Monday, August 31, 2015

Green revolution

Back in July I had a strange dream.

There were many segments and cameos, but the part that seemed to matter the most was the time I was spending with Marky Ramone. We were listening to My Chemical Romance and looking over our tomato plants, and they weren't doing well - turning soft before ripening fully.

I had in fact been worried about my waking life tomato plants, and some plants in my garden may or may not have been named after My Chemical Romance members. Marky Ramone is of course strongly associated with punk, and while there are certainly punk bands that are more associated with the Do It Yourself ethos than the Ramones, gardening with a punk rock icon is kind of appropriate.

Those are just details. The part that stuck with me is that while we were worrying about the tomatoes I looked at Marky and said "Just planting a garden can be an act of revolution!" And he smiled at me because he knew I was right.

It sounds more earnest and naive than I generally feel, but there are going to be some ways in which we think of revolution differently before we are done with this, and sometimes the steps are small.

I garden because fresh fruits and vegetables are important. They are also expensive. I garden because the breeds that you can grow at home can be bred for flavor instead of durability in shipping. I garden because there is an excitement to seeing food come out of the earth.

Sometimes it's a gamble. I have had bad luck with pumpkins and only one of my tomato plants is being really productive this year, but then I learn things and get better at it and expand.

That may not be Ramones-grade revolutionary, but it is starting to feel more so all the time.

There are two different angles from which I am looking at gardening as a revolutionary activity, and those will be the Tuesday and Wednesday posts, but the other lesson I will take from my dream self is that unsuccessful attempts are still attempts.

We can try to make changes that are very important and fail. Because the cause is so important, the failure hurts. It's still better than not trying. There are probably still lessons in the attempt that will make the next attempt better.

I know things that I will do differently for the garden next year. I am sure the next year will have even more mistakes. Onward anyway.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Band Review Catchup: Christopher Serafini and Dan Green

These both represent cases where a traditional review did not really fit, but I wanted to do something.

Dan Green/Dan Tanglewood

Dan Green did follow me on Twitter, and he still has a great Soundcloud page. However, as it got close to the time to review him, his profile was changing. I asked, and he was sort of leaving the business, at least for a while.

Dan referred me to Lock Up Laura, because he had once played with one of the musicians in there, so I did write them up, but I have left Dan on the list because I always hoped he would come back. That was May 2014.

Right now the Soundcloud page is still up, and it is really good. Most of the songs are instrumental, and if you love guitar you should love them. He puts me in mind of the listening I did based on the Greatest Guitar Songs list and comments. The music is so alive, and so complete without any vocal accompaniment. It is amazing.

And it is all that is left. Dan deactivated his Twitter and Facebook profiles.

A music career can be really hard, no matter how talented you are. I don't know what he's doing now, but his music matters. It should be checked out.

I still hope he comes back.

Christopher Serafini

Technically Christopher should have been on the recommended list instead of the review list, because he never followed me on Twitter. I just became aware of him because the Gin Blossoms like him - which is not a bad recommendation.

Still, this happened when I had just started tracking the bands I was going to check out, before I was even sure that I would be writing about them.

The first music link I found was a MySpace page. No one who is currently working too hard on self-promotion uses MySpace. These are mainly songs from Let Go, which is an older project. When I say "mainly" it looks like everything is from Let Go, but not everything is a song, exactly. There is also a recording of someone narrating a Star Trek video game where Ferengi are defending against Borg, which is interesting but it goes on too long.

Other projects have followed, with Serafini at least touring if not actually being a member of Pollen, Black Sunshine, and The Stereo. Then it became kind of hard to know which project would make the most sense to review. I lean toward The Stereo, because it seems more current, and he plays guitar and sings there, which seems like more of an active role, but his profile and biographies seem to focus more on bass. Generally when I listen to something where he is playing bass, I like it.

Again, the ambiguity there may indicate that he is not focused on self-promotion, but if he is getting the work he wants anyway, it probably doesn't matter. There are a lot of advantages to having a good reputation.

