Monday, September 29, 2014

Music Video Monday Special: Stuff 80's Politicians Didn't Like

Ever seen this label on a CD (or on a song on iTunes, for my younger readers)?

Well, if you've ever avoided buying a CD or song with this label (or, more likely, bought said CD or song specifically because it had the label and you were a defiant teenager), then you can thank Tipper Gore and the three other founders of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), a committee formed to keep violent and sexually explicit music out of the hands of children.

They also fought to develop a rating system for music, and came up with ideas like forcing record stores to keep albums they deemed inappropriate behind the counters like porn and "reassess[ing] the contracts of musicians who performed violently or sexually in concert," which is totally not a ridiculously vague set of guidelines that could easily be twisted and abused.  Fortunately, that stupid sticker above is the only one of their suggestions that ever really took off.

I'll let Dee Snider and Frank Zappa, who both had the dubious honor of being called to testify at the PMRC hearing, tell you a little more about what an overreaction all this was:

And that brings me to the reason for this post. October is coming up shortly...and that means Halloween. the spookiest holiday of the year, is also on the way. So over the next month, I will take a look at my favorite entries from the PMRC's "filthy fifteen" list of songs that supposedly represented the foulest of the foul, the smuttiest of the smutty. These are the tunes that struck icy fear into the very hearts of parents, teachers and other authorities back in the day. Join me on this harrowing journey and discover, for once and for all, the answer to the age-old question: Are you made of sterner stuff than an 80's politician?

The answer is yes. Just...yes. You absolutely are.

Watch the videos. Those politicians are the blandest, most pedantic assortment of lip-pursing, pearl-clutching drones I've ever laid eyes on. It just looks really jarring to see Dee Snider's wild lion's mane of hair in the middle of that sea of white bread. Frank Zappa stands out too, but in a different way; he went for the "blend in with the enemy" strategy and wound up looking sharper than everyone else in the room. No wonder these stodgy old geezers' wives started a freaking committee for the sole purpose of picking on musicians they didn't like. Ladies must've been bored out of their blow-dried skulls.

First up: Judas Priest, "Eat Me Alive."

Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Announcement: Frankfurt Book Fair

This is just a short post to say...

My book, Devil Music, is going to be exhibited at the Frankfurt Book Fair!

Basically, this is a big trade event where folks in the publishing industry (mostly publishers, editors, librarians and the like--there are other book fairs that focus on authors) get together to talk about books and check out new titles.

I won't be able to make it to Frankfurt myself, but my book will definitely be there. So if you're a bookseller and you're planning on going, check it out!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

On This Day In 1986...


Since we're already on the subject of religion from Monday's post, I'd like to share this archived New York Times article I found.

The gist of the article is that the Vatican, in an attempt to preserve religious orthodoxy, randomly punished a bunch of local church leaders who didn't conform perfectly to established Catholic doctrine. For instance, the article mentions one Archbishop Hunthausen who was stripped of most of his authority after the Vatican started suspecting him of "tolerating liberal practices in marriage annulment, liturgy and other spheres."

Not believing in or practicing, you'll notice. Just tolerating. Stay classy, 80's Vatican.

Fortunately, someone was willing to speak out against this madness. Rembert G. Weakland, Archbishop of Milwaukee and owner of one of the most incredibly Dickensian names I've ever encountered, wrote some columns criticizing the Vatican's methods. This was the first time someone so relatively high in the Church hierarchy had ever openly spoken out against the Vatican's methods, so this was a fairly big deal.

He was pretty sassy, too. He accused the Church of "fanaticism and small-mindedness" and claimed that their practice of "theological suppression" had caused "a total lack of theological creativity in the U.S.A. for half a century." BURN.

Then the story took a dark turn.

I looked up this Archbishop Weakland on Wikipedia to learn more about him.

Turns out he's a bit of a shithead. Of the protecting pedophile priests and intimidating child victims of sexual abuse into not coming forward kind. The kind who told children reporting sexual abuse that they were "squealing."

Damn. Now I'm not rooting for anyone in this story except good ol' liberal-theology-tolerating Archbishop Hunthausen. But I'm not looking him up on Wikipedia. With my luck, I'll probably find out that he habitually drop-kicked baby bunnies or fed orphans to tigers or something, and I don't want to know.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Music Video Monday: Always There For You

Let's talk about Christian rock.

Ever notice how US Evangelicals seem to have forged their own weird shadow-society? One with its own bookstores and restaurants, as well as a whole world of "Christian" art and pop culture ranging from the funny and charming to the groan-worthy crap to the just plain disturbing? Well, guess what? They also have their own hair band!

