Monday, April 30, 2007

Record Review: On A Clear Night by Missy Higgins

The Sophomore Jinx; it exists in many different realms be it Sports, Arts, the dating scene or music. How many musical acts have put out that amazing first record, which is filled with years worth of writing and work only to fall flat on their face the second time around. For a lot of them it's because they try to rush that second record out to be able to ride the wave of good press they have from the first. The problem with that is they rarely have the time during the tour for the first record to take the time to write good songs, and they are overly influenced by their production team in an effort to compensate.

There are a few who take the time to get it right, however, and thank god for one such artist: Missy Higgins. She hit it big in Australia after winning a radio station's unsigned acts competition. Rather then rushing into her first record, since she was only in her teens at the time, she traveled around and lived a bit of life. Once made that record sold nearly 900,000 copy's which is almost one for every 20 people in Australia. To get that kind of coverage in America an act would have to sell 15 Million records! So you can bet that she felt a ton of pressure to get right back in the studio and make that second record right away. She didn't do that, though. Rather she took two more years to live some more, and become an even more complete writer.

That second record, On A Clear Night, hit Aussie stores on April 28th, but is available to listen to on MySpace. There are only 11 tracks on the record, but they are more than sufficient to let us, the listener, know where Missy is now, at 23. There are still tales of love and loss, but there are also upbeat observations of what life can be. One thing that certainly hasn't changed is Missy's amazingly unique singing voice complete with her Aussie accent.

My favorite track on the record is "Going North" which tells the tale of a person who is ready to try something new in their life. She wrote the song in Broome, which is a small country town "where the desert meets the sea" in northern Australia. The song features a line that I think encapsulates the feeling behind chucking it all and just going... anywhere, an urge I have often. "So goodbye for a while, I'm off to learn more about who I really was before." Missy accomplished this in Broome, but we all can think of the one place we'd like to run to.

While in Broome Missy says she stared up at the night's sky one night and found perspective. In that part of the world you can see all the stars in the southern hemisphere and most of the ones in the Northern hemisphere as well. While looking at them Missy says she knew that she had to be in control of her life, because she realised how small she was in the massive scheme of things. It was from this experience that she wrote the first hit single from the record, "Steer". One read through the lyrics of "Steer" is enough to make you want to seize control of your life, if only we all had as much control as young Missy does.

Missy not only writes from her own life, but also pens songs that are flights of fancy. Her song "Forgive Me" wraps up the album and seems to be an apology from a man who has cheated on his wife. Missy tells a story on stage about the time in College (that's high school to you Yank) when she wrote a short peice of fiction about the same topic. When her father came to class he was upset to find out that the teacher thought the story was about him. Another fictional song on the record is "Angela" which Missy says was inspired by seeing a photo of Vivian Leigh being held by Clark Gable. Rather than believe that Vivian was helplessly dependant on Clark, Missy chose to see it as Vivian having Clark wrapped around her little finger. This made her think of a number of women she knows who embody this same spirit and she wrote "Angela, you're a danger he's addicted to."

There are no misses on this record, and there's a little bit for every one. "100 Round The Bends" "Steer" and "Peachy" are faster paced songs with catchy hooks, although the latter has a bit of a bitter tinge to it. "Forgive Me" and "Going North" are slower and more soulful as they build to a crescendo. "Warm Whispers" features a fantastic bit of keyboard and smooth cooing vocals while "Secret" is an open letter to a secret lover sung over three deep notes.

One other stand out track on the record is "Sugarcane" with it's poignant portrayal of life under the microscope of a judgmental world. "You see my peep-show booth is handy, there's a one way only mirror. So I can dance and let my hair down, but I don't see if you get bitter. There's a button right beside me, if I want a wall to hide me. If only the ballerina had one too." Higgins has a way with words that make the images in her songs accessible to just about anyone who takes the time to think about their own life. Introspection can be a hard process to go through, but Missy has something to say about that as well on the track "The Wrong Girl." "So the flood gates open, but nothing comes out. I'm feeling no relief in my head, just doubt. My heart keeps telling me 'hold your ground, you'll never learn a thing if you bail out now.'"

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Movie Review: Somersault

Have you ever known someone, who you just didn't "get" until after your friendship with them ended? The type of person who pissed you off and you can't stand to be around, but then you find yourself missing them when they're gone. That's the way the movie Somersault is. When Inky and I got it from Netflix the other day I was pretty excited because it was a big time award winner in Australia. The star, Abbie Cornish, is slated to be in the next Bond movie, and has been called "the next Sienna Miller." So we were ready to be blown away.

Then, we started watching the movie. It's about a 16 year old girl, Heidi, who is dealing with issues of her burgeoning sexuality, her need to be loved and telling the difference between the two. Heidi gets caught putting the moves on her mother's boyfriend and rather than deal with the fall out, she hits the road. She leaves Canberra for the ski resort town of Jindabyne in search of a boy who once gave her his number at the mall. Once she is blown off by this guy, she proceeds to have an anonymous sexual experience in an RV with a bloke on his way to Sydney.

Heidi life begins to normalize a bit when she manages to find a flat, a job and what would pass for a boyfriend in Joe, played by Sam Worthington. Joe has just as many issues as Heidi, and for a moment it looks like their two individual negatives will make a positive. But it's not in the cards. Worthington and Cornish do a great job of portraying an early 20's guy and a mid to late teens girl who are on poor footing in the world of love and sex. Things degenerate for Joe and Heidi and in the end Heidi if forced to make a choice in how to proceed with her life.

Heidi struggles in all aspects of interpersonal interaction, and Joe lacks the rudimentary knowledge of himself needed to know what to do next. The characters are odd, verging on dumb, but somehow likable. After finishing the movie I shoved it back into it's Netflix envelope without considering a second viewing and off it went. Now I am getting it back, because the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to take another look.

First time director Cate Shortland did a wonderful job making Somersault visually appealing right off the bat. She does a lot with colors, and extreme closeup shots that make you take notice, but it's her writing that has me coming back for another viewing. Her portrayal of regular events in an otherwise unspectacular life is refreshingly honest and real. So often we can become pre-programmed by the movie industry, told that the mundane doesn't make for a good backdrop for a story. But, that's just not true. And so, I'll wait until Wednesday or Thursday so I can take another look at Somersault, because it really stayed with me after I finished watching it. In this day and age that doesn't happen to me all too often, so when it does I take notice. I also say, that's good work out of Cate Shortland.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's over 80....Let's Get Naked!

I went to college during the grunge era, when girls wore baggie tops and even looser jeans or chords. What a difference a decade makes. The mercury passed 80 here in central PA over the last 4 or 5 days, and skin has been on display all over campus. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, because I wouldn't dream of it. But, there's a kind of girls-gone-wildification of this crop of young people that I am often amazed by. Sure, when I was in school you would get the odd occasional boob flash from a drunk girl at a party, but there was alcohol involved. Maybe it's because Britney, Paris and Lindsay feel free to flash their snatches every other week that today's youth are so comfortable showing off more skin.

All I know is this; they can't wait to show you what they've got. In the last few days since it's started to get nice out, I've seen a few different examples of this. Late last week I saw another School's Baseball Team getting changed... in my parking lot. There they were, 25 or so young men in various states of undress. Half had no shirts on, others were standing in just their sliding shorts and a cap (because baseball players love their hats) and not a one of them seemed to be uncomfortable. And it's not just the boys, I also saw a young female student whip her shirt off and reach into her backpack for another one, with no regard for the fact that she was standing there in just her undergarments. It took me a few months of living with my roommates in college before I would walk around in my boxers, and I was much, much, much thinner then. And most girls I knew could change their bra without even so much as taking their shirts off.

All I have seen can not measure up to what I apparently missed on Monday, when I was not at the office. Several different independent sources have told me the same story so I must believe that it did happen, although I can not possibly believe fully until I see it with my own eyes... or on youtube. Here's how they say it went down: At about 3:00 a group of about 10 to 15 bikini clad coeds walked out on to the field next to my office with a ball and began a spontaneous volleyball game. Apparently there was no net, and they were using a soccer ball, but let's face it, this game was not about side-outs and kills, it was about getting a date for Friday night. They attracted a crowd as they jumped, ran and jiggled about in their tiny swimwear.

Call me a "Doubting Greazy" but I will not believe until I see with my own eyes. And with only 18 days left in the semester time may be running out for my proof to show it's self. So I'll have to get by on faith. One day at a time. One day at a time.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I saw an interview with Cal Ripken earlier this week where he was asked about his son, Ryan, who is now playing youth baseball. Cal made the comment that his son normally wears his number, 8, when playing sports and that the choice is all Ryan's. I would have been the same. I always wanted to be like my Dad, and I made a lot of decisions based on the example he set.

Fathers and Sons. It's an age old relationship that can go many different ways. Most of us pale in comparison to our old men, and are better served by trying our own thing. I think the President is a good example of this, but there are some politicians who have done their Dad's names proud. Bob Casey Jr. and Richard M. Daley come to mind.

