Saturday, March 29, 2014

Most abominable sin

Friends have emailed and sent me facebook messages for the past week or two, saying, "Can't wait to read what you'll have to say now that Fred Phelps has gone to his just reward."

Well I don't want to be known as the guy who writes about dead people and Phelps is hardly worth spilling ink over. I wrote about Nelson Mandela after he died because he led a life of purpose, courage and conviction. Just the opposite of Phelps, who could have used his position for good, but chose to waste his life on hatred.

So what am I supposed to do? Write about how funny it would be if Fred Phelps met Freddie Mercury at the Pearly Gates?

Oh, but neither of them will see the Pearly Gates, you say. The rhapsodizing Voice of Queen won't make it because he was gay and we know they're all going to hell. And Mr. God Hates Fags won't be there because he was so full of hate, protesting at military funerals and the funerals of the children who were shot to death in Newtown.

Oh no, we're nothing like him.

Sure we think, as Phelps did, that God's gonna burn all the fags in hell. But we're not carrying around signs, saying that. We love the sinner, we just hate the sin. Funny, how that phrase always gets used in regard to one sin. Not murder, rape or blasphemy, but, well, you know, sodomy.

The worst sin anyone could commit? I don't know, why did the old man from "Duck Dynasty" say, "Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there"?

For some reason, that's the sin the religious crowd likes to single out. Why are they having some conference at a Wichita church on the sin of homosexuality? There's starving children in the world. I'd call that a sin. How 'bout a conference to orchestrate some plan for feeding the multitudes like Jesus did? Oh no, we'd rather obsess over something people do in their private lives that isn't hurting anybody.

Speaking of starving children, World Vision, an international Christian relief organization that performs good in the world had to reverse its course on allowing gays in its organization or lose funding from the conservative Christian establishment.

Well, that's Christian. Withhold urgent life saving materials until they agree to uphold your bigotry. Sounds about right. Hopefully, the relief won't go to any gay children.

I am Christian, but in my view Christianity has nothing to do with the Christian Right. To me, it means things like loving your neighbor, following the Golden Rule, accepting the gift of grace and showing grace to others. I'm not saying I'm completely free of prejudice, but it's something I try to quash within myself. I had one encounter with Fred Phelps in college and I saw how far prejudice can go. I don't want anywhere near it.

But hey, that's just my opinion. I'm probably being overly cautious. People are certainly free to view being gay as the worst abomination under the sun. Heck, maybe they're the real victims in this increasingly godless world.

They're nothing like Fred Phelps.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Putin pricks

I was sitting at a Wichita Spangles the first damn time I heard it. The wife's Fox News loving family members taking cruelty within their sweet loving embrace. I'm not knocking them. My family has whackos too.

"I kind of like Putin," the sweet-voiced lady said.

Why was I not surprised?

"Some of his policies, I think, are pretty good."

I had an idea which policies she was talking about. It was around the onset of the 2014 Winter Olympics and Obama was making a statement in opposition to some of Putin's pet policies by bringing folks like Brian Boitano and Billie Jean King to Sochi.

Or maybe it's the way he likes to jail dissidents who dare to speak out against authoritarian tyranny. You know, like he did to that rock n' roll band named for a riot and a woman's vagina? Because if there's one thing the right-wingers in my wife's family (and my own) like, it's some Big Tough schoolyard bully laying the smackdown. There is nothing the sweet little feminine women of the family (with all their PTO-like pictures of Ann Romney on fakebook) like better than an alpha-male throwing his manly bulk at a bunch of godless, liberal pukes.

My grandma was a farmer's wife, embodying those good old qualities of Christian kindness the little mom's club pretends to represent now with all their "likes" on the pictures of your damn kids. Grandpa Guy was a dyed in the wool Democrat, somebody who thought FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society were good things. Not like the good Christians on fb who will accept church charity if they must, but brag of how they would let their children starve before they accepted a dime from that Food Stamp president. (Unemployment compensation is all right.)

