Friday, December 30, 2016

Band Review: Hidden Hospitals

Hidden Hospitals is a Chicago rock band.

I have a hard time thinking of similar bands. At times they remind me a little of Taking Back Sunday. Hidden Hospitals has toured with The Used, who have also toured with Taking Back Sunday, so maybe that gives an idea.

While they just released their first album, Surface Tension, last year, they have had two EPs previously.

I am most drawn to EP 001, from 2011. Distortion is used effectively, giving the songs an emotional heft. I like the sequence of "One to Ones" and "Controlled Chaos" there.

It's not that I don't hear those same elements on the album (the intro on the second track, "Rose Hips", really caught my ear), but there is enough of an emotional component to how we connect to music that it is not always predictable (or logical).

On a philosophical level I appreciate the band's biography, though it really reads as more of a definition for Hidden Hospitals:

“Places revealed to those seeking resuscitation, rejuvenation, decompression, atonement.”

It is hopeful to believe that healing spots are available when needed, and can be found. I think many people can connect to that.

So a good place to start is probably "Rose Hips", the second track on the album. There is a video, it is probably the emotional powerhouse of the album, and the guitars on it are pretty good.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Band Review: Rick Rocker

I found a disconnect with Rick Rocker. The name sounds cheesy, as if it's meant for a parody of an '80s DJ. The page statements about instant anthems seems to continue with that.

That led me to go in with lowered expectations, but I found the music enjoyable, sincere, and in the case of "Into Your Arms" absolutely beautiful. The guitar is pretty well-executed too, especially on "Lady In Red".

Music videos have a little bit of that cheese as well - "Say What I Say" gives us a day of frolicking at Coney Island and more cowbell - but they appear to come from an honestly good-hearted person who is good at music.

Rocker has lived in New York City all of his life, so maybe the positivity is his way of rebelling. I think what he is doing works.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Perilous times

I don't always remember how a book gets added to either a specific reading list or to my general reading list, but I know with this one.

The Vertigo Years: Europe 1900-1914, by Philipp Blom

I had seen an article mentioning the book. This was in 2013, and the book was published in 2008, so I don't think it was a regular review. However, there must have been buzz about it for some reason. I know because I was out with my sisters and a friend of theirs and the friend was talking about the time period, and how it felt like everything was on the edge of disaster.

That caused me to go back and find the article, both to send her a link to it and to find the name of the book to look into it myself. Then it was kind of a disappointment.

My former government teacher gave it a really good review, and I respect that. Part of my feeling was that it didn't really connect the dots and make a case for itself. As it covered various changes that were going on in society, they all felt separate, and I don't think they were. However, I also felt like I needed to know more about some of the topics, so maybe if you are already well-informed on this time period, then this book ties it together really nicely.

It is also possible that I was caught up so much in individual issues and problems that a focus on the zeitgeist was not what I was looking for. (Though I still feel the zeitgeist is precisely what was not captured. Maybe there were too many changes for there to have been one.)

I don't rule out learning more things and then going back to this book. That could end up being very helpful.

And I cannot rule out us currently being on the brink of terrible things either. Perhaps the book will resonate more now.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Field study

Right now I appear to be choosing the books that did not seem to relate to the key topic at the time I was reading them, but they have other purposes.

Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children, by Michael G. Thompson, Lawrence J. Cohen, and Catherine O'Neill Grace

While there were some chapters on older children and peer pressure, a lot of the book focused more on early childhood development. I was not having much contact with children at the time.

That changed as I got called into nursery. I am in junior nursery. That is technically supposed to be 18 - 24 months, but because there were so many children in the senior nursery (2 years old to 3 years) I got to spend more time with many of the children.

This is such a rich developmental age. They are learning to play, and they can be at the stage where they start forming friendships, but they aren't necessarily. Sometimes this results in side-by-side play, and sometimes the preferred method of interaction is snatching toys from someone else. And sometimes it is selecting a toy, bringing it to me, and repeating.

Not everything that I observed came from this book. Sometimes there were things that people I know had mentioned about their children. That stage where little boys always have their hands down their pants? Psychology 101. (I am not a Freudian, but he did observe real things.)

There are personalities that emerge, but there are also phases that are not a part of the personality. This one will get over hitting people. That one may not stop being bossy any time soon.

One girl initially wanted to spend a lot of time cuddling, but it gradually became less and less as she would play more. She would still run back sometimes to recharge. She had cuddling relapse the day we had extra children and extra noise. I realized that I was providing a sense of security so that she could feel safe to go out into the world. If there was ever a time when I wondered if what I was doing was important, that settled it.

