Wednesday, February 27, 2019

In between some things, but not a zombie

Sunday had some good moments. One of them came when I was cooking dinner.

I had two things going in the oven and two things on the stove. The last time I did that, I burned my hand. (That burn was featured in my February 12th selfie.) It hurt a lot at the time. It has mostly healed now, though with the added scars I sometimes feel like I am getting uglier every day. I really didn't want to get burned again.

It worked out. I staggered some things instead of doing them simultaneously, and I planned ahead and kept everything under control. I felt good about that. Serene, even. And it wasn't one of those times where just when you feel good something comes up to bring you back to humility. I knew I wasn't going to still feel that in control of things the next day, but that moment was blessed.

As much as it is true that I am always tired, and that I do not know what is going to happen, there are periodically reminders that I am capable, and I perform well under pressure for the most part. All of those things are true about my life right now. They go together.

And as I tie up the theme of this week, today's post gets pretty long.

The word "liminal" has been coming to mind lately.

It is a word that comes up mainly in academic papers, generally to refer to a space between, but not necessarily a physical space. It comes from the Latin word for "threshold". I am not sure when I first encountered it, but I associate it most strongly with 2015, when it was all over the place in two books.

Better Off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human is a collection of essays on zombies, edited by Deborah Christie. The zombie exists in the space between life and death, not truly being either.

The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by David Morris was the other. For that it was related more to how PTSD can keep pulling someone back to their past trauma and impede forward progress.

Morris didn't use the word as much (and his was the much better book, though they both had their points), but because I read the two fairly closely together, and mentioned the zombies to him (it was not the first time he'd heard of it), that association was strong.

Despite that, "liminal" was something that I thought of as an academic word, like "ontology" or "praxis". Other words could make the work more accessible to a wider audience, but you use those words to show that you speak the language of academe.

Except, I have also been thinking lately that the quick definition of those words does not give why those words are used, and that there could be a deeper understanding where certain words are useful for referring to a broader body of work. As I kept thinking "liminal", I needed to delve deeper.

I'm not done with that, which will probably take reading some Arnold Van Gennep and Victor Turner. However, I do understand more.

Van Gennep started it. He used "liminality" to talk about rites of passage, so there is a change. For example, maybe it is the rite of passage that initiates you into adulthood, so you start as a child and you finish as an adult, but there is that middle state, and perhaps some peril if you can't successfully complete the rite.

The unrelated little tangent I am going to give you here is that although it would seem that we don't have a lot of ritual in our current society - and maybe that is good if it means less peril - in 2015 I also read Code Talker by Chester Nez, and it was Navajo ritual that helped with his PTSD.  Maybe we are missing out. (I also mentioned this to Morris, and he said if he had waited a little longer to write the book there would have been a chapter on that. Code Talker and The Evil Hours are both great books.)

The more crucial tangent (still book-related) is that I am currently doing another writing review of my life. I have written about the previous two:

This time I am organizing it via Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up. Yes, I am sure I will write more about that when I am done.

I was concerned that a lot of the decisions I am making right now are temporary. There is a limit to what is in my control. One issue in the book is that it is possible to start doing things "just for now" and then it keeps on being that way. I am being mindful, but I am absolutely reacting to circumstances and working with priorities that will change. I wondered if I have been fooling myself.

Somehow, all of these stories and incidents I have been telling over this week and the things I have been thinking about anyway came together. A lot of my current life is "for now", but it is not "just". This is an in-between time.

Okay, I should tell one more story.

I was talking with a friend about the events of She was poking at my acceptance of the waiting, which was reasonable. She asked me what I want, and all I could really think of was that I don't want to have any regrets about my care for my mother. I want to live with integrity, in general but especially for that. Of course I also want him.

I did get some good clarification from that talk, but the priority is currently my mother. Whatever I have thought or worried about or prayed, that keeps being the answer.

There is also a lot that fits into this time. I am learning a lot of things, and I believe they are going to be a benefit to me beyond now. This feels like a time of preparation as much as anything else.

I said yesterday that I could consecrate my tiredness for my mother, because I love her. There are other special and sacred things happening here too. Some of them will probably turn out to be for other people, but they are also definitely for me.

I can live with this.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Our lady of perpetual tiredness

I guess this week will continue to be about my care-giving experience.

I have mentioned the tiredness before (pretty often, I think). I have quite likely mentioned how it is frustrating to not have energy for all of the things that I want to do and think I need to do.

This is not about the respite time. When I go longer without respite, I may very well get more tired, but what I notice more is the growing feeling of hopelessness and that there is nothing good in life. The tiredness is its own thing. It is frequently accompanied by a low-grade headache in the back of my head that is probably not a tumor. The headache isn't always there, but the tiredness is. 

