Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Almost made it

I really try to be consistent with my internet presence. For the blog, doing so means that I can consistently produce content, which I hope will matter to my writing, and I am usually going through something specific with the songs.

That means that when I am going on the road I think about the blog posts and the daily songs. When I was doing the Throwback Thursdays, I downloaded the Thursday picture onto my laptop before leaving. When I was dong daily selfies, I downloaded a few pictures from the hotel room, though attempts to do similar this time did not work out.

There is probably not very much that indicates how un-hip and nerdy I am as my methods, like choosing the songs and pasting them into a draft email in AOL, but no one is following me for the cutting edge technology.

I had to peak into the next chapter of emo songs, but I got them all selected and ready to go, with every day's worth of "Song of the day", the song and band name, and the link. I write out the whole thing in advance, because the copying and pasting is slow, but it gets done.

I wrote ahead multiple blog drafts, getting me through the Sunday. Some of them were short, but all six got written. That still left two days. I wasn't sure what would happen after that.

I ended up having ideas that gave me Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday I had some ideas, even if not as fully formed. But as I try to write them, I am nearly asleep and the day is almost over.

I am good at consistently producing content, but not that good apparently. At least not with the tools that I have.

There will be other days, but for now I sleep.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Memories at home

The trip has had a lot of nostalgia, but before we left there were different memories coming back. Many of them settled around the Friday night before, when I went to a concert. I will try and write more about the concert tomorrow.

A friend recently said to me that history doesn't repeat, but it rhymes a lot. That feels pretty true.

On the way to the show I was remembering a night not long before our last trip, four years ago. I was joining up with some friends for dinner and then hopping across town for my volunteer orientation for Stumptown Comic Fest. Because of those things - which were good - I was not there when my family first picked up Maeve from PetSmart, via the Cat Adoption Team.

Passing by similar locations (and cramming a lot into a small amount of time) was part of what felt familiar, but also I remember how Mom worried about the new cat coming while we would be gone. Through a string of small but important coincidences, there is a kitten who needs a home and will be making it with us. She does not come until after we get back this time. However, the new cat from then, our Mavis, is the one who has been acting a little brattier in our absence (hard to tell with cats sometimes) and who rubbed against the phone when it was on speaker and she heard my voice.

Of course now Stumptown no longer has a convention, but I have since given Rose City Comic Con a chance, and it will do, though I am still not up to volunteering for them.

That also reminds me that at that Stumptown I found out that year's International Comic Arts Forum would be held in Portland, starting the day after we got back. I could go to that! And I did. I missed the first day, because I was tired and they lost my luggage so I did not initially have any clothes, but there were more days. The panels were interesting, and I picked up some free books, but the most wonderful thing was talking to other people about comics.

This year's ICAF is in Seattle. It isn't quite as close, and doesn't cut the time as close, but maybe if I am a good girl and come up with a new source of income, that can be my next getaway.

One of the memories was a hard one. Last Friday was my second time at the Doug Fir Lounge. The first time was to see Frank Iero. It was a really early show (the doors opened at 4:30), which I found strange but intriguing. That was the night Mom got lost.

It was my fault, and don't think I wasn't aware of it. She had moments of disorientation before, but she was still driving to familiar places. She dropped me off at El Monica, which should have been fine, but I had a weird feeling. As I kept calling to make sure she had made it home, she kept not answering.

Why hadn't I just taken the bus?

My family was looking for her. They didn't expect me to leave the concert, but I kept jumping in case that was the phone, and I was afraid I wouldn't hear. Mainly I was just afraid. I gave up after about three songs by the opening act.

At the top of the stairs I ran into Frank. He was very nice, but I was not really there. My mind was roaming places where my mother could have ended up. I remembered that at the lounge this time, and on the way to the bus stop and at the bus stop. I remember waiting for the bus and trying not to fall apart. That may have only been possible due to some jerk on his cell phone explaining to his girlfriend that he wasn't the one fighting; he was being perfectly reasonable. And I remember on the bus finding out that she was home, and being too sapped to feel much relief. Maybe that was just guilt.

We survived. It is the least triumphant of the stories. I still have a weird curse around seeing Frank Iero play, and Mom still has dementia. We don't let her drive at all now.

But somehow, we are still here and managing. It's the battle cry of those just getting by.

Still here.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memories abroad

Here with my family, having lost most of a generation and knowing we are close to losing one more member, it's inevitable that there is some sadness. There is also a lot of love.

I am remembering the ones who are gone. Actually, I got a jolt on my very first day.

We went straight from the airport to the rehabilitation home to visit my aunt. As we got out of the car I heard a greeting and for a moment I thought I saw the first aunt and uncle who had died.

