Thursday, April 16, 2009

Waco, TX

Can you believe that the crazy raid on David Koresh's compound in Waco, TX was already 16 years ago? Where has the time gone? Thanks to my 7th grade social studies teacher, Mrs. Talbot, I followed this story quite closely. The raid on the compound started on February 28, 1993 and came to an end on April 19, 1993 when David Koresh set fire to the place. I don't remember exactly, but I think like 70 or 80 people died altogether, many of whom were children. It's a horrible story and obviously a tragedy.

What really struck me at the time of the raid and ever since, though, was one of the tactics used by the FBI or whoever it was who raided the compound. All day and all night, they blasted this song over loud speakers outside the compound. I like to believe that it was the song that eventually led to David Koresh losing his mind and burning everything he'd worked for his entire life.

What would that say to you if you were the writer or performer of that song? I can just see the FBI boss guy being like, "Hmm...we've got to drive these guys out. What can we possibly do? What could we do that would make their lives in the compound so miserable that they would go insane and give up?"

I can see the guy at the long table in the board room who responded. I'm betting he was new on the job--a real eager beaver. "Uh...boss?" The experienced agents roll their eyes wondering how he'll make a fool out of himself. "I was listening to the radio today and I heard this song..."

The boss looks at the American flag in the corner of the room and walks over to the window. He pauses as if to take in the scene outside the window for a moment. He slowly rocks from his toes to his heels, turns around and casually takes off his glasses. "I don't like it," he replies, "I love it. Get a blank tape and record 'These Boots are Made for Walking' in the same fashion Ben Belnap made his tape of 'Highway to the Danger Zone' in 1987--the same song recorded over and over again on both sides of the tape. Let's put this thing to bed." And he walks out of the room without calling the meeting to a close.

And so the tale was born.

But on this 16th anniversary, I'm driven to think what song would drive me to insanity, pushing me to the point of burning everything I own and have worked for my whole life for, including my family and loved ones. I have come up with three finalists as I have racked my brain over the past few days. I present them with no explanation and in no particular order. I simply dedicate them to David Koresh on the 16th anniversary of his death.

David, if you really are in hell, these songs are probably playing all the time over Satan's loudspeakers anyway, but I dedicate them to you nonetheless.

Number 1: "Muskrat Love" by Captain and Tenille

Number 2: "Rag Doll" by Aerosmith

Number 3: "Homies" by the worst 'band' of all time, Insane Clown Posse

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Say It Out Loud:

Luke Williams is a ridiculous-cool musician. So I'll give a brief history of Luke Williams, possibly the most talented musician I know. The "possibly" comes from the time I met Baby Spice in the late nineties. Since I only 'met' her, I don't know if that counts as 'knowing' her. So for that reason, Luke is the only possibly the best musician I know. Baby Spice's talent just reached so far beyond the bounds of just music. That's why I'm naming my next daughter Baby Spice Belnap. But this blog isn't for singing praises to Baby Spice, it's for telling you about Luke Williams.

So I met Luke when he was like 13 or 14. I think he's like 20ish now. The kid could seriously play the guitar/bass as a 13 year old. I thought, "Hmm, this kid has potential." I thought, "Hmm, maybe I could kidnap this kid and make him play on the streets to get me money and pay him with dirty crack. My plan, unfortunately, never came into fruition; and alas, Luke was discovered by someone else. My first mistake was letting him see face before throwing a gunny sack over his head. I had to play it off like it was just a big gag--ha! gotcha!

Well Luke has now released his first album. It's more of a demo of sorts. And I'm going to be straight with you all right now. When Luke told me about it, I thought, "Yeah, I'm sure it's pretty good. Luke is very talented. He can play a mean guitar." Folks, I di'n't know the half of it. Of course Luke can play. But who thought he could sing? I'm telling you, the kid can sing. I know what you're thinking right now. You're thinking, "Yeah, I'm sure he can sing and play guitar, but there's no way he rocks the accordion." Wrong. He teaches those vertical ivories a lesson every time he picks up his squeeze box. But what do my accolades mean? Nothing. Don't take it from me. Go to his website and download it for free.

But in case you don't feel like doing it right now just based on my word. I've provided a little sample below. This is from my favorite song if his "We Were Wrong". Ridiculous. It was hard for me to choose a one minute clip. You've got to hear it all. But this is a good teaser for you. Thanks, Luke. And well done. I really wish I was cool as you, but I'm unfortunately destined to play Led Zeppelin covers for the rest of my life with my falsetto voice...Hey hey mama said the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove...

