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.