Let’s talk about those executive orders…

So, I have been studying the executive orders Trump signed for a while today and I think the wording in most publications is taken directly from one source that loves legal jargon and phrasing that doesn’t tell what the policies are really about. I have broken them down as best as I can and please let me know if there are any facts (you know, the non-alternative kind) I messed up or missed. I will edit accordingly. Facts are facts. (Note: I did this as an education for myself. Hopefully I can share what I learned with you so that we are all informed as best as we can be.)

1. The “Mexico City Policy” aka “The Global Gag Rule” (key issue: federal funding of international organizations who promote or provide abortions) – Pay attention to this one because I really had to dig to figure out what exactly he was signing away. This policy has flip-flopped between presidents since Reagan introduced it in the 80s. Republicans want it in place (arguing that abortion should not be promoted and, as an extent of that, provided) but when a Democrat takes office, the policy is switched over (or so has been the case with Clinton and Obama). Bustle explained it pretty well, “So, the choice they are given is give up federal money, but not be able to provide the potentially life-saving services needed by the populations they exist to aid, or have the freedom to operate how they choose, but significantly decrease their budgets.” (Full article https://www.bustle.com/p/what-is-the-mexico-city-policy-thi…)

2. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (key issue: (in general) would open up a free trade route between 12 nations. The United States does have a say in this, but Congress already said no. A large portion of the partnership would involve the cutting of tariffs (taxes for importing and exporting goods). However, the larger issue – and this is the part of it that Trump’s admin. probably really didn’t like – was that it opens up the doors for job losses in certain industries on U.S. soil. For example, why have our own manufacturers of goods if we can get the same thing *for free* from Japan? It sparks a whole debate over whether or not we as a nation should value free trade or whether or not we should make everything in the United States (allowing more jobs to open and for the U.S.’s economy to become more independent). Critics of Trump’s order note that China may use this to their advantage, creating new routes and policies that could further their hold over the world economy. It is a definite battle of pros and cons.

3. The third I am listing is actually the second order he signed. I haven’t read too much about it but the words, “federal government” and “hiring freeze” were used before he signed them. That one pretty much speaks for itself, although it is unclear, so far, as to which facets that will affect.

Thank you for reading. Again, let me know if you have any other information to provide.

– E

On Death

Death is nothing new to me, although this year has presented to me the cold truth about the entire concept. It is strange, isn’t it, to view death as a concept? But it is one, while also being a fact of life. Some may roll their eyes and say that death is not a part of life, but I believe it is, for it is through life that we witness and come to understand death.

Only one thing can be compared with death, and that is life.

We have the ability to reflect on the deaths of others. It is a gift to be alive, but, at times, the ability of sentience seems to be a curse, especially in the face of news regarding the slaughtering of hundreds, and the quiet slipping aways of those we have deemed worthy of the crown of celebrity.

I write this on the day of my reflection on the death of Carrie Fisher. While I have seen her in a limited number of films, I understand that she inhabited a spirit of varying mediums. On the day of her death, I became aware of her place in the literary community. Her work has been described, albeit in this case briefly, as a voice in the genre of memoir, self-deprecation, and writing on mental illness. While I knew of her experiences with bipolar disorder and use of drugs, I did not know to what extent she had expressed knowledge of these subjects.

It amazed and interested me, in the hours following the news of her death, that there were but a few posts about Ms. Fisher’s involvement in the conversation about mental illness in the midst of hundreds of articles about her place in the canon of Star Wars. The posts about her personal work came later. That, of course, is not a problem, per se. The concept of celebrity is an interesting one. How does one effectively honor anyone, for that matter? Is it possible to understand every action of a person you, most likely, have never met? How well do you know those that you have?

On a different note, a more critical one, the concept and ensuing conversation of mental illness is one that takes precedence in niche forms of expression. To the general public, it is still something to be hidden. We see it everywhere, but are truly unaware of its manifestations, its causes, and effects.

It is difficult to imagine a world where ignorance is more revealing than knowledge. It is not easy to admit that we, in our nature, are not knowledgeable about everything.

