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To the Occupiers, Now and to Come:

October 11th, 2011

Things are organized in such a way that anyone trying to meet their needs by making an honest living must first pay into a process that abuses the common good. Both in the work that we do and the dollars we spend, power drifts away from us, only to be applied against us. This, I believe, is the real essence behind those currently occupying Wall Street in New York City, and now in cities throughout the country—of which Minneapolis is one. On October 15th, other countries are joining in.

There are very few for whom this process works in their favor. There are a lot more for whom it necessarily must work against. This is nothing new—it goes back to the days of feudalism. The promise of capitalism was the “middle class,” where one can dream big and work hard to make a meaningful life for themselves. The middle class was always an illusion, though. Capitalism is not feudalism, but only insofar as sharecropping was not technically slavery. While it seems we’re earning our keep, what’s harder to see is that the most powerful, most wealthy link in the chain has the power to take their cut off the top. It’s always been that way. What’s different now is that in 2008, those wealthy and powerful segments of our society lost at their own game. And the way this game is designed, when they lose, everyone does. Only, they lose a percentage of their bottom line and others lose everything.

This is not necessarily about greed. We are all part of the same ideological framework and we all, more or less, believe in the same fantasies. It’s easy to justify your place or demonize someone else’s, as we’re all given an ideological bag of tricks with which to do just that. We all learn that and it keeps us comfortable, apart—and functioning in the system as such. Profit, money, abstract value—however you refer to it—is an illusion. It’s something we made up in order to make life function in a large community. Tribes of such unmanageable size cannot do business on trust alone. But what we see now is that the illusion has become more important than trust. We cannot have that. Trust cannot be replaced.

What this is really about is respect. We are not trying to protect property, wealth or other illusions. We are trying to protect the common good. The so-called 1% are part of that common good. In fact, they need us to set things straight. This is about respecting the inherent logic of nature and the real wisdom of humanity. We need to get the message across to everyone that humanity should be trusted before fantasies.

We have the danger of falling into a moralistic, us vs. them mentality, ready to fight and spin our wheels endlessly. But the real enemy is not a “them” but an “it.” It’s made up of all the hard, dark, crystallized parts of human nature. Our society is one big pathological defense-mechanism-turned-machine and as a result our herd mentality operates on all of our most desperate instincts such as fear, greed and envy. The so-called greedy don’t create the greed, they’re just really good at the greed game, and thus they get rewarded for playing. And we’re taking in a backwards, mixed-up message whenever we feel guilty or small for not being “successful” enough. We need to learn, as a society, that such success is a disease; a society fueled by it needs to heal.

I’m looking forward to this thing growing and really taking shape. While I am not reproducing the means of producing my existence, I will be helping to occupy Minneapolis. I will try to get over my cultural programming and do as much as I am capable of. It’s not a battle; it must be a way of life. Let’s keep the conversation going. I’m sick of talking to myself about stuff like this!


Public Declaration of Self-Education

July 19th, 2011

If you’ve followed this blog in the past, you’ve probably noticed that I just can’t get my shit together. I’m always complaining about whatever job I have, how I can’t find my place in whatever scene I’m working within and that I can’t find the time or the resources to do the things that are important to me. I’ve stumbled my way through two independent, entrepreneurial “careers,” (visual art and music) even going so far as to set up a DBA for myself as a business. I’ve persisted and juggled and micromanaged and scrounged and saved and researched and multi-tasked my way to a cluttered mind, body and soul. For years, I held at least one art exhibit per year. For years before, throughout and after that, I recorded and released at least one album per year. My health, social relationships and peace of mind plummeted the more I worked at my seemingly illegitimate pursuits. The last gasp of that phase of my life was a show that my band and I played at the Kitty Cat Klub in January of 2010. Since then I’ve written one song and recorded no albums.

