Brain Crumbs

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

I used to have a side­blog for one-offs, riffs and links, now that’s what Facebook is for. However, here are some things I picked up on, re­al­ized, or thought about over my trip to Indiana last week.

  • The first thing is one I’ve al­ways won­dered about: Why is the Yellow Freight Company’s logo or­ange?
  • I saw a big bill­board with a bald ea­gle and American flag that said “America — Bless God”. This doesn’t make any sense. America can’t bless God be­cause God is from whom all bless­ings flow. The top 3 hits for the phrase could gen­er­ate no end of cul­tural crit­i­cism writ­ing. I could go on, and would re­ally like to, but I’ll spare every­one.
  • It took over a year, but I’ve now trained my­self both phys­i­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally to eat smaller por­tion sizes. That means, on the oc­ca­sions that I pig out, I’m ac­tu­ally just eat­ing what Americans con­sider to be nor­mal por­tions. My weight fluc­tu­ates be­tween 178 & 182, and since when­ever I try to dip be­low that, my ap­petite goes into over­drive, I fig­ure that’s right where my body wants to be.
  • Picked up this sweet piece of fur­ni­ture for $70:

Antique Oak Dresser


Thursday, 15 July 2010

I talk about Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction too much. By too much, I mean every cou­ple of years. I re­ally should read some other stuff that he’s writ­ten, so I don’t get too pseudo-in­tel­lec­tu­ally schol­ar­ship-boy­ish. Like I’m about to.

I col­lect stuff, not a lot, but stuff nonethe­less. It used to be base­ball cards, then Tolkien books, then good sci­ence fic­tion in gen­eral and now beach glass, good movies, and lo­cal mu­sic para­pher­na­lia. I used to col­lect things as if the things them­selves were pre­cious. Benjamin would call this the aura of the art ob­ject. He posits that orig­i­nal works of art have greater value than re­pro­duc­tions. That’s the kind of rea­son that peo­ple go for mint first edi­tions, signed copies, &c. There’s noth­ing wrong with that. I would still love to get my mitts on a first edi­tion Starship Troopers with the awe­some dust-jacket, but my collector’s cri­te­rion has changed over the years.

I no longer col­lect things as if the things them­selves were pre­cious, I col­lect them be­cause of what they con­tain. So now when I’m at Half-price Books, and I see a hard cover of LeGuin’s Lathe of Heaven with the orig­i­nal dust-jacket cover art, I don’t care that its just the book club edi­tion, I care that it is hard-bound and there­fore more durable than my pa­per­back ver­sion. The dura­bil­ity mat­ters be­cause it pro­tects what is re­ally im­por­tant about the book, the story it­self. So I’ll pick up an Asimov om­nibus and get rid of my an­cient pa­per­backs (which are worth more than the om­nibus) be­cause the om­nibus will last longer.

I don’t mind that my Egon Schiele came from All Posters or that the Death of Marat in my bath­room (which never fails to make me act dis­gust­ingly smug) came from the same. If my art se­lec­tions are con­sid­ered a col­lec­tion, I have what I have be­cause I like it, not nec­es­sar­ily for its ex­trin­sic value. I try to col­lect ex­pe­ri­ences, emo­tions and mo­ments of com­mu­ni­ca­tion now, not every last edi­tion of the Lord of the Rings. (Although if you want to hook me up, I won’t com­plain).

Cleveland Fremdschämen

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Last week, I posted on the fol­low­ing on Facebook:

Cleveland and LeBron should be two, re­spon­si­ble, con­sent­ing adults, and if it is time to move on, the last thing Cleveland needs to be is the co-de­pen­dent, I’ll-debase-myself-if-only-you’ll-stay, undig­ni­fied, crazy ex.

I’m not go­ing to de­bate the mer­its of what­ever de­ci­sion LeBron makes. That’s up to him. What I’d rather talk about is Cleveland’s be­hav­ior re­gard­ing his de­ci­sion. Fremdschämen doesn’t even be­gin to de­scribe it.

