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Neighbor

With disregard for individuality, Neighbor was formed. It’s not particularly the case that any of us are interested in forfeiting our unique qualities, but more of a statement on value-we value the collective. We know that an existence propagated on individual fortitude will inevitably be filled with apathy and anxiety-filled cognition. But art in community; this is sustainable-it sustains the individual via community. When we reject ownership, we allow art the room to shift, change, evolve, and live. It is not one’s own to manipulate; thus, Neighbor is born–a Fresno arts collective. The following is the first fruits: video recorded on the streets of downtown Fresno. Enjoy!

“If the whole world is singing your songs, and all of your paintings have been hung; just remember, what was yours is everyone’s from now on.” –Jeff Tweedy


In the Midst


Sometimes you wake up in the middle of great adventure and remember that you are on one. Sometimes a long adventure feels simply like real life. Then you remember how strange it is that you live where you live, you do what you do, and you have the acquaintances you are acquainted with. Today is that day.

Professor Biff and the Alley Cat: Heartspill

In the latter months of this year’s winter, two Minnesota boys who have been making music together since the 8th grade found themselves in one of the strangest places you might find two Midwestern boys–Bakersfield, California.  What transpired was something that could have only occurred in this setting.  In a desert town settled by a mix of the descendants of Dustbowl refugees and Mexican fruit farmers, Alex Lindorff and I recorded a record in the living room of my apartment.  

Fueled/inspired by our separate, yet congruous arduous travels out West, Jim Beam, and oversized bottles of cheap red wine, we recorded a record that neither of us thought we would write together.  You see, Al and I have a long history of writing heavy rock and roll songs together–songs that one might consider four-on-the-floor, big, dumb rock.  And we loved that!  We were successful at it.  We had years of experience doing it.  But for this record it wasn’t very apropos of the situation.

We had no drums, no bass, and not even an electric guitar at our disposal.  And how could we write a power-rock record when the aesthetic of our environment (both physically and emotionally-speaking) was simply Western.  I mean, we were in Southwestern oil country USA!  The streets here are named after old Country-Western legends, namely Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.  Thus, our only gear run to Guitar Center consisted of purchases of a tambourine and a guitar slide.  

We truly went Acoustic and Western for this one.  And in the spirit of Western Americana music, the songs are quite fitting with themes of heartache, lonliness, the road, and existential crises.  Yes, we have all the elements for a good Americana record.  That being said, I must make the disclaimer that the utility of these elements was not to contrive or recreate an old Western record.  They were simply the elements of our collective narrative.  These are our experiences out West put to melody (With a bit of help from Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard).  As we wrote, we quickly realized that unlike other records we had done in the past, this particular record was not a collection of songs, but truly a full, beginning-to-end record.  In a download-one-song-at-a-time itunes milieu, we retroactively dipped into the era in which the Album was god.  We created a story, consisting of an introduction, climax, and conclusion with embedded themes that run throughout.  This is our history put to song.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, Heartspill.

(This record is available for listening on this blog. If you would like a free download, please email me directly at christopher.casselman@gmail.com )

Lost Angeles:

Las Vegas:

Witchita:

Of The Girl In Ramsey County

Today I Started Loving You Again (Merle Haggard)

Leaving On Your Mind (Patsy Cline)

Time To Make A Change:

I Don’t Like You (You’re An Asshole)

The Best Is Yet To Come

The Company We Keep

I took a job in Bakersfield, California, once again leaving all that I know for a place known to be the binary opposition of all that might be desirous.  What could it be?  What are the people like?  Will I notice just how smoggy they say it is?  Is there something surreptitiously delightful I would find out about this place once I arrived?  Or is it as I heard, “the armpit of California.”

I’ve been here about three weeks now and am finding that there is quite a bit of Bakersfield, CA that I can nest in.  True, they say the gangs, and the air quality, and the Okies in Oildale are a tangible reality, but who’s reality?   If I don’t turn the news on, and I don’t deviate from the lifestyle I want to live, then who’s reality should I concern myself with?  My reality is this: people at the market and gas pump say hello (Minnesota nice anyone?);  my coworkers have a small town genuine demeanor about them (as opposed to LA’s, “I-could-give-a-shit-less-if-you-fell-over-and-died-on-the-sidewalk-in-front-of-me ” mentality”); there is an overwhelming presence of vintage country music (Merle Haggard BLVD and Buck Owens Way); and I am in community with people living the real American grind.

This morning I have been reading the free-write journals from my students in my English and Composition 1 class.  Though it would be quite innapropriate to share any of their particular thoughts in the blogosophere, I did find a common motif that I’d like to share which ran throughout, something that binds this culture together.

These people are truly living.  These are the people who live the grind.  In many different ways, holding different positions in the social make-up, they, live the grind.  They struggle.  They are lonely.  They don’t feel comfortable.  They have a collective challenge.  It’s called, “today.”  And here’s the most beautiful part.  It makes for amazing writing.  The reality flows through the text, swimming and coasting through like the Tule fog that runs through this valley at night.   The grind of life, the common denominator.  It is these things that makes the art of writing a beautiful aesthetic.  It is the challenges of the day that make the 2D text in these Mead Wide Ruled notebooks I read become 3D.

It was in reading these notebooks that I found myself having an identity realization.  Now it’s nothing that hasn’t been realized before.  It’s something we’ve probably all read about or mused on ourselves, but when it happens, when a realization happens, it doesn’t have to have a stunning “well I never thought of that” nature to it.  A realization simply has that slap-you-across-the-face brut truth about it that is definitive of a place and time, or has its own evocation in the moment.

It was something of this nature that slapped truth across my face today, telling me that who we are, who I am, who anyone is, is very much caught up in the company we keep.  It sounds like, and is something that Mother’s tell their teenagers.  Perhaps it is a timeless truth that comes in waves and at different seasons of life.  Today, I find that the company I keep, here in Bakersfield, this is my ideal company.  The working wo/man.  The Grinders.  These, the people whose lives on paper can intrigue as if they were the memoirs of a great Americana writer.  Free of trite, hipster guises, and as honest as the itinerant, Dust-Bowler, ancestry from which they stem, this place oozes Americana, where hard work and honesty is what is needed to make something of ourselves.  It’s something of a geographical juxtaposition to its neighboring city to the south.   The company we keep says a lot about ourselves.  Identity.

Zen, Ghosts, and Perception

j2835x1774-001511Have you ever read a book that brought you to tears? Okay, well I have so quit calling me a nancy for it or I’ll bust your chops.

In all seriousness, a good book can truly change your life, or at least give you a different outlook on it. So for my latest blog I have decided to put together a series discussing “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Minneapolis’ own Robert Pirsig. For those of you that would enjoy an enthralling read without having to purchase the book, I will be posting links to the book in four segments. Here is the 1st of those.

I honestly don’t think I have ever read a book that made me consider my everyday perceptions of what ‘is’ so much as this piece of work. It is at times wildly insightful, maniacal, strangely logical, and occasionally disturbing. However, there is no doubt that it is moving. I ask that you take a read and express your thoughts as we move through the book.

I will make this first installment brief. The book is titled Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but in all reality it isn’t so much about motorcycles at all (although the book takes place on a cross-country motorcycle trip). In this first part of the book, we learn a little about our main character (whose name we don’t know) and his son Chris, as well as their traveling partners John and Sylvia. Three main themes seem to pop up throughout this first chunk of the book that give us clues/a better understanding of what is to be discussed as the book moves on: Ghosts, Classical vs. Romantic understanding, and Technology.

Ghosts: As these characters stop to camp for the evening, young Chris begins talking about ghosts and asks, “Do you believe in ghosts?” Our main character says ‘no’ because they are unscientific. He then brings it to a different level when trying to define what a ‘ghost’ is:

They contain no matter and have no energy and therefore, according to the laws of science, do not exist except in people’s minds. Of course the laws of science contain no matter and have no energy either and therefore do not exist except in people’s minds. It’s best to be completely scientific about the whole thing and refuse to believe in either ghosts or the laws of science. That way you’re safe. That doesn’t leave you very much to believe in, but that’s scientific too (being facetious)…Laws of nature are human inventions, like ghosts. Laws of logic, of mathematics are also human inventions, like ghosts. The whole blessed thing is a human invention, including the idea that it isn’t a human invention. The world has no existence whatsoever outside the human imagination. It’s all a ghost, and in antiquity was so recognized as a ghost, the whole blessed world we live in. It’s run by ghosts. We see what we see because these ghosts show it to us, ghosts of Moses and Christ and the Buddha, and Plato, and Descartes, and Rousseau and Jefferson and Lincoln, on and on and on. Isaac Newton is a very good ghost. One of the best. Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past. Ghosts and more ghosts. Ghosts trying to find their place among the living.

This logic seems convincingly true and in a way in which I have never considered. So, the question that must be asked is, do you believe in ghosts? This seems to be enough info for this installment. We’ll take a gander at Classical vs. Romantic understanding and the disenchanting effects of technology in the next part.

