20 November 2011

As yet unused pun names for hair salons

Please feel free to make use of the names below for your own future endeavors for a small, one-time fee*:

  • Hair Brains
  • Hairstory
  • Ken Sideburns': Haircut
  • Locks, be a Lady Tonight!
  • The Mane Idea
  • You Want Mane-Ease on That!?

* Please deposit $8.35 into the Paypal account associated with this blog for use of any of the above names.  Fees are to be paid only one time and you will then own all rights associated with the name of your particular shop.  Note, if your shop goes out of business and you open another shop by the same name, you will need to pay the fee again, but if you relocate your business without dissolving the business, you may use the same name at the second shop.  Also, you may add "II" or "Too" to any of the above names when opening a second location for no additional charge.

13 November 2011

On the Dangers of Nostalgia (and Apocalyptic Thinking)

Last night I attended my annual foray into reminiscing musicality and general old time-i-ness at the Badger Chordhawk's annual Barbershop Show in lovely Janesville, Wisconsin.  This year's theme was "remember the good old days" (which is it's theme every year), but this time, on the radio.  Live Radio - See it with your Ears! was a collection of classic Americana tunes interspersed with schlocky vignettes inspired by early radio programs.

This morning, reading Michael Chabon's Maps & Legends, it occurred to me that this mode of nostalgic thinking is the candy-colored cousin of the dystopian fiction of science fiction films, novels and graphic novels.  Chabon examines Howard Chaykin's American Flagg!, which is set in a post-apocalyptic, corporate-ruled world, where anyone who can afford to has relocated to the suburbs, as it were, on the new Mars colony.

His next chapter (about Cormac McCarthy's The Road) and two chapters after that (about Ben Katchor's Julius Knipl: Real Estate Photographer) further explicate Chabon's theories of dystopic and nostalgic thinking.  He never says so (and may not realize), but these two modes of thinking are the
Source: ComicsAlliance.com
same.  The nostalgia packed into the Chordhawk's erstwhility is an effort to ignore the present by idealizing the past.  The "good old songs" (some of which are great songs and others that are best forgotten) essentialize and simplify the era they come from just like songs today do.  The function of this nostalgic thinking is to focus attention on the non-existent past rather than the all-too-real present.

So too, post-apocalyptic stories (stories about how the future is so bleak and we are so doomed that we may as well just accept the present as is and distract ourselves while we wait for the inevitable collapse) are arguments for stasis, for inaction.  On the surface, dystopian stories (zombie narratives, say) might be read as warnings of what might come to pass if we do not take some course of action or do take another, but on further examination they are typically peopled with future nostalgialytes, pining for what's been lost.  In these narratives, characters re-enact the pre-apocalyptic traits and activities responsible for the blindness that causes the fall in the first place: empty bourgeois sentimentality (as in Terra Nova), rampant (also empty) consumerism (as in Dawn of the Dead), misplaced loyalty to institutions that lose their meaning once the world changes (as in The Postman or Jericho).

Nostalgia is a mode of remembering as we want to, with little attention paid to actualities.  There's a comfort in the past because it is untouchable.  The now (jetzt-Zeit) is hard, because of its potentiality and the future daunting because of its uncertainty and fluidity.  Then is easy because it can't come back and contradict you.  Apocalyptic thinking also negates the present by forsaking it, giving up on it.  If the future is certain (not necessarily defined, but certainly lost) then the now is drained of its revolutionary potential.  It is jetzt without jetzt-Zeit

26 October 2011

When in, of course, the human events...

, being "necessarily" dissolved by some people (if, indeed, corporations are people), we assume it among the powers of the earth.  That is to say, natural - "that's life" - sort of stuff.

I was reading Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" this morning and it occurred to me that it occurred to him how arbitrary our form of government is (or forms of government are).  In his tracing of the formation of governments out of the state of nature*, Paine sets out a natural progression from absolute, direct democracy to a representative form of government once the number of people makes everyone attending the meetings untenable.

