Monday, July 31, 2006

I got a burnt copy of the next Blow record, Paper Television. It's a bad rip, and a bad burn too.

But on a first listen I think I'm still going to say that it's kind of disappointing, maybe intermittently annoying.

Track two, Parentheses, seems pretty good though, even though that's one where I think the bad rip comes through in my hearing- The chorus has what just sounds to me like the static of crinkling aluminum foil. But on the whole I'm still thinking it's a winner. That song, at least.

The record seems to have surging through it a use of too much of the same trite imagery (The word "heart" gets said a lot) and then there's at least one kind of overworked metaphor (That one involves poop. Actually, that one recurs as well. Awkwardly.) Parentheses has one or two lines that cut through all that malarkey to actually say things. Also, it has the best melody. The beats do cool stuff throughout, every once in a while, but what I think might be one of the best beats also has one of the worst melodies (It's the song where the word "shit" is said in the chorus, and the bad part of the vocal is Khaela doing like this scream-screech high note all over the damn place.)

Unrelated but: I am always wondering, always worrying about, what I would think were I to interact with a younger self, and what that younger self would think of me, the continuity in my behavior. The thing that makes me worry about this, I realize, is that in a lot of ways I'm not any better off than I was when I was younger. The things that I want now are things I think I've always wanted, that I have never had. Except for a few abstractions that I've grabbed momentarily.

There's a record store in Pennsauken where I could probably buy a bunch of Prince records for like two bucks apiece but the money situation's not too good. Self-control, self-control! There's also a copy of Bitches Brew for 25 bucks which is high but maybe it's an original pressing or some shit. I don't know. I shouldn't spend money anyway.

Oh right- I'm in New Jersey now. Have been since last Monday, when I pissed off my brother. He went away for a weekend, gave me chores to do- Giving the cat food and water. Which I do anyway, even when he's around. But after giving the cat food the morning of his return, my brother still came home to an empty bowl (Cats eat food) and concluded that I did nothing and so am not to be trusted and am hopelessly immature and can't stay with him for at least a while, which kind of fucked the whole "job in Philly" bit so I think now I'm looking for work in New Jersey, even though I don't want to stay with my mom either, I guess I'll just have to once I find employment.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

I'm at my mom's house, on her computer. I see she's been looking up Asperger's Syndrome. Does this make me paranoid that she thinks I have Asperger's? Yes. I kind of think that's the type of thing that if you had never actually seen someone who had it, you might think it was a problem for anyone whose behavior struck you as being odd or outside the norm of what you want and expect people to be. I have a different perception of social interaction and expectation than she does, I think.

This is just paranoia, she's not making any accusations or anything. Still I've got the fear.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

My dad might be going to prison. I wish I had known about this earlier. But he, being a drunk, often drives drunk. He was pulled over recently. A third offense. So he has to stand trial, and got an expensive lawyer to try to make it so the first time didn't count because he didn't have legal representation. Which strikes me as bullshit, but what do I know of the law?

It seems fairly unlikely he'll go to prison, what with being in his forties and white and all that.

I don't know what'll happen to him. I hope he doesn't get sent to rehab, just because I know he's not really repentant.

I don't want him to go to prison, even though that would be funny to me, in an awful kind of way.

He's moving out of his parent's house, though, which is for the best. Closer to work so that if his license gets taken away for ten years (which strikes me as something that should probably happen, and is apparently a possibility) he could still keep his job.

Interacting with my dad is weird. He belittles my haircut, I tell him that my brother saw him in a strip club and said he was the sleaziest dude there. He argues that he's not sleazy, he's playful. I say my brother calls 'em as he sees 'em, and is way less biased than he is, since no one wants to think they're sleazy. He tells me he might be going to prison, but he likes to party hard and likes having crazy friends. I tell him that it is bad to have crazy friends exclusively, and that a balance must be maintained between the crazy and the sane. Then I tell him not to go to prison, and point out that he, in living with his parents, tends to get angry about nothing.

I've been happier since I left home, but since he moved back in with his parents, he's had a heart attack.

