Stop Criticizing Musicians

Seriously. Stop.

I see it all the time: “[insert artist name here] is so good! This is real music. Not like the trash that’s on the radio today.”

News flash: It’s all real music.

Are there silly, meaningless songs on the radio? Sure. There have always been songs like that, even before the radio existed. There has always been at least one popular song floating around in the ether with bad lyrics and a shoddy tune. It’s not unique to this generation–the ratio of good to bad music is the same as it’s always been, simply because of this little fact: personal taste is relative.

Shocker.

People listen to music because they want to enjoy themselves–no more, no less. Some can only enjoy a song if it has an intricate composition or meaningful lyrics; some prefer to ignore the words entirely and focus on the beat. Some prefer the sounds made by computers; some prefer to stick entirely with instruments that don’t require any form of electricity whatsoever.

Any style of music requires technique, practice, and the confidence to perform. That’s it. That’s all you need to create enjoyable music.

Want meaningful lyrics? I could write an essay on Mumford and Sons’ “I Will Wait”. Want technique? Don’t knock electronic compositions: some professional soundtrack producers compose their music almost entirely via the computer, these days, and it’s no less beautiful–and no less admirable–than a hand-written piece.

It’s especially egregious when fans of a popular artist call other artists “talentless” in order to make their favorite look good.

Here’s the thing: there’s a good chance your fave actually likes that person you just insulted.

To them, that is a colleague–and I can guarantee you that every single person in the spotlight has worked their tush off to get to that point. It may look like a lucky break from your perspective, but most artists struggle for years before making it big. Even if they don’t, they put a lot of effort into their work: practicing choreography, voice lessons that probably started when they were around six, sacrificing friends and family and even their hometown for the sake of their career.

Here’s the other thing: most famous artists are workaholics.

Disappear from the public spotlight, and your career is in the pot. It takes a metric frickton of time, work, money, and content to generate the sort of income usually associated with being famous, and at least half a metric frickton of the same just to make a decent income.

That is their job. That is their work. They get on a stage, they speak in public–something many people are scared to do, to the point where a fear of public speaking is generally viewed as something that is common, or at least understandable, to the point where almost everyone is familiar with the advice ‘picture the audience in their underwear’–on a regular basis.

They deserve your respect as human beings. Even apart from the work, even apart from what they’ve accomplished, they are human. They do not deserve your put-downs.

And no, I’m not talking about constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is not “Music today sucks! I miss the old days!” Constructive criticism is not, “[insert artist here] can’t sing!” Constructive criticism is actually, y’know, constructive. It doesn’t tear people down. It doesn’t belittle or invalidate them, their hard work, their choice of medium, their techniques, or their life choices.

So unless you have something constructive to say, please– don’t say anything at all. Because the belittlement of artists–especially musicians–especially anything that has to do with this current generation–is a pervasive toxic mindset that has infected a good portion of this earth’s population.

And it needs to stop.

Noah

I know that Noah’s old news, but I just saw it for the first time and I have thoughts.

Mad Max asks, “Who killed the world?” Noah answer, “We did. We killed the world.” And Noah’s conscience suffers greatly because of this.

Therein lies my main problem with this movie.

Deviances from the story, I expect–not everyone believes in the Bible. That’s fine. The creators chose to weave in different beliefs from… I think it was Jewish gnosticism. That’s actually quite interesting, and I’ll try to mention it again later, but I kinda enjoyed that part. It didn’t bother me the way it bothered my more conservative friends.

What bothered me was how Noah-centric they made this film.

That may seem odd, but Noah had a wife and three sons–who, by the way, were already married when the floodwaters came. 

Because he thought he was carrying out God’s will, this Noah not only kept his sons from even meeting women outside their family (because “oh no everyone else is immoral and no one’s worth saving now we’re all doomed to judgment”), but he also let Ham’s love interest die because he thought God wanted the human race to die out completely.

That is so far off base i cannot even

Ham became jealous and bitter. He wanted someone. His older brother, Shem, had a love interest. His father had his mother. Every animal had a partner–remind me to touch on that again later.

But because of his father’s self-assured decisiveness, Ham couldn’t even bring home an innocent victim who was trying to escape from the atrocities being committed by the army who came against Noah.

That’s another thing–this movie pretty much makes everything surround Noah. Everything that happens, it’s Noah’s doing, it’s Noah’s fault. People were abused and dying because Tubal-Cain got mad a Noah and decided to only feed those who could fight. Which, well, they were already eating animals before that–which was painted as a horrible terrible awful thing to do–but the story acts as though everything went to heck and back because of a grudge match, more than because humankind was already evil.

This post is already pretty long and I’ve barely even started.

It’s funny– last night, battlebat35​ was telling me about Berserk. How this one guy was so consumed with revenge that he relentlessly pursued a girl who was just trying to run away. How he shrugged aside everyone and everything that got in his way, no matter how badly they tried to hurt him.

That’s essentially what Noah did when Ila gave birth to two daughters. He was convinced that God was telling him to kill them. He was convinced that mankind was so irredeemable that they should all die out. He was convinced that, since women can bear children, any girl children should die by his hand.

As you might have guessed, he would have let a male child live.

Of course he doesn’t actually kill them, so the story arc itself has some redeeming qualities. It’s about hope, and redemption, and how humans can be good even though they’re also bad.

But I loathe the middle. I hate how his wife could only beg and plead for him to change his mind, how the most “powerful” thing she did was tell him that if he killed those children, he would die alone and hated (and that that would be justice). I hated that they set up Noah to believe, without any solid proof, that he was solely responsible for the redemption of the earth.

Noah had three sons. His sons had three wives. The story could have avoided being misogynistic. Instead, it leaped right into misogyny’s arms and embraced it like a long-lost lover.

See, the thing about the Bible is that you can say it’s centered around the men if you want–but it always acknowledges that the women are still powerful.

Eve. Sara. Rachel. Esther. Mary. Martha. They all had agency. They all lived in male-dominated worlds and they still were treated as capable human beings. They were allowed to be vipers, to be tricksters, like Salome and Delilah. And I really feel this movie did women an injustice. They could have given us relatable characters. They could have expanded on what little we know of those ladies in the ark. Instead, they focused on Noah–and Japheth disappeared from the narrative almost entirely.

The rock monsters were actually interesting–there are beings like that in Dragon Age, specifically Dragon Age 2. If you look at the lore, I’d wager a guess that they even have similar stories.

What’s even more intriguing to me is that Noah’s grandfather, Methuselah, uses a hand motion to put Shem to sleep–the same hand motion used in The Legend of Korra to take away bending. As far as I know, none of the stories I’ve mentioned are related in any way–the creators may have drawn inspiration from similar sources, but they weren’t telling the same stories. So it’s interesting to me that the elements within those stories are so similar.

It’s not like dwarves and elves–these aren’t things commonly seen in fantasy. Golems, sure–but this is a specific type of golem, with disjointed limbs and light peeking out from the cracks in its structure. Why now? Why are all of these similar things coming out now? I don’t think the creators talked to each other. I don’t think they collaborated. Why would they produce the same things?

I think it’s incredibly meaningful. I’m going to sit back and wait to find out why.

It’s time to play, “which mental illness is it this time?”

I’m autistic. That comes with a side of ADHD. It’s also led to anxiety, paranoia, and slight scophobia, which is the fear of being looked at.

I hate feeling watched.

I’m getting better. I can now walk down the street with my dogs during daylight hours. I stopped because so many people in my neighborhood would tell me they saw me walking all the time. The comments themselves were harmless–but when I walk, I think. I like to be alone, because it feels personal. So when so many people told me that they are watching during my private moments, even if those “private” moments are held in public, well…

I felt exposed. I felt vulnerable. So I started walking my dogs at night.

When I realized that lot of people like to stay in their cars and talk, I started walking later and later. Walking at 1 am means I won’t run into the people who come home at 9  or 10 or 11 pm, and I won’t have worry about whether the owner of the car with its lights beaming down the street is staring at me. Walking at 1 am means I have the entire street to myself, and I don’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks of me. Walking at 1 am gives me the chance to be alone.

I guess it was a natural progression, to go from walking later and later to not walking at all. I used to walk every day. Now I probably walk a few times a week.

As I said, I’m getting better. But now I have to change my habits. And that’s tough. Tougher than building a habit that doesn’t mean overriding one that already exists.

I haven’t been posting because it feels useless. That’s the depression talking–or is it anxiety? I think it’s depression. That’s one of the symptoms, right? That nothing you do matters.

I can still post on my private tumblr account, but that feels useless too. No one wants to read my words. They want to reblog the gifs about a show that someone else made. My most popular post is about someone else. I’m very proud of that legacy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel ignored.

I used to think this wasn’t an issue for me. That I’m an introvert, so I don’t need people.

I was wrong. Apparently, feedback is very important to me. And, also apparently, I like feedback best when it’s coming from my preferred persons. And those preferred persons don’t always want to give the kind of feedback I’m looking for. So I guess I’m a bit more extroverted than originally planned.

This contributes to thoughts of worthlessness, which contributes to a depressive funk, which contributes to my anxiety because I feel I’m not good enough, which leads me to cut people out of my life, which leads to reduced opportunites for jobs and friends, which means I feel even more like a failure at life, and no one wants to hear my whining anyway. It’s like a merry-go-round of doom, and some people don’t make it off the playground alive.

I never thought that I’d consistently want to check up on my friends to see if they’re still alive.

I’m trying to get back to this blog, because I like to write. It’s fun for me. It’s an outlet for emotions, and I enjoy critiquing things. I treasure every follow, every like. It’s just hard to summon the energy when you feel like a small pathetic blob so gross that no one wants to come close.

I know, in my head, that’s not true. I can’t help feeling that way, though. I can fight it with all I am, but I can’t always help it. It persists, like a gut issue that won’t go away no matter how many things you try.

I’m not asking for help, so don’t worry about it. I’m just trying to get something out there to kick myself into writing again. I tried to make another post about humans and the ethical ramifications of dog breeding, but who even cares? Who would even listen? Why even post something like that?

So I’m trying to jump a hurdle with a lame leg. Here’s my leap.

Arrow: Draw Back Your Bow

Stephen Amell thought the last episode of Arrow was great.

It featured:

  • a mentally ill woman killing people because she’s obsessed with the Arrow
  • The Arrow coercing her therapist to breach at least part of the doctor-patient confidentiality agreement via intimidation
  • the heroes neglecting to even mention “hey I don’t kill people anymore so could you please not do that because there are better ways to get me to like you” and going straight for the “you’re crazy. please stop.” option
  • Felicity being fabulous as always (although I didn’t know she was that into clothes)
  • Ray Palmer being endearingly creepy by renting Felicity an expensive couture dress and a ten million dollar diamond necklace (despite her protestations)
  • Ray Palmer ever so gently emotionally pressuring Felicity into feeling obligated to attend a business dinner (complete with mention of wrist slitting)
  • Diggle taking it upon himself to tell Felicity that she should just ignore Oliver’s stand-offishness and get back with him because “he’s not good at expressing his feelings” (valid issue but not a solid reason for staying with someone)
  • Felicity going “Um no he can talk to me if he has a problem you shouldn’t come for him” YOU GO GIRL. PREACH.
  • Oliver telling the “crazed cupid” that he must be alone it’s just so important to his lifestyle while Felicity was listening
  • Ray and Felicity kissed and then Ray just went “Oops that’s not platonic sorry” and left her standing in the office.
  • RAY YOU DO NOT JUST GET TO GO “OOPS, SORRY,” TAKE IT BACK, AND THEN LEAVE. BAD. BAD RAY. BAD BAD BAD RAY. BAD BOY. BAD DOG.
  • can you tell I’m a little upset about this episode

Are Big-Name Companies Trying to Take Advantage of You?

My brain is weird. It automatically tries to view every. single. situation. from every angle humanly possible.

Which is great, just frustrating.

Case in point: I just kinda chewed out Office Max on twitter because I feel taken advantage of by their customer survey. Why?

I’ve been a part of multiple focus groups.

Focus groups are market research meetings. This means that a company, specifically designed for this purpose, will hire people in that area to provide feedback for a specific company.

In other words you get paid at least $20-$30 for the same survey companies ask their customers to do for free. On a regular basis.

“But they’re offering me a discount!”

LET ME TELL YOU A THING

The discount they just offered me was $10 off a $50 purchase.

I don’t tend to make $50 purchases without a good windfall and/or a lot of prior planning.

So in other news they just used you for market research purposes and you have to PAY THEM FOR IT. Because you’re not making any money, just spending a little less the next time you shop.

Yeah, a penny saved is a penny earned, but a discount =/= getting money for an activity

Maybe some companies offer better deals. I don’t now. I tend to ignore the surveys at the bottom of my receipts (partially because of the reasons I just mentioned). But I see companies do this a lot, and unless you’re offering me 50% you’re probably not worth my time.

For what it’s worth, I do understand the reason they do this.

They’re trying to save money.

See, companies have to pay the market research companies to conduct surveys for them, and it can be kinda hard to find people already doing focus groups who purchase the things from the places they’re trying to survey about, so it’s a lot easier for them to just stick a rote message at the bottom of all their receipts so that people will basically work for themfor free.

They’re BIG companies. The money they lose on your discount is probably practically negligible. I’ll bet they lose more on the extra ink they use to add the messages on the receipts. (I have nothing to back this up, but either way I would not be surprised at all.)

tl;dr: Big companies dangle fishbait in front of hapless customers like you and I in hopes of not having to pay for market research.

P.S. I would excuse this if the companies were, y’know, small. Not Wal-mart. Not Office Max. Not RadioShack.

How to Argue on the Internet

Step one: Evaluate yourself.

Are you emotionally stable? Do you have enough energy for this conversation? Is this topic really important enough that it merits a mini-essay on why the other person is mistaken? If so, you may think about proceeding. Have fun.

Step two: Evaluate the conversation thus far. 

Is this person open to reason, or are they dismissing anything and everything that does not fit with their worldview? Are they arguing rationally, or are they throwing around insults? Do they treat the opposing argument as though it were a dead animal rotting by the side of the road? Because if some of these these things are true, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Step three: Respond thoughtfully.

Watch your wording. Do not resort to insults or fallacies. Basically, be a decent human being–the kind you’d want someone else to be to you. The Golden Rule applies here, because every time the fight gets escalated, things become worse for you. And you probably don’t want that. 

Step four: Observe their response.

If they do not, at the very least, acknowledge that you might have a point, there’s probably not much point in arguing further. It will only make everyone angry and cling to their views even harder, and that’s pretty counterproductive when you’re trying to convince somebody that they’re wrong. 

Step five: Walk away.

Refusing to answer is not a defeat. It is an acknowledgement that there is no more point in wasting your time, your words, or your energy.  You can consider it a personal victory in deciding when and where to spend your resources.  Good job! Yay you. You’ve won. 

 

Alternate plan: Ignore arguments completely. Watch amusing videos. Continue on your merry way. You are better than many of us. Congratulations.

Making Self Care Easier on Yourself

Self-care is the first thing to go when your sense of self-worth goes down. Here’s a few tips to make things a little bit easier on yourself.

  • Cleansing Cloths. When I “don’t have time” or just can’t bring myself to shower, I use disposable wipes as a sort of washcloth bath. It’s not as messy or time consuming and I don’t get that strange feeling actual washcloth baths bring. The ones I use the most are facial cleansing wipes—the kind used for removing makeup—because they’re gentle enough to not irritate my skin (mine is pretty sensitive), and they have a cleansing element. Baby wipes will only remove the dirt—think of them as water, and facial wipes as soap and water—and acne treatment wipes should only be used on obvious areas—face, back, upper chest. (The only ones safe to use on your more private areas are the baby wipes, though.)
  • Mouthwash. If you can’t make yourself brush your teeth, mouthwash will at least kill the bacteria. It’s a lot faster and a lot less work. If you can’t make yourself do that, try those little Listerine swatches. They’ll at least make your breath a bit fresher, and take care of some—not all—of the bacteria. Mints are okay (they have sugar in them), and gum’s just alright—and only if you chew the mint kind. Apples are good for helping to clean the plaque off—they’re no substitute for a good brushing, but their texture on your teeth will help.
  • Food. Try to keep readily accessible food nearby. I like lunchmeats—roast beef, salami, smoked salmon (more expensive than the rest), pepperoni, turkey, etc. Fresh fruit also works—if you don’t buy your own food, try asking your parents. If you can, try explaining that having ready-to-eat food on hand will help you to actually eat properly. If you can’t, try spoonfuls of peanut butter if you run out of lunchmeat or something. Nut mixes are also pretty good, and they come in lots of different variations and flavors. If you like avocados, it’s pretty easy to just cut them open and eat them with salt—but they’re also on the expensive side of things.
  • Sleeping. Lie down and sleep every time you feel tired. This is especially applicable when it’s nighttime, especially when it’s really late and why did I stay up. Just lie down, preferably on your back—the natural curve of your skull will support your head and neck a bit more, so you won’t wake up with an arm that’s fallen asleep because you used it as a pillow—plus you’ll be able to get back up again fairly quickly. It’s okay if you get up two minutes later because you thought of something! Just try to lie down every time you feel sleepy—you’re resting your eyes and your body. You go!

I originally posted this on tumblr because a lot of people there struggle with things like depression. When you do not value yourself, you don’t think you’re worth taking care of–worse, you still know your value, but you feel so dumb and helpless that basic self-care doesn’t even cross your mind. 

