Monday, January 31, 2011

on schoolyard drama, suckiness, and Steves

I spent much of the weekend avoiding social functions where I'll have to deal with seeing people I don't want to see, who ask me questions I don't want to answer, usually in regards to my perpetual state of singleness.

You'd think that people'd have something more thrilling to talk about than the love lives of people they barely know but this seems to be universal.

One of the crushing realities of adulthood is that while life is not the hell it was when everyone hit puberty, people really don't ever change. Those yearbook exclamations really did end up ringing true and not in the best way.

My aunt came up this weekend and we ended up talking about this over coffee and wine. We were both English majors and have overlapping musical and literary tastes, and while she's in the corporate world and I'm in the humble land of Peon, sometimes things don't seem that much different.

I look at the people in the board room at these meetings and I feel like I'm on the playground again. That guy was the bully, that girl was the mean girl, that guy was the weak one who hung out with the bully so he wouldn't get picked on, that girl was the one who started drama, that guy was the one who never got it. It never really changes!"

Thankfully, after a couple decades of cooking in the social incubator, I've developed a thick skin over my sensitive soul. It doesn't mean that I don't feel anything, but that it doesn't get so epically blown out of proportion anymore.

When I was in library school, me and a fellow youngish miscreant coined the term "Steve" to describe many of our fellow classmates who were incredibly arrogant and simultaneously extremely ignorant. There will always be Steves everywhere. I can tell which ones are the Steves at the license bureau or the checkout line or wherever I go.

Just as long as I can continue to ignore their foolishness and not become what I see, I think I'll be okay.

Friday, January 28, 2011

he's like a detuned radio...

In half an hour, I'll be running across the parking deck down the stairs to catch the bus to the train to the car to make art and commiserate with good friends over an as-yet-undecided dinner, pondering and doubtless pots of tea and perhaps a bottle of wine or ludicrously fruity beer.

I caught the earlier Rapid today, which had no teens on it, and mostly people older than me including a guy and a lady who were talking about having an affair with each other and he thought he was way deep for saying that he bases his entire life philosophy off of Led Zeppelin's "Good Times Bad Times" but I don't know how that works, though in all honesty I was listening to Jimmy Page's guitar and that amazing John Bonham drum sound than the lyrical content so maybe I'm missing some kind of esoteric deeper truth other than not caring about what the neighbors say and the rhyming of "heart" and "part."

RTA seems to be experimenting with their background noise... it was straight up Smooth Jazz for awhile which is supposed to make the masses soothed and complacent but reminds me of working in Retail Hell, and then it was some kind of lame talk radio, and then it's something like one of those 80's, 90's and Today stations, but with really terrible smooth jazz covers of "With or Without You" and "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" U2 & CCR are just fine, you know.

So now I'm waiting for the Rapid to come and it's Neil Young's "Southern Man" and "Time of the Season" which is probably one of my favorite songs of all time just because of that awesome keyboard solo in the middle and the general pop spookiness. But it leaves me a bit confused at the same time because I just don't know what's going on and wish they could save money by not having any music and at least keep the fares where they're at instead of raising them all the time.

Meanwhile, the BBC is entering austerity mode and cutting most of its World Service broadcasting, and while I don't listen to it much, not having an Internet connection at home, it makes me sad, especially being at a radio station where there is an incredible diversity of music and culture and my life has been so enriched by hearing current events from other perspectives, and music from all over the world.

Since the American populace is often too busy getting worked up about culture wars and such, we really don't have any clue what's going on in the rest of the world half the time, and especially now there's a whole lot going on, in Israel/Palestine, Yemen, Albania, Tunisia, Lebanon, Egypt and such. While I like to giggle about bunga bunga and chicks with guns and Pooty-Poot, this stuff really is important...

suburban angstas "we're not the first and we know we're not the last..."

One of my friends from the hallowed slacker Tri-C days of yore, who made the Cleveland Scene for Dumbest Quote of the Year for selling a parental-advisory-stickered CD to a grade schooler saying he'd "sell it to a fetus if he had to," declared that if he was elected Mayor of Strongsville, he would change the mascot on the downtown water tower to the Wu-Tangs instead of the Mustangs due to the high volume of suburban hip-hop fanhood in said land to the south.

My east siders find it supremely ironic that the white kids of the southern suburbs adored the crew while mostly oblivious to the whole Five Percenter thing, but it was what it was. And ODB's stage crash was infinitely more awesome than Kanye's. For the children, indeed.

There will always be suburban kids who love hip-hop for the same reason that white kids have always turned to African-rooted music. It's danceable, freaks out their parents (see: jazz, early rock and roll, etc), and is eventually co-opted into a sanitized mainstream culturally acceptable form, usually getting whiter in the process. The next musical form that freaks out/totally annoys the future white suburban parents my age who loved A Tribe Called Quest and the Roots will probably have African diasporic roots too.

My dad can't stand hip-hop but loves Beck, and made up parody lyrics to "Loser" when it came out that became an inside joke with his fellow truck-driving coworkers whose careers involve purveying bread of all kinds to the good people of the hood.

Meanwhile, in Crackerland, as it's been since the 1960's, there will always be disaffected youths who will turn to loud music with electric guitars that may or may not freak out their parents even if they don't understand this new sound that the Kids are into these days.

While the medium on which the music is recorded may change (see cassettes, vinyl, compact disc, MP3), The Kids will more or less look the same regardless of decade and are somewhat interchangeable, as what's basic yet never terribly fashionable can never go out of style. Jeans, black t-shirts, basic footwear usually of the Converse variety, zip-up hoodies, the occasional Joey Ramone leather jacket? The haircuts may vary in volume, the glasses may look different, but the basics are still there.

The Kids may not be getting stoned, but they love kung-fu movies, played Stratomatic in the 60's and 70's (because in the inner suburbs, it's still acceptable to be into sports and music), videogames from the 80's until now, guitars if they were available, and still probably spend a lot of time driving around aimlessly listening to music and discussing high school politics, and dishing snarky pop/subculture commentary at an all-night diner or the nearest coffeeshop.

One of my fellow peons from a generation old enough to have birthed me claims that in another 15 years, the Kids will no longer be listening to Slayer, but I disagree. For one thing, Slayer's older than I am, and their first record came out the year I was born.

17 years later, The Kids in my day mocked me for my love of U2 while extolling the virtues of Hell Awaits at the lunch table, while we regretted that we were too young to see Minor Threat or Nirvana or Led Zeppelin way back when and wondered if that new Alice in Chains song on the radio meant that maybe Layne Staley wasn't totally far gone yet.

My friends often had to turn their band t-shirts inside out (this was the post-Columbine era and any band t-shirt suggesting anything involving death and destruction was suspect), made fun of our valedictorian who didn't know what a pentagram was, and one of us, who also played on the football team, bore a startling resemblance to Kerry King, especially when he got tattoos post-graduation.

Even if you didn't know how to play anything else on the guitar, you knew how to play "Iron Man," and "Smoke on the Water." Every hardcore punk band I saw threw in a few bars of "Reign in Blood" when requested.

Maybe we Parmanians were just 20 years behind the times, but I'm sure there's kids sitting in a cafeteria right now listening to 70's punk, classic rock, and 80's thrash, just like we did. My little sister likes all this weaksauce indie, but her boyfriend's skater bros look just like my metalhead friends from back in the day.

I got the warm fuzzy feeling when I watched two teenage girls at My Mind's Eye buying pre- Blood Sugar Red Hot Chili Peppers albums on vinyl because I remember being that age and starting to delve into the underground gradually, or when my cousin posted pictures of his first electric guitar and is now presumably wailing away.

So boomers, thanks for Hendrix and Black Sabbath. We don't want to admit that we're still kind of like you (because who doesn't become their parents eventually?), because we insist that the sounds of our youth are the best they could be, but we have to give credit where it's due, and we have you to thank for spearheading the soundtracks and subcultures for disaffected and usually brilliant loners. Now, go retire so we can pay your pensions and stay employed.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

connections and directions

There are times the thoughts come out spiraling so intensely, in ways more suited for a conversation over coffee in person than something sent out into the little corner of cyberspace and it is all too easy to regret what was said, look back and wonder what the hell was I thinking, and why did I get so worked up.

So many others express their ideas of politics, economics, and social issues with way more expertise and articulateness than yours truly, who tries desperately not to be all nerve and no brain, but often end up being a big icky mess of ritually sacrificed bleeding heart most of the time, cut through the sharp obsidian of cynicism that some mistake for unredeemable negativity.

