I want to be a better human being and do what I can make a better world. I imagine many if not most of us do. I have learned, but there is a lot more to learn, so I continue to learn. I learn in all kinds of ways. But by being scolded? Not so much.

For an old-ish, mostly able-bodied white woman, a descendent of settlers, I think I do pretty well at things like acknowledging my privilege and being aware of the effect of words. Being surrounded by social justice advocates and proponents definitely rubs off, and I appreciate it. As a thoughtful person who came through radical movements more than 30 years ago, I have done a lot of learning and relearning. Back then our mostly white, mostly male radicalism was impoverished and inadequate.

So I don't necessarily feel myself to be the target of much of what I read. But I read it anyway, because there's always something more to learn, a way of looking at things that is new and different, some insight. And of the things I read, I usually (not always, but that's a different post) agree with the presented ideas on principle. But too often I am put off by the method with which information is delivered. "Eight things you had better do unless you're a total dirtball." Really, who likes to be scolded? A child is scolded by its parents, by a teacher, by someone in authority. But I know I am not a child. Once I grew up, I hoped never to be scolded again.

You know who scolds? Not so much someone authoritative as someone who wants to impose their morality, ethics, or sensibilities on you. You're scolded because you transgress. You don't measure up to expectations. You're stupid or lazy or both. You mess up again and again, and the scolder is fed up with your inability or unwillingness to come into line with their moral code.

I don't need that. I checked. Teach me. I'm an eager learner, and I know how to shut up and listen. But don't be a scold, because very likely you will get the result opposite the one you want.


A new trip down Sleater-Kinney Road

Bands reunite for all kinds of reasons. Often you know it's because there is money to be made, and since we all need to make at least some money, who can blame them—unless they crank out swill, which they won't for long. Sometimes it's because the band was the best thing the members had. Sometimes it's because they never actually broke up but just went on indefinite hiatus. Sometimes it's just because playing together is incredibly fun.

If anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt as to why they reunited, it's Sleater-Kinney. They've earned it. Over the course of seven albums and a few smaller releases, Sleater-Kinney established themselves as one of the Important Bands—bands we knew would always matter, bands other bands wish they were. Like the Beatles, the Velvet Underground, the Clash, the Pixies, PJ Harvey. Like Nirvana.

No Cities to Love, Sleater-Kinney's first album of new material in 10 years, kicks off with "Price Tag." It's not exactly an explosive beginning. The song is forceful but more full of bluster than power. Toward the end, it feels long. The lyrics aren't especially clever. "Fangless" starts more promising with a great intro beat from drummer Janet Weiss. This song reminds me of Corin Tucker's solo work, which is good but not nearly as distinctive as the best Sleater-Kinney. I do like Tucker's singing on this one, as I usually do. I often do not like Carrie Brownstein's singing, and this song is no exception. After two songs, this album is feeling too conventional.

"Surface Envy" catches my ear immediately. Great chorus! An enthusiastic thumb up for this one. "No Cities to Love" starts like it might be another strong one. It's catchy and has a good chorus, but it's not nearly as engaging as "Surface Envy." "A New Wave" feels like all the parts are there but somehow it doesn't create a great song. I do want to allow Sleater-Kinney room to be different. I wouldn't want them to reunite only to do what they had done already. The question is whether their current direction is great or not.

"No Anthems" gets me more excited. Glad we're back to Tucker singing. It's not just that she has a better voice than Brownstein. She also uses it better to express herself. This is kind of a deep cut, but it's a good one, and it has a strong chorus. "Gimme Love" is more of Tucker stretching in new directions, and I like what I hear.

"Bury Our Friends" got me moving right away. Points to Brownstein for this song! The bridge is a bit unimaginative, but does provide a texture change. "Hey Darling" makes me think of "A New Wave." Again, nothing wrong with it, but it doesn't thrill me. Maybe I'm not on board with all of this direction change. Or maybe this was just the throwaway ninth song that Kim Shattuck of the Muffs warns about.

