Trial in the court of public opinion

A rare two post day!  Look at me!

One thing I find hilarious is how people will try to apply legal principles to everyday life, usually in the defense of something stupid.  Like when people say “I’m just exercising my First Amendment Right!” when they really mean “stop laughing at what I said!”.

I bring this up because I made a joke about Bill Cosby today on Facebook, basically about how I think it’s terrible that he raped women but that I enjoy the fact that it’s evidence for my theory that self-righteous people probably have something awful they’re trying to hide.

And without fail someone came along and said “He’s innocent until proven guilty!”

Yes.  In the legal sense, he can’t be sentenced to jail time until someone proves he raped them, and probably nobody ever will because the things he did took place long enough ago that the statute of limitations has run out.

And sure, I suppose I could be sued for libel for not appending my joke with allegedly.  If Mr Cosby or someone from his team wants to sue me for that, well fine.  This is all a joke!  You can’t sue me for joking!

At any rate, the point is, that I’m not going to send him to jail, so I don’t have to prove him guilty in my own mind in order for me to think he’s guilty.  That’s for me to decide because the legal system doesn’t reach the inner recesses of my skull.  Yet.

The other thing people bring up is- well his reputation might be ruined.  Yeah, apparently it is.  And a good part of his earning potential, but the man is 70 something and I’m sure he’s not relying on Social Security to pay the bills.

But the broader point is that people in the public eye are faced with an unfair burden- the public can turn on them at any moment if someone makes spurious charges.   I’m going to engage in a fairly glib line of questioning here, but here’s goes…

So what? 

Seriously, so what if the public turns against a famous person for reasons (possibly) beyond their control?

Let’s take this one step at a time.  First of all, the so what?

Actually, I don’t have that much to say about it because I don’t care.  If Bill Cosby loses his place as America’s Loveable Grouchy Old Man I couldn’t give two shits.  Don’t care any more about that than I care about the weather on Mercury.  I don’t care and you can’t make me care.  So there.

Second, really, so what?  Shit, people turn on famous people all the time for no good reason.  Do you think it’s fair?  Life’s not fucking fair.  It’s not like there’s always some great reason why the public started admiring someone in the first place.  Half of the celebrities in the world you can look at and think- what on earth are they famous for anyway?  If they disappeared tomorrow would you cry?  Would you hold a candlelight vigil?  No, you wouldn’t.  You’d move on with your life, only pausing to think – I wonder what happened to that guy like every ten years.

Finally, and most importantly- I am being serious here- we do not want to set the bar too high for people losing their reputation.  Because it’s fucking high enough.  Just think about all the terrible things that famous people have gotten away with.  Just the other day I was listening to this song:

and thinking- it’s insane that the Beatles could just casually mention wife-beating in a song, with no fear of any repercussions.  Now think about people like Jimmy Savile, a man who was able to molest hundreds of children, for decades and died before the truth was widely known because no one wanted to believe his accusers because people liked him.  Maybe most importantly, because he knew people wouldn’t believe his accusers, he was worse than he’d have otherwise been.  Or someone like Roman Polanski (whose movies I do enjoy, so yeah, I’m a hypocrite) who is a convicted child (as in, convicted in a court of law, i.e. proven guilty) rapist but still works.

The thing is, famous people have lots power to convince people they’re something that they’re not.  And that makes them dangerous.  I mean, not all famous people are dangerous, obviously, but celebrities can get away with terrible things if they set their mind to it.  And when they have wealthy, powerful people protecting them, often the only leverage the public has is to say “we won’t be your fans anymore.”  I’m kind of an amoral person myself and I believe in having whatever power I can accrue, and I’m not giving this one up.

So yeah, tough luck Bill Cosby.  Court of public opinion made you what you are and now they’re taking it away.  Oh well.

Why do I have bad taste? II

So there’s another reason why I have bad taste.  It’s that I don’t think the ability to do creative things should be limited to the technically talented.  And if I’m being consistent, that means I have to find imperfect things and enjoy them.  And I pride myself on being consistent sometimes.

