2016: Best Songs

28 Dec

Singles selected by me.  Some true singles, others culled from an album, some artists you know, many you don’t.  All my opinions.

-“American Woman” Ghostbusters Soundtrack by Muddy magnolias- A march and a rap and a call to feminism.  I’d like to see the Muddy Magnolias’ other works.

-“Back to the Light” Giraffe Tongue Orchestra-  I WANTED to love this band, because the name is adorable and I can just see the merch possibilities.  It’s a little too screamy for my taste though.

-“Broken Bones” CRX- Has a good beat and a sound sorta like OK Go, with that hollow-echo type sound.

-“Can’t Let You Do It” Eric Clapton-  Like hearing jazz on the train.  It’s a little soulful, but just chugs along.

-“Company of Strangers” Third Eye Blind- I remember Third Eye Blinds glory days in the 1990s.  And I really wanted to like their new album–after all, I didn’t know they were a thing anymore.  Alas, they are not.  The album was largely washed up, plain, and irrelevant.  But out of it I did pluck this song.  Strong rock roots, some nice lyrics, and a good chorus.

-“Don’t Wanna Know” Maroon 5 feat Kendrick Lamar-  I admit it, I’m not super in the Lamar fan club.  I find it chipmunkee, Alvin without the sass.  Also I feel like Maroon 5 has pre-douche and post douche songs, the before and after point that Adam Lambert thought he was the shit.  This is kinda a nice little song, but it isn’t really Maroon 5, and is most definitely POST-douche.

-“The Entertainer” KT Tunstall- I liked when Tunstall was writing songs that drag queens were belting out at Pride.  This is no “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” which is sort of a let down.  A quiet reprieve is fine for an artist, but I’m ready for her to get back to it, already.

-“F*** Apologies” Jojo feat Wiz Khalifa- With lyrics that go, “And honestly I was just about to pick up the phone, and then I realized that I di int do nothing wrong, what you want from me, I would say I’m sorry if I really meant it”.  It’s Jojo at her cheekiest.  I’m happy to see her more empowered.  And of course I love a break up song.

-“Galveston” Jeffrey Martin-  Quiet Mellencamp.  This song is poetry in tune.  It’s more about the words than the singing.  It’s a little depressed, but it’s a story depth.

-“Glory”Donny MaCaslin- Good jazz, heavy on the trumpet.  Not too fussy, but a little erratic as jazz should be.

-“Heart in a Cage” Chris Thile- has some acoustic-type country-strumming.  Is sort of that hipster bluegrass I’ve been liking lately.  Also, some nice lyrics and syncopation.

-“Jungle” Saint Mesa- I’d listen to more.  It has some singing, and rain-forest-sound breakdown, and a half-speed-rap.

-“I’m Not Afraid” (Ghostbuster’s Theme) Fall Out Boy feat Missy Elliott-  It’s a good update to the initial release.  Maybe not AS catchy, but what could be?  And Elliott, as always, sounds exactly the same.

-“I’m Sixteen” Dolly Parton- She’s sassy, it’s a feminist message, and there’s a deep base vocal in the background.  This is why we love Dolly no matter how old she gets.

-“Kill ’em with Kindness” Selena Gomez- What is this percussion called?  This is one of the 3 popular drum lines that I hear in EVERY song in the top ten lists.  And I feel like this genre, (R&B, electro-pop, dance–whatever it is) has overwhelmed mainstream music as of late.  And I’m not that into it.  It’s not bad, just not what I gravitate toward.  I like the message of this song (and the random whistling).

-“Little Spoon” Grover Anderson-  The next country love song.  It may be this decade’s “Forever and Ever, Amen” or “Remember When.”  We’re talking, sweet love song–and it just might be my favorite single this year.

-“Love My Life” Robbie Williams- I feel sorry for Robbie Williams.  I feel like he keeps searching for a genre he can excel in, but the search goes on and on.  He tried rock, did electronic, dipped into swing (before realizing Michael Buble is unstoppable in that arena), and now has slumped into the dregs of spiritual music.  The lowest of the low expectations.  It’s barely mainstream music anymore–like giving up.  This song, itself is very uplifting and I like the message, but I’m afraid this might be the last nail in the coffin of Williams’uncertain, meandering career.

-“Love on Me” Galantis-  Touches of Calypto here, some chipmunk distortion there, it’s a pure-pop lovely.

-“Might as Well be Gone” The Pixies- A breaking up sort of tune.  Sometimes discordant just like the subject matter, but lovely (if not bleak) singing.

-“Move Me” Sara Watkins- Like Lisse without so much anger.  Strong singing.

-“Nights” Snow the Product feat w. Darling- Seems like a smart gal, and it’s a rap.

-“Nothings Over” Young the Giant-  The song feels a little operatic.  Or in the same vein as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” without the cheesiness and theater.  It’s 4-plus minutes, and it is serious.

-“Please Don’t Go”Joel Adams- Humming, there’s something we don’t hear enough these days.  This song has it, and it’s a good, please stay song.  Very sweetly sung.

 

-“Shout Out to My Ex”Little Mix- It’s an upbeat hate song.  It’s all about moving on and moving up.  Uplifting with just enough trash to make me happy–and make me laugh a lot.

-“Somethin’ Bad” Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood-  Best duet of 2016!  Maybe in country music.  It’s about these two sass-lasses worked together.  The result is nothing short of awesome.  Let’s see a whole album together!

-“The Stage” Avenged Sevenfold- hard, amped-up, and all with a Spanish finish–it’ one to jam out to.

-“Thick of It” Mary J Blige-  Sometimes Mary is too much.  This is not one of those times.  She speaks the truth and keeps it real without going Mary-mode.

-“Too Good” Drake feat. Rhianna-  It’s a good break up song, and you know how I always like those.

-“Tragedy” Norah Jones- I usually don’t care for Jones that much.  I find her a little boring.  But this track is jazzy and bluesy in a way that I like.

-“Universe of Life” Feeder- A hard-rock edge to a Nervana-type 1990’s Seattle sound.  It works, especially with the break-down sections.

-“Wind & Anchor” The National Parks- Like sitting in a drum circle on the beach, singing together about an unwanted, impending break-up.

-“Writing on the Wall” Bear’s Den- It’s like Postal Service, but less brit.  I like the song, but I like the name of the band better, and I hope they do great things because I’ll bet their merch is outstanding!

-“You & Me” Marc E. Bassy- That awkward moment when you run into your ex.  Sung with rap/R&B/reggae flair.

-“Zillionaire” Flo Rida- This was still great to dance to, and made me want more!

The Road review: A meandering trip to nowhere

22 Dec

Pulitzer Prize or not, I didn’t like it.

If I (wrote this) turned this in as assignment it would be marked down and handed back full of red.  Firstly, there is hardly any punctuation in the whole book.  The reader has a difficult time even determining who is saying what.  It’s distracting.  But bigger then that, the basic questions, who-what-where-when-why are not answered.  The text isn’t fleshed out.  The plot is non-existent–there’s no arc here.  Not in the story, not in there characters.  There are GRE words, but no detail.  Using big words doesn’t make something good writing.  And this is not–there I said it!

Sometimes I feel like things that are difficult to understand make people feel like they SHOULD understand them.  And people will give accolades and praise, because they feel there MUST be a deeper message, but are embarrassed they didn’t ‘get it’.  I’m looking at you “Jacob’s Ladder,” and “Lost Highway.”  Well, sometimes things don’t make complete sense, because the author didn’t do good work.  They didn’t put any pieces together.  There IS no answer.  I think this is one of those works.  It’s unfinished, but because it’s written with large words and a smooth voice, people think THEIR comprehension is the problem, not the writing.

It doesn’t tell us what caused the apocalypse–or when.

The book doesn’t say where they are, or even allude to it.  I think they’re in North America, but I really had no clues.  The man and boy speak English, so they could be nearly anywhere.  The boat has Spanish, which could be almost anywhere, but maybe Mexico, South America, Spain, or since it’s a boat, just travelers.  They are by an ocean.  We are not told any cues for which one.  Is it even a real place?  It’s a cop-out not to include this information, because in this desolate world it no longer matters.

The book doesn’t inform us the names of the characters, their ages, or their backgrounds.  Again, even if identities are stripped, and this information doesn’t matter in this bleak new situation, it’s a cop-out not to include it.  I don’t find that justification enough just to skip it–that’s lazy writing.

I’m guessing the boy is about six?  Because he still openly cries, which boys don’t do for very long, but he’s a little bit independent in that he can walk by himself.  And the man is very handy, cares about the boy, and has a will to survive, but other than that we are told very little about him.  And why is he coughing?

The superficial dealing with his mother is obviously just so the reader doesn’t wonder why she’s out of the picture, but hardly does her justice.  P.S. what kind of patriarchal book portrays a mother who would kill herself leaving her young son behind?  I don’t think very many women would do that, caring husband/father or not.  She’d either stay or euthanize the boy too.

