Thursday, December 05, 2019

Album Review: Prima Donna by Prima Donna

Fun fact: one of my 2019 accomplishments was learning that S/T means "self-titled". However, in reviews it is apparently appropriate to use the band's name as the album name. So...

I really liked Prima Donna by Prima Donna! (2018).

It starts strong and rocking with "4 Real", and that predisposes one to liking the rest of the album, but the other tracks do stand on their own. It makes such good use of the keyboards; we understand that role in pop, but it can do great things in rock.

"Press Your Luck" and "Automatic" - in addition to being fine on their own ("Automatic" has a bit of a Johnny Marr "The Tracers" vibe) - feel like they go really well with "4 Real", like the track order was contemplated and optimized.

There is some scorch on the guitar solo on "Year of the Rat", but also it goes to fun places vocally. "Recurring Nightmare" was just something I felt. "Sound the Alarm" takes a darker twinge, like a '60s crime show turned graphic novel, and you're just not sure what's going to happen.

I have listened way more than three times just to make sure I am getting everything. I am sure that I am still not getting everything, but I love that there is the content that you can dive into or just enjoy. I remember them striking me as smart and well-suited to each other when I first saw them in 2013. They have been through some things, but that hasn't changed.

Of course, I also remember that they always seemed pretty sexual. I had initially thought that was a little toned down this time, but after the most recent listen on "Love From Above", I am not sure that is true. I don't know; I was not specifically looking for it.

I'm just glad they're still around. With a new video released just three days okay, I think that will last.

If there's a new album coming, let's hope I get to that sooner.

December music

I had a point where I was frustrated with not being able to spend enough time listening to music to do any reviews. Now time is still an issue, but I have blogged more music reviews than anything else. A couple of live shows helped with that, but other writing has just been hard. The last non-music post I started writing ended up going way too long. I need to get back to it and break it down.

I thought I could write about what I was doing this month, both for the daily songs and for a new goal. I am not optimistic about the goal, but I can still write about it.

Daily songs are Christmas songs that I have not played before, bringing in as many previously reviewed or enjoyed artists as I can, and still trying to avoid repeats. Obviously, with reviewing bands more slowly I run out of them for daily songs faster. It's basically what I was doing for October with the Halloween songs, only it is more obvious that there are tons of songs out there. There are thousands of recordings of Christmas songs out there, although a lot of them are crap.

I could add to that list. 

Just for reference, here were the original music goals:

I am not ready to go into sorting out Christmas song history and tracing those developments. The daily songs may be a nod to that, but the deeper dive will not happen this year.

The question was, could I accomplish that other goal of having a week where the songs of the day were all mine?

At first, my daily songs decision made that a clear "no" for December; I don't have a week's work of Christmas songs.

I do have one, and I often think this is the year that I might break it out and let someone hear it. (Previously I have only sung it to my mother, and I guarantee she does not remember it.)

Then I started hearing a new one in my head. I also started remembering other contenders.

I did write a Christmas song for Family Ghosts. It is not highly refined. I only used some fragments in the book itself, so it didn't need to be refined. Still, there is a seed.

I also have partial lyrics to a Christmas version of  "Can't Hurry Love". I have always meant to get around to writing it out fully.

"Zombie Lullaby" might seem like it is more Halloween-themed, but the story takes place at the winter solstice. That was a key factor in the accidental demon summoning, and it was the demon being vanquished over the cemetery that caused the zombies to rise. I'm just saying, it's seasonal.

So then, if I did write out the new one, that would be five. That's a work week. It's close enough to a full week where you might wonder if writing two more songs is not impossible. It could at least be worth trying.

And it set off a lot of concerns, like the lack of real recording equipment, hence no ability to record multiple tracks or video, plus my own musical limitations and how that would prevent complimentary musical accompaniment, not to mention not being the best singer. There was a sure knowledge that it could not be very good, but that it could be done, so maybe it was something that should be done.

Maybe it's important to be good at doing things badly. I was really going to try and do it.

Four days into the month, it has already been so hard, and so tiring. I don't know if  I have it in me to concentrate and be creative, and then put it out into the world in poor a capella versions done on the built-in PC camera and microphone.

I'm not completely ruling it out, either; but sometimes I think it would feel great to do something well.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Concert Review: Cosmonox

Cosmonox ended the show Saturday night, and it just got weirder.

Both members of Cosmonox appeared to play different things, but they were largely things I had never seen before. Instruments include a 4-track cassette recorder, keytar (okay, I did recognize the keytar), homemade synthesizers, and what appears to be a Califone Cardmaster, where paper was pushed through and pulled back, giving kind of a record scratch effect.

The energy reminded me of The Presidents of the United States of America, who also do some custom instruments, but only by removing unnecessary strings from their guitars. With Cosmonox, it is as if the Presidents were AV geeks, and also a Portlandia sketch.

In addition, they would have to be very into Greek mythology; almost every song was about King Amphitryon, Theban general and stepfather of Hercules.

I guess it makes sense that they played at Kelly's Olympian.

If Dr. Something was blending melody and harmony, and The Vardaman Ensemble was exploring the art of noise, Cosmonox was all about the rhythm.

I can't necessarily remember how the music went; just the thump. Maybe not everyone got out on the floor and danced, but I doubt anyone was impervious to the beat and able to keep still.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Concert Review: The Vardaman Ensemble

The Vardaman Ensemble was the second band on the bill Saturday night at Kelly's Olympian.

The theme of multi-instrumentalism continued as one member alternated between French horn and theremin, and the keyboard player also played a small (maybe piccolo?) trumpet. There was also a guitar and drums.

(My pictures are terrible, but I saw some video from another source and everyone came out kind of green, so I don't think it was just me.)

The musical theme seemed to be more cacophony than anything else. It was interesting in how it could still effectively evoke different emotions; there was a subtle menace in the opening number.

However, for me the lack of melody meant that it was gone after I left. No passages came back to me. It was interesting to see, but I did not connect to it.

I must say, the show did not have a large audience, but for those who believe deeply in keeping Portland weird, they should have been here.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Concert Review: Dr. Something

I previously reviewed Dr. Something in May 2015 (  It took me a while to get to see her live.

Obviously one key difference was a chance to see the video background: a loop of strange images in themed segments. (For example, Sacajawea shooting a laser at an evil pine cone, I think.)

The more interesting loop was the vocal looping that Dr. Something did, demonstrating a well-deserved vocal confidence. The artist has a beautiful voice and a good aesthetic sense to deploy in using it.

I think live viewing also gave me a better appreciation for her multi-instrumentality. Singing while playing is one thing; being able to switch to another instrument in between and keep it all going takes it up a notch.

And if Alison playing her clarinet above her keyboard while a colorful puppet looks concerned over a unicorn background seems like the best way to encapsulate the entire thing... yeah, that's probably about right.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Dealing with death

I thought I would have a lot to say about death. Now I am not sure that I do, but I wanted to get this one quote out of the way.

