Monday, February 29, 2016
Notable Detroit-area jazz photographer Jeff Dunn blessed us with his presence last night, snapping photos of all of the performers who sat in on the jam session. He gave me permission to share his photos of me provided that I give him credit, so here one is! Follow the link to see the rest of them.
Jazz Cafe at Music Hall (28 February 2016)
Sunday, February 28, 2016
The illustrious Scott Gwinnell (see my MDJW experience) started hosting a Sunday night jam session at the Jazz Cafe at Music Hall last week. I heard about it, was on a high from praying and singing at church today, and I felt bold enough to go so I went. Tip: earphones IN, volume UP.
This is my first time performing in five months. I always do this to myself. Before the last time it'd been two months. Before that, it'd been three months. Before that, two months. Before that, 10 months. Before that, two months. Before that, two years. What happens is I perform, and then I terrify myself out of doing it again. Ok, I did alright this time, but next time I might not be so lucky. What if next time is the time that I really mess up? Then everyone will know I'm a fraud. Ok then, so I just won't bother wasting my time because I don't want to humiliate myself and I don't want everyone to know I'm a fraud. Problem solved. But then I start to feel crappy after not singing for so long, and I've hyped the moment up in my mind so much that the first time back is overwhelmingly and unnecessarily stressful. Like tonight was.
My pole/twerk instructor Kamilah calls it the Bad Habit Monster, and I call it Carrie's mom. You know, from the '70s horror flick Carrie? With pretty much everything I care about doing or want to challenge myself with, before I can get too deep into it or share it with people there's a voice (more like a sensation, I promise I don't hear voices) that goes off in my head warning and taunting me, "They're all gonna laugh at you! They're all gonna laugh at you!" And I panic, shut down, sit down hard on whatever I've got brewing, and retreat into hiding. But I don't want to be my own Carrie's mom anymore. I got to the jam session this evening and was still nauseatingly nervous once I'd signed in, sat down, and waited my turn. And I told myself, it's absurd that anyone would laugh at me here. But even if they do laugh at me, at least I was there to hear it. At least I showed up. So even though I did my thing and it wasn't 100%, I was just proud of myself for coming through and proving myself wrong. I overcame one of my fears today, plus I met a 2016 goal ahead of schedule (one of my 3-month goals was to start performing again; I had until the end of March). That's good enough for me. For now.
Thanks to Scott Gwinnell for creating space for young'uns and newbies in the jazz scene to learn and explore. Thanks to Diamond for her support and silliness. Thanks to my vocal instructor DL for patiently nudging me. Hopefully this Sunday thing will be a way for me to build confidence through consistency.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
Book Two is all about what distinguishes professionals from amateurs, which boils down to mindset and discipline. Pros create things principally because they can't not do it, not because they're expecting to get something out of it or become famous. And yet, while their particular art or expertise is essential to who they are, it is not all that they are. Pros push past internal Resistance, don't let the potential for criticism paralyze or control them, and they develop a sense of humor about failure. The bottom line is that nothing will happen if people don't sit down to do the work and commit to excelling at their craft. The professional understands this well, whereas the amateur hasn't quite grasped this yet.
Finally, after having set forth the major problem and offsetting that with the ideal that he thinks artists should aim for, Pressfield uses Book Three to discuss tactics to overcome the former and attain the latter. First, artists have to own what their specialty is and what they want to use it for, and use this self-awareness to motivate them to create, rather than focusing on what will sell or what an audience might like. Second, according to Pressfield, creation comes from a higher realm; it is a gift given to each person in order for them to produce it in earthly form and share it with the world. As such, in order to create according to one's purpose, he or she must invoke whatever higher power or higher intelligence (God, angels, ancestors, one's Muse), necessary to help them along. It may sound hippy-dippy, but listen. If you receive something that's one-of-a-kind from someone and they made that thing exclusively for you, wouldn't it make sense to consult them about how to use that gift?
