Friday, June 30, 2017

Band Review: Russ Still & the Moonshiners

Russ Still is a musician with many years experience, currently playing with the Moonshiners. The band appears to be a family affair, with two other Stills (Cam on piano and Ben on guitar) in the mix.

They self-describe as bridging the ground between country, Southern, and classic rock, which seems fair. The first thing to come to mind is that the music is country, but you can hear other influences and it is not alienating for those who do not care for country.

Individual songs did not stick out for me, but that includes that nothing made a negative impression. I suspect that they are a band best enjoyed live; a show on a sunny day with cold drinks feels like it would be a good time.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Band Review: SeaWolves

SeaWolves are intense. Drums (augmented by bass) are generally somewhere in between a military tattoo and gunfire, with vocals delivered in throaty growls.

Based in Colchester, the band's inception started with Seann Dunt (previously of Postmortem Promises) exploring his interest in drums after spending twelve years on guitar. His past experience may help them craft their songs more effectively.

If you are interested in metal, especially toward the deathcore side of the continuum, you should probably check out SeaWolves.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Humor me

Just over two years ago I read about Native actors walking off of the set of Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous Six.

I supported their action. A big part of that is that Native American women have the highest rates of rape and assault. Giving Native women names that are sexually dehumanizing supports that. Art matters.

The other thing that I couldn't help but think was that it didn't sound that funny. I was recently able to see that was true. I saw a clip, and it was so stupid. They also oversold the joke, indicating that they knew it wasn't funny enough on its own, but the producers still thought it was worth alienating a group and losing cast members over.

I have enjoyed many Adam Sandler films, though I have seen enough stupid humor that I can believe he would stick with a stupid joke over doing the right thing. What I really want to get at is this idea that political correctness is the death of humor.

I like Seinfeld too. I have enjoyed many episodes of his show. Nonetheless, if he and Chris Rock and Larry the Cable Guy don't want to play college campuses because the college kids are too politically correct and they think that is a problem with the college kids, they are wrong. Jokes that rely on racism and sexism are the lowest-hanging fruit there is. If those kids are saying that you need to do better and you can't, that's your problem.

I don't particularly like Ralph Nader. I think he has done some good things, but I am afraid he is undoing them really quickly. When you say the two parties are exactly the same because you are mad about the flaws in one party, it really strengthens the party that is mostly likely to undo the Clean Water Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Consumer Product Safety Act, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. That was true even before the guy who suggested that for each new regulation you have to roll back two got in.

I referenced Ralph Nader in yesterday's post on trigger warnings, but in the same interview he also spoke against political correctness and lamented the loss of ethnic humor joke books because that's how tension was defused. (Also a problem, not being able to catcall women.)

No, the tension that you have now is that the people who once never had to question that they were on the top, or that there were any problems with them being on the top, now are having their superiority questioned. Previously they didn't have to say they were superior, because it was understood. They didn't have to think about who was below and whether there was anything horrible about that.

It happens all the time, especially with older white men, that you ask them about the achievement of someone else and they just can't admit to it. So Jerry Lewis doesn't think that women are funny - including Lucille Ball - because women are baby-producers and can't be aggressive enough. John McEnroe sounds every bit as asinine as Bobby Riggs, saying that Serena Williams would be 700th in men's rankings. And then they walk it back, because there is all of this flack they weren't prepared for, but it hurts them to believe that accomplishments can be for someone else, too.

There is a level of oafish stupidity there that is unlikely to come up with really great humor. Sure, sometimes the stupid stuff gets a laugh. Also, sometimes you can subvert the old racist and sexist tropes and mine the humor out of turning them upside down, but there's a lot of stuff going on in the world that you can joke about. Is pushing down people who are already being pushed down really the way you want to go? Is that the loss you are going to mourn?

I remember a bit from Eddie Murphy when he was chastised by Bill Cosby (paragon of virtue) for using the F-word in his comedy. He called Richard Pryor to ask about it. I'm paraphrasing, but...