One thing that I knew and was reminded of was how much parents worry. Yes, some are worse, but worrying is still pretty normal. And one thing that was in the book, but that is also observable, is that a lot of the worry is unnecessary. A lot of these things are really very normal, and they end.

Of course, I never expected a year where there has been such sharp veering from normal; I may end up becoming more pessimistic. But if there are things where I can know that it is okay, and channel my energies elsewhere, I will take that.

Monday, December 26, 2016


I think I am going to try and blow through some of the books from the Long Reading List this week.

Behind the Mask: Adolescents in Hiding, by Dennis Rozema.

This book was not as good as some of them. It resonated because there are many quotes from teenagers that sounded like my teenagers. That's probably the issue right there; I knew it was for some people, but it was not for me.

If I had read it when I was in high school - when I had put up those walls and they hadn't started getting any cracks yet - well, I might not have accepted it anyway. As it was, I read it in 2013, after I had spent years of becoming more open, first in conversation and then via the blog. I don't have much left in the way of disguise. That's intentional, and it sounds scarier than it is, because maintaining the facade is no fun.

I did appreciate that the book had assignments. None of them ended up being particularly relevant for me - that happened with a different book - but for its target group they were probably good exercises.

I'm thinking about that now for two reasons. That starts with an awareness of the practical side of my progress. Yes, writing about everything so much has played a role, and the reading, and those have been assignments in themselves. Beyond that, the things that put it into practice make everything so much more concrete. Taking selfies, and trying to dress up, and forcing myself into social situations, and all of these tasks that I have given myself matter. They translate the cerebral into the tangible. The body doesn't automatically follow the mind but you can make it happen.

The other reason I am thinking about it is the question of what I would recommend. When I see people going through issues that I at least partially relate too, despite our differences, well, what would be a good map? If I were to write a book, what would be in the book? This has been a pretty messy process, and it's available on the blog, but that could take a lot of digging.

It could be fair to say "Think about the thing you would most like to change about yourself, and then think about a step you can take in that direction." People should be able to get some ideas from that, and surely some of the ideas would be good ones, but there are probably more effective paths.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Band Review: Duncan Hendy

Duncan Hendy is a composer and does soundtracks.

Soundtrack compositions can be difficult to review. Separate from the work it accompanied, you cannot assess how well it supported the work. Because it was written to complement and not distract, it may not stand apart well.

Within this context vacuum, there are some very modern and abstract sounds that art rock fans could enjoy, especially on "Persistence of Sound and Vision". Whovians may appreciate "Tempus Atque Relativae Dimensiones in Spatio". Those references to time form an acronym, and faint echoes of "Tomorrow" within the piece seemed clever and appropriate.

The most memorable piece for me was "Silent Sirens", which created a nice tension that seemed appropriate for the title.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Band Review: Season of Ghosts

Season of Ghosts does its music on a grand scale.

The band is driven by singer Sophia Aslanides, formerly of Blood Stain Child. Sophia keeps in touch with her metal roots, but accompanied by orchestras and synthesizers and done at higher octaves, Season of Ghosts is not metal. They self-describe as intergalactic.

Looking at recent bands reviewed, Season of Ghosts seems like the natural result of combining Orisonata with Samantha Scarlette. There are gothic elements combined with cuteness, but the incorporation of mythic themes and push of large sound sets everything on a grander scale.

(Also, there is not the morbidity that would make sense with Goth.)

One frequent shortcoming for these types of projects is that songs may run together and not be easily distinguishable from one another, even though there is a sense of beauty with the individual tracks. As it was, the one that stuck in my mind the most was the instrumental, "There and Back Again", simply because the lack of vocals made it different.

That being said, there is a performance video of their song "Dream; Paralysis" available if you want to get an idea of what they would be like in concert:

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Seeing and hearing each other

I want to go back to that Cracked article I posted earlier:

David Wong makes a lot of good points, and there is room to expand on the reasons, but what is missing is the female perspective.

This makes sense based on the article, its purpose, and conception. When he acknowledges what he once thought women thought, it is clear he is not saying that we think like that. It would probably be overly presumptuous for him to speculate now, but I am still struck by the difference between the perception and the reality.

