Let The Auctioning of America Begin

The Senate is expected to sign the debt ceiling increase into effect today. Thanks to the TEA bagger representatives in the House, the agreement is more budget cuts, no tax increases. Thank goodness that someone was looking out for rich people and corporations (and jaded assholes like me think that no one cares about minorities in this country!).

Part of the deal is more than a trillion more in cuts by the end of the year. If Congress can’t come up with enough social welfare programs to decimate by then, they’ll start focusing on Medicare and defense spending. Yeah, right. Republicans are going to cut defense spending. This pretty much means that the Pentagon won’t be able to keep buying that fancy extra soft Charmin, while Aunt Gertie will have to go back to working that stripper pole to earn enough money for her scrips.

And, really, no one wins in this scenario. No one.

What’s done is done, I suppose. So rather than crying over the massive unemployment rates that are looming ever closer or rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking U.S. economy (but we don’t need no stinking government intervention!), why not come up with a solution?

So I did.

We all know there are several within the entertainment industry who love a good “cause.” Well, it’s your lucky day, Celebrity Samaritans! Your back yard is now teeming with causes! Come on, Brangelina! Wouldn’t you like to pony up some money to put back into place some of these “useless” social welfare programs that the TEA baggers targeted for termination? I and several thousand others would be most appreciative. So appreciative, in fact, that I’m sure we could work out a term agreement in which all projects undertaken by any funding you’ve provided must include “Brangelina” in the name. Brangelina Day Care. Brangelina Community Center. Brangelina Housing Rehabilitation. Brangelina Boulevard. Your portmanteau could become synonymous with community improvement and advancement programs from Maine to California!

Or what about NASA? How about it, Trek actors? Each of you chip in a million or two and the space race will once more be on like Donkey Kong! Thinkaboutit…Bill. Wouldn’tyoulike…a starshipnamed…Shatner? Doesn’t the ISS Sirtis have a sibilant sauciness to it?

[Okay, maybe not so much on that one. Troi did crash the Enterprise. Twice. Maybe we’ll name a rover after her…]

Madonna! Madge! Lady Ciccone. I know, you like to pretend that you’re English now. Truth is, though, you’re a Michigan girl. Home of Detroit, the Motor City. Wouldn’t you like to pitch in some dough to help the American automobile industry get back on its feet? Invest enough and you could even make an impact on all these ongoing debates about fuel economy. You could demand that the automakers move away from these lumbering gas guzzlers to more sensible, efficient designs. You could pave the way for the industry to start seriously embracing alternative fuel research. Think about it, Madge: You could get workers back into the factories AND get America on a more responsible energy diet, thus reducing our detrimental impact on the environment and freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil. The car companies would be so grateful, they’d name a whole fleet of cars after you. Then everyone would get the chance to ride inside…um. Never mind.

And Hilary! You’re a double Oscar winner! And you played Amelia Earhart! Wouldn’t you like to help out the FAA? Maybe throw in a buck or two to help the airline industry in general? We coach jockeys would appreciate a little alleviation on ticket prices…and the best part? Part of your deal with the airline industry could be that they can only play your movies on flights! A whole nation of flyers, all tuning in to Million Dollar Baby, Boys Don’t Cry, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, P.S. I Love You, The Core, The Reaping

Ooh, maybe we should rethink this one…

Hey, Leo! You played Howard Hughes! Wanna invest in airplanes? (Sorry, Hilary…)

Roots and Wings

Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in!

Okay, so it’s not as dramatic as that, Mr. Corleone, but I do believe I won’t ever shake this utterly unexpected happy feeling I continue to harbor in my dark lupine soul for country music.

[Loba Note: I guess it would be more appropriate to state that I harbor this love in the darkness where a soul should theoretically exist…]

No, not all country music. I’ve already established that there was a definite dimming of my country music love a few years ago. And yet I continue to keep tabs on a select few who succeeded in rising above the intrinsic issues I continue to have with the genre.

Terri Clark is one of Loba’s Chosen Few.

She’s a bit of a black sheep in the country family, to be sure. First, start with the fact that she’s not really “country,” by the xenophobic Amuhrakin definition of the word. Born in Montréal and raised in Medicine Hat, Clark is one of those “furraners” that we don’t take to liking all that much down here in the States. However, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee, when she was 18 years old, which means that she’s spent more of her life here than among her own people. I guess that counts for something (or at least makes me wonder if her grasp on sanity is as questionable as my own).

