Friday, August 17, 2018

Band Review: Amanda Shires

Amanda Shires is an Americana musician from Texas with a long career for her relatively young age. At 36, she has been playing professionally since the age of 15; more than half of her life.

I was not previously aware of her until hearing about some reviews for her new album, To the Sunset. Coming at this review with fresh eyes, it has been interesting to spend time on her four most recent solo albums, spanning from 2011 to today.

It is hard to imagine anything prettier than "Sloe Gin" and "Kudzu", from her 2011 album, Carrying Lightning. The songs are beautifully accented with violin, which Shires has been playing since ten.

Those songs are the ones I responded to the most while listening. I nonetheless appreciate an evolution over time as other styles and instruments have been incorporated. Guitar has become more pronounced - and more electric - over the course of the albums. To the Sunset's cover photo has a blurred and alien look. The opening track, "Parking Lot Pirouettes", starts with some distortion, and feels more plugged in than her earlier work. There is musical growth, which I appreciate.

There is still a continuity of feeling and heart, and a connection the past. "A Song for Leonard Cohen" is present, but knows its roots.

Shires has an interesting voice, resonant but also bird-like, somewhat reminiscent of Dolly Parton. Between that and violin and guitar, there are good combinations of melody and harmony.

There are several performances scheduled between now and September 30th, giving a good chance of catching Shires on the road. If that is not possible, it is certainly reasonable to check out To the Sunset, but it would be a shame to stop there. As an artist she has a lot to offer.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Band Review: Hightown Parade

Hightown Parade followed me last month. I am reviewing them earlier than I usually do, but that's how the schedule worked out.

There are currently only two songs available, but they are both really good. From the band's own description, one of the things they claim is "a vigorous dialogue between guitar and piano"- which is thoroughly established on "Choose".

Then you don't really hear the piano on "Silhouette". It doesn't need it because the guitars are fantastic, but comparing the two songs - and only having those two - makes you wonder where the band is going to go. Many good directions seem possible.

Overall I like the band's energy. It comes from all directions on instruments, but it is hard to overlook the intensity of Chris Payn on vocals. I get some flashes of a young Michael Hutchence, though I would not say that Hightown Parade sounds like INXS.

They do sound good, nonetheless, and worth keeping an ear on. They have several dates scheduled in England for November, available on the band's Facebook page.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Honestly loved

A month and a half ago, someone told me he loved me and I told him that I loved him too.

There is a limit to the amount of detail I am going to give on that, but I will give some background.

We have known each other - without frequently being around each other - for five years. I was attracted to him but learned he was married so was mortified; both for not realizing it and then just for having the feelings. I worked really hard to get over that, and then when I could just like him as a person it was a relief. (He never knew any of that.)

Two fairly significant changes along the way included him getting divorced and my non-platonic feelings coming back hard. The latter had no influence on the former, but the former probably had something to do with the latter.

We happened to see each other twice within a few months, which never happens. The first time, although I did not confess love or anything like that, I did overshare and then felt really weird and stupid about that. In retrospect, I think the overshare - which was essentially admitting that my life is super hard right now - allowed him to also open up about his own problems, and that might be how we got to "I love you."

There is a lot that is up in the air there. We probably should have talked more that night, but it felt so heavy, and there was so much else going on, that there is still a lot to be said. There are a lot of obstacles, including but not limited to us both being at low points in our lives with lots of obligations and not lots of money and also about 2600 miles between us, so don't get too excited.

At the same time, I've had my fair share of euphoria with it. I can be doing many other things, mostly staying on track, but there is still a chorus of his name in my head. There is the memory of him saying "I love you." There is the concern sometimes that I said it back a little too immediately and adamantly. However, there is also the fact that as implausible as it was, when I was anticipating seeing him that night, among the many thoughts that went through my head was "You know, it's important for a lot of guys that they are first to say 'I love you', so you should let him go first." It hadn't seemed like an immediate need.

There is a lot to be figured out, and to think about, but what I want to say most at this point is really about me.

People who have been reading for a while know that I have really been trying to work on myself, and heal, and be better, and a lot of that has really started to come to fruition this year. I tend to believe that if the healing had not happened, then this could not have happened.

I don't mean to make any grand claims; I know that people with gaping holes in their self-esteem end up in relationships all the time, but I haven't. If me being open the last time that we saw each other allowed him to be open this time, I was only able to be open because of some of the things I'd worked through. And all of that progress is what allowed me to just reciprocate his love instead of possibly saying and definitely thinking "Why? Aren't you worried you can do better?"

(Which would be a terrible thing to say to someone you love who loves you, but it is a place that is mentally easy to go.)

My life started with a sense that there was something wrong with me, and at 14 it crystallized into understanding that I was fat and no one could ever love me, and especially if a boy seemed to love me it was a joke. I tried to compensate for that by being really good and helpful, but my main hope was that some day I would lose weight. None of the attempts worked, but I just wasn't good enough yet. Someday I would make it, and then I could have love and it would be okay. I loved people, but I kept my hope locked up and hidden, and repeatedly failed to lose weight.

At 31 I let my guard down and hope in, but I was wrong. The confirmation that the years of boxed up pain and fear were right made me want to die. Eventually I got to understand that was wrong, but believing it, and acting like it, was still really hard. It took me until 46. The real progress probably didn't start until 41, with depressed teen girls and the long reading list and My Chemical Romance. It's taken reading, and writing, and praying, and a year of selfies, and learning to let myself say "I hate" and be angry. All of that just to be able to say "I love".

I have had my fair share of doubts - "What if he just meant that he loved me as a friend?" And that would kind of suck, but it wouldn't break me the way the false hopes at 31 did. I am better now.

You cannot know how much it means to me that he told me he loved me in this state: broke, fat, and so utterly me. I have never been super cute, but I have been better looking than this. I have definitely been better off financially than this. The only thing to be into now is me. Somehow that is still worthy of being loved. I know it's right now too, though I still understand that not everyone gets it.

When I saw him in March, he asked me something that got me thinking, and I had some important realizations there. This time what he told me did too. Whatever happens from here, he has been good for me. I think I have been good for him. We could be friends.

And I don't want to be only friends; let's not have any lack of clarity there. But for while we are in this in between time, even if nothing else happens, I am happy that this happened. I love the euphoria, and I love the more practical realization of how much I have grown.

I am grateful for him. I am grateful for me. Soon I hope I can be grateful for us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

My Twitter moment

Okay, it wasn't really my moment; I was just a part of the moment.

It started with a tweet in January from @_EmperorJustin_ (I don't know him): "Still haven’t forgiven Zooey Deschanel for what she did to Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 500 Days of Summer."

It did get a fair amount of likes and retweets, and he pinned it, which may account for Joseph Gordon-Levitt seeing it and quote-tweeting it on August 6th:

"Watch it again. It’s mostly Tom’s fault. He’s projecting. He’s not listening. He’s selfish. Luckily he grows by the end."

This resonated with a lot of people, but it is also something I had thought about a lot. I could see that Summer was being very insensitive and callous, but she had been honest about her intentions, and Tom was the one who'd said he was okay with casual. I added my two cents:

"It's true that he lied about being okay with casual, but I think a lot of people relate to that, hoping the other person will change their mind. It may be the realest thing in cinema that she doesn't."

That got a lot of traffic. To date it has 104 retweets and 2077 likes. That is huge for me. I think it was still around just 1000 likes when I got the Twitter moment notification.

For some perspective, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's tweet got 45000 retweets and 177000 likes, but also he has 4.2 million followers to my 1322 so the reach is completely different anyway. Part of what made it interesting for me is that I don't think there are any of my followers in those numbers. If they are, they are a small percentage. But that's the thing, the moment is about that thread and movie, not about me. (It is a bit about Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

Currently there is a thing going on now where if someone has a tweet blow up, they will add a link to their Soundcloud, or if they don't have one, maybe they will promote a charity or something, because people are looking. I had just joked about that on July 30th, tweeting that I do have a Soundcloud but I wasn't sharing it yet because the protocol is to wait until a tweet goes viral. Ah, so this is what that feels like.

I still didn't share it. That is partly because I am not sure that the logic works out. Yes, a lot of people have looked at it, but by the time I realize it is happening it could be mostly over. If the momentum is still going, maybe more people will come, but them being interested in the one thing doesn't mean that it will carry over to other things.

