Thursday, October 31, 2013

Band Review: Atlantic Aftermath

I am very afraid that Atlantic Aftermath is no more. There have not been any Twitter or Facebook updates for months, and the main page is a bunch of SQL errors. However, they are still listed as following me on Twitter, I believe it happened more recently than their last tweet based on their position in the queue, and I listened to them, so I am going to review them! Fortunately, they were pretty good.
They describe themselves as heartfelt pop punk. I'm not arguing that, but I feel like it falls more on the punk side. I say this because listening to them made me suddenly want to listen to the Dead Milkmen. Also, there is that spirit of punk that I first started thinking about with the Ramones. Things suck a lot in the songs, but the music feels good. The anger may be there, but the humor wins and goes all literate.
The lyrics are smart, and yet with titles like "Expand Your Brocabulary", they don't seem to take themselves too seriously. My only real objection is to the use of "whore" in "Johnny X-Treme", as I have been uncomfortably aware lately of how the word is used as part of the patriarchal suppression of women, but I will concede that it makes sense in the context.
Musically they are powerful, with strong guitars, aggressive percussion, and frequent singing in unison. "Save The Breakdown, Save The World" and "Bi-Curious George" are good examples of this. I often feel like there are multiple levels going on in the songs. That is true of "Hey Arnold" which may work as an homage to The Warriors, but not as only that.
So, I hope that Atlantic Aftermath is in fact still around, if for no other reason than that surely a band with a song called "Never Say No To Panda" really should do some version of Buddy Holly's "True Love Ways".
Either way, music is available via Amazon and iTunes.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Horror

I imagine that disrespecting 50 Shades of Grey on Monday, then praising Monsters University on Tuesday casts me in a certain light. I will not be helping my case at all today by saying that I don't really care for horror.
It's not a hard and fast aversion. I have liked a lot of movies that could probably be classified as horror. I don't make it to nearly as many movies as I would like to, though, so I have to prioritize, and that's pretty much never what I end up choosing. I am most likely to make the effort on my own for documentaries or foreign films that I think might be hard to see later. I also end up at things my sisters want to see, but which are usually comedies, kids films, or art films, because they have someone else they go see action and espionage movies with.
I mention this because what I am going to write about horror is largely second-hand. It's not my thing, but I know a lot of people who love it, and the complaint I keep hearing, over and over again, is that the movies are not scary.
Talking about it with one friend, my theory was that it was because of the lack of novelty. Every thing that comes out is a sequel or remake or a reboot, which is essentially a remake with the promise of sequels. The familiar tends not to be that scary. Even when you have a new film that breaks the mold, it quickly gets sequels and imitators, diluting its effect. The Blair Witch Project did scare some people. So did the first Paranormal Activity. It sounds like its been downhill from there.
I read a piece I really like on Unwinnable, for their Fear Week:
One thing author Brian Bannen points out is that the older horror films often had some subtlety to them. You didn't always see the creature, but also, he points out some distortion and visual tricks used by John Carpenter for The Thing. That's going in a completely different direction. Not only is the danger something unfamiliar, but even the things around you that should be familiar aren't quite; something is off about them.
That works because you are unsettled. Studios don't seem to trust that anymore. Everything is big and in your face, but that doesn't automatically translate to more frightening. Instead it ends up being more gross, or more sadistic. That desensitizes the audience, which again, is not a way to frighten them more.
It also tends not to be a way to get the audience more invested in your characters, which could be a source of anxiety. If I am fearful during a film, it is because I have become invested in the characters. Making the characters toys for your twisted manipulations may devalue them to the audience, and making them horrible people who deserve it still doesn't help.
Bannen ends on an optimistic note, believing things will come around again. My optimism varies, depending on the day. I mean, my own potential success as a filmmaker pretty much depends on someone gambling on doing something original, focusing more on making a good movie than on building a blockbuster.
But you know, there are no guaranteed blockbusters. Sometimes good movies languish in obscurity, but sometimes they find their audience and they are hits. Sometimes movies with huge budgets and all the key formula ingredients tank.
I want to make movies, but I also want there to be good movies. There's nothing quite like one.
And if my friends want those good movies to include scary ones, then I want that to happen too.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Things I love about Monsters University

