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dIMBER Shares Body Positive "Sons and Daughters" Video

There’s a lot of depressing shit in the media currently. What discourages me further is the media we consume is specifically curated to be as rage-inducing and divisive as possible, because that’s what drives clicks (read: advertising). So with this in mind, it’s a breath of fresh air to share the new dimber video. Directed by Elizabeth Weinberg, the official video for “Sons & Daughters” juxtaposes lyrics that criticize the patriarchal police state with a badass body-positive dance party. Take three minutes and enjoy!

Here’s what dimber’s CJ Miller has to say about the video:

"And with a developing strength perhaps we can create a shift towards equal opportunity and access for every human. With no discrimination based upon ethnicity, sexuality, physicality or gender... a dismantling of any oppression based on our innate qualities. And a dismantling of restrictive gender roles. Where girls must be soft and demure. Where boys are punished for crying and expressing vulnerability. Where girls play house. And boys play with guns. 

Sons and Daughters is an outcry against those roles and systems. The ways we feel isolated from each other, even in a densely populated city. It also relates to my experience as a trans girl in navigating gender roles and a world which would see me dead or bound and gagged in pink satin. Maybe the kids will do better."

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Election 2018: Everything Is Shit and We’re Hurtling Towards Death Edition

Welcome back to Chain Letter’s California election opinion series! You could spend a few hours on Ballotpedia.org OR you could have us do the work for you!

We’ll be examining the Senate Race, House Race for district 28, CA Governor’s Race, and the very exciting propositions.

A quick disclaimer about me, as I feel it important to know the inherent biases of the person writing any opinion-based article:

I’ve been called a cynical left-wing atheist commie. While these statements aren’t exactly true, it is 100 percent true I’ve been called these things. Often.

 

Senate Race

Let’s start with a coin toss: Diane Feinstein v Kevin de Leon. Both candidates are staunch liberals. The argument against Feinstein is one of status quo—she’s been a senator for California since 1992. De Leon represents a sea change of new blood desiring to shake up the US Senate. It’s a valid argument, but one that may disproportionately reflect a desire for “change.” Yes, Feinstein has been rewarded for her long run in the Senate, but her record reflects someone who has the gumption to stand for progressive beliefs. Is she a little too cozy with the Washington establishment, corporate lobbyists, and general political tom-fuckery? Sure. You’re welcome to hold that against her. De Leon is a local boy from East LA and also stands for progressive ideologies, with an emphasis on immigration reform. De Leon’s detractors paint him as overly-ambitious, with a nepotism streak.

This is a touch choice. Feinstein is a career politician; ergo she is flawed. But de Leon is no stranger to politics, either. Furthermore, is there enough we know about de Leon that would suggest a wild change in policy effectiveness?  I’m not sure. This is one choice for which I don’t have a solid recommendation yet. If I come across anything in the next couple of weeks I’ll be sure to update the post.

Vote: UNDECIDED

Heather’s opinion: she is a ranking member on the Judiciary Committee (subcommittees: Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security). She is also on the Committee on Intelligence, Committee on Rules and Administration, and the Senate Committee on Appropriations (subcommittees: Energy and Water (Vice Chairman). Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. Defense. Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. Interior, Environmental and Related Agencies.)

——So…a BAD ass hard working woman!!!! vote: Feinstein

 

House Race

I live in the California’s 28th district. My representative to the US House of Representatives is Adam Schiff. Schiff gained national recognition as the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and for his vehement criticism of Donald Trump. He will be re-elected with or without this blog’s endorsement, but for fun let’s look into the guy the Republicans got running against Schiff.

Known colloquially as Mr. Seafood, Johnny Nalbandian grew up in Hollywood, according to his website bio. He’s basically a wealthy old businessman who states plainly that his main qualification to represent us in the House is his success in business. He’s pro-Trump and Trump’s agenda. I’m sure there’s so much more to learn, but running on a platform that applauds the current administration in California’s 28th district guarantees an L for Mr. Seafood.

Vote: SCHIFF

 

Governor’s Race

If you’ve at all been paying attention to California politics the last decade, you probably recognize Gavin Newsom, the honey-tongued made-for-television Ex-Mayor of San Francisco who’s seeking the California Governorship as a Democrat. If you’re a progressive, this is your guy. He says all the right shit, is super interested in California adopting a Medical-for-all approach to health care, wants to end child poverty, decrease income inequality, and make the state eventually run on 100% renewable energy. You get the picture. Conservatives hate him. Dems love him. (Side note: As we move into a future of more extreme partisan politics, I predict a transition  towards stronger state’s rights as people push for the right to live in communities that reflect their values. Newsom is an example of where we’re headed. States like Hawaii and California will get more and more liberal, while states like Alabama and Mississippi will elect harder-line conservatives.)

However, liberal buyer beware. Newsom’s a lady’s man with a few scandals on his record, including an affair with a staffer while he was mayor. I’ve also heard from multiple sources about his years scamming on young hostesses at different upscale SF restaurants. In the age of #metoo, this is especially troubling. It seems progressives aren’t immune from having to support a candidate whose background may not be as saintly as we’d like.

Luckily the Republicans aren’t running a centrist. Republican candidate John Cox would be such a backwards choice for California, it makes Newsom’s smarmy boss vibe a little bit easier to stomach. This wealthy venture capitalist has been aching for public office for some time, having run previously for the U.S. Senate and House.  He believes that the state’s gas tax is a main contributing reason to why California’s adjusted poverty rate is so high. Hmm. My guess is he hasn’t tried renting a home on minimum wage, like, ever. He’s critical of a single payer health care system, which Newsom supports. He blames California’s environmental regulations for the high cost of home ownership and the rising homeless population.

With Cox, it’s basically the same shit we’ve heard from the right over and over. He’ll get a bump from short-sighted Prop 6 supporters (more on that in a bit) but in reality John Cox is the embodiment of the wealthy white patriarchy.

Vote: NEWSOM

 

The Propositions

 

Prop 1: Housing Programs and Veterans’ Loans Bond

Who’s supporting: Democratically-controlled California State Legislature who proposed the ballot measure, Gov. Brown who signed it into law.

Who’s against: Not a whole lot. Some scattered fiscally-minded conservatives.

Where the money’s coming from: Mark Zuckerberg’s nonprofit, as well as realtors, developers, and construction trade groups.