While it can be very hard for a young man to follow in his father's footsteps, it can be quite rewarding to those who knew the father, and see simalar traits in the son. I think of family business for this scenario (eg Ford, Anheuser Bush, or Yuengling) where generations of the family's have lead the company. There is a sense of stability involved in this, which once can liken to the Royal Dynasty's of the middle ages.

Sports is the other arena where people can appreciate a familiar name. Of course there is more pressure, but there is also bound to be more immediate acceptance. Ken Griffy Jr could do no wrong in Cincinnati even when he was getting hurt every year, because the city loved his dad. The same was true when Barry Bonds first went to San Francisco, where his dad Bobby was a star. I think that preexisting relationship is what has made it possible for the people out there to love his so much when the rest of the country hates him. The one big problem is that the system is flawed, in that it does not allow for a player to play for his father's team until he becomes a free agent because he is subject to the draft.

Leave it to the Aussies to come up with a great solution to this problem. As I detailed in a post I did last year there are circumstances when a player can go right to his father's old club straight out of school. The father-son rule states that once a player has become a lifetime member of a club, usually after 150 games then that club is able to take any of his sons before the common draft starts.

The player has to agree to be taken, thus allowing a player who wants to blaze their own trail to do so, and the team must forfeit it's third round pick if a son is taken. In 2005 Marc Murphy opted to pass up on the chance to play for the Brisbane Lions (His father played for the Fitzroy Lions) and was taken first overall by Carlton in the draft.

Other teams, such as the Geelong Cats who I follow, have been more active on the father-son front. Geelong has 6 players on their roster who's dads also pulled on a Cats jumper. Matthew Scarlett, Mark Blake, Tim Callan and the Ablett brothers, Nate and Gary Jr., all play in the same town their dads did.

Gary Ablett Sr was one of the greatest players of all time, and still his son's wanted to be Cats, which must be great for a guy who been a Geelong supporter for long enough to have seen them both play. The sixth son on the Geelong Side this year is Tom Hawkins who at 18 made his debut with the Cats earlier this season.

Hawkins is a big boy standing 197 CM and tipping the scale at 108 KG (that's 6-4 240 to you Yank) and he may be just the thing the Cats need as they start the 2007 fixture 2-2. And I know of what I speak, cause the O's could really use a tall left handed pitcher in 2015 and it would be nice to be able to have Ryan in Baltimore.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Thinking of My Old Man.

In the nearly 5 years since my father died I have found certain things that really remind me of him. I have many small reminders in my daily life, such as the watch my mother gave him on their wedding day or his cufflinks and ties. Not to mention the fact that at least two or three days a week I literally walk in his shoes. The man knew how to dress, and I try to keep that legacy alive. He also knew how to cook, and it's through his gastronomic creations that I also try to remember him.

So let me take a moment to introduce you to one of his favorites that my family just calls "the sub." There are many different types of heros, grinders, subs and sandwiches and my old man loved them all, but this one was uniquely Dad. The Sub wasn't only about eating it, but the experience of making it, and the style and flair needed to consume it appropriately. It was there throughout my life, usually on weekends. It was always eaten off metal army issue plates passed down from my maternal Grandfather. To this day, I find them oddly comforting, and I try and have them a few times a year.

As I said, it was never just about eating the Sub. Sometimes we were allowed to go to the store with him to lay in the supplies. Two pounds of good provolone cheese, a pound and a half of Genoa salami, tomatoes, a few loaves of crusty French bread and most importantly a few jars peppers both roasted peppers and sandwich peppers which are not hot. Of course, since we were at the grocery store we probably also picked about 23 other things that we didn't intend on getting, since this was his modus operandi.

Once we were home he would set to work cutting the tomatoes and putting them in a big metal bowl with the peppers and a liberal amount of olive oil and vinegar. The man loved metal bowls, and always found a way to use them in food prep. While doing this he would often take a piece of provolone and salami and roll them up together making a tiny appetizer which he would dunk in the bowl, covering it in the combined juice. After the first bite he would say "Mhhh, that's good" and go back to work with a simile on his face. If he wasn't smiling while he was prepping our lunch, he was probably singing along to what ever song was on the tiny radio propped against the wall, on top of the radiator. He was a happy cook, but a lacking singer.

