Friday, January 30, 2015

Band Review: Late Nite Reading

Late Nite Reading is a pop rock band from Indiana. Listening to them has been good.

The songs are solid, easy on the ears, and leave you feeling good. (I have had some bands that have left me really irritated over the past couple of weeks, so I may currently be more sensitive on this point.) There is a passion and youth that you can hear in songs like "Writing On The Wall".

While some of their acoustic songs like "Just How I Do It" have the potential for country crossover, the band rests pretty solidly within pop rock. One good example of this is their interesting take on Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks". The techno elements are stripped away, and you hear the rock. There's nothing wrong with the original, but the cover is worthwhile, and because the original is there for comparison, it gives you a good feel for Late Nite Reading's aesthetic.

The band is currently augmenting regular performance dates with house parties, allowing some unique experiences for fans, as well as working on new music.

Worth checking out.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Band Review: The Delaney

The Delaney is a singer/songwriter/poet in London. He is not my thing.

The singing is pretty flat, and occasionally out of tune. If often goes off-tempo, similar to Cake and I hate that about Cake. At one point I thought maybe this would work for fans of Joe Cocker, but I did some listening to Cocker to verify that and Joe is more fun.

I thought perhaps it was unfair to critique him as a performer if he is more of a songwriter, but he seems to perform on a regular basis. If the performance is not doing the lyrics justice, that could be an issue, but he has lyrics posted on his web site so they can be examined separately.

Those didn't really appeal to me either. I feel like they are trying to be witty social commentary without actually being that witty, and yet maybe if I were also in London some of it would have more resonance.

All of this combined makes it feel very self-indulgent. I can't rule out that I am missing something, but I cannot recommend. He does play guitar well.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Getting back in touch with my body

When I was going through the exercises in Fat Is A Feminist Issue 2, it was mainly because they were in the book, and I felt that if I did not do the exercises I would be missing part of the book. (I did the exercises for Rozema's Behind the Mask also, though they didn't affect me as much.)

Somewhere in the process of all of the reading and thinking I realized that I was very disconnected from my body. I had kind of known it before, but I was past the point where I could ignore it. I had to do something about it.

I was very true to myself in forming a plan of action: I put action items into a spreadsheet, and when I wasn't sure what action items I needed I did a Google search.

That brought me to this page:

It was helpful, but also the search started to automatically fill in "getting in touch with your chakras":

Every time I plan on going through that one I end up not doing it, but I can't quite write it off.

I am not actually done with my list, but it still feels right to start writing about the process now, and the first thing I want to say about it is that it can get kind of excruciating.

I am not at my highest weight now, but I am more aware of my stomach - hanging in front of me like a large lump of bread dough - than I have ever been before. My skin is dryer than it used to be (except for my nose, which is oilier) and it is obvious.

I used to be really good at shrugging off pain, but now I feel it more, and then even if my tendency would be to try and ignore it, I can't do that because the goal is to know what's going on. I used to be really good at pushing through things, and now I am aware of needing to drink and eat and sleep. (I am still quite productive, but I haven't felt invincible for a while.)

I have to be aware now that what I had tried to write off as sleeping wrong, but it grew to several nights so maybe it was the mattress or an injury that I had forgotten though it was weird that it was both arms, instead appears to be fasciitis, And that makes a lot of sense, because I have had issues with plantar fasciitis recently and I was diagnosed with fasciitis in in junior high, so clearly my fascia are not above acting up, but now I have to deal with it.

There is a warning here that if you are disconnected from your body that it is better to address that sooner rather than later. Age does not tend to improve many of the discoveries. Also, there are things that probably wouldn't have happened if I had never lost touch.

It is a very tangled thing. I was trying to shut down emotional pain. I still felt it, and I felt physical pain too, but I didn't grasp how much I was ignoring. I did not grasp how much they were connected. Still, my emotional pain was because of what I believed my body was, and that's what I was trying not to know; it would have been weird if it wasn't all connected.

Now seems to be the time to get into all of that: why I disconnected from my body, what it led to, and finding my way back. I know I'm not the only one, and so there may be something useful in this, but I guess I needed to start with the warning. This is physical and tangible and that includes the opportunity for a lot of enjoyment and pleasure, but it also brings out pain, which apparently you cannot make disappear by ignoring it. The pain has its value too, but it can be off-putting.

Life is not for the faint of heart.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Birthday Dinner - The Chinese Meal

When my birthday plans were karaoke chaos, I decided on it and sent out invitations in November. That seemed like a very long advance, but it worked out. This time I sort of made my plans in July.

One of the books I read for my long reading list was Fat Is A Feminist Issue 2 by Susie Orbach, and it had several visualization exercises, some of which were surprisingly powerful. One was "The Chinese Meal". Obviously you were visualizing being out for Chinese food, but there were various questions that were asked as to how the food was being served, and if anyone else there had food issues, and did you feel like you could have what you want?

Initially, I did not. I love Chinese food; my family does not. Even the friends I have who like Chinese food tend to like different things, so sharing isn't usually a real option. What if I wanted to have both a pot sticker and an egg roll with my entree? That could never happen, because you can't order them individually and no one else wants the same things, so it's too much food.

