Friday, September 29, 2017

Concert Review: Angélique Kidjo with the Oregon Symphony

Angélique Kidjo has an amazing voice.

Its resonance filled the hall, expressive and warm. I know that she is famous for the length of time she can hold a note. That is impressive, but it may not be useful, depending on the quality of the note. That is not a problem here. She achieved this volume without sounding hoarse or bombastic, and at first it was hard to focus on anything but my awe.

As you get used to the power, it begins to feel appropriate. The warmth of her voice and delivery coincides with the warmth of her personality. She is funny and nurturing, and it would come through in her stories and explanations even without being aware of her activism and advocacy.

Kidjo's strength and vitality would be obvious in her dancing and teasing of the audience and playfulness with the conductor. After many songs her energy only grew, sending her out into the audience.

It starts to make a certain sense that all of these qualities would manifest themselves vocally. And yet, that isn't necessarily right either, because many wonderful people cannot sing a note. Somehow in this person it works out, a voice and a heart to inspire, matched up perfectly in one gift to music.

I have been listening to some of Kidjo's recordings, and I recognize many of the songs from the performance: "Kelele", "Afirika", "Fifa". They are good, and then there were fun surprises. I was especially glad to hear her version of Boléro, "Lonlon".

But I know now that you do not get the full affect of her greatness through a recording. If you have an opportunity to hear her in person, you should grab for it.

I am grateful to my friend Karen for taking me.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Band Review: Young Lungs

Young Lungs is a breath of fresh air.

The indie rock band from Pittsburgh is fortunate in their lead singer. Meg Willis has an appealing voice, sounding light and young and clear. The subject matter of the songs is frequently serious, but the delivery is often upbeat, interesting, and again, fresh.

I appreciated that through their Bandcamp you can listen to acoustic versions of many of the songs, as well as the regular versions. On listening, I believe Young Lungs would be able to easily scale up or down for different venues and provide a good show.

Songs I especially enjoyed include "Fix Me" and "Battle Cry".

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

In case you don't see me posting for a while...

This is two really late blog posts in a row. Some of that pertains to other commitments interfering, but I can't deny that stress is a part. Also, I spent a lot of time writing the second part of me watching science fiction, but that's not what I need to say right now.

I don't know how much longer I'll have internet.

That's one of the bills that is late. I can't dial out on my cell phone anymore (sales calls still seem to come in just fine), and the mortgage is certainly the worst concern, and the calls on credit cards suck, but this has been a new level of stress.

I do worry about entertaining my mother with no cable. I try not to have her watch too much television anyway, but some is still entertaining and can give me a break. For a lack of communication by phone, well, my sisters still have cell phone and work phones, and the creditors send snail mail too, so I can work with that.

Internet, though, it would really hurt to lose that.

Even if there are things I need to submit via mail, the research to find that is generally via internet. Most submissions are via internet. Job searches and applications happen through the internet. Then they usually want to talk on the phone, which is a problem, but even getting to that point essentially requires internet.

Those are very practical concerns, but there are other pangs that are more personal.

Every day I wish people a happy birthday as appropriate, I do a song of the day, and I do a blog post. The birthdays are really just as dictated by Facebook, but I care about it. For the songs, I am starting to get close to the end of the songs from Nothing Feels Good. I want to finish that, and there are so many reviewed artists piling up while I have been doing that. There are songs for a long time.

For the blog, well, I was going to hit 500 bands reviewed earlier than I meant to, and a little break would change that, but that isn't the only option; there are some previously reviewed bands with new material.

For me, there is a sense of accomplishment there. No matter what else I do wrong or badly or can't solve, I consistently produce content that combines mind and heart. That means something to me. The songs and blog posts are often connected to something I am learning or studying, and that matters to me.

Speaking of learning, I had a mild panic about using the library site to request books, so requested five. I was going to spread them out more, some of them being quite lengthy. That would make more sense, but panic.

Speaking of libraries, I know that many people access the internet there. That would require two bus fares and bringing my mother with me. It's not practical for daily use.