The dialogue is sparse and stilted.  And I don’t think it’s very realistic.  Kids usually chatter on, and ask tons of questions.  I would think if you had all the time in the world, you’s do nothing but talk to each other.  But I guess it’s supposed to show how–what’s the point?

Nothing happens.  And the things that do happen, are repetitive.  They walk.  They see some sort of house/shelter/boat in the distance.  The boy is scared and doesn’t want to go.  The man goes in and looks for things in order to survive.  They come away with some meager supplies, old food, and new clothes or blankets.  They wash, eat, sleep, then walk again.  Repeat.  Who cares?  Why would the audience care?

The plot doesn’t go anywhere.  What’s the point?

I feel like this is probably one of those books you have to study in class.  The boy is supposed to represent good.  The man represents maybe humanity or survival/ingenuity or doubt of man or tenuousness of life?  The gray waves are a symbol of the bleak foreverness they are in.  The ash is destruction, nothingness, and bleak.  Is it worthwhile to persist in living?  And there are many God undertones.

I gather the subtext is more important than the story itself (which is fairly pointless).  BUT I wasn’t studying the book, didn’t have a guide, and didn’t really ‘get’ the subtext’s message.  So I didn’t love it.

I wrote the above before trying to find an analysis.  I wanted my opinions and judgments to be uncolored by “answers.”  And one of the first things I read, I’ve pasted below because I whole-heartedly agree.

 

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6288.The_Road

The Road is unsteady and repetitive–now aping Melville, now Hemingway–but it is less a seamless blend than a reanimated corpse: sewn together from dead parts into a lumbering, incongruous whole, then jolted to ignoble half-life by McCarthy’s grand reputation with Hollywood Filmmakers and incestuous award committees.

In ’96, NYU Professor Alan Sokal submitted a paper for publication to several scientific journals. He made it so complex and full of jargon the average person wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of it. He wrote a conclusion that would deliberately flatter the preconceptions of the journals he submitted it to. As he predicted, it was accepted and published, despite the fact that it was all complete nonsense.

The Sokal Affair showed the utter incompetence of these trusted judges. They were unable to recognize good (or bad) arguments and were mostly motivated by politics. The accolades showered upon works like The Road have convinced me that the judges of literature are just as incompetent (and I’m not the only one who thinks so). Unlike Sokol, McCarthy didn’t do it purposefully, he just writes in an ostentatiously empty style which is safe and convenient to praise.

Many have lauded his straightforward prose, and though I am not the most devoted fan of Hemingway, I can admire the precision and economy of a deliberate, economical use of words. Yet that was not what I got from The Road:

“He took out the plastic bottle of water and unscrewed the cap and held it out and the boy came and took it and stood drinking. He lowered the bottle and got his breath and he sat in the road and crossed his legs and drank again. Then he handed the bottle back and the man drank and screwed the cap back on and rummaged through the pack. The ate a can of white beans, passing it between them, and he threw the empty tin into the woods.

Then they set out down the road again.”

Simple? Yes. Precise and purposeful? Hrdlt. The Road is as elegant as a laundry list (if not as well punctuated). Compiling a long and redundant series of unnecessary descriptions is not straightforward, but needlessly complicated.

We’re supposed to find this simplicity profound–that old postmodern game of defamiliarization, making the old seem new, showing the importance of everyday events–but McCarthy isn’t actually changing the context, he’s just restating. There is no personality in it, no relationship to the plot, no revealing of the characters.

Perhaps it is meant to show their weariness: they cannot even muster enough energy to participate in their own lives, but is the best way to demonstrate boredom to write paragraphs that bore the reader? A good writer can make the mundane seem remarkable, but The Road is too bare to be beautiful, and too pointless to be poignant.

Once we have been lulled by long redundancy, McCarthy abruptly switches gears, moving from the plainness of Hemingway to the florid, overwrought figurative language of Melville:

“The man thought he seemed some sad and solitary changeling child announcing the arrival of a traveling spectacle in shire and village who does not know that behind him the players have all been carried off by wolves.”

There is no attempt to bridge the two styles, they are forced to cohabitate, without rhyme or reason to unite them. In another sentence he describes‘dead ivy’, ‘dead grass’ and ‘dead trees’ with unerring monotony, and then as if adding a punchline, declares them ‘shrouded in a carbon fog’–which sounds like the world’s blandest cyberpunk anthology.

Another example:

“It’s snowing, the boy said. A single gray flake sifting down. He caught it in his hand and watched it expire like the last host of christendom.”

McCarthy seems to be trying to reproduce the morbid religious symbolism of Melville when he plays the tattered prophet in Moby Dick. But while Melville’s theology is terribly sublime and pervasive, McCarthy’s is ostentatious and diminutive, like a carved molding in an otherwise unadorned room. Nowhere does he produce the staggeringly surreal otherworldliness Melville achieves in a line like “There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within”.

Often, McCarthy’s gilded metaphors are piled, one atop the other, in what must be an attempt to develop an original voice, but which usually sounds more like the contents of a ‘Team Edward’ notebook, left behind after poetry class:

“. . . Query: How does the never to be differ from what never was?

Dark of the invisible moon. The nights now only slightly less black. By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp.

People sitting on the sidewalk in the dawn half immolate and smoking in their clothes. Like failed sectarian suicides. . . .”

I love how he prefaces that like an Asimov robot. Sardonic Observation: I’d almost believe he was one, since he has no understanding of beauty or human emotion. Biting Quip: However, he violates Asimov’s first law, since his awkward prose harms human ears.

Sometimes, smack in the middle of a detailed description of scraping paint with a screwdriver, we suddenly get a complex jargon term which few readers would understand. These terms are neither part of the world, nor are they aspects of specialized character knowledge, so I cannot assign them any meaning in the text.

One of the basic lessons for any beginning writer is ‘don’t just add big words because you can’, it’s self-indulgent and doesn’t really help the story. It would be one thing if it were a part of some stylistic structure instead of bits of out-of-place jargon that conflict with the overall style of the book–more textual flotsam for us to wade through.

The longer I read, the more mirthlessly dire it became, and the less I found I could take it seriously. Every little cluster of sentences left on its own as a standalone chapter, every little two-word incomplete sentence trying to demand importance because it actually had punctuation (a rare commodity), every undifferentiated monosyllabic piece of non-dialogue like a hobo talking to himself–it all made the book overblown and nonsensical.

It just stared me down, like a huge drunk guy in a bar daring me to laugh at his misspelled tattoo. And I did. I don’t know if my coworkers or the people on the bus knew what ‘The Road’ was about (it was years before the movie), but they had to assume it was one hilarious road, with a busfull of nuns hiding a convict in disguise on the run from a bumbling southern sheriff and his deputy; a donkey is involved.

Without mentioning specifics, I will say the notorious ending of the book is completely tacked on, in no way fits with or concludes any of the emotional build of the book, but instead wraps up, neat and tight. It certainly bears out McCarthy’s admission on Oprah that he “had no idea where it was going”when he wrote it. We can tell, Cormac.

As you may have noticed from the quotes, another notorious issue is the way the book is punctuated, which is to say, it isn’t. The most complex mark is the a rare comma. It’s not like McCarthy is only using simple, straightforward sentences, either—he fills up on conjoined clauses and partial sentence fragments, he just doesn’t bother to mark any of them.

He also doesn’t use any quotes in the books, and rarely attributes statements to characters, so we must first try to figure out if someone is talking, or if it’s just another snatch of ‘poetic license’, and then determine who is talking. Sure, Melville did away with quotes in one chapter in Moby Dick, but he did it in stylistic reference to Shakespeare, and he also seemed to be aware that it was a silly affectation best suited to a ridiculous scene.

It’s not only the structure, grammar, figurative language, and basic descriptions which are so absurdly lacking: the characters are likewise flat, dull, and repetitive. Almost every conversation between the father and son is the same:

Father: Do it now.
Son: I’m scared.
Father: Just do it.
Son: Are we going to die?
Father: No.
Son: Are you sure?
Father: Yes.

Remember, you won’t get little tags so you know who’s speaking, it’ll all just be strung out in a line without differentiation. Then they wander around for a bit or run from crazy people, and we finally get the cap to the conversation:

Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen?
Father: (Stares off in silence)
Son: Why did (terrible thing) just happen?
Father: (More silence)

And that’s it, the whole relationship; it never changes or grows. Nor does it seem to make much sense. The characters are always together, each the other’s sole companion: father and son, and yet they are constantly distant and at odds, like a suburban parent and child who rarely see each other and have little in common. McCarthy never demonstrates how such a disconnect arose between two people who are constantly intimate and reliant on one another.

But then, McCarthy confided to Oprah that the is book about his relationship with his own son, so it makes sense why the emotional content is completely at odds with the setting. Perhaps he just sat down one say and thought “I’m an award-winning author and screenwriter who has a somewhat distant relationship with my son. You know what that’s like? That’s like the unendurable physical suffering of people in the third world who are trying to find food and escape crazed, murderous mobs.” So then he wrote a book equating the two, which is about the most callous, egotistical act of privileged self-pity a writer can indulge in.