I can’t say that it should be any other way. I’m not going to bitch about how my “career” fell apart, because it had to. I don’t regret all the time and energy I’ve put into it, and there’s nothing to say that some part of it won’t re-emerge in the future. I can’t complain that I’m 32 and delivering pizza. I can’t complain that I’m living in a rented room. I can’t complain that the contents of what was once a live-in recording studio are now boxed into a south Minneapolis storage locker. My energy, identity and creativity are not contained in my career, belongings or any particular location. They don’t go away at a certain age and they don’t demand any particular activity. The events that make up my life all happened for a reason, and there can be no “should’s” about it.  After all I’ve gained and lost, I have to move on.

I have work to do, and what I’m publicly declaring here is that I’m putting myself through school — in my own way. I’m not applying for grad school or getting an online degree – I’m setting out on my own self-directed program. It won’t cost anything and I won’t be graduating in the traditional sense. What I’m committing to right now is taking my education as a priority. After my basic needs – making money, eating, and my physical and mental health – my education is the most important thing: studying, learning, developing my thinking and exercising my mind.  I’m starting small, and I’ll focus on it for at least a year and then reassess myself. Somewhere in between the stacks of books out there and the synapses in my brain, there are ways that I can connect with the world and maintain my existence in a positive way. There’s something pulling at me — which I haven’t really felt since I was like 22 — and I know this is the way to find it.

I started this in a different way this last January. I designed a very systematic structure, and I had two pretty ambitious “courses” I designed. It was an experiment. I kept at it, but I veered off course quite a bit. Then in the spring, life happened and I decided to “drop my classes.”

I’m starting small this time. My unwritten goal for July was just to get back into the habit of reading every day. Now my goal for August is to stick to a schedule, no matter what. Tired or hungry, happy or sad, inspired or not, I’m going to make sure I build the habit of keeping to a study schedule:

  • Everyday: write in my journal for an hour, uninterrupted. This is the first thing I have planned every morning after I get my routine out of the way.
  • Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday: study from Noon to 2pm. This means reading, writing, taking notes, working on problems, doing exercises – it depends on what the subject is. The point is to make a habit out of dedicating time and focus to the task of learning, beyond just sitting somewhere and reading.
  • I’m keeping my habit of reading every day as well. For now, I’m not focusing on any particular topics. I’ll do that as the need arises.

The last book I finished was The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta, author of the Zen Habits blog. He’s one of a number of sources I’ve been mining for inspiration on the philosophy of living a simple, minimalist lifestyle. In The Power of Less, Babauta stresses starting small, taking one goal at a time and making your intentions public, both as a means of motivation and accountability, and also as a way of sharing and connecting. I already know what pushing yourself to the limits can do, so now I’m taking something that’s important to me and I’m building it carefully from the ground up. Self-education and minimalism will likely be frequent post topics here on Quelquechose, and I’d like to spend some time tweaking the blog to better track what I’m doing as time goes on.

You can follow me on Goodreads where I post books I’m reading, wanting to read, abandoning, and just considering.


What to sacrifice in these dark times

March 12th, 2009

Here’s a list of things that I allow myself in life, and the things I’m sacrificing to keep them.

I get:

  • Time.  Plenty of free time to do what I want.  Sometimes that means laziness, others it means being creative. I never get up before nine. I get a three day weekend every week.
  • The following things are always on hand at home: cheap beer, frozen pizza, breakfast food, and coffee. I eat like shit and I know it. I probably drink too much. I’m impatient with food.
  • Trips to Caffetto if the walls start closing in. If you don’t go out because you’re trying to save money, going out for coffee is a good alternative
  • A band to play shows with. This is a good alternative to a social life, and a lot of times, you get a nice package deal: you get to go out, see a show, play a show, and you get paid a little. Plus playing and practicing with other people forces yourself out of your own head.

I lose:

  • Income.  I haven’t paid rent this month yet.  Car insurance is due. I don’t save money.  It’s out the day it comes in.
  • A social life.  I don’t care what people say.  Love costs money.  I don’t go out to eat. I’ll go to a show to see a particular band, but I’m in no position to be buying anybody their drinks. I don’t do dates. Every person I’ve ever been with, we just skipped that part and went right to “relationship.” I try to be nice to people but sometimes I come off as rude or anti-social. I don’t play games and I’m not going to be someone I’m not or try to get you to like me. I try to not try too hard. I’m alone in this world and I’m trying to accept it.
  • My passenger seat.  It had to come out because my driver’s side door is stuck shut, so I had a choice: pay to get it fixed or find some other means of getting in and out of the car without giving myself a new bruise everytime. (Delivering pizza, you can easily get in and out of your car up to 20 or 30 times a day.) There’s also no air filter in my car and it’s leaking oil somewhere.
  • My mental health.  I’m not clinically depressed.  I get depressed when I get tired of fighting for my own well-being.  I get bitter when I look at society and see the kinds of work that gets rewarded and the kind that gets overshadowed.  I get upset about how successful people use their resources.  And I hate that there’s nothing you can do about it unless you become one on them.  Lately I’m reading way too many people’s facial expressions toward me as saying “fuck you, I’m better than you.”
  • Hope for the future.  I tell myself, if I’m going to be living like this the rest of my life, then who cares about saving for the future?  If this is my plateau, then maybe the end is something to look forward to.
  • Material possessions, family (breeding) and empowerment.  These are things I never much thought I’d have anyways.  I always figured that by forfeiting my chances in these areas, it would open up for me those avenues which I wanted to go down.  I was wrong.

Is it worth it?


Autonomy

December 9th, 2008

I started thinking about autonomy, first for personal reasons I won’t get into, but then as a concept in general.  I used to think of myself as autonomous.  I used to feel like the more time I spent by myself, working on myself, the better.  I felt really good about it for a few years.

The problem was that autonomy is a myth.  In my time of autonomy, I was connected to people and things that kept me going.  Without the friends I had at the time, who were interested in the kinds of things I was doing, not to mention the no-pressure job and college life, none of it would have worked.  I found that out eventually, as I looked around and all of a sudden felt like no one cared.  All those things were gone, and it was just me.

Jackson Pollock, the quintessential autonomous artist, was actually surprisingly connected, not to people, but to nature.  The problem was he didn’t know what he was doing, and since art was still thought to be an expression of the ego, his ego consumed him.

I guess I’m writing about alienation.  It’s the unfortunate byproduct created by the myth of autonomy.  When you think you’re separate from the things supporting you, then there’s nothing to keep those things from falling away.  I feel like that happened to me when I was 26.   It took a while for me to figure it out.  And now I know I don’t want to be separated from stuff.  I need a certain amount of myself projected outward.  I need other people to challenge me.  I need things I’m not used to.

I know I have a depression problem, and I try to manage it.  I think about the way I feel right now, and in a way it’s OK because I know it’s temporary.  But there are healthy and unhealthy ways to deal with your emotions.  I tend to deal with negative emotions in an unhealthy way because it makes me feel connected to things.  I spiral down into myself.  If I’m connected to things, then it’s easier to avoid that.

It’s winter.  I really want to try not to get too sucked into my own head like I usually do this time of year.  I want to keep going out and seeing people and having a public life.  I’ve been doing much better at music now that I’m not trying so hard.  At least I feel like I am, and I’m enjoying it more.  I guess it could go either way.


First Dates and Fourtrack Tapes

August 24th, 2008

The normal thing for people to do it seems is make a lot of mistakes in high school, have a lot of fun and adventure in college, and then take what you get out of it in your mid-twenties and turn it into a “life.”  Turn your job into a career, buy a house, marry whoever you’re with, and become an “adult.”  I’ve always felt like I was 5-10 years behind.  My mistakes are more spread out.  My adventures have been a little less adventurous (camping in the badlands vs. backpacking through Europe.)  I hardly started dating by the time most of the people I know had met the person they were going to end up with.  The relationship I was in at 25 created more issues than it resolved.

I’ve worked more intensively on things I find personally important, and less so on things that are socially meaningful, mainly because I could do them at my own pace.  Social activities always put pressure on me.  I’ve found that creative things like art projects or music I could mediate the pressure and channel it properly.  The pressure comes from life and the world itself and as an artist you work as a filter for that, to make it meaningful and do something with it.  Social pressure is different and I never learned to deal with it.  It’s not as heavy but it’s directed right at you.  If you fuck up with a friend, you feel it.  If you do somebody wrong, it’s obvious.

