Music and Art Monday April 30th 2018: Pensive Tunes

Is there anything like music to set a mood? What happens if you’re already in that mood? The wrong music can totally kill it.

These are a few go-to albums for when you are in a pensive mood:

Linda Perry In Flight: my first girlfriend dumped me while this was playing in the background. From the very first chord of “In My Dreams” this album is a drag. But in a good way. You may know Ms. Perry for her Four Non-Blondes hit “What’s Up” or her feud with Pink, I know her mostly for this album. It’s the perfect background for any melodramatic mood. There is no way you can be cheerful whilst listening to “Success“. That bass line always gives me goosebumps.

I also recommend her second album, After Hours, though it’s a bit hard to find.

If you’re in a creative funk, Jon Hopkins’ album Opalescent provides the perfect ambiance. See what I did there? He’s an ambient musician… Well, I thought it was good. I was listening to this album when I decided to take an old job back. It was raining a lot and I was driving around. You would have to be there. It’s always a go-to on nights when I just have to stay up and paint, write, or Photoshop.

That and most of the album sounds an awful lot like the soundtrack to the original Maplestory.

Hopkins’ collaboration with Purity Ring is what piqued my interest in him. But Purity Ring is a great group on its own. another eternity is a tremendous album for when you’re in that mellow but optimistic mood.

Nothing says “mellow” quite like levitation.

Every song is written in such a way that you are almost not sure when one ends and the next begins. Despite the similarities I do have two favorites, “Begin Again” and “Bodyache” stand out to me and are particularly good for a bit of an uplift.

What are some of your favorite songs/albums for mellow moods?

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On Being Boyish Or Girlish

Someone tell my daughter she’s too brave…

Brave, strong, energetic, fierce. What do you picture when you read those words? Rather, who do you picture? I dare say the person in your mind’s eye is a male.

Why?

Likely you have many reasons. Fairy tales, action movies, perhaps you even read the book “Wild At Heart”. We assume men naturally have these characteristics. And that these are positive traits. Men that lack them seem like less of men.

But girls that have them? Do they become less girly? No, quite the contrary: they are well recieved.

We actually value these traditional “male” traits more than traditional “female” traits like humility, quietness, meekness, and delicateness. Characteristics that can be considered “weak” are looked down upon in our “only the strong survive” culture.

We have so over-emphasized self-reliance that any trait that seems dependant on another person, like empathy or compassion, has become a flaw. Femininity, or rather what we have chosen to define as femininity, is weak. To be feminine is to be demure and vain.

Therefore, we are more than willing to accept a “boyish” girl. She is strong and self-reliant. She will not be a burden on our individualistic society. She will contribute to it by being in the workforce and producing independent, strong children (who she will give to the State to educate and raise, but I digress).

We can accept girls who don’t exhibit those traits. After all, they are girls. We can’t expect all but the most exceptional of them to act strong and independent. Girls who aren’t “boyish” are okay. They make good wives to the more “manly” (read: brutish) men out there.

What about boys who don’t exhibit those traits? What about ones who actually exhibit those feminine traits?

We have gotten to the point where it is just assumed they are probably gay. We have actually gone back in history and labeled many historical figures as such. Men who expressed deep love for other men and wrote passionate letters to them (not sexual, just passionate) must have been homosexual. I’ve even read theories that Jesus and John were a couple.

Apparently straight men are incapable of anything other than brutish vulgarity and everything they think, say, or do is basically sexual. If he is brutish and aggressive the man is straight, if he is gentle and passionate (yet restrained) he must be gay. Or at best asexual.

And gay, like feminine, is weak.

Why can girls be “boyish” but boys can’t be “girlish”? Because we are phobic of “weakness”, that’s why.

Music and Art Monday April 23rd, 2018: As Promised

Well, as promised, although a week late, I finally sat down and recorded a few videos of my rusty guitar playing.

First up are two of my favorite John Prine songs: “Take the Star Out of The Window” and “Paradise”. You can definitely tell that I am rusty.

And here are two originals from almost 20 years ago. I was not the best lyricist back then, and I probably haven’t played these for 10 years. The first is called “Hold Me To Your Side” and the second is “Blue Bob Blues”. It was not written about my wife, I swear it.

