Focus on the victims of the Santa Barbara shooting, not #yesallwomen

On May 23 six innocent people were slain in another American massacre Santa Barbara, California.

The bullets, blood and terrorized faces are almost normal to Americans now, but when you get into the details it always seems to draw a tear. Many of the victims were celebrating graduation and end-of-the-semester parties, and anyone who is in school knows the ecstatic relief that comes at the end of May and beginning of June.

At first the coverage was just the usual reports on his social awkwardness, his bizarre behavior, his absurd social media rants and posts and the usual quote from those affected in these types of massacres on how they missed all the warning signs the killer gave. Aside from a phenomenal narrative by the AP that told a chilling account of the massacre, it was the routine post-mass murderer journalism.  

But then the vampirism began when social media connoisseurs and ignorant people hijacked the focus of the story with the vainglorious hashtag #yesallwomen.

Before I move on, I need to clear the air ahead of time. Usually I save my disclaimers and context-explaining for after I say my point, but in this case so I don’t get accused of being a misogynist, anti-womanist, anti-feminist, mens-rightist, sexist, bigot, bully, or any “ist,” I’m going to get this out first.

I’m not against women speaking publicly about when men rape, assault or even make crude, sexist remarks. I think more women should – for their benefit and for bringing awareness to all – speak out more on when they’re sexually harassed, even if it’s just an ambiguous touch at a concert or club. Whether social media is the best medium for that discussion can be determined at another time, but let it be known I’m all for it.

I do not support women getting paid less than men. This was oft referenced with the #yesallwomen hashtag so I wanted to throw that out there. Women should be paid equal wages.

I do not support the thought that women bring on sexual assault or harassment (including catcalling and whistling) because of what they wear. Yes, revealing clothes can be assumed to be a sexual invitation and I’m sure many girls probably do want attention, but in the end men should control themselves and understand when a girl doesn’t want your pitiful touching or ogling.

So now that that’s out of the way, back to my point. The U.S. treats mass killings almost like a bizarre fetish. We fantasize about it, make ludicrous theories and worst of all, we capitalize on mass killings as a starting point for our often completely irrelevant theories. Matt Walsh put it perfectly in his excellent analysis of the killing spree as he addressed those who used this latest massacre as a springboard for ultra-feminism:

"Calm down. Get a grip. Go away. The bodies aren’t even in the ground yet. Shut up with your inane hash tags and your sickening, smarmy “See? I told ya so!” victory laps. It’s gross. It’s disturbing. People are dead and you’re coming up with cute Twitter slogans? Have we all completely lost our minds?

It’s true that The Coward apparently hated women. He also hated men, his family, himself, and all of humanity. He lamented his lack of sexual experience in a series of YouTube videos and said he wanted to kill women to exact vengeance upon them for not sleeping with him. Ultimately, he murdered three women, three men, and himself.”

NOTE: later reports confirmed it was actually four men and two women who were killed.

The problem here, when stripped down, is truly a lack of empathy, sympathy and a huge serving of social media-age narcissism. It’s a lack of empathy because these social media warriors aren’t putting themselves in the shoes of the victims’ friends and families and offering condolences of their brutal emotional suffering. There is no sympathy in bringing up your ex, as this Twitter user did:

“Just thinking about how my latest ex would be responding to #YesAllWomen, I am urgently relieved he’s out of my life forever.”

Well isn’t that tragic. You’re ex, who I’m assuming is a misogynist, sexist, rapist, and mass-murderer, might be thinking meanie thoughts about your beloved hashtag. How about what the victims’ family and friends are thinking? Suddenly their loved ones, who are now lifeless with bullet, knife and blunt traumatic force wounds, are no longer the center of attention like they should be.

There are hundreds of absurd examples of such uses of the #yesallwomen hashtag, but there is no need to post them here. Look it up on your own time if you like. The point is Americans have woefully failed when it comes to post-massacre responses. Instead of broadcasting the victims and their legacies, we get all giddy about how evil the shooter was or how this proves that guns should be banned (keep in mind he killed three victims with a knife and injured several with his car) or that misogynistic violence campaign had its Napalm Girl moment (Google it if you don’t get the reference). And I’m not even mentioning the incredibly insulting theories of how he had Asperger’s Syndrome, as if that means anything.  

 While the news organizations often over-glorify the shooter’s manifestos, diaries and pictures, at least that’s news.

Hijacking the attention of who the victims are is just cold blooded, however. It’s one of the most insulting things that could be done to such a delicate tragedy. If people and useless aggregates want to play that game, so be it, but understand you’re on the wrong side of history.

