Currents, October 2017


Drink: The amazing (and unfortunately, limited) Pineapple Spice flavor of IZZE.

Food: The frozen Trader Joe's Hatch Chile Mac 'n Cheese. For some reason it smells like jalapeno cornbread to me and I love it. Note to self: make jalapeno cornbread.

Podcast: I've been enjoying Good Christian Fun and I'm excited to try Zealot.

Celebrity Crush: I rewatched the first season of Top of the Lake can have all the feels for Johnno. (But don't get me started on what they did to his character for season 2--NOT COOL).
Book: I've been listening to--what else?--true crime. Most recently, Dead by Sunset: Perfect Husband, Perfect Killer? by Ann Rule and Devil in the White City. I'm about to start Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Traching Serial Killers for the FBI by Robert K. Kessler and Tom Shachtman.

Project: I'm re-stenciling my bathroom with a new stencil design after some construction that was done in there this summer.

TV Show: I started watching Moral Orel thinking it would be silly and harsh on dogmatic conservative Christians, and it is, but it's emotionally eviscerated me. Young Maryann may not have been as naive as Orel, but I see so much of her in him. And the music is everything.

Movie: The only movies I've seen recently are ones lampooned by the Mike and the bots.
Obsession: It's lame, I know, but it's become very important to me to have Wet Ones (or their generic equivalent) wherever I go. Like, the ability to have clean hands no matter where I am has strangely crept into my top self-care priorities.

Thankfulness: Thanks to help from my parents, I'm going to start getting allergy shots. I'm cautiously optimistic about them helping me be less congested and less tired over time.

Worry: I feel like I need to find a middle ground between pride for doing hard things by myself and knowing when it's OK to ask for help.

Fashion: Anything made of sweats material that meets two requirements: it's black and it covers most of my body.

Music: I'm loving The Choir Practice (that I of course heard first on Moral Orel).

Reminder: "Having perfected our disguise, we spend our lives searching for someone we don't fool." 
- Robert Brault

I've got new rules


Who else is enjoying the hell out of this song and video?

#149: Santana by Santana

Santana by Santana (1969)

Favorite Tracks: "Waiting" and "Evil Ways" and "Shades of Time" and "Savor" and "Jingo-Lo-Ba" and "Fried Neckbones (And Some Homefries)" and "Persuasion" and "Treat" and "You Just Don't Care" and "Soul Sacrifice" and "Studio Jam"

Thoughts: My Friday gets funky, thanks to Santana. And how cool is this album cover? Do you see all the faces and people? I think I count six. I bet this album art has blown a number of stoned minds over the last almost 50 years.

The album starts out with the funky instrumental, "Waiting," and then leads into the well-known hit, "Evil Ways," which, it turns out, is a cover of a jazz song originally written by Clarence "Sonny" Henry for his own album, Bobo Motion, in 1967. And while this song is classic, I'd never really listened closely to the lyrics until now, and they're concerning.
You've got to change your evil ways... babyBefore I stop loving youYou've got to change... babyAnd every word that I say, it's trueYou've got me running and hidingAll over townYou've got me sneaking and peepingAnd running you downThis can't go on...Lord knows you got to change... baby 
When I come home... babyMy house is dark and my pots are coldYou're hangin' round, babyWith Jean and Joan and-a who knows whoI'm getting tired of waiting and fooling aroundI'll find somebody who won't make me feel like a clownThis can't go on...Lord knows you got to change
Like, stalker much? Not to mention the whole "my pots are cold" and you-should-be-home-waiting-for-me mentality. This is the kind of trashy attitude that brought about second-wave feminism!

"Shades of Time" seemed familiar (and great) but I'm not sure why I would recognize it. Is it in a movie or show I'm forgetting? Maybe Mad Men? I know I could use the internet for this but I'm feeling lazy.

"Savor," which Santana performed at Woodstock (I couldn't find video footage) really got me moving in my seat and made me wish I was listening to the album on vinyl. 

I mean, I could talk about the rest of the songs, but I don't have enough ways to say how funky and killer this album is. And with the piano, it's much jazzier than I expected! It's really, really good. The band performing "Soul Sacrifice" at Woodstock:

Is This Better Than Darkness On the Edge of Town: I mean, it's super, super great. I can't say it's better than Darkness, but man, it's fantastic.

Currents, May 2017


Drink: I just bought a Nespresso machine. I'm looking forward to never sleeping again because I'm going to have vanilla lattes all day long.

Food: Veggie samosas.

Podcast: Star Trek: The Next Conversation with Matt Mira and Andrew Secunda.

Celebrity Crush: Dan Stevens. 

Book: Sex, God, and the Conservative Church: Erasing Shame from Sexual Intimacy by Tina Schermer Sellers and Growing Up Again: Parenting Ourselves, Parenting Our Children by Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson. So, you know, that light summer reading life.

Project: I've started playing D&D...? And my character is a shape-shifter, so I'm working on means of organizing all the miniatures of animals she can turn into. So, you know, I'm really using my time and effort appropriately these days. 

TV Show: I mean, obviously Handmaid's Tale, but I just finished The Keepers on Netflix. So good, but be ready to cry. And be angry. 

Movie: The music of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 made the movie a pure delight. And I'm really excited for Wonder Woman and The Big Sick.

Thankfulness: I somehow managed to re-finance my mortgage for a lower rate? Adulting is weird.

Fashion: I'm getting back into novelty t-shirts (like of tv shows and podcasts and stuff). Last time I was into them they said shit like "body piercing saved my life" and "jesusade: the ultimate thirst-quencher." Yep.

Music: I finally saw Highlander, and now I'm in a Queen love-fest.

Wishlist: I've been longing for lots of Breyer horses. (Why do you think I'm reading Growing Up Again?)

"Logical thinking keeps you from wasting time worrying, or hoping. It prevents disappointment. Imagination, on the other hand, only gets you hyped up over things that will never realistically happen." - Jodi Picoult

"Every time I’ve had to barricade myself in a bathroom, I feel the space between my body and my femininity... grow wider and wider."


Thank God for the internet and for the people who share their art on it. I think I first found out about Toronto artist Hana Shafi's work when someone I followed on Instagram reposted this piece of hers:

My immediate thought was, "I have to embroider this!" And I still probably will someday, though someone beat me to it. So I started following Hana's art Instagram account and I have NOT regretted it. Her affirmation pieces occupy like, a third of my screenshots I keep on my phone to look at when I need to feel better about myself or my life.

The plan is to someday purchase a number of the affirmations in some form off her Redbubble page, and collage them in my home where I can't miss them. Maybe the inside of my front door or something.

Hana not only makes awesome art, she also writes. She wrote an entry for Hazlitt called "You Can't Have Diarrhea Around a Beauty Queen" about living as a woman with IBS. Much like the one-of-a-kind Meaty by Samantha Irby, Hana's article gives voice to social and personal complications of struggling with a disability that the patriarchy (and our culture entwined with it) will tell you is as unfeminine as you can get. Living with chronic bowel-related illnesses and defects is, so often, isolating and confidence-crushing.
I’ve grappled with this feeling of powerlessness, and ugliness. I’ve felt the distance between me and my body and femininity, while people are knocking on the bathroom door asking what’s taking so long. I’ve struggled with those ugly days—not ugly because my hair and makeup was off, but because the growl of my stomach tainted my whole ensemble.
 And the point of the article is to reaffirm that while "beautiful girls do poop," knowing this when you're doing great is one thing, but knowing it in the midst of an accident/episode/searching desperately for a public restroom is very different.
Femininity, outside of a patriarchal mode of thinking, is an abstract idea, which means that health issues shouldn’t detract from our sense of womanhood. While I’ve always seen my IBS as this massive contradiction to my femininity, I’ve also realized that this contrast only exists because I’ve allowed someone else’s definition of femininity to define my own. Women’s bodies are constantly being defined and debated for them. 
What constitutes a “good body” is a set of ideals, often washed over with a facade of so-called morality, chosen by everyone but us—by male politicians, by corporations, by online trolls, etc. I know all of this, but in the midst of an IBS flare-up, when I’m all by myself in some dingy bathroom, I find myself wondering: is my body a “good body”?
I don't have Crohn's or IBS, or any lower GI tract disorder. My own moments of wondering if my body is a 'good body' come from complications with my Spina Bifida, complications I've dealt with since I first learned to walk and talk. Loving and being kind to my body and self isn't always easy, but Hana's words and affirmations certainly help.

And then this last one isn't necessarily an affirmation, but I FUCKING LOVE IT.

Embroidery: Split Spine


There are almost 200,000 people living in the U.S. who were born with the birth defect Spina Bifida, and I'm one of them.

Spina Bifida literally means "split spine." Spina Bifida happens when a baby is in the womb and the spinal column does not close all the way. There are four different types of Spina Bifida, with varying degrees and types of disability they can cause.

Recently, during a tough time, I decided to make an embroidery piece of a spine, but a 'split spine'--one that never closed. I decided if I just left out the sacral elements, the impact wouldn't be the same, visually. But I also didn't want to try to embroider a meningocele. So I decided to do a flower similar in size. 

I made it for my cubicle, in what I'm going to call my Dark Corner. The rest of my cubicle is pastels and florals, lots of gold and pinks and light. But I have a blank wall that is basically hidden to anyone who isn't inside the cubicle (it's around the corner from the entrance). And in that Dark Corner, I'm putting this piece--my first ever embroidery on dark fabric, and certainly largest piece ever--next to some other black, stark art I've bought. The flower is the only color I intend to have in the 'gallery.' Everything else will be black and gray. It won't fit with the rest of the cubicle, but when have I ever kept to a single theme when it comes to decor?

#150: Darkness On the Edge of Town by Bruce Springsteen


Darkness On the Edge of Town by Bruce Springsteen (1978)

Favorite Tracks: "Badlands" and "Candy's Room" and "Racing in the Street" and "The Promised Land" and "Factory" and "Prove It All Night" and "Darkness On the Edge of Town"

Thoughts: Guys...guys....guys. Take a deep breath. Find someone you love and hold them tight. Make a wish. Take another deep breath.  The world is magic and we are alive. Darkness on the Edge of Town is here.

I've been MIA for a bit on this project/series, and frankly, it's this album's fault. I can't remember when I started this post, but a fear or not doing this album justice has kept me from wanting to hit 'publish.' I don't want to move on from it yet, even though I know more great albums await me.

This project often creates a strange sensation. No one is forcing me to go through this Rolling Stone list. If I wanted to, I could just review albums that I already know I like, and not listen to the ones that do nothing for me. But there's something about trudging through albums by groups like Red Hot Chili Peppers or Nine Inch Nails that make me truly appreciate getting to review albums like Darkness. It's an opportunity for me to feel grateful that these records exist, even though they've always been available for me to listen to. Not to mention the freedom I have to write about how they make me feel, well...I can thank the internet for that.

This is also gives me a chance to dig into an album as much as I can, more than I probably ever have before. For instance, in order to prepare fully for this review, I read Talk About A Dream: the Essential Interviews of Bruce Springsteen, watched The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town, Bruce Springsteen: A Conversation with His Fans, and Bruce Springsteen In Concert/MTV Unplugged--all of which the following quotes are from (along with Wikipedia of course).

I thought about holding back, wondering how much of this I'd already shared on other posts, tried to imagine ANYONE reading this whole thing, but in the end, I wrote this post for me, which meant I needed to give my all to it. (Which is the least Bruce has ever given to his music.)

Darkness wasn't an album I got to know until many years after I became a fan. My biggest albums of his when I started were The Rising and Born to Run. I had become a fan when my dad showed me the DVD of the band's reunion tour, Live in New York City, and then when 9/11 happened, The Rising kicked it into high gear. I didn't really listen to Darkness until 2010, when The Promise--an album of songs recorded for Darkness but that ultimately didn't make the cut--was released. I bought it for my dad for Christmas, ripped it for myself (thanks, Dad!) and then promptly forgot to listen to it.

What little I had heard of Darkness up to that point didn't seem to have the frenetic energy and youthful romantic ideals that I'd found in Born to Run, and so it just sat in my music library...until Feb. 2011. I saw a clip of Bruce Springsteen: A Conversation with Fans, where he got an amazing question: "What character from [Darkness on the Edge of Town/The Promise] would you most want your children to understand?"
"Racing in the Street" sums up a lot for me. I suppose I would like them to be...untouched by that particular sadness. If I could, you know? But that's not the way the world works.
This hit me hard. 2011 was my first year since 2008 without my facing another major surgery for my Spina Bifida. That medical journey had stripped me of so many hopes and dreams and strength. I hadn't heard "Racing in the Street"--or if I had, I didn't remember it. I opened up Youtube and and listened to the first video that popped up. Like so many artists with massive discographies, sometimes songs wait for you to find them. They're not on the Greatest Hits compilations, they don't come up first in iTunes searches. They sit in the background, waiting for you to be ready to discover them. The very things about Darkness that had made me ignore it--it's very literal darkness and disillusionment--were now the reason I connected with it most. I no longer saw the world through Born to Run glasses, like my stage for acting out epic dramas and living life to its absolute fullest. Now I just needed to know how to make it day to day, how to keep living in the midst of loss and isolation. Darkness asks those same questions.

Bruce was 27 when he began to write Darkness, and was in the midst of recovering from the massive success of Born to Run in 1975 (which is waiting gloriously for me in my reviewing future). In 1976 he was also embroiled in a lawsuit with his former manager (his contract said he couldn't go in the studio with a producer not approved by the manager--his "only form of protest" and means of keeping control over his own work was to choose to not record at all). He was facing the financial reality that his next record--if not as successful as Born to Run--could be the last record he might ever get to make. There was no guarantee of tomorrow, just this moment in time.

Fortunately, the lawsuit went in Bruce's favor, and he was able to start recording with the E Street Band in October 1977 in New York. Bruce had written about 10 songs for Born to Run (8 made the cut), but with the 3 year break from recording, Bruce came to the studio with SEVENTY songs in hand, including "multi-versions" of the same songs. Almost all of these songs--usually those with a stronger 'pop' feel--wouldn't make it onto Darkness, but would go on to make it onto The River or Tracks or even later, The Promise in 2010.

One such song was "Because the Night," which Bruce brought to Patti Smith (through their mutual engineer/producer Jimmy Iovine) to help him finish the lyrics and then for her to ultimately record, because in his words:
I knew I wasn't gonna be able to finish this song...because it was a love song, and I really felt like I didn't know how to write them at the time. There were so many of them out there, I figured I'd do something different. And also a real love song like "Because the Night"--I was reticent to write...I think I was too cowardly to write at the time. But she was very brave. She had the, you know...she had the courage.
It went on to be Patti's only hit record. In fact, the two 'biggest' songs written and recorded for the album didn't make it onto Darkness, but were also released in 1978. One was Patti's, and the other was "Fire" which was a (problematic) song also made famous by women: The Pointer Sisters.

I think the hefty number of songs Bruce brought to the studio explains why an album that took 5 months to record still sounds fresh. Over those 5 months they were recording so many songs that the ones that made it to the album still ended up being 'new' to the band in the studio. This is thanks to Bruce's approach to recording:
I usually don't teach the band the songs until we're in the studio, until we're about to record. Then I show them the chords real quick, so that they can't learn how to play it, because the minute they start learning to play it, they start figuring out parts and they get self-conscious. But the first two takes when they're learning it, they're worried about just hanging on. So they're playing right at the edge, and they're playing very intuitively, which is in general how our best stuff happens right now.
Another Patti, Patti Scialfa, Bruce's wife since 1991 (and a kick-ass musician and E street band member in her own right), has a great perspective on why the songs that didn't make Darkness didn't end up belonging on the record.
I know there were a lot of brilliant songs that were written that just didn't make the album. They would have altered the picture. When you look at Darkness, the person's not really attached to anybody else in that record. There are no love songs on that record.
The romantic, escapist dreamer narrator of Born to Run was not in the same place as the narrator in Darkness. E Street Band's drummer Max Weinberg:
One of the elements that was so striking between Born to Run and Darkness: on Born to Run you had the characters saying, you know, "Baby, we were born to run. We're gonna get out." In the ensuing three years between Born to Run and Darkness, it was made painfully clear: you can't just run away.
Music writers Roger Scott and Patrick Humphries:
There was a brash exuberance to his debut Greetings From Asbury Park in 1973. With verbose enthusiasm, Springsteen crammed everything into his debut like it was his last chance. Born to Run in 1975 was an album of epic panache, Springsteen elevating the street suss characters of his first two albums into heroes of the American Dream, arriving at their rock 'n' roll goal in burned-out Chevys. By Darkness on the Edge of Town in 1978, the dream had turned sour, and the album's 10 songs dealt in the darkness of disillusionment and despair."
Today,  Bruce describes Darknesss thusly:
A reckoning with the adult world...with a life of limitations and compromises...but also a life of resilience and a commitment to the breath in your lungs, you know? How do I keep faith with those things? How do I honor those things? ...That was the question that record asked over and over and over again.
 Adult life is a life of a lot of compromise, and...that's necessary. There's a lot of things that hey, you should be compromising on. And there are some essential things where you don't want to compromise, you know. So figuring those things out. What's the part of life where you need to compromise your get feed your make your way through the world. And then what's the part of life where's a part of yourself that you can't compromise with, or you lose yourself.
...It's a meditation on 'where are you going to stand? With who, and where are you gonna stand?
 After the year of recording, listening to all the stuff that we had, I stripped the record down to its--really its barest and most austere elements, and I decided I wanted something that felt like a tone poem, and I didn't want any distractions from the narrative and the stories that I was telling. And I wanted to have a sort of...apocalyptic grandeur.
Are you ready for me to get to the songs already? We're getting there, I promise! The album's mixer, Charles Plotkin:
It's not an ordinary sounding record. It captures the band in its leanest. You hear in the aural environment things struggling to make a place for themselves; it's not a grand, smooth, open space. It's a harder and darker place. You hear the dynamic of the players fighting for space inside the music. If you get the voice too high, it sounds always feels like much ado about nothing. You can't get it way out in front. You gotta get it just so that it's some kind of intelligible. So when all hell is breaking loose, it's...there's that strain as a mixer to keep the voice tucked that you feel like you could understand the words if you wished to try harder.
I think that quote's the perfect intro to this album. Let's go.

1) "Badlands" 

(Album Version.)

My introduction to this song was from the Live in New York City concert. It's perfect for live shows, because of the arm punch you get to do for each "Bad" and "lands" in the song, not to mention the "whoa-whoa-whooooa"'s. I've been fortunate enough to get to see it in person. And when my sister and I road-tripped through North Dakota, she kindly let me listen to this song on repeat. I've wanted to try karaoke-ing it but (Bruce would agree) it's a real voice-strainer. Like most anthems, it sounds best sung in large groups, and I don't think any of my karaoke friends know it. :)

Darkness has a more rural flair to it than Bruce's previous work, but it doesn't keep Clarence from delivering an epic saxophone solo--an instrument not usually found on 'heartland' tracks--on this track.

I wanted to post just my favorite lyrics but it turns out that's all of them, so instead I'll direct your attention to the lead up of the second bridge (and the bridge itself) which gives me the chills every damn time. I mean, WATCH THE WHOLE DAMN VIDEO, but if you must skip to the guitar solo that leads to the sax solo and then the second bridge build to 2:36 (when he starts vocalizing at 3:41 my whole body starts humming):

2) "Adam Raised a Cain"

When I was last at my parents' house I played Darkness on the turntable two times in a row. And both times the opening of "Adam Raised A Cain" made me jump out of whatever reverie I was in from listening to "Badlands." I remember even thinking, "Oof, what a rough transition! This song is so hard." So when I watched the making of documentary, I LOVED hearing how Bruce described the song to the album mixer, Charles Plotkin:
And [Bruce] says, "Look, I'm-a tell you a little somethin' about this song..." He says, "Here's what I want you to do: Imagine you're in a movie theater. On the screen is the two lovers havin' a picnic. And then, the camera shock-cuts to a dead body. Every time this song comes up on the album," he says, "This song is that dead body."
I mean, WHAT. And it's true, the song is shocking and disruptive and harsh, but oh-so-good. I didn't used to like Bruce's harder rock songs, but this one delivers. Bruce has stated it's semi-autobiographical, but that the ultimate question the song is asking is "How do we honor our parents?"

(Apparently the song is in the series finale of Sons of Anarchy, but I haven't brought myself to finish season 7 yet.)

3) "Something in the Night"

(Album version.)

I confuse the title of this song with "Spirit in the Night" which is a fun rocker. But "Something in the Night" couldn't be more different. It's slow and contemplative and depressing. I love it. The studio version has nice accompaniment, but I really love the version Bruce sometimes did on the road, with just the piano, which is what I embedded above (though the concert's from 1976 so the song was still in formative stages, lyrically). It's almost a taste of what's to come with "Racing In the Street."

4) "Candy's Room"

(Album version.)

Confession: In the past I've always avoided listening to "Candy's Room" because of the name. I didn't like that her name was Candy, and I didn't like the idea of Bruce in a room owned by a girl named Candy. I now am ashamed of that, A) because people named Candy didn't pick their own name, or B) even if they did, they deserve love too, or even C) if they can get a rock star in their room, more power to them. Basically, I want to support other women, no matter their name or what rock stars they get to come into their rooms.

Plus, it turns out the song is super, super, super good. I mean, the guitar solo alone gives me goosebumps. Even though it's got a quick beat and raucous energy, it's probably the closest thing to a love song on the album, but as writer Dave Marsh says, "[Bruce is capable] of tying together his hopes and fears--the most joyous of songs are awash with brutal undercurrents." The lyrics do infer that Candy is either a sex worker or 'sugar baby' to other men, and won't paint the narrator as her rescuer:

There's a sadness hidden in that pretty face
A sadness all her own
From which no man can keep Candy safe

But compared to the next song (the last one on Side A), "Candy's Room" might as well be "What a Wonderful World."

5) "Racing in the Street"

(Album version.)

Well, here we are. The song Dave Marsh calls "the line of demarcation separating casual Springsteen fans from the fanatics." And it's no joke. Have you listened to this song on repeat driving through the streets at night? I have. It doesn't get old. It gets depressing as F**K, but it doesn't get old. (Wikipedia goes so far as to call it a "near-dirge-like ballad.")

I have more than one version of the song, both with different vehicles. The first is the album version, which is:
I got a '69 Chevy with a 396
Fuelie heads and a Hurst on the floor

Yes, I definitely had to ask my dad what 'fuelie heads' and 'hurst on the floor' were. The live version I first heard has:
I got a '32 Ford, she's a 318

And yes, I also had to ask the difference between a 396 and a 318. For the how big a fan I am of Bruce and Meatloaf, I really need to take some time to learn more about how cars and motorcycles work. Anyway, back to the song. Bruce described the song thusly:
"You know, a lot of the songs deal with my obsession with the idea of sin and what is it? What is it in a good life? Because it plays an important place in a good life, also. How do you deal with it? You don't get rid of it. How do you carry your sins? That's what the people in "Racing in the Street" are trying to do. How do you carry your sins?"
When I hear the opening notes of Roy Bittan's piano, usually in my own car, I always have to take a deep breath. Take a deep breath, slow down, and get in touch with my own melancholy.  It's just a really, really perfect song.

The album version starts out with just Bruce and the piano, but eventually adds Max's percussion and Danny's organ. I love it, but I think the piano-only versions are so powerful. If I could, I'd fill this whole post with one version after another, but if I have to hedge my bets that you will probably only listen to one, I have to pick one. This is a solo take, an early demo, again with alternate lyrics. I can't confirm it, but I really like to imagine that Bruce is playing the piano...

(A wonderful live version from 1978Emmylou's cover, Patty Griffin's cover.)

6) "The Promised Land"

This is what I like to refer to as a 'tattoo song,' though it would more appropriately be called a 'someday tattoo song.' There are lyrics here that I want put on my body permanently, I just can't decide where or the font (or when to get it). It's day might be coming soon.

Bruce on the question this song asks: "How do we honor the community and the place we came from?"

The energy and angst of the studio version is perfect for a long drive (like most Bruce songs). But I think I listened to it for years without really hearing the lyrics. When I really discovered the bridge, it was what Julia Alvarez calls 'touching bottom' in my life, in the way when you're in a body of water and you sink down and touch the bottom--it's grounding, surprising, clarifying. You're moving through life untethered, when all of a sudden, something--a person, an idea, a song, a poem--shows you where you are.

I always took "Promised Land" to be a song like so many others, about longing for and dreaming about something better somewhere else. But in the bridge, Bruce's character (to me, at least) releases himself and commands you to do the same:
Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
Blow away the dreams that break your heart
Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted
I don't know if it was his intention, but to me, these instructions seem antithetical to so many of Bruce's themes of keep trying, keep dreaming, keep fighting, don't give up, you'll make it. But with these lyrics, I feel asked to examine my dreams. Is what I'm dreaming of possible? Is what I'm dreaming of something I've been told I deserve/can have, but that's not true? Are my dreams keeping me broken-hearted and lost? Do I need different dreams--dreams that are not only attainable, but life-giving and good for me?

Based off what Bruce has said about the song, I think he wanted those questions to the ones the song might make you ask.
"Deep despair, and yet resilience...and determination, assessment of limitations, desire to transcend those limitations in the way that you can."
In specific reference to the lyrics I included above:
"You had to lose your illusions, you know. You had to lose your illusions, while at the same time holding on to some sense of possibilities, you know. But more so, your illusions of adult life, and a life without limitations, which I think everyone dreams of and imagines at a certain point. The song that needs to be sung is this song about well, how do you deal with those things and move on to a creative life and a spiritual life, a satisfying life, and a life where you can just, make your way through the day and sleep at night?"
So much of Born to Run encapsulates that youthful idea of a 'life without limitations,' a life with endless possibilities and potential. But this song, and so much of Darkness, is about growing up and facing real limitations, real responsibilities, which explains why it didn't appeal to me much back in high school and college when I brushed it off as a downer album. But even in facing the reality of our lives and situations, how do you move on to have a creative and spiritual life, one that's satisfying and manageable? The promised land isn't one where you get everything you want at no cost. Maybe it's where you choose what's most important to you, and learn to live in harmony with those choices.

(Live solo acoustic version.)

7) "Factory" 

Bruce on the song:
"How do we honor the life that our brothers or sisters and parents lived?"
"That [song] was just the paradox of earning your living and getting life from a place that also takes--takes a lot out of you...which was just something I saw as a kid because my dad lost his hearing [working in a plastics factory]."
"There's people that get a chance to do the kind of work that changes the world, and makes things really different. And then there's the kind that just keeps the world from falling apart. And that was the kind my dad always did."
I mean, I don't think I can add anything to that. A beautiful, heart-breaking tribute.

8) "Streets of Fire"

This is probably my least favorite song on the album, but only because there's so many other good ones. This is a spectacular vocal performance by Bruce. I love the organ.

9) "Prove It All Night"

(Album version.)

For the promotion of the album, a giant billboard was put up on the Sunset Strip. Bruce said it was "the ugliest thing I've ever seen." So one night Bruce and members of the band and crew decided to vandalize it. "We just got out the paint and started to work on the thing. And then we wrote "Prove It All Night" and I wanted to get-- I wanted to write E Street, the band's name up there, so Clarence says, "well, get on my shoulders." So I got on his shoulders and we're like six stories up, five stories up, and I'm saying, "Clarence, you tired yet?" He says, "no, I got you, Boss, I got you." Clarence"--I'd do a letter--"you tired yet?" He'd say, "no, no, I got you, I got you..." I looked back and it was nothing but the pavement. But it was fun to do."

This is the 2nd song in the New York concert, and it's intro still makes me so, so happy. It's a killer love song, too.
Everybody's got a hunger, a hunger they can't resist,
There's so much that you want, you deserve much more than this,
But if dreams came true, oh, wouldn't that be nice,
But this ain't no dream we're living through tonight,
Girl, you want it, you take it, you pay the price. 
These lyrics remind me of one of my favorite MST3k lines.
Character [SINGING]: "I wish I had a castle in the sky." 
Mike: "Well, wish in one hand and crap in the other, and see which one piles up first."
Well, it's not quite as dark as that, but it recognizes that getting what you deserve or want isn't usually how the world works. And on those rare occasions when it does, there's still a price to pay.

I would tell you the timestamp for this song in the video, but there's only one song before it and you should really listen to it, too.

10) "Darkness on the Edge of Town"

Perfect song is perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect. I've run out of ways to say how good this album is.

Is This Better Than Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy?:

Don't make me choose, I can't compare Elton and Bruce. But Darkness is now the album the rest on the list will be measured by!

Once we do it, it'll be like, "Well, that's what that was like."


I enjoy this Van Morrison-esque love song by Ed Sheerhan (featuring Brittany Cherry from SYTYCD and DWTS!):

And I also really enjoy the spoof that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend did:

Season 2 was full of songs I loved.

Embroidery: Did You See That Ludicrous Display Last Night?


Team sports! They're everywhere! Without the accompanying food, would I ever watch them? No! When I ran the Hood to Coast relay back in '08, I vowed never again to participate in team sports. Teams = letting down other people with your own failings. I have enough on my psychological plate already, thank you.

Specifically, my feelings on football/soccer can best be summed up by my favorite deadpan comedian, Richard Ayoade:

Richard in a Barcelona Football Museum: "I could be here for...minutes."

Plus, I played soccer as a kid, and it was awful. Thank God my dad was my coach for most of it or it probably would have been much, much worse. And of all the sports, soccer at least doesn't have tons of commercial breaks, so it has that going for it.

