2013 in Music

I promised fun when I relaunched the blog and immediately went heavy.  I’d say I feel bad about that, but I don’t.  Also, it’s important to realize that my definition of “fun” often includes things like “2000 words on the Byzantine Empire.”  So, y’know, YMMV.

Still, there’s plenty of fun stuff.  So let’s go with an important tradition here in AH land: the year in music.  I used to prefer top 10 lists, but the last few years that’s been somewhat problematic, since I tend to only get about 8-12 albums a year.  So this year I’m going to go with a tiered system.

Tier 1:  Music I don’t regret getting.

This probably sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, but I didn’t regret any of the music that I got this year, so this is just the base.  I would recommend everything on this list to anyone who likes music, but some more than others.

Bad Religion, True North

The thing about Bad Religion is that if you get music by Bad Religion you know exactly what you’re getting.  They’re one of the great punk bands and I love them, but, well, if you have one Bad Religion album you have all the Bad Religion albums.

Manic Street Preachers, Rewind the Film

I was a little worried when I learned the Manics were putting out a new album.  They tend to alternate albums I love with albums I can’t stand and Postcards from a Young Man, their previous release, was brilliant.

The second half of Rewind the Film is pretty damn good.  The first half is pretty damn meh.  That’s actually pretty good, given my above theory.

Fidlar, Fidlar

  (Most likely NSFW)

I’m not gonna lie: I discovered Fidlar because “Cocaine” is the best fucking song off of the GTA V soundtrack.  It makes me want to drive fast and shoot things.  Also, once you realize who the dude in the video is it goes from crazy to, HOLY SHIT, AWESOME.

Tier 2:  Music that’s slowly growing on me.

Pearl Jam, Lightning Bolt

I have a complicated relationship with Pearl Jam’s studio efforts.  Basically, I prefer them live, but I will accept their studio music because the stuff they play live was also once a studio recording.  I like Lightning Bolt, but I have it on my random playlists.  Every time something comes up I’m all, “Hey, neat.”  But I don’t seek it out.

CHVRCHES, The Bones of What You Believe

CHVRCHES is an electronica band fronted by an attractive Irish woman.  That’s not bad, really.  I like them, but I’m not going to get too crazy just yet.

Tier 3:  You ought to be paying attention to this shit, yo.

The Orwells, Who Needs You EP/Other Voices EP

I have a certain level of hometown pride in the boys from the Orwells.  They’re a bunch of recent graduates from York High School in Elmhurst, which is a couple towns over from my hometown.  I got on the train in the middle of last year because they were on the same list as something from Scott Lucas.  They’ve been blowing right the fuck up since, including a recent appearance on Letterman.

They good, yo.  They have this aesthetic that’s simultaneously late ‘90s/early 2000s and much older, like, classic punk and videos that are ‘70s exploitation.  I’m still amazed that a bunch of 18 year-olds are capable of doing what they do.  Pay attention to these guys.  They’re going places.

Also, apparently they were on tour with Fidlar in the fall.  I’m sorry I missed that show.

Tier 4:  That’s pretty much what I expected when I saw you were releasing a new album.

Matt Nathanson, Last of the Great Pretenders

Matt Nathanson flirts with my top ten all-time favorite bands list all the time.  He’s always putting out stuff that’s great but not quite…there, y’know?  I’ve seen him live twice and he’s easily one of my favorite acts there, as much because he’s amazingly good at crowd banter, which is an important skill.

Alkaline Trio, My Shame is True

Alkaline Trio is yet another in the long line of great Chicago bands.  I’ve had a tendency to shortchange them, but over the last couple years I’ve increasingly realized that I’m better off with them in my musical library.  Their 2013 release is actually a pretty good place to start for those who aren’t familiar.

Tier 5: Fuck, man, that’s some good shit.

The Fratellis, We Need Medicine

The Fratellis returned with a vengeance in 2013.  We Need Medicine is the best of their three albums and I loved the shit out of their first two albums.  Seriously, good stuff.  Go listen.  Now.

The Wheeler Brothers, Gold Boots Glitter

I’m not sure what took me so long to get on the Gold Boots Glitter train.  The brothers Wheeler were part of the last show I saw before moving back to Chicago from Dallas and because of that show were one of the first I saw when I got back to Chicago.  I’ve missed a couple of opportunities to see them since, but I consider them to be one of the best live acts around.

