Monday, February 27, 2006

Yeah, I'm a blatant, over-the-top fan. What are you gonna do about it?

Morrissey Questioned by FBI

Matthew Solarski of Pitchfork Media reports:

While he'd rather be famous than righteous or holy (any day, any day, any day), a certain Federal Bureau of Investigation has branded Stephen Patrick Morrissey with a rather infamous tag: potential threat to national security.

Prepping for a handful of U.S. dates, a massive sold-out UK tour, and the April 4 release of Ringleader of the Tormentors, the Moz recently revealed to NME that he has been questioned by the FBI and British Intelligence agents. He copped a James Bond cool all the while, then deployed a smoke bomb hidden in his pen and vanished using a grappling hook rigged into that adorable tuft of hair atop his head.

No, but seriously, here's what Mozzy had to say: "The FBI and the Special Branch have investigated me and I've been interviewed and taped and so forth. They [the FBI] were trying to determine if I was a threat to the government, and similarly in England. But it didn't take them very long to realise that I'm not."

He went on: "I don't belong to any political groups. I don't really say anything unless I'm asked directly and I don't even demonstrate in public. I always assume that so-called authoritarian figures just assume that pop/rock music is slightly insane and an untouchable platform for the working classes to stand up and say something noticeable."

"My view is that neither England or America are democratic societies," Moz summed up. "You can't really speak your mind and if you do you're investigated."

As you may recall, Morrissey raised hell back in 2004 by wishing death upon George W. Bush during a Dublin concert. Who knows what venomous arrows of dissent Moz will spew over audiences at SXSW in Bush's native Texas this year, particularly during his live interview with Rolling Stone's David Fricke on March 16. Or his only scheduled American dates, taking place in Oklahoma just before the festival.

Morrissey in Oklahoma. Doesn't that sound like a science fiction title?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A bit of brutal honesty.... Are you ready?

Thinking that I have made a decision, I again find myself at a crossroads. I say this in reference to my belief that I should be headed off to seminary in the Fall of 2006, but doubting that now is the time for me to do so. Previous changes in my life have been borne of the necessity that I come to grips with the negative realities of my current situation and do what I can to change where I am and what I am doing.

I have made many changes of direction in my journey through life. I have decided to move far away from home for college to separate myself from an unhealthy High School & church environment. I transferred colleges to escape paying increased tuition (even though I loved Southwestern University). I left the Pentecostal church (and the UPC specifically) to pursue & live out a more balanced, Jesus-centered, and holistic expression of the Gospel. In all of these, I have made the necessary adaptations and shifts in my life in order to better my life and to better my interactions with the world around me.

So, why do I feel conflicted about choosing between The Harvest (or teaching at a Waldorf school in general) and attending seminary for 2 or 3 years so that I can serve the Kingdom of God "better"? I have a friend who has told me that you go to seminary for yourself, so that you can learn more ans expand who you are. I believe this friend, because they attended seminary for that reason, a reason I can respect. And, yes, while the goal is to preach, teach, and become a full-time minister of the Gospel, it seems the means of such an endeavor consist of taking what classes you'd like to tak so that your intellect & spirit can be fed in order for you to be able to feed others. I can both appreciate and respect that approach, but part of that type of thinking doesn't quite agree with me, especially in regards to the efficiency of such a method, as well as the economic baggage that such a decision entails.

This then makes me wonder why another friend of mine chose 5 years of seminary training if, in the long run, he knew that he'd be pastoring/leading a small start-up church in Austin, TX. In fact, he's going for his D.Min degree very soon. Is it because he's "wired" that way? Maybe so. I feel that I cam wired for higher education, but at whose/what expense? This same friend and his wife (also my friend) both entered seminary right out of college, as did yet another close friend of mine (who is now pursuing a PhD in History). In contrast, I have 2 other friends who didn't start graduate school/seminary right out of college, but are enrolled now and seem equally as challenged and excited about their education as my friends who did enter higher education right out of college.

But this is my question and the internal dialogue I have going on right now. Why do I feel so stuck in between those two situations? Why do I feel that I still want to seek out a Third Way? Why do I think that a Third Way even exists? How is it that I have somehow chosed to believe that I am so different from my friends and their situations that I can attempt to walk down a totally divergent path from theirs and still arrive at a relatively similar place as both educated and educator?

