Friday, June 21, 2019

2019 Music Goals Update

I tend to organize my life into six week segments. At least when I have some sort of goal in place, I look at a six week period, regardless of how the actual execution goes.

Looking at going for a while without reviewing any bands, I figure that will probably be for about six weeks, a bit longer than the do-over Black History month.

During that time period I am focusing on listening to the bands I wanted to listen to more after reading Nothing Feels Good. There were fewer bands than the last list I was going through, but because it is listening to the entire catalog - not just the top ten or so songs - it is taking longer. (Mogwai is taking forever!)

Some of these bands will be marked for eventual review, and some won't but will get a song of the day. That's okay. Other goals of going back through my reviewed bands, recording a week's worth of songs myself, and studying more about Christmas carols will still happen eventually.

Typically, I have thought of other things I want to do, but there is a theme to it that interests me.

For example, the daily songs from Martin Luther King Day through Valentine's Day were a Stevie Wonder tribute . That was great, but I could only do it because of the notes I'd taken. Otherwise there was too much to keep in memory. When I played each song again I realized why I liked it, and kind of remembered, but I could not bring them to mind before, and for the most part I still can't.

I want to go through his catalog again and create a playlist of my favorites. Then I can play it sometimes and remember. There's not a rush, but it needs to be done.

In addition, I realize that I want to return to two of my larger listening projects, and probably pull out some more bands for review.

It is especially important with the listening from the comments on the Greatest Guitar songs list, because I wasn't reviewing yet then. There were a lot of artists and I don't remember them all. That isn't always bad, but maybe there are ones that I want to remember and don't. 

If I think now off the top of my head about whom I would want to go back to, I can think of maybe Gang of Four and Magazine... that's two out of what was roughly 179.

(Just for the record, without having gotten there yet on the Nothing Feels Good listening, I know I will want to do a full review of Social Distortion and Anti-Flag. Does that mean I can skip this review and just put them down on the review list? Maybe, if I didn't have so many hangups.)

With the list of Black women artists, well, I did pull a few of them out for review already: Melba Liston, Noname, Ledisi, Joan Armatrading, Sharon Jones, Leona Lewis, and Fefe Dobson. However, I did not realize from going through once how much I loved Mary J. Blige, and that first time around I completely missed Stephanie Mills. 

Those all have the same point, and it relates to wanting to go back through all of the previous musicians reviewed too (Emi Meyer was #628). I have previously written about feeling like I am in transition; the question becomes what will I take with me? I have learned and discovered a lot over these past few years; what am I keeping?

There is so much I don't know about what is coming. Remembering may also have a more desperate importance to me now. Maybe I will end up being a writer who writes nothing but different metaphors for dementia. There are potentially many.

For now I can only see a few steps ahead, but I will take them.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

I can't even...

That title should probably be for an angrier or at least more astounded post. It's not, but saying "I can't" does give me some serious consternation, and I can't.

When I was planning on re-doing Black History month, of course that was going to include reviewing more Black artists. I easily had enough artists that I have been wanting to get to.

If you have been keeping track, you know that my posting is getting more irregular. The band reviews have been slightly more regular, but still falling behind. There were three more artists that I intended to do in May and there just wasn't time, for listening or for writing it up. Frankly, I have not been happy with the writing quality of my recent posts either.

At this point, the best I can do musically is come up with daily songs.

It is also not surprising for anyone that I am behind in reading, and that before really starting my Black History month reading I am still working on nine more books about gender and violence, four more on Native American Heritage, six on education that will be an important addition to the themes of this recent Native American Heritage reading, plus five more books on death and grief, and about twenty-three books for Asian-American and Pacific Islander heritage. And although I am not trying to finish my post-election reading before any of them because that is its whole own thing, it did feel very important to get to the Nazi segment because when I think people are saying the same things Hitler said I want to be sure, but that involves two long and factually dense books and two terrible books written by Hitler and it is not going fast!

(So sometimes when I am frustrated at how slowly I progress, I should probably stop and remember that I am overly ambitious.)

When it took me too long to get to my 2014 Native American Heritage reading, I ending up deferring on the books, and watching a bunch of documentaries:

I am doing something similar here. Instead of trying to read any of the slated books, I am going to be watching several movies by Black directors, and catch up on some other media.

If I am not writing music reviews, maybe I can get to writing about some of these books that I have read, or that I am going through now. For one thing, I had read some of the slated books. For my children's literature I wanted to focus on the illustrations of Sean Qualls and I am currently on the last of those selections. It has not gone the way I intended, but what ever does?

I have also read one of the poetry books I had planned on, and maybe some other poetry will sneak in over this next month. That could be okay.

But always there is that frustration: I feel like I should be able to do more, and do it faster. I really hate that I can't.

Except I am learning more all of the time, and understanding more. I have better answers for complex questions when I get asked.

(So sometimes when I am frustrated at how slowly I progress, I should probably stop and remember what I have done, not just what remains undone.)

Anyway, I hope there will be posts about books and illustrations and movies.

I hope.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Juneteenth, Black Music Month, and Queen Sugar

February - regular Black History month - was unusually bad this year for the number of blackface photos surfacing. Maybe there can't be any great news for any marginalized group under this current administration, but there was a general feeling that it would be good to have a do-over.

Some people had suggested starting on Juneteenth and then going through for 31 days. June is Black Music month anyway, so it would take in part of that, and have some good cookout weather. Also, it can elevate the 4th of July, because Independence Day should mean more than it does, especially under this administration.

Anyway, I don't know what other people are doing, but from today through July 22nd, my daily songs will be from Black artists, and I will also be posting a daily article focusing on Black history. I will sum those up at the end of the month, but I think I am going to try and focus on individuals rather than events. We will see. I don't have all of the songs planned out other, but I am sure around Blues Fest time there will be some zydeco.

Musically I am kicking things off with a trio of songs from Mary J. Blige. You may remember from my review of her in February that there was a section off of Stronger With Each Tear that I thought was just perfect, so that seems like a nice kickoff to the month.

There are some other parts to how I will be commemorating the month, but those have to do more with my inadequacies so I will just push them off to a later post. Today is a celebration.

Therefore, let me say how happy I am that Queen Sugar is back.

There were some really nice touches in the season premiere, like Tevin Campbell as Cousin Junior, and a hearing-impaired woman and translator in the audience right before Charlie's award presentation went South. And boy, did that go South!

Nova is wrong with how she is doing things, but I get why she is being wrong in this way. I can feel sympathy for her, but more for the others.

However, most of all, before all of this happened I am glad for the sheer joy that we got to see before that. Yes, that is especially with the opening of Vi's Prized Pies, but also Vi and Hollywood shopping and happy, and Ra running and jumping for joy to have his parole completed. Dramas have to drama, but there needs to be balance and relief too, and this was glorious.

Tomorrow: the things that I can't do, and the things that I am doing instead.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Band Review: Emi Meyer

I meant to publish the Emi Meyer review a week ago, on the 7th, but an internet outage set me back. In this case it works out, because Meyer released a new album, Wings, on June 12th, and I have been able to listen to it.

I became aware of Meyer due to some collaboration with Shing02, so was not at all surprised to hear a strong jazz influence in her work.

It is there, but her music is not limited to jazz. Some songs have a more pop influence, perhaps most noticeable on her 2014 release, Seiichi Nagai. Galaxy's Skirt, from 2013, might fit more into adult contemporary.

I don't intend to get too hung up on genre, often not the most useful way of understanding music. I mention it only because I appreciate the way that you can hear different themes and threads, and yet within the catalog the artist always sounds like herself. Her identity appears to be firm, and liberating. It allows for a fair amount of playfulness, and contemplative seriousness, and heartbreak.

There is plenty to explore.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Band Review: Kosmic Renaissance

Last May I reviewed Shing02, and noticed two other associated acts, Emi Mayer and Kosmic Renaissance.

