Tuesday, February 13, 2007

One more...

I posted this on the Chicks' website, since there were a few people wasting their time writing negative things about the ladies. I had to shut them up and, though it's bit redundant, I thought I should post what I wrote. Sorry for the Chicks overload, but it's important to me, so where else would I put it but on my own blog?

Even if every voter who chose the Chicks chose them based on political reasons, the (as Led Zeppelin would say) "song remains the same." The album is amazing and if it had been released without controversy, I think it would have won the same Grammys along with some CMAs. Of course, without the controversy, this fabulous album would not have been made, so I'll take this ridiculous fight any day.

Just for the record, Grammys are not based on album sales or radio airplay. An album can be the best country album based solely on its merits as good country music. I know, I know. Quite a shocking development. You want proof? Check out the last two winners of the Grammy for Best Country Album. They are Loretta Lynn for "Van Lear Rose" and Allison Krauss for "Lonely Runs Both Ways." How many songs from either of those albums did you hear on country radio? I'll venture a guess and say that you heard none. And yet, you can't even try to tell me that those two albums were not prime examples of great country music. Are you going to deny that Loretta Lynn is the ultimate country singer? Or that Allison Krauss is queen of bluegrass? I don't think so.

Good music comes from something real, and sometimes that "something real" doesn't always work for everyone. You want simple music without an ounce of subtext, irony or quality? Go listen to Toby Keith. No one's forcing you to come to a website devoted to the Dixie Chicks. The rest of us will be glad to keep them all to ourselves.

God Bless the Chicks

The Dixie Chicks won five Grammys on Sunday night, causing me to scream with delight so hard that I actually hurt my throat (and my leg, which I hit incredibly hard with my fist). The album for which they won was amazing, absolutely. But of course the real glee came in imagining the anger from all those right-wing nut jobs who think that freedom of speech only exists when everyone agrees with the president.

These people held up signs at the concerts that read "Dixie Twits." They sent hate mail and death threats. They bought Dixie Chicks albums just so they could take them to their local radio stations, who sponsored events that included steam rolling the CDs. They told their children that the Dixie Chicks were evil because it's un-American to to say anything negative about such a "compassionate conservative."

It took a while for most of America to realize that the Chicks were actually right. I mean, I was on their side the whole time, of course, but a 30% approval rating for the president does give an indication that other people are finally catching up to the rest of us. But country radio is up in arms about the Grammy wins, and of course they still refuse to play the music. One radio station owner in Alabama had the audacity to suggest that, because the Chicks' latest album didn't get that high on the Billboard country charts (#36 at its peak), they shouldn't qualify for a Best Country Album Grammy. You know, 'cause Grammys have always been based on album sales.

Obviously, the Chicks are being punished not because they expressed themselves, but because they expressed themselves incorrectly. There is a perfect example of this hypocrisy evident with a popular country singer named Toby Keith. Toby is a dipshit, for lack of a better term. He wrote and sang a song after 9/11 called "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)." It was quite popular and featured, among other highly intelligent lyrics, this gem of a line: "...you'll be sorry you messed with the U.S. of A. 'cause we'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way."

Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks referred to this song as "ignorant," which of course made Toby mad because he didn't understand...well, anything, really. He said that because the Dixie Chicks sang a song entitled "Goodbye Earl," about a woman killing her no-good husband, they have no right to comment on his song. If you've ever heard "Goodbye Earl," you'll know that Toby Keith is missing the point and has probably never looked up the definition of "satire."

The point is, Toby went on a rampage. At his concerts, he featured a doctored photo of Natalie Maines, arm-in-arm with Saddam Hussein. The crowds went crazy, loving every minute of it. And when people pointed out that this might not be the nicest thing to do and was, in fact, perhaps a bit of an overreaction to what Natalie had said about the president, country music fans everywhere got on a soapbox and told Natalie that it was too bad because Toby was just expressing his freedom of speech. You know, the same freedom of speech that Natalie wasn't allowed to express over in London.

They'll tell you that she could say whatever she wanted, and she would just have to deal with the consequences of people not buying her music. That's fine if it's true. But in reality, the vast majority of people were actually claiming that she did not have the right to even speak the way she did, especially in a time of war. That's what I read on all the negative reviews for the album on iTunes, and it's eloquently expressed by one gentlmen in the documentary Shut Up and Sing when he says, "Freedom of speech is fine, but by God you don't do it publicly."

I think there is definite evidence that gender plays a role in this whole controversy. The Dixie Chicks were the darlings of country music. They were the cute girls who sang pretty. And then they opened their mouths. And we all know that some people are still threatened by strong woman who give their opinions. Women who do this are bitches, while men are just men. It's a sad but true fact that this controversy doesn't just have political implications. Those people who were holding up "Dixie Twits" signs were standing next to those with signs reading "Dixie Sluts." Now what about Natalie's comments had anything to do with her sexuality? What evidence is there to suggest that she is a slut at all? This had nothing to do with sex, but because she is a woman, people felt safe to reach for that label.

