Monday, December 31, 2012

What am I doing New Year’s Eve?

I have a definite pattern on New Year’s, which is kind of gratifying.

I used to be all about the New Year’s Eve dances, and then I kind of stopped liking dances. (Thanks for going downhill, dance music! And other things.) Lately, I am generally home at midnight. I may do something before, like there were two years where I went to the Pink Martini concert, but the early one, and last year we went to see a movie (Tower Heist) with Cathy, and that worked well, so this year we are going to go see The Hobbit, but again, I should be home by 10.

And so how this has played out for about the last four years, is that everyone else is in bed, but I am still awake around midnight, and I am writing, and no matter how terrible the year has been as the clock rolls around midnight I am filled with a rush of optimism, because after all, this time can be better.

I should point out that most of the time the year is not appreciably better, and the really bad times and the really good times do not fit neatly into the confines of a year. 2008 was a pretty good year that ended horribly, and fit in more with 2009, but by the time we got to the end of 2009 it had turned around somewhat.

That’s part of it, really. No matter how many lows come, they don’t last. Time passes and they even out, so regardless of how arbitrary our moment of calling out “Happy New Year”, it is a good reminder. We’re still here. We’re still going.

And things do always get better, and they still remain unchanged. I am still single, and still not a professional writer, and still always worried about money, but I’ve gone places and I’ve done things and I‘ve had my moments, so life goes on.

This is important, because I did hit another low just Friday. It happened because I needed help and I couldn’t get it, and the specifics aren’t important, because those are really only the trigger. It’s always ripping the scab off of the same wound that is always there. It’s usually dormant, but it’s never healed, and I’m not even sure that it can be healed. (This was all covered in June.)

However, time goes on. The scab will form again; it’s already starting. I will write more, and do more, and go on more trips, and I will have lots of fun. Probably, at least twice, I will be hurt badly, and I will not even want to try, but I will anyway, and it will work out. That’s just what we do.

In the past it has usually been journal writing. Tonight I think I will try and finish Family Blood, and right after midnight, I am thinking of posting the next chapter, Black Dragon Fighting Society. It’s a day early, but it’s a new year! And I think people will really like this one. It’s all Mikey and Kung Fu; how can they not?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Band review: Parachute

I nearly subtitled this “Identity Crisis” because a few things got confusing. There is another Parachute, only they are Parachute Band, and they are a worship band from New Zealand. On Spotify, even when you go to the correct band named Parachute, there are songs listed that I am pretty sure are not them. I’m not saying that it’s impossible that they have done some Japanese children’s songs and Slavic(?) ambient music, but it seems like they would mention it on their web site if they had. 

Also, listening to Parachute at the same time as Sunderland threw me, because they both had a “Kiss Me Slowly”, but Sunderland was covering Parachute (one of their favorite bands), so things made sense again. The Parachute version is doing pretty well for fan videos for television couples, incidentally.Anyway, I am confident that Parachute knows who they are, so there will be no identity crisis.

Who they are is a five member ensemble from Charlottesville, Virginia. I use “ensemble” because I really feel like they blend well, in terms of what instruments are used when, and how they go together. Most of the members seem to play multiple instruments, so that probably helps.

They originally played together as Sparky’s Flaw, but changed to Parachute when they graduated from college in 2008. So, they are pretty young, but they did not seem like kids, and perhaps I can illustrate that. 

I am including some pictures here, which I have not done with any of the other acts from that night so far. I am not a great photographer under the best circumstances, and indoors, dark, with people moving around, is pretty much the worst circumstances for me. Still, I kind of like some of these, and that is because of the guitarist (I believe that is Nate McFarland, but I can’t confirm) rocking above the stage by jumping up on the amp, I guess. I don’t know that they fully convey how cool he was, and I was not in any way able to convey the coolness of the others, especially the lead singer. However, I hope this gives some idea of what I meant about them playing like men, and grown-ups. They looked real, even though Sunderland was not unreal.

Will Anderson totally owned the audience, as a lead singer should. He flirted with us, he came out and walked among us, and I think he lost his coat to us, though it may just have ended up with a crewmember. If he really did lose it, that would be an expensive habit. Will also told us that his grandfather had lived in Oregon while Will was growing up, so he had visited here often. You don’t always have that type of connection, but finding some connection with the audience is the frontman’s job, and he was doing it.

Watching them on stage, they seemed to be more straight up rock, but listening to their recorded tracks I hear some other influences. They sound a little bit country at times, maybe more Southern rock, and hailing from Virginia, maybe that makes sense. That influence is probably most evident on “Forever and Always”, which not only has some twang but tells a depressing story.

More interesting is that there appears to be kind of a gospel influence, not so much in terms of lyrical content, but in some of the vocal work, where it is almost chanting, and the beat and tempo, like who’s the worship band now?. Over the undercurrent of funk, it makes many of the songs really fun to listen to. “What I Know” may be the best example of this, closely followed by “Something to Believe In”, though I think that leans more towards blues. I’m almost picking up a Johnny Clegg or a Paul Simon vibe, but it’s been a long time since I listened to those, and I could be wrong.

“She is Love” and “Under Control” will probably be the most familiar, as they were used in Nivea commercials. Again, “Kiss Me Slowly” seems to be picking up a lot of fans as a love theme. Still, we should not neglect some of the other songs. “American Secrets is interesting in that it is divided into two parts, and they both use “Oh’s” in the refrains, and yet they have two completely different tones, and it’s like a story and its sequel in a single track. “All That I Am” from the first album may kind of foreshadow it.

I know that I already mentioned the funk, but I still need to call out “Halfway” for that, because it is funky. Well, really, for most of both albums I was physically grooving. Yes, I am easy this way, but still it’s a good sign, in my opinion.

I can’t quite explain why I love “Ghost” so much. Perhaps it is the unique viewpoint. Something about it makes me listen harder.

Still, let’s say you just take the most recent album, 2011’s The Way it Was, and you start listening there, and the first track is “White Dress”, and it is really buoyant, and that is a good introduction to what is coming. It’s not that all of the subject matter is cheerful, because it’s not, but nonetheless the overall sound is joyful. Maybe they’ve had hard times, but they are making good things out of it, and mark that down as one other thing I like about the record. 

Maybe good things are happening for them. (Except for whatever inspired “Forever and Always”.)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Band Review: Sunderland – the kids are all right

I was talking with a friend about my love for My Chemical Romance, and he said he kind of wanted to hate them, but the music was too good. My initial thought was why would you want to hate them, and if someone is putting good music out there we celebrate that, but it occurred to me later to wonder if maybe some of the impulse to dislike them was that they were younger. 

In our critical musical periods, we tend to be looking up to musicians who are older than us, and that cannot last. Either we end up clinging to oldies and never finding anything new and good (is this why people turn to country?), or we die young, or eventually you have to start letting the young people come around.

Since I am now listening mostly to bands that are younger than me, I guess I have made my choice, but I have found myself distracted by age at other times, and it happened first at the Rejects concert.

When we got inside there was already a band on. They weren’t on the bill, so this was clearly the local band brought in to warm up the crowd. It turns out they were Sunderland, from Hood River, consisting of four young men. In the past, the Crystal has not been great for opening acts, but this one was pretty good, and we got into it, and I sought out their merch table (there were four merch tables there), and bought a CD of theirs.

The point I want to make is that I liked them, and they did a good job. To some extent, it was just a great night where everything was good, but they were a part of that, and they came on first, so it’s not like they were getting buzz from other bands. I make such a point of this because some of the things I write about them now are going to sound like criticism, and I don’t want to give the wrong impression. 

They were distractingly young. It wasn’t a boy band kind of young, because they were playing their instruments and playing hard, and really they were doing a good job, but it also kind of seemed like play, where the next band on (Parachute) was really probably only a few years older, but there was not the sense of kids playing dress-up. Sunderland was boys and Parachute was men.

I bought the Sunderland EP, but they also gave me a promo CD for free, and there is a deluxe version of the EP on Spotify, plus there are some videos online, so I have been checking all of those out.

I’m not sure whom to compare them to. “Clear to Me” reminds me a little of Owl City’s “Fireflies”, but that may be more a matter of tone. I was thinking that I preferred their older work, produced by Linus Dotson, to the newer tracks produced by John Fields, but “Reason” is new, and I think it holds up pretty well.

Mainly I think they need time. For example, looking at their song “Campus”, it is about seeing a girl on the MAX (although the video shows the streetcar—a lot more filming seems to happen on the streetcar), going after her in a split second decision, and the birth and death of that relationship, going back to the refrain, “It’s funny how in a moment, my life can change.” That is an interesting thought, and the video takes the track that even seeing pending disaster, he is still going for it, which I kind of like, however, listening to the song, it is hard to believe that they have ever really been in a relationship with moving in together, and things falling apart in ugly ways, and not being able to move on. The story of the breakup seems completely unconvincing, based on convenient rhymes.

“Kaylee Keep Your Hands Off” seems more their speed, about a girl who will not leave a guy alone, though he is not interested. (Though I’m not sure I like the attitude. There may be some chauvinism/misogyny going on there. This can happen with guys who never got anywhere with girls, blamed the girls, and then put it into their music. There are at least two songs that I question, but I am sensitive about that.)

So, again, just young, and the video of them at Sky High (a trampoline place) didn’t change that, but nonetheless, the music is very listenable, even the least of it, and some of it is really good. “Kaylee” may be a trivial song in some ways, but they have some fun things going on in the background. I guess we call those “pop hooks”. And “Tell Me” I absolutely love. I think it’s beautiful, and it sounds sincere. I believe it on a level that I don’t believe “Campus”

I guess what I am saying is that I will give them a chance. One thing I was talking about with Rebecca on our way out of the concert, comparing with her American Idol history, is that the process of playing in the garage, and struggling to get gigs, and building up that way, is a completely different experience than going on auditions and a reality show, and it makes a difference. I am starting to see a real danger in signing too soon, and I’m sure I will write more about that later.

For now, I’m saying Sunderland has some credibility, and they are worth checking out. It will be interesting to see what they grow into. And shoot, if you are a teenage girl instead of a cranky old woman, you may just whole-heartedly love them. For now, I think they have talent, and as their souls grow and they find their voice, they could have something really good there.

At least listen to “Tell Me”. It’s beautiful.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Ghost of Writing Past

Remember, I just reread A Christmas Carol.

However, the other thing that I am re-reading is my past body of work. Well, it’s just screenplays, and specifically just feature film screenplays written by me and only me. (I will revist the pilot and the collaboration at some point, but not now.)

I really want to sell something in 2013. The first step on that is to submit something to Amazon Studios and beg all my friends to vote for it. Actually, I think I will submit two (almost certainly Coulrophobia and Jade Mask), and then start trying to get an agent again. Before we get there, I need to go through and see what edits need to be made, and how marketable they really are, and where I am.

The thing I have probably never mentioned before here is that I discarded several journals growing up, because I would go back, read them, be appalled by how immature I was, and simply not be able to bear it. I should probably regret this, but I don’t really feel like these are lost treasures. Part of the problem is that often I only wrote when I was upset, because that was when I needed to write, so only my ugliest moments were captured. I don’t miss them, though I will agree that, on principle, getting rid of diaries is bad.

The other thing that I know, though it has not caused me to throw anything out, is that going back and reading old stories is awful, because one’s writing evolves, and going back and seeing how bad you used to be is painful. I have a short story, “Corporate Malfeasance”, that I would rather re-wirte completely than try and edit. I wrote something that stilted? I sucked!

Someone was encouraging me once to go back and try submitting my novel again, and honestly, for the market it would suit (people who read things by Jack Weyland), I don’t think it is marketable, so it is a moot point, but also just the thought of it feels exhausting. I was writing it in 1997. Not only would the writing itself be over a decade behind in quality, but even the technology would be an issue. One of the conflicts would not exist today, and it is not worth turning into a period piece, so I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

Knowing those things, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I started this. Maybe I would just decide that they were all terrible, and I was insane to think that I could ever be a writer.

Well, there has been some cringing. Remember, a big part of writing the comic book was learning how to do descriptions better, and convey the emotions of a scene, as opposed to just doing barebones dialogue and action as has been my habit. I will need to add things.

Also, some of it is too wordy. Everything I do starts out as too wordy, but then as I go through editing I trim and it works out. So then I wonder if I ever edited these, and I know I did, but okay, maybe I have just gotten better at brevity. Perhaps I get that from Twitter.

I have more recurring themes than I had realized. My characters seem to worry a lot about being useless, and take on more responsibility than they need to. I’m not sure where that comes from. They have different personalities and end up in different situations, so I hadn’t noticed that, but reading everything so close together, I can see it.

However, it is also not all bad. I will find nice little details that I forgot about writing, that showed some cleverness in my plotting. There are some pretty cool action scenes. I forgot about the sawdust and the glitter in Coulrophobia, but it is kind of perfect. Yes, I totally need to make changes, but I like what I have there. I have worried about that one specifically that it would need to be either darker or more slapsticky to sell, and maybe it does, but its voice is a good one, even if it’s not terribly commercial.

Also, there is some good emotional stuff there. Out of Step and Past Present made me cry again. There are scenes that are moving, and even if they can be improved, I did something right. Well, that’s subjective. If I want to make a career of this, I need more people than me to like it. Still, it’s cool that I like it. I feel good about that.

Three down, three to go, and much editing and hoping to occur in January.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

There’s this thing I’ve been doing lately

It’s a pretty common on Facebook that in November people will post daily on things they are grateful for. Some just go through Thanksgiving, but a lot of people will go through the whole month, especially this year when Thanksgiving came so early.

I did go through the whole month, and even though I am a pretty grateful person in general, making that extra effort and sharing it is special. Taking time with a higher than usual focus on gratitude is good. And, I kind of missed it when it was over.

I have been thinking a lot about how important it is to connect with people, and for them to know that they are remembered and that you care. It’s the Twitter thing still, with all the young people, and maybe other things too. 

Anyway, I decided to try focusing on that for December. I decided on December 2nd, so I posted two that day.
It’s been much more poorly-defined than November was. Posting things I am thankful for on my own wall in November would have a clear pattern, even if no one else was doing it. This is more random. Sometimes it is a thank you or a compliment or just a hello, and it is on different walls, where not all of my friends know each other, so no one would be seeing all of them. Because of this, it is not as easy for others to figure out. That’s okay, I don’t really know what I’m doing either.

Still, the wall posting seems to be important. I would have thought that direct messages and email messages would count, but I found that whenever I did that, it did not feel complete unless I also posted on someone’s wall.
I think that may be due to one of the things that was surprising to me. I knew there was a good chance that the people I complimented or thanked or said “hi” to would reply or like the messages; that’s pretty standard. What I was not expecting was that other people – uninterested third parties—would like the messages also. 

It’s not that there was not any teasing questioning of the compliments, because there was, and I was called a suck-up once, though I believe it was good-natured, but in general, people seem to respond well to kindness even when it is directed at others. That is valuable.

I honestly don’t know where I am going with this. I will probably do it through the rest of the month. I have thought of sending affirming tweets to every teen on Twitter, or maybe everyone I follow, or everyone who follows me. I could go through my entire friends list on Facebook and say something nice to everyone. I worry that choosing any of those would end up perfunctory and artificial. 

However, I worried that just doing what I have done so far would end up being artificial, and it hasn’t been. I do have to force myself to find someone where I can say something, but a lot of it is just channeling the thoughts I already have. I like seeing people’s posts, and a lot of them make me smile on a regular basis. I am pretty good about “liking” posts and marking tweets as “favorites”, but it may not register as much as a comment or a reply, or something like that.

The important thing is that a few people have said I have made their day, and it appears to be really easy to do that, and so I feel like I should do that more often. It’s not that we’re stingy. At least, I don’t think we are. I think if we realized how much happiness we could bring, we would do it more. It’s not that we’re making a huge difference, because most people function pretty well, and get by. It is just that the extra remembrance means a lot. That’s what perks up the day. I want to do more of that. I’m not sure at all of the best way of doing it, or how I will be trying it, but I am sure it’s the right direction.

I’ll close with a bit from Anne of Avonlea (the book, not the movie):

Ann glowed.

”I’m so glad you spoke that thought, Priscilla, instead of just thinking it and keeping it to yourself. This world would be a much more interesting place…although it is very interesting anyhome…if people spoke out their real thoughts.”

“It would be too hot to hold some folks,” quoted Jane sagely.

“I suppose it might be, but that would be their own faults for thinking nasty things.”

Monday, December 24, 2012

As grinchy as I get

Some people have told me that I would be a good mother, but my sisters are convinced that I should not have kids. The reason for this – and this may be the most shocking and controversial thing I will ever write on this blog, and if you have young children reading, pull them away quickly – is that I do not believe in trying to make kids believe in Santa Clause.

It’s not that they can’t know about him or watch Christmas specials. I love Christmas specials! I love the movie Elf. I love Christmas decorations and carols.

I admit to a certain irritation when the whole premise is that Christmas is canceled if Santa doesn’t make it, which is perhaps why I prefer the 1966 How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Also, Muppet Family Christmas is awesome—it’s tragic how unknown it is—but when Santa does show up there, it is Doc dressed up, and there is no debate about believing or not.

I just would never want to make any pretense that it is all anything but a story. I don’t believe in lying. Sure, it’s not the worst deception, because it is one that they will eventually find out, and it is about the sweetness and innocence, so there are definitely worse reasons for lying, but still, I can’t get behind it.

I’m sure part of it is my memory of my older sister telling me. I don’t remember what she said; I just have this sense memory of being in our bedroom and it was a gray day outside, and feeling crushed and betrayed. 

Also, I don’t like the blackmail aspects of it. I think the Elf on the Shelf is creepy and stupid, and constantly being watched and judged to determine if you are worthy of toys sounds ridiculous. Sure, we took away Krampus, but still, part of being a child is not being great at long range planning and impulse control, and part of being a parent is understanding that. Also, are we then saying that better behavior equals more toys and that is the secret of happiness? Because toy overload does not increase happiness. So a few meaningul gifts, which is probably better, means they weren’t that good?

Even if the intentions are good with the deception, there are a lot of things about it that don’t work out. For example, poverty! I remember reading an essay once from someone who grew up poor. They had cousins who were better off, and stayed with them for Christmas. Well, she and her siblings each got a coloring book and some crayons, and the cousins had everything else. She wrote that she thought it was nice of Santa to think of them, but it was clear that he cared about rich people more. I hate that. Maybe poor people should be motivated to have their children behave badly and then just avoid the issue altogether.

Also, I’m not sure it’s necessary. When children watch Disney movies, they don’t believe they really happened, do they? But they still enjoy them and get into them, and they enjoy it as fiction, and that’s what it is. I love fiction too. I just think it’s important to keep it separate from the truth.

So, this is me, grumpy old person, who will read A Christmas Carol again tonight, as I always do, and may also watch The Year Without A Santa Clause, and that will be fine, and I am not corrupting any children or robbing them of their childhood, because I do not have any.

Friday, December 21, 2012

It should always be a good day to die

This does kind of relate to the end of the world stuff, which yes, is primarily dumb jokes, but there are some real concerns there.
Also, there is this Youtube video being passed around about how you should do what you love, because life is too short, and people are finding it so brilliant and inspirational, but I am more influenced by how that same concept was used in Office Space years ago.
It was the same question, “If money wasn’t an object, what would you do, and then you should do that.” It did not help Ron Livingston’s character at all, because he didn’t seem to be very passionate about anything, but eventually it did turn out that it was important to him to be outdoors, he did care about other people, and he did care about Jennifer Aniston. It is not traditional for someone who can have an office job to end up going to manual labor, but it worked for him.
When I first went to Italy, I wanted to be able to talk to my cousins and get to know them. In addition to practicing Italian in general, I memorized two fallback questions. They were “How did you meet?” and “Tell me about your work.” Actually, they didn’t like talking about themselves for the most part, so that didn’t work well, but the job question was especially weird to them. They do not care. It’s just something they do.
This is not that they don’t enjoy life or that they aren’t passionate; please, these are Italians. However, it’s not about work for them. It’s about their family, or their hobbies, or the places they travel, or cooking. That is not completely true. One cousin, Roberto, was a math professor, and he still does some tutoring to make ends meet, but now he is a tai chi instructor. In that case, he did want his passion to be his job and he made it happen. But it doesn’t always have to work that way.
I was talking to Cute Cafeteria Guy when I got back, and he totally agreed. Right then, he was working as a cashier. Before that he worked in a bank, and after that he worked at a car lot, and some of those might seem like downgrades or upgrades, but ultimately he could be great at any job where he was interacting with the public, because he liked people and he was good with them.
So, not long after that I became unemployed myself, and although I had always thought of my job as a temporary stop on the way to being a writer, suddenly not having a job was a real blow. Maybe the specific job I was doing had not been part of my identity, but being able to stay gainfully employed had been. I had to re-evaluate myself.
My current job is okay. It’s not particularly creative, but I’m good at it, which is satisfying, and I can leave a Twitter feed open and listen to music while I am working, which is good. It would not be enough for me though. My joy comes because there are so many other things that I care about that are part of my life. I write, fiction and non-fiction. I sing. I have good friends. I travel. I realize I want to do things and I do them. I frustrate myself a lot of the time that way, but I find a lot of enjoyment too.
The other thing that came up is an advice column where a young married couple wanted to take a year off to travel, and they were worried about what other people would think. Someone else said that they had done something similar and they ran into many older couples, and many women who had intended to go with their first husbands, but he died and they were there with their second husbands.
Okay, I did finally give in and start a 401K, and I guess that’s a good thing. However, I know people who put huge amounts into stocks and CDs and investments, and I hope they get to enjoy it someday, but they may not. They could die, their stocks could lose their value (many already have had issues there), or they may live but not have the energy and strength that they once had, curtailing some experiences.
And before we start throwing around the term ”YOLO”, people use that really stupidly. Yes, you get one earth life, but it is neither the end nor the beginning of your immortal soul, and that is worth taking into account.
What I am trying to get at is that there are lots of different things that can be part of a fulfilling, rich, happy, authentic life. It won’t be pure hedonism, but it should have pleasure. It needs to have kindness and relationships in it. There are just some things that will never work, but within those boundaries there is amazing variety.
I know there is a lot of ugliness in the world, and it’s not that we can ignore it— I don’t think we should ignore it— but we need to be aware of the beauty too, and to appreciate it. It’s building relationships, and talents, and knowledge. It’s finding joy. It’s not living every day like it’s your last, which would be exhaustings. It’s making a life that is full of good days, through big and small things.
So, last year I made a 10-year plan, and the end goals there will all take the full ten years. If I die tomorrow, I will not make it to Africa, Asia, South America, or Antarctica. However, I really enjoyed what I have seen of North America, Europe, and Australia and New Zealand. Give me another five years, and I will have South America and Africa. Give me just 2013, and I will at least see Mount Rushmore.
I think it will be 2022 before I can do a triathlon, but just get me through August and I will run a 5K. I haven’t sold a screenplay, but I’ve written some stuff I love, and hey, now some people are reading the comic book, and a few have read the children’s book, which even had some illustrations with it. Next Christmas time, I will have been working on my drawings for about a year, and I will take another shot. Maybe I can even add some color this time without ruining every thing.
Remember when I had that list of three bands that I missed seeing in college? I have seen all three of them now! And then it went to five bands that I missed, past college, but I have seen one of those too, and now there are more, but still, I have been to some great shows, and I will keep going as many chances as I get.
Oh, and my birthday party! If the world ends now, birthday karaoke doesn’t happen, but at least I’ve still done it other times.
This is not even dreaming big; it is dreaming specifically for me. This is who I am, this is what I want, this makes me happy. This is what I’m going to do.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

When the world comes down

I spent most of yesterday baking and cooking. This is not really like me. I don’t mind cooking so much, but my intention is generally to keep things as quick and easy as possible. Because of that, I am even less into baking. You can’t get away with improvising as much, and it is never easy.
Still, but the end of the day I had produced about 7 loaves of pumpkin bread, 3 dozen peanut butter blossoms, three trays of enchiladas, and a batch of chocolate truffles. I did it because I wanted to do something good, and give out some happiness if I could. I think it was largely because of the school shooting.
It’s not like I wasn’t already down. I wrote two blog posts based on the Clackamas shooting and that seemed bad enough, and then suddenly there was one that was so much more horrific, and then there were the stabbings in China and several other gun stories over the next few days, and it almost doesn’t register because you are still so numbed by what already happened, but it is there.
Mom keeps saying that it’s the last days, and of course there is all this talk about the Mayan calendar, and this is a theme that I revisit from time to time, so let’s go back there. First of all, previous posts:
My main concern with the one is I realize now that the math section makes me look like a Young Earth-er, and I’m not. Honestly, that was long enough ago that I may not have known at the time that there were people who think of the creation days as literally consisting of 24 hours. Clearly from the rest of this post, I do believe in the Bible, but since there are clearly parts that are figurative, mistranslated, and missing, I just wouldn’t make that my sticking point. I try to save my fanaticism for loving people and helping the poor, which go well together, but that’s just me.
Anyway, I am not expecting anything more horrible to happen than usual. I still think the model in my timeline post is reasonable, but even then I could imagine one really big thing or lots of pretty big things, and it sort of doesn’t matter. Bad things are happening now, and will keep happening.
For the most part we go on. We’ve seen the World Trade Center, and Hurricane Katrina, and now when you say the Tsunami now it means Japan, but it was Southeast Asia before that, and so many more, with natural disasters and man-made, and more and more that are a combination of both—something that we made much worse.
And we recover. We are horrified and shocked, and then life gets back to normal, until the new thing shocks us. That may seem kind of horrible, but there is something beautiful about it too. The constant pull of life is beautiful—that no matter how much you hurt, you still need to eat and sleep and bathe, and that ends up meaning cooking and cleaning, and you have to pay bills so you go to work. With all the things that you keep doing because you have to, room is made for things that you want to, and we still do want to see movies and listen to songs and talk to people. Life holds on to us and we hold on to life.
It is also beautiful that despite all of the evidence of bad being out there, we continue to not expect it, except I worry about how possible it will be to sustain that, and how much we need it.
After the Clackamas shooting, Mom was expressing concern because my sisters go to Washington Square a lot, and it could happen there, and I said, “Yes, there will be another shooting, but it will be on the other side of the country, and it will be worse.” There was no satisfaction in being right about that, but it also bothers me a little that I did know, but we’ve been down this way before. We know the patterns, and I do see things as escalating. I’m not looking forward to that.
However, my belief in the scriptures about how I need to be also makes them a source of comfort. Revelation (and other parts of the scriptures, but people focus there) does refer to a lot of calamities, but it also teaches of salvation.Christ will return, and usher in a thousand years of peace, and there will be reunions and yes, there will be punishment, but God is more compassionate than people. There will be a lot of learning and healing, taking in a lot of people that it would be easy to write off.
It is my belief that we are getting closer to this that inspires a lot of my interest in emergency preparedness, but keep in mind, when it really is “the end”, and that is not even an end, your temporal preparedness is no longer an issue. Food storage and emergency savings and first aid training should be beside the point then. Those things are to get us through now, whatever has led up and whatever else comes before.
It’s not that I don’t still care about those things, I do, but I have been thinking more about the emotional side of it now. I guess this goes back to the comic book again, which has been such a big part of my year. (And there the solar flares kick off around 8 PM tomorrow night, starting disaster far beyond what you would expect, but I’m going to a party that starts at 8 tomorrow, and I believe it will be fine.)
A big part of writing it was that it was hurting me that it is a cruel world, and not one that my emergency preparedness skills help with. I did write about that little, and I guess I can link to it, but there is just the issue of being depressed by all of the nastiness and the suffering, and somehow writing about these people stuck in the post-Apocalyptic dystopian future fixed it. They lost loved ones and died themselves and had really hard times, but their kindnesses to each other, and their love for each other, made it beautiful. I cried a lot writing it, and I still get teary reading many parts, but also I love it.
Over on the preparedness blog, the practical tips like water storage are important, but sometimes I think the most important posts are the emotional ones: Three keys to happiness, Preparing to not let your heart wax cold, and On not being offended.
So basically, yesterday it got me in the kitchen. I call that Wisonsin therapy, based on a throwaway line from an old episode of Caroline in the City, and reinforced by a coworker who hails from Madison. We’ve only made two deliveries, and apparently have affected three families. There is more to come. There are other, non-food things that I am working on too, and I will probably right about those, but ultimately, it’s still always going to be about the love. It has to be.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Musical Goodness

As I said I would, Friday I did several #FFs on Twitter.
That stands for Friday Follow, or Follow Friday, and it is basically giving your recommendation for others to follow these accounts. I only started understanding the concept recently, and an impulsive decision regarding it has drastically changed my life, but that will be another post. The point is, after doing a long post on the follower inequities between front men and the rest of the band, it seemed natural to send a bunch of #FF tweets for various musicians that I like.
It did not go exactly as planned. My first thought was to send one for each instrument, and none for lead singers, but there were two snags on that. One was that I wanted to promote Revenir, but I only know what some members of the band do. Also, in the case of Fall Out Boy, we have a vocalist who is not the front man, so it mainly went by instrument, but there was a sort of a “leftover” tweet—the Professor and Mary Ann if you will.
Anyway, one interesting thing that happened with that is that a couple of the people being recommended for following wrote back and they both said it was an honor to be included in that company.
My tweets being noticed by anyone was a surprise, but once the notice happened, their reactions were not that surprising, because one common factor that I have noticed with the bands that I like is that in addition to being good musicians themselves, they have an appreciation of others, and they don’t feel a need to knock down other bands.
Well, some bands; @themerchdude ( refers to bands trashing other bands pretty regularly, so it must happen. I’m not encountering it. Still, I’m pretty out of it on a lot of things. My bands don’t seem to do it. @JADEDPUNKHULK does pick on bands, but as far as I can tell is not a musician himself, and The Gaslight Anthem retweets all of his tweets about what a nerd Brian Fallon is, so I assume that is just good-natured ribbing.
One reason that is interesting to me is that while reading I Want My MTV, there was a lot of that. There were so many quotes where one band would dismiss another as just being hair or just for girls or being poseurs, and it was just so idiotic. It doesn’t serve the fans, and it doesn’t serve the cause of music.
Actually, that book is full of corruption and corporate idiocy, and technology changes would certainly have transformed the industry anyway, but it’s hard not to think about how being better people would have improved a lot.
It’s not just the business practices, though there was some crazy stuff there, and that goes back to earlier in the recording industry as well. It’s also the happiness of the participants. Everyone sounds so much happier after they get off of the drugs or the alcohol. It’s not just that they were addicted and now they’re not, though that would be huge. Tommy James was really interesting because he used the substances for his stage fright, but he found that he enjoyed performing a lot more without them. There was room for spontaneity and creativity and enjoyment.
At the time there was so much money in the industry that a lot of people could get very rich, and so on that level it made even less sense to be competitive in that way. Now, there is definite scarcity of resources, and it’s not that bands don’t want to be number one and to be the best, but the better ones still seem to be willing to see other people succeed, and I like that. I see it in the comic industry too. So many of the writers and artists have to have other jobs, or move to cheaper areas, or scrimp in some way, but they are still always promoting each others’ work. I guess it makes sense that there seems to be so much crossover. They have the same kind of hearts.
So, I’m grateful for that, and I am more grateful as I keep reading the things that young people write, and how much these bands mean to them. I don’t want to get into that too much today—I’ll have so much more to say on that after I finish researching Emo. Still, it seems right to say something now.
Some of that is in preparation for my turn to the dark side tomorrow, and some of that is because I started writing this yesterday, and shortly thereafter there was a wave of anger, denial, grief, and devastation because some person I have never heard of in a band I never heard of is accused of child molestation, and it matters to them.
Different kids will post about a band saving their life, and that sounds melodramatic, and it is kind of, but there are those for him it is literally true, because there is enough bad in their lives that there was actually a danger, and music becomes a saving grace.
Beyond that though, for the kids who are not in danger that way, music still helps them find their voice, process their emotions, and find their talents and creativity at a time when they are learning how to be and a lot of things are up in the air. I know Charles Barkley didn’t want to be a role model, it’s bad if only celebrites are role models, and I think the concept of a role model is flawed in general.
Understanding all of that, I am thankful for those who by following their passion end up attracting the admiration of others and then use it well. I am grateful for Sing for Japan, and Don’t Hate on Haiti, and Everest Rocks, and iPods being collected at concerts for Alzheimers patients.
I am grateful for bands who do mingle with their fans and talk to them and pose for pictures with them. Especially, I am thankful for the ones who notice the cuts, and make them promise to stop, and remember that when they see them again. Bless you for that. Your lives are better for it, your music is better for it, and the world is better for it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In Concert: The All-American Rejects!

I wanted to get in at least one of the bands before the solstice (just in case), and I thought I would be going in chronological order of the evening, which would make the order In Passing, Sunderland, Parachute, the Rejects, and Boys Like Girls. However, I was there in the first place because of the Rejects, they were the best part (which is no insult to any of the others), and I want to write about them most.

I went with my friend Rebecca. At one point we were talking about concerts and everything she had been too (which was only three) was in some way related to American Idol, including a Daughtry concert, and then I think maybe there was something that was country music.

I told her at the time that was no good, and that she needed to go to a real concert, and that between my sisters and I, we would make it happen. So I asked her, and it turns out that she loves AAR, and she wasn’t sure if she could go, because when you have a husband and children your schedule is not quite as free, but she decided that she could and tickets were bought.

The doors opened at 7, so we got downtown at about 6:40. It was at the Crystal Ballroom, and there was a line snaking around the building. We started going to our place in line, and we were passing tour buses, and suddenly Mike Kennerty (guitar) walked right by us. If I had been thinking I should have taken out my camera, but I didn’t want to be a pain, and no one else was paying any attention to him, and he was gone really quickly. Still, that made me all the more alert.

As we took our place in line, shortly afterwards I saw someone walking a dog, and I know the dog was Dexter (dog), and so I am pretty sure that it was Nick Wheeler (guitar) walking him, but he was wearing a hoodie. So this was getting kind of exciting already, and I am pretty sure that I saw people from the others bands because they looked like they were in bands, and then seemed familiar later when they took the stage. (Especially one of the guys in Sunderland, who has really curly hair and stands out because of that.)

So, we will get to all of this later assuming no global catastrophe happens Friday, but In Passing came up while we were in line, Sunderland was playing when we got upstairs, and then Parachute played after that. I was surprised that the Rejects were not going last (that was Boys Like Girls), but it ended up working out well.

Anyway, it was finally time for the All-American Rejects. So, set-up is going on, and we are impatiently waiting, and it seems to be mainly roadies, but one of them has scary face makeup (kind of white with an upside down cross on his forehead), making me think that he is actually a musician, and it was in fact Scott Chesak (keyboards). There is one roadie who looks a lot like Chris Gaylor (drums) (at least I think the other guy is a roadie), and one other person setting up, and finally, the lights go dark.

Now at this point, normally the band takes the stage and starts playing, but it turns out that they were getting a lot more into Halloween than I was expecting, so the first thing that happened was that with an empty stage and darkness they started playing “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, I promise you have heard it. It is dark, foreboding music, very dramatic, and it gets used in a lot of movies and movie trailers.

Finally they come on, and Scott is not the only one with his face made up. Tyson Ritter (lead vocals) has skull makeup, Mike and Matt Rubano (bass) both had red makeup on their faces, but it looked completely different. Matt’s was more demonic, and Tyson described Mike as, “apparently the man who ate a baby”. Nick and Chris did not have any makeup that I could see, so it was not fair that Tyson picked on us for not celebrating Halloween, but seriously, it never occurred to me to wear a costume. Apparently several people at the show the night before in Seattle had been, but it was the Saturday night before Halloween for them, so maybe it made sense.

They did post pictures from their Halloween show in San Francisco, and they went all out. Nick is Dracula, Chris is a mad scientist, Tyson is a mummy, Mike is a skeleton, Matt is a wolfman, and Scott is a clown. They’re pretty impressive.

Anyway, it was a really good show. I thought it would be more about promoting the most recent album, Kids in the Street, but actually they played a mix from all four records, focusing mainly on singles. That may be somewhat of a ten year anniversary thing.

On the plus side, earlier in the week Nick had tweeted asking if there were any older songs fans wanted to hear, and I replied with three, one from each previous album. I did not feel at all creative—I didn’t ask for anything really obscure—but nonetheless, they played all of them! They not only played Swing, Swing, Tyson talked about writing it. They played Dirty Little Secret. And then, Tyson seemed to be goofing off, and just flirting with the audience, and then as he started saying “I wanna touch you” I realized I was getting my final wish, and they played I Wanna. That’s one of my singing practice songs, and I was out of the loop when it came out, so I have no idea how big it was or anything about it, and it was the one I least expected, but they played it!

The downside of the more retrospective nature of the show is that there were two songs from the current album that I was really looking forward to that did not get played: I For You and Fast and Slow. I really love both of those songs. However, I have to say that the title track performance was really great. It was not an elaborate lighting setup, but they did set a different mood with “Kids in the Street”, one which I think the song kind of demands, and it really worked.

The most amazing thing is how different an experience it is to see a band play live. You get one sense of appreciation from listening to the music, and even from watching the music videos. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t know that Tyson was totally spastic before watching him own the stage, and then climb the windows, and spend time in the audience—no, I knew.

I also already had a lot of affection for the individual band members from the tweets. Actually, even with Chris not tweeting I have an affection for him, and this made me feel differently about the tweeting. I had already felt like he is just more private, and would not enjoy tweeting, which I respected. After the show, I feel more protective towards him, and I want him to have that privacy, and don’t want anyone to pressure him to do something he doesn’t want to do, even if we would like hearing from him. (And he totally looks like he can handle himself, and needs no protection, so it is nonsensical, but there you are.)

Actually the Rejects in general are pretty good about giving fans access. They do video diaries of the tours, and release behind the scenes photos pretty regularly, so you get to see different sides, which is nice, but still, I like them so much better seeing them live! It just reveals something. Maybe it’s because they seem to be having such a good time, and I love that about watching musicians. They put their heart out there, and they have a lot of fun doing it, and they do it for us. How can you not love that?

Also, and this is getting outside of the concert experience, but I want to go back and reference something I wrote in October:

“I guess what I am trying to say is that even though it sounds like a polished album, it also seems to be experimental, and maybe what this means is that they are growing into a new phase, and developing a new sound, It’s not a refutation of the previous sound, but it is a maturation of the band. What I feel like is that they can be around for a long time and they will keep being interesting.”

That part was specifically about the album Kids in the Street, and there was more in there about that album, and other albums, but if nothing else, just this: I keep loving them more and I believe that will continue, because the the trajectory they have been on. And it was a really good show.

I’m pretty sure we left at the right time because as I was heading down the stairs, suddenly, right it front of me again, is Mike Kennerty. I stopped, and Rebecca asked “What’s wrong?”, and he was talking to someone but he looked at me. I said “I just wanted to say Great show’, and he thanked me, and I shook his hand.

Actually that was awkward, and I later realized I think he thought I was going to hug him, and that it would have been okay, so I blew that one, but I’m just not that forward. And yes, it would have been smart to whip out my camera then, but I felt like that is too intrusive. So the moral of that story is just that I am awkward, which we knew, and frankly, I think if that was going to go away it would have done so by now. Fortunately, most people are pretty nice about it. It probably helps that, based on the number of people who ask me for the time and directions, I apparently look harmless. My gifts are not the most impressive ones, but they work out.

(Also, that so many people need to ask time/directions shows that I am not the only smart phone holdout.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

More MCR, more hockey, and more bears in the net!

Saturday went largely as planned. I posted my story and inadequate sketches in the morning, and went to the hockey game at night.

As we entered the arena, the song playing was “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance. Now, there is never a bad time for me to hear a My Chemical Romance song, especially that one, but it was extra meaningful this time because I had just listened to the relevant Smodcast:

The deal is that Kevin Smith had been greatly influenced by Welcome to the Black Parade, and he brought Gerard and Mikey Way on to talk about it, and actually, they took so long in the first session that they never got to the song, so this was the second session, #235.

Where it all started was a video on Youtube, Once an Oiler, that was a tribute to Wayne Gretzky, starting with childhood pictures and covering his time with the Oilers. I suspect it was a response to his going to the Kings. (I don’t think anyone in Green Bay has made a “Once a Packer” video for Favre.)

Anyway, it was Kevin Smith’s first time hearing the song, and he was really affected by it, and that’s completely fair. The song is amazing, and there’s a lot to it, which makes doing a section by section analysis reasonable, and I think I have already written about how brilliant the overall structure of that album is in general. In addition, this video is pretty good. It starts with childhood shots, and Edmonton shots, and then it builds and you get the Stanley cup in there, and it’s pretty moving, and it works well with that song. It does get a bit repetitive in the middle, but assuming you have to use existing, available footage, rather than going back in time and shooting your own, it’s really pretty good. Good synchronization with the drums.

And, I just watched that video today, because even though listening to the cast had me considering watching it, entering the game to that song, kind of clinched it. Plus, later they played “Umbrella” and that also came up during their chat, because it was playing a lot when Gerard and his wife were dating. Fortunately, my sisters identified the song for me, because I would not have recognized it on my own. So I listened to that today too. It’s been a day of new experiences. You can see why the blog post is late.

Actually, the music was pretty good overall. It was mostly older stuff—lots of pre-Public Enemy rap and older songs. Actually, right after “Black Parade” Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” came on, so there was something for everyone.

The game was amazing. I was so disappointed in the newspaper article on it, because it was really flat and lifeless. I know it can be hard to convey the excitement of a game verbally, but it’s like they didn’t even try.

So here’s the deal. Maria follows it more closely than I do, and she kept emphasizing how Seattle is the main rival and we (Portland Winterhawks) hate them. Well, we may hate them, but it would appear that we do not hate them nearly as much as they hate us, or they have way worse self-control. Mentally, I think the violence is stupid, and you should just play the game with sportsmanship and skill, but this was insane, and it’s kind of fascinating.

There was plenty of shoving and sticking, but at one point the one Seattle player got one of ours in a headlock and just started punching him repeatedly in the head, and it was all kind of confusing, so I may not be getting the details exactly right, but the one ref tried to stop it, and got shoved off, and then more people got involved where two refs ended up on the ground—one because he was knocked there, and another later because he was lying on a Seattle player to hold him down!

I have never seen them spend so long discussing penalties—it took a while to sort it all out!! Finally they read off the list of penalties, on both sides, and the last thing the announcer said was “five for fighting”, which I would have missed, but the girls in front of me thought it was funny, and I realized, right, that’s a band. I thought I did not know them, but actually, they sing that song that I thought was Ben Folds Five, because I get my 5’s mixed up apparently, but I listened to both of them today, and they sound quite different. (New experiences.)

Incidentally the refs were much more aggressive about intervening after that little melee.

I suppose it was worse for Seattle because they were being so outplayed. The first score happened at just 3:24 in the first period, followed by another at 5:01 (both by Matt Leier). At the end of the first quarter it was 2-0, ending at 4-2, victory Portland.

Obviously, it was the first goal that set off the barrage of teddy bears. Now, I’ve been to a few games, but this was only my second teddy bear toss. As much as I worried about that one bear, seriously, it happened to three bears on my side this time. There was another that got caught in the glass, and on the other side it looked like three got stuck, but they were able to shake them all down. 

Realistically, the puck doesn’t even hit the net that often. I suppose the issue is more the damage that it would do if it did manage to hit anyone in the face, and that would be considerable. So the net needs to stay, but seriously people, take off those hooks! Once it’s no longer on disply in the store, it has no purpose, and it can create problems.

They did flash a picture of the pink one up on the screen with the caption “Don’t forget me!”, so I guess they know how to deal with it. Other fun things caught on video included several Santa’s rocking out (I think it was Santacon that day), and one kid who tried to hide, but then the camera left, he got out, and the camera zoomed back. It’s a little mean perhaps, but I found it funny and his friend was really rocking out. I guess every shy kid needs an outgoing friend.

An irritating thing was that the Timbers Army was there and being really loud. There is being supportive and there is being a distraction and making it more about you than the game, and it just felt disrespectful. I did hear some people yelling “Shut up!” and them, and eventually they did.

Disappointing things were the overall take of 12814. the other year it was 16321. Plus a lot of them were really small. Come on, these are for needy kids—get them something nice! I loved the big pug though—that was adorable.

Anyway, that’s it in a nutshell. Watch “Once an Oiler”, listen to “The Black Parade”, support minor league hockey, buy toys for kids, and cut off the hooks. I know that sounds like a lot, but it’s really not.