Summer of ’17

The seasons have turned once again, and summer is here in Portland… I take the bus downtown and back daily, seeing the peaceful quiet pace of my Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood contrasted to the movement and energy of downtown. I am working at a hotel just off Pioneer Square called the Nines most days, parking cars again as I did years ago in Atlanta and earning the resources I’ll need to get through one more year of graduate school and to pay for past cross-country road trips. In the meantime I am willing my way through the deep and expansive research aspect of my thesis, reading articles upon articles on vignettes and narrative design, perspective-taking, stigmatization of mental illness, and experimental design.

The cool breeze, the greenery of this town’s neighborhoods, the long daylight and energetic rhythm of the summer days… If only this season lasted far longer. There is so much I wish to do with my hours and I must be happy to finish all that I can in the time that I have, and perhaps sneak a few moments here and there to watch a Shakespeare play in the park, or binge Game of Thrones, or to work on a craft project, or to write for a few stolen moments, or to snap a memorable photo. I will tentatively re-awaken my voice; my thoughts will stir and I will allow them to remain on the page;  and all is okay.

A trio of songs to seek meaning to

I dearly enjoy those pieces of art that eschew any obvious meaning or message. The ones that leave me questioning, the ones whose dominant emotion is a vague but powerful feeling of thoughtfulness, heartache, or wonder. The ones with no simple logic, and certainly no clear-cut explanation.

Art seen near the Lloyd Center in Portland.

Art seen near the Lloyd Center this summer in Portland. “In the Tree Tops” by Margarita Leon.

They are few and far between, but I live for them when I do find them, and for me, it’s usually those very feelings of abstract questioning that make this frustrating venture of creation, writing, and self-expression worthwhile in the end. I know my regularity of writing has been flagging lately, so I thought I’d do something special this week, in part because I’ve been needing to write more, and in part because I’ll be attaching my name and portfolio in applications to various cool potential employers this week, and I’d like for them to see me with my best foot forward, if and when they decide by some twist of good fate to explore this portfolio.

So, starting tomorrow and continuing through Saturday, I’ll be posting selected new video reviews to my music blog that I’ll share at some time in the course of each day. I’ve selected videos with a consistent theme, videos that impart a certain feeling of abstraction, bewilderment, and hopefully wonder.

#1 “Champagne Coast” is funky and delightfully weird, like nothing I’ve seen!

#2 Breathless ’90s life filtered through cameras fuels Semisonic’s “Secret Smile”

#3 This surprise music video for “Ooo” is simple, sweet, uncomplicated, and pure

The reality is that many of us are facing very challenging times. I read so much in news and social media about the extremes of income inequality, the steep challenges of prevailing institutional prejudice and division, the seemingly insurmountable challenges awaiting us due to climate change, wars that seem ongoing, and a false economic recovery that I, at least, have not yet significantly benefited from. But through the hardest of times, I’ve always felt that my personal brand of enjoyment often springs from those rare slices of ingenuity, those examples everywhere of the persistently creative, thought-provoking, and often frustratingly meaningless pieces of written and visual self expression. It’s this indescribable joy persistence that I admire, this unflagging hope, this willingness to strive quietly in spite of it all that I try never to leave behind.

It’s those instances we manage to make the time, in spite of the ongoing bustle of life so culturally obsessed with working really really hard and still just barely paying the bills, to escape for a bit and see what beauty and fascination the world has to offer, that I personally feel most satisfied. Nearly always it’s a matter pushing ourselves, of finding comfort in that state of holy discomfort, as someone I know so poetically put it recently, that reaps the most rewards. And it’s a something that I find myself having to consistently recommit myself to, with mixed results. But learning is in the doing, and joy is in the journey. So here goes.

Check out the cool videos I’ll be sharing in the next few days, starting tomorrow! I promise to do my best to show you things that will strike you as revelatory at best, and at least, confusing and weird but kind of thought-provoking. As always, thanks for reading, lovelies!

An Overhaul For the Music Blog

I’ve been wrestling with this sustained near-complete cessation of writing lately…It’s been a while! This writing break-time for me is drawing to a close, though, and as July starts, I’m re-committing myself to building more disciplined habits of writing, both online and off, and perhaps to submitting my ideas and my posts to publications that might be interested.

I’ve been enthusiastic and overjoyed to re-ignite my music blog, The Needle on Vinyl. It has always been a personal project, so far, and worth the experience of searching for great music and writing about it, and the elusive joy that has given me. I’ve always used proprietary photos pulled from Google and songs streamed via Spotify, and felt a bit sketchy about those practices. But, since I’ve always self-produced this endeavor on my own time and dollar I don’t feel terribly bad about that aspect of the project. At best, it’s essentially been a channel of free publicity for select musicians, and oftentimes for ones who hardly need the word-of-mouth… Not to mention that it’s also been a dearly-needed and valuable release of tension during the challenging time I had getting started in the Northwest. I’ve had fun with it, so I’ve decided to start it up again. For fun, mainly, though.

Launching today, I’ve totally refashioned the landing page, with a far more visually-grabbing look. Check it out, and check out my first new playlist, Hearts and St@rs, on the fully remodeled site, at www.needleonvinyl.wordpress.com.  Hope you like it, even you House-Music-Haters out there!

Home again!

I moved back to Carbondale, IL, the place I am proud to call my hometown, at the beginning of the summer, and it’s been a pretty great summer… probably the best that I’ve had for a long time! I spent much of my time applying to nearly every business in town that I know of, but nobody wants to hire me (except one Asian bistro in Marion, and the work environment there was no fun). This place has been so kind to me, and I love my friends here so much! They’re there for me, no matter what I’m going through, and I feel closer to them than to anyone. Even when my parents wouldn’t let me live in their home, my friends were there for me, and I always know that their doors are open to me, and that means so much. I’ve been working non-stop since I graduated, trying to support myself, and it’s not easy out there, particularly in this post-recession world.

This is the first summer since 2009, which I spent living with friends in their duplex outside Lawrence, that I’ve had entirely my choice of what to do with my time. It’s liberating! I have been able to practice guitar, polish my websites, play sports with friends here in Carbondale, and process more deeply my experience in Atlanta. It’s been a summer of action, a summer of surprises, and rest, and growth. I watched the World Cup from the food court at SIU, where it was convenient for me to camp out with my computer and bum the free Internet they provide. Those German football players sure were cruel! But that’s not too surprising: after all, they’re only Germans. And I had really been pulling for the home team! They sure would have loved that win. And now, come to find out, their longtime rivals Argentina are bankrupt!

The conflict in Israel-Palestine has ignited again, though, and I was not particularly surprised to find myself pinned between the two sides of the ongoing conflict. Older activists I’d met in Atlanta were vocally supportive of Palestine, and many of my good friends and housemates in the QVS house had studied the conflict there as well, and shared with me what they had learned. My friend Liz had even travelled to Ramallah in the early months of the summer! When the tensions escalated, I was so grateful that she had made it home when she did, and wasn’t there when things got bad. I think pretty often about my trip to Israel, and it informs the way I think about world issues to this day. When I was there, I met soldiers, and I saw Jerusalem, and I visited the cemetery at Mt. Herzl, and I saw the grave of my hero Hannah Szenes, and it really was a significant experience for me. There is one thing I do know. The idea that bombs dropped by drones will solve this issue is just stupid.

An image of Hannah Senesz, a Jewish poet and writer, pulled from RedHairCrow.com.

An image of Hannah Senesz, a Jewish poet and writer, pulled from RedHairCrow.com.

My education really was a good one, though I have struggled for so long to find good paying work. I got to visit France, and I visited Israel, and I Iearned so much about myself and about the U.S. For someone who could never have had higher education if it weren’t for scholarships and loans, due to my parents’ financial situation, it means so much more. I was challenged there, and forced to reconsider my preconceptions of the world, and I met people from around the world. I won’t say that it was a perfect education, but I had a pretty great foundation, both in high school and it KU. And now, my high school friends are finding such great success in their chosen fields, and though I am a bit jealous of them, I’m finding now that I know at least someone in cities throughout the U.S., and even throughout the world, who I still try to maintain contact with.

I am sad to leave behind my friends in Atlanta, but we made some awesome memories, and we lived and loved and struggled and worked, and that’s what life is all about. I’m sure I will get to visit them again sometime soon, and I’m sure that our story is just beginning. I mean, just thinking of the experiences we shared there fills my heart with warmth! I know many of them have moved far away, and I miss them, but that’s part of life. And I know man of them will probably stay in Atlanta for the long term, and settle down, and may change completely before I ever hear from them again. But, honestly, we don’t always get to be near the people we love. In this new, globalized age, it’s really not too hard to contact anyone, though. If anything, I think I am a little bit overeager to stay in touch with people. 🙂 I get the sense it starts to get annoying to the really busy, hardworking ones. 

Well, that’s all! Off to Bum’s Beach for a quick swim! Peace and love, y’all.

New Years in Wonky Haus

I am blown away by Wonky Haus, and the world I have found myself with, and the people that I find myself with. I love this place so much, and I can’t even describe how lucky I am to be here. Wonky Haus is a place where you can feel enthusiastic about life, and intrigued about the possibilities of creative expression and pursuit, and not feel like you are the exception to the rule, or that you are betraying some unspoken rule, or that you must project your superiority at all times. I don’t feel self-conscious here, and that is a gift that cannot be measured. It is a new year, and I felt obliged to reflect on this. Happy New Year!!!

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