Monday, April 30, 2012


Once upon a time, my parents were aspiring back to the landers, in keeping with the ancestry of peasantry on both sides. They still have books in the basement about living on a few acres and cooking while using a minimum of the world's resources. We never took vacations to big cities, and always ended up hiking in the metroparks or in the middle of nowhere somewhere in the mountains along the eastern half of the country when we weren't going to something "historical."

My mom spent the 1970s in southern Ohio exploring the wilderness, excavating Hopewell burial mounds, and teaching kids at summer camps about building fires and what to eat in the wild. I still know the names of most of the wildflowers and what parts can be used for what. It was a long time before I realized that most of my peers weren't into this kind of thing, that knowing things like constellations and herbal lore were deemed a bit weird so I kept most of this to myself, though I know I don't know enough to keep me sustained in the hypothetical wilderness that's nonexistent in Clevelandia.

It's said that we become our parents, and I inherited my dad's enthusiasm for loud tunes and my mom's love of Brit-lit and nature. Having come late to the Foxfire party, which is currently fascinating me to no end, because being a city slicker, I probably won't be building my very own log cabin or having to learn how to skin a rabbit, but to know what's edible, how to make my own booze, what corners to cut, how to make do, and in the event of something crazy, have some idea of what to do. My mom's amused by my interest in this stuff and it seems that her collection of Foxfire books ended up in a Goodwill box at least a couple of decades ago, so I'm hoping that I can scrounge some copies up somewhere, because this is how the people before me just a few generations lived, and we in the city often look down on those who have way more practical knowledge than we do.

I spent most of yesterday in the cool sun mixing humus with compost and beads of sulfur to plant berry bushes along the railroad tracks, throw down more seeds and spend time with the neighbors, crushing leaves of lemon balm, lavender, and thyme between my fingers for the pleasure of the smell.  coming home with dirty hands and dusty jeans, the adrenaline of accomplishment fueling endeavors on the back porch, where I filled the strawberry pot with tiny plants with big roots, looking forward to when there will be greenery rather than plastic containers filled with dirt.

One of my friends once pointed out that The Kids are now emulating the 1970's in the very worst way, and I guess the ersatz environmentalism of wearing "green " products while disposing of last year's iPhone for the newest model and the newest after that is the equivalent of gas guzzling volkswagen busses for road trips now unaffordable to the average kid working part-time and polyester muumuus with floral prints adopting an air of bohemian and natural but uncomfortably synthetic. My sister has lots of save the earth and World Wildlife Fund slogans plastered to her walls but leaves the space heater on the whole day and the ceiling fan running while she's gone and tells me I'm a control freak for turning lights off in rooms that I'm not in. Then again, she's never paid a utility bill and I do.

Friday, April 27, 2012

theory and practice

Last night I drank an Irish coffee and met new people, and talked about things that are somewhat meaningful, and loved the passion that everyone had even if the things that really move my soul are other things.

And it's amazing how people will see what they want to see in your words, whether they assume you're in agreement and therefore do not listen or when they take your dissent from their point of view somehow personally, because history may be miscronstrued and twisted but the facts themselves don't lie.

Oh are you just being fatalistic? You say it doesn't matter because God will come back someday and everything will be ok? Everything's the same so why bother to change things, because this is the way it's always been and you live in the most powerful country in the world and they're imperialist and you don't do anything to change that because you don't have a problem with it, unlike me, from somewhere else that's not so important. You'd rather sit passive on the sidelines because you don't care.

Because nothing says mature and classy like twisting my words, seeing what you want to see, and resorting to ad hominem attacks without any knowledge of how I live my life or how I feel. My belief in the cycle of history, of the unchangingness of human nature, the way that lust for money and power drive the ambitious of the world, that the technology advances and the cast changes, but fundamentally, the cycle remains unchanged, doesn't mean that I think this is good or okay or something to stand by and watch idly. It's just an observation. The strong prey on the weak, those imbued with a sense of their own rightness often force that on others at the threat of sword or gun or nuke. If you listened to my words you'd know that this kind of thing makes me mad as hell.

Also, maybe it's that you're resenting my punching holes in your straw men and bringing up truth that shreds your theories? That the egalitarian French revolutionaires screwed over Haiti, that while Washington bullets destroyed a lot of lives, so did the ones made by Soviets, especially in the Ogaden, where weaponry was sold to both the Siad Barre and the Mengistu dictatorships so socialists could kill each other and anyone who was in the way.

and what if an Israeli rocket fell on your house and killed your family, what would you do? You'd probably just stand there and do nothing wouldn't you? Because you think that's just the way it is. 

Look, when 9/11 happened, I wasn't crying out for blood vengeance. I'm still not. I grieved the loss of life here and hoped for soul-searching on the part of my countrymen in hopes that maybe we'd wake up and see what a wreck we make of the world. It's just not how I roll. I try to do that whole love enemies and pray for them because I'm a crazy fundie and try to live out this crazy stuff that makes no sense and goes against my most primal impulses. I try to practice this forgiveness thing and I feel ashamed of what my country has been and what it has become, and the perpetuation of these violent cycles.

But that means nothing to you. This is the inverse of the Jack Bauer Scenario that justified torture for suburbanites everywhere. Whatever. So much for discussion in higher education. This is why I can't bring myself to actually go back to school. Dumbassery like this on the part of both teacher and student. I am caught between polemics and platitudes, and neither reflects the reality of what I read, what I've learned, and what I see played out in my own small microcosm and on the world stage.

Acknowledgement is not the same as acquiescence, and if you took the time to listen to what I was actually saying, maybe that'd make sense, but since I don't believe in a socialist utopia where all the oppressed people come together to take down The Man without there being a followup of purges and reigns of terror, I'm somehow responsible for all the the stoogery of my own country. You accuse me of  generalizing an entire religion, an entire group of people without knowing a damn thing about my circle of friends or my life outside of the hallowed halls, and you generalize me for happening to be born in this country. How fair is that? Not very.


   So, Mr. M'Choakumchild began in his best manner. He and some one hundred and forty other schoolmasters, had been lately turned at the same time, in the same factory, on the same principles, like so many pianoforte legs. He had been put through an immense variety of paces, and had answered volumes of head-breaking questions. Orthography, etymology, syntax, and prosody, biography, astronomy, geography, and general cosmography, the sciences of compound proportion, algebra, land-surveying and levelling, vocal music, and drawing from models, were all at the ends of his ten chilled fingers. He had worked his stony way into Her Majesty's most Honourable Privy Council's Schedule B, and had taken the bloom off the higher branches of mathematics and physical science, French, German, Latin, and Greek. He knew all about all the Water Sheds of all the world (whatever they are), and all the histories of all the peoples, and all the names of all the rivers and mountains, and all the productions, manners, and customs of all the countries, and all their boundaries and bearings on the two and thirty points of the compass. Ah, rather overdone, M'Choakumchild. If he had only learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more! 

Technocracy ever encroaching's roots can be seen in the Industrial Revolution, in Hard Times of previous eras. Learning for learning's sake, to have a greater pool of beauty to draw from and a deeper understanding inducing wonder. Not everything is empirical, whether one believes in higher powers or greater forces or not, there are some things like the way that song makes your heart yearn that just cannot be explained by anyone.

And so in academia, I see people who've bought into these systems, paid with their lives and their souls and their cash, only to come up empty and unfulfilled, yet trying so hard to justify their points of view, but the spillover of ideology, of broken systems both capitalistic and socialistic, of relationships burned out by a lack of love compensated for by the pursuit of knowledge as a means and lucre as an end.

  No little Gradgrind had ever seen a face in the moon; it was up in the moon before it could speak distinctly. No little Gradgrind had ever learnt the silly jingle, Twinkle, twinkle, little star; how I wonder what you are! No little Gradgrind had ever known wonder on the subject, each little Gradgrind having at five years old dissected the Great Bear like a Professor Owen, and driven Charles's Wain like a locomotive engine-driver. No little Gradgrind had ever associated a cow in a field with that famous cow with the crumpled horn who tossed the dog who worried the cat who killed the rat who ate the malt, or with that yet more famous cow who swallowed Tom Thumb: it had never heard of those celebrities, and had only been introduced to a cow as a graminivorous ruminating quadruped with several stomachs. 

Someone told me that he doesn't want to talk to his children, that he sent them to the best colleges so that they could have intelligent conversation, not to "gossip" about the minutiae of their daily lives, or to talk about their dealings with other people. While it's true that small minds discuss people (and this is born out by the particularly small-minded among us), most of our daily interactions and greatest joys and stresses come from our human interactions. We are not receptacles of potentially economically useful data, we are living breathing souls that interact with other souls more or less. I might talk about politics and music with my dad or books with my mom but I also talk about the daily crap of dealing with siblings and colleagues and friends, because that's just as much the stuff of life as facts facts facts.

What's said is that it seems when one reaches a certain age, barring some life-altering experience bordering on the spiritual or otherwise revelatory, there is no way this outlook will change regardless of the damage it has doubtless already caused.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

this monkey's gone to heaven

The giant gorilla painted in plywood that towered over the abandoned go-kart track across from the zoo has been there as long as The Peonage remembers, and it is with sadness that we note its demise. I used to see it every day when I'd catch the bus down to the zoo, and thankfully I documented it (that's not my picture below but it was on the Internets and convenient) before it disappeared. So often things disappear before they can be memorialized. I guess that kind of thing is inevitable. It was a part of the landscape that I loved, the embodiment of the quirky desolation of a depopulating city that inevitably retained its sense of humor despite the collapse of all surroundings.

The tawdry excuses for monuments and markers continue to be erected and then blotted out by the continuations of time and development, of one replaced by another. I embrace the strangeness because regardless of the context, it at least provides a change of scenery from the encroaching monoculture of strip malls and chain stores and subdivisions with nature-referencing names that obliterate the beautiful and wild. If we are to build, to cover earth with concrete, can it at least be interesting?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Stiff-necked and half asleep, coming down off the caffeine buzz, craving water and sky, feeling transparent and half-there, wandering through the day with no thoughts to speak of, living but barely conscious, everything just passes on through. In mere minutes, I will come alive again.

Monday, April 23, 2012

best of the blotter

Man in Tree
A caller reported a man sitting in the fork of a tree on Benbow Road near Boston Road about 9 a.m. Sunday.
The man was in his 30s or 40 and had a beard, the caller said.
He wasn't there when police arrived

Randal, was this you?

A resident near Bear Creek Lane and Deer Path Drive called police about 2 p.m. April 9 and three teens taking pictures of houses and cars, which was upsetting the neighbors.
Police tracked the kids to a nearby house and learned they were working on a school project.
They were told about the neighbors' concerns.

