Apr 27, 2011

I've Grown Accustomed to her Faith.

Dear Ask A Punk-
My girlfriend insists we spend certain holidays with her family. I hate going to these things and it isn't because I'm a jerk, it is because even SHE doesn't like her family, in fact I think I like them better than she does, but she feels this weird duty to show up and be miserable and really it seems like that is the only reason any of them are there. I didn't have a perfect home life growing up either but these people are worse than anything. I can't figure out why they bother going through the motions at the holidays when it is clear everyone would be happier if they all stayed home. Of course 99% of this has to do with the family's split views on religion - the one they grew up with vs. the ones all the kids fled to. She and I don't talk about or practice much religion at all, but when she goes home it is like a battle of theolgens - who also happen to hate each other on other levels too. How do I get her to stop this behavior? - Holiday Dis-spirit.

Dear HD-S-
Your best bet is to try talking about this at a time BETWEEN Holiday gatherings... You don't want to open this up in the days leading up to a visit or in the decompression period afterward... Find some harmless Tuesday afternoon to bring it up and maybe suggest that everyone's mental health would be better off if she opted out of the next Family dinner. It is worth a shot, but don't count on her coming around. Family Insanity has a pull to rival gravity... People just can't stay away from the very people that consistently bring out the worst in them... and no one does THAT more efficiently than dysfunctional family members.

It might cause some static in your relationship, but you could always tell her that YOU don't want to be part of the next next round of Holiday Madness... but be careful. You have every right to not want all of YOUR holidays ruined, but you don't want to appear 'unsupportive.' Why not tell her (and her family) that you have to 'alternate' between her family functions and your family functions? Then, when it is 'your' year you can decide to stay home (with her) and maybe once she experiences a couple holidays that don't include calls to the police etc, she'll be better able to wean herself away from the crazy she knows so well.

It is worth a shot.
Good luck.

Apr 20, 2011

Rave New World

Dear AAP=
This is a question I thought I would know the answer to since I've been thinking about it for so long. I'm a mother of a 14 year old girl who is at the point of wanting to go out and "explore" the same sort of things I wanted to at her age. I spent those years exploring punk rock clubs - starting with all-ages shows and wearing the uniform and making all the usual iffy choices about booze, some drugs and unreliable boys. I had always planned on being honest about these things with her, assuming that I would spend years 1 through 12 building up a level of openness and trust that I never had with my mom. I have done a pretty good job of that by most standards but now that it is show time, I find I'm second guessing myself. She has seen the pictures from those days and know that I wasn't always a "mom," and she's pretty smart and together for a 14 year old, but I know KNOW that part of being that age IS making the wrong choices, on purpose, just to see what might happen, and that worries me. While me and my friends would sneak out of the house to go to some all-ages show at a local gym or a punk house party for a few hours, my daughter is talking about going to weekend-long raves in big stadiums and 'camping out' in cars with her friends and that sort of thing. It seems far more extreme and dangerous. I feel bad enough that I can't understand the appeal of the passion-less and mindless computer-generated music... and I know that really the popular drugs at these things are the only way to make the music tolerable, I don't want her doing them. I regret the underage drinking and drug-taking I did, but I know I don't want to be a total hypocrite about it. What are other ex-punk parents doing about this? - ex-Exene wannabe.

Dear EEW-

It is obvious that an intervention is needed... to get your daughter off of that dreadful music. OK, I'm (almost) kidding, but still, I can understand your pain. I'll take a second to remind everyone that I don't have kids and, yes, I'm well-aware that "everything is different when it is your kid." and all of that, but still, I think a person in my position can have some valid opinions. Here goes...

First of all, congrats on having a good & open relationship with your daughter. I hope you enjoyed it. Even "good" and "well-adjusted" kids hit a kind of wall at that age where, as you pointed out, sometimes the novelty and allure of making the occasional 'bad choice' far out-weighs the predictability of making the (usual) right choice. Kids that age crave the possibility of seeing and experiencing new things.. and they know that those new things are most likely to come when they step out of their parentally proscribed Zone of Safety. If you have (or had) a healthy relationship with your child then a lot of the 'acting out' that happens in this phase isn't calculated to "get back" at you... but is more likely just a way to start measuring where they are on that sliding scale between dependent child and independent (and cool) grown-up... and keep in mind that she'll want to slide back and forth on that scale for a while.