As I went through the activity I started to think, well, there is such a thing as leftovers. What if I just decide that this is what I want, and I am going to have it? If other people want to share, or not, that's okay. I started to imagine being with people I trusted, and also trusting myself, that I could have what I want, and neither short myself nor glut myself, and just be okay with it.

It started to seem feasible. I had not completely committed to it back in July, but as my birthday got closer I realized that seemed like the best thing to do - the birthday activity that would be the most helpful and gratifying. I started to agonize over dates and times and whom to invite, and then I just went decisive, picked 6 PM on my birthday at Jin Wah, and sent e-mail or Facebook messages to the people I wanted.

The lead up was more emotionally taxing than you might expect. I was going through a rough spot and that made some of the declines hurt more than they should have, I guess. That whole thing is probably something I am going to get into later. I thought many times that maybe I should just cancel the whole thing, but I didn't.

And then it was really wonderful.

I had decided that what I wanted to order one order of spring rolls, one of pot stickers, and an order of Peking Duck, all to share. The first two things are just things I like, but the third was something I had never had before, and it sounded interesting. For some restaurants you need to order in advance, but not at Jin Wah. Then everyone could have their entrees. If there were leftovers, fine, and if not that was fine too.

Peking Duck is a complicated dish, coming out one tray with skin, meat, steamed pancakes, sauce, and green onions, and another tray with the rest of the meat and bones. One friend had eaten it before, and was explaining it to us, but then one of the wait staff gave us a tutorial.

It was good, but then I read after that it involves force feeding, so I was thinking I could never have it again, but then also the dish normally is all skin without much meat, so I kind of wonder if maybe they make it with a regular duck, and maybe that is why they don't require special notice.

Everyone tried some of the duck, had one spring roll (out of four), and one pot sticker (out of six). Between those and the individual entrees, there was a lot of food, and a lot left over.

I was planning on paying for the three shared items and my entree, but I was ready to pick up the other three entrees too just to be safe. My friends split the check three ways, even though they had all brought gifts too. I objected, they insisted, and they won, and so I spent no money and had boxes and boxes of leftovers.

It was good before that, because even though I was the only common bond between the three, they got along well and talked and everyone was interesting and kind, and I needed that time with them. And I was safe and loved, and was able to get what I wanted and needed and try something new.

It doesn't mean that it will always be that way, or that it even should be that way. I mean, there is nothing wrong with only having an egg roll or a pot sticker or even with getting salad rolls because that's what someone else wants. This was my birthday, and so for that I was making it special and more than normal, which worked. It is very powerful to see that you can have what you want and it can be okay. Maybe for a lot of people they already know that, and it's not a big deal, but it was for me.

I suspect next year's birthday will be based on "The Ideal Kitchen" exercise, and it won't really be about the kitchen.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Thoughts on Into the Woods

We kept up our New Year's Eve tradition of going to see a movie with a friend, this time going to see Into the Woods.

The movie had its flaws, but from the available choices it was the one that best fit the parameters of what we wanted for the night, and it had it's moments. It also generated a few interesting thoughts.

Those thoughts may be best summed up by a question Julie asked me: "What was the point?"

My initial response was "No point really", but that isn't quite fair. The most basic point is that you can wish for things, and you can get those things, but that doesn't solve all of your problems. Maybe it wasn't everything you thought it would be. A fairy tale ending is that your wish is granted and then it ends, quickly, before anything else can go wrong. That isn't generally how life works.

I was also thinking of how Freudian the imagery was, not just Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, but with the overall motif of things being different in the woods. Actually, my thought with that was that I felt like I could see Bettelheim's grimy little fingers all over it.

That is not impossible. The Uses of Enchantment is from 1976, and has been fairly influential, so it could easily have had some impact on either Sondheim and Lapine or even just the production designer for this film. That reminded me that Freud's influence has lasted a lot longer than I realized. I know he was still big in the 60s, but I sort of thought that as you were getting into the 80s people were starting to take him less seriously, and that may not be the case.

(Actually, I was reading some interesting things on his theories of dream interpretation Saturday, so that may come up again.)

I guess that's what got me thinking about different versions. I saw a local production a few years ago. The first act ended with a big musical number where everyone was out onto stage and everyone had what they wanted, singing together "And happily ever after!"  It seemed really great, but then there was an announcement to come back after the intermission, and a giant starts trampling around, and there is death and adultery and complications. The no fairy tale ending point was really driven home by that.

I saw that show because a friend's wife was playing the Narrator, but I saw it with another friend who had studied it in college, and as we discussed it there was some insight there. This was a while ago. Both of those friends have children now who weren't born then but are getting kind of big.

Going even farther back, a different friend made some points from it speaking in church long ago, and what I suddenly remembered at the movie is that there were two things he mentioned that I was looking for in the play, but didn't happen. I thought maybe they would be in the movie, but they weren't there either.

