Friday, May 25, 2018

Band Review: Browne Project

Chris Browne has some busking background, and a Busker Rhyme Album that acknowledges it.

While Browne Project is not limited to busking now, also playing clubs and radio stations and other venues, the acoustic music never sounds too far away from something that could be comfortably played on a street corner. There is an immediacy and a sincerity to the music that seems very approachable.

While I believe I prefer the Looking Forth album, which I think is newer, there is a strong sense of continuity between the two. This is Browne, stripped down and as he is; his project is himself, and it will contain hope and growth.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Band Review: Kitcha Saventhes

I'm not sure I did this review right.

Kitcha got on the review list by following me on Twitter. The Twitter profile points to the Youtube channel, which has music but also has vlogs and makeup tutorials and all kinds of things. Still, I review music, so that seemed like the right place to focus, except that it looks like Kitcha has also been in two bands, or maybe some other kind of musical projects. It might have made more sense to direct the attention that way.

But I didn't.

So, Kitcha is a Youtuber based in Sweden who - among other things - records songs, often accompanying with some animation.

Song selection includes covers of bands that might be considered pop punk and emo, or at least pop in the case of "Call Me Maybe", but there are also songs from video games and cartoon series, I think. Many of them are unfamiliar, so I don't know how they compare to the originals.

That may affect how fans of the originals will feel about Kitcha's covers, but overall I think he does a good job. That includes song selection, presentation choices, and also in the delivery. Okay, sometimes the dance moves and gestures run a little weird and over dramatic. That seems like something you might do for fun if nothing else when you are regularly producing content. Vocals are nonetheless strong and expressive. Vocals are edited, but don't end up sounding artificial.

That right there is a reason why I wonder if I should have reviewed one of the bands instead. It could always happen at some other time.

I still find it weird that people are Youtubers and follow Youtubers, so I am not the target demographic (I know, get off of my lawn), but if you are into following Youtubers, Kitcha could be a good choice.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Political ads

The ad I referenced yesterday was an attack ad against Max Wall, candidate for Washington County District Attorney, who did end up losing the election. I am unhappy with the outcome and the ad, so let's spend a little bit of time on that.

I was first won over to Max Wall by one of his ads, where he was focused on using compassion and common sense on crime charges, especially drug ones. That probably made him look like too much of a hippie, but he ran another one about how identity should not affect personality, your position should not protect you from paying for your crimes.

That sounds much more tough on crime, but the two views aren't automatically contradictory. Jailing drug offenders is expensive and ineffective, and has tended to be very racist in how it has been carried out. We certainly don't need that.

There was also a message in the other ad that was reinforced with one final ad, about a police officer charged with domestic violence who was allowed to plead down and keep his weapon. Domestic violence is a great predictor of further violence, and a gun increases that danger, but how can he be a cop without a gun?

Obviously, the sheriff and former DA supported Wall's opponent, who had been the outgoing DA's assistant. I was never going to vote for him, largely because of two detention cases:

The articles focus on the judges who allowed detaining the witnesses, but the DA decides whom to prosecute, and how, and keeping men in prison when you don't even have custody of the person you want to charge is pretty horrible, and imprisoning a woman who was raped in prison shows such a lack of regard for the victim that I can't even understand why you would bother prosecuting. There were other articles; it was terrible for her in there.

It shows a lack of regard for the average person, a willingness to abuse, and given that these involved people who could be marginalized for multiple reasons, it is not really a sign of holding everyone equal before the law. Therefore, Barton's previous service is a vote against him for me.

People know that executive positions - like president and governor - are important, but there are two office that may not get a lot of attention, but have a huge affect. Those are the secretaries of state and district attorneys.

Republicans made a concerted effort to make sure that more states had Republican secretaries of state.They did that because a state's secretary controls the election, Katherine Harris being just one example. Remember, one of the first things that happened with Richardson was a desire to redistrict before the census. We're stuck with him for now, but we should be aware of what is going on. The Voting Rights Act has been weakened and Russia has paid no penalties for tampering, so it matters.

