Friday, July 04, 2014
The truth is, I really do like America. I'm proud of the aforementioned people. I'm proud of Hemingway and Bukowski and George Carlin and Buck Owens and Lawrence Krauss and Wendy Davis and, my goodness, the list is truly endless. I like the story of Baseball and jazz music and the sounds of New Orleans. I like the Golden Gate bridge and the Navy Pier and all the corn rows in Iowa. I like Brooklyn and Fargo and Club Congress in Tuscon. I've been all through the deserts and the cities and the Pacific Northwest. One time a guy in a small apartment in Cambridge gave me a Richard Feynman book that changed my life. Traveling through America is what opened my eyes to the fallacy and lunacy of hatred and bigotry. I remember being 19 and going to an "art show" in the Castro district of San Francisco and realizing, much too late, that it was an explicit gay art show. I had a blast. I have fond memories of tubing on the lake with my parents in Alabama. First kisses. First poetry books. Seeing Wilco live at the Alabama Theater the night they won two Grammys. Seeing Ryan Adams at the Ryman and The Cure in Atlanta. I have a lot of uniquely American experiences that I am thankful for.
But I also have a lot of tension about America. I cannot pretend that we are not a country founded on mass genocide and slavery. I cannot pretend that the wounds of segregation and the lack of black civil rights was long ago enough for us to have healed as a nation. I cannot pretend that the suppression of women is not still happening here. I cannot pretend that our healthcare is as good as other developed countries. I cannot pretend that we are not actively discriminating against our gay friends and family members by denying them the right to marry. I cannot pretend that we are not in the lowest percentile of scientific literacy amongst developed countries. I cannot pretend we do not openly espouse a culture of ridiculous gun violence. I cannot pretend that our religious traditions are not harming progress. I cannot pretend that racism is over or that our children are getting the best education possible.
And for these reasons I awkwardly make my way through days like today with small jabs and jokes. I'm not trying to shit on your BBQ our pour out your bud light. Honestly, I'm trying to do what I think my heroes would have done. I don't think they would have been content to sit around congratulating themselves. They would have looked around and said, we have more work to do. It's interesting that the people who wanted to end slavery or bans on interracial marriage or who wanted women to vote and gays to marry...these people were criticized as un-American. I'm thankful they weren't bullied when people told them to quit their bitching or leave. Um, no thanks. I'm not going anywhere. I'm drinking a Mexican beer right now and soon I'll go into my song cave and listen to Icelandic doom metal. Because isn't that really what makes the freedom thing so great?
So now what? Toby Keith is going to come kick my ass? I'll be waiting with a Dos Equis.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
1. Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue by Marquis de Sade
This book was written by the late eighteenth century libertine, Marquis de Sade. I'll not go into too much detail except to say that Napoleon had de Sade arrested for writing this book calling it, "the most abominable book ever engendered by the most depraved imagination." That should either make you want to read this book immediately or have nothing to do with it forever. I obviously chose the former.
2. Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me (And Other Concerns)? by Mindy Kaling
This is a super fun but ultimately forgettable collection of essays from one of the funniest television writers in Hollywood right now. Worth checking out, just don't expect David Sedaris.
3. Superfreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Another brilliant effort by these two. Amazing essays dealing with the economics of heated cultural issues. Always funny, always factual. Highly recommended.
4. Free Will by Sam Harris
One of the best reads of the year. Short and sweet. Sam Harris argues that all free will is an illusion using as his proof advances in neuroscience as well as some fairly robust philosophy. Nerds only.
5. Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life by Louise M. Antony
This book was disappointing because I thought it would chronicle and discuss the major philosophers of history and their views on atheism and secularism. Instead, this is a collection of essays by modern philosophers, most unknown to me, making this one difficult to connect with.
6. Abraham Lincoln: Great American Historians on our 16th President edited by Brian Lamb
Great collection of essays on the life of Abraham Lincoln.
7. The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade
Compared to this one, the aforementioned Justine is like reading Dr. Suess. Seriously, this is probably the most disturbing book I have ever read. When I finally go insane, the reading of this book will likely be an early cause in retrospect. Proceed with caution.
8. W. Axl Rose by Mick Wall
Journalist Mick Wall does a great job telling the story of one of rock and roll's most enigmatic, misanthropic, and (in my opinion) often misunderstood front men.
9. The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice by Christopher Hitchens
Hitchens' sharp and scathing criticism of Mother Teresa as a fraud. Worth investigation.
10. The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music, 1972 - 1995 by Nick Kent
Great collection of essays on some of rock and roll's most interesting characters like Lou Reed, Neil Young, Brian Wilson, Syd Barrett, etc.
11. The Hunger Games by Suzzane Collins
This series of books is incredible. Easy to read and a lot of fun. They hype is true. Enough said.
12. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Second book in the series and my favorite of the three.
13. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Final book in the series and easily the worst one.
14. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
I can't remember the last time I had this much fun reading a book. I waited far too long to give it a shot after years of hearing about how great it was. Don't make the same mistake.
15. The Elements of Moral Philosophy by James Rachels
Technically this is a text book but it was actually a really warm read. Rachels efficiently and clearly outlines all of the major moral theories including cultural relativism, subjectivism, divine command theory, social contract, utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, etc. Worth checking out.
16. The 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Easily the dumbest, most over-rated book probably in the history of the written word. I count it as a national embarrassment that this was the most commonly sighted book during all of my travels last year. The best thing to happen as a result of this horrendous disaster is the Bizzybiz Blog series in which she hilariously reviews the entire book. Seriously, check that out.
17. The Mystified Magistrate and Other Tales by Marquis de Sade
A surprisingly charming and morally centered collection of short stories by the infamous de Sade. Pleasant and funny read.
18. Justice For All: The Truth About Metallica by Joe Melver
This is a thorough, unauthorized biography of Metallica aimed at dispelling the truth about some of the more controversial events in their career. Ultimately I found it more biased and opinionated than objective and factual, making it difficult to recommend for anyone other than a diehard fan.
19. The Godfather by Mario Puzio
The incredible novel that spawned two incredible movies.
20. Metallica: The Monster Lives by Joe Berlinger
This is a book about the making of Some Kind of Monster, the critically acclaimed documentary about Metcallica's St. Anger record. It was really interesting learning the details about how the film came to be. A great companion piece to the film.
21. The Antichrist by Frederich Nietzsche
Nietzsche being all Nietzsche about religion. So yeah, I loved it.
22. Blackbird Singing: Lyrics and Poems, 1965 - 1999 by Paul McCartney
Collection of poetry from Sir McCartney. Most of it is boring. Some of it is really bad and then some of it is brilliant.
23. Everyone Loves You When You're Dead: Journeys Into Fame and Madness by Neil Strauss
Amazing collection of "off the record" interviews conducted for Rolling Stone covers over the years. There are a lot of candid, surprising revelations in this one about the biggest cultural icons of the last several decades. One of the best reads of the year.
24. The Bone House by Joel-Peter Witkin
One of my favorite photographers, Witkin specializes in disturbing atmospheres and subject matter. His work is horrifying and incredible.
25. The Invention of Pornography: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity 1500-1800 edited by Nancy Lynn
This was an arduous collection of essays by historians tracing the modern threads of pornography to the 1500's. Yes, it was as boring as it sounds.
26. A Theft by Saul Bellow
My goodness I love this man's writing. Warm, funny and smart. This is the story of two lovers who know they cannot be together but always rediscover one another through their many unsuccessful relationships.
27. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
Five incredible short stories from the king of horror. His writing is as good as it ever was throughout the decades. My favorites in this anthology were, "Fair Extension" and "A Good Marriage."
Songs in italics are my favorites and recommendations to immediately download. Don't be cheap. They're only $1. Discover new music!
1. Norah Jones - Little Broken Hearts
(Miriam, She's 22, Good Morning)
2. Courtney Marie Andrews - No One's Slate Is Clean
(Bumper In The Hail, Sex Dreams, Songs For Tourists)
3. Electric Light Orchestra - Mr. Blue Sky
(Showdown, Telephone Line)
4. Ryan Adams - Live After Deaf
(Halloween, Star Sign)
5. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel
(all of it)
6. Jessie Baylin - Little Spark
(Yuma, The Winds)
7. Matthew Mayfield - A Banquet For Ghosts
(Always, I Don't Know You At All)
8. Matthew Perryman Jones - Land of the Living
(Waking up The Dead, Theo)
9. Katy Perry - Teenage Dream (Deluxe Edition)
(Wide Awake, Circle The Drain)
10. Dave Matthews Band - Away From the World
(Sweet, The Riff)
1. The Cabin In The Woods
2. The Innkeepers
3. The Loved Ones
5. The Kill List
6. Paranormal Activity 4
7. Lovely Molly
Close calls: The Pact, Sinister, Father's Day, Theater Bizarre
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Sunday, August 05, 2012
Unless you've been living at the bottom of the ocean for the last several weeks you're no doubt familiar with the national controversy centered around the south's very own Christian chicken joint, Chick-Fil-A. It has come to light that between 2003 - 2010 Chick-Fil-A donated $5 million to anti-gay causes. For a comprehensive breakdown of the money given to these organizations and how they campaign to legislate homosexual discrimination please visit EqualityMatters.
Two of the organizations financially supported by Chick-Fil-A are worthy of note:
2. Family Research Council is literally designated as a hate-group by the SPLC for attempting to draw definitive correlations between homosexuals and child molestation/pedophilia.
