Landslide

In 1974, Stevie Nicks wrote her enduring and now iconic song, Landslide.   In it she reflects on the challenges of change in one’s life and imaginatively uses the various images and seismic shifts in nature to relate her thoughts and feelings.

I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
‘Til the landslide brought me down…

ICON

Like many creative artists, Nicks was using her talent to express what was, for her, the inexpressible at that moment.  She and her boyfriend, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, had little money and, despite some limited success and encouragement, she wondered whether to continue with her relationship and musical career or, instead, simply leave both and, well, go back to school.

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Mmm, I don’t know….

Is this just a Stevie Nicks appreciation blog? #maybe #whynot

Little did she know that the following year she would become a part of Fleetwood Mac and the band would explode with a string of hit singles and albums that would earn them worldwide fame, fortune and eventually even a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

And 40 years later a viral TikTok video

Not to mention, many of their greatest hits would be written by Nicks herself and that she would go on to have her own hugely successful solo career.  And that she and her great love affair with Buckingham would indeed end.  And that she and this world famous band would break up, reunite, then break up and reunite, and break up again until even their worldwide fans lost count.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Landslide lately as I’ve spent my days being haunted by the prospect of democracy enduring and the hope (yet fear) of an electoral landslide.

I swear this hasn’t been me for the past month #promise

Moreover, I’ve been petrified by the thought of our country’s ability to withstand either and move on even semi-intact.

Well, I’ve been ‘fraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
And I’m gettin’ older, too

Watch it

Strangely, it is at this point in the song where there is a long, poignant musical interlude where no words are spoken and we are all, indeed, meant to feel, think and reflect.  So it seems appropriate at this moment to consider the crystal clear shift of Americans as we fully take in the results of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election vs. where we stood four years ago.

2020 Electoral College (270 needed to win):

  • Joseph R. Biden: 306
  • Donald J. Trump: 232

2020 Popular Vote (and still counting):

  • Joseph R. Biden: 78,686,795
  • Donald J. Trump: 73,102,757
I’m not gloating I swear #OKmaybealittle #itsearned #WOO

2016 Electoral College Results (270 needed to win):

  • Donald J. Trump: 306
  • Hillary Clinton: 232

2016 Popular Vote Results (final tally):

  • Hillary Clinton: 65,853,625
  • Donald J. Trump:  62,985,106

Geologically a landslide is the sliding down of a mass of earth or rock from a mountain or cliff.  But society, being what it is, long ago appropriated that word for its politics.  As a group we freely, and universally, now consider landslide to mean an overwhelming majority of votes for one party in an election.

Crushed?

Certainly we don’t want to get further down into the weeds at what constitutes overwhelming since we now occupy an American space where we find ourselves fist-fighting (and worse) in the public square over whether it should be a moral, and perhaps legal, requirement to wear a mask when coming within six feet of others during our current global, and airborne, viral pandemic.

AGHHHHHHHH

Note: COVID-19 has so far killed over 1.3 million people worldwide and murders close to1500 Americans daily. Total infections are 53.8 million to date, 10.9 million (almost 20%) of which are in the U.S.

So to be fair, let’s bend over backwards and use the measure of our outgoing POTUS. The guy who tweeted right after his Nov. 2016 win, and restated publicly, privately and throughout the world various iterations of these same thoughts about what constitutes overwhelming and thus, landslides, via his many surrogates over the last four years, in proclamations such as this:

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide . . .”

— Donald Trump, in a tweet, Nov. 27, 2016

“CNN is so embarrassed by their total support of Hillary Clinton and her loss in a landslide, that they don’t know what to do.”

— Donald Trump, in a tweet, Nov. 28, 2016

And —

Me, not having to think about Kellyanne ever again

With 306 established as the legitimate mark of victory and DEFEAT, now might be a good time to remind everyone, especially those who this year LOST, that with the above musical interlude over this is the point in the song where the prior verse again repeats, and by doing so asks us ALL to once again truly rethink, and reflect, on all of our very human natures:

Well, I’ve been ‘fraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
and I’m gettin’ older, too
I’m gettin’ older, too

What? My birthday is this week? No we’re skipping 2020

Now as a writer, I will admit that I am prone to attach superhuman power to the words the best of my fellow writers put together, whether in prose or dialogue, comedy or drama, or anything in between. 

But after the last four years I gotta hand it to Steve Nicks for decades later giving us a way to move forward, individually and en masse, when our backs are pressed against the wall. 

Did I mention ICON?

That’s why this weekend, and hopefully from now on, I take a lot of comfort from her concluding verse.  Rather than a shift in weather patterns or a deadly collapsing of the universe as I knew it, it finally offered me massive glimmers of light through the resounding power of reinvention:

So take this love, take it down

If you climb a mountain and turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well, the landslide will bring it down
And if you see my reflection in the SNO-O-O-O-WWWW covered hills
Well, the landslide will bring it down
Oh, the landslide will bring it down

Listen, none of this is ever without risk.  But when you get a chance to level what wasn’t working away and leave behind an avalanche of tweets, it’s hard not to celebrate the sight of a newly imagined playing field and all the potential it offers moving forward.

Fleetwood Mac – “Landslide”

Don’t Judge Me

Everything these days feels like it is a competitive race – presidential politics, entertainment industry awards, and year-end best lists.  This is reflected on reality television – which we know isn’t real (don’t we?) but still…

Bravo has created half a network around “Top Chef;” “Project Runway” (when it was on Bravo)” “Top Hair/”Shear Genius” but somehow failed with “Top Design” (was it Jonathan Adler’s signature admonishment “See you later, decorator.” We’ll never know).  The Food Network then jumped on the bandwagon with “The Next Food Network Star.”  But “Survivor” was really there first on CBS, awarding now convicted felon Richard Hatch with its original million-dollar prize.  CBS then upped the ante (in prestige, not ratings) with the perennially Emmy winning  competition, “The Amazing Race.”  But of course those were all surpassed by “American Idol,” the juggernaut of all television reality competition shows, with or without Simon Cowell.

Except maybe not for long because we now have “The Voice” – the unexpected breakout hit on NBC that seems to have managed a much more improved, kinder and gentler format with actual pop singer/mentors who both perform and guide rather than harshly “judge.”  Mr. Cowell himself might prove this all wrong in the fall when his new program “The X Factor” premieres and shows us once again that “mean” brings home the “green” – meaning it makes money and, as LB Mayer or some studio mogul once said, “puts asses in the seats.”

Experience tells us “asses in the seats” is really the bottom line in the entertainment industry.  But that’s a cynical view and only partially true because that statement doesn’t address the myriad of ways – both good and bad – you can get those derrieres on their cushions.

As a teacher and mentor, I try not to stress the “asses” reality though I do lament about it more often than I like to admit with my fellow writer friends. I mean, it’s tricky enough to write a good version of anything if you have to worry about the vagaries of the industry and audience when you’re trying to create something real, funny, dramatic or relatable on the page.  Not that we create in a bubble.  But worrying about writing a really popular script and selling it when you’re writing it is like stressing over what your marriage ceremony is going to be with the person with whom you’ve had only one really good date.  You might want it to head that way, and so might he or she – but you’re skipping the best part – the development of the thing.

Unless, of course, money and recognition (fame) is your thing.  If so, then you’re in big trouble.   Both professionally and romantically.

The whole world is watching...

I don’t know A LOT but one thing I do know is that too many people enter and stay in the industry just to be noticed or to make money.  Is this bad, you ask?  Well no, not really.  It’s motivating.  But noticed for what?  And by whom?  And for how much?  The people (or family member?) who ignore you growing up?  The talent you don’t really care about or don’t really enjoy doing?  The money you are more likely to make on a thousand different other things?  Let’s hope not.

Andre Agassi, tennis “Zen master,” (according to Barbra Streisand, and who am I to argue with her) admitted in his autobiography that despite his success at one point he hated tennis and it was only with some reflection later in life that he grew to love it again.  He began to hate the very thing he was blessed with a talent for because of all the financial pressures and peer/public expectations.  It was no longer fun.  Where’s the fun for you?  If you can’t have that in your work then what’s the point?  If it was never fun and just a means to an end (fame, fortune) then it can really be torture. Not fun?  Uh, oh.  Fun all the time?  Haha!! (said in a sarcastic tone).   Nothing is, not even eating pizza.  Engagement.  Emotionality. Satisfaction.   That’s the best and the most you can hope for.

Dorothy Parker once wrote it wasn’t the writing she liked – it was “having written.”  Take that how you will.  I prefer to think of it as Mrs. Parker liked the result of what she came up with – not the adulation or money that surrounded it.  Because truth be told she never made the equivalent of huge Spielberg/Michael Bay money, if that’s what you were thinking.  But she was known as the greatest wit of her day, especially among the gang of America’s top wits (the Algonquin Round Table) she hung out with.  And there is a lot of satisfaction in that – especially because it forced her to do good work while ENSURING she got the glory and recognition of others at the same time for her talent.  She came up with pithy phrases because she could and liked doing it, not because she dreamed one day it could make her famous (who could even dream such a thing?)

And if you think fame lasts: Consider when Barbra Streisand’s name comes up most of my current college students sort of roll their eyes and think about their parents.  Or grandparents.  Or some funny supporting character actress in “Meet the Fockers!”  I know it’s hard to believe but so is Michele Bachmann’s presidential candidacy to some people.

Would that we could all have the perseverance of 19th century French painter George Seurat, a  pioneer in creativity who never sold a painting in his life because his style was so new and different and unusual.

Just another Saturday with ol' George

Most of us need encouragement to nourish the ego and our talent.  But that’s not all we need.  We also need to work at our talent.  That’s part of the reason “The Voice” is so popular right now.  Real talent being nurtured, rather than knocked down.  Artists onstage dedicated to their craft, all of who seem to be doing it for the right reasons.  The winners being mentored by fellow famous artists, all of who seem to be doing it for the right reasons.  Yes, the prize is $100,000 and a record deal, but the odds of making that money in a career of music are much, much slimmer and way, way less likely than, say, becoming a plumber or….100,000 other professions.  It would seem the reason a 33-year-old father of two  and  a 41-year old bald headed lesbian (two of the four “Voice” finalists) sang professionally all of their adult lives and continue to sing — the work.  Not for all the money they’ve not made so far or the international fame they will now undoubtedly achieve.

Up until a few months ago, none of the four finalists were particularly well-known or even making a particularly great living at what they’re doing.  That’s how they landed on a reality show to begin with.  But they were still singing because they wanted to.  Enjoyed doing it.  Maybe even needed to.  And it showed through in their work.

The happy byproduct of the last six months for them is that they have made some money and have become a bit famous.  But working at their talent, fortified by their love and dedication to it, was what got them there.  The same can be said of almost (yeah, there are exceptions, but very few) every successful performer and artist in show business contrary to what you might observe in a lot of “reality” TV.  Take a look at the duet between the legendary Stevie Nicks, still making it happen in all her “witchy-ness” at the age of…well, post midlife, and “Voice” winner Javier Colon.  Watch how he sings her classic song , “Landslide.”  Watch how she guides him through it.  Listen to how their voices blend.  That doesn’t just happen.  It takes hard work, talent AND dedication.  Not to fame and money.  But at something they both clearly love to do and feel most alive doing.  Their art.