Thursday, November 15, 2018

Band Review: Jeremy Dutcher

Jeremy Dutcher is a singer from Toronto, Canada. I became aware of him through Digital Drum.

There are two things that are especially important about him, especially as it pertains to his album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa.

One is that Dutcher has Wolastoq roots that he incorporates into his music. Also, he does this as a musicologist and classically trained tenor.

I don't want to get away from the musical ability. Dutcher's voice soars beautifully. The opening track, "Mehcinut", reminds me of "Ave Maria" in how it combines drama with a sense of the sacred, a sense that is very appropriate here.

The album rearranges field recordings from the 1900s, interpreting them in a way that I think requires someone with both a intense caring for the language and people, but also a deep musical understanding.

On "Eqpahak" he speaks as well as sings, and he talks about bringing the music back and bringing the people back. The interviewer challenges that a little, though I don't think it is disrespectful. Dutcher's defense felt right to me. I feel it in two ways beyond the thought of ancestors coming back and listening and being happy to hear their songs revived, though I will not discount that at all. Not all listeners have to do that in the flash.

As well, music is extremely powerful in evoking feelings and sensations. That can operate on behalf of history and legacy.

Beyond that, I remember the ending of the Roots remake from 2016, where old pictures would come to life, and you would know and recognize individuals in them because you knew their story. Music can connect, and be a bridge.

I believe Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa can do that. If these songs are specific to Wolastoq, that does not inhibit them from having meaning, and inspiration, for others.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Band Review: LightningCloud

Last year one of my favorite reviews in November was RedCloud, but I saw at the time that he was doing more with LightingCloud, his project with Crystle Lightning and DJ Jonney Miles.

LightningCloud is pretty fun too.

Their self-titled debut album from 2012 does some interesting things, with references running from The Animals' "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" to "Hernando's Hideaway" from The Pajama Game. There is an upbeat energy and it is easy to dance to, especially "Zoom".

That is fine, but 2015's Indigenous Angels took things to another level.

It's not that the dancing energy has left. "Ketchup Chips" is pretty clubby, and their team-up with Leonard Sumner, "Meet Me At the Pow Wow" is not only catchy, but kind of centers on boys meeting girls.

But Indigenous Angels also has "Walk Alone", dealing with homelessness and leading in with "I'm a Human Being" - something about the homeless that is not remembered enough. Overall it feels like there is a greater seriousness.

That makes a certain sense. Indigenous Angels was also the title of RedCloud's record breaking freestyle in 2014, naming missing and murdered indigenous women. There was a LightningCloud record being planned at that time, and it is not hard to see a connection and a direction between the event and the album.

If the newer project that I discovered last year debuted in 2012 and last released an album in 2015, that just shows how behind I am. However, it looks like RedCloud performed with Crystle Lightning just last month, and you never know what's coming next.

The great thing about music is that once it's out there, it's out there (except in some of the worst break-ups and copyright infringement pursuits). These two albums and various videos are available, though I only found two relevant links.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Band Review: Good Morning Hellen

Good Morning Hellen is the project of Samantha Hill, a singer/songwriter with roots in New York and Florida and is a member of the Mohawk Nation. I found her through a song she submitted through #INDIGENERDS4HOPE, retweeted by A Tribe Called Geek.

(It is not obvious from Hill's online information whether she identifies more as a geek or nerd.)

Good Morning Hellen sings sweetly about sad things. "Fallout" and "Broken Little Bird" stand out in conveying the pain of wanting to help and not being able to, and yet the strongest impression that remains is the sweetness. That is not just referring to her voice, but also to a sense of gentleness and resilience.

Vocally Hill reminds me somewhat of Rita Coolidge. Looking through musical influences, the strongest thread may be personal storytelling, with names like Jim Croce and John Denver appearing. It is country-adjacent enough that there could be good crossover potential, but not in a way that would turn off those strongly opposed to country.

I also enjoy her artwork.

You can support Good Morning Hellen at the Wix and Bandcamp sites below.

ETA: I initially had her last name as Hall, not Hill, which has since been corrected.

