Monday, March 25, 2013

The other F word

Kim and I watched The Other F Word by Andrea Blaugrund Nevins last night. In fact, we both watched the trailer and rushed home and paid to watch it streaming instead of waiting for a copy to be available from the library.

I considered writing this as a review over at my personal blog, The Bleeding Tree, especially since Kim hasn't taken an opportunity to say anything here yet. but so little of what I want to say is really as much about reviewing it as much as discussing what I wanted from it and what I got.  I suppose that could be a valid review, except it's as a non-conformist/patent that I'm specifically coming to this.

First of all, as a viewer, I enjoyed it a lot.  Seeing Flea wax poetic about how fatherhood has improved his life.  Art Alexakis of Everclear comparing his role as a father to his own fathers failings. Duane Peters of U.S. Bombs discussing the death of his son, Chess.  These are great bits of human drama that are wonderful that Nevins was able to have captured, and I was even weepier than I would have been before becoming a father myself.

I think somewhere I wanted another movie out of it, and maybe that's another example of what I'm working to start here.

The movie focuses on Jim Lindberg of Pennywise, becaue his book Punk Rock Dad was the inspiration for the movie itself, but he's one of the most boring of the dad's frankly.  Perhaps because his conflicts seem much less derived from being a punk rocker and much more from being the lead singer of a rock band of a specific spot on the success ladder.

I was much more interested in Fat Mike of NOFX and Lars Frederiksen of Rancid. They seemed like guys who were struggling with the real questions of what punk rock meant to them and how it affected their role as a parent in a deeper way than the concern over how their lyrics might sound to other members of the PTA.

I don't mean to sound dismissive of Lindberg.  His struggle as the lead singer of a moderate size rock act and where he wants to go with his future in that and how it affects his ability to spend the quality time with his kids is obviously important to him and is actually a compelling story in itself.

On the other hand, everyone was a kid who thought the rules were unfair and for most of us, some form of music and the community and expression of that was how we moved from childhood petulance to forming our own new adult opinions.  For those of us who developed complex views that reinforce the beliefs we had as children that the rules were for crap and the ways they were enforced were even worse, we come to a crossroads with being a parent.

It's fucking easy to say "You did a shit job!"

It's much harder to figure out how to do a good job, or at least a better job.

I'm interested in how they, and others, deal with that. Obviously raising a dick is not kind of solution, and that's what the in-laws and whatever other outside messengers are constantly reinforcing will happen if you don't repeat the same lessons as everyone that came before...  the systems that thankfully managed to, of course, raise only saints, so why would we ever attempt to do better, right?

What does that involve?

How do you raise a kid to be the best, happiest most fulfilled version possible of themselves?  How do you avoid the mistakes of the past?  And how were the mistakes of the past defined by the needs of the past?  How many of those needs are now obsolete?

There's a lot of questions for those of us who want to fight our way into the world of the future.  Maybe the future is here and we need to decide what we really want made of it and our children are our opportunity.

Suffice it to say, that's a subject that I have a lot more to say about in upcoming posts.

For now, I'll just say I wish Nevins had found more of it for the movie.  I think that's what the trailer more or less promises, which suggests that it was what seemed the most interesting hook.

She wrote an article, What Punk Taught Me as a Parent, that I feel like says more about those most basic questions than the movie does. Perhaps there's a sequel in there somewhere. Hell, maybe it's sitting right in the outtakes. What do I know?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Motörhead Mama/Plasmatics Papa

As we suggested in our introduction, Introducing the folks, music played a big part in our thought process in naming this blog.

I noticed, in searching for alternative parenting discussion that veered away from the expected hippie-dippie path, that most alternative parenting discussions find themselves in seem to identify as "punk", to one extent or another.

Before I step too far away from the point, by the way, may I note that while I am, at this point, as guilty as anyone of using hippie as a pejorative, I think a parenting plan that uses the kinds of philosophy Abbie Hoffman and others might have advocated, is very much in line with what I am interested in pursuing. It just seems the people who carry on that image are so fucking precious. They might as well be a bunch of boring religious conservative frankly.

And, for a whole number of reasons, but starting with the fact that Heavy Metal Homesteader played such a role in forming the idea that we need to create a discussion of parenting from our own version of the debate, I'd like to find more parenting discussions that identify as "heavy metal", but so far I haven't had much luck.

Not to mention that I started my days of the teenage version of rebellion, that self-conscious kind of rebellion, with heavy metal. I'm quite sure my basic nature was always rebellious. I can't recall a time my thought-process didn't include a strong inclination to question the hell out of everything.

