Friday, April 28, 2017

Band Review: Mikey Reaves

Going back to early recommendations, Mikey Reaves was recommended by Parachute, one of the bands that played at the concert that inspired my first five music reviews.

Parachute knows Reaves because he has worked as a guitar tech and tour manager for them. Outside of that, Reaves works as a producer, songwriter, engineer, drummer, and mixer.

Because he does so much, it may not always be clear what his role was on a specific song. I will also guess that if you get a chance to see him live it will probably be as a drummer.

It may also mean that you get a wider range of musical styles. Much of it is country-tinged; not surprising as Reaves is based in Nashville.

I particularly enjoyed his work with Emily Hackett, whose songs like "Bad Weather" and "Worth the Weight" were beautiful and emotional. That being said, there were also several songs about beer. For added perspective, there is also a very short piece from a very young Reaves, "Jungle". Lots of musicians start young, but there isn't always evidence.

I enjoyed listening, and it was important to have a break in the gloom after yesterday's band.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Band Review: Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit was the very first band recommendation I wrote down, before I was even tracking bands in a spreadsheet. They were recommended by Daniel Pearson, whom I reviewed back in March 2013.

Obviously it's been a long time. One reason for the delay is that I saw they had a lot of material, and it was going to take a lot of time to listen to them all, even though the preliminary listening seemed promising. In scheduling reviews, I have not been great about remembering to include recommended bands along with the bands who follow me, but I would work in others and still not get to them.

I give this unnecessary prelude because while I believe Frightened Rabbit is a good band, I did not enjoy them. The extra hours spent listening made that worse. If I had only listened to two albums' worth I would feel better, but that probably shouldn't be held against them.

There were two factors that combined with the length. One is that it felt like a lot of unnecessary profanity. That doesn't bother everyone. It doesn't always bother me as much as it did this time. Actually, it felt appropriate for a Scottish band, except that I associate Scottish profanity with rowdy good times. Frightened Rabbit is so gloomy.

Again, that doesn't always bother me, but here it was hour after hour of gloom, sometimes livened up by unnecessary profanity.

It didn't have to be this way. Among their songs, "The Woodpile" especially shows their ability to build in emotion and drama. They can do that. They have a pub band sound - which can be used for good times - and they were doing it for years before Mumford and Sons.

Therefore, regardless of my frustration, it is completely reasonable to check out Frightened Rabbit. I do recommend doing it in short bursts, especially if you're experiencing down times in your own life.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Two books from the long reading list were very similar in theme:

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein

Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketer's Schemes by Sharon Lamb

Both were about the marketing that is done to young girls, preparing them to constantly be buying goods and services.

Packing was much longer, so had more information on types of merchandising. Even for relatively young girls there are lifestyle magazines and novels that are actually catalogs, and many toys have web components that provide the opportunity for more brand association and more shopping.

(I'm sure parents of young girls have a much better idea already.)

Packaging was also more scholarly, which has value, but Cinderella is a much shorter and more engaging read. Both pay attention to the psychological effects, though I think Orenstein has a better grasp. Neither was able to offer much in the way of solutions than awareness: know about this, discuss it sometimes, but they are still going to want these products.

Although we have not covered them yet, when we get to The Feminine Mystique and The Beauty Myth, those also have a lot to do with marketing, so there are ways in which they all go together. I am also more aware now of how consumerism is incompatible with environmentalism. It is hard changing things that systemic, so it's a concern.

But the point I will leave with today - I think it came from Orenstein - is a claim that the focus on dieting and weight loss started around the turn of the century. Previously preachers had tended to focus on greed, but as many people were doing really well financially, that became less safe to condemn. Gluttony was also a deadly sin, and about taking more than your share, so it made a good substitute.

That indicates that before, people thought of body size as more like height or hair color - maybe some variations were more popular, but there wasn't pressure to change it.

Now there are many products and services designed to help you change your body size, but it is still almost as difficult to change as your height. (At least changing hair color has gotten much easier.)

The almost guaranteed failure of the products combined with the likelihood of the consumer blaming herself makes it an almost perfect business. Yes, you have to make your offering more attractive than the many competing offerings, but there is still a strongly motivated market.

