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Thinking in tune

Many of you probably know that I am a musician. Perhaps fewer of you know that guitar is my second instrument (third, if you count voice). I am actually probably better identified as a classically-trained viola player. In my relatively short career, I played 5 years in the Mississauga Youth Orchestra (3 years as viola section leader), 2 years with the University of Waterloo Symphony, and another 2 years with the Kingston Symphony. I was also a member of various string quartets through the years – one of our most notable achievements was playing at a dinner hosted by the Metro Toronto Chamber of Commerce and attended by the then-deputy premier of Ontario.

I wasn’t a particularly good player until I came under the tutelage of Mark Childs, a viola virtuoso who had a reputation as a strict disciplinarian and a wizard at teaching technique. To work with Mark was to re-learn the viola – he literally brought me back to the very beginning: learning to hold the bow, learning how to place my fingers on the fingerboard, learning to listen to notes, learning to make the right sound. It was an unbelievably frustrating process, coming as I was from nearly 8 years playing experience to return to a beginner level.

One of the most obvious differences between an instrument like a viola and an instrument like, say, a guitar, is the absence of frets on the fingerboard. While there are fretted viols, those mostly fell out of favour in the classical era, meaning that it is theoretically possible to produce any and all possible pitches within the span of an octave. Of course, you only want to produce one of twelve at any given time, meaning that anything other than the right note is the wrong note. Unlike a fretted instrument where as long as you stop the string somewhere between the frets you’ll hit the correct pitch, classical viols require your fingers to know where the correct position is within fractions of a milimeter.

It is additionally worth pointing out that a great deal of the violin/viola/cello repertoire requires lightning-fast sequences of notes, each one of which is played (by skilled performers) in exact pitch. It is trivially easy for a trained ear to pick out one or two sour notes in an otherwise-flawless passage, which is only a very small part of what makes the great viol players so damn impressive.

So how did I learn to play in tune? It seems like a sort of “lay and pray” approach, where you throw your finger down on the string and hope to whatever deity you believe in that your finger finds the correct spot. That was, at least, how I had been approaching intonation for the 8 years prior to meeting Mark. Studying with him, however, put me on to a much better technique: “lay, listen, adjust”. Instead of hurling my fingers in sequence at the fingerboard, I learned to play each sequence one note at a time at excruciatingly (at first) slow speed, and to listen extremely carefully to each one. When I heard a note that wasn’t correct, which was (at first) most of the time, I would slide my finger up or down the fingerboard as needed to correct the pitch before moving on to the next one.

I will confess to you that there were times when I wanted to hurl the damn thing across the room and take up the kazoo instead. But countless hours of careful methodical work eventually gave way to an ability to play entire passages, entire pieces, with near-perfect intonation. As an added bonus, the time it took for me to recognize and correct my intonation mistakes began to shrink gradually to the point where I could make a correction almost instantaneously, thus never letting on that I had mis-laid my finger in the first place. Mark assured me that this would be part of the process forever – that every note I played would be in pursuit of a perfection that could only ever be approached asymptotically, but never achieved.

I find a common frustration among people who talk about racism or sexism from a majority or outsider’s perspective (and indeed, even oftentimes from within the group of interest) that the pursuit of purity is never quite achieved. Indeed, I often get the impression that people would oftentimes rather not speak for fear of saying or doing something that betrays either their privilege, their lack of experience in the conversation, or both. I would imagine that it wouldn’t take too many instances of being the object of scorn in a once-amiable discussion group for one to throw up hir hands and say “to hell with this, I’m going to go learn the kazoo”.

Perhaps some heart can be taken in knowing that nobody gets it right all of the time. What we are instead all doing is trying to learn to think “in tune”. To be sure, there are no ‘right thoughts’ and ‘wrong thoughts’ in the same way that there are correct and incorrect pitches. Still, by learning to identify and recognize those thoughts and attitudes that are discordant with the goal of an equitable and just society, we can pay special attention to them. We can learn to make adjustments to those beliefs and behaviours that are not in concert with the ideal of living in harmony with our fellow human beings. The challenge, if course, is not simply the mere adjudication of the performance of others – it is always easier to hear other people’s mistakes than it is our own. No, the hard part is learning to hear our own mistakes earlier and earlier in the process, such that we can correct them before we let them ring out too strongly.

