Saturday, May 31, 2008


The current #2 song on the iTunes singles chart is the new song "I Kissed a Girl" by up-and-comer Katy Perry (visit her Myspace page here). Now one might think that a song like this is one that the lesbian community can get behind. But, as popular gay blogger Dorothy Snarker comments, "Like everything else it’s all about the context. Are these two drunk girls surrounded by cheering frat boys? Yeah, no thanks. Or are these two women who are genuinely interested in each other." So one really needs to examine the lyrics of Katy Perry's song to determine precisely what kind of song this is. And as it turns out, Katy's song seems to be what AfterEllen writer Malinda Lo christens as a theme song for straight girls who get drunk "and make out with their straight girlfriends while they're out at a club (or in a hot tub) with their boyfriends."

At first the song doesn't seem so bad. It is catchy and upbeat and as Malindo Lo remarks, "The chorus, 'I kissed a girl and I liked it,' repeats often enough that it gives the song a kind of (fake) Gay Pride feel." Lo continues by analyzing the lyrics of the song:

This was never the way I planned
Not my intention
I got so brave, drink in hand
Lost my discretion
It's not what I'm used to
Just wanna try you on
I'm curious for you
Caught my attention

I kissed a girl and I liked it
The taste of her cherry Chapstick
I kissed a girl just to try it
I hope my boyfriend don't mind it
It felt so wrong
It felt so right
Don't mean I'm in love tonight
I kissed a girl and I liked it

No, I don't even know your name
It doesn't matter
You're my experimental game
Just human nature
It's not what good girls do
Not how they should behave
My head gets so confused
Hard to obey

As she says, the song is stereotypically bicurious. In the song Katy alludes to having a boyfriend, as though it isn't cheating to kiss someone else if that someone else is a girl. She furthermore says that "it's not what good girls do" and implies that she's only doing this because she's drunk. Like Lo states, it is implied that "kissing another girl is only something you'd do after you lose control of your decision-making faculties."

Just recently Katy released a music video for the song which pretty much confirms that this song is designed more for male titillation than for supporting the right of girls to kiss girls.

On top of all the girls lounging around in their fishnet stockings and lingerie, having pillow
fights, there is also not even any actual kissing going on. As Dorothy Snarker comments, this seems to be a strange omission.

Another popular song of Katy's is "Ur So Gay" which is described as "a bitchy
kiss-off to an ex-boyfriend, in which Katy derides him as a Hemingway-reading vegetarian who drives an electrical car, concluding, 'You're so gay and you don't even like boys.'" Some could argue that these songs of Katy's and her video are meant to be campy (play on stereotypes in a fun way). But Malinda Lo asserts, "I don't think 23-year-old Katy Perry has the right, yet, to make gay jokes. She needs to wear a lot more sequins and way higher heels for about a dozen more years. I mean, she's using a homophobic slur repeatedly, going so far as to explain that the word is actually meant as a slur and not as a description of homosexuality." It's not right for a young, straight woman to capitalize on the gay "lifestyle" by essentially poking fun at it.

Dorothy Snarker compared Katy's "I Kissed a Girl" to another song by the same name, the 1995 hit by Jill Sobule. Jill's song, unlike Katy's, actually portrays kissing a girl as somewhat of a sexual awakening. It could be used as a coming-out type song. It starts out with two friends discussing how their relationships with their boyfriends are not satisfying and then segues into the two girls realizing an attraction for one another. Then:

And we laughed at the world

They can have their di
And we'll have our pearls
I kissed a girl

I kissed a girl, her lips were sweet
She was just like kissing me
I kissed a girl, won't change the world

But I'm so glad I kissed a girl

Now that's more along the lines of a song that lesbians can get behind. Unfortunately songs like Jill's are not being promoted at the moment. Instead we get Katy's immensely popular bicurious anthem. And Katy is just the type of artist that is all the rage right now -- pretty (she looks sort of like the lovechild of Zooey Deschanel and Emily Blunt), fashionable (in a very hipster way) and what seems to be an authentically talented musician. I just hope that in the future she steers clear of further exploitation of lesbian sexuality.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Back in January I wrote a defense of teen pop-star Miley Cyrus after some so-called "lesbian" pictures of her and a friend began to circulate the internet. This was after another entry from last July where I listed Miley as one of the young stars representing hope for Hollywood's future. Now I find myself eating my words after both her recent Vanity Fair photo shoot and more leaked photos of her posing provocatively.

