The Oasis: The Unappreciated Gem.

When you hear the words, “The Oasis” mentioned in certain circles, you can see the look of disdain already emanating from faces. Commonly raised points include: You can’t swear, can’t hate mosh, and can’t smoke near the building. Oh, the horror! The things they don’t permit at a Youth Center! Well actually concerning that last complaint you can usually smoke at a reasonable difference from the building and no one actually says anything. Obviously, Joyce, the owner of The Oasis,  just wants to be a killjoy when she sets Oasis policy. Question; Have any of you who have criticized Joyce actually talked to her? You may find out that she isn’t a strict and harsh  nun who frowns deeply upon words like, “fun” but actually cares deeply about the nearby community, hence the reason why The Oasis even exists in the first place.

For all of its supposed faults, there are many important things about The Oasis that should stand out. First, The Oasis is an actual youth center in Lake County that is not tax-payer funded. Let me repeat that. The Oasis is an actual youth center in Lake County that is not tax-payer funded. I’m almost tempted to repeat that a third time for obvious emphasis. In fact, The Oasis is completely funded by donations from the local community and the events that it hosts. What does this mean?

No hate moshing!

When the Oasis raises donations it does so by promoting its mission which is the youth of the area. It is for this reason that The Oasis is and will always primarily remain a youth center, rather than just another music venue with stringent rules regarding moshing and crowdsurfing.  Shockingly, parents want their pre-teens and teens to be able to go to Oasis and not get hate-moshed by over eager dancers. Apparently the whole, “You’re gonna get hit if your not moving at a show,” doesn’t apply in parents minds when their 12 year olds are there.  Yea, none of us saw that coming! The fact that the Oasis has so many shows is because its crew (Jon, Ryan, James, ect.) and Joyce actually want to promote the non-existent and devoid music scene we have here.  No, being a self-proclaimed world class DJ doesn’t count toward musical creativity and ingenuity for our music scene.

The Oasis allows for parents to send their kids to a supervised place – yes I shuddered as well as a teen when I heard the word “supervise” – where they won’t be “hanging out” at their friend’s house which is obvious code for sneaking/doing something their parents don’t approve of.  How else do you think some of us saw a certain scene from the Titanic in our early teen years?  (Pro-tip: Hanging out at one’s friends house always occurs when their parents are assured to be occupied and out of the house.  Kid’s, especially teens are actually quite smart.) As much as we all did, and still do despise supervision, this is one of the main features – dare I say purposes – of The Oasis.   Kids can go there and generally not get into trouble that will make them stare at the floor while their parents squirm and ponder upon disciplinary measures that will hopefully work.

In fact, with this recent teacher’s strike in the Grayslake area, The Oasis will most likely become a main supervised place for kids to go and hangout.  Unfortunately, not many other Community’s have a place like The Oasis, so please appreciate it for the rarity that it truly is.  I wish Fox Lake had a place like it instead of a series of parking lots, poor excuse for a lakefront park, and decaying buildings where the local highschoolers go to smoke weed and try out new drugs.  Well, I’ll admit that our library isn’t too bad.

The point to my possibly incoherent ramble is that we should appreciate the Oasis for what it truly is – a youth center – and then also appreciate its secondary accomplishment; being a music venue.  In today’s scene with the lack of venues that will even hold anything slightly metal and book most unknown local bands, beggars can’t be choosers. Before you bash a place, think about the main reason that place exists.  One of the reasons we can’t have nice things a.k.a. “shows” almost anywhere is because certain people can’t have respect for the local venues. Often we end up losing those venues and the so-called “hardcore” scene that exists in Lake County is banished to the dark dimly lit corridors of “basement shows”.  So please, enjoy the venue for what it is – not what you want it to be.

Media Coverage, Violence, and Our Response: Sandy Hook, Dec. 15

In the wake of reflecting  upon what happened only two weeks ago, the Sandy Hook tragedy, something has has really stood out to me: What should have been a day of national mourning seemed to turn into a media circus and yet another match in the firestorm of angry debate that is the the national conversation on gun control.  The Huffington Post should immediately feel immense amounts of shame for abandoning grief, support, and mourning in a convenient substitution for advancing its own ideology regarding gun control.  In fact, the most important words of wisdom on how to react to this shooting came from the President himself, so I must give credit to where credit is due.  Just perhaps, he isn’t the heinous villain that some people make him out to be.

Can you see it?

In just a few hours after the shooting occurred, reporters pounced and shoved mics and questions into the faces of young children anyone whose attention they could grab.  Apparently ratings have become much  more important than giving those who just went through what may be the most terrifying moment of their lives a chance to rest, recuperate, and mourn. Yes, the juicy tidbits that people say just after the moment of an event may not be as eye-catching as words said by them a week later, but respect should come first nevertheless. This isn’t the same as getting audio clips from players after a sports game and the coverage should have reflected that, but obviously it didn’t.     A keen photographer managed to snap what is probably the most emotionally invoking photograph of that day.  I suppose there is some truth in that old sang, “A picture says a thousand words.”

