Saturday, November 21, 2009

Used Car Salesmen of Faith

After watching MSNBC for the last three years because of my growing distrust of getting anything sensible from mainstream media sources due to their continued use of datum that is easily refuted, it has been a growing concern of mine that the whole idea of "family values" have been hijacked by the "far evangelical right". What is even more of a concern is that these folks that profess to be inspired by "faith" and "religious compassion" turn out to be nothing more than "used care salesmen of faith".

Let me backtrack a bit here because I REALLY don't want to be misunderstood by my family and friends who are devout practioners of faith. I think that you are being sold a bill of goods and you are confusing someone professing to be devout as being someone who stands for good. religious extremism is not the basis on which this country was founded. In fact, the country was founded in large part because of the religious intolerance that was commonplace in England. The founding fathers idea was that religion was a personal choice and should not be involved in government so much so that our landmark documents decree that there should be a separation between church and state. Granted most of the religious differences were those based upon Christian sects but there was no provision listed for excluding the practice of any religion. namely, you could worship as you wished and with the understanding that our country isn't a theocracy.

I was brough up Presbyterian.... Mom made us go to church for a while but we sort of fell out of it as a family. In all honesty, there wasn't one sermon, moment or memory that stayed with me throughout my youth that has stayed with me to these days after my time spent in the pews. My Bible School and Bible Camp experiences were tear enduring exercises due to my youthful naivete, which were enabled by Mom and Dad thru their moral and ethical notions of never being afraid of telling the truth. The reason that these experiences were so painful is that I never "saw God". Jesus did not touch me and due to my admittance that I did not "feel". I was then ostrasized because I never felt that "special calming touch or awe in his prescence or a sense of peace with myself". Maybe I was and still am defective. I don't know.

Since that time, I will freely admit that I have never been religious nor even curious about finding a spiritual comfort of turning myself and my troubles over to a higher power. I do believe that there are people who do have faith and that it is a powerful force for them and does provide them with comfort and direction in their lives. I freely acknowledge that there are many churches that provide comfort to the sick, a helping hand to the poor and aide to our elderly. Some go so far as to help educate our children, provide care to youngsters whose parents work and in some cases, aide to the downtrodden, be they here legally or not. On the whole, I believe that without religion, a tremendous underpinning of support in our society today would be sorely missing. The thing is, I'm not talking about those people.

What bothers me the most are those folks like Mr. Robertson and elected officials like Ms. Foxx and Ms. Bachmann and Senator Ensign and Govenor Sandford and those who pull their strings. These folks appear to have "religious agendas" of intolerance. They also seem to be imbued with a sense of do as I say, not as I do that I find to be incredibly hypocritical. In my brief time in church, I always thought that one of the main foundations of Christianity was to show tolerance of others. To lead by example of living a good life and being an example to others, in addition to the belief that one should "judge not, lest thou be judged". Most notably are these gentlemen associated with "the Family" who profess christian beliefs but are committing adultery, falsifying address information to live tax free, paying off former mistresses in order to make "the problem go away". I'm not saying that a man is not fallible, but it seems obtuse not to recognize that these are the same guys who railed so forcefully about the president should have resigned over his affair but when they commit the same crime feel that maybe that isn't the best idea after all. What I find most galling is the implication that if you don't stand with them then YOU aren't being a good christian.

It's getting to the point where I'm not sure which is worse, the duplicity of the "Christian Fundalmentalists" or the "Muslim" ones.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jangle Pop All Stars

A very personal list of acts that I like, that promote vocal harmony, pop riffs and lyrical quality.

as always... your mileage may vary (remember, I'm a middle aged white guy so obviously I'm biased by simply being who I am despite my best attempts otherwise)

1) Wings of a Nightingale - written by Paul McCartney vocals by The Everly Brothers.

Man their voices soar and McCartney knew exactly who this song was for. This bad boy was lovingly produced and the acoustic guitar was meant to be the instrument of choice when these guys sing together. This song has a spiritual significance for me and makes me cry whenever I sing along to it. It is, simpy put, beautiful to listen to.

Other faves from this artist

Walk Right Back, When Will I Be Loved, Crying In The Rain, Claudette, Problems
Bird Dog, Wake Up Little Suzie

2) Someday, Someway - Marshall Crenshaw, from the album with the same title.

It just has the bouncy certain something, doesn't it? It's not altogether memorable yet it's definately unforgettable. It's the ultimate song that everyone knows and says, "Oh yeah! I like this song!". This is like the character actor that you can never remember his name, but you've seen him in just about every fifth movie that you have in your DVD collection.

