"Love Workshop" Box Set Now Available!

by Derrick Bostrom


Say what you will about the convenience of the cloud, there are still some people who prefer the greater perceived permanence of a piece of plastic that they can stick on their shelf, toss in the back seat of their car or stash in the back of their closet. Those folks will relish the following piece of news: the Love Workshop Box Set is finally a reality!

Yep, Andy Olsen at Radio Free Phoenix has finally put final touches on his six-disk compilation of KDKB's legendary comedy program from 1976. And now, he's offering this labor of love to the public for less than what you'd pay for a tank of gas these days. Andy and his shopping cart and standing by right now, waiting for your purchase:

http://radiofreephoenix.com/loveworkshopcd.html

Whether this makes the shows archived here, at WFMU's Beware Of The Blog and at Archive Dot Org more or less of a valued public service depends, I suppose, on how you stand on this whole getting-your-entertainment-for free-from-the-Internet issue. It's moot point to me, since I received my copy for free anyway (I was, after all, a contributor). But if I hadn't, I'm sure I'd buy one just the same.

Be sure to visit the Bostworld "Love Workshop" tribute pages for more info on this great program, including audio from the show, articles from the period and a lengthy exclusive interview with one half of the "Love Workshop" creative team, Russ "Wonderful Russ" Shaw.

(Now, if someone would come forward with recordings of "Bunkhouse Capers...")


Taming The Beast Inside Of Me

by Derrick Bostrom


About a year ago, when national treasure Merlin Mann took a brief hiatus from his blog, 43 Folders, he recruited a selection of substitutes to post in his absence. Much to my amazement, I was one of his recruits (due no doubt to Merlin's love of the Meat Puppets and not anything he might have encountered in these pages). Time permitted the completion of only two pieces, and I fear neither revealed much in the way of useful tips and tricks for his life-hacking hungry readers. I was more interested in poking fun at the whole idea of "productivity strategy" than I was in actually being "productive."

As it turns out, I wasn't as far off the mark as I thought. Merlin's return to 43 Folders has seen him take just the same kind of turn. His rants against "fiddling," of allowing "tools" to get between you and your work, have become increasingly shrill, as he twists somewhat publicly in the wind, trying to kick his message up a notch. I guess fatherhood will do that to you. I've noticed that getting older certainly does. I myself have begun to enter serious re-evaluation mode about the current state of my own "creative work."

What better time, then, to "reblog" one of my 43 Folder articles. This particular piece was never promoted to the front page, so hardly anyone read it anyway. And after all, Christmas is coming, and daddy's got to get out there on the street corner and hustle a flower or two. If a filler post helps give a man some badly needed breathing room, well, so much the better:

It's the central contradiction at the heart of our all-too-finite existence that we cannot reconcile the uncontainability of our dreams with the futile limitation of our resources. It's no wonder we've come rely on strategies to get through the day. In David Allen's world, the metaphor is the overloaded information-driven workplace. For Merlin, it's the in-box. Much like baseball, which employs elaborate rules to 'score' the uncontrollable moment when pine touches horse-hide, or Civil War reenactments, which apply a comforting tactical grid to our nation's most chaotic psychic trauma, GTD derives its power from our need to impose our will on random events. No matter what fate has in store, all we have to do is write it down and throw it in a box.

But some situations require us to think outside the box.

I've never been very good at handling demands from the outside world. I haven't answered my telephone in decades. When it comes to something like getting a haircut, visiting the dentist or changing the oil in my car, I'll either lie awake all night worrying about it or forget about it altogether. So I desperately wanted to believe in any strategy that could help me dispatch unpleasant tasks without the need to obsess over them. Once I made that initial leap of faith, the rest came surprisingly easy. Sure enough, I was amazed to discover how quickly I could swat down those hated chores with my very first trusted system.

As self-loathing abated, I looked forward to the promise of projects that might actually cause me personal satisfaction upon completion, and not merely relief. But external obligations sprout all by themselves, like weeds. I found myself spending far too much time whacking tedious projects off my plate and not nearly enough on the ones I truly loved. I came to understand that if my only motivation was avoidance of the pain from open loops, I'd do nothing but battle these impositions for the rest of my life. I knew I'd have to rethink my system.

