Rich Hill: Sundance Was Wrong

2 Oct

I don’t think the documentary deserves the film festival’s grand prize.

I found the film to be overwrought and overly dramatic. A one-sided portrayal that preferred a melancholy look even during happy times.

I watch documentaries ALL the time–it’s my favorite genre, actually.  So it’s not like I just don’t get it.  But I almost turned this one off before the halfway point.  Nothing was happening.  We looked into lives, but there was no further analysis or explanation.  I figured the reviews and forums would note the same thing–but to my great surprise–people seem to love it.  And the one review (A) that wasn’t glowing, got a bunch of hostile comments (B).  Saying that the author of that piece was pretentious, and didn’t understand small towns.

I feel like the bleak story is garnering praise, not because the film is accurate, but because the middle and upper class urban audiences watching it feel guilty.  The viewer feels guilty about living amongst more people, having more, and thus getting a greater advantage in life.  What viewers don’t understand, is money doesn’t mean happiness.  And yes, there might be more opportunity for people with means, but it doesn’t mean having to aquiense to a dreamless, disenfranchised exsistance you can’t crawl out of.  Some people are happy, even in poverty, because they have family and nature and traditions.  There aspirations may not be the same as the affluent, but people in poverty aren’t as dire day-to-day as this film presents–there IS some real happiness.  Kids don’t remember presents or not having the latest brand name jacket–they remember LOVE.  It’s no accident the “good” kid in the film has both a mother and father.  Audiences are mistakingly saying the movie is a good one, not because it is, but because they feel the need to acknowledge small-town, poverty-stricken America.  Which IS important.  But that doesn’t make this a good film.

And don’t get me wrong–the story of poverty (and the stories about and by marginalized groups) are important to tell.  But the ACCURATE stories.  It’s not doing anybody any good to skew the facts in either direction.  We need to hear about, and understand these concepts, but in a manner which leaves the subjects dignity.  This film may aim to provide empathy, but you actually leave the film judging.  Why can’t Independence Day fireworks BE authentically happy?

I am from a small town, and there was joy.  Sure, I didn’t have access to AP classes, cultural events, or big corporate jobs, but my community is not suicidal because of it.  I think a real weakness in this movie is  how it took away their subjects decency–under the auspices of being candid, empathetic, and non-judgmental.  Instead of taking about what Apache’s mom does for work, how many hours, what struggles she may have to face–the camera scanned the filthy walls, and trash on the floor.  Also, this film may have shown what were supposed to be happy moments, but did so in a way as to make the happiness less-than.  The melancholy feel was pervasive throughout the hour and a half.  This one-sided film neglected to mention the teachers, the sports, the churches that are certainly predominant in rural America.  There ARE people trying to make a difference in these kids’ lives, and it’s a shame that the film-makers were so busy trying to show the misery they neglected the heroes.

I currently live under the poverty line, am on food stamps, and go without many things.  I live the mango scene almost daily–EBT does not buy over-priced produce that has a short shelf-life.  You have to buy Grocery Outlet sodium-infused cheap foods to make the money last.  But this doesn’t make life unlivable and depressing as this film would have you believe.  It does not mean you’re starving and hurting on a daily basis.  Poverty alone, does not equal total hopelessness, as “Rich Hill” purports.

I also can criticize the film because I lived in Missouri for 6 years (C).  So it’s not like I don’t know–as commentors were saying on the other critical review of the film.  I loved Missouri, actually.  And I’ve lived in Dayton, Nevada, Reno, Seattle, Spokane, and Salt Lake City, so I have places to compare it to.  Missouri is often made out to be this horrid Bible-Belt place where renecks spend every moment they’re not in church hunting or doing meth.  And this film helps play into those stereotypes.  Choosing Missouri as the location for a poverty film is cliche.  There are rednecks and losers in every state and city.  Missouri is not inherently poverty-stricken, or uneducated.  Like any place else, there are poor, trashy people, criminals, and hooligans, churchy people, and hunters.  But there are also scholars, progressives, and winners there.  This film would have you believe Missouri is squirrel-eatin’ country folk who caint do right.  It’s an unbalanced assessment.

