Archive › Life

Inspirational Words about Patriotism

My mother, a public defender, sent me this a few days ago. I find this to be inspirational not only in my belief in the constitutional right to counsel but also in the bigger picture: people acting on the their convictions.

In all of this work, you’ve helped people in crisis and in need. And, as you have stood by your clients, you have also stood up for, and honored, a basic principle that defines who we are as a nation of laws. As you all know, advancing the cause of justice sometimes means working for the sake of the fairness and integrity of our system of justice. This is why lawyers who accept our professional responsibility to protect the rule of law, the right to counsel, and access to our courts – even when this requires defending unpopular positions or clients – deserve the praise and gratitude of all Americans. They also deserve respect. Those who reaffirm our nation’s most essential and enduring values do not deserve to have their own values questioned. Let me be clear about this: Lawyers who provide counsel for the unpopular are, and should be treated as what they are: patriots.

-Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States of America speaking at the Pro Bono Institute Gala on March 19, 2010

Comments ( 0 )

Analog World Virtues in 1999

About ten years ago, I was on a plane to study in Morelia, Mexico, to satisfy my cross-cultural experience degree requirement at Antioch College.

There was another problem.

I needed to write the second draft of my senior thesis play by the end of my time in Mexico. I had to do this without a computer since we’d been advised not to bring them along. Internet cafes were going to be too expensive.

What did I do?

A manual cut and paste.

I have just as much technology lust and yearning as the next, I am reminded, now more than ever, of my revision process in Mexico. I’ve realized that, yes, a computer would have made things easier, but it would not have written the play for me.

There are screenwriting and playwriting computer programs that are supposed to format everything correctly and stimulate the creative juices. These tools are marketed as the solutions—it’s as if you don’t have to do any work, just buy the program and you’re nearly done. Not so.

In May 1999, I knew I needed a script for this play. I spent the next thirty days writing a play. Much like my experience ten years later, this was done late at night while listening to music (Greg Brown’s Further In and Bob Dylan’s Street Legal) or having the television on in the background. For some reason the Lethal Weapon series of movies seemed to be on quite often that month. Violence didn’t enter my mindset, but friendship and relationships did.

What the play is or was about doesn’t matter. What stands out is the process. Instead of typing out my first draft, I knew myself too well. I knew that if I started typing and then saw something I wanted to change, I would go back and change it never really moving forward. Carlyle Brown, my playwriting professor at Antioch College, had given me the advice to write, not to look back, and to finish. In retrospect he had figured me out, and it is good I trusted his advice. Instead of typing out the draft, I wrote it out longhand in a spiral notebook. After I got to “The End” I would go back and type it up. That was successful. I ended up with an 80 page first draft.

I was quite proud to have written something and also petrified that it would completely suck. I printed out copies and gave them to my parents, my advisor Louise Smith, and my good friend Miguel Santiago.

By the end of the summer, I had gotten feedback from everybody. To my great appreciation, Miguel had carefully gone through the entire script with a non-threatening blue pen and meticulously written comments and questions to me in the margins.

Now, I had to take all of that feedback and write a second draft.

I also knew I would have to do that from September through November in colonial city of Morelia, Mexico, without access to a computer. Remember, we had been told not to bring our laptops. All of our classroom assignments would be written in longhand.

In order to solve my revision problem, I brought the following to Mexico so I could work:

  • A clean copy of the script.
  • A blank spiral notebook.
  • Louise Smith’s comments.
  • Miguel Santiago’s comments.
  • My parents’ comments.
  • Scissors.
  • Scotch tape.
  • A box of my favorite pens.

This was what I would need for a manual cut and paste.

Over the next ninety days, I went through the entire script. When I had something I wanted to keep, I used the scissors and cut it out of the fresh copy and taped it into the notebook. I added dialogue, stage directions, and scenes. I left parts of the script on the floor. I worked an hour or two a night in the sunroom of my host family’s house. I’m quite sure the script changed because of the environment in which I was revising it—a character drank tequila and had a bit more machismo in him than before.

At the end of the ninety days, I had a spiral notebook bursting with scotch tape pages covered with handwritten dialogue and parts of the former script–a huge storytelling scrapbook. I had run completely out of scotch tape. No way was I sending this via international mail. No way was I going to put this in my checked luggage. It went in my backpack on the plane. When I arrived back in New Hampshire, I spent the better part of December typing up the second draft.

The script had increased from eighty to 120 pages.

It may sound quite primitive to have done a manual cut and paste. Still, I’m reminded that Tony Dallas, a director and playwright I worked with at Antioch, once explained that the reason “playwright” is spelled “wright” rather than “write” is because it is a craft. I remember clearly his gesticulations comparing it to blacksmithing or woodworking.

I learned the craft of playwriting during those three months in Mexico. Instead of a forge, I had my favorite pens, scotch tape, and a pair of scissors. A primitive Microsoft Word

And, it was all I needed.

And, unlike Microsoft Word, it never crashed.

It’s essential to remember that tools aren’t the solution.

