Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Pessimist Edition

Oh boy, does everything suck! Am I right? We have four men who routinely re-qualify themselves as bigoted, sexist, classist, out-of-touch assholes running for the silver medal in America’s biggest popularity contest, a bunch of kids getting shot by other kids because some douchey kids of the first kind think it’s fun to torment kids of the second kind, a dumb pipeline being greenlit so multi-billion-dollar-record-profit-making-but-still-subsidized-by-our-taxes oil companies can make more money, Syria saying “fuck you” to its people in the most heinous way, mother nature saying “fuck you” to the Midwest by both blowing and sucking at the same time, a slew of ill-informed and vilely-performed attacks on women’s rights, and Ticketmaster’s business model utterly failing and forcing me to overpay for a Coachella ticket (one of these things is not like the other…).

No, we can keep going, right? That Kony video, that iceberg cracking, that really important sea otter dying, the 900 or whatever staggering number of animals that scientists say are going to go extinct by like next Tuesday, Utah deciding to pass a bill saying the only sex-ed for its kids is no-sex sex-ed, that lawmaker from some state putting forth a law making single parenting a form of child abuse, the fact that the most snow NYC has gotten was Halloween weekend, the fact that I have to go grocery shopping…

Should I keep going? “No, no,” you’re all thinking, “enough’s enough. You’re ranting, and that second paragraph was lacking important details regarding the who/what/where/how of the suckage. You should really do a bit more research before you go off like that.” So I’m stopping. But there’s a point – the world is full of suck, and is going to keep on keeping on with that until the meteor hits.

“Yes, what’s your point?” That is a good question, one that has a sucky answer: there isn’t one other than to set up an argument wholly about myself why I can hopefully finagle into a viable opinion about something a little more broad.

In a recent conversation about several of the topics above, a person I hardly know concluded that I was a pessimistic person because I focused on the problems and not “the good that can be found in them.” I scoffed at this, because a) u don’t kno me! & b) I don’t think I’m a pessimistic person. Like, at all. This person argued that I spent way too much of my time focusing on the world’s ills, and that I should learn to compartmentalize/be ambivalent towards/really just try not to think about them.

To which I said, “Nay!”

See, the problem with those solutions is that they enforce and reinforce the notion of an insular existence, caring only about what directly affects you and the select images that trickle through the air holes. The rosy disconnect, the naïve removal.

I don’t agree that walking around with blinders is the solution to “coping” with the world. As an incredibly privileged specimen of the human race, I think it’s my duty to make sure I am aware of and engaged with the issues afflicting the world at large, even if engagement is something as paltry as a strong emotional response. To do otherwise is to be complicit with things getting shittier.

That being said, I don’t think my world view is “pessimistic,” because I think we are standing at the edge of an era where things will begin to improve on a global and far-reaching scale. With any luck, we’ll be able to welcome the AIDS vaccine, plastic-eating fungi, unfettered global internet, oil-eating bacteria, a bangin’ bahn mi place in New York City, the rebirth of the electric car, a Beatles reunion tour, and cheap space travel. Technology is accelerating at such a crazy-fast pace and people are connecting with each other in such innovative ways that for all the shit happening every day I struggle to think of a future where we have screwed ourselves out of a bright future (but really, the sun’s just gonna get brighter anyway, so invest in some good sunglasses). I’m quite hopeful that once we lose a few baby-boomers, oust a couple of dictators, kill a couple of oil conglomerates, stop calling corporations people, enable women to have full control over their rights, and quit considering flora and fauna collateral damage we will be able to truly consider the next pasture greener.

But don’t take my word for it. I feel a bit dumb for being optimistic, because I get to view the world from pretty high on the quality of life ladder. I might be the 99%, but to a lot of people in the world I probably look like the 1%, and my hopes for the world exist only because I’ve been privileged enough to have nothing less lofty to hope for. I want to believe, though, that they’re no less valid because of that. I also want to believe that recognizing the shittiness of the world doesn’t make me a pessimist, but enables me to be the best kind of optimist, because nothing is tricking me into thinking there aren’t myriad problems that need to be solved.

