This photo was taken on Ye Olde Big Islande, just behind the city dump in the town of Pahoa. It shows where the lava came through town, prompting evacuations and raising the possibility that I might never enjoy another meal at Ning’s, my favorite Thai restaurant on Earth. In the end, Pele claimed only a single house before the flow stalled on this front and headed in a different direction…for now. And we ate at Ning’s twice on our trip.
One feels very close to the elemental forces down there – the fire, the water, the earth. And there’s something in the air, too. Plays tricks on your mind, makes it hard to quite get a grip on things. Which may be why I’m only now getting around to posting this picture; I meant to do so weeks ago. But then what’s the hurry? As Big Island Jim likes to say, we are made of time.
It's Weird Al's world, the rest of us just live in it. Baby deer included.
Last night found me in the audience for Weird Al Yankovic’s show at the Van Duzer Theatre, and while I feel like my younger self might have had some snarky things to say about that, at this point in time I have nothing but respect for Al. He knows who he is and what his audience wants from him, and he gives it to them. Perform “Fat” in vintage fat suit? Check. Sing “Eat It” to the tune of that acoustic version of “Layla”? Check. Two songs about “Star Wars” as the encore, closing with “Yoda”? You wanted it, you got it.
After more than 35 years in the business, Weird Al has carved out a niche that is entirely his own. Song parodies are still his bread and butter, and he still plays the accordion, but he has become an all-around entertainer who puts on a solid, professional show from beginning to end. His entrance was inspired: the band started the first song with Al nowhere to be seen. Then he appeared on the projection screen, singing with a recognizable part of the HSU campus behind him. The camera followed him as he made his way across the quad and into the building, where the crowd, of course, went nuts.
The energy level stayed pretty high throughout, the songs interspersed with video highlights from Weird Al’s career that covered the many costume changes. Highlights for me were the Devo-inspired “Dare to Be Stupid” – for which Al and band wore yellow radiation suits and red energy domes – and “I Wanna B Ur Lovr,” which despite its goofy intent achieved an impressive level of genuine funkiness.
If I was going to sum up this show in one word it would be, perhaps surprisingly, “triumphant.” Weird Al has outlasted all his detractors and many of those he’s parodied, he has a loyal and adoring audience that covers a wide spectrum of demographics, and as the flaming wreckage of the music business falls around him, he is laughing all the way to the bank. It’s inspiring, in a funny sort of way. The old saw from William Blake says that “If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise.” Weird Al is not a fool, but a foole, as in a jester; and by persisting he has become, in his own particular world, the king. Long may he reign.
Oliver Sacks, hellraiser
The Celebrity Rule of Threes was in full effect this week, with the demise of Darryl Dawkins followed hard upon by the loss of director Wes Craven and neurologist/author Oliver Sacks. And yes, that covers quite a spectrum; it’s hard to imagine two people more outwardly different than Chocolate Thunder and Dr. Sacks. Although…did you know that in his younger days, Oliver (says the AP)
indulged in staggering bouts of pharmacological experimentation, underwent a fierce regimen of bodybuilding at Muscle Beach (for a time he held a California record, after he performed a full squat with 600 pounds across his shoulders), and racked up more than 100,000 leather-clad miles on his motorcycle
So there could be some interesting conversations happening in the waiting room for the afterlife right now. And maybe some feats of strength, assuming you get the body you enjoyed the most in life. (And no, I don’t really believe any of that junk. But it’s fun to think about.)
I don’t know much about Wes Craven. I saw some of his movies; clearly he was a talented person who was dedicated to his craft. And I don’t have the mental bandwidth at the moment to compose a fitting tribute to Dr. Sacks, so I’ll just leave off with some words he wrote in his last days. It’s a pretty good epitaph:
I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.