Friday, March 30, 2018

Band Review: Emilie Autumn

Going in order, I should have reviewed Zelena Hull last Thursday and Stever yesterday, but it looked like there might be some similarity of content between Karen Stever and Emilie Autumn, who had been recommended in the same Shakesville thread that led me to Ana Tijoux. I switched the order around to make sure that I could keep each artist separate and give them their due attention.

I wouldn't even mention that, except that it stands out because while there are some similar Gothic elements and transformational themes and diversity of media between Stever and Autumn, I couldn't enjoy it with Stever but I love it with Autumn because she is electrifying.

Emilie Autumn does a lot of different things. She plays classical violin, as can be heard on Laced/Unlaced. She is a poet, and reads her poetry on Your Sugar Sits Untouched. Her stage performances incorporate cabaret and burlesque. She has also written a novel, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, for which the title alone may give you an idea of her overall aesthetic.

I am mainly reviewing her as a musician, though. Musically, from the beginning of "Fight Like A Girl" I was electrified, with a strong continuation in "One Foot in Front of the Other".

There are other songs where you can glean ideas of what her stage act might be like. On "Girls! Girls! Girls!" (nothing like Mötley Crüe's song of the same name) Autumn at times takes on the role of a carnival barker, though a remarkably mellifluous one. Many songs display a caustic wit, especially on "Prick! Goes the Scorpion's Tale". Songs like "What If" and "Gaslight" are delicately beautiful.

But what I will keep coming back to is the energy of "Fight Like a Girl" and the resigned pathos of  "One Foot in Front of the Other. Together they convey the glory and the toll of fighting misogyny. Those themes are present in other songs, but those two encapsulate a lot, and make a good starting point.

The angst is real, and occasionally feral, which I am sure could turn off some (taking any stand against misogyny at all is a turn off for some), but there is so much good, so much beauty, and so much power overall, that I hope many people will be encouraged to check out Emilie Autumn.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Band Review: Zelena Hull

Zelena Hull is a singer working out of South Carolina who has won various awards as a vocalist.

Musically she reminds me a little of Alannah Myles and Sheryl Crow, with a country/Southern rock emphasis. The only caveat I need to give there is that she is young, and it is more noticeable here than it might be in other genres.

Hull's Facebook page refers to her as a teen. She was winning prizes in 2013, so she may have cracked her twenties by now, but she still sounds kind of young.

That is somewhat a result of her musical style. Some of the music sounds like it should be sung with a whiskey-soaked voice, and yet you question whether this voice has reached drinking age.

That is not to endorse drinking, or especially underage drinking, but it feels fair to say that Hull is still developing into the artist that she is going to become, even with at least five years of experience under her belt.

If the previous descriptions of her style (Alannah Myles and Sheryl Crow) appeals to you, then getting in on the ground floor and watching her develop could be rewarding.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Letting them speak

Very little felt right in writing about Lori Mattix yesterday. Even calling her a groupie - because it should be an adult decision to become a groupie - felt wrong. The more basic conflict is that she feels better about her life experience than I do about it. If it is disrespectful to tell an adult they are viewing their past wrong, I still can't bring myself to not call it wrong.

I also know that I had a highly inflated opinion of my own maturity and decision-making abilities at fourteen. Retroactively I am still pretty sure that I was more mature than many fourteen-year old girls (and boys), but there is still a lot to be said for actually going through the years with the experience that entails, along with the completion of brain development.

The other thing I know is that young women are socialized to put a high value on male attention. That not only leads to a lot of angst and humiliation, but it frequently facilitates the acceptance of horrible behavior. (He only kidnapped you because he likes you.)

Because of all of that, when I wrote about needing to create a world that is supportive of and values women, and that listens to them, it's not just so that we can help women heal, and nip things in the bud before healing is required, but also that we can shift how we understand what is positive attention and what is negative. That's not just about building a better present and future, but also helping people to face old wounds and heal from them. The good works together.

Listening is important for changing situations, but it may also be one of the surest signs that we value someone. 

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina received a lot of attention for her sentencing of Larry Nassar. You can argue that she was overly theatrical with the letter. You can definitely take exception to any indications that being raped in prison is an appropriate punishment. I can certainly see why this would feel right in this case, but if we look at who ends up in prison and why, and the things that happen to them because of that, we should simply not get in the habit of finding any rape or any mistreatment of prisoners funny. Also, that leads into another area, of whether we should call this ruling transformative justice, to which the answer is no. Someone did use the term in relation to the case, but that conveys a lack of understanding of the topic.

With all of that said, I wholeheartedly applaud Judge Aquilina allowing all of the girls who wished to read their impact statements. Yes, that took a lot of time, and it included people who were not formally named in the case, but it was valuable for them. Her recognition of them, and encouragement of them, that I think she really got right.

Of course there were complaints about that too. There would be, but this is exactly what is needed.

That is the most flummoxing thing -- for all of the "concerns" about people seeking money and fame, what most of the victims seem to want most is to be heard, and people are reluctant to even give them that.

I can think of things that might be good. It might be great for Salma Hayek to get to release a special cut of Frida, one that met her vision without the need of an added sex scene because Weinstein told her that without her hotness she was nothing. It could be great for studios to fund projects for some of the women whose careers have been trashed. Maybe. If those are things that they want. But they should get to say what they want first, and get to say what they need.

And that should be happening in a lot of industries besides Hollywood.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

And I like them

I can have some sympathy for Sharon Osbourne not wanting to believe the worst about James Franco. Before that, I had already had to kind of deal with that twice.

I wrote about one of the times pretty recently:

Before that, it was when David Bowie died. There was a lot of mourning and a lot of gratitude to him for making it okay to be a freak, but there was also this:  

I read a few articles on that. It could have been more painful, because a lot of the musicians that came up weren't ones I cared for. Then Dee Dee Ramone came up, and that wasn't so much disappointment or disbelief as this anger, that just for once in your life could you do the right thing?

I want to see if I can unsnarl some of this knotted tangle.

First of all, Prince - who inspired a very similar grief for many - also comes up in that article. Whomever you love and like and admire, often you know about them because they are famous in some way, and that gives them opportunities, and a lot of them committed statutory rape. I'm pretty sure they didn't think of it that way, but they did.

I'm not completely against acknowledging that it could have been viewed differently then, but there's a danger in doing that. First of all, it was illegal then too, which they surely could have known.

I was reading a thread recently with people sharing things others had done for them. For one person, it was that when she was young (though legal) and vulnerable, a man old enough to be her father did not sleep with her. She was there at his house, and they could have, but he not only stopped himself but told her that this would not be good for her. It would have had emotional ramifications for her that it wouldn't have had for him, but he put her first and she still remembers that with gratitude.