Their debut, Portraits, was filled with songs I preferred to hear live.  Gold Boots Glitter, though, is pretty damn good as a studio album.  I’m hoping to see them live the next time they swing through the Midwest.

Tier 6:  The Best albums of 2013

Mike Doughty, Circles Super Bon Bon…/Water and Washington

In the middle of 2013 Mike Doughty announced he was doing a Pledgemusic campaign to re-record his songs from the Soul Coughing years.  This was a big fucking deal, since Mike Doughty hasn’t been willing to talk about his Soul Coughing years and he sure as shit wasn’t willing to play the songs.  I rushed to Pledgemusic to give him all the money for his cause.  As I recall, the campaign was fully funded on the first day.

Towards the end Mike offered the chance to grab a collection of stripped down acoustic recordings, including some songs that didn’t make the main collection.  I gave him more money in exchange for those.  I was not disappointed.

Roddy Woomble, Listen to Keep

This one took me completely by surprise.  I mean that in the most literal possible sense.  The album came out in March and I found out about it in November or December.  The entire album is lovely.

It’s hard to explain the three Woomble solo albums except to say this: they keep getting better.  My Secret is My Silence took me by surprise when it came out back in 2006 and I declared it my second best album of the year.  In 2011 I declared a three-way tie between Doughty’s Yes and Also Yes, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, and Woomble’s The Impossible Song and Other Songs.  20/20 hindsight says that, although I still like Doughty’s and Gallagher’s effort I’d have to give Woomble the top spot in from that year.

Listen to Keep is still better than The Impossible Song and Other Songs.  I can’t even explain it, but holy shit, I love this album.  Why it didn’t get more promotion is beyond me.

What I’m looking forward to in 2014.

I know of six things off the top of my head.

1.  The Dollyrots are putting out a new album.  I’ve pledged it and I’m expecting to get the download in a couple weeks.

2.  Sons of Bill are also on Pledgemusic.  I think I’ll be getting that one in April.

3.  My good buddy James of the Lost Immigrants is planning to release part 3 of An Americana Primer, which means I can actually review the project as a single piece.  That’s also April, if I recall correctly.

4.  Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers keep putting up pictures from the studio.

5.  Idlewild keeps teasing me on Facebook.

6.  The big one: Veruca fucking Salt.  The original Veruca fucking Salt: Louise, Nina, Jim, and Steve.

Also, too, Q101 is about to return to the airwaves here in Chicagoland as Q101 on 101.1.  2014 is gonna be the best fucking year in music in a long time.

A Surfeit of Judgment

I spent the first two and a half decades of my life learning how to hate myself.  I decided to walk away from that life, but learning to like myself took a few more years.

I spent the first two and a half decades of my life learning how to judge others.  I decided to walk away from that because I was never comfortable with the idea.

That’s why I decided to write yesterday’s post.  The story’s not over.  I despair of the idea that the story will ever be over.  I want to live in a world that’s better than the one we currently have and the only way I know of to do it is to find a way to tell the story or find someone who can tell the story better.

I don’t always know the words.  I don’t always know the story.  Sometimes all I have is fragments of thoughts.

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I grew up Evangelical.  I thought I was called into ministry, so for several years I poured myself into my church or into the Christian organizations I worked with and attempted to minister.  I wanted to make the world a better place and I knew that the way to make the world a better place was to make sure everyone knew and accepted Jesus.

What that meant, of course, was that the world would be perfect if everyone was exactly like us.  Well, it meant that the world would be perfect if everyone was exactly like what we claimed to be.

I don’t know about anyone else in my various groups of Christian friends, but I know that I was lying about who I was.  It’s sad, too.  I never did anything particularly wrong but I often did and thought things that I wasn’t supposed to do.  So all the stuff I was doing wrong in some tiny way overrode all the things I was doing right.

There’s a bigger problem, though.  Some of the stuff I was doing wrong was stuff that the Jesus I followed would have been on board with but the Christians I listened to thought was terrible.

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One of my best friends has been one of my best friends since we were in grade school.  He was never a Christian (that I recall, at the very least he was never a real, true Christian).  I spent years with him as my evangelism project.  We all had an evangelism project or three.  They were the person we brought up when it was prayer request time and we wanted to make sure everyone knew we were doing the whole making disciples thing.

I spent years making sure that he knew I disapproved of all the things he did that weren’t Christian.  I spent years making sure that he knew that I was not engaging in the same sort of thing because Jesus.

That sounds harsh, I suppose.  It sounds like I was missing the boat on the whole evangelism aspect of Christianity.  We talked about sharing Jesus’s love.  We talked about unconditional love and acceptance.  We didn’t actually engage in any such thing, though.  Everything was conditional on being like us.

That was one of the reasons I left Evangelical Christianity.  I saw that my friends were happy and couldn’t help but noticing that I wasn’t.  I didn’t want them to be like me even though I knew I was supposed to want that more than anything.

I spent quite a bit of time apologizing for being an asshole after I left Christianity.

The other day I was hanging out with my friend who was once my missions project and the subject came up.  I apologized again, because even now I feel bad.  He told me it was okay and he hadn’t really held it against me because I at least saw Christianity as something that held out an ideal worth aspiring to.

I wasn’t sure how to respond to that.  I had to leave Evangelical Christianity to find things worth aspiring to, after all.

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So about yesterday’s post.  I don’t know how to begin explaining why I really, really wanted to write that post.  I was re-launching the blog and I was going to write this post about Nelson Mandela and Ho Chi Minh and Communism and use that as a re-introduction to one of my history series because, dammit, this blog is called Accidental Historian and, dammit, an Accidental Historian should write about history from time to time, right?

Some things are more important than our little plans, though.  What the hell is the point of trying to claim that I’m a good person if I’m confronted by something that has increased the level of pain in the world and I don’t try to do something about it?  I’d already said that if something is worth writing about then it will be worth writing about in two weeks and that counts doubly for something I’d planned when something more important shows up.

Everything I want to write about Nelson Mandela and Ho Chi Minh and Communism will still be there next week.  That’s the great thing about history.  It will always be right where we left it.

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I’ve realized that writing about immediate issues revolving around social justice is fraught with peril for me.  I am a straight, white, college educated, cisgendered, middle class male in my 30s.  The entire world pretty much revolves around me.  I’m the target demo for pretty much everything short of tampons and denture cream.

I genuinely care about people who have been hurt.  My heart breaks when I’m confronted by tales of people who have been wronged.  My blood boils when I see evidence of injustice.  I genuinely believe that everyone should be treated as a person and that the person in question shouldn’t be considered of lesser or greater value based on the color of their skin, the people their attracted to, or their gender.  When I see injustice, then, when my heart breaks to learn of another’s pain, I want to do something about it.  For me, that means using the tiny platform I possess to stand and shout into the darkness.

I probably won’t ever have to face that kind of pain, though.  In my life I have been bullied.  In my life I have been told I wasn’t good enough.  I’ve never been told I’m subhuman, though.  I’ve never been told that my very existence is an affront to decency or that it will lead to the downfall of civilization as we know it.  I’ve always had the option to retreat into the privilege and security inherent in being a straight, white, cisgendered male.  I’ve been, to steal an idea from Scalzi, living life on the easiest difficulty setting.

When I say “fraught with peril” I don’t mean, “I will lose something if I talk about social issues.”  It means, “I run the risk of making an ass of myself.”  I guess it’s not really a form of peril at all.

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I suppose that what I’m working towards here is a sort of ethics of advocacy for those of us who see injustice and want to push for change but are outside the group currently under the thumb of that injustice.  It’s one of those unfortunate things I see on the internet a lot.  Someone — usually a straight, white, cisgendered male — sees something, says something about it, and in the process manages to step right in a mound of something brown and smelly that they didn’t even know was a thing.  Someone from the group in question shows up and says, “Please don’t say that,” the would-be ally gets pissed about the fact that the response wasn’t universal adulation and a chorus of, “Yay!  The straight white guy is here to save the day!” and then everything goes downhill from there.

what that would-be ally doesn’t realize, assuming good faith, of course, is that he may have just recognized the injustice in question, but he’s probably pretty late to the party.  Those of us on Team Straight White Cis Male have quite a bit of insulation from the shit people who aren’t on the team have to deal with every day.  If we go in looking to save the day and looking for a cookie for knowing exactly what went wrong and how to handle it we’re usually in for a pretty rude awakening.  There will always be someone who has been fighting that particular fight longer, harder, and with higher stakes.  So I totally get why the reaction is so often, “Oh, great, here’s another clueless dullard blundering in and getting his privilege all over the place.”

The temptation, then, as a member of Team Straight White Cis Male, is to not get involved.  It’s often easier to let other people handle the fight because, really, who wants to get yelled at for trying to help?  That’s the wrong approach.

As such, I would like to offer a few thoughts on how to thoughtfully approach alliance and advocacy from the perspective of someone who is on the privileged, insulated end.

1.)  Start, middle, and end with the realization that it’s not about you.

There’s a temptation to want to just say, “Hey, I did a thing, congratulate me!” but what you did was probably write a blog post, donate a few dollars, change your Facebook profile pic, or walk a 5K.  That’s great and all, but remember that the thing you did that for is what matters, not that you did it.  Also, too, if you changed your Facebook profile pic you didn’t actually do anything.  You deserve to be laughed out of the room when the adults are speaking.

2.)  Be aware of the size and reach of your voice.

By this I mean literally be aware of how far your voice carries.  To go back to the public figure with the, “But I have black friends!” response, be aware of the fact that what you and your friends discuss is not universal.  The things your friends are comfortable hearing out of your mouth aren’t universally accepted by everyone in that particular group.  There’s a reasonably good chance that those same friends just heard you say on TV or saw you write something on the internet that you said to them in the bar last night and are shaking their heads and thinking, “Oh, that moron, I can’t believe he just did that.”

This is most complicated with a blog.  The voice I have here at AH is tiny because my circulation is small, but my reach is vast, since anyone can pop in from anywhere.  As such, I have to make a conscious decision to watch what I say.  If I say something that gets a, “Hey, that’s not cool,” response than I should add that to my calculus of what is and what is not appropriate.  My reach takes precedent over everything else when I’m writing here.  It doesn’t matter if I don’t understand why something is hurtful, if I think that the whole thing is nitpicky, or if I do have a bunch of friends in that group who are totally okay with whatever it is I just said.  My experience is not universal and if I genuinely want to be and be seen as an ally to a cause from which I am insulated by privilege it is on me to avoid being a dick about the whole thing.

3.)  When it comes time to decide who should give and who should get the benefit of the doubt, always give.

There will be trolls.  There will be unreasonable people who are angry that you, the privileged person, has suddenly decided to play in their sandbox and will get mad at you for simply being there.

There will be tired people who have seen wave after wave of well-meaning but clueless people show up, offer to help, and then muck about and make things worse.  They have spent countless hours trying to sift the clueless dolts from the trolls playing dumb to derail the conversation.  They have heard any number of privileged people who want to make sure they knew it would all be okay if they would just quiet down and wait until the straight, white guys say they’re allowed to join the conversation.

There will be people who are happy to see a potential new ally, but want you to know that some word you’ve never thought twice about using can hurt or that your natural curiousity and exuberance is actually kinda objectifying and totally misses the point.

It is up to you to assume the best intentions on the part of anyone who tells you you’re getting something wrong.  Trolls will always reveal themselves eventually and unreasonable people will always be unreasonable.  If you want to be a good ally and a good advocate, though, the ones you need to listen to are the people who are sizing you up.  If you offer the benefit of the doubt and listen they will eventually extend the same benefit to you.

4.)  The onus for education is on you.

There will be people who are happy to help.  They’ll answer questions, they’ll send you stuff to read.  In the end, though, it’s on you to listen, to learn, and to search.  Just showing up somewhere, saying something stupid, and then demanding that everyone else tell you what you did wrong is the absolute incorrect approach.  They owe you nothing and you haven’t shown any good faith.  They’ve also probably dealt with a thousand trolls doing the same thing you just did, but for giggles and because trolls gotta troll.

5.)  Don’t expect a cookie.

There is no one, I repeat, no one who will respond to you blundering into a topic with, “Oh, boy, here comes the straight white guy to fix everything and tell us what’s what!”[1]  If you are privileged that means you’re accustomed to having a loud voice in a quiet room.  That means that you are accustomed to being the one with the power on your side.  When you decide to become an ally and an advocate on behalf of those with less privilege you put yourself into a position where you are not the authority, you are not the majority, you are not the loud voice in the quiet room.

Think about that.  Consider the feelings of rage and anger that boil up when you, knowing you mean well, say or do something stupid and suddenly find everyone else in the room shouting at you and telling you you’re wrong.  Consider how it makes you want to say, “Fuck this, I’m done, no one here is listening to me, I’m going home.”  Consider the way you feel powerless, belittled, and unfairly targeted.

That’s how it feels every goddamn day for someone else in that room.  For them, though, it’s not about voluntarily walking into a place and finding they’re unwelcome.  For them it’s about having to hide their true selves at work, at home, at church, or anywhere else.  It’s about having to laugh at crude jokes just to fit in.  It’s about knowing that the brilliant idea they proposed last month to absolutely no applause just got their white, male co-worker a promotion to Vice President of New Product Development and a $10,000 bonus.

6.)  Remember, “The world would be a better place if everyone just tried to be like me,” isn’t a solution.

You aren’t the world.  You might be accustomed to being the world, but you aren’t.  The absolute best thing you can do is acknowledge that and try to learn.

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So…yeah.  That’s what I’ve got.  I don’t pretend it’s comprehensive but it is at the very least a statement of purpose that I intend to follow whenever I decide to open my big, fat mouth (err, word processor?) and wade into something I know little about.

If anyone has anything to add, please do.  I’m sure that someone somewhere else on the internet has said or thought something similar.

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[1]Well, okay, maybe the MRAs or the KKK or something.

Portrait of the Canine as a Young Dog

Today is Daisy dog’s fourth birthday/third homecoming day.  All I knew when I got her was that she was close to a year old, so I just made January 22nd the day for both.

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She has much on her mind today, obviously.  Getting older is hard on a puppy, y’know?

A Dearth of Empathy

[NOTE:  There are several edits below and an interesting conversation in the comments, so if you already read this one on its original publish date you might want to check it again.]

I managed to make it one whole day before breaking my promise to not get into the big internet kerfuffle of the day.  I am proud of my restraint.  Thing is, though, there are two caveats to my original statement.  The first and most important is that this is my blog so I can put any damn thing up I want.  The second is the notion I advanced that if something is worth talking about it will be worth talking about in two weeks.  This will be worth talking about in two weeks, two years, or two decades.

Longtime friend of the blog[1] The Everlasting Dave usually writes posts about baseball or his experiences watching terrible TV or horrifying movies so you don’t have to.  It’s not very often that you can go to his blog and find a post wherein he’s upset to the point of incoherence.  I think it’s important to read what he has to say and also the catalytic events.

Please, go read it now.  The whole thing is long, it’s involved, and it’s important.  Anything I say here runs the risk of me making this thing that’s not about me something that’s all about me and I don’t want that, but I still want to talk about it because, again, it’s important.  It’s one of those things that’s literally life and death.

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I don’t know how to say what I want to say.  I keep composing apologetic sentences built around words like “privilege.”  I keep starting to write something that sounds like the standard mea culpa offered by folks like me whenever they want to discuss things they don’t have to experience.  For me this is a thing that happens to other people and in the end I can retreat into my world as a middle class, cisgendered, white male.  I can’t pretend it works any other ways.  I can’t say, “Hey, I’ve struggled, too, so I totally get it and look at how amazing I am for knowing what’s what.”

In the end this is a story of straight, cisgendered guy reading about another straight, cisgendered guy who was apologizing for what he and another straight, cisgendered guy did to a transwoman.  But it’s also a story of that first guy realizing something that the other two didn’t: that they’d fucked up because they made the story about them.  If you haven’t already go read Christina Kahrl’s response, as she speaks with a great deal more credibility than I do.

Allow me to say this in the strongest possible terms: Caleb Hannan, the writer of the original article, fucked up because he brought things that weren’t germane to the story into the story.  He fucked up on a much deeper and less excusable level by deciding that he had some sort of right, responsibility, or privilege to bring up Vanderbilt’s gender identity.  Bill Simmons and his staff fucked up because apparently absolutely no one said, “Hey, um, what does Vanderbilt’s gender identity have to do with the claims she’s making about her education or work experience?  Bill Simmons and everyone else then fucked up in a mind-bogglingly insane manner by deciding to write about the whole thing and post it on a popular website.

On one level I’m impressed by Simmons’ apology.  I stopped reading his stuff a while ago because he comes off as an unrepentant frat bro and an apologist for and enabler of the worst of middlebrow white guy culture.  I gave up on Grantland shortly after it started because the site came across as nothing more than a home for pseudo-intellectual morons who thought making snarky commentary about television shows made them smart and important.  I was pleasantly surprised, then, that Simmons repeatedly took responsibility, offered what appeared to be a genuine apology, and then published his letter side-by-side with Christina’s devastating critique of the entire sad affair.

On another level I’m saddened by Simmons’ apology.  He seems more concerned with the career and well-being of his writer than the life and well-being of Essay Vanderbilt.  He seems more concerned with making sure everyone knew that he put the article in front of lawyers and editors than anything else.  It’s astounding to me that he could apologize for not handing the article to a transperson to read and then, a few lines later, claim that he did his due diligence.

Bill Simmons, Caleb Hannan, and the Grantland staff are comparable to no one so much as Tom and Daisy Buchanan, engaging in actions that cost another person her life and then withdrawing to their security, privilege, and fried chicken dinner.  By the time I decided to write this the editorial and Kahrl’s rebuttal were gone from the front page but the original article was still right there in the feed.  I had to look for the fallout but the cause was there for all to see.

It’s inexcusable.  This should bring major repercussions down on the heads of Bill Simmons and Grantland but it won’t.  Instead the internet outrage machine will find a new target, the pseudo-intellectual frat-bro mentality will take control, and everyone will move on.  If the actual thing is remembered by Grantland’s target audience it will most likely be as a “controversy” or, worse, those uppity jerks in the trans community getting pissed because a bunch of well-meaning people didn’t use the right pronouns.

Essay Anne Vanderbilt will still be dead.  I don’t know who she is, I wouldn’t have known who she is if she hadn’t killed herself while a collection of clueless dullards used her life as story fodder.  But Essay Anne Vanderbilt is dead and the world will move on.

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The crazy thing is that apparently there was a fascinating story there.  Essay Anne Vanderbilt ran up a tab of lies that would have left movie scriptwriters saying, “No, man, that’s too crazy.”  She convinced people she was a physicist and aeronautical engineer and would-be golf innovator.  Why did she find it necessary to make those claims?  We may never know and we can’t ever know because it never occurred to a would-be journalist that maybe her gender identity wasn’t germane and maybe it was possible to tell the world she was lying about her education without bringing up the shape of her genitalia.

Let’s try an experiment.  Pretend that Essay Anne Vanderbilt was born cis or, alternatively, that Hannan never found out and it never came up.  Let’s say she still lied her ass off about reinventing golf as we know it.  Would her gender identity ever even come up in an expose about her con game?[EDITED, note below]

No?  Okay, then.

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This is kinda heavy.  I think we need a quick musical interlude.

Context.  Because Matt Nathanson is a fantastic human being.  It’s also unnecessary.  I saw him at the Riv a couple months back and he told the story about the song, which he wrote about a waitress he thought was really cool.  He could have made a pretty standard music video around the actual story but chose to do something completely different.  Then again, he also did this one.  I’m not gonna lie, it’s kinda adorable.[EDITED]

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I have some tiny modicum of understanding what it’s like to be transgender.  I spent a good chunk of my life as the fat kid who desperately wanted to be thin and hating everything about the face I saw in the mirror every morning.  My understanding diverges quickly from there.  I lost a bunch of weight and now the face in the mirror looks something like the face I always wanted to see.  If I tell people who didn’t know me before and show them pictures I’m told, “Good for you.”  I don’t have to hide who I was.

That tiny amount of understanding, though, is the beginning of empathy.  I know what it’s like to feel like I’m not good enough, like I’m not right, like I’m being judged by everyone around me and found inferior in some way.

Everyone, in some way, has that space inside of them.  For some it’s a tiny, hidden place.  For others it’s an immediate, gaping wound.  Empathy begins the moment you learn to say, “I don’t know what you’re going through but I know how you feel.”

Sometimes the journey is much, much longer than others.  Sometimes the lessons you will learn will turn out to be terrifying.

Consider the alternatives, though.  Empathy is the more difficult path to start, but it’s the easier path to travel.

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[1]Also longtime blogroll snub.  This says nothing about any animosity I possess for the blog in question but, instead, how absolutely, god-awfully terrible I am at maintaining a blogroll.  Sorry.  That oversight has been fixed.

[EDIT] I apparently stepped in it a bit in the edited paragraph.  Please see MadGastronomer’s comment below.  Edit on the edit: I noticed that I stepped in it in basically the same way again a paragraph later.  Edit on the edit on the edit: and I still didn’t get it quite right.

Also, I missed a trick on this one.  I had a middle edit based on a somewhat, and by “somewhat,” I mean, “deeply” flawed understanding of how Caleb Hannan found out.  Simmons’ apology didn’t reference it at all and Kahrl’s rebuttal was clearly predicated on the notion that the reader had read the original article and seen where Hannan went completely wrong.  I read the fallout but not the original, which is pretty friggin’ stupid of me, considering my whole thing about checking your sources.  Either way, this is Caleb’s big reveal:

He was clearly trying to tell me something, which is why he began emphasizing certain words. Every time he said “she” or “her” I could practically see him making air quotes. Finally it hit me. Cliché or not, a chill actually ran up my spine.

“Are you trying to tell me that Essay Anne Vanderbilt was once a man?”

It took a moment for him to respond.

“I cannot confirm or deny anything on that,” he said, sounding once again like a risk manager. “But let me ask you a question. How far have you looked into her background?”

What.  The.  Actual.  Fuck?

Protip to any would-be investigative reporters out there: information that isn’t germane isn’t germane.  Let’s say you’re doing a piece on why the city’s planned sewer reconstruction project isn’t going anywhere and the mayor’s accountant keeps telling you to “look into the discretionary fund.”  That’s probably an indication that he’s trying to point you in the direction of corruption and redirection of the sewer funds.  Look into it, expose it.  If he keeps mentioning the mayor’s name and then hinting at a prescription for a powerful anti-depressant that’s none of your fucking business and probably means the accountant has an ax to grind and is using you to smear the mayor.

Apparently the entire editorial department of Grantland thought they had Woodward and Bernstein rolled into one with Caleb Hannan.  Instead they had James fucking O’Keefe.  That’s fucking inexcusable.  Every single person who gave this piece the go-ahead should be punished.

It’s understandable why Simmons would whistle past that part of the original article in his apology.  He and everyone on his staff actually read that and actually said, “Yeah, we’re on board with this,” even though it’s blatantly obvious that what Leland Frische, Caleb Hannan’s Deep Throat, did was not okay and putting it into a story about a piece of golfing equipment was not okay.  I just wish Kahrl had hit that point a little harder in her rebuttal.  She focused more on how Hannan’s response was terrible and everything that happened after the moment was damn insensitive That isn’t wrong, but I walked away with the sense that I had all of the pertinent information and felt like I didn’t really have to go read original.

That, again, is very much a mistake I shouldn’t make.  But after reading the responses I really, really didn’t want to read the original.  It felt voyeuristic somehow.

Still and all, damn.

Takin’ Care of Business

So here we are.  New year, new address in the swanky digs of the nice part of town.  What does that mean for you, my dear reader?  I don’t know, really.  I do have a few ideas, though.

First, I won’t be doing as much of the personal stuff as I used to do.  That’s not to say I won’t ever, but my levels of navel gazing are lower than ever in an absolute sense and my hiatus from writing cured me of my urge to think of every fucking insight I ever had as being worth a three-page essay.  That’s a good thing.

Second, I’m not going to even attempt to make sure my voice gets heard in whatever the internet’s outrage of the day is.  I’ve never been ahead of the curve enough to do that and then I always end up deciding to write about it three days after, which means everyone moved on two days before the post went up.  So…I’ve decided I don’t care anymore.  If there’s something worth writing about it will be worth writing about two weeks from now, too.  If you want daily internet outrage there are plenty of places you can go.

Third, although I have made a conscious decision not to import my previous blogs it would be foolish of me to avoid acknowledging that I do have eight years of blogging to fall back on and some of what I wrote is actually pretty good.  So from time to time I will run a greatest hits post or something.  That will help me, too, since it will give me content without having to actually work, which will be good for avoiding burnout.  Think of it as a rerun for you and a mental health stretch for me.  There will also probably be a bunch of rerun posts over the next couple months, for reasons that I’ll shortly make clear.  Please bear with me.  I’ll try not to abuse the privilege.

