Friday, June 22, 2007

Feeling Minnesota (Meh...Sort of)

Strap yourselves in readers cause this is gonna be a long one.

I have now lived in the Twin Cities for seven months. Relocating is a 'b' people, seriously. I'm not going to get into my job(less) woes in this post since little has changed since my last post. However, I do want to put forth my opinions and observations of my new home however slanted and distorted they may be. Hey, it's my blog right?

Anyhow, I may have mentioned something about "Minnesota Nice" in previous posts, but I'm going to briefly recap. I'm not sure where this label came from originally, but I have a feeling it is somewhat dated. Either that or it can only be applied to a certain segment of society that could just as well exist in any other midwestern city. My point is that I've lived in MANY different cities (and even countries) over the years and have come to understand that no matter where you are there are going to be both nice people and assholes. Sadly it's usually said 'holes' that are in abundance while the more friendly types should probably be put on the endangered species list. I don't think that Minneapolis/St. Paul is really any different.

Of course, it's always a slow process of meeting new people when you move to a different place, a phenomenon that only increases in degree as one gets older and more set in their ways. I find that while I can still tolerate most people, the older I get the less I am actually inclined or even motivated to do so. Combine this with the fact that no matter where you go, people for the most part stick to what they know. That is, people tend to hang out with people that they've known for years, taking in new friends here and there as the years go by. It's a lot different when you move to a new city. Unless you are moving to a place where you already have a nice stable of friends, making inroads is going to take some time. Especially when one realizes that most casual encounters are rarely going to result in long-term friendships. I find this to be most evident with 'friends of friends.' These of course are the people you meet through other people you already know pretty well. They seem to come with a built in trust factor that you don't get with strangers, and since you often find yourself talking with these people by attending some social function where introductions are automatic.

I haven't had many opportunities like this since I've been in the TC's because I just don't know that many people here to begin with and those that I do know from my past are mostly married and have children. This isn't a bad thing, it's just very rare that they ever have time to do the things that we more freewheeling (or perhaps less responsible) folk find appealing such as spontaneous after work phone calls to meet up, gets some food, and 'hang out.' When you have children (it seems to me) you really don't 'hang out' at all. All social engagement require weeks of forethought and planning, and even then need to wrap up around 9 or 10 p.m.

And I've changed as well. In my college-ish days I might just decide to smoke a one-hit and drive around town with no destination in mind, but simply a desire to cruise the quiet streets with the windows down and feel the summer air on my skin. I used to be such a night owl often staying up past 2 a.m. simply on principle even without any particular plans. Now I'm usually in bed before midnight, and when I'm not, chances are my butt is parked on my sofa.

If all this sounds a bit melancholy and nostalgic, that's because it is. And to be honest, it is for me one of life's most painfully sweet emotions. It's not something undesirable, but like a connoisseur of refined tastes, something to be savored. Because after all, most of us will admit that the good times are rare, but even the bad times are so wonderfully human that life would be so much more empty without them.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Coming and Going

Well, it seems as though no one else will be commenting on my trenchant piece about Pirates and Ninjas so I'm safe to move on to a new post. I'd love to tell everyone (or anyone?) who is still reading my blog from time to time that I've been busy with my fabulous new job that pays me a ridiculous amount of money to mine my nearly unfathomable creativity, but that would be lies. Bold faced ones. Reality is that I still don't have a job which brings my total time of unemployment up to a whopping 19 months. It actually makes me a little ill to think about. As of this week my community ed courses are all finished so my agenda is absolutely free of real commitments. Sad right? I've gone out of town nearly every other weekend for the past two months. Mostly for camping and hiking.
I had a visit from a friend of mine living in Boston, which was very cool. He saw my apartment and must have noticed all the drawing pads lying about. He asked if I was preparing a portfolio. I think my reply was, "yes.... sort of." This would probably be an adequate description if creating a portfolio was equal in time scale to the polishing of rocks by the flow of water.
This brings me to the real reason that I haven't been blogging lately. Frankly I just haven't had the motivation or the desire. There... I said it. Blogging has all but been relegated to the dustbin of my interests. I'm not quite at the point where I'm going to delete this account, but it seems that my posts are becoming more and more infrequent.
I'm just fed up with the world. This whole job thing is killing me. Apparently, hiring a consumate professional with a college degree, several years of managerial experience, and a brain has never occured to the HR personnel of this region. I'm not suggesting that EMPLOYED people in the Twin Cities are incompetent. I guess I just don't understand why no one is calling me in response to the continuous flow of resumes I put out every day. To sum up, my redoubtability is flagging.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pirates vs. Ninjas

So, I've been having this debate with my sister's husband regarding who would win the fight between a pirate and a ninja. Personally, I don't think it's much of a contest. The ninja would win hands down, but some people see things otherwise. I'm not saying pirates aren't tough, Captain Morgan has kicked my ass a couple of times... It's just that I don't see a one-eyed amputee with bad hygiene and a vitamin deficiency standing up to a stealthy, disciplined assassin in a black jumpsuit... parrot or no. In fact, I'd wager that the reason pirates are missing legs, hands, and eyes is because they got on the bad side of a ninja.
Still, I invite you all to tell me whom you think would win. Extra, bonus, cool-kid points if you give a reason why you feel the way you do.

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My Music

I was just listening to some music on my iTunes which now contains over 9 days worth of music. What's crazy is that while the hard drive on my laptop has 40 gigs of memory, nearly half of that is taken up by music files. Now nine days worth of music may not seem like that much (I do have a larger library digitally stored on an external drive to save some space) but there are hundreds of tracks I have never listened to. Mostly this is becasue I tend to stick to stuff that I really like and listen to it over and over again. iTunes actually keeps track of how many times I've listened to each track with some surprising results. I'm listing the top twenty below in the event you'd like to know more about my listening tastes.

20. "Clones (We're All)" -Alice Cooper
19. "Queen Bitch" -David Bowie
18. "Battleflag (Lo-Fidelity All-Stars Remix)" -Pigeonhed
17. "Transdermal Celebration" -Ween
16. "Just a Ride" -Jem
15. "Laid" -James
14. "Down" -311
13. "Let Forever Be" -The Chemical Brothers
12. "One" -Aphex Twin
11. "Heavy Soup" -Cornershop
10. "69 Police" -David Holmes
9. "Where is My Mind?" -Pixies
8. "Just Got Paid" -ZZ Top
7. "Sea Groove" -Thievery Corporation
6. "Hear My Name (Original Club Mix)" -Armand Van Helden
5. "Let Me Go" -Cake
4. "Afro-Left" -Leftfield
3. "Loops of Fury" -The Chemical Brothers
2. "One More Hour" -Sleater-Kinney

And the most played track in my iTunes library is....

"The King of Carrot Flowers" by Neutral Milk Hotel

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

More Worthless Philosophy Stuff

Since I'm on the topic I thought I'd just metion why so many Philosphy grads are jaded and cynical (because I'm sure you are dying to know). You see, things were progressing pretty smoothly in Western philosophy for well over 2000 years until in 1953 Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophische Untersuchungen (Philosophical Investigations) was published post-humously. Like a medieval sapper digging under a castle wall he effictively undermined (some say) the whole Western Philosophical Tradition. He did this through his theory of "language games." The just of his theory is that language, metaphorically speaking, is a game to which we all more or less know the rules. Philosophers, like Socrates, are being obtuse when they ask questions like, "what is justice?" or "what is ethical?" In other words they are deliberately obfusciating the normal conversation game by changing the rules. In essence, his arguement is that most philosophical problems are really just problems of language and don't make any sense other than in the context of philosophy. Or, to put it another way, the meaning of a word is equivalent to its use in language. This can be summed up in his famous phrase, "Those men aren't talking nonsense, they're just doing philosophy." So philosophy then, has no special insight into the nature of things, or ultimate truth, it is more humbly just a language game with special rules.
Another more contemporary philosopher named Richard Rorty has come under considerable criticism for expousing similar ideas, not to mention his cavalier attitute toward topics which have traditionally been the sagacious realm of scholarly debate for millenia. At heart, he's a pragmatist who finds that philosophy only has value as far as it can solve problems. That is to say, most of what has historically fallen under the lable philosophy has been little more than an intellectual 'muddying of the waters." I guess he's just saying that we've been debating the same topics for over 2000 years now, and nothing even approximating progress has been made by philosophy, so..... what's the point.
Of course, neither of these guys would call philosophy useless. In fact, the hallmark of philosophy is critical thinking which often seems to be in sort supply in our 'damn the consequences' society. That doesn't mean, however, that I'm any less jaded or cynical.

WARNING: This post is nerdy and waxes pedantic!

