Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Being beautiful

I said yesterday that when my friend told me I wasn't ugly, I didn't believe her. I run into this same issue with my girls all the time.

It doesn't matter how often you tell them that they are beautiful, they just know they aren't.

Some of you may be wondering about objective beauty standards here, and yes, a lot of them are unequivocally pretty. Some of them might be using "ugly" as code for "fat", because "fat" hurts too much to say (I have done that), but then a lot of them say "fat" also. The fact that they have doctors and nurses telling them that they are not fat and that it would be dangerous for them to lose weight does not matter.

(Actually, I think they do know on one level that the doctor is right, but there are all of the other levels interfering.)

This is assuming I know what they look like. Many of the accounts are secret accounts for venting, so the profile picture is not theirs. Actually, a big step forward for one girl after treatment was changing her profile picture to her, and I knew it was a big step when it happened. That was great.

With the others, sometimes they will post a picture of clothing, and so you won't see the face but you get an idea of the body. Sometimes they will leave a selfie up for ten minutes and then delete. This desire to be known and connect, with the fear of being known and identified, has its own issues and workarounds. When I do get to see them, they usually look good.

This is important, because I only pay honest compliments. I don't always know what I'm doing, but the big rule I have, and I feel strongly about it, is that I don't lie. I assume that even well-intentioned lies will get figured out, and trust is really hard to come by, so I can't afford to lie. I know there have been times when that mattered.

Here is one honest compliment that I can usually give. Most of them are really kind and supportive. They will do a lot to encourage and comfort and build up everyone else. They believe everyone else deserves it. They don't believe it about themselves.

One thing that I realized fairly early on is that I want to tell them that they can have good futures. If they want love or good careers or happiness - probably all of the above - I want to tell them that's possible. It can be hard to tell them they will find love when I never found it. I can see now where I didn't let myself find it, but they could do the same thing. I don't want to reinforce that.

So this is where we get to the incoherent part. They also tell me that I am beautiful, while not believing they are also beautiful.

Okay, beauty is subjective, they like me as a person which can color it, but then if I am saying that I am not beautiful, contradicting them, but also asking them to believe that they are beautiful, and they should listen to me because... I just end up sputtering.

Worse than that, I have had some tell me that I am not fat. I do have real pictures up, and I am objectively fat. I get how that happens too. They have it that "fat" is a bad word, and you wouldn't use it on anyone good. I appreciate that they appreciate my goodness, but words mean things! If we change what words mean, communication becomes very difficult, so I would be against that in general. If the way we change the words services a worldview where everyone thinks you are wonderful except for bullies and yourself, no, that's just not good.

The change I wish to see in the world is people being able to enjoy their identities. I have to be able to do that for myself. I have to be able to accept compliments, and believe them, and be aware of the connotations of words but also without forgetting the denotations.

The most radical thing I do is like myself. See how true that becomes?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Things I let go

Tomorrow's post may be kind of incoherent, but the conversations that led to it generally started with someone tweeting that she is fat or ugly or both.

One of my vivid memories of summer camp is a slightly older girl complaining about people fishing for compliments. If they wanted a compliment they should just ask for it. I guess it was a pet peeve of hers.

It made a strong impression on me that this is bad behavior, and I have to give some credit for advanced awareness to the older girl. I would not have analyzed the issue that way.

I still can't look down on it. There are so many messages in society that you have to look good, and that necessitates being thin. It is natural to want to be pleasing to those around you, and it's hard to believe that you can if you don't conform to beauty standards, especially if you're a girl.

At the same time, any expression of pleasure in something that you are or do is likely to be stamped down as arrogance, which is also not allowed. In addition, looking for approval or affirmation from anyone else is likely to get you labeled an attention seeker, though people get labeled that for things they do in secret too. It would appear that the end goal is not just poor self-esteem but also neurosis.

There may be some desire to hear someone contradict you when you self-deprecate, but I also can see sincere belief that there are things wrong with you, and aching desire for that not be true, grappling with the training that you are not allowed to see good things about yourself so any affirmation needs to come from outside.

I grew up before social media when it became common to instantly broadcast thoughts, and I still remember doing it at least once. I said to one of my friends, "I am an ugly little toadie", and she did contradict it, so I guess that worked, except the reason I said it is that was the exact phrase that came into my head, stuck there since I had caught an unfortunate glimpse of myself in the mirror. Also, despite her saying I wasn't, I still believed that I was. I thought she was just being nice, because you have to say that.