Some stubborn projects defy the equation: the pain of doing them far outweighs the pain of leaving them undone. For these tasks, I've created an entirely new type of context, which I've set just above and slightly to the right of 'deferred.' I call it 'punishment.' Tasks falling into this category include certain home plumbing repairs, financial drudgery which I haven't figured out how to automate yet, or anything that tends to remind me of my inevitable demise (such as pruning photo albums of recently deceased pets or trying to read anything set below 12-point type). In other words, this context would include any task that would tend to ruin my day if attempted.

I save those tasks for when my day is already ruined. Whether I've overplayed my hand somehow and allowed my demons to surface, or just simply made the colossal miscalculation of allowing myself to 'believe' (whatever that means), that's when I pull out the punishment list. Suddenly, the tasks on this list don't look so foreboding -- that's when I know its time to jump on them. The benefits to this approach are threefold: first, I receive my self-administered comeuppance, second, I move a dreaded project forward, and third, if the project truly belonged on the list in the first place, then it's likely I'll get the opportunity to bang my knuckles against the pipes hard enough to restore emotional equilibrium.

This may sound a little extreme, but it works. The last time I tried this method, I was hoarse from screaming at my tools and there was a pile of broken pipes and kitchen paneling out behind the house. But my newly-installed under-the-sink reverse osmosis unit worked like a charm! Furthermore, I'd completely forgotten whatever was bothering me in the first place.

Give it a try, but make sure you have plenty of band-aids on hand.


Live A Little at LuxuriaMusic.com!

by Derrick Bostrom


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Starting this weekend, the fine folks over at LuxuriaMusic.com will be presenting "C'mon! Live A Little," a new show hosted by Yours Truly. The program will run for an hour at 3PM (Pacific Time) on Saturdays, and feature the kind of edifying fun and music readers of the Bostworld adventures have come to expect.

Naturally, when they offered me this opportunity, I jumped for it. I've been a huge fan of the station since day one. Though I don't have the time to immerse myself in their online community as much as I'd like to, I love their restless playlist of lounge music, obscure rock, jazz, novelties and pop music from around the world. My current podcast series "Your Favorite Little Podcast," taken from a show I did several years ago, is directly influenced by them. In fact, when Luxuria returned to the air four years ago (after a two-year hiatus), I donated all the songs from that show to them. Many of them are still in rotation.

My new show gets it's name from a teen movie featuring Bobby Vee and Jackie DeShannon. The film itself is a pretty terrible fast-forward-fest, but I love the title song, especially a scene where it is performed by Suzie Kaye.After being introduced by baseball legend Bo Bo Belinski, she sings and go-go dances in front of a faceless rock group of Wrecking Crew wannabees referred to only as "The Boys" (though it probably is the Wrecking Crew). Though she also appeared with Elvis Presley in "Clambake," this scene is Suzie Kaye's true cinematic moment. She's all but forgotten now, but she'll be joining me every week.

I hope you will too. After Lux made such a kind offer, it would be ungracious of me not to try and deliver my audience. So please: won't you be sure to cruise over to Lux and give it a listen? Become a member of their swelling ranks, not just during my show, but all week long. Get the LuxuriaMusic.com habit today!

(Note: You can get show playlists here.)

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Save Internet Radio

by Derrick Bostrom


Last week, the new royalty rates for streaming radio stations were announced. A station with 1000 listeners will now have to pay $150,000 a year in royalties. This effectively forces independent webcasters off the air. The worst part: the rates are effective retroactively to the beginning of 2006! Help get this senseless policy overturned: http://savenetradio.org/

Sign the petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/SIR2007r/petition.html

Read more: http://www.save-internet-radio.com/2007/03/02/save-internet-radio/


Pursuing Change Through the Establishment of Discourse

by Derrick Bostrom


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By this time, any of us who cared about the mid-term elections in the first place are pretty good and sick of the whole thing and just want to forget about it and move on. Now is therefore the perfect time to rub my readers' noses in the fiasco that is our dreary, exhausting political "system."

