Category Archives: Special Stuff

Some posts I am proud of — at least my friends liked them!

The Mike V Show, Kung Fu, and Emotional Content

This will be kind of a non-linear post, I think.

Just finished listening to Episode 3 of the Mike V Show, Mike Vallely’s new podcast. As most of you know, I am a Mike Vallely fan. I like it when people do their own thing, their way, and forge their own path.  That kind of thing fascinates me. In this episode, Mike is joined by Daniele Bolelli, of the Drunken Taoist Podcast.

As an Aikido practitioner for going on nine years, and a skateboarder for 40, I found their thoughts about “kung fu” – people who have kind of an emotional/physical presence about them – very engaging.

I am far from a master of Aikido. Aikido is so hard to do well that most people give up within two weeks. Even among martial arts enthusiasts Aikido is often misunderstood. That’s a huge topic and I’m not going to write about it. What I want to talk about is how it changes you. I think this is true of most martial arts, but I only know Aikido, so that’s what I will discuss.

Like most activities, when you start you don’t know shit. It’s the simple truth. When you walk into the Aikido dojo, you may think you know something. You may have seen some videos on youtube and thought “that looks easy and soft.”  You may think you are in good shape. You quickly find out that 1)It isn’t “soft”, 2)it isn’t easy, and 3)you are not in good shape.  Then, if you are among the small percentage that come back after limping away from the dojo that first practice, you go through a couple of other transitions…

  1. You realize that you don’t know shit. Everything you thought you knew about what you were getting into is totally wrong. What you thought was happening in Aikido isn’t happening at all.
  2. Some time later, after a significant amount of practice,  you realize you know even less than you thought you did when you first realized you don’t know shit.
  3. After more time and practice, it begins to dawn on you what you are actually doing. You don’t really understand it, but you have a glimpse. Something happens in class that gives you a small “a-ha!” moment.
  4. Then you see more new people come into class, and you see their confusion, and see that they are where you were months or years ago. Then you look at your Sensei, who has been practicing or 30 or 40 years, and realize it is a long road, and you will always be learning.
  5. At some point,  you start to notice that the long-time students have something that you don’t. They are more “there” than you are. When you take hold of their wrist, even though they are light people, they feel like they weigh 1000 pounds. A half-ton, but a half-ton that can turn to liquid in an instant, move with quick fluidity, or exist in both states simultaneously. Then you realize that to the new student, you feel like that. You are on the path, but it’s a long path. You need to stay on it. But it has to be your path.

So, back to my original line of thought. People who have that presence. When I heard Mike and Daniele talking about this, I remembered the feeling of being at an Aikido seminar, with black belts of various degrees all lined up in front, sitting in seiza, taking up the first 3 rows as we bow in at the start of class. That is heavy. That is emotional content. When that heaviness and presence first dawned on me,  I understood what you actually get from Aikido. You can get it from other things. Some people, remarkably, seem to be born with it, but that is what you get from Aikido. You begin to appreciate and cultivate a centered strength that you can depend on and eventually others start to notice, and you learn to bring others up, as others lift you up.


Falling Down

Two weeks ago I was skating the little ditch near my house — the one I’ve been skating since about 1978 – and I ate it. Rolling in, about halfway down the wall, I hit a little rock and got pitched.

So to the concrete I went. Both hands out in front, I naturally went to my leading side and slid to a stop. I got a little bit of a hipper, scraped my palms a bit, but got up and kept skating.

I’m 50. Yeah, I know I mention that a lot. I think it is often relevant. You see, I got up and kept skating. The slam pissed me off. I got back up, kicked that goddamn rock out of the ditch, rolled right back in, and skated for another hour. Most dudes my age can hardly get out of their chair. So that’s why I mention my age.

I’m not going to lie. I don’t like falling. I don’t like getting hurt any more than the next guy. If someone says “You know, I hate falling and I’m done with this” I totally understand. There have been plenty of times when I slammed harder than this and just packed it up for the day. Slams that just knocked the fight out of me and reminded me that gravity and the concrete are actually in control. Frankly, I’ve taken shots in the shin from my freestyle board that dropped me right then and there to the ground gasping for air. BUT — getting back up and continuing to skate two weeks ago was killer. I did, in fact, think about just leaving. But I didn’t. I got mad and kept skating.

After taking that slam, and surviving, the rest of the skating was better. All day it was better. For the rest of that ditch session I was looser and faster. At the parking garage where I sometimes go to street skate I skated better. Getting the shit knocked out of you, shaking it off, and continuing to skate can really put you in the right frame of mind and give you the right perspective. You fall, it hurts, you didn’t die, and you keep skating. Some slams are worse than others, but after many years, I’ve decided that if you can go on skating, you should.