Not only was the media coverage appalling in the lack of respect and privacy it had for the victims of the families and children in the school, but there was an incredible amount of misinformed and flat out false information. Seriously, what has happened to journalism? Ratings yet again pre-determined that any information, no matter if it was verified or not, would be reported immediately. It didn’t take much time to mistakenly run with the story that Adam’s brother, Ryan, had been the shooter.  Hours later after Ryan posted on facebook that he wasn’t the shooter and had no involvement with it, the media finally connected the dots, as the shooter they knew was dead so it couldn’t have been Ryan. However, the damage had been done and his photo and facebook profile had already been tossed around all over the web. Another casualty of rash and mistaken journalism? I’d say yes.

While it is important for us to know about Sandy Hook, the incredible amount of media coverage and attention we see to acts of violence in the U.S.should tell us one thing; we have an obsession for violence. While the the harsh truth of violence needs to be broadcast for us to truly realize the condition our culture is in, it doesn’t need to be glorified and its perpetrators given a national platform to revel in their newly attained infamy. Yes, there is a distinct and stark difference.

Many of us are convinced that the world is somehow more violent than it was 25 years ago. Perhaps it is to some degree, but the nature of violence has never changed.  What has changed is that the digital media and advent of online coverage has however brought it that much closer, more immediate, and more vivid on our HD screens than ever before.  An obsession with ratings and money has made it standard that “Viewer Discretion Is Advised” is an immediate call to attention for every smart phone distracted viewer.  How have people reacted to this new and ever more realistic depiction of violence on their big screen and smartphones? That question has many possible answers.

In only a  few months or more from now, Sandy Hook will probably be largely forgotten by the media and by us. We will have yet again ignored the root of the problem that contributed toward this shooting: Our culture, our broken families and communities, our selfishness, and the fruition of our flawed worldviews. We can’t keep telling each other that right and wrong are merely each one’s version of right and wrong. Ideas have consequences  and in this case horrible consequences.  All these factors have not just produced boys like Adam Lanza, but have contributed toward what he became; an individual that would slaughter a child.  Unfortunately it will be his name that will be remembered in feigned infamy, not his 26 victims. Its only a matter of time before this shooting is reduced down to a Daniel Tosh  joke for us to enjoy.

I fear we may have all however missed the root of the problem when we see tragedies like this. Our culture isn’t just obsessed with guns, it’s obsessed with violence, gore, and everything under the sun that will make you cringe.  If we ever want to alter this endless waltz, we must address the root of the issue, not the weapon used to horrendous means. Someone with murder in their heart will use any method and means to commit murder. It is for this reason we must address their heart if we ever wish to curb these continued manifestations of violence that are becoming seemingly commonplace on the news and facebook feeds of our phones.  Instead of focusing so much attention on the acts themselves, we must focus our attention on communities and families that are not preventing these acts from ever even being considered. In fact, we must keep asking ourselves this question; “How could we have missed this?” How could we have not seen what was turning Lanza into someone would could even imagine doing something like this?

We need to start paying attention. The distraught single mother whose kids are out of control needs the help of community around her, and most specifically the church in her area, The homeless man desperate to eat needs the care of the community, lest he turn to other means to survive. The depressed teenager with no hope, a broken family, and no friends needs Christians to do what we have been commanded to do; show the love of Christ in not just words, but our actions.  We must always question our priorities and how we spend our time. Would Christ spend his time this way?

Legislating what is best for everyone – the consequences be damned!

There has been a question on a mind that has been bugging me as of late; Do we actually care about people, or do we just say and/or pretend that we do?  A nasty fact of life is that the world is filled with people who are hurting with a lot of that pain being caused by the communities around them. A fellow acquaintance and “left-wing” Christian on a forum I follow made this startling assertion:

Unfortunately, you sometimes have to force people to do what is best for both society and themselves.

I hate to say it, but a lot of us have this idea at our base that lends to the direct and indirect advocacy of this pain.  Ideas like this have consequences  Often there are good intentions behind this idea, but the consequences always seem to be devastating upon the less fortunate in society. How does this idea translate into society? “Gulp.” The greater good for society apparently, whatever that actually is. (Hitler had some interesting ideas about the greater good. Very nasty and deadly ones.) Granted, the author of this statement doesn’t intend for this notion to be used to oppress people, but this idea does precisely that when followed to it’s logical conclusion. I can only feel somewhat guilty as a Christian that I have not done enough to do my part in countering this idea in popular culture today.

Huh? Let me formulate my thoughts a bit further.   Unfortunately this is an idea that must be constantly refined and the imposition of the idea closely examined in every circumstance . This idea is the very nature of law. We assume that society functions best when what is best for society and members of society is established through law;  more specifically through the force behind the laws determining exactly what that is “best.” Scary eh?

Well how do we address the extreme implementation of  what is  “best”  in a completely post-modern society?  Just in the 20th century we have seen the above quote used to justify the murder and oppression of tens of millions of people.  We have seen the poor trampled underfoot and the miscarriage of justice become commonplace.  This is of course what happens when the extreme of this idea becomes an idea of sensibility in people’s minds.  (Notice this idea in both current political parties?) The question is: how do we balance this idea correctly, fairly, and reasonably? Note the subjective nature of those 3 previous adverbs in society.  Therein may be our deepest problem.  

