Tuesday, July 19, 2016

My Tuppence Worth

I’m sure you all know that Trump has chosen my Governor, Mike Pence, as his running mate. A few friends from other states have asked me for my opinion and experience with having Pence as the Governor of Indiana. This was my comment to one of them, and I thought I’d share it here with a little light editing.


I don't hate the guy personally because he does seem to be a somewhat decent man who is no fan of negative campaigning. His campaigns have generally focused on the "issues" (I put that in quotes for a reason, as you'll see) rather than on mud-slinging and attacking his opponent on a personal level.

For that reason, it amazes me that he would align himself with Trump. Not only do they not agree on many things (Pence is pro-trade, called Trump's ban on Muslims unconstitutional, for a couple of examples), I would imagine that Pence finds Trump distasteful, vulgar, and immoral on many levels. The only thing that occurs to me is that he is positioning himself for his own White House bid, something everyone figured he would attempt eventually. He is also in a very tight race for re-election, and there has been some speculation that he was lobbying for the VP slot because he was afraid he wasn't going to be re-elected. I think there is probably some merit in that.

Having said all that, I can tell you that I find his policies abhorrent. I can't begin to tell you the way he's screwed my state over. His tax cuts have hurt our public schools terribly. The Democrats in the Statehouse have been pushing for an infrastructure bill because our roads and bridges are crumbling. Over 10% of our bridges have been deemed structurally deficient. The Repubs in the Statehouse refuse to consider it and Trump refuses to lead on the issue.

Instead, he focuses on social issues. As you know, even when in Congress, he constantly tried to defund Planned Parenthood. His policies have seriously harmed the organization in Indiana. I read just yesterday that several clinics are closing, including the one I used in Muncie while at Ball State. That's right, a clinic in a college town is closing! I couldn't believe it.

There was the recent bill he signed about fetuses having to be buried or incinerated that was halted as unconstitutional by a federal judge. That bill led to the Periods for Pence site, in which women asked him questions about their periods and checked in when their flow was particularly heavy, and so forth. It's been quite amusing to watch.

Then there was the "state-run news website" that he attempted to pay for with state funds. He seemed completely clueless as to why that was a bad thing or why it goes against freedom of the press.

And of course, there was the famous Religious Freedom Restoration Act that he signed into law, making us a laughing stock of the world and costing our state MILLIONS in tourist dollars and new business. Again, he seemed utterly shocked by the pushback from both citizens and businesses, despite intensive lobbying by huge corporations like Eli Lilly who repeatedly said that it would be very bad for business. When he finally got the message and had our Congress add a non-discrimination clause in there, the Christian conservatives who had pushed him on it felt betrayed. So they were mad at him, too. In short, it was a complete clusterfuck, and he seemed completely gobsmacked by the whole thing.

Along with many of my friends, I called the Governor's office (after assuring that my Democrat legislators were going to vote against the RFRA bill...didn't matter, because our Statehouse is in Repub hands) to voice my opposition to the bill. I was unable to get through to the Governor's office. The phone rang and rang and rang, with no option to leave a voice message. I truly believe that they were just not answering the phone.

In his time in office, I can think of one good thing that he has done: he expanded Medicaid under the ACA in Indiana. He had to tweak it his own way, but it was approved by the Federal government and it has helped a lot of Hoosiers. So I'll give him that.

But otherwise, his policies and attitudes and willingness to push his religious beliefs on my entire state, even at the expense of the civil and reproductive rights of certain groups of Hoosiers, makes my skin crawl. I was looking forward to booting him out of office this fall. My wish came a little early! But we need to make sure that he doesn't get anywhere near the White House.

One additional thing (although this is long enough). I don't know if you happened to see the 60 Minutes interview with Trump and Pence last night. It was laughable. Pence was completely deferential to Trump, to the point of where he let him answer questions for him even when he was asked one directly, and often seemed to look to Trump as if asking permission to speak. Trump said, "It's okay, you can answer that." It was UNREAL.

