Tag Archives: Heroes

Never Forget Our Heroes

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. This holiday may be the unofficial start of summertime in America that allows us an opportunity to get together with friends and family for burgers and beer, as well as the harsh realization that no, it’s not warm enough to go swimming yet, but while it is good that we can observe this lighthearted enjoyment in the company of loved ones, Memorial Day has a somber reason for its existence. Memorial Day was created to recognize those who lost their lives in America’s military.

While the exact date that Memorial Day was first observed is not easy to pin down, it is apparent that it became nationally prominent in the late 1860s following the American Civil War. Since then, Americans of all ages have paid their respects to their fallen military men and women in a number of ways. Typically parades, visits to cemeteries, and the aforementioned cookout with friends are common occurrences, yet today I am turning my focus to a specific group of aides to the American armed forces who deserve our thanks and are still living, although their lives are in serious danger and we need to help them to survive as they helped our service members to survive.

Since the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq began, there have been translators who have served as the necessary communicative link between soldiers and engineers working for the military and the native people. These translators have helped to save countless lives and now deserve to be returned the favor, however, this is far from the case as you can learn from this segment from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Translators, even if they were not born or even set foot in the United States, are American heroes and deserve the easy opportunity to become U.S. citizens. We should be fast-tracking these guys and their families on that course of action if they desire it, especially considering the imminent danger most of them are in. It is inexcusable, criminal really, to force them to jump through bureaucratic hoops to realistically attain the goal of citizenship. They deserve to be recognized for their service to America by being welcomed into America. We should be raising a toast of honor to these men and women on Veteran’s Day, not a toast of remembrance on Memorial Day because the United States government did not act as valiantly to serve and save them as they did to serve and save our soldiers and engineers.

The truly frustrating thing is that this episode aired in October of 2014 but things have not vastly improved in the application process. In fact, they have only become harder. Perhaps this is something your local representative should hear about.

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please send them to monotremadness@gmail. com.

Alex

There’s a Starman Waiting in the Sky

The Glam is gone. The Plastic has peeled off the Soul. Ziggy will play guitar no more.

Yesterday, January 10, 2016, legendary rock star David Bowie died. Hiding his malignant liver cancer from the world for the past year and a half, Bowie worked until his last to deliver his art to the world, specifically his musical Lazarus. He debuted his final album Blackstar on his 69th birthday just two days before his death.

Born David Robert Jones in 1947 in the Brixton district of London, Bowie was the epitome of weird and wonderful in rock and roll. Transitioning through a series of musical phases and character personas (shown in the GIF up top) throughout his entire career, no one was more flamboyant in the arts on such a large scale. Fully deserving of his inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and universal reverence for changing rock and roll – no, no, music forever.

His themes, his words, his meanings, they were all as complicated as the man himself, and, as he described in his classic song I included in my second annual list of songs to live by, he was ever-changing. Bowie recognized that we are always growing and that trying to conform to a norm is not as rewarding (in his case quite so) as being yourself. His career was helped by the fact that no one, and I mean no one was like him. He was fearless, inventive, passionate, unbelievably original, and frequently coked out of his mind. All of these factors add up to a man who shattered conventions, inspired millions, and will be greatly missed.

It wasn’t always terrific; sometimes it was terrible. Bowie had his downs as well as his ups such as his collaborative cover of “Dancing in the Street” with Mick Jagger. I don’t care if they fucked; why’d they have to punish us with that? We share the blame though, as Peter Griffin says, that happened, and we all let it happen.

The good certainly outweighs the bad however. Bowie produced many iconic songs and albums that will endure eternally. Here I have included a list of my favorites from the man who sold countless records to the world. These are not meant as a ranking, and I’m sure I missed plenty of great ones, but it is as comprehensive as I can make it today while I’ve been listening the shit out of Bowie’s discography. Enjoy and remember the man who made it all happen. I apologize preemptively for some of the puns.

Suffragette City” – Powerful, fast, frenetic. The most rock and roll song of Bowie’s discography is one that’ll have you saying “Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am!” again and again.

Rebel Rebel” – The most commonly covered of Bowie’s songs, this was his goodbye to glam rock and hello to a new generation of fans.

