Saturday, October 31, 2009
1) A chaotic-evil level 106 druid with +32 charisma who leads a well-financed PAC of orcs.
2) A dashing pirate forever exiled to roam the seas for a rash mistake he made as a young and foolhardy junior senator.
3) An itinerant gypsy intent on kidnapping Glenn Beck’s family and selling them into white slavery, using the proceeds to pay for teenagers’ abortions.
4) The pupal form of a beautiful gypsy moth, which, by law, must select the head of the Federal Reserve when full grown by gracefully alighting on the chosen person’s shoulder.
5) King of the Blacks.
6) A pock-marked, pimply Burger King employee who commands the entire U.S. military on his smoke breaks.
7) A Lucha Libre wrestler named “El Presidente,” whose signature finishing move is drowning his opponent in dollar bills appropriated from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
8) Bono, or maybe the Edge.
9) A smooth-talking door-to-door salesman intent on selling Glenn Beck’s frail and confused grandmother a 1,200-page health care reform plan hidden inside a set of Tupperware that will melt into a deformed, pastel mess on the first day warmer than 80 degrees.
10) An international dancehall star who’s song “Up In Them Pants (Earmark Me)” was voted #1 Summer Jam of 2008 by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
11) Strom Thurmond.
12) A sexier, smarter, funnier, much more likeable version of himself -- one that doesn’t cry so much.
* “This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy—over and over and over again—who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, white culture, I don’t know what it is…I'm not saying he doesn't like white people, I'm saying he has a problem. He has…this guy, I believe, is a racist.”
—Glenn Beck, Fox and Friends, July 28, 2009
By Brian Polk
Letting Go Of God
By Julia Sweeny
“All these people were walking to church, holding their Bibles,” says Julie Sweeny in her masterpiece monologue, Letting Go Of God, “and I wanted to roll down the window and say, ‘Have you read that book? I mean, really?’” In her provocative one-woman show, the former Saturday Night Live actress (remember the androgynous Pat?) depicts her journey from curious Catholic to unassuming atheist—all of which began innocently enough when she decided she was actually going to read the Bible for the first time as an adult. What she discovered surprised and frightened her: Apparently one can justify hatred, war, slavery, sexism, or any number of humanity’s worst ills by citing passages in the Bible. Want to rape your father? Well, if Lot’s daughters are your role model, you might as well. Want to murder your progeny? That’s what God demanded of Abraham; who knows when he’ll come knocking for you. Is your mother giving you problems? Tell her to fuck off—since, according to Sweeny, that’s exactly what Jesus did: “And then there’s family,” she says. “I have to say that for me, the most deeply upsetting thing about Jesus is his family values—which is amazing when you think how there are so many groups out there that say they base their family values on the Bible…[Jesus] puts his mother off cruelly over and over again. At the wedding feast he says to her, ‘Woman, what have I to do with you?’ And once while he was speaking to a crowd, Mary waited patiently off to the side to talk to him. And Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Send her away. You are my family now.’” After being appalled by all of the book’s crazy laws and unethical behavior, Sweeny eventually drops the bombshell on the Bible’s very premise: “Why would a God create people so imperfect, then blame them for their own imperfections, then send his son to be tortured and executed by those imperfect people to make up for how imperfect people were and how imperfect they inevitably were going to be? I mean, what a crazy idea.” And so, since she couldn’t find God in the bible, Sweeny embarks upon a mission to find Him elsewhere. She travels to the East to find God in Buddhism. She travels to the Galapagos Islands to find God in nature. Eventually she has an epiphany while scrubbing her bathtub: Maybe God is nowhere. Of course, her blasphemous conclusion has very real consequences with her parents and community, which Sweeny describes with her character wit and humor. By far the most thoughtful, beautiful, varyingly dramatic and hilarious sentiment on the subject, Letting Go Of God is commonsense atheism that adapts none of the dogma or smug self-satisfaction that’s commonly associated with mainstream non-belief. It’s a denial of God with compassion and contemplation. And that’s damn good news.