There are plenty of problems with that, but it's interesting to think that it could have all started as a dodge for ignoring the destructive behavior of capitalists right around that time that "robber barons" and "gilded age" were entering the lexicon.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


When my mother's dementia started, at first it was just that she wasn't taking in new information; she still knew all of her past.

More recently there has been a split, where she sometimes thinks there is another home and another set of twins. She misses her home and her youngest children and worries about them, even when she is in her home with them.

It doesn't help that we only have very old pictures available. The most recent family portrait is about twenty years old, but most are older than that. My mother looks at pictures of my sisters when they were ten and twelve and is not confident that these forty-year-old women are the same. My sisters weren't even blonde yet when they were twelve.

It's because we all hate having our pictures taken. We mainly wish we were thinner, though we might also wish for more hair or less hair or smoother skin. That last family portrait was taken after my father left, and it was a way of affirming that we were still a family. Maybe my sister-in-law pushed for it. I know she said we would take the next one when someone else got married - just one more reason to avoid marriage!

(This aversion to pictures among the family is also why pretty much every adult picture we have of my brother contains his now ex-wife.)

I knew it would be a hard sell, but I thought we needed to take some new pictures for Mom's sake. We were getting together on Easter; let's just take a few. No one fought me too much, because we love Mom. There was still some feet dragging when the time came, but everyone pretty much cooperated. I can see where a professional would do better.

My favorite picture was not posed. I was getting Mom and Maria into position. Honestly, I was snapping to create a feeling of there being no point in resisting, so just smile and pose. This is not a good picture, and it is blurred, but I feel it captures something.

I did get a regular picture with Maria, but then Julie got in, and the old pictures that confuse Mom are of the three of them. We decided on this group shot. I like it.

 Julie took my picture. I was a little horrified about the size of my arm - is it really that big? (Some of that's the angle, but it is big now, isn't it?) Still, we have to keep going. This is for Mom.

Then came my biggest challenge.

"Can you smile more?"
"That will take a lot of work."

I started trying to tell jokes, but I was taking too long to set them up. If I had been capable of suddenly expelling any gas loudly - regardless of which end it came from - that would have done the trick. Of course, when he does laugh, he moves.

I probably spent too much time on that one. The battery was starting to get low, and Mom was getting a little tired of smiling - the downside of being the only one in every picture. Still, I kind of feel like this captures something too.

So that's my family: flawed, frustrating, and funny.

I can't rule out that we should do an actual portrait again at some point. My brother does intend to get married again, probably. If we do, do I trust the professional to be able to get him to smile? Do I make everyone eat a lot of fiber before we go? That poor photographer!

We'll work something out.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Seeing the good in myself

Being able to see the good in myself was fairly high up on the Wants list. I am happy to say I  have made progress there.

I am less happy to admit that I am not sure how it happened. I don't really remember working on it.

There have been two areas where I have noticed it. The more general one is that when I have failed to live up to my expectations and start beating myself up mentally, I have to stop; no I am not really stupid and a bad person. There are obstacles that aren't my fault. There are things that I do right. It's not that I don't still want to improve, but I am not a monster. Honestly, I'm not sure that vicious self-recrimination was ever particularly effective.

Also, a few weeks ago I had posted the What are you asking blog post, and I knew I needed to give some credit to Sid (the college friend I mention in it). I tagged him and he responded...

"Thank *you*, Gina! It's so flattering you would associate me with such an insightful piece. Thanks for years of friendship!"

My first thought was that it wasn't that insightful, but I hedged on my hedging. If he thought so, maybe it was.

We have been down this road before, where I think all the people I hung out with in college were so amazing, and then they say things back that sound as if I was also amazing. It becomes this very warm and grateful moment, but there has always been this question about whether they even remember how annoying I was. I mean, I was, right?

That has been part of a larger pattern where I have had great associations through school and church and neighborhoods, with people who seem to enjoy my company and appreciate me. Despite all the many kindnesses, I have always felt on some level that they were just being nice.

  • Yeah, but they would do that for anyone.
  • Yeah, but they don't know how I get sometimes.
Yeah, I am starting to see it doesn't work that way.

I do not know why I am feeling the difference now, rather than only trying to come at it mentally.