Pryor: Did the audience laugh?
Murphy: Yes.
Pryor: Did you get paid?
Murphy: Yes.
Pryor: Then tell Bill to have a Coke and a smile and shut up.

They're not really talking about the same point, but some of the self-assurance comes from having an audience. If there's not one for you, or your current audience is limited, is that the audience or is that you?

Frankly, we don't have enough people who are done being sexist and racist yet. If college students are at least being more discriminating in their humor, I am going to be grateful for that growth.

Related links:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Trigger Warnings and PTSD

This is something I have been thinking about. I didn't think I was quite ready to write about it yet, but I saw today was PTSD Awareness Day. It must be time.

Another thing I have been thinking about is knowing when someone is operating in good faith when you are disagreeing about something. When you point out that something they are saying or doing is rude or inhumane or in complete opposition to fact and they apologize for hurting your feelings, that has been a pretty good negative indicator. Reducing everything to hurt feelings is not a sign of someone having a sincere interest in understanding anything.

I can't help but notice that when people are dismissive of trigger warnings and content notifications, it does not take long for them to talk about special snowflakes whose feelings are so sensitive. Let's be clear on this: the purpose of trigger warnings is to let those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder make a plan for how they will deal with the material.
People use the word for other things, like a lot of people with addiction conditions will use it for things that might tempt them to relapse, or people will use it jokingly in the same way that pretty much every mental health term gets used inappropriately. Those are things that have come from the term being used, but the value of the practice needs to be evaluated against its purpose.

Trigger warnings don't exist because today's college students can't handle challenging material. It doesn't give students a free pass on studying some materials. Ideally, it will prevent them from going into a flashback in class, and allow them to decide how to handle study materials. That could involve making sure to read some materials in a place that feels safe, or perhaps to have a friend or the medication that one takes for panic attacks nearby. It could mean skipping a specific class session and reviewing notes later.

This seems to be poorly understood. Neil Gaiman showed no understanding when he chose his book title. Ralph Nader doesn't get it. Let's talk about it.

I have seen video games with signs warning of flashing lights that may induce seizures; that is helpful information to have. I have also gone into plays and operas where there was a sign posted saying that there would be gunfire or strobe lights during a specific act. That is a trigger warning. It's not obtrusive, but for someone who has been in a war zone it can be good to know.

Allowing susceptible audience members to avoid flashbacks can be good for the entire audience, in much the same way that trigger warnings can benefit the entire class -- not all flashbacks will be disruptive to others, but that is something that can happen. Some people will still really resent it, possibly more because of the association with academia. Let's look at that.

Who is most likely to have PTSD? The first group is rape victims. Does that matter for a college campus? Given the amount of sexual assault that happens on campus, yes. Sure, a lot of them drop out after their rapes, but not all of them, and not right away. Apparently we think rape is a pretty bad thing, because I have read that calling a person a rapist is the worst thing you can say about them, right? I mean, look at how much Brock Turner suffered, compared to the woman he raped.

Reporting for rape victims has a lot of cons outside of school, but many colleges make it worse. It was already bad, and funding is being cut. Putting it all together the message is clearly that not only would we rather let women be raped than do anything against rape culture, but also that if you are having a hard time after your rape, we resent even minimal accommodations for helping you get through this difficult time. Not only women are raped, but perhaps that is a side effect of misogyny.

It's not just rape survivors who get PTSD though, is it? One fun fact I learned today is that an estimated 20% of firefighters and paramedics have PTSD. That might not seem like a big campus issue, but I have known several people who worked their way through school as paramedics. They could be a significant part of the student population. Even more people pay for school by joining the military, which is a great place to pick up PTSD.

I understand this even less; we are supposed to reverence our veterans, right? They are our heroes, called upon whenever we get mad that someone is not standing for the National Anthem. Maybe I have had some suspicions about that being a crock when you consider the amount of homeless veterans, I mean, there might be some other signs that it's just lip service, but I want this thought about:

If trigger warnings are helpful for veterans who have been injured (maybe a psychological injury, but frequently in combination with physical injury) serving their country and now trying to get an education, are you going to be against that?

