Flash Fiction Friday

This week, the Random Word Generator has given me:

  • fall
  • day
  • pharmacy
  • bishop
  • goose

And here’s my attempt at a 100-word story from that list:

“So, Susan, what’s your day job?”

Susan shifted in her bar stool.

“I work at the pharmacy on the corner of 10th and Bishop.”

“You’re a checkout girl?”

“No, actually—“ She felt his hand on her leg and frowned.

“Oh, come on, you know you want it.”

Susan forced a smile and handed the man his glass.

“A drink first?”

The man eagerly gulped the last of his vodka. Susan watched his face fall as he got down from his seat and waddled away like a constipated goose.

“I’m the pharmacist actually,” she said, tossing the empty laxative sachet.

Don’t forget, starting next Wednesday, April 1, I’ll be posting a 100-word story for each day of the April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. See the banner on the right sidebar for more details.

Have a great weekend!

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10 Years Later…

“Run!”

And with that single word, Rose Tyler’s life was changed forever, as Doctor Who came storming back onto British TV screens. The first episode of the re-booted Doctor Who, “Rose,” first aired on BBC1, 7:00 pm, Saturday March 26th. Over the last 10 years, the Doctor has regenerated three times, and the show’s audience has grown exponentially. At the time, no-one knew if it would last beyond 13 episodes. With Series 9 currently being filmed, it seems the Doctor’s future is assured.

Of course, we in the US didn’t get Doctor Who until later. Some PBS stations picked up Series 1 (as did ours), but didn’t re-run the episodes, nor take any further shows. Then the Sci-Fi channel picked it up about a year later and showed the first couple of seasons until BBC America finally took the show (as it should have done in the first place–but hindsight is 20/20). It is now the flagship drama of the BBC on both sides of the Atlantic. A far cry from the show’s status when it went off the air in 1989.

Thankfully, the Doctor Who team are not making a big fuss of this anniversary. They celebrated the show’s 50th not long ago, and I much prefer to see the show as a continuous series spanning five decades, rather than draw a line in the sand between 1989 (or 1996 to include the TV Movie) and 2005. But it is good to note that ten years since it came back, Doctor Who is still going strong and is in good hands. Here’s to many more years to come!

(Trailer made by YouTuber VG934)

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Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge

Novelist, Screenwriter, Game Designer, and all-around funny dude Chuck Wendig is running a flash fiction challenge this week (ending on Friday). The challenge is to write a 100-word piece of flash fiction. Since I’ve written one or two of these “drabbles” in my time, I thought I might give it a go.

I found out about this from my blog friend and fellow North Carolinian Donna Everhart, who dipped into her archives of Janet Reid Contest entries for her submission. Since this is my first go around at one of Chuck’s challenges, I figure I should do likewise and put my best foot forward. So, if you’ve frequented Janet’s writing contests over the past six months, then you’ll recognize this one. Otherwise, enjoy what I consider one of my best (so far):

Jessica picked up the bottle of baby oil, one of six in a gift box. The card attached read: “From one mother to another. Congratulations! Love, Mom.” A flip of her thumb released the top and she inhaled deeply the scent of newborn, flooding her with memories. The heartbeat booming through the ultrasound device. Grainy images on the screen. The kicks.

Jessica wiped her eyes and replaced the bottle with the other shower gifts: diapers, onesies, toys, all carefully arranged on the dining room table. In the middle, a pair of booties. A reminder of the day the kicking stopped.

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Another Year Older

Today is my birthday. I won’t say how old I am, but suffice to say that by anyone’s standards (and there are some differing opinions on this) I am in that period of life called “middle age.” This means I am within a particular age range, my hair is greying and thinning, my mental reflexes are not as sharp, and I can expect to gain weight. In other words, if you think I’m fat and stupid, too bad. It’s my age!

