Sunday, September 30, 2012

O Sacred Season of Autumn . . .

The photos that comprise this post were taken in and around South Minneapolis over the last week or so. They are accompanied by a beautiful prayer by Edward Hays.

O Sacred season of Autumn, be my teacher,
for I wish to learn the virtue of contentment.
As I gaze upon your full-colored beauty,
I sense all about you
an at-homeness with your amber riches.

You are the season of retirement,
of full barns and harvested fields.
The cycle of growth has ceased,
and the busy work of giving life
is now completed.
I sense in you no regrets:
you've lived a full life.

I live in a society that is ever-restless,
always eager for more mountains to climb,
seeking of happiness through more and more possessions.
As a child of my culture,
I am seldom truly at peace with what I have.
Teach me to take stock of what I have given and received;
may I know that it's enough,
that my striving can cease
in the abundance of God's grace.
May I know contentment
that allows the totality of my energies
to come to full flower.
May I know that, like you, I am rich beyond measure.

As you, O Autumn, take pleasure in your great bounty,
let me also take delight
in the abundance of the simple things in life
which are the true source of joy.
With the golden glow of peaceful contentment
may I truly appreciate this autumn day.

– Edward Hays
(from Earth Prayers,
edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Autumn Hues (2011)
Out and About – October 2011
Photo of the Day – October 27, 2011
The Beauty of Autumn in Minnesota (2010)
Photo of the Day – September 29, 2010)
Autumn Hues (2009)
Tremealeau (2009)
Rainy October Afternoon (2008)
Out and About – September 2007

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Rockin' with Wanda

"Man, you really like the old warhorses!", a friend once remarked as he flipped through my CD collection. He was referring to the female vocalists who dominated my collection and who were 'of a certain age,' shall we say: Dusty Springfield, Marianne Faithfull, Tina Turner, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Shirley Bassey.

The thing was, this was the early 1990s, and none of these women were really that old! At the time they were probably in their late forties or early fifties. I guess it said a lot about our (or, rather, my friend's) perception of what it meant to be "old"! We were still in our twenties, after all. Even so, I really didn't think of any of these women as old in any kind of negative sense. Rather, I appreciated and resonated with the sense of transformative journeying that I discerned in their lives and careers. I guess I saw them as survivors. But they were also much more than that. They were and are icons! And we gay men, it seems, love our icons. And why not, especially if like any authentic icon they point us toward and led us into dimensions of greater awareness of ourselves, of love and life, and of that sacred force that holds all things together.

I mention my friend's rather crude comment as I recently wondered what he would make of my current interest in the music of 74-year-old Wanda Jackson, the "Queen of Rock" and a living legend not only within that particular genre but also within those of country and rockabilly.

As you may recall, I recently saw Wanda perform at the Minnesota State Fair. It actually wasn't the first time I'd seen her in concert. About ten years ago I saw her perform at First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. I must admit I didn't know much about her; I couldn't even name one of her songs. But the image used to promote the concert (right) intrigued me, as did the fact that she'd been around for so long as a revered artist. Yes, that iconic, archetypal sense of journey, again!

Seeing her at the Minnesota State Fair earlier this month (above) reminded me of the album she recorded last year with Jack White. He had previously worked with another legend of country music, Loretta Lynn. Despite the fact that I'm not a country music fan, I bought the album Lynn and White made together (Van Lear Rose) and unreservedly recommend it. (I highlighted a song from it back in 2007.)

A few days ago I bought The Party Ain't Over, the 2011 album that Jack White produced for Wanda. Here's how describes the album:

This collection of vintage and contemporary covers was produced by fan and new-found friend Jack White at his Nashville studio and recorded with a late-night honky-tonk feel by members of My Morning Jacket, the Raconteurs, and Dead Weather, among others. The White-curated lineup of tunes, says Jackson, showcases "all the various types of music that I've done through the years - some country, some gospel, some rockabilly, some rock n' roll. It's got all of that, and we threw in a Bob Dylan song 'Thunder On the Mountain,' just to be safe."

The spirited Jackson, revered for such classic singles as "Let's Have a Party" and "Fujiyama Mama," proves that brash rock and roll attitude need not have an age limit. Her trademark growl remains intact on rockers like "Rip It Up" and "Nervous Breakdown"; she opens the set with an echo-laden sneer on a rollicking version of "Shakin' All Over" and ends it 10 songs later with a plaintive take on Jimmie Rodgers' "Yodel #6." Along the way she tackles the Andrews Sisters kitschy "Rum and Coca Cola" and a big-band rendition of the DeCastro Sisters' "Teach Me Tonight," and she out-sasses and out-classes Amy Winehouse on a cover of the British bad girl's "You Know I'm No Good," which has already been released as a single.

Below is the video for Wanda Jackson's cover of Bob Dylan's "Thunder on the Mountain." It's followed by Rosanne Cash's insightful words about Wanda, spoken when she inducted the "Queen of Rock' into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.

Wanda Jackson. Even the name sounds like a declaration and a promise – Wanda Jackson. I asked Wanda what she wanted people to know most about her and she said: "Number one, I can rock! Number two, I was a lady and reputations are important. And number three, rock 'n' roll and God are not mutually exclusive.

As one writer has noted, Wanda was there at the beginning of rock and roll, and for girls with guitars, myself included, Wanda was the beginning of rock and roll. Everyone who cares about roots music and rock 'n' roll reveres Wanda. But in particular, every young woman I know, musician or otherwise, worships her as the prototype, the first female rock star, as she so modestly acknowledges herself.

But this is not a woman who used her staggering beauty to manipulate an audience. This is not a coy woman. This is not a woman who used her powerful energy as a means to just become famous. She is vibrant and edgy without being abrasive, and sweet without being saccharine. This is a woman who has rhythm and joy in equal parts to the depth of her soul.

. . . She started her career when she was a junior in high school in 1954 and she said it was a family affair. Her father drove her to performances and managed her career and her mother sewed her outfits. She was put on package shows in the South with Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and my dad [Johnny Cash], among others; her buddies, as she calls them. . . . She may be the only lady in history who had that kind of rockin' rhythm and raw sensuality and not only didn't self-destruct but had fun and kept her soul intact in the process. She's not a red carpet-celebrity-rehab-tabloid kind of person. She's a person of strong religious conviction, deep integrity, a road warrior, and a rock 'n' roll queen.

In the beginning, Wanda was a country singer, and one day on the road Elvis said to her, "You should do the new kind of music like I'm doing." And Wanda said, "But I'm just a country singer." And Elvis said, "Well, I am too." And that was that.

Wanda was equally authentic in rockabilly as she was in country. Elvis let the genie out of the bottle with that one little exultation. She told her mother, who was making her stage clothes, that she didn't want to wear those big skirts anymore, and so she and her mother created the fringe dresses, the high heels, and long earrings that brought her image and her musical style into an electric, cohesive, sharp focus.

But she never gave up doing country as well as rockabilly. Sometimes she would release a record with a rocker on Side A and a country song on Side B. She had and still has enormous international popularity. . . . She has been recording for 54 years and has recorded in four languages. She's made around 50 albums, she's toured the world and inspired legions of people with her grace and fire. She said she wants to keep doing this "as long as my health holds up and as long as the fans want to come out and see me. But it's not fallen away yet." No it's not . . .

In his review of The Party Ain't Over, Nathan Phillips wonders why Wanda was for so long "the most under-appreciated rockabilly pioneer." He suggests it may have been due to sexism within the music business or Wanda's "conversion to Jesus." Elsewhere on the web I found the following quote by Wanda, in which she talks about her faith.

. . .[T]he main thing that happens when you become a Christian or you’re born again is the change in your own heart and the peace that you can have. You just — you can’t hardly describe it.

It’s just the knowing that Christ is there, he’s real. He’s more real than anything that we can see or hear or feel or touch. He guides my life. I just want my fans to know that if they’re floundering in life and realizing that they need a savior, and they need someone to throw them that life ring and save you, that’s what the Bible says happens: we get saved, and it changes you wonderfully. I don’t belabor the point, but I just briefly tell an audience what happened to me: that I received Christ as my lord and my savior and he made a wonderful change in my life, and I do a gospel song in just about all of my shows. People love it. They love to hear that something good has happened to people, you know.