You know, I pride myself in being a crank. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor energy to achieve the heights of public misanthropy I aspire to. And though I try to make up for my lack of talent though sheer force of smugness, I also make sure to sound the alert whenever I discover a voice rising out of the contentious mush that pleases my ear and tickles my fancy (such as James Howard Kunstler’s column, which I continue to follow every week).

During my election day web trolling last week, I  found a great essay by Jeff Snyder, "Voting: Suppressing Change Through the Pursuit of Power." Managing to be be both insightful and mind-numbingly wordy at the same time, Snyder decries the essential counter-productivity of the American electoral process, as well as the damage it inflicts upon the national discourse:

The essence of the vote is the acquisition of power over others, not, note well, the good faith determination of the relative worthiness of specific societal goals. If it were the latter, the vote would be structured as a vote on goals or programs, and the Congress and President could be a semi-permanent group of functionaries or administrators whose job was nothing more or less than to implement those goals in good faith. As the prevalence of negative campaigning illustrates, because the essence of the contest is to determine who will rule over others, the contest invariably turns on the character of the persons who will exercise this power.... The nature of the contest -- the pursuit of power over others -- by its nature creates polarization and opposition, and calls forth ugly emotions and underhanded tactics.

Though such circumlocution by itself offers ample pleasures, Mr. Snyder also makes a good point, albeit perhaps an obvious one. But he's just warming up. Snyder continues at considerable length:

It is sometimes averred that, whatever defects government by majority rule has, it has the merit of minimizing conflict by providing a means by which the majority can achieve or pursue its goals, without resorting to actual violence and bloodshed. This is wrong, however, because the system is founded on opinion and it costs next to nothing to have an opinion.... It is far too easy to hold beliefs that are little more than self-flattering opinions about oneself that one takes credit for holding.... Far from minimizing conflict, therefore, a system of majority rule founded on consensus multiples conflict and makes conflict more likely, for it is too easy for men to espouse beliefs and principles for which they, personally, will never experience serious consequence, and for which others -- some small minority -- will pay the price.

By establishing a system founded on the marshaling of opinion, people who believe that the best or most efficacious means of achieving their goals for the country is by securing victory for their party are shunted into perpetually busying themselves with building party and consensus, and to that extent cease doing actual work to achieve their goals. And this, from the perspective of the elites who benefit from the status quo, is the great stability and improvement inherent in democracy, in contrast to other forms of government: by offering the commoners the prospect of acquiring power, and a power founded on marshaling those who share similar views, people busy themselves primarily with the acquisition and maintenance of power and efforts to build "consensus," thereby effectively preserving and prolonging the status quo.

He goes on to cite Thoreau and Dickens before reaching his conclusion, that real change can come only from without the political process. For example, a truly meaningful action for someone against the war would not be to elect Democrats, but rather to work to create alternatives for people who "choose the military out of the necessity of their personal circumstances." Frankly, I couldn't agree more.

All of this is presented under the aegis of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, a purveyor of weighty tomes and long essays about various aspect of civil and fiscal policy. Unfortunately, I have almost as much time and energy for the in-depth study of cranks as I have for the becoming of one. So if the site has a secret agenda beneath their their ostensible libertarianism, I do apologize. They describe themselves thusly:

The Ludwig von Mises Institute is the research and educational center of classical liberalism, libertarian political theory, and the Austrian School of economics. Working in the intellectual tradition of Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) and Murray N. Rothbard (1926-1995), with a vast array of publications, programs, and fellowships, the Mises Institute, with offices in Auburn, Alabama, seeks a radical shift in the intellectual climate as the foundation for a renewal of the free and prosperous commonwealth....It is the mission of the Mises Institute to restore a high place for theory in economics and the social sciences, encourage a revival of critical historical research, and draw attention to neglected traditions in Western philosophy.

While I could never consider myself a believer in free-market economic policy, I can't help but admire the kind of free time the Institute and its founder Lew Rockwell must have on their hands. And as someone who also struggles with loquaciousness, I can offer a certain sympathy. For people of like enthusiasm, I recommend both sites. Readers secure enough in their own beliefs and confident enough to navigate the precarious waters of partisan discourse will find these essays very entertaining, for both their outsider vantage point and their wordiness.


