Yup. Totally going there.

When you listen to the ultra-religious and the not-so-intelligentsia explain what’s wrong with homosexuality — and the people that practice it, perhaps more to the point — invariably, someone trots out the stale bit about the kids.  You know, that homosexuals are out to seduce and transform your child, recruiting them to the Pink Army.  And how all gays are pedophiles, to boot.

And here’s where I find out who knows me, and who doesn’t, really.  And also, who will bother reading this all the way through:

Homosexuality and pedophilia come from the same place.

I just want to let that sink in.

Let me add: from that same font flow heterosexual desires, foot fetishes, and my obsession with satin lingerie.

Backing up a bit: this week, on Birmingham’s public radio station WBHM, they’ve been running a week-long series on issues affecting the GBLT community, especially in Alabama.  I’ve long been a proponent of equal rights for everyone, regardless of race, religion — whatever.  And I really, honestly can not begin to understand why people would disagree with me.  I don’t get looking at people that look differently than me and thinking of them as lesser beings, sub-human.  I don’t understand being afraid of or hating people that are attracted to things that I’m not attracted to.

Frankly, I think that people are perfectly capable of letting you down on their own merits.

I’m friends with  many, many gay men, a few lesbians, and one transgendered woman.They’ve all got quirks, and eccentricities, and good sides and bad sides.  To a person, I can guarantee you that every single one of them — without exception — is less likely to plant seeds of Evil and Degeneration in a child than I am.  Me, a caucasian, heterosexual, (raised) Protestant, college educated (three Bachelor’s degrees) male, approaching middle-age.

So I’m listening to WBHM’s programming this week, and I hear things that don’t surprise me at all, but disturb me to no end nonetheless. Michael Jordan is a pastor at a Baptist church here in Birmingham:

“It’s like any other sin. Some say, well, we’re born with these homosexual propensities or nature. That can be true. Homosexuality can be a generational curse, just like lying, stealing, jealousy, hate, fornicating or whatever, adultery. But, that’s why when you get to the scriptures, you talk about, if you can be born a certain way, doesn’t mean God made you like that.”

Where to begin here? How about let’s start with this:

Erm, Pastor Jordan?  Here in the South, they used to say that sure, God made black people, but he also made apes. In fact, while I can’t say I’ve heard it personally, I’ll bet there’s some people around here that still say it.

Second, homosexuality (and heterosexuality) are not actions like lying, stealing, or fornicating.  Jealousy and hate, I think, okay — you’re a little bit closer.  It’s a description or definition of your desires — something you can’t control.

Now, I know that there are differing schools of thought on thought versus action.  Some will say it’s a sin to think about punching your fellow man, while others say it’s only a sin if you actually punch him.  But it seems that no matter who I talk to, it’s not an issue of whether you follow through or not — if you’re attracted to your same sex, or children, or animals, or mannequins, or cartoon characters, you’re wrong, sinning, sick, demented, perverted.

Or, if you’re too close to children, positively unhealthy. Eunie Smith, president of Eagle Forum of Alabama, a conservative activist group, says homosexuality shouldn’t be talked about in schools, much less tolerated.

“Well, young people are highly impressionable. And for the schools to provide some special status for those who would perceive themselves to be homosexual…would be to legitimize and therefore to encourage these unhealthy lifestyles.”

Yeah, Crusty McDustovaries, young people are impressionable, but I double-dog-dare you to find me a kid that has been turned gay by being educated about homsexuality. College experimentation doesn’t count.

And lifestyles are only unhealthy if they are practiced recklessly.  For instance, did you know that, in some high school populations, kids — white kids! that go to church! and praise Jesus! — are saving their virginity for marriage by having anal sex instead?  Because, as they are taught, you can catch AIDS and get pregnant through ‘normal’ vanilla intercourse.  Since they’re not taught that the risk of transmitting STDs increases with anal sex — well, it must be safer, yeah?

(I really wish they had told the girls in my high school that Jesus was all about the blow job.)

AIDS doesn’t kill fags, darlin’.  AIDS kills anyone who is not careful about how and with whom they have sex.  Education can help with this — making it a healthier lifestyle. But I guess that would make it harder for you to make complaints about, wouldn’t it?

