Harmony Requires Honesty

June 3, 2010

Back in high school I played drums and sang in a few different bands. One of the bands played mostly Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, Cream… you get the idea.

One day we were jamming when Jim, our lead guitarist, started playing Happy Together by the Turtles. It was funny at first… but then we all joined in and something clicked. While it was outside our genre, something about this song resonated with us. In fact, our version of Happy Together not only sounded great… it was fun to play. So now what? How do you transition from Black Dog and Iron Man to Happy Together? We weren’t certain, but we had an upcoming gig and decided to find out.

It was the night before the event and we had been practicing hard all week. Since we hadn’t performed Happy Together publicly, we decided to go over it a few more times. Jim was/is a talented musician and he had figured out all the harmonies, including a great three-part harmony for the “Ba-ba-ba…” part. (If you’ve never heard this song… you can do so below.)

Oh yes, there’s something I neglected to mention… it was for good reason that our bass guitar player rarely sang. He was notoriously off-key and pitchy (I’m being polite). Perhaps that’s what amazed Jim and me the most about us playing Happy Together… he actually sang one of the harmony parts.

Back to practice… I was singing lead and Jim was singing background harmony when we reached this part of the song…

Me and you and you and me
No matter how they toss the dice, it has to be
The only one for me is you, and you for me
So happy together

Then we all jumped in… Ba-ba-ba…

Before we could hit the second, Ba-ba-ba… line, Jim stopped playing, turned and looked directly at me. Accept for the ring in our ears, the room was silent. Read more

Beware the Semmelweis Reflex!

November 6, 2009

Metaphorically and literally speaking, the healthcare debate today is totally ill-focused. When it comes to implementing real solutions, it seems most people suddenly decide they’d rather argue, live in denial, and defend the status quo than accept reality and take action. It’s true. They’d rather fight than switch (can you older readers visualize the black eye?). Given the choice of accepting empirical evidence or clinging to misguided beliefs, many… if not most… people will choose misguided beliefs.

The act of automatically rejecting facts without thought or real consideration is sometimes referred to as the Semmelweis reflex… or “Semmelweis effect.” The name comes from Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician who, in 1847, discovered that when maternity doctors washed their hands with a chlorinated-lime solution, the incidence of a type of sepsis related to childbirth was significantly reduced. So here’s where the “reflex”/“effect” part comes in: Despite his efforts and the obvious evidence showing that hand-washing reduced mortality below 1%, Semmelweis’ practice wasn’t accepted until years after his death. Furthermore, in 1865, Semmelweis had a mental breakdown and ended up in an asylum, where he died at age 47.

How could this happen? It’s simple. During his lifetime, Semmelweis’ observations and evidence conflicted with the established beliefs of the day. Medical books and doctors back then were focused on bloodletting as a primary treatment for disease… and in contrast to the evidence, they “believed” bloodletting was the best treatment. Read more