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 didn't 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).

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wrapping up tidbits

I am finding myself really tempted to write about guns today, but that doesn't seem like the best idea.

I can't rule out that I will hold off on switching to misogyny and spend some time on guns next week. But hey, if racism and colonialism fit in well with misogyny and patriarchy, there's certainly room for guns in all of that discussion too.

Instead, I have a couple of minor points, and I don't know that either of them needed a whole blog post, so I'll mash them together today.

First off, in terms of listening to the person you owe an apology (and in conjunction with yesterday's musings on human nature), this has come up in my own family dynamics. I will have a complaint, and maybe I am not calm enough, but all I get in response is how wrong and unreasonable and stupid I am. Then, the next day or so, the other party will tell me what they will be doing differently.

One thing that is unsatisfactory about this is that the action they choose is often not what the key issue was anyway. It has the added bonus of leaving me feeling unheard. I mean, clearly something was heard if they are trying to make a change, and it is better than being completely ignored, but it would mean a lot to hear that I have a point. It might be easier to discuss things rationally when your worth isn't consistently being called into question.

One thing I remember really well from recently, though, is that I needed time to figure out what would help and I wasn't given that. Listening doesn't just involve asking the question, but asking it sincerely, and that needs to mean allowing careful consideration. If someone knows right away, that's great, but when we are talking about groups that have been historically marginalized and abused, there are many reasons why they might not have a response ready. It doesn't mean that they won't be able to come up with one, and that giving them that agency isn't a part of the solution.

The other thing that I should mention is that I am currently kind of in over my head on online classes. It's getting better now, but when I signed up for the Indigenous Canada class, I already had five music classes going on, and then before I finished Aboriginal Worldview and Education I signed up for another four classes related to Roman art, architecture, and archeology because I couldn't choose between them. On the plus side, they reinforce each other, but it has been hectic trying to keep up.

Other than just letting you know something that is going on in my life, I also mention that because of something from back when I was reading The Feminine Mystique. It mentioned things being set up for housewives like lectures on classical architecture (yes, my classes covered the three main types of columns, as well as composite and things that came later) and how it left them unsatisfied.

I thought that kind of lecture sounded great, and yes, given the opportunity I did find it really interesting, but that can happen because my life isn't empty.

Filling an empty life with fluff still leaves it empty. Those women needed things to do and ways to matter, not just methods to fill up empty hours. (Empty hours sound like a treat to me, but that's because I have so many things that could go into them.)

At the same time, there were many women who never experienced the problem with no name because they were working hard to support their families. They didn't have to deal with emptiness, but they might have worries about being bone-tired, or how both incomes were not enough, or all manner of things. Often, for people in that financial class we don't even think that they would appreciate a lecture on classical architecture, but they might. People from everywhere have all kinds of interests, and it's nice to be able to indulge them.

This is my messy way of leading up to saying that people need both. They need to feel like they are doing something that matters, and that they are relevant and capable. They also need diversion, where it's okay to know something that you don't need, but that you enjoy. There should be a balance there. Economic inequality and gender roles and racial constructions can get in the way of all that, but everyone has something to contribute, and will be happier for getting to contribute it. Everyone deserves to have some fun, and will be better off for having that fun.

It shouldn't be too much to ask.


I felt like I should put up which classes, in case anyone is interested:


Vocal Recording Technology (Berklee)
Music Theory 101 (Juilliard)
Introduction to Performance Psychology (Juilliard)
Music for Wellness (Berklee)
Discovering Instruments of the Orchestra (Juilliard)
Introduction to the Music Business (Berklee)

(Previously had taken Religion and Hip Hop Culture through Rice, The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture through Smithsonian, and Macronutrients and Overnutrition through Wageningen. I also discarded an annoying Harvard Class that was too much science and not enough cooking.)


