Sunday, June 29, 2008

A benefit of rough economic times

ABC News tonight was talking about how, with the inevitable decrease in stock prices tomorrow, we will officially meet the definition of "bear market." Their financial correspondent told the bad news.

And I didn't hear a word of it because their financial correspondent is Bianna Golodryga.

So this was my internal monologue:

"Huh? What? We're in a recess...man, you look nice. Stock prices are...huh? Who cares. Um...We might take a while to recover...uh..."

It's a silver lining. We get to look at her.

But if ABC wants me to actually listen to dire economic news, they'll have to try a new approach.

They might coax Irving R. Levine over to their network.

Attention Portland-area Episcopal churches

After several months of making excuses (it's too hard to do while coaching debate, we're still moving in, we're kind of tired), my wife and I have begun shopping around for a faith community around here. We've looked at four different churches, including two over the last two Sundays.

I've learned that we really, really had it good at St. Mark's. Loved it there. Miss it deeply.

In the process of looking for a new church, I've learned that there is a bit of a problem putting butts into pews. There have been quite a few empty spaces at services. So it doesn't surprise me much that there is a definite campaign to recruit new members! So, as a free agent looking for a new Episcopal team, let me tell you some things I've noticed that are red flags which would prevent (and are preventing) me from returning to a congregation.

1. Please, please keep your hands off of my wife and off of me. On a trip through the Bible belt two years back, Swankette and I overheard a woman describing her church as "The Huggin' Church." It creeped us out.

So if we're the new people in your smallish church, and you recognize us as new, do not...do NOT...take your hands and stroke us up and down our backs. Do not put your arm around us. I don't know you. I don't touch strangers without getting permission. Yes, we share a faith, but that does not mean that all conventions of social vs. intimate distance break down. Even in God's house, these apply. Stop touching us. Seriously. We mean it. In fact, we've nicknamed your church "The Strokin' Church." We'd rather become members of the aforementioned Huggin' Church than have to go through those sustained hands-wandering-down-our-backs moments every Sunday.

2. Don't call us out by name in front of the entire congregation. Our modus operandi when we're trying out a new place is to take in the full service, then decide whether or not to fill out the visitors' card based on whether we're interested. But nobody likes everybody in a place to turn around and look at them. I don't think we're alone when we say it doesn't make us feel welcome, unless by "welcome" you mean "horribly uncomfortable from being put on display." Handshakes? Smiles? Absolutely. But if we tell us your names, don't then say in front of the whole congregation: "Be sure to welcome Bob and Jane, who are sitting back there in the back row!" That smile we gave was a smile of great discomfort.

It's like dating. You come on too strong, we run away. If we like you, we'll let you know.

3. We'll come to the post-service potluck if we want to. Don't pressure us. Don't say "It's okay you didn't bring anything!" to pump up what a giving person you are. We heard the minister invite everybody. We know it applies to us. You don't have to add to it--the fact is, by the end of the service, if we've already decided yours isn't the church for us, we don't want to drag it out any further. Don't make us tell a lie--lying in a church!--to get away.

4. If we fill out a card, please don't stalk us. We are very thankful we did not fill out a newcomers' card for one church we visited. According to its website, if we had, this would have happened to us:

Following the services each Sunday, our newcomer visitors take welcome gifts to the homes of those who have filled out a visitor card. The visitor comes by to say thank you for attending Good Shepherd, but will typically not come inside or linger to get acquainted on this occasion.

Newcomer callers keep in touch by telephone for several months. Their job is to be “mentors,” to check in with our newcomers to answer questions and make sure that they are receiving all the help they need to become fully integrated into the church community

That's right...after having a parishioner follow us home uninvited, we'd have had our own personal telemarketer for "several months" thereafter.

Is there anyone in the world for whom would this be a positive selling point? If there is, I don't know that person.

4. There is no need to put one's hands up when singing. When you look at charismatic churches, you'll see that the parishioners, when they sing (or during a particularly important prayer, or a less-important one for that matter), often have one hand up, palm out. This weirds me out, and the more hands there are extended to the sky, the less at home I feel. I think it's because I view church as a very personal experience...I'm connecting to God in a way that only I can know, and I don't want people looking at me while I do it. Those with their hands up; well, I feel like they're calling attention to themselves, saying "Look how into God I am!" Swankette suggested today that it looks like they're eager for the teacher to call on them.