Death has touched the lives of those I know, those I will never meet, and those I do not yet know. Earlier this year, a group of people I knew mainly in high school lost a close friend. Her name was Amy. I, along with a friend and several others close to her, attended her wake. Numbed – perhaps from anxiety, or from the sheer vividness -, I witnessed the grief of those I had once known to be nearly entirely happy. In high school, the good outperformed the bad, even its darkest manifestations. Amy’s death was one that affected me wholeheartedly. Perhaps it is was witnessing the reactions of those I knew were close to her. Perhaps it was seeing her once in life and once more, in person, in death. I was touched by the testimonial confessions which arose from those who came to honor her. I pray for their strength and respect their resolve, their posterity.

The shooting in Orlando left a dark impression on my heart. I probably will never view certain things the same way again. I do not have the stomach to envision the horrors of that night too much. It brings to mind all of the horrors of the past 20 years – the years my generation were born to witness. I have vague memories of 9/11. I have memories of reacting to the various shootings and attacks that have occurred throughout our country, and in many others. The number of souls gathered this year was tremendous.

I have become more aware than ever about death itself, as a concept… or perhaps as a fact. I do not believe we are properly trained to deal with death, or to talk about it, and I view the grieving process as a beautiful, mysterious thing.

This year has made me thankful for all I have and for all of the lives of which I am a part. I do my best to take none of it for granted, for I see how delicate life is, and how easily the path of life is ended.

Be thankful, not just on holidays, for all of the gifts of life. But also, even in these times, be thankful for the knowledge of death. It has humbled me and allowed me to see through different eyes.

I am saddened by the losses experienced by all. However, this is not the end.

Happy, almost, New Year.

Erik Parshall

‘Bait’

When I see you,
I fear for you,
Bait on the line,
At the end of their hook.
I watch you try
To get away
But they
Always catch you.
And sometimes you tell me that you like it,
But I know when you lie,
For how unlike you it is,
To be alright
With no say
In your control.

So let’s remove them,
Send them back to the water.
Perhaps then they’ll respect you,
And see you as their daughter.

But monsters hide in the woodwork
In the trees and the walls,
With blood and bones,
And I wonder at it all,
Are we safer when we sleep alone?

I can’t and don’t want to hear anymore,
No tones.

Minding of the Soul, a poem for #Orlando

A country,
United as one,
Even with the pain
Of tragedy
On the minds of every individual.
There is no escaping the wrath,
For even children,
Blind to these atrocities,
Will one day learn of them.
Violence,
This hate we know,
Rebounds and reverberates,
Through these harrowed events
We will one day call History.
The mind is a cruel weapon,
Perhaps one of the cruelest,
For out of metal comes action,
And from hate,
The urge to take a soul,
As victim.
We are united as one,
But the sun I see today
Is one that many now cannot.
Today I fear the future
And try to understand the past,
The past that is only twelve hours old.
We grasp the fear,
And try to analyze the pain,
And then hold close
The thoughts of yesterday.

#Orlando

What Have I Been Up To?

Good evening, readers.

It has been quite a while since I wrote to you on this blog. I apologize for this but I promise you, I haven’t been sitting around watching Netflix. I’m serious. I am still on season 1 of Empire.

Shortly after I published my last article, I drove up to New Hampshire to visit my grandparents. They’re wonderful people, who have taught me so much about different aspects of life. Little did I know that my life would change after this visit. I know, suspense, right?

Let me first tell you that I spent the entire ride up to New Hampshire listening to the soundtrack to RENT over and over again, reliving my high school years while going 65 miles per hour through New York and Connecticut. I was beyond tired when I arrived for I had taken three hours out of my journey to visit with my favorite professor at my alma mater. How weird is it to say that about my school? Very. At that time, I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I spoke to my professor, over tea, about what I had been doing over the summer (applying to jobs, not hearing back, etc.) and I was feeling almost entirely uninspired.

Fast forward to two days later, as my grandmother and I spoke about society and its impressions of women throughout history. As we walked to the car, our feet sandy and uncomfortable, my grandmother and I changed to the topic of racism.

“It is not easy being black in this country,” she said to me. Then a memory, somewhere within her mind, surfaced. She asked me if she had ever told me about a certain event she witnessed when she was living in Petersburg, Virginia. I replied no and she changed my life in just a few short sentences.

