Wednesday, August 31, 2016


The Plague, by Albert Camus, ended up on the long reading list because a friend had mentioned it once, explaining that there were victims and carriers and healers, if I recall. It felt like it could be relevant. Once I started reading it, I didn't find that at all, until the end.

It is Tarrou speaking to Rieux:

"All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it's up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences. That may sound simple to the point of childishness; I can't judge if it's simple, but I know it's true... If, by making that statement, I, too, become a carrier of the plague-germ, at least I don't do it willfully. I try, in short, to be an innocent murder. You see, I've got no great ambitions.

I grant we should add a third category: that of the true healers. But it's a fact that one doesn't come across many of them, and anyhow it must be a hard vocation. That's why I decided to take, in every predicament, the victim's side, so as to reduce the damage done. Among them I can at least try to discover how one attains to the third category; in other words, to peace."

Tarrou was swinging his leg, tapping the terrace lightly with his heal, as he concluded. After a short silence the doctor raised himself a little in his chair and asked if Tarrou had an idea of the path to follow for attaining peace.

"Yes," he replied. "The path of sympathy."

There are a few paragraphs beyond that, where we learn that for Tarrou the plague goes beyond the literal plague that is devastating their town to include all of the bad that humans do to each other, but it is still a very small part of the novel, and yet a critical part of it. It makes sense that Tarrou becomes the key organizer of the efforts against the plague, and also that he gives his life for his efforts.

What strikes me most about it now is the humility in his philosophy, which for him is only realism. It would be wonderful to be only a healer, but we can do great harm without intent. I had a moment of thoughtlessness a few weeks ago that still makes me cringe.

You could argue that recognizing yourself as a carrier, and then trying to mitigate that, is the key. It is important, but Tarrou's identification with the victims - his sympathy - is a good path because it keeps his compassion and sense of humanity alive.

I'm going to tie it with something else I read back in January that touched me, from Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell:

"There are stages in the contemplation and endurance of great sorrow, which endow men with the same earnestness and clearness of thought that in some of old took the form of Prophecy. To those who have large capability of loving and suffering, united with great power of firm endurance, there comes a time in their woe, when they are lifted out of the contemplation of their individual case into a searching inquiry into the nature of their calamity, and the remedy (if remedy there be) which may prevent its recurrence to others as well as to themselves.

Hence the beautiful, noble efforts which are from time to time brought to light, as being continuously made by those who have once hung on the cross of agony, in order that others may not suffer as they have done; one of the grandest ends which sorrow can accomplish; the sufferer wrestling with God's messenger until a blessing is left behind, not for one alone but for generations.

With the things that have been happening to me and my family, I can't help but see them as part of a bigger picture. An individual solution for me would be great, and I would love it, but there would still be the bigger story out there, and I am connected to it.

If I forget that connection, then I too am carrying the plague.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Advance Directives

If yesterday's post has you wondering why I am so tired, unemployment stress is part of it, but the dementia stress is a lot worse. I don't want to get into that now, because I am still hoping that this current phase - which has a lot of disassociation going on - is temporary. Maybe a new medication will improve things, or getting the home repairs over with and restoring that sense of normalcy. Between the leak and the leg growth and me losing my job, there has been a lot of stress.

That may be denial, but for now I am holding on to it. However, it made filling out the Advance Directive forms - which have been laying around for a few months - more important. Her sense of connection to us and the house may waver, but my mother's sense of herself is still strong, and she can make decisions. That may be temporary.

One pleasant surprise was the ease of the process. They break it down into a few scenarios that are clear and concise. This is what cardiac arrest is; would you want CPR? These are the options if you can't eat normally. We were able to get through it quickly without any concerns about understanding, and I am grateful for that.

A less pleasant surprise was how much my mother is already against any of the efforts. You can choose a trial tube-feeding period; it doesn't have to be long-term or none. I did not previously know about her horror of having things stuck down her throat, but that really influenced her decision-making on artificial respiration.

The harder part is thinking that we could already be at the point where death would be better. We kind of were already there. Seeing how hard things sometimes get now, and knowing that odds are they will only get worse until they end completely, has made us have to think about it, but we are not ready to lose her.

