Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The 2 Albums That Changed My Life

Here's something new. My friend Brad has a music blog. Music is his passion, and this blog is the result. If you like music, specifically dance-remixed music, it's a great resource. He has about 100 or so daily readers, and I'm sure he'd love to have more, so go check it out.

Anyway, over the last week or so, he's decided to have guests posts on the topic "The 5 Albums That Changed My Life." He didn't actually invite me to participate, given my usual apathy towards music, but I heard about it and wanted to contribute, and he was nice enough to let me. The only problem is that I couldn't come up with 5 albums, so I went with 2.

So, without further adieu, here (and at Brad's blog Wacky on the Junk) are the 2 albums that changed my life:

I think I'll be lucky if Wacky even publishes this post since my taste in music isn't exactly (or at all) similar to his. But, I thought the idea of albums that changed my life sounded fun, and I thought my perspective would be a funny addition considering: 1) How different my musical tastes are from this blog and, I assume, its readers, and 2) I really don't listen to music all that much, so I'm waayyy out of my league here. But oh well, here goes.

I started listening to punk rock and ska back in the genre's brief heyday--the mid-to-late nineties. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish and the like actually made it to radio and semi-mainstream fame back then. It was the summer of ska, or something like that, and I loved it. While the radio bands were good, the best thing that came out of the period was that it expanded my musical tastes out of the mainstream and led me to what soon became my favorite band(s), led by my favorite musician, even to this day.

The band's name was Catch 22, a ska-punk band from New Jersey, led by an adorable singer/songwriter named Tomas Kalnoky. The album, released in 1998, was Keasbey Nights, and it somehow became one of the pioneering albums of the ska-punk genre, although I didn't learn of the album's esteem until much, much later.

I was a freshman in college when the record came out. I fell in love with the poppy tempo, the upbeat horns, but most importantly the energetic nature of the album. Somehow it was the first time I actually could relate to song lyrics. Maybe I was just a lonely college freshman looking for anything to cheer me up. Whatever it was, it worked, and to this day the album puts me in a good mood. Over the years my favorite songs on the record have switched back and forth, starting with the title track, "Keasbey Nights." Over a decade since, "As The Footsteps Die Out Forever" is probably my favorite song of all time, by any artist (maybe I'm showing how much of a musical novice I actually am, I don't know). Earlier in the album, the song "Supernothing," which has now been re-recorded 3 times in different incarnations by Kalnoky, is also still a favorite. Don't get me wrong, though, the whole album is good, and I rarely skip any songs when listening to it.

Sadly, soon after learning about Catch 22, I went on to their fledgling website to find that Tomas, the person most responsible for creating Keasbey Nights, had left the band. I continued to listen to the album, nearly incessantly for years, and I saw Catch 22 live, sans Tomas, nearly a dozen times. They played my favorite songs and later released a few new albums, but the band was never the same, and their live perfomances, while energy-filled, sounded more like a garage band than talented professional musicians. So, I held on to listening to that one cd, and that was that.

Then, in 2003 my musical indifference was re-ignited when I somehow stumbled upon word that Tomas had started a new band by the name of Streetlight Manifesto and had released a new record, Everything Goes Numb. Even better news was that the band was performing live in just a month at a local venue (which ended up being a living-room sized basement, 9 foot ceilings and all).

I admit that it took a few listens for me to start to appreciate EGN. The songs were a different style, longer, less poppy, sometimes less energetic. The lyrics were deeper, more emotional. The band wasn't in college anymore (and neither was I). To this day, though, it still is my favorite album. I didn't think Keasbey Nights could be replaced, but it had been, and markedly so.

I can, and do, listen to the record regularly, all the way through. I even flew myself to NYC on a whim last fall to see the band perform the entire album all the way through with around 1000 other people (which was just a tad larger than the basement I'd initially seen them in). My mind was blown. Hands down some of the best musicians I've ever heard. Their live show, especially considering they have 7 members and a 4-piece horn section, is incredibly tight. Their energy is unforgettable. My favorite songs on this record haven't changed since the first times I listened to it. "A Better Place, A Better Time," referred to as "Annie" by fans, and "The Big Sleep" are their best songs, but the entire album is great.

So, that's that. If I haven't mentioned that I think Tomas Kalmoky, the bands' lead singer and songwriter, is a genius, I probably should now. He is. These two albums sparked an interest in music that I never had before. They got me through freshman year of college, a semester abroad in Argentina, and later gave me an interest in live music I'd never even considered. I know these two albums are pretty different from the other choices Wacky will probably post, but give them a listen, and hopefully you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day of Truth? Maybe Not.

Today is the Day of Truth, a day organized by Exodus International to attempt to upstage tomorrow's Day of Silence, organized by GLSEN. Sorry, I mean (according to the DOT website), "to have an honest conversation about relationships, sexuality, and faith." But, come on, they have specifically chosen to have this day the day before Day of Silence every year. You get the idea. Believe what you will about the Day of Truth. I'm of the opinion that its mission is to upstage the DOS, but maybe that's just me. And, that's not really the point of this post.

