Friday, June 29, 2018

Concert Review: The Get Up Kids

The Get Up Kids' Portland show sold out in two weeks. This may give you an approximate idea of the crowd. (Doug Fir Lounge capacity is 299.)

They opened with "Action & Action", which felt perfect, and then it just kept getting better.

Singer Matt Pryor had expressed some reservations about the venue's suitability for a rock show. There are ways in which the Doug Fir feels a lot like a basement, though it has a much bigger bar than even the best-equipped suburban rec room. One attempt at crowd-surfing turned out to be ill-advised, but there did not appear to be any permanent injuries.

(Personally I love the decor, but the lighting is terrible, and if you look at the photos and wonder why I even bother, sheer obstinacy, I guess. Plus love for the band.)

Ultimately, the rock worked out. The band knows what they're doing, the audience was receptive, and a good time was had by all.

Given the size of the band's catalog, they clearly didn't play everything, but it still managed to feel like they did. Nothing was missing.

Ryan Pope's drumming made me especially happy; I don't know why. In the past when this has happened, it has always been drummers with Italian last names (Ronnie Vannucci Jr., Roxy Petrucci), but I guess "Pope" is Italian-adjacent.

(Jim Suptic is really in most of these pictures, I just couldn't get a good focus on him. It was touch and go with Rob Pope.)

I appreciate that while the band clearly do not take themselves that seriously, they take the music really seriously. Specifically I always learn new things from watching James Dewees play.

I don't know that I would say it was a better than the 2015 show at the Hawthorne Theater. There was a kind of a cumulative effect between all of the bands that night that created its own energy. Wednesday night felt more intimate, perhaps because of the smaller size, and maybe the amount of friends and family in the audience. Doug Fir feels like a family place since the last time I saw Matt Pryor there anyway.

(And maybe I felt less of the energy because I was staying on the sidelines trying to not push my body into relapse too. I mean, that could have been a factor.)

It was nonetheless an excellent experience. The Get Up Kids are on tour through most of July, but if you want to see them in Portland, keep an eye out for when sales start and buy early. Or maybe they should get a bigger place. Either way.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Concert Review: The Casket Lottery

I had not previously been aware of The Casket Lottery, until this tour. I started listening to them this week in preparation for the show, but I'm sure I'm still missing a lot.

I did find it cool to have two bands with Kansas City roots touring together, and they got a strong crowd response. They may not have been the headliner, but they clearly have a strong fan base in Portland.

While looking into The Casket Lottery I found this description on their Facebook page:

"bummin' you out since '98"

That earned a laugh, and a thought of how emo it is, but while it would be easy to hear the music and be bummed, it would still be an exaggeration. It's not just that the band has fun between songs, but there is a lot of range in their overall body of work.

Possiblies and Maybes, from 1999, takes interesting curves, perhaps justifying it's title. "Myth", from their 2012 split with Touché Amoré, is beautiful and intricate and clear proof that there is more to The Casket Lottery.

So I wasn't that bummed out.

The Casket Lottery has one date left with The Get Up Kids (this review is from their Portland performance last night at the Doug Fir Lounge) in Salt Lake City tomorrow night, and then a 20th Anniversary party in Kansas City July 7th.

Constant bummer or not, it's still an anniversary.

(Pictures are worse than usual, even for me. I am trying to stave off collapse by exhaustion, so I stayed on a bench on the sidelines for the entire show. Remember, I wrote about being old for this four years ago:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

APAHM 2018 reading and the Asian Pacific American Awards for Literature

Last month I read an interesting thread on libraries and diverse books:

I mentioned the Ontario Library Association list, and she was glad to hear about it, but also pointed out that these books really aren't that hard to find. The problem tends to be a lack of interest. She was terribly right.

Oddly, that made me feel that I need to keep reviewing these books and making a bigger deal of the groups that award them. Maybe it isn't so much illogical as that I hope in my own way I might help generate some interest. Also, maybe every time I see that our library system has these books, that's a good sign. Maybe if something is missing, I can gift it.

Anyway, this time the books are from The Asian Pacific American Awards for Literature:

The goal of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature is to honor and recognize individual work about Asian/Pacific Americans and their heritage, based on literary and artistic merit.
Most groups award one picture book a year, possibly with an honorable mention, so I usually go back a few years, until I get at least five. Without realizing it I got a children's book - not a picture book, but one with chapters - into the mix, and it seems right to keep that up.

Picture Books:

Puddle by Hyewon Yum - This one is pure fun, with a rainy day leading to a kind of bratty mood, but all that mood needs is to embrace the rain. Well, there might be some mischief in that too. At times the artwork practically leaps off the page to pull the reader in.

The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Alina Chau - This is a good introduction to Chinese New Year traditions. The story is a little cutesy, but there are some lessons in needing to continually adjust, and also in seeking help from the community and working together.

Juna's Jar by Jane Bahk, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino - By total coincidence I read another book about a friend moving away, Jane Clarke's Gilbert the Great, around the same time. This one handled the emotions a lot better, although Gilbert being a shark may have affected that. Both are reassuring that eventually you make new friends, but the issue of finding comfort with the loss, rather than just moving on to the replacement, seemed like that would make Bahk's book more helpful for thoughtful children.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui - There is a lot of melancholy in this book as a refugee family resettles, but sometimes that sadness is real. This book can be helpful for that. I mentioned yesterday the emotional impact of the non-fiction books; of the children's books, this is where I felt that the most.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López - The artwork is pretty imaginative for how it conveys what is real and what is dreamed, and also for how it conveys the musical elements.

Set in Cuba, it might seem to have come from the wrong list, and I think it received some other honors as well. As it is, the book is based on the true story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl. I have also recently learned that many Jews fleeing Europe went to Cuba, though many had to flee again after Castro. One thing these books can do is remind us how much different people get around, which leads to our final selection.

Children's Book:

Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh by Uma Krishnaswami - There was a time when many Sihk and Muslim men from India came to the Americas to work, and then were not able to bring families over. Interracial marriage was outlawed in California, but the Indian men were allowed to marry Mexican women, leading to many families sharing two cultures.

That is a factor in the book, as well as how the tensions of WWII can strain the community relationships, but really, the book is about Maria's love for baseball, redirected into softball, but still facing some obstacles with learning how to take coaching, how to interact with her teammates, and how to work with her parents so that they can be happy with her participation.

I was talking to a parent recently who was shocked at some of the heavy topics that end up in books for fairly young readers (about fifth grade in that case). What I immediately felt strongly - and told her - is that when they encounter heavy issues (and they will, long before fifth grade for lots of kids), those books will gave them ways of thinking about things, and being able to communicate about them. I hope it will help them find ways to cope.

Reading children's books again after a long time, I was caught off guard by the immaturity of the characters, but that's real. These are the ages when all the often embarrassing but really needed lessons happen, and when you do start to grow up.

It is vital that many different children can see themselves inside these stories.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2018 reading

As committed as I am to the concept of these months, my execution may miss the point. For example, Grace Kelly is an American artist with Asian heritage. However, Chillitees are based in the Philippines, and RiL seem to be based in Japan. Shing02 is a transplant to the US, but as much as Kitcha sounds like he is from the US, he seems to be operating in Sweden.

One issue with that is that there aren't that many Asian-American bands. The Slants call themselves the only Asian-American dance band, and if they took off the "dance" they might still have a point. I might focus on bands with Asian-American members at some point, but also I worry that if I focus on splitting hairs too much, that it could go wrong in a different way.

As it is, my book selection could be questioned as well.

River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma by Thant Myint-U

Bamboo Palace by Christopher Kremmer

Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora by Andrew Lam

When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge by Chanrithy Him

The first two are histories, specific respectively to Burma and Laos. The second two books contain personal experiences from authors who were displaced by war and did end up coming to the United States, although in Chanrithy Him's case, the book is mainly set before she comes to the US.

(Also, Thant Myint-U was largely raised in the United States, with his family being based here after his grandfather, U Thant, went to work for the United Nations.)

If I were thinking about trying to know more about the specific topic of the month, it would make sense to read about the annexation of Hawaii, and the Chinese Exclusion Act and the building of the railroads. I'm sure I will end up reading more about those.

Instead, these were books that had been on my radar, and largely because of my mission.

I served with Lao refugees in Fresno and Modesto. It was over twenty years ago, but the memories are still warm. I met many Cambodian and Hmong refugees. I did not meet many Vietnamese, but a good friend of mine in junior high was, and then Burma, Vietnam, and Cambodia all bordered Laos (along with China). There was a map that a lot of the Lao families had on their wall, with the countries and the different groups in them.