"Face" ends the album in an interesting way. It starts slow and powerful, then picks up. I like this ending. I also noticed when this song started that it came up quickly on me, as in, "Oh, we're almost done already?" So even though I have some whines, the album does keep me engaged.

I want to listen to some reference material. I do not queue up Dig Me Out. We all know that's a classic, and I don't want to set the bar too high. Instead I listen to All Hands on the Bad One and The Hot Rock. I notice that both of the albums feel more urgent. They both grab me right away, especially All Hands. Killer chorus after killer chorus, great duets, great guitar interplay, and an undeniable edge.

If No Cities to Love feels less urgent, maybe that's to be expected. You can keep making music as long as you live, but you can't keep being young, at least not chronologically. As you get older, you have experiences, you change. Whatever else is going on in your life, you're no longer touring and living with each other for many months of a year.

I do not, however, think that it's inevitable for a band to make less urgent music. It depends on how urgent the band members feel. As someone for whom playing music is vital, I think all rock music should be urgent, that you should play it as though your life depended on it. That's what the best theatre is like. It thrills you and makes you shout "Brava!" I would love it if someone would make music as though it mattered, because to me, it fucking well does and always shall. Sleater-Kinney used to make music like that. I shouldn't be too hard on them if they're not now. I'm not sure that anyone can any longer.

(If you don't know...there is an actual Sleater-Kinney Road in (or near) Olympia, Washington. On it the band had a practice space. From it they took their name.)



I am very fortunate. Even though I'm starting to feel the gradual deterioration of my body as it ages, for the most part I have been blessed with good health for most of my life.

Even the healthiest person can't avoid the occasional cold, however. I'm reasonably sure this is a cold. I don't have a fever. It did not have a sudden onset characteristic of influenza. But as seems to be the case these days, it doesn't feel like a "normal" cold, the kind with symptoms that match what's on the bottle of Benylin Formula. My nose is a bit stuffed, but not badly. I have a cough, not persistent, mostly but not always dry. My body feels generally bad overall, I'm having a hard time focusing, and I'm tired all the time. And then there's the way I really know that I'm sick: my appetite is off.

They don't make rhinoviruses like they used to. Literally. Viruses mutate all the time, and I have a feeling we're now dealing with a lot of variants of what used to be run-of-the-mill rhinovirus. Maybe it's a North American thing. The last time I had a "normal" cold, it was right after having returned from a week and a half in Europe.

I'm glad that nothing struck during my recent holiday time off. During New Year Week, Sweetie and I had a wonderful time in Portland (Oregon), full of friends, food, shopping, and lots of laughing. This cold hit on my first day back at work, and no, there is no link there. Just coincidence, but it's certainly inconvenient. I was okay for a few days, but today is a bad day. So maybe that means things will get better from here.

I started thinking about how even a brief illness can be socially isolating. Your condition is communicable, and you don't want anyone else to catch it. With no energy, you don't leave the house much if at all. You can't go to events you might want to go to. You can't see people. I stayed home from my choir sectional rehearsal last night, which was a loss both of practice time and of fun hanging out with others in my section. I'm not sure whether I should go to full choir rehearsal tonight. Much as I need to after two weeks off, there is little worse than sending a communicable disease, even a minor one, through a choir that is less than a month away from a performance.

My cold will end soon. So will my social isolation. I still have dinner plans with a friend tomorrow night because I bet by then I will feel better and hopefully not be contagious. In a few more days, I will be back to my normal healthy self.

For some, "normal" is nothing like what I have, and I was reminded of that shortly before I started to feel my own isolation. I know people who deal with chronic illness, people who can't socialize as much as they want, people who sometimes can't leave their houses. And that can be especially isolating. For an outgoing person like me, isolation would definitely make illness worse. But even for an introvert, too much isolation will have a negative impact.

Someone I know who lives with chronic illness shared a blog post the other day. Food for thought, especially since I am usually the healthy one.