Unitarian Universalist church invaded by protesters

When speech runs roughshod over privacy, private property, and freedom of religion at the same time, it’s not free

by ceejay

I am a Unitarian Universalist and once again one of the churches of my religion has come under attack by the haters, specifically those so-called “Christian” ones.

Sunday, July 20, members of Operation Save America, an offshoot of the radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, invaded a Unitarian Universalist church sanctuary in New Orleans during services and, during what was supposed to be a moment of sacred silent reflection in memory of a long-time member who passed away last week, interrupted the service and began to loudly spew their hate, calling the church an abomination and its members sinners. From the article:

The disturbance took place as the congregation was holding a moment of silence for a member of the church who had died the week before, said the Rev. Deanna Vandiver.

Continue reading


Born to be Wild: Steppenwolf’s first album still fresh, 46 years on

Amazingly, Steppenwolf’s classic, bluesy debut still holds up.

by Patrick Vecchio

I’ve got my iTunes on shuffle, and a couple of minutes ago the song “The Pusher,” from the first Steppenwolf album, came up. It’s a Hoyt Axton song, but nonetheless, it’s a reminder that Steppenwolf’s debut album is a rock classic.

I might be partial because the album’s single, the still-rockin’ “Born to be Wild,” was the song that turned me on to rock ‘n’ roll—1968, it was, when I was 14. Before then, I spent my LP money on Bill Cosby comedy discs. My idea of good music was albums by Mason Williams—blame it on “Classical Gas.” And because I’m obsessive-compulsive, I had to have every Cosby disc and every Williams disc. I haven’t listened to Cosby since Steppenwolf grabbed my ears and launched me into the rock galaxy, but the Williams music I’ve revisited—once—is cringeworthy. The Steppenwolf album, though: That’s another story. Continue reading


Why can’t you ladyfolk be nicer when explaining feminism to us? [trigger warning]

A personal perspective from the front lines of the war on women

Oh. I see. Share this if you get it.

Source: name withheld for safety

In the quote that follows, “I Blame the Patriarchy” blogger Twisty addresses a question I, like all feminists, have SO often been asked: “Don’t you think you could win more men to your cause if you were nicer?” And now, now, in my late forties, my answer is a firm “NO! NO I FUCKING DON’T.”

In my thirties, while I was also busy volunteering at and raising funds for battered women’s shelters (did you know the most requested item at a women’s shelter is hair dye, to make the women harder for their abusers to spot? If you ever run across a great sale price on hair dye, buy some extra and donate it to a women’s shelter, please – they always need it) and I was volunteering at the Women and Children’s Free Restaurant, and producing “The Feminist Papers” and “The Vagina Monologues” on my campus and marching in “Take Back the Night,” and taking the stage at “Speak out against rape” and being active in my campus Women’s Studies club and writing and editing the biweekly social justice newsletter for my church, and going to college with a near-perfect 3.9 grade point average, and raising a female child under the patriarchy, often as a single parent having to bring my daughter to classes with me as my military husband was frequently deployed during this period, I was also willing to take precious time to talk to men, both online and off, who demanded that I explain feminism to them, convince them – and it was required to be sweetly, nicely, patiently, with a smiling, pleasing feminine demeanor, and I complied, used up lots of time complying. Continue reading

Fargo: new Coen Brothers miniseries is Minnesota mean

Less than a week after TV lost its greatest asshole (spoiler alert) the TV gods have provided us with a new reigning champion: Fargo’s Lorne Malvo.

by James Brown

Billy Bob Thornton’s Malvo is the protagonist of FX’s dark comedy Fargo miniseries. Based on the Coen Brothers film of the same name, Fargo takes different tack than most TV shows based on films (like the ill-fated CBS chase drama The Fugitive or ABC’s Karen or even the excellent NBC drama Hannibal), breaking with its motion picture heritage. Joel and Ethan Coen, the writer/director duo behind the Academy Award winning film, and Noah Hawley (Bones) designed a new tale that indulges the spirit of the original with new characters and another town: Bemidji, Minnesota. Continue reading


How Generation X will save the world

What is Generation X? Maybe our last, best hope for change.

by Sara Robinson

You can’t blame Gen X for having had eee-freaking-nuff of the whole generational identification thing.

