6.27.2009

iVoryTowerz Radio Puts on its Boots

If that picture gives you any ideas, then you know you're in the right place this week, as the underground podcast is in an especially eclectic and niche mood. Now, don't get the wrong idea. We haven't turned into musical festishists. But we do find a way to head off on to odd tangents and still tie them all together. And although we don't start off with standards all the time, this week we commence with perhaps the biggest song of all time about boots. And we march on from there. As usual, this podcast includes music from most eras of rock: stretching back about 45 years, but also with a strong dash of new sounds. The mix this week includes: garage rock, proto-punk, punk, power pop, metal and much more. So strap on your boots and get ready to party and dance with us. And well, if you're not up for dancing, then well just shake your head, stretch out those booted legs and look cool in the summer heat. Enjoy!





(To stream or download this podcast, please click here.)



Playlist

"These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" by Nancy Sinatra
Cover Me: "Kicks" by The Ventures with Nancy Sinatra
“One Man Girl" by Lost Agency
"Destroyer" by The Kinks
"Chinatown" by Tahiti 80
"So Far Away" by The Apples in Stereo
"Skeletons" by Tiny Masters of Today
"Sixteen" by Iggy Pop
Jeff’s New Wave: “Love Comes in Spurts” by Richard Hell & the Voidoids
“Son of a Gun” by The Vaselines
“Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam” by Nirvana
“One of a Kind” by Placebo
"West Coast Smoker" by Fall Out Boy with Deborah Harry
"Lifeline" by Papa Roach
"Let's Go Crazy
" by Incubus
Rick's Metal Shoppe: “Deep Unknown” by Stratovarius

(Mp3 Runs - 1:15:42; 70 MB.)

(The photo is by Avasopel of Spain via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)


DISCLAIMER: The iVoryTowerz podcast is a non-commercial, non-profit program designed and used for educational purposes. Some of the material contained in this podcast is previously copyrighted but used with permission. Other copyrighted material is reused following fair use guidelines. Any copyright holders who do not wish to have their material used should contact the programmers directly at ivorytowerzradio@att.net and it will be removed. The programmers do not support filesharing and encourage listeners to buy music from the artists featured in this podcast.





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6.23.2009

Television: True Blood & the Vampire Craze

by Jordan Coughenour
Special to iVoryTowerz

I never thought the day would come when I would see an ad for specialized vampire dental care shown before a movie. But there it was; between the slides pitching Ray’s Ribs and all too obvious movie trivia, a nauseatingly blue screen promising perfect discretion to the office’s fanged clientele. A few years ago, this would have been more than cause for a double take, but now barely warrants a raised eyebrow.

It was, of course one of the more clever covert ads for the second season of HBO’s wildly popular True Blood. (The second season began on June 14.) The dental ad was only one of many witty placements the show has used in its promotions, with others including TV commercials for vampire dating services, vampire electric razors and preachy infomercials from the anti-vampire Fellowship of the Sun. As is the scenario within the fictional world of True Blood, in the past years, vampires have truly "come out of the coffin."

Speaking to my grandmother about the obsession today’s youth have with these fanged creatures, she expressed confusion, and even concern that with the tweeny-bopper Twilight series at such popularity, the line between good and evil was being continually blurred. Now, I have many gripes (as do others) with the Twilight series: endless adverbs, weak female characters and poorly written, for a start. But this was not one that had originally occurred to me. The American public has always clung to our dark anti-heroes; we’ve gone through obsessions with Italian mobsters, bankrobbers, and hitmen — so why is the new vampire obsession creating such a dividing line in our popular culture?

Possibly because; more than our love affairs with the dark and daring figures in the past, this movement speaks to a younger generation. (Though there are exceptions; I for one can attest that at the ripe age of 12 I was already reaching unhealthy levels of fascination with the gangsters of The Sopranos) The romantic and eternal adolescence can appeal to any kid with fears of what comes next, but who is too jaded to believe in the magic of a figure like Peter Pan. While the one-dimensional Twilight uses this enduring and dark love as its main appeal, the prevalence of this mythic monster figure is also giving rise to an ability to build upon the traditional mythology, and create something entirely new.

HBO’s True Blood doesn’t bother to catch up its audience with a primer on vampirism, but rather throws them into a society full of metaphor and depth. While the seemingly mandatory human/vamp/human love triangle does frequently take center stage, aspects of vampirism; the condition itself, the euphoria inducing qualities of the creatures’ blood on humans, and the bizarre and dangerous sexual practices of the vamps, all act as analogies for racism, drug addiction and carnal fetishes in Southern society.

