Friday, June 21, 2019

2019 Music Goals Update

I tend to organize my life into six week segments. At least when I have some sort of goal in place, I look at a six week period, regardless of how the actual execution goes.

Looking at going for a while without reviewing any bands, I figure that will probably be for about six weeks, a bit longer than the do-over Black History month.

During that time period I am focusing on listening to the bands I wanted to listen to more after reading Nothing Feels Good. There were fewer bands than the last list I was going through, but because it is listening to the entire catalog - not just the top ten or so songs - it is taking longer. (Mogwai is taking forever!)

Some of these bands will be marked for eventual review, and some won't but will get a song of the day. That's okay. Other goals of going back through my reviewed bands, recording a week's worth of songs myself, and studying more about Christmas carols will still happen eventually.

Typically, I have thought of other things I want to do, but there is a theme to it that interests me.

For example, the daily songs from Martin Luther King Day through Valentine's Day were a Stevie Wonder tribute . That was great, but I could only do it because of the notes I'd taken. Otherwise there was too much to keep in memory. When I played each song again I realized why I liked it, and kind of remembered, but I could not bring them to mind before, and for the most part I still can't.

I want to go through his catalog again and create a playlist of my favorites. Then I can play it sometimes and remember. There's not a rush, but it needs to be done.

In addition, I realize that I want to return to two of my larger listening projects, and probably pull out some more bands for review.

It is especially important with the listening from the comments on the Greatest Guitar songs list, because I wasn't reviewing yet then. There were a lot of artists and I don't remember them all. That isn't always bad, but maybe there are ones that I want to remember and don't. 

If I think now off the top of my head about whom I would want to go back to, I can think of maybe Gang of Four and Magazine... that's two out of what was roughly 179.

(Just for the record, without having gotten there yet on the Nothing Feels Good listening, I know I will want to do a full review of Social Distortion and Anti-Flag. Does that mean I can skip this review and just put them down on the review list? Maybe, if I didn't have so many hangups.)

With the list of Black women artists, well, I did pull a few of them out for review already: Melba Liston, Noname, Ledisi, Joan Armatrading, Sharon Jones, Leona Lewis, and Fefe Dobson. However, I did not realize from going through once how much I loved Mary J. Blige, and that first time around I completely missed Stephanie Mills. 

Those all have the same point, and it relates to wanting to go back through all of the previous musicians reviewed too (Emi Meyer was #628). I have previously written about feeling like I am in transition; the question becomes what will I take with me? I have learned and discovered a lot over these past few years; what am I keeping?

There is so much I don't know about what is coming. Remembering may also have a more desperate importance to me now. Maybe I will end up being a writer who writes nothing but different metaphors for dementia. There are potentially many.

For now I can only see a few steps ahead, but I will take them.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

I can't even...

That title should probably be for an angrier or at least more astounded post. It's not, but saying "I can't" does give me some serious consternation, and I can't.

When I was planning on re-doing Black History month, of course that was going to include reviewing more Black artists. I easily had enough artists that I have been wanting to get to.

If you have been keeping track, you know that my posting is getting more irregular. The band reviews have been slightly more regular, but still falling behind. There were three more artists that I intended to do in May and there just wasn't time, for listening or for writing it up. Frankly, I have not been happy with the writing quality of my recent posts either.

At this point, the best I can do musically is come up with daily songs.

It is also not surprising for anyone that I am behind in reading, and that before really starting my Black History month reading I am still working on nine more books about gender and violence, four more on Native American Heritage, six on education that will be an important addition to the themes of this recent Native American Heritage reading, plus five more books on death and grief, and about twenty-three books for Asian-American and Pacific Islander heritage. And although I am not trying to finish my post-election reading before any of them because that is its whole own thing, it did feel very important to get to the Nazi segment because when I think people are saying the same things Hitler said I want to be sure, but that involves two long and factually dense books and two terrible books written by Hitler and it is not going fast!

(So sometimes when I am frustrated at how slowly I progress, I should probably stop and remember that I am overly ambitious.)

When it took me too long to get to my 2014 Native American Heritage reading, I ending up deferring on the books, and watching a bunch of documentaries:

I am doing something similar here. Instead of trying to read any of the slated books, I am going to be watching several movies by Black directors, and catch up on some other media.