You see, most normal humans live in mortal fear of getting hurt. They avoid injury even if it means avoiding fun too. This is natural. This is the survival/breeding instinct in action. Survive to live/breed/raise kids/grandchildren another day. Seek pleasure avoid pain. But that doesn’t mean it’s always the right course of action.

There seems to be very little in the basic survival programming about accomplishment. Sometimes you have to just say “fuck it” and keep doing the possibly injurious thing, because even that fall will lift you up in the end.

Dudes who got it right

Age gives an the advantage of perspective on earlier years. Is it an advantage? Maybe. I guess. I’m sure that in future decades, should I be lucky enough to have a few more, I will think that as of today I didn’t know a damned thing. However, I think these dudes are a bit of an exception.

Henry with a few of his books.

The guys in these pictures — they got it right.

Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, and Jello Biafra. (You can click on these images to go to their sources).

In my mind these guys are the Trinity of Punk Rock.  When I want to listen to some punk, it’s going to usually involve Black Flag, Fugazi (or Minor Threat), and the Dead Kennedys.

But when I say they got it right I’m not talking about the music. I’m talking about everything else.

These are pretty much the three smart dudes from punk. They are the ones who have grown into intelligent, progressive, well-spoken adult human beings.

I am constantly amazed by how many people I know who “love” punk rock, and are skateboarders, grow up to adopt a repressive, conservative political and social ideology. I think part of this conundrum stems from the fact that punk (at least the kind from the 1980s) tends to be very aggressive music, and thus it attracts not only smart people but some fairly not-quite-as -smart people too. I’m sure a lot of young people are just trying to “find themselves” or enjoy being part of an outsider group, so they get into it. I’m sure this happened with my generation. My friend Bosco says young people are often just “trying on different uniforms.” Then they grow up and become their parents. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes not so much. Honestly, I have never “worn the uniform” of anything but a skateboarder. But as I’ve gotten older, and these guys have gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate them more and more.


I just find it fascinating because these three guys, while they have grown up and evolved and become more sophisticated in their thinking and more articulate in their communication, to me, seem like they kind of got it right in the first place.

Somehow, from a young age these guys had a clarity of thought that a lot of people just don’t have. Some people never get it. I think Henry probably had a rougher time with his youth, but he made it, and if you listen to his spoken word, he is right on target on almost everything.

I am reminded of a quote from Bike Snob NYC, regarding the music of Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys. Here’s the quote. Click through and read the whole post though. He’s a great writer.

As I got older, however, I “matured,” and my outlook on life became more pragmatic.  I no longer grouped things into “good” and “evil” categories based on where they fell on the Jello Biafra Outrage Scale.  (The more shrilly Jello Biafra sings about something the more evil it was.)  I no longer automatically rejected anything “mainstream,” and I stopped assuming that anything that was part of the mainstream was somehow automatically tainted.  Most of all, I laughed at my own naïveté, I dropped the attitude, and I got down to the non-ideological business of becoming an adult.Jello. Photo from

But then, years later, something amazing happened, and I realized that all those albums I used to listen to were right.  Well, maybe they weren’t right about a lot of the specifics, but it turns out that the general message–that mainstream culture is vacuous and bankrupt–is pretty much entirely correct.

In the last 7 years I’ve had the chance to see Henry and Jello both do spoken word performance. Both these guys are downright masterful in this craft. Entertaining, engaging, thought-provoking, and just provoking. Really good. Ian doesn’t do spoken word, but I keep up with him and if he is ever in this area I will surely to see him play. I saw him with Fugazi back in the 1990s.

Well, that’s all I’ve got to say today. Go have some fun.


the Thankfulness Report

Thanksgiving is once again at our throats, which means the stress and antics of the holidays have started. As an adult, I have to admit I’ve grown to be not such a huge fan of the holiday season. I kind of wish we had it every other year. Didn’t we just do all this shit?

Really, once all the “Black Friday” bullshit subsides and I have a little time to think about the holidays, I guess they are OK in my book. I just wish they were a bit more relaxing.

Still, while I am not a huge fan of Thanksgiving food, even as a non-religious person I appreciate the sentiment of Thanksgiving. You don’t have to be thankful to “someone upstairs.” It’s just a time to be aware of the good things.

