Music and Art Monday, May 7, 2018: A Little Of This, A Little Of That

It was a slow week up here on the hill. Not much to report on the music or art front.

I finished up a trio of paintings that I started back in December. I didn’t spend all that time on them, I just got super distracted. They were inspired by an art challenge. I can’t remember exactly what the theme was but whatever it was inspired me to paint the biggest events in our life.

Edit: I was going to finish these over the weekend but I got sick. So the last one is not finished, I’ll put a finished pic up as soon as I can.

The first is a humorous take on birth. I obviously wasn’t born with a beard, though some may believe I was.

The second is an image of aging. It might be a bit literal.

The last is death. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t the least bit creepy to paint myself as a dead guy.

I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about how they came out. The technique seems to have evolved a bit during the process and I got more detailed as I went. They are on canvas which is not a normal medium for me. I think I learned some things about canvas which is good.

As for music, I turned a bit of a corner and went from the mellow tunes I discussed last week to some upbeat songs of my youth.

The current selection is Cornershop’s When I Was Born For The Seventh Time. This album originally belonged to my sister, who bought it as a curiosity. She was really only interested in the Punjab version of “Norwegian Wood”. After awhile it ended up in my collection. Of course that was 20 years ago, and now instead of popping in a CD I can stream it on Spotify. Still a good experience.

Also popping up is Sublime’s self-titled album. Also over 20 years old, it never really gets old. I do feel slightly conspicuous blasting it in Alamogordo. I am so white…

On the not so old side of things I have been listening to a playlist of The Raconteurs, The White Stripes, and The Black Keys. You wanna play a fun game? Shuffle that playlist and tell me if you always guess the band correctly.

So that’s been my week. Anyone have any favorites or recommendations for the week?

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Bad Week

So you had a bad week,

What could you do?

Providence isn’t always easy,

What we all go through.

Maybe you were tired,

Maybe you ate too much junk.

Maybe you indulged

In sin or in too much.

Maybe you fed your guilt,

Or stroked your shame.

Maybe you didn’t give your sins to God,

And instead soaked in blame.

So you had a bad week,

Everyone does,

Sometimes.

Will next week be better?

Who’s to say?

Perhaps it will get better,

Maybe it will stay the same.

You can’t always control the circumstances,

Just how you respond.

And I promise you this:

If you respond the same,

The bad will remain.

So change.

RV Necessities, Or: Trailer Indespensables

First, You need a truck and trailer…

Every once in awhile I decide to make this blog useful to other people. I turn from my usual rants about life and try to provide practical advice. Seeing as I have spent the past three summers in a 27 foot travel trailer, I think I can safely give some advice on a few of the necessities of trailer living.

Here are a few things I absolutely recommend:

Seriously, where do they come from?

A shop vac. Maybe it is just my kids, but our floor seems to be constantly covered in crumbs. Sweeping doesn’t cut it folks, and a dust buster? Ha! Go, buy a $30 one gallon shop vac at Wally World, you’ll thank me.

This hole is smaller than it appears

A funnel. Our first summer was spent boondocking on the Kaibab National Forest. This meant all our water had to be brought in via five gallon water bladder and dumped in manually into our freshwater tank. It took us well over a month to figure out we needed a funnel to get that water into that tiny hole. Don’t buy those fancy special hose looking ones at Camping World, just get a simple collapsable one from the auto parts store.

A diffuser. I won’t harp on essential oils here, but if you want to have a fresh smelling rv I highly recommend you get a diffuser and a few of your favorite scents. Pro tip: Get some lavender and knock out the kids.

Did I say a couple oils? Mwahahaha!

Multi-plugs. Unless you’re living in some new fancy rv, you probably don’t have enough outlets to charge all your devices. Way back in 2005, phone batteries lasted millions of hours apparently. Or maybe they just think you don’t need your tablet while camping. Well, I’m not recreating. So, to charge all my stuff (and the kids) I got some power strips.

Sleeping mask. Even with aluminum blinds (that can slice and dice through any fingers) our trailer is still blindingly bright at 6 am. This is not ideal and the best way we have found to circumvent this is a sleeping mask. Not only will it keep you from ride awakenings, it’s super fashionable.

Bins of various sizes. Trailer space is fairly limited, and what little storage they give you tends to be impractically designed. Basically they give you large spaces with no shelves. Instead of shoving everything loose into these cavernous cavities, I recommend getting plastic tubs and bins to keep your items organized. It’s quicker and easier than trying to build shelves. And less weighty.

That little cutting board that fits perfectly over your sink. I do not know if these come standard in all rvs, but that little cutting board makes a huge difference when you only have 3 square feet of counter space.

Cell booster. Now, this one doesn’t work as well as it ought. Our service where we are is pretty limited depending on the wind. But if you are somewhere that actually has a weak signal a booster is usually enough to push it into usefulness. Be sure you are getting an actual booster though, and not just something which takes a signal from one area to another.

I’m sure I will think of some more as the months go by, but for now I’ll leave you with those. Feel free to comment with anything you’ve found to be particularly useful in your rv.

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?

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.