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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!


Outside

July 11th, 2008
keep my failures where they belong, where did I go wrong?
search myself for some reason and let it all get me down
when it’s over I’ll be looking backwards, that’s not what I want
the days are fading, why am I still waiting for the spinning to stop

when I was younger, I felt so much older than I am now
left my doubts for my sleeping body to figure out
when those days are done they’ll want to run you over and spit you out
without the energy you give in quietly to live it out

but I’m still on the outside and I don’t mind

I’m still broken and I’m still miserable half the time
and I know you can’t see me but I got my finger up anyway
is this the price you pay for laying roots where they put you down?
there’s a certain freedom in knowing no one needs you around.

I know life’s not fair.
I don’t care.


The Man and the Arts

April 24th, 2008

You can argue that things are getting worse for the arts in general. At best, one can argue that things are the same. But you’d have a really hard time convincing anyone (artists especially) that things are getting better.

I was driving to to work yesterday. I was about to cross the river on Central when I realized that I needed to go to St. Paul. So I turned and went down 2nd. On that street alone I drove past two brand-new modern buildings that house arts organizations: the Guthrie and MacPhail Center for Music. We also have a new Walker Arts Center facility. In these dark times, why are these places growing and getting better?

I think Minneapolis has a fear of anything that doesn’t come packaged in a shiny box. Large institutions are selling the idea of legitimacy so that we can believe we’re a part of something. Artists, on the other hand, need a community that’s more real and more organic. Artistic community cannot actually be created by an architect and a developer. I think the Walker is actually helping to dig Minneapolis’ artists their graves. It establishes a threshold of legitimacy that pretty much blacklists any upstart gallery from making a mark. It gives the public a cultural outlet they can trust so that they don’t have to be in the know. And now they even have underground parking so your nice car doesn’t get fucked with. Who cares that Joe Nobody can’t sell his art or get a job? This is capitalism. Survival of the richest.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the music scene. I’ve gotten one response in my search for gigs, and that response was a ‘maybe.’ The one show I had lined up at all this summer was supposed to be at the Belfry. The only thing that really keeps me trying is the fact that I don’t have any real-world job prospects. I’m still creating in a void. No social life, no money, working for my dad, and trying to record interesting music by myself at home. And every day it becomes clearer and clearer that I’m the only one who gives a shit. Institutionalize that, Minneapolis!


Introduction to my life

March 20th, 2008

I used to take an herbal supplement called 5-HTP, which is meant to promote the production of serotonin in the brain, thus providing treatment for depression. I took it off and on, only when I needed it. When I did need it, I would try to take it for a couple weeks at least, and then I would keep taking it until I started forgetting to take it. (If you don’t remember to take it, maybe you don’t need it. If you do need it, you’ll know when.) I started this after I had a breakdown 2 years ago. I tried taking Effexor, which I got samples of from my doctor at the time. It helped. I felt numb. I went to work every day, and watched TV, and didn’t mind it. I stopped taking it because it would have cost me $150 a month to stay on it.

I quit taking the 5-HTP a few months ago, just because I didn’t feel like I needed it. I was doing fine, albeit on a fine line. Then I got a cold. Once I realized that I could never make up my sick time (even when I’m OK I have problems going to work for my dad. He pays me well, I can’t stand the work, I manage to just scrape by) all of my other problems surfaced. I’m making no money on music. I can’t get a gig. I can’t find a decent job. And I don’t have a social life because I’m too broke to do anything, and besides, I should be at home recording anyways. I couldn’t turn these thoughts off while I was at work. I never have been able to. Eventually my brain gets tired and just accepts it and I go on with my life. But then it happens again.

Taking a chemical won’t change who you are. It won’t change your brain. It definitely won’t make your life situation any better. It can only promote change. So I’m trying to see what I can change and how I can help myself. I’m just afraid that the answer is to “find a job.”

Any job that fits my qualifications does not fit my skills or personality, and vice versa. That’s the trap I’m stuck in. I’ve gone after jobs that “fit me,” and I don’t get hired, usually because someone more personable is just as available. I was able to slip in to jobs only to get treated passive-aggressively, and sometimes even used as a scapegoat. If I’ve ever had a job that did not fit this profile, it was low pay and small hours.

