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Bill of Righteousness

Posted: July 09, 2002

By Kevin Forest Moreau, Founding Father

As I write this, the United States of America just recently celebrated its 226th birthday, and I'm happy to report that, despite fears of terrorist attack and general mayhem, we were all able to party down with Lady Liberty with little incident. Sure, we may be living under the rule of an unelected despot bent on peeling back our civil liberties and imposing a police state (tapping our phones, eavesdropping on our e-mail correspondence without need for warrant or probable cause) in the name of "homeland security." Yes, our nation's law-enforcement agencies are under the stern, prudish rule of an Attorney General so out of touch with the people he's sworn to police that he's never touched a drop of alcohol, entertained an impure thought or even, God forbid, danced (and you thought Footloose was a fantasy!). And yes, we may live in a society of knee-jerk sheep who react with laughable and shameful piety when the Pledge of Allegiance is "threatened" by a decision that just maybe, when you think about it, inserting the words "under God" in what amounts to a compulsory oath of brainwashed fealty might just violate the idea of separation of church and state (never mind that some of our Founding Fathers weren't even Christians as Pat Robertson or Ronald Reagan would understand the term).

Yes, all those things may be true, but at least, for the moment, we're still free.

And that means that I, for one, am free to use this forum to disseminate my own thoughts, opinions and beliefs to you, the loyal Shaking Through populace. Which is darned lucky, because what with all the patriotic fervor of late, I've given some thought to just what rights you, as patrons of Shaking Through, are entitled to, as well as to just what rights we, the creators, hold dear. So in the spirit of this great nation of ours, I give you: The Shaking Through Bill of Rights.

We, the people at Shaking Through World Headquarters, in order to foster a more perfect site of pop-cultural critique and review, establish parameters of taste, insure domestic tranquility among our readers, provide for an entertaining diversion, promote artists and works we like, and secure the blessings of community for our readers and contributors, do ordain and establish this Constitution:

1. We will, as the saying goes, call 'em as we see 'em: If Stan Lee, the founding father of Marvel Comics, creates a series of comics that are absolute stinkers, we will not feel constrained from saying so. You won't respect us, and we won't respect ourselves, if we can't adhere to a policy of unvarnished honesty at all times -- even if that honesty sometimes pains us.

2. We will, on occasion, feel free to revisit earlier opinions, and/or change our minds, and sometimes even our ratings. Late last year, I gave Ryan Adams' album Gold a fairly praiseworthy review, and subsequently included said album in my year-end top 10 list. I've since had occasion to revise its ranking, and its appearance in said list. Again, this is in the spirit of honesty: Frankly, my esteem of Ryan Adams has lowered considerably in the months since that review, and it would not be honest of me not to acknowledge that fact. Shaking Through is not meant to be a static, immovable document, a snapshot of a particular moment in time; it is primarily a reflection of the sensibilities of its creators and contributors, and those sensibilities will, from time to time, undergo changes. When we feel it's necessary, or important enough to warrant such an action, our reviews, ratings and rankings will change to reflect those new sensibilities. But we'll also exercise this right judiciously, and within reason: After all, you have a right to a certain level of consistency, which is an important element in any relationship built on trust, as we hope our relationship with you will always be.

3. We will, doubtless quite often, express opinions at odds (sometimes at great variance) with your own. In which case, we reserve the right to agree to disagree. We may regard the Red Hot Chili Peppers with a measure of contempt and incredulity at their success, but we will not think less of you for holding a different opinion, or for voicing it with us. Debate, after all, is the cornerstone of democracy.

4. Consequently, we will also invariably ignore, or see fit not to make mention of, an artist, album, book, film, comic or other work, the absence of which you may find shocking and indefensible. The contributors of Shaking Through occasionally, through lucky day jobs or other fortunate circumstances, come into possession of works that they may not like, but gamely review in the interest of adding to the site's ongoing discussion. But for the most part, the contributors pay for the items they review out of their own pockets, with no hope (at least at present) of reimbursement, and reserve the right not to buy an album or book, or purchase a ticket to a film, which they know they won't like, or don't consider to be worthwhile.

5. Unlike certain mainstream music and entertainment publications, we will not attempt to have it both ways: We won't fawn over certain works or creators, to the detriment of our credibility, only to turn around and try to appear critical and impartial by finding fault with said work or creator. We at Shaking Through find the mission of an Entertainment Weekly, for example, to be inherently flawed: We feel it lacks credibility and authority to celebrate the existence of a new Men in Black film, devoting a cover and a obsequious feature article to its arrival, only to suddenly step back and pretend to a professional distance. Not every product of the popular culture is worthy of note just by its existence. We may go out of our way to find a small fault with a film or book we like, just as we'll go out of our way to find a redeeming quality, where applicable, in works we don't like (Incubus albums being a clear exception). But we won't bow and scrape and pretend that the arrival of a new Eagles album, Ozzfest tour or Halloween film is in itself a wondrous and spectacular event, regardless of its critical merits.

6. As a corollary, we will not attempt to pander to a different or larger audience by pretending that we like something more than we do. Rolling Stone magazine, in particular, is guilty of shamelessly attempting to "puff up" bands and artists, from '80s hair-metal misogynists Skid Row to Papa Roach to 'N Sync and Britney Spears, in a blatant, offensive and just plain sad attempt to bolster its circulation. We feel that this is a trap from which it is difficult, if not impossible, to escape, and that once thusly lost, hard-won credibility cannot be regained.

7. At the same time, we will not, we hope, ever get too self-righteous in our attempts to adhere to certain principles. We feel that ardent vows to never "sell out," as made by certain indie-rock web sites named after archaic farming implements, ring hollow and speak to a narrower mindset than we'd like to possess.

8. Consequently, we will not indulge in genre snobbery. An obscure indie-rock band may offer deeper insights and subtler musical pleasures than the obvious, shopworn charms offered by the lowest-common-denominator bands we enjoyed in our youths. But we will not extrapolate this to mean that all indie-rock is necessarily superior to all '80s cock-rock, or that all high-falutin' artsy Fantagraphics comics are by definition superior to a good old-fashioned, well-done revisionist superhero slugfest.

9. We won't, unless it's absolutely necessary or unavoidable, use the word "emo" to describe a certain band or genre of music -- except when we do so in ironic quotes like those above, for contrast.

10. We will, in our reviews and editorials, and in our correspondence with you, our readers, via email, our forum posts, newsletters or other, as-yet unborn interactions, endeavor always to remember that our primary mission, over and above "shaking through" the chaff of popular culture to bring you what we feel to be wheat, is to just relax and have fun. And should we ever lose sight of this fact, we invite -- nay, encourage -- you to let us know. Not just because we want to be straightened out when we get too high on our horses, but because we want this to be a communal experience, a give-and-take between ourselves and you, our audience, for whom we're eternally grateful.

That's it for now. If you feel we've overlooked any important points, or take umbrage with any of the rights listed above, feel free to send us your amendments or grievances at kevin@shakingthrough.net.

Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

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Archived Editorials
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November 22, 2006: Half Decade Anniversary
October 07, 2006: Jessica Simpson
September 30, 2006: New Orleans and SNL
June 2, 2006: Dixie Chicks
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February 16, 2006: Bill O'Reilly & Brokeback Mountain
February 12, 2006: Totally '80s (Grammys)
January 31, 2006: Freyed Oprah
November 27, 2005: To Be Continued... (Bringing back movie serials)
November 21, 2005: Fourth Birthday
November 05, 2005: TV Remakes
August 13, 2005: Ten Commandments of Rock
July 05, 2005: Live 8
May 05, 2005: Term Limits (for Rock Stars)
April 29, 2005: Pearl Jam Redux
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October 31, 2004: Three More Years!
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August 25, 2004: Shaking Through Mailbag
June 23, 2004: Summer Reading List
June 11, 2004: World Without Heroes (Bill Murray and Garfield)
April 23, 2004: Sold Out (Bob Dylan, Victoria's Secret, & Iraq)
April 08, 2004: The Day the Music Died (Kurt Cobain)
Mar. 17, 2004: Copping Out
Feb. 27, 2004: The Passion of Howard Stern
Jan. 30, 2004: Sex and the City
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Nov. 7, 2003: Not-So-Terrible Twos
Sept. 19, 2003: Magic & Loss (Johnny Cash and Warren Zevon)
Aug. 17, 2003: Those '70s Shows
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May 24, 2003: American Idol
Mar. 23, 2003: Non-cents-ical (Dixie Chicks-50 Cent)
Feb. 8, 2003: Where's the Love? (Pearl Jam)
Jan. 1, 2003: High Resolutions
Dec. 16, 2002: All I Want for Christmas
Nov. 27, 2002: Things to be Thankful For
Nov. 8, 2002: Near Wild Heaven (Nirvana)
Oct. 21, 2002: Happy Birthday to Us
Sept. 11, 2002: The Little Things
Aug. 20, 2002: King for a Day
July 9, 2002: Bill of Rights
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