Sorry. Got distracted by the falsetto voice. I'll get back to Luke. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dear Jon,

Ahh, Jon Stewart. I really had my doubts about him. I've wondered if a political comedian of sorts who has survived for the last eight years by having George W. Bush and Co., an easy target for any comedian really, could continue to make it work after his man was elected. Well, Jon, you've still got it.

You may or may not have caught wind of Jon Stewart's recent 'War of Words' with Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC's "Mad Money". This is golden. *warning* This clip does have a bleeped out swear word in it but is otherwise quite harmless--unless you're living in a McCarthyist society--then you'll find it offensive for other reasons...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cool Blogger Feature I'm relatively new to 'blogger' and found an interesting thing that I'm sure you all already know about. So you can click on someone's interests on their profile and find everyone else on blogger who has those same interests. I decided to put the feature to the test. I typed in "clubbin", "beach volleyball", "working out", "driving jeeps", "pumping bass", "calling my friends 'bra'", "tanning", and "puka shell jewelry", and I came up with this hit. Blew my mind--seriously. The technology these days...

Monday, March 2, 2009

I got a D+??

Funny Tommy Boy Clips -

I think the first 50 seconds of this clip sums it up. Yes indeed, faithful readers, I have passed. How do I feel? Well, I think the best of the British Invasion of the 1960s sums that up on my playlist thing.

I know you're all thinking, "Why hasn't Ben updated his blog in so long?" and "I can't survive any longer if Ben doesn't post on his awesome blog." etc. etc. Well wait no more ye faithful followers, I have returned.

As it turns out, there are these tests called 'prelims' in my program that one must pass before he or she is able to begin his or her dissertation. Testing material for prelims consists of four years of course work and an an article list of 200 articles. Preparation for these tests consumed my life for about 2 months. My family suffered, my work suffered, but worst of all, you, my blog readers suffered--waiting in agony for the next post. I hope you accept my sincerest apologies.

Ok, so the first portion is the oral testing. This is where the professors in my program grilled me on articles from the list and I had to come up with material to show I had read them. It was intense, but I passed that portion.

The next section was the essay portion. This consisted of one essay question from each of the five professors in my program. This took all day long. Literally from 8 until 5. Ben Springer, my faithful friend and companion throughout this process, was done by 3:45, but not being as cognitively gifted, I took the full 9 hours. Although there were a few speed bumps along the way, like learning that I don't really know the legalities of the American Psychiatric Association's Code of Ethics, I passed. And like Thomas Callahan III, I too likely earned a D+, and that is just fine by me. I now have only one hoop remaining before you--every last one of you--will refer to me as Dr. Benjamin Bruce Belnap. I will accept no other title. Maybe Dr. Ben--like when really pretentious MDs or PhDs try to keep it real. Like, "Hey, I'm cool. We're buds--but don't forget I'm a doctor along the way, you worthless piece of crap."

Yes, if only those playground bullies could see me now. Yeah, maybe I still look a little sickly. Yeah, perhaps I still enjoy a good game of hopscotch and jumprope with the girls. But after a mere four years in graduate school, I am only a dissertation away--one year at the very soonest--from being a doctor--a fake know the PhD kind. That'll show them. Now if you could excuse me, I need to go hold my pillow tightly and weep for awhile. I'll be ok. Don't worry about me. I love graduate school. I'm so glad I did this. No regrets. Why are you looking at me like that? I said I have no leave me alone!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I can't explain it, but...

I love rap. I do. I don't know why. There was once a claim (that has since been proven untrue) that Lauryn Hill said she would rather her children starve than a white person buy her album. Well, true or not, I'm sure it wouldn't make her day to know that I really love rap. In fact, I worked at a junior high in West Valley last year as a drug prevention specialist and took every opportunity to make rap videos. I got two opportunities (one and two) and put them on youtube. I got very little feedback, but one particular piece of constructive criticism from a young viewer was "That was gay." Ok, so I think it goes without saying that I epitomize "nerdy white guy". I'm like albino white. I'm by far the worst dancer I've ever met--no rhythm. None. I've got 2 kids with a third on the way and am currently looking for a minivan to meet my growing family's needs. Nuff said? No? Okay, throw in the fact that I was raised in rural Idaho where Twisted Sister and Travis Tritt ruled the airwaves, and I'm sure Lauryn Hill would actually say what she's been rumored to have said.