For my own part, I had not ever been really into Bowie. The freak thing kind of put me off, and I liked some of his music but I didn't really grow to appreciate it until a few years ago. However, I did like him. Later when I read a biography and I saw things about him giving songs to groups that were falling apart, or pulling artists in a slump into the studio with him, I assumed that was what I was responding to there. So I find it easy to think of him as a kind and considerate person, who still did something wrong and damaging. I can picture that against a context of male pleasure being prioritized over female safety, and anything that sounded vaguely moral rejected as too uptight, regardless of its value.

But remember, I came up with my rule already: we need to think of the victims first.

Okay, Lori Mattix seems to be okay with it, though there could be some denial there. There are also a lot of girls that I don't know the names of. How do we fix that? We can't go back in time, but we can be understanding of people who are coming forward now. We can listen now. We can provide support now.

That should go beyond a listening ear (though that is a great starting place) but also working for wage equality and mental health parity. If women have the resources they need to heal and to leave destructive situations, that is a start.

We should be providing early and appropriate sex education. That should include mental health information like how girls who sleep with older men - famous or not - tend to suffer later. That will require being able to talk about sex without getting all weird about it. We can do that.

When the flood of #metoo stories was starting, there would often be questions asked about if various offenders could be forgiven, because we were still focusing on the perpetrators instead of the victims. It could be a very reasonable question to ask - before we ask about forgiveness - to ask if they are sorry, because there have been some pretty lousy apologies put forth.

The better question to ask is what we would like to see different. That can be a difference in the perpetrators, but I think will also need to be a difference in us.

We can probably see a difference between David Bowie sleeping with one groupie and Jimmy Page arranging her kidnapping and Roy Moore going so persistently after teen girls that he was banned from a mall. We need to be able to do that without justifying the "lesser" actions. We can probably let go of anger if we can focus on making sure that everyone is okay now - supported, heard, and helped.

And I'm pretty sure that's going to take overturning the kyriarchy, but I promise it will be better for everyone when we do.

Monday, March 26, 2018

But I like him!

One of the celebrities that irritated me recently was Sharon Osbourne in her defense of James Franco.

I like Sharon and I don't hate her for this. Liking is important, though, because clearly her issue was that she liked James Franco and did not want to believe bad things about him.

I am sure it was easy for her to say that the accusers were just looking for their chance at fame, because everyone says that, even though we have already gone over that this would be a terrible strategy and doesn't seem to accurately convey anything. That has not affected its popularity.

Beyond that, for the students who were taking a class on sex scenes, Osbourne's response was "What did they expect?"

I want to deconstruct that a bit.

First of all, everything I have ever read from actors on sex scenes is that they aren't sexy at all. There are all of these details that you need to remember about blocking, which gets more complicated due to the physical proximity of the actors and the desire to make things look more intimate than they are. While remembering all of these unsexy details, you need to convey a completely different set of feelings and emotions. And it is awkward, because any body insecurities you have can come out, along with any concerns about significant others or your parents seeing the finished product.

Given that, I would expect a workshop on doing sex scenes to cover safety, tips and tricks for making some things look better, and some key coverage of breaking the ice with and being supportive to your coworker.

Osbourne's comment seemed to indicate that if an actor is holding a special workshop for sex scenes, he is doing it as a prowling opportunity, which is not exactly good faith, and I imagine would be highly unnecessary.

(One of the accusations is that he removed plastic guards that act as shields between bodies, so maybe his class wasn't safety-focused.)

It is still easy to formulate something in there are about women being stupid gold-diggers.

As it is, I know that the reason some people participated in Studio 4 is specifically to get parts, because when you don't have any connections getting you into promising auditions, a class that not only teaches you something but has specific access to roles sounds really good, and worth the investment. (Studio 4 had a monthly $300 tuition.)

Even more than that, I can totally imagine young women not only hoping to get jobs but also daydreaming about Franco himself. Maybe he will like me. Maybe he will ask me out. Is that dumb? Maybe, but it's nice to have daydreams, and it doesn't have to be harmful. It certainly doesn't mean that when it only partially comes true, so he is interested in you, but his interest is in degrading you -- you did not earn that.

It is a fairly good example of the uneven power dynamics. It is not just that Franco has the reputation to seem like a good choice as an acting teacher, and that he has the resources to set up classes that look legitimate, but he also has the famous friends who will stand up for him.

The really weird part to me is that Franco has seemed to revel in the weird parts of his reputation, where he might do something like that, but that doesn't seem to stop people from defending him.

It must be great being famous.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Band Review: Ana Tijoux

Ana Tijoux was recommended in a thread on women musicians at

With roots in Chile and France, Tijoux crossed over into Latin Pop after starting in Hip Hop.

I had not known that when I started listening, but upon learning that it made total sense. The emphasis on rhythm and the care with which Tijoux punctuates her lyrics speaks to her experience as an MC.

I have no idea how she compares to other Latin Pop, but I appreciate the infusions of funk that her music brings.

While I speak some Spanish, I do not comprehend as much as I do while listening in English. Given that and the large extent of Tijoux's catalog, I was not sure that I was getting enough out of listening. Because of that, watching the videos was helpful for adding some insight. Of course I heard the energy of the music, but seeing the way the videos focused on people, celebrating humanity, and fighting that which oppresses us, gave a deeper understanding. The videos also made me take additional notice of her collaboration with other artists, which goes well with that demonstrated love for people.

Of course, the odds always were in favor of me finding something to enjoy about an artist with a song titled "Antipatriarca".

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Band Review: Stever

I sure did not enjoy listening to Stever, but she has her fans.

That last part may be more important than the first part, so I will treat it last.

I think the best way to describe the music is like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version of The Nightmare Before Christmas, except that the macabre elements comes from mental illness instead of the supernatural. Given that, my not particularly caring for it sounds like the only possible result, but there were other issues.

Stever's most recent project, Idiot Savant (more on that title in a moment) was inspired by the way life kills the childlike joy and creativity of childhood, forcing people to subsist on the harmful and fake. She hopes that her music can jar people out of their complacency and reawaken their souls, and she didn't want it to be anything political. (That is paraphrasing, but not as much as you'd like.)

The way she talks reminds me of people who will always tell you what you are doing wrong (like dairy or wheat or not using essential oils). I think there has to be some superficiality to believe you know the answers for other people. While Stever is not necessarily quite in that category, I sense the same superficiality in thinking that ignoring external factors (like politics and government) that contribute to the problems will not stand in the way of a solution. In addition, while her music certainly can be jarring, that seem like the kind of thing that might prevent people from listen enough to come to an awakening, even if that were a good route to an awakening.

Beyond that, after reading some responses to The Shape of Water, her taking her inspiration from an autistic child while admitting that she doesn't know much about autism but feels a connection to it is really off-putting. Using real conditions that you don't understand as a metaphor for some other issue can be harmful, regardless of whether people respond to your metaphor the way you want.