By what standard do we determine what is correct, fair, and reasonable? If not a Biblical standard, then what do we appeal to?  Tyrants and dictators have used these three words to oppress people and to justify that oppression for as long as we can remember.  Are we going down a similar path in America? Most Americans would insist that they do indeed care about their fellow American, but do they really?   If we implement ideas that are good and beneficial for society by the force of law, do we run the risk of oppressing those who disagree? Is the legislation of any idea into society always the best approach to solve the many problems we encounter on a daily basis?

We’ve made many, MANY laws in this country. On January 1st of 2010, we introduced on state and federal levels over 40,000 laws on the books and 40,000+ more laws in 2012. Granted PoltiFact disagrees with these numbers for 2012, but even in the lower thousands, the number is still astonishingly high. Just think about having to be aware of a few thousand new laws and the time and effort that would demand. (Note that I couldn’t find a conclusive figure regarding the amount of laws passed in 2011, though it appears to be around 30k. Also something to point out is that not all of these laws come into affect the next year, but over the course of several years.)

So how in the hell are we ever supposed to be consciously aware of every law out there? It’s impossible, but as any judge will tell you, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”   Well, that’s rather unfortunate for the poor single mother who can’t afford a lawyer, but at least whatever law she may have violated had good intentions ins mind, right? Just how easy is it to be “ignorant” of all these laws, just for the ones implemented in 2010?  The publisher at amelia.com had an insight as to the what we face on a daily basis in regards to ignorance of the law: I have been a numbers man all my life and the realization that modern society requires me to know the Laws I am potentially exposed to, made me try to quantify the time needed to familiarize myself superficially with 40,627 new laws if I would spend 2 minutes per newly introduced law. It would take 81,254 minutes or 1,354 hours or 169¬† 8-hour workdays to know my rights and plights pertaining to these 40,000 plus laws.

I have been a numbers man all my life and the realization that modern society requires me to know the Laws I am potentially exposed to, made me try to quantify the time needed to familiarize myself superficially with 40,627 new laws if I would spend 2 minutes per newly introduced law. It would take 81,254 minutes or 1,354 hours or 169  8-hour workdays to know my rights and plights pertaining to these 40,000 plus laws.

The task of becoming familiar with laws that can reign all hell and possibly prison bars upon our lives is very intimidating. When you drive down the street and see someone pulled over – Round Lake Beach anyone- do we consider just how many possible traffic violations they could have committed? You’d be shocked by the amount of well-intentioned traffic laws that exist in Illinois.

I myself have been a victim of “unknown” traffic violations. Prepare for a story/small rant. A few months back I got a ticket for Scott’s law. I’d never heard of it before. Neither did anyone I know or my Aunt who is actually a police officer in Algonquin.  Scott’s Law has a minimum fine of 100$ to a maximum of 10,000$ plus the possibility of a license suspension. When I looked up the law online, I was scared out of my mind.  I managed to plead the violation to a lesser violation in court, because having Scott’s Law on your record is like having a bulls-eye painted on your car for every cop in Illinois to target.  Just imagine a single mom in the Round Lake area or some minimum wage worker getting hit with just a 1000$ fine for a violation of Scott’s Law. Yes, justice really does favor the rich. I was lucky in that I only had to fork over 150.00$ for a lawyer, plus the fine which ended up being only 75$ but totaled over 300$ because of the 200$ in court fees that our state charges. Yea, let me repeat that, 200$ in court fees. No wonder they always try to make you show up in court for a ticket!

This is yet another example of laws with good intentions being used to essentially squeeze more money out of people who are barely making ends meet. It won’t stop here. Expect the amount of “good-intentioned” laws to skyrocket.  The fact that I live in Illinois simply means that people will vote in the same politicians who will in turn keep churning out new laws to “solve” the problems we face just in this state on a daily basis. To make matters worse we encourage politicians to be “lawmakers.”

What have our good intentioned laws bought us? Over two million Americans in prison and growing. Let’s think about that for a moment. Two million Americans in prison. Prison Song anyone? That’s a guaranteed two million broken families. Did we actually bother to think about the impact of the drug laws that were supposed to stabilize society? Look at Chicago as to what the war on drugs has wrought upon the families there.  Isn’t it obvious what happens to the teenager with a jailed father who has literally no one around him to keep him accountable, to make him stay in school , and to discipline him for the small things before they escalate into prison term offenses?  The war on drugs has done far more harm to the African American community in this country then racism ever has. But hey, those laws were for the good of society right? Those people doing drugs obviously don’t know what’s good for them, so we need to force them to do what is good for them by passing more laws!  Did we ever think what happens to the people we’ve thrown in jail after they are finally released? Good luck getting a job!

I look at communities around me that face some very real problems; distraught and broken families, failing schools, high crime rates, high youth unemployment, ect.  Instead of truly going out of our way to actually help them, we either throw money at the problem -which usually never ends up going to them- and/or pass a few laws to try and discourage whatever element we think is contributing to the problems.  We’ve been recycling this process of dealing with issues despite the fact that it has not worked.  How about we change the way we address these problems? Pro-tip: You can’t solve the above issues through legislation. You can only solve them through revitalizing and restoring communities. As Christians we should be fully aware that this is what the Gospel was intended to do! The Gospel is what brings hope to the broken and repairs the damage to the families in our communities. Even the secular humanist is aware that addressing the problems this country faces starts in each of our homes and our surrounding communities. Should we not be even more aware of our callings as commanded by Scripture rather then by man’s selfish attempts to do what he or she thinks is good?