As many advertisements as you’ve probably seen for Prop 10—“the rent is too damn high!”—Prop 1 is the real ballot measure looking to help tackle the housing crisis in California. By selling bonds, the state is looking to fund initiatives that would generate $1 billion for the CalVet Home Loan Program, which offers loans to veterans for the purchase of homes, farms, units in cooperative developments, and mobile homes, $1.5 billion for the Multifamily Housing Program (MHP), which offers loans for the construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of rental housing for persons with incomes of 60 percent or below of the area median income, and another 1.5 billion split into a variety of programs that support low income and moderate income home buyers, grants for infrastructure that supports high-density affordable housing, and, of course, tax breaks for developers who develop next to public transportation.

Will this cost the state money? Yes. 170 million a year is the estimate. And, yes, it’s also true that money alone won’t solve California’s housing crisis. However, public investment is how change begins. Think of it as putting some skin in the game. Personally, I’m fucking tired of traveling around LA on the bus and seeing such opulence kitty-corner to the destitute and marginalized. We have enough resources to help solve this problem, now we just need the conviction to follow through. Prop 1 is hopefully the next step in solving this.

Vote: YES

 

Prop 2: Authorizes Bonds to Fund Existing Housing Program for Individuals With Mental Illness

Who’s supporting: California State Legislature, mental health workers, police unions, Habitat for Humanity, Socially conscious alliances.

Who’s against: National Alliance of Mental Illness, Contra Costa County.

Where the money’s coming from: The people lobbying for prop 1 are also supporting prop 2. The two initiatives go hand in hand.

This proposition is clerical in nature. The California State Legislature wants to use revenue generated by a previous proposition (prop 63 in 2004 that levied a 1% tax on millionaires to be spent on mental health services) to now include housing costs for veterans in need of mental health services. Because the original tax was levied as result of a voter-approved ballot measure, the change to include veterans requires a new vote.

Detractors worry that the funds that were supposed to help homeless people struggling with mental illness will now be diverted to helping veterans, ultimately lining the pockets of developers and bureaucrats. This argument ignores the fact that a large portion of the homeless population struggling with mental illness are also veterans.

To me, this proposition aims to include and support veterans and others struggling with homelessness. As someone who really wants to see homelessness end, but is generally powerless to help outside of volunteer work or giving five bucks where and when I can, these two propositions give me the opportunity to contribute.

Vote: YES

 

Prop 3: Water Infrastructure and Watershed Conservation Bond Initiative

Who’s supporting: Sen. Feinstein, various CA State representatives, Johnny Cox, shit tons of conservation groups, unions, agricultural lobbyist groups,

Who’s against: Democratic Rep. Anthony Rendon, Sierra Club

Where the money’s coming from: PACs funded by agricultural and environmental interests. And fucking Ducks Unlimited, everyone’s favorite aquatic fowl preservation group. They ponied up big time.

This proposition is the classic “pay-to-play” ballot initiative, meaning the groups supporting prop 3 stand to receive a large portion of the funds the proposition generates. The first thing that tickled my bullshit detector is that so many business interests were supporting a proposition that would raise funds to “go toward conservancies and state parks to restore and protect watershed lands and nonprofits and local agencies for river parkways.” I also noted that Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox is supporting this measure. What further threw me for a loop is that the ballot does seek to prioritize revitalization in marginalized communities. So where was the truth? I read closer, but I didn’t see a whole lot of specifics on how this money would be allocated to these communities or what they were even going to do with it.

Furthermore, there’s a lot of progressive journalistic criticism of Prop 3. No one’s saying that California’s water situation is solved. But the criticism I read about the prop rings true, especially this quote from a Los Angeles Times editorial: “when money is flowing and water isn’t, it’s easy to be seduced into spending on the wrong water projects at the wrong time and for the wrong benefits and beneficiaries. Proposition 3 would lead us into exactly that kind of trap.” Personally, I don’t like businesses asking me for a subsidy. To worship free market capitalism then look to the public for capital is nothing more than socialism for the rich.

Vote: NO

 

Prop 4: Children’s Hospital Bond Initiative

Who’s supporting: PAC entitled Yes 4 Children’s Hospitals, California Teachers Association

Who’s against: No official opposition, however there are a variety of industry watchdogs that have contributed arguments against Prop 4.

Where the money’s coming from: If you guessed “The Industry that will be receiving the money, i.e. Children’s Hospitals”… ding.

Who doesn’t want to give money to help sick kids? No one! Which is why we did it in 2004 and 2008. The contrarian in me can’t help but notice how deeply unpopular it must be to oppose a proposition like this. But fuck it. Let’s se if I can argue against helping sick kids.

Attempt 1: If this were such a necessary bond measure, why didn’t the California State Legislature propose it? Instead, the initiative was paid for by the hospitals themselves.

Attempt 2: The fact that we do not have a public health care option yet are simultaneously asked to help fund hospitals feels contradictory to me.  Either let’s make the whole fucking thing public or stay private and stop asking the public for money. Every time the taxpayers pick up the tab we get further away from Medical for all.

Did I win anyone over? Probably not. I’m not even sure I’m convinced. In fairness, the hospitals (8 private non-profits and a few University of California hospitals) could use the money. They’re basically asking each California resident for a $40 donation to help them better meet demand.

I also don’t have kids, so take that for what it’s worth.

Vote: NO (Who am I kidding? I’ll probably vote yes)

 

Prop 5: Property Tax Initiative

Who’s supporting: Real Estate Agents and Seniors

Who’s against:  People with families, teachers, most liberal publications

Where the money’s coming from: Both sides have formed PACs to fuel their opinions, but the initiative was originally funded by a group of real estate agents.

Prop 5 proposes to tackle the housing crisis in a different way: by lowering property taxes on seniors and the disabled. Sounds nice in theory. The problem is that the cut in property taxes is basically a two-pronged fuck you to everyone else in the state. This is especially true for working class families, for whom Prop 5 would subtract revenue from a public education system that’s already struggling and would not provide any additional help for this demographic to buy homes of their own. Hard pass.

Vote: NO

 

Prop 6: Voter Approval for Future Gas and Vehicle Taxes and 2017 Tax Repeal Initiative

Who’s supporting: Republican State Assembly members, conservative PACs, John Cox

Who’s against: Gov. Brown, Democrats, Construction Trade Councils, Labor Unions, supposedly the majority of California voters in 2017 (I’ll explain)

Where the money’s coming from: conservative PACs

Prop 6 is for all intents and purposes a brilliant political move by California Republicans to get their conservative base out to vote this November. By dangling the shiniest of conservative carrots in front of them: a juicy tax cut, the hope is tons of Republican voters likely to sit the midterms out will show up.

In 2017, voters in CA approved Prop 69, tying a recent gas tax increase to infrastructure spending. The bill guarantees 52 billion dollars will be spent on transportation related infrastructure creation and repair over the next 10 years. Prop 6 would repeal this, because…shrug emoji? Oh, because taxes are bad and we as Californians are fucking pissed about the extra $0.12 a gallon we’re currently paying—and have been paying without anyone really noticing for a while, I might add.

This Prop is actually designed to galvanize the Republican base in hopes that by bringing them out to the polls, the seats up for grabs in the US House of Representatives will stay red. Clever move. But this is a really, really bad idea for everyday Californians, regardless of your politics. Have you driven on our roads lately? They’re shit. Ditching 52 billion dollars in revenue in favor of saving a dollar or two every time you fill up your car is an extremely near-sighted way to live. Prop 6 is bullshit.

Vote: NO

 

Prop 7: Permanent Daylight Savings Time If Federal Law Allows

Who’s supporting: Rational People

Who’s against: Grumps, Farmers in 1914

Where the money’s coming from: Who cares? Time changes are lame and unnecessary.

Prop 7 exists because, in order to eventually enact permanent DST (if Federal Law allows), we must first repeal Prop 12 of 1949. There are a variety of arguments for and against having permanent daylight savings time. The pros are things like a reduction in health risks, and the general annoyance of feeling weird and off for a week following the change. The cons are things like children having to go outside in the dark. But what about the farmers?

In case you haven’t noticed, we moved away from being an agrarian economy. The vast majority of farming is now commercial in nature, meaning large-scale, technologically-advanced. The vision of poor Famer Frank alone in the dark picking turnips is an antiquated myth. Arizona and Hawaii already operate on permanent DST.  Let’s set ourselves up for being able to get rid of time changes in the future.

Vote: YES

 

Prop 8: Limits In Dialysis Clinics’ Revenue and Required Refunds Initiative

Who’s supporting: A PAC formed by a medical labor union and the California Dialysis Council

Who’s against: California Medical Association, DeVita, and Fresenius Medical Care

Where the money’s coming from: Unions for, Corporate medical companies against

The reason I know no one under the age of 55 watches baseball anymore is how many Prop 8 commercials I’ve seen during this year’s MLB playoffs. First, let’s plainly state what a “yes” vote would mean: it would require dialysis clinics to issue refunds to patients or patients' payers for revenue above 115 percent of the costs of direct patient care and healthcare improvements. It would also prohibit dialysis clinics from discriminating or refusing service based on a patient’s payer, be it private insurance or Medical or Medicaid. The effect of the Prop would most likely encourage dialysis clinics to invest more money into worker’s wages and medical upgrades by penalizing profit hordeing.

Prop 8 is the latest development in a decades long fight between a powerful medical labor union SEIU-UHW and the state’s two largest dialysis businesses, DeVita and Fresenius Medical Care. It’s a power move to get the businesses to hire more employees from this specific union. But it could have dangerous side effects, like actually hampering care of the very patients this Prop purports to protect.

This one is difficult for me, as generally I support labor unions and have no love for medical corporations. But to use people’s lives as bargaining chips seems reckless. Most editorials I read on the proposition say this is a quandary better left to legislative bodies.  I don’t know if that’s true, but universally, most people with more knowledge than me on this subject are recommending a “No” vote.

Vote: NO (sometimes you gotta go with the experts)

Prop 10: Local Rent Control Initiative

Who’s supporting: Yes on 10 PAC, the Coalition for Affordable Housing, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, California Democratic Party

Who’s against: California Apartment Association, California Rental Housing Association and developers, California Republican Party, Both gubernatorial candidates

Where the money’s coming from: Mostly dark money from developers who are opposing 10, but the ballot measure arrived via the State Legislature.

The fourth and final ballot initiative tackling California’s housing crisis, Prop 10 would empower local government to enact rent control on any type of rental housing, essentially ending the Costa-Hawkins Rental Act. The Costa-Hawkins Rental Act put certain limitations on rent control, such as banning rent control on condominiums and townhomes. It’s interesting to note that neither gubernatorial candidate (Newsom nor Cox) supports a full repeal of Costa-Hawkins.

Proponents of 10 say rent control is an immediate boon to renters while CA residents wait for more affordable housing to be built. Many consider it a social justice project to protect the housing of the most marginalized communities. But the opposition to 10 includes organizations like the NAACP and the United Latinos Vote, muddying the waters. Prop 10 will also likely effect homeowners, as single family dwellings would be eligible for rent control.

Opinion is generally split on Prop 10. Many people are worried that this bill gives local government too much power, and could disincentivize development of new housing in California. I’m calling bullshit on this argument. There’s plenty of money to be made on developing housing in California. Furthermore, as someone who enjoys rent control, it would be hypocritical to not support rent control opportunities for more people.

Vote: YES (although this one is not as straightforward as the ads make it seem)

Prop 11: Ambulance Employees Paid On-Call Breaks, Training, and Mental Health Services Initiative

Who’s supporting: American Medical Response

Who’s against: California Teacher’s Association, State Assembly Member Freddie Rodriguez

Where the money’s coming from: Californias for Emergency Preparedness has poured over $20 million (!) into supporting Prop 11. There is no money opposing.

Prop 11 exists because of a 2016 California Supreme Court decision that employer-required on-call breaks violated state labor law. Basically, the court ruled that if you’re on break, then you can’t be made to work, even in the event of an emergency. The unintended consequence of this ruling was that it requires EMT and other 9-1-1 emergency respondents to take breaks, during which they are unpaid and unreachable. This seems bizarre to me. Their job is to literally be on call in case of emergency. They should be paid during their breaks and should remain on call.

Vote: YES

 

Prop 12: Farm Animal Confinement Initiative

Who’s supporting: Humane Society, some animal rights groups

Who’s against: Pork and Egg producers, PETA, other animal rights groups

Where the money’s coming from: Mostly a Human Society fueled PAC

Prop 12 aims to ban the sale of meat and eggs from livestock and hens kept in inhumane conditions by mandating the minimum size of their confinement. It is an update to a previous proposition (Prop 2 of 2008) that did not specify how big the square footage of the confinements needed to be. It will also compel egg producers to house egg-laying hens in cage-free housing systems by 2022. This sounds nice in theory. However, most animal rights activists are calling this a plot of collusion between the Humane Society and the United Egg Producers that would keep hens in “horrific multi-level ‘cage-free’ factory systems” because the guidelines of “cage-free” in this bill are based on an outdated standard.

Opponents also feel like the Humane Society misled voters with the 2008’s Prop 2, saying if they’d followed through on the promises of the previous proposition, California would already be cage-free. Supporters applaud the new Prop’s strict guidelines to ensure better treatment of farm animals.

It sure is strange to see PETA on the same side as organizations that kill animals for meat. I couldn’t quite figure out why that would be, so I went to PETA’s site for clarification and found a nuanced and compelling argument against Prop 12. PETA argues that Prop 12 sends consumers the misleading message that the egg production system is changing, when in reality the initiative does not require a change until 2022, and even then, it is an incremental one. They also brought up the point that the market is already pushing egg producers and meat companies towards more humane treatment of hens and livestock, as organic, cage-free, vegetarian-feed products grow in popularity.

There’s a certain zealotry that I’m skeptical of, a dogmatic sense of moral certitude that worries me when it comes to organizations like PETA. However, in this case, it’s hard to argue that the non-profit organization most aligned with the ethical treatment of animals (it’s literally in their name) would be against a ballot initiative that helped animals. For that reason, I will take their recommendation on Prop 12.

VOTE: NO

Lastly, no, I didn’t skip one. Prop 9 was removed from the ballot by the California Supreme Court. The ill-fated initiative would have divided California into three separate states. It’s basically the brainchild of Tim Draper, a venture capitalist who wants to keep more of his money. Tim, hot tip: just move. Probably cheaper than spending millions of dollars to get this initiative on the ballot.

This concludes or 2018 CA election coverage. Thanks for reading. We got until 2040 before this whole thing goes belly up, so until then, let’s do our best to make this a world in which we want to live.

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Straya: The Chain Letter Interview

 Straya (left to right): Mark, Sanjeev, Toby,  & Cody //  photo by Isabel Fajardo

Straya (left to right): Mark, Sanjeev, Toby,  & Cody // photo by Isabel Fajardo

Straya came our way through a recommendation by He Whose Ox Is Gored drummer John O'Connell. I was hungover in his kitchen after a late night in Seattle. 58 people were dead from a shooting in Vegas the night before and we woke up to the news that Tom Petty had also passed. John squeezed oranges and fixed me a drink and we listened to Straya's Sobereyed in its entirety.  I was struck by how limitless the music was, how grand the scope. Turns out, I'm not alone, as rave reviews continue to pile up for the Minneapolis post-metal band's second LP. I had a chance to correspond with them recently about various sentient topics. Read the interview below and go see Straya on March 29th at Mortimer's in Mpls. Or, if you're like me and live elsewhere, check out this rad live video of my favorite track from Sobereyed, entitled simply "K."

 

Filmed by Sam Silverness for Natural Media

 

Taken as a whole, ‘Sobereyed’ is a colossal piece of music. I’m curious how a band goes about writing a record like this. What can you tell me about how ‘Sobereyed’ came to be?

Cody (guitar/vocalss): Sobereyed took a long time to come together (e.g. “Timid” dates back to 2015), and the writing was more conceptual than anything we’d done previously. There wasn’t a ton of “jamming” to figure out these songs. Ideas — either constructed parts or just concepts — usually originated with one person, then were brought to the whole band. There was a lot more talking before diving into playing than there was just feeling out parts, etc. Even before all the core pieces of the album were finished, we wrote out a sort of sonic path we wanted the album to follow. The major dynamic contrasts and flow were very critical to the album.

Toby (drums/keys): Like Cody said, I think we tried to be very aware that we were writing a record, not just songs. Four of the songs were more or less written independently (Timid, Acoustic Song, Leach, and K.) and I think those were the pillars we structured everything else around. But even before we were completely done writing those songs, we were talking and thinking about song order, album flow, etc. We agreed on loose ideas of what we thought the record was still missing, and then brought in concepts that we individually had on how to fill those spaces.

Is the record a concept record? It’s obvious to me, with both the Faulkner and Kafka references, that there’s something literary behind it.

Mark (guitar/keys): Sobereyed is not a concept album in the lineage of 70’s prog where there is a focused thematic narrative throughout (e.g., Pink Floyd’s Animals or Yes’s Tales from Topographic Oceans)—and it certainly is not a Bowie-esque concept album with characters and a sense of physical space being constructed (e.g., Outside or Ziggy Stardust). I understand the sentiment behind the question, though, as a feeling of “literariness” seems to be a large factor in how people define the concept of a concept album.

A distinction that feels relevant to me is that many concept albums have a transparent artifice and organization to them: “I am going to write all of these songs about different types of people that I feel negatively about, and I’ll represent them symbolically as different types of animals like Orwell did . . .” Sobereyed is much more diffuse than this, with lyrical themes simply being derived from the art we had been engaging with at the time and how it made us feel about the world. Luckily, all four of us have some overlapping sentiments that we wanted to share, so we built an aural/textural/harmonic narrative to give it structure. It’s important to me to not create art that forces others to engage with it in one particular way, so I’m not sure if I/we could ever write a “traditional” concept album.

As for the Faulkner reference in the title, that was half aleatoric; I chose texts that I felt fit the mood of the beginning of the record, then mined them for passages that called to mind descriptions the album cover. There is no direct (intended) correlation between the themes of that text and the themes of any of the lyrics—but it is a text that I like to have existing in a network with Sobereyed. Kafka is much more directly linked to the thematic content of the track “K.” Aside from the direct reading of “Vor dem Gesetz,” the lyrics are essentially my impressions/meditations after rereading two of his novels.

Tell me a bit about the Minneapolis scene today.

Cody: I’m not sure what to say about it, at this moment. There’s not a singular sound of the scene; it’s a lot of little niches. Fortunately, Straya gets to play on all kinds of different bills, thanks to nice friends who make a wide variety of music. If you know where to look, you can see some great and strange music most nights of the week. For example, tonight I’m excited to go to a free show at a bowling alley to watch Sanjeev’s screamo band play with an experimental noise group.

Overall, it bums me out a bit to consider the scene as a whole: Two of the best venues for underground bands — the Triple Rock and the Reverie — have closed in the past year. It doesn’t really feel like there’s a “home” venue anymore. The main music press here consistently brings up the same types of radio-friendly, highly groomed pop acts. One company owns many of the popular venues and books most of the bigger shows, effectively monopolizing the parts of the scene that aren’t explicitly DIY. So, I tend to stick to going to shows my friends put on. And the more time I spend here, the more great musicians I meet.

You grew up with the internet. Every musical nugget has been available to you. How does one think about music with that advantage? How does one discover a major influence? For example, in my formative years, I found out about bands from reading zines, or word of mouth, or going to shows and seeing the opening bands, and, to a minor extent, the radio. I’d imagine it’s different now?