For some reason we (including the news, blogs and social media) can never get the focus of a massacre right – we always focus on some ridiculous, manufactured aspect. This time apparently it’s the growing problem of mass-misogynist murderers. Buzzfeed (the things I want to say but I’m not) called it “a powerful reaction on social media” in one of their ludicrous Twitter-based reports (yes, they literally use Twitter users as sources). The Huffington Post had their own little Twitter-based report, too. As if the thoughts of non-relevant people who are using a medium that in its worst state is a means to post abstract relationship drama and drunk pictures holds any weight.

But this has nothing to do with violence against women. The guy killed 4 men, injured several more and hated guys in his writings as much as women. This guy just hated people who were successful and had a good time. His reasoning was just as self-righteous and desperate for attention as all the other mass-murderers.

Besides, in every mass shooting/killing spree, there have been many male heroes. Take Daniel Hernandez, an intern, who held up Gabby Giffords head so she wouldn’t choke on her own blood. Or how about the three boyfriends who took bullets for their girlfriends during the Aurora Theater shooting. Just Google “(insert tragedy here) heroes” and you’ll find many more examples. 

So please journalists, bloggers and social media-ers alike, let’s focus on the true story here: the victims. Let’s get to know them. Let’s know what their favorite bands were. What food did they like? Did they have a funny laugh or a goofy smirk? What made them mad? Did they collect shoes or did they think fashion was silly? A lot of them were recent graduates. What were they’re post college dreams? What were some of their inside jokes they shared with friends or family?

Every person has a purpose, and these victims and all future victims will soon be forgotten if we don’t do our job and remember them. At least there is still time to make this happen once we hopefully clear out the debris from this hashtag nonsense.

In the meantime, we need to stop glorifying these evil murderers and stop using tragedies as an ideological ramp. And yes, I’ve done the same before. I’ll admit that. Besides, if you think social media is a good medium to change the world, the laughs on you. You’re sitting on your butt doing nothing. Just ask the college-aged Freedom Riders of the civil rights movement or the women of the voting rights movement in the 20’s their thoughts. They didn’t have Twitter, smartphones or even a computer to browse for knowledge, yet they still captured the attention of literally the entire world.

Perhaps that was one of the reasons why they were so affective, since they didn’t feel beholden to technology. Maybe actions do speak louder than words. 

From Moshing to Foot-Stomping: Chuck Ragan Discusses His Transition From Punk Rock to Folk

Story and photographs by Jordan Gonzalez (originally printed in The Cleveland Stater)

Chuck Ragan knows a little bit about what it means to rock. The gravelly-voiced front man of punk rock band Hot Water Music has head-banged, shouted and shredded countless times since the early 90s. With his impressive stature and his grizzled beard, he fits right in the punk rock scene, with all its moshing and aggressive nature. 

But don’t let the din of Hot Water’s distorted guitars or the tough guy look fool you — Ragan is as down to earth as any, from his personality to his musical style. He stopped by The Grog Shop on April 17 with his latest act, “Chuck Ragan and The Camaraderie,” a five-piece folk band, to support his latest release, “Till Midnight.”

“Let’s go to the trailer,” he suggested, to avoid the noise of the fans and practicing musicians who were beginning to flood in The Grog Shop. As soon as he entered, he fished for a beer in the cooler, pulled out a bag of chew and dropped down on one of the chairs in the luxurious but rugged trailer. 

While the transition from punk rock to folk music may seem absurd, Ragan explained in-between sips of his beer how natural that transition actually was. He was raised in Texas and Louisiana as a child, living a very outdoorsy lifestyle, complete with constant hunting, fishing and camping. Having the Texas and Louisiana countryside as his playground and participating in outdoor activities wasn’t a novelty or really even an option for him – it was what he knew. 

“It never felt like a sport,” Ragan said. “It felt just as important as taking a walk or going to the grocery store or reading a book. It was just part of life, it was the way we lived.” 

Besides, he said, his parents were the biggest influence. His dad loved to fish and his mom, a “woodsy tomboy,” was the first person who taught him how to clean a fish. 

His music was inevitably influenced by his surroundings, he said. His first recollection of music was his grandpa playing French Cajun tunes from his accordion and his grandma keeping rhythm with a tambourine. 

Growing up in a Southern Baptist household meant a lot of Gospel, bluegrass, and Cajun music (from his mother’s side of the family), what he described as “a lot of spirit-driven stuff just from growing up in the church.”

“I wasn’t ever really allowed to listen to rock and roll,” Ragan said. “Definitely not punk rock. I didn’t even know what punk rock was until I was 12 years old or something.”

He was introduced to a guitar when he lived in Louisiana by an “old folky” guy who played Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie songs. Ragan would play along with him, learning his first guitar chords. 

On the dawn of his teenage years he discovered skateboarding, which was at the same time he discovered punk rock. With that came a different lifestyle and his music spectrum exploded. He discovered alternative rock, metal, rap, and all kinds of genres that weren’t in his house growing up. 

