Tuesday, September 30, 2008


We unplug things all the time; toasters, coffee makers, and, in my house, the Queen of All Electronic Devices, the hairdryer. We think nothing of it.

This afternoon, shortly after 3:00, my family and I will make the decision to unplug my father from a machine that currently helps him breathe. My father suffered a massive heart attack Saturday morning. Since then he has been kept alive on a ventilator. He was without oxygen for several minutes before the squad arrived, and neurological tests show no brain activity. There is a shell of a body there, but the person he was is gone, and there is no hope of getting him back.

And so we will unplug him about 3:00. He will die within a few minutes. I've thought about it, prayed about it, and believe that this is the humane thing to do. But cognitive knowledge and emotional knowledge are sometimes two different things, and so I would ask for your prayers for me and my family.

As it happens, it's my birthday. This will not be one of the happier ones. Please pray for God's mercy on my father, and on us all.

Friday, September 26, 2008


I don't have a crystal ball. I don't know what's happening to America, or what the future may hold. But like a lot of other Americans, I've been thinking and praying a lot. And I've been doing a lot of wondering.

I'm starting with a couple basic assumptions. One can love and serve God and be employed. And when one is employed, one earns money. Money is needed to live. We don't barter in livestock and crops. We barter with money. And money, at least in the western culture that I live in, buys not only food and shelter, but also high-definition television sets and iMacs and the trip to Italy for one's 25th wedding anniversary.

In such a culture, one's relationship with money can become quite complicated. As a Christian I am taught that I should not store up treasure on earth, but that I should store up treasure in heaven. As a Christian, I am also taught that the love of money is the root of all evil, and so fairly routinely I ask myself questions such as, "How can you be more generous with what you have?" and "What can you give away?" because I am aware of how easily I can become ensnared by money and the false security it promises. As a Christian, I am also taught to emulate the industrious ant, who stores up something for the future (apparently not treasure, lest he/she/it should contradict Jesus), and to not emulate the sluggard who gives no thought for tomorrow. And as an American Christian, I also see quite clearly the folly of not preparing for the future, and as part of the Baby Boomer generation that has exemplified the "live for today and don't worry about tomorrow" philosophy more than any other, I see the stupidity of people, now aging, now retiring, who have not prepared for the future and who now have no idea how they're going to continue to live. They've squandered their money, and their hearts just keep on ticking.

How have I resolved that conundrum? I've saved throughout my working life, starting with my first paycheck from my first real job. And I've kept at it, paycheck after paycheck, for almost thirty years. I've invested in the stock market, because when one's retirement savings are tied up in a 401K account, as most working Americans' savings are, that's how one does it. I've lived within my means, purchasing cars and homes that I can afford, and paying off debts immediately whenever possible. I've turned down more lucrative job opportunities because I wasn't willing to trade time for money. And I've given more and more away as my income has increased throughout my career.

My guess is that my story isn't all that different from that of many American Christians. Obviously I've purchased things that I didn't need. I didn't need to go to Italy. But that certainly was a wonderful celebration. And I've watched, sometimes contentedly, sometimes not, as my neighbors bought more stuff, and I've wrestled nearly constantly with the notion of what it means to be a Christian in a land of plenty, and I've tried to surround myself with other Christians who will routinely challenge me on what it means to be a rich Christian who is called to love and serve the poor.

So now it may all come crashing down. I've realized a basic fact. My money in the bank has been a sort of security -- the security that life will continue much as I have known it. Is that a bad thing? I don't think so. I'm fairly sure that I've been able to serve God during my lifetime, and that I would be able to serve God if life had continued much as it had before. And I'll be able to serve God if I'm flat broke, too, with the single caveat that I won't be able to give as much away. But there will be great regrets if the bottom is out of the tub. I'll regret it that I won't be able to pay for my daughters' college educations, educations that I've planned for and saved for. I'll regret it that I won't be able to pay for their weddings, if and when those days occur. I'll look at my life, at 53, and note the health problems that are already there, and wonder how in the hell I am supposed to keep working forever and pay the bills if medical science keeps me alive to the extent that the heart keeps on ticking but the rest of the body doesn't want to comply.