Toby: I don’t know about the others, but for better or for worse the main effect has been that I often now think of music in terms of time. Everything is always available for me to listen to, and if there’s any particular niche or genre I want to explore there are literally hundreds of lists that could guide me. It kind of becomes a matter of what’s “worth it” at a given time or what’s the “right thing” to spend my time listening to, which is really confusing and disheartening. On the bright side, this glut of music also means that I usually give up on trying and just listen to what my friends recommend, which is always great and very rewarding. I think I end up attaching to the records my friends love a lot more than to records I know I “should” check out, etc.

Sanjeev (bass/vocals): I have always discovered new music primarily through friend recommendations so things haven’t really changed much for me. Maybe that’s because music has always been a social and not purely personal experience for me. The particular access routes have changed (I mostly stream now) but how I find the music in the first place is basically the same.  

Mark: Digital files of music being easily and often freely available was integral to my development as a musician, especially as a child. In November 2016, we lost our most important digital cultural institution, the private torrent tracker What.CD. (Yes, I’ve heard the argument that file sharing is making artists lose money—but US copyright laws are insane and a massive barrier to creativity. I am not advocating for breaking copyright law here.) Everything was so meticulously cataloged on their website (much more so than the library that I work at), and you could always find that strange demo from your favorite artist that isn’t available anywhere. Having that kind of access didn’t make me voraciously dig into everything that I could, though; it mostly led me to finding very specific artists/records that felt perfect and investing a lot of time into interacting with them. My path to locating those works was usually through reading articles on Wikipedia, searching through similar artists on Last.fm, and finding strange playlists. As I’ve grown older, though, recommendations from friends (who are now also older with more developed taste) have become increasingly important.

Cody: Most music that has been really impactful for me has come from other people’s recommendations. I’ve definitely found artists I like through things like clicking around on Bandcamp tags or waiting for a streaming algorithm to feed me a song it thinks i’ll like. And I recognize that our band has grown up with an endless supply of digital music available to us. I’m glad we’ve lived in a time that allows us to hear art from all over the world, and that music is usually accessible for free to anyone with an internet connection. But like Sanjeev, music is often a highly social/communal thing to me. I love to share music and have it shared with me.

Tell me a bit of the band members’ interests outside of Straya.

Toby: Currently I’m super into trying figure out how to work Ableton.

Sanjeev: I spent a lot of time organizing with the Fight for 15 here, and I’m starting to get back into organizing with local socialist organizations. I am in two other bands in Minneapolis, and I’ve also started strength training. (Editor's note: Sanjeev's other bands are Tulip and Sleep Debt. Both have yet to release music, but are playing locally in Mpls.)

Mark: I spend most of my time lately on Wikipedia or reading Samuel Delany. Physical activity is really important to me too; I make most of my important decisions on a bicycle or a long walk. And I think that everyone could stand to watch more animated films/TV shows.

Cody: I work as a journalist, so most of my energy outside of music goes into consuming/trying to understand the news and the topics I cover(climate change/environmental issues). I like to bike whenever I can, too.

As a label, we’re interested in challenging certain aspects of capitalism and social conservatism. However, we’re reaching a stalemate between ideological standpoints in this country. If we’re to make progress, the arts are more important than ever. Often it’s movies, music, and writing that changes culture. Where does Straya fit in to this polemic?

Cody: Our music isn’t overtly political, as you’d find with even a cursory read of our lyrics. To me, this album is more of a means for meditation and release, which has grown more important even over the course of making it.

Sanjeev: I remember waking up after the election to a gray and foreboding sky. I could barely drag myself out of bed. When I mustered up the energy to make some breakfast before work, my eggs and bread turned to ashes in my mouth. I felt powerless, afraid, and alone. In this condition, people are physically incapable of struggling for a better world for themselves, and for all of us. The political drive of my music is to combat these dispiriting processes through acknowledgement, connection, and resonance.

Beneath the atomizing forces of neoliberal capitalism under which we all struggle today, music has so much radical potential. People working together and connecting can help re-establish the communal bonds that have been severed under the indoctrination of the “bootstraps” myth. I want to acknowledge the mundane isolating terror that most people wake up to every day but also communicate that this isn’t the only truth there is. (This is most clearly seen in “Leach.”) By re-discovering the social nature of humanity and working together, we can start to erode the foundations of the structure under which we all toil. Music, and art in general, has the power to shatter the narrow expectations of what is possible and allow us to imagine a radically just and equitable world.

Talk about the last thing that inspired you. It can be anything.

Sanjeev: The West Virginia teacher’s strike. Solidarity!

Mark: Hearing a friend talk about a collection of short stories that I lent them—or watching Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev for the first time!

Cody: A random call from my friend Adam, and Ryuichi Sakamoto's “async.”

Straya's Sobereyed continues to rule this writer's musical world. They've got a host of dates up at their bandcamp page plus are working on a potential tour of the West Coast this August.

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FACIAL: The Chain Letter Interview

Facial TJ pic.jpg

Facial's second LP Facade is a darkly luminous affair, a perfect reflection of our times. Chain Letter correspondent Emily Twombly sat down with the group last October while they were on tour to discuss the meaning and genesis of the new record. The result is a frank and enlightening conversation on all things Facial.

You can catch Facial at the Hi Hat Jan 27th for the Hi Hat's 2 Year Anniversary party.

(ET) This has obviously been a super tough year for everyone. How has that affected your song writing for your new album? 

Jay: Well, actually all of the songs on FACADE were written before Trump was even elected, but a lot of the lyrics on the record talk about things that are extremely applicable in a post-trump America. We have been writing continuously all year, and the current state of our world has certainly affected our songwriting, giving us new perspective and a new passion to feed off. 

Cam: I feel like the political climate is an unavoidable influence, even if it feels tired it’s just so overpowering between the media and the anger felt by peers.  I wrote the lyrics to Zero Sum months before Trump was elected from my experience in England, everyone was cold to me as an American and I just wanted to wear a sign on me everywhere like “I am an American but also hate this orange Cheeto man!”

Sam: I think it is important to use the chaos of today’s world to reexamine what it is we are doing with our time and energy. To use the overwhelming uncertainty of it all to focus on the things that matter and make sense to you. I definitely feel a renewed sense of purpose with music in today’s world.

What is your process as a band for writing songs and how do you decide what you want to write about? Talk about the importance of your lyrics to your songs. Do you have a favorite on the album? 

Jay: We write in many fashions; all together, alone or tag-team. Cam and I handle most the lyrics, and one of us will usually decide what the song is about and give the other a theme to work off of. It may be abstract and vague or concrete and specific, depends on what kind of song it is. In some songs the lyrics act to paint an impression of mood and feeling, and in other songs they are literal and are trying to say something specific. 

Cam: Ditto what Jay said, we trust each other’s ideas and passion so it always comes out on top. I’d say lyrically my favorite on the album is probably Animals.

