Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Your New Favorite Band

I love music. I especially love good music. And I really love introducing people to good music that I love.

So if you're not yet acquainted, I'd like to introduce you to The Royal Concept.

Really the only thing you need to know is that this is their lead singer:
Uuuuuunnnnggghhhhhh.

But if for some reason you need more than that devastating face to make you listen to a band, here's the story.

I started listening to The Royal Concept nearly two years ago, in preparation for a concert Jessica and I attended in Denver. They opened for American Authors, Jessica's favorite band at the time and our reason for going to the show. I couldn't find a lot of music from TRC, but I added what I had to a concert-themed playlist and drove to Colorado.

The Royal Concept was the second act, after MisterWives, and they put on an unbelievable show. High energy, engaging, just fantastic. Almost immediately I pointed out to Jessica how cute David, the lead singer, was. And we fell in love with their adorable Swedish accents. American Authors was great, too, but for me they had been eclipsed by their opener.
I met David after the show; Jessica met Zac (the lead singer of AA), and we left Denver pretty high on life. Jessica and I still talk about that night regularly.

Anyway, after the concert I invested more time in getting to know The Royal Concept. I got my hands on a copy of their full-length album, Goldrushed, which (for some reason I'll never understand) was never released in the U.S. For several months, Jessica or I would periodically text one another and lament, "The Royal Concept needs to release more music!" Then last month we saw this:
 Sadly, it's another EP rather than a full-length album. But hey. Beggars can't be choosers. But they can be beggars. And here is my shameless,  unabashed plea to you: go pre-order the EP. It's five bucks and, if my history with TRC is indicative of anything, will bring you immeasurable joy. Plus, if the band makes enough money, maybe we'll see them touring the U.S. again soon, and maybe--just maybe--I can get a picture with David where his eyes aren't closed. (Sorry, Jess. I had to bring it up!)

At the very least, give them a listen. They might just be your new favorite band.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My Atticus

I stayed up past my bedtime to finish reading Go Set a Watchman for book club tomorrow (well, technically, later today). And even though I should be getting some sleep, I can't stop thinking and feeling about this book. So I'm blogging.

It wasn't until the day of the book's release that I learned about Atticus-the-racist and Atticus-the-Klan-member. But I knew I'd still buy and read the book; how could I not? I was prepared for the worst. I was prepared to hate this different version of my literary hero. I was all set with my most dependable emotional defense mechanisms, intent on not allowing whatever happened in this book to color my view of To Kill a Mockingbird. I resolved to finish the book and quickly set it aside if that became necessary.

But all of these preparations were uncalled-for.

I don't care what anyone says. I don't care if you think that the characters evolved between Harper Lee's draft of Go Set a Watchman and her writing of To Kill a Mockingbird. For me, the Atticus Finch that I just read across 278 pages is the same Atticus Finch I have idolized since eighth grade. And I want to explain why.

I think my relationship with To Kill a Mockingbird will sound similar to most. It was required reading in junior high, and after we finished the book we watched the movie. I loved both. Like many people do, I saw my own father in Atticus. My dad, the defense attorney who taught me to believe in the presumption of innocence with a fervor that would shape my education and career goals. The man who taught with gentleness, kindness, and love. Yes, of course, Atticus was my father in so many ways.

And I think both men--the one who worked hard to provide me with a comfortable upbringing and the one in black and white print who will forever look like Gregory Peck in my mind--played a role in my decision to attend law school. Obviously my dad had more of an influence there, always talking to me about the law, sharing his love with me. But the first thing I hung on my refrigerator when I moved to Omaha, a week before starting law school, was a laminated quotation from To Kill a Mockingbird wherein Atticus extols the benefits and necessity of the jury system. I read that quote often, a near-constant reminder of why I was there, doing what I was doing.

Toward the end of law school, I had a few unsettling experiences. It might not seem strange from an outsider's perspective, but it was hard for me to handle. My dad saw me compete in and win a regional trial team competition, and the way he spoke to me afterward informed me that the dynamic between us had shifted ever so slightly. He was complimentary about my performance, as any good father would be, but there was more to it than that. He seemed to admire what I had done. He treated me like his equal. This happened a few more times. Once he called and asked me a legal question. My dad is brilliant, but he was asking me a question. I'm brand new in this profession. My dad is still my example and the embodiment of so many goals I have for myself. But in my childhood, that example seemed unattainable. He was perfect in my eyes. He was, in so many ways, a god.

As I grow older and my understanding of the law deepens, I'm confronted with the fact that my dad doesn't know everything. This is something I honestly would not have believed 15 years ago. Along similar lines, I have finally developed a social and political identity entirely separate from my parents'. My dad sometimes makes comments that startle me. I have a hard time understanding some of his political views. When we disagree, I am made more aware of his humanness. These subtle shifts in our relationship haven't led to me loving or respecting my dad any less. Instead, I respect and love him differently. I'm an adult, and a parent/child relationship looks different from a parent/adult-child relationship.

So, back to the book. I don't think it's spoiling much to tell you that Atticus can accurately be described as racist. But you know what? So is Jean Louise. I mean, it was written in the 50's. But the father's and daughter's brands of racism are definitely different.

Jean Louise is more liberal than her father; she thinks states should desegregate. She believes an individual's potential in life should not be hampered by his skin color. But at the risk of sounding like an apologist, I'd submit that Atticus actually agrees with this latter belief. He just has a more paternalistic view about the process. He has an us/them mentality and seems to think that "we" know best; "they" aren't ready for equal rights. He doesn't seem to resent the progress that has been made since the Civil War. But he does think that progress should continue at a "natural" pace rather than being forced too quickly. Jean Louise holds the simpler view that all men are created equal, and there's nothing equal about waiting for change.

When Jean Louise realizes the views her father holds, her world seems to fall apart. She feels like her childhood was built on lies; her father defended a black man accused of rape on principle but now talks about blacks like they're less-than. Jean Louise implicitly realizes that the father of her childhood looks different from her position as an adult. In similar fashion, the Atticus of To Kill a Mockingbird looks different from the Atticus of Go Set a Watchman. But isn't that what you'd expect? In Mockingbird, Scout sees her father as a god. In Watchman, Jean Louise grapples with the understanding that her father is human.

I don't think the two Atticuses are inconsistent. I don't think you have to abandon your admiration of one in order to accept the other. I think the two books and the two Atticuses and the two Scouts are representative of the divide between childhood and adulthood. A loss of innocence. The shedding of naiveté. And I think it's simplistic and unfair to say, "Oh, treat this as an unfinished manuscript. It's not really a companion to To Kill a Mockingbird. It shares only the barest similarities." That takes away from the beauty of Go Set a Watchman. It is a beautiful and heartbreaking book because it forces you to confront how we treat our heroes and idols and how we react when we realize they're flawed. I can't separate that lesson, which is contained between the covers, from that same lesson that is taught when we, as readers, hold Mockingbird and Watchman side-by-side and ask ourselves, "Who is my Atticus?"

Monday, March 9, 2015

Whirlwind

I have been on my phone constantly for three days. I'll admit that I'm normally pretty attached to it, but this has been something else. Part of me feels the need to completely unplug. Another part of me is worried about missing something important. So I'm taking an approach in the middle, temporarily setting aside my qwerty keyboard for my laptop's.

My friend Nate just tweeted:
and I thought it might be good to take a step back and do some reflection. The past 72 hours really have been a whirlwind, and for a lot of reasons.

On Friday I flew out from Salt Lake, on my way to the Big Ten wrestling championships. I was scheduled to have a quick layover in Chicago before arriving in Columbus, but our flight was seriously delayed leaving Salt Lake. (As we touched down in Chicago, my would-be connecting flight took off.) I spent the flight online, trying to connect with United's customer service through Twitter so I would have an alternate route to Columbus when I deplaned. Almost exactly 24 hours later, I would be using social media in a much larger way.

I was lucky enough to make it on a standby flight to Columbus, got my car 2 minutes before the rental window closed, checked into my hotel, and finally fell asleep--exhausted--around 2 a.m. local time.

Saturday, I arrived at St. John Arena just as wrestling began. Matt had a bye the first round, but the morning was filled with plenty of great matches, cheering, and excitement. Matt won his first match, and we left for the midday break in high spirits. My aunt and uncle, a family friend, my dad, and I all piled into one car and headed out for lunch. While we were driving, I got this text from Erin in my group conversation with her and Suzzanne:

(Sidenote: you would not believe how far I had to scroll back to get to this text from less than 48 hours ago.)

I think I speak for Suzzanne when I say we were both appalled and immediately felt Erin's same sense of disbelief that (a) this shirt existed and (b) someone would wear it in public. We all yelled about it for awhile, then I asked "Mind if I tweet?" And Erin responded "Go for it."A bit later she followed up with "Let's blow this up." So that's what we did.

Or...tried to do.

This was the first tweet.
It got a whopping two retweets. One was by Suzzanne. The other? Shockingly, Erin.

Meanwhile, we were still texting, and Erin had taken to Facebook. We decided we needed a hashtag. Erin's original Facebook post had indicated that rape isn't a joke and shouldn't be used as a tagline, so that seemed perfect. We revised our posts and began the hashtag #RapeIsNotATagline on Facebook and Twitter. We saw a little more action, but still we bemoaned our lack of influence. We brainstormed, trying to figure out if we had any powerful friends we could reach out to. We knew we were at least being heard by the bar who distributed the shirt when we (and our friends joining the conversation) all got blocked by their twitter account.




Around the time that the bar blocked us, we started seeing others close to us make real strides in advancing the conversation. Our friend, Scott (who had not been blocked), saved direct links to tweets from the bar advertising the shirts, a smart move as the question later arose whether the bar even had knowledge of their existence. Our friend, Stephen, reached out to the Omaha World Herald and asked them to contact Erin. Erin's med school classmates organized to move a school function from The Jay, where it was originally scheduled to take place. I saw friends on Facebook sharing the photo, and as the evening drew to a close, I felt encouraged. I felt like people were taking a stand. I felt like this was going somewhere. But I wasn't prepared for where.

