Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Band Review: Mary J. Blige

Everything about this review feels inadequate.

It was supposed to go up Friday, but I didn't feel like I had spent enough time listening yet. I know the initial recommendation had come from someone specific, but that is in a lost file somewhere. Even having listened to a really large body of her work, I'm sure I am missing things.

I don't know that the extra listening time even significantly changes the review, but I also don't regret the time. It has at least cemented my favorites. Also, I now know that Blige is playing Cha-Cha in The Umbrella Academy, which I find awesome. So there's that.

The overall impression is to be impressed with the development over time. Her 1992 debut, What's the 411, was successful critically and commercially, but there has been so much maturity, growth, and richness over time. That is true looking solely at albums, but it is worth noting how she is able to incorporate her presence into acting as well, as Evillene in The Wiz Live! if nothing else. I loved that performance.

Perhaps the most impressive thing is that even if you do separate different fields of her career - so only television or only hip-hip or only her work on Mudbound - there is still so much.

Obviously, I did focus on the music, and my most powerful impression overall is feminine strength, like she is built of iron and did not have to compromise any of her identity to be that way.

"Mary Jane (All Night Long)" is a classic, and "Give Me You" off of Dance For Me is wonderful, but I would like to give a special mention to tracks 5-7 off of Stronger With Each Tear. Each one individually - "I Feel Good", "I Am", and "Each Tear" - is great, but then together it is just a sequence that I could listen to over and over again.

Very glad to have listened.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Book irritation

This next book coincidence is less cute.

I recently mentioned that we had a hold on the Marie Kondo book at the library.

I did not mention in that post that I have seen a lot of discussion on Twitter regarding criticism of KonMari, along with things that criticism misses and ways in which the criticism seems racist.

I wasn't writing about that yet, though I had posted an article on Facebook precisely because of that.

I also did already know this had happened, though I did not see the article until today: 

I didn't mention it in that other blog post, because not only was the Marie Kondo book on the way, but I also had books on hold for me from Elaine Showalter and Barbara Ehrenreich. I believed I would have more to say after I read them all.

I will say that until I looked up the article, I did not know about Ehrenreich's previous tweet. In light of that, it looks like her real issue is imperialistic in nature, but when she realized she had gone over the top there, she tried to transfer it more to a curmudgeonly personal dislike of one person.

I guess Katha Pollitt handled it best, because instead of deleting tweets she added one promising to consider the issue more closely. Perhaps to be completely fair I should have gotten a Katha Pollitt book out too, but I am not enthusiastic about it because the Ehrenreich and Showalter books were so annoying.

At first I questioned the headline of the article because it referred to these women as feminists. After reading their books I question whether Ehrenreich or Showalter are. However, the headline says "white feminists", so for the brand of feminism that does not realize how enmeshed in patriarchy it is and that often misses key points that would lead to meaningful discourse, yeah, that's fair.

That is also exactly how the books failed.

To be fair, I was already planning on taking Showalter's book - Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Media - with a grain of salt. I had seen a reference to her writing on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I was curious about that, but also skeptical based on what I had read. Seeing that she treated it with alien abductions, recovered memories, and the Satanic ritual abuse panic seemed at least a little questionable.

Before I proceed, I am going to admit to having fallen for the Satanic ritual abuse thing myself. I saw a TV movie in 1989 (Do You Know the Muffin Man) and they said that's where most child abuse comes from. I was like, okay. I was also 17 years old.

I don't regret it now. Not only did I not do anything with the information, but I think having accepted that as plausible - despite how very implausible it was - and learning later that it was ridiculously, flagrantly wrong was ultimately good for my critical thinking.

There was not enough critical thinking in Hystories. There were little things that were way off. Thinking that finding out that other girls had eating disorders (especially pre-internet) did more to spread eating disorders than pressure on physical appearance and the limited things that are within many teenagers' control was a big one. Another was finding it ironic that is was political conservatives and religious fundamentalists that spread the SRA panic when it specifically targeted daycare. That's not ironic; that's logical. (It didn't seem to be delivered as a joke.)