LEGO Sets Stolen from House for Sale
LEGO sets worth $286 were stolen from a home for sale on Hilliard Boulevard some time between March 29 and April 10. There were four showings during that period. Police have no suspects.

COMPLAINT, DETROIT AVENUE: A woman was seen pushing a baby in a stroller. One resident was concerned for the baby’s safety, since it was cold out and the baby was not covered April 10.
An officer stopped the woman and noticed that the baby was wearing a snow suit.

DISTURBANCE, WEST 117TH STREET: A group of intoxicated people tried to get into a woman’s car while she was waiting at a red light April 15.
They thought her blue car was a taxi.
When the taxi arrived, they got in. Soon enough, they were kicked out for being rambunctious.

DISTURBANCE, LAKE AVENUE: A large tour bus was parked outside a motel and playing loud music April 15.
When officers arrived, all was quiet. They learned that there was a band staying at the motel and they had left in a cab to go down to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

SUSPICION, DETROIT AVENUE: After a woman heard gunshots, she watched a man run down the street and relayed a description to the police.
Officers could not find the man, but they did find a shovel and a broken bunny ornament. They figured that was probably what the woman heard.

WELFARE CHECK, CELIANNA DRIVE: A woman called police because her sick friend would not answer the phone April 11 and she was concerned about his welfare.
Turns out, the man did not want to talk to the woman. The woman was told to stop calling the man or she could face charges.
Mercedes Driver Touchy about His Car
Police were called to a Pearl Road store April 18 by a man driving a Mercedes who said he had just had a road rage incident with someone who worked there.
Officers spoke with the employee, who said this is what happened: While on the road, the man in the Mercedes swerved toward him, so he shouted "Buy American" at him.
No charges were filed. Police advised the employee to use better judgment next time.

Cloak, No Dagger
A witness told police someone draped head to toe in a black cloak was acting strangely near Sylvan Learning Center, 15201 Pearl Rd., about 6:20 p.m. April 17.
The witness couldn't tell if the cloaked person was mail or female, but said he or she was hiding
 behind a pillar.

Cart Rage
A woman went all the way to the top when the wind blew an unattended cart into her car, causing damage, as she drove in the Costco lot April 18.
Costco told her the store was not responsible for the wind blowing carts, so the woman called the mayor's office and was advised to file a police report.
Police said that because there was no criminal act, they would take the complaint for documentation only.

Woman Cited After Throwing Sandwich At Burger King Employee
A woman threw a double cheeseburger at a Burger King employee after she claimed the sandwich was not made fresh, and demanded a refund from the Mayfield Road store.
Employees called Cleveland Heights Police and reported that the woman was shouting obscenities earlier. According to employees, the 31-year-old Cleveland resident pulled in the drive-through and asked them to remake the double cheeseburger several times while her children ate their food in the car.
She apparently was not satisfied with the new burgers, chucked one at an employee and demanded a refund for her entire purchase.
Police cited the woman with disorderly conduct.
Noisy Driver
A Commons Oval woman complained April 13 that for the last month, a man on her street blasts his radio every time he drives by, and also waves a flag out the window and shouts "I am an American."
Police said they would speak with the man.

Totally makes me think of this guy:

Pot-Packed Care Bear Arrives on Man's PorchA suspicious package that turned up at the home of a North Canton man contained a Care Bear filled with five pounds of marijuana
A Care Bear filled with about five pounds of pot arrived at a North Canton resident's home earlier this month.
The man, who lives in the 600 block of 6th Street NW, called police April 7 after opening up a suspicious package that was mailed to his house.
Inside was a yellow Care Bearstuffed with a bag of marijuana, which police said weighed about five pounds.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

nightshade and daylight

An afternoon spent ripping out belladonna and disposing of slugs over the fence with a shovel, noting with satisfaction that the little peas are poking their way through the soil.+ I realize for the first time that my connection to the dirt is somewhat ancestral, being peasant stock on both sides not so far removed.

I hung out with the women in my world yesterday morning, where we drank coffee and swapped the clothes we no longer wear and being small and having never borne children, I end up with a bag full of things I would have never picked out for myself but that somehow work, it's funny how much more comfortable in everything I am now that I'm finally comfortable in my own skin. One of them is moving out of state and her husband gives me a pile of his old records... Talking Heads, Violent Femmes, sundry pub rock and such, some of which I pull for my first time doing a real DJ kind of thing.

I get to the store with a crate full of records and CDs and a mix I compiled from my hard drive as a backup that comes in handy when the one turntable is acting wonky, and I feel like a goddess or a muse up the stairs looking out over the store as the records spin and I finagle with the mixing board, watching people nod their heads and tap their fingers, the kids dancing, I'm yelling down the names of the bands they ask me about as they're treasure hunting through the record bins and rows of 7-inches. The nervousness washes away and the hour goes by too quickly. I could get used to this.

Friday, April 20, 2012


Digging through piles of dusty books hoping I'm not as much of a weirdo as some of these folks, attempting to avoid awkward conversations, getting recruited at my favorite record store to wo-man the turntables in a non-radio station setting for the first time in my life for Record Store Day tomorrow which makes me feel somewhat honored and a little bit nervous kind of like in music class in middle school where everyone had to bring in a favorite song and you hoped you wouldn't get laughed at.

It's too beautiful out to stay inside. I need a walk and dirt between my fingers, maybe a sunset if all goes right.