Americans born between 1960 and 1980 (give or take a couple years on either end) have spent their lives squeezed in between two over-hyped cohorts who have consistently hogged the spotlight, the jobs, the money, the social concern, and all the other cultural goodies that matter. To the temporal north, there are the Boomers — idealistic, moralizing, hyper-creative visionaries who still can’t entirely let go of their youthful golden years when they were so determined to Save The World. To the south, X looks down on the Millennials, the over-coddled, over-hyped, over-connected Indigo Children whose future is vanishing before their eyes — and who are now being held up at the next generation that just might Save The World. Continue reading

How I met your premise: HIMYM finale about as real as sitcoms get

Many critics and fans felt cheated by twist in How I Met Your Mother finale. They should feel grateful.

by James Brown

There are three types of TV viewers: the surfers, the passive, and the devotees.

Surfers flip channels and watch anything that catches their attention. Passive viewers want comfort food: dramas that thrill them and sitcoms full of belly laughs. Devotees ask all that surfers and passive viewers want and more. Devotees also ask that those same shows are logical, well shot, acted, written and directed, all the while being original. Those same viewers, increasingly and unrealistically, ask fictional television to reflect and comment on reality. Few hours of television have done all that as well as the much scrutinized and often panned How I Met Your Mother finale. Continue reading

Big laughs, Broad City

Broad City explores typical New York tropes through a fresh lens with hilarious results.

by James Brown

It’s easy to compare Broad City, the latest sitcom from Comedy Central to Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls; their bones are the same. Both series star young, broke, white, twenty-something female characters in modern day New York City, but that’s where the similarities end. Girls is a direct descendant of Ally McBeal. It’s a melodrama that finds laughs (and at times brilliance) in the margins of its characters’ strained relationships. Even its flights of fancy are grounded in a character driven reality. Broad City isn’t interested in any of that. Much like FX’s Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Broad City trades realism for lots of silliness at supersonic speed. Broad City is a live action cartoon worthy of the Road Runner.

Continue reading


Local newspapers: fewer reporters = less content = declining revenue

Corporate owners treat news as “product.” As a result, the industry is on life support.

by Patrick Vecchio

I can’t remember how young I was when I fell in love with my local newspaper. It started with a comic strip: Mandrake the Magician. I would wait on our front porch for the newspaper boy, spread the paper on the floor and read Mandrake on my hands and knees. As I grew older, my interest expanded to different sections of the paper. By the time I reached high school, I was reading it from front to back. I loved it.

I never left my hometown, and after studying journalism in college, I began working as a reporter at a tiny daily newspaper about 20 miles away. Continue reading


Should Major League Baseball allow steroid users into the Hall of Fame? Yes, says Matt Record.

Part 1 of a series.

by Matt Record

Baseball has been marked by cheating forever. It’s hypocritical to draw a line now.

These are – in my opinion – the top 15 best position players in the history of baseball:

  • Babe Ruth
  • Barry Bonds
  • Willie Mays
  • Ted Williams
  • Ty Cobb
  • Hank Aaron
  • Tris Speaker
  • Lou Gehrig
  • Honus Wagner
  • Stan Musial
  • Alex Rodriguez
  • Rogers Hornsby
  • Lou Gehrig
  • Eddie Collins
  • Mickey Mantle

The fact that two of the top 15 best hitters may never make the hall of fame is a  shame and a frustratingly meaningless shame at that. Continue reading


Confessions of a recording artist: I love making CDs, but I hate post-processing

by Michael Smith

Post-production takes all the fun out of the process, and most bands can’t afford to hire Phil Spector like The Beatles did.

