Thursday, June 30, 2011


I've seen the best memes of my generation destroyed by gladness.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Save yourselves

If management suspects you of arriving to the job sober, for God's sake don't let on that you're also dependable.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Surround sounds

I'm left to conclude that when people come into the city asking, "How do you stand all the noise and excitement?" it just means they'd rather experience it via home theater system in the suburbs.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Week in review

Correspondence with the proprietor at It's Just A Ride helped me arrive at my new summer's resolution: Less time on the internet, more time playing music; more time listening to others, less time listening to myself. This week I took a decent stab in that direction. In keeping with a discussion at Back Towards The Locus, the first single will be entitled "My own private John Carpenter soundtrack."

What the Tee Vee taught still teaches.

MikeB shared this with me and asked if I might share it with you.

I couldn't be happier to see Ethan and the Baronette back in action at 6th or 7th -- but shouldn't it be 7th or 8th?

The good news: I spotted another person wearing Crocs in Philadelphia. The bad news: She was between 12th and 13th on Sansom, sleeping on the sidewalk. Crocs have street cred.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

We're talking about practice

Even if the political project is not easily resolved, it should be easily understood: to live the way you want without denying anyone else the same.

The first part, living how you want, is something you can start thinking about and working towards right now. For example, you can try to do more of the things you enjoy, and fewer of the things you hate. It's helpful to understand that society penalizes people for doing what they enjoy, at least insofar as this fails to make other people money. With most of us already scraping by, greater penalties can add up to a decision to accept more of what you hate. You have to develop a strategy to get around this problem, one way or the other -- and preferably before you are dead.

The second part of the political project ultimately comes down to hearing what other people want, encouraging them to take the first steps for themselves, and then figuring out how best to play a supporting role. Most of us have a good idea of what we are up against, how hard it is to break out of assigned routine. If you really understand it, you will see why others need your support, first and foremost, and your "politics" as an aside, if at all. If your politics manifest themselves as support and encouragement for those who suffer unjustly at the hands of the many or the few, then the odds are you don't spend a lot of time talking "politics" in the first place, and are well placed to reach a broader working class audience.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Song ideas

The most interesting thing about playing the guitar is when certain things change while others remain the same. For me, that is a more natural movement than playing a note-by-note scale or slamming out power chords. Of course, either of these can be integrated into a song and accomplish the same thing; but I don't understand when musicians take an instrument out of its case and play something that is more physical than musical. I guess I understand if they are warming up. But why not warm up to an idea? A song is ultimately more idea than physical act.

I think of human relationships in a similar way: as solos or power chords, they are just caricatures. But if you look at the whole thing, there is repetition, harmony, tension, change; even within great movement there are elements that don't change at all, or very little. To have the instrument in your hands, there is too much attention paid to what must change as compared to what will remain the same. For my part, I've never wanted to play without those elements, or without appreciating how they work, because it's not what I want to listen to.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Building socialism

In order to "draw the line between the monopolists and the people," in the words of E.P. Thompson, it's never enough to merely hate the monopolists. You also have to love the people. You love the people, not because they think like you, but because they hurt like you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Behind the iron hurtin'

Did the fall of the IOZian Union contribute to the proliferation of weapons of ass destruction?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Good news for me and you and everyone we know

While there are many epic conflicts happening in the world today, odds are they aren't between you and that anonymous driver/customer service rep/internet forum poster.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Between us

The more social an event becomes, typically the more commercial. You can go to a party and expect certain patterns of conversation which may be traced back to purchases or modes of purchasing power. Even politics in the way it is discussed can have more to do with how we receive information as a product -- whether it is delivered by Twitter or The New York Times -- than any initiative we might undertake in response.

Given the choice I am less concerned by what is frivolous about normal social intercourse than what is earth-shakingly important. Things that are deeply important to me are actually very difficult to articulate in social settings, because there is little in the way of a shared language for it. We have language for power, and language for commerce; but not because we established them ourselves. We just receive them from the same, shared source -- making me wary of the "urgency" that always attends things nobody knows nearly enough about.

