NIGHTGYMSOMETIMES YOU WANT TO GO WHERE NOBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME. To flex before a wall of mirrors unjudged and unjudging. You will not be checked in or asked out or told to Spot me, Bro. It’s just you and CSI reruns on silent mode, your ears filled with grunts and longing. Each triumph or shame is private. In fluorescent isolation, selfness evaporates. All is material, mechanical… A rank duffle. A lone free weight. You are wet meat strung taut over last year’s machines.

Download NIGHT GYM (Mp3).

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01 Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Ain’t No Sunshine
02 Shannon & The Clams – Gremlins Crawl
03 Ex Hex – Don’t Want to Lose
04 The Raincoats – Running Away
05 Donny Hathaway – Jealous Guy (Live)
06 Them – My Little Baby
07 Foxygen – Mattress Warehouse
08 Young Fathers – Rain or Shine
09 Jonwayne – Time Trial
10 Son Lux – Let Go
11 The Raveonettes – Sisters
12 Teddy Robin & The Playboys – Fever
13 The Soft Boys – Only the Stone Remain
14 The Red Crayola – Hurricane Fighter Plane
15 The Slits – So Tough
16 Shabazz Palaces – Gunbeat Falls
17 Lizzo – Bus Passes and Happy Meals
18 Kate Tempest – The Truth
19 Frank Black – You Ain’t Me
20 The Dave Clark Five – Good Love Is Hard to Find
21 Fugazi – Life and Limb
22 Parkay Quarts – Pretty Machines
23 Trans Am – Night Shift


Read this now or hate yourself later
If I told you what this was you’d never click it
Early signs of your death

My little man never rising to the occasion
Is it too late to save your memories?

Perfect for all activities and seasons
Unload groceries in one or two trips
Protect and beautify your garage floor
You will not believe why his dad shot him

Eat this
magic is one click away
get erect, get correct, get respect
Where do we send your bottle of Brain Storm?

Glasses destroy your vision
Potatoes will kill you
This made hitler cry

You look terrible Jake
Don’t ignore this

Translated directly from the junk email filter of Jake Nassif

IMG_7493OUR BIANNUAL CAROUSEL OF FAMILY VISITS in the Pacific Northwest starts tomorrow. It’s bound to be bittersweet. Sarah’s father and mine have illnesses that won’t get better (hers Parkinson’s, mine Alzheimer’s) and in getting worse, they create unpredictable turbulence in the lives around them. Seeing our families only sporadically makes each encounter unbearably expectant, as if bracing ourselves for something we’ve never seen or heard and trying to hold on to everything like it’s the last best memory we’ll get.

Adulthood is unstable. Just when you think you have a handle on it—family dynamics, independence, duty—tragedy scuttles the order and you have to renegotiate. It will take all my focus and compassion; can’t waste it being bummed.

My parents’ mortality is a test I don’t know how to prep for. Is it enough to just show up?

I’ll get back to you on that.

tumblr_m5psl1fORI1rxlmf0o1_400This is an excerpt of an interview soon to be included in a little zine I’m helping with. If all I got to do in life was pick the brains of scientists, it would be enough. –Jake


Rivers are ephemeral. Their unique shapes are works in progress, lines continually redrawn by factors large and small. What’s the source of their peculiar behavior and beauty? We sat down with John, a graduate research assistant at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geo-Engineering, to talk about water, people and the dynamics (physical and historical) that bind them together.

What got you hooked on rivers?
As a kid growing up on a farm in Tennessee, streams are all over the place. Romping in rivers has always been part of my life. My “watershed” moment came hiking the Appalachian Trail. On those river crossings, you step through what seem like little creeks, but go up to your waist. You can feel the force, even if it doesn’t look that deep. When you’re IN it, when you feel it, you realize how powerful even small rivers can be. That trip connected me to rivers and flowing water.

What’s your focus these days?
My dissertation is on meandering river dynamics, how rivers move about their flood plains and rework the surface of the earth. You see the effects of winding rivers in very diverse environments: on the Mississippi, on glaciers, on Mars, Saturn’s moon Titan, even underwater when fresh water flows into saltwater before they mix. 

So why do rivers wind like that?
All kinds of factors cause rivers to move: landscape, soil, rock, precipitation, human impact. Once you change anything in a system, nature adapts. An interesting study was done in Yellowstone National Park, where the streams were considered wildly meandering. After wolves were reintroduced to the park, the meandering stopped. Turns out that when the animals hunted by wolves were chased off, the vegetation they were eating grew again and strengthened the banks.