So I will sum him up by saying that he's a right-wing, ultra-conservative toady who wants to push policies that further his Christian right agenda, even when they trample the Constitution that he claims to love so much.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Beth’s Music Moment: Ironing Simon’s Pants

And you wanted to dance so I asked you to dance
But fear is in your soul
Some people call it a one-night stand
But we can call it paradise

~~ Duran Duran, “Save A Prayer”

Before I get into the story of the rather strange title of this entry, I’ll give you a review of my beloved Duran Duran at Ravinia Park Pavilion north of Chicago on Saturday, July 9th! (Click on a picture to embiggenate.)

When Ken and I saw Duran Duran at Berkeley last October, the show immediately rocketed into my Top Five concerts ever. The concert at Ravinia also rocketed into my Top Five and even passed the show at the Greek!

Why was this one better? Well, they were both fantastic. But this one was a bit of a bigger production. I think the first leg of the tour last year was a test—an attempt to see how well they would be received, how ticket sales would be, what songs, both old and new, would go over well. When they expanded this year’s tour, a continuation of the “Paper Gods” tour, they added a few songs, the lights and video seemed more fleshed out, and it seemed a little less stripped down than the show we saw at the Greek. This was two hours of sheer entertainment and I danced my ass off!

First, the venue. It was my first time at Ravinia Park and it was absolutely gorgeous! It really is a park and the stage and pavilion are surrounded by grass and trees. The lawn was absolutely packed with people having elaborate picnics, including tables with tablecloths, huge spreads of food, drinks...I said it was like a fancy version of tailgating at Notre Dame! Duran Duran posted on their Facebook page that a couple had even gotten married and had their wedding reception there and that they were happy to be a small part of the couple’s special day. Awww!

Our seats were in the pavilion, though, not on the lawn. Seeing them up there onstage for real is much more fun than seeing them on a big video screen! Our seats were great (I got us VIP tickets via the DD website because I’m a club member) and we settled down with Shane and Matt to wait. The show started right on time, with the opening band Chic and Nile Rodgers taking the stage promptly at 7 PM. They opened for DD when we saw them at the Greek, too, and they blew me away then. They didn’t disappoint this time, and Nile Rodgers is an absolute legend. Not only is he an amazing producer and songwriter, he is an incredible showman. He knows how to get a crowd moving and his smile just lit up the whole joint. He talked about being a cancer survivor as an introduction to the song he wrote about that, “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. It’s not often that I stand for the whole time for an opening act, but I honestly don’t know how anyone could sit down for that set!

After a brief break between bands, in which we got to see my cousin Michael and his husband Mike, the lights went down and the opening to “Paper Gods” started. There was lots of fog and dramatic lighting as the band took the stage, and then the lights hit Simon as he started to sing. Ooo, I get chills just writing about it! For the next two hours, it was hit after hit, and on the songs that weren’t hits from the new album, I danced my ass off, anyway! I sang, I pumped my fist in the air for “Wild Boys,” I yelled, “Play that fuckin’ bass, John!” I had a TOTAL BLAST. In Berkeley, I didn’t get to hear “Wild Boys” or their cover of “White Lines,” but I got both in this show! They had also not been playing “The Reflex” on some of the European shows, but it was back in the setlist, as was “Save A Prayer” which was surprisingly not on the Nashville setlist. The band dedicated that song to Nick Rhodes, who sadly was not there due to a family emergency back in England. You were missed, Nick, but the woman filling in for him, MNDR, did a great job in his place!

One of the coolest parts? Shane mentioned it first, but it was my feeling upon seeing them in Berkeley: they were really having fun up there. Simon was smiling and joking, John was grinning, the backup singers were dancing around and having a blast, and they were all loving us for loving them. Of course, Roger was his usual stoic self, but he flashed a big grin when they came out to take a bow! Like I always say, “Show the band some love!” You’ll get it back a thousandfold with an incredible show, and that’s what happened here. John was wearing a t-shirt with a sequined “Rio” smile on it, and at one point, cheeky Simon went up and kissed him on the chest. Made me laugh!

They are absolute professionals and incredibly talented musicians. The show was perfect, with no technical glitches or sound problems. I kind of lost myself for a couple of hours and what better way to do it? This show reaffirmed my love and respect for the band. Not that it needed reaffirming!

