it was the nature of things

“His mind was freshly inclined toward sorrow; toward the fact that the world was full of sorrow; that everyone labored under some burden of sorrow; that all were suffering; that whatever one took in this world, one must try to remember that all were suffering (none content; all wronged, neglected, overlooked, misunderstood), and therefore one must do what one could to lighten the load of those with whom one came into contact; that his current state of sorrow was not uniquely his, not at all, but, rather, its like had been felt, would yet be felt, by scores of others, in all times, in every time, and must not be prolonged or exaggerated, because, in this state, he could be no help to anyone and, given that his position in the world situated him to be either of great help or great harm, it would not do to stay low, if he could help it.

All were in sorrow, or had been, or would be.

It was the nature of things.

Though on the surface it seemed every person was different, this was not true.

At the core of each lay our suffering; our eventual end, the many losses we must experience on the way to that end.

We must try to see one another in this way.

As suffering, limited beings —

Perennially outmatched by circumstance, inadequately endowed with compensatory graces.

His sympathy extended to all in this instant, blundering, in its strict logic, across all divides.”

–George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

a Townes Van Zandt song

Featured post

cheree

Ever wondered where LCD Soundsystem got their… sound… system?

Alan Vega: sculptor, painter, musician — artist.

Have yourself a little Suicide:

metamorphosis

“From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back.  

That is the point that must be reached.”

–Franz Kafka, The Zürau Aphorisms

birds of a feather

Vulfpeck could very easily have been promoted as an Antwaun Stanley vehicle, pitched as the background faces in his travelling band. That’s where the studio execs would say the money is, and honestly he’s that god damn good. Watch Jack’s face (he’s the one playing pancakes) after that little improvised vocal riff at 4:02. It’s perfect — Antwaun really is the truth. I’m sure there’s a conference room full of suits somewhere that has suggested he be the face, repeatedly, and as far as packaging for profit potential, well, they wouldn’t be wrong.

BUT, Vulfpeck is decidedly NOT just an Antwaun vehicle. Instead, he remains one of a number of continually-invited guests, and the stars of the show remain the four kids who created it at music school. And really, as composer and ringleader, Vulfpeck is Jack Stratton’s baby, despite being by far the least virtuosic of all the players. It’s about his compositions, and Joe’s bass, and Woody’s keys, and Theo’s vocals, guitar, and drums. Unlike so many of their contemporaries, this world-famous band’s sound and image are in no way the brainchild of a PR team. It’s the result of a bunch of music nerds in Ann Arbor who were studying music, then making music, just for the joy of it. The product is pure and sweet and potent: kids who have retained their smiles while attaining master-status skill in their art. Hell, just look at the people who want to play with them. Their giggling enthusiasm is infectious.

In this day and age of making art to make money to have power to make money to have money to make power to have power to make money, Vulfpeck is a magic portal into pure music nerd wet dreams. They’re already becoming a legend in the making in their own time. So many artists compromise the purity of their vision in an attempt to cultivate appeal, and there is nothing sadder than someone who has done that and still failed. If you compromise for the wrong reasons you’re lost, even if you win, because what you’ve won isn’t what you actually wanted.

What gives me heart as an artist in the venal wasteland that is our current corporate century is that selling yourself bald isn’t the only way to win. Once in while an artist makes a pile of money doing only and exactly what they wanted to do, and for Vulfpeck that’s sit around the basement and make music with their friends. That’s literally what all of their music videos look like. Everything they produce is handled with care, curated for maximum irreverent beauty, and executed with an auteur’s flourish. Even the comment sections on their videos are bright and warm and delightful. How refreshing is that? They knew who they were, and what they wanted, and now they are who they wanted to be.

“And I’m
Learning the hard way
To be true…”

it touched and passed through

When I think back on Tanzania
(on us and you and me and that)
it grips me again the old feeling;
all my ribs crush inward, I feel
the pain squeeze tight and biting.

But I don’t live in that feeling
anymore I learned I had to pry
myself away or die of disfunction
and I’ve grown so far and fast
it’s been a reincarnation; I don’t live
in that feeling, not anymore,
but I can — all it takes is reaching
back for it, because it’s there.

I know it’s a myth, I know that;
and the pain was so fucking hard
to let go, it was everything
I had left. Now most days
are calm struggles, peaceful
strain, you know? Familiar.
Most days are good days;
yet the pain is always there,
when and if I reach for it,

and I do — Because, because,

Because although this love thing
is a myth it’s only actually a myth
in the specific in that now it’s gone
and gripping it was gripping death.

But love? Sweet sentimental love
is not at all a myth itself — once
it was not even a myth for me;
it was once a self-evident truth, real
as the soil is real as real as anything
has ever been real altering everything
it touched and passed through.

If I take the pain out now and then
you’ll have to forgive me, because
though I and everything have changed,
though you and everything are dust,
though our myth itself became death,
before that death it was joy and after
joy it was love and after that love
itself had faded to myth it became
this sweet old bite of pain again.