We are.

Comments ( 0 )

“Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”

dylan_biograph_coverThe 1985 box set, Bob Dylan’s Biograph, is the first one I can remember.  At the time, I wasn’t as aware of Bob Dylan (other than his music as a presence in the house growing up) but instead, I remember being fascinated with the packaging.  I had only been used to records and the idea that three tapes would be placed in a box that, from the outside, looked like a box set of records, was intriguing.

As I became more aware of Dylan’s place in music and gained more of an appreciation for his work, I listened to these tapes more.  I remember listening to them as a sixteen-year old driving my father’s red Mitsubishi Colt Vista through cold New Hampshire winters.  There’s hardly any talking on the entire set except for a couple of introductions to songs including one for “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”, over some fingerpicking.

“I first heard this from Ric Von Schmidt.
He lives in Cambridge.
Ric’s a blues guitar player…
I met him one day in the green pastures…
of Harvard University.”

The next beat is marked with Dylan’s trademark harmonica.  This was a recording from his first, self-titled album released in 1962.

bobdylan_selftitled_smallOver a week ago, Club Passim, Harvard Square’s legendary folk club, started serving wine and beer.  I was reading the Boston.com article and looking at the gallery of historic photos including a 2001 photo of Eric Von Schmidt.  It reminded me of the Dylan introduction and listening to music while growing up.  Club Passim has had a specific presence in my life since my sister moved to Cambridge for college in 1999 and I moved to Boston for a new job back in 2003.  What’s ironic about the Club Passim/Dylan connection to me is that he never was booked to play a show there.  Apparently, he only had the opportunity to perform a few songs between sets.

I searched my iTunes library to see how many versions of “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”, I owned.  The results showed four versions.  The first version was the one listed above.

The next was an all electric version from the famous “Royal Albert Hall” concert that actually occurred at Manchester Free Trade Hall.  In 1996 or 1997, I obtained a copy of Guitars Kissing and the Contemporary Fix and later the official Sony Release, The Bootleg Series, Volume 4: Live 1966 The “Royal Albert Hall Concert”. I had never heard this concert but read about it extensively on various websites.

Admittedly, in college, when I first heard the concert, I was more into the acoustic Dylan and would preferred the hypnotic opening set to the electric to disc 2 where he was backed by The Hawks (later to become The Band).  Things change, though.

The electric version of “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down” has no introduction.  Just harmonica and the infusion of electricity highlighted by Robbie Robertson’s blistering guitar solos and, of course, different lyrics.

More recently, I’ve been listening to the last version that shows up.  It’s another recording with The Band in 1978 from The Last Waltz.  Yet, another version with different lyrics and musical variation.  What had not changed was the fire and intensity.

“The Shape I’m In”

I’ve been revisiting The Band lately ever since Session Americana covered “The Shape I’m In” last fall during their ongoing Tuesday night residency at The Lizard Lounge in Cambridge.  I found myself knowing all the lyrics as they played it.  Looking around, I observed many others my age knowing them all, too.

On St. Patrick’s Day, my sister and her husband ventured out to Session Americana’s evening of music.  When they were in the middle of a cover of “Down South in New Orleans”, my sister found herself knowing the lyrics.  She leaned over to me:

“Why do I know this song?
“Bobby Charles and Dr. John sing it with The Band on The Last Waltz,” I said.
“This music is in our blood, isn’t it?” she asked.
“I believe it is.”

Club Passim

When reading the Boston Globe’s article about Club Passim obtaining a wine and beer license, I was both saddened and pleased.  Frankly speaking, I don’t need a buzz to enjoy live music.  However, I do know people who wouldn’t go to Passim with me because they just couldn’t get over the idea of not listening to music with a beer in their hand.  Ironically, three years ago when I finally convinced one of those friends to go to a show with me, there was a survey sitting on our table with the very question of a wine and beer license.  We both answered yes.  He answered for the sake of his entertainment experience.  I answered thinking that it would be a good additional revenue stream for Passim and that it wouldn’t change the audience experience.

We’re going to find out.  It may appear to be a natural progression for Passim to serve alcohol, this decision is definitely a financial one.  With memberships down a third and donations by half, fundraisers losing money, they are resorting to serving beer and wine to make up the shortfall.

They insist the listening environment, cultural identity and integrity of the room, will not be lost and I believe them.  Passim has evolved into a cultural hub in Cambridge and, for that matter, in Greater Boston as well.  If you appreciate live acoustic music and you’ve been in that basement room, you know why it’s so special.

Club Passim nurtures young musicians, builds community, and while bringing us the future of acoustic music, gives us a window into the past.  It brings us back to a time when Harvard had “green pastures” and a young Bob Dylan meets Eric Von Schmidt.

Forty-seven years later, I’m still listening to the songs they played together.  The songs have been transformed.  They have stood the test of time.

Club Passim is creating the place where those meetings may happen.

What songs are being played today that I’ll be listening to forty-seven years from now?

Comments ( 0 )