Unlike most of my generation who seem to prefer soundbytes and emoticons, interaction using abstract boxes and abbreviations, I still love face-to-face discourse and banter, just like I enjoy going into actual record stores to buy actual music, prefer printed pages to reading online, real coffee to instant.

So 20th century right? I've made my concessions bit by bit, but I really hate text messaging, Twitter, and consider the whole facebook thing a necessary evil since The Kids don't tend to do email much anymore and it occasionally provides a good avenue to keep in touch real time with old friends scattered across the globe who don't check their email.

I love the dialogue of diametrically opposed points of view, where there is give and take, snarky asides, unfinished thoughts and half-formed solutions. There's lots of that in this forum, but something gets lost in translation when there's the lack of spontaneity and face-to-face response, connections that have little to do with fiber optic cables and infinitely more to do with eye contact.

There's a part of me on here that really is what I'm made of, but there's a whole lot more that is unseen, just like the voice on the radio you hear at 5am. I'm really not all that cool and exciting when it comes down to it, but I keep writing, to remember, to process, to connect, and I guess most of the time there's nothing wrong with that.

Also, this Elastica was very dear to me in my teenage years and that first record still gets a lot of play come warm weather. Girls not just singing, but playing guitar too and not being Kathleen Hanna was a revelation. We all don't want to sing about feminism. Sometimes we just want to sing about whatever. I still kind of want Justine's haircut.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

the post looks way more gothy than it really is.

Though I don't know where the goth kids disappeared to... I don't see nearly as many teens around who seem to dig the Cure and Bauhaus, even in Lakewood. Vampire novels, guyliner, and bands that your parents and older siblings just don't understand, sure, though the teenage angst soundtrack seems to do with overly long band names and a whole new kind of bad haircut.

I don't even know what's big anymore, though my teenage cousin just discovered the existence of G'N'R and Van Halen and my younger sister complains about all the wannabe "indie" girls she works with.

Black clothing, due to its timelessness, slimming qualities, and ability to coordinate well with anything, will probably always exist in one form or another, even for those of us who are now Grownups in the Working World.

Meanwhile in grownup land, I'm trying to straighten out a rent money snafu with my landlord, got over being a little salty at the lazy boomer fellow peons, and thankfully scored some free fruit, checking for new concert listings, I'm now holding down the office and waiting more or less for the phone to ring.

The rest of the world rages on, for people who are trying to actually change things instead of buying into their dear leader's platitudes, the talking heads continue to blather, and I just want to go out into the beautifully dreary grey with a camera and drive around listening to music. I drove past Lakeview Cemetery last night listening to the song below just as they were closing the gates and realized I haven't been there in almost two years and never in winter.

And as many times as I've been there, I still haven't found or shot this lovely monument that's probably showed up in every angsty kid's black and white photography class portfolio. The place is just so big and it's generally not a good idea for young females to wander lonely as a cloud through graveyards bordering East Cleveland near sundown.

Can't wait for a few more hours of sunlight to get out there again.


I don't delve much into politics here, but this is damn good.

music, soul, emotion

Tuesdays are long days, getting up at 4-ish to get down to the station, working, and then usually coming home to crash early, but I'd heard from a reliable source about some good medieval-ish music on Case's campus last night, and drove out that way to pick up some printing ink and crazy expensive yet beautifully luminous paint at the art supply store, met up with a friend for dinner at the usual place, and walked over to the beautiful chapel over there to sit in the darkness and listen to 12th century French choral music.

I almost fell asleep at certain points because soothing voices in a dark church are good for that kind of thing, but it was beautiful and interesting and it's intriguing to realize that our ancestors 800 years ago were just as snarky as we are and that political and clerical corruption are nothing new and that satirizing religious culture is probably almost as old as religion itself.

While I play several instruments a little better than decently, I'm still no good at attempting to write songs, and admire those who can put something together that's amazing.

I'm on a rotation of people who are in charge of doing music at church, and in all honesty I don't listen to much in the way of modern Christian music. I honestly just don't have the patience for it, as either the style is so strictly codified in its own way or it's trying to hard to sound like one of its usually superior secular counterparts. And half the time, it's just too damn perky and I'm not really a perky music person. I always assume there's some kind of dark secret hiding underneath that perfect smile.

When I read the translations of the writings of Hildegard of Bingen, when I listen to Bach or Arvo Part, there's a reverence, depth and a beauty there both lyrically and musically, with such detail paid to the composition of both, that is so far removed from that of my culture, where being happy and positive is often more important than dealing with real love and truth lived out.

When I listen to old gospel recordings by Blind Willie Johnson, or read the words of old spirituals in a hymnal one of my friends picked up for me at a place in East Cleveland that sells both gospel music and insecticide, there's a realism that says not everything in life is easy and fun but God is good and there's something more than what we see in front of us.

In Pakistan, believers have taken the entire book of Psalms (which is gorgeous writing in its own right) and sing them in traditional forms like qawwali, a style with Sufi roots made famous here in the west by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Having been a lifelong literature geek, I love words that are strung together beautifully, and I can't bring myself to sing things that don't mean much or are repeated mindlessly. I know not everyone can write like Julian of Norwich, T.S. Eliot, or Gerard Manley Hopkins or necessarily have the skills to compose something amazing. I know I can't like I'd like to. Having played music in one form or another for about half my life, I love the way it moves me, but I also know that it's manipulative.

While I never liked mumbling through the songs at Mass when I was still Catholic, I was just as squeamish in more charismatic congregations that some of my friends went to where the same song would go on for fifteen minutes and I'd look up and people would be passed out on the floor or just kind of dancing around and would start praying for me because obviously I wasn't letting the Holy Spirit move me like I should.

I try to take the whole loving God with one's heart, soul, mind, and strength, and when I feel like it's suggested that I check my mind in at the door and just let the emotion carry me along, I don't see where that's a good place to be, because how truthful are emotions half the time? Just because I feel something, doesn't always mean it's the truth.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

artistry and amateurism

The seasonal depression came hard the last few days, dealing with possible dreams deferred, allays by some wonderful nights with good people involving dinner, absurdist Scrabble, tea and terrible kung-fu movies. Come Sunday night, I was over most of my existential angst, buzzed on caffeine, cooking curry, mixing paints and doodling with Prismacolor pencils (not a product placement so much as they're the best colored pencils ever made), while listening to the beautifully cathartic sounds of Seattle.

My somewhat-in-laws gave me a room divider screen that belonged to their youngest and therefore has lots of indie-kid collaging and her friends' autographs all over it. It's got some generic floral design on the glass part that I'm attempting to rework into something more art nouveau than 80's suburbia, though painting on glass presents its own challenges.

Despite my own modernistic tendencies, I love intricate pattern, organic and geometric forms, inventive typography and things that are both beautiful, functional, and have some meaning to them... Islamic calligraphy and architecture, illuminated manuscripts, African fabric patterns, art nouveau ornamentation, Eastern Orthodox iconography, Byzantine motifs, Tibetan cave paintings, graffiti on the Red Line, old churches, rusty bridges, handpainted signage, Indian miniatures and textiles, Japanese woodcuts, Durer's engravings.

Parents, this is what happens when you take your girls to art museums instead of Radio Disney concerts at a young age, read them Tolkien instead of Twilight, and drive through the hood instead of taking the freeway, and find your rusty eggplant-colored station wagon stalling out every time Led Zeppelin comes on the radio as you cross the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge. Be forewarned. This might also render them undateable as well, since shopping for new Prismacolor pencils and liquid acrylic paints will become infinitely more exciting than new clothes and makeup.

The combination of depressingly beautiful music and art supplies has served me well through good times and bad, and in a way it's probably good I don't have roommates anymore, so I don't have to worry about them being bothered by prints drying on the dining room table, the smell of spraypaint, or their boyfriends and parents being weirded out by the "artsy" roomie with the red-paint-stained hands and strange music who never seems to have anything else to do on Saturday night besides scrawl on giant pieces of paper and listen to Soundgarden.

People I used to know would have parties where they'd drink wine and paint or do crafty things in groups, but I've always worked best alone on late weekend nights, where there's large unpunctuated blocks of time and solitude, an ample supply of Cafe Caribe espresso, and a stack of CDs. It's not so much for ambition as much as personal enjoyment.

Living in an economically depressed and depopulated city with the legacy of robber barons has been its own strange blessing, because the cost of living is low, the art museum is free, and culture of all kinds easy to come by.