That's where we're going tomorrow.

Anyway, if people do not always appropriately mask their pain in a mature and dignified fashion, I'm not going to pile on that. I will give a compliment, but it will only be something I can accurately say, and if we need to look at actual flaws and things to change, I will do that too.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Native American Heritage Month 2014

It hasn't been quite a full year yet, but for getting close to a year now I have been concentrating on writing enough that it has seriously slowed my reading.

After last year I had picked out the books that I wanted to read for this year, but I wasn't sure when I was going to get to them. In addition, I kept finding all of this video material that I wanted to examine, and there was definitely no time for that. So, the plan was adjusted. My Native American Heritage focus has always been more multi-media than some of my other pursuits.

I hope that in November or so, I will be able to get back to those four books for 2015. (Bumping them for a year does not seem as dire when running this far behind.) For the 2014 learning period, it focused on these three web pages:

For the Cherokee Freedmen documentary, the article was not lengthy. It had just gotten put with the others because I was hoping that there might be an opportunity to actually watch the documentary, By Blood. I still hope for that, but the article itself is pretty informative and the trailer gives you a sense of the feeling.

Silent No More does something very important in encouraging young native women to speak and to document their lives. I think the article itself hit a couple of wrong notes, but there is still something valuable going on there. I found it very moving and very sad, even though it is also hopeful. It is interesting seeing the similarities and differences for Canada.

Of course the big thing was the page with 10 Fascinating Documentaries. Some were more fascinating than others. I kind of hated one, but we'll get to that. I am just going to review them in the same order in which they are listed on the page.

Totem Culture (2012) 17:42 minutes

A Canadian school in Hong Kong brings a Tsimshian artist from BC to carve two totem poles.

This focuses on the people, and there is a lot of fondness among them, with teachers for the artist and everyone for the former principal who had the original idea. That makes it not particularly deep, but it is sweet, and interesting to hear them discuss the incorporation of the two traditions, like deciding the placement of the poles by feng shui.

Dakota 38 (2012) 1:18:12

This was the most emotionally moving for me. One man's dream (literally) leads to a ride to the site of a hanging of 38 Sioux elders, arriving on the anniversary. Initially starting with a feeling that this is about connecting with the past, as they go they speak in their stopping places, and connect with Natives and non-Natives alike, it is clearly also for the present and future. It becomes very emotional, and hopeful. The hardest part then is seeing over the credits memorials for three of the original riders who have since died, including one who was too young.

Wacipi Powwow (1995) 57:03

This is a look at Powwow culture, showing many of the dances and talking with the dancers. It's a good look at how it builds community and preserves ties.

Trudell (2005) 1:18:23

This is a documentary about Native American poet and activist John Trudell. I was not previously familiar with him. I have read about some of the actions that he participated in, but did not remember his name from them. Initially there are a lot of famous white people talking about how much he moved them, which made me a little leery. Frankly, the documentary would have been fine without them, but it probably works as a way of making people feel they should pay attention.

There was this foreshadowing at one point that something terrible was going to happen, but I wasn't expecting what it was, with his wife and children (along with his mother-in-law) dying in a house fire that was arson, though it was never resolved who set it. That he had to survive that is hard, but he says it came through words that his wife gave to him. He was already an activist, but that may have been his true birth as a poet. I do want to read more by him.

American Red and Black: Stories of Afro-Native Identity (2006) 37:13

This talks to many natives with African blood, going over the identity issues. I was already somewhat familiar due to Black Indian: An American Story, which was actually from my 2014 Black History reading, but that's okay - sometimes there is overlap, and this is an important story. This film has some great footage.

Allan Houser: Apache Legacy (2014) 12:15

This was a nice surprise, because once they started talking about Houser and showing his work, I realized I had seen an exhibit of his sculptures at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian when I was in DC. I remembered the work, but not the name, so this was nice to see and to learn a little more about him.

Russell Means: Welcome to the Reservation (2011) 1:35:59

I watched this last, procrastinating not just because it was the longest, but also because Means is not always wrong, but he is wrong often enough.

I still have some affection for him so this made me sad because he comes off as the grumpy old man rambling on about the government and yelling at the kids on his lawn. At the same time, I was thinking how some on the right could really welcome him. Therefore, seeing that this is associated with Alex Jones wasn't too surprising. I don't think the questions they asked or the way they strung them together did Means any favors. I don't think they misrepresented him, either, but they didn't do him any favors. It's just sad. It's not that he never says anything meaningful either, but you have to wade through a lot.

