More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Self-Reflection in the Time of Trump January 23, 2017

Filed under: Life — dwhren @ 10:48 am

Like many people I have been disheartened since Trump was elected president, but I was overwhelmed with with love, and joy, and hope on Saturday watching women all over the world stand up together to say we won’t keep quiet. We will fight for what we believe in. I was at a conference this weekend and couldn’t make it out to a march, but I was bowled over by the number of women I personally know marching in cities around the country and even in Africa.

The past few months have given me a lot of time to reflect on my life, my beliefs, and what is important to me and what I’m going to do about it. How the Nazis came to power and how so few people did anything to stop their terrible acts is something that has been debated since it happened. As a psychology major I’ve read all those research studies that show how easily people buckle to authority and how easily they stay silent. I long ago, not proudly, acknowledged to myself that had I been living during that time I probably would not have spoken up. I don’t think I would have been a Nazi, but I don’t think I would have fought back either. I have always been someone who doesn’t like to make waves. I go along to get along. So I can definitely imagine myself just trying to navigate through whatever was happening without trying to offend anyone, but in my silence I would have been complicit.

This election rocked my faith to the core. I’ve known for a long time that most quote unquote Evangelical Christians and I don’t see eye to eye on many things, and I often wonder how we are possibly reading out of the same Bible. To see so many Christians not only vote for Trump but declare him a Godly man or God’s anointed to take back their country is just…I really have no words. Despite belonging to a church that teaches nothing but grace, mercy, love, and reconciliation, having a close group of Christian friends who live their faith seeking social justice, and having the wisdom of writers like Rachel Held Evans to remind me I’m not alone, this election still made me stop to ask what am I actually believing in. If the actions of this man are what Christianity is aligning itself with then what kind of God am I putting my faith in?

I won’t say that my heart is 100% healed or that I’ve completely opened it back up to God again, but I can at least hear him calling me in the most likely and unlikely of ways. There have been multiple sermons at my church that I have felt were written just for me in this time. Stuff like that is the likely, but you really don’t expect to have wonderful passages about finding Christian faith and calling the Religious Right he became deeply involved with to task written by a Jewish man inside of his book about creating the tv show “Saved by the Bell”. I also picked up the book “Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome” at the perfect time. It reminded me that people are not God. Religion is not God. I put my faith in something higher.

All this is the long wind-up to a question my friends in my Bible study and I were talking about, which is if you created a hashtag for what you wanted to live out in your life and have God work on you in 2017 what would it be? For me I decided it was #courage. The courage to speak up and to speak out on what I believe. I’m guessing there’s more than one person reading this who has no idea that I’m a Christian. That’s the just stay silent and not say anything when people might disagree part of me. Don’t talk about my faith in places that will cause tension. Don’t talk about all my liberal, progressive beliefs around people that might offend. Now is not the time to stay silent. So I’m trying to be courageous. To open up and speak out even when it makes me extremely uncomfortable.

So I will say to start that I am scared. I am scared of what the next 4 years will bring and how easily we might wind up in places we really don’t want to be. To have the first press conference of Trump’s administration be defending easily disproven lies is frightening. I said before the election on Facebook that the only person Trump cares about is himself. He cares about his ego and feeling powerful. If you’ve listened to anything he said during the campaign, his lies about how big the crowds are at the inauguration should not be a surprise. The fact that there are people who will already defend this lie and claim it to be true all the way from his administration to people in my Facebook feed is truly terrifying to me. If we are already at a place on day one where people will say an easily disproven lie is true, then where are we going to be when the lies aren’t so black and white? I will not stay  silent and let these things pass anymore. I’m claiming the courage to stand up and call out the lies and defend the things I believe in.

After thinking about writing this since Saturday, this morning when I actually had time to sit down and do it I almost didn’t. But at the exact moment I was thinking about backing away and not putting this out there someone from NPR Music tweeted out a story to this song “Quiet” by a singer named MILCK written for the Women’s March. I don’t think it was a coincidence. It was God saying hey you remember that promise of courage you made and asked me to help you with? Well guess what here’s your reminder. Get to it.

Acapella version of part of the song being sung by a group of women during the march.

