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Insomniac

PDX 2016

… the days have passed but their feeling remains. I’m returning to Portland for the first time since moving out—sleep has become a dream and being awake seems to be a non-stop anxiety attack, blurred vision and counter-intuitive feelings …

01:15 / 3 January 2019
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Once and Future Monopolies

Archimedes once said, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world.” Today he would have pointed to our electric media and said, “I will stand on your eyes, your ears, your nerves, and your brain, and the world will move in any tempo or pattern I choose.” We have leased these “places to stand” to private corporations.

—Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media

It seems a week doesn’t pass without some nostalgic write-up about the ‘original’ internet—loosely defined as the pre-Facebook era, when the closest things to social networking were AIM away messages and WebRings.

I miss this time as well; I was an artist in one of the first online comic book publishers and reveled in early phpBB forums for art and design, found new music on Scour and Napster. The possibilities seemed endless—and though my teenage mind wasn’t necessarily parsing the idea of who owned what, in retrospect it’s incredible how much was DIY.1

Though many of us curse the internet of today, where it feels like the intangible version of the Mall of America, I wonder if it really could have been any other way. I look at our real world and see that even with the behemoth box stores, overpriced boutiques and farcical advertising agencies, the good stuff still exists. Kids still haul amps into basements, artists still hang saran wrap from ceilings, we’re still carving out a minor refuge of truth in the shadow of glistening skyscrapers full of horseshit.

Yet the majority of people do not seem to want that truth. It’s no secret that global-fortune technology brands like Apple and Amazon all have atrocious labor practices. Facebook seems to constantly apologize for one fuck-up or another. Similarly in the physical mall, sweatshops couldn’t stop the popularity of The Gap (or Nike).

Like our current reality, though full of corporate control and political hell, the internet still offers incredible things run by independent people or groups. Plenty of artists, galleries and venues have domains outside of the grasp of Facebook, Tumblr or Squarespace.2 But like the real world, it takes the action of people to visit the local market—the action of people to delete Facebook, to not choose corporate convenience over local support—to maintain this movement. And it’s more important now than ever before, as these choices are setting up the foundation of the world to come.

      Notes
  • Of course, it had to be. Online access, the ability to code and make graphics, the time to burn … all of the early internet had certain links to both opportunity and dedication. Markets always play catch-up to a good idea.
  • a.) Granted, the former content streams tend to steal from these to fill their feeds, but b.) I would be a fan of this being the root of a WebRing revival—sort of how small businesses band together, small websites ought to as well.

19:30 / 2 January 2019
Posted to Opinion

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The Sounds of Time

The tools that built this

For quite some time I’ve been working on a new musical project and have started 2019 with its release. Stream a preview above, “Artists in Times of War.”

Stream and purchase “Home” here. More information on the record will be released in the coming days.

12:00 / 2 January 2019
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Red Sky

(Almost. Just one more day would have done it. Instead, Elizabeth Warren had to announce her candidacy for President in 2020 on December 31, meaning we couldn’t even get to 2019 before starting the conversation about the 2020 election. Goddammit.)

I don’t dislike Warren; she hates Wall Street and Wall Street hates her, which automatically grants her some favor. But to me, getting behind her candidacy—as well as those unannounced but probable campaigns in O’Rourke, Harris and Biden—is a lot like listening to Thrice.

Allow me to explain.

Mac · Seattle 2007

In the spring of 2007, my buddy Mac and I hopped on a Greyhound for an impromptu trip to Seattle from Portland. We had only known each other about a year at that point, but had become fast friends over a mutual affinity for leftist politics and the punk rock shows that can sometimes come along with that scene. Like most who believed in socialist politics—or in punk—we’d each found our way to the left of the middle by a different path.

In Seattle, Mac and I met up with Megan and we did what people do in Seattle: get coffee, play pinball and go record shopping.

I was thumbing through some vinyl at Easy Street Records when it happened; all of us in our own spaces, Megan came up to me with a straight face and said, Hey I found your favorite record while sarcastically pulling out The Artist In The Ambulance—the major-label debut from the band Thrice. I, with a not-sarcastic-at-all straight face, replied, Yeah I already have that.

Megan’s jaw dropped in disbelief and she instantly turned to Mac across the aisle. You do realize your friend owns a Thrice album, right? Mac replied with a line that has impacted me to this day, saying, Yeah, but if I judged all my friends based on their music collection, I wouldn’t have any friends. Megan laughed and shelved the album.

Megan with sandals on her hands outside Easy Street · Seattle 2007

This is the first thing that came to mind when I read about Elizabeth Warren and her ambitions for the Oval Office. It’s what comes to my mind when I talk with most of the people I know about politics. I don’t necessarily dislike Warren—she’s certainly better than the last woman with liberal establishment support. But when it comes to who I would actually vote for, she doesn’t make the cut.

Like the Thrice record, Warren is a glossy, approved-for-the-mainstream rendering of idealism and vision rooted in a much more uncompromising place. The Artist In The Ambulance found its thesis from pages of DIY zines the way Warren’s fight against Wall Street may hold hints of Marx. But looking good on paper rarely appeals to a mainstream audience.

Now, looking out at all the crowds of liberals and mediocrity of their 2020 ambitions, the pro-capitalist nature of neoliberalism and its farcical claims of ‘consumer protection,’ I can’t help but think of those who support such a vision, You’re all just listening to Thrice.

10:30 / 1 January 2019
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A Season of Loss

Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one.

-Capt. Willard, Apocalypse Now

I have worked diligently in my life to avoid responsibility—to not be tied to places or people or things by way of mortgages, marriage or consumption. It would seem now that, outside of a large collection of books kept mostly in boxes, this is now truer than ever.

Casey

Casey in the studio · September 2018

In the past months I have lost both my beloved cat and place of residence & work to the unstoppable force of time. Both were bound to happen, yet with all loss the moment itself always weighs more than any prepared strength can hold.

My cat had been ill for some time, to the point she couldn’t even live with me in the Warehouse due to its nature: a confined space littered with various chemicals and too many uneven surfaces for such an aged animal with weak legs. Yet still I had her for 15 years; she moved with me from Savannah to Portland to Austin to Boston to San Francisco and finally back to Portland again, riding alongside me in the car the entire way. Where once there was the necessity of care, a reminder of the good in the world, or simply something to be an excuse to not talk solely to myself, now there is not.

The Warehouse

The Warehouse on First Friday · December 2018

Nobody really knows who tipped off the Portland Fire Department to The Warehouse, but upon his visit the Fire Marshall said he’d never seen so many violations in one space and we had 72 hours to, at minimum, remove any trace of people living there. It’s understandable only to the extent of blame passed around in Oakland after what happened to the Ghost Ship—yet at the same time, we’re all adults who chose to live in this space knowing the risks.

The Warehouse is still working with Portland Fire to get, well, legal, but I’ve already left Oregon and that part of life behind. Now with no cat and no rent, I’ve lost the last two things I felt an unconditional love for in this world. I will still try to show art as long as the Warehouse can remain open; I have a small piece of foam with my cat’s paw imprinted upon it.

Yet now there is now nothing holding me back from the world, except for perhaps the general necessity to make money and feed myself. This is a tomorrow full of potential, but for today, looking back on the past few months and year and years, I’m just sad.

09:00 / 31 December 2018
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Late Expectations

I don’t remember many of the conversations I had on election night of 2016; on one hand I was drinking pretty heavily and on the other I was resisting the urge to text everyone in my contact list and say I told you so. I do remember getting more than a few messages saying something along the lines of Well at least this will be good for your art. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

A 2018 anti-Trump protest in Portland

Since November 2016 it seems people have still not adjusted to—and perhaps still cannot comprehend—the new normal our society has been born in to. Children are dying in detention centers. Outside of a mildly successful summer blockade in Portland, ICE and the Trump administration have had little problem in executing this horrific agenda.

Throughout the 2016 election, Trump was constantly pushing the boundaries of how a candidate can run for office in America. While some might say the disgusting fashion to which he accomplished such a feat should be the focus, I disagree. With his campaign and subsequent victory, Trump didn’t just adjust the borders on the field of America’s institutions: he changed the game completely.

The fact that this ‘wasn’t supposed to happen‘ is now why the absurd and grotesque is met with ambivalence and inaction. American society for so long has been regulated by the standards of traditional power that it is now subscribing to the whims of an unregulated force. Protests against all administrations since Vietnam have been students parading in the street on police-approved routes: while this administration is different, the dissent remains the same.

A 2007 anti-war protest in Portland

As Trump disregarded the traditions of the institutions facing him down, so must those who would fight against his agenda. (Of course, he had the benefit of finance and power to provide a safety net with the prospect of failure while any subversive practices would surely be met with imprisonment.)

And so with the world of art, it is unsurprising that most news caters to multi-million dollar pranks and record prices at auction as opposed to anything significantly pushing back against the global spread of nationalism. Perhaps it is because Trump, Brexit and the like represent the same level of absurdity as Duchamp. Perhaps it is because even in the face of social justice-related work on a massive scale, all that results is jail time. Perhaps it is because our ‘good’ leaders still respond to nonviolent movements with the opposite.

Or maybe everyone just got too self-obsessed, sacrificing any notion of true social fabric for the facade of social networks.

Whatever the reason, whatever the response, the fact is that the norms of American society and its adjacent institutions are irrelevant. The psychic death of neo-modern marketing, the plague of individualism and disregard of corporate power all tie back to that which allowed for a man like Trump to be elected in the first place: a society unable to control the beast of capitalism it has unleashed into the world without any sign of art to save it.

16:30 / 30 December 2018
Posted to Opinion

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Begin Again

A page from the Part II sketchbooks

01:00 / 30 December 2018
Posted to Work

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Clear History

(even though this web site has operated with a blog—in some form or another—since 1999, it has undergone semi-annual design changes and annual database dumps throughout the years. thus, the "Archive" is actually only evidence of what has not yet been deleted.)