Video Fridays: A Tooth For An Eye

20130322-120449.jpgThis week’s Video Fridays installment is not your average music video.

Thanks to yet another wonderful find at Vimeo, I’ve discovered musical artists I’d been unfamiliar with: The Knife, a Swedish electronica brother and sister duo.

And, the video for their song A Tooth For An Eye, is a moving and fun experience, thanks to an ambitious and powerful theme: gender inequality.

From the description of the video at Vimeo:

“A Tooth For An Eye” deconstructs images of maleness. Who are the people we trust as our leaders and why? What do we have to learn from those we consider inferior?

In a sport setting, where one would traditionally consider a group of men as powerful and in charge, an unexpected leader emerges. A child enters and allows the men to let go of their hierarchies, machismo, and fear of intimacy, as they follow her into a dance.

Their lack of experience and vulnerability shines through, as they perform the choreography. Amateurs and skilled dancers alike express joy and a sense of freedom. There is no prestige in their performance. The child is powerful, tough, and sweet all at once, roaring, “I’m telling you stories, trust me.” There is no shame in her girliness. Rather, she possesses knowledge that the men lost a long time ago.

I know. Wow.

There are few things more pressing, in my mind, than for humans to be examining the state of boys and men. They are in crisis, continuing to exert a level of dominance over and violence toward women and each other that is tragic and not at all sustainable.

Boys are not born this way! They have simply, as The Knife put it, lost the knowledge, by having been raised as warriors in a dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest culture.

As someone who has worked with men on these issues, helping myself and them to regain the knowledge that we can be just as sensitive and compassionate as females, I’ve seen amazing successes and I know that a different paradigm is possible.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Light @ End Of Tunnel

light-tunnel

Pornface: Not The Onion & Deserving of Compassion

not-onionSo, when I came across the following “news” item, my first now-regrettable response was that I should start a new Recurring Series here at Fish & Bicycles, featuring real articles that read like, but are not, articles from the news parody website The Onion.

I’m sure it’s not an original thought, but man, when I find examples of this, it really is hard to believe that these are real stories.

Today’s discovery, via Salon:

Man turns face into tattoo billboard for Internet porn sites, regrets it

Before legally changing his name to “Hostgator Dotcom,” Billy Gibby called himself “Billy the Billboard” because of his willingness to tattoo brand logos on his face and body. After receiving sums in the range of $75 – $1,000, Gibby (Dotcom?) tattooed the logos for several Internet porn sites on his face.

And now he really, really regrets it…

Gibby is hoping to remove the 20 tattoos covering his face. But in order to afford the expensive laser surgery, he needs a better job. But because of his facial tattoos, he is pretty unemployable, he told the Press.

So he is auctioning off more advertising space on his body to finance the procedure.

“I have space on my arms, hands, chest and the legs,” Gibby told the Huffintgon Post.

And so I was all set to laugh at Billy Gibby, and I even considered including a photo of him in this post, but then I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

If you read the whole piece you find that he has a serious mental health problem and a, gulp, family of seven to support, and it’s just unbearably sad.

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t made a mistake and felt the pain of embarrassment or even shame, and so my heart goes out to Billy, I regret my original impulse, and I hope that he finds peace.

Tweet of the Day: #TheLazarusFrog

 

gastricbroodingfrogOk, so this is freaky on several different levels:

  1. That there was ever actually such a thing as a “gastric-brooding frog,” a formerly extinct species that incubated their eggs in their stomachs and gave birth through their mouths. Holy crap!
  2. That scientists have brought these formerly extinct frogs back to life.
  3. That, regardless of how disgusting their method of reproduction is, the tiny baby frog in the mommy frog’s mouth in the photo here is actually kinda cute.

Fascinating to think about the implications of this development, the ethics behind bringing back extinct species, whether or not this is a dangerous slippery slope on the way towards scary CGI action-adventure movies, or worse, the real thing.

Quadrophenia & “The Universal Adolescent Problem”

QuadropheniaWhen I was a sophomore at Rutgers University, I read an article in the school newspaper that mentioned an album that was very near and dear to my heart, The Who‘s 1973 masterpiece Quadrophenia.

And, because I was a serious music geek, obsessed with Rock & Roll on a scholarly level, and because I was majoring in English literature, writing papers on a nearly constant basis, I sat down at my typewriter and pounded out a letter-to-the-editor in response to the piece I’d read. Only, instead of the few column inches typical for this sort of thing, page after page after page spilled out, with at least a dozen quotes, transcribed from memory.

It was typical of me at the time. I put considerably more effort, my heart and soul really, into that letter than I did into the paper on Shakespeare or something that I should have been working on. It also took me a fraction of the time.

Well, much to my surprise, the letter was published in its entirety, as a full-on article, which was a terrific thrill and an enormous boost to my confidence as a writer. (So, I guess it was probably a good thing, after all, that I was procrastinating that Shakespeare paper.)

One of the reasons why that piece on Quadrophenia was so easy to write was because that album spoke to me and touched me so deeply. Though it was written all the way across the Atlantic, about people and events in a totally different culture, set right around the time I was born, its writer, Pete Townshend, had communicated the essence of what it’s like to grow up, how difficult and confusing and painful it can be, and, as it turns out, though 20 years and many cultural changes had come and gone since the fictional events depicted in Quadrophenia had taken place, so much of the coming-of-age experience had stayed the same, filled with all of the pressures to leave the innocence of childhood behind, to fit in, to get a job and keep it, and to find, if you’re lucky, sometimes against seemingly insurmountable odds, love.

