Thursday, March 31, 2016

Concert Review: Noveller

I unexpectedly got a chance to go see Iggy Pop. Excited to do a live music review again, I searched for the opening act and found this:

"Noveller is the solo project of Brooklyn-based guitarist and filmmaker Sarah Lipstate. Handling the electric guitar as her muse, Lipstate summons a sonic palette so rich as to challenge the listener to conceive of how it’s housed in a single instrument manipulated by a solitary performer."

Oh dear.

I was able to do some pre-listening. The description doesn't mention "ambient" or shoegaze" but that's what I was thinking. That was actually my ray of hope, because while listening to M83 at home was grating, I didn't mind them so much live.

Indeed, during the show was better than at home. Lipstate uses a Spartan setup. There is some equipment, but mainly she plays her guitar under a single light, with her long black hair swaying back and forth with her.

I could easily imagine her as the hot bass player in an otherwise male band, but that is an objectifying thing, so surely being out there doing her own thing is better. Still, shouldn't music be musical?

At her best the numbers sound like whale songs; at worst like tinnitus.

My friend and I listened at the show. We discussed Noveller and it wasn't even all snark. However, we also got bored and talked about other things, including how we while we don't really like jazz we are willing to believe that we are just missing something and not appreciating it enough. (Also that we believe that Prince knows enough to get jazz, which seems random but it was germane to the discussion.)

It is also possible to not like some music and to feel pretty comfortable with that dislike.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tech leaps

I am slow to buy new technology. I'm not really a Luddite, but I am not an early adopter at all.

It is partly that I want to use things up. When we moved here in 1978, one of the things we brought with us was an upright freezer that was built like a tank. It lasted thirty years. I really resented when the small, modern one that replaced it only lasted seven. It couldn't even make it to ten.

(I have written about this tendency to wring the last drops out of something before replacing it:

One reason some people could legitimately replace something that is still working is because of new features. I get that. The other side of that is that when you really put off upgrading, seeing the new technology is amazing.

We recently replaced our 18 year old television. It was Cathode Ray Tube technology. Getting it out of the entertainment center and into the car was difficult and laborious because it was so heavy. The new flat screen is pleasingly light.

I had some trouble working out the inputs, because it was not recognizing the DVD player, even though it seemed to be hooked up correctly. Well, that's because this TV has a kind of spongy square on the back with a slot for a DVD. I thought our old TV/VCR combo was spiffy!

(For the DVD player, because it hooks up through the AV connection, that's the correct input to select.)

I also replaced the phone. I did get a new cell phone (which I still do not have data for), but that's not what I mean. We still use a landline, and a phone that has a cord connecting to that landline, but the caller ID was becoming hard to read. (The phone wasn't quite as old as the CRT TV, but it was getting there.)

Well, would you believe it? In addition to displaying the caller in large, easy to read letters, this phone also announces who is calling! The pronunciation tends to be a little off (Mistry, Grenpass), but still, this is so much easier for my mother! We no longer need to go to the phone to decide to reject the caller!

See, I may seem like a cranky (and cheap) old person, stubbornly clinging to the past, but I'm not above being excited about this stuff.

Now get off of my lawn.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The rainbow

In the process of journal writing I did a review of the books from the long reading list, and one of them appeared a bit differently to me.

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange

When I first read it, I knew I wasn't getting it enough. It is a choreopoem, so with the book you can get the words, and an idea of the actions and how it looks, but it just isn't the same. I accepted that.

When I went over Thirteen Reasons Why, I mentioned that it did not seem real to me that she would commit suicide. Her alienation felt real, but not that reaction to it. It was somewhat the same with this.

None of the stories felt like suicides to me. Of course, in the play they don't die. They have considered it, but ultimately are following their own rainbows, continuing to live. For having "suicide" in the title, it did not seem to be that much about it.

I still believe it is realistic. Based on things that other Black women have said, it appears that the pressures that come from institutional racism, and internalized racism, and misogyny and misogynoir, that appears to be enough to get them to where they at least think of it. It's horrible but it's reality. Perhaps because it is so common in that way, it could remain unstated in the play. It is the underlying truth, and subtext.