As I was feeling some of that frustration recently, I had to firmly associate it with my mother's condition.

That was probably helped by noticing that my sisters are also more tired than they should be, generally speaking. It occurred to me that some of that is the emotional toll of the disease that is sometimes referred to as the never-ending death.

There is that, and it is for all of us, but then for me there is being the first to notice each new loss, and there is a physical toll as there is always more to compensate for, and a mental toll of trying to find ways to make things better. There is even a nervous toll from all of the interruptions that come just as I settle down to get one thing done.

I had a manager once who would come over two aisles to my cube every time any little idea or question came into his head. I talked about saving things up, and maybe we could schedule regular time to go over those things, but it never really sunk in, and he would come over again. He was a profoundly dishonest, greedy, and petty person, but that was still the worst part of working for him. The difference is that I never loved Rick, and I love my mother deeply.

So recently when I was feeling this insuperable tiredness, I felt that it would be with me for the rest of my mother's life. Though I will not miss it, I will miss her.

Because of that, I realized that I could consecrate my tiredness for her. When I feel it weighing me down, I can feel a warmth of affection for her, and the good things about still having her and being able to do things with her and for her.

That does not make me less tired, but it does make me feel differently about it, and better.

It's something.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Not knowing

It is so much of a theme of my life right now that I do not know how things will turn out. That was brought home to me (again) yesterday, but in a pretty positive way.

I often think about things that will be good for my mother.

One important thing for her used to be talking on the phone with her friends. I remember it as being like when something was bothering her, she would need to discuss it with three friends before she would be okay with it. Also, after we bundled phone, cable, and internet, international phone calls got really cheap and she started calling her sister more. That was good too.

Her sister has been dead for about a year and a half now, and two of her closest friends have been gone for quite a while. That really just left one good friend, except that I remembered that there was another friend. After she was widowed and moved out of state to live with one of her children, she and Mom had kind of lost touch. Mom had tried calling the new number, but there was never an answer.

I had this idea that maybe they could be back in touch if I worked with the daughter.

I probably had the idea in November, but I actually sent the message on December 2nd. I quickly heard nothing.

Okay, maybe it wasn't a great idea. Or, maybe I wasn't the one who should be in charge of it. I tried offloading the idea to Julie. Still nothing.

I just heard back Friday night, and the friend called Saturday. Disappointingly, the call was over in two minutes. Was it not really a good idea? Could it have been a good idea if I had gotten on it sooner, but I missed the window of opportunity?

I exchanged another set of messages with the daughter, explaining more about what would work in a phone call (don't ask her if this is a good time; that will just worry her that it isn't). Yesterday they had a long visit by phone, and I think it was good for both of them.

I was ready to trash that idea so many times; it wasn't even that long a time period. Three months.

I did it anyway, which is probably my main point with this. There is just always a lot that you can't know.

Way back when I worked at Intel, one of the "values" was risk-taking. We were supposed to value risk-taking and look for opportunities where risk could bring reward. I was always terrible at it because I would look at whether something was a good thing to do.

(Fortunately "Do the right things right" was also a value.)

I suppose the point of "risk" is not knowing the outcome, but it may still not be the best focus of decision making. This feels right. This is a good thing to do.

Things may not always go the way I would like, but as I aim for "right" and "good", I do not regret it.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Band Review: Gordon Chambers

One of my EdX classes last year was Vocal Recording Technology, taught by Prince Charles Alexander through Berklee. It was mainly an exploration of what you could do with Pro Tools.

Every function was demonstrated on a small sample from "Get To Know" by Gordon Chambers. I didn't count the number of times I heard it, but it was a lot. I decided to check out the artist's total body of work, including that song. This may have been a bad idea, because I kind of hated the song by then.

I don't hate Gordon Chambers, but the reviewing experience did get off on the wrong foot. I think starting there is still the best approach for exploring the artist's strengths and weaknesses.

"Get To Know" has too many effects on it for my taste. Other songs that have more of an emphasis on the keyboard accompaniment sound more authentic and engaging. The real problem with "Get To Know", though, is that the rhymes are overly obvious and the song lacks emotional depth. It is trying to say something, but the real feeling is lacking.

As Track 5 on Love Stories, "Get To Know" is immediately followed by "Wish I Was In Love" which has similar problems. I was thinking that maybe romance just isn't his strong suit. The closing track on Surrender, "I Surrender All", sounds like it could be romantic but felt much more religious, and it was much stronger. Someone whose strength lies in religious inspiration may not have as much facility with romance.

However, after "Wish I Was In Love" came "Unfair", which was really good.