It will take practice, it will take patience, and there will be more mistakes than we might be comfortable with, but the only way to learn to think in tune is to learn to listen very carefully, and to not lose heart at every slip and stumble.

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Edit: I have uploaded a recording of a quartet I played in back in 2006 when I was living in Waterloo, Ontario. Those of you having trouble picking out the viola part should listen at around the 4:55 mark, and again at the 6:15 mark where I have the closest thing to an impressive solo that there is in this particular piece (although I am sawing away like mad for the whole of the 2nd movement – string quartet equivalent of heavy metal).

Comments

  1. Anna Y says

    Sadly, I know exactly what you are talking about. Not even in the narrower scope of making verbal blunders that might betray enculturated prejudices, but as part of getting through the day. My upbringing was, let’s just say, not conducive to either handling social interactions in a socially acceptable way or having appropriate emotional responses to basically anything. It took me a long time to understand this. It took even longer to learn what appropriate and acceptable looked like. Having watched an older sibling go through life denying responsibility for their behavior and, intermittently, wondering what kept going wrong between them and other people, I felt that I couldn’t go through life simply hiding behind the fact that being the way I was wasn’t ultimately my fault and was forced on me before I had any choice in the matter: because it didn’t work, because playing the victim card didn’t get you off the hook when you went on to make victims of others. So I had to re-learn from scratch things that most people don’t ever think about learning explicitly. What I found, however, was that I couldn’t really escape a lot of the early conditioning, that even knowing what the “right” way of reacting was, I often (not always, but often) couldn’t help the fact that my first reaction was still the “wrong” one. So I learned a new process: first thought-second thought, even if the first thought is the maladaptive, the counterproductive one, the second thought is the one I want to have, and so I catch myself and think the second thought. The process isn’t perfect. I still get things wrong. I try not to be too hard on myself when I do, but also not to let myself off the hook: it will always be a work in progress, but if I learn from the missteps, I will indeed make progress.

    So, for what it’s worth, I think you are right: patience, and perseverance, and learning from mistakes, and deepening your understanding do work and do help. It’s possible to play less sour notes, it’s possible to adjust your thinking to take into account more of what you know, to include other points of view, to be more fair, more empathetic, more “right”.

  2. rq says

    I like the analogy. Tuning one’s thoughts? Sounds very appropriate even though, as you say, the tuning process can be excruciatingly, painfully slow.
    I remember spending hours repeating simple scales trying to get the intonation right (violin, though, not viola), later with double-stops, getting the two notes to be exactly in tune with each other and just plain in tune…
    In the end, the hard work is worth it. Very much so.

  3. says

    As beautiful a version of the `you just have to do the best you can, always striving to get better’ philosophy I’ve ever read.

    To carry that metaphor further: not only will you, the artist slip and stumble, you must grant yourself permission to do so; without it, improvement is horribly hampered. So, too, I suspect with combating bigotry; and an awful lot of people really don’t want to risk egg on their faces.

    It’s one of the reasons I feel freest when making or stringing beads: the consequences of bad beads or ugly beadwork are mostly just time spent learning how to fail better.

  4. consciousness razor says

    Good article. I’m probably not the best one to ask, but I think your analogy works pretty well. It makes sense to me (maybe a little too much) as a musician.

    I wasn’t expecting the ending. I figured you’d ramble about learning to play music, until at some point you trailed off without ever coming to any kind of a point. (It’s not that I expect that of you, just of that sort of article). Anyway, it was a pleasant surprise.

    I don’t quite understand what you mean by the first sentence here:

    To be sure, there are no ‘right thoughts’ and ‘wrong thoughts’ in the same way that there are correct and incorrect pitches. Still, by learning to identify and recognize those thoughts and attitudes that are discordant with the goal of an equitable and just society, we can pay special attention to them. We can learn to make adjustments to those beliefs and behaviours that are not in concert with the ideal of living in harmony with our fellow human beings.