Obviously, this is a cute movie with amazing animation. That probably wouldn't get its own blog post. Also, that it is out on DVD / Blu-Ray today is not the reason for the post. I had been thinking about this one for a while, and then with seeing the commercials for the release, and with writing about movies yesterday, it seemed right.
The animation was great. They talk about Sully's fur, and they are right, but there is so much more to it than that. The attention to detail was important, and that led to one of the things I loved - it felt so much like college.
I had just driven through my old college town the day before I saw it, so I was probably feeling extra nostalgic, but yes, that feels like a college campus at the beginning of the term, that feels like a dorm - not just looks, feels! Even, well technically I did not go to school with any monsters, but some of them were so familiar! That girl monster running the Scare Games reminded me of a girl I worked with at the Science Library, except that Roy would never have done something with the fraternity system. (I think her real name was Melissa, but I would not recommend calling her that.)
On that level the movie was very satisfying. It was also surprisingly touching, because it went somewhere important.
(Spoilers will follow.)
Mike got the scaring bug early. The kindness of the one scarer (and the cap) may have cemented his desire to work the scare floor someday, but he was gung ho before that, or he would not have ended up on the scare floor on the field trip.
It is worth noting that his enthusiasm and good nature did not make him at all popular. Maybe people found the constant focus on scaring tiresome, or him being little and maybe a little oblivious made him easy to marginalize, but he was underrated and under-appreciated, a true scare geek. And he was not at all scary.
If the power of positive thinking was solely sufficient, there would have been no stopping Mike, because no one was as relentlessly positive as him. It was kind of a blind spot, actually.
If hard work was enough, there would have been no stopping him. No one studied harder or trained harder. It was not enough to make him scary, but he helped other monsters be scary - other monsters who frankly seemed unlikely to ever succeed at scaring. He helped create a record breaking scream by creating all of the build-up, which he could do because he understood fright.
It was also not enough to keep him enrolled, but that didn't stop him either. He ended up working at Monsters Inc, he ended up on the scare floor as an assistant to the top scarer, and he then became an incredibly successful laugh-getter when the industry changed.
You may not be able to do everything you set your mind to. There may not be any level of work that is enough for that thing you want. But there is so much that is available. You can accomplish so much, and help so much, without maybe even having that in your sights. So do set goals, and be enthusiastic and kind. Don't give up at the first sign of resistance. But be ready to change too. Know that there is more than one good future.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Casting Fifty Shades of Grey

Well this is embarrassing; I've been spelling it "gray". Generally, for British versus American spellings, I prefer "e" to "a", but "o" to "ou". So they are using the one I like, but I do not appreciate it.
This post actually started as a joke, but then it caught hold in my brain, and I wanted to follow it to its logical absurd conclusion.
There was a lot of buzz on Twitter when casting was announced for the 50 Shades movie. I don't know whether it was an official announcement or a leak, but many people were unhappy, because that was not whom they had pictured and it was just wrong!
What they were not realizing is that it is quite possible that their favorites had turned down the roles. There would be plenty of good reasons for doing so. They could object to the subject matter, which I would totally get.
If their objection was more to the source material, not so much for content as literary quality or plot issues, that is also very reasonable. There is cause to believe you might not get a very good movie, and that can make people look like not very good actors or box office draws. People who are complete unknowns can't be picky, but if the movie wants to book a name, and the name believes they have a future, that's when you start being selective.
Now, if a bad movie is commercially successful, it could still be a career boost, but there are no guarantees here. Most of the articles I have read about the book listed the prevalence of e-readers as a factor in its success, because you could read it without anyone seeing you. People may be embarrassed to go to the theater. It might still do well with downloads or on-demand, but even the most successful direct-to-video feature is probably not the career boost that a moderately successful theatrical release would be.
If you are having trouble finding reliable box-office draws, going after television actors is a reasonable strategy, so Charlie Hunnam totally made sense. I guess that fell through, and Dakota Johnson has some credits but is still better known for her parents.
So, I have those flickering thoughts, like wondering if they asked Aaron Paul and Kristen Ritter, or someone who has died on Game of Thrones. Also, there is so much emphasis on tent-poles and cross-promotion now, is anyone working on that? Like maybe parties with catalogs of sheets, ties, and cuffs, like dirty Pampered Chef? Ultimately, where my mind went was that you need to go after people who say yes to everything, and my first thought was Samuel L Jackson and James Franco.
Okay, you are probably thinking that the ages and physical descriptions don't match, but doesn't it sound interesting to have a movie that is basically Samuel L Jackson spanking James Franco?
They may make questionable film choices at times, but in this case that is a plus, and as actors they both really go for it! I can see legitimate concerns about Jackson getting to into it and killing Franco, but that's what you have stunt coordinators for.
I believe Franco could play Ana as a girl, wholly committed to that, and he was recently a college student, so he could even be a little method. Jackson could really capture that controlling and damaged side of Christian.
It could work the other way too. I mean, Franco could play a rich sexual deviant who gets what he wants in his sleep, and Jackson might do interesting things with Ana, but I feel like the other way is a better fit. He's had Christina Ricci chained up, so he could build on that experience. Sometimes the obvious choice is the right choice.
And you still wouldn't have a movie that I would go see, but I bet it could still become a classic.
(No, I still haven't read the books. For more on my feelings about that, see and