Indian Warriors: The Untold Story of the Civil War (2006) 44:38

This is probably the best historically, based on covering interesting information well, and being really well made. There were people I had never heard of, but there were also some familiar stories given new context. Highly recommended.

Code of Honor: Comanche Code Talkers of World War II (2013) 28:30

This combined two components, both of which were valuable, but perhaps did not blend as well as they could. One part is reading excerpts from the diaries of the Code Talkers. These passages do not mention their mission, which they would not have been able to record based on its highly confidential nature. You get a feeling from that, but it would be similar to other soldiers.

There is also dialog for the actual battle exchanges, with translations, showing you the kind of information that would be exchanged, which then makes it clear how important not being understood by the enemy is. There was probably room for two good documentaries here.

Montana Mosaic: Indian Boarding Schools (2006) 15:10

It is good that this one was short, because the stories of the boarding schools are always so terrible that it can be overpowering to spend a lot of time on it. I guess in that way it was not so much new information, but there was one thing that had never connected for me before. Cutting hair was something that was done for mourning, and the closer the relative the more hair you cut. So when children who did not speak English were taken away from their family and had their braids cut off, without being able to understand yet, their conclusions would have to have been terrible. I mean, they were trying to destroy the identities anyway, so maybe if the people in charge had understood that would have only reinforced their behavior, but it's a lot of cruelty.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Band Review: Skywalker

Skywalker is a hardcore band from Prague, Czech Republic.

Around since 2011, they have a fairly impressive resume of bands supported, including Pennywise and NOFX. There is one album, two EPs, and a single available through Bandcamp.

While hardcore is not my favorite genre, there are some factors that I appreciate with Skywalker.

First, I have to acknowledge that hardcore works with the themes they explore of alienation, betrayal, corruption working against those who search for unity and integrity. The primal nature of this struggle is well-represented by the strained shouts and growls that they produce.

In addition, they do not limit themselves to this sound. As well as some more melodic tracks, like "Jelly School", many songs have harmonic elements adding texture and depth. "Island" is particularly well-constructed.

Finally there is an intelligence and wit permeating their catalog, providing unexpected pleasures. This includes an appreciation of "Twin Peaks" in "Laura", and a very enjoyable cover of Hall & Oates "Out Of Touch".

All together that makes Skywalker worth checking out.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Band Review: Composer Sean Beeson

Reviewing a composer (for film, television, and games) is a little different than reviewing a rock band.

I did enjoy listening to the music, which is always the key question.

Since it was instrumental I can't respond to lyrics, and since most of these tracks would have been done for specific assignments, I don't get a sense of the personality in the same way that I would with a band or a solo musician. So, these are the points that I think it is helpful to notice.

1. I did enjoy the music.

2. There was a pretty good variety of tone and sound. I appreciate flexibility.

3. Tracks are often listed with not just their title but a description, which makes browsing easier.

I appreciate that he has a yoga mix - that could be good for relaxing. My favorite track was "Frozen Tundra". Beeson lists it as mysterious and ethereal, and yeah, I think that's about right.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Not all ideas are good ideas

I needed to do something easy today. This is one I nearly did from the road.

The timing of our trip was based on who could get time off when, and when things were open. It was not completely random that we started on Labor Day weekend, but it wasn't intentional either.

Going to a popular children's and water park on a hot Labor Day weekend had some drawbacks, one being that are hotel was at capacity and everything was very disorganized. With so many people, an ATM that was not only broken but kept getting referrals from the other property, and a web page that said breakfast was included but it wasn't, there would have been some chaos anyway, but there was something adding to it.

First some context. Our driver from the airport needed cash, so the broken ATM led to him taking my sisters to the gas station. This was around 10:30 at night. There was no reason for anything to go wrong - he had seemed very nice - but while I was waiting for them to get back a police car pulled up in front of the hotel.

I had just had the thought of whether he was in fact a dangerous killer a moment ago (though dropping off a witness before making his move would have been very sloppy), but I didn't panic for two reasons. One is that it was probably way too soon for a crime to have happened, been discovered, and next of kin be located and notified. Also, I had heard the girl at the desk talking on the phone.

I could only hear one side of two conversations, but she seemed to be confirming with a guest that their children had dialed 9-1-1, and then with 9-1-1 that is was just a child playing around and not a real emergency.

Still, the officer did come in, because he had to, and was talking with someone - I think a manager, but off duty - about it. It came out that the police had responded to the hotel twenty times since the change.

