Friday, April 22, 2016

The Healthy Dose, 004: Digital Wellness & My Health Beacon

My fourth installment of the dose looks at the topic of digital wellness, and asking folks to step away from their devices for a moment. While also looking at the new online scheduling portal for University Health Services at UMass Boston

Social media are great! Social media are also the worst.
The absolute worst.

I’m all over social media—I don’t hide it. I use it to keep so many aspects of my life under control. To the point where most of my life is truly controlled by social media and my digital devices.

This is both fun and troublesome.

Because like many folks in our global society, I’ve become quite accustom to having a reliance on my digital devices to keep me functioning in the world.
Alas, there are many psychological and mental health issues at play when we develop such an adherence to our digital life.

So I’m here to discuss the idea of digital wellness.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you commute, and while you commute, you’re flipping through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, news articles, cat videos, How It’s Made videos, record shopping on Amazon, or sending snaps of people on the train using whatever new snap filter was released that day.

All of this digital exposure can take its toll on our brains and distance us from the real world around us.

Social media and Wellness

Digital wellness encompasses a couple of things—first, in order to maintain good digital wellness, you need to step away from your devices for a little bit. I know this might seem scary, but seriously. Put the phone away during class, or during meals, or during your commute. Instead, pick up a book, or have a conversation with someone.

With social media being the epicenter of our digital lives, the existence of FOMO often permeates our lives. FOMO is the fear of missing out. This fear is what many people latch onto when it comes to believing that their friend’s lives are better or more interesting than their own.

When in reality, the majority of what people post online are the highlights, the extravagance, or even a perception of extravagance. Ultimately, it’s important not to get hung up on any of that stuff. It will only stress you out further, and cause you anxiety.

My suggestion is to make sure you recognize that regardless of what you post online, or what you read online, that your life matters and that you have value. Don’t get caught up in the perceptions that your friends or celebrities present on social media. It’s all smoke and mirrors.
Or, Photoshop and filters, I should say.

Consider the Content You Create

Now, the other component of digital wellness is essentially taking care of the content you create and share on the internet. The reality of today’s society is that what happens on the internet stays on the internet.

This can be a scary thing to process right now, so I’ll give you a minute to process.

Are you back? Okay.

Truthfully, I can’t tell you what you should and shouldn’t share on the internet. And I wouldn’t want to do that. However, I have done a lot of research on social media, and one of the biggest regrets many students express about their online presence is that an embarrassing picture came back to haunt them later when interviewing for a job. Or a tweet they sent years ago wound up being misconstrued in some way and they were declined a job.

Job recruiters check that stuff these days, so it’s important to be aware of your online presence.
You can’t control the internet, but you can control what you contribute to it. So think before you tweet/post/share, and that will greatly benefit your digital wellness.

My Health Beacon

Yet, since we have become the generation of digital devotees, it is important to consider that there are some advancements that do in fact benefit the hustle and bustle of our daily lives
One of those innovations is the creation of My Health Beacon—a fully online registration and account management system through University Health Services.

My Health Beacon online portal was introduced in January as a way to improve your experience with the resources at UHS.

The My Health Beacon portal allows you to schedule or cancel your appointments with University Health Services, send secure messages to your health care providers, view and print your immunization information, and complete any necessary forms or surveys. All of this is meant to make your experience with UHS much simpler and accessible for your busy lives, and to make sure that you have as much time with your healthcare provider as possible.

Also, if you haven’t been over to UHS (Quinn Administration building, second floor) in a while, you can check the sweet new iPad self-check system that allows you the ability to self-check in for appointments, capture insurance card images, complete compliance forms, surveys, and visit questionnaires.

Be sure to check out the My Health Beacon portal on the UHS website, and use your digital skills to take of your wellness! Thus, contributing to the enhancement of your overall wellness.

Monday, April 18, 2016

New Wave Punk Powerhouses Pack the Paradise

I cover one of the punk/hardcore scene's most jam-packed tours in recent memory

Note: This piece originally appeared in the Mass Media.

Turnover. Photo by Katy Hamm.
I feel bad for bartenders at punk and emo concerts. Either the majority of the crowd is too poor, too young, or straight edge.

