On Readiness for Some Football

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Confused about enjoying the NFL this year? Kaepernick, concussions, and the Commish got you conflicted?

Perhaps you’re questioning whether your principles still jive with America’s most popular sport. It’s good to consider, since you’re deciding where your time goes these next few months. A season’s a commitment; personally I don’t book a show or make a plan without first checking the Packers’ schedule, if I haven’t already memorized it.

Pretty wild how I let it rule me; I don’t make time to watch any other TV shows, online or otherwise. Sizing up another football season amid parenthood, marriage, home ownership, and the equivalent of two full-time jobs, it stings to think of surrendering the next 20-or-so Sundays. I’ve never valued my time so greatly, so if anything I’d love a reason to reclaim some of it.

It so happens that every year sees more calls from non-sports media encouraging/guilting/berating me to do just that: boycott the NFL! (Wait…different media outlets vying for viewers’ attention? Stop the [competition’s] presses!)

I’m going to list my pros and cons of NFL fandom here and decide for myself, thank you much. Like all entries I hope this helps you, but if you disagree with something (most likely my elaboration on a con) I hope you’ll explain why.

Ready? Down….Set….Overthink!

What I Like about NFL Football

Meritocracy

Even practice squad players were the best athletes in their neighborhoods if not their colleges. Anyone in the league takes his natural talents as far as he can and it’s inspiring. It helps that I understand the sport; I can watch gymnastics, for example, and enjoy the spectacle, but I don’t know enough about that sport to appreciate its participants’ efforts like I can with football.

Strategy

I like the game, and the games within the game. Effort and ability are nothing without intelligence or plans. Players constantly cram; they have to know what to do, when to do it, and why. On top of that, coaches work tirelessly to perfect their playbooks, and to get their players on the same page. On top of that, professional training staff try to provide any possible advantage in conditioning and diet. What we see on Sundays is a physical battle of ideas.

Honesty

There is a common goal, and everyone involved knows and seeks it. There’s honesty in that—in someone running as fast, or pushing as hard as they can, or in making what they think is the right decision in a high-pressure situation. No pretense, no false modesty—they all want to win. Shoot, not that I approve, but even the cheating and cheap shots are honest (though not honorable) in that sense, if that makes sense. The players and coaches desire something and pursue it openly, whether they fall on their faces or succeed. This makes for strong and genuine emotions, too, which isn’t necessarily the case in other forms of live entertainment.

My Team

I’d like to think that if I hadn’t been raised in Green Bay I’d still appreciate the Packers, but this is my city so of course they’re my team. GB’s situation is objectively unique, being the league’s smallest market and all, but for me that meant growing up around and with countless people linked to the team (players, coaches, executives, their kids, etc.).

There’s a culture about the Packers that local fans protect and take pride in; I only realized I took that for granted when I left the state for college. Actually, before that, as a teenager getting into punk rock I’d even fought my unfashionable fandom. One day at a concert, though, a local singer we respected, in the middle of his set, wiped his sweaty face with a Title Towel. *Gasp!* People from the crowd called him out on his uncoolness, and he didn’t care at all; just told us he loved the Packers and went into the next song. My friends and I looked at each other, shocked. I felt like l’d just been granted punk permission; an early lesson in individuality, I suppose. Anyway, I love this team, its history, and my own history with it.

Entertainment

I’m a huge fan of live entertainment; it’s immediate, ephemeral, unedited, intense, and shared. Mostly music, but I also like stand-up comedy, theatre, and yes, sports. I really enjoy going to games at Lambeau Field and have had the privilege of attending perhaps 80. I’ve gambled on going to away games (and lost), too. But experiencing something in person is always the best: watching the game with naked eye (not through a screen), and getting to see the whole field and not just the line of scrimmage shown on TV, as well as whatever’s happening on the sidelines (and in the stands) is just great. The excitement and camaraderie in the stadium beat the comfort and convenience of watching at home.

Making “Live from Stadium Drive”

Doing our podunk Packer show’s  been one of my favorite projects I’ve ever gotten to do. Stay tuned for this season, but Tommy and I have had a blast through the last three, and it’s all because of this sport and team.

That was fun to write! This probably won’t be.

What I Tolerate about NFL Football

Injuries

I was at Lambeau for the play that ended Jermichael Finley’s career. He lay still on the field, surrounded by paramedics. I was never a football jersey guy, and J-Mike’s happened to be the first I’d ever owned. That day, for all I knew I’d just witnessed him—a 26-year-old father—die, and for a game. He lived of course, but never played again. I’d never so deeply considered the danger or ethics of the game. I can find some solace in the fact that he’s a very wealthy man, but injuries are awful, not even so much for the pain of the moment, but for the lasting effects. Devaluing a man’s life and health is depressing and exploitative, but if someone sizes up a risk and wants to pursue it, taking responsibility for whatever its outcome may be, I have a hard time telling them they can’t do what they want to do. The risk is their own, they’re adults, it’s voluntary, and there’s consent. Very tough stuff, though.

Virtue Signaling

Whether it’s to combat falling ratings or to aim for record highs, the NFL is constantly trying to expand its viewership. This has bred “NFL Gives Back”-type featurettes, pink uniforms for breast cancer awareness, and camouflage uniforms for veterans. Are there nice gestures in there? Yes. But realistically these are done for marketing purposes only.

Political Drama

This isn’t part of the game itself, much as some want it to be. I think of Bob Dylan in “Don’t Look Back” telling a reporter no, his audiences weren’t masochists looking to be scolded—they want to be entertained. Yes, entertainment can be intellectual, political, too, but it is textbook narrow-mindedness to view life through a singular lens. It can’t be mentally healthy to see everything politically only. I do come to football to get away from politics for a minute; please let me! Colin Kaepernick decided to do something bold, and I hope he doesn’t regret his decision. My overall take is that players can allow their politics to overshadow their play if they want, and teams can sign them if they want.

Waste

I do think of the resources burned to bring us these broadcasts—to transport the teams and staff, and the equipment necessary. Also, the transportation for hundreds of thousands of fans a week. The game itself is not as direct a gas guzzler (or rubber… ruiner) as NASCAR, but I still cringe at the thought of all the gallons gone and garbage created.

Commercials

A necessary evil. I would gladly pay $5 a broadcast to not have them, but don’t tell Goodell.

Conclusion

I’m aware of my inclination to keep watching the NFL, to justify it one way or another. But it’s not because of any pride, sunk cost fallacy, nor status quo bias; I’ve drifted from many former interests despite whatever money or time I’d invested in them. (Video games, snowboarding, and some bands come to mind.)

My football fandom might be as much about connection with other people as it is the game itself. I’m rarely interested in new movies or music, so it is kind of nice to have some form of modern media I can talk to so many friends, coworkers, or even strangers about. I can have nothing else in common with someone, even find their other opinions odious, and still kill an hour, easily, talking about football. I like that! They don’t even have to be a Packer fan; I always say I’d rather talk to a smart fan of a rival team than a stupid fan of my team. Which is to say, I’ll high-five absolutely anyone in green n’ gold when our team scores.

