Tuesday, June 30, 2015

When the police lie

"It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority." - Benjamin Franklin

The police lie. That can be viewed as an inflammatory statement, but it's a bigger problem that it's true.

"It's because of the lack of black fathers" and "Where's the outrage over black-on-black crime?" are not the only scripts. There is also a whole set of scripts to blame the victim in every incident of police brutality.

"Why was he running?"
"You need to comply with police orders immediately!"
"The officer feared for his life."

Except we have video of Michael Slager shooting Walter Scott in the back, and then planting the weapon that he would say was stolen. We have video of how quickly Tamir Rice and John Crawford were shot, with no chance to understand and comply. And there are a lot more examples than Freddie Gray of why being taken into custody can be terrifying.

It appears to be part of a long tradition. As I was reading the screenplay for Call Northside 777, they were wrapping up the reparations hearings for torture victims of Richard Burge, former Chicago police commander. Part of that was learning about various black sites where detained people would disappear for a while, the most notorious being Homan Square.

That was a horrible story, but it stuck out because one of the key plot points in the movie was that one of the framed men was taken to multiple locations without being officially booked. At one of these locations the witness who falsely testified against him was able to see him for identification purposes. The events that movie was based on took place in Chicago in 1932.

Shortly after that I watched a documentary about the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia in 1985. There is footage of an unarmed man crawling out of the building, and police officers kicking and beating him, which they said was because he was armed and dangerous. Confronted with the lie, one of the men said that if you knew what kind of a guy this was, and responsible for the death of a really good man (though there are some ballistic details that would call that into question), you'd want to beat him too. Burge has said he can't believe the government is going to pay reparations to vermin. Well, some of the "vermin" are confessed criminals, but they only confessed because of the torture.

I hate writing this. I am thinking about various law enforcement officers that I care about, most of whom I believe to be good men, but their profession has a wide potential for corruption.

I remember discussing police work with one of them. This was a while back, but he was talking about how people see "The Shield" and think it's like that, but that was based on just one department that went bad.

I wish the Rampart scandal was the only incident of police corruption. Just recently I have been reading about Philadelphia, and Albuquerque (huge scandal that eventually went away with only the whistle-blowers punished) and Miami Gardens, and yes, in Chicago they were so skilled at torturing people that one of them went to work at Guantanamo. A Baltimore whistle-blower had to move to Florida.

Sometimes members of marginalized groups are pressured to speak out against other members of their group, like Muslims need to speak out against every act done by ISIS, even when done against other Muslims.

I guess the way you can tell that the police are not marginalized is that they do not get this pressure. They are more likely to circle the wagons in a show of support. They will gently talk down a fellow officer and then hug him while his wife bleeds to death in the car and their 7 year old daughter watches. They will make T-shirts and wristbands to show their support.

"I am Chris Humphries."
"I am Darren Wilson"

You are not thinking hard enough about the company you keep.

It is a horrible thing to not be able to trust the keepers of the public safety and peace, but that's where we are. Too many have shown themselves to be trigger-happy, especially with their romantic partners, especially with the mentally ill, especially with people of color, and especially if they're black.

We cannot automatically accept what they say about anything.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Lies we tell about black people

Last week we were talking about white pride. I think we deconstructed the history pretty well, and why that's a problem, but there are also some basic fallacies with regard to how it functions now. I want to get to that, but I am going to approach it via some specific areas of lies and misconceptions.

When we talk about racism lately, the discussion often comes from an incidence of police brutality, or other violence against black people by white civilians. It is very common for right-wing pundits and politicians to try and deflect by bringing up two issues. It then becomes common for people who listen to these pundits to go there too. I turn your attention to "Black On Black Crime" and "Absent Black Fathers".

It's completely reasonable to argue that those issues do not excuse the other issues, and that if one issue needs discussion it is right to focus on that instead of always trying to deflect to something else, but also, those are wrong ideas in people's heads.

My awareness shot up a lot after Trayvon Martin was killed. That would have been a stupid time to bring up black fathers, because he was going to his father's house. His father was there. That's been happening with a lot of these names and press conferences. Their fathers are there. Maybe the parents aren't together, but both parents are in the child's life.

