Thursday, October 18, 2018

Band Review: Dre Prada

I was followed by one Twitter account,, which points to Dre Prada, who has a separate Twitter account, listed with the other links. The CEOBigMov account appears to be more active.

I may not be sure about the Twitter accounts, but I can confirm that Dre Prada is a young rapper from Toronto. It was interesting seeing a video flashing the flag and money, but that meaning a red maple leaf and images of young Queen Elizabeth II.

Unfortunately, that was the most interesting thing about the video. This flavor of hip hop is pretty typical, of the overproduced kind. Voices and instruments sound auto-tuned like a J. G. Wentworth commercial, and it saps all of the energy and authenticity.

I do think that Dre Prada's youth may work in his favor, in that as he matures and gains experience he may want to do something more and find the skills to do so. There are older people (he is listed as 16, though I am not sure how current the profile is) whose output sounds exactly the same.

Nothing terrible, but not memorable either.

Taking time to think

Building on yesterday's post, speaking differently leads to thinking differently.

After the revolution in Cuba, you were a Communist or you were a "gusano". A worm. You could do a lot of terrible things to a worm. Some examples for school children included grading them down, not letting them go to the bathroom (no matter how desperately they needed to) and allowing other kids to beat them up. That's for school children. When you use words to transform people into "other", it opens the door for abuse.

I believe that if you decide that you will not resort to "libtards" or "snowflakes" as insults for liberals, that is an important step in closing the door. The word "liberal" may still have negative connotations for you, but not relying on easy labels forces you to think more. That matters.

Russia interfered in the last presidential election. That involved spreading false information, but it also involved stoking the fires of bigotry. (To be fair, that was a central part of the candidate's platform.) It has been interesting to see two other areas of Russian interference: vaccines and Star Wars.

Those were not random choices. People have strong emotions about both of those issues, and can be very passionate about those topics.

Those passions can also work out in specific ways. Much of the negative response to The Last Jedi pertained to the casting of women and people of color (and even a woman of color) in starring roles. You can see that as a nice nod to the reality of a universe where women and people of color do things, or you can feel threatened, see it as Social Justice Warriors (SJWs - another slur, but possibly one that's being replaced by NPC for Non Playing Character) ruining everything, and lash out in racist and misogynistic ways.

Given the current political climate, that is a target area that works better for people drawn to the right. What could be good for people drawn to the left? Enter stirring up controversy about vaccines.

It is an interesting gambit, because it is anti-science which normally veers more right. However, progressives who are against vaccines tend to be easily seduced by purity, which is the kind of thing that can get them to reject a reasonable candidate with normal flaws and be very self-righteous about it. It gets emotional.

That sounds like a criticism, but I value emotion. When people find it useful to talk to me, I know a lot of that is simply that I support feeling the way you feel. The instinct is to comfort grief and silence fears and do away with all of those negative things, but they are real, and they need to be felt. Trying to silence the emotions does more harm than good. It is part of our humanity.

However, no matter how important acknowledging and feeling your emotions is, said emotions are usually not the best basis for making a decision.

A few months ago I read a book, You Are Now Less Dumb, by David McRaney, which focused on bias. Humans have a lot, and that is natural, but you don't have to get stuck in it.

One of the early examples was how you can use a soda vending machine without knowing how it works, and various suppositions you could make about how it works. You could believe there is a small person in the machine, but that is also something you can look up. There are online videos showing how they work. You can buy them for cheap as a business opportunity (I have recently learned via Judge Judy), but you could then take it apart and put it back together. (I'm just trying to not encouraged vandalizing someone else's machine in the pursuit of knowledge.)

So you can find stuff out, and not be mystified or caught up in a myth.

For example, with vaccines, you could research Andrew Wakefield, and why his work has been invalidated. You could research mercury and thimerosal, and you could see how it was removed from the scheduled vaccines in 2002 and it did not cause a sudden plunge in autism diagnoses. Yes, the anti-vaccine movement has responses to that, but it would still help your brain to at least do some research and branch out.