Other great tunes from Marshall - Mary Jean, There and Back Again, Cynical Girl, Whenever You're On My Mind

3) Go All The Way - The Raspberries (1st Album, The Raspberries)

Sung from the "girl's" POV, those harmonies simply can't be beat and Wally Bryson is obviously a guitar deity. In fact, all of the guys work so well as a team it is downright scary. I can't find a flaw in the song and it still stands the test of time after all of these years.

Also note: I'm A Rocker, Hard To get Over A heartbreak, Drivin Around, I Wanna Be With You, Starting Over, Overnight Sensation

4) Cruel To be Kind - Nick Lowe (album - labour of lust)

There is so much of this mans music that speaks to me. He understands what it means to be a man, the lusts, longing, stupidity and heartbreak of it all. The guy can write a lyric and can vocalize on his own quite effectively tyvm. This effort from his Rockpile days was still a total kick in the head because there was nothing like this being played on the radio at the time.

Other Notable Nick Knacks - Love So Fine, Wishing Well, Endless Grey Ribbon, Maureen, Half A Boy and Half A Man, Stick It Where The Sun Don't Shine

5) Another Nail In My Heart - Squeeze (album - argybargy)

Most folks pine for Pulling Mussels, but that one didn't get me like this one did. I had a hard time choosing between this one and my other favorite, Messed Around. Some folks like their singles, which are pretty good, but I tended to like the stuff that was just outside of true Poppiness.

See: Messed Around, Labelled With Love, Goodbye Girl, Hourglass, Tempted

6) Girl of My Dreams - Bram Tchaikovsky (album - Braim Tchaikovsky)

Whenever you hear that opening rift, you say....yeah, who did THAT song? It was an early 80's college radio classic and well, the voices, the guitars it just drops me into that reverie that brings a smile to my face.

Bonus stuff: Letter From The USA, Strange Man, Changed Man

7) Starry Eyes - The Records

This was their best, they did other good stuff, but nothing compares to this. I gotta guess it's on 15% of all mix tapes made between 1979 and 1983.

8) Laugh Laugh - The Beau Brummels

We have to give a shout out to the origins of the genre. The blend of the voices and iconic music refrain make it wonderous. Plus any band that got a nod from the Flintstones, well you just gotta have 'em on the list somewhere.

Groundbreaking stuff: Just A Little, Don't Talk To Strangers

9) Inside Out - The Mighty Lemon Drops

This one just gets me. Sorry I can't write more about it, it's simple, clean and heartfelt.

10) She Goes Out With Everybody - The Spongetones

Happened across this bad boy when I cadged a copy of Poptopia 80's edition. Never regretted dropping that dime.

11) Going Down To Liverpool - The Bangles

yeah, so they were popular, but they weren't popular for this one. On this one, Ms. Peterson had the lead chops and she's good. Not to say that Ms. Hoffs couldn't sing, but the band sounds pretty tight backing her on this song.

12) Midnight To Six Man - The Inmates

Do you know these guys? Maybe the Dirty Water remake, maybe from The Walk? or parhaps I Thought I Heard a Heartbeat? Do yourself a favor, if you dig guys who have solid full R&B voices (Blue Eyed Soul perhaps) and a straight ahead tap your toes, bang your hand on the steering wheel stuff, find this band.

13) The Kind of Girl I Could Love - The Monkees

Cheesy, but then again, I'm not picking the normal singles here. I'm talking straight ahead, knock your socks off teenage yearning from the 60's, okay? Entitrely different stuff. I really liked most of the Nesmith compositions and it seems like the band enjoyed playing them too.

14) Ups and Downs - Paul Revere and The Raiders

this one was also difficult (and you'd think this far in, that I'd be making some headway on not having so many tough choices) but ultimately this is one of the best "I'm gonna tough it out and move on" songs that provides a blueprint for every young man, who has just had his heart stepped on, to be able to pick himself up and move on.

15) Day After Day - Badfinger

How can a song this good be this far down the list? Well maybe I screwed up, maybe it's simply a list and not a ranking, maybe I shouldn't quit my day job. I know this much, Pete Ham died way too freaking early and it angers me to this day that these guys never got the money that they deserved and that greed took them from us before they had a chance to write more incredible music

Please see: Baby Blue, No Matter What, We're For The Dark, Denis, Watford John

16) Monster of Love - Sparks

I have to admit, I rarely heard this on the radio, but it stayed with me in that seminal scene from Valley Girl, because love and most often lust, can strike at a moments notice.

17) I Got Loaded - Los Lobos

This band makes some of the best music, check out this one and others from them and decide for yourself.