October 9 sees the release of Wanda's 31st studio album, Unfinished Business. And judging from the following preview, it's going to be a great collection of songs.

Recommended Off-site Links and Updates:
Long Live the Queen: An Interview with Wanda Jackson – Shelley Peckham (True Endeavors, August 29, 2010).
Roots of Rock: Wanda JacksonDigital Reporter (via YouTube).
Wanda Jackson Unveils Autobiography Every Night Is Saturday Night – Brittany McKenna (Rolling Stone, August 30, 2017).
Wanda Jackson, ‘Queen of Rockabilly,’ Retires From Performing – Ryan Reed (Rolling Stone, March 27, 2019).

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Quote of the Day

Writes Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe . . .

. . . I have no tolerance for bigots. I have no tolerance for sexists. I have no tolerance for racists, slave owners, or those who would oppress another group simply because they can. I have absolutely NO tolerance for those who don’t treat other people the way they would want to be treated. I have nothing but contempt for those who would pass a constitutional amendment denying equality under the law to a segment of American citizens. We’ve fought countless battles over the years trying to bring greater equality to both this country and the world, and you would shove it aside like so much trash.

And guess what? My intolerance doesn’t kick in until YOU do something. Treat everyone equally and with respect and we’ll never have a problem. Unfortunately, some people just don’t get it.

I won’t sugercoat it, won’t hide it in fancy words, won’t wrap it in a swaddling of morality and fear; if you vote to restrict the rights of another person, you are trying to make them your slave. You are telling them that the very birthright that makes us human, the right to free will and choice, the right to happiness and freedom, no longer applies. You are flat out stating that a person is no longer a human being, that YOU should decide what’s best with no care for independent thought, that YOU alone know the only way to do things.

I call this oppression. I call it tyranny. I call it cruel and unjust and undeserving of consideration by anyone who would live free of shackles. . . .

– Chris Kluwe
"Mirror, Mirror"
Out of Bounds
September 26, 2012

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
What a Man! – Chris Kluwe
Nicolas Chinardet Asks: "What Exactly is a Bigot?"

Related Off-site Links:
“They Won’t Magically Turn You Into a Lustful Cockmonster”: Chris Kluwe Explains Gay Marriage to the Politician Who Is Offended by an NFL Player Supporting It – Chris Kluwe (, September 7, 2012).
Chris Kluwe and the Greatest Political Statement by Any Athlete Ever – Dave Zirin (The Nation, September 8, 2012).
Chris Kluwe Ready and Willing to Debate Gay Marriage – Reid Cherner (USA Today, September 27, 2012).

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Pediatric Physician's Helpful Perspective on Same-Sex Parenting

The latest issue of Lavender, "Minnesota's GLBT Magazine," has an insightful and helpful interview with Paul Melchert, MD.

I say "helpful," because Melchert, being a pediatric physician who, along with his partner James is raising twin three-year-old boys, has both the knowledge and experience to refute the claim that children are somehow in danger when raised by same-sex parents. It's a claim that's often expressed by members of the Catholic hierarchy and others opposed to granting civil marriage rights to same-sex couples. Following are excerpts from Lavender's interview with Melchert that address these types of claims.

Lavender: There is a lot of science that proves a parent’s sexual orientation is inconsequential with regard to raising healthy and successful children. What would you say to a person who still thinks only a heterosexual couple can raise healthy children?

Paul Melchert: Children watch how we interact with each other. They learn respect and tolerance from watching us respect and be tolerant of others. They learn how to disrespect and bully others from watching us disrespect and bully others. There is substantial evidence, supported by the leading medical organizations in the country, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Psychological Association, and the American Medical Association, which demonstrates that children who are raised in same-sex households turn out just as well – in all areas – as those raised by heterosexual parents. In fact, children raised by same-sex parents tend to be more nurturing toward younger children and tolerate higher levels of diversity.

Lavender: Based on your experience, how should Minnesota promote stronger and healthier families?

