Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Just for now


I want to say yesterday was more draining than it should have been, but the amount of draining was probably appropriate.

If I think about it as what I wrote personally, it shouldn't be a huge deal. If I consider all of the other status updates that made it necessary to write, then yes, the reminder of not just how common it is for women to be harassed, assaulted, and raped, but also how terrible people can be about it (which I think will be its own post), okay, I can accept that it is taking more than a day to recover. At least I kind of knew it was like that; some people were really surprised.

I have a lot of thoughts going around about things I would like to say, but the one priority I really stuck with was finishing cutting out the fabric for the gowns.

(If you don't remember the angel dolls project, I wrote about it here: http://preparedspork.blogspot.com/2015/05/coordinating-sewing-service-project.html)

We have not been able to get as much help this year (at least from the adults) but as the unemployed person in the household I have had time for some cutting, sewing, turning, stuffing, stitching, and more cutting. There are 86 dolls ready, and the fabric is cut out for 84 gowns, just finished today. We will have to recruit for that, because no one here has or knows how to operate a serger.

I have a lot of things that I need to get done right now, but this weekend it felt like that was the right priority. That is not unreasonable, as we were not sure how many gowns would need to be sewn until the cutting was done. We are ready for the next phase now.

It did mean I hadn't blogged or read or edited or submitted or made any phone calls, but those all require a bit more mind than I had available today.

I went back to the computer to at least try and blog, and I saw two tweets from @silentrex:

If it turns out we can't stop imminent destruction of civilization by the forces at work right now, what should we be doing right now?  /1

On the other hand: if it turns out we can, but we must act quickly, what should we be doing right now?  /2

That shouldn't be comforting, because I cannot answer those questions at all. It may be the lack of available mind.

But I did find a right now, and I completed it. It's something.

Maybe tomorrow's activities will be more to the point, but there are different points too.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Me too


If you don't know yet, women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed are setting their Facebook status as "Me too". It's kind of a roll call.

I have not put that status yet. When I wrote about one assault, I mentioned at the time how hard it was to call it that. There is such a strong feeling that it could have been worse, that it shouldn't really count.

Women do that a lot. There was an article recently from a woman who was describing her gratitude for never having been harassed, except in the article she also describes two pretty clear incidents of harassment. There's not even a hint of her thinking that they should count; just that they were uncomfortable and she was lucky.

Something else I know I have mentioned is that every time I post something about sexual assault, some woman I know will say something revealing her own assault. It doesn't matter how many of them I already knew about, there are always more.

The numbers are really going up today. I imagine it can be very triggering for some, depending where they are at in dealing with their own memories. I sympathize with that. I think it can be helpful for others, and I hope it is.

My initial reaction has been a lot of sadness, then one friend posted this:

"Of course me too. I am a woman, aren't I? So me too, more times than I have any stomach to list here."

Then I got mad.

I get that some people may be concerned with this putting harassment and assault and rape all together, because that increases the results. I'm just going to tell you that they are interconnected enough that it makes sense. There are similar root causes. Yes, some are worse, but women do enough minimizing on our own. We don't need any help with that.

And still I feel like I can't post it as my own status, because nothing has been bad enough. And still I keep thinking about this one, that I haven't really written about before. So it needed a blog post, because that's how I deal with things.

I was at a concert that I had really been looking forward too, but then I was in a weird state of mind leading up to it. I was worried and insecure and just not doing well. I was really there for the opener, I didn't take in anything from the second band, so I decided to just get out of there before the third. As I was on my way to the train, a group of guys approached me and as they were passing one of them grabbed my breast.

It was over before I could even react. I just kept going, as they did, but in completely different frames of mind. They were laughing, because it was funny for them. I had been feeling pretty horrible before, and that validated all my concerns about being insignificant trash. Why wouldn't I be a crude joke to them?

So it's really not that bad, almost nothing, except I still remember it, especially today.

Women also blame themselves a lot. I can assure you I was not dressed sexily (though I was walking by myself at night) but I really believe that part of it was the frame of mind I was in. I was less aware of my surroundings, so I didn't notice that anything was happening until the contact was made. I was more vulnerable by being down. It doesn't mean that it can't happen on a good day or to an exhilarated person, but I felt like it was a factor.

And it says something about those -- it's tempting to call them boys, but they were probably in their early 20s. They were legally adults and certainly capable of knowing better. But, if I am right that they picked up on me being down, and their response to that was to invade my space in a sexual way, to ignore any humanity and grope me, and that was amusing to them, well, why am I thinking of myself as garbage? Because I don't do things like that.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Band Review: Zombie Sam


The most accurate description of Zombie Sam's aesthetic has to be The Nightmare Before Christmas. That goes beyond artwork and frequent covers of music from the movie to being more of a mission statement. Even some of the bell-like instrumentals remind me of the holiday Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Check out "Through the Looking Glass" for an example of that.

