IC2S Playlist Update 30/12/2015

Good news – the Metal Gear retrospective is 100% complete and ready to go in the new year! I’ll be posting the first part on the 1st of January, and then a new post every second day thereafter, so be sure to tune in! It has been a lot of fun to go through the whole series and write up these analyses, so I hope you find them enlightening and enjoyable as well!

First up this week is “Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen” by Santana from the album Abraxas. There’s a good chance that you’ve heard this song before, as it is a classic (plus it was in Guitar Hero III). There isn’t really much of a story behind me picking this song, I just really like it, it’s a great example of a guitar-driven song and a good demonstration of the oddly “spiritual” quality to Santana’s music.

Secondly we have “My Allegiance” by ILIA from their EP Reborn. Back when Weathered Steel was still in business, they used to play ILIA all of the time… which was annoying, because they are distinctly not a metal band. It isn’t that their music is bad by any means, but when you have an upbeat Christian rock song sandwiched between 2 angry death metal songs, it makes them feel very out of place. However, “My Allegiance” was their only song that felt like it might have a place on Weathered Steel, in part due to the bridge where lead singer Suzy Martinez just suddenly starts roaring for a couple verses. It’s unexpected considering how low-key most of their music is, but it’s a cool, passionate moment which puts the punctuation mark on an already-enjoyable song, cementing it as something special to me.

However, I recently bought Reborn and discovered that there’s a “radio edit” version of “My Allegiance”. As someone who enjoys heavy music, I knew exactly what this meant – a “screamless” version. Lo and behold, that is exactly what the “radio edit” is, an otherwise identical version of the song, if not for the screams being replaced with watered-down, regular singing. It’s a really disappointing difference to me, which just deflates the song in my opinion. I enjoy when an artist is willing to scream in a song as it often gives them a further degree of passion to express themselves with. Furthermore, I have a sneaking suspicion that ILIA felt like they had to water the song down in order to get “My Allegiance” played on Christian “rock” radio… with heavy quotation marks around the “rock” bit. Christian rock tends to be musically neutered in comparison to real rock, which probably goes some way to explaining why it has such an awful reputation. I wouldn’t be surprised if ILIA agrees – after all, they did make the “official” release the one containing the screams.

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IC2S Playlist Update 23/12/2015

We’re going for a Christmas theme this week on the playlist (for obvious reasons, I would hope). Considering that this is a year-round playlist though, I’m going to be using the idea of a “Christmas song” fairly loosely in order to make my selections not feel very strange when you’re listening in late August.

HONOURABLE MENTION: This being the year we lost Christopher Lee, I think now is the best time to check out his metal Christmas carols. If you’re on Spotify, they have all of them there and they’re pretty enjoyable… in a rather cheesy way. Considering this is Christopher Lee we’re talking about, I think that’s the most appropriate way for it to be.

First up this week we have “Christmas at the Zoo” by the Flaming Lips from their album Clouds Taste Metallic. At first glance, this song seems to be a pretty typical (presumably coked-up) Flaming Lips song. Setting free talking animals at the zoo on Christmas eve? Umm, okay… That was more or less my feelings about the song until I started to think that it might be an allegory. That line of thinking led me to think that perhaps the song is about US foreign policy (seriously). I might be way off-base with this interpretation, but the idea has made me like this song quite a bit. Basically, the singer’s desire to free the animals is meant to represent America’s “democratizing” efforts. Conversely, the zoo animals represent the nations which America’s attentions are drawn towards. While democracy may be a thing that they ultimately desire, they need to acquire it on their own terms or it’s never going to work out. I doubt that this is the actual intent of The Flaming Lips when they wrote this song, but I have found “The New Criticism” method of literary interpretation to be very useful in many circumstances, as it is not about authourial intent, but rather what the text says to the reader – which, when it comes down to it, is arguably the most important consideration, right?

Secondly, we have “Old City Bar” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra from their album Christmas Eve and Other Stories. There’s no other Christmas album that I have listened to more this year, and “Old City Bar” has quickly become a favourite for its great story. To put it simply, this song (and the album as a whole) are about how people do good at Christmas, but this season does not have to end if we continue to do good all year round. “Old City Bar” is a very Christ-like song in my personal opinion. It slowly tells the tale of a bunch of social outcasts spending their Christmas Eve in the titular old city bar. The song then details how the seemingly cold-hearted bartender’s life is changed, as well as the person he helps and the lives of those around him who witness his actions, through one good deed. It’s a very heart-warming song and one which is a great year-round as far as I’m concerned.

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So… What’s the Point?

There’s a recurring argument which seems to occur within my family every couple months. Most recently it was triggered by Rajon Rondo’s anti-gay comments to a gay referee in an NBA game and his two subsequent non-apologies. On one side, the argument was being made that Rondo was being an asshole, but how was this different than player ribbing one another by making comments about their mothers/sisters? There was also the free speech argument being tossed around (even though this is a case where an employee is being punished by his employer because of a positive image that they want to project, not an opinion in the public forum). One particular party was also arguing that people are just too “soft” these days, love to complain about stupid bullshit and need to grow thicker skin (this party, for the record, is only 22 bloody years old). These comments did get me thinking though – when we SJW-types stand up and make a fuss about something, are we just doing so because we’re a bunch of cry babies? Are we doing anything productive? When I write about womens’ representation in pop culture, what am I actually trying to achieve? To put it as simply as possible: what’s the point?

Well let’s make one thing clear – for all of my feminist criticism, I don’t think that any one example of objectification is going to be the tipping point where someone becomes a misogynist. However, I’m not sure if that’s an excuse to go entirely the other way – in one of his videos, TotalBiscuit says that he doesn’t believe that video games cause real-life violence, so it would be hypocritical of him to believe that video games can cause misogyny. In my mind, this is not an equivalent analogy. Violence is something which our society looks down upon, whereas (if you’re a feminist at least) negative attitudes towards women are still quite prevalent – just look at a few of the things I have written here for some examples in “liberal” Hollywood. As a result, it would seem to me that examples of sexism are not the problem, but rather the social perceptions which they help to foster. Actually, Robert Evans put out a very interesting article on the mindsets of mass shooters while I was writing this post which helps illustrate the difference between causation and cultural perception.

Considering that pretty much all of western society has agreed that racism = bad, it’s probably best to demonstrate perception in that area. First of all, getting to the point where we could agree that racism was bad in the first place required a shift in social perception, which we’d all look back on and consider to be a good change, right? People also seem to be fairly familiar with examples of racism within culture: black guys are criminals, love fried chicken and have huge dicks, Asians are all geniuses with tiny dicks (it’s all about the dicks in racism), Muslims are women-hating savages, terrorists and have wild beards, etc. These sorts of things get passed around in our culture, but they are not necessarily true (and even if they are on a person-to-person basis, the fact that they colour our perceptions of a whole race is definitely problematic). I have seen this sort of mindset still persisting on white supremacy forums over this last week. This sort of hateful ideology must be stamped out and the only acceptable way to do so is through proper education and social dialogue.

Perceptions change over time. Islamophobia is not a thing which necessarily “is”, it is based on a perception that has developed based on the narratives put forth by various sources. For a non-SJW example, look at the Ebola panic last year. The American media threw people into a frenzy as they worried about whether this disease would come to America, go airborne and then kill millions of people… even though basically every expert agreed that there was basically no threat of an outbreak in America (not that they gave a shit about helping the 5000-10,000 people who died from the outbreaks in West Africa). Furthermore, before this story hit the news cycle, the public wasn’t worried at all about Ebola or pandemics, at least not since 2009’s Swine Flu “scare” anyway.

So how does all of this relate to blogging about Quiet’s sniper-stripper outfit then, for example? The point is quite simply to change the existing perception. Keeping it in the video game sphere, I have stated numerous times in the past that the status quo for female representation is to objectify, to damsel or to fridge them. By blogging about such representations and drawing attention to them, combined with all of the other feminists who are doing the same, we hope to create a shift in the social perception. The same can be said in other areas where people have been questioning why people even care – from sexual harassment in the military, to Black Lives Matter, to Caitlyn Jenner becoming the face of trans-rights. We are creating a dialogue by questioning the status quo. After all, if we did not speak up about an issue, the issue would never change.

The secondary consideration is that a change in perception will also (hopefully) lead to more diversity. If the status quo is never questioned, then most of our media will never even think to try something different. This is why so many video game protagonists have been white males, especially in the past console generation. Diversity also means that certain “negative” portrayals can also be totally acceptable. For example, in an early post on the blog, I questioned why it was wrong to objectify women, but men were fair game (eg, the Wolfpack in Twilight, Magic Mike, etc). I have come to realize that objectification is not inherently the issue here, but rather that women have been disproportionately objectified for decades. As a result, we need to rein back the objectification and make it more egalitarian. This is also why most SJW-types don’t give a shit about DOAX3 or Pirahna 3D, these are experiences which are really obviously little more than a softcore fantasy with a very limited audience. Conversely, The Phantom Pain‘s Quiet is problematic as she is the sole female character in an otherwise-serious, high-profile release who is dressed very inappropriately for her supposed role.

With all of this in mind, I don’t think my criticisms are going to suddenly turn you into a feminist/progressive Christian/etc either. However, my hope with this blog is that I can help push you in that direction, little by little. After all, that’s how I ended up where I am now in basically every walk of my life. Very few people just radically change in one instance, it took me years to understand why we still needed feminism, that dogmatic evangelicalism was killing my Christian faith and that I should value other people rather than being a self-interested prick. Just remember to keep an open mind and be willing to listen to other peoples’ opinions.

Postscript: I have this article scheduled to post within 2 and a half hours, but even in that time new supplementary material has presented itself which I felt that I must share. The article from To Do Justice on the Patheos network lambastes Christian misogyny, along with our culture’s casual sexism which stems from the perceptions of what is acceptable. Even if you think that binding and gagging women and saying “Peace on Earth” is “just a joke, don’t take it so seriously”, you have to admit that it is both an extremely tired joke and in really poor taste (you bound your freaking little daughters’ mouths as well!?!?!).

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IC2S Playlist Update 16/12/2015

First up this week is the famous title track from “American Pie” by Don McLean (no, not the 90s teen sex comedy). This is another one of those selections that everyone knows and loves, and for good reason – it’s fantastic and a cultural milestone. A lot of people have been stuck listening to the shorter radio edit, but for the IC2S Playlist I chose the full-length version, because it is simply better, full-stop. Definitely one of the better known “long songs” out there, and a good case for why songs should be allowed to go over 4 minutes more often.

Secondly, we have “Healing Subconsciously” by Volbeat from their debut album, The Strength / The Sound / The Songs. It’s kind of hard to believe that it’s now been over 2 years since I became a fan of Volbeat. The Strength / The Sound / The Songs is definitely my least-favourite album of theirs, but “Healing subconsciously” is one of the more hypnotic tunes in their catalogue. Volbeat’s lead singer, Michael Poulsen, has a really weird way of singing in which I can’t even tell what the hell he’s saying 95% of the time, but it still sounds amazing. Seriously, listen to the song and then check out these lyrics: I caught maybe a third of that, tops.

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IC2S Playlist Update 09/12/2015

I just want to put in a post-script to the SJW posts before we get into the playlist for this week. I feel like I might have come across as arguing with a “no true Scotsman” fallacy in regards to what SJWs want/don’t want. This would be especially hypocritical considering that I have written in the past that we should own up for the misdeeds of individuals in our group. I do condemn the bad things done by SJW-types and hopefully I got that across well enough in the two articles. It is also worth reiterating that “SJW” is not a term that the people it’s referring to have any control over. As a result, the “purest” forms of SJW (small minority who maybe actually do try to censor media and get games banned) get conflated with all stripes of social justice types as the term becomes more and more meaningless. Hopefully this makes things a little clearer, since it’s a rather annoyingly complicated situation.

First up this week is “Hurt” by Johnny Cash from the album American IV: The Man Comes Around. Within a day or two of me putting up “The Man Comes Around” on the playlist, I instantly regretted my “6 weeks” rule and wanted to include this song. It is absolutely fantastic, and one of the few songs that I know which is extremely highly regarded by everyone familiar with it. It is also just a really strange fit too – a Nine Inch Nails song covered by a 70 year old country and gospel singer? It works though, and brilliantly at that. Check it out and be sure to listen through all of American IV: it’s a fantastic album.

Secondly, we have “You’ll Be In My Heart” by Phil Collins from the Tarzan soundtrack. I’ll admit, a pop hit is a bit of a weird choice for the IC2S Playlist, but we’re going with it. This came up in my MP3 player the other day when I put it on shuffle and it hit me with a wave of nostalgia. Ever since it came out, I have regarded Tarzan as my favourite Disney animated film. I watched it again a few years ago and it made me want to cry. Between the childhood nostaglia and the fact that it was resonating with me at a formulative time (I was in school and had moved out from home), it is just a really powerful film. I don’t know what it is about apes, but between this, King Kong and Planet of the Apes, many of my favourite movies have them involved in a major capacity. I’ve always loved this song as well, it was one of my favourite songs as a kid before I stumbled across hard rock music. I hope that its inclusion on the playlist awakens some nostalgia and good feelings in you as well.

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