Next is the fact that Clark is unrepentantly country in the best sense of the word. While many within the genre, including a bulk of the red-hot-at-the-time female artists, decamped to that in-between land called “Crossover Track” back in the late 90s, churning out tarted-up poppy drivel that barely qualified as country music, Clark stuck to her guns and her cowboy hats. Every single one of her albums is filled with songs that won’t ever be heard on heavy rotation on rock-lite radio stations that typically turn up their noses to music that includes wondrous instruments like banjos, fiddles, mandolins, and slide guitars. Some of Clark’s songs even include {gasp} cowbell.

[Loba Tangent: Okay, I’m not really sure how I feel about the cowbell songs. However, I am a bit smitten by the enthusiasm with which Clark takes to the…er, instrument.]

It’s this dedication to the roots of the country genre that keeps me coming back to Clark. Admittedly, though, I’ve been a fair-weather fan at best for several years. I continued to purchase her new releases but found them decidedly less and less consistent. True, every album has included several songs that were enjoyable, but not since the double-whammy of How I Feel and Fearless, the albums that respectively pulled me in and locked me down as a lifelong fan, had I felt holistically happy with her new offerings. I didn’t even bother to buy her 2009 release, The Long Way Home (although I do remember wishing for a title mashup of this with the Dixie Chicks’ last studio album, Taking the Long Way). I wasn’t really feeling much love for music in general at that point in my life and I think Clark was merely one of many of my favorite artists who didn’t get much Loba Lovin’ at that time.

That is, until her latest release. I purchased and downloaded Roots and Wings from Amazon on Friday afternoon, and I have listened to it every day since. I’m listening to it right now as I write this review, in fact.

Oh, this is a good one, denizens. Everything that I have always loved about Clark is there, from start to finish: catchy country hooks, clever lyrics that are playful and poignant and all stops in between, and gorgeous vocals that slip from roadhouse to lullaby with enviable ease.

In fact, I’m going to have to give the paw of approval to every song on this album. Clark kicks things off with “Wrecking Ball,” which hasn’t failed yet to get my feet tapping and me laughing with each listen (“Woman on a mission / Pure demolition”), and continues along at a solid pace as she slams out of the park common country tropes with grace, joy, and beauty. No, if you play a Clark song backward, you’re not going to get back your house, your truck, your wife, and your dog…but play them forward and you’ll get a glimpse of the greatness that honest country music has to offer.

I don’t know if I can even narrow down this collection of songs to one or two favorites, but if I had to select ones to praise above others, I’d go with “The One” for capturing so wonderfully the essence of what everyone wants to find at least once in this lifetime, “Beautiful and Broken” for its reserved elegance, and “Lonesome’s Last Call” for the respectful way it tips its 10-gallon hat, in sound and sentiment, to old school country.

Even the final two new songs on this album, “We’re Here For a Good Time” and “Flowers in the Snow,” have redeemable qualities even though I feel that they strike a slightly discordant tone in comparison with the rest of the album. “Good Time” is actually a pretty good song, with a happy-go-lucky sound reminiscent of a Margaritaville standard, but there’s something overly processed about the track that seems a little whiffy of auto-tuning. I hate auto-tuning. Unless it’s this. And I think “Flowers in the Snow” suffers only because it comes right on the peppier heels of “Good Time” and ends the new songlist on a decidedly somber note. However, on its own, it’s another classic example of Clark’s ability to write/co-write songs that honor the true sound of country music.

Then there is “Smile.”

This is actually the reason that I bought Roots and Wings. Clark wrote “Smile” in honor of her mother, who died in April 2010 after a 3-year battle with cancer. I’m still trying to sort through the flotsam of emotions that my own mom’s death (barely more than a month after Clark’s loss) has stirred up, but I have discovered that there is an undeniable solace to be found in the words of tribute and love penned by someone who knows first-hand how it feels to lose someone to the unfairness of disease. In fact, I think only “Always,” written and performed with heart-mending beauty by my friend Craig Bevan, has provided me with more comfort than this song has given me, even in the short time since I first heard it.

Of all the things that Clark has a right to be proud of from her career, I hope she knows what a gift she has given her listeners with this particular song.

So there you go, denizens. If you enjoy country music at all, give Roots and Wings a chance. I think you might be pleasantly surprised.

Photo from Terri Clark’s Flickr Stream.

DidnWannaDoIt!

