Sad Shire Horses Walking Home

As the weather has gotten warmer, I’ve started changing into my work clothes at the office. Fortunately for me, I work 10 to 6, so fewer folks see me do this, and the bathroom is usually empty when I need to change. I’m doing this because my body is not well adapted to walking around in warm weather for long periods of time without producing prodigious amounts of moisture. I ruin shirts in the summer. Getting to the train, walking up and down all the stairs, standing immobile on the hot, stuffy platforms…it’s too much for my Scottish physiology. If I were to do this in slacks and a nice shirt every day I would be a disheveled mess by the time I got to work.

Walking to work in sandals, shorts and a t-shirt still doesn’t entirely prevent me from sweating up a storm, but it’s a definite improvement from the alternative. Plus when I leave work I feel freer, less constricted. I can more easily go do things without having to run home and change clothes.

So I do my dry cleaning near the office, usually on Mondays. I have to remember to pack socks and undershirts for the week in my satchel or laptop bag. I feel a little bit like Michael J. Fox in “Secret of My Success,” carrying a briefcase full of clothing to the office.

And speaking of odd feelings at work, often I find myself looking out the window at the economic epicenter of the modern world and trying to remind myself just how the hell I got here. A couple times a week as I walk home I’m still struck by the strangeness of it all: some fool from smalltown Arkansas works in this building, in this part of the city? He doesn’t belong here; who let this guy in?

I’m Going to Play Guitar at Lincoln Center

I’ve been accepted as one of 200 guitarists scheduled to perform at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park next month. It’s a volunteer position, but it will be really cool to be able to say I’ve played Lincoln Center. Let’s hope the weather doesn’t cancel it like last year.

In 2005, the New York composer Rhys Chatham was commissioned by the city of Paris to write a piece of music. The result was A Crimson Grail, a work for 400 electric guitars, which premiered at the basilica of SacrĂ©-Coeur for La Nuit Blanche, an all-night arts festival. For its first U.S. performance, the work has been extensively revised by the composer for an outdoor performance at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park, to suit the dynamics of the park’s outdoor acoustics. A Crimson Grail will call on the talents of 200 guitarists (including 16 electric bassists), who will be selected from an applicant pool drawing on the many talents of musicians in New York City and beyond. The piece was rehearsed and soundchecked in August 2008, but inclement weather forced its cancellation. We are looking forward to its long-awaited World Premiere on August 8, 2009.

The link to Lincoln Center’s page is here. Warning: it doesn’t look good on my version of Firefox.

The Moon Landing Was Fake

In several Internet venues (Facebook, Gothamist, Onion AV Club) I’ve seen moon landing deniers crop up. I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as the next person, but I’m more fascinated by the mindset of the theorists than I am by their theories.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that the moon landing was fake (or that 9/11 was an inside job, or that the Holocaust didn’t happen). Facts and evidence aside, this would require a Herculean effort on the part of hundreds of government employees and private citizens to maintain this secret. I just don’t think humans are up to that job.

Has there ever been a point in our history where dozens or hundreds of people successfully fooled millions of people in the United States? Because that’s what it would take for a hoax of this magnitude. Hundreds of people would have to know the truth, many of them civilians at NASA. I would think it an impossible task to keep that many people permanently silent on such a momentous event. NASA is not a military organization; there is no obligation to keep a secret this large, especially when it is of no importance to national security. I would think that in the last 40 years somebody who was actually there at NASA participating in the hoax would have come forward to expose the lie, or that these things would leak out as they historically have a habit of doing. If Nixon couldn’t keep a basic secret, then who can?

Humans are inquisitive by nature, and this is both the reason why so many doubt the legitimacy of the moon landing, and also why the landing has never been proven demonstrably false. For every person questioning the potentially fake broadcast, there would likely be even more individuals questioning the broadcast had it actually been faked. Possible examples: techs at CBS would question the source of the broadcast feed, astronomers would wonder why there’s a craft sitting in orbit rather than moving on to the moon, ham radio operators would have heard something different in the transmissions, and last but not least…somebody would have made millions writing a book to tell the story.

