Skynard wins hands down, though Badfinger gets runner up. The lead singer hung himself. The group disbanded and some went back to laying carpet. Years later they regrouped with a new lead singer ... and he also hung himself! The fate the second group, however, and the existence of the first group, I only discovered after my righteous period had ended.

Lynard Skynard had just released the album 'Street Survivors' when their plane went down. The cover pictured the group standing before a wall of flames. Someone prevailed upon the record company to take the flames out and substitute a plain black background. The surviving members were ever a mess and some met their end through overdose. The band still survives with but one original member.

Removal of the flames from the album cover was for symbolic reasons. Strictly speaking, it was not necessary. There were no flames in the plane crash - the plane had run out of fuel. You would almost think someone would check on something like that before takeoff. It is a fine reason not to be stoned. Lynard skynard

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)