Monday, December 29, 2008

Moving to the music-- and the message

Image via
Check out this week’s issue of Westword for Adam Clayton-Holland’s absorbing article “Choosing My Religion.” It’s about Red Door, a twice-monthly melting pot of electronica and spirituality. As the article says:

“The Red Door is for people who want a sense of spiritual connection to a community," says (Paresh) Rana, who describes his role as that of peacekeeper. "It's for people who don't necessarily care for any specific dogma; it's for people who want to be moved by the music. The Red Door is for people who want to experience their bodies as an instrument."

With topics such as “the Primal Self” and Transforming Fear into Love,” I’m hoping to check out Red Door myself and report back in the coming months.

Heard about a counterculture hangout known with a spiritual undercurrent? Let me know!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ring in the New Year with Slim Cessna's Auto Club

What are you doing this New Year's Eve?
Take this compatibility test below to determine your New Year's Eve plans:
A.) Are you cool?
B.) Do you enjoy alt-country with a slightly creepy, apocalyptic, dirty-south snake-handling theme?
C.) Do you like drinking champagne with Jello Biafra?
D.) Do you enjoy local music?
E.) Do you prefer your musicians to look like 1930's gravediggers and freakishly tall cowboys?

If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you should get your bad self to the Bluebird Theater in Denver for Slim Cessna's Auto Club's annual New Year's Eve show Tuesday, Dec. 30 or Wednesday, Dec 31st.

For those not in the know, SCAC is a well-established Denver band with a unique sound that turns the description "alt-country" on its head. Slim and Munly riff off each other in preacher-convert, good cop bad cop style, singing in ragged and melodic voices about everything from American conquest, smallpox vaccinations, Jesus, the Devil and unusual ways to murder your sweetheart.

To call SCAC a "religious" band isn't really accurate, despite the thick religious imagery in their songs. It's more of a fascinating, dark canvas from a world that exists only in their songs. Where else would you find stories about cross-dressing country folk, prairie pirates and open invitations to Jesus to come crash at their house?

If this doesn't convince you, hopefully some songs from their MySpace will. And if you like what you hear, I'd recommend you go to SCAC's Wednesday show insted of their Tuesday show. Most years, Jello Biafra (of Dead Kennedys fame) has been on hand to douse the crowd in cheap champagne when the ball drops. The band's on Jello's label, Alternative Tentacles.

I'm looking to profile a few good bands with great music and an interesting backstory in faith. Got a good one? Drop me a line here or e-mail me at

Monday, December 22, 2008

For those about to rock, we salute... Jesus

I try to make it a tradition each year to bring home some new Christmas albums when I visit my folks for the holidays. In the past, I've dug up a classic Frank Sinatra album, a collection of Jazz songs and a CD of international carols. My family has dutifully put them all into Christmas day rotation. This year, however, I am pretty sure my little bro and I will be the only fans of these two gems.
8-bit Jesus is a collection of Christmas songs done totally in video game music. The artist is super-creative Dr. Octoroc, who has tweaked all the classics to sound like a Super Mario Bros. Christmas special. And what's better than titles like "Have Yourself a Final Little Fantasy" and "O Come All Ye Vampires" ? I'll tell you-- you can download this sucka for FREE, but hey, it's Christmas, so make a donation, wontcha?

When we were kids, my family would take my brother and me to Christmas Eve mass, where we'd get to sing some of the more churchified holiday carols like "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." I never thought I would hear some of these saintly songs sung by devil worshippers like Ronnie James Dio and Alice Cooper! (Just kidding.) Those carols sound much better with a healthy dose of metal-- just grab a copy of We Wish You a Metal Christmas... and a Headbanging New Year and listen for yourself. Bad fucking ass.

Thanks to Pete for finding me these albums!

Friday, December 19, 2008

More gifts for every sinner on your holiday list

Time's running out to get all your favorite people some fabulous religious gifts that will shock and amuse them--if not downright offend them. There's tons of options for those with a love for all things holy (or just kitschy).

Take this Virgin Mary toast stamper, for instance. Why gaze at your morning breakfast for signs of the Mother of God when you can engineer her presence yourself? Last I heard, these tongue-in-cheek stampers were available from Urban Outfitters.

Virgin Mary apparel is a pretty rad gift if you ask me. If you happen to be Christian, you might see Mary as a selfless or inspirational figure. Maybe you just admire art that happens to include her image. Either way, Mary is a total badass and a great present.

For those who enjoy Mary iconography for purely artistic purposes, I'd check out All-Pop, a treasure trove of kitschy oilcloth bags, cutesy stickers and throwback toys. They've also got a healthy dose of Virgin Mary merchandise including this adorable Our Lady of Guadalupe onesie or a collection of cheap insta-art litho prints.

I'd personally enjoy expressing my love for the holy virgin with a Phat Pimp "Mary is My Homegirl" shirt.

For those with a twisted sense of humor and an adventurous sexual appetite, there's always the Virgin Mary dildo from Divine Interventions. I spent some time on this Web site checking out their wares, which also include models such as the "Diving Nun," the "Judas" and "The Devil." (I'll leave it to you to comment...)

Stay tuned for one more installment of the Bubblegum and Bibles gift list!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gifts for every sinner on your holiday list

Still in the thick of your holiday shopping? I've got the perfect list of wildly inappropriate and vaguely sacrilegious gifts for everyone in your family! Tune in this week for the cream of the crop, or send me your suggestions at

Best gift for your hipster terrorist friends:
Got hipster friends who love controversy? The keffiyeh s the perfect gift!

In May, bubbly Food Network show host Rachael Ray got in hot water when she appeared in a Dunkin' Donuts commercial wearing a black and white keffiyeh scarf. The patterned scarf is worn mostly in the Middle East, and different combinations of colors have been associated with different nations. Lately it's become the accessory of choice for skinny-jeans wearing, ironic-moustache sporting hipsters.