I had not realized the time gap between them. Emi Meyer (tomorrow's review) has releases as far back as 2008, with her most recent album in 2017. (Her collaborations with Shing02 seem to be from 2010.)

On the other hand, Kosmic Renaissance's main period of activity seems to have been back in 2005. With a focus on improv, there are some recordings of live performances, but there do not appear to be any studio albums.

This has also meant a lack of information. Their most solid source of individual information is a MySpace page, with some entries on Youtube and Soundcloud under Tabla Jazz. Anything I could find, I am linking to down below.

From the live recordings, it is very much a feeling of jazz improv, except that there is very little swing influence. Instead, it is more of a techno focus. That impression could be driven by the accompanying light show, but I also think working with the lights gives a different mindset to the performance. That has a concrete influence on how the music comes out.

With Shing02 on keyboards, Sameer Gupta on percussion, and David Boyce on saxophone, the trio is musically strong, and the collaboration is interesting. It isn't catchy where I want to listen to it again and again, but I don't think it's supposed to be. If they wanted to be that kind of band, they wouldn't have done improv.

Remembering Shing02 from my previous listening, there was always an exploration of boundaries, and what could be crossed and combined. Based on that, Kosmic Renaissance makes sense and fills a role.

And you can find a few recordings if you try.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

A month of food selfies

I have now completed my second month of themed selfies.

In many ways it was like March, the month of book selfies. Mainly, it started to feel tedious long before it was over, but also I did start thinking about content more, and I found ways to have fun with it.

It also showed me how much the theme makes me more aware, because on June 1st, freedom from that constraint meant not taking any photos and then remembering after I was already getting ready for bed.

(And May and March were specifically chosen as months with 31 days so I really had to commit.)

May was also more profound than March, because I was going up against taboo. There are no secrets about me reading a lot, or that including children's books and non-fiction and all sorts of things. There can be some serious stigma for a fat woman admitting that she eats.

I mean, surely it could be figured out, but still, it feels like I am not supposed to admit it. Perhaps I should be ashamed. 

I may have even thought of it as a chance to show that I do not exclusively eat "bad" foods. I do try and create nutritious and balanced meals (though money and stress haven't been doing me any favors lately).

Like any series of selfies, at first there was hesitation and then it ended up being just that this is me. Take me or leave me.

Sometimes I look better, other times worse, but that is all my life and I don't owe attractiveness to anyone. I do some things well; others not so much.

And sometimes I am in a rut, but there is still variety and I try to get the pictures to show it.

This is a hard year, with I suspect some really hard things coming up, and it was a concern; do I want to take a picture when things are absolutely terrible? No, but the purpose of this isn't about wanting to take pictures.

Looking ahead to what might really hurt, I have decided that I might take pictures daily but wait a week to catch up on posting them. As minor as it is, it feels better to have a plan for how to deal with that.

Regardless, it is all just me, and I can live with her.

Monday, June 03, 2019

In the kitchen

I have really been wanting to blog.

I mean, I have successfully gotten some band reviews and travel reviews up, so it hasn't been a total void, but actually writing about me and sharing that has felt important and also impossible.

The last time I tried, I was also trying to get a lot of baking done. I was not specifically doing it because I was depressed, though there were ways in which it felt pretty appropriate.

I had gotten the ingredients for another batch of Kodiak cookies, which had been really popular the last time I made them. Then a family that we love lost a mother and grandmother (and great-grandmother - just one person, but different roles) and I wanted to do something.

It started that I was going to make a large batch of pumpkin bread and a double batch of cookies, working on them right before making dinner. Then someone unexpectedly came by, meaning I needed to change dinner plans. No baking happened that day.

The next day I got started again, but I didn't have as much time to soften the butter. I decided to just give it a tiny bit of microwaving, which I miscalculated.

I was worried that it was too soft looking at it, but it was still holding it shape. Well, that became less and less true the more I mixed. This was not going to be ideal for baking.

Fortunately, even though melting does completely alter butter, apparently you can do a reasonable facsimile of undoing the damage if you put the too-liquid cookie dough into the fridge and let it firm up a bit. The next day I baked them and they were fine.

It feels like there was one more thing that went wrong and delayed things, but maybe that was just all the time spent indecisive and unsure. (Is pumpkin bread really the right thing to take for mourning?)

I eventually ended up with three loaves of pumpkin bread (two from scratch, one from a mix), one of banana bread, two of regular bread, and the double batch of cookies.

Uncertain ideas, indecisiveness, and false starts - but always good intentions - sounds  a lot like my blog right now.

Mom is getting worse. She requires more attention and takes more patience, and there is less gratification. I don't blame her for that, but I still feel it. I am often overwhelmed and sometimes angry, but mainly I am just sad. Oh, and also tired.

But sometimes things still get done, whether that is a fresh blog post or fresh bread.

Life goes on.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Concert Review: Gogol Bordello

I saw Gogol Bordello at the Crystal Ballroom Saturday night.

This was my second time seeing them. The last time I had never heard of them, and had no idea what it was going to be like. It ended up reminding me a lot of a circus.

(I think this may have been a 2010 appearance at the Roseland, but am not positive. I wasn't doing reviews yet.)

Part of the circus atmosphere came from two backup singers that did some dancing too. Although it was not at that level of contortion, there were some things about them that reminded me of Cirque du Soleil.

They were not there this time, but there is so much dancing and energy and jumping around from everyone else that it is still pretty much the party that it was. It may feel like everyone on the stage is more musically necessary, but they are also dancing as they play.

The energy from everyone is amazing, but especially notable from singer and guitarist Eugene Hütz. He reminded both me and my friend of Iggy Pop (another show we have seen together). They have a similar wiry intensity, though I think they convey different moods.

The mood at the Crystal was euphoria. I had no idea that Gogol Bordello was so popular in Portland. The place was packed and the crowd jumped and raised their fists and sang along, even if they only really knew the "Hey"'s.

I'm glad I got a chance to write them up.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Concert Review: Nu-Folk Rebel Alliance

I saw Nu-Folk Rebel Alliance open for Gogol Bordello Saturday night at the Crystal Ballroom. There was a great deal of confusion.

Their sign just said NuFolk. Searching on that brings up more information about the term as a genre, and not this particular band. Searching on NuFolk in conjunction with Gogol Bordello brought up the Rebel Alliance. It is probably best to use the full name when searching for more information.

(Sometimes there is no dash, but the F is still capitalized. Also, if you search only on Rebel Alliance you get Star Wars-based results.)

In addition, early in the show I thought I recognized one of the members of the opening band on stage with Gogol Bordello. Headliners do invite supporting acts on stage sometimes, but then I kept seeing him and wondering if maybe there were just two people who looked alike. In fact, Pedro "El Criollito" Erazo is in both bands. I have seen that happen too, but not as often.

One of NuFolk's releases is a tribute to The Clash. They covered a few Clash songs, and I was sort of thinking of them as the world music Clash. That is not terrible, but I prefer punk Clash. Because of that, I preferred their original music (which I am assuming is original but could involve covers of bands I do not know).

Information is hard to track down. I found two links, for Youtube and Bandcamp, but neither one is exclusively for Nu-Folk Rebel Alliance. This is why I cannot confirm whether the other guy is in Gogol Bordello as well. I thought it was possible, but now I think he is from Escarioka, one of the other bands from the Bandcamp site, and one that I liked.

(If so, I believe he goes by Leo Minimum Tek.)

All I can really say for sure that has not already been said is that they do have a non-Clash song called "Alicia", for which there is a video, and I liked it.

Remember bands, it doesn't hurt to have at least one clearly searchable landing page with accurate information.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Band Review: MILCK

I really loved MILCK, more than I was hoping.

She ended up on the review list because of reading about "Quiet", and its performance at the Women's March. Those things are important to me.  That being said, I was not expecting a song called "Quiet" and about not being able to stay quiet to nonetheless have such a quiet energy.

MILCK uses the phrase "gentle rebel" on her web site. Yes, the music is affirming, and encourages strength in resistance, but it is done with great kindness and gentleness.

For me, that means feeling understood by "Undercover" and "Black Sheep", soothed by "A Little Peace" and hopeful that some day "Oh My My (What A Life)" will come true for me too.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Band Review: Katherine Ho

I wanted to review Katherine Ho after Will Yu mentioned her rendition of "Yellow" as featured in the movie Crazy Rich Asians.

On my first search, I didn't find a lot of information. An actress with the same name slightly complicates things. Then I saw that she was from The Voice too. That should have meant a lot more information, but I mainly found tweets about montages and ghosting that don't seem to bode well.

That's a shame. Katherine has a wonderful voice and a sweet personality comes through the videos. Much of what is available are covers, but I love her cover of The Cardigans' "Love Fool" and her cover of "Yellow" is infinitely better than the Coldplay version.

A little organization would probably be helpful. While Ho does have her own Youtube channel, there are other scattered performances that can only be found by searching. It does not include this lovely team-up with other musicians, "What's Wrong?":

There should be more coming, and I hope there is. For now, what is here is worth checking out.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Band Review: Don't Believe in Ghosts

Continuing with this week's theme of new bands featuring people from previously reviewed bands, Dan DelVecchio - formerly of Face the King - is now in Don't Believe in Ghosts, an alternative band from New York.

Don't Believe in Ghosts has a nice balance of jam and poignancy.

From the wistful "Don't Wake Me Up" to the frustrated "Everyone I Know is Going Crazy", the content is often quite downbeat. The most on the nose song title is "Nothing I Could Do Is Ever Good Enough for You", practically emo in its fatalism.

Musically, though, the songs are fun. There is a mood lifting energy with good instrumentation. The intro on "Slow Down" is downright pretty.

The band currently has just a few hometown dates scheduled, but with "Don't Wake Me Up" having just been released in February, it seems probable that more music is on the way.

It's worth spending some time exploring.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Band Review: Call of All

I recently noticed Cody Webb listed a second band in his profile. Ages Apart was reviewed in August 2015, but Call of All released War & Illusion in 2017, and now that I know that I thought I should check that out.

Call of All is an alt-rock band that doesn't give a location but seems to have Southern rock ties. There are some definite similarities, like an affinity for Daughtry, but my strongest impression comes from their track "All For You".

Lyrically it reminds me of "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" by Bryan Adams. Musically, it has been through the '90s where grunge added grit and grime. It doesn't really change the sentiment, but it does update.

(Of course, love and music are both essentially timeless, or should be.)

The album's title track is probably a better song overall, with deeper themes and more demonstrated technical proficiency, but it is the emotional connection that opens the door.

Either song would be a good starting point, but with just seven tracks for a total of 25 minutes, listening in its entirety is not a terrible way to get to know the band.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Band Review: Jon Magnusson

Jon Magnusson's tunes were often very catchy, but I also didn't love them. That led to some frustration.

The music has a folk feel, but enhanced with additional instruments.The vocals are sometimes a bit flat, which could be due to an accent; I noticed it less when the songs were in Swedish.

My favorite of all of the tracks was "Det Stoltaste Av Lag" which had a compelling energy. Otherwise, many of the songs were kind of downers -  a common issue with folk - and at least one was anti-religious enough to irritate me.

At the same time, there are intricate guitar melodies and a pleasant disposition coming through the music. I can imagine many people enjoying it. I didn't hate it; I just didn't like it enough to enjoy the resulting earworms.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Blast from the past

There has been some chatter lately about the current guy winning on Jeopardy!, who is catching some attention with his large winnings, a result not just of his domination of the board but also his large wagers.

I don't like him, mainly for his mannerisms and jumping around. I eventually grew somewhat fond of Arthur Chu after he stopped playing, so anything is possible, but right now I really do not like him.

Anyway, that led to some discussions on Jeopardy! and questions, and I realized that for all of the photos that were lost in my hard drive crash, I had my photo with Alex Trebek saved in e-mail. I posted it for Throwback Thursday, and got a big response.

The most surprising thing was I kind of thought of it as old news. I did it, let people know I was doing it, and had ten blog posts about it after it aired. (The blog series starts at Lots of people told me they watched. I hadn't realized that there were people I wasn't in touch with yet then, and even some people I didn't know then. It becomes interesting looking back at what has changed.

First of all, it's much easier to catch your friends on game shows now. I mean, I don't know how easy it is for your friends to get on different game shows, but with Facebook and DVRs, it is a lot easier to see any appearances. I have friends from college where both the husband and wife were on Jeopardy!, but I didn't know because it happened before both of those developments. (Obviously we are excited for when their child gets old enough to try out.) My junior high locker partner plugged her phone into her DVR and grabbed the saved recording of the show and put it on Youtube. There are ways in which social media has made the world smaller, DVRs have totally made entertainment more convenient, and phones and other internet-connected devices do a lot more. All of those technologies have potential drawback, but there are good possibilities.

Also, it's weird to look back at me then. Yes, I was employed (almost gainfully employed, even), but I had not been out of my first round of unemployment for that long. When I got the call to come on the show, we were celebrating one year at the new job, both of Mom's knees had been replaced, the house had been refinanced, and I had given up on working with that one writing partner. Several things that had been a huge source of stress were finally resolved. All the creativity had been wrung out of me, but I was at least able to breathe again.

Of course I'd had high hopes for a big win, and that didn't work out. It was a letdown, but it was still an adventure, and I still remember it fondly.

I was blogging, but that was before daily songs and band reviews and finding it in me to write again. It wasn't that far away. I taped my show in September 2011, it aired October 31st, and my creative resurgence happened shortly after Valentine's Day 2012. That next year was really magical.

And it was followed by hard times too. I am unemployed again, and even with some signs of my mother's memory problems then, there was so much that we could never have predicted. I got the writing kicked out of me again, though I think it's starting to build back up. Currently a lot of things are just wait and see.

With all of the ups and downs, it has been a ride. I suspect it will remain bumpy, and I will ride that out too.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Band Review: Nawias

Nawias is a rapper and producer based in Poland.

While many of the mixes are good, there is an overabundance of information with little guidance for how to find what you need.

This especially seemed like a lost opportunity on the Youtube channel, where a little organization could have worked well for advertising beats and services.

Even knowing that there were some tracks that I liked, going back and finding them would be difficult.


I really meant to have a Wednesday post.

I thought that even if I am not blogging daily, I could still maybe do one sometime between Monday through Wednesday for non-music topics, then do a review on a Thursday or Friday. It would still have some correlation with my old system.

Then Wednesday was a shockingly terrible day.

I am not writing about that now. I am just glad it appears to have been an aberration, and not a plunge into a bad new normal. It did really throw things off, reminding me that I can plan all I want, but there are strong elements of unpredictability in my life.

I suppose it is a good lesson, because I have been frustrated with some entities that are reactive when they should be proactive, and whoops! Sometimes reactive is the best you can do.

Also, it is a reminder that I have limited time, especially in the way I use Facebook. That's what I want to write about.

I can't sit at my computer all day, which has a lot of good things about it. Even if I joined the 21st century and got internet on my phone, it would not be helpful to have my face glued to the phone all day.

In addition, I recently created a Facebook profile for my mother. Literally, I did it three days ago.

I did it to try and help her feel more connected. Once a day we log in and I show her things and we look down her feed. I'm not sure how much it will help, but it was something to try. So far she has found it kind of interesting.

It also means that even part of my time on Facebook is not for me. Since it is time that I am spending on her, I probably would not be on the computer then anyway. Her profile is not taking away from my personal time or computer time; that's just the disease.

(Although her profile has attracted some new people to me, which does relate to the next bit.)

It is hard keeping up with the news, though it is still important to me and I make it happen. It is still important to share.

It also remains important to me to not let uninformed replies stand. Some of you may be familiar with my bulldog-like tenacity in holding to points. It just may be hours before I see something now.

I know people are used to instantaneous response in this day and age. I cannot currently provide it.

There are some frustrations with that. I think the primary thing that may be noticeable is that I am going to be somewhat harsher. I used to work really hard to avoid the word "stupid". It can be incendiary, and it is hard to appeal to a person's better nature by insulting them. I know that, and I am nonetheless going to be holding back less.

You might think that I am putting so much patience into care-giving that I don't have any left for Fox News watchers, but that's not really it. It's more of a combination of seeing that they tend not to change their minds anyway. If the point of taking the long way around is to get them on your side, it's not a great point. If I can make them think, great. If I can only be frustrating, I will take that.

A friend of my sisters recently posted something that ultimately was saying that the votes of rural people should count more (it was electoral college-related). I don't think she really meant that; but all of these counties can't be wrong! The thing is, the data was also wildly inaccurate, and she specifically said she had checked the numbers.

Now, accurate numbers would still have given her the majority she intended, and I think it's worse that she didn't check the logic than that she didn't check the numbers, but still, she was lazy and lying and then got mad that every time she even tries to post something on Facebook people jump all over her. Except that most of her corrections were being pretty gentle. I get that it's not fun being called wrong, but surely it's better to learn from it than to stay wrong.

But they don't! That's why I'm not going to spend a lot of time coddling. I remember one long thread where one person finally accepted - after screen shots of federal regulations - that undocumented immigrants don't collect welfare. I don't think it changed her political mindset at all, and I would not be surprised if she ended up "forgetting" the one little fact she stopped fighting.

Here's the thing: "fake news" is an old strategy borrowed from the Russians, and the point isn't to discredit any one story, but to discredit all stories. When you are skeptical about everything and nothing can be known to be true, then nothing matters and no one is good. Well, some people get elevated to a weird kind of savior-status that I don't get at all, but most people are bad.

It's a lie. It's a bunch of lies, actually, and it all matters. There is real suffering going on, and there are people trying to do good things, and it all matters.

I care about it so much I should be arriving in a cloud car from Care-A-Lot. This is neither fun nor relaxing, but it's how I am and I don't regret that.

Unfortunately, stupid stuff may sit on my page for a few hours before I have a chance to get to it, but that leads to another really good thing. I have smart and caring friends that will sometimes school you when I don't have the time.

Thank you especially Kristen and Pauli. You know why.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Band Review: Patient Zero

Patient Zero calls her music cyberpunk, so I am going to go with that.

I was thinking of it more as dance/club music, but the computer influence is strong, in both music and video. Computers sometimes also affect the vocals, lending growls and distortion to the grittiness. It is easy to imagine the music as a soundtrack for some slick dystopian movie. (And since you could argue that we are now living in a not-so-slick one...)

That catalog is impressively large, with the downside of that being that the music tends to blend together. However, one of the singles, "Dwarf Hole", while seemingly less to the point lyrically does give a pretty good idea of the potential funk.

For a starting place with albums, Paracide is the most recent, released in 2018, but I think for me 2013's Artifice and 2015's Transgressor stood out more.

Another approach would be to start out via Youtube playlists, with 31 videos that can give you an overview.

The obvious upside of a large catalog is that if any of these starting points tell you that this is your thing, you will have a lot to explore.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

A month of book selfies

About two months ago I wrote about not being satisfied with my selfies, especially due to a sense of repetition. I had some thoughts for shaking things up:

Having now completed the first idea - a month of book selfies -  I once again have great concerns about how repetitious they are.

In an effort to shake things up I tried different poses and locations. One book had "jump back" in the title, so I tried jumping back while taking the photo. The first time I didn't time it right, the second time I did but the picture was quite blurry. I have never been an award-winning photographer.

That doesn't make it a waste. It has gotten me thinking more about shot composition, and there is the sheer value of setting a goal and making it.

I do feel that the ways in which my life is most interesting are now largely internal, which is hard to photograph. And yet, I don't take the selfies to be interesting; I do it to assert my own worth and to remember who I am and that I matter as that person. Posting is an important part of that, though, and since I am posting I feel like they should be interesting. It creates a pressure that may not be necessary but then makes me think more deeply.

Anyway, I probably will go through other themes, but I will not do themes every month.

The other thing you have probably noticed is that I have not been posting regularly.

I have written enough about current time constraints and concerns that I suspect any regular readers can figure out that days without posting just mean that I am busy, which is always true.

It is also true that right now I am in the middle of learning so much that I kind of worry that anything big I write about, I won't do a good enough job on yet. That may not be a reason to avoid all topics, but then the time constraints come up again. My mother is starting to need more time, and it has to come from somewhere.

One blogging concern has been some musicians for review with huge catalogs, where I don't know if I can even give enough listening time. Giving up reviewing music does not feel like an acceptable loss. However, I can get through some of them this month, only reviewing one a week instead of two, and then see how it goes. Mom likes music; I may just need to find a way to include her, at least if the bands are any good.

The leads to one more concern, with a sub-concern. It occurred to me that all of the blogging gaps will probably lead to reader loss. The days where I didn't end up posting until around midnight were already not great for page hits.

I could almost shrug that off, because my blogging is still primarily for me. However, the band reviews can kind of be helpful for the bands, and having a smaller audience could make my reviews less helpful.

I'm going to not worry about that one too much, because it seems that the music reviews and the other posts have somewhat different audiences. I don't think I'm getting anyone signed, and recording contracts don't mean what they used to anyway.

There was still this nagging feeling that if I do have important things to say, should I try and cultivate an audience? Applying for a one-time live-tweeting thing, it occurred to me that there are some advantages to increasing follower counts. I do know things I could do to increase that, except that I like that my social media is built on relationships.

Weighing this conflict of whether I should try and keep readers led to this kind of bitter thought that with everything else I am losing, why wouldn't I lose that? Most of the losses that have already hit have been financial in some way, but there are these pieces of loss that are going to culminate in one really big loss. I don't know if a reader base even counts against that.

Except, it could be something that matters in the future, that part that is unknown. Which brings me back to another earlier post:

It goes back to the liminality. I am in between things. I might have an idea about what is on the other side, but they are only guesses. Anything I shed off now, I might not even need then. If there are other things I will need, then I believe I will somehow manage to hold on to them, or to find them again later.
What though the sea with waves continuall   
Doe eate the earth? it is no more at all:          
Ne is the earth the lesse, or loseth ought:   
For whatsoever from one place doth fall   
Is with the tide unto another brought:   
For there is nothing lost, that may be found if sought.   
-- Edmund Spenser

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Band Review: Koppige

Koppige makes and mixes dance music in the Netherlands.

Okay, I am assuming it is supposed to be dance music based on the beat; there is very little artist information available. It pulsates with a beat you could dance to.

There is a deeper tone to it than I find with a lot of dance music. On one level it reminds me of the growls that frequently came with post-core. I think it allows the music to pair well with sci-fi. Like maybe when the angst gets filtered through techno, it references a sleek dystopia.

I don't know if that's what he was going for, but that's what I got.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Back up!

I yelled at someone Saturday.

As I was heading from the theater to Fred Meyer, I had to cross TV Highway. It is a pretty busy road with some pretty long lights. I was waiting for my signal when the previous direction's turn signal ended with a woman in a large vehicle (a Blazer, probably) blocking the entire crosswalk.

I had some time to observe and feel irritated while the traffic continuing on the highway went through.

It is pretty common for cars to be partway in the crosswalk. I don't like that, and I think about things like hitting their hood or something, but I don't really do anything because that would be escalating and that is not my general way.

In this case, there was not going to be any safe way to get past her. Going in front of her would be out in traffic, but going behind her would also be in traffic and not easily visible, and crawling underneath would be the most dangerous of all. If her doors were unlocked, going through the back seat might be an option (I think that happened in a Mentos commercial), but really, she had not left me any safe way across.

She had plenty of space to back up. The length of the signals actually did lead the car behind her to start creeping into that space, but then they backed up again. Perhaps that driver noticed me. Perhaps they noticed me glaring, I can't say. As it was, while that was better for safety purposes, the driver behind her had no impact on the driver blocking the crosswalk.

I really wanted to yell something at her like "Get back, you moron!", or maybe "you idiot" - something to indicate my lack of admiration - but mainly I was hoping she would do the right thing. No dice.

Then the light changed and I had my signal. I also noticed that her window was down a crack, meaning she should be able to hear me.

I barked out my order: "Back up!"

She gave me a look of surprise and annoyance (mostly annoyance), but she backed up. In fact, there is no way that she was as annoyed me with as I was with her.

When I wrote earlier that I effectively yelled at someone, I didn't mean that in effect I did so; I meant that it was effective. It worked.

I realized I had not added an epithet, and thought that was probably for the best. I don't actually think her problem was a lack of intelligence so much as an issue of self-absorption anyway.

You are forgiven for thinking I am over-analyzing this, and I may be, but I saw her face - that there was annoyance at having to move and no contrition. There were teens waiting at a bus stop snicking, and I heard them. I know my shout was ugly and unfeminine, and I am fat, poor, aging, and sans vehicle. I know there are a lot of vectors on which I don't count, and anything drawing attention to that is subject to being looked down on.

That is a rotten system. The least I can do is buck it.

My other option seemed to be waiting through another full cycle of the signal, which would not only be a pain, but what if you get some other road hog? (Seriously, drivers, crosswalks exist for a reason.) I have a voice. I can sometimes make it loud.

Maybe I'm still mad that I didn't punch that guy in the nuts at the Alkaline Trio concert. (I still think I was right to not do more, but that doesn't mean it feels good.)

Maybe having just watched back to back superhero movies was a factor.

I just know it would have been easy to be quiet, and it felt good being loud.

The standard response to me asserting myself (with rude people) is that they get surprised and annoyed.

The least I can do is make it less surprising.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Comics connections

When I got back from seeing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Captain Marvel, the thing I wanted most was to talk to someone who has read comics relevant to the movies. I didn't even know where to go for that.

I swear I have real-life friends who read comics, but generally not my closest friends, plus I had just had several hours of respite time and needed to return to my care-giving life. There's a reason that most of what I want to say comes out in the blog.

There is still not just the blog. I can get to that in a roundabout way, but let me say a little about the movies without giving a full review of them, or really even any spoilers.

I liked both. I liked Captain Marvel more. At least it pumped me up more.

I have read a lot of Captain Marvel, much more than the various iterations of Spider-Man. That could be part of it. I think that people who have not read the books should still be able to enjoy the movies, but they are definitely much richer if you have the background.

Captain Marvel was also made much better by the inclusion of a cat (spoiler coming) or something that mostly looks and acts like a cat anyway. That is partly my love of cats - which extended to Chewy in the comics - but they also made great use of Goose. For those wondering about the name change, this is probably not something that is going to happen, but having this be Goose may leave room for there to be a Chewy somewhere.

This did a good job of honoring what has come before while still leaving room for the future. Kit Renner is a young girl who is Captain Marvel's greatest fan and she was not in this movie. Based on her backstory, it would not make sense for her to be in this movie. However, there was another relationship in the movie that echoed it, both hitting those emotional chords, and also giving another future possibility that makes sense. There were things that reminded me of Kit and Marina, and there were things that reminded me of Helen. With so much from years of comics needing to go into a movie, that ability to evoke quickly is important. That is connecting on an emotional level, and there was a lot of that going on, even though I was there as a solo person.

There were little things, like Brian Bendis and Steve Ditko popping up in Miles Morales' phone contacts. There were big things, like the Stan Lee cameos and a pre-credits tribute to him before Captain Marvel. Someone a couple of rows ahead of me said she was going to cry right then. I felt a little misty myself.

I felt a connection through that which is not as concrete as reading comics with my friends (which has never been a regular activity for me) but was still meaningful. It sent me back to 2013.

I have not started going over my old music reviews yet, but I have thought about what is coming, and how many amazing things happened as I was getting started. That was a critical time for comics too, and a big part of that was attending the International Comic Arts Forum that year.

The main attendees were creators and academics, That meant a lot of people already knew each other, or if they didn't had plenty in common. I was neither, so was a bit of an oddball there. I wasn't completely outside of it either.

There were at least six creators there whose work I was already familiar with, and three creators whose work I sought out after. I talked to all of them.

I talked to college students studying comics and people working in comics. I am not sure that we exchanged name (I know I don't remember their names). I still remember the conversations, though, because we were talking about comics we had in common and that we'd had strong responses to and shared thoughts about. Without any kind of permanent relationship, we still had a sense of community there.

I have seen comments about the movies, and will see more. Sometimes I may reply, or post my own, depending on how it feels. That happens on line and it even happens in person, sometimes, often unexpectedly. I am sure many people will see Captain Marvel who have never read Captain Marvel.

There is a wider world out there, and sometimes it feels pretty small.

Related posts:

Monday, March 11, 2019

A pretty good respite

I had written about the ideal respite time a while back on the Sunday blog:

I had a comparable respite Saturday, it came with some insights, and that's what today's post is about.

One thing that made the respite from the other post such a relief was that I had gone about a month without. This time was not quite as dire, but I had been having some bad luck with getting out.

I may have let some extra time go by, because I had a really good one coming up, with a ticket for a band and venue I like. Unfortunately, they had to cancel. The circumstances that came up for them were way worse than me missing a concert, but I did still feel some disappointment. I still had the night off, so I meant to find an alternative.

That can be its own issue, especially at night, but it was complicated by a cold coming on. That left me feeling less motivated to do anything. Getting out is important, but leaving the house at night with nowhere to go and nothing to do while feeling sick is not particularly appealing. The lack of a car and extra money only makes that worse by eliminating more options. Also, there was a deadline approaching, because my sisters were going out of town.

I nearly went to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse the night before they left, but I was still not feeling well enough and bagged it.

Saturday there was a Rose City Comic-Con viewing of Captain Marvel, which I thought would be really cool, but it sold out before I was sure I could commit.

As you can tell, disappointment haunted all of my dreams. However, I was feeling better, and while matinee prices aren't exactly half price, you can save some money.

Saturday I saw Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse AND Captain Marvel both!

I enjoyed them. And when I decided to splurge and get a small popcorn - because my sister had handed me her rewards card - it happened to be free. Then I walked across to Fred Meyer and got myself some spicy wings and a big pickle. Oh, and on the way I yelled at someone effectively. Also, the weather was pretty nice, and that helped. It was so nice I was toying with the idea of just walking home from there, but a friend I hadn't seen for a while saw me and picked me up.

(Walking would have been about 3.5 miles, which sounds like a lot, but generally on a good respite day I walk between 2 and 4 miles so it would have been in range.)

I do want to write more about how I felt about the movies, and the part about yelling at someone. That will happen in other posts.

In terms of analyzing the respite time itself, I guess the most concerning part is how much of it was luck. Being seen by someone and offered a lift and the free popcorn was definitely luck. It may not be obvious, but finding my spicy wings was also luck; lately they are always either out or they only have old dried out wings.

If you are relying on good luck, the cold and the cancellation would be signs that luck is against me more often than not. (Although the ticket refund included the service fees, and that never happens.)

The compatible show times were not so much a matter of luck as there being a showing of Captain Marvel about every half hour, which appears to have been appropriate planning.

The luck issues were all things that made it better, but finding something that I can enjoy, and getting family support so I can go out to do it, those things are not luck. They take some work, but they are doable.

Also, it is helpful that I have relatively modest dreams, but that's not really luck either; that has been developing for years.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Band Review: 20 Watt Tombstone

20 Watt Tombstone is a duo from Wisconsin that produces a pretty good groove. If you are at all inclined in that direction, listening may just make you want to pick up a guitar of your own.

With one guitar and one drum kit, it would be easy to draw comparisons to The White Stripes, but I heard more of an influence from CCR.

Attitude-wise, 20 Watt Tombstone goes beyond irreverent to gleefully, cheekily offensive. It's not even so much that it is hardcore. There are little things here and there that do not add to the music and might subtract, but the sense is that the band likes it that way.

There is an audience for that.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Band Review: Jon Ross

When reviewing a musician named Jon Ross, it is easy to find more than one. Because of that, with Nashville singer-songwriter Jon Ross I recommend going straight to his home page. He does have Facebook and Twitter links there, and I have included them, but searching on other platforms like Youtube or Spotify is too likely to produce uncertain results.

Fortunately, at that point listening becomes easy because Ross has a player embedded in the site that can be accessed from multiple pages.

Having listened a bit, I would say his tone is more of a good-humored slice of life; down home without being country. That may be most obvious on "#Adulting". There are songs that become more serious, and even sadder ("Keep On Playin'" is a good example of that), but the overall feeling is positive and resilient.

Describing the musical style is harder, but I think fans of Ben Folds Five could be interested.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Band Review: Toni Braxton

I find that even though I enjoyed listening to Toni Braxton, I don't have a lot to say about her. Maybe there is too much else going on.

Of course I was aware of her more prominent hits, like "Breathe Again" and "Unbreak My Heart", but my clear favorite was Pulse, especially "Why Won't You Love Me". The intro struck me immediately, so every time it played I was signaled right away, and there was my song.

To be fair, that is from 2010. Braxton has more recent work, including last year's Sex & Cigarettes. But music finds you when it finds you, and I never get tired of that.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Band Review: Brass Against

I can't tell you how happy it makes me that Brass Against covered "Cult of Personality",

It was only recently that I even knew they existed, mentioned by comic book artist Steve Lieber.

In the band's own description they reference rock and hip hop, which is completely legitimate. In addition to Living Colour, other bands covered by Brass Against include Audioslave and Tool. There are still two other genre-related terms that must be mentioned.

One is punk. The speed is not there, but the sense of the political and the move to change is.

Also, without checking the sheet music, I suspect Brass Against uses more chords than the average punk band. Much of that complexity comes via a fantastic horn section, which gives familiar songs a new life.

That leads us to the other necessary word: funk. I never thought I needed a funk version of "Cult of Personality", but I did.

After all, rage is not the only weapon that you can direct against the machine.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

In between some things, but not a zombie

Sunday had some good moments. One of them came when I was cooking dinner.

I had two things going in the oven and two things on the stove. The last time I did that, I burned my hand. (That burn was featured in my February 12th selfie.) It hurt a lot at the time. It has mostly healed now, though with the added scars I sometimes feel like I am getting uglier every day. I really didn't want to get burned again.

It worked out. I staggered some things instead of doing them simultaneously, and I planned ahead and kept everything under control. I felt good about that. Serene, even. And it wasn't one of those times where just when you feel good something comes up to bring you back to humility. I knew I wasn't going to still feel that in control of things the next day, but that moment was blessed.

As much as it is true that I am always tired, and that I do not know what is going to happen, there are periodically reminders that I am capable, and I perform well under pressure for the most part. All of those things are true about my life right now. They go together.

And as I tie up the theme of this week, today's post gets pretty long.

The word "liminal" has been coming to mind lately.

It is a word that comes up mainly in academic papers, generally to refer to a space between, but not necessarily a physical space. It comes from the Latin word for "threshold". I am not sure when I first encountered it, but I associate it most strongly with 2015, when it was all over the place in two books.

Better Off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human is a collection of essays on zombies, edited by Deborah Christie. The zombie exists in the space between life and death, not truly being either.

The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by David Morris was the other. For that it was related more to how PTSD can keep pulling someone back to their past trauma and impede forward progress.

Morris didn't use the word as much (and his was the much better book, though they both had their points), but because I read the two fairly closely together, and mentioned the zombies to him (it was not the first time he'd heard of it), that association was strong.

Despite that, "liminal" was something that I thought of as an academic word, like "ontology" or "praxis". Other words could make the work more accessible to a wider audience, but you use those words to show that you speak the language of academe.

Except, I have also been thinking lately that the quick definition of those words does not give why those words are used, and that there could be a deeper understanding where certain words are useful for referring to a broader body of work. As I kept thinking "liminal", I needed to delve deeper.

I'm not done with that, which will probably take reading some Arnold Van Gennep and Victor Turner. However, I do understand more.

Van Gennep started it. He used "liminality" to talk about rites of passage, so there is a change. For example, maybe it is the rite of passage that initiates you into adulthood, so you start as a child and you finish as an adult, but there is that middle state, and perhaps some peril if you can't successfully complete the rite.

The unrelated little tangent I am going to give you here is that although it would seem that we don't have a lot of ritual in our current society - and maybe that is good if it means less peril - in 2015 I also read Code Talker by Chester Nez, and it was Navajo ritual that helped with his PTSD.  Maybe we are missing out. (I also mentioned this to Morris, and he said if he had waited a little longer to write the book there would have been a chapter on that. Code Talker and The Evil Hours are both great books.)

The more crucial tangent (still book-related) is that I am currently doing another writing review of my life. I have written about the previous two:

This time I am organizing it via Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up. Yes, I am sure I will write more about that when I am done.

I was concerned that a lot of the decisions I am making right now are temporary. There is a limit to what is in my control. One issue in the book is that it is possible to start doing things "just for now" and then it keeps on being that way. I am being mindful, but I am absolutely reacting to circumstances and working with priorities that will change. I wondered if I have been fooling myself.

Somehow, all of these stories and incidents I have been telling over this week and the things I have been thinking about anyway came together. A lot of my current life is "for now", but it is not "just". This is an in-between time.

Okay, I should tell one more story.

I was talking with a friend about the events of She was poking at my acceptance of the waiting, which was reasonable. She asked me what I want, and all I could really think of was that I don't want to have any regrets about my care for my mother. I want to live with integrity, in general but especially for that. Of course I also want him.

I did get some good clarification from that talk, but the priority is currently my mother. Whatever I have thought or worried about or prayed, that keeps being the answer.

There is also a lot that fits into this time. I am learning a lot of things, and I believe they are going to be a benefit to me beyond now. This feels like a time of preparation as much as anything else.

I said yesterday that I could consecrate my tiredness for my mother, because I love her. There are other special and sacred things happening here too. Some of them will probably turn out to be for other people, but they are also definitely for me.

I can live with this.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Our lady of perpetual tiredness

I guess this week will continue to be about my care-giving experience.

I have mentioned the tiredness before (pretty often, I think). I have quite likely mentioned how it is frustrating to not have energy for all of the things that I want to do and think I need to do.

This is not about the respite time. When I go longer without respite, I may very well get more tired, but what I notice more is the growing feeling of hopelessness and that there is nothing good in life. The tiredness is its own thing. It is frequently accompanied by a low-grade headache in the back of my head that is probably not a tumor. The headache isn't always there, but the tiredness is. 

As I was feeling some of that frustration recently, I had to firmly associate it with my mother's condition.

That was probably helped by noticing that my sisters are also more tired than they should be, generally speaking. It occurred to me that some of that is the emotional toll of the disease that is sometimes referred to as the never-ending death.

There is that, and it is for all of us, but then for me there is being the first to notice each new loss, and there is a physical toll as there is always more to compensate for, and a mental toll of trying to find ways to make things better. There is even a nervous toll from all of the interruptions that come just as I settle down to get one thing done.

I had a manager once who would come over two aisles to my cube every time any little idea or question came into his head. I talked about saving things up, and maybe we could schedule regular time to go over those things, but it never really sunk in, and he would come over again. He was a profoundly dishonest, greedy, and petty person, but that was still the worst part of working for him. The difference is that I never loved Rick, and I love my mother deeply.

So recently when I was feeling this insuperable tiredness, I felt that it would be with me for the rest of my mother's life. Though I will not miss it, I will miss her.

Because of that, I realized that I could consecrate my tiredness for her. When I feel it weighing me down, I can feel a warmth of affection for her, and the good things about still having her and being able to do things with her and for her.

That does not make me less tired, but it does make me feel differently about it, and better.

It's something.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Not knowing

It is so much of a theme of my life right now that I do not know how things will turn out. That was brought home to me (again) yesterday, but in a pretty positive way.

I often think about things that will be good for my mother.

One important thing for her used to be talking on the phone with her friends. I remember it as being like when something was bothering her, she would need to discuss it with three friends before she would be okay with it. Also, after we bundled phone, cable, and internet, international phone calls got really cheap and she started calling her sister more. That was good too.

Her sister has been dead for about a year and a half now, and two of her closest friends have been gone for quite a while. That really just left one good friend, except that I remembered that there was another friend. After she was widowed and moved out of state to live with one of her children, she and Mom had kind of lost touch. Mom had tried calling the new number, but there was never an answer.

I had this idea that maybe they could be back in touch if I worked with the daughter.

I probably had the idea in November, but I actually sent the message on December 2nd. I quickly heard nothing.

Okay, maybe it wasn't a great idea. Or, maybe I wasn't the one who should be in charge of it. I tried offloading the idea to Julie. Still nothing.

I just heard back Friday night, and the friend called Saturday. Disappointingly, the call was over in two minutes. Was it not really a good idea? Could it have been a good idea if I had gotten on it sooner, but I missed the window of opportunity?

I exchanged another set of messages with the daughter, explaining more about what would work in a phone call (don't ask her if this is a good time; that will just worry her that it isn't). Yesterday they had a long visit by phone, and I think it was good for both of them.

I was ready to trash that idea so many times; it wasn't even that long a time period. Three months.

I did it anyway, which is probably my main point with this. There is just always a lot that you can't know.

Way back when I worked at Intel, one of the "values" was risk-taking. We were supposed to value risk-taking and look for opportunities where risk could bring reward. I was always terrible at it because I would look at whether something was a good thing to do.

(Fortunately "Do the right things right" was also a value.)

I suppose the point of "risk" is not knowing the outcome, but it may still not be the best focus of decision making. This feels right. This is a good thing to do.

Things may not always go the way I would like, but as I aim for "right" and "good", I do not regret it.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Band Review: Gordon Chambers

One of my EdX classes last year was Vocal Recording Technology, taught by Prince Charles Alexander through Berklee. It was mainly an exploration of what you could do with Pro Tools.

Every function was demonstrated on a small sample from "Get To Know" by Gordon Chambers. I didn't count the number of times I heard it, but it was a lot. I decided to check out the artist's total body of work, including that song. This may have been a bad idea, because I kind of hated the song by then.

I don't hate Gordon Chambers, but the reviewing experience did get off on the wrong foot. I think starting there is still the best approach for exploring the artist's strengths and weaknesses.

"Get To Know" has too many effects on it for my taste. Other songs that have more of an emphasis on the keyboard accompaniment sound more authentic and engaging. The real problem with "Get To Know", though, is that the rhymes are overly obvious and the song lacks emotional depth. It is trying to say something, but the real feeling is lacking.

As Track 5 on Love Stories, "Get To Know" is immediately followed by "Wish I Was In Love" which has similar problems. I was thinking that maybe romance just isn't his strong suit. The closing track on Surrender, "I Surrender All", sounds like it could be romantic but felt much more religious, and it was much stronger. Someone whose strength lies in religious inspiration may not have as much facility with romance.

However, after "Wish I Was In Love" came "Unfair", which was really good.

But then there was also "I Can't Love You (If You Don't Love You)". I understood the point it was trying to make, and it is not completely wrong, but it was also terribly condescending. That is not romantic. There were a few other songs that had that problem.

The interesting thing is that - while being a fine singer - Chambers is more acclaimed as a songwriter for others. He can channel that emotion and sincerity for other people, but on his own it sometimes falls flat. He can be very real and he does great then, but sometimes there is (in my opinion) an attempt to conform to expectations that suffocates the songwriting.

You can dress that up with a digital audio workstation, but it doesn't make for a better song.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Band Review: Princess Nokia

I had been reading about Princess Nokia lately and thought I would give her a review. I do keep questioning myself as to whether I should call her Princess Nokia or Destiny Frasqueri, but as a music review it seems to make more sense to use the stage name.

If you start with her 2017 studio album, 1992 Deluxe, it is often disconcerting, especially for the first half. Assume that it is deliberate and has a purpose, and keep going. Later tracks provide different sounds and construct something different. "G.O.A.T." doesn't even sound like the same voice, but is. "Flava" makes effective use of spoken word.

Also, do not stop at the studio album; there is more out there.

I am intrigued by the mix tapes, especially Metallic Butterfly. So often the music incorporates metallic sounds - sometimes abrasive and sometimes otherworldly -- and it all strikes me as very consciously chosen.

My favorite tracks overall are probably "Dragons" and "Soul Train", but "Young Girls" is meaningful as both a song and a video.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Band Review: Mary J. Blige

Everything about this review feels inadequate.

It was supposed to go up Friday, but I didn't feel like I had spent enough time listening yet. I know the initial recommendation had come from someone specific, but that is in a lost file somewhere. Even having listened to a really large body of her work, I'm sure I am missing things.

I don't know that the extra listening time even significantly changes the review, but I also don't regret the time. It has at least cemented my favorites. Also, I now know that Blige is playing Cha-Cha in The Umbrella Academy, which I find awesome. So there's that.

The overall impression is to be impressed with the development over time. Her 1992 debut, What's the 411, was successful critically and commercially, but there has been so much maturity, growth, and richness over time. That is true looking solely at albums, but it is worth noting how she is able to incorporate her presence into acting as well, as Evillene in The Wiz Live! if nothing else. I loved that performance.

Perhaps the most impressive thing is that even if you do separate different fields of her career - so only television or only hip-hip or only her work on Mudbound - there is still so much.

Obviously, I did focus on the music, and my most powerful impression overall is feminine strength, like she is built of iron and did not have to compromise any of her identity to be that way.

"Mary Jane (All Night Long)" is a classic, and "Give Me You" off of Dance For Me is wonderful, but I would like to give a special mention to tracks 5-7 off of Stronger With Each Tear. Each one individually - "I Feel Good", "I Am", and "Each Tear" - is great, but then together it is just a sequence that I could listen to over and over again.

Very glad to have listened.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Book irritation

This next book coincidence is less cute.

I recently mentioned that we had a hold on the Marie Kondo book at the library.

I did not mention in that post that I have seen a lot of discussion on Twitter regarding criticism of KonMari, along with things that criticism misses and ways in which the criticism seems racist.

I wasn't writing about that yet, though I had posted an article on Facebook precisely because of that.

I also did already know this had happened, though I did not see the article until today: 

I didn't mention it in that other blog post, because not only was the Marie Kondo book on the way, but I also had books on hold for me from Elaine Showalter and Barbara Ehrenreich. I believed I would have more to say after I read them all.

I will say that until I looked up the article, I did not know about Ehrenreich's previous tweet. In light of that, it looks like her real issue is imperialistic in nature, but when she realized she had gone over the top there, she tried to transfer it more to a curmudgeonly personal dislike of one person.