That makes my review boil down to "If you listen to music where Christopher Serafini is playing you will probably hear good stuff." That seems so tepid, but it's not faint praise. You can't say that about a lot of professional musician out there.

And I like the mix on the MySpace page.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Band Review Catchup: Into Colour, Second Nature, Daniel Ray, Antonio S Galica

I suspect it comes through sometimes that I can be kind of neurotic about the music reviews. I agonize over giving a bad review, and whether my reviews are helpful in matching bands up with prospective fans. I also worry about how long a band has been waiting for coverage, even if the reasons for putting off the review are well-intended.

Just for the record, I am also leaving on vacation next Saturday, and Wednesday I am going to a concert where I don't know if I will be ready to start reviewing them on Thursday, and certainly listening will be disrupted while I am gone. That probably doesn't require this much stress, but here we are.

So today and tomorrow will be going over some names that have been in the spreadsheet for a while, but where there are factors preventing a standard review. I believe this will be soothing, and I can at least move them over to the Song of the Day waiting list if applicable.

Bands without very much material

A band with a huge catalog is its own type of stress, but it gives you a chance to see what they are doing. While it is less to work with, a 4 or 5 track EP can still give a great impression of a band and their direction.

These bands didn't give me a lot to go on. I waited for more to come, but it's been a while.

Into Colour

This is actually pretty interesting in that the song, "Half A Battle", starts out sounding very ambient, then turns harder, but is done in such a way that it sounds like a completely natural progression. I can appreciate that, even though neither ambient nor hard rock are really my thing.

Second Nature

It has been almost a year since their one minute demo went up. When it is outside of my preferred genres, it is even more important for me to have multiple tracks to listen to. This is metalcore, and not my strong suit. I don't think they are doing badly at all, and I will always give bands from New Jersey a chance, but it's just not enough for me to go on.

The weirdest thing for me is that apparently both of those bands have merch available. I am guessing that maybe they play live dates, and just haven't put a lot of material online, but I feel like getting tracks recorded is really important.

I also have a strong preference for original material. That leads us to...

Bands that only show covers

Daniel Ray

I saw that he was working on an album, and I have been waiting for that. It still says that will happen, but it's been a long time.

There is enough material here to at least have an idea of Daniel's range. He should be great for people who like Bruce Springsteen but would prefer him more mellow and acoustic. There is a really nice team-up with another band, The Aroostercrats, on "Two Hearts".


Sometimes people follow me that appear to be musicians, but maybe there's not a link to music, or they are promoting something else instead.

Antonio S Galica

When there is a link to Soundclould you are usually safe, but in this case, while some of the tracks do have musical accompaniment it is primarily spoken word. I do sometimes like spoken word, if it's vibrant and funny, and possibly live, but this is not working for me. It may work for you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

About that hopeless one

Sam Simon (television producer, among other things) died in March, but even before he was gone there was quite a bit written about his philanthropy. One thing that made me sad was reading that he had pulled back from some of his environmental support because it didn't have any results.

That may have been somewhat misconstrued. I have read other quotes about how with animal charities you can often see immediate results unlike some other good causes. However, the real reason that it made me sad was that he seemed to be right.

We keep doing worse things to the environment and we do it for worse reasons. It doesn't matter that the fire seasons keep getting worse, or that hurricane seasons get worse, or that currents shift and sea life dies, we don't change anything.

I have said that Black Lives Matter is my priority this year because of the immediate threat to life. The environment would be the one thing that could compare. It affects more people, but the death toll isn't always obvious, plus said death toll is not nearly as high now as it will be. Of course, waiting until the death toll gets too big to ignore will mean that it will be much harder to do anything.

For something unrelated, one of my Twitter friends was complaining about how people only care about the protests here, and they are ignoring the ones in Lebanon. (She is half-Lebanese.)

I actually had seen those protests, and I do care. I am not focusing on it. That is partly because I believe I can have a bigger impact on the issues in my own country. It is also because a lot more black people have died at the hands of police than anyone has died because of the trash not getting picked up in Lebanon. Obviously it is a more complex issue than that, and it certainly could get bloodier, but for now it is not going to be my main issue.