In the video below, a documentary about the making of the album, The Who’s manager, Bill Curbishley, referred to this theme that Townshend had so accurately portrayed as “the universal adolescent problem”.

Anyway, as a father of a 15-year old son, I can see my boy wrestling with this universal problem just like I did, I can see him struggling mightily at times, and in some ways it’s more painful than when I went through it. Parents like me want so badly to protect our children from this kind of thing, and when we see it happening, regardless of our hopes and efforts, we not only feel the pain that our kids are feeling, we feel anger at the world for bringing it upon them, and sometimes anger at ourselves for having failed to protect them from it.

So, you might wonder, if this universal adolescent experience is so painful, why would we want to listen to an album on such a painful subject?

Thing is, we can become tremendously isolated at this time of our lives, born from a sense that we’re the only ones going through what we’re going through. We look around, everyone’s putting on their brave faces, posing their asses off, no one’s talking about their feelings and about how difficult it is to keep up this pretense.

When you hear Quadrophenia, then, it breaks through that isolation, letting you know that you aren’t alone, that you aren’t the only one to have experienced the difficulties you are experiencing, and there’s great relief and comfort in that. Add to this the intense, powerful, pulsing rock music of The Who, and the album becomes a vehicle for this catharsis, this release valve for all the pressure that’s been building up.

I very nearly owe my life to Quadrophenia, and so having stumbled across this documentary on the album was a real treat for me, stirring up considerable memories.

I hereby dedicate this post to my son, who has inherited my vinyl record collection, including Quadrophenia, and I hope that it provides as much comfort and inspiration to him as it did for me.

Video Fridays: Hey Marseilles

hey-marseillesAs I was driving my son to school this morning, we were listening to CBC Radio 2 (a major perk of living so close to the Canadian border!), and a beautiful song came on by some Indie band, I didn’t catch the name of the group or the title of the song, but I remarked to my son that it seemed to me that the Indie scene these days is pretty solidly dominated by bands who specialize in music on the mellow side, dominated by acoustic instrumentation, guitars, mandolins, banjos, strings, accordions, piano, etc.

It’s a stark change from where Indie music was at when I first moved to Bellingham, Washington, in the early 90s, at the height of the so-called Grunge era, which was all about very loud, electric-guitar-centric rock music.

Anyway, as I was browsing around this morning for something to feature in this week’s Video Fridays installment, I came across the following in-studio performance by Seattle band Hey Marseilles, a relatively new group, having just released their second album, and it seems to me they epitomize the (excuse the horribly mixed metaphors) mellow that is all the rage right now.

I have to admit that I’ve been noticing a certain degree of regrettable replication going on. For instance, I do not need to hear one more band that sounds like Mumford & Sons.

But, I’m happy to report that I do not have that reaction to Hey Marseilles. Oh, sure, you can hear all kinds of influences in their music and similarities to some other bands, but I found myself really enjoying them, particularly the gentle, expressive vocals of Matt Bishop, and the consistently beautiful, expertly crafted melodies. NPR referred to Hey Marseilles as “worldy chamber pop” and I guess, if you had to put a label on it, that one would be a pretty apt.

So, enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

The Music Business’ 1%

buskerSo, I saw this headline on PasteMagazine.com, and I was like, “WTF?! This guy is EVERYWHERE right now!”

The CW to Air Justin Timberlake’s Album Release Party

And then I read on, and, yeah, he’s EVERYWHERE right now!

Justin Timberlake, who recently hosted another highly rated SNL episode and is in the middle of his weeklong guest appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, is keeping the TV ball rolling.

According to Deadline, Target will present “The IHeartRadio Album Release Party With Justin Timberlake” on the CW.

The special will be an hour-long TV event including performances and interviews with Timberlake in an effort to promote his upcoming album, The 20/20 Experience.

Now, usually when I think about economic inequality I think of corporations and corporate executives as the overly-privileged 1%.

Yet, even though it’s always been the case that a relatively select few musical artists rise to the level of superstar, it didn’t really hit me until just now the extent to which the current state of the music business resembles the 1% vs. 99% economic inequality problem.

99% of musical artists either don’t make a living from the music they make, barely get by on the music they make, or struggle to sustain any ounce of success they do manage to achieve, often slipping back down the ladder or giving up on music entirely, and they all work their asses off!

Enter Justin Timberlake, who is already a mega-mega-megastar, many, many, many times over a millionaire, and when he comes out with a new album, he’s automatically gonna make many, many, many more millions by merely releasing the album on iTunes, Amazon, etc. and circulating a press release to announce its arrival.

But no, that’s not enough. He gets to appear on Saturday Night Live and has a week-long residency on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and an hour-long infomercial!

Meanwhile, a good friend of mine, like millions of other musicians, is straining his marriage and his family’s expenses to pull off a brief regional tour of tiny, tiny venues in order to promote his album, with absolutely no support from a record company. He will likely spend more money on transportation, lodging, food and other expenses than he’ll make at the gigs, all in the hope that people will like his music and maybe, just maybe, buy his album and spread his name around, and it breaks my heart that, in the vast, vast majority of cases, not even that will happen.

It’s ridiculously unfair and it pisses me off!

(Disclaimer: Yes, I know that this is also the case for the arts in general, and the same could be said for athletics as well, but since I’m a musician, this is what struck me today.)