So I think it all started when Tyler Jacobson, my friend's older brother by 4 years, found an Arrested Development tape in the high school bleachers. Or maybe it goes back to (and I shutter to think this) the rise of Milli Vanilli and M.C. Hammer into mainstream music and me and Casey Parks blasting it while playing tramp-ball in his backyard. I don't know. But whatever the case may be, it has stuck. So today's segment is dedicated to the top three rappers in Ben Belnap's opinion--which clearly carries quite a bit of clout (see resume above).

There are 3 inclusion criteria for what makes a good rapper according to Ben Belnap:

1) Speed and Rhythm (must have both--Bone Thugs and Busta Rhymes = speed only = obnoxious. Sugar Hill Gang and other old-school groups = rhythm only = appreciated, but a little boring)

2) Voice (Snoop Dogg, for example, meets the other two criteria, but I don't like his voice so he didn't make the cut--which I'm sure would leave him heart-broken.)

3) Word play (I don't know if this the official term, but I refer to creative rhyming schemes and use of words to match rhythm.)

So I have dissected songs of my top three rappers into approximately one-minute snippets that show their best skills. I'm open to your feedback if you don't agree. So without further adieu, number 3:

Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest. He is ridiculous. His voice is so smooth and rhythmic. He's a pioneer.

I know. You're probably thinking, "How can this rap expert improve on that?" I can with second place, though it was tight race.

#2: Zaakir from Jurassic 5. Thank you, Lisa Williams, for introducing me to these guys. They're the best collective group of rappers. The first 15 seconds of this song is the whole group together, but I included it because it's a brilliant transition into Zaakir taking over by himself.

Now for number 1. This wasn't even close. This rapper is head-and-shoulders above the rest. I can again thank Tyler Jacobson for this one. He went down to Lane's, the only store in town where you could buy tapes, and bought this tape by putting the price tag over the "explicit lyrics" label. He then hid it in closet, and we, his minions, were able to make copies for ourselves.

#1: Treach from Naughty by Nature. He is so fast, so rhythmic, so passionate. My only criticism is that he's kind of whiner, but who am I to judge? Anyway, this song is totally under-appreciated. It's the second to last song on their 1991 debut, self-titled album. The song's called "Thankx for the Sleepwalking", and no, that 'x' is not a typo...just another rapper butchering spelling. I included a part that features a back-and-forth piece with some chica. It's truly brilliant.

I hope you enjoyed the provided samples. Thankfully, I don't have a large reader base, so I won't hurt these artists' street cred too much.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A little ironic, I think.

On his 1964 "Times They are a Changin'" album, Bob Dylan included "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll". It's a wonderfully poetic song that tells the sad and frustrating story of Hattie Carroll. Here is the story in short (and not really checked for errors--so don't footnote it).

So in 1963, there was a black-tie party at a hotel in Baltimore. Attending the party was 24-year-old William Zantzinger, son of a super rich tobacco plantation owner with hundreds of acres in the south. He got really drunk and was trying to get a laugh out of some buddies and hit one of the black waitresses, Hattie Carroll, with a cane. She left the party shortly after, feeling "deathly ill" and died several hours later.

William Zantzinger was arrested for homicide, and a long trial brought his bigotry into light. Many witnesses recalled him calling her and other servants "stupid niggers", etc. He spoke once of segregation to the jury, saying something like, "Well I don't think you would want to use the same facilities as niggers either." So the guy was obviously a totally unrepentant bigot in the courtroom. He was found guilty, and the southern, white judge sentenced him to 6 months in prison with a $500 fine.

As it turns out, William Zantzinger died only a few days ago at the age of 69. For the story of his death click here .

The irony? And maybe this is a stretch, but I think it's cool. William Zantzinger died only a few days before we will inaugurate our first black president. In only 46 years we have come from sentencing an upper-class white man to 6 months in prison for killing a black servant to electing a black president. Now that's pretty cool, I think. Obviously racism is everywhere and it's still a huge problem, to say the least, but all in all I think we've come a pretty long way.

Click here for "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" lyrics, and I've got it playing on my playlist thing. Enjoy.