Friday, November 17, 2017

Band Review: City Natives


City Natives is a hip-hop group from the New Brunswick/Nova Scotia area.

They were also mentioned in the Tom Barnes article, but the biggest influence on my perception of them was University of Alberta's Indigenous Canada class, which had a module on life off the reservations and in the city. I completed that pretty recently, and seeing the name City Natives immediately went back to that. It makes sense to me that they are from Canada, despite urban-dwelling indigenous people not being a uniquely Canadian thing. That was my context.

The other primary influence on my listening was their song "Hip Hop Heads". Being less into rap myself, when I am reviewing rap groups I often struggle to identify influences and musical currents.

City Natives lays out their journey in the song, starting with NWA, and referencing the East Coast/West Coast conflict, but then transcending it. (Which they should; it's overly reductive of scenes and rappers.) So I found the track helpful in terms of understanding the band better, but also it feels very personal and easy to relate to. That's especially true for the part about the father saying to turn it down, and resistance to turning it down.

Starting with NWA could raise certain negative expectations about the music but I don't think they apply. It's not that the tracks are void of despair, but there are also threads of appreciation of success, love of family, and especially love for their children which provides a link to the future.

Most of my favorite tracks were on 2017's Dream Catchers. "Intro" set the tone and led to more thinking about the material, but the tracks are also pretty solid.

Hip hop fans should check out City Natives, but there is enough musicality to allow some crossover for those that are not devoted rap fans.




Thursday, November 16, 2017

Band Review: Witko


Witko is a hip-hop artist from Pine Ridge Agency. He was mentioned in the Tom Barnes article, specifically for "Mutiny", which is considerably more difficult to find that his other tracks, possibly due to a label change or something like that:


Barnes' focus is on activist music, which makes "Mutiny" an understandable pick for him. That being said, songs about life can still have political meaning even when it is not overt.

Witko's music tends toward the dark. Lyrics are intelligent, but more devastating for that reason.

Tracks are enhanced - though not really lightened - by higher pitched accents. This can include piano accompaniment as on "New Day" or the chanting on "Major Key REMIX". I find it most effective on "There".

For rap fans in general, I think if you like Coolio you should check out Witko.



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Like a boss


I have been bothered for a while by what I have been thinking of as the toxic masculinity GMC ad:

"How do you want to live? As a decent person? Fine human being? A good husband? Is that it? Good? Of course not."


This is the improved version. The first one I saw didn't mention things like "father of the year" or making her heart skip" as getting closer to acceptable, but I guess they realized it was sounding a bit too antisocial.

Apparently the inception of the ad comes from trying to claim that their trucks are professional grade "Like a pro." What I remembered was the use of "Like a boss." That has a funny history.

It starts with a release by Slim Thug, "Like A Boss", which inspired a parody by Lonely Island that was so ridiculous it became a meme, back in 2009.

The Lonely Island version starts with relating fairly menial tasks (checking e-mail, calling corporate), but all of them done "Like a boss." The tasks grow to include sexual harassment, but also depressed and self-destructive behavior. It is chock-full of toxic masculinity, showing at least a basic understanding that this brand of masculinity is not only toxic to others, but to those exhibiting it too, which is important to remember.

Lonely Island's "Like A Boss" ridiculed toxic masculinity, which made it easily applicable to memes. Eight years later, GMC's ad team appears to be taking it completely seriously. It is possible that they were not aware of the history of the phrase, but it's also possible that they saw those memes and thought, Cool!

Again, I didn't know all of that when I saw the first ad. I was surprised at the intentional evocation of an antisocial mindset, acknowledged that it did play to the current zeitgeist, and was still repelled by it. Expecting social responsibility from advertisers is a sure path to heartbreak anyway.

This ad was a big part of when I started questioning whether married men were less likely to be recruited for terrorism because their family lives brought internal satisfaction. It was an old thought anyway; if we try and understand the terrifying acts of today in the same context that we understood September 11th, 2001, we will be missing a lot.

And yet, some of it does relate. The factors for those attackers were economic inequality, lack of opportunity for family, yes, but also for employment in general, and a readily available stream of anti-American propaganda.

Fast forward to 2017 in the United States, and economic inequality is bad. Opportunities are shrinking for affordable education; for work that is satisfying and allows you to live well; and there are voices on the internet, radio, and television constantly telling you how bad various groups are.

