music

https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/resolution.png

As a general rule, I reject the notion of new year resolutions. Sure, I get why people make them; the start of a new year seems like a natural occasion to make new changes in one’s life. But I’m not sure I have ever met anyone who has successfully kept true to their new year resolutions.

You know what they say; today is the first day of the rest of your life. It seems to me if you are really interested in making a change, why wait for a national holiday to do it? Despite my apathy for new year resolutions, I expect 2018 to be a pivotal year in my life. In lots of different ways and for lots of different reasons.

40 in 2018

Though I haven’t thought much about it (partly because I don’t want to), 2018 will mark my 40th birthday. In recent years, my birthdays have generally come and gone with little fanfare and I don’t know that I expect much different next year.

But for me, passing 40 years of age is a milestone I am not looking forward to. In my mind, I should be much further along in my life. And though I’ve made trade-offs over the last 15 years, because I love this place I live, I feel fairly unaccomplished.

I own no property. No savings and minimal retirement investments. I remain single and haven’t been in a committed relationship since moving to Hawaii; I have no family of my own. And perhaps most frustrating is the feeling I am still struggling to make a career in my chosen profession.

I imagine most people when they reach 40, feel like “an adult”. I often don’t as I feel like I’m still trying to find my place, my purpose.

A Catalyst for Professional Changes

Despite the looming milestone (and potential mid-life crisis), 2018 could prove to be the most pivotal year of my life after 2002, when I moved to Hawaii.

One way or another, I suspect I will see my current employment come to an end.

Governor David Ige, for whom I work, is facing a tough reelection this year. And while I believe he can stave off his primary election challenger, there is certainly no guarantee. As an appointee, I work at the pleasure of the Governor and would have to be rehired by his successor in the event of his loss.

I’ve been in this situation before; four years ago when Ige beat the sitting Governor, Neil Abercrombie, in the Democratic Primary. I was incredibly fortunate to be kept on for the current administration. I seriously doubt I will have that kind of luck twice.

While this situation creates a level of uncertainty in my job, I don’t completely mind it. Without significant changes to my role and responsibilities in the office, I am not inclined to stay to the end of a second term. I’ve gotten about all I can out of my current position and am ready to move on.

This was the case two years ago, which is why I decided to go back to school.

In July, I will complete my Masters in Political Management from George Washington University. I started the program with the goal of learning some new skills, as well as validating with an advanced degree the skills I’ve cultivated as a volunteer activist over the last decade.

Once I decided to do it, I never looked back. Despite knowing the financial expense and that I’d likely be paying for it for the rest of my life. I wanted to move up and out of my current position and the degree was the best way I saw to do it.

And though I am struggling to figure out what comes next professionally, I’m excited (and worried) about what opportunities may present themselves with this specialized degree under my belt.

A Year for Real Change

When I think about what this year has to offer, I am most excited about the progressive political activism that has been building since Bernie Sanders announced his bid for the Presidency. In the more then ten years I’ve been involved in Hawaii politics, I’ve never seen anything like it.

Progressive-minded people are running professional campaigns for elective office across the state in greater numbers than I can recall seeing before. We are organizing, collaborating, breaking down silos across issues. Progressives are coming together for a common purpose and a common agenda: make Hawaii a better place for everyone.

HAPA’s Kuleana Academy has churned out dozens of individuals ready to be solid candidates and activists that can serve as real and useful support to those candidates. I am a graduate of their second cohort.

And the organization I co-founded in early 2017, Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI), is poised to make a marked impact on the 2018 legislative session, as well as the 2018 elections. For the first time, maybe ever, I really feel like I personally will be able to make real tangible change.

A Life in Balance – Personal Goals

Maybe for my whole life, I’ve struggled for balance and for mental and physical wellness. 2018 won’t be any different.

It seems I always have a list of things I want to accomplish, skills I want to improve. I’ve never been great at self-motivation, though there are obviously exceptions.

My parents often point out that I should spend more time focusing on my hobbies, more time relaxing, and more time enjoying the special things Hawaii has to offer. They’re right. Between my day job and the work I am passionate about, there seems little time to take a break for other interests. In what time I do have, I struggle to find the energy to do anything other than being at home on my couch.

Maybe most importantly, I need to be more healthy. Though I continue to struggle with some level of depression, it’s in check. I’ve learned over many years how to cope with its ebbs and flows. But I also need to address my slowly rising weight and general lethargy. There’s no doubt I’d feel better over-all if my physical health were better, but I nonetheless battle to find the motivation.

Aside from politics, I enjoy writing, photography, and music. I will try to continue to develop my skills as a photographer. I will take more time to explore new music to appreciate the artists and albums I already love. At the top of this list: continue to write regularly on this blog about the things in my life.

 

I’m excited and nervous for what 2018 has in store. Here’s hoping it’s mostly great stuff.

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Politics is how I enter the world. But music is how I live in and escape it. This wasn’t always the case, though. I’m not one of those people who was born with a passion.

I have memories about playfully arguing about “old” versus “new” music with my mom when I was pretty young, but my awakening, as it were, didn’t occur until my early teens. It was the summer of 1992 and I was spending the summer with dad, stepmom, and (step)sister. Preparing for a road trip to Michigan, I can recall going to a music store; it was probably my sister’s idea.

Though I don’t recall what she left with, I remember distinctly her recommending to me The Final Cut, by Pink Floyd. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t already a fan, but I thought my sister was so cool that I would have eagerly listened to anything she suggested. It might be the very first album I ever purchased.

