Friday, November 28, 2014


I just finished reading Alan Light's The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah". It was literally something I read on two days off, so it was a pretty quick read, and there is no reason that anyone else interested could not read it.

Because of that, it wouldn't make sense for me to summarize the book and what I learned. It did put a lot of things that I kind of knew into context, plus telling me a lot of things that I didn't know, so I appreciate that. I had thoughts about many things while reading it, and some of them may come out at some point.

What I thought I wanted to write today though is a little about the "unlikely ascent" part. Leonard Cohen's first studio recording of "Hallelujah" was on an album that the label refused to release. Another label eventually released it, but it stayed pretty obscure. People who were into music knew about it, and eventually things started building from it's inclusion in a movie, Shrek, that did really well after getting released, but the movie had a lot of trouble getting there.

Once the movie was successful, that not only led to greater recognition of existing versions, but many other versions being recorded. Some will say it's overdone, now. If I were more culturally aware, like if I watched various singing competition shows, I would have heard it a lot more, and I might feel differently. Regardless, despite how powerful the song is, and how many people it has resonated with, it was initially not seen as having that potential.

Sometimes when I see that an old blog post has been read again, months or years later, I will go back and read it, and that happened with my post on The Hobbit recently. All of the previews were so bombastic, and there were so many broad jokes, and it felt like no one is willing to make a small, quiet movie anymore, though those are often the best ones.

Putting them together, I freely admit that there needs to be some attention paid to finance and commercial concerns. Artists need to eat, there are production expenses, and that's fine.

If we are only looking for big hits, though, there will be too many misses. Not only do we lose out on small, emotionally poignant pieces, but audiences can get tired of too many big films that all feel the same.

I'm not exactly saying "Art for art's sake", but the money shouldn't be more important than the art, or the art doesn't end up being worth very much.

So I guess one thing that I am grateful for is the many people who do keep creating, and they do it for love and with love. I do wish them financial success, maybe just not so much that they lose their spark. And I wish that for me too.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Music of 1975

This is not about the band called The 1975. I know they exist, but I am not really familiar with them. I like so many bands from Manchester that I probably should check them out, but not right now.

Having arrived at another holiday weekend, I was concerned that reviews that I posted today and tomorrow might get lost in the shuffle. Christmas is on a Thursday too, so I will have to figure out something for that week as well, but for this week I am replacing the normal band reviews with other writing about music. For today, that centers on an upcoming project.

Currently the songs of the day have been mainly songs by bands I have reviewed. (Though again, to keep anyone from getting ignored, today will not be one of those.) I am almost done with the current list, and I got the idea that next I wanted to do a countdown to my birthday.

From December 5th through January 17th, each day will be a year, and the song of the day will be something associated with that year. Ideally it will be a song from that year that has some emotional or symbolic significance for that year of my life, but sometimes there is a more apt song from a different year. Looking at the charts, for these last two years there will be nothing that charted that I will give any kind of notice (too many auto-tuned abominations).

Covering the earlier years is more difficult, because there are things I don't remember, and also I was not really culturally aware until we got MTV. I was trying to think of the earliest records I could remember. All three candidates came out in 1975.

They are not representative of 1975, except for maybe one of them. I am pretty sure that they did not even come to me in 1975, except maybe for a different one. Let's just get into talking about them.

Toys in the Attic, Aerosmith

This is the first record I remember picking out in the store. I was drawn to it by the cover art. My brother told me I wouldn't like it, and he was right, but it was more that I wouldn't like it yet.

At the time, I remember putting it on, and it was nothing like I thought it might sound. I remember how I thought it should sound, but I could not remember how it actually sounded until I brought the songs up today. I would end up liking some of those songs later.

I could not tell you if it was representative of the musical landscape at the time, but it was more likely than the other two candidates. However, I am pretty sure that I did not get the record in 1975 anyway, because I remember my older sister picking out Book of Dreams by the Steve Miller Band, and that didn't come out until May 1977. I believe she also picked hers out for the artwork - a horse with rainbow wings - but it worked out better for her because I remember her playing it multiple times. I remember "Jungle Love" and "Swingtown" pretty clearly. (We shared a room.)

Based on that release date, at the very earliest our ages would have been 5, 10, and 12, which are somewhat different demographics. That kind of leads me to the next one.

Happy Birthday From Sesame Street, the Sesame Street cast

My first memory of choosing a record was Toys in the Attic, but I had been given records before that, and there was a lot of Disney and Sesame Street in that collection, which I loved unironically and still have fond memories of.

When I first looked this up, I saw 1975 as its release date, but now I see 1977. It is possible that some of the songs appeared on the show prior to the album. I think it was a birthday present, so with a January birthday, I probably got it the year after it was released.

