Monday, February 29, 2016

An open letter regarding "Grimm"

"Grimm" was solidly my favorite television series for a good three years. That started to waver a bit in the fourth season. I continue to watch the show, but is has been less rewarding.

I write this without knowing that I can even get anyone to see it because I care about the show. I care about the power of entertainment in general, but I care about this show in particular because of what has gone before and because of my fondness for the people involved.

I have had some thoughts about (and even blogged about) this before, but since then I have seen the Showrunners documentary. Joss Whedon's interview provides a good way of talking about this, which feels like a sacrifice of "moments" at the expense of "moves".

Moves are the big dramatic things that happen. For the most part I think "Grimm" is still doing great with the plot twists it chooses. Even some of the moves that seem more questionable could work if they were given the appropriate moments, but it feels like those character moments are being neglected. This ends up damaging the characters.

This may be easiest to see in the arc of Juliette becoming a hexenbiest. That was a big move, but one for which the groundwork had been well-laid and which had amazing future potential.

It should have been the most exciting thing to watch. Instead it got very repetitive as Juliette went around angrily demanding her life back and then angrily not wanting her life back, with very little feeling of any of it being emotionally real.

This was most obvious in Juliette's interactions with Rosalee. To hit one plot point Rosalee was acting so out of character that it had to happen in a dream. The "She's a freaking hexenbiest" line was funny, but it didn't feel right in the context.

What was really needed was a scene where Juliette was able to talk about her fear of losing herself, and Rosalee was able to listen, and promise to try and help her. They were robbed of that time together.

It wouldn't have to take away from Juliette's ultimate turn to the dark side. There could have been the initial struggle, and an attempt to make her new identity fit in with her old life and friends, with the news of Adalind's pregnancy still pushing Juliette over the edge. That would have been more believable and more compelling.

It does feel like this shift has served the female cast worse, but for a few episodes, especially Hibernaculum and Double Date, it really did seem to make all of the cops worse as cops. That was unfortunate, because Nick, Hank, and Wu being good cops is part of why we like them.

I have seen other feedback online that indicates similar complaints. That's a concern, but fixing this doesn't even require a major overhaul. It's a fairly minor adjustment that would have a huge payoff. "Grimm" has a great cast, and a large part of the popularity of the show is their likeability. It would be a shame to squander that potential.

I appreciate any consideration that this gets.

Gina Harris

Related posts:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Band Review: Joan Armatrading

When reviewing an artist with as extensive a career as Joan Armatrading, there is not time to delve into the work as deeply as with the newer bands. That is frustrating in that it feels impossible to do justice to the music.

So, Joan Armatrading has a beautiful voice, rich with depth and polish. She conveys emotion powerfully.

With four decades of recordings, her music has touched on different genres, but is more defined by her voice than anything else.

Favorite songs of mine included "Drop the Pilot", "Down to Zero", and "The Weakness in Me" - all of which show up among her more popular works, but also which give a good idea of how fun she can be and how much she can make you ache.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Band Review: Foam Ropes

Foam Ropes is a rock band from New York that appears to be primarily the work of Derek Nicoletto.

I generally enjoyed listening. Some of the songs, like "Celery Road" and "Potion Me Well" rock pretty well, though in general the songs tended to focus more on softer emotions, like the poignant "Truth In Fables". I also really liked their cover of Fleetwood Mac's "You Make Loving Fun".

"Bad Apples" should have hit the target emotionally, but watching an interview with Nicoletto where he likened the suffocation of Eric Garner to the shooting of two police officers in Brooklyn, without acknowledging the larger issue of police brutality and harassment and its deep roots, where simply stopping to think is completely insufficient, turned me off on the song. That and multiple references to Rihanna, implying that the people who buy her music don't actually like it, and that her publicity is undeserved, were also unflattering.

Getting attention as a band can be a very frustrating process, but it is so difficult to get anyone to pay for music now that it is unlikely anyone is buying songs they don't like, some people work very hard on publicity, and jealousy in general is a bad look.

These are not necessarily reasons not to listen to Foam Ropes, but may be a reason for the band to think more deeply about some issues, and about self-presentation.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Leaving shame behind

There were a lot of things that I felt some concern about in the last two posts, and this is a clean up post to address that and move forward.

One is a concern that I was too repetitive. I may have been, but that came from a concern that my words wouldn't make it come through how big this was. None of the parts were wholly new, but the way they fit together this time was, and it was big.

All of the little steps have been written about before. I have been a lot worse. One result of that core shame years ago was that every now and then this sick feeling of disgust would wash over me. I didn't know where it came from or what it meant, or even that anyone else had similar issues until I read Sartre's Nausea.

That had been gone for a while, but there were other aspects of feeling inadequate and inferior and wrong, and I've been carrying them around for a long time. While I have at times been healed by pure grace, my most common progress comes when I can make sense of something. A missing piece fell into place, and I feel lighter. That's big.

A random question helped get me there, but it helped because of the work I have already done, including some things that confused me at the time. Looking at chakras and creating a vision board did not initially seem likely to be helpful, but I have to acknowledge that they were now. That feels like a confirmation that I am on the right track, so even though this process feels very long, I can believe that it has merit and will continue to be worthwhile. That is a big deal.

The other thing that I worry can be taken wrong is the conclusion that the shame came from my father, even though I tried to make it clear that emotionally it doesn't feel like that. (I just needed to know that there wasn't actually something essential wrong with me.)

I have heard many times that you can't keep blaming your parents for everything, especially after a certain age. I agree with that, but it feels like sometimes that is used as a reason to shut someone down.

I have recently had some thoughts about how taboos in talking about sex enforce sexism, and taboos for talking about money enforce income inequality and economic exploitation. Many people try and derail anti-racism by calling any mention of racism racist. I may get to some of those later, but I think the lesson we should take right now is that it's important to be able to talk about things. That's how we get at the truth.

For me it was important to understand where the primary emotional wound came from. It was a breakthrough. It isn't the only thing that affected my life, but I needed to name it to take away it's power.

This is especially important to me because the next thing that went wrong was the crying thing. There are a lot of reasons to want to stop a child from crying; I took them personally because I believed there was something wrong with me and so everything was personal judgment against me. It made it hard to share my thoughts and feelings, because who would want to know? That was a barrier between me and other people, and it meant that the darkest thoughts didn't get chances for contradiction.

To some extent I already knew that, and that's why I try to be a good listener. The next step is getting over my concerns about whether I am worth being heard. The blog has been progress, difficult conversations have been progress, but I should be ready to advance to a new level.

Fortunately, some upcoming items on my task list involve making my voice heard.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My father and I

Once I could trace that thread of insecurity running through my entire life to my father, then I needed to know what to do with it.

The most formulaic response would be to forgive him, but that didn't feel necessary because I didn't feel like I held a grudge against him. There's a really long history of having to get over and through things. The times when I have felt my love for him most strongly have all been related to him doing something terrible, because that's when I feel most how tragic it is that he won't stop being terrible.

Even when I decided that I was not going to try and reconcile after the last disowning, that was not about anger. It took too much out of me to try and maintain the relationship to justify based on the good it did for either one of us. It was a sad thing to realize that I don't do him much good. Tiptoeing around his temper allows him to maintain his ways, but trying to persuade or argue or do anything different brings out the spite really quickly. If I felt like there was a benefit to him, I would stick with it, and it would be a lot of stress and pain, but I would do it. I didn't have any grudges left, even if I had gained some self-protection.

I can't rule out that there might be a stage in my development where I can have a relationship with him as he is without damaging myself, and I thought of that, but that wasn't what this meant either.

One thing that I remembered was seeing the healing of someone who had been tormented by abuse that happened to her when she was younger. After a short struggle it came very quickly, It was a gift of grace, and it troubled me because it looked so much like forgiveness for sin, but that sin wasn't hers.

I think of forgiveness as this culmination of being wronged, and being angry, and then letting go of that anger, but you can hold on to other things.

I had accepted my father's shortcomings a while ago. Recently I had come to realize that having a different father could have made for a very different life, and that maybe there was something to grieve there, but it was so intangible it didn't really go anywhere. Suddenly that core weakness was something I could put my finger on. How I had been all along made sense, but was also wrong.

I could let go of that. I can look back at always feeling like there was something wrong with me, and that I needed to make up for it (though it was so ill-defined it was impossible), and I can see that was wrong, and I don't ever have to feel that way again. It wasn't about it being his fault so much, but it was really important to know that it wasn't my fault.

I did take a moment again to think about my father again and to feel compassion for him. I care about him, but I am responsible for me.

