Monday, October 31, 2016

I'll Get On My Knees and Pray...We Don't Get Fooled Again

If you read this blog, you know that The Who are one of my all-time favorite bands...I put them just slightly behind the Beatles for both their music and the indelible impact it has had on my life, and in many ways I rate Pete Townshend slightly ahead of Lennon and McCartney as my absolute favorite songwriter. 

One of my favorite Who songs, if not THE favorite, is "Won't Get Fooled Again," the epic closing track from their classic 1971 album Who's Next. According to Pete Townshend, he wrote it as a song warning about revolutions, especially revolutions just for the sake of change, positing that in the end, nothing ever really changes: the people who clamored for change end up being just as flawed as those they replaced, dooming the cycle to repeat itself.

Before I continue on, I am going to state right now that I am NOT turning this into a political post in terms of taking sides or arguing one way is better than the other. This isn't because I don't have strongly held convictions (I do), but rather because A) I don't want it to devolve into that sort of argument, especially since in 2016 barely anyone seems able to have a coherent discussion with someone holding opposing viewpoints, and B) both sides are equally flawed and need to be torn down and replaced. That's neither here nor there, however, and will be the extent of how political I get. Rather, I intend to analyze the lyrics and show how they apply to our current situation. Since Pete wrote this in 1971, my initial reaction over the years has always been to marvel at how prescient he was, but as I've gotten older I've realized more and more that the same problems and cycles of voting in change only to get none in the aftermath have been around for decades and will continue to be for decades to come. Instead than predicting the future, Pete instead chronicled a fundamental flaw of the human condition and couched his warning in an absolutely kick-ass rock song.

(As an American, I'm obviously applying this solely to our current political climate, but I'm sure the parallels are equally valid in the UK, and any other number of democratic/free countries where frequent elections take place). 

The song seems to take on extra significance every four years when we have a presidential election in this country, and none more so than in 2016. For the last eight years, everyone on both sides has campaigned on "change" and "progress," but a quick look around will show that nothing has changed and most of us are exactly where we were eight, ten, fifteen years ago, if not worse off. While the verses are frighteningly accurate every election cycle, it's the chorus that really clinches it for me:

"I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again"

Granted, we don't undergo revolution when we elect a new president and congress, but we always seem to vote in sweeping change every ~20 years or so before realizing things didn't end up the way we wanted them to...we then overreact in the other direction and repeat the cycle again and again. It was George Santayana who said that "those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it," and even in the age of instant information at everyone's fingertips, we seem condemned to live this endless feedback loop.

First, here's the song in its entirety...please play at top volume in order to maximize the impact and enjoyment.

Listened to it? Great! Now, let's get down to brass tacks and look at these lyrics:

"Won't Get Fooled Again"
Written by Peter Townshend, recorded and performed by The Who
We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

(Revolution will be no-holds barred, yet the very people who stoked the flames at the beginning will position themselves to sit back, stay unaffected, and be the final arbiters of those who did the dirty work once the dust settles. This is exactly what politicians on both sides have done over the last twenty years or so whenever there's been a big disagreement between citizens over any number of social and economic issues)

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

(As stated the grand scheme of things, nothing is going to really change and the issues are going to still be there festering for the next upheaval. The only thing left to do is pray that cooler heads prevail next time and that society isn't duped again)

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

(The crux of this stanza is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Nothing has changed, the past is still the past, and the tin can (i.e. the issues that were the root causes of the revolution) is just kicked down the road to be dealt with again in the same fruitless way next time)

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
No, no

I'll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?
(As is usual in these situations, it's everyone out for themselves...the narrator takes care of his family while making a wry observation that those blinded by the cause (i.e. "hypnotized") and their followers think they never lie and are on the side of truth, even if they obviously aren't)

There's nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

(Nothing has changed, new slogans and buzzwords replace the old ones [this is VERY prescient for how discourse in the 2000s goes], and the problems of one side are the same as the other. We've all gotten older but no one has gotten any wiser)

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

(Pretty self-explanatory...Nothing. Ever. Changes. The people who were thought of to be terrible and needed replacing have been replaced be equally loathsome people. Sounds a lot like the Republican and Democratic parties, doesn't it?)

So there it is, the theme song for every US Presidential election since the early 1970s, and none more so than the looming 2016 contest.

And just because the song is so great and Keith Moon was a drumming legend, here are his isolated drums for the song...


Friday, October 21, 2016

You Wish You Could Throw Like My Girls!

"You throw like a girl!"

