Monday, March 30, 2015

A week of exercises

No, I don't mean aerobic exercises, though that is happening, and there is a physical component.

In this time of self-examination, I had mentioned having various exercises to get through, though I did not write about them in detail. They came about through a combination of intuition, internet searches, and sometimes they were even things that professionals wrote to do in books.

The exercises in Dennis Rozema's Behind the Mask: Adolescents in Hiding did not do a lot for me. Reading about his patients was more interesting, and I felt like I might be missing something if I did not go through the questions, but it's been a while since I have been a secretive teenager. His patients tended to be more self-destructive than I ever was, so even when I was fourteen it might not have been as revelatory as it could have been. Now, almost three decades later, and a lot of time and effort put into openness, it loses some of the impact.

That doesn't mean it might not be helpful for another adult; these things are context dependent. There were things I did that might not be helpful for anyone else. Some of them did not seem like they would be helpful to me, or they worked differently than I thought they would.

I guess one important point in that is that you need to be open to feeling your way. That means a willingness to listen to subtle things, but also it means being open to various kinds of discomfort. You may think that something sounds stupid, but it still feels necessary. That means you need to be open to being silly, and vulnerable. You will not always be confident.

(But actually, those things are kind of necessary for dealing with your issues anyway, so it is not remarkable that they would be helpful in finding ways to identify and deal with the issues.)

My "silliest" thing was trying to clear out my chakras.

I knew that I was disconnected from my body. I did a Google search on "getting in touch with your body" and before I could finish typing it out, one of the suggestions was "getting in touch with your chakras". I was drawn to that.

I did my regular search too, and it led me to I have tried many of those, and many have been useful. Some I will try when I get a chance. Some felt silly. Notice that theme.

Anyway, the chakras search led me to

I decided I would do this. I planned on it several times, and then didn't get to it. I finally did do it, and felt nothing.

That wasn't too surprising. I really hate yoga. (Judge me however you want.) Many of my friends love it, and the things that they tell me that they get from it, I get from different sources, so I don't worry about it too much. However, having felt nothing with this particular exercise, I had still felt that it was important to do. I tried to figure out why.

I think I found it toward the bottom of the page:

"Warning: don't use this meditation for the Crown chakra while you don't have a strong Root chakra (you need a strong foundation first)."

Looking at it a little more, there are two things that I am taking away from that. One is that I have areas where I am strong, but they are built on areas where I am weak. I am not going to reach my full potential without going back and strengthening that foundation. What I have done despite being weak in the first three chakras is great, and I am happy that I could do it, but it is time to stop neglecting them.

I also got a visual image of all of the different areas being connected, and that it is best for everything to be balanced. That is merely a flash of a mental image, and yet it conveys connectedness and progression, and other thoughts may be added to that later. These are images I will go back to.

So even thought it felt like nothing, it was something. You need to pay attention to that.

I know this is very late. I am quite busy now, but part of that busyness is that Family Ghosts will be out there tomorrow, so I would say one great thing that you can do for yourself is buy a new book.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Band Review: Cult Fiction

Cult Fiction is a Norwegian Alternative Indie Rock band, formed in Oslo about three years ago.

Most of the Scandinavian bands I have reviewed have been metal, so I was not surprised by the existence of darker threads in the music. Coming through as alt instead, the songs can sound gloomy at times, especially the first few times listening. There is still real emotion coursing through the songs, and sometimes passion.

One of the most interesting tracks is a cover of Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine". With less effects than the original, it also has more heart.

"Ink" is one of my favorite tracks, and has some interesting guitar work. "Unspoken" and "Scoundrel" should also be checked out.

While the band did not list many Seattle influences other than Hendrix, I think fans of Soundgarden and other Chris Cornell projects will enjoy Cult Fiction.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Band Review: Drop the Anchor

Drop the Anchor is a pop punk band from Indianapolis that has been together for three and a half years. They have one EP, In A Way It's Everything, as well as three separate singles.

The energy and guitars are generally good, but sometimes the sound is a little muddy, with the different parts not standing out. That is a personal preference, but their better defined songs are more engaging. Based on that, I would call the best tracks "Consummation Proclamation", "Actions", and parts of "Casino Destroyale", but for a completely different sound "The December I Won't Remember" makes an impression.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

1493 and all that

The other book I wanted to have read first was 1493 by Charles C. Mann.

I thought it might provide some context for the next round of reading focusing on Native American history, but it ended up being much more global. 1491 was about the Americas before Columbus, but 1493 was about how that contact affected the rest of the world.

The impact was huge. From the effects of new crops on dietary patterns, farming practices, and population growth to the way the supply of silver at Potosi affected Chinese currency markets, the book is full of fascinating stories of different groups and their impact on each other. It was not specific to Native American history, but it went along well with something else.

Early in February actor Orlando Jones suggested a hash tag focusing on historic people of color that could be represented in film and television. The hash tag he originally proposed, #HistoricPOCForFilmAndTV, was a little long for Twitter, but he wisely asked Mikki Kendall for advice, who suggested #HistoricPOCMedia, and that was the thread that happened:

(FYI, I have gone there and found things missing, so refreshing can be in order.)

Jones himself is working on a feature film about cult deprogramming pioneer Ted Patrick. He also suggested Bass Reeves, an idea that I had once wanted, and then got discouraged on. Still, it could work.

There were many interesting ideas, and one nice thing about updating the tag to focus on Media, is that you can look beyond film and television. Many of my ideas have centered on comic books, but there may also be things that work for web content.

My initial ideas focused on black women, because that is where my head has been lately. Of course I will want to see media focused on Ida B. Wells, but it also occurred to me that Becoming Rosa Parks could be an excellent mini-series. Every activist has a history that leads to their activism, and probably many of those stories could be good. With Parks specifically, I think with her early investigations of sexual assaults and the other work she did that it could be both good drama and educational.

One thing I have noticed in passing is how many people who traveled abroad seemed to have run into James Baldwin, so perhaps "James Baldwin in Paris" could be interesting. Paris wasn't just a gathering place for fascinating people when Hemingway was there.

I thought it had come from the thread and I can't find it now, but Cora Strayer could make a great character. She was a private detective in Chicago around 1900. Her ads appealing to women show some savvy marketing, but also, she was a private detective, in Chicago, in 1900! She also seemed to enjoy the company of younger men, which some people could find interesting.

The suggestion I posted that got the most positive feedback was Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, early computer programmer. At least online, people get excited about programmers. This could be the place for a web series.

There's another point here, where if you look into the history of computing, women were very much a part of it. The perception of that changed, but the truth hasn't. Screenwriting was largely done by women in early Hollywood. Cowboys were very likely to be of color, both in North and South America, though that doesn't come across in early Westerns. There is a tendency for the doers to be remembered as white men, but that's not accurate.

That leads us back to 1493. One reason slaves from Africa were valued is that they were often-skilled with horses and metalworking, because those were things that they did back in Africa. Some of them were great at leading rebellions because they could use their military skills from back home. This included women like Aqualtune. (There is lots of story potential in Palmares.)  Interesting stories, and interesting people, and it does not conform to the stereotypes that so many people still hold.

Also, the silver trade led to Japanese samurai working as guards, first in the Philippines and then in Mexico. That's pretty interesting.

There is a sad tendency to erase all of that richness. No, there wouldn't be black people there, or women wouldn't do that. Even in the time period, there was a whose series of Mexican "casta" paintings showing the different racial combinations that ignored the Asian population.

Some people will call a request for representation "political correctness", but the greater representation is more correct. People from all over the world have been bumping into each other - trading with each other, living as neighbors, making babies together - for a really long time.

I could go on and on about this, and this is already kind of long, but add that as another reason for representation. Not just because it is important for all kinds of people to be able to see themselves, not just because seeing different kinds of people builds empathy, but because the world has been interesting and diverse for a long time, and the idea that it hasn't is a lie that serves oppression.

On that note, I wish to conclude with a referral to the Tumblr page, People of Color in European Art History.

Look at the eras on the side, and how far they go back. It's worth checking out.

Related posts:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pre-NAHM reading

When I was writing up the 2013 Native American Heritage Month reading, I mentioned that there were three books I wanted to read before, because I felt like they might relate. I have read them all now. They did not relate the way I thought they might, but that doesn't make it a loss.

Two of the books were Ken Kesey novels: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes A Great Notion.

I have mixed feelings about Kesey. There are strong ties between him and the University of Oregon. I have seen him speak there, and I felt very warmly to him. I never met him, but I have met people who knew him and loved him, and they are people I love, so I guess there is a transitive property there. I also disagree with him about things.

I know you're thinking it's the drugs, but it's not only that. That part doesn't come up in the books that I have read so far.

One thing that frustrates me is a sort of naivete about sex. I remember thinking about this earlier looking in one of the volumes of Spit In The Ocean, but it came up in both books. Prostitution and statutory rape are treated as relatively innocent, when they can be very damaging. That bothers me.

The language use bothers me. There is some racist language in Cuckoo's Nest, but there is also an understanding that if the orderlies are brutal, there are reasons for it. However, in Notion, the white characters are constantly calling each other the N-word and "coon". It is insulting, but playful, the way that a lot of contemporary men use "fag" and "gay".

They will tell you that they don't mean it that way, but I think we have enough celebrities who have lashed out at paparazzi using that as an insult to indicate that at least on one level those words are used as insults. Does that mean that the users really do have contempt for those who actually are homosexual? Are they comfortable with that? If not, that's probably a good reason to quit using those words as casual insults.

Jonah Hill's apology for when he did it was pretty good - more focus on apologizing than on proving that he wasn't a bad person (which is actually more effective) - and I want to reiterate something he said in it"

"Words have weight and meaning..."

They do.

I don't doubt that the language that Kesey replicates was common for the time. If you want to convey that time and place accurately, that might be a reason to use it, but I also understand there was a problem with it. It was built on lies that were harmful, and it perpetuated that. That really bothers me.

So I am reading those things, and bothered by them, and yet I don't believe that Kesey was particularly racist. I also know that while there was this idea of "free love", a lot of the people who were around then ended up having pretty conventional families with long-lasting marriages and children and a structure that probably looked a lot like the families of those who hated the dirty hippies.

It leaves me always wanting to read more. That's not necessarily because I like the writing so much. Both stories moved me, and the writing in Cuckoo's Nest worked pretty well for me. Yes, things are weird at times, since you are viewing it through the eyes of a mental patient, but I thought it worked.

Notion was hard to get into. The present tense is used, and there are jumps between viewpoints and times. There was about a thirty-page adjustment period that was really hard, and then I got into it, but I would never choose that for pleasure reading. I like more clarity.

And I guess that's why I want to read more. My relationship to Kesey is reader-author, but I think of him as a person, and so I want to know, did he believe that? Did he really think that? Did he see various nuances? Maybe the next book will tell me.

There is one thing that I really appreciate about him though. Many novelists think that literature needs to end with the often miserable death of the character. I can see why they do. Everyone dies, and so a traditional happy ending might feel like you are ignoring mortality, and the fact that the happiest ending is only temporary.

As much as I get that, there can be really good times before that. There are arcs in your life where something is achieved and resolved and you are still alive at the end. Then more things happen, but still, there are positive conclusions. So while ignoring mortality is dishonest in one way, morbidity isn't honest either.

Therefore I appreciate that the protagonists are left with a chance. You don't know what will happen to Chief Bromden as he leaves the hospital. You don't know if the river run will be successful, but in that case knowing would kind of ruin it, either way. There have been deaths, grueling ones, but there is still life too.

I did appreciate that.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Comic Reading List, Part 1

This is not a list of comics I want to read, though that is also a thing.

As I started seeing more story ideas as comics, and wanted to be able to draw them, I also started building up a list of books that I believed would be helpful. I started reading them, and then I realized it was too soon to get to many of them. This was disappointing, but every phase has its own charms, and I can adjust to that.

I did start worrying that at some point when I do read the others, and it is time to put it all together and evaluate it, that these first few read would be lost. If I write about them now then I have done some of the analysis, and I will have a record of it, so hey, as a little diversion from the heavy stuff, here are some books I read on a topic that I am not done studying!

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema

I'm not sure how much adherence to the Marvel style is still expected of current Marvel artists, but I think the book provides a good perspective on comic art in general and an understanding of the historic look. It combines basic drawing principles like lines of sight and proportions, but also the face shapes and the poses that were specific to Marvel. It's a pretty easy read, and kind of fun too. If you are not interested in drawing but a fan of classic comics I think you will still find it entertaining.

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe:

Once upon a time I would say that anyone who wanted to work in comics should read the How to Draw book. If you wish to work in comics anywhere, there's a lot to be said for reading The Untold Story too.

There is a lot of interesting information, though the telling is unfortunately dry. However, if you are interested in the industry it is worth reading it anyway to be aware of some of the types of people you will encounter, the frustrations that are likely, and it would be wise to take note of the many early deaths that seem to be a result of the horrible stress and pressures. I'm not saying not to work in comics - just enter informed so you can have some guards and escape valves in place.

Figure Drawing For All It's Worth by Andrew Loomis

Professional artists love his books, and I have a few more of his on my list. This particular one is just what the title says. It is focusing on drawing the human figure and focusing on it specifically for commercial purposes, like advertising and magazine illustrations. That industry has probably changed too, but the basic ideas on proportions and making poses dynamic is certainly still relevant. He does use very idealized figures, but if you take that information and still attend life drawing sessions on a regular basis where you are seeing other types of bodies, it should work out.

FYI, everyone is mostly naked, including on the cover. It's not salacious, but yeah, lots of nudity. My sister picked up the copy I had on hold, and she was embarrassed.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards

This was my absolute favorite. You learn so much about the brain, and how it perceives. So yes, there is drawing information but it is not only that. I have not ruled out buying the book, or taking one of the live sessions if an opportunity comes up. One thing you will see is that drawing is a good thing to do, and using the right side of the brain to do it is a good thing, regardless of your livelihood. That was fascinating. I read the 4th edition which has updates as science learns more about brain function, so while I am sure the older versions have a lot of the information, look for the newer version.

There were nine books total, so I am not quite halfway through, and I'm not sure when I will get back to them, but there's always something interesting going on, and I guess it can't all happen at once.

For anyone interested, the unread drawing books are listed below:

The Art of Comic Book Inking by Gary Martin
Draw 50 Famous Cartoons by Lee Ames
Creative Illustrations by Andrew Loomis
Successful Drawing by Andrew Loomis
Words for Pictures by Brian Michael Bendis

Friday, March 20, 2015

Band Review: The Band of Strangers

In honor of a new "Grimm" tonight (after leaving things at an interesting point, like they usually to do), I thought this would be a good time to review The Band of Strangers. They were recommended by Bree Turner, who plays Rosalee on the show and singer Ryan Saliman's sister-in-law in real life.

The Band of Strangers is an Alt Country Rock/American band. Working out of Los Angeles, they were first started in New York. That seems appropriate for a band with such far-flung roots. Simply going over their bio page, Saliman (who also plays guitar and writes songs) has ties to Colorado before New York, Lianne Ward (instruments and vocals) is from Massachusetts, guitarist Johnny Abella has roots in the Philippines and Pennsylvania, drummer Chris Lovejoy was raised in Texas between being born in and returning to New York, and bassist Matt DelVecchio is said to have taken his music around the world and back, which definitely includes Japan, England, Portugal, and school in Miami.

(I do not know if there is any relation between Matt DelVecchio and Dan DelVecchio of Face The King. Maybe.)

Most of the band members are listed as playing multiple instruments, and you will occasionally notice different sounds coming through. With the range of expertise and experience among the members, they have a fair amount of options open for how to fill in the sounds.

Currently there is a 6-track EP available, with songs that dip into country, blues, and folk. The most Americana-esque song may be "Bait N' Pole" which references "The Crawdad Song", an American classic, but updates it with rock guitar and possibly some innuendo. Songs like "Help" and "When the Light Gets In" kind of give me a Gospel feeling, though it is not a Gospel sound (which is I guess why I'm calling it folk).

My overall favorite track was "The Black Bird Song", which stirred my emotions musically and has a video with some pretty cool animation, so check that out.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Band Review: Words & Noises

Time for another Manchester band! Today it is Pop/Rock duo Words & Noises.

The first thing that I noticed on listening is that I had already heard "Forget Me Not", having checked it out when the band released a link to the video. It had been a while, but I instantly recognized the catchy tune.

While "Forget Me Not" is probably their most pop sound, it is not the sound that I most associate with them after listening to the catalog multiple times. There is more of a tendency toward the intellectual and cerebral, like "The Lost Art of Conversation", and even the mournful, like "Love Is A Loaded Gun."

Those ended up leaving strong impressions, while tracks like "Beating Heart" and "Londinium" sped up and left completely different feelings, and "Deceive" brought in some groove. For all of that, the voice came through very clearly. This is a band that thinks about different things and is interested in different things, but still has a strong sense of self.

There are not currently any upcoming shows listed, but there will be a new single released on April 26th, available to press, radio, and Soundcloud.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The problem with "Run Warren Run"

The worst thing about being politically and socially aware is that it gets me a lot of e-mail. You write to a senator, sign a petition, or contribute to a cause, and your inbox gets inundated. I realize it's possible to unsubscribe, but that's a hassle, and maybe sometimes I want stay informed, for at least some of them. It's frustrating.

Anyway, I get a lot of email. Often I will hear about the same issue from multiple sources, and a lot of sources are all about getting Elizabeth Warren to run, despite her saying that she will not run. I wasn't paying a lot of attention, but I am doing so more now after seeing a few things.

I guess I already had in mind that the reason people want her so badly is because she seems so radical. Even traditional Democratic candidates end up upholding the existing structure, which is easy to do once you become part of it. I understand the belief that Warren would not give into that, which is nice, but I question how fun it would be for her with the kind of opposition that President Obama has been getting. I think he would like to be at least somewhat more radical than he has been, and it is not completely his fault that he can't.

So that was in mind, and then I read someone (I can't remember whom) tweeting about how presidents go gray, and he was suggesting it was due to the lives they were responsible for. You become president, and you become a killer.

Warren's focus has been on economic issues, and that's what people love her for. The president also has to deal with diplomacy and war and the CIA and many other things. For someone who has a strong focus, it may be easier to pursue that focus in the legislative branch via committees and drafting bills. It is possible that someone who has been working with the system for a while now may have the best idea of where she can be most effective and what will work best for her.

That is where the patronizing tone of some of these boosters becomes so disturbing, and that leads to the other thing I read:

I was struck by the irony of a voting bloc that is theoretically pro-choice and pro-gender equality feeling so comfortable planning on coercing a woman into doing something she doesn't want to do. And sure, they can say they think she will change her mind and want to run, but "she only thinks she doesn't want it" is not really an improvement.

It reminds me of what happened when Jessica Williams announced that she didn't want to host "The Daily Show". Sure, she has actually worked in that environment and so would have a reasonable idea of the job description. Yes, the reasoning that she gave made a lot of sense, and seemed to be part of a greater plan for gaining experience in a timely manner that would result in her having the career she wanted rather than the one other people felt she should have, but no, she must lean in!

I'm not saying no one can ever have good advice for anyone else, but a big part of my personal growth has been not just learning to listen to my inner voice but especially learning that my voice matters. I know things about me that you can't.

It does seem that this well-intended "encouragement" is more likely to be aimed at women than at men, and that is annoying. Okay, not everyone gets that women are people yet, but yes, we have minds and we can make decisions for ourselves. Specifically, Jessica Williams and Elizabeth Warren have both done pretty well for themselves. Let's respect their judgment.

If you want a better candidate for president, there's still time to work on that. I know that there isn't anyone who captures the progressive imagination quite as well as Warren right now, but on the plus side, all the purported Republican contenders are horrible. That sounds dangerous, but it works in our favor, so don't despair.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mormon girl

Faith and religion helped me through my hard times. The two can represent different things, and they are intertwined, but they were both important for me.

I want to communicate clearly about this. It's very important to me, and I have been seeing more anti-religious sentiment. I have thought about doing a series of posts on why religion is not the problem, and what the problem actually is, and that probably will happen eventually, but this is just my personal story.

One invaluable thing was the knowledge that there was something bigger than my own problems. My school and my home were tiny parts of a big world in an enormous universe, and that stage of my life was a small part of my existence. There is a limit to how much pain it can take away in the moment, but I maintain that it still helps.

My particular religion being one that abstains from alcohol and drugs was also very helpful. On an intellectual level I have this concept in mind that when people use substances to numb their feelings, it decreases the likelihood that they will productively deal with those feelings. Realistically I know there are still a lot of ways to avoid dealing with those feelings, but it can get you closer.

Also realistically, while the Italian side of my family handles drinking impressively, the other side has some alcoholism going on. I have seen what a strong effect prescription medication has on me, and I have seen how compulsive I can become with stupid things like computer games or food. It is really for the best that I have never been drunk, stoned, or high. Nothing good could come of it.

I have friends who went through some pretty wild times trying to find themselves, or lose themselves, too, depending. They have done things that were dangerous or degrading or that took out some brain cells. With my genetics, I don't like my odds, so that I never went there was good.

I do know other people with the same religious upbringing who did those things that I avoided, some with some pretty serious results. That would have been easy for me to do, because Dad wasn't going anymore, and my older siblings did rebel at times. I never really felt inclined that way.

I had my rebellious moments. I remember staying home one Sunday, because I had decided that I just didn't want to go. It didn't feel right, so I didn't do that again. I guess that's where I make the distinction between religion and faith. I was trained in a specific religion, and that mattered, but I think it mattered more that it got inside of me.

Having faith meant that I built a personal relationship with God. It meant that I was praying and reading the scriptures regularly, and going to church, and that I was building up strength there.

It meant that I was inviting the Holy Ghost into my life, so there could be comfort at times, and inspiration and guidance. Those things were important to me then, and they still are now.

Obviously it's not that it takes all of the trouble away, but it does make enduring easier, and that's worth a lot.

Even now, I feel myself being guided in the things that I am doing. I know the way I am doing Throwback Thursday is not how people normally do it, being overly methodical and all that, but I also see that it is helping me. Beyond that, I see that doing the songs of the day countdown by year prepared me for it by starting this review of my life. I believe "next steps" will continue to come to me as I am ready for them.

So that's something for which I'm grateful. I'm grateful that I was introduced to the gospel young, and I'm grateful that it stuck. Neither of those were guaranteed.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Not a complete loss

The previous posts have probably sounded kind of negative. I am looking at what I need to change and correct, so the focus is on what is wrong.

All of those things are real, but they aren't the complete picture. I was not always sure what to count when calculating my Adverse Childhood Experiences score, but it only came to two, and with the big thing, I was only a year away from 18 when it happened. So really, my childhood and adolescence could have been a lot worse. Most of the people whom I had in mind when I started this have had it much worse.

I want to keep that in perspective. Also, there were some ways in which I became strong through the things that were bad. There were strengths I already had that I didn't lose. There were things that helped me back then, and they weren't even always accidental.

Disassociating from my body was not a good thing to do, but I could do it more comfortably because I had a good mind. I do like that about myself. That is one area where I have always felt confident. Even as the first grader who hadn't been to kindergarten, when I was expected to be slow, I knew that I wouldn't be. I'm not sure how I knew that, but I was able to feel sure of that, and take pleasure in learning things quickly and easily. Even at my lowest points of self-esteem, I wouldn't trade my brains for beauty. I like them too much.

Reading helped for the intellectual development, but the early social rejection may have contributed to me being a reader. I mean, I was pretty into it anyway, but there were periods of my life where I had a lot more time. Reading builds empathy as well, and while pain does not automatically build it, in my case I feel it did. I believe I have more compassion from having been hurt, and I value that. I know I can be unhealthy about putting others first, and I'm working on that, but I don't hate that I am generous and kind.

There were a lot of things that I avoided that I am okay with having avoided. I never did much with clothes or makeup; there had been a general capitulation there a long time ago. I know I am more relaxed about appearance than a lot of women, and I'm not sure that's a bad thing. I mean, and this won't sound right, that while some people are struggling every day to become attractive (or at least marginally less unattractive) and have their days ruined by the way humidity or lack of sleep or whatever thwarts them, for me it has pretty much been a matter of just staying not attractive, and being at peace with it. Sometimes clothes shopping, especially for a dress-up event, pushes things over the edge to really miserable depths, but it seems that for many of my contemporaries that is more of a constant.

I do not know how to do romantic relationships. I believe this is bad. However, I can see many areas where participating in them would have been dangerous, because I can see where I might have accepted bad treatment and possibly even outright abuse. Maybe it's better that I skipped that until I could get into a better place. That's speculation, but it seems possible.

Somewhere in that combination of having a good mind, and wanting to do things for other people, and not believing that I could rely on anyone, I became pretty competent. I am good at figuring out how to get things done, and making it happen. I enjoy that. I don't know that I would be as resourceful if some of the things that did happen hadn't happened.

That has it's downside, because it also means that I will charge ahead without reading the instructions or fully thinking things through or maybe asking for permission when applicable, but it works out a lot, which doesn't motivate me to change.

Perhaps the real saving grace for me was that in addition to having things I was good at, they were all things that I liked. That made it easier to be me.

Maybe that's the most amazing thing coming out of this. No matter how many messages I heard and believed about what was wrong with me, somehow I still ended up liking me. That's one reason to take better care of this Gina person. She appears to be worth it.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Band Review: I, Synthesist

I, Synthesist self describes as Alternative, Electronica, and Electro-Pop, but my initial reaction was that it was very arty. Art rock and art pop are generally not my favorite genres. There are digital effects and copious synthesizers, but when you have a nearly 24 minute track of ambient noise called "Womb-a-Tron", I think a case could be made for art pop.

"Womb-a-Tron" is the last track on Somewhere and Everywhere from 2013, and there is a similar (but less womb-like) track, "The Overlook", on Art Of Survival from 2007. I mention those two tracks in particular because they were the ones that drove me from vaguely annoyed to feeling actual hatred.

It's not always that bad. Tracks like "The Lost Parade" from Avalanche (2004) occasionally reminds me of groups like Information Society or The Breakfast Club, and there are songs that are not horrible. Still, it was more common for me to be annoyed, and that is the impression I am carrying away.

If you are into techno, I would start with Avalanche, and if you enjoy that keep going. (If you like experimental art-pop, by all means go straight to "Womb-a-Tron".)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Band Review: Continent

Continent is a Downtempo/Deathcore band from Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The music is aggressive, with the lyrics delivered in growling shouts, guitars and drums pounding inexorably in the background.

The greatest weakness of the band is a tendency for there to not be a lot of differentiation between the tracks, a frequent stumbling block for "core" bands.

At the same time, when you do hear something different, there is often a kind of sci-fi vibe to it, which surprised me. That may have been most evident on the title track, "Wasteland", which also seems to have some industrial roots. "Decaying Days" has some interesting bridge work, and "Fake" had a strong intro.

Currently I have only heard the 5-track Wasteland EP. The band does not have their own video channel yet, but a sound-only video has been posted by the label, We Are Triumphant (also home to GutterLIFE).

More information should be available as the band progresses, but all the links I could find are listed below.

*Technical difficulties kept me for posting yesterday, so I will post the review that should have gone up yesterday tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Summing up

I feel like the minute I post this I will realize something that I forgot to mention that was important. Still, if that's what it takes to realize an important piece, then that's probably reason enough to do it. Besides, the way I spread things out over multiple posts may not be ideal for anyone trying to follow along.

I am messed up - highly functional, but messed up nonetheless. I undertook a reading program partly to help other messed up people, but I knew it would be for me too. One of the big realizations during the course of that was how disconnected from my body I have been. There are physical repercussions to that, but it does not operate in a vacuum from my emotions. I had gotten back in touch with some of the emotions that led to the disconnection already, which may lead to a focus more on the physical now, but it seems to go back and forth.

There were three key events that formed my self-image. I had identified two of them earlier, but only recently realized the impact of the third.

6 years old - I was sitting by myself on the playground, and a group of girls came and started talking about how fat I was. From then on I saw myself as fat, even though I was not at that time.

14 years old - While eating lunch in the cafeteria one boy asked me to go steady with him as a joke, but then his friend started asking and wouldn't stop, following me to my next class. It was then that I knew that no boy could ever like me.

17 years old - I was learning to drive, but did not want to learn with my father. I was scared to get in the car with him. Initially he didn't force the issue, but three days before my 17th birthday he told me to get in the car, and I did. I hit a car, would not get back in the car when he insisted, and walked home. I avoided him for the rest of the day, but the next morning he told me how stupid I was, and that he was ashamed of me. He didn't speak to me again for two and a half years. This is the one where I had not realized it affected me, but I think a lot of my trust and self-worth issues come from here. I still feel very ashamed of not driving, and very scared when I think about trying to drive.

There were other factors at play. Early experiences that taught me that no one wants to see you cry or talk about why you're sad and a general inability to ever satisfy my father played parts. I am sure my father's lack of respect for my mother and his cheating played a part. Being rejected by a boy because he found out I liked him was a key experience, especially because no longer being friends with him was probably why I was alone on the playground that day.

There are other things that played smaller parts. For example, in high school my bike was stolen. At the time Aloha was getting really bad for bike theft. It was an Italvega that I loved and rode everywhere. I bought a replacement from K-Mart, where I was working at the time, but it didn't feel as good, and then I could no longer leave my bike in an easy to access place, and I started riding less.

The roads had started getting more dangerous anyway, and that was long before they started putting in bike paths. Timing didn't help, but ultimately there is a lot in the suburbs to discourage physical activity, so you have to be actively aware and fighting for it.

My big takeaway from my formative years was that I was not worth fighting for. Ultimately, there is a lot in society that will tell you that, especially if you are female, especially if you are fat, and boy howdy, especially if you are both fat and female.

Now I am trying to sort all that out. I can see now that the people who hurt me were wrong on an intellectual level. They were not being kind or accurate or anything where I should have let them form my ideas about my place in the world. Since I believed them then, and carried those beliefs with me over years, on an emotional level shaking it off is hard.

There are still plenty of messages out there about how worthless I am. On a good day, I know they're wrong. On a bad day I have doubts, and really wonder why there are still so many negative messages out there.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Becoming me

Looking up the old posts from 2010, it occurred to me that maybe my problem with drama was that it didn't keep me busy enough. For someone who did as many things as I ended up doing, there is a certain logic to that. In addition, my previous explanation to myself had been unsatisfactory.

Back then I told myself that I was never going to be a lead because I wasn't attractive and I couldn't sing, and so there was no point in it. I have never liked that explanation because it sounds like a narcissistic hissy fit.

It was also untrue. People of various sizes and vocal ranges got some very interesting roles. I probably could have as well. I may not have been into acting enough, which is fine. I did still take one more drama class the next year, and I think it illustrates something.

We had a lot of opportunities to write our own sketches. When I helped other people with theirs, they were usually more comic. Most of the parts that I remember enjoying other people doing were comic. I always wanted to do dramatic, relationship-based things, even if they were overwrought and not very fun. I saw myself doing it, but I didn't know why I couldn't let it go.

In retrospect, I think what the loss of feeling that I could be loved as myself meant to me was that I couldn't be a star, even in my own life. If love is the main storyline - and yes, this probably was worse because I was a girl and societal expectations and all - then ineligibility for love meant permanent supporting cast. I struggled with that.

That's when I went around trying everything and looking for something new.

Okay, I was not good at guitar, but I was a valued member of the yearbook staff in ninth grade, and in the process I learned how to process and develop film. I had access to the darkroom. I also got great grades that year and cleaned up at the end of the year assembly. Teachers voted me outstanding French student, English student, Social Studies student, and then I got Most Academic too, by student vote. However, I remember that even though I wanted to get Most Academic because I could get it, when the ballots were going around I wished I could get the award for Nicest Eyes or something like that.

So even though I tried a lot more things the next year in high school, the one that really stuck was sports management, where I was supporting cast. I had rebelled against it, but without understanding what I was doing or why, perhaps it was inevitable that the place where I landed up was one where I was serving others, and not a star.

I feel like I'm being disloyal to the teams saying that. I really loved them, and the guys were nice to me for the most part, and after my father stopped speaking to me just having the coaches in my life was huge, but I probably should have been doing something for me, and for building the life that I wanted.

The problem was that I was quickly losing the ability to believe that I could have good or interesting things for me, so there was nothing to try for. I became "the friend" with guys. In some ways that was what I had been doing all along. I was prone to shame before, and people-pleasing and over-functioning, but it got cemented here, between 14 and 17.

On one level I was just putting everything off to the future. Someday I would lose weight, and then someone would love me, but I think on another level I didn't really believe it would ever happen.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Is that what was happening?

I guess it's time to get back to disconnecting  and reconnecting with my body.

Some of the things I will be writing about this week are things I have written about before, though it's been longer than I realized. I was looking for a couple of posts and they were from August 2010.

There were things that I pegged accurately then, but there were things that I missed completely, and have only started to see recently.

That includes that I was disconnected from my body. I did kind of know that I was missing weight gain. I was deliberately trying to ignore it, though it should not have been so possible, but I knew a while ago that I had blocked out that. I had no comprehension of how good I had gotten at blocking out pain and discomfort and all of these other things that I should have been able to notice and understand.

That's the big focus here, except that the reasons for the disconnect and the results and the methods all relate to the mind and spirit too, and there's not going to be any healing of the body without healing the rest. I have to be an integrated soul.

Here are the other things that I missed.

I knew that I got frustrated with everything in 9th grade, and I changed both my classes and my after-school activities for that. I thought that I had just gotten sick of theater; I did not connect it to the incident of harassment. I suppose I couldn't, since I was trying to pretend that it never happened. Now, yes, I think the incident that spawned the deep-rooted conviction that boys being attracted to me could only ever be a joke, and the unhappiness associated with that, may have contributed to my trying to make my life completely different.

There are things specific about giving up drama and going into sports management that are going to get their own post tomorrow. For now, there was something else that I hadn't grasped.

I knew that it was hard on me when Dad disowned me. At 17 I told myself that it wasn't that bad. At ages older than that, I had to admit that it was pretty bad, but I still didn't think that it changed me. Many of the things that I did after he stopped talking to me were things that I had been doing before, and so I could kind of convince myself that I was already developed enough that it didn't make much difference, but I think it did. I think it was kind of a final severance there, that I was on my own, and I could not count on anyone.

Coincidentally, I recently came across the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, and the concept of an ACE score. It focuses on the things that happen before you turn 18.

I don't know that I would have chosen that cutoff. My theory previously was that what happens in your first twenty years determines the way that you are broken, and then from 20 on it's all about starting to fix it. All of my breakage happened before 18, so point taken.

Maybe if that conflict had waited a year, I would only think it was my father who couldn't be depended on, and not the world. Maybe that's what the difference is. And maybe I would have learned to drive some other way, and be doing that now.

Where I started to see that more was when I had the guitar dream. It connected my beginning guitar class and my father in a way that I hadn't before, like there was an arc that started at 14 and completed at 17, and that's who I became. I don't think I have to undo everything about it, but I have to undo the false beliefs, and my method for that seems to be unraveling it all in painstaking detail.

For now, even though I don't play the guitar much, I'm still glad I have her. That feels like one of the few things that went right.