So for all the griping that anti-fangophiles and Twi-hard haters commit, it is possible to look beyond a one or two misery inducing interpretations of this classic monster, with the hopes that its newfound prevalence will lead to more daring imaginings. Without the sulking Cullen Clan of Twilight, the empowering figure of True Blood’s Sookie Stackhouse may never have hit the small screen. And this vampire obsession doesn’t look to be headed away anytime soon. There are rumors of rebooting the Buffy series (please, God, no), and the next film adaption of Twilight already looks to make a fortune in box office receipts. So no matter your opinions on these nocturnal creatures of the night, it’s high time for you to retract your fangs and smile for the possibilities in their newfound resurgence.

(The promotional graphic is from HBO's True Blood. To see a trailer for the second season of the series, please check below.)












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6.21.2009

iVoryTowerz Radio Glows

There are many reasons the underground podcast is glowing these days. Impose your own rationale, but many of the clues are contained in this musical mix. Our suggestion is to cue this one up late at night: it travels from the dark edge to the glowing horizon of the coming sunrise. And if you like music programs with layers of mood and message, here's one for you. This program includes 45 years of sound, including soul, neo-soul, alternative, indie rock, classic rock, New Wave, punk, electronica, and even some comedy. There's plenty to enjoy, so please give it a listen.



(To stream or download this podcast, please click here.)


Playlist

"Wrong" by Depeche Mode
"In Your Room" by Depeche Mode
“Never Let Me Down Again" by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Lo Que Tu Digas" by Moenia
"Deeper and Deeper" by Dave Gahan
Rick's Metal Shoppe: “Back from the Dead” by Spinal Tap
"For What It's Worth" by Placebo
"I Got Your Number" by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Jeff’s New Wave: “Crawling from the Wreckage” by Dave Edmunds
Cover Me: "Lawyers, Guns and Money" by The Wallflowers
“We're Going to Hell... So Bring the Sunblock” by The Blackout
“Jailbreak” by Thin Lizzy
“Fire and Water” by Free
"15" by Rilo Kiley
"So Good" by Electrik Red
"Love Child
" by The Supremes

This program contains songs with explicit lyrics.

(Mp3 Runs - 1:16:02; 70 MB.)

(The photo of Aguilas, Spain at sunset is by Rietje Swart of Spain via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)


DISCLAIMER: The iVoryTowerz podcast is a non-commercial, non-profit program designed and used for educational purposes. Some of the material contained in this podcast is previously copyrighted but used with permission. Other copyrighted material is reused following fair use guidelines. Any copyright holders who do not wish to have their material used should contact the programmers directly at ivorytowerzradio@att.net and it will be removed. The programmers do not support filesharing and encourage listeners to buy music from the artists featured in this podcast.





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6.18.2009

Politics: Social Debate Gone Awry & the Results

by Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Summertime once meant slow, sultry days; the lazy drone of locusts, lulling us into a doze beneath weeping willows; finding faces in the clouds or taking lady bugs for walks from fingertip to fingertip; lolling and waiting… waiting for someone to spur the sweltering group to action.

And then the herd of kids would up and move — to the road’s edge to pop tar bubbles, coating toes and infuriating mothers at bath time. To the garden to make rose petal lipstick, blackberry war paint, and perform vignettes of classic tales. Under the fence to steal neglected rhubarb from the wild patch next door and run from the crotchety old lady who rightly treasured every wilting stalk and weed. To the rubbish heap to see who could pee the farthest, disregarding gender. Down by the train tracks to flatten pennies and marvel at the loss of Lincoln’s features. Over to the abandoned chicken coop to practice burping on demand and talk of things unspoken by parents.

Whatever we did, we did it together; it never occurred to us there was another way. Our parents had varied incomes and faiths, disparate origins and pursuits, but their distinctions were lost on us, the children of our block. We had a community of kindred souls, a cohesive force that wound us inextricably together in those days of one-car families and parents unconcerned about tossing their kids out into the world. We’d fend for each other and show up at one home or another only when hunger forced us. In those days, everyone could come out to play, and summer’s freedom was our endless stage, our indivisible barefoot pursuit, despite our differences. In those days, we could imagine no boundaries.

But today, as summer swiftly approaches, boundaries run rampant — and deadly in word and deed.

Anti-legal abortion fervor erupts in murder, as Scott P. Roeder crosses the threshold of Reformation Lutheran Church — crossing from advocating for life to destroying it — and shoots dead a physician who crossed picket lines to treat patients with disastrous pregnancies. And the cooks who help whip up that fervor, Randall Terry, Operation Rescue founder, and Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly among them, chalk up Dr. Tiller’s murder to his comeuppance for being what they call a “baby killer.”