I know the sense of connection that comes through internet contact can be somewhat illusory, but it has been meaningful for me. It would be isolating. I would be very sad.

And for all of that, I still can't deny that other people have it much worse. I guess that might be one comfort; if we lose internet and television I won't be seeing any news. That would remove one source of stress. It would just take away a lot of the good things too.

So, that's my venting for now. Things remain difficult. I don't believe we will end up homeless or starve, but there is a lot of room between here and there for much to go wrong, and much suffering. Here you have my cri de coeur, and also my explanation if I suddenly stop posting.

I have said before that if I quit with these posts, then I've given up - that my continuing to do these little things no matter what calamity is happening that day is my way of not having my life dictated by calamity. Someone might remember that in the event of a lack of posts, and think I have finally surrendered to the darkness, and am fighting no more.

That's not completely impossible either, but it's not the only possibility. Just so you know.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

I watch science fiction, part 1

It looks like the immediate danger for Graham-Cassidy is over. I suspect that's temporary, so some of the other things I wanted to say about it can keep. For now, let's talk about movies.

In the fairly recent past I have watched Elysium and Mad Max: Fury Road. There were some similarities.

Both came from the library. They were both rated R, which made me a little less likely to see them. I decided to watch both of them anyway based on things that were said regarding them on Twitter.

With Elysium, what I saw was a question of why they wouldn't just share the medical technology. The answer seemed pretty obvious, but I like to be thorough. That's why I decided to watch the movie.

A brief synopsis follows. While you might think that movies from 2013 should be past spoiler alerts, I nonetheless affirm that there will be spoilers.

In a dusty miserable Earth jobs are scarce, crime is high, and there appear to be plenty of orphans. But that's just below; above is a beautiful space station where everything is clean and high-tech and there are scanners all over the place that repair damage to your body on a DNA level. Everything can be cured. However, they don't work if you are not a citizen of Elysium. None of the people living in terrible conditions on Earth are citizens.

There is a black market for cars, but even more there is a black market for getting your citizenship hacked and getting up to Elysium for healing. Elysium is very against these huddled masses, so much so that a ship full of them is shot down early in the film.

Matt Damon is Max, a grown-up orphan who gets an arm injury that makes losing his job a risk. That could mean going back to jail. Instead he works injured, but the lack of full abilities leads to a jam, and the evil mid-level manager insists on Max going in to clear the jam. (The future is terrible.) This results in Max getting a blast of deadly radiation where he only has a few days to live. He could get healed on Elysium. He works with some black market contacts and they get a hack that makes everyone citizens, and medical ships immediately begin transport to Earth to let the healing begin. (But not for Max, who died a hero.)

Obviously I oversimplified that. I believe the main criticism of the film was that it was predictable. It did stick to some tropes, especially tiresome in the case of Sharlto Copley's character. Still, there was some great casting, a nice contract with the sleekness of Elysium and the opposite on Earth, and I found the ending genuinely moving.

The big surprise for me was when they dispatched the medical ships. It was beautiful, and beautiful to see the excited masses approaching for treatment, but if you don't even need to let everybody on the ship, why not share?

And that part still felt like the truest thing about the movie.

We don't have medical technology quite that good, but we can still do some pretty good things, and we still have a bunch of people trying their hardest to cut off access. Why?

Greetings from the dystopian present.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Mormons should be fighting Graham-Cassidy

Bold title, I know. After all, we're not supposed to be political.

Except that's bull. For every time that they remind us over the pulpit that the church does not endorse any political candidate or party, we still end up with a lot of members who are sure that their political and religious beliefs are inextricably linked. Making a connection is not unreasonable.

So, if your faith in eternal families leads you to value children, and want to have children, you should be against Graham-Cassidy.

Under Graham-Cassidy, insurers can charge an additional $17000 in annual premiums. That's if they cover it, because they would not be required to offer pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was the first time insurers were required to cover maternity care. Insurers may cover more than required, but the balking at fairly basic requirements isn't assuring.

