Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Opting Out? Count Me In

Admirable – how do you recognize an action as such? Personally, something's admirable when I can nod my head and say to myself, "Yeah...that's the right thing to do!" and get the soft buzz of moral respect. Admiration isn't quantifiable. It's not something I want, or have desire to measure. Admiration is values-based – I've got to align with it morally – and, it needs to set a standard. It's gotta make me dream big, think critically, exist on a higher plane, or at least think, "Man, I should do that!" Most of all, admirable actions shouldn't be a ploy, a cry for attention, or done me-first – they should be selfless. Done for the other, or for the greater good.

After hashing that out in my mind, I wasn't expecting the actions of a company to stick in my mind. It's easier for me to ascribe honest values to people – they are creatures of action that thought that, transparent or not, are easier to pin values on. But, REI's announcement this year to stay closed on the biggest shopping day of the year (do I even need to tell you when?) – doing the very thing that would seem to hurt their bottom line. Well, that just wouldn't leave my brain.

(If I worked retail like 5 million other folks in the U.S. – I might have missed
 my nephew eating pie for the first time in his life!)

Sure, some folks thought that they did it to somehow line their wallet. By refusing shoppers one day, they'd win more other days. From working retail, I can tell you that that mentality may work with online shoppers ("Oh, I heard about REI's cool initiative – I'm going to support them by shopping their online store.") – physical shoppers are a different beast. They want convenience, good prices, good customer service, experience, oh...and convenience. To get people to go out of their way to patronize your store is more than a moral victory – it's winning a mental battle.

Whether or not the press from the event drove additional shoppers to REI – it's clear that the main benefits of the decision went to the employees. Staying closed the day after Thanksgiving (hopefully) means that Thanksgiving is easier, too. It's not like all those products stage and tidy themselves before the masses beat down your automatic door. Opening for Black Friday (or earlier – I'm looking at you, jerks) means work before Black Friday. That's a whole lot of time to give back to employees and their families and friends that they wouldn't otherwise have. Did I mention that all employees also received paid time off for that Friday, as well?

Because what's more important? Honoring tradition, community, and family with a day that all people are equally able to enjoy? Or staying open an extra few hours to shill some deals on material goods that might not even ever get used? I'm betting on the former – and want to give my business to companies that do the same.

Okay, I'll step off my capitalist soapbox for now – who or what did you admire this year?

[This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox. Today's prompt: What achievement – from a person, a company, a nation – captures your attention? Who did something admirable this year?]

Friday, January 8, 2016

Warm That Sucker Up

Once a month, I gather in a plain room full of gentlemen in a circle of chairs. Hands in pockets or coats. Everyone with a bag, satchel, or case.

The rules are pretty simple – gather in someone's living room, basement, porch, or backyard, even. Hook up the stereo. [Note: this is the first thing I do when moving in. Even before unpacking boxes! Because how are you supposed to unpack boxes without jams?] Put a record on the platter – you gotta warm that sucker up. Yes, record.

This isn't CD club. It's record club.

(Jr. Bacon Record Club, October 2015, my humble abode.)

Next, put some bacon on the skillet. Probably a pound. Maybe three, depending on attendance. Write the attendees names on some scraps of paper, and put them in the hat of whoever has taken theirs off. Draw a name – that's who has to pick the first Perfect Side.

One record. One side. No pressure...just a perfect one is all.

There are different strategies for the side; some bring a single record, maybe something new scored at a thrift shop, a recent release, or an album recently listened to on repeat. Others prefer an improv approach; bring a few, feel out the flow of the evening, and pick a side that enhances the vibe ...or throws it for a loop. Give a quick introduction of your record: artist, title, year it was released, maybe a pressing detail or where you dug it out of a crate or who turned you on to it.

Put the record on. Cue it. Drop the needle.

Pass the album around – you gotta hold the art in your hands. Otherwise, you might as well be passing around an iPod. Cold metal is weaponry; ink and cardboard is art on canvas. The initial groove crackles and the music starts. Shoot the shit or put your head down and groove. Drink a beer or sit and stare.

Hear something you haven't heard before.

In the context of others it's fellowship; it's church with a cigarette break, communion with no priest. Someone's taking notes (maybe), but there's no boss. Everyone's on the level. Kanye to Kraftwerk, Penderecki to Purple Rain. Fifty sessions in without a repeat (...right?) – and then you've got another month to dig up your next gem.

[This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox. Today's prompt: What new circles have you formed? Any unexpected ones? Did you start a book club or hang out in a tea yurt? Maybe you re-upped with existing friends. Explore your kumbaya moment from 2015.]

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Keep It Modest

[Today's post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox. Today's prompt: We're all writing the story of our lives as we go. How can you make your story interesting in 2016? And if you can't see around the bend, it's okay to dream. Let's make 2016 one of the most riveting parts of our tale, shall we?]

I love planning trips, a meal (usually the day of...), and in the past...even a tour. But I also love living in the moment, wandering to wherever sees or smells good. I guess what I'm saying is – while I like to outline my own story, I prefer to fill in the details day-by-day. Here's a list of three modest things I'd like to accomplish in 2016:

1) Visit an island.

I've got Hawaiian in my genes (more on that later), friends and acquaintances extolling (heck, even living in) Iceland, and Amelia has family in the U.K. Did I mention sometimes I just want to get away? I'm not even going to pick an island right now – let's just say it's gonna happen, one way or another. Time to set up flight alerts.

(I mean, look at this. Photo via Jacinda! Hope it's okay I used this!)

2) Make another record.

Wooves has been sitting on a finished record (forthcoming PEEP – spoiler alert – which is totally my fault) for months. Not to mention, life has taken its toll on our writing & recording schedule. Three friends in different cities moving into their's not worth making excuses, but shit gets busy and then you realize it's been 7 months since you played (a pretty dang good) show. But then the Universe hits you with reminders that ...well, creativity is important. And what better scene to embrace it than with two of your oldest friends?

(...the only known photo of Wooves performing?!)

3) See more live music.

While I'm on that wavelength...aside from achieving a life goal by seeing KRAFTWERK (not to mention a pretty sweet Madlib DJ set) – I didn't see a whole lot of music live this year. Indianapolis is still a flyover town for most artists that I seem to be actually excited about seeing perform live. Hoping to rectify that and start off the year strong by seeing two of my favorite current acts in Chicago in February: the previously written up Bitchin' Bajas opening up for the soon-to-be-written-up Holly Herndon. Needless to say, I'm pretty psyched – now to decide whether to roll the dice on Big Ears. Faust is calling...

(Just before Kraftwerk started at Nashville's historic Ryman Theater.)