Thursday, August 31, 2017

Band Review: Seasonal

ETA -- Kodachrome is by a different Seasonal. This means that I like all of their music, and not more their older music. I do wish I had known this sooner.

I am making these corrections, but I will also try and see if at some point I can get a live review or a new album review for this Seasonal, for something that will only be theirs.

Seasonal is a band from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

They self-describe as indie/emo/whatever, and I think that's a reasonable level of ambivalence.

NOT THEM - Their most recent release, 2017's Kodachrome, comes with a style that reminds me of many bands that have come up for both emo and alternative when I have been exploring those genres. Many of the tracks feature speech over the music, similar to some hardcore bands, but not as concussive.

However, before that, from various singles and 2015's The World We Choose to See, the sound was a bit mellower. There is a lot of musicality with the guitars, and some nods to the '70s.

There is a lot to be said for continuing to develop and try new things over the path of a band. The more recent sound hearkens to some of the traditional punk history of the region.

Still, I like the older stuff better. Special favorites were "Cricket Weather" and "At Sunset".

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

One good thing about emo

I am pretty excited about my journey through Nothing Feels Good. For the book itself, I only have listening to a little Blake Schwarzenbach (Jawbreaker, Jets to Brazil) left.

Yes. there are still some other things to go through before I start the next music book, Guitar Heroes of the 70s, but it is nonetheless progress, and I like that the rest of the material has not been dictated by Andy Greenwald.

As I make progress there, I will probably spend some more time on suspended emotional maturity and the downsides of wallowing, but today I want to praise, in that emo really did seem to be a movement that made everyone believe they could form a band.

That is where I see the strongest punk connection. One film image I have never forgotten is a graphic of new bands springing up around cities where the Ramones played, which I later saw repeated with other bands. There are lots of ways in which music can inspire, but to inspire others to explore their own creativity and to express themselves is something special.

Of course, a lot of those bands aren't very good. That might be a part of how it happens: a band that isn't technically proficient but has a lot of heart inspires others that are even less proficient but responding emotionally. Not all of them can be magic. At least, not all of them can be magic for everyone.

One of the other things coming up is a list of twelve emo bands that Alternative Press  would like to see reunited. Some of those bands were not in the book, but there was one that I already listened to and found really annoying.

No, I am not going to name them. Yes, I will listen to them again in the context of that list. Yes, there is a good chance they will annoy me again, but that's okay. It's nice that they meant something to someone. It's great that someone associates this band with something other than the sensation of fingernails on a chalkboard, you know? And it was probably good for them to be a band too.

I like high art, but I like accessible art too. I like that there is variety. I like that there is something for everyone.

When I first started thinking about emo, part of it was how much it meant to these kids, and how passionate they could be about it. There were kids who were passionate about acts that were way more pop as well. I'm not saying that it is purely subjective, but I support there being a lot of room for a lot of variety.

I get why Jim Suptic apologized for The Get Up Kids' influence, but I think there was something positive there too.

And I do have a burning desire to know whom he meant when he referred to the bands not being very good, but I'm not naming the band that I thought was terrible either, so perhaps it's better this way.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The windmills of my mind

As has not been at all uncommon, because there are many interrelated topics that interest me deciding the order of the upcoming blog posts has been difficult. (If you read regularly, you have heard that one before.) I was thinking about it when I went to bed last night and when I woke up this morning.

I often do a little scripture study before I pray, suspecting that my brain will be working a little better and that my prayer will be a little more effective when I get to it. Having my mind both alert and focused in the morning is not really easy for me.

Today I studied first, and I can't exactly say that it worked because as soon as I knelt down my mind starting going all over the place, but then one thought sent me down a path that it needed to go.

That one may be a little too personal to talk about right now. I can say that it was important, and that it removed some pressure from me. It also was not what I was expecting; currently morning and night my primary thought is always what do I need to do to get some money and get these bills paid. Given my situation (two months behind on everything), that is a very reasonable prayer. (Maybe I can also say that the unexpected path was related to my other main concern.)

So I took that path, and then as I was wrapping up I tried to return to my primary purpose, and my brain started squirreling around again. As I started to get frustrated with that, I had another thought.

There are two frustrating things that my mind does. It will often circle round and round, continuously, turning over the problems that I can't crack. At other times it will get distracted, continuously thinking of new things to look up, like Red Riding Hood seeing another clump of wildflowers until hopelessly drawn from the path.