Blessed be the name of the Lord. Truly. That is the ultimate bottom line for me. But I hope you'll permit me some anger and frustration toward the greedy bastards who have gotten us into this mess, and who have proven conclusively that the love of money really is the root of all evil. And I'll hope you'll allow me a bit of grief and sorrow at what may be passing away. What I and many other people may be losing does not seem illusory. It seems real. And blessed be the name of the Lord.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Plea for Help

I wish I could claim it as my own, but I can't. This was forwarded to me from a friend. Source is unknown.


Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 700 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, itwould be most profitable to you. I am working with Mr. Phil Gramm, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transaction is 100% safe. This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance.

My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred. Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commissionfor this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully,

Minister of Treasury Paulson

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Where Is the Prog Love?

It's gotta be the shimmering robes. Once again the Prog wing (Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Genesis, Jethro Tull, and if we're feeling rationally self-interested, Rush) has been snubbed by the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.

Granted, Rick Wakeman (the keyboard player for Yes pictured here) is the poster child for Modern Elfwear, not for the snarling adolescent rebellion for which rock 'n roll is known and loved. And yes, it's hard to imagine Galadriel and the Hellcats. But still ... those bands made a lot of great albums and played a lot of great shows. No, really. And it's high time for a critical reassessment of the music.

Taking nothing away from this year's nominee Iggy Pop, who could bludgeon with the best of them, the Prog wizards made complex, beautiful, and frequently moving music, and they could play their instruments extraordinarily well, a fault for which they were summarily dismissed during the heady days of punk. But maybe we should rethink that. Yes, there were wretched excesses, and if I never hear another Toccata and Fugue on a Theme from The Hobbit again, I will be quite happy. But Fragile? Close to the Edge? Selling England by the Pound? Thick as a Brick? Brain Salad Surgery? I'll take any and all of the above over the Neanderthal leer of "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

But that's just me. I do know this: it's all theater. But somewhere along the way the keepers of the rock 'n roll canon decreed that bodies smeared in blood were cool and bodies covered in shimmering robes were not. Whatever. I'll continue to go my unhip way and champion the wizards.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Indie Roundup -- Querulous Barking Edition

I’m a guy who likes idiosyncratic – some would say bad – singing. Tom Waits and Bob Dylan are my heroes. But even I have my limits. These three indie bands push me to the brink. None of these albums are horrid, parts of them are very good, and all of them have moments of inspired creativity. But oh, those voices.

The Spinto Band – Moonwink

There are problems, but I generally like this album. The Spinto Band features no band members named Spinto, and that’s not the only surprise. Lead singer Nick Krill is a true barker, but at least he’s a carnival barker, and there’s a madcap Talking Heads/Clap Your Hands Say Yeah circus atmosphere that imbues most of these songs. Krill has also mastered the sophisticated, world-weary proto-Glam of Cole Porter, and opening track “Later On” sounds like what Cole might have written if he had lived 75 years later and had worked way, way off Broadway.

Vocal style: David Byrne meets chihuahua.

Johnny Foreigner – Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light

Featuring not one but two barkers, a boy and a girl, who alternate yips and sometimes howl in tandem. She’s off key. He squawks in a wounded parrot kind of way and doesn’t know what a key is. But the guitars are bracingly frenetic, and the stop/start rhythms keep things consistently interesting. Think of it as a great instrumental indie album with unfortunate vocal interludes.

Vocal style: Geddy Lee meets basset hound

These New Puritans – Beat Pyramid

We need a new genre label. What does one call a revival of the late ’70s/early ‘80s post-punk music of Wire, Gang of Four, and PiL? Post-post-punk? No, that would be very, very bad. Triple P marketing tags aside, These New Puritans sound a lot like Wire and Gang of Four and Public Image Ltd. They entitle songs “4” and “H,” although neither seems to be agriculturally related. Lead singer Jack Barnett barks earnestly if somewhat slobberingly about numbers and Elvis and infinity.

Vocal style: Johnny Rotten meets Scooby Doo.

Gimme Some Truth

I've had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth
-- John Lennon, "Gimme Some Truth"

Here's a National Review Poll from September 19th that proves conclusively that John McCain shaved off 8 points from Barack Obama's lead last week in terms of voter perception on which candidate could best handle an economic crisis.