Obviously the ideal is to live with someone that’s easy to live with and ignore the greater world around you.  Some people do that, but my guess is they do something for that greater world that supports the dominant powers within it to back up their lifestyle.  You can’t ignore a world that’s crushing you.

When you’re 22 and in college, living in the city, and everyone you know does art, and they’re all in bands and carrying notebooks around, it’s easy.  When you decide that you want to take that aspect of life seriously, you have to be ready for everyone that helped you to be inspired by it in the first place to ditch it for a more normal life.

I turn 30 next week.  My late 20s have hands-down and overall been the worst 5 years of my life.  I’m trying to dig up the parts of my younger self that I miss, and weed out the baggage that’s been holding me down since I was a kid, all while trying to hold on to the parts of myself I can’t afford to lose.  I’ve never felt this alone, and probably not coincidentally I’ve never felt less creative.  But knowing what you need to do and having the means to do it are two different things.

By the way, this blog is really supposed to be creative-oriented.  I don’t like this stuff, but I have to write about the things that are keeping me from maintaining that aspect of my life.


These Kinds of Cliffs…

August 13th, 2008

The album is done.  I’m going to call in my approval on the master once I give it one more listen. I ordered the packaging and printing.  The website is updated.  There are new tracks up on Myspace.

I may or may not hold a CD release show.  This stuff is all really alot of work and I’ve been letting it completely consume me the last few years.  I’ll keep writing and recording even when it seems like no one gives a shit.  Playing live is a different story.  While I do enjoy it, it’s not the reason I make music.  When I was referring to my setlist to someone at the last show I played, I kept saying “tracks” when I really meant “songs.”

I also feel like I have alot of social issues right now.  Last year I was going through the same thing and I thought playing alot of shows would help.  Then at my next show, I played to an empty room.  Literally an empty room except for the sound guy.  If you’re not in your right mind, that kind of thing can break you down.

I want to do everything I can to promote this record because I feel like for once it’s worth promoting and it’s pretty representative of what I’m interested in musically and what I can do.  Everything else I’m going to lighten up on.  I may play shows here and there, but I’m not going to send out a ton of emails anymore just to get no response.  I’m going to build songs and recordings more slowly.  And I need to get a job that I can actually do and save up some money.  I need to do stuff for fun besides just going to Caffetto to work on my laptop.  I need to listen to music and not just make it.  And I need to do all of those things without feeling like I’m doing them because I’ve failed as an artist.

So, with that said, I have a show tonight.  So far it’s the only one on my calender.  So come down, it’s only $3.  It’s at the Terminal Bar on Hennepin Avenue just off University.


Bullet Points for this Evening’s Meeting with Life

July 24th, 2008
  • I’m unwilling to let go of myself for others and I’m also unwilling to let go of my need for the world outside myself. There’s a balance often struck, but every road I take to find it leads to me having to choose.
  • I used to look out at the city and see a vast sea of possibility. Tonight I looked off a highway footbridge and saw a vast wasteland of human potential, and I shouted “fucking trash city!” at the pavement, but no one was there to hear me.
  • There’s nothing keeping me here, but nothing forcing me to leave. My entire life is a default, and can be summed up with the phrase, “for lack of a better reason…” I’m in Minneapolis for the same reason why I’m alive: it’s what was granted me and I haven’t had the balls to change it.
  • I walked into an alley tonight, drifting towards the skyline, and I was confronted with a fence. Instead of walking all the way back, I chose to jump the fence. As the nearly empty flask of whiskey + vermouth in my back pocket could have predicted, it was not a good idea. Acrobatics aside, the bottle did not break and I left Stevens Square laughing.
  • I keep telling myself that I have a CD to finish, and when it’s done I can move on with my life. It’s the only thing keeping me going. The last time I had this much of myself riding on a creative project, it wasn’t pretty, and I topped off my 22nd birthday by collapsing in someone else’s yard in the pouring rain, convinced that I had just wasted 22 years. I’m really afraid that in September I might get to the point where I’m convinced that I just wasted 30.