Youth In Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp
By C.D. Payne
The only thing that’s unique about Nick Twisp is his intelligence. That is, he uses polysyllabic words and breezes through his classes at his public high school. Everything else about Nick Twisp is pretty unremarkable: He’s an American teenager with a hard-on, a face full of acne, and an unrelenting obsession to raise hell and lose his virginity. He lives in Oakland, California, with his single, neurotic mother and a cavalcade of her replaceable boyfriends. His ultra-competitive, BMW-driving dad lives with his 19-year-old girlfriend across town. And along with his friend Lefty, Twisp seems to be in a perpetual state of boredom. And then fate intervened. When a business deal turns sour for Jerry, one of his mom’s boyfriends, Twisp accompanies his parent and her lover to a mobile home camp. There he meets a gorgeous young female intellectual named Sheeni. What follows is a string of events that are impossibly awkward, hilarious, and law defying. It’s a coming-of-age story that relies on all the tired contrivances of horny teenagers, but it completely redeems itself by refreshingly never losing focus of all of the inevitable clumsiness and embarrassing discomfort that comes with raging hormones. Although tortuous in length—the book is 499 pages—the soap-opera complexity and sheer ridiculousness of the plot coupled with the protagonist’s radical veraciousness completely consume its reader, forcing the increased fleetness of eager page-turning until the book’s unfulfilled conclusion. And apparently, the film version of this story stars Michael Cera and will be out some time in 2010. If they remain loyal to the novel, there’s a strong possibility that it could be palatable. Of course, that quite literally remains to be seen.
By Kurt Vonnegut
Walter F. Starbuck is a man who wears a lot of hats: he’s been a communist, Harvard student, Nixon’s special advisor on youth affairs, vice-president of the RAMJAC corporation, and of course, jailbird. His memoir, Jailbird, recounts all the details of his storied life, from his service as a civilian employee of the Defense Department after World War Two to his role in the Watergate affair (which was minimal to say the least). Though this political fiction is not one of Vonnegut’s more famous works, it ranks among his best. Dense in plot and heavy on details, the prose ties actual historical events—the trial and execution of Sacco and Vanzetti and the Watergate scandal—into greater themes of communism and the labor movement in typical Vonnegut fashion. Like just about everything else he’s written, Jailbird is enlightening, heartening, and a great way to spend a string of quiet evenings.
Are You Experienced
By The Jimi Hendrix Experience
This is an essentially unessential Hendrix album. (How many more times do you really need to hear “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” or “Fire?”) Still, like every “classic rock” band, the non-hits are still worth a listen. “Third Stone From The Sun,” is a sprawling, jazz-fusion tune replete with effects and sections of spoken word. “Can You See Me”—the titular track of the group’s first album—and the blues cut “Red House” similarly never received much airplay and are subsequently worth lending an ear to. Are You Experienced is a CD that I would never consider buying—mainly because I have all this material on vinyl, but more specifically because you can hear most of the songs on FM radio. Thank goodness there are still places to get free music legally.
1) The sun producing light and warmth
2) Firefighters putting out fires for anyone who just calls them
3) True love
4) Ribbons on kittens
5) Non-banquet beers
6) Raising the price of the Moons Over My Hammy sandwich at Denny’s
7) The designated hitter rule
8) Libraries handing out books for free
9) Improper moustache care
10) Free unicorn rides
11) Eating lunch
14) Dignity for anyone who makes less than $25,000 a year
17) Anyone who has overheard too much Spanish
18) Pre-menopausal women
19) All government health care (except for Medicare)
20) Anyone who (rightfully/obviously) claims Medicare is a public option
21) Everyone from ages 18-55
23) Non-Sinatra singers
24) Unwholesome acts, such as urination
25) Poor people who don’t pay enough taxes to cover the costs of systematically oppressing themselves
27) Red lights—especially when they’re running late
29) Pronouncin’ words like a damned book-readin’ smarty-pants
30) All of Jesus’ Biblical quotes against the rich
31) All of Jesus’ Biblical quotes about loving thy neighbor
32) All of Jesus’ Biblical quotes about helping the poor and sick
33) The Sermon on the Mount
34) Pretty much everything Jesus ever said about anything
Yesterday I had the unfortunate experience of stumbling upon the worst fucking website I've ever seen in my life. The e-tripe that this site peddles is beyond reproach. It's an insult to every intelligent, open-minded, unique-culture-appreciator that values the appropriate capitalization of words.
It all started when I wanted to see what was going on at Denver's Hi-Dive on a Friday evening. So I googled "Hi-Dive Denver" and sure enough, the South Broadway venue's site came up. However, what appeared just below the website I intentionally googled was this piece of shit I couldn't believe existed: Yelp.com.