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TL;DR: I’m not a pessimist just because I think the world sucks most of the time.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I did a lot in 2011. More than I thought I would, or that I even think I did when casually thinking about it. In general, 2011 stands out as the first full adult year of my life, spent going to the same place to do the same thing almost every day. And that sounds boring and awful, because at least 2010 had some extended periods of unemployment to break it up. But surely I did more than that right? I saw Slick Rick look bored and tired at Brooklyn Bowl. I walked a mile in freezing rain to go to my boss’s grandson’s bris. In a moment of uncharacteristic hypochondria, I thought I might have had diabetes for half a month. I went to a few book readings and more than a few free happy hours. I got drunk. Very drunk. I passed out on my couch and gave my roommate too many opportunities to take pictures of me as he woke me up. I tried to swat his camera away. I saw The Boxer Rebellion, Theophilus London, The National (twice), and a few friends’ bands. I saw Doomtree and reverted into a fanboy, asking for their autographs. I spent federal holidays in Rumson, NJ, and Milford, CT. I went to Atlantic City for the price of a bus ticket. I managed to not gamble a cent. I spent a weekend in Rockland County, NY sitting by a pool despite clouds and rain. I took a road trip to Chicago to go to Lollapoolza. We got rained on and I had to throw away my shoes. I ran into my other roommate on my way home from a bar on a Wednesday during a snow storm and we videotaped ourselves jumping into snow banks and sliding over cars at 1 in the morning. I went to the zoo and a book festival. I had a cyst removed from my lip. I went to Cape Cod to celebrate a good friend’s impending wedding. I went to Cincinnati for said wedding. I’m still a little bitter about how high the bar for fun has been set by those two weekends. I went to Hackettstown, NJ and spent too long in a hot tub. I went to Smithtown, NY and helped convert a pickup truck into a pool. I was driven around in said pool, and then played many rounds of badminton. I lost more games of foosball than I won, but probably broke even on pool and shuffleboard. I went to a few museums. I went snowboarding once, and then won a free snowboard. I went to a pie baking contest. I put this blog off to focus on poetry. I got solicited to contribute a piece to a journal. I met a lot of great writers. I read more books but listened to less music compared to 2010. I saw more movies, and was disappointed by just about every one that I paid for, especially those in 3-D. I saw Drive twice in a week, and make a lot of jokes about watching it more, but really there’s a good amount of sincerity behind them. I really liked that movie. I saw Fuerze Bruta. I stayed in the Algonquin. I got a bonus and two raises. I probably drank my weight in bourbon several times over. I went to the gym a lot, then didn’t, then did, then didn’t, then did, then didn’t. I’m going to try and be more consistent with that. I hosted my family and finally shared a drink with my brother in honor of his 21st birthday, 13 months after the fact. I went home for Christmas and saw a lot of friends I miss. I took a red eye back and came in late to work for the first time since I overslept on my weekend shift at Hillel first semester senior year. I went to Smithtown, NY again for New Years Eve and started 2012 feeling pretty damn good about it.

I’m forgetting things. Karaoke. More brunches than I ever thought I’d go to. A lot of great home-cooked meals by myself and others. Flea markets. Parks. Food festivals and art festivals. Weekends spent mostly in lounge-mode. Having to stop reading news sites because they make too angry. Having to stop reading UCLA sports sites because they make me too sad. Worrying about money. Tricking myself into thinking I have less money than I do. Still worrying about money. Always. Hating it. Always. Failing on my coffee cutback resolution of 2010. Whatever. Caving to the iPhone like a hypocrite. Whatever.

Richard Yates’ “Revolutionary Road” was the hardest book to read because I felt a little devastated by it the entire time. Oscar Wilde’s “A Picture of Dorian Gray” was the hardest book to read because I hated it. Lyn Hejinian’s “The Cell” was the hardest book to read because I wish I wrote it. Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Almanac of the Dead” was the hardest book to read because it’s big and awkward to read on the subway. It’s the only book I didn’t finish. I also read a bunch of great chapbooks from friends and acquaintances. They’re a talented bunch, and I’m grateful to know them.

I enjoyed M83’s “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” Thrice’s “Major/Minor,” Portugal. The Man’s “In The Mountain In The Cold,” The Joy Formidable’s “The Big Roar,” Young Widows' "In and Out of Youth and Light," Glassjaw's two EPs, and Tycho’s “Dive” more than most albums that came out this year. Wye Oak, Weatherbox, Doomtree, Dessa, Youth Lagoon, Fucked Up, The Horrible Crowes, Blink 182, Russian Circles, Wilco, Washed Out, The Roots, Mogwai, Amon Tobin, Tim Hecker, Pusha T, James Blake, The Boxer Rebellion, Maritime, AraabMusik, Animals As Leaders, TV On The Radio, My Morning Jacket, The Dangerous Summer, and Active Child all put out great albums, too. Bon Iver’s album was a wonderful surprise, and I’m willing to say I’m a Bon Iver fan despite hating his first album. Beyonce’s album was a happy accident, and feel bad that it seems like the consensus is that people don’t like it. Give it a listen, maybe you’ll be as surprised as I was. I was disappointed by Tyler, The Creator, Jay-Z/Kanye, Saves The Day, and Transit, but “Yonkers,” “Otis,” “Daybreak,” and “You Can’t Miss It” (all respective) are still in regular rotation. I was more disappointed by This Will Destroy You and Justice, but maybe I need to give them more time. All this being said, Reptar is the band of the year.

I’m still forgetting things, but I suppose that’s better than being able to remember it all.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

East Coast Blog Times, One Year Later

Two days ago was my one year anniversary of moving to New York. It's also fitting that this weekend I'm going to Lollapalooza with almost all of the people who came to Coachella last April, as that was the catalyst that made me set the moving-to-the-east-coast ball rolling. A lot has changed in a year: I've gone from sleeping on a couch in a stiflingly hot room to sleeping on a comfy full bed in a windowless room with a water heater, HVAC unit, and washer-dryer combo in the closet (but hey! central AC!); from being a full-time job-applier to full-time latte-slinger to full-time small business employee specialist (woo! insurance! awesome!); from negative income adding to negative net worth to positive income not adding and sometimes reducing negative net worth (workin' that 401k like nobody's business); from adventures on the vast expanse of MTA tracks to the vast wildernesses of Vermont (along with other, less wild but fun places like Milford, CT and Red Bank, NJ).

New York is a crazy place, man. Shit's always going, in most every sense of the word. It might be too much sometimes, but more often than not it's pretty great. Thanks for being good to me, looking forward to another fruitful year of business.

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What To Do If Your Child Is Stressed

This article makes me upset -- upset because with all of our "advances" in modernity we've managed to impose upon children those things which strip our childhood away (is adulthood really much more than being stressed and learning to cope with it? Yes, but no, not really I say). It makes me upset because every day there's new advice/rules/techniques/books/whathaveyou coming out about how to parent "better" and for what? I'm not naive enough to assume that stressed out kids is a 21st century phenomenon, and maybe it's important that people are asking them if they are, in fact, stressed, but what I get from the article is that we are forcing our kids into stress. Kids as young as 3 are saying they're stressed! They just learned to talk, why would they know that word and be able to associate it with an emotion? Why must we bring them into it?

For more on how modernity is ruining parenting from the perspective of a 24 year old with no interest in having kids and a general fear of anyone that has a malleable head, see: this post.

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"What that has done though, is that it’s made me (and PROBABLY Neil and Chris, though we’ve never discussed it overtly) hungry to stuff every record we ever made up everybody’s ass. The whole goal of our band has always been to subvert expectations within the very small wiggle room of our sound. I mean, I’m no dummy. The Lawrence Arms aren’t revolutionizing anything at all, (even though some of those bands I mentioned above may have been) but we tried to make a pop record when we’d never previously written a song with a chorus, then a weird, weird record that would shock the shit out of anyone who thought that we didn’t think things through or pay attention to craft, and then we decided to make a super jagged punk record that embodied everything we’d ever stored up about loving punk rock once we'd been written off as pussies. Then we made a record called Buttsweat and Tears. Ha!"
- via Bad Sandwich Chronicles

One of my favorite musicians and bloggers (writers? does the distinction still matter these days? is blogging not the new long-form writing of the 21th century?) talking about three of my favorite records, proving that punk rock is not just power chords, snotty attitudes, and socially deviant subcultures. Posting this mostly to save for myself, but partly to show the smarts of 3 people who do a good job of fooling people into sounding like they're just out to have fun (though, really, they're probably just doing that at the end of the day).

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MUSIC!