Friday, September 30, 2016

Band Review: Yellow Shoots

Yellow Shoots is Greg Matthews of Philadelphia, a singer and producer, transplanted to Brooklyn and becoming a solo artist.

While many producers/remixers have more of a base in dance or hip hop, Yellow Shoots has more of an emphasis on R&B. Often fairly smooth, that increases the jarring effect the music has at times when it goes crude. I found this to be especially true on "More Alive", when the lyrics and the sounds felt at odds with each other.

There were some mixes I liked on the Soundcloud link while I was listening, but they then faded from memory. The music seems to lack hooks, which could be a byproduct of song selection.

As it was, the song that was most memorable for me was the one that felt wrong.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Band Review: Heroes Like Villains

Heroes Like Villains is a pop punk band from Columbus, Ohio.

Their name seems to be inspiring me to use grander language. I'm not sure that their percussion really is majestic. It is effective though, working with the guitars to infuse the music with energy and life. Perhaps they are playing heroically, or perhaps it is more villainously, but I enjoyed the ride.

Currently they appear to only have six songs available, which can be heard via Youtube or Spotify. It does not require a lot of time to check them out, and is worth doing so.

Heroes Like Villains' Facebook page shows a short tour for the first part of October. Here's wishing them well.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ableist language

I'm guessing some readers may not be familiar with the term. It's relatively new to me as well. That's okay, we have a definition from

"Ableist language is any word or phrase that devalues people who have physical or mental disabilities. Its appearance often stems not from any intentional desire to offend, but from our innate sense of what it means to be normal."

To give it a real application, using "lame" and "crazy" as insults is problematic, because there are people to whom those words have been applied in earnest, and it is dehumanizing to those people. Some readers may be frustrated with political correctness run amok. Let me tell you about my own process.

It started through Twitter, of course. As I would find new thinkers who were smart and knew about things that I didn't, I would follow them, and then see people that they were tweeting and quoting. Over the four years I have been on, as the people I follow have increased, they have opened the world up to me in new ways.

Because there are things that can be very new, it doesn't always register right away. I tend not to be overly reactionary now (in my early 20s was a different story), so when I saw the first reference to ableist language, I didn't have a negative reaction, but I remember it catching me off guard. I'd had no idea there was such a thing.

I did have some resistance. "Crazy" is used so flippantly and easily. Even if we only look at songs that I like that use the word, there's a lot. Did it really matter that much? I started to feel that it did.

One thing I thought about was how often some celebrity gets in trouble for getting angry and using "gay" or "fag" as an insult. It matters. It might not if we were at a point where people were fully accepted and safe regardless of sexuality, but we're not there.

We are certainly not at complete acceptance of disabilities. There is still mockery, aggression, dehumanization, and there is a very literal danger. Up to half of the people killed by US police are disabled. This can come from not recognizing deafness, or common spectrum behaviors, or a seizure, or simply not having a tolerance for someone who doesn't conform.

I also thought about talk of gun restrictions for the mentally ill. There are many different types of mental illness, so what does that even mean? (And I'm not getting into guns right now, but that will happen.)

There is not enough understanding of disabilities, but one in five Americans has a disability. That's a wide range. That includes people you know. Shouldn't we care about it?

I found myself reluctant to use the words. If something was a stupid idea, or illogical, or poorly-planned, any of those adjectives could be better than crazy. (I never used "lame" much.)

I hope I am more sensitive now, but another result is better communication. I am saying what I actually mean, instead of taking the common shortcuts. We feel like we understand each other with the shortcuts, and we do, but part of that understanding comes from ignoring a huge part of the human experience. That matters.

I have talked with people before about how so-called "political correctness" is really just not being a jerk, but there is another level to it too. Compassion and empathy are important, but beyond that, choosing how to speak is a decision to be informed. It is a decision to be smarter and to understand more.

We could use some of that.

Related links:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Thinking about mental illness

My friends who take depression so seriously also take mental illness very seriously.

When you are young it is easy to be more passionate about things. That's not just that you discover more shades of gray the longer you live, but you are also aging and getting less energentic. Maybe it's related.

I understand their anger when people lightly tweet that their OCD is acting up that day, or call themselves depressed when they are merely sad. There are people for whom this is a debilitating condition. They have a hard enough time being taken seriously already, without making their condition a joke. It is hurtful and harmful. I also kind of understand the temptation to draw the equivalency.

