Saturday, February 6, 2010
Last Sunday, P!nk performed at the 2010 Grammy Awards, and for those of you who were lucky enough to see this performance, you knew as she was singing that you were witnessing a moment. It actually doesn't happen all that often. But every once in a while a performer experiences this. A moment when their talent is showcased before a global audience, and they transfix an audience and knock it out of the park. P!nk's performance of her song, "Glitter In The Air" at the 2010 Grammy's was just such a moment. The music, her voice, her look, and presentation -- which was intimate, sophisticated, and somehow both restrained and a spectacle all at the same time -- all came together in this moment.
Accompanied by piano and guitar, P!nk walks slowly down stage alone, draped in elegant white hooded silk, singing a contemplative ballad that showcases the rich beauty of her scotch and honey voice. She proceeds off the stage and into the aisle mid way through the audience. Then in a simple move sheds the silk robe revealing a spare, shimmering body suit, and climbs a platform to sit in a white swing if silk fabric which lifts her into the air spinning slowly. By the song's end she has been dipped into a pool of water, is lifted high over the audience spinning gracefully like a wind chime, dripping glittering water over the rapt crowd, and continuing to sing this heartfelt ballad live, all the while. At the songs conclusion she is returned softly, like an angel, the the stage. And this jaded audience of music industry professionals who have seen it all rises to their feet with looks of stunned, smiles of amazement.
Even sitting in my apartment watching this on TV, I could feel the collective "Wow" occurring across the nation from anyone who witnessed this performance.
For those who mainly knew P!nk as the husky-voiced, tough girl, rocker chick who shouted girl power anthems, she revealed a new vulnerability and tenderness, as well as amazing vocal chops, never mind the amazing acrobatics. For those of us who were already fans, and knew this incredibly talented singer and performer always had many layers, it was simply wonderful to know that millions of people were now in on our secret.
Lady Gaga had just opened the show with a rousing mash-up of "Speechless" and "Your Song" with Elton John. Beyonce had just torn up the stage with a cadre of black-clad storm trooper/back-up dancers singing a mash-up of "If I Were A Boy" and Alanis Morrisette's "You Oughta Know." How the hell could any performer top these two performances. Yet the artistry of P!nk's refined, sumptuous and soaring (literally) ballad stole the show (in my book anyway).
I wasn't the only one who felt this way. Oprah Winfrey was so moved by the performance that she had P!nk on her show a few days later to talk about this "moment." As Winfrey said, sometimes you see a talented individual deliver such a powerful performance that it inspires you yourself to try to be a better person. And I completely recognized this feeling. After watching P!nk, I remember thinking, how does someone get that good? How does someone deliver on so many levels in front of such a daunting audience so flawlessly? And what do I need to do to raise my own level of performance in what I do in my own life?
And just to show that her Grammy performance was no fluke, P!nk performed live on the Oprah Winfrey show singing another gorgeous ballad, "I Don't Believe You" from her album "Funhouse." This time playing guitar surrounded by candles. And again, delivers another unbelievable performance.
And if you know the back story of P!nk's tumultuous romance, marriage, break-up and reuniting with motocross/motorcycle racer Carey Hart, which informs many of the songs on her album Funhouse, the emotional resonance of this moment only deepens. So yeah, I'm a goner for Alecia Moore. Consider me officially obsessed.
And color me P!nk.
Friday, December 25, 2009
You know, those little people who work for Old St. Nick. I've never actually seen an Elf in person, mind you. Most of my knowledge is second hand from those quaint Rankin-Bass Christmas specials made in the 60's and early 70's. Granted my source material is somewhat tainted. Most of those shows no longer air because they were later deemed politically incorrect. If you don't know what I mean, just YouTube the stop action animation version of "The Little Drummer Boy." It didn't exactly cast our Arab brethren in a favorable light. And that pissed off Casey Kasem, who's Lebanese. For someone who spent most of his career giving voice to Shaggy on the Scooby Doo cartoons and dedicating treacly Journey power ballads on behalf of lovelorn fourteen-year-olds on The American Top 40, Kasem is well connected in Tinseltown. And that's why you haven't seen "The Little Drummer Boy" on TV for the past two and a half decades.
But let's get back to Elves. I've always wondered what Elves did the other ten months of the year. Cause in November and December, when all the Christmas specials air, they were always shown working. Let's face it, Santa runs a company town. He has a major manufacturing operation on his hands. He needs cheap labor. He gets Elves. And Santa works them non-stop. Remember the Elves feeding packages hand-to-hand to fill Santa's sleigh, like a sand bag brigade in a sleepy, rain-soaked hamlet on the Mississippi? The work is constant; regimented; an assemply line -- kinda like a GM plant, only without the Union. Santa needs those Elves too. I don't remember ever seeing Santa actually make a toy in any of those shows. It's the Elves. Santa's just a glorified FEDEX guy with food issues. But somehow he's harnessed the artistry and industriousness of the entire Elf community.
