Archive for culture

Men, Keep Your Shirts On

Posted in Rant/ Rave with tags , , , , on August 11, 2017 by sethdellinger

Men, keep your shirts on.

Listen, I know this sort of ideology really makes lots of people groan, even so-called “liberals” who can often be heard to say “I’m all for (fill in the blank) but enough is enough!”  But usually, when you find yourself saying enough is enough, that usually means you might actually be approaching the line of what is right and just.

When you were growing up, did you ever think to yourself, Isn’t it weird that men or boys can walk around with their shirts off and women can’t?  I’m willing to wager you did think that, probably sometime between the ages of five and ten.  You thought it because it’s OBVIOUS that it’s strange; like so many other oddities you thought of as a child (“Isn’t it weird for humans to drink the milk of a cow?” and “If people of other races are just like me, why do we treat them differently?” and maybe even “If police are here to protect me why do they scare me?”) our culture has a buffet of fictions it has produced that you are fed with such alarming regularity that, after you are a fully acculturated pre-teen, you take these oddities to be self-evident normalcies.  Men can go topless, women can’t.  That’s just the way it is.

Of course, this isn’t about shirts or nipples; not really.  It’s about living in a land where, even with all the strides we’ve made toward gender equality over the past 50 years, the most basic “stories” of our culture still seek to control the woman and set the man free.  We can work toward pay equality, and make superhero movies about women, and all these wonderful things that truly are wonderful, but until we change the most basic tenets of our culture (practically our entire language is about men, women’s clothes aren’t functional or comfortable, women are judged on their appearance to a degree beyond male comprehension, and on and on and on and on) any man who is even moderately awoke to this fact is absolutely obligated to do everything they can to combat it.  And it is absolutely imperative that we not do something that our female counterparts would be forbidden by law to do simply because of their gender.

To walk out of your house without a shirt on is to take part in systemic inequality of the most deeply-rooted, insidious sort.  Who do you think you are, walking around bare chested?  My fiance is not able to do it–so how dare YOU?

I don’t care if you have six pack abs or a beer belly.  I don’t care if you are working out or sunbathing.  It’s not OK.  Once you are “woke” to this fact, a man walking around shirtless can seem, in fact, downright sinister. (I must admit here a caveat: I swim shirtless at our apartment complex because it’s an actual rule there, but I’m working up the courage to stop doing that).

I understand many people I know, after reading this very simple, straightforward statement will still want to argue with it.  This is natural, because the fiction you’ve been told has strong sway on you (even when you are the oppressed class). All I ask is that you let it sit within you for awhile, before pushing back.  Think about it when you see a shirtless man go running past you.  If he were running with a woman, she’d have to be shirted–and hotter and less comfortable.  Let it stew.

Valentine’s Dog Dagurreotype

Posted in real life with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2017 by sethdellinger
  1.  I know A LOT of people who hate Valentines Day, so it seems.  And every year, most of them feel a need to unleash an anti-V-Day screed of some kind via social media (almost always involving the word “Hallmark”, “corporate”, or “made-up”.  And hey, I get it.  In fact, I essentially ignore almost all holidays, and I’m quite fortunate that my life partner feels the same.  We don’t really hate any holidays, we just don’t really notice them (with a few exceptions).  But what I’m wondering right now, as I continue to see these same people with these same rants about these same holidays year after year after year…why not just ignore it?  Let it pass with zero comment from you.  There is little more that a holiday hates than a complete lack of attention from you, whatever holiday it happens to be that you hate.  Just a suggestion, of course.  Certainly I have lots I like to bitch about, too, but it just seems to me like bitching about a holiday is some wasted bitching.
  2. I sure love my dog.  Who doesn’t love dogs?? But I feel a very special way about Benji because I’ve been lucky enough to be brought into his life late.  Benji is 15, which is nearing the absolute oldest he can get for his breed (at the absolute most, he might live two more years but that is unlikely).  I spent almost all of my adult life wishing I could have a dog; almost all of that time, I lived alone and worked jobs with long and erratic hours and was hesitant to own a dog under those circumstances.  But, once I found my love Karla, she came not only with Boy, but with Dog, and my time with Benji has been very special.  Now, he is not without his quirks (a truly obsessive-compulsive licking thing that can literally coat an entire couch if no one is watching) but in just about every way, I could not love him more.  I’m sad that I don’t get more years with him, but the time I do have fills my heart.  Almost anyone who has a dog says “They are part of the family”, and never has anyone meant it more than we do.
  3. Here is the earliest known photograph (actually it’s a daguerreotype) taken in the city of Harrisburg.  It is from freakin’ 1860!:
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Be a Bright Blue

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , on November 6, 2016 by sethdellinger

godspeed

Sound the alarm bells.  The ship, it is sinking.  Our shoes are on fire and our water is a virus.  Good god, sound the alarm–run.  It’s the same old damned thing, the same tired emergency.  It’s the same old lie.

Run the white cloth up the flag pole.  Watch it hang there, limp.  Shut your windows and turn on the AC.  I’m exhausted from defending my lifestyle, and I’m exhausted from checking my phone.  Turn up the static.  Lean back into something.  Grill some putrid items.  Excoriate your neighbor.

A new batch of people have come along now.  They’re old enough now.  They see evidence of lies, control.  Someone has spotted a two party system.  THEY’RE ALL LIARS, they shout.  They sense something not genuine.  They sense they are not in control of this world.  They see they are inside a machine, and they cannot even see who controls the machine, or even the walls or the floor.  It’s a machine, they say, vote for Jill Stein!

As though someone polling at 5% of the national population isn’t part of the damned machine.  Hey listen.  If you’re in a machine, you’re in it.  You think the machine lets you out?

The machine was here long before you and promises to outlive you.

Sound the alarm bells, by golly!  The construct is about to swallow another generation whole.  Like zygotes.  Like plankton.  Like dust.

Of course you can fight things inside the machine and change things.  But until you understand the actual nature of your plight, you’ll attack the wrong parts, the wrong cogs and pulleys.

You have taken the blindfold off without realizing there was a second blindfold overtop the first one.

Recognize the machine.  Feel its rhythm.  Do not doubt its omnipresence.  You speak hushed of the politicians who control you while you sit in a strip mall restaurant.  How did the strip mall get there?  Why is it there, instead of elsewhere?  How many red lights did you wait at to drive there?  Have you registered the car you drove with the government?  The gas you put in the car–where did it come from, and who decided how much it cost?

Welcome to the fucking construct.  Jill Stein will take your order now.

Be a shiny countertop.  Be a chemtrail.  Be a smiling dog.

When I was a kid, I played little league baseball for two years.  I had waited too long to get started though.  Whereas most kids in my town started very young, I waited until I was ten or eleven.  Mostly I waited so long because I had never really wanted to play little league baseball.  I was scared of the ball, and I was scared of organized sports.  I wasn’t pressured to play.  I just wanted to participate in a thing that made the other kids look cool.  They looked like major league ball players to me.  So I did it even though I didn’t want to.

Be a lazy Sunday.  Be Madison, Wisconsin.  Be a suspicious cough.

Since I waited so long to start playing baseball, I was behind kids my age, when it came to skill level.  So the people who ran the little league put me on the teams with the younger boys.  My plan to do something I didn’t want to do to be cooler had backfired.  My friends and classmates were playing on teams I never saw, and I was playing with boy 2 or 3 years younger than me.  And they were still better than me.  I was a very bad baseball player.  My coach–whose son was on the team–was frequently disappointed in me.  He thought since I was older, I’d be his star, when in fact I was the worst player on the team.  It was mortifying.  The little league had a rule that every single player had to get an at-bat every single game.  One game I did not get an at-bat.  I wasn’t very sad, since batting was just another opportunity for me to be embarrassed.  But my parents were quite mad.  Because they are good parents.  After the game they told me to go wait by the concession stand while they spoke to the coach.  I waited.  About five minutes later they came into view, laughing.  They were laughing.  What happened?, I asked.  They informed me they confronted the coach about me not having an at-bat and he had freaked out, screaming at them, somehow finding a reason to rake them over the coals for having the audacity to question him.  They said he had become red in the face with anger.  The next game, he had me bat leadoff, despite being the worst hitter on the team.  My humiliation was complete.

Be a light early-morning mist.  Be a fully-trimmed Christmas tree.  Be a cardinal direction.  Be a traffic-free commute.  Be the paint that dries.  Be a clear radio station.  Be a marching band in the distance.  Be Jimmy Stewart.  Be a sun-dappled cave entrance.  Be a bright blue.  Be your grandmother’s afghan.  Be Connect Four.  Be the olive-skinned belly dancer.  Be a stunning cul-de-sac.  Be an early dismissal.  Be a crescendo.  Be the young girl that stops to help you, when she doesn’t have to, when you’ve dropped all your groceries and the sun is starting kiss the horizon, and she is beautiful, and the air reminds you of perfect childhood, and you don’t have to work the next day.  You, too, are part of the machine.

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Badass Harrisburg, Media vs. Trump, Eraser, Alexander Supertramp

Posted in Prose, Rant/ Rave, real life, Snippet with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2016 by sethdellinger

It has now been over a year and a half since we moved to Harrisburg. Like every time I’ve made a large move, it’s been interesting how at first there is a large amount of culture shock, and then just a few weeks or months later, it’s almost like you’ve always lived there. It’s hard to imagine there was a time that I lived in Philadelphia, or Erie,  or Carlisle.  It’s hard to imagine there was a time when I actually could not imagine moving back to Central Pennsylvania. Did I ever actually move away from here? But also, the first time I lived here, I couldn’t have imagined living in Harrisburg, but now it seems the natural center of this area. Harrisburg gets a bad rap from many people, for those are people who are afraid of it, or have never spent much time in it. Granted, it is a city with its troubles, both financial and otherwise. There are plenty of areas that are downtrodden, poor, and wanting of many of the services that the surrounding areas take for granted. But there is a lot to love here, and plenty of neighborhoods that you can feel safe in, and with nice modern housing. There’s more than enough to do, more than enough beautiful views, and a vibrant arts scene. In fact, there are more things that we have not been able to do than those we have been able to do. And it seems clear to me that the city is still on the move. I know there have been lots of stories over the decades about the revitalization of Harrisburg, but this time it does seem legitimate. The independent music scene, hipster coffee shops, art galleries opening all over the place. Even a vegan coffee shop close to the state capitol building! There’s a lot to love here, and although there are certainly times when I’m riding my bike down a side street here that I miss being right in the middle of traffic on Broad Street in Philadelphia, there’s also something to be said for walking out of my job every night, looking to my right, and seeing the beautiful Capitol Dome less than a mile away, or walking my dog six blocks and being along the Susquehanna River Trail, almost always as the sun sets.

 

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The fact is, the system IS rigged against Trump, in the sense that the media (hold up; did I say the MEDIA?? You hate the media, don’t you? [I’m probably not talking to YOU here, but to about 30 people on my Facebook who bitch more about the media than the atrocities they report on}  But what is it you are talking about, when you say “the media”? It’s an institution with hundreds of thousands of outlets, platforms, and systems, and it’s actually one of the best things about our country–one of the things that really DOES keep us free. But see, you gotta do some work, too. You have to sift through some things, figure out what sources you trust, the nuances of how to best receive information from the media, and where and when you receive it. You have to READ things. Hey, quick–who’s your favorite columnist? Don’t have one? How do you HATE the media when you’ve never really consumed it to begin with? Stop being lazy. The American freedom of press truly does set us apart–and I’m not one for “American Exceptionalism”. But yeah–most of the media operates by making a profit, so be careful, and above all READ things. And it does make a difference if it’s printed on paper; it’s harder to trick your eye into only reading the “interesting” stuff or items you already agree with. Just read the news. Hating and callously dismissing “the media” is just active laziness. And memes are not the media. FYI) are not obligated to report on an aspiring despot who would end the American experiment like it was no big deal. The “media”–contrary to what many seem to think–are not obligated to be neutral observers of facts only at all times. They are to report facts, yes–but also interpret them (again, this is where understanding media nuance will serve you well: there ARE places you can go for just fact, and places you can go for opinion, and places you can go for analysis. If you go to one place expecting it to be something it isn’t, you might think it’s corrupt, when in fact you’re just a novice). So yes, the media are biased against Trump because they are reporting on a man who would destroy our nation–and harm the world. And it is not their DUTY to remain neutral. The media IS biased–but not against Trump; they’re biased against evil.

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I wasn’t ready for Thom Yorke’s solo album, The Eraser, when it came out in 2006.  I was baffled by it, listened to it twice, and put it away–not knowing if it was bad or I was daft.  I put it in on a whim today and it turns out I am ready for it.

 

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Two nights ago, I got to meet Jon Krakauer, an author who is currently among America’s top 3 or 4 nonfiction authors.  I’ve admittedly only read two of Jon’s books–“Into the Wild” being his most famous book and a work that has touched my life very deeply.  In it, Krakauer tells the story of Christopher McCandless, who left a very comfprtable and promising life, wandered the country with little to no money and no contact with anyone for over a year, eventually hiking into the Alaskan wilderness where he would eventually die.  Chris’s story is complex and multi-layered–it can’t be reduced to one single element.  When I was at very low points in my life–still drinking and in deep depressions–Chris’s decision to disappear and walk into the wild until he died appealed to me.  Later, sober and happy, other elements of Chris’s philosophy and his journey resonated with me.  Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to a man he met on his sojourn across the country.  The man–who had been deeply affected by a month or so he spent with Chris–received the postcard after Chris died:

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” –Christopher McCandless

While it was McCandless whose story has so impacted me, Krakauer’s decision to tell it, and the respect he gave the story, resonated.  In the many years since “Into the Wild” was published, Chris’s story has become of major import to a growing legion of people who find something inspiring about him, and Krakauer does not shy away from his role as a steward of the story.  It was an intense honor to meet him.

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The sun goes up, the sun goes down. The wind begins to whistle through branches now bare with late months.  The sky grays, the wind grays, everywhere color mutes, curls into itself.  Even the insects look at you with worry.

 

 

 

Why We All Need the Cubs to Lose the World Series

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 23, 2016 by sethdellinger

First, a few points of order:

1.  When I say “we all”, I am only talking about baseball fans.  I am under no illusion this is of significant import to the wider world.

2.  I like the Chicago Cubs.

OK, now.  Here’s where I’m at.  I know we all feel for the much-ballyhooed long-suffering Cubs fans.  It’s been over a hundred years since they won a championship.  And they have always, at least within my lifetime, been a likeable team, and how can you not like Wrigley Field?  And all the mythos around their losing streak (the “curse”, the goat, Steve Bartman, etc).  The Cubs winning a championship would be HUGE.  We have ALL grown up with that storyline in baseball–everyone alive today has grown up with that being part of their baseball experience.

I vote we keep it that way.  While I feel for the Cubs fans (but really now–they’ve had plenty to enjoy from the Bulls, Blackhawks, and even the White Sox), in the quickly-evolving world of baseball, the Cubs losing streak is too powerful of a tale to give up.  It helps to connect baseball fans within our grand narrative.  The Red Sox used to have a long losing streak, and it’s now over, and with the face of baseball inevitably changing as our culture accelerates through change, let’s not lose some of the only historic stories we have.  If the Cubs are no longer perennial losers, what do we have left???

Listen, I hear you.  You think I’m being a weird contrarian.  And maybe I am.  I like this Cubs team (but I like Cleveland’s team more).  And think about this: wouldn’t it make an excruciating but undeniably delicious chapter in the Cubs’ losing streak for them to make it to the series and lose???  To Cleveland, on the same year that entire city’s losing streak was just broken by their basketball team???  This world series, I’m rooting for intense, epic historic narrative.  Plus I saw the Cleveland baseball team play when I lived in Erie :)

I Am Henceforth No Longer Paying Attention to Professional Football*

Posted in Rant/ Rave, Uncategorized with tags , on March 14, 2016 by sethdellinger

Those who have known me or been reading my blog for more than about six years will remember that it was not that long ago that I was completely anti-sports.  I thought they were a waste of time, a diversion for the masses away from the things that really mattered, and void of any real meaningful human content.