It all started with an episode of "Head of the Class", a television series that ran from 1986 to 1991, focusing on a class of gifted students and their unconventional teacher. (Teachers, actually. It changed from Howard Hesseman to Billy Connolly toward the end.)

Anyway, in one episode a psychologist evaluated all of the students, I believe as part of a larger study. They were not patients, or technically invested in the results of the study. That meant they were not going to get the results, but their curiosity was unbearable and they were gifted. They hacked in and were devastated by their findings, as the notes made them all seem deeply disturbed.

After the usual sitcom-plications, the tester came back and explained to them that the terms they used were descriptive of tendencies, but none of the notes were diagnoses. They were fine.

It made a deep impression on me then that things that you might see a counselor for could still be present, even if not at the level where you would see a counselor.

This kind of came up in the story of my one friend. I said he had a tendency toward depression. Usually he is not depressed, so you would not say he had depression. It is easier to get him there than it would be for most people who are not depressed.

A lot of common OCD behaviors are issues related to risk and safety. I'll go back to popular entertainment with As Good As It Gets, but it is easy to see how hand washing and door locking can start as a form of protection, even if it takes on a life of its own. It seems reasonable that a person who is more anxious - even if they are not yet at the point where anti-anxiety medication would be recommended - might find that their anxiety focuses around things they hope to prevent.

What I am trying to say - and do not feel like I am saying elegantly - is that perhaps we have more similarities than we realize. Perhaps we have a lot that we can learn from each other.

Tomorrow I want to focus a bit more on how we get there.

Monday, September 26, 2016

It's not binary

Where I first started thinking about the word "binary", was related to its use in issues of gender and sexuality, where non-binary is used to express not fitting within the standard easy definitions. In its more mathematical use, binary is 1 or 0. Yes or No. The switch is on or off.

Some people get very uncomfortable with anything beyond that, wishing everything fit neatly into simple boxes, but life has a way of being more complex, with multiple interactions and variations, and nuances. Truthfully the difficulty is often more with the reaction than with the complexity itself. Is it really so terrible that there can be more than two answers?

Keeping that in mind, and returning to depression, I have dealt with people who will tell you that depression is strictly chemical, and medication is the only answer. These have primarily been young girls dealing with depression, and they have their reasons for seeing it this way.

However, I also know someone who said pretty firmly that the only real cure for depression is therapy, and medication is just something that can help you as you reach healing through therapeutic means.

So, as long as we are being anecdotal, let me throw out a few more. I have one friend who has a tendency toward depression, especially in winter as it is combined with Seasonal Affective Disorder. He still was able to manage it without medication until a really difficult divorce. It took him about three years to get back to where he didn't need the medication anymore.

During that time, there were people who told him he should be able to manage without the medication - that he should be using faith and prayer to overcome his difficulties. I still get mad thinking about the ignorance involved, and the casual cruelty that kind of ignorance makes possible.

I have another friend who was dealing with depression as a result of childhood sexual abuse. Medication did not help her; it only made her feel numb. This was a while back, and that was a common complaint for a lot of patients back then. I think medication has improved, but what she took away from that was that the problem was not her brain chemistry. She would have to heal from her experience and manage the after-effects in non-chemical ways.

When the young girls cling tightly to the chemistry-only definition, I know why they are doing it. They know that there is something chemically wrong that needs help, and yet they are constantly being told to get over it or suck it up or to be stronger. Their understanding of depression becomes part of their defense of their selves, and their right to have their problems recognized and treated.

What I also know is that they often have high Adverse Childhood Experience scores. When they were supposed to be developing their strength and resilience they were having supports kicked away and wounds inflicted that not only make emotional resilience harder but pose threats to their long-term physical health. So yes, there could be some emotional factors there, where counseling might be helpful, or workshops or lots of other things, but that is in no way any justification for putting them further down and calling them weak.

I do not doubt that the one counterexample needs talking therapy, based on his childhood experiences and his ways of dealing with things now; that doesn't mean it's the only way.

Another friend who was sexually abused had a specific issue with normal arousal causing feelings of disgust with herself, because of the associations with abuse. Yoga was helpful to her for that, giving her a different way of approaching her mind-body connection. I am glad that helped her. That does not mean that you can tell any abuse victim to just do yoga.

I am thinking of one more friend who was abused as a child. She went through therapy then, and was doing well, and then in her early twenties, in a different location and life situation, some reminders came up, and triggered her, putting her mentally in a bad place.