Yeah, well, I'll see that poll, and raise you a poll.

The next day, the September 20th Gallup Poll showed Obama ahead 50% to 44%, and with a lead that had widened over the past week.

Umm, sure. So ... who do you believe? For what it's worth, I wouldn't make too much of any of it. It's just a recognition that in the too-much-information age we can find anything, and usually multiple anythings, to substantiate our particular views and biases. We can certainly find "scientific" polls and polls of polls.

It makes me wonder how one can be an informed voter. I'd like to be an informed voter. And there is no lack of printed and pixelated material that passes for information. But from what I've seen (and I include myself in this as well), we tend to retreat to our favorite publications and web sites and blogs that reinforce our own preconceptions and that say what we want to hear.

My own contribution to information overload: I would bet that 90% of the American voting population views the upcoming presidential election as enormously important, one that will have very significant impacts on the future of America. And I would bet that 90% of the voting population believes that it is impossible to receive accurate, objective, unbiased information about the two major candidates. So we make our voting decisions based on our preconceptions and biases, just as we always have. But this time we add a veneer of objectivity to it, and we can provide multiple hyperlinks to prove it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Herbert Hoover Redux

It's been a big week for fans of Herbert Hoover. First, on Tuesday, we had John McCain channeling the Depression-era president by echoing, almost word-for-word, Hoover's pronouncement that the U.S. economy is fundamentally strong. And now look: we have a fresh renaissance of Hoovervilles. What next? Prohibition?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Power to the People

That's Ohio governor Ted Strickland. He has a flashlight strapped to his head, which is not a look that is going to win acclaim in the fashion boudoirs of NYC, but a guy's gotta see. And since the power is off in the governor's mansion for the fifth day in a row, Ted has taken to imitating a coal miner.

Five days ago the remnants of Hurricane Ike swept through Columbus, bringing 75 MPH winds that knocked out the power, pretty much everywhere. Ours came back in about twelve hours, but many sections of central Ohio are still without power, and may be without power until Sunday or Monday, more than a week after the storm. A day without power is an inconvenience and a nuisance. A week without power is called a State of Emergency, and affects nearly all of life. Businesses can't operate. Traffic lights don't work, making travel hazardous. Grocery stores can't refrigerate food. And so on. It's a mess.

If you see a line worker up on a power pole, give him a round of applause. And tell him to hurry up.

Forgetting Ohio

A snippet of an actual conversation that occurred a couple days ago:
Dad: How did Kate like New York?
Me: No, dad, that was my daughter, Katryn. Kate is my wife. Katryn's been back from New York since May, and now she's starting her senior year at Kent State.
Sister: That reminds of that Neil Young song about forgetting.
Me: Forgetting? I don't think I know that one.
Sister: Sure you do. You know. (Sings) Forgetting Ohio.
Me: Oh, that one. Yeah, that's a classic.
Don't ask. Yes, she was serious.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Signs of the Forthcoming Apocalypse

The indie rock website Idolator has a thread in which readers/posters discuss signs of the impending apocalypse. One of the signs listed is my recent review of the Hold Steady album Stay Positive in Christianity Today Magazine.

Just doing my part to hasten the Day of the Lord. If you're interested in reading the review, you can check it out here.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

David Foster Wallace

Several news sources are reporting that novelist and essayist David Foster Wallace hanged himself Friday night.

I love David Foster Wallace for many reasons, not the least of which is that he delivered the only commencement address ever worth reading. Here's a little snippet:

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about in the great outside world of wanting and achieving. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

He may not have been in a church, but I still want to give him an "Amen."

This is just devastating news. The word "genius" is overused, but Wallace was a literary genius, the kind of writer who comes along about once every generation. His books were astounding, and he was the kind of stylist who could simply dazzle with his use of language. Many, many times I've stopped in the midst of his works and gone back to re-read a page or two, not because I didn't get it the first time, but because I wanted to go back and savor the beauty of not just a word, and not just a phrase, but the entire vision of a literary kamikaze whose sense of playfulness was matched only by his compassionate heart. Unlike many post-mods, who are all technique and no substance, Wallace wrestled with the deepest issues, and he unfailingly brought honesty and beauty to the process.