The reason behind this post is to point out how the Day of Truth is not all about Truth. Here's why: In the FAQ section of their website (under the "What is the Day of Silence Section), the DOT claims, "Unlike the Day of Silence, the Day of Truth does not encourage students to engage in activities that are likely to disrupt the school’s academic mission."

Right, so this event's goal isn't to upstage the Day of Silence, yet they insist on spreading misinformation about the DOS. This statement is pretty easy to refute, and I've brought it to the attention of Exodus and the Day of Truth through emails (one each) and through a blog post on Exodus' blog, which was not approved for posting.

So, for those of you that are curious, here's what the Day of Silence has to say about students disrupting a school's academic mission (from their FAQs):

From the "Do I have a right to participate in the Day of Silence?" section:
"You DO have a right to participate in Day of Silence and other expressions of your opinion at a public school during non-instructional time: the breaks between classes, before and after the school day, lunchtime, and any other free times during your day. You do NOT have a right to remain silent during class time if a teacher asks you to speak. We recommend that you talk to your teachers ahead of time, tell them what you plan to do, and ask them if it would be okay for you to communicate on that day in writing. (ACLU)"

From the "How do the Day of Silence activities affect the school day?" section:
"GLSEN advises students interested in participating to discuss their intentions with their administration and teachers long before the event. The day is most successful when schools and students work together to show their commitment to ensuring safe schools for all students. Many schools allow students’ participation throughout the day. Some schools ask students to speak as they normally would during class and remain silent during breaks and at lunch. There is no single way to participate, and students are encouraged to take part in the way that is the most positive and uplifting for their school. Students may also participate in “Breaking the Silence” rallies, events at which students come together at the day’s end to express themselves and share their experiences with members of their local communities."

In fact, the FAQ even offers a pdf file for students whose schools will not allow them to participate in the DOS that offers other ways they can contribute.

Pretty disappointing that with an event called the Day of Truth, Exodus and the Day of Truth organizers can be truthful, especially when they've been shown where the problems are.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Supreme Court Justices Can't Be Gay

Remember when I decided that I was no longer going to even argue the idea that being gay somehow was an issue of morality? Well, I guess my friends over at Focus on the Family didn't get the message.

Somehow Focus on the Family's lawyer went off script and said that the organization would not exclude a potential Supreme Court Justice nomination simply because he or she was gay. It was such a pleasant step in the right direction...until they decided the wrong direction was a much better place to go. So as not to confuse anyone, the've now come out to say that being gay is a core issue of morality, and they'll be opposing gay candidates.

Maybe you guys can look this one up for me, but remind me of their views on President Reagan. I wonder what their views of Dobson's divorced son are. I know, I know, they aren't anti-gay...it's just an easier way for them to judge morality, or something.

Good thing I stopped letting Focus on the Family and other like-minded folks dictate what morality meant. It still amazes me that people fall for this stuff.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

People Shouldn't Have to Wait for a Religion...

A Facebook friend of mine describes his religion on his fb profile as, "people shouldn't have to wait for a religion to tell them to be kind to their neighbors."

Pretty earth shattering stuff, huh? Not really, obviously, but it's amazing how many "religious" people out there seem to ignore the "being kind to your neighbor" advice, even though it's a basic tenant of their faith.

I've been meaning to write for a while now about a cousin of mine. I don't want to lump her in with the quote above, because she honestly is one of the nicest, most kind people I know. But, she just can't seem to get over the gay issue.

It's palpable when she's around J--she's cordial to him, but not overly nice. Not like she is with the rest of the family. I'm not even sure she realizes she does it, but like I said, the gay thing is a real issue for her, and while we haven't spoken directly on the subject, I know where she stands. And honestly, our relationship isn't the same.

It's not that she's a bad person. She's a devout Christian (I'd hesitate to call her evangelical, because I don't know how she'd describe herself, so let's leave it at "devout" for now), and her faith and religion direct her life for herself and for her family. That's great. It's admirable. But sometimes, it's frustrating because, while admirable, it seems to limit her emotional connections to those she doesn't agree with religiously.

A few months back I posted on my Facebook page my disappointment that so-called "Christians" decided to use lies and falsehoods to fight against gay marriage. In her comment, rather than addressing the the "Christian organization" I was talking about actually did lie to deceive the public, she asked me if I still considered myself a Christian. Weird response. But, I went for it.

I said, of course, that I still am a Christian, but my frustration lies in the way in which some Christian groups (often very prominent Christian groups and leaders) will go to any lengths, including committing their own sins to fight against gay people). I went on to detail where my frustration came from and how hurtful I found the entire situation to gays in general, especially regarding how often I found it to push gay people away from Christianity. Then I linked to my blog (you know, this one you're reading ;-) and told her that if she was interested in finding out where I was coming from, she could certainly come here to see me lay out the issues I was referencing.