District Attorneys are the key decision makers on who gets prosecuted and for what crimes and for what kind of penalties. Yes, they have to work with the existing laws, but there is room to exercise a lot of discretion, and it is their discretion. How they see people matters.

I mention this because of a key point of the ad. Yes, the manipulation of mustache was irritating, but the real issue was the sinister way in which they painted him receiving a donation from the Law & Justice political action committee, which has received donations from George Soros, meaning that MAX WALL WAS FUNDED BY A GEORGE SOROS SUPERPAC!

And people did hold that against him. He was getting outside superpac funding! And did you see that mustache? He looks like a cartoon supervillain!

Okay, yes, George Soros contributes a fair amount of money to politics. Superpacs aggregate donations from many small people to maximize the funds. Superpacs often donate in states where they are not based, though that may very well be in states from which some of their donors come. None of that is illegal, and it doesn't have to be nefarious, based on the values.

If the Koch brothers are supporting a candidate, I probably am not in favor of that candidate. This is not because they are not Oregonians, but because they are reprehensible human beings and their values are almost completely opposite to mine.

Do you know what George Soros' big cause has been? Fighting nationalism. Also ending poverty. Now that everyone is getting really poor and it's used to justify Nazis being Nazis because of economic anxiety, I can imagine he would contribute to many causes. Yes, if he were busing in voters over state lines, that would be illegal; it is also ridiculously impractical, so much so as to not be possible. I could almost wish that Soros were writing checks to protesters, because I could use the funding, but that's not how it works.

I guess my point is that I do not like deceptive practices, I do not like stupidity, and I do not like when it works.

A lot of the loudest voices out there sound pretty clownish, and they should be easy to see through. There are some pretty sophisticated machinations going on out there as well, and we need to be aware of that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Deception (Things that worry me, part 4)

Here is that last story, out of those three things that I couldn't ignore, or put off writing about until later.

Just to recap, the first two were attacks on health care that focused on marginalized groups and violence committed by bigots, essentially. I don't doubt those will come up again, but one of the common threads was how we perceive these things.

Republicans have paused on trying to straight up overturn the Affordable Care Act, and each smaller attack will have an easier to ignore impact. Your health care might feel safe, but it isn't.

Attacks by some people lead to talks of terrorism and measures to fight it, but attacks by angry white guys are reported as mentally ill lone wolves, so even if a discussion does happen it is largely the wrong discussion.

There are many factors that contribute to that, and many of them are so deeply woven into the fabric of our world that it takes real effort to untangle those threads. Our biases and conditioning do a lot of the work. While that has been true for a long time, it has also been true for a long time that there are those who knowingly capitalize on that, and who manipulate that. Technology is allowing them to become much better at it.

My concern here started with Joy Reid. There is a fairly good summary of the issue here:

The shorter version is that attention was drawn to early homophobic posts by Reid that she denies making. 

There are a few levels of complexity that make this harder. On a human level, she has previously said other things that she regrets now, and that is on record as well as her apology. Apparently at least one of them was something about Ann Coulter's mannishness, and this is a good example of ways in which you need to think deeper.

It is easy to dislike Ann Coulter. It is also easy to see her as not very feminine in some ways, which makes jokes about that low-hanging fruit (pun not intended there). However, questioning someone's sexuality or gender because you don't like them is supporting a humor that diminishes people who actually are queer or transgender, and who often might have to hide it because of persecution. This is why actors periodically have to apologize for reverting to using "f- - - - t" as a slur when they get mad at someone.

People have much better awareness of that now then they used to, because of discussions that have been had. That doesn't make doing it ten years ago right, but if someone has learned and is no longer doing that behavior, that's worth something.

On a technological level, these posts have been located in the Wayback machine. I read a fairly convincing explanation from one person about pages that he altered that did not have the alteration correctly time-stamped, but honestly, that is something that I never work with. Hold that thought.

