Hooray! FIVE STARS
It’s hard to find a more serious, self-important genre than contemporary folk music. Folkies tend to split into two groups: those who perform somber reflections on relationships, unhappiness, and other feelings-intensive topics, and those who carefully recreate older forms of music. At least the Ditty Bops seem to be having fun. They draw their inspiration from jazz and folk standards, and sound more like Dan Hicks than Leonard Cohen. I don’t know why there aren’t more bands like this – I’d certainly be happy if there were.
Their latest album continues in the vein of their previous releases, playing ragtime and western-swing inspired music, with catchy and surprisingly complex melodies. However, the music is a little less frantic, and the lyrics a little less confrontational. It’s a (relatively) subdued album, built on guitar, mandolin, and lap steel, and it sounds a little more relaxed. Their newfound restraint results in fewer of the ear-twisters and hooks which made their previous albums so memorable. However, the new approach pays off on the quietly swinging “When She’s Coming Home”, a highlight of the album. Some of the slower songs drag, particularly the lethargic “I Feel From the Outside In”, but as a whole, the album is both fun and rewarding – a good combination.
Summer Rains is probably best summed up by its title song and opener. The lyrics are about global warming, the arrangement is drenched in lap steel, and it doesn’t have the melodic hooks their previous albums provided. So why does it work so well?
Summer Rains manages to include references and nods to all kinds of interesting music from the first half of the 20th century, ensuring that old music geeks such as myself are happy, without skimping on the energy and fun that makes people want to, you know, listen to music in the first place. Good job, Ditty Bops.
And now for a fun and exciting weekly feature of the Illegiterati: Friday Obscure Saint Blogging. Every Friday, I’ll pick an obscure saint, usually from either Roman Catholicism or some sort of Christian Orthodoxy, and write about them.
First up is St. Wilgefortis. I can’t tell when she lived, but her cult came about sometime in the 14th century, during the gothic period. Ms. Fortis was a young princess from Portugal, daughter to a pagan king. Her father bethrothed her to another pagan king, possibly the King of Sicily, and arranged for their wedding. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the young Wilgefortis had already taken a vow of chastity, and so to avoid the marriage she prayed that God would make her somehow unappealing to her future husband. Lo and behold, within the day she sprouted a beard and moustache, and her fiance decided he didn’t want her anymore.
Because the patriarchy is awesome, her father flew into a rage and had Wilgefortis crucified. She’s now prayed to by women who wish to be “unencumbered” of abusive husbands.
The very best part is that even the Roman Catholic church admits it’s totally untrue.
Around the time that I began to receive “messages” signed with my friends’ names, telling me that I HAVE to try the Ice Cream Personality Quiz, I realized that Facebook had gone around the bend. I’ve since gotten used to a steady stream of spam making its way to my Facebook account. I found this frustrating for a while, until I realized that a healthy chunk of my Facebook inbox was coming directly from my friend Ben, who really wanted to play this zombies vs. cowboys game.
However, some new scheme seems to have started up recently, which extends beyond ads. I’m not sure why this is happening, but I’ve received several friend requests from people who clearly don’t exist.
Here’s what happens: I get a friend request from someone with an unfamiliar name and a suspiciously revealing profile photo. (Here’s a hint – most real people I know don’t pose in bathing suits on beds in their internet avatars. Most real people I know make a stupid face while half-heartedly trying to hide a beer in their internet avatars. Or look sad in black and white.)
But the real magic is in the profile. Here’s the text that has appears in the “About Me” section of more than one of these profiles:
I might have a bit of a confidence problem. love people especially those with a good sense of humor. my favorite quote is gentle,guytype – it really speaks to me!
Nothing too special – just some boilerplate random spam text. But, just to make it all seem appropriately Facebook-y, the following appears:
if you’ve never read The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald you should go pick up a copy – it is great! I am a ripe little peach ready for plucking.
That’s right. I’ve received several friend requests from people who recommend The Great Gatsby, and are ready for plucking. For sheer entertainment value, I’d say that those two sentences have earned this spam a star.
False People on Facebook: ★☆☆☆☆
Because I’m insane, I got really excited when the Vatican announced more new sins. The story lists them as:
1. “Bioethical” violations such as birth control / sanctity of life violations
2. “Morally dubious” experiments such as stem cell research
3. Drug abuse / trafficking
4. Polluting the environment
5. Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor
6. Excessive wealth
7. Creating poverty
Not nearly as pithy as the original seven sins. How will Catholic artists come up with easy-to-understand visual representations of “bioethical violations?” The first seven were easy. Lust, you draw a big-bosomed, scantily-clad lady, because obviously they’re all evil (and a stumbling block to our young men). Gluttony’s a fat guy. Sloth is someone asleep. Greed is probably a Jew counting his money or whatever. See how fun this is? Now you do some!
But what are we supposed to do with “contributing to the widening divide between the rich and the poor“? Nobody could draw that in Pictionary. Maybe “bioethical violations,” the best example of which they can come up with is “birth control,” could be the same slutty lady from the previous paragraph, but you just can’t make a movie about a killer who forces someone to die by way of “morally dubious” experiments, though Fern Gully did a pretty good job of teaching us not to pollute. The rain forest pixies will be sad!
Really, though, these sins leave way too much room for error. Are we supposed to judge ourselves what’s “morally dubious?” Why didn’t they just write a press release that said SHADES OF GRAY? How will I know when my wealth is excessive? Honestly, if the Catholic Church won’t tell me what to do and how to think, who will?
Two stars at best.
More sinning after the jump… (more…)