Make Playlist 37 Part of Your Heritage

Want to know a stupid excuse that works?
It's my heritage.
It's what I'm sure I'd hear if I approached any of the redneck yahoos down here in South Florida who proudly display the Confederate flag on their trucks. I won't even get started on those hateful bastards flying it from their house.
It's my heritage.
Sure, it's easy for me to use, too, particularly if I've had a few too many beers and did something stupid. Hey, I'm Irish.
It's my heritage.
The latest, and possibly stupidest, use of the excuse comes from those sad folks in Lousiana crying over the recent ban of cockfighting. Yes, the recent ban. As of Thursday, Lousiana was the only state in the country that allowed this animal cruelty. The ban took effect yesterday.
Billy Duplechein told the Dallas Morning News: "I think it's a loss for us. We're losing out on an opportunity to keep our heritage and our culture."
Those still fighting the ban love to point out that one of our most famous presidents earned his nickname Honest Abe by serving as a referee to cockfights. I don't know if that's true or not. But we also once had presidents who owned slaves.
But we as a society have grown.
And it's no longer heritage, Mr. Duplechein.
It's cruelty.

But not so cruel is this week's Playlist ....

Conor Oberst. Conor Oberst.
It's time to drop the emo label, gang. Conor Oberst is no longer the indie wunderkid. He's dropped the Bright Eye's moniker, for now that is. And at 28 years old now, he may be the best folk-rock singer/songwriter we have. Oberst's self-titled album is clearly one of the standout releases in this musical year so far.

See my full review of Conor Oberst on the Princeton Record Exchange blog.

Alive Day Memories. Home from Iraq.
James Gandolfini produced this 57-minute documentary, and interviews 10 soldiers who discuss their Alive Day, the date in which they narrowly escaped death, as well as their future and why they joined the services. Many of the vets have lost limbs, while others suffered brain injuries and/or post-traumatic stress. The story of Marine Corp. Michael Jernigan, who lost both eyes, is one of the most harrowing to watch. Gandolfini steers clear of debating the merits of this particular war, but very vividly allows us to see its results.

The Wishbones. Tom Perrotta

Tom Perrotta rocks. I knew him more by the movies based on his book (Election and Little Children) until I read The Abstinence Teacher a few months back. As I flew through The Wishbones, his first novel, in less than two days last weekend, I realized just how much fun this guy is to read. Wishbones is about Dave Raymond. Although in his 30s, Raymond still hasn't grown up. He has dated his girlfriend Julie ("off and on" he likes to point out) for 15 years. A courier by day, he plays in a wedding band on weekends. And he still lives with his parents. It's a good life, until one day he unexpectedly -- even to himself -- proposes to Julie. Over the next three months, he endures band problems and finds himself falling in
love with another woman. There are plenty of musical and band
references -- Uriah Heep? -- to keep a hack musician and rock-lover like me flipping the pages.

Trilogy. Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
My 14-year-old son has been listening a lot to Kansas. Yes, Kansas. Hey, it's much better than listening to Lil Wayne, 50-Cent or Hannah Montana. But hearing Kansas constantly had me in the mood for some real progressive rock, so I pulled out this 1972 classic. Unrecognizable faces with long hair? Check (see cover). Pompous song titles in multiple parts? Check (see the Endless Enigma, Parts I and II). A classical music composition with appropriate title? Check (see Fugue). Dopey lyrics? (See everywhere). But this thing cooks. Keith Emerson's keyboards and Greg Lake's bass propel most of the album -- the one exception being the guitar-based radio staple From the Beginning. The highlight is ELP's take on the Aaron Copeland composition Hoedown (Taken from Rodeo).

The Areas of My Expertise. John Hodgman.
Famed author-eelologist Lord Alfred "Pudge" Frumplecooke once said that "those who are doomed to repeat history are lucky if the history they are doomed to repeat is full on nigh with pleasure, particularly of the womanly kind." That was, of course, before he wrote the 9,700-line epic poem Hey, Who Smoked the Damn Maize?, which is still memorized and read in its entirety by 5th-graders every Thanksgiving in East Haddam, Conn. Thankfully, Hodgman details the history of pirates, haircuts and hobos. But, strangely enough, he left out any reference the integral role of the mighty dragonfly in our nation's history. That's OK. He still wrote a book to rival Poor Richard and any other almanacking schlubs.

On a more serious note, congratulations to Michael Phelps and all the athletes from all countries competing in China. I often straddle the fence when it comes to politicizing the Olympics. I'd rather see it as pure sports competition. But I am uncomfortable with it being in China. This week's Wikipedia link recalls one of the most political and social statements in modern Olympic history.

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