Thursday, April 19, 2018

Band Review: Rebel Panic

When I started listening to Rebel Panic, the first thing I noticed was the sound recording quality. It may have only needed a better mix, but vocals sounded reedy and the whole ensemble sounded far away. Many bands deliberately choose muddy or fuzzy sounds, but this sounded unintentional and amateurish.

Looking into the band more, then there is the picture of what looks like three kids in a shabby living room, except that now everything seems geared toward just the one person. Then I saw the blog post where "drama" caused the other two members to leave, but it doesn't matter because the one who was left was the one who wrote all the songs and worked out the costumes. That still seemed kind of amateurish, and the spelling errors didn't help.

As it is, James Anarchy has another project now, Descending Superstar, so Rebel Panic may not even matter, but they are the band that followed me and ended up on my review list.

From what I can tell, James is not a bad guitarist. If that is him singing he is not even necessarily a bad singer, though he could probably use a little coaching.

However, the claims that the other members didn't really matter, combined with the quick move to something different, and even the name choices where there is no indication that either "Superstar" or "Anarchy" have been earned, all give me a sense of an immaturity that will get in the way of excellence. It's not that the problems are unworkable, but that I doubt the work will happen.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Worn down

I'm taking a blogging break, I think just for three days. (Four if I count yesterday on the Provident Living blog, but I intend to be back with a band review on Thursday.)

Mainly I am just really tired. Last week started with my sisters going on vacation and my brother and mother sick. It was just bad timing. I also spoke in church yesterday and did three sets of taxes, and over the week I cut out 92 angel dolls. Also, I found something out that makes me need to completely re-examine my hopes for generating some kind of income.

I don't deny that I could have paced myself better, or put some things off. As it is, I was afraid that I might be getting sick Friday. I think I am going to be okay, but am still in that zone that kind of feels like being underwater. 

Anyway, more later.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Concert Review: Senses Fail

I really liked Senses Fail.

I regret that I've only scratched the surface with them on listening, regardless of seeing them live, so this review will not be exhaustive.

I can say that the back-lighting for their show visually reminded me of those highly stylized police chases through the woods that Grimm became so fond of just as their plotting started going downhill. Fortunately, the concert's vibe was neither diminishing quality nor being pursued by a hostile force. Instead it felt very supportive.

Their music can convey a lot of angst, but the visiting between songs was warm-hearted and uplifting. You could feel good about spending time in their company.

I wish I could say something more definitive about the music. It feels logical to say that the newer albums are more mature and deeper, but I am reluctant to say that when some of the older tracks are so deep and emotionally affecting. I was particularly moved by "Yellow Angels".

I believe fans of Saves the Day would enjoy Senses Fail.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Concert Review: Reggie and the Full Effect

Every time I am reviewing Reggie and the Full Effect  it is tempting to just say "So good!". As accurate as that would be, it still isn't very enlightening, so let me try a little harder.

As it is, in retrospect I probably shouldn't have done the album review last month. At the time I wasn't sure if I could make it to the concert. I am still glad that I did an in-depth listening to the album, and glad that I saw the performance from the previous year (April 28th 2017 at Revolution Hall) that I did not review. This review will try and put them all together with the most recent show (March 27th 2018 at the Hawthorne Theater).

For both shows, James Dewees has been backed by members of Pentimento, one of the bands that toured with him in 2014 (that show was on Super Bowl Sunday at Branx).

The Revolution Hall set was practically perfect and everyone sounded great. I did mention that in the album review. What I didn't mention was at the time picking up on this sadness and wondering if it had been there all along and I had missed it, or if it was new. Then I remembered that his mother had died, and it was about at the anniversary of that. That and another death and a divorce all went into 41, which is a beautiful and a sad album.

(I don't think this is the article I remember reading, but it covers some of the same information:

 Given all of that going in, I didn't really know what to expect. I definitely didn't expect that they were going to open with "Guerrera". That was explained as a sound check problem where they needed to start with a song where they were all playing the same note, but what you get is a song that rocks pretty hard. Then the "F--- you aliens" refrain was dropped, I had to wonder if the song had been shortened, and if maybe things were getting faster and harder and more punk.

It did feel like there was more of an emphasis on guitar than synth than in previous shows but I can't swear to it. Historically there has always been plenty of strong guitar on Reggie albums.

Mainly, I was just impressed at how it could be so different and still so good. It's the same musicians, so it's not a lineup change that makes the difference. It probably helps that they have been working together for a while now, but they were great a year ago too.

I'm sure it helps that they are all into it. They might have seemed a bit more free this time, but I was also closer to the stage so I may have just noticed different things.

(Regardless, I swear Vincent Caito is the liveliest bass player ever.)

It's not like I don't know that music can be powerful, and that different types of music can stir us in different ways and that there is a wide range of how to be good.

I remain impressed at how many things James Dewees can do well, and that he can then make changes and adjustments and only make them better. I remain impressed at the beauty he can take out of a horrible year.

And all of those words basically come down to "So good!"

