Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Police Action

Stewart Copeland bookLast night, I finished reading Strange Things Happen, the autobiography of Stewart Copeland. He’s best known as the drummer for The Police, of course (and he’s my favorite drummer).

Stewart is quite a character, though, with a life lived far beyond the typical rock star experience. His father was a spy for the CIA, so he spent several years of his childhood in Lebanon, then in England, then southern California. His musical aptitude led him to the drums, and when the band that came to be known as The Police finally coalesced, I would say that his global experiences led him and the band to some distinctly non-traditional American music. One of the reasons I loved The Police was that sort of tribal beat, along with a distinct touch of reggae.

Post-Police, Stewart has gone on to make his name mainly as a composer of musical scores for movies and TV shows. His fortune made through the Police and subsequent endeavors allowed him to indulge in an expensive passion: polo. Yes...definitely an eclectic person!

I liked some of Stewart’s projects beyond The Police. One of my favorite albums is “The Rhythmatist,” in which he chronicles his travels in Africa in search of the beat (it was also a movie). It was fun to read his remarks about the movie, because apparently they just sort of made it up as they went along. The movie itself doesn’t do much for me (although the footage of him playing his drums in a cage on the savannah, surrounded by lions, is pretty awesomely cool), but I still love listening to the soundtrack.

I also enjoyed his band Animal Logic, formed with jazz bassist Stanley Clarke. Very pleasant music, with Stewart’s unmistakable sound. I love his sound, because it’s so energetic and frenetic. It sounds to me as though he has four arms, like Shiva...or maybe even ten, like Kali! He’s got so many things going on at once that it’s fun to try to listen to all the subtleties.

As with Keith Richards’ autobiography, I was fascinated by the band dynamic within The Police. Stewart writes quite a bit about their reunion tour, and as with Keith and Mick, there seems to be much conflict within the Police rank and file. Sting is obviously the superstar; Stewart recognizes that, but chafes at being told how to play his drums. (I don’t blame him.) Stewart obviously feels much love for Sting, but can only be pushed so far. There was a happy ending, as the tour wound down to them putting their differences aside and just having fun...just enjoying the magic that they could still create together. Magic, magic, maaaagic!

Stewart CopelandAlso as with Keith’s book, I loved reading about the power that music has over musicians. I mean, I love listening to music, but I’m guessing that my enjoyment is maybe one-tenth of that experienced by those who actually create and play it. I can be swept away by a song...imagine playing that song to several thousand screaming fans! Stewart also mentions what he calls the “kinetic ritual” (also a song on his Klark Kent CD), in which the energy of people grooving to the same beat is gathered and magnified. (Think about seeing video of those holy roller churches, in which people get to dancing and jittering and falling down. There is always music playing.) Being the veteran of many concerts, I have to concur. There is a special energy in being in a group of fans listening to live music...I’ve exchanged many a glance with Cousin Shane at shows over the years, where we know we’re on the same page, being moved by the music, just happy to be there and to be rocking out. It really is a special feeling.

I got a chuckle out of Stewart’s almost fetishistic worship of his post-show shower. Not surprising...his playing style is so physical, and stage lights are freakin’ hot...I bet his body temperature is raised several degrees. It was always a necessity for him to have a shower, and he mentions that often enough that it’s obvious that no one had better come between him and that shower! It was also amusing to read about his kids’ excitement at getting to hang out with bands like Incubus or the Foo Fighters...kind of forgetting that their Dad is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

A very enjoyable read. I recommend it for any fan of ‘80s music, and I think it’s a must-read for any Police fan. I’m including “Regatta de Blanc” from the album of the same name. I always had a special fondness for their instrumentals, and this one always gets me moving and singing the non-lyrics. “Ee-yay-oh! Ee-yay-oh! Ee-yay-yay-yay-yay-yeahhhhhh!” Also a nice showcase for Stewart’s drumming style. Stewart’s hair may be white rather than bleached blond now, but this is music that will never grow old.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Speaking freely

Free speechLast week, the Supreme Court confirmed the right of Westboro Baptist Church to protest at the funerals of military personnel. I’m not going to dignify them with a picture here, but their general message is that American soldiers are dying because America is giving gays more and more rights. (Personally, it looks to me like American soldiers are dying because we are sending them into war zones. But that’s just me.) We all know that this group is abhorrent, and we all condemn their activities. However, the Supreme Court made the right decision here.

I think this is yet another fundamental difference between right and left. All of my liberal friends (at least those who have voiced an opinion) feel the same way that I do. We find this group a bunch of deplorable fanatics, but we also realize that they have the right to have their little protests and voice their strange and nauseating opinions. We despise them, but we know that free speech applies to them as much as it applies to the progressive protesters in Wisconsin, Indiana, and all across the country.

Palin weighed in immediately with a tweet:

Common sense & decency absent as wacko "church" allowed hate msgs spewed@ soldiers' funerals but we can't invoke God's name in public square.

If you can weed through her own special brand of word salad, it would seem that she is against the Supreme Court’s ruling. (Hey, Palin finally found a Supreme Court ruling that she disagrees with!) First of all, she’s quite wrong about not being able to invoke God’s name in the public square. She can stand on whatever street corner she wants and “spew” her godly message. She has that right, just as the Westboro bizarros can stand on a street corner (as long as they are at least 1,000 feet away from where the service is being conducted) and conduct their protests. She was called on this, of course, with people saying that she didn’t comprehend the full scope of free speech. She backtracked a bit then:

Obviously my comment meant that when we’re told we can’t say ‘God bless you’ in graduation speeches or pray before a local football game but these wackos can invoke God’s name in their hate speech while picketing our military funerals, it shows ridiculous inconsistency. I wasn’t calling for any limit on free speech, and it’s a shame some folks tried to twist my comment in that way. I was simply pointing out the irony of an often selective interpretation of free speech rights.

Well, thank you for confirming that you don’t comprehend the full scope of free speech, lady. The reason you can’t say ‘God bless you’ in a graduation speech or pray before a local football game (at least at a public school) is because of that other little thing about separation of church and state. Remember that? The government shall promote no religion. You most definitely were calling for a limit on free speech, because you were saying that a “common sense” and “decent” verdict from the Supreme Court would have stopped this group from their protests. The Supreme Court wasn’t applying “selective interpretation” of free speech rights; that was what YOU were doing.

Free speech douchebagsBelieve me, I have no love for the Westboro Baptists, and that is on many levels. Their religious fanaticism, their condemnation of gays, their willingness to invade the privacy of grieving families...they truly are an ignorant and hateful bunch, and I find them disgusting. However, I also realize that they are within their rights to gather and protest. Every time they do this, they confirm their sheer loathsomeness, and they are bringing no one to their side. NO ONE. If their goal is to turn the nation back to God, and bring people to “salvation,” they are failing miserably. So they can keep up their little protests. Maybe it will provide an object lesson to everyone about extremism in the religious community. I hope that good people will do what they can to shield grieving families from the hate exhibited by these people.

Free speech is for everyone. Even a quittiot: a quittin’ idiot with a Twitter account.