If we had everyone putting energy into making the world a better place, we could accomplish a lot. Since that is not the case, we have to pick and choose. I don't turn off my caring, but I don't take on everything. Sometimes the extent of my involvement is signing a petition. It's almost never giving money since I never have money. I am finding places to give my time, but there's a limit to how much of that I have too.

I don't have much hope for us reversing global warming. I wish I did. It's still not a reason to give up.

Maybe you can't reverse all of the trends, but if you can keep fracking from happening in your area, that is beneficial to the health of your area. Maybe the hole in Detroit can be cleaned up, or maybe all that can happen is that the residents still there can be relocated, but for them it would matter. Cleaning up the output from coal plants would matter to the people who live around there.

It's important to look at the big picture, and often things connect. The racial makeup of Detroit was something that made it easier to get such heavy pollution in the area. That is a thing that happens. Having that background knowledge can be useful when you are taking on the local issue. It can be okay to specialize, and it is often kind of necessary.

My family recycles. When we vacation, we find places that we can take our bottles and papers as much as we can, and often we cart things home with us. Recycling is good, but reusing and reducing are better. I try to do that. I hope at some point to be able to afford solar cells.

Those are minor things, and they will not help much. I don't like that, but I'm not despairing over it either.

However, one thing that is quite clear is that the reason we collectively keep making bad choices is that some people are making high profits on them, and we have gotten too used to thinking it is necessary because of high cost, when if we calculated the real cost, we would be making big changes.

So let's keep corporate greed in mind for next week.

Related posts:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sorting out ways to help

One of the things that came up in yesterday's post is that you can address things from different directions. Let's look at the ways to help I have posted so far:

  • Read "The Case For Reparations"
  • Pass bill HR40
  • Read about diverse characters, written by diverse authors
  • End the War on Drugs
  • End For-Profit policing
  • Make cities friendly to the mentally ill
  • De-privatize government contracts, creating more government jobs

Reading "The Case For Reparations" and reading different authors and types of characters is about changing individual hearts and rooting out individual racism. You certainly could see movements in schools, educational associations, and libraries to do it, and you might also see programs at publishing houses to work on that, but it wouldn't be a legal issue.

Passing HR40, ending the War on Drugs, and ending For-Profit policing are very much legislative. They would be geared towards removing institutionalized racism, but their effects could go beyond that as well.

De-privatization is more economic, and it would not be specifically about racism at all, but as it led to more living wage jobs one would hope that the improvements could reach many segments of society.

Making cities that are friendly to the mentally ill is kind of a mix. You wouldn't necessarily need legislation for it, but you would need buy-in from local governments. However, as more people got training, that should change their hearts as well, and it should have a profound effect on policing.

As we go over some of the other things that can be done, it's still going to be like that.

For example, if I write about rape culture and consent (which is totally possible, but I might save it for the next phase), that would appear to be more about sexism than racism. However, we have seen ways in which women of color are more likely to be sexually harassed and assaulted than white women. You might hope that efforts in that direction would be especially helpful to women of color, or you might see that they are less likely to see the benefits.

If part of the way you fight rape culture is affirming that every individual is human and has a right to sovereignty over their body, that may work to affirm the humanity of all people, reducing rapes across the board, or racism could win out and there will still be segments not viewed as fully human.

The point of that is that it's a big thing trying to solve all of these problems - even if you take away the people who don't want them solved. If at times different things are prioritized, that can be okay, as long as it is happening based on actual importance, i.e. people dying is more important than people feeling uncomfortable.

If you can get at root causes, that may be more beneficial. It doesn't mean the symptoms aren't important, and sometimes treating the symptoms triggers a correction at the cause level (which is great, because it can then permeate other symptoms.)

Which is rambling on more and more, I know, but as I write my blog I am taking the things that I have been reading and thinking about and organizing my thoughts around them. Looking at my notes for other ways to help, I have to figure out which order makes sense, and if some seem hopeless, should I still write about them, and hey, that issue seems to require black market solutions.

(Also, I do think about cognition quite a bit, so writing posts like today's makes sense to me.)

I want to try and wrap up this segment next week, and then I will work on something else. Maybe. This is the third post I have started for today.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Black Lives Matter - the Policy Push

I may not be capable of writing about things on the same days that I think I will, but we have a fascinating developing situation, and it does relate.

You probably know that Hillary Clinton met with people from Black Lives Matter. Video footage was released, but there was a general feeling that the meeting was unpleasant and tense.

I saw that, and I didn't think it was awful. The activists pointed out that stopping the violence is something for white people to solve, as the primary perpetrators of the state-sponsored violence. There is a need to change hearts. Clinton could see their point, but wanted concrete policy proposals. That is what she can work with.

It sounded like an impasse, but Campaign Zero is up, it has concrete policy proposals, and it gives examples of similar city and state legislation so there are models in place.

I know I've already made this point about the interactions between Black Lives Matter and the Sanders campaign, but look, encounters can be productive without being pleasant. Maybe you come out angry, but you think about it and then you try again. There may be a certain level of maturity necessary for this type of progress, but I am pro-maturity.

Campaign Zero is focused specifically on police violence. That may be more narrow in some ways than what is wanted, but it is the police violence that has been escalating most, and because the violence committed by the police is essentially state-sponsored, it is an important area of focus. Other things may be easier to deal with after that.

The site is definitely worth checking out. Some of the line items are things I have written about already.

These are more about legislation than changing hearts. When I wrote about promoting diverse characters and authors, that is one for changing hearts. Those are things that are worth pursuing, and where politicians can be helpful, but then people can get weird about them too. Michelle Obama encouraged people to drink more water and it offended people, so you have some people drinking less water out of spite. Maybe it's better to have the political figures focus on the laws.

I think Campaign Zero is a great step. I don't want to hear about any more unarmed people being shot, or subjected to forcible searches by the side of the road for minor offenses, or arrested for resisting arrest when there was no reason to arrest them. Those things need to change.

And these feel like concrete steps for change. It's not a huge change in direction for Black Lives Matter, because some of these things have already been said. It does accommodate what legislators need, and does a good job of that.

That ability to talk, and be frustrated, and keep talking anyway, to take time away to clear your head and then listen again, these are things we need. Those are the traits that can allow us to actually solve problems, and come together instead of falling apart.

It is thrilling to watch.

If anyone can find some positive stories on the GOP side, please send them along.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Band Review: Third Place

There was a point in listening to Third Place where they kind of reminded me of the Misfits. They aren't anywhere near as Gothic, but one of the tracks (I believe it was "I Can't Remember") felt like it was bringing some doo-wop into a modern setting. That impression seemed confirmed when Lifeland's final track was a cover of "You Can't Hurry Love".

(Actually, after "You Can't Hurry Love" there was a long pause, followed by surprise French track, which did remind me a little of the gap between "Don't Open 'Til Doomsday" and "Hell Night" on American Psycho.)

Third Place is a pop rock band from Montreal. While most of their tracks are more contemporary, there is often a sense of fun that works with the nostalgia that older musical styles brings.

That is not always the case. "Forever Together" and "Pride So Long" are more agonizing, and not fun at all. They were also my least favorite tracks. "Nightmare" starts out with almost a military cadence, growing into rock, and I liked it better. Other tracks tend more toward traditional pop rock, and maybe even pop punk, and are very enjoyable. "Look At Me Now" and "Feel the Beat" are good examples.

I think fans of Green Day, and especially Foxboro Hottubs could enjoy Third Place. They also have a wide variety of covers on their Youtube page to give an idea of other musical interests.

Videos for their own songs have a sense of fun that is not surprising, but execution of the point could have been more carefully considered. Just call them cheeky and don't hold it against them.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Band Review: Traditions

Traditions is a rock band from Westfield, Massachusetts.

They list one of their influences as Taking Back Sunday. I can hear that, though I would say that the guitars have a harder edge.

The emotional sentiment actually reminds me of a slightly earlier era of emo, like the late '90s era (when the word was being used differently). A lot of those bands weren't very skilled musically. Traditions works better on a professional level while still retaining the emotion.

Current videos only include the sound tracks, but this is a relatively young band, with time to create more content.

They are worth checking out, certainly for fans of Taking Back Sunday, but I think also for fans of Christie Front Drive, and other earnest music, where it feels like everything depends on being understood.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


I believe turning back the tide from contracting out government services is a way to help make things better.

This method is not specifically connected to racism, but in the process of assisting with income inequality it should help many of the people who try and work for social good have less stress and more energy.

Many people already acknowledge that more people being able to survive on the wages of a single job is a good thing, but there are various thoughts about how to get there. One is raising the minimum wage. I do support raising the minimum wage, but I believe de-privatization can be even more effective.

First of all, when minimum wage increases are rolled out, it tends to be staggered, slowing down the impact. There are often limitations on which sectors or business sizes are affected. There are the complaints about how it is sure to cause inflation. That has been demonstrated to be false, but the complaints will still happen and they will still make some people angry.

Imagine instead a new round of government hiring.

First of all, just removing the contracts from the contractors could be helpful in striking a blow at corporate influence, which has a value all its own. Besides that, the new hires will now be working at a living wage with benefits, because that is what government does, and should do.

Even with the benefits and wages, the government may still be saving some money. There is a lot of overhead with contracting. This money is now going to the workers, and probably being quickly spent. Most working class people are behind and trying to catch up now. That is going to increase cash flow in the economy right away, which is sorely needed.

Job creation was supposed to be accomplished by tax cuts to businesses and the wealthy, but oddly that did not work out. When you have people who are desperate for jobs, you can get them to work a lot without much recompense. This is not great for the workers or society.

Now that there are jobs available with better compensation, others seeking employment don't have to be quite as desperate. This is what actually drives wages up. It worked well during the Bill Clinton years. Wages and benefits were really good then, and it wasn't because of the goodness of corporate hearts, but because there was competition.

The current economic situation has stifled cash flow. You could give everyone a cash bonus, like George W Bush did with the rebates. That can have a limited impact, but with so many people in debt, most of the money would still go to banks, and not require new hiring.

Once upon a time World War II was an economic stimulus. It is not impossible that a natural disaster of some kind could jump start the economy, but hoping for disaster seems wrong. As it is, war in Iraq and Afghanistan enriched certain contractors without providing great benefit to the economy. I suspect some people have probably done well financially on various hurricanes, but it's the same people who do well with no hurricane, plus extra human suffering. That is not the answer.

So the government should just hire people. They can hire people to rebuild infrastructure. They can hire people to provide job training. They can hire people to document our times. We can take some inspiration from the Works Progress Administration, and the Civilian Conservation Corps, but we don't have to stop there. A lot of the KBR contracts were food service; let actual federal employees do that. Maybe let federal employees feed other people living in food deserts. There are plenty of needs out there.

One excellent place for new hires would probably be the Internal Revenue Service. Yesterday I mentioned Free Lunch; Johnston has another book, Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich -- and Cheat Everybody Else.

Now, Perfectly Legal is a dryer read than Free Lunch, as you might expect of a book that focuses so much on tax law. However, it does show that there are a lot of holes in the system, and a lot of tax cheats. People hired to deal with that would pay for themselves.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A country is not a business

Also worth noting, cities, towns, counties, and states are not businesses.

That seems kind of obvious, but not every compliment for Trump has been about how refreshingly honest he is. I have also seen some comments that a businessman is what we need.

One could argue that even if that were true, Trump might not be the best businessman for the job given the bankruptcies in his past. I believe he has defended that those were not personal bankruptcies. This could be a poor defense, because if it is his business acumen that we want, his business dealings are more pertinent than his personal life.

It gets to the heart of the matter anyway, because it is normal for businessmen to put other people's money at risk, so that if something goes wrong personal wealth remains intact. For an example of this, let us consider Portland's own Rose Garden, now officially Moda Center.

Team owner, Microsoft co-founder, and billionaire Paul Allen financed the construction in 1993 for $155 million. He did not want to personally guarantee the loan, which raised the interest rate. This may have made it easier to call the terms of the loan unfavorable when he defaulted on it, blaming reduced revenues due to the poor economy. This was in 2004, before the 2008 crash.