Now, I’m not in favor of a special status for gay kids, not any more than I am for smart kids, or any kid that is “different.”  In fact, after listening to the segment about kids in school getting bullied, etc., it’s hard for me to feel that bad for them.  Though I can certainly empathize: as a nerd, I was bullied constantly until high school.  And I’m sorry that you’re being picked on because of something you can’t change — but welcome to the world.  Grow a thicker skin, buy a helmet, and push through it.  If you’re Asian in the south, or have childhood cancer, or are smarter than average, you get bullied, too.  And you’re gonna get fucked with the rest of your life, so go ahead and learn to fight back, to realize that your differences set you apart from the crowd and make you special — whatever gets you through.  This is the rest of your life, only magnified through the overly-dramatic eyes of a teenager.

But if you’re a parent that thinks your child can “catch” being gay?  You probably should have had your birthing privileges revoked a while back, you fucking moron.

Pastor Jordan’s the one who inspired my opening thought, that you can equate pedophilia and homosexuality:

“But, to turn around and accept a confessing gay person and say leave him alone, they are right and God made him like that, no, absolutely not. Because if a pedophile come in with the same sin, the church would put me out if I turned around and accept it.”

And here’s where I have problems. When I say that you can equate {fill in the blank}philia and homosexuality and heterosexuality and fetishes, what I mean is this: as human beings, we are attracted to (and turned off by) what we are.  It is what it is.  You can’t help what turns you on or off (unless you know something that I don’t).

For the scientists in the crowd, I’ll admit up front that this is backed up purely with anecdotal evidence and personal experience.  But it’s a pretty strong argument: if you found yourself attracted to something that would mark you as a social pariah, that risked getting you beaten up or imprisoned or killed, and you were capable of forcing yourself to not be attracted to that and instead being turned on by something else — well, you’d probably switch, wouldn’t you?


Now, to extricate myself from the near hole I’ve put myself in with my gay friends: there is an important distinction between pedophilia and bestiality, and the rest of the predilictions.  That line, not so simply put, is consent.

Sexual relations with a child — and I’ll leave it to you to debate that definition, though I think setting a specific age is dangerously context-free — is wrong because the child is incapable of making an informed decision in the matter.  Even removing infants and rape from the matter, a thirteen-year-old is akin to a twenty-something who has been drugged.  They are no of the right mind to make a choice in the matter.  Ditto animals.  Even if they say yes, you’re overlooking the fact that it’s not a fair question in the first place.

Look, you see or hear or smell something, and it triggers biological processes in your lizard brain.  You can’t help getting turned on or repulsed; it just happens.  I can not hold it against a man who is sexually attracted to whatever — whether it be Megan Fox, or Johnny Depp, or leather thigh-high boots, or being smacked around by a woman in shrink wrap, or even adolescent boys.  That’s part of their make-up.  It’s the way, as some would say, that God made them. Maybe it’s flawed, just like people born without a limp or with mental retardation or bipolar disorder, but it’s still part of who we are, as people. And if their leanings lead them to blowjobs from older men that remind them of Dad, or wearing a diaper and suckling as foreplay, or having a car battery attached to their testicles — well, I say as long as no one is getting hurt involuntarily, let ’em.  Who am I — or you, or your pastor, or some crusted old crone who is probably just jealous because no one has been interested in having sex with her in decades anyway — to deny someone pleasure? Do we have so much to celebrate in this world that we should limit ourselves?

If you said yes, fuck off out of here and get to church.

To my GBLT friends, I congratulate you for pushing through the bullshit and doing the best you can to enjoy your life in as many respects as you can.  Don’t let anyone saying “That’s so gay,” or calling you a faggot, or quoting scriptures get you down.  They’re only words, and they’re probably coming from a place of fear or sadness.  Love is love is love, and the world can never have too much.

To those of you that still insist that my friends can be cured, or that they’re going to Hell, or that they’re abominations, or that they’re out to build an army of Boy Scouts: take a deep look inside yourself and try to figure out why you feel that way.  Is it because a book written two millenia ago and editted by people who did whatever they had to do to remain in power tells you so?  Is it because you’re afraid of anything different than you?  Do you just not understand it? Maybe you won’t change, but maybe you’ll learn a little something about yourself, and maybe you’ll grow a little, if not a lot.

Because, like homosexuality, stupidity can’t be cured.  But one at least comes from a place of love and warm, fuzzy feelings.

In the bedroom of politics

Does it surprise anyone at all that politicians do — well, anything that they do?  It amuses me to no end when our elected officials are caught breaking laws or bending rules or doing things that only five minutes before they were screaming about not doing. Absolute power, it is said, corrupts absolutely; and while I don’t think that every leader ever has given in to their temptations, I just can’t believe that any of this behavior (or worse) is at all unexpected.

To any Democrats out there ranting and raving about how horrible South Carolina’s Governor Mark Sanford is — sit down and shut up.  Remember Clinton, and how he did, oh, pretty much the same thing? And, hey, we all cheered because here’s a middle aged guy getting hummers from the young intern. Who could blame him?

