Category Archives: Duff McKagan

Professor K. Cracks the Books

So, Duff published his autobiography, and I hereby order all of you to go read It’s So Easy.  I know I am as biased as they come about the man, but, the book is well worth the time you’ll spend.  I reviewed it on Amazon, so if you want more of my ecstatic waxing (that looked so much better in my head than when I typed it) enthusiasm over the subject, you can read my thoughts there.   I rather wish I had finished my thoughts about Bozza and Slash–not sure why I submitted without, but that paragraph should have read something like this:

Of the three AFD-era band members published so far, I enjoyed McKagan’s the most. Adler’s was painful in a I-can’t-even-finish-it sort of way, and while I enjoyed much of Slash’s book, I too often felt like I was reading Anthony Bozza–particularly in the quirky little questions and pseudo-cliffhangers. Folks who have followed McKagan’s post Guns-career and especially his writing will be unsurprised by how engaging the book is; folks who recall only the Duff of Use Your Illusion will be stunned. Readers looking for more salacious detail about the band once heralded as the world’s most dangerous will be disappointed. The memoir treads lightly–for the most part–there.

The same weekend I read Duff’s autobiography, I read Jack Grisham’s, which is titled American Demon.  For those who don’t spend their time mired in punk memorabilia and whatnot, Grisham hails from the early days of Orange County hardcore, most memorably for most in T.S.O.L.  Unless of course you were among those confronted by Vicious Circle, in which case, indeed, your memories may be a tad biased on the matter of the man.  And possibly his bands.  Grisham has rather oddly become a centerpiece in my class this semester, partially because his remarks in American Hardcore are themselves rather memorable, and also because it’s rather difficult to ignore that Slade in What We Do Is Secret is modeled on him (nor do I think it is intended to be ignored–and modeled isn’t nearly a strong enough verb).  As a result–or perhaps this is a matter of causation–I was drawn to the book.

While I’d undoubtedly recommend the book to someone, I’m not altogether certain who.  If you were running with Grisham at the formation during the heydays of OC hardcore, certainly it might be a take worth examining.  If you have any interest in the roots of OC hardcore, you still may enjoy it, though it doesn’t pretend to delve into punk for the most part, though he provides the obligatory and, frankly–given the rest of the book–mundane take on “real punk”:

Real punk is not being able to hold it together for your college degree, or for your long term, forty-hour-per-week day job.  Real punk isn’t fun or glamorous; real punk means that, against all your best intentions, you’re sitting in a lonely apartment with your head in your hands wondering how the fuck your destroyed your life again.  Real punk means that whatever you love is gonna be gone unless you get a touch of divine intervention–and as I said before, God doesn’t give  a fuck.

Real punk does suck.


…remember, history is rarely written by those creating it. So, I’d be careful what you read and believe. […] Columbus didn’t discover America, Edison didn’t invent the light bulb, and your favorite old-time real-cool punk band or singer wasn’t. (202-203)

I’m not sure what put me off more–the arrogance (I’m reading Jack Grisham, what else was I expecting?), the hyperbole (Edison!  Columbus!  Punk!), or the everyday wrapped in an air of revelation. As my students can testify, he’s hardly alone or original in those claims about punk.  Of course, it could simply be that I get irritated by any claim to know what “true/real/whatever” punk is.

It is all about me, after all.

As a recovery narrative–it isn’t.  I won’t go so far as other reviewers (and Grisham himself) to laud this as a book unlike the score of other books written by and about addicts in that it doesn’t end in redemption.  The publisher puts it this way: “Eloquently disregarding the prefabricated formulas of the drunk–to–sober, bad–to–good tale…”.  And, yes, the redemption narrative stops short–we don’t watch demon Jack recover, but that’s less a result of the narrative strategy than when the timeline of the book halts.  Fairly easy to avoid redemption when you stay out of the recovery part of the tale (and, indeed, there is that–Grisham has been sober for more than 20 years).  And, as more than a few examples can point out, mere sobriety does not necessarily render one a saint.  Nor a nice guy.  Nor even tolerable, nevermind redeemed and/or good.

Of course, it was intriguing enough to make me want to chart where the book belongs within the canon (such as there is) of redemption narrative and the sub-canon (far more codified) of the Faustian narrative, though that’s not quite what he produced here.

The book is worth reading, provided rape, various forms of violence (inflicted on women, men, children, well, everything, actually), and descriptions of alcohol and drug abuse aren’t triggering.  Also a general tendency toward asshole–it’s difficult to come away liking the narrative voice, though I certainly enjoyed the playfulness and the turns of phrase.  His description, for instance, of alcohol, was…uncomfortably familiar (and the very thought of Grisham in my head decidedly freaky):

Booze is a synthetic taste of God, created by man to satisfy a closeness that wasn’t there when he, the man, was created.  God, in His infinite wisdom (and need for acknowledgement), left a spiritual hole in man that only God could fill.  This way, man would have to search out his Creator to feel whole, and then than Him for being created.

