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

 

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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

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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

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…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

The Time I Proposed on Valentine’s Day

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Cliché, yes, but that’s why she didn’t expect it!

Three years ago today, after a little over five years of dating, I proposed to my now-wife in a room we rented at the Union Hotel in De Pere. Since it’s supposedly haunted we’d always wanted to spend a night there and try out a Ouija board. Firsts for both of us.

We dressed fancy, checked in, and had a drink with dinner downstairs. Back up in our room we began to set up, with a circle of spooky candles around us and everything, and we Ouija’d. Cross-legged on the floor, fingertips on the planchette, in otherwise silence I started asking questions aloud: “Are there spirits in this hotel?” … “Can anyone hear us?” … “Will the Packers win the Super Bowl next year?”, etc.

Predictably there were no responses. We stayed focused, though, watching the board for anything. Finally I asked, “Will Jaci marry me?” After a second she looked up at me, a bit confused, and I took the ring from my pocket and asked, “Will you?”

It was terrifying and awesome. I’ll never forget how nervous I was. I feel incredibly fortunate. (And lucky, since, cool as it would’ve been, an actual ghost response would’ve pretty well wrecked the proposal.)

Romantic love is the absolute best. Cheers to the lovers, and to those who haven’t found it yet, it really is worth it.

Happy V. Day,

M. Day

P.S. Props to my mother-in-law for helping brainstorm the proposal!

Review: The Autobiography of Malcolm X

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What’s your opinion of Malcolm X? What impression have you gotten? Do you remember where you got it from?

Depending on the mind, the mention of Malcolm’s name can bring forth images from a righteous, principled, heroic revolutionary, to an angry, hatemongering black supremacist.

In a word, I always figured he was a very intense person. I vaguely remember that from the trailer of the biopic starring Denzel Washington, but I was pretty young when that aired. From a more recent visit to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis I learned that he thought Martin Luther King Jr. was a “chump.”

Coincidentally, this last MLK Day I finished Malcolm X’s autobiography. Now, unexpectedly, I know a lot more about Malcolm than I do Martin. (Please, if you’ve read one, recommend a good book on Dr. King.)

I’d like to review the book, not the man – though what better report of a man can there be than his own autobiography? I guess then I’m sharing my opinion of what I’ve learned about Malcolm’s life, from his book; I’ve purposely withheld from learning more about him from other sources for now.

I cherish the ability to form my own opinions based off an original source. If someone paraphrases something a politician or celebrity said or did, colored by their own opinion, I consider it, but am much more interested in tracking down original quotes or clips in context and interpreting it for myself.

Based on the heavy nature of 2016’s predominant political and social discussions I aimed to read four books last year, books I’d never read, whose historical subjects figured so prominently into the topics of the present: The Bible, The Quran, Mein Kampf, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I don’t think I need to explain the pertinence or modern significance of these books.

With these subjects so casually tossed into conversation, I’m ashamed that I don’t know more about them, especially with how easily copies of books can be tracked down. Scholars have devoted their entire lives to understanding and interpreting the meaning of religions’ central texts, though, so I admit I’m reluctant to try the Bible or Quran, but I did procure copies of the other two books. (Also, I’m a slow, er, careful reader, and for some cosmic balance I always juggle multiple books – fiction, non-fiction, something dry about art/life/philosophy, comics, etc.)

Faced with the choice of reading the words of either Malcolm X or Adolf Hitler, especially if I hoped to read the book in public, I realized that however academically and critically I hope to try and read Mein Kampf I’d definitely feel embarrassed, if not begging for negative reactions, by reading it in a cafeteria or while donating plasma. Shoot, I’d definitely be shocked at someone publicly reading Hitler, and I don’t know if I’d be comfortable asking them why they wanted to read such a book, even though I know why I’d want to read it: to try and learn how a person could go so horribly wrong while pursuing what they thought was right. I don’t know if I’ll find that in Mein Kampf, but I have this theory that a book written by a bad person can be used as a tool for good – something of a “how not-to” manual. Then again, by that notion, Charles Manson’s music doesn’t seem to offer any real insight.

Wish me luck if I ever get to that one. I chose The Autobiography of Malcolm X first.

(*SPOILERS GALORE AHEAD* — The book’s 50 years old, but I sure hate spoilers. Perhaps a more important warning is my inconsistency in citing specifics; I didn’t think to write this until I was almost done with the book.)