It’s not about politics, really.  There are legitimate questions raised — Did Sanford spend tax dollars to get to Argentina?  Did Clinton lie under oath? — but if you take legal questions and ramifications out of the equation, you’re left with one thing: human nature.

Look, if you’re powerful — I don’t care if you’re a mayor of a small town or President of the United States — there will be people out there who are willing to trade sex for favors, and women that are attracted to your office. There will be temptation, and hopefully — if we elected you to lead us — you’re of strong enough character to resist. Ditto when you have the opportunity to steal, or do anything else “wrong.”

But let’s be honest: most politicians are not there because they’ll make good leaders.  They’re there because they had more money to advertise, or the lies they told about their opponents stuck better, or they’re running against a pedophile.  Likewise, I don’t think a lot of people get (or stay) in politics because they want to make the world on some level a better place; they want power, fame, money — the trappings of the offices.

Should Sanford resign? Assuming that he hasn’t broken any laws, I don’t think so.  In fact, I would argue that maybe he’s a better leader or moral example than anyone else I can think of who has gotten caught with his or her hand in the cookie jar: he came right out and admitted it.  There were probably threats of revelation from some outside party that compelled his tear-stained press conference yesterday, sure — but regardless, he was honest about it. He didn’t lie about it, he didn’t make excuses, he didn’t argue about the meaning of the word “sex.”

Short of the fact that he cheated on his wife, I think this was about the classiest handling of a political scandal that I’ve seen in my lifetime.  We all — everyone of us, to a person — do wrong or bad things. Some of us have extramarital affairs, some of us steal, some of us get hopped up on crystal meth, rob three banks, and rape goats. But how many of us will admit that we’ve done wrong, with no excuses made? Even when confronted with videotape and DNA evidence, too many people lie or create stories or dance around the subject.

Sanford, if he broke no laws and is still capable of performing his duties while his family sorts things out, deserves probably more than any other politician to remain in office.  He’s an outstanding example of honor (even if only after the fact) and accountability — two qualities that seem to be desperately lacking in the world today.

Besides, how great do you think his replacement will be?

If we continue to ignore only the actions and not differentiate those actions by the reactions, then all we are teaching the future generations is that the main goal is not to get caught.

An Interview with Lance Lyle and Kenn McCracken

This interview originally appeared on eInsiders.com waaaaaay back in 2000.  I just discovered that the piece has disappeared, and managed to Google cache it, so I’m moving it here. I’ve never(?) been interviewed for anyting I’ve done before, so it holds a special tiny place in my charcoal-like heart.  Plus, I suspect (awaiting confirmation as of 22 June 2009) that the interviewer is the same Jonathan Hickman who writes Secret Warriors, among other comics.

Either way, you should go check out Secret Warriors.  One of these Jonathan Hickmans writes a seriously cool Nick Fury.

by Jonathan W. Hickman

Bear with me through my editorial introduction, the actual interview follows:

There was a wedding to attend. We drove down after work on Friday evening. My wife, my mother, and my unofficially adopted sister (neat story, later), piled into a normal SUV (without Firestone tires, thank God). Birmingham, Alabama, our destination, is only about 2 hours from my home. Although I was outnumbered three to one, I overpowered the crowd with mindless entertainment trivia–try it, it works.

During the weekend, my family and I took in the wonderful Matisse exhibit on display in the city’s art museum and my wife and I would have ventured to a local theater for a midnight showing of “A Clockwork Orange,” but I was too inebriated following the wedding to make the trip (as I get older, I find it difficult to party into the wee hours, its a terrible shame). The advertisement for the Kubrick classic in the hip little nightlife newspaper said drinks were served before the show. It would have been interesting I have no doubt–visions of freaks filled my head, unnerving my wife and giving me something to write about, opportunity missed.

At any rate, in the same small weekly newspaper, there was tiny article about two local boys, Lance Lyle and Kenn McCracken, who had written a screenplay, “The Beauty of Distance,” that made the final cut with five other screenplays in the Sidewalk Motion Picture Festival. The top award will be selected from the five finalists during the Sidewalk Festival on October 6-8, 2000. Visit the webpage for the festival at http://www.sidewalkfest.com.

Before I left Birmingham, I carefully tore out the tiny article and preserved it in one the pockets of my hanging bag.

The Internet is the best research tool ever. The very next week after retrieving the article and hitting the online yellow pages, I was speaking with Lance Lyle and planning an interview.