As I write this, I’m sitting at my computer and thinking about working more on finishing my band’s new album. Unfortunately, for the last couple of months “thinking about it” is all I seem to be capable of doing.

If I were to break down the workload in terms of percentage, we’re probably about 80% done. It’s been a long road to get here. In the last two years, the band and its immediate family has endured a writer’s block, a couple of job changes, added a new member, celebrated a fantastic wedding, and dealt with a successful breast cancer treatment. Business has been far from usual.

And through all of that, the songwriting is done. Continue reading


The National’s Trouble Will Find Me: art, in a way that popular music rarely is

by Patrick Vecchio

In 2007 I subscribed to a magazine called the Oxford American. It calls itself “The Southern Magazine of Good Writing,” and you might wonder why I subscribed to it, bein’ a Yankee and all, but that’s a tale for another time.

Anyway: The back cover of one issue was a full-page ad with a photograph of what looked like a rock band. The ad contained a two-word phrase—The National—and the word Boxer. Every now and then, I’ll buy an album on a whim, even though I’ve never heard of the band and never heard a single note of their music. So I figured out the band was called The National, the album was called Boxer, and I bought the record. Continue reading


Baseball Hall of Fame voters: it’s time to judge the judges

by Rafael Noboa y Rivera

Baseball writers in the Steroid Era had one job. And they failed at it.

Earlier this week, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) unveiled the newest Baseball Hall of Fame inductees. Baseball fans were paying particularly close attention to who made the cut, as they have the last few years, because many of the eligible players were star performers during baseball’s Steroid Era. Many of these writers show no mercy towards players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa. Players they once laureled as Olympian heroes are now condemned as cheats, unworthy of the game’s highest honor.

What is interesting is that even as they stake out the higher ground, piously commenting on how moral standards must be maintained, these same writers are pleading with us as baseball fans to give them a break, cut ‘em a little slack. Continue reading

CATEGORY: RacePolitics

Duck (Dynasty) and cover: intolerance, ignorance and the “politically correct”

by Patrick Vecchio

Sometimes it’s okay to be intolerant of ignorance.

A sign on my hometown’s main street claims political correctness and intolerance are driving the furor over remarks by Phil Robertson, star of the A&E Network show Duck Dynasty.

A story found on the Fox News website provides a link to the GQ magazine article in which Robertson said, among other things: “I never heard one … black person say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!” Continue reading

CATEGORY: BusinessFinance2

Is Bobby Jindal anti-business?

Governor Jindal’s comments in the Duck Dynasty case provide aid and comfort for those who would handcuff American business leaders.

by Richard Hough

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal earlier this week offered some disturbing public remarks that must have come as a shock to many of his constituents in the business community. Jindal has long been an ally for American businesses of all sizes, and my organization, the American Commerce Institute, continues to regard him as a friend. However, his spirited defense of Phil Robertson in the Duck Dynasty controversy, while appearing to strike a blow on behalf of free speech, actually worked to undermine the principles upon which our free market system are based. Continue reading


Faux Pause: climate contrarians lose favorite talking point

by Greg Laden

In an ongoing effort to discredit mainstream climate science, climate contrarians have incorrectly asserted that there is a “pause” in the rate of global warming. This was never true,  but now, it is even less true.

CATEGORY: ClimateGreg Laden teaches anthropology at Century College and blogs for National Geographic He is a long time resident of the Twin Cities and has written extensively on matters of climate change and other areas of science.

To any objective observer, the Earth is now a world warmed. The decade 2001-2010 was the hottest decade on record, and every single month since March 1985 has been warmer than the 20th century average.   Continue reading

Music and Popular Culture

Lou Reed’s musical influence? Not so fast, Dr. Sammy

by Patrick Vecchio

My man Sam Smith posted yesterday about the wide-ranging influence Lou Reed had—and continues to have—on popular music.