This is what the author wrote that he would have said at 20, which should have been around the mid-90s if I am understanding correctly:

"In this modern world, the quality of a woman's life is overwhelmingly dependent on what kind of man she can attract -- a woman married to a capable man is simply going to have a higher standard of living, period. Her self-worth is thus based largely on how desirable she is to men, and on how many men are pursuing her at any given moment. The need for more suitors is due to the law of supply and demand. It is to her advantage to create competition by tempting as many men as possible, then making it difficult for any single one to gain her attention.

Thus, women gain power through rejecting men, and those rejections have nothing to do with how they truly feel."

The first sentence has more truth than it should. Woman do not receive the same level of compensation as men, regardless of their skills, abilities, and labor.

That should be an indictment of society, but it ends up being something that makes a woman more likely to be a trophy. Just that her financial worth is seen as less supports the belief system that women don't deserve as much. Prejudices are good at self-enforcing cycles.

" Her self-worth is thus based largely on how desirable she is to men..."

Yeah, that has been pretty true, though not necessarily the way he thought. I grew up feeling like it was practically a duty for a women to be attractive. I'm not sure that it even occurred to me that it was for the purpose of attracting men - it was just something you needed to do, and I couldn't do it.

It took a while to begin to see it, but over time I found it really hard to find any women who felt like they were pretty enough. Some of the most beautiful women I have seen have never felt it. Okay, tastes vary, and maybe there would be others that would be more generally regarded as beautiful, but it is amazing how aware of their flaws they are. Girls who seemed so popular and confident worried about things that never would have occurred to me about them. Advertising certainly knows that there is always something else that you need.

Many women do work very hard at being attractive, but it is not so much scheming to attract more men as it is giving in to pressures to look a certain way and be a certain way just to be good enough to avoid mockery. Present the right style to be worth something!

There may be a potential power rush in rejecting men, but a lot of women find it terrifying. They have good reason for that. Women get verbally abused and beaten and killed for that. There are always moments when you realize how vulnerable you are, and how little your desires matter to the other person.

I did not get asked out a lot, so there weren't a lot of opportunities to reject, but I can look back now and see times when what I thought of as teasing could have been flirting. For example, one guy once made a polygamy joke: I could be his third wife but he would have to be my first husband - stupid joke, or also an expression of interest?

If someone was interested and I stayed closed off, I suppose that could have felt like rejection. If so, I guarantee it was never about power. I never saw myself as desirable and it was too humiliating to risk any openness or vulnerability.

So when the author says that he never forced himself on a girl because he would have to lose weight or make the football team to do that, well, you can and should note the problems with that mindset, but I can also take a moment to appreciate that in this toxic culture it is not just the girls and women who are made to feel like they are less. It's not good for anyone.

I do have one story about being hit on. I met Chris through a good friend, from whom he got my number. He called and was asking me questions that were leading to sex, which I explained was something that I felt belonged inside of marriage, thus killing all of his interest in me. The next day I asked my friend about this creep, and what I had not realized the day before was that they were going steady, but now they weren't. She had similar views on chastity, so he clearly started off in the wrong area, but he just kept asking girl after girl until he found a girlfriend, and they stayed together at least through the year.

I don't necessarily think of this as a happy story, because I have to wonder about the self-esteem of the girl who chose that pimple-faced horn dog and the presumed teen sex that resulted. Despite that, when you told Chris "no" he backed off. He didn't stalk you, he didn't try and wear you down or make you feel guilty, and he didn't try and use physical force - he just moved on to the next girl.

His hitting on me while dating my friend does not seem like the act of a respectful person, and his preoccupation with sex certainly seems like he might be the objectifying type, but at least he was capable of hearing and believing "No". 

Bless him for that.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Why I never saw the movie

CN: rape

Yesterday's post concerned fairly trivial things, so when I identify male entitlement to women as a problem, that might seem like a stretch. So a girl gets kissed when she doesn't want it? Big deal!

We could argue over the size of that particular deal, but it comes up in other ways too. Yesterday, about the same time I tweeted out that day's blog, someone else was tweeting about a bar he knew being closed due to a fatal shooting. One guy was hitting on a woman, ignoring her rejection, and when another guy tried to back her up, the first guy shot him.

Comments were interesting. One person said it doesn't pay to get involved; just let women handle their own rejections. Of course, women get shot in a lot of those circumstances too. Sometimes it takes a surprisingly long time for any charges to be filed. How does that make sense if we believe women have the right of refusal?

There are a lot of directions we could go with that, but right now I want to talk about Nate Parker.

