Word Vomit Wednesday - AMERICA. Fuck... yeah?

 Welcome to Word Vomit Wednesday! A series of blog posts about random thoughts or a specific topic from current events that I, and sometimes the rest of the Internet, ruminate obsessively about. All thoughts/opinions/experiences are my own (unless otherwise indicated); I don’t claim anything that I write to represent anyone other than myself.

 

 

Tonight I went to my parent’s house for dinner with some family friends, ate homemade pie, and watched some fireworks off in the distance while playing Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” Today is the 4th of July and in the good ol’ U.S. Of A, that means marking our independence as a country. It’s a holiday that I’ve never given much thought to, but just took as a day to hang out with people I love and eat a ton of food. The past couple years has had me, and many other people, starting to think a little more critically about the habits of our country and what it really means to be an American. To be completely honest, this seemingly benign holiday has become a difficult one to celebrate. In the words of one of my favorite people on Twitter, @OhNoSheTwitnt:

 “Celebrating Independence Day feels weird now. Like when Facebook sends you a birthday reminder for one of your friends who’s dead.”

Yup. Let’s just take a look at some of the bullshit we’ve been dealing with since June:

  • At least 8 white supremacists, including admitted pedophile and rapist Nathan Larson are running for federal and state office.

  • 45 called for Samantha Bee, a private citizen, to lose her job.

  • Scott Pruitt spent $1560 on twelve custom fountain pens.

  • The Pentagon reported that U.S. Military operations killed 499 civilians in 45’s first year in office.

  • The EU filed a WTO case in response to 45’s tariffs.

  • Manafort was sent to jail.

  • At least 2,300 children have been separated from their families at the border since the implementation of the DOJ’s “zero tolerance” policy.

  • Baby Concentration Camps

  • The 45 administration withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council.

  • 45 went from calling the people crossing the border “rapists” to comparing them to vermin “infesting” the country.

  • A white male terrorist with a history of misogyny and white supremacy murdered five journalists in Maryland.

  • Surprise! Stephen Miller is America’s Goebbels. *Fun Fact: He’s a Jew! Wow, a Jew who becomes a Nazi. What a neat party trick!

  • ICE is the new SS

  • Space Force

  • More than 600 members of Jeff Session’s church filed a formal complaint accusing him of “child abuse,” “immorality,” and “racial discrimination.” Hey Jeff, you may want to rethink your interpretations of the Bible when your entire Bible study class kicks you out. Just sayin’.

  • 45 rescinded an Obama-era rule meant to protect the Great Lakes and oceans bordering the U.S.

  • Melania is complicit. Duh.

  • Despite a signed executive order to keep migrant families together, there is no actual plan to reunite the nearly 2,300 already separated children with their families.

  • Reported abuse of the kids in the Baby Concentration Camps.

  • 45 plans to meet with U.S. President Putin next month.

  • The “Unite the Right” organizer received approval to hold a “white civil rights” rally on August 12th on the National Mall.

  • The White House plans to merge the Education and Labor Departments.

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out of a restaurant because of her continued ride-or-die chick status with 45.

  • Naturalized U.S. Citizens are beginning to be targeted and stripped of their citizenship.

  • Sean Spicer has a new talk show. I’m not going to beat around the bush that he’s been hiding in, but fuck whichever network decided to give him a platform.

  • Federal debt is expected to exceed the size of the economy within a decade.

  • The United Nations estimates 18.25 million Americans are living in “extreme poverty.”

  • The DOJ is drafting a plan to overhaul the U.S. Asylum policy.

  • Rep. Maxine Waters had to cancel multiple events due to a very serious death threat.

SCOTUS Special Programming:

  • Fake clinics are allowed to lie to and manipulate women bc free speech and who gives a fuck about women they’re not really people just baby incubators. Thanks SCOTUS!

  • It’s totally cool to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people if you have a religiously-sanctioned heterosexual agenda.

  • 45’s anti-Muslim rhetoric is being upheld in the form of the Muslim Ban 3.0.

  • Justice Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court. After the announcement, it came out that Kennedy’s son, Justin, worked at Deutsche Bank for more than a decade and loaned Trump more than $1 billion.

     

    All of that was just ONE MONTH. I’m actually stunned with how we’ve been keeping up as much as we have. I have so many WVW’s that I started and then just wasn't sure if I should post because by the time a week or even a few days passed, whatever I had started writing about seemed almost irrelevant. On top of that, I’ve begun to emotional process the realization that whatever illusion of America I felt like I knew and was real has been completely shattered and I’ve been having a time coming to terms with and understanding what this country is and how it has always been and trying to reconcile how to function in a new, productive, and more informed way. It’s overwhelming as fuck, but our only choice right now is to remain hopeful and channel that hope into action and solutions that get us back on track to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. This Fourth of July is a clear reminder that we are still not free. We need to fight for our freedom every single day in whatever ways we can.

    Today is a complicated day. We’ll probably scorch our food on the grill to commemorate all the bridges we’ve burned to the ground, get drunk on ice-cold brewskis of freedom that do the double-duty of feeding our addiction to lies and illusions while numbing us from feeling the real weight of the dire situation we’re in or the discomfort of actually having to be accountable for the ways in which we’ve been complicit in getting here. We’ll bask in the glow of fireworks, like bombs over Baghdad and every other middle eastern culture we’ve had a hand in destroying while playing the “1812 Overture,” a composition celebrating Russia’s victory over the invasion of Napolean. A tradition that began when it was first played in a Quaker Oats commercial in 1965. Stealing someone else’s anthem via capitalism and claiming it as our own. There’s nothing more American than that.

     

     

    Katie Louchheim has decided to identify as “tired.” 

Word Vomit Wednesday - Simulacrum

 Welcome to Word Vomit Wednesday! A series of blog posts about random thoughts or a specific topic from current events that I, and sometimes the rest of the Internet, ruminate obsessively about. All thoughts/opinions/experiences are my own (unless otherwise indicated); I don’t claim anything that I write to represent anyone other than myself.




I’m sitting on my parent’s couch with a heating pad hugging my left shoulder blade because I apparently strained it while trying to see around the very tall woman seated in front of me at Centennial Hall. And while Finding Neverland was a very cute and harmless production, it was definitely not worth this misery and I think I’m feeling more sore about that than I am about the pain itself. Couchella 2018 is about as big of a bummer as every Coachella that doesn’t have Beyoncé performing. It’s also forcing me to literally sit and reflect on this past week in Tucson. This trip has neither been all fibro flare-ups nor without stress entirely, but what it has been is bizarre. I’m coming back to a place that I consciously ran away from partly because I didn’t feel like I could be myself there. Or even find out who that was. It was a place where I felt so trapped and afraid of and frustrated by everything. As the cosmic joke that life can be would have it, my healing journey indicated that it was time to go back and dig into the shit I thought I left behind. As I now know, no one ever leaves anything behind. Wherever you go, there you are and sometimes in order to move forward you need to take a few steps back.

Random Kanye West-style philosophical rambling aside, it is weird being back and knowing that I’m not just heading to New York for good at the end of the week. I’m here seeing my family, family friends, and even some friends I haven’t seen since high school and so much feels unnervingly unchanged. Except for me. Every day I have had a sense of anxiety and unease and it’s not about moving back for this sabbatical. It’s more this jarring out-of-body sensation of recognizing a schema, situation, or dynamic and just feeling slightly off within it. I’m taking that as a positive thing. Because while I am not totally at ease I’m also not totally off-kilter either. I feel more grounded in myself and less like I’m compromising my authenticity like I was when I left almost 11 years ago. It indicates growth and a realization that I have more power in situations. But, it’s also a very naked and vulnerable feeling. Feeling those feelings in these situations that recall seventeen years of previous experience in living here is incredibly confusing. Almost every day I’ve been texting friends telling them how anxious I am, how I can’t just sit still and relax, how I’m constantly looking over my shoulder when I’m out in public, how I’m having such trouble sleeping and I just don’t know why. You would think I was under Witness Protection or something.

No matter where I go I sense this essence of a Katie that no longer exists and it’s obstructing my view of the situation. Like the town is haunted by this emotionally wounded child that just doesn’t have the skills or knowledge to pass on. I don’t know if it’s just my memories coming into sharp focus and confusing the past for present reality, but every day there’s been a moment of haziness where the next thing to do, say, or go is either muddled or doesn’t exist at all. So, maybe that’s the job I’m supposed to do here. Picking up my life one place and putting in another is not the challenge. I’ve done that quite a few times already. And I don’t think exorcising or slaying the demons is what’s called for either because, as I am painfully aware of right now, that will probably just cause strain that cannot be helped by a few hours snuggled up with a heating pad. But maybe learning to face them and help them across the vale will help me actually move on too.

 

 

Katie Louchheim is looking into a career in supernatural diplomacy.

Word Vomit Wednesday - Where is the Music Industry's #MeToo Moment?

Welcome to Word Vomit Wednesday! A series of blog posts about a specific topic from current events that I, and sometimes the rest of the Internet, ruminate obsessively about. All thoughts/opinions/experiences are my own (unless otherwise indicated); I don’t claim anything that I write to represent anyone other than myself.

 

If you're a human who exists and is somewhat aware of things happening around you, you've probably heard these two words a lot recently: me too. These words no longer hold the same meaning they once had. No longer are they bouncing with excitement when a common interest between new friends is revealed or jumping in to join brunch plans for the weekend. It turns out, those two tiny words in the English lexicon have been carrying an enormous weight and are now wielding their true power. Activist Tarana Burke started the #MeToo Movement nearly 10 years ago as a way to help victims and survivors of sexual assault and harassment feel supported and know they're not alone. 

Fast forward to October 2017, both The New York Times and the New Yorker came out with harrowing stories from women who alleged harassment and assault, by now-disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Since then, stories highlighting everything from inappropriate and harmful behavior in the workplace to coercive and manipulative behaviors by men on casual dates have been starting long overdue conversations and taking powerful men down left and right, across all industries. All except one. The music industry. And because I am not an idiot and you are not an idiot, we know that it's not because the music industry is a beacon of light in the darkest corners of our culture, but one of it’s worst offenders. So, why is the music industry’s #MeToo moment so long overdue? 

Art in itself aims to push the envelope and the boundaries of what is considered “decent” by whatever cultural standards are being upheld at the time. It’s also a way to underscore hypocrisies, build empathy, and look at our lives from different perspectives. Music, especially, is a gift in the ways it can get straight to the heart of feelings that cannot be expressed fully through verbal communication. In the mainstream, Rock ‘n’ Roll became the vehicle, the code of conduct and the badge of honor for, specifically, the men who became it’s stars. But the puritanical American environment it proclaimed to be railing against was just the flip side of the same coin. While it was claiming to subvert norms of the day, really what was it but another pulpit for white men to preach, set the narrative, and do whatever the fuck they wanted with almost zero consequence. Whether it was the men onstage or the men behind the scenes, exploitation (of women, black musicians, etc.) has always been the name of the game. In an industry that prides itself on being anti status-quo with the tagline of “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll”, it sure does everything in its power to maintain it. The counter-culture as a facade of just our shitty culture. Since it really only applies to men, it also makes the sentiment less rebellious and expressive and much more insidious. 

Everything that we hear and know about going on in these other industries is and has been going on in the music industry. So why is it that, when we know someone can sing or play their ass off or produce some great records, we turn a blind eye. And it’s not like women haven’t tried to fight back. When they fight or attempt to take control of their careers and lives the smear campaigns are brutal. She was on drugs, she’s a diva, she’s a liar, she’s just a groupie looking for a payout, she’s having a mental breakdown, look what she wears onstage, she didn’t write those songs, how many people did she have to blow to get that famous and successful, didn’t she know what kind of business she was getting into, and on and on and on. 

One of the only stories we’ve heard anything about in the past couple of years is Kesha’s battle with producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald. Her case went public as she began to fight him in court in hopes of being released from her contract, in which her record label Sony would only allow her to release music if it was with him. Though her collaborations with him on hit songs like “Tik Tok” catapulted her into the mainstream, it was at a steep emotional, psychological, and economic cost to her. It came to light that Dr. Luke put her through a wringer of alleged emotional and verbal abuse, manipulation, drug use and rape. (For a timeline of the case, click here). Who the fuck would want or even be able to muster the energy to try and work collaboratively with a predatory piece of shit like that. But Sony stood by their man and a contract that she signed with him when she was just a teenager. They couldn’t have cared less about her career let alone her well-being as a human. Her recent performance of new music at the Grammy’s was from the first album she was legally allowed to release in five years. And her legal entanglements with Dr. Luke and this nightmare is still far from over for her. It’s still unclear whether she was only allowed to release the music because he gave her permission to do so. Which, if true, means that he is continuing to profit off her and her pain which he has personally caused. This is sickening. 

Her story, though, is not unusual. This industry has a habit of preying upon very young girls and women, turning them into objects of sexual desire for men, and dismissing them when they no longer want to play by those rules. A friend of mine who was in a band that used to go on Warped Tour in the summers, recalled to me that at seventeen-years-old she would be ushered into clubs by music industry men and touched inappropriately and in ways she was not comfortable with. And because she was so young she had no idea what to do about it and probably no one to report to. It’s not like this industry has a functioning HR department. This experience is one of the more tame ones that I could write about here. It’s a predicament that is familiar to a majority of women and it’s the same no matter what part of the industry you’re occupying: executive, A&R, production and engineering, artist. If you’re a woman or female/femme-identifying person you’re facing an uphill battle in a fortress that’s foundation is entirely made out of the objectified bodies and subsequent victimization of women. This excellent article here, highlights just how the industry is set up to fail women.

Another more well-known abuser that literally nothing has been done about is R. Kelly. Not only does he currently have multiple women trapped in various homes, completely cut off from their families and basically being used as sex slaves, HE’S. A. PEDOPHILE. Y’ALL. Remember when he married a then fifteen-year-old Aaliyah (RIP) when he was almost thirty? Yeeeeeaaaaahhh. But because of a combo of him having “talent,” being a punchline on a very memorable episode of South Park, and seeming to only abuse black women people just turn their heads the other way. You best believe though, if he had fucked a fifteen-year-old Taylor Swift when she was starting out there would be no more after parties in hotel lobbies and all of the women trapped in his closet could be set free because he’d finally be trapped behind bars. This industry, literally, let’s men get away with pretty much everything. Women could not matter any less. 

Women don’t have time for this type of fuckery, so we’ve been making our own spaces to create music, polish our engineering and producing chops and pass on our knowledge to female, transgender, and gender non-conforming youth. AND YET. Without a beat there will be a yearly article wondering aloud where all the women producers and engineers are. It is BEYOND fucking frustrating. It is the laziest piece of journalism, if you can even call it that, ever written. There are groups and labels all over the world that exist to support and connect female music professionals. I can name six off the top of my head: Female Frequency, Soundgirls, Women in Music, Women’s Audio Mission, Beatz by Girls, Gender Amplified, Inc. I’ve worked with Female Frequency for the past three years and for about a year I’ve been in charge of their #tbt posts in which I highlight a woman and/or queer artist/producer/dj/engineer etc. and I find them with just a simple Google search if I’m not already thinking of someone specific. I swear to goddess I will strangle the author of the next “Where Are All the Female Blah-Dee Blahh Blahs” if they don’t start talking to actual female professionals in the industry and critically thinking about how the music industry has and continues to shut views out that don’t fit in a nice white cishet patriarchal narrative. Here's one of the only articles I have ever seen to not pull this bullshit. 

A sliver of this ignorance was showcased recently in an interview that NARAS (the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) president, Neil Portnow gave to Variety in which he said, in so many words, that if women wanted to be successful in this industry they needed to “step up.” Just so I don’t go through my intense feelings of anger as I write about this again, I’m going to leave a snippet of a piece I wrote that was one part response to his comments after the most recent Grammys and another part Female Frequency #tbt featuring the incredible Amanda Palmer and her response to his completely out of touch statement: 

“...when an ignorant and brutally out of touch Neil Portnow got on that Grammy stage this past weekend and told women in the industry in the condescending patriarchal way that so many of us are accustomed to that they need to “step up” to be successful, I took a deep breath. He just spoke in front of an audience that included Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson, Janelle Monae, Pink, Lady Gaga and so many other of the most successful, innovative, and vocal women in our industry and told them that they are not doing enough. He stood on that stage that Kesha had just poured her pain and heart out in a song about her healing from sexual assault to an arena filled with people who were complicit in the system that allowed her to be assaulted and abused and even prohibited her from doing her job for four years and implied that those roadblocks were her fault. This kind of vile proclamation is not new to many of us. Palmer released a statement this week in response, “... I stepped up, dear industry dudes, I am making a really healthy salary every year and paying an entire team and hundreds of other musicians and artists and producers to collaborate with me in getting art out into the world. I am doing this all without the Grammys, without the major labels, without the completely corrupt radio stations, without the news media, without television, and without acknowledgement from any of the industry awards or contests, ever. So suck it, Neil Portnow. No woman in the industry needs to be told to ‘step up.’” She goes on to request the following action, “Women have been stepping the fuck up, and you have every opportunity - more than you ever did - to support them, now. When they step up, be the stairs” (you can find her full statement with this link). Be the stairs and lift up marginalized voices. That is the only way parity is going to happen and this is why Female Frequency exists. And Soundgirls and Beats by Girls and Women Beatmakers and WIM and WAM and the list goes on and on. We have stepped up and continue to step up in an industry that has made it clear that our points of view and experiences are not welcome, so we’ve made the space for them to have a voice. We are mastering our crafts and we are excellent at what we do. The #MeToo movement has yet to have the impact on the music industry that it desperately needs to, but I’m not worried about that. In the event of the reckoning about to hit, and it will most definitely hit, I have a suggestion for Portnow and his like-minded ilk: if you don’t want to get steamrolled I suggest, sirs, that it’s time for you to step aside.” 

The backlash was swift and soon reports began coming out about the emergence of a “female advancement” music industry task force at NARAS with a statement from Portnow, “I understand the hurt that my poor choice of words following last Sunday’s GRAMMY telecast has caused… I also now realize that it’s about more than just my words. Because those words, while not reflective of my beliefs, echo the real experience of too many women. I’d like to help make that right.” First of all, a half-assed non-apology is not a great a start. We’re not doing that anymore. Because so many of these statements have a history of being empty and as excuses to save face in the court of public opinion, the idea of a task force whose goal is to “do more to overcome the explicit barriers and unconscious biases that impede female advancement in the music community” sounds like a whole lotta unspecific bullshit. Because this is the thing, if The Academy specifically, and the industry at large wanted to change they’d have to tear the whole thing down and start anew for that to happen, and that’s not going to happen unless it’s forced to. This industry is predicated on the objectification of women as a vehicle for cishet white male rage and desire. Until that view is obliterated, nothing of real value will change.