Friday, June 12, 2020

Fundraising and music

We all know that 2020 has been a year marked by trouble and disappointment.

Recently something reminded me of the Blues Festival. Obviously it is canceled, but it wasn't just a time to listen to good music; it was also an important fundraiser for the Oregon Food Bank. That would be bad in a normal year, but with Coronavirus job and economic disruptions that is significantly worse.

I thought about doing a fundraiser, but it almost feels wrong to raise funds for anything but protests and ending police brutality.

That reminded me of something else: a post saying not to refer to "everything going on"; either say "the protests" or "the revolution".

I get that. So many people are uncomfortable even talking about racism - a necessary conversation - that we do need to push back on the avoidance. However, when I say "everything" it's because I mean the protests and the virus. We have both, and we need to deal with both.

That's why I decided to do two fundraisers.

For Oregon Food Bank:

For Don't Shoot Portland:

I will be posting two daily songs from now through July 5th, the date the Blues Fest should run through. Songs linking to the Don't Shoot Portland fundraiser will be blues songs. The festival web site has posted a play list and I will try to highlight some artists from there, but I started with local musician Robert Cray's "Smoking Gun". (Is that title ironic or appropriate? Not sure, but he is good at blues and that is his most recognized song.)

Songs linking to the Oregon Food Bank fundraiser will be related to hunger and food. 

Obviously "Green Onions" could go with either play list. I might use it twice. It's a good song.

This feels like a way to do some good when there is a lot of good that needs to be done. I hope to raise $500 each.

It is also a way to try and bring myself out a little more. I have to come up with two songs daily, and I should also post earlier, because lately my Twitter connection often goes down before I post the song. That could hurt donations. I don't want that.

I have written about this before, but I used to volunteer at the Blues Festival all the time. Lately, I haven't been able. I have been too tired, and I know it is from the care giving. 

I am currently looking at putting my mother into a memory care facility. For a long time it was better for her to be with me, and now that doesn't feel true. There are complicated feelings there, and lots of ways that could change my life. When I pictured some of those changes before, there wasn't a virus out there. I don't know how that will affect my job options or visiting options, but we all have lots of uncertainty on what future is possible and what possibility will be chosen. 

We can handle it, because we have to.

I will look to a future where there is racial and economic equality, where everyone can be safe and no one has to be hungry.

These two fundraisers are my small steps.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

2019 music goals update - Phase 2 completed

Obviously I am not thrilled with my performance, but at times it is miraculous that I get anything done.

Anyway, I have finished the second round of bands from the Nothing Feels Good book.

Those were bands that I thought that I wanted to listen to more.That meant instead of just listening to top tracks or watching videos, trying to listen to the whole catalog.

I don't exactly regret that Mogwai was on the list, but that was a very discouraging start. So many albums! If I were a fan, getting each album new as it came out would be wonderful, but that was a lot of hours of similar instrumentals. I still don't dislike them, I think I want to watch the movie for which they did the soundtrack, but finishing them was a relief.

Of course, Mogwai isn't emo. The book mentioned bands that were not emo, and sometimes the ones I liked the most came from genres.

Most were emo. I listened to both Jawbreaker and Jawbox. I really like Jawbox. Jawbreaker is the band where I like the guitars but then I get irritated with the singing. I didn't really have that figured out until the third round.

You see, the first round was going through and listening to some songs from each band the book mentioned. Many daily songs came from that round. I starred bands that I liked.

The second round was listening to the full catalog of the starred bands. I should have trusted my instincts. For some reason - in retrospect I am not sure it makes sense - after listening to The Rocking Horse Winner again, I thought maybe I had been wrong not to star Joan of Arc. No. I was not.

While I was doing this listening, I would take notes, like song titles I liked, or what I liked, or if some albums were stronger than others. The third round was going back through and listening to the noted songs again. There's a reason it took so long, but that is not the only reason. There ended up being eleven bands who were not mentioned in Nothing Feels Good where I still listened to their entire catalogs.

One of the mentioned bands was The Hives. Not emo. There was a time period when band names that stuck out to me - because of their format - included The Hives, Strokes, Vines, and Shins, but I knew nothing about their music. I decided to throw them in too, plus The Struts for fun.