But then there was also "I Can't Love You (If You Don't Love You)". I understood the point it was trying to make, and it is not completely wrong, but it was also terribly condescending. That is not romantic. There were a few other songs that had that problem.

The interesting thing is that - while being a fine singer - Chambers is more acclaimed as a songwriter for others. He can channel that emotion and sincerity for other people, but on his own it sometimes falls flat. He can be very real and he does great then, but sometimes there is (in my opinion) an attempt to conform to expectations that suffocates the songwriting.

You can dress that up with a digital audio workstation, but it doesn't make for a better song.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Band Review: Princess Nokia

I had been reading about Princess Nokia lately and thought I would give her a review. I do keep questioning myself as to whether I should call her Princess Nokia or Destiny Frasqueri, but as a music review it seems to make more sense to use the stage name.

If you start with her 2017 studio album, 1992 Deluxe, it is often disconcerting, especially for the first half. Assume that it is deliberate and has a purpose, and keep going. Later tracks provide different sounds and construct something different. "G.O.A.T." doesn't even sound like the same voice, but is. "Flava" makes effective use of spoken word.

Also, do not stop at the studio album; there is more out there.

I am intrigued by the mix tapes, especially Metallic Butterfly. So often the music incorporates metallic sounds - sometimes abrasive and sometimes otherworldly -- and it all strikes me as very consciously chosen.

My favorite tracks overall are probably "Dragons" and "Soul Train", but "Young Girls" is meaningful as both a song and a video.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Band Review: Mary J. Blige

Everything about this review feels inadequate.

It was supposed to go up Friday, but I didn't feel like I had spent enough time listening yet. I know the initial recommendation had come from someone specific, but that is in a lost file somewhere. Even having listened to a really large body of her work, I'm sure I am missing things.

I don't know that the extra listening time even significantly changes the review, but I also don't regret the time. It has at least cemented my favorites. Also, I now know that Blige is playing Cha-Cha in The Umbrella Academy, which I find awesome. So there's that.

The overall impression is to be impressed with the development over time. Her 1992 debut, What's the 411, was successful critically and commercially, but there has been so much maturity, growth, and richness over time. That is true looking solely at albums, but it is worth noting how she is able to incorporate her presence into acting as well, as Evillene in The Wiz Live! if nothing else. I loved that performance.

Perhaps the most impressive thing is that even if you do separate different fields of her career - so only television or only hip-hip or only her work on Mudbound - there is still so much.

Obviously, I did focus on the music, and my most powerful impression overall is feminine strength, like she is built of iron and did not have to compromise any of her identity to be that way.

"Mary Jane (All Night Long)" is a classic, and "Give Me You" off of Dance For Me is wonderful, but I would like to give a special mention to tracks 5-7 off of Stronger With Each Tear. Each one individually - "I Feel Good", "I Am", and "Each Tear" - is great, but then together it is just a sequence that I could listen to over and over again.

Very glad to have listened.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Book irritation

This next book coincidence is less cute.

I recently mentioned that we had a hold on the Marie Kondo book at the library.

I did not mention in that post that I have seen a lot of discussion on Twitter regarding criticism of KonMari, along with things that criticism misses and ways in which the criticism seems racist.

I wasn't writing about that yet, though I had posted an article on Facebook precisely because of that.

I also did already know this had happened, though I did not see the article until today: 

I didn't mention it in that other blog post, because not only was the Marie Kondo book on the way, but I also had books on hold for me from Elaine Showalter and Barbara Ehrenreich. I believed I would have more to say after I read them all.

I will say that until I looked up the article, I did not know about Ehrenreich's previous tweet. In light of that, it looks like her real issue is imperialistic in nature, but when she realized she had gone over the top there, she tried to transfer it more to a curmudgeonly personal dislike of one person.

I guess Katha Pollitt handled it best, because instead of deleting tweets she added one promising to consider the issue more closely. Perhaps to be completely fair I should have gotten a Katha Pollitt book out too, but I am not enthusiastic about it because the Ehrenreich and Showalter books were so annoying.

At first I questioned the headline of the article because it referred to these women as feminists. After reading their books I question whether Ehrenreich or Showalter are. However, the headline says "white feminists", so for the brand of feminism that does not realize how enmeshed in patriarchy it is and that often misses key points that would lead to meaningful discourse, yeah, that's fair.

That is also exactly how the books failed.

To be fair, I was already planning on taking Showalter's book - Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Media - with a grain of salt. I had seen a reference to her writing on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I was curious about that, but also skeptical based on what I had read. Seeing that she treated it with alien abductions, recovered memories, and the Satanic ritual abuse panic seemed at least a little questionable.

