Category Archives: music and politics

Travoltify Your Name

Did you watch the Oscars last night and see John Travolta mangle Idina Menzel’s name? Now you wacky kids on the internets with too much time on your hands have created this fun game, Travoltify Your Name. Mine is Stephen Bezeel.

In other news, here’s your bloggess with John Travolta hissownself, along with my mom and my best friend at the time. I think I was around 16 years old:

pic with john travolta

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Filed under fun and games, music and politics

RIP, Pete Seeger

Woops brain fart. Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land,” NOT Pete Seeger … ! Well, I got it right the first time.

Looks like I’ll have to do another photographic tribute.

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I did a photographic tribute to Pete Seeger Woody Guthrie a couple years ago. In honor of the passing of this great American, here it is again.

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Filed under music, music and politics, pop culture

How To Tell You’re In The Wrong Church

[UPDATE]:

Shocked finally responds:

On Wednesday, the singer made a statement (e-mailed to news outlets, and me in response to my inquiry): “I do not, nor have I ever, said or believed that God hates homosexuals (or anyone else). I said that some of His followers believe that. … When I said, ‘Twitter that Michelle Shocked says, “God hates faggots,” ‘ I was predicting the absurd way my description of, my apology for, the intolerant would no doubt be misinterpreted. … And to those fans who are disappointed … I’m very sorry: I don’t always express myself as clearly as I should. … And my statement equating repeal of Prop. 8 with the coming of the End Times was neither literal nor ironic: It was a description of how some folks – not me – feel about gay marriage.”

Shocked said her own sexuality isn’t an issue here. “I’d like to say this was a publicity stunt, but I’m really not that clever, and I’m definitely not that cynical. But I am damn sorry. If I could repeat the evening, I would make a clearer distinction between a set of beliefs I abhor and my human sympathy for the folks who hold them.”

Well, I sure would love to see a YouTube video of that concert. I wasn’t there so it’s hard to say how her comments were construed, but the fact that people left in droves and the club staff had to literally pull the plug and turn off the lights lets me think she was pretty damn clear at the time.

For you folks who say you haven’t heard of her, she was big back in the 90s when the whole singer-songwriter thing exploded. You might have heard this song.

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When your church makes you say stupid shit that alienates a huge chunk of your core fans, maybe you’re in the wrong church.

Seriously, WTF Michelle Shocked? While I can’t say I was ever a huge fan — somewhere I’ve got a box with the CD containing “Anchored Down In Anchorage” on it, and that’s about it — for some reason I’d always believed Michelle Shocked was a lesbian. I lumped her in with the rest of the late-90s Lilith Fair era of women’s music — you know, Indigo Girls and all that. I guess I haven’t kept up because according to the New York Times, somewhere along the way Shocked became a born-again Christian of the holy roller, Pentecostal persuasion.

There are two kinds of churches in the world: the kind peddling love and hope, and the kind peddling hate and fear. I’ve always been fiercely allergic to the latter kind. I really don’t understand why someone would attend a church that makes a person feel bad about who they are, who their friends are, fills them with fear, and alienates them from those who support their creative endeavors. I also don’t understand people who pay more attention to a handful of passages from the Old Testament while ignoring 99.9% of the New Testament:

Michelle Shocked cited Old Testament verses condemning homosexuality and told the audience she hoped the courts would uphold Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage, according to Yahoo Music. “I live in fear that the world will be destroyed if gays are allowed to marry,” she said. Then she also told the audience to go on Twitter and report that she had said God hates homosexuals, though it is unclear whether that remark was sardonic.

Much of the audience walked out after her remarks. The club’s manager tried to end the show, but she continued playing until staff members pulled the plug and turned off the stage lights.

The thing is, gays are already allowed to marry in about a dozen countries around the world, and in portions of half a dozen others. Yet we’ve continued to dodge asteroids, while Harold Camping’s end-times predictions have been one huge failure after another. Meanwhile, we continue on in our foolish, carbon-chugging, earth-polluting ways. It seems pretty obvious that if the earth is destroyed, it won’t be the fault of gays.

I do think the Bible is full of lots of eternal truths, one of them being, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” Right now, Shocked is sowing a very bitter harvest. There’s anger and cancelled gigs and people walking out of shows because she’s repeating what her church told her. The good news is, there are plenty of churches out there of the “love and hope” persuasion, that don’t make you feel bad for who you are or who your friends are or the things you’ve done or believed.