Oh, and have I mentioned Simon Le Bon’s tight white pants yet? No? Shame on me! That became a bit of a joke, because for a while there, practically every review I read of their shows included a mention of how good Simon looks in his “tight white trousers” or “tight white jeans.” (It’s true. He does.) That is what led to the title of this entry. After we checked into the hotel, the four of us were sitting around talking before we went to dinner. I said, “I wonder where the band is staying? Palmer House, maybe?” Either Shane or Matt said, “They’re staying right here!” There was an adjoining door to the room next door and one of them said, “John is staying next door!”

We were cracking up because it was funny to imagine Duran Duran staying in a Courtyard Marriott. Then Shane took it to another level and said, “Simon is probably opening the closet, pulling out the iron and ironing board, and ironing his tight white pants right now!” I don’t know what it was, but that struck us so funny that I fell over laughing on the bed. Not only imagining them staying in a Courtyard Marriott but picturing Simon ironing his own pants. Probably in his underwear, right? Right!

But wait, there’s more! The next morning, as we’re getting ready to go grab some breakfast, I get a text from Shane: “New band name: Ironing Simon’s Pants”! I about died!

But wait, there’s even more! When I mentioned that on Facebook, our friend Tim came up with an album cover for us. I’ll let you know when it’s released! (Don’t hold your breath!)

I experienced a bit of post-showital blues, but I’m back to my usual self. It was a total kicky blast of a weekend. Thanks to Saint Ken for putting up with our shenanigans, thanks to Shane and Matt for aiding and abetting in said shenanigans, and thanks to Duran Duran for making me smile for so many years. I don’t think I could adore them more. Fangirl is happy!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Beth’s Books: The Girls by Emma Cline

"We all want to be seen."

The words of the narrator, Evie Boyd, sum up the underlying theme of this excellent debut novel. Fourteen-year-old Evie feels a vague sense of unease with her upscale, late sixties suburbia life, as well as the role she is expected to play as a young woman. She feels the need to belong, to have others notice her and acknowledge her existence. Early on, she thinks, "All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you—the boys had spent that time becoming themselves."

Someone finally does notice her: the titular girls, especially one named Suzanne. Evie is attracted to her in both an erotic and envious way. Suzanne seems defiant to the niceties of society and appears to be a free spirit. Evie falls in with the girls who eventually take her to the ranch, where several of them are living under the guidance of the supposedly brilliant and charismatic Russell. As Evie is drawn into the circle, she spends more and more time at the ranch, partying and getting deeper into their lifestyle.

Of course, the ranch, the girls, and Russell are thinly veiled stand-ins for Charlie and the Manson family. If I had to guess which Manson family member is the basis for Suzanne, I'd guess that it was Susan Atkins, AKA Sadie. Although we spend most of the book in 1969 as Evie relates the story of that strange summer that ended so violently, we also get the adult Evie looking back at her experience there. She ponders why she was so easily sucked into the group and wonders what she might have been capable of. She still lives in some fear and horror at the events of her past but also misses that initial sense of belonging...and of being noticed. The young Evie was beginning to realize the power of femaleness and the control that can be gained from it, a lesson she learned from the girls at the ranch.

For a non-horror book, it left me with a deep sense of dread, sadness, and understanding. Although Cline's prose can get a little much at times, it actually worked quite well. So many of Evie's distant memories are triggered by scents or sounds or a particular kind of light. It made me get inside her head and understand her feelings on a deeper level. It made me remember my own sense of wanting to belong at that age and wanting to be noticed.

This is an excellent book—and a debut novel!—my favorite of the year so far. Highly recommended.

The Girls by Emma Cline

Monday, June 27, 2016

Beth’s Music Moment: Only After Dark

As some of you may know, I am fairly plugged into all things Duran Duran.

What? Stop laughing!

Okay, yes. I’ll cop to being a wee bit obsessed. I’m always on the lookout for fun stuff. A recent favorite was a couple of John Taylor luggage tags from Etsy. I also have a couple of colored vinyl discs on the way. Who doesn’t love colored vinyl??