G. Gordon Liddy, of Watergate fame, whose radio show is not extolled for its level-headedness, takes a header from the fringes into the absurdly vulgar, fretting about what might happen when President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor is menstruating. And it is not an ill-conceived joke.

James W. von Braun enters the Holocaust Museum — an institution dedicated to confronting hatred, preventing genocide, promoting human dignity and strengthening democracy — and draws a bloody line between free speech and murderous demonstration, leaving hateful destruction on both sides of his path, the indignity of a victim sprawled in death. And pundits argue whether blame falls to the left or the right.

The National Organization for Marriage, sponsor of the Gathering Storm ad, steps yet again from advocating against same-sex marriage to divisive propaganda: “Same-sex marriage isn't just about two people living as they please, but about whether a large majority of Americans are going to be marginalized as bigots by a group of elites determined to force their new vision of marriage on the entire nation.” And the fearful fail to ask what actual harm same-sex marriage will to do their heterosexual marriages, their children, their nation.

Today, it is not the hopping anticipation of barefoot pleasures that makes the days seem so long, but the disingenuous and deadly discourse of social debate gone awry, the replacement of news with uncivil commentary, the marketing of anger and derision as information.

But it seems a futile complaint, when audiences blindly accept the “either or,” the “us or them” as absolute; when people continue to watch and listen and absorb the fear and hate. How many reactionary murderers until they question; how many vulgar and dishonest statements until they refuse to listen?

Just what would it take for them to instead seek the satisfying smell of tar, the joyful tang of rhubarb, the forthright competition of unashamed peeing, the camaraderie of unbiased children, now bigger, but still in full knowledge of how to play well with others — despite their differences?

(Editor's Note: This piece is cross-posted from Kit-Bacon Gressitt's personal blog, Excuse Me, I'm Writing.)

(The photo of Bill O'Reilly is from an appearance he made at Ft. Drum, NY in 2006. The photo is a military photo taken by Sgt. 1st Class Vivienne Pacquette and is in the public domain. To see a commentary from Keith Olbermann about the responsibilities right-wing commentaries have for the climate of hate, please see below.)














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6.17.2009

Baseball: The Nationals Need Stephen Strasburg

by Suzie Raven

The right-handed pitcher from San Diego State was an obvious choice for the Washington Nationals number one draft pick, as the team’s struggling pitching staff has dragged their relatively strong offense into the worst record in baseball. Since Strasburg is arguably the best pitching prospect in draft history, he can offer the team a rare shred of hope every fifth day.

The famously ruthless agent Scott Boras argues that Strasburg’s 102 mile per hour fastball and strong curve are worth every penny of the six-year $50 million contract he will try to get for Strasburg before the August 17th deadline. In 119 innings with San Diego, Strasburg had a 13-1 record, with a 1.22 ERA and 195 strikeouts.

Amazing statistics like those are worth the amazing contract that Boras seeks, but the Nationals are in no hurry to sign a record-setting contract.


"There's no one player or situation that changes the whole industry," Nationals President Stan Kasten said. “We do expect to draft the player we think is the best. We expect to sign him. We're going to be aggressive, but we'll be appropriate."

Kasten may be right that no one player should be expected to change the fate of the whole organization. They exercised this logic by failing to sign last year’s number one draft pick, Missouri pitcher Aaron Crow. Time will tell if that was a good decision or not, as Crow signed with the Kansas City Royals last week.

Strasburg’s talent has more potential to help the Nationals in the immediate future than anything else. The faster they sign him, the faster he can enter their rotation and start winning games for them. If they wait until August 17th, they will they have wasted two months of starts. They also would’ve foolishly allowed him to waste time that he could’ve spent working out with a major league team.

It’s time for the Nationals to make a solid investment in their own future. Strasburg is ready and more than able to become the ace for an organization that desperately needs pitching.

(To see a background piece about Strasburg from ESPN, please check below.)














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6.16.2009

NBA Finals 2009: Kobe Wins His Fourth Ring

by Phil Kehres

I was wrong. I thought the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals would go six games. As it turns out, the Orlando Magic were playing even farther over their heads than I thought they were. Now that the NBA Finals are over and the Los Angeles Lakers have won their 15th NBA title, it’s time for me to get a few things off my chest.


First off, I’m glad the Magic lost. I’m a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, and a bitter one at that. As much as it makes me sick to my stomach to even tacitly root for a despicable team like the Lakers, I find a small amount of solace in watching the Magic crumble to a superior team — as they should have to the Cavs. Call it schadenfreude if you will, but the Finals proved that Orlando is a one-trick pony if you can manage to even slightly deter center Dwight Howard. The Magic live and die by the three-point shot. Against Cleveland, they lived; in the Finals, they died. Bottom line is that they shouldn’t have even gotten that far. If the Cavs had played up to even ¾ of their potential and somebody besides LeBron James had shown up, I have a feeling we’d still be watching the Finals. Better luck next year, Magic. They’ll need that luck, too, as they’re simply not talented enough to make it back to the Finals without a little, ahem, magic.

