Songs for the Struggling Artist


And Then the Internet Went Out

While I was polishing up my blog about the power outage, I googled Tropical Storm Isaias to double check I was spelling it correctly. The request timed out but I figured it was just this thing the wifi does in our apartment where it gets moody about the distance between my computer and the router. After bringing it closer and then plugging in the ethernet cable and switching everything off and on again a million times, I had to accept that there was no internet. I found it ironic that I was trying to post a blog about the power of power, in which the power of the internet played a role, and could not because, while I did have electricity, I had no internet access.

The next day, the company said it would be fixed by 5pm, and then within 24hrs and then by 5pm the following day. Concurrent to all this, my phone had begun to switch itself off at every opportunity and would only rarely turn back on for a moment or two. My access to the world, beyond my physical presence, was largely cut off.

I didn’t know what to do. Every task I thought about tackling seemed to require the internet. I spent the first couple decades of my life living in a world without internet. It was fine! There were a lot of great things about those times! Why was it so impossible now?

Late Monday night, in order to maintain my weekly podcast posting, I realized I could potentially access the internet via these LinkNYC things – the structures we call “propaganda sticks.” I was 100% sure they were a privacy nightmare, in addition to being corporate tools – but I had a deadline – so I took my laptop and a little stool I’d bought for a cowboy clown show I made a few years ago and went to sit next to the LinkNYC column.

Just as soon as I’d gotten the blog posted, I saw this stream of liquid emerge from the other side of the column. Some guy was pissing right next to the thing, like it was a tree in the woods and his piss was flowing downstream right in front of me. The splash got very close to me and I scooted quickly away, swearing loudly. I found a new spot closer to the closed-up Greek travel agency office behind me. Later, as I got the two podcasts uploaded, the guy from the Mexican restaurant next door brought me some chips and salsa because he liked my “set up.”

There’s a way that having to go out into the street to reach the wider world really put me in touch with the immediate world in ways both pleasant and unpleasant. When the real physical world was all I had, it all got very physical very fast.

In wrestling with my world without internet, in addition to pushing me out into the street, I found myself really noticing how blended my creativity and the sharing of it had become. I could practice a song. I could even record a song and podcasts but without the internet, all of that could go no further than the room they were made in.

We finally got a little green light suggesting our internet was back but in various computer tests, the signal could go no further than the internet company itself. It’s as if we could communicate a tiny bit but we could only reach one person and even then, it was just to wave. There could be no meaningful discourse.

There’s something about this limited signal that I found poignant. It felt a bit like my entire artistic career. I make something and put it out but only a few people have the tech to receive it.

We have these internet connected light bulbs, for example, which I was astonished to discover could still work, even with the area outages preventing us from interneting. It turns out it’s because they’re local. They communicate just within our apartment. But we cannot reach beyond our local network. Our internet problem is a communication problem.

It cannot take us beyond our apartment. And a lot of my struggles as an artist are similarly about an inability to get beyond my apartment. The work makes it around the apartment, no problem – and even to a few points beyond – but the signal always seems to run into an obstacle somewhere. Out there in the physical world, I do alright. I might get pissed on occasionally but I also get free food and warm greetings.

In the internet world, which, more and more, given the lockdowns, seems just as real, there are many places I can’t reach.

And like, power, when someone is without the internet, their lack is invisible. To the one who has been cut off, it feels as though they are cut off from the bulk of the world – but the world will never notice their absence.

The local is the only bit that remains. It can involve piss and salsa – but it is real and where the action actually is.

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This post was brought to you by my wise patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

Want to help me expand beyond my local connection?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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Do You Have Power?
August 31, 2020, 9:26 pm
Filed under: class | Tags: , , ,

The neighbors were walking through the neighborhood checking out the damage caused by Tropical Storm Isaias. I asked them if they had power and they shook their heads. None of us had power.

And of course, I’m talking about electricity. I was staying at my friend’s place and the storm had brought down trees all over the area, knocking out power lines everywhere. Rich neighborhoods, poor neighborhoods, the power grid was out for everyone.

There’s an idea that’s been making its way around the internet during these global pandemic times, about how we’re not all in the same boat, as some have said, but we are all in the same storm. How the storm impacts us depends greatly on what kind of boat we’re in to weather it. If we’re on David Geffen’s yacht, we’re probably okay. If we’re on a rubber raft, we’re in for some trouble. The week-long power outage on Long Island was a result of a literal storm and the metaphor applies to its aftermath. There were those with generators whose lights only dimmed for a moment as they switched from one power source to another and those for whom the loss of a fridge full of goods may have meant ruin. Your access to power could allow for a cramp in your lifestyle or a full-on shut down.

Our lives are so dependent on electricity and the ways we rely on it are legion. You discover how much when you are without it. It’s not just lights out at night. It’s hot water heaters powered by electric switches. It’s refrigerators and freezers. It’s your phone and your computer and your tablet that become bricks when you run out of batteries. The all-powerful internet is meaningless when you can’t turn anything on that will get you to it. You cannot grind your coffee beans. You cannot run the air conditioning. You can’t turn a fan on. When it’s hot, you’re going to stay hot.

The fact that we call electricity “power” strikes me with great force after a week without it. I walk around in my daily life with extraordinary power at my fingertips. I turn lights on, grind coffee, charge my devices, heat stuff up in a microwave. It is non-stop power. I don’t think of myself as powerful but I do have access to power. There are those that do not have that access.

There’s something about the literalness of this metaphor – something about those with access to power and those that do not have access – that lines up perfectly. When you have power, you take it for granted. I was cavalierly freezing food, running fans and letting my phone run out of battery because I knew I could just plug it in and charge it some more. I previously did not think I had power because I didn’t have artistic access or couldn’t get my art sold or produced or whatever. But I did have access to the sort of power that powers a modern life and until I lost it for a significant period of time, I took it entirely for granted.

When you have power, it is largely invisible to you and highly visible to the people without it. I was acutely aware of the neighbors’ generators – how loud they were, sure – but also how some would power even their driveway lights with them, while others just lit up their kitchens. The house I was in was entirely dark and became invisible to those WITH power at night.

This dynamic is at play with less literal power as well. The powerless can track the levels of power they do not have while the powerful don’t see power at all, they’re just using their juicer at breakfast or investing their money or taking that meeting with that VIP, no big deal.

I feel like this is a central difficultly when trying to make social change. The invisibility of the power structure to those that benefit from it is one of the largest obstacles to making it more fair.

I wonder if we need these occasional power outages to at least just remind us that our hold on power is not something to be taken for granted. It is not a given.

It makes me think of the charitable donations of solar powered lanterns. The ones that are given so students can study, so doctors can practice even when there is no light. They’re particularly useful in disasters. A little solar lamp is not a big dose of power but it is a start. The lights are powered by the power source we all have access to. Sometimes I think this is why the powers that be are so dead set against solar and wind power – because our current leaders are power hoarders. If we powered our electricity with wind and sun, they could not so easily control the power source.

I don’t think of myself as someone with power but I can use what little bits of electrical power I have to type into this machine that I plug into the wall where I get that electricity. And then I post onto the internet which I can access because of power and receive support through that same electric internet for my work. I will then, with the support I receive for this post, buy someone, without power, a light. I want to give power, not just take it. If you want to join me, here are the lights I’m going to buy when my electric powered payment comes in.

This post was brought to you by my electric patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me access some power?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis

 

 

 



If She’s Not Shooting Fire From Her Fingers, I Don’t Want to See It

I was once a voracious watcher of movies and TV. When I was a pre-teen I would go to films even if I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like them. I saw whatever I could get my eyes on. TV, too. I’d watch any old thing. There was always something to learn.

As time has gone by, I am much more discerning in what I put in front of my eyeballs. I am picky about what I watch and will abandon anything that isn’t doing the job. I think that may have something to do with age and a desire not to waste my increasingly precious time.

But in the last few weeks, I have become even pickier. I need my viewing to be medicinal, in some way. I want it to help me through the current moment. And there’s not a whole lot that will do that.

What’s interesting to me, though, is how clear it is what WILL do the job.

I need it to star women, preferably with magical powers, in positions of authority. I want witch stories. I want women in charge with men at their mercy.

What I’ve run into, though, is how little of this sort of story there is. In fact, I’ve already seen most of the things that would fit the bill. I’m exploring a wider and wider range of what will satisfy me. Why oh why is it so hard to find a show where a lady sets people on fire? Won’t anyone give me what I need?

In my search, though, I have found some things I didn’t know I needed. The Worst Witch is a show for young people and while so far no one’s been set on fire, I’m finding that seeing a witch school for girls with an all female staff means, after watching three episodes, there was only one man onscreen for less than 20 seconds. I did not know I needed this. But I did. It is an all girl world and, in it, the girls are learning to become authoritative.

“Do you know what a witch does?”” asks one teacher.
“Spells?” guesses the struggling student. “Broom stick flying. Wears a pointy hat?”
“She bends the world to her will.”

Oh my god I need to learn how to do this. Someone sign me up for witch school immediately.

But what’s funny is – the actual line was not “She bends the world to her will.” In trying to remember this scene for this blog, I made that up. Because that is what I want witching to be. Because it is what I want.

Actual line: “A witch makes things go her way.”
Nice. But not quite as powerful as I need, apparently.

I need to watch women bending the world to their wills – whether it is through magic or some other means. Oh, what other means are there? My needs are so specific right now and so underserved. I want a world full of women but I stopped watching Orange Is the New Black because I cannot watch all those women completely disenfranchised, trapped and unable to exercise real power.

I want women with magic powers because I want women with power. Will the Charmed reboot serve me as well as the old one did? I think so. I’ve seen two episodes so far and before they even discovered their magical powers, one of the Charmed Ones punched an MRA dude in the face, so this show won me over quickly. However, so far, the new Charmed Ones have not set anyone on fire the way the old ones did and this will need to change. Pronto.

I got to see a few episodes of the TV adaptation of A Discovery of Witches and while there is one very satisfying fire circle, one deadly circle of fire is not enough circles of fire for me. I need 99% more fire circles.

I have never been that interested in violence in film and TV. I generally look away and plug my ears but I suddenly understand the desire for it. Why are these characters TALKING when they could be shooting fire out of their fingers?!

So – if you have any shows to recommend that fit this very specific bill, I would very much appreciate it. I imagine someday I’ll be ready to watch something besides women shooting fire again, but that moment has not yet arrived. So send me your pyrokinetic witches, please.

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous one on Anchor, click here.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me find power without shooting fire out of my fingers?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 

 

 



Sticky Benevolent Sexism
March 28, 2017, 6:33 pm
Filed under: feminism, resistance | Tags: , , , , , ,

It happened weeks ago, after the Women’s March. Since then there have been many more marches and many more protests but I can’t stop thinking about this experience I had right after participating in that first one.

I was at a conference. We were wrapping it up with a reflection session – talking about what had been successful and possibilities for the future. Towards the end, a man stood up to say he’d been to the Women’s March and that he’d been inspired and now wanted to recognize all the women in the room. He asked us all to stand and receive applause and appreciation from the men. We stood, as requested and received the applause. And don’t get me wrong, I love applause. But this felt so so bad.

Why? I wondered. Why was I upset by this nice man wanting to honor the ladies in the room? He was just being nice. Why did it make my skin crawl? For weeks, I’ve tried to unpack this moment. And then on International Women’s Day, I felt the same feelings upon reading multiple posts and tweets and tributes.