At least now I know why the characters and their reactions don’t make much sense. The boy is constantly terrified, and his chief role involves pointing at things and screaming, punctuating every conflict in the book, like a bad horror film. Cannibals and dead infants are an okay (if cliche) place to start when it comes to unsettling the reader, but just having the characters react histrionically does not build tension, especially when the characters are too flat to be sympathetic in the first place. Another Creative Writing 101 lesson: if you have to resort to over-the-top character reactions to let the audience know how they are supposed to feel, then your ’emotional moment’ isn’t working. It’s the literary equivalent of a laugh track.

You know what’s more unsettling than a child screaming when he finds a dead infant? A child not screaming when he finds a dead infant. And really, that’s the more likely outcome. The young boy has never known another world–his world is death and horror. Anyone who has seen a picture of a Rwandan boy with an AK can see how children adapt to what’s around them. And you know what would make a great book? A father who remembers the old world trying to prevent his son from becoming a callous monster because of the new one.

But no, we get a child who inexplicably reacts as if he’s used to the good life in suburbia and all this death and killing is completely new to him, even though we’ve watched him go through it half a dozen times already. The characters never grow numb to it, they never seem to suffer PTSD, their reactions are more akin to angst.

Every time there is a problem, the characters just fold in on themselves and give up. People really only do that when they have the luxury of sitting about and ruminating on what troubles them. When there is a sudden danger before us, we might run, or freeze, but there’s hardly time to feel sorry for ourselves.

There is no joy or hope in this book–not even the fleeting, false kind. Everything is constantly bleak. Yet human beings in stressful, dangerous situations always find ways to carry on: small victories, justifications, or even lies and delusions. The closest this book gets is ‘The Fire’, which is the father’s term for why they must carry on through all these difficulties. But replace ‘The Fire’ with ‘The Plot’ and you’ll see what effect is achieved: it’s not character psychology, but authorial convenience. Apparently, McCarthy cannot even think of a plausible reason why human beings would want to survive.

There is nothing engaging about a world sterilized of all possibility. People always create a way out, even when there is none. What is tragic is not a lack of hope, but misplaced hope. I could perhaps appreciate a completely empty world as a writing exercise, but as McCarthy is constantly trying to provoke emotional reactions, he cannot have been going for utter bleakness.

The Road is a canvas painted black, so it doesn’t mater how many more black strokes he layers on top: they will not stand out because there is no contrast, there is no depth, no breaking or building of tension, just a constant addition of featureless details to a featureless whole. Some people seem to think that an emotionally manipulative book that makes people cry is better than one that makes people horny–but at least people don’t get self-righteous about what turns them on.

This is tragedy porn. Suburban malaise is equated with the most remote and terrible examples of human pain. So, dull housewives can read it and think‘yes, my ennui is just like a child who stumbles across a corpse’, and perhaps she will cry, and feel justified in doing so. Or a man might read it and think‘yes, my father was distant, and it makes me feel like I live alone in a hostile world I don’t care to understand’; he will not cry, but he will say that he did.

And so the privileged can read about how their pain is the same as the pain of those starving children they mute during commercial breaks. In the perversity of modern, invisible colonialism–where a slave does not wash your clothes, but builds the machine that washes them–these self-absorbed people who have never starved or had their lives imperiled can think of themselves as worldly, as ‘one with humanity’, as good, caring people.

They recycle. They turn the water off when they brush their teeth. They buy organic. They even thought about joining the Peace Corps. Their guilt is assuaged. They are free to bask in their own radiant anguish.

And it all depresses me–which makes me a shit, because I’m no more entitled to it than any other well-fed, educated winner of the genetic lottery. So when I read this book, I couldn’t sympathize with that angst and think it justified, just like I couldn’t with Holden’s. I know my little existential crisis isn’t comparable to someone who has really lost control of their life, who might actually lose life.

But this kind of egotistical detachment has become typical of American thought, and of American authors, whose little, personal, insular explorations don’t even pretend to look at the larger world. Indeed, there is a self-satisfied notion that trying to look at the world sullies the pure artist.

And that ’emotionally pure, isolated author’ is what we get from the Oprah interview. Sure, she’s asking asinine questions, but McCarthy shows no capacity to discuss either craft or ideas, refusing to take open-ended questions and discuss writing, he instead laughs condescendingly and shrugs. Then again, he may honestly not have much insight on the topic.

Looked at in this way, it’s not surprising he won the Pulitzer. Awards committees run on politics, and choosing McCarthy is a political decision–an attempt to declare that insular, American arrogance is somehow still relevant. But the world seems content to move ahead without America and its literature, which is why no one expects McCarthy–or any American author–to win a Nobel any time soon.

This book is a paean to the obliviousness of American self-importance in our increasingly global, undifferentiated world. One way or the other, it will stand as a testament to the last gasp of a dying philosophy: either we will collapse under our own in-fighting and short-sightedness, or we will be forced to evolve into something new and competitive–a bloated reputation will carry you only so far.

But then, the Pulitzer committee is renowned for picking unadventurous winners–usually an unremarkable late entry by an author past their prime. As William Gass put it:

“the prize is simply not given to work of the first rank, rarely even to the second; and if you believed yourself to be a writer of that eminence, you are now assured of being over the hill”

To any genre reader, this book will have a familiar and unpleasant taste, the same one LeGuin has often lamented: that of the big name author slumming. They pop into fantasy or sci fi with their lit fic credentials to show us little folk ‘how it’s really done’–but know nothing about the genre or its history, and just end up reinventing the wheel, producing a book that would have been tired and dated thirty years ago. Luckily for such writers, none of their lit fic critics know anything about other genres–any sort of bland rehash will feel fresh to them, as long as you have the name-recognition to get them to look in the first place.

So, McCarthy gets two stars for a passable (if cliche) script for a sci fi adventure movie, minus one star for unconscionable denigration of human suffering. I couldn’t say if McCarthy’s other books are any good; I will probably try another, just to see if any part of his reputation is deserved, but this one certainly didn’t help. All I see is another author who got too big for his editors and, finding himself free to write whatever he wanted–only proved that he no longer has anything worth saying.

“Look, if the contemporary condition is hopelessly shitty, insipid, materialistic, emotionally retarded, sadomasochistic, and stupid, then I (or any writer) can get away with slapping together stories with characters who are stupid, vapid, emotionally retarded, which is easy, because these sorts of characters require no development. With descriptions that are merely lists … Where stupid people say insipid stuff to each other. If what’s always distinguished bad writing–flat characters, a narrative world that’s … not recognizably human, etc.–is also a description of today’s world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world … most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is?”

-David Foster Wallace

 

Trump Terror

11 Nov

I was actually happy when Trump got the Republican nomination.  I thought Jeb Bush, with his family-backing, and Texas oil money, and far-right support was more of a threat.  I highly doubted anyone would take Donald Trump seriously.  I mean, all he had going for him was money and trash-talk!  I felt voting for him was akin to voting for a Kardashian.  They’re in the same camp–you know their names from the stupid stuff they say and do on television, but you don’look to them for any serious leadership.

And I knew if nobody took Trump seriously (because HOW could they!!!) that whatever democrat was running would be a shoe-in.  I wasn’t sad to see it was Hillary.  I had actually voted for her over Obama in the primary that first time around when she ran.  I knew her face, thought she worked really hard as Secretary of State, and yeah–I wanted a woman in the White House.

But I thought women’s rights were farther ahead than they actually are.  I really think if Hillary were a man, things would have played out differently.  It would have been an EQUAL assessment of two candidates.  Not just a singular attack on one and blind-spot toward the other.  They would have dug into her dirty laundry–sure–that’s part of the political game these days.  And believe me, they ALL have their share of dirty laundry.  The political machine is so caught up in money now, that ALL candidates that make it to a certain lever most certainly made back room deals to get funded.  They all owe somebody.  Every politician has to water down a certain policy they care about, because a special interest group contributed to their campaign.

That makes them all lairs.  They all manipulate.  Every politician is shady.  I expect it.

But they would have used the bad stuff to equal disadvantage, apples-to-apples.  They didn’t.  When people called Hillary a liar, I was like–yeah.  Of course.  But what I didn’t expect was to people to hold that against Hillary in a militant way, when they didn’t hold the male politician to the same standard.  I would challenge that every accusation, every piece of dirty laundry found on Hillary was used against her in a more drastic way then it is used against any man that has run or held office.  People were a LOT harsher on Clinton then they’ve been on most males in politics.

The patriarchal double-standard reared it’s ugly head.

Even so, I didn’t think the country would go for Donald Trump.  How could they?  He is a caricature.  He’s all fluff and propaganda, and realty TV!  He has no political experience, no solid policy ideas, only hateful sound-bites.  His business dealings were murky.  The guy claimed bankruptcy and didn’t pay taxes.  He wavered on issues, and lost all three debates.  His supporters were the trashiest, most backward, belligerents in the country.  He got caught candidly admitting his penchant for sexual abuse.  Americans would not get behind any of that.  We might like to see the train wreck on TV, but we expect more decorum and have higher standards for our president.