There will inevitably be those tempted to compare this incident to the Dixie Chicks’ infamous public flogging after Natalie Maines said she was against the Iraq War and ashamed President Bush was from Texas. There are similarities, but they’re thin. For one thing, the Dixie Chicks were at the peak of a red-hot career — they had the number one single on the charts, fer crissakes — when they were attacked by their own very clubby industry. The Dixie Chicks’ words were greeted with cheers at the time; only later was a controversy manufactured by the suits on Music Row and at corporate radio.

Someday we’ll find out the full story behind what was an organized, industry-directed campaign ginning up outrage for fun and profit. Few people remember this today, but at the time the ‘Chicks had just emerged victorious in a major, very public battle with their powerful record company, Sony. From the memory hole:

The war with Sony started in 2001, after the group’s first two albums, Wide Open Spaces and Fly, sold more than 10 million copies apiece. In an interview with Dan Rather that aired on CBS, the Chicks announced that by their math, Sony had made $200 million off them but that individually they had yet to gross seven figures. Then, in a move that sent shock waves through Nashville (admittedly it’s a town that’s easily shocked), the Chicks served Sony with papers claiming that because of the company’s alleged accounting misdeeds, they were declaring themselves free agents. “We all know there are some major problems in the music industry,” says Maguire. “Every new act signs a bad deal. But we never dreamed that the s_____ deal we signed wouldn’t even be honored.”

Sony sued the group for breach of contract; the Chicks countersued, alleging “systematic thievery.” As the charges escalated, the Chicks found themselves Nashville pariahs. For country acts, the relationship between label and band has historically been in loco parentis; bands presumed the label always knew best. “Everyone in the country industry kept telling us, ‘Keep your mouths shut. Why don’t you appreciate what you have?'” says Maguire.

That’s the context that’s always ignored when people talk about how the Nashville music industry turned on its own stars. Despite all of this, they still had a Number One radio single and a Number One album. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the whole Iraq War fauxtroversy popped up on their first post-Sony endeavor. It was a way of teaching the Chicks a lesson by a hubris-filled entertainment industry. That this lesson veered way out of control and ended up ultimately hurting the industry itself is just par for the course.

All of this is water under the bridge, and it’s a little off topic, but I figured some wingnut is going to go all “liberals-are-hypocrites” on this story, so I thought I’d get ahead of the game.

Anyway, Michelle Shocked is entitled to her opinion, as misguided as it may be, but her fans don’t have to subject themselves to it. And I don’t see any coordinated, industry-generated campaign to ruin her career as happened with the Dixie Chicks. I see an artist engaging in some very public self-sabotage for reasons I can’t begin to fathom but are probably rooted in the very toxic, negative messaging she’s been getting every Sunday.

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Filed under gay equality, marriage, music and politics, pop culture

This Land

Our ribbon of highway hit a few bumps ….

… so we roamed and rambled a road less traveled …

… from the Redwood Forest …

… to the Gulf Stream Waters … (well … almost! I’m still boycotting Florida!)

… the sun was shining …

.. and a voice came chanting …

This land was made for you and me!

And the final verse of that song which we didn’t sing in summer camp:

In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office – I see my people
And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
If this land’s still made for you and me.

I always thought that Woody Guthrie wrote that song during the height of the Great Depression, but wikipedia tells me no, the lyrics were written in 1940 and the song recorded in 1944. That’s at the height of the World War II, a time when we’re all trained to believe the entire nation was uniformly pro-war, pro-America, the “greatest generation” of patriots sacrificing for the cause of freedom, etc. That Guthrie would record such a cynical message in 1944 (or be allowed to record it, I should say) is amazing to me.

It’s also interesting that the song went on to become such an iconic American tune, though I concede it’s primarily the first two politically correct verses which have been seared into the national consciousness and I suspect that all came later during the ’60s folk revival, anyway.

Still, this reminds me of the distorted view of history we all have.

More travels tomorrow ….

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Filed under music, music and politics, travel

Astroturfing The Country Music Vote

As a former member of the Music Row Democrats, I found this story about Twang That Vote very odd. If ever there was a group that said one thing while doing another, this is it.

First of all, I have no problem with anyone trying to engage music fans, getting more people registered to vote, etc. Great idea, we all need to be involved. And this is admirable:

First on the agenda? Ridding people of the idea that country fans are all white, male Republicans.

Yes, that’s what we in Nashville have been saying since forever. But, dudes?

Hamel says “doing it through music is obviously great,” and he’s already gotten support from such artists as the Oak Ridge Boys’ Richard Sterban, Charlie Daniels and Eric Paslay, plus someone who perfectly straddles the world of country and Congress: Ayla Brown, the daughter of Sen. Scott Brown.

