Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Working on Everything Else

One thing that I have noticed when men disagree with me is that it is common for them to denigrate my blog at the same time that they expect to be in it: "Maybe I'll show up in a rant in your blog", "Now you'll just run me down in your little blog."

There is probably a lot to understand about how men see themselves and see women in their expectation of inclusion, but my point today is that I know what my blog is and what it's for. Implying that it's just ranting and raving shows little familiarity with my style or typical subject matter. (Only two Celebrity Hate-Extravaganzas in over ten years!)

Calling my blog "little" is telling me what I already know.

I check my stats. I know the audience I get. I generally only wish that it was bigger when I an reviewing a really good band that should be more known, and realistically I cannot give that to them.

My blog does not change minds. It does help some people who tend to agree with me have a better idea of how to say what they want to say. That wasn't a role that I expected, but I am glad to fill it. Words are my thing, and I value people having a voice.

Mainly, it is for me. I work out my thoughts here, among other places. At the same time, sometimes those thoughts have value to other people. As sometimes people do get helped, it's not unreasonable to be considerate of that.

I expect that there are going to be several posts on Everything Else. I referenced it yesterday, but blog-wise there are references there that go back to October, and beyond. Some people have been following along for a while, but it might not hurt to fill in some back story. That's what I want to do now.

First of all, if it is not already obvious, writing is an important means of sorting out my thoughts. I do keep a journal, which covers some things, but other things go in the blog or in both. Twice there has been something additional.

Many years ago I just wanted to try sorting everything in my head and my heart out. I started a document that I called Everything. I felt at the start that it would take 200 pages, and including the Table of Contents I added about midway through so I could find things, that was right. I believe I started it in 2007, but I didn't keep dates and I regretted that later.

A lot has happened since then, and it felt like time for another round. That's how Everything Else got started, and I knew it would be 100 pages.

When I started the Everything Else document, I made one page where I wrote down everything from the three lists (Problems, Wants, and To Do) blogged about in October, plus the sequence of wounds from the Overall Arc, plus all of the books from the Long Reading List.

I knew I would want to go over all of these areas, though it was certainly possible other things would come up. And they did. This topic had a completely unexpected section in Everything Else, and then in the blog:

(But because I noted dates this time, I can tell you that in Everything Else I wrote about in on December 13th, and I didn't blog about it until February 8th. That's not an unusual lead time.)

To track my progress, I changed them all to red print, and then as I finished a writing segment, I would change it back to the standard black. I finished the last of the red topics on May 2nd, though I had to write some new things that came up. (The actual completion date was May 5th.)

I also have all of those topics set up in a spreadsheet for blogging. With four arc sections, twelve problems, eleven wants, sixteen assignments to do, and thirty-one books, only fifteen have already been changed from red to black.

That's why this introduction can be helpful. This could be many blog posts. For some of them, there may not be much that needs to be said, but sometimes after the one writing you see new things, and then you have to evaluate it again. (Which also means that if in nine years I need to write 50 pages on my issues, it's fine.)

Also, for the To Do list, there are things that I have written about, but that I have not done yet. The year of selfies has been helpful already, but there is a lot left to it. I have not started transcribing my mission journal or taken any driving classes yet, though I have written about what I think they will accomplish.

Often I can see ahead for several weeks worth of blog posts. I had something completely different in mind for this week, and yet my feeling is to hold off on that, and focus on this. Maybe that is because I am in such a state of transition right now, and the healing that I was working on is going to be important in navigating the transition. Maybe I need to read some more before getting back to political topics. My blogging is often driven by feeling, and I am comfortable both with planning and changing plans.

This is me. I have no illusions about that and I'm not trying to fool anyone else. Frankly, one of the best things about the time I have spent at this is the comfort that comes with not needing anyone else to think or feel a certain way.

This is where I'm heading, and you are welcome to come along.

Monday, May 23, 2016

More selfies

While I've been writing about books and politics, a lot has been going on.

I've been having some really good conversations on the selfies. They do things for other people that I hadn't really thought of. For the intended purpose of becoming more accepting of my own appearance, there's a reason that you do it for a year. I am not quite one quarter of the way through, and there is still progress to be made. Still, there are other things that happened.