I know people who have lost their mothers, both recently and a long time ago, and suddenly and with extended warning. Any time I send my mind to what would be better or worse it just goes blank; there is no good way to lose your mother. We do not like this situation, but we remain unprepared for it to end. I guess it was a surprise learning how ready she was.

And, it doesn't quite mean that either, because these situations all start with something catastrophic happening, that hasn't happened yet, and may not ever happen, but that we are not ready to wrap our minds around yet.

I am still glad that we did it. I am glad that they have been her choices to make, and we could make them when we could think clearly, instead of in the moment of crisis. It is ultimately a relief, though not an unmitigated one.

So I am going to put a useful link at the end, but for my own thoughts I can only go back to Emily Dickinson:

"Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell."

Monday, August 29, 2016

I make myself sick, again

This last incident actually reminds me of two other incidents, though in some ways I have done better than in the past.

Being unemployed (and uninsured) has definitely been part of the problem. I suppose I should have gotten insurance through the health exchange by now, but there is this limbo to being unemployed. If you get a job soon there could be insurance again; maybe you just need to hold on a little bit longer. I have been keeping up-to-date on all of my medications, but I have been putting off doctor visits, until I couldn't.

I guess it's about five weeks ago now, but I stepped on something. It hurt and I saw a small hole in my foot, so there was no question that I had stepped on something, but I couldn't see anything protruding or under the skin.

As a diabetic, I need to be careful with my feet. It's really more that if neuropathy sets in I might do something to my foot and not know, and that's not what was happening here, but it's still a sensitive area. I soaked my foot in warm water and Epsom salts, and then I kept doing that.

Sometimes the soaking made my foot felt a lot better, but then it would hurt again. I still couldn't find proof that anything was in there, but I couldn't quite be sure there wasn't anything in there either. If there was, I kept hoping the next soak would draw it out. This is a sound strategy, but not implemented over three weeks, which is what I did. I did think about going to the doctor, but I was worried I would have to be referred to someone else, and the bills would pile up. Then I got sick.

It started in with flu symptoms (aches and chills) on a Wednesday night. I was reading about the Influenza of 1918, and considered that it was psychosomatic, but I was still reading some of the history leading up to it, without really having gotten into symptoms yet. Thursday I pretty much alternated between sleeping and resting, then Thursday night it started to settle into my leg.

Okay, I have had this happen before, but almost always in my right leg, where the rebar had cut me. This time was on the left; the same side as the injured foot. It was no longer possible to avoid the doctor.

I did debate going to Urgent Care. My last cellulitis outbreak was actually before my current doctor, and it would be so much closer and possibly cheaper. However, I trust my doctor, and that tipped the scales. I wanted to be with her.

We got right to the point, and she agreed that the foot was connected and moved me to another room with a large magnifying glass for checking it out. She couldn't quite get it either, so she called in a colleague. This was necessary, but is a second bill. Still, he was able to do what needed to be done.

Now, if what you have is a small splinter, soaking your foot might work, but my failure to get it out made perfect sense when I saw the jagged, 1/2 cm piece of glass he pulled out of my foot. Epsom salts were never going to move that; it required a professional with heavy magnification digging around while I tried really hard not to struggle and make things harder. (I did eventually have to stamp the other foot near the end.)

The cellulitis itself calls for antibiotics, and it is not unusual to start with an internal dose, which had previously been a shot. This time they sent me down to the infusion lab in the cancer center. That is another bill.

Those things are important, and I have a lot of financial aid forms to fill out now, but the overwhelming impression from all of it is how much the answer was to keep still. There was Thursday's rest, but also a lot of waiting on Friday. I was instructed to lie back and take a power nap after the glass was out as they wrote up orders and arranged the infusion. At the infusion clinic there was a wait for the medicine to come, and then be prepared, but I was in a comfortable chair and they brought me a drink and crackers. Then there were the orders to lay low, and to stay out of the sun while I was on the antibiotics.

I was too tired to fight these instructions anyway, but that just reminded me how necessary they were. Now that is much better but a cold has settled in, probably because my immune system did get so low. Okay, take it easy. Do something, and then rest.

That can't go on forever, but there are times when it is necessary.

Related posts:

Friday, August 26, 2016

Band Review: Rakunk

There is a really abrupt feeling to the start of "Trillionaire", like the song was started in progress.

