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Monthly Archives: May 2009

At this moment, eight dudes are on my roof with heavy hammers tearing off and replacing a shoddy roof job—for free. It’s no surprise they’re working fast and loud. It feels like my brain is a tennis shoe in a dryer. Or like I’m inside a giant rock tumbler. With concentration next to impossible, I let my mind drift to quieter times.

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Jo perpetuates the infinite vortex of dandelions.

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At Minnehaha Park with Allie and our pals from the Black Hoody Mafia (Henry, Frankie and Ben).

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Henry and I tried out rad poses for the photographer (she missed them by a few seconds). Gotta love the kid’s short-long.

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We displaced someone sleeping under this bridge (not intentionally) to take Family Band-style album shots.

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Among the highlights of Art-a-Whirl was climbing onto a boat with a mirrored inner sanctum. You wear a white suit and become a human screen for 16mm loops.

Inside Infinite Regress from Jake, Sarah & Johanna on Vimeo.

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Sarah ensured Neighbor Scott’s birthday did not lack for icing. Happy 4-0, kiddo!

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Stickers have become our household currency, a most-desired reward and fashion accessory.

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A visit with Juniper and her dad Ryan from around the corner. “People’s Republic of Portland” T-shirt! Booyah.

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Sarah’s gardening blitz has bettered the backyard immeasurably, eclipsing the foresaken dumpster in the driveway as a focal point.

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Surrogate sisters Iz and Jo were all about our 24 hours of backpack camping in Afton State Park. We found a great spot to catch the sunset and went a little camera crazy.

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^ Isobel’s entry in the passing-around-the-camera contest…

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^ …and Jo’s.

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Jenney and Lucas flaunting Rectangle Designs gear in its natural habitat.

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Getting to our secluded site meant a strenuous 3/4-mile hike uphill laden with big packs, and Johanna for about 90% of the way.

The bladder from Jake, Sarah & Johanna on Vimeo.

The Navigator from Jake, Sarah & Johanna on Vimeo.

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Diana Ross — Upside Down

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Did you know that the discipline of experimental philosophy (or “X-Phi” if you’re in a hurry) has its own emblem, like Special Forces or The Illuminati? It’s an armchair in flames (something about philosophers needing to get out more). I’m designing one in glass for a friend who’s a practicing philosopher, that rarest of species. Except not flaming, I guess—just the chair (as a born contrarian, he’s well-suited to his field).

I’m contemplating projects to respark my joie de vivre and mining for inspiration in word art: Ed Ruscha, Raymond Pettibon and Jenny Holzer, new names as well. My riff might have a stained glass angle, though maybe not (man, stained glass typography—there’s a niche in desperate need of rehabilitation).

Back on the philosophy tip, my personal one is up in the air right now. So I’m especially receptive to Making-Sense-of-Life Lessons like DFW’s mega-circulated and recently published Commencement Speech to Kenyon College. Garden-variety empathy as a cardinal virtue? That I can do.

Meanwhile, my media diet for May—Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, We Shall Remain on PBS and the late-run of Gran Torino at the Riverview—is telling me that we’re all just flotsam swatted about by forces much greater than ourselves.

What if employment (and other forms of membership I don’t go in for right now) is what binds us to these forces? Like if you’re not banding together to make the movement, you’re just being moved. To be independent, then, is to risk irrelevance. You look only to yourself for value, without a handbook (or holy book or brand book) when you come up lacking.

You gotta write your own manifesto. Pay your own FICA. Empty your own garbage. Order your own business cards. For 30 more years? Unfathomable.

Sorry. Cue the movies of music:

Kate Stelmanis – Join Us

Micachu & the Shapes – Lips

The Fall – Totally Wired (live in NYC, 1981)

Yesterday’s May Day parade was an especially potent antidote to feelings of futility and disconnection (btw, thanks for all the kind words and proposals; I’m done whining about my charmed life! (for now!)). Assorted bicycle gangsters, hippie anarchists, piercing freaks, steampunks, art kids, gutter goddesses and shirtless, grizzled shaman were in full effect. It was a nice reminder that in Minneapolis, the best parties don’t need no stinking corporate sponsors.

In the only buzz(road?)kill of the day, the parade grinded to a halt in front of us when one of the dancing dreadlock fairies got run over by a Pigiron-and-Rustoleum Vehicle from Hell. The contraption had to be hoisted off her leg, all of which I saw without wanting to. People cheered like it was a football game as she was carried off (creepy). Lucas wondered aloud if she’d left a smudge on the pavement (funny). (Later I saw a screaming little girl get rolled under another improvised vehicle and found myself wanting to strangle her dad).

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Jenney cordoned off a swath of curb, enough space for Lucas and Isobel, Sarah, Johanna and me, three generations of the Haroldson clan (Barrett, Melanie, Kai and Grandpa Dave) and Jay (smiling), with space left for Matt and Craig, too. Good seein’ yous!

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Bomb Pop!

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Dung beetles, way too close for Jo’s comfort.

Some video posted by Neighbor Scott gives a nice taste of the spectacle.

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No sunglasses = Major squinting.

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There was a time, maybe as recently as last week, when I could make sense of experiences. My conversations, projects and actions seemed to jell into a recognizable narrative (albeit a plodding, non-linear one). I took this coherence-making as a sign of mental health. Thinking about it now, it seems more like a rationalist’s religion: a belief that events are building toward something, so it’s important to show up and pay attention.

What was that storyline? I feel like I’m living another person’s Facebook aggregator: someone’s dog is all muddy; so-and-so wishes it were sunny; somebody likes tacos. Irrelevant events enacted by strangers. It’s as if some time in 2009 I absent-mindedly ceded control of my life to another, someone who’s never met me.

Stuff just doesn’t add up. Tuesday I found myself in a remote American suburb shuttling between conference rooms and listening to marketing people strategize and argue. I took notes and spoke occasionally to show that I was tracking. But there was a lot I didn’t understand. Their sentences were so full of unfamiliar acronyms and wacky corporate jargon (“brooming,” “razzing,” “rat-holing,” “dog-fooding”) that I struggled just to follow the main ideas.

How did I get here? I don’t know. But by some mix up at the car rental place, I can say that I arrived at the meeting in a Hummer H3.

On this trip I was treated to a series of over-priced meals in faux-fancy restaurants. At one I listened patiently for our waiter to detail every aspect of the menu and cooking process, as if I’d never before ordered or tasted food. Another dinner was spent in the company of my father, my stepmother and their kids, whom I see only once or twice a year. After a little catching up, they discussed their favorite reality TV shows, the state of AP testing, the price of a cafeteria cookie, sports scores, class rank, and other assorted teenager trivia. I had nothing to add.

Last week I had to dream up ways to hype an entertainment event I most certainly will not attend. At several points in the meetings, I said things like “this sounds exciting” when my opinion was precisely the opposite.

In a final bit of surreality, the office where I now type is shrouded in plastic sheeting. Maybe for a week, maybe for three months. It’s outside of my control for reasons too tedious to explain here (imagine that).

While I’m feeling a little desperate, this is not a cry for help. I just need to find the thread again somehow. I believe it starts with choosing something I want. Which right now is much harder than it sounds.

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