Saturday, September 17, 2011

Our heads say hold back

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Grappling with objective uncertainty; or, a constant search for the really real

Someday I'll try to write a book. I won't ever finish it, and I may in fact be writing it right now, but the point is that I'll be writing a book. The idea that you can finish life like you can finish a book is one of the silliest things ever imagined. Come to think of it, comparing life -- something that isn't so much in time as of it -- with something so sedentary as an object is a pretty foolish endeavor. Life has a beginning and an end, but the uncertainty of when either of those two things will fall make establishing a middle impossible in the individual case; only in aggregate can an average middle really be established, the middle that we tend to fill with crises and mortgages. Life, by its association with time, is a perpetual motion machine. It will go on with or without your help.

Then again, I've never written a book before -- maybe to truly finish writing a book is as impossible as it is to finish living a life. The crux of it, though, is held up in the nature of the infinite. Within the bounds of a life, there is no set definition of what it is to "complete" a life, there's no checklist, you can never be done, and as such there can never be any certainty. You'll outlive every conclusion you come to, and ultimately there is only one true sense of finality you can arrive at. Every other end you come to in your life, every time you think you've finished something or arrived at an answer will be but a departure in rudimentary disguise. That was a little bit more prosaic than I intended to get in this passage, but you understand the fundamental point. I'm not talking about the kind of "every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end" of popular music, though few expressions in history have put it better than "I can't get no satisfaction." I'm talking about coming face to face with the fact that you can never be done.

You can never know anything with total objective certainty. You can never figure out life. You can never solve anything that isn't artificial or abstracted. When grasping the stuff of life, it cannot be made to conform to the way that we think or understand how knowledge works. You can never know the person next to you, not even by holding them tighter than tight. Even my musings here are probably worthless and, seeing as Kierkegaard's struggle to communicate these ideas in a meaningful way drove him out of his mind, I wouldn't be surprised in the least.

I don't know how to express the frustration that I've felt when coming into contact with what I see as a fundamental truth. I have been raised to believe, but on a more primal level to know, that problems have a solution, beginnings have ends and that with enough diligence everything can be resolved. The fact that this outlook is patently impossible when reckoned with the infinitude of a life that is constantly advancing and becoming is a source of tremendous anxiety for me. When the veil of uncertainty has been lowered over an outlook on life, it cannot be removed except by absent-mindedness or distraction. There are days where I feel like I'm being crushed under the impossibility of all this existence around me.

I have tried every logical solution, every philosophy, every feel-good greeting card lesson that I can get my hands on and have still seen no resolution. I've come to the conclusion (do you now see how irreconcilable this situation is?) that the only things that can be depended on with ANY degree of certainty other than the illusion of the immediate are as follows: I exist and the only way to live life is to live it as hard as you fucking can. I hope, to whatever God was cruel enough to create a reality this hopeless, that you are as real as I am -- but I can never truly be sure.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I wish you would let me go.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Further Playbackitizations and Rewindenings of the Reminiscent Sort

This is the latest installment of my weak retrospective attempt to cover my ass for not blogging for a month and a half. To be perfectly fair, I have been very busy and incredibly tired -- anyone can attest to that. This week itself is a testament to that fact, I have spent every moment of it writing, singing, adventuring, and partying and we aren't even through Saturday. I have been out at bars every night this week, sampling fine pints of Staropramen and delighting in some amusingly Danish covers of American classics.

More importantly, being out in bars downtown practically guarantees my proximity to the shawarma that I crave at practically every moment here. My gripping condition is in such advanced stages that I have visions of my next lunch break before I've even finished the pita sandwich itself.

Since you last stared disinterestedly into your monitor and smirked internally at my grossly overwrought style, the epic battle between man and machine (being me and my bike, respectively) has raged on and come to a tense armistice. First the metal fiend took my shorts, followed by me robbing it of its gears in a dish-best-served-cold manner, as chronicled in my previous post. On Thursday, however, I escalated the battle to a devastating and anti-cathartic plateau when I peddled so furiously in first gear that the chain slipped itself of the hellish teeth of this bike's gears. And so we now both lie in wait, biding time and gathering strength until both parties are in sufficient shape to advance our hostilities.