Up until the 1980s, people explained the meandering pattern by invoking the river as a conscious entity—“the water wants to move”—without a physical basis. Now there are many good theories. I think the best one is that turbulence in the fluid causes the patterns. But we’re still looking for a unified theory of river meandering.

Tell us about your river.
I study the Ucayali River in Peru. It has very high sinuosity, which is a measure of how winding it is (higher number = more winding). This river has moved 100m per year laterally. That’s comparable to the rate of movement on the Mississippi River pre-settlement. But the watershed of the Mississippi is 10,000-times larger than the Ucayali. This wild migration is a result of lots of eroded sediment from the Andes Mountains to the west and rains from the Amazon to the east.

How are people part of the dynamic?
Rivers are very active. Every time you build a bridge or a dam, you cut off some of the hydrodynamic processes that would affect the channel. When we somehow lock the system into place, we drastically reduce the changes. How does human impact affect meandering dynamics? When we do an activity, how far does it propagate? I want to better understand the dynamics. It’s what the stream restoration industry is all about.

Can we build a better stream?
In the industry now, if you put in a stream and it moves, they say your design has failed. But we need to remember if we want a stream in anything like a natural state, it needs a framework so it can move. We need to learn to design for migration.

Ecologically, it’s very important. Water in a stream will seep into the ground water and then pop up later, and winding its own way encourages that process. They say, “a river is the author of its own geometry”—its own engineer, in a sense. And meandering is the mechanism.

10360212_10152479194111573_6733113443566222091_nSAFE TO SAY I THINK about my daughter’s education more than my parents thought about mine. I can’t imagine my mother worrying about the “learning environment” or “teacher accountability,” or even saying those words. Granted, in 1980s Des Moines where I grew up, there wasn’t much to complain about. Solid and safe public schools with mostly good teachers and challenge and resources for all kinds of students. There was bullying, drugs, sex and discipline problems to be sure. But you wouldn’t pin that on the school. The world isn’t perfect.

I’ve been loyal to the public school ideal since way back, even choosing to attend a public university when most of my friends went private. Along with travel, I see urban public school classrooms as one of the few reliable places to learn about the world outside of your own cultural bubble. I want Johanna to understand that, as special as she is, she’s not that special. I think she’s learning about her place. Whether she learns much else, I’m unsure.

For the last four years, I’ve been on the sidelines of Jo’s school life. My knowledge of who’s smart and who’s bad (and who’s both) is mostly hearsay. Until this month when I chaperoned her 3rd-grade field trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (after a feel-good criminal background check). It was like time-traveling back to 1983. All the old gang was there: super-shy guy; big loud girl; shady kid looking to bolt; the wisecracker; the inseparable BFFs; the over-eager hand-flailer (my own archetype for a time).

It was a fast outing. The tour guide didn’t attempt to illuminate, only asking the kids, “tell me what you see.” Being challenged to really look and have your personal reactions honored can be a revelation, especially if you don’t see much art. For Johanna, who’s done this museum 150 times, it was pretty forgettable.

I worry that most of her 3rd grade time is like that. Last week was conferences. Her teacher, a 30-year veteran, could tell us nothing specific about our daughter’s progress, strengths or weaknesses. Sarah asked her whether Johanna is getting any extra challenge since she was identified for “talent development” (the new nomenclature for “gifted/talented” is supposed to be inclusive, but it seems vague—more an aspiration than a concrete program). Her teacher told us her “team” was “navigating” the new “standards”; for example they do “pull-outs” on some “sites.” We know they aren’t doing pull-outs at this site. If there are any efforts made to tailor the curriculum to students of different abilities, she couldn’t describe them. It was like we were asking about something she didn’t think was her job, even though it is. We felt embarrassed and dropped it.

The achievement gap between whites and students of color in Minneapolis is notoriously wide. The district superintendent resigned over the issue in December. This week, after the Atlantic heaped praise on our city‘s “economic miracle,” many were quick to note who’s left out. Closing this gap is the right priority, though for all the plans and energy expended, it hasn’t changed. I don’t underestimate the challenge or pretend to know the solution. But in contrast to the rosy mutual enrichment of my own public school education, some days it feels like every child is left behind.


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