The leader of our country–the leader of the world.

I was in absolute shock when we didn’t.

This week was difficult.  I felt suddenly scared and alone.  I knew every person from my small town voted republican.  I felt since Trump is against many of the minority groups I belong to (women-in social standing, impoverished, gays) that my Utah work managers were also.  My hometown was also.  My Facebook friends were also.  My parents were also.  I was suddenly marginalized.  Cowering at the fringes.

And my groups are actually dominant groups OF the marginalized groups.  The illegals, people of color, transsexuals, Muslims–all have it way worse.  If I felt scared and alone, how must THEY feel???

I saw many Trump supporters come across my Facebook feed.  And they shut-down dissent by telling anyone liberal or sorry about the win to “get over it.”  They discounted their opinions, silencing their views.  I try not to make waves on Facebook.  Or at work.  I know I am more progressive then my small-town peers.  I understand I have lived in more states, have more education, watch documentaries and learn about issues.  I’m a moderate, but a progressive one.  That sets me apart from most loud political views.  I get that people that just don’t know, don’t necessarily hate, but they are ignorant.  I can let some things go.  And I am usually quiet.  I scroll past the politics that are opposite to my views, the hate-memes, and ignorance.  Because these people are family.  Or they are my past.  I grew up and went through every year of schooling from kindergarten to senior year with some of these people–it’s just not worth it.

But when people started hassling Cool on her Facebook page, I stopped to think.  She was upset and posted why.  People wrote long diatribes, personally attacking her.  People told her to shut up about it.  People said to “move on.”  And in a society that just accepted what Trump stands for, and voted him in the highest office–I decided we could no longer afford apathy.

A lot of the reason he got voted in was because people didn’t like either candidate so they didn’t vote.  A whole, big section of youth, and moderates, and democrats just didn’t vote.  Which left privileged people to make our decisions.  People whose lives look nothing like mine.  People who don’t have the same problems and worries as me (or other marginalized groups).  It made me think a lot of that Holocaust quote, which I will not directly quote (because I’m too lazy to go search for it, and I already have more tabs open then I like) so I will sum the sentiment up:  They took the criminals, and I was not a criminal so I didn’t say anything.  They took the gypsies, and I was not a gypsy so I didn’t say anything.  They took the Jews and I was not a Jew so I didn’t say anything.  So when they came for me–there was nobody to speak for me.

We always have to remember how the Holocaust started so nothing even remotely similar can repeat itself.  It’s not just about some tyrant stealing power–it’s the apathy and silence from the real majority that allows that to happen.

And Cool and I spent a very large part of the year watching WWII (and everything around the periphery of that) shows, interviews, and documentaries.  I know what apathy can lead to, I know how things got started in Germany back then.  So I felt motivated to stand up where I could in my own life.  I made a new policy that I would not be silenced by the privileged few.  I would not stand down as a woman.  I will not hide as a gay.  I will not let my poverty minimize my power.  And I wouldn’t stand by and say nothing when others were hassled–not anymore.  I will act with integrity and stand for what I believe in.  Even if it causes confrontation.  I will deliberately show my ethics and speak my morals.  I have to counter the negativity and hate that was just sanctioned by a vocal majority by stopping the silence and apathy.  First in my own life, then maybe even on a larger scale.

Here’s what I wrote to Cool (and her frenemies on Facebook):

hypocracy

 

And I wrote to her (and those frenemies of hers):

“Words of wisdom: I will not be shut-down or silenced. I will continue to voice my ethics and let my values guide my actions. Hate has no place here. Don’t let societal pressures make you falter. Speak your mind. Speak your truth.”

Because right now it’s super-important for all those just marginalized by the ignorants and the haters to have a voice.  Remind people we’re here and we’re just as valid.  And we have dreams, hopes, and rights.  We deserve an equal chance.  We deserve respect.  That dissent is not unpatriotic.  To speak out for injustice is as American as you can get.  It’s what this country was built on.

I also got brave and wrote from my heart on my own Facebook page.  Knowing I was outnumbered by right-wingers.  Knowing there was hate for my groups just under the surface.

“I try to keep politics off my page. Nobody really wants to hear it–you’re not changing anyone’s mind. And I don’t identify with either party. I think with all the money, and lobbyists, and Super-PACS all candidates that make it that far have to be corrupt just to be in the game. But I am in shock and dismay.

For me, this 2016 election result is not about red or blue, winning or losing, it’s about standing for my values, and modeling my ethics. I will not be shut-down and I will not falter in defending my morals for fear of antagonism. It’s not about, “move on, get over it.” Trump’s values do not align with mine. And friends/family I hope I know you well enough that Trump’s quotes/feelings are not in your heart either.
This is a country of immigrants, mentally ill, minorities, women, gays, impoverished, of “other.” Big-Money shouldn’t have the largest and last say in all matters. As a proud American I recognize how fortunate I am to be born here and at the status that I hold. But that’s all it was–luck, completely out of my control. I will raise my voice to defend the little people– outsiders like myself–because that’s the kind of person I am.
If you can’t respect that, if you are ignorant to the sentiment of this message–mostly I feel sorry for you. And a little afraid. For myself, for the others like me, for this great country, and for you. God bless, and may the universe be kind to you and yours.”
I was disappointed I only got 3 likes and one comment–none of those from family.  So the fears and isolation are real.  Those people on my Facebook WOULD turn against me.  I have to watch my mouth and watch my back.
But I will not be silenced.  I will not go down without a fight.
I took my new personal-policy of not being silenced to my job yesterday.  Crissy bought us ice cream.  She got 4 different flavors of candy bars.  Derick the Douche loves Reese’s PB cups best, so she specifically got ice cream in that flavor for him.  He claimed it before he saw it.  The rest of us decided which flavors we wanted.  Derick then saw the ice cream, and saw his flavor was smaller then the rest.  He said he wanted oreo instead (it was the biggest).  But an Indian gal had already picked that one out.  White, male, privileged, dominant Derick the Douche wanted it, and pushed for it.  She conceded.  I spoke up–“No Siama already chose that one.”  And I like PB, and didn’t particularly care which ice cream flavor I ate (I love ALL ice cream!) so I told him to take the Twix one I had picked.  He pouted and tried to take hers anyway.  I put my foot down.  Which, I never would have done before.  He’s always that way.  It was none of my business.  But under my new policy, I was not going to stand by and let him bully a minority and take the (perceived) better ice cream away from her.
I used my policy a second time in the same night.  A chronically slow, co-worker, who is always late, always lagging on his buckets, and actually disallowed to do basic tasks because he messes up, ruffled my feathers.  I always do the document imaging at work.  My co-workers don’t like to.  Everyone is supposed to do it.  We even have it assigned to a certain color.  But I do the lions share-no matter what color I am assigned.  Night after night.  Because I am a hard worker.  I’m motivated.  And it needs to be done.  I’ll do the scanning–ALL of the scanning.  Night after night, month after month, year after year-I do the majority of the scanning.  To the point, they don’t even know HOW, some of them, including the boy in this story.
For once, Crissy (who is just a sub and usually doesn’t work) was helping with the scanning.  She got stuck and didn’t know what had gone wrong, and this kid (Josh) was near so went over to help her.  But since he never scans, didn’t know how.  And they all just KNOW that I’m the scanning bitch at work.  In an accusatory tone, he called my name–like ‘YOU fucked this up, now come over and fix your mistake so Crissy can finish our work.’  That’s what his tone and body language said.  And he’s used that tone on me before.  Usually I let it go to keep the peace.  Even though it’s a totally inappropriate tone for work, and completely condescending.  I usually let it go.  Even though it makes me mad and makes me feel ‘less than’ I let it go.
But last night I called him out on it.  I said, “Are you asking for my help or accusing me of something?”  And he still looked agitated and a little hostile toward me so I continued, “You don’t need to use that accusatory tone on anyone at work–especially when you’re asking for their help.”  Turns out, I had not messed anything up.  But even if I had–so what?  And um–scanning is not MY job.  They are supposed to be doing their share and they never do–so don’t come accusing me of anything regarding scanning!  Anyway, Crissy had pressed something wrong, and it was no big deal, I simply showed her how to fix it, and we went on with work.  But my defense had made the kid mad.  He was storming around, slamming his stuff, and had a shitty demeanor for the rest of our shift.
But I wasn’t silenced.
And that felt good.  In a week where shock and horror ruled.  So I will continue on, living ethically, not hiding behind fear or apathy.  I will act with morality, defend those without a voice, and stand up for my beliefs–because they’re just as valid as Trumps, and those who voted for him.