That may be part of an overall band philosophy of sink or swim. There is no genre listed, nor any comment on their music on pertinent web pages. (I'll call it rock with a subtle funk influence, though the name had me expecting more punk.) They admit the names of who plays which instruments and that they are from Chicago, and that's it.

What stands out to me most is the sound of metal. I don't mean metal as a genre, but it feels like there are steel strings instead of nylon, and maybe some steel in the percussion. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it gives the music a sharpness and a resonance. Listen to the bridge on "Wicked Bible" for an example.

"Writing With A Knife" and "Banged Up" also stood out among the tracks. Overall a pretty solid offering from Rakunk.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Band Review: Lloyd Williams

Lloyd Williams is a British songwriter. He came to my attention via Richard Hughes of Keane.

Primarily considered a folk musician, Williams uses both guitar and banjo to create his sound. There is a quietness to the music, almost receding enough to be haunting. Delicate textures accentuate, as on "No Silence Left". One notable exception is the lively plucking on "Long Way Down".

Negativity feels prevalent in the music - a darker sensibility - which is not exactly unusual for folk or roots music, but it feels more modern in this case, which may make it more accessible for some audiences.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Random ghostliness and the work of Anna Sarhling-Hamm

There might be something worth saying about the reporting on Ghostbusters, but that is part of a bigger trend on reporting around news and politics and sports, too, as the Olympic coverage has highlighted. I'm going to put that on hold for now.

I haven't reviewed any comics for a while, but there are a few that I am reading avidly. Some of them have been mentioned before, but there is also a new one:

I'm not going to review it now, because it's not quite finished yet, but as the story nears resolution the wait between new pages has become ever more maddening.

The author, Anna Sahrling-Hamm, has come up before for a shorter piece, Hearts - an adaptation of M R James' "Lost Hearts".

It was another M R James adaptation that leads to this next story.

I feel pretty comfortable saying that for James, "Lost Hearts" is a better story than "Wailing Well". He wrote "Well" for the Scouts, and that added some length that slows down the story.

I find it harder to compare the comics, but "Wailing Well" was the one that sent me ghostly dreams.

Yesterday's post hit at some frustration that there doesn't seem to be much of a market for original screenplays, but one possible exception to that is horror. Still, I had been thinking that continuing to write feature length screenplays, rather than maybe trying to get a short film made - or anything other than what I have been doing - might be a better strategy. But dang it if there's not a story in those ghostly dreams, and if the appropriate format for it isn't a feature-length screenplay.

Maybe I can't help but revert to type, but inspiration is a special thing. Following those story threads to see how they come out is a big part of who I am. It may explain my affection for artists and authors and musicians, who express their creativity in their own ways. And often they inspire me.

Besides, maybe this is the one that will sell.

Anna Sahrling-Hamm is available for commissions:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


On the same weekend that we watched the original Ghostbusters, I also read a review for the remake of Ben Hur.

I had not been interested in going anyway, but the review would have cemented that pretty well. It sounds terrible, but also pointless. I spent some time thinking about that.

With so many sequels, reboots, and movies based on existing material from other sources, you could take that as a sign that Hollywood does not trust viewers to give a new and unfamiliar story a chance.

That may be true (and very frustrating for someone writing original screenplays), but it seems odd to me that today's audiences are more likely to choose a film because it has the same name and story of a film from 1959. Yes, it cleaned up at the Oscars, but on that basis I might be more likely to seek out the original than the remake.

There still has to be some way of choosing which thing to reboot. Could something in that process predict whether they will be able to make a good movie, a successful movie, or maybe one that is both?

I suspect in the case of Ben Hur, part of what cemented its spot in people's hearts the first time around was the thrill of the chariot race. It was visually new, and there was a real sense of danger reinforced by rumors (apparently false) that a stuntman had died.

That can't be replicated. There is so much action now, with CGI allowing sequences to get ever more improbable, that I'm not sure you can give the audience much new there. Some action films will go the ridiculous route with a more comic approach, but for a serious film with religious elements that's less likely to work well. Maybe it will be successful, but it feels like it's barking up the wrong tree.

I remember reading years earlier that instead of re-making good films that people had fond memories of, what they should really do is remake bad films and try and get them right. I have felt this strongly about Head Over Heels. Don't feel bad if you haven't heard of it. I only know about it because it was playing on television, and I kept catching odd parts of it as I was doing other things.

A lab worker (I think) who rooms with models falls for a guy she may have seen kill someone, and conflicting evidence keeps making him look wonderful and scary. Themes you have can include the insecurity that you could have from being surrounded by models, how insecurity affects new relationships, or concerns about trusting someone new. He is an agent, and helped a woman fake her death as part of a case, so work and personal life conflicts, and trust and honesty could come up on his side.

They went with poop jokes targeting the models. They got sprayed with sewage. They hid in the shower trying to silently hold their noises while Freddie Prinze Jr. conveyed pooping by the most vacant look I have ever seen on a human face. Of course it has no name appeal - nor should it - but it's hard to imagine anyone getting offended by a remake.

All right, fine, we want to stick with movies that were successful at least once. In that case, the gender switch Ghostbusters did makes sense. It changed the relationships and tone. It felt much more fresh than it could possibly have felt with another four men from Saturday Night Live.

That doesn't have to mean only changing films that were led by men to films now led by women. What would Terms of Endearment look like if it were a father and son whose already rough relationship was upended by cancer? There could be a good movie in that.

If you feel a remake is the answer, that can be okay, but what are you going to do differently with it? How are you going to make it yours? If the answer is just more extreme attitude and CGI, maybe think again.

Monday, August 22, 2016


The remake is better than the original. I know that's a controversial position, so I wanted to just get it out of the way.

I should also get out of the way that I liked the sequel to the original better than the original, another unpopular opinion.

I hadn't been thinking that specifically. I enjoyed the 2016 version a lot, and would love to see a sequel for it, but I hadn't been thinking too much about comparison.

I was reading fascinating pieces on the new movie, and I was enjoying that about it. For example, one article went over each of the four women and how their academic paths would have gone, from self-educating due to a lack of opportunities, relying on mentors, and the politics involved with getting tenure.

Part of what impressed me was realizing how much they conveyed without spending a lot of time on it. It was accurate to academia, but also efficient. I appreciated those little touches, which I hadn't thought about during the movie.

I liked the remake then, and want to see it again now, but I hadn't thought of it as a great movie. There were some parts where they would stop and be a little self-indulgent. Those sequences were funny, but not relevant to the plot. I enjoyed the asides, but could see them as possible flaws. Then I re-watched the original. Okay, I know audiences have a shorter attention span today, and we are used to quicker editing, but the initial set up really drags.

I knew that there was chauvinistic creepiness - some that I remembered myself, some that I was reminded about in other articles. It was worse than I remembered, but what really stuck out was how inconsistent Venkman is. He is a super creepy jerk in the lab test, differently creepy, but then really sweet, and all over the map. My best guess is that they were setting it up to have his story arc be one where finding actual proof of the supernatural (along with attraction to Dana) forces him to cast off his immaturity and obnoxiousness and become a real romantic hero. That would not be an unreasonable plot.

However, put the uneven pace and the uneven character together and I think there is also a basic writing issue, where it is plot-driven instead of character-driven. Some of the scenes felt so different from each other, as if they were from different films with different directors. Perhaps coming from a sketch comedy background makes that happening easier, because you are used to switching gears anyway.

That may have also been an issue with the believability of the villain. I don't know if everyone finds the remake's villain believable (I thought he seemed fairly credible) but there is no way that an EPA bureaucrat is going to come over and unplug possibly radioactive equipment without having some kind of containment plan. Peck was just the villain about whom you could make dick jokes, and was not well-conceived beyond that.

(Also, I thought the first time "Don't cross the streams" was brought up was really muddled considering how important it was going to be to the final resolution.)

So it occurs to me that maybe the reason that I liked the sequel better wasn't merely the fun of the Statue of Liberty and Jackie Wilson saving the day, but also maybe that having more familiarity with their characters, and more experience under their belt, Ackroyd and Ramis did a better job of writing.

That shouldn't take anything away from the thrill of seeing giant Stay-Puft the first time as kids. It made an impression and that lasts. There is nothing wrong with that.

The remake is still a better movie.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Band Review: Trash Talk

Trash Talk is a Hardcore / Punk band based in Los Angeles, California. I put them down for review after they were recommended by Benny Horowitz of The Gaslight Anthem.

