Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Golden Door

Here is what I would like to say to the Governors who issued statements refusing Syrian refugees, including (unfortunately) my own Governor (unfortunately), Mike Pence.

First of all, super geniuses, you can’t do that. You can protest it until you’re blue in the face—perish the thought of turning blue!—but you can’t just refuse to accept them. Our refugee program is a federal one, so that means that they trump your puny little protestations. You might remember a little thing call the Supremacy Clause in the Constitution, which states that U.S. laws are the supreme law of the land. We even fought a war where that kind of came up...remember that?

I suppose you could do whatever IS in your power to choke off any aid to these refugees, but is that really the path you want to take? Could you really turn a blind eye to starving and suffering children? Would you order the National Guard to stand at the state line and turn away any of these people trying to enter your state? How exactly would that work? Planning on building a wall, are you? Checkpoint Charlies at all points of entry? People are allowed to freely pass between states, if you recall. I don’t need a passport to go to Chicago. I can just drive there! If the federal government screens these refugees (a lengthy and arduous process) and allows them entry to our country, they are free to travel about as they wish. FREE. Quite a concept, isn’t it?

I don’t think any of you really thought this through, did you?

Secondly, I’m sorry that your compassion—and many of you claim to be Christians, so I find this surpassingly curious—perished in the flames of your xenophobic ideology. Your kneejerk bigotry has caused you to completely ignore the facts about these people and about WHY they are fleeing their homeland. You see them all as enemy combatants who want to destroy our country. Apparently, even 5-year-old orphans. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a horrid display of hatred and a complete lack of compassion and humanity in my lifetime. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Finally, I was reminded of something I read a while back about other refugees trying to find asylum in the United States. We turned them away, as did Cuba and Canada. Why? Because we were worried about some of them being Nazi sympathizers and spies. We turned away the MS St. Louis in 1939 and the 908 German Jews on board were sent back to Europe, where various countries took them in. It is estimated that a quarter of them were killed in Nazi death camps.

So you go right ahead with your chest-thumping and political posturing. I’m sure there are a lot of people at the moment who are impressed by your strength and resolve. I’m not one of them. And I don’t think history will judge you kindly, either.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Like a bad flashback

Don't blame yourself
Don't blame me
But we're the ones
Who can feed the ground
So this poison tree, don't let it grow again
And from this glass and broken earth
There is a way that can be built
A better life for everyone

~~ Duran Duran, “Point of No Return”

I’m still processing what happened in Paris on Friday, and still reeling from the horrible news. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep until I get some of these thoughts out of my head, so I’m just going to let ‘er rip here for a little bit. If I word something wrong, please forgive me. Know that I am heartbroken about what has happened and I have the utmost sympathy for the French people and for all those who are suffering tonight.

  1. This reminds me a lot of how I felt on 9/11. A sense of disorientation, disbelief, followed by horror. One thing I learned from that experience, as well as the coverage of Hurricane Katrina, was that you have to step away from the media coverage. It is almost overwhelming and you need to protect yourself by not watching every moment. I watched quite a bit early in the evening, but Ken and I watched a movie after that and tried to give ourselves a break for a bit. I’m staying informed, but I’m trying to stay healthy, too.
  2. It hits close to home that the worst attack was at a concert. I know how much I love going to concerts, and it is always a joyous occasion for me. Live music, sharing a communal experience with other fans, just losing myself in the music and the fun of a live show. Music is supposed to be a celebration, and it hurts my heart that that joy was taken away from some people...maybe for good.
  3. We are going to the Notre Dame football game on Saturday, and I’d be lying if I said I felt no trepidation about it. The stadium holds upwards of 80,000 people, and what a horrible thought to contemplate some sort of attack here or anywhere. However, I refuse to live my life in fear. That’s what this is all about. They want us to be afraid, just like any other bully. I refuse.
  4. I don’t care what your agenda is, whether you’re on the right or the left, religious or not religious...stop making this about you and your agenda, okay? I’m seeing quite a bit of bullshit spinning it one way or another. Just drop it already, try not to politicize it for one fucking day, and just stand with the people of France and let them know that we’ve got their back, always. That goes for any atheists who are ridiculing prayers or wondering if your god let this happen and blah di fucking blah. Just let people deal with this as best they can and stop putting your spin on it. This is a tragedy for all of us. People died and their loved ones are grieving tonight. That is what matters.

Everyone try and be a little nicer to others tomorrow. I know I will.


Friday, November 6, 2015

I’m no cat and I’m still kickin’

I saw this on the Goodreads newsletter and it immediately resonated with me.

This blog’s motto is “Boredom is not an option.” It’s right up there under the title, see? I never feel bored and feel like there is always something out there to do or learn or explore. One of the best things my parents ever gave me was an abiding sense of curiosity about the world around me and the ability to find joy in learning about even the most mundane things.

