Friday, April 28, 2006

"The Pentecostal Promise" - New York Times Magazine

There was a great article in the New York Times Magazine last Sunday called "The Pentecostal Promise." The article described the origins of the Pentecostal movement this century, which it says started by most accounts on April 9, 1906 on Asuza street in Los Angeles. The article manages to steer clear of pointing out the inconsistencies in the Pentecostal experience, something I wish they had done. However, I think the author Benjamin Anastas deserves credit for approaching his subject with respect. I have sent in a letter to the editor describing my reaction to the article as a former Pentecostal. Since the chances of the letter getting printed are slim to none considering the number of submissions they receive, I have included the letter below. Dear New York Times Magazine: As a former Pentecostal, I appreciated how Benjamin Anastas' article on Pentecostalism (Pentecostal Promise, April 23) captured both how the movement started and how it has changed. Growing up in an Assembly of God church, I always felt a disconnect between the radical roots of Pentecostalism and the conservative leanings of my particular denomination. Interestingly, the "Pro-Life Nation"article (April 9) also brought up memories of my Pentecostal youth; as a 16 year old I went on a missions trip to El Salvador, helping to spread the Pentecostal brand of the gospel. Since the Assemblies of God combines gospel with conservative views (such as an anti-abortion stance), I now fear that in trying to spread Pentecostalism, in some small way I helped foster this "Pro-Life Nation." Respectfully, Ryan Paulson

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

(Veggie) Booty Call

I do sing-alongs for toddlers. And if there is one thing I can say about 1 to 3 year olds it's this; they love "Veggie Booty." Veggie Booty is some kind of organic grain that has been puffed up with air and is supposedly healthy. Kind of like a flavorless Cheetoh. If, during the course of my sing-along, one child gets Veggie Booty from their parent or nanny, all of the kids start toddling or crawling or scooting over towards the grown-up dishing out the booty, gathering around like little piranhas. Once the booty is all dished out, the call "more booty" is heard and the grown-ups all start rummaging through their bags and strollers, trying to find more booty. If no booty is found, the screaming and the crying starts, spreading like a rash from one toddler to another until I have a class full of toddlers crying, "Booty!" No offer of crackers or soy crisps or juice packs from the parents can pacify the angry mob. After all, when you need booty, nothing else will suffice.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Seriously Lindsey

In the May 1st issue, New York Magazine asks Lindsey Lohan, "You want to be taken seriously. Will you do theater?" She replies, "I think I am taken seriously. I'm a role model for teenagers and I love that. What people write in the tabloids is just their job. As for theater, I haven't tapped into that. I was going to do Gypsy with Bernadette Peters, but I chose to do Freaky Friday instead." Exactly.

See Me at The Moth Story Slam - Monday, April 24

The Moth Slam is a "story-telling event," where anyone can sign-up for a chance to get up and tell a story based on a particular theme. The theme for this night is "Flops." 10 people will have their names picked from a hat and get the chance to tell their story in 5 minutes or less. I will be putting my name in the hat, so hopefully I will get to tell my story. However, plenty of people come just to watch and it's a great time even if you don't get a chance to tell your story. The details follow. For more info visit The Moth StorySLAM! Theme: Flops Monday, April 24 A competitive storytelling event kind of like a poetry slam but with stories Sponsored by TNT Hosted by Zero Boy 7:00 sign-up 7:30 the show starts $6 at the door No RSVP needed The Bitter End 147 Bleeker Street (between Thompson & LaGuardia)

Friday, April 21, 2006

Listen: A Song for Scott McClellan

this is an audio post - click to play
Song: Listen Poor Scott McClellan, no one ever had his back. The one good thing about Scott McClellan is that he wasn't very good at lying and was easily flustered. He didn't spin things very well. When his replacement arrives, we may all wish we had the easily intimidated McClellan back at the podium. A Song for Scott McClellan McClellan is gone and I can't go on, McClellan is gone and what will I do? McClellan is gone and I can't go on, There's no on to accidentally tell me the truth. I remember when he used to say, He couldn't comment on an ongoing investigation, And I remember how he used to chant, About the pressing priorities of the American people. McClellan is gone and I can't go on, McClellan is gone and what will I do? McClellan is gone and I can't go on, There's no on to accidentally tell me the truth. COPYRIGHT 2006 Ryan Paulson

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hey Jesus, How about a Game of Bulletball?