It follows from this that in large groups of people you can sometimes feel the most alone. Conversely, it is in quieter settings that you may have the best opportunity to consolidate some sense of who you are. This for me has always been the paradox of being in relationships with other people, since it is something I can't do without orienting myself away from them at the same time.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

When success all looks the same

American individualism begins with the idea that either you are "somebody" or you are "nobody"; and it ends with whatever kind of conformity ensures the best outcome.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

OMFG! Best friend at work just totally clock-blocked me

WTF! So to summarize it's a gorgeous afternoon and all I'm thinking since I started my shift is when will hell recede enough to start my 30-minute hands-washing/trash-disposing/ grounds-meandering countdown to electronically verifying that I worked today when this dude I totally thought was my wingman starts having a stroke about some assignment that implicates us only in the most liberal interpretation of work responsibilities -- like, if you take everything the boss says literally.

Come on, man. I'm not trying to hear that, I told him. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery; I'm trying to get the hell out of here.

What followed was one of the most singularly stunning feats of clock-blocking I have ever seen. From what depths of depravity my colleague was seized by the compulsion to work as instructed I am helpless to say. But sure as shit just as soon as the boss reappeared, poking his nose into our business and asking whether "everything" was done, this South Philly fluffernutter tells him NO, there are still some things WE have to do. Global warming might be open to interpretation in this dude's view, even some Bible verses -- but do you think we might interpret my humble contributions here completed before I-95 turns into Circle-jerk de Soiree? Apparently not, since it's obvious SOMEONE doesn't know how to take one for the team.

Of course, this raises a bigger question about just who we have become as Americans, when our best work friends reveal themselves to be inveterate clock-blockers anytime they find themselves handling a live grenade. I mean, whatever happened to the ethic of our ancestors, who knew well enough to ask, "Who gives a fuck?" long before the work whistle blew -- granting them that much more "me" time before the mine caved-in, or tree collapsed? Proper work-life balance begins at home, in front of the television, with the painkiller of your choice. But we will never fully enjoy the fruits of what we haven't earned until we start failing to finish what we never hoped to begin.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Virasana (Hero's pose)

Your life is the terrifying space between purchases.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Girls wear less clothing in summer, colleague reports

In what really could have developed into a conversation about anything else, a co-worker today argued that girls wear fewer articles of clothing in warm weather, and felt confident enough in this claim to prosecute an open-ended commentary on the phenomenon and its implications.

"It's cos they can't stand the heat!" he said.

The basic argument went as follows: If you think of clothing as something that covers the skin; and skin, or at least its "underneath part," clocks in around 98.6 degrees; then as the ambient temperature of Philadelphia rises, so too does the willingness of "females" to discard needless accoutrements, like "bras" and "drawers," because they are "already so hot on the inside."

This in turn informed the speaker's preference for warm-to-hot weather because -- unlike some of his Muslim neighbors -- he'd rather observe for himself what clothing might otherwise conceal.

"I don't care what they say about global warming. Give me the heat!" he editorialized.

Whether or not the conversation, an elaborate restatement of something I had clearly taken for granted, can be counted as a constructive use of time is a question best weighed against the total amount of time wasted at work while considering it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Remembering IOZ

I wanted to say something about the retirement of IOZ. I don't remember how I first came across this blog, but it was enormously influential for me, probably around the time I was considering coming back from my own blogging break. It would ultimately become influential in two different ways: first, as something to emulate; second, as something to try not to emulate. IOZ exemplified whatever it was he was doing, almost all the time, which made it easy to admire what he did, but a tough act to follow.

I was never part of the IOZ comment community, which was fascinating in itself. I felt it was both smarter and meaner -- not an uncommon combination -- than anything I could swing, so the few times I did post, I tried being as sincere as possible just to test the limits. Once I finally got around to watching The Big Lebowski, many things made sense to me for the very first time.

IOZ was always a major benefactor of this blog, and the fact that there is an audience here today is really thanks to him. OK, so maybe it's a bunch of extra-intellectual gay dudes, but I love them and I am very lucky that they have liked me in return. It has meant an enormous amount for me personally to be embraced by the wider IOZ community, and I've tried to support unlinked-to bloggers ever since I overcame that hurdle myself.

In spite of the many wonderful and humorous things IOZ produced on a regular basis, what I find myself thinking about most is what he wrote for his brother at the time of his sudden and unexpected death, entitled "Powerlessness," which I hope the author will not mind me referencing here. The ability to write smartly does not equal the ability to write honestly or with vulnerability, and my personal preference is to remember IOZ, whatever else you thought of him, as someone who possessed the capacity to do both.