The release of Parker's film The Birth of a Nation was overshadowed by learning that he and his writing partner, Jean McGianni Celestin, had been tried for rape. Celestin was convicted and served some time. Parker was acquitted. The main difference appears to have been that Parker had previously had sex with the victim and Celestin hadn't.

When it was discovered that the victim had committed suicide, there were some expressions of regret, especially at the beginning, but Parker eventually became more frustrated, saying he was falsely accused and proven innocent.

It is possible that on one level he believes that. The jury appears to have believed that the woman's willingness to have sex with him one time vindicated him, and he could easily believe that. I have not read anything about him saying that Celestin should not have been convicted, but their continued association and collaboration may indicate that. Maybe the jury's disagreement was on whether Parker's continued right to sexual access included the right to bring a friend.

I was interested in the movie upon first learning of it but not sure if I would see it, wondering if the importance of the content made it worth seeing the violence that would be depicted. Then, learning of the rape, the question was whether it was more important to support a Black filmmaker or to not support a rapist. Those questions always wait for an answer until I see some reviews.

It quickly became apparent that I was not going to see it - that what was done with the material did not justify seeing it. I can't find the article that was most influential on me now, but here are two that cover some of the key issues.

It feels ironic that these two rapists made their characters' main motivation avenging rape, but if women are your property maybe it makes sense.

It is not surprising to me that they do not give fair representation or agency to the women in the film. That makes perfect sense.

I know I'm going long, and there is some awkward bluntness, and this is not a pleasant topic, here so close to Christmas, but it is a religious holiday coming up, so let me be a little religious.

In my church we go over the steps of repentance pretty regularly, which starts with recognition. You have to know that you did something wrong. There will be remorse where you feel sorrow for that sin, and then you will ask God for forgiveness. Also, you need to do restitution if possible, and turn from your sin, never doing it again.

I have criticized non-apologies before - "I am sorry if I offended anyone" - because it is not really acknowledging that something hurtful or damaging or wrong was done.

Looking at Parker, I see more how it holds him back. This should have been a great film. There are some decent historical sources for inspiration, there are current social ills that make it timely, and this nation needs to deal with its past. But Parker hasn't dealt with his. It holds back his art. It holds back his growth as a person.

What he should have said could have been something like this.

"At that time my friends and I were preoccupied with sex. It didn't just feel good; it felt like victory. In that pursuit, we did not think about the feelings or needs of the women around us. We did not intend to cause pain, but we did not care enough to think about whether we were. We only thought about ourselves and we caused irreparable harm. We were not unusual in those feelings, as shown by my acquittal, but they were wrong, and we were wrong."

That is a hard thing to say. It's hard to admit you did something criminal. It's hard to admit you did something ugly. It's hard to believe you did something cruel when you didn't feel cruel.

It's just needed. We spend too much time dehumanizing other people so we can get our way over them and not feel guilty about it. Something better starts with looking around and recognizing the humanity all around us, one person at a time.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Consent again, plus mistletoe!

Sometimes, around this time of year, my mind goes back to what is possibly the angriest I have ever made anyone not in my immediate family.

It was 1996. I think Toy Story was just coming out on home video, and there were a lot of commercials for it. (That is relevant.)

It happened at a church Christmas party. This was a singles ward, which is also relevant.

I saw a guy sneaking up behind my friend Elizabeth with mistletoe. I called out a warning, allowing her to duck away and thwarting the kiss.

Ironically, I like the idea of mistletoe. I have worn it in my hair before, not that it led to any kissing. That's the thing, though, I would never have used it to force a kiss on anyone. Having a form of encouragement around for people who might be inclined to kissing is cute and fun. Using it to get past a lack of inclination is gross.

In this case, I knew Liz had not had her first kiss (it is not at all unusual to have Mormon girls in their 20s who haven't kissed yet; we must not date right) and that was not how she would want her first one to happen.

That was not just because of Liz, although she was very grateful. I had a friend in junior high who had her first kiss taken from her by Travis, and he was gross.

I feel bad labeling another human being "gross", but as 13 year old girls, that was how we felt. He had horrible acne, which I had heard at least one funny but not nice joke about. He was socially awkward - possibly not neurotypical, but you can still respect boundaries and he didn't. It seems like every school had one guy like him; there is always someone gross who obsesses about kissing the girls.

So one day she was on her way into school and he just goes up to her and kisses her on the lips. There was no warning, no invitation, and his technique was like a goldfish. We tried consoling her that there would still be the first time that she kissed someone. Then it would be her choice, and it would be good, but it simply shouldn't have happened. I wasn't going to let it happen to someone else.