I guess Katha Pollitt handled it best, because instead of deleting tweets she added one promising to consider the issue more closely. Perhaps to be completely fair I should have gotten a Katha Pollitt book out too, but I am not enthusiastic about it because the Ehrenreich and Showalter books were so annoying.

At first I questioned the headline of the article because it referred to these women as feminists. After reading their books I question whether Ehrenreich or Showalter are. However, the headline says "white feminists", so for the brand of feminism that does not realize how enmeshed in patriarchy it is and that often misses key points that would lead to meaningful discourse, yeah, that's fair.

That is also exactly how the books failed.

To be fair, I was already planning on taking Showalter's book - Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Media - with a grain of salt. I had seen a reference to her writing on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I was curious about that, but also skeptical based on what I had read. Seeing that she treated it with alien abductions, recovered memories, and the Satanic ritual abuse panic seemed at least a little questionable.

Before I proceed, I am going to admit to having fallen for the Satanic ritual abuse thing myself. I saw a TV movie in 1989 (Do You Know the Muffin Man) and they said that's where most child abuse comes from. I was like, okay. I was also 17 years old.

I don't regret it now. Not only did I not do anything with the information, but I think having accepted that as plausible - despite how very implausible it was - and learning later that it was ridiculously, flagrantly wrong was ultimately good for my critical thinking.

There was not enough critical thinking in Hystories. There were little things that were way off. Thinking that finding out that other girls had eating disorders (especially pre-internet) did more to spread eating disorders than pressure on physical appearance and the limited things that are within many teenagers' control was a big one. Another was finding it ironic that is was political conservatives and religious fundamentalists that spread the SRA panic when it specifically targeted daycare. That's not ironic; that's logical. (It didn't seem to be delivered as a joke.)

Beyond that, a lot of areas that would have seemed critical for understanding weren't really explored. I thought to some extent it was because so many of these issues were issues of leading the patient, and even though she kind of acknowledged that Freud did that, maybe she was a Freudian and just couldn't bring herself to condemn him. Showalter isn't even a psychologist. Her specialty is Victorian literature. I can see how there would be ways of viewing that through a Freudian lens, but disengagement should still be possible.

Overall, though, I think I find her to be too invested in the status quo. My issue was the lack of depth, but I think that lack was the result of the hold the patriarchy has on her.

I had similar issues with Ehrenreich, but she should have been able to do better. She considers herself a "myth-buster" and "muckraker". She has participated in the Democratic Socialists of America. That's someone who wants to fight the power, not fold to it, right? That was not evident in The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment.

She did get somewhat better in the last chapter, which had more of an economic focus, but most of the book was sociological and psychological. It was really not good, and desperate for some intersectional analysis. I guess that makes her a "vulgar" socialist, though, which makes the DSA a good fit.

All of that also makes their tweets make total sense, but not in a good way. You can see why I am not eager to try a book by Katha Pollitt, even though she may be the best of them.

KonMari's book was delightful, but I am still reflecting on that. I will probably write about it more.

Otherwise, it feels like all of February - Black History Month - has been a solid stream of white people needing to do better. I may also write about. I will see how it goes.

For now, the book I am currently reading is good, and that is a relief.

Monday, February 18, 2019


Clearly I am not doing well on the blogging. Busyness and tiredness are coming into play, and a lot of people have been dying. (None of my family members.)

One issue was not getting enough time to listen to the Friday music review subject as much as I wanted to, so she is going up Wednesday, with three reviews this week. I will get back to the Sunday blog next week, I think. This week has a lot of medical stuff coming up, culminating next Monday, and I am going to be pretty stressed out. None of it is particularly bad, but that is not the point.

Anyway, the two non-review posts this week are going to be about books, and today's post is just a fun little thing that happened.

I requested Celluloid Indians (by Neva Kilpatrick) through Inter-library loan. When you are looking it up, you get a number of how many libraries in the program have the title, but I don't actually know how they decide which library sends. The copy I got came from Portland Community College.

A checkout receipt was still in there. I often use those and hold slips as bookmarks, even though I have several actual bookmarks. As far as things to leave in the book go, the hold slips have your name, and the checkout receipts don't, so that is probably the better choice. It may also be longer, depending on how many books you checked out.

At 1:28 PM on January 16th, 2013 (due February 6th), someone checked out Celluloid Indians, along with Killing the White Man's Indian, Crazy Horse: A Lakota Life, and Sacajawea: A Biography. The authors appear to be (respectively) Fergus Bordewich, Kingsley Bray, and April Summitt, based on a title search, but authors are not on the checkout receipt.

I haven't read any of the other books, and I'm not sure that I necessarily want to. It was still kind of fun to think that there was someone else in the Portland Metro area who observes Native American Heritage Month.

But wait! That is in November, and these books are being checked out in January. Yes, but I am always running behind on books. I looked up my blog post for that year, and one of the books I read was S. C. Gwynne's Empire of the Summer Moon. I finished it in February 2013. In fact, I was looking at the wrong blog post at first, because the 2013 books are the ones I was reading and wrote about in 2014. The books I was reading in January 2013 were for November 2012. (Though I did read a book about Crazy Horse in 2014.)

Realistically, this was probably for some kind of assignment or research paper, and not any kind of heritage month. I did not do much discretionary reading in college. I'd say that there wasn't time, but there were ways in which there was more free time in college than at any later points in adult life. Maybe it just feels that way because I was able to function on a lot less sleep then. However, most available brain space was reserved for processing information that I was going to be tested on or write papers about.

But it's nice to think I have a kindred spirit out there.

Related posts:

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Band Review: Tiki Lewis

I wanted to check out Tiki Lewis after reviewing IAMOMNI, who has collaborated with her.

I was surprised at how difficult it was to find any information. There are generic videos on Youtube and music available on various streaming services, but I could not find any other profiles or pages.

Her album, Too Much and Not Enough, is from 2008, when social media engagement was not as standard as it is now. She also has two collaborations in 2015, which does not indicate a total disappearance. I don't know what's going on.

It is interesting that Lewis' collaborations seem to be more hip hop, because on her own she has more of a pop sensibility. I really like the title track; emotional but not sappy. Other tracks like "Second Chance" have beats that could be easily adapted into club mixes.

I don't know how invested Lewis is, but if she wanted to do more I think she could make it work.


Back to the situation with our mother, we have had two things work out well without planning on them.

Recently we visited the Oregon Rail Heritage Center.

It was just something that we wanted to do. We took Mom because if something is not going to be too much for her, she should be doing different things. We expected her to like it, but she loved it; it brought back many memories for her.

Her father was an engineer, and one of her brothers worked in the railroad office.

I did know, but I never thought about it too much. All of my grandparents died before I was born, and when I first got to meet my uncles they were long retired. The information was there, but it wasn't quite real to me.

It should have been, because I knew that they lived in railroad housing. There is a double row of homes that the railroad built for their employees. One of my cousins still lives there, as well as at least one family that was there during my mother's childhood. When they were young, though, it was all railroad families. They visited back and forth, and sometimes their kids married each other, and they all got railway passes. Yes, they would have talked about trains a lot.

That was not something she had thought about for a long time, but then seeing the trains it was there.

The other thing is that we recently watched Fantasia.

Well, not all of it. We meant to just watch "The Dance of the Hours", and then we watched some other things too, but we started with the dance. I had forgotten that is Ponchielli (Italian name), and that is the ballet part of an opera, La Gioconda.

My grandfather also loved opera, and sang it all the time. Again, it is not something I have personal experience of. When I think of it, I think mainly in terms of Verdi, his favorite. But actually it wasn't just opera, but also symphony, and he played records too. It's not really that surprising, either based on what I know about him or what I know about us. It gave us another moment of recollection, and happiness in the recollection.

When I write that there are good things too - amidst all this stress - it is often something like this. I could not plan it, but things work out.

I realize that this next thing I write is going to be over-the-top cheesy, but so be it. This world is hard, but it is wondrous too.