Another band mentioned in Nothing Feels Good was Interpol. A lot of people associate them with The Killers (whom I know well) and Franz Ferdinand, but I associate Franz Ferdinand with Modest Mouse. That is because of advertising that included snippets of "Take Me Out" with "Float On", seemingly random but there is a percussive similarity with the songs that is reflected in the videos.

I also listened to Kill Hannah's catalog, because back when I was still trying to figure out what emo meant, it seemed like they could fit. They don't, but now I know for sure.

I also listened to the full catalogs of my four favorite bands from Phase One, the bands that were not emo but seemed to hold a similar place in people's hearts.

Finally I can move on to Phase Three, updating the band review spreadsheet. Lots of fun planned with that, and many daily songs will come from there. I am not ready to start it yet, though, so I have something else planned that I will announce tomorrow.

In the meanwhile, I will do actual band reviews (listening to the catalog three times and writing it up)  (someday) for Jawbox, FenixTX, Superdrag, Social Distortion, Face to Face, Samiam, Allister, The Rocking Horse Winner, Something Corporate, Frail (but not the one I looked up, a Finnish band I stumbled across trying to find the other one), Finch, and The Struts.

Of the twenty-two original starred bands, that is twelve marked for review, and ten not. I am not sure how long the original list was anymore. I am a little surprised The Starting Line didn't end up on it, but there were so many.

For the added bands - except for The Struts, whom I loved - even the ones I like more, I think I would not do a review unless I got to see them in concert. That includes The Shins, Falling in Reverse, Avenged Sevenfold, Black Veil Brides, and A Day to Remember.

Technically, now that I think of it, I think I have seen Franz Ferdinand in concert, but it was terrible seats and acoustics. Maybe if they come they can have a do-over, whereas the more I listened to Modest Mouse, the more I hated them.

I think I want to do a playlist for The Strokes. I really like some songs, and it might be handy to revisit them without having to wade through everything else.

Sorry if I dissed any of your favorites, but I will give anyone a chance, and I think that's worth something.

Related posts:

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Facing ideas that challenge the status quo (like police abolition!)

When we were only dealing with COVID-19, and people longed for a return to normalcy, I was thinking about how normal had not really been that great. The protests and their subjects have been a resounding affirmation.

I have been pleasantly surprised as some people have shown new understanding of structural racism and its effects. Other people have been very disappointing in how stubbornly they cling to not understanding.

I still lean toward being sympathetic when I can, so this post is about dealing with concepts that are so new and different that the only possible initial reaction seems to be "No! We can't do that!"

This is most likely when someone is suggesting a change to something entrenched in the old system, often a system that has worked well for you. That feels like chaos, exacerbating the normal intimidation of change.

The first step is going to be just like in the previous posts about being overwhelmed or being embarrassed: Stop. Breathe. Listen.

Once you do that, you will find that even if you can't picture it, there are other people who have been thinking about it, and have pictured it. Different people may imagine different results, and you may lean more toward some visions than others. That can be fine. It is listening with an open mind that allows the growth.

So let's do a walk-through on the very frightening idea of police abolition.

A good starting point may be to remember how scary having police is for some people. Yes, having them around may not have been a problem for you, but that may not be entirely a product of your crime-free lifestyle. Researching current problems with the police may be your first step, though this past week or so should have given you at least a few ideas about that.

The next stop tends to be all the Whatabouts: What about domestic violence? What about murder? What about theft? What about rape? Maybe throw in a "What about Black on Black crime?" just to be thorough.

If you go into this with an open mind, this can really be where you start seeing how abolishing the police could work. For thefts, well, sometimes if they catch the thieves and your possessions are still there, you might get them back after they are no longer needed for evidence. Burglaries aren't investigated as often as you would hope.

Some of that is that you have patrol, and you have detectives. Detectives probably have too many other things to investigate, not worrying about petty theft. (DA offices could probably employ detectives for investigating serious crimes, and that could be its own can of worms.)

Patrols can keep an eye out for identified suspects, or suspicious activity, but here is at least one thread about them not having enough to do, and therefore causing trouble instead of preventing it:

I think we have seen that police are not always helpful with crowd control. Their goals may be off.

For domestic violence, lots of domestic abuse happens in police families. I recently read about a friend's interaction with the police after surviving domestic abuse. It's not my story, I'm not getting into it here, but she would have been better off with a social worker or counselor or almost anyone else but those cops. (I've still got some anger about that one.)