So I started thinking about my own black friends - the ones where I know them well enough to know things about their family - and without counting siblings (there are some cousins in there), of ten family units the parents stayed together in seven (though three of those unions have one partner dead now), with one divorce (which did not end contact with either parent), and two where I am not sure. That's a higher percentage of lasting unions than with my white friends.

Now, you can tell me that I'm in the Pacific Northwest, and there is no way that's a representative sample, but two of those families are from the South and one's from Detroit, so, you know, it's not completely unrepresentative either. (Actually, the divorced family is from California, so make what you will of that.)

That is still anecdotal. Anecdotally, I could also tell you about a white woman who almost certainly refrains from marrying the father of her three children so she can continue collecting government benefits and that would not prove anything about white families. If we move away from the anecdotes, a recent study showed a slightly higher rate of involvement for black fathers than other races, especially in the area of homework.

So, let's talk about crime statistic based on race.

Actually, there are a lot of good articles about this, but here are the three key points.

1. Most crime happens within the same racial group. If I am a crime victim, the perpetrator will most likely be white. Years of enforced segregation have ensured that most of the chances we get to commit crime are on people of the our own race. To make black on black crime an issue without making white on white crime an issue is disingenuous, but also a pretty effective illustration of how society makes generalizations about races other than white.

2. That being said, black crime rates have nonetheless been dropping steadily, at a faster rate than the overall crime rate. Fox News and their ilk have been slow to give credit to black communities for this drop in crime, which has been happening because...

3. Many black people do care greatly about black on black crime, and they do outreach and hold summits and create programs to reduce it, with a pretty good success rate. In the areas that are still worse for crime, there are people working on it. We can say a lot of things about what structural factors are working against them, but that leads us into other areas, so for now let's just hear from Jon Stewart:

Right around the three minute mark, that's what I'm talking about.

The discussions are worth having anyway, because racism is an important issue. Effects of structural racism is an important issue, and should not be derailed. It still seems worth pointing out that the derailers are lying.

They may not know they are lying. I remember being taught that slavery disrupted the black family, along with welfare rules and the war on drugs. For liberals that should lead to sympathy for what society has done to the black family, where conservatives are less likely to make allowances, but neither side is seeing the actual picture. You can have the best intentions and a lot of compassion but still be the chump who swallows the party line.

Let's not be chumps. There's a lot of wrong information out there. Sometimes it happens on purpose, sometimes it may not, but it can only get in the way of real progress.

If you care, you need to question.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Band Review: The Elegant Mistakes

The Elegant Mistakes are a Rock/Alternative band from New Jersey.

One of the most interesting things for me was reading on their Youtube channel that the band consists of all teens, between the ages of 15 and 19.

The description appears to be from 2012, so they should all be older now, but it is impressive to hear their level of proficiency at that age. They have a clear and together sound.

There is sometimes a feeling that the music could be stronger, or delivered more forcefully, but that seems like something that could easily happen with experience.

They have five tracks on ReverbNation, with four original songs. There are also many performance videos on Youtube, including several covers, allowing you to get a good feel for the band and their abilities.

It's hard to know whom to compare them to in order to give an idea of their sound, though Natalie Merchant comes to mind. Performances include covers of Weezer, Oasis, Evanescence, Lenny Kravitz, Gotye, and Michael Jackson, so it's a fairly wide range. I would start with ReverbNation and focus on the original songs; I believe those are their strongest.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Band Review: The Undecided Majors

The Undecided Majors are a pop punk/alternative band from Destin, Florida.

The pop punk vibe is filled out nicely by the thrum of the guitars on tracks like "Cindy's Downfall/(Enemy of Mine) and "Weapon of Choice". I especially like the details on "No One Else". It was disappointing that I could only find five tracks.

The web pages could have more content, as if there is not a lot going on, but the band does still seem to play on a regular basis. It looks like the Twitter feed is the most frequently updated.

They're worth a listen.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The problem with "white pride"

One of the most annoying obstacles to overcoming structural racism is that even talking about it makes white people feel uncomfortable. They feel accused of being personally racist, they want to point out that their own lives aren't easy, and they may feel vaguely threatened. Even now, with this simple paragraph written by a white person (me), some readers are probably thinking "Not all white people!", which is a pretty clear sign of missing the point.

I think it is pretty well demonstrated by two things.

Yes, the event has now been canceled, but the fact that the team would even announce it and think it was a good idea two days after the Charleston shooting is kind of mind-boggling, except for something else I saw.

It was a meme image, and I can't find a link for it, but linking to it would be kind of disgusting anyway. It asked...

How come
Black pride = ok
Mexican pride = ok
Asian pride = ok
Muslim pride = ok
White pride = Racist?

I have some thoughts.

Actually, my first thought was something like, Really? You're posting that now, a day after white pride murdered nine black people? In a church?

I don't think the people posting it are drawing the line directly. Probably because of the shooting, when people are horrified by the racism, and maybe decrying ignorant, hateful white people, then there is a feeling of defensiveness, and being beleaguered, and then it's "Why can't I feel pride?"

Well, you can. You can feel proud of your accomplishments and you can take an interest in your heritage and all of those things, but there are some specific things about "white" pride that are important to know.

"Whiteness" was not really a thing until about the last four hundred years. Before that it was more a matter of where you were from. You could be Dutch or French or Ethiopian or Japanese - the Armenians I have met have great cultural pride - but that was more a matter of location and language and government. It doesn't mean that the world was singing in perfect harmony, but it wasn't about skin color.

Once the American colonists started importing African slaves, and they were keeping them as slaves, not as indentured servants, and they were talking about freedom and liberty and all men being created equal, there started being complications, and the simple solution was to make black people count for less. Treating them as subhuman was very profitable, but wait; there's more!

If the black race is inferior, then they can become distasteful to the poor whites, who might otherwise find out that they have a lot of common. Then, instead of working together for equality for everyone, the poor whites will feel good about their superiority and then cling to it desperately, even when it's against their own best interests.

Once that's in place, racial superiority becomes super convenient when dealing with the First Nations people, and later when you have Asian immigrants coming to build the railroad. The anti-blackness at the root can be useful too, in that the brown people may feel good about their superiority to the black people, and more easily accept their inferiority to the white people. The benefits just don't stop! At least, they don't stop for the rich people who exploit them, because really, being on one of the higher low rungs in this sort of hierarchy isn't exactly living large.

So the legacy of "whiteness" is the legacy of having slaves to do your work, but then deciding that race is lazy. When slavery is abolished it is then using corrupt officers and false charges to make them prisoners who do forced labor. It means lynching people who are financially successful and saying it is because they're rapists. It means burning down black areas that are doing well, and redlining, and using drug policy for persecution.

The legacy of whiteness is deliberately slaughtering bison because they are an important food source - nearly driving a species and a people into extinction - because the constant treaty breaking and small-pox in the blankets isn't enough. It is a legacy that starts in America but with the spirit of colonialism spreads to other continents, so that even in Africa anti-blackness can be a thing. That is nothing to be proud of.

And because it has been such an ugly legacy, constantly devaluing other people, telling them that they are ugly and stupid, and inferior, that's where you get the other prides - as a reaction, and an attempt to reclaim what was stolen.

Pan-Africanism is new. There started to be some thoughts of it as a reaction to slavery, and then modern Pan-Africanism starts in the 1960's. It may not be a coincidence that it coincides with the American Civil Rights Movement. There are starting to be more efforts to unite various aboriginal peoples, but again, that's fairly new.

Unfortunately, as much as we can see the inherent falseness now, the legacy is rooted in pretty deeply. Uprooting it will take some work, and it will take open communication, where white people can accept that the legacy of whiteness is sordid and not take it as a personal indictment.

We'll get more into that next week, but for now, on a personal note, by all means explore your heritage. Enjoy it, and know that there will be issues with it too.

I am half Italian. I love my Italian family, and I feel parts of the culture in me. Italy has a bad track record for picking sides in World Wars. I'm not going to take that personally.

A lot of our family history is tied to Austria's constant attempts to take over Northern Italy. If you're Austrian, don't feel bad about that - you as a person never invaded me - you can feel good about Mozart and waltzes and The Sound of Music. Every country will have its good and bad things, including America.

And you shouldn't be ashamed of being white. "White pride" though, is something else, and that's something we need to be honest about.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Feeling safe

The pool party pictures hit me harder than they might have because of other things that were going on.

I had been thinking about was a basic sense of security. That came from reading about police harassment, including one man who was stopped 258 times, mainly for trespassing, except it was happening at his job and where he lived.

That sounded bad enough, but a friend directed me to the This American Life episode where they talk about Miami Gardens, and they talk to him and his boss:

It became more tragic then. There were a lot of people who were negatively affected by this, but what struck me most was for the man himself, how will he ever possibly feel safe again anywhere?

It reminded me of something I read long ago where children who were raised in war zones don't develop the same emotional skills and resilience. Those who had some time before the war and could remember that had those memories to sustain them. They knew a time of security. Never knowing that, their play is different and there is a heavier emotional toll. It's like, you know that post-traumatic stress can be bad, but what if it was only traumatic stress, all the time?

In light of that, it's something to consider in terms of common health issues among black people, and certainly in regards to this article:

Those things gave McKinney a context for me, along with the issues black girls face with their bodies being viewed as more sexual and less protected as covered in yesterday's post. There were three other things that all happened really close together that made it worse.

I live in the suburbs. In fact, I live in an unincorporated suburb where we don't even have city police - just county. I was downtown though, and talking with a friend who lives in the Portland city limits, and as we were talking she told me she sees the police hassling black kids a lot.

I know Portland, Oregon, in the liberal Pacific Northwest, is not supposed to be terribly racist. I'm not saying it couldn't be worse. For one thing, those kids are very unlikely to be killed by the police. They're also unlikely to feel comfortable, or like they belong or have value or have their community backing them up when they need it.

Then I read about Kalief Browder:

There was not reliable witness testimony or physical evidence, but because our courts are slow and prejudiced, he spent three years in Rikers, much of it in solitary, and he killed himself.

Maybe it was worse because I read the other article first:

That was in October, and he was still alive, and probably going to get some compensation from a settlement. He had a job, and was taking classes, but there was a sense of despair.

"People tell me because I have this case against the city I’m all right. But I’m not all right. I’m messed up. I know that I might see some money from this case, but that’s not going to help me mentally. I’m mentally scarred right now. That’s how I feel. Because there are certain things that changed about me and they might not go back... Before I went to jail, I didn’t know about a lot of stuff, and, now that I’m aware, I’m paranoid. I feel like I was robbed of my happiness.”

Kalief Browder killed himself on June 6th, the same day as the McKinney pool party. He probably did not know about it. I also don't know if she knew about it, but one of my girls attempted suicide on the 8th, and she is black.

She did recover. She says now that she doesn't remember why she did it. That could be true; disassociation has been an issue for her. I also know that the issues that she has are made worse by her eating disorder, because despite that fact that she is beautiful, and she is certainly not fat, she always feels a need to become physically less than she is.

I don't know that it's connected, but if she wonders about whether there is room for her in this world, it would be hard to prove to her that she is welcome.

It would have been hard to make Kalief believe that he could get his happiness back.

It is not surprising that Dajerria Becton is having PTSD symptoms after the pool party. I worry about that. I worry about how her friends will feel after trying to help her and having to run - if they are carrying around feelings of helplessness. I worry about how she will handle things in the future, knowing that asking for help could get the person she asks killed. And then a church got shot up.

There was discussion after that - black people are saying that nowhere is safe, and how do you teach your kids that, and white people trying to tell them that it's not that bad.

I would like to be able to say it's not that bad. Having no safe place is a horrible thing to think and feel. It's worse because it's true.

That cannot stand. This cannot be allowed to be.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Layers of ugliness

I am about to start something I feel inadequate for. I need to write about race.

When I am not writing about political and social issues, I am still thinking about them, but I always feel like there is more to know, and other people are saying the relevant things. I didn't think I had anything to say about Rachel Dolezal. I felt like I did need to say something about McKinney. Then I waited, and something much worse happened.

So I'm just going to try and say what I feel I need to say, and hope that it can be helpful to someone. Before Charleston I thought there would be six posts; now I don't know. I was going to start with layers of ugliness though, and that still feels right.

The picture was ugly. Seeing a cop straddling a black teenage girl in a swimsuit was ugly. Seeing the video, where he manhandled her, where he ordered her to get down when she was already down - no, she needed to be face-down - and seeing her friends try to help and be chased off with a gun, and knowing how easily it could have ended up with them dead, all of that was sickening.

It's been a while since I've mentioned this, but one of my big wake up calls to racism was reading stories about street harassment, and seeing that when you are white, it starts later and is less likely to involve touching. There aren't the same boundaries in place for women of color, especially if they're black. There is a long racist history going back to slavery for why that is. A lot of these problems have a long racist history.

