One Year

The wind in New Rochelle sucks.  Which is to say, if I had a choice, I'd never come back to this blustery town based on that single criterion.  Walking from the train in the morning, climbing the chain-link enclosed stairs to street level, everything seems fine.  And then, just as I turn the corner on the Trump Tower monstrosity on Huguenot Avenue, the wind slaps me in the face, as if it's been laying in wait to ruffle my wet hair and invade my body's every nook and cranny for the entirety of the walk to the office.

But today, as I made this irritating trip, I remembered that in its sameness, today is different.  As of the 31st (Sunday), I will have been in New York an entire year, and this day marks my one year anniversary at the company towards which I trudge through the wind daily.  As people, I think we tend to make a bigger deal of these occasions than is deserved, but in my case (as I'm sure is true of all specific cases), I think it represents a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon the ups and downs of the past year.

Perhaps most present in my mind is the concept of freedom.  I've been away from home and on my own for a full year, free from the influence of my parents (which was never really an issue, to be honest).  I pay my own bills.  I'm free to make my own decisions.  I'm also reading Freedom by Johnathan Franzen, a primary theme of which is the double-edged sword freedom presents to our lives.  I've also been free of health insurance, a car, and large amounts of discretionary spending this past year, which many will recognize as purely optimistic phrasing of a pretty frustrating situation.

It's been incredibly stressful, uplifting, and growth-inducing to be on my own.  I came to this city full of hope and with a heart open to change and malleable to the influences I might find here.  I also arrived with a deep depression fueled by personal uncertainty, various life events, and almost entirely empty pockets.  In a lot of ways, it's one of those typical "kid moves to the city" stories, but that would be simplifying things greatly.  I remember the fear with which I stepped onto the subway platform for the first time, the confusion at seeing such high prices on such simple grocery staples as bread, and the anxiety of being the only polite human being within a ten mile radius (I was raised in a small town, in the South).  All that changed, and quickly.  Within two months I was in the full swing of things:  I became rude, learned to advocate for myself in tricky situations, and had managed to quell my depression with music, writing, and personal exploration.

I would be hard pressed to find a dull moment in the last year.  From the all-night parties, to the days spent in my dear friends' garden, to the moments swiftly riding my bike through the green wilderness of Prospect Park where I thought I might cry from the beauty and transience of all life and all things, my life has been absolutely filled to the brim.  Had I known what I was up against by moving to the North, I might have decided against it to avoid the stress, the perpetual fatigue, and the frequent emotional suffering, but looking back, I know it was worth it.  Trite though it may be, it's impossible to put a price on friendship, on human connections, or on life lessons that are felt and experienced rather than taught second-hand.  And I know, with all my heart, that the experiences of the last year will stay with me forever.

I still remember the wonderment of reconnecting with old college friends after a full year of absence, of taking my little brother with me to a New Years celebration where hugs were exchanged and lives were changed forever by the new faces and names I became acquainted with.  The following months constituted some of the most severe ups and downs of my life:  love found, lost, and finally cemented into eternity, personalities of friends expounded upon and appearing more and more nuanced, and the discovery that within each of us is a stable core capable of withstanding the sharpest pain of humanity's inadvertent cruelty.  We are all fragile beings, each one of us, and sometimes we make mistakes that shatter the glass surrounding another's heart.  Ultimately, however, we all have the tools to redeem ourselves and to redeem those who have harmed us in the past.  In the past year, I learned true forgiveness.

And more recently, from within the ever-branching circle of friends and loved ones that has captured me in the center of its ever-so-sticky web, I found devotion and heartfelt human compassion in another human being.  The connections that led me to arrive where I am today make no sense and point to a unique human randomness that operates not on the principle of a simple lack of order, but rather chooses indiscriminately from the relevant and useful aspects of your life, illuminating a path that you can choose to follow if your mind is attuned properly.  In one of those rare moments of clarity, I stumbled upon a person who has become one of my best friends and a better conscience at times than I can provide for myself.  She knows that as much as we pretend to, none of us truly stand tall on our own, not without the love and positivity of others.  I learn new things from her each day, with one recurring lesson:  there's nothing better in the world than another human being who you can connect with deeply and without fear.

So, that dear readers, has been my year.  Somehow, by being far away from my roots, I've grown closer to them.  My family has become dear to me in a new and more profound way, and my own life has been an exercise in juggling the responsibilities and privileges of being free in a society that generally discourages such nonsense.  And on the cusp of my second year in New York, all I can say is:  bring it on.  Bring it all, however quickly, irritatingly, or frustratingly you want to, because I think that despite my complaining (sorry to those who have had to endure this!), this city has made me a stronger, better person.

Although, I honestly could do without the wind.

Open Hardware Blog


A long hiatus. But I'm back!