The hugest weakness of the film, is the fact it gives no overarching commentary.  I don’t mean, they should tell us their opinions or make the movie biased, but information and context would make the film better (D).  I want to see a map of where Rill Hill is located in Missouri.  It should be stated or inferred that there is no way to make money because of location, it’s in the hotbed of meth, or it used to be a gold mine, but is now a ghost town.  Location would give the viewer an idea of WHY.  I want some context as to HOW the town has no jobs and adults have seemingly given up (or had no hope in the first place).  I want to know the population size, employment statistics, at the very least, an explanation about how the town named “Rich” Hill became so desperate.  I also wanted to know if the profiled families are the worst of it, or if this is the common way for people to live in this town.  The film offers none of that.  Only bleak long shots of toys strewn in yards, dirty walls, and foul-mouthed youth.

In the end, I accuse this of being an exploitation film, little better than The Kardashians.  Though the subjects of the film are at the opposite end of the spectrum, they are still being portrayed in a one-sided overly dramatic and frivolous light.  And that’s not fair.


Rich Hill

In his essay from the late 1940s entitled “Manners, Morals, and the Novel,” literary theorist Lionel Trilling stated that “pleasure in cruelty is licensed by moral indignation,” and would go on to claim the middle class as the group of people where such a strange aesthetic relationship often takes hold, designating moral indignation as their “favorite emotion.” Rich Hill exists in this space. Detailing the lives of three separate, impoverished teen boys living in Rich Hill, Missouri, directors Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos allow their camera to probe and linger in spaces of disorder and grime, but without any discernible purpose other than gaining access to lower-class spaces—another popular pleasure created through middle-class distance. Rich Hill is poverty porn, examining lower-class spaces with pity as its operative mode and engendering little more than a means for viewers to leave the film acknowledging its sadness.

The film, which won the documentary Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, unsuccessfully attempts to transform its subjects’ circumstances into lyrical lament a la David Gordon Green or Terrence Malick. However, Palermo and Tragos don’t have an eye for it; beneath aimless tracking shots of dilapidated buildings and an indistinct, almost temp-track melancholic score, the boyhood struggles of Andrew, Appachey, and Harley remain at arms length, primarily because the filmmakers confuse access with insight. That access amounts to “boys-will-be-boys” moments of cursing out the TV while playing video games, applying far too much cologne, and sleeping in Playboy Bunny bed sheets, juxtaposed with more aggressive behavior, such as when Harley bluntly explains his thoughts on sexual violence: “I got strong feelings about rape; I’m against it,” and concludes by stating that he would like to murder rapists. It becomes clear that Palermo and Tragos include his views to set up a later revelation: that Harley was raped by his stepfather as a child.

Child rape is a questionable “payoff” in any film, but remains consistent with Palermo and Tragos’s undiscerning insistence of revealing the depths of sorrow afflicting these lives—or it reveals their banal manipulation tactics and cognizance of what will outrage the middle-class viewers bound to see their film. They also feature lines from their subjects like “It feels good to have the bills paid for once” or “Me and my mom used to listen to this song before she got locked up” with little more in mind than piling on the pitiful sorrow. Of course, an entire socioeconomic stratosphere exists outside these communities, but Rich Hill makes no mention of it; it’s too busy wandering in and out of its simplistic aesthetic register, juxtaposing fireworks with arm wrestling and any other number of forced metaphors (wilted leaves barely hanging to trees in the wind is perhaps the most risible). Missing is the joyful peculiarity found in Louis Malle’s God’s Country and the devastating ethnographic urgency of Martin Bell’s Streetwise. Near the beginning of the film, a train chugs through the small town. The far-reaching grasp of industrialized expansion may have arrived in Rich Hill, but purpose or insight into this dynamic have eluded Palermo and Tragos’s grasp.

(B) comments:

  • You are far too pretentious to critique this documentary.