Monday, February 22, 2016


Last week one of my sisters mentioned some Facebook status updates about gifts from fathers to daughters for Valentine's Day. She asked if that was a thing. I thought about it, realized that I had seen similar posts, so yeah, it must be a thing, though I had not previously realized it.

As soon as I understood that, I understood why she had to ask, and we all started laughing as I told her, "There's no way you could have known."

We laugh about our father fairly often when he comes up. It seems like the healthiest thing to do. We have joked that it's either laugh or cry, but we don't really feel like crying about it either. It's just one of those things, and it's familiar. A glimpse of something flashed across my mind though, and I needed to get back to it later.

Maybe it is the picture of the aligned chakras on my vision board. Maybe it is the sequence I have written across the top of two different working documents where it all starts with shame. There were definitely two related thoughts.

The first thought was just that Dad's course hasn't made him very happy. He may have mentally devalued the children that he threw away every time he disowned them (again, the fact that there was so much disowning is something we laugh at, because that's ridiculous), but he's wrong. He's a pretty miserable person. Thinking that led to the other thought.

His unhappiness with us was actually unhappiness with himself.

I had understood parts of it before. The need to always be right and never let anyone see any vulnerability was something I had inherited. As I got into college I could see how obnoxious it was, and how it could hurt the people around you struggling with their own insecurities. (It must also make you look really stupid to the people who know that you are wrong.)

That solidified on my mission, and I gradually got to a point where I can be open about my weaknesses and admit when I don't know the answer. It's not always fun, but most people like you better for it. It's less stress.

It almost feels like old news, but I had associated it with my teenage years, not with the small child who would grow up into that teenager. He was a lot worse when I was a teenager, but it was there before.

In Search of Fatherhood: A Mother Lode of Wisdom From the World of Daughterhood by Kevin Renner, 2011.

I'd mentioned before that this was the most disappointing of the books I read, because the author's interview made him sound like he had totally decoded the paternal influence on a woman's romantic relationships. If he did, he left it out of the book. I wanted some answer to why none of my father's daughters could ever get married, or even date much, and how to fix it.

I'm not saying that I have a total grasp of it now, but I'm at least accepting that the feeling that there was always something the felt wanting about me, and that I didn't know how to fix, was a problem, and that it came from someone who was never satisfied with his own life, but who could also never accept that anything was his fault, so it had to be the people around him.

I am also accepting that he was wrong. My father's unhappiness with his life is not on me. It does seem to be the best explanation for why I was always ashamed.

Where to go from there?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Band Review: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

This is a band that grooves.

I first learned about them because Sharon Jones came up in a discussion about vocalists. Jones was known as a singer before The Dap-Kings formed, but their current combination adds horns, bass, and funk. They have an impressive resume if you look at whom they've worked with, but it's probably better to just listen to them and let the band speak for itself.

Much of the music sounds like it could be older. Jones often hits the notes of a 60s girl group - hear her on "Make It Good To Me" - but nothing feels dated, and some of the fun that they have indicates a more modern wit.

Some of my favorite songs were from their 2014 release, Give the People What They Want. "Retreat" and "Stranger to My Happiness" will stick with you, but as you continue listening there is more that you like, and some of the songs just stop you. That was especially true of "How Long Do I Have To Wait For You" in my case, but they also have one of the best holiday albums out there, It's a Holiday Soul Party.

The Youtube channel is for the label, so contains work by many other acts, but it is worth seeking out The Dap-Kings' specific videos. Their regular videos give you a sense of what being in the same room with the band would be like, but they also have some animated videos that are inventive and ingenious. Check out videos for "Retreat", "8 Days of Hannukah)", and "Ain't No Chimneys in the Projects".

For a good time, check out Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Band Review: The Storytellers

The Storytellers has its origins in Italy, but is currently based in Los Angeles.

As the two founding members capture their transplanting process on video they appear really young, but their music sounds much more experienced. They you remember that Uale and Fred had been in their previous band for five years already. I am not sure about Matt and Sam's previous experience, but overall the music sounds like they know what they are doing.

Working primarily as pop punk, they evoke a plaintive feeling in their songs, which you can best hear on "In the Middle of Nowhere". The rock roots are still noticeable, especially on the guitar for
"Living for the Anthem".

In addition to their original material, they have recorded several covers for their Youtube channel, including a take on "All I Want For Christmas Is You" that's different in a good way.