If I am not writing music reviews, maybe I can get to writing about some of these books that I have read, or that I am going through now. For one thing, I had read some of the slated books. For my children's literature I wanted to focus on the illustrations of Sean Qualls and I am currently on the last of those selections. It has not gone the way I intended, but what ever does?

I have also read one of the poetry books I had planned on, and maybe some other poetry will sneak in over this next month. That could be okay.

But always there is that frustration: I feel like I should be able to do more, and do it faster. I really hate that I can't.

Except I am learning more all of the time, and understanding more. I have better answers for complex questions when I get asked.

(So sometimes when I am frustrated at how slowly I progress, I should probably stop and remember what I have done, not just what remains undone.)

Anyway, I hope there will be posts about books and illustrations and movies.

I hope.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Juneteenth, Black Music Month, and Queen Sugar

February - regular Black History month - was unusually bad this year for the number of blackface photos surfacing. Maybe there can't be any great news for any marginalized group under this current administration, but there was a general feeling that it would be good to have a do-over.

Some people had suggested starting on Juneteenth and then going through for 31 days. June is Black Music month anyway, so it would take in part of that, and have some good cookout weather. Also, it can elevate the 4th of July, because Independence Day should mean more than it does, especially under this administration.

Anyway, I don't know what other people are doing, but from today through July 22nd, my daily songs will be from Black artists, and I will also be posting a daily article focusing on Black history. I will sum those up at the end of the month, but I think I am going to try and focus on individuals rather than events. We will see. I don't have all of the songs planned out other, but I am sure around Blues Fest time there will be some zydeco.

Musically I am kicking things off with a trio of songs from Mary J. Blige. You may remember from my review of her in February that there was a section off of Stronger With Each Tear that I thought was just perfect, so that seems like a nice kickoff to the month.

There are some other parts to how I will be commemorating the month, but those have to do more with my inadequacies so I will just push them off to a later post. Today is a celebration.

Therefore, let me say how happy I am that Queen Sugar is back.

There were some really nice touches in the season premiere, like Tevin Campbell as Cousin Junior, and a hearing-impaired woman and translator in the audience right before Charlie's award presentation went South. And boy, did that go South!

Nova is wrong with how she is doing things, but I get why she is being wrong in this way. I can feel sympathy for her, but more for the others.

However, most of all, before all of this happened I am glad for the sheer joy that we got to see before that. Yes, that is especially with the opening of Vi's Prized Pies, but also Vi and Hollywood shopping and happy, and Ra running and jumping for joy to have his parole completed. Dramas have to drama, but there needs to be balance and relief too, and this was glorious.

Tomorrow: the things that I can't do, and the things that I am doing instead.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Band Review: Emi Meyer

I meant to publish the Emi Meyer review a week ago, on the 7th, but an internet outage set me back. In this case it works out, because Meyer released a new album, Wings, on June 12th, and I have been able to listen to it.

I became aware of Meyer due to some collaboration with Shing02, so was not at all surprised to hear a strong jazz influence in her work.

It is there, but her music is not limited to jazz. Some songs have a more pop influence, perhaps most noticeable on her 2014 release, Seiichi Nagai. Galaxy's Skirt, from 2013, might fit more into adult contemporary.

I don't intend to get too hung up on genre, often not the most useful way of understanding music. I mention it only because I appreciate the way that you can hear different themes and threads, and yet within the catalog the artist always sounds like herself. Her identity appears to be firm, and liberating. It allows for a fair amount of playfulness, and contemplative seriousness, and heartbreak.

There is plenty to explore.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Band Review: Kosmic Renaissance

Last May I reviewed Shing02, and noticed two other associated acts, Emi Mayer and Kosmic Renaissance.

I had not realized the time gap between them. Emi Meyer (tomorrow's review) has releases as far back as 2008, with her most recent album in 2017. (Her collaborations with Shing02 seem to be from 2010.)

On the other hand, Kosmic Renaissance's main period of activity seems to have been back in 2005. With a focus on improv, there are some recordings of live performances, but there do not appear to be any studio albums.

This has also meant a lack of information. Their most solid source of individual information is a MySpace page, with some entries on Youtube and Soundcloud under Tabla Jazz. Anything I could find, I am linking to down below.