One reason it is safe to sit with your emotions is that they can change so easily, especially as time passes and more information comes. Of course, that is also why they may not lead to the best decisions. Taking that time to learn more and understand more becomes a wonderful thing that you can do for yourself and others.

Next week I will be posting about this election.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Becoming a bad word

I am amazed and disturbed at the ubiquity of "libtard" as an insult.

On the one hand, as much as I know the right hates political correctness (i.e. speaking respectfully), I still know enough conservatives who have relatives with disabilities whom they love, where it should make that suffix unacceptable.

It's almost as if proximity to someone in danger of being marginalized does not automatically confer recognition of existing harmful structures.

There is kind of a separate issue here, where in our patterns of prejudice we can always make exceptions for the ones we like. This can be dangled as a reward: "You're not like those other women." "Of course we don't mean you."

It can also be used as a way of justifying one's alignment: "They're all nice to my child, so they can't be that bad."

But it is all connected.

Having totally bought into being respectful (political correctness), I have a hard time using this word and its variations, but I am going to make myself do it here to make a point.

Mentally retarded. MR. Various abbreviations of that last word. It referred to something intellectual - at least cognitive - but it wasn't used that way. There was a kid with ADHD who got called "Retarda" at my sisters' school, including by the gym teacher. I'm just saying, even if there were valid uses for the label, those were not the most common uses. I'm not sure the intended use was ever that helpful, making it for the best that it has fallen out of favor.

That pattern holds. A phrase will be used that is supposed to mean something, but it isn't being used accurately, and the use spreads as it becomes a tempting catch-all. I have heard "snowflake" justified as something specifically for today's young people, because they are raised with all the obstacles removed and are therefore weak (and apparently they think they are special).

There are problems with the logic of saying that kids that have to worry constantly about school shootings, cyber-bullying and and food insecurity have it too easy, but I can't help but notice that the slightest disagreement draws the term upon people my age and older.

If the point is being able to ignore people who say things that you don't want to hear, painting with a broad brush is perfectly logical.

It's wrong - not merely wrong but reveling in the wrongness and rolling around in it until it is completely absorbed. It's uncharitable, which is odd because a lot of people who think of themselves as religious and good do it. It's ignorant, so I guess it's blissful, but I think that's a false bliss.

And it is being used pretty hard on liberals.

I have to take that seriously. Most of what the president says has been pretty disturbing for anyone who has issues with fascism and authoritarianism anyway, but the comments lately about Democrats being ungovernable, that's a concern. It is more of a concern with government that has set up a process for re-examining citizenship.

History is my thing. I have... not exactly worried, but been aware... that in the direction we are going, academics always end up under attack. For all my reading, I am not really an academic; I have a BA from 22 years ago.

I am wholly liberal. That has not had anything remarkable about it for decades of a fairly normal political process, but that is changing. This is a change that looks similar to a lot of places that have ended in death and re-education camps.

If you don't have liberal values, that is your prerogative. However, if you have any value for democracy and representative government, you had better start respecting other voices.

One potential starting place is how you speak of those with whom you disagree.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Narrow targets

One of the oddest Twitter conversations I have ever had happened a few months ago. It included me being told "Lesbians are female homosexuals."

I had not realized that definition was in doubt.

We got there because this person was angry that TERF was starting to be used as a slur against lesbians. She had three examples!

If you don't know, TERF is an acronym for Trans Exclusive Radical Feminist, so someone who is all for feminism, except for including transgender women in feminism.

I believe the prejudice is more focused on not accepting women who were assigned male at birth (AMAB and AFAB are other acronyms you will see), like the fear of having someone use a bathroom that does not correspond with what was on their original birth certificate. (This is one of the most common TERF talking points.)

This is far from my specialty. I am not even sure how I ended up in the conversation except that someone must have retweeted something and I thought I could be helpful. I guess that aspect was odd, but also I thought it was odd because - and this is what I replied that led to the explanation - most of the prominent TERFs appear to be straight.

Again, I am not expert here. I got the impression that Germaine Greer (probably the most prominent TERF) is straight, anyway, though I admit to limited interest.

The original context was a thread about infighting between cis women and trans women, apparently from someone refusing to retweet something she found transphobic, which led to someone asking about the term "TERF".

I know that people who fall under that category tend to find the term very offensive, because how dare you label their bigotry? I had also heard that there were people working to turn other queer people against transgender people - knock the T off of the LBG, if you will.

So when someone barged in complaining that TERF was a lesbian slur, my first thought was that misappropriating the term might be one way of sowing discord. By the end of that conversation, I started to think that person might actually be one of the people attempting to sow discord, but I almost always start out assuming good faith.

Still, looking at that profile again, I suspect a troll account built on what they think lesbians are like.

My takeaway at the time was was that as the right works to divide everyone, of course they will pick on the most marginalized. Trans women are already extremely vulnerable. That shouldn't be something that anyone would fall for, but also, speak up for the Jews and the trade unionists and the trans women - it doesn't matter if that is your group.

At this point I can't even say it's because they will come for you. They will, but speaking up is the right thing to do, and that has its own value beyond self-interest. We need people who will do something just because it is kind and just.

But your self-interest should also know that they always expand. That's just how it works. The narrow targets will expand.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Concert Review: Alkaline Trio

First of all, Alkaline Trio is currently touring (though that is wrapping up) with a new album under their belts, Is This Thing Cursed.

The album is great. I especially love and relate to the title track.

One of the great things about the band is their constant development and growth, which is not hurt by them doing other projects. For this album, I don't think morbidity is quite the right word, nor gothic, and it's not necessarily completely supernatural, but there are all of these dark themes that come out beautifully.

I remember when I first reviewed them four years ago I was pleasantly surprised by their early punk sound. Here they are still very melodic, but there are reminders of punk, perhaps this time in a little more Misfits way. (Actually, I may be wrong on this, but it suddenly occurred to me recently that "This Addiction" can go well with "Don't Open Til Doomsday/Hell Night".)

I also feel like I hear more Daniel Andriano on this one - not just singing more, though he is - but where I hear echoes of his solo project, The Emergency Room.

Everyone sounded and looked good. Singer Matt Skiba especially (I think) is looking younger or healthier or something.

What becomes painful about this review is that the concert became a horrible experience for me. That was not the band's fault, but I need to get it out.

There was some moshing going on at the show. That was not really my problem, but it was related.

It started a few rows back from center stage. I noticed this one idiot with a stupid mustache and a Hawaiian shirt first, but there started being more people joining in. I especially noticed one fairly short man that they kept hitting into.

Another guy who was in the group did apologize, and the second band - together PANGEA - thanked them for resolving it on their own. I was not sure that they deserved the credit; it was not long after that I saw the short guy take a hit to the back of the head that didn't look good.

Security kept looking, but they only really did anything when someone was crowd-surfing. To be fair, someone dropped on their head would cause a lot of problems, but it's not the only thing that can be a problem.

Anyway, I was distracted by that. Moshing is only fun if you want to do it. It is also hard to control. The only venue I have seen really handle it well was the Haunt. Their small size helped a lot for that, but also they are not even in business anymore. (There were cool things about them, but the location was terrible.)

So it distracted me, but it was also not anywhere near me. I started out as just aware.

I suppose the first sign that I was in a bad location was during soundcheck. I was in the second row of people from the barrier, stage right (house left). There was a mic right there, but based on what the tester was saying, it was Matt's mic. It's nothing against Matt, but I never get tired of watching Daniel play, and it would have been cool to be in front of him. It was still a good location. That was my problem.

Shortly after they came on stage, I felt this huge shove.

My previous experience during AFI was mainly with people shoving for the sake of shoving and then moving on. I thought this was that it was, which may have left me more unprepared. He actually wanted my spot and he won. I resisted but ended up behind him, and was lucky to still be on my feet.

There was a guy who played a thug on the last season of Once Upon A Time, Sandy Robson. He was clearly supposed to be Wreck-It Ralph, but his IMDB credits just call him "Perp". Anyway, this guy looked like that, and he was built like an ox, except with a less intelligent expression on his face.

I objected, but he completely ignored me, taking out his phone and filming and putting his arms up and posing and loving his position in the second row of people. There had been a cute girl in front of me, and I did see him steady her at one point, but after all, he could easily see over her. (He would have been easily able to see over me as well.)

I'm just going to tell you now that I was only there for four songs.

I had various thoughts about things I could do. I envied the shoulders spikes on the jacket of the woman a little to my left. I thought about knocking away his phone, unlatching his watch, or pouring the half water bottle I had left over him. I thought about shivs, too, but I didn't have one, and I wouldn't really do that, though the thought was surprisingly attractive.

I was willing to believe that maybe that was his special song, but then they played "Mercy Me"; that's my song. At this point I punched him. That was in the shoulder, from the back. He looked around, and I told him he had to move, that was my spot. He looked mildly surprised, and then turned back around.

The thing is, I am capable of fighting harder and dirtier, but I don't know that I can justify it for a position at a concert. Also, based on his solidity, the effort I would have had to expend to have any impact was likely to get me thrown out instead of him.

It ruined the concert for me and I left. I'm not proud of that.

I would just never do that to someone. Where I come from, if you want to be up front you come early and you commit. That means not taking breaks between acts for the bathroom or more water, but holding on to your spot. Well, not him. He took out a person a foot shorter than him. He must be very proud.

The thing is, I really needed that night. It is hard to arrange time away from my care giving responsibilities; that was my time! I had been wanting to see them for at least four years. I wrote that review in 2014 because their tour was not coming here, and it was at least a way of hoping that they would come. It was because I kept looking to see if they were touring again yet that I saw that Daniel was touring with Matt Pryor. That's how much I wanted to be there. That I needed it so much, and that I wanted it so much, made everything that much worse.

And it totally drove home the value of respite time, because I was not at my best the next day. There is this mental energy that you need to keep someone with dementia engaged, where you have to gauge where they are and what will work, and I did not have it. I was drained instead of replenished, and I don't know when my next chance will come.

I have thought of things I could do differently. My only chance was a long shot, but if I'd grabbed the barrier and kicked back, that might have worked. I would have had to have realized what he was doing right away, and been really quick, and I don't know that it would have worked. I will not say that he wanted the spot more than I did, but he was certainly a worse person in ways that were helpful.

And it's disappointing. So that's how it goes? Getting what you want is a result of how awful you are willing to be? To which I'm afraid the answer is, "Oh good! You do understand!" but I remain disappointed. I have the political climate and my mother's health as areas for feeling powerless. A concert should be a place to feel good.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Concert Review: together PANGEA

together PANGEA put on a pretty good show.

Honestly, a lot of that relates to the keyboardist/guitarist who slid around with amazingly smooth dance moves. He reminded me of Napoleon Dynamite, except that his T-shirt said "Megadeath" instead of "Vote for Pedro".

But the music was pretty good too.

I hear elements of Seattle grunge - more on "Why" than on any other track - but it is not grunge. My favorite songs were probably "Badillac" and "Friend of Nothing", so those could be good starting places.

together PANGEA is currently finishing up a tour with Sharp Shock and Alkaline Trio, with a handful of dates left.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Concert Review: Sharp Shock

I loved Sharp Shock.

I was pretty sure I would. I had never heard of them before I looked up the openers for Alkaline Trio, but I was able to check them out a little before the show and they sounded really good. I thought they sounded good starting out, and then the second track I heard was "Superficial" and I knew they were awesome.

(For that one it may be the bass line that puts me over the edge, but I like the overall message too.)

Anyway, I went in with high expectations that were then exceeded. 

The band bursts with punk speed and energy. One great thing about punk songs being short is that you can fit a lot of them into even only a half hour set. I think they played everything I could have wanted. That definitely included "Dancing All Night" and "Infatuation".

When singer Davey Warsop first addressed the crowd, his Birmingham accent immediately make me think of Oi!, but the band's origins are a bit more complicated than that. Regardless of birthplaces, Sharp Shock is currently operating out of Los Angeles.

As much as I appreciate the sheer fun of them, I also need to point out their general decency. The things that make punk work also easily go along with obnoxious to possibly worse behavior. The band hints at that connection with songs like "Bad Lad" and "The Reds", but they stay above it, going out of their way to speak against racism, sexism, and other bigotry.

They were a great start to the night, and I am glad to have found them.

Sharp Shock currently has about another week on the road with together PANGEA and Alkaline Trio, and will be playing the Surf City Blitz in Huntington Beach on October 27th. That is going to have some good bands, and Sharp Shock is one of them.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Thanos was wrong

Yes, this is about Avengers: Infinity War.

Again, there will be spoilers, but it came out in April so I like to think we're good.

It is a reasonable follow-up to writing about the aspects of each individual mattering in Ant-Man and the Wasp. There is a huge body count in Infinity War. It's almost like a DC film, except there aren't piles of dead bodies at the end, just something like ashes floating away.

Even more to the point, you see a real impact from the loss of those lives as well.

Many people were torn up by the death of Peter Parker. He got more words in - possibly because he felt it coming, possibly because he can talk a lot, quickly - and he said them to Tony, who had previously shown guilt about getting Peter into dangerous situations, and who had started the movie talking to Pepper about having a child.

(Also, somehow in the impossible to detect pattern of the destruction, everyone else on the planet's surface had gone, except for Nebula, a cyborg stranger to Tony, leaving him terribly alone.)

The fadings happening in Wakanda stuck with me more: Rhodey looking for Sam and just missing him, Bucky and Cap's eyes meeting just before, and T'Challe reaching out to help Okoye. I was sure he was going to see her go, which would have been one kind of tragedy, but then the one who faded was him.

Beyond that, you could see how the randomness was leading to immediate complications. Back in New York, a plane was going down, and if the former occupants of the crashed car weren't going to feel the impact, that doesn't mean that similar accidents would not have casualties.

(And yes, I assume it will all be undone, even rolled back to save the Asgardians from the beginning. Dr. Strange saw the one plan that worked, and he still handed his stone over to Thanos. Obviously it will all be fine. No arguments.)

From that immediate awful aftermath, I can see the chaos extending far beyond that. 

Part of that is that in some of my readings about authoritarian regimes, I have seen that once you expel the foreigners, the economy goes stagnant and there isn't enough food. That can also happen when you nationalize markets. When you target people who are more educated and have more money, that is not a guaranteed combination, but it tends to get rid of at least a few doctors and people with good skills to have (some dead, some escaping). That causes problems. It causes suffering.

Thanos could defend his plan of ending suffering by reducing the universal population in half all he wants, but it caused immediate suffering with a promise of more suffering in store.

It doesn't make sense to get all worked up over a movie adapted from comic books, especially when I believe the next installment will resolve everything. However, much like there being a large contingent of people declaring that Killmonger was right in response to Black Panther (my thoughts on that), there has also been a contingent declaring that Thanos had a point.

And sure, that's mainly a subreddit where you shouldn't expect too much from the inhabitants, but yes, there are a lot of people who with infinite power would still see more point in eliminating people than increasing resources or improving the distribution thereof.

People reference Malthus a lot in relation to this. He was not twisted in that manner (he could be faulted for an understandable lack of vision), but Malthus' writings have been used in some really twisted arguments about why sometimes you want to let people suffer and die. Really, he just wanted people to wait longer to have kids, which has several advantages.

Infinity War was a pretty good movie in general. Given the size of the cast it was impressive in what it managed to balance, and the fun it managed to have despite some serious and painful situations.

It also gives us something worth thinking about. That isn't so much whether or not individuals have worth; the film comes down pretty clearly on the side of that. It is worth thinking about how hard some people fight to avoid accepting that.

Remember, the problem with #alllivesmatter isn't that it's not true; it's that it misses the point of specific lives being counted as less. Truly believing in the value of each life requires examining the structures that endanger lives, which are sometimes very specific. It's a deflect when the opposite is needed.

The damage of lost lives is never merely collateral.