Friday, July 03, 2015

Band Review: Derek Bishop

Derek Bishop was disappointing.

There was something in his pictures that showed not only a sense of style, but also indicated energy and edge - maybe it's the way he's balanced on the tire on the cover of Bicycling in Quicksand.

It led me to expect something fun and unpredictable. Instead the music was strangely subdued, like I was listening with the volume too low, but turning it up didn't do anything.

There's nothing wrong with his voice, which I really like, or his skill in performing music. It's not grating; it's just disappointing. It makes me think he might be overproduced. Having a chance to listen to multiple remixes of "Baggage", they all had the same issue.

That being said, "Baggage" was probably my favorite track. "Pack up your baggage from my brain" - who can't relate to that? However, I think "The Last Word" shows the most potential, with rolling piano that felt like it was getting somewhere.

In the music videos, there is more energy, making it possible that his live performances are more interesting, or his performances with other people, which he does sometimes. I can't write him off.

I see many positive reviews posted on his site, so it may just be a matter of taste. Bishop lists his genre as extra-catchy eclecto piano pop.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Band Review: Love Brooklyn

Love Brooklyn is a band from Corinth, Mississippi. Their Facebook page lists Cartel, The Dangerous Summer, Fall Out Boy, Boys Like Girls, and All Time Low as their influences.

I think they sound most similar to Boys Like Girls and All Time Low. I hear less of a punk influence in their music, which is softer in general. At the same time, a strong sincerity comes through, and enough energy that the music does not feel at all weak. In addition, the chorus work on "All The Way" has a feeling of reaching out to the universe, making me believe that the band can be epic if they need to.

The band currently has five tracks available on Soundcloud, and plans to record an album this summer. As much as "All The Way" impressed me, "Where We Stand" is probably the most important track to hear.

Definitely worth checking out. Let's wish them well.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

When the lies get believed

Circling back to last week, I wrote that all of the other prides beyond "white pride" were reactions against the abuse.

"Black is beautiful" was necessary because it was such a given that black was ugly. Black little girls would find black dolls ugly. Little girls at a Disney event told a black girl dressed as Elsa that "black is ugly" this year. Donald Trump just called Mexicans rapists, and while lots of people find him vile, Amy Schumer just told a "joke" that said the same thing. Racist jokes are made all the time, and then if you complain about it people say you're too sensitive.

With most of the groups that have some sort of pride events or initiative, you can find a history of abuse. There may have been some improvement, but there is still a long way to go. Also, the improvement didn't happen magically, but was fought for, and pride was a part of it.

White pride does not have the history of abuse, but it adopts it.

"You rape our women and you're taking over our country."

That's what Dylan Roof told his victims.

Setting aside the "our" for now, white women are most likely to be raped by white men. That is one more area where crime tends to stay within race. Not only that, but violent sex offenders in prison are more likely to be white. Without specifying violent, the sex offenders in prison are 75% white. When you take into consideration not only how low the rate of conviction resulting in imprisonment is, and the way prosecution happens so disproportionately to minorities, at least with other crimes, that's kind of amazing.

Taking over? Black people are about 37 percent of the population, but only 10 percent of elected officials, and that's counting local government. There are two black senators out of one hundred, and 49 out of 535 representatives. That's not even parity.

Affirmative action is keeping you out of jobs? No, it's not. A recent study showed that white applicants with a felony conviction were as or more likely to be called back for a job interview than a black applicant with a clean record. Without the felony, the white applicant was twice as likely to be called back as a black applicant. Again, remember which race is more likely to be pursued for drug crimes.

One big area of resistance to accepting the existence of systemic racism for white people is that life is hard. If we have all of this privilege, why am I barely getting by? There are reasons for that, and I believe we'll spend some time unpacking that next week.

For now, you may know that the Dominican Republic is cracking down on Haitian immigrants, except that many of those immigrants will turn out to be third-generation Dominicans who neither know anyone in Haiti nor speak the language, but they do have darker skin.

The government's request for large buses and the rumors of camps being set up along the border sound ominous, and a little reminiscent of Nazi Germany, but we don't quite know how it will go yet.