Today was a first, though...I saw someone singing while extending both hands skyward. This led me to wonder if someone had kicked a field goal nearby.

Seriously...if there are multiple hands up, there's little chance I'll be back.

5. I'm not a fan of the praise band. Today's service featured one that was actually pretty talented. But something about the predominance of the keyboards reminds me of Marty and Bobbi Culp. I can't help it. I don't feel that way about a guitarist, or a pianist, or an organist. But try to put together something resembling a band, well, that waawaawaa of the faux-piano takes over. I just can't focus on God.

6. And if you must have a praise band...Do NOT...do NOT...do NOT clap on one and three. At one of the churches we tried, everybody did. The band, the minister, the congregation...everyone. They all started at the same time, which led me to believe that they did this every single week. They do the white-guy clap every single week.

I've seen this before among older parishioners. I'll never forget going to a gospel choir night in Louisiana, with African-American choirs from around the state performing. When the woman in front of me clapped on one and three, well, I figured she'd matured pre-Elvis and never got into rock. But that was nearly two decades ago. Now, anyone 70 and younger matured post-Elvis, and therefore should have no trouble understanding the idea of clapping on the backbeat.

To put it another way, if I'm the funkiest dude in the pews, that's a deal-breaker. (And if you know me, and how comically Caucasian I am, this statement takes on all the more power.)

7. Presentation really matters in a sermon. I know ministers have been taught to lead with a joke or two...but too many are trying too hard to be hip.

When I was in high school, I twice accepted more-religious friends' offers to attend some big weekend-night shindig at their churches. I particularly remember the one where we sang "Pharaoh, Pharaoh" to the tune of "Louie, Louie." ("A-Pharaoh, Pharaoh/Whooooa!/Let my people go./Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah/Pharaoh, Pharaoh...") I was amazed...as a somewhat-casually-religious teen, I felt like the uber-religious were actually demeaning religion. (This teenage realization has, of course, grown into a passionate rebuke of the James Dobson crowd.)

While we haven't been asked to sing "Pharaoh, Pharaoh," I do feel like some of the ministers at the churches we've visited lately are the same guys who were leading the songs at those high school events. It's all in the presentation. Rather than talking to me, they're putting on a show. I don't want a show. I want a smart person who will help me get deeper into Scripture and challenge me to be live better than I am.

To put it another way, I do not go to church for entertainment. If that were my goal, I'd stay home with the TiVo. Instead I want a time and place to think about God and re-center myself.

I don't even go to church to make friends. That's a secondary concern. I do hope to make friends at church, but that's a byproduct of meeting people with similar values. When I'm at a service, it's not to be friendly. It's to connect with God.

When any of the seven rules above are broken, I can't re-center. I can't connect.

So we'll keep shopping around. If you're a member of an Episcopalian church in either Vancouver or North Portland, we might be visiting you next! You might want to abide by these rules. If you do, you might have yourself new parishioners who will likely be around for about a quarter-century.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Obama vs. Dobson part two

In the Washington Post, conservative evangelical Peter Wehner says what I said a few days ago, only he says it better.
Dobson paraphrased [the part of Obama's speech I quoted] as "unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe in." But that's not what Obama was saying at all. Rather, he was arguing that in a pluralistic nation like ours, politics depends on people of faith being able to persuade others based on common and accessible ground and appeals to reason -- which sounds entirely reasonable. Christians who oppose abortion can make an effective case by talking about sonograms, fetal development and the moral imperative to protect the most vulnerable. That doesn't mean one's faith shouldn't inform the question of abortion -- or, for that matter, war, poverty and other issues. After all, President Lincoln's argument against slavery was partly grounded in faith. But appeals to the Bible or church teaching aren't sufficient in a pluralistic nation. That's why Lincoln talked primarily about the Declaration of Independence.

Maybe the guy at the Post saw my blog. He gets it exactly 100% right.

Also, Time magazine writes about anti-Dobson backlash among Christians. It refers to a Dobsonesque attack on Obama's faith by columnist Cal Thomas, and the surprising response to it:
But if the grassroots reaction is any indication, the attacks on Obama have been largely self-defeating. After Thomas' column ran, dozens of regional papers that carry it were flooded with letters to the editor — and they were hardly in liberal bastions. In places like Augusta, Georgia, and Lubbock, Texas, people wrote in to criticize Thomas' attack on Obama. "To suggest that anyone is not a Christian because they do not adhere to Cal Thomas' narrow interpretation of what a Christian should believe," wrote one Texan, "is extremely intolerant, ignorant, and downright insulting." Barack Obama couldn't have said it any better himself, and this election year he may not have to.
For years I've believed that the Christian Left were the people we needed to speak up in order to bust through the horrendous divide. With groups like jamesdobsondoesntspeakforme.com and a group called the Matthew 25 Network (which is named after the chapter of the Bible that compels this Christian to be a Democrat) stepping up, it might finally be happening.

I don't think I've felt optimistic about our political landscape in my life.

Record-high temperatures

A shot at triple digits today, so I will be driving downtown to the drugstore and camera store rather than walking.

So I'm adding to global warming on a hot day. Shame on me.

When I listen to my iPod a-to-z...

I enjoy predicting what song will come next. And every now and then, there's an awesome combo.

I need to be careful with my voice when I'm headed south on a very crowded I-5 (5-hour trip yesterday, with only minimal stops) and the following three come up in order:

Cake's "Love You Madly"
Beatles' "Lovely Rita"
Paul Simon's "Loves Me Like a Rock"

That's a good stretch.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Karl Rove calls Obama "arrogant"

Here.

1. I think anybody who says "Gee, I think I should be the leader of 300 million people" probably is at least a little bit arrogant.

2. This isn't exactly a Swift-boat level attack. It's hardly headline-grabbing or of great concern. Clinton already tried this with the whole "elitist" label. That ship has sailed.

If this is the best Rove can do at this point--well, that's comforting.

Oh, and while Rove may or may not be arrogant, he is indisputably an individual with no empathy or kindness for his fellow human beings. He also has irreparably harmed our democracy with his asshole tactics. I'd rather be with (or even just be) Obama every day and twice on Sundays. Even if he is a little arrogant.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How can we trust James Dobson to interpret the Bible

when he can't even comprehend a couple of simple Barack Obama sentences?

Here's what Barack Obama said, according to this CNN article:

Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount? So before we get carried away, let's read our Bible now. Folks haven't been reading their Bible.

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal rather than religion-specific values. It requires their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason.

Here is a portion of Dobson's response. As you read, consider this: What part of Obama's speech contains these suggestions?

Dobson said the suggestion is an attempt to lead by the "lowest common denominator of morality."

"Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies?" he asked. "What he's trying to say here is, unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe.

"What the senator is saying there, in essence, is that 'I can't seek to pass legislation, for example, that bans partial-birth abortion, because there are people in the culture who don't see that as a moral issue,' " Dobson said. "And if I can't get everyone to agree with me, than it is undemocratic to try to pass legislation that I find offensive to the Scripture. Now, that is a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution."

I've read both of these quotes multiple times, and nowhere does Obama say anything LIKE what Dobson says he says. Obama merely says that religiously-based arguments (like pro-life arguments), when brought into the public sphere, need to be based in morality that is understandable/palatable to non-Christians as well. This is absolutely possible for any issue, including arguments to ban abortion. A pro-lifer merely needs to make statements/arguments about when life begins, about how we ought to treat those who are dependent on others, and even about the gruesomeness, cruelty, and possible pain to the fetus that may be caused by late-term partial-birth abortion.

Believe it or not, it is possible to have a reasoned discussion about the abortion issue. (Of course, there hasn't been one in this country in years--which is why I hate virtually everyone on both sides of the issue.) Obama's suggestion would actually both increase and improve discussion about this and many other issues, which is always good for a democracy. Some of the arguments I suggest above are winners and some are losers, but they're all morally and philosophically based rather than exclusively based on religion. I bet Dobson could handle saying any of them--and Obama would welcome hearing them.

But the point here is that never--not even once--does Obama say Dobson cannot pursue laws based on his religious beliefs. Anyone with an eighth-grade reading level can see that.