I know that I recently went through a round of checking on people who I have known to be at risk. Usually I just respond to things that I see, but sometimes I am more proactive, just in case. There were some good exchanges, and some people are doing a lot better. That would be affirming anyway, but I have read that when you attempt to build someone else's self-esteem up, yours gets built up as well. That could have had an effect.

Also, if my focus has been more on my weaknesses, it has been in more productive ways, with a focus on scrupulous honesty. Maybe I am just open to seeing everything now, good and bad.

Maybe it matters that the selfies helped me get over some of the rough areas with my personal appearance.

Otherwise, perhaps I should just view it as a miracle. I know my weaknesses, but they do not exclusively define me.

I am smart and caring and loyal and tenacious. I am strong. If I am not always successful in being good, I am nonetheless committed to being good, and for good reasons.

Sometimes things work out.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Band Review: Tantric

It wasn't actually Tantric that followed me, but bassist Scott Wilson. He does some bass-related merchandising on his own, so I am including his specific links at the end as well.

(And let me say, links are important, because the immediate search engine results for "tantric" focus heavily on sex and yoga.)

I had heard of Tantric before but never listened; I ended up really enjoying them. Singer Hugo Ferreira brings a layered richness to the vocals, blending warmth and pathos. I suspect I would have better ways of describing it if I were a coffee drinker.

The rock is generally straightforward and strong on guitar, but they incorporate some interesting departures as needed. There is effective use of more orchestral elements on "The One", and the intro to "Love Song" reminds me of Hendrix.

I especially appreciated "Mourning", and while covers of "Let It Be" are never necessary, theirs is good enough to justify itself.

It feels like they would be easily enjoyed by Alice In Chains fans, and possibly better for the couples among those fans. There is plenty of pain in their music, but not without the ability to enjoy love.

I suppose that's helpful if they want to live up to their name.

Scott Wilson

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Band Review: Midnight Kicks and Prophecy of Sound

I sometimes combine bands when I have more than one that isn't giving me a lot to work with. That is the case this week, but the ways in which the bands are lacking are very different.

Obviously every band needs to make their own decisions about priorities. My advice may not be needed or welcome, and I know that.

That being said, I have reviewed over 430 bands and still counting, so I have seen some things.

Midnight Kicks is a four-piece band from Chicago with a Twitter account and a Youtube channel. That channel has three covers.

One thing I can't do is fault their musical taste. They cover Green Day and Fall Out Boy. I am not familiar with the third band, Sugarcult, but I like their version of the song.

It is enough to give me an idea of their aesthetic and their playing ability. Based on that I find Midnight Kicks likable. However, the lack of any original songs is glaring.

To be fair, there is nothing wrong with hanging around and learning to play songs together. It looks like they are having fun. Playing mainly covers doesn't even have to be a weakness, because it could work well for booking dances and corporate gigs.

Still, when bands follow me on Twitter, I assume they are trying to build their fan base, with a purpose of either touring or selling music or something like that. If that is the eventual goal, it is probably better to get some more material online before starting to follow potential fans. A lack of material makes the contact more likely to be a dead end.

If Midnight Kicks only wants to share that they play music together and you can watch the videos, that's not completely unreasonable - it's just a good idea to be clear on goals as you get set up on social media.

The band's delivery is fun. They work with a low-tech setup - two acoustic guitars, bass (electric) and percussion via box - but that should be easily portable and they bring a good energy to it.

Prophecy of Sound has a completely different issue. They are ready to sell. Their sole Facebook link is for their store, and they have a CD you can buy or download via iTunes. There is simply no way of telling if it is worth buying.

Each video is only a promo. The Soundcloud files are promos. There does not appear to be any option for hearing a complete song before spending any money.

I completely understand concerns about giving everything away, and why some artists don't want to use Spotify. I do not accept that it makes sense to be this stingy.

Even if you don't have the budget for an actual music video, it should be possible to do a lyric video - or even a simple sound file with the cover art - for at least one song, ideally three. That way it can whet the appetite of potential buyers, and give them a reason to be invested emotionally before you expect them to invest financially.

There is one Youtube video that seems to have a short segment from each song on the album. That may seem adequate, but I have been fooled by brief clips of songs that sounded good before, later to find that the rest of the song was bad enough to ruin the segment that initially attracted me.