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Toppling the "great man"

Reading about Larry Nassar, one of the things that helped him get away with it so long was that when questioned he would start using really technical terms and explain why what he was doing was absolutely fine and necessary but people who weren't doctors just didn't understand. Deference to doctors and men and universities and the Olympic dream all helped with that.

Therefore one thing that should be helpful is that there should be guidelines for what to expect during a medical exam and physical therapy. There should be guidelines for what to expect during a psychological counseling session, really. In any environment where there is a trained professional and a vulnerable patient or client, there should be some ways of knowing what might be appropriate - even if unpleasant - but also some ideas for what it looks like when someone is starting to be abusive.

Doing this requires some thinking, because there is room for disagreement and often a professional organization could worry about cornering their members and encouraging lawsuits, but that can be worked out, especially if you have a sincere desire to end abuse, which I hope anyone in a healing practice would want.

It also takes a belief that untrained people can understand enough of the basics to make a reasonable call. I do believe that.

If you think about it, even now the reason so many abusers are successful is not because the victim doesn't know something is wrong, but because they are afraid to speak up, or not believed when they speak up. Making guidelines available then becomes not just a guideline, but also an expression of confidence in people: they can know what is appropriate, and they deserve to be treated appropriately.

There is a "great man" theory of history, largely popularized by Thomas Carlyle. For the record, I lean more toward Herbert Spencer's analysis that it was a hopelessly primitive, childish, and unscientific position, which he largely based on the importance of the social environment.

I believe in the importance of the social environment, but also I think greatness is easier to find.

As famous producers and writers started being named in #metoo, there were lamentations that this was the end of the golden age of television, because here goes everyone with talent!

There were a lot of things wrong with that mindset, up to and including that still, very few people have been fired and no one has been charged. Beyond that, we have over the past year or so seen some really well-done films directed by women, produced by women, written by women, and also many done by men who aren't nearly so famous and whom we can also hope are not nearly as predatory.

All right, I do suspect that Christopher Plummer's nomination for All the Money in the World was somewhat reactionary, but I also do not doubt that he gave a good performance, and that getting rid of Kevin Spacey did not ruin the movie.

With Harvey Weinstein, there were people who did not know about the sexual abuse who still found him abusive and bullying, because that's how he was. That made some people not want to work with him, and some people excuse it because that's just Harvey and he makes money, but is it the only way to make money?

It feels like it became kind of a cult a while back with House and maybe both Sherlock Holmes' series (House was also based on Sherlock Holmes) and I think a bunch of other television shows that I don't remember anymore. There was a rude genius and it was hard to be around him, but he was right and got the job done and isn't that all that matters?

I am not really looking to add another TV show to my schedule, and certainly not another procedural, but if I were going to it would be Instinct because it looks like they are taking the bold move of having the smart guy also be genuinely pleasant and emotionally healthy (still quirky though).

One convenient aspect of being a genius jerk is that it effectively closes the pool to anyone who isn't white or male, because if you are not you can't get away with it quite so easily.

Let us remember, though, that in addition to all of the people who have been chased out of industry and academia and entertainment, there are also people who are there and really good and could do great things, except we are throwing all of our support to the people who do the worst things with their power.

I like entertainment a lot, but it is probably least important there. Look at what is happening to privacy and politics because technology has not been sufficiently critical of what damage they could do. Think of all that has been lost from medical research because of the people who have been held back. If we were building a society that was supportive and collaborative instead of competitive, think how much better things could be.

That's one thing that often gets lost. When we talk about patriarchy and the privilege of white males, white men who do not have that much wealth and power feel offended and close their minds. Taking down those hierarchies will benefit you too. Yes, you will not be able to hold on to at least having some superiority over women and people of color, and there may be an un-examined feeling of a threat there (which you don't examine because it's terrible to want to hang onto it).

What I promise you is that as we achieve equality, your lives will be better too. Feminism is not against men; it is for everyone.

Yes, that world will be a drastic change, and it may be hard for bullies to adapt. Hopefully they will find other things to like, and they will be better people for doing so.

We need to let go of a lot of crap to get there.

Okay, I really think I am done with this round. I can only imagine what kind of horrifying revelations will make me rethink that, but for now, I am moving on.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

So inextricably linked

Currently for the daily songs I am doing weeks of things where there is a category that I have been interested in exploring, but where I don't think there are enough songs for a month. There has been a week of songs by actors, and songs from non-Disney cartoons, and I'll probably wrap it up in about two weeks with a week of country songs.

The tricky one was songs with celebrity cameos, because suddenly all of these songs that came to mind had cameos by people with abuse allegations against them. Hey look! There's Al Franken! And Michael Douglas!

I did use both of theirs, and I left some songs unused that might have been worse, but if we look back we are going to find a lot of things.

Recently I saw it pointed out that David Letterman has a new show, and he got Barack Obama as his first guest, but he also had repeated workplace relationships that led to extortion and a hostile environment for other employees.