One was just a line, maybe even ad-libbed, with the Baker and his Wife, while getting ready to undertake some subterfuge, saying "The end justifies the beans!" It wouldn't have fit into the movie.

The other was that "Children Will Listen" seems to have been more of a highlight. There is a version of that song that people do as solos, but in the show I saw they only used the despairing version of it, and in the movie it was sort of background music over the end.

Putting all of that together got me kind of amazed at how many different plays you can find within one play, by choosing which numbers to perform, and which to skip, and how they are delivered, and all of the choices that the director and the performers make.

You can make a theme about a belief in happy endings being naive, but you could also focus on no one being alone or on the influence adults have on children. Those are just the first three that come to mind. Some of those shows would be more fun to watch, and some less. Maybe you just put your favorite songs in, and it's a mess but it's a well-sung mess. I'm sure that happens sometimes.

Anyway, I found that interesting, and a testament to the power of theater.

For the movie itself, I liked the stage version I saw better; it was more robust. I did like James Corden and I thought Meryl Streep was great. Some of that was her performance, but also they had a lot of fun with her entrances and exits, which were well-executed.

I thought I was nostalgic for a time when Johnny Depp could play something other than weird caricatures, but now I'm wondering if that was a false memory all along.

I did feel like it was a bit of a cheat to lose the "Agony" reprise, because not having the both princes be equally sorry schmucks takes away some of the play's bite, but that made Rapunzel's storyline really sweet, and let Billy Magnussen be heroic, so I'm going to take it.

I'm not sure it was valuable to raise the ethics of killing the second giant and then just morph into "No One Is Alone". It doesn't really answer the question, and you could get to the song by other means. But, hypothetically speaking, that type of decision making might be exactly the sort of thing that could have viewers leaving the theater wondering what the point was.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Band Review: George Cole

I came across George Cole when Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong tweeted a link to Cole's song "Riverside Drive" this week. I was charmed with it and Cols' other songs. The music was also a nice counterpoint to my other review, so Cole gets the Friday spot.

I am including a link to his Wikipedia entry, because there is a broad and varied musical history there:

My listening centered on the Soundcloud page and the Youtube videos. Based on that, elements that stood out included a sound that was both retro and fresh (reminding me a bit of Foxboro Hot Tubs) and the clarinet, bringing to mind Benny Goodman. There is good use of the tall bass. That gives the first impression - this is delightful and should be danced to (some waltz and maybe some quickstep).

On the second time through I was really struck by the guitar. The delicacy and intricacy initially made me think of Spanish guitar, but I think it is more reasonable to see some influence from Django Reinhardt. Based on Cole's involvement with a festival honoring Reinhardt and St├ęphane Grappelli, that may be the most logical inference, other than assuming there has been exposure to and absorption of a lot of music. Harry Connick Jr. fans would probably enjoy, but the potential audience should go far beyond that.

So this was a really good find. I owe Billie Joe. It makes future listening and exploring probable, and it's nice to know there is a lot to work with.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Band Review: Buck Marley

I did not enjoy listening.

There were some interesting elements. The background often incorporated chime-like sounds, and I felt like there was a reasonable sense of musicality there. In that way he reminded me a bit of Lando.

The problem was with the lyrics. The vocabulary was repetitive, and using the same offensive words over and over can make a point, but it doesn't automatically do so. It never felt like this was saying something.

Possibly one reason I thought of Lando in comparison is that there were several instrumental tracks. If you are better at coming up with music than words, music only is a reasonable option.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Thoughts on Duck Football

Yesterday I mentioned various reading lists, and for those I meant the ones that I have grouped together and entered into this spreadsheet that I use for organizational purposes. There are many other books that I plan to read, and some that I kind of know will be grouped together. This includes some football-themed books.

One of the football books is Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series by Dan Wetzel. Published in 2010, I am sure a lot of it will be out of date, but I assume that there will be some history there, and help in analyzing what they are doing now. I guess that is my way of saying that I am interested in football but not always up on it.

In college there was time to follow sports, and even for a while after, but I am so busy now, and watching a football game is not just a time investment; it is also really stressful. I was working during the Rose Bowl, so I kept the ESPN page up to check the score. We actually watched most of the Championship game, and that is why I have thoughts in the first place.

First of all, I am just thrilled for Marcus Mariota and the Heisman win. Yes, I know he has other trophies too, but that is a big one, and he is such an outstanding athlete while being such a good team player and leader that this is how it should be. Totally appropriate and deserved.

I'm not sure how I feel about there being a championship. I would probably be more thrilled with it if the Ducks had won, but I have been against extending football seasons in general because of some of the things they are finding with brain injuries. Also, decades ago I read an opinion piece by someone who loved that both the Orange and Rose Bowl winning teams would have signs "College Football Champions". The writer found it amusing and kind of charming, and it swayed me. Now you essentially have one more team that will end their season with a loss. It doesn't take away what came before, but still.

There was not a brain injury that I saw, but there was something flagrant, when Mariota was tackled after passing. It got an unsportsmanlike conduct call - which it deserved - but if anyone questions his decision to go to the NFL now, no, it's really logical for him to do so. You never know how long you will be able to play.

