Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Ramble on Music

Lately, I've been too busy living La Vida Low Budget to really deal with the world around me.

But it's funny how things work; I can't afford my satellite subscription, and so on Sunday afternoon previous my TV went dead. What sucks about satellite is when your service is down you can't even get local channels, the cheap fuckers. So I have no idea of what's going on in the world on a daily basis, or what the weather's gonna be, and I still haven't seen pictures of Sammy Sosa's lightened skin. And I'm not that interested enough to go Google it.

But what I DO have is Link TV, Satellite's public access channel. I get world wide news five months later, but by the same token... what's really going to change in the next few days anyway? I mean really? We have a brown-skinned President and the general novelty has worn off. The poor thing is swimming upstream against the worst economics seen in this country in a long time, two wars he didn't start, and the worst (and most embarrasing) case of racism I've ever seen.

And Bloomberg bought himself an election. And P.S. on Bloomberg... a few years ago when I didn't see the point in voting when you're at the bottom of the foodchain, some very liberal Jewish people convinced me of the numbers game. It worked with Obama. It didn't work with Bloomberg. I'm back to being jaded. I don' t really care what's happening in the world; it's not helping me and my immediate problems anyway.

However.

What does, and always interests me is music. I think that music tells more about a culture or an outlook or a time period than anything else. Music transcends language. If you don't understand the language the songs lyrics or in, or if the music has no lyrics, if you listen you can still feel the mood, the culture behind the song.

Music can create visceral reactions in people, which always interests me. What causes them to have such a reaction? And what's interesting is that the more "primitive" or simplified the music, the stronger the reaction. HipHop is a classic case of music and strong reactions for and against... but when you think about it most hiphop is stripped to the most basic elements; a beat, and some lyrics. And it fascinates me that some people can't even get past the (primitive) beat to pay attention to what's really going on. They automatically hear the beat and assume it's "that kind" of music and they don't want anyting to do with it.

I grew up listening to music; it provides the score for the soundtracks of my earliest memories:
  • Poppy in France bringing home a 45 of Ray Charles singing "Eleanor Rigby". Playing it over and over, loving how Ray had added soul to an already powerful Beatles song.

  • James Brown singing "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and me thinking that maybe it was about Poppy who loved to make bags out of old jeans legs... but even at three years old I knew I'd never met James Brown so how could he know about Poppy's bags?

  • Standing at the turntable watching the label of an Archie Shepp record go around and around... the music filling me with fear all of a sudden so I cried. And me not being able to explain why it scared me so.
And many many other memories...

As I got older and went through school and life, even though I didn't follow a musical path my love for music has always stayed and my interest in the cultural differences or the history has grown. I may not like all of what I hear, too loud, too aggressive, too sad, too European--but I will at least take a listen to hear the story the music has to tell.

I'm amazed that most people won't take the time to listen to something other than what they know, or "like". Or don't listen at all. There are so many stories they are missing, a whole understanding of the world that they'll never see. Never "get".

So all I have is LinkTV right now, but the beautiful thing about that is the half-hour blocks of world music that they'll play. Music Videos from all over the world. Some known, like Shakira. Some known only to the culture they're from.

For fun, I try to listen to the story of Africa... are there any African-inspired beats? Harmonies? I owe this latest game with myself in part to the Sun's percussussion group, Speaking In Rhythms. The founder/leader of the group got a few kids together a few years back, and took them to Puerto Rico to learn about the African beats that go there via slavery. A few years later they got to Belize. This year they're trying to get to Peru.

Peru? Who knew Africans had made it to Peru? Around the same time CNC introduced me to Joe Arroyo, a salsero from Columbia. Two songs of his fascinated me; one I've already posted here about slavery in Columbia (Rebelion), but another, Yamulemao, caught my attention. A little digging into the song provided something very interesting:

"Yamulemau" was originally recorded as "Diamoule" by Laba Sosseh, a singer from the West African country Gambia. An interesting example of cultural interaction between Africa and the Americas, Sosseh was first inspired by popular Cuban music and salsa. Arroyo sings "Yamulemau" in the original African language, imitating the phonetics much the same way African artists like Sosseh have done with Spanish.