And the full studio version

 

My Most Memorable Pop Culture of 2016 January 2, 2017

Filed under: Books,Concerts,Podcasts,Pop Culture,Songs I Love,Television,Theatre — dwhren @ 10:55 am

Once again it’s time for my post on what was the most memorable pop culture of the year to me. It’s pop culture I consumed in 2016, not necessarily things that were exclusively released in 2016. And once again I point out that this is the stuff that made the greatest impact on me. It’s not a list of the top anything. Even I acknowledge that there are things on this list that I would not put in a top 10 or even top 20 list. They’re not necessarily the best of anything, just the stuff that I enjoyed the most or which had some special meaning to me.

Movie I Saw in a Theatre

I’m pretty sure I saw more movies in the theatre in 2016 than I have in a long time. I’ve seen 4 movies since Thanksgiving alone, which is very unusual for my life these days. I enjoyed most of the movies I saw, but I’m giving this category to La La Land. It was the one movie I saw this year that I almost immediately wanted to see again. It wasn’t a perfect movie. It didn’t quite live up to its promise as a movie musical. It started out with a bunch of musical numbers and then almost completely dropped them until the end. It was a little uneven, but I still loved it. It’s a beautiful to look at, and I really could just watch Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling interact forever. Their relationship seemed so real. At the time I saw it I was a little disappointed that they didn’t end up together even though realistically that’s what should have happened. Usually I would have enjoyed that ending, but wasn’t in the mood for at the time. In retrospect though I can appreciate it, and whatever my feelings about it were they did not detract from my love of the movie as a whole.

Movie I Watched at Home

Last year I said I should probably retire this category because I don’t watch that many movies at home, and I had a hard time thinking of any. I’m still singing that tune this year, but I’m apparently not quite yet ready to let it go because it’s still here. In doing a review I discovered I actually watched a lot more movies at home than I thought, but I literally had to go back and look because I couldn’t remember any of them. Once I did though the obvious choice was Sing Street. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a sweet little film that takes place in 1980’s Dublin about a teenage boy who starts a band to impress a girl. The songs in it were all written for the movie, but definitely evoke the sounds of 80s music. It’s a delightful little film.

 

Fiction Book

Alas my great streak with books I loved last year did not continue into this year. I did manage to meet my reading goal of 100 books for the year, but there were very few I rated above 3 stars on Goodreads. This category like several other ones exemplified how out of sync I was with pop culture this year. Almost every best of book list I saw had Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad as it’s top pick. I did not care for that book. The fiction book I most enjoyed did show up on most lists as well, so I guess I wasn’t completely off. It was Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Essentially its a series of connected short stories, which makes it unusual that I would like it that much since I generally don’t care for short stories. The thread that connects them though is following two lines of a family through two sisters on the Gold Coast of Africa, one who is sold into slavery and the other who becomes a slave traders wife from their lives in the 1600s up through present day. Each story is essentially a new generation. It was a wonderful and heartbreaking book that really demonstrates how the sins of the past continue to haunt the present even hundreds of years later.

Non-Fiction Book

I had much better luck with non-fiction books this year than fiction ones. Most of the books I rated over 3 stars on Goodreads were non-fiction. My favorite non-fiction book of the year was another book that was not very uplifting, but was extremely interesting. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond explores poverty and housing through the lens of the city of Milwaukee. Desmond explores the intricacies of housing and the tenant/landlord relationship especially when dealing with people living in poverty. Many books like this seem to take sides, but Desmond does a really good job in following a couple of landlords and their tenants at showing how complicated the relationship and that there are failings on both sides.

TV Show

With as much good scripted television as there is these days I feel like I’m going a little off book in declaring my favorite tv show of the year as Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. It was the biggest surprise to me because I was never the hugest fan of Samantha Bee when she was a Daily Show correspondent, especially towards the end of Jon Stewart’s run when she really seemed to be going off the rails a little bit. I didn’t even plan on watching Full Frontal because I figured it was just going to be more of the same stuff I wasn’t enjoying on The Daily Show, but my husband insisted that we at least try it out and I’m very glad he did. Full Frontal is really smart, and I appreciate having a woman’s voice in the late night world, especially one who will focus on woman’s issues in a way that no one else is. I’m definitely going to need Sam Bee’s outrage to help keep me sane as we move into the horrors of whatever this Trump presidency is about to bring us.

 

TV Episode

I stopped watching Halt and Catch Fire a few episodes into its first season, but decided to get caught up this summer after hearing so many people talk about how much better the second season was. So in a way it’s a little surprising to me that my favorite episode of the year was from the third season of this show. Season 3, Episode 7 – The Threshold is a great hour of television. Donna and Cameron’s relationship and their building of Mutiny together was the heart of season 2 and what turned this show into something worth watching. Watching it fall apart in this episode was sad but wonderfully acted and excellent to watch.