The team aspect is something else I enjoy. It’s intellectually indulgent. I fight very hard to straddle political division, to view issues fairly and openly from all sides, and to maintain independent thought, but with football, my team rules, your team sucks, and that’s that. Your team could beat my team and your team still sucks. Sports is a great outlet for groupthink.

I’m also just a huge fan of this team’s current coach, quarterback, and general manager. Maybe my fandom will wane as that holy trinity splinters, but for now, I am very, very ready for some football.

Yes? No? Challenge? Holler,

-Matty

Adoption is AWFUL

Hugh-Jackman-adoption-quote

…Wut?

I have finally, Finally, FINALLY adopted my step-son. We had the court date Tuesday, and it was just awesome. Probably the hardest, most meaningful hug of my life. I absolutely love the kid.

If any of you ever happen to need help with an adoption I’ll tell you everything I can. But if you knew how awful the process can be, there’s a decent chance you’d just say “screw it,” and I really couldn’t blame you. Consider this a warning I never got.

Some background, in which I’ll call my son “H.W.” for no other reason than I just watched “There Will Be Blood” and really liked it. (Please don’t look into it more than that; I just don’t want to use his real name and needed to pick something.)

H.W. was six years old when I started dating his mom, with whom I just celebrated two years of marriage. He’s thirteen now. I bought a house for all of us when he was ten.

The main reason it’s worked out between the three of us is that my wife never pressured me into being a father figure, probably because she’d (somehow) managed it alone up to that point. I was never looking to date a single mom, but I happened to fall in love with one. It helped that H.W. was cool from the start. With, and Only with my wife’s blessing, did I choose to become, by degrees, more involved in his life.

Other than the lack of pressure, things have worked because my wife and I kept the primary focus on our relationship – which may sound obvious to some (equivalent to figuring out if you want to “have” a kid with someone). It may sound cruel to others, who think the kid needs to be most important. To that crowd, I’d remind that nothing’s more beneficial to a kid than a solid set of parents.

I’ve now been part of H.W.’s life for the majority of it. I’ve taught, listened to, played with, protected, transported, disciplined, encouraged, fed, housed, studied with, and loved him. I’ve been there for him in all the ways a parent can be. When one first starts dating a single parent, their best approach is to endear themselves to the kid – be their buddy. Transitioning from friend to father figure was not easy or fun, but we’re both better for it.

After my wife and I got married, with her and H.W.’s blessings, I planned to start on the adoption process, to “make it official.” Besides, I’d never hoped or tried to get a girl pregnant before, and for all I knew I wasn’t biologically able to (something I pondered after a bad kick to the balls in sixth grade). Fortunately that was not the case, and when we learned my wife was pregnant, for the sake of H.W. feeling like the full family member that he always was (which he never doubted, but still), I thought it’d be great if the adoption would go through before the baby was born in spring of 2016.

It was fall of 2015, and per a friend’s recommendation I met with a family lawyer for a consultation. I learned I’d need to work with an adoption agency, but since we hadn’t been married long (didn’t matter how long we’d dated) it might be tough to find one that was willing.

After a couple calls I did find one, and their initial estimate was that the process would just take a couple of months. Cool! After all, I figured, there couldn’t be a much more cut-and-dry case than this one.

H.W.’s biological father was supposedly unable to have kids, due to – seriously – a bad kick to the balls. (Fear not, I guess, crotch-kicked hopeful fathers.) Talking about regrets at this stage is officially, if only as of Tuesday, beside the point. But my wife never regretted breaking up with H.W.’s biological father. They coexisted for mere weeks with newborn H.W. before she broke it off, opting instead for the terrifying prospect of single motherhood. I’d say I can’t imagine how terribly a nineteen-year-old, new mom must have to be treated to choose to go it alone, but based on what I’ve learned, let’s just say it was the only decision.

Dude also had a history of criminal charges, and fled Wisconsin after a warrant was issued for his arrest. To our knowledge he’s been on the run ever since, both from the police and from child support payments; to avoid the latter he’s never had his name on a lease and worked for cash off the books — for thirteen years. Only a couple years ago, during a stint incarcerated in Texas which finally linked him to an address, was he forced to cough up some meager child support, though even this pitiful payment came long, long after it would have been vital.

In thirteen years he never once attempted to contact H.W. To our knowledge not even his own family, still in Green Bay, has ever heard from him.

I’m not explaining what I know about this guy to harp on my wife’s teenage judgment, because she’s owned every bit of that, but to highlight the correct call that she made in splitting from him, as well as to give a sense of the magnitude of his abandonment of H.W. (there’s your movie reference) and how clearly unfit he would have been as a parent.

One would think this adoption case would have been open-and-shut, taking all that into account. I’ll proudly add that H.W., of his own volition, decided to start calling me “Dad” once my wife was pregnant, because he thought it’d be less confusing for our baby. I’m still in awe of that. He is a seriously sweet kid.

So how hard would it be to adopt my step-son, who calls me Dad, has never had another father figure, whom I’ve raised for half his life? Just what would it take to prove I’m fit to be his parent, what with a full-time job, a house, and no criminal record?

It would take over a year and a half, dozens of hours of procedure and paperwork, and roughly $4,000.

For something symbolic. I was, and was already called, his dad. H.W. wasn’t moving. Nor was he even taking my last name (you can imagine he’d gotten used to his after so long). Nothing was changing! Not to mention that if something had happened to my wife – which was the “reason” this was all required – she would have simply willed custody to me anyway.

But no. Endless tasks and hoops.

I wanted it. I battled. At one point I’d finally surmounted the massive pile of paperwork, the three separate background checks, two sets of fingerprints, and everything else proving what we already knew. After all those hours and errands, I’d made it!

…To another pile. It felt like finishing a marathon, only to learn there was another 10K to go. It took so long that I had to get another round of (three) background checks, because the initial ones expired.

Now, did I work as fast as I could have on this? Sure, I could have taken off work and ignored my pregnant wife/wife who’d just given birth/brand new daughter/step-son who I was trying to adopt and focused solely on this process and banged it all out sooner. But even beyond those impossible sacrifices, again, this was merely symbolic — there was no rush on this.

Other than my own goals, at least. My hopes to have this done by the baby’s birth, by last Father’s Day, by H.W.’s 13th birthday, by last Christmas…each passing holiday or event carried, for me, disappointment that this adoption that NO ONE OPPOSED was still not finished. I wondered if H.W. would turn 18 and be his own man before I could get us through this.

Talking with a friend who had adopted his wife’s daughter five years earlier, even in that short span the process had become far more arduous and expensive. I just had to ask the adoption agency why, and learned that these were Wisconsin’s laws, not federal ones, nor the agency’s own quirky guidelines, if that helped. I haven’t looked into it, but other than cost, I have a hard time imagining how much more difficult this would have been if I were adopting a total stranger.

Well, it all ended Tuesday. And it turned out to be more than symbolic, as the biological father’s parental rights, somehow, still, had not been terminated, until now. Part of the process required my lawyer trying to get in touch with H.W.’s biological father to see if he would sign off, but he couldn’t be located. (Because of this, he’ll receive no notification that he can stop running or hiding.) After multiple failed attempts at contact, and the judge’s ruling, the rights have been terminated.

