Thursday, July 19, 2018

Band Review: Ryan Doherty

Ryan Doherty is a guitarist based in Birmingham, England.

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.ryandoherty-music.com/

https://www.facebook.com/d0hertyry4n/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi9Ja_dT_LYTciZIKmQm2fw

https://twitter.com/d0hertyry4n

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Some thoughts from When the Levees Broke

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

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

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

http://preparedspork.blogspot.com/2018/07/making-plan-insurance.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

There's always more

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

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

https://thegrio.com/2013/09/13/virgil-ware-and-johnny-robinson-2-black-youths-killed-in-1963-often-overshadowed-but-not-forgotten/

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

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

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

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

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

https://abc3340.com/archive/family-of-16th-st-bombing-victim-says-a-name-has-been-wrong-for-decades

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

https://www.birminghamtimes.com/2017/09/fifth-little-girl-gives-first-hand-account-of-horrific-church-bombing/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They're still around too.


Monday, July 16, 2018

Fooled us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also I overthink things. Regularly.


Friday, July 13, 2018

Musician Review: Dustin Phillips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that's what I'm doing instead.

http://www.dustinphillipsmusic.com/

https://youjumpijump.bandcamp.com/

https://twitter.com/dustinphillips

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Band Review: Anewta C

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

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

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

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

http://www.anewtac.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AnewtaC/

https://www.youtube.com/AnewtaC

https://linktr.ee/anewtac

https://twitter.com/AnewtaC

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

2018 Black History month reading

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

Poetry

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

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

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

Comic books

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


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

Other Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documentaries

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

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


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Children's Books: Coretta Scott King Book Awards

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.  The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood. 
http://www.ala.org/rt/emiert/coretta-scott-king-book-awards-all-recipients-1970-present

One of the things I really enjoyed about this list is that the books I found seemed to focus on celebrating artists. I don't see any evidence that it is deliberate, except possibly the focus on culture, but seeing the way artists attempt to capture art, dance, and music was really fascinating.

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison

Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier

It is not just that these are both about trombone players, but they are both artists I have reviewed, even having seen Trombone Shorty live. That was a neat connection. I am more fond of Frank Morrison's art, which does a wonderful job of creating a time and place, but it may be more helpful for some children that Trombone Shorty is playing now. They could see him. They could practice like him. Both books are about gifted artists, but those gifts were helped not just by their hard work, but also with helping hands in their environments. There is a good sense of community, especially for New Orleans for Trombone Shorty.

http://sporkful.blogspot.com/2018/02/band-review-melba-liston.html
http://sporkful.blogspot.com/2017/03/band-review-trombone-shorty.html

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like the Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers

I was not sure how well Josephine Baker's life would work in a children's book, but they even show the bananas and it is still fine. I was impressed with that. Very engaging artwork by Robinson, and it is easy to take a different slant with Baker's story, but this is inspiring and it works.

The art is a bit modern for my taste in Firebird, but the way her dance is spread over the city is inventive and holds interest. I also appreciate the overall message, wherein a young ballerina does not believe in what she can achieve, but finds inspiration and encouragement through Copeland.

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

This handles some of his traumas and difficulties very well, which I think makes it a very useful book. Steptoe does the illustrations on found wood, which makes the artwork stand out visually, and feels like an appropriate tribute for Basquiat.

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

The artwork is amazingly realistic. The content might be a bit much for younger children; I would think appropriate for eight and up. Except I think this might also be the book I accidentally got in Spanish, so my appraisal may not be completely fair. I mean, I know Spanish, but there are things that might have come across differently in English and I wouldn't know.

Little Melba and Josephine were my definite favorites, where you should just take some time to appreciate the pictures.

The other thing that was interesting is that even though at this point I was not seeking out anything other than picture books, I ended up reading one of their Honors books (Long Way Down) based on seeing a friend's review via Goodreads.

More on that tomorrow.

The other thing that I hope comes through from these reviews collectively is an appreciation for how many wonderful books are out there. You can just keep finding more and more, and the supply never needs to run out.

Don't worry about missing some; just find it exhilarating that they are there.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Children's books: Pura Belpré Award winners

The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.
http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/belpremedal

You may be thinking that it would make a lot of sense to have looked up this particular award in September, National Hispanic Heritage month.  The idea is sound, but here is where I admit something embarrassing: I thought I was looking up the Schneider Family Book Awards, the category below it on my list.

Both awards are given - along with many others - through the American Library Association, so the first parts of the web address were the same. I was typing in a bit and looking to type more, and it was easy to get confused.

As it happens, the first book title I saw was Lucky Broken Girl, which could easily have fit into both awards. I did start noticing that the theme seemed different than what I expected, but I was requesting books as I looked them up. By the time I figured it out I just went with it.

Eventually I hope to have explored many categories, and it may not be in a completely logical order. I remain uncommitted to exploring diverse erotica.

Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar was the children's book. Parents are very frustrating in this book, and also sympathetic and loved, just like in real families. The protagonist herself does not always take being confined to a body cast well, nor the therapy that comes after, and that may provide some relief for young readers who struggle with their own obstacles. Some of the language is sometimes stilted, possibly an effect of attempting to portray non-native English speakers.

Picture books

The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes by Duncan Tonatiuh

La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

I did not love the stories for these two. The first is an adaptation of a legend about the creation of two mountains, and the second is a version of a fairy tale that is not my favorite. They are still worth checking out for the gorgeous artwork.

Martinez-Neal takes her inspiration from different regional costumes of Peru, and since we are in Peru adds in guinea pigs for good measure. Tonatiuh's work is inspired by Aztec art. Both make good use of color, and are fascinating to look at.

Referencing something that exists visually already but may not be familiar to children leads us to...

Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra.

As luck would have it I had just finished an art class that talked about gender and art, and spent some time on Kahlo and her use of animals in her art. That class went against the idea that the animals were substitutes for her children, which this book kind of perpetuated (that may be a long-standing orthodoxy). Regardless, it was wonderful to learn more about her history with her animals, to know that you can still go to the house and see the pyramid that she had Rivera build for them, and to appreciate the way Parra reminds you of Kahlo's art, opening the door for young readers to appreciate it. As they get older there will be so much more to it than cats and monkeys. Definitely recommended.

All Around Us by Xelena González, illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia

The most interesting thing about this book is that while it focuses on circles a lot, often only part of the circle is visible - not all of the connections and cycles are in view, but they are still there. That works well for a book on inter-generational relationships. That also leads us to...

Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina, illustrated by Angela Dominguez

True confession time: I had an aunt who would sometimes visit from Italy. I loved her but I would also get frustrated with another person in the house, and the language barrier, and the different ways of doing things. (I was more appreciate and mature by the time I started going to visit her and disrupting her household.) As the protagonist learns to adapt to her previously unfamiliar grandmother coming to live with them, I related to that. There is also a nice nod to the importance of pets.

Obviously I liked some of the books better than others - that's just inevitable - but I can see any and all of them inspiring good discussions, and being good reading experiences.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Band Review: Treading Paper

Treading Paper is a solo project from Michael David Miller.

Despite his background in punk music, Treading Paper is something much more mellow and fluid. At times it sounds religious.

Without being completely acoustic, the sound is stripped down, focusing on melody, but with strummy accompaniment.

"Cessation" was my favorite track, but it also had the fastest tempo and the most complex accompaniment. "Danny" is more typical.

There are currently no shows listed, but the web page does indicate that a new EP will be released later this year.

https://www.treadingpaper.net/

https://www.youtube.com/user/MrPunkdude3456

https://twitter.com/MichaelMeraki

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Band Review: Na Unt?


I am actually not positive that is the right title. There does seem to be a band called Na Unt? (German for "So What?"), and one of the members seems to go by Mister Tetzentheil, though I don't think that is anyone's last name. But Mister Tetzentheil could also be a band, maybe.

Some of the confusion may be that I don't speak German, but I swear the page layout just changed. I can no longer find the songs today that I have been listening to this week. That being said, the Twitter profile refers to ska, punk, and comedy, and I am not sure I found any of those things.

I guess the lyrics are kind of punk, but the music seems slower and less aggressive. Some of the background accompaniment could be kind of ska.

Ultimately, I do not feel qualified to do this review. Perhaps things would have become clear with one more listen, but the confusion could have remained; I have no idea.

I do remember a strong feeling that the recording equipment could use an upgrade. It felt like the vocals and instruments don't balance. However, I also remember once mentioning the muddy recording quality to a friend back in college regarding his band's first demo, and it turns out that was on purpose. (It was the early '90s, and there was some musical trending in that direction that I was not aware of.). It got kind of awkward. Anyway, I think Na Unt? might want to try backing up from the mic, but I acknowledge that it could be on purpose.

So - just to be fully clear - I am not giving this band a bad review. I am withholding a review because I don't know what I am listening to. It's not completely satisfying, but it will have to do.

https://mistertetzentheil.com

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDCzd6blNRcZVRHb0xZcidw

https://twitter.com/mister_tetzenth

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Three for the Fourth

I know, yesterday was three more things, but that was a group of three things that I need to work on. Today is more about three random things that I should get out of the way, and then move on and keep going. That being said, two of them are about difficulties in moving on. Maybe all three are.

One thing is frustration with my desk and dresser. I have always had a tendency toward clutter, which I am not proud of. As things have piled up on me and my ability to get through them has diminished, I have a network of piles of books and mailings and notes about things to do. Redundancy is an issue; I am on my 7th foreclosure notice. I guess that means they have no confidence in registered mail, or me. (Probably me.)

I had felt like I couldn't get started on other things until I could really get to the bottom of this clutter. It appears all this does is prevent me from starting on other things. I have been knocking bits of it away, but my grand idea for just focusing on a giant push through so it is gone was never realistic. It wasn't even that glamorous a fantasy! Instead, opportunistically, when I have a few minutes I grab a few things.

Overworked, overtired, but persistently working my way through, but not letting that reality keep me from other things -- that is what I need to accept. Moving on.

I have also been a bit stymied with what to do with the blogging. There were things I knew I wanted to blog about, and other things that seemed to need it. I hate the lack of order, but they all blend together messily anyway. If I am concerned about political discourse and situations in the world, they often relate deeply to what I am reading and why.

I just finished my 2018 Black History month reading. I am still working on the post-inauguration reading that I started in January 2017. I hope to finish by September, but there are no guarantees. I believe that Monday and Tuesday I will cover some children's books, Wednesday I will summarize the Black History month reading that was not picture books. Then, as I get into additional detail on some of the books in the following weeks, maybe that will give me the path to talk about other things. It will be messy and without clearly-defined boundaries, but maybe that's just life.

Which leads to the third thing.

I have enough problems in my own sphere to keep me plenty busy, but the pressures of the rest of the world are felt too. They are felt hard.

They are often felt worst by those who are trying to help and make positive changes. There are policies that make things harder, attitudes that make abuse more prevalent, and caring even when you are not directly affected can be overwhelming. There have been some notable suicides, but there are also ones that probably aren't noticed. There have been attempts.

That can be really easy to get mired down in, and I am not in this post going to tell you anything to fix it. I just ask that we be kind. Keep an eye on people who might be struggling, whether you know them or not. A small bit of kindness can still be enough to get someone to the next bit.

It was not that long ago that I tried to really make a point of keeping in touch with the people I cared about. Then the world crashed down. I am lucky that there are people who keep track of me. I can try and be better, but my point is that it takes everyone.

You do what you can. You may save lives. You may save your own soul.

Don't give up.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Three more things

I knew if I didn't post before I left for my eye exam today, the day would get away from me. I didn't, and it did. Still, today's post should be pretty simple.

Around October 2015 I was writing about problems and wants that I had and things that I needed to do, and I shared that and started working on those things. It certainly was an outgrowth of the Long Reading List and other things, but it was also its own phase. Some good things happened as I worked on it.

It is an amazing thing to like myself now. Although I needed to get past believing that there was something inherently lacking in me, figuring that out didn't automatically change the feelings. That took some time. Given that time, though, I have grown. While there has definitely been growth during this time of unemployment and care-giving, there are also parts of it that might have been impossible without what I had already done.

I have also found some improvement in family relations, which is not only dear to my heart but at times seemed impossible.

When my computer died and I lost all my data, that included the spreadsheet where I was tracking my progress on those specific areas. I have not been able to completely recreate that, but I know that there are three specific areas that I still had to work on. Those are the ones that are firmly in my mind. They are the ones that I know I need, and so I hope they might be the ones that allow me to move to the next phase of my life, which I hope will be the phase with less poverty.

There is always some fear, because one big source of stress is my mother's condition, and there is pretty much only one way for that to end. There are no happy thoughts there. It is easy to get stalled on that. If I am perfectly candid, part of what made the difficulties mentioned yesterday so hard was that along with the time needed for regeneration I also needed some time to grieve. She lost some ground after the hospital stay, and some of it doesn't look like it will be coming back. That always requires some adjustments to our routines, but also it requires some time to mourn a little.

I suppose one of the key growth areas required has been learning that there are things that I can't fix, though I had gotten really used to fixing things and taking care of things in my life before. I can be grateful for the good that has come through this, and I will learn to be grateful for what comes, but I know there are hard times ahead, and I am not at all eager for that.

Nonetheless, there are those three things that I know I haven't really gotten to yet, and I can be eager to do those, and believe that good things will come from them.

One is driving. I will not be able to start on that for about two weeks most likely, but the last time I was working on it, I was doing pretty well, so maybe the loss of two weeks won't matter. There were times when I thought it would be okay to only have my permit and be comfortable driving, but I probably just need to go ahead and get my license.

I also need to finish transcribing my mission journal. I am not going to go back and recreate what I already did, because I still hope that some day data can be recovered off the hard disk. Maybe the point isn't so much to have it as just to have written it. Anyway, I'm going to do it.

Finally, there is that focus on health, and meeting my physical needs, which is so much a part of the self-care.

As I think about the stress, I keep wanting to go for walks outside and meditate, and then not leaving myself the time. That needs to change. I have been getting in short meditation sessions for the last few days, but my walks have all been kind of accidental, like missing a bus and just walking to the train. I would like to be more deliberate. Mindful, if you will.

I have this notebook for the caregivers program that is a 6-week program, so if I go through that, and work on the journal and practice driving over the next six weeks, then I feel like something else will come clear. I will know what to do, or something will happen. This has always been based on feelings anyway. (Feelings that read a lot.)

Anyway, that's what I'm going to be working on. If something interesting happens along the way I may write sooner, but I'll write on August 15th with an update for sure.

One more thing about the concert (I did miss a bus that night): the last song was "Ten Minutes". It repeats several times "Everything will work out". It doesn't mean that in the context of the song, because he is asking how she can say that, but that night, after an emotional roller coaster, I took it that way, and I still am.

Besides, he says she is always right in the song too. Sure, I think he means that she always acts like she is right, but the failure of the boyfriend to see the girlfriend's rightness should not necessarily be accepted at face value.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Here we go again

I'm a bit disappointed in myself.

I wrote less than a month ago about realizing the need for self-care and balance, and trying to work on that, and I am still stuck there. Let me back up a little.

Longtime readers may remember that latent in my body is an old infection that will spring back to life if my immune system takes enough hits. Back when I was still learning how to deal with it, any illness at all would bring it back up, but I have successfully navigated several illnesses without it.

The past three months have just been a lot. I was getting through them pretty well anyway, but I started feeling the warning signs last week and really started worrying. It wasn't just a fervent desire to not get sick - though that was real - but also that I had things I really wanted to do coming up. I had a concert Wednesday night (both reviews last week mention my trying to take it easy at the concert) and then Thursday I was supposed to visit Fort Vancouver with a friend.

I worried about both of them. As I try to find this balance, I see three things that I need that it is easy to skimp on.

Good nutrition and water intake is important, but because I cook for my family and try to keep them healthy too, and because my water consumption has become pretty much a matter of habit, those things more or less work out for the most part. I have no guarantees on sleep, alone time, or social time. If I get low on any of them - and especially on all of them - I start feeling frayed and weepy and the worse the need gets the harder it gets to even be able to identify a plan for mitigating the need.

(Logically I probably should always start with sleep, because it requires the least planning, but it can be hard to sleep when you are feeling all drawn out.)

It had started getting better with some friends coming through anyway, so I'd had some social time. but at that point it felt kind of too late. I had these two things that I very much wanted to do, and that would give me new interaction and blogging material, and I was scared to go.

I ended up splitting the difference. I went to the concert but stayed seated and was not at all wild. It was still a late night, but worth it. The words and music are still running through my head. I canceled my Thursday plans, and focused that day on trying to get better.

That remedy is rest, with lots of leg elevation, and lots of water (more than usual), along with not much in the way of carbs. It's not as relaxing as it sounds, but it was less so this time because Mom needed so much attention.

With the Norovirus, she was asleep during my worst symptoms (3 to 6 AM), and she had just gotten out of the hospital and wasn't particularly energetic herself. She is feeling a lot better now, so has more energy, but doesn't know how to direct it without some guidance.

That is what I am here for, and while it does have its frustrations it generally works out. We do not have a sick days process in place.

My thought at the time was that clearly I cannot be sick and take care of her, so I need to do whatever it takes to not get sick. It shows a charming naivete about how much is in my control.

I cannot tell you how many people have told me that when you are a caretaker you need to take care of yourself. I haven't argued with any of them, because I know they're right, but no one tells you how to do it. They probably don't know. I surely don't.

So yes, I am still working on trying to take good care of myself, which I have learned how to do for pretty much everyone but me. Oddly, my response ended up being more work, which sounds like I haven't learned anything at all, but I think I know what I'm doing. Somewhat. I'll write more about that tomorrow.

Also, the house is in foreclosure. I think it will be okay, but I don't know how that one is going to work out either.