This guy was also a type I have met many times. He was recently out of the military, very brash and enthusiastic, but not as endearing as it could have been, mainly because he thought he was so much smarter than he actually was. He looked like he felt super-clever on his approach, and then he looked really mad at her escape.

I don't remember how mad he got because of that moment, but because of how much he held onto it. For weeks after that, I was his enemy. There were glares, and I could not say something good about someone or be complimented in his hearing without some kind of derision.

That's where Toy Story comes in. In the commercial it showed Mr. Potato Head removing his lips to kiss his butt, as a sign for sucking up (I believe because of Slinky Dog's expression of faith in Woody). This guy made a clumsy allusion to that, but he did it to a really nice and caring person where she did not get what he was going for. Then he had to be more specific, and she was like "Gina is a really good person and you can't really know her if you're saying that."

That is probably one reason why this was not traumatic for me. I don't love having people holding grudges against me, but it was clear that this couldn't damage me, and anyway, sisters before misters.

It still made an impression because it seemed so disproportionate. Don't sneak kisses on people, don't force kisses on people - you do not have the right.

But maybe that's the problem; on one level he thought he should have the right. Maybe he knew he didn't, but he didn't want to think about that.

It seems possible that my interference was more offensive to him because I was not a girl he wanted to kiss. I do occasionally hear accusations of ugly girls being jealous and trying to sabotage guys with pretty girls. I guess that could happen, but that's not what was going on there.

If it's part of that mindset where men want to acquire women, where there is a sense of property, and there is some contest involved, well, then I guess that could make my interference an assault on his masculinity - perhaps even a worse one symbolically if the penalty for insufficient masculinity is getting stuck with an ugly girl.

That sounds pretty gross, so I would hope it wasn't that, but if not it was a really outsized grudge.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Band Review: Ray Toro

I have one complaint about the Ray Toro's solo debut, Remember the Laughter; "Isn't That Something" is too short.

It's not ridiculously short, clocking in at 3:04, but it feels like going a little bit longer would move me from thinking about getting up and dancing around to actually doing that. While there are ways in which that would be totally inconvenient, it's still very appealing.

As it is, the track probably works better with the overall feel of the album, which is more reflective. In interviews Toro has referred to looking at old photographs. That is exactly how listening feels: there is nostalgia, and bittersweet loss, and there is hope because there is so much love.

There is a series of five short, non-musical tracks scattered throughout that increases the overall effect of going back through memories. Emotional recollections dominate, but some memories come almost as flashbacks - with an image or sound or smell that moment has crystallized around. Together they create a very moving work.

It may also be the most surprising of the post-My Chemical Romance solo projects. We all know that Ray can do blistering guitar. There is very little of that here, but why should there be? We already knew about that, and he can do so much more.

That is why I am not complaining about the omission of "For The Lost and Brave", released shortly after the death of Leelah Alcorn. There is a unity of sound and feeling to the album and this song would not fit in with it, so the choices made were reasonable. But it should still be heard, and can be:

That link goes directly to that song, but the full Soundcloud page, in addition to the album tracks, has some other demos, including a demo for "Isn't That Something", which is promising, but not as good as the final version. That is interesting to check out as well.

Ray Toro is one of the greatest guitarists out there, but he is more than that, too, and it is good to hear.

Remember the Laughter is available through iTunes:

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Band Review: Steven Battelle

Steven Battelle, recently of LostAlone, is a singer, musician, and songwriter who released his first solo album, Exit Brain Left,  this year. I am reviewing him after he was recommended by Ray Toro.

Initially my favorite track was "Steven Battelle", with its captivating beat and almost island feel. It was the first time I had seen a musician have a song with their own name, but LostAlone did have an eponymous song as well.

Things started coming together when I found the lyrics. Referencing fear, and enduring despite it, having the music sound so optimistic makes the song a celebration of life. Having it named after Battelle himself makes it deeply personal. This is his triumph.

Except it is only track 3. It comes after "Powers of Denial" and "The Jump", but then there is still much to come, with the final track being "I'm Still Finding out Who I'm Going to Be".

That's more realistic. As freeing as it can be to move forward in one part of your life (like spending time as a solo artist), and as much as there are moments of euphoria along the way, then there are new challenges, and new needs to silence doubts and gather courage. As much as you learn who you are, there can be many facets of that identity left to explore.

That resonated with me personally. I don't claim a perfect understanding - I don't even want to speculate about how "A Christmas Cartel" fits in - but it makes me want to wish Battelle well on his journey. Given that, it feels like this could be a good album for people working on self-discovery or pondering life changes.

For LostAlone fans, you will probably find the album more experimental (and in some ways more intimate) than the band working together, but for all of their tracks with musical layers building together in majestic strength, they had a lot of songs that explored different types of sound as well.

"Steven Battelle" is still a favorite, but "Nine Miles of Light" has a similar feeling of inspiration, "The Ocean Chorus" has a kind of dreamy beauty, and I think you will enjoy the hard guitar in "Last Night on Earth".

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


I talk to the same friend from yesterday pretty regularly. Recently we were talking about me learning to drive again, with her offering to help. One thing I have learned, which she confirmed, is that horrible discomfort and fear I felt then is normal, where most people still feel that way until a while after they have their license.

I know that now, but then I thought it was something wrong with me, and I said it was always easy for me to think that I was worse than everyone else. She said that was odd, because there are very few things I do worse than other people.

I know what she meant. I am competent in a lot of ways. Maybe I over-analyze, but I do figure things out that way. I still feel like there are things wrong with me that are not wrong with everyone else.

It does go back to that time. Why was I the one they picked on out of everyone else available? Was I the only one that would be a total joke? That's what it felt like. I am not impressed by the theory that the secretly wanted me, but it does seem feasible that the insecure base I was built on drew them to me. The last time I was groped, I was having a really insecure night; perhaps predators sense weakness.

If that insecurity that I carried into grade school and junior high with me made me a more attractive target, it also made it take a heavier toll. I don't think we should need extra reasons to be kind, or to not go out of our way to be cruel, but okay, here is one: You don't know the background against which your victim is hearing that "teasing".

What I heard was that I could never be loved, and it was against the background of being fat. In one way it was like the playground attack before - I did not understand that accepting abuse for a place in the circle was an option; I thought I was just out. It was different in that I was able to open myself up to friendship again. Romantically, I couldn't.

I don't know if that's because I was older, or I simply got lucky with friendship. It may just be that I handled the later event wrong. I compartmentalized in a big way. I cut off the romantic part of myself, and taking away the impossible part allowed me to function in other ways.

I'm not saying I did a great job of it. I would have stormy weekends about twice a year where I would just hate my family for not being there for me, or even really loving me. There were ways in which they could have been more supportive, but this was not their problem. I was a lot less open and trusting (which, incidentally, can make it hard for other people to know that their support is needed or how it is needed).

And I still liked boys all the time. But they couldn't like me back, so I couldn't like them that way. I became a very helpful person, assisting with homework and volunteering to decorate for dances and managing sports teams. It was gratifying, but I wasn't letting myself be a full person. It would have been perfectly normal to like boys, if I could have been a normal and acceptable girl. I was so sure I wasn't.

I am not completely sure now. Sometimes there were things that happened that were kind of like flirting, but it had to be just teasing, because no boy would ever see me that way. No boy actually asked me out, anyway. Maybe the sturdy walls were a problem, but there seemed to be plenty of corroboration that I was pathologically unattractive. So even when I was in love, I didn't say it.

That seemed like the only viable option. When I did let my guard down, thinking that I could love someone who could love me back, and finding out that I was horribly, horribly wrong, the only thing I wanted for six months was death. That I could have years ahead of that kind of emptiness and loneliness felt unbearable.

Except that I eventually pulled out of that, and I gained a greater perspective on what I had been doing wrong, and how I had let people I didn't even like define me. It was a step in healing.

So maybe if at some point I had taken a chance, and told Mike or O.B. "I love you", maybe they would have broken my heart, but maybe I would have healed then, and moved on, and become a normal relationship having person.

It seems equally possible that if I had entered a relationship at some point I would have been overly clingy or defensive or hurt him with sarcasm or done something else wrong, but then maybe I would have been less wrong the next time. I don't know; I only have now.

But the one thing that is very clear now is that if I want to be cherished - if when I am listening to myself and asking for what I need and that's the word that comes to mind - then I need to let myself be open to that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

It's 'cause he likes you

One thing that became clear in reviewing these things is that we tell children really stupid stuff.

Telling kids that if someone is picking on them they should just ignore it? That's worse than stupid.

Yeah, some bullies might get tired and move on, but a lot of them will get much worse. When their motivation is attention, withholding attention might just make them try harder. For me, they just got bolder until I lashed out.

Worse than that is the impact on the one doing the ignoring. The times when I ignored abuse are the same times that I internalized it. When I stood up for myself, I felt much better, like maybe I was worth defending. Maybe I was worth something. What I ignored, I carried around for years.

