Sunday, February 27, 2011

And Now, Some Disco...

Yes. Disco. From Me. Generally, I hate disco, but there are a handful of disco tunes I love, and this is one of them: "Le Freak" by Chic -- with a cameo by Slash.


For the record, I hate Guns n' Roses as much as I hate disco. But that has nothing to do with Slash -- and everything to do with Axl.

Enjoy...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

White People Can Be So Lame...

This is not a rant, it's just something that been coming back to me again and again lately. I've lived in Virginia going on thirteen years. Before that, I lived in New England for more than twenty years. So I've been in both the North and the South for a couple of long times. I was born and for the most part raised in New England.

And thus far in my experiences, I've met lots of white Virginians who are racist as hell. But as bad as they are, I think that their racist white New Englander counterparts are even worse.

The demographics have something to do with this. Virginia's white population is around 68 percent. The African-American percentage is around 19. We have a great deal of Asians, Hispanics, and Latinos as well. Hell, the apartment complex I'm in now kind of looks like a miniature United Nations -- and my neighborhood has businesses run by Lebanese, Chinese, Mexican, Greek, Italian, Brazilian, Ukranian, Syrian, Indian, African-American, and people I can't think of off the top of my head right now. I live inside a melting pot. This is a nice little neighborhood here.

Contrast that with the states of New England. My home state of Massachusetts: 82% white. Connecticut: 85% white. Rhode Island: 90% white. New Hampshire: 95% white. Vermont and Maine: both 97% white.

This is just one of the reasons why I don't want to move back to New England, having lived in a more racially and ethnically diverse place like the Richmond/Henrico area for close to thirteen years. I like the greater diversity here. I feel like I could live here for the rest of my life. I never felt that way in the twenty-odd year I spent in New England.

And I think that has something to do with the differences in demographics. seems to me, the more homogenous a community is, the more unwelcoming its citizens are to anyone they perceive as different from them. My hometown of Pepperell was around 97 percent white when I was a kid, and far too many of the adults in my life in those days hated black people, Asians, and Hispanics and Latinos, and when you're a kid looking to adults for guidance in a climate like that, it stunts your awareness and your still-developing sense of understanding.

I'll give you a few examples. I had a couple of black friends in those days, but they were my nigger friends, not my black friends. Once in a while, we'd order food from a Chinese restaurant, but it wasn't Chinese food we were getting -- it was Chink food. I knew of a couple homes who had Hispanic or Latino people come in once a week to clean their houses, but as far as these people were concerned, their help was made up of Spics. The more homogenous the community is, the more ignorant it is about other people -- and the more that hurts the community.

It didn't get this way overnight. The main reason I think Northern whites are more racist than their Southern counterparts is the fact that, while Southern whites were coming up with all that segregation and Jim Crow bullshit legislation generations ago, Northern whites were outright barring blacks from living in their towns, driving them out of their towns, or forcing them to cluster together in the inner cities. So small wonder that all these northern locales have scarcely any black people living there these days -- the Southern whites may have treated them like shit for all the world to see, but at least they had the fucking courtesy to allow them to live among them anyway.

I love what African-Americans bring to the table. I find it inspiring, actually. These folks found a way to turn table scraps into cuisine -- hell, if that ain't sayin' somethin'...


3 AM And Still Wide Awake...

What a day.

I got to work a little after 11 AM Friday morning, having just missed the bus I would normally catch. Had a hard time locating my keys, and that wound up forcing me to wait for the next bus. It didn't matter, though: I got off from work at quarter to midnight. I pulled twelve and a half hours.

It could have been more, had I decided to hire a cab later on instead of offering a co-worker twenty bucks to drive me home. (That may sound excessive, and it probably was, but 1) I actually have a tiny but growing rainy day fund on the side now, so I had no trouble swinging this, 2) unlike me, the guy who got the Jackson is working reduced hours, so he could definitely use the money, and 3) twenty bucks'll get you about six gallons of gas today -- tomorrow, it might only get you five, who knows with all that fresh chaos going on in the Middle East nowadays...) I seriously considered staying another couple of hours. Not because I wanted to -- After 10 PM or so, my mind was starting to drift off into space, and it was causing me to make mistakes. It's just that I know there's a big flood of work coming at me next week, and I was doing anything and everything I could tonight to lessen the oncoming flood.

Around 6, I checked in on the pre-press room, thinking I had maybe another hour or so before I was done. My work in the plate room was pretty much finished -- I figured I'd burn plates for a handful of orders in Monday's schedule just to stay ahead of the flow, maybe carve up some digital proofs if there were any, and then go home for the weekend.

Well, there were digital proofs that needed to be carved up, all right. The woman who does imposition for the print shop told me that she had just queued up sixteen orders for one client, and the client wanted four proofs for each order.

And what is sixteen times four? Sixty-four.

I looked at her and said, "Say what?!"

They didn't need to go out until Monday. So, I suppose I could have gone according to the plan I'd had in mind and just left them there. But later on, the woman who does graphic arts pointed at the three dozen or so orders that were on her plate, and said she was coming in either Saturday or Sunday to do essentially the same thing I did tonight: minimize the impact of the coming flood. She's dealing with it now. I appear later on in our quality control process; I'll be dealing with that shit next week.

That, and she added that she had e-mails saying that another forty orders were on the way staring Monday. Well... fuck, me, running. Therefore, I had a sub and salad delivered from an Italian restaurant downtown, stuck around, and ended up making forty or so digital proofs, plus burning some more plates, before throwing in the towel at quarter to midnight.

And as I said, I would have stayed longer, just to get as much work available now out of the way as possible. I am not going in this weekend. Period. But those sixty-four proofs had started printing out a little before 6 PM; when I finally punched out for the night, they were still printing out. And I'm like, "Six hours and counting. Lord, I ain't never seen anything like this motherfuckin' nonsense here."

Then I screwed one of the proofs up, and not long after that, I said, "Fuck this, I'm going home." I got most of those proofs carved up before I left. The bad one will get replaced -- I left a post-it note behind me, and even if I hadn't, they double-check everything anyway.

But hell... what are we, the only print shop left in Virginia now? It is insane what we're trying to stay on top of there. I've been there a long time. And I don't know what to make of this. Yes, I'd rather be working full-time than not at all -- and the overtime pay helps out a lot. But I can't do all of what I'm doing now for another ten or fifteen years.

I'm in my forties now. They want to hook me up to a cart or something and have me haul loads back and forth all day, okay -- that's right up my alley. But if they expect me to do that in fourth gear...

Uh-uh. Not every day. Not even every Friday. The guy who drove me home tonight could use some more hours -- why don't they have him come in and plate whatever orders I don't get to? They'd save themselves some money that way -- I wouldn't be getting all this overtime pay. I certainly don't mind the fat paycheck coming my way next week. I just don't need it the way I used to. Forty hours a week is good enough for me, believe me.

And one last thing. I turned 40 last summer. I was a bit impressed, actually. For the longest time, I really believed I wouldn't make it to 40. Yet after I did, I started thinking seriously about my future. I don't have a crystal ball or anything, so I have no idea what the future holds for me. But lately I've been wondering, how do I know I don't have another forty years to go? What will I do then?

So I opened up a second account at my bank. Presently, that account is the one reason why I still report to the print shop Monday through Friday and do what I'm expected to do as best I can. I'm working there for the day when I'll be able to afford a lower-paying job that I can do at a comfortable pace.

If they can use me, I can use them...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"The Runaway" by Gentle Giant...

This one was very hard to find on vinyl, back when I still had a turntable. I finally found a copy of "In A Glass House" in 1990 -- in a Montreal, Quebec used record store. It was a bit scratched up, but I paid, like, twenty-five Canadian dollars for it anyway.

I now have it in my iTunes. I've heard that vinyl records are starting to enjoy a sort of renaissance, but frankly, I don't give a shit. I'll take iTunes over vinyl any day of the year, screw the nostalgia and romanticism -- and the scratches, and the skips, and the warps.


Enjoy...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's Time To Seek New Horizons...

Here are two posts by Cookie Jill over at skippy's place: the one about orders for pizza for the protesters in Wisconsin coming in from other countries... and the one about the 50-something man who committed suicide because not only had he been unemployed for more than two years, he simply had nothing more to live for.

In the latter, you have one person who has given up all hope; in the former, you have a bunch of people who refuse to give up hope. I see the connection between the two -- it's what Benjamin Franklin had in mind when he told his fellow Founding Fathers they all needed to hang together against the British, lest they all hang separately.

But when I observe what's going on in Wisconsin, I feel like all I'm doing is watching a movie. I sympathize with the protesters, who are my natural allies, but it's like I'm watching all of this happen from a place I can look out of, but no one else can look into. It's very strange, and a little disturbing. It's like I can't feel a thing from any of this -- including the unemployed guy who said the hell with it all.

I think I may have burned myself out when it comes to politics and class. This stuff just isn't registering with me anymore...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Talk About Wishful Thinking...

I've seen this on several left-leaning blogs, none of which took issue with what was said: Chris Rock, being interviewed by Esquire, on the Tea Partiers:

...SR: Like many nice Caucasians, I cried the night Barack Obama was elected. It was one of the high points in American history. And all that's happened since the election is just a shitstorm of hatred. You want to weigh in on that?

CR: I actually like it, in the sense that — you got kids? Kids always act up the most before they go to sleep. And when I see the Tea Party and all this stuff, it actually feels like racism's almost over. Because this is the last — this is the act up before the sleep. They're going crazy. They're insane. You want to get rid of them — and the next thing you know, they're fucking knocked out. And that's what's going on in the country right now...


I'll grant that the Tea Partiers have more or less gone insane. But the idea that racism might almost be over -- and that this was said by Chris Rock, of all people?

Where do I even begin with this? Somebody ask Gloria Steinem whether or not sexism is almost over -- and then e-mail me what she said word for word after she's done cussing your ass out.

Racism isn't almost over. It isn't even in the "almost over" ballpark. In fact, there is no such ballpark. Which means that racism is not going to end anytime soon -- if ever. See, the Tea Party movement is nothing new under the sun in this country; it's merely the same old white right racism under a new name. Before the Tea Party, there was the Christian Patriot movement. Before them, there was the John Birch Society. And before them, there was the Ku Klux Klan.

And the Klan, the Birchers, and the Christian Patriots are all still with us. What the hell was Rock thinking when he said it feels like racism is almost over? I'm gay, and I can't for the life of me picture the day when homophobia comes to an end. It's always going to be with us. Some people you just can't reach. Skin color, gender, sexual orientation, it doesn't matter -- some people simply will not accept you if they perceive you as different, and if they aren't willing or able to do something about that, then there is nothing at all you can do about it.

Other than leaving them behind. That's your sole option, like it or not...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Blogging At Random...

Back to this Jared Loughner nut for a few minutes... Man, this guy is just plain gone. And the campus police at the college Loughner attended knew it. But there was only so much that they could do about it -- the kid hadn't committed any crimes while he was enrolled there. I can't help wondering what cuts into what's left of our liberties are going to result from this asshole's actions in Tucson last month.

In the meantime, I'm real glad they've got him under lock and key now. Technically, he's innocent until proven guilty. But there was a time the same could be said of O. J. Simpson. We all know the kid is guilty as sin...

* * *

Speaking of psychos with guns in Arizona, I'm glad they've taken this woman off the streets, too. But this particular story happens to illustrate just one reason why I glance at the news nowadays instead of following it. I seek information when I deal with news stories; unfortunately, what I get more than anything else is newspeak, especially with the so-called mainstream media, and frankly, I've gotten so damned dog-tired of this stupid shit, I wouldn't mind seeing some of these nonsense-peddlers lose their jobs and have their unemployment run out on them.

Tom Scocca of Slate sums this one up nicely. Shawna Forde oversaw the murders of an immigrant father and his daughter, but because she's white, she's a border activist. When people take up weapons for the same reason Forde did in other countries, we call them militants. When they kill people like she did, we call them terrorists -- but when the lilywhite Arizona lady Shawna Forde engages in terrorism, it's called border activism.

Yeah, well, the mainstream media can call it whatever they want. This time, the "border activist" is getting the terrorist treatment. No complaints here...

* * *

And speaking of Arizona and the scared-shitless nativism that's been going on there for a while now...

I thought about linking to an article about how the black, Latino, and Asian percentages of the American population are on the rise while the white population is in decline, and how that bothers lots of white people, especially the Teabaggers -- but you know what? I, DON'T, GIVE, A, FUCK about this. In fact, I love the fact that white people are thirty to forty years away from becoming a minority in this country -- and I'm white! I ain't worried about white people becoming a minority in America. Why should I be? I'm already in a minority -- the gay one. What, I'm gonna get fucked up the ass for being white down the road? Hell, what's the bad news?

But seriously, I do enjoy diversity. Ethnic differences, religious differences, it don't matter to me -- everybody brings something different to the table, I have sampled what a lot of these people who are different from me have contributed, and I feel enriched because of that. We're all human. Deep down, it's all good.

And these immigrants the nativist angry old white pricks want to shut out? Like it or not, they represent the future of America more strongly than anyone else -- they came here looking for a better life, and they work their asses off toward that end harder than anyone else. The white right types want to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. Yeah, right. I don't know who they think is gonna build that wall, but I can tell you straight up that it ain't gonna be this white boy -- it's gonna be Pablo, Mario, Jose, and Armando.

I can't wait to see the look on Cracker Barrel's face when they realize that irony's a bitch...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I Don't Care What Anyone Says...

This is rock 'n roll...



Enjoy...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday Afternoon Whatever Edition...

Been one of those weeks. So a little Alice In Chains is in order...


* * *

The Egyptians wanted Hosni Mubarak to step down. He did. Now the generals are running things.

So, um... what was the point of the revolution again? Replacing an old goat with a younger hyena pack? How inspiring.

Somewhere in the outer reaches of oblivion, Set is laughing sardonically...

* * *

What the hell... while I'm here, have some more King Crimson...


Til further on...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Holy Mackerel...

As much as I've poked fun at YouTube over the years, I have to admit that I've found a lot of videos over there that have simply made my day. What follows are two of those videos, each featuring a Saturday afternoon candlepin bowling show out of Boston that I used to watch when I was a kid (explanatory link provided for anyone who has never heard of, never mind enjoyed, the candlepin experience). One thing I hate about Virginia: there are no candlepin lanes here. Nearly everything is ten pin (which is okay), with a duckpin place here and there (which I have no use for). I'm a candlepin guy to the bottom of my heart, and even if I never set foot in New England (or, for that matter, eastern Canada) again, that's the way I'm going to stay.

Having been raised on candlepin bowling, I'm obviously biased in its favor. But the fact is, it's a hell of a lot harder to play than ten pin. My personal best score for a single candlepin string is 144, and that was a fluke -- I was always happy whenever I managed to break 100, and I bowled in candlepin alleys for years before moving to Virginia and switching to ten pin. Man, ten pin was ridiculous -- my seventh or eighth string of that, I scored a 212. I ended up quitting it because I thought it was too easy. I miss candlepin, and the degree of difficulty it poses.

But Paul Berger made it look easy as pie in the two videos below. In "Candlepin Bowling" (the show I used to watch), two bowlers would bowl three strings apiece, and whoever had the higher total at the end would come back the next week and face a new opponent. After two strings, Berger stood at 307. In the third string, he bowled a 193, finishing up at 500 even. The 500 triple is totally impressive in its own right. But 193 is the highest I have ever seen anyone score in one candlepin string. You gotta watch this, it is un-fucking-real...









It's hard enough getting one strike in a string in this sport, let alone five.

Man, that was beautiful...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

This, That, And The Other Thing...

Yesterday morning, I went to the bank and started a second account. This comes on the heels of me finally wading into online banking territory. The account I've had all these years is the one I will be actively using as I always have; the new one, for now, is strictly for putting money into.

Yes. I am finally putting money aside for the future for the first time in my life. Took me forty years to start doing this.

Sure, I could have done all of this at home online. But I made the trip to the bank for the same reasons I still don't use direct deposit: I'm old-fashioned, and I like seeing a human face when I'm putting money into my account, not a damn screen. I'll deal with this new account online. Come payday, I'm still going to the bank.

But there was one thing about yesterday's visit I didn't like, and it's the same spiel I get every time I make a notable purchase anywhere. By notable, I mean a few to several hundred dollars or more. You go out to get yourself one thing, and the salesperson (or, in this case, my personal banker) wants to sell you one or more additional things.

I find that greatly annoying. "We offer identity theft protection through this program if you're" -- No. "You can monitor your credit report free for one month, and then it's" -- No. "Wow, it's not every day I sit down with a customer who has a major credit card, would you" -- NO!

Okay, I wasn't actually this rude. I didn't respond in this manner to those offers -- and I just might give the credit card one some more thought later. My point is, all I wanted to do was go to bank, open account, shake hand, say thanks, and leave bank -- I ain't tryin' to tie the place up in knots here. If I want a credit check, I'll get one. For now, just give me what I want, nothing more or less, and lemme go.

I'll take it from there. On my own time...

* * *

Later on, I went to Martin's to buy some groceries. The woman at the register asked me, "What is 'Such-and-such'?"

"It's a printing company," I answered. "Such-and-such" is the print shop I work for, and I was wearing my black company jacket at the time.

"It sounded familiar," she said. "I was in the printing business for years. I was replaced by a machine."

"Oh." I hate hearing stories like this.

There was more to the brief conversation, but I don't remember exactly what was said by either of us. Same dynamic at work as with the bank -- go to market, buy items, pay for items, say thanks, and leave market. But it's a twenty-seven-minute walk home, so naturally, I got to thinking...

On the one hand, I thought the whole point of making the most of technology was so we humans wouldn't have to work for a living anymore, and be freed up to do other things. On the other hand, what else is there for us to do? The woman I talked to yesterday basically got kicked out of the printing business thanks to a machine, and wound up working in a supermarket. But when I go to the supermarket, I like to use the self-checkout lanes whenever possible -- I only went to her register because all the self-checkout lanes were closed. Where would she go if the entire place went self-checkout?

I mean, yeah, we've got an official unemployment rate of nine percent right now, down a little bit from before, but I'll let BadTux explain why that's a bunch of bull. What's the point of being technologically advanced if all that truly translates into is more and more of the people being left behind being ignored as well? Where are they all supposed to go?

* * *

My supervisor downloaded some King Crimson, and I got to hear some of it Friday morning -- so my Friday wasn't totally shot. Included was my all-time favorite rock 'n roll song...


I can't say it went over too well with some of my co-workers. But given what I had to say in my last blog post, it certainly helped me get through my day. I owe him one.

Enjoy -- or not, whatever your preference...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Oh, Boy...

I got home from work last night around quarter to seven. By 7:00, I was in bed -- no supper, no Internet, no nothing. Must have woken up and fallen back asleep six or seven times. Got up for good a little after 4 AM today, logged on, checked my e-mail, and went over my finances.

I'm really glad I went straight to bed last night and got the extra rest. This week has been wearing my ass out in more ways than one. I'm going to need whatever energy I've got today, because the print shop is the last place I want to be today -- and if today wasn't Friday, I probably wouldn't bother going in.

There's more to all of this, but I don't have time to discuss it. I have at least five errands I have to run before going to work, and I haven't even showered yet. Once again, my Friday is shot.

Later...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Such Is Life...

In the spring of '97, I was working at a paper bag factory in Pepperell, Massachusetts. I had recently transferred to its printing department from another department, and had become an assistant press operator. This was my first printing job. I remember being maybe five or six weeks into it, and although some of the people in that department were hard to work with, I had decided to try and make a career in printing. I remember saying, yeah, I can do this for another ten years -- why not? I even remember calling my mother up one day and asking her for advice on buying a house -- that's how serious I was about making a career in printing. I kind of had a band on the side, and I wanted to try and get that off the ground, too, but I wasn't about to quit my full-time job over it. What I was looking into first was putting down some roots.

Then, one afternoon in late June of that year, I went to work and found out that the headquarters in Minneapolis was in the process of shutting the Pepperell plant down. Long story short, I forgot about buying a house, I ended up leaving the Pepperell plant working at a couple more places in the area, that band of mine pretty much fell apart on the tarmac, the second company I went to laid me off, and in April of '98, I packed up my stuff, moved to Richmond, Virginia, and tried to start a new life.

Moving to Richmond turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made; starting work at the job I landed beforehand turned out to be one of the worst. Those first couple of years down here on my own, starting from scratch, were brutal. But in December of '99, I started working at the print shop I currently work for, again as an assistant press operator. I started from the bottom because this company utilizes offset litho machinery; I was accustomed to flexo presses, a whole different breed of printing, so I had no choice but to start over.

Funny thing, though, I ended up giving the printing business the ten years I had intended to give it while I was in Pepperell, all at this Richmond-area print shop instead. Actually, I've given it eleven years -- and counting. Now that I've done so, I find that I'm at a crossroads in my life. The road that brought me to Richmond doesn't end at this print shop. I can see that it goes on and on. I wasn't expecting that.

So now I have to make a decision: do I stay with the print shop and reconsider putting down some roots, or do I leave it behind and see where the rest of this road goes? I can't do both. And I can't move back to New England, either -- I've spent the bulk of my life there, and if things had worked out better than they did in that time, I would never have moved to Virginia. It's just not in the cards. I know it would be a disaster.

Still, I have to make a decision. I've got my brain telling me to stick with the print shop for as long as I can, my heart telling me to get going down that road already, and my spirit telling me that no matter which I choose, I'm going to regret not choosing the other. So, what I'm going to do is pay close attention to what happens at the print shop for the next two months. I'm there too much time out of the week as it is -- I might as well start scrutinizing the hell out of what goes on there. No matter what happens, I'll be moving out of my current apartment later this year. But what I'm looking for at this print shop is at least one good reason to convince me to stay there -- and they have two months to come up with one good reason.

Come April, I'll let you all know whether they succeeded or not. After that, I think my decision will be pretty clear...