Here's the video:



And for fun, here is the original African version:



I could spend a good day (and probably will when time permits) playing both version over and over to hear where they cross, where they differ...

I digress a little.

But here's the thing; most music invites dancing. And if you think music evokes visceral reactions, dance does the same thing. Dance is the visualization of a culture and movements can be very particular to a region. But people travel... slavery happened and there are movements particular to Africa that are now world wide.

What started this post, the story behind the story, was that over at Keep it Trill, she posted a video of a baby dancing to "Stanky Leg". She posed the video as a test of your own racist reactions, and pointed out the rather vehement rather racist comments on YouTube. Someone pointed out the absence of racist comments under another video of an extremely blond French girl doing African dance (extremely well, I might add). Rather than repost the discussion or some of the comments I urge you all to go visit, cuz it was a very interesting discussion: Keep It Trill's blog post is here.

(For fun though, I also recommend going over to YouTube and viewing the original Stanky Leg and the hundreds of people who have posted themselves doing the dance--including some pink girls who do a pretty good job.)

One thing I brought up over there in passing, is how ashamed people can be made to feel about their culture or heritage. Frequently, this is the result of one group of people dominating another; the powerful group uses all the things indigenous to the dominated group against them. Breaks it down into a stereotype, so that the dominated group begins to hate those very things about them that are essential to their nature. We often can't see it when we look at ourselves, but if we look at other cultures maybe we're not so blinded by our own feelings to see it.

Case in point; my Native cousins. Babies snatched and sent to "Indian Schools", their hair cut and made to feel ashamed of what they were taken from; forbidden to speak their languages, sing their songs, dance to their music. We know it happened to the Africans too.

But those traditions linger. They got passed down despite the beatings, the mental and verbal abuse. And my Native cousins have been slightly more successful at reclaiming their heritage with pride than my African cousins have been. It's why I love pow wows; the Native beat, the dancing, the honoring of Native spirits and traditions.

I particularly love this video by Native actor/hiphop artist/activist Litefoot. I love that it's a Native beat, with Native singing and dancing but it's got a definite HipHop flavor:



And just for giggles, here's a collaboration between Caucasian and Aborignal Australians... but watch the video for the hints of AfricanAmerican robot-dancing:







And get past the "hiphop" beat to watch this video by New Zealand/Maori group Dam Native:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Further Adventures of the LowBudget Life

I never went back to Welfare. Fuck that. And I'm not answering the phone. I need to write my landlord a letter and tell her look I'm sorry... I just don't have it.

And I need to figure something out. I applied to two jobs at an ad agency I've ALWAYS wanted to work at. No response, other than "your application was submitted". Fuckers.

Then my printer died. Right in the middle of printing my picture of Charles Oakley. Just died. Luckily, my Poppy said he'd buy me a new one. I need a printer, a 13x19. I use it ALL THE TIME. But I wondered if maybe God is telling me to just quit, move on, find something else to do. The odds are against me. But. I don't WANT to do anything else. I am not cut out to do anything else. I know because I tried. Several times and for many years. Cuz except for the fact that I'm three months behind in the rent, Con Ed is over due, I have no Satellite and couldn't wait for my Food Stamps today, life is pretty good.

BigMan stayed over last night, because he wanted me to come sit with him while he went to the Clinic to try to resolve some of his health issues, one of which is "extremely low levels of potassium".

The Hospital I used to work at redid this major new clinic in the building I used to work in... it was a little freaky to walk in and have everything inside be COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Even the elevator banks were moved. So after dropping the kid off at school, BigMan and I walked over to the clinic.

The guard sent us to the 8th floor. BigMan signed in. We sat for an hour... only to discover we were sitting in the ophthalmology clinic. The internal medicine clinic was on 7. So we go to 7 and sign in, and BigMan tells the receptionist that he doesn't have insurance. She says he has to go down to Patient Services and make arrangements. BigMan gets aggravated easily, though inwardly. I could feel him getting restless but the receptionist assured him it would only take a minute.

