The Super Fab Four – The Kinks

PM3062314Those who know me know I tend to take the road less traveled. In that spirit, I want to finally declare my allegiance to a provocative and controversial thesis. When it comes to early 60s, pop-rock, British bands with four mop tops lads sporting cool unnies, its not the Beatles who rule, but The Kinks. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to consider seven core points.

First. They rocked harder and earlier.

Two. They didn’t think they were all that.

Three. Two brothers started the band.

Four. They stayed together longer, making influential music longer.

Five: They didn’t do silly movies.

Six: They didn’t have John.

Seven. Frontman Ray Davies chased down two muggers in NOLA, earning him a gsw to the thigh.

Hate me, but that’s my take.

BONUS: Here is a wonderful performance by Ray at the 2010 Glastonbury Fest singing a humble salute and tender remembrance to all those who gave them such a rich history and amazing experience as a band.  Beautiful, soulful, emotional performance.

 

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How Heisenberg’s Mom Saved His Bacon…and Ours

heisenbergAnyone who knows Heisenberg knows he’d gotten himself into some deep dung on account of the work he did. What nearly everyone doesn’t know is how his mom saved his life in the midst of a grand high-stakes drama. I’m not talking about that Heisenberg; but the other one.

Ask most people who Heisenberg is and you will be told the story of best television series ever created: Breaking Bad. As the story of Walter White grows increasingly dark and dicey, he adopted the crisp and curious pseudonym: Heisenberg. Hardcore Breaking Bad fans learned White didn’t just pull the name out of thin air. As a scientist, he took the name one of the most consequential scientists of the 20th Century who craftily operated in the midst of great evil. This is the Heisenberg (and his mom) of our story here.

The Breaking Bad Heisenberg is an Albuquerquean chemist. The real Heisenberg – Werner Heisenberg – was a German physicist, who among many accomplishments, is noted for developing the uncertainty principle, a foundational truth of quantum physics. It holds that at the elementary level, nature likes to play tricks on us, leading us to believe we can measure atomic particles with certainty, but in actuality we cannot because they are mischievous little tricksters. They are inherently uncertain, thus the principle. It was this discovery that brought Einstein to disapprovingly remark, “God does not play dice with the universe.” Werner was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1932 at the age of 30 for the creation of quantum mechanics. He published more than 600 academic articles by the time he died of cancer at age 74.

He was German by birth – a luke-warm Nationalist – but given his academic work he was thick as thieves with the leading Jewish physicists – Bohr, Einstein, Oppenheimer, Max Born, Wolfgang Pauli among many – and his lectures were filled by Jewish students. This earned him the title and suspicion of being a “White Jew”, a Jew by mentality rather than birth. Heisenberg was deeply tarred as such in an infamous 1937 editorial in a major SS newspaper entitled ‘White Jews’ in Science describing him as “this puppet of the Einsteinian ‘spirit’ in the new Germany” and as such “…the puppets of Jewry in German intellectual life…must disappear just as the Jews themselves.” Serious stuff.

But he was politically sophisticated. While he had great love and admiration for his Jewish professional friends and owed the older ones – particularly Neils Bohr – a great debt for his education under them, he also aligned himself as best he could the German Nation without actually having to participate in the Nazi machine. As a German Nobel Laureate, he was pressured to sign a statement of allegiance to the Fuhrer but refused, protesting that even though he could “personally vote ‘yes’’ to such an allegiance, he refused because, in his words, “political declarations by scientists seem to me improper because this was never a normal practice” before the rise of Hitler. Shrewd.

Now, to his mother.

The public call for his death in a concentration camp as a “White Jew” was of course a great concern to his family. His mother Annie knew the power and influence of the motherly heart, so she paid a visit to Heinrich Himmler’s mom for tea with whom she was long acquainted. Annie’s and Himmler’s fathers were friendly as members of the same Bavarian hiking club so she exploited that bridge, such as it was. With the power of one mother’s heart speaking to another, Annie saved the life of her son when Himmler wrote to Heisenberg nearly a year to the day of the “mothers’ summit” explaining,

…I have had your case examined with particular care and scrutiny, since you were recommended to me by my family. I am happy to be able to inform you today that I do not approve of the offensive [editorial that condemned you] and that I have put a stop to any further attack on you…

– With friendly greetings and Heil Hilter!

Yours H. Himmler.”

This favor was influential in his being drafted as a leader of the Third Reich’s effort to build an atomic bomb, as he was the German Robert Oppenheimer. He put himself wholeheartedly into the project, but with a curious spin; the well-being of the rest of world forefront in his mind.

Thomas Powers explains in his masterfully written and deeply researched book, Heisenberg’s War: The Secret History of the German Bomb, that Heisenberg communicated interest in and zeal for the project, but practiced a tactic of deliberate stalling. Germany had a notable head start on the United States in the race for the atomic bomb, but Heisenburg and his team craftily created numerous highly technical “problems” to hobble the pace of the project. Their explanations could hardly be contested – much less understood – by their military whip-crackers. The result was, as Powers explains, that despite the apparent industry around the project “…no serious effort to build a German bomb ever began” because “Heisenberg did not simply withhold himself [or] stand aside… He killed it.” And the Reich had failed to realized it had never really started. And the history of the Western world and its citizen’s was all for the better.