The Church needs to get back to what it used to do; strengthen and build up communities. We have a responsibility to the shattered communities around us. We have a responsibility to the broken families, the single mothers, and the children turning to gangs in a desperate attempt to find community. We have a responsibility to show that Christ cares about the broken, the downtrodden, and those in the worst of situations.  The early church cared for the babies left to die, the poor in the streets, and the unjustly oppressed. Are we doing the same? Are we advocating for abortion laws in Washington and forgetting about the single teenage mother with no income?

Are we proclaiming the Gospel through our actions or just through our words and to each other in our own little Sunday morning bubble? Our lifestyle and what we do with our time should clearly communicate what the Gospel is all about.  Let us take a stand on the issues of abortion and homosexuality -as the church rightfully should-  but let us not forget that there is much more to God’s Word.  We can talk all we want about Christ’s love, but we must actually demonstrate and show His love in our communities, our time, and our finances every day of our lives.  Let us escape from our own little bubbles and start to become apart of the many different societal bubbles around us so that the truth of the Gospel is displayed for all to see.  As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel always; if necessary use words.”

Dead Years is actually dead on – This Or The Apocalypse

Lately, I’ve seen some rather mixed reviews of  This Or The Apocalypse‘s new album, Dead Years. Some of them have been over-the-top.  To be honest, I can understand where both the negative and positive reflections about the album are coming from. No, I’m not a fanboy, but I really have dug this band for three main reasons: (1) Their live performance, (2) Haunt What’s Left, (3) the devotion they have to what they do. It’s a real shame that it’s almost impossible nowadays to maintain a living from making and playing music, but that’s a sacrifice TOTA seem willing to make.

First off, there is something that I’ll throw out there; Haunt What’s Left is one of my favorite albums of all time, for various reasons. So that leads me to ask this question, “How do you really follow an album like that?

I’m not sure that TOTA can necessarily “follow” Haunt What”s Left, and it appears that they realized that. Dead Years is that realization. Before we start ripping apart the album and critiquing every last detail our ears can pick up and our eyes can see, lets reflect on this thought; “We should enjoy an album for what it is, not what we wanted it to be or what it “should” be.”

Dead Years didn’t fulfill every last craving, aspiration, or expectation I had for it.  (Albums rarely do that.) There were some shortcomings, but there were also some successes.  In fact, this album is a lot stronger then some of our rather snobbish members of the metal-community give it credit it for. I’m sorry but Veil Of Maya is that way,  Born Of Osiris is the other way, and I’m not quite sure as to which way Killswitch Engage is. Remember, what I said about enjoying an album for what it is? Oh, Metalsucks isway down that way.   This is overall a very good album.

Of course, I do have some “complaints.”  The cleans in Dead Years seemed to have degraded a bit with the exception of Gaunt And Fierce which has probably the strongest chorus, both in catchiness and execution, that TOTA has ever made. Two songs in particular that are on the subpar side with cleans are You Own No One But You and In Wolves, which is a shame considering how good the songs are. The songs also seem to have a bit less of a well-executed technical nature that Haunt What’s Left and Monuments were filled with. (Note that I don’t really know what I’m talking about in comparison to someone who actually plays music. I know this for a fact, so let me just throw out my fallibility there.)  They are however still there in enough abundance in songs like Hell Praiser, Americans, and Hate The Ones You Love being evidence of TOTA’s bottomless technical talent.

Let me expound on that “technical talent” for a short bit. TOTA, in my mind, distinguish themselves with their technical riffage specifically because of where it is placed in their songs, how is is composed, and that fact that you can’t specifically see those riffs coming. I love that. Being techincal just because you can bores me; I’d prefer for technical “riffage” to have an actual purpose, but I digress.  Dead Years throws out riffs that match up with something The Human Abstract would produce on a regular basis. Monuments has proven this aspect of their technical ability to the fullest, so a lack of technical ability would be a damnable lie.

I mention this because I don’t want TOTA to be labeled as one of those “chug bass-drop and break-down bands” mixed with some metal riffs style band that seem to dominate most metal today associated musically with anything “core.”  There are certainly more breakdowns and bass-drops on this album, but this actually reflects the general lyrical theme of the album instead of said breakdowns and bass-drops just being thrown in there so that kids have an easier time in knowing when to do spin-kicks in the pit. In fact the element TOTA seem to have added to this album is the kind of “bounce” feel that Texas In July so successfully brings to the table.