(The only Lao joke I know is "How many legs on a Burmese chicken?" It's a pun because the word for Burma sounds like you are saying "man, horse", so with a chicken and a man and a horse it is eight legs. It's funnier in Lao.)

Yesterday I wrote about why there is value in reading about other countries, and I stand by what I wrote. In addition, lots of them have had to come here. That would give them a part in US history, even if we were not often a large part of the reason they had to come.

It touched a lot of tender feelings. There's a part of my heart that is always going to be in the San Joaquin valley, but also a part that goes out to those countries as I think about the people that I knew and loved and what they have had to go through, there and here.

Food for thought that will continue is how important rivers have been in the history. The "perfume" in the title of Lam's book refers to the Perfume River. Before this reading, my associations were always with the Mekong, but that is not the only important river in South East Asia. When you think of agriculture and fishing and setting international boundaries and transportation, we may have gotten away somewhat from remembering how important rivers are here, but it makes sense. The Columbia and Willamette have played a huge role in shaping us here.

I will continue thinking about politeness. It seems that the strict social rules and expectations about showing emotion and affection could inhibit some important things, but then when the Khmer Rouge or the new Lao government forbids all the old signs of respect there was a lot of harm with that as well.

I have been reminded of the power of kindness, and the harm of a lack of kindness. Too often there is cruelty that seems senseless and so unnecessary, but the point was for people to die. Yes, a few small changes could have saved lives, but that wasn't what they wanted, whether they openly admitted that or not.

This obviously resonates with the current immigration discussion, but we don't talk enough about how economically destructive it is. Human suffering should be more important than money, but people should also be aware of how much the suffering will spread. It wouldn't matter if we were better people, but there's too much evidence that we aren't.

On the most personal level, the reading filled in a lot of blanks, and led me to realize that the blanks that were there were are least partly because they tended not to talk about it. Most of the information I had came second-hand. The worst story I ever read had been written as a school assignment. Some of the things that happened in re-education camps I learned from other missionaries who had been out longer. And no one talked about the refugee camps unless they still had people in them, and then it was just about trying to get them over.

There were some self-effacing aspects to their culture where it might feel inappropriate to talk about themselves. There was certainly a focus on the present and what was needed now. That's not necessarily unhealthy, but I worry about unprocessed grief now. I don't think asking more direct questions would have been good, but I wonder now if there were things we could have done to empower them more for telling their own stories.

The month did improve my historical knowledge. It also emotionally put me through the wringer. There was a family that I had kept in touch with until they moved and I did not get a forwarding address. Even the youngest would be 26 years old now. I actually do know that the father in a different family I knew has died. I have feelings.

That may be the most important part of doing this. Knowledge and context are important, but empathy is desperately needed. We do not have the only experiences worth knowing.

I will do the children's books tomorrow. I did not read any poetry. I wanted to find some of Teiko Tomita's poetry (she was a picture bride who came to the Pacific Northwest), but I didn't find any collections. Poetry in this case might require anthologies or online sources.

For comics, I read the first volume of Monstress by Marjorie Liu, and I caught up on the Amulet series, reading books 5, 6, and 7.

I'm glad I stuck with the Amulet series. I wasn't sure after the first one, but I have come to really appreciate it. Monstress is a little dark for me, but it was stunningly gorgeous. I know I will want to check out more of Sana Takeda's book.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Reading about other countries

I pretty successfully observed May's Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (I probably could have done better), and so the next two posts are going to be about things I read, with bands that I listened to during May having already been reviewed.

Before that, I want to revisit a question from five years ago. No, I hadn't realized it was from that long ago until a laborious search through my archives.

There had been a lot of talk about white pride on Facebook. No, the talk wasn't so much about the toxicity of white supremacy, but aggravation that everyone was allowed to be proud except for white people. I did write about how it was possible to connect to your heritage without making it a matter of white supremacy, with a little bit of background on when being "white" started being a thing, but there had been another question that inspired two blog posts.

I can link them at the end, though looking back at old posts I see them as being embarrassingly uninformed and wordy, but the question itself was not so much a sincere question as a complaint that why stop at having a Black history month and a Native American Heritage month? Why not study every country?

Without making you read those posts, my answer was that in telling the story of US history we often neglect to cover how much of the building and fighting and planning was done by people who were not white men. There has been that unbalanced view of history for long enough that these special months give us a chance to correct. Sure, honest and integrated history would be better, but having months where we focus on marginalized groups can prepare us to understand that big picture.

Even at the time, though, I thought about how making a point of studying a little about every country would teach us a lot. I have tried to incorporate that a little more into my life, but I have some additional thoughts now.

When I was doing my War is Hell reading, there were some reminders about this via the history of the Philippines, and US involvement there. That was reinforced a bit later as one of the other narratives spent some time in a refugee camp in the Philippines.

In addition, I have heard many times how it seemed odd that the US would have been on the side of North Vietnamese Army instead of the Viet Cong. After watching the documentary, that was a direct result of our relationship with France. Our presence started while France was still in control, and continued to support the government France left, even though many Vietnamese were not happy about that. Russia was happy to offer them the support we didn't. Colonialism strikes again.

Yes, reading about different groups and their experiences within the United States is important, but that is not the full sum of our history. Things we have done in Central America are affecting many lives today.

The interactions are often complex. Maybe it was the Soviet Union who invaded Afghanistan first, but supporting the freedom fighting Taliban there had consequences here.

It is not always the government. Reading about the actions of Dole or Coca Cola in other countries might tell us some things too. Maybe they are things we aren't going to want to hear, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't know.

There are good things to know too. For example, one thing I read about was Burma going all nativist and kicking out foreigners, and absolutely devastating their economy that way. Maybe we could learn from others instead of repeating the same mistakes.

It's at least worth thinking about. You know, rather than being condemned to repeat it.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Band Review: Steven Cravis

Steven Cravis is a soundtrack composer and producer.

I have listened to soundtrack composers before, and I generally enjoy that, but there is much more than usual here.

The first thing to really catch my attention was that there was a whole section on soothing alarm clock sounds. It was surprising, but why not? Lots of people use their phones for their alarms, it is easy to download different tones onto phones; why not choose something less jarring than the standard jarring buzz?

Given some of the other albums, I have to assume that relaxation and wellness are important to Cravis on a personal level.

I am not into that enough to judge it. There is an 18-minute meditation music track; I do not know if it would be a good accompaniment for meditation. There is a whole suite of Healing Piano music that associates each chakra with a key and works through them. It seems possible that there could be a wonderful yoga session that goes through this, and again I don't know if it works, but I love the idea. I like that someone is putting it out there.

Much of the music is instrumental, but there were some interesting vocal tracks. I particularly enjoyed "April Rain".

The word I keep coming back to is interesting. There are definitely pretty tracks and there are a lot of peaceful tracks, but putting them together was really interesting.

I believe his catalog could be fun to explore for anyone, and perhaps contain extra delights for those who are more adept and meditative practices.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Band Review: Jour Majesty

Jour Majesty is a project of Michael C Perry, who has come to making his own music via a path of directing videos and commercials, then learning sound engineering.

While definitely country-tinged, the overall feeling is more joyful, though quietly so. Perhaps the best word is "mellow", with the added thought that people who enjoy roots music and folk could enjoy Jour Magesty.

I found "Tanner Street" particularly beautiful, though I appreciate the hint of honky-tonk on "Carnival Kid".

Otherwise, a lot of it does blend together, but it is pleasant background music, and can be a completely difference experience via the videos.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The attacks of our friends

There is a lot more to say about what is being believed on the right, but there is something else important happening on the left.

One of the most common lies being spread around is that separating families is an Obama (and sometimes they even say Clinton) policy, and why do we only care now?

Operation Streamline was started under George W. Bush. That allowed for faster processing and deportation. It largely continued under Barack Obama. In addition, there started to be more unaccompanied minors during the Obama era, and policies were set up to deal with that. Therefore, you can see pictures of children in a cell from the previous president, and say "Zero Tolerance" was his thing, and it is not completely false. It still ignores a pretty important truth, though, in that the ripping of children away from their families and sending them to other states for mass holding as they get more of them - that is Trump. He started it, did not need an executive order to stop it, and the executive order he did sign includes some nasty militarization into immigration that we don't need. So, for anyone feeling particularly relieved, there is still a lot to do.

When conservatives blame a Republican thing on Democrats - especially Obama - that is nothing new.

When people see a horrible policy and their first complaint is why do we only care when Trump does it, even when  you know it is based on a lie, it still shows a disturbing lack of priorities.

But when people who call themselves progressive in a moment of crisis caused by Trump spend more time blaming Obama and Clinton for what is happening, that is frustrating.

We should care about things that Obama did wrong. For example, this executive order does not fix immigration and still leaves a lot of room for abuse. The people who were working on immigration then, and have complaints about Obama's policies are some of the best-informed as we look for what we need to do.

I'm not saying we should march in lockstep, or ignore internal problems. That is precisely what has allowed conservatives to get so bad.

However, when you have Bill Maher asking Bernie Sanders - who is not a Democrat - what Democrats should do, and when all of the news seems to focus on how unorganized and rudderless Democrats are even though they are pulling off some pretty impressive victories, I think we need to look at what is driving that.

And when so often the voices criticizing the Democrats are saying really similar things to what Republicans are saying, we really need to think about that.

Remember, the Republicans started out with some great ideas, but when the Democrats started supporting civil rights, the Republicans started running against that, more and more openly, until Trump was the logical nightmare result. And yes, racism is worse under him, and sexism and every other kind of bigotry, but the problems are not going to stay limited to that. So I don't care whether your preferred word is liberal, progressive, or Democrat, but if your plans call for holding back on equality to fix something else first, the answer is a resounding no. If that could work, it would have worked already, much like Brownback's plans for the Kansas economy.

I don't believe everyone who goes this way does so knowingly. Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself:

  • Do I only ever give praise as a counterpoint to criticism of someone else? (For example, at least he's not as bad as so-and-so.)
  • Do you normally not comment on anything because you really don't care, but when you do have criticism it tends to only be - by complete coincidence - for women and people of color?
  • Even if you voted for Obama, did you vote in mid-term elections to give him a Congress he could work with instead of one that was rooting for him to fail?
  • Do you still think - after multiple attempts at travel bans, trade wars, alienation of our closest allies to cozy up with despots, people losing health care coverage, and babies in cages - that there is no difference between the two parties?
They sometimes say, "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." That is a reasonable statement, but I can't help but feel like the problem isn't so much perfectionism as it is just preferring being an enemy. And hey, if you want to feel big by picking on someone, the stakes are much lower for picking on the liberals than on the conservatives.

It also gives you a rapidly worsening hell scape. 

Don't think that it's not going to burn you too.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Lies, errors and exaggerations, but mainly lies

I understand that in many cases the people who do approve of the family separations don't view it in the same light. There is a fundamental difference in perception. I understand that better after catching a short bit of Lars Larson. I hope to do some deconstruction there.

I will probably refer to some things that I have heard in other places. Some of the things he has said are not original to him. For example, I think Ann Coulter is saying the "human shield" thing too. I don't know if she is the source, but that might be worth finding out.

One pretty amazing thing is that the amount of time I spend listening is about the time it takes to move one load of laundry from the washing machine into the dryer and put a second load into the washer. A shocking amount of falsehood can be crammed into these few minutes.

The interesting rhetorical point is that Larson used some examples before to give plausibility to what was coming, except that they were completely implausible. He said that there are magic words to use with law enforcement. For example, if you are caught with a stolen car you can say that a friend loaned it to you and you don't remember the name of the friend, and they will let you go. Another good one is that you can say that you swallowed your drugs if you are taken on, well, presumably drug charges, but I suppose if that one works it should work on anything.

I hate to think it might be at all necessary to point out the flaws in these arguments, but just in case, no, those are not magic words. If you can name a friend who loaned you the stolen car, the police might call that person in, and maybe if they have a record and you don't, you might not be charged as an accessory. And while there certainly are some notable cases of police withholding medical aid, assuming that they do take you to get your stomach pumped - while it might be easier to escape from a hospital than a holding cell - police have nonetheless successfully been able to maintain custody of people getting medical treatment many times.

I have noticed more conservative criticism of law enforcement lately, so maybe those examples play into that - they are not always only trying to accomplish one thing. Regardless, these are shockingly stupid examples that should tell you not to trust anything the speaker says.

And this is what follows: the magical excuse to give for illegally crossing the border is that you feared for your life, but also no one wants to arrest little kids, so the coyotes who cross just grab some kids to take along as insurance. That way they probably aren't even related, so the separation is no big deal.

Shades of false flags and crisis actors! But as stupid and fake as it sounds, Tom Cotton is using it to say that not separating families will increase child trafficking.

I understand if the second part of Larson's theory sounds worse. You can think of the recording of the children's cries, and the father who killed himself, and so many examples telling you that these are families in anguish. I feel that too. It is still important to point out that taking fear for one's life and turning it into a magic excuse to get away with something instead of an actual reason that people will take long and dangerous journeys is also an important part of the dehumanization.

Hearing someone confidently state those views is pretty horrible. Right now I actually have more contempt for Larson than for Limbaugh (which will probably only last until the next time I hear Limbaugh), but later yesterday Larson was only doubling down on it. Today he was talking about how they are getting better care and better supervision and meals. Now it's a favor to the children to detain them.

Clearly the children don't know, based on their crying. Even if I hadn't seen (and posted) that article about inadequate resources for supervision, though, if you have a detained teenager teaching the other detained children how to change diapers, that implies there is not adequate support.

Taking care of children can be hard under good circumstances. It doesn't get easier when you shove a lot of traumatized children together into a place that is not designed for caring for children. That's when you might end up having inadequate heating or cooling, or putting the kids in cages.

There is plenty of information out there, and a lot of it is lies. It tends to fall on one side of the political spectrum, and yet there are some problems on the other side too, and that's something else I need to get to tomorrow. For now...

Monday, June 18, 2018

Family values hypocrisy?

I had just convinced myself that I should put off that one thread I was trying to pick back up, get back to blogging about books and movies, and not pick up on all of that again until I finish my post-election reading. After all, the subject matter was related. But I think that was wrong.

Many of you may be horrified by the forced separation of families by immigration. That is understandable. It cruelly adds trauma to people who have already been through enough. It runs the risk of permanent separation, as young children (like a breast-feeding four month old baby) may not even know their family names yet, and even with older children who remember their former addresses, it is questionable whether that home is still there and whether their parents would make it back there. When you send a woman back to Guatemala without her child, I question whether they could ever be reunited:

It doesn't even have the questionable benefit of being efficient. It is much easier to have detained parents care for their own children than to hire and train enough people to adequately meet required ratios even without factoring in language differences and the effects of trauma.

In short, there are a lot of horrible things about this, where the horror is a feature not a bug, and it makes the mind recoil. So many of you may be horrified, and if you are a regular reader of this blog you probably are, but there are many people who are fine with it.

I wondered about that. For the candidate who ran on racism and where we have seen racist incidents increasing, it's kind of not surprising, but it still feels like there should be some push back. For the people who voted for Trump because Democrats are okay with killing babies, shouldn't at least some of them be upset about babies being torn for their families and held in empty Wal-marts and tent cities with inadequate supervision that would be enough to cause severe permanent psychological trauma even assuming that no other abuse happens (which given everything is very unlikely)?

Apparently not.

It is easy to be horrified by the people too. Tomorrow I want to spend some time on how they can justify it. Those justifications are way off, which leads us into another problem area, and then we will be getting closer to what I have been trying to say.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Band Review: 18th & Addison

18th & Addison is a New Jersey rock band with some punk and pop roots.

Overall enjoyable, there is also an earnest quality to their music, especially with songs like "My Old Skin" where relatable emotions come through. They feel free to pull from other influences as well, as on the mellow and touching "Fix Me Again".

The band is a joint effort of Tom Kunzman and Kait DiBenedetto. Although both sing, it is especially refreshing to hear DiBenedetto's voice, and something that sets 18th & Addison apart from similar bands.

18th & Assison just released the 4 song EP Vultures, with plans for more shows on the way.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Band Review: Ya Ya Logic

Ya Ya Logic is a band from West Malvern. They self describe as drawing upon alt rock, punk, and prog. To my ears, part of it reminds me of garage rock, but when the harpsichord kicks in, like on "Cage Bird", that sends me more specifically to The Doors.

Okay, they're probably not quite as weird as The Doors could get, but it's kind of nice to hear some of those elements back in play. Start with "Cage Bird" to see if you hear it to, then listen to "Boom Town" for a counterpoint. If that works for you, you'll probably enjoy the rest of the Own the World album.

Fans of The Paul and John might also enjoy.

Monday, June 11, 2018


I'm not sure I won't do regular posts this week, but current activities include finishing up three online classes, preparing study material for a Spanish file, and trying to sterilize every surface in the house just in case Norovirus is still lurking somewhere. Ironically, one of the common Spanish homework and test items is a blog post. They're hip.

Anyway, I'm around, lots going on, and normal, then.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Band Review: Pure Colors

Pure Colors is basically techno, I guess. There is a lot of mixing, and when dialogue gets added to the music it reminds me a little of what Plug88 was doing, only that was more interesting. Some of Plug88's samples came from Gorillaz, but they can be a lot more fun. I have not been finding Pure Colors interesting or fun.

It sounds like a lot of his process is to be experimental, and there may be a lack of focus in the approach that could be fine-tuned, but as of now I cannot recommend.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Band Review: Francesco Liccari

Francesco Liccari's 2016 EP Raw Notes starts with the track "Long Winter", and I think in that way shoots Liccari in the foot.

Just under five minutes, the dismal tune does have something in common with a long, cold, and hopeless season. It then colors the rest of the EP, which is not quite as dreary.

It might have worked better as the closing track, but I suppose it depends on what you want to say. I think Liccari's downbeat manner is generally intentional. In some ways, opening with "Long Winter" could act as a positive, because it all gets better after that.

But somehow it doesn't feel that way.

This might be a good fit for Smashing Pumpkins fans.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

One more personal truth

In April I went to see Timothy Snyder speak:

I was really impressed by his book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century and I think everyone should read it. Obviously, I was excited to get a chance to hear him, and he did a great job.

Out of many memorable things he said, the one that is pertinent to this post is when he said of the things that we see there is one study that can tell us more and predict and that is history. It gave me a little thrill, because I have always felt that, and that is a big part of how history ended up being my thing. Yes, maybe some of it is just wanting to know everything, but I also want to know what to do, and how you fix things, and history is better for that than anything else.

Over the past section of my life, I have been learning things about myself. That includes learning that I have value, and understanding that some previous beliefs were false, and even gaining some perspective on things that seem contradictory but aren't (like yes, you deserve downtime, but this particular way of spending downtime does not work well for you).

In addition, lately I seem to be discovering three defining traits. I am a caretaker. I am a writer. I am a historian. If all three of those are essential to me, then that could explain a lot about me.

I might have previously guessed that my religion was more defining. It is important to me, and it affects a lot, but there are lots of Mormons who manage to feel very differently and act very differently. If I broaden the definition from being Mormon to Christian, it's still true. Taking care of others feels like a natural extension of my religious beliefs, but maybe that is who I would be anyway, and that part of me is something that responds to the religion.

And it is something many other people don't seem to interpret the same way, but maybe if there is another care-taking student of history out there who has to write about everything, maybe we would have a lot in common. Because I know that when Snyder said that, that thrill wasn't only that this is something for me, but also that I am not the only one who feels that way.

There is something wonderful about finding your people, but it is also pretty good finding yourself. It's not that I didn't know that writing, caring for others, or history were important to me before; I knew.

Instead, this is more that hey, this is you. It is good and you need it, and you will do good things with it. Hang onto it. It is a call and response in conjunction with the universe. It is connection both with self and beyond self.

And no matter how different those answers might be for a different person, I believe they are out there all the same.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018


A few months ago I wrote about realizing that I am a caretaker.

Two months ago that got a bit scarier, when I felt a little overwhelmed with my responsibilities, based on having two sick people in the house with me and no one else. Then, when Mom never really bounced back from that, it started to feel like maybe that was going to be all I could do for a while.

We have a better understanding now of what was going on, and that's good, but there's this one area where I am still having a really hard time, and that is including self-care with my care.

There are things that I have been meaning to do for so long, but I keep putting it off because there is always something else that needs to be done. I also feel flabby, overly tired, and I don't know that a stronger immune system would have made a difference last week, but it couldn't have hurt.

I know that I need to take care of myself. I know that if I don't take care of myself, I will not be much good for anyone else. It's still really hard to get there.

When I was reading the badly-written book on Asian health secrets and the better-written but poorly thought out book on Ayurveda, one of the frustrating aspects was that there was always this assumption that something would be wrong with you: you would be out of balance in some way.

Without it making either of those books any better, I think there might be some truth in that. There are always a lot of things to attend to, and you are not getting to them all, and at some point you will need to shift in some way.

I can accept life being cyclical, and that being fine. That doesn't change that right now I am performing sub-optimally, and it's in a pretty clear direction.

One of the things I have not been spending enough time on is increasing my walking distance in preparation for the Turkey Trot. I have done a few miles, and they are fine, but one thing that I notice is that sometimes I feel this tightness in my body that it is pretty clear is stress. I don't worry about it because it is so clear that it is stress, but what is the point of clarity if you don't do anything about it?

So that's what I need to work on, and I am focusing on myself this week, even though I know there were previously existing threads that I dropped right when I started barfing.

I know I lost some readers when I stopped blogging after my computer died, and I think I lost a few this week as well. I am pretty sure that if I chose titles more carefully and promoted differently I could grow my readers that way too. Still, the most important thing right now seems to be becoming whom I need to be, and there have been messages all around about that.

Sometimes it means asking for help on something, and seeing that I can get it. Sometimes it means simply realizing that I can't do it all and prioritizing differently.

And apparently sometimes it will have to mean choosing me, but still being aware of those who rely on me.

It will have to mean finding a balance.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Plague! Pestilence! Fire!, or why I haven't blogged for a few days

Last week I hinted that there were stressful things going on, but I didn't explain further and also, I kept the blog up, kind of impressively, but then more stuff piled on. Such is life.

Last Saturday night (so the Saturday night of Memorial Day Weekend, not of the Starlight Parade), my mother had two fainting spells and we took her into the ER, which resulted in her being admitted into the hospital.

That was the first source of stress, and also the first source of being reluctant to give details. After all, it is more her story than mine, and there are confidentiality rules about medical status. Of course, we have been giving every friend all of the details upon request, but that has been one on one. Anyway, she had some issues that are being treated.

I was not too surprised (though a little dismayed) when the hospital attending doctor had a completely different course of treatment in mind than the ER attending doctor; television has prepared me for different mindsets there. I was much more dismayed when every shift change in the hospital brought a different resolution. I was getting pretty murderous by the time we finally got Mom home Wednesday evening. It was still a relief.

Now, hospitals can be scary, lonely, and disorienting under the best circumstances, but with memory issues it can be worse, not only for remembering what is going on but remembering whether you are allowed to get up and walk around without staff present (no), so it seemed best to have someone there with Mom as much as possible. I spent many hours there, which I believe is germane (keyword: GERM) to what happened next.

Mom was discharged at 6 PM Wednesday. We came home, I threw dinner together, we ate, and I collapsed on my bed, exhausted, until about 3 AM Thursday morning, at which point I spent the next three hours violently expelling everything from my digestive system.

(I have not blogged since Thursday.)

At first I thought it could be that had been holding so much stress in that a brief relaxation of tension let everything loose. Plausible, but then I remembered that I had foolishly consumed some raw cookie dough before dinner. I knew dinner was fine, because everyone else was fine so far. Okay, food poisoning, brought on by my own bad decisions, but I would live and not spread things around.

Friday afternoon, Mom started to throw up. This is really scary with someone who just got out of the hospital  - and who would be very reluctant to return to the hospital - and is on some new medications. Except, her symptoms were remarkably similar to mine. Timing, textures, color (I had to check for possible side effects, okay?) was exactly like mine. And then my siblings started to fall. Friday evening. Friday night. Saturday morning. And finally, just when we thought she was going to escape it, my final sibling succumbed yesterday.

We had all been together Wednesday evening for our mother's return. We ate together. It wasn't the food, though, it was me.  I believe I picked up something (I suspect Norovirus) at the hospital, and have now demonstrated its extreme communicability.

I have been mostly okay since Friday. I mean, my stomach knows something happened, but it is digesting normally. I have also been trying to do a good job of getting things cleaned up, though it is hard to do a thorough disinfecting of the house when it keeps getting more infected.

Part of that is laundry. I wanted to wash all sheet sets today, except just on a normal load of clothes last night the dryer stopped turning and started to smell really hot. So, no, not fire, but if we hadn't unplugged it, who knows?

On one level it feels like time for a primal scream of "Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?????????", but at this point I am kind of just laughing at it. I don't know what happens next. I should probably be scared. I'm not.

I do have a greater understanding of how there is so much that you can't control, and yet it doesn't meant that things don't matter. It does mean that you should use time wisely, but I have wasted a lot of time and I don't care enough about that either. I may not have the energy to care quite yet. We'll see how I feel later.

But also, last night I woke up from a really interesting dream that has some good stories in it. It's not like I didn't already have things to write about, but something new is always exciting.

Of course, I'm probably not going there, but I do also have plenty of material for a gross-out comedy!