Wreck­ing Ball

The Washington Times Daily - - Life - AN­DREW LEA­HEY

Bruce Spring­steen

With an­other elec­tion on the hori­zon, most Amer­i­cans are tak­ing stock of what’s right and what’s wrong with their coun­try. Bruce Spring­steen is do­ing the same. On “Wreck­ing Ball,” his sev­en­teenth al­bum, the Boss takes aim at fatcat bankers and cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tives who thrive while his blue-col­lar bud­dies strug­gle.

Mr. Spring­steen, who’s sold over 120 mil­lion al­bums since the 1970s, surely be­longs to the 1 per­cent. He still sides with the 99 per­cent, though, and “Wreck­ing Ball” is his an­gri­est po­lit­i­cal al­bum to date, filled with song ti­tles like “Shack­led and Drawn,” “Death to My Home­town” and “This De­pres­sion.” On “Jack of All Trades,” the nar­ra­tor even wishes he had a gun to blow away who­ever’s re­spon­si­ble for forc­ing him to clean out gut­ters, mow lawns and patch leaky roofs for chump change.

The lyrics may be dark, but Mr. Spring­steen keeps the mu­sic bright and pol­ished, beef­ing it up with usual melt­ing pot of gen­res — ev­ery­thing from arena-sized rock ‘n’ roll to South­ern gospel to Ir­ish folk. And, just to keep things in­ter­est­ing, he springs a few sur­prises. There’s a rapped verse dur­ing “Rocky Ground,” for ex­am­ple, and many of the songs are built upon drum loops or elec­tronic sam­ples. Pro­ducer Ron Aniello makes sure ev­ery­thing sounds big, too — even the songs about the lit­tle guy.

When­ever he shoots for specifics, Mr. Spring­steen hits the bull’s-eye. “We Take Care of Our Town,” a stir­ring trib­ute to com­mu­nity sup­port, namechecks the re­lief work­ers who rushed to the Su­per­dome af­ter Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina. The ti­tle track — one of two songs fea­tur­ing Clarence Cle­mons, who died last June — calls upon New Jer­sey na­tives to “raise up your glasses” in sol­i­dar­ity on the eve of Gi­ants Sta­dium’s de­mo­li­tion. The themes are univer­sal — bull­doz­ers pave over the past in ev­ery city, af­ter all — but the set­tings are lo­cal.

Not all its songs are so richly de­tailed, and “Wreck­ing Ball” stum­bles when­ever things get vague. “Easy Money” sug­gests a sit­u­a­tion sim­i­lar to the one fram­ing his acous­tic clas­sic “At­lantic City” — the nar­ra­tor is packing a gun and prep­ping him­self for some sort of vi­o­lent show­down in town, but first, he wants his girl­friend to put on that pretty red dress of hers. — Un­for­tu­nately, the story is full of holes, with a sin­ga­long cho­rus (“Na-na-na-na-na, whoa! Whoa!”) that packs a punch with­out con­nect­ing the dots.

videos and feel good about them­selves in­stead.

Much has been made of cy­ber­bul­ly­ing and pe­dophiles who cruise the In­ter­net, and of low self- es­teem among pread­o­les­cents and ado­les­cents, es­pe­cially girls, as their brains con­tinue to de­velop.

There have been sim­i­lar “hot or not” memes in the past, but as more young peo­ple live their lives on­line, they’re clearly more aware of the po­ten­tial for neg­a­tive con­se­quences.

“Neg­a­tive feed­back that is per­sonal is rarely easy to hear at any age, but to tweens and teens who value as well as in­cor­po­rate feed­back into their own sense of worth, it can be dev­as­tat­ing,” said El­iz­a­beth Dowdell, a nurs­ing pro­fes­sor at Vil­lanova Univer­sity in sub­ur­ban Philadel­phia. She has re­searched child In­ter­net safety and risk be­hav­ior in ado­les­cents in part­ner­ship with the Jus­tice Depart­ment.

In an­other video posted by Kendal, she of­fers to “do two dares” on cam­era, invit­ing her open-chan­nel au­di­ence to come up with some as she holds a lit­tle white stuffed mon­key.