Oh, those guys. Right, they’ll certainly dispel those stereotypes. /sarcasm. This thing reads like a freaking press release. And please: Ayla Brown has zip to do with country music. She tried out for American Idol in 2006, getting the ax before making it to the top 12 singing Christina Aguilera and Celine Dion songs. I mean, seriously? “Perfectly straddles”? Give me a break.

And then there’s this:

In order to earn the support of such artists, Hamel said he had to assure them of one thing: There would be no Dixie Chicks moment.

“We’re not going to walk them into a punch. … They’re so risk-averse after the whole Dixie Chicks thing,” Hamel said, referring to the 2003 controversy when the group’s lead singer, Natalie Maines, said she was “ashamed” of President George W. Bush.

“We made a commitment to them and our corporate partners that we’re not going to get involved in compromising their brands as artists or their brands as corporations. We’re just going to talk straight about the importance of voting and civic duty and leave the rest to other people.”

Charlie Daniels, risk-averse? He can’t keep his fat yap shut attacking President Obama! He’s called him a socialist, an elitist, possibly a Muslim, and a failure. Post SCOTUS-healthcare ruling he Tweeted:

“No American right is safe now. Obama has just become a king.”

Not quite the same as saying you’re “ashamed President Bush is from Texas,” which is actually what Natalie Maines said, and as we all know is the worst thing you could possibly say about a president! Right? Of course, there won’t be any Dixie Chicks moments because It’s Always Okay When You’re A Republican.

So, no. I don’t expect any “Dixie Chicks” moments from a crowd of far-right Republicans pretending to Twang That Vote. I also don’t expect this to be anything other than what it obviously is: another piece of GOP astroturf. Here’s a bio on Max Hamel, he works for a Republican PR firm out of Virginia called Allied Public Affairs. His partner, Chris Ashby, has to be this guy, an election lawyer with a background in Republican campaigns. He’s supposedly one of the country’s top recount lawyers, and his firm does lots of work for lobbyists.

In other words, just another phony grassroots campaign designed to put some shine on the fading Republican brand. Good luck with that. Kids are pretty savvy today. Don’t think the Charlie Daniels vote is your target demographic, anyway.

It’s just all very puzzling. I’m okay with a conservative group reaching out to yet another demographic the Republican Party is driving away in droves: young people. But that’s so obviously not what this is. The whole “non-partisan” pretense is very weird, for one thing. And you aren’t going to reach young people with Charlie Daniels and Richard Sterban, who were last on the radio when I was in high school.

This has to be some kind of glossy PR campaign designed to attract corporate dollars (and provide cover to tour sponsors, promoters and venues scared of looking “too partisan”), because anyone with any connection to Nashville can smell the bullshit wafting a mile away.

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Filed under 2012 presidential election, astroturfing, music and politics

And They Wonder Why We Laugh At Them

The CPAC rap, starring Fox News’ Steve Crowder and Chris Loesch, husband of Dana Loesch. I bet parties are really un-fun at their house:

Dudes. The jogging suits and Federalist-era wigs? Really? Seriously? And the granny trying lamely to rock out? This is the kind of stuff that requires brain bleach after viewing.

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Filed under conservatives, CPAC, music and politics

Gingrich Campaign Steals From Songwriters

Newt Gingrich’s campaign has repeatedly violated copyright law by improperly using “Eye Of The Tiger” at campaign events, says the song’s co-writer and publisher, who is now suing the campaign:

After months of attempting to deal with Gingrich’s campaign, a Palatine-based music publishing company owned by Survivor lead guitarist Frankie Sullivan has filed suit seeking damages and an injunction to block the Republican contender from using the song at appearances and in campaign videos.

“This has nothing to do with politics. This is a copyright issue,” said Annette McGarry, Sullivan’s lawyer. “We’ve tried to deal with them for months, and they’ve been trying to ignore it.”

Since at least 2009, Gingrich has entered rallies to the pulsing guitar riffs of the song, which was the background track to Rocky’s training montages in the 1982 film “Rocky III.”

Despite complaints from Sullivan, Gingrich still was using the song at events in South Carolina this month, and the song is featured in several campaign videos posted on the Internet, McGarry said. Polls show Gingrich trails rival Mitt Romney by double digits in the Florida primary.

This is so typical of assholes like Newt Gingrich. Is it so hard to ask a songwriter for permission to use their copyrighted material to sell your campaign? Apparently it is. Especially if you’re too cheap to pay to use licensed material. C’mon, Newt: ask Sheldon Adelson to cough up a few thousand more so the songwriters you’re stealing from don’t get ripped off.