Shit, that was a mouthful of words just to say that booze makes you feel all cuddly and warm inside. (45)

Okay, so not really in my head, but, yeah.  I smiled.  I even whipped out the highlighter.

Two books arguably about similar topics (white dude, hardcore punk, addiction, and in Duff’s case, life thereafter), but wildly, wildly, oh so incredibly, different.  If ever two books could showcase what differences in narrative tone and thesis can do to a story, these are ready for the pairing.

Go forth and read, my children.



For some of us, when the final penny finally drops, we’ll crawl to rehab or to wherever or whatever it is that will finally bring the peace of clean and sober.  For others, the final penny will drop only with the moment of death.  And none of us know which penny will be ours.  None of us.

Or which one will be the last, for that matter.

What needs to be said, brutally and beautifully about addiction and Amy Winehouse’s death can be found in Russell Brand’s “For Amy.”  Read it the whole thing, but here’s a taste:

All addicts, regardless of the substance or their social status share a consistent and obvious symptom; they’re not quite present when you talk to them. They communicate to you through a barely discernible but un-ignorable veil.

A softer, but no less apt tribute by Duff at Reverb:

I only know that addiction is a lonely and terrifying place to be. It’s not glamorous, and addiction does not care if you are well-known and rich, or a loner-hermit with no dough.

They are both entirely worth the read.

Addicts, the ones I’ve encountered in the last few days, myself included, have reacted with a bit of recoil:  Experience, Strength, and Hope is ALWAYS tempered by the reality that reminds what the other path will hold.  Amy’s death is one such reality.  And before her Andrew. Kurt. Janis. Jim. Jimi. Jimmy. Layne.  And scores of others heralded by first name to the family of fans and by so much more to friends and family, some of whom might have waited for the call.  And waited.  And prayed it was a cry for help or a resolution to find another way.  Accident or intent is irrelevant when the other call comes.

A penny dropped. And with it went a voice. A godmother. A friend. A daughter.

Fangirls and Community

Weirdly, this post occurred to me as I finished Brad Warner’s Sex, Sin, and Zen last night, coupled with the exciting revelation that I get to go be a fangirl with some of my favorite fellow fangirls in April *bounce, bounce,* when Loaded plays the Revolver Golden Gods Awards Show (add to this Alice Cooper AND Avenged, how was I to miss???).  Anyway, I’ll get back to his book and his notion of the effect of personal choices within a community in a bit, but if I recall correctly, I was initially inspired by the realization that I am something of a Brad Warner fangirl (read all the books! link to his blog! *sigh*) and in that regard, fangirl possibly doesn’t mean in my head quite what it might once have.

Fangirl (per Urban Dictionary) [A/N– all spelling errors belong to the site/poster, not kitsch]:

A rabid breed of human female who is obesessed with either a fictional character or an actor. Similar to the breed of fanboy. Fangirls congregate at anime conventions and livejournal. Have been known to glomp, grope, and tackle when encountering said obesessions. 

I’m fond of the use of rabid here; good image, fits the rest of the definition, which seems to regard fangirls as a subspecies of Saint Bernard (read it again, am I wrong?).  I tend to use the term somewhat more loosely, as a female-identified fan of a particular stripe.  You sort of know us when you see us at a concert (yes, I have an lj, and yes, we’ll get to that in a moment).  We often travel in packs, it is true, and we are often a tad…let’s go with overwhelming to the uninitiated.  Couple of examples, all pulled from personal experiences:

At the Avenged show last month, I found myself, as my partner-in-crime observed, square in the ZackyV fangirl squad.  This was not, she also rather cheekily noted, an entirely incorrect placement, either (and not a bassist.  Who would have imagined?).  Now, I’m older than most of the denizens by a decade or more (man, that was horrible to admit–and older than the object of their affection by 6 years.  Ack), and while I sport a few tattoos, piercings, and dyed-hair, I’m afraid my particulars are rather tame in comparison to most of the girls that were in the area around me, owing to the realities of my calling (the industrial, visible tattoos, and penchant for wearing combat boots or Converse high-tops have probably pushed it about as far as I can go, though I would rock blue hair and a lip ring, thank you).  Now, for those of you who don’t congregate in General Admission pits, please note that I am not referring to the sort of lady who pitches her recently-shed thong (not footwear) on to the stage.  Or bra, if you were from an older, calmer era–about 1990.  Those are not fangirls; we have other names for them….like Roxana Shirazi (I kid).  Fangirls, at least the younger and more boisterous set, come equipped with signs that name the object of affection’s dogs (case in point:  “Icky for Prez”* was one that was spotted) and stuffed animals of various sorts.  While such items were certainly present in the ZV fanbase, I did find myself wondering what the group in front of stage left was like…I couldn’t see any of what was thrown at Syn, but I feel certain there were similarities.  Including signs about Pinkly (shut up. That one at least has an easy explanation for its placement in my brain).  And the pet thing…I’m pretty sure this random information collection habit is a holdover from my youth (I arguably reached stalker-like knowledge of the objects of my fangirl affection pre-internet.  Fangirls got it easy now, I tell you.).

More well-known around these parts is the fangirling over Duff and his various bands.  I’ve connected with other women (and men, but we’ll leave them off for right now) over Duff’s bands and Duff himself through various media, including (once upon a time) letters and (now) email, discussion boards, the comment section for Duff’s blog on Reverb, and in person over the years.  And while we embrace our inner teen divas when we rock out at concerts (yeah, much excitement right now), gone are the signs (mostly–they still crop up from time to time) and gifts are likely to be books from discussions or food, should there be any at all.  Giggling and screaming, admittedly, has probably not reduced by much.  Pack-level attacks, on the other hand, probably have, what with our far cooler adult approach to seeing the objects of our affection.

Hey, I managed to keep a straight face to write that!

Once upon a time, of course, I was one of those teen fangirls, complete with signs suggesting rather lewd behaviors (the lovely lady formerly known as CDR, should she read this AND remember any of those signs, is specifically forbidden to relay the contents of those messages.  Ahem.) and, probably, some sort of gifts.  I know I gave Steve Brown (Trixter) a photo album for his birthday one year–filled with live shots of the band (I think.  I don’t really recall what was in it now).  So, I get where the young fangirls were coming from, and I was amused and amazed at the similarities some 20 years on.

What I want to get at here is the formation of community–real, functioning communities–built around a shared adoration of a band/book/person/etc.  I’m utterly fascinated by the creation of such communities, their ability to self-sustain (or not), and the particulars of the communication strategies.

One other common feature of (some–YMMV) fangirls, and this is particularly visible now in communities,  is fanfiction.  Real Person Fiction, as such, has been around practically forever (I’m willing to hazard a guess that Farinelli had a good bit scrawled about him, never mind the fannish movie made in 1994.  Ah, stupid me–googled it.  There is fanfiction NOW about him.  Sheesh.).  I wrote (hideous) fanfiction as a teen, most of it band-related, along with those friends who participated in the same.  In those stories, we tended to work out our anxieties about growing up, about identity–and the band members functioned mostly as sockpuppets for whatever crisis we were attempting to work through at the time.  While I’m sure communities did arise out of such works, I first became aware of such communities only in my twenties, when a friend of mine joined a Xena community (I’m not sure how most of their exchanges were conducted, though.  One person subsequently self-published a novel from the community works, if I recall correctly).  I don’t write fanfiction anymore, but I do read it (as I’ve mentioned endlessly), and I participate at slightly more-that-lurker levels in some commenting areas, but the primary difference for me between now and then (other than identity establishment, maybe) is that I now have a shared language based on community (and to describe the fanfiction community as large would be a rather egregious understatement) standards and agreement, which means we all can more or less have a clue WTF the other person is ranting about.  The language includes an extensive vocabulary, rules–these are the most fluctuating**–and expectations of behavior from authors and commenter.  I’m also fascinated by the breadth of fandom–fiction, discussion boards, tumblr sites, and so forth (along with related expectations regarding ownership, censorship, and plagiarism); take a gander if you’ve not–it’s wild out there.

For the most part, the fanfiction of my youth, not unlike zines and DIY cassettes of the same period, was exchanged primarily through personal means–there was no large-scale publication that I am aware of, prior to the advent of online exchange.  Say what you will about fanfiction, there are serious communities that form around it, and those in bandoms are particularly interesting to me.   These communities form rules–some highly concrete (how to post, standards of exchange (banned words, slash/gen/het), ) and some more ephemeral–particularly in the portmanteaux that have become so common (Brangelina), the alliances behind which can cause some almighty arguments in communities*** (to say nothing of the One True Pairing fights) over what will be regarded as a canonical shorthand for a particular pairing; Glee fandoms have some of the best fights about them (personally, I still haven’t recovered from the advent of Puckleberry).  Like other online communities, the fangirl/fanfic communities have particular attitudes and, for lack of a better phrasing, flavor, based on the personalities of those involved and the participation level of the moderators (who deserve their own discussion).

To follow:  Some Communities are Self-Policing.

*Were Rikki sitting here, she would require the following confession, so in a spirit of honesty, she nailed me on the appropriateness of our placement in the pit when I translated the sign for her.  Her response was naught but a lifted eyebrow and a giggle.  At me.

**A recent occurrence, courtesy of one of my favorite fandom rant sites:  a lengthy debate over the necessity of trigger warnings and, more over, correct trigger warnings (that this debate mirrored one that happened at Shakesville was both astonishing and a bit heartwarming, though I tend to suspect there are more than a few of us in both communities).  The Supernatural fandom was particularly set afire by fics posted on this matter after episode 6.15.  That I am aware of the ferocity of the debate in that fandom is testament to how widespread it was (for that brief internet moment), since I am not a part of that fandom, though I do watch the show.

***We’ll leave off the various splinterings in fangirl communities over wives/girlfriends.  That, my friends, gets ugly.  Far more so than I care to touch, thankyouverymuch.  Like some of the stuff below, I feel certain the same existed in my own youth (I seem to recall some of it in conversations), but nothing like what I see online.  These debates seem particularly common on tumblr sites.

How It’s Done

Must be one of those points in my life, because the blog is becoming a bit Duff-centric again.  Nevertheless, onward.

Read this eloquent apology.  Don’t worry about the whys or hows or whos or whats.  Just read the damn thing.

I cannot begin to fathom what 1994 was like for Duff McKagan–he taps at the year every now and again, the collapse, the renewal, the fear, and the hope.  He appears to be as honest as he is able to be about the year; I imagine that many days are lost not only to the haze of almost 16 years, but, of course, to the addictions as well.

But his post…this is a life of integrity.  I screwed up and I am sorry.  No excuses–context, yes–but no “it was all just because…”  Here we see an honest evaluation of self and a recognition of a continual need to reevaluate in order to grow.  And publicly, at that.

Kudos to you, Duff.  Kudos.

Edited to add: Seems to be a bit more traffic than usual, and I suspect I know why.   For those of you looking for Krist Novoselic, please click here.  I lack the “t” on my name–and the grooviness as well.   And, no, you are not alone in the confusion, but it wasn’t a typo in the name on third response to Duff. That’s me.  Krist is here. Carry on.

Radical Transformation

I hold Duff McKagan entirely responsible for this text.

Okay, that’s not quite accurate–he inspires part of my ramblings today, but not all of them. And, hell, it’s not like anyone reading these pages could possibly find the above comment surprising. So, Duff, thank you for providing the board from which I will now gracefully leap, or be shoved, as it turned out.

Last week, for those who don’t (shame on you) keep up with Duff’s various blogs, Duff jokingly proposed (see, yes, I got the joke) a new political ticket: McKagan/Novoselic in a post in which he speculated on some of the current failures in American politics, politicians in general being the most central to these failures.  Krist (the Novoselic mentioned above, should you be wondering), responded with a fantastic takedown of the American public and the need for “we the people” to become “more personally invested” in the entirety of the political process.  Duff then responded in kind.

Got that?

For what it is worth, I agree with both–sort of.  I do think that personal investment and radical transformations are significant and necessary.  Even though my last adventure on the matter rather blew up in my face.  A small, if rather vocal minority, advocated for radical change and were summarily rejected, often in rather vicious ways.  In the end, many of us either stepped down or outright left the church.  Two factions existed, they could not come together, and one gave up the fight.

Do I see a correlation with the current Health Care Reform Bill?  Yes, I do.  In this case, a vocal majority advocates for change but spend a great deal of effort hoping for a better majority.  As my husband often reminds the kids, better is often the enemy of good.  Hell, any one who has ever attempted  a dissertation might agree–there are two types after all: finished and brilliant.

And those categories tend to be mutually exclusive.

Yesterday, I ended my membership at the aforementioned church. That I was struggling with the direction of the church is nothing new to anyone here, and it is true that I resigned my leadership positions in December.  My foot has been out the door for some time.  What changed this week, though, had little to do with the church theology and politics, at least I think so.  What happened was gossip.

Now, I’ve been pondering right speech of late any way in preparation for Lent (I was rather leaning on it as a theme), particularly after reading A.J. Jacobs’ delightful The Year of Living Biblically, which, sadly, I don’t have in front of me right now.  He notes in the course of the year that the need to think carefully before speaking becomes a concern of his almost to the point of obsession (the sections on honesty are just wonderful).  At what point do we abandon honesty necessarily?  What needs to be said?  Will it help or hurt the world for me to speak this particular act?

In the midst of all of this, I was reading slacktivist (granted, I am always reading Fred’s blog, it seems.  Really, I do have a life.  I promise) and this comment struck me:

The authors do a commendably thorough job of debunking and refuting Warnke’s claims. Their earnest, devout perspective makes that debunking even more thorough as it requires them to take agonizing pains to avoid bearing false witness or a lack of charity. You’ll rarely encounter muckraking conducted with such sorrowful reluctance or such genuine lamentation over every bit of dirty laundry uncovered.

And he’s right.  I read those articles and several more besides, as the writers at Cornerstone dismantled Warnke’s stories and others who helped to propagate the hysteria that has come to be known as the Satanic Panic.  Utter commitment to honesty and charity, even whist pointing out the myriad ways in which Warnke lied.

And then Tuesday happened.

I mentioned a few weeks ago (and the events I mentioned are largely why I’ve not been writing as much as I should) that several events had occurred in my life–big ones–but not ones that were mine to share, though they directly affect me.  I pondered laying all the stories out at the time, but it felt unjust.  And, truth be told, it still feels like it would be, so please bear with my vague references for a moment.  On Tuesday, it was relayed to me that one of those events had been shared with a party who had no particular need to know the situation.  The sharer of the story was a church member (who, I’ve no idea, given how few people I’ve told) and the sharee (?) was someone who has been troublesome in my life.

Again, suffice to say that the information was inappropriately shared.  At a time when I desperately needed sanctuary–and I was trying to seek it at the church, in my own small ways–a member of the church took it upon him or herself to tell the story to someone who not only was not a part of the tale but is also someone who I emphatically do not trust.

I wonder if the layers of conversation about gossip and right speech were to prepare me for a response to this mess.

Cue the Duff blogs:  Krist’s remarks in response to Duff made me think more about right speech–and right action.  I can sit back and complain about the ways in which I feel wronged or sad, or I can attempt action.  I can be that change, rather than simply hoping for it.

In other words, did the rugs get pulled because there is a transformation that I need to recognize and have allowed myself not to see?  Have I not been personally invested enough in something I need to pay more heed to?

I’m not quite at a point of action, though I did a damn fine job of running yesterday–maintaining a lovely 7:00 minute mile on the quarter-mile repeats. (Note to self: running fast–yes, this is fast for me–does not suck.  In fact, it rocks).  I am though at the point of consideration–seeking more examples of right speech (clearly, I don’t ever want to–even inadvertently–do this to someone else) and change.

I think, though, the notion of radical transformations will be my Lenten reading.  I’m also going to fast this time–I’m not buying any new books (this is HUGE for me, really) and I’m not going to eat meat during Lent, just to change up my meal structures for a while…see what happens.

I’m looking for book suggestions on this theme–any are welcome.  I’ll be blogging on the readings (and probably kvetching about the fast) throughout Lent.  I’m definitely going to include some political readings (I generally do, this is nothing surprising), but I’d really like to encounter some that deal with transformations of process, not just idea-worship (which I excel at already).

Okay, I promised to write on Beautiful matters, rather than just Disease ones, so to sum up the beautiful here:

  • Political dialogues by favorite bassists who are also willing to think and explore possibilities (what is not to love, really?)
  • Lenten readings
  • A chance to create, rather than receive, sanctuary
  • Running.  Running fast, in particular. Next race is at the end of the month.  Woot!

And while this last is clearly about addiction, it is also quite beautiful:

  • This Sunday will be 365 days

Anonymity, Safe Space, and Other Frontiers of Modern Existance

Warning: Much random thought follows. Not sure if it all comes together in the end.

There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle at Duff’s SW blog over the last two weeks, owing in part to what is largely a poorly worded gauntlet-throw by our busy author and, well, generalized internet obnoxiousness. There is also a bit of a punk rock debate intermixed, but we’ll leave that alone for now…it’s a separate issue, though, I grant, one of my personal favorites.

The debate is largely over the condition of anonymity on the internet and how we use it.

Duff’s initial reaction appears to have been against commenters who post anonymously, trashing bands and so forth (and, presumably, the truly irritating set who insist on making repulsive remarks about his family–when is this ever necessary??). More precisely, he remarked that people should use their own names. Rightly or wrongly, it inspired scores of his readers to start posting under their own names or connecting their RL names to their online aliases (and, often, the particular ones used at the Loaded site). It seemed to me at the time that he was being reactionary–exactly to what I’ve not been able to discern (who gives an damn if an anonymous user trashes Green Day or whichever other band is mentioned–band trashing may not be any more conversationally useful than any other form of such behavior, after all), but clearly responding against something that bothered him immensely. Fair enough–his blog, his rules.

This blog is nominally anonymous, in so far as I don’t provide my name, but most readers know me personally or I self-disclose by, for instance, directing my students here to read up on explications or some other old post. Yes, I realize that they can read the more personal information, and, truthfully, that’s fine with me. I’d rather that they know I am human; I hope that the struggles recounted here could be of help to someone else–a student, a friend, a stranger…it doesn’t matter and I don’t even need to know, but I would like to think that occasionally this blog can stand as a reminder that someone else is out there, walking a similar road.

As it happens, I already use my RL name in the comment section of Duff’s blog. This was a big deal for me at the time I begain posting (I felt so exposed), and, since I link back to these pages, it doesn’t take much effort to get my first name.

I use an internet alias here, one I’ve used over the course of a decade or better, and I seldom post pictures that would identify me, though this is more of a “I hate pictures of myself” problem than a “oh noes they mights figures mes outs*” problem, so I thought I would bite the bullet and share one with you today.

Helpful, isn’t it?

This gem, as the shirt suggests, is about 20 years old. I’m not sure how old I was…between 13 & 15, I would imagine, but barring any other identifiers, I can’t be sure. Since it wasn’t in my room, the posters don’t help either, though, truth be told, I probably had many of the same ones back at Chez Kitsch. Oh, and, no, I haven’t the slightest idea why I have my hair (OMG–look at all that hair! And the grin. Wow…I used to grin???? See it?) over my face…it was likely a Cousin Itt impersonation, but I might have been trying for Slash, though the photographer could do a waaaaay better Slash than me. But, you know, that picture is a pretty good summation of me: T-shirt, goofy hair, and late-80s music—>me in a nutshell (heck, even now). Anyone who knew me then and still remembers me well enough could easily identify that pic as me, I feel certain. The Duke shirt alone would be a significant tell; if the Duke sweatpants (which I am no doubt wearing) were visible, those too would be a giveaway, I wore them so very often, to the immense annoyance of Tarheels fans I grew up with.

But, I don’t expect that people remember me. In fact, that is one of the operating premises of my life. I assume that I’m easily forgotten and of such little consequence that there is never any reason to assume otherwise, so I am caught surprised when people do remember me. So, the anonymity here is also an outgrowth of my standard operating procedure–I generally assume that I am anonymous–more or less–in my everyday life, so it seemed easiest to continue that feeling in the online environment. Thus, the exposure I felt when I first put my name on Duff’s comment section; I’m used to a relative amount (however false it may be) of anonymity and to choose to violate that was quite scary.

Another commenter at Shakesville noted recently that she uses her real name when commenting there because she spent so much time hiding and dishonest in her alcoholic days, and I can understand where she is coming from there, too. In fact, when I read that comment, I was a bit stunned. It felt incredibly authentic, something I aspire to, but often mishandle. Authenticity was not why I used my RL name on Duff’s blog (I guess); I’m not sure why I did, in truth. All I know is that it felt right at the time, whereas other spaces seem to call for one of my two favorite Internet aliases.**

In the picture above, I was as much myself as any young teen is capable of being–in my best friend’s bedroom, goofing off and grinning (just trust me–it’s there). I was in the safest of spaces–in the presence of someone I trusted entirely, who, in myriad ways, granted me permission to be whomever I needed to be at that time and space, as I searched for who I would be in the great someday. I think I was perhaps at my most authentic in that moment–goofy, laughing, wanting to be the center of attention, but hiding from the fact of the attention.

Such authenticity is harder to come by now. I’ve tried to be so many different people, according to the places and times and the demands that are made (or the demands I interpret, which may or may not actually be there). Such is the fact of human existence, of course–we all codeswitch. Many people are forced to live in a private hell for the comfort of others–to violate their authentic selves, lest they be shunned publicly, rather than just privately. Imagine living a life that forces contraction–forces fragmentation beyond the codeswitching we all live within.

Got the pain there? That’s empathy. Use it judiciously before going on the attack.

It’s funny how often we authenticate our aliases–give the stories behind them, mention how long we’ve used them (as I did above) and in what contexts. These aliases become a part of our authentic selves, should we use them long and carefully enough. The fragments we create in the aliases initially may bind and reform and reshape us as we grow and change online and off.

The online communities in which we live an participate offer us the possibility of expanded communities, greater empathy, and more opportunities to critically examine HOW we can be authentic, regardless of place, space, or time. The trick is, though, not to lose site of the opportunities by turning the comments into a free-for-all (which is what seems to happen, more often than not). Rather than using aliases as ways of naming ourselves and staking a claim for our selves, we too often use the anonymity to become self-righteous and thoughtless. How much better if we used the “second lives” we can share online to expand, rather than contract and attack. We turn the comment sections of newspapers and blogs into…well, how often do you “avoid reading the comments” because you know how awful they will be (I don’t for instance, read comments in newspapers, lest I send myself around the bend)?

Duff made a mistake here: he unintentionally pulled a great big guilt trigger on a number of regular readers and commenters, which bothers me more than I can articulate. Within a few minutes, people began posting first and last names, etc., in order to…what…appease him? It’s a peculiar trade-off that I’ve seen on a number of high-readership blogs; commenters forge a community of sorts–sometimes deliberately and other times just by the circumstance of participating together regularly. The blogger, however, operates in a special zone in the community, which will tend to bend to his or her will or outright reject it. A study of this habit in miniature can be seen in the comments from the blog in the week preceding the one linked above.

I don’t believe that he intended such a response–he’s never struck me as that sort of manipulator (even if he is a youngest child *grin*), but the revelations–the exposure of names–happened nonetheless, even by people who were offended by the remark that commenters should reveal more than he or she may be comfortable with*** the nebulous truth of their names. I *think* (see previous remarks on understanding one’s hero vs. taking wild guesses, the latter of which is really what I am doing) he was merely getting at avoiding bad behavior and generalized obnoxiousness–to quote Fred Clark (again): “[s]imply follow the Golden Rule because it will protect you from becoming a gaping asshole.”

When we enter a blog, we enter what can be a safe space for sharing, reflection, thinking, and, yes, humor at one an other’s expense. We are invited to enter someone’s thoughts–a fragment of their own self–and we should respect that. His blog; his rules. But, we should, I think, find ways to encourage each other’s growth and voice–help each of us find our inner goofy kid, hiding behind her hair, hoping to be noticed and terrified that she might be, grinning and laughing. Damn, we’d be so much happier if we all got a little goofy together, rather than taking offense, going on the attack, and generally engaging in gaping assholery.