Sympathy for Brooke Logan

Six years ago I expressed frustration with The Bold and the Beautiful:

Actually, I am watching it more now than I did then. That's mainly because it is an easy afternoon break, paired with The Talk. CBS really did me dirt by replacing The Doctors with The 700 Club. Too much television is not good, but I need some breaks where I don't have to lead the engagement.

Let me say that the embarrassment that I have about the show is not that I am watching a soap opera, but that it has the same viewing problems that bothered me six years ago and I am still watching it. That they keep making the least interesting choices, repeat the same scenes over and over (sometimes via flashbacks, sometimes through characters rehashing the same conversation) and then dropping everything abruptly in favor of a new pairing, decreasing the motivation for emotional investment. (Although, if this is to be my easy viewing, maybe it's better to not be invested.)

Anyway, currently Brooke and Ridge are having conflict in their marriage. It started with their adult daughters competing over a man, then was exacerbated at work when Ridge pulled funding from her daughter Hope's line to fund his daughter's, and now is focusing on Bill, Brooke's previous husband, whom Ridge hates. In addition to recently having influenced a judge against Bill in his custody case and pushing Bill off of a second-story balcony, Ridge is constantly bad-mouthing Bill, including a recent joke that they should see if the judge can help Thorne and Katie adopt Will (Bill's son) and change his name.

One of my main complaints with the show is that there are many things that should be brought up that aren't. Ridge keeps returning to Bill pursuing his son's pregnant wife (Ridge's daughter) and that was true and gross, but no one is mentioning how Ridge stole Bill's niece from Brooke's son, even though Ridge's son was interested, and then pretended to be the father of his grandson, not letting his son even know he was a father. True, that story line was a mess in general, so the writers might want to forget, but it's still hypocritical.

(It's a super-incestuous show, by the way. Not genetically, perhaps, but in every other way.)

In this case, the repeated argument is that Ridge hates Bill and can't help it, but it bothers Brooke.

What bothers me are all of the things that Brooke should say but does not.

"I told Bill that I'm your wife and I chose you. He can't come between us, but you can."

"I left Bill because of his behavior. I can't stand seeing that anger and manipulation from you."

Brooke has tried pointing out that Ridge does not have the moral high ground, but he is not hearing it. She could express herself more strongly, I suppose, but Ridge is really good at not hearing it. Huge ego.

On one level, you would not really expect Brooke to be good at taking a stand with Ridge. She has always tended to defer to men in general (some abandonment issues from her father), and Ridge especially has been her destiny (in her mind) so it would be hard for her to assert herself against him.

Historically that has not been good for her. Ridge has abandoned her again and again, for various reasons, which I guess makes him the most likely match for her unresolved daddy issues and the least likely person to help in her healing.

It is still frustrating to see her try and express her feelings and to see him keep knocking them aside:

"I made that decision and it's done."
"I already apologized for that."

He does this when he can't even refrain from criticizing Bill after seeing that it upsets Brooke every time. His emotions can't be helped. Her feelings should change.

I was thinking that this relationship diminishes her. That's kind of par for the course on this show, but beyond that, I was thinking today that Brooke does not have the language to explain herself to Ridge, and that a lot of women don't. We need to learn how to talk about things to deal with them. That can be difficult when everyone is cooperating, but when only one side really needs the change, that allows the other side to make it much harder.

This ultimately is what television is like when you view everything through a feminist lens.

No regrets.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was a stupid movie

Yes, I do have political thoughts, but they are too roiled up right now, and they may change as results come in. Instead, I would like to complain about a movie.

Some time ago I thought of various movies that might work for Halloween for me. They were movies that had Halloween themes, but were not truly horror movies because I don't really care for that genre. Over the past few years I have watched Bell, Book, and Candle; I Married a Witch; The Ghost and Mr. Chicken and this year I have pretty much finished up with The Others and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

That's a bit of an oversimplification. Gaslight  was there, but is not really that spooky. What We Do in the Shadows could be spooky and will be watched soon, but it was never on that list. It got tagged onto the end of the Disney list after I saw Thor: Ragnarok and got a burning desire to see more work from Taika Waititi. (I know I am not the only one to have that reaction.)