They did not specify the change, but I was pretty sure I knew:

I've gotten a lot of prompts to sign this petition. In fact, I believe I have signed this petition. I don't think it's even a law in all states, but some chains are trying to comply anyway. Anyway, it turns out that there are a lot more children goofing around with phones than actual emergencies.

It's not that the situation inspiring the law was not real or serious. That doesn't mean that the law might not be somewhat reactionary. Police responding twenty times to false alarms doesn't make anyone safer. Maybe the solution is to require monitoring from the hotel. Maybe a better solution is to fight toxic masculinity.

My first thought was that maybe phones in hotel rooms need to be raised higher than children can reach, but in this case it was a child legitimately calling for help, and I have read many stories about children calling when their parents have medical emergencies. Children do need to have access and they do need to know how to use it. They also need to know not to goof around with it, but some things are harder to legislate.

My point is that sometimes things aren't well thought out. The heart is in the right place, so that appeals to us, and certainly signing an online petition doesn't take much work, but maybe it needs to be the right petition.

I am trying to read things more carefully now, and to think before I sign.  

For one thing, if what I am sending is a letter to my congresswoman, all that will happen is that I will get a response that she is not on that committee though she is aware of the issue. Even though I appreciate that it is now e-mail instead of paper - especially after that environmental one - I still find it annoying.

As always, I remain staunchly pro-thought.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The vocabulary of the young

The first thing I need to say is Argh! Getting to the points I am trying to hit here can be difficult.

When I first started following and being followed by younger people, there were differences that I noticed. Not all of the differences were bad, though some concerned me.

For example, lots of girls posted about jealousy and possessiveness just being a sign that he cares. Okay, I am sure there were girls of my generation who thought that too, but that is not merely wrong, it's dangerous.

I haven't seen it for a while now, but "Chanel" was used as an adjective a lot. It was meant as a positive, but in a way that often came out negative. Eating wasn't Chanel, because then you would gain weight and not be able to wear nice clothes, I guess.

I wasn't sure what to do with that one. Coco Chanel was a fighter and survivor, becoming independent and successful. Some of her earliest designs allowed women a greater freedom of movement, abandoning the corseted silhouette for something more sporty and casual. Having no energy and passing out, which happens when you starve yourself, would not be very Chanel in that sense. Of course, she may also have been a Nazi sympathizer, so in that case being Chanel could take in some pretty bad things too. I just think that one might require further thought. Like I said, I haven't seen it for a while.

(I never corrected anyone on Chanel; I did comment on a few posts wanting "jealousy".)

The one that will probably be most important to this discussion is the way they would use the word "perfect".

This was especially true of the girls with eating disorders. It seems like they always had a specific number of pounds to lose, and then they would be perfect.

I saw it in other contexts too, but there was overall this apparent belief that you could be perfect. I swear when I was in school we never thought we could be perfect. We would say that nobody is perfect or nothing is perfect. It wasn't an excuse; it was a reminder to appreciate the things that were good in a situation, instead of looking for flaws and complaining.

I don't know how the change happened, but somehow for them perfection became attainable and therefore required, except it wasn't really attainable - just believed to be so - and therefore it became a source of misery.

Maybe it's not that different. We had all managed to be really aware of our flaws, and of the one thing that we wished we could change. Maybe instead of thinking it would make us perfect we just thought it would make us beautiful or popular or some different word that emotionally meant the same thing.

As I become older and more at peace (only the first one happens automatically), a lot of it comes from accepting that perfection is off the table. Even as I am trying to be organized and diligent in healing up some of these old wounds, and getting better at the things that are important to me, perfection doesn't sound like a real thing.

I can use lots of good words. I think of harmony and balance and freedom. Fulfillment seems possible, and happy I can use a lot now. "Perfect" though, that doesn't seem like something that can happen in mortality, and I don't mind that.

For all its problems, there is a lot of beauty in being human.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The most hated photo

In May I wrote the "No more good pictures" post.

I already knew that I wouldn't like any of the pictures going forward. There have been other things that I have noticed since then, including that I stopped looking at the camera. In the pictures I posted through August, my eyes are always off to the side, apparently looking for a way to escape the lens.

The pictures from these last few weeks constitute kind of a turning point. When we went to Australia and New Zealand in 2008, I took hundreds of pictures. Only three include me. One is the picture that they take automatically when you hold the koala (and I wanted to hold a koala). The other two are when I took pictures from a vehicle and caught myself in the mirror.

