Thursday, August 5, 2010

My duty now awaits me

Devo Uncontrollable It's off to Chi-town on Thursday for a concert I'm really excited about: Listen up, y'all. It's D-E-V-O!

I wrote about the Ohio mutants a couple of years ago. It was fun to read that entry and see that I wrote about a brief reunion and talk of a possible album. It was true! "Something For Everybody" came out a couple of months ago, and it's done quite well. It got very good reviews, it did pretty well on the charts, and although I don't have the numbers, I think it has sold well. I know that it has been my CD of the summer, and it's all I've played since it came out. (I tend to get stuck on a CD that way.)

I've loved Devo since Shane and I first saw them on "Saturday Night Live" in the late '70s. It was one of the most bizarre things we'd ever seen, and we were immediately captivated. Shane got to see them on July 4th in Milwaukee, and here is the set list:

  • don't shoot (i'm a man)
  • peek-a-boo
  • what we do
  • going under
  • fresh
  • that's good
  • girl u want
  • whip it
  • planet earth
  • satisfaction
  • secret agent man
  • uncontrollable urge
  • mongoloid
  • jocko homo
  • smart patrol/mr. d.n.a.
  • gates of steel
  • devo corporate anthem
  • freedom of choice
  • beautiful world

Oh man. I'm going to be...well, I don't know. I'm so excited, I can hardly stand it. I just need to make sure I don't burn out early. You know how you get so excited about something and your adrenaline is pumping...and then you hit a wall and you're down for the count? No? Is that just me?

Anyway, it will be a celebration with my friend Doug. Not only is it his birthday, he'll be deploying to Cuba at the end of the month, so it's a chance to send him off in devoluted style! The venue is the Congress Theater in Chicago, and it's a place I haven't been before. It sounds pretty cool, an actual old theater dating from the mid-1920s. If you're in town, stop by and buy me a beer! I will return the favor. It's a fairly small place, and I'm hoping to get up by the stage. I've already confirmed that I can take pictures and video, so I hope to have both for you. I investigated nearby places to eat, and found a place called the Congress Pizzeria. The reviews say that it's got the atmosphere of a mob hangout. I am so there! Red naugahyde booths. I'm going to be in retro heaven.

This video is for Deb, who loves this song. I do, too! "She sings from somewhere you can't see, she sits in the top of the greenest tree, she sends out an aroma of undefined love, it drips on down in a mist from above...she's just the girl, just the girl, the girl u want!"

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Tale of Two Videos

ACDC The other night on a Facebook post, I mentioned Celine Dion in derogatory terms. I can't remember the exact wording, but I believe I was apologizing to the world for Sarah Palin, and said that she was worse than a hundred Celine Dions, or some such thing. I know that some people like her. I'm not going to try to convince anyone not to, but I also have no qualms about reiterating my utter contempt for the woman. I do not find her music entertaining. I find it abhorrent. (Please note that I am able to separate the person from the product; she may be a very nice and likable person. However, her musical output is not my cup of tea, to put it mildly.)

Inevitably, the craptastic video of her and Anastasia's cover of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" came up. Because I brought it up. It is a mockery of all that is sacred (or profane) in rock and roll, and a complete travesty of what is a genuine rock and roll classic. It is generally considered to be among the top worst song covers of all time. Take a look.

Let's talk about what is wrong here.

First and foremost, you've got a woman singing this song. I'm all for cool rock chicks, but they do better with their own music, and I'm not sure that anyone without testicles should be singing AC/DC. It's a little jarring to hear her singing about the guy knocking her out with his American thighs, because a discussion of thighs usually occurs when a man is talking about a woman. You know, thigh high stockings, wrapping of said thighs around something, running hands down them...guys like thighs. They sing about them. Male thighs, although appreciated, are generally not celebrated in female song.

Then there is her voice. It is much better suited to ballads and love songs, not a balls-to-the-wall rock song like this one. Anastasia has a voice fairly well-suited to rock, so her participation in this isn't quite as embarrassing. But then they actually do harmonies in this song. Harmonies? Why? Someone please tell me...why?!

Air guitar. She does freakin' air guitar. Not once, but several times. We do not do air guitar in public, unless it's as a joke among close friends. VERY close friends. Air guitar is a private act, much like masturbation. If you masturbate in front of thousands, you're more than likely a porn star. If you do air guitar in front of thousands, you're just an asshole.

She attempts Angus Young's Chuck Berry-esque guitar strut. In her cropped pants, angel-sleeve top, and high heels. Then she does more air guitar, and does some sort of Saturday Night Fever pointing to the sky. Or maybe she's channeling Babe Ruth. I don't know. It just looks idiotic. She does some sort of strange dance at the end that Shane felt was reminiscent of a road runner. Ooo. Rock on, Celine.

There are plenty of high-fives going around, accompanied by shouts of "C'mon, girlfriend!" Celine actually high-fives the guitarist after their solo. (I say "their," because I'm not sure if that guitarist is male or female.) That is SO not rock and roll.

She does duckface. Pay attention, everyone. Duckface is not attractive. It looks stupid.

Now let's look at the original video by AC/DC. Yes, it's bigger. Because it's better.

Now we're talkin'! (A little Beth trivia here. When I lived in Indianapolis, I was part of a bachelor/bachelorette fundraiser for cystic fibrosis, in which we got donations and a date package put together, then auctioned off our "date." When I did the catwalk, I had them play "You Shook Me All Night Long." Why? 'Cause I rock, that's why.)

First, remember that this was from AC/DC's first album after the death of the amazing Bon Scott. There have been very few bands to survive the death of such a charismatic and talented singer as Bon, but AC/DC totally kicked ass with "Back In Black." It's one of the best rock albums of all time (in my book), and this is an iconic rock song.

Brian Johnson has a fantastic rock screech. I don't know how guys sing like that, but it's really a great rock and roll voice.

You've got a chick with thigh high stockings, writhing on a bed, and riding a mechanical bull. Chicks in skimpy outfits riding bikes. Not that I'm into that (I'm a meat and potatoes gal, thanks), but that's so rock and roll. Brian Johnson opens the bedroom door and drops everything when he sees what is inside. On a song from the same album, Brian sings, "I asked you if you wanted any rhythm and love, you said you wanna rock and roll instead." Seeing Celine do "You Shook Me All Night Long" has all the sex appeal of a banana slug.

Finally, two words: Angus Young. This little snot is one of the greatest guitarists ever, and seeing him in his schoolboy outfit duckwalking across the stage as he whips that guitar into a frenzy is one of my little pleasures in life. Angus is awesome. He can get away with duckface, too, because he's not doing it to be cute. On him, it's a sneer. Guitar is sexy; guitar is cool; guitar is fun; guitar is mean and amazing and touching and generates emotions that are indescribable. (At least for me.) Is Angus sexy? No, not really. Is his guitar-playing? Uh huh.

That is my "compare and contrast" on the two videos, and that is why I do not like Celine Dion. She took one of rock's greatest songs and made it laughable. That is unforgivable in my book.

The End.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Letter to Governor Daniels

Mitch Daniels Late last year, my Governor made some comments in an interview which I feel were way off base, and today I wrote to him about it. The email form would only contain about a paragraph, so he’s going to get a real-live printed letter in the mail! I don’t hate the guy (although many of my fellow Hoosiers do), but I needed to set the record straight on a few of his remarks.

Dear Governor Daniels,

First of all, I would like to thank you for your service to our great state of Indiana. I have found your governorship to be financially prudent and I applaud your efforts in bringing new technologies and businesses to our state. Despite my liberal leanings, I voted for you in the last election, and in a strange turn of events, have found myself in the position of defending your actions to more conservative family and friends! (Who knew that the time change would continue to be such a big deal to some?)

However, I feel compelled to write to you about certain statements you made in an interview in December of 2009 concerning your faith, and atheism.

It is not my place to question your faith or try to convince you to believe other than you do; the myth of the "aggressive atheist" persists, but it is unlikely that you will find an atheist knocking on your door trying to "convert" you. I do take exception to some of your comments, however.

"Our country was founded—this is just an historic fact; some people today may resist this notion but it is absolutely true—it was founded by people of faith. It was founded on principles of faith. The whole idea of equality of men and women [and] of the races all springs from the notion that we're all children of a just God. It is very important to at least my notion of what America's about and should be about and I hope it's reflected most of the time in the choices that we make personally."

That is not true. Thomas Jefferson and other framers of our nation were Deists. Although they believed in a higher power, they believed that humankind's future was in its own hands; they were far from devout and practicing Christians. In fact, George Washington stopped attending church when his minister took him to task for not taking communion. They took great pains to ensure that our Constitution was worded in such a way that there was a clear separation of church and state. They realized that just as religion needed to be protected from control by the government, our government needed to be protected from religion.

"People who reject the idea of a God—who think that we’re just accidental protoplasm—have always been with us. What bothers me is the implications—which not all such folks have thought through—because really, if we are just accidental, if this life is all there is, if there is no eternal standard of right and wrong, then all that matters is power."

I assure you that most of us do not believe that we are "accidental protoplasm." We are a beautiful and amazing product of nature, and I find that divine in itself. The fact that humans have achieved what we have after millennia of development is astounding and to be treasured! I can also assure you that most of us have thought this through quite thoroughly, and many of us have struggled with coming to terms with what we do and do not believe. At times, we have dealt with derision from family members and friends, or have experienced discrimination in the workplace. For most of us, it is not an easy pathway to take, and it has come only through years of introspection and doubt and struggle.

Your statement that if this life is all there is, there is no eternal standard of right and wrong, and all that matters is power. is completely contrary to how most of us feel. While this life may be all there is, it doesn't mean that there is no standard of right and wrong; it is simply the right thing to do morally for the good of all. My actions are not predicated on any sort of wish for power; I try to be a good person because I feel that it is good to help my fellow human beings. I choose to not commit crimes not because of the threat of eternal damnation, but because it would be harmful to humanity and to the greater good. Many of us are able to do good without the threat of hellfire and brimstone; many of us think it's just the right way to behave.

"And atheism leads to brutality. All the horrific crimes of the last century were committed by atheists—Stalin and Hitler and Mao and so forth—because it flows very naturally from an idea that there is no judgment and there is nothing other than the brief time we spend on this Earth."

This is also completely false, in many ways. Hitler was raised as a Catholic, and the Nazi party was deeply based in religion. To call Hitler or the Nazis atheists is to be completely ignorant of that period of history. You will also find that religion has generated some of the most vile and bloody conflicts in history, whether the Inquisition, the Crusades, or the Salem witch trials. Atheism is the absence of worship of any deity, and there is no bloody agenda there designed to convert others. That is obviously not the case with religion; the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East bear that out. If you feel that the same doesn't hold true for Christianity, I would remind you of the conflicts in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants.

"Everyone’s certainly entitled in our country to equal treatment regardless of their opinion. But yes, I think that folks who believe they’ve come to that opinion ought to think very carefully, first of all, about how different it is from the American tradition; how it leads to a very different set of outcomes in the real world."

As I stated earlier, I and others have certainly thought very carefully. The American tradition as I see it states that we are all free to believe or not believe as we see fit. You state that we are all entitled to equal treatment regardless of our opinions; and yet you follow that with a "but." There is no "but." You caution that nonbelievers should think about the outcomes in the real world. I would caution you to look, honestly, at the results of religion in the world before condemning nonbelievers as the cause of all the ills and hatred in the world. You are not a stupid man; if you take the time to investigate beyond what your faith dictates to you, you might be surprised at what you find.

I also hope that you will remember the First Amendment and understand that you insulted a significant portion of your constituency; approximately 15% say that they identify with no religion. Those of us who choose no such affiliation are not necessarily amoral or "bad." It might surprise you to know that some of us are truly good for goodness's sake.