Another really wrong-headed thing we tell girls (and sometimes boys too) is that if someone is picking on you it's because he likes you.

It took me a long time to be able to talk about what happened that day. The first time I told someone, it was a counselor and I was crying. I lied to her that I understood now that it didn't really mean I couldn't be loved, because I still could not accept it, and if I told her that she would have kept going.

The second time I had trouble breathing, but I could keep from crying as long as I didn't make eye contact. Most recently, I talked about it with one of the friends who had been there.

She told me that in the summer after that, she had been hanging out with another girl and some guys, including Steve, and he propositioned her. "You know what they say about when guys pick on you..."

That seems like a terrible response. In her defense, we were talking about how impossible it is for me to feel attractive because of that, and she was pointing out that it could have happened because I was attractive.

It still doesn't make me feel attractive because it was abusive.

I have thought of that, since we talked. Maybe "What do you think?" was not a dismissal, but an opening. Then it all just seems horribly twisted.

That can fit into a larger discussion of competition and hierarchy and the need to put other people down, and it is worthwhile to have that discussion, but that's not where I'm going now.

It feels important to spend some time on that rather broad definition of "likes". The word itself has positive connotations, but we're not using it that way if we're associating it with abuse.

In that context "likes" can mean...

  • feels attracted to you but resents that attraction because you are not the type that he believes he should be attracted to.
  • feels attracted to you but doesn't believe he can get you, so he resents that.
  • feels attracted to you but has a twisted view of male/female relationship where "liking" does not provide any reason to treat with kindness or respect.
  • wants to have sex with you, or grope you, or at least get to see your breasts, with or without your cooperation and definitely without any worries about the emotional impact on you.

But it's a compliment. Then I think about teenage girls who romanticize jealousy because it shows how passionate he is about you, as opposed to possibly being a better sign of him thinking he can and should be able to control you.

I have friends who have been beaten by men who loved them, and lied to and raped and all sorts of horrible things by men who wanted them. Some of those men were bad people, and some could have been better people with some better role models for how to treat people, and in a society that doesn't regard women as property, so yes, there is a lot of room for improvement there.

There is room for improvement in our understanding of how to win fights. Those times when I stood up for myself, I did so by being really mean. With two people who made fun of me for being fat, one I shamed for failing fifth grade, and one I told "I wouldn't talk with that face". And it was good in that these incidents didn't haunt me, but still not a great way to relate to people. The one kid was really hurt, and the other one might have been hurt underneath wanting to kill me.

I would like to have better strategies to offer. Sometimes I think maybe I should have just kept asking people "Why?", like an annoying child. It certainly wears parents down. (Why do you want me to go out with you? Why would I want to? I don't know.)

Until we get there, let's not pretend that harassment is a compliment or that abuse is cute or that the best strategy is silence. When we know that society sucks and don't know how to fix it, the answer is not to lie.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Never again

In Wednesday's post, I said I didn't know at the time how much it had affected me. It hurt too much to think about, so I couldn't know it until later. I also was not aware of the strength of the walls I put up.

It wasn't a very conscious effort. I had already known that you can never let a boy know you like him, and tried to follow that, but I got much worse - more scared, more defensive, and less aware of what was going on inside.

There was an incident that I have always remembered, but I had not connected it to this issue until recently.

Spring term of 1991, I took a football coaching class. I was completely out of my league. I learned a lot, so I don't regret it, but it was a struggle to keep up, and it's the wrong time of year for watching games and learning from them. I observed every football practice I could.

There were two ways to get there. You could take the bus, which involved a transfer and waiting for the right bus, so it took twice as long as going over the footbridge and cutting through the woods. I love walking through woods anyway, so that was the obvious choice, until this happened.

I was on my way back from practice and a guy pulled up on his bike. He struck up a conversation that started out normally enough. What classes are you taking? My response included that I was studying French.

"I know some French; voulez-vous se coucher avec moi?"

I was not familiar with the "Lady Marmalade" then, but it didn't have to be threatening. That could be a normal immature thing to say and a joke, but he started getting creepier. I was not receptive to his creepiness, and he eventually took the hint and buzzed off. Except he didn't.

It soon became obvious that with me on foot and him on a bike, he should have been disappearing much faster, and he wasn't. I waited until I was on the footbridge to test it - it's out in the open and there are always people around - but yes, when I stopped, he stopped, and he didn't start going again until I did.

I decided to go back to a different residence hall than the one I lived in, so I hung out at Carson for a while, and it seemed to work out. I don't remember ever seeing him again, even if I can't rule out that he ever saw me again. It did freak me out. I started taking the bus then, and I hated it, but when I did try the path again a few weeks later I couldn't enjoy it.

That's not why I remember it so much though. Somewhere between realizing that I was alone in the woods with a creep, and then realizing despite being in front of me he was following me, I realized there was a chance he would try something, and I knew that if he did I would not stop fighting until he was dead.

That was new for me. I have always (at least since seeing my first action film) felt ready for a fight. I think that sense of readiness has made people step back at times, and I like that. I had still never before anticipated killing someone. In that moment it felt very real.

It was rare for me to feel like I was in physical danger. Usually the danger was emotional and I was well-guarded against that, so it is the physical time that stands out. It didn't just stand out, and it practically screamed, and what it shouted was that NO ONE IS EVER GOING TO HURT ME AGAIN!

And they didn't. Not for sixteen years, when accident and coincidence caught me with my guard down. Then it nearly killed me.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Band Review: LostAlone

I have had LostAlone on my recommended list for a while now, after a mention by Frank Iero. It seemed reasonable to pair them with his review.

It remains hard to know what to say about them. They feel like a very unique band, not in that they never remind me of anyone else, but in the way that they do.

I have seen some comparisons to Queen. I don't think the sound is similar, but they impart a majesty to their music, which does correlate. I think this is best heard on "Hostages" and especially "Crusaders", which soars musically and references epic themes.

In that way, LostAlone actually reminds me more of Styx and REO Speedwagon. That is not meant pejoratively. They have a big sound, and there is some philosophical heft, but it is still comfortably rock.

That could give the band a niche - fans of melodic '70s rock that can be comfortably turned into a full-on musical should check LostAlone out - but it is the other similarities I hear that make everything so fascinating.

"Honey and Burlesque" reminds me of "Longview" by Green Day. There is a primal rhythm sometimes (like on "Telepathy Nights") that reminds me of Queens of the Stone Age. They do covers of Metallica and Darlene Love. There was even a song that reminded me of "Every Snowflake is Different", the song My Chemical Romance performed on "Yo Gabba Gabba" ("Love Will Eat You Alive").

There is also some really aggressive guitar. All over the place.

None of that is intended to make them sound unoriginal or derivative, but to point out their breadth. LostAlone can go a lot of different places, in a lot of different directions.

With all of that being found in there, it is a terrible shame that LostAlone is no longer together, apparently as a result of a restrictive and unsupportive label.

It can also be an opportunity as they work on new projects. I will be reviewing Steven Battelle next week in conjunction with Ray Toro's new album, because he recommended Battelle. I was not previously aware of the connection between Battelle and LostAlone, other than both having been recommended by MCR members, but now it's synergy.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Album Review: Parachutes by Frank Iero and the Patience

I have gone back and forth on whether to consider this a new band or not, having already done a concert review for frnkieroandthe cellabration.

As much as I mourn the absence of HoCho and welcome the return of conventional spacing and spelling (unless "patience" actually refers to people under the medical care), I am going on the premise that the most important factor in continuity is Frank himself, and that it is reasonable to view this outing as a continuation, and evolution.

The first thing you notice is that Parachutes is much louder than Stomachaches. That might not be the right word, but there was something low-key before that is gone. You hear it right away on the opening track, "World Destroyer". (The title implies a certain aggression.)

It's not all anger. Right after "World Destroyer" you go into "Veins! Veins! Veins!" which has an exultant feel. It reminds me of "Joyriding", so there are definitely connections between the 2014 and 2016 albums, but there is still a noticeable difference.

The track that tied it together for me was "Remedy", when the word "stomachaches" jumped out at me.

Listening further, the song contains a conflict of being ruined by being fixed; the remedy is a malady, and there is no solution for the new malady. Most significantly, it ends "until you came through and made me believe I was worth being saved." The wish in "Joyriding" was "I hope I die before they save my soul".

There are many ways in which it is easier not to feel and love and hope, and yet all of the hardship together brings something better. At least it can.

Parachutes is alive with emotion. Stomachaches had feelings, but Parachutes feels like they have all broken through and are spilling over. Everything is messy now. "Oceans" just aches, and "Miss Me" is so plaintive it's almost country. There had been a little safety reserved before, but now everything is out and open.

There is a terrifying plunge up head, and having a parachute can make that work.