Neil Young In The ’70s

Some questions linger in the mind, constantly bubbling up to occupy your thoughts when you least expect.  For me, they are questions like:  What makes a creative person creative?  What gives an individual the ability to write songs or produce great art?  And, perhaps most important, just what was it that motivated people whose careers reflect enormous outbursts of stunning artistic accomplishment during a finite period of time?

Consider Neil Young, for example.  He’s been a fixture of the rock ‘n’ roll scene since the 1960s and has had successful musical releases in each of the intervening decades.  But, even by the high standards of his career, the 1970s were remarkable.  Consider the astonishing albums he produced during that magical decade:  After The Gold Rush (1970), Harvest (1972), Tonight’s The Night (1975), Zuma (1975), American Stars ‘N Bars (1977), Comes A Time (1978), and Rust Never Sleeps (1979).  Many musicians would gladly claim what he produced during that single, prolific decade and call it an entire career.

And what a range!  He moved effortlessly from acoustic work that included all-time folk classics like Old Man (performed live below), Heart of Gold, and The Needle And The Damage Done, to country songs like The Old Country Waltz and Hey Babe, to crushing power rock, with Like A Hurricane and Hey, Hey, My, My (Into The Black).  He wrote great political anthems (Ohio), funny, boozy ballads (Saddle Up The Palomino), raggedy, ironic songs about losers (Tired Eyes) and long, dreamy ruminations about ancient civilizations (Cortez The Killer).

We can all be grateful for whatever it was that impelled Neil Young, again and again and again during the 1970s, to pick up his guitar or sit down at his piano and let his awesome creative juices flow.  As a diehard Neil Young fan, I can’t imagine what the music world would be like if he hadn’t done so, and I was left to face life alone, without songs like World on a String.  But I will always wonder — just what was it?

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Provocative Lawsuits, And The Constitutional Rights Of Killer Whales (II)

I’m happy to report that sanity reigns in San Diego — in the federal court, at least.

Only two days after hearing argument, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller dismissed a silly lawsuit brought by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that argued that five killer whales are subject to the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and were being held in “slavery” by Sea World.  The judge ruled, quite correctly, that the 13th Amendment applies only to humans, and stated:  “As ‘slavery’ and ‘involuntary servitude’ are uniquely human activities, as those terms have been historically and contemporaneously applied, there is simply no basis to construe the Thirteenth Amendment as applying to non-humans.”

PETA’s lawyer says the organization will now decide how to proceed, and presumably will consider whether to appeal the dismissal of the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — traditionally viewed as the most liberal of the various federal appellate courts.  If PETA decides not to appeal to that forum, it will tell us a lot about whether the whole purpose of the lawsuit was simply to elicit the publicity that PETA craves.

On A Romantic, Court-Ordered Date At Red Lobster

In Florida, a judge hearing a domestic violence charge has ordered the husband accused of the misconduct to take his wife to dinner at Red Lobster and then bowling.

The case arose when the man failed to wish his wife a happy birthday.  They got into a fight, and she says he pushed her against a sofa and grabbed her neck.  The judge noted that the husband had no record and concluded the incident was “very , very minor.”  So, rather than setting a bond or requiring jail time, the judge ordered the husband to buy flowers and added, “then he’s going to go home, pick up his wife, get dressed, take her to Red Lobster. And then after they have Red Lobster, they’re going to go bowling.”  The couple also will be required to get counseling.

Grabbing someone’s neck doesn’t seem “very minor” to me — although, in fairness,  I haven’t heard the evidence or presided over countless domestic violence cases — and a husband who doesn’t remember his wife’s birthday has committed an unforgivable sin.

In any case, the sentence seems ill-advised on other grounds.  For example, why would you order a husband who has been accused of domestic violence to stoke up on fried foods at Red Lobster and then take his wife to a place where the guy will be provided with 16-pound projectiles and expected to hurl them with as much force as he can muster?

The case raises other questions, too.  Will the couple’s attorneys accompany them on the date?  (“Honey, I think I’ll order the Ultimate Feast.”   “Objection!  That’s the most expensive entree on the menu!”)  As between the generic dinner options available in suburban America, how did the judge decide that Red Lobster was more romantic than, say, Olive Garden or Outback Steakhouse?  And finally, how many people eating at Red Lobster on any given evening are there by reason of court-ordered punishment?