The next step would be to cut the bread, being sure to leave a hinge on the bottom, and pull a bit of it out to allow for maximum space to accommodate the tomato and pepper mix. Before assembly could begin, the bread needed to be dressed with the liquid from the bowl, soaking it. Next he would lay the provolone on each side of the bread, approximately three per side for a 6 inch sub. On top of that would go 6 slices of salami which finished off the hardware. Bread, meat, cheese. Now came the software, tomatoes peppers and more of the combined juice. A work of culinary art, but like most art, what made it great wasn't just the what, but also the where and the how.

He would slop your sub on one of Pop's old metal plates and hand it across the counter to you with a few paper towels and send you on your merry way. Then it was time to eat the sub, the act of which being almost as important to me now as the taste. As you held the sub up more of those juices dripped out of the bottom, and pooled in the small dents in Pop's old plates. After each bite we would sop up the pools with the business end of the sub, thus ensuring none of it went to waist.

It's all gold to me, just as much now as it was then. Looked at through the lenses of time these Saturdays and Sundays serve as constant reminders of the little things that we all loved about the man who was also responsible for many big things. Anyone that knew my old man, knew that he really took the time to appreciate the little things, a lesson that I believe he taught by example. So today as I made my sub, stopping to have a salami and cheese roll along the way, I though of my Dad. As I ate the sub I thought of days spent with my family back in Jersey, and I smiled thinking about the little things.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Song Spotlight: "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding"

The events of the last few days, weeks, and years are truly troubling to me. I wonder where the world is heading, and if we can be saved from ourselves. Greed, anger and hate seem to become more and more prevalent each day, and those that preach love, selflessness and compassion are laughed at and called hippies. Even our worlds supposed religious people tend to gravitate to the hypocrisy of modern society. Go to any church in America this Sunday and I guaranty you can find a bunch of NRA stickers on the cars. Let alone the amount the cars cost, both to buy and to fuel, money that could be used for so many other worthwhile endeavors. But, if you want to talk about anti-war sentiment, environmental responsibility or being part of a world community that helps one another people laugh at you. So today I spotlight the Nick Lowe song that was made famous by Elvis Costello and infamous by Bob Harris.

As I walk through
This wicked world
Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity.
I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?
And each time I feel like this inside,
There's one thing I wanna know:
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?

And as I walked on
Through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
So where are the strong
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.
'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away, just makes me wanna cry.
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?
So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.
'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away, just makes me wanna cry.
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?
What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?


Monday, April 16, 2007

Somehow, I Don't Think Moses Would Aprove

At least 22 people are dead in Blacksburg VA today, and thousands upon thousands are dead in Iraq. Those are facts, but, what we don't know is how we got here. This is America, where we used to be the good guy in the White Hat, and we did what was right. We used to look down our noses at people around the world who killed indiscriminately, calling their societies barbarous. There was a time in our nation when we were slow to anger, almost to a fault. We didn't jump into conflict unless it was unavoidable, and only if it was for the greater good.

I'm sorry folks, but, we're not that nation anymore. Go out and rent Flags of Our Fathers, cause those days are long gone in America. Sacrifice and real National Pride are not in the American lexicon any longer. We are a nation of people who will fight to the death for the right for your average, mentally unstable, sociopath to have as many guns as they can afford. "You can have my gun when you pry it out of my cold dead hands" right? And yet other rights are cast aside like so much wasted time. The American populous doesn't make sense anymore, and frankly I think we've lost the edge for good. Two men can't get hitched, but one man can arm himself to the teeth with guns that have no purpose other then mass-killing and waltz into any school or onto any campus across America.

Sure, that makes tons of sense.

Is this what Jesus would really want folks? Why don't you people stop thumping that book and read the fucker! Why is it that the people who purport to be such devout followers of the one true God are the same who are all for waging war, facilitating death and propagating pain? I pray that there is a God, and I pray that he will damn each an every one of the people who have it in their power to foster love and yet choose to foster hate and death. I hope that when Chuck Heston and W meet their maker he is so disgusted at the life of excess, waist and hypocrisy they lead that the heavens will shake with his wrath.

Each day that we are occupying Iraq, a means which no end can justify, I am less proud to be a human. Note, I didn't say American, because this misuse of power is far bigger than one nation. Even thought we happen to be the Authors of this particular story of woe, it is being duplicated all over Africa and makes the modern version of Man no better than that of the dark ages. Each time a disgruntled worker, a student or an ex-boyfriend puts a gun in his hand and chooses to point it at others before he inevitably points it at himself, I am less proud to be a man. I don't know what could possibly be so wrong with your life to make you want to take someone Else's, but I do know that something must be done to keep guns out of the hands of people like this. Just as something must be done to devalue the reasons for war. Because as long as people see something to gain, or worse nothing to loose, then we will be plagued with more killing.