The most important lesson I take from The War of Art is that, while it may seem painful or difficult, starting something is the most important hurdle. Don't worry about how much you'll get done or whether what you make will be good at first. START! Just start! Inspiration will come! When you're already in action doing what you're meant to do, inspiration and all kinds of unexpected good things will come to you! Personally, I feel like this book called me out on a lot of things, and I see why comedian/writer/speaker/media personalities like Kid Fury and Crissle spoke so highly of it. Thank you for your contribution, Steven Pressfield. This might be a book that I read every year! If you're having trouble starting or finishing something you've always wanted to do and would like someone who understands to give it to you straight, I'd definitely recommend The War of Art.
"The professional cannot allow the actions of others to define his reality. Tomorrow morning the critic will be gone, but the writer will still be there facing the blank page. Nothing matters but that he keep working" (92).
"By Blake's model, as I understand it, it's as though the Fifth Symphony existed already in that higher sphere, before Beethoven sat down and played dah-dah-dah-DUM. The catch was this: The work existed only as potential... It needed someone. It needed a corporeal being, a human, an artist [to] bring it into being on this material plane. So the Muse whispered in Beethoven's ear. Maybe she hummed a few bars into a million other ears. But no one else heard her. Only Beethoven got it. He brought it forth" (117).
Saturday, February 20, 2016
At first, I'd planned to post all of my daily writings here in response to WPTDS prompts, but then it occurred to me that maybe I shouldn't give all the goods away for free. Plus it'll get pretty crowded here if I do that.
So though I will be writing in a journal everyday, I'll only post one of my writings once a week or every two weeks, I haven't decided. But trust, I am writing! And you'll be able to read some of it if you like! Here's Day 1 again to hold you over until next time.
Friday, February 19, 2016
WPTDS #1: Person, Place, ThingWrite a story using these three things: a paper clip, a hospital, an exotic dancer
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
I first new Andrea Lewis from my elementary and middle school days watching "Degrassi: The Next Generation", in which she played a character named Hazel. But just last month, my friend Dany featured Lewis on her self-love/body positivity blog, The Dear Body Project. In this feature, Dany interviews the actress and lists eight reasons why Andrea Lewis should be one of the women who inspires us most to treat ourselves kindly and be the best that we can be. I skimmed the blog post, it was well-written and encouraging like most of Dany's writings are. Cut to last week, when I remembered reading that Andrea had a YouTube channel and thought, You know what? Let me check this thing out. And I loved it! Typically when I find a YouTube channel or podcast that I enjoy, I like to go back to the very beginning of their content and watch or listen through everything up until their most recent work. That's what I've been doing with Andrea's channel for the past week. She's about all the things that Dany's about, except on her channel she also goes into the grind and joys that come with being an artist, which I find personally helpful. With her it's all love and honesty and adorableness and work ethic and growth and good vibes; she's like that special, light-giving friend everyone should have. Below is the video of hers that's challenged me the most so far; it's been a week and I'm still meditating on what she says in it:
Margot vs Lily
Three weeks ago I saw an ad for this webseries while waiting for a different video to start playing, and I was intrigued enough to give it a shot. Nike Women's most recent campaign attempts to speak to and empower all women, including regular girls who might tend to feel alienated by the majority of fitness brands. Margot vs Lily is part of that initiative to inspire, entertain, and sell things. Two adopted sisters challenge each other to a New Year's Resolution bet: Lily (a popular fitness YouTuber) is challenged to make 3 friends in real life, and Margot (who just lost her job and thinks her sister's channel is silly) is challenged to make her own fitness channel and get 1,000 subscribers. The webseries is a very casual, charming, lighthearted project that I've come to appreciate a lot more than I thought I would. I like how the fact that Lily's black and Margot's white is mentioned but also isn't an issue; they're still sisters and they're just people. I love Lily's hair, upbeat attitude, and awkwardness. She's just a goodhearted girl who just doesn't know how to work her magic in person, which is basically me. In terms of body type, both of the actresses represent the mainstream standard, but their broader relatability lies in their challenges. Margot shows that not all twenty-something women are fitness freaks or need to be, and Lily shows that not all online media personalities have it all together when the cameras aren't rolling. Here's the first episode to get you started:
"The TOOL Is NOT Important The GIFT IS"
The comedian Kevin Fredericks (Kevonstage) was a regular fixture in the Great YouTube Binge of 2013, so he and his content aren't new to me. Most of the time his videos are incredibly silly and stoopid, inducing either cackles or head-shaking depending on what he's talking about. As a Christian and as a person in general Kevin tries to inspire his viewers, and every so often he uses a video to do his good preachin'. And y'all. Y'all. This video right here that he uploaded yesterday spoke to my entire life and the exact moment where I am right now! It's for people who are afraid to use their gifts, which is me to a T. Please watch it, and apply it as you see fit:
I hope that these videos prove helpful to you in some way, even if just as happy distractions!
Saturday, February 13, 2016
And After Many Days by Jowhor Ile
(on sale February 16, 2016)
Through Ajie's eyes we make a visit to the family village of Ogibah, which, more than three decades after independence from Britain, has to contend with big business filling colonial shoes. Relatives and fellows there constantly clash with an oil company that's destroying the Ogibah way of life through construction, land seizure, pollution, and bribes used to weaken local morale and resistance. Furthermore, the village people have little recourse when the company has the military-led government and the police on their side. In the cities, universities are shut down intermittently as students and faculty protest, often being intimidated or beaten back into place by police. People, especially young people, are disappearing. Those who resist, or call officials out on their corruption and hypocrisy, or complain too vocally, or are in the wrong place at the wrong time, or are just minding their own business but are still somehow a threat to or "in the way" of the powers that be. People are disappearing for any reason and no reason at all, and Paul is one of those people.
While he doesn't realize it at first, in the midst of these changing times Ajie is grappling with the loss of not only his brother, but also of society as he knows it to be. He is already unsettled by nature, and the events he witnesses only make him more so. And After Many Days takes up the past, and this backward-looking story is framed by Ajie's latent rage. Ajie's angry about being last on the pecking order of his siblings, about classmates thinking they can punk him, about being punished for asking questions instead of receiving answers, about not being seen or heard, and about having what's most precious to him taken away and not being able to do anything about it. As he awaits his beloved brother's return, Ajie refuses to relent and never stops searching for him.
"But whatever there was to know about desire and its costs was beyond Ajie then. He was at that time completely passionate and completely pure. He imagined himself, his brother, and his sister to be people who would shoot into the world and burn, fiery arrows set free by their parents from their home here at number 11. They would love greatly and do useful things. Bibi would become rich and important and build houses and hospitals for the poor. Paul would simply change the world. But what would that cost?" (78).
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Thursday, February 4, 2016
Given the predicament that I'm in, I know I could use therapy. I need help, but I'm tired. I'm tired of leaving sessions feeling like I've wasted my time and my money. I considered asking Yasmin about making an appointment with one of the other psychiatrists in that office so I could give meds another try. See if that would make a difference. But especially following that awful appointment with Dr. B, I'm tired of having to introduce myself and my issues over and over, telling the same story about myself again and again. Most certainly, this feeling of stalled progress isn't all Yasmin's fault; I've found that usually if I feel like I've hit a wall in therapy, part of it is due to my impatience or unwillingness to make/stick to certain changes. I don't want to let my apathy take over and lead me to make another unwise decision, but then again I'm just so over this whole thing.
So I've concluded that... I don't know. (Haha, of course. I feel like everything in my life at present is a bunch of question marks heaped on top of each other to form one big, towering, stubborn "I don't know"). Today Yasmin was oddly quiet, I don't know why. Aside from a few questions she hardly said anything, and it was annoying because I'd finish saying what I had to say, and then I felt like I had to come up with something else to talk about just to fill the silence. I'm strongly considering never going back. Not because Yasmin's bad at what she does, she's not. She just doesn't seem to be working for me, and I'm tired.
That's where I am right now. My notes from today are short:
- Gotten real comfortable with having forgotten about my dad and pretending that he doesn't exist. He's become, literally, the furthest thing from my mind, and things are better this way. I like it.
- Took a personality test at 16personalities.com. Says I'm type INFJ, "The Advocate". Must go back and consult these results, see if they might be useful.
- "You need to give yourself some more credit," so Yasmin says. But like, credit for what tho?
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma
(on sale February 16, 2016)
Part 1 introduces the characters and sets us up for this tragedy. We have Irene, an artist and assistant at an art gallery, with a suspicious spot under her left eye. We have her best girl friend Sara, a type-A editor and socialite. We have George, Irene's friend and Sara's boyfriend, an astronomer who likes to keep the peace. We have Jacob, George's poet bestie and the too-cool rebel of the group, known for his intelligent snark and strong opinions. And lastly there's William, an easygoing Korean-American investment banker and the only native New Yorker in this ensemble. He was a vague acquaintance of the group in college and is still madly in love with Irene after all this time, despite not knowing her or any of the friends that well. Irene is the one that the other four have to rally around, and let me tell you. What sold me on this book is how Jansma writes about her passing. He so craftily and delicately weaves two moments together that we're not sure which one is real until the end. First he has us follow Irene as she escapes the hospital, refusing to die there, and walks freely through the city accompanied by winds. And then he splices that with scenes of her friends being called to the hospital to decide whether or not to take her off life support, revealing that Irene is actually in a coma. And rather than following Irene's escape, we've actually been walking with her through the last moments of her life, in her mind.
Part 2 Gives each of the remaining characters a chapter to meander through the year and some change that follow Irene's passing. I won't say any more than that; I feel like I've already given away a lot. What I will say is that as much as Sara, George, Jacob, and William loved Irene and as close as they'd become, turns out there was a lot they didn't know about her. Like where she came from. Who and where her family was, if she even had any. Her real name. She carried those secrets with her to the grave. As settled as she seemed to be, as hard as she loved the people around her, she was a drifter who belonged to no one. But what's redeeming about all this is that her friends loved her back so fiercely that they didn't feel the need to ask too many questions. And no one in the group can completely get over her once she's gone.
So I would say that Why We Came to the City is more a novel about friendship more than anything else. There's the cancer subplot and the relentless pressure of the quarter-life crisis. There's frequent emphasis on the meaning and function art, poetry, literature. But it's Irene and what she means to each of her friends that allows them to pull together when they need to, and to keep moving forward when it's time to do so. I didn't have high expectations, but this is really a beautiful book. At least give it a good flip-through once it's released!
"William, you are a person! You possess, within you, a personality. A personality that can─no, which must─be expressed in the things that surround you!...They mean that you aren't a page twelve, William Cho!" (89).
"and I guess it sucks that it's always going to be a little harder for you than for other people, and you'll have to stay on your medication, and sometimes you're still going to see a homeless guy on the street or something and it's going to break you heart, and you'll want to crawl under a rock somewhere and hide everything good that you've got to offer from the world because it's going to seem like the world doesn't deserve it, but I promise it does─" (308-9).
Monday, February 1, 2016
I am 23, and I am devastated. Because I read the story and her letter, and I've been exactly where she's been. What happened to her in her life may have differed from what happened to me in mine, but I know those depths. I know how encompassing that darkness can be. It's hard to recover from hopelessness. I was up at 6:30 this morning crying to my mom about this. I don't think I've cried this hard for someone I don't know since Charleston 9. It's just like when I learned about Karyn Washington's passing. It hurts.
It hurts because she didn't make it. Like she was me or could've been me, and her not making it means "we" or "one of us" didn't make it, and I really wish she could've stuck around. I wish she would've made it.
I don't know you, but I love you, my sister Priya. I know how much you were hurting and how hard you tried. And even though you didn't make it through, you left behind something good and beautiful. Peace be upon you and your family. Rest.