I spoke with Lance and Kenn on the night of Wednesday, August 9, 2000, they sat before their computers after we finalized the IM installation and chatted with me about their possibly award winning, yet to be purchased and produced script “The Beauty of Distance.” Lance typed the words for Kenn, who, at times, seemed to have an aversion to typing and refused to provide me with a decent picture for posting. Note: the blurred image below is Kenn (a staff writer for zealot.com), who remains shrouded in mystery.

The weather in Birmingham was stormy. We almost did not do the IM session due to power interruptions, but in time, I convinced them, and the results are listed below.

einsiders: You guys are in Birmingham, Alabama.

Lance: Yes, Birmingham’s great, but I’m looking forward to moving to Los Angeles, which will be in February. It’s a little weird to be here, because when we wrote “The Beauty of Distance,” we never sat down together. We just sent the file back and forth.

einsiders: The internet has made us all a little impersonal hasn’t it? Before we get to the screenplay, a little background, who wants to start talking about themselves? Lance, how about you first? I have a picture of you at least. Tell us about your background in writing, I understand you are quite a prolific writer.

Lance: I’m 29, unmarried (for now). I work at a crappy restaurant, which I can’t wait to leave. I’ve written or co-written 8 screenplays and 16 TV teleplays, of which 4 are original pilots. I figure if I have a lot of stuff, then something will eventually break through.

einsiders: Where do you have your stuff, in a suitcase marked “Hollywood or Bust?

Lance: Not just yet, but give me time.

einsiders: Did you like the interview with the “PIG” guys?

Lance: Yes, I liked the fact they were able to work so cheaply, but still rack up a quality product.

einsiders: How cheap is too cheap? Ken, chime in where you feel it is necessary.

Kenn: There’s no such thing as too cheap. As long as the story is told right — believably — then the movie is good. Look at “Blair Witch,” “LA Story,” “Reservoir Dogs.” Everything in the movie (including effects, if that’s what the script calls for) should be as good as possible, though. My personal caveat, the best way to get something sold is to make it possible for cheap, especially, if you have no prior credits.

einsiders: You mentioned “LA Story” a personal favorite?

Kenn: One of my top 5, if not better — up there with “Grand Canyon” and “Swimming with Sharks,” “Princess Bride,” “Abyss,” “True Romance” — good stories at the heart of them all, with a message that isn’t in your face.

einsiders: Says a lot about your taste. Last month, a filmmaker from Chicago told me that “Grand Canyon” was a personal fav; this was surprising considering his young age (“Canyon” is kind of a boomer film). How about you Lance, personal favs?

Lance: “Godfather I and II,” “Citizen Kane,” “Vertigo,” “Searchers,” and “Braveheart.”

Kenn: I forgot “Braveheart” and “Rob Roy”… “The Matrix”… and “Sixth Sense” and “Fight Club.”

Lance: Ditto!

einsiders: You know, in the questionnaire for Federal jury trials, we ask what is your favorite movie? I’m not sure, I want Lance on my jury. Tough guy are you?

Kenn: Hah!

einsiders: Is that yes?

Lance: Only in my choice of movies.

Kenn: I’m the tough guy — Lance is the arrogant pretentious art boy.

Lance: He’s right.

einsiders: “Searchers,” is that the John Ford classic? Why that western?

Lance: I really don’t know — I just love it.

Kenn: Why ask why, just like it for the sake of liking it. Unless, of course, you are self-aware and such – like me, for instance.

einsiders: Good fodder, you have told us a lot about yourselves. You can really read a person by his or her taste in movies?

Kenn: Yes, but I think its a bad idea to try to read a person like that. For instance, I love bad action movies — but that doesn’t mean I’m a hillbilly. It just means I like to daydream about being in those situations… ditto Titanic.

Lance: Same here – I feel the same way.

einsiders: Tell me a little about the method of creation of “The Beauty of Distance?”

Kenn: It started as one final scene in my head, and over the course of two months and four different specific CDs, grew into a nearly full story. I took it to Lance because I had no knowledge of formatting, etc., and he and another buddy of ours had been working on teleplays, screenplays, etc. We took the script and worked on it for 3 weeks, emailing back and forth talking a tiny bit about it at work.

Lance: I helped flesh out the existing outline and some dialogue including the opening scene, which I had in my head and added on to the story to help foreshadow the movie. It was originally unconnected to the story, but it fit.

Kenn: It jumpstarted the whole process. Never once did we work together, though — it was all back and forth by email.

einsiders: Music was the inspiration, what kind of music? Listening to anything right now? I’m being bombarded by the wife’s 80s classics, presently the Bangles, before that Alan Parsons.