Notice this album is well… a lot angrier than their previous two. Not only did the more “chuggy” nature of the album reflect that, but the grittiness of the screaming in this album manages to perfectly demonstrate that. Is it impressive when vocals actually relay the meaning and feelings of a particular lyric? I won’t lie, I’ve always been a big fan of Ricky’s particular vocal style, because let’s be honest; screaming has alot more of an impact when you can actually understand some of it. (Though I’m still very partial toward Matt Heafy’s screaming in Ascendancy. It is just so raw and powerful.)  The grittiness of his vocals in particular coincide well with the overall theme of the album; frustration with lack of attention and care for the problems plaguing society. It is actually nice to see an album with lyrics about something other then breakups, bitches,  killing people, and all the other entertaining possible lyrical choices out there. In fact, I am thoroughly enjoying the albums content about the societal problems that exist and the struggles people face. To make things even better, TOTA doesn’t pull a Greenday where they advocate us to be progressive statists  or encourage anti-government sentiment depending on if the current president fits their ideological stances.

Anyone notice there  were actually a few Fbombs thrown in to some of these songs to further emphasize the frustrations TOTA is presenting? I should admit right now that swearing in music usually seems to degrade my enjoyment of it. Now, I’m not some 23 year old Christian miser with an Uncle Jimbo attitude of “You damn kids!” when it comes to swearing. I’m just keen on two factors regarding swearing; context and appropriate timing.  Meet those two factors and then by all means; swear away! Again all I would suggest is that swearing in any context have an appropriate and emphatic purpose rather then just a commonly used adjective that makes all the older people around grimace at the younger generation. This surprises even me, but  I think TOTA may have made perfect usage of profanity to emphasize the lyrics of this album.  (We’ve obviously seen the other extreme end of swearing in bands like Bring Me The Horizon and Asking Alexandria. *Shudder*)

One last thing I’d like to point out about Dead Years is the last song on the album; Hard Branch To Snap. It was a perfect song to conclude the album and falls in line with the excellent concluding song, Revenant, on Haunt What’s Left. So, remember don’t hate TOTA; appreciate the incredible strength of the vocals that make this band stand out in an overcrowded metal scene. Give this album a chance, no matter if you’ve heard TOTA before or are a long time fan; it will grow on you with each listen.

I won’t provide a download link for the album out of respect for This Or The Apocalypse. I would encourage all those who enjoy what they hear to support the band directly through their merch store.

Underoath ends on a high note.

“You’re getting old” reads the title of an episode from the 15th season of South Park.  This title really hits home as I’ve just seen the facebook feeds informing me that Underoath will be breaking up next year.  As Underoath mentions in their post, “all good things must come to an end,” and the 15 year existence of Underoath is quite a long time.  I’m again reminded that nothing last forever, even our favorite bands.

One of my friends mentioned that over time, music will have less of an importance in my life, and he was right. Nothing will replace Underoath, but the good memories will always be there. From their first album with its black metal feel to their change into alternative metal and then their highlight post-hardcore album, Define The Great Line, Underoath continued to change and refine their sound with each album. Disambiguation was just the highlight of how experimental and heavy they could sound, specifically without the vocals of Aaron Gillespie.

Underoath does makes me feel old to an extent. I”ll be hitting 24 this month, and it makes me realize that 16 was almost 9 years ago. Lately I get that feeling that music will become less and less important as other things take priority in my life, most likely widening my skillset so that my resume is more appealing. When I think about the members in Underoath, I realize that their families have rightfully become their priority. Perhaps you can only tour so long before you realize there are other things you want to do with your life.  There’s so much that could be said about Underoath, but no words can really describe how I feel about them. I am instead forced to allow their music to do that for me.

Nonetheless, their influence will be felt on metal and post-hardcore for ages to come. It’s hard to be original and to still progress and change one’s sound with every album, but Underoath has managed to do just that. I will really miss their live performance and energy that distinguished them from the rest.  Hopefully, the tickets for their final tour through this area are affordable.  If there’s one thing I can say to sum up Underoath, it is this; Titans they have become in their own created genre and Titans they will always remain.  

 

These youtube videos remind me of just how diverse their development has been over the years: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aZus_-1MFI]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCwNG1YqhEU] [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOdfV1EjUgg&feature=related] [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEMegwcNihc] [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgF_FFBpfbk][youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVPooKsLxII&feature=related][youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrG3nXvFeJ8&feature=related]

The god(s) of a society’s law.

Legislation is always a dangerous thing, because you never are always aware as to what is the foundation for legislation. What is the driving idea? There is a common misconception that law is neutral, but law by its very nature can never be neutral; there is always a moral reason/idea behind any law.

Before we even begin to formulate moral reasons for a law we must always examine the “god” behind the idea for that law. What standard and source of authority are we appealing to in order to assert the justification of that law for society? Only once we ask this question will we begin to somewhat predict and understand the impact a law will have upon the ethics of our society.

R. J. Rushdoony summed it up well;

“Behind every system of law there is a god. To find the god in any system, locate the source of law in that system. If the source of law is the individual, then the individual is the god of that system. If the source of law is the people, or the dictatorship of the proletariat, then these things are the gods of those systems. If our source of law is a court, then the court is our god. If there is no higher law beyond man, then man is his own god, or else his creatures, the institutions he has made, have become his gods. When you choose your authority, you choose your god, and where you look for your law, there is your god.”

Who or what is your god? Ideas have consequences. Sometimes those consequences can be horrible though the best of intentions were the base for those ideas.

 

Reflections on Warped Tour 2012 Milwaukee: Fun, Sweaty, Unforgettable

For a change, Warped Tour in Milwaukee was not scalding hot with horrible humid temperatures. We caught a break.  12 hours later it didn’t matter much as I was soaked in sweat of which a majority wasn’t my own. I threw down. I threw down hard. For at least two days after August 1st, I recall having had extremely sore muscles, specifically in my neck and back. (I mentioned I threw down hard?)  This being my third time at Warped, I made the wise choice of bringing an actual backpack to store stuff in, though it proceeded to come unzipped with the contents flying out several times during The Ghost Inside’s set.

Well, one thing that should certainly stand out about Warped Tour at Milwaukee this year was the rather compact nature of the layout this year – in comparison to last few years; everything including the stages was much closer together. Apparently less walking distance between everything = winning.  Later I found out that this meant that they had sacrificed the main stage this year at Milwaukee combining into two stages in the amphitheater itself.  I, or more specifically the video’s recorded by my android there now weep for the sound quality that emanated from that stage in comparison to the outdoor ones.

This stage….. “That’s just wrong dude.”

 Warped, of course, had it all; tents galore. Every kind of social cause, or at least most of the trending ones were there. I’ve  never felt so loved by “To write love on her arms.” For the teenager who was thinking of “doing things”  there was a Trojan Condoms tent giving away plenty of free condoms to the apparent delighted stares of the parents who had decided to come to Warped to “monitor” the behavior of their teenage daughters.  That actually is a tough job when you consider what those parents were going to have to go through when they tagged along to see All Time Low, Sleeping With Sirens (Very manly voice), ect. The savage pits, dangerous jumps, and shrill screams whenever Kellen (OMG!) appeared were sure to make it a valuable observation of teen behavior.  To make the parent’s cringe even more, Buddy from Senses Fail made sure to remind all of those males in the audience to trim themselves down there. (Buddy for president? Yea, I saw those shirts.)  Speaking of parents, there was actually a “Reverse day-care” where kids could “drop” their parents off so that the kids could act the way they normally do when their paretns aren’t around. (Shudder) Now that I think about it, I don’t recall seeing the reverse day care last year. Our society these days, but I digress.

There was a tent for the robe dressed practicing white Caucasian Hindus bowing and uttering “Hari Krishnas” with random kids while tour goers walked past with puzzled looks. (Definitely different.) Apparently absolute atheism still has yet to rid the unenlightened rednecks from their stupor as this is just yet another indication that we have been and still are perusing various spiritual worldviews since the selfish decade known as the 60s. (Remember, the only absolute is that you ignorant.) Unfortunately I only got a picture of them packing up their transcendence meditation medium on poles.

Bow down, Born Of Osiris style.

Even the PETA people had a tent of their own with the “I Heart Hunting Accidents” shirt available for only 20$ to the meat haters, vegans, and other individuals who prefer to be as “different” from the norm of us animal holocaust transgressors and deviants as possible. This marks an additional approach beside their pestering outside the gates in attempts to prey upon kids and turn them into possible juggernauts/supporters for legislative action to punish all of us meat eaters.

Apparently, South Park was right; PETA doesn’t care about people.

Now that I’ve mentioned meat, I should mention the high cost of these obviously low prices, or as some people have put it, “highway robbery.”  To make matters even worse, beer was $6.50 a bottle. Let me repeat that, $6.50. This wasn’t the price of agood beer, a fabulous and delicious import, or even one of our better cheaper beers like Rolling Rock; this was the price of a Miller Lite, Coors, ect. I actually considered getting one, but I figured it would be a poor idea considering the amount of moshing I planned on doing. (As WELL as spending it on merch to support the bands.)

Seriously, wow. That better be one damn good 1/4 pounder.

There were plenty of bands that stood out.  Memphis May Fire actually surprised me. I wasn’t planning on seeing their set, but I decided last minute to see them and I was rewarded for my wise decision. One thing has to be said for them; they sound better live, especially vocally, then on any of their albums.  That’s always a step in the right direction.

Every Time I Die was solid, as they always have been. They actually mentioned during their set that they played their first Warped Tour on a stage with about 10 people in the audience. Give or take 10 years later and that seems to have changed. What can I say, Every Time I Die deserve the success they’ve gotten. I was impressed with the way the set sounded in general.

For Today tore it up live, something they seem to do consistently. They actually still manage to surprise me when it comes to live shows, and no, I’m not talking about Mattie’s preaching.   Mattie has a sick scream live, in fact it’s probably gotten better since the last time I heard them which was about two years ago. I noticed this because I’ve noticed alot of screamers and vocalists who can’t scream well live. Cough “Caleb Shomo” cough.  I can’t recall the exact song set they played, but the songs were primarily from Breaker and Immortal, with at least 3 songs from Immortal if I recall correctly.

POWERFIST!…. and then breakdown. – Every Time I Die
LONG LIVE THE KING! – For Today

I personally fought invisible ninjas at least 3 times during the day, primarily during The Ghost Inside and Vanna’s sets. How can you not hardcore dance when this breakdown hits?   My only gripe regarding The Ghost Inside’s set was that the rhythm guitar was too loud in comparison to everything else, but it wasn’t enough to subtract from the set. The songs I remember them playing were: Faith & Forgiveness, Outlive, Between The Lines, Chrono, and Slipping Away, not in that order. I noticed Vigil seemed to have worn the same shirt that day that he had in all of the live videos of previous Tour Dates.  That thing must of have smelled awful.