One is that I had some really bad days, where I could not work up a smile. If I wasn't committed to a daily selfie, I would not have taken pictures on those days, but I had this commitment, so there wasn't any hiding from it. There were some pretty sad pictures, and some gritting my teeth trying to get back to somewhere good pictures, and there was this:

May 9: #365feministselfie The past couple of weeks I have been exhausted, hurt, allergic, sick, and insulted. Still here.

Covering the things that went into that picture should give a pretty good update of what's going on in my life right now, and how it is has been going.

First off, my severance is done. I have now started getting serious about my job search, which I meant to start sooner, but the writing took longer than I wanted it to, and that is still my preferred method of earning a living. Putting off the job search may have repercussions, but one thing that was happening in those two weeks included ridiculous login problems with the state site, which was very discouraging. It required some long hold times, but login issues are resolved, and I am now being more organized in my search.

The last time I blogged about the writing, I had decided that I was going to work multiple projects, and also that I was going to post how much I had written each day to keep myself accountable. That was good to a point, but there were a couple of things that went wrong with it.

I was trying to do too much. I'm not saying that's what got me sick. That has happened before, but this particular illness was a cold that worked its way through the entire household (I was third). Even though I had allergy symptoms before it hit (and I still do) I felt the cold descend upon me with a sneezing fit that pretty much announced "This is different."

It may have been a helpful reminder that I have limitations. I have so much I want to get done, and it feels very important. I need to finish these scripts, and I probably can't write that one right until I finish these books, and then I need to do these things, and I didn't give myself the support I needed, nor was I getting it from anywhere else. The breakdown came around April 26th, which was also the last day I posted a writing page count.

I switched to focusing on finishing Everything Else, that document of self analysis and assignments that I have been working on since November. I finished it May 5th, which was really fortunate because the big insults came on May 6th. They stung less because of something that I realized when I was finishing up Everything Else.

I am still not functioning at the level that I want to. Like, at some point if I could have a day where I exercise, and provide enrichment activities for Mom, and cook a nutritious dinner, and make progress in a book and earn some money and write, that would be really amazing.

At the same time, I've learned a lot. I did finish one screenplay, and I only have one scene left on another, and the two events I was working on have come off. I even did some fun things. I finished some books.

One of the things I have been doing for job hunting is viewing various webinars and things, and part of that is remembering that I am good at stuff. Losing your job - no matter how nicely they break the news - feels like a rejection of your worth as an employee. I do have a lot to offer. When I work for you I do a good job. There is this process of building back up, and I am getting there.

And, just with where I am at in my efforts at personal growth, there is really nowhere to hide. This does not seem ideal for either job seeking or agent seeking, but it's where I'm at. Maybe that's okay. This here is the person who will work hard for you, and who plans hard and writes hard and maybe I'm just kind of intense. I'm at least intensely human.

But most of all, I'm still here.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Band Review: Break Away

While reviewing New Jersey band Break Away, I was listening to "How to Tell if Your Ribs Are Broken" at the same time that I was tweeting with a girl who was trying to decide whether to see the doctor about an injury.

I thought of it as a coincidence, but then I was reading the story of the song (available on its Bandcamp page), and there are things that fit. There were recording issues because one member thought it didn't sound right, and then it couldn't get fixed, which was a blow to the whole EP. At the same time, having that important song incomplete brought the band back together.

(My person had reasons for going and not going to the doctor, and eventually all I could do was hope she would make a good decision.)

Little things can get much bigger and be a source of great frustration. Sometimes it is completely outside of your control, but even if it feels like it is becoming a disaster, that disaster doesn't have to be permanent.

There is a fair amount of recorded material on Bandcamp, but from dates in 2004 and 2006. Then, on Youtube, there are many live clips recently loaded. Even if the material is older, the band activity is new. That broken rib festered for a while, but it was not fatal.

Break Away embraces both pop punk and punk rock. There is often a subdued feeling to the sounds that makes me want to call it alternative punk, but that may be splitting hairs. Guitars drive and attack in a way that is at times almost percussive, but the delivery remains musical.

Three cheers for unfinished business.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Band Review: Above It All

I found Above It All - like most of the bands I review - by them following me on Twitter. When that happens, my first exposure is usually whatever they link to in their Twitter profile. In this case, the link goes directly to their song "Anchors", even though they have seven songs available on Soundcloud.

I normally think it makes more sense to go to the general Soundcloud address, and that's what I am including in the links, but I can't fault them for doing it. There is something so engaging about "Anchors" from the intro on, that it seems like the best possible introduction.

I enjoyed listening to the rest of the songs and I enjoy the band. They are a pop punk band from Dallas who - despite being chronologically young - have been playing for a long time. There is a good spirit to the music and they are worth listening to.

You could make a good case for listening to "First Rate Fiction" before any other tracks. It is their first official release off the new EP, and the possessor of a strong hook.

Still, there is something special about "Anchors".

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The 2016 Election

Sanders did win Oregon. As white as Oregon is, I am not surprised. (I am disappointed.)

It is unlikely to have any impact on the race in November, which should be between Clinton and Trump. Today I want to write about how that will look.

First of all, I expect it to be ugly and bitter.

I may at some point do a post about "Those Idiots at Malheur", though they are not at Malheur anymore. If I don't get to it, let me say now that one of the most frustrating things for we was when they said they held a successful non-violent protest, referring to the Bundy Ranch standoff. Maybe no one died there, but it drew bloodthirsty people to the area. Five people died at the Wal-Mart shooting. That included the shooters, yes, but if there had been no standoff, would it have happened at all?

You may be able to say hateful, violent, and paranoid things without shooting anyone, but that doesn't mean that other people aren't closer to the edge. If your audience consists largely of those likely to feel threatened and powerless, the risk goes up.

That has been especially noticeable this year. The people listening may be more volatile than in the past, but it's nothing compared to how irresponsible politicians are becoming. So Carly Fiorina goes on about "baby parts" - apparently referencing one completely different video to criticize a doctored, lying video - and that exact phrase is murmured by the clinic shooter, killing three people and injuring nine more.

Trump uses ugly language against Mexicans and Muslims. Beyond the violence at his rallies, a homeless Mexican man is beaten by Trump supporters. Muslim and Mexican students are beaten by a Trump supporter, and a shop owner is attacked. We don't even know everything that Trump has "inspired", but here is one story:

It is not limited to the Republican side. I am used (especially during election years) to having conservative acquaintances get pretty rude, but the worst harassment this year has been from progressive Bernie supporters. (The worst attacks came from when I posted an article about how some Bernie supporters have been abusive, but they did not seem to appreciate the irony.) Bernie has had many opportunities to tone down this behavior, but has generally chosen to focus on how aggrieved he is that the DNC - after letting him run as a Democrat - have not changed things enough that his smaller amount of votes will let him win. Sure enough, the Nevada convention got ugly, and even in disavowing it Sanders focused on how the Democratic party needs to be more welcoming.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to anger finding such a receptive audience, but at this point, it's here, and it's a problem and the most frequent targets will be women and minorities and especially women of color. So, keep an eye out for the vulnerable. Even if they seem really strong, be supportive. We need more of that than the anger.

I didn't even mean to write that much on that aspect, but more on the course of the campaign. I saw someone predict that Trump will move more center, trying to frame himself as a moderate, and I see the logic in it. He has at times appeared more liberal, and people like him for being a wild card - not for how conservative he is.

The GOP doesn't like that wild card aspect, but they've lost control. Not getting behind Trump means being shut out. I don't see that happening on a party-wide level, though I would love to see a few members of Congress with consciences pull a Jim Jeffords.

I expect big donors to be split. Adelson has come out in favor of Trump, but the Kochs have said that Hillary might be better, and they're right. That's not because their values are good, but - and I have said this before - they are doing very well under the current system. They could easily decide that continuing with a liberal in the White House who faces congressional deadlock is better than potential Trump chaos.

If the Kochs do endorse Clinton, anyone running against her will use that against her, regardless of her having said she would not value their endorsement. Sanders has claimed that he would not run as an independent, but he has also promised not to be a spoiler, and you could argue that he has gone long past the time when he should start supporting Clinton instead of fighting her.