Read this book!!!!

Submitted by: Al-Dogg

British Ales… Steeped in Tradition

A quick note from the editor:

Hello friends and readers of leaveitotheprose.  I’d like to welcome P Corcs to our writing team.  This is his first article for us, which I read on his family blog yesterday.  It seemed fitting for our milieu, so he graciously contributed it to leaveittotheprose.  I encourage you to read and comment on P corcs’ Ale-musings.  Make him feel welcome!   Ladies and Gentlemen… I present P corcs:  

 As this is my first front page contribution I would like to give a quick intro. I, Patrick (P Corcs) Corcoran am a born and raised Minnesotan. Just last fall I had the opportunity to move to London with my wife for her job. We will be here for two years and hope to travel Europe during this time. My blog contributions may involve travel and experiences, as with this blog, but may also be general life stuff. Thanks to everyone who have contributed so far. I enjoy reading all the different viewpoints and additions… it is exciting when there is a new blog as you never know what it will be about! Anyway, without further ado, here is my first post. I hope you enjoy it.

“Frost Brewed, low carbs, light, filtered, carbonated” These phrases are pounded into the heads of the American public as the big beer companies battle for market share. They are associated with everything good and refreshing when choosing a beer. The ads play over and over in hopes that when we are standing in front of endless choices at the corner liquor store, we will somehow associate their beer with what they tell us we desire in a beer.

For many British, these are all the things they hate in a beer.

To understand this view we must understand the role Ale has played in the history of Britain. Ale has been brewed in Britain probably since established civilizations inhabited the island, or in numeric terms at least since 2,500 BC. For most of this time period, say until about 100-200 years ago, most people brewed their own ale. It was often the primary beverage, especially in major urban areas like London where the water supply was often less than appealing. It is safe to say that Ale has been as much a part of every day life of the British for the last 4500 years as say cell phones and the Internet are for us today. I mean… what would we possibly do without our daily blog fix?

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Building on the importance of Ale, let’s look at how and what has been brewed for 4500 years. Nobody can say exactly how or what was used, but it is pretty safe to assume from the archaeological record that not much changed during that entire time. Ale was brewed in casks, with water, some type of cereal, yeast, and spices. Hops wasn’t introduced in Britain until the middle ages as flavoring and as a preservative. The key part in this process has always been and remains the cask. Using all natural ingredients the ale develops full flavor and conditioning right up until it is served. In a sense, the yeast is alive and acts to condition and create the flavors and aromas until the cask is drained. This process of secondary fermentation sets all cask ales apart from the large processed beers.

To continue our education, lets look at the main differences in beer. We generally label everything as beer (before hops was introduced beer was called ale in Britain, since hops, beer became accepted as the general term). Beer has two main categories, ales and lagers. The common difference is the fermentation process. Lagers use bottom fermenting yeast, low temperatures, and then conditioning in tanks. Ales use top fermenting yeast which forms a thick froth, higher temperatures, and is a shorter process.

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So why all the fuss about “real British ale” vs. that fake American lager crap when the processes seem similar? Well the difference is that British Ales, to add to and reiterate the earlier description, are alive and natural, they have a limited shelf life and must be kept at certain temperatures to achieve full flavor – cellar temperature (hence the American idea of “warm British beer”). Mass produced beer is filtered to remove all yeast and ingredients, then it is pasteurized to make it sterile… they kill the beer! The Brits see this as killing all the taste and aroma at the same time. They believe that beer is served cold in America to disguise the lack of taste and the carbonation is only a let down as they expect the froth to bring up the flavor and aroma but are left with fizzy nothingness.

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As some of you may know I’m an ale guy and I’ve bought into everything these Brits are preaching! Back home in Minnesota my favorite beer is Summit Extra Pale Ale. But even a beer with great flavor and bitterness like that isn’t like ordering a cask ale at a pub that is poured using a pump handle to draw it straight from the cask in the cellar. It only took me a couple pints to get used to cellar temperature, now I don’t even notice it anymore. It is true what they say about the flavor and aroma of a true cask ale, there is no replacement or imitation!

So while it is true today that the best selling beer in the UK is Carling, a massed produced lager, there still is a very large and strong population that will ever only drink “real ale” and will in fact look down on you for drinking “fake beer.” They even form large organizations, one being CAMRA (almost 100,000 strong) – The Campaign for Real Ale – whose motto is, “Campaigning for Real Ale, Pubs and Drinkers’ rights since 1971.”

beer4Whether you agree or not with the Brits perception of Beer you can’t fault them for their loyalty and dedication to their heritage and right to drink real ales from real pubs! Cheers!

PS. If you live in the Twin Cities area, go to Great Waters Brewing Co. (http://www.greatwatersbc.com/) in St Paul, they serve CAMRA approved cask conditioned ales, hand pulled at cellar temperature! If you don’t I challenge you to do a little research and find a bar near you that serves true cask conditioned ales to see what all the fuss is about! 

Submitted by: P Corcs

Musings…or When I Realized I Have Too Much Time on My Hands

This morning I woke up and thought to myself “what is it that our dear readers need more of in their lives?” You might imagine I would come upon some useful answer, something truly beneficial like more calcium, or a good dose of laughter, or a spoonful of sugar. But just as I was preparing to tackle the problem of how to disseminate essential vitamins and minerals over the internet, I said to myself “no, Zizzle-Zot (I talk to myself in the virtual third person), knowledge is power.”

So, in lieu of something you can actually use, I offer Zizzle-Zot’s Scientific Thoughts of the Day From a Blogger Who Knows Very Little About Science. (Disclaimer: none of the following should be interpreted as actual science).

Let’s Make Genius Babies: The human brain feeds pretty much exclusively off of glucose for energy. Wouldn’t it make sense, then, that feeding babies excessive amounts of glucose while their brains were still developing would result in adults with oversized, highly functional brains and create, in essence, hyper-genius babies without requiring any gene manipulation or freaky mutant making? Of course, the babies would be morbidly obese as a nasty side effect to all that glucose. But wouldn’t it be worth it?

Where has all the matter gone?: The 1st Law of Thermodynamics states that energy can’t be created or destroyed. It can change forms, converting from work to heat to potential to kinetic, but we’re stuck with a constant energy level. My concern regards matter. If humans keep propagating the earth at unchecked levels (I’m looking at you, India), isn’t it conceivable that eventually we’ll run out of matter (energy) to create more people?

I realize this won’t be a popular theory, but maybe the destructive nature of humanity is a necessity. Maybe we need to raze the earth and kill off entire species so there is enough matter for more of us. It’s an instinctual, evolutionary survival trait.

I’m not a physicist by any means, so my science is probably way off. And I’m certainly not saying it’s likely, but still, something to think about the next time you have unprotected sex.

Call me Buddha Shakespeare Khan: I just finished a book by Bill Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything) that introduced me to the probability that each of us shares up to a billion atoms with every historical personage that came before us (only up to a point, so sorry, ckcasselman, there’s no John Lennon in you. I’ll explain why in a minute).

Atoms are ridiculously long lived (around 1035  years according to some theories). When people die, the atoms don’t die with them. They are simply recycled to form other things. So, on it’s way to becoming wonderful you, each atom has most likely at some point been part of a star, a dinosaur (maybe even a T Rex), and a turd, among other things.

So the next time you’re looking to pick up a chick at the bar, tell her you’ve got a billion Casanova atoms in you. But don’t get too excited. One cubic centimeter of air contains 45 billion billion molecules (and a molecule is two or more atoms working together). So there’s a hell of a lot of atoms in us, and 1 billion doesn’t amount to much.

One Last Thing Before I Go: We all have bad days. You could be having one right now. Shit happens. But the next time you find yourself grumbling about annoyances like flat tires and taxes, take a minute to think about the seemingly insurmountable odds against you being here to complain in the first place.  Think of the trillions of atoms that for some inexplicable reason (apparently they don’t find it particularly gratifying) came together to become the one and only you. They’ll never assemble this way again, and it doesn’t happen anywhere else in the universe.

Now consider that the earth doesn’t seem to want us here all that much. In fact, with its ice ages and volcanic activity and bacteria and viruses, it can be downright hostile. But still the human race survived until now so you could bitch about the price of gas.

Now think about how many people had to meet and mate at precisely the right time to lead to you. You want a number? Go back only five generations, and no fewer than 33,554,432 people had to do the hippity-dippity to get you here. Now think about how difficult it can be to get even one to do it with you…sigh.

So whether you believe in a higher power and trust that somebody wanted you right here and right now for a damned good reason, or you don’t, and think you ought to take advantage of the incredible luck that’s given you the chance to be alive, I’d like us all to take this opportunity to be thankful.

It’s good to be here.

Thanks for reading.

 Submitted by: Zizzle-Zot