That does not create a good situation for anyone, but if you have been socialized that to be a real man you have to be in charge of someone - that you have to be a boss - and yet nothing you can do financially or intellectually or athletically is giving you that power, what is left but violence?

And if violence is the only way you know to get your voice heard, how easy is to get guns?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The making of a terrorist


Many years ago (maybe 2004) I read an article in Psychology Today.

If I recall correctly it wasn't even specifically about terrorism; it was about how there can be things that are unpopular to say but need to be said, like talking about why so many terrorists were Muslim, except there were specific things about that.

Most of the 9-11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Yes, it is a Sunni Muslim country, but it is also one with widespread income inequality and one that allows men to have multiple wives, greatly reducing the chance that a poor young man will be able to marry.

So you could worry that talking about that could increase religious prejudice or cultural prejudice, but you should just as easily be able to talk about how taking away positive opportunities for the young makes them more susceptible to negative influences.

(Also, any discussion on Saudi terrorists would need to get into the educational and news influences that their young men are subject to as well.)

At the time I took the polygamy factor as a testament to the value of marriage; that once a man has a home and family there can be enough validation and satisfaction within that nuclear family that it doesn't matter so much whether he is a leader at work or the alpha male of his friends or has some other way to dominate.

That could have been naive on my part. It could be that the wife and children are valuable as possessions and provide enough opportunity for domination. I don't like being so cynical, but there are reasons for it.

Terrorism and mass shootings are not exact synonyms. Terrorism would generally be expected to be political, and it doesn't require a gun. Mass shootings often don't seem obviously political. There are still a few things worth pointing out.

With the recent truck incident in New York, that does seem to be terrorism and he was radicalized here, in the United States. The September 11th attackers came here specifically to carry out their plan, but that isn't how things are happening now.

In addition, if you look into the backgrounds of the perpetrators of all of the mass shootings for the past several years as well as other acts of terrorism, the overarching common bond is a history of domestic violence. They have injured wives, children, stepchildren, partners, sometimes parents, but the violence started in their personal circle and spread outward.

Al-Qaeda put time and money and effort into carrying off their plan; ISIS just puts instructions out there for "lone wolves" who are looking for some way to have an impact. Maybe that matters, because September 11th delivered a bigger wound than, for example, the Pulse Nightclub shooting or the San Bernardino shooting. However, is that because it was bigger, or because we have just had so many other non-terrorist shootings that we can't even process them anymore?

We should be talking about things like that.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Mainly about the Trimet stabbing


In May I took my mother to Italy for a week to spend time with her hospitalized sister. I have written some things about that trip, but those focused on family. This is more about the world.

We left on May 22nd. While we were at the airport, I heard about the bombing in Manchester. There were flight delays for different reasons, but while in line to fix our itinerary issues I had just been talking to a man going home to Manchester. I immediately thought about him and his wife finding out that they would be going home to that, and all of the thoughts and worries they would have while still thousands of miles away. It cast kind of a pall over the trip, but that was about to get worse.

On May 27th I logged in and started seeing alarming tweets about Portland and TriMet and that's when I found out about the stabbing the day before. Now we were the ones thousands of miles away. It's not like I would even have been able to do much being home, but it does increase the feeling of helplessness.

I tried to catch up on everything when I came back. There was one article that quoted former FBI agent Joe Navarro and mentioned his book, Dangerous Personalities: An FBI Profiler Shows You How to Identify and Protect Yourself from Harmful People.


Even though I questioned some of his conclusions about the suspect, I decided to read the book. It was disappointing, but that was okay because when I looked it up the library suggested another book, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Bancroft Lundy, and that was really good.

The problem with Dangerous Personalities was that it gave a checklist of 120 or so traits for each of four personality types: narcissist, paranoid, unstable, and predator. If a person had more than 60 of the 120 for any of the types, they were probably a dangerous personality.

If you think those lists would get tedious to work through, and wonder if it wouldn't be easier and more accurate to just work with the Hare checklist for psychopaths, yeah, I thought so too. Navarro can spot a dangerous person, and can be an effective agent, but it felt like he did not have a deeper understanding of why everything interacts the way it does. I think that's why he needs such long lists.

