The Breakfast Club, Updated

A user-made Someecard with a woman in early Victorian dress. Text in the post.

If The Breakfast Club took place today, all those kids would just be silently texting about their shitty Saturday and never make friends with each other.

This has been going around Facebook the past few days. I’ve seen it from friends my age who use social media almost as an afterthought to their busy lives. There’s nothing wrong with that usage, of course, but it’s not mere coincidence that this is who is sharing it. They’re the people who least value social media and are, therefore, most likely to get it wrong. Let’s talk about how.

First off, let me note that The Breakfast Club was an idealistic fantasy when it came out. Having been a teenager in the 80s, I can tell you from experience that it took more than temporary isolation from the outside to break down the social defense mechanisms that kept kids from bonding across class and tribe.

Yes, even the unhappy kids. In fact, it was often the kids who were the most unhappy who clung hardest to their tribal affiliations. Adding stress wasn’t going to change that. The movie was an escape fantasy aimed at kids who’d suffered from tribalism, but it was just that–a fantasy.

So if we were going to update The Breakfast Club for today’s social media landscape, we’d be looking at the best of all possible outcomes, just as John Hughes did. That’s good, because otherwise, we’d already be running into problems with the premise that kids would be allowed to bring their cell phones to detention. Instead, we’ll just suspend that bit of disbelief.

Once we do that, here’s a taste of what a modern Breakfast Club would look like, social media and all. [Read more…]

Copyright and Keeping a Tune

Do you know how to sing, “Happy Birthday to You”? Are you sure? I’m a bit uncertain myself, and I’ve had a few years of choral training.

This morning, I tweeted this:

This has led to some interesting discussion on Facebook that’s worth repeating for a broader crowd, because the reasons behind this particular bit of bad singing are interesting. [Read more…]

In Defense of “Unhealthy” Music

This is one of the essays I delivered to my patrons last month. If you want to support more work like this, and see it earlier, you can sign up here.

Content note: When I talk about “unhealthy” music, I mean things like music expressing and embracing mental illness, stereotypes, victim-blaming, and lack of consent. I give examples and do my best to explain their appeal.

I was in high school the first time it happened. I was enjoying a piece of music and wanted to share it with a friend. “Here. Listen to this.” I handed her a cassette tape I’d already gone some way toward wearing out.

The rejection was prompt and personal. “That’s really messed up. How could you listen to that?” Her eyes told me she blamed me for her exposure to such terrible stuff.

The answer was simple, of course. I listened to fucked up music because I was fucked up. I was coping (or mostly not) with serious anxiety and depression and probably had minor PTSD from childhood abuse. While the pop music of the 80s had plenty of dark weirdness embedded in it, it rarely met me where I was. That took pretty, mopey boys and angry women and strange fantasists of all stripes.

It wasn’t the first time I was out of the musical loop. In fact, aside from Free to Be You and Me, I’d never been in it. Most of my peers had parents who raised them on The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, and southern rock. I mostly listened to 60s political folk music. Helen Reddy was about as mainstream as I got, unless the revivals from The Muppet Show count. Sound of Music soundtrack? No? Just me? Right.

It was the first time someone told me my musical choices were harmful, however. Or at least, it was the first time I was told that by my friends instead of some adult who wanted me off their lawn. [Read more…]

The Other Hugo Ballot

One of the biggest problems with the Sad and Rabid Puppies Hugo slates was that slate voting pushed much-loved work off the ballot. That’s a moderate problem for the awards, though I think it became a net positive as so many people signed up to participate in the process. It’s a much larger problem for creators.

One thing the puppies got right is that award winners are often not the most popular representations of their field. Of course, they then turned around and got things desperately wrong by declaring this proof of cliquishness or conspiracy. Unless you have an award that specifically polls your biggest spenders, awards don’t align with revenue. Any time you poll an audience selected for their special relationship to the material, your nominees won’t look like your best sellers. This should be obvious.

It does provide special challenges for those creators who appeal to the specialist market, though. [Read more…]

What Vox Day Can’t Do

Theodore Beale likes to claim that any outcome of the Rabid Puppies sham is a win for him. Of course he does. Why? Because the only way to make himself a winner is to declare it by fiat.

In reality, aside from making threatening noises and encouraging others to do the same, Beale is weak and ineffective. He’s potent only as a bad example and an impetus to cringe. After that, he’s most notable for being able to achieve none of the things he’d like to. A short list:

Face it, aside from threats, Beale’s got nothing going for him. And while those threats are an ugly thing to be on the end of, they’re not getting him any closer to his goals. If anything, he is his own worst argument for his positions.

An Open Letter to the Opening Act (Updated)

Congratulations! You’ve landed a great gig, opening for a band that’s bigger than you, whose fans already like more or less the kind of music you play. It’s your chance to build your audience!

You’ve created your set list, picking out a combination of songs available for sale and new material that’s your best yet. You’ve rehearsed your little hearts out. (You have rehearsed, haven’t you?) You’ve put serious thought into the esthetic you want to present on stage. You’re all ready to go and make a great impression!

Are you ready to be reviewed?

Do you even know how to tell? [Read more…]

It’s Skepticon’s Turn

Wow. You good folks floor me. The Skeptics for Ada fundraiser hit its goal in the first day. That means Valerie Aurora of the Ada Initiative will be coming to Skepticon to run their Ally Skills Workshop. So now that we’ve paid for the Ada Initiative to do their thing, it’s time to help pay for Skepticon itself. With the conference just over a month away, it’s only two-thirds funded. There is still over $13,000 to be raised.

Because Skepticon is a free conference in the south-central U.S., it’s the only conference that many of the attendees can afford. But someone still has to pay for the whole thing. If the attendees can’t, funding Skepticon falls to those of us who think access to these events shouldn’t be limited to those who can pay hundreds of dollars. Are you one of those people?

If you need another reason to donate, keep reading. [Read more…]

TBT: Destroy Ferris

It’s been five years since John Hughes died. Having been a teenager in the 80s, I couldn’t not have an opinion.

So, you know John Hughes just died. Everybody knows that John Hughes just died. Almost everyone my age is talking about how sad it was and talking about the movies it’s made them remember.

I haven’t been doing that. Not because Hughes’ death didn’t bring back memories for me, but because it did. I was a suburban teenager who didn’t fit the mold. I should have been his target audience. I just didn’t like his movies much.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s still too soon to talk about them, but I’m going to do it anyway. [Read more…]

Nick Cave: A Long Wait

It was 2001, September. I had tickets to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the end of the month for my birthday. Then something a little bigger than a concert happened, and air traffic into the U.S. looked (rightly) like a very bad idea. The U.S. tour was postponed.

Those of us with tickets were told we could get a refund then or hold our tickets to be exchanged when the show was rescheduled. I chose to wait, though I had no idea how long it would be. As it turned out, it was a very long time indeed. Oh, it was only another six months before the rescheduled concert, but I was never notified of the new date. Being busy with my job, I didn’t stumble across the information on my own. I found out about it by reading a review in the paper the day after it occurred.

I thought about that recently, when I received the confirmation that I had press credentials to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds June 21, 2014 at the State Theater. It felt like righting an old (if petty) wrong.

I thought about it again when we stopped at the box office last night to pick up our tickets and no one could find them.

I reviewed Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds for the Twin Cities Daily Planet over the weekend. It wasn’t the easiest concert review I’ve written, though not for anything like writer’s block. You can read the review here.

Hidden in the Stairwell

The building I work in is a repurposed warehouse. Two of them, actually, each with their own passenger elevator. The elevator for the side of the building I work on only goes down to the second floor, however. That means that when I enter the building on the first floor, I’m looking at two elevator rides to reach my floor.

Needless to say, one of the first things I did on starting work there was find the stairwell that lets me skip the ride between the first and second floors. Even if I didn’t mind using mechanical means to accomplish something it takes me less time to do under my own power, elevators and I don’t always get along. Too many elevator rides in a short period of time, and I’ll spend a day or two feeling like I’m riding them.

These stairs are…not great otherwise. They’re steep, the treads aren’t very deep, and the height is not entirely even from one step to the next. They were obviously made to be used in a pinch in a warehouse, not to coddle office workers like me.

However, building management did something smart to make the stairwells more appealing. [Read more…]