Latest Posts

More to thee than the economy

I read an interesting article in Jacobin about how children are increasingly seen as investments, largely because of the increase in income disparity–Erickson article. Jacobin can be a too strident for me at times, but this article (which is a condensation of a book, I believe) really rang true, at least in part because I see the same effect—the corporatization of culture—everywhere. I think sometimes I am overstating the case, seeing everything as a nail because I have a hammer, and then I find others who see the same insidiousness: “The young children of the wealthy are increasingly diverse portfolios of applications to private schools, enrichment classes, play dates, and nanny shares. These little Einsteins go on to attend prestigious high schools and Ivy League colleges. But it starts in preschool. A whole culture has risen around the cultivation of the child into a successful adult, equipped for the global economy. Its language is English plus Spanish or Mandarin; its literature is the mommy blog. Working-class children, on the other hand, are objects of suspicion defined by what is perceived, within the economic superstructure, as a lack — of high-enough test scores, of self-confidence, or the inclination and facility to self-regulate behavior. Childhood is…
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Such Light, Above Ground

Last week, I was assaulted by a group of 4, or 5, or 6, young men who knocked me off my bicycle and punched and kicked and stomped on me. I don’t know why they did it; in fact, while they were pummeling me, I kept asking them: “Why? Why are you doing this?” They had no answer for me. Then I blacked out, and shortly after that, two car loads of young men and women returning from the drive-in stopped and scared them off, then waited with me until the police and ambulance arrived. The damage tally, as is usual for such events, was weird: right ankle broken in three places, jaw broken in two, ribs severely bruised, but my glasses are still intact, internal organs are fine, and nothing was taken from my wallet. I lost a shoe and my bike helmet, but my wife found both the next day. A senseless act produced results difficult to make sense of, in other words. I am not sure I need to make sense of it, really, although the looks on the faces of everyone I tell the story to begs the same questions: how could anyone do such a…
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Kindness is Never Small for Tod W. We were all born, for fuck’s sake, and we all saw through that con, but some of us figured the con was all, no way out, only fools thought otherwise, the ones at the other end of the cafeteria with spoons hanging off their noses. I was always enamored of the gallant dancers, aware of the terrible undertow   but just as ready to dance with the shades of Lethe, Maslow’s brood, because they were such willful cowards, did their weeping up in a nice, neat bow and spread their gifts about, always keeping tally, always ready to call in that favor, that time they simulated kindness and you bought it, you ass.   They were not my people, just ones I thought more clever than I. My people could not see around the con, imagine carrying a javelin around and every time you met someone, you had to explain why you carried it. Meeting someone else with a javelin, wow, there was nothing sweeter, and we forgave all kinds of things, and goddamn did they fly, when it came to that.

More Light

Such a lovely day, -14 celsius outside, everything crisply frozen, windows steaming a bit where the cats sits, plenty of work to do inside and out, and, oh, more lost souls murdering people, this time in Paris, a bomb goes off outside an NAACP office in Colorado, so many sad, twisted people with no other way to exert power or make sense of this world but to lash out, take their revenge on the rest of us. Hannah Arendt: “…even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination, and that such illumination may well come less from theories and concepts than from the uncertain, flickering, and often weak light that some men and women, in their lives and their works, will kindle under almost all circumstances and shed over the time span that was given them on earth – this conviction is the inarticulate background against which these profiles were drawn. Eyes so used to darkness as ours will hardly be able to tell whether their light was the light of a candle or that of the blazing sun. But such objective evaluation seems to me a matter or secondary importance which can be safely…
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Jim Harrison

Wonderful Michigan poet. Love your poem, Jim: Young Bull The bronze ring punctures the flesh of your nose, the wound is fresh and you nuzzle the itch against a fence post. Your testicles are fat and heavy and sway when you shake off flies; the chickens scratch about your feet but you do not notice them.   Through lunch I pitied you from the kitchen window– the heat, pained fluid of August– but when I came with cold water and feed, you bellowed and heaved against the slats wanting to murder me.     .

Surrender, Udaya Kumar

The snow falls, and parts of Buffalo, 30 minutes south, are being buried in 7 feet of snow. We are used to blizzards here, but not blizzards of this violence. The earth is changing, beneath our feet and above our heads, and for all we know, humanity might be the next great extinction. And yet, we lack will, it can never be us, after all, we will never die, that other one will and that one, but not I, the inverse of the solipsistic apocalypse: when I die, the universe dies with me. Or like Kanaka Dasa, we say Nanu Hodare Hodenu (ನಾನು ಹೋದರೆ ಹೋದೇನು). Snow melts, sand blows away, we dig bits of bead and seal from Harappa, while in the south: Let us hope some day fingers like ours might dig our buttons and eyeglasses from the dried mud.

Late epiphany

I’ve been puzzling over the zombie phenomenon for a whole now, not the least because I, too, enjoy a good zombie movie or show or novel (no, Colson Whitehead, yours was not so good, sorry. The Intuitionist, on the other hand…). Why the wave of popularity? Why the associated wave of scifi and fantasy and superhero related fantasy? For a while, I tended toward the anxiety release explanation: a post-apocalyptic world, shoot folks in the head if you don’t like them, no worries about the wrong fork, whatever, as long as it eases contemporary angst. My epiphany, which I’m sure others have had a-plenty, is that zombie narratives are exciting because MODERN LIFE IS BORING. For us, in the first world, and so suburban kids from the first world drift off to join ISIS, and I watch Walking Dead. It’s not so much the anarchic lack of rules that makes these narratives exciting, it’s that our decisions matter in a profoundly meaningful way. Most of my decisions do not matter much. No CDs today, I will grind them out next time, as I start a new, equally pointless archival project. Woohoo!

Opportunities to gain perspective abound

I heard a commotion outside the window, so I went in the backyard and found a squirrel who’d fallen and, I believe, broken its back, because when it saw me it tried to run up a tree with only its front feet, dragging its lower half behind it. When I heard the commotion, I’d been fretting about part of a poem I was writing about the US highway system, trying to figure out how to get some reference to the Federal-Aid Highway act of 1956 in there while still sounding poetic enough. Seems like a pretty stupid thing to fret about, now. The squirrel made up the tree as far as the top of our fence, perched for a while, staring at me, breathing like a creature with a broken spine would breathe, then kept going, up the tree, one claw at a time. Once he was gone, I let the dogs out to sit in the sun. CDs I’ve listened too, as I listen to all the CDs I own, one at a time: 801) Box Set: Pere Ubu: Datapanik in the Year Zero(fuck yeah); 802) Various: I Put a Spell on YouL The Okeh Story; 803) Beastie Boys:…
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I forgot…

The Million Song Dataset is an interesting thing: MSDS. Although, witnessing art through data analysis sure seems like it would lead one toward the mean, as is happening in pop music these days, songs structured and run through focus groups, with all the rough edges smoothed out, analyzed to a sheen (never thought I’d agree with Trent Reznor, but there you go). Then again, using the Million Song Dataset, researchers figured out contemporary pop music features “…less variety in pitch transitions, towards a consistent homogenization of the timbral palette, and towards louder and, in the end, potentially poorer volume dynamics.” (Source) So it’s not only less adventurous, but also has worse sound because everyone tries to be louder and louder and louder. And what does Reznor do, to oppose this trend? Bigger and bolder stage show. Whoopee. The audience is in a state of semi-permanent distraction, and if anything, needs music (and other arts) that nurture our need to focus deeply on one thing, not more bombast and flashing lights. And, of course, if it’s too loud you’re too old, bla bla bla. No, it’s volume being used to disguise poor songwriting, factory craft, and an extremely limited set of…
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the critic

I got  review of a CD one of the bands I’m in put out recently, readable here, and what struck me most was the somewhat confused attitude our music provoked in the reviewer. Victory! This quote stuck out: “if I knew what the band wanted me to take serious and what to laugh at, the recording would be a greater success.” I realized that most of the reviews of any artistic endeavor I’ve had subject to critique evoke the same confusion, the “what do I do with this” reaction that validates why I make art in the first place. It’s what I cherish in other artist’s work, and what I tend to critique first in art I find wanting. I don’t mean that I prefer art that is difficult or that one must struggle to understand. That approach is usually as predictable as the most mainstream art (witness: just started reading the Flounder, Gunter Grass, how drab experimentalism for its own sake seems, detached from the historical moment). To make art that eludes easy categorization and produces confused emotional states, yeah, that’s what I like.