I get the concerns for the team about losing a strong player, but there are strong players left. I was really impressed with Marshall, Tyner is still around, and I have seen a lot of quarterbacks come and go.

Back in my day, Bill Musgrave was a really good quarterback, and he felt like a shining hope, but O'Neil did okay after that, and Harrington really wowed them, and had his own Heisman campaign, and it just continues.

It's the same with coaches. Rich Brooks was a step forward, and an important one, but the team continued to improve under Bellotti. I loved both of them. I took Football Coaching in spring of 1991, and every single coach taught a session. That's why I knew and liked them (as people, not just as coaches), but it also gave me a familiarity with the names, where years later I would still be hearing about Aliotti or Zoumboukos, or I would see Ratcliffe on the sidelines (still with 0% body fat). I liked the loyalty. I believe that the sense of continuity, and promoting from within, has strengthened the organization.

I had no memories of Chip Kelly, and as he started closing practices and things like that, I never grew fond of him. It felt like the program was becoming colder and more business-like. However, the team continued to do well, and he wasn't the end either, because now Helfrich is doing well. If you want to know how to build a strong football program, look at Oregon's history.

I also love that the NCAA agreed that helping parents attend the game was okay. There is so much money in football, and it could often be spread around better, but this was a good step.

I think that's pretty much it. I hope people aren't shunning Carrington too much. I hope he felt horrible and has learned something, but I hope everyone is moving past it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Happy Book Day!

Saturday was my birthday. I wish I had been in a better place emotionally for it, but there were still three things that were good about it.

There were a lot of Facebook greetings. Facebook will tell you who is having a birthday that day, and there is a pop up box where you can type your greeting in, making it really easy. Even knowing how easy it is, it still means something that someone does it, and when your timeline is full of people wishing you a happy day, it feels good, which I needed.

There were even some Twitter greetings. The Twitter greetings were mainly from people whom I am connected to on Facebook as well, which allowed them to know. Some people re-tweet their birthday wishes. If you do that more people will see it is your birthday, so you can get even more well wishes, but I did not feel comfortable doing that. I only clicked "Favorite" and replied "Thank you!", as well as liking all the Facebook posts, because they did make me happy. I just felt like re-tweeting would be too self-promotional.

Another thing that was good was dinner with friends, which I think I will post about separately, but it is related to the other good thing, which was books.

I am not finished with my Christmas books yet, but now I have more, and even more on the way. Karen gave me an Amazon gift card and Sonya gave me a Powells gift card. There is also the stack of library books that I have, so it all feels like progress.

I have written about my various reading lists at different times, and this relates to that, but let me also talk about Goodreads for a moment. Goodreads is how I know I read 100 books last year (and why being so close to 100 led to me reading two children's books on December 31st.)

As the new year started, Goodreads prompted me to set a new reading goal for 2015. Well, my first thought was 144, which is ridiculous, but reflects how many things I want to read and learn. The average was 64 though, so I set that. Perhaps it seems low for someone who read 100 the previous year, but a lot of that is because of comics - though I really do want to read a lot of comics. Still, if I read 64 regular books, plus 2 Caldecott winners and at least one graphic novel per month, then that is 100 again, and would probably be about right. It's still ambitious, but not impossible. I think.

Looking at the breakdown of the smaller reading lists, it gets much better. I had down four gardening books, and I got two of them for my birthday. They were books that the library had, but I think they will be handy as reference, so owning them seemed desirable, and I needed to add things to my wish list.

There were three books that I wanted to finish before starting my 2014 Native American Heritage reading. I just finished one, have one here, and I think I know when I can read the third. There had been three books that were part of pre-Halloween reading that the library didn't have and that were kind of expensive, the gift cards and new used copies showing up in stock means they are all on the way, as well as two really hard to find academic books that are starting to feel necessary to read sooner rather than later.

So, here's how I see things going down. Right now I am reading The Secret History of Dreaming and it will be followed by Sometimes a Great Notion. Then I am going to read the heck out of those Pre-Halloween books. I should then be ready for 1493. When that is done I will start alternating gardening and Native American Heritage books, then the pre-Italy and Black History books.

That is putting the drawing books on hold, but I feel like I need to do that until I have more time to draw, or the lessons get lost. I will probably get them back into the rotation in May, along with the books that are feeling necessary sooner than later. (I assume they will be pertinent to things that are coming up, but they are not directly related to each other in any obvious way.) I think I am going to order used copies of the other two dream books now, too, because the library doesn't have them, and this should be a good paycheck.

At that point I will be able to start working on fleshing out my education, so that's pretty exciting. All of the smaller lists combined equal 58 books, so if I read 64 this year, that means I can be caught up on those and into the School list of 98.

For the Caldecott Medal winners I am working from both ends. I just finished the 1938 inaugural winner, and I have the 2014 winner ready to read tonight.

For graphic novels - and I am saying that instead of comic books in this case simply because they are so far all more novel-like, this month is NonNonBa, which is on my shelf as I write, and next month I want to do Anya's Ghost. If there is another MOOC that could change the order around, and that would be fine with me. I find things through the MOOCs that I wouldn't find otherwise.