Now you might think that while this deal did protect Allen's personal assets, it at least meant that he lost the Rose Garden. That was true for a couple of years while he threatened to sell the team and the team demanded expensive renovations, but somehow in 2007 Allen was miraculously the owner again. The terms were undisclosed, but I suspect I know who got the better end of the deal. Allen's current net worth is 17.5 billion.

There is actually a lot that could be explored there about how professional sports require subsidies, thus making a sports franchise often a bad deal for a city, but that is a separate topic. David Cay Johnston's Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill) is a good starting point.

The real problem is that the purpose of a business is to make money. Government has many purposes to fill, but they should center around the public welfare. The common argument on the right is that governments are more inefficient than businesses in doing so, making privatization preferable.

Businesses may indeed find ways to be innovative and efficient in search of a profit, but when the financial interests are threatened they may also get evil. This can lead to things like...

- Halliburton subsidiary KBR billing for meals it didn't serve, overcharging and inflating prices, and refusing to turn over electronic data

- Enron defrauding California and manipulating the energy supply

- Tobacco companies hiding what they knew of smoking health risks (I recently learned that some companies with foods containing trans-fats worked hard to delay those risks coming out as well)

- Private juvenile facility owners bribing judges in the Cash for Kids scandal

This list could go on and on (I haven't even mentioned Wall street or diploma mills!), but often it is something as simple as holding down wages, because there are enough people desperate for jobs that you can get away with it.

The Waltons are just one example, but certainly an egregious one.

You can run a business successfully in a way that damages the threads of society. Lots of companies kind of are doing that now. It is also possible to run a business well and ethically, but it is not necessarily the same skill set needed for governance.

So, getting back to ways to help after we diverged for a while, one of the ways to help is not running a government entity like a business. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, August 17, 2015

One more thing on Bernie Sanders

As has already been written, people got really upset about Sanders getting disrupted. I have written about some of the reasons for that, but one thing I haven't really addressed is how people are really excited about Sanders.

It's increasingly rare to be excited about a political candidate, so I was acting as a killjoy there. That was not exactly intentional. I do feel the hype is unwarranted, and my post was a reaction to that, though it was more about stating my own position than pouring water on anyone else's preference.

For what it's worth, I am undecided about whom to support. Given that it is August 2015, and we have over a year before the general election, and even several months until the primaries, I am okay with this.

I don't find anyone exciting, which is not that unusual. In 2008 I was very reluctant to get excited over Barack Obama. Where that started to change was while we were in Australia, and people there liked him so much, and were so able to believe that he was not going to stomp all over diplomacy like Bush. I did feel very good when he was elected.

His presidency hasn't been everything that I wanted. I'm pretty sure that it hasn't been everything he wanted. There has been such steady opposition from the other side, with such a roar about any executive action, that the accomplishments that he has are pretty miraculous.

One thing I have seen pointed out a few times about Sanders and his irascibility is that neither Barack Obama - due to stereotypes about angry black men and the fear that invokes - nor Hillary Clinton - due to unfair gender expectations - could get away with it.

Previously I had seen that referred to as an example of white male privilege, but it was pointed out today in the context of how measured the president has been, despite being attacked regularly, that he has remained generally cool and collected, and that has served him well.

It's again a reminder that sometimes the pressures you have to learn to live with can be areas of growth, regardless of how unfair and wrong the pressures are.

And, it can lead to a concern about getting a hothead in office, someone who has never felt a need to be tactful or compromise or to wait and study something out.

Yes, that might sound like a concern about Sanders, and it is to some extent, but not to nearly the extent that it would be with Trump. It is especially a concern because that seems to be what people like about him. He's refreshing because he speaks his mind! Yes, he speaks his petty, racist, misogynistic, poorly informed, egotistical mind. Great.

(But there is another thing wrong with Trump, where Sanders has a clear advantage, and we should get into that tomorrow.)

Otherwise, it's had to get excited about any of the presidential candidates, and one thing we have gotten wrong is focusing so much on that aspect of politics, which will be yet another post.