So maybe you’ve seen this before in…other places. Maybe you haven’t. I guess it all depends on where you beam into on teh Interwebz.

Just in case you missed it though, here is a music video from the always delightful Suzie Plakson, she of many Trek aliases and many more talents:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ntEJQ61sBM&w=640&h=390]

Check out the red sneakers! And once you’re finished, check out your very own copy of her CD, DidnWannaDoIt!

I do loves me some Suzie, that’s for sure. Whether it’s from her many Trek appearances or her roles in other favorites like Wag the Dog or Mad About You (which also featured another of my favorite Titian-Tressed Trek Talents [dear prophets, I love alliteration]), she is always delightful. There’s something so very vintage Hollywood classy about her.

Of course, the ears hanging in my stairwell probably make me a bit biased…but you all still trust my opinion in this matter, right? Right 😉

Holding Court

Indulge me in a moment, will you, denizens?

(As if you don’t do that all the time already…)

So you remember on Star Trek: The Next Generation, when Captain Picard would get up from his command chair and walk toward the viewscreen when he was confronting the person with whom he was exchanging terse Federation-sanctioned “don’t make me kick your alien ass across this quadrant” words? He’d usually come to a stop somewhere in between the command center and the Ops and Conn positions and, if a show of might was necessary, he’d turn around and look up to Lieutenant Worf, right? Right.

Imagine, in this scenario that I was Captain Picard and the Court Yard Hounds were Worf. A much more attractive, better-coifed, far less addicted to prune juice version, of course. That’s how close I was to Emily and Martie last night.

Wait for it…wait…

SQUEE!!!!

I don’t get giddy girl apoplectic over music that often anymore. In fact, there’s only a handful of musicians I like enough to want to actually see live. The Dixie Chicks have always been very high on that list. I know, I said once upon a time that I was through with country music. But the Dixie Chicks are just…the Dixie Chicks. Somehow, they succeeded in transcending the jingoistic hurdle that country music became for me. They’re passionate, opinionated, and talented. Plus, they’re just so darned cute.

But this isn’t a post about the Dixie Chicks! It’s about releasing the Hounds last night. Actually, I’ve talked about the Court Yard Hounds before. Apparently, Natalie Maines still isn’t ready to return to the Chicks, so sisters Emily and Martie continue to make a go of it on their own. Last night, they rolled into town and took over the 6th and I Synagogue. Yep, that’s right: Bluegrass on a Bimah. You really haven’t lived until you’ve experienced such an event.

After listening to their debut CD many times and seeing them live twice now, I have to say I really do love the Court Yard Hounds. They give off a progressive adult vibe that’s flavored generously with country spice and bluegrass zing. Emily’s voice is surprisingly strong and (to me, at least) sounds almost identical to Sheryl Crow at times. That’s never a bad comparison, in my book. Last night, we also were treated to hearing Martie take the lead on a few songs. Here’s photo proof of that:

Martie has an equally lovely voice, but she didn’t seem as comfortable with taking the vocal lead as Emily does. However, when you can play the fiddle like she can, you’re okay without singing. More than okay. In fact, one of my favorite shots from last night is this one of Martie playing her fiddle:

It’s a little too blurry for my liking (it was difficult getting good shots without using my flash, which I didn’t want to do; nothing says “I love your music!” quite like blinding the musicians on stage, right?), but really the blurriness kind of adds to the frenetic aesthetic of her fiddle and bow when she’s in the zone. And look at that Cheshire Cat grin she’s got! Actually, Emily got almost the same look on her face whenever she was in her “Banjo Zone”:

Must be something about those Bluegrass Girls that we city folk just don’t understand. Whatever it is, though, I’m addicted.

Scream 4 Me

I always had a thing for ya, Sid!

WARNING: Original trilogy spoilers ahead. No Scream 4 spoilers though.

Do you know the last time I went to the theater to see a movie, denizens? No? Let me give you a hint.

Yep. Haven’t been to see a movie since that stupid blue alien movie. I get the sneaking suspicion, at least based on the movies that I have rented from Netflix in between then and now, that I really haven’t missed anything. I’ve pretty much given up on renting movies, actually. Right now? I’m learning what I missed at Cook County Hospital and those wacky doctors in the ER. By the time I’m finished, I think I just might be able to fake my way as a doctor.

(Yeah, and a few more episodes of EastEnders and someone might actually mistake me for a Brit…pbbt.)