Also, her music from before this project is kind of jarring too, so is she just using that as her awakening tool because it is the only tool she possesses?

That is a lot of negativity, but I also have to say this: there are a lot of positive comments on her videos, not only for the music for for her personal outreach to listeners. It seems that she has helped people, and that is worth a lot. She may simply not be for me.

I don't think that undoes anything I have said - especially on the metaphor issue - but if she has also been able to help people, I don't want to discount that.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Is there a point to this?

I know I haven't gotten around to criticizing any celebrities yet. This just feels like the appropriate order for getting things out logically. Today's post includes someone else criticizing a celebrity, if that counts. There was more to it than that.

Specifically, one of my Twitter mutuals was questioning the credibility of Rebel Wilson coming forward with her own #metoo story.

Knowing when the story broke allows me to know about the time when it happened. I know that I had written about it in my journal then, but those pages remain entombed on the dead hard drive. Some details are foggy.

I remember clearly that the gist of his comment was that no one would want her enough to harass her in any way, and she was only saying it to help her career. I also can see from my blog that I had just been writing about sexual harassment and assault, so that was all pretty fresh.

I also know that I have shared a few of my own experiences on this blog, and while I may write about the topic without mentioning specific circumstances, being on the topic reminds me of them.  Feelings were pretty fresh, is what I'm trying to say.

I don't remember whether he specifically used the word fat against her, but it was implied if not stated. As a fat woman, I know pretty well that this is not a shield against harassment or assault. That is what I replied to him, pretty much.

Now that is personal, and although he does pride himself on not being politically correct and not caring how easily people are offended, he was not a big enough jerk to not feel some shame at that.

There was a certain amount of backpedaling. I engaged on the points that it can and does happen to anyone, and also that while it tends not to help careers anyway, she has been working pretty steadily and doesn't really need that. He did take some time to scoff at the quality of the film roles she was getting, but kind of moved to saying it probably did happen, but she was still just using it for her career. It was kind of an improvement, but not great.

One reason I remember it so clearly is because I another conversation very close to it, where it was a different topic but a similar situation. A Facebook friend said something that was kind of nasty, but also wrong, I countered with facts, and after some going back and forth they were replying that they were not saying the thing that I could look up higher in the thread and see that they had clearly said.

One thing that could have been helpful with the first one would have been addressing it on the grounds of her experience. The main one as described in the linked article... okay, it is sexual in nature, but it's gross and humiliating (including the part about having friends film it), and this is not a compliment. That she was then admonished to be supportive of the actor is not just the icing on the cake, but a pretty clear demonstration of how Hollywood works, and what reinforces it as workplace harassment.

This post is not really about Rebel Wilson's experiences, though I support her. It is more about what we think and say.

My friend criticized Wilson for stupid movies that he didn't like and the roles she plays in them, which sounds fine. However, I have read that she tries to take more serious or at least less outrageous roles, and she gets typecast. There is a perception of what a fat woman should be, and it's hard to break out. If that correlates with society looking down on certain body sizes, and where it feels right to dislike a fat woman, or a woman, or a Black person, are you sure that it's just how you feel about their acting? Could there be more there?

Because I can't help but notice that when we are against political correctness and believe in telling it like it is, that seems to excuse a lot of racism and sexism. If that is not how it really is, does that make it harder for you to see what really is? Does it make it easier for you to hold things against specific groups, and feel justified in it?

For example, I have been writing about privilege this week, and how it benefits white males. Maybe that felt uncomfortable, but they caught the Austin bomber and he is being described as shy and nerdy and godly and not a terrorist, but he killed and injured and terrorized people and it looked pretty racist. Isn't it kind of weird to focus on making him sympathetic?

Finally - and here's where we get the title - did those engagements help at all?

I do not think that either person felt like they were lying when they backtracked and said they weren't saying that. I suppose it indicates a possibly subconscious acknowledgment that they were being wrong, but will they think differently the next time? I didn't call them on it, and calling them on it would have felt really rude. Maybe it's more that it would feel like piling on because I had already called them on the first thing. Did it help?

I know it was super frustrating for me? The personal response is probably "Would it kill you to admit that I have a point?" I don't mind putting aside the ego for the greater good (as a fat woman I'm not really supposed to have any dignity anyway), but did it help? Could I have been more effective? And I don't know.

But I kind of think this. I had thought so much about the harassment and how it works and whom it affects - and blogged out my thoughts so redundantly (probably) - that I knew immediately that he was wrong, and why he was wrong. Whatever the other interaction was, it was probably the same thing.

So I guess I will keep up with the reading a lot and repetitive blogging. At least that's right in my wheelhouse.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Clearing our vision

Yesterday I neglected to mention that neither white nor male privilege make your lives perfect or even easy.

I suppose I think it should be pretty obvious, but it is often used as an argument that privilege doesn't exist: I am still poor, or picked on, or downtrodden.

That should be an excellent reason to think about whether our society and government is really set up ideally. Even though it is easier for a white man to get hired than a Black man with a college degree, and he will get more pay, and the only thing that makes him less acceptable is a criminal conviction, but crimes are pursued at unequal rates among different races, and that even legal things like open carry are treated differently depending on your race, this will not automatically make your life good; it just takes away some of the obstacles.

That a man is more likely to have his ideas taken seriously than a woman, and that he will get paid more and promoted more, and that if a woman tries to emulate his behavior in asking for parity she will be looked down on as pushy, and that the industries that recruit women tend to do it so they can pay less (like education), and that if a man rapes a woman that not only will she have to deal with that trauma but it will be compounded by people wondering what she did to deserve it, that doesn't put the fix in for all men either.

White women are hired and listened to and paid better than women of color, and it tends to let them be them stunningly unaware of the worse things that happen to women with darker skin, and often super obnoxious about it.

Apparently the natural instinct is to only care about the injustices perpetrated on you, and sometimes to care about additional issues when awareness is raised, but still, a lot of the attempts to raise awareness just bounce off. That could be convenient, because when you do take it all in it can be really overwhelming, but it maintains the status quo in a way that ensures an endless supply of pain, some of which is bound to get on you.

So, if you do - by virtue of your color and gender - occupy a somewhat higher rank, and know that you still have many difficulties, there is that previously mentioned opportunity to really think about it and empathize and possibly consider course corrections that you can support via volunteering and voting and maybe even running for office.

Oddly, what usually happens is a high sensitivity to criticism that gets perceived as persecution even though it really isn't.

Therefore we have people complaining about witch hunts and the stifling of creativity and the women just doing it for fame, even though none of that holds up logically.

Harvey Weinstein might get charged, but it hasn't happened yet. Kevin Spacey lost one season of a show, but he took down every other person who could have had that season with him. Adam Venit, Terry Crews' assailant, no only definitely isn't getting charged, but his suspension was rescinded. William Morris is still making money off their former client Crews, and Crews is the one who is going to have to have his mental state evaluated, even though no one seems to dispute that the incident happened.

(Reminder there that male privilege does not rule out sexual abuse or harassment, in the cases of both Venit and Spacey. That being said, intersectionality could make some good points about vulnerability based on age, color, sexual orientation, and organizational power.)

Some careers are changing, but generally for people who already had quite a bit of prestige and wealth. Otherwise, the main impact for most of the men is that some people (and not even everyone, because there are a lot of people who refuse to believe women) think less of these other people who are used to having respect.

That's a long way from Salem or HUAC.

On the other side, how many women are benefiting from this? Rose McGowan is getting a docu-series, and that seems to be it. The interesting thing about that, if we are looking at rewarding abuse, is that she has kind of been the worst throughout this, being highly critical of how others have handled their own situations and possibly contributing to her ex-manager's suicide.

Otherwise, for all the stories that have been told about abuse, how many names do you know? Which ones are more famous and richer now? Also, we may not know them, but when people are spouting off about it being their fault for not coming forward sooner, or for coming forward at all, or for being stupid enough to go places and talk to people, do you think they don't feel that? Do you think the women who haven't come forward yet don't hear that?

Especially after hearing some talk radio, and through various encounters with other people, I feel that we are becoming a very reactionary society, where we have quick emotional response to things that we don't think through.

I promise you that nothing good will come out of that. So let's change it.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Reversing the trend

Sometimes I have a hard time not jumping on current events when I had plans for writing on existing things, but I am just going to mention Andrew McCabe, because there is a good transition in there for getting back to #metoo.

Obviously the firing is petty and spiteful, and I have a lot of thoughts on that because of other things. Obviously, no matter how many times Trump says there is no evidence of collusion, it is no more honest than anything else he says. Also, because of the connections to Comey, and remembering the role he has played, there are some good lessons in here that the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend. Those are all good things to remember, and I don't know if it would even be worth that much going over, except that I have seen some very enthusiastic retweets of a gofundme for McCabe.

It turns out there are dozens:

I think the article is helpful anyway because it explains the ramifications a bit more. If you were thinking that it would be weird for a lack of two days to completely wipe out a pension, for example, you would be right, though there are still ramifications that have an impact.

I'm not against McCabe getting his pension. Some of the offers mentioned of giving him a couple of days work for special assignments seem very appropriate. However, this bandwagon of GoFundMe campaigns to try and make it up for him - without him requesting it, and without knowing what the impact is, but such a hurry to rescue - has an interesting aspect. There is such a hurry to side with the white guy in a suit.

What about all the Parks department people to lose jobs, and EPA people and state department people? What about the families separated by ICE? What about the people losing job protections? I mean, I know it's a long list, and if you start trying to help everyone damaged by Trump that would be a long and discouraging task, but GoFundMe's for a guy who has been working steadily and now has name recognition is not the greatest need.

I am thinking of this in relation to a few other things.

One is the well-documented income and wealth gaps that we have with gender and race. Yes, a lot of people will try to explain it as women making different choices that hold them back, or harmful social environments, but all of the corrections for the data still show white men prevailing, and at some point we should be wondering why that is, and if it might not be a firmly cemented structure in place that favors them, which could include deeply rooted desires to help white men and make things right for them in case something does go wrong for them. If it were Ben Carson, for example, would there be so much concern for his pension? I'm not even saying that people would think he deserved it, but would they feel that need to rush to the rescue?

I also see that there is a new documentary coming out on the Rajneeshees. I don't remember a lot about them, but their leader was definitely the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Why, then, was the song "Shut Up Sheela" - against his personal assistant - instead of "Shut Up Sheela"? I'm not saying she was a good person, but when the song came out a lot of things weren't known yet. She was number two, but not number one. Is it easier to direct anger against a woman?

I can imagine an immediate response of "no", and there is always justification for why you don't like someone or they bother you more, but if you don't examine that you might be subject to baser cultural scripts that you don't even recognize and that are not good for yourself or those around you.

So, two more things, back from when #metoo was just getting going. The Golden Globes needed a host who wouldn't embarrass them by making sexist jokes or harassing any of the presenters and they went with Seth Meyers, who did fine by all accounts, but they never appeared to consider hiring a woman. Around that same time someone (I can't find it now) tweeted that clearly men couldn't be trusted to govern, so the only answer was robots. As opposed to women.

Society is constantly reinforcing messages that do not tend to be about equality and respect. We are not going to change that accidentally and unconsciously. It may very well be upsetting to talk about it, especially to discover your own complicity, but it's the price of improvement. There's just no way around that.

Sometimes there may be things we can do to alleviate that. I may do that by having several posts criticizing various celebrities.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Album Review: 41 by Reggie and the Full Effect

41 is really good, and I don't know if I have anything interesting to say about it.

One of the themes in yesterday's review was maturity, and that kind of fits in here too.

That may seem wrong, because everyone knows that Reggie and the Full Effect is supposed to be silly. There is a song named after a dog. (Okay, if you're an animal person, that doesn't seem that silly.) Many of the titles don't seem that serious, though the song content can be.

Mainly, though, if I mention maturity it's continuously hearing James Dewees grow as a musician when he has been really good at this for a long time. I know I have said that before, especially in regard to comparing "My Dad - Happy Chickens" to "Fowlin Around". That came from looking at similar themes in subject matter. This time it was more hearing musical passages that reminded me of earlier songs, and their growth and refinement.

I did go over the entire previous Reggie catalog in preparation. (I considered listening to 21 by Adele too, in case it influenced more than the photo shoot, but I just couldn't do it.) That was good in itself, but I also picked up some things.

Last Stop: Crappy Town was previously my least favorite album, because of its harshness. It is more abrasive than the other albums, but it has more nuance than I had picked up on before. I'm glad I took another look. Also, as aggressive as Common Denominator's Klaus comes off, he is unfailingly polite.

Also, sometimes starting off not so serious can free you for something very real.

I remember first noticing that for the "Get Well Soon" video. It would be very uncomfortable to watch a human be that devastated, and it would be hard for an actor to pull off. Because it's the Loch Ness Monster, the emotional collapse is more accessible to the audience than it would be otherwise.

So on "The Horrible Year", when it ends with a scream, it works. There is pain and frustration and too much hitting at once, and the audience gets it. For a band that was supposed to be serious, it would be undersold unless the scream was done so loudly and overdone that it went wrong in the other direction. (It could probably work in metal.) As it is, it's perfect and you feel it.

The three singles ("The Horrible Year", "Maggie", and "Karate School") all made strong impressions, but if you only listen to them, you do not get "Alone Again", or "New Years Day", or "Broke Down" (possibly my favorite) or "Il Pesce Svedese" (possibly the most Reggie).