In heavy eye makeup and neon orange nail pol­ish, a girl who calls her­self Faye not only asks the pretty/ugly ques­tion but tells in other videos of be­ing bul­lied at school, suf­fer­ing mi­graines that have sent her to a hospi­tal and cop­ing with the di­vorce of her par­ents.

“My friends tell me that I’m pretty,” she says. “It doesn’t seem like I’m pretty, though, be­cause, I don’t know, it just doesn’t, be­cause peo­ple at school, they’re like, ‘Faye you’re not pretty at all.’ “

She nar­rates a slideshow of still close-ups of her­self to make the judg­ing eas­ier ( she’s had more than 112,000 views) and joins other girls who have posted videos on an­other theme, “My Per­fect Im­per­fec­tion,” that have them not­ing what they hate and love about the way they look.

“I just don’t like my body at all,” says Faye as she pulls up her sweat­shirt to bare her midriff.

Faye’s pro­file lists her age as 13. Tracked down in sub­ur­ban Den­ver, her mom, Naomi Gib­son, told ABC’S “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica” she knew noth­ing of the video un­til re­porters started to call. “I was floored,” she said.

Faye told ABC she has been called names and gos­siped about be­hind her back.

“Deep down in­side, all girls know that other peo­ple’s opin­ions don’t mat­ter,” she said. “But we still go to other peo­ple for help be­cause we don’t be­lieve what peo­ple say.”

A third girl who up­loaded one of the pretty/ugly videos in Septem­ber at­tempts a few model poses in child­like pedal push­ers and a long, mul­ti­col­ored T-shirt af­ter pos­ing the ques­tion. She takes down her pony­tail and brushes her hair as she stares into the cam­era.

“If you guys are won­der­ing, I am 11,” she of­fers. Her video has been viewed more than 6,000 times.

“Com­mu­ni­cate with your par­ents and clean your room!!! But take this ter­ri­ble video down as you are a child and should not have this kind of ac­cess to the In­ter­net,” one com­menter pleads.

None of the three girls re­sponded to pri­vate mes­sages on Youtube seek­ing com­ment from the As­so­ci­ated Press. Ms. Gib­son told ABC she was con­sid­er­ing re­vok­ing her daugh­ter’s Youtube priv­i­leges, but stopped short of de­mand­ing that Faye take down the video.

“Hope­fully it will open up the eyes of the par­ents,” Ms. Gib­son said. “The kids aren’t let­ting their par­ents know what’s wrong, just like Faye didn’t let me know.”

Youtube would not com­ment di­rectly about the “Am I Pretty?” con­tro­versy, but it is­sued a state­ment ad­vis­ing par­ents to visit the site’s safety cen­ter for tips on how to pro­tect their kids on­line.

The site’s post­ing pol­icy pro­hibits videos and com­ments “con­tain­ing ha­rass­ment, threats or hate speech” and en­cour­ages users to flag such ma­te­rial for re­view, the state­ment said.

Em­i­lie Zaslow, a me­dia stud­ies pro­fes­sor at Pace Univer­sity in New York, said to­day’s on­line world for young peo­ple is only just be­gin­ning to be un­der­stood by re­searchers.

When the In­ter­net is your diary and your au­di­ence is global, she said, “The public post­ing of ques­tions such as ‘Am I ugly?’ which might pre­vi­ously have been per­sonal makes sense within this shift in cul­ture.”

Add to that the unattain­able pres­sures of the beauty in­dus­try, a dose of re­al­ity TV, where or­di­nary peo­ple can be fa­mous, and su­per­stars who are dis­cov­ered via vi­ral video on Youtube, she said.

“These videos could be read as a new form of self-mu­ti­la­tion in line with cut­ting and eat­ing dis­or­ders,” Miss Zaslow said.

That po­ten­tial is real, added Na­dine Kaslow, a fam­ily psy­chol­o­gist and pro­fes­sor of be­hav­ioral sci­ences at Emory Univer­sity in At­lanta.

“There’s this con­stant mes­sag­ing about looks and beauty,” she said. “Their world is tak­ing it to a new level. It can be hu­mil­i­at­ing, there may be a lot of shame, and you start to be­come public ob­jects in­stead of be­ing your own per­son.”

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