I came across this cool compilation CD and thought it looked fun. Boy, is it ever! A little background. Duran Duran got their start at a club called the Rum Runner in Birmingham, England (their hometown). They would practice and play gigs there, but they also did odd jobs around the joint. John worked the door, Andy worked as a cook, and Roger worked as a busboy of sorts, collecting the bottles and glasses from patrons’ tables. Nick? He worked as a DJ.

In 2006, Nick and John curated this CD and chose the songs for it. In the liner notes, Nick writes that 1978-80 was a fascinating time in the music scene. Punk was on its way out, but at the Rum Runner, punk, glam, and electronica flourished in a strange and glorious mix. Nick played all these songs and more. Check out this playlist!

  1. Being Boiled (Fast Version) - Human League
  2. Computer Game (Theme From The Invader)/Firecracker - Yellow Magic Orchestra
  3. Always Crashing in the Same Car - David Bowie
  4. Sister Europe (Album Version) - Psychedelic Furs
  5. Changeling - Simple Minds
  6. Only After Dark - Mick Ronson
  7. Underpass - John Foxx
  8. Warm Leatherette - The Normal
  9. ‘In’ Crowd - Bryan Ferry
  10. The True Wheel - Brian Eno
  11. Are ‘Friends’ Electric? - The Tubeway Army
  12. The Robots (Single Edit) - Kraftwerk
  13. I Feel Love - Donna Summer
  14. I Am The Fly - Wire
  15. Shot By Both Sides - Magazine
  16. Private Life - Grace Jones
  17. The Passenger - Iggy Pop
  18. Slow Motion - Ultravox  

This is an absolutely amazing collection. I knew most of the songs, of course, but a few were unfamiliar to me. (If you’re unfamiliar with some of them, I encourage you to look them up.) What is cool to me is that it is a set that perfectly flows together and captures a mood. It made me want to put on some leopard print stuff and transport back in time to hang out at the Rum Runner! It’s hard to convey that feeling of being out in a club in the ‘70s or ‘80s and the odd amalgam of music styles. Nick and John’s song choices are perfect. Whether it’s the electronica of Human League and Kraftwerk, the glam of Bowie and Bryan Ferry, the strangely compelling creepiness of “Warm Leatherette,” the punk of Wire and Magazine, or the straight-up disco of “I Feel Love,” it all works. I would have danced all night to this stuff.

I’ve always prided myself on being able to put together good party soundtracks. (Pro tip: if you want to get people to dance, put some Prince in the mix!) But I bow before the mastery of Nick Rhodes and John Taylor in curating Only After Dark. It also illustrates their influences and how they developed their sound. Put all these songs in the cocktail shaker, shake it up, and pour out Duran Duran (on the rocks, please).

Nick and John, if you ever want to DJ my party, you’re hired!

Here. Enjoy some “Warm Leatherette.” Join the car crash set.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

My VP prediction

A while back, I mentioned on Facebook that I think Hillary Clinton will pick Tim Kaine as her running mate. Today I’m going on record with that pick. I may be proved wrong and will be the first to say so. But I did predict that Biden would be Obama’s pick way back when, so I’ve got that going for me!

Here is my reasoning, along with comparisons to the other two VP front-runners, Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro. (I’ll leave the Republican prognostications to others. I have no idea what Trump will do. Does anyone?)

One of Hillary’s big arguments against Trump is that she’s got the experience and he doesn’t. (Man, a truer statement was never made!) While Warren would be a good pick to get some of the Sanders supporters on Hillary’s side, there is a portion of them who are already vilifying Warren for endorsing Clinton and campaigning for her. Get a grip, people. I’m just not sure it would do her that much good with the diehard Sanders supporters. Despite Warren’s excellent work on the CFPB and in the Senate, she really doesn’t have that much experience in foreign policy. That is Clinton’s strong suit against Trump. Same goes for Castro. He has some executive experience as Mayor of San Antonio and he’s been a part of President Obama’s cabinet, but he doesn’t have a ton of experience at that level and it’s hard to say, “He’s ready to be President on Day One.”