Secondly, now we can all look forward to a summer of the mainstream media slobbering at Kobe Bryant’s feet. (Such as his upcoming appearance on The Tonight Show on NBC on June 17.) He finally won his ring without Shaquille O’Neal. There’s no doubt in my mind that Kobe is a phenomenal player. Second-best on the planet, for sure. Championships, though, are a team effort. No matter how many times you will hear misguided fans cite Kobe’s four championships as a reason why he’s better than LeBron James, the simple truth is that, even in the NBA, one man alone cannot win a championship. Bryant had a tremendous supporting cast this year. LeBron had more help than he’s ever had before, but he still lacks a powerful number two like Kobe has in center Pau Gasol. LeBron will get his eventually but now, reluctantly, we have to give it up for Kobe and his teammates. As much as it pains me to say, I believe the best team in the NBA won the championship this year, and that’s as fair as it gets.

Lastly, I just want to say that the Finals came off as quite a disappointment compared to the rest of the playoffs. It looked like both teams were so tired that it was a battle of attrition. This stood in deep contrast to the heart-pounding action of the earlier rounds. All in all, however, it was a hell of a season.

So here’s to hoping the 2009-2010 season showcases as much fire and passion as we’ve seen this season. And for my sake, let’s hope LeBron can finally bring a championship to Cleveland before he has the chance to leave (he won’t, by the way, but this is definitely a topic for another time!).

(Phil Kehres also is the co-author of Excuse Me, Is This Your Blog? He also contributes to Fear the Sword, a blog about the Cleveland Cavaliers of the Sports Blog Nation.)

(To see highlights the NBA Finals, please check below.)


















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6.13.2009

iVoryTowerz Radio Waits for Godot

Get ready because the underground podcast gets very deep and philosophical this week. Still affected by the recent deaths of Koko Taylor and David Carradine, this show was programmed with the concepts of death, spirituality, religion, and eternity lingering on the synapses. Our suggestion: cue this one up for some midnight listening. Don't worry, though the content packs a heavy mental punch, the eclectic mix is still here to lift your spirits. The music tracks more than 40 years of sound including soul, blues, Americana, New Wave, punk, metal, and progressive rock. The mix alone should give you something to think about. Just remember, you can still rock out while contemplating the larger concepts. Try it with us. Who says a rock show needs to be one dimensional and simplistic?



(To stream or download this podcast, please click here.)


Playlist

"The Four Horsemen" (altered) by Aphrodite's Child
Rick's Metal Shoppe: “Avenida Revolution” by Chickenfoot
"Windmilling" by fiREHOSE
“Infected" by Bad Religion
"East Bay Night" by Rancid
"No Allies" by Double Dagger
"Waiting Room" by Fugazi
Jeff’s New Wave: “Just What I Needed” by The Cars
Cover Me: "To Sir With Love" (live) by Soul Asylum
"Fourteen Rivers, Fourteen Floods" by Beck
“The Crooked Line” by Elvis Costello* with Emmylou Harris
“Beaumont” by Hayes Carll
“White Freightliner Blues” by Steve Earle
"You Ain't Worth a Good Woman" by Koko Taylor
"Another Man Done Gone" by Irma Thomas
"Drown in My Own Tears" by Aretha Franklin


*Too late for our studio deadline, Elvis' record company contacted us about a charity promotion where you can obtain a guitar signed by Elvis Costello. To read about the benefit for the City of Hope, please go here or go here to bid directly.

(Mp3 Runs - 1:19:36; 73 MB.)

(The photo collage is by alicepopkorn of Germany via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)


DISCLAIMER: The iVoryTowerz podcast is a non-commercial, non-profit program designed and used for educational purposes. Some of the material contained in this podcast is previously copyrighted but used with permission. Other copyrighted material is reused following fair use guidelines. Any copyright holders who do not wish to have their material used should contact the programmers directly at ivorytowerzradio@att.net and it will be removed. The programmers do not support filesharing and encourage listeners to buy music from the artists featured in this podcast.





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Elvis Costello & the City of Hope

Unusual for this blog to run an item that is promotional in nature, but we make an exception here for several reasons: 1) it is for a good cause; 2) Elvis Costello remains one of our favorite artists; and 3) you can still pick up a souvenir guitar signed by Elvis at a reasonable price.