So what could possibly have lured me back to the theater? Only the opportunity to recapture an essence of my adolescence that I hold so very dear. See, if memory serves me correctly, there’s only one movie that I have seen more than twice in a theater. And, again by my admittedly wonky memory count, I do believe that I may have actually seen this four times in the theater (although I think it might have only been three…I’ll have to ask Captain Morgan the next time we get together, since he seems to hold most of my brain cells at this point in the game). It’s the horror movie that I have seen more than almost any other. In fact, I believe The Silence of the Lambs is the only movie that I have seen more…although A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween are pretty far up there, too (original versions only, of course).

The movie in question would be Scream. I love this movie so very much. I still think it’s one of the most innovative takes on the horror genre to come out of Hollywood. I love the fact that it was written by someone who obviously possessed a serious passion for horror. Kevin Williamson did something brilliant with that original screenplay…something that the horror movie industry desperately needed. He brought fresh meat to the horror altar and, in doing so, altered the genre in both wonderful and terrible ways. The slew of copycat flicks that followed (some even flowing from Williamson’s own fingers) was intriguing at first but inevitably frustrating when I realized that we were in for the long haul with Scream knockoffs. Then came the torture porn era and all bets were off as far as I was concerned. Blood and guts don’t bother me, but I cannot abide watching someone be tortured. I know. Weird, right?

I also love the characters, especially Sidney Prescott. I once wrote in a book review that very rarely did I wish a book character was real. Same bodes true for movie characters. However, I wish that Sidney was real. Minus being a lightning rod for psychos and the messy truth that if Sidney considers you a friend, you’re more than likely not going to make it to the end credits, I think she would be quite the awesome person to know. Plus, what can I say? I have a soft spot for the broken ones.

As for the original two sequels? I remember actually finding the opening of Scream 2 repulsive. What seemed so innovative and provocative an opening in the original movie (seriously, was anyone not set off-kilter by Drew freakin’ Barrymore dying before the title card?) was uncomfortable and even mildly offensive in the second. First, it had already been done (to extraordinary effect), so doing it again felt cheap; and second, placing it in such a public place felt so exploitative and…vulgar. Again, this is another of my strange proclivities. Scream 3 felt weightier and more promising to me than 2…but the ending was so anti-climactic and disappointing. I think it was because I was expecting it to go a completely different way…those damned red herring doppelgangers! However, the presence of Parker Posey was definitely a bonus, and there were a couple of genuinely chilling moments that made it worth the effort.

Of course, I own the special trilogy box set on DVD. I even owned three different copies of the original movie on VHS, including a weird double set that contained both the movie and a second copy with a director/writer commentary. I think it was some kind of failed attempt to make VHS competitive with DVDs. It was clunky and a bit redundant but it was also my first experience with a commentary track and I admittedly was hooked in by the newness of the idea.

So was it any wonder that I would make my way back to the theater to see the return of this franchise that so overwhelmingly won my heart so many years ago? True, I was irritated beyond belief when I first heard about the fourth movie. It was supposed to be a trilogy, dammit! Plus, I was incredibly surprised when I heard that Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette all signed on for the fourth movie. Hadn’t Sidney, Gale, and Dewey been through enough?

When Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson were also confirmed, I admit that hope sparked within me. It had been more than a decade since we’d paid a trip to that world. Perhaps in that time, they’d found new inspiration? A way to breathe freshness into a franchise that, the last time we saw it, limped over the finish line, beaten, bludgeoned, bloodied, but still standing?

Um. Yeah.

As a self-referential parody of the original franchise, Scream 4 is brilliant. In fact, I found myself laughing out loud several times. Honest, hearty, uncontrollable laughing. Probably not what Craven and Co. were going for though, you know, considering the fact that this was not marketed as a parody at all. And that’s a shame. Because as a straight-forward horror movie, it definitely did not cross the finish line this time. There’s no way it could, really, when it was dragged down every step by the inexorable weight of the original franchise resting completely on its shoulders.

What started out as a franchise designed to be reverent of the horror genre as a whole has now apparently been rebooted to pay obeisance mostly to its predecessors. Whether it was scenes played out in ways almost identical to those earlier movies or characters designed to fit the mold of the “Randy” or the “Tatum” or even the “Sidney” from that original film, Scream 4 spent more time evoking memories of the trilogy than it did in actually telling a new story. Sadly, however, there wasn’t really much of a “new” story to tell. And what story there was was wholly ridiculous and made me keep asking the same question: Why the fuck would any of the original characters ever go back to Woodsboro?! Go ahead, watch Scream 4 and see if you’re not asking this over and over as you watch it…I dare you. I double dog dare you!