What I'm saying is that I am now at the point where I am better at living life than he is. And I say this as someone who's unemployed. He's paid for a few quarters of tuition. You know what's funny? Life is funny. Life is goddamn hilarious.

I don't want my dad to go to prison, but I've wanted him to learn a lesson that would mean stop drinking to excess and hanging out with- when he says crazy people he means perverts with serious drug problems- but I mean I guess he is as against his own self-growth as I am mine.

My mom used to hope and maybe pray that my dad would get in a car accident, not too bad, but enough to make him learn a lesson. I used to imagine scenarios where he would hit me with a car while driving drunk. And when I was younger and more religious I would pray for his redemption, just a general becoming a better person. Now I just have a dark sense of humor but I still feel a kinship with that younger me, and feel like the connection between being deeply cynical and darkly humored and being religious and spiritual is undervalued. I don't know what'll happen to my dad, and I don't know if he'll change. More on this story as it develops, although as I type it I feel like nothing will ever happen.

I read Kurt Vonnegut's Jailbird, and liked it okay, and was able to relate to parts of it if I was being intellectually dishonest.

Monday, July 17, 2006

So this was interesting, a thing in Harper's about the right wing's strategies in forming the narratives they tell. It starts off slow, gets good with historical details, and ends up making sense in the end if you go into it already sharing it's political biases.

I'll tell you what wasn't interesting, what was kind of stupid, was this Lev Grossman thing in Time about how there's no literary voice of the generation. The best part is when it starts off listing the ages of authors as a way to dismiss people who were never nominated: Seriously I think that we all knew that Michael Chabon was pretty much writing exclusively for old people, specifically nerds. Really an awful piece of writing- The part where Zadie Smith gets cited but only almost, with the stipulation that she might not qualify because she lives in England- She's also a black woman and everyone else cited was a white man. But what's really important here is that she, at 30, is probably actually just outside the frame of consideration, in my mind.

Alex, when looking at the Paper Rad book, called that the art of this generation. I was like "they're older than us" but it's worth noting that they're still younger than Zadie Smith and at least I'm pretty sure the cultural reference points that are important are shared.

This should also come into play with the also-stupid-but-for-different-reasons Chuck Klosterman article about the lack of video game criticism.

Like I think it's important that Paper Rad (and cartoonist Bryan Lee O'Malley) are dealing with that detritus of video games in their art, their work that's not-prose-novels. Just from a position of if I were a cultural critic, what would I think is important in terms of shaping the lives of people alive right now. Or was important, in the past. There's important things that need to be taken into consideration with what people are dealing with- All cultural critics are thinking to say is 9/11, which is so fucking reductive and psychologically that happened after my personality was pretty much already formed. No one thinks to mention Columbine as a big thing but I thought it was huge at the time it occurred although post-high-school it seems less so, but maybe it taught some kids fear and empathy in a way that's shaped their lives.

But let's take, for the people that fell outside marketer's post-Douglas Coupland purview, the important formative stuff as happening from the late-eighties on. I don't know when to say the formative stuff ended. 9/11 maybe in terms of- that created a world that we now have to live with but seemingly cannot actually change. (This is why I started with that Harper's article, by the way- I like the idea at the end that a lot of people are just kind of over America.)

That means liberalism, by the way. Like, the way I think about it- Think of how much The Simpsons is imprinted on your brain, and how that's been there since childhood. There are other sitcoms that are important too- Thank you Seinfeld, for teaching me about unacceptable behavior. I mean I guess that's the mark of young people in general but my understanding of the show Diff'rent Strokes (I think- By the way, that show is an example of stuff around in the late eighties that didn't matter at all in terms of shaping the lives of people who are now in their twenties) is that that's not always the case. But I don't know- Maybe I am just a douchebag elitist in that in the same way I would think anyone conservative must have their head in the fucking sand, if they are young they are just completely out of step with the zeitgeist. (And not even because of the whole war equals killing of the nation's young thing, actually.) But I think of the formative stuff and I can't imagine- Like even growing up with rap so huge seems like it should maybe take the edge off racism a bit, which is so huge with conservatives.