And if all of these thoughts are new, and you really believed the only potential reason for such a thing as trigger warnings is modern college students being too soft, why were you so quick to believe that?

And if you have dismissed something that seems like a liberal thing so easily, but can see the value of it now, are there other things you might be missing? Because a lot of this connects.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Mizuki and Miyazaki

I finally watched My Neighbor Totoro yesterday.

Perhaps the first point I should make there is that I am always culturally behind, for various reasons. If you think of any movie and guess that it's something I would want to see - no matter how right you are - there is probably only a 30% chance that I have seen it. I do spend a lot of time thinking about the ones that I see.

(Given my rate of successful viewing, it is rather impressive that this is the fourth Miyazaki movie that I have seen. The others are Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and Ponyo.)

I did see similarities between Totoro and Miyazaki's other works, but what it reminded me of the most was Shigeru Mizuki's manga NonNonBa.

For those unfamiliar, NonNonBa is kind of a memoir. It is not meant to be non-fiction, exactly, but the key part is how much of what happens is infused with spirits. There are various kinds of yokai everywhere, some are more like ghosts but some are more like nature spirits, and they are all a part of normal life.

In My Neighbor Totoro, a father moves his two young girls to the country to be closer to where their mother is recuperating from an extended illness. They befriend a woodland spirit, possibly a guardian of the woods.

It is a smaller story than the other Miyazaki films I have seen. There are no floods with prehistoric creatures rising from the sea, no one enters other dimensions and has to rescue bewitched parents, and there are no enchanted princes or wizards. Two of the encounters with Totoro end with the girls waking up, where it could have been a dream. It is truly just everyday life, infused with wonder and magic that helps make the fear easier.

It is scary having your mother sick. It is lonely not seeing her. Part of what impressed me was the honesty in the depiction of the girls. They are generally cheerful and get along well, but that the four year old might sometimes cry, and neither be able to stop or explain it, and that the older one might act even older most of the time and still at least once lose it under stress and yell at the younger one to grow up - yeah, it's like that.

One thing I loved is how the father just rolled with it. There was no endless conflict of telling the girls that it was just their imagination. That did not seem to be so much a matter of his indulgence, but an attitude that you can't rule those things out. So when you stop under a shrine to get out of the rain, you ask the resident of the shrine for permission, and you can stand in front of a tree and thank the guardian for his protection, even if you are not seeing him and may not see him - that's just good manners.

That's a lot of what reminded me of Mizuki. Maybe not everyone believed in the yokai, and maybe no one but Shigeru believed in them as much as NonNonBa herself, but they were still accepted as at least kind of real.

I don't know how much of that was true culturally for them. Mizuki was 19 years older than Miyazaki. Both were influenced by wartime events, though Mizuki's experiences were worse, losing an arm after being caught in an explosion.

Mainly I am reminded how childhood both is and is not idyllic. You can shriek with laughter just running, or spotting fish in a creek. You also cannot fix it if your parents are sick, or worried about money, or don't understand you.

A lot of if can be helped if you still see some magic.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Music Review: Fluttery Records Sampler

While there can be different factors that make reviewing some bands easier or harder, it is nonetheless pretty simple that if a band or band member follows me, they get on the review list. When an agent or label follows me, that becomes somewhat trickier. That happened in January when I was followed by Fluttery Records.

They have a lot of artists, but what they also have is a pretty extensive free sampler up on Bandcamp. I decided I would review that.

One of the first descriptors they use is ambient, generally right after post-rock. That could work for some of the tracks, but don't let it put you off. Most of the tracks have tunes and melodies. While they might in some cases take more inspiration from classical music, incorporating violins or non-traditional instruments, most bands still sound capable of a broad appeal.