Off the bat, it was a very interesting read. Malcolm’s Michigan childhood was tragic, with destitution, his dad murdered, and he and his handful of siblings forced from their mother’s custody by the state. Young Malcolm’s determination and intelligence are objectively inspiring.

After leaving school he moved to the east coast to live with an older sister, working at a night club shining shoes. It’s fascinating to read someone’s stories of what entertainment and entertainers were like back then, and just the night life in general. So much action! Really fun, lively times between old Boston and New York.

Malcolm’s coworkers turned him on to more illicit means of making money, a.k.a. hustling. Drugs, pimping, the like. Dude got corrupted quickly. Out of his shell, flush with easy cash, flashily dressed, and armed with newly acquired dance skills and slang, Malcolm had a whole lot of fun employing it all. But the focus on money got him into trouble with other hustlers, and the drugs he got addicted to turned him paranoid and miserable. He became a full-time thief, and eventually got busted and sentenced to a very long time in prison.

Locked up and painfully sober, he was so mean he earned the nickname “Satan.” Malcolm’s education began in prison, though. I’m a fan of autodidactism, and Malcolm absolutely inhaled the books in the prison’s exceptionally stocked library. (I’ve always felt that that’d be the only potentially enjoyable part of a long sentence.)

One of his brothers wrote to him about the Nation of Islam. He glommed onto the rhetoric very quickly, and with growing intensity this became the new lens through which he learned. White people rapidly became “the devil” to him. He recalled all of his experiences with white people growing up, and retroactively confirmed this judgment – though he skips over all the white people who genuinely cared for him, including a long-term girlfriend from Boston.

I should mention that the Nation of Islam’s “history” of the creation of the evil white race is outrageous enough to make L. Ron Hubbard blush. In short, long ago, a mad scientist named Mr. Yacub took black men into a cave and turned them evil while lightening their skin tone over centuries. Yep!

Malcolm’s mind was made up, though, and he passionately took to the Nation of Islam and its leader, Elijah Muhammad, almost as if he’d replaced a chemical addiction with an ideological one. (We see that all the time with the seeking of a “higher power” in the 12-step addiction recovery program.) After prison he gets very tight with Mr. Muhammad, travels all over, setting up new temples, recruiting members, gaining prominence, giving speeches and interviews spreading his beliefs.

Most of the middle of the book was difficult to read. Malcolm had some unflattering if not vicious opinions regarding women, Jews, biracial people, and of course white people. A huge point of his contention with MLK – whom he indirectly references throughout the book, but only mentions by name toward the very end – was racial integration. The epilogue even had an anecdote of Malcolm taking cream with his coffee – “the only thing he likes integrated,” was his comment. He was also incredibly cynical about the March (“Farce,” as he calls it) on Washington.

At one point he talks about a white college student finding him in Harlem after he’d spoken at her campus – she’d traveled from the south because she was so concerned with his message. She explains her journey and how deeply ashamed she felt of her ancestors’ irreparable crimes against black people, and implores, “What can I do?” His reply? “Nothing!” To his stern satisfaction she ran out crying. He offered no solutions beyond segregation at this point, entertaining the formation of one or more black ethnostates in the US.

Perhaps his most despicable moment came after he celebrated to the press when he learned of a plane crash that killed its 30 white passengers.

The majority of the book presents this stage of Malcolm’s mindset: anti-white, pro-Nation of Islam, with these two prongs inextricably linked. Somedays it was real work to read; it’s tough to take someone seriously when their hatred of people with a certain skin color is so central to their ideology. But the hypocrisy was tough, too; he complains of the media making a scapegoat of him, while he often does the same of white people.

Indisputably, the book maintains a striking sincerity and honesty throughout. It was written as Malcolm told it to journalist/author Alex Haley (who later wrote Roots). Malcolm’s opinions evolve a great deal over the years that Haley wrote the book with him, and Malcolm later agreed to leave his former opinions intact; Haley correctly suggested the book would be more effective if it displayed Malcolm’s evolution. If you haven’t read the book and plan to, I regret if I’ve spoiled that, but I think it’s incredibly important.