Regardless, I can tell you the one that stuck with me was "Blow Out The Candles" by Bob, and it was awkward because it kind of gave me a crush on him. Frankly, that increases the likelihood that this was from 1977, because that was about the same time that I got a vocal crush on Shaun Cassidy, which is more embarrassing.

At the same time, there are sometimes combinations of music, lyrics, and vocals, where it stirs an emotional response. That's part of what makes music great, embarrassing crushes aside.

At the Hop, various artists

This is the one I might actually have heard in 1975. It was a part of my life as far back as I can remember.

Generally speaking, I thought of music in the early '70s as a vast wasteland. Some things I was not ready to appreciate yet, and some things I was just never exposed to, but I remember hearing a lot of depressing, horrible things. Because of that, I mainly listened to older music.

I thought of it as '50s music. Later I found that a lot of it was from the '60s, but the title track here was from 1957, and one of my other favorite albums from then was Cruisin' 1956, so that may have been my ideal range right there.

One thing I hadn't realized until I started researching is that the song "At the Hop" experienced a kind of resurgence after being used in the 1973 movie American Graffiti. The compilation album I loved so much may have been a result of the movie, but it also makes me think that perhaps I wasn't the only one who found '70s music dismal.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Comic Review: Internet comics, no particular theme

I tried to divide this into a theme where I could pick three again, but the most likely theme did not have an obvious name, and I realized that the ones I haven't read yet are probably ones that I will cover based more on their authors, so this is just throwing several things out there.

It is going up late, but there are really a lot of reading options for your long weekend.

by David Malki

Old-fashioned pictures are combined with rather current exposition. The jokes often have fairly long setups, where the result is more likely to be a smile of understanding than an loud guffaw, but I find that many of them are applicable, and I end up sharing them with others. The Terrible Sea Lion was exactly right, and the one about daycare being wasted on the young made me jealous.

by Randall Munroe

The jokes are generally centered around math, language, technology, and human relationships. The art itself is usually pretty simple, with stick figures, but then something of amazing and beautiful complexity will appear. The humor is sometimes weird, which works for me, and sometimes it is entirely above my head, however, there is a disclaimer right on the page:

"Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)."

This double liberal arts major (Romance Languages and History) still enjoys it.

by David Willis

This one focuses on the lives of the mainly freshmen students living in the dorms. It would be really easy to make some of the characters unsympathetic stereotypes, but there is a nice humanity to the strip. Some aspects of college and dorm life feel very familiar. There is a fair amount of focus on sex, which I don't remember as much from my time in school, but it certainly seems plausible.

by Jen Wang

There is currently only one chapter up, but it is really intriguing. The story switches from a collection of snakes where several snakes are missing and a person is dead, to the therapy session of a seemingly open and rather unworldly girl. I do want to know what happens next.

by Kate Leth

This is often really cute, and then sometimes it kind of dragged for me. I can't write it off though, because it frequently touches on issues of depression and identity that are handled really sensitively, and I know there is a need for that. It is probably best to not expect too strong a theme. Sometimes it functions more like a journal, sometimes there is a story, and you take it as it comes.

by Kate Beaton

This is different in that it is not fully developed yet. The drawings are rough sketches, and at least for when I was trying to read it, the individual issues cut off, where there were parts and connections missing. It is more of an experiment in that way, checking to see if there is something there. And there is. I believe there are important themes there, and that it would pair well with Underground from yesterday - perhaps not quite as action-packed, but with the focus on environment, industry, and human cost.

I thought I was going to cover three more, but of those left, they are all taking long enough to get anywhere that I can't tell where they are going. That's not an automatic reason for dismissal, but it may be a good reason to come back in a few months and see what's happening.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Comic Review: Internet comics, complete stories edition

These are three very diverse stories, all of which I have enjoyed, and which you may enjoy as well.

Adapted by Anna Sarhling-Hamm from a 1904 story by M. R. James, "Lost Hearts".

This is the shortest of the stories and it is safe to call it the eeriest. It is also helpful that it is not very long, because you will want to go back once you understand the resolution and see how it played out.

At least that is how it was for me being unfamiliar with the story. If you have already read "Lost Hearts" then there are no surprises, but I imagine that seeing it pictured would be rather satisfying.

While going over internet comics I have been considering things like layout and navigation, and I feel like the page setup here works well with the overall mood. Nicely done.

by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona was put out as an ongoing comic, but it always had a defined arc, and that arc having been completed, will be released in book form next year.

Nimona herself is a shape-shifter who volunteers as a sidekick to villain Lord Ballister Blackheart. Initially I kept reading because it was so fun. If you think a powerful shape-shifter with the attitude and attention span of a teenage girl would be frustrating for a villain with a pretty strict honor code, you would be right. That frustration also has a lot of comic potential, and the shape-shifting has some great artistic potential. There is also fun with science and especially one scientist who is the very definition of nonplussed (and probably nonplussable, if that were a word).