Unfortunately for Ray, some angry viewers took the scarf to be a symbol of terrorism, not fashion. Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin called the scarf "hate couture" and "jihadi fashion" that mimics religious extremist terrorists and anti-Israeli racists. (See some of her posts here and here. You can see Ray's scarf looked similar to the Palestinian style.
Personally, I couldn't find a reliable source to tell me exactly what's so terrorist about the keffiyeh. The real problem is this: for all I've read, I can't seem to pinpoint exactly what the keffiyeh even represents, and Malkin can't seem to , either. Her statement about terrorism and hatred seems overboard and reactionary, fueling our image as a nation chock-full of misconceptions about Middle Eastern culture.

One thing Malkin does get right is our nation's ignorance about the whole issue.What we need here is more perspective. In the U.S., we have limited context to tell us whether or not the scarf is culturally and religiously insensitive. In fact, most keffiyeh-wearers were totally in the dark about the possible repercussions before the Dunkin' Donuts fiasco.

Uber-trendsters Urban Outfitters agreed to stop carrying the scarves to smooth out the confusing controversy, but you can still find rainbow-colored versions at other stores. So why not roll the dice and buy one for your friends and loved ones? There's so many ways to wear it! They can hang it loosely around their neck to show how big of a terrorist they are, or they can wrap it artfully to broadcast how much they hate Israelis. Or they can just say "fuck it" and wear it because it looks purdy. (* coughsarcasmcough *)

Seriously, though: I'll stay away from wearing one until I can get the full scoop on the "keffiyeh kerfuffle," but I won't judge my friends who are holding onto their hot-pink scarf cuz the weather in Colorado has been in the negatives lately.

I'd also love to know what you think. Is it insensitive to wear a keffiyeh as a fashion statement, or has the pattern lost its its cultural significance in this country?

Monday, December 15, 2008

FoCo does the holiday mash-up thing

What's with everyone trying to erase Christmas (and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa) around here?

That's what residents in Fort Collins, CO griped about last year when a city task force recommended that city buildings get rid of all holiday symbols and replace them with white twinkle lights. Boring!

But this year, the city has reversed their decision,
allowing Christmas trees, menorahs and Santa Clauses to co-exist together in front of the city's museum. To prove their willingness to embrace all faiths and cultures around the holidays, organizers included educational information about Yule, the Scottish Hogmanay festival, the Polish Wigilia celebration, the Indian Diwali festival and several others.

All the effort seems to have soothed some residents' anger, but others think the whole "include everyone" thing is getting a little out of hand. As for me, I happen to think the awkwardly PC combination of religious holidays is something we can only enjoy in America. For a perfect example of the awesomess that is the holiday mash-up, visit (Photo is from this Web site.)

Read the full story at the Denver Post here. The Fort Collins Coloradoan has some great op-ed pieces about the debate here, but I couldn't link to the original article because it's been archived already.

Got thoughts? Send me some bubblegum love at

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Santa's the odd man out in holiday displays

Image via the Chicago Tribune

Ah, Santa. That jolly, selfless old guy who squeezes his fat ass down the chimney to bring joy to every little girl and boy. We always seem to be feeding him, asking him for favors and forgetting about him as soon as Christmas is over.

But who is this Santa guy, really? Is he a religious symbol, an icon of commerce or just a creeper who knows how to break into our houses? After so many years of Christmas imagery dominating storefronts and commericals, there's been an increased push from governments and businesses and to take any and all religious symbols out of Christmas in an effort to include non-Christians. (I hear we call it "The Holidays" now). That means one little Santa can make the difference between being "culturally sensivite" and being "too religious."

So which is it?

Golden, Colorado wrestled with this debate when local Rabbi Levi Brackman asked City Council for permission to put up an 8-foot menorah on one of Golden's intersections. City council disagreed, voting to ban religious symbols on city property. Angry protestors found the ruling unfair, pointing out the fact that City Council had no intention of taking down the Santa Claus deocration that perches on Golden's famous "Howdy Folks!" arch downtown. That Santa display was a religious symbol because Santa is an incarnation of Saint Nicholas, a Catholic bishop from the fourth century.

Despite loud protests from residents, City Council voted to keep the Santa display because of its historical appearance on the arch and Santa's role as a commercial symbol. They plan to re-examine their policies on holiday decorations after the season is over.

Read the whole story here at the Golden Transcript, and check out the Denver Post's follow-up on the meaning behind other holiday-season symbols.

Or, check out Wonkette's dispach on Santa, the supposed Marxist, here. Hilarity!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

silly and sacrosanct

It's a weird religious world out there.

Underneath all that churchy seriousness there's an undercurrent of spiritual people not content with the traditional expressions of faith. Sure, going to church is great, but it's not exactly creative. And why not spread the word of God with a rap instead of a standard hymn?

This is a world full of crunk churches, Bibles that look like teen magazines, Jesus-loving tattoo artists, Jewish graffiti artists, religion-themed microbrews and extreme sport ministries.

Some are meant to celebrate God, Allah, Jesus, Mohammad, Mary and all the rest of those holy folks. Some expressions are meant to lampoon or criticize religion (baby Jesus-shaped butt plug, anyone?) Some are cheesy, sincere, God-lovin' or godawful. The bottom line is that it's all on the religious fringe-- a reflection of way popular culture infuses religion with a sense of timeliness, new-ness, "now"-ness.

We're here to scope out all those funny little intersections of religion and pop culture. And while some of these posts might be a bit Christianity-heavy (since it's the dominant religious culture in the U.S), any and all creative expressions of spirituality are fair game.

Got a suggestion? Throw it out there to

Thanks for reading!!