Saturday, February 28, 2015

This is Why We Fight: Folk Music and Republicans

"Bold and brilliant," is what I heard over the Borders overhead as the CD started.  A band I had never heard of, "The Decemberists." Lots of harmonica, lots of guitar, something that I would have fallen in love with anyway.  People call The King is Dead album "Dylanesque," and they're so right about that.  Folk music is, after all, about taking a stand, and this album does it. "This is Why We Fight," a track at the end of the album says, "And when we die, we will die, with our arms unbound." All this right before a moving song about his autistic son.  There is no better music (and hip-hop artists will disagree with me) to deliver vehement statements about the world we're living in than folk music.  The Decemberists stand fast, and proudly defy all the injustice in this world, and it's so much more than other artists, those that disrupt award ceremonies, or those that sing about money and fame and love and sex, none of them can fill that hole... a desire to stand up against the wrongs in this world, to have some power when so many of us feel powerless.  

It's not something that I take lightly, those who can stand for a cause, no matter what side of the political isle you're on.  Those who have a voice and can use their talents to be heard, when sometimes just a vote (as so many political pundits say is the most powerful voice) is not enough.  And then there are those with money, of which I most assuredly am not, who can influence the world with capital, and that is effective, but quiet.  The people who can spread messages through song and speech, through words and poetry, they are the ones that can influence people well beyond the political cycle.  

And it's odd that I would say all this, as I am definitely Conservative, decidedly Libertarian, and occasionally Republican when I go to the ballot boxes.  Those people that see the Republicans as some massive white, rich, heartless group of men (mostly), would think that my love of Bob Dylan; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Crosby Stills, and Nash; would run counter to my ideologies.  It is in fact quite the opposite.  

Conservatives choose to stand for causes, but they are quite lacking in the ability to put a voice to it.  The Republicans are equally, if not more, inept at putting anyone in the spotlight that has any ability to stand for anything.  Just looking at the CPAC meetings this week will tell you that.  The person who is leading in National polls (read, the ones made by all the mainstream media that have already crowned Hillary as the next Democratic Candidate, because they all have their ducks in a row, while the Republicans are akin to cannibalistic hyenas) is Jeb Bush, who while speaking during the meeting, was met with a walkout and blasted by most of the other speakers.  And so this, and Mitt Romney, and John McCain, and Bob Dole (we can go back that far) are the candidates that the mainstream people have given the opponents of liberalism to vote for.  And none of them had voices, at all, to speak about anything.  The VP candidates who could speak were silenced or denigrated into headline jokes on late night talk shows.  

There's no cultural fervor about the Conservative movement at all.  Sure, the Christian social conservatives are going to vote as a block, and have plenty of music and speakers to give their point of view.  And that's well and good... I enjoy some of it.  The music and speeches that are intelligent, thoughtful, and non-hypocritical of everyone (yes, I know everyone speaks of Christians as being hypocrites, and there is obviously some truth to this, or it wouldn't be so easily proved). Take a look at any of Mark Lowry's performances to see exactly what I enjoy that comes from the Christian world.  It's no wonder that I say I'm "Libertarian," when Facebook asks me my Religious beliefs.  It's all about my personal, individual relationship with God. For that, I need no other church telling me what to believe or what is evil or wrong in this world.  God does that quite nicely.  

But I've digressed from what I really wanted to talk about.  I'll get back to it eventually.  What I value in the music of the Folk music movement of the 60's, or The Decemberists, or of people like Mark Lowry in the Christian world, is the ability to stand up and say "This is what I believe in. It's something that very few people do nowadays.  We are too busy being afraid of who we might offend to stand up and defend anything.  We think those that have a cause must be those who are victimized, or those who are clearly crazy.  And those who stand for something have either Love or Hate in their hearts.  You can stand with the rainbow flag on one side, or the flag of ISIS (or, unfortunately, those of Westboro Baptist Church) on the other.  Those in the middle, every day citizens who live and love and work, they are just busy trying not to stand, lest they be labelled an extremist about something.  Why can't we just stand up and say, "I am a human being, and I love this world where I live, and I love the people in it." ?  Isn't that what God said is half of His greatest commandment? 

If the Conservative movement, Christians and non-Christians alike, could stand up and say that, and put all other differences aside (for having irreconcilable differences is exactly what opponents of Conservatism would like nothing better than us to have), that would make all the difference, no matter who we elected President.  But I dare say that this can't happen, not in the polarizing, white/gold dress- blue/black dress world we live in today.  

This was not supposed to be a post on political ideology, or religion, or anything close.  I was trying to review The Decemberists' latest album, which I never even got around to.  But nevertheless, I'll let this one stand, and try again in a few days. Let March (now that's convenient, a term of standing and acting) take that review, and let February, known for love and introspection toward times when people had to stand up for their rights, take this one.  

(During this album period, I think Colin Meloy looked a ton like my dad. My mom didn't think so, but with those glasses and that shirt, he very much does.)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Denzil Reviews Everything!!! (Sweet Tomatoes Restaurant)

Yes, every single thing... I'll review it... like the Dayquil I just took this morning to help with my cold, said it was non-drowsy... slept for 6 hours afterward. But it helped.

I wanted to talk about food.  There's not a place in this world where you can find massive amounts of food being trucked in than the city of Dallas.  There are restaurants everywhere, that is, everywhere there's not a Whole Foods or some specialty grocery store.  Seems that all people do here is eat.  And I'm okay with that.  My goal was to go to one restaurant a paycheck, try something new.  I'll do that, eventually, and I will finish when I'm Methuselah's age.