At the same time, there is a lot of heart to the comic, and there are times when it really gets you in the gut.

Written by Jeff Parker, art by Steve Lieber, and colors by Ron Chan

Here there are five books, which can be purchased via Paypal donation.

The story centers around a cave system that the protagonist is trying to protect while various other people are trying to make a profit from it, told over five books.

I appreciate the balance given to the various characters and points of view. I sympathize with preservation, but I sympathize with the need for economic stimulation too. I believe the multiple needs can be met, which the book seems to indicate as well, based on its resolution.

The most amazing thing about it is exploration of the cave system with everything that happens there. I will admit that there were a few places where the action got a little confusing to follow, which would probably happen if you were in the situation yourself. I just also have to say that there were moments when it left me breathless, like Dang! How do you get out of that? It's a lot of adrenaline for reading a comic, and I'm not sure that claustrophobics would be free from panic while reading it, because it gets to you.

It does make the caves look really cool, it just grabs you by the throat a little bit in the process.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Comic Review: Internet comics, superhero edition

When I started looking at internet comics, it seemed that for every one I found and read, I kept finding more, and a list from five quickly grew to twenty-one, even with me stopping myself from noting others. It is probably better to look at it as something where the reading will not end, rather like non-internet comics. So, it is reasonable to review a few now, that I have read.

Agents of the Realm:

Artwork and content by Mildred Louis

"Shortly after beginning their first year of college at Silvermount University, Five young women discover that they’ve each been chosen to help protect not just our world, but a newly discovered sister dimension as well. As they venture forward through their college years their lives start to take on forms of their own, providing them with new opportunities to learn just how much power they have over them."

I like the artwork quite a bit, but I find the pace of the storytelling frustrating. Sometimes a long time will be taken on setup of a crisis, and then resolution is too quick. This is still fairly early in the run, though, and things may even out.

My So-Called Secret Identity:

Created by Suze Shore, Will Brooker, and Sarah Zaidan

" My So-Called Secret Identity is what happened when internationally-acclaimed Batman scholar and popular culture expert, Dr Will Brooker, decided to stop criticising mainstream comics for their representation of women, and show how it could be done differently; how it could be done better."

The name works on two levels. The similarity to "My So-Called Life" seems apt, as a precocious redhaired heroine deals with frustrations and personal growth, but also, the identity is not that secret. People know who she is, and in general the heroes and villains in Gloria City are pretty well-known. Even with the superhero pair that hires actors to portray their alter egos, there is no big surprise to that. Costumed heroes are so common here that it is easy to be cynical about them and their impact. That's the situation against which the story unfolds.

Reading four issues in succession I was very caught up in it. Issue 4 ended on a very dire note, and one common issue with web comics is that the schedule can be pretty irregular. Cliff hangers can last a while, is what I'm saying.

JL8: A Webcomic:

By Yale Stewart

"JL8" is a side project of "Gifted" creator Yale Stewart. A weekly webcomic, it follows the adventures of popular DC comic characters as children in elementary school. Mostly funny, with a dash of pathos, it should be an enjoyable read for any fans of DC Comics characters as well as people who enjoy the traditional syndicated comic strip."

I adore this one. It is adorable, while also feeling correct in that if you took these various characters and put them together into an elementary school, this is how they would be. Has really made me love Martian Manhunter.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Band Review: Busy Living

Busy Living is a pop punk band based in Central Wisconsin.

Although the pop punk designation feels very appropriate, I did hear other influences. At times the introspective sadness of the lyrics reminded me of some of the emo bands I have been listening to, but the music did not, feeling more determined and energetic. Some of the tunes verge into hardcore, but not consistently. At various times I thought of Touché Amoré and Science.

Their album How an Ending Feels was released on October 28th. While it is not a concept album, there is a strong theme. There is regret for the past relationship, and some self-recrimination for its loss, but part of that failure is also geographical. He could not make the West Coast work for him, and needed to return to his origins. There is a general understanding that this is how it needs to be, despite the pain involved with that.

I don't know how autobiographical it is for any of the band members, but if a return to Wisconsin was needed, and they are all there now, then it is logical that the things that need to happen can happen now. Maybe this is the right launching place and time for the band.

There is an ending, but it is not the ending. At least it shouldn't be.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Band Review: Professor Shyguy

Professor Shyguy creates music that you could classify as Chip Pop.

I have reviewed one Chip Tunes composer before (Ben Landis), and was completely unfamiliar with the genre previously, so this is still pretty new to me. There are two things that stood out.

One is that with Professor Shyguy there seem to be more non chip elements introduced - at least it does not sound all 8-bit. Because of the beats and melodic features there is more of a dance/electronica feel. This in no way detracts from the game influence, as various songs reference games like World of Warcraft or Minecraft. (Well, I think they do, but that is also unfamiliar ground for me.)