And a week later I got a response. It thanked me for taking the time to write it, said she was busy, and that when she got some time she would read my blog and respond to my points.

A couple of months pass and nothing. More nothing. And again, nothing.

It's hurtful, in a way. Not just because I was putting myself ou there and laying out my personal feelings to someone that I knew could respond to them negatively. Not just because I was hoping to make a connection on a deeper level than, "I love you, but...", but more because rather than take the time to read where I was coming from--how I got to the conclusions I've arrived at--she just decided that she was right and my issues weren't really worth looking into. Or maybe they were worth it if she ever found the time, and she never did. Although, I'm not sure there's really much of a difference.

And maybe that's wrong with so many Christians that I complain about. Not to imply that my cousin is one in the same or that she is using animus for gays to further her own agenda (like I said, she's a wonderful person and animus and hostility are not part of her nature). But more to say that too many Christians out there aren't interested in challenging their own perceptions. To her, it seems more important to be "right" about this whole gay thing than it does to sit down and actually really connect with a gay person (even her own family) to try and see and feel and wonder where he is coming from. Listening to my issues would mean she might have to analyze her own. Challenge herself. It's the easy way out, I'll admit that. But the easy way out isn't really what I'm looking for.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Austin, TX Gay Bashing

Apparently even the most liberal city in Texas isn't immune to a good old fashioned gay bashing. Two friends were leaving Oilcan Harry's (a bar I've spent many a night at) last weekend when they were followed and subsequently attacked by 4 men. Check out Queerty for pictures of the victims.

As the college-aged gay guys were getting beaten up, the attackers called them fags. They weren't robbed, so the message of the beating seems pretty clear.

Let me go off on a slight tanget here. Just in case there is any question--had these 4 men run up to them and called them "fags" and not beaten them up, no crime would have been committed. Those people that try to claim that hate crimes are "thought crimes" or restrict freedom of speech are either ignorant on the law or are outright lying. These guys were beaten up because they were gay, in Texas' most liberal city, no less. The fact that this still happens sickens me (and scares me all at the same time).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Thoughts Exactly

From Box Turtle Bulletin comes a message from a member of Britain's conservative party to the US's own conservative party--don't alienate certain of society for short-term wins at the ballot box. Well, those weren't his exact words, but that sums it up pretty nicely.

My favorite part of the speech warns the GOP that anti-gay laws and tactics don't just drive away gay people, but they also affect other fair-minded individuals that see such laws as "divisive and unpleasant sign of state intolerance."

It's pretty clear that support for gay people in our society is on the rise. Whether it's support for full marriage rights, civil unions, opposition to DADT, etc., gays are seeing real gains in support for their cause. But let's face it--it's not because we have more gay people now than we used to (in spite of what some in Uganda and the extreme American right would have you believe), it's because straight people out there are realizing that gay people actually deserve these rights, and slowly but surely, they are also getting sick and tired of seeing one party scapegoat a group of people for their own personal gain.

Britain's conservative party paid dearly for such tactics and had to do a lot of digging to get out of the hole they eventually put themselves in. Let's hope their American Republican party heeds the advice.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oklahoma Pastors Could Go To Jail Over Gay Marriage

It's a religious thing. That's what opponents of gay marriage say all the time. Somehow allowing gays to marry is going to infringe on their religious views and their First Amendment right to freedom of religion (never mind the fact that even right now churches are never required to marry anyone, for any reason they choose).

But, given that they're the ones that brought up this religious freedom argument, I'm now calling for all conservative Christians to stick up for my religious liberties and the religious liberties of gays in Oklahoma (and for all my Baptist friends--let's not forget the Baptist Church was founded nearly specifically on the idea of separation of church and state).

Oklahoma State Representative Jason Nelson has introduced a bill that will make it expressly illegal for a "minister of the Gospel" to solemnize a marriage, punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison. Nevermind the fact that if a pastor marries two gay people it will have no legal standing in Oklahoma because of their 2004 Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage. It seems that Rep. Nelson wants to send people of faith to prison simply for expressing and practicing their own religious views, even if their officiating of a wedding has no actual legal standing anyway. Sorry to all of those gay-affirming denominations. It looks like you could be going to jail.

That sounds like an infringement of the First Amendment to me, and I call all conservatives to fight and speak out on this bill (patiently waiting...).

On a somewhat humorous sidenote--for some reason this bill only applies to Christian ministers. The Gospel refers to the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament, so Jews, Hindus, Muslims, et. al. seem to still be able to marry gays. Good for them.


Jason Nelso has commented on the Queerty post I linked above and said that this bill is simply a "shell bill"--essentially a place holder to make a change to marriage law in the next session. He says this has nothing to do with gay marriage and he probably does not intend to move forward on this issue at all. I find that hard to believe because, as he says, he already strongly supports the existing bill as it is stated. So, if he already supports the current marriage law, why is he needing to "place hold" a law on marriage? I guess only time will tell at this point.