Wizards, Weed, and Outer Space

Over the Elixir of St. Drogo this morning, we pondered the aesthetics of one of our mutually shared favorite genres, known for its general worship of Sabbath and Zeppelin, downtuned guitars, and vaguely arabesque instrumental passages and a generally kitschy lyrical amalgam well-known to teenage boys who read Tolkien and comics and played card games that involved mages and sages, and in this case, the girls who loved them. As I've gotten older, I've realized how devoid of estrogenic conversation I was when I was younger, because I still don't always know what to talk about in the world of women, and inevitably fall back into geekery of board games and MST3K, debating the merits of guitar solos and quoting Spinal Tap.

It may in part be the cultural heritage of being Parmastani in the last part of the 20th century and growing up on a certain strain of lovable loser pop culture, of acid-drenched classic rock, cherrypicking our favorite bands, deriding the boomers who still prefer the polemics of St. Robert of Dylan. That's completely different of course, because War Pigs has always resonated way more for me as a timeless commentary on the world than any Lennonista giving peace a chance or imagining a world that will never exist.

As a long-haired geeky teenage girl, I got out piles of CDs from the library, delving into genres without regards to cachet of coolness, and along with the spiky noisetastic indieish rock that actually had loud guitars and some teeth as opposed to what The Kids are into these days, found the sonics of stoner-rockdom much to my liking though the only thing close to a mind-altering substance I'd ever imbibed was an ill-advised Surge drinking contest at someone's birthday party because I'm really not too thrilling in real life. I transferred in junior year and spent a year anonymous, listening to a discman and doing my homework at the far end of the cafeteria, holed up in my room painting on the weekends of taking long walks with the dog before finding a niche later on. I like people, but I find I still enjoy the solitude.

Blame it on the Soundgarden, perhaps, and the college radio I listened to while getting my braces done and cutting class with my dad to drive around and listen to the likes of Pentagram as a gateway drug to the drop C, because the acolytes and contemporaries of the rest of the Seattle bands were found wanting. It didn't necessarily have to be earthshatteringly new-sounding, it just had to sound good, have that right amount of heavy low end and trippy lightness of being.

While the Fu Manchus and the Nebulas were a little too testosterony for me, as I'm into neither babes nor bikes, the more mellowed out sounds of Kyuss and Dead Meadow, the soulfulness and murk of Corrosion of Conformity, the sublime sludginess of the Melvins. There is a certain dorktastic aesthetic that doesn't lend itself well to hipsterdom. The touchstones don't involve New York artists, or the usual canonicals. D&D, Lord of the Rings, suburban drugs, wizards, outer space, the kind of things that get emblazoned on tie-dye t-shirts seen on middle-aged women. Kitsch, I guess, but awesome.

Up until the time I was gainfully employed here, this wasn't the kind of thing that most of my friends were into, as in high school, the most underground it got was usually Pantera, and the metal kids I knew in college were into sounds more technical and the indie kids preferred the Locust or whoever if they weren't listening to something more folky or twee. It's never going to be the thing that The Kids are into, if the ones in my world are any indication, and it's not as much a chick thing I guess most of the time, and I've never been one for leafy substances so I feel like that makes me even more of an outlier. At least 50 Foot Wave, Worm Ouroboros and Subrosa still like the low end and don't make me feel quite so alone.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

pakistan calling

I have a generic silver Toyota, that, unlike the previous vehicle, has no bumper stickers or much of anything else except for a duct-taped front end, but there's a part of me that loves seeing what other people do to individualize their modes of transportation. My Puerto Rican neighbors at a previous apartment used to customize their bikes, with extra spokes and boomboxes installed between the bars, and offered to do the same for mine, but it was a bike co-op Huffy that wouldn't have lent itself well. Maybe I should have taken it up anyway.

But I've always loved Pakistani truck art for reasons that I can't quite explain other than that the detail and colors are vivid and incredible and something that I don't see around these parts of Clevelandia, where most customized cars involve airbrushed wolves or stars and stripes or stars and bars, or the equipage to tailgate at Cleveland Browns games.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

between a rock and a hard place

So Bridget wanted me to write something, and this something kind of sucks. 

It could always be worse, I guess. I could have to choose between Hitler and Stalin running wild through the country, I could have to choose between fundie wackjobs of one stripe and CIA spooks if I lived in Egypt. Instead, my society gives me an option: I get to pick from one who claims to care a lot, and one who makes few bones about caring at all. I hate election season with every fiber of my being because after being stupid in 2004, I can no longer do this whole "lesser of two evils" thing. I remember once looking forward to being old enough to vote, believing that it mattered, that I could change things by punching a card or filling a bubble and wearing a sticker, and then by the time that rolled around, 9/11 happened and everyone claims to love America more than the next guy and blame the other guy for all the problems that they themselves perpetuate.

It hit me for the first time how fucked up things really were when I started reading The Gulag Archipelago and realized that the way that the Soviets treated political prisoners in the gulag was the exact same thing we were doing here in the "free world." Stress positions, sleep deprivations, and so on and so forth, but oh it's not torture when we do it, it's been rebranded as "enhanced interrogation" because those "enemies of the state" are so dangerous just like those dissidents were behind the iron curtain. And that's the black sites. "Oh," people say, well we don't do that anymore because Obama's  president" but I can't buy this because when the previous wrongs aren't dealt with, in the name of looking forward, it was only a harbinger of a continuation of the kinder gentler machine gun hand.

And I wonder if it all boils down to our lack of value for human life on both sides, for when it's inconvenient or deemed not quite our equal, be it people of a different religion/look/orientation/birthplace/place in the gestation period/place in the social hierarchy, because let's be honest, very very few of us believe in real equality of people. We think some people are better and more valuable and more important than others, that others don't have the right to exist or enjoy the same rights that we take for granted, and dehumanize those others, whoever those others may be, and strip them of their dignity and often their existence.

When both resort to cost-benefit analysis when lives are involved, be it with welfare or war. Employers who realize that they can slice and dice, who see humans as resources rather than as souls, who realize that they can have less people do more work or maybe less people do more work somewhere where OSHA and basic living wages don't exist and watch the money roll in.

The overlords don't care about us, and most of the time the unions don't either, so we're caught in this ideological tug of war where the ones in power take turns winning and the rest of us continue to lose. The younger Teamsters at my dad's work are paying into a system from which they will probably not see anything, the middle managers and CEOs everywhere tell us we should be happy because aren't we so lucky to have these jobs where we're undervalued, underemployed, and underpaid while they make six figures and don't see the cognitive dissonance, the yawning divide between our world and theirs. And these are just the first world problems.

Our government has tortured people, our government has outsourced that torture to our friends in strategically located countries. No wonder people hate us. I'd hate us too. And God help you if you're an undocumented immigrant trying to feed your kids because you're dealing both with gun-toting wingnut wackjobs and a merciless state where you can just kind of disappear.

Everyone takes turns getting shrill and flipping out because the other side is always the second coming of Hitler but what it's getting old to blame Bush for a war that's still going on, and one that's supposedly over but  we've got mercenaries and drones there indefinitely, not to mention all the other messes we got in, for all the drones in Pakistan and Yemen and everywhere else. Our biggest export is killing machines. Oh there's less collateral damage for our side, but tell that to the parents and the siblings of those who've lost their kids, though evidently they don't matter if they're far away and practice a different religion or don't look like you, or because it's your president that you want so badly to still believe in, that you'll make any excuse. What I hear out of Democrats in 2012 is what I heard out of Republicans in 2004... we're in too deep, we can't change now, he needs more time to fix this, but remember where we were in 2008? That sucked, and I hope I'm wrong but I think 2016 will suck too.

There's enough of the crazy on both sides of the domestic front of the "keep your rosaries off my ovaries" and vice versa variety that people don't seem to notice that laws and decisions are made that are such that any cop being able to strip you naked and the Powers That Be being able to indefinitely detain you for any nebulous reason related to national security. Hey, we let them do it to people in other countries,, what's to say it won't be done to us too? Hell, it's been going on here in those neighborhoods on the other side of town for awhile now. Inhuman prison conditions, lopsided penalties for crack versus cocaine? Oh but that happens to other people who are bad.

Sure, there are crazy people with guns out there in the hinterlands who really hate The Man or whatever, but I fear them less than I do the state, because most of the survivalists might be crazy but usually want to be left the hell alone, and the other has a lot more structural weight behind it that can destroy your world if you end up on the wrong side. Maybe that's not terribly logical, but it's where I've come to. 

So really, the only people that matter in the world to most of us is us. It's easier not to see, it's easier to blame the other side when they're really two sides of the same coin. Easier to freak out about straw men and endlessly debate intractable issues where this is no middle ground.  I don't know if I believe in revolution because most of the time, it's just a new set of jerks with axes to grind and everyone on the bottom still gets screwed. I don't have faith in humanity, or political systems or much of anything except the big thing. I don't know if it's better anywhere else. I wish I could conjure up non-sucky jobs for the people I know out of work, I wish I could see people held accountable for the suffering they cause in this life. I think I manage to piss off almost anyone when I get going. It's a good thing only 3 people read this because I've probably done that to you too.

When one voice rules the nation
Just because they're top of the pile
Doesn't mean their vision is the clearest
The voices of the people
Are falling on deaf ears
Our politicians all become careerists

They must declare their interests
But not their company cars
Is there more to a seat in parliament
Than sitting on your arse
And the best of all this bad bunch
Is shouting to be heard
Above the sound of ideologies clashing

Outside the patient millions
Who put them into power
Expect a little more back for their taxes
Like school books, beds in hospitals
And peace in our bloody time
All they get is old men grinding axes

Who've built their private fortunes
On the things they can rely
The courts, the secret handshake
The Stock Exchange and the old school tie
For God and Queen and Country
All things they justify
Above the sound of ideologies clashing

God bless the civil service
The nations saving grace
While we expect democracy
They're laughing in our face
And although our cries get louder
The laughter gets louder still
Above the sound of ideologies clashing

Above the sound of ideologies,
Above the sound of ideologies,
Above the sound of ideologies clashing

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

long distance runner

There have been a handful of people in my life who've put tunes in my hands that have altered the route of my musical trajectory drastically, and one of those was a friend at my lunch table with who loaned me Repeater at the beginning of senior year that set off a long period of Ian Mackaye fangirlness that's only been tempered by their lack of output in the ten years since I graduated. I guess it's better to go out on top, and The Argument and the Furniture EP were fitting codas that made me realize that it was possible to be yourself and age gracefully and ragefully in your art, refining sound without losing the fire.

still one of my all-time favorites.

Unsurprisingly, no one shared my same enthusiasm for these sounds, finding the tone too preachy, the vocals too abrasive, but the tightness, the coiled energy, of squalling Gibson SG, the vocal interplay, sinuous basslines, and pitch-perfect skittering drums appealed to my inner prog dork but the lack of fussiness and self-indulgence was a revelation. Red Medicine somehow never got removed from the jukebox at Kent State, and my roommate and I used to find amusement in the way that certain songs would clear the room.