For now, we will have an election, and someone will become the next president. That's the way it works, and despite being often disappointing, it is time-honored, and certainly better than a monarchy.

Knowing that, again, this is the time to raise your issues, while it's early. Tell the candidates what issues you care about, ask questions, on both sides. It is not the only thing that matters, but it still does matter, and right now things are more fluid than they will be in a few months.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Band Review: Ages Apart

Ages Apart is an alternative, active rock band from Alabama.

While it is definitely not country, I do hear the Southern influence, but with a generally heavier sound than Southern rock. If you have ever found yourself wishing that Daughtry or Cristian Kane had been more influenced by Metallica, Ages Apart may hit your sweet spot.

One of the most striking things about the music for me was a sense of assurance. I suspect that this is helped both by the guidance of producer Travis Wyrick and singer Cody Webb's own production experience. The music has a strong sense of direction and accomplishes its goals.

"Where Do We Go" is a good introductory track for conveying the strength and power of the group, but the softer side of "Victim" stayed with me more.

While there is currently no video content available, the band's pages look really good, with reasonable levels of content, so I suspect the Youtube channel will not be empty long.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Band Review: Halfway to Hollywood

I kept liking Halfway to Hollywood more each time I listened to them.

Halfway to Hollywood is a trio from Vancouver, British Columbia creating pop rock and power pop. At first I thought they were fine, but as I listened more I started noticing fun keyboard details, reminding me of favorably of James Dewees. I then started hearing more emotion and sincerity in the music, and ended up liking them quite a bit.

I think fans of Boys Like Girls will enjoy the band. Check out "Last September" and see what you think.

Favorite tracks for me included "Somebody to Someone", "Speechless", and "Green Lights".

One mild criticism is that their video channel seems for focused on covers. This is not unusual for a band trying to establish itself, because it can show range and draw attention, but I believe Halfway to Hollywood can be confident in their own material, and focus on that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Leaving room for ugliness

I'll still be rambling a lot here, but it really does connect.

There was something at church that really irritated me a few months ago. They were having a musical talent show, and the announcement on when to try out specified all genres but rock.

One of my early thoughts was how dirty country sometimes gets, despite being generally popular with religious types. Really, it's such a ridiculous distinction when you consider the many beautiful and wonderful songs that would be classified as rock, and some of the trash that would not be rock. Of course opinions on what is trash and what isn't vary, but genre is a very poor criterion.

Let's leave music and go to comic books, to The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. I have written about it before. As important as the story that did happen was to me, I may have been more affected by the story that didn't happen. Shaun Simon and Gerard Way both refer to it in their notes from the special edition.

That story would have been kicked off with the protagonist's Ramones' tape getting erased. The villain actually didn't change that much. In Shaun's words...

"The gang would have found that another former gang had now become the largest health care corporation in the country and were hell bent on making the world a safe and clean place by removing all that was dirty, like the Ramones."

My first response to that was "The Ramones aren't dirty!" but, then "Beat on the Brat" started playing in my head.

Beat on the brat,
Beat on the brat,
Beat on the brat with a baseball bat,
Oh yeah, oh yeah, uh oh.

Okay, that sounds pretty ugly. It is ugly. But then for the people who experience it, and are in the life where that happens and to be cheeky about it, that's empowering. It may not be the best way of dealing with it, but it is a way that can help, and that can lead to other ways.

(I never have done that post on subverting the language of your oppressor. Some day.)

It sounds like the people trying to make the world safe and clean should be the good guys, but it doesn't turn out that way. None of us who remember Camazotz from A Wrinkle in Time (or any of the other various science fiction places that were supposed to be utopian and ended up being dystopian) should be to surprised by that. Enforcing perfection goes badly.

What Shaun and Gerard did was remind me how badly we need the Ramones. When things are wrong, you need a way to give voice to it. There will be people who won't want to hear it. That's why it's helpful that there are people who are willing to be rude and offensive, or to be buffoons, sometimes, because that happens too. We need people who can cause a ruckus.

