Friday, April 24, 2009

Is That All There Is, Is That It Now?

Approximately 500 years ago today (give or take), YHP discovered the joys of heavy metal. While perusing the tape collection of his then current girlfriend, he came upon a copy of "...And Justice For All" by Metallica. This was pretty surprising, in that she rarely seemed to be into anything harder than Firehouse. I sort of half-remembered a black and white video about an army dude who totally got fucked up and a chubby-cheeked head-band wearing drummer grimacing musically that was pretty cool, so I asked if I could bring it home and check it out. It was love at first listen.

From there, it was on to Megadeth, Anthrax, and anything else that would annoy my parents (quick story: Years later I was listening to P.J. Harvey's Rid Of Me in my room and my mom asked me if I was listening to Satanic music. I responded, and I quote, "No, mom, this is, like, my generation's Joni Mitchell!" I was such a putz.) Against their hopes, this was not a phase I grew out of. Even though it eventually morphed into a taste for punk and hardcore, I still love and listen to metal. Not enough to follow that road into black metal or thrash (except for Venom and Tankard, which I find, for different reasons, totally hilarious) mind you, but bands still playing classical metal, such as Motorhead, still give me a thrill.

Given this, it's hard to pinpoint why I never really got into Iron Maiden when I was younger. They've got everything I look for in a metal band: awesome guitar gymnastics, a long and storied history, incredible album artwork that featured an affable mascot (who fought and killed Margaret Thatcher!), goofy faux-philosophical lyrics, etc... But still, for some reason, it never really clicked. I think it may have been a problem of finding the right album to wade into, which I didn't find until I picked up a used copy of A Real Live One at IC's own The Record Collector one afternoon. Keep that in mind while purveying this weeks "Pointless List" - you never forget your first love.


4) Can I Play With Madness?

When I was looking up some info on this one I found the original video on YouTube (embedding disabled, I'm afraid) and the memories came flooding back. I used to LOVE this video when I was younger, not particularly because I liked Maiden at the time but because I was a huge Monty Python nerd and it features my favorite Python, Graham Chapman, in one of his final TV appearances. This is one of my favorites of the sub-class of Maiden songs I like to call "Bruce Dickenson Discusses Human Nature with Some Kind of Wizard".

Favorite Phonetic Lyric: "He said do you wanna know the truth, son?/Oh, I'll tell you the truth!/YOUR SOUL'S GONNA BURN IN A LAKE OF FIIIIIIIYAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

3) Wasting Love

Yeah, yeah, yeah, so it's a "power ballad". Fuck you, dude, it still kicks ass. Power ballads can work if, and only if, the band performing them have a reputation for making ears bleed. This is a scientific fact. It's just that sometimes, after blasting out an incredible set, they start thinking about the road ahead and the loneliness and their absent sweethearts and it just sort of happens. Don't fault them just because you have a heart of stone.

Favorite Phonetic Lyric: "Dream on brother while you can/Dream on sister I hope you find the ooooone/All of our lives covered up quickly by the tiiiiiiiiiiides of tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime (sniffle)"

2) The Evil That Men Do

A great solo guitar intro leads to another rock solid rock anthem punctuated by another incredible solo by Adrian Smith. This song is easily mistaken at times with Run To The Hills because of the similar structure (and FYI, you can assume I'm a huge fan of all Maiden's more conventional hits [RTTH, Number of the Beast, etc...], I'm just pointing out these particular songs for praise because they are often overlooked). Dickenson at his most biblical.

Favorite Phonetic Lyric: "Living on a razor's edge/Balancing on the Ledge/Living on a razor's edge/Balancing. ON. THE. LEDGE-AH! (gotcha!)/Balancing on the leeeedge!/Living on a razor's edge/You know!/YOU KNOW! (chorus)"

1) Judas Be My Guide

Speaking of biblical, overlooked songs, how come this one isn't more recognized (or at least popular enough to be featured as DLC for Rock Band)? Complex harmonies, timely message, great stickwork by Nicko McBrain... I think Fear Of The Dark is just underrated as a whole.

