While We Celebrate LGBT Pride, LGBT Ugandans Fight for Their Very Lives.

“People’s willingness to believe the most outlandish lie in exchange for a promise of salvation never ceases to amaze me.”
I watched an Independent Lens documentary called “God Loves Uganda”  on PBS the other night and was utterly disturbed by it. — Not so much by the movie itself, but by the extent to which white Christian missionaries have gone in order to spread their Anti-Gay hatred globally.

Produced by Roger Ross Williams, “God Loves Uganda” shows the senseless violence that LGBT Ugandans are now faced with because of the vicious lies and hateful propaganda spread by Christian missionaries like Scott Lively.

It’s pretty horrific.
In one scene, we see a pastor tell the crowd that homosexuals hunt and rape children. In another, the pastor shows the crowd pornography depicting anal sex. In yet another, the pastor tells the crowd that President Obama is forcing women to have abortions.
Unbelievable, right?
This all can be traced back to the beginning of the AIDS pandemic, when the US began sending much needed medical and financial aid around the globe in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Then, during the GW Bush administration, strings were attached to that funding. Suddenly, instead of an overall approach of condom distribution and education, American evangelicals demanded “Abstinence-Only” education. …and we all know how well that worked out for the US Bible Belt.
God Loves Uganda is available on Netflix streaming.
The thing that bothers me most about all of this is the utter disregard for human life. Christian missionaries like Scott Lively will stop at nothing to achieve his goal of demonizing LGBT people around the world. Even lie! His lies have created a dangerous atmosphere for LGBT Ugandans. These pastors don’t understand Ugandan culture. So when they spread lies, perpetuating the myth that gay men are child predators, the locals believe it and take the law into their own hands. Countless LGBT people have been murdered. Many more have gone missing. If God exists, I don’t think he’d approve of hunting LGBT people for sport. Scott Lively, and pastors like him, have blood on their hands.

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If you get a chance, “God Loves Uganda” is worth a look-see. It’s a little rough at times but does shine a light on the dishonesty used by Christian fundamentalists who are, in my opinion, no different than any other religious fundamentalist. — Including those vicious animals who have stolen the name of the Egyptian goddess of magic and creator of life, Isis.


As we here in the US celebrate hard won victories in the advancement and acceptance of LGBT rights, I’ll be thinking of those around the world who continue to struggle simply to exist. Especially those whose suffering is a direct result of American interference.

Bette Midler “Hurricane” #ThrowbackThursday

Bette Midler “Hurricane”

(song written by Bette Midler and Randy Kerber)

 

…from the 1979 album Thighs and Whispers.

Bette Midler T & W

Bette’s fifth album is probably her most underrated. It’s got some well known tunes like “Big Noise From Winnetka”,Married Men“ and a decent cover of Johnny Bristol’s “Hang on in There Baby” but also includes some really good gems like “Cradle Days” and her moving cover of James Taylor’s “Millworker”.

Bette’s voice really shines on this album.


I always thought Hurricane was “hit worthy”. I used to play it on ‘Classic Disco Sundays’ when I was a fill-in DJ way back in the 90s.


Why wasn’t it a hit?

Rumor has it that, during the release party for one of the single off of her new album, an exhausted Bette Midler was verbally accosted by a radio DJ who didn’t like the new song. Apparently, he was waving the 45 record in her face, so Bette snatched it out of his hand, threw it on the floor, smashed it with her heel, and told him, “Well then don’t play it!” The humiliated and angry DJ vowed to never play another Bette Midler song on his station again. That was that.


Bette’s new tour “Divine Intervention” begins Friday.  ...and of course I have tickets! Yay! 😀

bette tickets98

Unfortunately, Love isn’t a fan. So he’s staying home. On the bright side, I get to take a really good friend who, if it’s at all possible, will probably have a better time than me. 😛

What’s on Your New Year’s Eve Playlist?

Looking for something fun to fill your New Year’s Eve playlist? How about something from the Postmodern Jukebox?

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What’s a Postmodern Jukebox, you say.

According to The Huffington Post, Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox broke out in 2013.  Scott Bradlee is the creator of the viral phenomenon Postmodern Jukebox, a diverse group of musicians who have turned Ke$ha into country, given Justin Bieber a bit of swing and most recently garnered praise — and more than 4.3 million views, as of this writing — for replacing Miley Cyrus’ twerking with some classic doo wop.”