For me, this is a cultural loss akin to Bob Dylan. These folks don't come along every day. They don't come along every decade, either. I feel like I've lost a friend.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Genesis 1970 - 1975

I'm enjoying this one immensely. The remastering sounds great. The original albums stack up about the way I remembered them. Trespass is mediocre, Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot are good-to-great, and Selling England By The Pound and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway are the twin pinnacles of prog rock. The disc of previously unreleased rarities has a couple inconsequential tracks, and half a dozen absolute gems.

Of course, all this is predicated on the notion that ten-minute songs featuring odd time signatures and mellotron solos are worth your time and attention. Nostalgia is certainly a factor for me, but I also believe that Sigur Ros, Muse, and Mars Volta fans might find value in discovering where their contemporary heroes found their sound. And Peter Gabriel is Peter Gabriel, one of the most strikingly original and theatrical singers and songwriters in the history of rock music.

And speaking of theatrical ... the 3.5 hours of concert video footage is worth the price of admission by itself. I haven't gotten around to the other 3.5 video hours of the band, in 2007 Boring Old Fart mode, sitting around the old hearthstone and reminiscing about the grand, weird days. But the concert footage from the early '70s is spectacular. I particularly love the footage from The Midnight Special, an early '70s late-night musical revue hosted by uber-DJ Wolfman Jack. This is a show that regularly featured the likes of Helen Reddy and David Cassidy. Seeing Peter Gabriel on the program in full winged-headgear regalia, looking like a nightmare version of the Flying Nun, is priceless.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

iTunes Genius?

iTunes 8.0 incorporates a new feature called "Genius." Select a song, click the "Genius" button, and iTunes automatically constructs a playlist of songs that are similar to the song you originally selected. Or that's the idea, at any rate.

Pandora, of course, has been doing this for years. The music genome approach, if someone ever really gets it right, will revolutionize the music industry. And right now, Pandora has got it far more right than Apple. Select an Elvis Presley song and click that "Genius" button. What does iTunes recommend? Buddy Holly. Umm, no. Other than both artists' undeniable place in the Rock 'n Roll Pioneer pantheon, just what do Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly have in common? Not a whole lot.

Aside from the glitches in the recommendation, this isn't really what I'm looking for in "Music Recommendation" software anyway. I already know what the music on my iPod sounds like. I put it on there. I've already played it, most of it many times. And I've got ears. I don't need some unhelpful algorithm to figure out that Boston is classic rock, and Peter Frampton is classic rock, so if I like Boston then maybe I'd like Peter Frampton. Wrong, vocoder breath. I suspect my own ability to make musical connections is far more finely calibrated than anything Apple or Pandora will ever come up with.

What I'm looking for, and will probably never find, is software that will help me make thematic connections. When I select Sufjan Stevens' song "A Short Reprise for Mary Todd Lincoln," I'm not looking for more music that sounds like Sufjan Stevens. I can find that using my own brain just fine. I'm looking for other songs about Mary Todd Lincoln. Why? Because I'm weird that way. Because I used to spend hours making Gloria mix tapes featuring Vivaldi, Van Morrison, and Patti Smith. Because it's a kind of puzzle, and I like puzzles.

That's what I really want: an easy way to make a Pop Songs That Mention Mid-to-Late Twentieth Century Literary Figures playlist. Okay, we've got Rhett Miller with his mention of Don Delillo, Simon and Garfunkel with Norman Mailer, that stupid Deep Blue Something song about Breakfast at Tiffany's, which at least contains a veiled Truman Capote reference, and what else? I'm telling you, I'd pay big bucks for that kind of musical software.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Waco Brothers -- Waco Brothers Alive and Kicking at Schuba's Tavern

In the taxonomy of local watering holes, Yuppie Fern Barn probably anchors the genteel, tame end of the scale, while Roadhouse probably stands menacingly at the other end. Campus Dive, my own choice for the best place to catch live music, is probably just to the genteel side of Roadhouse.