Also by evoking memories of the original, and undeniably superior, films, all Scream 4 made me feel was a burning desire to re-watch the originals rather than continue watching this new offering. Add to this the heavily predictable nature of the story (there is no new thing under the sun or the Ghost Face mask) and…well. It was just disappointing. I will say this: There was a twist at the end that I didn’t anticipate completely and that I think had the potential to make this an amazing reintroduction to this franchise. To pull this off, however, something would have had to have happened that I honestly anticipated happening…but that didn’t.

Okay, I lied. I said I wasn’t going to include spoilers for the new Scream movie. I am. Right now. So cover your eyes for a few minutes. Or I’ll just mark the text in white so you can’t see it unless you highlight it.

So Emma Roberts, who plays Sidney’s cousin Jill , is the killer. Right here was the twist that I wasn’t completely anticipating…and I’m admittedly irritated by this. I let myself be lulled into complacency by the fact that this was Nancy Drew…and Julia Roberts’ niece. And Julia Roberts is always the good guy, right? [Insert character description here] with the heart of gold, right? So wouldn’t her goody-two-shoes, Nancy Drew niece be the same? Good job on deceptive casting here, that’s all I’m saying.

But why is Jill the killer? Because she spent her childhood listening to nonstop talk about her unlucky but also famous cousin and now she wants her 15 minutes of fame…and she’s willing to kill to get it. Willing to kill her mother (played by Laura Roslin Mary McDonnell, still suffering from a horrendously noticeable mouth droop since her BSG-era face lift). Even willing to kill her cousin. Yeah, she stabs Sidney. In places that regular people wouldn’t have survived. I have to admit, when she stabbed Sidney, I had a horrible “Oh god no” moment…same moment I felt when Sidney’s brother shot her point-blank at the end of Scream 3. Yet again I thought, “Wow, they’re really going to kill Sidney.”

Sidney Prescott, however, is a fucking cat. And she’s now down 4 of her 9 lives. Not to mention that now she’s had to kill her boyfriend, her boyfriend’s best friend, her boyfriend’s mother, her brother, and her cousin. That’s enough negative karma to haunt her through her next 30 reincarnations. Also, apparently it’s a very bad thing to have any kind of relationship with this woman. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

I never thought I would say this, but I think letting Sidney live was a mistake. She should have died in this movie. Even better? Her cousin should have gotten away with her plan. See, Jill had her two best friends killed, possibly stabbed her mom (I’d have to see the movie again to be certain on this part), stabbed her accomplice, shot her boyfriend, stabbed her cousin, then convincingly set the scene so that it looked like she’d been attacked, stabbed, and nearly slaughtered as well by the “real” killers. There’s even a wonderful Heathers-like moment involving a glass table. It was great. And ended with Jill purposely mirroring in a very unsettling and morbid way how Sidney had fallen after she was stabbed. Dewey and his deputies arrive, clear the scene, find the bodies, and then we see Jill being wheeled out on a gurney while a gaggle of reporters chase after her, asking her questions about what it feels like to be a hero, blah blah blah.

That is where the movie should have ended…with Sidney dead at the hands of a villain who is being heralded as a hero. Think about where that could have taken the franchise! Our beloved Sidney gone? And her killer now the “star” of the Woodsboro drama? Sick, twisted, and totally unexpected…everything the original movie was, only better. Just like one of the characters states at one point: The whole point of a reboot is to be better than the original.

In the end, though, Williamson wimped out. Not only did Sidney survive, all three of the original players made it through…even though Gale did get a nasty shoulder stab and Dewey was nearly bludgeoned to death by a teen wielding a bedpan. Yeah, oh that I was making that one up.

Okay, spoilers over. Disappointment, however, remains.

Truth be told, though, I’m glad I went to see this one. I have missed Sidney Prescott very much. I’m just sorry we only get together under these horrible circumstances. Seriously, how much trauma can one person go through in one lifetime? Plus, any chance to see Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox together again? Bonus times bonus to infinity. Although, Courteney Cox doesn’t look at all like herself anymore. Too much tweakage has occurred in the 11 years since the last movie and she’s now starting to look like a caricature of herself…and this absolutely breaks my heart. But it is what it is and soon every woman in Hollywood will look just like Madame.

I can’t wait. o_O

Do I think this movie should have been made? No. Do I think it’s gotten the franchise off to a promising reboot? No. Do I think they should do two more? Please, no. Had things turned out differently with Scream 4, I’d probably feel differently. As things stand, however, I don’t really see much point in continuing. This wasn’t a reinventing or reinvigorating of the franchise. It was instead an exercise in reminding its audience of how amazing the original movie was…and how each subsequent iteration fails that much more to even come close to that original greatness. I think perhaps the best bit of advice might have also been one of the better lines from what was, in the end, a rather disappointing script. It came from Sidney herself (but do forgive me, I must paraphrase): “One thing to remember when doing a reboot: Don’t fuck with the original.”

Even better? Don’t constantly bring up the original. You’re just going to remind people how unlike the original your latest sequel really is.

I will say this, however: I did enjoy the poster art. Clever, concise, and simple…even if I do find the use of the “4” as the “A” to be a little too cutesy and l33t for its own good.

Fascinatingly Funny

I recently wrote a Flashback Friday on The Carol Burnett Show, and if you’re at all surprised that I’m a Trek Geek Supreme, then you haven’t been visiting here very long at all, have you?

So, imagine my delight and surprise when I stumbled upon the following photo in TrekCore.com’s Rare Photos section. A combination of Carol Burnett and Star Trek? Wha?

What is this photo documenting? Was there a Carol Burnett skit that featured Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock? Was he just strolling by one day while in makeup and decided to wander onto one of Burnett’s sets? What is the story behind this photo?

No. Actually? I’d rather not know the story. It’s even more delightful as a mystery…

On other news fronts, I’ve been doing some major heavy lifting in several life arenas lately, which has taken away much of my free time. Never fear, however, denizens. I can see the finish line from here. Plus, I’ve got some fun plans for the lair in October. Oh so very fun…

[Loba Post-Post Analysis: I thought a little more about this photo on my drive home this afternoon, and I’ve decided that I bet this was a skit that included Mr. Spock. I realized that Burnett is holding a bundle in her arms that was probably meant to be a baby. I bet the skit had something to do with confusing Mr. Spock with famous baby guru Dr. Spock. Just a theory, but one that satisfies like Snickers, no?]

I Think He’s Made It

This is the voice that gods summon to soothe their weary hearts.

Remember when I wrote this, denizens? No? I wrote it not very long ago in reference to the wonderful, talented Mr. Craig Bevan.

I still feel this way about his voice, perhaps even more so now that I am the proud owner of Craig’s debut album, I Think We’ve Made It.

Yes, the time has come, denizens. You know that Loba would never give her support to anyone or anything here at the lair unless I strongly believed in what I was writing. False promises are not how I roll.

I very much believe in Craig…and I don’t say that simply because he is my friend. I believe in him because he exudes talent in so many ways, but especially when he sings. Take a listen and you’ll know this truth: He loves his music, and that love shines through in every chord and every lyric.

So, here’s the deal: Head over to Craig’s site and get the free download that he’s offering there. And when you fall as in love with his voice and music as I have, you can go ahead and buy your own copy straight from his site. You can also follow the Amazon link I have up at the top of this post or you can buy it via iTunes. Whatever way you prefer, I simply hope you buy it. You won’t regret it, and you’ll be supporting a wonderful musician and a really groovy guy.

Second step of Loba’s Grand Bevan Plan? Tell your friends, just like I’m telling you. Send this post to them to read. Tweet them. Retweet them. Write about Craig on your Facebook page (or your MySpace page, if that’s how you still roll). Whatever way you choose, I hope you’ll join me in getting word out about Craig and his amazing debut.

Country Music is So…Gay?

I’ve been keeping a secret from you, denizens, but now it’s time I come out.

I used to be a major country music fan.

I know, I know. That statement just sparks WTFery, right? I am the one, after all, who often reminisces quite fondly about my metal hair days and I even recently expressed my still-bright love for old school rap and go-go. But there was a period of time in my life when I traded in my metal cred and my go-go bounce for the love of a little slide guitar and fiddle.

How did this happen? Honestly, I’m not really sure. I know it involved patient but persistent prodding from a very good friend whose veins ran hot for country. It was her ultimate goal, I think, to convert as many of her friends as possible. And, for a brief moment in time, she succeeded in convincing me that country music was worth my time.

Then, however, came the Bush administration and all the über-jingoistic insanity that went with it. And there went my love for country. Music, that is (don’t think I don’t know what you jingo dingoes say about my traitorous liberal bleeding heart commie kind being America haters).