I have heard the varying arguments on the Vanity Fair thing. I know that some people are saying that it's "beautiful" and "artistic". Okay. If we are speaking in the technical sense then, yes, it is artistic rather than pornographic or whatever. But whether it is an artsy photo or not, the fact still remains that she is a fifteen-year-old girl and the vast majority of her fans are under the age of 10. I know that she is supposedly wearing a nude shirt under the sheet or something like that, but it still gives the illusion that she is naked. In what world is it not erotic to be posing wrapped in what appears to be nothing but a sheet? Whatever the excuses, this is still so obviously intended to be a sensual photograph and I think it is wildly inappropriate.

I think that it is natural for a fifteen-year-old girl to express her sexuality. However, to me, owning one's sexuality means being comfortable with, proud of and aware of one's body. A fifteen-year-old girl expressing her sexuality should not come in the form of her body being sexualized in a way that promotes some type of weird voyeurism in a culture that seems obsessed with the infantilization of beauty. I don't want it to seem like I am trying to say that there is something shameful about the female body. There isn't. The female body should be celebrated -- a belief that I think I have pretty consistently advocated. But as my previous point indicates, I don't think this is an appropriate way of doing that.

I know that Miley has spoken out about this photo and said that she didn't realize, blah blah blah and that she is "so embarrassed." I don't believe that for one second, and Vanity Fair has said that Miley's parents and/or handlers were on set the whole time and saw and approved of the digital version of the photograph. Making Miley's statements even less believable are her newest leaked photos:

The excuse that they were "private photos" and were never intended for the world to see only really works once. By now I think this girl should be smart enough to realize that nothing she does is really ever going to be private. Yeah that sucks, but it's the truth. So why is she continuing to take provocative photos of herself when she has to know that everyone in the world is going to end up seeing them? I don't care what she does in private, but I do care about the image she presents to the world -- an image that millions of little girls are going to emulate. Little girls like my six-year-old sister. I don't think it's really appropriate for a fifteen-year-old to be a sex symbol under any circumstance, but I think it's even less appropriate for a fifteen-year-old girl to be publicly sexualizing herself when she is meant to be an icon for young children.

Furthermore, this all indicates a certain amount of hypocrisy in Miley's and her family's supposed values. In the past she has spoken out against sex before marriage, stating that she believes in "purity." She has also openly spoken about being a "Christian" (read: born-again Christian). Now I have a real problem with Evangelical Christian "values" to begin with, so I don't really care whether she is following them. But it is annoying for me to hear her say on the one hand that she wants to remain "pure" until marriage and then on the other hand to see her displaying her body for every pervert, pedophile and adolescent boy (or girl!). Is she trying to say that the only thing sacred about the female body is the hymen? So much for being wholesome.

The whole thing really bothers me because I wanted to believe that she really was a good role model and might actually make it through her stardom untainted. But I was wrong. But, you know, at least the other young women that I wrote about last summer still seem to remain good role models. Of course, Emma Watson and Raven Symone have never reached the legendary superstar status of "Hannah Montana". So, can a young girl really become so famous, so fast without making these types of mistakes? In our society can a girl really be under such intense scrutiny without eventually engaging in some type of exhibitionism? It seems like the answer is maybe no, but I really couldn't say. Miley seems to be one-of-a-kind in the way that things have happened for her.