Alas, though, Sam was no doubt in the throes of grief and unable to think straight when he wrote: “The Beatles were the biggest thing in the history of popular music and it’s hard to imagine any band or solo artist ever surpassing the influence they exerted, both musical and cultural. But it’s entirely possible that the #2 position on that list belongs to Lou Reed.”

It’s also entirely possible that Justin Bieber is the reincarnation of Sam Cooke. Continue reading

CATEGORY: MusicPopularCulture

Lou Reed: “I just don’t care at all”

Legendary battles with Lester Bangs in Creem revealed the depth of Reed’s ennui

by Patrick Vecchio

For several years in the 1970s, I was a fan of Lou Reed, who died Sunday at age 71. When I learned he had died, the first thing I thought of was his 1974 album Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal.

Animal was the antidote to the Floyd boys’ Dark Side of the Moon, and it was an album you wanted all of your friends to hear. My roommate and I would gather friends in our dorm room, get ourselves in the mood for some music, kill the lights and then start the turntable. Nobody would say anything until the turntable arm lifted at the end of the album side. Generally, the reaction of first-time listeners was “whoaaaah.”

Nearly forty years later, some of Animal holds up well (“Sweet Jane” and “White Light/White Heat” about the best, and maybe “Lady Day”), but “Heroin” is Lou shooting up with self-indulgence, and “Rock and Roll” is for the most part guitar wanking. Continue reading

CATEGORY: InternetTelecomSocialMedia

Social media and false intimacy

by Patrick Vecchio

I was searching YouTube the other day for a Jason Isbell song I thought a LiveJournal friend should hear. I found the song, and while I was listening to it, I scrolled through the listener comments and spotted this one:

Jason,Your the reason I play_ guitar and write songs. But most of all id like to thank you for saving my life in a lot of ways. I will always take playing for a room of 15 drunk guys on hard times and connecting with them, over making radio bullshit. i dunno what life has in store for me, but i hope its a life as a working musician, getting by and helping people through rough shit. Shit that your music has helped me through. Thank you Jason, keep playin for those who understand, leave the rest.

Setting aside its sincerity, the comment made me wonder: Did the writer think his words would reach Isbell? I hope they did, but my hopes are faint because of the false intimacy of social media.

Admittedly, I have a limited perspective. I am on Facebook, although I rarely visit it, comment on other people’s statuses or tell people I “like” something or someone. I have a LinkedIn profile, but all I do is say OK to anyone desperate enough to want to add me to her or his network. I maintain this blog, which I post to in bursts—not the best way to attract and keep readers. My credibility as a critic of social media is shaky.

Even so, the concept of false intimacy rolls around in my brain like a marble rolling around in a bathtub. The rolling marble got particularly loud one day this spring. The university where I teach puts on a sports symposium every other year, and this year, one of the panelists was someone whose writing I’ve followed and admired for years. I spent 90 minutes alone with him as I drove him from the Buffalo airport to the university.

I thought his writing had given me a pretty good idea of what kind of a guy he was, but he was as charming as a canker sore. I tried to get him to talk about work of his I was familiar with, but it just annoyed him. The trip was so unpleasant that I told the symposium organizer to find someone else to drive him back to the airport the next day.

This leads me to wonder how well we know people who exist to us only as words. I like to think my blog friends would find that if they met me, they would see my online personality was just an extension of who I am in person. At least I hope that’s the case. I don’t know, though.

This knowing-but-not-knowing idea resurfaced a couple of weeks ago on Facebook. I received a friend request from a woman whose name I didn’t recognize until I dropped the name after the hyphen of her last name. It turns out she was a classmate from high school. Her friend request puzzled me because I don’t remember even speaking to her back then—that’s how different our orbits were. When I replied to her request, I said it was “good to hear from you after 40 years.”

She wrote back. She has had a distinguished career and might be someone you’ve seen on TV or read about. She asked the usual questions about me, and then our online conversation faded. I told her I’m always glad to hear success stories involving our classmates, so I was glad she reached out and had done so well. Even so, I still don’t know her much better than I knew her in high school.