Anyhow, back to Grandpa. I was 8-years-old, he told me, "Be a Democrat all your life" and I'm doing it, which makes me an anomaly in my family since Dad and some other family members forgot where they came from. Sure this column will make me about as popular with my relation as literary giant Robert Lowell was with his relatives after publishing his book 1960 book of confessional poetry, Life Studies. But that's a matter for I-don't-give-a-shit.

I'll stick with Grandpa and the politics of human kindness. Putin's granddad was a cook for Stalin. Putin was a KGB spy for the totalitarian Soviet government. Conservatives, I've found love him. But I thought that's what they hated about Obama. Isn't liberalism the equivalent of communism and don't the Tea Baggers want the commie bastard to step outside the White House with his hands up?

"Mr. President, you're not a king." "We have a dictatorship in the White House." "I think Obama could be the sixth head of the beast from Revealation."

Really? I thought he was some wimp in mom jeans. Even if he does wear maternal denim, so the hell what? If he wore low rise, the Putin-lovin', Teabaggin' with Jesus crowd would just rant about the presidential ass crack emanating socialist jeans.

None other than the thick-skinned Sarah Palin was on Faux News, dissing Obama as a wimp, while waxing over Putin's masculinity. She knows so much about Russian foreign policy. (Hell, she can see Putin sending in the troops from her own backyard.) Palin likes the tough guys like her washed up rocker friend who shit in his diaper to avoid the draft in Vietnam.

The shitter and the quitter

Then you have O'Reilly and Hannity going on about their boy. Putin without a shirt on. Putin has muscles like Conan the Austrian Barbarian. Putin makes a decision and people react, kind of like when Hitler made the decision to implement Kristallnacht. Putin hunts tigers and wrestles grizzly bears.

What'd'you know? Some of the biggest fag bashers on Fox "News" expressing a come-in-your-pants man crush on Vladimir Putin? When are they going to talk about what his body must look like in the Russian shower?

Let's not forget the Fox team, the Tea Party, the Christian Right, the Aryan Brotherhood - they love America and everything it stands for. Sure the U.S. has issued sanctions against Russia for it merciless invasion of the Crimea in the Ukraine and they hate the U.S. president more than they could ever love this country, anything or anyone else, but they love America all right. They just prefer the bully their country is opposing.

Sweet, sensitive little men and ladies liking cute little pics of our kids and gleefully posting slogans of pseudo-Christian love.  God is good  Also, they love Vladimir Putin as he's a reflection of everything

they really are

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saturday morning videos 2

Radio turned to NPR. I listened to a 1986 Fresh Air interview Teri Gross did with Amiri Baraka, the richly talented and controversial writer who died last week. With infectious rapid vocal delivery, he talked about how he wished he was a musician, might have been one, had he not preferred writing. He liked the trumpet lessons he took from a man who wanted him to play Verdi. His heroes were trumpet players. Dizzy Gillespie. Miles Davis.

Music is omnipresent in my life as it was this man's. Part of the fabric. The seamless, unending culture. Up there with oxygen, food, sex, spiritual matters, driving a car, going to work, cleaning the bathtub. It's fitting that I'm writing this early on a Saturday afternoon. When I was a kid, American Bandstand came on at 11:30 a.m., signaling the end of the cartoons. (It would be followed by ABC Wide World of Sports.) I watched "Banstand" a lot at my Grandma Mac's house where I spent a lot of halcyon days in my hometown of Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000) Around 1980, Grandma got cable TV and I saw Soul Train on WGN.

Funny, Dick Clark and Don Cornelius died in the same year. But music, like the other things of life, goes on. Here are some videos for your Saturday.

I was in a sad mood this morning, thinking about some stuff. This song by this band put me in a happy mood. Only Gram Parsons did decadence melded with poignancy better than the Stones.

I've totally been on a kick for this album, which Jed Beaudoin has been putting in regular rotation on local college radio's "Strange Currency." Wichita State's 89.1 KMUW. The album is a remake of an Everly Brothers album, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, recorded in the '50s. The songs were traditional country, hillbilly and folk classics then. They go back. I'm glad Phil got to see this before he passed on.

You can never have enough Leonard Nimoy and you can never have enough cheese. Some can never have enough Star Trek or '60s. For Nancy.