In the end, should we really expect more when we have leaders that can't let go of their losers playbook? Amid all the pain and loss of life today all the White House could say about what happened at VT was: "The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed," That nugget of clarity from Dana Perino, White House Spokes Person.

Some people just don't get it. They say "gun's don't kill people, people do." They don't want you do take away their second amendment right, because they are good, law abiding people, you know... the people next-door. Funny isn't it, that when they interview the neighbors of the people that go on these rampages that they all say "he seemed like a nice guy. Real normal, I can't believe he would do something like this."


Friday, April 13, 2007

Vox Populi, Vox Dei

I'm going to go in a few different directions here, so bear with me. Don Imus was fired yesterday, and it seems as if that was the will of the people. Imus said something stupid, insensitive, and playing on overarching stereotypes. It was a remarkably stupid thing to say, and an incredibly stupid move on a national radio and TV show. I've met the man, and while I don't think he is a particularly evil person, but I don't think he has a real diverse group of friends either, if you know what I mean. His radio show has thrived for 30 odd years on mass generalizations and short sighted rhetoric. In short, I think he's kind of a dick... but there's no way he should have been fired for what he said. Docked a few weeks pay, maybe, but fired? Not in America.

Do I think what he said was hurtful and damaging? Yes. Do I think the world would be a better place if less people went to him to help form their opinions? Absolutely. Are there 20 other broadcasters who do far more damage with out stepping on feux pas landmines? You bet. Fire Nancy Grace, Bill O'Reilly and the rest of the oversimplifying fear mongers first, and leave the bigoted old men to fade out preaching to a bunch of other bigoted old men. It's not as if Imus was reaching a hip and impressionable demographic.

Why won't people start using their voice in the correct way? We are far more powerful then we ever give ourselves credit for. Turn off the TV, change Radio stations, pick up another news paper and subscribe to another magazine. If you just turn away from these people they fade away and stop having power enough to sustain their reign. As we learned from a classic Simpsons "Tree House of Horrors" episode: "Just don't Look." At least not when it comes to stupid, short-sighted losers like Don Imus. If we stop pumping these douche bags up, then they will just get fired because they aren't relevant anymore. By axing Imus under these circumstances he's just become a martyr to a group 0f people who make it a point to blame the decline of society on Political Correctness, and the coddling of minorities.

Actions like these, and the over-blown media coverage of this stuff, is having the opposite effect of what we want. We want a world were people are more accepting and respectful of one another, but we'll never get there this way. That's because 70% of the people out there are already very respectful of those who are different from them. And most of that 70% teach their kids to be the same way. The problem is the other 30% who feel like there is a movement afoot to give all the benefits to Blacks, Latins, Women, Jews and Gays and want some one to blame for it. They see the Imus firring as proof that the PC police have gone too far, and they lionize him like some kind of Ned Kelly or Billy the Kid.

We all need to remember the old adage we learned in grade school. Stick and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. Words can and do hurt, but name calling and stereotyping only picks up speed when it is over reacted to. It's also important to understand intent and differentiate between someone who has true hate in their heart and those who make dreadful choices in what they choose to say. That goes hand in hand with the idea that if its not OK for some to use the word, it's not ok for anyone.

If you are going to yell at Imus for saying 'ho' then yell at Flavor Flav too. I don't advocate that, mind you, because I think it is all about intent. I don't think that black comics hate whites when they make over arching generalizations about them, and I don't find the use of words like Wop, Guinea or Dego offensive. Because they are only words. Say you're going to hurt someone I care for and you've got a fight on your hands, but call me a Wop and I'll just laugh.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Show Review: Thank God You're Here

Any of you that know me, know that I have an unhealthy obsession with all things Down Under. When Inky and I went to Oz a few years back all we did was make it ten time worse, by opening ourselves up to parts of their pop culture that we don't get here. On part was Rove Live, or now just Rove a TV show that smacks of Mid 80's style Letterman, which was when he was his best. Inky and I both loved Rove McManus and his show on Nine Network, and we also enjoyed a lot of other TV as we rested out tired feet from hours and hours of walking during the day and evening.

Now Rove is on Ten, which also has a hit show called Thank God You're Here, which we have imported to the US and to NBC. NBC seems to lead the league in shows brought from over seas, even thought the biggest one, Idol, is on FOX. The American version of Thank God is pretty much a carbon copy of the Aussie original, right down to the Theme Song "Come Anytime" by Sydney rockers Hoodoo Gurus.