It is a completely reasonable interpretation to say that what saves each of these women is that they find their own path - their rainbow - and by choosing to follow it they are able to go on. That is perfectly reasonable, but I had another thought.

I think I had the thought because of the slash in the title, as if there were two different titles and two different parts. I think that figured into it.

Each women is a color. There are Ladies in Red, Blue, Orange, Green, Yellow, Purple, and Brown. Together they make a rainbow. And what occurred to me thinking about the book two years after I read it: maybe they were enough.

At times the other women do stand in for the voices of criticism that are faced, but also they commiserate and support and understand. Maybe that rainbow is enough.

If we will care for each other and help each other, instead of piling on because we don't want to feel weak, or closing off because we are afraid, maybe we can be enough for each other.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Poetry Corner

Being in the middle of screenwriting (and worrying about money), I thought I would just post this poem I wrote, which seems appropriate.

Daily Bread

Elisha, to the widow’s cries
Found what last store she had left
And made the oil multiply
Flowing over to pot and cruse and vase
Each full container set aside
Until she could repay her debt
I am more like she of Zarephath.

In a lean and hungry time
Taking in Elijah as her guest.
Oil multiplied again, and meal,
But only day by day.
Never empty, never overflowing,
Until the famine went away.

I’d like to see Heaven’s windows open,
Spill out in plenty over me,
See the fruits of years of toil
Blossom with great rapidity.
But I might find, were that the case
That sloth would grow from too much ease.
Perhaps I’d think the glory mine,
And spend less time on bended knee.

Enough for a day is still enough.
Not rich, I am still loved and fed
Always knowing, I need Thee
And always granted daily bread.

- Gina Harris

Friday, March 25, 2016

Band Review: Something Like Kites

Something Like Kites has been pretty annoying for me.

I can't blame him. It was his team that followed me. I don't think this was so much an official street team as a self-appointed one, but I put him on the review list and found myself followed by lots of other devoted young girls. Something Like Kites does have a sizeable following, plus a picture of him with Ed Sheeran which I think gives an idea of the demographic. I eventually stopped following his followers back, and then started unfollowing due to the retweets.

I am not unused to fans retweeting the bands they love, or even bands retweeting fan praise. I am also not unused to bands tweeting about working for your dreams and believing in yourself; I have nothing against positive messages.

My annoyance was two-fold. One is that the devotion of the girls seemed a little more cult-like, as if they were working for him rather than zealously appreciating him (a fine line to be sure). The other part, though, was that his quotes seemed to go beyond the normal positivity to the power of positive thinking evangelism where only you can hold yourself back and no one else should be able to stop you.

That sounds fine, but there is a harsh side to that where if you haven't made your dream come true, what's your problem? In reality, there can be very good reasons where structural obstacles require more than the enthusiasm of the person trying to get past them, where responsibilities to other people can legitimately take away from your available energy, and where a refusal to acknowledge said reality opens you up for catastrophic disappointment and low self-esteem.

(Also, I think it's weird when he says he's here to make your dreams come true. Really? Working for your own dreams and encouraging the dreams of others I can see, but you're making theirs come true too?)

These complaints would seem to be separate from the music, but I believe that shallow confidence is exactly why I find the music so cloying. And there's so much of it! Releasing two albums in 2014 might make sense if you had a lot to say, but if the second album sounds that much like the first one, this time could have been better spent in reading books, taking lessons, or doing some kind of humanitarian service.

I was thinking that, and then it occurred to me that fans of Owl City would probably like him. He does list Owl City as an influence, so it's valid. If you like Owl City, you should check out Something Like Kites.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Band Review: Tempting Fate

Tempting Fate is a metalcore trio from Hollywood.

As might be expected, many of the tracks come through as angry blasts. There is still interesting nuance that comes through, especially on "Questions" and "This Is A Warning". I appreciate how the different musical elements come together in "Mutilation Line" and build the song.

Tempting Fate appears to be working on a new album now, but their previous album, Illusions, is available as a free download on their Bandcamp site.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Chloroform has disappointed me lately.