All the links I could find are below.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The wrong reasons

I thought I might treat Thirteen Reasons Why with the other fiction books (Wintergirls and The Bell Jar) or with the other books where suicide is mentioned (The Bell Jar and For colored girls...) but I have different things that I want to say about them than about this, and it's more true right now.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, 2007.

One of the things that I noticed going in was that I don't remember any of my Twitter friends being devoted to this book. People loved The Fault in Our Stars, and to a lesser extent Finding Alaska. There were a few fans of Wintergirls, and of course lots of fans of - in descending order - Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Divergent. I knew the book had fans, but they weren't showing up in my corner of Twitter where love for specific books was a frequent declaration.

It's not a bad book. I was moved reading it and there were things that made sense. It also has a pretty high rating, with decent scores even from people whose reviews are critical. It sounds like a lot of people who thought the book was well-written hated the main character because they thought the tapes were vindictive. Others just find it completely unrealistic. The anger they express at the lack of realism makes me think that they know something about being suicidal, but I hope not. I wouldn't want anyone who was in danger that way to read this book.

From the author's point of view, I can see why a suicide, instead of an attempt, would feel necessary. They way the story builds covers a whittling away at Hannah's happiness and security, which probably felt realistic, and it allows information to be slipped in like signs that someone may be suicidal. It's good for people to know the signs, and the overall message of the book that how we treat others matters, because even a small thing can accumulate, is valid. I can see all of that, and yet I still don't think Hannah would have killed herself.

It's because her life was too stable before. It was only after the primary reading was done that I learned about Adverse Childhood Experiences and their scores, but as I learn more about the girls who have inspired me, I see more and more how it's true. The ones who have the hardest times surviving now are the ones who would have the highest scores.

It makes sense. At the time they should have been building resilience they were dealing with abandonment and assault and loss. It makes survival a struggle.

No, I don't think Hannah would have killed herself. I can see her becoming moody and withdrawn and fighting with her parents. I can see her checking out of school mentally, counting the days until graduation, and then never looking back or having any nostalgia for high school. I know some people who have been pretty close to that. It's no fun, but they survive.

I can't rule out that there are other types of stories, but those aren't the people that I'm finding, and they are the ones who got me looking at this. I am going to focus on them.

That means that healing is something I think about more and more, and healing from very difficult things. Steps toward prevention are good, so I care about stopping child abuse and ending rape culture and improving health and safety so that parents of growing children don't die, but that wouldn't be enough; there are already too many people who have been hurt.

I'm thinking about it more now because someone else made another attempt. Even though I have not officially heard, and am still waiting for that, I know she's gone. I am thinking about the things that hurt her early on, and the pain she couldn't shake, and I am thinking about her daughter and the impact that it will have on her. I know more about what that can do to her; I wish I knew more about what could help.

Thirteen Reasons Why isn't the book for that. It's okay as a book for people who don't have that problem, but then that's what it's supposed to be about, and full of good intentions in doing it.

That frustrates me a lot more now than it did when I first read it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The best book for parents of teenage girls

Actual parents of teenage girls are welcome to disagree, but there's a reason why I titled the post this way.

Part of what I am working now involved a second evaluation of the books for the long reading list. I did that when I first completed it, but now there have been other life experiences, other books, and treating them all together meant that I didn't go into any of them in depth. As I went over them again, new patterns emerged, and eventually I will write about all of them here.

I want to treat three books together for this post, and the one that ended up being most valuable to me was not the one I expected.

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher, 1994.

I read this many years ago. There were things that stuck out and that I remembered later, but mainly I remember making a note to myself that I needed to read it again before I had adolescent daughters. That never happened, but then when I was thinking about teenage girls, and myself, it made sense to look at it again.

It made less of an impression on me this time, probably because I never started parenthood to take it to the next level. That didn't make it bad, but I'd already read it, and maybe moved beyond it.

What stuck with me most this time was her analysis of parenthood, breaking it down along two continua of control and acceptance. Reducing it to very basic terms ant looking at the long range (because issues will come up at different times regardless), it goes like this...

Low control and low acceptance tends to result in delinquency and chemical dependence. High control and low acceptance would be authoritarian parents, and their children often lack confidence and are socially inadequate. Low control and high acceptance, or indulgent parents, can end up with impulsive, irresponsible, and not very independent teenagers. High control and high acceptance tends to produce independent, responsible, confident children.

I didn't love that phrasing, because control has very negative connotations for me, and I have a hard time viewing it as positive. Maybe if you are also accepting it keeps you from being strict about stupid things, but you are still firm when it counts.