This got me thinking, though, how a truer form of democratic republicanism might be found in the form of a selected government, rather than an elected form.  If all representatives were randomly selected during each (s)election cycle I wonder if we would do no worse (and possibly a great deal better) than where we find ourselves right now.  Rather than a nation of the people (if corporations are people), by the people (if corporations are people), and for the people (if corporations are people) we would guide ourselves with a random sampling of our peers making decisions for a predetermined length of time (six, four or two year terms).  We would be guided by polling data in a much more real and meaningful way - that is, the "deciders" would themselves be that polling data, a random, statistically significant set of data, each with their own individual motivations (but without the motivation of fundraising, pandering or party loyalty.)
7/31/11 - Jefferson Memorial

If memory serves, this idea has been posited before (I'm thinking perhaps of Plato's Republic or Sir Thomas More's Utopia - anyone remember?) and I'm quite sure of it myself, but in the spirit of Jeffersonian renewal of government, I put it out for discussion.  I was reminded this summer of just how selective our collective memory has become when I saw again for the first time the Jefferson Memorial in DC.  I was there with JP and George Etwire who we met on the bus into the city.  George is from Ghana and was travelling to Utah on business.  Like us, he had several hours to kill in DC before his next flight so we saw some sites.

Jefferson (and I would argue the rest of them, too) never intended for this to be The Constitution, in perpetuity.  It must be a living document, both in how we read it and amend it, but also in the sense that it might (must?) grow, give birth to new ideas and eventually even die.  The real Tea Party (the one before it was co-opted by corporate interests) might have known this, but the idea was lost in the ideological fervor of originalism.  The Occupy Movement may also know it, but not admit to knowing it because of its efforts to appeal to the "middle of the roaders."  (Calling the Occupy Movement extremist makes about as much sense as calling Barack Obama a Left Winger - while, as with anything, there is some fringe there, the majority line is fairly tame.)

What surprises me, though, is that it's been right in front of us since at least 1943 - 8th Graders have been carted past it for years - this is not a historical "argument", it's history.

* Very interesting is Paine's formulation of the state of nature as a "group of emigrants" come together (presumably as a displacing force of whatever happened to live there before) in a new, untouched land.  This of course presumes a certain modern (or at least enlightened) sensibility in the people of the hypothetical age, whereas Rousseau's "state of nature" hearkens back to an earlier, more innocent humanity.  Paine's Founders are always already colonizers (and therefore need governments to reign in their baser nature).

23 October 2011


Source: 3quarksdaily.comI think what might be most revealing in the “Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Everywhere” Movements is the extent to which we begin to understand that these young people, here there and everywhere protesting “get it”. They’ve seen through the façade that is work-a-day life and are opting out.

That is, I’m sure, making several assumptions on their behalf, but what I have earlier diagnosed as a certain flakiness amongst young people today (and I use that phrase with full knowledge of the codgi-ness that it seems to assign to me) is in fact nothing more than a state of recognition and scorn. Throughout our lives we are presented with a series of hoops through which we must jump – Do well in school; Get into College; Get a Job; Get a Wife; Get a “Life” (which might be translated “loan”); Have some Babies; Wait to Die.

These arbitrary hoops are not enough of an account for the Occupiers. For generations the fact that “this is what you do” has been enough for folks, but this lot now says, not necessarily “No”, rather “Really?”

16 August 2011

Too Far Airfield

Last weekend I completed what has been one of my most anticipated odd social experiments. I walked to the airport (and it wasn't that bad). Since moving to Milwaukee's alleged Garden District, I have frequently wondered what the experience would be like, walking to or from MKE, and last Friday I had the opportunity to test it. My hypothesis was that it would be difficult, dangerous or nearly impossible to accomplish what I had set out to do. Every time I had driven to or from the airport I had tried to make a mental note of various courses I would have to traverse,* without finding much of a hopeful way forward (or backward). To my chagrin, however, I found that the process of walking, at least to this one American airport, was really not much of a challenge.

On first approach, while leaving my immediate neighborhood and approaching the mega-block that is Mitchell International Airport, I was pleased to see my sidewalk end and some un-inviting looking fences and trenches seemingly blocking my path. Of course, I could have crossed over Howell Ave. and had an unimpeded walk, but this is clearly not the story I'm trying to tell here, so I trekked.

Presently, I came upon a side-road, upon which I assumed my pedestrations would be noted and carefully watched by Homeland Security and the TSA. There was some traffic on the road, though not a lot. I encountered exactly one fellow walker, who was wearing what looked like an airport badge, marking him as not the bourgeois-traveller class, but of the low-wage, service economy class we staff our airports (baristas, bartenders and security personnel alike) with.  This, too, fit my narrative, so I duly scoffed again at my circumstances.

As I continued on my walk, however, I encountered a well-maintained and marked pedestrian walk (not pictured), which led me past the International Terminal.  I was terribly disappointed to find that it is, in fact, quite easy to walk to the Milwaukee Airport.

Well done, you, Milwaukee.  My outrage is quelled, once more, for one more day.

* Of course, the state of heightened emotion we generally enter when arriving or departing an
airport (or while actually at an airport) tends to distract from even the best-intentioned observer's stance.

18 July 2011


Kafka's "Auf der Galerie" is, all told, two sentences long.

It is theoretically possible to have a never-ending sentence in German.

Were you to write that sentence, it would, by definition, need to cover everything. "But then again, no", I guess we would need to add to this definition that the sentence would need to be an 'irrational' sentence (in the sense in which a number is irrational) - never ending and non-repeating.

This sentence would, in the end, I think, be Borgesian and the task of writing it, Sisyphean.

When I was wandering the library stacks last week (the Golda Meir library, that is, not Borges' or Babel's) I came upon the diaries of Franz Kafka. I opened to the entries, first randomly, then closest that day's date (July 14th, though I ended up reading the entries from May and September as Kafka seemed to have taken that summer off from writing). It occurred to me that Kafka was a bit of a whiner and his journals had no real academic or artistic merit, but I'm quite sure, if I were so inclined, I could find a bevy of dissertations on the subject.

"What am I doing hanging round?"

28 March 2011

Progressive Voting Guide for Wisconsin - April 2011 Election

Voting day is just in front of us and this year's election is of vital importance. As such, I am trying to collect together a Voting Guide to inform people of their options. As I've said before (brilliant idea #2), there needs to be a site that collects all elections and gives good information on EVERY race, from President to School Board to Coroner (what is a "republican" way of coroning?).

Find your polling place!

This is in no way meant to be an unbiased, non-partisan guide. Rather, I will try to inform you of the candidate that will make Wisconsin a better place. I am open to discuss (in comments here, when I see you next, or any other way) and will update this post with changes when I get better information, but I want to post this as soon as I can. Please let me know if you know of other races and any info you have on candidates.

Wisconsin State Supreme Court
JoAnne Kloppenburg is the clear choice here. She's running against incumbent David Prosser, a former Wisconsin State legislator who has refused to recuse himself from the Collective Bargaining case despite the fact of having served with Walker and others in the state legislature and virtually assured to vote in favor of the bill.

Kloppenburg will restore some badly needed balance to the State Supreme Court, which is currently weighted toward republican perspectives (Note: I do not mean conservative perspective, I mean republican).

Milwaukee County Executive
Though I'm not convinced that either candidate is ideal, Chris Abele seems to be the less bad (and perhaps actually good, I just don't know for sure). His opponent, Jeff Stone is a republican legislator who voted for Walker's Budget and the collective bargaining sham of a bill, so he is clearly a bad choice (and, incidentally, probably a bad person in general).

Milwaukee School Board
District 8
Again, I'm not 100% about this race. It seems like both candidates aren't ideal, but until we are fully committed to running quality progressive candidates at every level I guess I would lean slightly toward Meagan Holman, who at least seems smart. I hope someone sets me straight here if they know any better, but the only information I can find is onmilwaukee.com's coverage of the primary in February and their answers weren't necessarily substantively different, but very much stylistically different (or intellectually different).

Milwaukee County Circuit Court - Branch 18
Vote to retain Judge Pedro Colón, who I really know nothing about, but I like his smile. Oh, and he seems like a reasonable guy.

18 February 2011

Workers Unite!

For those in Milwaukee today, there's a rally against union

 busting @ 4pm on the Corner of Water and Wisconsin.

 Please show up in support of worker's rights.

It's a wonderful time and a terrible (in the original sense) time in Wisconsin.  We're heading to Madison this afternoon.  I think it's time to wake up in the United States.  I'm as culpable as anyone I'm talking to - I see the systematic dismantling of lower and middle class rights in favor of corporate consolidation of power, but I'm not an activist.  

I am always fully in support activism, I nod at protesters as I see them, but I'm an unskilled chanter and I never work very hard to re-arrange my schedule, nor do I ever have the audacity to walk away from my daily life, which is why what state workers (and their supporters) are doing across Wisconsin is so impressive.  

By now you should know enough about the bill Governor Scott Walker is proposing.  It's dangerous, for all of us, not just state workers.  It's radical.  It needs to be stopped (though it very well may not be).

What's more important, though, is that whatever the outcome of this particular battle the "Sleeping Giant that's been awakened" (to re-use Lane Hall's imagery from an email) not go back to sleep.  Thanks to everyone who's been fighting the good fight for days, weeks, months, and years.  I hear you, I'm awake and I will try not to go back to sleep.