Santa calls the shots. At the North Pole, if you're born an Elf...you work for Santa. I mean, where else are they gonna work? I know its tough to swallow, but even I don't think Starbucks has yet opened their North Pole franchise. Even the mere suggestion of pursuing alternative employment marks you as an outcast. Rudolph's pal Hermy shows some entrepreneurial spirit...wants to hawk dental floss to other Elves...and whammo -- he's on the first ice shelf to the land of misfit toys (By the way, I don't know about you, but I always thought the idea of a squirt gun that shoots grape jelly was pretty cool).
Who am I kidding? We all know what the Elves are doing the other ten months of the year. They are still working for Santa. It's twenty-four/seven, baby. What was I thinking. You ever run into an Elf on vacation? Ever see an Elf skiing in Vail, digging their nubby toes into the sand in Boca, or placing twenty on red at the Bellagio? No! Cause Elves don't get vacations.
I'm not even convinced Elves are getting paid at all! Think about it. The only clothing you ever see an Elf wear is the Elf uniform. And they all wear basically the same uniform. You think they buy that stuff a Forever 21 or H&M? Gap for Elves? Of course not. I guarantee you even Elves wouldn't dress like that unless they were forced to. Those goofy hats which only accentuate their pointy ears; those humiliating curly-toed shoes which only accentuate their pointy ears; the unsettling combinations of red and green which -- well, you get my drift. The only people with more embarrassing uniforms are these poor Food Court schleps at Hot Dog On A Stick.
And where do Elves live? I don't recall seeing a little Elf town anywhere near Santa's estate. There probably tucked away in some Elf barrio in South Central North Pole, with little Santa-run liquor stores on every corner foisting mulled wine forty-ouncers on the Elf populace. Or more likely they live somewhere in the depths of Santa's Manor crammed forty to a room in row after row of little bunks.
And don't throw the Keebler Elves in my face. They no more counter, nor make more palatable, the truth of Elf history than Aunt Jemima or Uncle Ben did for another human tragedy.
So let's review. Elves aren't allowed to work outside of Santa's workshop. They have nothing to wear but Santa's degrading felt frocks. And they are forced to live on Santa's property. They weren't employed so much as enslaved.
There, I said it. Santa's a slave owner.
It's not clear where Elves originated. Perhaps Santa hired some Norse thugs to pillage a Celtic enclave, capture a band of leprechauns and haul them to the North by ship. Or maybe Elves are really an indigenous Eskimo people who welcomed the white man "Santa" to their community only to have their trust betrayed, their lands annexed, and their Zhou Zhou and Webkin building skills exploited. Promised a better future and a few nips of schnapps, they now walk around with bells on their shoes so Santa can keep track of them..
I know what you're thinking, "But they seem so happy on the Christmas shows." Look behind the smiles. Sure, they are usually shown singing cheerfully as they labor in Santa's workshop. But it's almost a manic cheerfulness these Elves display, isn't it? All singing the same sugary tune in unison through gritted teeth. Their waxy smiles unnatural and forced. You sense that to exhibit an emotion even two degrees south of "Jolly" would bring down Santa's cold, hard wrath.
Yes, Santa wants us to believe they're happy Elves. They're happy to be working sixteen hour shifts building toys for the entire world (another myth actually, since Santa's delivery routes are heavily skewed to Anglo-European communities). Meanwhile Santa's parked in a Barcalounger watching the Weather Channel and sucking down hot toddy's, sweet potatoes and slices of glazed ham. Those happy, entertaining little Elves. Why they're the Step 'N Fetchit of the Arctic Circle.
Well I bet Elves are angry. I bet Elves carry the rage of generations. You can see it emerging in the toys they make. These days every other toy is a facsimile of a weapon, or a shoot-em up game about conquering an evil overlord (guess who-ooo?). They are fueling their rage into the toy designs and Santa doesn't even see it. He's too busy brushing pumpkin pie crumbs out of his beard, trying to figure out how the little snow-kickers turned a block of wood into Jenga.
It won't be long before the uprising. It'll just take one Elf to patiently dig a candy cane out of Mrs. Claus' gingerbread house, suck on it til it's as sharp as a shiv and unleash a thousand years of Elf fury.
We can abide Elfpartied no longer. I'm not gonna play Snow City. I call on you to boycott gift giving. Do not proffer you love and generosity to others through the blood, sweat, and tears of Elves. Walk your Children past storefront Santa's. Call for sanctions. Write your Senators. Write Santa himself demanding that Elves be freed. Take action before Elves are forced to take action themselves.