I have to say, I'm addicted to Sweet Tomatoes.  I think there's a misconception about me and food, that as long as it has cheese or comes in a box that can be warmed up in the microwave, I'm all set.  And while that's certainly true, there's always a question of flavor.  If I'm going to eat, I would really like to have something that tastes like something.  You find me something that is healthy, and tastes amazing, bonus points if it's cheap, and I'll be the healthiest person on Earth.  

I found the answer to this paradox in the glorified salad bar that is Sweet Tomatoes.  Take the idea that Golden Corral made and then refine it.  The difference being that, you pay the exact same price for either place to eat everything that you want, but at Golden Corral, you walk out absolutely stuffed, but then can't remember anything that you've eaten.  You've eaten a massive amount of food, but your body doesn't remember any of the flavors experienced.  My brother says of me (and he's right) that I remember the places I've been to by the things I eat there.  I can tell you the exact places and foods I ate that were the best "X" I've ever eaten.  And those come along so rarely, that those engrams are pasted into my memory as firmly as any "where were you when" scenarios. 

So I was fighting a cold in January and saw the promotion at Sweet Tomatoes of their (shock) Tomato Soup.  I had to have some.  So I filled up a plate with salad, a Romaine Asiago with Lemon, covered with a Lite Honey Mustard Dressing.  Each flavor you put on that salad adds or detracts from it.  Blue Cheese adds a tart, musty flavor right in the back of the throat, while the lemon is a tang on the top of the mouth.  I tried adding Balsamic Vinegar to it... bad idea... that was too much.  And the thing is... it's all that way. Everything in the restaurant has a flavor to it.  It's not trying to get you to buy a drink, not trying for filling you up, it's trying to get you to remember those flavors, perhaps, with a carbonated beverage, you'll remember them for an hour afterwards, but that's okay.  

The businessmen who run these eating places, they make things like Taco Bell's Steak Stacker, and put all this meat and cheese in it, and forget to add flavor.  IHOP's omelettes are huge, and bland, and I've been to plenty of Mexican restaurants where spices by the ton are added to a dish, but no flavor.  It just makes you thirsty (which, of course, is the idea).  Give me a place that values flavor over filling, and I'll eat there every day.  The olive oil on the cheese bread, the Rosemary in the Potato Leek Soup (needs a little more salt, though.) Fantastic stuff, each touching parts of the palette, each adding a memorable part of the meal.  That I don't get leftovers, and that I might have to eat later on that day, are both worth actually enjoying a meal.

One last thing, if you're reading this in February 2015, go get the Red Velvet Cake they have for dessert.... creme cheese frosting.... so good!!!  And there's always coupons, signing up online for them, and whatnot.  The closest one to my friends in Georgia is the one at Gwinnett Place Mall, or one at Perimeter Mall.  Go have soup and a salad... you'll be glad you did.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Left Shark and the Lexicon

At the beginning of the month, people everywhere sat in front of their newly bought, over expensive televisions and watched three hours of commercials, and in the middle of it all, a football game broke out.  Which saved the day, because without the Super Bowl, and Half-Time show, the world would have taken a collective Prozac because they were all depressed.  I've never seen a Super Bowl with commercials that inept, nor commercial and business advisers get nearly every idea wrong.  It was a malaise of social consciousness and utter failure.  It will be a miracle if Nationwide gets a positive ad campaign going in the next 6 months because of that one commercial.

Which is why, however exciting the game was, it was Katy Perry who saved the Super Bowl, and more specifically, Left Shark who should have driven off in the car (along with Malcolm Butler, who eventually did get it) that Tom Brady received.  There's so few times in pop culture when a term can be instantly inserted into the lexicon of idioms and sayings.  The presence of cable TV and the Internet makes it all the more possible, however, and it goes without saying that, while the Super Bowl will be forgotten in years to come, if you say "Left Shark," people will know what you are talking about and what it means.

Left Shark: A person or thing that is slightly out of sync, doing its own thing, out of step with the rest of the world. The person or thing named as such may be intentional or accidental. Something that
Thoreau would call "marching to the beat of a different drum." The Antonym for this is, of course, Right Shark, someone or something that is following along the proscribed procedures or directions.

It's amazing, that for all the technical marvels done with the Halftime Show, with things that come straight out of a Olympic Opening Ceremony, very little of it is actually talked about.  The lion Perry rode was astounding! Made me think of an old Magic: the Gathering card... but I digress.  What is talked about, probably more than anything except the last minute of the game itself, is the Left Shark's dance moves, or lack thereof.  It made me think about other sayings popped into the cultural lexicon during events such as this.

I thought to myself when hearing about Katy Perry performing the Halftime Show that, if a "wardrobe malfunction occurred, it might well be fatal."  This is due to fireworks coming out of her jumblies on her "Firework" music video.  The term "wardrobe malfunction," of course, comes from a fateful Halftime Show some years ago where Janet Jackson's breast was exposed after part of the costume was removed by Justin Timberlake.  Now the term is used whenever clothing is worn that accidentally exposes parts of the anatomy that is not normally supposed to be seen.

Then there is the term "sidebar," which everyone glued to the proceedings of the O.J. Simpson trial (not surprisingly also dealing with football, to a degree) learned was a conversation had by Judge Ito and the head lawyers in such a manner that the jurors could not hear what was being said without them having to leave the courtroom.  Now, of course, you can say, "that was just sidebar," meaning any conversation or happening that occurs outside of the normal routine of things.

Of course, there are countless sayings from movies and TV shows, but I was thinking about things that happened live, where the introduction to the idiom was instantaneous throughout the country. Can't think of any others at the moment.... how about you???