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!