Why am I writing this mix of joy and justice, and bitterness and frustration? While it’s nice to share one of the most important relationships I’ll ever have, I needed to do so to highlight the bureaucracy and madness of the adoption process.

I’m trying to figure out what to do with this experience. I plan to reach out to a local alderman, but I think letting others know about this ridiculous process is important, too.

A lot of people who are against abortion, for example, take considerable solace in advocating adoption as a solution. I would imagine they’d be very disappointed to learn just how difficult, if not prohibitive, the process is. A lot of potential adoptive parents would not illogically size up the required time, effort, and red tape and just say “nah.” Or they straight-up couldn’t afford it. I honestly couldn’t judge a person for that. I’m writing this and taking action for the people who would want to adopt, but don’t have the time or resources I did.

The adoption itself, I did for H.W. and no one else. He may thank me someday, but he doesn’t need to. He didn’t deserve to be abandoned, but he does deserve a dad. This was perhaps the noblest thing I’ll ever do for someone, yet essentially it earned me state punishment.

Any dude and chick can hook up and have a baby, without anyone’s permission. They can even be drunk when they do. Woohoo!

I encountered something that’s wrong and in my opinion, anti-family. I needed to write about, and need to act on it, before that sense fades.

Hope you learned something. Feel free to teach me something in the comments,

-Matty

P.S. I can’t praise my wife enough. Being a single parent would be unimaginably tough. For both the parent’s and kid’s sake, I would not recommend it, nor would my wife or son. He turned out great in spite of her being a single parent, certainly not because of it. Adoption is an incredible option, and I’m endlessly grateful for it and honored by it — my son chose me! What’s awful, though, as I’ve hopefully explained, is the process itself, especially in an uncontested case.

P.P.S. To any dude who ever passed on my smokin’-hot wife because she had a kid: your losses!

P.P.P.S. A kid is an individual, not just a junior version of Mom or Dad. I think a lot of parents get frustrated when they don’t understand their biological children — wondering where he or she got “that” from — and it’s not altogether fair. Raising a kid that’s not biologically mine has helped me appreciate that.

P.P.P.P.S. “I’m finished!” – Daniel Plainview

Conservation > Climate Treaties

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You feel furious, powerless and hopeless because Trump is pulling our country out of the Paris Climate Agreement, but the Schwartz is in YOU, Lone Starr! It’s in you!!

While alternative energy is a popular topic, we’ve got radio silence when it comes to simply consuming less — using less fossil fuels directly, or indirectly as a result of the excessive products we buy and the fuels and resources used to produce them. We need blood these days, and less consumption doesn’t stick it to anyone! Other than ourselves, at least, but never mind that: we need to get those corporations and oil companies!

The anger over federal climate policy comes down to a collective desire for our government to impose morality on greedy people. “Um, no, aaactually I’m angry because I don’t want the planet to die?!” (How can I type “upspeak”?)

I differ. Won’t even beg to.

Do you Really want less pollution? Do you genuinely want less carbon emitted? Shoot, do you Truly want to wound the 1%? YOU DON’T NEED GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY. You don’t need to rely on anyone but yourself. You don’t need a global treaty.

Just use less.

Buy less crap. Drive less. Carpool more. Eat less meat. All the uncool stuff they taught us at school assemblies. If we all did the whole reduce-reuse-recycle routine, or committed to it more, we’d use far, far less fossil fuels. Discipline can do it.

If we don’t use it, we don’t need it! Still, rarely is conservation suggested as a solution, whether regarding our constant import of oil – of which the transportation alone requires crazy fuel – or even in the heat of the Dakota pipeline protests.

No, the conclusion’s forgone. The oil must flow. The pointless purchases can’t stop. It’s out of our hands! I need!

And anyway, consumption rules, especially when trucks bring new stuff right to my immaculately heated/cooled home.

We want convenience, we want commerce, and we want to clobber those filthy factory owners (whose wallets we choose to line with every transaction). C’mon, government: make it happen, so I don’t have to!

Far better: affect change with your own decisions and dollars. How’s that for democracy? For empowerment?

We all have to use, but we can all use less. Let’s practice and promote conservation. If you need an adversary, try shaming mindless consumption. Have you mocked a shop-aholic today?

Commercially yours,

-Matty

Show Tales: 5/11-5/13

5/11/17: The Blasters, Delta Bombers, Muddy Udders – Lyric Room

The Blasters were Excellent. Sans Dave Allen, yes, but Keith Wyatt was superb on guitar alongside original Blasters John Bazz (bass), Bill Bateman (drums), and of course, Phil Alvin (vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica).

Wyatt plays rock’n’roll guitar the way I aspire to. I hear him do better versions of some things I do, and tons more. It was like a crystal ball with an optimistic vision of where my playing can get to.

I got to take in the show right up front, off the corner of the stage held down by Bazz, and his bass playing blew all minds in the vicinity. He’s mastered this type of electric bass playing that doesn’t seem like it should work; no one should be able to pull and thump like that without nailing the pickups and sounding awful. I’ve never seen someone play so hard but so cleanly. Really wild. Very unique. I couldn’t figure it out – was he somehow muting, maybe with the edge of his picking hand? However he did it, he’s got it down.

Mr. Phil Alvin was led through the crowd shortly after the band took stage. I didn’t recognize him at first, with his beard, but sure enough. He moved slowly and stiffly, and was mostly stationary on stage, but no struggle or strain came through in his outstanding singing. It was like he channeled every bit of energy into his wailing, which is what really mattered most.

The songs and performances were so good! The sold-out room was wall-to-wall with ear-to-ear grins. The Blasters, playing GB for the first time ever, and just ruling! It was special.

Muddy Udders opened and we had a really good time; ~35-minute sets were never really our forte, but this was one of our better ones. We’re doing an hour and a half at Jam For Jam this Friday that’ll be a lot less scripted, more time for improvising.

The Delta Bombers said we sounded like Primus, which they meant as a compliment, but…. I think the only comparison I’ve ever been happy about was when The Woggles’ guitarist – Flesh Hammer – told me I sang like Mitch Ryder. Cool! But for all I know he says that to all the younger singers who open for them, which would at worst encourage the uninitiated to get hip to the Detroit Wheels.

The Delta Bombers were very good, as are most of their roster mates at Wild Records. I’ve lost touch on what In The Red puts out these days, but Wild’s consistency reminds me of ITR’s. (Thus concludes my entire knowledge of current record labels.)

5/12/17: Rev. Norb & The Onions, The Foamers?, Lucifer’s Crank – LowPoint (House Party)

I hadn’t played a basement show in GB since one with Harvey Brown a couple years ago, and it felt great. All the smoke kinda got to me, but it was better than everyone standing outside and getting the show shut down.

It worked out really well. Brad from The Onions ran sound, and there was a keg and a gourmet taco bar for about 40 people.