The original article talked about the stabber's history, and what led him to this point. Navarro and another author, David Neiwert (who writes about far-right extremism) both talked about mental illness, especially relating to paranoia.

Navarro said that it would be a mistake to reduce the crimes to an outgrowth of mental illness. I agreed with that.

There was a lot in there about the stabber's life path that showed a pattern of low achievement: high school dropout, menial jobs, living in a friend's basement for a couple of years. He was into comics and mythology and metal, but those are positives for a lot of people, even if they show up with people who are less positive as well. (Tattoos showed up on all of Navarro's checklists.)

Navarro and Neiwert both acknowledge the appeal of groups and special knowledge, which can make certain groups more attractive when they embrace you (like white supremacists). However, there was nothing in the article about how sometimes there is such a dearth of anyone embracing  the low achievers except for white supremacists. There was nothing about how society pressures men to win, or what that does for someone who seems incapable of winning in any other way than violence.

I'll tell you something else: when you look at those backgrounds, the Trimet stabber sounds a lot like the Charleston church shooter, or the person who ran over Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. They would sound a lot like the Vegas shooter if he didn't have money, but maybe that's why he needed to be such an overachiever with his plans.

No, I am not using their names. I am also not trying to stir compassion for them necessarily, but I do think we need to try and understand. That doesn't come from shrugging our shoulders at mysterious lone wolves, not when they seem to be coming off of an assembly line. It will not come from talking about mental illness if the symptoms they exhibit are not aberrations from the societal norm but rather exaggerated reflections of it.

Now we are talking about toxic masculinity.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Band Review: Nahko


I am still not sure that I have the title right.

Nahko Bear is the person, and he has performed as Nahko and Medicine for the People, but his newest album, My Name is Bear, is listed under just Nahko. The Indian Country article that led me to him called him Nahko Bear, so that was what I originally had.

Those distinctions may not matter much, but one reason I am looking at them is that the latest album is somewhat of a departure, and a returning to the past.

I have been concentrating on My Name is Bear. It is not wholly different. There are earlier songs that sound similar ("We Are On Time" from Hoka comes to mind).

In a gross oversimplification, My Name is Bear is quieter. With Medicine for the People there is a definite world music feel, and it is celebratory and joyful -- maybe not every song but that element comes up again and again.

My Name is Bear is more reflective. It is also harder to classify. Continuing with inadequate explanations, there are times that it reminds me of Roger Miller and Cat Stevens, but that is just for they style. The mood is one of considering all the roads that brought one to this place. The roads for Nahko Bear involved adoption, and being indigenous but raised in a white home but meeting his birth mother. It passes through Oregon, Louisiana, Alaska, and Hawai'i. There is a lot to the journey and a lot in the record. It seems wonderfully fitting that "Dragonfly" was done with Paris Jackson.

I do recommend listening to the earlier music too, but starting with My Name is Bear can make sense too, because it is the beginning. But if the beginning comes later, because you can't see it clearly until you gain some perspective, that makes sense too.




Thursday, November 09, 2017

Band Review: Nataanii Means


I became aware of Nataanii Means through a Mic article by Tom Barnes:

https://mic.com/articles/116942/8-songs-by-native-american-rappers-that-deserve-to-be-heard#.iSvxnirpr

I already knew and reviewed two of the artists listed, Frank Waln and Litefoot, but the other six will all be covered this month, starting with Nataanii Means today. That makes this article slightly more influential (for my review choices) than Touré's Smithsonian article on the Blues, and it also means that this November is pretty heavy on rap (eight out of ten artists).

Means feels like a good starting point because of points of connection. Just listening to his 2 Worlds album, Frank Waln is featured on "Real Skins" and Nataanii's father Russell Means (previously appearing in books and movies that were part of Native American Heritage Month, but not previously in music) can be heard on "The Radical".

For the rap itself, Means reminds me most of what I was hearing in the early 90s, where the musical elements started sounding more serious, but before it was becoming lyrically nihilistic. That is appropriate for content that is serious and acknowledges hard situations, but that has not given up. "Genocide" is a good example of that. "Islands" might come pretty close to giving up, but it's a fine line.

(If my analysis of rap and its history seems off, I'm sorry. There are other genres that I know much better.)

I think Means' music can be great for driving along, but it would be a shame not to pay more attention.



Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Thinking about Dustin Hoffman


Some people are probably grieving for Dustin Hoffman:


He has a long career with some great roles, which would be enough for many fans to not want this to be true. Beyond that, there was this video which touched many hearts:


The top comment there is that you can tell he's a good person. Hold on to that thought.

I was less surprised to hear allegations of harrassment about Hoffman because I had read this article:


To be fair, even before the article, I had already thought that "method acting" might only be an excuse for abusing your co-stars. That was largely based on reading about Jared Leto and Suicide Squad.

I don't know that all method actors are abusive; some are probably just mildly frustrating. Hoffman has had a reputation for being frustrating on set for a long time, though I only learned about it recently.

Before the Vanity Fair article, the only reference I had ever heard was the story of Hoffman staying up for two days before filming a scene for Marathon Man where his character was supposed to be exhausted, and Laurence Olivier suggested that he try acting. Funny, especially the way Steve Martin told it on "Saturday Night Live", but not completely accurate either.

Choosing different ways to provide an authentic performance is not automatically a bad thing. I can see how arriving physically exhausted might keep you from being ready to do multiple takes, therefore less ready to keep up with the rest of the cast and crew. Of course, it might also make you more likely to nail the first take. Those are probably good things to discuss with the director and rest of the cast before going in.

For example, one thing they did to help Justin Henry - the child star of Kramer vs Kramer - was shoot the film in sequence, so he did not have to keep jumping back and forth along the story arc to access the right emotions. For a child new to acting, that is a logical way to get a better performance. That would also be something that everyone understood beforehand.

It is questionable about whether there was the same universal buy-in to Hoffman telling Henry things to make him sad for real when he needed to be acting sad, as the article mentions. It seems pretty certain that Hoffman did not have buy-in from Streep on slapping her and goading her about her dead fiancé and the things he did to improve her performance. She wasn't as well-established then as she is now, of course, but I think there's a general acceptance that Meryl Streep does not need unsolicited help in delivering a good performance.

Here's something interesting: I was not able to completely track it down, but the origins of the "Try acting" story may be that Hoffman insisted on having Olivier doing a lot of improvisation and things that made him uncomfortable, and the protest may have come from that.

If we think about this in relation to sexual harassment and assault, notice the lack of interest in consent. Notice the self-assurance that all of this domination is for the good of the film; he's doing them a favor.

As a side-note, I have this sentence in my blog drafting file - "I put off writing about toxic masculinity" - because I had started writing one post, and that wasn't the way to go so I paged up and started writing what really ended up being that day's post and kept going. Several posts later, I still haven't gotten where I meant to go, but in a way it feels like I haven't been writing about anything but toxic masculinity (except maybe for Monday's post). It's everywhere.

Does that make Dustin Hoffman a bad person? Well, how are you going to define that? He is probably good to a lot of people. In the context of the wider discussion and the known allegations, Spacey is worse and Weinstein is much worse, if you can get past the unhelpfulness of the gradations.

At the same time, that for a moment Hoffman could get that men ignore interesting but unattractive women, and feel how unfair it was, does not make him a good person. It's not enough to see the inequality in a flash and then go right back to profiting from it, whether that profiting is done consciously or not. You can choose to stay conscious and work for something better, or you can choose to do what comes easily.

As far as that goes, in Tootsie a very difficult actor lies, sleeps with his vulnerable student (because it's easier than being honest with her, even if it can hurt her), uses information gained under false pretenses to make inroads with an attractive woman, but still gets the funding he needs, accolades, and even the attractive woman he wanted after one well-deserved punch in the stomach. Plus the interesting woman was a man all along so he didn't need to be attractive. I'm not sure that's the game-changer it's supposed to be.

Going back to the original story, I can easily believe that Dustin Hoffman did not intend serious harm to Hunter. Society has given many messages that young girls are hot and flirting is cool and chick only resist you because they have to do that to be lady-like. Going unquestioningly along with that happens. It doesn't feel good for the people on the receiving end, but it's not particularly beneficial for the giver either. It's not beneficial for society, though society's structure backs it up.

As we navigate that, there are decisions to make. They may involve people that you like a lot. It can be helpful to remember that this character you like so much is a character, and not the actor (though that can be so disappointing).

The answer isn't always going to be to stop liking people because of the things they do, but it should not be overlooking things they do because we like them either. It probably helps if you don't idolize anyone too much.

