How Not to Have the Rape Conversation

I believe the rape conversation is a necessary conversation to have right now in America. The Stanford rape victims letter, and all the other cases of rape in this country, are a gigantic indicator of this. But that does not mean that anyone gets to just go up and treat every guy like an inherent sexual predator.

So to the lady from last nights show. You giving my two, heavily intoxicated, female friends giant pretzels was great and you are a great person for that. But you lost all of my respect when at the end of the show you interrupt me enjoying one of my all-time favorite bands last song, which is one of my greatest offenses in itself, to remind me something along the lines of, “remember if they are intoxicated/unconscious it’s not consensual,” and just walk away. And while I’m left trying to process what was just said to me I turn around and see you getting a congratulatory hug for being so brave for stepping up to me, while I’m enjoying my show, to remind me not to rape my friends. That is absolutely insulting.

You have no idea the gravity your statement has. Because my first instinctive response, and the words that came out of my mouth were, “Of course.” To which you turned away and the question of, “why did she tell me that?” started to sink in. There I was thinking I was having a great time enjoying my show and now during the final minutes, of all times, I have to take the time to question if I had acted in any way that warranted the necessity of that statement. Because, to me, that sort of unsolicited advice comes for a reason. And the reasons I’m left with are that they were both drunk, I was drunk, they were female and I was a male. Because you definitely saw us all show up together and you saw us converse in ways that showed we know, and to an extent trust, each other; and you also know I was kind and appreciative to you for helping my friends earlier.

You interrupted my show, you treated me like a criminal, and you are lucky I did not think fast enough because you would have been wearing the last of my beer.

So if your idea of having the rape conversation is to single out random men and remind them not to rape, you are wrong. In no other situation can you make such a generalization and get away with it. That’s the kind of thing you tell someone when you expect them to do wrong. By all means I am on that woman’s side on this issue but I won’t stand with you if your language treats all men as inherent sexual predators who are not capable of caring about others; even when intoxicated. We can have this conversation and be respectful.


Why I Stopped Killing Bugs (Unnecesarily)

The last time I killed a bug probably went something like this

Probably a spider or house centipede on my bedroom floor. I grab a shoe or some other swing-able object. I inch up to it. “SLAM!” It was on carpet so of course my hit was dampened and the damn thing is still half alive stumbling around with half its legs working. “SLAM!” Ok now it’s curled up but its legs are all twitching like crazy. My mind says its dead and its just nerves. I’m not a scientist but I still think I am right about that. Cue my existential thought-processes.

“Man, that must suck so much. Can you imagine what it would be like to just, out of nowhere, be crushed by an object equivalent to the size of a small house? That wouldn’t be a bad death I guess. It’s pretty instantaneous. What about the ones that are botched and take multiple swings to die? Damn, now that would suck. Trying to crawl away with your guts out; scared out of your mind.

This is the part –because I have definitely thought about this before- where I usually just carry on with my life. But one day I took it a little bit further.

Man why do I do this? I know I kill deer but I do that to eat it. That’s a noble death (In human logic) but why did I just kill this spider or any other bug for that matter? Because they are gross? Because they could hurt me? Sure, but it wasn’t actively trying to hurt me. It was just going somewhere and I saw it. Am I killing this thing because it has the potential to hurt me?? Humans are some of the most destructive species on this planet. We don’t just kill people because they are potentially dangerous.

*Insert random knowledge I’ve picked up over the years about how spiders eat even more nuisance bugs like roaches, beetles, ants, etc; and that house centipedes are even cooler because they even eat spiders and they aren’t poisonous!  These bugs just chill in places humans aren’t likely to be but sometimes find themselves out in the open when they move.

Also cue in all the times I’ve seen people straight up walk past bees or wasps and nothing happens to them.*

So I decided, then and there, humans do enough damage, I’m not going to kill any more bugs, or other creatures for that matter, if I don’t have to. I may botch the shit out of trying to capture the bug. It may be in the middle of winter and there is next to zero percent chance it will survive outside but I’ll give it a fighting chance. There’s more dignity in that, I say to myself. If it doesn’t eat my food, bring its entire colony into my house, destroy my house, and if it isn’t actively causing a risk to my, or someone else’s, health then I will do my best to relocate it back to nature. And killing something outside? GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE WITH THAT SHIT. No way I’m killing something, unless to eat it, when it’s not even in my dwelling or causing damage to said dwelling. That’s like killing someone in their own living room. I’ll just go around it or relocate it if need be.

It’s been an incredible, an eventful, learning experience. To just walk past wasps and hornets like a boss is extremely nerve-wrecking the first couple times but I still have not been stung or bothered. The times I had been stung or bothered were times were I stood, scared, moving back and forth in their vicinity like some kinda threat to the point where they had to come check me out and then I start moving erratically like some kinda immediate threat. Think about dogs and cats that are outside all the time. Do you think wasps go around stinging dogs, cats, deer, foxes, etc for no reason at all? No way. Bugs have defense mechanisms. DEFENSE mechanisms. Meaning they only use them when they are threatened. You don’t walk around all day punching or biting the floor do you? For most bugs you are so big that you are a surface. They are just trying to find food or something to screw. And don’t think they think that you are food. You are waaay too big for them. Which is another behavior I have learned over the years. They want to stay out of your way just as much as you want them to. You are too big to eat and not worth the effort. They are looking for something along the lines of those annoying-ass crickets that get in your house and creak(?) all damn night.

So yeah, bugs are gross but in learning to capture them you realize just how incapable they are of jujumping ten feet across the room and biting you causing instant death. It just doesn’t happen. Some tips I have, keep a glass in your room, I have a small souvenir Boulevard Brewing glass that I use as decoration but doubles great for capturing bugs. They can’t climb glass and bonus you can check them out. If they are in a weird spot grab a broom and knock them out into the open. They move fast but not as fast as you think and at that point they aren’t thinking “KILL” they are thinking “I NEED TO FUCKING HIDE!” so don’t worry about it being on a kill rampage. You are way too big and it knows better so you have that advantage.

Basically what I’m saying is this. If you are afraid of something educate yourself about it. Half the fear I believe we have is in the unknown.

The Tear-Inducing Power of Redemption

*This post contains spoilers for the following films: The Great Gatsby, The Wrestler, Lion King, The Shawshank Redemption, and Gladiator.*

In high school I had an art teacher named, Mr. Willard. He was a kind man who seemed to be an endless fountain of wisdom. One day he was telling us about the book, The Shack. He made the argument to the class that what makes a man cry – unlike our lady counterparts who have been typecast as emotional beings who cry at occurrences of love and heartbreak – were stories of redemption. I sat there thinking about instances where I found myself teary-eyed and I will be damned if it was not almost always a redeeming story. These are stories of people determined to make right any wrong they may have done in their life. This past week I watched The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrman’s grand 2012 vision of the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s American masterpiece, and The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky’s 2008 drama of, Randy “the Ram,” a washed up wrestler twenty-years removed from his heyday; and realized that redemption is a tear-jerking theme in more than just one way.

Successful redemption stories like Lion King, Shawshank Redemption, and Gladiator; are narratives where the main character fulfills their goals. Simba takes over his rightful position as king of the pride, Andy escapes prison and thus his wrongful-imprisonment, and Maximus gets his revenge for his wife and son by killing Commodus. In these stories the protagonist may die but we know that they died content and fulfilled.  The flip side of this tear-duct draining theme are the failed redemption stories like The Great Gatsby and The Wrestler. These stories consist of flawed, possibly destructive, characters who live lives that will always end in tragedy. It was when I watched The Great Gatsby that I realized what draws me to these stories and characters.

Each time I start these stories, even though I know the ending that will come, I still have hope and maybe to some extent believe that it will end different. I still think somehow that this time Gatsby ends up with Daisy or Randy makes it to dinner with his daughter and each time I am heartbroken because it does not happen. Perhaps it’s a testament to great writing. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been in similar situations. Maybe it’s both. But the one true parallel to the “real world” is that no matter how much you want to you cannot change what has happened. You cannot change the past. I think we all have had that tragic realization at least once in our lives.

Our lives are made of many moments and arguably not all moments are equal. Some moments come and go seemingly without consequence. Other moments come and change the course of our lives in incredible ways. Gatsby’s tragic moment was his outbreak in which he threatens Tom Buchanan and Randy’s was sleeping through his dinner date with his daughter. They are moments that you would give anything to take back. They can come seemingly out of nowhere, in a blink of an eye, and they can come while you are not even awake and aware. But when they come they are like a brick in the water sending irreversible waves of sadness that you are unable to stop. Perhaps these are the truest show of character you can have. That they are the manifestation of your true feelings and not the ones that you want to be true.