Also listen to: Let's Say Goodnight and Go Home, Rosalee, Be Still

18) Tomorrow Night - Shoes

My favorite least known band of all time. Maybe if they had been on the scene three years earlier, who knows. Good lyrics, good music, and the band sounds clean and yet.... they made records and no one bought them, or at least no one else I knew did.

Other gems: She's Fatal, You're Imagination, Susan

19) It's Getting Harder All the Time - The Mindbenders

You remember that second song done by the band in the movie "To Sir With Love"? yeah that one, the one that actually sounded like it should be a seminal hit 60's song but never was, yeah that one that has Mr. Poitier dancing with Ms. Geeson? Well I found it and remembered it for you here. No need to thank me.

20) Too Bad - Doug and The Slugs

Anyone who can name an album Cognac and Balogna is alright by me.

For those that didn't make my list, it doesn't mean that I love you any less, so apologies to The Buckinghams, Gary Pucket and The Union Gap, The Romantics, The Smithereens, Holly and The Italians et al

ya gotta have "progress" before you get "progressive"

While having a looksee over at The Daily Kos, I entered into an ogoing thread discussion with someone who was feeling frustrated with our President and the rate of "change" that was being enacted on our behalf. The frustration was most evident on the lack of "fierce advocacy" that had been enacted by the President and his staff in failing to move more quickly on the removal of DADT policy and the lack of support that was issued on behalf of the Maine proposition to rescind the gay marriage status.

This is not a cut and dried solution set, while I hate being an apologist, I also have to be a realist, at least when it comes to implementing progressive agenda items because I don't believe that the rest of the country has "caught up to us" or in fact believes as we do, despite our passion about believing what we think is the best course of action. So to sum up, I want to reiterate what out newest president was up against as soon as the electoral college indicated that he was the President-Elect.

There's little arguement that he hit the ground running in gathering a staff and getting up to speed on the challenges that were laid in front of him. Unfortunately, we can characterize the feeling from those voted out as being surly at best.

So, as a gentle reminder, let's remember what he had on his plate, when he walked through the door.

1) The close aversion of the financial meltdown of the western world, unfortunately, the previous administration passed this boondoggle with nary a string or a caveat that would prevent these guys from doing it again or voting themselves huge bonuses for a job well done!

2) Yet the same guys that made sure that we gave these financial wizards carte blanche screamed bloody murder at the bailout of the auto-industry which was a tenth of the size of the bailout of the financial institutions and only then it was after getting concessions from the unions about pay rates. Hey at least THEY MAKE SOMETHING! Welcome to the office Mr. President!

3) Two wars, neither of which had the support of the American public at the time that he was elected

4) A bunch of terrorists left on a base in Cuba, the majority of whom are most likely bad guys, but there was this lil issue about us ingnorning the Geneva Convention rgarding the treatment of prisoners and our refusal to put them into the American system of justice. But they're so bad, they can only be kept in a prison in Cuba, but not the US, but we're not gonna try them and oh by the way, we tortured the crap out of a good many of them, but we lost the tapes and no, we can't have what they know brought up in a trial.... So now we have a crap sandwhich of monumental proportions and the Republicans left town with an "I dare you to prosecute us for war crimes while we wrap ourselves in the American flag" while at the same time ignoring all that America stands for (or at least what I thought it stands for).

5) The attempted trial balloon of the repeal of DADT that fell like wet laundry when he pitched it to the military. The rank and file don't seem to care, anyone willing to man the post appears to be okay with them, but the old school guys at the top can't wrap their heads around it.

6) Finallizing a game plan that allows him to pull our collective chestnuts out of Iraq and figuring out how not to get them burned in Afghanistan.

7) Having 200+ appointments to federal jobs still in limbo waiting on confirmation and the wheels of confirmation to turn. 54 of them alone in the Senate held up by Republicans just because they can. Part of this is due to the adventures of the previous administrations who for some reason couldn't keep themselves from hiring illegal immigrants to watch the kids and clean their houses, so the vetting process is now much longer than it used to be.

8) Finding a nice moderate judge to name to the SCOTUS

9) dealing with the outrage and pique of the right on everything he said and did, which at first was simply childish and has evolved to the point where they've neglected decorum so much that he's dealing with catcalls during national addresses and being called everything from not even being a citizen to a nazi to a communist and a socilist and depicted as The Joker, Hitler and a witch doctor.

10) His repeated attempts to be bipartisan in the first six months of his administration and in return, his appointees are backlogged and each attempt to be open handed, most especially on health care, is met with such ridicule from the right that if he said that water was wet, there would be a panel formed to determine what right does he have to make such an outrageous statement.

So considering what he's up against, I think we should be patient. He warned us all that this would be a hard slog. While he's not been a good advocate of LGBT rights, I want to wait and see if he gets his act together with more time under his belt.