reaping the cost of solitude

Thursday, August 17, 2017

I understand the simpleton mindset of Trump

In the wake of what happened in Charlottesville, Trump issues several statements condemning violence from 'all sides'. I was initially enraged and utterly confused how a president could equate racists and human rights advocates on the same level. But after watching this video, I now understand the simpleton mindset of Trump.

I think he tries to mean well to call violence as he sees it on 'both sides'. He probably thinks he is being fair and impartial for doing so. But his immense ignorance of racism, and what the KKK and Nazis stand for is just disturbing for a US president. These groups hold hate rallies against other races and are basically trying to revive the appalling ideologies of their racist predecessors: to discriminate, enslave, and exterminate Jews, Blacks, and other 'inferior' races. To be clear, there is absolutely no such thing as a 'peaceful hate rally'. When you wish slavery, violence, and death upon your fellow human beings, you are going to be met with resistance and ultimately, violence. People need to remember that we fought a world war because of this. Freedom of speech stops when you infringe on the rights of others.

This vast ignorance in Trump's part has emboldened racists across America. They feel represented in the White House when Trump appointed white supremacists to his staff (eg. Steve Bannon, et al); they feel empowered when the White House subsequently tried to legislate laws that imposed discrimination against muslims and other minorities; they have found their voice because the US president has, at this point, effectively vouched and enabled them to assemble and incite hatred and violence, free from intervention from people advocating human rights- or the 'equally violent alt-left' as he ineloquently put it.

In Trump's simple mind, what happened in Charlottesville was just a 'peaceful' rally of the KKK and Nazis protesting the taking down of a confederate statue- a rally that was suddenly and illegally met with condemnation from counter-protesters, with the ensuing chaos resulting to violence 'from all sides'. That is absolutely not what happened. Trump, being the ignorant simpleton that he is, could not comprehend the staggering significance of taking action against bigotry, racism, and hate during that day, and for that he is clearly unfit to lead any country, let alone the United States. It cannot be stressed enough: when anyone uses and claims 'free speech' to infringe on the rights of others, they have forfeit it.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Pop Music is actually getting better

Let me be as objective as possible. Pop music is actually slowly becoming better. You should take a look at 90s and early 2000s pop music, right at the very edge before the MTV generation went under. The industry still had so much money they could mass market worthless acts into any top ten countdown. Remember boy bands? They literally had factories producing these groups that could barely sing as long as they can look cute on MTV (Blue, A1, Code Red, Boyzone, O-Town, Boyz in da Hood, Westlife.... *cringe*).

Sure the mainstream was much more diverse back then, and some really good acts were in the limelight, but they did not outweigh the pop garbage that was continually spewed by record labels during that era. Once piracy started killing off pop platforms like MTV, it slowly disenchanted brainwashed kids into normalcy. Money quickly became scarce, and the music industry suddenly became nonlucrative. Pop music eventually thinned out, weaned into a select few pop artists as the remaining record labels carefully select their artists with much more stringent criteria. For one, pop artists these days can arguably and demonstrably sing! In fact, I'm actually having a hard time naming a current pop artist who can't sing. Oh, Chainsmokers, but they're producers first and foremost at least. But Britney? Madonna? Jessica or Ashlee Simpson?

*This was an impulsive reaction upon finding the video below, without actually watching it.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Ransom Collective + Gab & John of Urbandub and the creative process

Yesterday I watched an episode of the Coke Studio series featuring the indie-folk group The Ransom Collective together with Gabby Alipe and John Dinopol of the now defunct hard rock outfit Urbandub. The series is basically about putting two completely different acts together, locking them up in a room, and forcing them to collaborate to create a new, original song. Both bands are also given a chance to choose a song from each other's catalog and do their own renditions. Overseeing the project is Raimund and Buddy from Eraserheads.

The Ransom Collective (TRC) is somewhat still a 'new' band despite having released several songs a few years back. The guys of Urbandub, being the seniors of the bunch, quickly acknowledged this, calling TRC the 'new breed' and stressing the need to scale back and take a back seat in an attempt not to ball-hog the creative process. However, this only seemed to put tremendous pressure on the guys in TRC - specifically the singer because as a result, he's unintentionally pushed to the limelight to become the head writer by default. There's nothing more terrifying than to write music and immediately have it subjected to scrutiny by your newfound peers. Thankfully, the Urbandub guys, while being supportive throughout, stepped up and went into a much more hands-on approach midway, and both bands managed to create a slightly awkward, TRC-ish track with distorted guitars.

The Ransom Collective, Gabby Alipe and John Dinopol of Urbandub and producers Buddy Zabala and Raimund Marasigan.

The creative process, in general and not just in music, is both scary and amusing. It's hard enough to express your ideas to your own band mates, but to have this strange band - these outsiders - tag along and actually see you go through the motions as you create something from scratch is daunting. No one can speak for TRC's singer, but most writers are hard enough on themselves. You're constantly looking for honest feedback while frightened to ask for it, and you're always questioning yourself. Am I doing it right? Should I do this instead? You present an idea and begin reading the people in the room. How are they reacting? Their body language? The worst thing that could happen is to receive condescending pseudo-compliments like "it's nice". You know, the kind that doesn't go overboard with praise but also not say "it's average" so your feelings won't get hurt. It's one thing to hear your closest friend say "it sucks", but to have strangers say it is another.

It's nice. In the worst case scenario, it means "your work sucks but I don't want to be a douche so let's just get this over with."

As for the covers, TRC did "First of Summer" while Cables and Space, er, Urbandub did "Fools". TRC's version of "First of Summer" was cute. It was adorned with the usual TRC embellishments like violins, xylophones, and vocal harmonizing that could make Lalay proud (former Urbandub bassist, back-up vocalist).

Urbandub's take on "Fools" was a highlight though. They managed to capture the dreamy aesthetic and the spirit of the original song while adding a new layer of hard rock to it. The original song itself was already remarkable, so it turned out to be quick work for Gab, John, and the rest of Cables and Space. Raimund and Buddy couldn't contain their excitement while witnessing the Urbandub alums at work, and harped praise over how "Cebuano musicians work". (Though I doubt the renowned work ethic from Urbandub and its ilk is still thriving in their hometown, since the alternative rock scene in Cebu is pretty much dead - along with its live bars. In its place - VisPop. But a rant for a different time.)

Overall, this series is fun to watch. On paper, it's a chance for listeners to hear their favorite musicians collaborate, but really - it's practically a reality show of sorts for writing musicians. Art, in general, is a delicate process. It's deeply personal, and it's hard to come out and share something personal to the world. While you're still in the writing process, it's sacrilege to show strangers your unfinished work, and you only ever show your drafts to people you trust. In this show though, musicians are forced to do the opposite. Regardless if you're working alone or with a new group of people, you will need lots of encouragement, honesty, and just an overall supportive environment to keep you pushing forward. Naysayers have no place in the room. Literally.

Catch the entire episode here: