How to make your band famous

So, you’ve started a band (or a solo project, or even a non-musical artistic project). You want people to know about your sweet new band. You want to spread the word far and wide.

That’s where I come in. It’s what I do for a living. I am the press.

Not all of it, naturally. I am but one tiny part, but I have been doing it for a minute now (or how ever many minutes there are in five years), so I have a pretty good handle on it. And I get asked, from time to time, what a band can do to get coverage. I’ve talked to a few folks one-on-one, and participated in a conference or two on the topic, but hey, seems like maybe it would be easier to just throw it out there and let people in on the Big Secret.

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Is it awesome?

So, you like something. You want to signal your approval. Here’s a little test to see if “awesome” is the appropriate word to use.

When you go to say it, can you just say “That is awesome” in a normal, everyday tone of voice? If you can, it’s not awesome. It might be cool, pleasant, interesting, neat, or even groovy, but it’s not awesome.

If it is awesome, you will want to shout “That is AWESOME!” and you will get that feeling in your chest—an eruption of joy and, yes, awe— that you got when you were five years old and someone showed you a magic trick or gave you a kick-ass new toy and you were so excited that you couldn’t sit still. That is what awesome is.

Learn to use the Internet (and a little sense): A response to Kony 2012

If you’re reading this post, then you’re obviously on the Internet. If you’re reading it any time close to when I’ve posted it, that means you’ve certainly seen the Kony 2012 video, whether you’ve watched it or not. And by now, chances are pretty good you’ve seen some counter-information as well, suggesting that maybe throwing your support blindly behind the people who made that video isn’t all that great of an idea. Maybe you’re wondering what you should believe? Who, if anyone, you should be supporting? Whether or not a Facebook status update can, in fact, lead to the downfall of an African warlord?

I’m here to help. Sort of.

Now, I am not here to explain this situation to you. I don’t really have time to dig deeply enough into it to offer an informed opinion. But if you’re curious, you can easily figure it out yourself, because, see, as I pointed out waaay up there at the top of this post, you have the Internet. Combine that with a tiny bit of sense, and I bet you can figure this out for yourself in the same amount of time it took you to watch that video in the first place. Google the guy, read a couple of articles about him, familiarize yourself with a tiny bit of the history of Uganda, and maybe learn a little bit about this charity that wants your money, and you are well on your way. Yes, this takes more time than clicking “Like” on a video posted on your wall, but you will come away knowing that your opinion, wherever it ends up, is approaching being an informed opinion (which, by the way, is the only kind of opinion worth a shit).

There was a time when a certain degree of ignorance when it came to stuff like this was excusable. Way back in the ’80s, you’d be at the mercy of whatever your local library had on hand, as filtered through your own miserable skills at looking things up and/or the ability and willingness of a librarian to help you (note: in my experience, librarians are always happy to help, but people rarely ask for whatever reason). Now? Shit, type the name into Google, hit enter, and a world of information spills out, all while your boss is paying you to look busy! Skim his Wikipedia article, read a couple of Time pieces, maybe even go deep and bust out some article in Foreign Policy and all of the sudden you are the smartest person in your newsfeed!

It’s not hard if you have reading comprehension skills equal to those of a bright 9th grader. You don’t have to be some computer wizard: type a simple question or even a string of keywords into Google (“Joseph Kony Uganda” for example) and info just appears, as if by magic (computer magic!). Within the first three pages of results (30 or so links), you should have everything you need to start forming an opinion. If you really care, you can always go deeper. And if you don’t care enough to do this? Then shut the fuck up about it. I don’t care to hear another half-assed, ill-conceived, and ignorant opinion about anything. Not when you a literal world of information is just a few clicks away. Failing to do this, on any topic you opine about, is a sign you’re more interested in hearing yourself talk than in the truth, and that just tells me I shouldn’t be paying any attention to what you have to say.


International Women’s Day!

On this occasion of International Women’s Day, I’d like to say thanks to just a few of the women in my life. If you weren’t named here, don’t think it’s because I have nothing to thank you for, know that it’s more that I don’t have infinite time to thank you all.

My mother, Cindy Ramsey Casciato
Without this woman, I wouldn’t even have life. More than that, she raised me to be fair, open-minded, intellectually curious, and fierce in protecting the things I care about. In other words, she’s responsible for almost everything I consider my core attributes. (Except being an obnoxious, abrasive jerkface. I figured that out on my own.) Thanks for everything, mom!

My daughter, Eris Casciato
My daughter helped me figure out what is really important in life, and helped me grow up and become an adult. If she had never been born, I’d have probably spend most of my life trying to stay drunk; avoiding responsibility, ambition, or accountability; and ended up a loser and a disappointment. Instead, I’m semi-competent at being a decent human being, thanks to her inspiring me to get my shit together. In other words, she made my life worthwhile and gave me purpose. She is also cool beyond all measure. Thanks, Eris!

My wife, Abby Benson
My wife is my best friend, my constant companion, and an ever present joy. You know when people say “partner” to refer to their lover? She is genuinely my partner, in a way that no other woman I have ever been involved with before her ever was. She has my back, and I have hers. She is excellent at her things, and those things complement the things I am excellent at. She keeps me healthy and sane, and continually challenges me to be precise in the things that I say, honest about my feelings, and true to myself. She is also smokin’ hot. And she’s about to make me a dad for the second time, which is beyond wonderful. Thanks, Abby!

My sister in law, Anna Bjornson
For always, always calling me on my bullshit, because, let’s face it, someone has to do it. And she’s really fucking good at doing it in a way that I not only respect but value (even if occasionally I get a little butthurt about it). Also for exposing me to many wonderful new ideas throughout our years of knowing each other. Thanks, Anna!

Patricia Calhoun, editor of Westword
I had the wonderful good  fortune to do my internship at Westword. That led to a four-year professional relationship with the paper that ended only when I got a full-time job that precluded me from writing for them simultaneously (city editor at The A.V. Club, my current job). I didn’t work closely with Patty often, but often enough. Quite simply, she showed me how this job should be done. She’s simply ruthless in chasing the truth, dispensing edits, and calling out stupidity wherever she sees it, and holy shit is that great. And she can edit and write at a higher level than anyone I have ever seen, and faster than I dreamt possible. She is simply excellent at her job, and one of my inspirations. Someday I hope to be half the writer and editor she is, and if I stop being such a slackass, I may even have a shot at it. Maybe. Regardless, she set the bar I strive for. Thanks, Patty!

That’s all I have time for, but there are so many other women I owe huge debts of thanks to, so let me just list a few names here: Sylvia Dawson, Lindsey Trout, Elizabeth Asscherick, Jude Buchanan, Tuyet Nguyen, Donnita Wong, Janelle Purcell, Dr. Sheila Rucki, Zoe Williams, Elizabeth Ramsey, Judy Ramsey, Giea Ramsey, Cammie Ramsey, Kara McQueen, Micole Smith, Erin Thompson, and many, many more. Thanks, I wouldn’t be who I am without you (but don’t worry, that doesn’t mean I blame you)!

Why I am a feminist

I am a man, and I am a feminist.

The current, sustained assault on women really pisses me off. Women are being attacked right here in the U.S. for daring to stand up for their basic human rights. In 2012! What the actual fuck, America?

I have a brilliant daughter (and a second one on the way), a wonderful mother, and the best wife ever, not to mention a large number of female friends. These women mean the world to me. But they aren’t the reason I am a feminist. No, I am a feminist because women are human beings, and I believe in the essential equality and dignity of all human beings, regardless of race, creed, color, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or other method dreamed up to subdivide us. And yes, that even includes gender.

What does this mean in my day to day life? It means that I don’t think rape jokes are funny. It means that talking shit about women drivers is a good way to show me you are a simpleton with a sense of humor that calcified in the third grade. It means when some hateful bigot with a radio show decides to slander any woman that chooses to use birth control, I get fucking hostile, and when some moron defends him to me, I am likely to react with venom and insults and escalate it from there. It means when one of the front-running candidates of one of the major parties in the U.S. launches a war against women in the media, and his cohorts trip over themselves trying to out-hate him instead of calling him on his bullshit, I am going to consider that party Public Enemy No. 1. It means if you attack a woman for speaking up, for exercising her rights, or for just being a woman, you just made an enemy.

Feminism is something I studied only briefly in college, so I can’t tell you what sort of feminist I might be, or discuss the finer points of feminist theory. I may even be a bad feminist for not really caring a whole lot about those distinctions. Whatever. What I do know is that women are people, and as people, they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. They deserve to be able to make their own choices in life. They deserve the same protections under the law and the same rights as men.

Believing this doesn’t make a man less of a man. It makes a man a decent human being. Not believing this—believing instead that women are too stupid, too venal, too “female” to deserve your respect and recognition as fellow human beings—doesn’t make you more of a man. It makes you an asshole.