Category Archives: Irony

Do you hear the people sing?

We went to the Circle Cinema tonight to watch an indie documentary called Shut Up and Sing, about the way a handful of thoughtless reactionaries manipulated country radio (which was all too willing to be manipulated) in an attempt to torpedo the Dixie Chicks’ career after Natalie Maines made a comment that 72 percent of the American population apparently agrees with today.

The Circle is great. It’s an old movie theater that’s undergoing restoration. It has a gorgeous neon marquee out front and an artsy, countercultural vibe that reminds me of U. City’s wonderful Tivoli. It’s a great centerpiece for the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood, which is undergoing a revitalization effort kind of like the one they’re hoping to pull off here in Red Fork.

Regardless of your opinion of the war in Iraq, the current occupant of the White House, or the Dixie Chicks themselves, the film we watched tonight is alarming for one very important reason:

It demonstrates the enormous power of corporate America to control our access to information.

A handful of executives control the music that is played on the radio. In the film, the station owners claim their decision not to air the Chicks’ music was simply financial — they were supposedly being inundated with phone calls from angry listeners threatening to boycott the station if they played the band’s songs — but if you’ll recall, at the time, many of those stations’ DJs went to great lengths to trash the Chicks on-air, and some even went so far as to organize parties at which fans were encouraged to bring their Dixie Chicks CDs to be destroyed, either by burning or (in one notorious example) being backed over with a tractor.

Think about that a minute: Radio stations organized CD-crushing parties. That’s like a library hosting a book burning. The stations claimed they were simply responding to public demand. Nice try, but I don’t buy it. Quietly taking the Chicks off the playlist would have been a response to public demand. Holding a party at which guests were invited to participate in the most offensive form of censorship known to humanity is not responding to public demand. It is pandering to the lowest common denominator in a tasteless attempt to milk free publicity out of another’s misfortune. And I won’t even bother to comment on the subtext involved in taking a tool of the hardworking, resourceful American farmer and using it as the centerpiece of a tasteless display of ignorance and hate, except to note that the phrase “beating plowshares into swords” comes to mind.

In an odd coincidence, I came home from work this evening to find Ron watching a DVD called Independent America. It’s a documentary about a couple who spent 55 days on the road, visiting mom-and-pop businesses and researching the impact of corporations on the American culture and economy. I watched a few minutes of the film with Ron. What I saw was sobering and left me grateful for my experiment of a year ago — in which I spent an entire month shunning big-box stores (and didn’t miss them much) — and eager to turn it from an experiment to a permanent lifestyle choice.

I intend to watch the entire film in the next couple of days and will probably have a full review when I finish.

In the meantime, I’m sitting here listening to KDHX online and enjoying fond memories of afternoons spent in my neon instructor’s shop, listening to Fred Friction’s show above the purr of the blower and the occasional shrieks of the bombarder.

I think maybe I’ll send them a donation in honor of Ron’s birthday in a couple of months.


Carbondale After Dark

H.B. Koplowitz’s infamous account of the (literally) riotous history of the Carbondale, Ill., Strip during the 1960s has been out of print for many years.

My friend Jeffrey and I — who have been thick as thieves since the evening we shared a valiant but largely unsuccessful effort to keep straight faces while watching Lancelot spray saliva all over the stage every time he spoke during a performance of Camelot from the front row at Shryock Auditorium our sophomore year — spent the better end of four years searching for copies of the book. Each of us had vowed to make sure that the other one received a copy, in one form or another, as a gift if we ever found it.

In late 2000, Ron tracked down a copy for $60 on and bought it for me, just because I wanted it.

I promptly began the painstaking process of typing a few pages at a time and e-mailing them to Jeffrey as a sort of serialized Christmas gift.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey, unbeknownst to me, had tracked down a copy of the book at the Carbondale City Library, Xeroxed the entire thing, and tucked it into plastic sheet protectors for me.

We had a wonderfully O. Henryfied moment that December, when he presented me with his gift during his annual Christmas party. Ron and Jeffrey were the only ones in the room who fully understood why I began laughing hysterically as soon as I tore off the paper and saw the cover (which Jeffrey had also Xeroxed and tucked into the clearview pockets on the front of the binder).

It was a priceless moment — utterly typical of us, and somehow a perfect explanation of what our long and hilarious friendship is all about.

Carbondale After Dark is a fun account of a fun university where I made a lot of friends and a lot of great memories. I don’t know if it was worth the lengths Jeffrey and I went to in our quest to find it after it went out of print, but it’s definitely worth the $19.95 cover price for a reprint. You can preorder a copy online (and get a 20 percent discount and a free poster of the cover) here.


P.S.: The garlic is coming up in our back yard, the ice-cream truck came by on Saturday, I saw a mockingbird in the front yard yesterday, and it’s 37 days to P&C camp. Spring is on the way! Can’t wait until the chorus frogs come back to Makanda. I’ll have to head home for a visit when they do….

Snookered by an 8-year-old.

I have GOT to learn to quit answering the door when I’m half-asleep.

I’ve just gotten up from a nap and am trying to regain consciousness this afternoon when the doorbell rings.

I open the door, and this chubby, exhausted-looking little guy in shorts and a T-shirt mumbles, “Would you like to buy some popcorn?”

As I am looking at the brochure, this rugrat’s mom and dad make some chitchat about how they live over on Such-and-Such Street, while Junior fidgets uncomfortably, groans about how he’s been walking all day, and finally cuts to the chase by announcing to his mother, in a stage whisper you could have heard in Sapulpa:

“I gotta PEE!”

His mom tells him to calm down, because they’re going to their friend’s house next, and he can use the bathroom there. So I hurry up and mark something on the order form and send them on their way.

It isn’t until I get back inside and think about who Junior is shilling for that I realize that I have been HAD.

I have gone out of my way for years to avoid supporting the Boy Scouts. Not that I have anything against munchkins going camping and doing good deeds, mind you … but I have a lot of gay friends, and the Boy Scouts’ membership requirements are just a wee bit too exclusive for my tastes. I think everybody ought to be able to go camping in the woods in a silly-looking uniform if they want, regardless of race, creed, color, or sexual orientation. (The Girl Scouts, incidentally, agree with me. Which is good, because it would probably kill me to try to survive a year without a case of Caramel DeLites.)

But this afternoon, by the time I figured out I was being solicited by a plainclothes Cub Scout, I’d already agreed to look at his brochure.

There is an unwritten law of human decency that says that if you look at a rugrat’s sales brochure, you must buy something, whether you want it or not. I don’t care if he’s raising funds for al-Qaeda. If you take the kid’s order form, you’ve gotten his hopes up, and it’s just not right to dash them, no matter what you think of his cause.

Besides … I felt sort of sorry for Junior, who reminded me of the Red Fork Hippie Chick at age 6, trudging around her neighborhood in a beanie and sash, dancing up and down on her neighbor’s porch and trying not to wet her pants while she waited for him to quit making small talk and hurry up and order his @#$% Thin Mints.

How could I fight that?

I feel so used.

Caramel corn comes in Nov. 12.