On the ride home, my mind began to formulate the story she had just detailed to me. It was astonishing, different, and horrifying. It wasn’t so much the fact that my grandmother herself had experienced the event, but more so that it happened at all.

I texted my friend, Chikodili – who has always been interested in my writing – and told her that I had found my next writing project. “My grandma told me this horrible story about when she lived in Virginia,” I prefaced. “I’m turning it into a story and oh, my God, it is crazy. I have the title already.”

The title, which was originally supposed to adorn the top of a short story that I wanted to send to The New Yorker and beyond, is Black Cat on a White Porch. It is my first novel.

That very afternoon, I began to write. I wrote the first chapter within a few hours and then thought to myself, “Where does this chapter lead?” I had the story my grandmother told me in my mind, and I had already introduced several characters that would help to progress the plot. Suddenly, from somewhere within me, I created another character that holds the heart of the story of Black Cat on a White Porch. Her name is Bea Byrne. She was different from any character I had ever attempted to write before. She holds the key to many secrets in the book, but it is not the secrets that are important but rather how they affect Bea and those around her.

As chapters 3, 4, and 5 began to form in my mind, I started to feel as if this was meant to go beyond a short story. Chikodili helped me to explore this feeling even more and as she grew more interested as I sent her chapter after chapter, I became interested in sharing this story with others outside of my inner circle of family and friends.

Several days into writing, I posed to Chikodili the idea of possibly creating a publishing company. We both have the necessary skills (and patience) to read, edit, and sell books so, after long hours of brainstorming methods and names, we came to the conclusion that is now Chormeri Books LLC.

Chormeri Books is based on the principle that aspiring writers are not always told how to share their stories with the world. We have all written the Tumblr/Facebook post that only got two or less likes. It’s alright. We chose to help those in need. We want to turn posts into memoirs, ideas into novels and short stories. We want to help in ways that we were not in the educational setting.

Publishing a book independently is no picnic, however. I scouted my close friend and high school classmate Hannah to design the cover for Black Cat on a White Porch, and she would eventually go on to design the physical manuscript. She is an absolute charm. Without the help of Chikodili and Hannah, I would not be writing this post. Here is the cover:

Designed by Hannah Korangkool
Designed by Hannah Korangkool

The book has officially finished production as of last night. It has been a journey but it is one I am thankful to have lead.

Black Cat on a White Porch is a culmination of my passion for social change and my adoration for history and its troubles. I hope that you all will read it eventually. The physical copies are coming soon, but it is out on Amazon Kindle now, and you can purchase the eBook for other platforms on our website.

I am sorry for disappearing for so long, but hey, at least I was doing something worthwhile.

Buy Black Cat on a White Porch:

eBook (other formats): BCWP eBook

eBook (Kindle): Amazon

Pre-Order physical copy: BCWP Physical Pre-Order

Other Merch: Chormeri Books

 

Thank you and love,

Erik Parshall

P.S. More posts coming soon. This one was long overdue.

 

 

FKA twigs’ “M3LL155X” – the freshest mediapocalypse album this year

I am very picky when it comes to music, and even more so with music that isn’t connected with the Billboard Top 40. I am a music searcher, going on websites like 8tracks or playing hours on hours of Google Music’s selective playlists. It takes me a little while to warm up to musical artists, especially because I do not just listen to their music. I try to listen and comprehend. The writer in me hears a song and I envision the story being told. Many times in my life, I have heard songs on the radio and been unable to find a story. Some artists, however, have the ability to live up to their title, and create complete works out of singles, extended plays, and full records.

FKA twigs is a musical storyteller. She was first introduced to me on YouTube by none other than my curiosity. I was listening to some experimental indie pop record and in the section dedicated to “Related Videos” sat an alluring image of a crowned woman. The title above read “Two Weeks” and in a click I was introduced to FKA twigs. (I would like to point out that she is a genius for originally naming herself ‘twigs’ and then decided to change her stage name, keeping ‘twigs’ and adding, “FKA” [formerly known as] to the front.)

FKA twigs in the "Two Weeks" video. (Borrowed from Tumblr, The Young Turks, Beggars Group, and FKA twigs.)
FKA twigs in the “Two Weeks” video. (Borrowed from Tumblr, The Young Turks, Beggars Group, and FKA twigs.)

