Yom HaShoah

On September 11th, I was in a studio art class drawing something of very little quality with charcoal. NPR broke into the middle of a recorded piece to report on a plane that hit the World Trade Center. Everyone was confused; our teacher told us to get back to work. Then the second plane hit. I ran into the hall to call one of my best friends who was supposed to fly out of Boston that day.

“Seriously–seriously–this shit isn’t funny.”

It wasn’t. All the more terrifying: Ricky is able to see humor in anything.

As dutiful and panic-inducing as the NPR reports were, nothing could have conveyed the images we’d all soon see on the TVs rolled into hallways: faculty and students sitting on the floor together watching our world crumble.

“Michael, do not ride the bus.”

“Mom, I don’t think they’re going to target Austin.”

“The President is from Texas! Who knows where they’ll hit!”

It seemed silly, logically, but every time I rode the bus after that, the backpack in front of me would explode. For months, I had a fiery death right before getting off at 29th and Guadalupe.

Last night, Osama bin Laden, the originator of all our fears, was killed and our nation rejoiced. The Ur Revenge was complete. Jeffrey Goldberg cribbed from Proverbs: “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” I understand the relief and certainly don’t mourn bin Laden’s passing, but my celebration seemed a bit hollow.

Our revenge has resulted in 5,885 U.S. military deaths. As President Obama solemnly noted, the legacy of lost loved ones and incomplete families will play out for years to come.

In Iraq, ~105,000 civilians have lost their lives; in Afghanistan: 34,000. However just or well-intentioned you believe our goals to be, our methods and unexpected consequences have been blunt. After living through our nation’s worst day, it is hard to imagine the mind frame of nations who have lived through their worst decades. Our country has also spent $1,188,523,000,000 (that’s 1.19 trillion dollars) on these wars.

The same fear I felt riding on the bus became the basis for a lot of things in the past 10 years. At first, it was unity. It soon splintered into revenge, hate crimes, jingoism, rendition, a war with false rationale, a war on French fries, wiretapping, a rainbow of oblique terror threats, another war, secrecy, torture, a loss of civil liberties, a loss of civility, conspiracy theorists and, ultimately, disunity. George W. Bush was mocked for telling us to go shopping in the immediate wake of the attacks, but the call for getting back to “normal life” was prescribed no matter what your politics were. Except we didn’t: we went shopping and forgot all about our civics.

Compare these investments and compromises–societal and fiscal–to those of the 19 insane hijackers bin Laden deployed. The return on investment is startling. Are the evildoers really cowering in fear from our justice when the effects of their crude missiles are still disrupting our normal life?

I’m not a pacifist (or warmonger, for that matter) but it’s hard for me to believe that investing in education or other non-combative reforms would not have endeared ourselves more to these countries and changed things just as much. It’s hard to disinfect without any sunlight. That version of revenge may be less visceral, but it may be just as effective.

Since it’s been 10 years, it may have been just as immediate, too.

This morning, on the occasion of Yom HaShoah, I received an email forward from my Mom (via a cousin, via G-d knows who) imploring us to all never forget the atrocities of the Holocaust. It was a PowerPoint laced with horrific photos of the Jewish walking dead right after the liberation of the camps and an inaccuracy about current life in Sharia Law United Kingdom. Its purpose was to stoke suspicions and panic for just a slide or two–something palm-to-the-forehead ironic and sad on this day of all days. Nevertheless, it is a reminder to never forget that people–oftentimes acting out of genuine care and real fear–are wont to present situations that will elicit the most action.

Sometimes, there are no great options: We should just make sure that we’ll still have our spirit intact after whatever we do.

A Curated Christmas 2010

A Curated Christmas 2010

Happy holidays!
Download these jams!
I hope 2011 is totally tubular for you and yours.

  1. Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights
  2. Owen Pallett – Lewis Takes Action
  3. Kanye West – Chain Heavy (feat. Talib Kweli & Consequence)
  4. Au Revoir Simone – Shadows
  5. Prince – When You Were Mine
  6. Esquerita – Maybe Baby
  7. Rita Hayworth and/or Anita Ellis – Put The Blame On Mame
  8. Ngozi Family – Chisoni Kwanztu Azimbabwe
  9. Total Noise – Jealous Lover
  10. Melanie Fiona – It Kills Me
  11. Dire Straits – Romeo And Juliet
  12. Vera Ward Hall – Black Woman (Wild Ox Moan)
  13. Godley & Creme – Cry
    This video is so good.
  14. Graham Gouldman – We’ve Made It To The Top
  15. Wiz Khalifa – I’m Gonna Ride
  16. Pharoahe Monch – Push (Ft. Showtime, Mela Machinko, Tower Of Power)
  17. The Thermals – Never Listen To Me
  18. Knife In The Water – Rene
    I’m still looking for the album with “Sent You Up” on it: If you have this, how ’bout you holler?
  19. Samuel L. Jackson – Stack-o-lee
    The movie Black Snake Moan is totally underrated.
  20. De La Soul – Dinninit
  21. The Foreign Exchange – The Last Fall
  22. Gangstarr – You Know My Steez
    R.I.P.
  23. George Harrison – Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)

In what way does the author’s use of the prison symbolize the protagonist’s struggle?

Ferris Bueller

There is a subset of movies I’ve now watched so many times (through childhood, through working at a video store, through having basic cable since I was eight) that they are hard to review in an objective manner. They are some of my favorite movies not because I think they are the best, but because they were formative and are now sources of comfort more than pure entertainment.

The list includes Die Hard, Big, The Princess Bride, The Breakfast Club, Field of Dreams, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

As a child growing up amidst cul de sacs–opposed to being a rogue cop battling terrorists or midwestern baby boomer with a midlife crisis–Ferris Bueller’s Day Off had the most direct influence on what I believed “cool” and adolescence to be. If not for my almost-always temerity, it would have likely served as the template on how to actually act.

Obviously, this influence was not unique to me: John Hughes supplied a world of quotes, clothes, and music to a generation. In the middle of a Tuesday afternoon, I skipped out on work and watched Ferris Bueller at the Paramount with some of his progeny. All of us–and there were a lot–took the bait of playing hooky because we were still trying to fulfill the fantasy of being rad, carefree, and charming. Some brought their kids.

Seeing the movie alone and on the big screen for the first time allowed me notice some things I hadn’t before: The kid picking up his bag by himself in the hallway, Rooney quoting the from Burial of the Dead to Sloan, and the truly amazing Zapp song when the trio discovers how many miles have been put on the Ferrari. These are incredibly minor things (I have already seen this movie probably 50 times, after all) but they add even more. The things everyone remembers and know so well (Cameron staring into the Seurat, the parade, Ben Stein, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera) hit as strong as the first time. In the writing, acting, and editing there is amazing sense of timing. In part, I imagine this is due to Hughes’ obsession with mix tapes.

Unable to replicate the personality of a Shermer, IL kid, I tried to replicate Hughes’ ability in building something anew through other peoples’ songs. This actually got expensive, and embarrassing, when the habit culminated in releasing a ska compilation during high school.

And yet, the three-quarters-selfish, one-quarter-giving urge to make a mix and some tangential mythology of my own remains. Just this summer I fretted long and hard over what songs to put on a mix for Some Girl in Lousiana via the International Mix Tape Swap. Were these songs too well known? Too obscure? Too hard? Too soft?

I wanted some of the validation John Hughes had, but Some Girl in Lousiana never wrote back to tell me what she thought. The cycle of fantasy and reality John Hughes tapped into so well continued.

After the movie I went back up the street to work.

Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off will be showing at the Paramount Theater as part of their Summer Film Series on Wednesday, August 4, 2010.

I want to swim in a cool, cool place.

Download “I want to swim in a cool, cool place.”
(Originally made for the International Mix Tape Swap)

  1. No Age – Everybody’s Down
  2. Damien Jurado – Arkansas
  3. Lil’ Wayne – La La La
  4. The Black Keys – The Only One
  5. Madness – On The Town
  6. Pinchers – Agony
  7. Lindstrøm & Christabelle – Keep It Up
  8. The Mekons – Club Mekons
  9. Total Noise – Stay
  10. Nas & MF Doom – Street Dreams
  11. Teddy Pendergrass – Set Me Free
  12. Godley & Creme – Cry
  13. Jill Scott – He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat)
  14. Ray LaMontagne – I Still Care For You
  15. George Harrison – Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)
  16. Raekwon – Pyrex Vision
  17. Joanna Newsom – Soft As Chalk
  18. Robert Palmer – Woke Up Laughing

EVEN MORE–FRIENDS’ BANDS EDITION: Total Noise (also on the above mix) told me it was fine to share their debut album. I have been listening to it a lot and really recommend it. While not available for free, Jack Dolgen’s also awesome and catchy-as-anything album will be available through iTunes on August 24, 2010 (pre-order available). As a compromise between downloading and buying, you may stream Love Inks’ debut EP that will have you feeling wistful and joyous at the same time. Finally, Soft Healer is going to be releasing stuff soon and you should definitely get it and see them play your town as they are great, too.

Requiem for Resuscitation

405 W. 18th Street, Guadalupe Entrance
405 W. 18th Street, Guadalupe entrance.

Let me begin by saying that rehabilitating 405 W. 18th Street will not turn hay into gold, much less save the city in one fail swoop. However, I have grown some fondness—in part due to the seemingly unnecessary neglect—for the building located at the address and feel like I should make some defense of it.
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