I don't know, I'm not really that interested in that whole voice-of-a-generation bullshit but I felt obligated to comment on it as someone who's not a fucking old man writing for Time the criticial establishment- Why would that guy even think he would know who was speaking for the young people? God such an awful article. Also annoying is the similarity in tone for all the pieces he speaks for, the douchebag. All angry and whiny and snivelling, and by placing it in context, that is what he expects and seemingly wants from the future. I get the impression, vaguely, the a lot of the people producing good work now are producing work that's fairly gentle, possibly in response to how awful the global situation is, which is weird and maybe unlikely but I don't know: It seems like a lot of people are trying to be calm and buddhist and spiritual and communicate in their work, rather than just froths of rage and whininess. Maybe that's just like the calmness of living with the post-apocalypse and growing up without a feeling of entitlement.

By the way, I'm under the impression that the next Paper Rad book, the one that I think'll be out before the end of the year, will be like a collection of various previously released but in small-print-run minicomics and zines and whatnot.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

So, yesterday I found out that Syd Barrett is dead, the West African Black Rhino is probably extinct, and Sleater-Kinney's going on indefinite hiatus.

And today, here in Philadelphia, it's grotesquely hot and humid.

I need to look for work again. I found employment at the CD store briefly, but they realized they don't actually need employees, despite the help wanted sign in the window, and I don't follow directions so well when they're counter-intuitive and the reasoning is not explained to me.

I did one day's worth of work, with the store owner's wife, who is proof that even an awful pustule of hate can find love in this world, if only with another pustule of hate, if you don't mind that love being filled with resentment. She was awful.

Oh and this dude came into a store looking to use a bathroom, which I told him he couldn't do there, so he said "I guess I'll just go here then" and put his hand on his crotch. I told him to get out, and long interchange of dialogue back and forth made short since I don't remember it with that much accuracy anyway, (although an important part is when he brings his hand back to his head as if in preparation to slap me) his parting words are "Fuck you Jew boy."

Casual anti-semitism is so weird because I don't think that many people actually care that people are Jewish enough to hate them.

(I also had an interaction where I walked past a crowd of people sitting down at night and they spoke to me in genericisms, to which I said "yup" and one of them said "Yup? what are you, Jewish?" which is weirder.)

I still need that haircut, still need that resume printed, still need a section of the newspaper with classifieds. But now I also need the paycheck from that day I worked.

Friday, July 07, 2006

I read three books in between leaving Olympia and arriving in Philadelphia. I wrote stuff in my notebook that responded to the work, or were basically blog entries. This will basically be me writing about those books, but if anything else in the notebooks is of interest, I'll write it out. I also wrote notes on my laptop, but the laptop power cord has melted and so I'm using my brother's computer.

On the morning I left Olympia I saw a sign I'd seen before and had meant to document, but didn't. Something like "Obscene language is unacceptable in recovery." It was by that Vietnamese place on Fourth Avenue, right after the bridge, like behind it on a street that ran perpendicular that I can't think of. I viewed it through a window. I didn't think that place was a rehab clinic, and I don't really know what it's deal is.

Also on the day I left Olympia, there were Nazis in downtown, at the street fair, waving flags and wearing armbands. Everyone just greeted them with ambivalence, not wanting to give them the satisfaction, but the temptation to engage them in a way that could lead to violence was tempting. I could've said "Hey Nazis! Go back to douche-land!" or a variation that turned "Nazi" into "nozzle."

I left on a Sunday. Friday I saw Art School Confidential and then partied until five in the morning, and in doing so learned I don't have to worry about whiskey-dick. (Or at least not complete impotence resulting from drunkenness.) Also on Friday a bit of my cartoon was erased from a DV tape, but I took it in stride. It might not be a total disaster.

Portland seemed nice for the half hour or so I spent there.