Anyway, I think we are done with Hollywood for a while. We are not done with abuse or with the systems that encourage it. More on that next week.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Concerns about Kevin Spacey


This isn't so much concern for Kevin Spacey. I mean, if he can turn his life around and start making amends for some of the harm he has caused that would be great and I have nothing against redemption. One could argue that his initial actions don't bode particularly well for redemption, but that gets us to the first set of concerns.

The first concern is how he opportunistically used coming out as a way to deflect the first allegation.

During the #metoo discussion, several men's accounts have involved gay men. That makes sense. There is a lot of socialization involved in women being trained to not be the aggressor. It doesn't mean that women never become predators, but it is more common among men. You can also get sexual assault against men by straight men as a way of dominating and humiliating, and that has its own factors.

All of that aside, for that creepy, not particularly violent even if still aggressive kind of harassment, when it happens to men, a lot of those aggressors will be gay men, and it is not because they are gay. Whom they target might be because they are gay, but that they are targeting anyone is a separate issue. That shouldn't even require explaining, but there has been a lot of homophobic framing of gay people as predators working to convert and corrupt our youth.

Tomorrow will focus on Dustin Hoffman, but an interesting thing about one person's account of his harassment is that she mentioned many other people working on the play, and only one was a problem. She met other predators in other situations, and she ran into at least one person on the set who told her to just deal with it, but with all of those older straight men only one harassed her. Hoffman's actions are not an indictment of straight men, and Spacey's actions should not reflect on other gay men.

To be fair, Spacey also seems to have thrown alcohol and sex addiction into the mix, so perhaps he was just throwing everything at the board. I can understand some desperation, but even if at the first statement we only knew about Anthony Rapp, Spacey knew there were others. Even if he truly can't remember everyone, he knew there were others. This is a time for choosing words carefully. If your words form other people's perceptions, that matters for all of the gay men and alcoholics and sex addicts who nonetheless manage to keep their hands off of young people and people working for them and overall just manage to not be abusive.

Speaking of people who work for you, that leads to the second concern, the apparent cancellation of Spacey's series "House of Cards".

Granted, this appears to take one hunting ground away, but it does it by leaving many others unemployed, including victims.

This may be more complicated based on pre-existing plans to end the series or Spacey's role as an executive producer, but you can't tell me that killing off a character or sending him to jail or having him go missing under mysterious circumstances would not allow for a lot of exciting dramatic opportunities.

Allow me to introduce one more concept that I learned about through Black women (primarily Mariame Kaba): restorative justice.

Restorative justice focuses on repairing the harm done to the victim. It is easy for us to gather our righteous anger and become all about the punishment. No matter how mad we get, the most common result in these cases continues to be the offender remaining pretty wealthy, with some fans still defending, and often an aggrieved sense of irritation. Somehow the system that relies on flexing power continues deferring to power.

If we changed our focus to helping those injured, what could happen then?

It takes listening to know that these problems exist. The #metoo dialogue has been great for that.

Now let's try to heal those problems by more listening.

(I am in no way an expert on restorative justice, but one place you can look for more information is http://restorativejustice.org/#sthash.rhnr30B5.dpbs.)

Monday, November 06, 2017

Based on a true story!


My family has had a pretty high correlation of watching historical movies and reading the related books, especially this year.

We saw Hidden Firgures in 2016, but did not end up reading Margot Lee Shetterly's book until this year.

Also this year we watched A United Kingdom and read both Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation by Susan Williams and A Marriage of Inconvenience: The Persecution of Ruth & Seretse Khama by Michael Dutfied. (There is also a related TV movie from 1990, but we haven't seen that.)

When we saw A United Kingdom there was a preview for The Zookeeper's Wife, which we thought looked interesting. We later saw that and read the book of the same name by Diane Ackerman.

(We also went to see Dunkirk this year, but we haven't read anything on it, and we read Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand this year, but we haven't seen the movie.)

I have done some additional reading on some of them, via articles or researching specific issues. We always wonder about things, but I suppose the base question is always about the accuracy of the movie: how true to life was it?

I'm not saying that this is a general rule for all movies, but most of the movies listed did pretty well. The main issue seems to be condensation. Spoilers will follow.