Here's the thing I'm pretty sure about. It can be really easy to decide that economic problems or employment problems or crime problems are the fault of one group, but that isn't the real story. If they truly do go out and round up people with darker skins and send them out of the country, they will succeed in causing a lot of human suffering, but I'm pretty sure that they'll find out that the country's problems remain pretty much the same. What do you do then?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

When the police lie

"It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority." - Benjamin Franklin

The police lie. That can be viewed as an inflammatory statement, but it's a bigger problem that it's true.

"It's because of the lack of black fathers" and "Where's the outrage over black-on-black crime?" are not the only scripts. There is also a whole set of scripts to blame the victim in every incident of police brutality.

"Why was he running?"
"You need to comply with police orders immediately!"
"The officer feared for his life."

Except we have video of Michael Slager shooting Walter Scott in the back, and then planting the weapon that he would say was stolen. We have video of how quickly Tamir Rice and John Crawford were shot, with no chance to understand and comply. And there are a lot more examples than Freddie Gray of why being taken into custody can be terrifying.

It appears to be part of a long tradition. As I was reading the screenplay for Call Northside 777, they were wrapping up the reparations hearings for torture victims of Richard Burge, former Chicago police commander. Part of that was learning about various black sites where detained people would disappear for a while, the most notorious being Homan Square.

That was a horrible story, but it stuck out because one of the key plot points in the movie was that one of the framed men was taken to multiple locations without being officially booked. At one of these locations the witness who falsely testified against him was able to see him for identification purposes. The events that movie was based on took place in Chicago in 1932.

Shortly after that I watched a documentary about the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia in 1985. There is footage of an unarmed man crawling out of the building, and police officers kicking and beating him, which they said was because he was armed and dangerous. Confronted with the lie, one of the men said that if you knew what kind of a guy this was, and responsible for the death of a really good man (though there are some ballistic details that would call that into question), you'd want to beat him too. Burge has said he can't believe the government is going to pay reparations to vermin. Well, some of the "vermin" are confessed criminals, but they only confessed because of the torture.

I hate writing this. I am thinking about various law enforcement officers that I care about, most of whom I believe to be good men, but their profession has a wide potential for corruption.

I remember discussing police work with one of them. This was a while back, but he was talking about how people see "The Shield" and think it's like that, but that was based on just one department that went bad.

I wish the Rampart scandal was the only incident of police corruption. Just recently I have been reading about Philadelphia, and Albuquerque (huge scandal that eventually went away with only the whistle-blowers punished) and Miami Gardens, and yes, in Chicago they were so skilled at torturing people that one of them went to work at Guantanamo. A Baltimore whistle-blower had to move to Florida.

Sometimes members of marginalized groups are pressured to speak out against other members of their group, like Muslims need to speak out against every act done by ISIS, even when done against other Muslims.

I guess the way you can tell that the police are not marginalized is that they do not get this pressure. They are more likely to circle the wagons in a show of support. They will gently talk down a fellow officer and then hug him while his wife bleeds to death in the car and their 7 year old daughter watches. They will make T-shirts and wristbands to show their support.

"I am Chris Humphries."
"I am Darren Wilson"

You are not thinking hard enough about the company you keep.

It is a horrible thing to not be able to trust the keepers of the public safety and peace, but that's where we are. Too many have shown themselves to be trigger-happy, especially with their romantic partners, especially with the mentally ill, especially with people of color, and especially if they're black.

We cannot automatically accept what they say about anything.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Lies we tell about black people

Last week we were talking about white pride. I think we deconstructed the history pretty well, and why that's a problem, but there are also some basic fallacies with regard to how it functions now. I want to get to that, but I am going to approach it via some specific areas of lies and misconceptions.

When we talk about racism lately, the discussion often comes from an incidence of police brutality, or other violence against black people by white civilians. It is very common for right-wing pundits and politicians to try and deflect by bringing up two issues. It then becomes common for people who listen to these pundits to go there too. I turn your attention to "Black On Black Crime" and "Absent Black Fathers".

It's completely reasonable to argue that those issues do not excuse the other issues, and that if one issue needs discussion it is right to focus on that instead of always trying to deflect to something else, but also, those are wrong ideas in people's heads.

My awareness shot up a lot after Trayvon Martin was killed. That would have been a stupid time to bring up black fathers, because he was going to his father's house. His father was there. That's been happening with a lot of these names and press conferences. Their fathers are there. Maybe the parents aren't together, but both parents are in the child's life.

So I started thinking about my own black friends - the ones where I know them well enough to know things about their family - and without counting siblings (there are some cousins in there), of ten family units the parents stayed together in seven (though three of those unions have one partner dead now), with one divorce (which did not end contact with either parent), and two where I am not sure. That's a higher percentage of lasting unions than with my white friends.

Now, you can tell me that I'm in the Pacific Northwest, and there is no way that's a representative sample, but two of those families are from the South and one's from Detroit, so, you know, it's not completely unrepresentative either. (Actually, the divorced family is from California, so make what you will of that.)

That is still anecdotal. Anecdotally, I could also tell you about a white woman who almost certainly refrains from marrying the father of her three children so she can continue collecting government benefits and that would not prove anything about white families. If we move away from the anecdotes, a recent study showed a slightly higher rate of involvement for black fathers than other races, especially in the area of homework.

So, let's talk about crime statistic based on race.

Actually, there are a lot of good articles about this, but here are the three key points.

1. Most crime happens within the same racial group. If I am a crime victim, the perpetrator will most likely be white. Years of enforced segregation have ensured that most of the chances we get to commit crime are on people of the our own race. To make black on black crime an issue without making white on white crime an issue is disingenuous, but also a pretty effective illustration of how society makes generalizations about races other than white.

2. That being said, black crime rates have nonetheless been dropping steadily, at a faster rate than the overall crime rate. Fox News and their ilk have been slow to give credit to black communities for this drop in crime, which has been happening because...

3. Many black people do care greatly about black on black crime, and they do outreach and hold summits and create programs to reduce it, with a pretty good success rate. In the areas that are still worse for crime, there are people working on it. We can say a lot of things about what structural factors are working against them, but that leads us into other areas, so for now let's just hear from Jon Stewart:

Right around the three minute mark, that's what I'm talking about.

The discussions are worth having anyway, because racism is an important issue. Effects of structural racism is an important issue, and should not be derailed. It still seems worth pointing out that the derailers are lying.

They may not know they are lying. I remember being taught that slavery disrupted the black family, along with welfare rules and the war on drugs. For liberals that should lead to sympathy for what society has done to the black family, where conservatives are less likely to make allowances, but neither side is seeing the actual picture. You can have the best intentions and a lot of compassion but still be the chump who swallows the party line.

Let's not be chumps. There's a lot of wrong information out there. Sometimes it happens on purpose, sometimes it may not, but it can only get in the way of real progress.

If you care, you need to question.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Band Review: The Elegant Mistakes

The Elegant Mistakes are a Rock/Alternative band from New Jersey.

One of the most interesting things for me was reading on their Youtube channel that the band consists of all teens, between the ages of 15 and 19.

The description appears to be from 2012, so they should all be older now, but it is impressive to hear their level of proficiency at that age. They have a clear and together sound.

There is sometimes a feeling that the music could be stronger, or delivered more forcefully, but that seems like something that could easily happen with experience.

They have five tracks on ReverbNation, with four original songs. There are also many performance videos on Youtube, including several covers, allowing you to get a good feel for the band and their abilities.

It's hard to know whom to compare them to in order to give an idea of their sound, though Natalie Merchant comes to mind. Performances include covers of Weezer, Oasis, Evanescence, Lenny Kravitz, Gotye, and Michael Jackson, so it's a fairly wide range. I would start with ReverbNation and focus on the original songs; I believe those are their strongest.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Band Review: The Undecided Majors

The Undecided Majors are a pop punk/alternative band from Destin, Florida.

The pop punk vibe is filled out nicely by the thrum of the guitars on tracks like "Cindy's Downfall/(Enemy of Mine) and "Weapon of Choice". I especially like the details on "No One Else". It was disappointing that I could only find five tracks.

The web pages could have more content, as if there is not a lot going on, but the band does still seem to play on a regular basis. It looks like the Twitter feed is the most frequently updated.

They're worth a listen.