That may describe it too well, because some of the hostile workplace issues for the women who were not in relationships make you wonder how consensual the other relationships were; it gets messy. The point is, this came out at a time before #metoo had gained momentum. It's out there, and known, but doesn't seem to matter. Maybe that's because other people did worse, but it's questionable. In the meantime, some people are having to debate getting rid of comfort films that are important to them, and teachers are looking for new books they can feel comfortable assigning, and we are starting to have people apologize for signing petitions in favor of Roman Polanski and working with Woody Allen, but there's a lot of unfamiliar territory.

I have emphasized listening a lot, but there are a few more things we can think about.

I really appreciate Peter Jackson coming forward about the blacklisting that Weinstein did against women who refused his advances:

Granted, it probably didn't look like blacklisting at the time, but probably sincere and helpful advice: "Don't work with them! They're difficult." People who will harass and abuse aren't going to have any compunction about lying. This makes thinking about things that might have been sabotage a good area for reflection. Have you been warned off about anyone? Could there have been ulterior motives?

It may also be helpful to examine humor. Frances McDormand gave an important and practical Oscar acceptance speech. Lots of men found it hard to mention without calling her crazy. A lot of that seems to be based on her not wearing makeup. Is that a good reason to discount someone's words? Part of the whole Tony Robbins thing was explaining how now men can't hire pretty women because of harassment. How possible is it to find that perfect spot between not so pretty that you are a threat to abusive men, but still pretty enough to not be a crazy witch?

People used to call Ann Curry crazy too, and I never thought about it much. Once you hear about the target harassment that she received on the set of Today, that could explain part of it. If you add to it all of the other things that happened with Today but to other people, and listen to the stories that are coming from other newsrooms, well, it's probably really convenient to always be able to call a woman crazy or difficult and not have it questioned.

That leads to my final point today: think about the things we don't talk about. It's rude to talk about money, but that is also very convenient to keep people from examining gender-based wage disparities, and unfair business practices, and many things that support the people who are economically on top.

It's not polite to talk about sex, but that leads to a lot of women never really getting to enjoy sex or to even come near that without being labeled a slut.

It's rude to make a scene, but then the person who is rude and unafraid to be rude gets to slide. That's not to encourage rudeness, but our silence provides tacit acceptance of many things that may be terrible. With enough silence we may not even know what needs to be changed.

Cui bono?

Monday, April 09, 2018

Finally, Matt Damon

Okay, now it's time for Matt Damon.

Granted, I could go other places for finding men who get tired of listening to women. Very close to home I could find Multnomah County judge Kenneth Walker, who interrupted Dana Parks three times before ending her chance to read her victim impact statement, because he wasn't enjoying listening to it. 

It can be very disturbing to listen to stories of abuse, though the refusal to listen is the sort of thing that perpetuates the abuse, but you know,  how can you expect a judge to care about the environment that allows crimes to happen?

Closer to now I could mention Tony Robbins, who criticized #metoo inaccurately, then when corrected used his physical size to intimidate and double down, before offering a terribly insincere apology that seems most likely to be a precursor to allegations against him coming out.

I mean, you could easily argue that the point of #metoo is not for the people coming forward to make themselves important (which it does not do), but to acknowledge that they already are important as people and that abuse against them is not acceptable, and reclaim their voices, which sounds like a very positive thing, unless you aren't actually interested in any shift in power dynamics. I guess Tony Robbins just doesn't read my blog.

But I want to go with Matt Damon here - whom I like (or at least have liked) - because I think he gives us a good springboard into another discussion.

He said many things, like admitting that allegations against someone would not be a reason not to work with them (so much for allegations destroying careers), and saying that he had never heard of Weinstein's abusive behavior but also contradicting it because he had heard about what happened to Gwyneth Paltrow (so maybe he just didn't know of any completed rapes), but that's not what I really want to get into.

I can't really quote it. This is not just because of the profanity but also because it is so poorly said, but the point he was trying to make is that there are many men who don't sexually harass and why aren't we talking about them?

This could easily be dismissed as a pretty typical #notallmen; I don't rape so please give me attention and cookies. Much like the typical #notallmen respondent, he misses some important points.

First of all, if he did know about Gwyneth Paltrow's experience with Harvey Weinstein and did not think of Weinstein as an abuser, then it is quite clear that this group of men who don't do that may either not have as many members or their conduct may not be as good as he thinks. That is worth thinking about.

Beyond that, given his own explanation of the "spectrum" of behavior, could there be types of behavior that contribute to this environment, maybe even without being sexual.

Matt Damon did not sexually harass Effie Brown.

He did shut her down when she tried to raise concerns. They were concerns specific to diversity, and as a Black woman she might have been worth listening to on that subject, but Matt Damon knew better.

Sure, you could think about how if diverse hiring only affects acting, and not writing and behind-the-scenes that this can perpetuate a lot of bad things. I mean, Gone With the Wind had Black cast members and somehow it is still pretty racist.

Beyond that, if the go-to reaction to women mentioning a problem is shutting them down - and that seems like a pretty common reaction - what does that perpetuate?

And I'm guessing that Matt Damon doesn't read my blog either, so any pondering on that will have to be done by other people.

Just allow to once more emphasize the importance of listening.

Also, for more on how you need more than diverse characters, but also diverse voices creating the characters, setting up the characters, and so on, this article is kind of fun: