Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Sasha Frere-Jones has a good piece in the New Yorker on the incompatibility of short stories and rockin’ pop songs, taking as Exhibit A the new Springsteen album. I haven’t heard much by Bruce in recent years, but what I have heard makes me nod my head in agreement with Sasha’s take. But then I thought of counter-examples. Woody Guthrie.

Chuck Berry.

Newly interested in the question, I listened to two of Chuck’s masterpieces from 1964, “You Never Can Tell” and “Promised Land.” The first of these captures a unique mix of powerful emotions.

The exuberant joy of young love and marriage, chiefly communicated by the horns and piano and rhythm.

The stress of making ends meet, in the words and Chuck’s delivery.

The pessimistic encouragement of the young couple’s elders, who showed up at the wedding and wished them well, and who get the song’s tag line: “C’est la vie say the old folks, It goes to show you never can tell.”

And the tenderness of Chuck’s vocal, especially in the reprise of the first verse.

“It was a teen-age wedding and the old folks wished them well.
You could see that Pierre did truly love the mademoiselle.
And now the young monsieur and madame have rung the chapel bell.
C’est la vie, say the old folks, It goes to show you never can tell.”

The ingenuous happiness of the couple as propounded and profoundly pounded by the band; and the consciousness in the singer’s tone and the old folks’ words that such happiness is a rare and lucky happening.

A delicious tinge of bitter in a sweet sweet wine.

The complexity of the emotions -- the full weight of truth given to the joy of the young and the humane cynicism of the old -- gives “You Never Can Tell” a unique tang and life to the story it tells.

American vernacular music has the capacity to convey that emotional complexity extremely well, and across genres. Woody Guthrie and the Carter Family (his biggest influence) sing with stoic detachment and play guitar with urgent passion, conveying a depth of emotion beneath stoic surface. The jazz of Armstrong and Ellington and Mingus and Kirk is rich with such complex emotional tangles. Even a record like “I Will,” where Dean Martin sings in a flirty and self-deprecatingly sexy, almost jokey tone, the band pounds an insistent riff of the-lust-that-shall-not-go-away.

I haven’t heard the new Springsteen, but other post-Nebraska stuff I’ve heard makes me think that he, like Gillian Welch, has missed the point of Guthrie and the Carters -- as Sasha puts it, he “seems to be stuck in the lowtemperature affect of a certain kind of American short story.” Guthrie and the Carters can move me to tears because of the contrast between the stoic singing and the urgent passion of the accompaniment, the complexity of the whole.

Since I’ve been dissing Bruuuuce, I should say that his speech a couple months ago inducting U2 into the Rock Hall rocked, swung, and cracked jokes at his own and at U2’s expense. And, coincidentally, now that I’ve re-read it, I see that Bruce expertly describes how each player in U2 contributes to the emotional complexity of the band’s whole sound, similar to the complexity I’ve been trying to describe here, that pop and rock and folk and jazz and country can be so good at. (I came across Bruce’s speech via Tim Riley).
Essential oils, roots and herbs can be used in a variety of ways to promote healthy living and teen stress. They are used to create natural remedies for treating ailments common to both people and animals, to add flavor to food, to make perfumes and to create environmentally friendly cleaning products.

You do not have to own a garden to tap into the benefits of plants, roots and herbs. A few herb pots located by a sunny window are enough to get you started. Then, all you need are some essential oils and you are ready to go.

For therapeutic purposes, only the purest oils will do. It is possible to be fooled into thinking that you are purchasing a pure oil. Often, a lesser quality blend of several oils is used to mimic the properties of the pure oil. Blended oils are acceptable for fragrance purposes such as for perfuming a room, but pure oils are a "must" for medicinal purposes.

A reasonable guide to the purity of an essential oil is its price. Pure essential oils are generally more expensive. Common oils such as lavender and geranium are much cheaper than frankincense and carnation oil. It is advisable to become familiar with essential oil prices and then rely on this knowledge when purchasing oils from unfamiliar sources. Keep in-mind that you will generally get what you pay for. A price list from a reputable dealer is a valuable resource when purchasing essentials oils.

Usually, pure essential oils cannot be applied directly to the skin and must be mixed in a base oil to reduce their strength. Base oils such as almond oil or wheatgerm oil are commonly used for this purpose. Base oils are generally derived from seeds, nuts or vegetables and allow you to create essential oil remedies that can be massaged into the skin.

So, what do you need to get started with essential oils and natural remedies?

Without a doubt, Lavender is one of the most useful and desirable oils. Not only does it work wonders on cuts, bruises and burns, it also aids sleep and helps with relaxation.

The Tea Tree and Eucalyptus oils are useful for treating a variety of respiratory ailments. These are excellent for the treatment of colds and coughs. They can be massaged into the chest or burned in an oil burner to help clear the airways and prevent congestion. Tea Tree oil is a natural antiseptic and can be dabbed on cuts, bites and stings. It is often used to treat spots and pimples and when diluted with water, acts as a mouth gargle (keep in-mind it should never be swallowed).

Another basic antiseptic is Geranium oil. With its distinctive perfume and pain relieving properties, it is a necessary inclusion when starting out.

Peppermint oil should also be purchased as it treats digestive complaints and may be used in preparations for freshening breath.

For fragrant perfumes and establishing ambience in a room, buy some Patchouli and Ylang-ylang oils. Often combined in scented candles and air fresheners, a few drops of each in an oil burner creates a wonderfully perfumed home. Orange oil mixed with Cinnamon oil is a lovely winter alternative that evokes seasonal, holiday smells. Besides their perfume qualities, all four of these oils have other properties. Patchouli treats eczema and dandruff. Ylang-ylang is reputed to relieve stress, palpitations and high blood pressure. Orange is used in natural remedies for depression and nervous tension and Cinnamon is excellent for warts and viral infections.

The herbs, Thyme and Rosemary can be grown in pots and used when needed. To create essential oils from herbs, stew some large amounts in pure water, collect the steam and cool it. The oil will rise to the top of the drained water and can be collected with an eyedropper. Alternatively, a "flower still" can be purchased to make the job easier. Thyme and Rosemary are both antiseptics and can be used in skin care preparations. They are also delicious when used in cooking.

Lemon oil and fresh lemons will purify water and, when mixed with honey, are effective remedies for colds and flu. Lemon and white vinegar are highly efficient cleaning agents that can be used for domestic cleaning tasks without damaging the environment. Use white vinegar as a natural disinfectant or mix it with water to clean windows and wooden floors. It is also handy to keep a bottle of white vinegar in your car if you swim in the ocean. It will bring instant relief from jellyfish stings.

Citronella oil is perfect in summer to keep the insects at bay. Another natural repellent is Garlic. Fleas will not bite a dog that has been eating garlic, so a few garlic capsules in the dog food are a cheap solution to your pet's flea problem. A soft collar soaked in Citronella will also do the job.

Garlic also helps to promote a healthy immune system when the weather turns cold and viruses begin to circulate. In fact, most of the oils and herbs listed above are effective in helping to prevent many common winter illnesses.

Whether you are looking for remedies or nature friendly products to use around the house, the oils and herbs suggested above should help get you started. You will be ready to make some healthy changes in your way of life!

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