Under Pressure” – Technically a Queen song, but this incredible tag-team effort features perfect synchronous harmony between Bowie and Freddie Mercury with the rest of the band being excellent as always. It’s impossible to imagine this song without Bowie or Queen. Bowie was a frequent collaborator with other major artists (consult the aforementioned Mick Jagger fiasco) and as with the rest of his career these instances were across the board. He did a few songs with Tina Turner, including “Tonight” and for Christmas he sang “Peace on Earth/ Little Drummer Boy” with revered crooner/actor Bing Crosby.

I’m Afraid of Americans” – This is a fitting song for citizens of every other country, from Bowie’s native England to Australia to Canada to many here in America… especially if Trump gets elected, right guys? HAHAHA! Pandering! Of course, some of our players in the presidential race are probably a fan of the line “God is an American” that is repeated in the coda.

The Man Who Sold the World” – Thanks to an excellent performance by one of his biggest fans during the famous MTV Unplugged special, this is commonly mistaken for a Nirvana song, so much so that Bowie was often complimented for covering them when he sang this in concerts! Kurt Cobain was a big time fan of Bowie which was evident in his own work, not to mention further reflected by the specific shout out from Anthony Kiedis in the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song “Californication” when he sings, “And Cobain can you hear the spheres singin’ songs off ‘Station to Station‘?” Station to Station was Bowie’s tenth album and one of his cocaine powered works.

Young Americans” – About a newlywed couple who start to realize they are not as into one another as they first thought. Nice job on the saxophone from David Sanborn too!

Golden Years” – Bowie could get funky and he was a pro at tapping into the good and bad of the confusion, change, and vibrancy of youth. Here he is on top of his game with both.

Let’s Dance” and “Modern Love” – Some ’80s Bowie for you!

Fame” -Bowie’s breakout hit in America was co-written by guitarist Carlos Alomar and John Lennon. It’s message is pretty self-explanatory: fame is not everything you hope it is and has a disturbing dark side to it.

Heroes” – I’ve talked about this one before in this post. An excellent song.

Queen Bitch” – Maybe this is the most rock and roll song from Bowie? Either way, it’s fucking great!

Sound and Vision” – Blue, blue, electric blue! That’s the color of my room!… Actually my room is gray. This song is simply gray-te!

Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” – The title song to the 1982 erotic remake of Cat People  was also used in Inglorious Basterds. Bowie brings the fire to it.

Moonage Daydream” – This one was in Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s out of this world.

Ziggy Stardust” – The title song of Bowie’s most famous album which is one of the greatest names for an album ever produced: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Remember what I said about being yourself? Do it, because we need more poetry like that in this universe! Ziggy served as the first of Bowie’s famous alter egos. He’s the one oft seen with the lightning bolt emblem over his eye. Ziggy’s life as described in the song is one of the stereotypical rock star hitting it huge and then spiraling down as a result of his own behavior, bad habits, and inflated ego. Nobody karaokes this song like my friend Mark drunk at 4AM in New Orleans.

Space Oddity” – Bowie’s first hit, and one of his greatest songs. It tells the tragic tale of Major Tom, astronaut extraordinaire. A surprisingly upbeat melancholy song that propelled Bowie into the public eye in the space age. In fact it was released a mere nine days before Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Another of his most popular works, this song was most famously covered by badass real-life astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield aboard the International Space Station.

Starman” – Included on the immortal Ziggy Stardust, this serves as the story of Ziggy’s arrival to bring his music to Earth.

Life on Mars” – A collage of the surreal presented less like one non sequitur after another like Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” or The Beatles “I Am the Walrus”, but more like a young girl running through a movie theater observing the plethora of posters and pictures around her. The end result is a song that is on another planet than those two and is my personal favorite from him.

Bowie’s artistic talents were most greatly showcased in his music, yet he frequently worked as an actor as well. He received praise for his performance in the title roles in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth and on stage in The Elephant Man in 1980-81. Many remember him for helping to make Labyrinth more memorable when he played Jareth the Goblin King opposite a young Jennifer Connelly and Jim Henson’s darker D-list muppets. More recently he played electricity wizard and nerd icon Nikola Tesla in The Prestige. And of course, Zoolander proved that if you ever need someone to judge your underground model walk-off I believe Bowie may be of service.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy David Bowie and the many things he crafted over his lifetime. No matter whether you’ve heard every song and have collected each album of his, or if you are just discovering him in the wake of his death, or if you’re in between like me, I hope the man can influence you as positively as he has countless others. So long, Stardust, may you live on in those different looking stars and the hearts of the spiders from Mars.