(Also, at this time my Soundcloud has exactly three short songs that I did for the Music for Wellness class. At some point I hope to put up other things, but sending people there now is not likely to cause them to want to revisit it.)

What really made me interested in this moment - other than my normal tendency to notice something and be curious about various aspects (especially quantifiable things) - were the replies. I get that a lot of people relate to being more into someone, and hoping it will change; many likes were because of that. The other part, though, about how real it is that it doesn't work; that was more interesting. I didn't even realize how much I meant it until I typed it. That is not how we expect movies to work, especially when it's about a likable man in pursuit of his dream girl.

(A good reply from @_youngTenderoni has 865 likes and 14 retweets.)

There's a whole bunch there, including how dream girl sounds more natural than dream woman, yet man still sounds more right than boy. There are ways in which it might be perfect that the quintessential manic pixie dream girl herself, Zooey Deschanel, was cast as Summer.

For my own thoughts, I worried that forget the Soundcloud, I should post a clarification that I didn't endorse Tom's self-deception. I did not add any thing to it. That tweet did pretty well as was. I don't need to add anything to it, but I still wanted to blog about it.

What I am really left with in doing that is the importance of honesty in relationships, of course, but what is so necessary with that is to be honest with yourself. Tom certainly knew that he wanted a deeper relationship with Summer, but he also might have told himself that he would be okay with casual. It seems pretty clear that he did not stop to honestly assess how he would deal with the one-sidedness of the relationship. It allowed for great moments, and an awesome musical number, but there was also a lot of frustration and pain, and him being a real jerk on that other date.

It's not like it's off-brand of me to write about the need for introspection and honesty and really knowing yourself and then acting with integrity based on that. This still seems like a good chance to do it again. If you can know yourself and your needs and your limits, you can build a better relationship with someone else. If you can honestly know that the attraction you feel - no matter how intense - will not prevent some things from being miserable, then you can make honest choices about how to proceed. There can be less hurting of other people and less setting yourself up for pain. It doesn't mean there isn't going to be any pain, but it helps.

And tomorrow I shall write a little bit about where that has gotten me, not with all of the details but still with some juiciness.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Black Panther as political commentary

It was the giant vibranium deposit - from a meteorite - that allowed Wakanda to become so technologically advanced, but it was their geographical isolation that saved them from colonialism.

Hiding their advanced technology made sense as a way of keeping colonizers and others interested in exploitation out, but it had never occurred to me that their isolationism meant not interfering in the slave trade.

Honestly, that seemed to be more of a movie thing, as I believe in the comics the real technological advances did not come until the time of T'Chaka, T'Challa's father. Even if that can't be quite as long ago as WWII-era now (if you do the math), it would still be well after the Atlantic slave trade and most of colonialism. The movie implied that Wakanda had watched all of that and let it happen to remain protected, which at least for me gave kind of a sinking feeling. Still, you had a smaller and more recent example with Killmonger.

In the movie, T'Chaka's brother was in America, and was selling vibranium in order to fund Black liberation groups, putting Wakanda's privacy at risk. T'Chaka came to return N'Jobu to Wakanda, but he resisted and was killed. A young Eric (N'Jadaka) returned to find his father dead.

I suppose it is logical that this Killmonger would be against both the colonizers and the royal family. When dying, he asks to be placed in the Atlantic, along with those who did not survive the Middle Passage.

Understandable, but the path that has gotten him there has involved training with the CIA and sowing turmoil in many countries on the behalf of the government. His body is covered with scars commemorating his kills. His ultimate plan is destruction and chaos. After he takes the heart-shaped herb he demands that the rest of the herbs be destroyed. There is no plan of succession; a hallmark of fascist leaders. While he will gladly destroy many who have held back others of his race, there is no reason to believe that there is a plan for after that. It is ultimately nihilistic.

I can feel sympathy. His father's death was a great loss at an impressionable age. One of the things I hate most in the books is when Preyy (a leopard he has bonded with) dies. Killmonger had been on his way to something better, and it seemed like it could work until that relationship loss. No one doubts that he has suffered, but it has caused him to lose empathy instead of growing it.

(There is a good Atlantic article about this:

Unsurprisingly, this makes Black women his frequent targets, shooting, choking, and stabbing them, even the one who loved him. Mainly what I think of with him is that the master's tools cannot be used to destroy the master's house.

But for all his wrongness, it doesn't mean that the questions Killmonger raises are wrong. What is our responsibility to each other? How much do we put ourselves are risk to save others?

Sometimes those questions have difficult answers (though it is hard not to think that providing a home for the little boy they just orphaned could have been a good start). We have another example, though, with Nakia.

She is also against the isolation, but for her that means going and rescuing some kidnapped girls, and paying attention to a young boy among the kidnappers who may not be hardened yet. She starts with her knowledge and her abilities and goes to make a difference. She is also the one who rescues one heart-shaped herb, respecting tradition and hoping for the future while she does something concrete in the present.

It should be a completely obvious thing, but the world is turned upside down now, so maybe it isn't. Destruction needs to be healed, not amplified. Taking down tyranny can be fine, but has it ended misery, or are people still hungry, poor, and sick?

The traditional Masai greeting and response is an inquiry about children:

And how are the children?
All the children are well.

That can even be exchanged among childless people, because it's not about specific individuals, but that for things to be well, the children must be well.

To change what is wrong, that's a good starting place.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Band Review: Culture Abuse

This is my second band with a fuzzy sound this week. I would call it a coincidence, but both bands were recommendations, and the guys who recommended them have played together, so that probably makes it less surprising.

In this case, Culture Abuse was recommended by Gerard Way, but I remember seeing praise for their 2016 album Peach from many people (a sad reminder of how long some bands languish on the Recommended list).

Having listened, I totally get the praise for Peach. It starts in with an infectious energy on "Chinatown" (the band is based in San Francisco), moves right in to "Jealousy" - probably my favorite track - and stays strong all the way through a solid conclusion of "Yuckies" and "Heavy Love". Therefore it is not just that the individual songs are good, but also that the arrangement and the connections build well, something I always appreciate.

As good as Peach is, waiting to review Culture Abuse means that I can also include Bay Dream, which I believe is thematically stronger. Maybe it is just more personal.

The fuzz of the sound does make me think of some emo, but what it reminds me of most is punk. They would not be defined as punk based on tempo or reliance on a few simple chords. (At least I don't think so; my ear isn't really good enough to tell.) However, I feel a combination of sad subject matter becoming musically celebratory. Without being able to tell you that a single song sounds like the Ramones' "Beat On The Brat", that is what I think of: this sucks but we are all right. The need for that music never goes away.

I especially want to recommend "Calm E","Peace On Earth", and "Dave's Not Here (I Got the Stuff Man)", even though I think that last one is a drug reference.

I can really imagine fans of Weezer enjoying Culture Abuse, but also - and I'm probably only thinking it because of "Bluebird On My Shoulder" but that doesn't mean it's wrong - fans of They Might Be Giants.

Or, you know, fans of good music, but that's sort of unhelpfully broad.

Culture Abuse has tour dates starting September 7th. Check them out.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Band Review: Cooler

Cooler was recommended by James Dewees, whom I believe got to see them live in February.

The Buffalo-based indie-emo band has a 2016 EP called Phantom Phuzz, and that title may contain the essence of the band.

It's not just the use of distortion, though that is noticeable. It is also the way some songs trail off (especially on "Nostalgia"), and how sometimes things sound far away; there can be ghosts out there, and you may hear them in the songs.

That is not that the tracks sound particularly supernatural either. It is more a sense of past and memories and feelings that have been unresolved being pulled forward. There is pain, but it can be released.

I enjoyed the older tracks, but 2018's Buried EP is strong. I especially liked the title track and "Quadrillion". For Phantom Phuzz, "Metal Moths" is pretty cool.

One point of clarification: I was first directed to bass player Alley's Instagram, @coolermood, and initially thought that was the name. If you search on "cooler mood", you get led to a different Bandcamp page, for Philadelphia band Small Circle. (And hey, I might just end up reviewing them too, so it's not a problem, but the name of the band is this review is just Cooler.)

It's worth noting that while Buried  and Phantom Phuzz can be found in multiple sources, it looks like 1993 - with the pretty rocking "Stay" - is only available through Cooler's Bandcamp. Also, whenever I clicked play on an EP on Bandcamp, it would skip the first track, so click on the first track for complete listening.

