28 August 2009

The Morse Code of the Gods

That's what one reviewer called Hal Blaine's drum riff in "Be My Baby." Brian Wilson called this the "greatest pop record ever made." Certainly a lot of that had to do with the earth-shaking wall of sound that Phil Spector imparted onto this production (and many others in the early 60's). And then - there's Veronica Bennett (later to become Ronnie Spector) whose eyes and voice were, and still are, mesmerizing. Watch her as she sings the line "we'll make 'em turn their heads" - she was unearthly.

And the song. The song was written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich who passed away this week at the age of 68. Greenwich was one of the Brill Building songwriters and she wrote many of the true classics from this period: "I Can Hear Music," "Baby, I Love You," "River Deep, Mountain High," "Da Doo Ron Ron," "Chapel of Love," "Leader of the Pack" - an amazing body of work which literally defined the early girl group sound and formed the basis for the great mini-symphonies that Phil Spector created for Philles Records.

But it didn't get any better than this - "Be My Baby" is timeless and capable of inducing goosebumps nearly a half-century later. It is, in a word, perfect. RIP Ellie.

26 August 2009

Band of Brothers

Less than a year ago, I visited Dealey Plaza in Dallas - the scene of the JFK assassination. It was just a week before the 2008 election and I was (and continue to be) one of those who believed that Barack Obama would be the one to continue the work that Jack - and later Bobby - had taken up decades ago. Now that the last of the Kennedy brothers has left, one can't help but reflect on how profoundly has this family has shaped American history and American politics. We remember hearing the news about JFK which changed our world forever - and then, less than five years later having our hopes dashed with the death of RFK. It was left to Ted to carry on the legacy - and carry it on he did. Of course he was human - and as such, an imperfect vessel - but he never gave up, never stopped trying to make his country a better, more civilized place to live. And for that, he deserves our respect and our gratitude.

"He mastered the tides of Nature with a look:
He met with his bare spirit naked Hell."
- Savitri, Book II, Canto VII

19 August 2009

Putting Away Childish Things

So - Grassley slipped up and told the truth - that he and the Republicans won't vote for Health Care Reform regardless of the concessions received. So be it. It's time to stop wasting our time with these weasels: the Democrats should go it alone and pass health care reform through the Reconciliation process (which circumvents the filibuster and the 60 vote requirement). Enough of being called nazis, communists, anti-american - whatever. Enough of these whackos with loaded weapons in the vicinity of the President: every one of them needs to be locked up. Enough.

In his Inaugural Address, the President said that it was time to put away childish things. And so it is. We have let this go way too far - remember the words of the Republicans in 2004: "elections have consequences." Let them scream and wail and gnash their teeth: not a single one of them is ever going to support the President anyway. They have removed themselves from the equation by refusing to take a constructive part in the debate.

14 August 2009

Sri Aurobindo b. 15 August 1872

"I had no urge toward spirituality in me, I developed spirituality. I was incapable of understanding metaphysics, I developed into a philosopher. I had no eye for painting -- I developed it by Yoga. I transformed my nature from what it was to what it was not. I did it by a special manner, not by a miracle and I did it to show what could be done and how it could be done. I did not do it out of any personal necessity of my own or by a miracle without any process. I say that if it is not so, then my Yoga is useless and my life was a mistake -- a mere absurd freak of Nature without meaning or consequence. You all seem to think it a great compliment to me to say that what I have done has no meaning for anybody except myself -- it is the most damaging criticism on my work that could be made. I also did not do it by myself, if you mean by myself the Aurobindo that was. He did it by the help of Krishna and the Divine Shakti. I had help from human sources also."

"I see that you have persisted in giving a biography -- is it really necessary or useful? The attempt is bound to be a failure, because neither you nor anyone else knows anything at all of my life; it has not been on the surface for men to see."

"The one aim of [my] yoga is an inner self-development by which each one who follows it can in time discover the One Self in all and evolve a higher consciousness than the mental, a spiritual and supramental consciousness which will transform and divinize human nature."

- quotes from Sri Aurobindo On Himself, Volume 26 Sri Aurobindo Centennary Library. Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson

12 August 2009

Peter Pan and the Breakfast Club

Molly Ringwald's touching tribute to the late John Hughes hit a chord with me. There is no question that his films went a long way towards shaping the popular culture of the early 80's - something for which some might find condemnation rather than praise appropriate. But films like "The Breakfast Club" and "Sixteen Candles" were bittersweet gems which impacted millions of Gen-Xers - and some of us boomers as well. Some of my more astute film connoisseur friends might look down on this sort of thing, but the fact is John Hughes' work touched millions of lives - they gave adolescents a model and a vent in the dreary Reagan era. How many kids (now adults) look back on those films and say "that movie got me through high school?"

We boomers don't really understand what those 80's kids went through - and we sure as hell can't grasp what the millennials are dealing with now. But these are the ones who are going to have to fix the mess that people my age have created. They are going to have to deal with the environmental devastation, the increasing unavailability of basic services, and the outlook for a less prosperous life than the generations which preceded them. No wonder they're cynical and suspicious of their elders and the institutions which have been handed down to them.

And what do we - those elders do? We selfishly fight for our short term interests - mindless of the mess we have created and continue to create. The words of Alison from the Breakfast Club were sadly prophetic for too many of us - "when you grow up - your heart dies."

05 August 2009

Nothing Is Done Until Everything is Done

In the old Chaldean tradition, very often the young novices were given an image when they were invested with the white robe; they were told: "Do not try to remove the stains one by one, the whole robe must be purified." Do not try to correct your faults one by one, to overcome your weakness one by one, it does not take you very far. The entire consciousness must be changed, a reversal of consciousness must be achieved, a springing up out of the state in which one is towards a higher state from which one dominates all the weaknesses one wants to heal, and from which one has a full vision of the work to be accomplished.

I believe Sri Aurobindo has said this: things are such that it may
be said that nothing is done until everything is done. One step
ahead is not enough, a total conversion is necessary.

How many times have I heard people who were making an
effort say, "I try, but what's the use of my trying? Every time I
think I have gained something, I find that I must begin all over
again." This happens because they are trying to go forward while
standing still, they are trying to progress without changing their
consciousness. It is the entire point of view which must be shifted, the whole consciousness must get out of the rut in which it lies so as to rise up and see things from above. It is only thus that victories will not be changed into defeats.

The Mother : The Sunlit Path p.171