It's just a really good album. You should get it.

The other thing I want to mention is that although I did not write it up, I did see Reggie and the Full Effect last April, and it was really tight. It would have been almost impossible to improve the set list and the ensemble sounded great. I don't know if it is the exact same lineup coming around now, but it promises to be a good show.

One last thing, if Cobra Kai is returning, then we needed the song "Karate School" more than we could have imagined.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Album Review: Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie

I was kind of excited to see that this album existed because here are my two favorite members of Fleetwood Mac working together.

It ends up being a bit more complicated than that, because Mick Fleetwood and John McVie ended up playing on the album, raising the question of whether this is what Fleetwood Mac would be like without Stevie Nicks. However, everyone is treating the album more like the product of a duo, and I am going to respect that.

Where it becomes interesting is that even if the writing is two people, these are two people with a history, and they have a history with other musicians too. It can easily be very comfortable - once you need support - to reach out to musicians that you know very well and who know you, and who you know play well together.

I think that's part of what makes the album so good. It is very good. My personal favorite tracks (or at least the ones that come back and visit me the most) are "Sleeping Around the Corner" and "On With the Show", but I could easily keep adding to the list, because I could keep pointing out an easy rhythm in this track, or a haunting passage here, or a profound statement there.

That makes the overall feel of the album seem more important; what I hear is maturity and comfort and ease that all go together. The history of Fleetwood Mac has had its bumpy spots, but these two have sifted out the gold and enjoyed it.

Because of all of that, I not only like listening to this album but I am inspired by it. There can be a lot of good things down that road, and the path that came before wasn't a waste.

So let's get on then. On with the show.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Loving music

With my crashed drive, the loss I felt the most was my Emo Exploration document.

 Right before it happened, I had seen someone's end of year countdown and thought I could do the best songs that were new to me in 2017, but I needed to review my emo notes and I couldn't. Also, I still had a list of bands from the book that I wanted to explore further, and bands that came a little later but had strong fandoms in that document. I could remember some, but definitely not all.

Well, when I was checking to see what I had already posted on "Bedroom Talk" Monday, I had the list of bands for further exploration in that post. On a hunch I checked to see if I had blogged the other list somewhere else, and I did. Keeping a blog has been very valuable to me.

(Actually, there had been two very similar lists, but the one was all abbreviations, and I had asked someone about them, and so I have that in DMs.)

Finding those pieces means that I can still do something that I meant to do, and as I intended to do it instead of a poorly remembered reconstruction. That felt good. I had also blogged the newer music I was interested in checking out when I was finishing up emo.

Part of why I mention this now is that the band reviews for this week are related to that. Friday's album was not out then, but I knew he was working on it.

Beyond that, the twin concepts here are the feelings that music gives me (or maybe let's me process when the feelings are already there) and also that there can be old things that are new to you that matter.

At the time, it was that Electric Century had a full album out, not just an EP, and that Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie had put an album out together, and The All-American Rejects had some new songs. I saw - but had not mentioned - that Jimmy Somerville had an album I wanted to check out. I discovered after that post that Fall Out Boy had new music out. Finally, Reggie and the Full Effect's new album came out last month.

This is why I wanted to check out the Jimmy Somerville album, from Wikipedia:

September 2014 saw the release of new single "Back to Me" followed by "Travesty", both from Somerville's new disco-inspired album 'Homage'. The emphasis on the recording of the new album has been on achieving the musical authenticity of original disco which Somerville grew up listening to. He stated 'I've finally made the disco album I always wanted to and never thought I could'.

(I think my sisters and I were listening to a Communards song, and talked about their breakup, and that made me want to look something up and I saw that.)

I didn't love the album. I didn't dislike it, but I expected it to be more awesome than it was, based on the quote. Even so, I could imagine listening to more disco - especially the originals of the songs he covered - and more Communards, and spending some time analyzing disco and disco elements, which are definitely part of what I like about Communards songs. It could still be a starting place.

The Rejects have three new tracks since their last album, and Fall Out Boy has a new album. I acknowledge that their earlier music hit me more deeply, but I don't know how much of that is because of where I was then and what I needed. It still means a lot to me that two of my favorite bands are still working on things together. I like that they are doing different things, because growing and maturing together is good for a band. It's not like it erases the older tracks; they're still there.

That's pretty good, plus there are clearly two reviews coming out from this: one from a pairing I have never written about, and one that I just want to listen to a lot, so I hope I end up having something interesting to say about it.

And without another review, Electric Century is so good, and they sound so different from either My Chemical Romance or New London Fire, that I love them for being good and for reminding me of the possible variety in music.

But mainly, I need music. I love it in general, whatever specifics mean more or less to me. Even when I review bands who annoy me, I love that the music is there.

(The only thing that can make me feel differently is reading Rolling Stone.)

So, I can't look up my notes, but some songs made such a huge impression on me in 2017 that I don't need notes to remember that they mattered. Here they are, in order of release:

"Whenever You're On My Mind" by Marshall Crenshaw (1983)
"Kiss Me" by Kyosuke Himuro (1993)
"Brandenburg Gate" by Antiflag (2015)
"From the Heart" by The Slants (2017)

(There's not an Antiflag review yet, but there will be.)

And we're going a bit long, but as long as we're here, I know that Antiflag was one of the bands mentioned in Nothing Feels Good, and that I knew about Marshall Crenshaw but I reviewed him because of Jesse Valenzuela and that is why I found a new song that I didn't know I was missing.

I know Kyosuke Himuro because he did a song with Gerard Way, and The Slants because their copyright case was on the news, but I reviewed them because I decided I should take some time to listen to some bands with Asian/Asian American members. And if there were no songs that stood out quite like that, some of my most enjoyed bands for review were Terri Odabi, (because I read about her from Toure, and I sometimes focus on Black artists) and Nahko and RedCloud (because I read a Mic article and I sometimes focus on indigenous artists). Reviewing the bands that follow me is good, but paying attention to recommendations (especially from people who know music) and looking beyond what is right there, but digging deeper, has been deeply rewarding too.

I loved Coco, and it hit emotions that I am not going to write about now, but the only unbelievable thing was that you could successfully ban music from a family for four generations. Maybe that explains why they all came around so quickly once the fifth generation couldn't be denied.

Remember to check in with your favorites, but remember not to only listen to your favorites.

Remember to listen.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Recording music

I recently mentioned that I am taking too many classes. There were a couple of things that happened with that.

With the Roman art, history, and architecture classes, it happened because I couldn't choose which would be best, but it worked out that they tended to reinforce each other. Maybe first style and second style didn't resonate with me in one class, but then when they were being discussed again in a different class it clicked. That worked out, and now I only have a couple of weeks left on the Roman Architecture class (plus an AutoCAD assignment for it that I am not sure that I am motivated enough to try).