Friday, January 21, 2011

best band want ad ever.

a surprising masterwork of total mediocrity

After the onslaught of Creepy Old Men last night, I'm thankful that the new student worker shares a similar sense of humor in regards to matters of the geopolitical. I also began working longhand on some sections of what will probably be my very own literary work with the timetable of Chinese Democracy, since at the very least Kevin Shields created a masterpiece of a record before eternally shelving that lost My Bloody Valentine followup and I have not done so.

I've got notebooks dug out from the parents' house last weekend full of jottings of conversations and stories from my senior year onward, that I might dig back into. Much of it was terrible writing of the quick documentation variety, capturing trivial conversations and awkward social dynamics for posterity that I would have forgotten otherwise.

There's some splice and dice action so far, mixing fresh prose with reworked other writings that have seemed to work decently upon reading. It's not great literature but it's not total trash. I'm just hoping that it can be something solid and believable. I'm trying to render details and not waste words, piling on layers of description and emotion, calling to mind the smallest details like album track listenings and coffee mug sayings and the patterns of 1970s linoleum.

Few writers have tackled this territory, with its strange culture of its own, and I want to do it justice in a way that's neither sentimental nor cruel. Too much fiction does that already, and I don't want to do it too.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

war pigs

Something about this guy and his entire enterprise is downright chilling. This is the face of pure evil right here and another reason why I don't trust men in suits. The fact that he somehow claims to share similar spiritual beliefs as myself makes my blood boil.

To think about the way that some people exist to make a profit out of misery and get some kind of thrill out of blowing things up and killing people in absolutely terrible parts of the world.

And I'm sure people in Afghanistan love that we used 25 TONS of bombs to obliterate their village. Oh, we'll rebuild it supposedly, but damn.

I don't even know what else to say but let the music do the talking. These two cuts from disparate musical genres, but the sentiment is the same. I get impatient with a lot of where-have-all-the-flowers-gone protest music from the 60's and 70's because it's so lightweight and optimistic, but Sabbath will probably continue to be timeless.

This Fela release resulted in riots across western Africa that led to him getting kicked out of Ghana, the destruction of his home and master tapes, the rape of his wives, and murder of his mother. He went on to release albums with titles like "Coffin for Head of State," "Sorrow Tears and Blood," and "International Thief Thief" and more before dying of AIDS in 1997.


I don't know why Google wants us to care about JFK so much.

But one of the first things that popped up was a mention of this Living Colour song, which is kind of ironic given the subject matter, because it's not so much about how awesome JFK was.

I had wanted to play this on my show on every Election Day but wonder if it'd get taken the wrong way.

Look into my eyes, what do you see?
Cult of personality
I know your anger, I know your dreams
I’ve been everything you want to be
I’m the cult of personality
Like mussolini and kennedy
I’m the cult of personality
Cult of personality
Cult of personality

Neon lights, a nobel prize
The mirror speaks, the reflection lies
You don’t have to follow me
Only you can set me free
I sell the things you need to be
I’m the smiling face on your t.v.
I’m the cult of personality
I exploit you still you love me

I tell you one and one makes three
I’m the cult of personality
Like joseph stalin and gandhi
I’m the cult of personality
Cult of personality
Cult of personality

You gave me fortune
You gave me fame
You me power in your god’s name
I’m every person you need to be
I’m the cult of personality

While we're at it, this song is awesome too. I'd honestly never bothered checking out Living Colour's back catalog until one of my very cool older friends sat me down and had me listen to them and talked about seeing them back in the day at the Euclid Tavern... "(All these fine sisters with afros and weaves and leather jackets in the mosh pit! It was amazing!")

give and take

After my dreams of underground rock cult band fandom and starting an awesome Dischord/pre-lame-o-SubPop record label were shattered by the cold reality of lacking mad songwriting skills and business sense, I had dreams of being a high school art teacher, the kind with prints by amazing artists on the walls, a chaotic yet creative environment where awesome music would be playing at all times, where misunderstood kids could express themselves and all the other cliches brought on by even a sparse knowledge of cinema. Of course, I could've have ended up like this too, which would have been sad.

Instead, I majored in English, minored incompletely in art, and did a year of library school and get irritated when people say "Oh you must feel so accomplished to have a master's degree" because so far it's been worthless and almost kept me from getting employment in the first place.

I knew I'd get burned out if I had stayed in art school land or went into the bureaucratic hell that is education anywhere, and let the teacher side out in other areas, which has led to scam-tastic part time gigs where the pay was good but the overlords a particular kind of evil, and general volunteerism that resulted in getting profoundly burned out by being one typical naive cracker attempting to singlehandedly help an entire refugee community.

I soon realized that there were just too many people, that I was enabling instead of empowering, and that being female and unattached meant that I was still considered a rather grown-up kid who had a driver's license but ultimately wasn't taken seriously and there's a difference between helping your kid with homework and helping you with incomprehensible bureaucratic paperwork and giving you rides to places that you can walk to.

So I jumped back into tutoring realm today, doing a couple hours each month in the mornings I go to work late at a tiny charter school around the corner that works with kids that the school system has pretty much given up on. I don't believe that one system of education is the ultimate, having bounced through every educational structure available, but I like what I see here, a kind of rich creative chaos... books that are actually interesting, the basics that one needs to function, and then the good stuff I thrived on as a kid, jars with specimens of bugs and such, the walls covered with Calvin and Hobbes comics, science diagrams, masterpieces of artwork, sayings of Martin Luther King.

They do art and literature in the mornings and math/science/social studies in the afternoon and this morning, each kid got one-on-one time. The other volunteers are high schoolers from Ignatius, college kids from Oberlin, and retirees who decide to share their skills with the next generation.

He introduces me to the kids and tells them that I got arrested once which evidently establishes some street cred or something because they were all much more interested at that point. I get to work one-on-one with three kids at different levels and the see the excitement that comes when poetry isn't just something you read but something that you understand and relate to.

I pulled up pictures of fiddleheads and lichens when we talked about a nature poem, attempted to explain what being on a boat feels like when reading 'Wynken, Blynken and Nod,' told stories about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad and how it wasn't just history that happened somewhere else, that it cut through Cleveland and Oberlin too.

At the same time, it's the best feeling in the world to see one girl read a Gwendolyn Brooks poem about feeling trapped in the city and longing for the country and tell me that's how she and her mom felt when the lived in the projects around the corner, and then to struggle through names like Penelope and Agamemnon to see her get hooked on Greek mythology. I never learned this stuff in grade school until my mom taught me a few years and was stuck reading boring readers full of stupid didactic stories about not doing drugs or something.

Three hours went by like nothing and this is why I loved majoring in literature, because it encompasses everything about the world, with a creative window onto infinite cultures and perspectives and periods of time and history and science and religion of all types. Unlike people I was in grad school with, I don't think that teens need to read about themselves or Gossip Girl all the time. If you give them something more culturally rich and make it interesting, it'll be so much better for everyone.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

reposted because it's awesome

I've become known among my small cabal for anthropomorphosizing various iconic album art and inserting Jay and Silent Bob into Thomas Kinkade paintings via the almighty Photoshop. This is not one of my creations, but I wish it was.

you can stretch the truth, but patience wears you so thin...

I dropped one class in favor of another, because as interesting as the subject matter is, I can read the books on my own and don't have to do any presentations in the one I'm taking instead. I hate public speaking with a passion and any attempts to get over this have only reinforced that I hate it for a good reason, and should leave it to those who enjoy that kind of thing.

The rumors of changes and axing has begun and while I know that God has always taken care of me in the past, my faith is still about as big as a proverbial mustard seed and I'm more cynic than hopeful sometimes, because if my expectations are low enough I can't be that disappointed right? And at least I've got no kids or spouse to worry about.

I've always been told I'm too negative and cynical and I need to think more positively but I don't believe in any "power of attraction/positive thinking/name it and claim it/prosperity gospel/your best life now" philosophies. There's no truth to those, and everyone I've ever met in my life who's into that thing are in complete denial about the reality of their situations and themselves, and it lets them absolve themselves of any responsibility or need to change something about who they are and how they deal with situations and people (which is usually very badly).

Honestly, it almost seems like self-induced mental illness, because it's such a load of mind games designed for disconnection to the truth. When it's all about looking good, keeping up appearances, pretending that things are fine when they're clearly not, all that leads to is disaster eventually.

