23 September 2012

Battle Born by The Killers

When I started this blog many years ago I did so for many reasons. In over 230 entries since then I have broached a number of different subjects and experimented with some different writing prompts and purposes. This appeals to me because I read an eclectic variety of literature. My weekly reading covers immense space, including The Washington Post, Us Weekly, The Economist, Newsweek, fictional books, online news articles of interest, tweets, and even personally selected, brief news stories sent directly to my phone. Then, within all those venues comes variety further still. I enjoy the sports page and the front page; international news and cheap entertainment news; quality, classic literature, and purely entertaining comics and fictional work; music reviews, movie reviews, and the Scriptures. Granted I don’t read all of that all the time, but I do do so on at least a weekly basis. Because I have my eyes dipped in so many different words, I enjoy allowing my fingers to also produce so many different words. Recently I bought a new highly anticipated CD- Battle Born by The Killers, and I’d like to review it for you here. This will be my first attempt at a written CD review.

A dramatic shift, directly proportional to the lifestyle changes of lead singer Brandon Flowers, has occurred in the past decade for The Killers. Their newest album, Battle Born, is a fine addition to their collection of lounge music inspired by their hometown of Las Vegas. Battle Born is a leisure album best enjoyed while sitting out on a Summer night on your wraparound deck. It’s an honest account of Summer life in Las Vegas. On their hit single 'Runaways,' Flowers croons “The blond hair blowing in the Summer wind, a blue eyed girl playing in the sand.” Later he sings “We got engaged on a Friday night… I could take care of the three of us but I get the tendency to slip when the nights get wild. It’s in my blood.” Ballads like this one reflect the pragmatic truth of life in Sin City- marriages, temptations, blond haired women, and, of course, sand.       This honesty is perhaps the chasm that separates The Killers from the rest of the competition. This types of lascivious acts are all over rap music, but The Killers have a way of portraying them in their true state; like a beer commercial with the disclaimer “The people in this commercial are not actually as happy as they look.”
Not even the bookers in Las Vegas could have predicted in 2004, when their debut album Hot Fuss was released (remember ‘Somebody Told Me’?) that they’d be releasing a chill album filled with heart breaking romantic love songs eight years later. But that is where we have found ourselves with Battle Born. Perhaps the transformation can be attributed to the lead vocalist and clear leader, Brandon Flowers. Flowers has undergone a spiritual and familial transformation in the past decade. He has turned in to a church attending family man with a (blonde) wife and two young children. This mellowed lifestyle is a far cry from Sam’s Town, where he sings about his Uncle Johnny’s crack addiction, or Hot Fuss where he speaks of the ‘Midnight Shows.’ His bandmates may not have fully agreed with his new style, prompting Flowers to break away and produce a solo album in 2010 (Flamingos). The success of this solo venture assuredly convinced his bandmates that soothing music was their new direction. Battle Born is not your hard rock, Muse-esque album like Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town, but it is undeniable The Killers. This entire band with four major album releases have really helped to classify a new type of Las Vegasian music.
The best love song on the album, 'Here With Me,' is a sweet song about a boyfriend struggling with a long distance relationship. It's a theme many can relate to, told through sympathetic and endearing eyes.
Recommended Tracks: 'Runaways'; 'Here Withe Me;' 'Deadlines and Commitments'

17 September 2012

Going Out With the Missionaries

Today the full time missionaries, of which I was once long ago (in Arizona), asked me to accompany them on a lesson to teach a non-Mormon who is 'investigating' the Church. It was quite a trip. I wish so bad I had a recorder with me so that I could capture the humor in all its glory, but I thought it might be a little inappropriate. To avoid the awkwardness I just set up my tripod and camcorder which was, admittedly, more obtrusive but had less of an FBI or CIA feel to it. This investigator, who I will call Gator, was extremely nice and friendly to me and the missionaries. He has met with the missionaries before, been to Church, and was quite knowledgeable regarding Mormon lingo. So what was his hold-up you don't ask? Weed. The kid loooooooves to smoke weed. And he's not willing to give it up because he believes full on that it's what Christ wants him to do and that it absolutely brings him closer to Christ. The very skilled missionaries decided to read a scripture to Gator, found in the Book of Mormon.
Moroni 7:13- "That which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God."
After this verse Gator stopped the missionaries and said "You nailed it! That's exactly right! That's how I feel every time I smoke pot! As soon as I light up Christ is right there with me, as close as ever. He encourages me to smoke more, and then we usually play stuffed animals together." At that last remark I let out a little snort and tried with all my might to hold in laughter. Have you ever had the sensation of trying to bring two or more loads of laundry up from the basement and you have socks and shirts spilling out all over, trying to escape your clinging grasp? Analogously my laughter was the laundry, and my hands were my attempt to keep the sound inside. He literally told us he plays stuffed animals with the Savior when he smokes pot.
Gator is a full on believer that Christ is his Savior and greatest advocate, and that He loves Gator. I agreed with all that. But then things got a little weird when Gator told us he regularly kisses Christ. He even gave us an impression, puckering up and pecking the thin air. It was very bizarre. Not bizarre like seeing a dolphin eat a Hammerhead shark on a gangplank, but bizarre like watching a guitarist play the violin on an exercise ball. This guy was so nice and friendly to us, but you could clearly see the weed was having a greater effect on him that he realized.
He told us that he might have to quit smoking soon because he is on probation and getting caught with Marijuana would not be good for his legal situation. He voluntarily told us that he was completely innocent. In his own words, his mother called the police after she couldn't find him one night, and she instructed the cops who found him to take him right to the hospital. As he was being arrested, the cop 'used so much force he broke all his fingers trying to put the handcuffs on me.' Hmmm... Interesting interpretation. I wasn't there so I shouldn't judge I suppose.
The lesson ended when the missionary told him that he thought the Savior would want Gator to stop smoking weed. Gator disagreed completely, and there was an awkward silence where no one knew where to look or what to say. It finally ended when Gator said, "Who's going to say the closing prayer?"
There is nothing like serving a mission. It brought back a lot of memories from my own time, I'm just too tired to write about then now.

11 September 2012

Chicago Teacher Strike

If you've been reading the newspaper or watching the news this week, the chances are good that you've heard of the Chicago teacher strike going on. The chances increase dramatically if you subscribe to a newspaper or have access to a television. Those chances go up even further if you are yourself a teacher. And finally, I'd say there's a one hundred percent chance that you've heard of the strike if you are in fact a teacher in the Chicago. I meet most of that criteria, and I have been to the Windy City so I am aware of the happenings, at least inasmuch as the Washington Post and The Onion report. 
I always thought that I would have job security as a male math teacher. In the twelve minutes standing in front of the academic counselor's office at the Y, deciding on a major, I never thought that I might be forced to give up my job security. I recall in splashed color (as opposed to vividly) the teacher strike in Belmont, MA when I was in elementary school. Massachusetts is a unionized labor state much like Chi-town, the difference being  Massachusetts is a state and Chicago is a city, and in MA the teachers are required to join a union. It's part of your teaching contract that you pay teacher's union dues and therefore are part of a union. All of this could false, mind you, but I believe it to be true from what I've heard and what I've read on The Onion. Anyway, I would be really peeved if I were required to go on strike as a teacher. I love my job! Sure the pay is lousy and the hours are long but there are so many incredible things about being a teacher too. For example, the look on a 12 year old's face when you make a Katy Perry reference and they get it. That would never happen at an accounting firm or a lawyerly palace. I could write a whole post about the joys of teaching, but I don't think it would affect the Chicago strike very much. 
I'm not yet sure which side I'm on. Of course one, or many for that matter, would expect me to be on the side of the teacher's union. But I don't like the idea of walking away from a job, no matter the circumstances.  And I don't like the idea of forcing teachers into a union and then forcing them to go on strike. But on the flipside, I absolutely see how teachers get trampled on. We get blamed for a lot of things that are completely out of our control. And there truly is no known way to evaluate teachers; it's as elusive as a Kristen Stewart emotion. Basically I don't know which side I'm on.
I just want to say today how grateful I am for the job I have and that I don't have to go on strike. The choice to go to work is mine.
When I began this post I had it all worked out in my mind as being incredibly intellectual, opinionated, and crises solving, but it didn't really end up like I planned. Sort of like how my dishwasher always leaves a little bit of leftover food on the dishes just so I'm always wondering if they're clean or not.