Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Band Review: Don't Believe in Ghosts

Continuing with this week's theme of new bands featuring people from previously reviewed bands, Dan DelVecchio - formerly of Face the King - is now in Don't Believe in Ghosts, an alternative band from New York.

Don't Believe in Ghosts has a nice balance of jam and poignancy.

From the wistful "Don't Wake Me Up" to the frustrated "Everyone I Know is Going Crazy", the content is often quite downbeat. The most on the nose song title is "Nothing I Could Do Is Ever Good Enough for You", practically emo in its fatalism.

Musically, though, the songs are fun. There is a mood lifting energy with good instrumentation. The intro on "Slow Down" is downright pretty.

The band currently has just a few hometown dates scheduled, but with "Don't Wake Me Up" having just been released in February, it seems probable that more music is on the way.

It's worth spending some time exploring.




Monday, April 29, 2019

Band Review: Call of All

I recently noticed Cody Webb listed a second band in his profile. Ages Apart was reviewed in August 2015, but Call of All released War & Illusion in 2017, and now that I know that I thought I should check that out.

Call of All is an alt-rock band that doesn't give a location but seems to have Southern rock ties. There are some definite similarities, like an affinity for Daughtry, but my strongest impression comes from their track "All For You".

Lyrically it reminds me of "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" by Bryan Adams. Musically, it has been through the '90s where grunge added grit and grime. It doesn't really change the sentiment, but it does update.

(Of course, love and music are both essentially timeless, or should be.)

The album's title track is probably a better song overall, with deeper themes and more demonstrated technical proficiency, but it is the emotional connection that opens the door.

Either song would be a good starting point, but with just seven tracks for a total of 25 minutes, listening in its entirety is not a terrible way to get to know the band.





Monday, April 22, 2019

Band Review: Jon Magnusson

Jon Magnusson's tunes were often very catchy, but I also didn't love them. That led to some frustration.

The music has a folk feel, but enhanced with additional instruments.The vocals are sometimes a bit flat, which could be due to an accent; I noticed it less when the songs were in Swedish.

My favorite of all of the tracks was "Det Stoltaste Av Lag" which had a compelling energy. Otherwise, many of the songs were kind of downers -  a common issue with folk - and at least one was anti-religious enough to irritate me.

At the same time, there are intricate guitar melodies and a pleasant disposition coming through the music. I can imagine many people enjoying it. I didn't hate it; I just didn't like it enough to enjoy the resulting earworms.




Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Blast from the past

There has been some chatter lately about the current guy winning on Jeopardy!, who is catching some attention with his large winnings, a result not just of his domination of the board but also his large wagers.

I don't like him, mainly for his mannerisms and jumping around. I eventually grew somewhat fond of Arthur Chu after he stopped playing, so anything is possible, but right now I really do not like him.

Anyway, that led to some discussions on Jeopardy! and questions, and I realized that for all of the photos that were lost in my hard drive crash, I had my photo with Alex Trebek saved in e-mail. I posted it for Throwback Thursday, and got a big response.

The most surprising thing was I kind of thought of it as old news. I did it, let people know I was doing it, and had ten blog posts about it after it aired. (The blog series starts at https://sporkful.blogspot.com/2011/11/i-lost-on-jeopardy-baby.html.) Lots of people told me they watched. I hadn't realized that there were people I wasn't in touch with yet then, and even some people I didn't know then. It becomes interesting looking back at what has changed.

First of all, it's much easier to catch your friends on game shows now. I mean, I don't know how easy it is for your friends to get on different game shows, but with Facebook and DVRs, it is a lot easier to see any appearances. I have friends from college where both the husband and wife were on Jeopardy!, but I didn't know because it happened before both of those developments. (Obviously we are excited for when their child gets old enough to try out.) My junior high locker partner plugged her phone into her DVR and grabbed the saved recording of the show and put it on Youtube. There are ways in which social media has made the world smaller, DVRs have totally made entertainment more convenient, and phones and other internet-connected devices do a lot more. All of those technologies have potential drawback, but there are good possibilities.

Also, it's weird to look back at me then. Yes, I was employed (almost gainfully employed, even), but I had not been out of my first round of unemployment for that long. When I got the call to come on the show, we were celebrating one year at the new job, both of Mom's knees had been replaced, the house had been refinanced, and I had given up on working with that one writing partner. Several things that had been a huge source of stress were finally resolved. All the creativity had been wrung out of me, but I was at least able to breathe again.

Of course I'd had high hopes for a big win, and that didn't work out. It was a letdown, but it was still an adventure, and I still remember it fondly.

