7 For Seven: It's OK to Change Your Mind

You're not doomed to your fandom.

Brady Gerber’s “7 For Seven”: Seven links on writing and creativity in your inbox by 7 AM EST every Wednesday. Headphone Nation and ARTS & FARTS music reviews, too. Interviews with writers every 2nd and 4th Friday. Read on your browser.

It’s Wednesday morning. Oof.

And heads up: My schedule this past week got derailed for a few reasons, so I didn’t have time to do Headphone Nation or ARTS & FARTS. Maybe this is for the best. The only song I listened to last week was The Avalanches’s “Interstellar Love”. It’s such a great song.

But, hey, I still got the links; here are seven links to make your week more interesting.


1. The dangers of “Toxic Positivity.”

Mostly sharing this for the nice new (to me) phase: “emotional oxygen.” Great art should have some room to breathe.

“FONO can power any delusional self-belief, whether it’s politicians trying to spin their way out of Covid-19 failures with platitudes about strength or hucksters selling a chance to get ahead. The Federal Trade Commission has reported an uptick in Ponzi schemes during the pandemic—70% higher in the second quarter of 2020 than the year before. Ordinary Americans, casting around for inspiration and reassurance, became prime targets for these peddlers of perkiness.”


2. Dan Ozzi, this newsletter’s most recent interview guest, wrote about letting music go.

Like Dan, I also enjoyed music by Beach Slang and Ryan Adams before learning about the allegations against them. I wrestle with all my past praise for them, both as a fan and in my professional capacity. It’s not like I can go back and unwrite all those words. I also disagree with my colleagues who try to play it off as if they’ve never ever liked artists who are now not kosher to like, especially when I know they’re lying. That smug fake-denial doesn’t help or even address the problem. I think it’s more human to be honest and upfront. Yes, I enjoyed their music. No, I didn’t know the whole story. Yes, now I know, and now I’m more mindful if I encounter their art again.

I’ve written about this before, but I think art is, among many things, the most intentional parts of ourselves. Unfortunately, we’re often unintentional with our lives. We act without thinking, or we’re careless with what we say or do, even in a split second. This is on top of being able to pick and choose the parts of ourselves that we present to the world. I think the question of “Can we separate the art from the artist?” is moot for this same reason: art is just one part of us. It’s not “true” or “false.” It’s happily incomplete. A work of art doesn’t tell the whole story. It is, however, part of the story.

We’re all capable of good and bad, and I think it’s OK to not punish our past selves because didn’t know the whole story of some stranger who made something we liked once at an impressionable age. We shouldn’t validate any kind of ongoing abuse or harm because hey, we really like that song. You can grow up loving Harry Potter, appreciate all the wisdom and wonder taht you took from it, and now want to step away from JK Rowling now that we know more of the story. You can appreciate art and not be doomed to carry your fandom for the rest of your life. You’re allowed to change your mind.

“This has happened on a few occasions, where some previously unknown information will surface about a band I’ve championed—information that is uncomfortable and unfortunate and, at the very least, would have led me to reconsider my words. This has happened to just about every music writer I know, as well. It’s a peculiar position to be in, wherein the job is to essentially be on record putting your weight behind a band. Professional associates of the artist who profit off their work—labels, managers, booking agents—are in a different boat. They are usually quick to distance themselves from their clients and sever financial and professional ties. (Or at least they are quick to do so once the public backlash starts mounting.) Carefully worded statements and social media posts typically follow. But with journalists, there are no financial transactions happening. We are not professionally bound to these artists. We are simply fans just like anyone else.

“ … But what about the dances we’ve already danced? As a writer, I certainly can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube and rescind the praise that is already out there. As a fan, I can re-evalute my own relationship with Beach Slang’s music, and will likely let it fade from the doldrums of my mind. At the same time, I am hesitant to encourage others to do the same. Beach Slang’s music is an interesting case because their lyrics pushed a message of relentless, and often absurdly over-the-top, positivity. It’s what appealed to most fans and also what most often drew detractors. Although the words have proven to have come from a questionable source, is their effect on those who derived meaning from them not still valid? If you have taken anything from their music which has helped you in some way, has that now been undone? If you have relied on the music of Morrissey or PWR BTTM or Ryan Adams to ease the burdens of your personal troubles, has your mending been negated by their transgressions? I’d like to think that any healing you may have incurred as a result of any form of media, regardless of its creator, is valid and real.” 


3. Twenty-five years of Pixar doing a really, really good job using color.

I love the idea of creating a “color script” to tell a whole story.

“When [Ralph Eggleston] joined the studio in 1992 as art director of Toy Story, the task of setting the tone for a film made entirely of computer animation was daunting, with striking the right notes for the film’s color and lighting — the emotional core of the story — being especially crucial. Color scripts map out the emotional beats of a story, helping all involved in the animation process understand the vision as a whole. The ones Eggleston would develop, which “planned out scenes on long stripes of black paper with chalk pastel, [as] a kind of ‘stream of consciousness’ map of color, value, and visual drama” would prove integral to the film’s direction and making as a whole. Though color scripts were not invented by Eggleston or Pixar, the studio would go on to become the first to create a color script for each of its films, yet again influencing the animation industry at large.”


What is art’s function in a time of need?

I politely disagree with this feature on a few points - reading this attempt to “channel” FDR feels like listening to an episode of Pod Save America - but I do like his lede.

“What is art’s function? What does art do for a person, a country? Scholars, economists, revolutionaries keep debating, but one very good answer has held now for 2,500 years. The function of art, Aristotle told us, is catharsis. You go to the theater, you listen to a symphony, you look at a painting, you watch a ballet. You laugh, you cry. You feel pity, fear. You see in others’ lives a reflection of your own. And the catharsis comes: a cleansing, a clarity, a feeling of relief and understanding that you carry with you out of the theater or the concert hall. Art, music, drama — here is a point worth recalling in a pandemic — are instruments of psychic and social health.”


5. How to build and keep better boundaries.

Not directly related to creativity, but creating healthier boundaries is a personal goal for me this year. If you’re like me and also struggle with boundaries, I thought this was really helpful.

“Boundaries are essential to healthy relationships and, really, a healthy life. Setting and sustaining boundaries is a skill. Unfortunately, it’s a skill that many of us don’t learn, according to psychologist and coach Dana Gionta, Ph.D. We might pick up pointers here and there from experience or through watching others. But for many of us, boundary-building is a relatively new concept and a challenging one.”


6. When Martin Luther King Jr. changed his mind.

Continuing from link No. 2: The older I get, the more I realize that real wisdom comes from growing and changing our minds when we learn and know more. I think Dr. King was a good example of someone who grew into and honed his ideology over time. The Internet does not reward this kind of thinking, of course; once you post something, it’s there forever, and people never forget, even when you’re not that same person anymore. Life is not the Internet. Again, it’s OK to change your mind.

Also, imagine having only 20 minutes to come up with a speech that has to be perfect.

“Martin Luther King, Jr., or “Little Mike,” as he was called until his father, Michael Luther King, Sr., changed both their names to Martin, had no ambition to become the leader of a movement. When Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery city bus, on December 1, 1955, King was a twenty-six-year-old minister just a year into his job at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, in Montgomery, who imagined that he might one day become a professor. The legendary boycott that followed Parks’s arrest was not King’s idea, and, when he was informed of the plan, he did not immediately endorse it. He did after some reflection, though, and offered a room in the basement of his church for the organizers to meet.”


7. And finally, where is my stimulus check.

And so …


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HEADPHONE NATION

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None this week (something came up this week and I ran out of time :( will be back next week, I hope!)

(Again, The Avalanches’s “Interstellar Love”.)

… we carry on …


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ARTS & FARTS

Song “reviews”

None this week (something came up this week and I ran out of time :( will be back next week, I hope!)

Onward!

-Brady


Brady writes about music (and other things) and draws cartoons. You can find him in New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Interview Magazine, McSweeney’s, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, and more. Check out his website, where you’ll find his latest features and more ways to connect.

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All cartoons by Brady Gerber. Headphone Nation’s logo was made by Sophie Wiener. 7 for Seven was made possible with the help of Simon Morrow, who also designed the ARTS & FARTS logo. Thank you, Sophie and Simon!