Also, I can't find The Time of Their Lives. That's an Abbott and Costello film that came up in a discussion about whether or not Gordon Lightfoot's "Paperback Novel" is meant to be taken literally. (It relates to the "ghost in a wishing well" line, obviously.) I can't find it anywhere, but I do have a request in at the library for a collection that contains Abbott and Costello meeting Frankenstein, the killer, and the invisible man.

What is most important to point out with all of these movies is that they have been largely disappointing. A lot of the Disney ones were too, actually, so the problem could be me, though I have been pretty happy with the music documentaries.

Regardless, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir annoyed me in very specific ways which I am now going to complain about, INCLUDING SPOILERS!

If you haven't seen the movie, it starts with a young widow explaining to her husband's mother and sister that she is moving out, taking her daughter (Anna) and maid (Martha) with her. The mother is sad and the sister is resentful, but Lucy (played by Gene Tierney) is steadfast. She will use her inherited shares in a gold mine to live cheaply at the coast.

The cheapest house is haunted, which initially startles and then intrigues her. She refuses to be scared away by the ghost, sea captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison). He is haunting the house because he died unexpectedly (an accident that was interpreted as suicide) and did not leave a will specifying that he wanted the house to become a home for old seamen. They agree to coexist.

One of the minor annoyances here is that she orders him to not manifest to Anna so as not to scare her, and he promises, but later Anna has memories of him. She wasn't scared, so it could be much worse, but realistically it means he broke that promise early.

The gold mine gives out, which the in-laws think will bring Lucy back, but Daniel dictates his life story to her and guides her toward a publisher who will accept it. That would not be enough if a children's author, Miles Fairley (George Sanders) had not seen Lucy and liked her looks, giving her his appointment.

The book is sold, Lucy has an income and a new suitor, and - while she is attached to the captain - she is drawn to the realness of Miles. Only, he's not actually that real, because the cad has a wife and two kids. (Which she should have guessed the minute she saw that it was George Sanders.)

However, before Lucy discovers his caddishness, she and Daniel have a disagreement about him. While Lucy is sleeping Daniel tells her that she has chosen life - the only choice she could make - and that he was just a dream, and that is as it should be. She should be around people. Then he goes off, fading from Lucy's mind.

So, once Lucy is disillusioned with Miles she stays in the house by the sea, walking on the shore every day, until she gets old and dies and Daniel comes for her. Anna has grown up and gotten married and had at least one child, so it is just Martha and Lucy growing older in solitude. It has its compensations, Lucy tells Anna. Then she dies. That is not choosing life and people!

The worst part is that in the early parts of the movie Lucy talks about wanting to be stubborn and brave and to accomplish something. She takes no credit for Anna, and she married young on romantic notions but not really in love. To start out by standing up to her overbearing in-laws, not be dissuaded by a reluctant real estate agent, and to refuse to be scared by a ghost seems promising, but it ends with a quiet life where her one constant is Martha, to whom she acts peevishly right before her death.

No thanks.

That plot only serves male ego.

This is how it should have gone. In the process of taking Daniel's dictation, Lucy should have suggested better forms of expression, showing a knack for language. They only showed her objecting to an impolite expression once. She could have asked more about distant lands. There could have been fun interplay with the irascible ghost conceding sometimes that her ways of saying some things was better, and it could show the development of unsuspected talents.

Yes, it still makes sense that she would be drawn to a living man, and that the captain would see that it was better that way. It even works for Miles to be a cad, but let that be the beginning of her life, not the end of it. She comes home from London, has a good cry, and gets an idea for a new book. She feels an inexplicable urge to create a home for retired seamen. Maybe Martha could help, and have some romance of her own with a not quite so old seaman. Martha ends up running the home - for which she has the skills and energy - and Lucy begins to travel more, seeing more of the world and writing more about it. She begins to have the most interesting life, with at least opportunities for romance, even if none of them quite measure up to the ideal she wrote in her debut novel.

Then it would be okay for her to visit Martha when old, to take a nap upstairs, and to quietly slip away and be greeted by the captain. That would have had a point.

So at this point I guess my favorite kind of horror but not really movies are still Gotham and The Birds.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Some final election odds and ends

At least for Oregon, most of us who are voting turned in the ballots a while ago. I'd like to think that if enough of us turned in our ballots super early, it would end the political ads and calls. In reality, it would probably make the increasing desperation of the ads worse; fewer voters are up for grabs, but that makes them more critical.

Anyway, it's still seeing those ads that has led to the thoughts showcased here.

One is reinforcement for my earlier post, You know enough to vote.

Recent ads have indicated that Knute Buehler has not filed taxes, and that it might be because of how much money he has made by overcharging Medicare. He says his partial tax filings are to protect his financial partners. I think that sounds pretty dodgy. However, I was already not going to vote for him. Perhaps if I had liked him I would be shocked and dismayed. Viewing the supporters of other people who have been dodgy on tax returns, perhaps the appropriate response is to make excuses for it.

I do admit to a little bit of surprise that he is now actually stating outright in ads that he will fix our financial problems without raising taxes. That is such a blatant lie that it could be desperation, but in another way it really takes some confidence. Or a lack of confidence in the discernment of voters.

Regardless, I have no regrets about how I filled out my ballot.

For the election I won't be voting in, I was a little caught off guard about the anti-Oregonian sentiments expressed in recent ads for Jaime Herrera Beutler. I did not realize Washingtonians hate us so much. I get that if your opponent has lived in Oregon it would seem like a reasonable thing to stoke, but I know a lot of people who have lived on both sides of the Columbia, and I thought we generally felt pretty similar. It's jealousy over us getting our gas pumped, isn't it?

Her ads have been interesting in misapplication of statistics for a while, but the last minute desperation has come through not just in anti-webfoot sentiment, but also in a recent ad about health care. Yes, if we went to some sort of single payer health care system you would no longer be using employer-issued insurance (though single payer is not the only means of achieving universal coverage) but it wouldn't play out in the way shown.

On a related note, I have seen complaints about negative campaigning and it being a turnoff and losing votes. I get that, but I think we need to be more discriminating. If an ad says bad things about a candidate, but those things are true and relevant, is that a negative attack ad or is it something you need to know? The larger issues is that you shouldn't be getting all of your information from ads, but if the ads give you things to look up, they can serve a purpose.

Finally, on a more nationwide level, I am now seeing various people saying they are turning their backs on the Republican party for various reasons.

They do seem to be more legitimate than the "Why I left" ads, and we can use the votes, but the undercurrent that bothers me - and is worth some self-reflection - is that you should care about things before they happen to you. The suffering of others matters too. Yes, it catches up, so acting on it early does end up serving self-interest, but there needs to be more than self-interest. We need to care about each other.

Hoping for a blue wave. Knowing it won't fix everything. Hoping anyway.

Exercise your franchise!

Friday, November 02, 2018

Band Review: Snotty Nose Rez Kids

Snotty Nose Rez Kids is a rap duo comprised of Young D and Yung Trybez, both from the Haisla nation in Vancouver. They were literally rez kids, having been raised on the reserve at Kitimaat Village. I came to them from an article in Indian Country Today.

They already have two full albums: The Average Savage from 2017 and this year's self titled LP.

Snotty Nose Rez Kids has a fun energy, a bit like the Fresh Prince, but deeper. "Fiss 'n' rice" is on the surface a fun ode to the canned fish and rice staple and it has good flow, but there are also notes of shame for ingratitude, and an acknowledgment of poverty that goes through the entire album. That doesn't make things drag, but it's real. There are depths to "Long Hair Don't Care" that I don't remember from Fresh Prince (though that would be just judging by singles).

And "Black Blood" is completely serious. "Clash of the Clans" is just strong.

The Average Savage is heavier, with the Dakota Access Pipeline casting a shadow. It's not that there isn't any fun, but there is serious content and the accompanying music is appropriately darker. There are more more electronic effects, and more voice alteration. At one point it felt unsettling, but it was on a track about undoing colonialism, essentially, and so maybe unsettling is exactly the right word, and exactly the right effect.

