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Check this video out. Artist Kseniya Simonova just won what is the Ukrainian version of the popular TV show “America’s Got Talent”, and let me tell you, comparing this video to what shows up on the U.S. version, I’d say Ukraine’s not only got way more talent, but a much, much more sophisticated (i.e., educated) public. Something like this would never win jack shit on American television. Simonova uses a giant light box, dramatic music, and sand to creative an absolutely great moving piece of art interpreting the German invasion of Ukraine in WWII. As an added bonus, I’m pretty sure that song that starts around 7:00 is a classical version of Metalica’s Nothing Else Matters.
Yeah, I’m still alive. And no, the baby hasn’t come yet. In the meantime, I work.
The Northeast Kingdom Music Festival was, once again. An incredibly great time. Wish you were there, as you should too. Next time, I’d hope.
While my blogging habits are, well, poor these days, here’s a few of the things I’m up reading and thinking about in the middle of the night:
-I’ve rallied at length in a number of posts about how the Wal-Mart of health food stores, Whole Foods, is evil and particularly their CEO John MacKey isn’t the great, enlightened progressive he sells himself and his business as. Glad it’s now becoming popular to rail against themboth now. Amazingly enough, MacKey and Whole Foods first started getting liberals, progressives and radicals alike annoyed by submarining the EFCA; now there’s a full-on boycott being called for his hard work at stopping single-payer health care. Good. Now lets figure out how to stop the planned Whole Foods for South Burlington.
-Speaking of liberal corporate giants, Starbucks now brings us the surest sign that yes, indeed, post-modernism is alive, well, and just fucking weird. With sales dropping and the once hip (really?) ubiquitous franchised every-thing’s-the-same-in-every-store model that Starbucks embodies so perfectly increasingly understood as not good, not progressive, not as ‘feel good’ as once thought (by idiots, I guess), the Mermaid has a new plan: Starbuck stores that aren’t called Starbucks, and that look like thrown together DIY-style Bohemian coffeeshops (a la Langdon Street Cafe). That’s right, anti-Starbucks Starbucks stores. From Jim Hightowers’ piece:
With Starbucks’ sales declining as more and more caffine consumers reject the cookie-cutter corporate climate that the chain epitomizes, it is launching a new lineof stores that disappears its name. There’s no corporate signage on the new buildings, no logo stamped on every product inside and none of the generically bland ambiance that makes one Starbucks just like the other 16,000 in the chain.
Instead, the new shops strive to be the anti-Starbucks, dressing up as funky neighborhood coffeehouses with a cool, local vibe. A sort of rustic, thrift-shop decor screens the corporate presence, and such additions as live music and poetry readings are meant to lend an aura of down-home authenticity.
The first of these faux local outlets opened last month in Seattle under the nom de commerce of “15th Avenue Coffee and Tea,” taken from the name of its neighborhood. Future stores are also expected to appropriate the names of their neighborhoods all across the country in a corporate effort to convey a sense of belonging. The idea, as explained by the chain’s senior vice president of global design, is to give each of the coffeehouses “a community personality.”
What we have here, of course, is a willful attempt to commit consumer fraud. But it’s such a goofy fraud that it’s doomed to be an embarrassing failure.
Start with the fact that genuine neighborhood coffee shops genuinely have a “community personality.” It’s not something that can be faked or “given,” much less replicated into a chain of 16,000 outlets.
-My ol’ pal over at Broadsides has an enjoyable Hugo Chavez-related quote up:
“Golf is a bourgeois sport,” he said, repeating the word “bourgeois” as if he were swallowing castor oil. Then he went on, mocking the use of golf carts as a practice illustrating the sport’s laziness.