That may come about in surprising ways. For example, "Irradia" by En Plein Air starts out with a dark bass line that could easily start a Three Doors Down song. Instead it brings in violin, then a counterpoint to that with dramatic percussion. The song becomes an instrumental meditation that leaves you with heightened alertness and senses. The overall effect is not rock, even if many of the track's individual elements would fit comfortably into rock.

It is not unusual for the tracks to be instrumental, and often quite long, fitting in with Fluttery's experimental side. That is not a rule; "Molecula's Dance" by Olekksii runs barely more than a minute. They may also pull in more bands from other countries, though I may just be assuming that based on some names.

For the record, if I had decided to listen to the sampler for the purpose of picking an artist to review (as opposed to reviewing the sampler) I would probably have ended up reviewing Mooncake or Neko Nine.

But you never really know.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Band Review: Tooth & Nail

I pushed out my review of Tooth & Nail so that they would have two songs out instead of one. It still feels hard to review them with only two.

They are still a real band, with several dates scheduled. They simply aren't focusing on recording right now. I am reviewing them anyway because I reviewed Daniel Pearson a long time ago (he was number 19). I can't keep track of everyone, but Pearson has stayed on my radar, and when I saw he had a new project I wanted to support that.

And I like those two songs. There is a gritty blues feel to them where it makes sense when I see the band will be playing in Manchester. In addition, if I think about Pearson, there is a force and groove to the Tooth & Nail songs that is different. They remind me how collaborations can bring out different sides of people, and different songs. Drummer Mike Neilson and Pearson appear to be a good fit.

Some of my praise for them is anticipation; I don't know that I will ever be in England and able to see them play, or that they will come here. They may record more songs.

If they don't, there are still these two. If I don't see them play, others will. Sometimes it is simply good to remember that there is good music happening all over the world. That constant is one of the joys of life.

That's a nice thing to remember as I post a review for band #451.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Speaking up

There was a trend happening on my Twitter feed, but I didn't realize it early enough, and now I can only find references to one of the stories.

One thing that seems worth mentioning is that asking someone a question about their movie, at a place for asking questions, is not really an attack. It is reasonable to believe that if the questions were answered honestly, it would reveal some things the director should have thought about more, and maybe managed differently, but calling that an attack displays a terrible fragility.

What struck me - because this was the first of the incidents that I read - was how hard it was for Bianca to say that, and how much Amirpour made it worse. The crowd cheers would have worsened that, but the later hugs and thanks in the lobby show that the question was important and worth being considered seriously.

If some of those people who approached Bianca later had cheered for her, or somehow registered their support more vocally then, well, Amirpour probably would have felt even more attacked, but it could still do some good.

Let me recount the other two threads and we will try and get somewhere with this.

First of all, Bianca's story reminds me of the story of the ramekins, and how everyone who had been silent before was supportive later after one person spoke up.

This next story does take place in retail, with a woman at a store. There were many customers, and one line was moving at regular speed, but the other was stalled by an online shopper. Having used a coupon to purchase two items online, she was returning one in store. That was not a problem. She wanted the discount to only apply to the other item, so that she could get a full refund on the one she was returning. That was a problem. There was no problem with her getting back the amount she had spent on that item, but in her efforts to be refunded more she was getting pretty abusive to the workers, who were young women of color.

The woman telling the story had worked retail, and also she was older with more experience and not employed by the store. It was easy for her to tell the complainer - which was an interruption - that she was being ridiculous. I am sure that woman was angry with the interference, but she was also rightly embarrassed and dropped the matter.

The workers were not angry with the interference and thanked her profusely. I relate. I worked retail for a long time. It wasn't always even that people truly wanted impossible things; sometimes they just wanted to pick on someone who couldn't fight back. It could have helped if someone else told them they were awful.

The final story was another Q&A session after a table read. Initially no one spoke, but one person asked if it was intentional that all of the women were either sexualized or someone's mother.

It would have been very easy for the creators to be offended here, like Amirpour, and like Ridley about Guerilla. Instead they ended up having a good discussion, and made some changes. Some people can handle it.

Despite those last two stories having positive conclusions, at least one of them described a level of discomfort similar to Bianca's in the first story. It is not easy being the naysayer, especially when you can't tell how many others are thinking "nay". Someone has to go first.

Just Sunday, on a different blog, I was writing about how necessary it is to accept discomfort; ignoring the issues makes things worse in so many ways.

In my younger days, I would have said that you just have to go ahead and be the one to speak up. I still think that is true for myself, and not just for bad things. I delivered a late compliment not too long ago, which I know seemed weird. The reason I had not paid it when I first thought of it was that it didn't seem important, and she might not even see it (it was via Twitter). However, seeing her take some abuse for something else, I realized that she might see it, and if there is positivity I can put out there, I better do it. (So if a lot of the things I say seem pointless, I get that, but I have to say them anyway, because what if they aren't?)

While I am pretty convinced that I need to speak up no matter what, I do not have the right to demand that of everyone else. Some people have a lot going on and are tired. Some people will be open to a lot more abuse once attention is drawn to them. Bianca has gotten support, but that is not all she has gotten. Sometimes you step in to stop verbal abuse and the abuser brings out a knife. I can't tell anyone else their responsibility.

There are still things anyone can do. The support offered afterward means something. Not cheering the shutting down of someone making a point means something. At least stopping and thinking about criticisms you hear, and being willing to consider that a racist hierarchy reinforced for centuries might subconsciously come through in the things you do matters.

And I do have another way of thinking of it thanks to a friend.

My friend Jennie is very conscientious. She always seemed very sure of herself to me when we were growing up, so I was surprised to learn the depth of her understanding of what it is like to be unsure. When she has had discussions with her children about kindness and bullying and all of those things, she told me that she tells them if you don't want to be a leader you can still look for good people to follow. A lot of kids just end up following the strongest (or the loudest), but her children will be empowered to make better choices than that, and choices that work for multiple levels of confidence and strength. I appreciate that.

We all have ways we can contribute, and we can do a lot of good. It starts with thinking about it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


I am a little over-stimulated right now. It is a combination of worries, news items, and recent media consumption that has given me too many thoughts. They are related, so they could go together, but there is so much there that it would be too much. If I separate them into different posts I fear they will either be overly repetitive or miss something crucial.

That led to a thought this morning that whatever I write today will suck. Well, that's always a risk.

I decided to let it be a reminder that we are all imperfect, and can't get it right all the time, often for very understandable reasons. That led to a topic.

I have written about intersectionality before, as well as centering Black women. Those are two connected points.

As we work toward equality and liberation, we remember that oppression comes through different vectors, and some people will be caught at intersections of different forms of marginalization and abuse. Therefore, while you may understand one kind of oppression that affects you, you may nonetheless be clueless about one that doesn't. A white woman may have a good grasp on the issues of sexism, but not racism. A Latina woman may understand those, but not be clear on the harmful nature of anti-Blackness. A white man with a physical handicap may not get any of those, but still have some ideas about ableism.

It doesn't have to be that way, but these are easy roles to fall into, especially when the various forms of marginalization are so thoroughly supported by society's infrastructure. Honestly, it hasn't really been that long since I did not know that ableism was a thing. I know about it now, and I can see examples, but I probably still miss a lot because I can.

When we center Black women, we take on three of the strongest prejudices; that would be reason enough to do it. In addition, we often find that they have a greater understanding of the issues and have been working to remedy things all along. Their experience is a great reason to seek guidance from them.

The connection I want to make there is that of course they understand more - they have to. They don't have easy ways to escape it.

It could be possible for them to not be working actively for equality and liberation - they could try and lay low instead - but you will find many Black women on the frontlines working. Then their work co-opted by white women or Black men or someone who is in a place that society more easily recognizes. This is once more a reason to focus on Black women, because when we let that work be co-opted we are missing the point.

Those points are important to me, as is the point that when you are in a bad situation you can choose to try and raise yourself and others, and that is a good thing to do. The point I am going for, though, is that even when you understand some important things, you can easily miss other important things.

Therefore, you may get things like George Takei passing along an ableist piece of humor, or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie getting it wrong on transgender issues, or Emma Watson criticizing Beyoncé, because they understand one side but do not realize the parts they are missing.

We do not have to automatically discard anyone who messes up. I still want to read We Should All Be Feminists. Not knowing what you don't experience is easy and common.

We do not even have to automatically discard someone who messes up and gets angry when they are corrected (which happens a lot). We can hope that they will stop and think. A good thing to do when corrected is to ask yourself if there is a point to the correction. That is something everyone can do.

We can also all be critical. If someone you admire says something that seems wrong, the choice is not between ignoring the error or ending your admiration. We can look deeper.

Sometimes we will find people that we should discard. Maybe we will notice that the apology isn't really sincere ("I was tired."  "I'm sorry if anyone was offended."). Maybe we will notice that it wasn't just one slip-up on an area outside of their experience, but that they say racist things or appropriate other cultures all the time*. Then maybe that is someone that we stop watching, or buying, or supporting.

Sometimes when we make that criticism, the response will be something along the lines of it being unfair to always expect perfection, or not good to never be able to take a joke (I have some thoughts on humor), but that is not what is being said.

No one is perfect, but we can be better. Looking around at the world today we clearly need to be better. For that to happen, at times correction is required. It doesn't feel great when it's aimed at you, but did you really think you were perfect?

(*Yes, I personally am thinking Bill Maher, Katy Perry, and Amy Schumer, but that is in no way comprehensive and maybe it is easier for me to dismiss them because they don't really appeal to me anyway.)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Safety Pin Box

Today is Juneteenth, which commemorates the news of emancipation finally making it to Texas and the last of the slaves being freed (at least for that era).

This Juneteenth comes as we learn that Charleena Lyles, a pregnant Black woman and mother of young children, was fatally shot by the police she had called for help after a burglary, even though they promised not to shoot her. This is right after the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez for shooting Philando Castile for reaching for his wallet, as he had been ordered to do, reminding us how there is still effectively no penalty for police killing Black people.

This has been going on for a long time, but given the current administration, the fact that it got into place largely through appealing to racism and taking advantage of racist voter suppression, and the installation of racists like Sessions, it is worse than discouraging.

And it can be really hard to know what to do.

I had thought I would highlight multiple efforts today, but decided to focus solely on Safety Pin Box:

Safety Pin Box is "A monthly subscription box for white people striving to end white supremacy." It was started by Marissa Jenae Johnson and Leslie Mac.

They have gotten a lot of flack for charging for the service, which ties into our national history of not expecting to pay Black people for their labor. That makes subscribing already a challenge to the racist system, not only by paying the content providers for their work, but also passing on contributions to other Black women who are serving Black people. Given the known disparities in pay and wealth for Black women, this is already progressive, but it does much more than that.

One strength is that this is a good starting place. One of the first tasks was examining power locally. It is easy to focus so much on the national scene that you forget about towns and cities and counties, but when there are policies of for-profit policing, it happens there. The issues that make housing worse or schools better or help segregation persist are happening locally, even if federal policies encourage or discourage them. The Safety Pin Box will help you understand the system and have a better idea of how to function within it.

Safety Pin Box also works on multiple levels.

Not only are there three different pricing levels, there is a free task available if you question whether it can be worthwhile.

There is an eight-week summer series for kids. Are your children asking questions that you don't know how to answer? Are they shielded in a way that you worry will make them grow up blind to their privilege? This can help.

There is an option for groups. Actually, there are multiple options for groups, based on size and the desired level of depth. Do you have a group already but you are not sure what to do? This can help.

If you are not ready to commit to a monthly subscription, you can get an Allyship Jumpstart, which includes a 6 video primer.

There are also weekly Twitter check-ins, allowing people to share what they have learned and support each other.

If you want to fight racism and you don't know how, start here.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Concert Review: Def Leppard

I was initially disappointed with Def Leppard.

Let me start out with two caveats. One is that there were many, many people dancing and rocking all over the place and having the time of their lives. Experiences are subjective and mine doesn't carry more weight than anyone else's; it's just the only one I am qualified to give.

The other caveat is that I felt differently toward the end, and I want to write about getting there.

The first thing I should point out is that even at my most disappointed, I have already seen a great, totally rocking Def Leppard show, about twelve years ago at what was probably PGE Park then. Not only were they on fire but they played every song I wanted except "When Love And Hate Collide" (which would have been a long shot).

My favorite Def Leppard songs are "Pour Some Sugar On Me", "Let's Get Rocked", and "Armageddon It". They did end up playing all three of those songs Saturday night, but the concert was starting more in the veins of "Hysteria" and "Animal". If those distinctions don't seem important to you, then my feelings probably won't make sense, but for me it felt like they were quieter and more subdued.

They have been doing this for 40 years; maybe it wasn't fair to expect otherwise. They have aged, not that you can tell by Phil Collen's abs. (I still get a kick out of his inability to perform with a shirt. He did start out with a vest, but it didn't last.)


While I was still thinking that they were quieter, their stamina was strong. It was a long set followed by a generous encore. I also have to admire their continuing to create new music. "Let's Go" was one of the songs played and it's pretty good. Also, for a band to get to a point where it is in their fourth decade that they release the self-titled album, and that feels right, is pretty impressive.

Then what completely won me over was "Photograph".

If my earlier statement of preferences did make sense, you can probably guess that is not one of my favorite songs. However, they ran a slideshow of old photos during it that took me back.

I may not have gotten into Def Leppard until the early 2000s, but Behind the Music filled me in on what I had missed. Seeing the old pictures of Steve Clark, and Rick Allen before the accident, and yes, tracing the overall passage of time -- this is a band of survivors. They have regrouped and done unexpected collaborations and they just keep going. All of my fondness for the band welled up. It was touching that they were still there, and good to be there with them.

The 2005 show was still better (for me), but this show has its own place.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Concert Review: Poison

I was there for Poison.

I had never really known Tesla. I was aware of Def Leppard all along, but I didn't get into them until the early 2000s.

Poison was different. They always had good crossover appeal so were played during all time blocks, and I always liked them. I had never seen them live, though. Hearing about this tour I knew it was something I really needed to see.

They were so great.

It's not that time hasn't taken any toll. It seems pretty clear that Bret Michaels' voice is not as strong as it used to be, and equally clear that it doesn't matter. He is such a showman that you don't feel a loss. He brought the audience into every song, he got us to sing with him, and made the show a shared experience.

It would still be remiss to point out that when C. C. Deville played the opening riff to "Talk Dirty to Me" I felt that time had taken no toll there. Age may slow him down eventually, but it hasn't happened yet. 

For instruments they were all pretty strong. Bobby Dall sounded great. I thought Rikki Rockett sounded fine but was maybe playing with less flair, but speaking of "Talk Dirty to Me", when that started suddenly Rikki was wearing the chauffeur's cap - apparently conjured from nowhere - so he still has some tricks up his sleeve.

It is also worth pointing out that there are ways in which the passage of time can enhance.

Poison has had ego issues in their past. Saturday night it was clear that not only had they found their way back to their original configuration but that they had found ways to make it better. There was so much appreciation shown between the band members.

Actually, Bret took time to show appreciation for Tesla and Def Leppard as well, but it was even better how much credit he gave to his band mates. It's been about a year since I watched Mötley Crüe: The End. If it works for that band to take four separate buses to four separate hotels, and probably never see each other again after, I guess that's okay. To instead learn to appreciate each other more, and respect each other more, seems infinitely better. 

It don't get better than this.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Concert Review: Tesla

There are two things that I need to say about Tesla and Saturday's show.