Before I proceed, I am going to admit to having fallen for the Satanic ritual abuse thing myself. I saw a TV movie in 1989 (Do You Know the Muffin Man) and they said that's where most child abuse comes from. I was like, okay. I was also 17 years old.

I don't regret it now. Not only did I not do anything with the information, but I think having accepted that as plausible - despite how very implausible it was - and learning later that it was ridiculously, flagrantly wrong was ultimately good for my critical thinking.

There was not enough critical thinking in Hystories. There were little things that were way off. Thinking that finding out that other girls had eating disorders (especially pre-internet) did more to spread eating disorders than pressure on physical appearance and the limited things that are within many teenagers' control was a big one. Another was finding it ironic that is was political conservatives and religious fundamentalists that spread the SRA panic when it specifically targeted daycare. That's not ironic; that's logical. (It didn't seem to be delivered as a joke.)

Beyond that, a lot of areas that would have seemed critical for understanding weren't really explored. I thought to some extent it was because so many of these issues were issues of leading the patient, and even though she kind of acknowledged that Freud did that, maybe she was a Freudian and just couldn't bring herself to condemn him. Showalter isn't even a psychologist. Her specialty is Victorian literature. I can see how there would be ways of viewing that through a Freudian lens, but disengagement should still be possible.

Overall, though, I think I find her to be too invested in the status quo. My issue was the lack of depth, but I think that lack was the result of the hold the patriarchy has on her.

I had similar issues with Ehrenreich, but she should have been able to do better. She considers herself a "myth-buster" and "muckraker". She has participated in the Democratic Socialists of America. That's someone who wants to fight the power, not fold to it, right? That was not evident in The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment.

She did get somewhat better in the last chapter, which had more of an economic focus, but most of the book was sociological and psychological. It was really not good, and desperate for some intersectional analysis. I guess that makes her a "vulgar" socialist, though, which makes the DSA a good fit.

All of that also makes their tweets make total sense, but not in a good way. You can see why I am not eager to try a book by Katha Pollitt, even though she may be the best of them.

KonMari's book was delightful, but I am still reflecting on that. I will probably write about it more.

Otherwise, it feels like all of February - Black History Month - has been a solid stream of white people needing to do better. I may also write about. I will see how it goes.

For now, the book I am currently reading is good, and that is a relief.

Monday, February 18, 2019


Clearly I am not doing well on the blogging. Busyness and tiredness are coming into play, and a lot of people have been dying. (None of my family members.)

One issue was not getting enough time to listen to the Friday music review subject as much as I wanted to, so she is going up Wednesday, with three reviews this week. I will get back to the Sunday blog next week, I think. This week has a lot of medical stuff coming up, culminating next Monday, and I am going to be pretty stressed out. None of it is particularly bad, but that is not the point.

Anyway, the two non-review posts this week are going to be about books, and today's post is just a fun little thing that happened.

I requested Celluloid Indians (by Neva Kilpatrick) through Inter-library loan. When you are looking it up, you get a number of how many libraries in the program have the title, but I don't actually know how they decide which library sends. The copy I got came from Portland Community College.

A checkout receipt was still in there. I often use those and hold slips as bookmarks, even though I have several actual bookmarks. As far as things to leave in the book go, the hold slips have your name, and the checkout receipts don't, so that is probably the better choice. It may also be longer, depending on how many books you checked out.

At 1:28 PM on January 16th, 2013 (due February 6th), someone checked out Celluloid Indians, along with Killing the White Man's Indian, Crazy Horse: A Lakota Life, and Sacajawea: A Biography. The authors appear to be (respectively) Fergus Bordewich, Kingsley Bray, and April Summitt, based on a title search, but authors are not on the checkout receipt.

I haven't read any of the other books, and I'm not sure that I necessarily want to. It was still kind of fun to think that there was someone else in the Portland Metro area who observes Native American Heritage Month.

But wait! That is in November, and these books are being checked out in January. Yes, but I am always running behind on books. I looked up my blog post for that year, and one of the books I read was S. C. Gwynne's Empire of the Summer Moon. I finished it in February 2013. In fact, I was looking at the wrong blog post at first, because the 2013 books are the ones I was reading and wrote about in 2014. The books I was reading in January 2013 were for November 2012. (Though I did read a book about Crazy Horse in 2014.)

Realistically, this was probably for some kind of assignment or research paper, and not any kind of heritage month. I did not do much discretionary reading in college. I'd say that there wasn't time, but there were ways in which there was more free time in college than at any later points in adult life. Maybe it just feels that way because I was able to function on a lot less sleep then. However, most available brain space was reserved for processing information that I was going to be tested on or write papers about.

But it's nice to think I have a kindred spirit out there.

Related posts:

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Band Review: Tiki Lewis

I wanted to check out Tiki Lewis after reviewing IAMOMNI, who has collaborated with her.

I was surprised at how difficult it was to find any information. There are generic videos on Youtube and music available on various streaming services, but I could not find any other profiles or pages.

Her album, Too Much and Not Enough, is from 2008, when social media engagement was not as standard as it is now. She also has two collaborations in 2015, which does not indicate a total disappearance. I don't know what's going on.

It is interesting that Lewis' collaborations seem to be more hip hop, because on her own she has more of a pop sensibility. I really like the title track; emotional but not sappy. Other tracks like "Second Chance" have beats that could be easily adapted into club mixes.

I don't know how invested Lewis is, but if she wanted to do more I think she could make it work.


Back to the situation with our mother, we have had two things work out well without planning on them.

Recently we visited the Oregon Rail Heritage Center.

It was just something that we wanted to do. We took Mom because if something is not going to be too much for her, she should be doing different things. We expected her to like it, but she loved it; it brought back many memories for her.

Her father was an engineer, and one of her brothers worked in the railroad office.

I did know, but I never thought about it too much. All of my grandparents died before I was born, and when I first got to meet my uncles they were long retired. The information was there, but it wasn't quite real to me.

It should have been, because I knew that they lived in railroad housing. There is a double row of homes that the railroad built for their employees. One of my cousins still lives there, as well as at least one family that was there during my mother's childhood. When they were young, though, it was all railroad families. They visited back and forth, and sometimes their kids married each other, and they all got railway passes. Yes, they would have talked about trains a lot.

That was not something she had thought about for a long time, but then seeing the trains it was there.

The other thing is that we recently watched Fantasia.

Well, not all of it. We meant to just watch "The Dance of the Hours", and then we watched some other things too, but we started with the dance. I had forgotten that is Ponchielli (Italian name), and that is the ballet part of an opera, La Gioconda.

My grandfather also loved opera, and sang it all the time. Again, it is not something I have personal experience of. When I think of it, I think mainly in terms of Verdi, his favorite. But actually it wasn't just opera, but also symphony, and he played records too. It's not really that surprising, either based on what I know about him or what I know about us. It gave us another moment of recollection, and happiness in the recollection.

When I write that there are good things too - amidst all this stress - it is often something like this. I could not plan it, but things work out.

I realize that this next thing I write is going to be over-the-top cheesy, but so be it. This world is hard, but it is wondrous too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Growing in the chaos

Yesterday's post was about feeling out of control, and then seizing little bits of control that you can. It was all true and valid, but there are other sides too.

One is that for all of the ways in which care giving is stressful, there are rewards to it as well. We are at a point where it is taking more out of me, it is true. Probably every time we start doing well on getting respite time in, we hit a new knot and have to adjust all over again. There is still a lot of love in it, and there are rewards to that.

In addition, I have grown a lot as a person, and in my understanding of things. The big leaps forward have mostly come out of bad times.

Some of that I have blogged about, like understanding how much respite time I need and how I need it to work by not getting it, or finding the last obstacle to liking myself in thinking that I hate my family.

Something more recent from a different blog was an experience that I had with prayer where it was really more the desperation that worked.

I write a little about how I try to pray in there, and that is often how I pray, but lately my mind has been going off in tangents. It's not really surprising, because there are so many different things that I am worrying about, but it still feels ineffective and kind of rude to God.

I had noticed the chaos, resolved to do more to meditate and focus before praying, and then there I was and my thoughts scrambled all over the place just as if I had no control.

And then an answer came anyway. It may not even have been in spite of the chaos; the chaos might have helped. I mean, I can overthink things.

I remember reading an article once about someone whose trainer had her put on a Bosu ball. She hated it, because she was always having to correct and keep from falling. It also really strengthened her muscles, because she was always having to correct and keep from falling.

This is not my favorite part of my life, but it is an important one.

I know some people view God as a micromanager where everything is custom-designed for you to grow exactly the way you need. I don't, believing that a planet full of other people with their own moral agency plus entropy provides plenty of opportunity for growth.

I do believe that as situations arise there are good and bad ways of responding, and that some ways are much better and much worse. A lot of prayer for me is trying to get to the much better responses, and comfort and strength for that.

Sometimes, however, I beg for intervention, or merely ask for it because I am in a state of torpor that can't manage more, and sometimes I can't seem to form a coherent thought. All of those different things can end up working somehow.