There is compression of time. When Baby Jacqueline is born and the Khamas take her to England, it is several years before they go back for that meeting with her father's uncle. Of course, more babies had been born too, so perhaps that is also compression of characters.

For example, there really was a Nazi zoologist, Lutz Heck, who took some of the animals from the Warsaw zoo, wanted to breed back older species, and had a crush on Antonina Zabinska. There was a soldier who took her son out of sight and fired a gun, terrifying her but ultimately not killing Ryszard. They were not the same people.

That is understandable, in a way. There should be higher emotional stakes in having the threat come from someone who has loomed so large in the story, though you could argue that the emotional stakes of fearing for your son's life are already pretty high. It is realistic to have fear about what any Nazi will do.

Beyond that, there were three other Heck's, the father and brother of Lutz. You learn about all of them in the book, but in the movie you don't really need them, nor more characters to track.

Sometimes these things are easy to guess. After watching Hidden Figures, I suspected (correctly) that Katharine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson were probably not really best friends. They had friends, and those friendships were important, but there were a lot of women working at NASA over many years, making it less likely that the three most prominent (the book discusses a fourth, Christine Darden) were also in the same carpool.

I had two other good guesses from there, being that Katharine Johnson never really got to have a rant like in the film (she would have deserved it, but Black women are still rarely allowed that), and also that the issues were not really resolved by heroic Kevin Costner ripping down the signs segregating the bathrooms. That seemed unlikely, especially because his character did not seem to have on single correlating historical figure. However, if you put Kevin Costner in your movie you have to give him something important  to do. Everybody knows that.

The real story is more complicated, with things like one women removing the label segregating the coffee every day until they gave up replacing it. Her friends told her she was going to get fired, but she prevailed. Practical persistence gets results more often than dramatic moments.

Maybe that's the most important thing to remember. As much as we want things resolved quickly and definitively, history tells us that is much less likely than movies would have us believe. That may sound like a reason for discouragement, but it is really a reason for persistence, and endurance.

Some of the books mentioned will be treated in other posts that I will get to eventually, but first I am going to spend some time on some actors and Hollywood, and that can be very discouraging.

Persist.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Band Review: Phrase Frazier


Yesterday I mentioned a lack of available material for the band, Bloodline, except there was information on other projects for at least one of the band members.

There are similar issues with Phrase Frazier, but different. There is a Soundcloud page, but it is not clear that Phrase performs on it, or that he set the mix.

That doesn't mean that it doesn't make sense to listen. A rapper can act as a DJ and a mix-master, so their musical aesthetic matters. Listening to the #NODAPL mix is an experience. It starts with news clips and ends with them, but after the journey you have taken musically the same quotes sound different: more urgent, more tragic, and more meaningful. That is powerfully done, but I can only safely assume that Phrase Frazier approves of it, and not that he made it.

That brought me back to my original point of knowledge about Phrase Frazier, an article in Indian Country Today:


That is not like listening to a studio recording -- even a fairly DIY one. There are breaks, though it is amazingly smooth considering the circumstances. There is an immediacy to it. And there is a lot to admire about Frazier's ability to respond and keep taking the high road while facing slur after slur.

It's an interesting transposition. There are times when rap, based on its content and delivery, can feel like an assault. That can only be exacerbated when you need to respond to it.

It is hard to get past disgust with Pyrex's racist content. It's like he doesn't even have the ability to say anything else. Maybe rap battles are similar to wrestling, where some people will take on hero and villain roles, but there are still better ways of being a villain.

Without physical contact, the fight aspects of this are very real, and it is a breathtaking relief that Frazier is able to deliver. He builds in energy and strength and triumphs.

While Frazier does not appear to have his own Youtube Channel, Universal Battle Realm does, and has multiple videos of Frazier with other opponents. Conflict averse types would probably prefer a recording of Frazier doing various tracks on topics of his own choosing, and I cannot find that this exists at this time. However, if you are interested in more rap battles, UBR gives you a lot to explore.


Thursday, November 02, 2017

Band Review: Bloodline


I put down Bloodline for review because I saw something with Loren Anthony, who does vocals and bass. I believe it was something related to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

The tricky part now is that I am not sure how current the band is. They were started in 1998, almost twenty years ago. There is still some activity on the Facebook page, but not a lot.