"Well, the talkin' leads to touchin' and the touchin' leads to sex and then there is no mystery left." So true. Great lyrics. Great hooks. Never saw any TV show this song was featured on, but I've heard stuff.

My friend Crowson raved about the Big Star documentary, Nothing Can Hurt Me. They came from his hometown of Memphis. Crowson was once Elvis's paperboy.

Here's his band, The Crowsons performing at Watermark Books, doing a song from the classic Rubber Soul album. I love the Beatles. Love the Crowsons.

I picked this video by a local band because there's a trombone player and my son plays trombone.

Jim Nabors recently "made it legal," marrying his long-time partner Stan. Good for them. The other gentlemen in this video, the late Andy Griffith and Don Knotts, weren't gay. This is just what entertainment was then. And it was great entertainment. We won't see it again.

Still sad about the loss of Phil. This song is from the brothers' 1968 album, Roots, one of the first roots and country-rock albums, a classic. A Little Less of Me was originally a hit for Glen Campbell, but the Everlys' version is my favorite. I love the steel guitar. And notice how they sound a lot like the Byrds. When my son heard me listening to this song, he asked me if it was the Beatles. I took advantage of a great teaching moment.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Beers in heaven

It's 5:23 a.m. and I've been sitting here with my coffee, contemplating life and where we all are in the universe. We're pretty small, and yet a single life can cast such vast a shadow. The book of Proverbs says "the memory of the just is blessed: but the memory of the wicked shall rot."

I know this lady, Jimna. She volunteered at the non-profit agency my wife used to run. She's the mother of my friend Adam. "Go to funerals," she's told him since youth. I think I know why she dispensed this advice. She wanted her kids to grow up with respect, but I think she also wanted them to think about life and death. We're all mortal. One day our entire lives will be summed up in one hour. What will they say?

I went to one funeral last week. My friend John's father died. I didn't really know the man, but I'd seen him around for years. John is good people, one of the few guys I know from high school who's worth a shit. As a gesture of respect, I attended his old man's memorial service.

"He wouldn't want everyone to be crying," John said. "He's probably up there, drinking a beer right now, laughing at us."

I think I'm going to remember that guy.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Coffee heresy

It ain't my daddy's church.

My dad grew up on a farm, just outside Lathrap, Kan., (pop. 150) There were three churches in town, the Baptist, Methodist & Disciples of Christ. Each had a membership of approximately 50 people so essentially the whole town was represented in the little congregations.

(There were two beer joints in town.)

Dad was baptized in Old Man  Halbert's pond during a church revival when he was about 8-years-old. Some country preacher, his frock coat wet, dunked Dad in the water and he came up from it, changed.

I would say Dad's definite notions of what church ought to be were formed a long time ago, well before I was ever thought of, when he was of such tender years.

"They put a coffee machine in the front foyer," he said, adding derisively, "They take their coffee into the sanctuary."

For Dad, carrying coffee into church is nothing short of heresy.

"When I was a kid, Dad and Mother wouldn't even let us chew gum in church," he said.

It was a couple of days after Christmas and we sat in the den by the Christmas tree where my kids had just opened their presents. The light was drawing dim outside the window, the clean, sweet view of Country Club Lane descending for the evening.

Dad and my step-mom, Marcie, always in the loop, filled us in on all the intrigue, the backroom machinations that accompany church politics, how a faction who thought they owned the place wanted the preacher gone and got what they wanted. He resigned. It's not as if he slept with a woman who isn't his wife or something. Just a nice group of people showing the fruits of their spirits.

"When I was a kid, it was an honor to have the preacher over for dinner," Dad said, adding that people just don't do that anymore.


Not that the preacher has escaped Dad's critiques. Why did he have to put that center row of chairs in the sanctuary? Why even have chairs at all.

"It was a lot more comfortable with pews," Dad said.

"Especially if they're pure wood and no cushions, huh Dad?" I asked.

Then there's that modern church music. A worship and praise leader wearing flannel and skinny jeans, tattoos, thin-cut beard, looking like a mix of Rob Bell and early Elvis Costello as he strums his acoustic guitar. The rock band kicks in from behind as he sings, "And heaven meets earth when an unforeseen kiss..."

Not Dad's thing.

Dad spent his high school years with rockabilly. Elvis Presley and the Blue Moon Boys. Carl Perkins. Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two. That hillbilly blues music that sprang  in large part from gospel. But you didn't find songs about a whole lotta shakin' going on in church. For Dad and my grandparents, now departed, it was "Abide With Me," "It is Well With My Soul," "The Uncloudy Day." Stuff like that.

"Oh G.G., what do you care?" Marcie said. "You don't even sing."

"That doesn't matter," he said. And at that moment, I found some commonality with the old man. It was a matter of principle for him. It's like I'm always telling my wife, Maria. Something may not affect me personally, but I weigh in because it's the "principle of the thing."

"Can you tell he doesn't like change?" Marcie asked us, then addressed Dad again. "G.G., you're showing your age."

I was sprawled over the beige carpet with my daughter Gabby as she perused Pinterest on her Android tablet, my son, Max, on the couch beside Maria playing his DS.

"Kids, Grandpa is describing the 1940's," I told Max and Gabby. "Kind of like how Dad goes on about the '70s. We had vinyl records and eight-tracks, watched 'Underdog' and 'The Grape Ape' on Saturday mornings, danced disco in PE class, drank Tang like the astronauts."

My hometown had 4,000 people and I could ride my bike all over town. Ten-thousand people now, traffic lights, the ever present possibility of child abductors.

I don't know what to think. Maybe Dad was right. Perhaps those cup holders where we stick our lattes at church are an abomination.  But I'll be damned if they don't help somebody get saved.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Lovin, touchin, squeezin

I was driving ol' Bessie down the highway over the damn river and my friend McGill says people down there are happy to give.

Weekday mornings with the Breakfast Club. Jen Hansen & Rod Eric Tyler, resident Beatles fan, with the morning Wichita commute over KNZT-Classic Rock. You know, that station where they play the Eagles every 30 minutes every day, which seems to get so longer?

But not so much during the morning drive with the Breakfast Club and their discussion topics? "What slang terms do you hate?" "Was my boyfriend right in mooning my obnoxious uncle at the dinner table?" (Christ, you can't even moon someone anymore.) "Have you ever had a paranormal experience? " As I drove to work that day, I listened to callers weigh in on -

What is the best song to make love to?

People called in with suggestions. Many good, some bad. A fellow said he and his wife have a special song, "Just Between You & Me" by April Wine. I gotta' say, not a bad choice for an '80s song. If someone picked "Open Arms" by Journey and I'd have to drive over and kill them.

People came up with some fine and interesting choices. Miles Davis's Kind of Blue album. Smart. Mystical and abstract. "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney &Wings. Passionate number, I can see it. One smart aleck fellow called in. "My wife and I used to have fun with a little 'Afternoon Delight.'"

A-a-a-a-af-afternoon delight. One of those train collisions of polite rock with pop. Camp and so bad it's good, but I could no more make love to that song than Louie CK could have sex without his shirt on. I love spinning the 45 on my turntable and having a laugh with the family, but sex? Sure it's about a daylight quickie, but I associate the song more with what I thought it was about when I was a child back in the '70s. Fireworks. "Afternoon Delight." Sounds like something Ron Burgandy would make love to.

"Linger" by the Cranberries. Is that song really 20 years old? Bullshit. Was I not put here to live and love like I'm perpetually twentysomething? I was in Dr. Williamson and Dr. Iorio's HISTORICAL and THEORETICAL ISSUES in COMMUNICATION(Sorry to shout, but it's the only way to say that class's name) at Wichita State University's Elliott School of Communication. A few youngsters in the second row - a mixed chorus of males and females - broke extemporaneously into song. "Do you have to, do you have to let it linger?"

Sweet as that little Irish lass. Her vocals, all I remember. And the cut-off jeans shorts. Skin so long and brown. She wanted to be on the nightly news and I could've watched the detectives with her 'cuz I had such heart. Oh, oh, long and brown. Oh to hit it like Jesse James.