Well, it's been a very, very long time.  I feel like it's going to be really difficult to get "back on the horse" with this blog, but you can really only take it one step at a time.  I feel like this blog has sort of lived out its usefulness, and since I'm spending so much time focusing on my budding amplifier business, I'm going to start a new blog on that very subject!  Stay tuned, as later today I will be launching it and spreading the news.

The Politics of Music: Part two [music]

I'm BACK!  I mean, for now.

Last time I introduced the idea of music being a historical record of political movements and trends in our society.  Today I'd like to discuss what that has contributed to my generation in particular.

First, which generation do I belong to?  We generally define generations narrowly, but for our purposes, I'd like to use a broader brush.  My generation is defined by a proficiency in technology, the expectation that information be available quickly and constantly, and a desire to be fluent in the social memes of today.  This includes anyone from high school age to those in their mid-30s.  It can easily include those older than that, but because there is a higher chance of these individuals having actually lived the history being referenced in music, we will put them in a different category for now and discuss their experience a little later.

So, we have this broad swath of society that has the capability and desire to be exposed to the intensely diverse variety of music in the world today.  Mp3 players allow us to bring this music with us everywhere we go, and the internet gives us access to crowd-sourced databases of information on bands, albums, and lyrics.  The ability to download large quantities of music (legally or otherwise) means that if you want it, you can get it, period.  Availability of music has almost made obsolete the radio and other services that don't allow the end-user to choose which song they are listening to at what time.


The culprit behind my inability to write:  work.  My mind is bound up by the futility of resisting the pull of complacency that is so deliberately laid out for my eyes to gaze upon.  This is not the life I want.  This is not the future I foresaw, nor the future I will inherit.  Stay strong, fellow resisters.  Don't give in to the allure of the 9-5 time-waste.

The Politics of Music: Part one [music]

I have lost my gumption to write on this blog.  This is an attempt to reclaim said gumption.

I am supremely interested in the question of how people receive their perspective on politics.  Every generation has their defining moment, or set of moments, that catapults them from political adolescence into political maturity.  My generation was framed by 9/11 and the political reactions that preceded and followed it.  Our parents generation was framed by the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, and the cold war.  [Editor's note:  this is a clear generalization, possibly very inaccurate, and is not the point of the post!]

The point is, our political consciousness tends to crystallize at a certain point based on the experiences we have, and this consciousness is organized generationally to some degree.  We tend to think that our political knowledge comes from books, school, and teachers.  This is true to an extent, but what about other media sources?  Print media certainly has a large effect on the ways we view current events and those past events that remain in our cultural consciousness.  Television and the internet both provide us with the same scrolling, up-to-the-minute source of news such that anyone in our society is almost forced to be aware of SOMETHING current, whether it be political or not.

I'm purposely eliminating media sources here in order to arrive at the one I believe has the most impact on us:  music.  Like art, music possesses the quality of being "timeless," which is to say, able to be enjoyed in a context other than the one in which it was created.  Unlike art (of the painted or sculpted variety), music made in the last 150 or so years transmits its message without a necessity for an education dedicated to its appreciation.  It does so using familiar tropes, mechanisms, and above all by using lyrics that we can understand simply by speaking the same language.

Songs about war have always existed, but as of late, they have taken on more and more political undertones.  Songs about sex have reflected the way we think and talk about sexuality, and also the sub-cultures within our society and how these specific slices of people in a specific time comprehend it.  We can sing about feelings and sensations using similes and metaphors to current events that later fade into history, thus informing future listeners to the way in which we think about love, hate, loyalty, and so forth.

In the next parts of this topic, I want to talk about the ways in which music contributes to political movements, collective memory, generational forgetting and political apathy.  Those will have to wait for tomorrow, though.

Stay tuned!!

The Increasingly Delicate Nature of Reality [scope]

Today, we take a trip into scary territory.  Reality, as a concept, is integral to our understanding of the universe.  Philosophies that explain away reality are explaining away the very basis of existence--without it, we exist only in theory.  I'm not interested in proving what is real.  Most things I write, think, and do are based on the assumption that SOMETHING, however trivial, is real.  Surreality can substitute for reality in a pinch, as well, so that's on the table at all times.

What's interesting, though, is the nature of our present reality versus the reality of a citizen of the British Empire in the mid 1800s.  Our ideas of permanence would differ very drastically from theirs, and by association our sense of time and progress.  Let's take the example of the computing device.  In the 1850s, this would have been a slide rule at most, an abacus if you lived in the east, or simply a pen and paper.  If you were really lucky and knew a Mr. Charles Babbage, you might have gotten a glimpse of the future in the form of a "difference engine," the precursor to the modern binary processing computer.  The devices of this age were robust, easily integrated into life, and generally relied more on a person's ability to manipulate numbers rather than a device's ability to perform without error.  Thus, the computing device of the mid-1800s was relatively slow but ultimately reliable and did not require repairs on any grand scale.

A blog about social change, written from Brooklyn, New York. Currently looking for contributors.