So here it is — my list of people, phenomena, and ephemera to be thankful for…

  • I am thankful there is something rather than nothing.
  • I am thankful that an asteroid hasn’t destroyed civilization (yet).
  • I am thankful for skateboarding.
  • I am thankful for Aikido.
  • I am thankful for my lovely and intelligent wife, who makes life worth living and lights every day.
  • I am thankful for my family.
  • I am thankful for my friends.
  • I am thankful for my job, which allows me to make a modest living while helping others.
  • I am thankful for my health, and the health of my family and friends. It can’t last, but is good while it is there.
  • I am thankful especially for my nieces and nephews, who are the stars in my sky.
  • I am thankful for the internet.
  • I am thankful for my education and relative intelligence, and thus far my adaptability.
  • I am thankful for smart people, but even more, for good people.
  • I am thankful for the Strong and Weak nuclear forces, Gravity, and the Electro-magnetic force, and their strengths relative to each other. Wouldn’t be here without them.
  • I am thankful for the phenomenon of consciousness, even if it is an illusion of some kind.
  • I am thankful for our cats.
  • I am thankful for creativity, without which life would indeed be a bore.
  • I am thankful for literacy.
  • I am thankful for funny people.
  • I am thankful to have a President who gives a damn.
  • I am thankful for peaceful transitions of power.
  • I am thankful that humans can experience pleasure.
  • I am thankful for the Law of Identity. A → A
Well, I think that just about covers it for this year.


I don’t watch a lot of television until about 10pm. Really, it’s rare that there’s anything worth watching until 10pm.

I know some of you out there will disagree, saying something like “But CSI: Forgotten Pedophile Investigation is on at 8pm”. Well, let me break this news to you. If you like that stuff, you need to hang yourself. Seriously. CSI? Ever been to a police station or any other kind of government office? Guess what…

Not what your local police station lab looks like. Grow up.

Not what your local police station lab looks like.
Grow up.

They don’t look space-age. The “crime lab” at your local police station doesn’t look like the control room of the Time Tunnel. If your pre-10pm hours consist of watching CSI, Bones, or the latest “fat guy with hot wife” sitcom, I respectfully (not really) suggest that you may want to begin living your life — immediately.

Don’t get me started on Glee.

I have discovered this channel called MeTV. They show the Twilight Zone in the late evenings, currently between the Bob Newhart Show and Perry Mason.  

Librarian Romney Wordsworth pwns the Chancellor.

Librarian Romney Wordsworth pwns the Chancellor.

Last night I watched an episode of the Twilight Zone that I had never seen before, the Obsolete Man, starring the great Burgess Meredith. If you don’t know who Burgess is because you are young, or older but stupid, click that link and begin to improve your cultural literacy. A quick summary of the summary you will find on the link above – Burgess plays a librarian in a totalitarian state, and he is condemned to die — live on television (thank God there’s still TV in the future!) —  because he has been found to be “obsolete”. However, he manages to turn the tables on the State, by involving and humiliating the Chancellor of the State, demonstrating the superiority of intellectual freedom. Awesome.Being a librarian myself, I of course immediately dug this show. While perhaps “the State” hasn’t gone full-bore into the killing of librarians, we do fight an almost constant battle against the powers of stupidity. From ignorant, pig-like, illiterate Tea Party types trying to starve valuable public services of operating funds, to psychotic religious fanatics trying to ban books from library collections because they fail to mention Jesus on every page, your friends the Librarians fight the good fight every day. Coming to work every day, it is easy to forget that as a librarian I am part of an ancient profession, one that matters and makes a difference. So I loved this episode of the Twilight Zone. So bad ass. The man of learning in intellectual/spiritual victory over the efforts off the totalitarian conservative buttholes. And it was bad ass! Burgess, in the role of librarian  Romney Wordsworth, DOMINATES the situation. 

We librarians just forget how f’ing bad ass it is to do what we do. You know that poor kid growing up in the conservative religious “Ned Flanders” house who comes into your library? The library is the only place that kid is exposed to information that isn’t Fox News/Pat Robertson propaganda! 

The enemy – must be defeated.

All of this got me thinking about the great librarians of fiction. My favorite is Dr. Henry Armitage, chief librarian of Miskatonic University, from H.P. Lovecraft’s “the Dunwich Horror“. Armitage not only saves the whole town from some Cthulhu devastation, but likely saves the whole world! Kick Ass!I like to think of religious and political conservatives, tea-baggers, and the other mental-midgets of our society as our equivalent of the slobbering, shambling, slimy, mindless, abominable horrors of the Lovecraft universe. Every time we defeat those fetid, reeking, semi-sentient masses of vomitus-like humanoid flesh, we are saving the universe. We save our planet and the universe one mind at a time. It’s a fight worth fighting.