Beyond that, a lot of areas that would have seemed critical for understanding weren't really explored. I thought to some extent it was because so many of these issues were issues of leading the patient, and even though she kind of acknowledged that Freud did that, maybe she was a Freudian and just couldn't bring herself to condemn him. Showalter isn't even a psychologist. Her specialty is Victorian literature. I can see how there would be ways of viewing that through a Freudian lens, but disengagement should still be possible.

Overall, though, I think I find her to be too invested in the status quo. My issue was the lack of depth, but I think that lack was the result of the hold the patriarchy has on her.

I had similar issues with Ehrenreich, but she should have been able to do better. She considers herself a "myth-buster" and "muckraker". She has participated in the Democratic Socialists of America. That's someone who wants to fight the power, not fold to it, right? That was not evident in The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment.

She did get somewhat better in the last chapter, which had more of an economic focus, but most of the book was sociological and psychological. It was really not good, and desperate for some intersectional analysis. I guess that makes her a "vulgar" socialist, though, which makes the DSA a good fit.

All of that also makes their tweets make total sense, but not in a good way. You can see why I am not eager to try a book by Katha Pollitt, even though she may be the best of them.

KonMari's book was delightful, but I am still reflecting on that. I will probably write about it more.

Otherwise, it feels like all of February - Black History Month - has been a solid stream of white people needing to do better. I may also write about. I will see how it goes.

For now, the book I am currently reading is good, and that is a relief.

Monday, February 18, 2019


Clearly I am not doing well on the blogging. Busyness and tiredness are coming into play, and a lot of people have been dying. (None of my family members.)

One issue was not getting enough time to listen to the Friday music review subject as much as I wanted to, so she is going up Wednesday, with three reviews this week. I will get back to the Sunday blog next week, I think. This week has a lot of medical stuff coming up, culminating next Monday, and I am going to be pretty stressed out. None of it is particularly bad, but that is not the point.

Anyway, the two non-review posts this week are going to be about books, and today's post is just a fun little thing that happened.

I requested Celluloid Indians (by Neva Kilpatrick) through Inter-library loan. When you are looking it up, you get a number of how many libraries in the program have the title, but I don't actually know how they decide which library sends. The copy I got came from Portland Community College.

A checkout receipt was still in there. I often use those and hold slips as bookmarks, even though I have several actual bookmarks. As far as things to leave in the book go, the hold slips have your name, and the checkout receipts don't, so that is probably the better choice. It may also be longer, depending on how many books you checked out.

At 1:28 PM on January 16th, 2013 (due February 6th), someone checked out Celluloid Indians, along with Killing the White Man's Indian, Crazy Horse: A Lakota Life, and Sacajawea: A Biography. The authors appear to be (respectively) Fergus Bordewich, Kingsley Bray, and April Summitt, based on a title search, but authors are not on the checkout receipt.

I haven't read any of the other books, and I'm not sure that I necessarily want to. It was still kind of fun to think that there was someone else in the Portland Metro area who observes Native American Heritage Month.

But wait! That is in November, and these books are being checked out in January. Yes, but I am always running behind on books. I looked up my blog post for that year, and one of the books I read was S. C. Gwynne's Empire of the Summer Moon. I finished it in February 2013. In fact, I was looking at the wrong blog post at first, because the 2013 books are the ones I was reading and wrote about in 2014. The books I was reading in January 2013 were for November 2012. (Though I did read a book about Crazy Horse in 2014.)

Realistically, this was probably for some kind of assignment or research paper, and not any kind of heritage month. I did not do much discretionary reading in college. I'd say that there wasn't time, but there were ways in which there was more free time in college than at any later points in adult life. Maybe it just feels that way because I was able to function on a lot less sleep then. However, most available brain space was reserved for processing information that I was going to be tested on or write papers about.

But it's nice to think I have a kindred spirit out there.

Related posts:

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Band Review: Tiki Lewis

I wanted to check out Tiki Lewis after reviewing IAMOMNI, who has collaborated with her.

I was surprised at how difficult it was to find any information. There are generic videos on Youtube and music available on various streaming services, but I could not find any other profiles or pages.