Favorite Phonetic Lyric: "FALL DOWN!/You better pray to your god for mercy/SO KNEEL!/And help the blade cut clean!" (Note: I quote this part as much as possible in many inappropriate situations)

So there you have it. And yes, I know some of you Paul DiAnno fanboys might argue with this list and for good reason. It's just that I have a hard time even considering the first two albums as actual Iron Maiden productions (I have the same problem with the Josh Weinstein episodes of MST3K). Not that the DiAnno albums suck by any means, on the contrary - they're pretty rocking in their own way. But controversy aside, I hope my little list made you stop a while and ponder the majesty and violent beauty of one of mankind's greatest art forms.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Quick Notes

A: I'm going to make an effort to update more frequently, hopefully every week. Look for me to post on Thursday or Friday. Hopefully these posts will be more entertaining than reviews of whatever DVD I watched last night or the nachos from our company cafeteria, but I ain't promising anything. Forgive me if I go on long digressive rants about these damn teenagers today with their big pants or post a series of "CUBS WIN WOOOOO!"-type things - just check back next week for some real content.

B: I was heartened to find that Todd Totale over at Glam-Racket has finally found time to alert his readers about the horrible violence that is possible in the American workplace to those who don't pay attention to their work, and, consequently, the danger inherent in accidentally hitting pressurized gas canisters with a mallet causing them to propel themselves through the air into your supervisor's office hitting him in the face and killing him. That's why it's such a shame that he hasn't used his large fanbase to publicize the very real and very serious problem of crazy people trying to cut you with knives. I guess Mr. Totale simply doesn't care if you or your family is accosted by miscreants wielding the dreaded Mexican Sacatripe or knives hidden in lipstick containers (popular with prostitutes!). This is where he and I differ. I beg of you, please, PLEASE watch the following video with someone you love. It even contains a wonderful musical interlude that young people can't resist. And remember, with these tips you can make sure you never die in no ghetto. Absolutely never. Period.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Goodbye To All That

It was way past midnight
And she still couldn't fall asleep
This night the dream was leavin'
She tried so hard to keep
And with the new day's dawning
She felt it drift away
Not only for a cruise
Not only for a day

As I've stated before in one of my many posts on one of my many failed blogs, I love summertime in Iowa City.

There's just something about the way the town empties out for a couple of months, leaving a mostly deserted ghost of a mid-western town to rebuild for the next wave of rich kids to arrive in the fall. The streets are quiet and you can see the smiling faces on the young children walking around with their parents in the just south of uncomfortable heat of an Iowan summer. The pedestrian mall, instead of being a haven for backwards-baseball-hat-wearing bros shouting into their cellphones, becomes a gentle, brick-strewn path full of elderly folks enjoying a walk and pseudo-intellectuals congregating at the many coffee shops. You can easily get a table at one of the fine restaurants and there always seems to be a free seat at the bar at one of the thousands of taverns. It's hard to leave when you travel on vacation and it always looks beautiful when you get back. And for all these reasons, it's going to be bittersweet experience when I move away in the fall.

Yes, the time has come for your's truly to seek shelter in another locale. The nights sleeping on my old futon is playing havoc with my back muscles and next month I'll be turning 36 in a neighborhood filled with 20-year-olds. I can take a hint. It's time to move on. So I'd like to use this space to say goodbye to some of the individuals who made living in IC such a... place to... exist... for a while: my fellow neighbors.

Looking back, I can see now how spoiled I was three years ago when I got sick of living in my little basement efficiency and took my landlord's offer to move into a larger one bedroom a few blocks away. My neighbors at the old apartment were mostly hippies and artsy types - quiet and accommodating. I kick myself now when I think about going to look at my future domicile and barely noticing the wide upstairs balcony and the yard full of empty Busch Lite cans. I disregarded the carpet full of cigarette burns and the broken cabinets - I mean, after all, Dallis said he would fix them before I moved in. But it never occurred to me that I would be moving into a "party house". I mean the few other renters I met was an older guy who was REALLY into the WWE (bonus!) and a guy with some mental handicap who was on an assisted living arrangement. It really didn't occur to me that they lived below in the basement apartments and the college students who I would see everyday were in class at the time. Now I know the older dudes didn't mind living there because the ceiling in the basement wasn't as paper thin as the ones upstairs.