The other thing I noticed was that in club music there is often a lot of sampling which may not be the reason for the monotony, but I suspect it doesn't help. There is a note in his Facebook bio:  "Composing every note, no sampling, all original."  Perhaps that is why the music sounds fresh.

There is a fair amount of collaboration. If you click on the Facebook music link you will get an album that is not all Professor Shyguy. He is on many of the tracks, but often working with others. It is still a good introduction, so I recommend checking that out and also the video for "Guilded Love - A Song about The Guild and World of Warcraft", available on the main site.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

And Phil

We love Phil. We love Ty Burrell too, but we love Phil.

Yesterday when I mentioned Jay being unusually nice to Phil at Disneyland, I did not give the context. Phil, "the king of roller coasters" started feeling really ill after the Indiana Jones Ride. Jay told him that this was a result of aging, when the fluids in your ears thicken up, and you can't take the motion anymore. Jay said he needed to take a Dramamine to get on his swivel chair - doubtless an exaggeration, but a good explanation for why the only attraction we saw Jay participate in was Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln.

Phil tried to tough it out for the Matterhorn, but after Big Thunder Mountain Railroad he had to admit he was ailing to Luke, in a touching and funny scene that ended with Phil sending Luke off to Space Mountain, knowing that they could find other things to do together. It could have been bittersweet, but all was well when Claire realized that Phil had a fever. His nausea was the result of a flu bug going around the office, so roller coasters could still be okay in the future, and also, he and his coworkers should get cups instead of just drinking out of cartons.

There are two things that make that plot line resonate. One is that as we were on the hotel shuttle to the park one morning, an older (62?) gentleman was talking to someone else about how he used to like Space Mountain, but a few years ago he felt really sick on it. He went to his doctor and the doctor told him some people get calcium deposits in their ears when they get older, and it can result in vertigo symptoms.

My sisters and I looked at each other: it was true! Technically Jay's issues sounds more like Meniere's Disease, and the man on the bus more like Benign Positional Paroxysmal Vertigo.

One of our greyhounds would sometimes have flare-ups with his vestibular apparatus, so I know the drill. But also, apparently it does not happen to everyone. That is good news for us. I love rides.

None of us appear to have age-related vertigo yet, but we have experienced illness in the park. Not flu; colds.

Julie started feeling it coming on toward the end of the trip. I felt it about two days later. We are both getting over it now, and Mom seems to have it, though she was not with us, and though it does make her feel dizzy (but she is older than us). The really weird thing about this is that Maria, as the kindergarten teacher, is usually patient zero whenever anything works its way through the house.

I suppose it raises a second question, of whether we are now too old to ride in airplanes without getting sick, because I got sick on our last trip to Disneyland. I thought it might have come from swimming in the pool. On Wednesday my throat started feeling scratchy, and on Thursday I had no voice.

I was really cranky that morning. Not being able to talk is no fun. I mean, you can write notes if it is really important, but usually for me it's just wanting to make jokes and smart remarks, and there is a pain in not being able to do it, but a lack of significance to them that makes trying too hard to get them out inappropriate.

However, it was not just being sick. We'd had a really late night Wednesday, which led to us oversleeping Thursday, which threw off our whole schedule. We were going to go to dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, but we decided to start there for lunch. I didn't really want to go there at all, but my sisters did and it was their birthday.

When we finally got to the park, we went to Cars Land to ride the Radiator Springs Racers, and that was the longest line. (Still is.) So we waited and waited in the hot sun, and it was really annoying. Why couldn't we have gone in the single rider line? But they didn't want to get stuck with strangers.

Finally we got on the ride, and it was great, and then we went on other rides which had much shorter lines, and I felt a lot better. I still couldn't talk, but what I need was motion. The way the morning had gone gave me a pretty long delay before being flung or pulled or going zoom anywhere, but that's what I really needed.

This was a stressful trip for me financially. It was probably irresponsible to go, but a part of me wonders whether we will ever be able to afford another vacation again, in which case it is even more important that we went. (And yes, we are still trying for Italy in March. That is one reason I am writing up such a storm.)

For all the guilt and worry, there was so much joy and pleasure and exhilaration. Leisure is necessary. Work is important too, but without breaks, it's drudgery, and sometimes I forget how easily I turn to being a drudge. Which I suppose means that when my solution to escaping the drudgery is working even harder, that there is some irony there, but at least the writing harder part is something I like.

The networking part has been interesting. Some people have read the screenplay, or at least part of it. There have been a lot of favorites on the tweets, which I hope means they also click on the link, but it's at least supportive, and some very kind things have been said. (It does worry me that none of the five people who bought my book have said anything about liking it.)

I do feel some support, and also, it has still been really great remembering all of the bands and friendships, and the projects I was able to back when things were feeling financially better for me. So maybe I will do a round of asking comic book creators to check it out also. I don't know.