More convincing for me are the following things:
  • I believe Reid is honest, and that while you might not remember everything you wrote, if it feels totally alien to her, I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Beyond that...
  • People who were reading her back then don't remember the posts, and even more so...
  • There were no comments on the offensive material. Based on things she wrote at the time, feedback was common and material like that would have drawn a lot of feedback, making it even more memorable for Reid and her readers.
Reid's story struck me more because there was another story going around about how motion-capture technology could be used to fake videos. The example had Jordan Peele effectively impersonating Barack Obama. Yes, you still need a convincing sounding voice, but it is getting harder to detect digital manipulation.

Okay, on one level I am comfortable with not knowing how web archiving and motion-capture works, but how safe is it not to know? My conclusions on the Reid story were drawn based more on logic than on an understanding of technology. Is that safe? I don't know that I have the time to invest in understanding all technology and ways of deceit.

Because if there was a hack attacking Reid, and you consider it unsuccessful (or maybe successful, the way Fox writes about it), it would be easy to learn from it and next time fake comments as well as posts. There would still be the memory of her prior readers, but people are getting really good at deciding that everyone who disagrees with them is stupid and evil, so that may not be enough.

I had to wonder, then, when some recent political attack ads showed a guy who usually has a normal mustache, but here they showed him with teeny little handlebar ends, making him look more sinister.

There were a lot of things that made me mad about that ad, so that's another post.

Getting back to the original concern, though, it's not like there aren't a lot of lies out there, and a liar in chief, and a "fake news" catchphrase used to undermine people from believing anything other than their preferred news source, where they know they are smarter and better than everyone else who believes all of this made up stuff.

It's been a thing for a while that Black women have been subject to attack. Previously any time my feed was abuzz with people talking about Joy Reid, it was because of how she brilliantly took down some conservative talking head (not that a moment of televised embarrassment ever seems to make them change for the better). I can see people wanting to take her down. I don't like where the technology is going on this.

That only fundamentally dishonest people would use technology in that way doesn't provide any comfort.

Monday, May 21, 2018


Many years ago a friend was pet-sitting, and she told me she was taking care of a "socially awkward dog". I said that sounded like me, so she explained that this dog's issues manifested through inappropriate peeing.

That wasn't so much me, but as someone who felt unattractive and often awkward, the phrase wrung a bell. The same thing happened the first time I heard "involuntary celibate", but still, the way it gets used isn't really me, and it isn't the way the originator of the phrase meant it either.

Writing about them the issue last week, I mentioned that there probably should be some supplementary information on availability of sex. I want to try and get that out of the way now, which I will do feeling somewhat unqualified but still believing I have a point.

I know I could have sex if I wanted to, and I do want to have sex, but at this time it is not really an option to have it the way I want it, in a committed marriage relationship where there is mutual respect and affection. I could wish for different circumstances, but I am nonetheless making a choice. That is a choice I base on my religious values, but I know that not everyone shares those values, and I know that there is a world of choices out there.

Content note: I am going to be speaking pretty directly about sex, but not necessarily graphically.

Self-gratification is an option. I don't believe that I should masturbate. That is primarily because I believe that an important purpose of sex is to help bond a couple, with the release of oxytocin helping that. On a deeper level, I have concerns that it could prove addictive for me, and then it would harm my balance between physical and spiritual, but really I don't do it because I believe it's wrong and that is religious in nature. That could be perceived as being on a more shallow level, I know, but I do think about it and take it seriously, so that's where I stand there.

For people who do not have those concerns, yes, masturbation is available and there are many items that can make it more effective.  Otherwise, possibly ways of reducing the physical urges can include exercise, meditation, yoga, and low-calorie diets. (Not joking.)

Often it is not just about the urge, but the accompanying desire for a physical connection with another person. Great. I believe in that. Here is something else that I know is available, even though I do not partake of it. It is relatively easy to find a hookup. There are people willing for that. There are applications that help you locate them, there are places you can show up to find people, and those options are out there. Even though I know that I am not the most attractive and desirable woman out there, I know that I could find partners. They are out there. Even when I did not think it was possible for anyone to want me for a long-term relationship, I knew that I could find a hook-up, and that hasn't changed, even as I age.

What if that still isn't enough, and you want an emotional connection as well? That is available too. I held myself back from it for a long time because I believed it wasn't possible. That got me into a life phase where the dating pool is much shallower, and I know that. But you know, I could still do it. At this point, I don't have the same level of patience for a lot of  men, or the willingness to overlook some flaws in him because it could mean children.

You know what? That is still a choice. The choices I was making were not always conscious, and they should have been. I could have worked on healing some of my wounds much earlier, and that would have been good for multiple reasons, but ultimately, conscious of my choices now, I am satisfied with my life.

Out in the "manosphere", there is a group called "sluthate" that started as "puahate"; because initially their resentment focused on the pick up artists who told them that they could have women but whose seduction methods failed. They still hate the men who are getting sex, but they decided to focus on the women, which I suppose is easier, and to wallow in the unfairness of being rejected by women whom they have never regarded as full human beings with their own unique tastes and desires.

Maybe the pick up artists have more physical charms, maybe your ideal woman's partner is better-looking than you, but it is so not about that. Fat people have sex. Old people have sex. Disabled people have sex. People with acne have sex. People who are introverted have sex. People often have sex with people who are better than them, when you are rating people via shallow and superficial criteria rather than appreciating them as people. And if you do a find/replace and change every use of "sex" to "relationships", it remains true.

I'm not saying that it is easy. Honestly, just deciding that you want a committed relationship rather than just sex ups the level of work required significantly. It remains possible.

Having had my own issues with self-worth, I can feel a certain amount of sympathy for someone who things that their appearance eliminates them from any chance of attractiveness. I can even feel sympathy for being attracted to people who are more attractive to you, and feeling a pang at that.

Where my sympathy quickly evaporates is where the resentment starts. The hypocrisy of ruling out other people based on their looks, but thinking your looks shouldn't be held against you? I have no sympathy for that. The stereotyping of women as shallow, and only liking jerks so nice guys don't have a chance? Yeah, none of the guys I have heard say that have ever been that nice.

I sympathize with unrequited desire. The desire to control someone else, though, that is something else. You don't get that.

And it won't make you happy, for what it's worth. It will twist your soul and damage your humanity as find it harder and harder to acknowledge the humanity of anyone else. The richer things that come from reaching out, learning, connecting -- those will get lost to you, but I will be more worried about the people to whom you are a danger.

That's the key: your desire doesn't trump anyone else's. It should be a really easy concept, even for NYT commentators, but apparently not.

That worries me.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Band Review: RiL

RiL was recommended by Kryz Reid of Third Eye Blind.

A two-piece rock band from Yokohama, it is hard not to try some comparisons to Melt Banana, the sound of each band is very different, despite a similar assertiveness.

RiL has a very full sound, so with only two people in the band it is very possible that they use some pre-recorded tracks for performance, but it still feels very live, very raw, and and very real. They are very rock.

There is a harder edge to the music that grunge fans may enjoy.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Band Review: Grace Kelly

Last year I saw an ad for the the PDX Jazz Festival, featuring Grace Kelly, and added her to the review list. I knew it was somewhat of a risk, especially after reviewing Esperanza Spalding in February, but I still believe that someday I will appreciate jazz. 

I'm not there yet.

It doesn't completely matter because Kelly does other things. She plays standards and religious music (I really enjoyed 2011's Grace), and does a good job with them.

I was especially impressed to learn her timeline, because Grace Kelly is a prodigy. Born in 1992, her first release - Dreaming - was in 2005, recorded at the age of 12. Knowing that, I can hear that her voice is not fully mature. She had an interesting take on "Can't Buy Me Love", and I would like to hear how she sounds as an adult. Regardless, I did not hear her youth in her saxophone. I would not have known.

Therefore, having achieved such a high level of skill at such a young age, and with her continuing to work with different people and styles, I imagine the sky is the limit for what she can achieve.

But I would be have a better idea of it if I had already crossed my jazz barrier.