I admit my excitement level about this might be ridiculous, but it's there. Books! Come to me my pretties!

Also, for a long time, no matter how many books I read my to-read list was always three times as large as my read list. Well, a lot of it is just remembering books that I had read but never added, but I am getting close to having the "read" list equal half the "to-read" list, and I feel good about that. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

43 photographs

I am entering Phase II.

Phase I was having the songs of the day consist of a countdown, by year, to my birthday. That led to one blog post, but I often put additional details for why a song mattered for that year on Facebook. There were songs that almost made it and didn't, but mainly it was a matter of reviewing and remembering.

There was a lot of pain there. As I work on healing, a lot of that involves dealing with the past. At some point while I was counting down the songs I realized that the next step would be participating in Throwback Thursday.

If you are not familiar with the concept, it is a social media thing (Facebook and Twitter for sure, probably Instagram, maybe others) where on Thursday you post photos from the past. I have posted one here and there, but never participated on a regular basis.

There were 43 songs for 43 years, and I kind of want to do that again, but it won't be as clear-cut. For one thing, a lot of the pictures aren't dated. I know approximately when they happened, but not for sure. Also, there may be some years where I am not able to find any pictures. The number is definitely going to be 43, and they will be posted mostly chronologically, but I can make no guarantees beyond that.

This will be considerably harder than the songs. Well, it will start out okay, but it will get progressively harder. However, I am only doing it once a week instead of daily, so that should help.

The reason it will be hard is the same reason that I will not be able to find pictures for every year - I have always hated pictures of me. It's like, I knew that I wasn't attractive anyway, but then a photo would simultaneously flatten the image, thus making me wider, and create a record, so there was proof. I've hated that.

That being said, I do remember when I was younger looking at pictures from previous years and thinking that they weren't that bad. I had hated the picture in its year, but two years later it would be okay.

That may indicate that I was just becoming more hideous at a dramatic enough rate that it made the relatively recent past look benign by comparison, but there could be some other things going on there. Obviously, there's going to be a lot to unpack.

For right now, it's just one photo per week for the next 43 weeks, and getting comfortable with that. I'm sure the following phase which will involve selfies in some way will be more traumatic, but one step at a time.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Band Review: Woodie Alan

In July I read Alan Paul's book Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing. The subtitle is important, because the book is not just about the band: family, work, and the ex-pat life are also important topics. The band was important too, though, and I eventually wanted to review them.

The CD, Beijing Blues, is available through Paul's web site (all of the links are specifically for Paul), and can also be listened to via Spotify.

It is a very respectable blues offering. Much of what struck me in the book was about the guitar, and that does stand out. I know that Woodie Wu plays dobro as well as regular guitar, and that may be how some of the effects were achieved, but they get great sound.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised at the use of harmonica and horns. There is always a good balance of the different elements to make the song feel right. "Got Love" is a good example of that, but they cover a wide range of ground. There is the funk of "Sri Lankan Sunset", the aching beauty of "Anjing Shenghuo", and a high quality live recording of "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go", which was my favorite.

The only real misfire, in my opinion, was a blues cover of the hymn "Will the Circle Be Unbroken". On the first listen I really hated it. After listening three times I was over hating it, but I still don't love it. It may just not work for me as blues.

Woodie Alan nevertheless works really well for blues, and they have a good story. I recommend the book and the band.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Band Review: Jude's Way

Jude's Way has a nice little funk going on. An electronic alternative duo from Baltimore, they currently have an album, Out of the Blue,  available on Bandcamp.

Songs tend to be instrumental and very danceable. I especially enjoyed the video for "Told You Not To Go There", which reminds us that not everyone is equally comfortable getting funky, but when you give in it does feel good.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hardly even a real post

I guess I am writing about not writing. I feel a need to put something up.

The problem is not that I don't have anything to say; I have too much to say. There are all of these different paths to go down, but they would take multiple posts, and I don't like starting a series on a Wednesday, because I won't get back to it until Monday. Also, I am not sure there is a point in pursuing some of them now, though I might get back to them later. So I am just going to state my problems tonight, and then at some point during the two music reviews, travel review, and preparedness post, decide what I am going to write about next week.

The first problem is that I am tired. I worked over fifty hours last week, and will this week too. The overtime is allowed because we are busy, and that also means that I am working a little more frantically, even if it were normal hours. Normally my job doesn't take up too much mental energy, but it can, and right now it is.

The tiredness is worse because I am lonely and feeling disconnected. That is not a new thing, but there are spells where it is worse, and I can't handle it as well when I have less physical energy. This means I am having crying jags and feeling colder, and also being more irritable, because there is nothing left. I will overreact to simple questions. Even when I manage to make conversation, it is more strained, like my volume is louder and not relaxed. I am aware of it, but I can't change it right now.

Also, I have given too much time this week to educating people. This is not a good use of my time. They don't really want the education, and I don't enjoy it, but there are some things that I really cannot let stand, and since I am the one looking up articles and going into complicated explanations, it takes a greater toll on me.