Friday, October 25, 2013

Band Review: Dave Hause

This was almost a concert review. Dave Hause (rhymes with pause) played at Music Millennium Saturday, and I really wanted to go. However, that was the day we were taking Mom to the Evergreen Aviation Museum, and even then it could have worked out, but Maria had training so we couldn't leave until she got back. It was a good trip, and good that I was there. Family.
However, this is totally appropriate. I only learned that there even was a Dave Hause recently, and that was all from tweets by members of Alkaline Trio and The Gaslight Anthem, especially about the release of Devour. The first time I heard of Gaslight Anthem was the day of their sold out show, and with Alkaline Trio I think it was actually two weeks before their show, but that didn't help. Apparently this is the group of bands that requires more than one try, and they all know each other. One great show has been seen, so I believe that the others will work out. My next chance for Dave Hause is in February.
I thought about waiting until then to write about him, but the music had gotten under my skin, and I need to do it now. Let it be a sign of my hope for the future.
And that's ironic, because on the first listen there's not a great deal of hope in the lyrics. The first impression is one of disappointment, and mourning for all that has not come through. That's not to say that the music is disappointing - the music sounds great - but it sounds like it was built on the pain of everything wrong with the world.
Well, maybe it is only some of the things wrong with the world. Recurring themes are the legacy we carry from our parents, with the specific phrase "my father's son", and the assurances that we were given of bright futures, that were lies. Both come together on "The Great Depression" which is powerful and poignant.
I should specify that I spent more time listening to Devour; it was not all I listened to, but that's more where my head is. Listening to it took me back to Thomas Frank's book What's The Matter With Kansas. One thing that struck me about it at the time is that he mentioned all of his friends' fathers being big positive thinking men, and also all staunchly conservative.
I didn't understand that until later, but that adherence to the power of positive thinking does two things to you. One is that it allows you to have these great optimistic visions of how great things are going to be, and you can make it happen. "Eat your vitamins and say your prayers." Then, when it doesn't happen, the problem was clearly you. "Welcome to the great depression."
There is a lot of imagery of what has gone wrong, and an inevitability to the wrongness, and yet, it is not completely hopeless. It couldn't be, and have music that good. "We don't stutter when we sing." And you can move on, like in "Bricks", and actually there is a progression to the album where it becomes progressively hopeful.
It literally ends in "Benediction", where despite referring back to the "damned from the start" of "We Could Be Kings", still proclaims that "It's love my friend in the end that can save us tonight...Are you in?"
Initially I had remembered "Damascus" as being closer to the end, but it is actually the first track. "Take the scales off my eyes I'm trying to see." Maybe that is a necessary first step to the journey where you take a hard look at what is, and then you move on to what can be.
So I know this has jumped all over the place, and I have thrown in a lot of extra things, but that is kind of my point. There is a lot to this music. There is a lot to think about after you have listened, and then a lot to listen to again. There is a lot to connect to.
Just as an aside, I also like that the tracks on Resolutions were released in twos, with B-sides, and I like the simple design and the colors of the covers. That appears to have only been in vinyl, but it still means more songs.
There are links for purchasing through the main site, but music is also available through the usual suspects like Amazon, and I bet it's at Music Millennium.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Band Review: Defining Times

Today's band (and tomorrow's) did not come to me via the normal path of being followed by them on Twitter, but it was Twitter-related.
I started following band member Chase Kerby due to another person on Twitter, and her following him seems to have started with his previous band. It works out though, because I have enjoyed listening to them.
One fun thing about the band is their successful avoidance of picking a genre. Even bands that avoid choosing a genre everywhere else usually have something fairly accurate picked out for the Facebook About page. Defining Times did fill in the blank (it might be mandatory), but all it says is "Errthang". Clever, and not at all specific.
At some points they remind me of The Arcade Fire, but really they are pretty much their own thing. There may be a heavier classical music influence than with some bands, but they do not sound like classical music. I guess the most I can say is that they sound like themselves.
There is a somewhat otherworldly feel to them, but perhaps not so much going out into space as that they are operating on the fringes of the psyche. Feelings arise that are not so unfamiliar as to be alien, but there are depths and horizons that feel unexplored.
Songs can be listened to via Bandcamp, as well as purchased there. I cannot pick a song that is representative really. "Streets" was probably the first one that drew me in, with its rhythms, and I respond to it, but it doesn't tell you what the rest of the songs are like. I guess in that way, it kind of is representative.
Because of all of that, I feel like this is not a particularly helpful review. I will say that they are worth listening to, and I will throw out one other thing that may be in their favor.
A while back My Chemical Romance did an interview at the Grammy Museum with the executive director Bob Santelli. Something he relayed to them was that early on a friend had said he had this band (MCR), but he did not know what to do with them, and Santelli thought that was great, because then no one else is doing that yet.
So, it is not just that Defining Times is worth listening to now, but they may also have the potential to go really far.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Letting go