I'm assuming James Dobson is a smart guy with impeccable reading ability. Unfortunately, that means that his words are an intentional obfuscation rather than a demonstration of mere misunderstanding. And that's too bad, because while the latter is a mistake, the former is a sin by any reading of the Ten Commandments.

The man is bearing false witness against his neighbor.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Vacation all I ever wanted

I need this break more than I've needed any break since the one just after my first year teaching, 1993. That year, I fled the state about six tenths of a second after school let out. I took my recently-broken heart and exhausted mind out on the road throughout the midwest, visiting 11 baseball stadiums and as many friends (preferably female) who would host me.

This year...well, the broken heart isn't the problem. And gas prices prevent any huge road trips. Wife and I will be going to Colorado for my (gulp) 20th HS reunion in August. We're making a 9-day jaunt out of it, since she's never been to Colorado and I want to take her to many friends and many mountain spots. Amazingly, 9 days might not be enough.

But that's in about 6 weeks. Meanwhile...

I'll be cleaning the house,
walking downtown as many days as I can,
doing some really major preparation for next year, including at least two classes,
and trying to convince someone to publish my as-yet unwritten non-fiction book.

That's all I'm going to aim for. A few years ago, I made a huge list of stuff I wanted to accomplish over a summer, and was completely devastated at the Jose Vidro-like batting average I posted in accomplishing them.

Now, it's more a matter of resting and doing stuff I like.

Whoa! 200 posts catergorized as Life Minutiae! What's it all mean?

I've just gotta get a mesage to you. Hold on...

According to the family iPod Road Trip mix, who am I?

Well...the answer is an interesting found poem with some great twists.

I am a rock.
I am the walrus.
I awoke in Iowa.
I bombed Korea.
I can't get behind that.
I can't get used to it.
I can see clearly.
I don't like Mondays.
I feel fine.
I go to Rio.
I guess that's why they call it the blues.
I just can't get enough.
I just don't know what to do with myself.
I know what boys like.
I love my boss.
I melt with you.
I only wanna be with you.
I owe you an apology.
I should be allowed to think.
I think I'll disappear now.
I think we're alone now.
I touch myself.
I wanna be a cowboy.
I wanna be sedated.
I will.
I will follow.
I will follow you into the dark.
I will survive.
I won't back down.
I won't be your Yoko Ono.
I wonder what she's doing tonight.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A letter to ESPN's ombudsman

I've been a big fan of ESPN's ombudsman, Le Anne Schreiber, for some time. Her criticisms of ESPN--and her compliments of it--are reasoned, careful, and on the money.

I therefore hope she reads this letter I just wrote to her. And if she doesn't...well, I hope you'll read it.

***

Ms. Schreiber,

I'm writing about ESPN's coverage of Tim Donaghy and recent allegations of game-fixing in the NBA. I'm bothered by the way that ESPN has helped intensify the story.

"Like it or not, the public perception is that there's a problem," ESPN will report, "so the league needs to do something to change that perception."

I would argue that ESPN and other sports media are helping to create that perception--and therefore the problem.

I've heard Mike and Mike and Colin Cowherd address conspiracy theories on the radio. I've seen Bob Ley devote a good chunk of his Outside the Lines show to this unbacked allegation. I've read Marc Stein saying that "it's getting harder to find folks who don't believe" in a conspiracy. I've read J.A. Adande saying that "the most-discussed game to come out of these 2008 Finals is Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals." (Apparently Adande has been watching and listening to ESPN and reading ESPN.com like I have.)

The problem is that, while ESPN seldom points out how baseless and unbacked Donaghy's accusations are, they're still dusting off tapes of the 2002 playoff game, thereby advancing the possibility that the outcome was rigged. Then, since fans will talk about these incendiary accusations at the water cooler, ESPN can justify writing a second story about how much fans are talking about "the officiating problem." The problem, of course, is that ESPN has played a leading role in encouraging those negative perceptions of officiating by advancing Donaghy's accusations as as anything other than unproven.

They've even added the incendiary "-gate" suffix to sex up the story a bit: "Refgate."

It feels to me that, even if ESPN didn't light the match, they've fed the flames of the inferno they now are reporting on. It's not dissimilar from your excellent description of the breathless coverage of another -gate: Spygate. There's no evidence of wrongdoing...merely one man's allegation. Nevertheless, every branch of ESPN has gone bonkers reporting about negative perceptions that they themselves have helped to create. If anyone has said "Wait a minute. Donaghy is asking us to believe that David Stern would give up his cushy lifestyle and risk the entire future of the league just to get to a game 7 in one series," or shown how Donaghy's story has the officials involved risking their reputations and their six-figure incomes at literally no gain to themselves--well, if anyone pointed this out, it was drowned out by the passionate shouts of "Refgate!"

When ESPN overreports on unbacked allegations, then reports on how the public has a perception that there's an officiating problem, then ESPN has helped to create the perception problem they're reporting on. As a high school official, that perception eventually trickles down to me, so I have a pretty severe problem with ESPN's choices.

I hope I'm not alone in noticing this problem: I hope you do as well.

Something I'm learning

It is exceedingly difficult to play tambourine in rhythm with my right hand while getting a sock puppet to sing words in rhythm with my left.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Young@Heart movie review: SEE IT.

It happens every 7 or 8 years, like clockwork...


I haven’t cried at a movie since 2000 (Billy Elliot). Before that, it was 1993 (Schindler's List). I can add another one to the list as of last night, however last night with Young@Heart. I cried at the movie and I cried talking about the movie going home.

Let me make this as clear as I can—you need to see this movie.

I’m going to talk about it a bit now. There will be a few spoilers in here. I’m not sure they’d ruin the movie, but if you want to see Young@Heart (and trust me—you do), you might postpone reading the rest of this entry until afterwards. Don't forget to come back here then, though...I really want to know what you all think about it.

***

I’m not sure where this movie hit me harder—with the cold reality of my own mortality or with the incredible importance—and ability—to reach each other through art. Both of these absolutely gut-level core components of life were communicated in this film as intensely and clearly as in any film, book, or poem I’ve ever encountered.

To be honest, I was a little trepidatious going in. When Swankette showed me the YouTube videos a little while back, and when we saw the previews for Young@Heart, I feared that the choristers were being exploited. (Ha, ha! Look at the geezers singing punk rock!) But it didn't take long in the movie before I saw that wasn’t happening. We simply had a group of men and women who wanted to sing and had a quirky opportunity to do so here.

Bob Cilman, the director of the Young At Heart chorus (an assemblage of elderly singers—the youngest is 70—in Northampton, Massachusetts), has decided to bring two singers back for a show. Fred has left the group four years earlier with congestive heart failure, and Bob (not Cilman) left due to his own chronic health problems. Both are on the mend, however, and Cilman decides that they should perform Coldplay’s “Fix You.” They work on it as a duet for a while when Bob relapses a bit. He goes to the hospital with chest pains, but insists on attending rehearsal the next day. He stumbles through the song as best he can…but he can barely stand, breathe, or sing. He’s hospitalized, and his family puts the poster for the concert on his wall to encourage him. Bob insists he’ll be back. Even in his hospital bed, I can feel his frustration. I can feel him thinking “Damn it, the desire is there, and I should be able to perform this damn solo with the group…so why won’t my body let me? Come on, body, get it together!” That must be the absolute worst thing about getting older. In spite of his obvious passion, Bob passes away a couple of weeks before the performance.

This leads to the scene from this film that I will never, ever forget. Fred realizes he’ll need to make what was once a duet into a solo, so he gets to work. He sits at his computer with his oxygen tank, watching the Coldplay video on his computer, carefully singing along.

Something about that scene absolutely breaks me up.

Part of it is that, due to all the singing I’ve done (from high school through Chasers through Sorry Charlie’s through Karaoke from Hell), I identified with all of these singers. It’s not just the whole “the show must go on” cliché, which the surviving performers say over and over again with painful sincerity. All say “I’d want them to go on without me, and I know Bob feels the same way.”