Partly too I grew up somewhere that forced me and my friends to make a lot of my own fun.  Basically, I am part hick and so I don’t have the refined taste that others do.

Also, things that are done by people with limited skills and limited means often can push the limit in ways that talented people who are being paid lots of money really can’t make Pink Flamingos- someone will talk them out of it well before any checks are signed.

Although those Jackass! dudes tried.  I take it back, someone might be able to make Pink Flamingos, but it would be hard to find any talented person to want to act in it.

Basically, I don’t take things too seriously, even my own taste.

Why do I have bad taste?

Way, way back I was hanging with some friends at my seldom-seen co-blogger’s house and his older brother had some tapes sitting on a shelf.  One tape in particular caught my eye.  W.A.S.P.’s Inside the Electric Circus.

I made to listen to it when one of my friends asked me a question that gets to the very heart of who I am as a person.

Why do you like everything bad?

I don’t know why I like everything bad.  It’s something I’ve puzzled over for years.  Decades really.  Embedded in the question was a plea- please don’t subject me to any more crap.

My friends have all experienced it.  I become obsessed with things that no one else gets or likes.  I’ve made them listen to the cheesiest punk rock, the dumbest possible rap songs, watch terrible movies- in one of the more terrible things I did to my friends I made them sit through two John Waters movies in a row.  Why?

I don’t know.  It’s not because I’m trying to be mean to my friends.  It’s that I really like some things that, for whatever reason, society doesn’t see that same value in.

Let’s talk for a second about what’s bad.  By bad I don’t mean I don’t like it.  90% of all arguments could be averted if instead of people saying “____ sucks” they said something more like “It’s just not something I’m into”, because that’s what they really mean.  Also, by bad I’m not making a moral judgement, i.e. saying something is bad for society, or even sillier, bad for the children, because for the most part moral judgements aren’t interesting to me if they involve the finished product.  If, for instance, a child molester makes a song that I like, say this one:

that’s moral problem, because if I buy his record I am possibly giving material support to a bad person.  If, however, someone writes a song encouraging people to join the Church of Satan, I don’t know, I just don’t care.  It would have to be something truly egregious for me to care.

When I say bad, I mean something just didn’t come out right.  I don’t think W.A.S.P. set out to write a song that cheesy.  It’s not even a song that’s bad to listen to.  It just didn’t succeed in some important way, in this case, it sounds like they were trying to be menacing and it’s just not that menacing.

But I’ll admit that badness is subjective.  For instance, Dio holding a sword like he’s swinging a baseball bat should make me think this is a bad video

But I can’t say that.  It’s an awesome video.  Because Dio was a strange little man with an amazing voice and I can totally see him being a dirty barbarian swordsman.  On the other hand, that dude from Def Leppard swinging a comically huge sword?  I’m not even sure what they’re going for here:

Then again, maybe something can’t fail at a metric that I can’t establish.

Maybe one explanation is that I learn from failure.  Something that doesn’t work has moving parts that I can pick apart and understand.  On the other hand, something too perfect is impossible to learn from.  What would you learn from something like this?

I’d learn- give up, writing perfect pop songs is way too hard.  Really, that’s it.  There’s nothing to pick apart in this song, because everything works.  Really.  There’s nothing I would add or take away from it.

That’s not to say that I like it all that much, or listen to it in the car, because it’s just not relevant to my life.  It’s not my thing.

And maybe more to the point, there’s nothing to take away from the song because it’s a perfect whole.  There’s not any one thing that sticks out.  Contrast that with, say Mamma Mia

It’s not a bad song by any means, but not all of it works to the same degree.  I like the guitar lick that Bjorn does.  I like pause when they sing just one look and I hear a bell ring.  Little things.  I can take something away from listening to the song that maybe I can use in my own life.

To be continued


How soon is too soon?

My ears perked up at a line in this song when came on the radio this morning


I gave you bass


This is the All About That Bass girl.  I was just talking about that girl a month ago!  She has one hit and is already self referencing!