She needed to go back to therapy. It wasn't even for that long, but she needed to check back in, and have someone help her take another look.

There are a lot of different ways that mental health can work or not work. It is foolish of us to try and oversimplify it, or to think that we know better than someone else what will help them heal or cope. It is horrible that so often we respond with arrogance instead of compassion. That helps no one.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Band Review: Western Education

Western Education has been a breath of fresh air.

The indie rock band from Lowell, Massachusetts is achingly earnest. This is helped by the pleading inflections that seem to come naturally to singer Greg Alexandropoulos's voice, but that is not the only factor. The instruments do unusual things. Sometimes it reminds me of jangle, sometimes slack-key guitar, but it can give a magical tone to the songs. This can be heard especially well on "Loyal Satellite".

"Peace" is a truly beautiful song, with lyrics that make you think. "Geneva" is a departure from most of their songs in tone, and yet it still seems to fit."Young Love" is their most triumphant.

Overall, this was just really good listening. I'm glad they put themselves on my radar.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Band Review: Pink Panda

I had some difficulty when I started listening to Pink Panda, not in terms of finding music, but figuring out what was them. There were remixes of other artists' songs and guests, and a whole section that really only seemed to be Kim Porter. Even the main picture worried me. It was of three people wearing panda masks who seem to be male, but the earliest songs I was listening too were female singers. I wasn't sure I was actually reviewing the intended band. Even if I was, I didn't feel like I was getting a handle on the band.

Once I started watching their music videos, things started to make sense. The lack of humanization that I saw in the first picture was magnified. It wasn't necessarily bad; I thought the video for "Argon" was pretty cool.

It makes more sense when looking at their profile. They list themselves as Producers/Remixers & DJs. They aren't really a band in the traditional sense. However, if you look at dance music, and house and club mixes, there is some tradition. Possibly the natural audience for Pink Panda would be fans of Gorillaz and Teddybears.

There is nothing wrong with any of the music. It could fit into clubbing or driving or just working
with music in the background. My favorite track was probably "Make a Move" which is distinctly different from "Make Your Move". However, I don't emotionally connect to it.

That is an important factor for me, but I am also not really into club music and there are people who are. They are probably getting different things from it.

It's always good to remember there are lots of different ways to make music.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tarnished silver linings

This phase of my life has me on edge a lot. I am worse at my compulsive behaviors, like computer games and picking at things. I might lose my temper in a semi-calculated way, like the incident Saturday night. I am trying to focus on things and behaviors that distance me from the edge, but there is one thing that I imagine could make me go off on a person. It's a silly, minor thing, but it will help me get into the next blogging phase, where I will be looking at social and political issues again (did you know there's an election coming?), so we're going to discuss it.

I have in my mind this idea of someone tentatively asking me "Do you think you might be depressed?", and me responding loudly "Of course I'm depressed! What kind of a stupid question is that? How would I not be?"

The weird thing is I state the obvious all the time, at least for humorous effect, but I feel like it would bug me.

The thing is, there doesn't seem to be a point in identifying it. My brain chemistry is functioning normally. I haven't finished the hormone book yet, but they seem pretty normal too. I just have some long-term stressful situations in my life that are bringing me down. I have to manage it on that level.

The post Monday will focus more on defining depression, because there are people who would not consider this to be depression in the absence of a brain chemistry issue, but we'll get there. For now I just want to go over two things that don't help.

I did have a silver lining. A few months ago, Mom started really enjoying her food more. This was gratifying in multiple ways. She was complimenting my cooking a lot, even though I wasn't really doing anything different. Even a decision to have raw baby carrots with the meal - which is not cooking, per se - was greatly appreciated. She thought they were better than candy. I had read that often with the elderly they start having poor appetites and being picky, where you may not be able to get them to eat a balanced diet, so it was a pleasant surprise.

That has ended. It's not just that there are no more exclamations, but there is a resistance to drinking enough and to eating fruits and vegetables. I believe it is because she worries about having to go to the bathroom too much, because she doesn't feel at home. However, shortly after that shift she also started complaining about her stomach gurgling and her not feeling well, and I think it's connected. I have tried talking with her about it, but turning down the fruit or beverage in that moment doesn't feel like a new habit, it feels like that one time. I know that she hasn't eaten her daily apple for several days now, but she doesn't believe it. (She does still eat her daily oatmeal, for which I am grateful.)

