The Barons of Suburbia

From Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: “Take a poetry book (or a set of song lyrics). Open to any page, grab a line, write it down, and continue from there… Every time you get stuck, just rewrite your first line and keep going.”

The Barons of Suburbia, title by Tori Amos.

The barons of suburbia control this country from their secret hideaways behind the two-car garages and the tall lawns that gobble up countryside and forest. They set up the kings and they knock them down. Their will goes; not the farmer, not the city dweller. Not even the banker on Bay Street. The real power in the land rests with the soccer mom and the Stepford dad, upon whom all decisions are made.

Who else could control the affairs of state so effectively? How else do we explain the squabbling children that reside in our MPs’ seats? At the end of the day, they all pile into the great big airbourne mini-vans to take them home to their constituencies, ready to be lectured by their secret masters.

What do they want, these barons of suburbia? Power? Is the squabbling all a front to prevent things from getting done? Or have they been corrupted by the land, set to perpetuate themselves and their loved ones? Is the sprawl they reside on a living thing; a mould that spreads across the land like the Canadian body politic?

Or is it peace? Do the affairs of state really mean much when little Timmy has a scraped knee, the laundry needs doing, and Sarah has to be taken to hockey practise? How can one keep abreast of those things while looking to go to war with China? And is peace only achieved through paralysis?

The barons of suburbia crave stability above all else, so the chores can be done and lives can progress in relative simplicity. Heaven help them if they earn enough money to hire a maid and butler. Then they might turn their attention to the country and wonder what to do next.

Bleah. I’m out of practise with these things. This is why you got to do them regularly. You’d be surprised at some of the turns of phrase that result. Rosemary and Time makes use of one of them. I’m quite proud of the machine that I described as “a volcanic extrusion of metal” speaking with a voice “deep as a tectonic plate.” Good cadence there, I thought.

Wherein I Cross the Floor


I can’t avoid the truth any longer. I’ve become a member of the Blogging Tories.

No, not those blogging Tories. These Blogging Tories.

Tori Amos has come out with her ninth album, entitled The Beekeeper. She set herself a challenge following Scarlet’s Walk which was, in my opinion, her best work, highlighting Tori’s whimsical and creepy lyrics and deft musical touch. Beekeeper doesn’t engender the immediate ‘love me’ reaction that Scarlet did, but it’s close. After a few listens, there are plenty of songs that I like, and I continue to be impressed by the songstress’ range and depth.

The first song, Parasol, is most accessible, combining a catchy beat with a deft repeating and re-repeating of lyrics. Consider:


When I come to terms
to terms with this
when I come to terms with this

When I come to terms
to terms with this
my world will change for me

I haven’t moved
since the call came
since the call came I haven’t moved.

I stare at the wall
knowing on the other side
the storm that waits for me…

Other songs take a little longer to get into, but there isn’t a dud among them (not bad considering the CD is full of 74 minutes of music and 19 tracks). Of the rest, Barons of Suburbia stands out, and not just for its neat title. The burst of music recalls her first album’s Precious Things.

Barons of Suburbia take another piece
of my… good graces
I’m in my war you’re in yours; do we fight for peace
as they take… another piece of us

But baby I would let your darkness invade me
You could maybe turn this white light into navy
Before you leave

It was a slight… miscalculation
that my friends… my friends would be waiting
on the other side of the bridge
On the other side of this
This mole hill… of a mountain
This potion… now a poison
They’re on the other side of right
We’re on the other side of her midnight

There is an urgency in the Beekeeper. The musical touch of this album is harsher than Scarlet’s Walk and Little Earthquakes. Tori is really banging away on the piano, here, and not doing her deft and quirky fluorishes. According to her write-up on the album, Beekeeper is “part warning siren and part sentinel lamp”, “The storm is on the horizon; it’s coming, this massive force. It can be emotional or physical, or all those things.”