Kenn: Right now, I’m listening to Devin Townsend (www.hevydevy.com) — he’s a lot of the inspiration. My own (www.mp3.com/fps), Dream Theater, the soundtrack to “The Truman Show,” “Blade Runner,” and “The Rock;” Snake River Conspiracy, Jason Becker, Geoff Tyson / T-Ride, and VAST were mine.

einsiders: Lance any musical inspiration?

Lance: For “Beauty,” I just listened to the music Kenn compiled. It was very helpful in establishing the tone and the atmosphere we wanted in the script. On my own, I listen to Jazz and Classical mostly, Coltrane, Miles Davis, Mahler, Mozart, some Opera.

einsiders: Lance, are you a renaissance man?

Lance: I don’t think so. There’s not too much that I like to do.

Kenn: He’s a big glam boy.

Lance: He’s lying – this time.

einsiders: Tell me about the email thing, would you do it again?

Lance: We both have Final Draft software, so it was as easy as sending a Word file to you by email.

Kenn: We’d do it again, and still may, but right now, we have too many other projects going.

einsiders: Tell me about Final Draft software.

Lance: It’s a scriptwriting software that allow you to format by using the tab and return keys. If you write a character name, then hit enter, it will automatically set you up for dialogue. It’s incredibly user friendly.

Kenn: So friendly, I can use it.

Lance: They should really pay us for that endorsement.

einsiders: Lets set up a button and advertise, really, have you tried other products, is this one good?

Lance: No. This was the best one, so I never tried, say, Scriptthing, or any other one.

einsiders: We don’t get a lot of information from the excerpt from “Beauty,” tell us more.

Lance: The man, Michael, has just been married in the opening scene, and at the end of that scene, his wife is dead. It may not be perfectly clear that that happened, but the next five pages make it clear.

Kenn: The basic story is that there is a serial killer on the loose, and Michael and his partner (detectives) are on the case. The thing is, it’s a bit personal, because it appears that his wife was the first victim, and his current fiancée (two years later) is slated to be the latest. Its not action, though, or mystery — it more character development and examination. Call it “Seven” meets “Sixth Sense.”

einsiders: Not formula, eh?

Kenn: Not at all.

Lance: We scrupulously avoid formula and cliche.

Kenn: I’m honestly not conscious of that sort of thing — I just get a story in my head and have to tell it.

Lance: I don’t ever change what I do, but if a scene reminds me of something I’ve seen, I’ll try to find a way around it.

einsiders: There was a sense of foreboding in the scene you provided us for posting. It seems there is a thing for the supernatural at the local movie house these days, have you seen that Kevin Bacon film that came out shortly after “The Sixth Sense?”

Kenn: Loved it. In fact, I envision Kevin Bacon as the co-lead male in “Beauty.”

einsiders: Is it bad to always avoid the familiar in your writing?

Lance: Yes, absolutely.

Kenn: I don’t necessarily think so — again, it goes back to the story that wants to be told. Although cliche is a big no no, at least in my stories. I’ve seen plenty of cliched films that I liked (“Titanic” springs to mind).

einsiders: What familiar elements did you keep in “Beauty?” I know we haven’t read it, but the serial killer thing stayed, anything else?

Lance: The set up of the search for the killer, with various clues and red herrings.

Kenn: The tautness leading up to the final scene, but I don’t see any of that as cliche, except from the standpoint of every story has already been told maybe thousands of times — the magic is in the details, and how you get from point a to point b.

einsiders: What kind of research did you do for the film, interview any serial killers?

Kenn: Actually my degree is in criminal psychology. Not much research, just calling on a simple level of descriptiveness and telling a story that everyone can understand without a dictionary.

Lance: No research really, we kept it simple by leaving the tech and the police jargon out. That was easy, though, because it wasn’t the focus of the story.

einsiders: But audiences are getting more sophisticated these days, don’t you think?

Kenn: More sophisticated, but that doesn’t mean that a human interest story exploring character won’t make it — look back at “Stir of echoes,” The Sixth Sense,” “American Beauty” (!!!), “What Lies Beneath.” No research necessary or needed.

einsiders: Really, “What Lies Beneath” with “The Sixth Sense,” did you mean that? Tell us about the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival, first time’s the charm or what?

Lance: “What Lies,” I haven’t seen it.

einsiders: “What Lies” was a “Crypt” expanded.