Here's the scoop. Universal Music Group contacted the blog about promoting a charity auction that benefits the City of Hope and its cancer research programs. What's being auctioned? Well, an Epiphone acoustic guitar and case, autographed by Elvis Costello. As of this writing, bids stand at just over $400. Act quickly though. The auction ends Monday, June 15.

Why not put a bid in to help the cause? And if not, well, then go here to read our review of Elvis' latest Secret, Profane and Sugarcane, which includes a video of one of the new tunes. Thanks for letting us interrupt the normal flow for this announcement.



(The promotional photo of Elvis Costello is from Lost Highway Records, a division of Universal Music Group. Elvis Costello and the Sugarcanes continue their world tour tomorrow, Sunday, June 14, with a concert in Cary, North Carolina.)




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6.12.2009

Tennessee's New Gun Law: Seriously Dumb

by Emily Norton
Special to iVoryTowerz

I thought we were pushing dumb in Tennessee with the “Butt-Crack Bill” and “English-Only Bill" earlier this year until Nashville pulled it’s most recent trump card. Sensible Governor Phil Bredesen (D) previously vetoed a bill that would permit guns to be brought into restaurants and bars so long as the holder hides the gun and doesn’t drink. His motion was met with loud protest from the National Rifle Association, a laughable yet apparently highly influential organization down South, which insisted that Bredesen “betrayed their trust.” To the dismay of the sensible, this past week, the Tennessee Senate and House sided with the notorious NRA, overriding the governor’s veto. The bottom line: we go from just dumb to dangerous and dumb starting the 15th of July (when the law will go into effect).


The words of those advocating the law (such as “law-abiding” or “responsible” to name a few) drip with a naïve and sickening idealism. The expectation that all restaurant owners will check each of their customers for a concealed handgun and monitor their alcohol consumption is as ludicrous as the expectation that every gun holder is law-abiding. This law hands Pandora the box with the lid half open. I do not believe the simplistic lie often promoted by the NRA that the presence of guns creates a safer atmosphere, and we should certainly put our faith in the hands of those holding permits.

Although I’m clinging to the slim chance the feds will swoop in and label this new gun law unconstitutional, it seems as though the only realistic glimmer of hope lies within the potential ordinance that metro council members in Davidson are discussing. That ordinance would make it illegal to carry a gun in a restaurant where beer is served. As many have said and as I hope at the very least Davidson County will listen to the ever-true statement that guns and booze do not mix.

(The photo is by publik16 via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)









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6.11.2009

NBA Finals 2009: Can the Magic Survive?

by Phil Kehres

It took a nailbiter of an ending for the Orlando Magic to hold onto a 106-104 win in Game Three of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals. No doubt the Magic feel good about the win, as they should, but their prospects still don’t look great against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Orlando is looking a lot like the Cleveland Cavaliers did in the Eastern Conference Finals. They are living and dying on last-second shots and misses. They can’t seem to get everyone going at once. Superstar Center Dwight Howard managed to go without a dunk in a Game One that saw Los Angeles dominate 100-75. Game Two slipped away when guard Courtney Lee couldn’t finish on an inbound pass that could have won the game for Orlando. Even after recording the highest team shooting percentage in NBA Finals history in Game Three, the Magic could only manage to win by four – on their home court.

What is it exactly that’s keeping the Magic from looking like the elite team they seemed to be in the Cleveland series?

For one, you have to credit the Lakers. They are more balanced and deeper all-around than the Cavaliers. As I’ve mentioned before, their bigger, more athletic centers and forwards have been causing trouble for Howard, a fact made obvious by Howard’s inability to pull off dunk after dunk as he did against Cleveland. Another thing to consider, however, is that the Magic simply aren’t as good as they seemed to be in the Eastern Conference Finals. Against Cleveland, Orlando relied heavily on guard Rafer Alston, a player who consistently maintains one of the worst shooting percentages in the league. Alston managed to get hot and stay hot at the right time, as did backup guard Mickael Pietrus. That, in concert with Howard’s domination, ultimately spelled doom for Cleveland.

Game Three of the Finals saw the Magic start to fire on all cylinders, as Howard came alive with 21 points and 14 rebounds while the rest of the team shot the lights out. Again, though, they only managed to win by four. It would, of course, be silly to say that the series is all but over. If the Magic have to maintain this break-neck pace just to keep up with the Lakers, however, it doesn’t look good. I still can’t imagine this series going more than six games.

(Phil Kehres also is the co-author of Excuse Me, Is This Your Blog? He also contributes to Fear the Sword, a blog about the Cleveland Cavaliers of the Sports Blog Nation.)

(The fourth game in the NBA Finals is tonight, Thursday, June 11. To see the schedule of NBA Finals games on ABC, please go here. To see highlights of Game Three of the NBA Finals, please check below.)


