There are different ways to be the voice of dissent. It may mean marching or blocking train tracks, or pulling down a flag, or interrupting a rally. Sometimes those actions have concrete effects, and sometimes it is mainly discussion. Art may be more likely to inspire discussion, but then those discussions can lead to changes, so you never know.

We have to allow room for the things we find ugly. Okay, I do love the Ramones, but I rarely enjoy hip hop. I still see it's value, more and more all the time. I usually don't enjoy metal - all the anger of punk with none of the fun - but there are people who need it. If there are people who feel less lonely because of it, or feel like it gives them a voice, I want that for them. That doesn't mean subjective art is completely impervious to objective criticism, but it's something to keep in mind.

So when we are seeing protests and offended by them, own that, but examine it. Should you be angry at the interruption, or angry that it's apparently the only way of being heard? Are we disgusted with people who need our support? Is our comfort worth their blood?

Those are questions worth asking. There are ugly things inside us too, and they only come out honest examination.

"The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them." - Ida B. Wells

The wrongs will be ugly. Don't blame that on the light.

Related posts:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Erasing the heart

Yesterday's post got some reactions. I was surprised by that - I have this idea that the normal reaction to me is "There she goes again."

It flowed into some thoughts that I have been having about Stonewall, which makes more sense than it sounds like. First of all, let me defer to Miss Major:

If you're thinking this isn't my specialty, it isn't, and there's a lot here. That reference she has to assimilation is apparently a whole thing that I never knew about. (In my defense, I was not born yet.)

That's okay actually; we learn when we go out of our wheelhouse. Coming in as not knowing very much, with just the Wikipedia article and the IMDB page I can see that the names of the detectives are in there but the names of the principle people on the other side are not.

Apparently some accuracy is important, but not all of it.

What does it matter if Roland Emmerich - who is after all the man who gave us 10000 BC - takes an event that was centered on drag queens and makes it about gay men who are mostly cis and white? I mean, even if that night was mainly trans individuals of color, white and cis gay men were part of the Pride movement that grew out of that, right? Is it significant that a prominent gay activist who is a white male thinks the critics are crazy?

This was interesting, from Wikipedia:

"Not everyone in the gay community considered the revolt a positive development. To many older homosexuals and many members of the Mattachine Society...the display of violence and effeminate behavior was embarrassing. Randy Wicker, who had marched in the first gay picket lines before the White House in 1965, said the 'screaming queens forming chorus lines and kicking went against everything that I wanted people to think about homosexuals...that we were a bunch of drag queens in the Village acting disorderly and tacky and cheap.'"

That might be the kind of attitude that leads to all white, all cis statues.

Here's the thing: it makes sense that this kind of a revolt happened with the people who were most marginalized. They took the most abuse and they had the least to lose. It also follows a certain logic that less marginalized people ended up becoming the face of the movement. Is the logical extension then that, despite huge strides in acceptance of LBG people, that the T falls behind? A trans women still has a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered by a cis person.

I am writing about this today because there was so much anger at the two black women who interrupted Bernie Sanders. That is beyond the comments on my blog - it's all over the place. I might get more into that tomorrow, but I think for now it is safe to say that people hate being interrupted. They hate being made to feel uncomfortable. They may later accept that the cause is right, but they hate the discomfort that forces them to think about the cause.

So then I think about how much of the work for women's rights has been done by black women, and how much of the work for African-American rights has been done by black women, and yet you have white mainstream feminists plagiarizing black women's work, and black men taking the sides of the white women, and how hard it is to get the same recognition for black women as for black men.

Black women have been the most marginalized; they have had lots of motivation to do the work, and they have done a lot, but they are less likely to reap the benefits. It's easier for that to happen when they are erased.

And it is wrong.

Marissa Johnson and Mara Jacqueline Willaford accomplished something big Saturday. This will affect not only Sanders' campaign, but all of the democratic candidates, and it will make this campaign about more important issues. They are also having their reputations drug, and are the targets of a lot of anger that would be better directed against the problems they are protesting.

This is not unusual, but it's not right. We can change that.

These are two other posts I found interesting, and kind of related: