Online Debate Ettiquette

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When responding to a person’s views with your own contrasting views, the dynamic of the conversation can quickly turn sour. The arena of debate through the internet has often turned into name-calling, profanity, and overly condescending language. I see so few comments that are worded in a productive way, that I decided to provide my personal method.

1. Read the entirety of any comment you are responding to. (Or watch the entirety of any video you are responding to.)

2. If there are any points that you AGREE with, mention that first.

3. Say which part you don’t agree with and why, without calling names or making the message overly personal.

4. If there were two things that you agreed with in the video/comment, mention another thing at the end. If there was only one thing, or nothing at all, THANK the person for participating in the discussion.


Categories: Random Stuff Blogs

People On The Internet Are Rude

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If you ever doubt that racism still exists, just start reading the comments left on African-American YouTube channels. You’ll be appalled at the kind of trash you will read spewing from people’s fingers with little care for politeness or grammatical correctness. The truth of the matter is that people feel protected from behind their computer screens, completely unaccountable for their words and actions. While that can be true through the use of multiple proxies, people should not be led to believe that their words won’t follow them. I was taught when I was little that the written word is powerful – because others can find it and read it. One great example of this was my diary. I quickly learned after several arguments with my mother and subsequent angry diary entries – which were later read by Mom – that the written word can come back to haunt you long after the initial impetus for writing them strikes.

Facebook is a great example of where people are opening themselves to the world. You may think that all of your comments are only read by your 300+ friends, but think again. If you make a comment on a friend’s link, the friend sees that comment – your 300 friends see the comment – – AND your friend’s 300 friends also see the comment. When Your friends’ friends comment after you, their friends also have access to see the comment, and the chain reaction grows. Basically, don’t fool yourself into thinking that your snide remarks are only being shared with a handful of people, or that they aren’t searchable. It only takes one angry, crazy person to come to your place of work (which you’ve so prominently listed at the top of your FaceBook profile) and harass you – or worse.

Youtube has become the all-time low of rudeness. People make up pseudonyms and say the most hurtful, hateful things. There is definitely a trend to compliment young, attractive people (particularly teenage girls) for any videos they post – while openly ridiculing less attractive people. As a musician, I am often listening to music on YouTube, and in the musical arena of pop culture, there is much fighting and debate about the artists. Singers must “compete” with one another, and they are forced to do so by their fans – who listen to their music and make comments about who is the best/better singer. These comments aren’t just said to the artist, they are shared with the world. My biggest gripe is that people rarely tell us why one artist is better than another – unless they are pointing out that one artist is fatter/hotter/uglier/prettier, etc. We live in a very shallow, superficial world.

Of course, the most disturbing part of all this is the fact that people don’t just “become” rude when they log onto a computer. They are rude already, and being behind the shelter of a screen brings out that horrible quality. It is very much like the sense of protection one feels when driving an automobile and cursing the other drivers. You feel completely unaccountable for your actions. You will never see that person again in your life, and as a result all of the anger within comes out.

For the first time in my musical career, I have come to a point where I understand the feelings of Lauryn Hill, whom I always thought was crazy for her Malcolm-X-like approach to racism and her desire to slip out of the public eye and live her own private life. Why would she want to share her music with such a horrible world? A place filled with evil people who have such hurtful things to say? There are still some good people in the world – but not many.

Categories: Random Stuff Blogs

Baby Alive vs. Real Baby

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I still remember her big painted blue eyes, her blonde hair that was pulled into two cute little pigtails at the top of her head, and her strange o-shaped gaping mouth that would “chew” when I pushed on it with her hard plastic bottle. Oh, the glorious memories of “Baby Alive”, the doll that promised to be just like a real baby for millions of little girls across the US. “Baby Alive” provided me with hours upon hours of entertainment. OK, maybe 2 hours. Because after her food packets ran out and her diapers ran out, she was just a doll with a weird mouth and a suspicious-looking derriere. A child of young parents in the 80’s, my family didn’t have a lot of money to feed the extra little robotic mouth at the table, so “Baby Alive” didn’t see much food after her first week. She eventually went with a small group of other toys out to a “hideout fort” in the woods behind our house, where she and the other toys were thrown to the top of an abandoned railroad car by suspected child vandals.

Now that I’m grown and have a real baby, I can say with absolute certainty that “Baby Alive” does not live up to it’s promise of being “so real”.

– Real babies have horrendous gas. Baby Alive has airless passage of food.

– Real babies get constipated, and cry nonstop until they are finally able to go poop-poop. Why doesn’t Baby Alive do this?

– Despite the stories of Baby Alive munching up little girl’s hair in a dangerous fashion because of her “digestive gears” (older models), Baby Alive doesn’t ever grab handfuls of hair and yank them repeatedly while laughing as mommy yelps in pain.

– Baby Alive always keeps her hands and legs still. To make her more like a real baby, her arms and legs need to be constantly kicking, flapping about, clapping,  and slapping anyone who is holding her as they struggle.

– Baby Alive was only a couple of pounds, yet she talks. The typical talking 1 or 2 year old weighs between 20 and 30 lbs. Baby Alive should also raise her hands up in the air and whine, “Pick me up! Pick me up!”

– Baby Alive has soft plastic fingertips. Real babies have ultra-sharp little fingernails which they use to scratch themselves and others, leaving red scratches (and sometimes blood!) in their wake.

– Baby Alive doesn’t cry. This has to be the biggest downfall of this product. If they want her to be “so real”, they need to make her cry A LOT. Especially at night.

– It seems like Baby Alive comes with SO many accessories. Mine came with a bottle, bibs, a spoon, diapers, and little packets of food. She may have even had a hairbrush. I’m not sure. However, if she is going to be like a real baby, she needs 100 times more stuff. Each delivery of a Baby Alive doll will require a subsequent dropoff from a freight truck full of accessories. Crib, toys, 10 diapers a day, 5 different kinds of bottles because baby Alive will refuse the other 4 brands, swingy dangly toys, rolly toys, stuffed toys, pacifiers, gas drops, tylenol drops, strollers, carseats, stroller accessories, and carseat accessories. She will need food grinders, mesh self-feeding snack gadgets, food storage systems, multiple spoons, special BPA free bowls, vitamin D drops, multivitamin drops, lotions, bubble baths, bath toys….and more.  Much more.


I imagine a more accurate “Baby Alive” doll being similar to the movie “Chucky”, only with more accessories.

Change of Focus

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I had so many interesting things I wanted to write about this week. However, the only thing I can think about at the moment is my little angel sleeping next to me. It’s so strange. I had so many thoughts about interesting blog topics…but then when I sit down to write them, everything fades away. And all I’m left with is the constant thought of her. Maybe it’s because I am slightly anxious that at any moment she may wake, and then I will have to click “Move to Trash” on this blog, as I have with so many other entries this month. I used to save my drafts…but that made my website’s homepage a wreck, so I decided it’s either “Publish” or “Trash” with no in-between.

Baby Zoey is about 4 1/2 months old now. She has grown so much in these past months…it’s unbelievable. The whole process of growing a human being is pretty amazing in itself. I remember very clearly the feelings that overwhelmed me that first week with her. I had seen her on ultrasounds almost every week as she developed – it wasn’t like I didn’t know there was a baby inside me. I could feel her kicking me, responding to my music and the music my students played on the piano. I was fully aware that there was a little person growing inside of me. But it wasn’t until she came out that this feeling of “oh wow” took over. I mean…inside my body, there was only me…and then from one of my eggs and her daddy’s “seed”…another whole human being was formed! That is SO cool!

I have a newfound respect for my body now. Before this experience, I spent more time cursing my body for not being perfect than admiring all of the cool things it does without my conscious mind ever controlling it. My body formed this little human being…this perfect little person. My body knew when she was ready to be born, and began the process of labor to bring her out of the womb. And even when I thought “I don’t think I can do this” in the middle of it all…my body proved me wrong. It was nothing special that my brain did. Usually, my mind is the stronger of the forces…I’m a musician, a songwriter, an artist. Not an athlete.  I like to work with my mind and my hands, and the rest of my body is usually just there to provide a base for clothing and to transport my mind from one place to another. But…this time, my body showed me that it is of use too…and the stuff it can do far outweighs my brain’s ability to make my fingers play diminished 7th chords in 2nd inversions.  The birth of Zoey was like a spiritual awakening and realization of just how amazing and precious life is. I’m not saying that every person on earth’s sole purpose for being here is to bring another person into the world. But at this moment, being Zoey’s mother is the most defining characteristic about me.

And so, it seems funny now that I have written so much music about tragic love, partying, heartbreak and cat fights with girlfriends. I don’t regret those 200+ songs that all seem to fall into one of those categories. They tell a story of where I’ve been, like a photograph in time. And oddly, as soon as that first album was completed, a new chapter of my life had begun – a chapter that included this new little character, Zoey.

It seems that many of my songs now are about and for her. I haven’t been writing as many songs now – probably 1 or 2 a week – but the feeling is so different to write songs about where I am at right now rather than where I have been. I treasure my old songs, and I believe in their quality. I worked hard arranging instrument parts and revising the lyrics over and over again, and I feel excited about presenting them to the world because they are my best songs thus far.  But these new songs, they are something from deeper in my heart. A place where the lyrics need no revision, and I don’t need layers and layers of instruments to show any technical mastery. Most of them I “wrote” in my head while caring for Zoey. They have become our everyday songs that I sing to her while we are playing/eating/bathing etc.

As I said…I have so many interesting things to write…but for now, this little one is the most important of all.

Opinions…Everybody Has One

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You know the riddle: Everybody has one…and some of them stink. (Opinions) During my recent visit back home to Indiana, the preacher’s sermon on sunday was about opinions – and how as faithful people we should look to the Bible for our answers rather than the internet. While I appreciate his opinion…the Bible doesn’t say much about breastfeeding, getting your child to sleep through the night, or what to expect in the first week of life. After having my first baby, I’ve done a lot of searching Google for various reasons – Why is my baby crying? Should I co-sleep? When should baby (insert skill set here; hold a bottle, crawl, roll over, smile, laugh).  What I’ve found is that everyone has a lot of opinions. While one person will passionately advocate for the benefits of co-sleeping, another will say that it’s a risk for SIDS. Breastfeeding is a very heated debate among women. Many doctors and “experts” say that “it’s rare for women to suffer from low milk supply”. But then if you research “increase milk supply”, you find many women who are trying to do just that – and of course, a plethora of opinions about how to achieve it.

I’ve been baby-wearing Zoey nearly every day for the past 2 months. Baby-wearing is the practice of putting your little one in a sling or other carrying device and taking them along with you everywhere you go. This doesn’t work for everyone. Some mothers have back problems because of it, some babies hate it, and there is also a community of moms of the opinion that it neglects the child’s development of independence. I was told by some that it is “great” and that I’m “spoiling the child” by others. Baby-wearing worked for us until the hot weather of summer came along and we both found it uncomfortable to be wrapped up with so much extra fabric.

When an opinion is directed toward a specific person, it is called advice. . . .

The musical crowd of today is more opinionated than ever. I recently went to a music conference in Lancaster, PA where they played songs that were submitted and the panelists discussed whether the song “sucked” or not. In their opinion, most of the songs did suck. Their reasons were sometimes very technically sound, and other times based upon personal preferences. Music is one of those artistic expressions that begets preference and opinion from its audience. You develop into a listener who likes certain sounds and has certain expectations for songs that you listen to in order for them to be accepted into your realm of what you find enjoyable. Even if one person hates what you are creating, another person will find it to be wonderful.

I’ve read so many independent artists’ T shirts, comics and bumper stickers that “bash” on the popular music of today that I’ve finally begun to see how silly it is. Most of what they say about the popular music of today is true – “It’s all autotuned.” ..Well yes, it is. Vocals are edited on every commercial release of every genre of music released after 1990. They have been tuning vocals for years, and the technology has gotten so good that even LIVE autotune is affordable for everyone. If you are reading this, you probably have an opinion about whether this is good or bad use of technology. It’s a heated topic.

They also say of today’s pop music – “It all sounds the same.” ..Right again. That’s the idea of music fitting into a specific genre. It has characteristics that make it similar to other songs of the same genre. You could say that all classical music sounds the same, and all rock music sounds the same, and all techno music sounds the same…because in some way, they do.

I hear this a lot – “The stuff they are playing on the radio is crap.” What an opinion! If all music is just self-expression, can we really call one song “crap” and another song “art”? You could say that the major label artists aren’t choosing songs that focus on self-expression but rather making money…but isn’t that also a reflection of self? (See Madonna’s Material Girl) …

The bottom line…whether the musical opinions are right or not, is that everyone has an opinion. As a musician, it is your own opinion that matters most. Don’t let the opinions of others prevent you from making your own choices.

This goes double for parenthood.