Roman Architecture (Yale)
Arch of Titus: Rome and the Menorah (Yeshiva University)
Roman Art and Archaeology (University of Arizona)
The Changing Landscape of Rome: Archaeology and and History of Rome (Sapienza University of Rome)

(Previously completed Aboriginal Worldviews and Education through University of Toronto and Indigenous Canada from University of Alberta.)

(The comic book classes I had taken on Canvas were through Ball State.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

NAHM 2017: Our better natures

Having recently mentioned the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and Canada withdrawing its objector status, I want to circle back to that.

When the declaration passed in 2007, there were four votes against it. We know about Canada, but they were joined by Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. You may notice that these are all countries that had colonizers fighting and subjugating and abusing the previous residents, and that those issues are not completely resolved yet.

There were also some abstentions, and some "yes" votes that you could easily question - this may be something that I want to delve into more later, but I had not really been aware of the declaration in the first place. I saw a reference to it when I was researching the apology, and then when I saw there was such a thing I was curious because of the Sami.

I was reminded of them by a Final Jeopardy! question. If I had been playing I would have had to answer Lapplanders, which they would have accepted, but which can be seen as derogatory. Anyway, that got me interested and I read up a little. As much as we laud Finland for their educational methods and programs that are helpful for children, Sami get underfunded. They are entitled to day care and instruction in their own language; they have a hard time getting it. Land rights are disputed.

It doesn't seem to be an issue of colonizing. The Sami are classified as indigenous, but they have shared space with the dominant groups for a long time. Somehow, there still seems to be a desire to look down on someone, and discriminate against someone.

As we get more into misogyny we will get more into the resistance to accepting the equality of others when there is a cultural tradition of looking down on them. Yesterday I used my human frailty as an explanation of why I can't be perfectly organized; there are much uglier aspects to that frailty.

Still without intending to excuse it, I do think it is beneficial to acknowledge it and try and understand it. People like Justin Trudeau a lot. He does do some good things. His shortcomings seem to most often come up in relation to indigenous Canadians. Is that a coincidence or a not at all surprising result of years of conditioning? And I ask that knowing that there are other people who are much worse.

For anyone who wants to argue that Trudeau's shortcomings are really more in the realm of the environmental, that's where a lot of the conflicts with indigenous Canadians come up, and that one is definitely not a coincidence.

Also important, I am not picking on Trudeau. He has his good points and bad points like most people, but another key human trait seems to be a desire to divide the world into good and bad people. That can feel very comforting, and it might even seem convenient, but it can't truly be convenient because it doesn't work. That's not how people work. So we need to deal with that.

Recorded history has many instances of people sucking. If we had more historical records, they would probably provide more examples.

But we do good things too. Sometimes we rise to the occasion. Sometimes we say "No!" to injustice. We work toward something better, and then we lose progress again because of the sucking part.

That is not a reason to give up. It is a reason to be realistic. It is a reason to try harder.

Monday, February 26, 2018

NAHM 2017: Taking sides

That title isn't exactly what it sounds like.

For the Aboriginal Worldviews and Education class, I watched 8th Fire: Aboriginal Peoples, Canada, & The Way Forward:

It was really excellent, and I highly recommend it from an informational point of view. I acknowledge that part of my enjoyment was the very charismatic host, Wab Kinew.

He did a great job, and I wanted to look up other things he had done. In addition to a pretty interesting career, that included two domestic assault allegations.

Well that was a turnoff.

He denies the allegations, and it would be easy to believe him, or to downplay the allegations against all of the good things he has done, but that doesn't feel quite right, especially in the wake of #metoo, which was at its height right while I was taking the class.

There is also an impaired driving conviction on his record and an assault on a taxi driver. Some of those charges have been cleared and he is applying for a pardon for another one, at least according to Wikipedia.

I mention that because we can look at the stereotype of the drunken Indian, and I have no doubt cracks have been made about that. At the same time, it was only a few posts ago that I was writing about how the disruption of the residential schools and the lack of autonomy and other things could have had a big influence on alcoholism.

