Monthly Archives: May 2021

Thoughts @ Large: 75

• Not that I want a libel suit from some real-estate developer, but my guess is that if you buy a house on a street called “Timberly Waye” in Richmond, Virginia, you have probably bought more marketing than you did house.

• Netflix seems to have turned into the Lifetime Channel, only more violent and featuring better-known actors.  Apparently, their current business model is to flood the site with mediocre titles so that viewers ultimately click on one, any one, out of sheer entertain-me frustration.  But do we still subscribe?  Yes — for now.

• • • • 

I once had a goldfish named Sad
When having a fish was a fad
But one day its scales
Turned a white shade of pale
Then it floated upside-down without rhyming or anything.

• • • • 

• We recently set out on the internet to arrange the (perfect) house rental in our area for a six-night stay in June, so that our children and grandchildren could visit us and have their own space — and so none of our tchotchkes get broken and peace prevails.  We signed up for one promising property, which looked to have a backyard play area for the grandkids, based on the posted photos.  A few days later, after we obtained the address of the rental, we did a drive-by and saw the yard was filled with weeds and poison ivy.  We contacted the owner who admitted, no, they never venture into the backyard due to the poison ivy.  Long story short, we cancelled the reservation and, after much persistence on my spouse’s part, we got our deposit back, including (finally) the non-refundable AirBnB service fee.

The reason I’m telling this story is that the idea of renting a property at location-unknown, as AirBnB forces one to do, is stupid.  This gives all the advantages to the landlord and puts the renter in the position of buyer-beware, in the name of what?  To avoid drive-bys, informed choice and comparison shopping?  Yes, exactly.

• I have taken stock and decided that, for much of the pandemic, I was in Meatloaf Mode.  That is a state of mind dominated by comfort foods like meatloaf and mashed potatoes, metabolically-charged junk foods like Arby’s and Cheetos, and passably-comforting drinks which are nonetheless drunk.

In Meatloaf Mode, various things are ingested to take the place of warm smiles, grasped hands, upper-body embraces, laughter, spontaneous conversation and jokes, and all the other tokens of the ordinary commerce of human interactions.  When this commerce is thwarted, some of us turn to — meatloaf and its comestible cousins.

In Meatloaf Mode, folks try to make up for all the sensations they have missed by stuffing a lot of stuff down their throats.  It works, sort of, as a short-term distraction.  But your gut soon informs you that what you’re eating isn’t a ticket to Happy Land.  Your body knows what works even when you don’t.  It pleads, don’t mistreat me just because you’re lonely.

• In the United States, we have a baby-bird model of hospital care.  Unless a baby bird stretches its throat up as high as it can, to get attention and show its vitality, it is less likely to get fed and survive.  Patients in U.S. hospitals are treated like baby birds.  They need proxies who stretch their necks out on their behalf.

• In the United States, we have a better idea where our Uber driver is and what time we will be picked up than when, if ever, the hospital nurse/doctor who needs to attend to us will show up and answer our questions.  Perhaps this is the future: Uber Health Care.

• If someone offered me a dollar for each one, I could probably name 700 or so baseball players. (Many more from the past than the present.)  For football, I might be able to list 200 players.  Golf, probably 100.  Basketball?  Maybe 25-30.  Tennis, about the same.  Hockey, I can think of 10.  And soccer, there was Pelé, Messi, Beckham and Wambach.  And I had to think hard about Wambach.  That’s it.

• Oh, I forgot bowling.  Wasn’t there a bowler named Anthony?  So him, and The Dude.

• No one really wants to walk down Memory Lane with you unless they lived there too.

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Summer is almost here (already, in our case) which means it is time again for summertime reading recommendations.  Being that I was inspired to write a few books myself during the pandemic lockdown, I thought: why not just recommend those?  And so I am.  To help you decide which title to read first, I am including the blurbs from my dust jackets.

100 Billionth Press (2020), ISBN 9780553382570

From the jacket:  “Zach Bok is a disgruntled cashier for a Chinese restaurant in a mid-sized city.  Most days, Zach stares out the window and wishes that he worked at the Whole Foods grocery across the street.  Zach gets to know and like Kayla, a regular customer from High Pointe who always orders one egg roll and a pint of pork lo mein.  But when Kayla starts ordering special dishes — and even has them delivered! — Zach figures Kayla has become another entitled suburbanite.  Danger looms and duck sauce flows as Zach’s resentment builds to a sweet-and-sour climax.”