It was fun taking a trip down memory lane, even if it was a bit bumpy.

Boyish and Girlish

Oh look, a butterfly, so girly!

My wife sent me a link last week knowing that I would just have to comment. I have written at least three posts about the subject after all. I didn’t ask this exact question though: Why is it that girls can be “boyish” but boys can’t be “girlish”?

Perhaps that is the wrong question. The more pertinent question is: How do we define what is “boyish” or “girlish”?

The article in question discussed several points like clothing preferences (colors and sparkles) and personality traits like compassionate or caring vs agressive and aloof.

To the first: preferences like these are almost completely cultural. What one culture considers feminine may very well be masculine in another culture. Pink and blue are not inherently gendered. A flashy man is not a less masculine man. There just happens to have been a movement towards dull drab colors on men in our culture over the past 120 years or so. If your son likes rainbows and flash he is not less of a boy for it, he just likes something less boring than the current culture would like him to.

To the second: what makes character traits feminine or masculine? Sure, there are definite hormonal and physical differences between males and females that result in slightly different personalities, but these are hardly universal. And they aren’t even that big of differences when we really look at them. My sons are definitely different from my daughters, but the differences are so subtle I couldn’t tell you if it was gender or simply their personalities.

Why this cultural push to make gentleness and compassion a strictly “female” trait? Why assume that a gentle man is effeminate? Why assume a woman who is strong and courageous is “acting like a man”?

Personally I think we are a culture much too obsessed with sexuality and gender. Since when are people narrowly defined by who they want to have sex with? Since when does gender dictate every character trait and personality quirk?

It’s gotten to the point where people even worry about their sexuality in church. Someone was complaining that worship songs in their church sounded “gay” because they call God “beautiful” or express a sentiment of wanting to be with Jesus. While I could agree that the theology of these types of songs is usually lacking and they are usually set to fru fru tunes it is ignorant just to lay them out as “gay”. Are those sentiments incorrect? Was it “gay” when Jesus washed His disciples feet or when we are told to greet one another with a holy kiss? What is it about expressing love in a gentle fashion that is “gay” or even “unmanly”?

Back to the first question though: Why is it that girls can be “boyish” but boys can’t be “girlish”? For that answer you’ll have to wait for next week.

Imperialism and Hobbes

Yes, I am bringing up Hobbes again. Since we have decided to drop bombs on Syria (again) it seems apt to point out that Hobbes would blame us all for the deaths of innocents abroad. In fact, Hobbes would also blame the Syrians themselves for whatever their dictator did. Come to think of it, in the world of Hobbes there are no innocents.

Over the past couple of days I have seen people saying that Trump voters have blood on their hands, only to be told that they, as non-voters, also have blood on their hands.

Isn’t it great to live in a world where no matter what you believe or do, you are “responsible” for the deaths of thousands and millions?

Thank you, Hobbes, for planting in our heads this ridiculous idea that just because we are born in a certain geographic region under a certain tyrant we are somehow not only subject to his whims but responsible for his sins. Thanks for giving us this preposterous idea that tyranny is legitimate as long as it is passed down successively under a set of rules laid down two hundred years ago.

Eleven Years

Source

Today marks eleven years since the shooting at Virginia Tech. Eleven years since my alma mater was rocked by what was then the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

In the past eleven years we have witnessed many more of these types of incidents. We have continued to blame guns, we have continued to blame mental illness, we have continued to blame “the system”, we have continued to blame violent media. We have blamed everything we can think of. We want to know “why”. Why do these things happen?

There isn’t really a simple answer to why these horrible incidents occur. Humans are sinful, we find ways to commit more and more heinous sins. We have been killing each other throughout history. So why the sudden uptick?

Is there really a sudden uptick? Are we really killing people now at a rate higher than any other time in history? Or is it simply more taboo? Is it simply more obvious in an age of 24 hour news and political commentary?

Governments kill millions of people. They always have been in the business of killing. They spend billions of dollars procured (by force) to invent new and more horrific ways to kill people. They spend millions more in propaganda to dehumanize those they consider “enemies.”

With so much murder being promoted by the “leaders” of the world, is it any wonder that so many in the ranks of society are more than willing to kill others for their own reasons? After all, the politicians are supposed to represent us. Doesn’t their violence simply reflect the violence of those they represent? Could it be that their “leadership” creates a world where killing other humans is perfectly acceptable as long as one can create a justification for it?

Perhaps if we want to create a peaceful society where killing people is not an option for those who feel “bullied” or neglected by others we should start at the top and stop killing people for not being a part of our “team”.

If we want to stop the indiscriminate killing of students in our high schools or colleges we should probably stop the indiscriminate killing of those who just happen to live in areas of the world ruled by jerks our government doesn’t like.

I don’t mean to downplay or dishonor the lives of the 32 killed that day in 2007. Those were innocent individuals. They had no reason to die. They should be honored, as all life should be.

All life should be honored because all life is sacred. That honoring of life should start at the top of society and work its way down through the ranks. If the leaders of this world honored life, how much more would those under that leadership value it?

Stop blaming guns, mental illness, systems, or media, start looking at your “leaders” instead.

Hang-Ups

How do you handle your hang-ups?

Kids and hangups? Ha!

What is your biggest hang-up?

For some it’s their body, for others it’s social interaction. Maybe you have bedroom hang-ups, or food hang-ups. I’m sure we are all aware of something that we just can’t quite get over.

But what about unconscious ones?

What hang-ups are lurking in your sub-conscious mind?

I took medications for years for a painful back. Very rarely did they help, and they came with the unpleasant need for blood work every six months or so just to make sure my liver was handling the stress. These days it’s difficult to take even herbal remedies (which I have found to actually work) because somewhere in my mind I am expecting nothing.

Like many people, marriage led to weight gain. I gained over 35 lbs after tying the knot. Diet, lack of exercise, stress, parenthood, there were so many factors it was hard to fix them all. It wasn’t until I switched careers to one that made me work out that I began to see a downward movement in my weight. Even then it took a drastic change in diet to get back to what I was on our wedding day.

Well, guess what my new hang-up became?

Carbs.

I got so good at counting them that I became almost phobic. And when you cut back on carbs you start eating less in general. Which leads to losing more weight than you really wanted to. In the month I have been on this mountain I have lost ten lbs. I am way more active than I am at home and I am sitting at 9,000 ft. My basal metabolism is higher, my activity level is higher, but my calorie intake is lower. I have gone too far.

It is really hard to tell yourself “eat more” when you remember what that extra 35 lbs felt like.

Hang-ups are trained into us. For years my wife suffered debilitating depression, and I adapted my behaviors around hers. I changed my personality, my habits, and my speech. My thought patterns were molded by how I expected her to respond. My very being was changed.

College psychology class was full of boring lectures and seemingly crack-pot ideas about how humans behave. But from what I have observed, people really do react and adapt to stimuli in sometimes bizarre ways.

Now that she is not depressed my brain is having a fit retraining itself to respond properly to her new and different stimuli. I expect her to be one way and act accordingly, but she is so different now my predictions hardly land correct.

There is so much I avoid doing or saying around her, all because of the training my brain endured for eight years. These hang-ups are hardly ever conscious. Like Pavlov’s famous puppies my body and behaviors have simply learned to respond according to what my mind expects.

What do I do with these hang-ups?

Well, the first step is realizing that I have them. As so many of them are subconscious it usually takes a secondary factor (like ten lbs of weight loss) to realize they are there.

Then it takes discipline and concious effort to change the behavior that results from the hang-up. Eat more, eat carbs, eat when you aren’t hungry but know you should. Talk to your wife, tell her what you like about her, pinch her butt, kiss her in public because you want to, ask her to do things you need. Take your medicine, even if you aren’t sure it will work, don’t stop taking it when you discover it does actually work (this will make it stop working, dummy).

You won’t necessarily be able to get rid of the hang-up. It may still lurk somewhere back there, whispering lies, trying to keep you locked up in it. But by changing your behavior, conciously and consistently, you will break it of its power.

How do you handle your hang-ups?