The discography's timeline has an interesting evolution, in that frequently bands will start out more personal and then become political. This works, though. It is a good look back to personal formation, and the connection between the political landscape the led to the pipeline and the forces that acted on their lives has always been there..

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Band Review: Snot Goblin

Snot Goblin is composed of Thomas Kanewakeron Gray and Lloyd Skanahwati Gray, brothers from New Mexico (originally New York).

I became aware of them after their campus tour was interrupted by... let's say by the racism of a middle-aged white woman. I was upset by the story like many people, but then I heard they were in a band. The least this middle-aged white woman can do is review them (while still understanding that the bands they were representing reaching out to them probably means more). And Snot Goblin sounds like a good band name for the day after Halloween. Tomorrow I will review Snotty Nose Rez Kids and we will get all of the snot over with early in the month!

Focusing on the music, there is not a lot of quantity. I found two songs available on Bandcamp, and their "All Songs" video on Facebook runs for eight and a half minutes. Given their ages I wouldn't hold that against them that; they should be focusing on school.

Those songs are nonetheless very Halloween-appropriate. The artwork is fun, and the songs themselves have a strong driving percussion and chords. It is a pretty heavy sound; think intro to "Master of Puppets", but maybe in more of a minor key.

I can totally imagine them continuing to play through college. Adding some covers to their repertoire and writing a few more songs would give them a reasonable set list, and college can bring lots of inspiration, academic and otherwise.

Here's wishing them success. 

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Which Gina Harris?

I follow a fairly common tradition of updating my Twitter profile with a Halloween-themed name and picture for October.

My plan for my costume this year was to get a domino mask and have my name be "Cleverly Disguised Gina Harris". On September 30th I had not gotten a mask. I do have an old witch hat on hand, so I took a picture with that and changed my name to "Which Gina Harris?"

I have decided the question was more clever than intended.

I should also mention that I look like an old hag in that picture. Not like a warty, stereotypical witch hag, just kind of old and hard. One of the most shocking things about this group I participated in via teleconference was discovering that I do have resting bitch face. I used to look more relaxed. And be more relaxed.

When I went downtown two days in a row, that was for a conference. I should write about that more later. For now, being surrounded by people who are coming up with innovative ways to address real problems had me really aware that I am nobody. At least, I do nothing. No, I would not think that about anyone else, but I would really like to make some kind of a contribution. I like to think I have the ability to do so, but really, nothing.

Which is also not fair, because right now I am doing something that is valuable and also the right priority for me now. That has been reinforced many times, but I never stop being aware that there are all of these other things going on, and there is a need for more people helping, and I can't join in because I have responsibilities here.

The thing about dealing with dementia is that you can't actually win. It will continue to progress. Even having adjusted expectations to just going for good days - contented engagement - there is a limit to how much that helps. It does actually help, because many times as I have looked at all of the things that did not get done, I sit back and think "But she had a good day." However, it is not a lasting achievement and I am painfully aware of that.

(Plus it can only get worse and then end in death. That takes a toll on positivity.)

Anyway, I remember at one point having this thought, "I miss me." Then I was like, "What does that mean?"

It felt like I missed feeling strong and being able to get things done.

I know part of it was one person whom I got to visit with briefly; she just exudes strength. She probably doesn't always, but we don't get to see each other that often. From my experience, she radiates power and dynamism. I tried to think of what I radiate, and the most likely answer seemed to be tiredness.

I exude negative energy, I thought, but that isn't really the right way of expressing it. I don't think I put out negativity, but I may transmit a lack of energy. That would make a lot of sense.

I used to commonly be called a rock. People would take about how they could just feel my strength in a hug, and how I could be counted on, and it would be nice to still be like that.

Except, when people said that before, I was a mess then too.

I remember hearing that on my mission. That's fine, but I also had the second worst depressive spell of my life in the mission field, experienced the first time sadness left me literally mute, and once I got into the dust and pollen filled bowl of the San Joaquin Valley, I got sick once per season as the air messed with my lungs.

Someone recently mentioned my strength, who has only known me since this started. Oh, you don't know, but for her, because I can listen and be sensible and supportive for her, I am. But I am also still a mess.

I guess it's all of the above, all at the same time.