I am working on ways of getting around that, but that was a disappointment. It was something that made things harder, and reminded me that there will be more changes, probably not for the better.

The other thing that gets pointed out as fortunate is my unemployment, because I can be here with her. Yes, but it is also a depressing element. I am barely squeaking by on unemployment, and it will not last forever. I feel guilty spending money on anything fun, and those are on pretty minor things. There's not a lot to look forward to.

In addition, to keep the employment going, you have to keep applying for jobs. That also makes sense, because of the whole having money thing, but job searching is demoralizing enough on its own. I keep getting rejection messages, where they went with someone who was better qualified or a better fit, but I would have been a great fit for a lot of them. And if there is some element of relief because I can still be here, there are still feelings of insecurity and worthlessness and fear.

I have been in worse mental states than this, but based on energy, motivation, and ideation, I feel comfortable saying I am depressed. I am also comfortable in feeling that time management, self-care, and stress relief practices are necessary in my case, and that SSRIs and therapy aren't (without ruling out the possibility of them being helpful).

It is possible that I resent my life being in its current state, or just that there is enough other energy being expended that I have a shorter fuse, but I do not think that I would respond to the general question well. And maybe that would be someone pussyfooting around when I only have time to get straight to the point, or maybe it would be if someone thought they were being profound with the really obvious.

It just feels like a sensitive issue.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Setting expectations

I sent a firm e-mail to all three of my sisters today.

They have a habit of calling during the day, and asking me how Mom is. There is no good answer for these calls.

Often I could say about normal, which currently means that she doesn't know that she lives here, and at some point she may ask to go home and get mad at me. If you call before that happens it seems good, or after that happens it seems bad, but really it is all kind of the same. Her moods can change suddenly.

One thing that can wreck a mood is feeling disrespected or infantilized. Oddly, being talked about can put her there. Sure, she doesn't hear what they're asking, and I try and give non-specific answers, but that just leads to them asking more questions, and she knows. She has some tendency toward paranoia now anyway, and she knows. So at the end of the phone call she may ask me about it and be mad, or she may not ask me about it but still be mad. No thank you.

I had already said that this was not good, and they should stop doing that, but it didn't really sink in. I started the message this way:

"This is to let everyone know that whenever you ask me how Mom is doing on a phone call, I am going to say 'Bye now' and hang up."

I haven't gotten any pushback from the message yet, but I didn't send it that long ago. (Long day today.) I suspect the real irritation will happen after the first time someone calls and learns I was not kidding.

Part of this journey has been remembering - and often learning the hard way - that I need to take care of myself. which means paying attention to my needs. Part of that is also communicating my needs. My family has their moments when they are better and worse at supporting me, but they have never shown any psychic abilities whatsoever.

Also, sometimes they don't listen the first time. Delivering the message via a different method, and having an enforcement plan, may be necessary.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Therapeutic anger

My mother had a hard recovery from her first knee surgery. It was a really bad knee, so the surgery took a long time, leaving her under the anesthesia for a long time. She didn't just bounce back from that. Then it was winter, and she was always cold, and the second knee hadn't been done yet, so there was still a lot of pain there.

All of that was harder on her. The primary impact on me, besides general worry, was that she was not motivated to do her exercises. They were important for her recovery, but she did not sufficiently care.

I knew this was bad for her, and I tried lots of positive reinforcement, but eventually what worked was belittling and shaming her.

I let myself lose my temper at her and tell her that she was being - I don't remember my exact words, but stubborn and stupid probably came up. I didn't go so far as yelling, but I raised my voice at her and stormed off, and she immediately started doing her exercises. She was going to show me.

I felt like that would happen, which is why I let myself lose my temper with her. It was genuinely strategic, but the frustration was genuine too. I was glad it worked, but I wasn't exactly proud of myself either. I was mean to my mother. It accomplished the intended goal, but that the feelings were real was not something I could like.

I am entering that territory again.

This is not turning into a dementia blog, but it is coming up a lot lately, because I am feeling the impact more lately. That's probably not going away. I am currently the primary caregiver, so I deal with everything, and honestly, Mom is worse with me. I suspect this is because regardless of what she remembers or doesn't remember, she still has a greater trust for me, making it safer to act out. That has been hard, and last night I yelled at her.

It was like the other time in that it felt necessary, and because the feelings were real. It was different in that I wasn't sure what I was trying to achieve. When I wanted her to do her exercises, success was pretty obvious. For this, I didn't know.

I mean, I know that the problem was that she was mad that we weren't letting her go home, and we were killing her and driving her crazy and being dishonest with her, and I didn't want that. After yelling, what I got was hedging at first, then she went for a ride with one of my sisters for a while, and then she got really confused and devastated and cried and apologized to me.

I know at one point there was a moment of clarity where she saw that she had been wrong: this was home and we were not lying to her and her mind was confusing her. I also know that these moments of clarity devastate her, and they don't last. Maybe it's good that they don't last because they are so devastating, but if the clarity would last, it wouldn't have to be.

The harsh words last night don't seem to have harmed her, maybe they even helped in the moment. I still don't feel good about it. I guess I was pretty devastated too; I cried a lot while she was out for the ride. Also, I know that the rest of the family is going to take cues from me, and I don't trust some of them to use getting mad as a strategy.

I don't really have a strategy. I have thoughts sometimes about things to try and do, but the ground keeps shifting beneath us. A lot of things that seem like they could help don't, once tried. And sometimes, maybe the thing that seems like a horrible idea if you can even call it an idea, because there wasn't a lot of thought that went into it, maybe that can be okay.

I am adjusting.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Band Review: Chin up, Kid

Chin Up Kid is a pop punk band from Indianapolis.

They list themselves as "Good ole' Indiana easycore". While it's certainly true that they are not hardcore, the guitars and percussion do drive and there is a good strength to the music. It does come off as more plaintive than aggro (this is most true on "Letters"), but it works on that level.

They reminded me most of Atlantic Aftermath, which is probably not a useful reference point. I think fans of Direct Hit! could enjoy them.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Band Review: Nathan Fox

Nathan Fox is a musician from La Jolla, California.

On iTunes he is classified as pop, which doesn't feel quite right. There are hints of soul and funk, with a definite old-timey feel. Generally this ends up being fun to listen to, upbeat with accessible lyrics. That mood is maintained even when the lyrics take a darker turn, as in "Devil & the Hourglass".

In one of the songs, "Dr. Marten", the lyrics seemed a little too simplistic, but this song was written when Fox was 16. You can hear how he was already gravitating toward his current style even from that early age.

Fox plays live shows frequently and is starting to have his music featured more in entertainment, providing another way in which he is accessible.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Back at a Comic Con

I haven't been to a comic convention since the last Stumptown, back in 2013. I had planned on going to Rose City too, and volunteering, but I backed out, not happy with their system.

I still have no desire to volunteer at Rose City, but a lot of my concerns about things being too big or too Hollywood were completely unnecessary. Yes, there are many people for whom $40 will get you an autograph or a picture, but the other things are there. When you are in a panel, it may not even be obvious how big the convention is, depending on the panel. The exhibitors are still there, and maybe they are doing better than they would at a smaller show.

I had not pre-purchased a ticket, so had to get one there. That line directs you into the celebrity area, but then you are in Artists Alley, where there were many familiar faces. I did not socialize much, not having a voice still, but it felt good seeing them. I also got Dark Horse swag and saw some amazing Lego creations, along with the costumes I mentioned yesterday. That's some good stuff.

I started with a comic book editing panel, and one of the things they advised was reading as many comic book scripts as you can. In the spotlight on Gail Simone panel, I won a Batgirl script! How perfect is that?

That was going to be a good panel anyway, but if you follow Gail Simone on Twitter (which I recommend) you are familiar with the saga of King Buttermilk. I was excited to see him there, and even more excited to get a picture with him after. 

Bob Schreck offered valuable insight on Getting Your Foot in the Comics Door. It was geared more toward artists, but that was interesting, and he was fun to listen to. I really like comics people for the most part, and just being around was great.

The importance of networking was hard to ignore, and perhaps my silence was a missed opportunity, but I just didn't have it in me that day. However, karaoke appears to be an important part of networking, and that fits into my wheelhouse. For now, continuing to submit to Amazon Studios makes a lot of sense for my strengths, so keep working on Powers and Requiem.

I attended one of the big panels, and that was Peter Mayhew's and Brian Herring's War Stories.

I do love Star Wars, but I think my decision to go had a lot to do with Kenny Baker's recent death. It reminded me that it's been almost 40 years since the first film came out, and the cast aren't getting any younger. I didn't want to miss a chance, and the assistance Mayhew needed getting on stage seemed to reinforce that. Beyond that, though, he was just such a lovely man.

He may not answer exactly the question you ask, or in the way you expect, but I felt he was inherently likable. I enjoyed him, and Brian Herring - one of the BB-8 puppeteers - was a delight. I felt a little bad for him because all of the questions were for Chewbacca, but the moderator did a great job of bringing him in. (Gail Simone's moderator was excellent as well.)

Also worth noting is that there were so many more panels I would have liked to attend but couldn't because of overlap. That is frustrating in one way, but on the other hand, how wonderful to have so many great choices.

I don't know if I will want to cosplay again, but I know I will want to attend again.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

My first cosplay

As part of my issue is needing to reconcile with being fat, when I was thinking of possible costumes I tried to think of fuller-figured characters. Two that came to mind were Ursula from The Little Mermaid (which is a possibility for Halloween) and Velma from Scooby-Doo.

Looking at the pictures, Velma isn't really fat. Compared to Daphne she seems stocky, but some of that is height and manner of dress. Still, pulling off the bookish, less attractive girl seemed like a possibility.

I don't know why, but I always thought that Rose City Comic Con happened later in September. That and being sick put me into scramble mode to make it happen. In that respect I am somewhat proud that I pulled it off. There were concerns about spending any money at all, of course, and needing expedited shipping didn't help, but I will wear the various articles from the costume again, though probably not together. Well, I don't know if the orange socks will get much wear.

Hair was the part that went worst. I had been thinking that I needed to put getting my hair done on the needs list for about two weeks, but I had put it off, and then I didn't have a voice to make the call.

I haven't been in since March. Hair care seems like a luxury during unemployment. I have touched up my roots a few times myself, but I am getting pretty shaggy and I can't even tell you what condition my layers are in. I have an appointment now, but for Comic Con I was going in with long, frizzy hair and roots showing.

I picked up a temporary kit for the roots problem. Since it was temporary, and I was thinking of Velma, I went a little more chestnut. This was a mistake. The color that went on top of brown is okay, but the color that went on top of gray is so blatantly, almost fluorescently red. Good to know. I had hoped I could blow dry my hair straight and then curl it under. I did blow it out some, but I still had a ponytail going, and way too red.

I will write more about other aspects of the con tomorrow. Having only a partial voice affected that and my confidence as a cosplayer. Still, some hopes were accomplished, and some weren't.

I was really hoping someone would tell me I was adorable. That never happened. On a more basic level I hoped the costume was recognizable. When the evil clown at the Fright Town booth smiled at me and said "Jinkies", I knew that part was working out.

There was also another Velma, sitting in the row behind me at one panel. Awkward! But not terrible. He had on an orange dress that was more similar to the movie version; I think I looked more accurate to the cartoon. Of course, his hair was better.

One thing about being at any convention is that there are so many amazing costumes, I was not likely to stand out. That was okay. I know realistically that my costume could not compare to some of the others, which are often breathtaking. At the same time, I enjoy the less amazing costumes too. There was a Deadpool with a boom box, and as he played music and danced around to it, a T-Rex accompanied him. Okay, it was not the best T-Rex costume I have ever seen, but I still loved it. If that doesn't make you smile, I don't know what will. 

So it could have gone better and could have gone worse, which sounds about right for a first attempt. I am not addicted, or planning next year, but I accomplished something I set out to do, and with harder circumstances than I'd been expecting when I first formed the plan. For now that's enough.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Dressing up

Dressing up was one of the items on my To Do list, but when I wrote it I was not sure what that would mean.

I had been thinking about it from when I realized that I hadn't had the heart to really get into Halloween costumes for a long time. I love the creativity of Halloween, and costumes can be a great part of that, but they hadn't been for me.

You may not know this, but I love a lot of people who get really into dressing up. Some of my favorite people from college are the children of Merry Pranksters. Sometimes you don't even realize that they are in a costume because they try so many looks. My Chemical Romance and James Dewees? Yeah, they dress up. I have a friend from school who runs races in costumes. I love them and the things they do, but they have also been inconceivable to me.

One thing I like about myself is that I enjoy other people's enjoyment. If there is a thing that you are passionate about and I have never and probably will never try it, I will still easily enjoy listening to you talk about it, because it's great that you love it. Still, the dressing up problem went beyond a lack of interest.