We know that police are not great at dealing with mental health crises.

We also know that law enforcement is full of not just casual racists but deliberate avowed racists, and that should allow us to deduce that rooting out the racism would be difficult, and be resisted as hard as measures to contain police brutality:

We know that not a single police officer in Louisville had their body cameras turned on, which indicates not only resistance to accountability, but confidence that accountability can be avoided:

After a while, you start thinking "How can we NOT abolish the police?"

Modern policing descends from Southern slave patrols. It was primarily a means of maintaining the social order and protecting the possessions of the wealthy, at a time when people could be possessions. It's not surprising that it ended up this way.

What we need now is to decide what we value, and how to serve those values.

I know that there are people who value being able to exert control of others because of race, gender, sexuality and all of the other factors. Sometimes, there is a level at which you can be invested in that because you haven't examined it.

Examine everything. You can do it, and you are not alone.

I will mention one more thing that could be discouraging, but I took it as encouragement.

I was reading A Third University is Possible by la paperson. One concept it brought up was rematriation, which was new to me, and I couldn't picture it, just to show that I have experience in finding new concepts hard too.

Anyway, there was a part that was talking about how the system that you build to correct the old system will have its own flaws. That is normally a point of despair for me; can't we be perfect? It shifted for me there. You just have to do your best, and in the process you will learn things that you don't know now. Then you try again.

Our best is going to have to include coming to grips with racism and rejecting it in how we rebuild.

For #8cantwait, I am only going to say that a lot of it is already in place and not working. I understand the appeal of reform over abolition, but I am not optimistic about it. In my mind, it looks more like our relationship with the police is the abused wife trying to leave her husband. He is more dangerous then, but that's not a reason to stay; it's a reason to be careful and to be complete in your departure.

That metaphor is not perfect, because there has to be someone else invested in the abusive relationship who keeps trying to support the husband. Maybe white supremacy is our mother-in-law; I don't know. Finding the perfect metaphor will not be nearly as useful as finding ways to abolish the police.

Here is one possible place to start reading:

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Coming through the awkwardness, shame, and embarrassment

Yesterday's post included ways of dealing with feelings of being overwhelmed. As an empathetic person, a caregiver, and possibly someone with strong urges to overcompensate for my historically low self-esteem (maybe), being overwhelmed comes up a lot.

It is not the only thing that can come up where it is better to take a breath and roll with it, rather than immediately try and fight or defend or something like that. I can think of two, and today I want to tackle one.

Yesterday's blog post grew out of a post on Facebook that was inspired by how offended people get sometimes at the mention of racism or white privilege. I had some irritation, but also some sympathy. I have copied that Facebook post at the end of this blog post in case you are interested.

In that case, people were generally taking it personally when they did not need to. This is more about when it actually is personal. If you interject into a discussion about racism demanding that your acquaintance of color tell you when you were ever rude to them, well, you are missing the point, but also you are assuming an innocence that you might not actually have. If they answer your question honestly, how you handle that can be a turning point.

I started thinking about this because of Lea Michele.

You can look up the news stories, but Michele tweeted in support of Black Lives Matter, and then a former Black co-star tweeted about harassment she had received from Michele, and some other people backed it up.

Obvious reactions could be embarrassment and anger, or arguing that the criticism is a distraction from  Black Lives Matter. Another possibility would be some attempts at justification, like saying that she abuses all cast members equally.

I hear variations of that a lot: "I'm not racist; I hate everyone." "I'm not sexist; I'm condescending to everyone." By and large I think the people who say things like that believe it, and that they are wrong. So much of racism and sexism is built into the structure that people don't notice when they are implementing it. That has been shown by many studies.

It is easy to believe that you are not racist, and that you have not done racist things, and be completely wrong about that. Therefore you need to stop and listen and examine.

That feeling will suck. Most likely (if you are not a monster), you associate racism with being a bad person, and you don't think you are a bad person. You can be a good person functioning in a racist system who doesn't always realize what that entails. You may have been more of a jerk as a younger person (very common), and have picked on people who were easier targets or taken cheaper shots without processing how that fit into the larger social construct.

Personally, I do not remember ever treating anyone as less because of their color, or being rude to anyone of color. However, in college when there would be some issue of race I would go straight to my Black friend and ask him about it. He was always very gracious, but there are ways in which that othered him that I did not think about.