Humans also have a tendency to jump to the most exciting of possible conclusions. Seen a UFO? The answer must be aliens! Strange lights in Gurdon, Arkansas? It must be ghosts! History is littered with examples of exciting but disproven theories, but the news rarely spreads very far because the results weren’t exciting enough for anyone to care.

In general, I’ve discovered that, given a multitude of possible explanations for unexplained phenomena, the truth tends to lean toward the most boring option. The truth also tends to make its way to the people because lies have a short shelf life. Or maybe I’m just saying that because of all the Big Secrets still being kept. Somehow, I doubt it.

Babies for Obama

Visiting clothing stores around the city, I see kids’ clothes becoming more and more like miniature adults’ clothes. Whether it’s faux vintage concert t-shirts or political slogans or smart couture ensembles, it leaves me with a vague uneasiness. Am I the only person who thinks that children’s clothing should be statement-neutral and distinctly child-like? A child should not be treated as a fashion accessory for expressing a parent’s hipness or politics.

Of course, there is a difference between using children’s clothing to convey simple cuteness and using children’s clothing to broadcast a parent’s socio-political agenda. I just wish I knew how to clearly draw that line.

I realize it’s hard for parents to be aware that a line exists at all. We indoctrinate our kids into every aspect of our lives, and so naturally our mistakes and misconceptions become theirs, too. But as much as we can, we need to be aware that some things should be a choice for the children to make on their own, when they’re ready to do so. Until then, a certain amount of neutrality should be maintained.

I think we can all agree that political slogans on children’s shirts are simply a reflection of a parent using their child as a kind of billboard for their own ideas. It’s a minor injustice, but it’s a telling reminder that more often than not, children take on the worldviews of their parents without really taking the time to examine things for themselves.

If you believe, though, that there are things about which children should be allowed to decide for themselves, and that political t-shirts for kids aren’t a good idea, then neither are religious t-shirts, or religious indoctrination in general. Children are almost never given a free choice to choose their religion, because how many parents would really tolerate that?

So true statement-neutrality is an apparent impossibility for most parents. Maybe, though, we could start by at least leaving the cute political shirts at home.

Hart Island

Just northeast of the Bronx in Long Island Sound there’s an island that is technically the largest cemetery in the United States, and the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world. Almost none of the graves are marked in any conventional fashion because it’s where New York City buries its unclaimed bodies; otherwise known as a “Potter’s Field.”

Hart Island has been used for nearly 200 years as a place where New York does its private business; in addition to being the final resting place of the city’s prisoners, stillborn children and unidentified remains, the island has also held a POW camp, a women’s asylum, and a missle base.

Naturally it’s off limits to the public, but all it takes to get there is a boat and some bravery. I wish I had either.

Wanting No More

Remember a few months back when I was on the fence about a particular guitar? Well, I’m not anymore.

Ibanez PGM100RE and Radius 540R
Ibanez PGM100RE and Radius 540R
I took the plunge and ordered an Ibanez PGM100 reissue from Guitarsmiths in Harrison. I find the blue and pink strangely appealing. For the historical context of this guitar’s appeal for me, you’ll have to watch this video and pretend you’re a 14 year old boy in 1990. Phil at Guitarsmiths gave me a great deal and even sent it to me before taking my credit card number.

The guitar at left is another $150 (with case!) Craigslist bargain. No more guitars for me for quite some time. But then I always say that…


Sorry for the long radio silence. I’ve been a peculiar combination of relentlessly busy and quietly inactive, neither of which lend themselves to regular blog updates. As per usual, I’ve been taking more pictures than writing words, so try my Flickr stream.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the various voices in all our heads. I don’t know about your mind, but mine on any given day seems to contain a constantly shifting committee of advisers. I think they’re even traceable to specific people. Here are some of the people who have successfully uploaded bits of their consciousness into mine, and examples of what they tell me:

Mom – Wash your dishes and clean up after yourself.
Dad – Buy that bargain CD or book. You never know where it’s going to take you.
Heather Gunter – Don’t be a chump.
Natalie Griffin – Relax and be good to yourself.
Heath Harrelson – You’re rationalizing. Stop it.
Katherine Whitworth – Eat something you haven’t eaten before.
DeLaine Ulmer – Say “Yes” to the unknown.

I just wanted to take the time to say thanks to those folks for being part of my brain trust.