Picking up where we left off, not being in control is a big fear for a lot of people. They may fear a threat to their economic or social position, it may be a somewhat altruistic fear about the harm that will come to others, or it may be a gnawing fear that something that doesn't fit into their worldview will bring their world crumbling down.
I've known a few control freaks, and they are very unpleasant. They do get their way a lot, but there are still limits to what they can make happen. It doesn't look like they even enjoy what they do get that much, because there are always those things that persist in not being controlled, and what they do get is so much work.
I frequently refer to the people I have become connected to via Twitter, and my worries about them. This is very much an area where I am not in control. Even as I come to understand more about eating disorders and self-harm and related issues, a lot of that is learning how powerful and how insidious they are. These take deep root and they build in behaviors that protect the disorder. Even if they did not have these issues, they would still be teenagers, and have a retort for everything.
I cannot fix their problems. I also cannot be there every time there is a problem. I need to sleep sometimes, and to sometimes be off line. There have been times when that has been pretty stressful.
At the same time, I have learned that I don't need to be there all the time. If I miss a cry for help, I will often see that maybe four or five others have stepped in. There are lots of caring people out there, and that is good to know.
I have seen that even though I can't make them believe that their weight is fine, or that they do matter, or that things really will get better, I can plant seeds that may eventually grow into something. "Maybe" can be a powerful word. And I have seen that sometimes just a distraction can be enough for the moment, or that sometimes the thing you say actually hits home, and there is this strange sense of disbelief, but also relief, that something worked.
And, I have learned that even when nothing you say helps, that suicide attempts often fail, and you can get another chance. That sounds like cold comfort, and I don't want to talk about it too much, because I don't want to be the one who tells them how to be more effective. Still, when that happens, I will take it.
More than that, I will take my understanding that there is life after death, and that there is a plan in place where people can continue to learn and grow and that even after death that they can be healed. I take comfort in knowing that there is a progression, where if they do live they will gain maturity and perspective, and being miserable now does not mean they will always be that way. I take comfort in the many good and kind people out there.
There are a couple of other things that have been comforting to me too, and they may actually get more to the heart of the matter. About a year and a half ago, I was writing about music and other things, and I kept having this nagging and irrational thought of troubled kids. Well, I thought of them as teens with bad parents, and it isn't always that specifically, but teen angst was pressing on my mind despite a lack of any teenagers in my life. And then they came to me in droves; more than I could have possibly expected.
Also, at just about the time that they started coming to me, I was thinking about planning ahead, for Halloween and for my birthday party, and for my birthday party I felt moved to just invite everyone and accept chaos. It didn't end up being that chaotic really, but that feeling that it was important to not shut anyone out, and to not micromanage, but to let things happen, was strong.
I am being led. I don't know the twists and turns along the way, but I do get the preparation that I need in a timely manner, and I choose to stay open to that. The only thing I control is my own actions, but that doesn't mean that things are out of control.
And I can never doubt that any of it is important.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What the Pope said