Tori isn’t so simplistic as to tell us clearly what this storm is about. A part of the album is about America, “the struggle to find a bedrock of truth beneath the tangle of lies, mythology, casual assumptions and political manipulation that have formed the cultural landscape of the U.S.A. today”. There are Biblical references too, and judging from her write-up, she’s gone on an exploration similar to Erin’s Seal up the Thunder.

“I approached the last album (Scarlet’s Walk) from the Native American part of my bloodline.”… For this album, she realized that “the only way to address the severing that was happening in America itself was to go into myself as a Christian woman. If Jesus’ teachings are being hijacked and manipulated by politicians, then I must therefore go back as a daughter of the Christian church into that system and that symbolism and those allegories.”

More at her website.

Do I get any of this? Not yet. Do I mind? Not in the least.

The Beekeeper has elements of Boys for Pele’s harshness and anger, but without the harpsichords, but Beekeeper is as deep as Scarlet’s Walk. All the songs bear repeated listening and you come away with new insights as you become more familiar with the work.

I purchased my copy of Tori’s latest CD for $14.99. Ms. Amos is the only singer whose work I purchase new, these days. She’s well worth it. She challenges herself and her fans with each new release. The Beekeeper is no different. A definite buy.

A Christian Point of View

Much is being made over the Conservatives’ social conservative connections after a recent article in the Globe and Mail highlighted the successful nomination of just over a half-dozen prominent Christian activists as Conservative party candidates for the next election. I admit the article disturbs me, but for two reasons. One being the mentality of some evangelical candidates that seems to suggest that they’re at war with Canadian society, and the mentality of the article which suggests that the reverse is true.

It is fair to take on the policies espoused by these candidates. I firmly believe that people who oppose the legitimacy of same sex marriage under the law are in the wrong. Likewise, I firmly believe that attempts to ban birth control or the teaching of birth control from our schools is also wrong. But to use these individuals’ religion as a short-hand to criticize them for their stance on these issues is dangerous.

You see, I myself am a Christian. I favour Same Sex Marriage and I advocate for birth control education because of my Christianity.

Some commentators are treating this as the non-story that it is. Others, however, have gone so overboard as to justify John Reynolds attempts to pull an anti-semite bait-and-switch. Consider this quote below which sent a couple of commentators into a fits of anger:

Mr. Emmanuel said Christians have been allowed to believe that “to be a genuine citizen of the nation we need to check our religion at the political door. And I’m saying no, that’s fundamentally flawed. You may participate in the public square as a religious individual and be not ashamed.”

I don’t see anything hateful or wrong about this particular statement, but others have, although it’s clear that they’re motivated by Mr. Emmanual’s stance on social issues rather than his pride in being a Christian. Still, it is shocking that one could disagree with Mr. Emmanuel’s right to be proud of his Christianity. If you disagree with Mr. Emmanuel’s views on same-sex marriage, that’s more than okay. But to say things about the person on the basis of his religion is wrong. If Tommy Douglas had checked his religion at the door, we may not have had medicare.

I am a Christian. I will always be a Christian, and my faith will always inform the decisions I make and the stands that I take, and there is nothing wrong with that. I may disagree with Christians among me, but just because somebody may be wrong about something doesn’t necessarily mean that we must treat them as evil on the basis of their religion.

At the very least, moderate your language, or make it clear that you are not painting the entire group by the same brush. If you don’t do this, you’ve become as hateful as the group you claim to criticize.

Further Reading

Buckets of Grewal has a running list of new social-conservative candidates for the CPC. Though he may be a progressive blogger, he keeps his sense of perspective:

frankly, so far something less than a dozen such nominees have been identified (here), and not all of these necessarily belong in a list of evangelical activists. (I have my doubts about Weston, for example.) So far, I suspect, there is no identifiable phenomenon. Some nominations are being won by evangelical ‘machines’; in other ridings where evangelicals had carried the CPC-flag in recent elections (Meneer in London; Penell in Burlington), this year’s nominees seem more mainstream.

So, although I think this phenomenon bears watching, I don’t think there is anything of concern yet.

Note also the pro same-sex CPC candidates that are being nominated in Ottawa.

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