Goodbye Moonmen,

Alex

Songs That Everybody Must Hear to Better Themselves (Or at Least Ease Their Whining With)

Hello everybody! This week we say goodbye and good riddance to the holidays, especially Christmas, which you’re probably sick of reading about it here and everywhere else. Although, I suppose you could be a sentimental soul for Season’s Greetings, in which case it’s time to accept that the holidays are over and move on with the rest of us. What? What do you mean, “No. There is another?” And where do you get off reciting Star Wars lines to me? Oh, now I get it. You’re one of those people who don’t want to stop the festivities and latch onto the next available date to have a shindig for. You like to give one last hurrah before you lose the Hanuchristzaa buzz. You celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Not that there’s anything wrong with having a party, especially one that allows you to meet up with the people you actually wanted to see on Christmas (I mean, I love my family! I just hate how they drank all my beer. ALL MY BEER.) However, seeking to actively enjoy swapping out calendars is unnecessary and feels forced. Yeah, I watch the ball drop with my friends too, but if I didn’t have the 400 football games to look forward to on January 1st then I couldn’t care less if it is January 1st.

Maybe I’m too pragmatic. I’m always the first of my friends to say something like, “Time is constant, uncaring, and unforgiving. It moves forward at the same pace always towards the future. It is really just half of the measurement of space-time which takes into account where we are at a certain point in time…. blah blah blah Neil deGrasse Tyson said…. blah blah Stephen Hawking…. blah blah I know, nearly three hours and that shirt was ever affixed to his torso….”

Then again, maybe I’m just sick of the same old shit, different year cycle New Year’s Eve and Day are so branded with. Every year the people packing Times Square without yet realizing what horror they have gotten themselves into may be different, but I can’t tell watching them on TV. The celebrity guests and singers may be new to the whoever-the-hell’s whatever-body-motion-synonymous-with-popular-music-genre’s New Year’s Eve bash is on your favorite far-from-unique network, but I’ve seen them performing at this award show and that sports halftime all year long. Plus, they were on the ABC platform for the same thing last year. What’s so different now? Oh, you’re going to make yourself better this coming year? Right after midnight, of course. Sure. So you say you want a resolution, well, you know, we all wanna change our winter weight. Listen, resolving to make yourself and your world better – whether it’s a little or a lot at once – is an admirable thing, and I sincerely wish you the best with it. Make the most of your newfound confidence; rock that overly-expensive and thankfully easily opt out-able gym membership; be all that you can be in the Army! Whatever you set out to do to make 2015 your best year yet, you’ve got my support (Legal Disclaimer: Alex is not responsible for any actions that are considered rash and/or illegal that the reader may do in reaction to this, nor can he be held accountable for anything lost or stolen within the confines of this blog). Meanwhile, I will keep my tradition of not making resolutions as I always hope to better myself at all times of the year, even with the knowledge that my apathy will prevent this from ever occurring.

Fear not though! Tomorrow is a doper, phatter, latter day, and I am here for you! One New Year’s tradition that I do like is hearing John Lennon’s “Imagine” played right after everybody drops out – I mean, the ball drops. It’s not so much that I like the tradition as I like the song. “Imagine” is the best song John Lennon made after The Beatles split. Hell, it’s the best song he ever wrote, and it endures as one of the greatest ever written. It is truly beautiful, and sometimes I cry a little when I hear it, like how an incontinent geriatric piddles into an adult diaper every so often when it’s Newman-Redford movie night at Babbling Brook Retirement Home. It echoes throughout Times Square each year because it calls for the ultimate New Year’s resolution: a world where everyone lives in harmony. Hate and evil have no place in any paradise, even Lennon’s hippie-dippy dream of it. Again, I’m the guy playing the pessimistic realist card and pointing out how this seems to be a very unlikely scenario, yet even I think it’s one worth striving for. Hearing a song like “Imagine” helps to warm the heart and free the mind to be a little more open to pushing toward such a noble purpose as only the best songs can.