My new favorite show is "American Inventor." It's great. It's set up like American Idol, but instead of singers the contestants are inventors. One man on tonight's program was presenting his invention, a game called "Bulletball." It was a really boring, stupid game. However, the judges are always sure to make each contestant talk about all of the "incredible sacrifices" they have given up in pursuit of bringing the invention to market. As the contestant reveals the tragic things they have endured, they inevitably start crying and the sad music starts. This man was no exception. He tells the judges that he left his job, his marriage dissolved, he doesn't even have a place to stay, he's sleeping in his car. Suddenly, one of the judges stops him and says, "What do you have left?" He says, "I have Bulletball." Unfortunately, there comes a time when we all have to face the fact that Bulletball may not be enough to live for. This guy was one smart cookie, though. He told the judges that he knew someday Bulletball would be an Olympic sport. He also said that "80% of inventors take their inventions to the grave with them." Um. Ok. How exactly do you know that? I mean, if they took it to the grave with them, then no one knows about it, right? When the man received "nos" from all four judges he said, "That's alright. One hundred years from now I will be up in heaven, smiling, because I knew all along Bulletball would be a success." Hey Jesus, how about a game of Bulletball?

Mixed Emotions

This is the front of an adult video store on 50th street between Broadway and 8th Avenue in New York. As you can see, the name of the store is Mixed Emotions. Now that's truth in advertising! "Welcome to Mixed Emotions. We can help you escape your troubles by indulging your wildest sexual fantasies. Of course, when you leave you'll feel empty and alone and ashamed, but....did I mention we're open 24 hours?"

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Letter to Scott McClellan

Warning: This Entry Contains Sarcasm Dear Scott McClellan, I am deeply concerned to learn that you have resigned your position as White House Press Secretary. My concern is not for you; I am sure that you will move on to bigger and better things and be happy as the spokesman for another deceitful organization. My concern is for this country. With you gone from the White House, WHO WILL LOOK AFTER THE PRESSING PRIORITIES OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE? If your comments during press conferences were any indication, it seems that you alone were in charge of prioritizing the needs of the American people. When reporters tried to ask you questions about the administrations failed policy in Iraq, you straightened them out and told them that you were busy "focusing on the work of the American people." I appreciated that. I too had thought that botched operations in Iraq should be addressed until I heard your reply and realized what a fool I had been to question the White House. You knew what the priorities of the American people were, even when they didn't. Botched relief efforts after Katrina, the leaking of classified information by the White House staff and the President, the Vice President's shooting incident, these were not things that the American people wanted to know about, they only thought they did. Without you, how will I know what my priorities aren't? As distraught as I am, I trust that the White House will find someone else to tell me what to focus on and what to ignore. Still, it's just hard to imagine that there will ever be anyone who can say those magical words, "I can't comment on an ongoing investigation," with as much conviction as you could. Goodbye Scott McClellan, and I hope that you now have time to FOCUS ON THE PRESSING NEEDS of your wife and cats. Respectfully, Ryan Luke Paulson

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Faculty Band

I went to The Bitter End, the legendary music joint, to have a beer and check out who was performing. It turned out that Saturday night belonged to the "Circuit Riders." Now neither myself or my friends had heard of this band, but we decided to go in and have a listen. It turns out that the "Circuit Riders" consist of a bunch of middle or late middle-aged men who seemed to be weekend musicians, fronted by a nice-looking 30 ish blonde woman. The men seemed to be the kind who do a regular 9 to 5 job during the week and then dust off the Fender on the weekend in order to relive their favorite memories from their high school garage band. The seat I was sitting in allowed me a coveted view of the completely unnecessary conga player (the unneccessary conga player is a phenomonen that can be found in many amateur rock bands. The unneccessary conga player is onstage to add the appearance of the bands ability to play in various musical styles, which it can't actually do and the conga player is inevitably not very good and can't be heard anyway). As I lost interest in the music I found myself looking at what the conga player was wearing. He had on a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and Birkenstocks with sandals. Then it hit me. This had to be a "Faculty Band." A facutly band consists of teachers from, say Parkside Middle School, somewhere in the suburbs, who think they are still cool and want to show others (especially young people and students) that they still have what it takes to "rock." I kept expecting someone to introduce the band like this, "You know him as your favorite science teacher, we know him as Rockin' D-man, on lead guitar - David McGee. And on drums, he can solve a math equation while laying down a groovy beat - Jim Thompson. And finally, the gym teacher all the boys want for sex-ed - Barbara Green!" It reminded me of the faculty band that played at my school's graduation party. This party was designed to keep all of the kids from going out and getting wasted the night of graduation. Of course, most people just waited until after the school-sanctioned party was done and then went out and got wasted. The party started with a performance by my school's "faculty band," including the band teacher on electric guitar, the choir teacher on keyboards and, on hammer dulcimer, the English teacher Mrs. Wright. Faced with the uneviable task of occupying a group of graduates that you no longer have authority over and are only interested in leaving to get drunk, the faculty band decided to feature Mrs. Merlo singing "House of the Rising Sun," while accompanying herself on the dulcimer. We students were not appreciative. What is the idea behind the faculty band? Do teachers think that they will endear themselves to their students by coming across as fun-loving and "hip?" In sixth grade I had a substitute teacher who promised us that if we behaved at the end of the day we would be allowed to sing "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel. Did we want to sing "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel? No we did not. W e had never even heard of the song. The sub was just looking for an excuse to sing the song. Just like the faculty band, he was performing for himself. After all, no one really wants to her "House of the Rising Sun" on the hammer dulcimer.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

There is no U-N in FUN (well, there is, but there shouldn't be)

Warning: This Entry Contains Sarcasm My girlfriend (who lives in Canada) is visiting me in New York and wanted to see the UN. You know how those Canadians love the UN. So I agreed to go. Boy was that a mistake. That UN place is just filled with peacemongers. First of all, there was a statue of a gun with it's barrel all twisted up near the entrance, which makes it pretty clear before you even get inside that they are anti-gun. Obviously, they have no respect for the right to bear arms. Inside, they are all "landmines kill" and "nuclear bombs are bad." Man, what killjoys. Also, did you know that even though they are located in New York when you are on their property you are not in the US? If I had known that I wouldn't even have gone. They did have some really cool photos of atomic bomb explosions and displays of land mines. That was awesome. But I was disgusted to find out they offer tours in a whole bunch of different languages. That is so anti-American. I am glad that we have Ambassador Bolton there to tell the UN to FU.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Christians Aren't Perfect, They Just Pretend to Be

I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that read, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven." Well, the fact that Christians aren't perfect certainly wasn't new to me. Though I thought it might make more sense for the sticker to read, "Christians aren't perfect, just judgmental."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Condi's Contribution to Classical Music

Condoleeza Rice was featured on the front page of the Sunday New York Times Arts and Leisure section. The article focused on her music, specifically her chamber group in which she plays piano. What a woman. Between doing her best to undo any diplomatic goodwill that America has left in the world, she still finds time to play a little classical music. Apparently, she is a generous collaborator - as long as you agree with her. Rice has been know to pre-emptively fire members of her group for fear that they were possibly plotting to disagree with her in the future. Says Rice, "When it comes to my interpretation of Chopin, either you're with me or against me."

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Dolly Parton used to be Pretty

I was watching a Biography Channel special on the women of country music, which included footage of Dolly singing with Emmylou Harris. Watching a 30ish Parton work her charm it occured to me: Dolly Parton used to be pretty. I know, it's shocking. But it's true. Before she got to the point where she looks like a cartoon, she was actually truly beautiful. I am too young to remember a young Dolly, so seeing her onstage wearing just jeans and without a lot of makeup, her hair down, picking her guitar, well, I was shocked. It's strange how some famous people seem to have been famous for so long and you can't really remember why and they sort of slowly morph into this version of their image that was never truly who they were and then you see old footage of them and you realize something like, "Wow, Dolly Parton used to be pretty." In regards to another country music legend, WHAT HAPPENED TO KENNY ROGERS? I saw him on American Idol the other night and oh, man, talk about plastic surgery not being subtle. His face looked as though someone had taken his cheeks and pinned them behind his ears. He also had that oh-so-telling stretched-eye look going on. Kenny Rogers, the down-home country legend, the gambler, the honest story-teller who used to look like a youngish Santa Clause, KENNY ROGERS HAD PLASTIC SURGERY? Kenny, I surely don't need to remind you that you need to know when to walk away (before you make people run).

No Combo for Me, Thanks.

Yesterday I went to Subway (not the mode of transportation, but the restaurant). When I had completed my order and was ready to pay, the man at the register said, "Would like to make that a combo with chips and soda?" And I said, "NO COMBO FOR ME, THANKS," because I know that it's a trap. That is where they make their money. And I am determined not to give them any more money than I have to. Now, if you try to just by a small soda with your sandwich, you will pay nearly the same price as you will for the "combo meal" with a medium soda and chips. One could say that this is a really good deal, but don't be fooled. We are being forced to buy more than we need and punished for only buying what we will actually use. I was so annoyed by this forced over-consumption that I am now on a crusade to put an end to the value meal. So next time you're offered an "extra value meal" or a "combo meal" or a "super-good-value-king-size-combo," have the courage to say NO COMBO FOR ME, THANKS. Together we can, slowly but surely, defeat the evils of the extra value meal empire.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Only Real One-Person Show is Jesus

Last summer I performed my show "Pentecostal Wisconsin" in Maine. The director of the theatre had insisted that we have a "talkback" after the show so that the audience could ask questions about the topic or the process of creating a solo show. So I do the show and the audience seemed to really enjoy it. Then I head back out onstage and have seat as the director of the theatre joins me onstage to start the talk-back. He asked me a few questions about the working on the show. Standard stuff. How long did it take? What was the process like? After I answer those questions, he opens the floor to the audience. Right away I see this woman in the audience raise her hand. And she doesn't look happy. In fact, she looks rather pissed. This strikes me as odd, because talk-backs aren't usually that intense. It's just an informal time to chat. The director calls and the woman and she says, "Well, Jesus is my personal savior..." (why do born-again people find it neccessary to add the personal part? Would anything think they were saying that Jesus is the savior in general, but not theirs?) Anyway, when she says that Jesus is her personal savior I have a moment of extreme optimism where I imagine that she is about to say, "...and even though I am a Christian, I loved the show! Great job!" I actually have have had people say that they were religious but still enjoyed the show. But, that is not the direction she was headed. She continues, "I was completely offended. You need to think about what you are doing and, as a fellow Christian, I have to advise you to rewrite the ending to glorify god. And another thing, the pregnant girl should marry the baby's father even though he got several other women pregnant because that is what God would want and then they should both get saved. And everyone in this theatre needs to get saved. Oh, and one more thing. THE ONLY REAL ONE-PERSON SHOW IS JESUS." That was quite a statement. I for one had no idea that Jesus had a one-person show. Then again, I wanted to question the validity of Jesus claiming to be one person when of course we all know that Jesus is a part of God and God, being the Trinity, is actually 3 in 1 so, wouldn't that be a 3 person show? The thing that really pissed me off was that she tried to guilt me into changing the show by using the "fellow Christian" line. I am not a Christian. That is how I was raised, but not who I am anymore, which is obvious being that I have written a whole show about leaving the church. To see someone trying to use that Christian guilt on me again really made me angry. However, I decided to take a rational approach, thanking her for her comments and telling her that she was free to feel however she wanted but that I will not change the show and am simply telling about my experience with this particular brand of fundamentalism. Looking back on it, I recognize the situation she was in because I used to share her beliefs. I am sure that she felt a lot of pressure about having to "make a stand for Jesus." And I am sure that it was impossible for her to appreciate the show on any level or enjoy any part of it simply because she knew that Jesus wouldn't be happy and she needed to make sure to stick up for him once she had the chance. It's a lot of weight to bear, having to stick up for Jesus all the time. I think fundamentalists should realize that if God is everything they say he is, he certainly doesn't need humans to defend him all the time. He's a big boy. He can take care of himself. Of course, this woman felt she had to make a big statement. So once I was finished responding she stormed out of the theatre, even refusing the director's offer to refund her money. I think she should have gotten the refund and used it towards tickets for Jesus. After all, Jesus is the only real one-person show.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Jesus Loves the Little Children (some of them, anyway)

this is an audio post - click to playListen: Song Warning: This Entry Contains Sarcasm Isn't the Religous Right just filled with God's love? That is, as long as you're born-again and not muslim or jewish or hindu or gay or liberal or...

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Ballad for Condoleeza Rice

this is an audio post - click to play Listen: Song It's been a bad week for Condeleeza Rice. She got booed in Great Britian and, according to the BBC, was forced to sleep in the aisle of her plane after giving up the only bed onboard to British Foreign Minister Jack Straw. Cheer up, Condi. You know where you can turn when times are tough. Click on the audio post to hear the song. The lyrics follow. "A Ballad For Condoleeza Rice" The Brits have no love for Condoleeza, Ever since we invaded Iraq. The Brits have no love for Condoleeza, Because Condi Plays loose with the facts. But no one sees here when she's all alone. Late at night when she's hurting, she just picks up the phone. And George Bush has love for Condoleeza, Whatever happens, he has her back. George Bush has love for Condoleeza, Who needs a plan when you have that?

On the Road in my solo comedy "Pentecostal Wisconsin"