The weather has, on occasion, deemed it appropriate to not spit in the face of springtime and actually be nice, which is much appreciated. Wearing shorts, cleft as they may be, is a pastime of mine that I had forgotten the joys of in what seemed to be the longest winter of my life this past year. Canoodling and other boat-based shenanigans has abounded on those nice days, and bike rides down to the shoreline have been a staple source of contentment for me.

Musically I've been inexorably drawn to old classics that I never really knew I loved until now. I've always been big on the Rat Pack and slightly more modern interpretations like Michael Buble, but it was the re-discovery through some ostensibly divine machinations of a batch of duets between Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong that has really hit me in my brain's heart. These songs are meaningful and present in a way that surpasses musicality, they are transportative and transformative with regards to the listener in manners untouchable by most music of our time. At least it's that way for me. I defy anyone foolish enough to contradict my enormous brain to let themselves experience The Nearness of You or Stars Fell on Alabama and tell me that they haven't been taken to a place of wonder 3 minutes and 35 seconds long, the topography of which rises and falls in ways that common cartography can't possibly hope to encompass.

I'm considering putting out invitations to famous chefs to concoct a dish for me that artfully entwines the subtle, lofty and rainy-Saturday-morning flavors of waffles with the faith-inducing, life-fulfilling alimentary oeuvre of a rare cut of sirloin. I know it's possible -- the popular south'ren culinary combo of fried chicken and waffles will serve as my proof of concept.

I'm gonna pause here to give you some time to google "alimentary oeuvre" and collect the pieces of your shattered conceptions of the assumed limitations of language.

I don't know, guys. I don't know how else to encapsulate my experience here. Telling you where I've been or what I do on a daily basis, with the exception of my travel break which I will hopefully get to next post, would be an entirely fruitless endeavor. I am simply living here, the hours pass and the nights go by and I couldn't be happier about those truths. There are situations that are difficult, awkward or otherwise trying, but they are a part of the fabric of this place and time as much as the incredible ecstasies I've been privy to while here.

I lament having to miss the last semester of many of my friends at Grinnell, but I will be upon them with a ferocity unknown to man or beast soon enough (the 19th).

This is all I have time for tonight, perhaps tomorrow will dawn on some more musings.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Undoing of a Man

I could have sworn that I posted something here like 5 days ago about how I promise to post more, bit by bit. I guess that was just a glorious fantasy of my thoroughly exhausted mind.

Friends, compatriots, angry mob of people standing outside threatening me with disembowelment if I don't blog soon...I have indeed been to the ends of the earth. I have traveled to the northernmost limits of where any human could reasonably and willfully want to go in April, far to the East to the shattered lands of the former Yugoslav republic, and as even as far as the McDonalds down the street for some midnight french fry action. Oh you know it.

Part of the reason for me bitching out on this digi-literary (digirary) endeavor is that I was in foreign countries for the first two weeks of April. The reasons for the rest of my universally lamented absence from the blogosphere aren't quite as legitimate, but I guess I'll try to come up with some excuses or something. I guess my most compelling reason is that I've really gotten out there in an incredible way, and all of my time is spent experiencing experience. I have had a phenomenal April so far, and I have no intentions of letting the last leg (called a "slutspurt" in Danish, as you may recall from a previous post) of this month break the mold that I have cast around it in unbreakable plaster.

I think I will begin recounting my adventures in reverse order, because the details ("deets," in case anyone I know would dare to be a Twitter user and an acquaintance of mine simultaneously) are simply too fucking juicy. The events beginning on Saturday and continuing through today have thoroughly defined my past few days on this green earth as the single most pride-obliterating stretch of time in my life. The hours of the past few days have been fixed to one another in some sort of horrifying weave of misery and shame, each stitch another vicious affront to my dignity that may, in fact, be the death of me. And yet this devastating tapestry of woe into which I have been spun is so truly awful that it can only be hilarious.

I am, of course, exaggerating, but the combined embarrassment of the past 48 hours in particular forms a sufficiently massive enough moeity that science, or this blog, must address it as something in its own right. The events begin the night of the 24th, a Saturday, when two mysterious bruise-like phenomena appeared below my jawline and, in what will prove to be a nearly fatal flaw in but a few paragraphs, above my collar. Since my wardrobe is distinctly lacking in any sort of turtle-necked apparel, I was to suffer the shame of this scarlet letter throughout the weekend and into this yet-young week.

Fast forward to Sunday morning, around oh-nine-hundred hour, when I'm awoken by an SMS saying "let's hammer mill it up dude!" Now, this is exactly what it sounds like -- we were to bike around 10km to visit a medieval water mill used to power an enormous hammer, which was in turn used in its hey-day to forge the barrels of the King's rifles. Now it's used by the finest of Danish line-chefs to forge eggs and bacon for intrepid travelers, which we aimed to become and reap said brunch-ly bounty. But before we even get to the mill, disaster struck.

Exclaiming to my friends, "hey check this Danish mount I'm about to do," I confidently stepped onto the left pedal of my bike with my left foot, launching it forward with the intention of vaulting my right leg over the seat and onto its respective pedal. But woe was to befall my leg on its be-doom'ed arc over the seat of this abomination of Danish bikemanship. With the bike still rolling, my shorts became entrapped by the snaring grasp of some arbitrarily placed plastic bits under the seat cushion. With my pants caught in the dastardly clutches of my inanimate adversary, the momentum of my leg carried this chain of events to its logical and horrifically embarrassing conclusion -- the sundering of my favorite pair of lower-body garments.

This was no ordinary tear in my pants -- this was a rending of untold proportions, a hip-to-hem fissure exposing the true frailty of my mortal soul. With that, the tides of this Old Man and the Sea struggle between pants and bike seat took an alarming turn. Now inextricably trapped inside my shorts, the seat of the still-rolling bike lost the upper hand, but my shorts' thirst for vengeance would prove fatal to what remained of my pride. Trapped on this rolling machine of mortifying hatred, I toppled like so many Titans in a film starring Sam Worthington, the hard ground delivering the final and mortal blow to my dignity. This was the first awful thing that was to happen to me on Sunday.

25 kilometers of biking later, my noble steed decided to begin dying slowly. First I lost third gear, then second, followed by the shifting mechanism popping off of the wheel cap, causing the remaining unattached gears to create a horrible grinding sound everywhere I biked.

So there I was, with two giant hickeys, ripped shorts and a broken bicycle, utterly and terribly vanquished. I suffered greatly at the lashing tongues of my classmates today, even my Danish teacher was eager to point out the blotches on my neck that seem even now to outline the very topography of my humiliation.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I Am, Among Many Other Things

A liar. I don't have my manifest destiny rap recorded, though there's a chance it will happen today. I say a chance, but between packing for Iceland (score), Muppets in Space (score), this blog and whatever other shenanigans are on the menu for today, I'm not sure there really is one. Sorry to disappoint.

This was the second week of midterms, which I'm now cleansed of by the soothing aquavit of travel break. Similar to many other assignments here, these midterms really never had a chance. They were defeated soundly and with little deliberation, damned to serve an eternal sentence in the hellish Land of the Complete. Yae, and verily did Simon smite 12 pages and an oral midterm, for his power over words was so great that none could bear their utterance or withstand his rhetorical onslaughts, mighty as they were. My most thorough victory was that in the European theatre, in which I battled all the nefarious forces that the Danish language could muster on such short notice and was flawlessly victorious. So now here I stand, broad, muscular shoulders highlighted by the triumphant light of the waxing moon atop a pile of vanquished vowels, smitten semantics and war-torn word-choice.

Tuesday was my roommate Peter's 21st, which was just the right mix of awesome and chill that I think should accompany all 21sts. He has a sweet perfectly circular battle-scar on his palm from trying to put out a flaming shot that had been burning for a bit too long while his friend fumbled for the change to pay for it. While burns are typically never a good thing, even one so inconsequential as this one, this ovoid stigma has symbolic potential of the sort that people usually long after pursuant to such celebratory landmarks. Does Average Joe feel any older after having walked in place while another year paraded by him? The celebration of a birthday is almost atemporal, the time passing during those hours lasts forever in the moment but practically doesn't exist in retrospect. But now Peter has an indelible mark that's slightly less temporary and vastly more corporeal than his birthday celebration to remind himself that, in a highly metaphysical sense, he can in fact buy beer legally.

Ha! You thought I was gonna make some deep point there, you crazy fool.

Speaking of depth, specifically the depths of complete and almost transcendental suck that my laptop has sunk to, I'm now resorting to avoiding using my trackpad at all costs. It picks really interesting times to grab a spatula and just start flipping shits. 20 minutes ago I could put my finger down in one place on the track pad and watch the cursor on screen jump around like a chipmunk in Moon Shoes. Granted, I'm like the Albus Dumbledore of using a keyboard like a mouse, but there's a certain sense of 'convenience lost' when you have to use the tab key more than 20 times to get to the link you want on a web page. On top of this, my franken-cord of an AC adapter is literally disintegrating under the existential stress of trying to keep my psychologically disturbed battery inside the bounds of electrical sanity. The cords springing from the brick portion of the charger are frantically trying to escape, loosing themselves at the slightest provocation and sometimes surreptitiously. The brick itself, which is doing its best to emulate its namesake in form and function, is thoroughly cracked and will soon be nothing more than a shattered shell and twisted circuitry. I have to lean stoically on the base of the keyboard to get it to start up properly, and even then it hangs at bizarre points in the boot process. I am wholly unable to navigate the treacherous terrain of this computer's issues in a way that would allow me to fix it, or even suggest how to fix it. All I can do now is wait in my craft at a safe distance, donning a protective suit and making brave exploratory missions down to its surface when I need to collect strange minerals (profile pictures) or decipher alien writings (guitar tabs).
I'm making a list of every song I know how to play on guitar so that I have a kind of setlist to work from. I constantly forget that I know how to play certain songs, to the point where picking up a guitar is a hopelessly redundant odyssey through the grease-caked gears of my memory that largely results in me playing the same five or so songs. Granted, I really like those songs, and the five have changed over time, especially since I arrived here, but the bottom line is I need some dependable variety. I say dependable because there are also a frightening amount of songs that I know parts of but lack that critical linchpin to stake the train cars together and thunder down the tracks. Lyrics and bridges are my two greatest weakness and comprise the largest holes in my musical repertoire currently. I am also looking into doing acoustic covers of hip-hop hits and R&B chart-toppers, a la I'm In Luv (Wit a Stripper), so if you have any suggestions of songs that I could cover, don't hesitate to let me know. I will take any and all suggestions, and probably work on them after I complete my rendition of Sean Kingston's "Fire Burnin." It will be poignant and refreshing, spiritually as well as aurally. There shall be much rejoicing.

Music and memory are really two beautiful parts of a frightening whole. My mind, probably due to years of schooling in the media arts, expresses thought primarily as FinalCut montages. There are dozens of tracks in each montage, several obviously for images and myriad others for thought, emotion, moments, movements and retrospection -- but really only one for audio. Certain songs are monogamously associated with incredibly specific images and moments in a way that, while I accept it, fundamentally don't understand -- nor do I wish to. I also don't think I have any power to change what is bound to what, which has unfortunate side effects on my mental music library. There are some songs that I just can't let myself listen to anymore, as huge a space as they inhabit in my heart and mind, because they hail from a time full of profound unhappiness and self-destruction for me. I am almost super-conscious of those times now, and knowing that has been a source of tremendous positive power in my life and has allowed me to feel like I've moved on. That said, I don't need to tell any of you about the power of music to transport you in a hyper-literal sense back to certain times, feelings, moments, eras, events, people or places. As a remarkably solid example, the song Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead by Ted Leo & the Pharmacists is almost impossible for me to listen to. I woke up to that song every day for probably 18 months in high school, so many times and with such ridiculous consistency that I can literally feel my old CD player spin up as I snap into consciousness at the start of the song. The brutal melange of fear, confusion, exhaustion, excitement, dumbfounding dis-anticipation and the dull flicks of the headlights of blood cells turning on to resume their endless circuit of the longest highways in the world, the buzzing echoes of being audibly rent from my dreams -- the annihilative catharsis of that moment where the real world collides with you yet you're in absolutely no state to comprehend it. Even the acoustics of the song are colored by these memories, since I really only heard it in that vast but brief purgatory between sleep and wakefulness, and it thus sounds like it's being played at a great distance to me.

In other news, I am slowly realizing that I have displayed unacceptable levels of sloth in educating myself about quintessential American culture. The shelves of my brains categorical library of experience labeled "Movies starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, John Wayne or Humphrey Bogart," "Golden Age Radio Dramas" are characterized by an alarming dearth of content. The one set of bookends I can say I've distanced significantly are those that start and finish the category of Sinatra Classics and other related tunes.

In terms of movies that I have seen, recently, I had the mixed dis/pleasure of seeing Outlander, the 2009 film with a budget of $55 million dollars that nobody has ever even heard of. Nor had I, until Hurricane was browsing some illicit viewing site and stumbleupon'd it. The movie centers around a grizzled Jim Caviezel, playing the role of a space marine marooned in 8th-century Viking fucking Norway. Caviezel the space marine crashed in his space ship, which he was previously space-flying through space, to hunt space dragons with the Germanic peoples of the Scandinavian peninsulae. So basically we have Jesus Christ, donned in all his Passion and a suit of metallic powerarmor, and about a hundred bearded berzerkers slinging blades and arrows at a nearly immortal space-beast of unimaginable murder. Let's just say....holy fuck. The movie grossed an abysmal $166,000 United States dollars in theaters, the quantitative unanimous reprimand for whoever thought it would be a good idea to make a movie that shitty. Don't get me wrong, it was awesome to watch -- 55 large can get you a pretty dazzling amount of CG explosions. Besides who doesn't like watching the guy who played the big JC of N come to fisticuffs with hammer-wielding giants? I can't really think of anyone.

In hilarious internet news, there has been recent and very serious debate here at IPC among certain individuals about a matter of grave importance and sober consequence: Could Captain America dead-lift more than Jesus, the Son of God? We were split vehemently in votes of confidence either way, so we did the only thing that a morally responsible group of intelligent, cognizant individuals can do in a situation such as this. We put it on Yahoo Answers. Behold the righteous glory of the answers we have received and will surely continue to receive by following the Golden Path of enduring internet justice to this link. Be sure to check your faith in humanity at the door and prepare to bust a gut as we reap this dark harvest of blackest sin and utter hilarity that we have oh so woefully sown.

So there you have it, pretty much my full range of emotions manifest in a few vignettes of this past week.

Life is fucking good.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This is not the rap you're looking for

But it is also performed by me. I helped with lyrics and video too, but only a little bit. This is a parody project for some hojskole friends' Danish Politics class, it focuses on the Danish People's Party, a faction with some pretty bigoted views on immigration.

Yes that's me peeing on a police car at the end. No, I'm not actually peeing on the police car. Yes, my jacket is on backwards. That's how they do things here. Which is to say -- in the hood.