Friday, June 22, 2018

Band Review: Steven Cravis

Steven Cravis is a soundtrack composer and producer.

I have listened to soundtrack composers before, and I generally enjoy that, but there is much more than usual here.

The first thing to really catch my attention was that there was a whole section on soothing alarm clock sounds. It was surprising, but why not? Lots of people use their phones for their alarms, it is easy to download different tones onto phones; why not choose something less jarring than the standard jarring buzz?

Given some of the other albums, I have to assume that relaxation and wellness are important to Cravis on a personal level.

I am not into that enough to judge it. There is an 18-minute meditation music track; I do not know if it would be a good accompaniment for meditation. There is a whole suite of Healing Piano music that associates each chakra with a key and works through them. It seems possible that there could be a wonderful yoga session that goes through this, and again I don't know if it works, but I love the idea. I like that someone is putting it out there.

Much of the music is instrumental, but there were some interesting vocal tracks. I particularly enjoyed "April Rain".

The word I keep coming back to is interesting. There are definitely pretty tracks and there are a lot of peaceful tracks, but putting them together was really interesting.

I believe his catalog could be fun to explore for anyone, and perhaps contain extra delights for those who are more adept and meditative practices.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Band Review: Jour Majesty

Jour Majesty is a project of Michael C Perry, who has come to making his own music via a path of directing videos and commercials, then learning sound engineering.

While definitely country-tinged, the overall feeling is more joyful, though quietly so. Perhaps the best word is "mellow", with the added thought that people who enjoy roots music and folk could enjoy Jour Magesty.

I found "Tanner Street" particularly beautiful, though I appreciate the hint of honky-tonk on "Carnival Kid".

Otherwise, a lot of it does blend together, but it is pleasant background music, and can be a completely difference experience via the videos.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The attacks of our friends

There is a lot more to say about what is being believed on the right, but there is something else important happening on the left.

One of the most common lies being spread around is that separating families is an Obama (and sometimes they even say Clinton) policy, and why do we only care now?

Operation Streamline was started under George W. Bush. That allowed for faster processing and deportation. It largely continued under Barack Obama. In addition, there started to be more unaccompanied minors during the Obama era, and policies were set up to deal with that. Therefore, you can see pictures of children in a cell from the previous president, and say "Zero Tolerance" was his thing, and it is not completely false. It still ignores a pretty important truth, though, in that the ripping of children away from their families and sending them to other states for mass holding as they get more of them - that is Trump. He started it, did not need an executive order to stop it, and the executive order he did sign includes some nasty militarization into immigration that we don't need. So, for anyone feeling particularly relieved, there is still a lot to do.

When conservatives blame a Republican thing on Democrats - especially Obama - that is nothing new.

When people see a horrible policy and their first complaint is why do we only care when Trump does it, even when  you know it is based on a lie, it still shows a disturbing lack of priorities.

But when people who call themselves progressive in a moment of crisis caused by Trump spend more time blaming Obama and Clinton for what is happening, that is frustrating.

We should care about things that Obama did wrong. For example, this executive order does not fix immigration and still leaves a lot of room for abuse. The people who were working on immigration then, and have complaints about Obama's policies are some of the best-informed as we look for what we need to do.

I'm not saying we should march in lockstep, or ignore internal problems. That is precisely what has allowed conservatives to get so bad.

However, when you have Bill Maher asking Bernie Sanders - who is not a Democrat - what Democrats should do, and when all of the news seems to focus on how unorganized and rudderless Democrats are even though they are pulling off some pretty impressive victories, I think we need to look at what is driving that.

And when so often the voices criticizing the Democrats are saying really similar things to what Republicans are saying, we really need to think about that.

Remember, the Republicans started out with some great ideas, but when the Democrats started supporting civil rights, the Republicans started running against that, more and more openly, until Trump was the logical nightmare result. And yes, racism is worse under him, and sexism and every other kind of bigotry, but the problems are not going to stay limited to that. So I don't care whether your preferred word is liberal, progressive, or Democrat, but if your plans call for holding back on equality to fix something else first, the answer is a resounding no. If that could work, it would have worked already, much like Brownback's plans for the Kansas economy.

I don't believe everyone who goes this way does so knowingly. Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself:

  • Do I only ever give praise as a counterpoint to criticism of someone else? (For example, at least he's not as bad as so-and-so.)
  • Do you normally not comment on anything because you really don't care, but when you do have criticism it tends to only be - by complete coincidence - for women and people of color?
  • Even if you voted for Obama, did you vote in mid-term elections to give him a Congress he could work with instead of one that was rooting for him to fail?
  • Do you still think - after multiple attempts at travel bans, trade wars, alienation of our closest allies to cozy up with despots, people losing health care coverage, and babies in cages - that there is no difference between the two parties?
They sometimes say, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." That is a reasonable statement, but I can't help but feel like the problem isn't so much perfectionism as it is just preferring being an enemy. And hey, if you want to feel big by picking on someone, the stakes are much lower for picking on the liberals than on the conservatives.

It also gives you a rapidly worsening hell scape. 

Don't think that it's not going to burn you too.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Lies, errors and exaggerations, but mainly lies

I understand that in many cases the people who do approve of the family separations don't view it in the same light. There is a fundamental difference in perception. I understand that better after catching a short bit of Lars Larson. I hope to do some deconstruction there.

I will probably refer to some things that I have heard in other places. Some of the things he has said are not original to him. For example, I think Ann Coulter is saying the "human shield" thing too. I don't know if she is the source, but that might be worth finding out.

One pretty amazing thing is that the amount of time I spend listening is about the time it takes to move one load of laundry from the washing machine into the dryer and put a second load into the washer. A shocking amount of falsehood can be crammed into these few minutes.

The interesting rhetorical point is that Larson used some examples before to give plausibility to what was coming, except that they were completely implausible. He said that there are magic words to use with law enforcement. For example, if you are caught with a stolen car you can say that a friend loaned it to you and you don't remember the name of the friend, and they will let you go. Another good one is that you can say that you swallowed your drugs if you are taken on, well, presumably drug charges, but I suppose if that one works it should work on anything.

I hate to think it might be at all necessary to point out the flaws in these arguments, but just in case, no, those are not magic words. If you can name a friend who loaned you the stolen car, the police might call that person in, and maybe if they have a record and you don't, you might not be charged as an accessory. And while there certainly are some notable cases of police withholding medical aid, assuming that they do take you to get your stomach pumped - while it might be easier to escape from a hospital than a holding cell - police have nonetheless successfully been able to maintain custody of people getting medical treatment many times.

I have noticed more conservative criticism of law enforcement lately, so maybe those examples play into that - they are not always only trying to accomplish one thing. Regardless, these are shockingly stupid examples that should tell you not to trust anything the speaker says.

And this is what follows: the magical excuse to give for illegally crossing the border is that you feared for your life, but also no one wants to arrest little kids, so the coyotes who cross just grab some kids to take along as insurance. That way they probably aren't even related, so the separation is no big deal.

Shades of false flags and crisis actors! But as stupid and fake as it sounds, Tom Cotton is using it to say that not separating families will increase child trafficking.

I understand if the second part of Larson's theory sounds worse. You can think of the recording of the children's cries, and the father who killed himself, and so many examples telling you that these are families in anguish. I feel that too. It is still important to point out that taking fear for one's life and turning it into a magic excuse to get away with something instead of an actual reason that people will take long and dangerous journeys is also an important part of the dehumanization.

Hearing someone confidently state those views is pretty horrible. Right now I actually have more contempt for Larson than for Limbaugh (which will probably only last until the next time I hear Limbaugh), but later yesterday Larson was only doubling down on it. Today he was talking about how they are getting better care and better supervision and meals. Now it's a favor to the children to detain them.

Clearly the children don't know, based on their crying. Even if I hadn't seen (and posted) that article about inadequate resources for supervision, though, if you have a detained teenager teaching the other detained children how to change diapers, that implies there is not adequate support.

Taking care of children can be hard under good circumstances. It doesn't get easier when you shove a lot of traumatized children together into a place that is not designed for caring for children. That's when you might end up having inadequate heating or cooling, or putting the kids in cages.