Still confused? Here’s Scott Bradlee & PMJ on TED.

I stumbled upon the Postmodern Jukebox while scrolling through Google Play for something new, which used to take me hours flipping through record bins at local Sam Goody’s or Sound of Market record stores. I was immediately hooked.

The song featured on Google Play that month was a Jazz cover of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” featuring Kate Davis on lead vocals and bass.

Fun, right?

Of course the first thing I did was create PMJ radio stations on Pandora and Spotify, which is how I first heard their 1950’s ‘sock hop’ style cover of Magic’s “Rude” featuring hyper animated vocalist, Von Smith, with Robyn Adele Anderson and Jen Kipley singing backups. There’s a stunning moment at 2:27 when Von cuts loose. He hits and holds an impressive high note. It’s a little touch that makes this cover worth it.

If you listen closely, you might notice that Von Smith’s voice is reminiscent of 80s Star Search winner, Sam Harris, with whom Von sang a duet in 2010.

Led by Scott Bradlee, the Postmodern Jukebox is a rotating collection of musicians and singers who produce covers of pop songs in various styles of music; such as jazz, swing, doo-wop, and gospel.

One of the things I like about PMJ is their creativity. Their ragtime cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”, with Robyn Adele Anderson’s camp vocals, is incredibly fun.

Turning Jason Derulo & Snoop Dogg’s “Wiggle” into a 1920s ‘Broadway’ number takes guts.  But taking the Guns & Roses classic, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and rearranging it into New Orleans jazz style Mardis Gras anthem was a stroke of genius! Having the remarkable Miche Braden belt out the lyrics doesn’t hurt.

Guns and who?

Speaking of New Orleans, PMJ took Sam Smith’s “I’m Not The Only One” and turned it inside out. Sink your teeth into this vintage New Orleans jazz cover featuring Casey Abrams.

I don’t know what I was doing on 2013 that I didn’t take notice. Though, it’s probably better that I found PMJ after they’ve accumulated a decent catalog of music. I’d hate to think I might have written them off after hearing the Miley Cyrus cover.

I’ll leave you with the PMJ cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, in the style of a vintage Irish Tenor, featuring Mitchell Jarvis and Robyn Adele Anderson. I love the underlying campiness of this version. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also pretty good.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Hope 2015 brings peace, love, happiness and plenty of chances to “get lucky”! 😉


 

Bonus Track!

Scott Bradlee and the Postmodern Jukebox covers Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” in a “Great Gatsby” ragtime style, featuring Robyn Adele Anderson and, as always, Mr Bradlee on keyboards.

For more Scott Bradlee & PMJ, check out ScottBradleeLovesYa on YouTube.

Cheers!

‘Tis The Season for Warm Fuzzies! …and a couple of Capra Classics.

Tis the season for family, friends, and lots of warm fuzzies. But like almost everyone else I know, I haven’t been feeling very warm or fuzzy lately. So, when the warm glow of the season starts to sputter and dim, I do what any self respecting sentimental cinephile does. I turn to classic Hollywood.

When it comes to classic Hollywood, no one did warm and fuzzy quite like Frank Capra.

Ask anyone for a list of their favorite holiday movies and somewhere on the list you’ll probably find Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for most of your life, It’s a Wonderful Life is the 1946 Frank Capra classic, starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Thomas Mitchell, Lionel Barrymore, and a cast of Hollywood mainstays. It’s explained by IMDB as “An angel (Clarence, played by Henry Travers) helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman, George Bailey (Stewart), by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.

While watching ‘Wonderful Life’ for the umteen-hundredth time the other night, I couldn’t help a despairing feeling that bank CEOs apparently haven’t changed since 1946. Lionel Barrymore’s Mr Potter could very well be the CEO of Citi Group or Goldman Sachs.

‘Wonderful Life’ is an excellent movie with a superb cast but I always feel a little sad for George Bailey. He dreams of someday seeing the world but spends his entire life being the responsible citizen, putting the needs and wants of others ahead of himself. Indeed, if uncle Billy hadn’t been so careless George might not have considered such desperate measures. The extreme nature of George’s crisis is probably what makes the ending so effective. It’s why we root for George Bailey. He’s our ‘everyman’ who fights the system and wins.

george-bailey


Trivia: Thomas Mitchell (Wonderful Life’s Uncle Billy) plays Judge Henry Blake in Pocketful of Miracles


On the other end of the spectrum is Capra’s Pocketful of Miracles (1961) which, in my humble opinion, because of it’s bright view of the world and almost absurd optimism, is a better representation of the spirit of the season.

In Miracles, gangster Dave the Dude (Glenn Ford) and his girlfriend Queenie (Hope Lange) try to turn pan handler Apple Annie (Bette Davis) into a society dame when they learn that Annie’s daughter (Ann-Margret) is coming to visit from Spain with her fiance, a royal. The storyline is convoluted and far-fetched but it hits all the right bells and whistles.

What appeals to me about Pocketful of Miracles is it’s charm. Unlike the seriousness of It’s a Wonderful Life, Pocketful of Miracles is utter nonsense. It’s how we wish the real world worked. It’s a sickeningly sweet saccharine saga full of hope and improbable expectations and I love every single minute of it!

large_pocketful_of_miracles_02_blu-ray_So, whether you’re a George Bailey or an Apple Annie, I want to wish everyone a Happy and Joyous Holiday!

May 2015 bring Peace, Love, Happiness, and Good Health to all.

The Wanamaker…er…Macy’s Christmas Light Show

Macy_'s AdIt’s that time of year again…

Walk into Macy’s at 13th and Market Streets (formerly John Wanamaker’s department store) from November 28 through December 31 and you’ll see crowds of people standing in the grand court staring upward at the now famous Christmas Light Show.

Yes, that’s Julie Andrews you hear.

I remember seeing the original show for the first time as a child. I could not have been more than 3 or 4 years old. The happy music, blinking lights and dancing water fountain seemed like magic to me. My grandmother then took me a few blocks east to Gimbel’s department store for a walk through the Christmas village and ultimately, a visit with Santa Claus.

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Christmas 1967 (I was two)

I thought it would be interesting to compare the Wanamaker’s and Macy’s productions. While I like the updated version, I do miss the dancing water fountains.

The original John Wanamaker’s Christmas Light Show (archival recording 1983)

The Philadelphia John Wanamaker’s department store premiered their iconic Christmas Light Show in 1955. The show, a large music and light display several stories high, is viewable from several levels of the Philadelphia landmark. Its popularity as a holiday destination for tourists and locals alike ensured a continuous run, even after the building changed ownership from Wanamaker’s to Lord & Taylor, and now Macy’s. The show was narrated for decades by Philadelphia’s own John Facenda, locally known for reporting the news on radio and television, as well as nationally as the voice of NFL Films. Various announcers narrated the show between 1995 and 2005. Beginning in 2006, under Macy’s, Julie Andrews became the show’s narrator.

In 2007, the entire Christmas Light Show was completely modernized and rebuilt by Macy’s Parade Studio on new trusses with lighter materials and LED lighting. In 2008, a new and bigger Magic Christmas Tree with LED lights debuted. However, due to safety concerns and logistical issues, the dancing water fountains were retired and will not return.


 

John Wanamaker Christmas Show from the 1980’s.



 

The Updated Macy’s Christmas Light Show (2013)

“The updated holiday show, titled “Christmas Pageant of Lights,” features narration by the actress Julie Andrews” –  via hdampf007

According to Friends of the Wanamaker Organ at Macy’s website, the light show program is as follows…

Greg Sonsini has compiled a list below of music used in the Light Show. Help is requested in finding the artists of those works not yet identified. Please e-mail us at execdirec@wanamakerorgan.com if you can add details.

  1. Opening fanfare during John Facenda’s/Julie Andrews’ introduction: Provenance unknown.
  2. Selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite-specifically “Overture,” “Waltz of the Flowers,” and “Closing Waltz,” played during the Nutcracker storyline. Album unknown.
  3. “In The Clock Store” by Charles Orth (1893), which is played during the Clock segment.  The version used in the Light Show comes from an album titled “The Sound Of Musical Pictures” (1960).  It was arranged by Ralph Hermann and played by the Medallion Concert Band. Walt Disney adapted the piece for one of his Silly Symphonies in 1931. You may here it on YouTube here.
  4. “Alpine Sleigh Ride” by Frank Chacksfield and his Orchestra, played during the Snowflake sequence.
  5. “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” by the Ray Conniff Singers.
  6. “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms, later replaced by “The Rudi Bear Song” (part of a Teddy Bear promotion), played during the candy cane, toy soldier and toy drum segment.
  7. “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” by an unknown artist played during the Santa Express Train segment.
  8. “Frosty the Snowman,” by the Ray Conniff Singers.
  9. A snippet of “So Long, Farewell” from “The Sound of Music” movie soundtrack, played during the fading of the snowmen.
  10. “O Tannenbaum” by the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra played during the final lighting of the entire board. This was replaced in 1988 by “Deck the Halls” by an artist that I have not been able to identify. The arrangement is by Carmen Dragon and has been adopted for the Wanamaker Organ (with grateful assistance from Mr. Dragon’s daughter) by Peter Richard Conte.

 

Christmas ButtFor more information, see the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ website.

You can find some interesting archival photos from Temple University

Also visit U Wish U NU

 

 

A Quick Word of Appreciation for our Veterans

It’s no secret that I am morally opposed to war. I was vehemently against the invasion of Iraq. But no matter how I feel about any particular conflict, I will always, always, support the men and women who, at the request of our government, drop everything and risk their lives defending our country’s best interest.

Flag2Here is where I would normally go off on some political rant about “false patriotism” but I think the majority of United Sates citizens, regardless of their political slant, are patriotic. So, for now, I’m setting aside the political posturing for a more important message.

To every man, woman, and beast who has risked or lost his or her life in the defense of these United States, I thank you.

Military-dogs-06For more on military dogs, check out NPR’s “Military Dogs Enjoy Brighter Future After Service” by Gloria Hillard

“All Hallows Eve” – a short story.

By 10 pm the last of the trick-or-treaters had come and gone. I gazed up and down the street for stragglers before closing and locking the front door for the night. I put away my empty glass and gathered discarded candy wrappers for the trash bin. Then, turning off the lights, headed up to bed. Sleep came without a fight.

I can’t tell you what roused me, but I suppose it’s not really important at this point. I was wide awake. It was the middle of the night. The curtains had been drawn together tightly, preventing even the tiniest sliver of light into the room. I stared into the quiet darkness, listening. The beating of my heart ticked away the minutes. In the distance, I heard the faint sound of a lonely train clickety clacketing it’s way to parts unknown. My eyes searched for the dimmest of illumination and settled on the dim pattern of moonlight filtered through the trees and dancing on the wall just outside my bedroom. I watched the shadows of the leaves shimmer and then fade, as a cloud shrouded the moon, leaving the room enveloped in blackness. I counted the moments until the moonlight returned, briefly, then disappeared again. My eyes stared into the empty space where light once was, waiting. To track time I counted heart beats. One minute. Two. Three minutes. Four. The minutes ticked by. My eyes strained to make out the faintest light. Then, as the moonlight slowly returned, there it was.

On the wall just beyond the bedroom door, a shadow; an almost human form materialized. I don’t know how long I watched, waited, wondering. I stared, unblinking at the spectral form. I dared not move a muscle. My eyes glued to the ghostly shadow. Was I dreaming? We’ve all had those moments between sleep and wakefulness when our imagination plays tricks on us. But was this real? Was I awake? I bit down on my tongue and winced at the sharp pain. When I opened my eyes, the ethereal image was still there.

I was terrified. The drum beat of my pulse echoed in my ears. I fought to keep my breathing steady. In. Out. In. Out. I could hear him breathing, or was that me? No. The rhythm is different. Time to take stock of the situation.

I needed to keep my head, perhaps literally. If there’s someone in the hall, more than likely he thinks I’m asleep. There must be a reason that’s important. Why else would he just stand there? Then I had a thought. What if there’s more than one of them? My brain was in overdrive. My options were limited. It’s so deathly quiet, even the smallest move is bound to be heard. If he’s armed, any sudden movement on my part could be fatal. I was in a tough spot. So I watched, and waited, while the moon danced among the clouds, creating a slow, hypnotic rhythm of light and dark.

fullmoonSleep must have returned because the next thing I knew it was morning. Early sunlight washed away the haze of the night before. I chalked it up to a bad dream and made my way to the bathroom for my morning rituals. That’s when it happened. As I passed through the door to the bathroom a dark shadow enveloped me. The oppressive darkness squeezed the air from my lungs. Gasping for breath, I tried to pull myself out from under the impossibly dark veil of doom which had me in it’s death grip. This can’t be happening! This can’t possibly be real!

My oxygen deprived lungs burned. My vision dimmed. With one last ditch effort I screamed, “Please! Wake up! Why can’t I wake up?” But no words escaped my lips. In fact, nothing was heard from me again.