The question is, why did she reach out? To put on the other shoe, why did I hope my response would prompt a reply?

I suspect it’s because we want to be in touch. We seek significance in our lives, so we post snippets of them on Facebook, we write about them on our blogs, and we tweet them—and we’re gratified if someone responds. A blog post that gets zero hits feels like failure.

We constantly whip out our cell phones to see whose message we’ve missed. Once I post this, I’ll begin checking to see who responds, and how quickly. We want to be wired, networked, in on the conversation, even if the conversation has the substance of meringue.

Because the Internet makes it so easy, we reach out to musicians, authors and other people we don’t know. The chances of reaching them are far better than they used to be, and from experience, I know how gratifying it is to hear back from someone whom we respect, even idolize to a degree.

I once emailed a writer whose work I had read in The Sun magazine. I told her how much I admired her short story, but I also told her how reading it deflated me as a writer because she was much more talented. Quite unexpectedly, she responded with encouraging words. Several months later I read another story of hers, and I emailed her again, thinking she wouldn’t reply and might think I’m a 59-year-old fanboy. Instead, she replied how much she appreciated my comments because her piece, in her words, “cost me a lot” emotionally. Had this exchange happened 30 years ago, it would have occurred at a snail mail pace, which would not have been nearly as satisfying as our wired world’s instant gratification.

We cannot grasp how many people know about our online personalities (hello, NSA), and as a result, when we write, we can’t answer one of the two basic questions a writer asks—“Who is my audience?” Nor can we, as an audience, truly know the writer. On the car ride from Buffalo, my favorite writer turned out to be a dick; the short story writer turned out to be someone whose responses were unexpectedly sincere.

Maybe the person who posted the YouTube comment to Isbell got a degree of satisfaction from it. After all, we never can know if someone has read a comment and simply not responded. So we continue to reach out to expand our network, to learn more about people we know only superficially, and we hope they live up to our expectations. This is one way we try to make our place in the world a little more certain—but in our age, such certainty is elusive.

#Occupy Rock & Roll: Warrior Soul at The Maywood

Warrior Soulby Jon Epstein

Concert Review: Warrior Soul at The Maywood, Raleigh NC, July 14, 2013. 

As I write this review, CNN is on the television, the talking heads essentially lipsyncing the propaganda fed to them by corporate and political interests and doing their best to sound convincing. It is news, after all. People shooting other people, some individually some in groups, your favorite plastic celebrity du jour has committed a horrible faux paux resulting in embarrassing video, compromising cell phone photos, and defenses revolving around the “disease of addiction,” and solemn promises to seek treatment in Malibu just as soon as scheduling allows….“George Zimmerman is ADHD and medicated, which altered his mind,” the mannequin just announced. How convenient….Jodie Arias is suffering from PTSD which manifested itself in unhealthy relationships and sexual manipulation…well how about that…The economy is a mystery, says the financial analyst….hmmm…that’s not good….This corporate shill says this, that lobbyist says that…and now another look at the “beautiful people” and the opulence that you too should really, really want… Jesus freak tightrope walker crosses Grand Canyon and lives because Joel Osteen endorsed him….”And in other news things are bad all over and getting worse: War, famine, death, disease, drought, pollution, poverty, violence, drug addiction, ecological disaster…. It turns out that America seems to be the cause of most of this…. Now here’s a well endowed blonde with sports”….. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…. And now a word from our sponsor… Whose by prescription only product might help….

And so it goes. Some things never change.

Twenty-three years ago, a CD came across my desk that totally resonated with everything I had seen, been disturbed, angered, and confused about for as long as I could remember, and the questions that consumed me and led directly to my decision to become an educator, writer, and activist. That CD was Last Decade, Dead Century, and the band was Warrior Soul, fronted by Kory Clarke. Clarke was a very, very angry man. That’s not really anything new in the world of heavy rock, where anger is often mandatory and manufactured. But, you see, Clarke was REALLY angry, and very smart. An excellent songwriter with a flair for visual imagery and the dramatic, coupled with passion for the truth and a genuine concern for society’s invisible casualties and castaways and fury for the blind eye we are all manipulated into turning away.