I've essentially decided to focus on the writing for now through March. If at that point nothing has happened, then I need to start looking for a different day job. I hate the thought of it, but I need to occasionally be able to visit a theme park. I need to have things to look forward to. Everyone does.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More Modern Family and Disneyland: Jay

Other than our great affinity for the park and the show, there is another reason I think about that episode a lot.

I generally watch shows that I am the only one at home who watches. We are all joined up on sitcoms now, and we all watch "Jeopardy!" together, but otherwise there is no one to discuss the shows with. Sometimes I would want to, and I would visit the forums at

The site is closed now, but honestly the forums were often disappointing depending on the show. Sometimes they would be cliquish, and if you weren't either a regular contributor or really apologetic about barging in on their party, they would shun you. Sometimes a forum would be mainly innuendos. Also, sometimes, the forum was mainly comprised of hate watchers, who really just watch so they can post about everything wrong with the show. "Modern Family" had a lot of hate watchers, and they hated the ending of the "Disneyland" episode.

There is a story that Jay is recounting through the episode of a time when he took Claire and Mitchell to Disneyland when they were kids. It was supposed to be a family trip, but he and his wife had a fight because he accidentally taped over an episode of "Dallas" so DeDe didn't go. While at Disneyland he decided to get a divorce, but the last thing they did was "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" and somehow it convinced him to stay. Also throughout the episode, Claire and Mitchell tease him for crying then, which he brushes off as it being the greatest president, and his first robot.

As he wraps up the story, Gloria calls him from off screen to come join her in the Jacuzzi, and Jay smiles and finishes by saying that the universe rewarded him, so the forum posters were disgusted by this dirty old man.

While it is clearly not all there is to their relationship, Jay does enjoy having a hot wife, and he enjoys having the money where they can have a Jacuzzi and things like that. It was still clearly not all that he meant. It was cute to see him once more in "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln", one child on either side, and in-laws and grand kids surrounding. It was even better to see him hold his children closer, and to see them think it was weird but then settle in and enjoy it.

More than that, and I probably wouldn't have even noticed if we hadn't watched the episode multiple times, it is cool to see how content Jay is in the park. You don't see him go on a single ride, but he steps in and grabs Lily when she is running, kissing her on the top of her head, and then he offers his help to Mitchell. He tries to make some points to Claire that she is not hearing, but he also throws in a silly joke, and is listening to her. He is also really nice to Phil, who is often seen to get on his nerves. And he finds a way to take care of Gloria's feet despite her best efforts. Jay loves and enjoys his family.

It is not hard to imagine that in the real world situation a divorce would have led to the kids being with the wife, and growing apart from their father. He might have remarried earlier, and gotten a similar relationship to the one with DeDe and ended up with at least one other ex, and a more fractured family.

He does say that staying might not be right for everyone, but that it was right for him. It is also widely acknowledged that Jay is not a perfect father, but you do see him often rising to the occasion. The family has its rough patches, which is normal, but they also love and enjoy each other. Maybe it would have gone over better if he had said, "and things worked out", or something like that, but ultimately I take it as that staying with DeDe was hard, but he felt he needed to so he did it, and it had been worth it. There was still going to be a happy marriage in his future, and his kids, and good family times.

I like the episode a lot. It's part of a show that I like in a place that I like, so there is good synergy there.  Hate watcher would probably be happier if they focused on something they liked instead.

However, if anyone wishes to talk about shows at any point, I am open to that. Current sitcoms we watch are "Modern Family" and "Big Bang Theory", as well as reruns of "Everybody Loves Raymond", along with some "Golden Girls" and "Designing Women". We have a lot of love for "My Name Is Earl" too, but my sisters have only seen Season 1, and I have only seen through Season 2. For older sitcoms, I am on my own in my love for "Scrubs" and "News Radio".

I will not only discuss "Jeopardy!" episodes with you, but answer questions about my own appearance.

For current dramas, I am alone in my love for "Grimm", "Person of Interest", "Once Upon A Time", and "White Collar". We all loved "The A-Team" equally, and I would not mind reminiscing over "The Scarecrow And Mrs. King", "Going To Extremes", "Twin Peaks", or "The Young Riders". I can discuss my past love for "Law & Order: SVU", followed by my growing contempt for it, but then I gave up on it, rather than hate-watching, and I feel that was for the best.

And, as long as I'm putting it out there, in addition to quoting a lot from the three sitcoms we have in common and "The A-Team", we also tend to quote and reference the following movies frequently: Dodgeball, The Birdcage, Outrageous Fortune, Spaceballs, and As Good As It Gets.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Disneyland, Modern Family, and child safety tethers

There are two sitcoms that my family and I watch together: "Big Bang Theory" and "Modern Family". (We also enjoy reruns of "Everybody Loves Raymond" in case anyone wants to judge.)