Here’s the money quote:

“He likes to walk in like a fighter entering the ring,” she said. “He should have to pay for it.”

That’s exactly right. Gingrich selected this song for marketing reasons, the same way a beer brand picks a classic pop song to burnish its brand’s image. The same way Sarah Palin chose Heart’s “Barracuda” to be her theme song. Music is a cultural touchstone and it’s as crucial for branding a politician as it is a box of detergent. For Newt, “Eye Of The Tiger” evokes images of a fighter, the guy who won’t back down against all odds, the come-from-behind winner. But if Anheuser-Bush has to pay to use a song like that in its advertising, Newt does, too.

But nooo, God forbid he should pay for something when he can just steal use it for free. This is so indicative of how the Gingrich’s of the world operate. Like bullies and thugs, offering nothing but an “Oh yeah? Make me!” to people whose work they’re happy to use but not pay for. And the audacity to do this at campaign events where he spews crap about how poor black kids don’t want work, “unless it’s illegal” — when you’re effectively stealing!

Here’s a thought: roll up your sleeves and go to work, Newtie. Write your own damn theme song, asshole.

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Filed under 2012 presidential election, music and politics, Newt Gingrich, pop culture

Things That Amuse Me

I’m about to get busy again over the next couple of weeks, and also I’m thinking about NaNo-ing again this year, which ideally means long days of productive enterprise, not procrastinating on the internet. But you know me, I don’t know how to quit you.

If I were a good writer, I’d spend my mornings meditating, eating whole grain porridge and doing yoga, priming myself for a day of composing Deep Thoughts into emotionally resonant and relevant prose. Instead I choke down coffee and get pissed off about the latest outrage du jour, which I promptly vomit into blog rants. This is not the recipe for a happy, well adjusted life.

We shall see.

In the meantime, here are a couple of things which caught my attention:

A new program in Bay Minette, Alabama will let non-violent offenders choose between going to church every Sunday for a year, or spending time in jail and paying a fine. The police chief says the program does not violate separation of church and state because,

it allows the offender to choose church or jail…and the church of their choice.

Attending church is the same as going to jail? I know some 12-year-olds who agree with that. Snort.

Clearly this doesn’t pass Constitutional muster. For one thing, the article explains that 56 churches have signed up for the program. If you have to attend a church which has signed up for the program then you really can’t attend the church of your choice, can you? There’s also the question of whether mosques, covens, synagogues, atheists’ discussion groups, drumming circles, Pastafarian meetings, etc. qualify as “churches.”

What I’m curious about is this belief that attending church somehow inoculates a person against committing crime. It’s not as though church-going folk are any less likely to cheat, steal, do drugs, etc. than the rest of the population. I think it’s kind of sad that anyone is deluded enough to think otherwise.

• Toby Keith is in favor of raising taxes on millionaires and views it as one’s patriotic duty, which I think is exactly right:

“I don’t know, but I expect the wealthy to write a check ’cause it’s as bad as it’s ever been,” the Oklahoma-born Keith said. “It would be unpatriotic not to try to save the country. I’m sure people will bitch about it, but if it meant we get to operate in this country and live here another day, then so be it.

“One way or another, before it’s over they’re gonna have to come and take big money from the earners and big corporations to save the country. I’m sure that everybody that has a patriotic cell in their system will say, ‘If it’s gotta be done, it’s gotta be done.’ I’d rather live here and not have as much money than live anywhere else and have twice as much.”

Amen to that, Toby Keith. And I have to say, Republicans: if you’ve lost Toby Keith then you’ve lost America. Quit yer bitchin’ and moanin’ about paying taxes, just shut up and do it. Shit needs to be paid for.

• The “terminally paranoid, crackpot head ogre at the NRA” Wayne LaPierre says even though it may not look like Obama is trying to steal your guns, he’s just trying to lull everyone into a false sense of security before swooping down and stealing your guns!

“Obama himself is no fool. So when he got elected, they concocted a scheme to stay away from the gun issue, lull gun owners to sleep and play us for fools in 2012. Well, gun owners are not fools and we are not fooled,” La Pierre declared.

Really! They’re not fools so stop laughing, you guys! It’s all a huge plot by that crafty Obama! Also, the U.N. and shut up, that’s why!

• What do the people want? Legalization of marijuana! When do they want it? Now!

I’m not holding my breath on this one. Umm … no pun intended.