And while I appreciate the sentiment (I’ve never been able to find much interest in golf either), this is really just fire-belly sloganeering to fit a mold (Marxist revolutionary) rather than intelligent insight. Golf is bourgeois ’cause the bourgeois own it; as far as recreation goes, it’s sold to the rich and priced for the rich. But it’s not the fault of the people who can’t afford golf that they can’t afford it, so it can’t reallybe dislike only on these grounds. Maybe golf is fun; I wouldn’t know, I can’t really afford it and it’s never something that I ever come in contact with, it’s not around me. But we wouldn’t hate solar power because solar panels are all made by corporate giants, some of who may not engage in the most progressive and preferable business practices. No, instead we should just want/work to see solar panels made by employee-run facilities or public electric coops or something…
-The funniest thing happened the other day: as I was sitting on the deck drinking my morning coffee and thinking that I should have walked down to get the paper before perching myself so enjoyably, I noticed an elderly woman stop at my mailbox, give the ol’ look to the left, look to the right, and proceed to take the paper out of my mailbox and peruse through the thing. She didn’t just skim the front page, either. She stopped to ready pieces, at least the first bits of them, and she took the paper apart and checked the covers of the other sections. She then put the whole thing nicely back together and left the paper in the box for me. Don’t get me wrong: I have no real problem that she did this, since she left the paper for us to read ourselves. But watching it all was thoroughly entertaining.
-Rest well, Les Paul. The inventor of almost everything cool and important (electric guitar, rock n’ roll, multi-track recording…) passed away at the age of 94 on Thursday. An old cassette tape of him playing that I had bought at a garage sale when I was 14 and just learning the guitar taught me almost instantaneous respect for the capabilities and power of music.
It used to be that I had this thing, this useful thing. It wasn’t that I had a lot, or that I didn’t have other things I could be doing. But I had some of it, or at least, I made some of it. It was spare time, and I gave it to you, and to this blog. Now that seems like a distant memory. Even right now, if you saw the ‘to do’ list that I’m pretending I’m going to get done this week, you’d wonder what the hell it is I’m doing at this computer.
For one thing my work schedule is far more demanding than it has been the past year that I’ve been blogging- and that’s a good thing, considering that in not too distant a future I’ll enter the entirely new and novel world of being lone bread winner for a family. Which is the other reason I’m just not at this computer with the time to do much writing- having a girlfriend seems to require paying attention to them, and spending time with them, and when you add on the fact a having a pregnant girlfriend, you also end up having to tie their shoes and get them water and and rub their feet on and on. PLUS, with NEKMF around the corner there’s an added sense of time to get shit done.
And all of these things, along with a healthy dose of summer weather, gardens, softball… well, it makes politics seem so esoteric. I don’t mean that I’ve given up on paying attention to what’s going on, or believing strongly the things I believe in. But take, for example, health care. Quality health care for all people- without restrictions based on one’s ability to economically afford it is something that post-industrial society’s progress to deeming fit. That’s how it works folks: people, and nations, evolve over time. Where once we thought we deserved little, slowly over time we’ve grown to expect free and fair elections (that everyonecan participate in), a healthy landscape, clean water, viable transportation networks, decent education systems, clean and safe hospitals, fire departments… you get the picture. As the consciousness of people expands, so too does our expectations from the social sphere (for industrial and post-industrial society, that largely means the State). It’s just so fucking obvious. The arguments against socialized health care are 99% juvenile dribble. I just can’t stand the whole debate. And even worse- any progressive worth their salt knows that Obama and the Federal Dems aren’t going to give us the health care system we need and deserve, it’s going to be some watered down bastard of a system which, good or bad, won’t be good enough.
So why fucking bother. I’ve got a summer to enjoy, a loving partner to tend to. I’ve got work to do.
Part of my frustration also comes from the boxes that we crawl into. I mean, no wonder we lose so much, at times we’re just clueless!
What am I talking about? Take the example of agriculture and land management. The progressive view favors “organic” over “traditional”; I was reading such an argument just the other day. But we can stop right there, because in that one sentence we’ve lost the debate and the hearts and minds of the people who need to be convinced of our perspective. The “traditional” form of farming, gardening, and land management is “organic”! So why doesn’t the left frame the debate as between “traditional” and “conventional”, or even better yet, “industrial”? Because we’re idiots. Because we let the conversation (the ‘meme’) be directed by our enemies, by the State, corporate interests, and the capitalist press. Industrial agriculture is gross, destructive of everyone and everything but the few CEO’s and shareholders who profit hugely, and is not “traditional” but rather an attack on our traditions. If those of us with a clearer mindset and better intentions would be less clueless- make themmeet us on our terms, not the other way around- then perhaps we could get some shit done. We could show people who’s own interests are ours but yet who side with their exploiters because, well, our exploiters are controlling the terms of the debate. Instead we attack “traditional” ag in favor of “organic”, a linguistic trick played on us with the exact effect of turning the people who actually value the “traditional” method against it in favor of industrial ag which pollutes our lands, malnourishes our children, and makes everyone but the top 1% poor, poor, poor.
So to hell with it all. I’ll stop over to write some as I can, and I hope that there’s more an more time for it. But you know, life is too short and precious to spend talking about the bull shit. Anyway, I’ve got a bar to go open.
In the realm of completely random, as far as topics that I don’t normally write about: here’s one about film, New Jersey, and the band Phish.
We Enjoy Yourself is an hour long documentary going through Phish’s “final tour” in 2004 (leading up to the shows in Coventry, VT) from the vantage of the phans fans (sorry, I couldn’t bring myself to keep the cute-sy spelling). It happens to be by Chris Pepino, who I’ve quite literally been friends with since I was brought home from the hospital after being born; and the film is making it’s debut at the New Jersey Film Festival at Rutgers this September 4th and 5th. Huge congrats to Chris (who’ll be at the screening to introduce the film both nights, if you happen to be down there and are thinking of going). As a side note, if you hit that link under Chris’ name it takes you to his film production company, True Form Pictures, and if you go to his site you should be sure to give a listen to some of the music he’s written- it’s pretty fucking sweet. And another side note, since we’re talking music and festivals and Chris: he also did the Northeast Kingdom Music Festival movie for us a few years ago; which leads in to the perfect shameless plug; namely that the 7th Annual Northeast Kingdom Music Festival is happening soon, August 7 & 8 at the Chilly Ranch in East Albany, VT, and you should seriously think about coming up. It’s always a blast, and tons of great music from an eclectic mix. Also, DVD’s of the NEKMF film are still available and are on sale for $8 leading up to the Fest- you can buy them through Chris’ website.
A smattering for you of what I’ve been up to, what’s on my mind, and what to expect from this blog in the next week or two:
-First of all of note is the fact that our Three Penny Taproom softball team finally won a game! Yes, it is only a game, and it’s damn fun, but winning, surprisingly enough, is incredibly more enjoyable than losing. Despite my slight desire to give credit to either our incredibly beautiful fans, or our incredibly great bench staff, the credit may actually go to good team play. Anywhichway, the parts of life in which we recognize that we’re only playing a game are that much more special and enjoyoable, since so much of the rest can feel (and be) so fucking intense.
-Speaking of games, despite wide-spread rumors (largely started by Danny Ainge) that the Boston Celtics were ready to trade either Rondo, Allen, or Perkins to move up in the draft, the C’s front office is now saying that their “expectation” is that Pierce, Garnett, Allen, Rondo and Perk will be the starting line-up next year. Better fucking be. The problem, with four unquestionably all-star quality starters and one guy (Perkins) who may not quite be an all-star but otherwise is incredibly quality, is not starters but bench, and staying healthy. Last year Pierce played the whole second half of the season looking like a veteran who had just gone through a 26-game playoff run, Garnett was out the end of the year, Rondo was playoff dynamite despite lingering ankle challenges, Tony Allen was injured, Scal was injured, Starbury bought too much of the team-centered philosophy of Doc’s C’s and was too afraid to shoot the fucking ball (no one before this year has ever complained of Steph not shooting enough and passing too much). Don’t trade, just practice. Your worst guys are fairly good, just work.
-Anyway. After some provoking comments on the post, some really thoughtful emails from several people, and a few good personal conversations all about my recent piece regarding the Langdon Street Cafe, I’m going to be posting some follow-up and clarifying thoughts on the whole matter. Stayed tuned for that soon.
-I was going to make this it’s own post, but fuck it:
Seems the cops from the ’68 Democratic Convention police riots in Chicago are having a reunion to celebrate their notion of the pivotal role they played in safeguarding the country from the “socialist menace” that was arising then in this country. That’s right, one of the most notorious riots in modern history- started and staged here in the land of the free and home of the brave- will be the subject of a high school-style reunion for the very working class people who violently took up arms against their fellow man for the right of some people to be obscenely wealth while the vast majority suffer in want and need. Luckily, Chicago CopWatch is way on it and will be taking to the streets at the banquet in order to denounce police brutality then and now.