Lucifer’s Crank played first, mostly made up of members of the defunct Dixxx, who I’d somehow never seen. Fun rock’n’roll with vocals that are satisfyingly screeched instead of growled. The singer bared his back a few songs in, displaying an impressive tattoo of a lovely lady (done by host Joseph Lambert), and singing about how unfortunately popular he’d be in prison sporting ink like that. Funny premise.

Foamers? played second, and it went well! I had the idea earlier that day for us to cover The Ramones’ “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement” as preemptive means of mocking anyone who hung out upstairs instead of watching us, but that didn’t really happen! We played it anyway, then partied.

Rev. Norb & The Onions were the grand finale, and of course they ruled. Not like, oh, they’re predictably solid. But because every time I see them they put on another great show. Norb, in full-on next-door neighbor mode, performed in a (Star Trek) robe, sleep mask, and aqua socks.

norbsox

Brad wore his own band’s t-shirt – I’d do that if I were in that band, too. I like these songs so much by now, I realized I’ve become more of a fan of this group than I was of Boris the Sprinkler. Granted I’ve now seen Norb/Onions a lot more than I’ve seen Boris, who, to be sure, were outstanding. But it’s a combination of this group’s songs, and the fact that Norb now tosses solos to Brad, who’s just always been the area’s best rock’n’roll guitar player.

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5/13/17.1: J-Council photo shoot

Like I said, we partied after the Foamers?’ set. I mean, it was a party – we couldn’t be impolite.

J-Council had found out on Friday that we needed to do a photo shoot the next day – someone needed a promo shot for something by Monday. After group-text brainstorming that no one could take seriously, we just knew we’d get together Saturday afternoon. But I apparently missed the update that we’d be shooting earlier than planned, and my phone and I, both drained, shut down after the house party.

I didn’t turn my phone on at all the next morning; my wife came to the party, too, and I wanted to let her sleep in, so I was just doing the dad thing, tending to the tykes, making meals, and the doorbell rings – it’s my bandmate Alex, snazzily dressed, telling me we’re supposed to be at the half-hour-away photo shoot in twenty minutes. I’m wearing pajama pants and a layer of last night’s sweat n’ smoke.

Switched gears, woke up wife, drove, photo shot. We got to work with Justus Poehls and Oliver Anderson, two talented guys who are also great people. I’ve never been in a band that liked getting its picture taken, but it’s never a bad time hanging with the J-Council dudes – something we’ll really test when we drive to Brooklyn and back next month! Side note: Justus was great to work with, and his studio is right next to the house where I practiced during my cup of coffee as drummer for the Orange Iguanas.

Another side note: Guitar Center is awful. Forget that place. I stopped there after the shoot, hoping to buy a bass head they’d had, but someone swooped in before me. Not the point; even if they’d still it had it, it’s just the worst vibe there. Dick’s Music Shop (where I took some banjo lessons, bought my Telecaster and numerous necessities) just announced they’re closing, and if we lose independent stores in favor of these soulless chains, that’s another nail in the culture coffin. The best thing that came from it was Travis and me picturing the Guitar Center hiring process, deciding it’s based on a polygraph that measures applicants’ excitement while Dream Theater recordings are administered. “Does it get you going? The job is yours!”

Seriously, I felt more comfortable – in my yellow leisure suit from the photo shoot and all – buying a Mother’s Day present at Menard’s than I did at that Guitar Center. That’s pretty backward.

Another side note: Cozzy Corner rules, but you hopefully already know that!

Back to GB, do some more dad-ing, and back to Lyric Room.

5/13/17.2: Freight Train Rabbit Killer, Harvey Brown, The Foamers?, That Last Sip of Beer

I admit I was dragging by this point; weak as it may sound, I hadn’t played three nights in a row in a while. I got there a couple songs into TLSoB’s set. Crowd was more quality over quantity – modest but attentive and appreciative.

I hadn’t seen That Last Sip of Beer, or their other band Zippnutts. Turns out they’re from Wausau, which got me excited – I’d just been talking with Mark from Top Spins, who just moved to Wausau, about his goals of better connecting Wausau to the local music scenes. Even though I’ve never played there, it made all this sense to me, and it was cool to meet more people from there. Sounds like the Polack Inn and the Cop Shoppe are the places to hang.

Travis and I threw together a setlist and got at it. We’d saved our less-fast stuff for this show, to better set up FTRK’s sound. Supposedly our song “Gotta Run” was on the radio in GB earlier that morning, and we were set to play it anyway; anyone who came specifically to see it live got their wish! Since TLSoB played a song about wanting to live in a high rise, and since we’d just learned it, we figured our Ramones’ cover from the night before would fit. Overall, while Travis was on as always, I played better the night before. Playing in The Foamers? is pretty tough to do but I like the challenge, and the style really works when I’m not messing up a ton – there’s just nowhere to hide any mistakes in a two-piece.

Harvey Brown played their first show in forever, and it was one of their best. It’s too bad more people weren’t there for it; blame either music fatigue or just lack of word-spreading, I don’t know, but it was a privilege to be there. My favorite shows of theirs are the ones where they really play together and off each other, and perhaps because they haven’t performed in a while, the members of HB were looking to each other a lot, and the chemistry was transcendent in that unique way of theirs.

I won’t say I want the four of them to focus on playing together rather than their other projects, because they’ve earned my encouragement no matter what they do. But of all the great sets I saw this weekend, Harvey Brown’s may have wound up my favorite. I’m not trying to give anyone a complex – I want them to do whatever they want (I appreciate that they want to do anything at all), and Short Timers and Alley Cat/Purrfection are working on some cool, different stuff. But HB really ruled Saturday night and I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing them play more often.

Between the heights achieved by Harvey Brown, and the fact that they’d had Mollie Gene sitting in with them last time but not this time, Freight Train Rabbit Killer felt like a let-down to me. I may have been too wiped to get really into any band at this point, though. They were still good, and hit some gutsy Nick Cave strides.

I tried to catch the end of Tony Tanzi’s birthday show at Gasoline but it had just wrapped. My friend Chris rode with me, I dropped him off and we had a last beer up at his place, which I’d never seen, but is outstanding. He’s moving in a month, so if anyone’s looking for a really unique one-bedroom with a high-arched, temple-like main room, close to Broadway, holler and I’ll pass on the details.

Recap:

It was quite the stretch, and I figured I’d type it out before any memories fade; I fear I’ve forgotten more good times than some people may ever have.

I work on a lot of stuff, but it felt especially great to feed that music wolf three days in a row. Another cool moment from Saturday was my good friend Paul telling me about the band he’d seen at Lyric Room the night before, a group he’d known nothing about, that just came on stage and owned. He was describing the phenomenon when a mystery band unexpectedly blows your mind, and said, “I live for this sh*t.” A confession, not a boast. I really liked that.

Paul, and people like him who are totally driven to see live music, are the ones who make it all work, more than any other part of the process (including bands, promoters, or venues). It was just a perfect comment to catch as the run wound down.

Thank you all for reading, and supporting local music!

-Matty

“Resident Evil 4” Killed the Series

RE4PC-13

“Resident Evil 2” was the first M-rated videogame I ever got. I was in seventh grade. I hadn’t played the first one, but had asked classmates all about it in that terrified-yet-interested teenage way. I’d long experienced recurring zombie nightmares from seeing “Night of the Living Dead” a few years too early.