I don’t know what to think about this.  Maybe she just doesn’t have a ton of ideas, but more likely this is intentional.  From a brand new singer that’s either guts or some amazing hubris.  Either way I admire it.

I don’t know have any particular thoughts on artists that self-reference.  Sometimes it’s a fun way of rewarding your audience for paying attention.  Like when the Beatles did it, it was cute.  I suppose it could be sometimes just lazy recycling of old ideas.  Then again, you don’t have to self-reference to do that

Random Thoughts

I just got back from Washington DC.  I had never been there before.  In fact, as far as America goes, I had never been more than about two day’s  drive east of California.  So previously some part of Wyoming or Colorado was the farthest east I had ever been.

I went there for work so I didn’t really have much time for sight-seeing.  I did take a walk down to the National Mall after work with a friend of mine.  I didn’t include pictures in this post because the ones I take weren’t very good and anyway you know what the monuments look like.

My main goal was to visit the Lincoln Memorial, since I wanted to pay my respects to one of our greatest presidents.  People told me it was better at night.  I’m not sure if that’s true since that’s the only way I’ve seen it, but it was impressive.  A nice tribute to the man who saved our nation.

I also walked through the WWII Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial and the Korean War Memorial as well.  The WWII Memorial I wasn’t so big on.  It’s nice that there is one, but visually, I don’t know what it’s supposed to convey.  Maybe that’s how it should be.  I personally only know (knew) two men who were a part of WWII.

My grandfather experienced it as mostly a fun vacation in the South Pacific- he was a 17 year old airplane mechanic and never saw any fighting.  And at the time it was probably better than hanging around Los Angeles.  He’s still alive today and loves to talk about it.

My wife’s grandfather, on the other hand, was a medic in the Japanese Army that invaded China.  He spent his whole life in a small Japanese village in a house built by his father that until recently didn’t even have flush toilets.  He liked to talk about how he saw a river there that was so big that he couldn’t see the other side.  He didn’t talk to me much about all the suffering and death he saw as a medic, but before he died my wife recorded him talking about his various experiences there.  It was terrifying and sad.

My other grandfather also fought it in the war (in Europe), but died before I was born.  My wife’s other grandfather just barely missed becoming a kamkaze pilot- at that point in the war they were just throwing young men into planes and pointing them towards certain death.

But on the other hand- we beat the Nazis.  So that kind of makes it worth it.

The Vietnam Memorial was really heartbreaking.  Descending into the memorial, with the wall getting taller and the names piling up it was overwhelming.  What a waste of life.

Same with the Korean War.  We hardly even talk about it or learn about it in school, but America lost over 36,000 soldiers.  The total cost in lives was well over a million.  For what?  A proxy war between the US and China, with Mao flooding the Korean peninsula with troops, in part to shore up his position as ruler of China.  What a horrible thought to be so unconcerned about human life.

What was it all worth?  What was the point?

UPDATE- also, the Washington Monument is cool, but I don’t get how it represents the actual man.  I don’t know much about him, I’m just saying.

Random Thoughts

I was listening to some old recordings today and there was a song on there that I hadn’t thought about in years.  Literally five or six years.  I think we had worked on it for a bit, made a recording of it at practice and never played it live.  It was a good song, I may use it again.  But I can’t remember how to play it and the recording is really rough and I can only make out some of the words.  I think the lyrics are written down somewhere, and maybe the chords are.  If not I wonder if I can figure it out.

It’s kind of funny to think that I could totally forget a song like that, but it does happen.  I was jamming with a former bandmate a while back and he started playing a song I wrote.  He said “you remember this one?”  I didn’t.  I’ll have to look that one up too.

I took my son to see Book of Life yesterday.

It was a cute movie but one thing I particularly liked about it was how little suspense there is in the resolution of the love triangle between the main characters, Maria, Jaoquin and Manolo.  It’s obvious from the start that Maria favors Manolo, because she likes his music and he very obviously agrees with her on killing animals, going so far as to refuse to kill the bull at the end of a bullfight.  (Manolo comes from a family of bullfighters).

Jaoquin, on the other hand, tries for the big romantic gesture, which is usually what gets the girl.  In this case it doesn’t work.  Kids’ movies are full of stale cliches, but I thought it was nice that for once a movie portrayed something close to real life.

While we’re on the subject, the movie makes mention of Cinco de Mayo but never mentions the occasion that Mexicans more often celebrate- Dies y Seis de Septiembre.  Mexico has two independence days, but most consider independence from Spain a bigger deal than independence from France.  I’ve long suspected that the reason Americans latched onto the former is that it’s easier to pronounce.  It may also be easier to make puns on, though some enterprising business surely could have Dies y Sales de Septiembre.

Thoughts on being an artist

I’ve always thought that artists are people who need a serenity prayer more than most.  I say this because I’ve seen artists beat themselves up, usually for things they can’t help.

I’m not a snob and I look for wisdom and inspiration where I can find it.  I really like what Danny “Roadkill” Thompson of Sloppy Seconds has to say at about the 1 minute mark.

I hope people don’t label us from what they hear, I want people to make up their own mind.  When we first started out, the first shows we did, I’ll admit we were kind of put off as a novelty act Bill (?) booked us and we heard through the grape vine that one of the reasons that he booked us at the Vogue for our first show ever was because he had to see a 500 pound guitar player on stage, that was the biggest thing he wanted to see, he couldn’t believe it.  And then, since that show we got others and we used to do some really wild things on stage, like B.A. would wear dresses a lot, and we’d destroy a lot of stuff, cause a lot of shit and make messes.  We were really cocky when we first started, cockier than we should have been I guess.  We thought fuck those other bands are no worse than, no better than we are, they’re just as bad as we are so what the fuck?

 I just want  people to make up their own minds.  We’ve become a good band.  We are a good band, and if you come and see us, you’re gonna like us.  You know, unless you’ve got an attitude problem, you’re gonna like us.

 I like everything about what he says here, because it accurately summarizes several important things for an artist.

one of the reasons that he booked us at the Vogue for our first show ever was because he had to see a 500 pound guitar player on stage

I don’t know Danny personally, so I don’t know how he feels deep inside about being a “500 pound guitar player” but stating it flat out here in a matter-of-fact way is perfect.  What do you say to that?  “Fuck you, I don’t like you cause you’re fat”?  I’ve always thought that personal acceptance is the most radical thing anyone can do in their personal life, because it frees you.  Which isn’t to say that we have to like everything about ourselves, I know I don’t, but when you can say “yeah, this is how it is” it means you don’t have to take every insult personally.

Because in the end, what does it matter?  I have an ex-girlfriend who used to say “what’s the big deal about someone saying you’re pretty?  It’s not like I did anything to have this face.”  I didn’t do anything for some of the gifts I have.  Genetics is just another word for dumb luck.  And in the same way, I didn’t do anything for some of my “faults.”

We were really cocky when we first started, cockier than we should have been I guess.  We thought fuck those other bands are no worse than, no better than we are, they’re just as bad as we are so what the fuck?

There’s a lot of ways to look at this.  You’ll never do anything if you don’t try is one.  I like to think of this as a restatement of my belief that everyone is special, but no one is that special.  Or maybe, only a few people are that special.  But even the most awesome people started off as lame imitators of the people who came before them.  So go for it.  What’s the worst that can happen?

And maybe someday you can get to where you can say this confidently, like Danny:

We’ve become a good band.  We are a good band, and if you come and see us, you’re gonna like us.  You know, unless you’ve got an attitude problem, you’re gonna like us.

Society insists on a lot of false modesty.  And I get it, having everyone running around thinking that they’re the best would get old.  But having to pretend that you’re not that good at something when it’s obvious that you are is stupid.  And if you’re a genius, you shouldn’t have to play that down.


In the end I guess no one really has an accurate assessment of their own talent, but we can try.  I’ve never personally been all that scared to try something.  (some of my former bandmates would suggest I’m not scared enough)  But every now and then I struggle with doubt about what I’m doing.  It’s part of the deal.  Just thought this was a nice way of putting it and wanted to share.