And this Christmas, to mark the plight of Elves, I ask you to celebrate your own freedom. Freedom of assembly. Freedom of religion. Freedom of movement. Freedom of expression. Even the freedom to write a holiday greeting that some may find patently offensive.
For in this season, what greater gift is there than freedom.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
The irony of the 2008 election is that while America has elected its first African American President signaling a major step forward towards what many refer to as a "post-racial" era, if you are Gay or Lesbian in America it still feels a little like 1962. Americans in three states passed ballot measures which amended state constitutions to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. This eliminated the right for same sex couples to marry in those states, and potentially overturns the legitimacy of existing marriages between same sex couples which occurred in California between June and November of this year. Through Proposition 8 in California, Proposition 2 in Florida, and Proposition 102 in Arizona, citizens of these states are in point of fact writing discrimination into their state constitutions so that one group of people are denied equal protection under the law.
Separate but Not Equal
Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, legislation of this nature was referred to as Jim Crow. Jim Crow refers to the racial caste system which operated primarily, but not exclusively in southern states, between 1877 and the mid-1960s. Under Jim Crow, African Americans were relegated to second class citizens. Jim Crow legitimized anti-Black racism. Many Christian ministers and theologians taught that Whites were the Chosen people, Blacks were cursed to be servants, and God supported racial segregation. Jim Crow supporters stated, among other things, that sexual relations between Blacks and Whites would produce a mongrel race which would destroy America.
Americans who support bans on same sex marriage say that there is no comparison between the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the current debate. But it is important to refer back to the prior debate because the arguments being made by the proponents of the aforementioned amendments are remarkably similar. The legislated segregation prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 operated under the premise that black Americans could be separate but equal. But these laws relegated them to second class status in society with limited rights. In the current debate, those who support banning same sex marriage will often refer to Civil Unions as the separate but equal path available to Gays and Lesbians, suggesting that civil unions allow same sex couples to all the rights of marriage, without redefining the term -- which belongs exclusively to the union of one man and one woman. But there are key differences.
Legally, marriage is a means of establishing kinship outside of bloodline. This concept of kinship permeates society, and is embedded in Western common law as well as the laws of every nation (including more than 1,000 federal laws in the United States). Kinship conveys rights and privileges, as well as duties and even restrictions which are recognized nationally, even globally. Civil Unions provide state level protections often not recognized outside of the state, and do not offer federal protections provided to married couples. Additionally, since Civil Unions are a relatively new concept, they do not instruct business, the courts or other agencies how to apply kinship-related law to these arrangements, so these relationships inherently take on a second class status relative to legal marriages providing unequal protections.
In addition to the central problem that protections provided by civil union are not recognized from state to state, a few key differences between marriage and civil unions include:
- A United States citizen who is married can sponsor his or her non-American spouse for immigration into this country. Those with Civil Unions have no such privilege.
- Civil Unions are not recognized by the federal government, so couples would not be able to file joint-tax returns or be eligible for tax breaks or protections the government affords to married couples.
- The General Accounting Office in 1997 released a list of 1,049 benefits and protections available to heterosexual married couples. These benefits range from federal benefits, such as survivor benefits through Social Security, sick leave to care for ailing partner, tax breaks, veterans benefits and insurance breaks. They also include things like family discounts, obtaining family insurance through your employer, visiting your spouse in the hospital and making medical decisions if your partner is unable to. Civil Unions protect some of these rights, but not all of them.
The Bill of Rights, by its nature, was designed to clearly define the inalienable rights of the citizens of the United States; to prevent oppression and the violation of civil rights by the government. To amend state constitutions to restrict the rights of a class of people seems counter-intuitive to the intention of these documents and to the principles under which our nation was founded.
An Argument of Semantics
When you ask most people, they will tell you (if occasionally somewhat begrudgingly) that they have nothing against Gays and Lesbians, and that they support providing Gays and Lesbians the same rights proffered by marriage. They just don't want the term "marriage" used for these legal or ceremonial arrangements, often because in there mind, marriage throughout history has been defined as between a man and a woman. And they want to protect the sanctity of marriage. This argument inevitably takes on a religious tenor, sourced from biblical scripture and tied to the unique ability for a man and a woman to procreate. Because marriage is both a religious sacrament and a legal status, its important to separate these two issues when it comes to establishing the law. And the separation of Church and State should protect U.S. citizens from having any religious doctrine impede their rights as citizens.