Kaine, however, has been Mayor of Richmond; Governor of Virginia; he is a current Senator for Virginia; he serves on several committees, including Armed Services and Foreign Relations; he served as DNC chair for two years. If the main criterion for the pick is experience, Kaine gets it.

Did I mention Virginia? Major swing state. Massachusetts is reliably blue so Warren doesn’t help there. Castro’s main ties are to Texas, which is going to stay red. Kaine wins in this aspect.

Massachusetts has a Republican Governor, so he would appoint a Republican to take Warren’s Senate seat. The Democrats really really REALLY want to retake the Senate. Losing a seat by picking Warren would be counterproductive in that goal. (Harry Reid seems to have found a loophole to limit that, but it’s still risky.) Virginia’s Governor, Terry McAuliffe, is a Democrat, and limited to one consecutive term. He can appoint himself to the Senate seat, keeping Kaine’s seat blue.

Hillary has a big advantage over Trump among women. Adding a woman to the ticket will not make much of a difference in that regard. I have heard some reservations about an all-female ticket. I certainly do not share those reservations, but I can see why it might make some people feel kind of oogy. Two powerful women...I know! So scary! ::eye roll:: But yeah, I recognize that it might be too big of a leap for some (unenlightened) folks. I’m also not sure how much chemistry there is between Clinton and Warren. I think Warren will be an enthusiastic and effective surrogate, but the relationship between running mates does matter and can make a difference in the perception of the ticket.

Hillary also has a big advantage over Trump among Hispanics. Because you know...THE WALL. So adding Castro to the ticket isn’t going to provide much of a boost there.

Is Kaine the energetic, dynamic pick? Nope. He admitted on “Meet the Press” this morning that he is “boring.” But if you’ve been watching Hillary Clinton over the years, you know that she is a cautious politician and by no means a firebrand. I think she will go for the cautious pick. That Kaine can deliver a major swing state is a big deal.  

There have been a few other mentions, like Cory Booker. I would love to see him on the ticket! But again, Hillary has no problem with African-Americans, so he doesn’t give her a boost. Sherrod Brown would also be great, but Ohio also has a Republican Governor who would appoint a Republican to his seat. Al Franken? I would love that, too, and Minnesota has a Democratic Governor. But I just don’t quite see her choosing him, although he will be another great surrogate. Unleash your inner, sarcastic comedian a little bit, Senator Franken! Sanders? Not gonna happen.

Kaine is the safest, most logical pick for Hillary. My money is on Tim Kaine.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Into the Belly of the Beast

In an unusual turn of events, Indiana’s primary mattered this year. Ours happens so late in the season that the candidates on either side usually have the nomination in the bag by now. This was a lot of fun for me because it meant that candidates actually made a stop in our state and in our city. I went to a Ted Cruz rally and left feeling really uncomfortable and vaguely horrified. I skipped the Sanders rally on Sunday because I just didn’t feel like going anywhere that day or dealing with people. I actually had tickets to attend the Trump rally the following day, but after Ken and I saw how many people were expected, we decided to avoid it. If Hillary had had an open event, I would have made sure to be there, though!

I’m glad I skipped the Trump rally because I can only handle so much idiocy right up in my face. I was able to live stream his speech and it helped to be somewhat removed from it. I told Ken that it was a good thing we didn’t go because there were several times when I laughed out loud at some of Trump’s statements, and I’m guessing that his supporters wouldn’t take kindly to someone laughing at their candidate. Even though he deserves every bit of derisive laughter he gets.

Anyway, Indiana had the dubious honor of going strongly for Trump and knocking Cruz and Kasich out of the fight for the nomination. As much as I loathe the oleaginous Cruz and the deceptively mild-mannered Kasich (bullshit policies delivered in a kind, reasonable voice are still bullshit policies), it is horrifying that the Vulgar Talking Yam (thank you, Charlie Pierce!) is the presumptive nominee of the Republican party.

I have voted Republican in the past. I think Richard Lugar was a fine Senator and I was happy to cast my vote for him more than once. Trump is about as far removed from someone like Richard Lugar as I am from an astronaut.

