Star Wars: The Return Of The Return Of The Jedi

I started to write, and may get around to completing, a review of Episode 7. I want to see it one more time to make sure that my reaction was at least somewhat objective but I just had to post a link to this even if a million other people have.

Lucas put his foot in his mouth more than a bit with the "slavers" reference, but, besides that, all-in-all, a fairly sound precis of the new film. Read the comments if you want to see grown adults acting as if their pacifiers have been removed prematurely.


White Sustenance

I can't help but think that the below is both the apotheosis and nadir of indie simultaneously. Look at The Guy. I both revel and revolt at his insidious a-professionalism. On the one hand, the obvious one, the one you use to write with a pen or throw a baseball, yes, well, there is something daring about the lack of polish, the casualness, the diffident insouciance. And yet. Even in 1988, there is something so obvious, so studied, so monomaniacally blatant, I mean, Calvin has tight abs and he wants to fuck you. And somehow, because he doesn't have a perm, it's alright.

Twenty-eight years later, the wardrobe is the same. And Jamie Principle is probably still broke. It's not as if nothing has happened since then, it's just that, well, I don't think that the necessary consensus has been reached to place all that has happened since then in proper context.

Po(o)p is progress.



No Comment

Well. Not really. Barely Comment.

Still ill... that's all.


Not Much To Say Again

Well. Yeah.

I dunno. 



But not exactly.

I miss doing this. It's pointless and human. Redundant.

Ugh let's start over.

I've been, well, every so often, I have been taking stabs at writing about the restaurant industry. In one case, the work is fiction and I keep coming so close to finishing and can't quite do it, though I will. And the other is non-fiction but I don't know where to start. Even the acknowledgements section is like two names. And if I'm already trying to knock that particular section out, then you know I am fucked. I should mention that I am laughing about this as I write. There are two of you out there who deserve apologies, though. I am self-sabotaging. It's a hard habit to give up. Thanks for investing time in me. I really don't want to waste it. It's going to take a while, though. Fuck. I'm still learning how to be my own parent. I'm making progress, but I did eat calzones after midnight twice last week. And I spent maybe two hours doing creative work, all of which involved making music. The calzones are not the problem, really.

Until I try and work up something more formal, here's something worthwhile not written by me. As another personal aside, I'll say that I am trying and failing to write about what the writer of the piece, Patrick Abatiell, is writing about and looking for others to write about. So maybe I have a few more months of being slightly ahead of the curve. Must hurry up. Though, actually, I'm not too worried. I don't see any burning desire among the middle class to "overcome" their alienation from the responsibilities their participation in consumer society allows them to avoid. I can't tell if that last sentence was grammatically correct, though. I don't want to write it another way.

Colloquialism. My writing would be a parody of itself if it existed to be parodied.

Another line break, another one-word sentence.




I think one of the things that I would write about when it comes to working in the front-of-house (FOH) in a restaurant (FOH is all the people you can see, basically; all the people you interact with and who interact with you deliberately). I just ended that sentence prematurely due to too much writing being in parenthesis.

When I am waiting tables, or bartending, I am stuck with a question. Who is my boss? In the case of most jobs, this is fairly simple. In restaurants, not so much so. Why is this? Well, most FOH restaurant jobs pay a little more than $2 an hour. There are certain cities where normal minimum wage rules apply, but those places are the exception. I have not worked in those places. So. I make $2 an hour. And plenty more. In tips.

And those tips don't come from ownership. They come from you.

I think you are starting to figure this out.

I hope you are.

I think a lot of the writers I like are all, really, writing about the same thing. The loss of a value system. Certain writers focus on certain things, and, on some level, it would be foolish, say, to link them all together. That one writer, say, is sad about the dearth of innovation in street-level black culture, while another may lament the beliefs that actually lead to the creation of the ghettos that produced that cultural innovation (nobody I read laments the death of racism, but, maybe, just the civilizational coherence of Western values that, sadly, lead to that racism), invites the possibility of contradiction, of course. And yet. On a deeper level.

So I think one thing I want to write about is the move from fine dining to "casual" fine dining. There's a lot to that trend. Although I hate to give him credit, David Brooks, in Bobos In Paradise, got here way before many of us. I was still listening to techno, confident in the future when the book was published; Brooks was already talking vintage. Handcrafted. Etc. And what he captures, especially, even if he doesn't necessarily loathe it as much as I, is the disingenuous nature of it all. The way in which big money is spent on seemingly-modest things.

Like a lot of the writers I like, it's not necessarily that I want to return to that previous period. Rather, I want the present and future to be that which is extrapolated from that in which I value in the past.

To often, we lose the good stuff and keep the bad. 

There is a restaurant, for instance, here in Providence, that charges $45 for some of its entrees. While I don't idealize haughty, reservation-only service, or tuxedo-clad waiters, or menus exclusively written in French, well, really, in some way, that the prices stay the same but everything else is, well, crappier, you know, fuck you.

This is where the writing falls apart. It's hard to pull it apart. What are the semiotics of distressed wood tables? Mason jars? Craft anything? Fuck. Can I really spend a month trying to untangle all of that bullshit?

But back to the lecture at hand (Snoop Dogg).

For all of it's pretension, what I like, at least theoretically, about fine dining is simple: the expectations are clear. What good service is, whatever it is, is a set of objective principles that are, hopefully, understood by both the patron and the worker. Of course there is a bit of improvisation, but, ultimately, wine service is always what it is (or was).

You either had that, or you had some guy or gal at the local pub slinging cheap beer. And that was that.

Now, a lot more complex.

Not only because the lines are blurred, but because of you.

Going back a bit. To all those writers (you know who I read).

I think what a lot of what is being lamented is individualism and relativism. Sure, relativism is handy when you want to, say, expand the canon of great painters beyond those who lived up to a seemingly-disinterested aesthetic ideal that is not disinterested at all. But ideas have a way of traveling out into the world to be used in unanticipated ways.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that, whatever you care about, Marx, secular humanism, the Enlightenment, "good architecture", rap music, etc., or if you just wait tables, like me (and also I care about all of those things), well, these things worked at some point because there was some clear, seemingly-objective, principle at stake. Now there isn't.

Good service is what you think it is. And so is good music and so is a president and so is literature. So, actually, it's all the same thing. Or nothing.


Good service is what you say it is. And you are the one paying me. You give me the tips. The IRS takes that $2 an hour.

And here is where it gets tricky. And here is where I get tired, right as I start to try and actually say what it is I am trying to say.

You don't have to tell me beforehand what you think good service is. You expect me to know. And I do, when it comes to the classic rules of service. But you don't always know those rules, and, whether you know them as rules, or just that which I happen to be doing at a particular moment at your table, you are entirely entitled to your opinion about them. At least you think so (I don't). But that doesn't matter. You are paying me.

But you are not employing me.

And my employer has rules.

Some of which contradict BOTH your rules and, in certain cases, the classic rules of service. Between your expectations, my training, and the expectations of ownership, my job is not to give good service, but to guess what good service is. Years of experience has made me decent at this. But still. It's bullshit.

This is a random stab out there, apropos of nothing, but I think there is an inherent conflict in the Left between individualism and democracy, once thought to be, well, related, at least.

Was the goal of toppling canons the chance to rewrite them in a better way? Or to eradicate them altogether?

I think the real challenge of the next truly great music critic would be to actually find a way to sift through the detritus of alternative culture, the canon of those of us with "taste", and try and actually distinguish...

Well, another aside. I think I'm borrowing from Nietzsche or whatever, but I've always made this distinction between positive nihilism and negative nihilism. Positive nihilism is "yay, nothing means anything and I can do what I want". And negative is, well, "I can do what I want but nothing means anything". 

I guess I am trying to draw the contours between what needs to be tossed from the canon and what to preserve, in order that there might be some sort of future again. What were the records that worked towards the democratic ideal of new canons and cultures, and what were the records that demolished the possibility of those cultures or canons meaning anything?

I still don't quite know what I am getting at.

What is good service? What are the principles? What are good records? What are the principles?

I don't want to leave it here, but I have to. I have to go back to work soon.


Again Again

I'm not dismissive. I'm not inured. But I'm not paranoid.

First off, let's start with this, just a little clarity, especially compared to the mess of stuff over at The Guardian. I never thought I would quote the NYT positively in relation to The Guardian, but, well. I am. I was actually planning on pointlessly posting a pointless rant against the Guardian's editorial page a few days ago. But it was pointless.


I'm going to say very little and all at the same time.

Ideally, I would live in a world where a few people who enjoyed hunting had rifles. And that's about it. There is virtually no gun control legislation I would find too restrictive (unless none of it applied to the police). But, on another level, I don't really care. I care about the death and the violence, not the guns. Yeah the two are related. But still. It may be that guns enable people to enact violence upon and exert control over other people, but, you know, so does legislation. No I'm not a closet libertarian. I promise. 

I'm going to back up to move forward.

First off, you are right, the Right is using mental illness as a means of deflecting attention away from gun control and the power of the NRA. The legislation mentioned looks atrocious. Of course. That being said, is there absolutely nothing to the seemingly-commonsensical idea that, you know, hey, walking into a public place armed to the eyebrows and shooting a bunch of people you don't know, well, I mean, can we call that mental illness after the fact and then find a different phrase for those of us who struggle with depression or OCD or whatever else but, who, nevertheless, entertain no fantasies of violence (ok actually I am lying about that one - I had a dream, once - it involved preternatural accuracy with a sniper rifle, a few fake passports, a copy of the Forbes 400 and a large Sharpie filled with red ink)? 

And secondly, I dunno, given the Times article above, exactly who is rationalizing what? Why isn't it using tragedy for political gain when the gain in question is gun control legislation. And of course, that is why there is such a disparity between the number of mass shootings in America quoted in The Times and The Guardian. And why I like The Times a little more today. There is something altogether too convenient about lumping gang violence and random shooting together. Ultimately, the problem with dismissing those who fire random shots into random crowds as mentally ill is that the responsibility for understanding them is no longer ours. And when shootings stemming from gang violence, from poverty, etc. are included as part of the same category as random/random, then even more responsibility is avoided. In a way, it reminds me of the debate on marijuana legalization. You can say poor, black, all you want, but racist cops, to use the vernacular, gonna lock motherfuckers up, regardless. But now white people can get stoned without worrying about having to put a felony on their college applications. Great. Nah.

It's not like things were so great before this started happening so often. But now people are scared. They no longer have the freedom to be indifferent. But they still have the freedom to be indifferent to what that indifference has wrought.

OK so I'm going into fuck-the-middle-class mode again here. I'm trying to not be so much of a cliche. It's not working. Sorry. I love you.

I guess one of the smartest things I ever read is that it's more radical to change people's desires than their behavior. But gun control doesn't even quite reach the latter goal, never mind the former. As, "lord" help me, Michael Moore noted in Bowling For Columbine, there's plenty of guns in Canada. And less people dying. Sure it's the guns, but it isn't. Not really. The guns aid in the realization of a desire. And what is that desire? Why does America produce so much of it? Answering those questions might require a different sort of response, may force us to acknowledge ourselves as part of, partially responsible for, the world we find ourselves in. 

Underlying the placid, but misguided, calls for gun control, the mean-spirited attacks on the mentally-maladjusted is a feeling, surely not unfamiliar to someone about to commit mass murder, that there is an unbridgeable divide between "us" and "them" that cannot be reconciled. And so the violence continues.