Eventually, Malcolm is made a scapegoat by Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. He seems to handle his excommunication with real honor, in spite of what he learns of his former leader on the way out. After his split he pursues Islam more directly – the best I can do to explain the difference between the Nation of Islam and Islam is the former is Islam plus “white people are the devil.” He embarks on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and meets Muslim and world leaders who had followed his story internationally. And on this pilgrimage, witnessing white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Muslims and Muslims of all physical appearances, he sheds his segregationist mentality.

In a sense, at least; he gains the mindset that all people should unite under Islam, going so far as suggesting Islam should govern society. On the one hand it’s beautiful that he witnesses racial harmony for the first time, but this all but leads him to favor segregation by religion instead of race.

I should admit that I am not religious. I abide some form of secular morality and whatever else I listed in my second post. I’m not here to try and work out or justify my current non-relationship with religion, but I feel the need to mention it because religion figures so prominently into Malcolm’s life. Also, lest I be labeled an Islamophobe, know that my non-participation in all religions is totally equal. I can’t rule it out, but for now I feel fortunate that my parents never pushed religion on me.

I can’t know if my personal non-religiousness figures into my support of a separation of church and state. I hope it doesn’t. But I do feel it’s the most maximally free way to run a country, and therefore disagree with his suggestion that Islam or any religion should rule a country.

More so, I’m bothered when I read between the lines: if Malcolm believed an Islam-based government (he never uses the term Sharia) is the only means of racial harmony, is he not inferring that people who aren’t religious are inherently racist?

Forgive me if I’m not eager to accept a requisite link regarding religion and racism. He makes a more general statement, though, that I find tougher to disagree with:

“Truly a paradise could exist wherever material progress and spiritual values could be properly balanced.”

Of course, seeking such an ill-defined, detail-deficient paradise is probably what’s driven so many wars for so long. Sounds nice, though.

In loosening his hard line against white people, Malcolm redefines “whiteness” as an attitude more than a skin tone. Why, then, continue to use the skin tone to describe the attitude? Why not use another word, perhaps “bigotry,” that people of all skin tones are capable of?

Maybe he would have gone on to better articulate this. What I might admire most about Malcolm X, or Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz as he was known post-pilgrimage, was his positively evolving societal outlook. Even though he was seriously ostracized and misunderstood by the end of his life, he appeared to be headed in a positive direction.

I hate that he was assassinated. Members of the Nation of Islam took everything from him, slandered his name, blew up his house, and committed as much damage to him as possible. Finally, at one of his speeches, shortly after he took the stage and addressed the crowd, multiple Nation of Islam members rose from the audience, drew their guns, and shot him to death. Violence is never, ever the way to deal with different opinions (no, not even with neo-Nazis; perhaps more on that in a future post).

At my most optimistic, I fear we lost a powerful voice that could have gone on to deeply, positively affect race relations. I hate that we’ll never know.

I’ll continue my optimism and discuss what I liked about Malcolm. I’m not worried about sounding like Justin Trudeau eulogizing Fidel Castro, or John Service describing Chairman Mao, because Malcolm was much different. As controversial as he may have been, based on my knowledge – again, limited only to whatever he told Haley for this book – Malcolm never directly called for violence.  You could argue young Malcolm X’s rhetoric, in the twisted minds of some people, led to destruction, violence, and death. But he certainly wasn’t in charge of a country and in a position where he could order death or imprisonment to dissidents like Castro or enact policies that killed millions like Mao.

I liked that Malcolm was such a motivated learner. I think the more he learned and experienced, the more his mind was opened. His heart opened more, too; privately, though not publicly, he later expressed regret for his harshness and cruelty regarding the plane crash and the lady in the diner. Malcolm could have stayed angry his entire life, and even found ways to personally benefit from stoking anger in others, but I think he was genuine in his pursuit of societal harmony, radical as it may have been. Again, I wish we could have seen where he wound up.

He was eager to engage in discourse. Sure, he may have had a combative edge to his debates, but he would field a question or comment from anyone. He fully utilized his freedom of speech. He did, however, allow his supporters to drive out dissenters from crowds at his speeches, but since they were private events he was within his rights.

I like that he was politically independent. He detested both political parties, feeling like neither cared about people, but gave the republicans “credit” for at least being honest and forthright in their disdain. I liked his skepticism, and his understanding that social and political movements can be compromised or corrupted, if not co-opted by those who bankroll them.