The moody vibe that comes through from the Prophesy of Sound samples may be something that leads to a great album, but it is not enough to act on.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Credit where due, but also...

Despite all of my angst over the last half of the series, there are also places where I can acknowledge reasons.

For example, I pointed out the illogic of sending various characters from place to place (like why wouldn't they have brought the books with them?). I know one reason for that is that the more characters you have in a given scene, the more complicated writing it becomes. Killing off characters both increases the drama and makes the ensuing scenes easier.

That sounds cynical, but the direction they went with it - the Destroyer needed to be given the stick, so was breaking Nick down so that he would gladly give it up to get his friends back - did work. It followed logic and emotion. That was probably the most resonant part of the finale for me.

That could easily have been the part where Nick's mother and Aunt Marie came to help him instead, but that felt off to me for two reasons. One is that the Grimm blood being the answer and the potion being pointless - okay, you spent a lot of time on something that didn't matter. Also, Nick's legacy has had good things about it, but his opening his circle has been better. Aunt Marie told him to let Juliette go, and she closed herself off to relationships. Nick was happier and a greater force for good by letting people in. Her acknowledging that would have been good.

That was frustrating, but not as much as - in addition to many of the character inconsistencies mentioned in previous posts - the inconsistent logic of the prophecy. The stars were getting aligned for the Destroyer to come through, but really he needed a Grimm to follow through. That's fine in that it explains his desire for Kelly, but what are the stars for if the Grimm is enough?

If Eve is secretly planning on going through while saying she's not, that can be a choice, but they should have had her saying more cryptic things - either lying better or causing more concern with the others. Also, it appears that the only real development from her time on the other side was noticing that the staff consisted of pieces put back together, indicating the necessity of the stick. That's a fairly simple concept to require a whole episode in a horrible place that is not going to be fixed and that clearly suffered from a lack of budget.

Those types of problems come from not thinking things through, which is of course where we also get dropped plot threads and connections from out of nowhere. For example, Renard's mother (whose knowledge would have been handy) went to search for Diana because she wanted her grandchild. She never shows up again. How did Meisner end up with Hadrian's Wall?

Here are some thoughts on what I would  have done differently. I am picking up after Season 4, despite objections that I have raised to some things that happened in previous seasons.

We know the Royals wanted the keys, but they probably also did not know their purpose. We also have seen them exert some control over Wesen who are getting out of line. I propose that the disorganization in the wake of the king's death was the catalyst in Black Claw really bursting out. The Resistance has Black Claw sympathizers, because there are appealing things about being able to be open and in control. It definitely pulled in the scattered Tribunal members. That is how Diana ended up with Black Claw after Kelly's death. Meisner felt guilty about this, and his attempts to right the wrong are what got him involved in Hadrian's Wall.

Bonaparte knew that the portal was going to open, and part of Black Claw's actions were preparations to receive the Destroyer, giving him a Wesen kingdom.

The combination of Eve's hexenbiest blood (which can be used as for passage into other realms) and her being healed with the stick, causes her to still be a target for the Destroyer, but seeing him in the mirror is enough to show the staff and its fragmentation. There is no need to go through.

The inclusion of the cottage in the final episode did not make sense, because the people who spent the most time there had no association with it. However, if instead of "Where the Wild Things Were" you had an episode where Nick ends up back there with Renard to come to terms, that could make sense. Their children are siblings, and Renard's involvement with Black Claw was largely to get Diana back. There could also be a moment where Nick talks with Juliette about what has been lost. Then she could talk about her new sense of purpose, and that she doesn't regret it, even if some of the losses have hurt.

Speaking of moments, it would have been great if Adelind and Rosalee had been the ones who came across that last formula. Perhaps they were having a moment expressing frustration with how pregnancy and motherhood makes them vulnerable, and sidelines them when they want to protect their friends and their children. Then they could realize that potential spell and realize how it would be impossible for any other group but them, as if it was something that was meant to be all along. (Instead of everyone going, oh, that would be really hard, but I guess we can do it, or also forgetting they didn't need to wait for Nick for Grimm blood, because Trubel was right there.)