Such questions bring me to how I have come to view my continuing and perpetual education. I have felt a call/pull/tug to be educated and to educate others for much of my adult life. Yet, I have pursued such an end through rather unorthodox means. I didn't study education in college. I've taught exclusively at private schools, having been employed and utilized strictly due to my intrinsic talents and abilities. I frequently find ways to cease and hinder restarting many of my forays into higher education. Thus, even now, I try to convince myself that seminary isn't important for me, that I don't need to rack up enormous debt in order to feel like my life is of worth, consequence, and able to impact some small corner of this wonderful, beautiful, and broken world that we all share.

My my -- doesn't that last sentence sound vain and prideful? It's as if I'm trying to create some sort of legact for myself. However, I really don't feel that I'm worried about the future. I tend to focus on doing something today and how what we do in the present will impact the future. Hence, this IS my problem -- I don't want to put the "real world" on hold just to intellectually masturbate for 2 or more years in an attempt to "better" serve God, to "better" live out the Gospel, or to "better" lead/pastor the people in the world around me. Now, THAT is selfish & vain....

Thus, if I'm bold enough to say that, think that, and just about believe that, why do I feel like seminary should be and is an option for me?!?!?

And this brings me to my current status as a teacher at a Waldorf school. I love what I'm doing, really. This has been one of the best jobs and work environments that I've ever had, on so many levels. The pedagogy is enthralling, enough for me to state openly that I wish I could have been a student at a Waldorf school as a child/teen. The mixture of, appreciation for, and attention paid to the balance between our physical, intellectual, and emotional selves (willing, thinking, and feeling) is so very needed in the educational circles of the world today, especially in the West/America. My issue at this point is that I don't want to be in Houston for the next 9 years at The Harvest (maybe this is the 27-year-old in me talking). I would love to train as a Waldorf Grades Teacher, but again, there is cost involved in that, combined with my desire to be a speciality teacher or High School subject teacher.

What I do with all of these thoughts raging and thrashing about in my psyche? I can't ignore them. I can't explain them away. I have to address what I'm thinking and feeling, or I think I'd go quite crazy. Regardless of that, I know that much of this sounds plaintive and almost idealistically naive, but can you blame me? Maybe you can. If so, set me straight. I'd love to hear/read your words, thoughts, feelings, and impressions of what I've written here.

So, I end with a prayer -- "Where do I go? What do I do? I pray, O God, that you send something or someone to help me with this, so that I don't feel quite so all alone. And, in case I haven't said enough, I want to thank you for everything so far. I love you because you first loved me."

Friday, February 24, 2006

And now, for some anti-corporate information....

Yes, this too comes from Pitchfork. What can I say? I wish I could find a forum for MY smart and sassy writing.

Best Buy to Indies: Drop Dead

Mairead Case reports:
On January 24, Best Buy announced its latest promotion: a sale on a handful of albums from "left of the dial indie heroes," such as the Arcade Fire, Cat Power, Danger Doom, Antony & the Johnsons, Atmosphere, New Pornographers, and Broken Social Scene-- all listed at the obscenely low price of $7.99. Yes, that's cheaper than every other store on the planet, including iTunes. In fact, it's cheaper than distribution wholesale.

How can Best Buy get away with that? Isn't that illegal or something? Well, no. Welcome to the wonderful world of co-ops. Co-op campaigns are deals in which labels exchange money or extra CDs ("cleans") for prominent placement in stores, bulk initial orders, sale pricing, and advertising presence. Co-ops exist everywhere, from megastores to Mom and Pops alike. In other words, whenever you see some Next Big Thing featured at the end of an aisle, nine times out of ten, the label paid for that artist to be there.

This isn't intrinsically a bad thing. However, when co-op money is used to lower prices as substantially as Best Buy has, it's independent record shops that suffer the blow: Given the recent plunge in album sales over the past five years, these stores are already struggling. And while it may seem dramatic to say that something like this could make these kinds of stores extinct, the danger is very real. For many, it will be the final straw that puts them out of business.

It's no surprise, then, that Best Buy's "Artists Outside the Mainstream" program has inspired a lightning-quick backlash from small stores and non-participating labels. Tongues are lashing at Saki Store, the blog home of indie distro Carrot Top Distribution and Carrot Top Records (Handsome Family, Antietem, the Coctails, Archer Prewitt). On January 24, CTD, Ltd. President Patrick Monaghan posted a screed lambasting Best Buy and the labels involved in the program. His post inspired a heated discussion that spread across the web, with label executives and store owners joining the fray.

