Saturday, November 1, 2014

Regarding Indian Halloween Costumes

I was sad to see a leading figure in contemporary music dressed as an Indian chief for Halloween. Sad and confused. Really? Still?

Then a friend posted this and it helped give direction and fuel to my thoughts.


Regarding Indian Halloween Costumes:

Forgive them for the know not what they do.

They are so detached from anything that resembles an authentic culture, that they can't possibly understand what it's like to have traditions that actually mean something.

Their own traditions have been packaged and commodified so many times that even ironic representations of them seem cliché. (See: Christmas, Halloween, and every other holiday)

They started by consuming things made by people, then they cut out the middle man and just started consuming people as "services." That got old, so they packaged the service in an experience. Now we're grouping those experiences together as a culture.

The ad wizards who run this culture have been selling culture/lifestyle to them their whole lives and they have become completely numb to it.

Within their own culture, the hints of authenticity that have emerged over the years have been similarly cannibalized and commodified.

They consume what they're sold; they eat what they're fed.

Having no strong cultural ties, they drift in a quasi-nihilist haze, trying on bits and pieces of other cultures like they're garments in a Target dressing room.

But there is hope, and the hope is education. We need to educate people that there are some things that can't be bought and sold because they are sacred. We may even need to teach them what sacred means any more.

And we need to decommodify and rehumanize people and cultures.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hiatus Landed: Bay Area

I don't know why I'm writing a blog post right now.

I'm sitting on a couch in a house in a rather suburban part of Oakland, and it's raining. It's raining on both sides of the bay, where I spent the better part of the day and where I am now.

I was struck by the idea today that writing literature is a handy way of purging demons from your past—all those little emotional hangups that we could pay a therapist to talk through or simply invent characters and make them go through the same thing.

And the characters are the easy part. The hard part is the situation. I may not have an overwhelming character, but I find myself in the most interesting situations. And as I accrue new ones, I notice the patterns, the inversions, retrogrades and transpositions of the same themes.

This is also a good time to redefine the blog title, embody the struggle.

The original quote is referring to a novel, not a character. In my head, I had it wrong, whether or not I ever explained it.

For a *novel* to have merit, *it* must embody the struggle of some characters against that keeps them from existing in their own way. The characters struggle, the novel embodies the struggle.

And I am merely a character. Which makes the novel the blog. So the *blog* embodies the struggle. I write the blog to embody my struggle.

So it does make sense. Sorry to think out loud.

Stay tuned, though, for some fiction. It may be loosely based on reality. But the names will be changed to protect the innocent—and the guilty.

Friday, December 28, 2012


A lot of times, when I look like I'm thinking—or I say that I am—I'm actually trying to think, struggling, and most likely failing.

I have many good thoughts—self-assessed—but, wait for the big surprise, lack the structure to make sense of them.

It pains me to submit this post, release it into the wild, for no one should read this or care.

It's helpful, though, to me as I read through these things to see how often and when I have this thought. It's not new, and it will never go away unless I conquer it once and for all.

["Once and for all" is a pretty epic phrase if you really think about it—literally.]

Saturday, December 22, 2012


I wish I were the type of person who did this every week. Or every month. Or every mesocycle.

I'm going to say that I do it every year, but that's probably an exaggeration.

But what's important is that I'm doing it now: reflecting.

And documenting.

And reliving.

And feeling.

And since it's the almost the end of the year—actually past the end of the world—I'll start from the beginning.

It was a warm January. I rode a lot and worked out at David Barton while looking for a "real" job so as to avoid going back to bike tours once again. The synchronicity led me to think I'd find one with Groupon so I could work out at David Barton before and/or after work. 

But then the one-month free trial ended and Groupon hired someone else—many other people.

Some time around February I started learning to code and started dating Martha, an Obama campaign worker. It's hard to separate January from February from March since I stayed mostly at home during the day trying to build a rideshare website à la Mitfahrgelegenheit.

March, I remember because that was the month Will quit drugs and channeled all his anxiety into writing music. It was a relatively peaceful month; he mostly stayed in his room writing acoustic songs.

The months after that, however, saw drug experimentation reach a whole new level: Molly, Coke, daily THC, Mushrooms, etc. Which created quite  the unsettled home life for me. I remember coming home from bike tours—which I still ended up doing—and he was filling our space with tape loops fed back into distortion pedals and delay. I tried calling it noise music, but that description was one word too long.

And then there were bike tours and more Martha; in between there was more coding.

Martha couldn't take up too much of my time since hers was already being all taken up. 60 hours a week at minimum, most of her weeks were more like 80 or more.

I'd meet her sometimes for diner and drinks at 11. Or I'd just meet her at her place at midnight. Or 1. Or 2.

2 was where I drew the line.

Life was pretty full: gainful employment that I was tired of, ungainful work on my website ideas, and a part-part-time girlfriend. I hardly noticed that I wasn't making any music.

Like Rilke says to the young artist, you have to ask yourself how great your need is. If you don't need to write poetry or make music, then why are you doing it? 

I think I still have a need deep down but that it was drowned in this strange sense of obligation.

Obligation kills fun.

By September, I had some job prospects making websites, and so, mimicking my departure from Chicago State happening on my birthday, I quit bike tours.

I got an ungainful gig doing coding for a Chicago-based startup called Dabble with offices in an "incubator" called Catapult on the 25th floor of some random office building downtown.

[Not so random, it turns out: a month or two after roommate Will moved out, I ran into him there—there where he's been working all along.]

Then I got a small gig working for a gun website where you can track your purchases of various guns, ammunition, and accoutrements. 

And no, the website did not use the word accoutrements. 

And then real work. And love. November was a good month. While every other dude was growing mustaches—[what is it about my personality that loathes such mass movements?]—I was living the dream. I went with Martha to her family's Thanksgiving and we got to suddenly spend a lot more time together. In fact, all the time. And it was good.

We came back both feeling dreamily in love and unable to imagine the future.

The future, which was fast upon us.

Over Thanksgiving she convinced me to join her and her sisters in Puerto Rico, a trip which had been planned for months and was a nagging possibility in my mind for as long. My feelings about going were a tangled mess of Ego, Superego, and Id reasons, but Martha helped me overcome my hesitations and bite the bullet.

The day before she left, 5 days before I was to join her, she got a job offer in DC. The dream was over; the mental dam that was holding back the waters of reality burst and we were sinking and swimming—simultaneously.

To be fair, I sank for a good couple of days. Then I went to join her and put it out of my mind. Or mostly. It's not the kind of thing you can forget emotionally so, while I felt relaxed and present, I also felt more fractious and disagreeable. I didn't want to be with anyone but her while feeling this pressure to get the most out of my trip.

In the end, I think I exhausted myself, physically, emotionally, and sexually.

We got back and had 4-5 days of togetherness before she left.

I denied my exhaustion and ignored the reality of her leaving. It was easier to imagine her departure as the end—of the world or whatever—but a big fucking punctuation mark beyond which I couldn't see past.

Doing so, I was able to stay relatively happy with the situation and get the most out of our time together. After she left, however, I gave in to my exhaustion and had 3 days of hangover-like doldrums. And after the 3rd day I rose and it was good again.

The untenable whirlwind of the last few months was over and I was alone again. Not lonely but alone. My head cleared and I felt like me again, not realizing that I had not felt myself for quite some time.

The big question for our relationship during the campaign was about how we'd be together in a "normal" life. Still not having had that, the question lingers as wide open as ever.

And now it's the holidays. Christmas has made me so sad in years past. One awful Christmas 5 years ago, my hear was rendered in asunder and every one since has reminded me more and more forcefully that I'm alone—a loner perhaps—in a world of families.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Give and Take

I don't like to give, so I try not to take. There always has to be balance.

Giving is a risk with more risk than reward.

I think every blog post should include the phrase: "I haven't posted anything in a while, so this is really important." Since I just said it, I don't have to say it again.

I'm reading a book in which the book jacket may or may not be part of the plot. As in, the book jacket tells a tale of what happened to the manuscript itself, which then happens in the plot itself.


I'm giving you a lot of points on the map, but I'm hesitant to give you a compass.

I used to be in a relationship where I gave it everything I had. Even when the other person stopped giving, unbeknownst to me, I kept giving. And then I gave too much. And finally I gave up.

Giving is for suckers.

But now I'm doing it again: giving too much to someone and not getting enough in return.
I'm wiser, of course, so I know when to stop. But then things happen—crises, contests, what-have-yous—and I get tricked into giving again.

It's like politics: I keep distancing myself from institutions but then am presented with 2 clearly difference interpretations of the same institution. And one is revolting.

I keep forgetting that there are joiners and leavers. And I'm a leaver: individuals over institutions. The latter serves the former not that the former is defined by the latter.

And then I'm presented with a joiner. A believer. I can't believe in anything, but there are still people being born—EVEN IN THIS AGE OF POSTPOSTPOSTPOSTSOMETHING—whose nature it is to believe. Belief is supposed to beget emotion; these people are also more emotional than I. There was supposed to be a causal clause in there but I couldn't figure out where.


So I keep trying to keep my giving in check. Because there always has to be balance. And when one person gives more than the other, there is Koyaanisqatsi.

Philip Glass once drove a taxi in New York. And by once I mean for SEVERAL YEARS. My mom used to like to tell me this back when I had ambition.

So as life became more and more out of balance, I stopped giving. But it was too late and it hurt. And then I imagined everyone else around me who gives and gives to me without reciprocation. I don't want or need them to give but they do, and without reciprocation, they stop. [See line 1]


So I find it hard to give in almost every situation except those in which I should most definitely not give. And then when I do I get nothing and am even more determined not to give again.

I just want to lay calmly in the salt water bath, floating easily, causing no ripples. But angels throw pebbles from above and demons cause currents below: and I am trapped motionless in between trying to calm the waters, neither giving nor taking for neither side is right.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hot and cold.

In this, the Summer of the Apocalypse, it's hard to believe things are going so well. Sure, I'm frazzled and irascible, but those are the temporary states that interrupt an otherwise much happier existence than I've been used to.

Things are changing, and maybe it's the rapidity of the change that is causing me to fall behind. Just as I wrap my mind around a new event, but before I can understand it emotionally, a new crisis arises.

I gave up on music over the winter, devoting a month or two in early Spring to learning, teaching myself, a new set of languages--umbrella'ed under web development.

It started with Ruby on Rails, coming as a recommendation of a friend as I was looking to build a rideshare website. Dream big and jump in feet first but recognize the futility forthwith.

After a couple months and couple of iterations, I realized that my little rideshare website was a gimpy little punk who could never compete with such slicked-back entrepreneurs. I was content to give the people a ride first and charge later, but when you start with a profit model, you can attract investors and real professionals.

But I was smitten and blind to the flaws in my scheme up until the point that I had learned enough to work on other projects.

I realized that there's more money and less risk in working on other projects; if I get good enough, I can branch off on my own later.

I embarked on this new lifestyle within weeks of getting together with a lady who is still centrally peripheral to my life picture.

She used to live with me and, according to her, was crushing hard on me then despite its inappropriateness. I surely thought she was cute and flirted her up, but didn't think it was anything serious until it was.

And now she makes me happy whenever we're together and sad whenever we're apart.

As we near doomsday, the latter is becoming the dominant reality and my moods are swinging more and more wildly. It's a rollercoaster. Of love.

And on top of it, my things are breaking, dying, or leaving me.

My laptop, my beloved MacBook Pro--don't laugh--died a silent death in the middle of the night on the eve of July 4th. I was awoken in a drunken stupor by my roommates coming home and found that my computer had been transformed from an aluminum spaceship to the depths of my imagination and the web to a lump of inert silicon, a paperweight.

This computer had been my companion when I hibernated away a winter in Michigan and had been a great too for both music and web development. And it was I who killed it.

It had been really hot and our a/c was struggling to keep the apartment at about 85. So I put it on an ice pack from the fridge. No big deal.

But then, after a few days of doing this, I stopped putting the magazine in between the ice pack and the aluminum body and the condensation must have shorted it out.

Apple wanted 1200 to fix it, MicroCenter 1100. So I freaked out and bought a Lenovo ThinkPad and installed Linux on it.

So now I'm a *real* developer but can't do much with music.

Today, on the enlongening list of things that are weigh on my mind and soul, I took the Mac in with a 300-dollar logic board that I got from Ebay and am hoping they'll be able to make it work. So far, it's only 70 bucks; could be a bit more if that doesn't fix it.

In other news, my car got stolen. I filed a police report but haven't notified the insurance. I'll live car-free for a while and see how that goes. 

It makes small things more stressful--like going on roadtrips around the midwest--but in general, I think it will make things easier, less stressful.

Good thing there's all these rideshare websites! Including craigstlist, ridejoy, and zimride.

Irony. Karma. Fate. Whatever.

I'll keep surviving in between states of thriving. For now, I'll just fan myself in air-conditioned coffee shops and move as little as possible.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Waiting Game

Growing up, we would play games like Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, and The Game of Life—at which I was mysteriously adept at becoming the lawyer—but I still think Kill Dr. Lucky was one of the best.
And cards. We would play cards too, like retirees killing time.
Now I'm playing one of those real-life games that is impossible to win and yet impossible to throw a tantrum, flip the board in the air and storm home.
The past few days I've stayed shuttered in the house with occasional excursions to teach some piano. It's cold; I've been under the weather; there's nothing to force me out into the world.
And while I've gotten a lot done at home—making some phat beats and hip-happening grooves—there's always the gmail inbox twinkling at me in the distance, begging me to check for anything important.
Whether it's a new piano student, a romantic interest, a potential performance gig, or just a new Facebook friend, the compounding of unrequited communication is an experiment in anti-matter containment, each new void expanding the black hole below.
And yet I can't stop. I keep throwing boomerangs off the cliff never to be seen again. Only some do I get to see washed up on the shore, their potential energy wasted, overcome by gravity and the infinite mist.