Anyway, so the books I read. The first being George Saunder's Pastoralia, which was fun. I'd read the best story before buying the book. Two stories end with a character acting humanely and sympathetically in accordance to their instincts, but against what they reason is their better judgment. In the title story, which is longer than the others, the nice human behavior is practiced throughout, until the end, where there is a figurative straw breaking the camel's back. Another story, "The Barber's Unhappiness," ends with unreasonable expectations and plans for the future, which will probably not be fulfilled, which is for the best. But basically, this is the sympathy that goes throughout the book. I didn't dislike this stuff, it's gentleness, but- Saunders is actually a really funny guy, and that doesn't come through with that much regularity here. Part of it's that maybe that sense of humor, which is basically satirical, runs counter to the human sympathetic impulse. I prefer the funny stuff. I wish he was better at doing both at once, and maybe he is in other stuff. "Winky" wins the book for it navigating between both sides more easily than anything else, and even there, the humor is mostly found at the beginning.

Following that, I read Alan Moore's Voice Of The Fire, which I didn't really like. I certainly wasn't compelled to finish it, so much as I read it for lack of anything else to do on the train. I read it in two days, which doesn't mean I enjoyed it so much as I'm pretty confident I didn't miss anything. It seemed overwritten, trying too hard in its prose. It's also- it's ostensibly a novel, but it's basically a set of connected short stories, and so it ends up becoming very much about its themes, which aren't really that interesting. And they're specific themes, in that the writer has others, that he deals with in his comics, that are much more interesting. Some of what unites the book isn't a theme so much as it is just reoccuring imagery. Nothing really gets resolved. In the last chapter, there's also a reference to Pig Bodine as a character in Gravity's Rainbow, but I think he's actually in V. Although that's a minor complaint. But mostly- it's not fun, it's self-consciously difficult, and for no real payoff. Moore's a guy who's able to write good prose in comics, but so much of that really varies from work to work. Here, it's just kind of overheated experimentation that's maybe beautiful but is mostly obfuscating.

I also read Joe Sacco's Safe Area Gorazde, which is not really the type of thing I read regularly, but had heard was really good and it was a comic so it kind of falls into my purview even if I don't read a lot of nonfiction about recent events. I didn't dig it, which really shouldn't surprise me at all, considering. It's interesting, I learned stuff, even if I'm forgetting it now, but- Not my thing in a whole lot of ways. And really, I should've known this. I will offer this criticism though- He's not a very good caricaturist, and when he was drawing real people, I never really felt like I got an idea of what they looked like, and a lot of characters struck me as indistinct, which is a problem when you're doing journalism in comics form.

I wish I had more fun things to read on the ride from San Francisco to Chicago. Right now I've got my brother's books on hands, which means a lot of design books (Blue Note album covers , especially those designed and photographed by Reid Miles, are ill!) and I started to read Kurt Vonnegut's Jailbird. I also read The R. Crumb Handbook, which I gave him for Christmas, and was reminded of what I suspected/knew- That I don't really like that dude's work. (The racist imagery is particularly weird, because it's deployment probably isn't to racist ends, and I don't think he's a racist so much as he's playing with the imagery, but it's just fucking weird imagery, classic racist stuff that's so beyond my actual experience, in that even if I'm going to admit to having the occasional racist tendency, it's more a question of urban fear than weird inhuman caricatures. Like, big black dudes might beat me up, but I don't think they're subhuman. Crumb's depictions are just like what the fuck? That Crumb's frequently made a big deal of for his honesty, especially where the misogyny shows up- which I'm uncomfortable with as well, for a number of reasons, one of which is that his set of perversions and obsessions strikes me as weird- puts the racist stuff in a weird place in terms of being meant ironically.) He can draw, though. Won't fault him that.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

So here's the bad thing about living in Philadelphia: I don't really have my shit together, and I don't have any friends in the city proper, and sometimes (like Sunday) I get derided by my mom and my brother for the way I live my life, like how I am inviting people to kick my ass. I'm bad at eye contact, girls tell my brother that I am so awkward, and my brother worries about me. I'm getting a cell phone tomorrow because brother made my mom an ultimatum that I can't live with him without one, because I create too much worry because I'm just so goddamn punchable.

So I guess soon I'll be easier to get in contact with.

I feel like a sellout.

Also family's paying for a haircut. I'm not really happy with my hair right now, my bangs are for shit, but expensive haircuts, even if I don't have to pay are just ideologically suspect.

