Harlan Ellison

Ellison was the first writer I fangirled over. I proselytized about him everywhere. I gave away his books, I collected old copies from the used store, I bought in auctions et cet. But I knew nothing about the man as a person. Somewhere in my late 20s when I had gotten more “serious” about being a fan (joined forums, went to gatherings, started writing my own fiction, interviewed folk et cet) I heard stories about him as a person. It did not take long to develop a very negative viewpoint of him. So then he became my first writer to feel conflicted over. As a woman, I despised what I kept hearing about him over and over. But his words, his writing still stirred something deep in me and fueled me to keep writing.

Ultimately, I believed the only way to enjoy his work was to dissociate it from the man whenever possible. The more I learned about him as a person, the more flaws I could find in his work but it didn’t change the fact that the man was monumentally talented and a workhorse to boot. But he was also a bully. This is not my personal opinion, it is well known that Harlan Ellison loved to mock and humiliate others.

So, I don’t feel one way or the other about his death personally. I feel like another chapter of my maturation has ended but that’s what happens when you turn the corner on birthday and swing into your 50s.

Bon Mots to you Ellison, you old talented asshole.

Bishop Briggs Show

If you can see her, I highly recommend it. She puts on a great show. Her voice is even more impressive live. She has ungawdly amounts of energy – she runs, bounces, jumps up and down. Screams. flails, air punches; you name it. That woman does not STOP. I’ve never seen a performer with so much energy. I’m fairly certain she is not on meth because she didn’t speed up or twitch she just seemed to never tire. Her words were measured and normal as she talked with the audience. She would tell a few short stories to catch her breath then would launch into another song. She also amps the audience. She loved getting us all to sing her lyrics.

As my best friend, LaFemme, pointed out; all her songs are EPIC. The pounding, thrashing, sounds that blend with her voice are truly moving. You just have to hear it to get it. I liken her to what Portishead would sound like if they did gospel instead of hip-hop.
Kind of both?

But, bonus! She tested out a new unreleased song – which was uncharacteristically CUTE.

In fact, everything about Bishop Briggs is adorable. Every time we cheered she’d tilt her head and beam that big smile with true gratitude. She was so THRILLED that we loved her. But how could we not? The woman is a powerhouse singer with outrageous energy who absolutely loves to perform. It was worth every penny of reseller ticket costs. I’d put it in my top ten of best shows.

…yes she did “Like a River” and it gave me goosebumps.

Glenn Branca is Dead, but not in my heart

He was a crucial part of my growing up from obnoxious teenager to starry-eyed young adult. I had met a lot of musicians and actors but meeting him nearly made me faint. I Ardently loved him for what he did. I didn’t want to be a groupie, I wanted to sit at his feet and learn.

I don’t tell too many people this but when I did get to hang with him in person (I’d talked to him on the phone a few times before) (i’d also technically met him in person but at the time all I could get out of my mouth was “that was a great show” while staring) we talked about a lot of things and he told me he was managing a new band in New York. HE ASKED ME IF I WANTED TO MOVE TO NEW YORK TO BE IN THE BAND.

Sadly, at the time I had no desire nor means to move to New York, but I’ll never forget that My hero, Glenn Branca offered me a chance to be his protege. But I was intimidated. Yes, Me. I was so terrified by the notion of failing in his eyes that I said “oh wow, no, not right now… maybe in a year?” I said no because I wasn’t ready for that much change.

The band was named Rat At Rat R and I have two albums by them. I liked them but they never really took off. It doesn’t matter; Glenn Branca did a lot of work and I could have POSSIBLY worked with him. I could have massively changed my life by moving to NYC and joining some band he produced. But it just didn’t seem like a rational thing to do. and I was absolutely petrified at the notion of doing something with that much expectation. I was 17. I was just happy to be considered his “biggest fan…. possibly my only fan haha”

I’d written to him a few times after that and always received cordial replies. I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of the email I was using last time I emailed him.

But it doesn’t matter that much…. I let him know how important he was to me and that’s ALL that ever mattered to me when I met my heroes. Just to give them the validation and appreciation they had earned.

Oh Glenn… I hadn’t talked to you or even checked out your new work in a while but I will always love you. With all of my starry-eyed, hungry, girlish heart.

smart phones and the decline of society

I am coming to the conclusion that it’s not smartphones that are screwing up society, it’s the indirect effect of “immediacy” – because of tech like smartphones, everyone expects immediate answers. So it seems like everything you do requires another meeting, another answer, RIGHT NOW

that’s what’s driving me nuts. Before this tech, people communicated by phone and letter,. so people were used to waiting and scheduling things in advance or just muddling along without everyone’s input all of the time

now in order to be a part of something you are expected to show up all the time and be an active participant on everything

no more assuming people will just do their job. You have to go to endless meetings and discuss every freakin thing at any hour of the day and figure everything out together. Which normally I’d think is great but geeziz it’s true of EVERYTHING. nobody will just do a decent job of whatever, they expect everyone to be a part of it because after all you have a car, you have email, you have a smartphone so clearly you can just show up

Ursula K Leguin

Ursula K Leguin has died. She was the first sci-fi writer I read who was a woman. I was 13. I had read some fantasy stuff before but nothing could have prepared me for the brilliance that was The Dispossessed. She blew my mind. She made me hunger for more. Not just more sci-fi,. but more sci-fi like that. Playing with stereotypes, challenging tropes, and questioning our cultural mores. I honestly could not believe such writing existed before I stumbled upon her. She blazed a trail that was so necessary yet so welcome. Until I “found” her, I didn’t even know you could write things like that (and be popular!) She gave me hope and something to look up to. But it wasn’t just her books, it was her essays, her introductions for other authors and her missives she sent out for her fans. She was a bright spirit, despite what her writing was like,. with a quick wit, a sharp perspective and a very warm personality. I always wished I could meet her just to let her know how important her work was to me. But I take solace knowing that she knew, even if she didn’t know it was me personally, that her work was needed and loved by so many. The best part was knowing how happy she was to be doing what she wanted; sending messages to society, shouting into a void that whispered back in lines of gratitude and love. I am glad I was able to be a part of that. I will miss her. Even though I never knew her, she knew me.

Millennials

Everywhere I go, especially on the internet, I hear about how “entitled” Millennials are. At the same time, I see a lot of refutations to this claim. It’s been pointed out numerous times that millennials are living in an era where the economy is pitiful, the prospects are dim and life is in many ways stacked against them. It’s also pointed out that millennials grew up without certain parenting attitudes that “build character” and “toughen” a person. They are called “soft” and “overly sensitive”, the ultimate insult being they “want everything handed to them”

I have had enough of this circular argument.

We cannot continue to denigrate the latest generation of adults with such vague, pointless and unmoored attacks. We also cannot continue to defend them against attacks by pointing a finger back at the older generations. It’s true that the millennial generation doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but it must be acknowledged that the expectations they have aren’t traditional either. We must understand what it is that Millennials truly want before we can begin to discuss whether their wants are extraordinary or not.
What do they want? They want the same thing every generation has wanted: they want to live and flourish. But what is different is not the Millennials in general, it is the privileged Millennials that is different than generations before: they want the rest of society to live and flourish too. Their expectations aren’t just about themselves; they don’t believe anyone, privileged or not, should have to suffer just to survive.

Who can truly blame them for their desires? Even before the “free love” days of the 60s, the youth of our country has turned its attention to their fellow human and little by little changed how society runs. This did not happen overnight. It did not happen in a vacuum and it wasn’t done for any other reason than to rectify grave injustices in our culture’s past. The youth has always been capable of the kind of enthusiastic energy that begets true change. Indeed, it is very nearly a defining characteristic of social revolution that leaders are young, and full of fire. Without mundane things such as a day-job, children and age-related illness, it has always been the youth en masse who lead us into the future by their actions and their numbers. As a society, America has pushed ever outward to create an egalitarian, inclusive culture that does not discriminate; does not crush some groups in order to reward others. Over decades, every successive generation has “woken up” to some extent and declared, “I do not want these benefits if they come at the cost of someone else”

What have the older generations done with this growing movement through the decades? We have derided, denigrated and even punished them at every step. We have tried to tear down these social revolutions with our words, our labels and our fists and our laws. But we have always lost in the end. Because ultimately, society moves forward. It is not a logarithmic movement, it is not even exponential, but it is always a groundswell that reaches a breaking point for every new awareness of inequality.

There have always been those who do not join in the enthusiasm for remaking our society. There have always been and there always will be. Backlash is real and often dangerous. But where backlash has sometimes slowed progress through the weight of oppressive defensive tactics, progress eventually wins out. Because as society has grown, technology has brought people closer together with every generation. No longer do people live in villages, sharing space with strangers based on proximity alone. No longer do young people feel the familial obligation that binds them to the land of their upbringing. People know that their tribe is out there, it exists and all they must do is meet it, to finally feel at home.

So, it is that we come to an understanding of the millennial mindset. The young adults of today are called “entitled” and it is true. But “entitled” does not mean someone who is lazy and wants the world handed to them on silver platter. “Entitled” is someone who expects to reap the rewards promised them. In the case of previous generations, this has always meant achieving “the American dream” but the tacit understanding was that this was an entitlement of the privileged. The definition of that dream was different depending on who you were. Millennials are the generation that rejects that final nuance; the notion of equality only for the few. Millennials believe the bar of life should be set at a point not just for themselves but for everyone. How is “privilege” defined? Why is privilege only for certain subsets of specific groups? Why should that rule continue unchecked? The very existence of a privileged group exposes the existence of imbalance in our American dream. Millennials aren’t entitled because they want a good life, they believe a good life is something everyone is entitled to.

It is this imbalance that is the root of Millennial discontent. Not for themselves but for their world. For what is possibly the first time in American history, we have a whole generation that wants to encompass all who were born into it, not just some of them based on how they were born or what family they were born to. For the first time in American history, there is a generation that is willing to carve itself into subsets and groupings of its own choosing. Based on hobbies, fandoms, feelings, visions and declarations of dedication, Millennials separate themselves by what is important to them, not what previous generations tell them. For once, a generation comes along and self-defines. So naturally, this generation cannot sit by and accept a society based on artificial and unmoving mores. They choose who they are yet remain free to change at any time. They reject the previous generations’ chains of birthright. This is their true difference and why they feel so “entitled”. From their viewpoint, they are “entitled” to a world they were promised in books, movies and songs – a world that values cooperation, tolerance and strong will to succeed. Yet we have not arrived at that world and nobody knows that more than Millennials.

Most millennials grew up being told over and over that what mattered most was trying, giving it your all, believing in yourself, and hard work, and they came of age knowing that it was all lies. Today, in their adulthood, they see how different races, different religions, different body types and different genders are treated in our society. They see the reality of what they were raised with. So the word that describes millennials isn’t really “entitled”, it’s “disillusioned”.

It’s not about “participation trophies”, it’s about the idealized worlds we showed them again and again, hoping that they would forge a better path for everyone. But along the way, we forgot that the path was being overgrown by ominous forests of inequity and patrolled by intimidating wolves of economic despair. We wanted to nurture their fighting spirit, sense of fair play, and love of learning but we failed to create an environment that would keep those dreams alive and let them take over. We raised them to be ninja turtles but let the cities turn into sewers. We nudged them to swim but never gave them land to walk on, and all they can do now is tread water. Is it any wonder they are angry? Is it any wonder they refuse to participate in the culture we have brought them to?

The most important aspect of the millennial culture isn’t their disappointment or their bitterness at having been duped, it’s their steadfast refusal to give up and give in to the state of the world. Of course, they are angry and full of criticism: they inherited a quagmire of economic slavery, outrageous societal expectations and laws that whiplash with every change in the government. They were taught, by Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that all they had to do was cooperate, put their minds to work and be ready to fight for truth and justice, and our society would happily hand them a perfect world. Yet none of this has come to pass. Yet still they fight.

What is a genuine wonder, is that they continue to fight at all. Millennials are so irritating and annoying precisely because of what we taught them; to keep fighting for truth, justice and “the American way”. They threaten us because we never realized that their fight would be against us. Their fight underscores our failure as a previous generation. This humble, cooperative, egalitarian world we kept pushing them towards didn’t happen during our time and we full well know it. We overpromised and now they fight us for it. They will not let us rest until we let them bear the fruit of their labors… even if that means pushing us out of relevance.

Millennials do have a “problem with entitlement”. It’s a problem we created and the only solution is to accept their discontent, acknowledge the inequities they point out, give them the tools they need to recreate our society, and stop grumbling while they change the world.