Documenting American Squalor: Farm Security Administration

by Derrick Bostrom


The Great Depression actually started long before most of us took notice. I'm not talking about a status-quo cultural landscape of capitalist exploitation and class division. I'm talking about hundreds of thousands of subsistance farmers, isolated for generations, cut off from the latest advances in agricultural best practices, turning region after region of fertile land into fallow, erosion-damaged rural slums.

For the Roosevelt administration and those at the forefront of the New Deal, this situation suggested but one solution: RELOCATION! Created for just this purpose, the Resettlement Administration fanned out across the country, spreading the gospel of cooperative farming and planned "greenbelt" communities. But despite the government's best efforts, farmers insisted on private ownership over collectivism.

Eventually, the RA was folded into the Department of Agriculture's Farm Security Administration, and -- after the necessary purge of a few grumbling hardliners -- shifted its focus to providing small farms with loans and agribusiness training. To help disseminate its progressive agenda, the FSA's Information Division hired some of the greatest photographers of the era to document the face of rural poverty, as well as its relief at the hands of the goverment.

In the process, such notables as Walker Evans,Dorothea Lange,Gordon Parks and Marion Post Wolcott provided evidence of all the New Deal's pet ills: land mismanagement, urban blight, inadequate sanitation, poor health conditions, race discrimination, ignorance and so on. Their body of work for the FSA has it all: history, asthetics, ideology, irony, empathy and above all, an incredible attention to detail.

The Library of Congress hosts a huge online collection of these photographs. If you spend enough time browsing this site, you're left with an awesome, undeniable sense of the nation's crisis in its full scope. It's as if the entire country had turned into Jacob Riis' Fourth Ward.

To make sure you don't miss the ideological slant of the material, many of the photos sport such evocative titles as "Cheap partly-constructed houses lacking water and sewage, Lockland, Ohio", "Houses which have been condemned by the Board of Health, but are still occupied by Negro Migratory workers, Belle Glade, Fla" and "The poorer the land, the more frequently one sees religious signs along highways, Alabama."

Critics of the FSA cite the often transparent staging of some of the scenes, or decry their blatant explotation of human misery to further a political agenda. But we're not here to debate that point. Whatever the motivations or machinations behind these photos, their sheer, powerful beauty can only be applauded. The only fault I can find with this collection is its sheer volume. I have wasted many an hour pouring through seemingly endless catalogues of decrepit buildings, filthy children and demeaning labor. I have become addicted to photos of people canning tomatos and crating celery.

As the thirties turned to the forties, and the country shifted to a war footing, the photographic unit of the FSA moved over to the Office Of War Information. There, it spent its final years documenting militarty adventures overseas and industrial activity here at home. Ironically enough, the same photographers who began the project taking pictures of the coerced relocation of squalid farm dwellers went on to document the forced relocation of Japanese Americans.

Readers are strongly encouraged to visit the Library of Congress Documenting America site.

Here are just a few samples of what you'll find:

 








































In Praise Of Detroit

by Derrick Bostrom


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The first time I crossed the Mississippi with the Meat Puppets was in the fall of 1982. Nothing in in my remote desert experience prepared me for the damp, high-density dilapidation I encountered in the major cities of the midwest and east coast. But in spite of my initial reaction (horror), I was fascinated. I couldn't resist the urge to get out of the van and walk around. After a while, it got so I couldn't wait to get into town and start exploring.

Now that I'm retired from the road, I have to leave the exploring to others. Sure, I love to visit ghost towns in Arizona every chance I get. But we've got nothing around here that compares to a town like Detroit, Michigan. But then, nothing anywhere compares to Detroit, Michigan.

I've been there at least a dozen times, taken some stunning walks, found some great old soul records, and even managed to get harrassed by the locals. (Back in my 20s, I experimented with dyed black hair and sideburns. A guy followed me up the street and accused me of being Elvis Presley. It was special on many levels.) I love the view from the freeway, with these giant old industrial compounds jutting out of the landscape.