The second “RE” was seriously hyped, and by all accounts would not require strong knowledge of its predecessor to enjoy it. The first “Resident Evil” had taken place in a mansion in the woods on the outskirts of fictional Raccoon City, where “RE2” was set in the city itself.

The game petrified me. God, was it creepy, with the intro video, then my character getting killed by the first zombies I encountered. I was freaked out and outmatched; I experienced bad buyer’s remorse and didn’t play again for at least two weeks. Serious bummer. Buying a game guide gave me a bit of nerve, though, as did turning on every light in the room.

They always scared me, but I grew to adore the “RE” games: 2, 1, 3, “Code: Veronica.” I bought a Nintendo GameCube exclusively because they were doing an enhanced re-release of the first game (which was fantastic) and a prequel. The mix of zombies and other morphing abominations (surely influenced by John Carpenter’s “The Thing”), corrupt corporations and authorities, puzzle solving, and guns and gore galore made for this great mix of mystery, dread, excitement, and weirdness that lit up my young mind.

I still appreciate what those games were to me. I fell out of love with videogames, though, during my freshman year of college, after losing a ton of progress in “Metroid Prime”, getting really mad at my roommate who’d shut off my unsaved game (in spite of my “PLEASE DON’T TURN MY GAME OFF!” post-it note) while I was out, but then realizing it really didn’t matter, did it.

But when a friend picked up “Resident Evil 4” a while later, I couldn’t help but be curious, and it was, in fact, cool! Ol’ reliable “RE”. We wound up so into it. Those familiar with the unique, intuition-challenging controls of the series up to that point recall how exciting the new gameplay was. It felt like after years of being horrified and hunted by the worst beasts imaginable, we finally had the coordination to fight back.

The action was so thrilling…that I barely noticed my suspension of disbelief. These weren’t really “zombies” anymore, but “infected” people who angrily attacked, sometimes with weapons, growling menacing lines, and disintegrating (rather than “playing” “dead” like they used to) when they were killed. “RE4”’s enemies were somehow more and less human in ways that made them no longer scary. Sure was fun to shoot ‘em up, though.

In this legendary videogame series so focused on death and undeath, the storytelling would be its most prominent casualty (sorry, Ada Wong).  A drive to see what happens next, and to merely survive while exploring the horror, was replaced by dominance and destruction. The pace went from a tip-toe to a sprint. Again, it felt like entertaining vengeance, but at the expense of the once-compelling narrative, ultimately reducing “Resident Evil” to just another action series.

After “RE4” I tried the fifth one, thumbed through other sequels at used stores, and watched the trailer for the seventh game with renewed hope, but unfortunately the series no longer resonates with me. It’s gotten more sci-fi than scary; the enemies in the early games were all soulless, mindless former humans and animals (dogs, crows, reptiles) warped by virii that made them want to eat people, where starting with the fourth game (or maybe even “Code: Veronica”) enemies were evil humanoids and completely made-up creatures (giants, water creatures, fire…creatures) whose hostility (opposed to hunger) was never really explained.

Maybe vids in general have gotten too slick to be make a mark on me. I’m certainly not dying to regain the hobby, so I lack the incentive to put the time in. But I did like “BioShock” for XBOX 360 – again, largely because of its creative story and concept.

Too much media forgoes the brain and aims for the gut. It’s a shame this once gripping series gave up what made it exceptional.

Which videogames or series have or had your favorite storytelling? Disagree with my take on the “RE” series’ (d)evolution?

Holler,

-Matty

A Word on Aaron Lee Tasjan

 

alt

photo by Stacie Huckeba

In 2014 I was elated when Tom Johnson asked Muddy Udders to open for Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers – man, I was just happy to finally get to see them, and in GB even! Raucous jump blues in my own backyard!

I barely noticed they had some guy touring with them – “Aaron Lee Tasjan?” I thought, “Who does this boring Nashville singer-songwriter with his unremarkable proper name think he is, opening for the Shack Shakers?”

I was a stupid idiot. Aaron Lee Tasjan ruled that night, conjuring the biggest sound I’d ever heard from a solo act, and entertaining while doing it! All the talent and charisma a crowd could possibly want from a single performer tasked with opening for LSS and their indefatigable frontman J.D. Wilkes. Whoever was inspired to pair the two unlikely acts, thank you! Aaron, and J.D. and drummer Brett Whitacre were even cool to talk to in the green room n’ everything.

On stage that night ALT was funny between songs and deadly during them – like a perma-fried savant who could turn it on and off at will, or this impossibly competent and interesting stoner. He definitely made an impression.

I didn’t get to catch him again until Mile of Music last year, and holy cats, walking up to the outdoor stage at Spats that evening, again I’m hit with this unexpected force. I’d heard he was playing with a full band, but I had no idea. Gone was the seated dude in the trucker hat, horn-rims and flannel. Aaron was wearing this outrageous green suit, a cowboy hat and mirrored shades, out-rocking his bandmates and wailing “B*tch Can’t Sing!” into the night air. It was so cool!

Earlier this year ALT retweeted a podcast he’d been on called “Walking the Floor”, and I tune in to learn that he toured in the New York freaking Dolls? MAN. It might be good I didn’t know that when we chatted at Lyric Room. But would I have even wanted to ask what it was like? Would I want to risk killing my image of David Johansen?

Ah, probably. (A wise man [my late grandfather] believed it’s always better to know than not know. [Who knew he was a Dolls fan?])

Maybe I’ll ask Aaron this Friday! J-Council is opening for him at Colectivo in Milwaukee for ten measlies!

Huge honor, and I’ll better appreciate it this time. I’m excited to see whatever he decides to do on stage. Northern friends, catch him tonight at the Source in Menasha!

Indeed, there are individuals out there making cool music, and Aaron Lee Tasjan is one of them. If you can’t go to one of these shows, you might consider reevaluating your life, or at least procuring his recordings.

Also, LSS are back in GB on Sunday, May 7th! Psht – who does this “Jesse Dayton” dude think he is?

Enjoy,

-Matty

A Year Since our Daughter was Born in our House

Two tier Safari theme first birthday cake with animals and matching mini cake

Her name’s not Matthew. God that’d be funny.

Our baby girl turns a year old tomorrow, April 1st – least memorable golden birthday possible. A party for someone that young is baffling, but it’ll be fun to have family over, and if this how I do right by the lil girl, I’m in; my life is a million times richer thanks to her – a phenomenon I never expected, believed or even cared about when other parents claimed it.

We’ll get a kick out of celebrating her birth in the same place she was born. That night a year ago might be my life’s most incredible experience. I wanted to try and write to commemorate, but am posting it a day early so it’s separate from April Fool’s stuff. (Wonder how sick she’ll get of people “forgetting” her birthday. But then if someone actually does, they can act like they’re joking to buy time and make up real plans.)

I was absolutely against having our baby at home. Home birth seemed antiquated, pointlessly dangerous, and weird. Why? Why add the risk? Why, after nine months of careful nutrition, sobriety, and whatever else lovingly undertaken for the baby’s and mom’s sake would a couple willfully reject the medicine, technology, and expertise of a hospital setting, for some idealistic roll of the dice? Why!