 Minor Threat was a much more accessible common denominator, especially for those of us who loved noisy music and didn't do drugs and therefore felt out of step with the world, and was perfect for summer nights of driving aimlessly around Parmastan talking about things that seem both meaningful and ridiculous when you're 18 and you're realizing that your messed up country is about to get way more messed up.

The arcanity of the lyrics, free of the datedness of many of the contemporaries, let the universals of dealing with bureaucracy, sucky people, and general frustration be cathartic for whatever situation I fell into. "Public Witness" and "Great Cop" for the busybodies and bullies, "Long Division" for the breakups and disintegrations, here comes the argument, I'm still on a mission to never agree and keep my eyes open because the farther I go, the less I know.

Monday, April 16, 2012

in bloom

Another turn of the daily grind, sweetened by caffeine as always, the inductions of too-cool-for-school rockstars not affecting my life at all, and a weekend spent errand-running and hiking in the woods. We climbed to the top of the hill and the wind made me feel euphoric. Suddenly everything is green and lush. I haven't been outside as much as I should, the sprouts in the kitchen keep shooting skyward, and the buds are everywhere.

the shitlist: Charles Bukowski

Yours truly likes to use this corner of the internets to highlight stuff she digs in hopes that you might like it too. On the other hand, there are other things that are considered sacred cows by some who'd consider themselves more enlightened that are anything but. The Shitlist, in homage to a quartet of ladies with loud guitars playing mostly middling tunes for tomboyish riot grrrls more interested in getting wasted than fighting the power, highlights some of these. 

I majored in English lit after realizing I'd be in school ten years taking terrible education classes and would face unemployment as an art teacher, and besides, I suck at prepared public speaking or keeping kids in line. The majority of the people studying this kind of thing were other ladies so most of the reading selections would generate male-bashing discussions that probably made the token dudes feel awkward for having the indignity of growing up cracker and sometimes hetero.

There was a guy I met who lived in my dorm that was kind of a smart brainy type too, with whom I'd argue about God and trade music and books with and in whose dark dorm room I watched SLC Punk and Clerks for the first time. He described himself as a feminist and really into women's rights, all while telling me that while I was smart, I'd be a lot more hot if I dyed my hair black and got my lips pierced and maybe some tattoos and how hot this other girl was.

As this was in the time of old jeans and ill-fitting band shirts, mutilated hair and gauged ears before I got a Real Job and started actually caring about how I looked, it kind of made me feel like crap until I realized that he was the one being stupid and hypocritical. After going to see some punk rock bands where he ditched me and my roommate for his cooler friends, that was pretty much the end of that.

Ironically enough, he was a fan of manly-man hipster lit, mostly along the lines of Hunter S. Thompson and Charles Bukowski. I'd only heard of the latter and pulled some of his books from the shelf while working in the stacks of that even more towering slab and while some of the poetry could be occasionally decent, and it seems he had a sucky life that was exacerbated by being a constant lecherous drunk, the stories sucked, and I finished enough of them to not be convinced. I don't think I read a single thing of his that wasn't somewhat repulsive, and even the occasional stylistic rawness of the more sensitive poems was not enough to be redeeming.

“Baby," I said, "I'm a genius but nobody knows it but me.” 

I like my everyman lit as much as the next person, but not if it's the literary equivalent of the  creepy dude on your street who watches you mow the lawn in cutoffs like my old neighbor and can't think about a woman's body without wanting to rape it, who throws around racial epithets for the hell of it. I guess one could read it for insight into the thoughts of the drunk in a dive bar, but to hold this man up as some kind of saint for keeping it real doesn't work for me.

And again and again I'd be at social gatherings with lots of sensitive-dude Pavement-loving English majors who said my last name was cool because it sounded like his, which would make me come close to snarling and would just keep telling me he was "misunderstood" and "really didn't mean what he said" but the consistency of degradation of other people is kind of hard to ignore.

Maybe I'm just biased as a sensitive chick, or that I associate him with other souls who perceived themselves as sensitive and progressive because they liked Sleater-Kinney but who were anything but. I don't buy the whole "he was a product of his time" thing because other people writing in the 1950s were misanthropic without being so universally hateful.

Hence, the shitlist.

If dudes need an alter ego of manly dudeness, at least Henry Rollins has the testosterone but something resembling a curious mind and a beating heart too, just sayin'.

Friday, April 13, 2012

slouching towards spinsterhood: garden edition

The great seed-starting experiment has had mixed results. It seems that plastic works better than peat pots (some have rings of mold where the water soaked into the sides rather into the starter), and I should have marked what they were with sharpie rather than crayola, and I wish I had an acre for the five kinds of squash that I want to cook with this summer.

This year I'm also hoping to get super geeky and attempt my own blends of herbal tea, though this probably won't happen. I love the smell of rosemary and lavender though.

Here's some of what I'm hoping works out.

Scarlet runner beans for the porch. I don't wear them often, but I love bright colors in nature like no other, in part because it breaks through the grey and sepia of Clevelandia's urban landscape.

I don't know where I'll put these blue pumpkins that I'm seed-starting because they take up space like no other. But the color is so cool and they'd make amazing jackolanterns.

Nasturtiums were the first flowers I tried to grow as a kid and actually succeeded. Phyte Club pointed me towards nasturtium pesto, which sounds delicious.