    If they mean we can’t live harmoniously* with others, then they’re simply wrong, aren’t they? By definition?

    I get that there are a lot of ways to be right, just as there are to be wrong. Different strokes for different strokes, and all that. Also, on the other hand, there’s typically only one option in most “Western” music (for a given part): there’s one right note, while all the others are bad with some often worse than others. So if that’s the basic idea, I’d agree that our thoughts or actions aren’t right or wrong “in the same way;” but even though they’re not exactly the same, it might help to be a little more clear about what you think is similar.

    *I’m assuming discord can sometimes be the right kind of harmony to strike, and that this isn’t implying anything in particular about that.

  5. Ysidro says

    Yay viola! I sort of gave up around High School. Techically I played, but I didn’t practice. I regret that now.

    But you’ve given me something else to think about. There’s a lifetime to practice anything. Even thinking. Thanks.

  6. consciousness razor says

    It’s not just intonation either, of course. It’s a good general approach for almost every aspect of a performance. You can improve rhythm, timbre, dynamics, phrasing, balance, you name it. The idea is that eventually it’ll be next to impossible to play it the wrong way.

    It just takes so much fucking time. In some ways, I have to start over with every new piece — I learn some things along the way, but each is a different kind of challenge and has to be interpreted on its own terms, not to mention that bad habits have a way of creeping back in.

  7. says

    A bit off topic, but have you ever played any of the Bartok string quartets? Especially #4 or #5? Because if you have, my already high estimation of you would like, be even higher. (but I still love you if you haven’t).

  8. Hatchetfish says

    Interesting analogy, and excellent point. It’s off topic to the real point, but, as a tin-eared engineer who hasn’t played anything but a harmonica in 17 years, and never anything stringed before that anyway, I’m curious why in the eighty five hells of flying monkeys were the frets removed from the design? Is there something that can be done without them that can’t with them? (other than flubbed notes?)

  9. says

    No, sadly I have not had the pleasure. Bartok also wrote a famous viola concerto that I was planning on tackling, but then university got in the way and I stopped working on repertoire.

    Somewhere there exists a recording of my quartet doing Dvorak #12, and I am working on uploading the audio from Shostakovich #8 – hopefully those will count for something.

  10. says

    I’d imagine they were sacrificed around the same time that the fingerboard was rounded. Also vibrato (a major part of viol lyricism) is a lot more complicated on a fretted instrument than on an unfretted one.

  11. Hatchetfish says

    Ah. Thanks. I figured there was something, but having never played anything with strings, particularly fretless & stringed, it was a mystery.

  12. says

    A pitch-perfect description of why I shouldn’t let past screw-ups stop me from trying to be a better person in the future.

    Now, I go drag out the violin I haven’t touched in months…

  13. says

    I love that quartet by Shosty. Awesome, please give a heads up when you upload it. Shostakovich was the composer that made me decide to major in composition. Essentially, I came for the Shostikovich and Prokofiev, but stayed for the Bartok and Messiaen.

  14. Johnny Vector says

    Plus, slides sound way better (unless you’re going for grunge). Not that violists ever do that, but it’s useful for the bass anyway.

    And let me add to the chorus of “good analogy!”

  15. says

    Uploaded, linked in body. Re-listening now – it’s depressing how much better I used to be than I am now. Still, the man wrote AMAZING viola parts.

  16. nollidge says

    I’m not a music theory expert, but I would imagine fretting also constricts you to “equal temperament”, whereas I think in classical music you generally want “just intonation” (see wiki link below). My understanding is that in just intonation, an E played while you’re in the key of A is actually slightly different than an E played while you’re in C.

    If you listen to the samples in the Examples section in the wikipedia article I link below, you can hear the “wobble” in the equal-temperament chords that are played after the scale, because their frequencies are not even multiples of each other. The just-intonation chords do not have that wobble because their frequencies line up precisely. I only play guitar (poorly) and piano, but my guess is that fretlass string players’ ears are generally trained to form the justly-intoned notes based off of the key’s root.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_intonation

  17. Brownian says

    As someone whose only instrument is his voice, I use rapid + loud to mask the bad notes.