I've been to Schuba's Tavern in Chicago, and it's neither Fern Barn nor Roadhouse. But you'd never know it by the latest live album from UK shitkickers The Waco Brothers, who turn an otherwise staid and proper establishment into a rowdy juke joint where you're just as likely to have a bottle knocked upside your head as you are to have it placed on your table.

It's all in the attitude. Lead singer/songwriter Jon Langford uses the Wacos as his redneck alter ego, but he's best known as the leader of Leeds punk band The Mekons (and if you don't own The Mekons Rock 'n Roll, you're missing one of the greatest albums. Ever), and he and his bandmates bring the punk vitriol and raw passion to every song on this collection. Presiding over the proceedings with a querulous Joe Strummer yelp, Langford half sings and half chants his acerbic populist anthems, investing them with the kind of damaged soul that Strummer brought to every Clash song. But this is piledriving rock 'n roll music with a Stetson, and steel guitarist Marc Durante is an equal partner in the mayhem. Imagine the Sticky Fingers-era Rolling Stones fronted by Strummer and playing while well lubricated. That's the sound of this album, and that's the swagger that Langford and his bandmates capture perfectly.

The Waco Brothers albums are, quite honestly, spotty, but there's no filler here. Think of it as a louder, looser, more ragged, and more glorious Greatest Hits album for a band that has never had a hit. It's a wondrous thing, by far my favorite live album that has been released this year. And by listening from the comfort of your own home, you avoid the risk of that bottle upside the head.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bobcat Love

They didn't win. But given Ohio University's sacrificial lamb status yesterday in Ohio Stadium, they performed mighty well. They were supposed to roll over and lose, oh, say 56 - 3, as any Ohio State fan will tell you. Instead, the Bobcats led through much of the game before succumbing 26 - 14.

I have divided loyalties. I graduated from both schools, and I would have been happy and unhappy either way. I missed the game because Kate and I were moving our daughter Rachel into her dorm room at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Yes, Rachel is a second-generation Bobcat. It was kind of refreshing to wander around that quintessential college down and realize that precious few people knew or cared that their football team was playing a game. This is because people in Athens have lives that revolve around other things than college sports.

I did catch the last few minutes on the radio on the drive home. My favorite memory? The Ohio State fans engaged in their normal first grade spelling bee. "O-H," one side of the stadium chanted. "I-O" the other side answered back. "U-u-u-u-u" the Bobcat faithful responded in turn. It was a great moment. I was proud of all those unemployed journalism majors.

Friday, September 05, 2008

What Would Kathleen Whitman Do With $145,000,000?

That was the title of a junk email message I just received.

My prediction: she would buy new carpeting and windows.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Politics Suck -- Special RNC Issue

Introducing Politic Suck: an engaging new microbrew with a surprisingly bitter aftertaste.[1]

I tune in expecting to hear substantive content on the party plank and policy issues. I watch instead what appears to be a combination pep rally/character assassination that has all the grace and nuance of kids sticking their tongues out at each other on the playground. The precipitous descent in the level of political discourse in this country is astonishing. Why should we elect people to some of the highest offices in the land when their approach is vindictive, snide, and smug, and their primary means of communication is insult? I wouldn't hire people like that in my office, let alone to run a country.

I truly despise what politics in America has become. Can we just start again? Maybe with the Constitution this time?

If you feel like you need a scorecard
You really don't have to fuss
You know the winner is always somebody else
And the loser is always us
It's shake it to the east, shake it to the west
Hand me down my bullet-proof vest
It's nobody choice and it's anybody's guess
Do that election,
There ain't no selection,
Do that Election Year Rag
-- Steve Goodman, "Election Year Rag"

[1] h/t Joshua Neds-Fox

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Jon Dee Graham -- Full

Jon Dee Graham's latest album Full has been out for a couple years now. I listened to it when it was new, reviewed it for Paste, and thought it was a decent roots rock album. Jon Dee is best known as Alejandro Escovedo's sidekick and former bandmate, and there are certainly some similarities with Alejandro's thoughtful and raw music here. But taking "slow grower" to new extremes, I've been coming back to Jon Dee's latest and best solo album quite a bit of late, and I've been paying far more attention. It's a great album, characterized by Byrds-like chiming guitars, a gravel-voiced vocalist who will call to mind Tom Waits, and some absolutely superb songwriting.