I have written a lot about trying to find balance, but I have thought of balance as keeping things that are in opposition but are still valid in mind at the same time. It is starting to feel more like balance is about taking turns, and rotating through. Maybe that eventually achieves a more discernible order, like my original concept of balance is the ending point but I am still at the beginning. I don't really know how things will turn out.

I am still surviving.

Monday, February 11, 2019


I am hating my pictures this time around.

The first time I did it, it took me about three months to start feeling good about my photos, but the second time it only took about three weeks. It appears that I have lost ground.

On the most shallow level, my unhappiness focuses on the roundness of my face and the total lack of cooperation from my hair, which has been sadly neglected.

I am thinking about going back to cutting my own hair, because if it comes to a choice between that and Supercuts (or something like them), I do a better job. I can only manage short hair, though, and that won't be flattering to this round face.

On a somewhat less shallow level, I suppose part of the dissatisfaction is how out of control everything feels. Trying to track down issues from my mother's hospitalization - which is now eight months ago - has led to a lot of appointments. That means bills - copays add up really quickly - but in a way the appointments are worse just for the time. Arranging the transportation is one stress, but going to appointments is something that gets in her mind. Even when the news is good, or at least not bad, it unsettles her. I am pretty patient with answering the same questions over and over again, but for medical things it doesn't allay the worry. So there's that.

Some of my stress right now is book-related. I try to pace myself appropriately with book checkouts, but there are things that can throw you. One of them is that sometimes my brain just won't accept any new information. Another is inter-library loan.

It is impossible to predict when the ILL books will come through. This is a common problem with the local library books that have multiple holds. Beyond that, it is also impossible to predict how long you will have to read them. One book that was picked up Friday is due Sunday. In general the program has broadened my book access a lot, but right now I have two books due Friday (I finished one of them today), one Sunday, and one next Thursday, and it may not be impossible to renew them, but it is not easy. (There are other books, but I am mainly stressing over those four.)

Obviously that is one reason for all the book selfies.

That leads to another thing that I am thinking about, is that maybe my selfies need to be more interesting. This is largely a reaction to a series of shots very close together where every single one was taken after I had gotten ready for bed and then remembered.

I have been thinking about doing monthly themes. Different concepts I have considered have included a month of book selfies, a month where every shot is outdoors, a month with shots of food, a month with products I like, and maybe selfies round the clock. That would probably not be a full 24 hours, but I could do 16. (I can't imagine being committed enough to wake myself up after I have gone to sleep.)

I had also thought about a month of selfies with other people, but that would probably just be a month of shots with my mother, and maybe a few other people if I try really hard. I could do more variety with animal selfies, because I only have one mother, but there are six pets, Still, that would probably annoy them a lot. Five of them are cats.

As pointless as this is, then I get interested and kind of excited, because it is something that I can do. Any (or all) of those months would take some effort and remembering, but they are doable, and easy compared to other things.

But the inter-library loan books have a special sleeve, so they all look the same in the book selfies,

Friday, February 08, 2019

Band Review: Stephanie Mills

Despite the length of her career, I really only became aware of Stephanie Mills fairly recently, when she played Aunt Em in the live televised version of The Wiz.

At the time there were raves about her voice that caught my attention, though I was still thinking of her primarily in relation to Broadway. Having dug in a bit deeper, now I know that her career goes far beyond that. It includes a Grammy for a song that I did know, "Never Knew Love Like This Before".

It has been somewhat interesting to think about why so much was unfamiliar - the age at which you start paying attention to artists, the fact that most of our Broadway shows were on 8-tracks and did not last long, and (always) who got play on MTV. A more encouraging lesson is that music has great depths that you can explore in multiple directions over and over again.

For this period of listening, I believe my favorite album was 1989's Home. Not only does it feature the title track - Mills' signature song - but it also has "Love Hasn't Been Easy On Me". The latter does not seem to rank among her hits, but it struck a chord with me.

Because the other great thing about music is how it can touch you, and how that can be timeless.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Band Review: Dubzy

I was followed by Dubzy in November.

It looks like lately he has been focusing more on acting and fashion than music, but the music is what I have been listening to.

Beats are all right, though it is often the accents that draw me in, like a chime or what sounds like a concertina. There is nice funk on "Just Friends", though I believe my favorite track was "Malice". Good use is made of collaboration.

One interesting thing from the bio is that the new focus is partly an attempt to self-distance from some bad elements in his past. In that case, it could be interesting to see what happens after a pause and a change in direction.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Organizing and tidying up

Almost a month ago I wrote about anxiety over changing to the new computer system:

I have actually done it now. There were a lot of false starts.

I uploaded files to Dropbox. I transferred the same files to a USB drive. I kept remembering other things that I had not thought about previously, like looking in the Downloads folder after checking both Documents folders. I suddenly remembered Bookmarks. Then I remembered that I should probably clear all of those documents and empty trash, just in case. Eventually there were no more false starts: I switched over and sent off a lot of e-waste.

The dead hard drive with all of my lost files is waiting in a sealed bag until I can afford a recovery attempt. I kept a few spare charging cables. I replaced the printer cable with a newer one after discovering that I had three printer cables, then let the other two go. I have accumulated so many extra cables over the years that it made sense to clear some out. As part of that, I accidentally discarded the power cable for the laptop I am keeping. That felt like a really boneheaded move for someone being so neurotically careful.

I have used one cable wrapper to protect the most prominent cables against cat chewing. It looks like they are willing to go behind and around things for good chewing, so I will probably deploy some more.

Overall it has gone okay, and that is reassuring.

I know that some of my paranoia about loss is not related to computers, and I am working on that. 

Otherwise, there is more space now, and I am working on organizing that space. It hasn't gone completely as planned.

There is a goal to reduce clutter. Part of that is making everything easy to find, especially things I want to be working on. Materials I want nearby are my mission journals, because I want to get back to transcribing them; my Spanish materials, because I want to up my tutoring game (it turns out the confidence-destroying teacher was better at transmitting knowledge that this current teacher); materials from the study I participated in (because I want to review in retrospect and re-evaluate); and it seemed reasonable to keep my bass books out because I am going to start practicing that sucker some day.

That may all be overly ambitious, but I do understand the value of proximity and ease of access. I want to get some of my art materials out too.

I feel like I should have made more progress by now, but I felt that way about the new computer for a long time. It arrived on Black Friday. From what my sister said I was only expecting a monitor, so I needed to make more of a mental shift, but still, I could have gotten switched over in December, probably, if I'd tried harder.

We are in line for Marie Kondo's book at the library. I was so thrilled that my sisters showed interest in a manga! They don't actually know it's a manga, but that's okay. Anyway, I have been seeing a lot of discussion on the book, and I think my goals generally work for me. If she has some tips to ease the path, I will take them.

I suspect, though, that a lot of my progress will relate more to the reading on death and grief that I am doing. Even if you suspect your anxiety about losing the cable is not really about the cable, the feeling is still there.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Garden reading list 2018

This is a good example of mission creep, again.

Two years ago I wrote about going through several books on plants and gardening.

That was a pretty expansive list, but in the process I found four more that I wanted to read. I started reading those in October:

The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden by Ivette Soler

The Kitchen Gardener's Handbook by Jennifer Bartley

The Berry Grower's Companion by Barbara Bowling

Fruit Trees in Small Spaces: Abundant Harvests From Your Own Backyard by Colby Eierman

I learned the most from Eierman. Bowling's book was the least practical for home use, as she primarily focuses on larger scale agriculture. The other two focus a lot on aesthetics, and they are not necessarily wrong for that, but I am most interested in practical information.

Unsurprisingly, I found two more books that I wanted to read, but that it was only two seemed like a good sign. However, sometimes things intersect in interesting ways.

As I started my Native American Heritage reading, I read Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden: Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians.

That is just what it sounds like. Anthropologist Gilbert Wilson interviewed Buffalo Bird Woman extensively about the growing practices of her, her family, and her people. That covered the planting and harvesting, but also storage. I know it would have meant more to me if I had done more gardening, but there is still a lot to think about.

Sometimes you hear about Three Sisters gardening, with corn, beans, and squash. All of those plants were important for the Hidatsa, but they planted in rows, not mounds. Sunflowers were an important crop as well. Some people are starting to talk about four sisters, but if it's a different planting method, does it make sense to try and fit it onto the other paradigm?

As I was reading more gardening stuff, it felt like I should go ahead and grab those other two books that had come up. As it is, the Edible City Resource Manual  by Richard Britz is pretty hard to find, but I am currently reading Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn by Fritz Haeg.

Much of this rabbit hole does come from knowing lawns are bad but having a hard time finding a good alternative. I have gained a lot of ideas from this, but execution is still difficult.

And, direction is kind of changing too. Future knowledge will probably come more from talking to other people, watching videos, and building on things that don't work well when I try them. (Or that do work well; I'm not completely pessimistic.)

However, if we look at the greater reading list, of all the books I would like to someday read, I do have a lot of books by the Salatins on there, which could end up being read together in two years or so. Their farm was featured in The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, but I have known about them for a long time since a Smithsonian article, which was also where I first heard of mound farming and the three sisters.

It all connects.

Monday, February 04, 2019

2019 Music Goals - Phase 1 completed

You may remember that I set forth some musical goals for 2019 about a month ago:

Reviewing what I call my "new emo" bands was not the first goal mentioned, but I decided it would be the first one to do.

At some point it may be great to go over how Twitter has sent me down different paths, and each project has led to the next, but that has been partially documented. The relevant part for today is that around the same time that I started studying emo and seeing the passion that fans had for it, I was finding many younger friends who had that same kind of passion for other bands, though I wasn't really sure how they were musically. Some of them might have been called emo, but most of them did not sound much like the various stages of emo that I have listened to. However, now I know what they all sound like.

I will write some notes on that, but I want to take a moment to be glad that it went so quickly. It helped that so many of my January reviews were for live shows, and for bands with small catalogs. Some of the musicians I am reviewing in February have huge catalogs. I will not start the next phase - bands from the Nothing Feels Good book that I want to get back to - until March.

In March I am also going to start giving these bands a song of the day. I don't think there are any of them that I dislike so much that I can't, though one comes close.

Until then, I am finally going through my Stevie Wonder tribute.

After I reviewed him, there were so many good songs (talk about your large catalogs!) that I knew I wanted to do something special, but I wasn't sure what. I decided the perfect thing would be to have him play from Martin Luther King Day through to the beginning of Black History Month, but I couldn't make it work last year, and I still would have had to trim too many songs. He is playing through Valentine's Day, and I have some requests from people and it is meaningful and good.

For the rest of the month, I started thinking of all of these classic songs by other Black men, so I am going for that. I wondered if I should worry about not representing any women, but there was that time I was doing only Black women and girls, and it went from February 1st through July 23rd, so I think it will be okay. I will keep listening and reviewing, and it will all work out.

Mainly, finishing one of the goals up so early makes me optimistic about finishing all of the other goals. Of course I can do it. I mean, I already made it through the Nothing Feels Good bands (the first time) and the Stereogum comments on the Greatest Guitar Songs; I have shown my ability to get through things!

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on listening to these bands.

One thing to remember is that sometimes the true size of the following gets clouded. I think I only had one Twitter mutual who was really into Lana Del Rey, but I believe she retweeted many people.

Technically, I probably should have included Demi Lovato, because I am connected to many of her fans. However, I had listened to her before in connection with the pop princesses listening, so that felt like enough.

I did not fall in love with any songs or bands, but I was impressed at the variety. I was a little afraid they would all be screamo, and that wasn't the case.

I swear there was someone else like Ed Sheeran, but I can't remember him now.

My favorites were probably Avenged Sevenfold, Black Veil Brides, and Falling in Reverse. I don't know that I like them enough to do full reviews of them. If I do, I will decide that after their daily song.

After listening to both Sleeping With Sirens and Bring Me the Horizon, I think I better understand the spirit of Oli Sykes' criticism of Kellin Quinn, but that doesn't make it right.

After listening to Blood on the Dance Floor, I totally get why Morgan was always making fun of them. She was not wrong. Still, I am pretty sure I will give them one song of the day.

Then there is the complicated band, Lostprophets.

They disbanded when their lead singer turned out to be a pedophile. I don't think I will do a song of theirs, but the rest of the band reformed as No Devotion, whom I have reviewed and given them a song, and I can do that again:

The thing I want to say about that now is that when the other band members were asked about the abuse, they said they had no idea (which I believe) but that he was horrible to work with. A lot of things have come out about abusers since then, maybe more in film and television than music, but a lot of people who abuse in illegal ways tend to be horrible in legal ways as well. We accept it - often excusing it on account of "genius" - and we need to stop that.

No Devotion sounds great. Great movies can be made without Weinstein or Tarantino or Spacey. Just keep on going down the list, we don't need abusers, on any level.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Band Review: Jussie Smollett

In addition to focusing on Black artists in February, I am reviewing Jussie Smollett because of the attack. That is partly my way of showing support, but also I had previously thought of him as an actor. Having since learned that he co-wrote two of the songs on Empire and that he released an album - Sum of My Music - last spring, the least I could do was check that out.

I like the album a lot. It opens with "Insecurities", a very personal song that many should be able to relate to. My favorite is the third track, "Hurt People", which is really beautiful. What I especially appreciate about that arrangement, with "Catch Your Eye" in between, is that they all feel really different and cover a broad range. It is a very strong opening.

Later songs reflect more of an R&B feeling, with some techno elements. It would be easy to expect Empire to have an influence on his music, but Smollett's performing history goes back much further than Empire. Sum of My Music is very much about being himself.

That being said, there might be some John Lee Hooker and Marvin Gaye influence too, but as undertones, rather than the overall sound.