In addition, I know Kinew's father was a victim of residential school abuse. I don't know if that abuse was passed on, but Kinew did experience "racially-motivated assaults" while he was growing up. He has definitely been a victim of violence, and it may have been hard for his parents to show him how to be affectionate and safe.

Beyond his personal experience, when we get into all of the rape and assault and harassment that has been coming out with #metoo, I know that there are cultural factors that make it easy to accept a lot of that - which is a vague way of saying it, but that can be explored more at another time.

I also know that there are victims of violence who do not commit violence; it's not an excuse.

In trying to think of how to navigate that - where I am looking at the big picture and having compassion for all parties - that is where studying the apology was most helpful. Seeing that the Canadian government was not asking the recipients of the apology how they felt or what they wanted, that is what was missing.

We are so used overall to focusing on those in power and their side that we may not even realize that we are doing it, but that's the part that needs to change. That's what we need to do for victims of colonialism and racism and misogyny. That's what we need to do for people who had land stolen and their careers halted and people who were raped. That's what we need to do for the descendants of people who had the primary crimes committed against them (though there are usually things still happening now).

It goes against tradition, but looking at the wreckage tradition has left, that's a good thing.

And it would be lovely if I could just segue here so that the next post would be about centering the victims of sexual assault and how we do that, and I would feel so organized and sharp, but I think I forgot to mention some things that are pertinent. I am looking at complex topics with messy intersections, and my posts will reflect that.

I am human, but I am trying to be a good one.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Band Review: Kozen

Kozen is a progressive rock band from Toronto.

I had originally thought I read hard rock, and it quickly became clear that was not the case.

While there are some effects that sound a little experimental, especially on Swimming to the Stars (B), the overall sound is pretty mellow. Based on that and the spiritual content, they reminded me of Afterglow (which is a real throwback, I know).

I enjoyed their most recent track, "Barricade", best. I think that has a stronger rock sensibility.

They are a good-hearted band, recently taking time on their space to appreciate other musicians. I do think they might be more successful by emphasizing the spiritual content more, as there are audiences that specifically look for that.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Band Review: Melba Liston

Convergence comes about in odd ways sometimes.

Do you remember the Musical Black Girls post? I had started out wanting to feature Black women in the songs of the day for Black History Month 2015, but I kept finding more musicians. That ended up running through July 23rd with no repeats. Well, Diana Ross and Cissy Houston both came up twice because of solo and group careers, but that was a lot of good music, and I went back and reviewed a lot of them later.

That was the first time I encountered Melba Liston. (It was also the first time I encountered Esperanza Spalding, though not directly.)

Melba Liston was an amazing trombone player, composer, and arranger, but she was also a broke ground by being the first woman trombonist to play in big bands. I found that impressive, but at the time it really only got her one song in the list - "Pop" - and I moved on, except that I remembered that she was there.

This year while looking at children's books, I found one about her, Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Frank Morrison.

It reinforced how young she was and how quickly she became great. That is not just for starting to play at all, but also for getting good enough to be sought out by popular musicians.

This was also the year that I got around to reviewing Esperanza Spalding and concluding that I hate jazz, and yet here I was, being drawn once again to someone who played jazz.

I did not hate it.

As far as that goes, I probably don't know enough about the different kinds of jazz, though I'd say there is more swing in Liston's discography.

That almost can't be known, because she played for and with so many people. I focused on her recordings as a band leader, but that was a comparatively small part of what she did.

Also, I have nowhere to refer you from here. Liston died in 1999, without creating a web presence. The music is out there, and I linked to a Youtube list of videos with various recordings, but all I can really say is that she was remarkably good at trombone when it would have been easy not to be.

There were things in her favor too. She came from a musical family in a musical city (Kansas City, Missouri), then got to study with Alma Hightower, who inspired many performers. But still, Melba Liston got really good at playing while still really young, and she learned enough about how music fits together to become really good at arranging and composing. She faced opposition for being a woman and for being Black, and she overcame that opposition.

She is worth remembering.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

NAHM 2017 - The Apology

There has been about a twenty year period in which Canada has technically made progress on its stance on indigenous people. I am counting this from a series of residential school recommendations made to the government in 1996 to Justin Trudeau removing Canada's objector status to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) in 2016. It includes some class action suits and the Common Experience Fund payouts referred to in earlier posts. What I want to focus on is the 2008 apology. Yes, the Canadian government, in the form of then Prime Minister Steven Harper, apologized for the residential school system.

This is not unheard of. The US government has officially apologized for slavery, internment of the Japanese during World War II, the Tuskegee experiment, and overthrowing Hawaii. In this case, it was a class assignment to listen to and write about Harper's apology.

The first thing that none of us could help but notice is the lack of responsibility government. Everything was stated in a passive sense, as if the schools were not carrying out government policy and it were not a policy that was based on racism and greed.

I suspect some of that is  "Well it wasn't us personally who did it." At the start, no, but for some of the things that continued, there could very well be sitting members of their legislature who were involved. That's the one thing you keep finding when you look at history; the past is closer than you think.

There is probably some desire to wash hands of it: "We agree this is bad and we aren't going to do it anymore, so lay off, all right?" White people get really uncomfortable when you talk about horrible things done because of racism. If you keep things distant and neutral enough, maybe that can make them less uncomfortable, though my memory of any government apology is that some people get really mad about them.

The thing I really noticed though, was how one-way it was.

No, that does not mean that I think both sides should have been apologizing, but I do think the one that is admitting wrong should at least consider listening to those wronged about what they would like done.

I'm sure there are concerns about expenses; we can't even get the United States Congress to agree to study reparations, let alone pay them. Beyond that, I suppose there could be some fears about the practicality of possible requests:

- We want you all to go back to Europe.
- We want to release smallpox on your population.
- We want to take away all the children you are clearly unfit to raise.

(That last one is not just a reference to the residential schools, but also the practice of taking children for adoption and fostering, prevalent from the 1950s through the 1980s, not really ancient history.)

I don't think the bulk of indigenous people would be likely to say anything like that, though I can imagine the 1491s coming up with some great comic material related to it. It would also be possible, in the face of a sincere request that would disrupt all life as we know it, to then look for a compromise, or an end goal that can be worked toward that benefits everyone.

I do think we need to make a room to hear anger though. Maybe you will hear more sadness than anger, which can also be uncomfortable. We still need to make room to listen to it.

The bad feelings are still there. If the dominant group is able to ignore them, and wants to continue that by plastering over things, that's just putting a nice surface over rot. We have to do better than that.

I have this segue in mind from Indigenous American issues to issues of sexual harassment and abuse that I should get to Monday.

Until then, well, you can probably draw a few connections on your own.

Just think about it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

NAMH 2017 - Reverberations

I want to briefly return to Dawn's parents initially saying they didn't have it so bad compared to others. There are reasons that could be true.

For one thing, Dawn's mother only attended for two years, when she was already a teenager (probably a big part of her being able to speak Cree). That put her in the path of the abuse for a much shorter time than other students.

Without it being specified, I am guessing that it was possible for her to spend most of her childhood at home because it was getting closer to our time, and some of the policies for killing the Indian inside the child were loosening their grip. This also makes it very likely that older generations could have suffered more, in general.

Another thing she did mention was not getting beaten for attempting to run away, and being glad she hadn't gone with the girls who tried. Clearly, failure to comply could lead to greater suffering, but greater suffering may have made it harder to comply. The students who tried running may have had worse homesickness or a harder time with schoolwork or other things that made staying at the school less tolerable.

Dawn's father had a humorous memory about how long you could stay in a closet, hiding from a beating by the older boys. He was able to successfully hide, but beatings were still a danger, and not from the priest.

Granted, older kids can bully younger kids at any school, but that it was an environment where the children did not have a lot of power and were in the middle of structural racism could be the kind of thing that led to more abuse. Not every child was raped by priests or nuns, but a system where you could be raped and then be told that's all you're good for is not a set up to inspire kindness and mutual respect.

It is also easy to assume that the mass graves and the hidden individual graves are part of an earlier time, but as recently as 2011 there was interference with investigations, and still living witnesses about some of the deaths that would have been hidden.

Those are all things that are hard, but the thing that kept getting repeated the most is that multiple generations didn't know how to parent. They were taken from the parents who loved them for an education by people who despised them. They were unsure how to show affection to their own children after that, even if they didn't pick up any other demons.

You can see how some of the residential school abuse might result in parents who were likely to be physically abusive or sexually abusive, or that they might have reasons to abuse substances, like alcohol. That's the stereotype, right? Indians tend to become alcoholics because they didn't have the genetic background of years of becoming accustomed to alcohol that built up resistance to alcoholism.

This makes sense because alcohol abuse is so rare among people of European descent, and because there was no history of Indians being systematically killed and relocated and setting down roots only to be uprooted again and again, each time to a place with fewer resources where starvation on the land was likely and getting off the land was not allowed, and then they started separating families.


Dawn's mother frequently left her father because of his drinking. They would keep reuniting, bound by love and children. It would be easy to think that her loving him more if he could speak Cree was a joke, but what would it mean?

If her father could speak Cree, would that mean that he had spent more time with his own family? Would it mean that he had spent more of his formative years where his heritage was valued instead of seen as something to be stamped out?

If the residential schools hadn't been part of his growing up, would he still have the drinking problem?

Once you set damage like that into motion, where does it end? You can't always control results.

And in this case that's a good thing; the goal to eliminate the Indians - physically or culturally - was abominable and it failed. It still caused a lot of pain, and much of that pain is still there.

How do you fix that?

Monday, February 19, 2018

NAMH 2017 - Talking about it

Getting back to Nobody Cries At Bingo, while the part about Dawn's mother loving her father more if he could speak Cree did stick in my head, it meant more to me after other people asked about it.

One thing that does is remind me that taking a class in person instead of online, or being in a book club again, could be great. Beyond that, I think I didn't focus on it as much because there was something else that seemed more important.

What the children learned about the residential schools horrified them, but their parents shrugged a lot of it off. As more people started coming forward, they agreed that those stories sounded bad, but that it hadn't been like that for them, at least not that bad. Well, maybe it was kind of bad. Eventually both parents applied for Common Experience payouts, for which their children teased them. That is when the exchange about the language happened.

That can easily sound cynical, and Dumont acknowledges in the book that they thought their parents deserved it. (Having a chance to tease their parents was just an opportunity that needed to be seized, which I get.)

What was more interesting to me was what was said along the way, before payments were available.

p. 268

Mom told us about always being hungry. "My stomach would hurt but that's only because I was used to eating so much more at my mom and dad's. Sure it bothered me that the nuns and priests ate better than we did. That was to be expected, they're God's helpers." Her off-hand manner was confusing; it was wrong to hurt children, but how come Mom and Dad weren't mad about what happened to them?

Honestly, my initial preoccupation was probably just anger, and maybe an idea that if you are really sincerely trying to help God it's not likely to involve eating well while children under your care starve.

Beyond that, the denial bothers me, and the need to justify it. Maybe it's a survival mechanism; you tell yourself how much worse everything could be and isn't, and that's how you get through and then how you continue to remember it.

What became interesting after that was seeing that it was other people telling their stories that allowed the parents to start admitting to themselves that it was bad.

The next post is going to spend a little longer on the effects of the residential schools, and what that has meant for families, but before going on to that, I want to point out that hearing other people share their stories can help us tell ours.

It can be dangerous to draw comparisons between different types of oppression, mainly because it tends to let the more privileged group forget their privilege and erase others who are more marginalized. There are nonetheless sometimes things that do relate and are pretty hard to miss. There are things about the residential school issues that remind me a lot of the #Metoo movement now. One is that some speaking up lead to more speaking up.

If you want everything swept under the rug and for things to get back to normal, that is bad news.

If you care about people, if you know that abusing people is wrong, and it benefits abusive people not to examine that, if you know how hard it is to hold on to a sense of your worth when it seems like the whole world is telling you that you have none, then you know these conversations are important.

There was a web page the class sent us too that had residential school survivor stories. The stories were powerful and the sheer number was overwhelming. I wanted to link to it here, but now the page is down. Maybe it's a coincidence, or maybe funding was pulled because it wasn't a necessity, or maybe there was something malicious. I don't know.

It does seem like a loss.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Band Review: Palaceburn

I am pretty sure that I was led to Palaceburn back in September via a Black Women Appreciation thread, because of vocalist Meredith Bell.

Bell's voice is certainly worth appreciating, but a desire to pursue music with others - rather than solo - led to the formation of Palaceburn, a Philadelphia-based rock band.

The music tends to be harder, brushing up against metal. Without being soft, the piercing clarity of Bell's singing adds an element that takes makes the overall sound more palatable than many metal bands.

I was particularly intrigued with some of the guitar and percussion details that add intricacy and interest to the sound. The intro to "Believe" makes me think of a zither at the same time that I am feeling like there is something futuristic about it. That's a pretty neat trick.

I was sad to see from the band's Facebook page that they are on an indefinite hiatus. I understand life's uncertainty (more and more all the time), but we may be at a point where burning the palace is more necessary than ever.

Best wishes for the band, and all of us.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Band Review: Delta Deep

I came to Delta Deep in a roundabout way.

Last June I went to see Tesla, Poison, and Def Leppard. One of my favorite songs from Tesla was "Save That Goodness". Its video featured not only Phil Collen, who wrote the song, but vocalist Debbi Blackwell-Cook. I wanted to hear more of her, as she had a fantastic presence.

Searches revealed that most of her work had been backup vocals, but that she was in a band, Delta Deep. Okay, I would review Delta Deep.

I liked the connections of Tesla and Def Leppard touring together, and sharing songs, but the connections go so much further with Delta Deep.

Blackwell-Cook is Collen's wife's godmother, and sang at his wedding. The three of them began writing songs together, and a band began to form. Blackwell-Cook and Collen were joined by Forrest Robinson on drums and Robert DeLeo on bass.

People jamming and finding that they want to record and tour is both special and common, but it is impressive to grasp the combined experience of this quartet. In addition to Def Leppard, Cullen was also in Man Raze with Simon Laffy (also of Girl) and Paul Cook (also of Sex Pistols), both of whom appear on the "Black Coffee" track.

Robert DeLeo has played in several bands, but most famously for Stone Temple Pilots. Forrest Robinson has drummed for TLC, Ray Parker Jr., Randy Crawford, and Engelbert Humperdink. As well as performing theatrically, Debbi Blackwell-Cook has sung backup for Michael Buble and Gregory Hines.

Putting all of that together -- the years of experience, and the range, and the connections -- it is no surprise to find featured appearances by Joe Elliot and David Coverdale. It shouldn't be a surprise to hear traces of root music and soul and lots of rock and so much blues.

One of my favorites was "Bang the Lid". The intro reminds me a little of "Ram Jam's "Black Betty", but it is its own song and it certainly doesn't sound like anything forty years old.

Delta Deep is their own band, and they are new, but they bring with them a rich musical tradition that they can pull from to build whatever they want.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

NAHM 2017 - Language and family and worth

"Honestly, I'd love your father more if he could speak Cree. A lot more."

-- Nobody Cries At Bingo, Dawn Dumont, p. 270

I read that at about the same time that we were talking about language and residential schools in one of the classes, so I shared it in the discussion forums.

There are a lot of ways in which the forums can be inefficient for facilitating communication, but this struck a chord with at least one other student, and we did think about that. Why? Why would it mean more love?

I know nothing about the Cree language, but I do know there are languages that are better for humor, or at least some types of humor, or for intimacy. One of Anna Karenina's complaints was that her husband always spoke Russian instead of French, and because there was no "we", it made their communications more distant.

(I know nothing about Russian either, so I am going to have to trust Tolstoy on that.)

It could be that Cree had such strong family connotations for Dawn's mother that there was always something that seemed wrong about not being able to share it with her husband.

It's not like the relationship didn't have other problems, and that the abuse of the schools went far beyond the native language suppression, leading to many other problems. I am running late today and that should probably be another post.

I'm going to hint at it thought, with one other story of abuse, from a man who was sexually abused by a nun when he was a student. After she was done, she told him that was all he was good for.

I am sure a belief in the worthlessness of the students made abusing them easier. I am equally sure that abusing them reinforced their worthlessness in the minds of the abusers, and in the abused. The disrespect for the language was just a part of the overall contempt for the people and culture.

With thinking all of that, then I think any respect that you show the culture can reverberate into other parts.

So when we went into that classroom one hour a week and worked on Lao with one small girl, I hope what it told her was that her language mattered and she mattered and her parents mattered. Being able to talk to other Lao people mattered, and it was worth working for.

I hope for the high school students taking Lao, that it reinforced that they and their families were valuable and that there were things worth holding onto.

And I hope that as people work to revive different native languages, and create language nests that they will find effective teaching methods, and that it will build esteem. I hope ties between generations are strengthened.

I believe in their worth.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mission memories and the primacy of language

There was another elder I found annoying while I was on my mission. Well, plus the two yesterday, I could come up with three others pretty easily. As much as I admitted to being mean yesterday, I suspect I am not unique among sister missionaries.

This particular elder was in my Missionary Training Center class, and he was native Lao. He initially thought he would be able to coast, and then found the language harder than he was expecting. He was starting to try harder by the time we left the training center, but months later when we met up again I was amazed at the change. He not only seemed more mature (which you would hope for), but also smarter.

It made more sense because of things I had seen in the field.

He would have grown up like a lot of the children and teenagers I had gotten to know. Many of them were born in the States, and some in the camps. In their homes they spoke Lao, but then once they started school they spoke English there, and then it got to be in the homes that the parents would speak to their children in Lao and the children would reply in English.

The parents knew some English, and the kids knew some Lao, so it wasn't a complete disconnect. It wasn't ideal either. It is hard to have meaningful conversations when you are literally speaking different languages.

For a time we were helping in one classroom with a Lao girl whose teacher wanted to shore up her home language. Another one of the refugees we knew who had taught in Laos was working for the school district teaching Lao. At least some of the Lao students we knew were taking it. I thought that was good for family communications.

When I met this elder again, it struck me that there was an inner language barrier too. It's not just being able to communicate to others, but even for comprehending for ourselves, and knowing our own minds, having words for that is important. Building English knowledge on a Lao base left a lot of those kids with some language gaps. It didn't make it so they couldn't function, but it could be emotionally frustrating and it could be an obstacle to acquiring knowledge, at least for some things.

His mind worked better as he became fluent in his early language, and it made me look at things differently.

That's all very well for mission memories, but it doesn't appear to have a lot to do with my 2017 Native American Heritage Month reading. I just wanted to explain the base I was starting from.

As I took my online classes, that was how I understood the importance of language. We talked about native language preservation in the classes, and about residential schools forbidding the use of native languages. I understood it on one level, and then something happened to deepen and broaden in because of one of the books.

More on that tomorrow.