Dark Side of the The Boss

The Jersey bad boy still embodies the ambivalence of working class America, even if he's a happily married zillionaire.

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To a Springsteen fan, there's nothing better than the afterglow from a triple-encore Boss show. A fan himself, Southern Illinois University's Randall Auxier totally knows the feeling. But as a professor of philosophy, Auxier is also that guy who, upon departing the Scottrade Center after Springsteen's show this Saturday, might say something like this: "He just keeps giving the audience more and more. Why does he do that? And by the way, does an artist owe an audience an encore?"

If the question doesn't make you want to slap Auxier's bearded face, you might want to check out Bruce Springsteen and Philosophy: Darkness on the Edge of Truth, a collection of nineteen essays that he co-edited with colleague Doug Anderson. Both profs are huge fans and penned a few of the essays themselves.

They have no trouble finding deep meaning in one of the most celebrated songwriters of our day. "I would call his a political-social philosophy," says Anderson. "I would also see him in the tradition of Emerson. Like Emerson, he uses his poetry to tell stories about things we believe."

Anderson, who discovered Springsteen while attending an East Coast boarding school on a football scholarship, remembers when The Boss was playing New Jersey roadhouses. "I'm from working-class New England. These stories speak pretty clearly to white males in the Northeast."

One of the book's essays, "Where were you born, and what does it matter?" deals with the 1984 presidential campaign between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale and how both camps wanted to use "Born in the U.S.A." as their campaign song.

"Which makes [the authors] wonder if they listened to the words," Auxier says. "Unless you listen closely, all you get is that anthem feel and the line, 'born in the U.S.A.' It's not exactly a happy tale, and there's a lot of anger in it."

The authors think the Jersey bad boy still embodies the ambivalence of working-class America, even if he's a happily married zillionaire. "I actually wrote a piece about that in the book," Anderson says. "Everyone can get co-opted. But I don't think he is. When he's interviewed, when he talks with fans, he can be very down-to-earth. He recognizes the money can be a problem, and he uses it to good ends." 

Tantra Gets Us Hot
Unreal's ears usually do a little dance at the mention of tantra. So when Left Bank Books told us about an August 25 event at which Mark Michaels and his wife Patricia Johnson would be discussing their newest book, Tantra for Erotic Empowerment (and that Johnson would also be performing "Michaela" in Carmen at the Union Avenue Opera), we broke into a full-on song and pelvic thrust!

"Will there be any tantric simulation at the shop?" we ask Left Bank's events manager, Danielle Borsch. She giggles. "Mmm, I don't believe so, but we'll find out!"

Johnson, the trained opera singer of the tantric duo, arrived in town August 4. Between catching up with family in Concordia where she was raised, and Carmen rehearsals, she found time to take a few questions.

Unreal: Were you and Mark skilled in tantra before you met, or is it something you discovered together?

Patricia Johnson: When I moved to Manhattan I decided I really wanted to learn it. There was a lecture, which turned out to be the first one that Mark gave publicly after doing a teacher's training. We exchanged e-mails for a while and decided to get together to practice tantra. So we really didn't date, which is an interesting way to begin a relationship.

So you were having tantric intercourse before you knew about each other's childhood kind of thing?

Yeah, yeah.

Wow. Can we expect a demonstrative performance at Left Bank Books?

People will leave the lecture with some practical techniques they can apply immediately and experience immediate results.

I see "sex-positive person" in this press release. I'm not sure St. Louisans will understand what that means. Could you explain?

The message is one that says it's your birthright to embrace yourselves as erotic beings.

Is it in the dictionary?

Um, whew, I don't know.

You will be performing in Carmen at the Union Avenue Opera. Tell us, are there parallels between tantra practices and operatic preparation?

Yes, completely. In tantra you work with energy in the body. And that's all singing is about: cultivating and circulating energy. I become a vessel and the music can flow out of me into the audience, and there's this energetic thing that happens that's exquisite.

And when you practice tantra do you ever break out into an aria?

[Laughs] Well, it involves chanting and mantra, so, um, you know, I don't know if I've ever broken out into an aria, per se. 

Come to Cheetos and Find Jesus
Kelly Ramey was driving to her home in Jefferson County last month when, while eating a bag of Cheetos, she found Jesus. At one point she reached for a Cheeto but inexplicably paused before popping the delicious cheese puff into her mouth. When she carefully examined the snack she was ready to devour, she noticed it bore an uncanny resemblance to Christ on the Cross.

"I don't know why I didn't just eat it," Ramey, a 50-year-old devout Catholic, told the Jefferson County Journal. "When I took the Cheeto out, it felt different. So I looked at it and it immediately came to mind it was Jesus on the Cross."

Her family members confirmed that the puff did, in fact, kind of look like the son of God. Her husband even dubbed the discovery "Cheesus."

Ramey is now keeping Cheesus in a safety deposit box while she figures out the best way to display it to the public.

Unreal wanted to find out more about the Messiah manifesting himself in snack form so we visited the "Ask Chester" section of Cheetos.com, and consulted Chester Cheetah himself on the subject in an online chat.

Unreal: For starters, what's your name?

Chester Cheetah: The name's Chester Cheetah. I'm dangerously cheesy.

Have you ever seen a Cheeto that looks like Christ?

Yes, no, maybe so.

Do you believe in God?

I believe I'll have some Cheetos Cracker Trax.

What kind of Cheetos would Jesus eat?

Sorry, what did you say? I was busy crunching.

Never mind. Could Cheetos be used in lieu of wafers at Communion?

I just don't know what to say about that.

Are you a divine being?

Wow! I'm not quite sure how to respond to that.

Do you think Cheesus should replace Chester Cheetah as the Cheetos mascot?

Now you're just being silly. 

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