There were times in the listening where they reminded me of Direct Hit!, but without the jokes. Trash Talk feels very serious, and yet they are often still fun. This especially comes through on "Leech". They are enjoyable, but there is an intensity to the songs that makes me think their concerts must be exhausting. They perform a lot, though, so maybe they just have good energy.

"Locked in Skin" is a good starting point for what listening to the band is like, but I have a special fondness for "Amnesiatic". A short instrumental, there is a primal, pulling force to it.

Trash Talk does not have a strong social media presence that I could find. Even their Twitter link is to a store site,, rather than to a site specifically about them. Nonetheless, what they are doing seems to be working.

Truly the best hardcore band I have heard so far.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Band Review: Marina City

Marina City describes themselves as an aggressive pop rock band from Chicago.

The guitars do drive somewhat aggressively, but the word that comes to mind more is earnest. This comes from the way singer Ryan Argast uses his voice, sending it soaring and turning.

The band is currently playing many dates, including stops with Warped Tour and Riot Fest.

While the music videos they have tend to be lackluster, they also have videos on the road, inviting fans to get to know more about them and tour life.

I feel like there is room for more depth, but continuing to play and product gives them opportunities for that.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wants list

Still keeping it short, but here is something from my spreadsheet.

In this case, the "Wants" list does not refer to the category of the same name on this project, but was something that came up later.

Many of the specific goals involved meeting needs of mine and solving issues, all of which required believing that I was worth the attention. Not taking care of myself was deeply ingrained, so telling myself mentally to think differently was not an easy switch to make. I needed some sort of reinforcement and bolstering.

It's not often that people ask me what I want or need, but even when they do, knowing and coming up with it was really hard. It wasn't something I thought about. Noticing that was where the idea developed.

Now when I realize that I am out of something, or something is worn out, or that an item will help me with my next set of goals, I write it down. Then if someone asks me, I know what to say. If I have a little extra, I know what to get. Sometimes I just make it a priority without any specific opportunities making it more economical or convenient, because I need it.

Asking for the massage was one thing that happened from the list. Something yesterday happened from it. Once a want is down in writing, that gives a weight to it. It has been reinforced in the memory, and you find opportunities for it, or make them.

I should have learned it from the mattress, really, but there are things that come slowly to me. I am still learning, but there is progress.

Perhaps the most important lesson is that while study and reflection are very valuable, it has to be put into practice to be complete. We are not just minds, but also bodies, so we relate to the tangible.

I give myself lots of homework.

Maybe I will have clearer thoughts next week.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Garden fail

I'm running late and don't have it in me to do anything really deep tonight, so I am just going to give a garden update.

Last year I had my little patch of pumpkins and tomatoes, and if the tomatoes didn't do anything that impressive, I was at least really thrilled with my four pumpkins. I would have liked more, but I had only planted one plant. I learned a lot from them, and while I never tried it, I did learn enough about hand pollination that I wouldn't rule it out.

The vines and blossoms were very productive in terms of growth alone. I had to cut some runners off, because I wanted the pumpkins confined to the bed, and it looked like they were ready to take over the whole yard, which I did not want at that time.

This year, I did want them to take over the yard. Our grass is horrible, but I want to move away from a lawn anyway; they are not environmentally sound. I am still figuring out what I want to do instead, but I liked the idea of having a pumpkin patch just for one year. The vines could work through the soil, it would be interesting, and then next spring I should have a better idea on what to plant.

This time I got five plants, placing them strategically along the yard and also planting some sunflower seeds to give kind of a border. I used the same combination of soil, plant food, and egg shells that I used last year. Initially everything took root and I saw blossoms on each plant - no females, but it was early enough that I wasn't worried. The vines never started spreading and then they started wilting.

There was also a wildly different range of growth for the sunflowers. Around the perimeter I planted, one side had tall growth, one had smaller but still fairly healthy looking plants, and one row had only a third of the seeds sprout, and really runty at that.

I have no idea what made the difference with the sunflowers, but I had a hunch that with the pumpkins it might be a nitrogen deficiency. It's a common issue, and nitrogen helps with the new growth, which is what was lacking. It hadn't been an issue at all last year, but maybe last year's plants depleted the soil.

