112 [menacing]


I suspect that the rest of this weekend and Monday won't be nearly as cool, but... today was kind of awesome, in a "This is what post-apocalypse Chicago would be like" kind of way.

The lakefront was mostly empty, and I had to wake up quick around 31st street because the police had installed a set of concrete barriers designed to slow down crowds underneath one of the pedestrian bridges. Museum Campus was surrounded by barriers and giant iron fences, one of which had a revolving door that was halfway open to allow people through. Downtown was almost entirely deserted and many of the companies that were still open in the Financial District today had asked their employees to wear jeans and avoid corporate logos in order to "blend in" with the protesters. So, downtown around 8 this morning was full of otherwise-prim and proper people in ratty clothes wandering around looking vaguely dazed and confused.

The best, best part, however, was heading in to my office in my bike shorts, hair all a sweaty mess, helmet under my arm, and getting on the elevator with a short older businessman in ill-fitting jeans and a faded orange flannel shirt. He turned to me, looked me over, and declared "Well, we sure look like the 99% today, don't we? I haven't worn jeans in years." I laughed, and deflected with "Yeah, I'm enjoying everyone's disguises today" and it was like the weirdest secret handshake ever. It also made me feel like a double agent (in spandex).

I spent my lunch break biking loops around downtown, so I got to see parts of the nurse's protest at Daley Plaza (which was full of singing and a handful of weird clowns) and one of the Occupy marches down Clark and over toward Michigan. I got to watch mounted police bottle up Michigan Ave. traffic while the occupiers marched down. It was pretty cool. I also got teased by one of the officers for being on the wrong end of the protest. (I am the best double agent.)

Oddly, the police seemed to be in good spirits today. There was even one I saw who was bemusedly filming some of the protesters. My general impression has been this is one of the few times that the Chicago police and actual Chicagoans are on exactly the same side of an event.

Though, on my way home tonight (after finally getting my brakes sorted out), I saw that the city has taken out the snowplows and parked them on Balbo, which does not bode well for the rest of the weekend...

I think I'm going to take a ride down to Indiana tomorrow (possibly out to the Dunes, which is 50 miles away but mostly trails). Anywhere north of here is pretty much out of the question, and I've been meaning to take the ride out just so I can say I've done it.
66 [undercover]

Reading Comprehension...

Every once in a while, someone brings something to my attention that just makes me sad inside on pretty much every education-related and reading-related level possible. Something like this: the New York State exam test-writers yoinked a surreal fable out of a longer work by a children's author, boiled it down, and then added some multiple choice questions that... tended toward the surreal.

Here's the article, with the actual question reprinted at the end.

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    cold cold
104 [loser]

Omg, I'm sorry!

Guys, I'm still alive! I'm sorry. I think it's been almost a month since I've posted anything, and last you heard from me I was busy crying and gnashing my teeth about my writing job (which I still have. It's a long story that I'm not keen to revisit (unless you really want me to?), but we'll just say No One Was Right and leave it at that for the time being.) Also part of my hiatus may or may not have had a lot to do with 1) being embarrassed that I didn't actually manage to quit and 2) writing an entire magazine issue and 3) being weirdly social? I dunno, basically look_alive has owned my free time lately with concerts and conventions and things. I'm not complaining.

So, basically not much happened to me until last Wednesday, when look_alive, manipulant and I road-tripped up to Madison to see fun. (for reasons, which were originally to do with the Chicago show being sold out and us only having two tickets to it, but later had to do with me being in DeKalb on the day of the Chicago show because DI is all about scheduling over things I really want to do). The show was pretty much entirely awesome, in that it was the first show I've been to in years that involved bouncing up and down and singing along raucously and without the slightest hint of shame (I miss that!) I'm still not sure what my exact relationship with fun. is, since I basically picked them up from look_alive at exactly the same time the rest of the world picked them up from Glee, so it's like I climbed up through a trap door and ended up on a bandwagon anyway. But whatever! It's cathartic music. Just... no one encourage me to write up my literary analysis of the musical and lyrical themes in Some Nights because it's going to ruin everything for everyone. (I also have an alternate interpretation that turns into a proof of how they're secretly immortal vampires, since Nate was kind enough at the Madison show to imply for all of us that he and Jack have eternal life. And also because lol pop culture.)

