The vernal equinox is here, and I’m cherishing the very pollen-filled air that will soon be is already poisoning my sinuses. Work is piling up, both full-time and freelance, but another issue of the newsletter is done. And ‘tis the season to carve a little more time so I can bike to work. I cannot complain. Except…
…So many threads going through my head lately, none of which I’ve been able to coherently put down on paper (or screen, as it were). It’s funny, when I started the proverbial “blog,” it wasn’t in response to the random requests from friends to put their pet topics online (“You should start a site about ____ and get it out there!”): Be it politics, hockey, organizing a weekly soccer game, or the maddening inadequacies of Hanes undershirts, I just didn’t think I could dig up the time nor conjure the passion to give a single issue the attention it deserves.
Instead, I started with the purpose of processing all the random musings that build up in my head with no place to go. “All topics herein” is, of course, the recipe for an unread blog. But that is both not the point and also hopefully keeps away the cultists whose sole existence is to flame others online. The Alliance of Armed Basket Weavers won’t sacrifice the time to bother you if you don’t bother to cover basket weaving often enough, even if all you do is rip them on the occasions you broach the topic.
Alas, I’ve become addicted to this form of self-therapy. Now whenever I get too busy or brain dead to process things in written form, all this crap backs up in my brain even worse than before. Without this fix, I’m a mental mess. Vonnegut said the problem with humans is their brains are too big, and I believe him. God, I believe him.
But ready or not, I need a mental fix. So here’s a brain dump of recent issues and threads that need unloading, some of which I hope will prod me to revisit later on. It’s mortality, music, myspace, and human origins, to name a few…
Last week P-Lisa’s uncle died suddenly of a heart attack while he was mowing the lawn. He was able to call 911 but that was it. He was 64. His son, an only child, was not ready for this (obviously!), having recently married and looking forward to the next phase of life with his dad. In situations like this, it always feel like it came “too soon.” But he gave a courageous, touching eulogy. It was clear father had passed his life’s messages on to his son before it was too late.
Then you have the father who speaks of dying like it’s resealing the deck: it’s gotta be done someday soon, dammit — not before dinner with the Czrviks, of course, but perhaps afterward. Yes, that’s right, my dad called again last week and threatened to come for a Stateside visit in May. He’s made this threat each of the last four years without delivering, but this time he sounds serious. He’s got dates. His health, which has been variously and vaguely fading in recent years, has apparently rebounded. Which concerns him, of course. He said, “I’m afraid I will need a new reason to be dead before I am 80.” He’ll be 79 this year.
Perhaps not coincidentally, this man who says he cannot read our letters without a NASA-level magnifying glass (bought from the catalog, “Things You Never Knew Existed!”) claims he hopes to be able to drive a car when he visits. “To kill visit people and run errands,” he says. I would advise staying off the roads of St. Louis in May. If you live near a thoroughfare, you might move to a friends’ for a few weeks, too.
I swear if he really comes this time, I’m taking him on a grand show-and-tell to all my friends just to prove that he is real.
Amid the death shock and post-funeral malaise, Arcade Fire has again played prominently on the personal soundtrack. Not just their first album (titled “Funeral,” no less) but also their new one, which I just bought, which features epic pipe organs in one song, “Intervention.” It’s great to have in your arsenal a song that features awe-inducing church organs without the standard package of hymn-like fire-and-brimstone lyrics. Easy tears. As a fallen Catholic, I consider it an achievement to use a pipe organ in a way that doesn’t make me immediately feel repressed and reach to protect my appendages from flogging.
I Am Neither Young Nor Hip
But apparently Arcade Fire is already overhyped. I was unaware of this, and it’s honestly kind of funny to have my interests overlap with the Avenues of Hype for once. It’s like discovering you and the annoying water-to-your-oil stiff down the hall both like mountain biking, and finding out by running into them at your favorite trail: “Wait, you…and I…both arrived at the…same place…how strange.”
I also recently learned that Arcade Fire is apparently part of a rock trend in which sonic grandeur is filling the one mainstream niche rap doesn’t own. Mmmkay. Not sure about that theory, but the article has some nice descriptions of the group’s better songs.
I Lack Hundreds of Friends
Reason #253 for my ever-evident unhipness is my failure to jump on or appreciate the myspace/friendster/facebook environment. I might lump the Second Life thing in there, too. Tellingly, I share my skepticism with at least two (Slate) columnists (NYT) nearly twice my age.
Now, I understand how teenagers and college students can consume hours upon hours on the whole social networking scene. And I am by no neans knee-jerk against forming person-to-person relationships online. But to peruse the friends-for-a-penny arena of these sites is to discover how each site’s success depends on the frivolity of quite shallow interpersonal connections. Sure, you can find people of meaningful like interests online, but do you have to weed through hundreds of trolls and spammish “friends” – it obliterates the meaning of the word – to get there? I shudder when I find a band’s myspace site with the administrative stat: “You have 4,563 friends!” It’s high school, online.
I wonder if these high school clique-like norms of communication will continue into these kids’ post-grad years, and how it will change the communication norms for the next generation of 30-somethings. The Slate column brilliantly asked if this is another revolution or a granfalloon (the great Vonnegut term)? And the NYT piece nicely compared this environment of hundreds of “friend
s” to a denial-of-service attack: You get queries from so many “friends,” from all over – queries whose depth consists of saying “whassup” and “laterz” – that it leaves no time to get things done. Unless you weed them out and block them…sort of like real life. So what was the point of the online friend hunt, again?
On second thought, I’ve been to bars and meat-market clubs…duh, it’s the same as it ever was, now new-but-not-improved, online. The lesson, as usual, is that I’m a crotchety grouch who lacks the credentials for membership in any presently defined generation.
Confluence of Formative Ideas
After two totally unrelated recommendations of it just days apart, I’ve been reading and liking “Ishmail.” Also, “Triumph of the Nomads” (referred by this excellent travel journal through Outback Australia), and “Alphabet Versus the Goddess,” which theorizes that the advent of written language leveraged the differences in our brains to launch male-dominated cultures.
It’s a bit overwhelming to tackle all of these at once, which is one reason it’s taking me a while to get through them, as well as a reason my head’s been filled with muck. But as I advance through one book, I keep wanting to put it down so I can revisit related ideas in one of the others.
Meanwhile, the biological origins of human morality inch ever closer to the surface. All of these topics relate…at least in the worldview to which I subscribe for explaining why we’re here, how we got here, why we act the way we do, and why I don’t fit in Western society as it’s currently constructed. It’s all making more and more sense…to me, anyway!
At Age 6, W Finally Told ‘No’
Finally, of course I’m following the U.S. attorney firings scandal. After six years of corrupt, cynical, party-loyalty first, “just try to catch us” M.O., it’s a bit of a relief to finally see W’s administration receive some push-back, even a little mainstream exposure to their tactics. You know it’s bad when a Republican chooses the New York Times Op/Ed page to detail how he got royally screwed by this manipulate-all-laws-in-our-favor squad of crooks. Fired for not using his office to conduct a pre-election witchhunt of Democrats. Wow. And Jesus, they really pulled out the passive “Mistakes were made” line again?
But I’m spent. I’m still reeling that it took six years of this jackass hijacking our government before enough people kinda woke up and thought maybe it was wrong, enough to narrowly put the other party in power, so now they could start subpoenaing these bastards. The temptations of party loyalty and power just shred what’s left of our democracy. When the “balance of powers” are all tipped for one party and one party only, we get screwed.