As soon as I moved in, the ebb and flow of a college student's social life became glaringly obvious to me for the first time: drinking on Sunday through Wednesday followed by heavy drinking on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Evenings when I wasn't forced to blare my TV or stereo to drown out the steady diet of Tupac and Eminem songs that shook the light fixtures in my room were punctuated by the ever present Official University of Iowa Motto of "WHOOOOO!" outside my window. Violent arguments over cell phones brought the 5-0 to my door at 3:30 a.m. one morning and it was often a grim amusement to try and guess what kind of shit (sometimes literally!) would be waiting for me on the lawn or in the parking lot when I shuffled groggily off to work in the morning. Ever been woken up by a chorus of douchebags drunkenly singing "Margaritaville" next door to you in the early morning hours? It's as pleasant as it sounds.

So when I got my notification that my lease was up for this year (along with the increasingly standard rent increase) I took a pass. I found a 2-bedroom in nearby Coralville that includes stringent noise control rules and an August move-in date which gives me one more summer in IC to enjoy. Just the thought of the relative quiet of my new digs has filled me with a strange inner peace. The yelling and the constant squeaking of the ceiling above me doesn't bother me as much and just a few nights ago, I got an aural present:

" got out of OUR bed, went downstairs, and SUCKED MY BROTHER'S DICK... ON MY FUCKING BIRTHDAY!"

I look at the clock - just passed 2 a.m. It's Chunky Gal and Rapper Dude, they are fighting.

" fucked Tommy, you fucked Greg, you fucked all my friends! You let Greg put his dick IN YOUR PUSSY!"

All of a sudden I realize I haven't heard their stereo blaring out some bass-heavy dreck in a while (maybe it's broken?) and, for some god-forsaken reason, the song "Captain Of Her Heart" by the Swiss group Double pops into my head. I heard it on the radio a few days before and promptly forgot about it, like much of the world did a few months after it was released in 1986.


Slowly, I piece together a narrative. Chunky gal finds one of Rapper Guy's ex-flame's number on his cell phone and calls it. Accuses boyfriend of infidelities. Boyfriend repeatedly brings up Chunky Gal's many past indiscretions, including providing oral gratification to his sibling on the night of Rapper Guy's birthday party. Rapper Guy denies that he and Chunky Gal are involved using a sort of reverse "Single Ladies" logic. Bemused downstairs neighbor smiles and turns over on his futon while Kurt Maloo's breathy baritone whispers through his brain.

Too long ago
Too long apart
She couldn't wait another day for
The captain of her heart

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Glorious Day (not a Jay Cutler post)

This makes it twice this year my home state has surprised and delighted me to the point where I have literally wept tears of joy. As a friend and relative to more than a few people who are directly effected by the court's overturn of this stupid and vindictive ban, let me add my own thanks to the wise members of Iowa Supreme Court. History will vindicate your decision.

Oh, and if anybody knows Jay Cutler's number, let him know I'm single and willing.

Unanimous ruling: Iowa marriage no longer limited to one man, one woman

The Iowa Supreme Court this morning upheld a Polk County judge’s 2007 ruling that marriage should not be limited to one man and one woman.

The ruling, viewed nationally and at home as a victory for the gay rights movement and a setback for social conservatives, means Iowa’s 5,800 gay couples can legally marry in Iowa beginning April 24.

There are no residency rules for marriage in Iowa, so the rule would apply to any couple who wanted to travel to Iowa.

Shelly Wolfe and Melisa Keeton, who waited for word of the ruling outside the Polk County Recorder’s Office, immediately called their pastor anyway to make plans.

“We’re going to make it legal,” Keeton, 31, of Des Moines said.

Wolfe, 38, and Keeton, who is 21 weeks pregnant, went through a commitment ceremony two years ago. Their marriage certificate was among the 26 that were put on hold when Polk County Judge Robert Hanson’s decision to open the door for gay marriage was delayed until the high court could weigh in.

Third state to allow same-sex marriages

Today’s decision makes Iowa the first Midwestern state, and the third in the country, to allow same-sex marriages. Lambda Legal, a gay rights group, financed the court battle and represented six couples who challenged Iowa’s 10-year-old ban on gay marriage.

Supreme Court Justice Mark Cady, who wrote the unanimous decision, at one point invoked the court’s first-ever decision, in 1839, which struck down slavery laws 17 years before the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of a slave owner to treat a person as property.

Iowa’s gay marriage ban “is unconstitutional, because the county has been unable to identify a constitutionally adequate justification for excluding plaintiffs from the institution of civil marriage,” Cady wrote in the 69-page opinion that seemed to dismiss the concept of civil unions as an option for gay couples.