Actually, the hardest part of this has been finding a succinct summation of what the Pope said. Everyone seems to have caught the gist of it, but finding one brief quote that gets everything pretty well-covered is not happening. Francis is not a pithy Pontiff.
Basically, he was applauded for saying that the obsession with abortion, homosexuality, and contraception needed to end, but then right after he reaffirmed the wrongness of abortion to doctors. Some were disappointed that he walked back so quickly, or bothered by the mixed message.
Recently with my own church, there were some complaints after our General Conference that they were sending mixed messages. I think the specific complaint that I saw was that one person said something about men not putting off having families to advance in their career, but that in another talk someone applauded women who focus on their families. The complaint was that you can't have both.
That is not a mixed message. That is a message to both men and women that family is more important than money and career. That should not be a surprising message to anyone who would have been watching the conference. Families are forever; of course they are more important. And it doesn't mean that making a living isn't important, or that making a living shouldn't be satisfying, but both speakers were referencing a clear and consistent priority.
Likewise, I do not believe the Pope was sending a mixed message. With the doctors, he said that the culture where life is disposable is wrong, and those unborn children have worth. That is completely true. It does not mean that abortion should be illegal.
I know I have covered how we should not be trying to impose our morality upon others before, and what are reasonable laws to make. However, I think I have focused on reasons why that works better for society, or for the person you want to change, or for God. (In all of those cases, coercion not being optimal was a factor.)
I will probably get back to those things at some point, because the problem doesn't seem to be going away, but I want to focus now on why force is bad for the enforcer.
If there is one thing my religion tells me over and over again, it is that I need to have charity. We love each other, we lose the divisions between each other, and that is Zion.
Obviously, if I am the one dividing us into two groups, me in Saints and you in Sinners, there is no charity and unity there. I am fooling myself that I am not a sinner, so there is pride there too. I know the pride part is wrong -- the scriptures are very clear on that. So my humility is gone, and my motivation to root out my own impurities.
I don't have the Spirit anymore. The fruit of the Spirit is "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith" -- well I am not feeling love and gentleness, because I am too busy being angry at people who dare to believe differently than I do, so that means that the comfort and guidance and assurance that the Holy Ghost brings is shut out.
Okay, that was referencing Galatians 5:22, but let's go to Moroni 8 for a moment, and verse 16, which tells us that perfect love casteth out all fear. It is very evident to me that turning off the love lets the fear creep in.
There is a meme going around complaining about the word "homophobia", because that implies fear and that the problem is not fear so much as that you're a jerk. (Yeah, they didn't use "jerk" in the original.) 
I think I disagree. I think for the most virulent homophobes, there is fear there. Homophobia correlates strongly with suppressed homosexuality, so a friend and I were talking that any time someone was having a big problem with homosexuality we should just say, "I'm sorry you're struggling with those feelings. I'm sure that's hard for you."
So, we would be kind of bratty in doing that, but on another level, maybe that is the most valid response. If the person really is afraid of what is inside, and troubled, as much as I agree that being a jerk is a poor response, I can empathize with fear. I can relate to not trusting yourself, or being worried about what will happen. I can care about that.
When you look at the abortion/contraception issue, it is easy to see those opposed to both as hypocritical, because greater access to contraception and education about it could really reduce the number of abortions. As they get more hysterical on justifying their opposition to both and defending rape culture, it is easy to get appalled and just write them off as misogynist troglodytes, but still, I think there is fear.
I believe there is fear of unfettered female sexuality. Granted, I believe in chastity, and so evangelizing that is one option, but that doesn't work with the double standard, where sex is only bad for girls, and also, that way you are still letting people choose, with all the possible horrible ramifications of that.
Well, it's true. People make bad choices all of the time, and sometimes that has bad results for the one making the choices, and sometimes bad results for others. I can give you an example of that right now. I have an article up about antibiotic resistant superbugs. I'm pretty careful about beef, in terms of where we buy it, and how often, but because there are factory farms where the cattle are dosed, the bacteria still get the opportunity to develop resistance.
(There is some room for appropriate legislation here, incidentally, though the people I am complaining about would probably disagree.)
It is possible that I or someone I love will die because of a superbug. There could even be a mass die-off. I can make good choices for health, but some things are out of my control. I believe in the Resurrection though. I believe families can be forever. I have comfort. I should still be making good choices, and working toward a better world, but I can handle the things that are out of my control because of the safety that my faith provides me.
If I am obsessing about your sins, I am narrowing my world down from an amazing universe full of grace and beauty to a petty fear and distrust of all around me.
I thought I saw somewhere, and I can't find it now, that the Pope's point was that you need to bring people to what the Church can offer, rather than automatically shutting them off from it. There is that, but also, we shut ourselves off from it if we obsess about what other people might be doing.
It doesn't mean that there is no such thing as sin, or that no one needs to change, but if the first thing they hear is a rejection, where are they going to find any motivation?
It seems so obvious to me that I get frustrated with people who get hung up on it, and then hung up on even stupider things, like the unpardonable sin of voting for the Democrats. However, I keep seeing more fear, and I care about that. Trying to exert control over others is contemptible, but fear gripping your throat because everything seems like it is spinning out of control is pitiable. I can work with that.
So tomorrow, we will talk about letting go.