From the live recordings, it is very much a feeling of jazz improv, except that there is very little swing influence. Instead, it is more of a techno focus. That impression could be driven by the accompanying light show, but I also think working with the lights gives a different mindset to the performance. That has a concrete influence on how the music comes out.

With Shing02 on keyboards, Sameer Gupta on percussion, and David Boyce on saxophone, the trio is musically strong, and the collaboration is interesting. It isn't catchy where I want to listen to it again and again, but I don't think it's supposed to be. If they wanted to be that kind of band, they wouldn't have done improv.

Remembering Shing02 from my previous listening, there was always an exploration of boundaries, and what could be crossed and combined. Based on that, Kosmic Renaissance makes sense and fills a role.

And you can find a few recordings if you try.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

A month of food selfies

I have now completed my second month of themed selfies.

In many ways it was like March, the month of book selfies. Mainly, it started to feel tedious long before it was over, but also I did start thinking about content more, and I found ways to have fun with it.

It also showed me how much the theme makes me more aware, because on June 1st, freedom from that constraint meant not taking any photos and then remembering after I was already getting ready for bed.

(And May and March were specifically chosen as months with 31 days so I really had to commit.)

May was also more profound than March, because I was going up against taboo. There are no secrets about me reading a lot, or that including children's books and non-fiction and all sorts of things. There can be some serious stigma for a fat woman admitting that she eats.

I mean, surely it could be figured out, but still, it feels like I am not supposed to admit it. Perhaps I should be ashamed. 

I may have even thought of it as a chance to show that I do not exclusively eat "bad" foods. I do try and create nutritious and balanced meals (though money and stress haven't been doing me any favors lately).

Like any series of selfies, at first there was hesitation and then it ended up being just that this is me. Take me or leave me.

Sometimes I look better, other times worse, but that is all my life and I don't owe attractiveness to anyone. I do some things well; others not so much.

And sometimes I am in a rut, but there is still variety and I try to get the pictures to show it.

This is a hard year, with I suspect some really hard things coming up, and it was a concern; do I want to take a picture when things are absolutely terrible? No, but the purpose of this isn't about wanting to take pictures.

Looking ahead to what might really hurt, I have decided that I might take pictures daily but wait a week to catch up on posting them. As minor as it is, it feels better to have a plan for how to deal with that.

Regardless, it is all just me, and I can live with her.

Monday, June 03, 2019

In the kitchen

I have really been wanting to blog.

I mean, I have successfully gotten some band reviews and travel reviews up, so it hasn't been a total void, but actually writing about me and sharing that has felt important and also impossible.

The last time I tried, I was also trying to get a lot of baking done. I was not specifically doing it because I was depressed, though there were ways in which it felt pretty appropriate.

I had gotten the ingredients for another batch of Kodiak cookies, which had been really popular the last time I made them. Then a family that we love lost a mother and grandmother (and great-grandmother - just one person, but different roles) and I wanted to do something.

It started that I was going to make a large batch of pumpkin bread and a double batch of cookies, working on them right before making dinner. Then someone unexpectedly came by, meaning I needed to change dinner plans. No baking happened that day.

The next day I got started again, but I didn't have as much time to soften the butter. I decided to just give it a tiny bit of microwaving, which I miscalculated.

I was worried that it was too soft looking at it, but it was still holding it shape. Well, that became less and less true the more I mixed. This was not going to be ideal for baking.

Fortunately, even though melting does completely alter butter, apparently you can do a reasonable facsimile of undoing the damage if you put the too-liquid cookie dough into the fridge and let it firm up a bit. The next day I baked them and they were fine.

It feels like there was one more thing that went wrong and delayed things, but maybe that was just all the time spent indecisive and unsure. (Is pumpkin bread really the right thing to take for mourning?)

I eventually ended up with three loaves of pumpkin bread (two from scratch, one from a mix), one of banana bread, two of regular bread, and the double batch of cookies.

Uncertain ideas, indecisiveness, and false starts - but always good intentions - sounds  a lot like my blog right now.

Mom is getting worse. She requires more attention and takes more patience, and there is less gratification. I don't blame her for that, but I still feel it. I am often overwhelmed and sometimes angry, but mainly I am just sad. Oh, and also tired.

But sometimes things still get done, whether that is a fresh blog post or fresh bread.

Life goes on.