(Yes, you can tell I'm busy because it's taken me a week to write up a concert. Also you can tell that I've sold my soul because pop culture vampire jokes. Agh!)

Umm... there was also a DI tournament on Saturday, which was fun even though I contracted the plague and had to corral teams instead of watching the performances. I still caught some great ones, though, including a structure that exploded when it broke. And I had an absolutely fantastic conversation with four adorable girls from the last team of the day, who told me about how they'd all worked together to tease out one girl's hair into an approximately-three-foot-wide fluffball and how it'd probably stay like that forever and everyone would be jealous.) Unfortunately the day ended with an argument about what it means when a team calls "time" and the difference between "presentation" and "story" according to our rules, which spilled over into another three days of passive-aggressive emails over things that seemed really obvious to me. So... another argument I am trying to stay out of. (Why must these things always degenerate into arguments? Though at least no one has invoked Godwin's Law right off the bat on this one.)

Aaand then Sunday look_alive and I trundled off to C2E2. I'd meant to take lots of pictures because my camera hasn't been getting enough love lately, but I ended up at the convention with exactly two batteries, neither of which were charged. At all. Because I am a dufus. So I made do with just enjoying things in the moment, which was just fine. We wandered the dealer room, judged the artists' alley (well, okay, I'm not a good judge), discussed plotty things, and then played some Quidditch. Which, okay... I was kind of skeptical about muggle Quidditch, but it's fun, and there is actually strategy involved (which I didn't understand at all at the time, and I also got a girl rather angry at me because no one told me I needed to return to the goal posts every time I got bludgered... which happened a lot. But whatever. Still fun.) Also our team won (because we caught the snitch). Yep.

And actually, that should about do it, because not much has happened this week. One of my favorite people at work got fired and I'm really worried about her. I've written half a magazine. And I think I've discovered that I can actually write under deadlines provided I do at least 75% of the writing in a coffee shop. I can't write fiction worth anything in a coffee shop since I'm afraid of people judging, but somehow writing work-things in a coffee shop works because all my self-conscious fear of judgment goes into "Better not look at anything weird online" and "weird things online" is like, 80% of what I do with my free time when I should be writing so there we go... it's a solution, at least until I become less self-conscious. (Which works for me. Though my coffee budget is going to suck.)
50 [journey]

Oh, Media

So apparently, after a week of almost nonstop work (because picking up a part-time job on the side when you're working 50 hours a week is cool) and unusual (for me) amounts of social interaction, I suddenly and unexpectedly have a Saturday to myself. And I guess I'm spending my Saturday thinking, once again, about... the media. (Because all I ever talk about is work and NPR. I am such a hipster-yuppie guys, I am so sorry).

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tl;dr If you want to tell a story, tell a story. If you want to be a journalist, tell the truth. Also don't lie to Ira Glass. Also people should listen to the Retraction because it's good radio... especially if you listened to Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory (or anything Mike Daisey said on the subject before and after, because he duped a lot of news outlets on his quest for publicity). There are facts and nuance and Ira Glass calmly dismantling someone.

Aaand this post is mostly to prevent me from gracelessly getting into arguments with people on Tumblr and Reddit about what journalism is actually for and what the retraction actually means and who, exactly, failed here.

Oh, and this article in the New Yorker, about how our expectations about China and our technology make it far too easy to believe overwrought stories like Mike Daisey's (and the importance of first-hand experience with a country in regards to what's being said at home) may also be worth a read. It's a lot more coherent than I am about the ways this story went wrong and why.

ETA: A couple other interesting articles on the subject: Fabulous Journalism (on Reuters' blogs) and Theatre, Disguised as Real Journalism (in the NYT).
25 [space]

Why Don't You Know?

This week I have discovered new levels of exhaustion. It'd probably be easier for me to count the hours I haven't been at work. And yet my net progress on making my next month of existence less bleak than this one? ...Not very great. But this is a horse long ago dead and beaten, so let's not get into it. (I probably should, because I'm getting ranty at unsuspecting actual people, but that's an issue for me to deal with.)

So, instead, here's some music that's keeping me sane (or at least amusing me). I have an on again, off again relationship with the Magnetic Fields which is apparently back on after hearing Andrew in Drag. There are times when Stephin Merritt's voice kind of annoys me, but this is just perfect (then again, I have a bit of a crush on his songwriting sometimes). Then there's this strangely appealing song about the fine line between pining after someone and stalking them: Why Don't You Know? by Mitchmatic. Plus he's the sort of guy that has you name your own price for downloads, and that's the sort of thing I can get behind. The main issue with these two songs is that the albums they're on aren't out yet... (It's probably also interesting to note that my tolerance for novelty songs goes WAY up when I'm stressed.)

On a non-novelty front, I'm also still trying to sort out Undun by the Roots. I'm really enjoying the album, but I'm pretty sure it's because I was given the easiest way into it in the world: it's inspired (in a loose way) by Sufjan Stevens and it's a concept album about a character whose arc is based on a character from the Wire and the story is told backwards, beginning with the character's death. So it's really no surprise that I was on this album like things that are really on other things. Yet I'm pretty sure that 1) my favorite tracks are the worst on the album and 2) I'm mostly enjoying it as a vessel for thought experiments. So yeah... really not sure how to approach this one from a critical standpoint. Lots of other people who know what they're doing with rap/hip-hop seem to have enjoyed it too, though, for what that's worth.

P.S. Guys, as appealing as it sounds to me sometimes, quitting my job and going to SXSW to pretend to be a freelance music journalist until someone mistakes me for a real one probably isn't a viable career plan. Please remind me of this in the coming weeks.

P.P.S. I keep forgetting to mention it, but I have some new photos up of the Garfield Park Conservatory (the new ones start at the red ball of flowers on the second row). They just re-opened the Aroid and Desert Houses last weekend (in addition to the Fern Room, which reopened a few weeks before), so I dragged my parents out to visit and took a bunch of pictures. There are also a handful of pictures of my trip down to the south side beaches (most are from Rainbow Beach, the last beach on the Lakefront Path). You can tell I'd been lacking for sunshine by how often I wantonly aimed my camera into the sun.
  • Current Music
    Michael Guy Bowman - Lies with the Sea
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22 [well then]

On Black March

I'm going to sopasoapbox here for a second guys, sorry. But I keep seeing posts about Black March, and while I agree with it in principle, I can't imagine it having any significant effect on the MPAA, RIAA, etc. Why? Because while we are still part of the demographic that everyone courts... most of us don't spend a lot of money on our entertainment.

Instead of being symbolic with a lack-of-buying things we rarely, if ever, buy, I think it's far more important to be symbolic with what we do buy. Because there are media corporations out there that are doing it right. Research. Find the ones that are using business models that don't rely on the government knocking down doors to protect their income source. Support businesses that will kill Hollywood. Support small labels, support small pressess, support independent film makers. Support people that share your idea of how art should be shared. It costs a little more than simply giving up mass-market entertainment, but this way you still have entertainment, and it'll have an impact. Giant corporations getting a little less from each of us isn't going to make a difference. But a few hundred dollars more in the pocket of a business that's just a handful of people? That makes a big difference to them (and to the people who watch things like market trends).

Look at the difference it's made for the music industry. There's a vibrant, well-recognized network of independent labels and artists now--in part because the music industry was first to be hit by mass pirating (and we do need to call it that--let's not pretend Megaupload wasn't piracy) and didn't have the back-up it would have had from the other industries if they'd realized that one day the internet would be faster and their business models would be in danger as well. But mostly, the change in the music industry came because the people who cared about music spent their money on the music they cared about... not to support to discourage an entire industry. People didn't stop buying or pirating music because the RIAA fought back, but many people did stop buying music that the RIAA was behind. The people who continued spending money on music spent it on albums and labels that they really cared about.

I think this is the system we need--pay for what you enjoy. Because in this age, pretty much everyone who puts their work online is a busker: anyone walking by is going to be able to hear it and see it for free, but we'll only get to keep the ones we're actually willing to throw a few dollars to. Let's not waste our time making a show of ignoring the guy with the slick tent and the $10k sound system, let's just stick to the outskirts and make a show of putting a 20 in the bearded guy's guitar case.

And thus concludes one of the most hipster arguments I've made recently. You can now go about your business.
101 [devious]

Meta calls to me!

I wish I had enough time to finish writing up some Meta things tonight because agh, authorial intent! It is haunting me. Thankfully I got through Reichenbach without any meta-level issues, but I still have some lingering from ASiB, and somehow Andrew Hussie is massively stepping into it in regards to race on Tumblr tonight and this makes an excellent counterpoint to the gender and sexuality issues Moffat has been poking at in some of his writing recently. I must get some sitting-still time in the near future! I need to pose endless open-ended questions about how much we should take authorial intent into account! And whether we should hold authors responsible for failings we only detect (or, more accurately, feel we can confirm beyond usual suspicions) in context of their extra-narrative actions! Ugh! (Actually, now that I've started this maybe it'll happen in the comments and I can just participate?)

(Incidentally, for those of you who were involved in one of my previous meta rambles on race, Hussie's attempting to defend the same "readers can be held accountable for the racism they read into a story/default-to-white-bias is not the author's responsibility to dispel" points I've tried defending before (with limited success). And I'm feeling residual embarrassment for how haughty that argument sounds in retrospect. Still really fascinating, though, especially in regards to a story that's so heavily reliant on archetypes. And I really want to corner Hussie in a bar somewhere or something and talk to him about this stuff beyond the somewhat condescending tone he always takes when talking to his fandom at large. Because this is an actual issue that he's poking at here, and it's got me intrigued.)

But, since I don't really have time for anything in depth, here's something entirely irrelevant. I've done a post-mortem on my deceased lock, just so everyone can have a friendly reminder to always have a spare key.
103 [presidential]


Happy New Year, everyone! (Or nearly everyone. There are still a few hold-out time zones, even at this hour.) I'd like to thank Chicago for whatever strange force caused it to be possible for me to finish 2011 and begin 2012 on my bike (even if the 2012 leg involved fighting 15mph wind, and was largely due to none of the buses to the south side running after 1am). But anyway! Still a good start to the year.

Actually, if I want to be completely honest, 2012 began with rainbow sparklers and enough explosions to make Humboldt Park sound like it was under siege because the Chicago police appear to give everyone about 15 minutes of Indiana-borne contraband pyrotechnic mayhem before they come screaming through with the blues and twos. (Hey, what can I say, some neighborhoods know how to party.)

Here's to a great 2012!
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    chipper chipper
130 [indie rock nonsense]

So, about that 2011 music

All right... I think it's about time for me to do my Best Albums of the Year post, right? I've had a bit of trouble with this, actually, because while last year there were at least two albums that I wanted to tuck under my pillow and keep with me forever, that kind of hasn't happened this year. Or, when it has, it only lasted for a couple of weeks. But so it goes, some years (it usually bodes well for the quality of the year to follow).

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I only gave favorite tracks for the better-known albums, which was silly of me, but I'm tired. If you get to this before I edit, just ask and I'm happy to give my song recommendations for any of the albums.