Thats the same shirt on Vigil from the videos of the previous tour locations during Warped this year. Hugs for all.
There were some crazy people in the pit… but I didn’t manage to get any pictures of the really crazy looking ones. It was wise to fear for your life though.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dGplxAoWhY&feature=g-upl]

My day led off with Four Year Strong at the main stage. I decided to be stupid and get on the floor level that was boxed in by the metal gates, which was of course a big mistake when the pits opened up and I and the others in front of me were pressed into the metal gate behind me for the entire set. I had my backpack on me at the time, but was unable to get my phone out to take any photos or video because I literally couldn’t move my arms.  FYS started off with “What the hell is a gigawatt?” which I actually called.  Their set was distinctly devoid of any of the songs of their new album with just one exception, though I can’t recall which new song it was.  Final note about FYS; damn, can he scream live.

Senses Fail

Sense Fail was incredible live, despite being on the “Main Stage”.  For all you Senses Fail fans, they played 3 songs from Let It Enfold You. They also played the song , Warpaint, which is a new song of the Best Of album they just released recently.  That was the first time I’ve heard that song and its probably one of the heaviest songs they’ve ever made, which means that they are still willing to be unique and not sell out. “Cough, Rise Against, cough.”   Taking Back Sunday was probably the best live band of that day, specifically sound wise.  The guest vocalists they had didn’t hurt either, hello Thursday and ETID.  That was the first time I had gotten to see them, and they didn’t disappoint. As the picture implicates, I didn’t repeat the mistake of going to floor level, rather I sat/stood in the stands and deprived myself sweat and moshing at the main stage.

Some of the stages, specifically the Kevin Says stage and the Ernie Ball stage had bad sound quality. Seriously, it was bad. I’ve never heard After The Burial or Born Of Osiris sound so bad. Apparently that new French “metal” sensation, Captain No Captain Chunk, was the exception to the sound quality at the Ernie Ball stage. I must admit, I thought they were going to suck.  (I may have let others opinions influence my initial opinion of them before hearing them live.)

I decided, or rather made sure  not to stick around for Sleeping With Sirens. I prefer men to actually sound like men when they sing. Singing at a tenor so high that only dogs can hear it makes me queasy and downright uncomfortable, though apparently the teenage girls REALLY like Kellen’s voice. Shudder. One other highlight of late in the day was recalling rapper T Mills, who I thought might have been too big to be on Warped, call out in kind of whiny voice; “Is der any white gurls here today?”  Rhetorical question at its finest with the audience in front of him was nothing but “white” girls screaming and jumping. (I had thought of staying around just to hear, but in my friends circle, I’m apparently already running low on those every sought after “man-cards”)

If you werent at Warped This year, know that you were deprived of proper culture, excellent music, (Well, that’s up for debate.) screaming highschool girls, the shade of friendly tents, insane amounts of merch, and the stench and feel of other peoples sweat – like this very happy security guard.

Yea, feel that sweat.
That shirt…. and that hat…. why?
FIGHT!
Two people I met with a cause I actually fully supported; The Kingdom.

The set for that day:

Can’t forget to show this.

Arguements with a personal twist.

Mittens Romney. Barrack Hussein Obama. What do these very politically charged “nicknames” have in common?  They are the constant recipients of personal attacks of every kind. Nothing seems to be off-limits these days for any political candidates, as Sarah Palin’s family found out the hard way.  The question that we must ask ourselves is, “Why do engage in these nasty portrayals of people’s character?”

Strong disagreements will always occur, but what matters about political positions are the ideas behind them, not specifically the people advocating them.  In today’s culture it seems we are dedicated to winning any debate, regardless of the casualties left behind.  You may be able to “win” the argument on a forum, in a conversation, ect, but the person you debated may be even more firmly entrenched in what they thought because of the conduct of the conversation.  Ideas have consequences, but the ways in which those ideas are endorsed, proposed, and manifested have consequences as well.

I personally tire of hearing rather personally charged attacks on Romney and Obama. If you disagree with them and those supporters behind them, which I do as well, discuss the reasons for your disagreement.  Insults like Liberal Whackjob, Bible Thumping Fundementalist, Liberal Nutjob, Ignorant Bigots, ect do nothing to make one’s argument and his or ideas more valid, rather they simply make the issues more polarizing to discuss then before. This is why it so hard to talk about controversial issues and ideas in today’s culture because everyone is afraid they will be branded and their reputations ruined. Calling someone a racist or an ignorant bigot today has rather disturbing consequences concerning how someone may be treated by society.

I reject the notion that people are ignorant. Instead I propose that people have reasons for how they think. Don’t bother with name calling, personal attacks, ect; get to their base presuppositions. Racists are racists because of their core ideas, the experiences that they have had, and the condition of their hearts. (And who knows how many additional factors…) Legislation can never change that. What can change that is the communities and families around them and conversing with those around them who have very different worldviews.

