Sunday, December 21, 2008

This Week in Mormons in the Media

I'm a little late on this, as the issue of Rolling Stone I'm referencing is now off newsstands, but I wanted to mention it anyway.

It would be very easy (and tiring) to comment on the many stories around the church and California's Prop 8 that have flooded the media over the last six weeks, but I have chosen not to dwell on it. The main reason being, I am totally and completely opposed to defining marriage as ONLY between a man and a woman and feel terrible that I'm associated with the group that served as one of the major catalysts for getting the prop passed. It's been overwhelming to try and get my thoughts in order on the subject. Rather than rant every time I read something that infuriates me, I just choose to leave it alone.

One thing I am relieved about is that the prop passed democratically, as it should have been. There aren't enough Mormons in California to affect the vote that much, so the fact that it was the majority of resident's feelings that it should not be allowed is their business. So, all of the protests against the church and its involvement are really unfair. They only do it because they know we don't fight back. Protesters just need to realize that it was democracy in action and let it be. Besides, it's only a matter of time before it's overturned and deemed common practice across the country.

Now, when I saw that Rolling Stone was going to chime in on the Mormon's involvement I cringed and squirmed in anticipation for what I might read. I was only too relieved when I read a very thoughtful article on how it wasn't the Mormon's or the Black's or any other Christian group's fault. It was the fault of the Gay and Lesbian groups that ran, what I realize now, to be an utterly disorganized campaign. It was them that did themselves in by a lack of leadership and focus and by not playing offense early enough in the process. Hearing this from RS of all things, came as a big relief. I hope people will read the article, which can be found right here, if they're interested in the subject.

Hopefully, the next time this issue comes up, voters grant equal rights for all despite race, creed, or sexual preference. While Mormons and Blacks may not be completely to blame, I do find it sad that two minority groups (I consider Mormons in that group, as they are prejudiced against in a similar fashion) who fought so hard to be treated as equal members of American society, would fight so hard to keep those same civil rights away from others. I love the church, but I am deeply ashamed of them in this instance.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Live in Concert: The Black Crowes 12/13/08

Back in the Fall of 1991, the Black Crowes came to the local venue by our house in Cambridge, England and I didn’t go because no one would go with me. I wasn’t as evolved as I am now, and wasn’t open to doing such things by myself. Now, I prefer it that way. I’ve lived with the regret ever since. I’m less a fan now than I was then and the band keeps breaking up, so it has felt several times that I missed my best window to get it right.

My other fear, and it’s one that came to fruition Saturday night, is that the band is prone to long jams that go on and on and make standing for 3 hours especially painful. I just don’t have the back for that anymore. Still, I’m very glad I went and get to cross them off my list. I’ll probably just never go again.

The show started perfectly. The first 90 mins or so went by fluidly. Songs had actual stops and starts and verses and hooks. Those sound like the basics, but when you have a band that likes to jam, many of those key elements get pushed aside in favor of indulgent noodling and psychedelia. Chris Robinson has one of the greatest voices in rock. He still looks like the heroin-addicted scarecrow he probably is, but the lungs have only improved with age. And, he has a natural stage presence that is a commendable counterstrike to the rest of the bands statuesque poses. I could have used a bit more emotion. Drop to your knees with the mic stand, James Brown style, or raise your arms to the Gods of high notes. There was no such posturing. But, his bopping and clapping was still fairly infectious.

They only played one hit, “Remedy” which I was afraid might happen. I know the hits and I know the new album a little bit, so I was lost most of the night. However, instead of anxiously awaiting a song I knew, I just went along for the ride and took what they gave. The highlight was when they brought out opening act Vetiver (never heard of ‘em, so didn’t see them) for a couple of songs. The first was “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” by the Byrds, a song I love and was elated to hear. Both bands made for about 12-15 people on the stage and it became an acoustic hootenanny, like one of those barnburner jams you see on one of those all-star concerts where different performers trade off taking a verse or solo. I was pretty proud of myself for knowing, what I assumed was, an obscure song so I made sure people could see my singing along by pulling my patented move of needlessly looking on either side of me, as if I’m waiting for someone. In my mind, I’m hoping people are not only impressed that I know the words to this weird little song, but also assuming I must be important since I’m obviously looking around with a purpose. After the Byrds ditty, they did “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, the perfect choice.

Unfortunately, after this high point, the show turned into the jam I was trying to avoid. Three songs filled up the next 45 minutes or so and I don’t think any of them even had lyrics, depriving us of Chris’s voice which is their best asset. That part got long, but not really boring, luckily.

By the end, I was mostly satisfied. It hit me that the Robinson boys are no posers. They have a deep appreciation for roots and classic rock and aren’t wading in the shallow end of the pool. They’re in it legitimately and the love and respect run deep and naturally. God bless ‘em for it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Downtown Owl

I just read a book I really didn’t like, by a writer I’m normally very devoted to.

If you don’t know who Chuck Klosterman is, he’s a sort of pop culture critic and writer that I often enjoy. It’s similar to the affection that I have for Rob Sheffield, although I like Rob better. Chuck has published four other books, two of which I own. One of them is Fargo Rock City, which is his critical analysis of and argument for the artistic validity of 80s hair metal. Upon reading the book, I too became a fan of the genre, which I never was before, proudly, and have loaned the book out to many. He’s seen as a sort of expert on metal and has helped me see the light.

Well, that light just went out after reading Downtown Owl, his first work of fiction. Let’s just say, fiction isn’t his strong suit. It’s basically, the story of a handful of locals in Owl, ND and the flow and routines of their lives. It all ends abruptly in a cataclysmic flurry, which is the only way it could have because prior to that it was going nowhere.

My problem with the book is that everyone spoke in the same voice, which is Chuck’s critic voice. There was no sense of character because almost no one had distinct mannerisms or colloquialisms. A lot of the book takes place in bars with people spouting and philosophizing, but they all talk about the stuff Chuck wants them to talk about like music, football, cars, movies and North Dakota, where he’s from. My other problem was that the book takes place in 1983-84, yet no one spoke like that. There was no sense of time or place, except in some of the topics that were being discussed. Surprisingly, he thanks Rob in the book for helping him write it. I wonder if Rob was just too nice to tell him what was up.

If it sounds boring, good, because it was. Sorry, Chuck, but you don’t get a pass this time.