Working on Hostage (working title), well, obviously the title implies some sort of being taken into captivity. We've all seen the chloroform-soaked rag covering the face until the victim loses consciousness; it was the obvious way to go.

Unfortunately, I like things being accurate, and I'm curious. I started doing some internet searches to find out how fast it works, how long she would stay unconscious, and what waking up would be like. The middle question was the one that complicated everything. It only puts you out for 2-3 minutes.

Chloroform is not a sleeping potion. It's an anesthetic, keeping you out while you are inhaling it. Knocking someone out before transporting them seemed practical, but keeping them out while transporting them would be pretty dangerous, especially without a qualified anesthesiologist and monitoring equipment. They don't even put you out for surgery unless they have to.

This resulted in searches for other ways of rendering someone unconscious. I know if you're arrested for a crime, they do check your browser history, and mine would look pretty bad right now. I have no criminal intentions, so I'm probably good, but it does feel a little dicey. (But not as much as that guy who seemed to be looking for a way to do it in real life, and not just for writing something.)

Sometimes you see people being injected with something, but I can't find any subcutaneous sedatives. If it has to be intravenous, that can be hard to do on a struggling person in a dark room.

Sleeper holds can be hard to administer correctly and not a lot of people know how to do them. More to the point, I could never feel comfortable portraying one, as I associate them too strongly with police disregard for human life. (That's not just Eric Garner either, because I still remember Lloyd Stevenson.)

Knocking someone unconscious with a blow to the head is even worse. To hit hard enough to result in unconsciousness without resulting in serious injury is kind of a misnomer, because the unconsciousness makes it a serious injury. Odds are good of them having some memory loss, or lost sense of smell, or some other lasting damages. (I know people are talking about chronic traumatic encephalopathy a little now, but that could go a lot farther.)

It may be resonating more with me now because I have been reading a lot about brain function anyway, especially in regard to memory, and it's a fascinating thing. There are interactions that you wouldn't expect, and there is plasticity and healing power that can be miraculous, and yet there is also a real fragility. It's a good reminder of why you don't just hit people - even if they are annoying, or low down, or protesting your candidate. Assault is illegal and it should be.

And even though real life appears to be more boring than the movies, it can be more endlessly fascinating. Knowing more, it is even more impressive to me that he did pull off the kidnapping. It takes a lot more skill than I had previously anticipated.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Being a strong female character

Although I had scheduled all of the appointments before I knew I was going to be unemployed, I just finished the last of them, so it feels like this time has been very much about taking care of business. My teeth have been examined and cleaned, eyes checked and new glasses ordered, regular doctor and endocrinologist visited, and I finally got my hair cut. It had been September! My layers and ends were in sore need of maintenance.

I hadn't gone because of money. I was filling my hairdresser in on all of the things that had been leading to financial stress and belt-tightening, and it wasn't until I was relaying it to her that I realized something. I finally got all of the money issues caught up on February 19th. I got laid off on February 25th. It was less than a week of calm. I did not appreciate it enough.

Tina was supportive and encouraging, and one thing she said was that if all of this was happening to her she would fall over.

I don't believe that's true. She handles the things that happen to her, and I believe she would handle this. It would look different, because we are different people, but she would.

Periodically there are discussions of "strong female characters", or whether certain characters are feminist, and of course the Bechdel test. I pay attention to that because representation is important to me, and feminism, and also good writing.

I had been thinking about it a little more lately as my sisters and I have been enjoying "CHiPs" reruns. There was a two-part episode with some female trainees (they're coming back soon for an episode that was a spin-off attempt), and they were just obnoxious. Also Bonnie suddenly took a turn for the shrill the other night, which was different for her. Usually her niche is background competence and dazzling smiles.

I think for Bonnie, the issue is worse writing staff. It's about the right season for that to happen (5), based on other shows I like. With the trainees (from the previous season), there were things about the writing that worked well, especially Ponch having to give his trainee essentially the same lecture that Getraer gave him earlier. However, nothing felt realistic about the women. That is probably a decent writer who is male and can only really comprehend males.

In these cases, there will often still be a conscientious attempt to make the woman not conform to the stereotypical idea of a woman, but that might be done by making her brash and impulsive, while really tough - hence the "strong" in strong female character.