They create the potion, but it needs some time to take effectiveness and the Destroyer shows up early. The fighting goes down essentially the way it did, except that while Diana is initially okay with being the Destroyer's queen, she is not okay with him killing her parents. However, she is at first too upset to know what to do. As Kelly and Marie encourage Nick, promising that all is not lost, Kelly address Diana, to whom she was a mother figure.

Diana brings the vessel with the potion out telekinetically, causing the destroyer suffering but not killing him, which is done by Nick lopping off his head. Nick hugs the children, but Diana is grieving that everyone else is gone. Nick promises that he is still there and he will always love and protect her, just like Kelly. Then the Destroyer body crumbles and the portal opens up, sending us back to basically the same It's a Wonderful Life ending.

(This will probably require a scene where Eve almost goes through but doesn't, perhaps having Nick, Adelind, and Diana save her and the others are on their way for that big reunion.)

And if you have other moments along the way, where Adelind talks to Nick about her powers being back but not having the old wicked urges, or she gets to talk about being a good hexenbiest with Eve, or where Eve and Rosalee could have had a chance to talk about the changes she was going through before she totally went to the dark side, those are all things that could be good.

Plot matters because of what it does to people we care about, but we need that time to care.

Anyway, I hope that's enough. I may still have some thoughts about the show unexpressed, but I got a lot out too.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Grimm gets me in the gut one more time

"Blood Magic" was the fourth episode from the end.

The title hints at what is going to happen in the last three episodes, but it does still have a creature of the week issue, and is therefore the last of the regular episodes. In it, we learn about the Wesen way of dealing with dementia.

I still had some concerns with how life was treated, but I could also tell they were trying to be better. We see one friend caring about the first victim, and then rather than watching a second killing, another precinct's prior report of an animal attack is identified as having also been a victim of this killer. He is not a robber or hired killer or anything you might expect; just an old man whose failing mind and Wesen abilities are a very dangerous combination.

For a family dealing with it now - even in relatively early stages - it hit deep. My younger sisters have never watched the show. (They generally hate the concept of sci-fi/fantasy and reject anything in that vein outright, except sometimes when they don't.) However, one saw part of the show while I was watching. She couldn't look away because it hit so close to home.

In one scene the man is wandering and searching for his wife, Elizabeth, calling her and misidentifying one girl (who is not killed) as her. Then his wife finds him and she reassures him that she is there. He asks "Who are you?"

Ouch, and real. Having someone you love desperate for something that is right there, and nothing you do will convince them, that's real.

With the frustration I had been having over how casually people were allowed to die, it would have been easy to get mad at the wife for not taking action sooner, but how do you decide? She didn't know that he had killed two people, just that sometimes he had disappeared while she was sleeping, exhausted. It seems like having the option of some control would be comforting, but then you have to decide; how do you do that?

I was a mess during and for a while after that episode, but sometimes it is good to get the tears out. It's good to remember that you are not the only person with that sorrow. That is part of the value of art.

Part of the value of science-fiction and fantasy is that by changing some of the rules we can view things from previously unexamined angles. What makes it effective is still the truth we find there. It's still the humanity.

At least, that's what I believe, and how I try to write.

So, one last post on Grimm tomorrow, and then I really hope to be done.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Other ways to go

Way back when I first committed to Grimm I was also committing to two other series: Person of Interest and Once Upon A Time. I had already been watching White Collar. Now three of my four dramas have ended, and there are indications that Once is wrapping up. I have spent a lot of time on how Grimm frustrated me; let's look at the others.

White Collar was the most ambivalent for me when it ended. I did not find the conclusion exactly satisfying, but it was plausible, and you could even make a case for it being necessary. There were definitely ways it could have been worse.

One of the faces that I was happiest to see in The Force Awakens was Ken Leung, and that was because of his recurring role as Leon Tao (whom I adored) in Person of Interest. They were not constantly bringing people back, but the ones they did, they did to good effect. That was especially true in the third episode from the end, "Synecdoche".

Samaritan has decided that the president is an acceptable loss, so is allowing a planned hit to occur. Team Machine is scrambling to save him, but the situation is increasingly difficult and any protective actions they take can look like aggressive actions to the Secret Service.