In some ways, I still believe that.

But for some reason, those years ago, I decided to give in, first with hockey, then baseball, then the whole shebang.

I am now firmly in the camp of baseball, hockey and basketball being worthy pursuits of not just entertainment, but, when approached properly, intellectual and emotional import (when digested with moderation).  However, I am here to announce my plans to stop following the National Football League effective immediately.

There are numerous cultural and societal reasons to stop giving money and attention to the NFL–all or most of which I agree with.  But you don’t need me to list them here or discuss them; many other more eloquent writers have explored the topics ad nauseum, and if you don’t know what those topics are, me listing them here wouldn’t be of interest to you, either.  The fact is, I could probably force myself to overlook many of them and continue, with some guilt, to gulp down the admittedly highly-entertaining product the NFL offers.  But it’s not just these dense, important cultural issues that influence me.  The fact is, I also have come to see professional American football as a kind of clown sport.

The rules change so often and so drastically simply to tweak the television viewing experience and to highlight the superstars of the league, so that more dramatic storylines can be crafted for the endless hours of pre-game programming.  Almost nobody watching the game understands what’s going on in the game, other than there is a quarterback and receivers. Rivalries, quests, comebacks (the kinds of human stories that make all sports great) are invented out of whole cloth, exaggerated, repeated constantly; although I have no doubt the game is still real, and brutal, and not pre-determined, one can’t help but feel the comparison to professional wrestling becoming more and more apt.  While the “stories” of sports are what really attract me, the stories in the NFL have become melodramatic soap operas.

I got one of my sports magazines in the mail a few days ago, and Peyton Manning was on the cover (despite it being the NFL off-season and an intense moment in the NBA and NHL seasons) and all I could think to myself was, why wouldn’t they put a real athlete on the cover?  Now, I’m sure Mr. Manning is really a very gifted athlete, but the game he plays no longer evokes within me a thought of epic sports possibilities; it just makes me think about what absolute inane bullshit has been crafted around him.  I just don’t have time for it anymore.

*two caveats, and judge me all you want: if it looks like the Eagles might make a deep playoff run, I’m back in.  It’s hypocrisy but I don’t care.  Also Karla bought me a sweet Eagles hoodie early in our relationship.  It has sentimental value and is a really great hoodie.  I will continue to wear this.

I’m All-In For a Trump Nomination

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 2, 2016 by sethdellinger

Ultimately, finally, the nomination of Donald Trump for the presidency makes sense.  I welcome it.  Bring it on.

Trump’s ascendancy makes real and concrete the culture battle we’ve all been engaged heavily in for about ten years–with everybody either on one side or the other (those of you still arguing for some sort of middle ground are as obsolete as a laser printer).  We’ve crossed the Rubicon–there’s no going back, at the moment, to more moderate times. However bad it may be for our country, we are now all going to be forced to choose LIBERAL or CONSERVATIVE.  That’s how it’s going to be, so you might as well choose and commit highly.

It was very nice and comforting, for a few years there, to think there was a way to meet in the middle.  A way to politely ignore it when your friends said things you fundamentally disagreed with.  A way to still lose yourself in the films of an actor you heard was on “the other side”.  It was nice to think the world was soft enough that we could still love each other despite our differences.

But it isn’t.  Not now.  Maybe some day, it will be again.  We can hope it will be.  But at this moment in history, the world isn’t soft-it’s hard, with edges that cut.  The issues we face now are issues of good versus evil, of which fundamental worldview will govern us and set the course for all of our futures.  It’s too important for softness, or politely ignoring those who disagree with you.

It’s tempting to hope against hope that somehow Trump will still not get the nomination, but that’s wrongheaded.  If some milquetoast stand-in like Cruz or Rubio got the nomination, that would just forestall the inevitable, giving us four or eight more years of almost deciding who we (as America) are.  We need Trump to get nominated so we can either win or lose this battle for the soul of our nation–so that our future course can finally be decided, for better or worse.

Bring him on.  It is very rarely in the whole of human history a great nation is presented with such binary, epic choices.

 

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