EVERY employer wants a “motivated, team-oriented, self-starter,” which I can be if I were running a gallery or something. I can’t be that while answering bitter emails from dissatisfied Target customers. And I can’t pretend I’m going to. What the fuck is the point of that?

I’ve always known this about myself and that’s why I fight against the odds and work my ass off in my spare time, making music, making art, promoting the arts, volunteering, running a zine fair, etc. hoping that it will pay off down the line. The fact is that it WILL NOT pay off–without money. Money to get 100 copies of your CD out to bloggers. Money to spend weeknights at bars networking with the indie rock scene. Money to allow you to spend the afternoon recording without being in a hurry because you’re losing a day’s work. Money to keep yourself healthy while you’re running on overdrive. Money runs everything, and without that backing, no one gives a shit that you have pictures hanging in a coffee shop. Or that you have a CD on consignment at a record store. Or that you have new songs ready to perform on a stage. I’ve tried really hard, hoping that my trying will lead to me not needing a job as bad. But in order to make anything off of my efforts, I need money. To get money, I need a job that pays me decent wage for full time work and doesn’t penalize me for being human (cram thousands of people into a building for 40 hours every week and they’re going to get sick, especially when they can’t afford to not go to work.)

Based on former experience, the best case scenario is that I will settle for something that will pay me to simply maintain my human existence. If I save anything, it’ll cover the hole that I create when I get pissed off and quit. My only life, it seems, is a flat line. It also seems my creativity has been dwindling since I stopped getting student loans and switched to paying them. I made a huge mistake. I invested in myself. I thought being educated would get me somewhere. I didn’t realize that you’re more prepared for the workforce as a high school graduate than as a college graduate. (Note: I know that college grads are most likely to get the job. What they don’t tell you is that it’s college grads who get in and get out without challenging themselves who get the job. Prove you can do it and put it on your resume but don’t let it make you think you know anything. But remain pliable. You’re part of a machine.)

I hesitate to write stuff like this on such a public forum, knowing that a potential employer may happen upon it while Googling my name. But hey, if you thought you wanted to hire me before you read this and now you don’t, then the only way we’re going to get along is by me subverting. Go find a tool.


Mpls + Me

March 5th, 2008

Ok, so local arts writer Michael Fallon has been watching my blog, and he recently quoted from and linked to it on his blog.

My negativity caught his attention, apparently. I’ve had a lot of negative things to communicate lately. A lot of it has to do with Minneapolis. A ton of it has to do with myself. I wanted to be clear on this: I definitely don’t want to blame the Twin Cities for my failures as an artist. I think this place is a fine spot for a middle class, well adjusted, creative person with a descent backup plan to get a good start. I believe that I have personal issues that keep me from realizing my goals, specifically in this place. I was setting my hopes on being able to travel. I still want to. I think my artistic success depends on it. But I don’t think I can afford it.

In response to a comment on Michael’s blog: I never expected success to be handed to me without working for it. I’m not sitting on my hands whining about my failure. What people don’t realize is that hard work does not get rewarded. I’ve worked as hard as I could in my pursuits. I’ve always had such a hard time just trying to make enough money to maintain my own survival. I have to choose between having time to make art and having money to make art. I opt for one, and three months later I need to shift the weight, and maybe sacrifice a flexible job for a consistent income. And I’m not giving up. I’m still writing songs, recording and releasing music. Yes, I quit making “visual art.” That’s a different story. I’m very critical of that discipline right now. I’ll figure out how to write about it eventually.

Minneapolis shouldn’t feel bad about not supporting artists. Lots of places can’t support their artists. But Minneapolis should stop making out with itself in the mirror and take a look at itself instead. My previous strategy was to try success locally, and then take the next step. Now I know that’s not going to happen.

I’m waiting for something to pay off right now. I’m trying to take it easy and not stress myself out. I can’t afford for my depression to be driving me, so until something happens maybe a little apathy is the answer. I was all ready to make a routine out of bourbon-sours and Law and Order episodes on Netflix, but Michael’s blog got me thinking.

On a little more positive note, I also found out this morning that my song, “Twenty-Eight,” was chosen this week on MNArtist’s MNSpin contest. Yep.