This is Christian glam metal band (wow, do those words ever sound weird together) Stryper. As Christian music acts go, they're generally much closer to the "good" end of the spectrum than the "makes me want to rip my own ears off" end. The Christian message is definitely there, but it doesn't really get in the way of the song, or the video. 

Interestingly, a lot of Christian critics didn't like Stryper very much when they first came out. Some of their complaints focused on the band's costumes, which were deemed too flashy and not modest enough for Christian performers. I find the modesty bit a strange nitpick, since these guys are the most well-covered hair metal musicians I've ever seen:

Well...except for their drummer. He has a bare chest and bare arms, the brazen hussy! He'd better stop flaunting himself and making good, upright Christian women sin in their hearts, or he'll end up going to *whispers* H-E-double-hockey-sticks with those painted man-Jezebels from Poison and Motley Crue!*

Also, I would like to know why they have a helicopter.

And why they keep said helicopter's door wide open while they fly over the city:

Given that the video implies they do this all the time (they even have their very own personalized helipad) I can't help but wonder if something similar to that one Simpsons episode where Flanders gets put in charge of the town's surveillance cameras is going on here. Are they flying around town to catch people in the act of breaking the ten commandments? Do they have, like, a megaphone in there for scolding jaywalkers? Or maybe some sort of garden hose hookup for spraying cold water on teenagers making out in the park?** 

Alas, we never find out. They only spend about 16 seconds in the air before landing and putting on a show. See? I told you they had their own personal helipad. It even has their logo*** painted on it:

Then they dance around on giant money.

It's a bit hard to tell with all the flashing red lights and constantly shifting camera angles, but that's definitely a blown-up image of a (I think) one hundred dollar bill they're performing on. And that's the only part of the video that really bothers me. I think the dollar imagery was only included because of the "In God We Trust" motto on US money (in fact, I'm pretty much 100% certain that's the case, since the video comes right out and says it. Loudly):

See? Subtlety!!!!!!! :D :D :D 

But whatever the intention is, the accidental implication seems to be that if you worship God hard enough, He'll turn you into a hot rock star and give you so much money that you'll think nothing of carelessly stomping on the stuff (also possibly your own private helicopter). That's a fairly strong whiff of the prosperity gospel, and I've never particularly liked the idea of the prosperity gospel, I mean, sure, quietly and privately thank God for personal successes if you feel like it. But if you're the kind of person who's only into this whole religion thing for the swag, you'd probably be better served by selling your soul to Satan. He hands out worldly wealth and power too, and he lets you sleep in on Sundays.

Still, I can't help but like Stryper. After all, if a band managed to get onto Jimmy Swaggart's shit list, they must have been doing something very right.

*Although if Hell is going to be full of gorgeous, shirtless male glam rockers, I don't think I'd mind going there.
**They fly over a fairly substantial body of water in the opening sequence, so I like to think that they use that chopper to track down people they suspect of fishing without a license and pelt them with rotten eggs. They take that whole "stewardship of the earth" thing from the Bible pretty seriously, don't'cha know?
***In case you're wondering what the "Isaiah 53:5" under their name means, here's the Bible verse. Stryper derived their name from it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On This Day In 1989...

...Hurricane Hugo made its first landfall on St. Croix--the first stop in a destructive path over the mid-Atlantic cost of the United States. Hugo was a pretty big hurricane:

And like most big hurricanes, it was capable of wrecking a whole lotta buildings (especially beautiful historical buildings like St. Luke's Chapel in Charleston, because hurricanes are assholes):

And putting boats where boats don't belong:

I don't know whose beached sailing vessel that is in the above photo, but the fact that it's named Guppy seems creepily apt, given how utterly small and insignificant it clearly was before the storm's might. Also, because I'm a bad person sometimes, I couldn't help but imagine that it flopped around in the roadway and gasped for breath like a giant guppy after it was deposited there.

Hugo was a pretty expensive hurricane. Once it finished ripping through the US, it had done about 7 billion dollars' worth of damage. That made it the most expensive hurricane the United States had ever seen at the time. Here's a post-hurricane picture from (I think) Charlotte, North Carolina that emphasizes the extent of the infrastructure damage Hugo caused:

And because talking about the tragic aftermath of a terrible, destructive storm is awfully sad-making, I'll end this post with a completely irrelevant story.