A lot of the classes end in March, so I am not even thinking about Music Theory and Performance Psychology until April of May. For the others, I thought Introduction to the Music Business could give me a better understanding for my band reviews and the Family Blood series, and Discovering the Instruments of the Orchestra just sounded interesting. I also thought Music for Wellness could give me some ideas for helping my mother.

Vocal Recording Technology was going to be a whole different thing though. Sometimes I really want to record things I have written. I've had this goal in mind for a while that I could have a week where the daily songs are all by me. My talent and skill deficit is a concern, but also I have had no idea how to record anything. I thought the class would tell me.

Other than some early lessons on microphones and other variables - like vocal registers and the recording environment - the class was mainly about working with the recordings in a digital audio work station. I'm sure it's good information if that is what you do, but if not, it was kind of boring. And, I still didn't know how to get the initial recording.

Oddly, the Music for Wellness class worked better for that.

I mean, I did have my mother watch the class videos for me, and she was more interested than I expected, so that was good. I think I have ideas for incorporating music more into enrichment activities in the future. But also, they had links for different recording things, and this seemed like it could be very helpful.

And then they seem to be more about editing sound files too.

Maybe I was overcomplicating recording sound. I search on recording an MP3 (the assignments call for uploading MP3s), and it let me to Windows Sound Recorder, which I do have preinstalled, but then you need a file converter to get it from a WMA file to an MP3 file.

I suppose the real problem is that everyone else is using phones now while I don't have one.

I did record two short test WMA files today. They sound very weak, making me think that using the mic in the camera is not the best option, but I am not going to be getting any new equipment between now and Thursday, when those class assignments are due.

Also, just turning in four week's worth of assignments on the last day is probably not the level of involvement that would be most beneficial. However, as a means of showing determination that I will get something done on time even if it is not great, there is that. Also, there is that some things need to be done badly before they can be done well.

So, while there are many obstacles and perhaps not the best aptitude, I am learning.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Music has meaning

I want to spend some time on music this week. Then I'll get back to misogyny, although there is some in today's post, which is part of why it's even necessary.

Last week I gave three different acts tepid - if not actually bad - reviews. Even giving one always gives me a a fair amount of distress and guilt and self-doubt, so not having anything that I liked there made it kind of a rough week. That was worse with Patent Pending because while I don't know for sure that anyone that I like loves them, they are still pretty adjacent to a lot of musicians I like.

Musically I like Patent Pending more than the other two, but a big problem for all of them was lyrical content, and some of the self-doubt centered on that. Is it fair to downgrade a band because I don't like what they're saying? Obviously that's reasonable for personal listening, but I also try to remember that tastes vary and people have different needs, and it's okay that a band that isn't for me may be very important for someone else. Did I review appropriately as someone who looks beyond personal preferences?

That's where the misogyny comes in.

If I had listened to Patent Pending a few years ago, I may have let them slide. After all, when you are listening to a band singing about how Princess Peach isn't worth it, and how this girl doesn't care and this one is plastic, et al, you can always tell yourself that they wouldn't think that way about you. Some women really are shallow and mean, and it's not even meant to be taken that seriously because Princess Peach is a video game character, ha ha!

I mean, really, that's why they made me think so much about emo.

Maybe that means it's time to talk about "Bedroom Talk" by The Starting Line.

When I was at the beginning of my emo listening, I thought they were so emo it was funny, and then I started to like them, especially that song, and then I looked up the lyrics.

First of all, the guitars are good. I like that part. The vocals have a pleading to them that is probably part of why I thought they sounded "so emo". On that level it sounds romantic. Lyrically, it says "I'm gonna tear your ass up like we just got married and you're all mine now."

That is considerably less romantic.

It doesn't have to be that way. "I'm going to make love to you like we just got married" probably sounds too trite, but there could be another way of expressing it that doesn't sound painful and violent for her.

It could could still work on another level, like if you were exaggerating the animal passion for humorous effect but both sides were into it, but the girl doesn't get to have a lot of say in it. There are references to his big plans, and references to him needing to put her out like a fire. He is in a hurry, and she is not, but she still needs to do what he wants. You can totally have a song that only sees one point of view too; that is not necessarily bad.

However, when there is only one point of view, and in that point of view the other person is clearly only an object, who must therefore be subject to the other's will, then it isn't even surprising that violence comes up, because why not? It can be gratifying for the subject and the object doesn't matter.

I know that sounds like overthinking, but look where it has gotten us. Look at how many young gymnasts have been molested, and aspiring actresses raped and physically injured and had their dreams killed. Look at how many brilliant minds have had things happen during their post-graduate work that caused them to change fields. Look how many ideas have been ignored in meetings.

Look at the kind of narcissistic greedy predator that got elected.

This is not saying that all lyrics have to be about serious subjects, but the mindsets that are out there matter. To feed into something harmful without examining it does damage.

It matters.

And if I can't really enjoy a band that doesn't see that, I stand by that.

And if their music is so compelling that I can't help but enjoy it, I will still be aware, and I'll note that in the review too.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Band Review: Patent Pending

Back when I reviewed Science, somewhere among the web pages there was a link to Patent Pending. Because Science was so good, and because I had found a lot of music that I liked among bands from New Jersey and Long Island (which sometimes seems more New Jersey than York -- I could be wrong), I added Patent Pending to the review list.

This add happened at a time when I didn't get to recommended bands very often, so they were on the list for a few years with me meaning to get to them. Then they followed me on Twitter, which automatically put them on the regular review list, except should they get bumped up because I had been meaning to review them for so long? Then they unfollowed me really quickly, making that a "no" (because I can be petty sometimes). Nonetheless it is finally time to review Patent Pending!

Let me give just a little more context. Back when they followed me, I believe it was at a time that I was writing a lot about emo and doing daily songs from emo bands. I believe that led to the follow, because it happened at the same time that Dustin Phillips of The Ataris followed me. I mention that because - while the band identifies simply as punk - what I like and dislike about Patent Pending feels like it fits within my understanding of emo.

I want to give credit where credit is due. Sometimes emo is associated with a poor level of playing skill, and I am absolutely not saying that about Patent Pending. They play well, and they are pretty catchy, and there is nothing wrong with their musicianship.

It's just the immaturity that gets to me.

It especially gets to me because so much of it is going in a misogynistic direction.

I don't necessarily think it's sincere either. The band members seem pretty likable and concerned with their fans, and when they have songs that are a little more serious the sincerity there feels different. Still, I recently read a quote by Kurt Vonnegut: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." So even if you are only pretending to be the insecure losers picked on by douchebags and rejected by plastic girls, that is still ultimately what you are putting out there.