But as much as I enjoyed visiting Detroit in person, the Web has made it unnecessary. It seems Detroit is the internet's favorite city as well. Urban explorers, Nazis,firemen, everybody's posting about the Motor City. Bloggers are of course represented, and there's even a DVD coming out about it. And they all make my little strolls look like pathetic walks in the park.

Both The Ruins Of Detroit and DetroitPix offer extensive photographic tours of Motown's remains.

Urban Adventure pays a clandestine visit to the Fisher Body Works.

Forgotten Detroit has an excellent section  detailing the history and ultimate fate of the city's finest hotels, theaters and office bulidings.

I don't mean to be flip about it, or wax too ironic about the grim decline of this once-powerful and dynamic city. The fact is, Detroit's got pone of the best collections of 20th century architechture in the country. Perhaps one day it'll be worth it to somebody to knock 'em all down. But if demoilshed is the only other alternative, I'm satisfied with abandoned. And although Detroit looks more like the future of America than most people are ready to admit, it's nice to know the town's been well documented, just in case it does ever go away.


Clusterfuck Nation

by Derrick Bostrom


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One of my favorite blogs doesn't share out-of-print records or PDFs of old comics. It doesn't keep me abreast of the current state of my online rights and it doesn't offer handy lifehacking tips. It doesn't even link back to this site. All it does is sound a weekly deathknell for our "non-negotiable" way of life.

James Howard Kunstler is the author of "The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of the Oil Age, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century" and "Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape." In his online "diary," he expounds upon his theories, hitting the same note week after week: oil production is about to pass "peak," our lives are about to change drastically, and we're in so profound a denial about it that disaster is a certainty.

He's like an after-dinner game: give him any topic and he'll bring it back around to his key theme in a couple of sentences. And he's right: our culture is so wrapped up in the availability of cheap oil that the transformative effects of it's imminent removal from the scene will be incalculable. But I'm not here to debate nor endorse his points; I'm neither a geologist nor a geopoliticist. I am one, however, who derives great pleasure from the lather Kunstler works himself into, week after week.

I can particularly recommend the January 2nd column, where he makes his predicitions for 2006:

The suburban housing bubble and its related activities were predicated on the idea that we could continue building out a living arrangement dependent on cheap oil and methane gas, and that all the subdivisions and strip malls would retain value for decades to come. Of course, this was the central delusion of the suburban sprawl economy, because it was obvious to anyone who gave the situation more than a cursory glance that cheap oil and gas were the things we were least likely to have in the decades to come.

By the time Kunster is finished, the Dow is down below 4000 and the world is poised for global war with China in the lead spot. And, oh yeah, the Democrats continue to not offer an alternative, for they too subscribe to Dick Cheney's "non-negotiable" American way of life. (Well, they do.)

I'd love to go on and on about it, but better you go visit:

Clusterfuck Nation by James Howard Kunstler

Just be sure you turn the lights out when you leave.

 


Destruction For Christmas

by Derrick Bostrom


The big holiday has finally come and gone, and with it a very small but seemingly ever larger and larger piece of my life -- about the same size piece it takes every year: about a day's worth.

I like presents though. The first one I plowed into was something I added casually to my Amazon wish list quite a while ago, mostly as a reminder to myself. By the time someone actually bought it for me, I had forgotten all about it (I still can't remember where I read about it).

The Destruction of Lower Manhattan is a book of photographs first published in 1969, documenting the demolition of some sixty acres of downtown New York City. To make room for such ephemera as the World Trade Center, whole neighborhoods of magnificent buildings from the mid-1800s were taken down brick by brick.

Inspired by a need for isolation and fueled by psychedelics, "outlaw" photographer Danny Lyon shot the images that make up the book over a period of six months in 1966 or 1967 (he apparently no longer remembers which). They moved me to such fits of poignancy as to nearly wash away completely the bad taste of the holidays (from which I myself am inspired by a need for isolation). And the twinges are twin, both from my love of condemned architechture and from reminiscences of my own youth (when nothing went together quite so well as a dose of acid and an abandoned buidling.)

Danny Lyon shares some of his work on his Web site, Bleak Beauty, which also also offers an overview of his fascinating career, of which "Destruction" plays a small, even peripheral part.