The other interesting thing for me was that I had read two books really close together where adopted children were having a had time feeling connected, and it led to dangerous ambivalence. Reviving Ophelia is full of specific examples, and they had an adoptive family that dealt successfully with connecting. It was good to remember that could be done. I still appreciate the book, you can get good things from it, but it isn't the one.

Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence by Rosalind Wiseman, 2002.

Not only did this have good word of mouth but it inspired a hit movie; of course it was going to be great, right?

It wasn't bad, but it spends a lot of time trying to take an anthropological approach, and that comes through in the movie but there are two problems with it. One is that it felt to me like a conceit, trying to be clever. Not only was that mildly irritating, but for a parent who cares and is worried and is looking for guidance, I can't imagine that it would be appreciated.

Later on in the book there were parts that were helpful for discussing issues like drugs and rape and mental illness, and I think it can be really helpful there. If I was responsible for having those kinds of discussions, I could see looking up this book again.

Those were both books I had heard of in magazines and newspapers. The best one came from a Facebook thread, where a friend from school had a daughter who was being picked on by other girls, and one of the people recommended this book. After I read it, I could see why.

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons, 2001.

I think one thing that made this book effective was its sympathy for the bullies. I did not want to feel sympathy for them. No parent whose child is on the receiving end of shunning and abuse is going to want to feel sympathy for those girls, but it's also really common for those girls to switch places. There were girls who shunned first and then were shunned later. Can you have sympathy for your child when they do wrong things? Of course! So then you can also see the other side.

Simmons goes into the reasons for the aggression, girls are not given enough outlets. It's fifteen years old, so maybe some things have improved, but these are behaviors that were happening in the 50s and 60s, so odds are it's still relevant.

It hit home more shortly after finishing the book, when I was at the dentist. The hygienist and I were talking, and her daughter had been through a period of isolation, and we talked about how they handled that (parents and school did great, by the way, which was really encouraging), but now the girls are friends again.

Without her really saying it, I gathered that was an adjustment, because these are girls who betrayed her daughter, and made her really miserable, but the girls had moved on, so she had to. It's not easy.

I do think this book helps, so this is the book I recommend. This is the best one -- at least out of what this non-parent (who reads a lot) knows.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Vision Board

I have made a vision board now. It is posted above my computer monitor where it can inspire me and remind me of my goals.

Of course it did not go exactly as planned. I wrote about how I thought it would go a few months ago:

The part that went most according to plan is that there is the chakra image and the cornucopia next to each other. Together they represent health, and individually they represent abundance, balance, and strength coming from building up from a good foundation.

The book shelf representing the books I want to read is there, but instead of another shelf for what I want to write I have a stack of script pages with more pages falling into place on the stack, plus a pile of bills next to it.

The most obscure symbol is above the cornucopia. It is a picture of a house, and within the house there is a heart, and within the heart there is a paw print.

A lot of my anxiety comes from this house and its residents, human and otherwise. Perhaps I should mention there were cash outlays to the plumber and the vet this week. I had the money because of my tax refund, but there were other things that were wanted, and I can see other things that will come up soon; the tax refund only comes once a year.

My desire is for all of that to be okay. A lot of that comes with being able to spend money as needs come up - that's why both the stack of cash and the cornucopia are there. Not all needs are financial, but that's why there needs to be an aligned and balanced person in the middle.

The biggest surprise was everything else. There are five other graphics representing places I want to go, in the order I want to go to them. The first three have time constraints, where I need to accomplish some things fairly quickly to make them happen.

That urgency was a part of why I was ready to make this now. I still have some bad habits that are holding me back. I can get very frustrated with myself, but I felt like I needed more positive motivation. I wanted inspiration.

I realized as I was doing this that it would need to be refreshed periodically. There are some things that I will always want in my life, but some of them may become well-established enough that there isn't the yearning. There should be new things that I want. That's why this is "A Vision Board" instead of "The Vision Board" - I will have other visions.

There isn't a graphic depicting the desire for romance or a new relationship. That is not where my head is right now, and my head is kind of full for adding anything else now.

I still draw like I did when I was 14, and no immediate changes seem likely there, but it's good enough for what I need. I had originally had some hopes that I could do a collage instead of drawing, but I could never find pictures for what I wanted.

It's also good for me to draw, and I know that, but making it a priority when there are so many other things going on is hard. Probably the main reason this happened is because of something silly I did, but it was good.

I was talking with Julie about various restaurants at Disneyland. We have certain ones that we tend to keep returning to, but we know that we are missing some things. I had done some looking to get a better idea, but I wanted it organized, which led to entering things into a spreadsheet, because I am me. It was still a little confusing, especially for certain areas, and I started wanting to map it out.

As a busy person, it could not possibly be the best use of my time to draw a food map of Disneyland, but her birthday was coming up, and I just went for it, ending up with two maps, because I also did the California Adventure side.

The project let me feel the relaxation of drawing again. No, they don't look great, but as I was deciding to do it one of the main things that helped me is that it was a relief to be working on something that wasn't high stakes. I am going to work harder to bring regular drawing back in.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Band Review: TYSON, aka DJ EAR.2.EAR

Twitter was rocked recently by a strange interaction between a rapper and an astrophysicist that started out weird but just kept getting better:

That's why today's review is of TYSON. I can't review him as a DJ, but listening to the tracks available on Soundcloud has been a good experience.

I started out with the view that this was something interesting and I should check it out; it ended up being something where my feelings were more along the lines of gratitude and relief. That sounds like it might be overstating, but so often reviewing Hip Hop becomes a chore because it is so repetitive and unoriginal, often crude and misogynistic. At times like that I forget how good Hip Hop can be; TYSON reminded me.

You would probably expect a track defending astrophysics and the roundness of Earth to be on a high level intellectually, but it doesn't stop there. There is more science in "Star Talkin'" (also featuring his uncle), there is environmentalism in "Mother Earth" and political awareness in "#BLACKLIVESMATTER" and even analysis and defense of Hip Hop in "Four Elements".

That higher level of engagement can have some unexpected effects. "#BLACKLIVESMATTER" names several victims of police brutality, including Akai Gurley. I listened to the song for the first time shortly after reading this:

"The defense for #PeterLiang, during their summation, telling the jury, "Yes, #AkaiGurley was innocent, but don't feel sorry for him."

So hearing his name right after that felt a little raw. That's appropriate. These are real issues, and Hip Hop - perhaps more than any other form of music - has been about addressing them. That return to meaning and quality has been a treat.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Band Review: The Gyro

The Gyro is a four piece funk band based in London.

You can hear other influences as well. "Heart and Soul" reminds me of old standards, but jazzier and livelier. Still, more typical tracks for the band would probably be "Bottle" or "Make Me Smile".

These lyrics often point to a life full of trouble and disappointment, but the with Siobhan Hesketh's sweet voice, accompanied by the groove set by Dario, Ben, and Derek Lewis, the songs don't generally feel down.

There is a sense of maturity and professionalism. The band has done a good job of creating a web presence, with music on all of the usual sites, and is keeping live dates scheduled. This includes the promise of a 4 track EP to be released at their next appearance, Vault Festival on February 26th in London.

The Gyro band should be poised to do well.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Enforced stillness

Once a year I go to the ophthalmologist for a diabetic eye exam. For her to see what she needs to see, she dilates my pupils.

There is some physical discomfort with the drops, but the real issue is that lights seem too bright and I can't focus that well.

The worse problem with this ever was that I once got on the wrong bus. Peering at the sign told me that it was the 20, which is what I needed, but what I had not realized was that at that stop (St. Vincent's) the bus does a loop, so both the Eastbound and Westbound bus come by the same stop. I suddenly found myself heading into Portland and had to get off and cross a busy street while my vision was impaired. Now I am careful to check for the destination.

The worst of it doesn't last for very long, but print stays hard for a bit longer after that. I am typing now, and I can read it, but it's still not quite in focus and I want to close my eyes some more.

As most of what I do for work and play involves books or print on the computer, this has an impact. My next most favorite thing to do is going for a walk outside, and it seems a little bright out there.

That turns today into kind of a rest day. I lay down for a while. I put on some music and listen to it only, without also reading or typing. I close my eyes and bury my face in cat's fur.

It's really not for that long, and breaks can be good.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

In praise of Galavant

"Galavant" has wrapped up its second season, and is probably over as a series. There is an opening left for a third season if they are lucky enough to get one, but no unbearable cliffhangers like at the end of the first season. (And thank you for that!)

That was no easy task. It was possible to be equally fond of Gareth's relationship with King Richard and Madalena, but happy resolutions for both seemed impossible. What did end up happening felt plausible and satisfying. Yes, that is how it would play out, and again some room was left.

There were a lot of things that were done right, including an affection for minor characters that meant that they could grow into not-so-minor and even favorite characters. The Jester could easily have been abandoned early on, but instead he kept around, and kept relevant, until it was reasonable that he would sing the recap leading into the finale. Not only did it make sense, he did a great job.

It makes sense to have that much respect for the characters given the talent of the cast that they found. I don't know which came first; maybe it built on itself. We need a good cast, this cast is phenomenal, we need to do more with them.

The series also did a great job of balancing the serious with the silly, and they did that by a healthy grounding in reality. Yes, an army of the undead is a fantasy element, but once you accept that happening, then trying to lead them would probably go a lot like they showed.

But I really need to talk about the music.

Okay, you expect Alan Menken to deliver, but delivering three songs per episode and two episodes per week is challenging for the time element alone, and time is a factor in a different way as well. With the amount of plot that needs to be covered, along with the desire to include fun bits that may not advance the plot but they do enrich the overall experience, the songs need to do a lot of work.

Some of that comes from bringing in the familiar. That was something I noticed more this season. In an episode when you have a fight between giants and dwarfs, the rumble feel is added to with a number reminiscent of "Cool" from West Side Story (as well as one that sounded a lot like "Officer Krupke").

I think the best illustration is the scene that takes part in The Enchanted Forest.

First we learn that we are near the Enchanted Forest, ruled over by an evil queen, and people go in and never come out. The first thing that does is reference "Once Upon a Time" - the show for which "Galavant" acts as a mid-season replacement. It references and then differentiates as we see a sign that shows us that The Enchanted Forest is a pub. Then we see that this pub has an all-male clientele, and we find that people do come out, though our two heroes are briefly trapped until a beautifully silly solution presents itself and some answers.

In between, though, we get the musical number "Off With His Shirt". Besides being fun, it enhances the scene in two ways. The title reminds of us "Off with his head!" putting us well within the realm of dangerous queens in storybook lands. Simultaneously, the disco beat reminds us of "It's Raining Men", putting us well within the realm of this type of pub.

It works brilliantly.

I'll miss you "Galavant". I hope to see the faces you made familiar in many other shows.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Looking for why

I had mentioned a breakthrough that was pretty devastating a while back. I am comfortable with the issue itself now, but sharing the details feels a little tricky because those involve other people, and it's very current. Still, I'm going to try.

It relates to my church callings. I was recently called to junior nursery. If you don't know, that means that during the class portion of church (Sunday school, etc,) I am watching over the 18 - 24 month old children.

My family was greatly offended on my behalf, because they feel it's a waste of my abilities. I don't feel that's right in general, because all callings are important and you learn a lot from doing different things. This is my first calling in the primary (children's) organization ever. Spending so much time in the singles ward, which did not have a primary, sort of ensured that.

In my family's defense, there are still people who remember me as the best Gospel Doctrine teacher ever, though that's been about twelve years. As Emergency Preparedness coordinator I put out a very popular newsletter, stayed organized with the response plan, and kept track of people constantly moving in and out. They think of me as having skills that not everyone has, but those skills may not be the ones currently needed.

When we came into our current ward I was called as librarian. At least one person said she has always wanted that job because you don't have to do any work for it. I believe she meant preparation during the week, which is true. She is also kind of dumb. but I also know other people who have done it and really liked it. I grew to like it too, though at first it was frustrating because I needed to be there at exactly the same times that I would normally use for hunting down some visiting teachees who would talk if approached in person, but never responded to phone or e-mail messages. Once the route was changed that became a lot less stressful.

One thing that made that calling important to me was that I realized early on that it threw me into contact with someone that it was important to have contact with, and we have become good friends. When I got the nursery calling, I felt like there was a similar situation, putting me into contact with a person I needed to spend some time with. Having the attitude that any calling is beneath you still feels terribly wrong anyway, so of course I accepted it.

I felt like there would be benefits for me too. I like young children, and I don't get to spend a lot of time with them. No one really enjoys a screaming tantrum, but a child who just needs to be held a little bit while they whimper because they are feeling the separation from parents - that's in my wheelhouse.

At the same time, there was this creeping question of why everything that happens to me has to be for the sake of someone else. After my family protested and I told them that I thought there was a good reason for the call, one of my sisters asked that same question, and I admitted to wondering that myself.

It was weighing on me. I knew that these things that seemed to be more for others helped me too, so that was worth something, but there was this nagging feeling, wondering why my life couldn't be about me. It felt very unfair, and then the answer came: that's the only way I do it.

If something was just for me, I didn't prioritize it. It bothered me feeling like God prioritized other people over me. Realizing I set it up that way was something else.

I've made peace with that too. That gaps in my self-worth and how they play out in the rest of my life are exactly what I was working on when the calling happened. I'm not sure that I have made great progress yet - actually a train of thought from Saturday could be a pretty good argument that I haven't - but awareness is a good starting place.

There are other things about nursery that have felt hard, and yet they are getting worked out.

We use sippy cups that need to be washed every week. I was handed them for the first two weeks, but it was assumed I would just run them through the dishwasher. We don't have a dishwasher. For part of the time we take the kids to the gym. There's not a clock there. "Do you have your phone with you?"  I don't currently have a phone. We give them snacks that periodically need to be purchased. I can turn in receipts for reimbursement, but that takes weeks and I have been broke.

All of those have been working out. One person found out I didn't have a dishwasher and she has been taking the cups. I have some extra money right now where needing to buy snacks was not a problem. There might be a watch around here I can wear. It was just amazing how quickly the reminders came that I do not have things that are apparently so normal to have that no one even asks if you do. You'd expect the big reminder to be that I have never had a husband and children. I guess that's old news.

So that's where I'm at for now. It's okay. It wasn't what I expected, exactly., but it usually isn't.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Band Review: Fefe Dobson

Fefe Dobson is one of the names I encountered when I was working on the #BlackGirlsRock play list, and one where I knew I wanted to go back.

This Canadian singer and songwriter is generally classified as pop or rock, and that's fair, but what keeps bringing me back is the strong punk influence.

I notice it most on "I Want You" and "Stupid Little Love Song" - songs from two different albums released seven years apart - but it pops up in other tracks regularly, not as a phase but as a part of her core. It feels like she must have been influenced by the Riot grrrl bands in the '90s, even if her own output is more mainstream.

The pop aspects are real. "Legacy" was not only on a "Degrassi" soundtrack, but is also remarkably catchy and has a fun video.

The most apt comparison may be Pink, whose fans should check Fefe Dobson out. She can be in your face, but not at the expense of the musical quality.

Good listening all around.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Band Review: Scott Barkan

I originally intended to review Scott Barkan right after Blinking Underdogs. I didn't have another Star Wars-themed band for the week, but I am aware of Scott Barkan because he had some art done for him by Portland comic book artist Benjamin Dewey. (You can easily spot Dewey's work at I felt like this at least tangentially connected Barkan to Star Wars via the broader world of geekery.

Then I went on hiatus.

I might have waited longer and at least posted the review, except there was a part of me that felt like I still hadn't gotten the music right, and it made me hesitant to write about it. Keeping at it, I have been listening to him as both Scott Barkan and Barky for just over a month.

I think it is that the different albums pull me in different directions.

Solo/Acoustic/Live and Trio/Electric/Live are both good times. They capture the feeling of a live show and make you want to be in that audience. As much as I like them, I keep going back to Flightless Bird from 2014.

First off, I have to give the title track credit for making me think more than I ever have about what it means to be a flightless bird. At first I rebelled against the harshness of the lyrics, and then I had to admit that they made sense. Some of the other tracks work toward finding one's place and accepting it, but this song faces it in the most direct way.

"Flightless Bird" did some work in pulling me in, but the song that won me over completely was "Crank Radio". Mostly spoken, there is a guitar accompaniment that reminds me of Santo & Johnny's "Sleepwalk", striking chords along the spine and weakening resistance. As the speaker and his companion deal with a power outage, there is the practical prose of solving issues like no dinner and melting ice cream that also describes a comfort and satisfaction. Any of the inconvenience of lost power feels generously compensated for.

Although another song, "Gone Away" sits between "Crank Radio" and "They're Playing Our Song", my head puts them together, in a natural correlation.

There is a tweet from November that Barkan retweeted. Along with a picture of him playing, "It's @scottbarkan singing songs about murder and dying and self loathing and psychological trauma." (from @nerdsherpa)

Barkan does cover heavy themes in serious, and even dark ways, but that's not all he knows. There is fun and comfort and delight as well.