“A new distinction based on sexual orientation would be equally suspect and difficult to square with the fundamental principles of equal protection embodied in our constitution,” Cady wrote.

The ruling, however, also addressed what it called the “religious undercurrent propelling the same-sex marriage debate,” and said judges must remain outside the fray.

Some Iowa religions are strongly opposed to same-sex marriages, the justices noted, while some support the notion.

“Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates and entrusts to courts the task of ensuring that government avoids them,” the opinion says.

The ruling explicitly does not affect “the freedom of a religious organization to define marriage it solemnizes as unions between a man and a woman,” the justices stressed.

The case, Varnum vs. Brien, involved couples who sued Polk County Recorder Timothy Brien in 2005 after his office denied them marriage licenses. Hanson sided with the couples last year but then suspended his decision pending a high court ruling.

• Read the summary: Iowa Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage.
• Read the full opinion: Iowa Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage.

“We won! It is unanimous!” Camilla Taylor of Lambda Legal exclaimed when the ruling was announced. “Today the dream becomes reality … and Iowa constitution’s promise of equality is fulfilled. Iowans have never waited for others to do the right thing. Iowa took its place in the vanguard of the civil rights struggle, and we couldn’t be more proud to be part of this.”

Gov. Chet Culver e-mailed a response to reporters that said: “The decision released this morning by Supreme Court addresses a complicated and emotional issue, one on which Iowans have strong views and opinions on both sides. The next responsible step is to thoroughly review this decision, which I am doing with my legal counsel and the attorney general, before reacting to what it means for Iowa.”

Richard Socarides, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay civil rights, said today’s decision could mean as much to gay couples outside Iowa.

“I think it’s significant because Iowa is considered a Midwest state in the mainstream of American thought,” Socarides, a senior political assistant for Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin in the early 1990s, said Thursday. “Unlike states on the coasts, there’s nothing more American than Iowa. As they say during the presidential caucuses, ‘As Iowa goes, so goes the nation.’”

Opponents, supporters react

Opponents have long argued that allowing gay marriage would erode the institution. Some Iowa lawmakers, mostly Republicans, attempted last year to launch a constitutional amendment to specifically prohibit same-sex marriage. This is because they have tiny, tiny little minds.

Such a change would require approval in consecutive legislative sessions and a public vote, which means a ban could not be imposed until at least 2012, unless lawmakers take up the issue in the next few weeks. Leaders this week said they had no plans to do so.

Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, nonetheless called for an immediate move to amend the constitution.

“The decision made by the Iowa Supreme Court today to allow gay marriage in Iowa is disappointing on many levels,” he said. "I believe marriage should only be between one man and one woman, and I am confident the majority of Iowans want traditional marriage to be legally recognized in this state Also, I hate homos because my daddy didn't love me enough."

“Though the court has made their decision, I believe every Iowan should have a voice on this matter and that is why the Iowa Legislature should immediately act to pass a constitutional amendment that protects traditional marriage, keeps it as a sacred bond only between one man and one woman and gives every Iowan a chance to have their say through a vote of the people.”

State Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant, major dickhead, said he would support a constitutional amendment. However, he also believes lawmakers would have to work on parallel legislation that would grant civil unions or some sort of way to grant legal rights to same-sex couples.

“I firmly believe marriage should be between a man and a women but at the same time, I believe we should address these issues,” Heaton said. “I would rather recognize a civil union than to have same-sex marriage. After all, everybody knows that once a man gets a taste for the delicious flavor of cock, he becomes a slave to it. I'm living proof!”

Diane Thacker’s eyes filled with tears as the ruling were read to an crowd opposed to gay marriage that had gathered on the north side of the judicial building.

“Sadness,” she whispered.. “But I’m prayerful and hopeful that God’s word will stand. Hopefully He'll get to it between making black babies in Rwanda starve to death for being heathens and helping the Hawkeyes get a good bowl seed.” Then she added, "My mailbox is made of pickles!"

Thacker said she joined to group “because I believe in the marriage vow. I can’t see it any other way.”

Democratic State Sen. Matt McCoy of Des Moines, saw the decision a different way.

“I’m off the wall. I’m very pleased to be an Iowan,” said McCoy, who is openly gay.

Voices from outside the state quickly took sides. The Iowa Supreme Court’s Web site was deluged with more than 1.5 million visitors as of 11 a.m., court spokesman Steve Davis said..

Doug Napier, a complete and total douche of a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund in Arizona, said the Iowa Supreme Court “stepped out of its proper role in interpreting the law.”

Napier said the legislature should place a constitutional amendment on a statewide ballot to let Iowans decide.

The Defense of Marriage Act “was simple, it was settled, and overwhelming supported by Iowans,” Napier said. “There was simply no legitimate reason for the court to redefine marriage.”

Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, a New Jersey group, said “once again, the most undemocratic branch of government is being used to advance an agenda the majority of Americans reject. Wait, we're still talking about slavery, right? What year is this? ”

“Marriage means a husband and wife. That’s not discrimination, that’s common sense,” she said in a press release. “Even in states like Vermont, where they are pushing this issue through legislatures, gay marriage advocates are totally unwilling to let the people decide these issues directly.”

Mark Kende, a constitutional law professor at Drake University, described the ruling as narrowly written and “very well reasoned,” and predicted it will have national, possibly international, influence. But it also could create new, inter-state legal battles, he said. Couples who flock to Iowa to marry may not have their marriage recognized in other states that prohibit same-sex marriage, he said.

The decision also is limited to civil marriages performed in county buildings, he said.

Meanwhile, Kate and Trish Varnum, whose surname will forever be attached to the historic decision, called it “a great day for Iowa.”

At a press conference this morning, Kate Varnum said: “Good morning… and I’d like to introduce you to my fiancĂ©. Today I am proud to be a lifelong Iowan.”

Trish Varnum added: “It’s been a wonderful adventure, and we’re looking forward to the next wonderful adventure — as a married couple in Iowa.”

A Des Moines Register poll in 2008 of Iowa lawmakers showed that a majority of Iowa’s lawmakers —123 of 150 — said they believed marriage should only be between a man and a woman. It was unclear whether those lawmakers had enough votes to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Iowans have mixed feelings on the issue

An Iowa Poll in February 2008 showed that most Iowans believed marriage should be only between one man and one woman. However, the poll also showed that a majority of Iowa adults supported the creation of civil unions that would grant benefits to gay couples similar to those offered to heterosexuals in marriage.

In the poll, 62 percent of Iowans said they believed marriage should be only between a man and a woman. Thirty-two percent said they believed same-sex marriages should be allowed, while 6 percent were unsure.

Iowans were split, however, on whether the state constitution should be changed to ban gay marriages. More than half of Iowans who responded to the poll supported civil unions for same-sex couples. About four in 10 Iowans opposed civil unions, and 4 percent were unsure.

More reaction from elected officials, religious leaders

Harkin, a Democrat, issued a written statement today that said: “my personal view has been that marriage is between a man and a woman, and I have voted in support of that concept. But I also fundamentally believe that same sex couples in a civil union should be entitled to all the basic legal protections and benefits of marriage.”

“I know that this decision will be very hard for many to accept,” he added. “But I also know that it will provide many committed same sex couples and families important rights, as well as an important sense of recognition and belonging.”

Religious leaders who support gay-marriage rights praised the ruling as an affirmation of equal rights for all Iowans.

“The court’s ruling shows Iowa is a place that celebrates fairness and equality for all Iowans,” said Connie Ryan Terrell, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa. “It upholds the spirit of Iowa’s constitution, which clearly states each of us has the right to equal protection and recognition under the law.”

The Rev. Mark Stringer said he cried when he heard of the decision. Stringer performed the only legal same-sex marriage in Iowa when he officiated a ceremony for Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan in 2007.

“It was such a sense of relief to me as someone who has cared about marriage equality,” Stringer said, adding that he is happy gay couple will have the same rights as he and his wife.

“It’s really an astounding moment under our history,” he said. “What really excites me is that Iowa is the first in our area of the country. We are being a leader in civil rights, which will be part of our state’s history.”

Polk County Attorney John Sarcone, whose office represented Brien, said has no plan to seek a new hearing on the case or appeal to the federal courts. Sarcone said the case involved “a substantial time and monetary commitment” for the county, although he did not know the dollar amount. Assistant County Attorney Roger Kuhle, who argued the case to the high court, traveled to England and Canada at county expense to take sworn statements, he said.

“This was never anything personal,” Sarcone said. “We have a responsibility to defend the recorder. We defended the statute, and we had a fair and full hearing in the district court and the supreme court. Everything was done with dignity.”