One is that I was far less familiar with them than the other bands. I could not identify a single song by them. I knew that there was a band with that name back in the day, but apparently their videos were not airing during the times that I was watching MTV. I would not be surprised if they got played during the Headbangers Ball, but I never watched that.

Without having those memories, I still have to say that they are the least time-ravaged of the three, still playing with the intensity and fervor of a much younger band.

Their biggest disadvantage was that at times they seemed dwarfed by the stage, possibly a result of the limitations performing first can cause for your set-up.

The best surprise for me (probably not for anyone better-informed) was the early rendition of "Edison's Medicine" showing that they take their name seriously. That also shows them as pretty forward-thinking. Tesla is much better-known now than when they first did the song, perhaps making them a band "out of time". In addition, the fun they have with film options on the "Need Your Lovin" video (while not merely scientific), shows a nice mix of smarts and playfulness.

For post-concert listening, I was taken with the beautiful intro on "Love Song" and the joy and energy of "Save That Goodness". They are a good band and they did a good job.

I'm glad I got to experience that.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

It was never just Trump

I haven't mentioned this story yet, but at one lunch I was getting asked about some of the more clownish aspects of Trump, and told about an orange reference they use for him.

I am not the best person for this because I don't have any sense of humor about him. Even to the clown thing I pointed out "He is a really dangerous clown" (to which they agreed). Still, I wanted to contribute to the conversation, so I mentioned that some people call him "President Cheeto". Blank stares. I guess Cheetos aren't that popular in Italy. To be fair, the one cousin is really into health food, so she would be less likely to run across them. We eventually found a picture on the internet so it made sense, but any comedic impact was lost.

Anyway, a lot of the conversations were more about impact, and a lot of those conversations were things that were embarrassing before the election.

For example, we were talking about homelessness, and if the issue was that housing was too expensive. Well, that is a contributing factor, and we talked about that (I have some recent specific date, so that was handy), but there is also the lack of treatment for mental health issues, which affects many veterans. That should not be the case, but that is something we have accepted for a long time.

Talking about health care and what is being attempted now is very resonant for my family. One sister has only been able to afford health care since the Affordable Care Act took full effect, as her employer has never wanted to or been required to offer it. There were immediate benefits to having health care already, but an issue that required surgery came up. She could get the treatment she needed because she was covered.

That was happening while I was uncovered. I have some coverage again now, but if the last plan had passed, it would have made it so that I would never be able to afford health care again. The extent to which Republicans are keeping the new plan under wraps does not fill me with confidence.

Why do we do that to our citizens? Why do we do that to people?

Another conversation we had was how he got elected. Again, I do not know how to talk about voter suppression in Italian, but we did talk about racism and we did talk about how much of the expectations for certain behaviors is enforced only by expectations.

It wasn't just Trump who didn't release tax returns; Sanders didn't either. Maybe we didn't make a big enough deal of it when Romney was so selective with his tax returns. Nonetheless, we don't have a rule for it, so when you have someone completely willing to disregard those conventions and all others, and he is rewarded for that, then what happens? We are finding out.

For the racism, I was only able to do this in English, but I talked with one of my cousins about Bacon's rebellion (1676), when Virginians of all races united against their government, and how right after that slavery became defined by race, and racism became enshrined in law. This was in Virginia, the birthplace of presidents. Hundreds of years later, politicians still successfully use race to divide people, reliably finding again and again that white people will screw over people of color if they can still feel superior based on color, despite being poor and sick and screwed over themselves.

It sounds terrible to me, but for him, always being taught that American was built on immigration, it was incredibly sad. He's right. I get jaded from being used to it, which still doesn't make me happy with it, but it was fresh for him.

I know we can be better than this. There's precious little evidence out there right now, but I still have to believe it and work for it.

I have some thoughts on that, but this has been pretty heavy, and I went to a concert Saturday night. So three music reviews this week, and then I hope I have something useful to say Monday.