July 30, 2014

That Kind of Disappointment

I remember vividly when I was in elementary school going to music class. Twice a week or so, we’d gather around Mrs. Perry’s piano to be instructed on the basics of music, sing songs like "America the Beautiful" and "Oh! Susanna," or learn to play the recorder.

I can still fumble through a yowling-cat-in-heat version of "Hot Crossed Buns."

But I really really liked going to music class when I was a kid. My brother Nathan was killed in a car accident when I was in kindergarten. I also have a cleft palate so I spent most of my early school years attending some form of speech therapy. Music class was one of the things I looked forward to the most in elementary school. It made a very unpleasant time just a little more bearable.

I think that’s one of the reasons it stung so badly years later when I learned that they taught us a censored version of Woody Guthrie’s "This Land Is Your Land." When I heard it much later, I understand immediately why.

Yet, understanding never quite fixes that kind of disappointment.

This Land Is Your Land
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land, this land is my land.
From California to the New York island,
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters,
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway,
I saw below me that golden valley,
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting, a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway.
Nobody living can ever make me turn back,
This land was made for you and me.

July 23, 2014

Don't Make Fun of Him, Be Appalled

So many things annoy the hell out of me about Gov. Perry and his bullshit photo ops with machine guns at the border.

First, let's be honest, the Border Crisis he keeps talking about is in reference to children. He’s got the National Guard staked out at the border to stop children from crossing. Yes, I know he’s given some bullshit about how all these resources being diverted to dealing with the children are allowing some Invasion U.S.A. style influx of criminal aliens, but it’s just that--bullshit. He's hoping if he repeats it often enough, you'll forget this is all really about kids and just remember him saving us from evil foreigners like this is the mid-80s and he's Chuck Norris. It’s all a shell game to portray what should be a no-brainer bipartisan response to a humanitarian crisis as the lax liberal policies of the Obama Administration contributing to the disintegration of this country. Just like the pictures of him with military weapons at the border, it’s bullshit PR for his 2016 Presidential run we all know we’re going to have to suffer through.  

And let’s talk about the children at the border who've endured a hell you cannot even fathom to make it this far. The bulk of them are from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.  Honduras has the world’s highest homicide rate, El Salvador isn’t far behind, and all three countries are incredibly impoverished with "30% of Hondurans, 17% of Salvadorans, and 26 % of Guatemalans living on less than $2 a day."

You spent more at Starbucks this morning.

What else do those countries have in common? Every single one is a victim of America’s terrible foreign policy. Just take a look at the WikiLeaks documents about US support for the 2009 coup in Honduras. Or spend five minutes reading about The Salvadoran Civil War. Or maybe the US backed 1954 Guatemalan Coup that sparked the Guatemalan Civil War.

This is what he's capitalizing on. Poor children from Central American countries who've sufffered a great many terrible things due to our meddling. Don’t make fun of Rick Perry, be goddamned appalled. Seriously. Be appalled.

Oh, and fuck that guy. Seriously, fuck that guy. Repeat that until you remember it. We've got a long time until November 2016.

July 21, 2014

Pretty Deadly

Pretty Deadly is a creator-owned comic series from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios.

And it’s amazing.

Fucking seriously. I’m not going to bother with some fancy write-up because I couldn’t do the comic justice. Pretty Deadly is a beautiful, violent, magical realism, manga spaghetti western. A mythic, glorious story with breath-catching prose and artwork I want tattooed on my bare arm.

Highly, highly recommended.

July 18, 2014

To Each Their Own Till We Go Home

I heard “Turtles All The Way Down” by Sturgil Simpson again this morning. Even if country music hadn’t died under a corporate bootheel and now lives only vegetable existence thanks to twangy, second-rate pop singers, this would still be a kind of perfection.