The Security Breach

24 Oct

We had to move to our apartment (in a new state) sight-unseen.  We have 2 cats.  And a strict budget–especially at that time, b/c moving is expensive!  No one called us back in Salt Lake City.  Everyone who responded at all, never even read our out-of-state situation, and invited us to a showing.  When we couldn’t make a showing “tomorrow” they just didn’t correspond with us.  It was everyone.  How nice for realtor’s in SLC that it’s a seller’s market.

Bottom line:  We pretty much had to take what we could get.

It was OK.  The apartment was a little larger and better then what we had in Spokompton.  The neighborhood was quiet, but had tons of potential.  The park across the street was not like the ghetto-homeless situation of Mission Park near our apt in WA-state, but largely empty.  And quiet.  And they did lawn maint like 4 times a week.

But recently things have slowly started to change.

Every once and again there will be a homeless person sleeping it off under a tree in the park.  Someone parked their shopping cart 5 blocks up on the sidewalk next to the main street.  Nothing big.

The change from quiet to icky came with this homeless family.  A man, woman, toddler, and dog lived in their car.  And parked the car in our complex’s parking lot.  Like, every night.  Nobody seemed to notice, and they stayed under the radar for 5-6 weeks.  Everything started sliding downhill after that:

8/17/2016:  Wrote in the apartment portal that homeless people were living in the car in our parking lot.

9/2/16:  Texted the manager that the homeless people were still parking/living in our apartment’s parking lot.  Was informed the manager was out of town and instructed to call police about it.

9/13/16:  We came back from an out-of-state week-long trip and suddenly the homeless family in the car weren’t around anymore.

Wed Sept 28:  A knock on the bedroom window at 11 PM.  Cool had turned on the bedroom light to change for bed, and the knock came.  Then there was the sound of some tool trying to pry open the window frame.  She didn’t want to call 911 only to find it was a squirrel not an emergency (and she was still a little manic) so she she ran out of the apartment, to the entrance of the back alley.  She held up the flashlight app on her phone, but our window is toward the 300W street-side more, so the person she saw was not detailed.  She DID see a person in black clothing, holding something red (a cigarette or a pen light?) and at our window!  She called 911 and they sent 6 police officers and a dog.  They did an official sweep of the apartment, holding up guns, and calling for intruders.

I wasn’t too, too concerned though.  Because I thought it was probably a crime of opportunity.  There is an apartment on 300 W, and its parking lot is behind their building.  It ajuts to the end of our (dark, abandoned) fire alley.  They must have had problems with prowlers because they no longer park cars behind the building, favoring the side of the building, which is visible to the street.  They also installed a bright light in back.  The light illuminates a portion of our fire alley, but the first window in the dark is ours.  So I figured someone just went to the first dark window they saw.  And the person must have been dumb or not sober.  Because Cool had just turned on the light when she heard a knock–and who breaks into an apartment when the light is on, meaning someone is home?!  And a bunch of cops came in about 5 minutes, so I figured whoever it was went along their way.  And would never be back.

Fri/Sat, Sept 30:  The next door neighbor fixed the hole in the fence between the dark parking lot behind the next apartment and our fire alley.

Sat Oct 1:  I closed the black-out curtains, tucking them between the dresser and the wall.  We are watching a movie in the living room, and there are a lot of people outside their apartments talking, smoking, and drinking.  I hear what I think is Goose fussing with the curtains, trying to get in the window sill to look outside (it’s his fave thing to do).  Thinking he might pull the whole suspension bar holding the curtains down (and holding my dinner at the time) I ask Cool to go in the bedroom and check on him.  She reports someone is knocking on the back window.  I’m scared–who comes back a second time?!  I was too scared to open the curtains and see who it was.  I would be face-to-face with them, and that’s too much!  My adrenaline was pumping from the fear and I banged (3+ times) on the inside of the window with my fist, hoping to scare the would-be intruder away.  I banged a 2nd time (3 loud knocking sounds), while Cool was on the phone with 911.  Whoever was on the other side of the window. . .  Didn’t startle away–they knocked again.  This told me about their frame of mind and made me even more afraid.  I knocked on the thin wall of our bedroom, hoping to get help from the neighbor.

Bronco ran out to the fire alley, but all was quiet.  A police officer arrived about 20 min after our call, and stayed a long time, hearing our story, the neighbor’s opinions, and offering suggestions:  Lights in the alley.  Remove the abandoned/broke-down cars b/c they are a thief/vagrant attractant (and a fire hazard).  Put razor wire along the top of the fence surrounding the alley.  The police officer did not seem impatient or eager to leave.  I could hear calls on his radio on a busy Saturday night, but he made sure to get the whole story and he made sure he answered all of our questions.

We were afraid all the time at this point.  It felt like we were waiting with dreaded anticipation for someone to come back and try to get in.  I was afraid to open the windows.  I didn’t want to shower when I was home.  I was afraid to sleep and let my guard down, in case someone tried to break in.  I checked every noise to make sure it wasn’t someone trying to get in the apartment.  Every time the cats jumped in or out of the window, I was alarmed.  I listened for footsteps in the alley.  I felt stressed and unsafe.  Cool became crazy.  She started hearing things.  She wouldn’t go to sleep when I wasn’t home.  When I finally coerced her to sleep so that she could make it to work in the day, she wouldn’t sleep in the bedroom.  She had all the lights in the apartment turned on all the time–even while she was sleeping.  She started bothering the neighbors, asking them to check the alley.  We were scared in our apartment.

Sun Oct 2:  We were also scared about being away from the apartment for 11 hours, because someone could get inside.  So I took 1.5 hours of vacation and left early (forfeiting some of my weekend double-time) to go guard the house.  We bought a bat, a strong flashlight, and strong, locking bars to block the window and the door closed.  After work at 6:30 PM we inspected the fire alley (carrying the bat) and saw a broken bench was propped up on the chain link fence.  It looked like maybe someone had attempted to throw it away at the dumpster across the parking lot–just my theory.  And someone else came along and dragged it over to use as a step-stool over our fence.  We pushed it away from the fence and it folded in half, making a crunching/squeaking sound.  It ended up about 2 feet away from our fence and folded sort of in half (because it had already been broken).

Mon Oct 3, 1 AM:  I awoke to hear that same bench being moved.  It happened only briefly.  No one came to our window.  In the daylight I checked, and the bench was still away from the chain link fence.  I wasn’t going to mention it to Cool, because she was already freaked, and I wasn’t 100% certain (just 98%), but Cool mentioned she had heard it, so I know it happened, b/c we had both heard it.

Wed Oct 5 a pack of stray cats were eating from our bird feeder and making a tapping sound on the window.  Cool thought it sounded like the knocking of before so she knocked on our neighbor’s wall.  We absolutely know the first 2 incidents were a person though b/c the first time Cool had run outside and actually seen a person.  And the 2nd time, I had banged HARD on the window.  Hard enough that my knuckles were bruised the next day-and I never bruise.  No animal would have sat there for that banging.  And I had done it multiple times, twice.  It would have startled away any animal.  And after I had banged, someone knocked back at me.

Thurs Oct 6, 12:30 PM:  A man was sitting in Bronco and Cough’s parking spot, which is directly across from my living room window.  My curtains had been open.  I took a pic, but his head was down.  He stood and looked into my apartment so I called the non-emergency police line, but before I could complete the call, the man meandered to 300 W.  I asked for police patrol.

11PM:  heard walking in the fire alley and a quiet jangling (like keys in a pocket).

10-6-16:  Texted the apartment manager asking when any safety measures will be taken–never got a response.

10-6-16:  Wrote in official apartment portal-

Someone tried to break into the bedroom window this last Wednesday (9/28) at 10 PM. On that occasion, a person knocked on the window, then used some sort of tool to try to pry the window frame apart. Luckily one of us was home and called 911. We also reported the incident to management the next day, but so far no additional security has been completed. Saturday (10/1) at 8 PM, someone came back to the bedroom window and knocked. I pounded the window to scare them off–and they tapped again. We called 911 a second time, and the officer gave us some tips: 1) The cars on the side of the building are an attractant to burglars and homeless people. Some are also in violation of fire code. 2) Get a motion sensor light. 3) Put razor wire along the top of the entire fence, because someone is probably climbing over. 4) Consider a gate on the back side of the fire alley. I need to feel safe in my apt–please make some changes soon so we don t have to move.

Sat Oct 8, 5 AM:  Saw flashlight through blackout curtains (through sleep mask while sleeping).  But for certain.

Sat Oct 8, 5:10 AM:  Thud on bedroom window.  Goose ran behind curtains and stayed, so it may have been a cat.

Sun 11 PM:  tromping in fire alley (may have been police patrol).

Mon 1:40 PM-police drove by front of apt.

Tues 10/11, 3 PM:  marked police car was sitting on the street next to the park.

Wed, 1 AM-ish:  I got home from work, and the homeless car was parked street-side at our apartments.

Wed 3:15 PM:  the same man that had been sitting in front of the window last Thursday slowly walked past our window toward 300W.  He was with another guy, and they walked slowly, looking in the apartment.  The neighbor also came outside and commented how the two guys had been leering into his apartment–so it wasn’t just me that noticed.  I called the police just to make a report.