This is not something I’d recommend to doing all the time, but it can be a nice holdover. For instance, if I am too busy to shower, it’s pretty easy to use the wipes. Works well, smell’s gone, I don’t hate myself for not taking care of myself, it didn’t take a lot of time and it didn’t make a mess.

Take care of yourself!

Prosody: Loud Voice, Fast Voice, Soft Voice, Flat Voice

Really good post. Even the comments section is an enjoyable read. 🙂

Musings of an Aspie

Things people have said to me:

Dog training instructor: “Get excited! Look happier! Make your voice happy! You have to sound HAPPEEEEE! If you don’t sound HAAPPPPEEEEE!!! your dog won’t know that she’s doing it right.”

Random stranger, after a 5-minute phone conversation: “You don’t seem like a very nice person.”

The Scientist, after sharing something meaningful: “Do you have any feelings about what I just said?”

Phone interviewer, mid-conversation: “I’m glad I’m recording this. You talk so fast, I could never take reliable notes.”

Many people, in many situations: “Shhh. Keep your voice down. The whole floor/house/airport/neighborhood doesn’t need to hear your story.”

More people than I can count (sarcastically): “Don’t sound too excited about it.”

Who Needs Prosody? Not Me

The first time I ever heard the word prosody was when Jess was in high school. She went to a performing arts magnet school, where she majored in…

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In which I critique a friend’s business card

Disclaimer: I am not a professional. I am a consumer. My critiques are based on what I would like to see as a customer.

So today, my friend Anthony Barr posted a picture of his new business cards:

Image

 

(The back says “Keep Calm and Carry On Keep Writing, but it looked weird so I’m only posting this side–I didn’t have any critiques for the back, anyway.

 

Nevermind here:

Image

…..*coughs*)

I asked him if I could give concrit. He readily accepted. This is the result. (My name’s been changed because of reasons. I don’t think I actually know what I’m doing with this blog post but it seemed like a good idea so I’m rolling with it.)

  • Victory Okay, so most people don’t pay attention. I understand that “keep writing” is on the backside of your card, so that means you’re a writer–what kind of a writer? You need to say something about blogs or books, maybe, idk I’ve never actually made one myself–but I would not know what your job is, based solely on this card (and that is exactly what you are trying to convey). I don’t see how the quote at the top relates to anything? Truth, goodness, beauty…. in what? Art? Writing? Craftsmanship? Your work ethic? IDKKKKKKKKK…..I don’t know if that was actually nice or not xD”Join the conversation” doesn’t tell me much. I see your website there, but what do you discuss? I’m not interested–solely as a consumer–unless I know the conversation’s going to be interesting and/or about something I like or care about. Why should I bother? (Give customers a reason to join the conversation, is what I’m saying.)

    I’m not a fan of this layout–it pulls your eyes in at least three different directions (the quote at the top, the HUGE lettering in the middle, and the phrase in the bottom left corner). I feel like MOST, if not all, of your info should be in the middle, with a little sidenote in ONE corner–if you’d like to keep the quote, position it differently (and I’m not good with this either; my spatial reasoning is…. not great. xP)

    ……nice picture. xD (See? Nice!) Ok, sorry. I’m kind of a critic. >.>

  • Victory …….SORRY
  • Anthony Barr No need for apology! That was constructive and helpful feedback! I thought about that by the way (it not being clear exactly what I do) but the thought is that anyone I’m giving the card to will remember me based on conversation and whatnot. I’m not really marketing a business or even a service per se…more just marketing myself. So it’s more about me as a person and networking so that’s why I have the picture. My goal? That I grow my network and that people remember me as someone worth talking too!Regarding the layout, thanks for the tips! I see what you’re saying about it pulling attention to three different places. I’ll play around with the next batch to see if I can correct that!
  • Victory Good idea, but people tend to forget lots of stuff. Better to write a basic summary down, as a gentle reminder, so that they don’t forget your conversations.

Destroying Mistborn 3

Sometimes I really wish fictional characters would stop making me feel things

Take this paragraph, for instance.

“I have been satisfied regarding your actions with the skaa women,” the obligator said, looking back over the fields. “What I’ve seen and heard here indicates that you always clean up your messes. A man such as yourself—efficient, productive—could go far in Luthadel. A few more years of work, some inspired mercantile deals, and who knows?”

In other words–“It’s fine that you have your way with the women, so long as you clean up your mess afterwards.”

Gee I wonder if Lord Tresting’s a good guy or a bad guy. It’s not obvious at alllllll.

 

This tiny thing’s been sitting in my drafts for about a week, so I’m gonna go ahead and click publish. Sorry folks.