Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ten Words No One Would Ever Use to Describe Milwaukee

Coming on the heels of the news that it's the fourth-poorest city in the United States, I suppose you could accuse me of kicking Milwaukee when it's down.

And you'd be right.

Still, it's hard to love a place you exhausted your savings moving to, have wasted two years on a pointless job search in, and where none of your pictures ever turn out.

Keeping in mind that beauty (and ugliness) are in the eye of the beholder, here are ten words no one would ever use to describe Milwaukee:


Friday, September 24, 2010

Goodbye, Sir Charlie

One of my favorite music blogs passed away.

This sincere-but-tardy eulogy comes upon the realization that Sir Charlie Palmer is gone and it ain’t coming back. So goodbye, Sir. May you rest in peace.

Sir Charlie Palmer was a tart blend of commentary and music of every stripe. The picture of Karl Marx, the icon which read 'I Don't Give a Shit What Your House Is Worth' and the suggestions to support socialism and vote Labour were proof-enough of that.

Blues, reggae, garage, new wave, 60’s beat, folk and even country and western all made appearances. Likewise critical seventies relics like the Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s Next and Brinsley Schwarz’s New Favourites of Brinsley Schwarz .

It was where you went to find Ballboy. Kris Kristofferson. Tim Hardin. The Pretty Things. Son House. And Eek-a-mouse. And as if this ruddy-cheeked UK blog needed another infusion of personality, Sir Charlie used the names of players from his favorite football club as file links. Perfect.

But now it's gone.

You could argue that our multi-national conglomerates will once again be able to pay their Armani-suited executives bonuses now that this portal to sin and theft is gone. But you’d be wrong.

Home taping didn’t kill music, and neither will downloading obscure, long-out-of-print music off the Internet. In fact, blogs like Sir Charlie Palmer were likely the only things keeping memories of these musicians alive, given the capriciousness of record company deletion policies.

Once again, the people visiting blogs like Sir Charlie Palmer weren’t tweens looking for a bypass around iTunes, Amazon or Rhapsody for their B.o.B. or Katy Perry downloads. They were hardcore music lovers like myself with boxes and boxes and boxes of vinyl, cassettes and CDs.

When prompted to name dependents on my yearly income tax form, I was often tempted to list record companies. It wasn’t far from the truth.

And as much as my limited finances allow, let it be known that I have purchased CDs formerly downloaded off the Internet. Because like so many of my blog-visiting brethren, I am a musiholic. Someone who lives, breathes, eats and drinks music.

And when I fall for an album, I want the cover art and the lyrics and the names of the musicians and the producer and where it was recorded. Something tangible and tactile. Something as vivid and three-dimensional as the music itself.

Not a computer file or CD-R lettered in magic marker.

So if you’re part of the industry, please respond and tell me who I’m stealing from when I download an album that has been out of print for twenty or forty years. I could likely buy a $45 Japanese import, but allow me to respectfully point out that it is because of corporate monoliths like yours that I don’t have the $45 to begin with.

I see it this way: after decades of soaking people for fifteen-dollar CDs that cost less to make than vinyl LPs, stealing music off the Internet could be something of a—ahem—market correction.

But beyond that, blogs like Sir Charlie Palmer made music available the accountants in charge of our entertainment conglomerates have no idea even exists. In other words, he was creating demand. Do you understand that, Mr. Bean Counter?

Goodbye, Sir Charlie. You will be missed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Much Ado about Nothing

I will admit right off the bat that life could be much worse. I could have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this morning. I could be homeless, or filing for bankruptcy. I could be off to the hospital to visit my girlfriend after she was raped and beaten last night.

But I’m not.

Yet at the same time, it could also be a great deal better.

For example, I could have two compatible part-time jobs. Or just one full-time job with a living wage. Or sleep not riddled with eye-opening anxiety. Is an apartment with appliances that don’t date from the Carter administration asking too much?

I am weary. Life has become a slog through wet cement. Round and round and round I go, expending energy and effort but never arriving at my destination. True, you could argue that I now have two part-time jobs, whereas last spring I had none.

But consider this. Part-time job number one mandates where I live. And despite its offering of one week’s employment per month, it forbids me to be otherwise employed, as I must (technically) be available virtually around the clock, each and every day of the month.

Forgive my impudence, but didn’t the Emancipation Proclamation eliminate slavery?

Part-time job number two recently informed me that after September, I will no longer be able to take a week off each month to perform part-time job number one.

This despite my making this condition clear when asked if I had any extenuating circumstances that might affect my availability in a job interview last August.

With their subsequent extension of a job offer, didn't they indicate that this was reasonable and acceptable? That they were okay with it? Or am I just a dumb fuck?

Alas, I ask for too much. What on Earth am I thinking, smoking, drinking or otherwise ingesting? That I could conceivably be self-supporting? That I could conceivably possess two crappy part-time jobs?

My presumptuousness is as alarming as it is outrageous.

On my good days, I think to myself “OK. This isn’t working. Change it.” But it soon becomes evident that I am between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

The apartment? Even within the geographic area allowed by part-time job number one, I’m stuck. Landlords in my adopted state are the definition of provincial.

“You haven’t lived here all your life? You haven’t been at your job fifteen years? Hmmm. What are you? Some kind of transient? A job-hopper? You’re not very stable. You’re a very poor risk. And I can’t rent to you.”

And the job(s)? Logic would decree that if I find my current employment unsuitable, I should seek employment elsewhere. But I’m already playing the lottery, thank you very much.

Which is another way of saying I may as well petition the Yankees to become their centerfielder as apply for a position in the field in which I’ve spent the majority of my work life.

Employers have made it crystal clear that as a prospective candidate, I rank somewhere between a death row felon and a drooling imbecile who smells of feces.

Which is why I find myself in two incompatible part-time jobs that can dictate so many facets of my existence. Only the desperate need apply.

Serfdom, anyone?