But I can relate to the obsession of sports, because I, too, obsess about things, and then I want things in my possession that represent said things. My brother-in-law is a BIG Seattle Sounders FC fan. So last year when they won the MLS Cup, I wanted to make something Sounders-related as a Christmas present for him.

But they won the Cup on December 10th, so you'd think I'd choose a simple, easy pattern that I could definitely accomplish in time to give it to him at Christmas. So, being me, I picked just a few simple elements for the pattern:

- The year and name of the championship

- The Sounders FC emblem/crest

- The name of the team in its original font

- The official championship match soccer ball

- A Seattle Sounders scarf

- Two fan slogans/song lyrics

So, super simple and easy. I'm well-known for my minimalism. Here's what my vision ending up looking like, pattern-wise (I made it myself!):

SO EASY, RIGHT? 14 days would be way more than enough time to get this done.

Except not. I had it about 2/3 done by the end of my Christmas break. I showed him the rough version, with a promise to finish it quickly, which of course, meant he got it this last Wednesday.

Whatever--he loves it! And the Sounders have, like, 10 more months to celebrate before new champs are declared, so it's not that late. Here's how it turned out:

This is my favorite part of the piece, the Sounders emblem:

Go Sounders or whatever!

Currents, January 2017


Drink: Turns out dry hop hard cider is how I always hoped beer would taste but never has.

Food: Avgolemeno soup from my neighborhood Greek restaurant.

Podcast: I've started watching Golden Girls which means I've started listening to Out on the Lanai: A Golden Girls Podcast.

Celebrity Crush: Timothy Dalton. I'm rewatching the Bonds and he's just really, really nice to look at and listen to. Great smile, great voice. Also Jason Isaacs which is disturbing when you see my current TV.

Book: I'm enjoying Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance

Project: I'm hoping to do an embroidery piece with an OA quote (see below).

TV ShowTHE OA. The first episode is kind of rough (with some types of content, narratively it's perfect) but the music and the story and just watch it already.

Movie: I saw Rogue One and La La Land and enjoyed them but there are several different choices I would have made if someone had asked me, which no did, which is fine because I'm not a filmmaker. Normally I don't hold movies to that high a standard but musicals and Star Wars movies--I want them to be as good as they can be.

Time-Stealer: I started a second job. The great thing is I can do it from home, as little or as much as I want. But that's also the mo

Accomplishment: I marched in the Women's March on Saturday, which between my crowd anxiety and some spina bifida stuff, felt like an accomplishment. Also I photographed my friend since childhood and her family earlier this month, which was really special (see banner pic).

Fashion: This coat. (I have too many coats already, but so pretty.)

Music: All about Fifth Harmony and Little Mix jams right now. 

It ends or it doesn’t. That’s what you say. That’s how you get through it. The tunnel, the night, the pain, the love. It ends or it doesn’t. If the sun never comes up, you find a way to live without it. If they don’t come back, you sleep in the middle of the bed, learn how to make enough coffee for yourself alone. 
Adapt. Adjust. It ends or it doesn’t. It ends or it doesn’t. We do not perish.
                                                                                 -  Caitlyn Siehl

Straddling Your Bed With An Overhead Tripod For Totally Non-Scandalous Purposes: Christmas Card Photo 2016


This year's Christmas card was a doooooozy. Such a doozy, I put together an outtakes reel (see far, far below). The reel doesn't even include the initial iterations of my costume, which included a purple yoga ball and purple glitter spray paint that is now covering most of my possessions.

The concept for this year's card started with a simple desire: I wanted to own a pair of real, professional, pointe ballet shoes. Every year I end up spending a small fortune on costumes/props/production design (some years more than others), so I wanted to buy something for this year's photo that at any other time would have seemed like a frivolous purchase. Well, more frivolous than usual purchases.

As you might have read in a previous post, I've been kind of obsessed with The Nutcracker Ballet. So I thought of this section of the Clement Clarke Moore poem, "A Visit From St. Nicholas":

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;  

The original thought was the pets and I dressed as sugar plum fairies, until my much smarter friend Johanna reminded me that the poem is referring to actual sugared plums, and not the ballet, which actually premiered about 70 years after the poem's first publication. So I had to nix the fairies idea, but I decided my dancing sugar plum, since it was still dancing, after all, would have pointe shoes.

So the image would be two-fold, the top-half the sugar plums, the bottom half the children nestled snug in bed. The past few years of photos I've had to stage and execute over Thanksgiving weekend with the help of my family. This is pretty stressful, because I have to bring all the supplies and try to get the photo I need before I've taken up too much of my family's time. So this year the plan was to do it all by myself (if possible) so there wouldn't be time or people constraints.

This required investing in some photography supplies, namely a backdrop and a backdrop-hanging apparatus.  The plan was to use the backdrop-hanging apparatus (frame?) to capture the overhead photo of us sleeping in bed. So I did what anyone would do, I set up two large tripods straddling my queen-size bed, which supported a black rod across the top. From there, I attached a little bendy-tripod that I then fastened my DSLR to, with the camera pointing towards the bed.

I left it up for several nights, trying out various focal lengths and lighting set-ups. As luck would have it, one night my internet went out. I contacted Comcast, they sent a twenty-something guy out the next day. I cleaned the whole living room--and nothing else--in preparation, since that's where my internet hook-up and modem/router live.

But the technician quickly realized that my living room cable was on the fritz, and asked me if there was another one in my unit. Without really thinking, I said, "Yes, in the bedroom" and led him to the closed bedroom door. As I swung it open, I remembered that the first thing you see upon entering is a giant black tripod with a camera posed over the top of my unmade bed. I heard a guffaw behind me, but nothing else.

I briefly considered trying to explain to the technician why I had an over-bed camera set up, but I honestly couldn't come up with anything I'd thought he'd believe.

Me: "I don't have it up all the time, just right now, for my Christmas card photo."
Him: ...
Me: "I know what you're thinking, why do you take your Christmas card photo as an overhead shot of your bed?"
Him: ...
Me: "It's because this year's card required a picture of all of us--my pets and I-- in bed."
Him: ...
Me: "CLOTHED. In Christmas pajamas, actually. It's really cute. Nothing gross or weird. Really, really normal."

So instead, I didn't say ANYTHING about the tripod over my bed. I pointed to the cable hook-up, and waited.

He was texting a lot, and told me it was to his girlfriend about Christmas gifts. But I'd be shocked if he didn't fill her in on his current customer's strange bedroom set-up. And in 2016, in Seattle, it's not really that strange. It's only a story worth telling if you know me at all, even a little, tiny bit. In which case, it's pretty ironic and embarrassing.

So! The photo outtake video. Disclaimer: at about 1:50 in, you'll notice that I am waaaay over-exposed. I was worried the other photos were too dark, and the exposure didn't look that bright in the little LCD screen of my camera. So that's why that happened. Also the music cuts out a the end for a bit. Watching a two minute video these days can be like a special kind of hell, so if you need to not watch the whole thing, I get it, and I'll never know anyway. I cut out a TON of pictures, and tried to have each photo go as quick as Picasa (apparently no longer a thing?) would let me, but it still ended up 2 minutes long.

What ISN'T in this video is pictures of my dad tirelessly photoshopping the whole thing together for me. A) I can't afford Photoshop and b) I don't know how to use it, so he was essential to making this happen.

This was my first year trying to do one of those 'photo as card' things, as opposed to photo inserted in a card, and it went off with several hitches, and I'm not sure it's saving me any money like I thought it would, but I am glad that lots of people I love and like have a 6x8 of the following image in their possession.

(Can I get boring and lame for a second? Because this is such an expensive tradition for me to keep up, I've had to cut my list of people who get a card from me. If you are on the list and would like to stay there, I only ask two things:

1) Reach out to me by text, email, FB/blog/insta comment, in person, whatever--that you like getting the cards and enjoy them. If I don't hear that from you, at least once within recent memory, you might fall off the list.

2) Keep me updated on your address. If I get one 'return to sender' from you, you're off the list. I can send the card itself to someone else, but now I'm out an envelope and 49 cents. Not cool. And if I actually took the time to emboss my return address on your envelope, even NOT COOLER.

I'm not trying to be a bitch here, acting like my cards are a gift from God that people better compliment me on or I'll get mad and 'cut them off,' because obviously everyone sees it eventually on the internet anyway. It's more that I'm stressed about money (as many of us are). 

As you may see in my next post, I took on a second job. Which sucks, because I already work one that's full-time. But I live in an expensive city, I adopted four animals that all require food, supplies, healthcare, etc., I'm still paying off college loans from a decade ago, and for some reason I want these cards to be as good as they can be, and that costs me money every year. If I could afford to send every nice person I've ever met one of these cards every Christmas, I would. So if you didn't get a card this year and you have in the past, let me know you miss them, and make sure I have your current mailing address, too. Or don't give in to my need for affirmation. It's your life.)

Lady Garden, Round 2


One of the best people I've ever met is Kelsey. Her fiance Sara reached out to me about making one of these pieces for Kelsey. This is the original version I found online and used for my pattern. I can't seem to find the original artist (I tried a reverse google search) or even photo poster, but if anyone knows, I'd love to give them the credit they richly deserve.

Below is the piece that I made a few years ago. I gave it away to someone who is no longer in my life, so it was kind of healing to remake it for someone as awesome as Kelsey. She works for reproductive justice! Like as her career!

I think the pattern is so great because it's a perspective we don't often see represented in day-to-day art, and in a world that wants women to have tons of hair on their heads and no where else, the flowers celebrate what our bodies do naturally. Or, what I said in that post way back when:
"I just think it gives a positive and lovely expression/meaning to a view (fat thighs included) and body part that elicits a variety of emotions and feelings for women. Some examples: pleasure, pain, shame, what it means to be a woman, fertility, health, age, etc. In a culture/society that likes to paint women as Madonnas or whores, the vagina is either the source of lust or the giver of life. Here, it's a pretty garden at the top of your legs. Fun and whimsical, but in a feminist way."
Since doing my Vogue piece, I wanted to see if I could up my flower game this time, and I really love how it turned out!