Thursday, April 11, 2013

Indiana politicians are punishing the poor

In response to a recent article in the Indy Star...

Let's hear it for Indiana's amazing legislature! What begins as an argument about "saving taxpayer money" turns into a way to force drug addicts into a treatment program (and to spend quite a bit on drug tests in the process). If you read the article (linked above) closely, you notice that welfare recipients can still get money either way, they just have to commit to treatment or cheat the drug test. And we all know that you can't force an addict into treatment and expect real results. So what is this really about? Who actually benefits?

If you don't believe in welfare for the poor, that's fine, as long as you realize you're a supreme asshole. Poor people and people on welfare are denied their human dignity every single day in a variety of ways. Treating them all like criminals will only continue cycles of poverty and shame. Meanwhile, there's "outrage" in some circles that the government would require background checks in order to purchase a gun, but let's not go down that tunnel to hell today.

When was the last time somebody forced you to pee in a cup so that your children could eat? When was the last time you worked two jobs to pay your rent but still couldn't afford to get by? I'm glad I've never been in those situations, but that doesn't mean I look down on those whose lives have been harder than mine. And I certainly don't blame them for problems with the state budget. In fact, poor people are rarely the ones guiding policies these days. That seems to be the territory of well-paid politicians who have never had to take a drug test to receive their taxpayer-funded salaries. Something wrong with this picture?

This isn't going to save anyone any money. It's just going to continue to ensure that non-Hoosiers think Indiana is dead set on living in the stone age (and maybe, sadly, we are). 

Ah yes, the urine of the poor. The answer to all of our problems!

Our "lawmakers" ought to be fired, and the people who voted for them ought to be ashamed. We can do so much better than this. I realize that this "debate" is happening in lots of other places around the country, alongside some other issues that make me embarrassed to be a human being (debating the definition of rape, arming teachers, cutting funding for public transportation). But the fact remains that everyone is capable of making good decisions, even Indiana. Sadly, a lot of people in our state just don't seem interested in anything but self-protection and blaming others.

I'm not proposing a welfare state. Nobody wants that. But helping people who need help - why wouldn't you want to do that? Why would you prefer to alienate and embarrass them?

I'm reminded of a story that Jesus told, about people being cast into "everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" - can you guess why? It wasn't because they were on drugs or because they accepted government assistance. It was because they refused to feed the hungry, dress the naked, or be kind to strangers. I recall something along the lines of, "Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of one of my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

I'm not much of a God guy at this point in my life, but I definitely think people who believe in God (and that seems to be most of Indiana, if I've got my facts straight) should want to help God's people, without judging them or questioning their situation and motivation. The things you have that make your life great could disappear at any time. Many of us realize capitalism tends to force people into the roles of "winners" and "losers," and most of us can accept that as one of the conditions of our great society (as long as we're "winning"). But what would be wrong with being glad to help the less fortunate instead of blaming them for our current financial situation?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Now Wait for Last Year

I was about 18 when Philip K Dick became one of my favorite authors, and my enthusiasm for his novels was fervent but rather short-lived. I bought a bunch of his paperbacks, whichever ones I could find. I read them quickly. I told my friends about them.

But as time went by, I got a little quieter about my love for this brilliant writer. The more his stories and novels got adapted into crappy wannabe blockbuster movies, the more I felt like Philip Dick would always be vastly misunderstood. So I stopped worshipping him, gave up on trying to find all of his novels, and moved on to other authors. About a year ago, I noticed that all his novels had undergone a reprinting with some tasteful, attractive new designs. I picked up a couple that I never found when I was younger, read one that I didn't like too much (The Simulacra) and quickly forgot about the other one.

Recently I was looking for a short, light read and I found the forgotten Dick book, which had the slightly clunky title Now Wait for Last Year. Turns out this is probably one of his best. Or I just really miss the feeling I got when I read my favorites of his, like Valis and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said and the like, so I'm just imagining that this book is as good as those were when I was younger. In any case, I really enjoyed this one.

Now Wait for Last Year has everything you could want in a work of futuristic fiction: highly addictive drugs that make people time travel, layers of secrecy, robot cab drivers, interplanetary war, insect-like aliens, etc. But here's the catch: something about Dick's writing style makes the most far out sci fi shit seem totally normal. His grasp of human psychology and emotion is what really made his writing work. As I read this novel, I realized that this adherence to reality even in completely bizarre  situations is the reason Dick's novels register on a much deeper than most science fiction does for me. I'm usually not much of a sci fi fan when it comes to literature, but I also think Dick is way more than just a sci fi writer.

True to the gnostic themes in a lot of his later work, Philip K Dick seemed to use the sci fi genre as an illusion to disguise the depth that was really contained in his novels. He would have been a genius at any time in history, writing in any genre. His stories often deal with layers of reality and illusion. He embeds philosophical puzzles into his work while still anchoring the plots in real human emotion that makes the characters relatable. Even though he includes tons of futuristic elements like robots and aliens and stuff like that in his books, at their core the stories are still about human cruelty or kindness. They're about our ability to remain human even as technology and bureaucracy threaten to erase our identities. They're about what it means to be alive, and why the thoughts in our heads can actually matter.

Ok, so that's about enough of all that. The important thing to know is that I still like Philip K Dick. I still think his books are worth reading, and I think more people should give him a chance. Hollywood will always be great at ruining just about any book it gets its hands on, so we shouldn't be surprised if the Now Wait for Last Year movie sucks. And yes, apparently it's being made right at this moment, probably ready to swiftly flop and further tarnish the name of this widely underrated author.

Monday, December 31, 2012

What I'm looking forward to...

I don't really do a lot of New Year's resolutions or anything like that, but I definitely like to re-evaluate life from time to time. Especially during times of great change, which seem to fall at the end of the year a lot for some reason... Anyway, as I've been thinking about what I want next year to look like, it helped to think about what I wish I had done more of in the last year.

To me, this photo (taken by my friend Lisa Fett) says it all: I want to make more music in 2013.

I knew that taking over Musical Family Tree this year would probably require me to step back from music a little in a creative sense. In order to more completely evaluate what other musicians in Indiana were doing, I wanted to remove myself a bit as a performer and become more of a spectator. I still made music when I could, but I found myself with less and less time to do it.

In some ways, playing music (not to mention, writing it, recording it, and compelling others to check it out) is exhausting, but it's also always been one of my best ways to relieve stress and get some feelings out in the open. So I hope to never stop, and I realize I may have to put some real planning and scheduling into it to make it work out. 

Whether with Beer or Everything, Now! or any other project, I want to get back into the creative process. I want to make new statements, create exciting compositions - making music has always kind of been what keeps me going, so it was tough to have less time for music this year. However, going forward, scheduling time to do the things I'm really passionate about will have to be a bigger priority. I work hard and I love the local music scene, so I think this will largely be a positive way to get deeper into something that means a lot to me.


This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox 
Today’s prompt: What are you looking forward to the most about the next 365 days?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Goal, First Step

Just in case I haven't made this clear through mild bitching all over my blog lately, I've been pretty busy. Like crazy busy. Like if I was Homer Simpson, I'd be making the face in the picture... But I do feel like I'm getting better at handling stress. I don't know. Some days are better than others for sure.

One of my current goals in terms of stress reduction is to schedule more time off from work. My schedule fluctuates a lot, which is necessary to the type of work I do. For MFT, I go to a lot of shows, and I'm a musician, so I'm used to being up late. My SmallBox work has also grown more demanding, and I don't expect it to slow down (Think Kit has kept me especially busy with daily activity - only one day left!). I'm in the office a lot more, working with others, attending meetings, juggling a full schedule. It's interesting that I finally have a job where time off is acceptable and even expected, but I haven't managed to give myself many breaks at all.

So yeah, a new goal for me is to actually make plans to turn the computer off, to tell my coworkers and colleagues that I'm not working, make one of those irritating instant e-mail reply thingies, and do something totally relaxing/productive while I can. My wife and I have lots of work to do on our house. It's been forever since I've taken time off work and just recorded music. It's been years since I've been on tour with a band (although I'm still not convinced I'm ready to live that way again, even for a couple weeks). I love to read books, but I give myself less time than ever to read. There are tons of little things I could be doing!

All of this tells me that I have to get serious about "me time" when I can. Work is great, but it's still work, and that's not the same as pleasure. I realize most of these feelings come from all the daily maintenance involved in Think Kit and MFT admin duties, but life will always keep me overwhelmed and anxious if I let it. It's up to me to take deliberate steps toward reducing stress and enjoying my private time.

So what's the first step? January 1st, 2013, the day after Think Kit ends, I'm taking the full day to myself. Everyone and everything else can wait, and due to that being a holiday, no one will really even care. But I will. And it's gonna be nice - hopefully the first of many hard-earned scheduled breaks from work in the coming year.


This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox 
Today’s prompt: What's one step you can take to support a goal you have for 2013?

New Skill

Catching up because I missed yesterday's post. If it's any consolation, it was because I was working on this giant year-end blog post for MFT and the accompanying playlist. I also got to see The Gizmos play live, which was totally rad for real...

Anyway, a new skill I would like to develop next year would be working with Photoshop or a similar program for editing and enhancing images. If you haven't noticed, I make some very bootleg images on this blog and the MFT blog. I like my images to be a little raw or lo-fi, but I also want to learn to make things look better. Pretty much all I do right now is edit the images in Word, which is pretty goofy I know.

(A prime example of my delightfully stupid design work)
I always like to make sure that I maintain my personality and authenticity in everything I create, but I also don't want to sacrifice quality. As I learn to do things in a more conventional or skillful way, I'm sure I'll continue to break certain rules of design or taste, which may make my work unique. I'm not a graphic designer, and I don't really plan to become one. But I definitely love to make a lot of different things, including images. And picking up a little skill training probably wouldn't hurt!

See? Progress.


This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox 
Yesterday's prompt: What new skill do you want to add to your repertoire in 2013?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Do you really want to know?

Not only am I taking the easy way out tonight with a lifeline topic (What are you wearing? What makes it uniquely you?), I'm probably also half-assing my entire blog post. Had another exhausting day, followed by a rather long record club party, so yeah, I'm beat.

Anyway, it's after midnight, and I'm wearing my favorite uniform for extreme relaxation. Loose plaid sleep pants, big ass flannel robe/housecoat thing, and white T-shirt. Oh comfort, you really are my friend. Also, I'm wearing underwear, boxers, but I'm not sure if that detail is really necessary - probably should have left it out. Oh well. I named this post "Do you really want to know?" so like, you probably would have stopped there if there was any chance that you didn't want to know all there is to know.

This outfit is not 100% "uniquely me," because I guess everybody has their own clothes for ultimate relaxation. I don't really sleep in pants or a robe, but they are warm and heavy and soft, so they get me in the right mood to go to sleep. So, in some ways, I guess these clothes are "uniquely me" because I'm the one wearing them. Does that answer suck?

And now that you know what I'm wearing, I've done my Think Kit duties for the day, and I'm going to bed. Good night.


This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox 
Today’s lifeline topic: What are you wearing? What makes it uniquely you?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Think Kit Day 27! (special event)

It's hard for me to pick a favorite event from this year, because I remember having several that felt like favorites. Anyway, why pick just one when I can just hang onto as many as possible?! I know I should give more details too, but I'm just too tired out right now. At least this will mean something to me :)

Here's a brief list of some memorable events from this year:
  • MFT's 8th Birthday Party at the Speak Easy
  • Indy Vintage and Antique Market at Glendale Mall
  • SmallBox's 24 Hour Web Project 
  • MFT's New Music Showcase at Radio Radio
  • Vulgar Boatmen show at Mediumship
  • Gary War at Mediumship
  • Cataracts Festival in Fountain Square
  • Dr. Ray live cover set at Broad Ripple Music Fest (Za Upper Room)
  • Woodsist Fest (Big Sur, California)
  • SXSW (Austin, TX) Man, I saw so many good acts at that fest...

I know there were lots of other memorable nights (including Tonic Ball, my 5th Anniversary, and the first night I slept in my new house because the lights on my vehicle had gone out), but we'll just call that some sort of top ten and leave it there... It's late; I'm tired; it's been a long year (and month with all these blog posts, sigh). 

Needless to say I went to tons of great shows and parties. But sometimes my favorite event in the world is to crawl into bed and sleep like a stone.


This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox 
Today’s prompt: What event stood out for you this year? Where was it? who was there? what did it look like?