Wed 4 PM:  The apartment manager (Royal) was leaving and we caught him.  He has been on the job 4 days Bryson left in Sept?, a woman took over for a week, Dusty was with us for a week or 2, now this guy.  We asked for locks or lighting or safety measures and he said the management company couldn’t do anything–it was all up to the owner.  He was defensive and scoffed in our faces as if we were being hysterical and unreasonable.  He kept saying they are not the police and cannot have 24/7 security.  I tried to tell him there were things that could be done–such as the police suggestions.  Lights for starters.  I also said we were coming from a place of frustration, b/c we were living in fear, and no one from the apartments had even acknowledged our requests/complaints.  And no action had been taken.  He told us he/the management company couldn’t do anything because everything was up to the owner.  We don’t have contact info for the owner.   Royal said the owner wouldn’t do anything–and didn’t have to.  He also told us the housing association doesn’t regulate apartment owners.  The conversation escalated to a confrontation for sure.

Wed 4:30 PM:  The police called back to get a full report of all the incidents.  I recounted the 4 incidents we called about and offered the other 2 that I thought/hoped were the police.

10-13-16, 12:45 AM:  Noticed homeless car parked street-side at our apt as I got home from work.

Oct 15-16:  Started looking for a new apt.  Contacted several options located around work.

10-16-16, 1 AM:  Someone moved the bench.  We then heard footsteps in the back alley.  After an hour, finally called the non-emergency police line to report it.  While on the phone with the dispatcher, flashlight shined in the bedroom.

10/16, 2 AM:  2nd flashlight swept across bedroom–assumed/hoped it was the police.

10/17/16:  Went and looked at a unit in a different apartment complex.  Turned in our application for it.

10/17/16, 2:30 PM:  A homeless man and woman with a bike and a sleeping bag were on the walkway directly above our apartment waiting for the neighbor to get home.

10/17, 12AM:  Possibly homeless car parked street-side by our complex.  Looks slightly different than the homeless car that I remember before, but still the same size and color.  A woman was outside of the car, and stuff was on the complex lawn outside the passenger side.

10/17, 12:35 AM:  Flashlight through bedroom window and footsteps, assumed/hoped it was the police.

10/18/16:  Application for new apartment approved.  The new landlord just needs a reference from our current apartment.  She calls and calls, but cannot get through.  Cool makes a dozen phone calls to random places because our management company has no evident contact information, and we never had contact info for the apartment owner.  Finally, a different complex managed by the same company gets in contact with the regional office who gets in contact with Royal, our apartment manager.  He is annoyed anyone is contacting him.  When Cool asks him to contact this new apartment landlord, Royal off-handedly mentions how our current owner contacted him and said they didn’t want to renew our lease.  We are out at the end of December.  Also, his demeanor on the phone was annoyed/rude.

So I’m not sure,

  1. why, out-of-the-blue the owner (with whom we’ve had ZERO contact) would terminate our “lease.”
  2. I’m suspicious our confrontation with the new manager, Royal, where we asked for ANY security such as lights or removal of concrete blocks and broke-down cars from the fire-alley had everything to do with this given the timing.
  3. We don’t have a lease until December.  The only lease we ever signed for this current complex was the first one when we moved here.  It was for 6 months, and ended October 2015.  That lease specifies that if no other lease is signed, it defaults to a month-to-month arrangement.  And month-to-month is an additional $100/month.  I’m sure we just slipped through the cracks, because it’s been a full year since our original lease expired and no one asked us to sign another lease–or raised our rent price.
  4. I am concerned about an eviction.  I don’t want it on my rental history.  And WHY?  We just passed on info from the police about amping up security.  We’ve paid all our rent, have been quiet, and clean.  We’re actually great tenants.  We just demand things like hot water, flushing toilets, and ask for ANY security measures.
  5. I’m SUPER concerned once they find out we don’t actually have a lease through December, they will put us out in 15 days, without cause, per our original lease conditions.  That’s October 30.  Our new apartment isn’t vacated and available to us until Nov 15. . .  And that’s before any carpet replacement or painting that they will surely do, driving the date back.
  6. We had to band over backwards to contact the manager–and he had already known about our non-lease renewal–when was he going to mention this to us??!
  7. I’m so, so, so glad we were all but in a new apartment at that point, because this news would have REALLY flipped me out if we had to start from scratch.  It’s not always easy to get into a new apartment.  Especially with cats–and he have a price range that can’t budge b/c we had absolutely no notice or time to plan/save.

later that day (10/18/16) I typed up a formal notice of termination for the current apartment.  It asked that we get a walk-though in order to redeem our deposit, and that we leave last day of December (or mid-Dec if they are willing to pro-rate rent).  And I typed it into the apartment portal online.  There is no formal address to mail it to, and that makes me nervous.

10/19/16:  Dropped formal leaving letter off where we drop rent, since we have no contact info for the management or owner, and there is no formal office for anything, and we can’t even send it certified mail.

10/20/16:  Paid $400 deposit at new apartment.

10/21/16:  Our letter with prospective move-out date still hasn’t been acknowledged.

10/24/16, 12:30 PM:  A group of 3-6 people dressed in rags had a bike and shopping cart and bags on the sidewalk between our complex and the studio property next door.  They seemed to be hanging around, and I wondered if that was a new bus stop or if the park was doing some kind of maint and asked them to step off that property for a time.

2:35 PM:  When Cool got home from work the group was still loitering around on the sidewalk.  We closed all of our curtains b/c where they were standing had a direct view in our apartment.  After we did our afternoon workout, about 3-ish PM, I looked out and they had moved along.

10/25/16:  Our letter with prospective move-out date still hasn’t been acknowledged.  Cool called a lot of numbers trying to see what recourse we have if they just never respond.  Because I don’t want to go and get slapped with abandonment fees.  No one knows–everyone just gave her more phone numbers to try.  We texted the number for the apartment managers and heard nothing.  So Cool called the number.  Royal is no longer our person.  Now we have Brian.  This is the 5th manager we’ve had since August (2 months).

10/28/16:  Still haven’t heard anything about our lease (they think we have), and acknowledgement of our end date, or a walk through.

10/29/16, 5-ish PM:  Saw the police go to apt #2, two doors down.  Eddie, who lives there, said someone in a red hoodie had banged on his front window (blinds closed) and shouted his name.  The police and Eddie came to our door, because we were peering out our (blinds open) window, and since we had had trouble with banging on our window.

10/30/16, 3PM:  The homeless car parked inside the laundry area.  Looked they’d been in our apt complex for awhile and were very comfortable here.

11/1/16, 10:38:  Noticed the homeless car in the complex parking-lot by the laundry area.

1 mile (minimum) 1000 days in a row!

28 Sep

Today is the day! This is it. P.S. Obviously, I had to stop being lazy and write a post on this MILEstone day.  Also, I’m sorry for not writing (as I always am).  Now that I’m not a student and forced to sit for long periods of time, procrastinate from overwhelming studying, or use a computer for papers and research constantly–it’s hard to keep up on it.  I’m NOT finished blogging (I’d TELL you, dear readers) just sparse and lazy.

What I’m no longer lazy about though–is running.  At least a mile.  OK, actually, there’s really no day that I WANT to run.  I’m not all crazy and addicted to running.  I will probably never do a marathon–or even a half.  Just no desire.  Why would I?!  I may not even do a 5K.  I run to be alone–not wake up at the crack of dawn, go in the cold, and elbow through a crowd.  Oh no.  It’s more an obligation.  A daily, obligation that I know I will HAVE to do.  Kind of like scooping the litterboxes every day.  Nobody, WANTS to do it, but it has to be done, so you plan for it, just get it done, and are thankful when it’s over.  That’s how my runs go.

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I tried to go back in my posts to find out what I was feeling when I started this.  And honestly, I couldn’t find anything super-huge about it.  I didn’t look VERY hard through the old posts (because I wanted to write this for sure) but it didn’t even seem a monumental goal.  Such a big accomplishment–and it started very small I guess. . .  I absolutely know I had no intentions of ever doing it for a thousand days in a row–that just happened.  Honest.

I know this for sure:  I started running on the treadmill January 2, 2014.  It was on January 2nd because I think I used January 1st as a holiday.  Maybe it was a hangover day?  I don’t recall, if I had been drinking or not.  I know I had been contemplating quitting.  So I had slowed down the alcohol.  I can’t remember if that was the last hurrah (I actually did quit drinking alltogether for 2 years) or if I had stopped earlier.  I think it was actually more a day of contemplation.  My life wasn’t exactly where I wanted it to be.  I was working a thankless, stressful veterinary job, taking part-time Speech & Hearing Science Classes, and drinking too much.  I was scared, actually.  What I wanted to do was stop drinking all-together–that was part of the reason to start running.  Because quitting alcohol left me with a lot of extra time.  So I wanted to fill it.  But not with more work, and I was already studying my a$$ off.  So fitness and health seemed sensible.

