When discussing the "legitimacy" of piracy and the like, people will often cite bitrate as a reason. "Well, why should I pay for something that's not lossless?!!" Sure, it's a valid complaint. But does it justify theft?
If a band is only selling an album at 128 and you prefer 320, does that justify an illegal download? I'm not sure.
As a Calvin & Hobbes fan, this is an issue I've been struggling with since childhood. I was a nerd even then and fuckin' gobbled up all sorts of interviews and such with Bill Watterson. He would always emphasize the imagination behind what he did and how he felt merchandising his creation would cheapen that aspect of it. Hobbes was supposed to have the voice the reader gave him, not Bill Murray. He didn't want stuffed tigers hanging off of car windows. He wanted to control his art. And he did. Sort of.
To this day, you can see Calvin pissing all over the Ford logo. And bootlegged t-shirts sold on the Internet. While the elementary school me would never dream of purchasing a urinating 6 year-old in bumper sticker form, I sure as hell would have loved one of those t-shirts. But I remember thinking--even then--that it would have gone against the creator's wishes.
I got one for my birthday at one point, felt guilty about it, and asked my mom to return it for me.
Because that's not what the creator would have wanted. In hindsight, asking my mom to return it for me was a bit on the "overkill" side of things. But I knew I couldn't have worn that shirt without feeling like I was betraying the man behind the characters that made my day just a little bit brighter.
I'm not saying we need to stop downloading music. And I'm not saying the people behind it are evil (unless, of course, there's bootlegs floating around of Slick Shoes songs that people mislabel as Fenix TX, Blink-182, et cetra--then that's just confusing for junior high schoolers on Napster everywhere).
But I'm saying we shouldn't kid ourselves. You don't need to think that it's wrong, but we should all start admitting that it's still a little bit not quite right. Know what you're doing and own it. Don't attempt to justify it.
You say you love the artist, but you're rockin' a t-shirt with a little dude and his stuffed tiger making an awkward face. And the creator doesn't support it. Nobody should crucify you for it--and Mr. Watterson would probably be stoked that you're a fan of his work. But really, he just wants you to buy the books, and dive into his world.
See what I'm saying? Maybe not. The comparison kind of falls apart at the end. But hopefully it made at least a tiny bit of sense.
It's been a while. What can I say? Life's been busy. I've been slowly but surely climbing the ranks at work; and I still enjoy it as much as I used to. I've been dating a lovely lady for nearly seven months at this point with nary a squabble over something that doesn't involve listening to a Shins album from start to finish or running late to dinner. I've even been doing less damage to my liver via alcohol.
That being said? Here's some musical recommendations (read: brief reviews of albums I've been digging as of late). I've been listening to more new music as of late, thanks to that Spotify thing--and a growing disinterest in a few of the podcasts that have been stealing my time slowly but surely over the past year or so.
Direct Hit! - DOMESPLITTER
This band sounds like Dillinger Four and Andrew W.K. playing Plants Vs. Zombies together while listening to early Green Day. Their new record DOMESPLITTER should gets fists in the air and all sorts of "HEY! HEY! HEY!" chants going in a live setting. Check it out at the band's Bandcamp page.
Aficionado - Aficionado
Warning: The subsequent description won't do this album justice. Currently, this is a strong contender for Album of the Year. Guitars weave between a sharp crunch and noodly, the rhythm section is tight, and the male-female vocal duo keeps things interesting. And the lyrics seem to focus directly on honesty, sincerity, etc. in a way that points fingers as much at the band themselves as the audience. Others have beat me to the Cursive and Piebald comparisons, and these are definitely apt but I'd also put it out there that fans of Brand New, Manchester Orchestra, Say Anything, and/or Weatherbox would do well to look into these guys. I fuckin' love this record.
The Copyrights - North Sentinel Island
Telling you the Copyrights sound like early Green Day, Off With Their Heads, the Dopamines, Dear Landlord, Teenage Bottlerocket, etc. would be a fair assessment, but it would also do the band some injustice. They aren't quite as gritty as Off With Their Heads or Dear Landlord and they're far from the saccharin sweetness of Teenage Bottlerocket. They land squarely in the middle. And with North Sentinel Island, they manage to throw in plenty of big hooks coupled with slick production and interesting song structures to stand out from the pack.