Paper companies and sex

I shared the Breakfast Club topic of the day with my co-workers as I was apt to do at the coffee maker and water cooler, both stationed awkwardly by the one-holed male and female toilets. There was my friend, Braxton, a 45-year-old divorced single dad and ladies man. (I was 35 at the time and sort of looked up to Braxton.) One of Braxton's lady friends was a 60-year-old woman.

"Best song to make love to?" he said, repeating my question. "How 'bout 'After the Lovin' by Engelbert Humperdinck" I think I'm starting to understand that 60-year-old woman thing, I thought to myself.

I just had to hear Dwight's choice.

"Goddammit Halpert! You will rue the day!"

"Guess he found that KY jelly smeared over the handle and receiver of his phone," Jim said and retreated to his cubicle, whistling some tune. Or maybe he just went to talk to Pam at reception.

"Girl U Want. Devo," Dwight responded adamantly when Braxton asked him what the perfect lovemaking song was.

I was reluctant to ask Margie. She was a woman, she was my boss, I was new at the company and I'd had the life scared out of me watching that sexual harassment video during orientation with human resources. A woman about the size of Camryn Manheim from the ABC '90s legal drama, "The Practice" kept saying (in an un-Oscar-worthy monotone voice) things like, "Oh I wanna rub you in baby oil" to the scrawny man at the breakroom table.

Braxton, at 6-foot-two and 230 pounds, has a lot more derring-do than me and he simply asked Margie what she thought the best song to make love to was.

"Hmmmm, how 'bout that old country song. (She started singing.) 'He stopped loving her today.'"

Having sex to a song about a man who died. I love George Jones and Margie is a  nice gal, but damn, she's weird.

My courage awakened like a morning tent, I suggested what I thought might be theee song - "Chevy Van," a 1975 hit for Sammy Johns. A guy is driving along, gives a girl a ride in his wagon. They made love in his Chevy van and he'll never saw her again.

and that's all right with me

"Come on," I said. "That song encapsulates everything the '70s were about."

By the time I got home that evening I'd changed my mind for about the third or fourth time. "I've got it," I told my wife, Maria. "The ultimate song - 'Whole Lotta Love' by Led Zeppelin."

"That's not a lovemaking song. That's a fucking song," she said.


She was brown and I was pretty green. The first time I heard songs like "I'm a King Bee" by groups like the Rolling Stones and Animals on the King Biscuit Flower Hour via classic rock radio KNZT, I had no idea what such songs were about. Didn't know the bee buzzin' round your hive might be what my English teacher Mrs. H called a metaphor.

well we can make honey baby, let me come inside

If there was ever a style of music made for lovemaking, it's the blues. For a people relegated to the back of the societal bus, here lies freedom - of body and mind. Black sexuality. Everything the plantation owners, Jim Crow dixiecrats and their modern heirs like Newt Gingrich are afraid of.

I'm young and able to buzz all night long
I'm young and able to buzz all night long
When you hear me buzzin' baby, 
some stingin's goin' on

Let the good times roll. It's been the title of several blues and rock songs. I'm thinking of Shirley and Lee's song. The lyrics straddled the opaque line between rock n' roll as a slang for mattress spring knockin' and a beat you danced to on Bandstand. Listen to the lyrics.

Come on baby, just close the door
Come on baby, let's rock some more
Come on baby, let the good times roll,
roll all night long...

Feels so good
when you're home
come on baby, rock me all night long

Thirty years before Slim Harpo sang about buzzin' round your hive for Chicago's Chess Records, thirty-some years before Shirley and Lee sang about rock'n all night long, beautiful black independent women sang about what they wanted and how they wanted it. In her 1922 recording of  "My Man Rocks Me (with One Steady Roll)," Trixie Smith's wasn't singing about getting rocked to sleep.

A big brawny black woman out of Chatanooga, Tenn., a confident and two-fisted daughter of a Baptist minister of the gospel sang about being wild about that thing and getting some sugar in her bowl."Empty Bed Blues" by Bessie Smith is a bona fide classic, not only of blues, but of music - a song you and your lover can get down low to.