And for those of us who remain hopeful but don't expect too much out of life, it seems like we're the ones that come out all right even if we're not so pretty or it doesn't always look like what you think it'll be.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

a mad tea party

Contrary to any connotation, this has nothing to do with people waving misspelled signs or Alice in Wonderland, though the later is one of the greatest books of all time, despite Carroll's creepy old man tendencies.

I tend to think of myself as too cynical for marketers, being an almost X-er with parents who didn't buy me Fruit By The Foot for my lunchbox, and always finding commercials annoying even as a kid.

Still, I am a sucker for absurd packaging, terrible graphic design, and general weirdness of most kinds and find my shopping experiences at Marc's and the ethnic grocery stores in my neighborhood fabulous for such things.

While I was still living with the parents in Parma, I'd take my little sister and her BFF up to Drug Mart to rent a movie and then we'd go over to "Fancy Food" to buy exotic imported goods like birch tree juice, tiny little fruity hard candies from Poland, and "Royal Tea" (get it? Rimshot, please). Because nothing says awesome like tea depicting the last Tsar and Tsarina and translated instructions that involve samovars, tea cozies, and the suggestion that before boiling, "the water should first be clear."

According to the blurb on

Russian Royal Tea evokes the bygone era of leisurely afternoons in the Russian countryside drinking tea with people close to you. Tea drinking in Russia has a very long history and tea from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) has always been the most popular. Russian Royal Tea is pure Ceylon loose tea packed in Sri Lanka. Net Weight: 8.8 oz.

Closer to where I live now, I can get Namibian beer, Nigerian movies, voodoo candles with saints that look a little sketchy, yucca roots, Coca-Cola in glass bottles with real sugar and Inca Cola in the Peruvian food section.

I don't remember this one from PSR...

Asiatown, around the corner, sells "Baby Tea," and the Vietnamese market down the street from me sells this concoction as well.

It appeals to my snarky side and love of non-genericness. Conspicuous consumption, indeed.

through the looking glass, through the windshield...

3 cups of coffee and I'm still trying to awaken, and best be kind yet firm with the onslaught. It bothers me to no end that those who are in theory going to teach the next generation of children and take care of the down and out seem totally clueless most of the time. "Those who can't, teach" has a whole new meaning.

It seems unfair that Snooki can get a book deal but people would probably rather read her ghostwritten tales about the Dramatic Shores of Jersey than my own particular strip of coast.

I'm trying to start over on the Great American Rustbelt Novel because I can't seem to get anywhere with what I've written. It's not for lack of source material, but a lack of ability to string together a cohesive narrative with characters that remain interesting and seem somewhat believable, to write something that I would want to read, because there's a gaping void when it comes to describing the landscape that I call home, with its general strangeness borne out of existential despair in cheering for losing sports teams, fatalism with a gnawing sense of Catholic guilt chased with a bizarre sense of humor. "Through the Windshield" came close, but was too Bukowski-ish for me and it'd be nice to have a tale that wasn't a murder mystery or bland boosterism.

So I keep trying and observing and trying to keep writing every day even if half of what's in here is totally lame, seeking revelation in writers far superior and the general weirdness of the everyday.

And this needs no comment.

oh please.

So Sarah Palin is still claiming to be some kind of martyr but there's a different between getting persecuted for your faith and being justifiably ridiculed for being an opportunist with a big mouth and a seeming incapacity for self-reflection. Some people say I don't like here because it's "cool" to not like her, but this is different. Any time someone uses spiritual language and metaphor in a way that does a great disservice to where that language comes from, it's just not a good thing.

Persecution for your beliefs? Hmmmm...

Considering that merely going to church in Egypt or India makes you likely to get blown up or that you can get dragged into court in Pakistan for supposed blasphemy and converting equals a loss of family, life and livelihood in a lot of other places around the world, snarky people on the Internet and non-Fox News outlets are really not that big of a deal.

I'd like to see these people actually, well, re-read what they supposedly believe because there's a whole lot about being blessed for being a peacemaker and thirsting for righteousness and showing mercy, and the sun shining on the evil and the good. I supposed that's too much to ask, though.

Meanwhile in the world of those who are formerly Catholic (probably the most common religion of my generation at least here in the Rust Belt), everyone else is freaking out about their zodiac sign because vague newspaper predictions like "you may encounter stress today" or "you will find something out about that special person in your life" are forever not the same anymore.

I always found it ironic when my friends in high school would give me a hard time about my preference for "organized religion" when they were reading the daily horoscope as intensely as I read the Bible and consulted the Tarot deck every morning before class and based romantic relationships on said significant other's stars. "Oh it's okay that he's an asshole. All Aries are that way. What can you do?"

It must be a great job to write the daily astrology and keep cycling catchphrases like a housewife Nostradamus. It'd almost be as good as ghost-writing or penning deadpan Telegraph-style obituaries. Why didn't they offer writing classes like that when I was an
undergrad? Damn.

And since I can't think of much in the way of songs about snow, here's some fabulously frigid New Zealand post-punk for your Tuesday morning...

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Since I only have internet access due to housesitting, I'm glad I at least have the presence of mind as I age to not post late-night ramblings that are akin to the mis-sent and misspelled drunk text messages I sometimes get at 2am with Cincinnati and Detroit area codes alluding to some kind of drama or other.

Despite my antisocialness this weekend, it looks like there's some interesting things ahead in 2011. I don't even think I'll describe because being a cynical one, I think it's best to keep my expectations low, but some things that are happening may end up leaving me pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

notes from my 19-year-old self

So I went back through some of my old writing from my seasonal employee days at the Cleveland Zoo. My writing wasn't all that good as these were mostly quick notes and typed mostly in lowercase, and I used to listen to a lot more Black Flag back then and used the word "awesome" way too much.

Working there gave me a trash-talking mouth that I've since tried to rein in, and an imperviousness to the most absurd of verbally abusive customers. Also, I'm glad I no longer have to wear terrible khaki pants, though I did my own early-20's nonconformity with my black Converse shoes (our shoes were supposed to be "mostly white" so I'd just buy a shiny new pair), gauged ears that you could see through, and more jewelry than was probably necessary.

I was 19 though, and I've changed less than I thought I have. There's still a distrust of authority there and a healthy dose of sarcasm but hopefully I'm less catty than I once was.

The worst people by far to deal with were suburban housewives with children named Madison and Cody, and boomers who just got their Golden Buckeye cards and felt entitled to a discount. Everyone lies about the age of their kid and since the customer is always right, you can't tell them that you know their 22 month old is talking in complete sentences and barely fits in the stroller and instead end being snarky to try to make them feel guilty by saying "wow, she's pretty developed for her age."

The best people were the metal dads who usually had tattoos and old Anthrax and Iron Maiden t-shirts who were always the nicest and had cool little kids.

Tourists were pretty bad too, especially the Australian who cussed me out for saying "koala bear" because I should know better.

It was a strange melting pot of Parma kids, girls from Glenville, assorted older women including one who believed in the Evil Eye, total slackerness in the form of riding around on golf carts and being told "just look like you're doing something useful," prank calling people at other ticket booths and at the front desk on slow days when the managers weren't there.

We got accidentally mooned, cussed out on a daily basis, dealt with unfunny clowns and people that were on acid trips, smuggled in toys that the gift shop kids gave us, set up a bowling alley in the back hallway, took money that came from pill bottles, women's bras, and wadded-up dollar bills from stinky shoes, and amazingly rarely got sick.

absurd conversations, gruesome horror stories written in the notebook used as a problem log that we all added to until our manager discovered it, and continued commentary on bad tattoos, dismal fashion choices, and wondering what woodwork some of these people crawled out of.

Free Mondays answering the phone:

Can I speak to Miss Ellie Phant? What about Mr. Lion? HAHAHA!!!

Is the zoo free today?

Are you a Cuyahoga County resident?

no, I'm not a Cuyahoga resident. I live in Parma.

Uh, is Cleveland in Cuyahoga County?

Of course I'm from Cuyahoga County! (pulls out Texas ID)

I'm having a party and it's Egyptian themed and i was wondering if i could rent your camels?

I saw this bird outside. And then it flew away. I just wanted to tell you about it.

Not only were there animals, but we also had animatronic dinosaurs and a simulator ride that was always described dirty mind or not as the Dinosaur Stimulator that you could pay extra for. Parents often begged me to threaten their bratty kids with the possibility of being fed to the tigers or thrown to the (real) dinosaurs if they didn't stop whining about cotton candy.

And the customers:

Drunk parents at the African Savannah watering hole.

The frighteningly fashionable Armani-clad couple whose drivers licenses looked like dress up senior pictures

The family with all these cute little kids and all the boys were wearing camouflage baseball caps that said "Daddy's Little Hunter." One kid had a toy rifle sticking out of his backpack.

I met the King of trailer trashdom today at work. he came through my line in the full glory of wifebeater, faded acid wash jeans, long stringy hair and a motorcycle vest. he had this awesome gold plastic crown thing too. he swept through, shouting "make way! i'm ROYALTY!"
he even had Kid Rock in his entourage. or someone that looked like him.

I don't understand why people tattoo the number of their favorite NASCAR driver on themselves.

I saw some guy with a creed logo tattooed on his whole shoulder and i wonder if he will regret it in 10 years

LOTS of prison tattoos

work was perfectly fine until the last five minutes. i was so worried i would have a lawsuit on my hands. the window i sell camel ride tickets out of has a hard time staying open so there's this stick that we use to hold it up. not the safest thing to begin with. some little kid was being kind of stupid and playing with the window and it fell down and smashed his hand. i freaked out and his family freaked out even more. thank god he didn't break anything because they wanted to know who i was and talk to my manager. it all ended up getting smoothed out but it was really stressing.

then i missed my bus and had to wait a half hour for the next one.

there were 2 wedding parties today. the second one came in as i was closing up and everyone was totally plastered. one bridesmaid fell out of the charter bus. everyone else including the bride was chain smoking and yelling stuff. half of them could barely walk straight.

Ryan, the new kid gave me a 2 day bus pass and saved me a nice $3. i saw a 50 year old lady with very dyed blond hair down halfway to her knees, a rhinestone studded cowboy hat, camou tube top and booty shorts. i never want to look like that when i get old.

saw Trailer Trash King again but he wasn't wearing his crown this time. just the biker vest and the WMMS t-shirt with the cut-off sleeves.

Amish midgets do exist.

zoo quote of the day: dumb guy: " the Rainforest is where the pandas are right?
dumb guy's girlfriend: " no dumbass! they live in the bamboo forests of RUSSIA!"

this other lady in a huge fur hat knocked out my sign window and shoves 3 zoolights passes at me. as the tickets print, i start voiding them and she starts yelling at me "can you do that writing later? i have a PERFORMANCE i cannot miss" (oh you mean that lady playing harp in the visitors center?)... whatever. thank god for glass and a mute button on my headset.

Getting screamed at by a mom who insists her kid NEEDS to see the Christmas Train.

if i ever get a WGAR loyal listener card, shoot me. especially if i have the nerve to show it to people to get a discount.

a guy got hit by a tram. i felt like scum because i'm supposed to sit there and just print out tickets and take people's money while a guy's lying unconscious and his grandkids are freaking out. someone had already called 911 and all that.

another guy tried to intimidate me and let me give him tickets even though he didn't have enough money. i told him i'd be screwed because my drawer would be off and he's like 'well just overcharge the next person."

ended up working 10-5 today. easiest job in the world. answer phones, transfer crabby people to other departments, take packages. i walked around on break and looked at the baby seal and the tiger. i got this one package by fedex from malaysia. it had some kind of exotic bugs in it. cool.

this one creepy guy was hitting on candace today at work. what made it so weird was that he was a cleveland public school teacher who was there with his third grade class or something and he was doing it in front of the kids. he asked her to marry him and kept on coming back trying to get her phone number. We made up a fake stripper name (Kandi Boomer) and gave him the number of the cleveland zoological society because it looks like a legit phone number.

candace got a redneck with a confederate states of america belt buckle that was HUGE. i also saw a guy in an art bell sweatshirt. he looked really paranoid and was wearing dark sunglasses.

we're not allowed to read in the box office anymore which isn't cool because that's how i keep my sanity when things are slow. however, they didn't say anything about not being allowed to write...

saw a random t-shirt today on some lady.
Latvia : where storks are storks and the frogs are nervous

work wasn't too bad for a monday. it's faster for me to walk up the hill at closing time than get a ride because traffic's so backed up. we've had so many weird random people there it's kind of been like monday everyday. there were these rebellious amish teens that came through my line yesterday. they were all smoking and the boys had their shirts all the way open. i think they thought it made them look sexy but it just looked bad.

i saw this little girl, she had to be about 7 or 8 and she was in a school group. she had the worst mullet i've ever seen. i'm talking rod stewart or joe dirt, like with it all bushy and spiky on the top and really long too. i felt so bad for her.

this new agey lady wearing all these crystals and stuff comes up to me to buy tickets for the dinosaurs and i do the usual "here's the tickets and such and such in change." she gets this weird mystical look on her face and says "this isn't change. change comes from within. you should tell people that instead of giving them change. because it comes from inside you." i mumbled something like "ummm yeah," and moved on to the next person.

we were watching the seagulls fly around the ticket plaza and were hoping they'd pop one of the balloons. dan was talking about being on ecstasy and seeing visions of lions and how "brewery" is such a hard word to say.

i laughed outright at a customer at work yesterday. she came up to my window, this old lady wearing this really expensive necklace with this orangy pendant thing on it and dan goes "dude, is that lady wearing a lifesaver around her neck?"

work with dan and patty was good. it was busy today, like every day last summer and it went really fast. i had this crazy guy who didn't know what he was talking about and he thought i cut him a deal on his tickets so he started praising jesus. i wanted to tell him that jesus wouldn't have appreciated him coming back and yelling at me, not to mention lying to me about the ages of his kids.

they were trying to give away KISS/Poison tickets at work. you couldn't pay me to go to that.

did the back lot today with tiffany. we were bored and sweltering and played around with the paint program on the computer. i did cartoons with pirates and dinosaurs eating zoo patrons and robots taking over the world. the robots had slogans like "doom is at hand," "just say no," "there's no 'i' in team," and tiffany and josh contributed "let's boogie," and "sit on it." i get really weird when i have too much time on my hands and it's way too hot outside.

i felt bad for the polar bear because it was sleeping and it looks about as comfortable as you can get at the zoo on a hot August day and these stupid little daycare kids were throwing rocks and yelling trying to wake it up.

And the cranky pissed off side of me...

For some reason people kept on asking me if I was hung over. lots of dumb jokes about jello shots.

I didn't even feel like smiling or being nice because I was so tired and fed up with stupid people. or just nasty ones. some lady demanded that I give her a discount because she lives right behind the zoo. Like I care.

i've tried so freaking hard this year. my drawer hasn't been off in two weeks. i've never called off or even shown up late. i've come in when i didn't have to and sure as hell didn't feel like it. and believe it or not, i'm actually nice to people. nice to everyone. even customers who tell me i'm a stupid punk who can't do anything, complicate everything, make fun of my jewelry, whatever. i've been the perfect nice little cog in the machine to make some money for college, most of which goes to the city of cleveland to be blown on rich people's ballparks.

frustrated subgenius

The snow drifts outside my window are several feet tall and sculpted beautifully. People in my fair city like to complain about the winter months as if we haven't gotten snow before ever, but there is a beauty and lightness to it that alleviates the early darkness.

I ventured out last night to get my art fix, having fallen in love with crystalline glazes and wondering what the combination of kiwi green, deep Starry night Van Gogh blue starred with white, and yellow with orange sunbursts will look like on a bowl as the oldies station played on the boombox in the corner and I wonder why I always hear "Lean on Me" and "Light My Fire" every single week in between ads for knockoff Viagra. Damn boomers.

Coming home is wonderful even with the foot of slush at the bottom of the street, the grind of snow plows, and the hookers who still go out at sunset in fishnets and short skirts even with the temperature is firmly in the teens. Every year I wish I bought that Subaru that probably would have died because four-wheel drive in this would be nice.

A friend of mine dropped off her key, since she's escaping for the weekend to celebrate a friend's matrimony in warmer climes. I'll be feeding their fabulous felines (who will pretend that they are not lonely) and make use of their Netflix account and back issues of National Geographic. It's sad that the majority of what feels like vacations are spent at friends' houses a block over, but it comes with the perks of pecuniary compensation and animal companionship.

Working in a place that was once a place for expanding one's knowledge and now is a costly step up a ladder full of buzzwords and networking, I long to take what I've learned and what I see and turn it into something that I'd actually like to read in hopes that there are other starving souls who need something that's got a little more substance than Nicholas Sparks and is better written than Dan Brown and is not written by smug McSweeney's acolytes.

I suppose that the document on my computer is too regional and pedestrian, but I want to capture what I see here, the corner stores and garage bands and awkward dynamics of class, geography of culture that converge in strange way.

I don't think I could write anything thrilling or romantic if I tried, but I'd love to do something that would be funny, heartbreaking, and full of enough details that even if you've never seen the stegosaurus hulks of rusty bridges and broken industry in the valley under a hazy summer sky, the certain ethnics at State Road park swearing and listening to eurotechno next to their tricked out Hondas, or the way that the sun sets over a beach covered with driftwood and stubs from Black and Milds, where kids play in the sewage and men walk their pet crocodiles on the shoreline, you'd see it for yourself the way you visualize places in New York or Los Angeles.

Ambitious yes? Doomed to fail? Probably. Will it ever be accomplished? Maybe. Total Slack is a second religion of this city so we shall see, inshallah.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

on art, literature, and Dogma (incoherence reigns)

Like the last time I had wanted to see some good free live music on the east side, the snow decides to come down in massive quantities. I love public transportation on days like that because at the very least if I'm stuck I can read or something, but anything's better than being in a long line of cars and wondering if the bridge you're sitting deadlocked on is going to buckle and send you nosediving into the frigid Cuyahoga River.

However, having a stash of CDs to get me through and leftovers from lunch in the car made the gridlock and the catcalls from loiterers on the corner much easier to bear though I wish I'd remembered to set my alarm this morning so I don't have to reprise all the fun.

Hibernation and not having anywhere to go is a beautiful thing, being able to change out of work clothes and make tea and a dinner consisting of Goya taquitos with no nutritional value and a grapefruit, and watched 'Dogma' for the first time.

I had heard a lot about how bad and blasphemous the movie was from the Catholic newspapers that my grandparents got but I've always believed that you should know what you're talking about for yourself as opposed to what other people say about something.

While I take God as a literal supreme being and la Santa Biblia more seriously than some wingnuts seem to, I'm also convinced that God has a fabulous sense of humor and a deeply creative nature, due to the heady combination of beauty and weirdness that is the created world. I get this sense of wonder when I see photos of galaxies and nebulas. I probably get this from my mom, whose faith was rekindled as a grad student in environmental studies in the 70's.

Everything else, however, is up for grabs, and there's enough dry humor in Proverbs, downright scatological imagery, and some serious sarcasm woven into the Good Book that I really didn't find anything terribly shocking or blasphemous. I do think that there are certain truths and beliefs that mean way more than simple "ideas" and that these do affect one's life in a massive way, but I honestly didn't expect to laugh as hard or find as much depth as I did.

But for someone like me who grew up Catholic, argued with my theology teachers, questioned everything under the sun, gets very cynical about the increasingly common and ridiculous Buddy-Christing of modern church culture, was accused by a college professor at Kent of "sucking on the tit of Mother Church" in the middle of class as an undergrad, whose conversations with God often involve a lot of cussing and questions wondering why things are the way they are and why do things happen the way they do and what's the point of all this.

I'm sure that people will get what they want out of it, whether it's an "I told you organized religion is a sham" or "there's something strangely redemptive here." And that always happens whenever art is involved. One of my art school friends did a final project installation piece that included a film about her great-grandfather who wrote the first hymns in the Tamil language and at the show, a lot of the people who viewed it couldn't get past the Indian-ness of it, assuming that said girl in sari was of course Hindu and into an entirely different theology.

And I wonder if I'm just too English-major-ish when I'm seeing echoes of the Screwtape Letters in the conversations of the fallen angels, the calling out of idolatry in modern civilization, concepts of grace and forgiveness and judgment, and a sense of humor and theology that reminds me of Flannery O'Connor's crazy preachers of the Church Without Christ and carnival freaks that are as unlikely prophets as Jay and Silent Bob, and Walker Percy's apocalyptic scenarios of fragmented partisan Americas and Jesus showing up on Phil Donahue.

Maybe if I was still Catholic I could write something good and God-haunted, but I can't go back there at this point because there's just too much that I can't believe in anymore. That being said, the evangelical wing of modern Christianity kind of sucks in the fiction department, with its terrible virginal romance novels about Amish people and governesses, and general ripping off of already mediocre pop culture.

I don't expect anything to be terribly cool or trendy because that's not what this whole thing is about. If I wanted to be 'with it,' I wouldn't be bothering with this. It has to come from within and not be imposed upon. That's how things got screwed up post-Constantine.

But seriously, fellow believers, a little bit of originality and talent put to good use never killed anyone. Heck, if you believe in God as a supreme and genius Creator and you're made in his image, you need to step up your game a whole lot. More Albrecht Durer and T.S. Eliot and less Thomas Kinkade and less hipster memoirs and prairie romances, okay?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

what I see is unreal...

"You never know when those quiet ones will snap."

So says my health/gym teacher in high school after a bad moment where my clumsiness resulted in hitting a girl who was too busy singing to Britney Spears in the face with a basketball during a drill. It wasn't intentional, I promise.

At fifteen, I was already social pariah #1, but after that, even more so. There'd already been a few school shootings in the previous months and then Columbine had happened a week ago. I'd already been to the guidance office for some suspect cuts and bruises and disturbing subject matter in my artwork.

Pale kids like me who wore ball chains and necklaces with Led Zeppelin motifs, took honors classes, had no friends and listened to doomy music were suddenly potential homisuicidal maniacs waiting to have their Carrie moment.

That kind of paranoia permeated the hallways of the already volatile incubator of high school, fueled by parental anxiety, the inevitable rumor mill, absurd Principal Bureaucrats, and media hype. It got so unbearable that I dropped out to catch up on classes via homeschooling for a year before transferring to the local big public high school where I could blend in and get lost, considering that the powers that be were far more concerned about the potheads and the guys with the trenchcoats and heavy eyeliner. And obviously, I've never shot anyone. Most alienated youth haven't.

If it wasn't the Trenchcoat Mafia, it was Y2K and then it was 9/11. Conversations about too many guns and then not enough guns. I was a senior when 9/11 happened, and a whole new wave of fear and jingoism had swept through. The Egyptian kids who were Copt not Muslim got picked on really bad and suddenly those scary teenage metalheads who spent way too much time on the Internet and probably had the Anarchist's Cookbook on their hard drive didn't seem so bad and strange.

No one seemed to realize that Sikh turbans denoted a religion that has nothing to do with Osama Bin Laden. Khaled, who I sat next to in computer class (and whose dad owned the convenience store my dad delivered to) used to talk about going into the military to "blow shit up." I wonder where he is now.

So I read about these incidents that seem to grow more frequent, which have always seem to happen when crackers read too much Ayn Rand and toxic ideology on both sides and decide that the majority of people are stupid and need to be killed. Since they're usually dudes, there's usually some kind of testosterone-driven music involved but that's besides the point.

But then we go off on these tangents to find a cause but it's way more complicated than that. That combination of mental illness, general jerkitude combined with ideology and musical taste that causes one to feel superior to the masses is a combination that can't be quantified.Domestic terrorism has been practiced on all sides as it is. I look at some of the people that I deal with and wonder if they'll come in with a gun and start mowing people down.

But the whole "music made him do it?" Vladimir Putin has probably tortured people and had them murdered and he's a big fan of ABBA. Kim Jong-il's kid likes Eric Clapton but probably prefers "Tears in Heaven" to Cream. Charles Manson blamed the Beatles. Whatever.

And now, the stakes just keep getting higher. The paranoia just keeps ratcheting upward among and about lefties and wingnuts and people who listen to "heavy metal." Considering that I've got some serious love for Jesus and loud music that probably doesn't bode well.
Despite a certain individual's claims that crosshairs are actually survey markers, at least even the trigger-happy crowd is appalled as well.

On a totally unrelated but not totally tangential note, I wonder what will happen when Glenn Beck and his ilk get wind of the taqwacore scene because what's more scary than power-chord-loving nonconformist Islamic teenagers?

(By the way, part of this was filmed in a punk house/performance space in my fair city in my part of town, and the novel on which this film is based is highly recommended.)

hang the dj

I avoided the shimmering psychedelic sounds of the Third World for a trip back into the music that for me is the equivalent of comfort and catharsis, waves of distortion and drums.

I think about what I want to hear that early in the morning as I'm getting on the highway and the city lights haven't even come on yet.