We need to get opposing worldviews and ideas into the open, not relegate them to the shadows. Someone may be afraid to discuss their thoughts and ideas openly, but this simply ensures that they will continue to retain those said thoughts and ideas. State what you believe and discuss your ideas with others who challenge them, regardless of whatever those ideas are and how politically incorrect, offensive, and shocking they may be.   In otherwords, show some real tolerance. 

As I Lay Dying rises to greater heights with “Awakened”

William Faulkner continues to strike from the grave. Not by any recent literature releases or people still enjoying his works, but rather by a metal band that is named after his famous book, As I Lay Dying.

Image

It appears As I Lay Dying may have released their best album yet to date, something that may incur the wrath of hardcore fans who rightfully point to the masterpiece that is Frail Words Collapse.  I primarily have made the above rash assertion because this album actually seems to improve upon what As I Lay Dying has done so well for over 10 years; making metal that is brutal, beautiful, catchy, technical, lyrically rich, and pit/mosh worthy for all ages. Oh and one last thing; Josh Gilbert.

Awakened features what I believe to be greatly improved vocals by their basist Josh Gilbert, whose voice (cleans) on previous records was still rather effectively used. It appears his pop-punk sideproject, Year One, may have improved his vocal abilities and brought them to the next level.

If anyone is familiar with metal-core and metal in general within the last few years, they are aware of the rather abundant amount of clean vocals employed by vocalists who  seem to sing at tenors so high that only dogs can hear them.  Notable bands who we can throw loosely in the metal genre that employ such vocals include I See Stars, Pierce The Veil, Sleeping With Sirens, We Came As Romans, The Devil Wears Prada (Who I like very much.), Blessthefall, For The Fallen Dreams, For All Those Sleeping, I The Breather, It Prevails, ect. Even Spencer from Periphery falls into this category, though he can actually sing.  And, no, I am not ashamed that included Blessthefall, but I digress.

 

Well whatever happened to sounding like a man? Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Bury Tommorrow, All That Remains, and even new Attack Attack seem to have been able to pull it off.  Josh Gilbert, however, has made proven with his excellent clean vocals that not only is As I Lay Dying in this category, but that they are in the top of the pack even if they aren’t as raspy as Scot Stapps. (Shudder.) Luckily for us, AILD are rather talented musicians and have been able to ensure that Josh’s cleans actually fit well into each song that they are utilized so that it stands out, but doesn’t detract from the heaviness of the songs.

In the first song on the album, Cauterize, we see AILD brilliance at work in an over-saturated and breakdown dominated metal-core genre. As soon as I heard the breakdown in the song followed by a rather astonishing solo, I realized the album would be headed for even greater heights. Did I mention that I almost always hate solos? Color me deeply impressed.

After getting my hands on the leak and having listened to the album three times through, I’ve realized there isn’t a single song on Awakened that is weak; its everything I’ve always expected of As I Lay Dying and more. It has every necessary ingredient: emotion, lyrical beauty, well composed songs, powerful screaming, excellent and effectively placed clean vocals, technical riffs that don’t bore you, and a bit of a new feel that works perfectly.  Is this their best work yet? Only time and repeat playing of this album will tell.

– I’m still shocked by how much this album has and is impressing me. This hasn’t happened with metal as of late for myself.

Statism and the “Mandate”

At about 5 AM with my brain still awake  and tweaking from the effects of a monster and coffee, I was further stimulated the welcoming cold air of my store’s frozen section which I had been asked to help “face”.   It was around this time that I got into a conversation with one of my co-workers about those exciting topics like the election, what and why the presidents actions have occurred, and the the question as to what is a “liberal”.   Well “liberal” means so many different things depending on your ideology, so we ended up discussing this much more in-depth.

Well the subject of the healthcare bill and its mandate came up and my coworker said something like this; “I like the mandate.” It was at just about this point that the conversation wasn’t able to continue much further due to a commotion at the other store which turned out to be someone having a heart attack in another department.

The quick statement made about the “mandate” made some thoughts run through my head during the rest of the morning, my ride home, and even now. Subsquently, my mind has been besieged my a domino effect of thoughts.

If a mandate for national healthcare is something to be advocated, then what other topics, issues, ect are mandates acceptable to advocate for?  One is forced to pick and choose what laws will mandate and what they won’t. Most progressives/liberals today will insist that morality, if it is religious in nature, should never be legislated. (That doesn’t make sense.) However, the nature of law itself is enforcing morality on the general public. Well, why choose this? Apparently the notion that healthcare is a human right is one of the prevailing reasons for the advocacy of this.  The question then arises: What is a human right? Who determines human rights? Where do they come from? Can we vote something into being a “human right”?

One thought that particularly interests me is in what both political parties would support/advocate when it comes to mandates. Depending on the issue one will insist something should be mandated and the other that it should not, usually regarding the social issues.  Another question to consider: Would a mandate banning abortion be appropriate, as many conservatives would insist that it is? Progressives would insist that it is not. However, they’ve continually opened that door when they advocated for a healthcare mandate.

The fact that we are so willing to mandate anything today in our society, specifically on a national scale indicates how much we’ve all become advocates of centralized power.  To put it more bluntly and efficiently; statism.  How could this have happened? It appears we’ve all bought into the notion that not only do we know what is best for people, we own them to a certain degree.