Reese's growing feeling that he is being watched is not just the paranoia of living in the surveillance state, but that people he has helped during his time working for the Machine are there, and they are there to help him, which they do. How many other people they are helping is left open to speculation, but the responsibility of saving the world does not rest only in the hands of the team that we know. Not only are they not alone, but their good work is part of the reason they are not alone. Not all good deeds are punished.

We do still lose two people we care about as the series ends, but their losses are choices, and meaningful. While Reese's decision is much more deliberate than Root's, both of them give their lives to protect Finch. They do that willingly not merely because they care about him and he needs help, but also because he has taken lives on bad tracks and given them good things to do.

Of those left, Fusco and Shaw had been pretty corrupt too. They had not initially been brought along willingly, but it worked. They found higher and better selves inside. The series didn't throw around the word redemption, but the concept was always there, along with the equally true concept that you can lose a lot and still always find more to care about.

Once Upon A Time did something recently that I loved and knew I wanted to write about, but I am glad I waited because they did something even better last night.

Regina - formerly the Evil Queen - was always afraid she would revert to her evil self. An encounter with Dr. Jekyll led her to believe that she could split off and kill her dark side, which did not work as hoped, and suddenly there was an Evil Queen acting as a nemesis again.

In the March 26th episode, "Page 23", they faced off. I had thought that eventually it would be necessary for Regina to reabsorb the Evil Queen, accepting that we all have our darker urges but our choices do not need to be dictated by them. That could have worked, but was not what happened.

As Regina had the upper hand her darker self spat "I hate you!" Regina looked at her and said, "But I don't. Not anymore." And she pulled out both their hearts and held them to each other, allowing some of the love and growth that she understood to become a gift to the Evil Queen, and being willing to take away some of that old hate she had once known so well.

The really interesting thing is that the Evil Queen (perhaps no longer the best designation for her) ended up entering what had once been a potential happy ending for Regina, but one that Regina had outgrown. That was full of hope, but not as hopeful as "Awake".

One of the Evil Queen's bad acts before "Page 23" was to place Snow White and Charming under a sleeping curse that took advantage of their shared heart so that whenever one was awake the other was asleep (a Ladyhawke-style separation but for sleeping spells).

Regina wasn't having much luck reversing the spell; one attempt actually made it worse where they were both asleep at the same time.

Instead, she called together townspeople and friends, and they each took a little bit of the spell on themselves and diluted it. There was risk, but Snow and Charming had sacrificed their happiness for their friends, and this was a community. Everyone fell asleep, but then all of them woke back up.

Back in 2012 there was one other series that I tried watching and then dropped: Alcatraz. Lives were discarded too quickly, and without meaning. Sympathetic characters killed others needlessly, and sometimes you may have been supposed to still like them, and sometimes not, but it was ultimately at least too cold if not downright sadistic.

If Grimm had started out like that, I would have given it up a long time ago. As it was, I had invested so much time and caring that it became more frustrating than "Oh, this show looks good, wait, no, never mind."

I referenced Carolyn Hinsey when I wrote about character-driven versus plot-driven. Another thing she always mentioned was playing the beats. An event on a soap might be mainly about two characters, but other characters who cared about them would also be affected, so check in with the best friend and the aunt and everyone else. Not only does that give the full emotional impact, but you don't need to rush heedlessly on to the next big thing - a lot of the shows that keep doing really stupid things also move very fast and with very little believability.

With one weekly hour it may not be practical to take time for each person's discovery and reaction, but it remains important to remember that it will have an effect. Some characters may accept a development reluctantly, or with barely-suppressed anger, or with quiet moments of grief, and sometimes there may be arguments, but those are the things that feel real. "Moments" over "moves", in the words of Joss Whedon.

But I already wrote about that.

Related posts:

Friday, April 14, 2017

Band Review: Live My Last

Live My Last is an alt-rock band from Columbus, Ohio.

There is at times an aggression in the music reminiscent of hardcore, but they never depart that far from melody. There is energy and power - even force - but never so much that they lose sight of the music.

One of their songs, "Lets Get This Started Again" almost reminds me of Black Eyed Peas, but only the fragment of the song that ends up on movie soundtracks or in commercials, not listening to the entire song. (I'm not really a Black Eyed Peas Fan.)

Emotions tend toward the anguish of young love, especially on "My Juliet", referencing anguished young love's most famous case. There is frustration in "Twisted".