A lot of people don't like okra which is how I ended up with these seeds, but I like it in Indian food and the flowers have that whole hibiscus look that I like.

Japanese eggplants are long and skinny and way less seedy.

Sweet peppers are crazy expensive at the store and the hot ones are good for everything.

assorted sunflowers for the front yard...
California poppies are lovely. Notice, Randal, I didn't say "cute" this time.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Strong women gripe and bite your heavy tongues

Glass ceilings be damned, I've never cared for women running the world any more than men. It's just a different kind of absurdity, less skirt-chasing and good old boys clubs, but rather the machinations of bitter and unhappy romance novel readers who consider everything their business and are unable to see that their casual cattiness and cruelty has sowed seeds of dislike and dissent, of alliances formed and sealed lips. I don't buy this solidarity of women thing for a minute, because I think deep down inside we don't really like each other, and with a system already in place that stacks the deck, we've become extremely good at throwing each other over the side to get ahead.

You say we can't be friends and wonder why we're not friendly towards our betters, but when there's no trust, no rapport, just an oozing of condescension and we don't need to be stabbed in the back because we see the damoclean knife unhidden, it should be no wonder that we all pull back.

I might be more loquacious than some, but there are some I know better than to trust, as we all do, having felt the sting of groundless accusations and intrusions. I know it's not because there's any caring, maintaining of an image perhaps, but more likely the result of small minds discussing people for lack of any true thoughts.The camaraderie of colleagues, the sundry domestic dramas meant to stay within the hearth's circle, the glaring double standards, why should you care so much? Because it's painfully evident that you don't.

Monday, April 9, 2012

aesthetics of commonality.

Thomas Kinkade's paintings might be worth more now, or something, if that means something to someone. I don't get quite as offended by it as other people, because he was basically the Andy Warhol of Middle American suburban housewives, a canny hack with a personality cult and an understanding of mass-production and appealing to what the people want. I'm not the only one who's made this connection, to be sure. It's hard not to make the connection, the only difference merely being a mystique among a certain set of folks that could be defined by some as a target market.

Sorry Kevin Smith, I was responsible for this travesty. I hope you'll understand. 

To each their own, I guess, as I roll my eyes listening to the usual suspects drone on about negativity and bleakness. Most great art has a strain of melancholy or at the very least joy shot through with some intensity of emotion, even the kinds of things that appeal to a lot of people are imbued with a more intense emotion, even in their most kitschiest.

your love affair has got to go

My mom called me this morning and asked where I'd been most of Easter afternoon, after visiting my uncle in the nursing home where he gave me a bag of werther's originals and talked about the state of the world, which given the diet of talk radio, of course isn't very good. I don't really know what to say and it seems he doesn't either, so I watch the clock and then make an exit. I feel like every time I've taken initiative and tried to visit the lonely ones, it never seems to do any good.

I went to the woods and walked around and spilled my thoughts to God and immersed myself in the world of wind and new leaves and water. I came face-to-face with a deer and it startled me so much to see those eyes gazing straight into mine. I stood there frozen for a moment, and then was amazed that the other four didn't run away when I unzipped the camera pouch (left my camera in the car, sorry for the lack of visuals) and started shooting. Then they ran away through the underbrush across the creek and I walked back, drove home and slept, walked, planted and rearranged the containers on the back porch for when I'll be able to start growing things before attempting to exorcise the writer's block and everything else.

There are other things, sometimes it's overwhelming to be around the loved ones as much as I love and enjoy them. I worry to death about her, the way I see her get more furtive, watching her continue the self-destruction, watching her lose respect among her friends, knowing that she's not going to grow up and figure things out if she doesn't move out, but I doubt her ability to take care of herself or figure it out. It kills me knowing that her beauty is the only thing she really sees about herself and pours her time and money into and yet she's doing all these things that are only going to burn her out at the rate she's going. She laughs at me when we go out and I have a cup of coffee and she's drinking multiple beers but I'm thinking about work the next morning, of trying to drive home and besides I'm tired and can't do the late nights like I used to.

She dressed up as Amy Winehouse for Halloween a few years ago before things got worse, and I wonder if it was strangely prophetic. She won't do rehab, she swears there's no problem even though she disappears sometimes. I look at pictures like these and read these stories and listen to my despairing dead junkie music and I'm afraid this is the way she's going. It's already happened to other family members, it's come very close to happening to some of my friends. I feel bad for being angry, but it's more knowing I can't stop someone's trajectory if their heart is set on it.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

calm down come down

It's been awhile since I coffeeshopped here, in a place that reminds me of a hippie hideout somewhere along the Silk Road before it was wracked with little dictators and civil wars, cardamom sludged coffee and Libyan-style tea, jazz music, fresh flowers, cushions, oud music and a woodburning stove.

I've been having creative writer's block for a few months now. Ideas evaporate before they can brew, and I'm left with fragments, shards of creative spark like barely glowing coals that I'm unable to breathe life back into enough to warm into something worthy. I tweak the little bits, honing them more finely before I add anything more. I'm sure if I get back into the routine, it'll begin to flow again.

There has been too much on the periphery that it's hard to escape into the realms of the imaginary. Of questioning as always, seeking moments of clarity, struggling with watching others fall apart. It's hard to want to change things or see things change and know there's nothing I can do but attempt in my own inadequate human way to love and do whatever love means in action.