    SO,ISUPPOSEISHOULDBETAKINGAMOREREFINEDAPPROACHTOSELF-CORRECTION?

  18. pocketnerd says

    (I’ve long been fond of saying “perfection is an ideal that can be approached asymptotically, but never achieved.” It’s gratifying to see somebody else express the same sentiment!)

    I agree with the point expressed in the last three paragraphs… and I wonder if that’s why there are so many otherwise-smart, otherwise-reasonable people who will tell you “I tried to be an ally to [insert unprivileged group here], but they’re just so gosh darn demanding and picky it’s impossible to please them.”

    When you like to think of yourself as enlightened and progressive, it’s tempting to dismiss any criticisms: “After all, I’m already as wise, just, and privilege-aware as any human could possibly be! Clearly this person is just oversensitive, or envious, or has had issues with other [insert privileged group here] like me before, and now they’re taking it out on me.”

    But that kind of back-patting, self-indulgent smugness is absolutely toxic to any kind of real growth: You can’t learn more about any subject if you convince yourself you’ve already mastered it. Everybody is wrong once in a while. Accept it, take your licks, and learn from it.

  19. zekehoskin says

    Mandolinist here, still trying to iron out the fingering problems coming from years of real-time improvising.
    I don’t honestly know if I wish that careful thinking practice would stop the fucking stupid racist/sexist garbage thoughts from emerging into consciousness. The best I can do is keep from uttering them, most of the time, which is bloody hard when you do real-time witty improv as a performance style. But for writing, I think I need to hear my inner Nazi, if only to get a better idea of what to argue against.
    PS: I appreciate the *possible imposter* thing that blocked my first attempt to post this comment, but I’m annoyed that it didn’t provide a link to the login page.

  20. cashdoller says

    I’m gathering from what you are writing that you think those of us are speaking from within a vacuum when we say that we are living in a feminist society in which women and girls are supported by the government and countless upon countless organizations and the media and the general public at large. Whereas men and even worse boys are left to flounder wondering where their role went in society.

    Let’s take boys for example. Boys have no support of any kind of anymore. Everything that you have out there in terms of support is tailored towards AT BEST both genders (like older ones like Boys and Girls club come to mind). Most all organizations, ideas, themes, movements, even websites and the such that are just supportive of girls and do advertise as such. (Such as Girls, Inc).

    But you’ll never find the counterbalance to whatever entity advertising supporting girls in a boys version. Not anymore anyhow (except with boy scouts, really old organizations like that). It’s become anti-political to have any kind of club or organization or even education reference material (such as a website) or even a magazine just tailored toward boys. It’s become shameful to even be a boy.

    But even worse than this is that many of these so called children’s groups that by their name you would think support all children in fact do not support all children. They are discriminatory towards boys and their entire program is built to empower girls at the expense of boys.

    Don’t believe me? Let’s take the organization TrueChild for example.
    I clicked on “Learn The Facts” and then clicked on “Reproductive Health” – their first choice.

    This is what they had to say about what they don’t like about boys:
    “Young Men For instance, research shows that young men who internalize ideals of traditional masculinity as defined by strength, toughness, sexual prowess, and aggression have earlier sex, more sexual partners, and lower condom use. They are more likely to believe in sex as adversarial, that women are responsible for preventing conception, and that pregnancy validates manhood ”

    Strength and toughness last time I checked was what being a young man was all about. But this organization is pointing it out as a bad thing. They go on to say young men treat women poorly and of all the craziest things to say “pregnancy validates manhood”. Yeah – not so much there extreme feminist sexist organization. If you can find any guy who thinks pregnancy validates anything but a lifetime of child support and discrimination in family courts then you’re living under a rock.

    Here is what they had to say about girls:
    “Young Women Women are affected as well. For years researchers have known that internalizing narrow codes of femininity which place a premium on passivity, obedience, docility, conflict avoidance, and physical beauty is strongly linked to lower sexual self-efficacy, condom use and safer sex negotiation among young women as well as higher rates of body objectification, acceptance of male infidelity, and tolerance for sexual coercion or violence”

    Awww the poor victims here naturally are the mistreated girls! My favorite part is “acceptance of male infidelity” like as to say females don’t “cheat” just as much as men do. GIVE ME A BREAK! The part about body objectification sure is a double standard but I won’t even get into that.