Here, in fact, is the original blog post I made on September 9, 2006, to ring the death knell for my country music love:

It’s been over for a while now. We were just going through the motions because…well, we’d been together for more than 10 years and we were comfortable together, even in our mutual unhappiness. We had changed so much, especially in the past few tumultuous years, that there really was no more common ground on which we could agree. So we met for one more time last night. It seemed at times to be as great as it had been when we first met. But there was the taint of change still there, still reminding me that it will never be truly that great again. At the end of the evening, we parted ways, perhaps not for good but at least for a while.

And so comes to an end my love affair with country music. It couldn’t have been a better ending though – third row seats for Terri Clark. In the words of Wayne Campbell, she wails. I’ve always loved her voice and her lyrics as well as how, throughout her career, she has remained different among the bevy of Nashville Barbies. It was a strength that added to her allure. I think right now though, even she is relenting to the deluge of jingoism roiling through the country camp. Though she’s not draping herself in red, white, and blue, she has definitely undergone a shift that has dimmed her uniqueness just enough to be noticeable by long-time fans.

I will continue to listen to Terri Clark’s CDs, as I will continue to listen to the country CDs that I have purchased over the years. It’s a small collection, to be sure, but truly representative of why I loved country music in the first place. I was drawn to it for its simplicity, its honesty, its honky tonk chords and whiskey-soaked vocals. Now, however, there has been a pervasive attitude shift, and the simplicity has been replaced by simple-mindedness. And that’s my stop.

I think what sealed the fate of my love affair was last night, staring at the no-neck beer keg two rows in front of me who was wearing a T-Shirt that posed the following philosophical question: “What do deer and women have in common?” From the drawing of a mounted deer head with large antlers next to a buxom blonde wearing a camouflage bikini, I figured the answer would have to include the word “rack.” But no, it wasn’t even that clever. He leaned forward and I saw the answer: “The hornier the better.”

At that moment, I understood: These were not my people and I was not their people. I don’t want to listen to the music of a people who so blatantly debase women. This included the no-neck beer keg two seats down from Mr. Buck-and-Fuck, who constantly yelled out lewd comments to Terri Clark whenever she would engage the audience in friendly stage banter. Interestingly, he never made a peep when the male opening act talked to the audience. Disturbingly, his wife never made a peep when he was harassing Terri Clark. She and others around him simply laughed at his ribald shouts encouraging the singer to strip on stage. Had I paid for a striptease accompanied by the blathering of a bellicose redneck, perhaps I would have been more inclined to be amused as well.

I’m not blind. I know that country music is a genre geared toward people with a completely different mindset from mine. For more than 10 years I was an East Coast Yankee in the Confederacy’s Court. It wasn’t until last night that I truly felt like an outsider. I guess our differences are now just too deep a chasm at this point. Does that make me a fairweather friend? I guess it does. So be it.

So Terri Clark sang the swan song of my love affair. I couldn’t have asked for a better farewell.

I keep trying to imagine what “Mr. Buck-and-Fuck” from the above blog post is probably saying right now about Chely Wright. Not one thing I’m imagining is kind.

A lot of people don’t know who Wright is, so a brief Loba rundown. She debuted on the country scene back in the mid-90s, won some awards, had some big hits (hits, you pervs…hits) like “Shut Up and Drive,” “Single White Female,” and “Jezebel.” Though never hitting the dizzying heights of fellow country songstresses like Martina McBride, Faith Hill, or Shania Twain, she had a solid career and a solid following. Toward the end of my waning interest in the genre, I remember that she was also climbing onto the “Love This Country or We’ll Burn You Alive” patriotism bandwagon (led, of course, by Mr. “Boot to the Ass” himself, Toby Keith) that I think many country artists felt they needed to ride in order to survive in the genre, with some song about a “Support Our Troops” bumper sticker on her SUV.

[Yeah, is it any wonder I stopped listening to country music? Like any true traitorous liberal, overt expressions of patriotism that involve the acronym “SUV” make my soul frown. What can I say? In many ways, I’m still blue through and through.]

Because of my distinct disdain for Bush-era country music, I really had no idea that Wright had fallen off the radar in recent years. She came out with a few more CDs, but never really hit the levels of popularity that she had in the 90s. Then, poof, she disappeared completely for several years. During this period of solitude, she reached a point in which, tired of praying and wrangling and hiding, she stuck a 9mm in her mouth and nearly ended it all.

