Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pop Music: The Littlest Mormon and more.

So Fosco is doing this pop music thing this week (with only mild complaints from his commenters). It just so happens that the last two or three weeks have been a period of much pop music consumption for Fosco--one of those semi-annual periods where he decides to get back in touch with his inner brainwashed-music-consumer.

And what better way to get reacquainted with pop music than the American Idol double whammy? That's CDs by AI winner David Cook and runner-up David Archuleta, released within a week of each other in mid-November.

Now, Fosco has never watched much AI (that's really more the department of his boyfriend Oz). However, these two guys are pretty blockbuster and it would be silly not to give them a listen.

Let's start with David Cook. For those of you who never watched AI, he's the "rocker." You can tell because he has facial hair. His eponymous debut CD has lots of rockin' guitars and some pretty rockin' song titles (like "Bar-ba-sol"--that's rockin'). As music goes, it's pretty inoffensive. Actually, it's all strangely familiar, as every one of the songs mimics a previously released song by another band. When Fosco played his favorite track ("I Did It for You") for Oz, Oz noted that he liked the song better when it was called "Stop and Stare" and it was performed by One Republic. That pretty much illustrates the problem with David Cook. He's a copy--a pretty decent copy, but still a copy. He sings like he's auditioning to lead a Nickelback cover band and he looks like a pre-highlights Dominic Monaghan.

Fosco is much more interested in David Archuleta, the Littlest Mormon. Seriously, that boy is like 4'5". And he's just so darling. Like a little (gay, yet repressed) elf.

I wish I could say that David A.'s CD is the next big thing, but it's not. It's better than David C.'s disc and has a few catchy songs, but that's about it. The first single is infectious (trust Fosco and his insomnia) and the video raises all kinds of interesting questions about which boy David wants to go swimming with. But even so, the song isn't the right setting for the strength of his voice.

One of the most interesting questions about this CD is how Wee David manages his sexual persona. After all, he has a legion of tween fans (called Arch Angels) who are just starting to feel tingly in certain places. And I mean look at that kid: has there ever been a pop music star who is less sexualized (including Jordy)?

It turns out that David's awkward sexuality is what makes so much of his CD fun to listen to. Consider these lyrics from the song "Touch My Hand":

Saw you from a distance
Saw you from the stage
Something about the look in your eyes
Something about your beautiful face

In a sea of people
There is only you
I never knew what the song was about
But suddenly now I do

Try to reach out to you, touch my hand
Reach out as far as you can
Only me, only you, and the band

Up until that last line, it's just a typical song about a connection between singing David and the adoring tween fan in the crowd. But then what happens? Suddenly, things get creepy. Only me, only you, and the band. Why is band involved here? Is he proposing what I think he's proposing? Or is this some kind of weird reverse plural marriage?

"Admit you're wrong. Then we can talk."

Fosco was always a little suspicious of the previous Pope's zeal for "interreligious dialogue." Not that "interreligious dialogue" is a bad thing--Fosco heartily supports it, as long as it doesn't mean Catholics and Mormons teaming up to beat down the gays. Reasonable religious dialogue might be nice, actually. Heck, it could stop some killing. It's just that Fosco never believed that any "dialogue" is possible with a religion (like Catholicism) that axiomatically believes that every other faith is incorrect.

Of course, this was the problem that puzzled all the commentators when old Pope Droopy II used to hold all those Interfaith Clambakes. After all, how can the Pope talk to non-Christians when it is the Church's infallible teaching that Jesus alone leads to salvation and that other religions are "objectively speaking [...] in a gravely deficient situation" (emphasis in original).

Can you imagine the conversation?

[CATHOLIC CHURCH]: Do you believe in Jesus?
[ISLAM]: We are actually more interested in a God we call Allah.
[CATHOLIC CHURCH]: That is gravely deficient. Would you like a cannoli?

How's that for dialogue?

Well, as Pope Buckaroo XVI (pictured above) continues his sprightly little dance on the grave of Vatican II, it seems the idea of Catholic participation in "interreligious dialogue" has finally been admitted as a sham.

According to an article in the NYTimes, the Pope has written a letter to an author of a book on Christianity's salvific uniqueness, a letter in which

the pope said the book “explained with great clarity” that “an interreligious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible.” In theological terms, added the pope, “a true dialogue is not possible without putting one’s faith in parentheses.”
I'm not sure the Pope needed to resort to tricky "theological terms" such as "in parentheses" to make his point here. The ground of any "dialogue" is the essential possibility that one's position may change when one listens to what the other person has to say. If you rule out that possibility from the start, there is no dialogue (rather, it's a double monologue or something--at any rate, it sounds exactly like Fosco's conversations with his father...).

In related news, Fosco would like a cannoli.

