David Gately

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Facebook Like: Wall of separation

In 2012 presidential election, Church & State, Danbury Baptist Association, Politics and religion, Religion, Religion and politics, Separate but not equal, Thomas Jefferson on July 29, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I recently became the 52,756 person to “like” a Facebook page of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. It was a proud moment.

My decision to do so was a culmination of years sitting by — slothful and penitential I’m ashamed to admit — as religion has crept further and further into American politics. I’ve been coveting enlightenment and solace with compatriots. Church and State, contrary to more and more political rhetoric in American politics over the past 30 years, is not an intersection on Main Street.

Regardless of whether or not I believe in God (as folklore) or a higher power (I do) or the benefits of organized religion (minimal), I do believe in the “wall of separation” that Thomas Jefferson put forth in 1802 when he wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association:

“…I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

Americans United is a non-partisan, non-sectarian DC-based organization founded in 1947 dedicated to preserving the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans. Jefferson said, “I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”

So here’s to TJ’s infinite wisdom and to religion staying out of U.S. politics as we head this fall into another divinely flawed American presidential election cycle.

Warring Tribesmen

In A Tribe Called Quest, Beats, David Gately, Hip hop, Hip hop, Phife, Phife, Q-Tip, Q-Tip, Rhymes & Life, Rhymes & Life, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest on July 17, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Jesus and Judas. Beavis and Butthead. Q-Tip and Phife. Rodney King said it best: Can’t we all just get along?

Apparently not. Which is too bad because A Tribe Called Quest, the 1990s groundbreaking hip-hop group in which Q-Tip and Phife are members, and Michael Rapaport’s new rockumentary based on the band, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, are equally exceptional. Both are worth seeing. The latter is in theaters now. The former, which should be rechristened A Tribe Called Dysfunctional, can not be seen now, unfortunately, because they split, suddenly and with infamous acrimony, in 1998.

Though Tribe has reunited three times in the past 10 years, primarily as part of the lineup for the Rock the Bells annual hip hop festival, the kinship is incapable of getting along. It is the Tribe’s unique journey – adored by unwavering fans worldwide but sadly undermined by Q-Tip and Phife’s immortally toxic bromance – that is the subject of Rappaport’s film.

Q-Tip (Kamaal Ibn John Fareed, formerly Jonathan Davis) and Phife Dawg (Malik Taylor) were childhood friends from Queens, New York. Together with DJ-producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad and a fourth member, rapper Jarobi White, who left the group after their first album, formed A Tribe Called Quest in 1985 when all four were 15 years old. Between 1990 and 1998 they released five critically and commercially successful albums.

Tribe came along at the right time. Their innovative fusing of beatbox and jazz during hip hop’s “golden-age” (1985 to 1995) helped propel the fledgling musical hyphenate of artist as mix-master producer extraordinaire. Many of their songs – Bonita Applebum, Can I Kick It?, and I Left My Wallet in El Segundo – are regarded as classics.

John Bush of Allmusic.com called Tribe “the most intelligent, artistic rap group during the 1990s.” Editors of About.com ranked them #4 on their list of the “25 Best Rap Groups of all Time.” In 2005, the group received a special achievement award at the Billboard R&B Hip-Hop Awards.

The documentary has three intersecting storylines: Tribe’s rise and impact, Q-Tip and Phife’s bad blood and, as a sidebar and reason for the group’s 2006 reunion, Phife’s struggle with diabetes and eventual kidney transplant.

We never really learn the crux of the animosity between Q-Tip and Phife, other than the two are strong-willed and stubborn. It happens in the best of bands. In the end tough, Q-Tip, behind a self-imposed cloak of purist integrity, comes off as the more uncompromising control-freak. Like a lopsided doubles’ tennis game, Ali and Jarobi (who rejoined the group for the 2006 tour) are the victims of Tribe’s uneven match. Both come off as reasoned, balanced tribesmen from the get-go, negligently tossed aside by Q-Tip and Phife’s constant and selfish warring.

The movie’s many talking heads, including Pharrell Williams and ?uestionlove of The Roots, testify to Tribe’s monumental footprint in contemporary hip hop. Without Tribe, William proclaims, “there would be no me, The Roots or Kanye (West).”

Conflicts aside, Beats, Rhymes & Life is a compelling film. Tribe’s music is endlessly infectious and provocative. The group’s voyage is rich. And the character-study of friendship gone bad is timeless. Rapaport, a Jewish, sometime actor and comedian who has appeared on TV in Boston Public, Prison Break and Friends, deserves much of the credit. His directorial debut, filmed over four years, is a stellar contribution to the genus of music documentaries.

Maids of Dishonor: Bridesmaids (review)

In Bridesmaids, Bridesmaids movie, John Hamm, Judd Apatow, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolf on July 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm
 

Within the first 15 minutes of Bridesmaids, Judd Apatow’s hilarious all-girl romcom about the fun times of a flock of female bridal sidekicks, it becomes clear that being a bridesmaid today is like a stab in the eye. Or a kick in the shins. Maybe a sh_art (two words, one syllable each) in the pants. Anything but fun.

Annie, the movie’s numero-uno fun-girl and maid of honor, is a thirtysomething unremitting bachelorette. Sluggishly engaging, she’s Meg Ryan cute by anyone’s standards. Could be the girl next door, a keeper even, but she’s really not that into it. She’s doing her utmost to remain single, miserable and free.

Then there’s Ted (Mad Men’s John Hamm). He’s Annie’s slimey but dependable friend-with-benefits. He’s not that into it either. After a night of aerobic lovemaking in a truly side-splitting opening scene, Ted sweetly whispers in Annie’s ear in the morning, “I really want you to leave, but I don’t know how to say it without sounding like a dick.”

Ouch!

Adding salt to that ditty, Annie, played by SNL’s Kristen Wiig (who also cowrote the movie), rendered brilliantly with equal parts low-pulse verve and mid-octane angst, is broke. Her bakery business crumbled. Her rent is late. Worst, she drives one of those unrecognizable beat-up broke-ass hatchbacks from the late 1980s. Could be a Chevy Chevette. Remember those? Of course not.

After Annie’s best girl friend Lillian (a solid performance by Wiig’s SNL colleague, Maya Rudolf) asks her to take on the all-important MOH role, Annie quickly realizes she’s over her head with the financial and social task-mastering that comes along with it. The gown and shoes. Bridal shower. Bachelorette party in Vegas. And the other bridesmaids – “My bitches,” Lillian’s sentimental toast to them – in the toxic sisterfest?  Annie soon starts resenting she ever said yes to be a wedding-day lady-in-waiting.

Lots of hysterical mayhem ensues, of course, once Annie and friends get down to business. One already famous scene (see video below), a cringing, outrageously riotous puke and sh_art blowout in a bridal shop, has surely driven the blockbuster’s poop-ularity (sorry).

Bridesmades has grossed more than $150M since its May release. It’s another sure-shoot Apatow-proof blockbuster: toss today’s teen and twentysomething torment against sharp sartorial writing and great comedic acting, a la 2007’sKnocked Up, Him: “Should we have sex tonight?” Her: “Ugh, I’m just really constipated, but you want to?”

I highly recommend Bridesmaids, poop gags and all. The supporting cast of maids of dishonor are just as stellar: Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper. Holding his own as Annie’s thankless wannabe boyfriend (and the only substantial male lead) is Irishman Chris O’Dowd in a finely nuanced performance as an endearing do-good cop. The movie gets a whooping 89 percent top critics rating on RottenTomatoes.com, certifiably two thumbs-up fresh.