But then again, all of this attention and focus on Miley and on "fallen" stars such as Britney and Lindsay really takes a lot of attention away from the fact that there are many young women who grew up on film or on TV and didn't make these types of mistakes. Those girls and women are too often forgotten, and certainly don't get enough credit. They really should be cited more often as evidence that fame is not a guarantee of dysfunction.

Hilary Duff, a young woman who never reached Miley's level of fame, but who has followed a similar career trajectory as the fifteen-year-old, was very diplomatic when speaking about Cyrus' Vanity Fair shoot: "People are pushing you to do something, and if you want to do it, that's your choice, you know? It's not what I would choose to do, but if she did then that's fine. That's her choice." The notable part of her statement being "It's not what I would choose to do." Duff, now 20, is no longer an icon for little girls, but from the ages of fourteen to sixteen she starred in the popular Disney Channel series Lizzie McGuire, making her a household name among girls aged seven to fourteen. During her Disney years she also starred in a Disney Channel Original Film, Cadet Kelly, which at that time became the most watched program in the Channel's history. She went on to star in several films which, thanks to Duff's popularity among young girls, ended up being quite successful at the box office. In 2002 she began a music career, with her albums being popular within the tween and teen audience. In 2007 she was listed as #7 in Forbes "Top 20 Earners Under 25." She has also made it onto Maxim's Hot 100 list. Although I have a big problem with that stupid list, I guess it shows that guys think she's sexy.

Even during Hilary Duff's years of high popularity, she always managed to maintain a pretty wholesome image, even when she was dating Good Charlotte singer Joel Madden at the tender age of 17 (he's nine years her senior). Even now that she's no longer a minor, she has managed to be sexual while still leaving something to the imagination. Just take her Maxim photo shoot from last year. The cover is about as revealing as it gets.

But even if she had wanted to be more revealing, it doesn't matter anymore. She's 20 and no longer a Disney Channel star. The important thing is that when she was, she was never caught up in the type of controversy that Miley has found herself in.

There are plenty of other examples of former child/teen stars who managed to avoid controversy during their younger years (Natalie Portman, Raven, Mandy Moore, Emma Watson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anna Paquin, Christina Ricci, Melissa Joan Hart, Soleil Moon Frye, Scarlett Johansson, Jena Malone, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amanda Bynes, Tia and Tamera Mowry, and Reese Witherspoon. Even the Olsen Twins kept it clean during their early years). So let's give them some credit and remember that not everyone is doomed for failure.

Fame is not an excuse for bad behavior and poor judgment. As Mandy Moore says in reference to her own life, "
It’s a choice to put yourself out there in such a public way, and I really don’t thrive on that attention." I'd like to end by linking to an awesome article about Natalie Portman, which gives her "formula" for success. The writer of the article makes perhaps one of the most important points in point number one (Be Smart):

"Lots of starlets can say they did a hot photo spread for Maxim. But how many can claim to
have co-written a research paper that was published in a scientific journal? Portman did it — twice.

But being smart isn’t just about having a bachelor’s degree in psychology and speaking several languages. Portman is smart about her image. She traversed two minefields early on — she wasn’t just a child actress, she was a child actress playing sexually precocious roles in “The Professional” and “Beautiful Girls” — but came out unscathed.

How? Well, ta
ke a look at her behavior. Does she say moronic things to interviewers? No. Does she embarrass herself publicly? Never. Do you see much of her in the press when she’s not out plugging a movie? Are her personal habits and relationships analyzed and deconstructed throughout the tabloids? Nuh-uh. And that’s because you can avoid that stuff if you want to. But you have to want not to be photographed all the time. And that’s smart."

I couldn't have said it any better myself. If only Miley were listening.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Yesterday California's Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. In a 4-3 decision, the Republican-controlled court decided that a law banning marriage between two adults of the same-sex was a violation of the equal protection clause of their state's Constitution.