Tax law made interesting

Ooooh, the Mormons are in trouble...

According to the SFChronicle, the State of California will be investigating the Mormon Church as to "whether [it] accurately described its role in a campaign to ban gay marriage in the state."

Hmmm... Fosco can't help but wonder if this is the first step in revoking the Mormon Church's tax exempt status. As you may (not) know, churches (and other tax-exempt organizations) are not allowed to attempt to influence legislation in a substantial way. Doing so would endanger that organization's tax-exempt status. Some thoughtful observers think the Mormons crossed the line on this one. Fosco hopes this is the case. Think about what all that delicious Mormon money could do to offset California's major budget shortfall.

We're coming for your money, Mormons!

Monday, November 24, 2008

In which Democracy breaks down!

It has now been almost ten days (and six "business" days) since Fosco sent an email to his Democratic US senators, asking them to kick the traitorous Joe Lieberman to the curb.

Despite Fosco's letter, the Senate Democratic Caucus has chosen to forgive Lieberman, leaving the matter of his anti-Obama criticism for him to settle with his Maker (from appearances, that would be Jim Henson's Creature Shop).

Even so, Fosco has yet to receive any kind of response or acknowledgment from his Senatrices Feinstein (pictured below as a scary monster) and Boxer (pictured above with filing system for constituent mail). Now Fosco understands why a personal letter might be too much to ask from either office; but a brief form email? When Fosco lived in other states, his every letter or email to his US Senators was promptly replied to. Now I know that California is bigger than any other state, but it has been ten days.

You see, it's not that Fosco really wants to hear either Senatrix's slippery excuses for letting "Melty Joe" stick around. It's just that, as Fosco's wise African-American grandfather used to say, "when your senator stops responding to your letters, that's when you have to start questioning your existence." Wise words, Grampa Red, wise words.

So what is Fosco to do if his elected representatives won't pay attention to him? Well, his only choice is to print unflattering pictures of them both once a week until he receives a response. And trust me, Senator Boxer, you don't want that.

Hot, flat, and dickish

Fosco always suspected that self-involved neoliberal know-it-all Thomas Friedman was kind of a dick. Now we have proof! From his most recent NYTimes column:

I go into restaurants these days, look around at the tables often still crowded with young people, and I have this urge to go from table to table and say: “You don’t know me, but I have to tell you that you shouldn’t be here. You should be saving your money. You should be home eating tuna fish. This financial crisis is so far from over. We are just at the end of the beginning. Please, wrap up that steak in a doggy bag and go home.”
Yeah right, like Thomas Friedman would ever say "you don't know me" to anyone. More likely he starts off with "you may remember me from such awards as the Pulitzer Prize and such best-selling books as Globalization Orgasm!."

Of course, Friedman can still eat at restaurants--he's got all that money from mustache rides.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Are we human? Or are we really bad lyricists?

Fosco has been listening to the new Killers CD this weekend (yes, it's not quite released yet, but Fosco gots connections). At this point, he is pretty sure that it's annoying (and how!). Saxophone! Steel drum! African chant! We are in territory far more pretentious than the fun and catchy "Mr Brightside," that's for sure.

There is one song from the new disc that is pretty powerful, though--that's the one you've probably already heard on the radio (if you still listen to the radio): "Human." You can see the video here.

The problem, as you have no doubt noticed after the first time you heard the song, is the lyrics:

Are we human?
Or are we dancer?
My sign is vital.
My hands are cold.


The Killer lyricist Brandon Flowers has taken a lot of heat for the whole "human or dancer" construction. In the way of explanation, Flowers has credited the inspiration for this line to (absolutely overrated and totally pointless) journalist Hunter S. Thompson who (for no good reason, but what else is new?) disparaged America for becoming a nation of dancers. (Can we stop taking Thompson seriously now? Please?)

Of course, the grammatical asymmetry in the question (in which dancer becomes a plural category) is the invention of Flowers himself. Not that he's defensive about it:

"I guess it bothers people that it's not grammatically correct, but I think I'm allowed to do whatever I want"

However, there is that whole part about how Flowers expects to be taken seriously for writing lyrics like this. In the same interview, Flowers explains that the CD is intended to be a "cross between Johnny Cash and the Pet Shop Boys." The problem with "Human" is that it is all Pet Shop Boys (who were not known for their lyrics).

And it's not just that terrible human v. dancer line either. What about the "my sign is vital" clunker? Is that supposed to be a "play" on "vital signs"? And if it is, doesn't that actually make it worse? Were these lyrics written by a random sentence generator?

Of course, it's a damn catchy song, but jeez... It's time for someone to tell the Killers that we don't need them to save us. They need to accept that their calling is to write vapid technopop--and that's enough.