1009831_10201648053833900_139504434_nWhen the band began with the opening chords of “I See the Ruins” I knew that not only did some things never change, but sometimes they are not supposed to change until they have fulfilled their purpose. As the band vamped on a “Big E.” Clarke took the stage, smiled and nodded at familiar faces, slowly opened his arms into a “Jesus Christ Pose” and let loose with a furious whisky and razor blade scream:

I am the child of the new generation
The psychotic product of total frustration
Lost in the void of the social soup
Yesterday’s plans gone awry
I found you standing there cold
So I picked up on the usual topic
I feel the pain of a thousand wars
I feel the pain of a thousand wars
I got no problems man I got no problems man I got no problems man
I live in TV land
I’m an electronic image beaming out to you…

What followed was an hour and a half of some of the finest and most furious hard rock music ever written, which also happened to contain the most important and timely social and political message that most rock fans have never heard, but should have. The band performed songs from most of their albums, but focused on material from their debut, the follow-up (Drugs, God, and the New Republic) and this year’s release, Stiff Middle Finger. I was also pleasantly surprised that the band chose to showcase four songs from 1994′s criminally ignored 1994 Salutations from the Ghetto Nation. Individually, this album’s first three songs (“Love Destruction,” “Blown,” and “Shine Like It”), which the band played in order, stand as unrelenting and angry anthems. Taken together they become a furious eulogy to the burnt out, confused, dangerous and dying culture that America has become and a condemnation of the guilty, which as Warrior Soul sees it is pretty much all of us, but with a special kind of pissed off for the politicians and their corporate masters who have taken us all there, but allowed only a select few to benefit on the way.

Much has been written about the failure of Warrior Soul to achieve the mainstream success that they deserve. Some focus on the inflexibility of Kory Clarke and his insistence on being honest, and on his unwillingness to meet music industry demands to tone down the intensity and be more warm and fuzzy. This could be true, but no one, and I mean no one, who has ever witnessed Warrior Soul in all their fury would seriously suggest such a thing to Kory. It would be like asking Franklin Graham to star in a porno.

In the end, the reason is obvious. America is medicated, propagandized, overweight, manipulated, placated and ego-inflated. We are unwilling to confront the truth of our complicity in the sorry state of affairs that passes as history these days, and we sure as hell don’t want to hear people sing about it. While it’s OK to sing about how neato it is to find a groovy old sweater at the thrift shop, it is not OK to discuss why it is that the thrift shop is there to begin with. While it is OK to sing about the heroism of the American solider, it is not OK to sing about why, exactly, they were in a situation requiring bravery to begin with. While it’s OK to sing about how hard it is for an honest man to make a living in our gutted and hijacked economy, it is not OK to sing about why it is that the economy got gutted to begin with. It’s OK to complain, it’s not OK to question. Questions make us uncomfortable, so we shun the questioner and focus on Honey Boo Boo instead.

Warrior Soul is the rock and roll equivalent of Occupy Wall Street. Loud, often obnoxious, confrontational and essential. Like Occupy, Warrior Soul deals in the truth in all its messy glory. And like Occupy, Warrior Soul deserves your attention. The question is; are you too comfortable, or too misinformed, to care?

In conclusion please be wary where authority reigns
Control tightens as we sleep a false security
All our leaders answer to silent bosses where profit fills their greed
Think before action learn before acceptance
Decide what you should be

“In Conclusion” – Kory Clarke

Jon Epstein is a sociologist, musician, artist and writer living in Winston Salem, NC. Epstein has published widely on subjects related to music and popular culture. He, along with Sam Smith and Tim Lynch founded Rocklist, the first online community of academics and writers dedicated to the serious discussion of rock culture.