Some folks have falsely suggested that Chick-Fil-A's donations have nothing to do with their patronage. However, a percentage of proceeds from every single sale at every single Chick-Fil-A goes to The Winshape Foundation (CFA's charitable arm) which then funnels portions of that money to the above anti-gay organizations. As it turns out, your patronage DOES affect the gay community.
To add fuel to the fire, CFA President Dan Cathy made some rather telling remarks in the press about his personal views on gay marriage. He says:
"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that...we know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."Cathy went on to say:
"I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,' and I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about."I find it interesting that Cathy is appealing to the "biblical definition of the family unit." The fact is that there is no biblical consensus on what constitutes a family unit. Consider the incoherence. One book proclaims the marriage of foreigners blasphemous while another book considers it a blessing. One book says not to fornicate while another makes a virtue of offering your daughters to be raped. How many of the heroes of the bible had multiple wives and concubines? The Apostle Paul even encourages folks to avoid marriage all together. The point is that Cathy's appeals to the "biblical family unit" ring hollow to anyone who has ever seriously studied the Bible.
He then takes a shot at divorce which I found interesting. Surely he knows that many heterosexual and even church-going Christians have experienced divorce. His most audacious remarks suggest that we are inviting some unknown punishment from God for seeking to "redefine" marriage. Perhaps we should have avoided redefining slavery as well? How about women's right to vote? Redefinition is the hallmark of human progress and, quite poignantly, not our holy books.
The most clever thing Cathy did in these statements was to make an appeal to freedom of speech by alluding to the freedom our country permits him to "share his values."
This Is Not A Free Speech Issue
Contrary to what opponents of equal rights would have you believe, this is emphatically NOT an issue of free speech. Dan Cathy is perfectly within his first amendment rights to express his anti-gay opinions. What he said was ignorant and atrocious but I will fight for his right to say it. The same goes for the Westboro Baptist Church, people who believe they are Elvis and any other lunatic out there. No one is arguing that Dan Cathy had no right to the expression of his opinions. No one.
The reason people are upset is because Chick-Fil-A donates millions of dollars of it's consumers' money to organizations that actively seek to harm our gay friends, families and neighbors. It is precisely OUR right to the freedom of speech being utilized when we boycott, protest and criticize Chick-Fil-A for it's bigoted spending. The irony is palpable.
Chick-Fil-A has made a sucker out of anyone who has bought into the idea that participating in "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day" means supporting the freedom of speech. That is an intentionally dubious conflation of the real issue which, lest we forget, is how your money is being spent on the fight against civil rights.
Criticism, Intolerance, and Hatred
This week I have been accused several times of being intolerant and hateful as well as participating in a "corporate witch hunt." There is an important difference between criticism and intolerance. I'm not calling for Dan Cathy to be jailed for expressing opinions I disagree with. I'm not calling for the government to shut down every Chick-Fil-A for giving millions of dollars to hate groups. I'm simply criticizing them for it.
Want another dose of irony? Contrary to my stance of tolerant, peaceful criticism it is folks like Dan Cathy who proudly tout their intolerant beliefs. I don't want Cathy legally penalized for his lifestyle but he is the one who wants your gay friends, family members and neighbors legally prohibited from marriage! Discriminating against an individual or group based on their sexual orientation is actively participating in hatred and intolerance. To the contrary, I criticize based on people's thoughts and actions, without discrimination.
Boycotting and Moral Responsibility
So, what is our moral responsibility in this situation? Is boycotting an effective way to fight the battle for gay rights? Does eating a chicken sandwich matter? Is it plausible to boycott every organization that spends money in ways you disagree with?
These are all great questions. I'm still mapping my way through them but for now my answers look like this:
1. Our first moral responsibility in this and any situation is to take it seriously. You need to know that this is an issue of your money being spent to hurt innocent people and not a politicized shit-slinging contest over free speech. I'm personally choosing to distance myself from Chick-Fil-A in order to keep my money from hurting my gay friends, however small the amount may be. I don't consider myself a moral hero for doing this nor do I consider you or anyone else a homophobic bigot for choosing to continue eating there. Let me be absolutely clear here that my thoughts are descriptive, not prescriptive.
|Rosa Parks being arrested in Montgomery, AL 1955.|
2. Boycotting is absolutely proven effective. Here's a list of successful consumer boycotts that occurred in the last decade and we should shudder to forget The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 which was a seminal event in the Civil Rights movement.
3. Maybe eating a chicken sandwich matters, and maybe it doesn't. Several people have noted that thanks to Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, Cathy has likely had one of the most financially successful days in his business' history, suggesting that his decision was a good one. I disagree. Perhaps CFA had a good day. Perhaps they'll have a good year or maybe even a good decade. But there will come a day when they will either amend their anti-gay views or die.