Abort

March 3rd, 2008

Scratch everything. I’m not working with a band, I’m not playing any shows, I’m not going on tour, I’m not trying to work as much as I can. I will finish this record because that’s a realistic goal. But I’m not gonna guarantee that it’ll get done without me killing a few brain cells.

My life is not my own. I’m not in control, so it’s kind of stupid to make any plans.


Quelquechose

February 25th, 2008

I’m recording my next CD, creating an art booklet to package it in, I’ve got zines on the backburner, electronics projects I’m planning, and a big chunk of mahogany that I paid $50 for, hoping to turn it into a guitar. While that all sounds busy and interesting, the reality is I spend most of my time bored out of my fucking mind, sweeping up dust in a basement, patching concrete, sanding walls, moving furniture and dealing with the habits of scatterbrained, sixty-plus entrepreneurs.

I hated gym class, shop, after-school sports, etc. Somehow my predominant career got to be manual labor. So far every means I’ve found to break the spell has fallen apart. I’m becoming a career job-seeker. No one will hire me because my disaster-zone of a resume shows a history of settling for jobs I didn’t want. I’ve gotten my hopes up so many times, I’m letting go. There is no job for me. I have to create it myself. Combine music and art in my own style of publishing, like I’m already doing. I’m already working the job I want, I just don’t have time for it.

Minneapolis can’t support artists. Take the number of venues or galleries and compare it to the number of musicians or painters and you have a problem. And some of those people are cooler than you. Some have “friends in the scene.” Some have money in their family or other weird sources of income. Plenty of them are younger than you and willing to take greater risks. Add my own personal struggle with myself, and it gets hard to compete.

Anyways, I’m TRYING to piece together the possibility of going on the road this year. Take my guitar, CDs and zines and try to get some momentum. The only thing stopping me is money. My jobs are completely flexible. In theory I should be able to afford it as long as I work full time.

And thats where the plan falls apart. I’ve been working for my dad most of my life. I’ve tried to save money with that job so many times, and I always just end up in debt to him instead. My depression gets worse the more hours I put into that job. I had a stomachache for a year and a half that came back every day. No one knew what it was. I got a different job and it was gone.

As an experiment, I’m going to try and put up with this shit throughout the month of March. Then I’m leaving for 10 days to tour the Midwest. I’m not planning on this, I’m hoping for it. I’m going to be blogging more. It might help to write about how much I despise what I do for a living. And sometimes I feel like people think I’m OK with it. I’m not. I need out or I’m going to destroy myself. 5 years from now I see myself either working full time or being creative. I can’t see myself doing both.

This blog is being simultaneously published on Blogger and LiveJournal, after which it will eventually be moving to Blogger. I will be using both as I get Blogger set up. You can always access my blog by going to blog.geraldprokop.com


Mpls

February 23rd, 2008

I was just reading L’etoile Magazine’s blog, where they interviewed a local graphic designer about his new blog and the local arts scene. To paraphrase him, and to sum up what I hear about this city all the time: Minneapolis is a great city for an artist to mature, there’s alot of support for artists here, coming from the community and from other artists.

I have mixed feelings about the art “scene” here, if you can call it that. I used to really believe in it. Afunctionul was all about investing in our place, and the local scene and how we could build it through those “unestablished” venues to create a healthy, diverse culture. But that was over four years ago. Since then, I tried my best at creating and marketing my visual art. I constantly felt like the “scene” was going on without me. Being an artist here is more about choosing your friends then creating your work. It’s more about having a style and fitting in somewhere socially. I closed my studio because I ran out of juice. I was broke and I wasn’t being myself. I would go to every gallery opening because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

It’s partly my fault for being socially awkward. But I dread the day when misfits don’t have the privilege of a career in the arts because overachievers have changed the standards.

It’s quite possible that the reasons I failed here as a visual artist would have caused me to fail anywhere. Regardless, I wish people would just shut up about how great it is here.

Minneapolitans like to create insulated communities, or cliques. And from that viewpoint, you can convince yourself that it’s anything you want it to be. And with our corporate paychecks, we can finance our fantasies.

This goes for art in general, with a lowercase ‘a.’ The music scene is the same way. I plan on touring this year, if I can finance it through my crappy jobs. I’ll just be doing it alone.