Archive for December, 2010

Pride and Prejudice

12/29/2010

This isn’t exactly what you think it is.  For a long time, I’ve tried desperately to understand the American Skinhead movement.  No, not the racist a**hats you think of when you think of skins (as so well portrayed in American History X).  A part of it, I guess, comes from having been a part of a couple different music scenes where I had a couple interesting discussions with varying degrees of skinhead.  For those of you who don’t know, the skinhead movement wasn’t always directly associated with racism.  It started in the ’60s in England as a response to the Mod movement (a bunch of rich kids who w0re Armani and flaunted daddy’s money).  The kids of the blue-collar workers responded by shaving their heads like their fathers did (to prevent the hair from catching in the machinery), wearing bluejeans (work pants) and steel-toed boots (protective wear).  I understand being upset by this, and I understand kind of rebelling against it.  Although racism hasn’t always been associated with the movement, from what I can tell, violence has.  You get a bunch of angry kids without a whole lot of direction or a whole lot of means together, sh*ts gonna go down.  It happens.  Who hasn’t been in at least one grade-school scrap in their day?  That being said, I really don’t understand this non-racist approach to skinheadism now.

As best I can tell (and, if you’re more knowledgeable on the subject, please correct me), there are two non-racist skin groups.  First, there’s the pride in heritage group.  Alright, so the argument here is be proud of where you’re from.  I get it, I guess…but I’ve always felt a better goal has been affect a positive change, and I guess sometimes (at least in my observations) self-identification as this or that gets in the way.  Also, occasionally, this pride in heritage ends up having a racial tinge to it that’s just never sat right with me.  I understand there’s a difference in being proud of who you are and where you’re from and thinking it’s superior to everyone else…but it’s just a little too close for my liking.  To quote Steve Byrne (a half-Korean, half-Irish comic), “I was in China for the Olympics.  People asked me where I was from, I said America.  I get back here to this country and people ask me where I’m from, I explain that I’m half-Korean, half-Irish, they respond by saying, ‘Oh, welcome.’  Welcome?  I LIVE HERE!  So that’s it.  Now I’m answering that question with, ‘I’m American.” (Sorry that had to be typed out…I couldn’t find a clip to link to).

The second group would be the worker’s movement.  I again kinda get the intention of this group, but again I feel like self-identifying with a specific group isn’t drawing positive attention to it to say, “Look, I’m different and we can co-exist.”  I feel like it’s more saying, “Look, I’m different.”  Division is stupid.  Addition, subtraction, and multiplication are still pretty cool, though.

I’d like it noted that SHARPs (Skin Heads Against Racial Prejudice) and plenty of other groups exist within both of the subsets I’ve laid out above.  They can be pretty cool people.  I just don’t understand the need to advertise the differences.

When I was working for the nerd store (a home away from home, of sorts), I actually had a similar conversation (which hopefully will put this in a less politically incorrect light).  Surprisingly, there’s actually a fair amount of contention within nerd groups.  You’ve got video game nerds, comic nerds, Magic the Gathering nerds, role playing game nerds, etc. (seriously…this list goes on for a while).  Sometimes, in the store, people would start talking sh*t about one of the other groups.  I always interjected into those conversations a variation (sometimes polite and funny, others, to the point) on, “Seriously?  We’re all nerds here.  Stop it.”

I guess I just don’t understand the attempt to divide people into little boxes when there are pretty readily identifiable similarities – that we’re all human.

Creative Reflections

12/27/2010

One of my Christmas gifts this year was “Thing a Week” by Jonathan Coulton.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with his work (something I’d recommend fixing by youtubing his work), it’s a series of four albums for which he wrote a song a week.  Admittedly, some are stronger than others, and I can’t help but wonder if he started some songs, cranked out something for that week, and left one he’d been working on for more refinement.  Still, impressive that someone could really crank out a song a week.

I know some of my friends have managed to do stuff like that (the first that comes to mind is Chip, who, I’ve been told, was writing 2-3 songs a week at one point, which to me is really impressive).

I’ve been playing and writing music most of my life (starting at like age 4 on violin and working my way up from there).  I’ve been looking through my personal catalogue and I’m noticing that it usually takes me a month (in one case, about 2 years) to finally get a song written.  I’m just wondering how some of my more talented musical (and writer/cartoonist) friends manage to consistently write that quickly.  The problem tends to be that I get a great idea with one aspect of something (musically, a good set of chords or a good set of lyrics; writing, a good setting and overall concept or a good set of characters) and then lack the other part needed (simply reverse the previous parenthetical).

I know the standard “find a place you like, find utensils you like to get the job done, etc.,” but I’m just wondering if there are things you all do to keep your thought processes rolling rather than stalling like mine often do.  So, in short, help?

Music, Meaning, and Self

12/19/2010

Lately, aside from the massive amounts of work I’ve been panicking to get through as my semester wrapped up, I’ve been rediscovering bands of my youth (late middle school, high school, even some college thrown in).  One of my favorite bands during high school was The Foo Fighters.  They’re still pretty awesome, even if my particular fandom has waned.  It got me thinkin’ about a lot of stuff, specifically a friend from high school who, sadly, took his own life a couple years back.  One of the most soul-crushing moments the kid had was when The Smashing Pumpkins broke up.  It was like telling a kid Santa isn’t real (which is clearly false) or, perhaps to put things in a darker perspective, like telling someone that one of their closest friends or a close family member had died.  He went into a bit of a depression (probably related to a couple other things, too, but still…).  I like the band (though, at the time, they weren’t too high up on my list of things to listen to – they were good, just not really my thing).

I love music.  I can safely say (probably as most people can) that music has gotten me through some of the best and worst times of my life and I can often hear a soundtrack streaming in my head throughout the day.  I love playing it, listening to it – both actively/critically and casually/as background noise.

That being said, I don’t really think I could ever imagine being that broken up about a band…breaking up.  I told him that I didn’t really understand his reaction at the time of his distress and he said, “How would you feel if your favorite band broke up?”  I said I’d be bummed, but I wouldn’t be too broken up over it because, ultimately, it’s a band.  They come and go.  None are meant to last forever – and a lot of them outlast their usefulness.  Maybe it’s just a perspective from having been in a couple bands that have broken up for various reasons – some before their time, some long overdue (well, I can only think of one that was overdue…long drawn-out story, but I got a guitarist out of it, so it was kinda awesome).

I’ve been thinking about what could possibly lead someone to being that heartbroken about a band breaking up.  The only conclusion I can really come to is having nothing to live for.  I don’t necessarily mean in the higher power/God sense of the term.  I just mean anything that motivates you.  Like I said, music’s been a huge motivator, but it’s never been my only motivator.  Maybe the other kid had nothing else to look forward to.  Who knows?

Weird post, I know, but it’s been runnin’ through my head for a couple days now, so I figured I’d write about it.