So we go down to 1 and find Patient Services. The woman rather boredly tells BigMan his clinic visit will be $50. "I don't have $50" he says. She looks at him blankly. She says there's a sliding fee scale but he has to bring in documentation. He tells her he's not working, has no insurance which is why he's at the clinic. Finally some little light goes off in her pea brain and she hands him the address of the Hospital's Medicaid office.

Of course he had none of the documentation needed; he was expecting to only go to the clinic. But still. Or maybe I'm just used to la Vida Low Budget and tend to come prepared. To be fair, the ER he walked into the other day for a check up merely gave him prescriptions and told him to go to the clinic for a follow-up, and he went through the ER without insurance--ya think maybe someone would mention something.

Needless to say... no clinic today. And BigMan needs to be insured. Even more than I do. But he's going to have all the same horrible issues I had when I tried to get the Sun on Medicaid... they want documentation but seem incredulous when the documentation supports your claim that you have no money. And BigMan REALLY needs to go to a doctor. Fast. He really needs medical coverage or free health care. And it's not going to happen.

So we went back to his place for a minute and I took a nap. I had to be back at the Sun's school by 2:30 to bring cupcakes to PerpetualMotion who now attends pre-K at the same place. PM turned 4 yesterday.

BigBear met me at the school and we did the cupcake thing. PreK kids are really cute. And squirmy. And headstrong. Especially PM.

When school let out, BigMan drove me to the supermarket. He's had the car from his partner again. It seems to me she's a lot nicer to him when I'm not around her so I've made myself kinda scarce.

For the first time in about a year, I actually walked out of the supermarket with foodstamps left over. I wonder if I can make them last till the end of the month?

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

My last post I spoke about my frustration with BigMan and the timebending thing. And then I realized, should he ever stumble upon the blog (and no... this time I have not pointed him here to read SHIT since it doesn't seem to work out so well when I do) his feelings might be hurt. Might be, cuz he's pretty thick-skinned and I don't seem to phase him. But... I actually felt bad about that, cuz I do kinda like him. I wouldn't want to hurt his feelings. And I realized that right now I'm REALLY stressed about the living situation and when I'm stressed I go into chihuahua mode... lots of barking and nipping. I try not to take that out on people, but sometimes people just don't get out of the way. Or pick me up and pet me.

And I was feeling a little weird cuz I woke up the other morning thinking about the Scrub. Who I haven't really missed too much lately so it was sort of odd. And it was odd that it was vivid. And where in the past I would feel compelled to contact him, this time I didn't. But I've learned that sometimes those dreams aren't about the person, really, but more about something that's not right in your present situation.

And there's stuff with BigMan that's going to need some work... and while half of me wonders if it's really worth working on, the other half of me acknowledges that unlike most other people I've ever been in a relationship with, this one actually tries. It matters to him that he try. And that counts for a lot.

So I called him to tell him that if I had been more spicy than normal, I apologize... there's a lot going on. But then he pissed me off completely by totally taking it the wrong way. Ugh. Shit like that makes me tired. He came over later and we talked about it... and I pretty much told him again what I'd said the other day: I only say what I mean, and I only bother to tell stuff to people I care about it. So take it or leave it. We made up. He saved himself for another day.

Today in the car I'd said something implying I might get fed up and wander off one day, and he said "You ain't going NOwhere". It was such a funny declaration, and I laughed. On the one hand it said to me that no matter our differences he's committed to riding it out and won't just throw his hands up in frustration one day. Of course on the other hand...

...but I have a little faith in this one mainly because so far he has always been respectful of me; of my body, my feelings, my opinions, my heart...

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Theory of Relativity...

Einstein was a fucking genius. Yes, I know the world knows that already. He's famous for it.

But seriously, think about it. Who in the hell comes up with shit like the theory of relativity? What was he smoking? And is there any left?

The simplest version of any kind of an explanation that I found was this:
"Special Relativity says that every person has their own time. One person's clock says something different from another person's clock. The reason a person's time can be different from another's is because of Time Dilation, which can be thought of more easily by the Twin Paradox."

Time. Me and time don't deal with each other very well. I am always late, always behind, always trying to outrun time. There are always so many things I can do with my time--too many. The good part about that is that I am NEVER bored. Seriously. I can't remember the last time I was bored.

The thing is, there are things that I WANT to give my time to; and right now mostly it's my kid and being a mother. I essentially, am a stay-at-home mom and every full-time stay-at-home mom knows exactly how much time that takes. The problem with that is that most stay-at-home moms have a husband or partner who at least brings in the money so that she can be home with the kids and take them to karate or soccer or violin, help them with their homework, be there for them.

I don't have that, and that's a problem. A HUGE problem. And I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out how "full time stay-at-home mom" and "full time work-at-home graphic artist/photographer/illustrator" go hand in hand and seriously, I don't think they do. Cuz the other thing I notice is that other women who work at home full time have some kind of a help-meet... a nanny, a partner.

Now I could be wrong. Maybe I'm just rationalizing my failures away. It's a good possibility cuz I really am good at rationalizing.

But I know it's not because I'm NOT working that I'm broke. I work all the fucking time. I never ever (unless I'm really sick or have a migraine like I did about a week and a half ago when I crawled home, stripped at the door, got in the bed and slept all afternoon) am sitting around doing nothing. Yeah, I surf Crackbook. But seriously... while I'm surfing Crackbook I also have several other applications open, am probably trying to write, am probably cooking all at the same time and probably have a load of laundry going. AND, the main reason I surf Crackbook is contacts and networking with people. And I've gotten some work from that... so I can't say that Crackbook is a complete waste of time. Except for maybe when I play Scrabble or Wordscraper, but honestly, those games last days because I don't play consistently. I've long given up on Mafia Wars or Bejeweled Blitz cuz I don't have the time.

So enter the BigMan into the TimeSpace Continuum. Einstein says heavy objects bend time, and um, yeah. That would be true. BigMan takes up time. And I don't mind, I don't. I wanted it. But there's a downside to everything and the downside is that when he's here, in all fairness I really should sit with him and pay attention to him or talk to him or watch a movie with him. And I want to do those things, and I'm getting better at doing those things without my brain racing in my head saying "You know you could be doing this. Or that. And there's still THAT that needs to be done. And you could do a load of laundry too, while you're at it". He says I need to relax more, to get more sleep. He got kind of mad about it. And I told him listen... If I had the fucking time to sleep I would. But SOMETHING'S gotta give, and dishes don't wash themselves and laundry doesn't put itself away, and when the cat yukes on the rug I have to clean it and then of course there's work I need to do to finish projects.

Or, write, to clear my head, because it's essential to my well-being.

So he washes dishes for me, and mops the floor when I ask, and I like that, I do. And I appreciate it. But sometimes he just sits on the couch and bends time and THAT tends to piss me off.

Last week he'd gone home and I missed him and asked him to come back, and he did. But he was really bending time and it was making me nuts so when he went home I felt a little relieved.

And I'm not sure I should feel relieved when he goes home, considering how much I cried that I had no one when he wasn't here to bend time with.

Mr. True God, I'm not ungrateful. I really am not. I was specific in what I asked for and You pretty much sent what I asked except for one or two glaring exceptions (which I am really trying to weigh how essential they are to my happiness). I am trying to be patient and be cognizant of my narcissistic tendencies, and I am realizing more and more that I'm a lot more like my mother than I initially thought. Probably because the BigMan has certain tendencies that REALLY remind me of Poppy.

Poppy can bend time like no other. Poppy gets snarky when BigBear tells him what to do. "It's not what you say" he's said to her "it's the bossy way in which you say it".

Which gave me quite a start when the BigMan said exactly the same thing to me, only he used the words "condescending" and "relentless".

My response was, about a day later and in a joking fashion "Look, I don't give a shit about most people, and when I don't give a shit I don't say shit cuz it's not worth my time. So if I say something to you it's because I give a shit. And I am relentless in my explanation, and passionate in my delivery, and you should take this the way it's intended--from the heart--cuz if I DIDN'T give a shit, trust me, you'd never hear me say a fucking word."