The news was followed by many statements of support, including that of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said that he would uphold the court's decision. Beloved talk-show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres announced on her talk show that she and long-time partner Portia de Rossi would he tying the knot now that marriage will be legal for them. With this new ruling, same-sex couples could be getting married as early as next month in California. However, anti-gay activist hope to put a hold on the ruling taking effect until November, when they hope to pass a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Gov. Schwarzenegger has said he will not support such a ban, but California voters are shown to be split on the issue. If a stay of the court's decision is not allowed, California will be only the second state in the country to have legal marriage between same-sex adults (at least until November).

Of course this is an awesome victory for gays and lesbians, but as usual it brings with it an increase in anti-gay rhetoric and hateful remarks. Reading through the comments on various blogs and news sites that have reported on this issue, I've found that I can pretty much ignore and roll my eyes at comments such as these: "
If you really understood what crap you fags have brought to this world, you would really cry. What a load of shit! Maybe you will unbreed yourselves out of existance. We can only hope!" (Because we all know that only gay people produce gay children). It's the comments from people who claim that they "aren't homophobic" but they just don't think it's fair to call a union between same-sex couples a marriage. Or that they don't think it's fair to legalize same-sex marriage if the people don't want it. One person said on a website, "I'm all for gay rights [but] what is baffling about this California ruling ... is that it was passed by judges after it was voted down by the people of Cali. Kinda scary that the votes of the people were pushed aside."

These comments bother me the most because they come from people claiming to be "tolerant", but they demonstrate a complete lack of understanding in regards to history, oppression, and America's system of government. It's funny how short our collective memory apparently is because if people will just allow themselves to look back a few decades, they might remember that it was a Supreme Court ruling (Brown v. Board of Education) that overturned interracial segregation in schools, basically paving the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act itself wasn't voted for by the people, but was passed through the legislature. In regards to marriage laws, it was another Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia, that overturned bans on interracial marriage. The Courts have long been active in making historic decisions related to minority rights. If we had allowed popular opinion to be the decider on integration and interracial marriage, a huge portion of the country would probably still be segregated.

hat many folks seem to misunderstand is the exact nature of American democracy. We do not have what is referred to as a "direct democracy", where all decisions are made by whatever citizens choose to participate (vote). We have aspects of direct democracy within our government, in the form of referendums, recalls, etc. but as a whole America does not operate within a system of direct democracy. Rather we have what many refer to as a "constitutional republic." Here is Wikipedia's basic definition of a constitutional republic:

A constitutional republic is a state where the head of state and other officials are elected as representatives of the people, and must govern according to existing constitutional law that limits the government's power over citizens. In a constitutional republic, executive, legislative, and judicial powers are separated into distinct branches, and the will of the majority of the population is tempered by protections for individual rights, so that no individual or group has absolute power. The fact that a constitution exists that limits the government's power makes the state constitutional. That the head(s) of state and other officials are chosen by election, rather than inheriting their positions, and that their decisions are subject to judicial review makes a state republican.

John Adams, one of America's Founding Fathers, and the 2nd President of the United States explained our republic as a "government of laws, not of men." According to James Woodburn, author of The American Republic and Its Government, "
In a republic, as distinguished from a democracy, the people are not only checked in choosing officials but also in making laws." The type of government that exists in America was deliberately chosen to protect the rights of the minority and prevent what is referred to as a "tyranny of the majority". This concept has been written about frequently by John Stuart Mill, Alexis de Tocqueville and James Madison.

Basically America's laws should represent the "interests of the majority" while still protecting the "rights of the minority." In America we do not have the type of democracy whereby the majority could decide to execute all left-handed citizens and that would be acceptable so long as the "popular vote" supported it. That is why we have a Constitution and why we have a Supreme Court -- to determine whether laws violate citizens' rights. If denying equal marriage rights to people violates their civil rights, it doesn't matter what the majority of Americans "want." Do we really want the type of democracy that will overturn individual rights and liberties at the will of the majority, a will that could easily be based on racism or xenophobia or homophobia or sexism? Don't people understand how dangerous that is?