It's a strange sensation being up there, powering up the transmitter, sending these sounds out around the world, bouncing off radio receivers, static in your car radio, streamed across the Internet, yet at the same time I exist in isolation in a booth on the fourth floor of a building downtown surrounded by vacant lots and old storefronts, with a stack of CDs, a laptop, and occasional a pile of records, attempting to maintain a mood and flow.

The phone almost never rings, and I hardly talk on the air because I don't like the sound of my voice that much and the music does the talking. It's too early in the morning and I prefer the anonymity. I wonder if anyone's listening at all because the world outside the window is dark and cold.

By the end of the morning I've been getting my estrogen rock on... Sleater Kinney and Curve, Throwing Muses and Patti Smith. I didn't realize we have Jucifer's entire back catalog until I went to put everything away but that could've worked too.

Ended with My Bloody Valentine... six minutes of blissed-out noise. The DJ after me gave me some powdered vitamins and a bottled water because I must look like I'm not doing so good today. Got over my fear of parking garages because I don't want to fight another parking ticket. Caffeine has yet to kick in. I think I need more Ethiopian coffee.

Monday, January 10, 2011

coptic times

"This will keep you up past midnight."

Due to my massive caffeine consumption, I wasn't expecting a demitasse cup of Ethiopian rocket fuel to do much to me, but she was right. I didn't need dinner with the massive amount of injera, savory stews that mean I will never be vegetarian, and spiced bread served with the strongest coffee I've ever had. Celebrating Christmas 2002 on the Coptic calendar and hearing Siyum joke at our expense about the western world freaking out at the time of Y2K was priceless.

I came home late and full of spicy goodness and somehow did end up staying past midnight drinking ginger tea and watching the entire animated Clerks series loaned to me by my esteemed fellow peon.

I'm exhausted today, but it was a beautiful way to end.

guns and religion

I felt sick and angry to hear about a congresswoman getting gunned down in Arizona, which, with its combination of the worst elements of the conservative and liberal spectrum (thanks a lot rich boomers!), isn't shocking given the particularly nasty strain of politics going down there.

And don't tell me this is loaded imagery, because it damn well is. I don't blame Sarah Palin for this incident any more than I blame Marilyn Manson for Columbine, but for all the complaining about being stereotyped by clinging to guns and religion, this does nothing but perpetuate.

I'm almost relieved that the guy was more nihilistic than crazy and religious but that doesn't change the fact that people are dead. I'm glad that the condemnation of this has been universal on all sides because trivializing ignorant comments don't do any good for anyone.

I've been told by people who are more conservative than myself that the reason that I don't like Sarah Palin is because it's not cool too, and because "the media" is mean to her but that couldn't be further from the truth. She feeds just as much off the media as it feeds off her.

I see a rank hypocrisy, political incompetence, a crass opportunism, and an enjoyment of the media circus, where truth and honesty is subverted in the name of "Real American Values."

She has set herself up as the spokesperson of an entire group, talking about good governance when she quit her job to make a lot of money promoting a bestselling book and a 'reality' tv show. If anything, she's the Al Sharpton of the right, an opportunist who jumps on bandwagons, shows up on TV all the time, makes herself the center of attention and won't shut up.

I don't want to hear about her great morals or middle class values, because morality is more than saying that abortion is bad, it has to do with your character too, being an honest person and a decent human being, as opposed to being a greedy, bullying, loudmouth.

I dread voting in this coming election watching the Republican party eat its young and alienate everyone who isn't rich and old and white, while the Democrats carrying on the same-shit-different-day policies of the last fifty years. Power corrupts whether you're red or blue.

Some days, I think I'm a bit of both. My faith in God is a daily struggle as it is, and I lost faith in humanity and its systems years ago. I do my best to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my proverbial neighbor as myself, neighbor being anyone who comes across my path in life, especially those who are vulnerable to getting massively screwed over.

I fail at all of those things frequently. I probably spend more time taking care of yours truly than the others in my world. I say things that I regret and don't always do what I could have done. I rant about the hypocrisy of others to feel better about myself. But I do what I can to not be a jerk and try to seek truth and love mercy and walk humbly with God and others. I don't expect to be perfect or have all the answers, but it's the best I can do.

Friday, January 7, 2011

week end.

So the first week of the new year ends with a sense of hope, even though I have no clue what the future holds and after the absurdity of the past 3 years of joy, depression, laughter and constant misadventure, I have just accepted that God with His infinite sense of humor has plenty more curveballs coming my way.

It looks like I'll be employed a little longer, and it makes the daily grind seem almost like a beautiful thing, though having coworkers that I actually enjoy, non-soul-stealing work to do, not having to wear a power suit, and lunch breaks replete with free classes, food and good music that I missed the first time around.

Looking forward to a weekend of unknown factors, except that I get to celebrate Ethiopian Christmas on Sunday, which I'm looking forward to immensely.

Where I'll be hanging out, there's at least three cultural groups represented there... Amhara, Tigrey, Oromo, two countries at political odds with each other. It seems like everyone has stories about getting beaten up by police, spending time in prison under dictatorship, their relatives jailed or stoned to death in villages.

The language isn't that far removed from Aramaic, the music is hypnotic and beautiful and I get this sense of ancientness and timelessness that's incredible. I wish I understood Amharic so I could understand the sermons, though people do translate for me and I'm grateful for it.

All the talking heads on TV who talk about 'The War on Christmas' don't have to worry about, well, getting blown up while attempting to worship together.
Stories like these are rare but they give me something resembling hope.

It's very easy to get Americentric when it comes to Christianity, to frame everything in partisan terms related to political parties and schools of thoughts, when there's a whole lot of other believers all over the world who have way bigger things to worry about and history way older than ours who see things very differently. .

I don't bother with New Year's resolutions anymore because I start a lot of things I can't finish, but if all goes well I'll be adventuring in Boston a few days in the week before Easter (already have tickets and a fellow traveler), and hopefully road tripping to Buffalo for a few days when the snow melts to visit people I enjoy way too much to only see them once a year.

I've also got a nephew on the way in about 4 months, which is so crazy to think about. With my sister's blessing, I bought him an awesomely illustrated hardback version of Charles & Mary Lamb's Shakespeare stories even though he's still in utero and won't appreciate it for another ten years at least. He's got a pair of brilliant and wonderful parents who aren't going to give their kids annoying toys that make noise and have batteries and hopefully I will play the part of Lovable Eccentric Auntie well.

And the creative juices have been flowing, and I just have to go with it when it's like that, whether it's concocting color schemes with glaze and experimenting with form, goofy Photoshop shenanigans, the endless possibilities of printmaking, or collages that mix together my twin obsessions of early Christian and medieval art and abstracted graffiti forms.

The pigeons have been making their presence (no pun intended) known and we've been enjoying the comedy of nature vs the urban landscape. Mad props to the good people of Adobe for making entertainment possible.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

best of the blotter 33

COMPLAINT, DETROIT AVENUE: At 10:34 p.m. Friday, a man was seen staggering and drinking from a champagne bottle. When police caught up to him, they confiscated the bottle and determined it was sparkling grape juice. The man was advised and sent on his way.

HERE, YOU DEAL WITH HER!: A Bainbridge Road man forwarded his personal phone calls to the Bainbridge police station to avoid talking to his ex-girlfriend Feb. 17.

Police received three phone calls on the emergency line from an upset Brayton Trail woman trying to reach her former boyfriend. She told police she hoped to discuss their past relationship.

Police told the man to stop forwarding his phone calls to the station.

THERE’S NOT ENOUGH TOYS: Chagrin Falls police responded to a report of a boy, 5, who did not want to spend custody time with his father Feb. 27, only to learn the reason was his father didn’t have as many toys and games for him to play with at his house. The mother then allowed the boy to take some toys and games with him, police said.

PHONE MESSAGE, LANDER ROAD: Police received a call about 2:15 a.m. on Christmas from a woman wanting to know “why the Shell gas station was not answering the phone.”

SUSPICIOUS SITUATION, SPRAGUE ROAD: At 12:38 p.m. Dec. 21, a concerned citizen told police that two teenage boys wearing army fatigues were carrying a long silver pistol in a holster, and appeared to be heading toward Interstate 71.

Police located the boys, and spoke to one of their mother’s, who stated she knew they were out playing.

They were advised of their “very suspicious” appearance.

SUSPICIOUS PERSON, WILLIAMSBURG DRIVE: On Sunday, a caller reported a suspicious man walking weird on Williamsburg.

The caller felt the man was out of sorts and she was concerned about break-ins in the area.