    This is under “Learn the FACTS” <— key word there: facts?

    It gets better, much better. I clicked on "Science, Math, and Technology" under "Learn the FACTS", here is a small sample of what I found the first paragraph on the page:
    "For many students, especially young women, achievement in the "STEM" subjects will be the key to high growth rates, higher paying jobs and career advancement in the knowledge economy"

    Wow way to make it really obvious how sexist you are "especially young women"? I'm just curios why they would take the time to point out that under the FACTS? Let's see what they had to say:

    "Nor is it just the result of patriarchal school systems. Millions have been invested in improving a host of external education variables of this nature that may be holding girls back: hostility in the computer room, lack of female role models, masculine pedagogical models, etc. In some cases, high schools have even refused to let girls drop STEM classes, which has only succeeded in delaying the problem until they matriculate."

    Whoa hold up this is a website which advertises itself as "LET EVERY CHILD SHINE". That's their motto on their logo. But here we are talking about science and math and in the same breath they are talking about "patriarchal school systems" and "holding girls back".

    This fucking website is ran by extreme sexist feminists who hide behind the guise of "all children" when in fact it's goal is to shame boys and make victims out of girls. On top of that they have this goal of feminizing boys removing what it is to be a boy and to push girls into higher paying jobs like math and science. Not because it's for the betterment of the culture or community, but because we live in a culture that is destroying manhood.

    This entire websites focus is clear. GO look for yourself:
    http://truechild.org

    If you even try to argue this organization isn't sexist and has a very clear unspoken agenda then you are denying the truth and/or just blind to the content of the site.

    But this site is not alone, it's just one of many sites and organizations and groups that have sprouted up in the past few years because radical feminists are more and more taking hold of our culture and trying to eliminate men from the entire scheme of things.

    Still don't believe me? Check out this video I found on ABC's website I just happen to stumble upon yesterday in which they claim there is a "battle of the sexes". Watch this video. Personally it's enough to make me puke. Is there going to be any ounce of manhood left after people like this are done turning us all into women?

    Does anyone reading this seriously think that women and men are exactly the same in what we have to offer to the world? Not to say one is better than the other. They have complemented each other for the entire history of our species. Our modern day culture is trying to eliminate what it is to be a man with shameful tactics and it's SCARY. And this blog is just one of MANY that are supporting it.

    Rome is burning people – it's coming down fast. I wonder what is going to happen with the current trend of criminalizing fathers, feminizing men, shaming boys away from anything that innately makes him a male, and enabling mothers to have complete control over family in the court system all while only encouraging young girls to do jobs that men have always did? I wonder how this is all going to turn out.

  21. cashdoller says

    Did you not say this:

    “I find a common frustration among people who talk about racism or sexism from a majority or outsider’s perspective (and indeed, even oftentimes from within the group of interest) that the pursuit of purity is never quite achieved.”

    which is the statement that spawned my comment.

    I actually play trumpet myself and learned how to play guitar myself years ago so I was into reading about all that until you had to bring up racism and sexism again Crommunist.

  22. says

    This has nothing at ALL to do with your comment spam. You just saw the word “sexism” and completely lost your shit.

    And if you’re going to get butthurt every time someone talks about racism or sexism, then you might want to find another blog to read – that’s what I talk about.

  23. cashdoller says

    See I’ve been reading your blog for weeks now and I think you’re a fantastic writer. I’m intrigued with what you have to say. I completely mostly agreed with what you had to say about that girl who was arguing “misogynist” is the new “nigger”. Some of your argument anyhow. I have respect for your right to an opinion and am happy to see you stand up for what you believe in.

    That said, being as it is that your blog is centered about feminism and racism (I’ve chosen to get into more of what you have to say about being pro-feminist because that is where my own interests are, racism isn’t playing a major factor in my life at the moment) I more than likely did not take this blog entry right here at face value at all. I looked at the meaning behind it as it pertains to your pro feminist views.

    So while you say I’m entirely off topic, am I really?