    Speaking as someone who grew up poor in the foster care system, it was refreshing to see a story that wasn’t sugar coated and didn’t have a happy ending. Your critique exposes just how narrow minded, callous and pompous you are. What a whimsical little fairy tale world you must have grown up in, where magical pumpkins were a plenty and any hardship or strife was manufactured purely for the sake of drama. If only we were all as privileged as you.

    Wow….have you ever lived or been to rural America? That seems to be the issue with your review. Maybe, they didn’t convey the message enough for those of life of privilege? The documentary was right on for REAL America…be happy your life took a different path..It is ugly and unfortunately..REAL

    (C)  Comments that prove my points:

    • I’m looking forward to seeing this film, but not because I believe it will be a good film. I’m curious to see exactly how inaccurately this town, one that I have lived near for over 20 years and have family live there, is portrayed.

      The film makers told the community that this would be a celebration of small town life. Instead, they chose to take the three saddest stories they could find and sensationalize their plight. Two of the youths in the film no longer live in Rich Hill and continue their transient ways as many families in their situation do. They are not a product of the town, but instead found their way there, stayed for only a short time, then left.

      The community has been following the press releases related to this film for many months. All of them are very similar: comparing Rich Hill to a third-world country and making outlandish claims such as the people are disconnected from the world and that the local school has the best jobs in the area. Nothing could be further from the truth, even though I will admit that the town resembles nothing like New York, Los Angeles, or Sundance (and I am thankful for that!)

      As I said, I do plan to see this film for as cheaply as I possibly can. I refuse to line the dishonest film makers’ pockets any more than they already are. I truly hope that this “documentary” dies a quick death as many festival films do.

      I will not see this “film”, nor will I give it another thought after I am through typing this. I grew up in Rich Hill and I am thankful I did, some of my best memories take me back there, and I will cherish those memories until the day I die. I do not live there now, but another small town in fly over country and I go back and visit Rich Hill when I can. At one time in my life I had the privilege to be an active duty U.S. Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, CA and I was able to witness for myself just how “glamorous” certain parts of “The City of Angels” are. After reading the review, It seems to me that maybe these Hollywood “elites” should focus their lens on the third world, dirt-water areas of The Greater LA Metropolitan Area (especially Hollywood). You see, while I may have grown up in small town America, I have visited and sometimes lived in the big cities of America and around the world and you can find these stories any and every where you go.


      Snobbish filmmakers from California go to rural Missouri to make a reality film about poor people.

      This makes me sick.


‘Rich Hill’ review: Successes can’t hide film’s shortfalls

Updated 7:19 pm, Thursday, August 21, 2014

Documentary. Directed by Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo. (Not rated. 91 minutes.)

“Rich Hill,” a melancholic, impressionistic portrait of three impoverished youths in small-town Missouri, is both ambitious and unambitious.

What makes this elegy worth watching is the unfettered access to Andrew, Appachey and Harley, teenagers who are dealing with a hardscrabble existence in which role models are nowhere in sight. Throughout the film, we marvel at how directors Tracy Droz Tragos and cousin Andrew Droz Palermo capture the kids and their interactions with their families – it’s all very natural.

The cinematography is so beautiful, and the score so hypnotic, that the project threatens to come off as an exercise in trailer park porn (for the record, there are no trailer parks in sight, but you get the point).

Even though these talented directors for the most part walk a fine line between glorifying poverty and making a statement about small-town life, they fall short in providing context for the boys’ problems and in explaining why it’s so tough for them to find help. This is a big-picture topic, and we have big-picture questions.

Do the boys or their families reach out for assistance? Is there any aid available? Any mentor programs? Do people around them care? Are there a lot of poor kids like this in town? We don’t know – and we don’t see the boys or their families in many meaningful interactions with the outside world.

After the first five minutes or so, we figure out that these kids’ prospects are grim, and most of the subsequent scenes say the same thing, even though they are exquisitely filmed and edited.

As it stands, “Rich Hill” is a poetic statement about the sadness of rural poverty. It could have been a lot more.

