Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dark Matter

CD Review

Written and performed by Lynne Duddy.  Musical soundscape by a cappella singing sensation Emily Post. Available from CD Baby ( $10.00 (CD) or $9.99 (MP3) 

Reviewed by Linda Goodman

            “Have you ever been afraid of the dark?” Lynne Duddy asks in the introduction to her powerful and thought-provoking CD Dark Matter. Her haunting, hypnotic voice then proceeds to guide the listener on a trip through the dark side, a journey filled with wonder, science, love, and more than a little mystery.

            The stories begin with an Amazon Creation Myth about an anaconda that introduces light to the world through song. Substance, we are told, comes from nothing and it takes faith to believe in this concept. That faith is the central theme of the stories on this recording.

            9 to 4 takes us to a cemetery at night, where a large, seemingly foreboding, stranger awaits. Can we trust without evidence of trustworthiness?  Can we have faith in our instincts? The shades of truth in this story are subtle, yet powerful.  I listened to it over and over, just for the beauty of the telling.

            Vera’s Story shares the history of Vera Reuben, the woman who in 1951 unlocked the mystery of stars rotating in spiral galaxies. Sadly, Ms. Reuben was born in a time and place where astronomers did not take women’s research seriously. Her work did, however, lead to the discovery of dark matter in the 1970’s.  Can we have faith in our destiny, even when society contradicts all that we hold dear?

            Lightning features two young girls whose fascination with lightning leads them to become “blood brothers.” This sacred moment taken in secret leads to harsh punishment and the revelation of an ugly truth. Can we have faith that all will be well, in spite of that truth?

            Into the Mist is a beautiful story about the misunderstandings between a woman and her dying father, and how those misunderstandings are resolved before it is too late. How sad to have such a heavy weight lifted so late in life’s journey! Can we have faith that our loved ones understand that harsh words are just old hurts turned hard?

            Lost and Found is a tale of stumbling upon an old memory on a country drive that spurs a quest for a missing piece of the past. Can faith mend a tear in our personal fabric?

            The stories on this CD are well-written and wonderfully told.  There are no breaks between stories, so listening to them feels like being at a concert. The musical soundscape provided by Emily Post is grand, but often threatens to overwhelm the stories. At times I felt that the music was competing for attention, when I would have preferred that it accent the stories.

            I fear the darkness, but at the same time I yearn for it. These stories helped me realize that darkness makes the light more brilliant, and I take comfort in that. Duddy tells us that we should “have faith that everything will be all right, and even if it isn’t, everything will be okay.”  I believe her.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Encounter With a Door Knocker