They seem opposite in nature, perhaps similar in mental energy, but they are different ways of spending the energy and they feel different. Visually, one is a circle and one is a branch, and what really unites them is whether or not I should have been doing something else the entire time.

What came to me today is that this is how my knowledge base is built. The things that I know, I know because of this.

There was probably something else that helped. Another person read Cara, and she came to me Sunday and while she thought the story was cute, what really impressed her was how I explained various gospel concepts in the novel, because they were so clear. And I was thinking, that's what I do: I explain things. And I can explain things because of how my mind works.

When you combine the circles and the branches you get a network, a web, a database with a helpful reference guide --- I don't know; it's something.

This is how I am made and it serves a purpose.

I will not be frustrated with it anymore.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The problem with sheet caking

In case the title of today's post confuses you, I am including this handy reference article:

I have not watched Saturday Night Live regularly since October 1993. It just kept becoming less funny after that, and I gave up on it. The only reason I watched "sheet caking" is because it became a thing, and I saw a lot of people whom I respect criticizing it, basically for these reasons:

Many people have defended the sketch. They have been overwhelmingly white, which reinforces that this is a white privilege problem. "Privilege" is having the ability to not feel the problem, which gets exacerbated when the first response is defensiveness instead of thinking again.

I want to be very clear here that no one was horrible to me for posting the article. Two or three people commented, I replied, and it was all cordial. I would still like to spend a little more time on the topic, especially because of some things that have happened since.

The first thing I thought while watching was that it was sad. Humor tends to come from dark places. The brilliance of comedy is making something better out of that darkness, but when it isn't done well you can really have a mess, and that's what I saw.

I also get it. This ugliness in the world isn't new -- there's certainly nothing new about racism -- but seeing it so empowered, and knowing how it has been empowered, and that none of the revelations that come out seem to have any impact so that the hideousness of that line of succession doesn't matter... Got it! I get despair, and hopeless rage, and stress eating.

It's also been done before. I saw a video not long after the election of a crying, depressed white girl in a Hillary sweatshirt, and a Black woman came and put her through a boot camp style training where she would be ready to shut down her Trump-voting relatives at Thanksgiving.

I can't find it now. I don't think I even shared it back then because I thought there were some flaws in the execution there too. However, at least it ended with some sense of empowerment. In that way this video was infinitely superior.

I believe Tina Fey means well. She gets some things right, and she gets race wrong often enough that she might not be the best person to look to for answers, but hey, she's white. And that's the thing: she is white, has assets through her celebrity, and may not be super-rich but she does okay. The pain of feeling bad about this is real, but she is not under immediate threat. Yes, racist  authoritarianism -- whether Socialist or Fascist -- keeps casting a wider net, so everyone ends up endangered eventually, but she is not in danger now. That is an excellent reason for her to not tell everyone else to shut out the world.

Self-care is a real thing, and sometimes you do have to shut down. You may need to take time to cry, or catch up on sleep, or just to find a way to feel good. If that involves comfort food, so be it. But in the same way that it is wrong to push people to go out and fight when they need recovery time, it is also wrong to try and use self-care as a way of shutting other people down.

That happens surprisingly often. "I need help with-- " "Self-care!" "No, I just need someone to--" "Self-care!" I believe it's a form of denial for when someone is not able to offer what is actually needed, so having similar base motivations with "Not all" (and probably mansplaining too). Sometimes it is okay that you can't contribute; just don't make so much extraneous noise that you are drowning out the people who can.

This segment felt like taking the shame of not knowing what to do and trying to justify it by making that the answer. Shades of W, the answer becomes consumption, yes by supporting minority-owned businesses, but still, literally conspicuous consumption and absolutely not by putting  your body and voice out there.

Except for this:

The counter-protests remind the white supremacists that while the president and his cabinet and way too much of the legislative and judicial branches have their backs, that there are still more people who know they are despicable. It horrifies you to have a bunch of mediocre young white men chanting Nazi slogans while dressed in the president's golfing clothes and carrying tiki torches; it should. You still need to recognize it as an attempt to assert power that will feel successful without resistance.

The post-election United States are exhausting. There is always something horrible and new, but a lot of what fails happens because of the phone calls and protests. Those actions have mattered for health care and the travel ban and they matter with racism.

It sucks. It would be worse without action, and it is worse than it was. There are many who are suffering now because they are vulnerable in ways that you are not yet. It's nice that you care, especially if you do not yet need to. I am sorry for how much that hurts. I would hug and feed and listen to everyone if I could, believe me.

But don't get in the way of those who are willing and able to do the work. Some of them are probably hanging on by a thread too; do not throw your crap at them. Even comedy can be used as a force for good.

That's not what happened here.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Band Review: Widetrack

I was surprised to see Widetrack mention prog-rock for their influences and genre, even while pairing it with alternative. It made more sense after watching a video where two of the band members declared their devotion to "yacht rock".

This includes a specific appreciation for the "Yacht Rock" video series, but also the smooth soft rock of the seventies, when hits on the radio were good and not ruined by MTV.

My pet peeve of bands being more adept at trashing more popular work than praising what they like has been getting aggravated more and more frequently lately anyway. Here that was combined with a sense of unease based on the mismatch in age between the musicians featured. It seemed odd, though they were united in their belief of what you should seek out if you were into music or comedy at all.

There were only two, Ron and Zach, featured in the video, but the band appears to have at least one and probably two other people. Again, they do not do a good job of defining themselves, especially in ways other than oppositional.

The music is not bad. It does not sound particularly like Christopher Cross either, despite their appreciation for him. I could believe that they were influenced by Rush, but the more pressing issue is how the songs seem to blur into each other. This is again something that could indicate that the band has not really found their identity yet. Is it a bad sign that their album names are Widetrack and Widetrack II?

"Lazicarus" caught my attention every time it came on, so that is probably the starting place to find an interest in the band. Instead, there are so many things that are off-putting that I am not making a recommendation to check out the band, unless you were a big fan of the "Yacht Rock" series. Then there would be a strong match in sensibilities that might work out.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Band Review: Wearing Thin

Wearing Thin is a growing band.

I say that because having a chance to listen to their 2015 EP, Fake Amends, and their 2016 Split EP with Keyes (both bands are signed with Tragic Hero Records), I hear growth.

The anguished delivery and style was already there. The band does not assign itself a genre, but I am going to say post-core; there is growl-shouting and bombast, but it tends to stay more measured instead of getting frenetic. (Your mileage may vary.) They do a good job with delivery and not all of the songs sound the same, so they avoided the common pitfalls, probably a helpful factor in getting signed.

Beyond that, with only two songs on the split, the band shows an increased level of sophistication. The musical accents on "Everything Is Not Yet Lost" from 2015 are interesting (they remind me a little of The Smiths), and you can hear something similar on 2016's "Follow Through", but the textures are more complex, there is more differentiation, and this is the sign of a band that is learning and growing. And that is not even the best song, because I think "Company (Misery)" edges it out.

Those can be good enough reasons to check out the Salt Lake City group, but it's also a good reason to keep an ear on them, and listen to what they do next.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Before I felt the need to write about the eclipse, I was going to start the week by deconstructing an article on a certain topic, and then exploring other aspects of it. The focus would be working on disinformation, and trying to understand things better.

I am going to bump that into next week, but I have something else available for deconstruction here:

One reason the article struck me is that I had already seen another article on the second item, beer, and had some thoughts on that.

If you'll notice, beer penetration fell 1%. "Killing" seemed a little overdramatic for that small a percentage.

This article recognizes that, and explains how small consumption shifts can have a huge financial impact, though it mentions that specifically for "beer industry giants". I suspect if we took a closer look, we would find that millennials are more into microbrews than beer from the giants, but we know what they are really into is wine and hard liquor, to whom beer has lost 10% of its market share.

I am not that interested in what types of alcohol are being consumed, but I do question the phrasing. It could have been about millennials boosting wine sales, or liquor sales. Instead the millennials are billed as killers, a practice so common that there was a predictive text thing going around on Twitter: type in "Millennials are killing" and see what comes up!

Another thing that drew me to this article was the addition of "Psychologically scarred" to the title. It's nice that they put it in quotes, but it still seemed a little prejudicial. The worst part is that the explanation isn't really part of this article. There is a blurb before the main body that links to another article, and now apparently it is just an assumption that we are going to go with. Millennials were at an impressionable age when the Great Recession hit, and that has scarred them into being more cautious.

Honestly, exercising some caution in purchasing would not be a terrible lesson to take from the Recession. Yes, the president at the time told assured us that everything could be fixed with conspicuous consumption, but that was never true and ignored a lot of things that were important.

That doesn't necessarily explain all of the dying industries. Golf in as expensive habit, but boutique yoga classes are too. You can spend a lot more on wine and spirits than if you only drink beer.

Also, in an age when so many people barely take in anything other than headlines, "killing 19 industries" remains overly prejudicial. A lot of the companies that make napkins also make paper towels, isn't it enough that they are still selling something? Are fewer Applebees really a tragedy? Is it a terrible thing that "brestaurants" (may I never type that word again) are declining?

Studies also indicate that millennials are less likely to cheat, and average fewer sexual partners than the generation before them. I mean, they're still young, there's still time, but if they do see more value in fidelity and sexual restraint, and one aspect of that is that they don't want to go to Hooters, this is not something I wish to criticize them for.

I also can't help but be aware that when they are interviewing millennials - many of whom sound terrible -- they tend to focus on white millennials with affluent parents; that is one type of experience, but not the only one. Talking about job loyalty with people who are well-connected and have always been kind of sheltered is different than talking to people who do not have that experience.

Millennials are waiting to settle down, and it could be that they are thinking about things like climate change and frighteningly authoritarian leaders, but marriage and especially birth rates have been falling for many countries, and for longer than millennials have been around. Maybe there is more to the story.

There is a often a failure to understand context and get the broader picture in articles on millennials, and I think there are two trends that make that worse.

One is the desire for dramatic headlines. That makes "killing beer" much more exciting than "boosting spirits" or even "drinking less beer". It's odd how it conveys a sense that these businesses have a right to sales, rather than capitalism and the free market being the ultimate good.

That leads to the other thing, which is a desire to blame everything on someone else. Millennials are not buying the right things, and not buying enough of the right things, and it's because of all the stupid trophies they got! They're bad!

It is never that simple. A news media that focuses on the easy sell is not helpful, but we don't need to fall for it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Post-ecliptic aftermath

Yes, I know "ecliptic" has its own meaning; I am misusing the word for a bad pun. Fortunately, because we did not go anywhere, we did not end up stuck on the freeway for hours in a post-ecliptic wasteland.

I did not intend to write another post about the eclipse yesterday. After seeing it, I did not think it was overrated. I have thoughts about it.

I do see the advantage of being in the path of totality now. Hearing that we would see 97% of it sounded pretty good, but I can see what things we missed now, and they could have been pretty cool too. What we did see was still cool enough.

My first surprise was that it didn't really get that dark. It was not even as dark as the other one I remember, but apparently that day was overcast (and in October, so it makes sense).

It wasn't that much darker outside, but inside the house is was. I have not thought a lot about how much exterior light get into our house, but when some is cut off it really shows.

Honestly, if I had tried looking directly at the sun, I don't think I would have seen nearly as dramatic a reduction as the glasses revealed by cutting out all of the extra light. Obviously I could not test that out. Not only did I post a song parody PSA yesterday about not looking, but I am already pretty near-sighted and starting to need to squint at fine print; I mean, how many vision problems do I need?

(But I already knew I was smarter than the president.)

We had the special ISO-certified glasses, and seeing the glowing crescent sun through them was fascinating, but there were two other things I wanted to check out.

Although I did not have time to work out making a pinhole camera, I still wanted to try viewing through a pinhole. It initially did not work, as I believe I interpreted "pinhole" a little too literally. Once I enlarged it slightly, it worked, though getting everything angled right is still kind of annoying.

On the other hand, watching the light through the leaves was amazing. It's less dramatic in some ways, because there are so many of them. Also, as with the pinhole, turning your back on the eclipse when you do have the special glasses feels wrong, but they were so beautiful! I did track the sun getting bigger, and wondered if afterward I would find that there have been lots of little suns coming through the leaves all along that I just never noticed. No, there is no definition without the shadow. So I did not just see something fascinating and beautiful, but also ephemeral.

Obviously I did not watch in one unbroken spell; not only was I trying different things, but also from different places, and using both the front and back yards. As the sliver of sun got smaller, I thought not being in totality meant that it would just start going the other direction without ever going black. Instead it changed its position from the side to the top (very scientific description here). It was weird, reminding me that there is a lot of science that I don't know.

Beyond that, not getting the total blackness so being able to look at the corona, not feeling the temperature drop (possibly causing fog to form at the coast) and seeing how dark it really could get, there is a sense of lost opportunity. There was also extensive news footage and gorgeous photographs and I am okay with my experience. 

(Attempt to take picture with glasses over my camera lens, but trying to protect camera, eyes, and find the sun was too much. Leave that for the professionals.) 

Perhaps because of that missing factor (and who knew how big of a difference 3% could make?) I am not sure that we saw any strange animal behavior. Our cats did look out into the yard at us, standing still looking at the sun with dark film protecting our eyes, but I think that is more the cats noticing strange human behavior than anything else. Right after it was done a bird suddenly flew into the yard, but I don't know that it had just taken a short nap and then woke back up.

Now the only thing left to do is to try and do some good with the leftover glasses. Astronomers Without Borders will be collecting leftover glasses to redistribute to students in the paths of upcoming eclipses. If you think of how difficult a time some people had getting ISO-certified, verified glasses in the States, imagine how must more difficult it would be for low-income students in other countries.

They still need to get collection set up, but our house is waiting for them, and I hope you will too:

Monday, August 21, 2017

Total Eclipse of the Sun

I am more and more aware of missed opportunities lately, where the timing really matters. This is a rather silly one.

There has been so much talk of today's eclipse, but there were other things going on. Other than confirming that we would have glasses and that we were not going to travel South to catch the other three percent that we can't see from home, I have not thought of it much until a few days ago.

There were things that seemed interesting; I never thought about there being different strengths of welding helmets. I know you can use a pinhole viewer, and there are pinhole cameras - could you photograph the eclipse that way? (There's probably not enough exposure time to get a crisp shot.) There could still be interesting experiments to do.

If I had thought about it more, I would have been tempted to try a pinhole camera, but my biggest regret is not recording a song parody.

I was thinking ahead for the next few daily songs and thinking about today. The most obvious one is Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" -- that one is so obvious she is performing it during the eclipse -- but I wished that Weird Al Yankovic had parodied it.

Just in case he had, I did some searches. There was nothing by Weird Al, but Don McLean and some German band called Einst├╝rzende Neubauten have songs. Neither of them are as dramatic as Bonnie Tyler. That's when I started wanting to do my own.

I wrote many parody lyrics back in the day, so that was something I could do. I thought about just posting them, but it would be so much better to have something recorded. I have wanted to make my own daily songs at some point.

This is not the time for that. It's not just that I don't have a means of recording either; Bonnie Tyler goes both too high and too throaty for me. Too late I thought of asking a friend who does some recording, but there just wasn't sufficient time. Yes, there's another eclipse in nine years, but we are not in its path.

So, here we have just a blog post, with some lyrics at the end. I did not write enough lyrics for the whole song. I could have added more, but learning that the original version was over seven minutes so it was already chopped down makes me feel better about this. This is the PSA version.

Total Eclipse of the Sun

Turn around
It's stronger than it looks
You're not going to feel it
burn a hole in your eyes

Turn around
Or put on the glasses
Are they from somewhere approved?
Is it ISO certified?

Turn around, for your eyes,
It's just a few hours
but your retina's for life

Turn around, for your eyes
Every now and then someone goes blind!

I know you want to see first contact,
and to see the crescent sun,
the diamond ring and Bailey's beads,
and the reverse before it's done,
but you must protect your eyes,
so much can go wrong

I know that it's the day and looking like the night, but you can watch the moon and still keep your sight.

Or welding glasses too, if they're thirteen or fourteen. If you see anything but sun, you know it's too weak.

Use a pinhole camera or the leaves on a tree, it's only safe to look during totality!

Don't damage your eyes!
You have to protect your sight. You have to protect your sight.

Some things don't really blind you, but this one is true, protect your eyes until it is done. Don't regret where you look for the total eclipse of the sun.

There'll be so much else to see if your eyes still work, I just want to help everyone.
Don't regret where you look for the total eclipse of the sun.

Please protect your eyes.
Please protect your eyes.

Related links:

Friday, August 18, 2017

Band Review: The Felix

The Felix began as a studio project for two lifelong friends in Manhattan.

That's what it sounds like. There are a lot of the synthesizers and remixing that you get with one person tooling around in the studio, and a moody style that is very young and sophisticated and Manhattan.

That sounds like criticism, but as The Felix is, it works. The music is perfectly pleasant to listen to, and the hook from "Coming Back" lingers. That lingering is helped by the band's eight tracks containing three versions of the song, but some of it is musical quality.

My main problem is that altogether none of it amounts to much. I listen, and it's fine, and other than remembering a refrain from a song I have now listened to at least eighteen times, it hasn't meant anything to me.

It does to them. Based on their write-up, these are songs about personal feelings, and creating with your friends is great. However, to recommend the music, I would need to hear more depth. For what I hear, I recommend them if you like house music that you can't dance to.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Band Review: Guilt Ritual

Guilt Ritual is a hardcore band from Western Massachusetts.

There is not a lot of personal information on them available -- some first names without which instrument they play -- but my understanding is that the Travis is Travis Guin, a Twitter connection. Although we did once casually agree to form a band together when I turned 50 (2022), I support his not waiting until then to make music. That's why I am reviewing Guilt Ritual.

It is easy for hardcore to end up feeling like an assault, but this is not a problem with Guilt Ritual. One way they succeed is by keeping tracks at punk-length; you can listen to the entire Cured of Life EP in just over eight minutes.

It does not hurt that the guitars are played very well. There is intensity and force and even darkness, but the journey is a short one and that keeps it invigorating instead of exhausting.

I'm not sure how that will work out in shows. A short set is desirable for a lot of opening bands, but there will have to be some sort of balance for longer gigs. The band is working on that now, with a some shows set for the fall and a new record coming out, so this is a great time to pay attention as a fan.

Or a participant. They are looking for a drummer. If you are a drummer in Massachusetts or Connecticut, it's something to think about.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Queen Sugar: Nova and Charley

One part in my letter to my brother and sisters was specifically about preparing for life. The neurologist, while acknowledging that diet and exercise can be helpful for our mother now, stressed that your level of cardiovascular fitness during middle age is more important. I shared that with them, and at least two are taking it to heart.

In a way, all of it is preparing for life; we will need to deal with these things because we will continue living. Our flaws will get in the way, and some of our strengths will help, though conflicting strengths could get in the way too. People can be so complicated.

That's why I want to talk about Charley and Nova, as portrayed by Dawn-Lyen Gardner and Rutina Wesley.

I have great compassion for Charley, but it is kind of an older, backward-looking compassion. It was painful watching her freak out when the machinery jammed, falling apart as she tried to clear it manually. It was a testament to how tightly wound she is too. Many people have acknowledged her need for perfection, thus her need for control, but it being on the table did not fix it right then.

The things I have liked about her the least have always been about her trying to stay in control of situations, but I also can't blame her. When you believe that everything has to be perfect and look perfect and that it's on you, how can you believe the people telling you that the jam is normal and temporary and not a big deal? Everything is a big deal!

It warmed my heart to see her wearing her hair a little more naturally in the most recent episode. That is a believable touch; not a huge change, pretty much an experiment, but still a slight letting go. I care about her character for all of that.

I am also past it. There are so many things that I have already let go in the name of openness, and I don't miss any appearances. She will still be strong and smart even when she no longer worries about perfection. She could even be more effective. She will certainly be happier. I want that for her, but I probably have more to learn from Nova.

I have been amazed at Nova's ability to help others. That has included her facility with the cards when Ernest was in the hospital and couldn't speak. She helped him communicate, and she sprung into it seamlessly. She is there for teenager prisoners and old ladies with health problems but no cars and new mothers and nephews. She is so good at it.

She also is kind of bad at relationships, and pulled $10,000 from the farm's account without giving anyone a heads up.

I understood her desperation to get Too Sweet out, and I have at times done something without asking because the answer was likely to be "no", but I could not have done that.

I've wondered if she could have asked Charley for the money. When Charley found out, Nova said she would get it back, and that should be true with a bail bond. Charley might have agreed, but it is hard to imagine Nova asking, thus allowing the possibility of "no". Is Charley the only control freak? Or is it not exactly that with Nova?

At first I thought maybe Nova's sense of responsibility to a greater cause made her not good at a personal life. Things I have heard about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Cesar Chavez made that seem like a real possibility.

If that were true, Chantal could have been a good match. They are both totally committed to causes, and initially it was fun. However, even at the very start when they were only agreeing to a phone call, my instinct was that it could never work, because Chantal was so pushy. It imposes a level of constriction that was never going to work.

Maybe Nova is better off being unattached, but Robert keeps popping back up. Is there room in her life for a relationship? If she would have to give up some of her pursuits for a relationship, would the relationship be worth it? And certainly giving up who she is as a person wouldn't be worth it, though giving up some of her service might be, except how much of her identity is made up of her service? I think she was more passionate with Gavin, but there were many more obstacles; can Robert be enough?

I relate to those questions. There are some that I haven't really had to answer before, and I probably can't answer now, but I still need the answers. I need to know myself well enough to answer honestly.

So while I in no way have the physical confidence of Nova (or those biceps!), she is the one I relate to best. She may be the one who can teach me the most.

Last week I wrote about how art helps (and hurts), and that's really what this week has been about too. I have been studying and learning and growing, but sometimes I need a new perspective, and that can come through art. Stopping and processing it every now and then is necessary.

I think I have written enough about Queen Sugar now. There are still many scenes and moments that have mattered. They may come out at other times, but I don't know. Many things come in, and not everything automatically goes out. Next week I may be back to writing about my insides, or the outside world might intrude. Things happen.

Two band reviews, one travel post, and one provident living post before I find out.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A death in the family, via Queen Sugar

I am currently working on a pilot set at a small women's HCBU. A lot of the shows that I had been watching have concluded lately, and I realized that I wasn't watching any dramas. Past television viewing counts for something, but it is good to have some connection to what is current as well.

I had heard good things about Queen Sugar and was already a fan of Ava DuVernay, so that seemed like a good starting point. As luck would have it, all of the first season was being rerun right before the start of the second season. I set the DVR to record and started watching.

It is a well-written and performed drama in many ways, but it hit me harder because of where my life is right now.

If you haven't watched, Ernest Bordelon has some good land for growing sugar cane that he has not been able to farm for two season, largely due to financial issues. His death brings his three children together as they try to honor their inheritance.

(This is a gross oversimplification, but it gets you started.)

Initially I thought it might be about an ailing parent rather than a lost parent; when Ernest first collapsed I thought he was gone, and then when he was in the hospital I thought, okay, he can get better. Maybe it was foolish to hope.

From that point on, there were many things felt deeply while watching the siblings navigate the death. No one tried to hurt anyone, but they kept managing.

You might think going through the personal effects quickly is doing them a favor, but maybe one of them needs that experience as a way to connect and grieve. A family member with more money might want to handle the financial part, but not comprehend the need of the others to pay an equal share. There can be deep disagreements about how to manage the funeral. There can be deep disagreements about what to do with a shared inheritance.

For every time that they hurt each other, they supported each other too. When they stood together at the funeral home, and sat together at the funeral, there was strength and support and unity. One of the best parts of watching the show is watching them strengthen those connections.

Other things have come up. It recently came out that Ernest had also been working as a janitor, which he had not told his children. The timing, with when and how it hit, hurt. Nova picked up his effects, consisting of work gloves and a picture of Blue. That created an image of her father killing himself with overwork to support his grandson while his son was in jail. A new revelation about a second will hurt her while she was still processing that.

I won't say that the show is the only thing that helped me write to my siblings; my aunt's death and a visit with the neurologist influenced that too. I do think it was the show that made me feel the importance of communicating now the most.

We have our own flaws too, and no one has committed to anything, but at least they have been asked. What will be of most comfort to you? Is there anything you want to say to Mom or do with her now? Anything you want to ask? Are there personal items you know you will want?

It was also a chance to prevent surprises. I assumed everyone would know the financial realities, but that was an assumption. That information is out there now. With all of us around, our mother has had less opportunities for secrets, but there can still always be things that someone knows but not everyone has heard. Let's get that out in the open now.

I do know that one of my mother's worst fears before was that we wouldn't stay close after she was gone. As tempting as some aspects of that could be, it's probably not best. Not falling that way will require communication.

We don't have an Aunt Vi to push us to work things out. We'll have to make it work on our own.