Much more recently (but still a few years back) I made a thoughtless joke about Erasure - the British synth pop band - when someone was tweeting about the erasure that happens to Black people. It was not funny. I didn't mean harm, but I did cause some. I had to swallow my defensiveness and accept that, and learn from it.

Word is that Lea Michele is reaching out to former cast mates. She can do that in a way that does not impose emotional labor on them, or she might not. I hope it is a good experience for all of them, but that is not really the point.

The point is what are you going to do when the one being corrected is you?

Here is the Facebook post from last week:

More history! The other thing we are seeing is people getting defensive as others express their feelings, and asking "When have I been racist to you!"
Because people who are thin-skinned on the subject of racism never would have done things without realizing it, and also have the amazing super power of solving racism by their personal virtue. All of which is snark.
More reasonably, yes, this feels personal, and like it is not fair that it is personal, because you try and be a good person. Institutionalized racism in North America goes back at least (other things contributed) to Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia, 1676 - 77. The rebellion saw servants of different ranks and races working together, so laws followed that made permanent slavery just for Black people, and it formed a very effective divide that influenced the Constitution and the evolution of modern policing.

So that wasn't you, or your parents, or even your grandparents. I have to go back to my great-great-great-great grandfather to have someone alive then, and he was 10.
And yet, when you see how entrenched and ugly it is, and that you probably benefit from it, it doesn't feel good. Some people push off the discomfort, and stay part of the problem.

Feel the discomfort. Know that you didn't build it, but you can help dismantle it. That may mean protesting or donating to bail funds or registering voters or working with school boards and sheriff departments... this has been centuries in the making and no one action will stop it, but many actions working together can.

And keep being willing to feel uncomfortable, because it will come up a lot but it is needed.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Through the overwhelm

When I was a little girl - about 5 to 7 years old - mentions of infinity and eternity would freak me out enough to make my stomach hurt. At the time, I dealt with it by running Shaun Cassidy's "Da Doo Ron Ron" through my head. I was a big Shaun Cassidy fan from The Hardy Boys and the song was happy, bouncy, and (best of all) incredibly shallow. Over time that did not seem like the best response.

I have found different ways of thinking, but mostly I think there is a limit to how much a mortal mind can grasp concepts that are so far outside of mortal experience, and there is no shame in that. Currently I have a visualization that I use when something that I can't quite manage is creeping up on me. I picture an ocean wave coming at me. It will be powerful, but it will also recede and it won't carry me away. I can let myself feel it for that moment, and then move on.

(I'm aware that waves capable of carrying a person away exist, but I don't think that invalidates the imagery.)

I mention that now because I am going to be getting into something soon that might make you hyperventilate (it makes me feel like it), and I don't want to just spring that on you without any help.

There is a lot happening that can feel overwhelming, and we need to be able to deal with it. If you have greater anxiety, and access, maybe a doctor can prescribe something or therapy can remove some of the difficulty. I hope you have options for the things you need. For me, the visualization helps.

I have already admitted that things are hard for me lately on different fronts. I want to try and describe the way it is hard for me on the Black Lives Matter front.

The current protests start with George Floyd; that is true. However, knowing that as the life was crushed out of him he said "I can't breathe" makes me remember Eric Garner.

However, coming so closely in time, it is also impossible not to think of David McAtee and Breonna Taylor, but thinking of Breonna Taylor makes me remember Aiyana Jones, and I could easily think of Botham Jean.

We're not that long after Ahmaud Arbery, either. Of course that wasn't cops, but it was white supremacy that allowed the shooting and that delayed charges. So then of course I think of Trayvon Martin and James Byrd Jr and Mulugetu Seraw.

It goes on and on. There are names and faces that come to mind right away, and others that are hanging around the edge of my mind, and they can keep coming, going forwards and backwards, remembering the deaths related by the same city, or the same method, or the same root cause.

Tamir Rice. Amadou Diallo. Latasha Harlins. Sandra Bland. John Crawford. Kathryn Johnston. Michael Brown. Walter Scott. Larry Payne. Emmett Till. That's not even getting into the leaders assassinated. It's not getting into all the Ferguson resistance who died too young, and with too many questions.

Okay, maybe I am getting to the point where I feel more overpowering sadness than panic, but the visualization can still work. I will not deny the bad, or shut it out. I can let it wash over me, and survive that.