Monday, October 21, 2013


I am reading a difficult book right now, so I will read a section, and then read in a different book, and working my way through gradually.
The book, Slavery By Another Name by Douglas Blackmon, is difficult for a few reasons. It is both verbally sophisticated and information dense, so there's that, but it is also difficult emotionally.
It tells about the re-enslavement of African Americans after the Civil War. People would swear out false charges, then pay the arrest and court fees, and have an indentured servant against whom you could easily bring charges when they were getting close to the end of their term. Getting sent to work on a farm was bad; getting sent to the mines was generally worse.
So, there is ugliness there, and it is discouraging that at just halfway through the book there are federal investigations and trials happening in 1903, but based on the introduction the practice isn't really going to stop until 1940.
(And, with privatized prisons getting occupancy guarantees, it seems to have just assumed a new form:
One thing that struck me was an increase in the death rates by year for one of the mines. It could be that as the operation grew, there were more people at risk of death, or that people had been there longer. After all, just because some people survived their first and second year does not mean that no damage was done.
My first thought, though, was that maybe the people in charge became more comfortable with the disposability of their victims. Do they really need that much food? Can't we drive them a little harder?
I will finish the book, probably later this week, and then I have a couple of other books to read before I start writing on that. The connected issue, and I have been thinking about it a lot lately, is how we get to where we can treat people like garbage.
This is where I am going to kick myself for not making it to see The Act of Killing, which interviews former Indonesian death squad leaders, but I kind of already know. When you consider someone inferior, it is easy to treat them badly. When you treat someone badly, it is easy to think less of them. The hate loop feeds on itself.
There were different factors at play of course. Money was a huge one. If I may reference Sinclair again, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." Increase that income, and the comprehension gap gets even wider.
And there were profit opportunities for a lot of people here. Before the war a slave cost hundreds of dollars. Under the new system, you could get a good one for about $70. I know that a focus on monetary gain corrupts people and hardens them. There are no surprises there.
I get mad at people who profit from the inequality built into the system, and the more gleeful they are about it, the madder I get. What really frustrates me though is the people who support them without any clear gain from it.
There does tend to be a gain in a feeling of superiority, but that is a pretty poor aspiration. Even if you call that a good gain, it tends to be off-set by all of the ills that go along with a system based on the abuse of others.
Obviously, what ticks me off the most is when it becomes a core part of someone's religious beliefs to look down on others. I feel like I keep harping on that, but maybe if I keep approaching it from different directions, it will hit different spots. So, I'll get back on it tomorrow.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Band Review: Fades Away

There were a few surprises in reviewing Fades Away. First, there were some very familiar faces. A quick check revealed that two of the members are also in Summertime Dropouts. This made me feel a little more invested, and I also suspect that this is how I got the follow. The Summertime Dropouts review was in April, and at any given time I have about a six-month supply of bands, so I'm thinking that's when Fades Away followed me, and now it is their turn.
The next thing that hit came in the lyrics of "Not Ready To Run":
When the levee breaks from the pressure,
All the waves come crashing down on top of everything you know.
The medication isn't helping,
How can I jump from this cliff not aware of what's lying below?
It struck me because of the Graeme Thomson book, I Shot a Man in Reno. Thomson spent a lot of time on how Hurricane Katrina in 2005 did not inspire anything equivalent to the Mississippi Flood of 1927, which inspired a song actually called "When the Levee Breaks."
At the time I did think that maybe one of his problems with not finding much helpful said about mortality was that he was listening to the wrong music, but hearing that specific phrase caught my ear, and then the lack of remedy, fear, and uncertainty of the next two lines related to many of the people that I worry about now.
Fades Away is a Christian band. I recently wrote (and it was in relation to the Thomson book) about how I tend not to care for religious music, despite being religious, and that maybe it was the overly assured tone that threw me off.
That is not a problem here. The other pleasant surprise was this line on their Noisetrade page:
"The album cover art and song “Perceptions” illustrate the concept that Christians open the door to darkness and become like Pharisees when they piously represent themselves as “better than” others. The ominous figure in the cover photo grasps his bible as he dwells in self-righteous condemnation of others."
People really don't remember the Pharisees enough, especially lately. The music of Fades Away does have faith, but it still represents pain and struggle and searching, and I do respond to it emotionally. There should always be this potential there, for spiritual depth to lead to meaningful songs, but it is often unrealized, which is a shame.
In that way, Fades Away provides a feeling similar to how I feel about Linkin Park. Their sounds aren't particularly similar - sound-wise Fades Away reminds me more of various core-related bands - but the yearning, and the empathy that I feel is similar.
I am sorry that I can't be more specific on how they fit in genre-wise. I haven't figured out how all of the various words that can be combined with "core" fit together yet. The band uses "rock" and "hard rock", and I think that's reasonable.
"Choir Of Failure" may be the showpiece of the Perceptions album. It has a somewhat epic feel, with symphonic touches and building drama. The band is guitar-driven, and they are strong at that, but they will use other instruments to get the right effect for a song. Listen to the delicate into of "Home" for an example of that. "Remnant" goes some pretty interesting places too.
Collectively there are several years of musical experience here, and it shows. Performances are top-notch.
Noisetrade provides links to iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, and eMusic for purchasing. That's pretty good.
I do need to make one criticism. On the Twitter profile, the main link they provide takes you straight to MySpace. They should definitely change that to the Facebook link, or get a Tumblr, or do something; anything other than MySpace. I feel strongly about that.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Band Review: Yves Jean