Lance: The Sidewalk Festival is in it’s second year. It’s going to take place Oct. 6-8. It’s still pretty small, but we’re doing a script pitching seminar, so maybe we can make contact with some agents and producers. We’re one of five finalists, in the Best Screenplay category. So we’re keeping our fingers crossed. I know I’ll be bringing a pile of other scripts and teleplays to the seminar!

einsiders: Have you read any of the other finalists’ scripts?

Lance: No, but I’d love to. Maybe we’ll be able to the week of the festival.

einsiders: Are they keeping them under wraps?

Lance: I haven’t had any contact with the festival people, so I don’t know.

einsiders: You mentioned a new project, tell us about that one.

Lance: I have five other scripts that are finished and in good enough shape to send out. I sent two others, “The Dream City,” and “The Blue Train” to Slamdance and the Austin Film Festival, but haven’t heard back from them yet. “Dream,” I like to call a Fantasy/Nightmare/Horror script, and “Train” is a low-budget relationship movie laced with promiscuity and coke addicts. You know, like all comedies.

Kenn: I’m currently working on a David Lynchian psychodrama about the search for art — the overcoming of writer’s block, so to speak, a comedy that may actually get developed into a TV show at my company (www.zealot.com) with some luck about. Well, a normal person put into an abnormal situation, lets say. And a horror movie — sort of a classic ghost story with a twist… another movie that focuses on character but has a lot of good fright elements. I also have a short film (10 minutes) that I’m trying to get filmed — know any good director’s that want to make a cheap short film, character driven?

einsiders: You guys work all time, or what? I’d love to talk to Kenn about zealot.com, but time is short, where else can we read stuff by either of you on the net?

Kenn: I’m on zealot everyday, and pseudonymously on www.ant.com– but you’ll have a hard time guessing what’s mine and what’s not (it’s video game reviews and such). My music is available at www.mp3.com/fps; I’m trying to find the time to get my website back up at www.abstractvisionsound.com, but where’s the time? Give me more hours in the day, please.

Lance: Nothing on the net just yet, but people can contact me if they’re interested in seeing anything.

einsiders: Lance, you mentioned something about moving to LA, the last two guys I interviewed had not made the jump, why you and when?

Lance: The only thing that would keep me here is getting “The Beauty of Distance” made locally by Hunter Films or someone else. Otherwise, I just have to be there — you can’t do it long distance. To get started, you have to be there — to meet with people and such.

Kenn: I should mention Alan Hunter of Hunter Films – he was instrumental in convincing us to submit the script to the festival. You may know him from his MTV days — an incredibly nice guy with a great community arts spirit.

Lance: He should pay us for that.

Kenn: Or at least make our movie…

einsiders: Another button. Tell us about the Birmingham scene, music, film, acting, theater and such.

Kenn: It’s strange – my wife is in the theater, off and on, and I just left a band called Full Moon Blanket for time reasons. My best friend is in Lunasect, and they’re well-known nationally on the electronic/techno/triphop circuit. We’re still trying too hard to play catch-up with Atlanta on many levels, but there’s a lot of good stuff going on here — mostly on a local level. My friend David Parker, now in Baltimore, is the person that I wrote the lead part for — but he left, because five years ago, there was no hope for breaking on to the national level. Now I think we’re seeing the seeds of greatness rise to the surface in this town.

Lance: My girlfriend is about to start working for the Birmingham Children’s Theater in Sleepy Hollow.

einsiders: Kenn, in Birmingham for the long haul?

Kenn: For the time being — my wife and I are both pursuing more college — she for a masters in english and me a third BS in computer science. Our families are here, and I’m content, for the moment. Good job, good friends, and plenty to do. The weather sucks, though.

Lance: No shit, too damned hot!

einsiders: A film I reviewed a couple of months ago as a Video Risk called “Knight Moves” was about a twisted serial killer of sorts. Check it out if you haven’t seen it. Give us some Video Risks to munch on as we stroll through the local video supermarket. You know, odd unheard of jewels you recommend. “The Matrix” doesn’t count.

Kenn: “LA Story,” must see for eveyone… “Deep Cover”…. anything by David Lynch… “The Man Who Fell To Earth”… “Love and a .45″… “Playing by Heart” (beautiful love stories)… I’m sure there’s others from me, but I can’t think of them.

einsiders: Lance, still thinking?

Lance: Anything by Robert Altman, anything by Woody Allen (the greatest living American screenwriter). Anything by Preston Sturges, a master of comedy, anything by Billy Wilder, Terrence Malik. I like foreign films Fellini, Bergman (check out his Cries and Whispers), Truffaut, Bunuel, Almodovar. Kurosawa. Anything by these guys.