The band is proud of holding onto their DIY ethic, which I respect. There is a lot of value in reducing environmental impact, avoiding materialism, and learning how to do different things. If it becomes a rejection of other people, though, and a reason for looking down on them, that's less valuable. It's also something that it would be reasonable to grow out of at some point.

The quick version of that is that I have been wanting and intending to like Patent Pending for a long time, but I can't quite do it, even while understanding why they would appeal to others.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Band Review: L.B.One and SkighMiles

I am combining two separate artists today due to them not having very much content available, though for different reasons.


L.B.One is a DJ, so it is reasonable to assume that he does sets regularly that involve musical skill and know-how, but that are part of experiences. Even if there were sets captured online, the recordings would not properly convey the effectiveness of the the show.

He does have two tracks recorded, both with the help of vocalist Laenz.

From a performance level they are musically pretty solid, though there is a darkness to the predatory theme of the videos that I found pointless. I can't rule out that they would be more meaningful to younger people though, being several years past cool, but it's almost like they were adding a trap eeriness that was thankfully absent in the music.

SkighMiles is a producer, who has previously focused on working with other musicians but is now ready to perform as himself, which I think is nice.

It may be that his interaction with other artists inspired his current track, famous, which seemed overly shallow and weed-obsessed, with somewhat repetitive lyrics. The sound is on point though, which makes sense, and this is a first attempt. He should have time to grow and to find more to say.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

On school shootings, gender roles

The video in question was posted by Matt Kibbe, but it was actually Warren Farrell speaking. Just a cursory look at him shows some poor thinking on gender roles, but I am still kind of appalled by the outright lie and the certainty with which it is presented. I will therefore not link to the video, because it has already gotten too much attention.

My first reaction was being taken aback by the wrong information, but after that I noticed something in the phrasing. Boys being deprived often starts with divorce, but then there is that number of women under 30 who are choosing to raise children without the involvement of fathers. That thread also had a comment about how mothers always want to nurture their kids and can't discipline. A different but related thread had a comment about how there was no such thing as toxic masculinity, at least not before feminism started damaging men.

Let me just say that there is enough to unpack there that I am not going to get it all in this post. That's okay; I have blogging material for months.

My second reaction to all of this was that even though the theoretical problem is being stated as the lack of fathers - with an appeal to rise to the occasion and be caring and attentive fathers - there is just a whiff there of blaming the women.

It reminded me of back when most problems were ascribed to refrigerator mothers, and any that weren't were because the mothers were smothering. The convenient thing there is that the incorrect mothering behaviors were exact opposites, where achieving the proper balance would be practically impossible, therefore you are safe in assuming it is the mother's fault. Mothers and motherhood were reverenced in general, but any specific problems were her fault.

(I guess that was a pretty sweet position for men, so any displacement of that by feminism could feel really damaging, though it's odd that people who believe that are so quick to label others snowflakes.)

This current whiff of single mother shaming stuck out more because I had recently read something about the blame that gets ascribed to single mothers on government programs with a reminder on how often those single mothers were underage and preyed on by older men who then abandoned the child and the mother. There are women who consciously decide not to postpone motherhood due to a lack of a partner, but that is not the only thing happening.

For those women, they should think carefully about having adequate support for their children and themselves - financial and emotional - but that actually leads to where I recognized another lie. Call that my third reaction.

Children of homosexual parents, including sons of lesbian mothers, often do very well. Sometimes they appear to be doing better than their peers born into heterosexual couples.

I know, a lot of people are going to want to reject that result for moral reasons. Remember, though, the greater point of this set of posts, in that we want to look at facts and make decisions based on them. Why might one get results like that? (Beyond liberal bias determined to disrupt all that is holy and good.)

I am going to go out on a limb and guess that in the LGBTQIA community, there are far fewer unplanned pregnancies than those experienced by heterosexuals. Is it possible that deciding that you want a child and going over what is needed and how to make that happen could result in a more stable home? Could that be a good thing?

Now, let's build on that. If planned parenthood is better, are there ways that we can help make that more common? For example, would it help to make sex education and birth control readily available?

Sometimes it is easy to get cause and effect reversed. Two opposite-sex parents with good values might raise wonderful children, but if there is economic stress it is harder to hold that family together. If you want to support that family model, shouldn't you support family-wage jobs? (Instead of believing that both parents holding multiple jobs is fine Mitt Romney.) If parental involvement is important, a world where parents can support their children without working eighty hours a week seems important.

I believe that a loving and supportive father can do a lot of good. I also know an abusive father can inflict a lot of damage. Should the mother stay in an abusive situation to prevent an absent father? Because sometimes mothers get jailed for not leaving and stopping the abuse, regardless of the amount of abuse the mother absorbed herself.

And of course, if she does leave and becomes a single mother working 80 hour weeks just to keep them alive, is the problem that the father isn't there, or is it that we don't have a society that supports people?

I get irritated when people say wrong stuff and stupid stuff, but there are worse effects than irritation. There are policies that leave people lonely and desperate and dead. Please let's be better than that.

It can start with less worry about "family values" and more emphasis on valuing families of all kinds, and individuals of all kinds.

Look, if you are coming to your family values from a Christian point of view, the answer is always going to be love. Not judgment, or amassing wealth, but love.

I've checked.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

On school shootings, studying

I am going to write the five common factors in school shootings from the book. It feels like cheating, because I had written them up with my notes in my Goodreads review from when I read the book in October 2016, then recently on Facebook. Still, going over them again could be helpful.

Before that, though, I want to reiterate that the authors - Katherine S. Newman, Cybelle Fox, David Harding, Jal Mehta, and Wendy Roth - did exhaustive research. They interviewed people who went to schools where there were shootings, people who had contact with the shooters after they were detained, teachers, students, family, community members, and the shooters when possible. They searched archives going back for decades. They gathered as much information as they could and then put it together, giving each other feedback. They did that, and they knew there were limitations to what they could know, but they put in a huge effort.

It sounds logical that the results of their efforts should be more reliable than the opinion of someone who picking facts that support their pre-existing agenda. That sounds logical, but we need to remember that when the conversation is about guns, many people have specifically rejected research. This includes taking away the Center for Disease Control's funding for studying gun violence in 1996, and continuing to renew the ban. Even Jay Dickey, who led the charge, decided it was wrong before he died, but the amendment stands. There is opposition to study:

There are also many prohibitions on keeping data on existing gun sales, making tracing guns used in crimes much harder than television would have you believe:

Suggestions are constantly criticized as showing that those making the suggestions know nothing about guns, but if ignorance is a bad source for deciding policy, we should not be enforcing ignorance.

I point this out because as much as we do need more knowledge, we may need to end opposition to gathering and using knowledge even more.

(And, if the argument is that the weapon on its own isn't that deadly without modifications like a bump stock, and you still resist controls on bump stocks, at some point we have to question sincerity, but I'm not going to focus on that right now.)

Okay, so what did the authors of Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings conclude?

1. The first necessary factor is the shooter's perception of himself as extremely marginal in the social worlds that matter to him. 

This is interesting because often when we talk about marginalization, we are referring to minorities, but the bulk of the shooters are white and male and straight, and should be the opposite of marginalized. However, it's the social group that matters. (How you relate to society as a whpole affects different things.) Yes, some of the shooters were picked on at times, but they also picked on other kids. Generally the shooters have friends, they may date, but they don't feel valued enough by their group, and that will often come down to whether they can be tough enough and cool enough.

2. Second, school shooters must suffer from psychosocial problems that magnify the impact of marginality. 

There was really only one who seemed to be on the verge of developing a true mental illness from the case studies I have read. There can be other things that damage perception, and make things look worse.

3. Cultural scripts -- prescriptions for behavior -- must be available to lead the way for an armed attack.

There was a time when seeing the wrong movie or playing the wrong video game could make that worse, but at this point there is no way for a child to not know that mass shootings are a possibility; they have become too common. We can hope that if we can change the way they are perceived, so that they don't look like a way of showing everyone and dominating others, but we can't undo the knowledge. Perhaps some of the demonstrations that teens are participating in now are the best examples of empowerment that is not harmful to others.

4. The fourth necessary factor is a failure of surveillance systems that are intended to identify troubled teens before their problems become extreme.

If there is an upside to teens knowing about the risk of school shootings, it may be that teens are much more willing to report on potential shooters now, and prioritize that over the stigma of snitching. We are all able to conceive the worst after multiple times of seeing it happen, and we take it more seriously. However, it is even better if we see that someone is down, or feels worthless, or needs help before they start thinking about harming others. Are we on the ball there?

5. Finally, we come to gun availability.

Most of these notes are pretty different from my review (I'll link to it at the bottom). That's not that I have changed my mind, but I have new, additional thoughts now. Tthis one is the same: the Jonesboro shooters tried to take guns from their parents first, but the guns were locked up and they couldn't get in. Then at the grandparents' house the guns were only secured with a cable that they were able to cut. Yes, they were determined enough to go to more than one house, but I don't think they would have kept going indefinitely. Lives could have been saved.

We talk about shootings with the same fatalism where we talk about suicides - if they are determined you can't stop them. That is a lie. People get dissuaded from attempts all the time, and it leads to life.

That's worth fighting for.

Monday, March 05, 2018

On school shootings, part 1

Okay, I am going to write about guns a little, except it's not really guns. It's not even really so much school shootings as it is about perception and communication.

I should back up.

In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting there have been many discussions going around, and there are many comments I could make. One stood out, both because I saw multiple references to it in a fairly short period of time, and also because I knew it was false.

The statement was that the common factor in these shootings is fatherless boys. That's not true. For some of the shooters, okay, but among the various common factors that is not even a high-ranking one.

I wrote a fairly long Facebook post with some detailed comments, but if something feels important to say, I guess I just don't feel right until it is up on the blog.

I want to start with how ideas get out there. Apparently Rick Santorum has put forward the missing father thing, but I think a video from Matt Kibbe (noted libertarian and co-writer of the Tea Party manifesto) has had more of an impact.

In that video Kibbe names four shooters who were not living with their fathers (though this does not necessarily mean that they had no contact with their fathers). However, without even trying hard I can give you five more who lived in two-parent homes and one who lived exclusively with his father.

There is some coincidence in that. I remember the Thurston high school shooter (I am not going to give names even when I know them, to avoid giving fame to them) because I went to college near Thurston, and although they were far away from where I went to high school, one team did encounter them once during playoffs. It felt close, like I knew that even though I didn't know anyone who was there, I knew people who knew people who were there. The details of that stick out pretty well. He lived with both parents and he killed them both before he went and shot up the school.

Proximity (and some common religious ties) also made the Reynolds High School shooting stand out, and he only lived with his father.

So much for coincidence; the rest was deliberate learning. When I was working on the Long Reading List, trying to be a better resource for teens, I read Dave Cullen's Columbine. That told me about two more shooters. In addition, the notes led me to another book, Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings. 

Rampage had five authors, because it was the result of an investigative committee. The focused specifically on the shootings in Jonesboro and Paducah, but there was an exhaustive study of the data on many other shootings with all of the factors tallied and put in tables.

That let me know the family background of three more shooters. There was a lot more information in there, and a lot of it was more pertinent to a school shooting discussion. It was still helpful for me to immediately recognize a false statement.

The false statement resonates emotionally: Of course! Broken families! It makes so much sense!

In this case it is not just that the statement is false, but also that it is built upon false assumptions about fathers and families. Giving into that won't get us anywhere. Engaging in critical thinking might.

It could also lead to hedging, like "Maybe the fathers were there but were emotionally distant." People will cling to false statements that feel right and support their worldview.

Some stereotypes came up that are pretty important and we will get to them, but here's the other thing about reading a book: Rampage listed five common factors that were always present in some form. Granted, it's from 2005 so things could have shifted during the past decade. I admit that.

Still, doesn't it make sense to at least see what the people who studied really hard came up with, versus the people who make assumptions based on a few select observations and an outdated understanding of how the world is supposed to work?

Well, if you have been taught to be suspicious of intellectuals, perhaps not, but I like reading, and that's where I'm going next.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Band Review: Lost In A Name

The intro to Lost In A Name's "Avert the Apathy" reminds me of Metallica. There is an aggression to the opening guitars and drums, and it makes me think of the hardest metal.

That's not what this song or this band is. The voices are not as aggressive as James Hetfield, and many of the song titles (like "Get Off My Hoverboard!") indicate that they don't take themselves nearly as seriously.

Personally, I find that a good thing, as I am not usually angry enough for metal. (I am only well-versed in metal because apparently I am related to angry people.) However, I like that Lost In A Name can play it that way. I like that they can border metal with their rock and pick out some of the good parts for their own use.

They really manage to get a good hard edge in their songs. It's impressive that they do it with only two people. Maybe a guitar and a drum kit is all you need, but it's a surprisingly strong sound for a duo.

Pretty enjoyable.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Band Review: Rock N' Roll Circus

Rock N' Roll Circus is a rock band based out of Seattle and Vancouver BC.

They indicate an interest in roots music, and it is easy to hear the blues influence. Honestly, despite no evidence of there being a piano (there is mandolin) it sometimes feels like you can hear a juke joint piano in the background; it is that kind of sound.

The music is generally enjoyable, though the songs do kind of blend together. Exceptions are "Back It Up" which gets a little slower and more emotional, but "Bad Time to Call" is a good starting point for the general mood.

Rock N' Roll Circus plays tomorrow night as the Heritage Grill in New Westminster (Canada).