Maybe it has something to do with attending three funerals in August. "O death, where is thy sting?" the apostle Paul asks. Right here. Check it out. I can show you the holes in the ground and at least hint at the holes in my heart. But this song, in particular, strikes me as one of the best hymns I've heard in a long time. A fallen world? I don't need much convincing, although this song hammers home the truth.

Got out of the garden, no longer is it home
Sat down on the outside ground, my newmade world to roam
But I named all the animals, the fishes in the pond
I wake up in the morning, they wonder where we've gone

He pulled the door, blocked by flaming sword
Of course the last word would be the Lord's
What did we do wrong?
Never will I hide myself again

Driven out beneath the sky we walked a pilgrim's pace
She said this land is huge, this land is grand
But it's empty of his grace
There is so much space to fill and he is not in this space

He slammed the door, blocked by flaming sword
Of course the last word will be the Lord's
What did we do wrong?
Never will I hide myself again

We're grateful for the grasses, we're grateful for the grains
We're grateful for the lands in use, we're grateful when it rains
But secretly and most of all we're grateful for the dreams
About the beloved garden that never again we'll see

He closed the door, blocked by flaming sword
The last word of course will be the Lord's
What did we do wrong?
Never will I hide myself again
-- Jon Dee Graham, "Beloved Garden"

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Josh Garrels -- Jacaranda

Josh Garrels writes overtly Christian songs that are too idiosyncratic and prickly to fit within the confines of the CCM industry. That probably consigns him to a day job that is, at best, his second choice. But the musical rewards are many, and are readily evident.

On Jacaranda, his third album, Garrels simply does what he’s done before, but better. At heart a gentle folkie, Garrels picks his guitar (and what sounds like the charango, although the instrumental credits don’t tell), and sings his contemplative, mystical songs. His subjects – the wonders of the natural world, the still, small voice of God, the sorrows and joys of life on a fallen, dazzling planet – call to mind a young Bruce Cockburn, drunk on beauty, ripped apart by injustice and casual indifference. They are complex, nuanced, and lovely.

The two instrumentals that bookend the album set the tone: pastoral, quiet, soft enough to allow room for the chirp of crickets and the song of birds. In between the music shimmers and shines and continually escapes easy categorization; a straightforward folkie ballad here, a neo-soul workout with a hint of electronica there, a reggae-tinged spiritual lament here, a Peruvian cumbia there, with a choir of the angelic host breaking in occasionally just to mix things up. Garrels’ voice is wondrously supple throughout, and it’s a joy to listen to him soar into a pure, soulful falsetto. He sings about the birth of a child, the funeral of a loved one, the desert fathers of the early Church, the exploitation of the poor, the soul-crushing demands of the drab and routine, the subtle joys of walking by faith in the darkness. It’s a kaleidoscope of an album, every pattern reflecting an unseen but loving hand. It will probably sell squat, and it doesn’t have nearly enough uplifting choruses and grace/face rhymes. You can remedy that somewhat by buying it anyway and striking a blow for quietly uplifting, sorrowful, real, and transcendently hopeful music.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Dirty Laundry

You have to either be insane or a masochist to want the job of President of the United States.

It turns out that Sarah Palin's teenage daughter is pregnant out of wedlock. And her husband was convicted of DWI. In 1984. And Barack Obama did inhale, and John McCain, war hero, has a nasty temper he can't control and five or six houses, he can't remember which, in various parts of the country.

Screw ups, one and all. So let's villify them, mock them, and divert attention away from, you know, relevant issues, by digging up the dirt. I'll bet that within the next few days we'll also find out that Sarah Palin inhaled too, back in her college days, and that Joe Biden once attended a college fraternity kegger and passed out on the couch.

It's just good investigative journalism, right? Because we, the American people, have a right to know. Never mind that, even though we won't admit it, we're also Pharisaical prudes.

I have a crazy idea: let's apply the same standards to journalists that they apply to politicians. For every breathless story written about a politician's foibles, some other journalist gets to write a breathless story, after doing a solid background check and thorough vetting, of that journalist's past. I know. It will never happen because nobody really cares about what a journalist might have done a quarter century ago. Exactly.