And again, I respect his honesty, and restraint from going back and rewriting this book when it must’ve been very tempting (looking at you, Lucas and Spielberg), especially as he found himself further alienated.

What I didn’t like was his proclivity for the collectivism that largely informs the concept racism. He acknowledged a number of “good” white individuals, but condemned us as a whole.

“Here in the United States, notwithstanding those few ‘good’ white people, it is the collective 150 million white people whom the collective 22 million black people have to deal with!”

In response, since it was Spike Lee who made the “Malcolm X” biopic, I’ll cite another Spike joint, “Do the Right Thing”, and the great scene where Mookie (who’s black) takes Pino (who’s white) to task over Pino’s overall prejudice against black people, in spite of his favorite musicians, athletes, and comedians all being black. Mookie points out individual positive examples to defy Pino’s collectively negative prejudice. Why is that so hard for some people?

In closing, I recommend the book and I’m very glad I read it. Part of why I want to throw these radical texts at myself is to see how my principles withstand, and what my reactions teach me about myself. Malcolm’s autobiography deepened my understanding of a prominent figure of 20th century America, and even of the era itself. Any story of a famous person who is feared or revered, influential or ostracized, is naturally interesting, but specifically I appreciated these aspects of the book:

  • His rise out of crime and addiction.
  • His candid discussion of his recruitment methods, whether hustling or for his religion.
  • His self-education and competitive debating while in prison.
  • His account of his pilgrimage.
  • His difficulty getting into another country – very different situations, but this still hit home; I was stuck at the airport in Slovakia in 2015, alone with staff while they argued in rapid, mumbled Slovak over my entry without ever addressing or even looking at me, just occasionally glancing at my passport. I’d never felt, nor physically been so far from home. After an eternity they tossed me my unstamped passport, without a word, and sort of let me just walk through.
  • His dealing with demonization, ostracization, and justifiable paranoia.
  • His religious faith.
  • Again, his honesty.

Pretty please, let me know what you think! These were just my independent opinions. And like I said, I didn’t cite many specific details or quotes, so if something doesn’t add up that could be why; I’ve been living with this book for months and might have omitted something because it’s obvious to me. If you’ve read it and interpreted something different than I did, or if you have any recommendations for further research, please share!

I hope you learned something and will be inspired to learn more. The following rabbit holes call to me: Martin Luther King Jr., Elijah Muhammad, Louis Farrakhan, and of course more on Malcolm.

Thank you very much for reading! Holler,

-Matty

2017?

I have so much I want to say in my fancy new blog that I Literally Can’t Even begin. Which is to say, I haven’t begun to mess with or learn how to use this platform (WordPress) yet; I’ll hopefully better understand it this year, and get more involved with comments and other people’s blogs.

Nor have I decided how to proceed; I’d imagined a separate post for each topic, but there’s so much overlap when I brainstorm, it feels more like a book than a series of posts.

I know I need to just start. I’ve considered doing a post a week, or some regular interval, but if you read my first blog or my last article for Frankly Green Bay you can imagine my reluctance to impose new deadlines, weekly or otherwise, though they probably made me write more regularly than I would’ve on my own.

It’s a bit “grass is always greener,” but beyond no deadlines I’ll list a few other reasons I look forward to writing independently:

Looser editing, in terms of formatting. Check my previous post for examples: caps lock for emphasis, odd listing, no word count limit.

No need for topic approval. Not that I ever ran into issues with this with FGB, but I also set my parameters to local entertainment and chose to stay within them. The only time I suggested something – though I hardly pushed hard for it – that wasn’t approved was an objective report from Donald Trump’s third campaign rally in Green Bay. I completely understood the decision. The idea. though, of reporting on a large public event I otherwise wouldn’t have attended recalled perhaps my personal favorite piece, my review of a Martina McBride Christmas concert. Regardless, I can now write about whatever I want, deep, shallow, brief, long, weird, or square.

Alternative to Facebook. I’ve redirected the majority of my posting to other avenues as it is: Packer posts on the Live from Stadium Drive page, random, brief observations on Twitter. But there’s something too passive-aggressive about inserting potentially different political opinions alongside those of friends; I want to express myself, but FB just doesn’t seem like a great place to discuss politics, with how personally people can take things. (I’ll expound on that in a later blog.) Also, other than the aforementioned looser editing/formatting I can enjoy, I’ll try and keep these pieces fairly properly written, a style that comes off snobby in the casual context of FB.

Guilt-free indulgence! With FGB I mostly interviewed, reviewed and reported. The couple of times that I indulged in direct, first-person address, I felt sheepish for using my position as a podium. Now, I don’t have to – again, though, with the grass and the greenness. Another perhaps greater indulgence is the therapy of writing out thoughts.

Excited as I am, incredibly(!), I’ve managed to temper my expectations for what I’m capable of accomplishing with a blog. It’d be easier to run down what I Don’t want to do here:

I don’t want to virtue signal. I’m permanently weary and sick of campaigning, sell-jobs and advertising, and you probably are, too. I might devote a future post entirely to the nuisance of virtue signaling. But I am not writing here to try and convince anyone of my moral superiority, superior taste, etc. I am a confused, conflicted person who has to work pretty hard to maintain a positive outlook.

I don’t want to swear. Not on here, anyway. We’ll see how it goes, but for now I’m imposing it as a small test to express myself and argue sans profanity.

I don’t want to go unchallenged. Like I said, I haven’t messed with this site enough yet to know how to respond to comments, but I want to figure it out and at the very least keep commenting open. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll post all of these entries elsewhere online, but if I do, I hope I get measured responses there, too. I want challenges to my ideas that will help me articulate my principles. I want suggestions and help. I want to learn, and that means being wrong about things. Eggs, omlettes. I want discourse.

I don’t care if people lurk. Or stalk, creep, or hate-read. Go ‘head! This is a public blog. I’ve kind of hoped that adding the extra step of clicking out of facebok or twitter will weed out some of the lazier lurkers, let alone the long-form turn-off for the “tl;dr” crowd. But, shoot, I read plenty of stuff online without commenting.

I don’t want to kick dead horses. Obvious, agreeable fluff will largely be ignored here; you can find that anywhere. I’ll try to expound on what’s not considered, not widely known, or perhaps not widely popular.

I don’t want to simply incriminate myself. I’m naively hopeful I can do more than that here. But I realize, anything I put here can and will be used against me. I learned a while ago that something I post online can affect real life; my venting once cost Muddy Udders a cool spot at a music festival (no, not the old Symco Shakedown; I bit my tongue pretty well on that). I wouldn’t put this blog, or anything out there if I didn’t anticipate judgment, but what’s more important is how people respond. I sure hope a person would ask me to elaborate, rather than jump to some assumption and write me off. We’ll see!

On that last one, I’ve half-joked that this blog is my worst idea yet. I hope that doesn’t bear out, but who knows. Smearing is rampant. Accusations and allegations are repeated until they’re accepted as truth, evidence (or lack thereof) be damned. I’m going to try and write objectively, independently and trutfully here, and if I achieve that goal then I’ll inherently piss people off, right, George Orwell? That is not the goal! I hope I can be thoughtfully critical without being insulted, or called a troll or a bigot, etc. I’ll carefully respond to – and learn from! – real arguments, but not ad hominem attacks.

Finally, here’s a list of as many of my values, principles, and things that I appreciate that I’ll hopefully be able to expound upon, or can at least give you an idea of where I’ll be writing from. Some items are abstract, some are specific, some more meaningful than others. I don’t think any of it’s contradictory – if you think it is, please let me know! But in no order here’s where my head’s at:

  • Creativity
  • Comedy
  • Critical Thinking
  • Humility
  • Humanity
  • Bias Awareness
  • Political Dissent
  • Autodidaction
  • Morality
  • Philosophy
  • Judgment of Character
  • Equality of Opportunity
  • Diversity of Opinion
  • Independence of Thought
  • Freedom of Speech, Expression and Religion
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Music
  • Food
  • Film
  • Long-Form Art and Journalism
  • Pragmatism
  • Reason
  • Logic
  • Evidence
  • Classical Liberalism (I think)
  • Nature
  • Healthy Competition
  • Productive Debate
  • Nonviolence/Peace/Non-Initiation of Force
  • Open-Mindedness

If you’ve read all this, maybe you’ll read some more! I’ve written really safely so far, but hopefully my next post will get people thinking/discussing/teaching me things: a review of The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Thanks for reading,

-Matty