News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Equalizer: Cutting Trees And Seeing Stars
BY JONAS BEALS
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
There was A white pine tree in my backyard. It was tall, maybe even majestic, probably about 30 years old and just wide enough at the base that my fingertips didn’t quite meet when I hugged it. But it also had a habit of losing large branches in thunderstorms, and the freak winds a couple of weeks ago were strong enough to redirect it so it was leaning toward our house.
I had a professional take it down this week.
The negative: More sun shines on our already-stifling second floor. The view from our bedroom window no longer provides escapist fantasies of living on the Maine coast. One less tree in the neighborhood.
The positive: A tree won’t come crashing through our roof. That tree, anyway. More room in the yard.
I’ve been feeling slightly guilty about having the tree cut down, and not only because my wife wasn’t thrilled about it. I did like the tree, although it was a bit of a hazard. It was a living thing, after all, and I do feel some remorse at being responsible for the death of such a formidable being.
I guess consequences are on everyone’s mind these days.
Some actions have obvious repercussions—when someone rains bullets on a crowded movie theater, people will die. When people ignore sexual abuse, it will continue.
Some consequences aren’t that obvious. Does glorifying violence in popular entertainment beget violence in real life? Does glorifying athletes lead to the sort of hero worship that ignores criminal behavior?
Similar accusations have been leveled at popular music since the ’50s (and probably before that), when the “devil’s music” encouraged far too much hip-shaking and Tutti-Fruiting. Rock ’n’ roll encouraged sex and violence. Punk rock demanded sex and violence. Hip-hop treated sex and violence like a comfy old chair.
The notion of censorship and responsibility seems like an important one. Censorship is never the proper response to unwanted artistic expression, but the creators of popular music (and film and television and other popular or ubiquitous media) need to be reflective, to weigh the pros and cons of what they do.
Trying to pin the behavior of an extremist individual on the encouragement of popular entertainment is a fool’s errand, but it is becoming more necessary for artists—and all of us—to try to understand the consequences of our popular institutions.
Perhaps even worse, the negative consequences created by those institutions can obscure the people who choose to accentuate the positive.
The cynic in me thinks Frank Ocean may have been channeling David Bowie’s marketing savvy when he revealed his own conflicted sexuality just before dropping his new album, “Channel Orange,” earlier this month. Regardless, it must have been a difficult decision. His honesty and sensitivity have only served to enhance his formidable musical talent. More importantly, he chose to give people a brave, positive example to follow.
Maybe it’s enough to realize that all decisions have consequences, good and bad. The best anyone can do is make sure the balance tilts in the favor of good.
I looked out my bedroom window last night. There was no tree, but there were stars up there—stars I’d never been able to see before.
JONAS’ IN-TOWN PICK: The Hot Seats at Maury Stadium. Part of the Bluemont concert series, this is a must-see show featuring what I consider one of the best bands on the planet from Richmond with a banjo and a washboard. No pressure, guys! Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
OUT-OF-TOWN PICK: Kenny Loggins at The Birchmere in Alexandria. An intimate evening with a giant of pop music. Take the highway to the Danger Zone. Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
LISTENING TO: “Pyramids” by Frank Ocean. This is a nearly 10-minute song from “Channel Orange,” and it reveals an artist capable of letting a song develop and thrive on its own terms, in its own time. The track of the year so far.
Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036