And I suppose I’m sentimental
(and more than a little self-destructive)
but every once in a while I take it out
and set it on the floor of my mind
and stretch my hand out towards it —

— and when it bites me how I smile,

through the grimace how I glory
in the knowledge that it lives.

woman

I’m real sweet on Angel Olsen. She got her start as a hand-picked backup singer to the Duke of Darkness himself, Will Oldham (aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy), and you can see it in her eyes and hear it in her moans.  Her band are all super reserved professional studio hands who add no more than is absolutely necessary to serve her incredible voice, and who use just the right amount of pressure to build these shattering vocal crescendos out of nowhere. She may or may not be a closeted lesbian, singing gorgeous lesbian heartbreak songs.

Me, I’m just another cis-normative, mostly-straight white male, who enjoys the hell out of identifying with gorgeous lesbian heartbreak songs.

Yeah, I’m real sweet on Angel Olsen.

Love, and the tragedy of love, are universal constants.  

“What makes me a…”

Dear Sweet Intern

Dear Joshua,

Thank you for taking the time to contact my office regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) ruling on internet regulations. I appreciate hearing from you and I care about your thoughts. […]

We care about keeping the internet open and free. Since its inception, the internet has played a vital role in driving innovation, commerce, economic opportunity and job creation. It has provided an accessible space for small business owners and entrepreneurs to compete in the market. That is why this Congress has rolled back harmful and overreaching regulations that were enacted by the Obama Administration. […]

As this debate continues in Congress, I will keep your comments in mind to ensure a free and open Internet

Sincerely,

Tom Reed
Member of Congress

Thank you, dear Intern, for writing this vacant, pro-forma e-mail for your boss.

Senator Reed (who I’m beginning to suspect may not have read my letter) either has an understanding of Net Neutrality that’s so flawed as to be ironic, or, he is baldly promoting the interests of the multi-national corporations who stand to benefit from its dismantling — in direct opposition to the interests of his constituents.

Constituents like me.

Yes, hi.

Look, I have lots of respect for modern intelligent conservatism, and I understand and share the fear of giant, non-transparent governments.  I’m no fan of fascism, authoritarianism, or really any kind of autocratic government that isn’t The Philosopher King’s Benevolent Monarchy.  I believe the absolute freedom of the individual is our most fundamental modern right, and anything infringing on it requires overwhelmingly demonstrable proof of its necessity.

That being said, I have only hatred in my heart for the corpocracy that rules this country.  We could just as easily be talking about private prisons, or industrial weapons and war profiteering, or health care “insurance” that ranks citizens in access tiers and puts profit-makers between patients and doctors — we could be talking about a great many things, and this fact would remain:

Protecting the freedom of corporations to prey on our citizens is an irony of astounding short-sightedness.

Your boss, dear Intern, is either willfully ignorant, willfully corrupt, complacently stupid, or some absurd combination of the three —  NONE OF THESE OPTIONS ARE DEFENSIBLE.

This man and his ilk should — and God willing and the creek don’t rise, WILL — be stripped of their titles and their dignity and made to walk home to their constituents, barefoot and crying.

Sorry, Intern, but — Congressman Reed,  it is my belief that you are a rank asshole.

Listen:

A free market REQUIRES REGULATION TO OPERATE. The game-theory incentives of a truly free market are for the top players to collude, force out competition, and drive up prices. ALL unrestricted markets devolve into MONOPOLY, ALWAYS, you brainless twat.  If you stand to benefit from that system, as Congressman Reed does, and your principles are only skin-deep, self-serving lip service, as Congressman Reed’s are, then hey, who cares?

But if you care about justice, or kindness, or the collective human trust that is placed in the hands of a public SERVANT, then you care. And what’s more, you are growing increasingly ANGRY at being talked to like a child.

Intern, forgive me, but your boss IS the servant of someone — and it ain’t the public.  But as that public grows ever more educated, as knowledge is further democratized and disseminated, the day of his disgrace may not be long in coming.  For his sake, for all our sake’s, when that day comes I hope our species has outgrown the guillotine.

For today, though, for this sorry day in a string of sorry days, the slap in the face that was your pro-forma response has simply cost him a vote he never had.  And so he laughs, and returns to his life.  Hell, he probably won’t even have to face the minor discomfort of reading this letter.

Forgive me my malice, but if on the off-chance this makes it to your desk, I hope you choke on your next ill-gotten check, Mr Reed, as it’s crammed down the insatiable maw that is your greedy, still-slurping throat.

You are beyond saving.

But for you, Intern, all I can say is question everything; nobody has a premium on absolute truth. It’s up to you to bring the servant back to public servant.  Someone has to be the seed.  If the corporations aren’t pried off the head of our democracy soon, they will devour the host; and this 200 year experiment of by the people, for the people, will fall finally to its ruin. If you aspire to a place of rulership in the new aristocracy of that old world order, then goodbye sweet Intern, and God save your soul.

But if you aspire to a better world, one constructed in the very face of the supra-national powers that rule us — If you aspire to preserving and fulfilling the promises of actual freedom and self-government made at the signing of our incredible constitution, well, you have my email address.

I’ll be here, swallowing my vomit, husbanding the last of my compassion, cupping my calloused hands around the flickering, fading light that was the birth of this beautiful republic.

By the people, For the people,

With love,

Joshua.

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