Fourth, I will attempt to actually bring some sort of order and closure to several of my ongoing history series.  The three I’m specifically targeting are the Marxism in the 20th Century (which will be renamed, since the current name sucks) one, Byzantine Logic, Breaking the Master Narrative, and my fun and games at Gavin Menzies’ expense.  I’m going to do them differently this time, though.  I’ll take one topic and keep going with it until the end.  In the past I tried to have four hefty things going concurrently and never finished any of them.  That’s a recipe for never finishing anything, as amply proven by, well, the entire history of this blog.  This isn’t to say that if you don’t want to read Byzantine Logic and I hit that one you might as well not come back for a month.  I do plan on having other stuff interspersed.  For one thing, I kinda like the idea of 1434 Fridays, since picking on Menzies can be a weekly joy.

Fifth, there will be more fiction popping up on the blog.  For one thing, I kinda dropped Distant, Dreadful Star in the middle.  I feel bad about that.  I also have another project that I’m working on.  So I might have a Fiction Monday or Fiction Wednesday thing.

Sixth, I’m going some light guest blogging to start out the year.  I’m doing a series over at Unreasonable Faith.  I’ll link to those posts when they hit.  I’m super excited about that.

Seventh, all of this is overridden by the simple fact that this is my blog.  So I’ll probably cut in from time to time with stuff based on whatever is on my mind.  So you might find posts about music, pictures of my dog, or super random posts about Magic: the Gathering because those things interest me.  Eat it.

Now, then, to the blog business.

WordPress is way more involved than Typepad or Blogger were.  I’m getting the hang of it, but you’ll probably see changes from time to time and I’ll probably break stuff every once in a while.

Also, it looks like the default setting requires me to moderate the first comment made by any user name.  I think I’ll be keeping that setting, since it’s almost inevitable that Dennis Markuze will show up eventually.  So for any of my regulars who start trickling back in and want to say hello but get caught in moderation, bear with me.  I’ll try to approve anyone I recognize as quickly as possible (hi, Firedrake and sbh!).

Again, though, weird stuff will undoubtedly happen from time to time.  Sorry.

EDIT:  And I mentioned having three series I wanted to finish, then listed four.  I’m the anti-Rick Perry!

Hello, Hi, Welcome!

I’m back.  It’s been a long time, but this time I’m back for good.

Or, y’know, until I get bored.  Whichever comes first.

Either way, you might have wondered where I’ve been hiding.  In truth, I just haven’t felt like writing much.  I got into a rut last spring where every time I thought about writing it was one of those personal journey posts and it was always something pretty incremental and navel-gazing.  On the rare occasions I actually sat down to write I would get a paragraph or so in and think, “Wow, this is boring as fuck to me, why would anyone else care?”  So I stopped writing.

It was a good thing, I think.  There’s the old saying, “If you love something let it go.”  I’ve been using writing as an excuse and therapist for too long.  Everything I’ve done, everywhere I’ve gone I’ve been looking around and thinking, “What can I write about this?”  I wasn’t really living my life because I was too busy observing it.  I was also trying way too hard to cram meaning and inspiration into every fucking thing I did.  So I stopped.  I decided I wouldn’t write until I really, really wanted to write.

I decided to re-start the blog in December.  My plan then was to switch to WordPress, then do a big re-launch on January 2nd.  Instead I didn’t do that and passed the New Year with the worst stomach flu I can recall having.  Seriously, it was gross.  So I decided to do something smaller and stick with Typepad.

“But Geds,” you’re undoubtedly saying, “This isn’t Typepad, it’s WordPress.  What gives?”

Thank you for asking.  That’s very polite.  Basically, I had a premium account with Typepad that I canceled.  I was grandfathered in at a lower rate until I did so and now said account is almost twice as much as it used to be.  I wanted to switch to WordPress, anyway, and their premium is cheaper, so here we are.

So there we are.  I’m back, I’m in new digs.  Please pardon the dust while I figure out how it works over here in WordPress land and put some links and whatnot up.

Also, you might notice that I haven’t imported anything from the old digs to the new digs.  I don’t plan to.  If there’s anything on the old blog that I want on the new one I’ll pull it over.  This seems like a good time for a clean slate.

I’m going to handle some business and articulate future plans tomorrow, then we’ll be having some fun.  So, please, stick around.  It’ll be fun, I promise.