But every passing day my one-month pregnant wife was feeling more strongly about a home birth. I couldn’t, wouldn’t understand and was trying to dig my heels in. The impasse was rough – couples don’t have to agree on everything, but this was monumental.

It was complicated, too, as the baby was equally ours, but the labor of course would not be. And while I’d never even witnessed the experience, my wife had the credibility of having previously given birth (to my stepson; more on the pending adoption in a future post), and she had a strong opinion about it.

She’d gone to a hospital that time, and I was aware it had been, to understate, less than pleasant. Though she’d go on to do far more research for the next one, her only real preference back then was that the labor be pharmaceutical-free.

You’re probably aware that pregnancy due dates are astoundingly imprecise, and yet hospitals treat them like gospel. When she was two weeks past her “due date,” my wife was ordered to report to the hospital, though she hadn’t begun labor at all. The staff opted to induce labor using a stimulant called Pitocin that artificially initiates contractions (and ideally dilation), a decision my wife was all but helpless about, but still managed delivery without any pain medication (which is apparently pretty remarkable, says dude who’ll never have to know).

The most important thing is that she and the baby were fine – cannot stress that enough. But the pressure, if not force from the hospital made the experience more miserable than miraculous.

With pregnancy #2 she decided much more research was in order. This included a movie on Netflix called “The Business of Being Born”, which largely informed her desire for a home birth. (It’s on YouTube as well.) Though she’d expressed this, I had yet to genuinely entertain the notion of having our baby at home, and didn’t even feel like a jerk about it – there was just no way it was happening. But I agreed to humor her and watch the movie, on the basis of exploring all options, thinking this would be a very quick option to disregard.

I sigh. My pride is still almost annoyed by it, but the movie blew my mind. This was stuff I hadn’t even considered considering. Totally new information and perspective to me, explaining epidurals, the massive increase in Cesarean births, the profit focus and excessive intervention of the childbirth industry, and all these different medical and developmental advantages of good(?) old-fashioned home births. (I’m realizing now that I actually did, and still do find this stuff kinda fascinating. Weirdo.)

I remained anti-. Clearly the movie ignored the perfectly good reasons for the major changes in the way our babies were born, and I’d find them and throw them in my wife’s face, because I’m twelve. So the next day I’d hunt online for studies and stats to spring on her – “Aaaa-HA! THIS is why we shouldn’t do it! Aaaand THIS! AND THIS AND THIS! HAHA!”

…For the life of me I could not find anything credible. I spent hours. HOURS. Pride aches continued. This hardly translated to enthusiasm, though. I’d searched and researched, only to concede defeat. Fine. BUT, I’d sure grill whichever midwife took us on!

Turns out Green Bay has a midwife, so I wouldn’t even have to leave town to put this silly idea to rest. Of course, we go to meet her – Stacy – and she is every bit as gracious, knowledgeable, and experienced as one could hope. (Curses, thought my pride.) We talked and talked, and my resistance melted away. My greatest relief came from learning a hospital transfer plan is always in place if deemed necessary, and finding out just how rare that is. Stacy had done this so many times, and for so long; she had all the numbers and credentials I’d possibly want. Furthermore, the cost was at least one-third that of a typical hospital birth.

I sigh again. Okay, okay. I was in. I was out of arguments. But I was still terrified.

And I still had to tell my parents. Honestly, even now that everything went as beautifully as it did, I still don’t think my mom’s a big fan of our decision (I’ll ask her tomorrow), but to her credit it’s definitely rare, and it must’ve seemed like the idea came out of nowhere, though she did also watch “The Business of Being Born” and I think that helped. You find, though, that everyone who’s ever had a baby, or ever even Been one, has an opinion on childbirth.

In fact the very first friend I told about our planning a home birth digested it for about ten seconds, then matter-of-factly told me we “should definitely go to a hospital.” I decided then not to talk about it to anyone else who didn’t need to know, including coworkers (which meant playing dumb or even lying about which hospital we were going to), until after the birth (hopefully-oh-please-Please-let-it-go-well) went well.

We had regular checkups and meetings with Stacy throughout. The support was so much more personal than I could’ve imagined getting from a hospital. She came by our house multiple times just to check on things, get a good feel for the layout, and make sure we’d be ready. We also enrolled in a natural birth class with a doula in De Pere.

9 months is a long time. We were also completely remodeling our kitchen – “nesting” overdrive. Since we planned on using a birth pool in our kitchen for the home birth, it was incredibly stressful not having said kitchen, and the cabinet company’s installation date was all but identical to the baby’s due date because we’re moronic masochists.

The day after our kitchen was complete, my wife went into labor, almost like her relief kicked things off. We had all the supplies at our house already; Stacy’d made sure of that. Birth pools are like inflatable hot tubs, though, and require a ton of warm water, which would’ve been impossible to achieve without the stove that we’d only just hooked up. The timing was ridiculous.

My wife was in touch with Stacy throughout that day. I worked all day, stayed my whole shift, distracted, but in regular contact. It seemed like this thing was really going to happen. We share a car, so my wife, in what turned out to be her early stages of labor, actually drove to get me, and even wanted to drive us to Stacy’s just to keep her mind on something. Stacy checked: dilation was underway, and we were in for quite a night. (I drove us home.)

We got back to our empty house; we’d planned for my parents to take our son and insane dog for the night. Bit of a trip that it was just us two for a minute there; I like that we had that. My wife timed and wrote down her contractions in our just-finished kitchen and breathed like women do when they’re about to have a baby or something, while I set things up. Stacy showed up shortly after with her two assistants, who we’d also gotten to know, and all the necessary supplies and equipment. Rounding out the crew, my mother-in-law arrived from up north.

Roll call: my increasingly less-talky, more breathe-y wife; four of the kindest females on the planet; and me, or whatever version of me that was. Goodness… it was go time.

A year later it’s still blurry. Wonderfully, though. Candles and music and warm water…almost romantic, really. I was as present and attendant to my wife as she wanted, though she mostly wanted to be on her own in our low-lit living room, leaning on an exercise ball, gently moving, breathing, sipping water or juice, listening to playlists of her favorite songs she’d set up weeks prior. I’d rub her back like I learned in the class we took. She continued to withdraw more into herself, preparing, and in the most comfortable conditions possible. Stacy, her assistants and my mother-in-law were there for help, but were so thoughtfully unintrusive. They were angels! I’m just glad I had that birth pool to work on, adding water, checking temperatures, anything.

As my wife’s contractions intensified we helped her into the kitchen and into the pool. She felt instant relief. Her mom and I took turns pouring water over her back. Candles and very low lights. Music from the stereo in the other room. In the warm water she leaned on the pool’s edge and breathed, and would occasionally have juice or water, but less and less. (She could have eaten, too, which hospitals don’t allow, though it helps to maintain energy.)

