Monday, December 23, 2013

2013 Year in Review: Music

Before I launch my list of favorite albums released in 2013, a few caveats: 1) I'm not a music critic. Worse yet, I don't even subscribe to Pitchfork. 2) I take the Potter Stewart approach to deciding what I like: I know it when I hear it. 3) I still think my list is better than yours.

9) Drake - Nothing Was the Same

I'm a hypocrite. I like to poke fun at the ridiculousness of Drake's existential crises: Am I too rich? Am I too famous? Why do my groupies settle down with real boyfriends? But Drake still makes great music, creatively channeling R&B and hip hop into one of the best musical acts in the pop world.

Best Song: Too Much

Monday, June 24, 2013

Looking Backward: Reliving the 1990 NBA Draft

There are only two types of NBA Drafts one should watch: one is the live-and-in-real-time draft, held every June.  The other type is the one in which all drafted players have ended their careers, and an assessment of their legacy can be envisioned as you watch the younger version of the NBA retiree march awkwardly up to shake David Stern’s hand.  Watching a draft from five years ago is an exercise in inanity.  Watching a draft from twenty years ago is an existential reflection on youth and innocence and society, a historical document in living color.  You may not believe me.  Thankfully, NBA TV exists, and they broadcast old drafts. I decided to jot a few notes down while watching the 1990 NBA Draft to illustrate my point 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Omaha's Crazy Religious Sects Pt. 2 (Or, the Figgites, Westboro Baptist, and Religious Freedom)

From 1897 to 1907 in Omaha, a minuscule religious group caused a sensation for its habit of bursting into religious services (and sometimes other public events) and denouncing everyone present as devil-filled sinners. In fact, denouncing other religious groups seemed to be the main point of their existence. Known as the Figgites, the sect disappeared from the historical record within a decade of their first public spectacle. When I first came across the group in my research into Omaha's religious history, I immediately was reminded of a more modern example of a widely-hated lilliputian religious group with a penchant for public trolling: the good folks at Westboro Baptist. And while our society has changed dramatically over the past century in regards to protecting the rights of minority religious groups, the treatment of the Figgites and Westboro shares some rather strong similarities. But more on that later. First, a little background on Omaha's prequel to Fred Phelps' clan. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The NBA Comes to Omaha

Recently, a small-to-moderate number of eyes, all of them bleary from tuning into the late NBA playoff games, turned towards Sacramento, wondering if perhaps the Kings would be taking their talents (and terrible chemistry, coachability, and cohesion) to Seattle.  I, for one, didn't care one way or another. But if the Kings had ended up heading north, I would have felt no pity for Sacramento...after all, what goes around comes around.

There is no NBA franchise that has spurned more cities than the Kings. They began as the Rochester (NY) Royals in 1948, before moving to Cincinnati in time for the 1957-58 season. They ditched Cincinnati for Kansas City-Omaha in 1972 (changing their name to the Kings along the way), and then dropped Omaha in 1975. Ten years later Kansas City got the boot too, and since 1985 the Kings have found their home in Sacramento. 

As a resident of Omaha and an NBA junkie, I've always been fascinated by the fact that, for three glorious years, my city had joint custody of an actual NBA team. This post is for myself and for the tens of other NBA fans in Omaha (I think I've met all of you): a brief history of that time our mid-level Midwestern city kind of had an NBA team of its own. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Yeezus Christ Superstar?

I read Edward Blum and Paul Harvey's fascinating The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America last year, and ever since, I've been thinking about the place that our images and perceptions of Christ have within American pop culture. So when Kanye West announced that his new album would be titled "Yeezus" it immediately caught my attention...not because it was a surprising title, but rather because it fits in so seamlessly with the regular appropriation of Jesus' name within rap culture.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Charles Savidge - Urban Revivalist

With the first post in this series on Charles Savidge, there is no better place to start than with the dour-looking fellow below.

Yes, the gentleman above is none other than the second greatest revivalist of the late-nineteenth century, Sam Jones.  For the purposes of this post, we'll ignore Jones' racism and New South political activism, and instead focus on his reform methods and connection to Savidge. Until the ascendance of Billy Sunday, no revivalist besides Dwight Moody could rival Jones' national reputation. With his quick wit and humor, Jones took the U.S. (and even Canada) by storm with a series of revivals in major cities in the 1880s.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Charles Savidge Stories

Charles Savidge was as a church planter, pastor, matchmaker, entrepreneur, revivalist, author, and social worker in Omaha from 1882 until his death in 1935. To date, he has been largely forgotten by historians, but his life certainly did not lack for excitement. To list just a few of his more interesting activities: he left the Methodist Church to start his own independent People's Church in the slums of Omaha; performed over 6,000 weddings and launched a matchmaking bureau; started a home for the elderly that is still in existence today; attempted (and failed) to merge his People's Church with a People's Church in Spokane; published four books; initiated an ill-fated campaign to cast the demons out of notorious pickpocket nicknamed "Fainting Bertha"; and received newspaper coverage from the New York Times, Boston GlobeChicago TribuneSan Francisco Call, and countless other newspapers across the country.