Talk a little bit about what Animals is about and what it means to you. 

Cam: In LA's music scene (or of course any music scene) there seems to be unavoidable large chunks of time spent in dive bars.  It's part of the culture.  Sometimes though it’s disgusting, people lining up desperate for sedation, like cattle waiting for the slaughter. I grew in small town Oregon and have seen slaughterhouses. It's pretty brutal.  I guess we just wanted to paint that connection, corralling together in dark places slowly offing ourselves...damn this came off dark!

Jay: We all work in bars too, so we have front row seats to this display almost nightly. People totally checking out mentally, probably running from something or another. People completely lose awareness and I think that kind of self-induced unconsciousness is a plague within our culture and is something that leads to a lot of the sexual behavior that we are now becoming aware of in this industry and the movie industry. I drink and do drugs but I'm not into checking out.

I've been thinking a lot about how to make shows feel more inclusive to everyone and what responsibility the band has in facilitating that. Do you think a band has the responsibility to make their own shows inclusive and safe? 

Jay: Sure, I think the band sets the tone for shows. Our music is pretty serious but at shows we like to keep it silly and have a lot of fun being crazy and being ourselves, which I hope makes people feel open and let loose. That being said Facial is not for everybody, but all are welcome! Except Nazis.

Sam: I agree with Jay. While it is not the responsibility of the band to write music for everyone, it is everyone’s responsibility to promote an environment that is open to including anyone. When you have a stage of any kind that you can use to speak to others, it is your responsibility to set an example that does not promote hate. That goes for any stage, from a plywood platform in a dirty bar, to being the president of the USA.  

I'm writing these questions in the wake of the shooting at the music festival in Las Vegas. There have been multiple terror attacks (domestic or otherwise) in the past couple of years that have happened at music events. I guess I'm wondering if, like me, you feel personally violated by these attacks since they've been on what normally feels like "our turf." 

Jay: Certainly it hits close to home, and makes you think twice about going to any large events. but this fear it creates in us, its the only thing we actually have control over. I  think we have to stare that fear in the eyes and tell it that we aren't scared and we won't cower. We will always congregate to experience live music together, no matter what. If you close off because of fear, you aren't open for life and love, then life isn't worth living. Then the terrorists win! Fuck that.

Cam: Of course, deeply violated, it’s disgusting and makes me fucking sick.  But you start living in fear and the domestic terrorists win.  It’s hard to go off about without getting into a gun control argument, which I’d rather not, so yeah, guess we’ll just wait for the next one huh?  Fuck domestic terrorism.  And fuck the media who won’t call it that.

I really like the video you made for Black Noise. Tell me about what it means to you and how you came up with the idea. 

Jay: we came up with the idea with the director, Jack Mikesell. The idea transformed through many iterations, but to me its basically saying: no matter how much men think they are all powerful and no matter how impervious they think what they've built is, they will be put into the ground by a force much greater than them, i.e. mother nature (or strong women who take a stand together)

Sam: I also means that we are killer dancers

Do you guys like dancing? So often, I see dudes in their own music videos just standing around and looking cool or doing "tough guy" things. I really appreciate that you guys take a more active approach and aren't afraid to look weird or gross. Was it a challenge for you to push those boundaries? 

Jay: I love to dance! I am definitely not interested in portraying a cool guy image. I feel when that image is exalted, everyone tries to act cool too but really just makes everybody more uptight and controlled. But when u set an example that is more loose and crazy, then it gives room for people to be that way as well. When i was a kid, though, I was terribly scared and embarrassed to do anything that might bring any attention or judgement to myself. I would never dance or sing or be loud at all. But now that’s pretty much all I do! iI was a really uncomfortable and long process for me to get to slowly break free, but now I dance and am wild and free.

Sam: There were definitely a few times before we shot the video, like while we were rehearsing the dance, where we were laughing, 'are we really gonna do this dance on video?' 

Jay: But we did it, for all to see!

 

What art//film/books inspire you to play music? 

Jay: I don't know if they inspire me to make music exactly, but stylistically I think Jean-Michel Basquiat and Cy Twombly capture the facial ethos pretty well. Primitive childlike abandon!!

Cam: I’m hugely inspired by David Lynch. His use of sound design blows my mind.  Also his detached use of plot & mystery retools how I think a piece(whether a song, film, piece of art) is supposed to go.  He throws out all the rules and just goes for raw human emotion, to me he’s kinda the musicians filmmaker. 

I can definitely see the influence of all those artists on your music. They're all pretty wild and dark at times and as you said, Cam, none of them really play by the rules. And in fact! Have you listened to either Basquiat or Lynch's music? They're very similar in themes and use of sound design. Not really much of a question there.. just a fun observation. I wonder what Cy Twombly's band would sound like if he ever had one. 

Cam: I love Lynch's sound design, his actual released music can be a little too odd for my tastes, though not always.  That "American Women" remix he did for Twin Peaks was absolutely brilliant.  He just took a modern rock song and slowed it down until it felt like Type O Negative, so dark and groovy.

Jay: I've heard Basquiat's band Gray and i really like it.

What are your hopes for the future of the band? 

Jay: My only hope is that we get a weed sponsor, that would be great!

Cam:  A weed sponsor is a good realistic goal.  I gotta say, despite all the negative in the world, what a time to be alive for a weed smoker!  West coast tours have never been stonier.

Sam: I’d like to see more people follow the Del Taco trend with their brilliant $1 milkshakes.

In what way, if any, has Los Angeles had a part of who you are as people and as a band? 

Cam: It connected the dots for us in a lot of ways.  The 3 of us are all NW born & raised but all moved down here to explore music.

Jay: It hass played a big part, inspiring songs like "Fashion Show" and "Unknown" on the new record, which are about the trappings of superficiality and the quest for fame, respectively.  i think being in LA drives anybody who lives here a little nuts, which you can definitely hear in our music!

Sam: Not only does LA provide endless amazing content to inspire and irritate, but we have found a pretty amazing family of beautiful and creative people here who have pushed us along the way. Our label Chain Letter Collective, for example, has not only allowed us to get Facial out into the world, but have inspired us as people in this scene for years. 

How would you describe the music scene in LA to someone who has never experienced it before?

Jay: That’s like trying to describe Los Angeles itself, its very complex and diverse and big. There are so many different things happening in so many different parts of town, and most things you will never experience because its just too vast of a city and because you are trapped in your own bubble. So you can't really pretend to know what its like just because you know what’s happening on the east side, but you have a better idea than someone in Montana.

Sam: It's also like TV, mostly full of things you definitely don't want to watch. but you find the few things you do like, focus on those, and block out everything else.