I realized at the time that wasn't good, and that I should try and not avoid cameras so much. In fact, I started something where I took one picture of myself each month in 2009, to try and get better. I didn't start liking the way I looked, but it got me used to pictures enough to stop flinching.

That may make it ironic that the picture I hate the most happened in 2009. It was only early 2009.

There are a lot of things I hate about this picture. The main thing is that I look huge. I look huge in other pictures too, of course - that is why I started having my picture taken in the first place.

This one is worse because I am at a weird angle due to sitting on a stool, but the way my coat falls back hides that angle, making it look like all of that is me. Most of it is me, but not all of it.

Part of my hatred for this picture is context. It was posted on Facebook (not by me), and another person who was there commented on it saying how friendly or welcoming I looked. Based on how I looked, that should have been sarcasm, but it was actually a dig at my sisters. This is from the time between when I still thought said person was nice but dim, and she still thought she could come between my sisters and I. The manipulation was not nice of course, but it also showed she was even dumber than I had realized.

That made me hate the picture more, because of the association with someone who was much worse than she initially appeared, and knowing that even a friendly gathering still has people playing mind games. I may have viewed it more negatively than it actually was, because that was a very hard time in my life.

I came back from Australia to no job, after having been jerked around pretty badly by my former employer. The economic collapse from September made job hunting much worse than it had ever been before. I applied for so many jobs with no response; I ended up having to track applications in a spreadsheet so I wasn't duplicating my efforts. I had always been able to get the job that I wanted before. I was never rich, but I was able to be generous and help people. That seemed to be at an end. This is about when I realized that the tax training I had devoted weeks to wasn't going to pan out either.

There was plenty of reason to be miserable, which may have made it the wrong year to try and learn to be okay with how I look. You can only manage so much at once.

Six and a half years later, I'm at it again. I still hate having my picture taken. I still force myself to do it. I usually manage to look at the camera.

Mainly, being completely honest with myself, my real hope was always that I would get smaller, so I would actually look better, and then I could be okay with that. I never actually wanted to reconcile myself to being fat. That seems to be what is necessary now.

Anyway, that's what we're looking at this week.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Band Review: It All Starts Here

It All Starts Here is prototypical pop punk.

When I say that I mean that it feels exactly how pop punk is supposed to feel. Instruments are played hard, but the sense of fun keeps things from getting too aggressive (the band also refers to itself as easycore), and yet there is consciousness enough to keep things from going inane. Altogether it makes for satisfying listening.

Their 2014 EP, Everything Will Come to an End, displays a good balance. Starting with an instrumental track and closing on their most downbeat song, "Gilded Smiles", it peaks in the middle with the pounding drums and groove of "Karma's a Bitch".

Filling in around that are more traditional songs. Even with that, check out the intro to "The Only B Word". It feels unique. On the other hand, "Hilltops" uses many familiar elements, but is probably my favorite, and is one I could listen to over and over again.

Everything Will Come to an End is a strong offering from this San Diego band. I hope they keep at it.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Band Review: Inventions

I've enjoyed listening to Inventions.

An alternative rock band from Melbourne, Australia, Inventions has the energy of youth but still sounding polished and professional. They feel fresh, and I appreciate that.

Guitars are usually the focus, but keyboards are used to heighten the impact on "Heritage". "Shadows" is probably still my favorite track, and has a well executed video.

They should be checked out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Pre-Halloween reading

Some of the books I read on vacation were ones I'd been meaning to get to for a long time.

Once upon a time I had four books that I wanted to read before Halloween last year. I only managed one, Killing Monsters: Our Children's Need for Fantasy, Heroism, and Make-Believe Violence by Gerard Jones.

Part of the issue is that Jones' book was the only one in libraries. It was also the best of them, so if only one is going to be in libraries, that's the right one to be there. It was an excellent read, valuable for parents, but also as a writer who might sometimes write about monsters, or find things going a little dark there was good insight.

For my birthday I got Powells and Amazon gift cards, allowing me to acquire the other books. The next month I finished one of the others, Better Off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human.

This was a bit more academic. Well, Killing Monsters is non-fiction, and it is smart, and it refers to other academic studies, but some books feel more academic. The language is more formal, and more stale, but should language about zombies really be fresh? It still had interesting thoughts, but I wouldn't say that everyone should read it.

I finally got to the last two: Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon by Cindy Ott, and The Romance of Dracula: A Personal Journey of the Count on Celluloid by Charles Butler.

Dracula is not academic at all. It is just reviews and synopses of Dracula movies by someone who really loves them. I can respect that. It is again a book that I can't recommend, but it was interesting reading some movies that I had not previously heard of.

Pumpkin was better. It started out slow, but it was well-researched and I learned things, though it does not really explain the obsession with pumpkin spice everything that happens this time of year. I guess after explaining how pumpkin got its mystique that is the natural extension, but some of the points could have been made more clearly.

It is not a big deal. Once I started grouping the books I want to read, there is a sense of accomplishment when a group is completed, whether it turns out that the grouping was logical or not.

However, it is also nice finishing it in the fall. Halloween decorations and candy are already out, and it makes me feel like this could be the year that last year was meant to be. Maybe this time I will finish the movie list I had too. Last year I only watched I Married a Witch and Practical Magic - maybe this year I can do better. Maybe this year I will finish that needlepoint project. Maybe I will wear a costume somewhere.

New years come around, and new Halloweens come around. There is always another chance.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Almost home

We leave for the airport in a few hours and I will be home tonight.

Obviously I will be writing about this for weeks on the travel blog, but I have a few thoughts here.

One thing about vacation? Even with a lot of activity time, I have finished three books and am deep into a fourth. I brought five, but Julie read the fifth one after she finished the one I loaned her, so even if I don't get into it, it was good to have it along. We have several hours of airport and airplane time, though, so I could easily end up finished with the fourth and starting the fifth. The one I am reading now is rather academic, so alternating might not hurt either.

I can't seem to read, write, and work all at the same time. I don't feel great about that, and there are some more books I am anxious to get to, but of course getting Morgan and Family Reunion out the door will be the priority.

What is it like vacationing poor? Hard! And I don't want to sound like an ingrate. I am very blessed that my sister decided that having me along was worth paying for me, but it's still hard being dependent and not having my own money. I am so grateful to be here, but I so wish that things were different as well.

I guess my laptop and camera breaking kind of punctuates that. I do not have the funds to replace them. If I don't go anywhere for a while, I don't really need them, but in November I am supposed to start doing the daily selfie. That would be better with a phone anyway, but I'm not sure how that is going to happen either.

So this was a break, and it was a good one. I am proud of maintaining the blog and the songs, and getting my Throwback Thursday photo up, through a combination of planning ahead and sheer determination and sometimes luck. If the laptop had gone out in Hershey, I would have missed some days, because that motel did not have a business center.

Anyway, back to life. Back to reality.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Everything is breaking

Still on the road.

Our second day in Hershey it was raining hard, and at one point my camera stopped working. I hoped drying it out would help, and I tried changing batteries and also hooking it up to the laptop. It's toast.

I think I got this camera in 2007. I definitely had it by 2008. I know it's old, and that people with cell phones take better concert pictures than I do, but we've had some good times and I really like taking pictures. I will feel better once I can confirm that the memory card is fine.

My Chromebook was newer, purchased in 2012. I really only use it for travel. It was starting to act up quite a bit on this trip. Last night looked bad, but I decided to let it sit overnight and see. It's dead too.

Obviously, this is not going to be great for my posting. This is our last hotel and it has a business center, so I can probably still write something up tomorrow morning and then we are home tomorrow night. Fortunately I did not really have anything saved on it, so this could be much worse. Still, it's a little sad, especially that I still need to cart them around to see if I can repair them.

My phone and glaucometer should hold out okay, but I think the rubber band for my hair may give out before I get home too.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Concert Review: The Get Up Kids

Each band on the line-up was good individually, but there was also an aggregate effect.

More people had arrived by the time The Get Up Kids came on, but it was more than that.

It appears that the backstage area at the Hawthorne Theater must be rather small. There were staircases on each side, with hardly any wing space.

I know that because sometimes you would see a person here or there watching one of the acts, and when gear was being loaded and unloaded there was obviously not a lot of extra space.

As The Get Up Kids came on, the stairways were full. There were members from the Josh Berwanger Band and The Hotelier, and at least one person from Mean Jeans if I am not mistaken, and some other people I can't place. They wanted to watch.

So there was a densely packed energy in the audience, surging against the stage. The sides were also packed, and then on the stage there was the interplay between the band. There was a great sense of unity, but also a sense of something building. Toward the end Josh Berwanger came out and took over some vocals. It felt fitting that more people were being pulled in.

The Get Up Kids is who the audience came for. That's not taking anything away from their enjoyment of the opening acts, but there was a sense of recognition on every intro, people sung along, and even though many people in the audience seemed young for a band that was celebrating their twentieth anniversary, that didn't matter: this was their band!

It was something to be there, and see Jim Suptic throw his arm around Rob Pope, and say that they were in first grade together. Here they are now, playing music and making a crowd of people happy.

I'll periodically go back and watch the "Action & Action" video, and yes, they're older, but there is so much that is the same. Ryan Pope has the same expressions drumming. It's not that the time hasn't passed, or that it passed completely smoothly, but this is still pretty good, and it's touching. Suptic said he owed us a good show since he had been sick they last time they played there, and we got it. (I still don't think he will be allowed to live it down though.)

They were having a good time, and there was a lot of playfulness. At one point Matt Pryor came really close to James Dewees, without trying (the stage is pretty small too), but then that led to how close can we get, and backing into each other, and it didn't interrupt the song at all.

I was against the stage - right in front of Matt Pryor - with a good view of the clock. I had been keeping an eye on how well the bands were keeping to the schedule. I was impressed - they run a pretty tight ship - but then it all went out the window. The Get Up Kids went long, and no one wanted them to stop. (I think it only went about 20 minutes longer, but I had quit keeping time.)

I know the band has at times rejected the emo label, and there are legitimate reasons for that. I'll get everything I want to say about it out in this paragraph. It reminded me of this horrible Dashboard Confessional concert I went too, and some other concerts I have read about, where everyone is all into the music and singing along, knowing every word. I'd had a bad view of that because at the concert I saw it sucked all the life out the music. This concert showed me what those other concerts could have been. It doesn't have to be horrible and depressing. Maybe it just takes better music.

This was good music. Great show. I'm glad to see them still around.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Band Review: Electric Century

I wanted to review Electric Century a while ago, but with only a few tracks out I thought I would wait and see if they released a full album. With only three bands playing the concert I have been reviewing, I needed something to round out the reviews, and this seemed like a good fit. Four songs is still something to work with.

Composed of Mikey Way and David Debiak, the obvious question is whether this sounds like their previous work. No.

Actually, there is a part in "Let You Get Away" that builds in a somewhat similar manner to New London Fire's "For My Own", and they are both songs that stop me with their beauty, but if you listen to them you will see they are very different.

The sound is very hard to categorize. "Right There" starts with a bit that is almost '80s, but then there is something really futuristic sounding that builds alongside it. There is more synthesizer than seen in their respective earlier bands, but it is not techno. It is electric - and electrifying - and it is something new. Perhaps the era that it ushers in is the electric century. The name works, anyway, and Way is known for being good at coming up with band names.

There are interesting thoughts behind the music, with an almost militaristic chanting on "Hail The Saints" and an abrupt, unsettling ending to "I Lied." I think it is a band that could be greatly enjoyed on an intellectual level.

I think that, but for me it keeps coming back to the emotions evoked by "Let You Get Away", making me stop and let feeling sweep over me. It's not losing its power.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Starving artists

Two Wednesdays ago, I helped a friend get to a food bank. She is not homeless, but many of the people waiting were. While waiting I listened to a conversation where I learned that the best place to bum cigarettes is at the strip club. You learn something every day, I thought, but I am not sure that I will ever be able to use that.

Last Wednesday I was at a concert, which I will finish reviewing this week. After it was over one of the band members saw a pack of cigarettes on the floor with four lying loose, and he scooped them up for his own use.

Cigarettes are expensive. I don't remember now if it was one of the guys who needed new pants, but it's probably safe to say that while the guys in the headliner are comfortable (not rich), the guys in the opening acts don't have a lot of money.

I did not suggest to him that he try bumming cigarettes at strip clubs, because maybe that's only that one in Hillsboro. If strippers (a stripper at the one club will give you three at a time) in general are generous, I can believe that. Often you find the greatest generosity among the most marginalized.

It also reminded me of this:

Yes, not only does having money allow you to safely take risks; it also allows you to be creative. I see that more now. I have been trying to refinance the house, which is really stressful but also necessary. I am also taking a lot longer to finish my next book than I should. Some days I just don't have it in me to put forth any additional mental effort. I submit to you that those two things are not a coincidence.

One thing I also can't help but notice is that refinancing would be a lot easier for someone who didn't need it as much. There are sums required for paying for the appraisal, and there are other sums they said they would need that turned out to be mistaken (like the property taxes for the end of the year), but the reason I am trying to do this is because I am left with no extra money each month, not for fun.

So that of course reminds me of my recent post on Paul Allen, and how not liking the terms of his loan didn't stop him from defaulting and still owning the building anyway. I don't know how much stress that was for him, but I know he never stops being rich.

It also reminds me of Culture Crash:

One of his points was that we are getting to where only those who are already wealthy will be able to be artists and musicians, but also journalists, so the options for the working class to get good information about these changes is going down too.

I had seen the demise of journalism as being more dangerous, but there would be great poverty in losing the creative voices that are out there now, and the ones that haven't spoken yet. It is important on a personal level, but it impoverishes us as a society as well.

So I know I said I was moving from political back to personal, but this is personal. I can live with working a day job if I still get to write, but if I become so worn down and so stressed that I can't write, life is much worse.

Watch that happen over and over again, for multiple people. No young bands coming up and following random people on Twitter. No one making art criticizing the oligarchy. Children don't learn art and music and schools, how are they even going to start? It doesn't even send ripples out into the world; it's just stagnation.

One thing that makes it easier for us to judge others is when we don't know their stories. Art helps people find ways to share their stories., via song, prose, poetry, pictures, and every other way. The more money that gets more tied up with the one percent, the more it strangles everything else.

And you know, I still think Black Lives Matter supersedes the economy, because economic fear is still better then fear that you will be pulled over for making eye contact, or not making eye contact, and where not signalling on a courtesy lane change leaves you dead in your jail cell.

If these are my vacation thoughts, you can see why I'm such a buzzkill when I'm working.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Another MOOC bites the dust

I am mostly done with the nutrition MOOC. I have listened to and read all of the material and completed the section exams. I just have to do the essay, which I will have to do after I get back, currently being on the road.

(If you notice some irregularity in quality or posting from the road, don't be too surprised.)

I am taking the class for knowledge, not credit, so nothing terrible would happen if I didn't do the essay, but if you really want to know that you have learned, it is helpful to do everything, and an essay is especially helpful for putting thoughts in order.

One of the last discussion threads the class had - and what I believe my essay will focus on - is about personal responsibility versus the state regarding the growing obesity crisis.

Most people leaned toward personal responsibility, at least initially, and I would have too except for one thing. It's not that I personally am fat, because I have always blamed myself for that.

Some of the reading I have been doing lately, often via, has made me think more. There are many stories of doctors ignoring patient complaints or blaming them on weight when there were other issues that needed treatment. There is more of a push now from the pharmaceutical industry to treat obesity before other issues. They ignore the signs of good health, like activity levels, cardiovascular fitness, and good blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Without saying that fat equals good health, I have become somewhat cautious on the topic of an obesity crisis - the indicators and priorities may be a little off.

The other thing that came up recently was talking to a friend who has been unemployed for a while now. She has always been slender, but has gained twenty-five pounds during this. One of the really cheap foods she has been able to buy has been bulk peanuts, which she has been relying on for protein. They are a cheap source of protein, but without starch or fiber they are not very filling, and they are still high in calories and fat.

It's not necessarily the only factor and I'm sure the constant stress doesn't help, but it reminded me that when we talk about personal responsibility we assume that people have real options for healthy eating and physical activity, without thinking about how much that is tied to economic status.

Poorer neighborhoods are less likely to have sidewalks and lighting for walking. They will often have less options for fresh and affordable produce. They probably have a lot of access to highly processed foods. Lots of poor people survive on ramen noodles and boxed macaroni and cheese because they are so cheap. Hipsters will pay good money for ramen, and with vegetables and an egg thrown in, it probably is healthier. When the key selling point is that you get five for a dollar, maybe the vegetables cost too much.

We've all heard jokes about poor obese people: well it looks like she can afford to eat. Maybe, but it doesn't mean that they aren't hungry or malnourished, and it certainly doesn't mean that they are lazy. A job can still be exhausting without being active. Then there may be children who need time and attention, and more often now, aging parents, and it can be really hard to find time for exercise.

Maybe they could be making better choices - I could - but I keep becoming more aware of how many obstacles get placed in the way. Some are based on city planning, or corporate influence, or the state of the economy, so there are things working together that are not easily fixed. That happens, and they are most likely to receive recrimination and jokes. Looks like he could afford to miss a few meals. Well, there's a good chance he has. That will help the body be really aggressive about storing fat.

Those are just some thoughts. A little more on that tomorrow.