Paul Melchert: The proposed marriage amendment strengthens no families. We should focus on policies that actually strengthen all families. An example would be improved access to and affordability of excellent healthcare for all children. Another would be eliminating the existing achievement gap in our education system and increasing access to pre-K programs. The AAP has identified that there is a strong link between the health and well being of children and the support and encouragement of all parents and strong family relationships.

To read Lavender Magazine's interview with Paul Melchert in its entirety, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Competent Parenting Doesn't Require "Traditional Marriage"
One Catholic Gay Parent Who Isn’t Leaving the Church
Celebrating the Presence of God Within All Families
Is Anyone in the Least Bit Surprised By This?
"That Utterly Profound 'In-Loveness'"

Recommended Off-site Link:
Yes, That Gay Parenting Study Was Bogus – John Corvino (The New Republic, June 12, 2012).

Image: Sophie Hantzes.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Something to Think About . . .

Related Upcoming Event:
A Matter of Social Justice: Catholics Voting 'No' on Both Amendments

Recommended Off-site Links:
The Marriage Amendment as Decoy and How to Fight the Real Danger – Ricardo Levins Morales (Twin Cities Daily Planet, August 10, 2012).
MN Voting Amendment Would Change Much More Than You Might Think – Mark Richie (MinnPost, September 6, 2012).
Voter ID Wars – Mo Rocca (New York Times, September 5, 2012).
Photo ID Edict Could Hit 215, 000 Minnesota Voters – Jim Ragsdale (Star Tribune, September 8, 2012).
For Some, Showing an ID to Vote Would Be Harder Than You Imagine – Haddayr Copley-Woods (Minnesota Public Radio, September 11, 2012).
Catholics, Lutherans and Voter ID – Lori Sturdevant (Star Tribune, September 8, 2012).
Voter ID Bill Leaves Student ID Question Unanswered – John Croman (KARE 11 News, September 21, 2012).
Catholic Q&A on the Minnesota 'Marriage Amendment' – Michael Bayly and Florence Steichen (Sensus Fidelium, August 7, 2012).
Why Catholics Can Vote 'No' – Bob Pierson, OSB (Sensus Fidelium, June 11, 2012).
Amendment Campaign Contrary to Church Moral Teaching – Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, March 3, 2011).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Lisa Cressman's Concise, Reasonable Answers to Marriage Equality Questions
A Catholic Rational for Opposing the 'Marriage Amendment'
The Minneapolis (and Online) Premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality
"A Thoughtful, Entertaining, and Inspiring Program"
Tips on Speaking as a Catholic in Support of Marriage Equality
A Catholic Statement of Support for Marriage Equality
Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: An Overview

Image: Steve Sack.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Quote of the Day

Happy are those who live under a discipline which they accept without question, who freely obey the order of leaders, spiritual or temporal, whose word is fully accepted as unbreakable law; or those who have, by their own methods, arrived at clear and unshakable convictions about what to do and what to be that brook no possible doubt. I can only say that those who rest on such comfortable beds of dogma are victims of forms of self-induced myopia, blinkers that my make for contentment, but not of understanding what it means to be human.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Pan’s Labyrinth: Critiquing the Cult of Unquestioning Obedience
An Enlightened Exploration of Integrity and Obedience
The Treasure and the Dross
Quote of the Day – August 24, 2010
Time for a Church for Grown-Ups
The Potential of Art and the Limits of Rigid Orthodoxy to Connect Us to the Sacred

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Out and About – Summer 2012

As I write this post I can't help but think of Dusty Springfield's haunting rendition of the song "The Windmills of Your Mind," and in particular the line . . . Why did summer go so quickly / Was it something that you said?

As you'll see, it's been a very busy summer – which no doubt accounts for my experience of it going by so quickly. For many of us here in Minnesota, it's been a summer dominated by our efforts to defeat the "marriage amendment." My contribution to these efforts has been, and continues to be, as executive coordinator with Catholics for Marriage Equality MN.

It has been difficult, I must admit. Indeed, at times the work feels totally overwhelming. But thankfully I'm part of a number of communities and groups, the members of which mutually support and inspire one another. That's absolutely key, I've discovered, in any type of social justice work. Plus I have the most wonderful friends anyone could hope to find. And, as you'll see, many of them feature in the following photographs.

Above: Happy and honored to be the recipient of Dignity Twin Cities' 2012 Pride Award – June 15, 2012.

Above: Members of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, Dignity Twin Cities, and a number of local parishes participate in the 40th annual Twin Cities Pride Parade – Sunday, June 24, 2012.

Left: With friends Darlene and Tom White, who feature in the C4ME-MN produced DVD Catholics for Marriage Equality.

Right: With my friend Rick.

For more images and commentary on this year's Pride, see the previous Wild Reed post A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride – 2012.

For The Wild Reed's 2012 Gay Pride/Queer Appreciation series, click here.

Above: The Strange Capers performing Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors in Powderhorn Park, Minneapolis.

Above: About to go kayaking with my friend and housemate Tim.

Above: In July, I introduced Tim to my favorite spot on the Mississippi River. Too bad he has a thing about heights!

Right: Two of the coolest people I know, my friends Tim and Kathleen! You may recall that I spent time in Kansas City in early June with Kathleen and her son Joey.

Left: My friend Phil, holding his cat Julianna.

Right: Friends John and Noelle.

Above: A lovely photo of my friends Liana and Curtis – July 2012.

Left: With my friend Walter at Minnehaha Falls – July 2012.

Above: In early August I traveled to Chicago with my friends Phil, Noelle, John, Liana and Curtis. We stayed with our friend Nathaniel and while in the Windy City I spent an afternoon with my friend Eduard (right).

For more images and commentary about our visit to Chicago, see here, here, here and here.

Above and left: Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's "I Do! Believe in the Freedom to Marry" event in Loring Park, Minneapolis – August 15, 2012.

For more photos and commentary, click here.

Above and right: The 'Vote No on the Voter ID Amendment' Rally – Minneapolis, August 26, 2012.

For some helpful resources on this issue, see Ricardo Levins Morales' article, "The Marriage Amendment as Decoy and How to Fight the Real Danger," and visit Our Vote, Our Future and the League of Women Voters MN.

Also, Catholics for Marriage Equality MN is hosting an event on September 29 entitled "A Matter of Social Justice: Catholics Voting 'No' on Both Amendments." For more information, click here.

Above: Enjoying summer in Minnesota! From left: Noelle, Carmen, Phil, Mark Curtis, Kim, Mike, Liana, John and Jacob.

Left: Phil with the always noble-looking Quinn.

Above: The always welcoming kitchen of the Jacquet-Morrison family! That's Eddie relaxing on the floor; Curtis holding Charlie; and Noelle and Liana posing for the camera!

Right: Curtis holding a so-not-impressed-looking Charlie. This photo always makes me smile!

Above: Standing second from right with friends (from left) John, Brian, Bob and Tim.

Left: Bob and Brian.

Above: Out to lunch at Victor's 1959 Cafe in Minneapolis with my dear friends Ken and Carol – September 13, 2012.

Above: My friend Raul by Minnehaha Creek, not far from my Minneapolis home.

Right: A snap of me taken by Raul. I bought the hat I'm wearing at this year's Minnesota State Fair!

Above and left: The dried-up bed of Minnehaha Creek – Saturday, September 15, 2012. It's been a rather brutal summer this year in Minnesota and across the U.S.

Right: With my dear friend Joan – September 2012.

Above and below: Duluth, MN – Sunday, September 16, 2012.

I traveled to Duluth from the Twin Cities with my friend Brian (left) as I had been invited to be part of a gathering of Catholics dedicated to defeating the 'marriage amendment.' I'll share more about this gathering in a later post.

Returning to the Twin Cities, it felt as though I brought back with me the cooler weather of northern Minnesota. And even though there is already colorful fall foliage to be seen – especially up around Duluth – they say the colors this year in Minnesota will be subdued due to the drought conditions we're experiencing. Still, what we have is quite beautiful, as can be seen in the picture at right.

Images: Michael J. Bayly.