She asked me to put on Led Zeppelin’s first album, which is endlessly great and funny to me. She was progressing, so I tried to lighten things, because if there’s one thing a woman in labor wants it’s her husband’s jokes. “You Shook Me” was at the guitar-voice call-response part; I asked her if making Robert Plant sounds would help. “Dazed and Confused” came on; I asked if she wanted to smoke a joint. My wife was grateful for my humor, laughed uproariously, and proceeded to riff on Zeppelin jokes with me. That last sentence is the only thing I wish would’ve happened that didn’t.

The rest of it was positively dreamy. The A-side of the record ended, but no one noticed. The baby (we didn’t know the gender) was coming, and if I had the guts I was going to “catch” him or her. It was so, so hard watching my favorite human go through something I couldn’t help her with, and my body had reacted by completely numbing my arms. I felt so uncoordinated and scared, like I was going to try and pick something up with my elbows, but what a cool opportunity. (Side note: because unborn babies live in liquid, there’s no risk of a newborn inhaling water.)

No forceful pushing, the body knows what it’s doing…aaaaand BABY. I was holding our baby! YEAH!!! But I almost immediately handed off to my wife, who cried tears of every intensity imaginable. In her state of emotional tsunami, she declared the baby was a boy, though I wasn’t so sure. This wasn’t disproved for a minute since she was clutching the baby so closely. Apparently she’d mistaken the umbilical cord for, I don’t know, a historically long and ugly baby penis? I gently suggested she take another look. Our daughter’s first April Fool’s joke.

This was roughly 1 a.m. We had a bed set up in our living room so my wife wouldn’t have to go far or up any stairs. Call me weak, but that was the most wiped I’ve ever felt, and I was in and out of sleep while the midwife checked on my wife and (holy crap) my daughter. My beautiful daughter! I didn’t think a baby could look so cute just born, and she even smelled good and, man, it was just the most instant intense love.

The midwife and assistants left around 4 a.m. I’m pretty sure my mother-in-law stayed the night. The blur of it, I tell you! We went to sleep, in our home, with our hours-old daughter and it was just perfect. The midwife came back in the morning and we showered her with praise. Everything went so well!

We had numerous check-ups with Stacy after that, but eventually a pediatrician takes over, though we can still ask Stacy about anything.

If we have another baby we would be thrilled to work with her again. Would I be a ball of nerves again? Probably, because there’s the chance things won’t go as smoothly. But I’ve already done a lot of the heavy lifting; in making my decision, I worked up to a commitment where even if something went wrong, I would not regret my choice. How did I get there, when I’d started so adamantly opposed?

About a month before the birth Stacy had us complete a birth plan and some particularly introspective questionnaires. The questionnaire was what finally brought me as much peace on our decision as possible. It asked me to list my fears of having a baby in a hospital. Then, to list my fears of having a baby at home.

I realized that regardless of where we’d have the baby, I was afraid of unexpected complications. But in a home setting, I wouldn’t have the additional fear of hospital staff exerting force, and convincing us in our emotionally-flooded mental states to allow unnecessary, unwanted medical intervention (even though they’re genuinely trying to help). And again, in the very rare event that we would need medical assistance beyond what Stacy could provide, we could always transfer to a hospital.

Any couple will experience helpless anxiety before their baby’s born. If I felt even more of it because we’d be having the delivery at home, the advantages more than made up for it: not having to drive to a hospital, no confounding and painful laying on her back for my wife, no drugs, no doctor I’d just met who wants to finish up and get home for the day, and perhaps above all, the absolute comfort of being at home before, during, and after. Nothing felt rushed or wrong.

If you’ve read all this, thanks! If you’ve been part of a home birth, I hope I did it justice, cuz I thought it was just the greatest. I love my wife even more for wanting to do it. I sincerely hope this was positive for anyone to read, and by no means whatsoever do I look down on hospital births – again, the absolute most important thing is mom and baby are good. Sometimes a hospital is the only option. And even if it just seems too risky, I can relate to that feeling, too.

If you’re considering having a baby, I recommend doing a ton of research, if only to familiarize yourself with all the terminology so you don’t panic when you hear strange words thrown around in the heat of the moment. And maybe you’ll find negative information on home births that I couldn’t – if so, please let me know! Ask me anything you want about it, too.

The other resource I found incredibly helpful as the non-pregnant parent-to-be, regardless of where a birth is planned, was the book The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin.

Thanks again for reading! All the best,

-Matty

It Doesn’t Matter if Health Care is a Right

bob-barker-price-is-right

Some people think health care is a right while others don’t. I can’t say there’s an ongoing debate, because there isn’t — just two camps with opposing beliefs and never the twain shall meet.

It doesn’t matter if people hopelessly disagree, though, or that there’s not even a debate. The greater problem lies in the concept of what rights are, and what it means to have them.

We obviously do have rights, with some of the most vital constituting our Bill of Rights. But what good is a right to a citizen if its government doesn’t honor it?

For example, if you haven’t lately, reread the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

This means that our government recording our communication, internet activity, or whatever else is a clear violation of our Fourth Amendment right, as innocent citizens don’t have warrants.

It’s decidedly more fun to joke about Kellyanne Conway’s microwave than it is to discuss CIA overreach or NSA privacy infringement. But if these illegal procedures are ignored or accepted, any discussion of designating additional rights really can’t be taken seriously.

The very common (and suuuper chill) response to this violation is approximately, “Well, if the government’s spying on me it’ll be a boring job – I haven’t done anything wrong.” This asserts that rights matter to neither citizenry nor government.

If rights don’t matter, then it doesn’t matter if health care is deemed a right. Or if anything else is, really, when you have a government choosing at whim which rights they’ll actually uphold, and a citizenry that tolerates violation.

Not the cheeriest of concepts, so feel free to lighten things with a different perspective, or to commiserate in the comments.

Thanks for reading,

-Matty

PS. I’m not being nihilistic here, suggesting nothing matters at all. Nor am I dismissing the debate whether health care is a right is or not, because it’s worth having, but only once the foundational terms (specifically, what is a right, and what does it mean to have one) are set and adhered to. (Next of course would be what is health care.) (Then, what is “is”?!)

PPS. I should acknowledge (or at least consciously appreciate) my current privilege of good health, and my ability to discuss this topic conceptually, as opposed to personally. Each one of us, however, is affected when our government disregards our rights.

Snobbery, Know-It-Allism, & Unearned Superiority

catgun

…are three contributing killers of discourse, especially online.

Aspiration for intellectual infallibility is killing the very root of discourse: curiosity. Help control the cat population!

We’ve reached an Orwellian opposite where the people with the closed, impenetrably stubborn minds claim to be the most open. But “LOL, right, like I’M a square!” is of course a square assertion; such a person has boxed his or herself in, and desperately clings to conserve their idea of their identity.

I find that boring. My favorite people are aware that they’re works in progress – those who don’t claim perfection, but strive to improve, and empathize with those doing the same. When someone who’s, say, not a senior citizen, presents an image of full formation, I’m turned off. Hipsters and hicks alike. Gimme humility!

It’s not just the lack of (self-)acceptance or need to remain “correct.” It’s the requisite will to confirm any biased thought as they see fit, to serve whichever narrative they’ve decided serves them best. There’s no real entrance or exit allowed with such a mind – a veritable pre-golden ticket Wonka factory.