I'm guessing that the people who say "let the people decide" on matters of gay rights might not be so eager to "let the people decide" when it comes to their own basic human rights to live and love freely and without fear.

Finally, I come to the issue of the individuals who say that they believe same-sex "unions" are entitled to the same rights and protections as a marriage, but the just don't want it called marriage. Because marriage is sacred and special and meant to be between a man and a woman blah blah blah.

This is what I have to say about that matter: Why is it that so many heterosexuals are so possessive of the term "marriage"? I mean, both sides here could say that it's all just a matter of semantics, but the gays are the ones that are being put in the "separate but equal" category. And I'm pretty sure that verdict has been delivered on that concept. The fact is, it is completely ridiculous to call a legal union between same-sex couples a "civil union" and a legal union between heterosexual couples a "marriage." Some might say that the difference between a "civil union" and a "marriage" is due to religion. Except millions of heterosexual couples are married by Judges outside of the Church. Their "marriage" has nothing to do with religion -- it is an entirely legal affair -- yet, I don't see anyone suggesting that those couples be denied the right to call their union a marriage. And there are many churches who are willing and happy to "marry" same-sex couples. Various Methodist, UCC, Jewish Reform, Episcopal, and American Catholic (not to be confused with Roman Catholic) congregations have willingly blessed same-sex unions. (Please note that the denominations listed will vary greatly by individual congregation in their willingness to support and/or bless same-sex unions). In 1984 the Unitarian Universalist Church became the first large denomination to "approve religious blessings on homosexual unions." So let me get this straight ... if a same-sex couple has all the legal rights of marriage and their union is blessed by a minister before God ... it still shouldn't be called a marriage? But if a man and a woman who are, let's say, atheists, go and marry at a courthouse, they get to have a marriage?

As you can see, the whole thing is sort of ridiculous. It is pretty obvious that the only reason people get up in arms about the word "marriage" is that it makes them uncomfortable. There is no other reason. They can't really believe that one couple's gay marriage is going to make their marriage somehow less sacred. In a great editorial (coupled with an equally not great one) from the May 1st issue of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the straight male writer says he doesn't "get why gay marriage is such a big deal." He says:________________________________

We are told, "We must protect the tradition of marriage," which Anne Coulter says goes back "10,000 years." Right. ("Do you, Ogg, take this woman . . . ? You may now club the bride.") The tradition that people seem to have in mind goes back only about as far as Ward and June Cleaver.

Defenders of "traditional" marriage seem to argue that it is primarily about sexual attraction. In Roman or medieval times -indeed, in most eras before today - marriages often were not about sexual attraction at all. They were about political alliances, property or continuing the family line. Noblemen kept mistresses for sex. Many cultures arranged marriages between very young people who sometimes had never met, so the idea of a pre-existing sexual attraction didn't enter into it.

How exactly does gay marriage undermine heterosexual marriage? Are straight people out there who are contemplating marriage going, "Honey, it says here that a gay couple is Massachusetts got married. Maybe we should reconsider our wedding plans?"

At the end of his editorial, after citing divorce statistics and stories of quickie weddings and reality shows like "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire" he remarks "If marriage indeed
has become devalued, heterosexuals did it by themselves."

So don't tell me that you are "totally okay" with gay people, but you just believe there is something "extra special" about marriage between a man and a woman. And don't tell me that you think gay people should have equal rights only so long as everyone else thinks it's okay. Because when you say that, what you're basically saying is that gay people's rights are less important than straight people's opinions and that gays an lesbians are less deserving of protection and less deserving of happiness. And if you believe that then you are prejudiced. Maybe it's not your fault. Maybe you like being prejudiced. But let's call it what it is rather than mask it as some type of concern for either the well-being of straight couples or the maintenance of democracy.