And I do try to be rational and understanding and thoughtful when I speak but sometimes fuck, I just don't have time for all that. Just do what I say and your life will be a lot easier, can't you see that? Must I sugarcoat everything???

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

The other day I started the process of applying for Welfare. The end result of that experience in Hell is that the next motherfucker who rants about "Welfare recipients who do nothing but collect checks and have children on my dime" within earshot of me is going to get slapped.

Why? Cuz the ones who have the fucking time to waste going through the process and dealing with the bullshit deserve to get it. And Welfare is designed to support just those very people, because anyone who REALLY desperately needs a break does not have the fucking time to deal with the bullshit.

On Friday the 30th I went about 10AM to the Welfare center and stood online for an application. The app booklet itself is fairly simple and straightforward; slightly more info is asked than on the Foodstamp app, but not much. But in addition there is this HUGE amount of fucking paper booklets that go along with it. You get a blue ticket and go up to the blue floor (all the signs are blue and the walls are blue--the FoodStamp Floor is lavender). And wait.

If you think the waiting room is full of nodding junkies and pregnant black women, um no. Pretty much a broad spectrum of ordinary folk and no, no Mexicans. Those motherfuckers all have jobs. Cuz they will work for less than minimum wage in slavery-like conditions as busboys and nannies and live 10 to a room to save money, and one day those motherfuckers drive up in their SUV and buy your house in Yonkers.

You can't be in a four-year college and get welfare.

You can't be working and get welfare.

And Welfare, in New York City, land of the overpriced housing market, only pays $280 towards your rent (in 1987, when the Professor and I took over the $200-a-month apartment next door to the parents and had just taken over the Diva's life, Welfare paid $197 a month). And they'll only pay THAT if you have "plan of action" that tells them how you plan on paying the rest of your $1,000+ rent. And no, bitch you can't have a job. Cuz that cuts into your budget. So really, you need Section 8 (and that list/program has LONG since been done) or someone who will pay the balance.

Except for the screaming/bored babies, it was pretty quiet with most folk avoiding eye contact. Nobody in their right mind REALLY wants to be there. Later on I peeped that the ones who DO make eye contact are the professionals.

So after sitting there all morning I met with a very nice Hispanic woman who took all--and I do mean all--my info and input it into the computer and told me all the shit I was going to have to do in the next 5 days just to keep my application open. "Non-compliance" means they immediately close your case. My case is already closed, I'm sure of it, but I digress.

One of the things you have to agree to is finger-imaging. Let alone the fact I've ALREADY been finger-imaged cuz of FoodStamps. Um, it's not like my fingerprints are going to change. But no... I would have to be finger-imaged again. I also had to have my child-care provider fill out this rather large booklet (which requires them checking off "yes" to questions like "Provider agrees to refrigerate leftover milk and formula" and supply their social security info and whether they themselves are receiving foodstamps or welfare) and bring the booklet back to the Center on the 4th. I needed proof of childcare to get my childcare allowance so I could go sit in the FEGS office all day.

I had some other paper to fill out from the landlord about my rental arrears, but the really nice worker had a Hispanic accent that was so thick I couldn't understand a fucking word she was saying (and seriously, that's thick, cuz I can even understand my Dominican hairstylist).

So on the 4th I dragged my sorry ass back up to the Center. This was Wednesday morning, about 10, after I dropped the Sun off to school. The line was out the door, down the block on both sides of the entrance. The longer side was the Welfare side, the shorter side FoodStamps.

I went first to the childcare section. I told the woman my kid was 10 and I could leave him in afterschool so I didn't need to provide any data. When I checked off "no" to the question "Could you accept a job today?" I meant no, not THAT day cuz it would be unexpected and I'd have to make arrangements to pick up the kid. She was very nice that woman, and spoke English and when I told her have a nice day I meant it.

Then next I went to the Yellow Floor with a Yellow Ticket, which was the HDU floor. That's the floor you go to when you have rental arrears or an Impending Eviction and are looking for a One-Shot Deal. There were nothing but women there, and later one lonely young man who was probably aging out of the foster care system. It was then that I remembered I'd been on that floor before, when I was in School and broke, and I hadn't had any relief from them then.

And ain't gonna get it now.

Welfare will only pay your back rent IF you are in court with a Pending Eviction AND you have a "plan of action" on how you're going to pay your rent once they pay the back rent. In other words... you need a job.

Which is sort of an oxymoron, don't you think? If you had a fucking job you wouldn't be behind in your rent.

And if like me, you're applying for Welfare cuz you've been looking for work/not making enough and DON"T have a job, they MIGHT pay your rental arrears IF the apartment is legal and the landlord provides documentation that it's legal AND you have a plan of action detailing how you plan on paying your rent from now on, especially since Welfare only pays $280.

And the worker rather snottily explained, IF you have a job you have to come report it and they get to DECIDE whether or not you're making too much.

I don't have time to figure that shit out. I walked out of there thinking fuck this, but went downstairs anyway to my mandatory job-training/FEGS orientation that was about an hour long.

Really, the talk the facilitator gave was about 20 minutes, in which she told us (all women, one pregnant and two who had small children) that we were REQUIRED to go sit in the FEGS office for 35 hours a week and work on jobskills. And look for jobs. And if we still couldn't find a job, they would assign us jobs. And no, we weren't working for "free", see... we were receiving benefits. Except, um... I was to report to FEGS the next day and STILL wasn't told I actually had Welfare yet.

In my head I was doing the time equation: 35 hours a week in a hot (probably) basement pasty-colored room with slow-ass people who had government jobs instructing me how to write a resume or practice my interview skills.

I have a fucking resume.

Maybe my interviewing skills suck. They probably do... I haven't had an interview in probably 5 years... but at some point I apparently interviewed pretty well since at one point in my life I made $87,000 a year. But I'll be goddamned if I sit in a hot fucking office sleeping and twiddling my thumbs when at least if I'm home twiddling my fucking thumbs, I'm networking Crackbook, working on shit, doing laundry, cooking, and applying for jobs. I have a computer and (so far, still) Internet service. I touch type 90 fucking words a minute.

IF I CAN'T GET A JOB FROM HOME, CUZ THE FUCKING AUTOMATED JOB APPS DON'T EVEN CALL YOU BACK, THE FUCK MAKES YOU THINK I'M GONNA GET A JOB THAT PAYS MY BILLS SITTING IN FEGS? Or better yet, working at my WEP assignment.

The pregnant girl said she was six months... the facilitator said that didn't matter. Your ass still needed to go sit in FEGS. And don't worry, they won't assign you anything like cleaning trains, you can do a customer service training course or a clerical gig. You know, filing all the fucking denied Welfare applications.

A colossal waste of a fucking day.

I'm really not sure what I'm going to do, but I know one Goddamn thing... Welfare is not for me.

But I don't think my landlord is going to like that too much so I'll just continue not answering the phone. She'll send me a nasty letter eventually. I'll deal with it then.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-==-=-=-

On a happy note, time spent practicing something useful makes one better at whatever it is one chooses to spend time practicing. It's really nice if you actually ENJOY the time spent. In the Sun's case, he claims to not enjoy violin, but he was dared by Roberta to practice 6 days a week for two weeks and she bet him a dollar he would be better. And he did it, with not too much screaming. And he got better. He's got tone. He's even getting a little vibrato. when he plays "Eleanor Rigby" it almost sounds like singing. His "Minuet II" makes me want to dance a pretty waltz. I love when he plays "One-Masked Tango". And he can transpose "Florida Blues" into another key with no music... just his ear.

Little bastard. I'll never let him quit. The downside was I bribed him with a new phone if he met Roberta's challenge, which meant more to him than the dollar she promised. But I couldn't fulfill my end of the deal, since I owe Sprint a lot of money and they won't let me upgrade his phone. Shit like that bothers me even more than the landlord's nasty letters...