I despise that expression with a passion. But I've said it. So have you, I'm sure, and loads of people you know, too. I've even heard women say it. It's supposed to mean that you throw weakly, awkwardly, wimpy, and not the right way.

It's a load of bollocks.

Before anyone wonders, I am not turning this into any sort of political or ideological post and I will not tolerate anyone who does the same in the comments, because that's not even my point. I'm writing this from personal experiences but also in the hope that I can get anyone who hasn't come around to at least look at it from another point of view even if it doesn't change anybody's mind.

In order to set the stage, let me back up a bit. As I said above, I was guilty of using the expression growing up, and as I've already pointed out, I have heard almost as many women as men use it in its intended derogatory/chiding manner. However, my thinking began to change a lot once I became a parent. My wife and I were blessed with four incredible kids, three of whom are our beautiful daughters. I swore from the day that they were born that my girls would play sports, not cheer others on (and no offense intended to anyone who was/is a cheerleader or has daughters who cheer. It's just not something I ever wanted for my girls). I didn't realize how much I disliked the phrase "you throw like a girl," though, until I was watching the Super Bowl a couple of years ago (which my Patriots won!) with a former friend and his kids. There was a commercial which examined how the phrase makes boys and girls feel, both those who say it and those who it's said to. It was the rare ad that actually made me stop and pay attention and really hit a nerve, especially since I was watching it with my two oldest daughters (my wife was upstairs putting our younger two kids to bed). What really made it hit home for me was when my former friend was sitting there next to me mocking the ad and the kids in it while his own daughter was right there in the room! I couldn't believe it, but I held my tongue and didn't say anything (and this situation isn't the reason we're not friends any more, but that's neither here nor there). By that time, both of my daughters had been playing softball and soccer and I supported them (and I still do) every step of the way, so to realize that this term was meant to imply that doing something poorly was equated to doing it the way my girls might...I didn't like that at all.

Fast forward to the present and my two oldest girls are 11 1/12 and 10. Both play softball and both are really good at it. I've taught them how to throw, catch, and hit a softball properly and they do it every bit as good, if not better in many cases, than any boy their age. They play hard, slide into bases, get dirty diving for grounders and fly balls, and are tough. One is a shortstop/first baseman and the other is a catcher (just like her dad!). I've taught them how to throw a football with a tight spiral, how to shoot a jump shot, how to read stat lines and box scores for baseball games, and the finer points of basketball and football. My youngest daughter is 5 1/2 and good at hitting and throwing a baseball, although she prefers soccer. She's fast, aggressive, and has a good strong kick. (My 7 year old son is really good at baseball and plays basketball, but he's a boy so he gets left out of this post!). My girls most certainly don't throw, hit, catch, kick, or run any differently than any boy, and in many ways they're better than many girls AND boys their own age who play sports. So nowadays, every time I hear someone mocks another person by saying they "throw like a girl," I tell them straight up what an insult that is to my girls!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Big Papi's Final Rodeo (or, the Red Sox Are Back in the Playoffs!)

Our view at Fenway Park, August 14, 2016

Another sports/baseball related post, but that's okay because it's one of my favorite times of year...MLB playoff time! My Boston Red Sox won their division (AL East) and open up their postseason tonight in the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians. Since winning the World Series in 2013, the Sox finished in last place the previous two seasons before finally fielding another winner this year, which happens to also be David "Big Papi" Ortiz' final season. It's been really exciting to see how well the team played with a mixture of veterans like Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Dustin Pedroia alongside exciting new homegrown stars like Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Andrew Benintendi. Even though there were some ups and downs along the way, the team was able to hold off the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Yankees and capture the division.  Here's hoping that the Sox can get Big Papi (and Red Sox Nation) one final parting gift ahead of his retirement at the season's end: a fourth World Series ring!

My prediction for this series is based on several factors: the Red Sox having the best offense in the American League, having nearly identical home and road records (Cleveland has homefield advantage for this series), the Sox having two great starters in Porcello and Price, and Cleveland's starting rotation being decimated by injuries. In their favor, the Indians have a much better home record than they do on the road, the second best offense in the AL (behind the Sox), a superior bullpen, and our former manager Terry Francona at the helm. The managerial advantage alone is a huge one for Cleveland, especially given Sox manager John Farrell's penchant for making poor in-game decisions. 

That being said, I predict that the Red Sox will win the series in four games and move on to the ALCS.

Whatever happens, it'll be interesting...that's why they play the games, and I'll be watching every pitch!

How about you? For all the baseball fans reading this, who's your favorite team and, if they're in the playoffs, how do you think they'll do?