Kenn: Lance doesn’t like a whole lot — pretty narrow tastes, eh?

einsiders: How broad is the ocean?

einsiders: Lance, any words to Woody if he is reading with a sax (I think that is his instrument of choice) in one hand and mouse in the other?

Lance: Woody plays the clarinet, but he also plays sax (actually, that’s my instrument of choice). I’d just say, Woody, you may be a pervert, but you make great movies.

Maybe Woody isn’t one of our faithful readers. We will follow the Sidewalk results and speak with Kenn and Lance after the winners are announced. Thanks guys for the chat.

Jonathan W. Hickman

THINGS I LIKE: Other Music

I have 120 GB on my iPod, and most of it is very important to me.  That’s 16,000 songs.  51 days of listening without hearing the same song twice. And I’m always looking for more.

I’m gonna try this a little differently, and not mention things like Van Halen — that inspired me to pick up the guitar in the first place in 1983 — or Queen — that first introduced me to “cinematic” music.  Everyone’s heard of these guys.  You all need new things to explore, so let’s go that route:

Follow For Now


That’s probably not fair of me, really, to turn you on to a band who broke up a long time ago, and whose album is long out of print?  Sorry.  I had long suspected that funk and hard rock could be smoothly combined, and these guys — coming out of Atlanta, so close by — proved it.  And what a voice!

Living Colour were, of course, really close to thing, but Vernon Reid had a tendency to get more outside than I preferred.

Steve Vai


Did I just say something about being too outside for me? Oops.

Vai started off with Frank Zappa, and you can certainly hear that influence in his playing and composition.  Ditto Hendrix.  But Vai, I would argue, is the closest thing the modern age has known as a virtuoso.  He’s mastered his instrument, and more than anyone I can think of, can make his guitar sing, really emotively.  People argue against the techinique, saying it’s all flash, but as as writer, I immediately compare it to having a large vocabulary — you don’t have to use big words all the time, but it’s certainly nice to have them at your disposal.

I’ve long-since given up being a guitar hero, but every now and then, I can pop on some Vai and still dream…

Porcupine Tree


I learned later in life to dig Pink Floyd (I was surrounded by people who longed for the seventies in high school, so got really burned early on Zeppelin, Floyd, and the Dead), and appreciate their psychadelic explorations, their cinematic sound.  Maybe it was because I discovered PT around the same time, but I can’t help but really noticing a strong similarity between the two.  Both started out as improvisational, heavily experimental bands, and gradually developed into more “pop” (ha) oriented styles.  Both are known for big, epic approaches.  PT is a little heavier, but I have to think that if you appreciate Floyd and would enjoy an updated, similar sound, Porcupine Tree is a good place to look.



Yup – hair metal! WHOOOO!!!

These guys were only together for one album, until internal turmoil broke them up.  But that album? One of my all-time favorites.  Brilliant guitar work, but in very small bursts – always leave ’em wanting more.  Great pop tunes and turnarounds.  Funky metal. And those harmonies — with the exception of Extreme (WHOOOOO!!!!!), absolutely NO ONE has ever taken that element of Queen and worked it into heavy music so well.



I got turned on to these guys because someone told me they reminded them of my band, the Exhibit(s).  The only real similarity is that the guitarist/vocalist plays an acoustic guitar, sometimes through pedals.  But it was a good recommendation, nonetheless.  Nice ethereal feel to their music. It’s got a little bit of a prog-metal feel, but more focus.



Like Muse, or Radiohead, maybe.  I have a really hard time categorizing this band.  But I love ’em.  Found them complettely by accident, and having stopped listening since.



For those decreasingly-common times that I feel like wrapping myself in a warm blanket of depression and just letting it take over me — this is the soundtrack.  Incredibly wistful, but infused with ust enough hope to keep you going. And so beautiful…

Butch Walker


If you just want some good, straight-ahead rock and roll, tight songwriting with a great delivery — Butch Walker’s your man.  He’s from Atlanta, too — another lucky discovery brought to me by The Nick. His old band, Marvelous 3, is well worth checking out, as well. He’s also a lot of fun live, if you ever have the chance to check him out.

Lastly, I’m not a huge fan of Joseph Arthur in general — I’m obviously not hip enough.  But this song will always have a really special emotional attachment for me — one of my few wonder-what-could-have-been moments.  The studio version is beautiful, but his one man  performance (seen here on the Late Late Show, but witnessed live at Smith’s in Atlanta) was jaw-dropping and heart-breaking.


