Americans have always been captivated by high-profile trials and crimes, whether it is the Scopes Monkey Trial, The Al Capone Trial, or the O. J. Simpson trials we have shown ourselves captivated by jurisprudence.  Even the trial of Socrates still interests us.  Today that thought hit me as I traveled up and down the I-5 corridor to have lunch with a friend.  For a while I listened to my iPod (for those curious—Some Stones, G-N-R, a little Frank Sinatra) but then I turned to one of my favorite things to do—radio surfing.  I discovered that the whole world was talking about one of two things.

Thing One:  The Amanda Knox Trial. 

I really do not know if Amanda Knox is guilty or innocent, but I must admit it is captivating.  I’m torn over her conviction/release.  If she is guilty, the crime she committed is awful, but if she really is innocent, I can think of few things worse than being imprisoned overseas.  Once upon a time I entertained the thought of taking a church in British Columbia and one of the main reasons I didn’t was the advice I received from a friend:  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ends at the border.

Aside from the forensics of the case—that a person was brutally murdered—the whole situation regarding her release has been odd.  The media have been hounding her ever since she got out, and now they are apparently camped outside her home.  I hope she has enough sense not to go home.  Ironically, that is probably the one place she really wants to go to, but she shouldn’t.  If I were her, I’d find a quiet cabin far away from civilization and hunker down for a month or two.  That is all it will take for people to forget.


Thing Two:  The Michael Jackson Doctor Trial.

Is it sad that, even though I’ve heard all about this trial and all sorts of information about it, I do not know the doctor’s name?  I just know it is Michael Jackson’s doctor.  Apparently the case revolves around his care of the King of Pop, whether or not he killed him by overdosing him on the drug that killed him.  It is hard to tell, but the media seems to think he is guilty.  To me, that might mean he is innocent.  I do not trust the media to judge anything correctly.

The saddest part is  that even in death, Michael Jackson seems to have no peace.  I know that his life was a sordid celebrity explosion, swirling questions of child sexual abuse, and who knows what else, but death is usually the final word on such issues.  But the cult of celebrity is so strong in our culture (notice the striking similarities between the word “cult” and “culture”) even death does not end the dog and pony show.  Do not get me wrong, if the doctor is guilty he should be punished and put in prison.  But this hardly seems national media newsworthy.  How many other people will die today from medical malpractice?  Is Jackson’s life (and death) that much more important than anyone else’s?


There are so many other stories I’d love to hear about, but these salacious stories suck up all the air.  For example, I’ve not seen or heard much about protests on Wall Street, the looming demise of Rick Perry’s presidential bid, the drone killing of an American citizen overseas, or the quarreling in congress right now over funding the government.  Does anyone remember Afghanistan?  Libya?  Iran?  Israel?

Maybe news about trials are just a diversion for us so we don’t have to think about the things which have real impact on how we live.


This morning on the way to work I was flipping through the radio.  I landed on a song that made me stop and listen.  I’d never heard the song before, so it must be new.  Once I got to the office I checked the playlist of the station and discovered the singer.  I sadly discovered the lyrics were rather blasphemous on the playlist widget, but the female singer was so strong it made me stop and listen.

This made me think about what other singers make me stop and listen, regardless of whatever else I’m doing.  So I made a list.  Of course, the list excludes both my wife—the best singer ever, and U2’s Bono.  Everyone knows that U2 is my all-time fave, so it is wrong to put them on the list.

So, here is the list of 5 who come to mind, but it is not a complete list.  Everything is fluid.

  • Natalie Merchant—There is just something ethereal about her voice.  Maybe I’m just showing my Gen-X street cred, but I think her voice is one of the iconic sounds of the last 20 years, whether she’s with the Maniacs or not.


  • Jim Morrison—Yeah, I know he was demon possessed but his voice is just odd.  Whenever I hear a Jim Morrison song I have to stop and listen.  Listening to him sing is like rubber-necking at a car crash on the freeway.


  • ZZ Top—Not only do these men have the best Texas-Rock and Roll sound ever, but their beards are legendary.  La Grange still gets a lot of airtime, and I have to listen.  I have to listen because I’ve driven through La Grange, Texas more times than I can remember.  I know that the song is about ill repute, but I still have to listen.


  • Mick Jagger—I list Jagger, and not the Rolling Stones because to me, Jagger is the power behind that thing.  Keith Richards, I think, actually died in 1987.  Today he is only a digital reanimation brought to us by Dreamworks.  Jagger’s voice, with its arrogant britishness says, “Stop what you’re doing and listen.”  Gimme Shelter  is not the greatest song ever, but it has to be in the top 10.


  • Frank Sinatra—Old Blue Eyes has the purest vocals, rivaled only by Nat King Cole.  But Frank is better because he did more.  I think I have every single song he ever sung.  Not only is his voice amazing, he was the king of cool.  I’d like to be the Frank Sinatra of preachers, so now I have to find a way to do all my ministry from Vegas.  Okay, maybe not.


Some of you will notice some missing personas.  Led Zeppelin, for one.  I love Led, but Robert Plant on vocals was always a negative, not a positive.  The guitar riffs are what made them.  John Fogerty almost made the list, but I decided that I can skip him over on the radio dial.  What interested me was how these distinctive singers all seem so much more amazing in the backdrop of what passes for music right now.  We are in a music drought with all the vanilla copy-cats.