For those web surfers fortunate enough to have never e-stumbled upon the pettiness and downright bullshit that pervades every virtual inch of the site, Yelp.com commissions curmudgeonly simpletons to write half-formed, utterly shitty reviews for free. The result is what you might expect from such a venture: Trashy crap that a third-grader could write. I'm not sure whose idea it was to give a voice to semi-literates with the absolute worst taste in culture, but it has to be among the worst ideas in the history of the internet. Yelp.com reviewers can't spell. They've never been taught punctuation (talk about a haunting indication that our under-funded public schools are failing our kids). They use their silly little text acronyms to talk shit about Denver's most integral mom-and-pop venues.
For example, a reviewer known as "Cory B" wrote the following about the Hi-Dive:
"love hi-dive but that dj jason heller needs to leave the attitude and billy joel at the door. i dont really care that you write for the onion, that may have been cool about ten years ago. i have to question mr heller's musical integrity since he prefers billy joel to siouxsie and the banshees, i mean really? do i need to be writing about this? unbelievable."
I didn't dip-shit up this review to make the writer look stupid. These are her unedited, small-minded thoughts about the Hi-Dive and my friend, Jason Heller. Yes, Yelp.com really is this bad. As much as I tried to ignore this piece of shit review, I couldn't let it go: First of all, this personal attack on Jason is totally unwarranted, inaccurate, and mean-spirited. He was playing Billy Joel because it was an 80s-themed dance night. Second, I wouldn't question his musical integrity until you listen to all the bands he has played in. And third, why would you insult his choice of careers? That's some personal shit the reviewer should have left at the door.
But it gets worse. My favorite store in the history of stores, Wax Trax Records, doesn't escape the wrath of Yelp.com half-wits either. Here's how one reviewer "Daniel A" puts it:
"Overrated. Dirty. Disorganized...Yeah, wow, they have independent music. Too bad you feel gritty when you leave. When you're done looking bored and ironic maybe you could think about putting the CDs in a discernible order...I just hurt my eyes rolling them so hard."
This review sounds like it came from someone's cantankerous grandpa. It reminds me of that customer from the movie/book High Fidelity who walks into the store and asks for "I Just Called to Say I Love You." And I have the same response for this straight-laced CD shopper: Go to the mall. Aren't you supposed to feel gritty when you leave a record store? Isn't it an integral part of the whole experience of buying music? If it's not, it should be.
I could scan the e-pages of Yelp.com for hundreds more unimaginative, simple-minded reviews, but I'm not a masochist. I just hope that the site's readership is limited to all the cretins that write for it. If anyone ever began taking that shit seriously, the best, quirky, weirdly-inspiring vestiges of our culture would be snubbed for DJs that play nothing but snob rock and record shops that look like Starbucks. And they would be reviewed by semi-literates that butcher the English language with self-congratulating, snarky write-ups that appeal to the dumbest among us.
I guess for all the internet's greatest advancements in the areas of porn and communication, it's going to have its warts. And Yelp.com is a wart the size of Jupiter.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Click on the title of this blog post and watch as the counter keeps up with you. Isn't technology amazing?
By Brian Polk
The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University
Kevin Roose is a brave man. First of all, he committed four months of his Quaker liberal life to attend Liberty University—a school founded and administered by the Reverend Jerry Falwell. Second, he approached the semester with minimal trepidation and an incredibly open mind. Thirdly, he fit in seamlessly with the sober, virgin, born-again, mostly right wing student body. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface: He also sang in the choir at Falwell’s twenty-thousand-member Thomas Road Baptist Church, went on coffee dates with Christian girls, relentlessly prayed, and even interviewed the man himself, Jerry Falwell. Through it all, he comes to realize that born-again Christians (for the most part) aren’t the frothing-at-the-mouth, gay-bashing intolerants they’re portrayed to be. In fact, they were just confused kids at the end of adolescence trying to figure it all out. The Unlikely Disciple offers a sufficient introduction to the beliefs and habits of right-wing Christian soldiers in training. It’s always nice to get a dose of perspective—even if it’s a perspective with which you could never, ever sympathize.
What Would Jesus Buy?
Rob VanAlkemade (Director)
When I first saw a trailer for this movie a few years ago, I thought anti-consumerism was finally breaking into the mainstream. Of course as history has proven, the film didn’t make much of a dent—especially since our economy is still based on filling our unaffordable houses with unnecessities (just made that word up). What Would Jesus Buy? follows Reverend Billy and his activist troupe, The Church of Stop Shopping, as they travel around the country and enlighten American consumers about the “shopacalypse.” With the parodied ostentation of a Christian choir, the stop shoppers sing anti-shopping hymns to bewildered crowds of frantic bargain hunters. While its humor is biting, the guerrilla tactics probably end up alienating more people than they convert. However, the message is an important one—especially since anti-consumerists (myself included) sometimes need people like Reverend Billy to light a fire under their asses by reminding them to buy coffee from the corner shop instead of from Starbucks. Preaching to the choir has never been so much fun.
Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday
For some reason, Breakfast of Champions never really had much of an impact on me—and Vonnegut is among my favorite writers of all time. Listen: Slaughterhouse Five, Timequake, The Sirens of Titan, and Mother Night are some of my favorite books. I’ve read them again and again. But Breakfast of Champions just never piqued my interest long enough for me to finish it. Even the author gave it a “C” when he graded it—along with his other books—in Palm Sunday. But since I listen to books on tape as a matter of course, I figured I’d give it another whirl. And this time around, I finally understood the underlying themes he attempted to convey: the randomness of racism, sexism, and homophobia, the relationship between a writer and his characters, and of course, free will—which is a favorite subject of the author. Still, even though I was able to identify its coherence this time around, I’ll probably file Breakfast of Champions away with other Vonnegut one-timers, like Deadeye Dick, Galapagos, and Hocus Pocus.
The God Delusion
If you’ve been looking for a coherent rebuttal to every argument made on the behalf of God’s existence, scientist Richard Dawkins wrote a book for you. As you might have guessed, The God Delusion teems with scientific jargon aimed at disproving and ridiculing believers in faith. Reading (or listening to, in my case) the whole thing is a daunting task. However, Dawkins and his wife (who both narrate the audio version) intersperse the dry text with beautifully articulated theses against the delusional belief in God. If you’re still fighting the culture war (read: atheism vs. belief), arming yourself with Dawkins’ arguments is like bringing an atom bomb to a paintball match.
Travels With Charlie
Travels With Charlie delivers one of my favorite literary quotes of all time (and one that I felt compelled to put on my Facebook page under “Favorite Quotations”): “I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment.” For some reason I went on a John Steinbeck kick a few months back. And I’m glad I did. In Travels With Charlie, the great American author traveled the country with his dog Charlie to reacquaint himself with the pulse of America. It’s insightful, humorous, and a good read before bedtime.
Live At Shea Stadium
The Clash is like a home you can always go back to. No matter how many times you foray into strange genres or listen to indie bands for months on end (for me it was Modest Mouse), these innovative punkers always seem to welcome you with open arms. “I see you’ve been listening to nothing but Iron and Wine and The Flaming Lips,” your Clash records tell you with an air of pity. “Why don’t you give us a spin and rejoice in your roots where you know you belong?” “Ahh, that’s better,” you think to yourself after taking your records’ advice. “I feel like my old self again. Thanks.” Needless to say, I love this CD.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Peace is Boring
“What the hell is this?” you’ll ask yourself upon slipping Little Fyodor’s latest effort, Peace is Boring, into your CD player. And it will take several listens before you finally wrap your head around what the hell is going on here. That’s because Little Fyodor perpetrates eclectic music that's reminiscent of awkwardly laughing your way through a really confusing acid trip. The lyrics address several pressing issues facing humanity, such as uncomfortable clothes, hairspray, and as the title suggests, the dullness of peace. The songs range from straight ahead rock to Devo-inspired electro—but they’re all deliberately offensive and strangely strange in that punk rocking kind of way. As a whole, Peace is Boring rails against a culture that takes itself way too seriously (you know, the kind of thing that punks used to be really good at). And Little Fyodor is a type of prophet with a simple message: Life is too short not to have fun. So why not write a song called “Fuck-a-duck-a-luck-a-luck-a-ding-dong?” At least it makes sense to him.
CELEBRATE LITTLE FYODOR’S CD RELEASE PARTY! (The L.F. live show borders on genius.)
Little Fyodor is releasing Peace is Boring on Friday, October 9 at the Lion’s Lair. The Limbs and Ralph Gean are also playing. Go online for more information:
Little Fyodor and Babushka