Maybe you can decide that following the Word of Wisdom will protect you from a lot of things. If you are not only not smoking but also eating lots of grains and fruits in season, that should decrease your risk of cancer, making you unlikely to be affected by $142650 premium increase for those with metastatic cancer.

It does help, but off the top of my head I'm remembering some really good members whose cancer did metastasize. Eventually it killed them, so I guess they didn't need coverage after that, but it took a while.

Maybe you can consider many afflictions to be God's will, and best borne patiently. Maybe you put a lot of stock in essential oils. Maybe you find it completely possible to ignore any problem that is not affecting you specifically, though that's a strange thing to pull from the scriptures.

Regardless, even if you can manage to not care about any other health issue, there is a good chance that you are going to have kids, or you have already and someday they will have kids, or that someone you care about will have kids; how many of them can afford an extra $17000 per year for the privilege?

Maybe you think that can be gotten around with midwives. That can work out, but a lot of these pregnancies are older, too. Isn't it better to have medical care available and affordable? Doesn't that make sense?

And if you are living in some of the more densely populated LDS areas, your calling now will mean more than anything I can do. My hippie-liberal senators and representative would not support Graham-Cassidy if I called them up and asked them too. Orrin Hatch, on the other hand, could benefit from having constituents call and ask him to vote against it.

For that segment of members who don't like that the ACA covers vaccinations, I'm sorry, please do this for the greater good.

For any who feel left out because you are not a Mormon, also sorry -- it just felt like something that needed to be said. For what it's worth, I believe similar reasoning should apply to many fundamentalist Christians as well.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Band Review: Mayhem & Me

Without at all intending it, for the second day in a row we have a band from Hobart, Tasmania.

Mayhem & Me self-describes as alternative/ dark folk.

There is a definite sense of unease working itself through the songs, especially on "Ribs". This darkness does not present as evil or aggressive, but more an acknowledgment of being besieged by a hostile world.

Music made in reaction to that can become elevating, almost purifying, like "Holy Moses". The guitar strongly forces its way forward, rising above. That same guitar can be a menacing current moving underneath on "Look Before You Leap", perhaps underscoring the importance of that look.

All of that is strongly accentuated by the eerie inflection given to the vocals. I think fans of Siouxsie Sioux could appreciate Mayhem & Me. Also, maybe fans of The Cult.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Band Review: The Silverbeets

The Silverbeets are a band from Hobart, Tasmania.

Working mainly in the genre of indie/alternative rock, I get a strong sense of nostalgia in listening. The title of "We've Got a Groovy Thing Goin' " indicates that it may be intentional.

I can't swear that there's a Theremin in the accompaniment for "Does Not Equal Ten"; it's more likely that there isn't. There is still a rather experimental sound to it, summoning up how we looked to the future in the past. I think The Byrds would like what The Silverbeets are doing.

I am interested in the kind of New Age elements of "Passenger Side". About half of the songs are more that way, with the other half being more groovy. There are some thoughtful lyrics.

The Silverbeets do not appear to have their own Youtube channel at this time, but you can find a couple of performances by searching on their name.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Farther along, but there are others

There was one other thing that helped me be okay with myself, body and spirit combined.

It was a gathering of people from high school. While there were multiple good interactions, the most important one was someone I was in love with through most of high school and my first year of college. I hadn't seen him for about twenty years. He was so happy to see me.

I was just hoping he wouldn't be unhappy to see me. I have been this way with everyone, torn between thinking they wouldn't remember me, they would remember me being annoying, or they would find me annoying now. I have gotten through that many times, but because of my feelings for this one person, it was a lot more pressure. He was so happy to see me.

When people enjoy my company now I can sometimes think it's due to some of the growth and maturation that came over time. The last time he saw me, I was still that immature girl, fat and believing that it ruled out boys ever liking me, disowned by my father and in denial about how badly that was affecting me, sometimes prickly as I tried to shield myself emotionally from all of that, and rather socially awkward. Yes, I was also a kind and smart and supportive back then, but still a bit of a wreck, you know? That's the girl he knew, and he was delighted to see her. A lot of other work has gone into this level of self-acceptance, but that was a huge boost.

I am also pretty sure that it was having this positive experience with the first boy I loved that led me to look up the second.

I have searched at random times before, but this was the first time I had found anything recent; he had made some videos and posted them on Youtube. This was not surprising because he was always a creative person. It was disappointing.

The videos were poorly thought out and executed. That could have worked if they were playful. There was an underlying bitterness, and antipathy toward the audience. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. My heart used to leap when I saw him; here it just sunk.

If he were a stranger and I stumbled across the videos, I would have thought they were stupid and weird and moved on, but I remember when he was different. I remember him as someone goal-oriented and focused who would have put more thought into something he was filming. I remember that focus as also applying to people, where when you were talking to him you felt like there was no one else in the world, but he did that for everyone because he did care about people. I don't remember him ever being very funny, but he was definitely more pleasant. I remember him being charismatic.

It has been a long time for us too, but there were some signs of a growing bitterness back then. I guess the bitterness won, but I think it came from losing. It came from setbacks and trying to make things happen and them not working out. I'm really sorry about that. There is some relief in being sure I am over him, but it shouldn't be because of this.

Society tells women they have to be beautiful, and part of the insidiousness is that the standards keep moving, changing to something less attainable. There is a different pressure on men, but it is still destructive. That is more true as their targets keep moving, and at a time when even the old targets are becoming harder to meet.

We are going to spend more time on toxic masculinity. I don't know if it will be next week. I might have to spend some time on health care.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bucking the system

A recurrent theme has been how different books interact with my learning and thinking. We're going to have some more of that today.

I read The Zookeeper's Wife (by Diane Ackerman) because we went to see the movie. That happened because we saw a trailer for it before A United Kingdom and thought it looked good. We then heard nothing about the film until we remembered to look and found it was playing at the second-run theater, so saw it a bit later than we might have otherwise. Seeing there was a book, we requested it from the library, where there were many holds. This happens with books that inspire movies even when they seem to be flying under the radar. That is why I did not read it until the end of August.

I read it a month after reading The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, which meant that when I read that Antonina was orphaned during the early days of the Russian Revolution, I was familiar with the Bolsheviks killing the Poles resident in Russia. I can't tell you now whether that was actually in the book, or if it was something I encountered when trying to sort out the Intelligenzaktion when Nazis were killing the Polish elites and the Katyn massacre, when Soviets were killing Polish officers and intelligentsia. Nationalists and Communists are supposed to be opposite, but then when you are reading about them there are so many mass killings that it can be hard to keep them straight.

I read The Zookeeper's Wife not long before Hunger and not really that long after Beauty Sick, which may have made the part about the rations stand out more.

During the German occupation of Poland, there were daily calorie allotments. In 1941, that was 2613 for a German, 699 for a Pole, and 184 for Jews. That was in the book, but in other sources too. Ackerman phrased it as something like "The only thing required of you is to disappear."

As much worse as it was for the Jews, you can see the Poles weren't highly valued either. They would have eventually been intended for extermination too, but I suppose the difficulty is that you can't gas everyone at once or shoot everyone at once. Logistically you can't bury everyone that quickly, but if you transport some, and crowd some into bad conditions where some will die on their own until there is room in the camps for the rest, and then once all the Jews are gone you start on the Poles, and hey, there is a logic behind it. Incidentally, this is why it is reasonable to assume someone identifying with Nazis is a bad person.

But that's not what I'm writing about today.

Today I writing about how many girls have put themselves on rations like the Nazis put on the Jews.

I know there is a sickness involved in taking on the level of self-infliction, but that sickness is in keeping with the demands of a society that doesn't value women. When the standard of beauty is always smaller -- more delicate, easier to look around, easier to push aside -- that is not a society that values women.