Because anyone who really has absolutely no problems with gay people should have no problem with a same-sex couple committing themselves to a lifelong, monogamous and loving relationship.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I'm admitting it. My guilty pleasure is America's Next Top Model. For the record, I am not a regular viewer or reality TV. But my best friend, who I lived with throughout my college years, got me hooked on Top Model. I don't know what it is about the show ... the unintended hilarity, the fun of making snarky comments throughout, the eye-roll inducing drama ... I can't help loving it. Recently I canceled my cable subscription due to Charter's ridiculously high rates and also due to the fact that I am rarely home to watch TV. But my love affair with ANTM continued when I went to visit my former roommate in the Twin Cities and proceeded to watch nearly all of Cycle 10 (the newest season) on her DVR. And last night she called me to inform me that for the first time in Top Model history, the winner was a plus-sized model! Congratulation to Whitney for making ANTM history!

Whitney wasn't my favorite contestant. I liked awkward, punk-rock contestant Lauren because, well, I always like the unique ones.

But Lauren was cut right after the girls' arrival in Rome, and once it got down to the final two it was between Whitney and Hawaiian surfer-girl Anya (Who I swear to God I thought was originally from another country because of her unusual accent). Anya is gorgeous and had some great photos, even though I thought that the platinum blonde hair that they gave her sucked. (For that reason, posted picture is pre-ANTM)

But according to my friend who actually watched the finale, Whitney rocked the runway show and I was ecstatic to hear that she was the winner. People have long said that ANTM doesn't really produce "top models" and that is definitely true. (How often have you seen former winners actually in magazines or in commercials -- besides those done to promote the show?) But this is still awesome nonetheless. There have been plus-sized contestants on the show in the past, but they have never made it very far. In Cycle 3 Toccara Jones made it to the final seven. Cycle 8 was actually the first and only season to feature two plus-sized models. Diana Zalewski was cut in Episode 6 and Whitney Cunningham lasted only slightly longer, making it to the final seven. In Cycle 9 Sarah Hartshorne was cut in Episode 8 amid criticisms that she had lost weight and was losing her plus-size status (but of course wasn't thin enough to be a "regular" model).

By the time this cycle rolled around, I was starting to think that it was a mean joke to even put plus-size models on the show, since it seemed obvious that they were never going to really win. Amazingly I have been proven wrong! Some conspiracy-theorists have been saying that this cycle was rigged and that it was decided from the beginning that this would be the year for a plus-sized girl to win. Whether or not that is true doesn't really matter, although saying that does seem unfair to Whitney -- who actually did a good job in photoshoots and runway. Other rumors are flying around the internet as well after some alleged pre-ANTM photos of Whitney surfaced.

The circulating rumor is that Whitney was previously a size 2-4 when she was approached by ANTM casting agents. Supposedly she was told that she could be on the show if she gained 20 pounds and modeled as a plus-sized contestant. This rumor undermines comments made by Whitney throughout the season about how hard it was to grow up heavy and be made fun of, etc. In my opinion, this whole rumor seems far-fetched. Why on earth would the show ask someone to gain weight when there are plenty of beautiful, already plus-sized girls out there (as indicated by previous seasons)? The more likely explanation is that, like many women out there, Whitney has struggled with her weight and may have fluctuated in sizes over the years. I personally have gone back and forth between sizes 4 and 10 over the years and I know that just because you are able to shed 15 or 20 pounds doesn't mean that you will definitely keep that weight off.

Whether Whitney has gone from a size 4 to a size 8 or 10 doesn't make her story any less inspiring. In fact, in a way it makes it more inspiring that she "made it" now rather than before, when she was thinner. And here is something else that Whitney's story might make us think about: according to Wikipedia's page on Cycle 10, Whitney is 5'10" and 159 pounds. According to medical recommendations for someone of Whitney's height, age and gender, a healthy weight range is between 132 and 174 pounds. Whitney falls right in the middle, making her a very healthy and average weight. But when you put her next to girls who are 5'10 and 115 pounds, she looks like a big heifer. It is an extremely sad world when women like Whitney, of average weight, are labeled as plus-sized. If you go to this ideal weight body calculator, you can enter in information regarding weight, height, age and gender to find medical recommendations on weight as well as a category called "People's Choice Ideal Weight". This category shows what people think is the ideal weight for someone of a particular height, weight, age and gender. It is interesting to see that this number is typically unrealistically low, which is no big surprise considering our culture's views on body image. Last June I wrote about ad campaigns that targeted body image, and I also wrote about how overall our society has a dysfunctional concept of healthy bodies. On the one hand it is progress to see someone like Whitney win America's Next Top Model, but on the other hand it seems less progressive to see women of healthy weights being called heavy.

Perhaps someday "plus-size" will really mean overweight. Right now, that seems unlikely.

Friday, May 9, 2008


From time to time I like to give shout outs to some of my favorite music artists, but I noticed that I have written mostly about female musicians, with the exception of Rilo Kiley (which is fronted by a woman, Jenny Lewis, but also has male band members). I'm not sexist, I just happen to listen to female artists more frequently than males. But as it so happens, one of my favorite musicians of all time is a fellow by the name of Mason Jennings ...

Mason is a Minnesota based artist and began his career right in good ole' Minneapolis! He produced his debut album in 1997 and has released five other albums since them, with his seventh album In the Ever releasing this month! While at one time his greatest following was in the Twin Cities (I was first introduced to him nearly five years ago by my roommate who was from Minneapolis), his popularity is slowly growing across the nation. In 2007 he toured with Guster and that same year he sang two of the Bob Dylan songs for the soundtrack of the film I'm Not There. This year he is touring with Australian artist Missy Higgins and later with Jack Johnson.

His music apparently falls into the genre of "pop-folk." His lyrics are often very intimate -- frequently connected very closely with his own life. The song "Which Way Your Heart Will Go" was based on his experiences with fatherhood. He also is known for writing son
gs with literary and historical themes. For example, one of my favorite songs of his "Adrian" was inspired by the novel Beloved by Toni Morrison. Another beautiful song of his, "The Ballad of Paul and Sheila" was written in memory of Minnesota's beloved Senator Paul Wellstone and his wife Sheila who were killed in a plane crash 2002. A crowd favorite, "Keepin' It Real" was written specifically for the hit movie Shrek but producers ended up using Counting Crows' "Accidentally in Love" instead. More information on his music and the songwriting, recording process can be found in an awesome interview from last year done by a woman in Colorado.

Going to a Mason concert is a truly wonderful experience. He is a warm, intelligent and talented man who completely draws the audience in. I have seen him three times -- once in Madison and twice in Minneapolis. Seeing him perform in the Cities is a great thing because he has such a huge and loyal fan base. When I saw him play last December, right after Christmas, it was his "Hometown show" and he brought his wife up on stage to sing with him, then later his father joined him and his brother. It was really cool!

Here are some clips of him playing in concert (unfortunately live bootleg clips were all I could find online ... guess he's not too commercial yet!). The sound quality is really good, however.

The first is a performance of the song "Jackson Square" from his album Boneclouds (2006).

Next is Mason performing the song "Sorry Signs on Cash Machines" from his 2002 album Century Spring.

Finally a very short clip of him performing the song "Adrian", also from 2002's Century Spring.

So go, check him out if you haven't already! Because he's not just a great musician, he's also one rad person! (I giggle every time I use the word "rad" by the way, but my California friend seems to have made it a permanent part of my lexicon). You can visit his website to get tour information, song lyrics, view videos (including an acoustic version of the aforementioned "The Ballad of Paul and Sheila"), and pre-order his new album!