Tag Archives: issue6

same as the old boss: rock n roll & the corporate revolution

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Midway through their set at last summer’s Celebrate Brooklyn show, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy commented to the crowd that we smelled like bacon. I laughed, thinking he was referring to security, typical of the Celebrate Brooklyn festival. But his follow-up comment about the wafting smell revealed that he literally meant bacon: the smell of which enveloped the park, being emitted from the concession stands on either side of the stage.

A ticket to the show cost $45. The Bowery Presents security guards searched my bag and patted my pockets. Walking past many groups of security and police officers and onto the grounds itself, we were greeted by the many concessions for French fries, burgers, beers, sodas, snacks, etc. Advertisements for Google Plus and Vitamin Water.

The food line itself was wonderfully efficient. How the young people taking orders, making orders and handing out orders were able to keep that massive line moving and serviced seemed more work than organizing the whole show could have been. I wondered what hungry percentage of the show’s proceeds they would be making.

The band played, and the crowd talked. And talked and talked and talked. Few people seemed interested in actually listening to the music. A constant stream of new food and beverage purchases held aloft passed through every chorus or so.  Because nothing says rock and roll like French fries and expensive beer and talking while the band plays at a corporate event that you got searched just to get into.

Each distraction, whether it’s a burger or a phone or a conversation, distracts not only the one eating or talking but those around the eater or talker. Your distraction distracts us all. When you are distracted from the thing we are all here to partake in, it removes your commitment to and love for the thing. And we need yours, the thing needs yours. Don’t let it be taken away, from you or us.

Part of the corporate revolution has been to convince us that we should not care about where our money goes to, or where our products come from. Don’t worry about what slave made your shoes, just concern yourself with their look and price and what this will communicate about you. Don’t worry about the wait-staff and kitchen that makes and serves your food, just worry that the restaurant has a ‘cool vibe’ or is ‘cute’ and the food is delicious and affordable.

Don’t worry about what rights-violating searches you have to go through; what advertisements you’ll be forced to endure; what incredible profits will be made on concessions – and how all of those profits will be divied up (a lot to the owners, a little to the workers). Just concern yourself with the band you want to go see, and the awesome time you’ll have seeing them, and singing along. Maybe they’ll do a cover. “Meet the [munch, slurp, munch] new boss [munch munch, swallow] / Same as [burp] the old boss.”

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from the archives

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crowning their good with brother/sister-hood (3)

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Currently Most Awe-Inspiring American Martyrs

– Leah-Lynne Plante: Sisterhood!

– John Kiriakou: You’re not going to get away with NOT torturing anyone around here, Sir!

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occupy our stories (2)

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from the eazyztop (7)

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My consciousness prattles, steadily, a mass of the unrefined detritus it is my duty to sort through and from which I attempt to select and remember what seems to illuminate or at least humor. After scrawling my careless pen over pilfered paper throughout the shift I will bear the sheets home and type them up, refining again what was gleaned from my impressions. I like to keep my papers beneath the enormous and heavy Lottery machine, so that if a fellow employee happens in or I am distracted by work and the 6:00am employee that relieves my shift arrives of a sudden my thoughts are well hidden beneath the machine. I have even forgotten – only once! – to pocket the sheets before my departure at 7:00am and had to exit 81N to hurry south and, avoiding any discussion, retrieved them to Randy’s startled gaze.

I only wish to be more harmonious and enchanting on these pages – grappled from eight hours of convenience store fluorescent splendor – than I can offer in actual dialogue, with whoever you are, whenever we meet. O, Moon, won’t you please shine down on me?

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Think Different – But Not Persian!

Remember that time an Apple employee in the U.S. state of Georgia refused to sell a computer to a woman he had heard speaking Farsi because ‘our countries have bad relations’?

Well me and the 29 other people who signed the change.org petition do!

But then Reuters produced a confusing story: ‘Despite sanctions, Apple gear booms in Iran.’ Aside from the obviously unintended but still kind of vulgar and insensitive pun, the headline illustrates the deep divide between the picture of Iran and Iranian people as vastly different from us and worthy of sanctions and bombing, and the reality that Iranians are human beings like us who need to piss everyone off with their annoying thoughts on the Internet while looking down on non-Apple users.

Iran and the US, after all, have many things in common: they hated the Shah because he was a brutal dictator supported by the US, and we hated the Shah when he failed at being a brutal dictator.   They have lots of oil, we love oil. (Fancy that!) They suppress freedom of speech and political activities, we are awesome at that, too!

Besides, the Europeans who took over America were originally from the mountains of northern Iran before they were from the halcyon forests of Germany, as the story goes, so it would make sense that we have the same taste in consumer products!

Iran, really, we have so much in common. We’re just burning for you, like an American, or Persian needing an iproduct.

 

 

 

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you might be a communist if (1)

– You held a door open for another person and didn’t charge them for it.
– You passed the salt, as requested. And the mustard. Without charging! What’s next, Bolshy?

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Why We Sing

by Huy Dao

Huy_Karaoke_IMAGE

Karaoke.  I’d even do it sober; but that’s starting at the end.

There’s something that happens to people the first time they hear themselves amplified.  Some recoil, some close their eyes and revel, some need to do it again just to make sure they heard it right.  From cheesy late night Asian phenomenon to mainstream activity via video games, karaoke has become a cultural force in some circles.  In my circle – a circle that deals with brutality, crime, and advocacy – it’s become more: stress relief.  Shouting out the day’s or week’s misery has served to bring people closer, even those who just watch, and has reinforced the notion of tribe.  We do this work, we face these pressures, and, perversely sometimes, we let it out on the ears of strangers.

The local karaoke joint is, of course, also a bar.  We call it the Second Office.  We take our clients there:  people who served time for crimes they didn’t commit.  We invite our friends there, the brave ones who would step into our tribe to sing.  We go there to be anonymous to everyone but ourselves, because strangers at karaoke rarely ask you why you’re there.  We don’t have to explain it to ourselves.  We don’t care if you can sing.  We don’t even care if you sing, but if you do, we care more about how you sass the mic. We clap for your enthusiasm, not your pipes.  We may wince, but we’ll cheer you when you’re done.

What started out in my living room as a party-ender has become a way of life at work.  The transformation was not conscious, but did seem to follow a trajectory.  That is, in a small non-profit, it is easy to move across the blurry lines between people you work with, people you hang out with, people you call your friends – and people you’ll sing with.  There is a dropping of the curtain, a revealing vulnerability when you decide that singing “Endless Love” in front of coworkers is all right.  Like any after-work time at a bar, there is the requisite complaining session, expressions of weariness, and sometimes office intrigue, but eventually your turn comes up and you get up to perform.  To do that, you need to get something out of some other (often ridiculous) place inside, something you won’t see in the office.

At first I thought of it as just the bar around the corner from work.  The drinks were weak, the food and the crowd unpredictable, but we went there anyway and we sang anyway.  Then the bar burned down.  So we tried the other bar down the street.  Not just any bar, though.  Now it had to have karaoke.  It became a thing, the default.  Singing became the default after-work activity, the thing people thought to do on particularly hard days.  Then it became the place to have celebrations, to lay it out in front of (and encourage the participation of) people who had spent years inside, wrongfully.  How does that compute?  I don’t know, but it just makes sense now.  Of course we should sing.  Who doesn’t want to sing?

Sociologists, psychologists, maybe anthropologists could do a better job explaining the cultural forces at play.  We are often too weary, or too bleary, to understand what is so satisfying about getting up in front of office mates and strangers on a Tuesday night to sing power ballads. Or attempt the high harmony of a Heart song.  There is a sense about it, though, that explaining it would be impossible, that we couldn’t be explained by this activity.  That may be the psychology of a junkie.  I’ve often heard, and said, “I need to take a break from the whole karaoke thing.”

They always come back, though.  I always go back.

For us, as our own audience, we perform for each other in some vague but important way.  Dedications are not uncommon, but imagine a karaoke session where the words actually mean something.

Underneath the cheese, a current of shared memory in familiar songs, reasons you don’t have to explain.

True or not, at the base level, we know we understand.  We know why he’s singing that one again; we know who she’s singing about.  Group therapy in the weirdest guise.  I would never have predicted the odd office  following, that someone other than me would choose to do this instead of going home or out elsewhere if there was a choice.  You see, there’s no workplace reward for coming, no career punishment for not coming, no automatic friendship if you come, no hard feelings if you skip.

You come when you need to come, sing when you need to sing.  And if you sass the mic, we’ll support you, and maybe even sing along.  Brilliant.

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cover (6)

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books we are reading (2)

It is curious how people take it for granted that they have a right to preach at you and pray over you as soon as your income falls below a certain level.

– George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London

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