Lack of curiosity is unnatural – we have only learned all we’ll ever know once we’re dead. Ideally we progress until then. Confirming one’s biases while rejecting all conflicting information is not progress, unless one’s goal is to steel and suffocate their brain.

Enter Unquestioned Political Party Allegiance.

“But I’m well-informed!” Where do you get your information, and do you also read purveyors of the opposite ideology? Indoctrination ≠ information.

“My political allegiance is correct; the other is evil!” Do you realize the “other” (you little hypothetical xenophobe, you!) thinks that, too?

“All the other side does is LIE!” See above, but more so, why mindlessly align with a major political party, instead of defining your own unique principles? Why so binary?

Cling, cling, cling.

Square. Boring.

Destructive. Believing we’ve chosen the correct political party (or religion, though politics seems more prevalent) leads to instant, unearned feelings of superiority, disrespect for the other, and in turn, no ability to debate them.

We sideline ourselves, consuming media from representatives of our chosen ideologies who think, research, talk and debate for us.

We can’t magically internalize these representatives’ knowledge, so when we’re presented the opportunity to debate real principles, too many of us can only resort to slogans, ad hominem personal attacks, or aggressively changing subjects in the absence of our ability to articulate.

We feel artificially empowered having (chosen to have) been convinced that we’re on the correct side, and therefore feel justified defending that side however sloppily or despicably as necessary to “win.”

But no one wins. The result: not only are no minds changed, but we’re further divided from opposition, further convinced that we’re good/smart and they’re evil/stupid.

A lot of perfectly good relationships are ruined because of this. How many times have you seen the unfortunate “UNFRIEND ME IF YOU BELIEVE X, Y, Z, etc” post online? These are exactly the type of people we should want to debate! There’s already some common ground and a mutual respect to build off of – ideal foundation for mind-expanding discourse. Because of this I’ve never understood the derision/fear of talking politics at the proverbial family get-together. We can always agree to disagree – or better yet, admit a deficiency of knowledge in a given field, and do some research before meeting up again.

For each of us there was a time when we first began to cling to whatever biases we hold. We weren’t always so stuck or set. We have a pulse and therefore the ability to change our minds. It’s a privilege and a vital strength.

That said, choose your battles out there. Snark, sarcasm (as well as non sequiturs, or any other tools for hiding in plain sight), and ad hominem attacks are several of the biggest “tells” that one is arguing with a brick wall – a person who denies his or herself (or never learned) the ability to think critically, independently, and curiously. Often they have tied their very identity to their idea that they’re of superior intelligence and morality, and will fight like a cornered badger to desperately conserve this and to avoid humiliation, rather than improve or learn something new – such would be to admit a deficiency; heavens no!

Pleas and Suggestions:

Encourage questions, rather than ridicule someone who doesn’t already know or believe something that you do. And don’t interpret being questioned as intentionally impolite. “How DARE that Troll ask me to articulate my beliefs!”

Encourage discourse. It’s the foundation of real progress. If people can’t discuss their disagreements, they will ultimately regress to violence. This can(/will?) end very, very terribly (see: the French Revolution – seriously, it’s mind-blowing).

Entertain others’ opinions. If your principles are defined (reminder: “I belong to Political Party X” is not a principle) you will be able to more easily navigate the rocks in the water.

Admit deficiencies. It’s the only way to move on. I saw a new one the other day, in a YouTube comment “debate” where someone replied, “Well OBVIOUSLY I was wrong about …” – in other words: “No DUH – only a MORON like You wouldn’t realize that I realized I was wrong.” I don’t know if that’s a step in the right direction or not.

I talk or e-mail with at least 40 unique customers a day for my job, many of whom need help, but have no idea how to ask for it, or are ashamed to have to ask, so they’ll adopt a combative voice. Insecurity and deficiency should be handled with humility, not aggression.

Civilization itself requires good communication, discourse and debate. Unless we’ve simply grown tired of this experiment in civility, and want SICK BURNS and SLAMS and REKTS instead; when you see these online spats, it’s rare that anyone appears to actually want to help or even change anyone’s mind, so much as claim victory or superiority.

I wonder about a link between exploration and empathy — the kindness and patience we gain for others from our own willingness to wade into the wilderness of uncertainty.

What do you think? Holler,

-Matty

A Word on J-Council

 

J-Council’s been gigging since November 2015, but rarely north of Appleton, so I write this for Green Bay music lovers who are (J-)curious to check us out tonight.

The six of us have lovingly labored on this project. I’ve personally practiced with this band more than any other I’ve played in, and I really enjoy making music with this crew – in general I’m stupid privileged to play all kinds of music with all ~20 of my talented bandmates.

J-Council definitely puts the time in. Especially Jon (vox), waking up daily around 6:30 a.m.(! – even if he was at, say, Déjà Vu the night before…!) to work on songs or any other band stuff. Jon’s a phenomenal singer, and it’s nuts that he’s never sang lead for a band before;  so cool to witness crowds witness his talent. He’s also the best electric bass player I know – present company absolutely included, which pushes me to be better, but that’s the case with all these players.

Steve, Jon’s dad, is just aces on guitar, having logged crazy hours on stage, even some with his older brother’s excellent garage band The Golden Catalinas; superb jammer. Sam’s gigged on guitar since early on, too, encouraged by his dad who likewise shreds, but he’s also a really good singer (lead vox for The Lately) with great range; he’s also got the ear of an engineer cuz he, like, totally is one. Alex rules on keys, can really play anything, and sing spot-on harmonies, too. Ryan grooves harder on drums than maybe anyone, and he’s got ridiculous knowledge of old music.

It’s a unique mix, and we’ve gotten some outrageous gigs and opportunities already – like San Francisco last weekend – but because of how much we put into the project we’re not altogether freaked out; the cool stuff positively blows our minds and keeps some teenage dreams alive, but our effort keeps us grounded.

It comes down to the songs, though. They’re direct and distinct, even when they’re abstract. They’re catchy and rhythmic, even when they’re devastating. (Other than an arrangement suggestion here or there I haven’t written for J-Council; probably why I’m comfortable saying this stuff.)

If you’re reading this I hope you make tonight’s show, which I’m considering our formal GB debut. We did get to open for JD McPherson at Badger State and Caroline Smith at the Meyer’s Backstage last year, but those would’ve been decent covers to pay just to check out our then-new band.  And we had a great slot at ArtStreet at the end of August, but that was a several-hour, cover-heavy affair – not super representative of what we do.

But tonight at Lyric Room, ho-HO! We’re playing our original set, following two gracious opening bands spawned from Harvey Brown, The Short Timers and Alley Cat — $7 cover. I just got to see Short Timers for the first time at Frets, and although their drummer had been hospitalized that day, Chris and Jake played a strong set of tunes. Definitely more singer-songwriter than the freaky-styley HB jams, but really interesting stuff. I’ve yet to see Alex and JD as the Alley Cat; looking forward to that.

If not tonight, hope you can check us out soon; we’re proud of this mess!

-Matty