*Props to K. for providing proper Internetz speak here. I’m not yet conversational in the dialect, though I feel competent in my reading ability of such.

**solitarykitsch (of course) and, well, suffice to say that the other involves a long story and Trixter.

***The more I thought about that phrasing, the more wrong it seemed–he never asked for giving beyond comfort per se, though people certainly took it that way.

Loaded Punk

Eeegads…okay, a request, then a post: if you tweet, go follow Duff and Loaded on Twitter, please. Duff has suddenly decided that tweeting rocks; help the man out and show them some Loaded love. Also, as an additional PSA, if you’ve not heard Loaded’s Sick–get out there and have a listen! Myspace, with tracks from the album, is linked at the bottom of the page (it works now, I promise).

Love, love, love my Loaded boys.

Maybe that should be a weekly post (because, you know, I’m so good at keeping up with my own injunctions about what I’ll write each week–how many marathon posts do I owe? Forget the sobriety posts–I’m so far behind on my initial dictum that I’d probably be writing until sometime next Juvemeber to approximate catching up to TODAY. Oh, and the punk history I should have finished 6 months ago? *Snort.*) But it would be fabulous, right? A weekly edition of “Have you Loved Loaded Lately”? Or maybe just “Loaded Love”…someone help out here. Need a decent name for the weekly blog posts I’ll inevitably forget to do.

Here’s a starter, though: Follow ’em on Twitter (links above, but duff64 and loadedlamf, if you don’t wish to scroll back up), if you are of the tweeting kind. Go on, I’ll wait here.

Finished? Thank you! I’d say that Duff, Mike, Geoff, & Jeff thank you too, as it seems to be a reasonable guess, but, well, I’m not one to speak for other people.

So, the post part–we’re going to pick up on the aforementioned punk history track [link provided if you’ve no clue what I mean, or have forgotten those vast pearls of wisdom (*snort*)]. Two places I have not yet had a chance to wander though yet: gender and consumption. As you might guess from the title, we’ll look at the latter of these first–> ye olde drunk punk.

As I have mentioned before, the “drunk punk” rhyme has been around from the get go, so far as I can tell. The first time we have record of “punk” being employed in written text is in 1575, in the bawdy little poem: “Old Simon the Kinge ” (can be found in a collection called Loose and Humorous Songs, which can be found here*). The notice that precedes the collection is itself a fabulous study of culture; check this out:

…but we make no excuse for putting forth these Loose and Humorous Songs. They are part of the Manuscript which we have undertaken to print entire, and as our Prospectus says, ” to the student, these songs and the like are part of the evidence as to the character of a past age, and they should not be kept back from him.” Honi soit qui ma y pense**. They serve to show how some of the wonderful intellectual energy of Elizabeth’s and James I.’s time ran riot somewhat, and how in the noblest period of England’s literature a freedom of speech was allowed which Victorian ears would hardly tolerate. That this freedom dulled men’s wits or tarnished their minds more than our restraint does ours, we do not believe.

I love this rationale, as it reveals so much about Victorian England (when the book was published)–don’t judge the Elizabetheans*** on the standards used by Victoriana, their “wonderful intellectual energy” may have “run riot somewhat” (brilliant!!), but we do not believe that it somehow lessened their intellectual force, anymore that the restraint celebrated by our Victorian England does now. We have the same farking argument all the time now–what mode best supports art–freedom or restraint? What limits (if any) should be placed on art? It’s clear, of course, that their (editors Percy, Hale, and Furnival) perspective required defense inside their particular culture. What a fantastic glimpse.

Anyway, in the text of the poem, the poet remarks “Soe fellowes, if you be drunke,of ffrailtye itt is a sinne, as itt is to keepe a puncke,or play att in and in…” Put short, the line will go on to tell readers that, while drinking, whoring, and gaming are sinful (and will, result in “want & scabbs”), one must take risks in life–and these are worth it. The worth of wine, women, and game is set out by King Simon, he of the “ale-dropped hose**** & […] malmsey***** nose ,” when he notes that “ffor drinking will make a man quaffe,& quaffing will make a man sing, & singinge will make a man laffe, & laug[h]ing long liffe will bringe.” Indeed, laughter is the finest of all medicines, says our king, but laughter sufficently lubricated is even better. When a fellow of the puritanical stripe calls him out for his behavior, he points out that even the puritans, when caught in “human habits” will claim that “‘truly all fflesh is ffrayle.”

Thus begins a loooong association between punk and drunk. Here, of course, we have two points to ponder. First, the words rhyme (duh), which is one of the primary reasons that they are both employed here. Second, song celebrates wine, women, song, and gaming, so we are most likely dealing with the first of the definitions for “punke,” which is, of course, prostitute and, in the case of this song, most likely female prostitutes, given that the context reveals nothing to indicate homoeroticism. We see that second definition, the young male “made punk******” in 1698, in the equally delightful “The Women’s Complaint to Venus.”

In this bawdy tune, we have an apparent chorus of women decrying the men’s recent interest (blamed entirely on France, incidentally) in other men:

How happy were good English Faces Till monseiur from France Taught Pego a dance To the tune of old Sodoms Embraces But now we are quite out of fashion Your whores may be Nuns Since men turn their Guns And vent on each other their passions

I’m particularly delighted by the second stanza here, which conflates war and sex–it almost makes the complaint sound like a Lysistrata one–our men keep going off to war and not giving us or due pleasure (not quite the complaint in Lysistrata, I grant, but not far off either), particularly in the last two lines where “men turn their guns” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and “vent on each other their passions.” One could read this, if one had a sufficiently “clean” mind, as a protest on war, I guess, but the poet fairly quickly annihilates the possibilities (if vented passions weren’t enough) two stanzas later:

The Beaus whom most we rely'd on At Night makes a punk of him that's first drunk Tho' unfit for the Sport as John Dryden

What a great moment. Not only are the speakers complaining that the men “make punk” the man who is “first drunk” (wow…totally passivity here–>”makes punk” of the drunk, who, presumably, is unable to give consent. Holy hell.), but they are also complaining that the men don’t really care what the punk looks like, suggesting that even one as ill-fit as John Dryden (who was notoriously ugly) would do for the “sport”.

[An Aside: the careless use of rape imagery here is a bit astonishing and unfortunately familiar. Ever heard the “insult” that someone is “too ugly to be raped” (the weirdest attempt at insult I’ve ever run across–how to respond to this, “thank you”???)–yeah, that’s EXACTLY what the complaint is here.]

So, there’s the beginning of the association, steeped as it is in the sexual politics of the days (seems that gender and consumption may be inextricable…interesting). The rhyme between “punk” and “drunk” would never go away, of course, so that it crops up time and again is of no particular surprise. Now, let’s fast forward to the late 20th century and the rise of “punk” in it’s most recent sense, that of punk music (however you choose to define it, even if you honestly believe it was (and remains) dead in the water by 1980. Or 1982, for you Seattlites). “Punk,” we have already seen, is employed to describe music that precedes 1970, such as the Garage Punk of the 1960s, but for the purposes of this adventure, we are going to look at “punk” as it appears in the 70s and 80s (we’ll even, much to my chagrin, avoid the 90s and beyond for now).

We surmised previously (see corrections here) that “punk” was appropriated from British prison culture, where the skinheads/hooligans were “made punk” within the system; it’s a bit unclear when the conflation occurs, clearly that is not the use employed in the 1950s South U.S., where punk simply referred to an outcast and was, so far as I can tell, often conflated with the greaser type. It’s neither here nor there at this point, an interesting artifact of language, true, but the particular etymology doesn’t alter what happens when we examine the punk drunks of the 70s and 80s.

Colleague Sam pointed out recently that punk seems to operate from a triangulation of contempt, fashion, and poverty, and I tend to agree. Various punk musicians will fall at various places within that triangulation, with “old punks” veering toward contempt and poverty, and the punks who arose in the era after the media appropriation of the label (think Quincy punks) tend to veer toward fashion and contempt, as many of them hail from the suburbs and have no vested commitment to the politics of punk*******, many of which arise from poverty or, at any rate, fears of poverty.

Next, we’ll begin to delve into the question of style and culture within punk, which we’ll pick up on our next installment, lest I try your patience with yet another obscenely long post. Part II will follow early next week.

*So delighted to find this online!

**Translation: “Shame be to him who thinks evil of it.” Reminds me of a joke:

What is the word for someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual
What is the word for someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual
So, what is the word for someone who speaks one language?


*shakes head*

***BTW, if you or anyone you love is under the impression that our forbears in the English Language were not capable of being dirty, first read Shakespeare. Then, Herrick. Finally, I leave you with these gems of the middle ages. Oh, hell, here’s an Italian one as well–>Put the Devil Back in Hell, dammit! If the last doesn’t quite resonate with you, shoot me an email for an explanation.

**** Use your imagination, kiddos. If you don’t have a sufficiently naughty imagination, you should borrow someone’s for a spell. It’ll make it much easier.

*****Malmsey = wine; therefore, malmsey nose = alcoholic rosacea

******You know, I don’t think I have ever seen the phrase “made punk” used to describe women, though it is equally fitting, as women were made to prostitute through various circumstances and were certainly “made punk” by dominant men in several cases. Huh. So, for women they simply are “punk” (which allows for intent) but men have to be made that way–the masculine is rendered in the passive voice (which eliminates intent). Boy, if that’s not discomfort screaming out of the authorial text, I don’t know what it.

*******Granted, neither did a fleet of the “old” punkers, many of whom rejected the notion that punk was simply meant to be political.