The premise of the show is simple; a guest actor comes on and is sent through a blue door by Host David Allen Greer. Once through the door the actor encounters a scene where all the other actors know what's going on and our guest has to use improv skills to be funny, but also just to keep up. Their performance is judged by Dave Foley, who in the end pick the best of the 4 guests based on how well they fit into the unfamiliar surroundings and how funny they were.

The Guest stars that were featured on the first two episodes were: Wayne Knight, Joel McHale, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Cranston, Mo'Nique, Edie McClurg, Richard Kind, and Kevon Nealon. Some like McHale, Cranston and Nealon have been outstanding while just about all of them were at the very least laugh-out-loud funny. Adding to the impact of the skits is the group of "regulars" headed by Maribeth Monroe who has been great in each of the scenes she has appeared in. The other three are also very skilled improv actors and I look forward to seeing more of Chris Tallman, Nyima Funk and Brian Palermo as the season goes on.

All in all this is a very enjoyable hour of TV, even if we didn't come up with the idea first. Hell, the Australian show is really just a version of Who's Line Is It Anyway, which we also copied and which may have been funny if not for Drew Carey. It's just nice to see something that's a bit different from all the other junk on the tube these days.


Monday, April 09, 2007

You've got (hate) mail

My mail lady must be really confused. I've often wondered how much you could tell about a person from the mail they receive. On one hand we get Maxim, but we also get Bust and Bitch. We get mail from Adam and Eve and the Baseball Hall of Fame, no to mention the countless sports related catalogues we get thanks to past Christmas and Birthday presents. Inky gets a ton of leftist solicitations from the likes of NOW, Planed Parenthood and the ACLU, but I get regular mailings from a guy who is just a hair to the right of Attila the Hun. There's nothing wrong with having divergent points of view, or even interests that seem at odds with one another, and that may be what our postal worker thinks of us by looking at our mail. But, there's a reason I have fundamentalist religious propaganda sent to my house.

It's something my Dad once told me: Know your enemy. If you don't understand what the crazy fringe is up to, you will never be able to understand the rank and file. And so it was that I opened a Chick Tract a few years ago, at my old job, and was exposed to the very edge of the Christian fanatical fringe. Jack Chick writes little comic books he calls "Chick Tracts" that are morality plays at their very simplest level.

The storyline always plays out the same way; a sinner (Homosexual, Non believer, Jew, Muslim, Catholic or even Rock and roll fan or a burgeoning young D&D player) comes in contact with and evangelical Christian who points out their faults. The Christan quotes scripture to tell the sinner what rock solid evidence they have that Jesus' way is the only way, and one of two things happens. Either the person repents and comes to the light (often way too fast, and with far too little introspection) or they shrug off the Word of the Lord and are shown in the end being sent to the Lake of Fire.

I'm not joking! That's how simple it is to them, and what's worse, the second grade simplicity with which they implement biblical teachings is akin to drinking the Cool Aid. So why did I latch on to thes little bundles of hate? Cause they're funny as shit, that's why. I started collecting them like baseball cards, getting excited every time we got a new one. You see, I worked in the mailroom of the worlds largest credit card company, and about 10 or 15 people a night would include the tracts in their payments. I got so impatient waiting to collect the whole set, that I just went ahead and ordered if from Chick's website. And now he won't leave me alone, but on the bright side, every time he sends me a catalog it includes the newest piece of garbagehe has published.

I'm still waiting to receive on of the "alternate versions" he has that are adapted for black readers. Classic! Ned Flanders once said that he adhered to every dictum in the Bible, even the ones that contradicted themselves. Jack Chick is Ned Flanders, but not nearly as likable. What Jack Chick has, that most fanatical Christians lack is a fully developed conspiracy complex (see The Westboro Baptist Church).

According to Chick's Tract "Holocaust" the crime of the century perpetrated against the Jews was fully planned and carried out by the Pope. He blames most every fault of the modern world on Masons, Jews, and most of all Catholics. In fact, as far as Chick is concerned there is no greater evil on the planet then the Pope and his flock.

Very few people are spared the wrath of Jack Chick, which makes me wonder what his savior would think of his vitriol laced funny papers. What I can never get my mind around is how the followers of such a kind, loving and gentle man can be so filled with hate. Jesus wasn't a 'hate' kind of guy. He said that the way you treat the least of mankind was the way you treat him. My guess that if Jesus did come back he wouldn't be radical enough for this 10% of Christians who need something to believe in so bad, that they take it too far. The rest of the people of the world do get it, they don't need to hate people and be so presumptuous as to tell them what their creator will say about them at their judgment.

However, we must keep our eye on this small yet ever growing contingent of Evangelicals who hate everyone who doesn't do it just like they do. In their mind treating others as you would like to be treated, and being kind to other's will land you in hell, if you don't follow their laws to the letter while doing it. Just ask Rabbi Waxman.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Record Review: Amy Winehouse

I guess Jazz isn't dead after all, and I'm not talking about that guy who hangs around the open mic night with the soul patch and stupid hat either. Amy Winehouse had got it all when it comes to being a Jazz Singer. She's a Jewish Brit, which can be tough and even though she's only 24 she's already struggled with deamons and told she needed to go to rehab. "They tried to make go to rehab but I said 'no, n0, no'" is the first line of the first song on Back to Black, Winehouse's second record. The song, "Rehab", is a straight forward admisson that she has a problem, and dispite many imarrasing incidents in public while drunk, she doesn't plan to change that. She once heckled Bono when he was reciving an award; I guess she's the black sheep of the Jazz world.

Dispite all her personal problems, which also include reported eating disorders, this record is amazing. Maybe it is so great because Winehouse is a tortured soul, like so many other Jazz singers before her. I can't get over her voice, which has the same kind of sound to personal apperance mismatch of your average Zoo Crew Morning DJ. Listening to Winehouse sing you conjure up visions of a 285 pound Black woman, but when you see her you wonder where all that power comes from. The music and compisition on this record are top notch, but I just can't get past the vocals which are quite simply amazing.
All this is not to say that Winehouse is just immitating the Jazz that was played in the 30's and 40's, because she has very much her own style. Her subject matter is very 21st century and her style is all at once fresh and base. In the song "Me and Mr. Jones" she uses a word that has now become part of my vernacular to ask what is amis with a situation. "What kind of fuckery is this? You made me miss the Slick Rick gig." Fuckery! Great word.

The best song on the record is "You Know I'm No Good" which has a great sound to it. Even though it is very eclectic it also sounds like a breath of fresh air in a world where everything comes off as fake. I also really enjoy "Some Unholy War" and "Love is a Losing Game" which really show off the range of tallents she has as both a writer and vocalist. You must buy this record, or else, turn in your cool card to: I'm A big Loser Who Doesn't Get It Inc. PO Box 11286 New York, NY 10081.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Song Spotlight: "Get Up Outta The Dirt" by The Butterfingers

Back on January 23rd I spotlighted the song "Yo Mama" by and Aussie Hip Hop group called Butterfingers. They have a very unique and refreshing approach to music, that I think the sceen is sadly missing these days. They are irreverent and funny, although some my just see them as crass and disgusting. They sing songs about compleat non-sequitors and also have a few pointed things to say on the political tip. "Yo Mama" was from their '04 record "Breakfast at Fatboys" and that record also featured a song called "Is It Just Me" As an American it would be easy to thing some of the lines in the song are about the US, and President Bush "Is it just me or is the leader of the Country some kind of weiner? Voter must be drunk on funky cold medina to be so confussed about which policy to choose. Everytime he make's a promise, I am honestly amused." Those lines are actualy about their Prime Minister, John Howard, but some concepts are universial. To that end, I present "#35 on the TGWOOfY top 100 songs of 2006.

If You Sniffle cause your life's difficult that's typical
but you get what you give, karma is reciprocal
And I'm critical of people on my nuts
Cunts who are aren't crippeld, but they're stuck up in their ruts.
Quick to make a fuss, they love busting a bubble
This is my rebuttal to we like 'em when they're trouble

I got a coupleof bones to pick
it's your life don't whine, take ownership
Get up, stand up throw ya hands up
While i hijack ya mind back from propaganda,
with anti slander, truth and candor
and it's good for the goose as it is for the gander.

Every gamut of the planet reaps what it sows
forget about ya hair and forget about ya clothes
same goes for you woes. For the moment is priceless
Puberty blues become midlife crisis.
Surprise, Ya get wiser, older, fatter
Ya lose ya mind and controle of your bladder
Madder than a hatter and pissin in ya pants
Everybody's ugly if you give them a chance.

There's never been a better time then right now to get up out of the dirt.
This isn't an attack, or a lack of compassion
but, you gotta get yourself back into action
Tap into ya passion, and follow it up
Either that or let the madness swallow you up.