Perhaps this would be as good a time as any to note that both of us are very eclectic in what music we listen to. We both listen to classical and I have recently expanded the realm of instrumental music that Kim listens to to include movie scores. We both like country, to one degree or another, although Kim is only recently coming out of that closet. We both like hip hop, but I'm much more stuck in my time - being somewhere in the early-to-mid-'90s. I think Brian Wilson is among the world's musical giants. Kim loves Lady Gaga.

And, of course, we both think Alice Cooper is the bee's knees!

Limiting you musical appreciation is just one more way to limit your brain.

But the real problem with identifying this blog by musical style is finding that spot where those two ideas meet.

Motörhead lives there. The Plasmatics hit it at their peak.

It's like the best of both worlds coming together.

Perhaps the word just becomes "headbanging", although that has become too closely associated and branded as "metal", I suspect.

Or perhaps, we come full circle to The MC5 and The Stooges and the same kind of Yippie approach to non-conformity that grew up from the hippie ideas.

As such, Kim's idea of choosing the reference to Mama Weer All Crazee Now seemed was perfect. It doesn't make a direct reference to a musical style, but it evokes Slade and The Runaways, another pair of bands that fit somewhere in that unusual middle zone. Heck, even Quiet Riot feels a little more somewhere in between than they were slotted at back in the day.

Our entire question in reaching out to the world has been not comfortably finding a place, so it seems obvious we should not find a comfortable style of music, one that the general public has no real name for nor any quick, simple associates to make with it. Something that continually dances around the edges of the mainstream to the extent that it has familiar touchstones, but doesn't have its own lifestyle or champions.

I think that's where we are. I'm looking forward to examining it, now that I've gotten to point in a direction and said there.

To move this toward Conan and how he lives and behaves, which I expect to be a bigger part of this blog all the time, right now he's absconded with my phone, which means Kim can't call me, so he can listen to Attention Deficit Domination by Hank 3 in the bedroom. Clearly he's doing all he can to join our world.

We went to Motörhead, as well as The Meat Puppets, Roky Erickson, The Baseball Project and Peelander-Z in the last month he was in utero, so he might just come by it naturally. To further that the more direct discussion of being a father, I'll link Letters to Conan: an introduction from my personal blog. It's a series I still have in mind, but have been distracted by life from following up as enthusiastically as I'd prefer.

I'll be back soon, and bring my beautiful wife with me.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Introducing the folks

Hi, we're Kim and Neil.  That's Conan on the left.  He's almost 2.

Conan Daigoro Levon Sarver.

Named for Conan of Cimmeria, Ogami Daigorō from Lone Wolf and Cub and either Levon by Elton John or the great Levon Helm, depending which of us you ask and on which day. Maybe that tells you something about what kind of parents we are.

Or maybe what it tells you says something about you.

Who knows?

We're new to parenting.  Neil is 42, but is apparently a late-bloomer as that goes.  Kim is 29, so Neil is robbing the cradle.

We're playing most of this by ear, and having a great time.  The three of us have a great time together.   Our instincts seem to be taking us to all the things we want.

Conan is a joy and we find that we naturally gravitate toward decisions that serve that.  Some days are easier than others but we're working together.

But then the others come.  The others have done it better or worse yet have never done it, but are sure  they know better anyway.

And even in a "weird" town like Austin, Texas, where we're making our way, there seems too often to be a dichotomy that we don't find out way into.  We're not hippie enough to join all the granola meetings and be comfortable, but definitely too far out to join the local daycare group.

We're working to be healthier, but we like pizza and cake.

We're trying to be natural, but we're on a budget.

We're co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding.  We're planning to homeschool.

(Neil has written School and socialization and Unschool on that subject over at his personal blog and is excited to have a better forum for those ideas.)

However looking through a lot of Facebook pages on the subject led Neil to throw up his hands and wish there was something like Heavy Metal Homesteader about parenting.  We decided we should just jump in and fill the void for ourselves.

Punk Rock Parents is taken. So is The Kids Are Alright.

Neil suggested "Says Fucking Who?" It has a certain punk rock quality, a little childhood petulance, while also speaking to the most basic question regarding all the advice and counsel a person has foisted upon them as a new parent. So many bits of wisdom are passed along, so just dismal. Others leave you curious, begging the question... "Says fucking who?", even when intended with a generous spirit.

Society likes traditions and strongly encourages us all to follow the traditions that were handed down. We'd like to examine them as we go and see which ones feel useful.

And we'd like to do the same with the new-fangled ideas, the hippie-dippie ideas, the ideas from outside our Western culture.

We don't think the new or the old, the western or the eastern, the established or the crazy is better by its own virtue. We want to find and apply the things that work best for us and that work best for Conan.

We're embracing the madness of all of the possibilities.

In the process, perhaps we'll stir up some thoughts for other people, too.

Or if you prefer:

And we will also accept:

But only under cases of extreme duress.
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