please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Going Urban

Keith Urban, last night at the Garden. As the man chose to do an extra thirty to forty minutes worth of show, I had the opportunity to go stand in there, surrounded by the magic, wonder and easy enthusiasm of a big arena concert.

I don't normally do this. Regardless of how stellar the performance, people like me generally hang out back in the Media Center, wishing like hell the damn thing would just get over with, and we could all get cracking with load out, sending us all home at some relatively sane hour.

This vantage point gave me the answer to the question I think we all had on our minds, which of course is: who exactly attends a Keith Urban show? As always, if asked, "Do you get to see these shows?", my response is that always-inevitably-the show is someone that I have no desire to see, and yes, of course I could stand there and watch it.

So I stood there and watched it. The folks around me were enjoying the hell out of themselves, which I tend to view as a good thing. But; this is arena rock, and I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone take it upon themselves to voice their lone disapproval of an act, amongst the thousands as they are. The crowd loved it, and the crowd also would have probably loved a six-foot-tall animated column of squirrel vomit.
Which is not to say that Keef is that, exactly. He is competent, and technically proficient, which is at least partially due to the fact that he has chosen a genre that is notoriously simple to perform. Just in case his ability to play three-chord rock fails to amaze, there is also that lengthy medley of songs that everyone knows and can sing along to (Steve Miller to Billy Joel!) that for some reason he dips into at the end.

"What is this? Karaoke?" I asked my fellow stagehand next to me.
"I dunno, but he's goin' into penalty, here."
I looked at him, wondered if he was being metaphorical: see, it turns out that a tax shall be levied against the obviously untalented when they have chosen to go thirty minutes overtime, and spend said time covering "You May Be Right", which as everybody knows, Garth Brooks owns.
Nope. Turns out that (in the perhaps incorrect information supplied by my often stupid fellow stagehand) the noise ordinance in this town, which demands that all loud music be ended or significantly hushed by Ten P.M., also applies to arena stage shows...This strikes me as being patently untrue: the Rose Garden is nowhere near a residential area, and I'm pretty sure the immense concrete walls (lined with lead?) would prevent the sound from getting much further than the parking lot.
Anyway, if he was right, that means that Keef paid thousands in fines for going overtime that evening, not to mention spending the time so unwisely.

One of the three giant confetti cannons went off about ten feet in front of me, sending a column of heart shaped foil paper twenty feet or so into the already mephitic air in there. Then, it settled into cloud of pure cute evil that was inexorably heading our way. My fellow hands retreated to the nearest vom to avoid it. By the time I got there, it was already too late, and I was covered with the contents of said cloud. I felt diseased.
"We're all gonna die," I said to a volunteer, who laughed. He had been told, no doubt, that black slacks and a nice white shirt were what would best compliment the red vest he would be forced to wear, making him look like a Farrell's employee who had misplaced his styrofoam "straw" boater hat, or a pokerkino dealer in, say, Elko.

** ** ** **

In other things 'urban', isn't it sort of grating that the word 'urban' is marketing-speak for 'black' now? A movie that is a comedy starring and largely regarding black people is an 'urban comedy', while the same movie starring people recently off the boat from the Ukraine, for some reason, isn't.
Hey, you know who's urban? S. Renee Mitchell, columnist for The Oregonian.
She's mostly known for cliched little homilies about the importance of community and the cultural relevance of her dreadlocks, but recently waded into the important realm of racial insensitivity on Starbucks' chalkboards.

If you don't really feel like reading this story (oh, but why wouldn't you?), the overview is this: S. Renee (but her pals just call her 'S') walks into a Starbucks in downtown, and...Wait, no. She is for some reason sent a picture of a chalkboard in said Starfucks, and goes into a righteous tizzy.
The image on the chalkboard depicts an employee at that location, who is white and sports an enormous red afro. Whether or not he also has the chops and a big walrus moustache depicted in the drawing, I no longer remember.
Next to the drawing, the legend reads, ""I LUBS ME SOME Breakfast Blend," and then reflects, ""It's the juice that gets me goin.' "

So, it's an idiotic- though not racially insensitive- thing the likes of which have been in popular cultural use for some time, particularly in advertising and on chalkboards of bad coffee shops. It is also time for S to spring into action, of a sort.

She starts charging around all of the Starbucks in downtown Portland (and there are, of course, lots of them), trying to get at the provenance of this thing that pissed her off:

"I'm looking for the artist," I said.

"Is this like a scavenger hunt or something," he asked.

After this, she writes, "I was not amused." Probably not; I'm not certain that the barista wasn't actually being totally serious, either.

Well, so she goes into this lather about this highly important issue, and makes sure to load the rhetoric by noting in advance that it may not seem like a big deal to the likes of you, you awful people, so that anyone who might step in here and say-wait a minute; aren't you that lady who found evidence of racism in a petri dish last week? -are only another part of this insidious plot to make S. feel angry and small.

Then, we get the comments. A big, hearty Thanks, Asshole goes out to the person who wrote,"I hope your satisfied you rotten Jeri curled untalented bitch.": indeed, I'd like to personally congratulate you on making all the rest of us look Like You, since we disagree with S's take on this.
The response story (and the responses to the response) is here, and is pretty worth reading, as far as tempests in teapots go. (Have you noticed that I haven't hit any of the really bad puns here? As in "of course, there's a latte of Starbucks in downtown Portland", and "tempests in airpots"...But of course, there's always that bad segue involving the word 'urban', so...Sorry.)

And then-it turns out that the employee who did the original drawing
has been fired because of the aforementioned articles. At this point, Starbucks, being what we all know they are, is rightfully terrified of the rising tide of indignation garnered by the cultural and intellectual heft of S's well-respected writings, so they fired Hilary Barnes, the aforementioned employee.
Actually, the responses to S's article are overwhelmingly along the lines of, "you're reeeeally overreacting here...", but just to be safe, Starbucks canned a somewhat older barista.

S, for her part, spends much of that article castigating Starbucks for being so mendacious and easily terrified. She also, for her part, is now way downplaying her part in said firing. It's the damn corporations, huh? What can ya' do?

I'm assuming that this will go on and on and on. I lubs me some S. Renee Mitchell, and look forward to yet more simple-minded whining on this subject. Better still, maybe some of the truly racist frequent commenters in the O (I'm looking at you here,Dan Neils) will do an 'In My Opinion' piece, in which they point out that heyyy! Come onnn! I's fuuunnny to make the fun of the blap peeple!

So yeah, she sucks, but at least she's no Margie Boule.



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