When my husband and I were living in Connecticut, we were on a main road with the big, heavy-duty power cables that piped in the town's main electricity supply running along it. Those cables were mounted on utility poles similar to the ones in the picture above, but a bit taller and with more branching bits at the top to carry more wires. Those poles ran along the other side of the street from our house, but there was one pole--a bit shorter than the main ones, but just as thick and no less sturdily fixed in the ground--on the edge of our lawn. This pole held the wires that carried power to our house and the neighbor's house.

Late one night some (probably) drunk idiot plowed a car into "our" pole. Hard. I woke up to find the power out; about seven police cars clogging the road in front of the house; and on our lawn, a small-ish sedan that was going to need some extensive body work before it got back on the road, because the utility pole that used to be vertical and in the ground by the side of the road was now perfectly horizontal--and very much not in the ground--right across the mystery car's crushed-in roof.

The utility poles in the photo above made me think of that incident. Despite being recently battered by the winds of a class 5 hurricane, even though they're obviously damaged and the cables on them almost certainly aren't functioning, they're still standing. Our pole, though? Let one stupid human come along in some crappy little car, and it gets taken right to the pavement.

There's a deep, insightful metaphor in there somewhere. Or possibly a lesson about the distribution of force.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Music Video Monday: Beautiful Bomb

This post isn't going to be quite like a regular Music Video Monday post, because the video involved did not come out in the 80's or even in the early 90's. In fact, it was released in 2009. But I'm writing about it anyway, because it was crafted from pure happiness and cotton candy. I want everyone to know that it exists.

This is "Beautiful Bomb" by Finnish glam rock band Reckless Love, and despite not actually being made in the 80's, it is still one of the 80's-est music videos I've ever seen.

Lots of gaudy pink neon in the background? Check!

Pretty men with long, super-glossy, massively enviable hair? Skin-hugging man tights? Check and check!

Lead singer riding a motorcycle while making male model-style pouty lips? Hell yeah!

And don't forget the prerequisite sexy blonde lady, seen here taking a leisurely aerial ride on the video's main visual gimmick:

I don't know how well it comes through in this still, but that's a fuzzy leopard-print cowboy hat she's waving around in her left hand, and that too is pretty classic 80's.

Even the band's website is an epic 80's-splosion.

Also, the lead singer may be the most adorable person ever to walk the face of the earth:

D'aww, look at him, all bouncy and happy and smiley! I've heard that Finns have gotten a bit of a reputation for being glum,* but this guy looks like if he hugged you or high-fived you or even brushed past you too closely, you'd instantly detonate in a cloud of glittery confetti from the sheer force of his powerful infectious cheerfulness. No wonder he's singing about bombs.

Gaah, that lady was the fifth fan I've blown up this week, and it's only Tuesday! Curse my radioactively sunny personality!

In conclusion, the world is a better place because this video exists. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have a day to waste obsessively seeking out and watching every Reckless Love video on YouTube.

*According to a bunch of random-question-askers on the internet, anyway. Type in "Why are Finns" and Google gives you autofilled responses like "Why are Finnish guys so shy" "Why are Finns so quiet" and "Why are Finns so weird." Then again, you also get "Why are Finns good drivers," good to have at least one positive stereotype going for you, I guess?  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cooking With Lady Evil: Doughnut Sundae And Steak Rub

So Fall is coming soon.

We all know what that means.

Krispy Kreme pumpkin spice doughnuts are on shelves again! I'm telling you right now, there's nothing better than a Krispy Kreme pumpkin spice doughnut.

Except for a Krispy Kreme pumpkin spice doughnut that has just been microwaved for fifteen seconds to make it all warm and sticky and gooey like it just came off the conveyor belt of one of those awesome machines.

If you were to, say, plop a big scoop of ice cream (vanilla works best, but dulce de leche would probably be pretty good too) on top of that doughnut, I doubt anyone would complain. And if you then drizzled the ice cream with a touch of caramel or butterscotch sauce and a few rainbow sprinkles, well, then you're just following the progression of deliciousness to its natural conclusion. 

Seriously, though, buy some pumpkin spice Krispy Kremes, heat one in the microwave for fifteen minutes, and put ice cream, caramel sauce and sprinkles on top. Best. Sundae. Ever. It tastes like Halloween candy and happiness.

And since slapping store-bought ice cream on a store-bought doughnut and calling it cooking seems a little lazy, here's a bonus recipe for a simple steak rub. I've found it works quite well on beef, but it'd probably also work on pork, or even as a seasoning for steamed vegetables:

1/2 cup coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons whole mixed peppercorns
2 teaspoons dried tarragon

Using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, coarsely grind the peppercorns. Mix salt, ground peppercorns and tarragon. Place mixture in a food processor and pulse several times.* Can be stored in an airtight container for several months. 

*Or if you're me, use a long, sharp knife and a sturdy cutting board to cut up the salt mixture manually while wishing you had a decent, non-broken food processor. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Announcement: Yet Another Review!

I'm pleased to announce that yet another blogger has chosen to review Devil Music! You can read the review here.

Many thanks to Terra Kelly at (where else?)!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Book Announcement: Another Review!

Another blogger has reviewed Devil Music! You can read the review here.

Many thanks to Gayle Pace at Be Mi Own book reviews.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Music Video Monday: Walkin' Shoes

Ever had those neighbors who deliberately inform the whole neighborhood that they're having sex?

You know what kind of neighbors I'm talking about: The squealing, shameless sexual athletes with freakish stamina, the ones who leave their windows open and probably deliberately bought a rickety old bed and a cheap mattress to maximize headboard-thump and spring-squeak output. Those neighbors.

If you've ever had a neighbor like that, you'll probably sympathize with Old Black Guy in Tora Tora's "Walkin' Shoes" video.

Old Black Guy just wants to sit on his porch and enjoy the sun:

Unfortunately for him, his neighbor, Skanky Rocker Dude, has plans to show off what a fun night he had.

You see, Skanky Rocker Dude is a special kind of exhibitionist. He isn't content to just make a lot of noise and "accidentally" leave the blinds up. No, he just has to add a special little twist of narcissism to his public display. See, after he's done having sex, he just gets up, puts on his clothes and sweet cowboy boots:

And then he just walks out the front door (of course it was left open all night; how else would Old Black Guy know how much amazing sex Skanky Rocker Dude was having?), instead of waking Groupie up and telling her that this was fun, but it was a one-night stand and it would be best if they both moved on now:

That way, when Groupie realizes he's gone with no explanation, she'll panic and start frantically searching the neighborhood for him. Of course Skanky Rocker Dude times this so that Old Black Guy will be on his porch to see the whole interaction, from his leaving to Groupie's panicked searching. Skanky Rocker Dude then struts down the street, content that the neighbors couldn't help but notice his monumental dude-broness.

Indeed, Old Black Guy couldn't help but notice something about Skanky Rocker Dude. And it wasn't quite what Skanky Rocker Dude hoped he'd notice:

Silly Skanky Rocker Dude. Don't try to show off while wearing something distracting like that pair of jeans with half the butt torn off. You could be juggling winged kittens while tap-dancing on a rainbow, and the people you're trying to impress would still be fixating on the fact that they can see your crusty old Donald Duck boxer shorts.

Fortunately for Skanky Rocker Dude's dignity, Old Black Guy isn't a super-passive-aggressive type who would rather, oh, just sneak out of the house and let a girl freak out over the possibility that he's been kidnapped by a Mexican drug gang than just tell her that he's not that into her:

No, if Old Black Guy has a problem with your behavior or fashion sense, he won't hesitate to call you out. And he'll do it diplomatically:

"So here's the deal: You buy yourself some new jeans that don't look like you tried to cut them into assless chaps and gave up halfway through, and I'll give you this guitar."

"A free guitar, and all I've gotta do is go shopping? That's totally rad! I'll do it!" 

"Good man."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Attention Earthlings: I Have Taken Over Your Airwaves... tell you that you should all read my book!

So I had a radio interview today with KBYR in Anchorage, Alaska.* I had one yesterday with 105.9 in Lewes, Delaware, and I'm having one tomorrow at...hey, you know what? I'm just gonna post a list of all upcoming interviews in chronological order to make this easier for everyone:


Station: CFZN
Based in: Haliburton, ON
Host: Rick Lowes
Date: 9/4
Time: 10 a.m. CT (11 am ET)
Length: ~7 min, taped


CFZN interview will now take place at 10:00 ET on Friday September 5. Same host and length. 


Station: WRJN
Based in: Racine, WI
Host: Ted Ehlen
Date: Friday, Sept. 5th
Time: 4:35 p.m. CT (5:35 pm ET)
Length: 10-13 min, live


Station: KSRQ
Based in: Thief River Falls, MN
Host: Glen Braget
Date: 9/9 
Time: 2:00 p.m. CT (3:00 pm ET)
Length: 10-20 min, taped

The KSRQ interview has been postponed. It is now tentatively scheduled for Thursday.


Station: WDEZ
Based in: Wausau, WI
Host: Terry Stevens
Date: 9/10
Time: 12:00 p.m. CT (1:00 pm ET)
Length: ~20 min, taped


Station: KMA Radio
Based in: Shenandoah, IA
Host: Dean and Don
Date: 9/15
Time: 8:45 am CT (9:45 am ET)
Length: 5-8 min, live


Station: KZIM/KSIM
Based in: Cape Girardeau, MO
Host: Faune Riggin
Date: 9/25
Time: 8:40 am CT (9:40 am ET)
Length: 15 min, live

I've posted links to all these stations, so listen in if you have a chance!

Side note: When I looked up KYBR on the internet in preparation for my interview, I noticed that they have a regular program called "The Jesus Christ Show," and I immediately thought of this.  

On This Day In 1984...

...South Africa adopted a new constitution. This constitution expanded the South African parliament to be more inclusive, adding a House of Representatives to represent the country's Coloured (mixed race) population and a House of Delegates to represent Indians. Yay South Africa!

Of course, they somehow didn't get around to giving Blacks the right to vote until 1994. But hey, at least they only took ten years to do it. Considering the fact that it took the USA 93 years to extend constitutional voting rights to African Americans and about a hundred years longer to convince (most) white Americans that not letting African Americans vote is a crappy thing to do, I think the South African government actually did a pretty good job.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Music Video Monday: I Think I've Noticed A Trend

Let's talk about cowboys.

Specifically, cowboys and 80's music videos.

You've probably heard this song before:

You may also have heard this one:

Okay, being a modern-day cowboy is a weirdly specific subject for not one, but two rock bands to write songs about. Still, it is only two songs, so it could just be a coincidence, right?

Except it isn't. After watching enough of these videos, I noticed just about everyone getting in on the Old West action--even the bands who don't flat-out sing about being cowboys dress up as cowboys, or have at least one video set in a sort of cowboyish location.

For instance, check out Ratt cosplaying as gun-slinging members of the Improbably Perfect Hair Gang for their "Wanted Man" video:

Meanwhile, W.A.S.P. frontman and obscenely hot guy Blackie Lawless doesn't dress up as a cowboy himself, but he seems awfully comfortable in the old-timey saloon setting of his "Blind in Texas" video, although the barkeep doesn't seem too comfortable with him:

And how about that Van Halen video where cowboy Eddie Van Halen teamed up with his brother Alex/Tarzan and samurai Michael Anthony to imperiled drag queen...from two...randy midgets in red catsuits because...uh...I guess there was a huge epidemic of drag-queen-molesting midgets in the 80's or something?

Also, David Lee Roth is dressed as Napoleon for some reason.

*blink blink*

Anyway, moving point is that cowboy and Old West-themed music videos were a thing in the 80's, and they were all over the place. And it wasn't just rock bands, either. Check out the official "Whip It" video, in which a member of New Wave sensation Devo assaults a frontier-cabin-dwelling pioneer woman with a bullwhip:

I see one obvious question here: Why cowboys? Why would 80's rockers latch on to this group of people who were mostly former soldiers who couldn't find work anywhere else and freed slaves fleeing discrimination in the South, were paid one dollar a day,* carried neither makeup nor hair dryers nor Aquanet in their saddlebags and probably attracted few if any groupies? Were they all just that nostalgic for old 50's Western flicks or something? Seriously, what is going on here?



Yup, that's Ronald Reagan, in a cowboy outfit, on a horse.** And now I wonder.

I wonder if all these videos are products of the political climate of their time--sly bits of satire aimed at the optimistic white-picket-fence-and-apple-pie conservatism of the Reagan era. Could the Van Halen brothers be poking fun at conservative commitment to traditional gender roles while also subtly drawing attention to the administration's sluggish response to the AIDS crisis?  Maybe the Ratt video deftly turns the mythic cowboy image Reagan cultivated for himself on its head by returning to the older popular conception of the cowboy as a violent, dangerous outlaw. Perhaps when Blackie Lawless sidles up to that sharp-dressed, middle class bartender who doesn't know what a gig is, he represents the working poor who don't fit comfortably into the economic narrative of Reagan's Morning in America ideals, confronting the powers-that-be and demanding that their voices be heard at long last.

Or maybe I'm way overthinking this, and a bunch of 80's rock stars just all decided at roughly the same time that big hats and six-shooters were cool.

*In case you're wondering, a dollar a day was a pretty crap wage even in the nineteenth century. Adjusted for inflation, one 1875 dollar works out to about $21.74.

**I think it's worth mentioning that when I typed "Ronald Reagan on" into Google Images while looking for a picture of Reagan riding a horse, the first result the autocomplete tried to give me was "Ronald Reagan on velociraptor."