The south will remain conservative for some time yet. But we will eventually catch up to our coastal brothers and sisters on the moral issues of our day just as we begrudgingly did with black civil rights and interracial marriage. It's our unfortunate calling card to be late to the moral progress party. As we've seen in cities like Boston, Chicago, New York City and San Francisco, the folks there are not interested in tacitly funding homosexual discrimination. Eating chicken sandwiches matters a hell of a lot...but more to the future of Chick-fil-A than the gay community.
4. Is it plausible to boycott every company who spends money in ways you disagree with? Probably not. Is it possible to even know how all the companies you patronize spend their money? Absolutely not. Contrary to accusations this week, I am not endorsing a "corporate witch hunt." I'm making the best moral decision I can with the information I have. Morality is complicated and nuanced, not black and white the way our mythologies and politicians lead us to believe. In the case of Chick-Fil-A I am simply constrained to distance myself. Apathy and cynicism are not the answer. I apply social pressure wherever I am reasonably able to do so.
I leave you folks with this question that has, so far, gone unanswered.
Would you give your money to Chick-Fil-A if they donated millions of dollars to organizations that actively fought against equal marriage for black people? Consider Cathy's remarks about how allowing gays to marry actually warrants the wrath of the God of the Universe. Replace gay with black.
Would you support that organization? What's the difference?
Homosexuality, Equality and Human Secularism
Homosexuality, Bigotry and False Victimization
Thursday, May 17, 2012
"journey of freedom in America."
Sunday, April 08, 2012
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Friday, December 16, 2011
Monday, December 12, 2011
1. "I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian."
I'm so thankful for the Enlightenment and the exponential technological boom we have been experiencing ever since. From the printing press to antibiotics to clean water systems to doubling life expectancy to central heating and air to cures for disease to space travel to velcro to birth control to iPods to bifocals to particle colliders we are currently experiencing the most exciting time to be a human being.
I'm particularly thankful today for the internet. Science works
Not any more, folks. When someone like Rick Perry claims that children can't pray in schools or that Obama isn't a Christian or that America was founded on Christian principles we can all very easily and quickly google those claims and find them erroneous. We are no longer an easily disregarded minority in our small towns. We are a voice that must be heard. We are now unified the world over and can now strongly hold to account those who used their power to subdue us with bad and non-information.
The intellectual war is over because it just got a lot harder to be full of shit. Rick Perry's laughable campaign is over and the YouTube response to his latest video is proof. Goodbye Rick Perry. I will miss enjoying every bit of your public stupidity. And for whoever is next, we'll be waiting and hoping you aren't as evil and pathetic because if you are, you will not survive in the (finally) free marketplace of ideas. Thanks to the internet. Thanks to science. Thanks to the courage of everyone like me. And like you.
Sunday, December 04, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Greetings hymn nerds. Today Bruce Benedict of Cardiphonia released a new album of hymn re-writes inspired by the Lord’s Supper. Along with several other musicians around the country I was invited to give one of these texts a shot. You can stream it below and the link should allow you to purchase it as well. If you need a chord chart just shoot me a message and I’ll get it to you.
I suppose this is a good time to talk about hymn writing. I’ve been writing hymns for almost ten years. When I first met Brian and began attending Red Mountain the idea of re-writing hymns was foreign to me. As I began to familiarize myself with the work of Christopher Miner and dive in to some of the ancient hymn writers I was compelled by the force of the language of those texts. I started writing my own hymns in 2003 and from then on many of them found their home on the Red Mountain records that Brian and I produced. Over the last several years I have written over a hundred hymns. Many of them lie forgotten on my iPod. Originally this page was dedicated to releasing all of those unrecorded songs. That goal remains but it’s become less of a priority as I spend most of my time out on the road playing guitar for other artists.
Those of you who know me know that although writing hymns is dear to my heart creatively, it’s something that I’ve lost a lot of interest in. These days it seems that I only write hymns when people specifically ask me to. I think my days of pouring through ancient hymnals are, for the most part, behind me. Having said that, I still enjoy the challenge when someone has a text they’d like me to try and put music to. This seems to be happening more and more. Ironically, the last batch of hymns I wrote for the final Red Mountain record, All Things New, was my best batch. And some of these new songs, including the one above, are the best I’ve written.
I don’t know what all of this means, really. So I’ll just end by saying that there is something wonderfully mysterious about singing songs with people. I don’t care what you do or don’t believe (and I’ll appreciate the same courtesy) but I’m really proud to have contributed to projects that encourage people to sing together.
This new song intentionally doesn’t have a chorus. Instead there are just a few “sha la la’s” where a chorus should be. I don’t have the audacity to add my own words to these great texts and, well, sometimes there are no words.
Hope you are all well. Lots of hugs and kisses and pizza to you all.