(I ranted on Facebook that I can do this, and after I keep making my points, and they don't have anything to say, they just ask "Well how do you propose to fix it?" I think I need to quit answering that question. I mean, I usually have some ideas, but it's always lengthy, and really, since we got there by them denying that anything needed fixing, and that's just a reaction to being wrong, the proper response is probably something like "The first step is to get people to quit denying the issue" or something like that. I don't know. I am really tired.)

I am still worried about money. That one isn't going away. It is frustrating for me because I think the best chance of making any money is a screenplay, and I meant to be working on that, but I can't seem to work on anything but the sequel to Family Blood. Okay, I published two books last year, but Cara had already been written, and just needed some editing, and with Family Blood, already having it in screenplay form made it just a simple matter of adapting. Starting a novel from scratch takes longer.

Still, it seems to be necessary. Maybe someone needs it, and that could be me. The characters are dealing with grief and issues of self-worth and healing, so there are connections.

That's where I am basically - exhausted and lonely. I am going out for my birthday Saturday, and I was looking forward to it, and now I am not sure that I am, but I hope I still will. I just know that the week after our first normal week, I want to take off.

I will say, that without knowing whether I am going to spend more blogging time on politics next week, one of the things that came up in other discussions was unpaid overtime. I am getting paid for it, so I have an incentive, but it is brutal. Seeing the toll that it is taking on me and knowing that some employers will take that labor without compensation reminds me just how evil they are.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


There are three things that have happened recently:

  • A bomb was planted outside the office of the Colorado Springs chapter of the NAACP.
  • Two men shot up a magazine office in France, killing 12 and wounding eleven others.
  • Boko Haram massacred people in Nigeria. The death toll may be as many as 2000, but counting has been difficult.
The first question would be which has gotten the most news coverage, but that's too easy. The first significant coverage of the NAACP bombing was how people were upset that it wasn't covered, starting about two days after it occurred. The Boko Haram story has been seen on a news crawl across the bottom of the screen, but Charlie Hebdo is getting major coverage of the incident itself, the response by other cartoonists, the social media response, think pieces about the social media response, the protest march, and stories about how the leaders at the protest march staged a fake photo opportunity.

That makes the question "why"; how do the news channels choose what to cover?

There is a saying, "If it bleeds, it leads." Based on that, the NAACP bombing isn't that big a story. Fortunately the gasoline can did not detonate, so there were no fatalities. However, still based on that, the priority story should have been Nigeria. There are a lot more dead, and the threat of much more destruction, because the Charlie Hebdo shooters are dead now but Boko Haram is still active.

Of course, Nigeria is very far away from the United States, and Boko Haram is not a direct threat, perhaps, but based on an elevation of domestic interests, then the NAACP should have been the lead story. That is terrorism on our native soil, because when an anonymous bomber targets an organization working for social good, what else could you possibly call it? Yes, the Charlie Hebdo shooting was an assault to freedom of the press, but the NAACP bombing is a general attack on civil rights. That sounds important, right? But that's not how it played out.

It is possible that the story of brown people shooting white people was considered more urgent and important than a white person trying to blow up black people or black people massacring other black people. I don't want to think that's how it goes, but it's possible.

I mean, you can't give equal coverage to every story, but you will still cover a lot of stories and combined together they will create some kind of narrative about the world. So let us consider that in light of this:

An Indiana man got riled up by Fox News before setting fire to a mosque.

I don't doubt that the beer played a role, but reading his responses to the judge, he knows no Muslims, or anything about Islam, only what he hears on Fox News and on the radio.

"Every day you turn on the TV, you see Muslims trying to kill Americans."

But you could see Muslims killing other Muslims, which might lead you to believe it wasn't merely a matter of race and religion, or you might see racists trying to set back civil rights, both by crude methods like bombing and more sophisticated methods like rolling back sections of the Voting Rights Act. There are a lot of different potential stories out there, but this is the one he received.

Which is of course one reason why it is important to have more than one source of news, but it might also be something for each individual source of news to think about.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Fired up

A friend of mine lost his job recently.

I found out when I heard his voice over the news. I looked, and yes, that was his face, and his name, and him being interviewed about the job loss.

He had, in frustration over how black lives are given less value by law enforcement and media, posted something on Facebook about how we should see cops die, and then there is the funeral and honors and everyone grieves and it was completely different. That went viral, and his employer fired him.

(I am not going to name him or his employer, but if you're interested and have not heard of it, it can be found. Honestly a lot of the online coverage has not been very good reporting, but for the interview that I saw, I believe he represented himself well.)

My first response was to groan and think "Why?", but I still felt that the firing was unfair. I went to the employer's site and complained. I was generically thanked for that feedback, which meant absolutely nothing, but I also got a fair amount of blowback from other people who saw it, and there were some interesting things about that.

One is that my friend later told me that the post that went viral showed an edited page, and he didn't know how that happened. He still had posted something, and Oregon is still at-will employment, so that doesn't make as much difference as it could, but that still bothered me.

Also, one of the replies that I got to my post came right out and said that people were searching for posts in support of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, and those people were being reported to their employers. I had known about the police calling at least one Ferguson protester's employer. That was in person, but I couldn't really be surprised that there was online targeting happening, and that probably explains how my friend's post got picked up.

In addition, apparently I almost got a threat. My sister saw one person ask how my employer would feel about my comments. When I went to look, it was gone, probably because nothing I said was really incriminating. I said that it was unfair to fire him over personal speech, and that it was also very clear that the post was not an actual call for violence - not terribly extreme.

It was interesting that anyone jumped on my post at all. I did write it on the page, but it was not linked to a post about the firing or an article. Again, it lends credibility to people being out there looking for things to jump on.

Their arguments actually reinforced my support for my friend. I thought what he posted was a poor choice, but all of the complaints that came at me, and initial posts on articles I saw, were saying how they would be afraid to shop at the store where he worked. I don't believe them for a minute. I know he's not dangerous. While I am sure that - as a tall and muscular black man - they would be scared to see him in an alley (though he dresses well so would probably not be wearing a hoodie), I don't think anyone sincerely believed he was calling for violence or that they would be in danger while he was working.

He said a shocking thing to make people think. I got that from the beginning. Seeing how fiercely that is opposed - and not just opposed when seen, but people are actively seeking out dissent so they can attack livelihoods - that is why you need freedom of speech. And no, I do not think that means that his employer can't fire him; it means that his employer shouldn't fire him.

People say a lot of horrible things, and they may get ignored, or they may get vigorously defended. "That's satire", "you just don't have a sense of humor", "they've got a right to say it". Except that when you are arguing that black lives matter, some people will really go out of their way to stop you from saying it.

(Or they will try and hijack it to "All lives matter" which is true, it just misses the point that black lives are not treated like they matter and that needs to be addressed.)

There are people who don't want it addressed. They cannot be allowed to make that decision.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Band Review: Andrew Ferris

Andrew Ferris has elements of pop, folk, and indie, and those things are completely fair to say, but my strongest thought was that there is sort of a combination here of James Taylor and the Smiths.

I know that sounds strange. I believe the James Taylor vibe comes from the heavy acoustic elements, and maybe also from the voice. I remember seeing an update from Andrew a month or so ago that said he was going busking, and that sounded totally plausible.

On the other hand, the lyrics, and the sometimes atypical musical combinations, did make me think of Morrissey. The first song I heard was "Smile" which is surprisingly upbeat for starting out about how we are all going to die, but then also it is on the Yellow Lorry album, and there is a Red Lorry album, which may have gotten me thinking about "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out".

Not all of the songs are in that vein. Sometimes it feels like there is almost more of a country and Roaring 20s influence, which gives a fair amount of variety. There is a sense of playfulness and humor to many of the songs, especially "Something Changed." My favorite song was probably "With This Heart".

Fully acknowledging all of that, my overall thought is still James Taylor and the Smiths. I know that would not be for everyone, but if you think it might be for you, I don't know where else you would get it.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Band Review: Lowws

Lowws is an indie pop ambiance band from Oxford. That is their description, but I have to say that even though there are not currently many songs available, they convey greater depth than most of the other ambient bands I have listened to. There is emotion in the music, and an air of something otherworldly.

Previously known as The Sea The Sea, the band is currently doing some regrouping and getting ready to strengthen their web presence. They have potential, and should keep up their efforts.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Prejudice and Pride

There are some current events that I really want to react to, but I think it's best if I stick with the plan. In a way, it does all relate.

There are two thoughts that I left out of yesterday's post.

One is that it is easy to be racist in Portland because there are so few people of color, but that's not a very good excuse. I'm going to relate a different story that I read about the same time as the BrownInPDX Tumblr, but I don't think it was from there.

A black woman had applied for a job and she thought she had done well on the interview, but then she was told "I hired one of you before and she quit after a day, so you can see why I'm reluctant."

I guess my first response is to think of some of the horrible white employees I have seen, but that's not really an answer. The difference is that you see enough Caucasians that you know that it's not definitive. Shouldn't it be obvious then that other skin colors are not definitive? That just because you have only met a few black and brown people, it does not mean that there is not just as great variety of personality and characteristics as white? That sounds obvious, right?

So here are the things that I want to point out. One is about the stereotyping that we do. Yes there are often code words that are used, so we can pretend it's not about skin color, but the racist roots are there. The purpose is to maintain a social hierarchy where some people get to be on top, and people below them will defend their right to be on top as long as they don't have to be on the bottom.

I just finished One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest last night. In those terms, the "pecking parties" may not be the point of "the Combine", but they do help keep it functioning smoothly. I see the desire to be above someone else manifest in a lot of different ways.

That is not how we are supposed to be. Any satisfaction that comes from it is illusory, and it produces real pain.

If the issue is that people want to feel special, it is also completely unnecessary. You are already special. I'm religious, so I will say that you're a child of God, and that makes you special. If you don't like that, you're a human being. You are capable of love and creativity. You can ask questions about and ponder your own existence in a way that other species can't. You are special - not more special than anyone else, but you don't need to be.

