Thursday, November 3, 2011

What is wrong with you???

I can hear her say it now.
The first time I heard it was freshman year of college. My new roommate remarked,
“I’m going to Mass- you coming?”
I was confused.
“In a few minutes.”
“What? Like, tonight?”
“How are you going to get there?”
“I’m gonna walk…?”
“You’re gonna walk to New England??”
“Church?! Then what’s Mass??”
“It’s church!!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???”
Col provided my first insights to Philly and Catholicism.  We attended a Catholic college with a large Philadelphian student body.  I myself had lived outside the city, in Dutch Country, up until that point, and I’d never even met a Catholic. Thus the ‘Mass-ive’ confusion (sorry- couldn’t resist:).
We were the roommates assigned to each other by the school.  And a Laverne & Shirley pairing it was. Col was a math major, and I was a theater major. I was a neat freak, she was more of a ‘stay-where-it-landed’ kind of girl.  Her style was conservative, mine…well, you know.
Yet somehow- it worked.
We stayed together all four years…And I wouldn’t trade a day of it.
I remember her pledging the one sorority on campus and making it through 2 days. Then she came storming through the door with a brick in a shopping cart, and said, “Fuck this. I’m not putting up with this shit just to go to some sorority formal. Besides, it’s all ridiculous anyway- there’s only one damn sorority on campus, what’s the fucking point?”
Col was not one to mince words. She was no-nonsense, and I respected the hell out of that. She kept me grounded; as a theater major you could get lost in your own creative bubble…but not when you lived with Col.
Sophomore year I had a bad time of it; I grew really depressed, and one day Col walks in while I’m standing on the windowsill in a black dress, all emo and whatnot, with ‘Bells for Her’ by Tori Amos on the stereo (yeah, I just went for it). She opens the door, glances at me, and without missing a beat says:
“This shit has to stop, Vik, you’re fucking friekin’ me out; what is wrong with you?” and continues walking right into the bathroom.
It’s hard to be too self-indulgent after that.
That was the year we lived in Lawless Hall (yes, every joke that could be lobbed at that one, was), which was adjoined to Brisson Chapel.  We dreaded those Saturday mornings when a wedding was being held in the sanctuary.  After a late night, you’d wake up to that dying-cat sound. We’d both groan, then from under her pillow, the muffled:
“Jesus Christ…with the fuckin’ bagpipes again.”
We put up with each other’s idiosyncrasies. She never complained when Brandy and I dyed our hair in huge buckets of Kool-Aid in the room. I never complained when she and Dottie sat on the floor and drank AfterShock while they sang Hootie and the Blowfish.  She put up with my boyfriend at that time, who was a thoroughly obnoxious human, and I did the same for her when Shamokin started coming around;) (Love ya, John).
She talked me into starting to watch General Hospital with her; she called it “roommate bonding hour” and we sat and munched Irish potatoes while Sonny Corrinthos smoldered on our cheap, dinky T.V.
(Irish potatoes were a whole other episode…”Potatoes? But they’re so small!” “That’s because they’re not REALLY potatoes; they’re candy…what is wrong with you???”)
After college, we stayed in touch; I went to her wedding, she came to mine, and we visited when we could. 
I wish now that it had been more often.
The night John called and told me that Col had stage 4 lung cancer, I was floored. She never smoked a day in her life. And…she was Col. No muss, no fuss, almost never sick…and so young. How could this be possible?
Sean and I had flown in for Christmas, so we went to see her and John and their son, Jack (who looks just like Col).  True to her nature, she whipped out her x-ray and showed us the tumor that had been taken out of her brain. “Look at that fuckin’ thing! It was like a third of my head.”  She seemed in good spirits, and I hoped that things would turn around for her.
I saw her a few times after that.  She was disappointed that her hair never grew back after the chemo. We chatted on the phone one day, and she said:
“You know, I’ve never liked a whole lot about my looks- but I did like my hair. And now the damn stuff won’t grow back.”
“I know Col, but think about the sassy wigs you can rock.”
We laughed, and said we would call each other more often.
Then this week happened.
My phone rang Tuesday night, and I saw it was John…it was late in PA. My stomach sank. For him to call late…it couldn’t be good news.
He said that Col had taken a sudden turn for the worse, and that she was home in hospice care. I was completely startled; he said that we only had a few days to a week.  I guess I had expected things to degenerate more slowly…or better yet, for the treatment to be successful at last and get her back on her feet. I just always thought somehow…she’d come back from it.
He told me that she wasn’t coherent, but that it would be good for her to hear my voice. He warned me that she wouldn’t be able to respond, but that I could say a few words to her. He offered to go wake her right then, but I told him that he shouldn’t disturb her rest so late, that I would call in the morning and see if she was up to it. He said that would be great, and promised to keep me updated.
I will always regret not letting him wake her.
Approximately 5 hours later, she was gone.
And as I sit here right now, fighting tears, I can hear her saying, “Jeez, Vik, I’m finally at peace now; stop making such a big thing out of this…what is wrong with you?”
A lot less than there might have been had I not known her.  May you have peace and no more pain, and may you know that in this life you were adored by many- and that you will be missed by all whose lives you touched.
I love you, Col.
                                            Colleen Loftus Brennan

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Brave Heart

I can't stop listening to 'Nothing' by The Script.

There's a few reasons. One: What woman could deny a man who could bleed like that for her? Two: It perhaps reminds me of my own dark Irishman, and the blood he's shed with a smile.

Sean is the strongest man I know. And not for the reasons one might think.

Oh, certainly, he'll trap a mouse, do the taxes, check out the noises in the night- all the 'scary' things that husbands often do...In fact, I remember one weekend, before we were actually together.... A group of us had gone to NYC during the run of Rent; it was when you could camp outside the Nederlander overnight, and in the morning get the seats in the first 2 rows for $20. (We were teenagers, and we thought it was the best thing ever:).  It was late, and NYC can get a bit 'live' in the wee hours; also, we were all freezing and tired, and some shady-looking guys started hovering near our little group. Sean stood up, walked over and just began chatting with them pleasantly.  They eventually walked on, without a fuss. One of the girls came over and pulled me into her blanket, shivering. "I'm so glad Sean's here", she said. "I just always feel better when he's around, you know? Safer." The other girls nodded soberly.  I remember laughing a bit, but then looking over at him....He was casually checking on those asleep, watching both ends of the street for trouble, and letting the girls take turns huddling in his parka. Our strong sentinel.

But I was to find- his bravery ran much deeper than that.

In a man, the ultimate bravery is to be vulnerable- and to be confident enough to be so openly. To allow his insecurities, his most secret dreams, his fears, to be known put himself in a position to be scorned, mocked... disdained.  It's not a stance our society often celebrates. But for me, it's one of the sexiest things he can do.

Longer ago than I will ever admit in this blog, Sean pronounced the line that won my heart then, and charms it now: "Just so I'm clear...I'm basically throwing myself at you, RIGHT. NOW."  That's the kind of chutzpah that I could not dismiss.

That same year, with the same unabashed enthusiasm, this is the man who memorized and recited to me the first poem of mine that had ever been published, as a surprise for me on my birthday.  The same man who later that summer, after an evening out, steadied a tipsy VK and took her hands to say, "Wait, don't go to sleep yet...what would you say, if I said, 'I love you'?" And of course, the same man who re-wrote the lyrics to one of my songs, made it into a proposal, and knelt down to sing it to me (Sean does not sing:) one chilly October night.

These things would be enough. But the fact that he bared his soul so emphatically to a girl who was nicknamed "The Ice Queen" before he came along....well, he took it up a 'whole. nother. level.'

He tamed the tundra- and created a tropical beach.

It sounds cliche, but he made me laugh- because he didn't mind being laughed at. He made me smile- because he smiled all the time.  He made me believe in myself, because when it came to me- there wasn't a doubt in his mind.

These last years, he's been secure enough to take a backseat during the times when his 'rockstar wife', as he calls her, has gotten the spotlight. Brave enough to send her, and all their money, to Scandinavia alone to record a CD. Strong enough to turn down the pretty casting director who asked him out during his audition, and tell her about his happy marriage. (He got the role anyway.)

William Wallace has nothing on him.

Happy Anniversary, my love. Thank you for braving the 'calendar chaos'.
Next year in Erin.
L.B. ;)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fly Your (Black) Flag.

We all have those things that we just dig in an idiosyncratic way, that delight us and cause us to bounce and clap like a toddler at Christmas.

I unapologetically feel this way about late M*A*S*H episodes (the ones that Alan Alda directed when Hawkeye got so evocatively existential you wanted the Korean War to last forever), early Marillion (no disrespect to Mr. Hogarth, but FISH- come on!), Russian novels (Nabokov makes my synapses tingle in an I-may-go-insane-from-this-book-but-what-a-way-to-go kind of way), pumpkin bread (NUTMEG DRIZZLE- that's all I'm saying), pinatas (filled with the good and Henry Rollins.

What I love about Henry is what I loved about my ex-fiance (wow, that lands like a bomb, doesn't it?). He has a FUCKING OPINION. Sometimes he's dead wrong, but at least he has the balls to put it out there, without diplomacy, and HAVE it.

(Unfortunately for my former boyfriend, one of his opinions was that his girlfriend shouldn't have a BRAIN in her head, but merely be an ornament. He was vexed to find otherwise.


So I changed his name to Ex.

This displeased him as well.


Regardless of his new moniker, I always did respect the hell out of Ex's nearly Ted Nugent-like capacity to maintain an unpopular stance in the face of MASSIVE disagreement.

Henry not only does that...but he backs it up with a healthy dose of intellect- and not a small dollop of passion.

It's something we are losing in this world of social-networking-gang-mentality where unsanctioned ideas that conflict with the group view are quickly squashed...along with the renegade thinker.

Agree with us?  We will smother you in a suffusion of cyber-love, 'Likes', 'RT's' and coveted '#FF's'.

Disagree with us? You will be maligned, bullied, stalked, blocked, blighted from the Face of the Book unable able to make another Tweet.

(I couldn't resist...Relax- it's all in good pun.)

Many have lost sight of the 'social' in 'social networking'. By definition, it indicates that more than one person will be voicing his or her ideas, and ostensibly, you signed on because you'd like to hear them. If you don't want to hear a particular voice- well, much like the television, change the channel. But if you only want to hear your OWN voice...then there's a bigger issue.

Suddenly, a survival of the fittest, strongest, loudest or meanest climate turns what began as a forum for healthy debate into a junior high school bathroom.

Replace Henry Rollins with @NamelessDude34, and ascribe to him some of the things the Black Flag prophet has said...? He wouldn't last a day online.

We may feel victorious when we silence a voice, an opinion, a person who we felt was "wrong". But what if WE were wrong? And when we realize that, what if we have nothing left but...


Monday, July 18, 2011

The Identity Principle

Do you know who you are? I read this question in an article recently...It's a question worth asking.

My immediate response was that if I ever said that I knew EXACTLY who and what I "am", I would think I'd stagnated and better get myself in gear...or that I hadn't given it enough thought;).

But then I started to turn the matter over in my head (as I tend to do), and I think that it's not as simple as the media might have us believe.

Much is made in our current society of identity (and yes, that prepositional phrase is intentionally placed creatively). We ascribe to a sort of Identity Principle, wherein we admonish others - and are ourselves admonished- to find out "who we are" and to proudly proclaim as concrete that knowledge, once we have acquired it.

To a large degree, that concept is positive. And, in principle, I agree...and disagree.

Self-examination is a good thing. But much like external inspection, soul perusing must lead to reparative ACTION. You wouldn't stand before a mirror all day, eyeing your tousled mane, and say, "Well, nothing to be done for it, this is who I am."

Indeed not. You would get yourself a comb, rectify your ratty locks, and move forward with your day.  I propose the same principle must be put into place when we discover our internal selves are at 6's and 7's.

Humans are complex, and "who they are"- fluid.  I am not the same woman I was 5 years ago, thank heaven, and 5 years from now, God willing, I will not be the woman I am today.
So perhaps I'd amend the phrase "who you are" to "who you are RIGHT NOW."

That speaks to what is marvelous about the fluidity of humanity, in that there is always hope that if you do not like "who you are right now", you can set about becoming who you CAN be...working towards who you WANT to be.

Will you always achieve it? Decidedly not.  But our society, inasmuch as it is a proponent of the Identity Principle, is also an advocate of the Fix Your Shit principle.

Are you an addict? Rehab.
Survivor of trauma, abuse, etc? Therapy.
Underemployed, unemployed, simply inquisitive? Education.
Fat? Gym.
Old? Botox.

As in the Identity Principle, the Fix Your Shit Principle has its pros and cons, which can be plainly gleaned from just a glance at this short (and astoundingly glib) list. But it is just as valid. If not more so.

Melissa Etheridge sang, "The only thing that stays the same is change."  History corroborates her story, and the lessons we learn from those changes are perhaps what make us, dare I say it, "who we are."

On the one hand, the upended fixtures within the kitchens of our characters prevent many of us from cooking with gas. So we remain undernourished, content to feed upon the bread & circus of modern life. And we justify our own soul-starvation with the balm of "this is just who I am."

On the other end of the spectrum, we have those who have forgone their own cookery altogether to dine at the expensive 4-star narcissistic eateries of the ego, where they nibble at the self-indulgent dainties that never satisfy them.

(Do I like a metaphor or what?)

But perhaps this all leads to the real issue, which is how do we define "who we are"?

I would posit that the popular definition is:
Our occupation, our appearance, our likes, our dislikes-
Our tastes.

But at the end of your life, will you reflect on those things, or will you consider yourself in relation to others- who you helped, who you hurt, who your loved? And will THAT be what you finally take with you into eternity as "who you are"?

Perhaps I've gone 'round the bend. It wouldn't be the first time.

But hey...that's just who I am.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What We Want

(Last night I had a conversation with a dear friend…one of those conversations that makes you really examine your thoughts and ideas on an issue. Here’s the results.)
We all want something. Different things, different reasons. And sometimes we know what steps, what paths to take to get them. Other times…we’re groping around in the dark.
Sometimes we have access to some things others want. Hell, that’s the currency this Tinsel Town runs on.  People in power hold the keys to doors to the dreams of the powerless. But in reality- no one is completely powerless.
As Hollywood goes, I am not even remotely a celebrity. I am singularly high on ‘The “V” List’;).  However, this week, I was able to get something for someone else based on my “V” List status…. I happened to know someone who happened to be looking for someone to do EXACTLY what my friend wanted. So little effort was required on my part…and someone else was made so happy.
It felt good.  To work together, instead of against. In our popularity-contest-vote-for-every-damn-thing-culture, we are in competition with our peers for careers, prestige, status. But what if we weren’t?
Perhaps I’m sounding like a Communist, but as a friend recently said, “It’s time to bring back a good old-fashioned Red Scare.” ( I jest- even as I type, my phone is being tapped….).
But seriously…
What do you want?
What do your friends want?
What do your acquaintances want?
O_O - What do your enemies want?
Maybe you have it.
Maybe you can help them.
Maybe they can help you.
…Maybe we can all get what we want.
Conventional wisdom and Mick Jagger will tell you that you can’t ALWAYS get what you want, but once in a while…? Wouldn’t the world be a  little sweeter if we all tried to fulfill each others dreams along with our own?
Let’s try something. This week, tell people what you want. Tweet it, Tumble it, FB it. Then find out what OTHERS want. And GIVE.
If everyone’s giving…someone’s bound to receive.
At the end of the week- we may just have made everyone’s summer a little brighter.:)
Let’s get what we want.
Thanks, Kacie.

Friday, June 10, 2011


“Animus… It means spirit, courage, passion, wrath. This is mine.” ~Tony Stonem, Skins
I wrote it across my bicep with a Sharpie before I left…to remind me. Put fresh strings on Zelda, and set off to terrorize the quiet night.
I’m a singer/songwriter. And in some quarters- alright, in MOST quarters- that conjures an image of a willow-y, blond, wan, makeup-less girl with a sunburst acoustic guitar breathing out verse from her diary that she’s propped on a music stand in a teary soprano, while an erstwhile chap in a flannel shirt and felt fedora taps bongos behind her.
I’m not that kind of singer/songwriter.
Which has caused some consternation with bookers and soundmen alike. The former finds that his ostensible “background music” is silencing his small talkers, or scaring his children, and the latter gasps “Fuck!” when I start to sing, and flies across the booth for his compressor…Then glares at me for the remaining 40 minutes I’m up there.
(After a particularly rowdy night, one such sound tech came up to me and grabbed my ribcage. “Can I touch you?”, he asked, belatedly.
“Why?”, I backed away.
“Because I can’t believe all that noise came out of that little person.”)
I wear big boots for this reason. Yes, I am small- but I FEEL 5’9” with my boots! Without them, I’m an “awww”-worthy 5’3”.  This induces my drummer to pick me up and toss me over his shoulder (by the way- not cool. You don’t see Shannon throwing Jared around, do you? But I digress..).
So to sum up- I’m little and loud and LOW, and damn it, I’m tried of apologizing for it. I’m weary of the other flower-y acts who look up when I start, with so much horror on their faces…they look at each other, and you know their internal monologue sounds something like, “Oh. my. God. Becky. Listen to her. She is sooo loud…And she growls like a man…”.
(Ironically, dudes dig it.  That low growl is what gets me calls from metal bands to put tracks down on crazy thrash records!)
I decided last night to make no excuses. To say what I wanted, the way I wanted. To sing as loud as I felt. To feel as hard as I sang.  And it was unlike any show before.
Just me and Zelda, and, for the first time, my spoken word poetry. Was there a ‘fuck’ or two? I cannot lie. But I felt the songs in a way that I may have never felt them before, knit together by verse… and I let them carry me.
After shows, folks in the audience like to come up, hug me, chat, etc.  Last night- no one would come near. They shrank back. They stared. They were afraid.
Sean said, “You were ANGRY.” And I realized, he was right- I was. And I LET myself be, instead of pretending I wasn’t. And it felt good.
The guy who sang before me said backstage, “Great set… man, that VOICE!”. 
(I always feel like Owen Meany when people say that.:)
But I thanked him- because I could see in his eyes… he got what I was doing out there.
“Animus… It means spirit, courage, passion, wrath”. THAT was mine.
And now that I’ve found it- I won’t lose it again.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Over the Top? Great Art Was Born that Way

There's been a bit of an attitude- a condescending, chuckling, eye-rolling sort of business- towards theatricality in popular music, and to be honest, that puzzles me a bit.

Great music has come in all forms over the years, from the uplifting and soothing, to the angry and incendiary. But great art has sprung from dispensing with safety.

The Beatles wrote timeless songs that we will cherish forever, but Sgt. Pepper is the record that we refer to when we want to describe the innovation of the band. David Bowie's music has been immortalized in everything from Pepsi commercials to Flight of the Conchords, but without Ziggy Stardust, we might not have Lady Gaga.

Which brings me to the point- even if you don't particularly enjoy a certain artist's work, you must respect when that artist casts caution to the winds and takes a swing- a big swing. Because without the strikes, we wouldn't have the home runs of Tommy, The Wall or The Amsterdam Bed-In.

Still, despite history's proof that time lends credence to the epic grandeur of musical theatricality, there is scoffing.  Fans of current dispassionate ironically retro bands that seem to almost smirk at their own efforts find comfort in the fact that the musicians they listen to are as cynical and emotionally impassive as they themselves.  They say Lady Gaga is a ball of overblown antics, My Chemical Romance is a kids' emo band, and 30 Seconds to Mars is an oversexed actor's vanity project.

What they fail to see is the passion- Whether it hits or misses, the raw emotion that these artists bravely lay bare for their listeners is what keeps those ears riveted.

When Gaga climbed into a plastic egg and was carted off by her retinue, she was completely aware that she was opening herself up to ridicule and derision.

When Gerard Way and company decided that they would assume the colorful identities and ray guns of the Fabulous Killjoys to make a conceptual post-apocalytic record and comic book, they did so with the full knowledge that many would write it off as childish and pandering to a young crowd.

When Jared Leto wrapped women in leather and ball gags for 30 Seconds to Mars' video 'Hurricane', he knew that some would decry it as shock tactics and narcissism.

What all the critics failed to realize is that even IF each of those efforts was exactly what they accused them of being- they were all still victories.

Because NO ONE was apathetic- People formed opinions.
They were made to think, to argue, to discuss, to admire, to recoil. Listeners and viewers were challenged, and in the end, that is what elevates mere media to art.

If we are to find expression for and make sense of our  increasingly confused emotions, in an increasingly complex world, we must embrace the pioneers who are willing to put their hearts on their sleeves for us and give voice to the complicated feelings we harbor about society, values, and our relations to each other amidst the rapid changes in both. We cannot settle for merely being entertained. We should seek to be edified. Unless we want to become touch-screen humans in a digital world.

The good news is- there is a growing number of people who are realizing the dangers and are opening their minds to performance art and musical theatricality as a vital expression of our humanity for posterity.

So up and coming artists- write that rock opera about artificial intelligence. Glue tapioca to your face and tap dance in blue paint.  Create sculptures out of recycled toilet paper that you cover with chocolate sauce while the gallery plays your new CD in the background. Die your hair pink and sing blues songs with symphonic metal tendencies in your indie web series;).

The world may not always get it, but it will be watching...and listening.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Metal: Women not Weapons

Who says women can’t get along?
Apparently, a lot of people.  In the workplace, women craftily bully underlings, while schools report female bullying is on the rise to an alarming degree. And social networking is rampant with mean girl antics that would have astonished our mothers.
On the dating scene, the blame is placed on the disproportionate ratio of eligible men to single women. In professional settings, it is noted that there are, many times, so few ‘spots’ for women in the ‘upper ranks’ that any newcomer is seen as a threat to the women in those spots. So they protect their territories- with gusto.
It seems in every facet of society, women are struggling to find harmony- and, no pun intended, the music world is no different.  However, it seems one group of women have found the key to unity- and they are using it to give back.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama bin Laden- Alive in Death

Everyone is right, and everyone is wrong.
Perhaps that’s why responses to the death of Osama bin Laden have been hard to define. Unlike the universal grief, anger and fear that Americans felt on September 11th, today, we have been all over the emotional map. Ironically, bin Laden has been more ‘alive’  in our minds in the last 48 hours than he’s been in all the years he’s been in hiding.
Social networking sites often offer more insight into public sentiment than formal news outlets, and today was no exception. After observing Twitter and Facebook throughout the day, 4 distinct positions emerged:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Movie Rehash- Next up: Gatsby

“It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment.”
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
Leonardo DiCaprio will have to go a long way to prove a worthy successor to Robert Redford when he and Baz Luhrmann take on a 3D re-telling of The Great Gatsby.
3D. Really? Will the audience be im-Myrtlized in death beneath Tom’s car, or will the sloshed champagne from Jay’s West Egg parties dampen our seats? Either way- does it NEED to? Aren’t Fitzgerald’s classic characters and timeless words enough?
Hollywood continues to attempt to improve upon- or capitalize on- successes of the past.  This month we’ve seen Arthur (the original is a mere 30 years old) re-made to mixed reviews, and a full slate of remakes are rumored to be in production, includingThe Crow and Footloose (both to the dismay of the diehards).  There have been recent re-inventions of The Karate Kid, Nightmare on Elm Street, Tron and Clash of the Titans, and even television series have not been spared, with the release of the A-Team movie (Dwight Shultz is the ONLY Howling Mad Murdock in my book) and the Miami Vice that left a Michael Mann-shaped hole in my heart.

My Horizon

It is key to understanding this entrapment- this sentence within the fleshy jail of mortality- to realize that we cannot change the bars or the walls, or the height from the floor of the small, solitary window in the corner. We cannot choose whether it is placed on the east or the west side, and so some of us are condemned to continually and gloomily watch the sun set, while others seem to be perpetually and cheerily greeting the morning.

My twilight view is reflected in the colors of my fancies: purple, blue, pink; dusky tones that evoke nostalgia, reflection, melancholy. My western window provides the backdrop for my solitary musings that overflow into these lines.

I have attempted to see the sunrise.  Awoken at preternatural hours within my soul to strain my eyes from the farthest angle of the cold sill, only to cause peripheral ache and weary darkness to send me, frustrated, back to bed.

And so acceptance comes. I decorate my cell with wildly drawn aspects; I deck the unbending casement with blousy linen, and I drink in the spectacle of the sinking solar sphere with greater and greater attention to its details.  I learn what its waning radiance has to teach, that I may perhaps mold the lessons into scraps of wisdom that offer comforts, however rudimentary, to the other inmates along my horizontal plane, and education to our neighbors on the eastern wing.

Sunset on this day’s dream. That I may dream a new one tomorrow.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Social networking. Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay, and we’d better start learning how to use it responsibly.
This week, there have been 2 incidents where bodily harm resulted from clashing musical fanbases.  Twitter hashtags sprang up on timelines, trending #SingitforSniper  (‘Sniper’ being a young My Chemical Romance fan who was cyber-bullied by  a Justin Bieber fan to the point where she attempted suicide via overdose; she is now hospitalized and recovering), then mere days later #SingitForShane began its circuit, which was to show support for a young MCR fan who was physically attacked by a group of ‘Beliebers’, which resulted in broken bones and glass embedded in his leg. He is also currently hospitalized.
Years ago, when Ozzy and Judas Priest were under fire for inciting violence and suicide,  society pointed to their lyrics and images to justify the accusations. But even those critics would be hard-pressed to see the correlation between the decidedly harmless young Mr. Bieber and gang beatings. Or between the music of a band whose lyrics include admonishments to “sing it for the boys, sing it for the girls” and self-harm.
It’s not about either artist…or even their respective fan armies.
It’s about mob mentality.  And a burning need to be validated. Now that the everyone has access to a platform, no matter how small, to express their opinion, they do so with great vigor. And they want others to agree.
Now that in itself is fairly innocuous; however, when that need seeks to also inform others’ opinions- or rather FORCE others’ opinions to fall in line with their own…it becomes an ‘US’ against ‘THEM’ situation that the bands themselves never intended. Music is intended to unite, heal, challenge, educate, soothe, and excite. Not divide and destroy.
Which is why the constant online ‘competitions’ that include endless and repetitive fan voting are so dangerous. Log in to Twitter or Facebook any day and see fans voting ’round the clock to ensure that their band wins…what, exactly? A title that will be forgotten tomorrow, and in actuality, only means that THIS band’s fans managed to vote the most- via sleep deprivation, ‘alliances’ with other fanbases, and sheer badgering of others. The ‘fun’ that may have been intended is almost always drained away by one band’s weary victory, and the other bands’ sad and angry defeats. Resentments grow. Tempers flare.
Do not misunderstand- The fan armies themselves, by and large, are a good thing. They bring together people who share a common passion; they support artists in a time when musicians are terribly embattled by their own industry,  and many people develop lasting friendships because of them. The MCRmy and Killjoys, Echelon, LittleMonsters, KatyCats and Beliebers, to name a few, are all devoted, and mostly, great people. However, when the others- those who may be unstable- are put in a position to DEFEND what they have come to believe is their IDENTITY- trouble ensues.
We’ve all mused about the advantages and disadvantages of social networking and the relatively new horror of cyberbullies. But as we’ve seen in the last few years, from the tragedies of Megan Meier, Alexis Pilkington and Phoebe Prince to the recent rash of music-related incidents, the time for musing is over, and responsibility must be assumed. By everyone.
What one might see as a clever online quip to a faceless individual could be a cutting and hurtful remark to the very real recipient. Not to mention that out-and-out-hatred does just as much damage in type as it does in person- perhaps more so.
We can’t blame ‘society’- we ARE society. We can’t blame one group of people- at one time or another, we’ve all been guilty of a careless “tweet” or “comment”. And we CANNOT wait until more people die or are hurt before we change our actions…And our attitudes.
So, yes- #SingItFor Sniper…and #SingItForShane. But at the same time, #SingItForAllofUs.
Sing it for the World.