Last night my sometimes unreliable and often unpredictable train of thought took a detour through Slightly-Less-Than-Practical-Knowledge land and past a station whose sign read: "Ancient Greek Philosophy." The realization that dawned on me was this: Socrates was a bum! This in itself may not be all that interesting or enlightening until one considers that most of Western philosophy in particular (and much of Western thought in general) is based on the ravings of a misanthropic, dirty, drunken bearded man in a piss-stained toga. So much for posterity and the gravitas of intellectual history. What strikes me about this is that perhaps the Western intellectual tradition would have turned out quite different had Plato decided to stop and listen to some other madman shouting in the Agora, of which I'm sure there were several. Of course, whether Plato, who may have either fabricated the persona of Socrates to serve as a vehicle for his own ideas, or whether Socrates actually did exist and was the mentor of Plato, is a subject of debate for pedantic philosophy nerds, and will not be taken up here by yours truly. Still, I wonder whether, by some twist of fate, things would have been different had say... Zeno's works been preserved in entirety, as opposed to Plato's. In any case, it would be a real shame since 'The Cave' is a great allegorical story, and being the dork that I am, I laugh when I read about Socrates' gadfly-esque misadventures in "The Five Dialogs."

The point of all of this digression (once again the difficulty in following such an unpredictable train) is that I remembered that the Greek philosophers were concerned with the question, "What is a good life?," and consequently, "What is good?" I spare you the details since I know for a fact that your local book-merchant probably has way too many unsold copies of the stuff taking up far too much otherwise useful retail book space. Suffice to say that I was pondering Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics which centered on his doctrine of the mean. For Aristotle, 'the good life' was composed of values on an opposing scale, i.e. courage vs. reservation. He further realized that too much couragousness leads to foolhardiness and too much reservation leads to cowardice. Moreover, the appropriate mean is different for each individual. A banker might require more reservation to be successful, for example, while a soldier would benefit from being more courageous. At the time I thought this was a pretty solid description. Common sense as it were.

Now, I've told you all this crap just so I could make this point, that every choice you make is, hopefully, at least intended to maximize your own happiness. Of course, choices are different for everyone. You may love Chinese food, and your best friend despises it. Therefore the choice for the both of you to eat Chinese may increase your own happiness while lessening the happiness of your friend. But there are limitations as well. If you ate Chinese food every day, chances are you reach a point where Chinese food doesn't make you happy (and you would probably have packed on a few inches to boot).

So, one man's trash is another man's treasure, and one woman's bliss is another woman's hell, and we don't need Artistotle to point that out. I just like to marvel at the irony that all choices have pros and cons, even when the only cons may be that we forego the other options. Which is why I like John-Paul Sartre who said, "There are no guaranteed choices, only human ones."

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Monday, April 23, 2007

A Swell Time Was Had By All

Well, I can't vouch for that exactly, but I did have a great weekend that combined two of my favorite passtimes.... drinking and viewing art. First stop was the MIA's Drawing and Print Fair where a bunch of gallery retailers from across the country were selling really great drawings and prints, but I could hardly call it fair. One exceptional print of a Martin Lewis piece was going for *GULP* $840,000.... YIKES!!! I might have missread the thing. Perhaps the original was 840 grrr but that's what was listed inside the matting. Strange thing was, it was in a pile with a bunch of other prints that were all less than a grand. Whatever, I went mainly to look since about 99.99% of the stuff there was way out of my price range. Later that day I went to the St. Paul Art Crawl which was way better since 1) I could actually afford some of the stuff 2) it was all by local artists who were on hand for a chat, and 3) FREE BOOZE!!!

Granted most people were offering only wine (which keeps things classy, of course) but after about a dozen 3 oz. glassfulls everyone there is your best friend. KAS and I came close to spending the rest of the night in one of the loft flats at the Rossmor but at the last second made a well-timed getaway if only to avoid waking up in the ditch somewhere. I must also mention that since this was the first time I've been in downtown St. Paul (as far as I can recall) I can now compare it with Minneapolis. The first thing I noticed was that SP was more laid back. True, one could point out that it's not so much laid back as well.... deserted. I commented on this to one artist who in return said that in general, St. Paul was a bit more easy going than its sister city. He scathingly added, "A lot of people in Minneapolis act like they're in New York." Buddy, I can't say that I don't empathize. Say whatever you want about Minnesota nice, but I come across more pretentiousness living in Whittier than is reasonably expected in an urban environment. Mostly this comes from the affected artist types, who, if you ask me, all tend to look alike in their "non-conformist" attire and bodily mutilation. Not that their is anything wrong with tats and piercings per se, I just don't think that metal and ink makes one an inherently better or more savvy human being, but I could be wrong (doubtful). Strange thing is that I am oddly compelled to study the ironies of the hipster as a social phenomenon. Then again, maybe I'm just dating myself by thinking that thrift store clothing and retro fashion faded out by the late nineties. Apparently I'm not only uncool, but I'm also old. For a eerily ironic footnote to this subject, read what I wrote here.
But I digress. SP actually looked much cleaner and newer as well. Again, perhaps it was just the area I was in but it had a very nice feel to it. Plus, Hulles lives there. Not that these two things are necessarily related. In any event, the art crawl was so awesome I returned on Sunday and bought something... plus I needed a little hair of the dog.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Back in the Saddle... Sort of