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I wrote a lot of goals in 2014, and was pretty good at tracking them and accomplishing tem little by little.  The running just stemmed from that.  I wanted to never break the chain.  If you do something every single day, every day in a row, on those inevitable lazy days, you’re less likely to skip.  Because skipping isn’t just slacking on one day anymore–it’s losing all the previous days in a row.  If you run 1 day, a skipped day doesn’t matter all that much, and suddenly, you haven’t run in 3 months oops.  But if you run 7, or 50, or 700 days in a row, when you feel like lazy-ing out–you don’t lose THAT day, you lose the 7, 50, or 700 previous efforts too–then have to start over.

I ran before work at 4 AM, inside hotel rooms (bear-jam), during family visits when everyone was having fun and I felt lazy, and once at 1:30 AM after coming home from work.

I rode a Grayhound from Spokane to Salt Lake City for my school interview–and ran in the hotel parking lot–in February.

I ran with head-colds, when I had blisters, with broken ribs (very slowly), and when I was tired.

I treadmilled after working for 10 hours, when I was very busy, on every birthday and holiday.

In bad weather and when it was 104F (outside, and I ran outside, b/c inside was worse w/no AC), I ran my mile.

The 2nd day of moving, after a sleepless (thanks kitties) night in a hotel, I drove a Penksy from Missoula to Salt Lake City, had to skip lunch, unloaded the entire moving truck, and discovered the hot water hadn’t been turned on in the new apartment.  And I still ran.

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I did it!  And some days that was the only thing I did.  Many days the only thing that got me out of my jammies and off the couch was my mile.

But there were good days too.  Those first hot days in the spring are some of the best runs–you are finally outside!  All the record-breaking days.  Days after being cooped up at work or studying for finals–those runs felt great.  A new running outfit or pair of shoes.  After I got my Tom Tom fitness tracker and no longer had cords of any kind.  Just feeling good.

And the drinking crept back in, but it is in moderation.  I’m at a new job–and it’s not in the veterinary field.  I dropped tracking goals (this year) because I’m in transition and it was a bummer seeing them fall by the wayside month after month.  But I ran–1,000 days.  In a row.  No stopping.  If I can do that I can do anything.  I just have to put my mind to it.

So I created a work/community event knowing I don’t really know anyone in the state, and I work with duds/douches losers that can barely get themselves to work.  But I’m a winner so I created a commemorative (/fundraising) event, knowing it was just be me.  And my family who participated.  And not being disappointed about that at all-because I’M doing it.  And that is important–as is this day.

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So now I may NEVER stop!  If I broke a leg–I’d probably hop out a mile.  Because I never want to throw away more then 1,000 days in a row of running at least one mile.

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Poke’-tarded

17 Aug
My coworkers are my least favorite part of my job–the administration a very close 2nd.  They bring the new social acceptability of being an anti-social nerd  to life.  It’s like “The Big Bang” but in person antisocial behavior is not funny/amusing at all.  If someone sneezes, it’s met by silence.  If you say something to your neighbor, they won’t even give a grunt of acknowledgement-they’ll just straight up ignore you if they don’t care what you said or don’t feel like talking.  I’ll ask questions regarding Utah places or events and nobody will answer.  They all grew up in Utah, but they don’t know because they are up all night playing video games and talking trash online.  Then, they sleep in their Mommy’s basement all day til work.  None of them have many social skills, or if they have them, choose not to use them.  Our boss is one of the worst-you’ll come into the lab and he’ll ignore you.  No hello or anything–just like you don’t exist.  Our supervisor has mostly good intentions, but is socially oblivious, and is always making (faulty) assumptions.
I’m not a fan, and whenever I’m out in public, at a restaurant or appointment, I find it delightful that it’s not me.  When you’re just locked in a room day after day, it starts to feel like you.  But it’s not me, because people in the outside world are hospitable and sometimes even friendly.  They have manners and manage to hold a conversation.  It’s only in the lab their is this blanket weirdness.  There’s a reason people work in a lab, away from people.
So my coworkers were my first introduction to the “Pokemon Go” phenomenon/trend.  Suddenly, these people who laid on the couch during breaks were outside.  They would venture out to chase Pokemon.  And I think it’s good that video game designers try to make their games useful and productive.  We don’t need a bunch of fat-ass kids sitting and looking at screens 24/7.  Anything that gets them moving is good.  Getting them outside in the world is even better.  And benefiting businesses is good.  Well, done Pokemon Go designers.
Except, I feel that people should do these things anyway.  And on their own accord.  I think you’re super-lame if you never get off your ass.  I think it sucks if you don’t go outside just because there are things to do out there.  And I am incredibly annoyed that people aren’t going to zoos and avairys simply because they are there.  They are awesome!  They should be appreciated because they are fun and serve a purpose and they’re still available in the world!  Not because your video game told you to go there.
And how stupid that these people aren’t paying attention to the world when they are on the chase?  Seriously–people have fallen off cliffs and are getting run over??!  Like we’re lemmings?  I’ve seen my co-workers come in all fat, McDonald’s in hand, and talk of never sleeping in until work at 5PM.  Then discussing their screens they stare at all nightlong.  Like, get a life!
Here’s my Facebook trash-talk:
Can I just say I hate this already?! I can’t go 2 seconds without hearing about it. And seriously–it takes a game to get your fat/pale ass outside? And you’re going to the zoo to stare at your phone??? Super-annoying–Ugh.
Which I got a lot of $hit for saying “pale.”  Like it’s a race thing.  I’m not bringing race into it–all kinds of people can be guilty of screening 24/7.  I’m stigmatizing pale, like you’ve never ventured out of Mommy’s basement, never seen the sun.
And here’s my zoo rant, because animal organizations had to resort to pandering to the hype to get money:
I disliked the event, because it upsets me that people don’t want to [without virtual enticement] support a non-profit, see beautiful, exotic animals, learn, and give to conservation just because it’s available. I am glad the zoos are capitalizing on this trend, but really–should they have to? I think people should want to go to a zoo simply because it is there–and I think they should pay attention solely to what’s important (the real animals that are endangered) when they do go. You are so lucky to have such a nice zoo close to you, and you’re wasting it, or trivializing it by going because of a game. I’d like people to do things for the right reasons, that’s all. Now let the thousands addicted to the app blast me for my opinion, as I’m sure they will.

Like · Reply · 6 · July 21 at 4:15pm
And I think my point is 100% correct.  But I’m at a disadvantage saying it behind my screen where all the people I’m talking about are living their lives.  I’m totally out-numbered.  And people can’t admit they’re bing $hit-heads and guilty of my accusations, they are addicted to the game, and addicted to screens in general so they trash-talk me.
Aquariumplantsuk
Aquariumplantsuk totally correct 🙂
Like · Reply · July 21 at 7:00pm
Cecilia Alexander
Cecilia Alexander I understand where you’re coming from sweetie but also recognize the good that this app has done for those will mental illness and terminal illnesses. Some people don’t want to leave their house because of these illnesses and now that they are they’re being bashed. I’m sure the zoo is making a ton of money off of this so there is no losing.
Like · Reply · 2 · July 21 at 8:59pm
P.S.  I think it’s totally condescending to call a stranger “sweetie” and I hate that.  Also, her point is ridiculous, because people with mental and terminal illnesses should be motivated to get out of the house without an app telling them to.  Why should some app be the key factor getting them outside?  They should be motivated by the imminent extinction of these beautiful animals.  And by the fact these things are available even without the app!  So I’m calling B.S. on the illness card, though she is totally right about these non-profits benefiting from the game.  But it’s unfortunate they have to depend on some app to lure people in–shouldn’t people just want to go anyway?!
Ryan Alexander Milstead
Ryan Alexander Milstead It’s just an idea to get people to come to the zoo that usually wouldn’t. Maybe those people have a great time and become regular visitors or even members. People might be encouraged to come by this event, but if you don’t enjoy zoos, you’re not gonna go just to play Pokemon Go (cause you can do that literally anywhere).
Like · Reply · 1 · July 22 at 5:56pm

Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker Quit your bitchin’ lady. The world doesn’t revolve around what you like and dislike.
Like · Reply · 1 · July 23 at 3:05pm
Then I retort:
Tyler Baker way to keep it classy
Like · Reply · July 23 at 11:24pm
Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker I could care less about keeping it classy. You just need to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around your opinion, or what you like and/or dislike. Posting about why you dislike this event won’t change anything. Just being a realist. I really don’t care if I’m classy or not.
Like · Reply · 1 · 16 hrs · Edited
Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker You’re welcome for that life lesson.
Like · Reply · 16 hrs

I want to tell this Tyler asshole where to shove it so he doesn’t think he “won” but I know arguing with a fool–makes two. And it would just spur him on to shit-talk more. But ahhhh–totally annoying!  I saw a stand-up comedian talking about how Millennials are all ritious and enable their own opinions or call it bullying when other’s say an opposing view.  If anyone dares make a point or disagrees with them, instead of having a conversation they spew some hate and navigate away from the page or block the person.  And I see here how that’s true.  I wrote an earnest blurb, because someone on Facebook was like, “I don’t get why people are disliking this Pokemon Go event at the zoo???”  So I gave a sincere, well-thought reason why.   And this Tyler-20-something year old is an ASS!  WTF with all that “schooling me” and everything.  I wanted to scratch eyes.  And re-reading this makes me too riled up to even write a decent conclusion to this post.