How full is your cup? Half full or half empty
you're the envy of plenty, tread gently
Apathy is deadly and if you got deed of doubt
with the means to sprout
you need to weed them out

I read about people with cares
and feel for the hunger stricken killed in Ziare.
Children die there from extream poverty,
I put in perspective and my problems don't bother me.
Think positive, forget about the negative
There's never been a better time to get ya shit together
it's bad etiquette to bitch and moan
With your nice clean clothes and your mobile phone.

If you can't see your feet, cause you over eat,
and that's your bigeest problem then ya life is sweet.
Not sleeping on the street?
Then you probably got it good .
Get up, hold ya head up. If you can then ya should.

There's never been a better time than right now to get up out of the dirt.
Stand up straight
don't take no shit
Ears over shoulders
shoulders over hips
it's time for a change so make it swift
cause your only getting older
You're alive, why don't ya live.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Show Review: The Tudors

I know it was as The French King Louis XVI that Mel Brooks once said "It's good to be the king" but that motto holds true in all manner of popular culture. A few weeks ago one of my favorite TV shows, Rome, ended it's run after just two seasons. However, that show stood as yet one more portrayal of the lavish and opulent lives lived by great rulers. Luckily, I didn't have to wait too long to get my next fix of a royal soap opera. Showtime debuted The Tudors this past weekend and their portrait of Henry VIII makes Mark Antony and Cesar look like a loser.

Let's just say the young Henry (Played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers) gets his freak on... a whole lot. If power was attractive in 44 BC, it still worked just as well in 1529. The young Henry is like a sports hero, a rock star and a CEO all rolled into one. The kind of man that par rents unabashedly push their young daughters onto, in the hopes that his fancy may swing their way and that they may become the next Queen. In the first episode we are showed the end of King Hank's marriage to Catherin of Aragon and foreshadows his introduction to two of his future wives: Ann and Mary Boleyn (played by Natalie Dormer and Perdita Weeks). They were the two that ended up headless in the old Mnemonic to remember the fate of Henry's wives: Divorced, Beheaded, Died. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived. The first of the 10 hours of the show also featured Henry bedding Bessie Blount, who would go on to give him his first son: Henry FitzRoy. That's a lot of history for one hour!

I can't wait for the rest of the show, and I'm just sorry they are limiting themselves to one, very short season. These historical dramas can really be done justice on cable, unlike what either TV or a feature film can do. Obviously you can't have the nudity, sex, cursing and violence on over-the-air TV, and a film can only push the 3 hour mark which forces much of the story to be left out. These series' on HBO and Showtime allow the story to really be fleshed out. It's just some good work out of Showtime! I can't wait to see what happens next for Henry and Ann (even though I already know) and what extra sub-plots the writers will have for us.


Monday, April 02, 2007

If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie Castaway is when Chuck is telling the story of his failed plan to hang himself it things got too unbearable for him in his island. He tested the rope with a log that approximated his weight, because he couldn't do anything without a plan. I thought that was a great illustration of what the character was all about.

I can be like that too, and most of the people who know me think I'm a dork because of it. Well, ok, I am a dork because of it, but thankfully so is XL. This weekend he and I drove 4 hours from my house to Cooperstown New York to plan for a trip we are taking there this summer. In addition to being a nice get away in early spring, it served as a reconnaissance trip for us, so we can get around without much trouble this summer when 100,000 other baseball fans show up for Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

It's not like we haven't been to Cooperstown before, because we have gone 8 or 9 times by now. And it's not as if we haven't been there for a Hall of Fame induction before, because we were in attendance when Eddie Murray was enshrined in 2003. This time is different, however, due to the staggering drawing power of the two men being honored this summer. In a story right out of central casting; two guys grow up loving the hometown team and then spend their whole career playing for that team. Gwynn was a student at San Diego State, and Ripken was a Baltimore boy and they managed to get drafted by the hometown team. Once there they bucked a growing trend in the 80's and 90' and played their whole career in one town. Along the way Gwynn cemented himself as pretty much one of the two or three greatest hitters since WWII, and Ripken had massive appeal for many reasons. Yes, he played in 2,632 games with out taking a day off, but he also collected more than 3,000 hits and 400 home runs which actually meant something in most of the years he was active.

It is because of all they meant to the game that so many of us love, that so many of us will make the trip to the tiny village in NY this summer. And it is because of all those other people who will be going to Cooperstown for the first time that XL and I booked our accommodations back in October, almost 10 months in advance. It's also the reason we took our trip this past weekend, so we could map out alternate routes to and from our hotels and camp sites. We also had a nice little meal and hit the tittie bar too, which never hurts, but our primary focus was to be prepared. Like good lil Boy Scouts.