Today I have included a list of other (mainly rock) songs that I feel everyone should hear to help lead a better life for oneself and others. These songs aren’t all going to lift your spirits though. Some will, yet others will drop you right back down to Earth and put things in perspective, but we all need some leveling in our roller coaster lives, so buckle up, hang on tight, and let your ears take a ride in better living for now and forever.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones – Here is the happiest sounding reality check you’ll ever hear. Ironically, it comes from the band who yelled at you for attempting to make them see things realistically and to get their heads out of the, well, you get it. With this life lesson in missing out on your desires (or at least what you think they are) the Stones show that they’ve come far from complaining about their constant lack of satisfaction (which is an awesome song; I just felt like I needed to put a negative spin on something for the sake of contrast). “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is pretty clear from the get-go about its message, but it’s definitely worth taking a listen or two or 2000 to.

Touch of Grey” by The Grateful Dead – The Rolling Stones let us know that not everything works out as planned, but sometimes it still works out, occasionally for the better. Jerry Garcia and his Haight and Ashbury pals reiterate this by encouraging you to look on the bright side, remember that it’s not as bright as it can be, and relax with the knowledge that it’ll be alright after all. Got it? Whether you do or not, give it another listen because this one’s a good one and catchy too!

The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel – Whether you first heard it watching The Graduate, on the radio while driving through the American west, or being horrendously butchered by a barefooted wannabe bard strumming his second-hand acoustic against a blossoming dogwood on the quad on a sunny spring day at your college, Simon and Garfunkel’s best known song never gets old. The duo (well, mainly Paul Simon) had many meanings woven into their patchwork of words on every album, and you can decipher new ones with each return. Whenever you come back to this one that can make you feel small, angry, frustrated, enraged, confused, angsty, and in general like a person who has many more questions than answers be sure you turn off the lights and close your eyes to shut out the world and all its noise to listen to the sounds… of a guy named Art Garfunkel. Try not to focus on that aspect too much.

Night Moves” by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band – Nobody looks back on his youth quite as profoundly yet simply in that old fashioned rock and roll as Bob Seger. This classic of summer nights as a fresh and frisky teenager in the Midwest is my favorite from him, and I think it merits a place here for the lesson of remembering your younger days with a smile, especially as you recall how blissful it was to have so few answers as you kinda sorta looked for some with the number one priority being directed somewhere farther south. When he sings “Waited on the thunder” he’s not simply talking about an approaching storm, or just how his load is about to blow; Seger’s singing about feeling love more than just physically. He’s a young gun at the beginning of the song, looking for fun and something more he hasn’t quite figured out yet. By the end he’s become wiser with age and thinks back fondly at the distant rumble of thunder. And while we’re on the subject of sounds bringing back sweet memories….

More Than a Feeling” by Boston – This is one of my favorite songs ever. I clearly really like all of these tunes to even think of including them, but this song is sooooo good. It’s not just that the guy who wrote it hails from the same hometown as I do, or that the song was possibly recorded in his basement there, this song has all the components of a rock and roll ultimate hit, but there’s something deeper in there than just wailing guitars. “More Than a Feeling” describes the indescribable sensation you get when you hear that song, or get in that car, or do whatever it is that really, really means something to you and touches you deeply with nostalgia.

Take It Easy” by The Eagles – This is my favorite song, my motto, my farewell greeting to friends, and my excuse for being lazy. There is such a thing as taking it too easy, and I think I’ve been firmly on the “too” side of it for many a year now. Still, as a registered lazitarian I can very easily spot people who take it too hard. I mean, they aren’t easy-going. There is a major grind in everything we do in our lives, from home to school to work and back home again. Even going on vacation is a chore sometimes! Anytime we can actually step aside, or in more drastic circumstances, flee far away from our tasking tasks is good for realizing that managing monotony is not all there is in life. It’s not good for you and it’s not good for society if you go bonkers trying to make the in-pile empty by the end of the day when you damn well know it’ll never stay that way. Just ask Newman how it goes. Oh, and to all of you aspiring to lose weight for next year: follow Wayne Knight’s lead. The man is Newman no more.