Seriously, though, I don’t mind getting older. Sure, it means my time on earth is that much closer to being over, but I wouldn’t trade all I’ve learned over the years I’ve been alive to go back and relive that time. No disrespect intended, but young people think and do some pretty stupid things. I know that from first-hand experience. And part of the reason for this is that many young people are so convinced they know all there is to know, they ignore the sage wisdom from their parents and grandparents. That’s not to say all old people are wise, and all young people are idiots. But with age comes experience, and those that have learned from experience have much to pass on to the next generation if they’d only listen.

Sermon over. Now to some fun stuff. I’m not going to tell you explicitly what year I was born, but here are some artifacts from my birth year. First, some novels that were published the year I was born:

(okay, so the Dr. Seuss book is not really a novel, but it was my oldest daughter’s favorite book when she was little, so I could hardly not include it!)

And here is the number one song in the UK the week I was born:

And the number one song on the US Billboard Hot 100:

Some TV shows that debuted in the US and the UK that year (click the pictures to watch!):

And some people I share a birthday with:


Harry Houdini
(illusionist/escapologist)

Sir Alan Sugar
(English business magnate)

Steve Ballmer
(Former Microsoft CEO)

Lara Flynn Boyle
(Actress)

Do you share a birthday with a celebrity? Or did something significant happen on the day you were born (other than you being born)?

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Sunday School Notes: Revelation 6:3-4

3 And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come!” 4 And another horse came out, fiery red, and to the one sitting upon it was given to him to take peace from the earth, even so that [people] will slaughter one another. And a great sword was given to him.

We briefly reviewed the first seal, and then began our discussion of the second. The way John describes the opening of the second seal has parallels to the opening of the first seal, but some details are omitted that I think we can add. For a start, the Lamb is clearly the one opening the seals. This seems an obvious point, but we mustn’t forget the significance of that: it is the Lamb who executes the contents of the seal. The things that happen come about at his initiation, in accordance with the will and decree of the Lord. These things are as the Lord intends them to be. Also, there’s no mention of a voice like thunder with the second creature. But I think we can assume the command to come takes its authority from the same place–the throne upon which the Lord sits. We spent some time talking about this, and how the fact that God is in sovereign control of the evil in the world should give us comfort. Remember, God is not holding a gun to sinful people telling them to sin against their will. They sin because that is the inclination of their hearts. The Lord commissions their sinful acts but He himself is not guilty of sin. Unlike sinful men, the Lord is without sin, and His intentions are always holy, righteous, just, and always in accordance with what is best for His people. We might want to question God’s motives and His purity, but since we have no concept of what it is like to be holy, pure, and righteous, we are in no place to judge the Lord. We don’t know what is best, or what is truly good. He does. So the believer needs to rest in that, even though it seems as if evil surrounds us, and all is lost.

John describes the horse as “fiery red.” Some translations may simply say “red.” I prefer “fiery red” because the Greek adjective used here, purros, has its root in the word for fire, pur. Why red? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that red is associated with bloodshed and slaughter. It’s also the color we ascribe to anger, lust, and other sins. However, red doesn’t have this sense in other cultures (apparently, in China it signifies goodness). So it may simply be derived from the horse colors in Zechariah 6:1-8, which seems to be one of the Old Testament passages in the background of Revelation 6.

The rider is given the commission to remove peace from the earth. We noted the fact that there are two passive verbs used here, the first with the commission (“it was given to him to take peace…”), and the second to do with the sword by which the rider would, presumably, execute that commission (“a great sword was given…”). These are known as “divine passives” and they are a way of saying God did something without actually using God’s name. John is implying that the Lord gave the rider the commission and the sword. Again, it’s important we have a solid, Biblical understanding of God’s sovereignty, and what that means for us.

Jesus already forewarned his disciples (and us) about the removal of peace in Matthew 10:34-39. In this passage, Jesus is sending out his twelve disciples, and he is exhorting them not to fear persecution. He reminds them that he hasn’t come to bring peace but “a sword” (the same Greek word, machaira, as in Revelation 6:4) that will set family members against one another. Certainly in the context of Matthew, that sword could well refer to the gospel, the Word of God. But there is a literal sword implied, since the gospel, and the steadfast allegiance of God’s people to Christ as a result of gospel convictions, has resulted in the persecution of believers, often at the edge of a sword.

That same word for sword is used by Paul in Romans 13:4 in reference to the life-and-death power given by the Lord to all ruling authorities. Once more we noted that it is God who gives the authorities their power, and they are responsible for using it for good. To the extent that they pursue their own agenda and persecute God’s people, those authorities will be judged by the Lord.

Along with the Zechariah 6 backdrop, I think we see a multifaceted purpose to the “sword” here. One is to bring the judgment to bear upon unbelievers in the form of warfare and the setting of people against one another. There is also the very real likelihood that the church will suffer persecution as a result of the gospel, and the Lord commissions the sword to bring purity to the church, and to demonstrate the full depravity of men. In this, the Lord’s justice in judging the sinful acts of wicked men is evident. And this persecution is not simply on the level of one man against another (though that is certainly stated), but as judicial acts of government, whereby Christians are threatened if they don’t comply with the godless demands of evil rulers.

The fact that we have seen such things happening throughout the world since Christ’s resurrection, and there seems to be no abating in the amount of conflict in the world, demonstrates that this is not something we’re waiting to see. The rider on the red horse has been out doing his work for the past two thousand years, and will continue to bring strife and bloodshed until the Lord returns. But the church needs to take comfort from the fact that this rider is operating under the Lord’s command. His deeds are evil, but the one who commissioned him is pure and holy. If our focus is truly on the Lord, and we remember that our home is not here, and we are not building a kingdom on earth, then we have nothing to fear.

Next week: The Third Seal and the Third Horseman

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Music Monday: Livin’ Thing

I’ve always enjoyed ELO, and consider Jeff Lynne to be a talented songwriter and producer. He is usually a pretty straight-up writer, and doesn’t tend to go in for a lot of jazzy chords or alternate bass notes. His skill is largely in writing very melodic, hummable songs, though he does throw harmonic curve balls from time to time. “Livin’ Thing” is one song that contains a couple of them.

Lyrically, I have no idea what the song is really about. Like most of Jeff’s songs, I’m sure it has some kind of romantic message, but what is all this “rolling and diving” and “slipping and sliding”? And what exactly is this “livin’ thing” that is terrible to lose? Feel free to offer suggestions in the comments–especially if you’ve heard or read Jeff Lynne discuss it.

Musically, there are some very interesting things going on. First you have that violin solo at the beginning and periodically throughout that seems a little out-of-place. I’ve attempted a transcription of the introduction for any intrepid violinists out there who want to try it. Remember, though, I’m not trained in transcription, so take these notes and listen to the record:

LivinThing_Intro

 

Then the verse messes around with the key, flipping from C-major to Ab-major and back to C-major. And then the chorus has that funny little G+ (G-augmented) chord. There are at least two ways you can play that G+. This is how Jeff Lynne plays it:

LivinThing_G+_1

But you can also play it like this if it’s easier:

LivinThing_G+_2

(The “X”s mean “don’t play these strings.”)

Here’s a lyric/chord sheet for the whole song:

LivinThing

And here’s the promotional film (i.e., the music video, though technically there wasn’t such a thing in 1976):

What do you think the song’s about?

 

 

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Flash Fiction Friday

And what does the Random Word Generator spit out this week?

  • Birthday
  • Coach
  • Manure
  • Spider
  • Dance

Funny that “birthday” is one of the words since it’s my birthday on Tuesday. Seriously–I didn’t rig that. So, here’s a fun 100-word story inspired by that list:

You know who your friends are when the RSVPs come in.

“Would love to, but I’m doing some football coaching with my son.” Andrew’s son is two.

“Sorry, but I just got some fertilizer and I need to spread manure on the garden while it’s fresh.” Jen lives in an apartment. Fifth floor.

“I’m babysitting my neighbor’s spiders.” Pete’s neighbors have tarantulas, and Pete has arachnophobia.

“No, not the same night as square dancing?” Jason has two left feet.

But I wasn’t alone for my birthday. Publisher’s Clearing House showed up. Shame no-one else was there to share the prize.

Have a great weekend!

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Book Review: A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS by Khaled Hosseini

This is a re-post of my Goodreads review for my non-Goodreads readers.

A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS is the story of two Muslim girls living in Afghanistan: Mariam and Laila. Mariam is the older of the two, and while they come from very different family backgrounds, their lives intersect in a dramatic way. Brought together by virtue of circumstances, this accidental bond becomes a deep friendship as they are forced to deal with a common enemy.

The backdrop, and, at many times, a key player in the story, is the troubled history of Afghanistan, from the war with the Soviet Union, the post-Soviet struggle between warlords, the rise to power of the Taliban, famine, and 9-11. Mariam and Laila live through this, and Hosseini shows us this turbulent time through their eyes, walking the streets of Kabul and the surrounding villages in their sandals.

I don’t want to give to much of the story away, because I think you feel the impact of all that happens best if you aren’t expecting it. I will say that this book is very well written. It’s a third-person account, mostly from a limited perspective, though we do occasionally see things our main characters don’t see. For most of the time, however, we are following either Mariam or Laila. Hosseini does a great job of taking you to war-torn Afghanistan, giving you a sense of the atmosphere, the culture, and, perhaps even more difficult for the Westerner, giving an insight into the mindset of a Muslim woman.

This book is an excellent example of how literature can help teach history and culture. There is nothing here you couldn’t read in textbooks, but in the story of Mariam and Laila, history and culture come alive. I honestly think I have a deeper appreciation for the Afghani people, and their history, than I did before.

A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS is definitely for older teens through adult. There’s not a lot of profanity, and sexual situations are handled fairly tastefully. However, there are some scenes of quite intense violence, and the overall sensibility of the book would appeal more to an older reader. With that in mind, I highly recommend it. Five stars.

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Sunday School Notes: Revelation 6:1-2

1 And I looked when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying [with] a voice as of thunder, “Come!” 2 And I saw and behold, a white horse, and the one sitting upon it having a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

We began this week with an overview of the next major section of Revelation: the opening of the seven seals:

  • Chapter 6: Six of the Seven Seals opened
  • Chapter 7: The sealing of the servants of God; the 144,000; a cry of salvation from the multitude
  • Chapter 8: The opening of the seventh seal; silence in heaven for half an hour; the start of the Seven Trumpets

There’s a lot there to get through–especially in chapter 7 with the 144,000 and the “sealing” of God’s servants. We’ll get there eventually (Lord willing), but for now we’re concentrating on chapter 6 and the first six seals. Here’s how chapter 6 breaks down:

  • 6:1-8: The Four Horsemen, one for each seal:
    • 6:1-2: The First Seal–the rider on a white horse who goes to conquer
    • 6:3-4: The Second Seal–the rider on a red horse who removes peace from the earth
    • 6:5-6: The Third Seal–the rider on the black horse who carries scales, bringing famine.
    • 6:7-8: The Fourth Seal–the rider on a pale horse, named Death, with Hades following, bringing the sword, pestilence, famine, and wild beasts.
  • 6:9-11: The Fifth Seal–the cries of the martyrs awaiting the Lord’s justice.
  • 6:12-16: The Sixth Seal–Earthquakes, a blackened sun, the moon like blood, the stars falling… this is it: the Apocalypse! This certainly appears to be the wrath of God poured out on the earth, i.e., the promised End Time judgment.