The overall tone is not gloomy. Songs about emotions that tear you apart happen, but are still full of life. Other songs, like "45's", speak to a defiance that keeps them going. It is a young energy, but you do not have to be young to appreciate it.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Band Review: Ryan Boam

As I check out links for Ryan Boam for this review, I suspect he followed me not as a musician, but a fellow liberal Mormon. That's not a reason not to review, because there are good songs here. It is a reason to not be surprised if there's not a Youtube channel or many of the other common resources.

Not needing listeners also provides some freedom, especially if you are otherwise gainfully employed. So while there are full-length songs, there are also two standalone riffs (one rock, one metal) that are just fun. They are fun to hear and were probably fun to play; if they never end up in a full song it doesn't have to be a tragedy.

There is also a small instrumental - "Jonathan's Awakening" - that appears to be a segment of a film score. It is truly beautiful, though probably less representative of Boam's overall work than "Six-Stringed Heart" which speaks both to having feelings and to being a musician. With a deceptively low-key sound and full of good guitar, that seems to be Boam's specialty. In addition, while "Murphy's Son" is enjoyable on its own, having both a final and demo version available provides a nice contrast.

I was glad I took some time to listen to Boam's Soundcloud page. It is worth checking out.

This may also be a good time to remember that "amateur" doesn't mean badly done, but done for love.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Grimm direction

The worst part was the fast forward twenty years.

I know some people liked it - there were Diana and Kelly alive and getting along and they still had their parents and were friends with the triplets and the Grimm family legacy was being continued. (If it was unclear how Renard figured in Diana's life, well...).

My problem with it was that previously anytime you had seven people going gathering weapons to go kill monsters, there was a horrible situation. Maybe they were energized with a Grimm determination, but it felt different.

Stretching way back to the first episode, the Wesen that attacked Nick's Aunt Marie was his first kill as a police officer. I remember Renard asking how he was doing. Nick was soon to encounter many more situations where he would have to kill, and where the official police report would not be accurate, but at the time he still valued both human and Wesen life.

It was clear that some of that came from being a cop; that gave him access to solutions that his librarian aunt didn't have. It may be hard to remember that far back, but it made the expansion to his world a better one. Monroe and Bud became friends. The entire Eisbieber community brought Nick gifts and pies. Initially every Wesen who saw him was scared, but there started to be ones who heard of him, and knew could be trusted.

I loved that. The series really started taking a dump on it.

Even when it would look that they were starting to realize Nick was getting too callous, the solution was a comedic death, like the Alpe falling and fatally hitting her head. Beyond that, for that episode alone the hotel manager probably didn't need to die. The guy who tried to help the first victim certainly didn't need to die. A simple assault could have still gotten police intervention. Technically the other Alpe victim didn't need to die either, but I suspect people found the loud woman dying humorous as well.

One of the many dropped plotlines was that while in a zombie-like state Nick killed a guy. Renard accused Nick of only caring about killing non-Wesen. At the time I thought Nick's real problem would be that he was not in control. He had made conscious - if fast - choices to kill before, but not having been in control would feel scary and open the door to future concerns. The series direction really ended up being more that Wesen lives don't matter.

In one of the earliest Grimm comics, Nick encounters a hot Grimm in Europe. Maya's early family outings consisted of killing monsters and then ice cream, until this got her orphaned. Based on the premise of the Grimm world that is clearly one way of doing it, but Nick was finding a better way. You would think that after all he overcame, that would be reinforced, but maybe he just turned kind of negative and decided the family that slays together stays together.

You could still say that it's just a television show and question whether it is worth spending three (or possibly more) posts on it, but it matters to me as a writer and a human, and kind of in the same way.

Not caring enough about people can totally lead to plot-driven instead of character-driven stories. That does tend to make story-telling worse and betray the audience's investment in previous events. That is something I think about.

And, I don't really believe that anything is "just" entertainment. Maybe some things have less impact, and it's easy not to think about, but I do think about it. When so many messages in the non-entertainment media are about how many people don't matter, and who doesn't get to matter, that attitude needs to be rebuked.