It looks more than likely that the Republican party is going to nominate a bigoted bully who seems to think that “political correctness” is an egregious concept that prevents him from saying whatever the hell he wants to without any consequences. And what he wants to say is misogynistic, racist, Islamophobic, and generally vile. I’m not sure when PC became a bad thing...I’m a big fan of treating others with respect and understanding that just because someone doesn’t share my views or beliefs or race or preference for peach pie over cherry doesn’t mean that they should be vilified.

Everything that comes out of his mouth is laughably absurd, including his economic plans for paying less on our debt, which virtually every economist is saying would be disastrous to the world economy. He changes his tune on issues in a matter of hours, not days. One of Trump's chosen delegates in California is a white supremacist.

It is beyond my comprehension that a significant portion of our populace is supporting this Cheesy Dorito (thanks, Holly!). He is not just ignorant and ill-informed on policy, he’s a fucking asshole. I am to the point where I honestly question the intelligence and competency of anyone who is supporting this nincompoop. I have friends and family who do, and while I continue to love them, I find that I simply cannot understand why they don’t see this demagogue for what he is: a power-hungry narcissist who won’t hesitate to burn the whole thing down.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Beth’s Music Moment: The Dandy Warhols’ “Distortland”

You are killing me
And everything you love about me

~~ “You Are Killing Me” by the Dandy Warhols

I’m taking a break from thinking too hard about politics today so I’ll do an album review.

For a while now, my playlist has been old Duran Duran, middle Duran Duran, John Taylor of Duran Duran, and new Duran Duran. I hear other songs on satellite radio and places like that, but when I take the time to listen to a whole album, it’s been the Birmingham lads.

I changed that this week because I got the new release from Portland’s Dandy Warhols, Distortland. It’s a...well, it’s a dandy!

I can’t remember how I came across the Dandys several years ago. Maybe I heard “Bohemian Like You,” or maybe I just saw their name and thought it was clever and cool. The first album I got into was the one with that song, 13 Tales From Urban Bohemia, and I played it a lot. Of course, then I had to get all their previous albums. You know how that goes.

So although I didn’t discover them when they first started, I’ve liked them for a while now. They are on my short list of bands I want to see live.

The new album has that unmistakable Dandys sound, with Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s breathy baritone and Zia McCabe’s sweet harmonizing and keyboards. Peter Holmström adds crunchy guitar and Brent DeBoer adds the backbeat on drums. This is classic Dandys, atmospheric and almost kind of droning, but in the best possible way. Many of the songs totally rock, with catchy hooks and singable choruses, but there is also a calmness and a meditative quality that makes you just want to kick back with the headphones on and zone out. (If you are so inclined, a little herb would make this an enjoyable listening experience indeed. Hey, they are from Portland, Oregon, after all!)

As for CTT and Zia’s harmonies, it struck me as I was listening to this maybe the third or fourth time that they remind me so much of one of my ‘80s favorites, X! Their voices together remind me a lot of John Doe and Exene Cervenka. No wonder I like them so much! (Check out some great John and Exene harmonies on “Blue Spark.”)

My favorites on the album are “Semper Fidelis,” which has a driving, crunchy guitar; “Pope Reverend Jim” with its fun chorus (“Everybody loves Pope Reverend Jim!”) and a bit of a '50s style to it; “STYGGO,” which has a bunch of nice, singable “do do do’s”; and “You Are Killing Me,” which is just a great pop song with an infectious chorus and the aforementioned pretty harmonies of CTT and Zia.

If I have any complaint about the album it’s that it isn’t longer! I would have enjoyed three or four more songs on it and I’m sure I would love them as much as I love the songs actually on the album. But hey, I’m really happy that one of my favorites is still making great music and still touring! I highly recommend this and I think you’ll enjoy it if you give it a listen.

Here is the video for “You Are Killing Me,” which has an interesting twist at the end. In watching it again, I picked up on a few photos that I didn’t think much about when I first watched it. But with the name at the end, it all made sense. It is an interesting connection to the Dandy Warhols.