"It appears that people who have gone through a life of suffering, hard work, and labor, who have raised their children and been gratified in their work, have shown greater ease in accepting death with peace and dignity compared to those who have been ambitiously controlling their environment, accumulating material goods, and a great number of social relationships but few meaningful interpersonal relationships which would have been available at the end of life."

This is from On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross.

It makes more sense if you have read the book. For example, the part about children does not mean so much that death is hard to accept if you are childless, but if you have children and have not been able to finish raising them, then letting go is harder.

The five stages are pretty well known (if not deeply understood), but the most striking example of how the stages are not linear had to do with bargaining and children. Someone might bargain just to see the children grow and graduate, then to see them married, then to see them have children. It can be hard saying goodbye to spouses and siblings and friends, but the responsibility felt to children is different, and it's a factor.

The whole quote is a bit of a run-on sentence anyway, but I have an affinity for those. It may be best to break it down.

Greater ease in accepting death with peace and dignity:
  • Life has included suffering, hard work, and labor
  • Children have been raised
  • Have been gratified in their work
Greater difficulty/less peace and dignity in accepting death:
  • Ambitiously controlling their environment
  • Accumulating material goods (probably also ambitiously)
  • A great number of social relationships but few meaningful interpersonal relations
I know some of them stick out as wrong at first. Why does life have to include suffering? But if your first trial is facing your own mortality, that's a really dramatic toss into the deep end. Also, some of my suffering has allowed me to see a certain relief in death. I'm not saying that I'm sincerely longing for it now, but I can definitely spot the upside.

I think it is similar for work. A life of too much ease and idleness doesn't prepare you to handle much. It's not just accomplishing things, and having to do so; there is the learning and getting things wrong and then getting better at them. There's a lot that goes into that.

Work can be very gratifying, but it isn't automatically. I'm glad that was mentioned. I think it's important that everyone has the opportunity for that.

Of course, whenever opportunities for meaning and satisfaction are taken away from some people, it's usually in the service of someone else trying to accumulate wealth. As crucial as it is that material goods will not be satisfying on your death bed, it's important to also know that it isn't satisfying when you are still in the midst of life either. There have been a few articles recently about poor millionaires and why they can't relax or stop accumulating; it's twisted. Maybe the attempt to control things is a different stab at gratification, but that doesn't work either. They probably should try something else.

And relationships. It's not just that we need each other, though we do. We need to connect to each other in meaningful ways.

This is important, because we all die. I hate to dash any hopes you have pinned on the singularity, but we all die. It is worth being able to deal with it.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Concert Review: The Slants - Farewell Show

I have been wanting to see The Slants live since I first reviewed them in 2017. I recently saw that they were coming to Doug Fir Lounge with the words "Final Show" and realized I was almost out of time.

After thirteen years and a Supreme Court battle, the band is retiring from touring. It's not really the end, because there is now a non-profit foundation and a musical. Actually, "final" show is a bit of a misnomer, because there are still a few dates listed for acoustic sets and book tour dates. This was the last date with the full band, though, and "full" was an understatement.

Former members were brought back, and it was a nice touch. For a while current singer Ken Shima and former singer Aron Moxley took turns taking the stage, but then everyone was on stage, and everyone was mounting speakers. It was pretty cool.

Yes, there was rock, but also there was an excerpt from the new musical, and some stories and sharing about what was next. That, along with the reunion of former members, made it more than just a performance. There was heart and thoughtfulness that made it more.

It was an appropriate sendoff for a band that has always been about more.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Concert Review: Camp Crush

Camp Crush was second on the bill. They also have a nostalgic focus.

With a love for the 80s, and married couple Jen Deale and Chris Spicer at the helm, it would be easy to think of that special summer (maybe 1985) and that cute boy across the lake and those good times you had (as long as a crazed killer never hit your summer camp, which was true for most of us).

However, the shiny gold outfits they wore Monday night made another meaning of camp completely possible.

With some fun keyboard embellishments, the New Wave influence is easy to spot. The mood is not really 80s, at least not when listening to recordings. It is more remembering the 80s (hence the nostalgia). However, in performance there is an added exuberance that was really enjoyable.

To catch that energy, their next performance will bet on November 23rd at the Old Church. Details can be found at the band's links below.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Concert Review: Shy Honey

Shy Honey opened the Slants' farewell show Monday night at the Doug Fir Lounge. It was a good show.

As a relatively new band, they currently only have three recordings that can be easily found, but their set list Monday featured nine songs, including a solo cover by singer Anna Gilbert of Oasis' "Champagne Supernova".

That may indicate the tendency toward nostalgia that Born Music Online noted:

"She has this kind of music that 'you'd dance around your bedroom and sing into a hairbrush.' Bringing nostalgic memories and happy times back into the limelight."

(as quoted on the Shy Honey web site)

Indeed, Gilbert's intro included a story that either indicated that "Champagne Supernova" was the only song she liked as a teenager or that is was really overplayed (could be both). The band nonetheless sounded new and fresh.

Without a lot of information available, existing material tends to focus on Gilbert. The rest of the ensemble is musically strong. They featured drumming that was clean but accentuated with fun surprises, flexible rhythm and bass guitar capacity, lovely keyboards, and the most interesting lead guitar set-up that I have ever seen. With a more synth pop bent, not every song took advantage of that ability, but when the opportunity to shine was there it excelled.

Shy Honey plays tonight at the Aladdin, which makes for a busy week. I hope they have a blast.

There should be good things ahead.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Green on the vine

I took this a few days ago as frost was coming.

Tomatoes are kind of the easiest thing to grow, so often the only thing I am growing. This is a remarkably hardy heirloom tomato called Robin that needed three frosts to really take it out; generally the first night that dips below freezing does it.

The thing about tomatoes is that right up until that first frost, they keep putting forth new blossoms and fruits and making them bigger. There are plants that recognize when the solstice has passed and the days are getting shorter - even thought it's only by a little bit at first - and they start going to seed right away. As the human observer, I know there's not enough time and sun left for them to ripen, but tomatoes keep going all in.

I'm sure this is why there are so many recipes for green tomatoes - gardeners adapt - but it still makes me kind of sad.

I achieved my October goals. As November was approaching, I started thinking about trying to do NANOWRIMO. (The very name irritates me, so I wasn't really calling it that in my head.)

That is the abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. By the time I learned there was such a thing I had already written at least one novel. Also, the writing samples posted I saw posted tended to be pretty terrible. That made me more against it.

Then I thought about how creative expression is good for people, and writing for a month is a positive experience for many. Plus the roughness of first writing, just underscores the importance of rewriting. Because of that I have tried to not look down on it; it just wasn't something I needed previously.

Right now my blogging is a little sporadic. My journal writing is pretty regular, though I often realize it is not getting at everything that it needs to get at. I have not written anything creative, though, for a while.

I was thinking that maybe it would be a good way to get back in, write a novel or a screenplay in November. I totally could. I'd had two novels started back when my hard drive crashed. That's been over a year. Rewriting three chapters is not that bad, once you get over the initial discouragement. I could pick either novel back up, but I haven't.

I had to accept, though, that this is not the right time. There's not enough time and not enough sun.

I have thought sometimes - when there are so many things I would like to write - that I don't know that they can all possibly be done. New ideas come frequently, so even if every idea I have a desire to write now does get written, chances are that there are still some that wouldn't. I'm not the first creative person to worry about that.

But then, when I get really reflective, I also think it would be horrible to have everything done and nothing to look forward to. I spend so much time trying to get caught up. On one level I know it's a delusion, but perhaps on a different level that's a good thing.

Besides, not all of the ideas are that great. My idea for dinosaurs in the modern world was not nearly as clever as Jurassic Park (though I bet it was better than Carnosaur). And sometimes you don't even need to finish writing. Charles Dickens never finished The Mystery of Edwin Drood and it still became a musical.

I believe I will get to write things again. It's okay that it's not now, despite occasional pangs. It's just mortality, and it has different seasons.

It must be time to start writing about death.

Well, after some concert reviews.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Monster songs

The final October goal was to do a month of monster songs.

I have done some other Halloween stuff. I have read some more macabre material and finally watched Beetlejuice. I did not carve or grow any pumpkins, which was a little disappointing, but it's okay.

The songs goal was significant because it feels like the one I am most proud of, even though it involved the least effort.

That is actually more that I am past the effort. I did worry a lot over it, poring over different songs. However, I set the final song selection and playing order over a week ago. All that was left was posting, whereas even when I had a firm plan for the day's drawing and costume selfie, it still needed the execution.

More than that, the songs goal worked in the best parts of my life.

I am in a difficult time of life, but music and learning are two of the most rewarding things I get. This involved music and was also a period of discovery.

I had not realized how many songs with Halloween-appropriate titles there were. There are tons! I did a month without any repeats, and I could have done still more.

It was fun that so many familiar names turned up. Some of them I had listened to recently so remembered the songs, like with the Gin Blossoms and Stray Cats. Reviewing Fefe Dobson was a while ago, but I was able to confirm that I had not used "Ghost" yet. Perfect! (I am still trying to avoid repeats.)

More frequently, key word searches turned up old friends. Hey Direct Hit!

Weezer's zombie song is new, but I would have heard it eventually. I don't know that I would have ever come across Tom Petty's zombie song.

I am sure that I had listened to “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps” when I was reviewing David Bowie, but there was so much there that remembering everything would be impossible.

I was more surprised that I didn't remember “Calling All Skeletons” by Alkaline Trio, except with many of these songs, the ghosts and skeletons are not literal, but simply representative of things that haunt us. I have a lot of thoughts about monsters and fears in general, and I may do some writing about that.

Also, I had never heard of some of these bands, but now I have. Plus the entire project came up because of my emo exploration; it was the songs by Mogwai, Rye Coalition, and Superdrag (who aren't generally classified as emo - especially Mogwai - but they were all in the book). Trying to know led to more knowing... that is all just totally my thing.

There is a lot still left to be explored, but in the future I would like to do an expanded Halloween play list. I do have a short one up on Spotify. There are perfectly good songs that I did not use this year because I have used them in other years. What if the title is Halloween but the song isn't really? Should that be included or not? Maybe next year I will have a perfect play list.

For a few other notes...

I am usually listening while doing other things, so I tend not to watch entire videos. I did not know about the sex scene in The Midnight's video. It wasn't that graphic, but yeah, that happened.

I am glad the fashion zombies beat the Aquabats in their video. I normally would root for the heroes, but I was curious how they would look as not Aquabats.

I have been sitting on LightningCloud's "Zombie Love" video for almost a year. It is perfect for Halloween, but I reviewed them last November, just missing it. Glad to get there finally.

For the curious, here is the complete list.

10/1 “Zombie Bastards” by Weezer
10/2 “How to be a Werewolf” by Mogwai
10/3 “Do the Vampire” by Superdrag
10/4 “Curse of the Mummy's Hand” by The Misfits
10/5 “Skeletons” by Heartist
10/6 “Devil Train” by Stray Cats
10/7 “Monsters” by Shinedown
10/8 “Ghost” by Halsey
10/9 “Cocaine Werewolf” by Rye Coalition
10/10 “Zombie Zoo” by Tom Petty
10/11 “Vampiresa” by Los Tigrillos
10/12 “Monsters” by Matchbook Romance
10/13 “Frankenstein” by Tokyo Police Club
10/14 “Plastic Skeletons” by Jealous of the Birds
10/15 “Mummy Dust” by Ghost
10/16 “Fashion Zombies” by The Aquabats!
10/17 “Devil's Daughter” by Gin Blossoms
10/18 “Werewolf Shame” by Direct Hit!
10/19 “I'm Not a Vampire” by Falling In Reverse
10/20 “Flying Saucer Attack” by The Rezillos
10/21 “Frankenstein” by New York Dolls
10/22 “Banshee” by Thin Lizzy
10/23 “Calling All Skeletons” by Alkaline Trio
10/24 “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps” by David Bowie
10/25 “Ghost” by Ella Henderson
10/26 “Devil Inside” by INXS
10/27 “Werewolf” by Quinn XCII feat. Yoshi Flower
10/28 “Vampires” by The Midnight
10/29 “Frankenstein” by Iced Earth
10/30 “Ghost” by Fefe Dobson
10/31 “Zombie Love” by LightningCloud

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Costume selfies

This also did not go as planned, but things still worked out.

I was not sure I could come up with 31 different costume ideas that were doable. At least, I was not sure I could do it without spending a lot of money, which was not an option. I ended up spending about $13, all at Dollar Tree.

I did not use most of my starting ideas. Other ideas came that were more practical.

I thought that I would end up practicing with both hair and makeup, but I did not end up doing anything with hair, really. That could have been more useful in terms of things that I might apply to every day life, but there just wasn't the time for it.

The make-up experience was probably not helpful. I will try wearing makeup in my selfie on November 1st; it will still not be a regular habit.

 It continues to be an issue getting a lot into a selfie. For example, I can show the whole chef's hat (constructed from printer paper and a blouse), or part of the hat and the cleaver, but not both.(I should have put on an apron.)

In some ways, not being able to get everything in was probably helpful, but there are details that were missing.

There were some mishaps. For example, usually I would get the look together, take the photo, and deconstruct right away, including washing off makeup. I decided to leave the rabbit look on while I made dinner. I also did not have pink face makeup so I used lipstick. It did not come off easily for a while.

I don't blame you if you can't tell this is supposed to be Peter Criss from KISS. However, I will say that looking at many pictures, his makeup was not always exactly the same. Still, it looked better than that.

I do feel better about the selfies. I have written about this before, but when I have a theme it constricts me and then it makes me get goofy and have fun with it. Maybe I am not goofy enough. "Silly" is not usually my first choice.

Also, I think there is something to be said for setting a goal that challenges you but that is doable. Well, it is really accomplishing the goal, but setting the goal that you can do while still stretching is its own challenge.

November 1st will be a relief, but this was good. Maybe I will still do some odd looks here and there.

There will always be other things to look forward to.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Inktober review

I know the month isn't over yet, but I had set some October goals, and this seems like a good time to go over them. I want to blog about where I am in my life now, and I can't seem to get started. Maybe going over the one-month-only goals will make a good transition.

 I really wanted to tell a story. I did not have it in me.

There is a level at which that may be a result of my scattered, fragmented mind. It was an even bigger obstacle that I don't draw well. At least, I can't draw well enough from my head.

That makes sense. I attended a Rose City Comic Con Panel once. The artist (I can't remember his name but I think he worked for Dark Horse and I know he hated Rob Liefeld) talked about spending about ten years drawing everything, because anything can come up in the course of a story.

I have not done enough of that to just draw anything in my head. I decided to just draw from photo reference, using word association and different themes to pick what. That has felt better. I mean, I can still see flaws in every single one, but I can also see that there is something captured. Drawing-wise, that is where I am.

That does not have to be a huge deal; I have no aspirations to be a professional artist. However, I do like drawing, and when there is something in my head I want to at least get something proximate out.

I believe the answer is to do one drawing daily from reference. That will probably be mainly photo reference, but I might start sketching household objects and things too. (I have an obvious affinity for animals.) By next October maybe I will be able to tell a story graphically, or maybe I will spend the month drawing different superheroes. There's a lot of things you can do.

In addition, I have had The Art of Comic Book Inking on my to-read list for a long time, and I am reading that now. I do love a good theme.

I will not be posting the pictures daily after the 31st, but I do look forward to going back to pencil. It's funny, but when I was younger I didn't like pencil texture at all, and being able to erase was not enough of an inducement to using it. I'm not sure when that changed. It's not even so much for the erasing as for the ability to smudge instead of smear. Of course, now I generally don't like drawing on sketch pad paper.

Clearly I am just difficult, as we have always known.

I suppose at some point I will also have to commit to using some kind of edge when the drawing calls for a straight line. I know it's not really cheating, but I've been putting it off.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Album Review: Nine by blink-182

I loved this album!

My personal favorite track is "Pin the Grenade", but "Heaven" and Darkside" are strong contenders. Many of the songs have stuck with me and come back to me and felt relevant to me.

I loved it right away. The review took a little bit longer than might have been necessary.

With most of these album reviews, I have reviewed the band already, and often seen them live. That makes the album review a simple addition.

I have listened to a lot of blink-182 over the years. I am pretty familiar with the catalog. I have never written a review or seen them live. For the first several years I specifically did not want to see them live.

That was due largely to a concert album where I kept skipping, just cringing at the puerile humor, much of which seemed to focus on molestation. That makes the maturity one of the really striking things about Nine.

It's not just that it sounds grown up, and it certainly doesn't sound old. It does feel like they have outgrown the need to be obnoxious (which could be fun, but so easily slip into annoying).

Nine does not feel like a rejection of the past. The thirteenth track, titled "On Some Emo Sh*t", feels like a direct reference to roots. It may include some grieving, and closure on some of the separations.

Beyond that, it feels like a completion of the direction that started on California. It turns out that result is really, really good.

I guess that is growing up.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The moral economy of the present

Friday brought me to tears. Things worked out, but with enormous stress.

We recently took our dog in for her three year rabies vaccine. The vet told us that she needed her teeth cleaned. Greyhounds traditionally have bad teeth. Back when everyone was working, even when we would have five greys at a time we were able to keep up. In our current situation we have more of a procrastinate and hope model. How were we going to get her teeth done?

It turned out that for over a year we were being improperly charged a copay for something that came up a lot. We recently received a refund on a bank card. It would have been nice to have that money all along, but okay, this is our answer. The card was a little over $700 and the estimate for the dental was a little under $700. It was almost guaranteed that extractions would put it over, but it seemed manageable. We can do this! We scheduled the appointment and took her in.

That afternoon I got a call confirming there would need to be extractions, and the new quote was $1909. It tripled. I had held off on paying some bills (thus being late) to have some leeway. It was a $500 leeway when we needed a $1200 one. 

We were able to convert to an hourly rate instead of per tooth. I had never known that was an option. That left the risk of the vet not finishing, but it could at least get as some teeth. You already have the dog under anesthesia. I could say "No, don't pull anything!" but that would not be good for the dog, and it would just mean more money later, when we are no more likely to have it.

One sister has a Care Credit and put it on there. That's how we made it through. The dog is fine, and we are okay for now, with an unspecified amount of time taken off of my life. Seriously, I am normally exhausted by the time we get to Saturday, but it was much worse this time.

Here's the thing: you know that $15 per hour minimum wage that many people are fighting for and some politicians promise but lots of people think is too much for types of labor they look down on? Working 40 hours, that gives you $600 per week before any taxes or expenses. It would take over three weeks of labor without that money going to anything else to pay for that one dental cleaning with extractions.

This is pretty standard. The last dental cleaning we did was definitely over $1000, and we have asked around and that is just standard pricing. No, when I was a kid forty years ago we did not do dental work for dogs, but it has become standard now, where it feels like part of being a good owner. It is also really hard to pay for if you are poor.

I have heard many people be judgmental about people not having pets if they can't afford them - probably from the same people who think fast food workers don't deserve a living wage and health care. So maybe only financially comfortable people should have pets. Of course I was working when we got her. Mom was still doing a little bit of cleaning and dog sitting. If I look back I can see some of the hints that dementia was coming in, but things were not like this.

That is part of the overall issue; a lot of people who are struggling now weren't well-off, but they weren't struggling as much.

Should poor people give up pets? I know I have seen people say that homeless people shouldn't have pets.

I do know that the shelters are full of animals who need someone to love them. It would be better to have more people taking animals.

I know that most of the joy in my life right now comes from the animals. I'm not saying that's ideal, but it's the way it is. I think a lot of homeless people don't get enough love, but their pets can help. There are things about it that aren't great for the animals, but it's not great for the humans either. Maybe that's what we should really worry about.

I'm not providing any answers here (though if you want to send money, please do), but I think it's important to look at the things we do to make life harder for some. Often the real reason isn't because we don't have the resources, but because we are choosing to divert those resources to people who are already rich. Then it gets tied up in offshore accounts and charitable foundations and maybe there is some application process I could use to try and get my needs in there too, but is that really the best way?

Friday, October 11, 2019

Band Review: The Brat

The Brat was a classic punk band from East L.A. at a time when which side of L.A. you were on made a difference. They embraced their Chicano identity. I checked them out after they were referenced in The First Rule of Punk.

I do not have a single link for you. The band has not been active for over thirty years, and I do not see any signs that any of the former members are active. However, it is never wrong to check out a classic punk band.

I will say that the music is perhaps less obviously punk. It is pretty fast, but it also has a smoothness and sophistication that you might not hear in the "Oi" neighborhood of punk.Those guitars on "We Are the One" are pretty admirable.

Even if you were to quibble about the strict definition of punk and count chords, it is clear that The Brat belongs based on their embrace of DIY. (It is perfect that singer Teresa Covarrubias was first drawn into punk via zines that her sister brought back from Germany.)

Favorite tunes for me are probably "Tombstone Blues" and "Open Scary", but I love that a band from the early '80s has a song called "Misogyny". 

Clearly The Brat is still relevant today.

Album Review: Mania by Fall Out Boy

In some of the earlier album reviews I have written about bands changing and growing, but also what still sounds familiar.

Fall Out Boy has changed the most.

This makes sense. They took a long hiatus (though not as long as Stray Cats), worked on different projects, and then came together with a plan to change their creative process so that there was more participation from all band members.

Truthfully, I like their older stuff better. That is not particularly unusual; some fans have been very rude about it . Some of that for me is just a matter of stylistic preferences, but also when I first started listening to them it was at a key time for me emotionally, and there are feelings that are very poignant for some of those songs. It is still interesting to hear what they have been up to, and I applaud their focus on growth.

What was most interesting to me now is that while Mania is from January 2018, they also have a new single, "To My Future Self", from just last month.

My first thought on seeing that was to wonder if there was a new album coming out that meant I should wait to write anything. (Not that I can tell.) On listening to it, I hear a change from Mania.

I am sure some of that is the influence of Wyclef Jean, who is featured on the single. The band has historically worked with a variety of musicians and taken influence from them.

However, the impression that I got this time is not just that it is the featured musician or experimentation, but I felt an influence of the time. Without being able to point to anything overt, it feels like the band is responding to events in the world. I find that intriguing.

I don't know where they will go next, but I know I will be interested in checking it out.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

October-Fest! (31 days of fall fun)

I have never made any secret of my love for fall, and of Halloween specifically. I will be celebrating this month in three ways.

First of all, I will be participating in Inktober. I had hoped I could have some solid idea and produce a short book with something to say, but I don't have the mental wherewithal for that. I am just going to draw, and if something coherent develops great. There is a lot of uncertainty in my life, and that effects my creativity too. And, maybe not being good at drawing would bother me more if I was trying to illustrate something cool. 

The next one is the easiest: the songs of the day will be monster songs.

Previously I have written about my shock that Halloween songs on the radio were basically just "Monster Mash" and "Thriller" after learning that there were songs like "Werewolves of London" out there. I have used many songs that I have discovered in past Octobers.

More recently, my emo listening (not all emo) has shown me many  more songs than expected. I did Mogwai and Rye Coalition fairly close to each other, finding "How to Be a Werewolf" and "Cocaine Werewolf". Then when "Do the Vampire" came up with Superdrag I realized I needed to delve more. Also, one of the bands I reviewed last November has a great one that I have been saving for now. Will the monsters all be metaphorical? Will this make a truly scary playlist? I don't know; I'm just trying to have fun with it.

That's the thing. I need more fun.

The #365dailyselfies have been painful this year because the year has been painful. I always feel hideous and sad. When I have done theme months, although they are confining in some ways, that also brings out some creativity to try and break out of the confinement. With the food month, maybe it was the insecurity of admitting that a fat person eats, but eventually it unlocked some playfulness. I don't get to play that much.

Some of the musicians I like dress up a lot; like I can't even imagine being that theatrical. I enjoy the creativity of Halloween, but I take the least advantage of that with costumes, because how do you draw attention and become something? Also, I have no skill with makeup.

Therefore I have decided that each selfie for October will be a costume selfie. It makes me nervous, but it feels important.

Obviously I can't spend a lot of money on this, and there are some limits to the time I can spend too. Some of these costumes will be remarkably lazy, but I also hope some of them will be cool.

None of them will be sexy; that could only set the stage for disappointment.

I should add, I did also change my Twitter name for the month, to "Anyone but Gina Harris", with a picture of me shielding my face. Some of that is that the costumes will be experimenting with other identities, but some of it is also that it has been hard being me, and a temporary reprieve from that could be nice. That's what I hope this will feel like. Maybe there will be some laughs.

Also, while it may not be specifically for Halloween, I am getting closer to the time when I will need to do some writing about death. Maybe that will show up in the Inktober drawings, but I don't know.

All the clarity I have has now been expounded on. For the more speculative, one of the costumes could involve some singing. Maybe it is time for a Facebook story.

All Inktober drawings, daily songs, costume selfies, and blog posts will go up on Facebook and Twitter. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Band Review: The Zeros

The first thing I should tell you is that there are three bands that go by "The Zeros" and they are all punk. This is not the British one or the glam one. They are the Latino one, but that doesn't seem to get mentioned much in information about them.

It is easy to miss. They don't sing in Spanish or have obvious references. Being labeled as ethnic would probably have hurt sales, but that is also a shame. There can be room for anyone in any genre, and it might help if it were more obvious that inroads have already been made. I found them in a list of bands with Latinx roots in Celia C. Pérez's The First Rule of Punk.

For West Coast punk history, they are still important. According to NME, the police breaking up a Zeros show in 1979 heralded the arrival of punk riots to the US (something already familiar in Britain by then). It was The Zeros who played "Beat Your Heart Out" eight times in a row, and no other songs. That seems like the more obnoxious part of punk, but that is also a pretty good song. It could still have been a really good show.

Know your punk history.

We are in times that need people who can feel low, laugh about it, and come up swinging.

That crowd has always been more diverse than the cursory glance shows.

ETA: I have heard back from a reader who saw them perform within the last two years, so that was interesting. Maybe something else will come up.

ETA 11/19/19: I just heard from Javier Escovedo, and here are some updates:
We have a new 7" single coming out on Munster records. We toured Europe earlier this year. We will be playing with the Adolescents on December 6th in orange county. Etc. We will be recording more in October.
Because of this, I am erasing the paragraph that indicated that they were not currently together. They clearly are. Orange County fans should check out the Garden Amp schedule. Tickets appear to be available through Ticket Web and Event Brite:

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Album Review: 40 by Stray Cats

Most of the album reviews will be for bands I have already reviewed, and usually that I have seen in concert. I came across a new release from an old favorite, though, and wanted to write it up.

40 sees the Stray Cats returning to the studio after 26 years (40 years after first getting together), so it represents an incredible history. That includes the history of the band, but also much of the history of music.

One of the most interesting songs for that is "That's Messed Up". Musically it reminds me of "Ooh My Head" from Richie Valens, but the lyrics reference song titles from Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. (It makes me wonder if I am missing a Big Bopper allusion somewhere.) That is cool, but mainly it is the guitar and the bass and the drums, still sounding great together.

I think it is a more mature sound now - more groove so maybe less popular appeal - but still so much fun. I especially like the energy on "When Nothing's Going Right", which should apply to plenty of days.

Obviously Stray Cats fans will want to check 40 out. They will probably find "Three Times A Charm" to sound the most typically feline. In addition, fans of Link Wray should really check out "Desperado". That guitar work underlies the entire album, but is most noticeable on this instrumental track. Then it immediately slides into the intro for "Mean Pickin' Mama", and it's just good stuff.

I already knew to be grateful that expanded media and opportunities can mean a market for so many of the older bands you loved, but I am starting to also be amazed that those musicians maintain energy and vigor and skills.

It's a wonderful thing.

There are non-music factors that make it impossible to say that this is a great time to be alive, but at least the music remains.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Native American Heritage Month 2018: A side of paternalism

One reason I want to move my reading to focus more on Native authors for November and Black authors for February, et cetera, is that in some of the histories I keep noticing things that bug me just enough for it to be an issue.

It is not blatant racism, though the structural racism underpinning everything plays a role, I am sure. There is just this little hint of condescension here and there... some sense of the author knowing better than the subjects how they felt and what they should have thought and done.

Maybe it was always there and I didn't notice it before. Specialist in the history of slavery and Reconstruction Leon F. Litwack - who won a Pulitzer prize for his book that bothered me - is still the worst, where I am not even sure I trust his reading of the history.

The two I am thinking of for this section could have been much worse, but still, maybe I just don't need to read any white people for those four months. We still get the other eight. (Remember that for anyone who wants to object to the lack of a white history month.)

Anyway, there were two that bothered me. One was Joe Starita, author of A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America's First Indian Doctor.

First of all, if anyone gets frustrated with these long and awkward titles, in many cases there is an obvious title that has many other books with that name, so that part after the colon is crucial for differentiating between titles. However, it is still totally okay to criticize this one. The first part is unique enough; you could have a perfectly respectable but much less awkward continuation (like "Susan La Flesche, America's First Indian Doctor"). Finally, I think "A Warrior for her People" would be better before the colon.

Most of the book's flaws were things like too much repetition and using his own words for her thoughts when he could have quoted from the letters he was drawing from. That could be related to paternalism, but it could just be a need for better editing. What bothered me more were certain words that it's a little questionable to be using in 2016, and not in quotes, and yeah, that condescending attitude. Not terrible to read, but I bet he would take the criticism very badly.

That leads to the funny part.

I also read America Before the European Invasions by Alice Beck Kehoe. It wasn't bad. I thought her best chapter focused on Inuit technology and a relatively recent legal case, and that she made some good points. Also, there were just those little bits where you're not even sure that something is wrong, but it feels like there is.

Less than two weeks after I finished her book, Anthropology News published an article about resisting Indigenous erasure:

Kehoe responded really rudely before it was even noon. I didn't even see that it criticized her work directly. There were multiple references to Vine Deloria Jr, and he criticized anthropologists pretty regularly (maybe her personally; but not that I know of), so maybe it felt personal in that way. I don't know, it just wasn't a surprise.

For the record, I thought article author Rick W. A. Smith responded well.

I can certainly see why Kehoe might not personally like Deloria, but if she is just going to discount him, that is maybe where I have to question her understanding, and therefore her work.

On a side note, one of the surprisingly fun things about The Book of the Hopi was that some of Frank Waters' footnotes on anthropologists were quite snarky. And yes, I do get a lot of my attitude toward anthropologists from Deloria, but others have backed it up.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Native American Heritage Month 2018: Children's books to break your heart

Last year's reading covered a lot regarding education and residential schools too, but this year was largely built upon one list:

(This is a CBC list so these are Canadian books, but the US has Carlisle and others, so we don't get to cast stones.)

I read all but Kookum's Red Shoes, because I could not find a copy. I also read an additional book by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, Not My Girl, a picture book version of A Stranger At Home. (It looks like there is a corresponding picture book for Fatty Legs as well.)

You may notices that Nicola Campbell has two books also, Shi-shi-etko and Shin-chi's Canoe. In both cases the books divide up the story. One book tells you more about home life, and one about school life. Putting both situations in the same book heightens the contrast, but breaking it down over two books allows more detail.

I'm not saying that I have a preference for one technique over the other, but having read the paired books earlier, I think I may have felt the contrast more. These children had loving homes, where they were valued as beloved children and able to contribute to their families as they learned their traditional ways of life. Then they were taken from those homes to far away where long, hard work that didn't teach them a lot was common, along with insufficient food and clothing, punishment for using their own names and language, and where there was frequently physical and sexual abuse.

(The sexual abuse is not treated in the picture books. It is in some of the chapter books, but not treated graphically. For an adult perspective on the schools, try The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir, by Joseph Auguste Merasty with David Carpenter.)

The part that cut me most was Margaret Pokiak-Fenton's homecoming, as told in both A Stranger At Home and Not My Girl. That's what her mother said to her. "Not my girl." Not after two years away, having forgotten most of her language, and having grown very thin and no longer being used to their food. Things got better, but the trauma was real.

None of the books this year spent a lot of time on illness, but from other reading I know there are children that never made it back.

One of the aspects that came up in studies last year was that there were parenting knowledge gaps. During important developmental times, parents and children were separated, and they were not learning good family patterns or discipline or even healthy expression of affection.

I have long been aware of issues that can happen when a child's primary language gets substituted for another.

The new thought this year was how not getting sufficient food during growth spurts would have long-lasting effects as well.

I have read about generational trauma being carried down genetically. I don't doubt the science of that, but there is so much else wrong there to affect physical and mental health.

So the thing that I couldn't help but think as I was reading was that they should have killed every single white person that came over. There should have been no trust, no benefit of the doubt. They should have killed us all.

I know there are impracticalities with that. I don't exactly wish I were dead (not for that, anyway). Also, with buffalo slaughter and infected blankets and Sand Creek, Maria's Massacre, and Wounded Knee, there were plenty of other reasons to kill us all, but the one I get stuck on is the children. It was wrong. It didn't need to be that way.

Maybe it stings more to know that we are caging brown children today and not giving them sufficient care. It's not even being condemned to repeat it because we didn't learn; the people making the decisions know what they are doing.

And that's as dark as I will get for this year's reading. There is horror every year, it isn't even completely new information, but I understand people who want to burn the whole place down. The only reason not to is because it causes so much more pain before any healing begins, and it doesn't put us in a particularly good place to start healing efforts either. That will require love instead of hate.

Native American Heritage Month 2018: Reading overview

I am forcing myself to get in a post today. Also, I am so close to the start of the 2019 reading...

And, okay, I am always late anyway, but I have been at this particular list for almost a year. I know because I read the first book, Indigenous and Decolonizing Studies in Education: Mapping the Long View, in October, because it was available online for free in October, and if I wanted to be able to find a copy at all, I had to read it then. Some of the academic things can be hard to find.

That was a collection of work, with Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Eve Tuck, and K Wayne Yang acting as editors. Along with one other thing, it set the tone for this year's reading.

First of all, I also ended up reading Smith's Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous People. They covered different ground, but it was adjacent, and some of the inspiration flowed together.

Other books that went along well with other ways of thinking - for research and education and knowledge - included F. David Peat's Blackfoot Physics: A Journey Into the Native American Worldview, Paulette Regan and Taiaiake Alfred's Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada, and in its own way even Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden: Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians by Gilbert Livingstone Wilson.

There were many more books related to the residential schools, and I think that needs to be another post. For now I think it is enough to say that the residential schools did terrible things, even though sometimes the children were excited for things like learning how to read. Certainly, there would be ways in which literacy would be helpful. Being bilingual or tri-lingual could be great too, although the frequently successful goal there was to stamp out the native language.

I love language and books and schooling, so that is a thing for me. I started thinking about ways in which you could get the good of education without the harm.

Obviously the first obstacle to that was that the harm was generally intentional. Even when there were some good intentions there was a lack of understanding or a lack of will the go against the harm. Beyond that, though, was thinking about other ways of sharing knowledge and other ways of learning. That is where Dr. Smith's work was so helpful. There have been innovations. There are ideas already out there.

One result of this is that I added an education reading list. This is a common issue for me that contributes to my always being several books behind of where I want to be.

The other shift is not only related to this particular vein of reading, but it is a combination of things.

It was partly the frustrating paternalism in at least a couple of the books. I think it was also influenced by recently making a point of viewing more movies by Black directors, but also this desire I have had lately to catch up, and get all of the history read; so many of these books have been on my reading list for so long.

I am still trying to catch up on the history portions of each of the groups who have specific history or heritage months that I observe. When I started having that interest, I thought it would just be so that each month could from then on be for reading new books. I would be caught up and then keep up. In retrospect, it doesn't sound that probable.

Now it feels more like I want each month to be for authors and creators from those groups. Maybe less of it will be history, and that's okay. I have read a lot of history, by the time I am done with the lists I have assembled I will have read a lot more, and I won't ever stop reading history. I may not need to read any more Leon Litwack, and I certainly don't need to read him in February.

I intend to blog some more about residential schools, paternalism, and maybe some coincidences and technology. I am always thinking about how to do better. But also life is busy (and hard) and I give myself a lot of homework, so I don't know how things will go.

For the curious, current intended reading lists and what is remaining (mainly books but sometimes including movies):

Post-election reading - 21
Gendered Violence/feminist reading - 8
Education - 6
Latinx Heritage month (frequently called Hispanic Heritage) - 13
Asian American Pacific Heritage - 41
Black History Month - 126

(I had finished all of the death/grief books that I had listed, but I am reading four more related. Big surprise.)

Terribly, after 36 books I still have at least 31 new books to read for Native American Heritage Month 2019, not including some articles recommending different authors and poets. So maybe being caught up can't really be a thing, but I am trying. A lot of the new inclusions are Indigenous and Latinx and Asian and Black, though, so I am moving in the intended direction.

It's all about the journey anyway, right?

Here are the 2018 Native American Heritage books - at least a few of which were actually read in 2018 - in the order read:

Indigenous and Decolonizing Studies in Education: Mapping the Long View, Smith et. al.
Fatty Legs: A True Story, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Shi-shi-etko, Nicole Campbell and Kim LaFave
Shin'chi's Canoe, Nicole Campbell and Kim LaFave
As Long as the Rivers Flow, Larry Loyie and Heather Holmlund
Arctic Stories, Michael Kusugak
Not My Girl, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
My Name is Seepeetza, Shirley Sterling
We Feel Good Out Here, Julie-Ann Andre
Red: A Haida Manga, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
Kagagi: The Raven, Jay Odjick
The Little Hummingbird, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
The Education of Augie Merasty, Joseph Auguste Merasty and David Carpenter
Halfbreed, Maria Campbell
Trickster, Matt Dembicki, ed
Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden, Gilbert L. Wilson
Yellow Woman and a Beauty of Spirit, Leslie Marmon Silko
Mission to Space, John Herrington
Black Bear Red Fox, Julie Flett
I am Dreaming of... Animals of the Native Northwest, Melaney Gleeson-Lyall
Fall in Line, Holden!, Daniel Vandever
Celluloid Indians: Native Americans and Film, Neva Kilpatrick
Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, Linda Tuhiwai Smith
Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada, Paulette Regan and Taiaiake Alfred
Blackfoot Physics: A Journey into the Native American Worldview, F. David Peat
A Stranger at Home, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
America Before the European Invasions, Alice Beck Kehoe
No Time to Say Goodbye: Children's Stories of Kuper Island Residential School, Sylvia Olsen with Rita Morris and Ann Sam
Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims, Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins
Being Cowlitz, Christine Dupres
Harper's Anthology of 20 Century Native American Poetry, Duane Niatum
Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back, Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London
When the Shadbush Blooms, Carla Messinger, Susan Katzh, David Kanietakeron Fadden
Fools Crow, James Welch
Book of the Hopi, Frank Waters
A Warrior of the People, Joe Starita

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Fall television thoughts

My return to blogging has been shaky, obviously.

That is a personal problem. I have come to learn the different ways that different kinds of writing help me, and blogging and fiction writing both fill important roles. They also take time that I don't have. I can't promise any kind of consistency. This would be a terrible time to try and create a reader base.

For now, I am just going to try and pump out some shallow material. Well, maybe it's not that shallow, but it won't go that deep.

We are starting a new fall television season! Jeopardy! is already back, and there are new episodes of Judge Judy. Because not everything runs on the same schedule, the season finale of Queen Sugar airs today. Also, we got into Beat Shazam this summer, and I don't know when we will see more of that, but we like it. Big Bang Theory has concluded, and there is only one year left of Modern Family. I was not sure if there would be more black~ish, but there is a surprise with that, that we will get to. Oh, and we have started recording Designing Women re-runs.

But these are all old shows; what has caught my eye for new shows?

The first thing I can easily see is that they are mostly CBS shows, because the network television I watch is mainly CBS. It isn't even that much time, but it makes a difference. They promote their shows pretty heavily, at least during the daytime. It does lead to getting noticed, but that isn't always positive.

All Rise

The first thing I realize is that I clearly don't pay that much attention, because catching the promos for All Rise out of the corner of my eye, I knew Gina Torres was getting a spinoff from Suits and thought it was that. Except, of course, a USA show is unlikely to spin off a CBS show, and then when you look a little closer it is not Gina Torres but Simone Missick, who is coming not off of Suits but from playing Misty Knight in the slew of Marvel series.

I'm sure she's delightful, but the series doesn't look very realistic. A strongly ethical and caring judge would be great, but I think there are limits to how much they would be able to interfere. This seems like another CBS bucking-authority authority figure. Despite production lead times, that CBS still keeps making the same kinds of shows after Les Moonves may make a larger point about how much little individual can change.

Bob Hearts Abishola

This raised all my hackles, seeing a man follow an uninterested woman from her workplace to her home, especially since it looks like he will win her over, because he is really a good guy despite boundary violations. It's 2019.

And, seeing expanded scenes it looks like it will not be quite that blatant, though I suspect it will also not examine the increased vulnerability for a Black woman and an immigrant. True consent requires true safety, you know? I have seen some excitement for Nigerian representation, and if they give Abishola a full family with well-developed personalities that could have some merit, but my initial impression is a resounding "No!"

Prodigal Son

This actually got Maria's eyes more because she thinks the lead actor - Tom Payne- is good looking. He's okay.

If I were going to be interested, it would be based more on the talents of Michael Sheen, who plays the criminal psychologist's serial killer father. There are worse things than a good looking guy and a talented guy (who is not bad-looking but they hiding it behind a big beard). However, I don't need to care about a serial killer, and be invested in his relationship with his son, and I don't need increasingly bizarre and shocking murders each week. If I wanted a procedural I would be more likely to go with Instinct, because it looks like Alan Cumming really brings the fun, but again, should increasingly bizarre and shocking murders be fun?

Let me also throw in a reminder that "prodigal" means wasteful, not rebellious.

The Unicorn 

Clearly I am really good at being interested in many shows without watching them, but every now and then one wins me over, and I think this one is going to do it. It looks reasonably funny, if I really do start dating in three years there may be some tips, but mainly I am drawn to the ineffable charm of Walton Goggins. I have seen him in a stupid movie and a fun movie, and he is just always appealing. A lot of his bigger roles have been pretty dark, but this looks fun.


Not a CBS show! I saw previews while catching up on Season 2 of black~ish - which I love - but not enough to make me watch grown~ish, mainly because Zoey is kind of a jerk who skates on being pretty, and the spin-off episode looked like they would play into that instead of subverting it. Rainbow and her family are much more enjoyable, and that makes me more interested in this one.

Beyond that, I have also watched Nobodies, and one of the plot lines in the last season was a sitcom based on Larry's life, but then the network didn't have enough diversity so they made the wife, children, and in-laws Black, and then they needed to change everything because the race issues felt tacked on.

The lead in both Open Dorf Policy and Rob in the Hood was played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar (initially the best boyfriend for Rachel ever, and then not), and now he is the father in mixed~ish. Is life imitating art via art? Or was the show in the works and someone thought it would make a good arc so art imitated life? I want to know!

But yeah, I will at least try watching it. Killing Paul Johnson off on the parent show really hurt - though it did drive important family bonding - so I would love to revisit his early years, knowing that Mark-Paul will age into Beau Bridges and live in a bus powered by poop.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Deconstructing a riddle

I annoyed myself this weekend by participating in a Facebook think where you have to do something and try and get other people to do things.

I don't know why there has been so much of an effort to recreate chain letters on social media; maybe it feels like a way of getting people to engage beyond just posting and reading posts. I generally avoid them because I don't like taking dictation, and also there is usually a lot of guilt laid on: most people won't post this; will you?

This is what I responded to...
Soooo... I got the answer wrong. I am now keeping my word and posting this picture 😎 so I'm challenging my friends who are logical and smart thinkers, to have a crack at guessing the answer to the riddle below. When you think you know, private message me the answer via Facebook Messenger.

If you are not going to follow the instructions after you lose, don’t bother playing.

Your turn! Read the riddle. If your answer is incorrect, I can choose any of your photos and you have to post it along with the riddle. If you answer correctly, I'll write your name in the comments (with a trophy emoji).

Riddle: It's 7:00 AM. You are asleep and there is a sudden knock on the door. Behind the door are your parents who came to have breakfast. In your fridge are bread, milk (pasteurized), juice, and a jar of jam. To answer, what will you open first?

* Answer directly through Private message only please. Answers in the comment section will be deleted. **

Note: It’s not what you think. So far no one has got it. Read carefully!!!!

Standby for your photo! 😂😂
I'll choose one, from your fb page.
There is some guilt-mongering there, with the "don't bother" part. There are certainly some challenges to the ego.

This is not a riddle like the ones exchanged by Bilbo and Gollum in The Hobbit. This is more like a trick questions used for strengthening logic, similar to the ones used on The Brady Bunch when they were helping Cindy prep for the test to be on television (before her ego got the best of her). Remember that one that started "You are the bus driver" and then it is all about quantities of passengers getting on and off? You are trying to track arithmetic in your head, thinking that will be the question, and then they ask "What is the name of the bus driver?" It's not even that you have forgotten that you were the bus driver; you probably didn't take it literally enough for it to enter in. The trick then becomes looking beyond the obvious.

Anyway, I did this. I got the answer wrong, which was okay, except that I thought the answer was really stupid and I didn't want to propagate it. I told three people who DM'd me the answer but did not choose a photo, and I kind of hope the whole thing dies.

I am going to reveal the answer here. I have some guilt about that, but it was stupid and I resented it, so now I am lashing out at the answer. Also to do the full deconstruction - which is kind of my jam - it is necessary.

Trick questions are like magic tricks in that they focus on misdirection; we draw your eyes here while we do the trick part there. A flash of smoke is more likely to be distracting than concealing.

Here the questions is about opening. The logical place for the mind to go is to the most recent items, all of which can be opened: bread, milk, juice, and jam. The extraneous detail about the milk being pasteurized can make you wonder... is that important? Does that mean I should open it first?

That is misdirection, but it is fairly obvious misdirection. A little thinking gets you past that to where you know you have to open the fridge before any of them. A little thinking in a different direction will remind you that it would be rude to leave your parents standing at the door while you make their breakfast.

(Another mode of thinking will tell you that it is rude for your parents to show up expecting breakfast while you are still in bed, but maybe it was prearranged and you accidentally slept in. Even if your parents are rude, you are probably still letting them in first.)

Going back one step further, you are in bed; before you can do anything you need to open your eyes. That works back through three levels of digging past the obvious. Surely it should be the eyes! That subverts the tendency to look the most recent by going back to the very beginning.

(I answered eyes. The people who responded to me responded with fridge, door, and eyes. No one was fooled by the pasteurized milk.)

The answer was Messenger, justified by the phrasing "To answer, what will you open first", followed by the injunction to answer only through Private message.

I was once taught a card game whose clean name is "I Doubt It". It was somewhat like Go Fish, where you are trying to collect and discard cards, but you are supposed to cheat by lying about what cards you have in order to discard faster. Other players can challenge you by saying "I doubt it" or possibly some acronym indicating doubt.

Trying something, I put the card I had and claimed to have on top of another card, holding them together so it looked like only one card. I was challenged when I put the card down, but when I lifted that card only, and left the other on the pile, I got away with actual cheating, not the "cheating" that was within the rules. I still feel guilty about that. (For the record, I think I was eleven, I felt wrong about it, and I have not cheated in a game since then.)

Anyway, I didn't like this riddle because it felt like it was breaking its own rules. The clue is outside of the body of the riddle. If it had been really clever or interesting, that might have made up for it, but as it was I just felt kind of annoyed. I posted my picture, but I am ending it there. I mean, if one of my repliers had come back asking for me to choose a picture - if their honor demanded it - I would have, but no one did.

The bigger violation here is of course that I have revealed the answer, but you have to read a meandering blog post to get there, and maybe that is enough work for what isn't  - in my opinion -  a very good riddle.