There is plenty of information out there, and a lot of it is lies. It tends to fall on one side of the political spectrum, and yet there are some problems on the other side too, and that's something else I need to get to tomorrow. For now...

Monday, June 18, 2018

Family values hypocrisy?

I had just convinced myself that I should put off that one thread I was trying to pick back up, get back to blogging about books and movies, and not pick up on all of that again until I finish my post-election reading. After all, the subject matter was related. But I think that was wrong.

Many of you may be horrified by the forced separation of families by immigration. That is understandable. It cruelly adds trauma to people who have already been through enough. It runs the risk of permanent separation, as young children (like a breast-feeding four month old baby) may not even know their family names yet, and even with older children who remember their former addresses, it is questionable whether that home is still there and whether their parents would make it back there. When you send a woman back to Guatemala without her child, I question whether they could ever be reunited:

It doesn't even have the questionable benefit of being efficient. It is much easier to have detained parents care for their own children than to hire and train enough people to adequately meet required ratios even without factoring in language differences and the effects of trauma.

In short, there are a lot of horrible things about this, where the horror is a feature not a bug, and it makes the mind recoil. So many of you may be horrified, and if you are a regular reader of this blog you probably are, but there are many people who are fine with it.

I wondered about that. For the candidate who ran on racism and where we have seen racist incidents increasing, it's kind of not surprising, but it still feels like there should be some push back. For the people who voted for Trump because Democrats are okay with killing babies, shouldn't at least some of them be upset about babies being torn for their families and held in empty Wal-marts and tent cities with inadequate supervision that would be enough to cause severe permanent psychological trauma even assuming that no other abuse happens (which given everything is very unlikely)?

Apparently not.

It is easy to be horrified by the people too. Tomorrow I want to spend some time on how they can justify it. Those justifications are way off, which leads us into another problem area, and then we will be getting closer to what I have been trying to say.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Band Review: 18th & Addison

18th & Addison is a New Jersey rock band with some punk and pop roots.

Overall enjoyable, there is also an earnest quality to their music, especially with songs like "My Old Skin" where relatable emotions come through. They feel free to pull from other influences as well, as on the mellow and touching "Fix Me Again".

The band is a joint effort of Tom Kunzman and Kait DiBenedetto. Although both sing, it is especially refreshing to hear DiBenedetto's voice, and something that sets 18th & Addison apart from similar bands.

18th & Assison just released the 4 song EP Vultures, with plans for more shows on the way.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Band Review: Ya Ya Logic

Ya Ya Logic is a band from West Malvern. They self describe as drawing upon alt rock, punk, and prog. To my ears, part of it reminds me of garage rock, but when the harpsichord kicks in, like on "Cage Bird", that sends me more specifically to The Doors.

Okay, they're probably not quite as weird as The Doors could get, but it's kind of nice to hear some of those elements back in play. Start with "Cage Bird" to see if you hear it to, then listen to "Boom Town" for a counterpoint. If that works for you, you'll probably enjoy the rest of the Own the World album.

Fans of The Paul and John might also enjoy.

Monday, June 11, 2018


I'm not sure I won't do regular posts this week, but current activities include finishing up three online classes, preparing study material for a Spanish file, and trying to sterilize every surface in the house just in case Norovirus is still lurking somewhere. Ironically, one of the common Spanish homework and test items is a blog post. They're hip.

Anyway, I'm around, lots going on, and normal, then.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Band Review: Pure Colors

Pure Colors is basically techno, I guess. There is a lot of mixing, and when dialogue gets added to the music it reminds me a little of what Plug88 was doing, only that was more interesting. Some of Plug88's samples came from Gorillaz, but they can be a lot more fun. I have not been finding Pure Colors interesting or fun.

It sounds like a lot of his process is to be experimental, and there may be a lack of focus in the approach that could be fine-tuned, but as of now I cannot recommend.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Band Review: Francesco Liccari

Francesco Liccari's 2016 EP Raw Notes starts with the track "Long Winter", and I think in that way shoots Liccari in the foot.

Just under five minutes, the dismal tune does have something in common with a long, cold, and hopeless season. It then colors the rest of the EP, which is not quite as dreary.

It might have worked better as the closing track, but I suppose it depends on what you want to say. I think Liccari's downbeat manner is generally intentional. In some ways, opening with "Long Winter" could act as a positive, because it all gets better after that.

But somehow it doesn't feel that way.

This might be a good fit for Smashing Pumpkins fans.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

One more personal truth

In April I went to see Timothy Snyder speak:

I was really impressed by his book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century and I think everyone should read it. Obviously, I was excited to get a chance to hear him, and he did a great job.

Out of many memorable things he said, the one that is pertinent to this post is when he said of the things that we see there is one study that can tell us more and predict and that is history. It gave me a little thrill, because I have always felt that, and that is a big part of how history ended up being my thing. Yes, maybe some of it is just wanting to know everything, but I also want to know what to do, and how you fix things, and history is better for that than anything else.

Over the past section of my life, I have been learning things about myself. That includes learning that I have value, and understanding that some previous beliefs were false, and even gaining some perspective on things that seem contradictory but aren't (like yes, you deserve downtime, but this particular way of spending downtime does not work well for you).

In addition, lately I seem to be discovering three defining traits. I am a caretaker. I am a writer. I am a historian. If all three of those are essential to me, then that could explain a lot about me.

I might have previously guessed that my religion was more defining. It is important to me, and it affects a lot, but there are lots of Mormons who manage to feel very differently and act very differently. If I broaden the definition from being Mormon to Christian, it's still true. Taking care of others feels like a natural extension of my religious beliefs, but maybe that is who I would be anyway, and that part of me is something that responds to the religion.

And it is something many other people don't seem to interpret the same way, but maybe if there is another care-taking student of history out there who has to write about everything, maybe we would have a lot in common. Because I know that when Snyder said that, that thrill wasn't only that this is something for me, but also that I am not the only one who feels that way.

There is something wonderful about finding your people, but it is also pretty good finding yourself. It's not that I didn't know that writing, caring for others, or history were important to me before; I knew.

Instead, this is more that hey, this is you. It is good and you need it, and you will do good things with it. Hang onto it. It is a call and response in conjunction with the universe. It is connection both with self and beyond self.

And no matter how different those answers might be for a different person, I believe they are out there all the same.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018


A few months ago I wrote about realizing that I am a caretaker.

Two months ago that got a bit scarier, when I felt a little overwhelmed with my responsibilities, based on having two sick people in the house with me and no one else. Then, when Mom never really bounced back from that, it started to feel like maybe that was going to be all I could do for a while.

We have a better understanding now of what was going on, and that's good, but there's this one area where I am still having a really hard time, and that is including self-care with my care.

There are things that I have been meaning to do for so long, but I keep putting it off because there is always something else that needs to be done. I also feel flabby, overly tired, and I don't know that a stronger immune system would have made a difference last week, but it couldn't have hurt.

I know that I need to take care of myself. I know that if I don't take care of myself, I will not be much good for anyone else. It's still really hard to get there.

When I was reading the badly-written book on Asian health secrets and the better-written but poorly thought out book on Ayurveda, one of the frustrating aspects was that there was always this assumption that something would be wrong with you: you would be out of balance in some way.

Without it making either of those books any better, I think there might be some truth in that. There are always a lot of things to attend to, and you are not getting to them all, and at some point you will need to shift in some way.

I can accept life being cyclical, and that being fine. That doesn't change that right now I am performing sub-optimally, and it's in a pretty clear direction.

One of the things I have not been spending enough time on is increasing my walking distance in preparation for the Turkey Trot. I have done a few miles, and they are fine, but one thing that I notice is that sometimes I feel this tightness in my body that it is pretty clear is stress. I don't worry about it because it is so clear that it is stress, but what is the point of clarity if you don't do anything about it?

So that's what I need to work on, and I am focusing on myself this week, even though I know there were previously existing threads that I dropped right when I started barfing.

I know I lost some readers when I stopped blogging after my computer died, and I think I lost a few this week as well. I am pretty sure that if I chose titles more carefully and promoted differently I could grow my readers that way too. Still, the most important thing right now seems to be becoming whom I need to be, and there have been messages all around about that.