100 Billionth Press (2021), ISBN 0465026850

From the jacket: “Many punctuation marks have tried but failed to rise from grammatical obscurity.  But in Colon: the author of the popular Asked and Answered articles reveals how a dusty, seldom-used list-of-items signifier found a role of prominence as a separator in non-fiction book titles.  This in-depth study features rare interviews with rival commas and dashes; its final chapters explore the murky possibilities of Russian involvement.”

GREATNESS, A MEMOIR by Craig H Collins
100 Billionth Press (2021), ISBN 9780099842606

From the jacket: “The author/artist/coder/musician recounts highlights of his journey to greatness so that others might not only admire him but learn from him. He came of age during a time of tumultuous social and political change in America; unlike his less-talented peers, he made the most of his choices and chances, charting his own course over rough terrain and responding to changing times using his ever-reliable inner compass.  The author’s outsized presence is felt on every page of this memoir, from its table of contents to its welcome conclusion.”

I know… tough choice, right?  Pick any one, then relax, read and enjoy.

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In my last post, I listed the nine most regrettable endings of the 200-plus songs recorded by The Beatles.  Because, as even their most devout fan must admit, Beatles song endings were not all Good Day Sunshine — some of them were sheer Misery.

But now I’ll flip the record and play the A-side, the Getting Better side.  Let’s turn to the Fab Four’s nine best song endings, the ones that served to define their sound and deliver their message.  And yes, I think the Beatles had a message, though the band often insisted otherwise.  In their best years, their message was hopeful and affirming — the Secret that you and I desperately wanted to know.

Again, in the name of Fair Use, I offer a sample of each song ending to refresh memories.  Some of these samples last a minute or more, out of necessity.

The 9 Quintessential Beatles Song Endings

A quintessential ending to a Beatles song is one that not only adds something special to the work but marks it as their own, a signature of sorts.  So here is my list of the songs whose endings best typify the band, their talents and their times.  (Album titles and recording dates are in parentheses.)

9 • Lovely Rita (Sgt. Pepper, March 1967)

You know, it didn’t come easy deciding which Beatles song ending deserved the No. 9 spot. But, in the end, after considering the psychedelic coda to Flying and the animal stampede rounding up Good Morning Good Morning, I selected the echoey ending to Lovely Rita.  What I like about this ending is the nearly-seamless transition from a mostly major-chord song body to the ominous minor-key piano wanderings.  Maybe the band overdid it a little with the Zappa-esque moans and groans, but it did give the album some of its character.

8 • Cry Baby Cry (White Album,September 1968)

Two elegant things about this ending.  First, the ambiguous E-minor-fourth chord (with Paul singing a high minor-third) that accompanies the final “cry“, immediately followed by a barely-audible E-flat piano note… this casts a sad, mysterious spin on what preceded.  Then, after a short pause, the untitled 28-second clip of Paul’s Can You Take Me Back? with John and Ringo adding percussion.  I’ve heard it so often that I’ve lost perspective, but this ending just seems to fit Cry Baby Cry as if the song had been written this way.

My only regret is that this ending leads to the tedious and badly-focused Revolution 9.

7 • Hey Bulldog (Yellow Submarine, February 1968)

My favorite thing about the ending to Hey Bulldog (an extended clip was necessary here) is the fun the Beatles seemed to have while making it.  Catch the promo video if you can. John and Paul appear to play off/encourage each other, for perhaps the last time.

The Beatles Bible provides context for the state of affairs when Hey Bulldog was recorded, just before the band made their transformative visit to India : “[Hey Bulldog was] cited by The Beatles’ engineer Geoff Emerick as one of their final true group efforts, with equal contributions from all…  Following their Indian jaunt, The Beatles’ sense of togetherness began to sour; they tended to work separately, with increasingly frequent disagreements which eventually led to their split.”

So, I list this ending because, in retrospect, it feels like the end of The Beatles’ second act.

6 • Dear Prudence (White Album, August 1968)

The highlights of this ending — starting with the final refrain — are (1) Paul’s (not Ringo’s) inspired, syncopated drumming, (2) the two piano chords that fill a musical hole after the final “Dear Prudence” and (3) the gentle, circular guitar stylings that close the song the same way it began.  Very stirring, very moving, very pretty.  I had always thought this was Ringo’s most inventive drumming until I learned who actually played that part and why.