Fred’s moments at his computer say so much more than that. They’re about a desire to get art right. Why? Because we need to reach other people before we’re dead, and art is the best way to do that. And as Fred sits sucking oxygen through his nose, 28 months after the doctors gave him 24 months to live, admitting that this is likely his last-ever performance, that desire takes on incredible resonance. He’s never heard of Coldplay, but he’s looking at that screen, singing along, finding the marrow of the music, the heart of the poetry—because, on some level, it’s his imperative. He simply must reach people--that's why we're here. And with the help of art, of this kid on his computer screen, about a third of his age--maybe he can do that.

Watching Fred sing that song in concert while Bob’s wife and daughters sob in the audience…well, that success—that’s what it’s all about. Any performer at any level can tell you that.

(The scene is here, but it's better if you see the movie.)

This brought me to another big question. While I would be immensely proud to be a member of Young At Heart when I am of age (Swankette and I were talking about perhaps retiring to Northampton 32 years hence so I could get on board), it’s not like their musicianship, voices, or performance are at the level of your local opera chorus (or even your local high school’s top group). I do NOT mean this as a criticism. Several of the individuals (most notably Fred) have incredible voices, but time impacts the vocal cords as much as any other body part. But the performance is undeniably moving. However, I would not have been nearly as moved by Fred’s rendition of “Fix You” if I hadn’t spent the previous hour getting to know him. I’m not much of a fan of Coldplay, and probably wouldn’t keep the radio on the station of “Fix You” came on, but hearing Fred sing it was one of the most moving experiences of my music-listening life.

If the choir were making the same quality of sounds, but were made up of 30-year-olds, I would not have been nearly as moved.

Had I not known about Fred’s situation or Bob’s death, I would not have been nearly as moved.

What is the relationship between the performer and the art?

(How can we know the dancer from the dance?)

I don’t have answers to these questions. But I'm not sure that it's an important goal to answer them. At the heart of it, what matters is that I feel these men’s and women’s desire to somehow be in people’s hearts through art. That's why I've spent so much solitary time scrawling out poems, singing songs, and hacking away at a blog. Attention slut that I am, I likely always keep at these pursuits. So I was absolutely on their side, seeing a wrinkled me, half a century hence, hoping all of us can reach every member of every audience for as long as we can.

Any movie that makes me really mull over my mortality, think about the role of art and performance in that life, and intensify my desire to reach as many people as I can in whatever time I have left is a hell of a movie.

Straight up, friends. See this movie.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Aimee Mann's new album; Aimee Mann contest problem

The long-awaited (for me, anyway) Aimee Mann album @#%&*! Smilers is out, and I've just done my traditional reveal-the-lyrics-as-I-listen-for-the-first-time complete envelopment in the music. There are some devastatingly beautiful and (did you expect any different from Ms. Mann?) depressing lyrics.

I submit the first verse of "Phoenix":

Got out of Phoenix
Just in time
A box of Kleenex
For the ride
The tumbleweeds said
Their goodbyes
To javelinas
And DUIs

She had me at "Phoenix/Kleenex." And at the internal rhymes.

There are more challenging poems on this album than in much of her work of late, but it's all so amazingly singable. Some reviewers are calling this her best album yet (see this love letter). I don't think I can really go that far, since I have such a close personal relationship with Whatever, but I sure see why they believe it.

Warning: If you're within 5 years of age 31, you'd better invest in therapy before listening to "31 Today." Thank goodness I'm past that age range, or I'd be on the floor in the fetal position right now...

Anyway. On to the life challenge du jour.

There's a contest, you see, where the winner gets to sing with Aimee on stage at one of her concerts.

I have dreamed for years--while belting out background vocals in the car, mostly--that I on stage singing background for Aimee.

This is a little strange, I know, that I've never dreamed of being the headliner in a rock band. I always imagine myself doing background for an artist I totally adore. Ever see Elvis singing on Ed Sullivan? I never pictured myself as Elvis. I always imagined myself as one of the nerdy guys behind him. So to sing background on my favorite Aimee Mann songs--dare I hope for "That's Just What You Are," "Stupid Thing," or "I Know There's a Word"?--would be quite literally the thrill of a lifetime. It'd be spending an intense few minutes inside her poetry--in a way we can't do in the car.

The contest rules call for me to post to YouTube a video of me singing her kick-ass new song "Freeway."

Two severe problems.