Bomb the Music Industry! - Vacation
One look at the Vacation lyrics sheet will tell you that BTMI! mastermind, Jeff Rosenstock is happier. Maybe not happy, but happier. And that positive attitude permeates the album--music and lyrics. Subtle hints of Weezer, Beach Boys, and Elvis Costello abound. No ska. Just well orchestrated, punk rock influenced power-pop for those who would rather smirk when they feel good instead of smiling.
I've never been happier to have travel plans cancelled on me. After a brief drought of show-going, I'll certainly be making up for lost time this week.
Tuesday, May 10th - Manchester Orchestra, Cage the Elephant, and O'Brother @ House of Bluse
Wednesday, May 11th - Fake Problems, Laura Stevenson, Into It. Over It. @ Middle East Upstairs
Friday, May 13th - A Wilhelm Scream, No Trigger, Half Hearted Hero @ Club Hell
Saturday, May 14th - Face to Face, Strung Out @ the Paradise
Sunday, May 15th - Dear Landlord @ Great Scott
Yup. This should be a fun, alcohol- and rock-fueled week of...Fun. Hah! Seriously. So pumped.
Normally, cheeseball Internet-based trends irritate me. But I can't deny the giddy feeling I get whenever that special day of May 4th rolls around and my friends all post Facebook status updates, send text messages, etc. telling everyone: "May the 4th be with you!"
For some reason? It just makes me smile. Probably because I'm a fuckin' nerd and it gives me an excuse to watch things like this...
The shenanigans of a certain Mr. Benjamin Weasel at this year's SXSW festival spurred quite a bit of discussion about sexism and misogyny in punk rock and its surrounding community. While the situation itself was clearly negative, the conversations it sparked were interesting; people took a discussion about a "punk rock celebrity" and went beyond their feelings about the music. For most, it was more a question of morals and societal standards. Bands cancelled shows, fans swore of the purchase of a recently released album, others said "Good! She shouldn't have been throwing them ice cubes!" And so on and so forth. Still, most fell somewhere in-between or weren't sure how to react. But there was a reaction of some sort. It got people talking and thinking. And after all, isn't that what this "scene" was supposed to be about? Quite frankly, I don't think any of us do enough on that front. Myself included.
With that in mind, I was pretty excited when subsequent to the Weasel debacle, I Live Sweat posted an essay written by Lauren of the Measure[SA] and another authored by Candy Hearts' Mariel. Both write-ups focus on the role of gender, sexism, and the like within the punk rock community. They both take on the topic from different angles, with a very personal spin to the subject matter. It makes for an interesting read. Check 'em out if you get a chance. I strongly recommend them, if only to see what impact your actions might have on those around you. Male or female, we're all capable of feeling uncomfortable in certain situations. Just sayin'. Anyway...
I'd also suggest giving this article a read. I remember reading it years ago when it was first published in the pages of Punk Planet and completely forgot it existed until a buddy of mine in the punk rock thread (AP_Punk) recently brought it to my attention again. For those too lazy to click and read, the article focuses on "emo" music and the role females tend to play in the lyrics of said-songs. The author--Jessica Hopper--goes on to explain how this can have a negative impact on girls looking to be a part of said-scene.
There's more to the article than I'm laying out here, and I'm hardly doing it justice by focusing on just one aspect of the piece, but this is the part that hit home for me. One point the write-up drives home is that "emo" songs tend to paint the women in question as two-dimensional objects to be won or lost, the protagonist of the scenario told by the male narrator. The girls are always evil, the boys always innocent. Re-reading this now? It got me thinking about my own actions.
I spent high school living on a healthy diet of Green Day, Blink-182, MxPx, the Ataris, New Found Glory, and so on and so forth. Later in the game, Brand New and Taking Back Sunday came into play. But still, I wasn't the "emo" poster boy that the article references. That being said? There were still elements of it.
I considered myself the penultimate nerd: Awkward and lanky, book smart and unfashionable, unfunny and zit-ridden. But none of this was my fault. It was their problem. I expected people to accept me for who I was. I didn't need to change, they did. They were superficial and shallow. They only cared about "Johnny Football Hero." And me? I was the sad, misunderstood underdog. At least, y'know...In my eyes that's how it was. I took Mike Herrera's cue, scribbling the acronym for "Girls Schmirls Foundation" on notebooks, I listened to countless songs about break-ups where the girl cheated or lied, and I paid very close attention to Kris Roe when he sang "Love is wrong and girls are fuckin' evil!" I took it all to heart and wore it on my knuckles in acronyms.
