The Winter Games

 

Enthusiasm is infectious. Like winning or crying or panicking. It’s also one of the few things that doesn’t get brittle in this season of short days and long nights.

The Olympics generate a lot of enthusiasm in a specialized population that spreads across the globe. Many participants have dedicated themselves to their sport since childhood and for some it goes back even further, to the footsteps of their parents.

There’s something inexplicably inspiring about watchimg a person slide down the sheer icy side of a mountain in Rosa Khutor, frozen raw, exhausted and sore, who gets to the bottom and wants nothing more than to get up and do it again. Repetition and mental preparation are no guarantee of smooth execution. Some athletes can perform anywhere but the Olympics and others only there.

Competition, head-to-head or against the clock, feeds a need for value and meaning. Doing your best, against the best, to see if you’re the best in the world, generates waves of enthusiasm that begin with the participant and quickly spread to family, friends, towns and countries.

Winter is the bleak season. Enthusiasms are hard to come by and it’s nice to know that a wide, thin web of humanity, under an increasingly irrelevant parade of national flags, are willing to share some of their bright flames through this cold dark season.

Mike’s Musical Monday – Up Here

Up here
It’s perfectly clear
That everything’s going to end
Up here
That all makes sense
Because it all makes sense up here
It all makes sense up here

Down here
I don’t know
If I could ever let you go
Down here
I don’t know

Up here
It’s perfectly  clear
That I can’t fall in love with you

Up here
That’s all for the best
Because it all makes sense up here
It all makes sense up here

Down here
I don’t know
If I could ever let you go
Down here
I don’t know

Down here
I don’t know
If I could ever let you go
Down here
I don’t know

Flash Fiction Friday – FHONY #2 – The Polar Bear

So, it was a polar bear. That’s how I wound up behind bars. I never had a problem with polar bears before today. They seem decent enough, like any other species, I guess. They occasionally take baby seals and rip them apart, splattering their blood all over the snow, but that’s nature. Who am I to go up against nature?

This polar bear, though, was doing something unnatural. And right in the middle of Central Park!

It involved a tire and some kind of a hose that they put in the water to keep it cold. It was hotter than hell and that was part of the problem too. People get really short fuses when it’s that hot. Anyway, there was the tire and the hose and (not to get too graphic) I’m there with my six year old daughter who I do not want to explain that to. So I did what any good dad would do: I shimmied up the wall and over into the pit.

You don’t really appreciate how big those fuckers are until you’re up close to one. They’re big. And sooooo fucking vicious. He looked me right in the eye and told me as clear as words: I am a killing machine. You are prey.
That’s when I thought, there’s probably worse things for my little girl than trying to explain the thing with the tire and the hose. So I shimmied back up, they way only a primate can, and I got to reassure my little princess before they hauled me away.


Now I’m the one in the cage. And that’s completely unnatural.

The Art of Love


The strange and fascinating phenomenon whose magic we try to capture with the word “love” has been the motivation for more forms of artistic expression than all other sources combined. I recently had the rare treat of spending a day watching its influence on artworks from the early days of both the 17th and 21st Centuries.
First, the 21st. Spike Jonze has done something with her that I don’t remember seeing before: he’s written a love story that’s missing one of its lovers (at least in her physical form). Scarlett Johansson’s voice, and the words Spike Jonze channels through it, are attractive enough to make a believable object of affection and, like a lost sense, the missing body heightens the other perceptions of just how loveable she is.

One of art’s great achievements is its ability to act as a mirror. There’s something familiar and universal about watching a person fall in love with someone he can never touch. Another recognizable romantic problem is falling in love with someone who is not what they appear to be.
At the Belasco Theatre on 44th Street in Manhattan the Shakespeare’s Globe troupe has built a time machine every bit as effective as Jonze’s with their production of Twelfe Night. But where Jonze travels to a slightly distant future where men where brightly colored, collarless shirts and hike their pants up past their navels, Shakespeare’s Globe pulls us back to the 17th Century where men portray women portraying men. It’s easy to get confused a story where both actors and characters are pretending to be things they’re not, but it’s even easier, when the lines they’re reciting come from the pen of the world’s greatest writer, to get lost so deeply in their world that you can enjoy even the confusion.
Love in both the 17th and 21st Centuries is a confusing thing, eternal and mercurial at the same time. Consequently, it’s a great source for both humor and poignancy. We recognize that the love Theodore has for his operating system as the same sensation Olivia feels in Twelfe Night for Viola (at least when she’s dressed as Cesario). It’s the customs of love, not its substance, that evolve over time. Love, in the art of the 17th Century, was such an overwhelming force that those caught in its grip willingly humiliated themselves in its pursuit. Today’s art holds love a little closer to the vest. Love in the art of the 21stCentury is a more transitory thing, undone by divorce, or by petty arguments about taking your shoes off before you sit on the couch. Audiences always have, and probably always will, be spellbound by a talented artist’s attempts to understand it and to share their perpetual bewilderment with the rest of us.

Mike’s Musical Monday – Variations on a Theme: Over There

Due to my lovely singing voice, I’ve been inundated with requests for an instrumental song. This one was inspired by George M. Cohan’s melody for “Over There.” As this blog is about Words & Music, the story and the lyrics of the original melody are included below.



By Jennifer Rosenberg
On the morning of April 6, 1917, newspaper headlines across America announced the news that the United States had declared war on Germany. While most people who read the newspaper headlines that morning tried to comprehend how their lives were going to change, one man started humming. That may seem like an odd reaction to most people, but not for George M. Cohan.

George Cohan was an actor, singer, dancer, songwriter, playwright, and Broadway producer who had composed hundreds of songs, including such famous songs as “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Mary’s a Grand Old Name,” “Life’s A Funny Proposition After All,” “Give My Regards to Broadway,” and “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy.” So it is perhaps not completely surprising that Cohan’s reaction to reading the headlines that morning was to hum; however, what is surprising is that Cohan’s humming became the start of a very popular song.

Cohan continued to hum all morning and soon began to think of some lyrics. By the time Cohan arrived at work that morning, he already had the verses, chorus, tune, and title of what became the very popular song, “Over There.”

“Over There” was an instant success, selling over two million copies by the end of the war. Perhaps the most popular version of “Over There” was sung by Nora Bayes, but Enrico Caruso and Billy Murray also sang beautiful renditions.

The song “Over There” is about the “Yanks” (i.e. Americans) going “over there” (i.e. across the Atlantic) to help fight the “Huns” (i.e. the Germans) during World War I.

In 1936, Cohan was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for writing the song.

OVER THERE (George M. Cohan) 1917

Johnnie, get your gun,
Get your gun, get your gun,
Take it on the run,
On the run, on the run.
Hear them calling, you and me,
Every son of liberty.
Hurry right away,
No delay, go today,
Make your daddy glad
To have had such a lad.
Tell your sweetheart not to pine,
To be proud her boy’s in line.

Over there, over there,
Send the word, send the word over there –
That the Yanks are coming,
The Yanks are coming,
The drums rum-tumming
Everywhere.
So prepare, say a prayer,
Send the word, send the word to beware.
We’ll be over, we’re coming over,
And we won’t come back till it’s over
Over there.

Johnnie, get your gun,
Get your gun, get your gun,
Johnnie show the Hun
Who’s a son of a gun.
Hoist the flag and let her fly,
Yankee Doodle do or die.
Pack your little kit,
Show your grit, do your bit.
Yankee to the ranks,
From the towns and the tanks.
Make your mother proud of you,
And the old Red, White and Blue.

Over there, over there,
Send the word, send the word over there –
That the Yanks are coming,
The Yanks are coming,
The drums rum-tumming
Everywhere.
So prepare, say a prayer,
Send the word, send the word to beware.
We’ll be over, we’re coming over,
And we won’t come back till it’s over
Over there.