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My Favorite Time of Year

Nope. Not the holidays. Not Christmas. Not the near-mid-point of the transition from the Orange Piece of Shit to the doddering old man. Nope, none of that. It’s time for … Spotify Wrapped. The annual report of my music habits over the last year.

I’ve looked forward to this every year for the last five or six years. It plays into my love of numbers, statistics, and lists. And it’s all about me. After Neil Peart died early in the year, I wallowed in Rush for quite some time. I knew Rush would be my #1 artist as a result. Who else was in the top five? Hozier, Jackson Browne, Queen and Mat Kearney. In that order. The first four are not a surprise. But I’m a bit surprised that Mat Kearney is there. I’ve enjoyed his music for years, but I just don’t feel like I listen to him that much.

Here were my top ten songs:

Disconnected by Jazz Morley (Totally not a surprise. This is a song that I have absolutely wallowed in for months. I just absolutely love the sound and feeling of this song and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s near the top of the list for 2021 as well.)

Song for Zula by Phosphorescent (Which I’m listening to as I write this post. This song was #2 in 2018. #7 in 2019. And it will remain high on my list because it is just so incredible. Just make sure you listen to the version that was recorded live in a church.)

Windows Are Rolled Down by Amos Lee (Another song that just doesn’t wear thin for me. It’s a great song for listening in the car, volume fully up, and … the windows rolled down. Amos Lee is one of those artists that I forgot about every once in awhile, but then when I re-connect with him, I always find a gem. Always.)

All I Need by Mat Kearney (Probably around 15 years ago, one of the local radio stations sponsored a concert at a local park. Scott Stapp was there, Marty Casey and the LoveHammers was there, and Mat Kearney was as well. Ever since I’ve enjoyed his music. And his debut album, with this as the final song, has always been my favorite. It is a song that bleeds ache and want and pain. It will always be on my list.)

The Riddle by Five For Fighting (Another song that has long been one of my favorites. There are pieces of this song, oh hell, the entire song, that brings me back to moments with my boys. This song has some very personal feels for me.)

To Noise Making (Sing) by Hozier (Hozier was somebody I “discovered” a couple of years ago and he is an artist that I frequently spend days and weeks listening to. This song is a perfect example of why. Just a joyous moment.)

Natural Beauty by Neil Young (There are a group of songs by Mr. Young that will always be on my list. Pocahontas. Helpless. Razor Love. Down by the River. Cinnamon Girl. And more. But this 10 minute journey into Neil at his acoustic, harmonica, lyrical best is just so incredible.)

Red Barchetta by Rush (It’s hard for me to pick a favorite Rush song, but this is likely the one. From the story told in the lyrics, to the sound of an engine re-created by the guitar of Alex Lifeson. It is a marvelous wonderful song. It is an example of the best qualities Rush brought to music for a lot of years.)

No Envy No Fear by Joshua Radin (This is the live version. Much like Song for Zula, this has been on the list for a few years, but never as high as this. It’s just another one of those perfect songs for me. The sound, the feeling, the meaning of the lyrics.)

All I Want Is You by U2 (Like Rush, it is difficult for me to pick my favorite U2 song, but it likely is this one.)

So, that’s my top 10 songs as played on Spotify in 2020.

Here’s the thing. I need new music. So much of my list is repetitive of previous years. Yes, there is gradual change. But … I just feel like I’m stuck in a rut with some of this music — no matter how much I love these songs, I believe in new and change and expanding my horizons. Over on Twitter, I asked for other people’s top five artists so I could get some ideas. I’m listening to some of those now and will keep exploring.

But what have you got? Do you use Spotify? Who are your top five artists? What are you top songs? If you don’t use Spotify, you still have your favorites. Share them with me in the comments. I need to go exploring and find a whole new listening experience for 2021. Give it to me. Whatever it is. I can take it. I want to find music I never would have before and wallow in it.