I was blogging, but that was before daily songs and band reviews and finding it in me to write again. It wasn't that far away. I taped my show in September 2011, it aired October 31st, and my creative resurgence happened shortly after Valentine's Day 2012. That next year was really magical.

And it was followed by hard times too. I am unemployed again, and even with some signs of my mother's memory problems then, there was so much that we could never have predicted. I got the writing kicked out of me again, though I think it's starting to build back up. Currently a lot of things are just wait and see.

With all of the ups and downs, it has been a ride. I suspect it will remain bumpy, and I will ride that out too.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Band Review: Nawias

Nawias is a rapper and producer based in Poland.

While many of the mixes are good, there is an overabundance of information with little guidance for how to find what you need.

This especially seemed like a lost opportunity on the Youtube channel, where a little organization could have worked well for advertising beats and services.

Even knowing that there were some tracks that I liked, going back and finding them would be difficult.





I really meant to have a Wednesday post.

I thought that even if I am not blogging daily, I could still maybe do one sometime between Monday through Wednesday for non-music topics, then do a review on a Thursday or Friday. It would still have some correlation with my old system.

Then Wednesday was a shockingly terrible day.

I am not writing about that now. I am just glad it appears to have been an aberration, and not a plunge into a bad new normal. It did really throw things off, reminding me that I can plan all I want, but there are strong elements of unpredictability in my life.

I suppose it is a good lesson, because I have been frustrated with some entities that are reactive when they should be proactive, and whoops! Sometimes reactive is the best you can do.

Also, it is a reminder that I have limited time, especially in the way I use Facebook. That's what I want to write about.

I can't sit at my computer all day, which has a lot of good things about it. Even if I joined the 21st century and got internet on my phone, it would not be helpful to have my face glued to the phone all day.

In addition, I recently created a Facebook profile for my mother. Literally, I did it three days ago.

I did it to try and help her feel more connected. Once a day we log in and I show her things and we look down her feed. I'm not sure how much it will help, but it was something to try. So far she has found it kind of interesting.

It also means that even part of my time on Facebook is not for me. Since it is time that I am spending on her, I probably would not be on the computer then anyway. Her profile is not taking away from my personal time or computer time; that's just the disease.

(Although her profile has attracted some new people to me, which does relate to the next bit.)

It is hard keeping up with the news, though it is still important to me and I make it happen. It is still important to share.

It also remains important to me to not let uninformed replies stand. Some of you may be familiar with my bulldog-like tenacity in holding to points. It just may be hours before I see something now.

I know people are used to instantaneous response in this day and age. I cannot currently provide it.

There are some frustrations with that. I think the primary thing that may be noticeable is that I am going to be somewhat harsher. I used to work really hard to avoid the word "stupid". It can be incendiary, and it is hard to appeal to a person's better nature by insulting them. I know that, and I am nonetheless going to be holding back less.

You might think that I am putting so much patience into care-giving that I don't have any left for Fox News watchers, but that's not really it. It's more of a combination of seeing that they tend not to change their minds anyway. If the point of taking the long way around is to get them on your side, it's not a great point. If I can make them think, great. If I can only be frustrating, I will take that.

A friend of my sisters recently posted something that ultimately was saying that the votes of rural people should count more (it was electoral college-related). I don't think she really meant that; but all of these counties can't be wrong! The thing is, the data was also wildly inaccurate, and she specifically said she had checked the numbers.

Now, accurate numbers would still have given her the majority she intended, and I think it's worse that she didn't check the logic than that she didn't check the numbers, but still, she was lazy and lying and then got mad that every time she even tries to post something on Facebook people jump all over her. Except that most of her corrections were being pretty gentle. I get that it's not fun being called wrong, but surely it's better to learn from it than to stay wrong.

But they don't! That's why I'm not going to spend a lot of time coddling. I remember one long thread where one person finally accepted - after screen shots of federal regulations - that undocumented immigrants don't collect welfare. I don't think it changed her political mindset at all, and I would not be surprised if she ended up "forgetting" the one little fact she stopped fighting.

Here's the thing: "fake news" is an old strategy borrowed from the Russians, and the point isn't to discredit any one story, but to discredit all stories. When you are skeptical about everything and nothing can be known to be true, then nothing matters and no one is good. Well, some people get elevated to a weird kind of savior-status that I don't get at all, but most people are bad.

It's a lie. It's a bunch of lies, actually, and it all matters. There is real suffering going on, and there are people trying to do good things, and it all matters.

I care about it so much I should be arriving in a cloud car from Care-A-Lot. This is neither fun nor relaxing, but it's how I am and I don't regret that.

