July 2016 Archives

trans Americans

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Carrie MacDonald writes about a trans student who was forced to wear an identifying armband in school:

It's a scary time to be transgender in America. It seems as though there is a new law being considered every week to deny transgender people equal rights.

Now,a Kenosha, Wisconsin school district is being sued for allegedly forcing one of its transgender students to wear a bracelet identifying him as transgender.

The lawsuit [PDF] claims, in part, that the school is guilty of:

"...Instructing guidance counselors to issue bright green wristbands to A.W. and any other transgender students at the school, to more easily monitor and enforce these students' restroom usage..."

Given that "Transgender persons of all ages are subject to harassment and ridicule on a daily basis," as MacDonald writes, "We need to do everything we can to combat these discriminatory practices and defeat these heinous laws." It's worth pointing out (yet again) that being trans is not a mental illness. Matt Miller provides a quick history lesson:

It's a bit embarrassing to remember that it was less than half a century ago that being gay was listed as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. The organization declassified homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973 [which] marked an acknowledgment by the psychiatric profession that many of the problems seen in gay patients--depression, anxiety, suicide attempts--were the result of societal judgment and hostility, rather than the sexual orientation itself. In essence, that it was finally OK to be gay--or at least, it was no longer listed as a mental disorder.

Today, being transgender is facing the possibility of a similar paradigm shift as the medical establishment seeks to better understand the condition.

Miller later notes the following:

Research out of Mexico this week underscores the APA's findings that a hostile environment is to blame for the pain that transgender people experience and may help move the needle. The researchers, who interviewed 250 transgender people about their experiences, concluded:

Distress and dysfunction were very common, but not universal, and were more strongly predicted by experiences of social rejection and violence than by gender incongruence, consistent with the perspective that these reflect the result of stigmatisation and maltreatment rather than integral aspects of transgender identity.

Forcing trans kids to wear armbands certainly qualifies as stigma and maltreatment...

Angus Batey opens his ears to the Miles Davis classics Agharta and Pangaea, calling them "Extreme music, made by a man at the end of his rope, leading a band who were ready to run through walls to make something new and exciting every night:"

Davis - never one to settle for re-doing what he'd already tried - seemed to have succeeded in alienating almost everybody. He pissed off the jazz purists at the end of the 1960s when he brought British electric guitarist John McLaughlin into the studio to help make the album In a Silent Way.

If that wasn't bad enough, the follow-up, Bitches Brew, took Davis further down the same road.

His next disc, A Tribute to Jack Johnson, was a commercial disappointment. "While jazz aficionados were deriding him for 'selling out'," writes Batey, "Miles's new music was in fact so pioneering and different that it was going over everyone's heads:"

On the Corner, released in 1972, was vilified at the time, and has had the balance reset far too heavily since in reappraisals that hail it as a masterpiece. The record has easily as much wrong as right with it, and in many ways it represents the sound of almost two decades of careful and craftsmanlike refinement of ideas, sounds and style being driven at a steady pace and with care and deliberation into a solidly built brick wall.

"This band was all about the art," he continues:

...everything, from composition and set-structure to the intensity of the performances to the sheer volume at which they played, was an exercise in immersing the audience in the sound, overwhelming the senses with musical data, building a new sonic world that the listener has to inhabit and discover for themselves. [...]

No two sets were ever exactly the same, but neither were the performances unstructured or chaotic. The band knew exactly what they were doing, but there was no pre-planning about what changes would happen when. They would take their cues from Miles, who would tell them when to change tack, and what piece of music to segue into next, by playing deft little musical cues or by physically signalling to cut off certain passages and start others.

Audiences at the time--and many even today--were "unable to classify the work according to our established taxonomies:"

We lack not only a map, but also a functioning compass. Therefore we conclude that this is 'difficult music', that these forbiddingly long chunks of improperly named, barely navigable, often very abstractly shapeless blocks of sound have been built into walls so high we cannot climb them - so daunting and monolithic we can only stand awestruck in their presence before retreating to the comforts and securities of three-minute songs with recognisable hooks and names that relate to the images the tunes conjure or the lyrics a vocalist weaves in and around the tune.

On the reissue front, he opines that "one sincerely hopes there's something spectacular being lined up to honour the 1975 vintage band:"

Bootlegs exist of other gigs from that Japanese tour, as well as of shows back in the States later in the year, some of which are reckoned to be better than Agharta and Pangaea. An official release for as many of these as decent-quality recordings exist of would satisfy listeners approaching this music from both traditional and non-traditional routes: an extended immersion, complete with the usually detailed sessionography and scene-setting booklet notes the series delivers, would help demystify this astonishing music and place it in an enhanced and broadened context - while those who crave this music of excess would simply delight in being able to immerse themselves in even more of it.

The takeaway?

"This is some of the most adventurous, committed, spirited, inventive, beguiling, consciousness-expanding, exhilarating, and exciting music ever made."

The albums, as can be heard below, are the very antithesis of easy listening--but they can be very rewarding. Here's the Agharta album:

opened up

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HuffPo reports that Kristen Stewart is now "publicly confirming the rampant rumors about her sexuality for the first time." Elle UK quotes KStew as saying, "right now I'm just really in love with my girlfriend:"

"When I was dating a guy I was hiding everything that I did... But then it changed when I started dating a girl. I was like, 'Actually, to hide this provides the implication that I'm not down with it or I'm ashamed of it, so I had to alter how I approached being in public. It opened my life up and I'm so much happier."

the mind-killer

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Adam Lee explores negativity bias by asking, "If you could choose any year out of the entire span of human existence so far to be alive in, which one should you pick?"

You might choose to live in the age of exploration, or at the dawn of the scientific revolution, or in the company of great historical figures. But if you want the best chance of living a peaceful and happy life, if you're going solely by the numbers, then it's obvious: the answer is 2015. [...]

It was the year with the lowest rate of people living in extreme poverty, the lowest percentage of people without clean water, the lowest rate of child mortality, the highest rate of literacy, the most people ever with access to the internet, and more and more and on and on. Despite headline-grabbing acts of violence, despite ongoing political turmoil and economic stagnation, the world has never been safer, more prosperous or more peaceful than it is now.

The question, then, is why so few people realize this.

Negativity bias was on full display at the Republican convention, because an angry and fearful mob, primed with thoughts of mortality, will respond in an increasingly conservative manner. "This is why," writes Lee, that "atheists and rationalists must resist fear:"

Fear makes us simple-minded, intolerant of difference, anxious about change. Fear makes us shrink and withdraw, makes us anxious to cling to what we have, unwilling to explore or to build. Fear feeds the cause of religious fundamentalists, fanatics, and strongmen - everyone who sees a world drawn in simple lines of black and white. Fear makes people flock to dangerous demagogues who promise to keep us safe, whatever the cost.

AlterNet's Jim Sleeper contends that capitalism will wreck us if Republicans continue to ignore its cultural contradictions. "American conservatives have blamed liberals for disrupting culture," he observes, although they "never condemn soulless materialism of casino-like financing, predatory lending, and intrusive, degrading marketing that bypass our brains and hearts on the way to our lower viscera and wallets, destroying the civic culture as conservatives cheer the markets and displace the blame."

He wonders of Hillary: "Can she persuade Americans this week that she's gone beyond neoliberalism, identity politics, and cultural sermons?"

Chris Hedges, as usual, doesn't mince words when railing against those he identifies as the 1%'s useful idiots:

The parade of useful idiots, the bankrupt liberal class that long ago sold its soul to corporate power, is now led by Sen. Bernie Sanders. His final capitulation, symbolized by his pathetic motion to suspend the roll call, giving Hillary Clinton the Democratic nomination by acclamation, is an abject betrayal of millions of his supporters and his call for a political revolution. [...]

Change will come when we have the tenacity, as many Sanders delegates did, to refuse to cooperate, to say no, to no longer participate in the political charade. Change will come when we begin acts of sustained mass civil disobedience. Change will come when the fear the corporate state uses to paralyze us is used by us to paralyze the corporate state.

This is true, but will a centrist Clinton administration be all that bad? Certainly not when compared with the election's other possibility.

I disagree with Hedges' assertion that "There is only one way to rebel. You fight for all of the oppressed or none of the oppressed." Even partial and incomplete progress is still progress. When some were content with civil unions a decade or more ago, I applauded their efforts while still advocating for full marriage equality; forward momentum needs a push, not a polemic.

While I generally applaud Hedges' efforts, I doubt that assertions like "Those who do not defy the evil become its accomplice" motivate anyone but full-time activists. (We need them to be sure, but we also need the great mass of past-timers and single-cause supporters to do what they can.) We must all keep pushing HRC leftward, as Sanders did during the primaries. As FDR once told the Left of his day: "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it."

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2016 listed from newest to oldest.

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