Not that there is anyone still reading my blog at this point but I can always post for posterity. Come to think of it, that's a halfway decent slogan. "Post for Posterity!" "Postmodernists for Postings!" "Posthumous Posters of Potsdam Postulate Postage!" Stick that in your metaphor mixers, bitches! But I digress, I have been a bit busy lately. You see, since I am still unemployed (and possibly unemployable?) and only know about three people in this city I have had to take some community ed. classes to have something to do in the evening. I'm taking a drawing course, Russian language course, and intermediate French. They are all pretty decent classes, especially when one considers the total cost was just a brown curly over 100 bones. The drawing course is pretty much for fun, but it also gets me drawing regularly which I haven't done for years. So far I've only had one French class and it was a bit disorganized so I really didn't learn anything new, but tonight should be a different story. Russian by far is probably the biggest challenge since I am still getting accustomned to the alphabet. Still, all of them are great and as I said it gets me out of the house and interacting with other people for a change. I think that my eyes were beginning to cloud over from lack of sunlight and my sking has become almost translucent. I guess that last bit is not too bad if you want to do an anatomy lesson on the circulatory system without having to actually make any incisions.
In other news, KAS and I have been going for more frequent walks now that the weather is nicer. There are some pretty good parks very close to us which means I need to invest in a frisbee. I'm also going to hit the rock climbing gym as soon as I have a free Saturday afternoon to devote to retaking the safety skills course. Oh yeah, and I have been actually looking for a job as well. I'm not sure how many resumes I've sent out via email, but it has been enough to make my rheumy eyes glaze over every time I sit down at my computer to crank out more cover letters.

Perhaps another post forthcoming should my plans for Kendo lessons fall through.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

More of the Same

Intrepid Jocka,

I hope you have been well these long months, you must forgive me for remaining incommunicado, but... to use the common parlance of our time, I've been busier than a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest. Still you have never been far from my thoughts, dear Jocka and your steadfast conviviality has meant more to me than the wealth of Midas. Only recently, does it seem that my fortune was on the mend when, lo, but fate's dreaded grasp enmired me once again amid the woes of inauspicuity. My artistic career has taken all too long to prove financially viable. I fear that, should things not improve soon, I will be forced to seek my duckets in realm of usury, or other such tasteless vocation. My flagging fortitude aside, I wish you the best until we meet again.

In Vino Veritas,

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Unwitting Party Pooper

Well, there you have it. I go off to spend a few days basking in the winter rays off the east coast of Florida, and Hulles throws a Bisontennial party. Well, OK... drinking ginever in a dimly lit hole-in-the-wall in St. Paul during a snowstorm could be considered in several respects less appealing than getting drunk by the pool and recklessly endangering the lives of pensioners with a golf cart in West Palm Beach in 80 degree weather, but that doesn't detract from the fact that I am sorry to have missed the opportunity to imbibe and converse with a reputable blogsmith of dubious character in a celebratory (or celibatory?) manner. Regular visitors to my blog are no strangers to my regard for said personage (at least his writing anyway). But despite his being a crusty sex-hound de l'ordre le plus supérieur, one gets the impression that his jocular tone flows from a wellspring of human kindness and creativity. Wow, the BS is really ramped up to meth-enhanced levels today, I'd make such a great PR hack. Truth is that Hulles is one of very few bloggers who visits my site and leaves comments (remember: comments to a blogger=horse to a junkie) so I rather enjoy embellishing in rhetorical flourishes at the expense of his character. There you go Hulles, it seems as though you've managed to become the lone subject in another one of my posts. Congratulations.

p.s. As a consolation for missing the Hulles Bisontennial my true identity as a one-armed sasquatch with a speech impediment and butt acne remains largely unknown in the blogging community. Dodged a bullet there my friends.

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