I tried to imagine a society where the beauty standards favored greater health and heartiness, and it just wouldn't happen. As long as we have a society where someone has to be on top and power is important and classifications like gender and color affect the balance of power, then having a beauty standard that is literally diminishing is completely logical.

Not everyone gets a diagnosable psychological disorder from it, but it creates a lot of unhappiness for the well, too. Frankly, under this kind of order the diagnostics become harder. That is how you end up with a diagnosis like EDNOS - eating disorder not otherwise specified - not specifically adhering to previously understood disorders, but still seriously ill. But that compulsion to be less would not run nearly so deep if there weren't already so many reminders, and so many people invested in maintaining that a woman is already less.

That is why our feminism needs to be intersectional. We will not resolve any of the bigotries until we quit needing to push down someone else to feel good about ourselves. There are probably going to be many, many posts revolving around that.

For today, just know that if a system requires you to be less, you need to buck that system.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fat and feminine

At last, we get to those final two books from the Long Reading List:

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

It was easier for me to agonize over my weight because I was a girl. Too much of my worth was caught up in being able to attract boys, and it was made very clear that I could not do that. It took decades to get over. There is more pressure on women to conform to beauty standards, and lots of obstacles to feeling like you have succeeded in meeting those standards. This fits into both patriarchy and kyriarchy, though I am not going into that now.

Instead I want to cover a some main points from both books, and then in the next two posts focus on how the system is harmful to women and how it is harmful to men.

Before reading The Feminine Mystique I had not realized that what happened after WWII was new. It's not that there hadn't been any type of sexism or chauvinism before, but great steps backward were forced as a reaction to the greater independence and leadership roles that women had gained during the war. Then there was a great effort to pretend that it had always been that way, and it was the natural, right, good way.

That is worth remembering now. People who feel that their spot on the top is threatened - no matter how illusory their supremacy is, and no matter how destructive their fight is - will fight. They will also pretend it is right and deserved. Hidden Figures as a movie focuses on three women, but that phrase can apply to many people who have been contributing all along and to whom credit is denied.

The Beauty Myth spent a lot of time on the advertising industry and how it contributes to that pressure to be attractive; we should constantly be looking at the effects of advertising.

I was recently reading about ways that advertisers appeal to children to nag their parents more effectively. Parents should be aware of those tricks and making conscious decisions about how to deal with it. Many, many products have ads trying to show you that your life is not good enough without them. Considerable thinking should go into what creates or disturbs the satisfaction in your life.

There was something else that I found in the criticisms of The Feminine Mystique, and that I kept in mind when I was reading The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir -- these are middle (or upper) class problems.

That is not that all issues of sexism are class-specific, but that vague feeling of things not being enough - "the problem with no name" - that was a result of empty time and no requirement for meaningful activity. Poor women had too many other things to do and worry about.

I am also not touting drudgery as a cure; that may be worse than the disease. But women are people, and want to be able to contribute. When their sole domain is the home, and labor-saving devices and hired help take all of the work out of that, it leaves a woman nothing to do but be an ornament. That wouldn't be satisfying even without all of the ads and comparisons reminding you that you just aren't beautiful enough as an ornament; even the most beautiful women age.

Friedan gave an example of women attending lectures on things like architecture and art, but those activities feeling empty because they weren't going to use that knowledge in any way. Initially I bristled, because I love learning about all kind of things, many of which I will never use. However, I do things. If your life is meaningful, these things are icing. If your life is empty, the frivolous may seem like a reproach.

A great source of guilt would be that the husband and children should be enough; didn't they love their family? Family is a wonderful thing, but the man was getting a career and family, and no one looked down on him for having both. For a women, it meant there was something wrong with her, and right at the time when a new wave of psychologists had come to the United States with training that blamed everything on the mothers. Sadly, it was not readily understood that their training was deeply grounded in Freud trying to understand why women would imagine having been sexually abused because such abuse couldn't have been real.

That's not even ironic. That's just, "Of course it would go like that!"