The episode that really sold them on "Modern Family" was "Disneyland". I had liked the show since seeing "Fizbo", so would watch it sometimes on my own, but when I saw the Disneyland episode I knew they would appreciate it, so I got them to watch it and we built on that.

My sisters and I just got back from Disneyland Friday night, and of course we quoted and referenced the episode a lot. (We quote a lot of pop culture things pretty regularly.) It occurred to me that I could write some things about the trip through the lens of the episode.

If you haven't seen it, one of the subplots is that Lily is going through a running phase, and Mitch and Cam try and use a "child safety tether" (leash) to keep her from getting lost in the park. Mitchell is especially embarrassed about this, so he does take her off, and she bolts. Jay catches her and he solves the issue by putting her in high heels, which ties in nicely with his subplot with Gloria, for whom he buys slippers to get her out of the horribly uncomfortable high heels she wore.

I admit that the first time I saw a child on a leash, many years ago, I was taken aback by it, thinking it seemed a little dehumanizing for the child. However, I never judged any parents harshly for using them. Kids do take off with no warning, and I can see the point in hindering that.

That was strongly reinforced in the park on our first day. Waiting in line for Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, a family ahead of us had one child start toddling off a few paces ahead. This is not that unusual, but then the child ducked under the rope to the outside of the line, which was easy because of his short height. Then the child kept going. The park was very crowded that day. The father stepped out of line and pursued the child. It did involve some running, but nothing terrible happened at that point.

Shortly after, while we were heading to lunch at the Village Haus, I noticed a child whom I would guess was between 18 and 24 months who was running a little ahead. I thought she might be pursuing one adult, but she went right past, and I realized I could not figure out whom she belonged to.

We have often had funny things happen because kids don't notice where they are. I have had little children slip their hands into mine, thinking I was Mommy, and on one trip another kid wrapped herself around Julie's legs waiting in line for the Alice in Wonderland ride. (Yes, apparently everything happens in Fantasyland.)

The thing is, normally the parent is nearby, and watching, and maybe they are apologetic or embarrassed or maybe they think it's really cute, but they do know what is going on with their child, and they are there when the child looks up and realizes that the person they are touching is NOT MOMMY.

I could not find anyone who was looking for this little girl. As if to make it even more obvious how vulnerable she was, her pants fell down a little, I think indicating a recent diaper change. She was able to pull them back up, but she was starting to panic, and starting to go faster in the opposite direction.

I was not sure what to do. Fortunately, I was not the only person who noticed. I know someone told a park employee, because he came up near me and I heard him say "What missing child?" I knew the answer to that question. I pointed her out and he said something like "Got it" and I said "Good", which doesn't sound exactly right.

I guess I meant "Thank you" because I was grateful that someone with some official capacity and training could handle it, but it felt very business-like considering that I heard the worry in his voice when he asked himself "What missing child?" and I know how many emotions I was having about it.

One very real (and probably unfair) emotion was anger at her parents. How could they let her slip away like that? Realistically, it was probably something simple that could have happened to anyone. So I don't judge leashes. That's not to say that the high heels idea wasn't ingenious, but it's good to have options.

For the Gloria side of it, I have to say that even though I have always worn sneakers in the park, a while back I started having Plantar fasciitis symptoms. I could no longer wear my traditional $12 shoes and had to start looking for shoes with support. I noticed that my feet held up much better this time. So even if cheap sneakers are better than high heels, good sneakers are better still. I've mainly been using New Balance.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Band Review: Jon Johnson

Jon Johnson is a rock and blues guitarist from PortlandOregon.
The pieces I have been listening to have been instrumental, and it has been interesting for me to hear how much emotion has come through in the music alone, with no help from vocals.
"Amends" is very moving, whereas "Find My Way" and "Underline" are considerably funkier. I don't have a good adjective for "Lightswitch". It's amazing, but that doesn't really describe anything. It's clear that Johnson is really good at what he does; does that describe the song? No, you just need to listen to it.
That obviously is not a huge selection, but it is a very beautiful and impressive slice of work.
I enjoyed the video of Johnson playing on his site. Someone who knows how to play guitar would probably get more out of it, but I got a sense of the fun of the song, and it was interesting to see how the visual went along with the audio.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Band Review: Valey Ventura

Valey Ventura is a composer and scriptwriter, is working on an organic gastronomy book, and an integral figure in Ventura Street Records. This review will focus on the music.
I have been able to listen to three songs, "Just Me", "Forgotten", and two versions of "Sun Down California".
There is a sort of sneer in the delivery of the music. It's in-your-face, but not hostile. I wouldn't be surprised to see it described as skater punk, but she self-describes as Indie - Pop. Perhaps it should be pop punk.
(The lyric video for "Sun Down California" incorporates a very respectable record collection in which I mainly noticed punk and emo.)
It looks like there are plans to shoot a regular video for "Sun Down California" and there is a talent search in place, so for more information on that visit

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My disguise

This year I thought it would be important to have a Halloween costume.

I decided that based on my realization of how hard I have tried to stay neutral and invisible, and not really invite anyone to look at me. I could see how that was destructive, and should be changed, but I was not immediately sure of what that would mean.

Did I need to try and be beautiful, or would it be okay to be fine with being gross and scary? I mean, I kind of already feel gross and scary, so is embracing that affirming my value, or is it affirming that I really am a monster who should be shunned?

I never really made a decision. I did have a thought that for my Twitter display picture I would take a photo of me with a bloody face and a cleaver, but smiling sweetly, and I did actually buy some fake blood for it. I never got around to taking the picture though.

Part of it was that to do that would require someone else to take the picture, which I don't love. Also I worried that the blood could be kind of triggering, because I have a lot of followers with Self Harm issues, and even though the picture would obviously be fake, it might still be enough. Also, there was the concern that I would be job hunting and promoting my script while the picture was up. Eventually I decided to hold off on job hunting and I waiting to aggressively ask people to like my screenplay until November.

I did end up loading in my drawing of the skull being stabbed in the eye from the January comic, and that felt okay, and I went by Gina Horror, instead of Harris, so that resolved Twitter, but there was still the question of a costume in real life, and it was never answered.

I think I am not far enough along to do it yet. Part of that was definitely the amount of energy I was expending in 
other places, but also there are things I have not accomplished yet that will probably get me further along.

It was interesting to read of at least one other person who has also been neutral, and worked for invisibility. It came up in the context of a discussion on street harassment, and one thing she said is that she gets more attention now, because she has stopped being invisible.

One thing I have realized over the last year is that there are a lot of things that I did not participate in without even realizing that I had withdrawn, or that there was an element of choice in my withdrawal. It is something to think about. And, choosing to be visible will have a down side. It just seems to be necessary.

So, I have a few more body exercises that I have not completed yet, and I will start blogging about the reading soon. In addition, I have some historical review in mind that may be helpful. That will start with the songs of the day around December 5th, and I am going to be going through old pictures and do some active participation in Throwback Thursday. That is going to dredge stuff up. I'm not sure how it will come out.

I will probably manage a costume next year, but it will really be more about what happens between now and then.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Halloween Candy

I have been amazed at all of the parental complaints I have seen, and want to write about that. I guess I am confused, and so this is one where I would love to hear from people about their own experiences.

When I was a kid, we trick-or-treated in our neighborhood only. There are fifteen houses on our block. Some people would give you more than one piece of candy, but there were also some people who didn't answer the door, so really it wasn't that much candy.

I think that I would get a total of twenty pieces of candy, which would get eaten mostly that night and maybe a little the next day. Certainly that is an unusual amount of candy for a single night, and doing it on a daily basis would not be good, but letting us do that for one night didn't seem to be that big a deal.

For the parents that are battling over candy, and having fights or bribing or buying or hiding the candy, how much are they getting? How many houses are they going to? Are there other sources of candy? It just feels like it should be something that can be controlled better.

If it is a blanket objection to candy at all, and you are the ogre parent if you don't let them trick or treat and get candy, my initial feeling is to say "Lighten up." If there are specific issues like a red dye reaction or a nut allergy, that can be dealt with. I remember reading of a child who could not have most sweets, and his parents worked it out with the neighbors that they took things he could have in advance. That's a lot of work, but if you have a child with special dietary needs you're used to that.

If you live in a really big neighborhood, where it is a reasonable thing for them to go to forty houses, I still think there must be solutions. And I am totally not a parent, so I realize I know nothing, but I am someone who loves Halloween. I remember that even though it was a small route that we covered, it was an exciting thing to do and we looked forward to it.

There are elements to trick-or-treating that are not a big deal to an adult, but when you are young being out after dark, knocking on doors, and having the costume were all hugely exciting. The free candy was cool, but it was part of a larger ritual, and I am glad to have participated in that. I remember going out as I was getting older, and you start getting the looks from adults that you are too old, but it's a hard thing to let go of. Symbolically you are letting your childhood go, and then you discover adult equivalents, but there is a magic there that seems to justify some extra sugar once a year.

My trick or treat bucket had no more candy than my Easter basket or my Christmas stocking really. Of course there is more parental control with those other two, but is that the issue? Is your child taking candy from other people, in the dark, and in disguise, just too overwhelming? I can't give a simple "lighten up" there, because I know there are dangers out there, but still, I think it will be okay.

If not, be happy with me because last year I gave out comic books, but we had candy too.

There is another thing that fascinates me, now that I have offended parents who hate trick or treating, is that I hadn't realized how repetitive the candy gets.

Remembering my old trick or treat bucket, I was picturing it and there were things I would look forward too, because I got the same things every year, and there were a lot of them that I only got at Halloween. I would usually get one jelly candy (like gum drops but bigger), some Kraft caramels, a butterscotch disk and a root beer barrel. I looked forward to these, because I never got them at other times. There would be a fun size Snicker and Butterfinger, and usually a couple of Tootsie Pops, and yes, someone would do Winkies or Sweet Tarts, and those weren't really good, but I would eat them anyway, because it's Halloween, and that's what you do. There would also be a small box of Junior Mints, and I think Necco wafers.

It's been a long time, but I remember it pretty clearly because it was remarkably consistent. That seemed kind of odd to me until I realized that I think I have given out the exact same candy for at least four years now. It wasn't anything intentional, but I want to make sure we don't run out, so I look for one of the variety packs. I don't want the one with the Jolly Ranchers or the Nerds because if we have leftovers those are gross. I like everything in the one that is all peanut butter,  but some kids might have a nut allergy. I end up with the bag that has Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey bars, Kit Kats, and Whoppers. And I am standing there looking at the different bags and making a decision every time, but this is the first year that I realized that it keeps being the same decision.

So if the some of the adults on my block always had butterscotch candies on hand, and they just got extra for Halloween, or they got Smarties because those were the cheapest, or they got Snickers because that was their favorite, and it was the same year after year, that's kind of cool. It makes me wish that I could remember who gave out what.

It feels like kind of a cool thing overall though. Let the kids have some candy.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Halloween 2014

Halloween this year did not go at all as planned.

It remains true that if I want to accomplish certain things for Halloween, I need to decide in advance. That may not be enough.

I had plans. I was going to finally finish that one canvas project I started years ago. I had four books I was going to read. I had seven movies that I wanted to watch, and while I didn't think I would get all of them, I was going to get a few. Also, I was going to dress up. I didn't have any specific goals for decorating, but I assumed I would do some fun pumpkins, and they would be ones I had grown myself.

I guess the plan first started to fall apart when I didn't get any pumpkins. I planted pumpkin seeds, and I got cute little sprouts and vines and blossoms, but never any actual gourds. I think the crookneck squash suppressed them. I can't prove it, but I have my reasons:

Next up were the books. I did read Killing Monsters: Our Children's Need for Fantasy, Heroism, and Make-Believe Violence by Gerard Jones, and it was excellent. I could read it because the library had it. They did not have Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon by Cynthia Ott, The Romance of Dracula: A Personal Journey of the Count on Celluloid  by Charles Butler, or Better Off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human by Deborah Christie. I could have lived with this, but they were all kind of inordinately expensive in bookstores.

To be fair, I probably would have been behind on my reading anyway, and I had already decided that it would be okay for Pumpkin to slip into November, but that's just not how it worked out.

I say I would have been behind because it does take me longer to get to things than I will think. I never thought I would see all seven movies. As it was, I only actually watched Practical Magic in October. I did watch I Married A Witch, but it was November already. Still, that did essentially get me through all of the witch movies, though there would be some overlap with Nicole Kidman movies if I had gotten to The Others from the ghost movies.

(Other movies include The Time of Their Lives, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, and I don't know that Gaslight really fit there, but I do want to see it eventually. Also, I would really love to see The Uninvited again, because I only have very vague memories of it, but it does not seem to be generally available.)

The first weekend in October I got out the canvas work, and I cut out all the letters, the leaves, and the pumpkins, except that something went wrong and I ran out of canvas for the lower half of one pumpkin. I think I can still make it work, or hey, buy new canvas, but no, it was not completed by Halloween.

I never decided on a costume, which will be its own post, and I never had a strong feeling for any specific pumpkin carving theme. I did carve a pumpkin, and I thought I was doing a fairly random face, though it came out looking a little like our new cat, who can be kind of ferocious.

Mostly, though, I want to say that it was all okay. The reason Halloween is important for me is for the creativity, and maybe a little for the scares, and I had that in spades because of writing the 6-page scripts. That was totally something that could interfere with the reading and movie watching. It interfered with my regular television watching, but that's one reason for the DVR. I got to use my creativity.

There were some themes that worked well with Halloween. One of the reasons I wanted to read the zombie book was that despite their enormous popularity I don't really care for them, but  I wrote three different scripts with zombies. I had some vampires show up, and pirates, two kinds of demons, fairies, giant spiders, and a cat named Pumpkin! There was kind of a witch figure in one, and there was a cannibal rat ghost ship, so really, I think Halloween was pretty well covered.

I do still want to see all of those movies, plus others, and read all of those books, and I do want to finish the canvas project, but nonetheless, October was a good month this year, and I suspect it will be a good month next year too.

I regret nothing (this time).