And thus began my obsession with Pink Floyd and my love of music of all kinds.

In high school, nearly all the money I had was spent on CDs. In college, I would spend countless hours browsing and downloading songs on Napster.

Over the last week, I was banging my head struggling to find something to write. Nothing. Nothing came to mind that sparked any creativity in me. Then, while browsing Facebook, I came across this:

Automatic Unearthed

Inspiration.

Automatic For The People, by R.E.M., celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. When it was released in October of 1992, I was 14 years old. At the time, my music collection was in its infancy; I’ve owned this album longer than nearly any other. And while I am a fan of the band, no other album of theirs comes close to matching the brilliance and beauty of this masterpiece.

The Music

I completely geek-out on stuff like that 25-minute documentary. And other things, too. Earworm is a series of videos published by Vox News. It is great and geeky. Some of them I’ve watched more than once.

In a similar vein, while feeding one of my other geeky pleasures, The West Wing, by listening to The West Wing Weekly Podcast, I learned about another brilliantly obsessive music podcast: Song Exploder. In this podcast, the musicians break down their songs, the inspiration for and the process of their creation.

Even more basic than these, sometimes I’ll spend hours on YouTube bouncing from one music video to another: weird covers, original videos, live concerts. And I’ll obsess over lyrics, listening to a song over and over until I’ve got them down. Then I’ll poke around the inter-webs reading about the real or perceived meaning of those lyrics.

The Technology

It’s not just the music that’s important, but how I experience it.

Toward the end of college, as my appreciation grew, I wanted to hear music better. I wanted it louder and with better quality and clarity, so I bought my first hi-fi stereo system: an Onkyo 5-Disc changer, 5.1 surround receiver, two tower speakers and a sub-woofer. I loved that thing. Almost more than family and friends, when I moved to Hawaiʻi I was sad to leave it behind.

But I don’t spend much time at home, honestly, so the possession of high-quality headphones has been important to me for a while. Over the years, I’ve owned a range of brands from Bose to Sennheiser, to my current pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones.

I’m constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of my music listening experience, both at home and on the go. At home, I’m contemplating a return to a purer time: buying a turntable and building a collection of vinyl albums. Such a setup is absent the ease of shuffling through the more than 5100 MP3s on my computer. But as I sit here, writing this, and listening to that seminal album by R.E.M. from beginning to end, I’m thinking it might be worth it.

For my days away from the house, I’ve been eyeballing a tiny Bluetooth amplifier from bluewave. See, my iPhone doesn’t provide enough power to properly drive my ATH-M50x’s.

My Life

My brain, my memories, feelings… are all built on music. There is nothing else in this world that can dig up real emotion for me like music can. Beyond that, I can’t concentrate without music playing somewhere. Silent libraries are for other people.

Though it doesn’t really surprise me; I wrote similarly on this topic nearly a decade ago:

I can’t say I internalize or absorb songs, because often times I can’t accurately recall lyrics, notes, melodies, or rhythm without hearing at least part of the song. It’s like every song I like or love is simply indexed in my brain and hearing a part of it pulls the rest from countless neurons.

Songs themselves can serve as indexes for memories. Numerous songs serve as indexes for places, people, and events in my life. Hearing such a song immediately puts me back in that place. Or numerous memories regarding a particular person can come flooding back to me from simply hearing a few notes of a certain song. These memories are vivid; I can recall facial expressions, furniture arrangements, the time of day, voices, clothing, etc. Yes, songs serve as place holders for my notoriously bad memory.

And because I love music so much, I even do my own lip-sync videos; I’ll sing along and dance around my house, so why not occasionally share that joy with others. Check them out.

My emotional drive to make the world better led me to a life in politics, but music makes me smile. And cry. And dance.

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Here’s the video I recorded a couple weeks ago, then promptly forgot to post.

Crash Test Dummies has a handful of songs, all of which remind me, one way or another of high school. Though not the happiest time of my life, I discovered much of my favorite music during those formative years.

Perhaps not surprising, there other bands who have written songs about (or that reference) Superman, including R.E.M., 3 Doors Down, Spin Doctors, and the Flaming Lips. It’s likely I’ll cover at least one more of these.

Anyway, enjoy.

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They Might Be Giants (TMBG); a band from my youth that I continue to love. Back in middle school, you could find them in the “alternative” section of the music store, though these days I would struggle to categorize them.

Excellent live, I have seen TMBG in concert more than any other band.

This song, “Dead,” is from their third, but breakthrough album Flood, released in 1990.

They primarily do kids songs now, so if you have little ones, I highly recommend you check them out for your keiki. Fun and intelligent, TMBG are good for all ages.

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Welcome to Music Monday!

It’s a good thing I’ve banked a few of these. I spent this weekend at a Hawaii People’s Fund retreat at the beautiful Camp Paleua. The Board and Grantmaking Committees met to discuss strategically about the organization’s future. And by the time I got home Sunday afternoon I was exhausted. I had no energy to record a video for today.

As a closet romantic, there are a few songs by Train that appeal to me. “Hopeless” is one of them. I have a handful of songs by them, but admit to not liking them enough to invest in an entire album.

Hopefully you’ll enjoy this one and not think less of me for it.

With one more in the bank, I need to start recording again. I also started class again today, so we’ll see when I manage to get to it.

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