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6.10.2009

Broadway: Less Spectacle is Actually More

by Jordan Coughenour
Special to iVoryTowerz

Broadway's reputation has always been synonymous with the glitziest, gaudiest and most over the top production values known to the stages of this country. Especially in this age of the Blockbuster Musical (of which I have previously written), in which an Addams Family and Spiderman musicals are planning to invade by spring of 2010, audiences on the Great White Way expect their ears, mind and eyes to be blown away by the spectacle. So, it is particularly notable when, in this era, shows that work magic with the most basic accessories in sound and set are successful enough to draw the attention of both theatre buff locals and curious tourists.

Last season's Passing Strange, written by and starring Los Angeles rocker Stew*, was one of the most perfectly formed examples of minimalism in modern musicals. With only a few black chairs, and an exuberant light wall, the show managed to bring both vitality and urgency foreign to contemporary musicals. Even though it was far surpassed in statues by In the Heights at the 2008 Tony Awards, Passing Strange stripped away the glitter of Broadway and instead simply told a compelling story with a cast as energetic as any seen since the first months of RENT. Although Passing Strange closed prematurely, Spike Lee took interest in the play’s depiction of the black artistic experience, and filmed the show over the course of two evenings. The film will air in 2010 on the public television network’s Great Performances.

It seems to be a surfacing trend that one or two musicals each season will have the guts (and possibly lack of funding) to mount a spectacle-less production. The short-lived, Off-Broadway originated [title of show] played for just around three months last summer, to little success except among a die-hard community of theatre aficionados. The real subdued star of the 08-09 year is the first major revival of the 1970’s free-love musical, Hair. The show, which until the second act remains essentially without a plot, could easily be transferred to the New York streets where the action onstage is meant to take place. Without set changes, and costumes that could easily have been purchased at the nearest vintage store, Hair functions similarly to Passing Strange, and even [title of show] by relying on the energy and passion that the cast passes to the audience, in the place of visual décor. The most affecting moment of Hair was one that could hardly be controlled, though was not at all unexpected by the cast. During the curtain call reprise of the well-known, and somewhat generation-defining number “Let the Sunshine In,” the co-stars of the show invited audience members to come onstage. While this action usually results in flamboyant high school drama queens and hesitant children strutting their wares, during this particular opportunity, the stage was instead rushed by white haired baby boomers, who hip swiveled along with the cast, and belted out the entirety of the lyrics as if it were still hip to wear bell bottoms and flowers in your hair. The shameless enthusiasm and youthful vitality of what moments ago, were merely onlookers, echoed the infectious power of theatre without the constraints of elaborate overproduction.

*Stew is the abbreviated name of singer-songwriter Mark Stewart.

(The promotional poster is for Passing Strange. To see a video preview of Passing Strange, please check the clip below.)











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6.09.2009

Music Review: Placebo's Battle for the Sun

by Rick Rockwell

Alright, any album that starts with a song entitled “Kitty Litter” immediately has this critic’s attention.

Thus opens Placebo’s sixth album Battle for the Sun: a 13-track outing that veers from grungy, post-punk stylings to experimental indie rock. (The electronic bonus track version comes with an additional track, “In a Funk.” The limited edition box set also includes yet another bonus studio track, “Wouldn’t It Be Good.”)

Battle for the Sun plays like a raw open wound of emotions after a particularly bad romantic breakup. Brian Molko’s lead guitar jangles and screeches with anxiety. The lyrics vary from anger (“The Devil in the Details”) to spiteful revenge and finally to the painful aches of emotional recovery (the updated glam-rock on “For What It’s Worth,” the first single).


Musically, Placebo has sharpened its sound on this release. While Meds (2006) seemed like an audition for the spot as band most likely to succeed Radiohead as the kings of alternative rock, most of Battle for the Sun is straightforward rock. Although the band includes a song “Ashtray Heart” which is a salute of sorts to Captain Beefheart, most of Battle for the Sun seems focused on crafting well-honed songs and less on pushing the alternative musical boundaries. (In the 1990s, before its first record, Placebo actually played some concert dates using the band name Ashtray Heart.)

Perhaps this musical focus is meant as the band’s assault on the U.S. market. A well-known success in Europe and the U.K., Placebo is far from a name act on this side of the Atlantic. Placebo certainly has as much to offer or more than popular U.S. favorites such as Fall Out Boy or The Killers. For instance, the track “Julien” certainly has radio potential with its well-crafted use of strings and a strong hook. Molko’s guitar work on the track is also reminiscent of the best of Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins. But likely, U.S. radio programmers will again pass on this material: it is over their heads.

Tracks like “Kings of Medicine” strike home not only with brass arrangements but also interesting lyrical wordplay using alcoholic beverages as the key metaphors. This is a trademark for Placebo, which has often used drug and alcohol references (including the band’s name choice) to make larger statements. Although Battle for the Sun may actually be a battle for notice in the U.S., it is another strong release from Britain’s answer to Seattle and the grunge movement of the 1990s. And for those who may think Placebo’s time has passed, just sample one track: “The Never-Ending Why.” On that number Molkos’ buzzsaw guitar provides a counterpoint to the sonic barrage of layered backing vocals, synthesizers, and even a toy piano (which has become a bit of a signature for this era’s indie rockers).

The recommendation: cue this one up; it is so much more satisfying than any of that wimpy pop or emo that tends to dominate the airwaves these days.

(The promotional photo of Placebo is © copyright Joseph Lianes and is made available for use through Vagrant Records, Placebo's U.S. record distributor. Placebo will begin its world tour on June 12 with an appearance in Finland. To see the video for the single "For What It's Worth," please check below.)

For What It's Worth












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6.08.2009

Middle-aged Mothers for Marriage Equality Unite!

(Editor's Note: This piece is cross-posted from Kit-Bacon Gressitt's personal blog, Excuse Me, I'm Writing.)

from
Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Welcome to MAMMA!

We are a group of middle-aged mothers who want our every son and daughter to grow up and be able to marry a nice girl or boy — or boy or girl.

Yes, we’re talking same-sex marriage — marriage equality — so gird your loins and join us. You don’t have to be a MAMMA to be part of our family.

Some of us have gay children, gay relatives, gay friends, and we all treasure our civil rights enough to fight for them, like a mother for her babes, except we do battle with literature and poetry, images and discussion.

In fact, joining us means making an effort to talk about same-sex marriage with people who don’t support it. If that’s a scary thought, not to worry, Sweetie. MAMMA’s here to help. Visit us to learn how: www.mammasformarriageequality.com.

We might be profound or profane on occasion, pert or pedantic, prissy or pissy (too many ‘p’ words to keep that going), but whatever else we are, we are passionate about equal rights for all.

Even nose pickers. Now just imagine if folks tried to prohibit nose-picker marriage. We wouldn’t have enough mouths left to feed all that misinformation — no, homosexuality does not equate to pedophilia, it’s not contagious, your kids cannot be converted by their gay teachers and it’s not a chosen lifestyle! Hmm, do you suppose nose picking is genetic, too?

Anyway, yes, we are passionate about equal rights for all — especially in Fallbrook, where California’s anti-same-sex marriage ballot measure, Prop. 8, passed in November 2008 with 67.9 percent of the vote (compared to 52.3 percent statewide). That’s 11,298 voters whose hearts and minds can be changed to extend equal rights to all — as can hearts and minds across the country. Think of our effort as a little attitude adjustment.

Or we could just turn same-sex marriage opponents gay by close association. (Yes, of course that’s a joke! If you take life too seriously, Dear, you won’t have any fun at all.)

We will try anything, though, whatever it takes to jog memories of the poignant U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960s and encourage folks to step beyond their fear, to internalize our nation’s heroic invitation to diversity — and our charming knack for becoming better for it.

To keep this effort vibrant — and heart- and mind-changing — please submit suggestions for content to your MAMMA. We’ll post new content as often as our motherly duties allow. Original poetry, short fiction or essays; videos and images; anecdotes, articles or links to other folks’ content worth sharing — send it all! The more ways we deliver our civil rights message, the more hearts and minds we will change in support of marriage equality.

We have some treats for you, to kick off MAMMA:

1. For those in Southern California, on Wednesday 10 June at 6:00 p.m., Fallbrook’s Writers Read has a poetry and prose reading in Fallbrook, Come Out of the Closet and Read! Closet writers, folks already out of the closet; come one and come all.

In recognition of the California Supreme Court’s recent failure to rule in favor of marriage equality, we encourage sharing work about living gay or having a LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender) family member or friend in your life.

2. For the rest of you, a couple of videos (please check below). First, if you have not seen former Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent statement at the National Press Club, or if you’re dying to see it again to better analyze his every nuance, here it is for your viewing pleasure — or obsession. Some folks are critical of his parsing support for same-sex marriage by relegating that freedom to the states to offer or withhold, rather than supporting federal legislation. But remember the source — this is Dick Cheney we’re talking about. This is a pretty darn good thing. MAMMA recommends sending the Cheney video to everyone you know who opposes marriage equality and tolerates Cheney. Hmm. ...

On the lighter side, we offer up Stephen Colbert's parody of the National Organization for Marriage "Gathering Storm" ad. MAMMA recommends sending this video only to folks with a sense of humor.