Pinging the Problem

Connie Schultz wrote a column touch­ing a bit on this, and the 2030 Club mem­bers quoted by her get a bit closer to the point, but still miss it. I fig­ure the best way to root at this is­sue is to take a cou­ple of ideas from the column and point out where they get de­railed.

Mike Gruss thinks that “in­stead of spend­ing all this money and ef­fort to keep LeBron, lo­cal leaders/​celebs/​billboards [should be] fo­cused on stem­ming brain drain­ing [sic] and keep­ing other peo­ple un­der 30.”

Good thought, but money isn’t the is­sue and keep­ing folks younger than me isn’t the is­sue.

Then there’s the folks from the 2030 Club who say at­ti­tude mat­ters.

That’s the first step! But then, it sud­denly the 2030 Club point morphs into wait­ing for po­lit­i­cal lead­ers or the City of Cleveland to come to them. Derailed!

A Flanking Maneuver at The Big Fix

All the talk about LeBron be­ing a ne­ces­sity for this City, and the hy­per­bolic “he’s the only thing keep­ing this town from go­ing ghost” is sys­tem­at­i­cally symp­to­matic in the Cleveland zeit­geist. This town al­ways looks for The Big Fix Silver Bullet Solution™. Roldo has been beat­ing this drum for longer than I’ve been alive. LeBron James, The Medical Mart, Gateway, are the three that come to mind most eas­ily. All are/​were sup­posed to save Cleveland from Certain Doom™, right?

Big fixes aren’t the an­swer, or just a band-aid, or any other crummy anal­ogy. What hap­pened with Katrina, the Haitian earth­quake, Deepwater Horizon? Thousands of peo­ple rushed to the sources of pain like white blood cells af­ter an in­fec­tion. Thousands of in­di­vid­ual so­lu­tions to the same prob­lem, work­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously, but not nec­es­sar­ily in con­cert.

The Real Problem

Sports fans think the Big Fix is keep­ing LeBron, the 2030 Club thinks the Big Fix is get­ting politi­cos & power play­ers to pay at­ten­tion to the 2030 Club, other folks think throw­ing money at this or that is the Big Fix.

Cleveland doesn’t need a big fix, be­cause Cleveland ain’t broke. What’s broke are the at­ti­tudes of the folks who live here. It is easy to come up with ideas that spend some­one else’s money, it is easy to say that no one in power pays at­ten­tion to you. The Real Problem isn’t with Cleveland, it is with the folks who think that Cleveland is the prob­lem.

A Possible Solution

If there is one thing I’ve learned in this town, it is that you can’t wait for oth­ers to give you per­mis­sion, to come up with ideas, or to im­ple­ment them. You take ini­tia­tive. Cleveland is a place where you have to do things your­self; a true American city. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of talk, but not much fol­low-through. What Cleveland needs are the hun­dreds and thou­sands of young peo­ple men­tioned in Connie’s column, plus the hun­dreds and thou­sands of every­one else to have a good at­ti­tude about this town, to re­al­ize that Cleveland ain’t broke, and to do their part to make it a bit bet­ter any­way.

Attitudes mat­ter, and Clevelanders have to stop feel­ing en­ti­tled to sav­ior ath­letes, en­ti­tled to at­ten­tion from those in power, and en­ti­tled to cash money. People haven’t been flock­ing to Portland, OR, or Austin, TX for years be­cause of their star ath­letes or con­ven­tion cen­ter fa­cil­i­ties but be­cause the peo­ple that live there are pas­sion­ate about liv­ing there.

You get what you work for, not what you beg for. So in­stead of beg­ging for LeBron to save us, and pay­ing folks to stand on street cor­ners hold­ing plac­ards that cheapen the mean­ing of the words Home, Commitment and Mission, we should love Cleveland be­cause it is home, and be com­mit­ted to the mis­sion of our com­mu­nity; thou­sands of peo­ple with their own so­lu­tions, work­ing for each other, not them­selves.

The beg­ging is just plain em­bar­rass­ing.