Fast-forward to college. The details aren't relevant and neither is the year. But I fell hard. The "L" word was used, daydreams of a future together were expressed, and at the end of it all? She broke up with me under a small fistful of questionable circumstances.
Now, in this situation? I was wronged. And my initial reaction was a tirade that went something like this in my head: "Fuck her! How dare she! What the fuck? Stupid. Why? Why me? Fuck. Wasn't I good enough? I treated her right, didn't I? I cared! I put myself out there! Motherfucker! FUCK!" That's not verbatim, of course. And it's certainly not what flew from my lips. But you get the idea.
The self-pitying thoughts continued to hang over my head until I found myself on a date with someone who turned out to be a college acquaintance of the girl in question. When it came out that we both knew her, it was pretty apparent that we both knew very different people. The girl she was describing lived a life of belligerence and co-dependency. Among other things that throughout our entire relationship she kept from me. Hidden. If she wasn't clean when we were together, she hid it well. In hindsight? There were little things that I should have noticed that foreshadowed the whole ordeal.
And when things started to crack toward the end? She pushed me away. Sure, she should have done it more honestly and potentially hurt me a whole lot less. But she dealt with it the best way she knew how.
At least that's what I tell myself. It might not be the truth, but I'd like to believe it is. She never struck me as an inherently evil person when we were together. If she had? I never would have dated her. But things changed, she made her decision, and she peaced out. And that's when she became evil in my eyes.
See where the flaw is in that logic?
I said some pretty awful things about her. And I'm not saying that my initial reaction was unjustified or that the actions she took were justified either. But the take home from all of this? There's usually a story behind the story. Guy, girl, whatever the gender. People are who they are for a reason. And there's usually a rationale for their actions. Or some sort of justification. It might not be the right one. But there's a reason for it. And in this case? After a bit of reflection? I fucking should have seen this shit coming. There were signs.
It doesn't justify cheating, lying, stealing, or anything like that. But if you take some time to try and figure out the big picture and sort out why it all went on? You might get some peace of mind and give up the ghost. She's more than a line in a song and he's more than the subject of a blog entry. They're living, breathing human beings.
Treat them as such.
And for all you know? You might be the one to blame.
More travel? Yup. But this time I'm armed with an assortment of new music (Frank Turner, Iron Chic, Mixtapes, Living With Lions, Foo Fighters, Manchester Orchestra) with which to digest and ponder while I'm on the road.
For a while there, podcasts were owning my listening time. But I need to cut that shit out. As much as I enjoy the random trains of thought some of them can send my brain? I shouldn't feel compelled to listen to Chris Hardwick and his friends discussing video game music for a full hour. It's completely unnecessary.
I really am a compulsive, motherfucker. With a short-attention span. And not in a fun, cutesy "I have A.D.H.D. because I don't test well" way. No. In a "I procrastinate in the office because I can't sit still and perpetually have 5-6 different Internet Explorer screens open at once in addition to my actual work and it's not because I'm bored with my job because my job is pretty interesting and it stimulates my brain" kind of way.
At any rate: I aimed this compulsivity toward something positive as of late. I need to figure out how to focus, keep my attention on the screen, and just get to typing what I feel. I'm about 95% through a piece I started last week that's fairly lengthy and takes that whole "ladies in punk rock and emo" write-up thing that's popped up a handful of times as of late, and puts my own personal spin on the thing. It has an introduction, a body, and I know what I want to say in the conclusion, but I haven't been pleased with how it's turned out just yet.
I'm excited and nervous about posting. It's nothing earth-shattering, just a personal recollection of a relationship that was spurred on by reading an article, what I learned, etc. The whole thing is self-indulgent, really. But maybe somebody can learn from it. Or be entertained. It just felt good to have something to say, to be moved by reading something in the present and connecting it with the past and realizing: "Hey, dude? Yeah. Uh, that shit you went through? You actually did learn a lot from it. It was a good thing."
I've been in Italy for a few days now, and on the whole? This trip has far exceeded my expectations.
The food has not only been amazing, it's been different. The sights have not only been breathtaking, they've made me think. It's been nice to be thousands of miles from home, with my family and a useless cell phone. Thoughts of work, stress, loneliness, anxiety? While I'm here, they seem to have been replaced with the taste of blueberry-glazed steak sirloin, looking around me and realizing that I'm indeed within the confines of the Roman Coliseum, the architecture of Florence, and allowing my mind to ponder why the exhibits at the Roman Zoo (Bioparco di Roma) were designed the way they were in comparison to those I've visited in the States. (Sidenote: I'm a total nerd for the design of zoo exhibits. Seriously. I analyze them when I'm at any zoo--I promise, it's way more interesting than it seems!)
During the day, that's where I'm at. But at night when there's no sights to be seen and the rest of my family is sleeping? The thoughts come back. I worry. My mind races. I feel guilty. I have that urge. And, quite frankly? I don't feel as lucky as I should. Which is a bummer. But I know how to deal with it constructively. The time difference helps -- When I'm up late, everyone back home is just getting off work. I've begun listening to music and jotting down thoughts on various songs as I go. Perhaps I'll turn these into a user-submitted review upon my return. I play Scrabble, I listen to Opie & Anthony replays. And I have an iPod with a playlist labelled "Optimism" and another labelled "New Music: Must Listen." I give myself assignments, goals. Little ones. And it's been helping.
I'm a troubled soul, but I'm not hopeless. A few years back this trip would have been a disaster. I would have been miserable. Not because I'm not grateful, but because I didn't know how to deal with the world around me. Now, though? Life isn't perfect but it's a work in progress. Changes are being made and I have tools to push it all forward. As great as the wine is here, having these words on the tip of my tongue tastes even better.
I'm posting this in an effort to remind myself what needs to be purchased on Record Store Day.
Circa Survive - Appendage CD
Deftones - Covers LP
Foo Fighters - Medium Rare LP
Green Day/Husker Du - Don't Want to Know If You Are Lonely 7"
Rise Against - Join the Ranks 7"
The Bouncing Souls - Live at Generation Records LP
I plan on being at Newbury Comics, waiting in line on April 18th. I got lucky last year with that Hold Steady release. If I can get the Souls live release, though? I'll be a happy boy.
I've been jotting down ideas again, attempting to write some brief, paragraph-sized reviews. I've been listening to fewer podcasts and more music lately; it's been inspiring really. But in lieu of any actual substance, I bring you this: I have no idea what it is, but it's a beautiful thing. And a creepy thing. For no less than seven different reasons.
Random, hypothetical question: What if (the lead singer of your favorite band) bilked you out of money while conducting illegal activities, only later to refund your money and blame it all on drugs? He/she then "recovered."
Would you burn all of their records? Would you forgive? Could you take them seriously? Would you feel comfortable enough to give them money again when they roll through your town? It's easy to spew hate on something you already loathe. Almost as easy as it is to forgive someone whose art you admire, simply because you don't want to be let down.
Charlie Sheen, Johnny Craig, whoever. Take a look at the situations and make an opinion based on the facts, not your personal tastes. Some people are assholes, some people make poor decisions.
But let's be fair when we decide who the assholes are. Play devil's advocate every now and again. Some people deserve hate, others pity, others love. Others create art that is worth your hard-earned cash.
And others are completely worthless. Except, of course, for a good laugh every now and again. But just realize that when you laugh? You're usually making them rich too.
Every time I start to get ahead in the blog writing department something gets in the way. This time? Three weeks on the road, the start of a lovely new relationship, and more work than I can shake a stick at.
I have these lists. Things I want to do. Half-started projects that will most likely go unfinished. Ideas for podcast episodes. Introductory paragraphs to short stories. Reviews to be written, bands to recommend, and dream tour line-ups to piece together. I still have the imagination, I just don't have the time. I'm content, but I'm exhausted. I love what I do for a living, but it consumes me. I adore the new girl, but she takes up all sorts of time, and when we're in the car she always wants to listen to Cage the Elephant and Mumford & Sons.
Things are great. I just wish I had the piece of mind to tell everyone around me I need a few seconds for myself, to let my own "demons" out. To make a mix C.D. for myself, to write my own jokes, and tell my own stories. And get some sleep. I swear. It's been a solid two weeks since I've been able to get more than five hours of sleep at a time. I know, I know. Tough life? Hardly. I make my own decisions. But still...
Thank god for headphones and caffeine. I actually got some writing done tonight. Maybe I'll share it with you, eventually. In the meantime? You're stuck listening to a great pop band from the nineties covering Bruce Springsteen...
Now. Off to bed. And in the morning? I'll wash, rinse, repeat, and post Facebook statuses along the lines of this one: "When the world knocks you down, get up and answer the door. It may very well be opportunity knocking! And if you find sentences like these inspiring? You probably need better friends." Yup. You can make the kid happy, but you can't make him happy with everything around him.
Listen to the Smoking Popes. They rule. I promise.
So. LastFM has a new chart that plots gender/age differences in a seemingly random collection of artists that you listen to. Thought some of this was interesting, yet not at all shocking.
A few points.
(1.) Chicks love the Descendents. This makes me feel better about my thick-rimmed glasses and passion for flatulence. (2.) Old dudes listen to podcasts. Especially Marc Maron. It's also interesting that the more "macho" the comedian running the podcast gets in his discussions, the higher it skews male. (3.) Not shocked that more dudes than dudettes listen to Heartsounds--but the disparity in several of the other seemingly more "macho" sounding bands (Bad Religion) is a bit interesting. Lends some credence to that article that broad from the Measure wrote. It's a good read. Find it on the news page. (4.) I listen to Senses Fail more than I would like to admit. (5.) Would'a thought Bad Religion, Lagwagon, and the Descendents would have skewed higher on such a chart.
On a completely unrelated note? I've been bumpin' that Middle Class Rut record quite a bit lately. If you yearn for the nineties? Pick it up. It's like the bastard child of Tom Morello's guitar work, Josh Hommes' weed habit, and Perry Farrel's vocal chords. F'reals. It's solid.
It's 2:30 in the morning and I'm wide awake, alone in my bedroom, sorting through my brain. I'm jotting things down in list form in an effort to highlight some of the reasons why I'm as angry as I am -- And some potential ways to pull some funny out of it.
Normally, I do shit like this when I'm stressed. I write things down. It helps me to conceptualize my problems. Hell, that's one of the reasons why I write here. But here's the issue: It doesn't usually solve the problem because there's never any action taken. Most likely because there's no human interaction involved, no discussion has taken place, and there's no real pressure for action to occur.
My solution? I'm starting a podcast. Not because I'm delusional enough to think that a substantial number of people would care about what me and my friends have to talk about. No, it's far more selfish than that: Because it's free therapy! And--quite frankly--I think the concept behind the thing might actually pique the interest of some folks if they were to hear about it.
Here's the current plan: Each episode starts with me reading a LiveJournal entry from my high school or college days. I will have pre-read it, picked some topics that are the focal point of the entry, and discuss it with a few friends. I would try to get a person I knew when the entry was written (the entries are from 2001-2006) and another who knew me after that. If an ex-girlfriend was involved? Pull in the ex. If the focus is a former co-worker? Grab 'em. Maybe even have my parents on at some point. Who knows.
I can see this thing being interesting for a lot of reasons, right down to the simple fact that we're a generation who has grown up documenting our every move. How fucked up is it going to be to look back on it all? How have we changed? How do we still need to change? The topics are endless: Pop-culture, girls, sex, relationships, etc. And everybody can relate to this. Sure, we didn't all spend our days pining over girls that wouldn't talk to us because we wore an over-sized Blink-182 t-shirt. But we all had "firsts." And they were almost all uncomfortable. If you boil it all down to the basics? We're all the same. And we all went through shit. It's owning up to that shit and embracing it that people have a hard time with.
And that's what I'm trying to do. I guess. We'll see. I'm doing a test run of sorts this week. I'll be doing it alone and sending out some copies to friends, just to whet some appetites and get some feedback.
Maybe this will crash and burn, maybe it'll get off the ground. I don't know. But I finally feel inspired to create something. And this seems like it might be my best bet -- I'm verbose, I'm creative, and I can finally put something together that vaguely resembles the college radio show I miss doing oh-so-much.
Marc Maron is the host of my favorite Podcast ever. He's also one of my favorite stand-up comedians of all-time. He's brutally honest, aggressive, and emotional. All while being hilarious.
Listening to one of his older records tonight, this "bit" hit me pretty hard...
"Maybe it's the people that are happy all the time that are really fucked up in the head. Maybe they're the ones that need pills. Maybe it's these guys: 'I don't know, I feel great again.' Well, that's creepy and weird, man. Maybe you should be on medication. Clearly you're narcissistic, self-centered..." - Marc Maron