Unfortunately, stupid stuff may sit on my page for a few hours before I have a chance to get to it, but that leads to another really good thing. I have smart and caring friends that will sometimes school you when I don't have the time.

Thank you especially Kristen and Pauli. You know why.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Band Review: Patient Zero

Patient Zero calls her music cyberpunk, so I am going to go with that.

I was thinking of it more as dance/club music, but the computer influence is strong, in both music and video. Computers sometimes also affect the vocals, lending growls and distortion to the grittiness. It is easy to imagine the music as a soundtrack for some slick dystopian movie. (And since you could argue that we are now living in a not-so-slick one...)

That catalog is impressively large, with the downside of that being that the music tends to blend together. However, one of the singles, "Dwarf Hole", while seemingly less to the point lyrically does give a pretty good idea of the potential funk.

For a starting place with albums, Paracide is the most recent, released in 2018, but I think for me 2013's Artifice and 2015's Transgressor stood out more.

Another approach would be to start out via Youtube playlists, with 31 videos that can give you an overview.

The obvious upside of a large catalog is that if any of these starting points tell you that this is your thing, you will have a lot to explore.




Wednesday, April 03, 2019

A month of book selfies

About two months ago I wrote about not being satisfied with my selfies, especially due to a sense of repetition. I had some thoughts for shaking things up:


Having now completed the first idea - a month of book selfies -  I once again have great concerns about how repetitious they are.

In an effort to shake things up I tried different poses and locations. One book had "jump back" in the title, so I tried jumping back while taking the photo. The first time I didn't time it right, the second time I did but the picture was quite blurry. I have never been an award-winning photographer.

That doesn't make it a waste. It has gotten me thinking more about shot composition, and there is the sheer value of setting a goal and making it.

I do feel that the ways in which my life is most interesting are now largely internal, which is hard to photograph. And yet, I don't take the selfies to be interesting; I do it to assert my own worth and to remember who I am and that I matter as that person. Posting is an important part of that, though, and since I am posting I feel like they should be interesting. It creates a pressure that may not be necessary but then makes me think more deeply.

Anyway, I probably will go through other themes, but I will not do themes every month.

The other thing you have probably noticed is that I have not been posting regularly.

I have written enough about current time constraints and concerns that I suspect any regular readers can figure out that days without posting just mean that I am busy, which is always true.

It is also true that right now I am in the middle of learning so much that I kind of worry that anything big I write about, I won't do a good enough job on yet. That may not be a reason to avoid all topics, but then the time constraints come up again. My mother is starting to need more time, and it has to come from somewhere.

One blogging concern has been some musicians for review with huge catalogs, where I don't know if I can even give enough listening time. Giving up reviewing music does not feel like an acceptable loss. However, I can get through some of them this month, only reviewing one a week instead of two, and then see how it goes. Mom likes music; I may just need to find a way to include her, at least if the bands are any good.

The leads to one more concern, with a sub-concern. It occurred to me that all of the blogging gaps will probably lead to reader loss. The days where I didn't end up posting until around midnight were already not great for page hits.

I could almost shrug that off, because my blogging is still primarily for me. However, the band reviews can kind of be helpful for the bands, and having a smaller audience could make my reviews less helpful.

I'm going to not worry about that one too much, because it seems that the music reviews and the other posts have somewhat different audiences. I don't think I'm getting anyone signed, and recording contracts don't mean what they used to anyway.

There was still this nagging feeling that if I do have important things to say, should I try and cultivate an audience? Applying for a one-time live-tweeting thing, it occurred to me that there are some advantages to increasing follower counts. I do know things I could do to increase that, except that I like that my social media is built on relationships.

Weighing this conflict of whether I should try and keep readers led to this kind of bitter thought that with everything else I am losing, why wouldn't I lose that? Most of the losses that have already hit have been financial in some way, but there are these pieces of loss that are going to culminate in one really big loss. I don't know if a reader base even counts against that.

Except, it could be something that matters in the future, that part that is unknown. Which brings me back to another earlier post:


It goes back to the liminality. I am in between things. I might have an idea about what is on the other side, but they are only guesses. Anything I shed off now, I might not even need then. If there are other things I will need, then I believe I will somehow manage to hold on to them, or to find them again later.
What though the sea with waves continuall   
Doe eate the earth? it is no more at all:          
Ne is the earth the lesse, or loseth ought:   
For whatsoever from one place doth fall   
Is with the tide unto another brought:   
For there is nothing lost, that may be found if sought.   
-- Edmund Spenser