I am doing better about this thing that hurt me, and I am grateful for that. I am also aware that the system is still in place, and currently hurting many others. As I go back and forth between the personal and social, I am always looking for ways to make it better. I haven't stopped believing better is possible.

That bright possibility is going to require us to want everyone to have it better. That means not worrying about whether that weakens our own position, not feeling like some people don't deserve it, and choosing love and uplift over their opposites. It is radical, it might even feel violent, but it has wonderful potential.

(Apologies to anyone who thought the title meant the post would be about fashion choices and beauty rituals. Titling isn't really my strong suit.)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Band Review: Marshall Crenshaw

I put Marshall Crenshaw on my review list quite a while ago, when Jesse Valenzuela of the Gin Blossoms praised him. (Crenshaw helped with the writing of "Till I Hear It From You".)

One reason I add recommendations from musicians to my review list is that often they know bands I have never heard of but really like when I get to them. I knew who Marshall Crenshaw was, but something about Jesse's tweet made me think - absolutely correctly - that I didn't know enough.

I did not know about the release of six EPs between 2013 and 2015, mixing new, original material with covers. That includes the affecting "Driving and Dreaming".

I knew nothing about Miracle of Science (1996), which stands out because while there are lots of good songs all over Crenshaw's catalog, I feel like Miracle of Science has really great cohesion as an album. (I am not just saying that because of the outstanding "Theme from Flaregun".)

Most important, I knew nothing about "Whenever You're On My Mind", which pierced me to my soul from the intro.

Crenshaw has a remarkably expressive guitar; it amazes me again and again. That's the kind of thing you find going deeper.

Of course I knew "Someday, Someway" and I have always liked it. His voice is good for expressing yearning and was a great match for Buddy Holly in La Bamba.

But that guitar practically forms words, and says more than words can say. It is fitting for that talent to have a career that spans decades and keeps finding something new.

That's why I am glad I did this. So thank you Marshall, and also thank you Jesse.

Marshall Crenshaw plays in Portland at Dante's tonight, September 15th:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Band Review: Zach Nelson

I am not sure that I can give Zach Nelson a complete review, because I am so distracted by the apparent use of Autotune.

A sense of artificiality pervades the tracks. I guess I find it difficult to believe that his singing is poor enough to make the enhancement necessary. And if it isn't that bad, then why? You can do a lot of synthesizing instrumentally without touching the voice.

There may be a hint on the two bonus tracks on 2014's Tell Me What It's Like to Fall. "I'll Always Love You" and "Just Let Me Know" are both really fun and energetic, while also being super digital.

Maybe some of the other tracks are going for that, but it feels like a waste. Technology can enhance music, but if it takes over to the extent that human feeling is lost those enhancements can backfire. I feel that's what happened here.

Some flat singers are really popular. Some musicians hire vocalists. I'm just saying there are other options.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


It is not surprising that the next round of realization came after reading a book. Maybe it should also not be surprising that it didn't go smoothly.

I have had many disappointments this year in terms of things that I wanted to do and hoped to do and just couldn't. One hard hitting one relates to this book. I saw that Roxane Gay was coming to Powells to promote her book Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. Money was tight, but I was going to splurge on a copy of the book so I could have her sign it after hearing her speak.

I was really looking forward to it. Not only am I a big fan of Gay, but I felt like the book would be important for me. That was the book that was going to enable me to finish blogging about the last two books on the Long Reading List and one of the last Problems.

Then I couldn't get in the room.

I am not her only big fan. I left as soon as I could, but I did have to wait for someone else to be home with my mother before I could leave. By the time I got there the room had already filled up and started a long line snaking down the stairs and around the next floor. If I stayed in line I would still be able to get a book signed, but I wasn't going to hear her speak, and I was going to be waiting a long time.

The disappointment was pretty crushing. I don't even allow myself to hope for too much in terms of recreation any more. My sisters are reasonably good about sometimes taking my mother somewhere so I have the house to myself, and that's good, but going out and doing something fun is much more complicated. It takes something to do, and a way of getting there, and usually money. I have still hoped for three things this summer, and none of them worked. This was actually only the first letdown, but I still felt it.

I just wanted out of there, so I did not buy the book. Still, losing out on the recreation part was bad, but it wasn't a reason not to read the book, which I had still expected to be helpful. I requested it through the library.

Roxane Gay is popular there too. I missed her on June 30th and requested the book then; it just came in a few days ago. It was after reading Hunger that I realized I am okay with my body.

The book was helpful by itself. There are parts of her story I recognize as my own, with others that are very different. Her writing style referenced the contradictions beautifully, where you might understand something on one level but not really know, or want something and not want it at the same time. I relate to that.

I know the biggest objections my readers could have will be my health, though I think I have been clear that I am not abandoning that. She helped here too. She does mention health issues, but when I was reading about her exercise efforts I had a flashback to back when I was working at Amber Glen. There was a conveniently located gym there. It changed names three times, but I still went consistently.

The number on the scale never moved, but I remember feeling strong. Perhaps it was delusional, but I felt like I was glowing with power after a workout.

If I chain my perception of my health to my weight, it is too easy to devalue everything that is good for me. Things that make me feel more energetic, or happy, or that result in good blood pressure and cholesterol readings will always be insufficient if success has to feature weight loss. I will not do that to myself.

Possibly what got me most were her ruminations on the life that might have been, because I have seen that life. My current life was never part of any plan, I assure you. I can still see many good things about this current life now. It's not that the other life might not have been good too, but I only really know this one, and I accept it.

That probably helped, but also the delay might have helped. I said earlier that it takes time to emotionally assimilate what you have figured out intellectually. June 30th might have been too soon to realize that yes, I am at peace with my body. By early September I was ready.

Missing her speaking still stings a little, but it's comforting that things still work out. I am still on my path.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

How did that happen?

I think The Obesity Myth helped the most.

The Obesity Myth: Why America's Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to Your Health, by Paul Campos.

It wasn't even that it was completely new information. I read about it on blogs where I was already getting similar information anecdotally. It was helpful to have someone but it all together and correlate with studies.

Three things stand out as notable now. One is that obesity only becomes a health risk when it affects mobility. That helped the things that are good about my health make sense, and gave me a motivation to maintain mobility. I mean, I like my mobility anyway, but it is important enough that it should be emphasized, and Campos did a good job of that.

The story about Susan Estrich may have been even more helpful. A very accomplished woman at size 12, her proudest accomplishment came when she went down to a size 6, though it meant not having any other notable achievements because losing those sizes in between took everything she had. Enjoying food and exercise and work -- life, I guess -- could not coexist. Given the things that I have tried that haven't worked, I can't want thinness enough. It would not be a good choice for me.

The other thing The Obesity Myth did was send me off to some other books: The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear by Seth Mnookin; Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History by David Aaronovitch, and Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences by John Allen Paulos.

None of those books had anything to do with fat or body image, but they had a lot to do with how wrong people can be about all sorts of things. I don't know that this specifically helped me get over caring what other people think, but at least it didn't hurt.

Still, I was done with all of those books in March and April. I may have felt better about my body then, but it was not where I am today.

I know Beauty Sick helped a lot:

Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women by Renee Engeln.

That was in July. Originally I would have thought it was not going to make much of a difference. I have been considering myself not even in the running for beautiful for so long that my reactions were more about feeling terrible for other women. That worked out though, in two ways.

Some of the exercises they use to get women out of these patterns involve role-playing explaining the destructive patterns to others. After you have told someone that they don't need this and should not be hurting themselves, it is harder for you to stick with that behavior. They harness the cognitive dissonance of it all.

Now, I know women have a long tradition of thinking everyone else is beautiful, and reassuring other women of their beauty while holding on to a deep knowledge of personal flaws, and are rarely bothered by cognitive dissonance there. Focusing on the behavior, though, is different. It appears that I can tell you that you are beautiful without believing I am beautiful, but I can't talk to you about the dangers of purging and still feel right doing it myself. Perhaps actions do matter more than appearance, but my empathy having been activated by everyone else's stories seems to have mattered.

That wasn't even one of the exercises that I was able to replicate, but I did try a few, and they were very affirming. I realized some good things about myself, and it was a boost. Once there is a focus on substance instead of appearance, I come off a lot better. There is another tradition for women where we are not supposed to know good things about ourselves, because that's conceited, but I may be past that too.

I felt better, and yet I still wasn't where I am now. I was on the way. Some of that may just be that even after you have intellectually realized something it still takes time to assimilate it emotionally. I have had some time.

There were other points along the way, and things that made the realizations more clear, and that will be something to post about tomorrow.

Related posts:

Monday, September 11, 2017


I have had a strange realization lately; I don't seem to care that I'm fat anymore.

I have been working on accepting my body, but even in May I wrote that no matter how good I was getting about accepting myself, I still had that desire to be pretty, which meant thin. Now, only a few months later, I don't feel that in me anymore.

I am still aware that I am fat, and that this is not considered conventionally attractive. It is an issue for where I can buy clothes and how strangers may react to me and even how some chairs feel. I know all that, and I don't care. Two people I care about have started another attempt to lose weight, and I feel sorry for them.

I feel sorry because there will be so much deprivation and frustration, and even if they end up making some progress, it will probably come back a bit later plus a few extra pounds; they already hate their current extra. That's exhausting. They are already too tired.

My level of acceptance could relate to being tired. There are so many other things going on that I don't think I have the energy to worry about my size. It is seriously less important than so many other things.

It is not from a surge in confidence. Between the job thing and everything else, I am not feeling on top of the world now. I was feeling that pretty deeply last week, but then I remembered that a lot of this is temporary, and not a reflection on who I am. It's not that this isn't hard - it is still really hard - but I am a good person, and I like myself.

My weight doesn't matter.

There is more to say about that, because I have cared, and there are people that will care, and naturally there are books that have helped me get here. There are probably also things that I will still need to do.

It is nonetheless nice to be able to take a moment and realize that something else that really hurt me has stopped, and to feel amazed and at peace about that.

Related posts:

Friday, September 08, 2017

Band Review: Ryan Hamilton and The Traitors

I actually was not followed by Ryan Hamilton and The Traitors, but by their street team. However, I think that means Shanna, and I support Shanna, so they get a review.

Ryan Hamilton and The Traitors are currently based in Fort Worth, Texas, but have roots in the UK as well. The Texas connection may be more obvious, as there is a sort of country flair rollicking under the music. It is still absolutely more correct to call them rock than country, but country fans could enjoy it.

(Also, if you remember Rakunk - a Chicago-band reviewed last year - I think the two bands could share fans pretty comfortably:

Good songs to check out include "We Never Should Have Moved to L A" and "The Gulf of Mexico". No, not all titles are place-centric, but those two stood out. I also really liked a live number they did, "Freak Flag".

The band should be a good time, whether recorded or live.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Band Review: The Merry Jaynz

I admit when I saw "underground swamp rock" I thought that meant zydeco, but The Merry Jaynz are not zydeco. Maybe that is only for Louisiana. The Merry Jaynz are from South Knoxville, Tennessee.

Their red, yellow, and green, along with the name, made me think they might be a little more reggae in nature, or at least hippie. That isn't exactly right either.

As it is, in addition to there being room for different misguided ideas about the band, there is also room for more than one kind of band.

When the songs are instrumental, they are really catchy bass-driven funk. "A Thing" and "Soulmate" have completely different moods and are both excellent.

When voices come in, the instrumentation is the same but the sound is not.

The messages are often on point; "Most of Us (Dead)" sounds horrifyingly accurate. However, the voices are kind of distorted, giving the music an almost psychedelic feel. It reminds me of the music of a lot of my more counterculture friends.

That gives me some guilt about liking the instrumental tracks better, but taste is subjective. I can give The Merry Jaynz credit for filling two very different needs.