That leads to the other important part. When people see an Asian woman walking by, and assume she is Chinese, and greet her with "Ni hao", I believe there is a brag in there. Look! I know a Chinese greeting!

You are also reducing that woman to an audience for your great knowledge, and ignoring the fact that if you are in the States that she has quite possibly lived her entire life here, that even if her heritage is Chinese and not one of many other possible countries of origin, she still may not even know Chinese, but no, really, the important thing is that you know a word in another language. You lived in Asia for a year, so you know you must warn the Thai restaurant to not put any baby corn in your food even though it is not mentioned on the menu and there is in fact none in the restaurant.

It would be easy to go into tangents about street harassment now, or hair touching, or various micro aggressions, but I'm not going to. There's already a lot out there. If you are open to letting other people tell their stories, you can find it, and if you're not, my repeating it will just annoy you.

What I can say is that if you do know things, people tend to figure it out. Normal interaction will let people know if you're intelligent. If you're ignorant, that shows too.

That's why it was appropriate that this set of posts started with a story about going around L.A. with Steve and Jen. After a different trip with them (in Yellowstone), I wrote a post about humble brags, and how they were so unnecessary. We could enjoy each others' company and accomplishments, and it was good.

It's important to remember how things can be when humans get it right.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Baby Corn

Based on the people I follow on Twitter, I come across a lot of content that deals with racism that I would probably not otherwise see as a white person in the suburbs. One of those recent discoveries was the Brown In PDX Tumblr page. Reading over it was horrible in general, but this was the entry that made yesterday's post necessary:

I feel a need to dissect this a little.

First of all, Asia is big. We kind of covered that yesterday with some of the differences between Korean and Lao food. To be fair, they are not exactly neighbors. Vientiane and Seoul are about 3000 miles apart, so you should expect some differences.

I have heard some people talk about Northern versus Southern cuisine in India, and even people who don't eat a lot of Chinese food often recognize that there are some differences between Szechuan and Cantonese food. And Laos is not a particularly large country, but without me ever going there, and only interacting with the refugee population in two California cities, I still met people from at least three different mountain tribes. There were similarities, but there were also differences in food, language, and clothing.

I can only assume the woman in the story, when she lived in Asia, did not specifically live in Thailand, because surely then she would have said that, but what does she think Asia means? Let's even take out the Indian subcontinent and Russia (because it dips its toe in Europe), and the Middle East for no good reason, and still do you think that living in Mongolia would tell you what it's like to live in Malaysia? Shouldn't living abroad have made you less ignorant?

Okay, she was on shaky ground anyway. First of all, requesting things not on the menu your first time at a restaurant is questionable, and if you must do it at least leave the attitude behind.

Also, it is very questionable to use the term "you people". There are situations where it works. If I enter my work environment and find that my coworkers are standing around looking guilty in a sea of feathers and straw, I might reasonably say, especially if I have some managerial capacity, "You people have some explaining to do!"

On the other hand, if I am using "you people" to educate you about what foods you like, or what kind of characteristics you have, based on skin color that I have in fact mis-characterized because while the waitress did list Asian as a part of her heritage she also listed black and Caribbean, I am leaving myself open to criticism. I can see where employment in the Thai restaurant might seem like a context clue, but you think the largest continent on the planet is monolithic in its cuisine, so you lose all the points! Idiot! It would make more sense to walk into a French restaurant and insist that they make you a pizza in the name of Catherine de' Medici.

Incidentally, I think half the cooks at the Mongolian grill (which we all accept as not truly being characteristic of Mongolian food, but still tasting good) are Mexican, because one of them lived near our neighborhood. Actually, we had a next-door neighbor who was from Mexico but worked at an Indian restaurant too, so workplace is not a great predictor of heritage or ethnicity.

I believe tomorrow I will write a bit more about how we get people who feel so comfortable proclaiming their ignorance, and especially how we get them in Portland.

For now I will go back to my opening of yesterday, where Asian food makes me think "Yum!" That is pretty much true, because for me it means papaya salad and egg rolls and nasi goreng and Mongolian beef and pot stickers and bento and hom bao and a lot of different things that I like a lot. At the same time, Asian food includes sushi. With my combined aversions to fish, cucumber, and avocado, I do not love sushi. Asian food also includes a lot of foods that I have never tried, some of which I would probably love and others not.

(And the only thing I really remember seeing baby corn in was a dish of happy family that's claim to fame was including eight different vegetables. Adding it may have been a matter of running up the numbers, unless someone can use the baby corn clue to figure out what country that woman lived in.)

The continent of Asia includes mountains, hills, jungles, steppes, coastlines of oceans and rivers; of course there are lots of different foods. There are also different types of homes and jobs and modes of transportation. This could be said about even the smallest continent because there are some strong regional differences in Australia.

If you can accept that there are a lot of things that you don't know, and just enjoy the variety, that complexity is great. If you always feel like you know better than anyone else and need to show it, well, the world is the same size, but it's going to seem a lot smaller.