Nitrogen fixing works better with companion plants than additives, but I didn't feel like I had the time to make that happen. I bought some blood meal and spread it with lots of water.

It seemed to help. Three of the plants looked like they were perking up. I was cautiously optimistic.

When buying the blood meal, we also bought my mother some petunias. She has always loved planting them each year. The past few years she doesn't really plant them right and she can't remember to water them so they die really quickly, but she had expressed an interest and I thought we'd try it. I didn't monitor her.

Mom weeded out most of the sunflowers and one of the likelier pumpkins. It's not her fault. She didn't even believe she had done it, and it doesn't help to argue with her, but it was a blow. It didn't feel like a few plants was too much to ask.

One healthy sunflower is left, and two pumpkin plants that are not in great shape. I had this image for how it could look, and that is not going to happen. Next year I should probably move on to something more permanent anyway. I mean, do we leave the horrible lawn all the way through until next June, do the patch, and then not get toward something lasting until June of 2018? That doesn't sound very practical.

It just kind of sucks.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Wednesday I asked people for things.

It was only two people, and both of them had previously demonstrated a willingness in that area. That should have made it relatively low-stress, but my primary sensation was nausea. I don't know that I could truthfully say that it was hard, because I decided that I needed to do it and did it really quickly, but yeah, then I felt gross and wanted to throw up.

I'm writing about it today because it relates to the knowing my own worth part of the Wants list.

When I wrote out those lists, I was still employed. Money was tight, but at least it was coming in regularly. I remember the last time I was unemployed, and it had never been harder to feel like I was worth anything.

That makes trying to figure all of that out at this particular time seem insurmountable, but it also becomes more necessary, and I am more stripped down to the basics. What do I have other than myself?

One thing that has been stressed for much of the job hunting is the importance of networking. You need to reach out to people and be in contact with them, and you are asking things of them but they are also asking things of you. That has been hard. I am not sure what I have to offer.

One of the Wednesday contacts was building on an attempt to network. I have had a few people in mind that could possibly be helpful. An actual request to network with one person fizzled, with another it seemed better to ask if they could read one of my screenplays and give feedback.

With the third, I was looking for an agency referral and that wasn't working out, so I added a screenplay reading request. He said yes immediately. It may not result in anything, but at least getting the "yes" felt good, like I am not a terrible imposition.

The other request was harder. I did some extensive editing on a friend's novel. She had offered to pay me, but I pushed that to the back of my mind, because it's a favor for a friend, right? I wasn't doing it as a professional. It was also a significant time investment and I need money.

I asked about that, and I believe I will get some money for it. That won't solve everything, but it certainly won't hurt.

Beyond that, historically I have been someone who gives a lot. Some of it is helpfulness and generosity, which are good traits. Some of it is also a pathological need to earn a place for myself and compensate for being the wreck that I am.

Here's the thing: if my doing actual work is something that can be compensated as work, then the mere existence of me as a friend is enough, without any extras. That's not a smooth way of saying that. It's okay for me to just be me.

That seems to be correct.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Band Review: Arcade Messiah

Arcade Messiah is the work of John Bassett.

While he lists various influences like progressive metal and post metal, I was amazed that there is no mention of sludge. With heavy instrumental pieces that reference the universe and flirt with ambient, there is still a thickness to the tracks that makes me think Arcade Messiah and Torche could really enjoy each other.

"You Best Line of Defence Is Obscurity" may be the best overall example of the music, but I like the tandem of "Moon Signal" and "Red Widow" best. They are the first two tracks on 2015's II, and they work together to bring you in to the album.

Many of the songs are longer, but there are much shorter ones as well. At 1:19, with its simple ascending and descending "Via Occulta" could just be an exercise, and yet there is a mood that goes with it.

At this time the emphasis seems to be on recording rather than performing.

There is a weight to the music - both intellectual and instrumental - that will mean it's not everyone's cup of tea, but if you like your music with some density or viscosity (or maybe some sludge), you should definitely check Arcade Messiah out.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Band Review: RIB

RIB is a band from Leeds.

Like many bands with jazz and indie influences, they can remain low-key to the point of being easily overlooked, but there is a funk that comes through.

"Conveyor Belt" is the best example, starting with a crisp drumbeat and a stringed groove. "Broken Toy" also stands out for its different textures on a unified theme.