So, enjoy the videos, talk about them with others — and join us in supporting marriage equality at www.mammasformarriageequality.com.

(The graphic is provided by MAMMA and used with permission. Please look for the Colbert and Cheney videos below.)
















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6.06.2009

iVoryTowerz Radio Takes a Summer Trip

This week, the underground podcast provides the perfect soundtrack for your summer vacation. No, nothing trippy here. Instead, plenty of C major smiles. The patented eclectic mix travels around the U.K., stops briefly in Central America, and even lands in New Orleans (in the French Quarter, no doubt). Along the way, the music covers more than 50 years of sounds (and that's not including the origins of the Louis Armstrong cover). Not only is there a hefty dose of pop and power pop (isn't that the official music of summer?) but you'll also find new wave, classic rock, and heavier sounds too. Rock on and enjoy!



(To stream or download this podcast, please click here.)


Playlist

"Brighton Rock" by Queen
Rick's Metal Shoppe: “Panama” (altered) by Van Halen
"Cliffs of Dover" by Eric Johnson
“Glad" (live) by Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood
"Sweeping the Ashes" by Serena Ryder
"I Gonna Break His Heart" by Toby Lightman
"Meet You in the Middle" by Joan Osborne
"Rock'n Me" by Steve Miller
“It's Alright” by Big Head Todd & The Monsters
“Happy” by Even the Sun
Jeff’s New Wave: “She Can't Dance” by Marshall Crenshaw
“You, Me and the Bourgeoisie” by The Submarines
"Thirteen" by Big Star
"Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie" by Eddie Cochran
"Summer in the City" by The Lovin' Spoonful

Cover Me: "West End Blues" by Allen Toussaint

(Mp3 Runs - 1:15:48; 70 MB.)

(The photo is by mistress_f of Rome, Italy via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)


DISCLAIMER: The iVoryTowerz podcast is a non-commercial, non-profit program designed and used for educational purposes. Some of the material contained in this podcast is previously copyrighted but used with permission. Other copyrighted material is reused following fair use guidelines. Any copyright holders who do not wish to have their material used should contact the programmers directly at ivorytowerzradio@att.net and it will be removed. The programmers do not support filesharing and encourage listeners to buy music from the artists featured in this podcast.





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6.05.2009

Films: Throw Down Your Heart

by Emily Norton
Special to iVoryTowerz

Back in Nashville again, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover a heart for Africa outside the non-governmental organizations of Washington, D.C. However, I did not expect to find it where I did. I’ve kept tabs on local musician, Bela Fleck, the acclaimed banjo player extraordinaire, ever since my dad had the honor of hosting Fleck for a practice session at our house. Naturally, I was thrilled when my father told me about Fleck's latest project, the musical documentary, Throw Down Your Heart, directed by Sascha Paladino. The idea for the film was birthed from Fleck’s desire to trace the history of his beloved banjo back to it roots. Soon, however, the project developed into something even greater than he could have expected. During his five-week long trek through Uganda, Tanzania, Gambia, and Mali, he forged relationships and collaborated with African musicians to create forty tracks of music (eighteen of which are on the record for the movie).


Fleck made the trip in 2005, but the film has taken three years to edit and is currently making its run through small film festivals around the country. In an interview with Nashville radio station Lightning 100 (WRLT-FM), Fleck mentioned that he’s now working to get the documentary more widely distributed on the big screen and on television. Regardless, he predicts the DVD release for sometime in October of this year.

Even more important than the history of the banjo, Throw Down Your Heart drives at a theme that deserves notice: we (as in the Western World) need a perspective change on how we view Africa as a whole. Yes, there is violence, disease, and poverty there. But, if we singularly focus on these negative aspects, we run the risk of devaluing the worth of a remarkably rich continent. For a wealth of great music and vivid people and places, check your local indie theater for Throw Down Your Heart.


(The photo of Bela Fleck playing in Africa is © copyright Argot Pictures which allows its use with the proper credits. To see a schedule of screenings for the film, please go here. To see a trailer for Throw Down Your Heart, please check below.)










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In Memoriam: David Carradine




Good-bye.


David Carradine


(1936 — 2009)


"I seek not to know all the answers, but to understand the questions."






(The photo of David Carradine is © copyright Jano Rohleder; the photo was taken during an appearance in Germany by the actor in 2005. The copyright holder allows use of the photo with the proper credit. Please see The Los Angeles Times for Carradine's obituary. To sample a portion of the series pilot for Carradine's popular Kung Fu television series, please check below. For a retrospective on Carradine and Kung Fu please see: "I Seek Kung Fu in the Traffic of Life.")






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