I've seen Jesus play with flames in a lake of fire that I was standing in
Met the devil in Seattle and spent 9 months inside the lions’ den
Met Buddha yet another time and he showed me a glowing light within
But I swear that God is there every time I glare in the eyes of my best friend
Says my son it's all been done and someday yer gonna wake up old and gray
So go and try to have some fun showing warmth to everyone
You meet and greet and cheat along the way

There's a gateway in our mind that leads somewhere out there beyond this plane
Where reptile aliens made of light cut you open and pull out all your pain
Tell me how you make illegal something that we all make in our brain
Some say you might go crazy but then again it might make you go sane

Every time I take a look inside that old and fabled book
I'm blinded and reminded of the pain caused by some old man in the sky
Marijuana, LSD, psilocybin, and DMT they all changed the way I see
But love's the only thing that ever saved my life

So don't waste your mind on nursery rhymes
Or fairy tales of blood and wine
It's turtles all the way down the line
So to each their own till we go home
To other realms our souls must roam
To and through the myth that we all call space and time

July 16, 2014

The Greatest Television Married Couple

The lovely wife was not feeling very well over the weekend so we watched The Addams Family. No matter how many times I watch episodes of the original television show with John Astin and Carolyn Jones or even the two features films with Raul Julia and Angelica Huston, I’m always struck by the fact that, still to this very day, Gomez and Morticia Addams remain the single greatest married couple that's ever been on television.


Full stop.

End of story.

Seriously. Think about it.

July 15, 2014

Elvis Still Dead

Mick Farren
Still enjoying my slow trip through Mick Farren’s Elvis Died For Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine. Yesterday I came across this little gem:

“Needless to say, alienation was one of the major motivators intended to create the psycho-civilized society that was the authoritarian dream for the second half of the 20th century. The goal was to breed a population that was isolated, uncommunicative, obedient, conformist, and very, very afraid. In some demographics, it worked all too well.”

July 7, 2014

Zen and the Art of Not Smoking

There’s a tough to process but very important Buddhist concept called anattā which means “no-self.” In very brief and very poor layman’s terms, the idea is that the unchanging and eternal self is an illusion, our identity is constantly shifting and born from the clash of an ever-changing storm of forces. “No-Self” is the lynchpin of Buddhist thought, it’s considered to be one of the three marks of existence shared by every sentient being, it’s directly tied to the notion of dependent origination, and it’s the key to liberation. So much of our suffering and dissatisfaction comes from the “I” stories we tell ourselves.

I understood anattā a lot better when I quit smoking, or as I still think of it constantly, “Today, I chose not to smoke.” I had tried to quit smoking before but it had never worked, it never stuck. I knew people who had tried to quit smoking before and they never made it more than a couple of months. One friend of mine regularly quits every couple of months, only to start right back up again. Barring those sometimes smokers and the people who I suspect have a genetic trait that runs counter to physical addiction, the people I know who had stopped smoking and hadn’t started up again all did it without the aid of patches, pills, or gum. The only way is to sweat out the week of physical withdrawals then commence the mental battle until you’re through the woods.

After several days of choosing not to smoke, I remember one day thinking how “weird” it was to not be smoking. Then I remembered being a kid and hating smoking with every core of my being. My father chained one cigarette after another, burning through several packs a day. On his day off, after finishing the grass, he’d sit in the television room and watch war movies and smoke cigarette after cigarette. I couldn’t stand to be in that room. The haze was so thick. It burned my eyes. And it stank something awful. I swore when I was a kid that I would never smoke cigarettes. There was even a teenage relationship of mine that had difficulties because she smoked and I hated it. If you had asked anyone if Chad would ever smoke cigarettes, they would have told you no.

Not smoking was part of the unchanging and eternal “Chadness” for me.

But see, then I did start smoking once I went to college. There was a girl I really dug who smoked, a friend who had picked it up over the summer, and an entire LARP where pretty much everyone smoked cigarettes so if you ever wanted to interact you had no choice but go outside and step into the cloud.

After college, I never stopped. I smoked a lot. And often. I liked smoking. It was a ritual. Wake up, smoke a cigarette. Drive to work, smoke a cigarette. Take my break, smoke a cigarette. It was relaxing. Stressed, smoke a cigarette. Anxious, smoke a cigarette. It was helpful. Awkward new social situation, smoke a cigarette. If you asked me, I would have told you that I was smoker and would always be one.

Smoking was part of that unchanging and eternal “Chadness.”

It wasn’t until I chose not to smoke that I remembered both times, that I saw each side by side and remembered how everlasting each had felt when they were perceived to be true. It was a liberating and fulfilling realization. And one I keep trying to go back to.

Then just the other day, before the start of my vacation, I was walking from Bloomington Bagel Company to my office on campus. It was early. Still pretty quiet. Not too warm, a little cool in fact. As I walked and ate my bagel, I was thinking on anattā, rolling the concept around in my thoughts, trying to apply that insight quitting smoking gave me, when I had this sudden revelation about “no-self” in regards to death. It filled me with such intense warmth and such a deep sense of comfort, I found myself crossing the bridge over the Jordan and smiling like a madman. For the seven steps it took me to go from one end of the bridge to the other, I was without fear and anxiety. I mean that completely. No fear about what the workday would bring, no fear about whether I’d have enough money this month to pay every bill that needed paying, no fear about my wife’s blindness and what it will mean for her and for me, and no fear of death.

Then, once on the other side, I couldn’t remember it. Whatever it was. Whatever connection I had made, whatever insight I had had into the human condition, whatever it was and whatever you want to call it, it was gone.

Immediately afterward, it made me a little sad.

Later in the day, walking around on my lunch break, it made me laugh.

July 6, 2014


Netflix finally added Lawless to their streaming service. I had wanted to see this crime drama back in 2012 when it was released, but there’s very little that will actually get me out to the theatre. Seeing a film on the big screen is too expensive. For the price of a single ticket I can pay for an entire month’s worth of Netflix with money left over. Not to mention, I can’t remember a time in recent memory when I did risk the multiplex that wasn’t ruined by audience members who couldn’t seem to understand that seeing a film is a shared experience between a group of strangers who don’t want to hear their commentary, incessant coughing, or help them chase their kid down.

After seeing it on the small screen, I’m glad I waited for Netflix.

Lawless has a lot going for it. Even with Shia, whom I’ve never ever cared for-- going all the way back to Holes, the cast is top-notch. Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman, and Guy Pearce all deliver with what's given. Australian director John Hillcoat shot a beautiful film. And Nick Cave’s screenplay comes by way of Matt Bondurant’s historical novel The Wettest County In The World.  Not to mention, I’m just a sucker for moonshine films. I come for a long line of ridge runners and seeing Thunder Road on television as a child is probably half the reason I put together Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hellcats.

But Lawless falls short of all my expectations by a country mile. The film is an unsatisfying mash of art house and violence. The terrible pacing is made all the more awful by an unnecessary prologue and epilogue, only the intense violence breaks the monotony and even that is ultimately unsatisfying since we’re given not much of anything that we haven’t seen before in some other gangster film. Worst of all, there’s more than a good deal of mumbling, usually to deliver that sort of down home philosophizing that’s only written by men who either aren’t from the country or make their living trying to sell you on some rural myth.

Mostly, Lawless is a pretty film that reminds you how much money you save with Netflix.

July 5, 2014

Elvis Died For Somebody's Sins But Not Mine

Mick Farren’s Elvis Died For Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine is a must-buy for any of his fans. If you’re curious about Mick and unfamiliar with the stunning breadth and depth of his work, it’s a great introduction to this now lost talent. Mick's last collection includes some of everything: bits of memoir, reminiscences, rock journalism, cultural criticism, political writings, interviews with everyone from Johnny Cash to Gore Vidal, song lyrics, unpublished fragments, blog posts, a sampling of his nonfiction books, and excerpts from his novels.

I purchased the book nearly a year ago, shortly after Mick died on stage in London. I’ve been taking my sweet time reading it. Whenever I finish reading a novel or complete a piece of my own writing, I’ll pick up Elvis Died For Somebody’s Sins and read several sections.

Yesterday, I came across this little gem from Mick that I absolutely related to:

“I have neither trusted nor desired power. At its most honest, it seemed to require oversized Greek pillars and a hollow marble echo to sustain itself, and, when it was less than honest, it was capable of about any atrocity. Routinely capable--which made it all the worse. I was never particularly attracted to the concept of power. Being expected to tell others what to do and order them around on a whim or a theory held no appeal. Quite the reverse. I have no desire to issue orders and even less to receive them. To separate the two would be hypocrisy. Fame I might cop to. I wouldn’t have minded being famous when I was young and had the lungs, but the idea of wielding power was a complete anathema.”
Pick up the paperback copy here.
A swanky hardback copy here.
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