"I don't really see any way you can blame the customer," Monaghan told Pitchfork. "Hell, what decision is a consumer supposed to make, assuming they actually want to pay for their music, when faced with a $7.99 vs. $13.99 CD? I also don't think you can blame Best Buy. You can't shame the sociopath, so what good does it do to try? In my humble opinion, the blame falls on the labels and bands who are participating in this co-op advertisement deal."

Monaghan continued, "It's a question of extreme pricing and sale. If there is no indie retail to help build new bands, we are left with MySpace, the unfiltered Internet, and ad/TV/movie placement to introduce people to new bands. Retail would be left to the Best Buy/Starbucks axis. That's not too appealing of a scenario to me."

Mac McCaughan, Superchunk/Portastatic frontman and co-owner of Merge Records, responded point-blank: "Obviously, Merge's job is to get our artists' records in as many stores as possible, and make them available to as many people as possible who want to buy them," he commented on Saki Store. "Someone who discovers an artist because the 'popular' record is on sale at Best Buy will then hopefully be driven to find out more about the band. [Then,] they'll have to get the back catalogue at a store that sells mostly music."

According to the labels involved in "Artists Outside the Mainstream", Best Buy never mentioned the $7.99 price plan when discussing the program. The promotional paperwork specified only print circular placement, special positioning, and sale pricing, but no disclosure of how low that sale pricing might be.

In this sense, the labels, prevented from price-point negotiations under 2002 price fixing legislations, were truly blindsided. As Secretly Canadian's Nick Blandford wrote to the label's retailers and distros, "To say that [the price] was a shock to us is an understatement. Before approving the program, we specifically confirmed with ADA, Secretly Canadian's exclusive distributor, that Best Buy would not receive any sort of discount."

Matador president Gerard Cosloy told Pitchfork, "I don't deny for a second that using hot indie titles as a loss leader is a total sucker punch to mom and pop record stores. But without diminishing the significance of such an event, cool record stores should have something else up their sleeves besides using Best Buy as the bogeyman. We've used Best Buy for years, but the vast majority of our time and energy has been devoted to selling records through independent retailers. To date, we've yet to do any instores with Best Buy or any exclusive titles with a chain store or non-music retailer, and we continue to come up with specific releases [like the 99¢ Cat Power seven-inch and Interpol remixes] that you can't purchase anywhere other than indie retail."

So how do artists feel about the situation? "Artists have never complained to us that their record was in a chain store or on sale at a chain store," McCaughan told Pitchfork. "However, artists have often complained if they couldn't find their records in a chain store."

McCaughan was blunter on the Saki Store blog, arguing that "if [Merge] announced to our bands, especially bands that sell a lot of records, that their CDs would only be available at the cool stores and no longer at any chains, the roster of artists that Merge fans love would evaporate. If you don't think that's true, then you're living on a different planet."

"In any event," Cosloy told Pitchfork, "it should be stressed that [Matador] is pretty circumspect about which titles we choose to put into a co-op program at the chain level. Unless an artist's sales history, touring, press or airplay justifies such a thing, you won't see us trying to place 30,000 CDs on the shelves of your favorite appliance retailer."

Although the $7.99 promotion has ended, and most of the "Artists Outside the Mainstream" titles are now selling for a sensible $12.99, the principle remains: Don't take your local independent record stores for granted.

What is this? More liberal propaganda on this guy's site??

Once again, music and culture news via my hipster site of choice Pitchfork. After awhile, I hope, you'll just all start reading their site and stop worrying about what I post from them. At least, that's my hope.... Unless i can get hired by them.... Anyway, read with me!

Devendra, Bright Eyes, Stipe Rock Against War

Kati Llewellyn reports:
The anti-war movement just got a whole lot cooler. reported yesterday that R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, Bright Eyes, Devendra Banhart, Rufus Wainwright, Fischerspooner, Public Enemy's Chuck D, and Peaches have signed on for the "Bring 'Em Home Now" benefit concert, which will take place at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom on March 20. It will commemorate the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and will raise funds for Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace.

Activist mom Cindy Sheehan will speak at the show, setting the stage for her 15-date April speaking tour with authors yet to be announced. Jaeane Garofalo's Air America Radio show "The Majority Report" will broadcast live from the concert and will run interviews with its artists.

Fischerspooner's Casey Spooner told Billboard, "We have been at war for three years. One desperately feels the need for someone to speak some sort of truth, either poetic or factual."

Whether or not performing electroclash songs while dressed up as extras from the musical Cats will bring about such truth remains to be seen.

* Iraq Veterans Against the War:
* Veterans for Peace:

Friday, February 17, 2006

Random Thoughts on Simplicity

All thanks to Shane Claiborne,
Inspired by Mark 10:17-31,
All apologies for how unfocused these thoughts seem.
I just started writing as these ideas and impressions flooded my mind.

What is Simplicity?
it is more than basic, because Christ astounds us.
It is beyond complex, because Christ confounds us.

It compels us to create and seek for solidarity.
It effuses compassion.
It demands that we reach beyond ourselves and
threatens to overwhelm us.

The call of Christ confuses us, enrages us, focuses us, propels us, and brings us to our knees, so that we are ultimately sent out to love all of our neighbors.

Simplicity begs us to realize that, in order to truly study the Gospel, we must fully live out the Gospel. In order to truly study about God, we must be the Church that God has always called us to be and become.

Thus, just like love, simplicity is quite difficult, but ever so necessary. And it does not, has not, and will probably never make sense to us.

What is Simplicity?
It is wild.
It is passionate.
It is earthy.
It is organic.
It is from the grassroots.
It is one and it is all.
It is beyond us, all around us, and includes all of us.
It directs the Church.
It bewilders the Church.
It loves and asks us to love as well.
It is Christ, though His ways are far beyond ours, yet are ours as well.

Tikkun Olam...

Invocation -- 01/29/2006

With all apologies to Sufjan Stevens and David Crowder....

O God, where are You now?

Dark clouds roll in
Filling our skies
our minds
our hearts

We cannot see
Our minds are troubled
Our hearts are heavy

O God, are You here now?

Enfold this space
our thoughts
our lives
In Your love and grace

Let us feel You here
Give us direction to our thoughts
Bless our lives so
that we can bless the lives of

O God, be here now.
Be everywhere now.

Copyright 01/29/2006

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Prophets, Messiahs, and Black Sheep

At the risk of offending some and causing others to think more than they care to sometimes, take a peek at this wonderful cartoon created by Mark Fiore and posted at Mother Jones Magazine Online.

Enjoy and Discuss!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Fully Engage Your Senses and Intellect.

I want to give credit to my friend Erin for posting this first. This speech of Bono's is worth reading, watching, and listening to. Regardless of your opinions concerning Bono's ego and "megolamania", I feel he truly has something to say and says it well. Please read, reflect, and share your thoughts. Thank you.

Monday, February 06, 2006

An important woman has died. An important human has died.

Courtesy of Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! (republished without their permission, but fully copyrighted on their site)

We look at the life and legacy of feminist pioneer Betty Friedan. She died Saturday, on her 85th birthday. Friedan was a founding member of the National Organization for Women - NOW - which today has grown into the largest women's rights group in the U.S. In 1966, she was NOW's first president, a post she held for four years. She was also author of the groundbreaking book "The Feminine Mystique." The book is widely credited for helping to launch the feminist movement and is viewed as one of the most important books of the 20th century. Kim Gandy, NOW's current President, said: "The Feminine Mystique... opened women's eyes. Betty recognized a longing in the women of her generation, a longing for something more - opportunity, recognition, fulfillment, success, a chance to live their own dreams beyond the narrow definition of "womanhood" that had limited their lives."

(To read the full transcript, go to Democracy Now!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Events of Historic Importance

February 3rd marks two milestones in world history.

The first is a rather serious, critical, and essential milestone in American politics and culture that should be always remembered -- the signing into law of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1870. African-American men (women of any race couldn't vote until 1920 with the 19th Amendment) finally earned the right to vote that white men had always possessed and that should have already been due to them with the signing of the 14th Amendment.

However, February 3rd marks the birthday of one of my most favorite shows from my childhood -- You Can't Do That On Television. Created in Canada in 1979, this show was important for more than the 5-episode introduction of Alanis Morrisette to the world. YCDTOTV was essential viewing for anyone bored with the tame crap available for kids during the 80's. I have great fond memories of watching this show and Laugh-In reruns at my grandmother's, much to my parent's chagrin. Once again, coupled with Boys In The Hall, Canada has proven itself capable of corrupting intelligent US youth.

Join me today in dropping a bucket of slime (in green preferably) on your head today!!