Bought me a coffee grinder that's the best one I could find 
Oh he can grind my coffee 'cause he had a brand new grind

And when she sings, He's a deep sea diver with a stroke that can't go wrong, you know where she's going.

The ultimate lovemaking song? It's too elusive. Is there one song or is it all just music? Is it not appropriate that we would meld music - the food of life- with the very act that perpetuates life. Music is about life and life is about being born, eating, shitting, screwing and dying.

However, I think I've found out. The ultimate song to knock your boots off to. I have found it. Here.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pisswater on the tree

I was working late at the paper on a Tuesday night with my friend Ashton. We were looking for AP filler for the inside pages when I came across this article: "KISS, Gabriel, Nirvana to be inducted to rock hall." It was a boring headline so I changed it to: "Smells like grunge spirit: Nirvana to be inducted into rock hall of fame."
For the up-page kicker, I wrote, "Nevermind," the title of Nirvana's ground breaking 1991 album.

The lame headline didn't bother me, but the contents of the story about made me hurl. Hall & Oates? WTF? Inducted? Yuk. Gross. Flush the toilet, please. I gotta' shower. I thought this was the rock n' roll hall of fame, not the Top 40 hall of fame. The Replacements, Sonic Youth and the Jesus & Mary Chain were around in the '80s. Are they being inducted? Didn't think so. You're corporate and have no soul.

You're nothing but pisswater over the tree of rock n' roll from Son House to the White Stripes. Damn you and fuck the stinking horse you so arrogantly rode in on, you watered down, corporate sucking slab of pablum.

And don't we all know? Hauling Oats suck big fat green ones.

But induct them into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, why don't you? Stick em' on high with Bo Didley, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, the Beatles, Stones...Why? Because they had a bunch of hits in the '80s? There's no accounting for taste is there? Wasn't Phil Collins's "Sussudio" a hit back in '85? Max dickhedroom, a clown named Ronnie in the White House and all that crap. So a couple of guys have a string of hits in the lamest decade of the 20th century and you reward them with a place among rock royalty. Shit, why not put George W. Bush on Mt. Rushmore?

So whose to be inducted next year? Foreigner and Lover Boy? How 'bout Lionel Richie's "Lady" as sung by Kenny Rogers? Yeah, that deserves a special honor. What about Billy Ocean? He had hits in the '80s. Ever notice how in the '80s even a lot of black music was whiter than Wonder Bread with yuppified sugar on it? Hall and Oates - a plastic 1980s hand job.

Cleveland was chosen to be the site of the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame because that was the town, from which in the early '50s a white disc jockey named Alan Freed started highlighting this jumpin', black rhythmic music. He wasn't giving them the Hit Parade.

To be fair, there are some well deserving names among this year's inductees: KISS, the band that nearly perfected rock theatricality, Peter Gabriel, Nirvana and especially Randy Newman. His early 70s' stuff could hurt you, it was so scathingly satirical.

Although it seems a bogus cosmic joke, Nirvana's first album, Bleach turns 25 in the next year. This nasty, metallic-grunge little album came out in 1989, a year when big-haired-spray, spandex, faux-power ballad, cherry pie-in-a-female-crotch, lying assed bands were at their pinnacle as surely as disco - sanitized by crass commercialism - stood at the peak a decade previous.

If Bleach were the only album Nirvana ever made, if they had not "broken through" with their 1991 album Nevermind and "Smells Like Teen Spirit," I don't think they'd get a snot's worth of notice by the hall of fame judges. Almost as surely as God won't know the hypocrites on Judgement Day, those judges in high places wouldn't know Nirvana from the Meat Puppets.

In 1967, The Velvet Underground and Nico must've sold all of 86 copies. Somehow, though, word of mouth got around and the RHF could not ignore one of the most influential bands in rock history. That's how a band that never had any hits gains entrance into The Establishment. It may never come again.

The Sex Pistols won't be back. Man, it was a show of testicles, the likes of which are likely never to be seen again. Appropriately enough, the RHF inducted the Pistols in 2006. When Johnny Rotten got the news, he faxed a hand-written letter.

Next to the SEX-PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. Your museum. Urine in wine. We're not coming. We're not your monkey and so what?