A Lot Can Change In One Year

18 Sep

Last year at this time, I was probably heading into my first round of exams for my last semester in the Post-Bac Speech & Hearing Sciences program.  I had worked ALL summer on my application materials and was editing papers and really preparing as much as possible for an acceptance into an audiology program.

This year, I just don’t know.  I am sad I wasted all that money, time, and effort to just get put-off for the audiology track.  I thought that would be my thing.  Now I’m thinking it’s not going to happen.  Big-University’s have taken enough of my money, and really not afforded me opportunities.  I have an Animal Science degree that I pay for, but still don’t use.  And now I have a post-bac idea that isn’t a certificate, let alone a degree.  And I’m paying back those loans as well.  Besides the lack of ability to PAY for more school, I’m not big on the idea anymore.  And I’m reading a lot of things I don’t like about the audiology career.  Like 4 years of school, repetitive work, and a low ceiling financially.

Maybe the Audiology was just a means to get me out of the veterinary world.  But if that’s true, I feel like there should be a world opening up for me where I do fit in.  It’s seriously not fair.

Anyway, that was supposed to be an intro into the real post:  What are my priorities?

It’s good to have an idea of your priorities so you can arrange your life around them.  Make what’s important the thing that’s in your life most predominately.  It gives an idea of boundaries.  I really don’t know mine, just because I have no long-term plan yet.  So I’ll just talk about in the shorter term to have something.

armadillo plating

It’s important to me to keep running every day.  I don’t want it to get squeezed out of my schedule.

I want to see Cool often.

It’s imperative the apartment stays clean.

I need to make enough money to cover my bills.

This next 4-5 years is about saving as much money as possible so we can move to Colorado.

I would like not to have to take a step backwards into veterinary assisting if it all possible.

I’d like some dental and eye insurance.

I enjoy having some time off while Cool also has time off to explore this new city.

I want to be able to take an occasional trip to see our parents, or just some more states.

The kitties, obviously, will remain with us and well cared for.  So pet-friendly apartments are a MUST.

Sleep.  I want enough of it.  9 hours would be ideal, and I don’t want to sacrifice it.

I want to explore how to break into laboratory careers.  I like the work.  And I really like not dealing with the public–like a lot more then I realized I would.  Maybe I can get a simple (not big university!) certification that could get me in the lab.

I should also look into hearing instrument specialists.  I have no idea how to get into it, but they make just as much (or more) than audiologists.  And I started that ball rolling at Riverpoint, so it would be nice not to waste it.

building a bear

So I guess my priorities are my health, my relationships, and finding a job or career that I can pay my bills.


15 Sep

I feel like I should explain my long absence to you, my readers.  And really, there’s no real reason for it.  And I don’tDMB-balloon visit 022 want to get into a whole big thing.  So I’ll skip it–cause I can.

And I feel like I should talk about my visit to Nevada, the DMB concert (great seats!) and the Reno Balloon Races (fun and is it possible to make this an annual adventure for us?!) but it would take a long time.  And I just spent three days uploading, editing, labeling, and commenting on maybe hundreds of pictures from the week.  And I don’t think I could remember everything.  And I don’t want to have to sit here for half the morning trying to get it all down, when I want to run the 11907763_10207633660144071_7762108476951423202_nneighborhood and rain is forecast soon.  OK, mmaybe I’ll post some of the pics on this blog so you get an idea.

So just know the decade-plus wait was not unwarranted, the balloons will probably go down as my favorite moment of 2015, with the Brandi concert, DMB, my parents’ June visit, and our first visit to SLC rounding out the top five times of 2015.  This paragraph is more for me (on December 31st) then you.

Anyway, I have a problem.

I guess I’m being a little apathetic.  And it’s probably out of fear.  But as a loyal person, I don’t want to get locked intoDMB-balloon visit 036 the wrong thing.  I never again want to feel miserable, trapped, and stuck.  As such, I’m not making any commitments or decisions.  Which ironically, is also a form of being trapped.  Here’s the things:

I HATE not seeing Cool very long on weekdays.  I enjoy hanging out with her.  I like running 11944908_10207474531919882_1900213810_nwith her, and also know she gets it done when I’m with her.  I like eating meals with her.  It’s easier to have an equal amount of chores when we’re together.

I like having the entire sunny part of the work day NOT being at work.  It feels like I have more time.  And businesses are open if I have to run errands.  And I see the kitties more.12004734_10207633662344126_2347145285946816352_n

I LIKE having both Saturday and Sunday off EVERY week.  All day long, two full days in a row.  I’ve NEVER had that before, and I’m hesitant to give it up.  I will be so sad and jealous if Cool still gets them off and I have to go to work.

11997021_10207474432557398_305078299_nMy coworkers range from dud to douche.  And I don’t feel a part of any team, but I don’t have open hostility with them either-I just go about my business.  It’s not optimal, but it’s fine.

I know my boss would screw me over in half a second.  But I don’t have to deal with DMB-balloon visit 060management all that much.


I thought I had made my decision to leave and find a day job.  BUT I actually LIKE the work itself.  Pretty much all of it.  There’s no part I hate (except maybe for DMB-balloon visit 070splitting the stool sample, b/c it’s creepy) and that’s never happened to me before.  I wouldn’t want to take a chance of getting into something else and not liking it, or hating a part of it.

I’m afraid of applying and interviewing for jobs, because I feel like my education and experience aren’t good for anything but veterinary work.Reno Balloon Races 008

I absolutely do NOT want to work at vet hospitals anymore and will try to only go back in emergency (financial) situations.

My finances require at least 25 hours per week, and that’s very tight (maybe impossible when my 3rd undergrad loan comes off deferment), 30 would be better.

130 AMRight now I am an “as needed” (PRN) employee.  And they’ve thus far (5 months) given me a very consistent schedule of 25 hrs/wk, but that could change at any point.  I can work 25 hrs or 0 hours, it just depends who else is on vacation, sick, or quits.

As a PRN employee, I can get ANY day off.  Because I’m not guaranteed work at all, I can always say no if asked to work.  It’s a double-edged sword.

As a PRN, I may have to work some weekends, just to meet the hours.  This is them doing me a Reno Balloon Races 014favor (not sarcasm) and trying to keep my hours up, even if the demand isn’t quite there.

If I go full-time, I get health insurance, extra pay for working nights, and maybe even a raise (they can count my experience).

11998342_10207485094263934_1273252602_nIf I go full-time, I will see Cool 30 minutes a day (if she doesn’t have to work late, and if traffic allows it) and I won’t like that at ALL.

I’m nervous about going full-time, because 40 hours a week seems like too much.  30 would be perfect, but my current employer rarely offers that (though Cool had that and she’s now Reno Balloon Races 028upstairs).  And I don’t want my life to become ALL work again.  I don’t want to be tired all the time.  And I don’t want my week days to only be all about working.  I also wouldn’t want to be pressured to work over 40 hours–I’ve been there before.

I could apply to other jobs, but I’d have to hope to get something with just 5 months experience.  Also, I’d have to take my chances with the schedule, the location, and the work itself.  What if it’s 21175298470_8865b1eb52_cworse???  I also wouldn’t want to burn my bridges at the current job, because I would want to fall back on it if at all possible.

So there you have it.  I am waffling.

I know I need the money and stability, but I’m just very hesitant and commitment-phobic right now.  My inclination is to wait and see, but my finances may demand sooner action.

I hate to say it, because I loved it for so long and was so passionate about it, but the veterinary world scarred me.

Aug Goal Accountability

27 Aug

1.  run at least 1 mile 1st thing in the morning every day.

I just finished day #603.  Who knew I could defeat my laziness and become Ms. Fitt?!

3.  Collect a minimum of 2/mo positive moments in a jar

I think I did one.  I wanted to do another for the Brandi concert, but that week I was tired and stressed, and now it feels too far back.  Like, forced.  I need to make sure to do it AT the moment.

3a.  listing (in my head) what I’m thankful for daily.

Fair.  Sometimes.  Not enough.

3b.  I want to appreciate nature, love, and things I already have.

I really enjoy our hikes around Salt Lake City.  I often look around at the beauty of the mountains, and the salt flats.

3c.  Worrying can only take up a maximum of 15 minutes/day. EVERY day.

When I was offered a veterinary job, I did not stick to this.  And it reminds me not to base my decisions on fear.

4.  Dental health. Floss daily

I think I did this!


2015 Aspirations (in no particular order):

#1: Get the money. Make it, keep it.

I need to somehow change my job situation–without falling back on vet stuff.  After my trip, I can work on this a little more whole-heartedly.







#4: Make a menu

I have been sort of doing this on my calender.

4a.  do a grocery list

This is always current, but I only want to spend EBT, so everything doesn’t always get purchased.

4b.  grocery shop 1x/wk

It’s maybe a little less because the food stamps don’t go that far.

4c.  cook 5 days of cooking per week grow it to all 7.

Fail.  Oh boy, major fail.


I want to keep up goals and these accountability blogs.  But I feel like I was ready to go on one track this year (in 2014) and ended up on a different one.  This is sort of a regrouping year, so the goals aren’t all that tangible.  It’s difficult to MAKE goals and keep them when fundamental things are changing.  I need to find the path I’m working toward before I can be accountable for anything.  And this time I don’t want to just rush into anything, yet I don’t want to fall into anything either.  I’m trying to be careful about where my next steps will take me.

As such, I’m not sure I’m going to keep these accountability posts up–just because the goals aren’t really there.  I’ll see.


Red Butte Gardens: Zoo-Tunes Reloaded [Brandi Carlile part 2]

24 Aug

I hated Zoo-Tunes.

I thought I would love it. I love the zoo, and am happy to support it. Seattle is a wonderful concert city. The weather is usually mild, and I enjoy the outdoors. And who doesn’t love a pic-nic? Especially AT a zoo, and with top-of-the-line musical entertainment.

And I knew what I was getting into.  I had researched the Zoo-Tunes ticket:  Members go for an outing, not the music.  People talk over the music.  People sneak in alcohol.  It’s lawn seating = crammed in.  But I had been ready for it.  I bought VIP tickets–I would not have to deal with pushy people, or taller chairs in front of me.  I paid my way out of the crowding, and probably the talkers too.  I was confident.

But that’s not how it went down.  Events in zoos are not for the music.  And even paying VIP prices didn’t buy me out of talkers.  People stood in front of me and weren’t told to sit.  It was fairly obnoxious, only being redeemed by the Indigo Girls’ showmanship–they know what they’re doing and can capture even an unruly audience’s attention.  By the end, even those who weren’t there for the music, and hadn’t heard of the Indigo Girls were captivated by the show.

Amy across the quad

Still, I’d never go back to Zoo-Tunes.  It’s annoying.

I knew Red Butte Gardens would be much the same.  And I was not going to camp in line.  I did not want to get there extremely early in hopes of securing a good seat.  I knew people would be drunk and talking.  I knew people would probably stand in front of me, blocking my view.

Thus, my expectations were low.

I drove to the venue several weeks ahead of time to find the route and scope out parking.  The lowest lot, farthest away from the venue, had an North exit.  everyone else would cram into the closer parking lots and leave by the Western exit.  I would rather trek up a hill in the beginning and walk back down, past all the slow drunk people blocking the roads on foot.  And past the snail-trail of drunk-drivers slowly leaving past police escorts.

Also, I was in no rush to get to that line.  I knew, even if we had gotten there at 8AM, and camped in the heat all day, that in the end the pushiest people will get the best seats.  And Cool and I are not those people.  I also knew from Zoo-Tunes experience, that even if you are lucky enough to make it to the front, the center, or an otherwise primo location–pushy people who come late will squeeze you out.  And you can’t belly-ache about it without looking like a super-douche.

Even though doors opened at 6PM, we strolled up to the line at 5:45PM.  Something old, pre-planning, overly-anxious me would never have done!

red butte gardens 4But as I expected, all the pushy people made it to the best lawn places.  I saw people coming in half hour after the opener started, when nearly everyone had their sport secured–making their way to the front center and squeezing in.  That’s just how it goes.  People will be late and pushy–there’s no fighting that.  And we got a good enough seat with a side view of the stage near the far right.  And it was fine.  And people weren’t severely crowding us.  And we were lucky not to be next to any really inconsiderate drunks.

We had our picnic, sitting on a Lion King blanket while enduring the opener.  Then, set-up for Brandi seemed to take forever, and I suspect they were intentionally waiting for dark to optimize their light show.  It seemed a long wait for the band to get up there.

But they opened with my favorite song from the new album, “Firewatcher’s Daughter.”

Brandi- Red Butte Gardens Aug 2015Brandi was sensitive to the crowd, as always, and really gave the feeling that she personally loved the venue and cared about each individual as fans.  She did the obligatory city-pandering saying she loves Salt Lake City, which I always find disingenuous (from ANY artist) but know is how you play the game.  Best of all, she was not tired or fatigued from the big show she WAS excited for-Red Rocks-just the night before.

I was happy they dug out some older tunes and didn’t just stick to the new album.  “The Story” is always amazing live and those Bear Creek selections are my personal favorites.

There were many references to “testify” “pray” “faith” and churcyy-themed stuff.  I’m not a big fan of that, and10857914_10153344619528936_124799587122048377_n I’m glad I’m not FROM Salt Lake City, because I guess that stuff comes with the territory here.  Literally.  You can’t escape the Mormon history or current LDS influence.

I had heard the live version of “Turpentine” on the symphony album, and she played it for us.  I have to say any talking on live albums is interesting for the first listen.  Maybe it’s funny for the first 3 listens through the CD.  After that it gets tedious and repetitive–you’ve heard that story before.  And even though I knew about the audience signing harmony–and was tired of hearing the set-up for it on the CD–in person it is spectacular.  You really feel a part of the band and the whole audience has this connected, magical feeling.  It was really cool to be a part of.  I’m glad she’s still trotting that out.

The night was nearly perfect.  Sure, the set-list had been done before.  Talk about gay marriage, talk about the darkness in the love song, all that hadn’t been the first run-through.  But though it was not fresh and innovative material, it still felt like the band’s truth.  And even rehearsed, that’s special to see played out.

I wish Brandi would play something more upbeat at the end and in the encore, but all 6(?) of her shows I attended would wind down.  I think it would be better if instead of starting on a high note and working her way downward to quiet songs, she did more like DMB and played one slow, and one fast encore song.  Because by the encore, I’m all jazzed up and wanting to end on an energetic one, not 3 slow sappy ones.


But aside from those teeny observations, just the feeling of the night was as close to perfect as you could get.  It’s this intangible thing, separate from the seating, the setlist, or the talking.  I would go to a Brandi concert any time!



Brandi Carlile at Red Butte Garden [part 1]

17 Aug

I’ve seen her at the Knitting Factory in Spokane twice, and both times she was on the verge of outgrowing the venue. Overcrowding lessons my good time, but they did amazing at both shows. Also, the first year she started late and I had to leave early (I still loathe Forster-Friday for forcing that regretful choice on me) and the 2nd year the venue had to hand-write tickets, and drunk Spokomptonites nearly ruined the show with their debauchery.

I also saw Brandi and the twins play with the symphony at Benaroya (spelling?  IDK) Hall in Seattle. symphony dress Unfortunately, not the year I lived in Seattle.  I under much duress, I had to take vacation time from work, and drive the 6 hours over the pass one Thanksgiving break.  The show wasn’t until the end of the visit (Cool’s family) so we were tired, and I was very worried about missing an exam and work in the morning.  It had snowed uncharacteristically hard, and I didn’t want to get caught on the wrong side of the pass.  So by the time the show came around I was already tired, then worried.