Not all of the music sounds like it was played on a celesta. There are driving guitars and definite rock. My favorite of the rock songs was "Woman in White".

(No, I don't think all of the song titles are literary references, but there are at least a few.)

The band can definitely be appropriate October listening, and fits well in that realm. This includes a couple of collaborations with Sophia from Season of Ghosts, reviewed last December. "Awake" is a good example of that, and of the band's more haunted elements.

If you do not care for supernatural dreaminess, it could prove distracting. Try listening to "Stay Away from Me" as an example of Zombie Sam's rock.

If you don't like any of the four tracks mentioned, they are probably not for you. If you like some but not all, you can pick and choose.

And if you like all of them, including the instrumentals, you may have just found your new perfect band in plenty of time for Halloween.

Good luck on this Friday the 13th.





Thursday, October 12, 2017

Band Review: American Monster


American Monster is a rock band from Las Vegas, Nevada. While they have been around since 2015, their new EP, Make It Hurt, has only been out since August 26th.

The title track is aggressively percussive. It kind of feels like this is how the band sees themselves: we are big and bad and we can be obnoxious. All of that makes sense for a band from Sin City, or for a band with their particular album cover (someone's naked mid-section covered only by a strategically placed skull decorated with a stars and stripes motif).

It's not that this is a wrong impression, but it could be incomplete. There is some real beauty and emotion on tracks like "The Hourglass" and "Skies of Fire".

This is particularly true of the guitars on "Haunt Me". They do start pounding and driving, but first they are emotional and expressive. There is some balance.

At least more than you would guess from the album cover.




Wednesday, October 11, 2017

One story of one band


The band is Farewell My Love, and I wanted to incorporate that into the title in some way. Due to my current state of crisis and some recent posts, I didn't think I could put "Farewell" in the title without creating concerns. If the title seems bland, that's why.

Farewell, My Love was my 44th band review, but about half of those were bands that came from concerts or that I had gotten interested in through some other means. For bands that I reviewed because they followed me on Twitter, they came pretty early.

There were two memorable things from that. One is the onslaught from the main account. "Follow our bass player! Follow our lead singer! I thought it was overkill, but it worked because I did end up following all five of them. At some point that slowed down, but they would tweet about releases and shows and retweet things fans wrote to them. They seemed to be a big inspiration to a lot of young people, which I always appreciate.

(I don't know how helpful this is to anyone but me, but Palaye Royale has been following a pretty similar trajectory, which I hope will be where the similarities end.)

Some of those many tweets showed me that they were coming to Portland around when it would be time for me to review them anyway, Actually, another band had followed me right around then that was touring with them, too. Being able to do a concert review for two of the Twitter follow bands seemed like a pretty cool opportunity.

There were two other bands on the tour, plus two local bands played, plus the venue was interesting (the building also functions as a haunted house around Halloween), so there was a lot to write about that show. I got a few more follows from it, and then someone I knew from yet another band ended up joining one of those bands, so it was an interesting experience all around. Also, it was the closest I have been to attending a basement show in some ways.

A few months later the band needed a new trailer and crowd-sourced it. I supported it, and ended up on a video chat with four of them. At that point, two or three of the guys were also following me on Twitter, and I had ended up following a sister and a girlfriend.

It was a fun conversation. I remember knowing at that point that they had originally had a different singer, because I asked how they had met Ryan. I also remember talking about the song "My Perfect Thing" and telling them that while it sounds like a love song, it felt like love for the band. They agreed. They were having a great time, and enjoying the band and each other. I was happy for them.

And then everything changed.

Some things I can only guess at, but I know for sure that Ryan got really sick. I believe it interfered with some shows, but initially the rest of the band seemed to be supportive. Suddenly he was out, and Logan was angry and he was out.

That did not seem great, but health problems and work problems can put stress on relationships that the relationships don't survive. It was kind of sad, but then it got weird.

Chad taking over as singer was not weird. He had done some prominent supporting vocals, and seemed to be responsible for a lot of the band outreach. That made him a logical front man. It was weird when everyone went blond.

Previously there were two blond members, two brunettes, and one half and half. With the two blond ones gone, everyone else got a lot lighter. The only dark hair left was on the new guy. It wasn't just the hair. The previous fashion choices had been fairly Goth. Clothes lightened up too, and video settings.

That actually made the rupture more comprehensible; maybe they had started out on this path to being one kind of band, but it fit some better than others and they were reshaping into something that suited everyone better. Then the band and Chad unfollowed me.

I do use the free Tweepsmap features. I thought they would be interesting, and they have really reinforced that a lot of people who follow me only do it to get followed back, which has done a lot to alleviate my guilt about not wanting to follow them all. These guys, though, we had been connected for a while and I wondered if I should take it personally.

I don't know how high their follow count was before, but I remember them following at least 156000 people. Now it's 193. I can't even imagine the process of casting off that many kids. It was completely impersonal for them, but how many fans did they hurt? That was when they became completely unrecognizable.

It's not that I wish them ill now or anything, but it was kind of disappointing. Following that many makes for a messy timeline - that is true - but there are ways to get around that, like lists.

(I do have a contingency plan for what to do with my account if I suddenly get famous, but it if happens really quickly it may not work.)

I have continued following Ryan and Logan, and intending to review their new projects, but it can be more complicated than you might think. I am reviewing Zombie Sam this week, but the recordings are old enough that I doubt Ryan is on them. Still, if it gives some attention to the group, that could be supportive, right?

With Logan, he very well could be on the new American Monster EP, but now he has removed all references to the band from his account. Will my review be helpful? I don't know; band life can be complicated.

I can only do what seems right at the time. However, I am auditing an online course on the music industry, and maybe I will have better insight after that.


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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Six months of emo songs

Of course, I was listening for much longer than six months.

Nonetheless, I have been using songs from artists mentioned in Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo by Andy Greenwald from April 2nd until today, just over six months.

One nice things about the daily songs is that they can help crystallize impressions. I have some thoughts when a I review an artist, but then going back a little later and choosing which song of theirs I want to share, it brings it back. I am better now at identifying ear worms, and I think the reviews and the daily songs are part of that.

Today I finished up with a final song from Saves The Day. That felt fitting because I used more songs from Save The Day than any other band, and some of that is liking them, but also some of that is they were mentioned multiple chapters and were previously unknown to me.

Each time I listened, more songs would stand out. My notes on the first two mentions are merely "okay" and "not bad", but I ended up feeling more positive on them. Familiarity doesn't always breed contempt; sometimes it allows a greater appreciation to grow.

The last time I wrote about this project, I mentioned one band that I had found really annoying, but I was going to listen again because they were on the Alternative Press list. I think they were less annoying. It's still not liking - for sure - but they did not seem as terrible.

It is wonderful when a song just seizes you and you are like "This is the band!" That has happened for me with "I Wanna Be Sedated", "Train In Vain", and "Welcome To The Black Parade". Sometimes it is magic. However, there is a good reason to look beyond the hooks and give some things a greater chance. When I review, I try and listen to everything at least three times, and I stand by that. If there is still nothing to say after three times, that review becomes very hard to write, but I tried.

The most interesting evolution for me was the one with The Starting Line. On the first listen, I thought they were so emo (I was starting to grasp the term) - especially "Bedroom Talk:" - that it was sadly funny, but heard some good intros and things. By the fourth time, I had started to like them. Then I looked at the lyrics. Yeah, it's emo all right; it's the worst part of emo. That will probably be its own post later.

I had originally given myself all of October to catch up on the Comixology cache, but I hurried it up as I saw that I was coming to the end of daily emo songs. I did that because I like putting updates together, and because some of the flaws you find in some comics are remarkably similar to the flaws that you find in some emo songs (which is why it becomes a bigger topic than comics or music), but also because of how those projects are for me.

I am good at diving into things, but that is because I really like knowing and understanding things. If it is about something I like, that's even better, but also, I am pretty good at liking things. I mean, I do like knowledge in general, but there are topics where it means more, and comics and music are up there.

When I first wanted to understand what people meant when they were calling things "emo" (or defending against being called "emo"), that's why I read Nothing Feels Good, and that's why the extent to which it didn't really help was very disappointing. But hey, I was able to pull a curriculum from it, and five years later here we are.

I feel very comfortable with the term now. That's fine on its own, but also - and this was a point yesterday too - there is so much left. There are 24 bands from the book that I want to spend more time on. I don't know if they will all get full reviews, but they will at least get more listening time.

There are also some groups that came after emo but who have some similar associations to check out. That will be interesting.

Those are going onto the back burner for a little bit, because I want to review UFO and their catalog is so big I am having to spread it out over several weeks. There is new music from Electric Century, The All-American Rejects, and Lindsay Buckingham and Christine McVie.

Plus I have about 70 bands reviewed over the last six months who are waiting for their shot at the daily song, along with all of the other bands in the review queue.

Because of all of this (and a lot of regular books I am reading) I will not be starting Guitar Heroes of the 70s until next year. Sometimes you need to know your limits.

But if you are curious, here are the bands that are slated for additional future listening, in the order of my deciding I was interested:

Current, Jawbreaker, Texas is the Reason, Jawbox, Mogwai, Rye Coalition, Superdrag, The Hives, Interpol, Atmosphere, Nelly, Social Distortion, Face to Face, Samiam, FenixTX, Allister, The Rocking Horse Winner, Something Corporate, The Insurgent, Frail, Rocket from the Crypt, Finch, Antiflag, and Engine Down


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Monday, October 09, 2017

Comics Catch Up: My Comixology library


I finally made it through all of my Comixology comics, and am relieved. For comics I already own, there is only one that I haven't read, and I will get to it -- that is amazing progress. It is also a relief to be done, because this section wasn't nearly as fun as going through my Dark Horse cache.

(That is not a surprise in itself. My preference for Dark Horse declared itself early: http://sporkful.blogspot.com/2012/08/i-dont-mean-to-be-contrary-but-it.html)

If you'll recall, there were 61 different titles in the Dark Horse cache, with 14 where I will definitely read more, 13 that I might possibly want to read more, and 24 where I was unlikely to want to read more, plus ten that I had either read completely or that were compilations.

I had 101 titles on Comixology. Most of them only had one issue, though, and I had many, many issues of Hellboy, so those numbers don't quite match up the way they look. (I see now that it was 172 Dark Horse issues and 196 issues on Comixology).

However, of the 101 titles, there were 53 that I am pretty sure that I won't ever want to pick back up. There were 11 mostly single-issue comics, but also a few limited runs that I had completed of my own volition for other, and 23 where I may want to read more, and only 14 where I definitely want to read more. That is a lot of good stuff, but not really liking more than half felt like a lot.

I am tempted now to promote one of the Unlikely comics to "Possibly" and make that number 52. That would be very fitting, because 5 of them were from DC's New 52, and boy do I ever hate that. Slick artwork, but so much noise and so little humanity -- kind of sadistic, really -- I could only hate it more if the art were bad.

It was good to read some other publishers and be better versed on their offerings. Publishing houses are still not as reliable an indicator as the writers. I will check out almost anything from Dark Horse and maybe also Top Shelf, but for most others it just depends. Still, if the exception proves the rule, I think I might hate Valiant. After a few of their titles I started wrinkling up my face whenever I saw their logo, and right through reading X-O Manowar yesterday, nothing redeemed them.

It did really validate my writer love. I would never hesitate to read Gail Simone. She can get pretty twisted (which she admits and revels in) but I just keep finding heart and meaning and good things in her work. I suppose that means that I could even try something New 52 with her name on it, but it wouldn't go at the top of the list.

I feel similarly about Terry Moore. I just keep liking his work and wanting to read more of it. I haven't read a lot of Mark Waid, but I will give him a chance because of how beautifully he handled Birthright. I may not read everything from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction, but I'll read a lot.

(And is the reason I don't like that one writer because he did so much on New 52? Or was he the perfect person to do so much on New 52 because that's just him? Because I feel guilty about not liking him.)

I also need to give credit to Christy Blanch of Ball State. I didn't love every comic that she assigned, but there were some really good things there. Many of my favorite titles in the Comixology group were because of her two classes.

That leads to something else I appreciate about this; going back and re-reading some of these titles allowed me to view them with more experienced eyes. Maybe there was something that I didn't like before, but I understood better this time why it had been done that way. It gave a greater appreciation. 

That isn't all merely having read more either. People I follow on Twitter - creators and critics - have shared their insights over time, and that has been good. I appreciate lettering now in a way I never could have on my own because of Nate Piekos (Blambot). Steve Lieber, Steve Morris, and Brett White have all been influences. I like having a deeper understanding.

I mean, I am not at the point where I will be writing academic papers to submit to the International Comic Arts Forum yet. I don't even think I will be able to attend this year (though I had been hoping). It is still pretty cool to look back and to have read so many great comics and good comics and to even have a sense of accomplishment getting through so many indifferent comics.

It's even better that there is still so much more waiting. It's not just the "Definitely" and "Possibly" comics, though that would be plenty. It's also the 33 books that I have down because I read a positive review, or that seem important to comic history, or for some other reason I have thought, "I should read that".

It is also the four studios and the fifteen creators that I want to check out because they are local or well-regarded or I went to college with them.

It is also the handful of comic characters where I may not know of specific arcs to check out, but where I do want to check something out. Maybe that is just because someone else is passionate about them (like Steve Morris about Dark Star). It's reason enough to read more comics.

Plus, soon I will be reading  Native Americans in Comic Books: A Critical Study by Michael A. Sheyahshe, and seeing where that takes me.

Finally, there are all the things that I don't know about yet, or even know how I am going to find out about them yet, there are books that haven't even been written yet, but that will still be awesome when I get there.

All of which is really just to say that I like comics.

But it should mainly be trades for a while, so if any of my Goodreads connections were irritated with the frequency of my updates while I was going through so many single issues, that should be better now.

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