And then I should do something. If it is donating to a bail fund, calling a senator, or checking with a local food pantry to see what they need most, that is great. It can also be okay if what I do next is make a sandwich, or pray, or take a nap. Those are all things that need to happen sometimes.

I wrote not too long ago about discovering the concept of Lamed-Vov: 36 people who must always be in the world to witness the hurt in it. Without necessarily believing that there is a specific 36, it is important that pain and wrong has witnesses.

When a specific person is telling me their pain, and they are telling me because they know I care and will listen, then at least there is that level of comfort being given. With the things you see happening in other cities, it is much more difficult to see how you can make any difference at all. For some things, you probably can't, and that doesn't negate the importance of knowing.

It doesn't seem exactly like the serenity prayer, but related. I am not sure that I should be serene about the things that I can't change, but there does need to be wisdom and courage. For the things I can't change, help me not go into denial and harden my heart against it.

For all the overwhelming badness, look at the parks and streets and bridges filled with people. Look at the people who are coming around now who have not been there before. Remember we are not alone, and then do what you can.

I believe that there will be answers after you ask.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

O Gina, where art thou? And how art thou?

I have been blogging more than it looks, because I have revived the travel and preparedness blog.

It does feel good to be able to do at least a little bit of  what I used to, but it also takes a lot out of me. That is especially true with the preparedness blog, where I am writing about processing my church having $100 billion scattered across hedge funds and through shell companies. My writing isn't even that condemnatory - I don't think - but that sure does sound terrible as I write it.

Also - and this is nothing new - my mother continues to decline. It exhausts and depresses me. A new medication seemed to help some, but today it feels like it doesn't.

Then of course there was the virus issue with that added stress, and yes, I have been feeling the issues with racism. No, I realize it's not anything new. There's a cumulative effect.

Technically, today could be a pretty good turning point. Things are cautiously opening back up on the virus front, and all officers involved in George Floyd's death have been charged. I am not optimistic for three reasons.

1. Those Memorial Day Weekend pictures make me pretty certain that the Coronavirus second wave is starting next week, not in the fall. I think it will be harder to get people to comply with safety precautions, given how reluctant the compliance was before. I foresee a lot of sickness and death coming up, and there has already been too much.

2. These charges - even in the result of a conviction - will not solve systemic police violence and white supremacy. In addition, they have highlighted more and more how dangerous this president is. That's not really news either, but that doesn't make me feel better.

3. People suck. A lot.

It's the way they proudly flaunt public health protection. That indicates a belief that no lives matter, which makes it that much weirder how many people are saying "All lives matter" again. There has been a major "All lives matter" revival. I guess it's because of the reminder that "Black lives matter"; people hate that one!

I have also seen a lot of invoking of the Civil War lately, in really stupid ways, thinking it proves something. I helped someone draft a reply to one comment yesterday. I wanted it to be really complete, and I felt like it was pretty good, but then it got taken down for being inappropriate somehow. (It was on a corporate page.) I will share it here, and if you can use it, go for it: 

The Civil War freed the slaves, and then the Ku Klux Klan was founded, and Southern sheriffs started arresting newly freed Black men on trumped up charges and selling their labor. That kept happening until WWII. Reconstruction started to bring better education to former slaves and poor white people, and it was abandoned and Jim Crow laws enforced, and the Daughters of the Confederacy formed and started pushing Lost Cause mythology and putting up Confederate monuments. Brown vs the Board of Education admitted that segregated schools were unfair, and white people spit on Black students and pulled their children out of public schools. The Civil Rights movement was always there, but it really took off in the 60s, got some key legislation passed, and that led to Lee Atwater's Southern Strategy, and new code words for continuing the criminalization of Black Americans which quickly led to the War on Drugs and the militarized police forces that are currently being focused on.

If the Civil War had actually accomplished equality, it would be fine to say "All lives matter" but it wouldn't need saying. Instead, there are people who are constantly working against equality, and people who refuse to see that are choosing that side by default.
Maybe it's just too long. Or maybe it's the reference to white people doing bad things.

In the midst of all this, I feel like I really need to become an expert in self-care, that maybe I will have to care for my mother until I can learn to care for both of us. I think at the root it may require wholeness and healing from trauma, even when the trauma keeps happening.

So that's the space that I am working in. There are good moments, but today hasn't been great.

I am still here.