Yves Jean self-identifies as a mixture of alternative, pop rock, electronic, and world beat. I see that, but I was attracted by the strong island vibe that I heard, probably a result of Yves Jean's Haitian roots. (Yves Jean is the name of the band, and the lead singer, who is accompanied by Brandon Pryor on drums and Zach Braden on guitar.)
Sometimes the disparate elements combining seems a little overpowering to getting a clean sound. "The Sun" sounds messy to me. "Last Forever" is probably the most focused song, and it also works better because of that. "Oceans Apart" is a little uneven, but the chorus is uplifting and contagious, and makes that song my favorite.
One thing that I found interesting is the combination of optimism and pessimism that comes through in the songs. "We are oceans apart" but "there's got to be a way." "Good things we know will always end" but "you can make this last a little longer". No matter how logical giving up would be, they can't let hope go.
Currently music is available on iTunes, but he is recording a new EP, scheduled for release in 2014.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Halloween 2013

The lesson learned last year was that if I want to go really crazy with Halloween decorations, I need to plan pretty far in advance. I knew that, and found that I was not drawn that way this year.
Part of this may be that I will not be home on Halloween night. I am going to a concert: AFI at Roseland, with Touche Amore opening. I may see some trick-or-treaters, because I will still work a normal day, and have dinner with my family (I am planning on making mummy-style wiener wraps) but I imagine most of them will come after I have already left for the show.
I will still be responsible for some coolness there. When I was writing up the International Comic Arts Forum, I was thinking about how I want comics enjoyment to spread, and considered that maybe Halloween giveaways would be an answer. Well, shortly after posting that, Things From Another World sent out an e-mail about mini-comics bundles for Halloween. I ordered one bundle each of My Lil Pony, Itty Bitty Hellboy, and Adventure Time.
Because of this, I have four large pumpkins, and they will be carved into Finn, Jake, Hellboy, and, well, if I only do the head, I'm not sure that you will be able to tell which pony it is, since the hindquarters seem to be the most significant aspect in differentiation. Color matters too, but this one is going to be orange. The internet suggests Ocean Dreamer and Seascape for that. I have not previously strongly associated the color orange with maritime themes. Clearly I am not a Pegasister.
Also, we got a new skeletal flamingo for the yard!
So, there is some decoration, but not overly elaborate, and there is, as there always must be, pumpkin carving. Also, I want to try and make Halloween truffles, because it occurred to me that if I take the usual recipe, but roll them in orange sugar crystals instead of chocolate sprinkles, that could be cool. And, if there is a costume, it will merely be trying to fit in to the concert crowd better than my usual look, probably meaning wearing more black.
If there isn't the need to be really creative with lots of decor and costuming and crafts (I will still not get that bowl finished this year either), I think it's because I am getting a lot of creativity out. I really hit a bad spell and relapsed on some things, so I am not at the productivity level that I want to be, but I am still writing more and drawing more, which I needed, and it feels good. When I want to do stuff, I want to do more of that.
Right now I am going through old screenplays and getting every single one up on Amazon. There will be more about that. I want to get them done pretty quickly. Remember, last time I finished a big project and went to a concert around Halloween, I had the dream that started my next screenplay and book. So, I want to clear the slate, and be ready.
There are two carryovers from last year. I do have a Twitter costume. I am currently being Gorgon Harris. I put up Sulky Grebe, and then it just wasn't scary enough.
The other is that I will be posting more Halloween songs. I decided that I wanted to do a Misfits week though, so that starts tomorrow, and I will post the songs on Twitter and Facebook. I'm sure there will be a follow-up post.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Reasons you might not want the government shut down

Once upon a time, I saw a documentary, The Corporation. They worked up the psychological profiles of corporations, and found that they were psychopaths. It made a lot of sense.
That probably sounds pretty harsh, but the point was that when you set up a corporation, it's sole purpose becomes to produce profit. When you have a person at the head of a company, they will want to make profit as well, but their humanity may still play a role in their decision making. Corporations are structured in a manner to reduce the human factor.
I have written before about how after reading a few Ann Rule books, I was stuck by how common it was for these cold-blooded killers to be so acquisitive, and then I realized I probably had it backwards. Their greed gave them motivation to turn off their consciences. Maybe they did not have much to shut down in the first place, but the data seems to indicate that it's even easier for a company to get there. So, when the Supreme Court or Mitt Romney tell you that corporations are people, it somehow becomes even more chilling.
Now, much of what conservatives promote for the economy is moving towards privatization, and that the free market will resolve everything. The problem is that private industry basically wants to make money, and government needs to accomplish things. Government may have goals that are based on concerns other than economic. Beyond that, the total economic good will not always align perfectly with a single company's maximized profit.
For example, The Jungle (from what I've read) is a pretty socialist book, but even people who hated socialists felt like maybe the meat-packing industry did need some reform, because hey, I'm eating that. Eventually, and with some resistance, you get the Food and Drug Administration. Yes, keeping unwanted things out of the food costs some extra money, so companies would not necessarily volunteer to do it, but you make it a law and give some teeth to enforcement, and it works out.
It is probably just a coincidence that about the time that the government shutdown pulled funding from the FDA, which suspends regular testing, that there was a large salmonella outbreak, because after all that one seems to go back to March, but still, it would not be at all surprising to see other outbreaks, because that's just how it goes. There are areas where government regulation of business is important.
The government has an interest and a responsibility to keep the armed forces fed. With good bargaining and oversight, you might be able to do that well through a contractor, but disdaining the involvement and government leads to things like Halliburton not delivering food, or Supreme Group over-billing. This is profitable for those companies, but it did not serve the interests of the armed forces or the country, and was probably not beneficial to the economy overall, or at least not more beneficial than a scam-free process would have been.
Thomas Frank's excellent book The Wrecking Crew argues that this is actually the point of conservative policies, and not a bad side effect. Looking at what is happening right now, it's hard to argue.
It's reasonable to worry about government overreach, but going in the opposite direction to full-on contempt for the government doesn't work that well either. I do believe it requires an informed and engaged citizenry, and again, the conservative movement is not giving us that. But then, you could argue that based on their bent for construction, it is long past due to stop calling them conservatives.