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The thought of no more Chely Wright in this world also makes my soul frown, for distinctly different reasons. Whatever stopped her from pulling that trigger, I’m so glad she made it through that darkness.

Now, I’ve read some comments from people who think that Wright has made this announcement about her sexuality as a means of re-igniting her career and kicking up promotion for her new CD and her book. In watching the above clip, I can see a certain truth in that. Maybe it’s because I’ve written speeches and advertising materials before, but I can immediately detect the “pull quotes” from her comments, those little lines that she’s probably going to repeat so many times over the next several weeks that she’ll be saying them in her sleep. Regardless of anything else, Wright is an entertainer, and just like all others in the entertainment industry, she must market herself to audiences as part of her chosen career. This, like everything else, is another part of her pursuit of her celebrity. All part of the business…

I also see a woman who nearly ended it all because of what she was hiding from the world, and still seems quite fragile and uncertain as she struggles with what this will do to her place in a genre that, in her own words, is composed of conservative mindsets that are not readily known for kickin’ it rainbow-style at the annual gay pride parades. True, kd lang has been out for years, but she’s also been outside the country realm for years as well. Although lang won a Grammy for her country debut, she was never accepted by the Nashville elite and soon walked away from the mainstream genre completely.

And then there is the fact that even something as supposedly important to country music fans as enjoying those almighty American freedoms can get you in serious trouble. Isn’t that right, Natalie, Emily, and Martie? The Dixie Chicks know all too well how quickly country fans will turn on you. I still remember all the newsreels showing former fans burning their Dixie Chicks merchandise and running over their CDs with tractors. Why? Because Natalie Maines dared to speak her mind. And she and her bandmates paid for it, with radio stations refusing to play their music (I suspect some still would rather drink roadkill-infused moonshine than play a Dixie Chicks song) and people aiming death threats toward them and their families. All for Maines’s simple sin of exercising her right to free speech, which apparently many country fans believe is only extended to those who toe the same lines they do.

So, yeah. This is not the announcement you make when you’re trying to get country fans to buy your stuff. This is the kind of announcement you make when you want country fans to fire up the bonfires and the tractors and make death threats toward you and your family.

But you know what? I hope that country music fans prove me completely wrong, show me that things do change. However, I can’t really say that I’m holding my breath. I even tried to check out what country fans have been saying about Wright, but what I’ve found instead is a none-too-surprising silence coming from many of the big country representatives. County Music Television has nothing on Wright’s announcement on their Web site. Neither does the Grand Ole Opry (although they’ve got bigger problems right now, with Nashville floodwaters leaking into their home).

I was even shocked to see that our local country station, WMZQ, has fuck-all about Wright on their Web site. You’d think being located in the evil liberal empire of the D.C. area would have rubbed off even slightly onto this station. Of course, they are owned by blatantly conservative Clear Channel Communications, so there you go.

Of all the country sites I visited, the only one I found that mentions Wright’s announcement was Great American Country, with this piece on their blog.

Small step, to be sure. But even small steps get you where you need to go in time.

I also hope that country musicians surprise me, too, and embrace Wright rather than ostracize her. I know there are those within the country ranks who have it in them to do so: The Dixie Chicks, Dolly Parton, and Garth Brooks immediately come to mind. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I really hope for the best for Wright, regardless of her reasons for her announcement. The best and maybe a duet with Terri Clark. “Dirty Girl” maybe?

X-Men 4: The Doc Phoenix

A Star Trek/X-Men crossover? Wouldn’t that be the most awesome thing ever?

Actually, no it wouldn’t be. Okay, sadly, I own this book. It’s sitting on my bookshelf right now. Mocking me with its blatant mediocrity. I have nerd shame about very little, but this book sends nerd shivers through my spine. And not the good kind.

Anyway, I whipped this up after random afternoon geek-dreaming in which I tried to figure out a way of fixing the X-Men movie franchise while crossing it over and tying it in with the aftermath of the TNG episode “The Host.” You know, the episode that introduced us to the Trill…and also introduced us to the uncomfortable realization that Beverly and Riker did the nasty, Trek-style (but only after Bev made sure Deanna was down with that).

No one checked with Professor Xavier…er, Captain Picard, though. I suspect he might have been a bit miffed, don’t you?

Like I said…silly geek-dreaming. Of course, this actually sounds better than that shit bog of a third X-Men movie that they actually made.