If you haven't already, you should buy the album "Taking the Long Way" (and all the Chicks' albums, frankly). And you should see the documentary. It comes out on DVD February 20, and you can bet your life I'll be the first in line to get it (I already saw it twice in the theaters). So if you want to borrow it from me, feel free. But it's worth the purchase, even if only to see the context in which Natalie made her comments. Because even if you disagree with what she said, I don't think you can watch Shut Up and Sing and walk away feeling like the Dixie Chicks got what they deserved.

I love the Chicks. I always will. I remember the first time I heard their first single, "I Can Love You Better." It was 1997, and I was driving across the Mid-Bay Bridge into Destin, Florida, on my way to work. And I'll be honest--I had a hard time getting used to Natalie's voice the first time I heard the song. But I shortly came to love them, long before the politics entered the picture. Knowing they share my political beliefs just sweetened the deal. They are legends in their own time. Mainstream country music may never accept them again, but it doesn't matter. They stood up for something they believed in, and the rest of us are very glad they did.

Oh, and they make great music.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Sad Truth

It would seem that I must have written everything thing I possibly can about my feelings about this war in Iraq, but I don't know. Christine and I just watched this movie called The Ground Truth, which is a documentary that consists of interviews with veterans of the current Iraqi war. It's worth checking out, but I will warn you now that it will break your heart.

These men and women were talking about the things they saw in their time in the desert, and a lot of it was focused on the killing of civilians. The documentary showed some pretty disturbing footage of this, in fact. And I was thinking about how awful it must be to know that you killed these people. But then I realized that, even though I've never set foot in Iraq, I already feel like I killed those civilians (and "insurgents," too). I saw the bloody bodies and I was convinced that I might as well have been the one to pull the trigger. So now I feel guilty, despite my constant and vehement opposition to this war. This war has made me no longer proud to be an American, and there are few things sadder than that.

But perhaps sadder still is that there are plenty who don't see any reason to be ashamed. There are a few people who, though they did not physically pull the trigger, are absolutely responsible for the destruction occurring over there. And I know that they would watch this movie and just really, really not give a shit. I know that they would stare at the young man who had half his face blown off while he watched 20 other people die, and they would just not get it. They would talk to the parents of the 23-year old who hung himself with a garden hose several months after he returned from the war, and they would shrug and wonder what they have to do with some random kid's suicide.

Pink wrote a song called Dear Mr. President that didn't really get much press at all. But I love it. I love it because it asks exactly the question I have for Bush (and the others), which is, "How is it that you can find the peace to go to sleep every night?" I mean, war seems to be inevitable in this world (which I in fact hate, though I wouldn't consider myself a complete pacifist), but this isn't World War II. The Iraqis are not Nazis and our boys are not getting the pleasure of rescuing starving Jews from concentration camps. We are destroying lives, and a whole lot more than the 3,000 recorded American deaths. There are countless dead Iraqi civilians and American soldiers (and I wouldn't believe the government's numbers on that if they paid me to) but there are also the thousands of wounded, both physically and emotionally. And the president goes to bed at 9pm nightly.

We are not helping our veterans and we are killing them with our apathy. And when I say "we" I mean all of us.

Winning back the House and Senate in the last election didn't do anything. The legislative branch of your government has spent the majority of its time debating a resolution that everyone actually defines as completely useless. Well, they say "non-binding," but that's just semantics. It doesn't do anything. It holds no one accountable and is essentially a way for the Democrats (and, ridiculously enough, Republicans who have suddenly changed their minds) to later say, "I told you so" when things get even worse than they are now.

Is this really all about politics? Is that all we can do? Is our responsibility only to a certain party? Are our elected officials really only concerned about how they can shift culpability to anyone but themselves in the end? I guess I just don't understand how it's possible that getting into a position of power seemingly means that one loses all sense of humanity. How is it possible for a president or vice president or secretary of defense or whatever to physically go visit Walter Reed Medical Center and see what this war has done to those men and women (just the ones that make it out alive), and still believe that this is the only way? No one will ever, ever be able to convince me that there is an ounce of compassion in any one of those people in the White House or even the Congress. And I'm referring to both sides of the aisle here.

If standing around in a chamber and debating a meaningless bill is what passes for action these days, then we are further gone than I thought we were. If it's not entirely clear to every person in power that the time for non-binding resolutions has long since passed, then we are completely, hopelessly lost. And it's a shame that I look at the situation and can find nothing to hope for.