And I don't know if I'm going to pursue this but a dude told me that I could maybe get a job at American Apparel, he gave me a name to ask for. That's probably too far away to be practical anyway but it's symptomatic of something larger and awful.

Further down this route of course would be actual photos on myspace and going to bars two or more times a week.

The sad truth is that Olympia is a place I can exist without awkwardness, where I can be harsh and honest and off-putting rather than in Philadelphia where I don't know what I'm doing. I can imagine myself just giving in completely to someone else's idea of coolness and still not being attractive to anyone.

My mom referred yesterday to Olympia not being the real world. She meant due to the lack of blacks. I came to the revelation in like junior year that the real world doesn't exist, we're all in our bubbles. City people like to think themselves oh so worldly but I'm sure that farmers think they're full of shit because of how detached they are from the food they eat, how their meat gets made. And the farmer are right but they are stupid and vote against their own interests and wear cowboy hats. And there are people who think they are in it because they are so debauched but the world of debauchery is a ridiculous one. What I'm saying is I can exist in Olympia, and Olympia kind of sucks and I create tension but it's cool.

I would like to live in Philadelphia but I don't want to sell my soul.

I bought comics today as some way to navigate the divide. As an exercise to hold them in my hand and still look people in the eye, to embrace that nerdy part of me that I trust and try to show some faith in it.

There is a part of me that knows that you can never be any more or less than what you actually are but I don't know what that actually means or how it can translate into not getting mugged.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

So, the Boredoms show, June 30th, in Philadelphia, with Lightning Bolt and Hrvatski.

I think people played a lot of new shit. It's sometimes hard to tell with stuff like that though.

Keith Fullerton Whitman is like balding. He just had a laptop, and had probably done a great deal of programming in advance. I don't know. I know he was able to stand up, with his fingers not glued to the keyboard at all times, and drum along with his samples and stuff. He was pretty into what he was doing. I don't think the crowd knew who he was, but I think he won them over. Oh yeah: Not as loud as I expected, he wasn't doing the Irrevocably Overdriven thing of trying to max things into the red. He played songs that had length. One had a lot of video game samples. When I came in, he'd started his set but he was mostly just playing beeps. He got into rock out mode shortly thereafter. He was good. I had earplugs.

At one point one earplug fell out onto the ground but I put it back because Lightning Bolt are fucking loud. I didn't see them, as they played on the floor and a crowd emerged quickly. During the last couple songs, I rushed forward into the fray and got closer to the scene but all I saw were amps and the head of Brian Gibson's bass. It seemed like a lot of what was being played was new stuff, and some of it was pretty awesome. I got more covered in other dude's sweat during their set than I think has ever happened.

The Boredoms had three drummers and Eye playing- I guess a synth? I don't know. Show started with him holding what I thought were candles and waving them about. This created a sound and I don't think they were candles. Anyway- They were great. There was one song that was just like a dance gem that Yoshimi sung, it was like OOIOO or Black Dice remixing Deerhoof (music critic bullshit talk). Everything was good but that stood out. They played two encores. During the end of the first set, this Japanese dude started standing near me, with a little baby on his shoulder, baby wearing big red noise-cancelling type headphones. During the encore I saw this guy sitting on a speaker upfront. The kid clapped. It was great. Lot of dancing. Everything could be on an album. I recognized, like, a chord from Super Ae. Most stuff seemed new.

And then as I'm leaving this person's all "can I see your shirt" "yeah" "is that tux dog" "yeah" "this is ben jone's sister" "oh hi" "hey" "wait does that mean your poetry from when you were like twelve is in the paper rad book" "yeah, words to live by. well, that's embarassing." "for you or for me?" "i guess both of us, so it cancels out and we're cool" "high five for coolness" (we high five) "where'd you get that" "I made it, there's a website" "yeah i know, that's cool, i should tell my baby brother that someone's following his dogma" "yeah some nerdy kid in Philadelphia" Then I walked off to wash the sweat from my arms and face even though I could've pursued the conversation more or at least in some way tried to make myself seem awesome.