Monday, October 14, 2013


I suspect it's pretty clear where I stand on the showdown over health care, the government shutdown, and the looming debt ceiling.
I support the president not negotiating on defunding a law that that made it through Congress and the Supreme Court and which several repeal votes failed on, because that is supporting the democratic system. If he gives in at this point, then popular support and the procedures spelled out in the Constitution no longer matter, and the terrorists will have won.
The shutdown and the debt ceiling are concerns, but I suspect things will work out. One thing that is especially appalling is the heroism some of the obstructionists are willing to take credit for. I can see why it's more appealing than admitting you are throwing the congressional equivalent of a tantrum, but I still favor a closer relationship with reality. Anyway, it got me thinking about when such behavior would be acceptable.
To look further into this, I am going to take a quote from George Will:
"I hear Democrats say, ‘The Affordable Care Act is the law,’ as though we’re supposed to genuflect at that sunburst of insight and move on. Well, the Fugitive Slave Act was the law, separate but equal was the law, lots of things are the law and then we change them."
Okay, there is kind of a fair point in here. The Fugitive Slave Act was law, enacted by Congress. "Separate but equal" covered many laws, but was shored up by a Supreme Court Case, Plessy v. Ferguson. They were both bad things. So, if you have the opportunity to go against the popular will to strike these laws down, do you?
It's not necessarily an easy question. I think looking at the value of keeping the government running needs to be a separate post, but for now let's agree that it is a major thing, that affects many people negatively.
Knowing that, I already think that I would not do it for the Fugitive Slave Act, because in that case the real problem is slavery. If you strike down that law, but still allow slavery, you have gained some good but left a lot of bad, and so maybe it's not worth scorching the earth, which you should never do lightly.
What about "Separate But Equal"? I might lean more towards that one. It was an insidious policy, and perpetuated many ills. Of course, with it relating to a Supreme Court decision rather than a law that passed, that gets trickier for how to fix. There were probably many things other than pure obstruction that could have been tried, and maybe enough people cared to do it.
Personally, I don't like disruption. Think of "You lie" during the State of the Union address. Really, he was just being a jerk. It was rude, it didn't change anything, and the refusal to give even the most basic respect to those you disagree with is a large part of what is wrong with society and government.
Also, it tends to be ineffective. Those tactics tend to reinforce alignments rather than bringing anyone over, so all you do is increase bad feelings, which is the last thing needed now.
There are certainly times when the minority has a moral imperative over the majority, and that is very much the case for those who worked against slavery and for Civil Rights. I guess that is why the keep bringing up the examples that they do, but really, there is no equivalence between increasing access to health care and the Holocaust.
The voice of the people has its flaws, because people have flaws, but it's still not something to be taken lightly. It is amazing how little awareness some show of the irony of their actions. To quit picking on legislators for a moment, I am going to provide this example:
If that was successful, it would have made life much worse for a lot of people, so I'm glad the turnout was low, but also, one of the demands of "Truckers Ride for the Constitution" was that President Obama resign. You know, because the person who was elected, based on popular and electoral vote, twice, should step down because of a bunch of truckers who apparently have nothing better to do.
I hate to be difficult based on technicalities, but that kind of sounds against the anti-constitutional, a little. And again, this is something that mainly results in increasing bad feelings, because nothing significant happened on a federal level, but I do find myself wanting to end every sentence with "You half-wits!"
I do not rule out that there may be times when I will go outside the normal processes, but I think there will need to be some criteria in place. The issue will need to be important enough that the inconvenience it causes you will have value, even to you. It will need to be the only option possible. It will need to not be based on my own stupid narcissism.
I don't think that comes up very much.