I'm not naive. I understand that the world works a certain way. I guess what I don't understand is why, especially now. It seems to me that if ever there were a time to just shut the hell up and figure this out, as opposed to pulling rank and being secretive and debating nonsense, now would be it. Enough of tradition and polite behavior. War is not polite. And it is in fact quite rude to continue listening to an administration that has broken the law on numerous occasions (you would think just the one time would be enough for us to stand up for ourselves), directly resulting in the deaths of thousands. So why are we putting up with this? Why do I have to sit in a restaurant on the night of the State of the Union and listen to a guy tell me that we have to listen to the speech because, "he's not the best, but he's still our president"? Not the best? Christ. Were I to be cataloging the great understatements of our time, that one would, I think, rank quite high.

How about saying no? How about telling all of them that we don't have to put up with this? You know, the whole "we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore" thing. Just because it's a cliche doesn't mean it's not right. The president of The United States of America works for us. That's not just a cute thing to say. It's actually true. And Congress? They do, too. And based on the results of the most recent election, it seems that many of us are very dissatisfied with our employees. What normally happens in a situation where an employer is not happy with the work of an employee?

We are fighting a war in which countless people have died. And what's on the front page of CNN.com? A picture of Anna Nicole Smith and her deceased husband. Please, please tell me that we can all see something wrong with that picture.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Chosen One

So I'm going to geek out here for a second, and if it lowers your opinion of me, so be it. I'll deal with the consequences, especially since I'm sure most of you already know I'm a super geek.

I am not a comic book nerd. I think I read one comic book when I was about twelve years old. And I don't even know if it can really count, because it was a "New Kids On the Block" comic book. Yes, that's right. All about the adventures of Danny, Jonathan, Jordan, Joey and Donnie (you'll be happy I actually only remembered three of those names and had to look up the other two). And they weren't even superheroes or anything. It was a just lame attempt to get money from retarded teenage (or preteen, in my case) girls. And it worked. I still remember the damn cover of that comic book, though I'll spare you the details.

The point is, I'm not the kind of person who geeks out over the first edition of Superman. I will not go to a comic book convention. But I like the X-Men movies. I am a religious watcher of Battlestar Galactica, though we (meaning Christine, Peg and I) didn't start watching until halfway through the first season. The show fracking rocks (and if you get that reference, then we are kindred spirits and I love you). It is not a show about space. It's a show about humanity, even though half the major characters aren't even human. It's about freedom and redemption and love and loss and all of those things, and it is just plain good.

I do not watch Farscape or either of the two Stargate shows (I only recently learned there are two anyway--Stargate: SG1 and Stargate: Atlantis). Despite my love for Battlestar, I am pretty thorougly convinced that I would not enjoy those other shows, because I believe they rely too heavily on "space action" and not enough on actual human drama. I may be wrong. They may be great. But I've got enough to watch anyway, and watching more sci-fi isn't going to make anyone believe me when I say I'm not even really a sci-fi fan. I did watch Firefly (though not until it was out on DVD), which was a show created by the Buffy creator, Joss Whedon. And I've seen Serenity, which is the movie follow-up to the short-lived television show. Both are really good.

Which brings me to my point, which is all about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When all is said and done, and all that I will ever do has been done, I know that Buffy will be what I list as my all-time favorite television show. For Buffy fans like me, I think it goes without saying that I include only the first five seasons, as well as "Tabula Rasa" and "Once More, With Feeling" from season six, when I refer to the show being awesome. Most of season six and definitely all of season seven are dead to me. They ruined that show after season five, and it's still thoroughly depressing to think about.

About a year ago I got Christine to start watching Buffy. We have a lot of things on our plates, and it's hard to sit down and watch an old show when we have so many newer ones on the TiVo, so she only made it through the first season (thirteen episodes) and the first episode of season two. However, in the last week, she has watched 32 episodes. And I've watched every one with her like I was watching it for the first time.

Maybe it's too much to expect you to understand if you've never watched the show. But if I could get everyone to sit down and watch the first 100 episodes, I think the world would be a better place. I don't have an all encompassing research paper detailing why I love Buffy (though, believe me, there are plenty of academic papers and books written about the show; search Amazon--you'll be amazed). I just know that I love it and know that everyone who gives it a chance ends up loving it, too (you should all bear in mind that I made fun of my friends who watched it during the first season, until I finally broke down in season two; we can all be converted). If you liked My So-Called Life (which is a very, very close second to Buffy in my world), you should love Buffy. It's MSCL, but with vampires, and just as good. If you were to sit down and let me show you "The Body" (season five), "Hush" (season four), "The Wish" (season three), "Doppelgangland" (season three), or "Becoming: Parts I and II" (season two), or any one of my other favorites, I'm certain you would agree.

I guess this is kind of a dumb blog. But watching these episodes again with Christine has just reminded me all over again why I love this show. Next up is probably Felicity or Sports Night, so maybe you'll have to deal with me declaring my love for those shows. But they won't replace my number one. I love them, and they're in my top ten of all time, but they're not Buffy.