This was a thought going through my head at the Paradise Rock Club while waiting for bands to switch over at the Citizen and Turnover concert on Sunday night.

As a former bartender, I know the feeling of not working much, but there are still plenty of people around your bar, causing a commotion, but still not buying any drinks. It can be pretty frustrating.

Probably not as frustrating if those people are flocks of emo and punk kids having good time in the revival period of both of those great genres.

This was a special tour to experience. All four acts on the bill—Milk Teeth, Sorority Noise, Turnover, and Citizen—are at varying levels of impact in punk and emo revivals.

MILK TEETH.  Photo by Katy Hamm.
Milk Teeth, hailing from the UK, were making their Boston debut on this tour, since this was the band’s first-ever tour of the United States. I was particularly excited for the band because their debut LP, Vile Child, which was released in January on Hopeless Records, is currently my favorite album of the year.

No joke. The band, fronted by bassist and vocalist, Becky Blomfield, brings a blunt, energetic, and dynamic performance to its first LP offering. The album is full of fast punk tracks that alternate the juxtaposition of Becky’s sweet female vocals with guitarist/screamer Billy Hutton and his guttural screams and yells.

MILK TEETH.  Photo by Katy Hamm.
Milk Teeth did not disappoint and visibly won over many fans as the set wore on.

Up next were the veritable torch-bearers of the new wave of emo and garage punk, Sorority Noise. 
Sorority Noise, fronted by the oft-vulnerable Cameron Boucher, have risen to a lot of recognition as a powerful act in the emo scene due to Boucher’s willingness to be honest with his struggles as a manic depressive.

Boucher even took a moment during the band’s set to acknowledge his history of depression and discuss support for suicide prevention. And while I struggled to enjoy the band, sonically—even with their much-acclaimed 2015 LP Joy, Departed—I gained much respect for the way they owned their live show, transcending the confines of recorded music by putting on an incredible set that expanded into post-rock territories.

I was antsy as hell when co-headliner, Turnover, took the stage.

Their 2015 LP, Peripheral Vision, was my fourth favorite album of 2015. It is the singular album that helped me through a very dark depression last year.

Essentially, the band ditched its pop punk roots for a more shoegaze and chill sound, akin to The Cure meets Joy Division. Each song on the new LP fills me with positivity and the comfort to take on my struggles.

Turnover’s live set mirrored the consistent aura of good vibes present on "Peripheral Vision," with the band giving love to the crowd during their entire set. The crowd returning the love in spades.

Citizen. Photo by Katy Hamm.
The almighty Citizen closed out the night with the most energetic set of the evening and maybe that I’ve seen in recent memory.

The Michigan-native Citizen started off their set with a few tunes from their instant classic 2013 LP Youth. The crowd was engulfed in excitement and rage as the band pressed into “Cement,” a post-hardcore opus from their 2015 LP, Everybody is Going to Heaven.

Everybody is Going to Heaven is an album no one expected. It is reminiscent of Brand New transcending Deja Entendu’s follow up expectations with The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me.

Everybody is unceasing in their anger, glorious in their beauty, and powerful in their ability to wrap the listener in an atmospheric hardcore reality, mostly unheard of today.

Citizen. Photo by Katy Hamm.
Citizen brought all it had to give to the Paradise as lead singer Mat Kerekes consistently commanded the stage and crowd, similar to when I saw the band open for Circa Survive on the anniversary tour for Juturna last fall. 

The bands have raised over $2,000 for Planned Parenthood over the three-week tour. Each band gave a separate pitch for why folks should support Planned Parenthood. It made me proud to support such great human beings that are making genuine tunes and giving back.

It’s a very cool time to be following this scene. I am very grateful to have witnessed the initial run of emo, and now, its rebirth.

What a time to be alive.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Healthy Dose, 003: Intro to Consent

In my third installment, I take on the topic of consent in support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Note: this piece originally appeared in the Mass Media.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and in preparation for what’s to come this month, I wanted to give a crash course introduction to the concepts of consent and bystander intervention.

Quick content warning:
Some of what I’m about to write might be somewhat uncomfortable for survivors of sexual violence. It might be uncomfortable for others who will read what I’m going to say about consent and feel some sort of way about it and to those of you feeling those sorts of ways—just listen.

The long-standing statistic is that one-in-four women and one-in-six men will be the victim of some form of sexual violence during their time in college.

Those statistics are pretty consistent in our country—and that disgusts me.
So I’d like to spend this article discussing how we as humans on this campus can do our part to end sexual violence entirely.

What is consent?
Simply: consent is when someone agrees to do something, or gives permission for someone to do something to or with them.

In terms of the context of sex, consent is when someone agrees to do something sexual with you, or when you agree to do something sexual with someone else.

Okay. Still with me?

Because here is where I might lose some folks—consent must be reaffirmed for anything and everything you do with a sexual partner. And in order to give and receive consent, it must enthusiastic!

Enthusiastic consent is not “maybe,” or “I don’t know,” or “I’m not sure.”
Enthusiastic consent is “yes.”

If the answer is not “yes,” it’s a no—however, I will accept “sure.” Even then, it might be safe to just check in and make sure before moving forward.

What consent comes down to is communication.
It’s important to talk about what you like, don’t like, and what you’re willing to try—and that might mean someone wants to try it eventually, but not right that moment. And your role as the sexual partner is to NEVER pressure them into doing that thing until they are ready and give you a “yes, let’s try this.”

Now, what is not consent?
Note: this is where I need folks to really pay attention.
Consent is not persuasion.
If you have to persuade your partner into sexual activity, you do not have consent.
If you have to pressure or even worse, force, your partner in to sexual activity, you do not have consent. And chances are, you have committed sexual assault.

That’s reality.
If you do not have consent, you are committing sexual assault.

Also, consent cannot be given if someone is intoxicated to incapacitation. Even if BOTH parties are intoxicated, consent cannot be legally given. Even if consent is given at the beginning of a sexual encounter, and then someone becomes intoxicated, it is not legally consent.
This is not a blurred line. This is the fact of how to know how to obtain consent.

Consent must be reaffirmed before and during each sexual act.
It shouldn’t kill the mood, so don’t think of it that way—simply ask, “can I do this now?” And if you have enthusiastic consent, proceed and do the deed.

But if there is apprehension, do not proceed.

Again, if there is any apprehension, read that sign, heed that message, and stop.
This is very important for maintaining not only a good relationship with your sexual partner, but it will also allow the two of you—or three, or four—to build a lot of respect and care for each other.

One final note:

Consent can be revoked at any time—anyone has the right to rescind their consent at any point during sexual activity, for whatever reason. And it is our job to listen to this and understand that this is okay.
Do not try to persuade, do not try to pressure—just let it go.

Because you listened to the desires of your partner, it will ensure a safe interaction that will possibly even open up the opportunity for further opportunities for sexual activity in the future!

Now, if you’d like to get involved with any of the events for SAAM, know that there is a Film Series happening April 11, showing Hip Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes, and on April 25, showing Hunting Ground. Both films focus on different aspect of rape and sexual violence. Both films start at 5:30pm in the Integrative Science Complex, Small Science Auditorium 0006.

Also, Take Back the Night takes place on April 28 throughout the Campus Center, so be on the look-out for those events as well!

I have also personally launched a new nonprofit called, The Art of Survival, which creates FREE art for survivors of trauma. This is our first month in existence and we are currently sharing the stories of sexual violence survivors.

Next month, May, is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we will open up the project to survivors of suicide attempts and suicide loss, as well as those who survive every day with depression and/or anxiety.

If you feel that you or anyone you know would benefit from this project, please email our organization at, and feel free to visit for more information.

Be well, take care of each other, and as always, my office (CC3407) is a safe space for you to come chat about life and existing in the world.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Bunch of Dudes Playing Sports

I covered a local gig in Boston at Berklee College of Music, and wound up sitting down with one of Boston's brightest new math-rock/garage rock bands

Note: This article originally appeared in the Mass Media.

On very little sleep, and after about 15 hours of driving, Boston’s own new wave emo punk band, sports. stepped onto the low-rise stage of Berklee College of Music’s CafĂ© 939 with a packed house of eager listeners ready to rock out.

The band showed up on Friday, March 25, after playing a show in North Carolina the night before—which was the final night of a two-and-a-half week tour with the band Perspective, a lovely hand to hold. A tour on which the members of the band say they learned a lot about themselves and life on the road.

“This was only our second-ever time taking an extensive tour,” said John Blank, drummer for sports.. “So it was a good learning experience being out there on the road.”

From L to R: Ward (guitar/vocals), Blank (drums), Duffy (bass).
Sports. consists of Blank on drums and backing vocals, Kris Ward on guitar and lead vocals, and Sean Duffy on bass.

I was able to chat with the members of the band immediately after their eccentrically energetic performance, which showcased a fine-tuned, tour-tight sound that audiences don’t often get from young dudes like these. They were surprisingly enthusiastic for functioning on very little sleep—a reality I contributed to the men being finally done with their three week tour now that they were home in Boston.

However, hailing from Chicago and sporting a Blackhawks beanie, Ward is the only member of the band not from the Massachusetts area.

“It’s funny because we often get compared to CSTVT, which is out of Chicago; but I don’t think we sound anything like them,” Ward said. CSTVT (previously, ‘castevet’) is a now-dormant emo band that was on the emo-haven record label, Count Your Lucky Stars. Ward does admit that a major Chicago influence does derive from Into It. Over It.—another member of the Count Your Lucky Stars family.

While Ward brings the emo essence to the band, Blank claims that it’s the Boston influences that give the band’s sound its true edge.

“Sean and I definitely bring an east coast grit to things,” Blank said, “not that Kris doesn’t have that—but we are used to much more aggressiveness.” Duffy explains that his big influences came from the early easy-core bands like Four Year Strong and Dance Gavin Dance.

“I thought all of the dudes in those bands were rock stars,” Duffy said, “but then I realized, nah—they’re just a bunch of dudes.”

Album art for Demon Daze, by sports.
Last year, these dudes released a dynamic debut LP titled Demon Daze on Broken Rim Records—which is a Quincy-based record label that agreed to put out the band’s LP on the terms that they would tour to support it. Hence why the band is hitting the road more these days—especially with a looming 45-date tour this upcoming spring.

Ward explained that the album was originally titled “Talk Radio,” but that the title never seemed to stick until a friend jokingly suggested “Demon Days,” based on the well-known Gorillaz debut LP. Yet, Duffy had no idea that the Gorillaz album even existed and suggested that the band move forward with the title for the LP.

“It’s funny to me because on the album we have songs called ‘Matt Damon,’ ‘Spooky Damon,’ and ‘Good Will Haunting,’” Blank said, “so the Matt Damon theme grew out of us pronouncing ‘demon’ as ‘Damon.’” Ward said the idea of titling it “Damon Daze” definitely crossed their minds, but they went against it, despite knowing the quirky name would have certainly fit the band’s quirky style of meshing math rock, pop punk and emo.

Album for the 3-way split with Lions & Perspective.
The band has recently released a three-way split with the bands Lions and Perspective, A Lovely Hand to Hold—also released on Broken Rim Records—in which all three bands contributed two songs to create a truly cohesive and inspiring listen. The vinyl press has a gorgeous screen-printed B-side of animal cutouts.

All three of the bands fall into this new wave amalgam of emo that encompasses many more layers than those who remember the days of Dashboard Confessional, Jimmy Eat World, and Brand New.

“It’s very fun to be a part of something very fresh right now,” Blank said, claiming the new wave of rock and emo has brought about many new approaches to existing within the scene.

“We are just writing music that is fun for us to listen to and to play live,” Ward said. “It’s nice to not think of being confined by any sort of boundary of genre.”

And that’s all you can ask for from a young band with a promising future. It’s exciting to hear these dudes discuss their music and direction in such optimistic ways because of the difficult state of the music industry. Having sat down and discussed life with them, it’s clear that they are ready to keep having fun, playing tunes, and being dudes.