 

 

 

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Caleb Miller of dimber: the Chain Letter Interview

 Caleb in Silver Lake, 7/9/17  photo by Heather Heywood

Caleb in Silver Lake, 7/9/17 photo by Heather Heywood

Caleb Miller, frontwoman of dimber, recently chatted with me over the interwebs.  She was extremely honest and gracious with her responses, and the resulting conversation is a must read as we navigate the latest front of the civil liberties fight in this country: transgender rights. Please note: this conversation took place before the repugnant events in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Chain Letter:  Let’s jump right in, because the story of the day (as it almost always seems to be lately) is Trump and his potty fingers.  As a transgender woman, what was your reaction to Trump's tweet banning trans people in the military?

Caleb Miller:  I woke up that day, already kind of soaked and drowning in depression, and then read the news... totally the best thing to do when you're feeling swallowed up by depression is to read the news... and I fell apart. Broken and in tears and lost in it. Not because of the shock of it. I wasn't surprised to see such a decree from the current US President. The rainbows were stripped from the White House website on day one.

I'm constantly sickened to see a world leader operating in such a manner as he does and I felt the reverberations of his hate speech... and also the ramifications of the policy, should the ban take affect.

I felt broken for every trans kid in every town where they already don't feel safe or accepted... seeing and hearing the figurehead of their country degrade their existence and have to feel that much more afraid to step outside their front doors into a world that does not accept them. And the precedent set forth, consistently with every bigoted word that comes out of this administration’s mouth and slimes over a twitter feed, emboldens those hateful ideas and actions in others. It stokes the fires of the racists. It encourages disgusting jokes made at the expense of the physically disabled. It incites violence against Muslims and the queer community.  

And historically speaking, minority groups were first given advancement in rights through the military and then it spread over into general society. When we see the reverse, I fear for the reverse. This could prove an indicator, a move to evaluate public opinion with a plan for future legislation which gradually strips away more and more rights from already disenfranchised minority groups. That scares me quite a bit.

 

In fall out of this Trump statement I also heard and read a few statements from people along the lines of "Well I don't support the US government and its military force so fuck the military... I wouldn't serve anyway and these trans people should be happy they don't have to anymore..."  as if being excluded from the military is some sort of grace or gift - Which is such a gross grandstanding POV from a clear position of privilege that neglects so many facets, because serving in the military supplies people with a whole mess of benefits, like all of the things pertaining to the GI Bill and getting assisted funding for higher education. Its one of the major avenues in which all people with a lower income, transgender people obviously included, can get access to higher education, decent unemployment benefits, health care, and generally improve their overall living situation. 

And also as a transgender woman I don't appreciate being called a burden. Even by a pig person.

CL:  With sexuality being a personal spectrum, can tell us a little about your journey?  Did you ID first as gay and then trans or were you always aware you were trans? I'm curious, because as a young adult I was unaware of what transgender meant, like, in my ignorance, I didn't even know that option existed. What was it like you for you?

CM:  It's complicated. But yeah... I first started identifying as queer in high school. I wasn't out of the closet then but I was pining after Sarah Michelle Gellar and scoring lingerie to seduce the boys I liked at school. I figured out the spectrum aspect of sexuality pretty early and feel super grateful for that but definitely considered myself queer at a pretty early age. I didn't come out until my early 20s, I think, though.  And then it hasn't been until recent years that I came out as being a trans girl. Part of that is definitely how the dialog has progressed in our culture in conjunction with my understanding of myself. 

The conversation on gender and sexuality has developed so much since I was a child. Those times are where I place my earliest concrete memories of being seen and recognized as a female and feeling validated by those feelings. But for the longest time, because I wasn't actively seeking genital reassignment surgery, I felt invalidated as a trans woman. That somehow that was the sole factor in allowing for me to be transgender. I have gender dysphoria, and there are the days where I feel totally destroyed and suffocated by my own body, but I have a lot of thoughts and feelings that keep me away from certain surgery. And I'm trying to learn to love myself as I am with only slight permanent modifications, which conform to the western standards of female beauty. I'm getting laser hair removal on my face and body among other things. But the advancement in notions of fluidity and placing things on a limitless spectrum, eliminating the binary mindset, has definitely helped me quite a bit. And these are ideas I didn't have access to even just ten years ago. All gender is performance, “gender is a drag” as Queen Ru would say, but that's an ongoing conversation that we are only now starting to scratch at the surface of.

I'm so thankful to see where it has gone is just my lifetime. I think a lot about life as a queer person or a transgender person in the decades past and the additional challenges they faced. Perspective is important and can assist with thoughts of gratitude. Especially on my bad days.

CL: We hear so often about heart breaking examples of extreme bigotry towards trans people. In no way am I trying to discount these stories, because they are valuable in the way they help change public opinion, as well as to help us relate to the humanness of this struggle, but do you have any positive stories you could share about your transition, or is it as bad as it seems?

CM:  Indisputable fact: the quality of life for a vast majority of trans people is extremely poor. Alienation and discrimination. 40% rates of attempted suicide because the world around you invalidates you at every stage and relegates you to the gutter. And to the grave. No access to employment opportunities and daily fear of violence against your body. All of these particularly heightened for trans people of color. 

I have my fair share of these experiences and feelings. 

That said... i consider myself incredibly privileged and lucky. Mostly I'm grateful for the community I've found here. I have an adopted friend family of queerdos and allies that gives me vast amounts of support and love. They are a large reason why I can walk proudly down the street and feel confident in being my truest self. They're everything to me and I cannot thank them enough for their gifts in my life. I have safe, fulfilling employment that isn't sex work (as a lot of transgender people with little or no other options are forced into the sex industry out of necessity for survival) and employers that embrace, protect, and value me. But a lot of this comes from the privilege of living in a city like Los Angeles that contains a lot of magical humans and progressive minds. A vast majority of the world can't afford to live in cities like this and don't have access to such a likeminded community. Access and placement in the social geographical spectrum are things we all need to think about. Where we all fit in....and take an assessment of how your actions have an affect on the world around you. I'm a white girl in Southern California... so I'm part of a very small, very privileged demographic.

CL:  The fight for gender equality rages on, as a culture of sexism and misogyny still dominates corporate America, as well as in most theocracies around the world.  How does being trans inform your views on this battle.