“Two Weeks” was a trip. While I sat there, staring into the eyes of this interesting singer, I was drawn, as well, to the song itself. The line that truly stuck out to me is, “Pull out the incisor / give me two weeks you won’t recognize her.” This line serves as the chorus of the track and it is whimsical, yet pained. This is the quality of FKA twigs’ first set of releases, namely her debut LP, LP1.

LP1 was an album that I listened to in snippets and it wasn’t until I sat with the lyric booklet that I fully understand the purpose of FKA twigs’ debut. LP1 is a story of a failed, forgotten love. The album opens with FKA twigs almost chanting, “I love another, and thus I hate myself.” The trick that is played on the listener, however, is one that manipulates the words and the voice with which they are sung into a shift of tone and meaning. The opening track, titled “Preface” is airy, yet controlled. Haunting, but deadpan. The airy vocals lilt upward, while the lyrics are telling a story of personal, unpitied failure. “I love another, and thus I hate myself,” are the only words sung in the nearly two-minute long track.

The remainder of LP1 is a dark tale of love in transition. While I studied the album I learned much about the sentimentality of the human heart and the effect of positive, loving memories on a self-inflicted heartbreak. The album’s other tracks, including “Pendulum” and “Kicks” preserve loving memories and emotions while twisting them to appear unhealthy and ever-so-slightly insane.

FKA twigs, it seems, is ready to let go of love for the time being and focus on the carnal manifestations of emotion in sex. Her latest extended play (her third overall), M3L155X is a complex work and is, altogether, fresh and invigorating for all those who have watched FKA twigs go between innovative art performances and the unfortunate set of tabloid headlines. For those who are not yet acquainted, M3LL155X is still just as refreshing.

M3L155X – apparently known as the “Melissa EP” – is some of the best music I have heard in a long time. Right now, my other favorite song is Lana Del Rey’s “High By The Beach” and I am in love with the style of music that pushes limitations sonically and culturally. Del Rey’s latest track is a story of love and privacy (a la Paparazzi), riddled with unsurety and drug use. It talks of being in love and also loving one’s own heart, mind, and desires. It is the exact opposite of Lady Gaga’s song “Dope” from Artpop. It is unlike any song I’ve heard before, and the latest release from FKA twigs pushes similar boundaries in my expectations of the sort of music that is popular in this year of 2015.

M3L155X opens with a song entitled, “Figure 8” which is, on the surface, FKA twigs’ experience with the dance style of Voguing. Voguing, it turns out, is more than Madonna’s head-framing, and is rather a set of movements that require complete synchronicity of the body. Below is a video of FKA twigs performing and exhibiting her skill in Voguing.

“Figure 8” is an exploration into one’s place in the world of fame. “Let me live through your vice / mass appeal / I feel in ten breaths it’s a miracle if we’re still alive / Can you touch it? Is it real?” The use of the phrases, “Mass appeal” and “Can you touch it? Is it real?” exemplify the reality of viral media. FKA twigs is known for her innovative style and her shocking music videos, so for her, somewhere, there is a divide between being relevant and staying true to her own nature.

However, FKA twigs is also exemplifying her courage and confidence. This is also the quality of the other four tracks on M3LL155X. “Figure 8” however, is FKA twigs’ way of explaining her position on fame to the world. On the one hand, FKA twigs is expressing herself through dance, doing what she loves and exploring her physical and mental flexibility. On the other hand, it seems, FKA twigs’ is at the will of the media. The gossip, the tabloid Journalism – the vices of media. Since her initial rise to recognition (not simply at the side of Robert Pattinson) FKA twigs, whose name is Tahliah Debrett Barnett, has been criticized for her forms of artistic expression, from her music to her looks. You might recall even her racial background being put into question by fans of the media-boosted love drama between Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. Apparently, FKA twigs is the Yoko Ono to the … Never mind. Even the most idiotic of people can say that Twilight and The Beatles should never be compared.