-Elsewhere, Wayne Price has a great piece up at Anarkismo.com regarding the “two most prevalent” currents of anarchism today. Well worth the read, even for the casually interested. Wayne, as almost always, is spot on.
-Since you asked, I called this post “…Round-Up Ready” in ode to a very important piece written by the esteemed (and my friend) Brian Tokar over at GMD.
-Finally, today (Thursday) is the end of voting for FAHC tech workers to join a union. If you happen to be eligible to vote in this election, I’d like to throw in my plug for you to vote, and vote yes. My ideological ideas about why unions are good aside- my girlfriend has worked 60+ hours a week for her entire pregnancy (almost 8 months now) in trying to get you a say on decisions on the job, raises based on seniority and skill, and a little job security (not to mention staffing ratios that have that not-so-bad effect of increasing patient care; I know you didn’t think I forgot about the patients). Shortly after your union election we may not have health care and our family- on the verge of growing- will have to survive on less than half the income. As I write this I’ve seen my (almost 8 months pregnant) girlfriend quite literally 3 hours in the past 7 days (that’s approx 168 hours, if that’s how you want it). And all because she thinks you deserve better for your life. And I agree with her.
Do me a personal favor- vote yes and let her come home to rest a little. Thanks.
Whew. It’s nice to be back in the swing of things around here, finally getting some posts back up- and finally getting some writing done. A quick re-cap of this week’s posts shows that you all have had the opportunity to learn quite a bit about me: though I admitted to having a bit of a riot porn fetish, I also made clear that street demos and insurrectionist revolution don’t strike me as really it; I came out against reasoned debate and for kicking ass against Nazi’s and fascists; I dipped dangerously close to conspiracy theory weirdo in doubting that the protests in Iran are much more than a Western-pushed destabilization movement (I mean, there’s something somewhat familiar about their “green revolution“… oh, that would be its similarities to the Ukraine’s “orange revolution”, Burma’s “saffron revolution”… USAID and other such Departments are clearly good at branding, not so much on the creativity front); then yesterday I made the clearly illegal and morally questionable decision to openly “advocate literature”. Yes folks, it’s really nice to have a moment to get some writing in, as well as to simply get some reading done.
In less well-publicized action, I also added two links. The first one is simply my latest attempt to make a living without a strangulation of a boss (and also the cause of my lack of attention to this blog for April and May)- the Three Penny Taproom. It’s Montpelier’s (and rapidly, Vermont’s) most premier beer bar. 16 taps, in pretty constant rotation, plus a fresh cask every Thursday. Plus a simple but well-thought tapas menu (custom beer-washed cheese plate, fresh salami plate, etc). And also, soccer. We also play a pretty fun game of watching Australian rules football and trying to figure out what the fuck the rules are… stop on over if you’re in the area! Oh yeah, and in the coming weeks we’ll be getting a lot of really exciting things in that absolutely no one else in Vermont carries- courtesy of some really great collaborative work between one of our distributors and one of the country’s largest beer distributors down in CT. Also, if you’re in be sure to sign-up for our email list, as that’s how you’ll get notice about new beers coming on tap, and when special events (like the 15 year old, +$400 keg of Scottish Ale we’ll be getting soon) comes on.
The other link I added is to the very good Anarchist Black Cat Forum– it’s far and away the best internet forum for all things libertarian, socialist, and revolutionary. I must admit that, while I’ve been heading over there to read the discussions for quite some time now, I’ve yet to post anything. But the discussions are often quite good, and thought provoking; of course, as with all internet forums, there’s the obligatory few who are belligerent, who don’t add anything constructive, who are hyper-critical… but they’ve got pretty clear and strict user-protocols and the site moderators are pretty on-it. And there’s surprisingly very little “insider baseball” and inter-personal mellow drama- two reasons why I seldom associate myself with much of anything having to do with the “anarchist community”. Though none of this is in anyway confined to radical circles, I wanna say how entirely obnoxious it is to me that so much of the political community of anarchists is wrapped up and packaged as a social sub-culture, replete with dating dramas, squabbles over minuscule happenings, and everything else you’d expect from a social scene… only, it’s supposed to be a political scene. I for one prefer my social life to be one filled with people whom I find social kinship with (watching sports, drinking beer)- which by no means whatsoever is exclusive of finding political kinship, but Jesus! I find that generally when my social circles are actual, you know, friends, the drama is kept pretty low because, well, drama usually stems from things like people fucking you over, mis-treating each other, not considering each other- none of which I’d expect from actual friends. When drama surfaces in life, I notice that it tends to come from people and/or events that just aren’t worth the stress. I mean, there’s so much to life- he-said-she-said-you-slept-with-who-I can’t-believe-they-did-that bull shit just doesn’t seem, to me anyway, to be what it’s all about. But I digress…. my point is merely that I have social scenes based on mutual interest and camaraderie, and I participate in political scenes based on shared ideas, ideals, and passions (none of which is mutually exclusive, for damn sure)- I just wish things like political forums would get the political part right, or rightfully note that they are in fact social forums. Nonetheless, despite that little diatribe, Anarchist Black Cat is an exceptionally good political forum, and worth checking out if you want to engage or learn about the things that anarchists are pondering and doing.