    If I walk into a basketball lockerroom after the conclusion of a game and they are all discussing where they are going to go for lunch and their favorite food. If I decide to suddenly chime in and start talking about the god damn game they just played, would that be off topic? Afterall we are in a basketball lockerroom and they all play basketball for the same team.

    Same is true here. You say:
    ” The challenge, if course, is not simply the mere adjudication of the performance of others – it is always easier to hear other people’s mistakes than it is our own. ”

    and what do I read from that? I take from that you’re telling me as a man to just shut up and learn from my misdoings in court (where I had a child abducted from me with absolutely nothing on me other than mom saying I’m neglectful with no evidence stating as such) and for me not to whine about it because it’s my own fault. I’m reading from that not to blame the gender discrimination that is openly occurring in all family law court houses and just own up to the fact that I lost my daughter due to my own mistakes I made in my motions in how I wrote them, for me to shut up and pay my child support, and quit whining about all of this.

  24. cashdoller says

    “And if you’re going to get butthurt every time someone talks about racism or sexism, then you might want to find another blog to read – that’s what I talk about.”

    – exactly proved my point right there (what I said in my comment below before I even read yours)

  25. says

    If I walk into a basketball lockerroom after the conclusion of a game and they are all discussing where they are going to go for lunch and their favorite food. If I decide to suddenly chime in and start talking about the god damn game they just played, would that be off topic?

    Yes. And it would also be fucking rude.

    I take from that you’re telling me as a man to just shut up and learn from my misdoings in court…

    I can’t control the fact that you’re going to read a bizarre personal persecution narrative into stories that aren’t about you.

    I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone shut up – what I am saying is that if one’s goal is to find ways of participating in conversations that involve power and privilege (and that person is worried about being perceived as part of the problem), then learning to recognize our own behaviour is a helpful technique. It has nothing at all to do with custody issues or the consequences of our cultural models of masculinity, though I have written posts about that. And while I sympathize with your pain about losing custody of your daughter, it’s not relevant to this post, regardless of how sad it may be.

    If I wanted men to shut up, I’d probably want to start by taking my own advice. As it is, I think men who blame feminists for taking away their “rightful” place need to talk less and listen more, but again that has nothing at all to do with the circumstances of your custody fight.

  26. Brownian says

    I actually play trumpet myself and learned how to play guitar myself years ago so I was into reading about all that until you had to bring up racism and sexism again Crommunist.

    If you can play more than one note, you’re better at communicating with music than words.

  27. cashdoller says

    fair enough man. I’ll come back when you want specifically bring up the issues I speak about.

    In the meantime I’d like to hear your thoughts on truechild (which I Just stumbled upon yesterday when searching for potential summer camps for my daughter). Feel free to private send me an email if this isn’t the forum.

  28. morgan says

    Ian, I adore your musical analogy. I’ve never before posted here. Long time lurker. You are a sterling writer and thinker and I appreciate your skill.

    Cashdollar, you are an asshole and Ian was far too nice in not booting your rosy ass outta here.

    That is all.

  29. says

    Thank you for the kind words. It’s always gratifying to hear when my writing connects with someone.

    In Cashdollar’s defense, he’s very clearly hurting from something that appears to have happened quite recently. I think he’s got some backward ideas and a lot of misplaced anger, but I don’t think I was “too nice”, and he backed down when asked to do so, so that’s a point in his favour.

  30. morgan says

    I stand corrected, appropriately so. So, are you really just shy of 30? Much too wise for such youth. How do you feel about coyotes?
    LOL

  31. Csshdoller says

    Morgan-Well we can sit here and name call all day, reminds me of being in 4th grade. Are you going to steal my lunch money now too?

    Crom – I do not have misplaced any more than you do. I’ve never been in a fight in my entire life for Christ sake (even though I was arrested for domestic abuse once by my kids mom, the deadbeat one, do the math on that). I actually took all the discrimination that I have been subjected to in stride for many many years while I was employed. But it’s reached a point where enough is enough.

    I can put up with a whole lot of bullshit and dust myself off and keep going. I’ve done this my entire life. But when the government tears my family apart all because I’m a man, that’s where I started to realize I live in a society that enables women who want to lie and cheater to get whatever they want in family courts. There is no equality there. Keep in mind we are talking family, the most god given fundamental human right known the mankind.

    Then on top of that this system has greatly affected my livelihood for my oldest daughter and I to the point of a judge admitting in court he doesn’t care if we are homeless just as long as I pay child extort,, you know there is something seriously very wrong with this system. Really very very wrong.

    I’m proof that “child support” is not for children. I have the court reports minutes ordered and a hard copy just to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind when he said that.

    No Crom I don’t have “backwards” ideas. What is backwards is our current way of doing things in this country in regards to our family unit. And then I come on here and people are calling ME names because I’m pointing out some very “backwards” website (because that was the bulk of my comment). That organization is scary, very scary. The fact that there is not a public outcry over that sexist anti-male organization is a sign of bad things to come.

  32. says

    that’s where I started to realize I live in a society that enables women who want to lie and cheater to get whatever they want in family courts

    If you were looking for the source of your misplaced anger, I just found it for you.

    Then on top of that this system has greatly affected my livelihood for my oldest daughter and I to the point of a judge admitting in court he doesn’t care if we are homeless just as long as I pay child extort,, you know there is something seriously very wrong with this system. Really very very wrong.

    The justice system often does a really terrible job. You’re not wrong, and I’d imagine that nobody here would disagree with you on that. When it comes specifically to custody, I’ve heard horror stories about anti-male discrimination and heavy-handed (and unfair) sentencing that falls along gendered lines. I have no difficulty believing that to be the case. I similarly have no difficulty believing that domestic abuse against men is chronically under-reported and under-prosecuted. My father worked with men who have battered their wives, and one of the things he told me came repeatedly from those sessions is that the violence went one way for a long time, then the husband retaliated and ended up in jail. Women do not have a monopoly on suffering at the hands of the patriarchy.

    That being said, blaming “feminist extremists” for this is a ludicrous conspiracy theory. The idea that feminists have anywhere near the power you claim for them, the idea that they, and not out-dated and reality-denying gender constructs about what comprises masculinity, are to blame for your suffering is delusional. Your insistence that criticizing this macho-man masculine stereotyped gender role is “anti-male sexism” is also delusional, and ignores rafts of evidence from the fields of psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Your idea that “the family unit” must be one thing, that “manliness” must be one thing, and that these things are being taken away from you (to the detriment of all of society – Rome is BURNING? Really?) is delusional.

    I sympathize with your pain. I think we need to criticize the gendered systems we’ve put in place that force us to adhere to these restrictive roles and behaviours that are tightly policed by men and by women. But we don’t do that by putting stock in a delusion – not if we want to change things for the better.

  33. says

    I don’t know what a coyote is (unless you’re talking about the animal), but if this is a sex thing I’m going to go ahead and guess that my girlfriend’s not okay with me doing it :P

  34. alexanderjohannesen says

    Your analogy is a good one, although to be fair to a harsh reality – both as a musician and writer myself – I can say that I’m far more constrained in my music than in my writing. Butting against the constraints of our instruments is the very thing that drives me forward, making me aware of the edges of those constraints; there’s only so far from the norm you can strain before music turns to noise. With language there is more rope, more structure, more avenues to go down, more … language.

    And then there’s thoughts and ideas; constrained by our biology, for sure, but with creative opportunities to create something fantastical out of nothing, and then believe it to be true! It’s hard not to be impressed and scared at the same time of its astounding power, an ever-stretching gradient from vegetable thinking to delusions far beyond grandeur.

    All I’m saying here is that the scope of the two things (music vs. thought) are almost to the point of being non-comparable, and if it wasn’t for the amazing power of creative thought, I’d say you were wrong. But you’re absolutely right!

    Both my girls play violin, btw, and it’s a struggle to make them understand the importance of going back to basics, that greatness is often found when you venture off assumed path towards it. It should be that we fine-tune [and some times re-string] all our instruments, a never-ending pursuit of something that we’ll never reach (and some carefully constructed analogy /here/ about not forgetting the journey in the pursuit of goals …).

  35. left0ver1under says

    When it comes to fretless instruments, to my ears there is nothing like the sound of a fretless electric bass. The sliding of notes, the slight buzz due to the lack of a fret acting as a bridge, makes it a truly unique sound.

    Regarding teachers (any, not just Crommunist’s), giving correction in a reasonable manner, not rapping knuckles or screaming at mistakes, makes it easier to learn and change one’s thinking. Teaching and correction has to be an act of cooperation, not a one-way relationship.

    No one learns or changes without trying and making mistakes. But if correction comes across as abuse, it only makes the player wince – or in the case of social issues, the speaker. One of two results is inevitable: the person stops trying to change (and their mistakes/bigotry get further ingrained), or the person resists correction and refuses to listen even to those who might agree with them.

  36. cashdoller says

    “If you were looking for the source of your misplaced anger, I just found it for you.” Wow thanks detective.

    Just for your information, “women who lie and cheat” are not the source of “misplaced anger”. Once again I am not an angry person by my nature going back to my childhood. I was lucky to be born without much of a temper of anger problems.

    Besides women who lie and cheat would be a source of placed anger, not misplaced. Are you angry at women who lie and cheat to tear families apart? But again I don’t know women who do this other than the few I have to deal with. And yes I am angry at them due to the fact that they get away with ripping my family apart. This is not misplaced anger.

    I will go on to admit I do am angry at the government. If you want to call it “misplaced anger” then go ahead. I have every reason to be upset with how they run things. If you had your family taken from you and then continued oppressions forcing me and my remaining daughter to the street you’d be a little “angry” too. What is it with you and this whole misplaced anger thing? Is that something you try to label on to every guy who gets fucked over due to gender discrimination when they say something to you about it?

    “Your idea that “the family unit” must be one thing, that “manliness” must be one thing, and that these things are being taken away from you”

    The family unit is me and my children. Are you trying to argue that I should be okay with one being taken from my life because I can’t come to accept a family with half my fucking kids? How the fuck do you define family then I’m really curious? You and a couple pet hamsters from PetCo? Would that be a family?

    My core family always has been and always will be me and my children. Anything beyond that is an extension of my family (such as wife if I had one, my mother, my brother, even my pet hamster which I don’t have. They don’t allow pets here at my apartment. I think I’d get a Bearded Dragon over a hamster though. Actually I know I would).
    .
    Besides I never said there are a bunch of women behind the scenes making this all happen to me. I never singled out any group of women. I believe that our culture is shifting in a large way right now. Specifically in that it has become politically correct to make women (and girls) into victims, it has become the norm to make dads into the buffoon idiot who are lazy and don’t know how to do anything. It has become politcally correct to support women regardless of how much catoring to their ever growing list of demands is trampling on men, in particular boys.

    I like how you ignore much of what I write when you have absolutely no argument against it. You still have yet to comment on that TrueChild sexist anti-boy website. I can give you 20 more that are just like it if your ISP has blocked you for some reason. Or just type “children america” or some similar term into a search engine and tell me what ya find. On the surface many of these organizations support all children. But dig a little deeper and it’s entirely focused on girls needs.

  37. says

    The argument by analogy in this post is IMO outstanding. But that might just be because I’m a singer & composer myself.

    As a semi-aside re: fretless instruments, I speculate that a fretless guitar would, in the right hands, sound spectacular.

  38. Bach-us says

    Messiaen! That was the last name I’d expect to see on this site, but I’m thrilled. I’m trapped in a Messiaen-unappreciation zone.

  39. pharm scigrad says

    I just wanted to chime in that I also loved the analogy that came at the end of your wonderfully weaved tale. It was a bit unexpected, but it was one of those moments where something just clicked for me. I like to know the right way to do things and I like to do things the right way the first time every time, but things like this are often just not that simple. It is, at times, more frustrating to me than I’m happy to admit – I’d like my gold star now and to move on to the next lesson, thankyouverymuch.

    It is liberating to realize when I struggle “to think in tune” it is not a sign of weakness or lack of discipline, but a symptom of my humanity. I’m now beginning to understand what is most important is that I continute to struggle. Thanks. Thanks for that.

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