One weakness of the show all along is that it did ascribe various traits as inherent to different types of Wesen, so maybe it was always on kind of shaky ground anyway. There was still a time when it was doing a lot better. Because of that I saw it through to the end, but now I am relieved that it's gone.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Grimm relationships

Here are two of the journal bullet points that did not make it into yesterday's post:

  • I won't do it, now I'm doing it. (referring to Eve trying to enter the other realm by herself)
  • Eve - Juliette - Eve - Juliette - Eve
 Those may be somewhat cryptic even for watchers. Juliette started the show as Nick's girlfriend and a veterinarian. Involvement with Nick led to her getting kidnapped, put in a magical coma, and losing all memories of Nick, but once she was in on it she got really into it, making friends, helping with research, and even buying the vehicle that Kelly would use to hide infant Diana away from the Royals. That was a bit of a turning point.

Believing that the Royals had her daughter, Adelind used a spell to disguise herself as Juliette and sleep with Nick, thus taking away his Grimm powers and becoming pregnant with Nick's child. Undoing that spell led to Juliette becoming a hexenbiest as well, which was a difficult adjustment, made worse by finding out about the pregnancy. Juliette collaborated with the Royals, burning the trailer, getting Nick's mother killed, and attacking Nick. It looked like she was then killed, but really super-secret organization Hadrian's Wall worked with her to turn her into a weapon whom they called Eve, who - while remembering everything Juliette did - did not feel like Juliette.

I wrote before about not liking that Adelind raped Nick, or that Juliette's transition to hexenbiest should have been a little more nuanced than "I want my life back" "I don't want to go back" - all spoken in the tone of angry. Starting with horror, finding a little bit of elation with the power, trying to find a way to balance it, and then going off the rails when a pregnant Adelind showed up would have been better.

Nonetheless, I thought Juliette being a hexenbiest was a great twist, and even becoming Eve wasn't terrible. It's just that it was mishandled, and that lack of nuance is why it was mishandled. Writers who can handle a complex emotional journey and choose to do so can have characters - instead of repeating the same thing - say different things that lead to the whole. They might get that it will look wrong when people - especially Hank - accept a reformed Adelind so quickly. That should take work. There could have been more emotions about Renard's ping-ponging back and forth. When everyone goes off on a weekend retreat, and as they greet each other Eve is hugging people - that level of relationship has not been rebuilt.

It's that kind of inconsistency that leads to the bullet points. Eve was very firm about not being Juliette, and people got used to it, but then when she was injured, Nick called her Juliette. That seems like it should mean something, but it didn't, because Adelind is the love of Nick's life now.

Except that never seemed real. Nick and Adelind made more sense as that couple that a wacky one-night stand resulting in pregnancy creates, and hey, they are both pretty hot and have some compatibility, but that has a few steps to go through before it gets to the great love story that some scenes tried to convey.

Adelind's attachment made more sense. She was always pretty needy - which was not unreasonable. Her mother withheld approval, Renard would use her but never commit, and alliances with the Royals are always kind of dangerous. Motherhood, the vulnerability of being on the run, and then spending time with good people are all things that could reasonably make a change. Nick's charisma certainly wouldn't hurt, and the coercion that happened in her relationship with Renard could easily kill any previously existing attraction.

But it did not make sense for Nick to be so devoted, or for Eve to be so okay with it. And when they do stuff like that, you see missed opportunities all the time. When the love spell for everyone wore off, she should have found her feelings still there. There were so many times that they hinted at a difference in her after the healing; why not just admit that Juliette's body with Juliette's memories - despite actions she would like to divorce herself from - is Juliette.

That would not mean that they had to reunite Nick and Juliette either. It doesn't have to be resolved. Yes, if a central conceit of a series has been a love triangle, it probably should be resolved in the finale, but that wasn't the case here. Nick was all about Juliette, then all about Adelind. Feelings should be honest, though. If you don't adequately sell those feelings, it won't feel honest.

I kept watching for the characters and cast, but it felt like they were becoming worse actors toward the end. I don't think that's because of a change in anyone's skill level - I think it's harder to make some things work. They tried valiantly.

And that's why the ending felt hollow. Yes, Nick saw what it would be like to lose everyone - and then he got them back - but those relationships had bee undermined by plot-driven writing, and the emotions that the writes wanted to be there weren't.

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