THINGS I LIKE: Devin Townsend

There are plenty of musicians that I respect and follow. Music is probably the most important thing in my world — ask me what I’ll sacrifice first: friends, animals, small innocent babies, my sex life, or music? (If you’re a friend or a small innocent baby, you’re not gonna like the answer). Music is almost always playing around me – in the car, at my desks, at the bar, in the shower.


Out of all the music I’ve ever been exposed to, no one’s work has influenced, inspired or excited me more than the collective output of Devin Townsend. Like a bunch of other people, I discovered him when he sang on the Steve Vai disc Sex and Religion — the first and only Vai disc to focus on a full-band concept instead of (primarily) instumentals. As much of a fan of Steve Vai and his guitar work as I’ve been since Flexable, Devin’s voice blew me away.  A few years later, I happened to read about a new disc by a band called Strapping Young Lad (As Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing) and mail-ordered it. From there, I was sold.


The thing that originally drew me to Townsend’s work — from his solo catalog to SYL to his guest appearances — is his voice, which is odd for me.  I’ve always been a guitar guy, not terribly concerned with vocals (I certainly notice when they aren’t good or don’t fit the song, but they’ve never really stood out for me).  His voice, though, has so much power, range, and emotion behind it, that I think it’s impossible to ignore.


Devin’s also a proponent of the ‘wall of sound’ approach to recording, placing layer after layer of instrumentation and vocal on every track.  This to me gives everything a huge feeling, that IMAX film sensation.  Different volumes and listening environments bring out different elements of songs, and even 13 years after getting his first solo disc I can still discover new things in the tracks.


His music is not necessarily widely available, but most of it can be found at Amazon or on EBay.  He can be found online at www.hevydevy.com, and on MySpace as well.

THINGS I LIKE: Other Books

swansongSwan Song (Robert McCammon)

When I was in high school in the late ’80s, I became obsessed with horror novels and movies.  I had read a few of them previously (I was more a Sherlock Holmes guy before high school), but a girl named Cynthia Harrington sent me It for my 14th birthday, and it was on.

If I had a favorite writer other than Stephen King, it was Robert McCammon.  He was (and, I believe, still is) a local author.  Something about that always struck me as neat, as a teenager.  While I think that King is a better storyteller, I think McCammon is less watered-down in some ways — his extremes exist further from the center.  Swan Song is comparable (and often compared) to King’s The Stand (and fairly so), but I think that this is the stronger of the two.

Really and truly, especially with summer coming up, you can’t go wrong with McCammon.  For a less-horror slanted read, try Boy’s Life.

illusionsIllusions (Richard Bach)

This is new-agey as hell — I honestly sometimes can’t believe that I like this book at all, much less as much as I do. But the truth is, this book possibly more than any other collection of words has shaped my life and my philosophy.  I recommend it to anyone and everyone, in spite of the hippie ambiance.

There are a lot of truisms throughout, and it’s a good reference book for people that may have lost their way in life.

houseofleaves rawsharktextsHouse of Leaves (Mark Z. Danielewski) and The Raw Shark Texts (Steven Hall)

There’s a genre out there that no one has tagged as such: mind fuck.  And I can imagine that there are so few members of this genre as to make it not worth labeling, but if only…

Both of these books are part horror/science fiction and part love story (yes, really). The magic of the horror — and honestly, the real scares that both give me every time I read them — come from concepts that are… well, they’re nearly impossible to explain.  House of Leaves deals with impossible physics and insanity, while Raw Shark Texts is about words and language and memory and insanity. Both unabashedly attack higher levels, and delving in can be incredibly rewarding.

It doesn’t hurt at all, apparently, to be a little bit of a nerd to read these two.

choke-novel12 Choke (Chuck Palahniuk)

Speaking of mind fuck…

I can’t even remotely claim to have gotten on the early Palahniuk train — it took the movie version of Fight Club to turn me on to his writing.  Glad it did, though.

Palahniuk is as close to poetry that I can imagine reading.  I love the usage of language in his books, as well as his constant pushing of the envelope and explorations of the underbelly of acceptibility. Choke, above all others, really struck me as the strongest of all his works, including the ending.  I can’t quite put my finger back on it on rereading, but the feeling of everything snapping directly and correctly into place whne I hit the last 15-20 pages was overwhelming the first time I read the book.

stephen-king-itIT (Stephen King)

I’m forever thankful to Cynthia Harrington for this gift.  In fact, as unattached to my material goods as I am, I still hold on to this hardcover because it’s the first King book I ever got.

To this day, there are scenes from the book that I’m not certain I ever read completely through, because they still scare the shit out of me.

Yes, I’m serious.