Late Saturday night, I left the wrestling tournament with plans to take dinner back to my hotel and get to work. I wanted to email administrators at Creighton and ask them to refrain from doing business with The Jay. I planned to email The Jay directly and express our concerns. Instead, I stayed up until 3 a.m. creating a Twitter account and website, thinking the hashtag was great but we needed a place to summarize the effort.

I woke Sunday morning wondering if I had spent the previous day getting too worked up; maybe I was annoying people with the sheer volume of the tweets I had posted. I got ready and headed to the arena, intent to focus on wrestling. But as I pulled into the parking lot, I heard a Twitter notification come through. It was for the @NotATagline account. It was a tweet from The Jay.* They were listening. And so were others.

I text Suzzanne and Erin. Erin confirmed that The Jay had responded to her and some family members. We quickly saw that people were expressing disappointment by leaving reviews on the bar's Facebook place page. And while so many people began to focus on the bar, we realized we had a great opportunity to broaden the conversation and really focus on the substance of our concerns as summed up in our hashtag. The Jay shut down their social media sites for awhile, and we took the time to redouble our efforts to talk more about the problem of rape culture and less about the bar as a business. The Jay ultimately put their accounts back online and issued this statement. (I think, anyway. I can't view it. I'm still blocked.)

Media outlets,  including local news stations, the local newspaper, and a local radio station, began tracking the story yesterday midday, contacting people to try and track down its origin. Most were led to Erin as the original poster of the picture. Some found their way to Suzzanne and me. I might have some of these details wrong, but I think Erin did a brief phone interview that led to the first written story, two on-camera interviews for the news, and another phone interview for the World Herald. She was eloquent and focused and wonderful. She's currently being interviewed for her third tv segment.

This morning, Erin and I appeared via phone on a radio morning show. Within two hours of concluding the interview, @NotATagline's number of followers had doubled.

I think the local media attention has helped us clarify that our point in all of this was not to put The Jay out of business. In fact, this might be a great opportunity for the bar to connect with local resources and do some good. But really, these events have coalesced to start a really important conversation about rape. It's so important to highlight the need for consent. And despite the message on the t-shirt, we are all responsible for that. Parents should educate their children. Those with resources should make them accessible to those needing help. Have you heard about Homeland Security's "If you see something, say something" campaign? What if we applied that idea to situations like this as well? If you see something amiss or dangerous, speak out. If there's one thing we've learned, it's that people are grateful for a voice.

All in all,  it's been a tiring, wonderful, eye-opening weekend. This all took place while I tried to focus on my brother taking second place at the most difficult weight class in what is undoubtedly the most difficult conference in the country. There are two things I would say I regret about the weekend. The first is that our focus was maybe initially too much on The Jay as an establishment and not enough about the shirt's actual message. I think we quickly remedied that. The second (and more important) regret is that I wish I would have been more present for the tournament. Even when taking pictures of Matt's matches, I had notifications popping up on my phone distracting me. I'm so proud of Matt and the example he is to me. I hope he knows that, despite my mental absence between matches.

*This tweet was subsequently deleted, but I saved a screenshot if you're interested in its content.

Friday, February 20, 2015

What Do I Do?

My oldest nephew turns seventeen today, which is a good reminder of how quickly time goes by. It’s already been three months since I moved back to Utah. Five months since I was sworn is an attorney. Nine months since I graduated. A year since I began my final semester of law school. What have I been doing all that time?

I just came across a post on my sister’s blog that highlighted the importance of focusing more on who people are than what they “do.” I had to smile as Jenny explained, “[M]y passion doesn't show up in a LinkedIn profile.” I understood exactly what she meant. I know a standard resume is inept at capturing who she is. But in a way, I think that’s true for most of us.

I originally thought I would write this update post to discuss my new job, which I started a little over a month ago. But do you know what that discussion would say? “I love my job.” And that’s true. But that doesn’t really tell you how I spend my time, what talents I’m developing, or how I’m improving or stagnating as an individual. I have a close friend who also works as a law clerk, and we often commiserate over people’s inability to understand what we do and our constant need to justify ourselves: “No, I promise, it’s a really great job. Yes, I needed to go to law school to get this position. No, I’m not an intern.” So if you ask me what I “do,” and I reply only with my job title, you’re not likely to receive a whole lot of insight regarding what makes me me. Maybe, then, we should all start taking that question literally and responding with a litany of activities we engage in. I’ll start. You want to know what I do?

I attend my nephew’s performance of Arsenic and Old Lace (he played Johnny).
I watch former First Lady Laura Bush sit down with her daughter and talk about the importance of family.
I snap pictures as Jenny meets her scrapbooking hero Becky Higgins.
I eat at Moochies for the first time in two years.
I fall in love on Valentine’s Day.
I cut inches off my hair. 

I rekindle my love of dance when I go to Cougarettes in Concert.

So...that. That's what I do.