And so these two stories end in the only tragic way that they can. It’s a sad way but it’s a way that I oddly find comfort. Gatsby gets shot and dies but he dies with the belief that Daisy does actually love him, he dies rich and at the top, and he dies with a good name. The reality that awaited him in life, I believe, would not have been one that would have brought him any happiness.

Randy dies of a heart attack. But he dies doing the one thing he was always good at. He has no family, he has no money, his body is failing him, and he is estranged from the contemporary times. The world that awaited him after that match was not a world fit for him anymore.

In the larger picture what makes these stories most tragic is that they are just a small look into a wasted life. Gatsby dedicated his entire life for one goal. To get Daisy back. He amassed incredible wealth, traveled all over the world, and never had to know a lonely night. The most devastating line in the entire film, to me, is when Gatsby states to Tom, “my life has to keep going up.” It is then that we realize that Gatsby’s flaw is that he may never find satisfaction. Even if he ended up getting Daisy’s love I am left wondering if it would not just be another achievement in his quest to “keep going up.” Would he truly love her or would he find another obsession to take him away from her. In my heart I believe, or I want to believe, that she truly was the last missing piece of his life but these are things we will never know. He died with his greatest goal unfulfilled but he died surrounded by what he had built and he died with hope.

Randy’s life is even more tragic. He lived a life of excess and carelessness. He cared only about wrestling and himself. It is only when his body begins to fail him that he realizes how alone he truly is and seeks redemption with his daughter. Redemption he knows he doesn’t deserve but surprisingly is given. In a fit he resorts to his old ways and just like in his old ways he forgets his daughter and she walks out of his life forever. The best thing that could have happened to Randy is if he had died when he had his heart attack or, better yet, he died in some way as his career began to go downhill. It would have saved him from years of wrestling in town halls while working part-time in a grocery store, from living in trailer parks that he couldn’t even afford, and the increasing reality that he was getting old and was more and more becoming alienated from the world in which he lived. His one last shot at redemption was his daughter and he failed. Outside of the ring he had nothing so he gave his everything inside of it. He died surrounded by what he had built but, unlike Gatsby, he died without any hope of a fulfilled life. To this day I often stop the movie after he realizes he has missed his date with his daughter.

So, to Mr. Willard, speaking as a man, I agree with you that redemption is a tear-inducing theme. But I have found that not all stories of redemption are happy. There is a converse and it is just as powerfully tear-jerking as its counterpart because they are reminders that life does not always have happy endings and that some people live lives that have made themselves unredeemable.

Amber Alert

To the scared helpless stolen

Who answers

To the bound tortured sufferers

Who answers


They tell me that you are great

That I’m blessed you showed me your grace

I’m just thinking your grace was six years too late


They tell me that for everyone you’ve made a plan

Then why did you make his to throw me in his van

Don’t worry they tell me that we are not meant to understand

Don’t worry

Everyone speaks for you down here


For six hours your son suffered for the sins of man

For six years I suffered for your master plan

And everyday I wondered;


Do you cry like I

Free up in the sky

Do you bruise like I

With nothing to fight

Do you get scared like I

In your place full of light

Do you get lonely like I

Surrounded by angels and wine

Have you ever prayed for an end like I

With no concept of time

Should I stop asking why

Because you never reply


Why did you give me this life

I was five

What was my crime


To the scared helpless stolen

To the bound tortured sufferers

No answer


*Note: This poem is not about me but to be taken from the perspective of a victim

Dear Brock Turner

I hate you. You are fucking scum.

My friends and family can attest that it is incredibly hard for me to find hate for anyone. I’ve found redeeming qualities or had the empathy to understand the actions in almost everyone who has done me or anyone else wrong. There are notable exceptions of course such as; murderers, cheaters, people who harm children, and rapists.

Of course I have hate for you for the harm that you have done and the danger you pose to women. That’s right. The danger you pose. You see, you have acted. You have done serious harm to another and for that women will always have the right to hate and fear you. You were drunk, huh? Let me tell you something, Brock. I’ve been drunk many, many, many times. By the time I was your age and the age that you raped your victim I had been drunk many, many, many times. And from all of that experience what I can tell you is this; I have never, not once, seen anyone do anything drunk that their previous behavior, no matter how seemingly insignificant, hadn’t indicated was inside of them. In everyday conversation I’ve noticed their vengeful speak, their closeted bigotry, or their sadness that they think they are hiding. And for many, those low-key feelings surface with alcohol. So you are just going to have to come to terms that you are capable of rape, you do not find rape wrong, and that you are, in fact, a rapist. Every woman has the right to fear and hate you and I hope you live with that for the rest of your life.

As a man I have personal reasons to hate you. You have contributed to the narrative that I am an inherent monster. You make women afraid of me just because I am a man. You give me anxiety when I’m alone with a woman because I fear she fears that I might try to rape her. You make me fear men who are alone with the women I love or care for. You make me cry for the people who have to live a life tormented by your actions and the capabilities of people like you.

I’ve had several long-winded morality-based conversations about right and wrong and the human condition. I like to believe I have a strong morally-good compass. One that points to compassion and forgivness. But for people like you I cannot find any. I understand people are a product of how they were raised. And I have seen your fathers fucking empathy-seeking letter and I now understand, a little, how you became the piece of shit that you are today. But in my older age I’ve also become less-inclined to protect or find excuses for those who prey on the weak and vulnerable. I have no compassion for you. I can find no forgiveness for you. To me, as a human being, you are weak. You are a predator. You have attacked and my irrational first-response is that you should be put down.

My rational thoughts are not as cruel, perhaps. I find comfort that you will have to live your life labeled as a monster, I find comfort that your name and your crime has become viral, and I find comfort knowing that you are a shell of your former-self, that you don’t eat, and that you aren’t the boy your father once knew. You are the face of a disgusting crime and you deserve all of it.

I am thankful that your victim was strong enough to live and tell her story. That she endured your attack and your insulting attempts in court to clear your name. Maybe now, or one day in the future, you will understand just how strong she is. I don’t care how fucking fast you swim or what future you or your father think you have. You are a rapist. That is who you are and, hopefully, how you will be defined for the rest of your life. You can talk innocence all you want but your actions and your three felonies will always yell guilty over your attempts.

So I repeat. I hate you and you are fucking scum.

Most sincerely,


Show Review: Florence + Machine and Grimes


It’s 10:30am and I am hard at work, bent over, sweating, laying down new hardwood floors when I receive a text from a friend asking if I was interested in going to the Florence and the Machine concert that night. It was one of the quickest, “yes’s,” I’ve given in my life. A few text messages and a phone call later my roommate had done up a care package containing a more suitable outfit for the event than my construction clothes. Fast forward half a day I am united with my clothes which I smoothly switched into while sitting in my front seat while parked in a shopping center parking lot. We grab beer and a burritos to-go. A thirty minute car ride, two potato burritos, and five beers later we are walking into the venue with thousands of other Florence fans. First order of business; hit the bathroom. Second order of business; beer. With a large, cold, boulevard wheat in our hands and the watch face reading something close to 7:30pm we make our way to the standing pit area.


I have to admit I know virtually nothing about Grimes. I had heard just a few bits of her music on an NPR radio interview while driving home one day and as far as I could gather she seemed a genuine character and that’s good enough for me to give your music the ol college try. Because of our shenanigans we missed roughly the first two songs and came in to a pretty lively performance. In addition to herself; Grimes had three performers on stage. One did back-up vocals (apparently an artist herself but was unable to capture the name), some guitar work, and danced while the other two performers were strictly dancers. The crowd at this point is enjoyably tame. No shoving for position or being ran over by that one person who “has a friend up front” and secretly is holding hands with an entire high school band who come parading on into everybody’s personal space’s personal space. We are comfortably standing stage left and from what I can tell, seeing as I do not know any Grimes songs, the venue has done a great job of balancing sound to all sides of the crowd.

So I enjoyed Grimes. Being 7 beer in I was nearly at optimal drunk level where I shut-out everyone in the audience and completely zone in on the performance. The sound was similar to many of today’s electronic pop artists. Heavy venue bass with computer generated instruments arranged into repetitive verse arrangements that burst into extravagant choruses. I have to admit that I have viewed modern electronic performances with a certain level of disdain. With all the music being generated on computers there is no real way to make certain that the performer standing behind a control board, spinning knobs and pressing buttons, is really doing anything but simply making show. It is with that disdain that I was pleasantly surprised that Grimes seemed to actually be in control of her music. She would come away from her master control-esque setup to dance and then frantically make her way back to ensure she gets the timing of the change exact. I spent a good amount of her performance being intoxicated with curiosity, and beer, about the logistics of the equipment she was using and what it allowed her to do. As a skeptic I would say she genuinely cares about the legitimacy of her music making or else she is a great actress and either way I was drawn in and to that end she had succeeded as a performer. The dancers were a nice touch but at times felt somewhat awkward and almost like a last-minute, budget friendly, attempt of creating stage presence because in all honesty I imagine all of the talent and needed stage presence of Grimes the band/musician comes from the small statured, short blonde haired, girl who dresses like a woman in the graphic novel turned movie, Tank Girl.

If you have never heard Grimes’ voice it is…..unique. But also familiar. I could best describe it as some form of Asian female-voiced band or songwriter. It was well into one of her songs that I first heard her voice. It was an intensely high-pitched voice. A pitch you aren’t expecting from a live performance as it was so high, almost unnatural, and so well maintained. Impressive as it was you really got the full range of her singing voice within about two songs. Her words, to me, were indistinguishable. (Again I also do not know any of her music but it also reinforced the feeling of Asian pop music as I don’t understand any Asian languages) Rather her voice seemed to act as another instrument in, what I recalled was, an electronic soundscape.

In the brief moments that she took to address the crowd she did so in a quick, shy, and out-of-breath way. She was polite, thankful, and seemed genuine. From her NPR interview I recall her talking about getting nervous playing live and everything seemed to be as it should be. What I take away from seeing Grimes is a genuine artist who is faithful to her craft and audience. Where she could just dance and follow an instrumental track she seems to believe in the need to play one’s music; even if it’s just pressing a button to change from verse to chorus and vice versa. (She did more than that). Unfortunately I wasn’t converted to her music but I was entertained and enjoyed watching her work her craft.

Florence + Machine

One long bathroom line followed by one exponentially longer beer line later we were back at the standing area. Only this time the standing area was the full realization of the shell it was for Grimes. The packed amphitheatre resembled one large wave of people stretching all the way back and up to the horizon. In my older years I have become less driven to push my way through people who had the sense to arrive early or the willpower to wait and have a better position than myself. That said, and as I said before, the sound in the venue would prove to be so superior that positioning was not necessary for full auditory enjoyment. As for with Grimes we were stage left and we eagerly anticipated the arrival of, what I have come to see her as, an icon.

So a quick reprieve from the show review. Since sophomore year of high school I have been going to shows regularly and in my post-high school years I spent some years in bands. I’ve been to a lot of shows. I’ve been to sold-out arena shows and I’ve been to mildew infested basement DIY punk shows. In an attempt to help filter my wants and needs at an age where more responsibility is needed I have opted to save my show-going to shows that I know will be an experience. It’s the same method I have adopted for venturing to the movie theatre. I’ve been blessed to have been able to see all but a select few bands that I have ever wanted to see in my life. These days I am looking for pure talent, for creative ingenuity, and someone who cares about the fan experience as much as the fans care about them. Someone who has the talent to improvise and fully express themselves through their craft beyond just reciting the songs from the album. Enter, Florence + Machine.

To the stage first came the Machine. From memory this consisted of a drummer, a bassist, a guitar player, a harp player, an organ player, a keyboard player, and six back-up singers, three of whom also doubled as trombone and other horn players. Once all were in place from stage left emerged a long-haired figure in a red dress, sort of like a night gown, embellished with flowery decorations that showed through to what appeared to be a bikini. Just as I imagined her. This was Florence.

Unlike Grimes this set was to be a master-class of vocal range and harmony. My show-going experiences would anticipate a band opening with a well-known energetic number. One that would, from the first note, be designed to grab attention and set the pace for the set. 98% of the time my anticipation would be correct but this was not one of those times. Not entirely anyway. F+M began the first notes of a song I knew well. It is a song that begins slowly but it builds, and it builds, and it builds. It begins as a sort of melancholic song and ends in a vocal playground. This song was What the Water Gave Me from my favorite F+M record Ceremonials. What followed was a truly professional display of talent. I did not catalog the songs but from memory, in addition to the opening track, the audience was treated to Dog Days are Over, Cosmic Love, Ship to Wreck, Shake it Out, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, an acoustic version of Sweet Nothing, and many more. If I wasn’t absolutely in awe of Florence and her talent I was awing at the magic of live performance such as watching the drummer, who has the, what I imagine is a nerve wrecking, job of leading the entire performance and ensures that each piece of the machine stays on beat; and the sound engineer who sat sideways stage left giving me full view as he every so often made a small adjustment to ensure that the talent on stage was amplified to the crowd in the best way possible. Everyone was playing their role perfectly and I had the biggest smile on my face.

At one point Florence, in her sweet British voice that I hadn’t expected to come from such a fierce and confident singer, asked the audience to not use their cell phone or recording equipment for just one song. To have a fully shared experience together. Afterwards she praised the crowd for fulfilling the request and jokingly stated, “Now I’m gonna get on my phone.” Another moment she requested that everyone remove an article of clothing and wave it in the air. With inhibitions lost I removed my shirt and spun it for the entirety of the song. And at the end, by no request but as an offer to try and return the favor of gifting me a ticket to this wonderful performance, I propped one of my friends on my shoulders. It was my first time doing so and I gotta say that I was surprised that of all the things that I thought would burn or hurt it was my shoulders themselves that burned most evidently.

The encore and show concluded shortly after letting my friend down off of my shoulders. The audience and I gave our thanks and praises via screams and whistles and then set for the parking lot. Passing the merch booth I was both sad and glad to see the Florence print had sold out. (Just know that a t-shirt was $50). I don’t hold those things against artists because I know it’s likely their agent or marketing team that makes those decisions. What I do hold the artist to is their performance and Florence + Machine was worth all the money I would have spent and more. She was kind, genuine, professional, and talented. I hope that anyone with the opportunity to see Florence + Machine has the same emphatic response that I did because if I could do it again I would have bought my tickets day one.

One more beer, one omelet with hash browns, three cups of coffee, an hour drive home, and a cup of water later I lay myself to bed. It’s 3:00AM and I have to be up at 7:00AM for work. Worth it.

florence 2

Album Appreciation: The Things We Carry

Album Appreciation: The Things We Carry

Discovered in 2011 this album quickly became one of the most important albums to my life. That year I was returning to college after failing out of school and taking a forced year off of school. I was still deeply in love with making music and being in a band. The music I was consuming and creating at the time was a sort of hardcore/metal hybrid. Full of fast drumming, melodic breakdowns, and positive messages; see The Ghost Inside. Then I came across Have Heart and the song “Armed with a Mind.” To me it was the perfect blend of who I was and who I was looking to become. It had the aggressive music that I was into, but stripped of the metal influence, and it had positive, intelligent, and forward thinking lyrics.

I was going to college but I didn’t want to lose the hardcore kid in me. So I told myself I was going to make the two worlds coexist in harmony and Have Heart was a constant inspiration that I could make it happen. They were hardcore kids but they didn’t “look” hardcore, they didn’t have any gimmicks, and they weren’t writing offensive screaming music that was common in the scene at the time. Though their music was aggressive they were kind and whatever they did they did for noble reasons. For instance the money that their last show, one that sold out almost instantly and could have made them one last big paycheck, was given entirely to a women’s shelter in their home city of Boston. They never had the “look at me” attitude. They were aggressive on stage because they talked about topics they were passionate about; defeating depression, avoiding violence, and treating people with respect; to name a few.

This album inspired me to want more for myself and others, it inspired me to be more open about forward thinking ideas, and it inspired me to be unafraid to speak out with conviction against injustice and oppressive ideas. I went back to school because I wanted to make a positive change in the world. We were all freshly off the heels of Occupy Wall Street and, like hardcore kids have been known to be, I was fed up with the world and the systems we lived in. So while I sat and wrote papers about injustice, as I often did, this album became routine background noise. It kept me vigilant and productively angry. Though I am five years removed from that neo-freshman year and I have a more positive-minded ideal for change (not just burn everything down and start over) I still find myself inspired to want better for myself and others and to be fearless in the face of oppression each time as Life is Hard Enough begins and Watch Me Rise ends.