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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Decline and Fall?

I try to be an optimistic soul, I really do. I look for the bright side of things most of the time. I realize most people are reasonably intelligent, most people are good and most people have at least some clue when they’re talking about music and literature.

But really, sometimes I wonder.

Although I’m late to the party on this particular example, I feel compelled to comment on it. I’m a lover of music, words and the combination of the two. Not sure how I missed this before now, but it simply boggles my mind.

Disclaimer: I’m an Eagles fan, have been pretty much since the band began. But I don’t think you have to be a fan to be dumbfounded by the question a music critic for the major metropolitan newspaper asked founding Eagle Don Henley three years ago.

The critic — who shall remain nameless here — asked Henley, via email, about the lyrics to Hotel California:

— “On “Hotel California,” you sing: “So I called up the captain / ‘Please bring me my wine’ / He said, ‘We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969.'” I realize I’m probably not the first to bring this to your attention, but wine isn’t a spirit. Wine is fermented; spirits are distilled. Do you regret that lyric?” [added emphasis mine] —

You’ve GOT to be kidding me! I first heard that lyric when I was a 17-year-old high school student and I knew THEN that it was a metaphor! How dense do you have to be to take that literally?

Henley, known for being rather curmudgeonly to begin with, responded thus:

— “Thanks for the tutorial and, no, you’re not the first to bring this to my attention—and you’re not the first to completely misinterpret the lyric and miss the metaphor. Believe me, I’ve consumed enough alcoholic beverages in my time to know how they are made and what the proper nomenclature is. But that line in the song has little or nothing to do with alcoholic beverages. It’s a sociopolitical statement. My only regret would be having to explain it in detail to you, which would defeat the purpose of using literary devices in songwriting and lower the discussion to some silly and irrelevant argument about chemical processes.”

Now, as far as I’m concerned, Henley responded to a moronic question quite well, giving it exactly the level of respect it deserved. But a quick Web search shows many more people thinking the exchange showed Henley to be a jerk than think the critic was a fool.

Sorry, folks, if that’s the best question a journalist can come up with — and misinterpret the lyrics so completely in the process — he or she is a poor excuse for a writer.

Psst. News flash:  The line “stab it with their steely knives” in Hotel California wasn’t just about knives (look it up). The song Life in the Fast Lane wasn’t about driving, either.

Oh, by the way, R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” isn’t about religion. And anyone who took Henley’s lyric that literally probably should stay far away from Dylan’s entire repertoire. And Elvis Costello’s. And maybe they’d better forget the writing of that Shakespeare guy, too….


Choose Your Words Carefully

My lovely bride and I went browsing for antiques Saturday. We do that quite a bit. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon in one of the many small towns within an hour or so of Walrustropolis. We seldom buy, but we enjoy the browsing and imagine what life was like when the objects on display were just part of everyday life.

What struck me about one particular shop was not the items for sale, but a sign prominently posted in several places throughout. It read:


Hmmm.  So I guess that means folks who are illiterate can shopilift to their heart’s content?



Ever said that? Sure, we all have. But what is it that makes us do so?

I genuinely like my job at WalrusEmployer Inc. The atmosphere is congenial, my coworkers are friendly, the coffee’s tolerable and I’d like to think I do my job well.

But by the end of the week, I’m ready for a couple of days away. And on Friday afternoons, that’s an understandable feeling for all of us, I’d say. We all need time to decompress, to break from the 5-day-a-week routine, to relax and enjoy life with our families and friends.

It wasn’t always that way. Until fairly recently in our history, jobs were often six and seven days a week, sometimes 12 hours a day at that. For some folks, it’s still that way.

Don’t believe me? Ask a farmer. Crops and animals don’t take days off.

Even with five-day work weeks, Friday isn’t always the last day of the week. Entire industries have to be served on a 24-hour basis. Health care, information technology, police and fire services don’t get to take the traditional weekend. For those who work such schedules, particularly the night shift, thank you.

But for the majority of us, Friday marks the end of the workweek, and the start of a two-day release from the cares of the office. Use the time well and you’ll accumulate fond memories to carry you through the next week. And if that little home repair project/trip to the amusement park/softball game or other weekend plan doesn’t work out quite the way you expect, look on the bright side: at least you’ll have stories to entertain your coworkers on Monday morning.


Lessons From A Trying Week

The past couple of weeks have been difficult for your humble Walrus. A family emergency took me out of my usual routine and back to my little hometown on the edge of where the South meets the Midwest.

It was a trying time that required dealing with a death in the family, but it reminded me of some pretty basic life lessons. While I’m not fond of lists, this seems like a good time for one:

  • The little town I grew up in still has the same limitations it did when I lived there many years ago. If anything, as businesses have closed, the town has devolved to offer fewer options for products and services than it did then. Some things are much more difficult than they need to be.
  • In difficult times, you learn quickly who your true friends are — and that you have more of them than you thought.
  • The quality of small-town gossip hasn’t improved over the years. Nor has the quality of the small minds that produce it.
  • I prefer funeral directors who are somber and respectful instead of those who are jovial at inappropriate times. Yes, I know it might well be a sincere attempt at helping grieving relatives cope, but for me at least, the joke-telling is just annoying.
  • Folks who knew you way back when will rally to your side right when you need them the most. It’s amazing how many hidden talents people have, and how willing they are to use them to help you when you least expect it.
  • An understanding employer — one who doesn’t blink when you need more time off than you planned — is a great thing. So is learning that coworkers care about your loss.
  • A big, extended family, even one whose members rarely see each other, is a joy to be treasured.

Tough times it seems, bring out the best and worst in people. Fortunately, the good far outweighs the bad, a fact for which I am well and truly grateful.

Olympic Fever

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I’m not much of a sports fan, but for just about as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of the Olympic Games. There’s just something about seeing dedicated amateurs try their best for themselves and their nation that inspires me.

The first time I recall really enjoying the Olympics was watching the 1976 Winter Games from Innsbruck, Austria. There’s just something about watching people fly down bobsled courses and ski jumps. Snow, ice, speed and the risk of life and limb – what’s not to love? The Summer Games are great too, of course, but the winter events are the ones I enjoy most. Curling’s more fascinating than synchronized swimming, I guess.

Aside from being able to cheer on my fellow Americans, I always enjoy the settings for the Games, especially those held outside the U.S. In days of old, the U.S. TV coverage always included nice little vignettes about the settings for the games, and the cultures of the host countries. For someone growing up in rural WalrusTown, Innsbruck was as exotic as you could get.

Even with the frustrations of the current television coverage, I still love the Games, even the over-the-top parts such as the opening and closing ceremonies. Sure, they’re outrageous, ridiculous even. But in our cynical times, they’re a reminder of an innocence too often lost in today’s sports.

Yes, I know about the scandals, the doping, the cheating, the fabled “East German judge.” But there’s still plenty to inspire. Look at the amazing U.S. women’s gymnastics team this year. Or Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and the rest of the American swimmers.

Feeling old? Consider the 39-year-old – yes, 39 – gymnast from Bulgaria, Jordan Jovtchev. He’s competing in his sixth Olympics. German gymnast Oksana Chusovitina also is competing in her sixth Games at 37. They’re still competitive in sports dominated by men and women 2 decades their juniors.

Sure, the 2012 Olympics will eventually end and we’ll go back to our daily routines. Nations will compete in other, less friendly ways. The illusion of one harmonious world the Games present will be forgotten until the 2014 Winter Games. But for these two glorious weeks, we can cheer some of the best athletes in the world, and share a dream or two along the way.

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