Kids have to separate from their parents. That is so obvious that I feel idiotic even typing it, but it is the truth... and they can only figure out what they ARE by figuring out what they no longer are (ie: little kids who do everything mommy tells them to do.) I read somewhere that parents start out as CEOs to their kids: Dictating rules and commanding actions, but as the kids hit your daughter's age, parents take on the role of a consultant... The kid is going to make their own decisions, and you can only hope that they come to you for some input - which may, or may not change their minds about whatever dumbass thing they're thinking of doing.

The big question is: Do you trust her friends? ...Those friends are going to have more influence over her than you are for a while... Is your daughter hanging out with a faster crowd? Is she trying to fit in with a group of kids? -- if so she's likely to act out even more in an effort to win their approval -- OR does she surround herself with basically stable kids who are more-or-less at her level (socially and life-experience wise) who probably also share her interest in skull-numbing techno music? A good circle of friends is more likely to keep her from taking that free hit of Ecstasy from the creepy guy wearing the upside-down visor or getting in the van with the DJ's roadie... one can hope.

The bottom line is - I think letting a 13 year old go, unsupervised, to a weekend-long rave might qualify as child endangerment... so you're probably well within your rights to say a big 'no' to that particular plan, but you might want to consider attending a less-ambitious show WITH her. I know she'll probably hate that... but not as much as you will.

Good luck.

Apr 13, 2011

To Be or not to Beat.

dear aap-
I haven't been playing or writing songs for long. what if I want to write a song and use my own music but someone else's words, like old poems and stuff. Is that legal? - Cut and Paster

Dear CaP-
I find this to be an interesting question because it is the opposite of the usual situation. Most new musicians figure out how to play other people's songs first and then start laying their own lyrics over them.

Your question is almost quaint given that we live in a world of cut-and-paste music. With samples, loops and all the other tricks made possible by non-linear digital audio production software, it seems that everyone borrows (or "steals") bits and pieces of music, sound and voices etc, and then, without blowing, strumming or banging on a single instrument - pastes them all together, outputs the file and then calls themselves "musicians." ...and before any Girl Talk fans start a flame-war here: I'm not saying that this skill at audio engineering doesn't take a good ear and in many cases, some REAL talent... I'm not a Luddite, but come on people! Call it 'art', call it 'progress,' call it 'editing to a beat' ... but leave the term "musician" to the people who actually generate those moments of noise/sonics and not to the people who then manipulate and re-purpose the sounds. Even this isn't all that easy for me to say because "way back when" we punks were told WE weren't "musicians" because we didn't (really) know how to play our instruments... we were just bashing away, making noise and having our say... but at least we were interacting with actual musical instruments and generating, through muscle, sinew and mechanical means, the actual physical vibrations that created our music.

...ok, I'm drifting off-topic here. Sorry about that. The answer to your question is, unfortunately "yes and no." ... Since I'm guessing you're pretty young, I'm not sure what constitutes, in your mind, an "old" poem... That could mean something from the 1990's for all I know. In that case you would be in danger of infringing on someone's copyright, but if you're talking about real "old poems" such as Shakespeare's sonnets, then you're in the clear... assuming you're making a NEW recording of you (or your bandmates) DOing the reading...

...and I can't give you a set-in-stone cutoff date for when it would be 'safe' to use a piece of writing, because there are a number of variables... Something along the lines of: The estate of the writer still retains copyright 70 years after the death of the author... or something like that. But if you're digging up writings and poetry that are at least, say, 100 or 140 years old, you should be in the clear.

Good luck.

Apr 6, 2011

The Wide Man's Burden.