“Friends used to make me mixtapes, and a lot of the times I had never even heard or knew who it was, they just gave me all these tapes,” Ragan remembered. “I used to sneak them and go to bed listening to them. It drove my parents crazy.”

But his discovery of fringe genres didn’t erase the folk roots that were so ingrained in his blood. This wasn’t a situation of rebelling against the music of his childhood. During his skateboarding years, he and his friends had an older buddy who would build their skate ramps. Whenever that friend was present, he would listen to his music, which ranged from Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival and other classic folk and rock. 

In the meantime, they would just keep skating. 

“That music just kind of became just part of the day,” Ragan said. “And it just became this seamless soundtrack to our lives.” 

For those who attended the show later that night, this startling musical contrast with a backdrop of skateboarding and fishing flowed effortlessly. The Camaraderie, with all its fiddling and double-bassing, isn’t “your everyday singer-songwriter band at all,” Ragan said. 

“We are high-energy. We like to get our own blood moving, get it cranking. And I think people gravitate to it. It’s just good energy, the fans and the supporters that support the shows.”

High energy would be putting it lightly. The fans were antsy after two opening acts. 

Cleveland-based acoustic act “Meridian” played a very calm, completely acoustic set. After that was the current Social Distortion guitarist Johnny “Two Bags” Wickersham and his solo band, who kicked the atmosphere in the next gear with his rock and roll tunes. Then came Ragan, who instantly got the crowd dancing and singing with his new track, “Something May Catch Fire,” a fiddle-infused ballad about leaving town with a loved one. 

Ragan’s scratchy voice tore through the rambunctious crowd, and he kept the energy high until his final songs. His band includes Social Distortion drummer David Hidalgo, long-time friend and fiddler Jon Guant, bass and double-bass player Joe Ginsberg and former Lucero member Todd Beene, who rocks the pedal steel guitar and electric guitar. 

Ragan said it should be no surprise that he and many other rock and metal artists have had successful folk or country side-projects. Aaron Lewis of Staind, for instance, has country solo project and Kid Rock, who many know from his hard rock days has dabbled in everything from country rock to rap. 

“A lot of people ask nowadays ‘why is it that all these punk rockers are playing folk music?’” Ragan said. “The thing is that it’s been going on a lot longer than people have paid attention to. I think the question is more so, why are people paying attention to it.”

Citing himself as an example, he noted he always was listening to folk and often playing it (keep in mind this is actually his fourth solo album with a folksy vibe). 

“That’s the way it is with a lot of genres though,” he said. “People gravitate to something underground, usually it’s something not as popularized. And for some reason it gets hype and media get into it and then it blows up. You can only talk about the same subject for so long before people get tired of it and it’s like, what else?”

He said musicians go through cycles to determine what music will stand the test of time. 

“For us [musicians] it seems like there has always been a lot of parallels between alternative music and folk music,” Ragan said. “There is a lot of very similar things. They can both be extremely personal, they can both be very political, they can both be angry or insightful.”

It all comes down to his love of music he said. He feels comfortable in both the punk rock scene and the folk rock scene. Whether it’s a family who comes to his folk rock show or a group of wild college kids who know him from Hot Water Music, he loves the energy and how music brings people together. 

In the meantime, he is enjoying the current tour and the amazing dynamics he and his band members have. 

“We’re traveling with a bunch of people that we just really admire and respect and that we’ve known for a long time,” Ragan said. “And we’ve traveled with before, which always makes it that much easier, especially when you’re living together. We’re around each other 24/7.”

He said he is honored with the attention “Till Midnight” has received so far (it is streaming on Rolling Stone’s website), and he will be focusing on The Camaraderie for now. 

“Now I need to kind of pull the reins on myself,” he said. “I have the tendency to get a lot of plates spinning.”

But, don’t forget that he’s a punk rocker, too. Ragan said to expect a reunion of Hot Water Music again this fall, as 2014 is their 20th anniversary.

Déjà Vu Meets the Inevitable in Houston’s Loss to Portland

For those who don’t understand or watch sports, to watch your team lose to a buzzer beater is simply the worst way to lose. Honestly, I think most sports fans (me included) would rather lose in a blowout. It’s less painful; kind of like you’d rather have a bad sore throat and a fever for 3 days as opposed to the stomach flu for one day with all its puking and misery. Sure it’s quicker, but the pain supersedes the quickness.

But last night’s insane buzzer beater by Portland guard Damien Lillard with .09 seconds left stung extra hard because of its rarity and the weight of what it going in implied. Houston fans went through probably the most frustrating 6 games we’ve ever experienced. We lost the first two games – at home. Then we won the next off of a beautiful game-clinching three by rising star Troy Daniels. Then we lose the next game in overtime, going down 3-1. Then us Clutch City fans all got together and believed, and we were granted a solid game five win with saw all our previous mistakes and missed shots temporarily relieved.

Building off of that adrenaline and momentum we all truly believed we were going to take game 6. Even the most iconic Houston player of any Htown sport – Hakeem “the Dream” Olajuwon – said publicly that the pressure was on the Blazers to win game 6. And if you take game six, 3-1 suddenly becomes 3-3 and it’s anyone’s game. Plus, game seven would have been in Houston. 

And for the most part, Olajuwon was right, as Chandler Parsons sneaked what would be in any normal game a game-winning layup with .9 seconds left to go. But this is the basketball, and usually no lead is ever safe till the buzzer buzzes.

Enter Damien Lillard, the clutch and extremely efficient Portland guard who is now tied with John Stockton (more on this later) as the most hated players in Houston. He sunk all the momentum, all the glory and all the dreams of Houston fans with one flick of his wrist.

But the salt in the wound for me and any long-time Houston fan was the fact we’ve seen this before. My first recollection of a Rockets game (I was finally allowed to stay up for the whole game, as I was four) was in the 1997 NBA Western Conference finals. The Jazz were up 3-2, tie game, and they had the ball with 2.8 seconds. John Stockton gets wide open off a screen and drains a three.

I broke into tears (once again, I was four). It was, until Lillard’s shot, the most painful loss the Rockets had ever experienced.

In the end, Houston was done in by their fourth-quarter collapses, poor shot selection down the stretch, high turnover rate, inability to control LaMarcus Aldridge for the first 2 games, and the absence of James Harden in the final few minutes (for the first few games). These aforementioned factors allowed Portland set a trap, putting us in a 3-1 hole. The Rockets should have never been facing elimination. Games 1 and 4 should have been Rockets victories, but they shot themselves in the foot instead due to turnovers and missed shots.

But enough of the whining. Life goes on. It’s just a game in the end. As a friend reminded me, you have to give credit where credit is due. And a true fan sticks with his team through the best of times and the worst of times.

Let’s check out some stats:

  • LaMarcus Aldridge averaged 23.2 points, 11 rebounds and 1 block per game in the 2013-14 regular season. In the post season, he had 29.8 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks per game.
  • Damien Lillard has had 4 game-winning shots in the final five seconds of a game in his career. He’s 4-12 overall for go-ahead shots (via ESPN stats and info).
  • Lillard’s buzzer beater was the first buzzer beater to win a playoff series since (wait for it) John Stockon’s for the Utah Jazz in 1997 against the Houston Rockets via ESPN stats and info).
  • That makes the last two buzzer beaters to win playoff series both against the Rockets (via ESPN stats and info).
  • DISCLAIMER: I’m not sure about this next stat, but I think it’s true: Lillard’s shot with .9 left is the first game-winning buzzer beater scored with under a second in the playoffs since 2004 (Spurs vs Lakers, Fisher nails a jumper with .4 seconds left).
  • Houston was 2nd overall for points scored this season (average 107 per game), 4th overall for rebounds (average of 45 per game)…but they were also second to last overall for turnovers per game (average of 15); Harden averaged 3.7 per game, Howard averaged 3.3 per game.
  • Despite the above stats, the Rocket’s stars did show up in the post-season, with Harden averaging 26.8 points per game, Howard averaging 26 points per game and 13 rebounds and Parson’s averaging 19 points per game.

Like I said previously, in the end it was the turnovers and poor shot selection that did them in. Each game of this series was extremely close, with three overtimes and an average margin of victory of 4 points.

Before the playoffs began I said if the Rockets continued with their poor shot selections, turnovers and bizarre match up problems (against Clippers, Thunder and Blazers for instance), they’d only go “one or two rounds deep.” I also called that we’d lose in 6 games after our game 2 loss.

So if you paid attention all season to the Rockets like I did, you’d know this result was inevitable if things didn’t change (they didn’t). And Houston had an awful case of déjà vu. Thanks Lillard. 

In the meantime I got to fix this broken heart of mine while I prepare for the World Cup. 


Mighty material from a crustacean club
The peacock mantis shrimp crushes its prey with punches from two hammer-like front appendages, which strike so fast that they boil the water around them, making the pounding even more severe. Crabs, mollusks and fish skulls shatter under the blow. Scientists have developed a tough new material inspired by the structure of the animal’s super-resilient clubs. Read related article.

Cool beans. 


Mighty material from a crustacean club

The peacock mantis shrimp crushes its prey with punches from two hammer-like front appendages, which strike so fast that they boil the water around them, making the pounding even more severe. Crabs, mollusks and fish skulls shatter under the blow. Scientists have developed a tough new material inspired by the structure of the animal’s super-resilient clubs. Read related article.

Cool beans.