© Linda Goodman 2011

              In September of 1971, I had been married for just over one year, and I was four months pregnant with my daughter, due to be born during the same month that I would be turning twenty.
                At four months, I was just pregnant enough that my clothes no longer fit.  I was a full-time student who had just been dismissed from my part-time job because I was pregnant (yes, that was legal in 1971), and my husband was a full time musician with a rock band.  On a good week, he brought home $15.00 (I didn’t say it was a successful rock band).
                There was no money to buy maternity clothes, so my sister, who was heavier than me, had given me a pair of her elastic-waist pants. That pair of pants, coupled with a few of my loose fitting shirts, was the only clothing that I could comfortably wear. 
                At a late morning hour, I was attempting to clean my small apartment without waking my husband, who was still sleeping off a late-night gig. A knock at the door interrupted me, and I opened the door to welcome a well-dressed older woman who said she was doing visitation for a church down the street from my house.  In other words, she was a door knocker.
                “We’ve just started a Bible study at the church,” she announced enthusiastically, “and we want to invite everyone in our neighboring communities to join us as we discover the joys and blessings hidden in God’s word.”
                I have always enjoyed good Bible discussions, even when they lapse into arguments, which they often do. The time mentioned was good for me, so I told her that I would be delighted to attend her church’s study.
                “Wonderful!” she exclaimed, as she clapped her hands together with delight. 
                Then her manner changed.   She looked me up and down before continuing, “By the way, you do have a dress you can wear, don’t you?”
                “No,” I responded, “at this particular time, I don’t own a dress that fits.”
                “No worries,” she countered, “we’ll just get you a dress from the church thrift closet.”
                “Why is that necessary?” I questioned her. “Can’t women wear pants at your church?”
                “No!”  She was quite firm, almost militant, with her answer.  “We voted that women wearing pants and men wearing blue jeans will not be allowed to enter our church.”
                “Do you think Jesus would have denied church entrance to those people?” I wondered.
                “Jesus preached in the wilderness.” She informed me. “He wouldn’t expect people to dress up in the dusty desert.  You don’t have to worry, though.  I am sure that we have several dresses in your size in our thrift closet.”
                “I do not accept charity,” I insisted.  “I don’t need it.”
                “Well, then,” she countered, “You will not be able to attend our Bible Study.”
                “I can live with that,” I replied.
                 Suddenly she was livid. “I will never understand this younger generation!  All the women wear pants, even in sacred places like churches!  And all the men want to wear their hair long hair! It’s disgraceful!”
                “Now wait a minute,” I protested, thinking of my husband and his waist long mane of blond curls. “Jesus had long hair!”
                She glared at me.  “We don’t know that.  All we know is that the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 11 verses 14 and 15 that it’s a sin for a man to have long hair.”
                My mind processed what she said and I could not help but debate the issue. “Do you agree that Jesus never sinned?” I asked her.
                “Absolutely!” she affirmed.  “Jesus was God incarnate and the Bible says that he was without sin.”
                “Do you have a picture of Jesus in your house?” I questioned her.
                “Of course I have a picture of Jesus in my house!” she said proudly. “I love the Lord. I have a picture of Jesus in every room in my house.”
                “Does he have long hair in those pictures?” I inquired.
                She paused.   I could see panic racing in her eyes.  “Well, yes he does, but –“
                I stopped her mid sentence.  “So you have pictures in your house of Jesus sinning?” I demanded to know. “Isn’t that heresy?”
                She did not answer that question.  She stared at me for a minute or two and then very slowly and calmly she whispered, “Your husband is going to leave you. You will have to raise your child alone. May God have mercy on you.”
                And then she left.  I watched as she knocked on the door of my neighbor’s house and began her spiel anew.
                She was right about some things.  My husband did eventually leave me.  I did raise my daughter alone for the first eleven years of her life. God has indeed been merciful to me.  But I still will not attend a church that discriminates against people for something as ridiculous as the way they dress or wear their hair. I don’t believe that God would be there either.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Last American Gladiator

By Slash Coleman

CD Review

Available from CD Baby. $14.95 for the CD; Download MP3 for $9.95.

Reviewed by Linda Goodman

With his latest CD, The Last American Gladiator, Slash Coleman revisits his childhood and shares stories and songs that run the gamut from chasing impossible dreams to realizing his worst fears. His self-effacing delivery and captivating way with words entice us to come along with him on this journey. Enthralled listeners will gladly travel with him as he relives earning his degree from the school of hard knocks and gladly shares the wisdom learned therein.

The Last America Gladiator, the first story on the CD, extols the virtues of having to “wait it out,” as a young Slash schemes to become a gladiator and, simultaneously, get the attention of his third grade teacher, on whom he has a crush. This story delivers the best story quote I have heard in a while: “Every dream should come with a comma.”

Major League Pop Fly is a humorous yet touching tale of baseball, love, and “white man’s perm.” This story is followed by Perpetual Underdog, a dark tale of misplaced trust that almost destroys a family, set in a time where picking up hitchhikers was the norm. As a fan of the dark side, this is the story that settled in my head and traveled with me for days.

The Acquisition of Skipper highlights a clever use of “extreme marketing” at a flea market type event that ends with mom getting a hero and dad becoming a pirate. High School Musical features Slash as a football player wannabe who finds release in the marching band and wrestling, before realizing that he is his own worst enemy.

The CD also features two songs. Believe is an ode to faith in oneself. Flying Lessons is a musical celebration of living one’s dreams.

While I found minor problems with the sound in a few places, the stories are tightly written and memorable. Slash’s delivery is heartfelt and endearing. The responses of his live audience clearly show that they love his tales, as well they should. First and last, Slash Coleman is a gladiator. He knows his arena, and he is not afraid to welcome others into his world.