And still, I struggled to understand. So I talked about it with my partner. I told him about the request to stand and be recognized and he seemed to instantly know what I was reacting to. “It’s like Secretary’s Day,” he said. And I said, “Yes! Exactly! Exactly that! But what is that?”

And it comes down to power, folks. We have a secretary’s day because bosses have power and they express that benevolently (if also patronizingly) via things like Secretaries Day. A man who steps forward and asks for everyone to recognize the women in the room is asserting a similar kind of power. It is claiming an authority over women. He takes on a boss role and thanks the helpers. The fact that it is outwardly benevolent is what makes it confusing. This is called benevolent sexism and it is a bear, y’all.

Benevolent sexism is super confusing for a lot of dudes. It’s why the Orange Man in Chief thinks he’s great for women. Women are also confused by it. It’s men being nice, right? But so many studies show us how not nice it can be. It can be very dark and very dangerous.

My moment of benevolent sexism was confusing for me because I like to be appreciated and recognized. But I would like to have all of those things happen due to my accomplishments and artistry. Being applauded for just being a woman suggests being applauded for my service to the real art, the men’s art. I’m getting accolades for being a good helpmeet, not being an artist, or an achiever – because that’s what we ladies do, right? We help! We make the coffee and mop the men’s brows from doing the real work. Golly, we need a day to thank those ladies!

When that guy asked us to stand, I stood. And I cried. I thought, briefly, that I cried because I was moved, because I was touched by the gesture. I know now that I cried because I felt utterly undermined and defeated. After a day of women asserting our voices and our power, we were suddenly reduced to secretaries, to helpful wives – rather than the peers and colleagues we are. Now, I think I was crying due to how quickly that feeling of empowerment can be ripped away. BUT. But…

The good news is that now I’m wise. And I won’t fall for this trick again. Next time, I will not stand. Maybe I’ll even ask the men to stand and let them see how it feels.

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This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



“Is this what it feels like to be a man?”

I recently finished watching Seasons 1 and 2 of Call the Midwife. My first thoughts, after watching an episode or two, were “Is this what it feels like to be a man? To see your gender entirely at the center of stories? To have a wide variety of characters and not just one pretty one to be the romantic interest for the lead?”

It has been remarkable to watch stories not just featuring women but about some of the most quintessentially female experiences you could have. Watching stories about pregnancy and childbirth, for one, but also abortion, domestic violence and motherhood.

That all feels pretty revolutionary to me.

But in addition to things like the thrill of having the main romantic story happening to the most awkward of the women, there is also the extraordinary effect of watching so many women in authority.

Every single midwife in the series finds herself in a position of authority at some point, so we watch the younger ones struggle with it and find their own voices and power. That, in itself, feels instructive as this is not a narrative we ever really get to see in the media. But the other part of it is the way authority sits on the older women in the show. They are in charge and there is no question about it. It occurs to me that I have spent most of my life watching media that models for men how to take on authority (or how not to) but leaves women to figure it out for ourselves.

To watch a community of women in full command of themselves and the world around them is something I don’t think I’ve ever had an opportunity to watch on screen before. I love Orange is the New Black and its community of women, too, but because it is set in prison, all authority rests in the hands of the state, so even though the show is fantastic, it doesn’t have the same empowering effect.

Call the Midwife isn’t perfect (It’s very white, it can be way sentimental and sometimes the plot twists make me roll my eyes) but it is thrilling to experience a TV show that offers so much female-ness.And given the way theatre tends to follow TV and film, it gives me hope for a future when we could also have this sort of thing can stage. More please. More of this.

*call the midwife

P.S.  On another note, I also love Masters of Sex. Set in almost the same time period, dealing with women’s health and created by women with a woman at the center. I am particularly thrilled to see a story that is so concerned with women’s sexuality and ambition in a way that we rarely see on TV. It doesn’t have Call the Midwife’s variety of bodies and ages or its authority – but it embraces some of the darkness and pleasure that Call the Midwife couldn’t possibly engage in. What would happen if these worlds could collide? I would definitely watch that show.




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