Dear AAP-
You've answered a couple questions now about how important it is or isn't for a band to worry about its "look" and all of that and you've talked about how you go about throwing a member out of a band AND you have even talked about how to figure out who gets stuck playing bass - I am all these issues rolled up into one person. When my friends and I were putting together a band, I agreed to play bass even though I was the better guitar player - their shady logic was "oh, since you're so good at guitar it'll be easier for YOU to learn bass." - so I did it, and after a while I did get good at it, and I figured out how and why to actually LIKE playing bass. The real reason they didn't want me playing guitar is because I'm not exactly frontman material. I'm a big guy, fat even. Not "cut a hole in the side of the house and get the fire department to help winch him onto a flatbed truck"-fat, but If I run my height and weight through the BMI calculator, I am officially "obese." Until we started the band, I didn't think my friends really cared, but once the band started and it WAS an issue, I realized it was something that could potentially get me thrown out of the band, friendship aside. Knowing this too is probably also why I agreed to play bass, because I still wanted to be not just in 'a' band, but in this particular band. With my friends. So now that we're playing out a lot and actually making a few things happen for ourselves (Next year or definitely by the year after that, we'll be ready to try to get into SXSW and stuff.) my bandmates are again making noises about my being too big... they never say THAT of course, they complain about everything else like "don't wear that shirt tonight, it looks like it fits wrong" How can a shirt fit wrong? I know what they're really saying. It is hard to pin down, but I just get the vibe that the squeezeout is coming and that they're going to find some excuse to replace me. Which really sucks because we've known each other since high school basically and we're all in our mid-twenties now. I mean these are really the closest friends I have in or outside of the band. What are my options in a situation like this? - Fat Strings.

Dear FS-
Your instincts are probably right. You know your friends well-enough to know when something is up. There are lots of ways you could go with this including (and I'm not saying this to be a douchebag) losing some weight. You're in your mid-twenties and you've "always" been big? Like I said, I'm not trying to be a douche - I know I need to lose weight too, but I'm a lot older than you and I haven't "always" had a weight issue, so the stuff I need to address is a bit different, for you though, it sounds like you just figure this is
the natural state of things for you, or perhaps a fate you've just resigned yourself to... and I can promise you, THAT just isn't the case. I'm NOT saying they're right. I'm saying you probably know, silently, that you would be healthier and better off (mentally/emotionally etc) if you found a way to get healthier - for YOURSELF.

For most people, even youngsters of your generation who were (unfortunately) raised on a diet of frozen pizza, McDonalds and high-fructose corn syrup, excess weight is an external sign of internal trouble, trauma and/or pain... and it affects not just where we shop for shirts, but it affects our mood, our personality and our capacity to hope. Think I'm wrong about that? Ask yourself why you so passively just 'accepted' their decision that you would have to play bass inspite of your six-string skills... What is the source of the lack or confidence (or perhaps self-esteem) that would let you
just roll over on the issue and let your "best friends" BS you into switching to bass...? Know what I'm saying? ... You're so young, you have the time, stamina and energy to change your whole freakin' life (internally and externally, mentally and physically) in ways you can't even begin to imagine... and all it takes is a little solid nutritional information, some achievable goals and a bone-deep understanding that your life and your good health is something worth fighting for.

I wonder if you're still reading this. I have no idea how truly open you are/were to really hearing all your "options" and I probably shouldn't have led with the "lose some weight" option, but THAT had less to do with staying in the band and more to do with staying off of diabetes medicine.

HERE is your main/best option:
Face the issue head on. It sounds like everyone is pussyfooting around the real issue. If these are really your closest friends, what CAN you all actually discuss openly with each other? I'm not talking about staging a big screaming confrontation, but rather having an "all cards on the table" summit. Find out what they're really thinking. Push for honesty, no matter how unwelcome it might be. Truth is, your "best friends" might just be a bunch of douchebags themselves. Finding something like THAT out reeeeeally sucks, but it is way better than not finding out until too late.

You sound like a good musician and a good guy. Ask yourself what sort of treatment you deserve from people... no wait, scratch that, because if your self-esteem has been kicked to sh#t, you probably don't think you deserve good treatment... Ask yourself how YOU would handle the situation if you were them... If you're not being treated as well as you would treat some other rotund bandmate, then you deserve to speak up, speak out and have your say.