There appear to be two principal Old Testament passages behind the Four Horsemen: Zechariah 6:1-8, and Ezekiel 14:6-23. In Zecharaiah’s vision there are four chariots pulled by horses of various colors, white, red, black, and dappled. These chariots are sent to “patrol the earth”–the Lord is angry with the nations so he sends them out as retribution for their harsh treatment of His people. This seems to correspond to one of the main purposes of the Four Horsemen: to bring judgment. The fact that the horse colors are almost exactly the same as in Revelation (with the exception of “dappled” instead of “pale”) gives us reason to suspect this passage is some kind of foreshadowing of what John sees. If we add the fact that Zechariah mentions other important things in common with Revelation (the horsemen in chapters 1 and 6, a lamp stand and bowls in chapter 4, and a scroll in chapter 5), we can be fairly certain of the connection.

In the Ezekiel passage, the threat of judgment, not just upon the nations, but also upon God’s people if they turn away from Him, is cast in language that is very similar to what we see in Revelation 6:1-8. This shows us that the forms of punishment inflicted by the Four Horsemen are not new, but are, perhaps, a common formula that would have been known to John. More about that when we discuss the fourth seal.

Even in the Gospels we find hints at what’s to come in Revelation. In Matthew 24:3-14 Jesus mentions wars, famine, and earthquakes as the beginning of the birth pains of the end. Luke 21:5-28 also mentions these along with pestilence and signs in heaven. These appear to correspond to the fourth Horseman, and also the sixth seal.

Do these Horsemen represent contemporary events or future events? Are these upcoming wars, famines, and pestilences that we are to expect? And will these disasters be visited upon all people, or will the church be exempt? We’ll address these questions as we go along, but from the background information we have, I think it’s fair to say that the calamities brought by the Four Horsemen represent calamities that have fallen upon the world and the church in the past, and will continue to plague us all until Christ returns. If we see the entrance of the Lamb into the throne room in Revelation 5 as symbolic of our risen Savior, then the events in chapter 6 (at least) would refer to post-resurrection events. That would include everything from the persecution of the church in Acts through the wars, disease, and persecution we see today, and all that will come upon us until the End. Indeed, we’ve already seen some of these in the letters to the seven churches (lack of peace, poverty, famine, etc.). And there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the church is spared these sufferings. Indeed, if the cry of the martyrs in the fifth seal is anything to go by, it looks as if the saints can expect to go through some very difficult times.

With that background in mind, we began with the first seal. Evidently there is no particular order to the seals since John says that the Lamb opened “one of the seven seals”–not specifically “the first.” When he opens the seal, one of the four creatures cries out in a voice like thunder, “Come!” The thunderous voice is significant, as is the fact that it comes from one of the creatures, and not the Lamb, or one of the elders. In 4:5, John associates lightning and thunder with the throne. Also, in Exodus 19, when Moses goes up Mount Sinai to meet with God, the Lord speaks to him “in thunder” (v. 19). In Revelation 4:6, John tells us that the four living creatures are around the throne on each side, like the four creatures in Ezekiel 1 that seem to be carrying the throne. It would appear, therefore, that the creatures are, perhaps by virtue of proximity, the spokesmen for the One sitting on the throne, and speak with the voice of God himself.

When we see what the Horsemen will do, the fact that God appears to be summoning them has caused some Christians discomfort. We can see this in the New Testament manuscripts, where some scribes have added “and see” to Revelation 6:1 to make it appear that the voice is telling John to come and see, as opposed to calling the Horseman. Since these riders will be bringing calamities upon the world, and even upon the church, would God do this? Is this something He would actively commission, instead of passively permitting? The fact that adding “and see” resolves an apparent theological dilemma is one reason scholars see this as an alteration, and not what John originally wrote. Also, the fact that John said at the beginning of chapter 6, “I saw” indicates that he’s already watching the scene unfold and would make a second command to “come and see” redundant. This means we need to deal with the fact that the Lord commissions these Horsemen, and the suffering they bring is part of His plan both for the world and for the church. If we have a robust and biblical understanding of the character of God and His sovereignty, then this shouldn’t be a difficult concept. God is good, holy, and righteous, and in all that He does there is no sin. Further, we know that He works all things for His glory and the good of His people (Romans 8:28), so whatever comes to pass by His hand is ultimately what’s best for us, despite how it may seem at the time.