The band is still fairly new, with not many tracks available. Listening via Youtube gets you an extra track. In addition to the ATA Studios recordings available via Souncloud, Youtube includes "Did I Say Too Much", a recording from Ont' Sofa Live at Northern Guitars.

They are worth checking out more to see how things develop.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Out in the world

The last two posts seem to go toward addressing my concern about being able to give.

That was on the Wants list, and it was under "Be financially secure", so even back then I did understand that the two were not inextricably linked. There are many times when I would like to provide material support and can't, but the intangibles still have value and I have gotten some reminders of that.

There was something else that happened a while back that can tie in to all of it: the emotional giving we do, the fact that it may not result in a lifelong bond, and also to street harassment.

I was at Beaverton Transit Center, having just gotten off the train. I was waiting for a ride, but there were many people waiting to get on the next train. Among them I noticed a Black woman.

Actually, I noticed her hair, which was really cute. I do not believe in my ability to accurately describe a hairstyle, but I will try. It as all in short (maybe 3-inch) corkscrew girls. There may have been some layering. Her hair flared out a little around the ears, then came back in, which I want to call a "wedge", but I don't think that's right. There was some gray showing, and it just looked really good on her. It suited her well.

I felt like I needed to tell her. That required moving closer and getting her attention, and so seemed fairly awkward, but the feeling was strong. I got closer, made eye contact, and told her that I loved her hair.

She was surprised, and thanked me and told me it was the most natural thing she had ever done, then her train came and my ride came and it was a very brief encounter.

It stayed with me past that because of her response. I think "natural" meant two things. One is the whole thing about good hair and natural hair, and I don't know what she has put herself through before, but I know that Black people, especially women, can face a lot of criticism and abuse for that. I think the other part was letting the gray show, which is an admission of age.

There are many racist and chauvinist things that could be unpacked there, and I'm not the best person for doing it. What I took away from it is that it had taken some courage on her part to choose this style.

I am still working on my feelings that it should not require courage to look like yourself. There are a lot of things I hate about that. Where the incident fits in this week is that just by being open to people, seeing their good qualities and humanity, we can back each other up. But I had also written about street harassment, which is sometimes excused as just trying to pay a compliment.

Again, I am not the best source on this. I don't get out much and I break some of the attractiveness rules for women, so it doesn't come up a lot. However, every now and then I have been complimented by a man I don't know, and every time it has been followed by him asking me out.

This is not harassment; they were all respectful and did not turn threatening when I turned them down. However, those compliments do seem to lack selflessness. So, if you are only paying compliments hoping for something in return, this may not be the love that the world needs now.

I only mention this because some people really resent when their attentions are not welcome. When I am saying that we can help each other out, this does not include any pressure or intimidation, or recrimination for a lack of proper gratitude.

You would think that would go without saying.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

You OK, Sis?

There is a hash tag, #YouOKSis, and I am going to link to a story about that here for background:

I have only asked anyone once, and in that case it was fine. They were arguing, but they knew each other and no one was in any danger. It was better to ask than take the chance.

This post is not directly about that, but it all connects.

It's no secret that this period of unemployment has me feeling down, but it may not be clear how down - how worried, scared, and powerless I feel. This is pretty bad on its own, but there are times it can be worse, including when there are things I want to help and where I don't feel I can.

This happened with the Orlando shooting. There was the initial sorrow and heaviness that comes with something like that - something so hateful and wrong that causes so much suffering. First it was for the dead and their families, and then there was this feeling for how vulnerable it must feel to be part of a group targeted for death. There was no way of righting that wrong.

Around the same time a friend of the family died - a really good man who left behind a lot of people who loved him - and I misunderstood the date for the funeral and missed it. That was something with a completely different scope, but they worked together to create this picture of everything wrong in the world and I am not helping at all.

The hash tag kept coming back to me. It reminded me that sometimes it can be enough just to ask. I reached out to some of my queer friends and asked how they were doing. I sent a card to the widow.

None of it changes the world. I suppose if changing the world were that easy, someone would have done it. It did give me a chance to touch base with a couple of friends. I got to see the card they passed out at the funeral. People were reminded that they are loved and cared about. It doesn't solve problems, but there is value in the reminder that you are not alone. Someone cares about your pain.

Sometimes it doesn't take very much.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Losing Sylvia

I finished The Bell Jar in 2013, after which I wanted to read everything else by Sylvia Plath, ever.

I read The Colossus and Other Poems a few months later, and that wasn't enough. I'm sure that was at least partially because it contained neither "The Moon and the Yew Tree" nor "Daddy", both of which I feel are significant for understanding her parental relationships. Nevertheless, I knew there were more poems and I knew there were letters published between her and her mother.

I know I was hoping to somehow make sense of her death, and see how much her life corresponded to the book. I'm not sure any additional reading would have changed much, but I didn't get there anyway. I was in the middle of the Long Reading List, and I always have a lot of things to do. I may get to the rest later, or I may not.

I am thinking about that now because I have finally started something else I had been putting off. If you have been reading for a while, you know there are people I look out for on Twitter. A lot of them are young girls going through rough emotional times that may involve some kind of self-harm.

While I will frequently just happen to notice something and engage, I always worry about what I don't see. I know other people are there too, but I worry.

As I go through the list, many names are familiar. They are still posting and we still communicate with each other. There are also many that haven't been active for while.

This often means deleting the account completely. Often the names are cruelly self-deprecating, and it may be best to let that identity go. Deleting can also be symbolic, because this was associated with the bad times that they are leaving behind. It can be a sign of their commitment to not falling back.

Some leave the account there but stop posting. I get reports of the inactive accounts I follow weekly, and I'll stay. If they do come back, I will still be around.

Sometimes you can find out in other ways. One had used her real name. That is very rare, because most of these accounts are secret, but she did and I found her through Facebook, and she's fine. She had attempted multiple times, enough that I had been pretty sure that one of them would succeed. I still tried to talk her out of it, but I didn't think there was much hope. There was enough. She's alive and pursuing her interests.

I found out that another one was doing well via e-mail. She has asked for feedback on some writing previously, and I had her address because of that. That was great. Sometimes taking on the world means less internet time. Go for it!

Mostly I find unanswered questions, or that things are still bad. Originally the plan was to go through and see if there were places where extra attention could be helpful. Usually that happens more spontaneously. For example, one time a girl tweeted that she was going to have a rough month and I had the idea to send her something funny or cute every day for the next month, which did help.

That was something I saw without trying; all I did was be open. Trying to go beyond that, and find the things that I might normally miss, could be a good way to become overwhelmed and give up. I'm pacing myself, but I'm not sure that much new good will come from it.

Still, some inactive accounts have left tweets explaining that they are doing better. Twitter doesn't fill the spot that it did anymore, so they are getting off, or they are going to stick with their real account but they don't need the secret account anymore. Any time I find that, that's a plus. I won't unfollow the account just in case, but I will stop worrying, and be happy for them.

There's one I found yesterday that really touched me. She had several tweets explaining how her father got her into therapy, and she discovered some new talents, and he was supporting her in that. It sounded like her life was becoming full, and she left with an expression of happiness and hope, but in the tweet before that she thanked me for saving her life.

That was two years ago. I saw it then, but it had blurred into all of the others. When I did help her, it was what I saw and followed up on without trying, but it mattered to her.

I like it when we have friends forever that we will always care about and stay in touch with, and I like it when I know how things turn out, but that's not the only option. Sometimes a few minutes at the right time can be enough.

No matter how many times you feel inadequate or overwhelmed and utterly lacking in power, kindness still matters. Sometimes you even get to know that it mattered.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Band Review: WhiteMoor

WhiteMoor is a UK Indie band. That is about all that they say about themselves, other than references to their album and single releases.

I see the value in letting the work speak for itself, but I would have liked some other clues to their identities because the music often feels impenetrable.

I don't think this is so much a musical flaw as an editing one. Listening to the albums feels like it takes a long time. It's not unpleasant, but it drags and tunes blend into each other. I suspect that a little editing and tightening up could give each album more coherence and spark.

There are songs that stand out. This is especially true for "Remember, Remember", "High Lights", and "A Cage for the Animals". For the last two, a more upbeat tempo helps, but in the case of "Remember, Remember" it feels much more emotionally true. I didn't relate to the lyrics, but the delivery still made it resonant.

The band plays well and none of the songs are bad, but the hours spent listening should have left a stronger impression.