Album

Music is where my tastes really did not converge with critics or other music listeners as my favorite songs and albums really didn’t show up on any best of 2016 lists. My favorite album of the year was Joseph’s I’m Alone, No You’re Not. Joseph is a group of three sisters who have wonderful harmonies but some of their songs also have a great pop sensibility. I love this whole album, and I hope to be able to see them play more of the album live in 2017.

 

 

Song

I suspect the song I’m putting in this category has a bit of recency bias. I suspect that if I first fell in love with this song say back in March instead of November that I’d probably be sick of it and wouldn’t be including it here, but Wrabel’s 11 Blocks was the song that I loved to sing along to in the car more than any other song this year and the one I always hoped I would hear on the radio when I was driving which is what it earns it this spot. Realistically my choice here should have been Joseph’s SOS (Overboard), which I love and is probably the song I listened to most this year.

 

Concert

Every year my real favorite concert experience is going to the Newport Folk Festival. This year that was no exception. I was already beat down my 2016 at the end of July and that weekend was such a balm for my soul, but I always like to pick another show from the year for this category since Newport being a festival isn’t really a single concert. This year my favorite concert was Garth Brooks. I never got to see him back in the 90s, so I’m glad I finally got the chance. He is an amazing performer and manages to make an arena show feel intimate and so fun. It was so fun to sing along to all those songs of his I loved and also to see Trisha Yearwood perform some of her songs. They are some of the first country artists I ever fell in love with and it was great to finally get a chance to see them live.

 

Broadway Theatre Production

In last year’s post I named Hamilton my favorite theatre production of the year and said I’m going again in April of 2016 so maybe it will be my favorite show of 2016 too. Let’s be realistic. It was. But I also saw other great Broadway shows this year. So even though the best show I saw was Hamilton again, I’m going to put She Loves Me in this category. The production starred Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi and it was delightful. I even paid to re-watch it online when they broadcast a recording of it later in the year.

Baltimore Theatre Production

My favorite theatre production that I saw in Baltimore snuck in at the last moment. It was the touring production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. The Broadway production won the Tony for Best New Musical in 2014 and I’ve wanted to see it for years. It was never something that I felt that I needed to see on Broadway though given the limited number of shows I get to see there each year. I always knew I was going to wait until it toured to see it, so I was happy that it finally came around as part of our season tickets to the Hippodrome this year. It was a great show and well worth the wait. It was extremely smart and clever and a show the likes of which I haven’t seen in a long time.

Podcast

I already gave away in a post a few weeks ago that my favorite pocast this year was Out of the Blocks, a local Baltimore podcast from Aaron Henkin and Wendel Patrick. Their tag line One City Block, One Hour of Radio, Everybody’s Story pretty much describes what the podcast is about. It’s a fascinating look at the city and in the human condition. I highly recommend it to everyone not just people from Baltimore.

Podcast Episode

If Out of the Blocks didn’t exist Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs would have gotten my vote in the previous category. Instead they’ll get the mention in favorite podcast episode. I of course had to pick the episode where they discuss the song I requested, Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You”.

 

My Year in Music: A Song a Day Playlist January 1, 2017

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 11:39 am

At the beginning of 2016 I decided to create a Spotify playlist that I would add one song to every day. I obviously missed a few days along the way since there are only 361 songs (although for some reason the embedded player only allows you to see 200 songs) on my playlist and there were 366 days in 2016. I tried to add a new song every day, but I see that I managed to put Traveller by Chris Stapleton and Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears on twice. Once I realized I could not in fact remember all the songs I was adding I would try and check, but it was hard to do that while I was traveling and adding songs on the app on my phone.

The songs were basically came from something in my day. If I was going to a concert or a musical I would add a song from that. Other times the songs I put on would be things I heard on the radio, in a store, on tv, or something that was just going through my head for some reason. I’m glad I did it, and it will be fun to go back and listen to the songs that stood out for me in 2016. Some of them are time-tested and would probably wind up on any playlist I made for a year. Others songs I’m pretty sure I already have forgotten what they are. I don’t think I’ll be doing it again though because I found it stressful some days to think of a song. I’ll probably create some sort of 2017 playlist, but not one that forces me to add something to it every day.