5 • I Want You (She’s So Heavy) (Abbey Road, August 1969)

I’m not doing justice to I Want You by sampling only the last 30 seconds of the ending, as the power of its abrupt finish comes from being immersed in it so long that one loses track of time.  The five-measure chord progression is cut short on its 15th repetition, if anyone is counting — and I had to count twice because I wasn’t sure I got it right the first time.

I’m disappointed that recent remixes of this song seem to have upped the volume of the synthesizer whooshing.  It sounds much more prominent now than I remembered from the vinyl days. (Or it could be that it was always this way and my turntable just sucked.)

4 • I Am The Walrus (Magical Mystery Tour, September 1967)

I sampled the ending of I Am The Walrus in its totality, as most radio stations of the day refused to play much of it, if they dared play the song at all.  Hello Goodbye was the safe, commercial side — only “underground” radio played Walrus, the flip side.  Any song that broke as many rules as I Am The Walrus did was an automatic favorite of mine.  And there weren’t many of those in 1967.  (That was the year of Daydream Believer, Georgy Girl, Happy Together and Somethin’ Stupid.)

But about that ending.  While it was fun picking out the musical and vocal tidbits in that free-for-all, what I really enjoyed were the intriguing chords: the band and the orchestra played the progression A — G — F — E7 — D9 — C#11 — Em/B  three-plus times, one octave higher each time.  The violins started out on A3 (the A below middle C) and ended on D7 as the song faded to silence — this represents 90% of the violin’s playable range.

The chords were fun for me to reverse engineer and bang out on the piano way back when. Although, I played it in the key of C instead of A because it was easier.

My only complaint about the ending is that, to my ears, Ringo seems to wander off the beat for 7-8 seconds around the 4:00 mark of the song (about halfway through my clip).  Maybe that was Paul!

3 • Hey Jude (Hey Jude / Revolution single, August 1968)

The ending that was a song in itself.  Although the flip side of the single was Revolution, Hey Jude was a revolution of its own, clocking in at 7:11 when most songs on Top 40 Radio were in the 2:40 to 3:00 range.  (That said, MacArthur Park, sung by Richard Harris, was released as a single four months earlier and was 9 seconds longer.  Just for the record.)

I remember the night that Hey Jude / Revolution was first played on the radio in the U.S.  My buddies and I were doing a sleep-over in my basement, and we had the radio tuned to one of the Chicago stations (WCFL, I think) that we could pull in late at night.  The station had promised to debut the single at midnight — which meant we had to wait until 1 AM Eastern Time.  Anyway, after we heard it, the three of us went out and strolled the dark  empty streets of the neighborhood for an hour or so singing the “la-la-la” ending.  And no, we weren’t high on anything other than The Beatles and our youth.

The sample clip features the musical parts of the ending that I always anticipate: the drum crescendo and the hey-hey-hey vocal part.

2 • Rain (Paperback Writer / Rain single, April 1966)

The ending The Beatles devised for Rain firmly established the band as experimentalists (even Peter, Paul and Mary paid tribute to their backwards clips) and it paved the way for further boundary-pushing in songs such as Strawberry Fields Forever and Helter Skelter.  (Which is why those two songs didn’t make my list, but Rain did.)  What I appreciate most about Rain‘s ending is how clean the guitar, how cool the drums.  It was like The Beatles vs. The Byrds, except one of these bands had John and Ringo and George Martin.

For a fun create-your-own experience, I suggest you drive into an automatic car-wash and cue up Rain on your sound system.  The swirling brushes and pulsating water will attend to your metallic hull, while the music cleanses and refreshes what’s within.

1 • She Loves You (She Loves You / I’ll Get You single, July 1963)

Sometimes you just can’t beat a climactic finish, and She Loves You has one of the best of all time.  Gen Xers and Millennials won’t remember that The Beatles were first (and often derisively) known for their Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! rather than the backwards instruments and mystic messages.  New York Times columnists of the era were generally apoplectic about the popularity of the band and used “Yeah Yeah Yeah” as a dismissive insult.  On the other hand, when Queen Elizabeth toured Canada in October 1964, she was greeted with signs that read, “We Love You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!”

But what an ending.  The band instinctively focuses all of their energy and emotions into a laser-like sound beam aimed straight for the heart.  The sound of jubiliation is addictive — we want that kind of joy!  So we listen, over and over again.  We buy more Beatles records.  The Beatles build on this success, leading them to create more artistic and intricate works. Which, decades later, still inspires articles like this.  It is a once-in-a-lifetime story.

The Beatles were more than a phenomenon, because they were phenomenal.  The End.


P.S.  Haey, haey, haey.
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