There was this unsettling moment of if I could have been wrong about losing them, or had we crossed over somewhere; having just spent 22 hours or so traveling, I could have been in a more impressionable state. It was only a moment and I realized they were two of my cousins. One, the daughter of my aunt, does look a lot like her. Her brother (the other) does not really look that much like our uncle, and yet there are moments when he does. My heart.

It would not surprise me too much if there is family nearby on both sides. There has been a lot of love and helping of each other all along. Since communication is primarily with those on this side, that is where I have to focus, and a lot of it is reminiscing. I feel how much we love each other now, but a lot of it is felt in memories that I have, and that we can share.

I remember that last night when we walked to the train station. It was so perfect.

I remember how before she would only eat pizza margherita.

Sometimes they remember too, but sometimes they didn't know, but now they will remember hearing it.

They are not always my memories. I tell them things my sisters remember, or things I heard from my mother.

I also give them new memories. Staying in a hotel is new, but it gives me regular internet connectivity. Every night I write to my brothers and sisters and tell them whom we saw and what we did (and what we ate). I think it makes my younger sisters miss them more, but sometimes that is the price of love.

I don't know that it bonds us, because we are already bonded, but there is a strengthening, I see these good things about you. The times I have with you are important to me.

I just wouldn't want there to be any doubt.

Related posts:

Friday, May 26, 2017

Concert Review: Chris Margolin

Chris Margolin is a Portland musician who performs both as a solo artist and as a part of various bands. Although one band, the Dead Bird Collective, will be releasing new music soon, I saw him by himself, and can only evaluate in that way.

If Lily Pryor's voice reminded me of a bell, Chris Margolin's reminded me of wood, warm and rich.

That could have been suggested by the environment, as the Doug Fir Lounge is decorated in a very woodsy way, but that was my impression nonetheless. One of the most impressive things was how he and his voice filled the space.

He will be playing the Doug Fir Lounge again with his current project, the Dead Bird Collective, on September 8th, and that should be a good opportunity to check him out.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Concert Review: Lily Pryor

Lily Pryor is the daughter of Matt Pryor, and touring with him for school credit. (#lilypryor)

Her voice is clear like a bell, singing with an age-appropriate sweetness. Between numbers you could see some nervousness as she prepared for each next song, but the delivery of the songs was consistently well-done, performing a mix of original material and covers.

I am not sure how the grading works - whether you do reports on geography or business or psychology - but vocally she should be safe for an A.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

They're sorry

One thing I have always been very good at is drawing unwanted attention. Somehow I seem approachable, even though I always have books to read and thoughts to think. Then I remember that this is a human being, and give them my attention, even though my initial response was a more curdled humanity.

That is generally what gets me ashamed, is finding that this is a good and often beaten down person, and they should be meeting far more kindness in the world than they are.

The thing I noticed most recently is how apologetic they tend to be. In my most recent encounter, she kept prefacing each question with a mumbled "I'm sorry." The averted eyes and downcast head were already a hint that she did not expect to be valued.

There are three specific people that I am thinking of. They were all times when I had meant to be reading, but then they were kind and often interesting people. Spiritually they are my siblings. Maybe there are ways we could help each other.

It goes along with the other things that we have been posting this week. We are not valuing people enough. It's worse if you are old and poor, even if you have served your country and your health still suffers from it, or you have worked all of your life, or you have tried really hard to be a good person and stand up for fairness.

I think of it for them, because in those moments on Tri-Met I have seen their worth and cared about them, but I also think about my mother. Is it obvious how fiercely protective I am of her? But I can't protect her from everything. It would be good to believe there were fewer threats.

And I think about it for me. I am on track to be old and alone. This current state of being childless and also without nieces and nephews is likely to continue. I will continue to age, and remaining poor seems more probable than not. Will my goodness matter then? Will there be respect for my age? I don't know; I just want to see a kinder world.

That being said, you are lucky if you get to talk to me. I both speak and listen well. Pure delight.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Out in the open

Building on yesterday's post, there are trends in society that bother me, and that we should reverse.

is possible that if I am worried about abusive TSA agents or trouble in customs that it was stupid of me to post about it. The probability of drawing attention is low, but it does still exist. It might make sense to hold my breath and wait, but I am not that kind of smart. If I am thinking something, it's not really that I blurt it (usually), but I will keep thinking it and churning it over until it comes out.

I am sick of separate groups. I have been added to so many lately.

It's not that I don't see the point. I have made a few connections that I really like through some of them, and I have learned some interesting stories. There can be value in connecting. After I left the one Mormon liberal group because they were racist, I was still getting frustrated with the other one because they were so Sanders-blind. That made the pro-Hillary group for Mormons a breath of fresh air.

(I do worry a little about mentioning them at all, but there are so many others that I don't think I am actually revealing anything.)

That is one of the problems. The points of agreement may not be unifying enough. Like with one group just focused on good government (also Mormon), one admin admonished someone for commenting "spoiled jerks" on an article about Trump, because we are not partisan so there shouldn't be any name-calling. While that particular epithet was pretty mild, if it had been directed at a poster I would have agreed. If we can't admit that Trump is spoiled and a jerk at the very least, I'm not sure how effectively you are going to be able to advocate for good government.

They aren't all related to my religion. Some are local, and because of people I know. In all cases I get why they do it. They post the things they feel and they get rain of abuse and stupidity that makes them want to curl up in a ball or delete the internet (or both). The group serves a purpose for them.

But for me, I get online and I see 9 notifications, which I check carefully because I don't want to miss an interaction. I check, and none of them are interactions; just people posting. Then I turn off notifications, and then I might as well not be in the group because I see nothing.

If I needed the outlet, it would matter more to me, but I do say what I want. Granted, that has meant standing up to a lot of insults and researching and digging my teeth and feet in like the most tenacious bulldog ever. That was not fun. It seemed to work, because most people seem to have given up arguing with me, but then perhaps I have created an even more isolating echo chamber than those in the secret groups.

(And so many of the group members are related to their persecutors that they may not find it practical to go into bulldog mode with them.)

I don't worry about that as much as I could, because the truth is I use Twitter a lot more, which I find much better for information and even for connecting in some ways.

Twitter works for me, but a lot of people aren't on it. For them to arrange Facebook in a way that is somewhat gratifying and comforting makes sense, except this shouldn't be necessary.

They should be able to say the things they feel without other people rushing in to tell them how stupid and wrong and un-American they are. Why do we think it's okay to stamp out any dissenting opinions? Why do we think it's okay to make others afraid to speak? Doesn't that sound un-American?

It's just one more thing we get wrong.

Related posts:

Monday, May 22, 2017

Worried about this trip, part 2

The first part of my worries were specific to our family and health situation, but it is worse because of the world.

I am not thrilled that pat-downs are getting more invasive or that it seems like TSA agents might be getting more abusive:

Questions about passwords don't seem great either:

Of course the laptop ban does look at what country you are coming from (which doesn't make it better), so would be unlikely to affect us, but you know, airlines tell you not to check small electronics and that they won't replace them if they are lost or damaged. It's a horrible policy.

However, it may be easier to get to the root of my concerns by looking at the things that have been happening on the planes, after the TSA.

The most interesting discussions were about the United incident, so let's go there.

First of all, overbooked is the wrong word for that. They needed space for employees that needed to get to another city, but that is not the same as having sold too many tickets. One interesting discussion point was that there is a good chance that the airline does not have enough employees to cover a few call ins. That's certainly possible, knowing how everyone is trying to cut costs.

That leads to the other thing. Rather than random selections, they were picking the passengers who'd paid the least. When they selected Dr. Dao, they already had three people, but they chose someone traveling with his wife, bumping two people. They went with someone who had considered volunteering, but because it would delay him overnight (keeping him from scheduled appointments with his patients), chose not to. Those both seem like good reasons to leave him alone, but he had paid less for his ticket.

I always search for lower fares. I have to. We can't afford to travel if I don't do that. Is it weird that I think if they are willing to sell me the ticket at that price that I should be able to go? It no longer gets me a meal or a free checked bag, but still, it should give me that trip. I guess in a world where the rich have a private lounge and cameras for gloating at the less fortunate, there is no more logical line of division:

There are two other interesting things about that. One is that the airline should have been able to arrange ground transportation for the crew, or offered limos to the bumped passengers. That wouldn't be a possibility with all routes, but in this case it was doable.

The other things is that even though the airline was clearly out of line - probably due to poor planning - it is the doctor who had his past dragged over. None of that affected his actions or the airline's actions, but there always has to be a reason why the abuser is allowed to abuse. Too many of our patterns involve upholding the already powerful.

So I worry about navigating this. Worrying about making connections in an unfamiliar airport with my mother's bad knees is not new. Worrying about her getting a little disoriented because of the dementia is newer, but still something that I have dealt with and can. Worrying that someone will judge her for her accent, or that someone in a low level authority position will be abusive because they are underpaid and overworked and the only thing that satisfies them is making someone else suffer, that is new.

So I have added the phone numbers for both senators, our representative, and the ACLU into my phone. I probably won't have to use them, but I wish I didn't have to worry about it.

Don't we all have enough worries already?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Band Review: The Slants

As I wrap up my first attempt at commemorating Asian Pacific American Heritage month, I realize that I have been doing it wrong, locating musicians from Asia but not Asian-American musicians. (Except for Lampano Alley, they have all been Japanese.)

That is something to think about for next year. One difficulty is that there aren't a lot of Asian-American bands. In fact, today's band, The Slants, are commonly considered to be the first and only all-Asian American dance-rock band. At least I am getting them in today.

It was always going to happen, sooner or later. They are a Portland band, and have been on my radar since the Oregonian ran an article about their difficulties in trademarking their name. The case was resolved in early 2015, and I think the article I read happened just prior to final arguments. I can't find it now, but here is an interesting short video on the topic:

Of course I would want to check them out. Subverting the language of the oppressor is a thing that I often see the value of, and would like to defend, but I don't have good words for expressing it because I have never had to do it. They put it in a song! They have a song about their court case and it is fantastic!

I admit I was expecting them to be more punk, based on the case alone. They are more dance-rock. There are times when they remind me of Depeche Mode, but there are also echoes of that time when Interpol was big and The Killers put out Hot Fuss. You may especially notice this on the enticing "Love Within My Sins".

A great introduction to the band would be their 2017 EP, The Band Who Must Not Be Named.

It starts out with "From the Heart". That's the song about the court case and I love it - not just for the message but also musically. The third track is my second favorite, "Endlessly Falling".

"Level Up" is a nice tribute to their fandom. The Slants are popular with cosplayers and convention goers and geeks. (This also comes up in some videos.) "Fight Back" could be an anthem for any of the put upon, including geeks, but the keyboards kind of give some video game shout-outs as well.

Finally, "Sutures" is deeply personal and thoughtful. The acoustic version here (it has been performed with Dez Cadena of Black Flag, so that's another way of doing it) shows another side of the band.

I think after going through the EP, there is good reason to continue checking out other music, and find additional treats there. They are very much worth checking out.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Band Review: Yellow Magic Orchestra

One of the unintended themes of this month has been finding musicians of amazing longevity. Yellow Magic Orchestra is no exception, having begun recording in 1977. They have had off periods and performed under different names, but even in the band's down times the individual members have been very productive.

I do not remember anything about them from their first time around. Their song "Firecracker" was mentioned in Mad World (Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s by Jonathan Bernstein and Lori Majewski). "Firecracker" became a song of the day when I was going over music from there, but I also made a note to check out the band later.

I'm glad I did. If "Firecracker" was all I knew, YMO could fit into the field of random synth pop instrumentals, like "Music Box Dancer" or "Popcorn"; they are so much more.

"Computer Game" goes in the realm of chiptunes, which I can't listen to for very long. That was the first other song I heard, which was discouraging. There was still more.

That may be one of the most impressive things - how much YMO did and did early. They sampled and reconstructed and were cutting edge for a few different genres, some more trippy and some more poppy. They can be suggestive like on "See-Through" (I guess the name kind of sets you up for that).

"Thousand Knives" and "Rydeen" are good listening. I especially liked "Kai-Koh" and "Expecting Rivers". Still, I don't think anything matches the joyousness of "You've Got to Help Yourself". And it's odd, because there is a subdued delivery to the song, that seems incongruous with the joy, but that's still how I end up feeling.

One of the most frustrating parts of listening is that there were skits on Service, and I have no idea what they were about. I suspect they were smart, and had points that mattered.

At least music is universal.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Worrying about this trip, part 1

It feels a little cruel that I have so much anxiety about this trip when travel is one of my favorite things. Here I am going somewhere I love, and I am in knots about it.

I mentioned something superstitious yesterday: my mother's siblings have died in pairs. One uncle and one aunt died three months apart, and another two died a week apart. (Technically there were also two who died in childhood, but separated by a few years.) They didn't necessarily go in the pairs that you would expect, like older ones going together, or ones who were especially close going together, but you notice. When grief comes that close together, you notice.

(Debbie Reynolds dying so soon after Carrie Fisher may have messed me up in this regard.)

There are only two left now: my mother and her oldest sister, who will turn 95 this summer. They are especially close; my aunt was like a second mother to my mother. I don't know how well my mother would do without her. And, my aunt kind of feels like she has lived too long.

She hasn't just taken special care of my mother, but she has been the one who was there for everyone, not having children of her own. She has been without her husband for a long time, and she has seen beloved brothers and sisters who were younger leave her behind. She recently fell and broke her femur. Falls are not good for the elderly.

The trip had been scheduled before that happened, because I felt like they really needed to see each other again, and I was already starting to worry about time. One thing I had done differently is booked a hotel, because - after checking with a cousin - it felt like we would be too much work for her. (You can intend to not be work, and tell her not to worry about things, but she will still worry.)

Still, I thought that would be okay. We could stay at the hotel at night, but then visit her each day. There had been talk (and some pressure from her in-laws) of her moving into a home for seniors. Maybe we could help her with some sorting and packing. Or, if their visiting was going well, maybe I could sometimes leave them and go do a little sightseeing of places I was rushed through before.

Now my aunt is in a rehabilitation facility. We can still visit her, but I suspect we won't be able to do very long visits. Being there is still really important, but it will be different. I don't think there will be much me time, but the odds of that were always pretty good.

Also, I keep remembering things from our last trip. Although that was long before she started forgetting old things, there was a moment of disorientation on the plane. She asked something about where she lived, and I told her Aloha and she told me I was joking - she didn't live in Aloha. Then a few minutes later she realized I was right.

I attributed it to being confusion between her old home and her current one, and that didn't repeat. Instead the memory problems while there were more not being able to keep straight how long we had been gone, or how much time we still had left. Also she kept forgetting that the airline had lost her bag, which came up every time she wanted to change clothes or moisturize. (We can each bring one bag with no additional fees, but I am still toying with the idea of carry-on only.)

This time, she is someone who gets confused about where she lives and how many kids she has while looking at them, and I don't know if the disorientation will get worse. Maybe touching base with her past will help, but it might not and I don't know.

Those are just concerns about being there, and not about getting through connections and security, where her knee replacements always set off metal detectors and the beeping and the instructions just confuse her.

That gets to another area of concern. If all goes well, I will write that in advance, and post it Monday before we leave for the airport. I do not feel capable of predicting whether all will go well right now, at least in terms of maintaining daily blog and song posts.

What I do know is that it has felt good to express these dark feelings. I have written them in my journal, but it also helps to be public. These are my fears, and like most fears they have varying degrees of probability, but I own them.

The other thing that I have to reaffirm is that I still believe this trip is the right thing. I can imagine hastily booking after the fall - the urgency I felt before being replaced with desperation - and spending at least another $700 on plane tickets, plus who knows how much on the hotel. If I am going down scary roads, I am still being led.

That is an encouraging thought.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Stalked by sadness

I have worked hard to be more in touch with my body. The good news there is that like some of these other endeavors, it becomes more natural. Once you make the initial effort, staying connected becomes fairly natural.

Don't be too impressed; I am sure that with a little effort in the opposite direction I could undo it. I was nonetheless pleased to see that it hasn't been something that required constant vigilance and repeated backsliding. It's nice that some things have been easier.

What has been harder lately is staying in touch with my mind. I guess there had to be something.

One of the frustrating things about listening to my body is how often the message was pain. Hey, this finger has a twinge. Oh, it's a bad twinge? Did I break it? Or is that just a sign of pending full-blown arthritis as I age? What do I do now? Doctor, heat, ice, or ibuprofen? It is better to be aware of it and especially to do something now rather than three weeks from now. It is also an inconvenience, but it's one that you accept is better than letting a little problem get neglected into a big one.

(And yes, it has not yet been a full year since I left a piece of glass in my foot for three weeks and let myself in for a big and expensive infection. I guess it ended up being a lesson.)

I also know pretty well how the emotional wound you try to ignore only digs deeper and does worse things to your life. Therefore I have no excuse for trying to put this one off; I keep hinting at it. I just need to face it.

I am stressed about this trip. I am already stressed about running out of money and my mother's health prospects, but the upcoming trip makes it worse. I have been so exhausted with no identifiable cause, except that I am about to leave on a trip and I have grave concerns.

I think I am going to save my specific travel concerns for a different post, because at least with those there is a framework with a lot of known factors. There are dates and times and no matter what I worry about that might go wrong, we will probably arrive home at the currently scheduled time without being too much the worse for wear.

There are also things where I know there is no point in trying to deal with them until after I get back. I will be unavailable for a little over a week; how much sense does it make to send out certain inquiries and start various processes now?

So that leaves the big issue of my mother's health, where I know there is pain coming, but not the details on when and how it will come.

Mom could go on for years like this, which is not horrible but is a source of worry, and puts some limitations on what I can do. She could become much more absent, but still be here. That would hurt a lot, and again, it is not easy to predict the time.

One reason I like the pictures I took - with her exasperated faces - is that she looks like she is there. A lot of photos have her unfocused, where she doesn't really seem present. She is not usually like that now, but it was something that I saw with my aunt on our last visit; as she kept mentally slipping away. It will be hard to deal with that.

Mom could also die. No, there is nothing that makes it seem likely that it would happen soon (one bit of superstition based on her siblings, but it is just superstition), but that's something I think about too. And that will really hurt. It would also solve some issues, but there would be so much guilt in any feelings of relief that it would not be much relief.

So there is always something there, but I don't know what it will ultimately be. It could end up being all of the above over a protracted time period. I believe this is why I sometimes get teary for no apparent reason, or sometimes there is a sigh that is kind of gasping - there is always this shadowy form around the corner of something that is going to hurt.

When I am giving advice to my siblings, I remind them to dwell in the moment. If she is happy now, enjoy it. This isn't the time for corrections. For the love of all that is good and pure why would you bring this topic up now in this relatively serene moment?

That may make me kind of a hypocrite. I am good at staying in the moment with her, but for myself my mind looks ahead and it has a hard time.

Where it becomes so hard is that I can't resolve it. I think things out and write them out so that I can know how I feel and what I need to do. Okay, I know how I feel. I know what I need to do today. That future, though... I can't get any answers there.

Perhaps then the most important thing about all of this was to get better enough to be able to take it. Figure out what was false and what was true, find the strength that I need, and be able to get through this, whatever this ends up being.

Related posts:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Salad days

One of the more unexpected outcomes in this part of my life is that my sisters look forward to my salads.

They are picky eaters. I am too, but our pickiness doesn't have a lot of overlap. I am carnivorous; they don't really care for meat. I am okay with some melted cheese toppings, or some accents, but they like chunks of Gouda and cheese in a can, and cheese in all of these ways that gross me out. I am more adventurous with different cuisines and spices, but I can't stand hummus, which they love.

Maybe it makes sense in a different way. They do like a lot of salad bars (which I generally find disgusting (except for Sweet Tomatoes). That makes it necessary for me to be able to make my own salads, but also perhaps they were predisposed to being okay with salads.

The first sign was the blueberry carrot salad, which they loved. They would even eat it as leftovers, which is big. That could have been a fluke, and them eating different kit salads doesn't prove anything, but the Brussels sprouts salads might.

We have heard good things about Brussels sprouts for a while. "Oh, they are sweet like candy!" That was obviously not true, but if someone could say it then maybe they were at least not as gross as I have always thought. "Just roast them with olive oil!"

I could not swallow even one that way. I think any cooking at all brings the sulfur. I know it doesn't work that way for everyone, but this was not going to be an option. I didn't want to give up though; they are supposed to be really good for you. With a little more research it appeared that they could be shredded raw and used as a salad base.

I tried it first as a sweet salad (raspberry vinaigrette, dried cranberries, pecorino cheese), and everyone liked it. I tried it as a savory salad (olive oil, feta, bacon crumbles) and that was well-received. I like the sweet better, but it's nice to have options. I believe it could also work with a sesame dressing and won ton slices, or something like that.

I hope that there are a few lessons in here. One should be that it's okay for different people to have different tastes. There are so many different fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dressings, meats, grains, and cheeses that not only should there be something for everyone, and but also no one needs to like everything.

What may not be obvious is how you need to keep trying. Disliking three vegetables doesn't mean you hate vegetables; it means that you need to try different ones, at least or cooking them in different ways.

I have been frustrated with my own aversion to "healthy foods". I can't stand fish or walnuts and until this latest development I wasn't very good with cruciferous vegetables. There are enough other things that I do like, and I continue to try out new things. It's fine. It may take some creativity and persistence. It definitely takes some availability and knowledge, but I am not going to take on food deserts and lack of cooking knowledge at this time.

Right now I just want to take on that despair or sense of hopelessness about eating well. The diet mindset - where the only thing important to health is body size - makes that worse because it is often based on deprivation.

When I wrote up Moderate Changes, the best thing about it may be that its focus is adding good things rather than removing "bad" things. Give to yourself.

I am not perfect at it. I have gotten so sick of eating oatmeal lately. I have gotten better about getting whole grains in at other meals, but at one point the bowl of oatmeal made starting the day right easy, and there has been a change. I can adapt to that.

A lot of trying to get my head right comes back to believing that I am worth something. No matter my size, or my quirks, or my weaknesses, I deserve good care, which I am also responsible for providing. Deciding that I am dirt doesn't help anyone.

So tonight I am working with asparagus and yellow bell peppers. I may use some brown rice or barley. But also, I'm making chocolate chip cookies, which are better for the soul than the body, but are nonetheless fine.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Band Review: Kyosuke Himuro

There were two great surprises while listening to Kyosuke Humuro this week.

The first was Steve Stevens, who frequently plays guitar for Himuro; I love him! I have been a fan of his work with Billy Idol for years. I knew that was not all he did, but this is the first time I have heard any of it. Stumbling across it without specifically looking for it was pretty awesome.

I become aware of Himuro himself because of a song he did with Gerard Way, "Safe and Sound". I like the song a lot (I wrote about it a little years ago), but that was all I knew until this review.

Having now seen footage of Himuro performing live, I see a very similar energy to Gerard's, where it feels very fitting that they have collaborated. There is so much charisma coming through.

That will not be as visible in the video for "Kiss Me". It is one of my favorite songs, along with "Claudia" but the video feels a little over-directed. It may be that all of the magnetism breaks out when Kyosuke is in front of an audience, perhaps feeding off of the crowd's energy to pull them in, but it is powerful. He reminds me a little of Elvis as well.

None of that is to negate the value of straight listening to the music, but his stage presence - even through video - is phenomenal.

Well worth checking out. I am not just listening; I am printing out lyrics (even though I do not understand them) because I need to know.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Band Review: Shonen Knife

I've been familiar with the name Shonen Knife for many years. Back to the early days of the IMDB message boards (RIP), a common question would be what band was playing in a certain movie scene, and often the answer was Shonen Knife. That was all I knew until I recently saw a reference to them being influenced by the Ramones, and then I had to check them out.

That was initially not helpful. Listening to them cover Ramones songs on Osaka Ramones just reminded me that I like the Ramones better, until "We Want the Airwaves". I have to give credit where credit is due, and that is some good guitar on there. (Also "Chinese Rock" worked for me, because I don't think of that so much as a Ramones song as a "Who doesn't have a cover of it" song.)

Instruments are very respectable, but there is a softness in the vocal delivery that doesn't scream punk at me. Because of that, Shonen Knife works better for me when they are singing about food and animals, and just giving into the kawaii. "Like A Cat" really works. "I Wanna eat Cookies" is such a simple, relatable statement; how does the song turn so menacing? Is this the Black Sabbath version of Cookie Monster? It's genius. "Good Night" is very beautiful.

As easy as it is to sing along about barnacles and capybaras, one of my favorites was a cover, "When You Sleep". It is very distinct from the My Bloody Valentine original, incorporating some doo-wop elements. Hearing that delivery while thinking of a band named for a horror movie, well, I think I could really be down for an Osaka Misfits album. Or for them touring with Reggie and the Full Effect. Or both. They have been an active band since 1981 and are still going; there is room for a few more twists.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Head and shoulders

Yesterday I posted that sometimes there are connections that I don't see until later, which of course means that there maybe connections I still don't see.

One reason for this is the level of complexity there can be; different connections exist simultaneously.

For example, I mentioned that my shoulders had been aching badly. There was a fairly clear-cut physical reason, with my rotator cuffs being all tight. The physical act of the massage was very helpful for that.

I went through a few wrong guesses on what it could be, but I never doubted that there was a physical component. It still felt like a symbolic manifestation of how burdened I felt. If I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, of course they would ache.

Somewhere in between that is the likelihood that maybe the reason I had gotten my rotator cuffs all out of sorts was the time I spent hunched at my computer searching for jobs and trying to find leads and how the tension that I was feeling caused me to hold myself. That is not symbolic, and not psychosomatic, but the mind still plays a role.

My posture at the computer is still important. Not spending unproductive time there worrying and fretting is important too. To do that, it helps to not feel like you are responsible for the entire world.

I have gotten somewhat better at that. There are still a lot of worries. I am trying to be better about asking for help on the things that I need, at least where it relates to caring for my mother. There is still a lot that is unknown, and worrisome, but I am not feeling as weighed down, and that is good.

It is not as good as things could possibly be, and I recognize the limitations. One of those wants on the original list was to have flying dreams again. I accept that at this time that is not likely.

There are many ties holding me down, and I can't even want a release from them all. I know what the big release will be, and that will involve a lot of sorrow. Any relief there will be tinged with guilt for feeling it. I suppose at some point I will emerge on this other side where I can be okay with things, but I can't wish for it. I can't even predict how some things will go because I have a mental block around that loss.

My dreams have still evolved. In the past I would often have dreams where I was blocked. There would be locked gates and upside-down staircases and destinations would disappear before I could get there.

Now the places I want to go are just far. I can get there, but it takes longer than I would have wanted. Apparently my subconscious is more optimistic now, even if the length of the route in the dream makes me feel tired just looking at it.

That is still progress.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

On a clear day

I may spend an inordinate amount of time going over the things I do and why I do them, like with yesterday's post.

My tendency to over analyze everything isn't new, but it does feel like it comes with higher stakes now. I had a fair amount of stress already, and the world just keeps getting harsher. That combination raises questions: am I on the right track? am I wasting my time? Can I even do this?

That's not new either. Back when I was writing the comic I came to realize that those 400+ pages were primarily about whether I could keep my humanity in a world where a teenage boy is shot for being Black and his shooter goes free, yes due to racism but greatly helped by an organization of corporations writing laws that benefited them and corrupt politicians allowed it. Eventually my answer was affirmative, but I had no idea then how much darker things would get.

I have also kept growing. As I try to wrap up this latest phase, it becomes more clear.

I was going through the spreadsheet items that I haven't blogged about yet (or where I was not sure that I had blogged about them enough), and there has been a lot of progress.

I do believe I can be loved now. I still have doubts about having closer relationships in this life, but that deep inner certainty that there was something inherently wrong with me, and that could only be rejected by anyone else, that's not there anymore. Enough light has shone on it, and it evaporated. That seemed impossible once.

I wanted to be okay with my appearance. I pretty much am, as equivocal as that sounds.

If I remain completely honest, there are things I would like to look different, and I am very aware about how open to criticism my appearance is. At the same time, people criticize appearances that I think are great. Somewhere between the realization that a lot of things that get said are cruelty in search of a target, and the knowledge that physical appearance is ephemeral and inner substance is more important - somewhere in there I can't get too worked up about my looks. I know that shopping for a formal could still throw me into a total relapse, but I believe it would be temporary.

My shoulders don't ache the way they did. It still happens sometimes, and as good as getting the one massage was, that should probably not be a once in a lifetime - or even once every few years-  event. It is nonetheless encouraging to see that something that was a source of great pain has faded, and without a lot of targeted action.

I have worked on specific things - none of this has been effortless - but there were some problems that were identified and then not thought about much. I focused on the areas where I had ideas on what to do, even if it was just writing about them a lot, or reading books that came to mind. That working on some problems led to resolution (or at least amelioration) of other problems reminds me that I am a whole and integrated person. Things connect.

I saw some of those connections early on, and there are some I want to explore tomorrow. There were other connections that I didn't see, and may still not see. Things can still work out.

That progress reinforces that my instincts are sound. That is good, because I suspect I am going to have to rely on them more and more.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. In addition, March is Women's History Month.

I learned about these additional months some time after I had committed to commemorating Black History Month in February and Native American Heritage Month in November. I just looked and found that there is a LGBT History month in October. While I could see the value of all of them, I didn't believe that I could take on more, especially given that I am usually running late with what I plan for February and November.

I was planning on doing a music trial run this month, adding five bands to the review list that are of Asian heritage. My Friday review was a blues band from the Philippines and I am listening to Shonen Knife as I write this. I had five bands that I could commit to, out of eight. I had thought maybe I would try and get in one book, but that's not going to happen right now.

I didn't want to write about that because it felt very inadequate and also I have worried about it being viewed as artificial. There have been some other things that have been causing me to think differently.

I started observing Black History month in 2010, adding Native American Heritage reading the next year, and then it was just books. I wasn't reviewing music or doing songs of the day then. When I first started adding musicians, that was just a few at the time. Five bands the first time trying is pretty good.

It is also only possible because of other things that have changed in my life. I get bands from online articles because of people I follow, and books that I read, or from other musicians that I didn't know about a few years ago. I expect more of myself now, but I have more resources now, at least for knowing what is out there.

The other thing has been some more discussion about representation. That includes one this morning about how hard it is to get LGBT representation in major films (there are more examples of sentient trees), but also one a while back about Apollo 13.

Katherine Johnson, of Hidden Figures fame, worked on that mission. Does anyone remember seeing any Black women in that movie? John Glenn's mission shown in Hidden Figures was a key event in The Right Stuff; see any Black women in that? As computers? Apparently only white men can do math - so much so that a more accurate movie that showed the reality would be accused of just being politically correct. I haven't seen the mini-series From the Earth to the Moon, but the credits look pretty white.

That has been the crucial weakness in "American" history - people of all races and genders contribute and then the books only tell the stories of the white men. It is not a dig against white men to have a problem with the lie.

That is important to me as a writer and as an American. I try and be better about that, and regularly delving into the history (and music now) of other groups is one way that I do that. The things I write still have lots of white people and men and straight people, but there are others too. There should be. They are all real, and they live, and they should be able to find themselves in books and movies and television shows.

Yes, they should be able to tell their own stories and be given those opportunities, but it is not their sole responsibility to make the case for their own existence. Fiction suffers from not being true, and people suffer in a culture where the humanity of some is consistently denied.

And if it seems difficult to define the borders of what I think is important as a writer and what I think is important as a human, well, yes, I have noticed that too. But I believe what I write is better because of it.