1. How do I make my video stand out? I'm thinking of singing it on a nearby overpass...but I bet 20% of entrants do that. I could try to assemble me singing in a few different places, but I lack video editing software (or expertise). Any ideas?

2. Aimee Mann is always difficult for me to sing along with. Her range is such that I can't quite sing in her octave (too high on the high notes), but can't quite sing an octave below (too low on the low notes). In "Freeway," I can sing in Aimee's octave on the verses, but not on the chorus (not well, anyway). But it's background I want to sing. Do I sing along with Aimee on verses, then join Paul Bryan (yes, Brooklyn, that's really his name! Weird, huh?) on background vocals? That would show my ability to sing harmony. But it would also be a tad confusing, perhaps. Do I recruit a female singing friend to take melody on the chorus? I simply don't know what to do.

Gimmicks? Recommendations? Suggestions? Encouragement? I can use it all.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

My boyfriend is the Democratic Nominee.

I've been going through a lot of emotions in the last 24 hours. I don't often feel like "I absolutely must watch tonight's political speech!", but last night I did. I watched all of Hillary's speech, then all of Obama's. I even watched pundits for a while. I felt like they were a little bit hard on Hillary, actually, and I've been mad at her for a while. I don't think she needs to concede ten minutes after Obama had the requisite delegate count (I actually think she needed to do this about a month ago, but that's another matter). They seemed to think she was blackmailing Obama, saying "you'd better give me VP or my supporters won't vote for you." I don't think that's what she was saying.

But I do think there are supporters out there who are considering that. This article describes a few of them.

Here's the thing: I've been there.

I was on the verge of supporting McCain if Hillary got the nomination. She bothered me that much. But Greg talked me down with some facts.

I can understand the anger of these women. If you've taken shit because of the glass ceiling and feel like this is your best shot at shattering the ultimate glass ceiling, I can understand the anger at that not happening.

I can understand anger at voters.

I can understand anger at the media.

I cannot understand anger at Obama, or how voting for McCain is a sensible thing to do unless they honestly believe he better represents their views.

What has Obama done that is sexist? How was his campaign sexist? I can name two racist moments from the Clinton campaign: Bill belittling South Carolina's results by saying something like "Jesse Jackson won here in 1984 and 1988," and Hillary's awful statement of "No, no, why would I — there’s nothing to base that on — as far as I know" when asked if Obama was a Muslim. And yet I would have voted for her based on the issues.

There are better places to take your anger than to a vote for McCain.

Two other things:

--I can live with Hillary as Veep if it helps Obama win. However, I'm not sure that I'd want that if I were Obama. I could live with Hillary, but not with Bill looking over my shoulder. Combining Obama and Hillary forces would obviously help to win, however. But I trust him to make the right decision. After watching him speak last night, and privately saying "Wow!" to his wife afterwards, I trust Obama more than any politician I can ever remember.

--There will be more ugly racism in the open air in the next five months than at any time in my lifetime. Don't believe me? Read Paula's experience registering voters in Colorado:

A few days ago, someone on NPR made a distinction between Hillary voters and Obama voters as Wal-Mart Democrats vs. Starbucks Democrats. It sounds elitist, but I had a lesson in it yesterday. I was stunned, truly and completely dumbfounded at the people who told me, quite openly, that they wanted the Republicans gone, but they would not vote for a black man. There I was, feeling so good about helping a disabled man exercise his rights as a citizen in a democracy, when he told me he’d never vote for a black man, though he felt everyone ought to own one or two. Another woman told me she wouldn’t vote for a man whose name sounded like you were throwing up every time you said it. Yet another said she was prepared to vote for Hillary, but now it looked like she’d have to vote for McCain. I had no idea there was so much blatant racism in Colorado.
Hold onto your hats. I trust McCain not to get ugly, and I love his idea for weekly barnstorming debates. I hope Obama takes him up on it. Wouldn't it be great if a campaign for president were something competing candidates did together in an effort to get information out to the public--rather than separately? But I think the horrific wing of McCain's party will race-bait in a way we've never before seen.

But Obama excites me more than any political candidate in my lifetime, and McCain is better than any candidate I've ever not voted for (with the possible exception of '96 Bob Dole). I hope I can focus on that and not what could be unprecedented ugliness (and almost none of it, I believe, from Obama.).