(That's one of the things that made me mad with Dolezal's deception - she did not have to put up with that when she was a blonde freckled child.)

I was disturbed by picture and video. It was clear that the officer was out of control. Even his fellow officers made him put his weapon down and were able to speak to the other kids peacefully. That's nice, but they still didn't make Casebolt get off of the girl. They were too accepting of his violation as well.

That was ugly enough, but then I was reading more about how it started, and it got worse. Some kids of multiple races are having a party, and some white people say "Go back to Section 8 housing." That is an insult, and unfair, and offense was taken, including by one of the white kids who started getting lectured about the company she keeps. When a black friend defends her, the black friend gets slapped.

That's uglier. There is open racism, the assumption of poverty based on skin color, and physical violence, again with no boundaries respected on behalf of a black girl. It got worse.

Section 8 housing has a history in McKinney. There is a highway running through the town. To the East, McKinney is 49 percent white; to the West, 86 percent white. There have been lawsuits and blocks to prevent any affordable housing from going up on the West side, you know, because that brings in black people. (Even though there were residents at the party who lived there and were black, and there are plenty of white people in Section 8 housing.)

There are no public pools on the East side.

It gets uglier going past there too. America has a long history of not allowing black people to swim, from pouring bleach in pools to filling them with cement to selling them to private clubs - anything to prevent having to share that space.

Many black people don't learn how to swim. That probably raised the death toll from Hurricane Katrina.

There were people reminiscing on Twitter about not being able to swim, or how their parents made them learn to swim. One person wrote "Swimming feels like freedom," but it's a freedom that often isn't available enough.

The deeper you look, the worse it gets. Get used to that.

We still need to look.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Band Review: Moderne.

Moderne. is an alternative rock band from Huntington Beach, California.

Occasionally bordering on the moody, they are at their best with more energetic numbers, like "Tied Up" and "Quietly".

Distance & Distractions, their 6-track EP, will have been out for one year on Tuesday and has two music videos. The video for "Colorblind" gives a sense that this could be a good band in a show.

They do feel a little undeveloped, as if their next album needs a stronger theme, or a stronger producer, but if feels like they have potential.

It's worth noting that I was initially followed by a band called Meaning in Masterpiece, and then it redirected to Moderne., so this may be a time of transition for them as well. I believe they are worth checking back with. Also, the art in the "Colorblind" video is pretty neat and should be checked out anyway. When it's their turn for song of the day, we'll see where they are.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Band Review: Greco

Greco has been good listening this week.

Greco is a band of mostly brothers from Athens, Georgia. Their Facebook page only lists four of them - Sebastian, Josh, Zack, and Gabriel - but in recent videos they include oldest Greco brother Johann. This seems to be a band in transition. In fact, their Soundcloud proclaims...

"Though GRECO has spent years saturated in music and perfor​mance, it is the release of their latest EP – ALL THE THINGS YOU WANT - that will mark their true musical statement to the world."

It is a musical statement of rock that pulls in multiple influences. There are things that remind me of garage rock, Southern rock, and even some psychedelic, but "All My Life" starts with a synth groove that would not be out of place in pop (back when pop wasn't a pejorative). That track should definitely be checked out, as well as the heartfelt "If I Could See".

Part of that transition should involve running social media more tightly. I found at least three broken links to ReverbNation, and then once I found the correct page via Search there was no music listed. The Youtube channel could be better organized too, though I hope the "In the Bathroom w/Greco" series continues.

There is work for them to do, and I hope they do it. They have a good sound, and their efforts to make it more available to more people should be beneficial.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The adaptation

I haven't been doing a lot for networking, but I have joined one site, and I think that is how I got a message asking for me to review a comedy pilot and offering to review something of mine. That sounded good until I looked at the pilot, and it was too awful to talk about. I could not say anything nice, so it seemed better to have no conversation. This will relate.

Periodically I will write about previously written screenplays and refer to others that don't count.

For example, "Sisters of Justice" is a television pilot. It was written to fill one hour, leaving room for commercials, so it's shorter than feature length, but because there are also character bios, summaries of episodes that would happen in the first season, and notes on arcs that could occur in future seasons, there is a lot more to it too. Also, with doing all my submissions at Amazon Studios, they don't take drama pilots (comedies and children's shows can be submitted), so there's not really anything to do with it now. I don't count it as a screenplay.

It can get much messier. I worked with a partner on adapting an novel into a screenplay. As the partner kept veering further from the book she also brought in another person. They decided that it didn't even need to be set in the Depression anymore. There are some marketing advantages to not making something a period piece, but I felt in this case the time period was relevant.

I hated what they were doing with it, but it was an exhausting period in my life anyway, and having someone else to work with for her meant the long phone calls to me ended, which I needed. That whole experience drained the writing joy out of me, leading to a dry spell that lasted from October 2010 to March 2012. I didn't write anything creative again until a music video launched me into 400 pages of post-Apocalyptic fan fiction.

I don't count the fan fiction as a completed screenplay. Length-wise it's more like three and a half movies, I envision it as a comic book anyway, and it is using other people's characters.

I don't count the adaption because it was with two other people, one of whom I never met or spoke to, I hated the finished product, and again, it started with someone else's material. I always felt bad about what that became. We started the project feeling pretty good about it. I liked the book.

I wrote to the author a while back telling her that I often though of it. I had thought maybe the way to go was to read the book again and come up with three treatments, focusing on different themes and events. After reading it again, I felt like there was really only one theme that would work.

I just couldn't see starting over again without knowing that there was someone interested in the screenplay. We started the adaptation because a filmmaker she knew had told her he thought it would make a good movie, so there seemed to be some promise there but it never panned out.

She wrote back that she was re-writing the book and changing the setting to make it fit in with where she was living now. People buy souvenir books there, especially if you show the landscape on the cover, and there are people who promote the area. Also, she decided that one of the characters needed more backstory.

I just finished the new version today. I feel like I need to get back to her. I don't want to tell her I don't like it. It wasn't just the setting change. The original was set in Arizona and New Mexico, and parts of it have been moved to Utah. Some parts have not moved at all.

Characters have changed a lot. I can see that they were softened to be made more likable, but they are still flawed and now it doesn't feel real. It felt very real before. Without that, they are actually less likable.

I know she re-wrote it with input from her writing group. One of the members is the previous collaborator. That didn't seem like a good sign.

There are other things that grate. Some descriptions have been added that drag things out. Some actions have been cut that were interesting. Some of the old-fashioned slang has been taken out, which should help comprehension, but it subtracted flavor. If I were going to cut slang, I would have taken out the terms that have racist origins, but they're still there. While the location change wasn't major, maybe changing things to make a more marketable book opened the door to everything else.

It really felt important to write to her, so it feels like something should come of it. I don't know what I would do with it now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

And the posts come later and later

I have not been on top of things lately.

Work has been busier. It has a right to be busy - I can't argue with that - but when things go at a slower pace somehow more gets done during the day. There's more room in the brain.

There have been family issues, and emotional things take their own toll. There are setbacks that take days to recover from. It feels pathetic, but I've seen it. Every function of the mind and body takes some energy, and some take more.

This is one way of saying that I haven't been writing much.

I am also in the middle of one of our regular health challenges at work. This is the Summer Games. We just track out steps for six weeks. The highest level of points is achieved at 420000 steps, or 10000 a day, though there are lower point amounts for 210000 and 315000.

I am currently right on schedule, but each day you have to make 10000, and if you fall behind catching up becomes difficult very quickly. Since working from home, I need to make some efforts to move around more, plus do 30-40 minutes of exercise a day to stay on track. It feels good to move, but that could also be a big chunk of writing time.

I had this plan in mind that while the six weeks was going on I would write like crazy. I would finish Spitters, and finally write up that musical, and then I would start my ninth regular feature screenplay written only by me (so not counting shorts, comics, television pilots, or collaborations), and I would decide what to do about that book adaptation. That has not happened.

Always, there is everything else, but at some point I started to stress less over it. Everything that is keeping me busy will clear up in time.

I finished the first round of single adult phone calls. I need to figure out what to do about wrong numbers, missing phone numbers, and voicemail where they didn't call back, but that's actually a huge milestone for that project. I have everything ready for the Saturday activity, and the July fireside will fall into place too. Things are moving along there.

The dolls are done.

I finished finding people through the invitation autofill on the reunion, and filled in about an other 100. 211 people to go.

Most of my classes are done. I am still finishing up the final presentation for my superhero, but that is due the 26th, and it will be done.

I found a new class to take. That sounds like a bad idea, but just today I found that Oregon Care Partners has classes for Alzheimer's and Dementia caregivers. There was a promoted tweet with the title "Activities for Meaningful Dementia Care´- I've been thinking about that for weeks, with some ideas but not enough, and there is course material. There are multiple courses. That feels like a godsend.

Mainly, the urgency from the writing has always come from the urgency to have more money, and it just doesn't seem that thinking that way will ever work. That could be disappointing, but I feel at peace about it. Things are falling into place. There is a logic and order in that, and I am going to have to trust for the rest.

In two weeks the Summer Games will be over too, and I can stop worrying about remembering to put on my pedometer, avoiding bumping into things that might reset it, and remembering to look down and check the number regularly in case I do reset it. I will still want to do more physical activity, but I may be at a point of just trying to maintain my current level of health instead of improving it. I would like to be fitter now, but impatience won't be my friend there either.

It's not exactly one thing at a time, but it is not too much.

I still can't quite seem to give up blogging daily, so it's blogging late.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Reunion invitations

When I mentioned organizing the reunion before, I mentioned that sometimes there were names coming up that I knew were questionable, because it was simply an issue of graduation credits.

This is not speculation. When the 10 year was approaching, they sent out a list of people they couldn't find, and I tried to help locate people. One of them I remembered as being class of '89, but I called him  up anyway, and he was surprised to find out that he was showing up. I think there had been an issue with a math credit, but he had never thought of himself as class of '90, even if that might technically be the date on his diploma.

Falling back on my usual method of using spreadsheets, I went through the yearbook first, and then the memory book from the first reunion. I thought the graduation program or memory book from the 20 year reunion might be good, but I have no idea where they are right now. Still, it seemed like a pretty complete list.

There are names I don't recognize at all, and some I recognize as older. Two I have gone ahead and left off the spreadsheet - the one I called up fifteen years ago, and another that I saw a few years ago. His year was 1988, whether he got a diploma then or not.

(It feels appropriate to leave names out, though that would make things easier.)

With everyone else, I am more cautious. For example, one guy, I always thought was a year older. Is that because I met him and socialized with him only in the company of another guy who was class of 1989? There is another girl I always thought was younger. Did I just never see her our sophomore year, so when I saw her in junior year I thought she was new? I don't know, but clearly I can't just assume I am remembering the age right.

Also, it occurs to me that it is not always clear-cut. Two girls came up, both of whom I remembered as only being there for senior year. One's family moved when her father got a new job; another was sent to live with her aunt. They both had more years at their previous schools. They might feel more connected there, even though their graduation was here.

That's one reason that I'm leaving it fairly loose. If someone from a different year wants to come, and they feel a kinship, that's nice. I'm not going to fight that.

I currently have it an invitation only event, because I want to make sure everyone on the list gets invited, and it can only get harder to track as more people are added. However, once the spreadsheet is filled out, I think I'll change it to "Open".

After the names were all added, I went through all the invited and matched their invitation status. I am now going through the names with nothing by them, and seeing if I get an auto-fill when I start typing. I am finding a fair amount this way.

Next I will take the remainder and try regular searches, outside of the invite field. I will probably also try LinkedIn, because a lot of people who won't use Facebook still use that. (How often they check it, I don't know.) After that, I hope it will be just a small list where I can ask for help. With a big list, people would get lost reading it.

Is this process overly laborious? Probably, but I wasn't sure of a better way to do it. Believe me, now that I have a fairly complete digital list of the class members, I am hanging on to it.

I have found a way to put up a survey on whether people are going to Friday, Saturday, or both, but it feels too early to do it now.

Memory books and memorials are still a question. There must be someone more technical than me in our class. Surely we have a few programmers and web designers out there.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Band Review: Helen Austin

I suspect that hating this music makes me a mean and black-hearted person. I've got to be me.

Helen Austin has won a Juno Aware and a John Lennon songwriting contest, and her music gets used in television shows and things, so clearly other people see merit I don't. For me it cloys.

I liked her earlier music better. I didn't love it, but at some point after 2009, everything became more twee. That may work better as a niche, because then you have the children's market, but then there is too much of it. There is an album every year, and each album has lots of tracks, and while any one song might be harmless put together they aggravate me.

I get how they are supposed to work. Take the song "Underneath My Bed":

It is taking a common childhood fear, and making it funny and about friendship. That seems positive. The video is pretty well done with simple animation. Other videos incorporate toys and children and drawings. Many people would find it charming. There is probably nothing wrong with finding it charming. But the high voice, repetitiveness, and relentless preciousness somehow builds into a perfect storm of hatred for me.

If a song about how being yourself is great, so always be yourself unless you can be a unicorn, then be a unicorn, sounds like your kind of thing, links are below.


P.S. This is late not due to the lack of enthusiasm, but it just being one of those days.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

No band review today

It seems like the best way option.

The band I had planned on reviewing today, Stillframe, has broken up. I have reviewed broken up bands before, but I found this announcement from the 5th:

"Hey everyone, in regards to the current situation of our singer, Marc, the rest of the members in Stillframe deem it inappropriate to continue moving on with this entity. So the remaining members have all decided to disband and make Stillframe no more."

What situation is that? He was recently revealed to have committed many sexual assaults, including underage girls.

I feel bad for the others. Writing a review of the music I have listened to seems like it would be counter to their wishes, and it looks like the Twitter account is already gone, so the other links might end up being dead soon anyway. (There are some similarly named bands that can cause some confusion.)

I also admire them. Their singer was not the first band member to have assaulted anyone, underage or not. There is often a tendency to play it down or explain it away or to try in some way not to know about it or act on it. They have acted decisively and quickly. I am sure there is a sense of loss.

I am also hopeful for them. They haven't announced any future plans, and maybe they are too disgusted right now to think of trying again. However, they were in other bands before; they can have other chances, together or separately.

So this is wishing good luck to David Fernandez, Kevin Herrera, and Kyle Lacoste. Thank you for taking a stand. I hope good things come your way.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Planning a reunion

I said yesterday that I was taking something new on, and I had to be crazy to do it, but really, it's not that bad.

One thing is that the parameters of this project are fairly finite. I know what to do and when to do it by. That doesn't necessarily make the workload light, but it's manageable, and it will lead to some social time, which will probably be good.

I am planning a 25th reunion.

Last year the year before us had one, and I was kind of accidentally invited. By "accidentally", I mean that the person who invited me does random invites and does not think about years. It sounded fun, so I went with some minor guilt, and thought that our class should really do one.

The other key piece of information is that the girls in my family came at five-year intervals. That is mainly a result of my parents changing their minds a few times on how many children they wanted. As my class hits year 25 (which is a cool year, but the official reunions only happen on the decades), my older sister is invited to her 30th reunion and my younger sisters are invited to their 20th.

This has given me many opportunities to hear about why they are not going to theirs. Misty is not going because it is too expensive and not a good value. Julie and Maria are not going because they talk to people on Facebook and who needs it?

Those points have some validity. If you do it through Classic Reunions they really overcharge. I thought our 10-year was great and reasonably priced, but the 20 year was high for the value, and a lot of people did not go because of that, but also because we talk to each other on Facebook.

In addition, for my younger sisters their student body president does not even have it together enough to hire Classic Reunions, so another classmate is trying to organize it, and it is a thankless job, but she is asking for too much input, which people find frustrating and it makes them not take her seriously.

That is probably why I had the dreams of reunions, but it was only on the second one that I realized, "Crap. I need to do this."

It is doable. Things I have been able to learn are that people don't want to spend money, and agonizing over everything and pestering people doesn't help. Simplicity and economy are key.

I have set something up. I haven't invited everyone yet. The yearbook indicates that there were 556 of us. Some of that is wrong, like people from previous years who had issues with graduation credits, but would not consider themselves Class of 1990. I decided to start with a chunk, let other people pass on the invitation, and then I will go through comparing the yearbook, the book from the first reunion, and maybe the graduation program if I can find it. I know not everyone is one Facebook, but I have e-mail addresses for at least two people who aren't.

There are little technical issues, like I thought maybe a photo album could work as a memory book - everyone put one photo and a description telling what's going on with you, but I don't see a way to do that for an event. There are technically two events, but I didn't want to separate them, making the RSVP information not as complete as it could be. Those are still workable.

Sometimes it's nice to have projects where you know for sure when you're done.