Police responded and stopped a man on Sturbridge. The man was discovered to be a 16-year-old boy who was listening to music and dancing on his way to his home on Jefferson.

SUSPICION, LOCKLIE DRIVE: A caller reported on Dec. 14 that two juvenile boys were arguing in front of her home.

One of the boys walked up her driveway and said they wanted to sing Christmas carols. The resident denied the boys and they left in their vehicle. She told police there were 6-7 boys all together.

Police responded to the area and found vehicles on Medway, Tourelle and Longspur. All the boys checked okay and told police they would go home for the night.

SHOPLIFTING, SOUTHPARK MALL: Two juveniles were held for shoplifting at SouthPark Mall at 6:07 p.m. Thursday.

According to police reports, one of the juveniles had stolen a bottle of Tim McGraw cologne, valued at $33.40, from Sears.

The store chose not to press charges because the boys were returning home to Kuwait the next day. They were released to their mother.

THEFT, PEARL: Someone on Dec. 22 stole five frozen turkeys kept on a dock as gifts for employees of Value World, 6858 Pearl. The turkeys were among 41 the business operator bought as gifts.

CRIMINAL MISCHIEF, CHATMAN DRIVE: A woman told police at 4:29 p.m. Thursday that earlier in the day an unknown “husky” white male in his 30s had attached a gray scarf to the antenna of her vehicle while it was parked in a lot.

REPORTED DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, PEARL ROAD: A woman called police to report that a domestic dispute was going on at 12:39 a.m. Friday in the apartment unit above hers. It sounded as if someone were being thrown against the wall, she said.

Police went to the unit to find that the subjects’ bird had gotten out and was flying around, banging into things.

INFORMATION, NEWKIRK DRIVE: A resident reported that he had his snow blower and leaf blower chained on his porch and hidden under a blanket. At about 5:52 p.m. Dec. 13, the complainant stated that someone had removed the blanket and then put it back, in an apparent attempt to steal his property.

No footprints were observed at the site. The man has now set up a booby trap with wires and pop cans and told police he will call if anything comes up missing.

DAMAGE TO PROPERTY, NEWKIRK DRIVE: A woman said she woke up about 8 a.m. Friday to find that her picnic table was turned over and moved. Her gate and her neighbor’s gate were open. Her siding was damaged and covered in blood. The neighbor stated that her house “shook” at about 1 a.m. that morning.

Police responded, discovering that a deer committed the damage.

DO A LITTLE DANCE, KICK A LITTLE TRUCK . . . : A South Euclid man, 39, told police Feb. 15 his girlfriend got mad at him because he did not get up off the couch fast enough to move his truck from their driveway to suit her desire. He alleged the girlfriend, 41, kicked the truck several times, causing damage.

When police queried her, she denied kicking the vehicle. Instead, she said, her boyfriend must have mistaken a kicking action for her dancing alongside the truck.

DISTURBANCE, CHILLICOTHE ROAD: A BP convenience store employee called police after three suspicious males attempted to purchase alcoholic beverages Dec. 20.

One Huntsburg man, 21, appeared to have a legal ID. The employee described the males as Amish.


Police received a call shortly before 9 p.m. last Friday from a witness reporting a “possible drunk driver, asleep behind the wheel” of his car at state routes 91 and 43. The witness followed the car, and reported it running the red light at SOM Center and Solon roads before getting onto westbound 422, at some point allegedly running a Ford Explorer off the road. Police located the suspect at the I-271 entrance ramp from 422, where his car was stopped and blocking traffic. He initially told police he was going to his sister’s house in Oakwood, which police noted was in the other direction. Although they did not detect the immediate presence of alcohol, the man was unsteady on his feet, had slurred speech and prescriptions in the car.

He also told police that “Ozzy Osborne and his music made me do it.” As police await lab test results, the suspect is charged with OVI, hit-skip, and failure to control, in addition to the previous breaking and entering charge.

can I be stupid for a minute... I was looking in that half-empty glass...

I was running through downtown to catch the train, trying to figure out why there's so many people in TSA and DHS uniforms around, not so much because of terrorists because who gives a damn about blowing up Cleveland but because every day I feel more and more like my world is turning into some creepy Orwell Meets Huxley superfuture.

It doesn't personally affect my way of life because my skin is pale, my ethnicity is neither Latino or Semitic, my gender is the weaker sex, and the only real political action I've ever been a part of was a March for Life in high school and a road trip to a demonstration about the genocide in Darfur in college, both of which were relatively uneventful. But I know that the lives of others are constantly getting messed up and that's just not ok.

The governor of my state wants to privatize the prisons, the prison system being so messed up to begin with but to add profit margins even more than there already is, is just downright scary, while my city pins its hopes on slimy businessmen with big mouths and unrealistic promises. It says it can't keep all these schools open but is building another juvenile detention center, and my country is still doing shady things all over the world and here too. Maybe I'm just reading too much Balko, but the precedent for tyranny is unnerving.

Meanwhile, I keep on keeping on, trying to make sense of things and keep them in perspective. My friend around the corner and I did our art therapy as she sculpted pots that look like Dr. Seuss landscapes and I dripped glazes down the sides of bowls trying to get a color scheme that reminds me of Venetian glass and the luminous medieval enameling that I saw at the art museum.

My art teachers have always said I work too fast, and looking at these works of art that were created over years has made me want to slow down and execute even more detail, to create something beautiful.

We make dinner afterwards, stay up late drinking pots of tea and pondering God, man, woman, and the universe, and all the sea changes that occurred in the past year. It's reassuring to know that I'm not alone, to remember that there's a lot of us just trying to make it through.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

branding iron

Seriously people, this year on my corner of the world won't all be about Alice in Chains, generational conflict, and the travails of life in the Rust Belt.

Randal is way more entertaining than myself about a book that came through here about personal branding and I honestly don't know what planet some of these people live on. It had to do with shampoo and a trademarked "YOU" or something and talked about how the reason women are sexually harassed is because they don't wear proper business attire and that men are judged by what shoes they wear.

Because women are "totally asking for it" and we should judge a man by the pattern on his tie. Right.

It's bad enough to be judging someone by what brands they wear, but when we start talking about what brand a person IS and that some are more desirable than others, well, what the heck? And we do judge if we're honest. I don't tend to trust people who wear expensive suits who want me to vote for them or who try to sell me something, and I can't take someone's ideas seriously if they can't spell.

I guess we call this labeling and typecasting by any other name which I thought was a bad thing and there's this strange cultural social Orwellianism of all of us theoretically being equal but some of us still being much more equal than others.

I like to give my boomer compadres a hard time, but my fellow millenial spawn appear to be taking the narcissism to a whole new level and we don't even get some good music or something resembling the civil rights movement out of the deal. Just a lot of tweets and likes.

I really wonder about my generation when I see these other people who are my age who have bought into this whole idea of not just marketing as something you do to pay your bills, but as something you make a life out of because you're just so damn special and so damn interesting in a calculated kind of way.

And I know I don't work in an environment or culture with such individuals, and they probably don't attend the esteemed academic institution I work for because they consider state schools beneath them. I wonder where these people live, where they party, how they sleep at night, what kind of relationships do they have? Clearly they don't live here, I think, having blown this popsicle stand for places like Chicago and either coast. Their parents probably live in a nice house and wouldn't talk to mine because we don't have any social capital.

But then I remember that there was this guy when I was at Kent who was my age but throughout undergrad wore suits every day and was one of those people who everyone knew and all that. I think he's probably gone on to be successful and I guess people like him are the kind of people that get things done but that's just not how I roll I guess.

And the subbacultcha is all about the personal brand just in a collective tribal sense... having the right haircut, the right band t-shirts and accessories, the right attitude, and it can be just as catty as any celebutante reality show, only with a heavy dose of sour grapes and "at least I'm not like THAT" thrown in.

So I look at these nebulous questions like "What is YOUR personal brand?" or "How does your appearance enhance your brand?" or people promoting a "personal brand toolkit." It's already a soul-sucking enterprise to sell things, but to sell yourself often at the expense of others...

I don't even have words and it sounds childish and immaturely punk rock to say corporate whore but what kind of other real description is there? Not that I'm advocating the absurdity that is Adbusters, and it's true that people do still judge, but to wholeheartedly embrace it seems so profoundly wrong.

Speaking of branding, this one was big among my old crew back when Sub Pop was awesome.

I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me? I look pretty good but I'm just back-dated as it is.