All because one mother thought to appeal to the motherly heart of another over tea one handsome summer morning.

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My Hawaii Trip

Been way too long since I have posted anything here. Been busy writing for other sites.

Few weeks ago, I got to go on a work/speaking trip to Oahu. Don’t hate me! I did get some free time, but my hosts did work me hard. But here are some representative pics from the trip.

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the car loaned to me by a good friend for “gettin’ around”.

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A hidden beach where I swam, a secret gem. Its the beach where the famous kiss scene in “From Here to Eternity” was filmed.

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wonderful rock formations down at that secret beach

TV taping with some local pastors and Os Guinness who was on the island for an apologetics conf I was fortunate to be able to speak at. Os, as a good Brit, was not into the Island vibe.

TV taping with some local pastors and Os Guinness who was on the island for an apologetics conf I was fortunate to be able to speak at. Os, as a good Brit, was not into the Island vibe.

where I had my birthday dinner while there. The food tasted nothing as advertised.

where I had my birthday dinner while there. The food tasted nothing as advertised.

Pastor Bird and Lucy Mahelona. Honored to preach at their church one of the Sunday mornings there. Bird was one of the islands celebrated big wave surfers.

Pastor Bird and Lucy Mahelona. Honored to preach at their church one of the Sunday mornings there. Bird was one of the island’s celebrated big wave surfers and is now an amazing pastor and community leader.

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if they ever ask you if you want pineapple salsa with your chips, the definitive answer is "Heck YA!!" Like nothing you've ever had.

When asked if you want pineapple salsa with your chips, the definitive answer is “Duh!” Like nothing you’ve ever had.

a very authentic - and amazing - Hawaiian lunch with Pastor Waxer Tipton.

Ever wonder where the gluten from “gluten free” goes to? They ship it to Honolulu’s China Town and fry it up!

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very authentic and amazingly delish lunch with Pastor Waxer Tipton

Last day there, got to head up to Waimea Bay and Pipe and see some of the biggest waves there in decades. You could nearly actually feel the thunder of them.

Last day there, got to head up to Waimea Bay and Pipeline to see some of the biggest waves there in decades. You could nearly actually feel the thunder of them. All beaches closed down, even to surfers. No one paddled out. Bummer I couldn’t really get good pictures of them to do justice.

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This waterman evaded the lifeguards though and made it to the break.

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Waikiki and Diamond Head in the distance.

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Natural Talent + 99% Perspiration

There is talent, then there is crazy talent. This post is about crazy talent and where it comes from.

Like most people, I am fascinated by individuals with talent beyond the top folks in their field. Some people have particular talents, not because they work at it but simply because they are different in some way. Think “Rainman” or this gentleman. They just are this way.

But there are others who obviously have crazy natural talent. But they’ve gotten to where they are, three steps or so above their most talented peers, because they also work very hard, practicing 12-14 plus hours a day. They work so hard because they absolutely love what they do, obsessed with it. Here are four young people who have astounded me over the years. Three are athletes, one is an artist. But they are all artists really.

Skater Rodney Mullen

First is my long favorite. Since I grew up as a hard-core skater from youngest age, I have known of this guy for decades. In fact, he’s Florida boy who grew up not far from where I did. He lived out in the country, away from most people. Being very introverted, he avoided team sports, and talked his parents into getting him a skateboard. (What he describes about the personal psychological profile of many skaters in the clip below was so true of me and my little brother Scott who became a stunningly great skater.)

His father resisted, giving him the skate version of the “You’ll shoot your eye out!” talk. Finally they relented and Rodney seized the flat spaces around his house to become the greatest freestyle skater ever, and by far. He is not the “Michael Jordan” of freestyle skating. He was that when he was about 11. His name is Rodney Mullen.

There are so many truly remarkable nuances to what he does here that only skaters would note them and drop their jaws. He does things with such ease that his top peers cannot imagine doing; adding a variation on top of a variation to a particular trick that not many skaters can do. And wicked fast. I still shake my head. Anyway, here is Mutt, the only skater ever to give a TED Talk because he’s smart, the only skater to have ever done well in school.

Free Climber Alex Honnold

Alex is insane, but totally sane and crazy focused. He climbs things few other climbers do but with an insane twist. His unique talent – built by stunning hard work and discipline – needs no commentary. In addition, as you will see, he is the only person in world who “lives in a van down by the river” while being more successful than anyone else in his field. He lives for what he loves.

Guitarist Tina S

Tina, a “nice girl from next door” type is like 14 years old at the time of this performance. It is doubtful that anyone has ever played the guitar with this kind of dexterity, skill, command and discipline at this age. Its not even that she plays amazing “for a girl her age.” The artists who she covers have to feel a bit inadequate as they see her. And she looks slightly bored, as if she could watch tv or read a book as a she plays. Just plain crazy. She might even be a fire hazard.

Also, this cover of Eruption would make Eddie envious.