Brandi with our sign 2





For my 4th and 5th Brandi shows, it was her opening for DMB at the Gorge.  So it was a great time, but not HER shows.  She played a bunch of covers, and it was windy as HEEEELLLL.  And apparently, all the greatest tricks were left for Saturday, when we had Friday and Sunday tickets.  And Cool was kinda of a pill that weekend.

But last night, in Salt Lake City, the band outdid themselves.  I was worried because our show was the day after Red Rocks, which Brandi was all jazzed up about (of course).  I thought our show–if it went on at all–would be like DMB post-Gorge.  Still good.  Still a concert.  But much less enthusiasm/energy after the peak of the tour.

Plus, Cool got her tickets from a 4th party, because the venue is very hard-core on scalping and makes ticket limits, and ID’s the ticket-holder to make sure the name matches the ticket purchaser name.  And we couldn’t hold the tickets until “an hour before the show.”  Naturally I figured we were getting scammed.  I knew we would never hold the tickets, and even if they were legit, we would not be let in.

I did not allow myself to get my hopes up, because I just knew our concert wouldn’t pan out.

But the day of the show, the tickets were e-mailed.  I was only slightly relieved.  We couldn’t print them.  Cool had to make an emergency run for ink.  Then, it wouldn’t print without BOTH color and black ink.  And still, our tickets probably weren’t legit–and we weren’t on the list as the original purchaser.

After 1.5 hours, Cool printed two tickets.

So I packed our bags and got dressed, and we went to the venue.  Next–the actual concert

I Thought This Was It

10 Aug

My whole life I wanted to be a veterinarian.  So when that didn’t pan out, after time and time again of putting fourth my best effort–I was lost.  I didn’t know what to do with my life or what backup career I would chase.

retirement from vet med 012

And it took a lot of soul-searching and research to find an acceptable alternative–I just didn’t WANT to do anything that wasn’t animal related.  But Audiology made the most sense.  Sure, I didn’t love it in the same way and wasn’t excited about it like I was for animal work.  But nothing came close.  And it did spark my interest.  And in Audiology I could help people like my dad.  And there were a lot of great things about the career:  A stable schedule, more 9-5PM healthcare, higher salary so I could fight only my undergrad degree costs.

So I went to Riverpoint for 2 years.  And worked my A$$ off.  I really earned that 4.0 and for once in my life, made working the 2nd priority, which 9 times out of 10, was HARD.  I thought the grades would carry me into the next step of the program this time.  I thought with that 4.0 GPA, no admissions would reject me again.

But grades weren’t all I had.  I still participated in the extra-curriculars, volunteered, did extra for my program, observed professionals on my own time.  I had good letters from people I worked to know.  I even traveled out-of-state for the interview.

health fair 2014

And I was 14th on the list.  For a class of 12.  So 2nd on the waiting list.  Wait-listed AGAIN.  And even though I knew from multiple experiences what that meant, and how much of a long shot the wait list is–there was a teeny bit of hope.

Not a lot, but enough that I didn’t make any non-reversible plans or huge life decisions.  But in 40 minutes with the close of business hours, the wait list is over.  I will not be joining the Audiology doctoral class in 10 days.  I feel sad.  Sad for wasting all that effort at Riverpoint–not to mention incurring even more student loan debt on an education I can’t use.  And I’m relieved.  Because 10 days to get ready for a rigorous program is not a lot.  I didn’t have a loan for tuition, didn’t know how to make rent when students aren’t allowed off campus jobs, didn’t have books or a parking permit, and forgot far too many concepts and details of my hearing courses.

But mainly I feel lost again.

I’m not sure where to start over.  I can’t really pay for more school after the big move, and I’ll probably never go back to a big university, because for me it just hasn’t been worth all the money.  But what about a technical program?  Community college?  A job?  And in what area?

So again I’m left with a lot of questions and no real direction.  All I know is something has to happen soon.


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