I guess I will just hope he Pokemon’s himself right into the lion’s den at some zoo and gets eaten. . .  Maybe my coworkers will be lemmings and follow him.

Bears Don’t Live on Deserted Islands: My Analysis of “Swiss Army Man” [Spoiler Warning]

8 Jul

For my birthday, we went to an Independent theater and saw the Sundance Film, “Swiss Army Man.”  Let’s just get all talking/jokes about farting out of the way now–that’s not really the central theme of the movie–or this blog.  When you’re watching this movie, you have to “buy in” very early or you’ll hate it.  The film is like one of the whimsical paintings I like, but in a film format.  The reality is altered/fanciful, the shots are jerky, the characters (one is a literally dead guy) in their own little world where physics and time aren’t invited.  You could watch the entire film, and just feel like it was a random string of crazy events.  BUT after much thought, I found a linear plot and meaning.

The supporting evidence:

-When Hank first sees the body, and rides him out in the ocean, then the film cuts back to him with his face on the sandy beach.  Is it a new beach?  Is he somehow back at the same beach?

-random garbage appears in the place–all the time.  Everywhere they are.  I know the ocean has trash, but THIS MUCH???

-Hank looks scruffy as if he’s been in this deserted place for a long time.  His beard is long and he’s dirty.  Yet, he has no survival skills.  He doesn’t know how to make tools to hunt or fish with and he eats bad berries so he doesn’t have a good grip of foraging.  How has he survived this long without having any skills?

-toward the middle of the film, a (grizzly?) bear attacks.  Where is this place where a tropical white sand beach is attached to the woods?

-they travel, travel, travel and end up in the love interest’s back yard

-there are space/time descrepencies regarding the island, such as at the end when Hank is back in society, they are both in the yard with other people, then everyone runs through the forest, but finally everyone is back at the beach.  and Manny goes back to the ocean.

-After Hank is discovered, he rides the body down one hill behind her back yard–and there are his crafts and trash-projects!  He has been right behind her house the whole time-creeper.

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Given these factors, I decided there is no physical island in the movie at all.  And that fact changes the whole movie doesn’t it?  We’re not just in suspended disbelief–this is a perspective story.  Hank’s POV.  The island is a metaphor for how Hank feels/Hank’s thoughts.  He is on a self-imposed deserted island because he feels weird/lonely/stigmatized by society.  This is a movie like the 6th Sense or Memento–we are watching through the lense of whatever mental illness (anxiety/depression, love-obsessed stalker, anti-social personality, skitzophrenia???) Hank has.

Let’s re-examine the above factors:

-When Hank first sees the body, and rides him out in the ocean, then the film cuts back to him with his face on the sandy beach.  Is it a new beach?  Is he somehow back at the same beach?

*Hank was in the middle of committing suicide when the film opens, and he sees a dead body.  A lot of people with mental illness are at risk for suicide.  Seeing the dead body, somehow gives Hank something else to think about other then how he feels.  The body makes him interested in something so he changes his mind about suicide.  Then, as Hank’s mind settles a little, and he doesn’t feel so alone, we see Hank “leaving the deserted island” via the body.  But there is no real personal connection between Hank and this body (yet) so the exit off the island is brief and Hank wakes up back on his deserted island, isolated the way it all started.

-random garbage appears where Hank is

*I won’t go into the more obvious symbolism of trash in the movie, but I’ll talk about how the trash proves location.  At the end, Sarah recognizes her own diary in Hank’s belongings/crafts.  It’s the same diary she happened to be writing in when Hank took the pic of her on the bus.  It shows that Hank has been behind her house, squirreling away her trash the whole time.  All the crafts and stuff are made from her trash!  And that has a more creepy/sinister vibe.

-toward the middle of the film, a (grizzly?) bear attacks

*I don’t know everything about bears, but I’m pretty sure they never live on tropical deserted islands.  This was the primary reason I “got” the film.  The terrain in this deserted changes from beginning to end of the film.  We start out at white sand beaches, go through the forest, over bodies of water, hear a road, then we’re in a back yard.  If all Hank had to do was walk, then why was he so desperate to commit suicide at the beginning?  Also, I wouldn’t think you’d make the effort to kill yourself in a deserted island situation–nature would do it for you.  You’d soon starve, or dehydrate.  If you were desperate on an island, and no longer cared if you lived or died, wouldn’t you just make some sort of last ditch heroic effort to get back to people?

-Hank looks scruffy as if he’s been in this deserted place for a long time.  His beard is long and he’s dirty.  Yet, he has no survival skills.  He doesn’t know how to make tools to hunt or fish with and he eats bad berries so he doesn’t have a good grip of foraging.  How has he survived this long without having any skills?

*Really, Hank didn’t have to know survival skills because the desertion was in his head.  He was physically camping near Sarah’s house and scrounging in her garbage.  Which is why Cheetos and alcohol make it to the deserted place, when in reality it would be implausible for one of those items, and probably impossible to get enough trash to literally survive upon.  Also, the beard.  In the beginning, on the island, Hank’s beard is long and scruffy.  As he and Manny open up and gain a camaraderie–Hank is clean-shaven.  Yet we are never shown how.  I think the hair is part of feeling like an outcast hermit so when he has someone else, Hank no longer feels like that and the symbol of being outcast hermit also just disappears.

-they travel, travel, travel and end up in the love interest’s back yard

and

-there are space/time dependencies regarding the island, such as at the end when Hank is back in society, they are both in the yard with other people, then everyone runs through the forest, but finally everyone is back at the beach.  and Manny goes back to the ocean.

*You start to notice that the more intimacy that is gained between the dead body and Hank, the less deserted the island becomes (we go from isolated white sand beach, to forest, to water, see bears, hear cars, and finally see a little girl in a back yard).  The entire film is about these two buddies traveling back to society.  It takes the whole time!  Yet, at the end, Hank rides Manny’s body out of Sarah’s yard, down one hill, through some water and he’s back on the white sand beach.  It shows how Hank started out in self-imposed isolation in his mind (but physically camping behind Sarah’s house), then as he found an ally, left that isolated place his mind had created.  The more they talk, the more secrets come into the open, and the more comfortable Hank gets with being “other/weird.”  His mind is now a forest.  Not quite the isolation or loneliness of a deserted island, but still removed from society.  Then, Hank and Manny are best friends and understand each other.  Hank’s mind has reintegrated with society and he will take a chance and talk to Sarah.  But then, he sees his father, who is ashamed.  He sees Sarah is alarmed, and the world is a scary place again where Hank is the weird one.  All the progress he made with Manny recedes and his mind takes him back out of the yard, through the forest, on the isolated white beach.  And with the exit of Manny into the ocean–to an altered reality.  It’s (the physical location is actually inside Hank’s own mind) cemented when we see the change in Hank’s father demeanor.  When Hank’s mind is back in reality (he is physically and mentally in a yard) his father leans against the truck–ashamed at what has happened and who his son is.  But when Manny goes back into the ocean, and hank is arrested the father smiles.  It’s because Hank’s mind has gone back to his safe place, and in it Hank can fantasize his father is happy and proud of him–because it’s not reality anymore.  Hank is free of societal restrictions on the island/in the ocean fantasy.

-After Hank is discovered, he rides the body down one hill behind her back yard–and there are his crafts and trash-projects!  He has been right behind her house the whole time-creeper.

*This is the biggest clue the audience is given to Hank’s mind/physical body being different.  When we watch the movie, yes everything is strange, but the shows, and crafts, books, and reenactments are normalized.  We aren’t repulsed by any of it, because we bought in.  When we are out of Hank’s head at the end, and see the same items through the lens of Sarah’s perspective, the crafts and trinkets suddenly look garish and creepy.  She realizes he’s back there doing weird stuff with her garbage.  She knows some random stranger saw her on the bus, took a cell phone pic, found out where she lives, and is now camping there are doing strange projects with her garbage.  She looks horrified.

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So even though I, also, sat in that theater and said, “What the fuck?”  as the lights came back on–I liked the movie.  The more I thought about it, and discussed the plot after the movie, the more it made sense.  And when it made sense, it suddenly had a linear plot that was more likable than that string of random happenings.  I like a movie you have to think about.  And Swiss Army Man has no shortage of metaphor’s, symbols, and discrepancies to make the audience do just that.  I recommend you give it a chance and watch the film–just do me a favor and stop with all the fart jokes.