That's all I've got! Relevant links are listed below.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Black Panther as celebration

There were two other ways in which the movie improved on the comic books (in my opinion, obviously).

While I initially liked Ross in the books, he gradually got more whiny and more annoying. Learning that he was based on Chandler but named after Ross made total sense, but it didn't help. When Martin Freeman was being such a prig in Captain America: Civil War I was glad to know that Ross tends to receive a lot of aggravation. It felt like he was going to deserve it.

Seeing him terribly vulnerable, amazed, excited, and rising to the occasion later all worked to let me find him likable. Probably him taking the horrifying injury for Nakia should have done it, but really it was everything after that. (One reason I would really like to watch the movie again is see if it was necessary. I'd kind of be surprised if she needed the help. It seemed like she did, but it all happened pretty fast.)

That amazement as Ross viewed Wakandan technology leads to the other correction.

In the books they always referred to Wakanda as the most technologically advanced nation on Earth, but in the movies everyone was expecting them to be backwards. In the world of the movie, it made a lot more sense that they could be so technologically advanced and keep it totally hidden. You literally saw the mechanisms in place that did the hiding and they were remarkably effective and visually stunning.

In this landscape it was also possible to believe that all the Wakandan citizens were doing well with the technology; not just some. Even the Jabari - who had separated themselves from the rest of society - seemed to be doing fine.

I mentioned yesterday that in the books T'Challa was too perfect, and that it made everything else worse. Part of that was that one of T'Challa's strengths was that he was always ten steps ahead of everyone else, but he still needs conflicts for dramatic purpose, so really messed up things happen that wouldn't be predictable. Also he is always in the States being an Avenger but needs to come back because there are terrible problems in Wakanda. Based on the things they say about Wakanda, it should be better run.

Much of that goes back to the problem common to superhero comics in general - why don't all of these powers fix anything? The stories keep getting bigger and bigger and repeat and it doesn't seem to get anywhere, until it becomes so obvious that you reboot everything - it gets frustrating.

In the case of Black Panther I believe there were extra constraints because of a desire to present Africa and T'Challa positively, but then not knowing how to keep that balanced. (Hence too much annoyingly imperfect Ross. Also, there were probably some issues with internalized racism.)

Therefore it is an incredible triumph to see a strong African country not stunted by colonialism. It was a joy to find the Dora Milaje accomplished and fierce, but still able to have personal lives. It was important to see textiles inspired by kente cloth and traditional beading techniques and tattoos and even lip disks. (Ruth Carter is the best and there is more on that at A lot of the cast and crew were American, but the movie is gloriously and purposefully African, and it's needed.

A friend asked me if I had seen anything focusing on the women in Black Panther, because they are so awesome. Everything that did was specifically focusing on Black women, because that is a more significant niche in this case. Black women do not get enough love, but this movie loves them.

(Speaking of the women, does anyone know if Ramonda is still the stepmother, or is she just the mother? I was never sure that her being the step-mother served any purpose except as a red herring to believe she could be conspiring against T'Challa.)

And that makes two more things about the movie that I mentioned yesterday more significant.

I prefer the movie's Nakia not merely because I love Lupita Nyong'o', but because I was glad to have all of the Black women be positive figures. I was glad to have the ridiculous villain be Klaue instead of Achebe not only because I am not sure how his puppet Daki would translate to the screen, but also because it is appropriate here to have a white villain, and to have him fall to the Black villain.

But Killmonger is going to need his own post.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Black Panther as an adaptation

Let's talk about movies a little.

As exciting as the Black Panther movie sounded, I had concerns about seeing it because I have never liked the books that much. That was a foolish worry; it's when you adore books that adaptations fill you with rage and disappointment!

Regardless, this worked well, and I wanted to spend some time on why it worked for me.

(There are some spoilers here, but even more there geeking out comparing the comics to the movie that may not make sense to people who have not read the books.)

First of all, for successfully incorporating comic book fantasy into a movie, I loved the way the absorbed energy was displayed in the suit. Being able to store the power of absorbed attacks is a cool idea anyway, but then as the purple potential energy spread it built excitement for the upcoming release of kinetic energy. It's a minor thing I suppose, but I thought it worked well.

Little touches can mean a lot. One of my favorite laughs was when Ross asks Klaue if he has a Soundcloud; he thinks he is being sarcastic, but he isn't. In a few years that joke may not be funny, but then it was. Also, it made Klaue goofier, which meant that they didn't need Achebe to get that element in. Honestly, I think it would be hard to make Achebe work onscreen. With Klaue as one type of danger, and Killmonger as another, the antagonistic elements were well-balanced.

Speaking of changing up your villains, the biggest change was Nakia. Instead of being the love-obsessed but kind of doomed to it villain, here Nakia is basically Storm, but with highly trained warrior powers rather than mutant powers. Recent mergers could allow X-men crossovers, but I like this Nakia.

To fix her they had to fix the Dora Milaje, and they did. It was in Queen Divine Justice's arc that the books really showed what a twisted position it is to be a Dora Milaje, not even being allowed to speak to other people, intended for the prince, but never really going to be with the prince. It's a horrible situation, and only really works as a male fantasy.

Here they are highly dedicated warriors, but they have their own lives too. They may choose their jobs over their husbands under the right circumstances (like if your husband chooses Killmonger over T'Challa), but it still seems like a much better life.

(I love Okoye!)

The movie Nakia has been through that training, but left to do more good and serve a broader purpose. I like that she inspires T'Challa but also leaves him with a weak spot.

That leads to the best part of all: I loved Shuri.

One of the things that never worked for me in the books is that T'Challa is too perfect, but without it paying off. He eventually solves problems but they keep coming up, but it isn't from personal weaknesses because they stripped all of those away. It makes everything else in the fictional world worse.

It's amazing how much a teasing little sister can lighten up a dourly idealized hero. I know she does appear in some books, but I have not read any of those. I hope she lightens up the books as much as she does the movie, but at least she does lighten up the movie.

I think I want to appreciate the movie from a different direction tomorrow, but first of all I am going to mention the part that I completely missed the significance of until later, because I admit my weaknesses.

I stayed for the after credits scene. I heard White Wolf and thought "cool". I understood that it gave a context to Shuri's line about T'Challa bringing her another broken white boy.

I did not recognize that he was Sebastian Stan. I just got curious later about who played him and looked it up. Oh. I guess he's unfrozen now.

At least it made sense when I saw Infinity War.

Monday, August 06, 2018


Back in 2012 I got onto Twitter, almost accidentally. I got onto Facebook in late 2008, though that was deliberate. I'm just not really an early adopter when it comes to social media. Anyway, I am now accidentally on Instagram.

Maybe "accident" is the wrong word, but "on" is probably incorrect also. Let me explain.

I got onto Twitter because public figures that I was interested in were not on Facebook. Some people that are on Twitter also seem to use Instagram more, and do more interesting things with it. I would often click on links to photos. At one point I even looked into creating an account, but you needed to download the application to your phone. That required choosing which version depending on your phone type. My internet access is all through a PC, so an account clearly wasn't meant to be, but I could still click on tweeted links.

A few days ago I clicked on one link, and I got curious about something related. I clicked on something for the profile that posted that picture and was prompted to log in, but there was also an option for signing up.

Without having the app, I found that interesting. Yes, you can sign up on a PC, without installing anything. Then the fun part was finding that all my logins were already taken. Granted, it was six years ago, but one of the reasons the phrase "sultryglebe" appealed to me was that I didn't think anyone else would be attached to it. It worked for Twitter, but not for Instagram. I had not intended to be "sporktastic" on Blogger; it just happened after everything else I had thought of was already in use.

I ended up as "thesultriestglebe", which I now have sincere doubts about that, especially as I almost immediately started gaining followers. (They all appear to be people I already know via Facebook or Twitter).

I have been thinking about exiting Facebook for some time, based on privacy issues and the deep penetration of Russian trolls. However, I value the connection with people, and it would be hard to recreate that. Instagram wasn't really going to be the answer anyway, because they are a part of Facebook, but also, you still need that app.

I do have an Instagram profile now, and I have 14 followers. I have no ability to post a picture. It looked like it was going to allow me to upload a profile photo from my PC, but didn't work. So I guess the big change is that I can now comment on photos.

Obviously, I could change all of that with a phone upgrade, though this hardly seems like the time for that. There is the money/plan issue, but also I feel like one of the really good things about my life is that when I am away from the computer I am truly unplugged.

I do not doubt that #365feministselfie would be easier from a phone that the current process, but I continue in my own process of slowly embracing technology in a peaceful way.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Album Review: The Secret Cinematic Sounds of Jimmy Urine

It's been a while since the MSI album and concert, so my memory may have dulled, but I feel safe saying that it sounded nothing like Jimmy Urine solo.

That's not too surprising; there was never any reason to think that MSI's sound would be the only or truest expression of any of its members. It does make listening to The Secret Cinematic Sounds of Jimmy Urine pretty fascinating.

There is a strong '80s influence, with some of the songs having been written long ago. One review mentioned that "Salome" could go right on to the Heathers  soundtrack, but I say "Not For Me" sounds like the middle of a John Hughes film, when everyone is getting all broody on their way to the actions that will shake them out of their respective funks and bring on the upbeat music.

I particularly loved "Patty Hearst" and "Fighting With The Melody" - for different reasons - but I have to give special attention to "All Together Friends Forever". It sounds like the theme song of a children's show, but the kids in the audience are children of the corn or something. Maybe you can't put your finger on why it's creepy, but it is creepy, and that lack of definition makes it more unsettling.

(There is an associated short film. I'm sure it would give one explanation for the creepiness, I'm not sure I want the mystery solved.)

All of this leaves me really wishing for artist commentary: what inspired each track? What does it mean to you? What movies or video games would they go to? I believe Jimmy would give answers that were interesting, insightful, and fabulously odd.

That is why I was looking at other reviews. I usually don't, but I was left wanting to know more. I didn't find much, so that just leaves me with listening and extrapolation.

It could be worse.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Band Review: Flam!

Three years ago I reviewed The Paul & John, a San Francisco rock duo featuring Paul Myers.

I knew at the time that it was not Myers' first musical project, but more of his past work is now available, including a Bandcamp page now for Flam!.

I don't know if it is the name source, but one definition of "flam" is a rudimentary drumming pattern, with a stroke preceded by a grace note.

There are many grace notes in the Flam! compositions. Myers describes them as musical meditations that started when he was experimenting with software. Not all of the tracks are upbeat, but there is a freedom and playfulness that comes through in many.

I especially responded to the funk in "The Threat Down", and to "The Place Where We Shared Our Truths". That one is full of little grace notes. "Islands to Plunder" has a quasi-industrial sound.

Myers has indicated that there is more to come, but currently I could only find ten tracks on Bandcamp and one additional arrangement on Youtube:

However, I am also happy to report that on the Bandcamp page he has also included the original album from The Gravelberries, including some bonus tracks. I am not including it as part of this review, but of course I listened to it. I mean, why wouldn't you?

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

For good people to do nothing

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke 

One of my Black History month books for 2018 was The Strange Career of Jim Crow by C. Vann Woodward. I didn't love it.

The original publication date was 1955, and the book is very much in that older droning style, where everything feels long and boring. I think that was an academic rule then, like it wouldn't feel right to make a history book interesting, no matter how interesting the events were. Perhaps that is my age showing.

Even worse, my newer version had some notes added later, trying to account for the Civil Rights movement and the civil unrest of the 60s. There were some wonderful testimonials of his goodness and commitment to equality in the book, which I think were a reaction to Woodward becoming more conservative later. I don't doubt the sincerity of the man in 1955, but I immediately noticed the growing paternalism in his later writing. I don't know if that has to be held against the earlier writings, but I'm sure that denial doesn't help.

Actually, in that way, C. Vann Woodward may have most efficiently argued his own point.

The 1955 parts of The Strange Career of Jim Crow contain information on the ten to twenty years right after emancipation. It is a fairly short work, so there is nothing about debt peonage or attempts to keep freed people working on their old plantations. To be fair, it is more of an urban work, and some of the worst examples of fighting against emancipation come from rural areas. I suspect Woodward was overly optimistic, but could have been worse. Regardless, Woodward found several examples of the races mingling harmoniously in the South during Reconstruction.

Part of that is pointing out that in some ways the South was - if not less racist - at least more used to frequent contact between Black and white people than the North. Slavery did allow for frequent contact, and Woodward's argument was that once Black people were free they integrated fairly well.

As much as I suspect that he missed some key points in deciding that, it was clear that at least some people were fine sharing rail cars and public areas, and I am willing to believe that was true. What was more important was that there were always some people working against it. A vocal minority worked hard to stir up dissent, lobby, and do anything possible to reverse gains in equality.

In that way it seems like the book would have been more about the birth of Jim Crow rather than the career, but his point was that it was a Northern import.

(I suddenly wonder how much Woodward accepted the Lost Cause school of thought, but I don't know and finding out isn't a priority right now.)

The strongest lesson that I took from the book is that even if the majority of people are fine with progress, there will always be some working against it. Complacency lets them succeed.

That is why not talking about racism to avoid making anyone uncomfortable doesn't work. That is why waiting for the old racist generation to die out doesn't work. They are continuously undermining and require active countermeasures. It is lovely to think that people are basically good and won't fall for that, but there has been plenty of evidence to the contrary, even before 2016.

The C Vann Woodward of 1955 appeared to be striving for equality, sometimes making his case to hostile audiences, but generally remaining very pleasant. When things got unpleasant in that fight for equality, he started blaming outsiders (West Indians especially) and wondering if certain actions were really necessary. He praised Dinesh D'Souza and spoke against the hiring of John Hope Franklin as being racially motivated, despite the fact that Franklin was an excellent historian doing important work. There is no indication that Woodward saw the irony, and plenty of people still thought he was a great guy.

Equality doesn't come easily. It requires a fight. It requires grappling with racism, no matter how many people get offended at admissions that racism exists and that they may have been affected by it.

You will find a lot of think pieces out there right now suggested otherwise, but they are ignoring history.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Golden Girls were right

I got some unexpected context for an episode of The Golden Girls yesterday.

We did not watch it regularly growing up, but have come to enjoy it via syndicated reruns. We have gotten into some of our favorite shows that way.

This episode was "Dorothy's New Friend", Season 3, episode 15, first airing January 16th, 1988.

(As this was the day before my 16th birthday, I remember quite clearly that I was at a dance that was my first official date, and boring enough to make me wish I had waited until I was officially 16 for that first date. But I definitely didn't watch TV that night.)

In the episode, Dorothy makes friends with a writer played by Bonnie Bartlett, whom you may remember as the Widow Snider who married Mr. Edwards on Little House on the Prairie, but eventually left him over his alcoholism after their oldest adopted son's murder drove him back into the bottle. I guess we should have realized she was going to be unreliable.

Barbara Thorndyke gives Dorothy sparkling conversation and entry into literary circles, but is a snob who keeps subtly insulting Blanche and Rose. The last straw is when Dorothy discovers that the club they were going to go to is restricted, so Sophia's date would not be allowed in: Murray Guttman is Jewish.

I don't know how long ago it was that we first saw the episode, but I think I felt like that conflict made Barbara kind of cartoonishly bad. Restricted country clubs were from the '60s. Golden Girls was the '80s. Anyone who was still doing that had to have some problems.

Well, yes, I still think that, but those problems were more common than I thought.

I just finished A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness and a Trove of Letters Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression by Ted Gup. Gup's grandfather Sam Stone had set up a bank account under an assumed name and put an ad in the paper offering to send help to those who needed it. He initially planned to send 75 people $10 each, but there were so many applicants that he halved it to $5 for 150 people. The title oversells it a little.

Stone's family were Jews from Romania who had to flee the country when antisemitic persecution increased. He spent time in Pittsburgh, then Canton, Ohio where the gift-giving took place, eventually having enough money to winter in Florida.

That was in the '50s, so perhaps it not so surprising that he ended up next to a restricted apartment building. I guess it's not quite the same as a red-lined neighborhood - Jews can be on the street, just not in this building - but okay, that is before the main thrust of the Civil Rights Movement, so maybe we should expect things to be bad.

Except one of those building residents married the author's mother, obtaining an exemption for her to live in the building. Sign that they weren't really that committed to racism? Or maybe not, because his country club, La Gorce, did not end its restrictions until 1990.

La Gorce is in Miami Beach. A restricted country club in Miami in 1988 really wasn't that far-fetched.

When Dorothy expresses her disbelief, Barbara says it's the club's policy, not hers. Besides, they serve a great breakfast and the parking is free.

It does sound less cartoonish now, but it also sounds more damning. How could you ever think that free parking is a good reason to overlook racism?

I view the episode differently now; as braver, and more necessary. It was made at a time when pressure needed to be applied, and was getting close to paying off. I never doubted the need for the "Fore" episode of Designing Women, when Anthony is recruited into the country club to try and avoid sanctions. I knew about that kind of racism, but there's always more.

To be fair, my family has never been likely to join a country club. Also, this area has been so opposite of integrated that it would be easy to not even know if there were restrictions. All through my school years I only knew three Jewish families, and I never knew of them being excluded. I probably wouldn't. My naivete lasted a while.

Still, sometimes you find things out, and then you need to take a stand. Beyond that, I have reached a point where I believe I need to work harder to find things out. There are a lot of things that might not affect me yet. That doesn't mean that they don't matter.

One irritating thing in the book was the author expressing some chagrin that some of his older relatives still feared antisemitism sweeping the country. The book was published in 2010. Do those relatives seem to have more of a point now?

I think I know what to write about tomorrow.

Monday, July 30, 2018

When selfies stick

I am doing #365feministselfie again. I started July 1st.

I went through a full year the first time, and then stopped, and it was good. Some people missed them after I stopped, but there are ways in which it's kind of a drag having one more thing to do each day, even though it's a relatively simple task.

I first became aware of it as a thing through, and the page administrator recently started doing it again, which she writes about here:

I have not been anywhere near as visible or active as her in anything, but her post resonated because I also feel the trend toward dehumanization, and dangers that come with it. I will write more about that later. I could see the value in asserting myself again as human and real and believing in the value of humanity and reality.

Again, there is some work to it, trying to keep it interesting, though maybe it doesn't need to be interesting. If there is a day that I leave the house, I try and capture that. Animals are good. Reading a lot of different things keeps the book selfies an option.

 One nice change is that it took me much less time to get used to how I look. I think the first time around it took about three months before I was okay with looking the way I do. This time it only took about a week.

There were also surprises, like seeing how much happier I looked after getting just a couple of hours of respite time. It kind of made me feel guilty, that it would affect me so much, but it did hit home how much I need it. I think it's visible.

Recently I got another reminder as I posted an unsmiling picture and got far fewer likes and one gentle encouragement to smile. No one means any harm, and no one even caused any harm, but yeah, women are supposed to smile. We get it in public, and posting the selfies is a way of being public.

But if this is about being a full and real person, I am not always wearing a radiant smile. I am an unpaid caretaker dealing with a progressive disease and my house is in foreclosure. I am sad and worried a lot. Though I acknowledge that my ability to frequently smile is noteworthy, and that my smile is good. Good teeth. I also haven't seen a dentist in about two years, which is a concern.

I get tired, and I keep my sense of humor most of the time. but I need the freedom to be fully human: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

 (I didn't know the pillow was doing that to my nose until I saw the picture, but that happens sometimes. It's life.)

There should still always be plenty of animal pictures.

(I'll get Mavis and Lilly in some shots eventually.)

Friday, July 27, 2018

Band Review: Split Single

Some time ago, someone retweeted Jason Narducy and I saw it and liked it.

Following a politically astute musician and adding him to the review list was of a no-brainer for me; discovering the sexiest elbows in rock music was just a bonus.

There was still the question of which act to review. Narducy has been in and performed with many bands, including Superchunk and the Bob Mould Band. However, Split Single is his solo project, and it is current, with new music coming out in Novemeber. That made it the most logical choice as an area of focus (though it does not rule out going back and checking out Verboten or Verbow some day).

Split Single was also a pleasant surprise.

I guess I was expecting it to be more punk. That wasn't even a lowered expectation - I love punk - but being caught off guard changes your perspective. I wasn't expecting the less aggressive, more indie sound. I'm tempted to say it was slower than I was expecting, but that could give the wrong impression about the energy of "Untry Love". I could say how thoughtful "Leave My Mind" is, but that could imply that I don't give punk credit for thinking.

Probably the best thing to do is just say that Split Single is really good! You should check it out!

Just for the record, though, "Monolith" does sound pretty punk.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Band Review: Thunderkief

Thunderkief is a doom/drone/sludge band from Austin, Texas. I am reviewing them after hearing about them from artist Becky Cloonan.

The doom/drone/sludge comes from their Facebook page. I started listening expecting more of a black metal vibe, but it was immediately sludge that came to mind. Not only that, I was immediately able to see the majesty of sludge. Their music oozes over and under all in its path so completely and so unapologetically.

I was not able to find a lot from Thunderkief; there is about 21 minutes worth on Bandcamp. It is still a strong introduction.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A wrinkle in storytelling

Having almost given up on the idea of organized blogging and clear sequences, I will be throwing in some thoughts on movies and other things in with the reviews of my Black History month reading. Today I want to write about A Wrinkle in Time.

I have read Madeline L'Engle's original trilogy multiple times. Okay, I did not know there were two other books until recently, but still, for those three I am a fan. I will probably check out the other two soon.

Anyway, I have affection for the book and I have a strong appreciation for Ava DuVernay (with multiple posts on Selma and Queen Sugar to back it up). I was looking forward to seeing it, but getting some reservations from negative feedback I was hearing.

I saw it and liked it. I did come away understanding better why some people would not like it or would react strongly against it, and some of that has to do with audiences. After yesterday's post, that seemed like a natural topic for today.

I need to talk about the differences between the movie and the book, so spoilers follow.

The twins are gone. To be honest, they never contributed that much, to the first book especially.

Meg's father is white, and may still be of Irish extraction, but Meg's mother is Black. Charles Wallace is adopted and appears to be of Asian extraction. Principal Jenkins is Black also.

Instead of working for the government and having disappeared that way, the father (whom we shall now refer to as Alex, because both parents are Dr. Murray) was doing independent research, and when he figured out how to tesser, he did it, winding up on the planet Uriel.

Instead of living far out in the country, they are in a more urban situation, with some rundown buildings but also some nicer houses. The leader of the mean girls has a view into the Murray backyard. Meg's initial squabble is not punching a boy making fun of her brother, but bouncing a ball at that girl, hard.

Calvin's problem isn't a large squabbling family, but a verbally abusive father who is always berating him.

That is a lot of redheads re-imagined as Black. That reminds me of something I read about the new Annie, in that the change made sense because the point of Annie being Irish was prejudice. Her red hair and Irish roots made her less appealing for adoption, but that doesn't have the same impact today. Blackness, on the other hand, can. It's something to think about.

Overall, though, something in 2018 should be more racially diverse than something from 1962. That shouldn't even be a question.

There was also a gender switch for the Happy Medium, and a flirtation between him and Mrs. Whatsit. I don't know that I cared strongly about that change one way or another.

The other changes are more essential, and this could be where some people struggle. That doesn't make them bad.

For example, with IT we saw illusions and then internal synapses, rather than even the best CGI depiction of a brain: cerebrum and cerebellum. I think that was necessary. The brain would have looked hokey, no matter how well-executed it was. What was done instead conveyed a brain without being cheesy.

That IT had control of what was essentially a virtual reality situation, rather than having control of an entire planet with people suffering, but having chosen to comply and conform through fear... okay, that may take away some food from thought. However, you don't have to worry about the little boy being re-educated to get the right rhythm for playing ball.

In this case, a planet Camazotz became The Camazotz, an evil force trying to spread its influence. That's an oversimplification of the struggle between good and evil, but for the adolescent target audience I think that can be okay. They are asked to join the fight, they can see that their flaws are not only allowable but powerful, and they can see that even the mean girl is hurting inside. (There is a small glimpse of how evil plays out.) Those are all things that can help.

My biggest objection was that the tessering kept getting messed up by Meg. The original plans could have made sense and been fine, but someone who was not comfortable with the process kept being able to direct others. I still don't hate it, because Meg's stubbornness is supposed to be a key personality trait. It is a powerful thing when she can decide she does not want the perfect version of her, that her brother loves her the way she is, and she can then go into a tesser smiling because that she will still be herself on the other side is fine. It's important for teens to know that.

Part of how they accomplish that is they do some dirt to Alex Murray. He not only chose to tesser away from his family, but he kept going, wanting to "shake hands with the universe" when he should have been holding Meg's.

It may not be a coincidence that the person I know who hated it most had a great father and lost him to death.

Is that necessary for the movie to work? Probably not, but the sense of abandonment crushes Meg in a way that she is not crushed in the book. I think this is where the twins become more than superfluous, because a family of three is concretely smaller than a family of five.

Alex Murray's carelessness and ego may not need to be the cause of his disappearance (also, he has been gone for longer here), but is it something that a lot of people can relate to? Sure. Is it worth reiterating that family is more important than high achievement, or is its own achievement? Sure.

Also, they make Charles Wallace really talkative in his precociousness, instead of so quiet. Frankly, having spent some time with various children, that kind of seems more realistic now.

And that's what I think the majority of the changes did; they made the material something that - even though it is speculative fiction - feels familiar to an audience of today. It is not a period piece.

I can support that.

Also, there was one thing that I loved that isn't so much a change as an embellishment. In this case both Dr. Murray's are not only scientists, but she has a micro focus and he has a macro focus, and that allows them to do better work together.


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Black History Month 2018 - Books about race

One of the interesting things about this round of reading was that I found books that I thought were really race-specific. Yes, that does sound horrible, but it's not.

Most of the books I read tend to be history books. That is partly due to a personal gravitation toward history, but also that history is good for teaching us about current conditions. History helps us understand what is going on and why it is that way, and helps us see the potential in our situation.

Therefore, if I am deciding whether or not to recommend a history book to others, that will be mainly based on how interesting it is, but a lot of that is readability. Did the author give enough background information so you don't need to come in with a lot of knowledge? Or did the author throw so much information out there that you will get bogged down and bored? (There were some books this cycle that were a lot of work. I'm not saying I regret reading them, but I'm not recommending them.)

There were some books in this reading cycle that focused on race, with history as a context but nonetheless mainly about how we are now. I find the audiences for those much more specific.

Debby Irving's Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race is a book for white people. Maybe a Black person who was adopted into a white family and has not had a chance to know many people of color would benefit from this book, but generally speaking if you are Black, you already know. You do not need this book.

There is nothing wrong with that. It's not an argument against the book. I think Irving does a pretty good job. I think the class she took that inspired the book sounds phenomenal, and that more people should take similar classes.

It is a little bit WASP-centered, which could be a turn-off for some. I am not sure if it would be helpful for non-Black people of color - it might inhabit an odd middle ground for them.

Probably the most useful thing about the book is that because Irving herself has had to start her own "waking up" process, she is gentle with others about it. So if you are the kind of white person whose hackles get raised when you hear people talking about racism and you do not believe you are racist (but maybe you have this nagging sense that you can't quite dismiss) this book is probably the best introduction for that.

(If you already accept institutional racism as a problem and have seen some of the issues, the third book is going to be more for you.)

Some of the most profound parts for me had to do with the aging parents, and communication with them. I think that can come in handy too.

If you are Black, you may really benefit from reading Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America's Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing. It takes all of the micro agressions and effects of slavery, red-lining, and discrimination, and how that can affect the people experiencing it. After acknowledging the issues, it does spend some time on strategies for dealing with it, but the bulk of the book is saying "Hey, this is there and it hurts us in ways we may not realize."

In that way, I suppose it is a book about mindfulness. Therefore when some of the solutions also become issues of mindfulness, there is a logic to that.

I found it interesting, but I suspect it would be much more profound for a Black person. Fellow white people, we may not get much out of it. I don't know about other people of color.

Again, I really think this is okay. Our life experiences result in different needs, and sometimes the answer is reading different books. However, I think the third book can be for everybody:

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

This isn't as gentle an exploration as Waking Up White, but it is really well-organized where the information builds up logically and makes a good case.  It is not overly lengthy and felt shorter because of the momentum it built. There is a wonderful clarity of communication, and I appreciate that she acknowledges the way she has been affected, like some initial discomfort in a park. I believe this book can benefit people of all races.

It is conceivable that some people who are sensitive on the racism topic will be offended. If that could be you, start with Irving and work your way up.

And if that doesn't seem like enough, don't worry! There are many more books out there. I recently read a review for a new one, Deconstructing White Privilege by Robin DiAngelo. It sounds like that one is for white progressives who believe that racism is common among other people, but that they are above it. I could be wrong about that, but if not, you probably don't know who you are. Read it so you can understand "other people" better.

Anyway, there is information out there. Even if not all books out there are for you, Oluo's book for sure, and quite possibly Irving's or DeGruy's book (depending) are for you. So that's a start.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Feedback cycles

I recently finished Vaclav Havel's The Power of the Powerless. It was pretty profound, and I actually read it twice before I considered it read just to make sure that I really got it. I still think I probably missed things.

There are times when I really wish I was still in a book club or a college class where I was discussing what I am studying with others. Different perspectives catch different things, which can be a shared advantage when we are studying together. Some of that has come from some of the online classes I have taken too. The discussion boards aren't quite like being in a classroom together, but they can still get you thinking.

I did just sign up for the Turkey Trot. You may remember that when I decided to do that I was in a support group for caregivers that was focusing on physical health. I had forgotten about previously set goals, but suddenly I remembered them, and they seemed feasible again.

That support group is actually part of a study, so we are periodically interviewed and asked about our actions and feelings over the past week, month, and three months. I think they are basically the same questions, but different things hit you at different times.

The answers we give are things like "frequently" or "rarely", but then I am thinking things like this:

No, I have not been keeping up with that. I really need to do better.

Yes, I actually am doing pretty well at that. I have improved some.

Wait, what?

I am pretty sure that it was just that I noticed this time, and not that they added new questions, but in terms of looking for relaxation, there were questions about seeking out images and sounds and smells.Really?

Perhaps I have been taking too narrow of a view of relaxation. Usually when I get some time for myself there is a long list of things I need to do, and if I am too tired for that I lie down with my eyes closed. Maybe that leads to sleep, but it's not guaranteed.

But yes, there is such a thing as aromatherapy. That could be relaxing. There are people who find white noise relaxing, and nature sounds and things like that. (I do play music a lot.)

I don't know that I would be more relaxed looking at and listening to a waterfall than not. I mean, if we are going to get technical a bigger problem might be the backlog of things I want done. However, different ideas can be worth trying. Frankly, my mother is starting to need more time; maybe making that multi-sensory would be more effective.

I have been having some other thoughts on caring for her, including someone I can ask for advice, so that's a separate topic. I may write more about that later.

Today's post is a reminder that ideas can come from elsewhere, and so we need to have interactions. We really can't do it all alone. Sometimes that even means knowing what we need to do. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Band Review: Ogikubo Station

Ogikubo Station consists of Mike Park - who runs Asian Man Records - and Maura Weaver.

Starting out with an intended one-time vocal collaboration between the two friends, it has since turned into an EP last year and now a full length album that will be out on August 24th.

I have been listening to both, and I am looking forward to the album being out. There is an interesting mix. Park has some history of supporting punk bands, but Ogikubo Station does not really sound punk, other than some fairly short song lengths. Some of the content does remind me of emotional hardcore (though there are broader topics too, even if treated in a personal manner), but the overall impression is more folk.

This may be due to the album, We Can Pretend Like, ending on the track "Let the World Know" which very much has the feel of earnest peace lovers calling us all together. It is not the only song that has that kind of feeling, but musically it is often more interesting than folk tends to be. There is something perfect about the way that "Strong As You" and "Weak Souls Walk Around Here" pair together. I love the intro to "Rest Before We Go To War".

Some of that makes me regret doing the review slightly over a month before the release (I scheduled the review before I knew the date), but I can point you to a few things now.

You can find two songs available on the Asian Man Records Youtube channel. That includes the title track for the new album, a single, "Take A Piece of All That's Good".

In addition, the S/T EP is available now, and can act as a preview. I especially like the musical accents on "Bound to Wear Thin" and "I'm Not a Racist". They go in different directions, but they both make you take notice.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Band Review: Ryan Doherty

Ryan Doherty is a guitarist based in Birmingham, England.

Focusing on ambient, blues, pop and rock, there is generally a dark and brooding quality to his music. The focus is on guitar, and that guitar is heavy.

Often the hints of other influences are fascinating. For example, the opening of "For Another Way" may make you think a little of Metallica or perhaps grunge, with little bits of Santana elsewhere, but "The Dream" really makes me think of Johnny Cash. I know that is something that many will be able to appreciate.

Most fascinating of all, "Right On" opens like a dark version of ABBA's "Knowing Me, Knowing You". With the current saturation of ads for Mamma Mia 2, dark ABBA sounds really intriguing.

At no point do these hints take over the sound - the music is Ryan Doherty's own - but it is interesting, and it makes listening interesting. Personally, my favorite track was "Suddenness".

Currently the Youtube link given is empty because Doherty recently had to change his account, but videos are available on his main page.

ETA: The new Youtube link is

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Some thoughts from When the Levees Broke

The full title is When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. I watched the all four acts, but also the bonus material, so some of what I may mention will come from that.

Let me tell you right now that this is not organized. For one thing, there was a lot there. Some things still come back at odd moments, so this is not going to be exhaustive in any way. Also, most of the things that I am going to bring out relate more to other issues. Watching the documentary is a good way to learn more about Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath, but for me - at least in this space - it has been food for thought for other things.

One actually already got mentioned in the Provident Living blog, in that even having the additional insurance for specific threats and having the government declare a disaster may not be enough. I don't have any good answers for that.

Another good lesson came from the son of one survivor who was not doing well until he set up a gathering of her friends. She needed emotional support, but the friends did too. I have an elderly mother, and even without going through that kind of destruction, she needs support. Younger people need their friends too. Putting back together a destroyed home and chasing down insurance and all of the physical needs makes for plenty of work, but a lack of fulfilling the emotional needs can be deadly too.

He saved his mother's life by getting her friends over. He realized it was necessary from watching other elderly survivors die off for no physical reason. It's hard to think of everything, I could feel guilty giving you one more thing to remember, but it's necessary. Since it is necessary, I'm glad I know.

I also had some thoughts about Sean Penn. He is in the movie. By his telling, he saw one person trying to locate his mother, and there was enough of a location given that it seemed possible. He headed out to try and find the mother, and ended up finding more people, at one time needing to dive in when someone trying to reach the boat went under.

Sean Penn has done some bad things, which I am not going to get into now. He has also done some questionable things that you could argue about. He has some issues. In this case, I still believe he did something good.

One of the ways in which many people seem to struggle with #metoo is that if they like someone personally, or know of good things that person has done, it becomes harder to accept that person doing anything bad. It happens. People do both. Sometimes they are on their way to something better. Sometimes they just can't get that some things are wrong, and all the excuse making on their behalf makes that worse. We can accept people being complicated without having to justify anything. That's just a reminder, because I feel like I have said that before.

Something that didn't strike me at the time because it was too early was that as they were evacuating people out of the city they just sent them anywhere, separating families. At the time the most obvious correlation was slave sales, because I watched the movie before we started ripping immigrant families apart without keeping track of who went where.

Okay, sometimes you have unaccompanied minors, or battered spouses fleeing their partners - I know there are exceptions. Generally, though, families want to stay together. It is easier and better to keep them together. It might have taken a little extra coordination then, but it would have made a lot of things easier later. Having your home destroyed, fleeing your homes... isn't that already enough trauma?

Finally, I am going back to the image of the Superdome (and the airport to a lesser extent) just full of trash. It looked so horrible, but there simply wasn't the capacity to process the trash. That was especially true with bringing in pre-packaged food for everyone, and with everyone needing temporary supplies. That made me think of the homeless population.

I see a lot of complaints about the trash downtown. I also see complaints about the urine and feces. I get it. I also know that when I was downtown recently I unwrapped something I had with me, and I had a really hard time finding somewhere to dispose of the wrapper. There used to be more cans. Granted, for every can you have, you have to have someone to empty it and somewhere to put what is emptied, but not having receptacles doesn't make the trash disappear. It actually makes it more visible.

I also know that when I want to use a bathroom that I don't like asking for a key or a punch code. If I really have to go, I do it, and I can, but it's not pleasant. (Also, sometimes for all that security it seems like those bathrooms should be nicer.)

So it just seems to me that we are setting homeless people up for failure. Sure, if someone poops in the middle of the sidewalk, that probably speaks more to anger than having nowhere else to go, but do you think having so few options for everything else might lead to anger? Do you think over-policing and contempt and constant struggle and lack of safety might lead to some anger? And do you think that more of the contempt and over-policing and attempts to just make them disappear - I know they need to be somewhere but not on my street - do you think those things lead us toward a good solution?

I'm not saying there are easy answers, but the anger against the homeless seems to assume more bad will on their part, and not from a fair assessment of the difficulties.

Anyway, those are some things I thought about after the documentary. There is a lot more that could be thought about, and I suspect other things that come up will take me back. For now, though, these thoughts will suffice.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

There's always more

I got a lot of thoughts from watching the two documentaries. I'm glad I did. It wasn't just a coincidence.

When I was reading March Book 3 there was a reference to two other deaths in the aftermath of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. I had never heard about Virgil Ware and Johnny Robinson.

The article is worth reading, but perhaps the key is to remember that this incident that looks horrible to us now was a matter of celebration then, at least for white people. So when some white Eagle Scouts were on their way back from a segregationist rally and they saw two Black boys riding a bike - and had a gun with them - they fired shots "to scare" and killed 13-year old Virgil Ware. And when some other white teens drove by a demonstration hurling slurs while wrapped in a Confederate flag and the protesters threw some rocks in response, police showed up and shot Johnny Robinson in the back. No one was charged for Robinson's death, and the Eagle scouts got probation only.

I have written previously (2015) about how the movie Selma  changed my mental picture of the bombing, including realizing that there were many more injuries. I still didn't know that there were more deaths.

That was why I needed to watch 4 Little Girls. Honestly I think it only mentioned one of the boys - probably Robinson, but I don't remember for sure. Still, it filled in other things.

I suddenly understood something I had read earlier about one of the names being wrong. Cynthia Wesley had been adopted, but the adoption was never formalized. Her birth siblings think she should be remembered as Cynthia Morris.

I don't doubt that the grief of the Wesleys was real. I also suspect some feelings of "what if?" for the Morris family. There could have been some complications from that if she had lived, but the death just leaves a hole.

I also don't remember the documentary covering much about the survivor, Sarah Collins Rudolph, but I believe that was in respect to her wishes.

Those were all things that I had kind of known or recently learned, that I was looking for when I watched the documentary. There was still a lot there that I was not prepared for, but that totally made sense. Of course there are grieving families, but there are also grieving friends. There were people who could have easily been killed and weren't; living is good but there are times when it can feel wrong.

And there is PTSD. Specifically I remember a sister having to identify her sister's body. Other people remember the parents doing the identification, and maybe there were multiple identifications. Maybe some people had some things happen and heard other things and their memory became not quite accurate but still all too real.

When I use the present tense, that is completely accurate. Some of the survivors have died now, but it really isn't that long ago: September 15th, 1963. 55 years. There is still pain being carried.

One of the books I read was called The Half Has Never Been Told. That title has a specific source, and has specific meaning to that book, but it was still a phrase that reverberated because there is always so much more.

Yes, the movie is 4 Little Girls, and that's the phrase in the song, "Birmingham Sunday". Four little girls are a reasonable focal point, but there is always more. It is four dead little girls, and two dead boys, and 22 injured physically, and countless others hurt mentally and wounded with grief.

There can be a broader lesson there, that you need to be careful with your actions because you can't know the full impact. That should be reason enough to be kind and generous, and let those things echo instead.

But it is very important to remember not just the pain, and not just that there were people who deliberately caused it, but also that there were people who celebrated that pain. There were people who used it as an excuse to cause more pain.

They're still around too.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Fooled us

Last week my sisters and I went to a TV sitcom trivia night.

It was overall a good experience. We had fun, and it was well-organized, and I will do a full report of that in the travel blog Saturday.

There was one little snag. I think putting it in the review would be unfairly prejudicial, but it is interesting in its own way and I want to spend some time on that.

One of the questions was a show that starred Ted Danson, Woody Harrelson, and Kelsey Grammer, and gave its premier date. That date was in 1972.

That couldn't be Cheers. Without knowing the exact date off of the top of my head, Cheers was in the '80s. There was no way it was Cheers, but it was and we got it wrong.

We wracked our brains over this, resolved to look it up when we got home, and found the premier date of the show to be September 30th, 1982. I wrote to the people who do the trivia, and they were very nice and apologetic. Ultimately, it was just a typo from when they entered the data, which is a very simple explanation.

What interests me in retrospect are the mental gymnastics we put into it. A typo makes the most sense. I make them all the time, much to my chagrin, but we didn't think of that. We knew Cheers  didn't start in 1972, so maybe some other show did. Woody Harrelson would have only been 11 in 1972 (I did not know that exactly, but I knew he would have been a kid), so could it have been some kids show? There was a Bad News Bears television series. On looking that up, it didn't start until 1979, but that's what we put.

That is far less logical. If you watched a lot of television shows over time, you will see different faces pop up again and again. For example, I have seen Jane Leeves in Throb before Frasier, and Crystal Bernard in It's A Living, Happy Days, and Wings. Still, you don't usually see the same people work together (other than special guest appearances) unless there is some kind of friendship issue going on, like with Michael Landon and Victor French.

This may be one reason why everyone else just put Cheers, but we think part of the issue may be that it was a younger crowd. I would guess that most of the people there were around 28, so born well after Cheers started, maybe even after it ended. They may have still seen episodes - a lot of early adults now have a strong affinity for Friends - but it doesn't end up firmly occupying the same place in time for them. No one else even seemed to blink at the date, but we were there in the '80s, and we know that's when Cheers started.

But we didn't know it started in 1982 specifically. If we had known that, the possibility of a typo might have occurred to us more easily. Also, if anyone else had done a double-take that would have provided some validation. Everyone accepting the wrong answer was very disconcerting, and of course we couldn't look it up then because we were playing a trivia contest.

I realize I may be making too much of this, but I just finished reading a book about cognitive fallacies and things, and in that context I have found this interesting and pertinent.

Also I overthink things. Regularly.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Musician Review: Dustin Phillips

Based on when Dustin Phillips followed me, I should have reviewed him in March, if not January. A twisting path led me to what we have today, which is not quite a normal review.

When I first entered him onto the review list, I assumed I would review The Ataris, for whom he plays drums. Then, as it came closer to the time, I saw that he also had his own project: You Jump, I Jump. I thought I should give his own project preference, but there was only one song. I tried waiting for a while to give him a chance to upload more music.

The last time I checked, based on Phillips' personal page, he is focusing more on The Ataris, as well as touring drumming, audio production, and audio mixing. The best option then seemed to be reviewing The Ataris, but also highlighting his other projects in the review. That led to two other twists.

I preferred the idea of reviewing You Jump, I Jump because back when I was listening to The Ataris for my Nothing Feels Good listening, I hadn't liked them that much. This time I liked them a lot.

That is worth mentioning as a reminder that our initial responses to music aren't necessarily a matter of them being good or bad or something we like or don't like. I have written before about always wanting to keep in mind that just because I may not like a band it doesn't mean that others won't, or that their taste isn't valid. In addition, just because you don't like a band at one time doesn't mean that you will feel the same way at a different time.

The one-to-grow-on moment was good, but also as I was preparing to review The Ataris I noticed that not only are they on tour, but they will be playing in Portland in a few weeks. Since I like them now, going and doing a concert review could easily be the way to go, but then does it make sense to review them today?

And yet, the title today is not "Band Review: You Jump, I Jump", even though that could have made perfect sense.

I have listened multiple times to the You Jump, I Jump track "Nostalgia". It's pretty good. Going to Phillips' bandcamp and listening to it makes total sense, as would buying the track for just .99. (Trying to find a video, on the other hand, will just keep giving you the same Titanic clip over and over again.)

So I do recommend that, but it is probably more to the point to recommend Dustin Phillips as a drummer that you could take on tour with you (though not during August, which looks pretty booked) or for studio work with mixing and production.

So that's what I'm doing instead.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Band Review: Anewta C

One of the interesting things about Anewta C. is that she started out by studying opera, beginning to practice singing pop music later. I believe her early experience has informed her songwriting now, often making for more dramatic explorations of the vocal range.

It is not that her music sounds like opera, though it is a little moody and atmospheric for straight pop. I could believe that she has studied some trance and shoe-gaze too.

Oddly, her music reminds me most of some of the more Celtic inspired groups. Fans of Clannad, Enya, and Loreena McKennitt might appreciate Anewta C, and (in one of these things is not like the others) she might also attract fans of Stevie Nicks. I know it sounds weird, but listen to "Say One Thing" and see if I don't have a point.

I am reviewing Anewta C due to a Twitter follow, and her profile uses the Linktree page. I don't think she needs it, because it looks like the home page will take you everywhere relevant. All links are below, but the home page is listed first, and looks like the best starting place.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

2018 Black History month reading

In addition to the six picture books written about yesterday, there were two comic books, between one and three books of poetry (I will explain that), thirteen other books, and two documentaries. That may seem like a lot, but I am planning out next year and it is going to be much more intensive. Once again, this is why I never really finish during the month in question.


I wanted to make my poet of focus Maya Angelou, and my library searches kept giving me things about her or things she was mentioned in. I did find one themed collection of poems - Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women - which I took as a good start, but also the biography in the book gave the names of her different other works. That led me to Maya Angelou: The Complete Poetry, which is what I'd wanted all along. Keyword searches have their place, but sometimes knowing the exact title is much more helpful.

In addition, I read Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. This was another book to receive Coretta Scott King honors. It reads as a story, but the formatting is really more poetry, and pretty cleverly done without taking away from the emotional impact of the book.

So yeah, I read three books of poetry, but every poem in the first book was in the second book, and the third book was also kind of like a YA novel.

Comic books

Also looking back at the Coretta Scott King awards, I think I saw March Book Two  for last year, but this year I read March Book Three, by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, with art by Nate Powell. The whole series has been so good, but this particular segment made me think of some things that will lead to at least two additional blog posts. I cannot recommend the series highly enough.

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, art by Jenn St-Onge, colors by Joy San, and letters by Cardinal Rae. I have been following Tee Franklin and her efforts to promote other writers and books for some time, and I was thrilled to be able to support her Kickstarter for her own work. I know there have been a lot of ups and downs, but I am glad she has done this, and I hope she has some idea of the inspiration she has been.

Other Books

Without meaning to find a children's book, I did anyway. Searching for a different book on Harriet Tubman I found Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied For the Union During the Civil War by Thomas B. Allen. I checked it out from curiosity, and I think it's a pretty good treatment. It is meant for younger readers, clearly, but it gives a good introduction to the Black Dispatches and the Combahee River Raid, and maintains good excitement.

Three of the books were ones whose names had stuck out in my mind. They may follow a similar naming style, but also two of them are very old and have been referenced a lot, but then were kind of frustrating, with the newer one being really excellent. There will be more on that, but for now, know that I read The Strange Career of Jim Crow by C. Vann Woodward, Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery by Leon Litwick, and The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist.

Also a book referenced in other reading, it really felt like time for Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington. However, that also went with reading Maureen K. Lux's Separate Beds for my Native American Heritage reading, and God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet, and other books about healing, some read, and some still to be read.

Speaking of healing, that led to reading Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America's Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing  by Joy DeGruy. That made an interesting counterpoint to Debby Irving's Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race. I will write about the two of them in conjunction with So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo,

I finally got around to reading Bone Black by bell hooks, and The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. I had not meant to read more non-historical books really, but then so many things in Butler's book appeared so pertinent to our times, that I had to read its follow-up, The Parable of the Talents. Believe me, I will write more about that.

The first non-picture book I read was Ain't No Makin' It: Aspirations and Attainment in a Low-Income Neighborhood by Jay McLeod. The last was Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow: an organizing guide by Daniel Hunter. Their order largely came from having copies of them - one physical, one electronic - and not having to get them from the library. In their own way they do kind of go together too, as one is looking at the problems and one is looking at the solutions. It's just a different perspective.


Believe it or not, I have previously never seen anything by Spike Lee. I had specific reasons for needing to watch 4 Little Girls, and then that made me think I should really watch When the Levees Broke, and they both inspired many thoughts as well.

Anyway, there will be lots of messy thoughts coming, so please enjoy the relative organization of this particular post. I would say I will start going through them Monday, but I may need to spend some time first on the garbage that is Lars Larson.