CM:  I feel a responsibility to be visible and vocal as a woman, partly because I'm of a group of people largely relegated to the sidelines. Mainstream culture would have transgender people rendered invisible unless we are white, trans FEMALE supermodels, fetishized porn material or serial killers on TV.  I speak up for my fellow women and for all collections of oppressed humans because it’s the only way I feel OK existing in our fractured and corrupt human society. I feel an added responsibility pertaining to my access and social placement... because I live in a place which affords me the opportunity to be loud without fear of immediate violent reprisal, to be as flagrant with my words and image as possible, in hopes that somehow it makes it easier for others more alienated to strike out with pride and cultivate a safer, better life as those who are denied the right to exist as themselves - in health and moderate happiness.

CL:  Let’s talk dimber for a bit. As the primary songwriter of the band, how do you balance message with music, because I think dimber does a fantastic job of it.  Do you consciously juxtapose the sound/feel of the song with the subject matter?  Does the band discuss the issues you sing about before hand?  Also, tell us about the zine you'll be including with the damber 7"

CM:  Well I should clarify that I am in no means the primary songwriter for the band. We all contribute fairly equally to the writing process and all bring songs to the table. From our inception as a band, though, we all agreed that we wanted to tackle topics of substance whether it’s politicized material or an aching expression of some personal value. Sometimes we talk about a specific issue we'd like to cover in advance but mostly we all retreat to our private spaces and come back with words and ideas. This band is very special in that everything coalesced without much contrivance. We all love and support each other and we all sort of fell onto the same page without too much design. It just all lined up. Everything about it.

I think in general with dimber, if I'm working on lyrics for a song and if the melody is particularly poppy I'll try to cover a challenging, darker topic that feels especially upsetting to me, like the religious persecution of women by branding them as witches and burning them alive, or the insidious nature of homophobia in mainstream media. And if the melody is a little more melancholy then maybe I'll make it more of a personal exploration. I also try to write songs that hopefully serve to inspire and cultivate strength. We have a lot to fight for and it’s good to remind people of that. I write a lot of songs about the power of friendship and triumph over intolerance.

We're working on a little accompanying zine with the new EP. It has lyrics and art but also a section of resources for queer and transgender life assistance as well as recommended reading material and a few activities pages. Fun and educational! Hopefully fun. Hopefully educational.

CL:  Switching gears, tell us a little about Pony Sweat and how you got involved.

CM:  Pony Sweat is a fiercely non-competitive dance aerobics class for feminists, created for all bodies and levels of fitness. To distill it into a bite sized, tag line... it’s like if Richard Simmons listened to Bikini Kill. And it literally has saved my life. It was created by Emilia Richeson, one of the most powerful and magically gifted people I've ever met. She is a constant force of inspiration for me every single day and a miraculous friend. 

Pony Sweat is her creation. Her child. And it involves engaging on socio-political issues and exploring notions of radical self acceptance which rally against social programming and challenge the existing social model - a model (as we've discussed at length in this interview) steeped in sexism, racism, abelism, xenophobia, transphobia, and homophobia - and we do this while dancing to bands like the Cure, Killing Joke, Romeo Void, and Santigold. It has had such a profound influence on my life in terms of teaching me to love my own body and understand why I was hating it in the first place - which has helped in turn with my coming out as a transgender woman to such an immense degree. I was coming out before Pony Sweat but with it I gained a new confidence and resilience. I also gained additional control of movement which again, as someone who has felt awkward in her body for most of her life, this is an incredible gift. Before Pony Sweat I never felt comfortable moving in my own skin or even really looking at myself in a mirror. These sound like hyperbolic statements but I attest to the their truth. You could ask a great many of the other Ponies (as we refer to our collective) and they will share similar stories. Its a huge part of this supremely inclusive and loving queer community I've found here in Los Angeles and something I will cherish forever. Pony Sweat and Emilia have pulled me up from the depths of despair more' times than I can count.

I have to thank my dear friend Lauren for bringing me into the Pony Sweat fold. She'd been going for a while and she thought it was something I should do - so she encouraged me to come to class with her.  Lauren knows me well. And she was certainly right in this case. I've told her before but ill say it here again... THANK YOU LAUREN. I love you.

So I started going with fervent regularity and after a time Emilia approached me about becoming her second instructor. I accepted with joyful tears but it's been a scary undertaking, mostly because its something that is so precious to me and to so many others and I wanted to make completely sure I was handling it in a way that would represent the ideals of the class. Preserving it for all its treasures and taking care of all the Ponies... in the same way they've taken care of me. And now I'm an aerobics instructor for Pony Sweat! And every time I say that I'm exploding inside with pride! It makes my heart smile.

CL:  What advice would you give to someone still struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity?

CM:  Take care of yourself. Give yourself love. If you are questioning whether or not you are queer... you're queer. Love yourself for it. And find a community where you can talk about it and express your self. It may be a long bus ride or a train ride away but find a place where you can feel safe and accepted - even if it’s just a day trip when you can afford the time. Having a community that embraces you and loves you is supremely important. The internet can be a place to find solace and community as well. I bemoan the internet for a lot of things but there is a lot of help there also. It's where I learned to tuck properly and how to do my makeup like a Disney princess. And it can be a life raft when you live in a town full of small minded bigoted garbage people. Strike out where you can but ultimately be safe. We need to be out and be seen, especially in hotbeds of homophobia and trans-phobia, but at risk of violence and death you need to be careful. We need you to be alive most importantly. And retreat to the places where you feel safe when you need to. But always inside... if you're queer or asexual or trans or non binary... be proud of who you are and give yourself love for it. I love you for it. Very, very much.

CL:  Finally, what was the last thing that inspired you? It can be anything....

CM:  Another friend of mine, Laura (Burhenn), is releasing a new record this month with her band the Mynabirds called Be Here Now and she's using the media attention on the album as a platform for some real talk. A lot of her words approaching similar topics we covered here and she is an inspiring woman in general - but I think it’s radical - in the true sense of the word - for a mainstream musician to align herself in such a way and be so outspoken about political issues. So many other bands in the world, cowardly shy away from making any kind of statement or attempt to create a cultural shift to level the playing field for those less fortunate. Even a lot of bands in the "punk scene" - which in my days of youthful idealism I thought was supposed to be a politically charged scene and one that held people accountable - I sadly know now this not to be the commonality in 2017. I think what Laura is doing with this record is fucking awesome and I'm so very proud of her.

Also, at a diner I frequent here in town called Cindy's, there's a sweet lovely girl who works there from time to time, and this week when I saw her she had on a huge pink and blue “fight for transgender rights” pin. I told her how much I liked it. And then I overheard that she and some of her high school classmates had made them and were disseminating them at their school. I'm not much of an optimist for the progress of humanity but then sometimes I see a thing like that and think... the kids are alright. 

dimber performs at the Chain Letter 2nd Anniversary party this Wednesday Aug 23 at the Hi Hat.

Damber EP comes out November 10th.

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