I am used to not looking good. It is a deep source of pain, but it has also been one that I have usually pushed to the side: no one is looking at me that way, so it doesn't matter how I look. That works when I am wearing my usual neutral clothing, but when I try to go beyond that, I do feel it. Costumes go beyond that. Trying to look nice goes beyond that. Trying things on looking for a nice outfit is agonizing, because everything just reminds me that I'm fat and hideous. I'm better off in my knits.

I wasn't sure how to go against that. Different thoughts included going bare-legged more so that the bad leg was out, cosplaying, dressing up for Halloween, or dressing up fancy for something like New Year's Eve. I decided on all of the above.

Frankly, our laundry issues have been really helpful in going bare-legged, as I am much more likely to run out of pants. That has also not been that big a deal. Okay, maybe some people notice, but maybe it's not quite that freakish - at least not more than simply having fat, not-that-shapely legs.

Cosplaying was going to take more effort, and it nearly caught me off guard, but Saturday was Rose City Comic Con and I did it.

More on that tomorrow.

For now, besides realizing how quickly Halloween will arrive, all I can really promise is that I will continue to face things head-on. It is not great for my self-esteem that I feel built like a freight train, but I can still take some inspiration from it.

Related posts:

Friday, September 09, 2016

Band Review: Firstborn

I usually don't connect my reviews in the same week, but there is a notable contrast between today's band and yesterday's that feels worth addressing.

Yesterday's band had videos for every song, yet despite cosmetic changes there was a recurring theme of frenetic narcissism, and disappointing lack of emotion.

Firstborn has one official video, for "Incomplete". It is pretty low-key, but it is beautifully shot and the images are in harmony with the song and its emotions. That alone is worth appreciating.

Firstborn delivers emotionally. They list one of their influences as Linkin Park. That makes sense given the combination of rock and pathos. Some songs are fairly dramatic, but generally the emotions come through more naturally.

Firstborn is an alternative rock band from BorĂ¥s, Sweden, but sings in English. If I may bring in one more band for comparison, I remember that when listening to A-ha lyrics (which I studied scrupulously), there was often a poetry that I felt came from the language barrier. Despite being very different lyrically, there is still some of that sense. They use different constructions that make you stop and think about what they are saying more deeply.

Long story short: this is a good band. Worth checking out.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Band Review: Samantha Scarlette

Samantha Scarlette is a rock singer and songwriter based in New York.

There is a strong Gothic element to her look, and those concepts are also frequently present in her lyrics, but with a surprising lack of feeling.

I have done my listening primarily through Scarlette's Youtube channel, so it is probably more glaring via videos than simply listening. Regardless, whether the song is about corruption, light breaking into eternal darkness, or the impossibility of winning over one's demons, the primary emotion always seems to be an enjoyment of having the camera on her and satisfaction in her cuteness. No matter what changes to hair color, costume, and setting occur, the emotion never does. Even in the spoken intro to "Page Six", with a monologue about choosing loneliness after deciding she is unlovable, the intonation is almost Valley Girl-like.

From some of her tweets, it is clear she has real pain in her life, at least partially due to a bad father - something I sympathize with - but it feels like the pain has never achieved any real depth, so it comes off as petulance. Narcissism may have provided some shielding.

Scarlette occasionally reminds me of Courtney Love, but Love's dysfunction is deeper and more interesting. It's disappointing. She has a pretty large following though, so it must work for some people.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Words without pictures

There is a short comic that I have been meaning to draw for a while. I have made some attempts, but I hate the way I draw. (That old problem.) Also, my comics tend to be pretty wordy too. Maybe it's just better to write it out, and let it be short because the pictures are missing.

Currently there are two main pressures in my life.

One is the job. I have no job. I am looking for a job. There are bills. There is a mortgage. There is a lot of "We went another direction." It scares me.

The other is my mother. Her dementia is growing worse. It sped up after holding steady for three years. It hurts, and it scares me.

Both are exhausting problems, where it is impossible to do enough. They are also opposite problems.

Unemployed I can be here and help her. Unemployed I may not be able to keep her in the house.

They pull in such different directions it seems inevitable that I will break. That has its allure.

If I could truly split, I could do so much more. I could finish the pilot while meditating with Mom. I could query local jobs and literary agents simultaneously. I could cook Mom a good brain-building meal while pruning the backyard.

Except it wouldn't go like that.

Even assuming a non-fatal split were possible, the end result would not be two fully-functioning mes, but two half-mes. Hopping around one-legged, trying to do things one-handed, without depth perception or both brain hemispheres, probably leaking drips of my inside over everything as I went.

Actually, that does sound about right.