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Filed under gun control, marijuana, music and politics, religion, taxes

Desperately Seeking Cultural Relevance

The idea that John Lennon was a “Reagan Democrat” just makes me laugh. Really, it does:

Imagine there’s no taxes …
It’s easy if you try …
No Commies to spit upon …
Above us, only Ayn…

The sad fact about conservatives is their failure to come to grips with their cultural irrelevance. Look, no one is going to write songs praising Sarah Palin, not good ones at least, not ones that will be played on whatever version of “classic rock” we telepathically beam into our brains 30 years from now. Republicans are always trying to steal liberal icons, because they don’t have any of their own. It’s pathetic, really. Look, can’t you be happy with Ayn Rand and Ted Nugent? No?

[UPDATE]: So desperate for cultural relevance, they even use iconic music against artists’ wishes.

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Filed under conservatives, music and politics

>Jon Stewart & The Celebrity Ball

>Wow. How the hell did that happen?

How did Jon Stewart become the only liberal who can get the national media’s attention?

For years we Lefties have decried how the media ignores liberals, liberal rallies, liberal messages. Hundreds of thousands of people protest the Iraq War and the media can barely bother to mention it. The national news media descends on Nashville’s Tea Party convention — one reporter for every three conventioneers — and reports dominate the news cycle for over a week. But Netroots Nation draw twice as many attendees? Crickets. Glenn Beck’s D.C. rally gets covered ad nauseum, while the One Nation rally a few weeks later is barely noticed. There’s wall-to-wall coverage of the CPAC convention every year, but liberal conferences are ignored.

Heck, even CNN has cut away from President Obama’s events, though they covered every campaign appearance by President Bush.

With this in mind it’s been really interesting to see the mainstream media’s embrace of Jon Stewart. Obama’s appearance on The Daily Show dominates the news this morning — even getting covered on my local news stations. The Stewart/Colbert rally has been covered in the national newspapers for days. What all this tells me is that, at least in the eyes of the national news media and punditry, liberals have a leader and his name is Jon Stewart.

As an observer of our politics and media I have to say I find this fascinating. How did a New York comedian get elevated to “influencer” status — beyond even the President of the United States, or past presidents like Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter? Is it because Stewart is an entertainer, like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck? Does our media pay more attention to entertainers than they do policy makers and politicians? It would appear so.

I mean, thank God. Thank God the Left finally has someone who can get the attention of the corporate media because, as I’ve said often enough, it seems like most of the time we’re shouting into the wind. And unlike Limbaugh and Beck, whose unyielding defense of all things conservative often requires them to stretch into absurd ideological contortions, Stewart calls bullshit on the Democrats as often as he criticizes the right.

I just find this fascinating. If I were ever to interview Jon Stewart I would want to ask him if he’s even aware of his influencer status, how the hell he thinks this happened, and what he plans to do with this responsibility.

I also don’t get liberal talkers such as Bill Press who have criticized Stewart and Stephen Colbert for holding their rally right before the election, as if everyone who is going to be on the National Mall could instead spend the weekend knocking on doors and phone banking. That just misses the point, doesn’t it? The point is the very last thing the folks attending this rally would do is spend their weekend campaigning. They’d be attending kids’ soccer games and watching college football.

No, this rally is garnering national media attention — finally we get some fucking attention! Thank you, Jon Stewart, for accomplishing what actual door knockers/phone bankers and other activist-types have failed to achieve. You’re getting the word out. And this can only be a good thing.

This tells me something important. I guess what we Lefties have missed is that, basically, this is how it works these days. If you want the media’s attention you have to be an entertainer. You have to dress up in funny costumes, say crazy things, and basically put on a show. I don’t mean a street theater show, which liberal groups like Code Pink have been doing forever. I mean a real show.

So now that we know this, I expect every liberal gathering, press conference, rally, policy conference, legislative battle, candidates’ forum, etc. to be an entertainment extravaganza. This should be easy for us, we apparently specialize in all things Hollywood after all. Think about it: the Tea Party has Pat Boone and Ted Nugent. We’ve got pretty much everyone else. This should be a no-brainer.

So come on, Liberals. It’s show time. Want cap-and-trade legislation? A public option in your healthcare bill? Net neutrality, Wall Street reform, and an end to the endless wars? Then get the best writers you have in a room and storyboard it. Write the theme song. Cast it as you would a blockbuster movie. Roll it out with all of the promotion of a new Bruce Springsteen or Madonna album. Do it like they did in “Wag The Dog.”

I mean, apparently this is the secret. This is what it takes. We can do this.

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Filed under Jon Stewart, media, music and politics, politics