I was late, and was foiled in attempts to sneak through the back where incidentally the choir was set up and already singing, no seats to be found so I kept moving forward, finally settling on the cold marble steps of the altar in almost complete darkness as the tintinnabulated voices and mournful strings soared up into the vaulted ceiling as the sunset light shining through the stained glass windows faded into darkness.

The words of John's gospel translated from Latin, the chorus of voices narrating, and I marveled at the banality of the church music I grew up hearing that lacked the gravitas, the weight of sadness, the magnitude of events sanitized by a culture that cherishes positivity rather than profundity and sanitizes anything morbid or painful. I read through highlighted pages of Isaiah, of brutalized suffering servants and promises of judgment and mercy and the intensity of the sound and its meaning overwhelms me in the darkness so perfect for pondering, because it's just me and sound and God and here, here is exactly where I needed to be.

 I sit there scrawling prayers into a notebook and weeping because while it's sunk in before, it's hit nerves that have never been quite so exposed, of the injustice of the state, the toxicity of misguided religiosity, of betrayal and desertion of one's closest friends, of selflessness and incomprehensible love, of our own pathetic mortality and attempts at morality. Forgive us, for we know not what we do, it is so hard to even begin to understand.

Friday, April 6, 2012


The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

  Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

  The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

  The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

  The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good. 
Our culture values positivity to its detriment, not that wallowing in a sea
of sorrow is somehow better but, the people I know who seem most disturbed by my 
tendencies towards melancholia as some kind of spiritual ailment and exhort me to be 
more positive, because God wants me to be happy, because this is what's taught to us
from birth it seems. 
And yet, since my lapsed-Catholic soul is still attuned to liturgy, I think of 
the verses of the Lord as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, who agonized
and sweated drops of blood seeing the impending pain. There's nothing in there
about keeping one's head up, but an acknowledgement of the reality that shit is 
fucked up and something needs to be done to put it right, and this sentiment is borne
out in psalms and lamentations and cries of rage and grief from prophets and regular folk.
Because there is only so much much that we can do besides the golden rule basics 
so hard to follow as it is, and it seems that every other religion tells you to 
suck it up or just try harder and hope that maybe things work out because you're 
not as bad as that other person. 
If we pretend that this pain and suffering and just plain wrong things aren't there,
we simply deny the reality of human existence in a world wracked with entropy,
where we all see through the glass darkly though some try to tint that unknowing
with shades of green and rose. And maybe I'm just crazy, but I can't help but wonder
if I'm in good company here. 

the world is my fuse

There was Stravinsky, which my mom got from the library probably thinking it would sound more like Grieg's "morning song' rather than the riot-inducing dissonance that it was, and then that band that a classmate and prom date introduced me to. We all sat on the floor of his room at his graduation party, listening to this quarterlife fury of love lost.

Emo was just getting big, all these ten-band mediocre hardcore fest bills stacked with acts that occasionally sounded good until you realized they all sounded the same. It was before Myspace, and asymmetrical haircuts and white belts and spotless chuck taylors were becoming more ever-present, a whole new game of scene points and oneupmanship. I went to the shows for the pits and the getting out of the house and being with my friends. He told me to listen to this instead, having loaned me Repeater and a couple crust punk albums that I wasn't so into. Half the band formed Fugazi later on, and the shows were legendary for their emotional rawness and for bucking the trend of jocko skinheadness.

I bought my copy of Rites of Spring at the now-defunct Chris' Warped Records at the same time as Jawbox's Novelty, and taped this album for so many people, swearing that this was infinitely better than whatever band they were into, which was kind of elitist of me I guess. Some of my friends at that time who looked more punky still preferred Good Charlotte and the Used as it was. Most pretentiousness comes from deep-seated insecurity, as I've never been good at this cool thing or cred thing. I'm so glad these years are done and I don't care anymore.
But I woke up this morning with a piece of past caught in my throat- And then I choked.

I dug this CD out this past year, wondering if the melodrama of emotional 80's punk would still resonate with my 28-year-old self and found that it did even more than when I was 18. Back then it was just socially awkward high school interactions, but the hurts and the bruises were much less personal, the angst less abstract. I didn't know what it was like to get burned or be disappointed or feel truly stuck and lost until much later. It amazes me that it feels just as cathartic as it did back then, if not moreso. So much of the punk I loved in my early twenties rings a bit ridiculous now, but this has stuck. 

I have learned sometimes a need can run too deep... throw away the things we most wanted to keep...
I could walk around--fall in love with a face or two
But it wouldn't be you--no it wouldn't be you
'Cause you're not who I thought you were, and I can't explain...

 If its not the rule then its always the case,
good intentions get fractured, good intentions get replaced,
so close to reach but so hard to hold,
the only chance you get is past your control, it's so hard, it's so hard.

Maybe what you've seen isn't part of me at all
It must belong to someone but not to me
Maybe I was too quick - too quick to turn my head
But I had to go - just to get around
Other way around
The world it wants you weak
Another way around
I was so young - I didn't know what it meant
to be hurt and then to hurt

And hope is just another rope to hang myself with,
to tie me down, til something real comes around.

Believe me I had wished, we could have avoided this. Please don't ask me to explain all the things that caused your pain - I only want you to realize, passivity equals compliance - let it slip right through your hands, become the victim of other's demands.

And I've found the answer lies in a real emotion
Not the self-indulgence of a self-devotion.

I am the victim of a persistent vision
It tracks me down with its precision
And though I know you're not in my eyes
I can't seem to clear you from my mind

But I've got it now
I've got the rhythm down
Cycles of end on end
But if one wave stops, another begins