“Figure 8” is the introduction to “I’m Your Doll,” the second track on the album, and one of the most haunting. Some might interpret “I’m Your Doll” as an expression of sexuality, which it is. FKA twigs is also teasing the media, singing, “Wind me up, I’m your Doll,” in a way that reflects how the media believes celebrities want to be transparent and ask to be used by those who care to command them.

fka-twigs_lp1
FKA twig’s first LP, LP1 and the image I conjure when thinking of FKA twigs as a “Doll”

FKA twigs has been called racist slurs in public and this news has been broadcast to the world. Her art has been criticized for being too racy and too experimental. Her sound is different, something that people have noticed in ways positive and not. Her lyrics are complex. Even I have to do some research. Yet she has continued to walk in front of the cameras, sunglasses bared, walking arm-in-arm with Robert.

“I’m Your Doll” bleeds into the next track, “In Time.” I adore this song. It is a tricky one, but it is always enjoyable and rhythmically and harmonically beautiful. “In Time” is a study of a relationship. The relationship, however, has not yet unfolded. The narrator of the song – perhaps FKA, perhaps not – is singing of a love that is analyzed for its  “insynchronicities”. “I will be lonely,” she wafts, “and you won’t be silent.” It, to me, now sounds as if FKA twigs is reflecting on a relationship while still deep within it. Perhaps I was wrong to think it hadn’t happened yet, but the narrator – FKA twigs, or not – is having some regret.

My opinion on the content is different from mine on the sound of “In Time.” It was getting dark for a minute. I had listened to the album several times already until I began to feel upset by its contents. “In Time” opens with a lilting, muted piano, humming over air. It is a love song but one about heartbreak. It is dark, but it is because it is honest. If it does take place before the relationships began, then it is a song about fear, rather than regret.

“Glass and Patron” is a song that I had to sit with. It is the most complex on the album and I had to watch the video to fully understand the meaning. The video for “Glass and Patron” is an intimate look at the iconically timid sexuality that is a part of FKA twigs’ expression. She is dancing throughout the video, nearly always making contact with the viewer. It is a seduction, but there are moments in which FKA twigs looks almost like an innocent doll, her doe eyes peering at us in adoring attention. The song itself is a play-by-play of the activities of the dance, which in the video are not ever entirely the same. “I can’t wait to make your body my own,” she tells us, her lust for the subject being blindfolded.

"Went to a gig last night, FKA Twigs. she's apparently dating Robert Pattinson, someone shouted "FUCK KRISTEN STEWART" so awkward. (Photo borrowed from Pintrest.
“Went to a gig last night, FKA Twigs. she’s apparently dating Robert Pattinson, someone shouted “FUCK KRISTEN STEWART” so awkward. (Photo borrowed from Pintrest.)

Following this song of seduction and divided consciousness of sexuality in the media and society, is “Mothercreep.” It is my favorite song on the album – right next to “In Time” – because it is so gorgeous that it rivals even the best of Bjork’s latest work. It is dark and emotional, a tug and pull between childhood affection, and resentment for a life lived in darkness. The opening synth that plays through the first minute of the song is some of the best music I’ve heard in a long time. You expect the synth to be complimented by raging, toothy synths, but instead is broken by echoed strings. “Mothercreep” is almost a call for help. It is the last track on the record and it serves as a drawback to FKA twigs childhood. It is unclear if the media knows anything about FKA twigs personal relationship with her mother, but if not, this is information for them. And FKA twigs knows that. She is personal, herself, with the media. M3LL155X is an up-close-and-personal interview with FKA twigs on her opinions on fame, love, the media’s impressions of sex, and the truth of her relationship with her mother. That, or the “Mother” figure is the representation of FKA twigs’ past life as someone not trailed after by paparazzi and racists.

M3LL155X is a treat I am happy to say I didn’t see coming. I am adoring of FKA twigs and her constant entertainment and study session into the mind of an artist at large. Pop has become bland and the tables seemed to have been turning to indie music, but then it just became boy bands and tweeny treats. FKA twigs is one of my favorite musical artists because she is so intensely innovative in detail and design and this is reflected in her music and her videos.

Thank you for reading and I hope, with this review and analysis, that you will buy or stream M3LL155X as soon as you find the time.

As always,

Erik

Bonus: Watch FKA twigs’ most recent video release, the video collection of songs from M3LL155X.