That doesn't have to mean much. As I started reviewing indigenous artists last year, many of them were focusing far more on #NoDAPL than their music careers, for which I could not blame them.

Still, some other artists had previously posted more music on line. ReverbNation has one song, one video, and I found at least two other videos on Youtube, but on different channels.

Anthony himself does many other things, including acting, speaking, and Iron Warrior Fitness. But I review bands.

So, for Loren, but also for Virgil Wilson and Leland Anthony on guitars and Steve Baca on drums, I listened to the songs I could find multiple times.

Bloodline is a metal band out of Gallup, New Mexico. The brand of metal feels more hardcore, with the growling and existential anger. That feels generationally appropriate for a band that started in 1998, though I have heard it with newer bands as well. They invite you to imagine that Machinehead had a baby with old school Sepultura, and I suspect that's pretty apt.

And I can only suspect that, because metal isn't my strongest genre. The intro to "Sacrifice" reminds me a bit of KISS circa 1979, but it is definitely more metal than rock.

If Bloodline wants to focus on the band, they could use better web organization, and there are lots of options for doing that. If other projects are more important to them, that's okay too. I wish them well whatever their path.

The first two links are specific to the band, and the last two are for Loren Anthony.




Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Codes of conduct


I hope that everything that I have said over the past two posts has sounded logical. I hope that is the result of examining practices rather than being carried along with the tide.

People have the right to dictate who can touch their bodies. That sounds logical. You can make hypothetical cases about when it is not practical, and you can have an emotional feeling of irritation in reaction to being challenged on that. Still, when we realistically discuss why some contacts happen and why they are unwelcome, it becomes hard to defend unwanted touching, as it should be.

I think that serves as an example of the importance of discussion. We have already seen the power the #Metoo conversation has in sharing support and strength, but it has also been educational. People are learning more about what happens, and to whom and by whom, and I hope are motivated to fight against all forms of abuse.

Allow me to suggest that one great starting place is for different groups to examine their codes of conduct relating to sexual harassment.

Focusing on the workplace, larger firms with Human Resources departments probably have a policy in place already. I have already mentioned that one of the discouraging aspects of the discussion lately is how many people have reported their harassment and seen nothing done. Let's build on the existing momentum and start a new discussion that is determined to do better.

Looking at the flaws in the old systems helps. How have reports been handled? It is advisable to have multiple avenues and means of reporting. Someone may have a hard time speaking about it and be more comfortable via email. For others it may be too hard to write it out. And if there is only one person receiving the complaints, that person can become an obstacle for others. A process that is clearly understood and easy to follow improves not only the ability to handle issues, but also the ability of the employees to believe that it does matter.

My first thoughts about conduct codes were inspired by comics conferences, but all types of conferences have added them. They have been added because conferences were often hotbeds of abuse.

Think of it this way: in a local office when there is a predator and complaints don't help, that unofficial network of warning each other provides some protection. Conference travel removes some of the warnings and the inhibitions. Over time some people learn and watch out for each other and warn each other, but it is still not nearly as effective as making and implementing a policy against the harassment.

It doesn't always work out. A little digging will show cases of conventions dragging their feet on consent, often due to a reluctance to break ties with a known harasser. You can find cases of reporters being harassed for their reporting. That is frustrating, but it should also pretty thoroughly establish that these problems will not go away on their own. It requires cooperation, and effort. We can do that.

It can work; some conventions have gotten so much better, and are so much more welcoming. This has been great for business. More people feeling safe attending and staying is good for the convention itself and for individual vendors.

A workplace that works against harassment may lose the contribution of some staff who just don't want to give up on abuse -- that is true. That workplace may also find that there is better collaboration. They may find that people feel more free to contribute ideas and that they are having better ideas now that don't have to waste so much mental energy trying to avoid abuse and healing from abuse.

You may even find that teaching those in leadership positions to treat everyone respectfully - regardless of position - improves their management abilities. There are supervisors who belittle and shame without ever being sexual, but they are still bringing down the working environment for everyone. Sometimes you may have to choose between profits and people, but that doesn't have to be the case.

Attachment to the status quo is often based on this fear that even things you hate are better than the potential chaos of trying to change. If the changes you seek are to improve things for people, and you are openly discussing how to make things better, that's not the likely result. If a system is only held in place by abuse, we will be fine letting go of that system.

So talk about it.