John tells us the first horse is white. So far in Revelation, we’ve seen the color white used to depict righteousness and purity. Could it be that this Horseman is a “good” rider? Maybe even Jesus himself? Some arguments in favor of this view are:

  • The color white in Revelation is often associated with righteousness (e.g., “white robes” given to believers)
  • In Revelation 19:11-16, Jesus is depicted riding a white horse
  • The rider on the white horse goes out “conquering, and to conquer.” This is the same verb used by Jesus in chapters 2 and 3 speaking of the promises to “those who overcome.” Also, the Lamb “overcame” so he could open the scroll (5:5).
  • The other three Horsemen are actively causing or instigating harm (war, famine, pestilence, etc.), whereas this rider simply “conquers”–which could be a positive thing.

However, there are some significant counter arguments that must be considered:

  • Why have one good rider and three bad ones? They are all called the same way, and they are not differentiated morally in the text. Why should we assume one has to be “good”?
  • The significance of the horse colors has more to do with Zechariah 6 than with the use of the colors elsewhere in Revelation. This is one way in which this passage is linked to its Old Testament antecedent, demonstrating that this is the fruition of what the prophets saw dimly.
  • Revelation 11:7 and 13:7 speak of the Beast making war on the witnesses and conquering them. So the term “conquer” is not exclusive to Christ in Revelation.
  • It’s possible that the rider on the white horse represents false prophets, in which case a white horse, giving the appearance of good, would be appropriate.
  • The fact there are FOUR Horsemen is significant. We’ve seen that the number four is important (e.g., the four creatures). It certainly seems to represent the earthly realm as a whole, and we’ll explore how this might apply to the Horsemen and the afflictions they bring later. For now, it’s important to recognize that these Horsemen are presented to us as four, not one and three. To reiterate the first argument, there is no moral distinction made between them in the text, and to make such a distinction would disrupt the unity of the four.

For these reasons, I would say this rider, along with the following three, is not Christ, but quite the opposite. He is a demonic, even Satanic agent operating under the Lord’s sovereign control to conquer. Some might see the Roman Empire in this. Perhaps Islam. Or perhaps some other militaristic power that brings trouble for many, especially the church. Certainly, if this is a foreshadowing of Revelation 11 and 13, then this rider’s primary target is the church.

In verse 2, John says that the rider carries a bow and is given a crown. Along with the rider’s purpose (conquest), these would seem to symbolize a ruling power out to gain control over lands and people. History is littered with examples of such people from Alexander the Great to Julius Caesar to the Ottomans, to Napoleon, to Hitler, to the “Islamic State” (ISIS) in our day. And there will undoubtedly be others in the days and years from now until the Lord returns. The bow and crown were also associated with the god Apollo, a popular deity in Smyrna and Thiatyra, known for prophecy. If the bow and crown are understood to also reference Apollo, this would support the idea that the rider on the white horse comes as a false prophet, or a demonic being masquerading as an angel of light.

We noted that the crown is given to the rider. He doesn’t take it. This use of the passive voice is an example of what is known as a “divine passive,” where the passive voice is used as a way of saying God did something without mentioning God directly. In other words, the Lord gave the crown to the rider. This only confirms what we said before with regard to God’s active role in the work of these Horsemen. They may be agents of the Enemy, but they are operating according to God’s sovereign will and plan.

Finally, the phrase “conquering, and to conquer” seems a little odd. It’s actually a Hebraism. In the Hebrew language, we often see this kind of construction (e.g., shâmôr tishmerû–keeping, you will keep), using an infinitive absolute with an imperfect verb to intensify a command, or indicate certainty of action. This English rendering is how that construction comes across in Greek. So the intention of “conquering, and to conquer” is “he will surely conquer” or “he will completely conquer.” Perhaps a good way to put it would be “and he went out to conquer completely.”

Next time, we’ll begin with the second seal.

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Music Monday: New York State of Mind

Billy Joel - TurnstilesI’ve flown into New York a few times on my way elsewhere, but so far the only time I’ve actually been to New York as a destination was for a computer conference in 1998. The company I worked for at the time paid my expenses, which was particularly nice since I was staying at the Marriott on Broadway. My room cost around $180 per night, which was a lot of money in 1998, let alone what it would be today. I was there for two nights, but aside from the knuckle-whitening taxi ride to and from the hotel (New York taxi drivers don’t drive aggressively–that’s too tame; they treat the road like a battlefield, where it’s do or die), I didn’t leave the hotel. To be honest, I have an abysmal sense of direction, and I was afraid if I tried to go out anywhere in the evening, I’d get lost and end up down some dirty backstreet and get jumped by some hoodlums like you see in the cop shows on TV. Besides, if you’re going to go sight-seeing in New York City, it’s best to do it with someone–either someone who knows where they’re going, or someone who can get lost with you.

I know some New Yorkers, and many of them seem to have a fierce loyalty to the Big Apple. It’s far from a perfect city–and they’d be the first to complain about the politics, the people, and countless other things–but, as one puts it, it takes a crowbar to get them to leave. That sentiment alone makes me want to visit New York City properly one day; see the sights, preferably not by myself, though.

One such die-hard New Yorker is Billy Joel. He was born in the Bronx, raised in Hicksville, and currently has homes in Centre Island and Sag Habor. When he signed with Columbia Records in 1972, he moved to L.A., and lived there for three years. It was toward the end of his time in California that he wrote “New York State of Mind” to express his feelings about being away from his home State. In 1976, he returned to New York, formed a band, and recorded the album “Turnstiles” which features this song.

The style of the song is an intentional homage to Ray Charles, one of Joel’s musical heroes. For live shows, he’ll often don a pair of sunglasses and impersonate Charles while performing “New York State of Mind.” This is a lovely tribute, but for me it takes away from the intensely personal feelings of the song, which I think come through in the original studio recording. The introduction features a solo piano, but it’s more than just Billy Joel hitting notes on a keyboard. There’s an incredible sense of yearning in those notes and chords, which is only further amplified when he starts singing. Few songs express love of a city with this kind of passion, which is why it has become a much-loved anthem among New Yorkers.

I’ve noticed a lot of sheet music companies don’t bother transcribing the introduction, and I quite understand. The playing is a bit too loose for a regular time signature. Nevertheless, I’ve always wanted to figure it out properly, so here’s my attempt (and I’ll add: this was the most challenging transcription I’ve attempted so far). Again, I’m not trained in transcription, and especially for this song I encourage you to listen to the recording and adjust my note timings to that:

NewYorkStateOfMind_Intro

Here’s the lead sheet. Guitarists can substitute the E7#9 (which is an E7 with a G-note added–yes, a G and a G# in the same chord!) for a regular E7 if they prefer. You’ll notice there are a lot of bluesy/jazzy chords in this song, which I suppose is only to be expected. If you don’t know how to form the chords (either on guitar or piano), you can look them up online, or contact me if you prefer.

NewYorkStateOfMind

Finally, the videos. First, here’s the song as it appears on the “Turnstiles” album. The album was released on CD a while ago, but was then re-mastered and re-released. This re-mastered version has a different saxophone track on “New York State of Mind” which doesn’t play over the ending. I’m not sure why they didn’t use the original saxophone track, especially since I think the ending sounds bare and incomplete without it. So the version I present here is the re-mastered version but with the original ending substituted (speed and volume-adjusted to match the re-master). Hopefully you can’t hear the join!:

And here’s a clip of Billy Joel performing “New York State of Mind” live on the Mike Douglas Show on August 9th, 1976, not long after the release of “Turnstiles”:

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