Sometimes it means asking for help on something, and seeing that I can get it. Sometimes it means simply realizing that I can't do it all and prioritizing differently.

And apparently sometimes it will have to mean choosing me, but still being aware of those who rely on me.

It will have to mean finding a balance.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Plague! Pestilence! Fire!, or why I haven't blogged for a few days

Last week I hinted that there were stressful things going on, but I didn't explain further and also, I kept the blog up, kind of impressively, but then more stuff piled on. Such is life.

Last Saturday night (so the Saturday night of Memorial Day Weekend, not of the Starlight Parade), my mother had two fainting spells and we took her into the ER, which resulted in her being admitted into the hospital.

That was the first source of stress, and also the first source of being reluctant to give details. After all, it is more her story than mine, and there are confidentiality rules about medical status. Of course, we have been giving every friend all of the details upon request, but that has been one on one. Anyway, she had some issues that are being treated.

I was not too surprised (though a little dismayed) when the hospital attending doctor had a completely different course of treatment in mind than the ER attending doctor; television has prepared me for different mindsets there. I was much more dismayed when every shift change in the hospital brought a different resolution. I was getting pretty murderous by the time we finally got Mom home Wednesday evening. It was still a relief.

Now, hospitals can be scary, lonely, and disorienting under the best circumstances, but with memory issues it can be worse, not only for remembering what is going on but remembering whether you are allowed to get up and walk around without staff present (no), so it seemed best to have someone there with Mom as much as possible. I spent many hours there, which I believe is germane (keyword: GERM) to what happened next.

Mom was discharged at 6 PM Wednesday. We came home, I threw dinner together, we ate, and I collapsed on my bed, exhausted, until about 3 AM Thursday morning, at which point I spent the next three hours violently expelling everything from my digestive system.

(I have not blogged since Thursday.)

At first I thought it could be that had been holding so much stress in that a brief relaxation of tension let everything loose. Plausible, but then I remembered that I had foolishly consumed some raw cookie dough before dinner. I knew dinner was fine, because everyone else was fine so far. Okay, food poisoning, brought on by my own bad decisions, but I would live and not spread things around.

Friday afternoon, Mom started to throw up. This is really scary with someone who just got out of the hospital  - and who would be very reluctant to return to the hospital - and is on some new medications. Except, her symptoms were remarkably similar to mine. Timing, textures, color (I had to check for possible side effects, okay?) was exactly like mine. And then my siblings started to fall. Friday evening. Friday night. Saturday morning. And finally, just when we thought she was going to escape it, my final sibling succumbed yesterday.

We had all been together Wednesday evening for our mother's return. We ate together. It wasn't the food, though, it was me.  I believe I picked up something (I suspect Norovirus) at the hospital, and have now demonstrated its extreme communicability.

I have been mostly okay since Friday. I mean, my stomach knows something happened, but it is digesting normally. I have also been trying to do a good job of getting things cleaned up, though it is hard to do a thorough disinfecting of the house when it keeps getting more infected.

Part of that is laundry. I wanted to wash all sheet sets today, except just on a normal load of clothes last night the dryer stopped turning and started to smell really hot. So, no, not fire, but if we hadn't unplugged it, who knows?

On one level it feels like time for a primal scream of "Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?????????", but at this point I am kind of just laughing at it. I don't know what happens next. I should probably be scared. I'm not.

I do have a greater understanding of how there is so much that you can't control, and yet it doesn't meant that things don't matter. It does mean that you should use time wisely, but I have wasted a lot of time and I don't care enough about that either. I may not have the energy to care quite yet. We'll see how I feel later.

But also, last night I woke up from a really interesting dream that has some good stories in it. It's not like I didn't already have things to write about, but something new is always exciting.

Of course, I'm probably not going there, but I do also have plenty of material for a gross-out comedy!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Fear of falling

I thought I might write about Reparations Happy Hour, because that was causing some irritation too. As I was hearing it in my head, though, it sounded an awful lot like a post that will probably hit in about three weeks, and maybe it's better to wait on that.

It would still have been leading to the point that I notice this irritation that happens with various news items that seem like they shouldn't be taken personally. An actor apologized for his part in allowing abuse of one of his costars by another costar. Some white people voluntarily paid for some drinks for Black people as part of acknowledging our country's history. If those things do not affect you, why do they bother you?

I had a thought, but I am going to provide a plausible alternative first.

Due to a family member I am hearing a lot of talk radio now - mainly Limbaugh and Larsen.

I guess in one way it is good, because in the past when some people would say things that seemed so disconnected from reality, I found it confusing, and now I get it, but this is not just about the lying.

It seems that they (especially Rush) spend most of their time talking about how bad, stupid, and insincere liberals are. When I first noticed that I thought it might be a reflection on conservatives not having a lot to say about themselves, but that attention has shifted to the cumulative impact it might have. The constant trash talking could easily turn "liberal" and all associated concepts into irritants, so maybe it's that.

I may spend more time on that in a later post, but for now I am just going to mention that even though being told everyone else is stupid and bad except you and the host you are listening too might seem like it would be affirming, it does not seem to improve mood (or social skills).

My thought, though, was that maybe there was this fear of the slippery slope. Usually only invoked on the topic of gun control, it might feel that once you accept one liberal belief that more of them will cumulatively pull you down and you will have to give up a lot of things that are cherished and feel important.

I also think that's entirely possible. There are some really shaky beliefs out there, and if you want to be a good person, especially on a religious level, there is a conflict. I don't want to be unsympathetic to that. Also, I recently realized that I had lost some things, and had to look at what I had gained instead, and what I still had, and have decided that I am ultimately better for it. That's going up on the Sunday blog though.

So all I can really say is be brave. The demonization might make it seem like any giving in will mean terrible corruption, but I offer you my assurance that is not true.

You may also find yourself more sensitive, and more vulnerable. I get the downside of that. Be brave anyway. It may also open you up to more joy.

I know it feels easier to be pugnacious. I have been there. I am going to try and write about that Monday.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Work families

Without really seeking out information on the royal wedding, I had heard some nice things and some sad things (mainly from The Talk). My favorite stories were how Harry handpicked Meghan a bouquet of his mother's favorite flowers; how Meghan's dog was rescued from a no-kill shelter, eventually leading to his adoption by her, and this one:

That was the story I actually sought out. After the wedding there were some guest shots, including people from Suits. I suddenly wondered about Gina Torres: Was she there? What did she wear? She's married to Laurence Fishburne; was he there? So I Googled.

Torres was there and she looked gorgeous. She and Fishburne are recently split up - which saddened me - but that ended up being overshadowed by the sweetness of the relationships.

All of her co-stars were there. The actor who played her father couldn't make it, but he watched at home. Her cast mates worked to protect her privacy. That could just be general respect, but also one person pointed out how the length of the show is longer than your college years or high school  years, and you can build some pretty deep bonds.

I think it resonated with me more because I had seen some things on her father and half-siblings being pretty terrible, so it was reassuring to know that she had a supportive and caring work-family. That seemed more important, based on this: 

I chose this article because it has the dialogue quoted that I heard on The Talk (apparently my main source of pop culture information now).

Let me back up. I had already hear about Jeffrey Tambor being fired for harassing a transgender person. I know people often feel they have (but do not have) a right to touch transgender people around their genital areas - maybe it goes back to Crocodile Dundee - and I had thought it was probably something like that. Then there was not only another person claiming abuse, but Tambor (while still denying those allegations) admitting that he is so passionate about his work and everyone doing a good job that some people may be upset by him that way.

At that point I was simultaneously reminded of how  even people who did not know Weinstein was a racist knew he was a bully, and how Dustin Hoffman's "method acting" included slapping Meryl Streep and verbally abusing her, and Kevin Spacey's dedication to his craft involving abusing interns. Also, I was reminded of countless people at this point admitting that they had been difficult in one way, but they didn't remember it the same way, and so on.

Then The Talk  played that audio.

The Vox article has some other good stuff. The tweets from Rebecca Traister and Marin Cogan are sadly on point. David Cross being a weasel even as he acknowledges it is not at all surprising. The additional information is great, but the primary thing for me is still hearing Walter say that she needs to forgive Tambor so they can be friends again, and that Bateman told her this happens all the time - even though her own memory and history was telling her that was not true - and Tambor just agreeing with that one word, because it is his due to have her forgiveness and friendship. It is the confidence and lack of caring in his voice despite the palpable hurt in hers. I wanted to scream.


I'm not anti-forgiveness. It can be very healing. It can be helpful to lay down those hurts instead of carrying them around. That can even be true when the person is not apologetic. However...
  • Forgiveness may not be healthy when it means suppressing your own pain instead of processing it.  
  • When doing so is pressured by other people elevating the needs of the offender over the offended, that adds more pain instead of healing it.
  • Forgiveness does not automatically mean that the forgiven person gets trust back and friendship back. 
I might have written about this anyway, but an additional impetus came from seeing someone bothered by Jason Bateman's apology.

Looking that the original interview, I think it's pretty clear that the New York Times was going for a light-hearted family reunion vibe, and they thought the elephant in the room of misconduct allegations against Tambor could fit into that; because this is his work family and they are all funny people and he was probably just misunderstood on Transparent. Except that they were wrong and there was real damage and real pain and they dragged it up. Then it was awkward for everyone and people tried to make the awkwardness go away.

We could probably make some pointed remarks about NYT  goals and results, but let's consider some alternate possible scenarios.
  1. People could have listened to Walter's pain, and promised that they would work to have a better set and not let it happen again. Tambor could have taken a moment to sincerely apologize and promise to be a better "friend". That could have come not just from listening to Walter but also from listing to Shakwat. It might be embarrassing, admitting they had those family problems, but that is Tambor's fault, not Walter's. Not only was he the original offender, he is the one who put his his history of abusive behavior out there as a way of minimizing his behavior on Transparent.
  2. Cast members could have realized that the question was going to come up, and gotten together to talk about it prior to the interview. This would have allowed for a private chance to hear pain and promise to do better. Of course, there is a good chance they would have talked over Walter there too, but it at least gives them a chance to work things out in private.
  3. Back when the original incident happened, someone could have said it was not acceptable back then. Putting pressure on Tambor to shape up then might have led to him still having a job on Transparent today.
It is reasonable to apologize for that. It is reasonable to apologize for asking someone to suck up abuse and take one for the team because you want to keep the abuser on the team. It is reasonable to apologize for not hearing someone when they are trying to say something important to them. That's true whether it's someone you love and have a history with, or if you are just a decent human being.

I think the irritation with the apology could come from many things. There was something about the facts being in dispute, but I wonder if that was about the Transparent allegations. For Tambor's initial berating of Walter and for everyone minimizing her discomfort during the interview, there does not seem to be any dispute.

It could also been a reaction to the perception that Bateman was apologizing for Tambor. You are not responsible for other people's behavior, but you are for your own. Bateman could have been better, and he wasn't.

It could also have been that Bateman used the term "mansplaining" in his apology. It was not a completely unreasonable use, but as a word used to describe something that men do to women related to the patriarchy, it may be tainted for some. That leads into something different though, and I want to get into that tomorrow.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Beloved songs

There are some frustrating things going on currently, both in the outer world and in my personal life. I don't want to get into details on that right now, but I won't be home very much through Wednesday, probably, and I may be extra tired and stressed.

Anyway, today can be one shorter, easier post.

A couple of weeks ago, someone I know from Twitter lamented not having fallen in love with a song recently, and asked for recommendations. I wrote back three times.

If that were just three tweets with one song each, that would be one thing, but that was not the case. I gave her my top four from last year, plus two songs from this year, plus another that I just remembered.

I could have kept going, too, but I know inundation isn't really ideal, and then the last band was one she knew and that shifted the conversation.

The thing is, it was like I had just been waiting to be asked, and maybe asked in that way. Like, if you ask me to recommend a band, I will want to get an idea of whom you like, and what you like about them, and then I will try but at least in the past I have found that to be a lot of pressure. Falling in love with a song though, where it keeps coming back to you and you need to listen again and again, and there is this magic, yeah, apparently then I need to mention every song I've fallen in love with, or at least for the past three years.

I would not think that it's that I don't write about music enough, because I do two band reviews a week. I get it out.

However, it might be that I don't really share music with people. I only know if someone reads the reviews if I get feedback. Sometimes a band will be really happy, but a lot don't notice.

Also, sometimes reviewing the bands isn't that fun. I try to see every band's good points and respect their current fans and say the things that would be helpful to direct potential fans to them, but a lot of them I do not love. The one I am listening to now is kind of dreary, which is not the same as being bad. They have to be really bad for me to say that in the review, but sometimes if they are just okay and not my thing, the review is a little lackluster. Maybe I want to share enthusiasm and don't get to often enough. Though, when I do love them, no matter how much I say that, it doesn't feel like enough.

Perhaps there is some frustration there.

There are a couple of things that come to mind.

One is that most of the songs I love do not come from reviewing bands that followed me on Twitter.

For the record, here's what I recommended:

"Brandenburg Gate" by Anti-Flag, from my emo research
""From the Heart" by the Slants, from a newspaper article on their court case, but also from targeted listening to Asian/Asian-American artists
"Kiss Me" by Kyosuke Himuro, from a team-up with Gerard Way, but also from targeted listening
"Whenever You're On My Mind" by Marshall Crenshaw, recommended by Jesse Valenzuela
"Local Roses" by Dear Boy, recommended by AFI
"Fight Like A Girl" by Emilie Autumn, recommended on a Shakesville thread about feminist artists
"Broke Down" by Reggie and the Full Effect, found via My Chemical Romance (and I could have said more songs on that album, but I think that one hooked me the hardest)

It probably isn't too surprising if musicians you like recommend music that you will also like. It is not a guarantee, because they also will often have a broader appreciation than someone less musical, but it is one guide. However, even beyond those seven songs, there are a lot of good things that have come from trying to listen to more Black artists or Native American artists or trying to stretch further, even if that means spending over a year listening to bands mentioned in a book that set out to explain emo and didn't do a really good job.

I have fallen in love with songs from the Twitter follows, too, and I don't want to give that up, but I need to make sure that I am making room for musical joy. Depending on the branching out part, that can be a slog too. For the alternative book, it was. A lot of the Greatest Guitar songs listening was quite frustrating. I don't regret it, but I need to make sure not to get mired in it.

Also, I want to have a better view of the long process. Even if I get my lost files back, the Reviewed list never contained more than the name of the band and if I had seen them live. I always felt that it should be more. I want to rebuild it, and look over each year and remember what other songs I loved, and see how some bands are doing now. I'd like to have that done before I hit 600. I mean, I won't know when I hit 600 unless I do that, just that it would probably happen around December.

Related posts:

Friday, May 25, 2018

Band Review: Browne Project

Chris Browne has some busking background, and a Busker Rhyme Album that acknowledges it.

While Browne Project is not limited to busking now, also playing clubs and radio stations and other venues, the acoustic music never sounds too far away from something that could be comfortably played on a street corner. There is an immediacy and a sincerity to the music that seems very approachable.

While I believe I prefer the Looking Forth album, which I think is newer, there is a strong sense of continuity between the two. This is Browne, stripped down and as he is; his project is himself, and it will contain hope and growth.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Band Review: Kitcha Saventhes

I'm not sure I did this review right.

Kitcha got on the review list by following me on Twitter. The Twitter profile points to the Youtube channel, which has music but also has vlogs and makeup tutorials and all kinds of things. Still, I review music, so that seemed like the right place to focus, except that it looks like Kitcha has also been in two bands, or maybe some other kind of musical projects. It might have made more sense to direct the attention that way.

But I didn't.

So, Kitcha is a Youtuber based in Sweden who - among other things - records songs, often accompanying with some animation.

Song selection includes covers of bands that might be considered pop punk and emo, or at least pop in the case of "Call Me Maybe", but there are also songs from video games and cartoon series, I think. Many of them are unfamiliar, so I don't know how they compare to the originals.

That may affect how fans of the originals will feel about Kitcha's covers, but overall I think he does a good job. That includes song selection, presentation choices, and also in the delivery. Okay, sometimes the dance moves and gestures run a little weird and over dramatic. That seems like something you might do for fun if nothing else when you are regularly producing content. Vocals are nonetheless strong and expressive. Vocals are edited, but don't end up sounding artificial.

That right there is a reason why I wonder if I should have reviewed one of the bands instead. It could always happen at some other time.

I still find it weird that people are Youtubers and follow Youtubers, so I am not the target demographic (I know, get off of my lawn), but if you are into following Youtubers, Kitcha could be a good choice.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Political ads

The ad I referenced yesterday was an attack ad against Max Wall, candidate for Washington County District Attorney, who did end up losing the election. I am unhappy with the outcome and the ad, so let's spend a little bit of time on that.

I was first won over to Max Wall by one of his ads, where he was focused on using compassion and common sense on crime charges, especially drug ones. That probably made him look like too much of a hippie, but he ran another one about how identity should not affect personality, your position should not protect you from paying for your crimes.

That sounds much more tough on crime, but the two views aren't automatically contradictory. Jailing drug offenders is expensive and ineffective, and has tended to be very racist in how it has been carried out. We certainly don't need that.

There was also a message in the other ad that was reinforced with one final ad, about a police officer charged with domestic violence who was allowed to plead down and keep his weapon. Domestic violence is a great predictor of further violence, and a gun increases that danger, but how can he be a cop without a gun?

Obviously, the sheriff and former DA supported Wall's opponent, who had been the outgoing DA's assistant. I was never going to vote for him, largely because of two detention cases:

The articles focus on the judges who allowed detaining the witnesses, but the DA decides whom to prosecute, and how, and keeping men in prison when you don't even have custody of the person you want to charge is pretty horrible, and imprisoning a woman who was raped in prison shows such a lack of regard for the victim that I can't even understand why you would bother prosecuting. There were other articles; it was terrible for her in there.

It shows a lack of regard for the average person, a willingness to abuse, and given that these involved people who could be marginalized for multiple reasons, it is not really a sign of holding everyone equal before the law. Therefore, Barton's previous service is a vote against him for me.

People know that executive positions - like president and governor - are important, but there are two office that may not get a lot of attention, but have a huge affect. Those are the secretaries of state and district attorneys.

Republicans made a concerted effort to make sure that more states had Republican secretaries of state.They did that because a state's secretary controls the election, Katherine Harris being just one example. Remember, one of the first things that happened with Richardson was a desire to redistrict before the census. We're stuck with him for now, but we should be aware of what is going on. The Voting Rights Act has been weakened and Russia has paid no penalties for tampering, so it matters.

District Attorneys are the key decision makers on who gets prosecuted and for what crimes and for what kind of penalties. Yes, they have to work with the existing laws, but there is room to exercise a lot of discretion, and it is their discretion. How they see people matters.

I mention this because of a key point of the ad. Yes, the manipulation of mustache was irritating, but the real issue was the sinister way in which they painted him receiving a donation from the Law & Justice political action committee, which has received donations from George Soros, meaning that MAX WALL WAS FUNDED BY A GEORGE SOROS SUPERPAC!

And people did hold that against him. He was getting outside superpac funding! And did you see that mustache? He looks like a cartoon supervillain!

Okay, yes, George Soros contributes a fair amount of money to politics. Superpacs aggregate donations from many small people to maximize the funds. Superpacs often donate in states where they are not based, though that may very well be in states from which some of their donors come. None of that is illegal, and it doesn't have to be nefarious, based on the values.

If the Koch brothers are supporting a candidate, I probably am not in favor of that candidate. This is not because they are not Oregonians, but because they are reprehensible human beings and their values are almost completely opposite to mine.

Do you know what George Soros' big cause has been? Fighting nationalism. Also ending poverty. Now that everyone is getting really poor and it's used to justify Nazis being Nazis because of economic anxiety, I can imagine he would contribute to many causes. Yes, if he were busing in voters over state lines, that would be illegal; it is also ridiculously impractical, so much so as to not be possible. I could almost wish that Soros were writing checks to protesters, because I could use the funding, but that's not how it works.

I guess my point is that I do not like deceptive practices, I do not like stupidity, and I do not like when it works.

A lot of the loudest voices out there sound pretty clownish, and they should be easy to see through. There are some pretty sophisticated machinations going on out there as well, and we need to be aware of that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Deception (Things that worry me, part 4)

Here is that last story, out of those three things that I couldn't ignore, or put off writing about until later.

Just to recap, the first two were attacks on health care that focused on marginalized groups and violence committed by bigots, essentially. I don't doubt those will come up again, but one of the common threads was how we perceive these things.

Republicans have paused on trying to straight up overturn the Affordable Care Act, and each smaller attack will have an easier to ignore impact. Your health care might feel safe, but it isn't.

Attacks by some people lead to talks of terrorism and measures to fight it, but attacks by angry white guys are reported as mentally ill lone wolves, so even if a discussion does happen it is largely the wrong discussion.

There are many factors that contribute to that, and many of them are so deeply woven into the fabric of our world that it takes real effort to untangle those threads. Our biases and conditioning do a lot of the work. While that has been true for a long time, it has also been true for a long time that there are those who knowingly capitalize on that, and who manipulate that. Technology is allowing them to become much better at it.

My concern here started with Joy Reid. There is a fairly good summary of the issue here:

The shorter version is that attention was drawn to early homophobic posts by Reid that she denies making. 

There are a few levels of complexity that make this harder. On a human level, she has previously said other things that she regrets now, and that is on record as well as her apology. Apparently at least one of them was something about Ann Coulter's mannishness, and this is a good example of ways in which you need to think deeper.

It is easy to dislike Ann Coulter. It is also easy to see her as not very feminine in some ways, which makes jokes about that low-hanging fruit (pun not intended there). However, questioning someone's sexuality or gender because you don't like them is supporting a humor that diminishes people who actually are queer or transgender, and who often might have to hide it because of persecution. This is why actors periodically have to apologize for reverting to using "f- - - - t" as a slur when they get mad at someone.

People have much better awareness of that now then they used to, because of discussions that have been had. That doesn't make doing it ten years ago right, but if someone has learned and is no longer doing that behavior, that's worth something.

On a technological level, these posts have been located in the Wayback machine. I read a fairly convincing explanation from one person about pages that he altered that did not have the alteration correctly time-stamped, but honestly, that is something that I never work with. Hold that thought.

More convincing for me are the following things:
  • I believe Reid is honest, and that while you might not remember everything you wrote, if it feels totally alien to her, I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Beyond that...
  • People who were reading her back then don't remember the posts, and even more so...
  • There were no comments on the offensive material. Based on things she wrote at the time, feedback was common and material like that would have drawn a lot of feedback, making it even more memorable for Reid and her readers.
Reid's story struck me more because there was another story going around about how motion-capture technology could be used to fake videos. The example had Jordan Peele effectively impersonating Barack Obama. Yes, you still need a convincing sounding voice, but it is getting harder to detect digital manipulation.

Okay, on one level I am comfortable with not knowing how web archiving and motion-capture works, but how safe is it not to know? My conclusions on the Reid story were drawn based more on logic than on an understanding of technology. Is that safe? I don't know that I have the time to invest in understanding all technology and ways of deceit.

Because if there was a hack attacking Reid, and you consider it unsuccessful (or maybe successful, the way Fox writes about it), it would be easy to learn from it and next time fake comments as well as posts. There would still be the memory of her prior readers, but people are getting really good at deciding that everyone who disagrees with them is stupid and evil, so that may not be enough.

I had to wonder, then, when some recent political attack ads showed a guy who usually has a normal mustache, but here they showed him with teeny little handlebar ends, making him look more sinister.

There were a lot of things that made me mad about that ad, so that's another post.

Getting back to the original concern, though, it's not like there aren't a lot of lies out there, and a liar in chief, and a "fake news" catchphrase used to undermine people from believing anything other than their preferred news source, where they know they are smarter and better than everyone else who believes all of this made up stuff.

It's been a thing for a while that Black women have been subject to attack. Previously any time my feed was abuzz with people talking about Joy Reid, it was because of how she brilliantly took down some conservative talking head (not that a moment of televised embarrassment ever seems to make them change for the better). I can see people wanting to take her down. I don't like where the technology is going on this.

That only fundamentally dishonest people would use technology in that way doesn't provide any comfort.

Monday, May 21, 2018


Many years ago a friend was pet-sitting, and she told me she was taking care of a "socially awkward dog". I said that sounded like me, so she explained that this dog's issues manifested through inappropriate peeing.

That wasn't so much me, but as someone who felt unattractive and often awkward, the phrase wrung a bell. The same thing happened the first time I heard "involuntary celibate", but still, the way it gets used isn't really me, and it isn't the way the originator of the phrase meant it either.

Writing about them the issue last week, I mentioned that there probably should be some supplementary information on availability of sex. I want to try and get that out of the way now, which I will do feeling somewhat unqualified but still believing I have a point.

I know I could have sex if I wanted to, and I do want to have sex, but at this time it is not really an option to have it the way I want it, in a committed marriage relationship where there is mutual respect and affection. I could wish for different circumstances, but I am nonetheless making a choice. That is a choice I base on my religious values, but I know that not everyone shares those values, and I know that there is a world of choices out there.

Content note: I am going to be speaking pretty directly about sex, but not necessarily graphically.

Self-gratification is an option. I don't believe that I should masturbate. That is primarily because I believe that an important purpose of sex is to help bond a couple, with the release of oxytocin helping that. On a deeper level, I have concerns that it could prove addictive for me, and then it would harm my balance between physical and spiritual, but really I don't do it because I believe it's wrong and that is religious in nature. That could be perceived as being on a more shallow level, I know, but I do think about it and take it seriously, so that's where I stand there.

For people who do not have those concerns, yes, masturbation is available and there are many items that can make it more effective.  Otherwise, possibly ways of reducing the physical urges can include exercise, meditation, yoga, and low-calorie diets. (Not joking.)

Often it is not just about the urge, but the accompanying desire for a physical connection with another person. Great. I believe in that. Here is something else that I know is available, even though I do not partake of it. It is relatively easy to find a hookup. There are people willing for that. There are applications that help you locate them, there are places you can show up to find people, and those options are out there. Even though I know that I am not the most attractive and desirable woman out there, I know that I could find partners. They are out there. Even when I did not think it was possible for anyone to want me for a long-term relationship, I knew that I could find a hook-up, and that hasn't changed, even as I age.

What if that still isn't enough, and you want an emotional connection as well? That is available too. I held myself back from it for a long time because I believed it wasn't possible. That got me into a life phase where the dating pool is much shallower, and I know that. But you know, I could still do it. At this point, I don't have the same level of patience for a lot of  men, or the willingness to overlook some flaws in him because it could mean children.

You know what? That is still a choice. The choices I was making were not always conscious, and they should have been. I could have worked on healing some of my wounds much earlier, and that would have been good for multiple reasons, but ultimately, conscious of my choices now, I am satisfied with my life.

Out in the "manosphere", there is a group called "sluthate" that started as "puahate"; because initially their resentment focused on the pick up artists who told them that they could have women but whose seduction methods failed. They still hate the men who are getting sex, but they decided to focus on the women, which I suppose is easier, and to wallow in the unfairness of being rejected by women whom they have never regarded as full human beings with their own unique tastes and desires.

Maybe the pick up artists have more physical charms, maybe your ideal woman's partner is better-looking than you, but it is so not about that. Fat people have sex. Old people have sex. Disabled people have sex. People with acne have sex. People who are introverted have sex. People often have sex with people who are better than them, when you are rating people via shallow and superficial criteria rather than appreciating them as people. And if you do a find/replace and change every use of "sex" to "relationships", it remains true.

I'm not saying that it is easy. Honestly, just deciding that you want a committed relationship rather than just sex ups the level of work required significantly. It remains possible.

Having had my own issues with self-worth, I can feel a certain amount of sympathy for someone who things that their appearance eliminates them from any chance of attractiveness. I can even feel sympathy for being attracted to people who are more attractive to you, and feeling a pang at that.

Where my sympathy quickly evaporates is where the resentment starts. The hypocrisy of ruling out other people based on their looks, but thinking your looks shouldn't be held against you? I have no sympathy for that. The stereotyping of women as shallow, and only liking jerks so nice guys don't have a chance? Yeah, none of the guys I have heard say that have ever been that nice.

I sympathize with unrequited desire. The desire to control someone else, though, that is something else. You don't get that.

And it won't make you happy, for what it's worth. It will twist your soul and damage your humanity as find it harder and harder to acknowledge the humanity of anyone else. The richer things that come from reaching out, learning, connecting -- those will get lost to you, but I will be more worried about the people to whom you are a danger.

That's the key: your desire doesn't trump anyone else's. It should be a really easy concept, even for NYT commentators, but apparently not.

That worries me.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Band Review: RiL

RiL was recommended by Kryz Reid of Third Eye Blind.

A two-piece rock band from Yokohama, it is hard not to try some comparisons to Melt Banana, the sound of each band is very different, despite a similar assertiveness.

RiL has a very full sound, so with only two people in the band it is very possible that they use some pre-recorded tracks for performance, but it still feels very live, very raw, and and very real. They are very rock.

There is a harder edge to the music that grunge fans may enjoy.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Band Review: Grace Kelly

Last year I saw an ad for the the PDX Jazz Festival, featuring Grace Kelly, and added her to the review list. I knew it was somewhat of a risk, especially after reviewing Esperanza Spalding in February, but I still believe that someday I will appreciate jazz. 

I'm not there yet.

It doesn't completely matter because Kelly does other things. She plays standards and religious music (I really enjoyed 2011's Grace), and does a good job with them.

I was especially impressed to learn her timeline, because Grace Kelly is a prodigy. Born in 1992, her first release - Dreaming - was in 2005, recorded at the age of 12. Knowing that, I can hear that her voice is not fully mature. She had an interesting take on "Can't Buy Me Love", and I would like to hear how she sounds as an adult. Regardless, I did not hear her youth in her saxophone. I would not have known.

Therefore, having achieved such a high level of skill at such a young age, and with her continuing to work with different people and styles, I imagine the sky is the limit for what she can achieve.

But I would be have a better idea of it if I had already crossed my jazz barrier.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Distribution of sex (Things that worry me, part 3)

Yesterday I put off writing about the first line, about an incel killing 10 people. That referred to the Toronto van attack:

I put it off because of something else that happened with the news coverage - which I will get to - but it could also have been reasonable to separate it because with the other groups, their hatred has tended to focus more on racism, and for incels it is more about misogyny.

I hadn't thought about that too much when I started writing. On one level it doesn't seem like the most important distinction. It is not unusual for white supremacists to be sexist, even as they have women among their members. I don't know that a lot of the more sexist affiliations spend a lot of time on racism, but I think you will find that their beauty standards are influenced by white supremacy. That could simply be a result of structural racism, where it can have an unrealized impact, but hey, if hate and inequality are your thing, that stuff will spread.

Actually, incels are a good example of that, because while their biggest hate is for "Stacys", they have a ton of hate for "Chads". Time for another tutorial.

Incel is short for involuntary celibate, meaning that they want sex but can't get it. "Stacys" are the women they want to have sex with (meaning attractive women who meet their standards). "Chads" are the men the "Stacys" want, so good-looking guys are enemies too. Also, "Chads" are clearly jerks, because women only like jerks, they say. I have definitely heard that one before, and while I would like to think that none of those people (mainly ones I met at church) would drive a van into a crowd, repeating harmful stereotypes to yourself can come out in ugly, ugly ways.

Interestingly, the term "involuntary celibate" started with a woman from Toronto, who in exploring her own sexuality and writing about it was looking for ways to describe things.

Here's the way today's post relates to the previous two posts: a queer woman (hence subject to marginalization in at least two ways) was sincerely exploring and looking for inclusion, and it was adopted by resentful men as a label of victimhood. Real attacks happen on marginalized people all the time, but the dominant groups center themselves in hateful self-pity.

Beyond that, no matter how badly their claims fall apart upon closer inspection, they keep getting attention and validation in the interest of presenting both sides.

Now we get to the thing that made this item stand out for me. One of the reactions to the van attack was a piece about unequal distribution of sex, likening it to income inequality.

I am not going to link to this one (it can be found easily enough), because it's trash. Incels are not merely complaining about a lack of sex; they are complaining about being discriminated against for their physical appearance while discriminating based on physical appearance themselves. What they regret is that the women have a right to choose. The appropriate response to that is not thinking that maybe they have a point.

And it's not surprising at all, because a lot of men were coming forward after the Isla Vista killings and lamenting that girls hadn't been nicer to the shooter.

That one bad take got further publicity because of Ross Douthat of the New York Times.  I'm not linking to that either, because again, the reasoning was very poor. Once more, it is largely that instead of seeing the flaw in not considering the consent of women important, they replicate it. Thanks guys!

Douthat tried to dress it up by bringing in other groups that might be undersexed, but the problem is none of those groups are frequenting Reddit to talk about hating and killing the objects of their desire. Is it because they are not members of privileged groups who don't know how to handle the world not catering to them? Could it be a factor that it is not in fact the looks of these men that is keeping them from getting sex, but their toxic viewpoints?

Mainly, I'd like to point out that this is an excellent example of male privilege. No matter how horrific the things you say are, you will still find people wanting to hear you out. Think of how many people defended Kevin Williamson when The Atlantic did not go through with his hiring, because liberals are so prejudiced. The key content in question, about Williamson's sincere belief that women who have abortions should be hung - so not just the death penalty, but one associated with public executions to be a warning to others, and for something that is legal and without any interest in punishing the partners of the pregnant women - but no, The Atlantic is just being too biased. THIS IS MALE PRIVILEGE.

And yes, it is possible that good supplementary material for this would be a post on how easy it can be to get sex, but I still have another issue that worried me, and this is already part 3.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Terrorist threats (Things that worry me, part 2)

The day after I saw the Andy Slavitt's health care thread, I saw this one:

It doesn't have the same wealth of links, and there are a lot of abbreviations, so I am going to elucidate. The incel was the first item, but I am saving that for last.

A sovereign citizen killed four people at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee on April 22nd.  He was the same person who tried to get onto the grounds of the White House, because as a sovereign citizen he had the right to inspect it. Although mental illness was acknowledged, his guns were returned to him, which is odd given how the NRA likes to scapegoat mental illness as the source of all gun problems. Still, he is white and male (that's not just being snarky; it totally relates).

A neo-Nazi killed Heather Heyer with his car in Charlottesville. Neo-Nazis espouse Nazi ideology now, which mainly emphasizes white supremacy.

The Parkland shooter had ties to a white supremacist group.

Atomwaffen are white supremacists as well, but their name refers to atomic weapons and they are more apocalyptic in their desire for violence. At that rate, it might seem odd that the run of the mill white supremacist had a higher body count, but there are some things that strike me about these deaths. First, one victim was gay and Jewish, two categories that face a lot of prejudice. Another couple were the parents of a girlfriend and they did not approve of the relationship. A lot of mass shootings have to do with the desire to control women and have access to women.

(The third killed his roommates, he says because they were bugging him for converting to Islam, and to prevent attacks. I believe the press coverage focused more on his converting to Islam, which would go along with some other things.)

Lots of militias are anti-government and white supremacist, which is not at all mutually exclusive. This particular group wanted to kill Black Muslims.

There should be some questions there, but then the overall point stands, BLM and Antifa get vilified by conservatives and the media, but they are fighting the violence, not committing it. Yes, there has been property damage associated with Antifa, and some people linked the Dallas police shootings to BLM, but that shooter was interested in at least three actual hate groups. Also, if you don't understand the difference between criticizing police and calling for their deaths, you are sadly in step with the zeitgeist of today but still wrong.

It reminds me of reading something a while back (and there is no way I am going to find it) but they had pictures of eight cop killers. I had heard of all of the cases, I had seen the picture of only one, coincidentally the only Black man in the bunch.

Okay, that is crafting a narrative. It's a racist one, and that it feels right to a lot of people who are probably not actively trying to be racist gives you an idea of the depth of the structural racism in this country's foundation. However, it is not only wrong in what it promotes, but in what it misses. An astonishing number of the white cop killers had iron cross tattoos.

Yes, a lot of people aren't being deliberately racist, but many people are, and the deliberately racist also tend to be misogynist. They tend to be violent. They tend to be horrible people, and they tend to feel aggrieved when marginalized people approach anything like equality. They tend to be white men, but then you say that and white men who haven't killed anyone get mad, regardless of whether their attitudes otherwise support the system. And we have a government that is supporting that by attacking marginalized people.

That is why seeing those two Twitter threads so close together was so disturbing; we are rapidly approaching our worst-case scenario.

And I didn't even get to the incel yet. Maybe I can fit it in with tomorrow's post; maybe I will need another day.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Health care (Things that worry me, part 1)

It was never my plan to write so many multi-part things, and even when I knew I was going to be doing War is Hell, I thought it would be three posts, not six. Then I was going to move on because I have lots of things that I want to write about before I get into general civics and politics.

However, about three weeks ago there were a few things going around Twitter that concerned me, and they would certainly fit into political and civic discourse later, but that doesn't feel quite right either. I am going to try and cover them this week, and hey, maybe the parenthetical numbering will be helpful.

The first one was a thread from Andy Slavitt on health care that was primarily a series of links to other articles, but together they made an alarming trend: 

Those links are all available, but here is a quick list of things happening under this administration:
  • elimination protections for transgender people
  • not recognizing the sovereign rights of Native communities
  • gutting the rights of people with disabilities
  • allowing insurance plans that allow unlimited profits (by not requiring coverage for all conditions, preexisting conditions, and setting caps)
  • putting work requirements on Medicaid (many of those using Medicaid are already working, but an interruption in their job can then leave them uncovered)
  • attacking nutrition programs for low-income groups
  • ending guarantees on birth control coverage
This is how Slavitt ended his thread:
"2017 was a ground war, covered every day in the news as Congress sought to repeal the ACA. 2018 is a cold war— millions will lose coverage, millions more will lose protections, millions more vital elements of their care by the end of the year and it is not a major news item./end"
I think it is more accurate to call this a guerrilla war, but the point stands: after multiple failures to completely overturn the Affordable Care Act, the new goal is death by a thousand cuts.

There are a few things that stand out to me. Perhaps the most annoying is my added note to the Medicaid line, because I know how popular work requirements are with conservatives, and because I don't think it is fair to ignore how many people are working and still need help (which could lead to a good discussion about wages and benefits and things like that) I leave open the issue that some people can't work, or it is feasible for them to work now, or all of the many good reasons why someone can still deserve health care just for being a human being. These are frustrating discussions when there is so much heartlessness and cruelty underlining the need for the discussions.

One part of the Medicaid discussion is the sovereign rights discussion, as it is over the work-for-Medicaid requirements. Indian health care policies have been set up on the basis of treaty and land theft and a host of other things. That means not only that there is added unfairness to something that is already unfair, but I can see additional attempts to erode their sovereignty becoming a big part of the war on the environment.

Going right along with that, it should be no surprise to see protections for corporate profits going as a key plank in the attacks, but it is also disingenuous. Compliance with disability requirements would stimulate the economy. It involves consultation and construction and it helps more people be fully engaged and contributing to society. If it seemed like an undue burden on companies (especially smaller ones), there could be government funding as a stimulus package. This administration will always choose doing harm over doing good.

However, what stood out most was that the way of administering the thousand deadly cuts is by going after marginalized groups, for whom health care is an important part of an often precarious situation. There will be people who applaud transgender individuals not getting their "special" right to health care. Lots of people will be thrilled to see cuts to anything that helps poor people. That's the direction we've been heading.

Looking at it like this, though, the first thing that it makes me think of Martin Niemöller's quote:
"...Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me."
There was something else that made it more ominous though. I told you there were a few things going around Twitter. I'll try and get to the second one tomorrow.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Band Review: Chillitees

Chillitees came up last year when I was reviewing Lampano Alley, because they did a song with Binky Lampano.

Based in Manila, the Chillitees started out working to create soulful and groovy songs in Tagalog. With the Lampano connection you might expect more blues influence, but I hear more jazz. The music is relaxing to listen to, but could easily be funked up for dancing, or quieted down for being chill. I know the term "easy listening" can be used as an insult, but this music truly is easy to listen to, and that works.

To get an idea of the possibilities, there are a few different remixes of "Sama na" available, but I think some good songs for starting out are "You Make Me Juana" and "Lalala".

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Band Review: Vovkulaka

Vovkulaka is a metal band from Odessa, Ukraine.

The words you will most commonly see on their social media are "Dark Angry Evil Metal" and "Pain never sounded so good".

I don't know that they sound that evil, per se, though I can't deny that they sound angry. Some interesting background information on the band is that drummer Volk also does some paranormal research, and that the band took part in a campaign to pressure the Kremlin into releasing a political pressure. That could indicate that without being evil themselves, the band may nonetheless have some familiarity with evil.

Or they could be evil themselves, but that wasn't the impression that I got.

I hear some industrial overtones in their metal, and although these are not really metal bands, I can imagine fans of Nine Inch Nails and Wolfmother enjoying Vovkulaka. If that sounds like you, check Vovkulaka out.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Healing (War is Hell, part 6)

I rarely write to authors, but I communicated with David J. Morris twice via e-mail.

I had gone to Powell's to hear him speak about his book The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. That was very interesting, and I read his book shortly after, but also it ended up correlating with two other books that I read that same year (2015).

First it was Better Off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human, a collection of works edited by Deborah Christie. There were surprising correlations between how we talk about zombies and how we talk about PTSD, perhaps less surprising upon learning about the traumatized survivors of Hiroshima - the hibakusha - dazedly walking away from the blast area, holding their arms out to not agitate burn wounds. Morris had not read that collection, but he was familiar with some of the work.

Then, shortly after finishing his book, I read Code Talkers: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code-Talkers of WWII, by Chester Nez. 

One of the interesting things about PTSD from The Evil Hours was that how it presents changed through different influences. Before film and television, visual flashbacks did not seem to happen. So when reading about the experiences Nez had with PTSD, he had seen movies before, but it was rare, and his symptoms were much more like the ones that you find with people who served in the Civil War (even though PTSD did not exist as a diagnosis then). I was interested in that, and in what worked for Nez. Twice he started having bad spells of being haunted by his war experiences, and twice his community joined in rituals to help him.

For that e-mail, Morris wrote back that if he had finished the book a little later there would have been a chapter on that, because he learned of it later. For those exchanges, I have to find David Morris very smart and with interests I support, though we might not be quite in synch. I should probably try and read more of his work. Beyond that, reading about Nez sent me back to Grossman:

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman

No, the reason that there were more deaths in retreat than during regular combat was not because the war conditions are so poor (not that it helps), but because there is an inherent human reluctance to shooting someone facing you, that apparently gets easier when their backs are turned.

(The movie that led me to the book, The Act of Killing, was also helpful, because you see that these men needed to find ways to deal with killing too. Lots of drugs was part of the answer.)

This was a very disappointing piece of human psychology. At the time I ended up being more disappointed that after laying out the case for why non-fatal interactions are preferred, and how violating this is hard on people so successfully reintegrating them into society after combat requires help from society, Grossman then went on to focus on finding drills that helped soldiers get over their resistance to killing (I can see the necessity, but concerning). He also created a weird allegory about how soldiers and police are sheepdogs, not wolves or sheep, and they need to be this way and that's cool but if civilians are violent that's video games. He has since raised additional concerns where he seems to glorify police killings of civilians.

So, perhaps we need to be careful how much we trust his information, but before he went off the rails, he had written something about welcoming troops home with a retreat that their families attended, giving them an in between state on their way back to society. There was relaxation, and support available, and it helped.

I could not ignore the aspects of community in that retreat, nor the community aspects to the ceremonies that helped Chester Nez.

PTSD is fairly specific, and not every soldier gets it. Having to learn to kill, however, is very common for them. Doing so requires them to circumvent a part of their humanity, and generally involves a dehumanization of the enemy. Again, it's understandable, it may even be necessary, but then making the switch back is hard, and there should be more help for that. That we traditionally send young people, who have not fully established their adult identities yet, is something that may make it worse.

I'm not saying that I have any answers here. Mainly, I have empathy, and a realization that it's important, but also a belief that we can do better.

We talk about supporting our troops, but that often seems to be used more as a way to rebuke reasonable dissent. I hope that we can think about what support should mean, and that it should be helpful, acknowledging specific needs with clarity and compassion.

Okay, I want that for people who aren't troops too, but I will accept a multitude of good starting places.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Roman à clef (War is Hell, part 5)

One of my less successful reading list additions for "War is Hell" was a collection of poetry by those who fought in World War I - primarily British - named for for one of the more famous poems, Anthem for Doomed Youth.

I say it was less successful because many of the poems weren't very good, and reading a lot of indifferent poetry together is pretty annoying. That was mainly a presentation issue, because arranged differently and focusing more on the authors, it could have been a completely different experience. I wholeheartedly agree that the soldiers expressing themselves was important, and that it's worth appreciating that.

For my prose reading, with accounts of these young men, who are no longer young, and some are no longer living, there was something that bothered me, and that is going to be hard to explain correctly.

First of all, even as Audie Murphy's To Hell and Back is considered a memoir, there is some fictionalization, including names and details changed. Ken Babbs' Who Shot the Water Buffalo and Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front are specifically novels, but they are novels inspired by experiences.

In All Quiet, everyone dies. Okay, that's an exaggeration. One man merely gets such a strong reminder of home in some blossoming cherry trees that he starts to walk home, is court-martialed for desertion, and never heard from again. The school teacher who pushed his students to enlist is still alive. The drill instructor who berated and abused the new recruits is still alive. I guess Tjaden lives, because he is in the sequel. Still, the impression that you get is that they all successively die. His classmates who signed up with him die. The young recruit he is so helpful to dies within hours of being aided and comforted. The men he meets and grows to rely on while in the field die.  When Kat dies especially - because he was so good at surviving and making things better - how can you expect anyone to make it out alive? Finally the narrator dies.

In To Hell and Back it felt like only one character besides the narrator lived, Kerrigan. He was only out of danger because he got an injury severe enough to send him home. Kerrigan was credited with a poem in the book that Murphy wrote himself. Was there something that could never be healed?

Those are just impressions. I did not diagram all of the characters and double-check who makes it to the end. I know that even with a high casualty rate, some people live. I also know that when your write, things come out that may not be deliberate but represent real feelings and thoughts. I worry about soldiers coming back with a feeling that everyone was lost. I worry about them having survivor's guilt, or just an overabundance of grief.

The death rate is much lower in Who Shot the Water Buffalo, Ken Babbs' Vietnam-era novel. They were helicopter pilots, which had its own dangers, but it was probably realistic for them to have fewer fatalities than the infantry. There was still something that bothered me at the end.

There are two main characters, fast friends who go through everything together. It is natural to associate the narrator with the author, but personality-wise, his wilder, taller friend seems a lot more like Merry Prankster Babbs, and that character disappears. There are rumors about the wild adventures he is having, but those feel like an inability to accept a death. Did he lose himself? Was he trying to keep someone alive?

In many ways, those are better questions for the authors to figure out. On the other hand, the issue of young people being sent to fight and die, but the ones who live coming back bearing scars both visible and invisible, that is a question for society. That is something we need to be looking at all the time. Not just for the ones who are out there now, or could be sent out there, but for the ones who are back.

There was one more book I haven't mentioned yet, The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. O'Brien has written multiple books and given many talks - he was one of those interviewed for The Vietnam War. Maybe he didn't need to kill everyone off in one novel. Sometimes he writes about his interactions with other living members of his unit.

There was one story that required profanity to tell right, which sometimes got him some complaints.  O'Brien writes...

If you don't care for obscenity, you don't care for the truth; if you don't care for the truth, watch how you vote. Send guys to war, they come home talking dirty.

That's a part of the price, but not the worst part. More on that later.