Trump would love a third-party candidate.

Here's one of the things that bothers me the most. If Trump does try to portray himself more moderately, and more presidentially, he could not put on more than a thin veneer. That should crack easily under a little pressing. That should be the job of the press itself, and I have no reason to believe they will do that. They have been courting Trump's favor, giving him free publicity, and not doing their job.

Now imagine that deference to Trump combined with their coverage of Clinton: A Sanders win is a win, but Clinton "didn't lose". They imply her support is weak, when her votes say otherwise. They focus on those who find her unlikeable, but people who have dealt with her overwhelmingly do like her. Even the photos that are chosen to accompany stories are always the worst ones.

Ultimately, that means that my hope comes down to her. The media might not press Donald, but Hillary will. He will push back but she has weathered worse. The odds against her include factors that really shouldn't be there, but if anyone can overcome it, I believe she can.

I'm with her.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Hot Sauce

I wanted to do something a little light today. It's election day, and in a few hours the votes will start being counted. Polls show Clinton in the lead, but polls and votes are not the same thing. We shall see.

(Also, tomorrow's post might be kind of a bummer, so today we'll meander and learn some cool things.)

It started with Hillary Clinton's appearance on a morning show, The Breakfast Club, hosted by Charlamagne Tha God, DJ Envy, and Angela Yee. (No, I had not heard of it before, but I think I had heard of Charlamagne before.) They asked her to tell them something she always carries in her purse, which is a very common interview question. She answered "hot sauce".

This set off a whole thing, with accusations about Clinton pandering to Black voters, along with many defenders proving vigorously that Clinton has a long history of loving hot sauce, including having a collection of 100 bottle of hot sauce during her time as First Lady, and remembering that it was used in the 90s to make her look low class.

That is all somewhat interesting, but not necessarily the part that I find most interesting.

First of all, the accusations of pandering tended to focus on the line in the Beyoncé song "Formation":

"I got hot sauce in my bag, swag."

The morning crew seems to focus on this, saying "Are you getting in formation" and "swag". Clinton looks completely blank. So when they say people will say she's pandering and she answers, "Okay. Is it working?" that strikes me as her completely missing the reference, but she does get accused of pandering a lot, so she tries to handle it in that manner, but keeping it light.

And that's fine. Beyoncé is pretty big, and the video and Super Bowl performance got a fair amount of publicity, but Clinton is also a 69-year old woman running for president. It is completely possible to know there was a song without knowing the lyrics. (I'm sure someone has explained it by now.)

My mind went - and it would have been the main destination if I had not read the "Formation" lyrics - to the 2002 Eddie Griffin film Undercover Brother, where he had a hot sauce dispensing watch to help him tolerate mayonnaise.

I remember thinking that as someone who had to travel a lot, where sometimes the food might not be that good, or it might be high quality but geared toward a completely different palate, then the hot sauce could come in handy. Then it got more interesting.

The defenses for Hillary's love of heat (which pre-dates Undercover Brother too) included her responses to earlier questions. There are multiple incidents, including even her Breakfast Club segment, where she says that she believes hot sauce and peppers keep her immune system strong. It keeps her going.

That really interested to me. I remember hearing back as far as high school that cayenne is good for your immune system, and various types of spicy foods are frequently mentioned as boosting your metabolism. A strong metabolism and immune system is a definite benefit for someone always on the go, but I know a lot of people who would never take advantage of it because they hate hot foods.

That's why I was also interested in this recent question and answer in Ask Marilyn:

The cilantro example resonated for me. A lot of Lao food uses cilantro. I never thought about it one way or another, but there was another sister who hated it, and she got so tired of eating it in everything. This explains it; it made everything taste soapy to her. (And then once some people took her to Marie Callenders, and she ordered a dish with cilantro in it without realizing until it came!)

I never use mayonnaise, but I never use hot sauce either. My family thinks of me as liking spicy foods, because some foods I really like are spicy, but it's not the heat that I like. They are savory and I like that enough that I can deal with the heat. (Yes, I like umami, and yes, MSG gets used in a lot of Lao food also.)

But I have friends who love spicy, like one who tried to grow her own ghost peppers and one I gave a bottle of Sriracha to one Christmas, because that was his great love.

So all of that, all of those reactions can relate to how many taste buds we have, and which variants of them, and which receptors are working, and yet there are still more factors that go in to whether or not we enjoy them.

I have talked about complexity in some of my political writing, because it is a thing that exists in the world and has some perils, but complexity can be found all over the place.

I think of the taste issue in conjunction with The Psychopath Inside on brain function. It wasn't just nurture and nature, but also different parts of nature, because there are the genes that build the brain, but also the ingredients that work in the brain function. Is the serotonin there? Are the receptors set up to grab it? Is there anything that could be blocking it?

Complexity gives us a lot of things that can go wrong, but it also gives us mystery, and fascination, and makes things more interesting.

One of my misfortunes is that it seems like the healthiest foods - fish, walnuts, and cruciferous vegetables - are the ones I hate most. There are lots of other foods out there, and certainly other vegetables. Maybe if we all like some, no one has to like all of them. People who think roasted Brussels sprouts taste like candy, I don't understand get that at all, but rock on anyway. You do you.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Foreign policy

For criticisms against Hillary Clinton, I take those on foreign policy most seriously, and yet they are not enough to dissuade me. I'm not sure it is possible to get foreign policy right.

I'm sure it's possible to get foreign policy horribly wrong. For example, considering nuclear proliferation to be a good idea because it keeps people in line shows a strong lack of understanding.

Allowing people to adapt brainwashing techniques into torture methods to produce false information, thus fabricating "evidence" to convince Congress to authorize war with a country that you are only interested in because of Daddy issues is clearly wrong. I feel comfortable labeling those things bad. Still, in foreign policy, that something is not egregiously wrong does not mean it is right either.

For example, many foreign policy decisions post World War II were based on standing against Communism. The Soviet Union was actually trying to increase their influence at one point, so it may not even have been completely ridiculous to fight communism, but fighting it often went badly. Vietnam may be the most obvious example, but one thing you can see with both that and the Korean conflict is that there were a lot of deaths and you still end up with communist countries there. Sometimes you get rid of a monarchy, but if you end up with a hereditary dictatorship, it may not be much better. At least, I think that's how we feel about Kim Jong-Un.

At one point, working against Russian influence in Afghanistan seemed like a good idea. They even made a Tom Hanks movie about it: We are going to end the Cold War by weakening Russia's grasp! And then you will have the Taliban repressing people and sheltering Al-Qaeda when they launch attacks against us that kill thousands of people.

I have written about this before, kind of, but years later it is just more entangled. Before World War II it wasn't about communism, but there was still King Leopold plundering the Congo for rubber, and US fruit companies exploiting the Amazon, and everyone wanting a piece of the oil in the Middle East.

You can look at conflict between Hutus and Tutsis, or problems in South Africa, and say the tribes aren't capable of governing themselves, but that overlooks everything that was changed and upended by the colonizers, and all of the loss of life and leadership as their resources were being stolen.

History has really deep roots, and ignorance of those roots doesn't change the shape of the tree.

So, you have people being oppressed and killed. Ignoring it is horrible. Doing something will result in many deaths, and be very expensive. It is unclear how many lives you can save or how to sustain those lives once the first threat is gone, because they will need water, food, and shelter. What do you do?

I don't like drone use, especially when they are used to kill people. The last time I referred to that (about three years ago), I saw it as a continuation of the status quo by someone who had joined it - that getting power makes you automatically more invested in maintaining it, and it was understandable if not ideal.

That could still be true, but I also see the pressure to not let there be any more attacks. Are they stopping attacks? It's possible. When some things are working well, you don't know about it because you only see when things go horribly wrong.

It's just an area where I am slower to judge. I see a lot of difficulty for the things that I do know, and I realize there is a lot that I don't know.

That being said, it is meaningful to me that, as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton advocated for women's rights and children. So many of the things that went wrong in the past went wrong because it was easy to not think about protecting the vulnerable. It is significant to me that she does think about them.

I will take the candidate who is pro love and kindness. That is the direction we need to take.

Somewhat related posts: