they’re heeeere…but not many are paying attention

I happened to be walking by the Sheraton here in Madison when I came across this…

Our primary is next Tuesday, April 3, and we will also be voting on some judges and school board members.

While the 2008 primary election here in Wisconsin garnered not only national but international attention per my blog post back then,  this presidential primary is actually playing second fiddle to hotly contested local elections–namely the local school board elections on the same day, and the recall elections in June that will determine whether Gov. Scott Walker will be the first Wisconsin governor ever to be recalled by voters.  Madison is certainly not known for being a Republican town, but Wisconsin, as a whole tends to be almost evenly split between Republican and Democratic voters.

So BBC, if you do happen to be in the neighborhood, we still have Leinenkugels and cheese curds.  And yes, the Leinies are supposed to be cold and the cheese curds squeaky.

correction: it’s NOT all fun and games before the polar ice caps melt

This picture reflects what Madison WI usually looks like during the first or second week of May. The lawns are green and ready to be mowed, and the tree buds are turning into real leaves.  But with the last two weeks of temperatures in the 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s,  this is actually a picture I took TODAY, 26 March 2012.  Our latitude is 43 degrees North, in case you were wondering.

If you think this might be reason to celebrate, then I’ve got some beach-front property on the Arctic Ocean to sell you.  This article goes into detail about how the unusually warm weather can throw off our local maple syrup producers, apple orchards, and various other functions of nature and our economy that are dependent on a normal cycle of seasons.  These explanations, of course, don’t fit neatly into our dumbed-down national politics in which sentence fragments and political discourse worthy of third grade recess make or break elections.  But it’s reality, regardless of however CNN and Fox News want to spin it.

another band from my generation goes on a reunion tour

 

Maggie, We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Gonna Us...

Maggie, We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It (3) – Central Park, Burton-on-Trent 5.12.1986. (Photo credit: Diego’s sideburns)

 

You know you’re getting old when the bands that you listened to in college start going on reunion tours.

 

For those of you who didn’t follow my previous blog, one hobby I have is DJ’ing.  A collective group of DJ’s and volunteers organize a dance event that serves as an alternative to the dance clubs, and I’m one of the DJ’s.  So music will a big part of this blog.  My tastes are much broader than what I spin at the event and sometimes I try to sneak music not traditionally associated with the dance floor into my sets.

 

One genre I’ve grown to appreciate as I’ve gotten older is punk. (And yes, I once successfully sneaked The Clash onto the dance floor.)   I was quite  into the punk scene as a college student in the 80’s even though I never had a mohawk or a leather jacket.  I could pogo and slam dance with the best of them.  Oh yeah, and the scene in Repo Man where two friends clutch each other and swing each other around in the mosh pit?  Yeah, a friend of mine and I did that too.  (Unfortunately the clip cuts off that part of the scene a bit too early–what they did and we did was to grab each other by the wrists and move around in circles, build up some centrifugal force and send ourselves flying into the surrounding crowd.)  But I never did any stage dives like the woman in this website’s banner is doing.

 

I chronicled the 2010 comeback of The Primitives in my previous blog.  I didn’t know until later that a more obscure group called We’ve Got A Fuzzbox and We’re Going To Use It, known more commonly as Fuzzbox also reunited for a tour that year.  This all-girl group formed in 1985 and dressed in colorful clothes and even more colorful big-hair mohawks.  Like The Primitives, Fuzzbox played pop-tinged punk (or punk-tinged pop), but the band was less well-known and seemed to have more of a punk DIY ethic which they displayed well in the video below :

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkOj282VD-Q&w=420&h=315]

 

In 1989 they became exclusively a dance-pop group.  I can’t say that I was fond of this phase of their development, so I won’t post the video–but if you wish, you can find it here.  Quite honestly, I wonder if the band members themselves were fond of this phase–this occurred after they’d signed to a new label.

 

They went on a reunion tour in 2010 and disbanded again in March 2011.  Apparently they had no intention of making this an ongoing project. With the tour, they released a cover version of the 1979 hit Pop Muzik by M.  I actually like this cover version.  Sure, laugh if you will,  but I get the feeling that Fuzzbox would laugh right with you.  They look like they’re having fun with this and not taking themselves too seriously.  I actually understand the lyrics better and understand better the irony that was the original song’s intention.  I can’t help but wonder if they are also making a statement about their pop years.  They definitely got some of their attitude back.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARcDEKdIa_U&w=560&h=315]

 

is this now silly season?

Years ago I read a short story by Robert Heinlein called “The Year of the Jackpot.”  It was written in 1952 and the story takes place in 1962.  It is about a statistician who makes notes of trends and plots them on a graph.  He has been making notes of strange things occurring and keeps news accounts of them and adds them into his charts and graphs.  According to his chart,  all of his graphs are supposed to bottom out during 1962.  The statistician encounters a young woman who inexplicably started removing all her clothes on the street.  She faints when he wraps his coat around her and when she comes to, he asks her why she was compelled to remove all her clothes and she said she had no idea what moved her to do that.  As the story moves on, they become a couple and get married, and then move to an isolated spot in the desert right at about the time everything is supposed to bottom out. I won’t spoil people with the ending.

Every now and then I run into one of those situations where I look at something somebody did or somebody said, and my first thought is, “Huh?”  As in “Am I crazy or did I actually just see what I thought I saw?”  A situation where an action by someone defies logic and reason and yet they are carrying on as if everything were normal.

Without saying where in my life I’ve seen this happen, I can say that it seems to be happening more frequently.  More frequently in my personal life and also in national and global politics.

I’m not going to vilify anyone by talking about these specific situations.  And I hate talking about politics nowadays.  Let me just say that we as a nation and we as a human have some lessons to learn.  We have a choice as to whether we want to learn these lessons the harder way or the easier way and we seem to be consistently choosing the hard way.

Sometimes it’s not an action by a person at all–or is it?  In my last post,  I talked about how unseasonable warm it was that day–the temperature climbed to 64 degrees.  It’s not that unusual in March to have one unseasonably warm day in which the mercury climbs to near summer temperatures.

But TWO WEEKS?

Seriously.  Today’s high was at least 80 degrees according to my phone, shattering the previous record of 70.  Yesterday–St. Patrick’s Day–also hit 80.  It’s been in the 70’s pretty much for the the entire previous week, and will be again most of this week, with things dropping into the 60’s by the following weekend.  Remember, it’s still officially WINTER in Wisconsin and the normal high temperature for March 18 here is 44 degrees.  We’ve had blizzards in April and I’ve seen snowflakes as late as May 1.  The climate change deniers seem awfully quiet right now.

A lot of people, particularly New Age types, have spoken speculatively about 2012 (oddly enough, 50 years after Heinlein’s “Jackpot”) and what will happen this year.  I’ve tried to keep my distance from the rhetoric, just as I try not to give any mental energy to Mercury Retrograde, which is we are reportedly in the midst of.

But I’ve pledged to myself to make double-sure that I let what I see with my eyes and hear with my ears be my guide, as opposed to what other people tell me.  It’s hard for me to live any other way.

it’s all fun until the polar icecaps melt

Early this morning marked Daylight Savings time.  With daylight going an hour later on our clocks, you could see more children playing outside, more people walking through the neighborhood and more bicyclists out on the street.  It was a sunny day, with the temperature reaching 64 degrees.  In the morning I walked out side with a light jacket on.  By afternoon I was wearing shorts and a short-sleeve shirt as I went for an errand.  It’s funny, some people were dressed like me, and some people had light jackets, and some people still had winter coats on.

There’s only one thing wrong with this picture.  It’s March.  In Wisconsin.

It’s funny–when I was growing up, Daylight Savings Time began in the last weekend of April.  Sometime in the 80’s,  it changed to the first weekend in April.  Now it’s the first weekend in March.

The winter that Daylight Savings Time moved to March was the winter that Madison had a record snowfall–101 inches, completely shattering the previous record of 79 inches.  It was strange being outside on that March day waiting for the bus–knowing that daylight would be an hour later, and still seeing snowdrifts three feet high.  Quite a marked contrast from childhood, where daylight savings time marked the first time we would be able to play outside after dinner.  Yes, of course, you could still do that in Wisconsin, but here, children would be playing in snow forts.

Yet today was completely different.  It felt just right for late April.

Sometimes I wonder if Daylight Savings Time was meant to follow global warming.  The recent change was partly in response to global warming, as it would enable people to cut energy consumption on lighting and perhaps heating.

The Arbor Day Foundation has changed its climate hardiness zones.  There is no longer a colder Zone 3 in Wisconsin and Zone 5 now encompasses the southern part of the state.  The USDA, which had been publishing the Hardiness Zone Maps was reluctant to acknowledge that change in 2006, but this year, the USDA has put out a new map that reflects very similar changes.

So now is time for me to get serious about bicycling.  When it gets warm out like this, the bus I take from my house to downtown gets suddenly much emptier, and it’s largely because many people opt to bike to work.  (Some might also just choose to walk downtown.)

I bought a new bike last summer because I realized that the bike I had bought a number of years before when I lived in Chicago was actually too small for me, and I bought another one at DreamBikes, an awesome non-profit in Madison that is located in a low-income neighborhood, and which helps youths in the neighborhood to them develop skills with bicycles and working at the store. The bikes are all donated and the people working there tune them up and get them in salable condition. I bought mine for $110 and I love it, though I need to adjust the handlebars.

I decided to mark the first day of Daylight Savings Time/Quasi-Spring by buying a new messenger bag.  I had one, but it was quite uncomfortable, and I wanted something bigger than what I had so that I could easily put a change of clothes in the bag, which will be critical if I want to bike the 5 miles or so to work on a regular basis.  I decided to spend a bit more money and invest in a Chrome bag which is basically bombproof and should last a long time.  If this doesn’t make me look like a hardcore Madison bicycle rider, nothing will.

(Said with tongue firmly in cheek of course.  And the lightning bolt that seems to be coming from the bag is merely the reflector straps on the bag capturing the flash from my camera.)

the way things are meant to be? part 2 (reaching out for something)

So, regarding this phenomenon of a group of strangers hugging each other and holding hands and having what was basically a G-rated love fest. What was that all about?

It’s worth noting that we were all young adults, and we were at a conference where we got ourselves all excited about changing the world.

Even among those sharing the same ideology or advocating for the same broad political platform, the definition of “changing the world” can vary widely. People often project their identities onto a political ideology or movement, and as such, consciously or sub-consciously project their hopes, desires, and unspoken dreams into that movement.

I think one of those desires is a desire to connect with other people, to have their world feel like a web of interconnection rather than a bunch of isolated silos connected only by the remote controls in front of the television sets.  I think this is what people were attempting with the “love-ins” and “be-ins” of the 1960’s, and is expressed in the song above–people may not recognize the artist and title, but would probably recognize the lyric “I think it’s so groovy now that people are finally getting together.”

I think there have been many attempts in the forty years since that song came out to create that feeling. But usually, that effort creates, at best, a certain transient transcendence where for a space of a few seconds, minutes or hours, you might actually believe that “All You Need Is Love.” Ultimately, at the end of the day, you return from that high to the real world, and you wake up the next day with the world not that much different from what it was before.

The Wikipedia entry for Friend and Lover actually reveals a lot about what that song means to people.  The song’s writer was inspired by a personal encounter with a love-in in New York.  The song became a protest anthem in 1968, but interestingly enough, Christian rock groups in the 1970s picked up on the song, too, based on a belief that the song had spiritual overtones.

So Jordan’s and my effort to start a “real group hug” was but one attempt to create that feeling.  That event meant a lot to me then, but it wouldn’t as much if it were to happen now.  It was such a fleeting moment.  I don’t think I would recognize any of participants on the street if I saw them today–perhaps not even Jordan, since I’d only known him for a couple of days beforehand as part of our caravan traveling to the event.  (I did briefly date one person who was also part of that caravan, so I might recognize her if I saw her.)

I know some people who organize or often participate in “cuddle parties.”  I went to one once, but decided not to go back.  The intentions behind them are good, particularly the part about creating a safe space and getting practice in negotiating boundaries, but to me the experience felt creepy.  I guess my boundaries are such that if I want to cuddle with someone, it’s because they mean a lot to me as a friend or lover, and that usually takes time to establish.  My guess is that most Americans would feel the same way.

So, in analyzing this (in the same way I analyze other things to death), it seems that we want to be part of a web of connectedness, but that level of connectedness doesn’t happen just overnight.  What’s a 21st-century middle-aged American to do?  More on that later…