Her album, Too Much and Not Enough, is from 2008, when social media engagement was not as standard as it is now. She also has two collaborations in 2015, which does not indicate a total disappearance. I don't know what's going on.

It is interesting that Lewis' collaborations seem to be more hip hop, because on her own she has more of a pop sensibility. I really like the title track; emotional but not sappy. Other tracks like "Second Chance" have beats that could be easily adapted into club mixes.

I don't know how invested Lewis is, but if she wanted to do more I think she could make it work.


Back to the situation with our mother, we have had two things work out well without planning on them.

Recently we visited the Oregon Rail Heritage Center.

It was just something that we wanted to do. We took Mom because if something is not going to be too much for her, she should be doing different things. We expected her to like it, but she loved it; it brought back many memories for her.

Her father was an engineer, and one of her brothers worked in the railroad office.

I did know, but I never thought about it too much. All of my grandparents died before I was born, and when I first got to meet my uncles they were long retired. The information was there, but it wasn't quite real to me.

It should have been, because I knew that they lived in railroad housing. There is a double row of homes that the railroad built for their employees. One of my cousins still lives there, as well as at least one family that was there during my mother's childhood. When they were young, though, it was all railroad families. They visited back and forth, and sometimes their kids married each other, and they all got railway passes. Yes, they would have talked about trains a lot.

That was not something she had thought about for a long time, but then seeing the trains it was there.

The other thing is that we recently watched Fantasia.

Well, not all of it. We meant to just watch "The Dance of the Hours", and then we watched some other things too, but we started with the dance. I had forgotten that is Ponchielli (Italian name), and that is the ballet part of an opera, La Gioconda.

My grandfather also loved opera, and sang it all the time. Again, it is not something I have personal experience of. When I think of it, I think mainly in terms of Verdi, his favorite. But actually it wasn't just opera, but also symphony, and he played records too. It's not really that surprising, either based on what I know about him or what I know about us. It gave us another moment of recollection, and happiness in the recollection.

When I write that there are good things too - amidst all this stress - it is often something like this. I could not plan it, but things work out.

I realize that this next thing I write is going to be over-the-top cheesy, but so be it. This world is hard, but it is wondrous too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Growing in the chaos

Yesterday's post was about feeling out of control, and then seizing little bits of control that you can. It was all true and valid, but there are other sides too.

One is that for all of the ways in which care giving is stressful, there are rewards to it as well. We are at a point where it is taking more out of me, it is true. Probably every time we start doing well on getting respite time in, we hit a new knot and have to adjust all over again. There is still a lot of love in it, and there are rewards to that.

In addition, I have grown a lot as a person, and in my understanding of things. The big leaps forward have mostly come out of bad times.

Some of that I have blogged about, like understanding how much respite time I need and how I need it to work by not getting it, or finding the last obstacle to liking myself in thinking that I hate my family.

Something more recent from a different blog was an experience that I had with prayer where it was really more the desperation that worked.

I write a little about how I try to pray in there, and that is often how I pray, but lately my mind has been going off in tangents. It's not really surprising, because there are so many different things that I am worrying about, but it still feels ineffective and kind of rude to God.

I had noticed the chaos, resolved to do more to meditate and focus before praying, and then there I was and my thoughts scrambled all over the place just as if I had no control.

And then an answer came anyway. It may not even have been in spite of the chaos; the chaos might have helped. I mean, I can overthink things.

I remember reading an article once about someone whose trainer had her put on a Bosu ball. She hated it, because she was always having to correct and keep from falling. It also really strengthened her muscles, because she was always having to correct and keep from falling.

This is not my favorite part of my life, but it is an important one.

I know some people view God as a micromanager where everything is custom-designed for you to grow exactly the way you need. I don't, believing that a planet full of other people with their own moral agency plus entropy provides plenty of opportunity for growth.

I do believe that as situations arise there are good and bad ways of responding, and that some ways are much better and much worse. A lot of prayer for me is trying to get to the much better responses, and comfort and strength for that.

Sometimes, however, I beg for intervention, or merely ask for it because I am in a state of torpor that can't manage more, and sometimes I can't seem to form a coherent thought. All of those different things can end up working somehow.

I have written a lot about trying to find balance, but I have thought of balance as keeping things that are in opposition but are still valid in mind at the same time. It is starting to feel more like balance is about taking turns, and rotating through. Maybe that eventually achieves a more discernible order, like my original concept of balance is the ending point but I am still at the beginning. I don't really know how things will turn out.

I am still surviving.

Monday, February 11, 2019


I am hating my pictures this time around.

The first time I did it, it took me about three months to start feeling good about my photos, but the second time it only took about three weeks. It appears that I have lost ground.

On the most shallow level, my unhappiness focuses on the roundness of my face and the total lack of cooperation from my hair, which has been sadly neglected.

I am thinking about going back to cutting my own hair, because if it comes to a choice between that and Supercuts (or something like them), I do a better job. I can only manage short hair, though, and that won't be flattering to this round face.

On a somewhat less shallow level, I suppose part of the dissatisfaction is how out of control everything feels. Trying to track down issues from my mother's hospitalization - which is now eight months ago - has led to a lot of appointments. That means bills - copays add up really quickly - but in a way the appointments are worse just for the time. Arranging the transportation is one stress, but going to appointments is something that gets in her mind. Even when the news is good, or at least not bad, it unsettles her. I am pretty patient with answering the same questions over and over again, but for medical things it doesn't allay the worry. So there's that.

Some of my stress right now is book-related. I try to pace myself appropriately with book checkouts, but there are things that can throw you. One of them is that sometimes my brain just won't accept any new information. Another is inter-library loan.

It is impossible to predict when the ILL books will come through. This is a common problem with the local library books that have multiple holds. Beyond that, it is also impossible to predict how long you will have to read them. One book that was picked up Friday is due Sunday. In general the program has broadened my book access a lot, but right now I have two books due Friday (I finished one of them today), one Sunday, and one next Thursday, and it may not be impossible to renew them, but it is not easy. (There are other books, but I am mainly stressing over those four.)

Obviously that is one reason for all the book selfies.

That leads to another thing that I am thinking about, is that maybe my selfies need to be more interesting. This is largely a reaction to a series of shots very close together where every single one was taken after I had gotten ready for bed and then remembered.

I have been thinking about doing monthly themes. Different concepts I have considered have included a month of book selfies, a month where every shot is outdoors, a month with shots of food, a month with products I like, and maybe selfies round the clock. That would probably not be a full 24 hours, but I could do 16. (I can't imagine being committed enough to wake myself up after I have gone to sleep.)

I had also thought about a month of selfies with other people, but that would probably just be a month of shots with my mother, and maybe a few other people if I try really hard. I could do more variety with animal selfies, because I only have one mother, but there are six pets, Still, that would probably annoy them a lot. Five of them are cats.

As pointless as this is, then I get interested and kind of excited, because it is something that I can do. Any (or all) of those months would take some effort and remembering, but they are doable, and easy compared to other things.

But the inter-library loan books have a special sleeve, so they all look the same in the book selfies,

Friday, February 08, 2019

Band Review: Stephanie Mills

Despite the length of her career, I really only became aware of Stephanie Mills fairly recently, when she played Aunt Em in the live televised version of The Wiz.

At the time there were raves about her voice that caught my attention, though I was still thinking of her primarily in relation to Broadway. Having dug in a bit deeper, now I know that her career goes far beyond that. It includes a Grammy for a song that I did know, "Never Knew Love Like This Before".

It has been somewhat interesting to think about why so much was unfamiliar - the age at which you start paying attention to artists, the fact that most of our Broadway shows were on 8-tracks and did not last long, and (always) who got play on MTV. A more encouraging lesson is that music has great depths that you can explore in multiple directions over and over again.

For this period of listening, I believe my favorite album was 1989's Home. Not only does it feature the title track - Mills' signature song - but it also has "Love Hasn't Been Easy On Me". The latter does not seem to rank among her hits, but it struck a chord with me.

Because the other great thing about music is how it can touch you, and how that can be timeless.