Back To You

I don’t think I’ve ever recommended a book that I haven’t read yet, but there is a first for everything. Tammy Robinson started as an indie writer with Charlie and Pearl, one of my favorite indie books ever. She followed that with several more independently published books before landing a publishing contract. Her last book Photos of You was the second book on that contract, and now she’s back with her latest … Back to You.

Why am I breaking from my pattern for this book I haven’t read yet, because Tammy is excellent. She writes stories that make you ache, shed a few tears, and rarely does she have the traditional happy ending. They are always good reads. As a result, I am happy to be part of her blog party for Back to You. It’s pre-order time for the book on Amazon . It won’t actually be released until April 2021, but you should go look for it on Amazon and make sure you get a copy/download when it is released. And check out her other books as well. I highly recommend Charlie and Pearl, Differently Normal, and Photos of You. Here is the cover and the blurb for her new book.

What happens when a couple are torn apart just at the moment when they fall in love? When Finn and Zoe meet, they fall in love hard and fast. But Finn is about to go travelling, fulfilling a promise to his late sister to raise money in support of her illness. It’s terrible timing, but Zoe knows their feelings are strong enough to stand the test of time. While Finn is away, however, Zoe suffers a life-changing injury. And it leaves her wondering whether Finn could possibly still love her when he comes home . . . So she cuts all ties and disappears from Finn’s life, without telling him why. And now Finn has to decide how hard he’s willing to fight for the girl whose heart he’s carried with him, while Zoe has to decide if she’s got the strength to find her way back to the girl she once was.

Reporting From The Pandemic (18)

We are guilty. Guilty, guilty, guilty!!!

We are in that group of people who traveled this past week. We made the plans to do so more than a month ago. To see our older son down in San Diego. We made plans to have Thanksgiving dinner with him and his girlfriend at their apartment, and it became one of those inevitable things. The Mama Bear wasn’t going to be denied the opportunity to see one of her cubs.

So, we went. Drove to L.A. on Monday, stopped at a family member’s apartment for the night. Finished the drive to San Diego the next day. One of the beauties of traveling during a pandemic is the lack of traffic and crowds. Normally, traveling through Southern California is an exercise in traffic-fueled frustration. Not this time.

On the way down, other than a brief slow down on the 405 in Los Angeles, we never had any traffic jams to deal with. On the way back, other than a couple of even briefer slow downs on the 5 coming back through Los Angeles, no traffic jams then either. And when we went out for meals … always outside and appropriately distanced and masked … there was never any wait, even with the reduced seating that is available.

This marks the fourth time we’ve journeyed out since the pandemic started. Convict Lake. Mendocino. Truckee. San Diego. In all instances, we’ve had the same experiences. No traffic. No waits. Smaller crowds. 99% of the people being good about the restrictions and new normal.

The interesting thing though was just how many people were still out and about. We stayed in a little place in Mission Beach. A block away from the beach and a paved trail that runs along the beach for a couple of miles. We walked along that trail several times and it was always crowded with other walkers, runners, cyclists, and skaters. On Friday, when I went for a solo jaunt along the trail while the Mama Bear and her cub did some shopping, I was amazed at just how many people were out. Vacation homes line the trail on the east and they all seemed full, as did many of the other houses and rentals further back from the beach.

I guess, then, that there were a lot of people just as guilty as us.

Wednesday night, we ate at The Draft in Mission Beach. The outdoor seating faces the ocean. This was a shot I took from our table. I wasn’t sure about the image with the lamp post in it, but once I took the picture and looked at the image on screen, I fell in love with the shot.

It was good to see the kid, but I’m glad the trip is over. This latest spike has me far more concerned than I have been since March. With the number of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths as high as they are, it just feels like it is everywhere and it is out-of-control. Fingers crossed that the numbers will start declining again soon.

Say safe folks … don’t do what I did. 😉

Racism in America — It’s Complicated

I signed up for a volunteer effort a few months ago. It’s an opportunity I was looking forward to. In conjunction with the program, I had to go through a five week training program with a group of two dozen other volunteers. Tuesday and Thursday evenings, zooming for two hours each night.

A couple of weeks ago, there were two sessions scheduled to cover cultural awareness and sensitivity. The Tuesday night session was two hours about how racist America is and how racist white people are. Among the statements that were made during that session were:

— all institutions are racist.

— racism requires power and authority, as a result, people of color cannot be racist.

— it is inevitable that white people will do racist things.

By the end of the two hours, I was pretty much convinced I wanted nothing to do with the volunteer assignment. Eventually, I sent an email to the organization, to the woman who was leading the training program, expressing my dismay at the session. I highlighted those three statements and provided these responses.

If all institutions are racist, does that mean that the NAACP is racist? Does it mean the organization I was going to volunteer for is racist? They are both “institutions.” She didn’t respond to that question, claiming that she had not made the statement I was referring to. Well, it’s in my notes is all I can say.

Until recently, racism did not require power and authority. It in fact, to practical reasonable minds still does not. Racism is taking action based on another person’s race. I provided the instructor with an example — when I go for runs or walks in my neighborhood, I keep my eyes on any teenage boys I see. I told her it would be racist if I only was concerned about African-American teenagers. I pointed out that such action did not involve any power or authority on my part. She disagreed and claimed that was prejudice.

During the session she tried to differentiate between prejudice, which she acknowledged all people have, and racism, which she claimed only white people could have. And this simply is not true. Racism, as it has been understood for decades, has always been a subset of prejudice. Just like sexism, ageism, and all the other isms. Racism is no different than any of those other prejudices. They do not require power for a person to have them or to act on them.

What I think is at play here is an effort to recast “racism” in a way that … simplifies it. All white people are and no people of color are. It makes for a much cleaner conversation when you can point to every white person and say “racist,” doesn’t it? Only, it’s just not true. Being a bigot, being a racist, does not require power or authority, and people of color are just as capable of racist attitudes and actions as us white folks.

I gave her the following additional example. My last boss was an Asian-American woman. In the 15 months I worked for her, it was very clear (clear enough for a lot of people to see it) that she favored Asian-American women in the work place. They can get away with more than others can, there is a different standard. And that is racism … from a person of color.

What about that last statement I identified above — it is inevitable that all white people will do racist things — isn’t that, all by itself, a racist statement?

At the conclusion of my email to the instructor, I told her I had no interest in being a part of an organization that considered me a racist simply because I am white. Interestingly enough, while she pushed back on some of the feedback I provided, nothing in her response pushed back on that concluding comment. So, I guess she does think I’m racist simply because I’m white.

On the right-side of the political debate, we have a bunch of people who refuse to acknowledge that racism remains a problem in this country. They simply refuse to recognize it as a continuing problem and want nothing to do with assisting in addressing the problem — since, in their world, it doesn’t actually exist.

Meanwhile, on the left, we are seeing a years and decades long effort to reframe the debate, to change the meaning of words and concepts, to make the problem far worse than it actually is. And also to absolve persons of color of their own contributions to the problem. I simply cannot accept the notion that people of color cannot be racist and that all white people are. It is just another example of how people rely on generalizations to fuel their views. Generalizations make things easy. They’d rather do that than do the hard work of individualized, reality-based analysis. And I’m just kind of done with it.

It’s Probably Going To Get Quiet

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be starting a job that has been dangling out there for months. The final box has been checked and I was asked if I was ready to start training.

I have been on the horns of a dilemma. I need to generate some income to supplement my pension, but no other work has turned up. But this job will require me to work six days a week, 10-12 hours a day. It’s a 90 day assignment. If I can hold out that long, I’ll make enough money to help get through the rest of 2021. But with that workload, I won’t be doing much of anything else. No painting. No writing. Very little blogging, if any. I will just be working and sleeping six days a week, and recovering on the seventh.

I’ll see you in a couple of months. Well, let me change that. I’ll be around here for the next couple of weeks, and then I am going down the rabbit hole. Wish me luck! Please! I so desperately need it. ‘;)

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