Additionally, if the debate at its core comes down to the use of a word, then there is no debate at all. Unfortunately because the word marriage, as previously mentioned, is so embedded into secular law, it's almost impossible to separate the term from the rights associated with it. So to attempt to create a new term (i.e. Civil Unions) to impart those same rights to same-sex couples is illogical and impractical. The denial of the use of the term marriage for Gays and Lesbians is by its nature a denial of the legal rights imparted with that term.
Throughout history, marriage has represented an act of economics as much as, and perhaps more so, an act of love. And while it has also been recognized as a religious sacrament, it has also always carried legal rights independent of religion. The definition of marriage has evolved over the ages and adapted to societal changes. If we believe that all our citizens are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, then how can we deny this right to same sex couples who pursue the bond of marriage primarily as an expression of love and commitment.
The issue of same sex marriage is just one front on the fight for equal rights for Gays, Lesbians, Bi-sexual and Transgendered citizens. The right to openly serve in the military provides another front on which we sit back and accept the denial of basic rights. And even our most enlightened politicians skirt the issue, seen by most as a political non-starter. But you either believe the GLBT community deserves equal rights and protections or you don't. And to cede any of these rights is to be complicit in the discrimination and prejudice against these members of our citizenry. As with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it will therefore take action from the citizenry, led by those most oppressed, to bring change. And from this election a new, re-energized movement will be born.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Barack Obama has just been elected President of the United States of America.
And the city of New York is cheering. Literally (as Joe Biden would say) you can hear the city cheering out the window.
God Bless America. God Bless Barack Obama.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
The choice I make in this year's election is perhaps the most important vote I will ever cast in my lifetime. At least that's what everyone on TV keeps telling me. So I did make a concerted effort to set some time aside to watch the first two debates. One between John McCain and Barack Obama, and one between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. But as I said, I'm a busy guy. I got a lot going on. And the moderators were asking lots of, uhhh, questions and stuff. There was a lot of, errr, talking. So thank God for CNN. They made it all so much easier for me.
You see, by watching CNN, I didn't even have to think. All I had to do was watch what everyone else was thinking. I mean, yeah, I kinda heard what the candidates were talking about (while I was ordering take-out, and checking email) and I know one guy wants to "End the War responsibly" and the other guys wants to "Win the War in Iraq -- or on terror"...which is it again? Anyway, there's that War stuff, and apparently the Economy which has been sucking eggs for pretty much all of this year, just got way worse and has now swallowed the whole chicken. I think that makes this economy a real cocksucker (which in this economical metaphor is very bad, in case you were wondering). And both candidates think we need to "stop the greed" and "fix Wall Street," and stuff. And both plan to cut taxes, or raise them, well okay maybe both. And they want to reign in that spending...except neither party can state what they would stop spending on (except for that nice Biden, fellow, who said that one place to start would be by stopping the War in Iraq...but not on terror, I think).
So what to make of all this? Well, with CNN on my 32 inch Sharp Aquos Flat Screen in HD, I don't have to navigate who said what, or who was actually stating facts. See they have a score card right there on either side of the screen. And really smart and objective people who are probably much smarter than me score the debate for me...as its happening. And just in case I don't trust those elite media types with their fancy degrees and expensive suits, a whole bunch of common folk, like me, who can barely articulate why they consider themselves an Undecided voter, are also twisting a little dial to indicate whether they like what someone is saying or not. And right there on the bottom of the screen, little colorful lines swing up or down during the debate. Up means Good. Down means Bad. It's like they are playing "Hot or Not" during the debate. So if it's too hard to add up all the little score cards on either side of the screen, I can just look at the bottom of the screen to see what the common folk are thinking. Folks just like me. Oh, Sarah is talking, and the lines are going up...something about energy. Up is Good. Sarah is Good.
I don't have to think at all. I don't even have to listen, really. I can just stare glassy eyed at the screen and watch numbers tick away in the pretty blue and red boxes, and follow the colorful lines swooping up and down at the bottom of the screen. The Green line means...umm...well I don't know what the green line means, but the yellow line means...ahem...I'm not sure about that one either, but they both kinda moved in the same direction the whole time anyway.
And even better, after all is said and done, I can just add up the scores and find out who won. But if that's too much work, CNN will tell me who won. All ten of those objective journalists will tell me who won. So I don't have to worry my pretty little head. It's kinda funny, though, but obviously those journalists are really busy too, because it seems they are barely paying attention to the debate themselves. They're all checking their emails and blackberries too -- right on TV. Maybe all those smart media elite types just watch the squiggly lines running across the bottom of the screen like I do. See, they are very busy people. They don't have time to think either.
The Better Left Unsaid "Stream-of-Consciousness" Index
CNN...Debates...Chicken...Sharp Aquos...Hot or Not...Media Elite