Women have other options for being strong besides imitating men, but one of the things I had been thinking earlier is that I have written very few characters that would describe themselves as strong. Sarah in the Family Blood series wouldn't; if she had been strong she should have been able to save her brother. As she progresses in her martial arts training she may eventually feel stronger, but she would probably still never use that as an adjective for herself. Other people might use it about her.

That's not that a woman shouldn't be able to know her own strength either. There are a few in the screenplays that probably do, and some secondary characters as well. Mostly, that is probably a reflection of my hyper awareness of my own shortcomings, but also I keep going and doing what needs to be done. Some of the people that I spend the most time writing end up being like that too. But that's not about feeling strong or brave, which almost never happens. Instead it's about doing what's right, and pushing through, and generally facing it head on.

Perhaps I need to branch out more, but one thing that works well is that my characters feel human to me, and real. I try to give that to all of them, not just the main ones. It helps if you can imagine lots of different lives and motivations and relationships.

There was a quote recently that I thought expressed it well, from Kate McKinnon about Paul Feig:

"Paul has let women be tough cops, CIA operatives, and lovable drunken flailing losers… but his most revolutionary act has not been just in casting women as scientists and badasses. We’ve seen that before-ish. No, his true subversion lies in creating female protagonists who are striving for the universal goals of friendship, connectedness, justice, and personal growth. These golden fleeces have always been the sole province of male protagonists. They don’t call it an everyman for nothing, and by building stories around female protagonists who are striving not for romance but simply to become their best selves, he has permanently changed the game for us all."

The first woman on film who talked tough and drank hard and was an ace shot could have been revolutionary. She may also have been largely defined by her relationship with and desire for a man. There's more complexity available, and it's a lot more interesting. Using that can result in much better movies, but it can also result in a better world where individuals are more valued.

At least those are my basic goals.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Glamour-less shots

In the personal writing I have been working on my body issues, and it felt necessary to get a few things out of the way, selfie-style.

Obviously my main body issue is my fat, but because it is so always there that there is a certain level of acceptance in it. Yes, I am still cringing at it showing in the pictures (we are only on Day 21), but I know it is there, I know I can't really hide it, and I have made some peace with that.

There are two other things that I am kind of sensitive about, but can conceal to a certain extent, therefore baring them is more difficult, and more necessary.

The first is my hair. You probably don't think I hide my hair, but what you may not realize is that I wake up with a head like an unruly lion's mane.

Water and conditioner brings it back under control, although through the course of the day it keeps getting dryer and thicker. FYI, such thick hair isn't great for scalp health.

Usually I have captured it in a pony tail before it gets that far, and that feels like the right hair style for me. Tying my hair back conceals it, but my hair is continuing to get bigger and fluffier all day, and then sleeping on it results in that state where really, I don't think anyone should have to wake up next to this.

I know I have married friends who have assured me that they see horrible things, and stuff like this doesn't matter, but they are still better looking and I feel like that matters.

I do sometimes sleep in a silk nightcap, which makes it less wild in the morning, but that's not particularly attractive either, "sexy lunch lady" not being one of your more popular fantasies.

Then there's my bad leg. It's the right one.

You may notice a crease on the left side. In the center of that is a scar. When I was taking down an above ground pool, one of the side supports recoiled and cut me. I cleaned it, got a tetanus booster, and didn't think about it anymore for a few years, until I was on a business trip and started feeling like I was getting the flu.

I got home feeling sick and crashed on the bed. The next morning my leg was inflamed from ankle to knee, red and painful. It was cellulitis and I had diabetes. Something else had gotten in there, and lay dormant until my immune system got weak enough to let it flare up.

I was in the hospital for a few days getting IV medications, and then I was on oral antibiotics for another month, but my leg never got better than this. It's still kind of distended, still kind of discolored.

I say it's the reason I don't wear bare legs, but I didn't really wear bare legs a lot before this. I didn't think my legs were shapely then either, but they were better.

So now they are out there in the world, and images on the internet never go away. I have to accept them as part of me too.

To even things out I will try and do a duck lips selfie soon. Those are glamorous, right?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Band Review: Consider Me Dead

I've had a hard time knowing what to say about Consider Me Dead, a trio from Arizona.

I think part of that comes from a disconnect between the look and the sound. At first glance you see black T-shirts, flannel, and tattoos. In addition, shortly after being followed by them and following back, I found myself in an unexpected discussion about the superiority of marijuana over alcohol, at least from a health perspective. While I didn't expect them to be straight edge, I was kind of expecting something post-core.

That is not the case. The only real growl-shouting comes on "The Anthropologist", and even then it is offset by a delicate keyboard accompaniment.

Actually, my first auditory impression was "boy band", based on some of the vocal elements. There is a strong electronic influence, most noticeable on "The Island". The band sounds softer than they look. This isn't necessarily to criticize the sound or to call it soft, but I think the cognitive dissonance may have thrown me for a loop.

"Finding Our Own" is a good example of what Consider Me Dead does well, and "Breathe Me In" makes me take notice when it comes on. "Let Go" is fun. Overall, though, it feels like the songs blend together, and don't leave a lasting impression. That is even more true on their second album, Young At Heart; all of my examples are coming from their 2012 release, Up in Lights. There is potential here, but it could use more development.

Still probably a good bet for fans of danceable electronica.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Band Review: Time And Distance

Time And Distance is a pop/rock band from West Virginia.

They just released a new song and video, "Something More", in January, but have been together since 2002. They probably fit in fine with pop punk bands of today, but sound as if they would have been perfectly comfortable in the '90s.

"War" reminds me of The Get Up Kids, circa Something to Write Home About. I may get a slight All-American Rejects vibe as well. I like those bands a lot, so that's praise.

"Little Disaster" is a good introductory song for the band: energetic, relatable, and fun. I love the intro on "Live A Lie".

There are a few tour dates currently listed. Nothing West is currently showing, but it sounds like they make regular appearances at music festivals.

I see different information on Facebook versus Reverbnation, so it looks like there is some room for improvement in their web presence, but that is worth doing. They are worth checking out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Enforced socialization

Yesterday I found making comprehensive statements about internet usage difficult because there is so much variation among analog humans and their digital tools. That can continue today.

Contrasting what happens online to "in real life" feels disrespectful of how meaningful some things that happen through the internet can be. That being said, physical proximity is important. Fresh air is important. Conversations that get too deep to tag with LOL are important. Also, there is something to be said for waiting and anticipation versus constant immediate gratification.

Facebook is great for casual keeping up. I like seeing that the children of people I know are doing well in school or that they have cute pets. It is gratifying to see that they like what I am doing. Status updates and reactions (because now you can do more than just "like") matter, but they are still somewhat shallow. (Plus that algorithm can mean that you start only seeing the same few people, plus ads.)

However, it can be very helpful for arranging contact. Of the last few times I have gone out, most were not set up through Facebook, with occasional phone or e-mail arrangements. Those exchanges are fun, but then the conversations that we have while out are much more satisfying. I mention this because I am at a place in my life right now where I both really need that and am unlikely to arrange it.

Not being employed is scary. Focusing on my writing is somewhat exciting, but there is also anxiety around it, and whether it will work, and how quickly the time is passing by. Combine that with worrying about my mother, and wanting to give time to her, and thinking about what I need to be in a position to help her, well, there's some stress there.

That stress makes it important to not stay holed up with my fears and my responsibilities, but to get out of the house. It also means that time is at a premium, and I get tired more than I would prefer. All of the literature on similar situations stresses the importance of self-care and socialization. It's completely logical, but it would be really easy to skip.

Faced with this sort of conundrum, my tendency is to make a list. There is one of those old big calendar sheets that I love so much on my desk. (It's for September 2015, actually, because I got it in January, but it was a 16 month calendar.)

There are eight categories of things I need to do, with lists below them, but one of the lists is "People", and there are people I need to remember to see or write to.

I'm not moving through them that quickly, but it's something. And it's something that I love doing, but that I have to force myself to do. We're strange creatures, humans, but that can be worked with.

If you want to get on the list, let me know.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Internet use

For my long reading list, both of the books I read relating to the internet were a bit disappointing, though they had interesting points.

The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age by Astra Taylor, 2012.

The problem with this one was that a lot of the problems with the internet she touched on had already been gone over in the other book (which we will get to). She referred to the author, and I believe I grasped her book better because I had read Lanier's book, but that made her book repetitive. Then she had just a few pages on potential solutions that started to get exciting right as the book ended. Really, she should have reversed the percentage of pages devoted to each aspect, but I suspect she might not have had enough more to say on solutions.

On to the other book.

You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier, 2010.

I think this came off as better not just because I read it first, but he gave more of the history, especially relating to Web 2.0, which did a better job of establishing context.

One of Lanier's points that stayed with me was that improvements to search engines had been detrimental in some ways. Before if you had an obscure interest in something you had to find obscure little Usenet sites, and relationships were formed through these common interests. Now people just look things up on Wikipedia.

It resonated with me because I remember when the first response to every search started being Wikipedia, to the point where for various topics I go there first. I also remember hanging out on the old IMDB message boards, hoping for chances to answer obscure movie questions, and still getting fond of the people who usually answered the questions first.

That also shed some light on what I was looking for, though I shall get there in a roundabout way.

The issue that I was looking at was not really one issue. There is growing lack of empathy and lack of depth and shorter attention spans, but also less interest in paying for things that we used to pay for (like music and news) because so much can be gotten free, which of course affects how we value the people who provide content, and there is a lot of abuse there, but that may relate to the lack of empathy, and so on.

There was not a good question that could be stated succinctly. "How can we not let the internet make us worse people?" Because the internet has good, and good people use it, and it's certainly not the only factor in people becoming dumber and meaner.

Without it being one clear question, there was not one simple answer, and I already knew parts of the answers. What I was hoping was that the books could give an answer that was clear and electrifying; something that could be passed on and people who needed it would recognize their need and go "Yeah!" In retrospect, it sounds naive.

One of the things that I remembered with this is that I am unusually good at internet research. That may not sound like a real skill, because internet research is so easy. It is to a point, but because there are some things that come up so easily, if you want something a little bit off from that, then phrasing can become very important, and knowing how to refine the search. Knowing what will give you the wrong results is really helpful.

The reason I am good at internet research is that I had a job once where we were researching things a lot, and it was before Google. We collected different search engines, because none of them would find everything available. Of course, there wasn't as much information on the World Wide Web twenty years ago anyway, but there was still a lot, and getting there took more effort.

Yahoo! was the best at the time, and generally where I started. We also used Lycos and Dogpile, and Hotbot and Infoseek. AltaVista was okay, but I loved it most for Babelfish. I tried Ask Jeeves, but did not find it useful. Northern Light was the one I discovered, and it would come through at the oddest times.

I started this job in 1997. Google came out in 1998, and it blew the rest away. I loved Google. I love Wikipedia. Without taking anything away from them, my point is that even if it only lasted for about a year, that time period where I was scrambling, without the cushy search engine and online encyclopedia, was good for me. I developed not just skills, but frames of reference and ways of understanding that are still useful.

In the same way, that time period of my life before the internet (and I love the internet) was good for me. I have the ability to concentrate, and to read, and think deeply, and to write letters and socialize.

Younger people may not have ever known that time when the internet wasn't there, but they can still step back. We don't have to hand phones and tablets to toddlers. Face to face communication can happen without emojis, when empathy is built. There are things that we do that are easy, but not required. Some of it is just a matter of establishing priorities.

I believe the internet does me more good than harm, but I also come to it as a person who is looking for good, which any of us can be.

That is only helped by periodic unplugging. Maybe an internet connection is only as good as your other levels of connection.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Writing update

This is only a brief update because today has been a pretty busy day. (Not just for writing and self-improvement. I also did yard work and mixed pie filling.)

I'm trying something new now.

I found I was not moving forward on Powers at all. It was ridiculous, and I felt like time was slipping away, and the writing time this month is really essential. Plus I kept thinking about Hostage. So I just decided to open all three projects at once instead of doing it consecutively. That way I could just write the scenes that were currently in my head.

I have read that this is a great way to never get anything done, because you just keep jumping to more and more new products. That is not impossible. At the same time, one of the writers I follow would frequently refer to projects 1 through 6, and she was getting paid for at least some of them.

I am trying it because at least so far it is helping me be more productive. If I did open up project four and five, that might not be the case, but I really want all three of these done this month, so I would theoretically work on all of them around this time period anyway.

The other thing that I'm doing is posting updates of the pages written for the day each night. I haven't been consistent about it, because I still have questions about whether or not it's an obnoxious thing to do, but it keeps me accountable and it can't be more obnoxious than the daily selfies.

So perhaps one big lesson for March is to not worry about annoying people. At least in terms of Facebook and Twitter, it's probably easy enough for people to mute me if they do find me annoying. Also, maybe people don't get annoyed that easily when you are doing things to help yourself, not things specifically intended to annoy them.

(Which makes it interesting that Facebook has an option to "poke" people, because poking is annoying. I never poke anyone.)

Anyway, I would like to have at least 11 pages done by the end of today.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Band Review: Ask My Bull

Ask My Bull is a flamboyant jazz punk band from Manchester who just launched their new EP.

In this case, flamboyant means gender-bending and visually outlandish. For example, you might see guitarist Fritz Lindner playing in a short green cocktail dress, garters, and fairy wings, or maybe Tom Le Cocq playing bass as a shirtless cowboy. On another night, they could all be wearing zombie makeup.

That can add to a party-like atmosphere, but perhaps what it should do is prepare you for things to be a little different, like mixing in punk with your jazz.

Having seen references to a two-piece, then a four-piece band, and now with five members as Fritz and Tom are joined by Elliot Slater and Luc Phan on saxophone and Alex Martin on drums, there is a feeling of something that has been growing and building. That is appropriate for jazz.

(Edited to add that Elliot Slater is new to the band since the completion of the EP.)

Their self-titled EP has five tracks. "Machete" is probably the most innovative, but I have a fondness for "Murunken". "Keep Pace You Wimps" lets you feel the funk.

I don't know what any of the titles mean. I'm not sure I'm supposed to.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Band Review: Brand New

I have had Brand New on my recommendations list for a while, ever since Matt Rubano praised them. Seeing that I would be doing a review on his birthday, this seemed like the perfect time.

Once I started listening, the second song brought back a memory. Back when I was disconnected from music, no longer getting it through television and radio and not yet knowing I could get it through the internet, somehow one of the music channels accidentally played a couple of videos and I saw them. They were "Head On Collision" by New Found Glory, and "The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows", a song that stayed with me even though the band's name didn't.

Being reminded of that was already a good thing, and then getting to hear Brand New's other music was even better. Having done some making up for lost time, I can see where they fit into the time period better, and that's interesting. They start out with the earnest pathos of emo, but already standing apart by their energy and verbal cleverness. I am very fond of Your Favorite Weapon (especially "Last Chance to Lose Your Keys" and "Logan to Government Center"), but then there is this growth and expansion where their music becomes more sophisticated in later releases.

Not only is Brand New a good band to be reminded of, but this is also a good time to be reminded of them. Things going on now include this year's release of Leaked Demos 2006, with a chance to hear other versions of older songs; a 2015 single "Mene" that makes a new album seem possible; and a tour kicking off in June in Canada. This is all welcome.

So check out Brand New, and thank you Matt Rubano!

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

The other thing

The last two posts should have made my priorities right now pretty clear. Career-wise I am working on my writing and internally I am working on my feelings about my body. There is one other thing. I am also trying to spend some time focusing on my mother.

I have written about her memory problems before, but only briefly - that is her story, though it does affect me.

We want to slow any decline as much as possible, and we try and do some enrichment activities for that, but there has not been a lot of time to give to it. I have time now.

I have been doing some reading that relates, and I have at least one more book to read, so this is ongoing, but I do have some areas of focus where I want to try and get new things integrated or existing things expanded. I need to be careful that it doesn't interfere with the writing, but some extra time with Mom should be possible.

My interests lie in four key areas:

Enrichment - This is what we have already been doing the most, trying to make sure that every day she does something that's a little bit different and that can help build new brain pathways. She has coloring books and word searches, and those are good, but doing the same activity each day would siphon away much of the impact, because part of the growth comes from variety. I hope to make that time less repetitious and more enriching.

Meditation - Sadly the book I read on meditation was horrible, but I believe it can still be helpful. This is actually one of those cases where I might be best served by doing an internet search instead of reading another book.

Exercise - My sisters and I are pretty regular with exercise, but Mom needs some activities more tailored to her needs. Fortunately we have some videos that she can do on her own, once the DVD player has been set up, and as the weather gets better we can go on short walks. Adrenaline can help memories set, so pumping up the adrenaline more could be helpful, within moderation.

Nutrition - We have already been working on less processed foods, more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables for all of us, with some progress and some more to go. However, it appears that she should also be eating more fish. I will try and make that happen just for her.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016


I had said it was coming, but I finally started doing the 365 feminist selfie thing on March 1st.

Originally it seemed like a good idea to start right after completing the Throwback Thursday thing I was doing. That would have had me starting in November, but when my camera died in September that went out the window.

I ended up forgoing any other birthday wishes and only wanting a new camera for my birthday. That worked, making a January start possible, but there was still the process of figuring out how the new camera worked. It's a little different than the old one.

As I was starting to get the hang of that, I started obsessing over it being Leap Year. Would I have to type #366feministselfie? The simplest thing seemed to be to wait until March 1st to start, so that's what I did.

For a year I will take a daily selfie and post it to Facebook and Twitter. I am using the hash tag #365feministselfie on both, because that provides an easy way for anyone who is curious to get a better idea of why I might be doing it.

With 8 down and 357 to go, I probably haven't learned that much yet, but there are a few things I am noticing.

One is that I am already trying to think of different ways of doing things. I don't have that many different shirts. I don't know that I will be going anywhere cool in the near future, so it is just going to be this boring me over and over again. Will I be seeing anyone? Let's get them in the picture. Oh, I'm leaving the house today; maybe I can work that in. "Daily" is so relentless; there's no getting away from yourself. That's probably the point - that over and over again, just yourself is enough.

There is no getting away from flaws either. I know I am going to be fat in every picture, but my chin bothers me more than I thought, and my forehead is so huge. That's why I always wear bangs, but then in some of the pictures they fly away or are falling back, and there I am: fat, dorky, and with a huge forehead.

Also, my skin is really spotty lately, especially around the nose. For a long time I had pretty good skin without trying, and now I guess I need to try. Today I did a purifying mask, but of course that just made it worse for now. I knew that would happen, too, we had a young women's activity on it once. (Don't get a facial on the day of your date. Do it Sunday night so you look good at church and it has time to go down by Friday or Saturday night.) Only I still don't care enough to wear makeup.

I remember seeing a comment on someone not too long ago that her Facebook page was all selfies so obviously she was a total narcissist. I'm not sure that was true in her case, though there were probably other issues. One reason I put the hash tag is so people will know there are other reasons. A selfie can be an affirmation that you are there and you exist, and that you don't need to pay for a photographer to prove it.

My selfies are a tool that I hope will get me to a point where I don't cringe at how I look. Previously I thought the only means of accomplishing that would be somehow looking better, a goal which was always sadly elusive. Later I found that many beautiful women had similar levels of insecurity, as if it were against the rules to appreciate your body no matter what good points it has. It makes alienation from your body really easy.

The way I notice my flaws may make it seem like it's not working, but face yourself often enough and maybe you make peace with it.

The first obvious lesson is that no one has a problem with my body the way I do. This is important, because another of those rules seemed to be that women have to be attractive. No one is acting like I owe them any beauty, so maybe I'm okay there. Those affirmations are nice, but ultimately what will be most important is when it feels real to me.

It's a good time for it. The reasons that I chose March 1st may have been somewhat arbitrary, but in my other work I have gone through that initial sense of shame and always feeling like I was being silenced when I was sad. The next emotional hit was being told I was fat, and the disconnection from my body, and everything that went along with that. That's what I'm working on now, and daily selfies can help.

Moving on.