The growing stacks of books in our spare bedroom attest to this. It’s gotten so bad that on the rare occasion that we have a houseguest, I feel that I’ve done right by them if I “clear a path.” I’m not kidding. Ken said, “We probably need to clear some of these books out of here.” I said, “No, he can get in there. See?” Our last houseguest seemed to sleep pretty soundly, so I don’t think he was overly bothered by the books!

I fully realize that it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to work my way through so many books in the years I have left. But it gives me great joy to know that no matter what I’m in the mood for, I can browse my library and find something that will interest me. (Thank goodness for my Kindle! Without it, there would be books piled up even higher.) I have books about politics, memoirs of rock stars, classics, post-apocalypse sci-fi, art books, science books, mythology collections, horror, legal thrillers, psychology, microbiology….

[deep breath]

But it doesn’t stop at books (or music or movies or documentaries). I’ve somehow managed to maintain an abiding curiosity about interesting things that catch my eye. A spider sitting in its web. A stick with a really interesting pattern. A bluebird splashing around in the bird bath. The way bananas will get all liquidy inside if you let them ripen long enough. (That one is kind of gross, but there is no denying that it’s kind of cool, too!)

There is just so much out there to fascinate me. At times, I almost feel overwhelmed and somewhat scattered as I go from thing to thing.

That’s not an entirely bad thing to deal with, though. I am ennui immune!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Taking your ball and going home

I’m sure all of my politically minded friends have seen what transpired at the last Republican debate, as well as the aftermath.

It was the usual tactic of attacking the media, saying that they were giving them “gotcha” questions, accusing them of being liberal, blah blah blah.

And this debate was on CNBC! The same CNBC whose Rick Santelli gave birth to the freakin’ teabaggers! Give me a break.

Anyway, it didn’t stop with several candidates piling on the media at the debate. Subsequently, the RNC decided to cancel the debate that it was holding with NBC because of their supposed liberal bias. I guess “liberal bias” means everything except for ass-kissing ClusterFox. ::eye roll::

Granted, some of the questions from the CNBC moderators were phrased poorly. However, the accusation of the Republicans that CNBC asked no “substantive questions” is absolutely absurd. They asked plenty of substantive questions, including about how so many of the answers and plans just did not add up. In other words, they were doing their job as journalists. The accusation that CNN wasn’t hard on the candidates at the Democratic debate is also absurd. They asked hard questions and pressed the candidates for answers, even putting them on the hot seat with questions to Sanders about his electability and to Clinton about her private email server. It was not “Which of you is more handsome and wise?” as Ted Cruz put it.

Here’s the thing: journalists are supposed to be journalists. They are supposed to ask questions about the candidates’ positions on various issues, and if the answers don’t make a lot of sense or don’t add up, or if the candidate just refuses to answer the question, they are supposed to press them on it. Debates are not held to let candidates have a free forum in which to speak uninterrupted or without further questioning. They are held to showcase the candidates’ positions, the difference between all the candidates, and it is the actual, bona fide JOB of the moderators to ask follow-up questions.

So the Republicans have decided that that is unacceptable and are calling for people like Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh to moderate upcoming debates. I find this quite amusing on several levels.

First, they are coming across as petulant children who don’t like being challenged. At the first sign of criticism, they have decided they are going to pick up their ball and go home.

Second, if anyone thinks that Hannity or Limbaugh is unbiased and will be a fair moderator, let me just say right here that you need to go see someone because you are delusional.

Finally, if these candidates are going to bitch and moan about how the CNBC moderators and the “liberal media” are being mean to them, how in the hell do they think they are going to play with various actors on the global stage? If Putin disrespects them, are they going to throw a hissy fit? If Kim Jong-un decides to test a bomb, are they going to get the vapors and take to their room and cry themselves to sleep?

Come ON.

One more thing about this. This article by David Atkins at Political Animal raises an excellent question about whether or not the media and journalists everywhere will stand up to what is essentially bullying of their profession and an attempt at controlling the message. It’s a legitimate concern. You know who else controlled the media, right? Sure you do. Don’t make me Godwin myself.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Duranland and Electric Barbarella

Cousin Shane messaged me yesterday and said he was loving a new CD that we both recently got, and I had to admit that I hadn’t listened to it yet because I’m still in Duranland!

It’s true. After a month of listening to the new album, Paper Gods, and nothing else, I’ve managed to listen to some of their other albums lately. (When I’m in the house, I usually listen to satellite channels, so I do have other music playing throughout the day.)

Today I revisited one that I have not played much: 1997’s Medazzaland. This came out when all of the Taylors (John, Andy, and Roger) were not in the band, although John has songwriting credit for a few of the songs. Warren Cuccurullo was the guitarist at this point, and I dig Warren’s work with them. I think he’s a great guitarist and added a real edge to their music, and that is not at all a slam against Andy Taylor or their current guitarist, Dom Brown. Different iterations of the band, lots of great music, and I won’t disparage any of them.

One thing that I miss very much on this album, though, is the heavy bass groove that John Taylor provides to the band. I guess it’s one of those “don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” things, but you can really tell when he’s not a part of the recordings.

That being said, this album holds up better than I originally thought. It has almost a trippy, psychedelic feel to it. There is some darkness to it, too, with the creepy stalker vibe of “Be My Icon” and the track “Electric Barbarella.” It’s a standout track with a great groove to it, about taking a sex doll home from the store. The video is great but also has a creepy vibe, with all three of the band members sharing their new, artificial girlfriend. Yikes!

This is also a nice opportunity for a trivia question. Who knows the connection between this song title and the band’s name?

Enjoy. Who doesn’t love a happy song about three boys and their sex doll?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

True Confessions

These boots are made for walking
And that’s just what they’ll do
One of these days these boots are gonna
Walk all over you
Are you ready, boots? Start walkin’!
~~ Nancy Sinatra, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’
I have to admit it. I’m a walking stereotype.

But least I’m walking in cool shoes!

I’ve always tried to kind of make my own kind of music and sing my own kind of song. I don’t think I’m much of a stereotypical anything. I’m a bookworm, but I love sports; I love music, but I prefer to find off-the-beaten-path things that few others are listening to; I’m firmly rooted in science, but I can completely suspend disbelief and enjoy movies and stories that make little to no sense and have no basis in fact; I was raised in rural Indiana, but I’m super liberal and am no fan of the Republicans. Ha! I just had to throw that last one in there after last night’s debate. There are a few things where I simply cannot suspend my disbelief, and one of them is trickle-down economics!

Anyway, I’ve always liked to make my own pathway and avoid stereotypes. However, I’m a walking talking stereotype when it comes to one thing: shoes.

That’s right, I’m that person that people make fun of when they talk about “women who buy shoes.” I mean, obviously, ALL women buy shoes, but I have a bit of an obsession with fun and unusual shoes. I think I’ve pretty much always been that way. Picking out shoes for the new school year was always fun for me, and I was pretty excited about my first pair of shoes with a heel in sixth grade. Even more exciting was getting a pair of Earth Shoes for Christmas one year when I was in high school! My parents didn’t indulge my shoe obsession, but when I got out on my own, it was Katy bar the door!

I recall fondly the pair of thigh-high suede boots in the ‘80s. Also the black suede ankle boots from that era. There were the platform sandals I wore out clubbing in the ‘90s (a white pair, a sparkly black pair, and a silver pair). A while back I found a great sale on some Keds I really like—like regular Keds but with an open back—and bought several pairs: white mesh, white canvas, black mesh, turquoise, red, tan, and navy canvas. I love casual platform sandals and I love flat gladiator sandals. Thankfully, I don’t have expensive tastes. No Blahniks or Jimmy Choo for me. Heck, I don’t even own a pair of Doc Martens, and those are some very cool shoes! One of my favorite pairs of footwear ever was a pair of moonboots I found at Goodwill back in the ‘80s. Bright yellow vinyl with a white wedge platform heel. I wore the hell out of those moonboots but finally had to say goodbye when the soles completely cracked. Farewell, moonboots. I still remember you fondly.

I have a pair of knee-high black boots with a chain on the back; I have knee-high black boots with several straps on the calf, inspired by Carol from The Walking Dead; I remember my Dad’s black combat boots from when he was in the National Guard and I always loved those, so I have a couple of pairs of that style. I have silver hightops and I have hightops with a record print on them. I have shoes that I wear often and I have shoes that I have never worn—at least not yet.

My most recent inspiration has come from Duran Duran. Of course, I’ve loved the band for years, but as I’ve been watching them lately, my laser-focus shoe eyes immediately noticed the absolutely super cool shoes they all wear. They’ve always liked their fashion, and their shoes are just the best. Check these out. I was especially captivated by Simon’s black and white buckle shoes in the photo at the top, but I also love Nick’s silver oxfords in this photo.
So I’ve been on a bit of a tear lately (although these are not super expensive shoes!). Click to embiggenate.
I got these black buckle shoes with a grey vamp, similar to Simon’s black and white ones, and in my research, I learned that these are called brothel creepers. I remember them from back in the punk days but never had a pair. I think they are very cool and I’m glad they are making a comeback! I wore these to our recent house show with Bob Walkenhorst, and I wore them to the Duran Duran concert in Berkeley. So these shoes have seen some great musicians and I’m sure they’ll see some more!
Along the same line, I got these black wingtip oxford creepers. These will be great concert shoes. They are cool-looking but also comfortable, especially for standing for long periods.
Then there are these gorgeous black and white patent kilties. Squeeeee! These will go great with my black and white checked suit jacket!

I’ve been coveting Nick’s silver oxfords and finally found something similar: these silver buckled creepers! They have been ordered and will be on their way soon!

I think I’m done for a while (I’m sure Ken will be very relieved), and I even went into DSW the other day and walked out without buying a single thing. So I do have some willpower, both with price and with simply saying, “No, I don’t need to buy a pair of shoes right now.”

I may be a cliché, but I suppose there are worse vices to have. Perhaps I’ll see you out for a stroll some evening...just be sure to notice my shoes!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Beth’s Music Moment: Seek and Ye Shall Find

A topic came up on Facebook today, one that I see pop up every so often. A friend posted a story in which a ‘70s rocker said that something like how rock is “dead” because of downloading and filesharing. That’s some major bullshit right there. Not to mention any names, but maybe this rocker who used to wear a lot of makeup and has an extremely long tongue is just pissed because HIS music isn’t selling much anymore!

Anyway, my friend went on to say that he thinks rock is dead because “a lot of the new stuff sucks.” This isn’t a slam on him, by any means. He is one of my favorite Bookface friends and he posts a lot of great stuff (love ya, Gregg!). But I think he is dead wrong on this and I said that I disagreed with him. We had a productive (if short) discussion there, and he asked for a few recommendations.

I really don’t like this pronouncement and I hear it way too often. No, rock isn’t dead. No, current music doesn’t suck. Some of it does, that’s for sure! But as I pointed out, you aren’t going to hear the good stuff on the radio. This is where the dedicated, proactive music fan needs to step up. There is all kinds of great music being made out there, but you have to step outside your usual zone in order to find it. This is one reason the Interwebz is so great; even if you don’t have a vibrant music scene in your community, you can still check out music that is being made all over these United States and all over the world! It’s wonderful!

Here are a couple of ways to find new music that trips your trigger.

  1. Free download sites like NoiseTrade. This is where I’ve found tons of great new music I never would have found otherwise. You can tip the artists whatever amount you want, but I’ve found that if a band just immediately jumps out at me (one of those “Holy shit, this is GREAT!” moments), I usually seek out their music to purchase via whatever method I can. It is often Amazon, but sometimes I get it through Bandcamp, which is another great site to find new music. Speaking of Amazon, they also sometimes offer free MP3 downloads of compilations or single songs. I’ve found some good stuff that way, too.
  2. If you have a local music scene, GO SEE THE BANDS. Groove to their music, get up and dance, cheer them on, buy their merchandise, and as I always say, show the band some love! We are fortunate in that South Bend has a vibrant music scene and quite a few venues to see these local bands. It’s not like a big concert with the light show and big-time audio. It’s just local bands setting up their own equipment and working hard to entertain the audience. Be in that audience! Let the bands know that their talent and hard work is appreciated!
  3. Have a pal or a relative who is into finding new music and is always willing to turn you onto something they think you’ll love or who posts about the new stuff they find. Shane and I have been Music Buddies for decades, and we are always saying, “Hey, check this out!” One of my fantastic recent finds was, if I recall correctly, a free download from Amazon. That was Temples, one of the best new bands I’ve heard in years. An amazing throwback psychedelic sound. It blew me away and I knew that Shane would love it, too. I was right!

Since Gregg asked for some recommendations, I told him a few of some of my recent finds through these avenues, and I’ll share some videos here.

First up is Shake Before Us out of San Diego. I immediately loved the ‘70s garage band sound, complete with...not sure about my instruments here...is that a Moog? A Farfisa? I don’t know, but it’s a rave up!

Next is Broncho. They are out of Oklahoma City (What?! I know!) and they are so much fun! We actually got to see them live in Chicago when they opened for Billy Idol on several dates on his North American tour. They were great live, and I only wish they had played longer than a half an hour.

Next is Velcro Mary out of Charlotte, North Carolina (What?! I know!). More garage band sound (are you sensing a pattern?) and it turns out that Velcro Mary consists of one guy, Jason, making music in his home. We exchanged several emails and it was fun to learn more about him and about his music. You can get VM’s new album, “Leave a Light On” here.

Finally, here’s a video from one of our most-beloved local bands, The Rutabega, from right here in South Bend. They are an absolute blast to see live and we do so every chance we get. They make an amazing sound for just two guys, with an additional vocalist on some songs.

If you love music, get out there and look for the good stuff. It really is out there. (I haven’t even touched on long-established artists who are still making great music, including The Rainmakers, Prince, Devo, Bowie, and of course, my beloved Duran Duran!)

Happy listening!