Enjoy your weekend. Cheers!
The rumors are all true, today I’m thirty years old. I appreciate all the birthday well-wishes I’ve gotten so far, as well as the gentle jokes about being old. Truth be told, for as long as I can remember I’ve always felt older than I am, and I’ve always been surrounded by friends who average 4-6 years older than me, so rather than feeling “old” on my birthdays, I always have an odd sense of “oh yeah, I’m only this old now….” Turning thirty has actually been much different than most other birthdays, as I’ve been quite reflective of late; it’s just one of those milestone years. That and the fact that this is my last birthday ever without a child under toe, which means this will also be my last birthday for a while that I can actually have as a day to myself.
All of which has led me to, as I said, be very reflective. I’m really glad to have been able to do and experience all that I have so far in my life- it’s been a good first 30: I’ve driven across the country and back several times; I’ve traveled throughout the Northeast and up and down the Eastern Seaboard more times than I can count; I’ve seen hundreds, probably thousands of concerts (if you count the smaller shows), including some of my favorite musicians numerous times. I’ve survived drug addiction and self-destructive habits (and I’ve committed to quitting smoking before this kid arrives); I’ve been homeless and well-off (and quite glad to have landed in the middle, where the challenges of both extremes are only lessons from my past); I’ve worked very hard to to have what I have and to have done away with things that I’ve realized weren’t necessary or weren’t as valuable (or pleasant) as I once thought them to be; I’ve had my punk phase, my hippie phase, my college student phase, my Buddhist phase, my homesteader phase, my activist phase… and at every step of the way I’ve taken what seems valuable and True and left behind that which I no longer need. My very first job (aside from babysitting, which I began doing at the ripe old age of 8- like I said, I’ve always been slightly more mature than perhaps necessary for my years) was cleaning horse stalls when I was 10. Since then I’ve washed dishes, been a landscaper, a daycare teacher, a hospice worker, a farmer. I’ve started four businesses in my life (so far) from the humble little “business” I set-up when I was 11 (doing yard work and chores for people- I made my own business cards and had invoices I printed out on my moms old Apple IIE) to helping found the Northeast Kingdom Music Festival (which we still do every year- year 7 is just around the corner) and the Langdon Street Cafe in Montpelier (which, though I’m no longer involved, has developed into one of the premier small venues Vermont) and now, in about a month and a half, the Three Penny Taproom will be opening (“good beer and soccer” is our vision).
Of course, life isn’t all shits and giggles. I’ve also buried my father, two grandmothers, and more friends than I can even keep track of. I’ve had my heart broken a few times and made more than my fair share of mistakes. But I’ve tried really hard to find peace through the most difficult times and to always do right and to learn from everything I’ve experienced. I could swim almost before I could walk and I still hold the record for most points scored in a basketball game at my former middle school (36) (yes it was a double overtime game). And I got to see game 7 of the Celtics-Lakers NBA championship last year, with a friend who I’ve literally known since I was brought home from the hospital (and who happens, despite being a good person, to be a Lakers fan). Most importantly, come August I’m going to be a dad(!), and I’ve got the good fortune to have found love with an amazing, beautiful, intelligent woman. Life, my friends, is a good thing. Thanks for taking the time to indulge me here. Cheers.