Street Trials Rider Danny Macaskill

In addition to this clip being a nice piece of film, it is incredible what this guy can do. He continues to advance and is one of the best big mountain bikers in the world. “Big” meaning he must carry his bike up to the top of mountains (not just really big hills) because there are no trails or ski lifts where he goes. Here he is doing urban biking. This guy could make his bike do stand-up comedy or bag groceries at the local Safeway.

Make note of the railroad track move as well as his moves across the top of that roofless railroad car.

Each of these young folks: Natural skill mixed with 99% perspiration.

Be inspired.

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Roots Artists You Should Know About

In a great deal of art, I very much like mine stripped down to the most human. Little between you, the one experiencing the art, and the artist giving you the experience. Last week over Thanksgiving vacation I dipped into some Black Roots Music that I think is just fabulous. A man (and in two instances a woman), the guitar, a beautiful voice and you. It creates a tighter and more intimate relationship between us.

Some of these folks I knew of, others were new finds. I will just provide a taste of some of them here. Many of the clips themselves give a quick little introduction to who these people were. Others you should look up and learn who they were. As you listen, think about these musicians as human beings, fathers, mothers, workers, spouses, where they lived, what they did for work, what their homes might have looked like, where they rich or poor, troubled or happy. Then consider how all these different parts of their lives shaped their remarkable talent and passion.

Eddie “Son” House, Death Letter Blues, (Just listen to him play. Amazing. He gives us a little lesson on the different types of love.)

Blind Boy Fuller, Step It Up and Go – 1940

Blind Willie McTell, Broke Down Engine – 1933   (Not all musicians from those days using the name “blind” were actually blind. Willie was from childhood.)

Walter “Brownie” McGhee, Kansas City

Mance Lipscomb, Suga Babe, It’s All Over Now and others…

Elizabeth Cotten, Freight Train, which she plays, as she describes it, in a “cotton pickin’ style”.

Blind Connie Williams, Take My Hand Precious Lord (As you can see, Connie was blind also. Sadly and remarkably, it is not known when he died, only that he was last witnessed alive in 1974.)

Blind Willie Johnson, John the Revelator  – a special duet with an unknown woman

Furry Lewis, unknown song, Goin to Brownsville

And a treat for last…

Odetta, Waterboy

Now, you’re a better, richer person. I hope I am too, for the experiences here. Share it with a friend.

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A Good Cautionary Tale for All

A Good Cautionary Tale for All

Glenn T. Stanton

Anyone paying the least bit of attention to the news of late knows that the university campus has become a red hot cauldron of over-reaction to insensitivity, real or imagined. This latest story is a good cautionary tale to all of us to keep our heads about us when we think we’ve been violated and wait ’til the facts are in. Let me lay out this story by it’s highlights:

  1. Tuesday afternoon, a bag of feces was found at the front door of Vanderbilt’s Black Cultural Center.
  2. This was the day after 200 students delivered a demand to the Chancellor for more inclusiveness and diversity on campus.
  3. The director of the Center cautioned against hasty conclusions and reactions. Let the police investigation play out, he said.
  4. Regardless, the student organization that delivered the demands deemed the action “deplorable” and “vile” and that it’s “these types of actions” which serve as exhibit #1 of the importance of their work.
  5. Police investigation concludes.
  6. Finding: A Vanderbilt junior visited the Center to work on a group project there. Her dog required cleaning up after and she did not see a trash can to deposit her poop pick-up bag. So she left it at the door of the Center, not wanting to take it in with her.
  7. Oh, our student is visually impaired; the beast is her faithful service dog. She explains her actions were exactly what service dog school instructs is proper in such situation.
  8. The egg-faced activist group apologizes for jumping the gun in their reactive accusations.
  9. The junior told the campus newspaper:  “The thing that bothered me and upset me was that [the group’s statement] was written very extreme, and what happened was they wrote it without any investigation.”

Takeaway: The director of the center had it right. Don’t automatically default to victimhood, keep a cool head and wait till the actual facts are gathered.

Each of us, of all political and ideological stripes, will do well to go to school on this learning opportunity.

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Seven Curses

Listening to music yesterday while getting some work done at my desk here, a wonderful song came up on my rotation, one that I know quite well and have loved for years. What’s remarkable about it is its human depth and searching pathos AND that it was written by a 22 year old kid from Hibbing Minnesota. His performance of it – the stirring soulfulness of it – is far beyond his years also. The song is “Seven Curses”, a ballad about a young woman who must find a way to free her father, a horse thief, from the gallows. She pays a deep price for his freedom to an evil judge, only to be terribly cheated. But she has the last word on the matter.

Here is a rare live performance of this artist performing the song in 1963 in New York City.

The lyrics to this wonderful song are here.

This song was inspired by an old folk tune – “The Maid Freed from the Gallows” – a story of a young maiden sentenced to die, waiting for someone to come pay her ransom. This classic version was performed by varied artists from Lead Belly to Led Zeppelin on III to Judy Collins. Here is the most classic performance by John Jacob Niles, one of the leaders of the folk revival in the middle of the previous century.

Enjoy.

 

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