‘Heroes’” by David Bowie – David Bowie is the most versatile artist to ever walk the earth. Some of his songs are drug-fueled nonsense, some are drug-fueled brilliance, and some are magnificent blend of the two. I haven’t got Bowie’s music and remarkable transition of styles completely figured out, just as no one has Bowie figured out (probably most puzzled of all is Bowie himself), but with “Heroes” the gist is pretty clear. What’s more, the passion is there. He exalts the imperfect heroes who may die physically but who endure forever in a testament of love. Specifically this song was inspired by Bowie’s bandmates making out next to the Berlin Wall, but it represents the sentiment of love conquering all, even governments that quash freedom. Feel the music call you to action to sacrifice yourself with less finality. Be a hero anyway you can to friends and strangers alike. This doesn’t mean you should stand with your arms sprawled out in the back of a pickup traveling at high speeds screaming in joy while this song blares on the radio to feel alive, but I’ve already included a legal disclaimer, so I won’t belabor the point of caution by pummeling a no-longer living equine.

Ten Years Gone” by Led Zeppelin – Sometimes love works out just right and you and your missus or mister or unmarried partner or “we’re not putting a label on it even though we’ve been together eight years and have three kids” live happily ever til death does you in. Not always though. More often than we’d like we get the opposite where everything but death does the parting. Whether the break-up is sour or not, there is a lingering curiosity of your ex-whatever long after things have ended. Robert Plant thought about one of his old girlfriends ten years after they split and wondered if she ever did the same, so he wrote the lyrics to this song that Jimmy Page crafted the melancholy music to. It isn’t bitter, but it isn’t really regretful either. It’s just another older man musing on his younger days. He’s content where he is now, probably even happy, but that doesn’t stop the memories of that long-past love from resurfacing.

The Wind Cries Mary” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience – While we’re rolling along with soft music from a band that isn’t exactly known for slowing down (though they did on many occasions) we’ll ease into another soft serenade from the only Jimi (or rocker as far as I’m concerned) better with a guitar than Page. Not quite as clear lyrically, as Hendrix had a poetry all his own that was helped by a very active creative imagination (and occasionally some other factors). Possibly inspired by a fight with his girlfriend, I’m guessing there’s a lot more to this beautiful ballad since Hendrix could take the smallest thing and run with it. Some of the best and brightest – as in burned out too brilliantly and quickly – often did (“Kurt smells like Teen Spirit”). Whatever the start was, the finish is an incredible piece of soothing sadness that to me is a song of guidance and a reminder of that unforgivable onward march of time I described earlier.

Let It Be” by The Beatles – Just like my Christmas music post, I couldn’t include John and not mention the other Beatles. This song is an obvious choice to anyone who has ever heard it – which should be everyone. Of course I’ve assembled this list of songs in the hope that everybody listens to them and feels something more than sound waves stirring their tympanic membranes, but this one is really special. Paul McCartney may call upon wisdom from Mother Mary, but it doesn’t matter whom you ask for help with the big, little, and in-between decisions in your life. “Let It Be” is a great piece of advice and music, and this one comes from McCartney more than a Madonna. The best part of it all is that it’s not even the best song he wrote.

Hey Jude” by The Beatles – That honor goes to this greatest hit of the greatest band to ever pick up instruments. I certainly couldn’t leave out this gem of a song that does a better job of making everyone sing and sway in unison than “Imagine” or any other on this list. Written by McCartney for Julian Lennon, John’s son, in the aftermath of his parents’ divorce, the song (originally called “Hey Jules”) evolved into an uplifting jam session that has a coda longer than the actual lyrical body of the song. This makes it all the more remarkable that we all sing along to it for longer than it actually goes on. Why this song is so beautiful is hard to explain. Perhaps I’m at the end of my long trail of thought that I’ve sustained longer than anticipated (once more), or it could be that I’m just out of steam. But maybe, just maybe “Hey Jude” is that song that we all have more than a feeling for.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to have a happy new year doing whatever you do – just make sure you do it responsibly. I’m looking at you guys with your Jesus and hooker boots party! You know who are! To the rest of you (if there is a “rest a you”) disregard the latter sentence, but heed the former for sure. Questions, comments, nude photos (supermodels and Chris Pratt only please), and future topic ideas can be sent to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Be sure to come back next year for more riveting writing, musings, and last minute post submissions.

Yours in unforgivable forward-moving space-time,

Alex

P.S. Go Bucks!