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3/2/17

Really healthy and really overdue

Tonight (or, more accurately, very early this morning), I finally finished and posted the piece I started writing in January, which may appear below this one. A post every two months is pretty prolific for me these days, but I was particularly inspired today.

I am getting better and better at this “looking for a job” thing, which is increasingly becoming a “who am I and who do I want to become” thing, which feels really healthy and really overdue. Just like with anything else, the more I try to express who I am, the more I begin to understand myself. Until now, I have given myself scant permission to attempt to direct the course of my life as much as is possible (which I acknowledged earlier is seldom much and maybe less than we’d all like to think). I have always found it easy enough to define myself by the things that I do, or that I know how to do, or have done. Accomplishments and skills are easy for me. It’s a little harder for me to get up the courage on a regular basis to actually reveal what is important to me. Instead, I have allowed the things I’ve done — and for whom I’ve done them — to speak for themselves. The result is that, more frequently than I like, I have allowed myself to be defined by the goals and the mission statements crafted by others. It’s not that I’m not imaginative; it’s not that I’m lazy; it is not even that I haven’t sufficiently apprehended the importance of showing my values, dreams, and goals to the world. It is simply that I have been doing other things. (Also, frankly, I have been afraid of myself and my own personal power and the fact that maybe I could actually accomplish some of the things I want to, if I just put myself in position to do them.)

Having no job at all for a longer period than ever before as an adult — and we’re talking barely more than a month, to be clear — has been a gift so far, as I had hoped but not necessarily expected. It has helped me shed some of the ways others have defined me and allowed me to start defining myself so much more clearly. It’s also helped me start to prioritize what will really get me where I want to go. It’s cleared away the barriers to truly thinking about what I want out of life, what I want to accomplish, and which path I want to follow.

Soon I will articulate a few of these things, some of which I spent a lot of time thinking, talking, and writing about today, but not just this moment.

Filed under Life, Unfinished Thoughts on March 2, 2017 at 3:01 am
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1/6/17

2016 is gone; 2017 is here

Like any other year, 2016 came and went. It didn’t linger beyond December 31st, thankfully. I was worried that it would, apparently, given the fact that I burst into tears while kissing Dawn at 12:00:02 am on January 1st.

Previously on gohlkusmaximus.com: 2011 was amazing. I met Dawn and we fell in love (basically instantaneously, but almost certainly before the octopus and the salmon landed on the table). In 2012 we moved in together, got engaged, and started planning our wedding. In 2013, we made our amazing wedding in Oakland and honeymoon in Kauai happen. 2014 was harder: Some family issues held over from the prior year, and Dawn and I each lost a co-worker, unexpectedly, to metastatic cancer and a heart attack (respectively). I had some nice work accomplishments, though. 2015 brought family illness and much related travel, work issues for Dawn (such as an office fly infestation) and for me (an entire department got laid off, including my best friend at work)—but also Dawn’s and my first cruise, to Alaska.

2016? Complicated. Family illness begat a death in the family and more travel. I got laid off in July, but I got a very enriching temporary gig from August through the election and beyond. The election campaign culminated in the most frightening presidential result in our lifetimes to date. Dawn realistically feared a Trump win early on, while my liberal optimism allowed me to be in less exhausting denial until Election Day. But we took two cruises that were mostly great (along the California coast, and to Hawaii). And at the end of the year we had a fun visit from family about which we had no ambivalence, refreshingly. Also, Dawn got new responsibilities at work that she sought (and the flies in her office were eradicated).

2017? Beyond the rightfully dreaded ascendance of Trump, I don’t know what it will bring. Personally, my part-time gig with The Next Generation in Oakland will end and result in a couple more nice portfolio pieces. I’ll find a new full-time occupation unless something goes dreadfully wrong. Our cats like me being home more often, for sure, though I have taken to working at the library to maximize my productivity.

The changing of the calendar provokes contemplation of the future but also the past. It is the marking of time that makes the passage of time most obvious. The more years we have, the better we have to be at subtraction.

There is a particular horror-inducing vision of the uncertainty of the future, and maybe more specifically death, that has been resident in my mind as long as I can remember. I will describe it to you now, though you might find it disturbing. It is merely an all-encompassing expanse of nothingness, devoid of all light, sound, and contact with others, in which I, being fully aware and conscious but not necessarily corporeal, am receding farther and farther away from everything else, everyone and everything I have ever known and loved.

I don’t think that’s an actual future I will experience. I hope not. I’ve generally always been able to repress that image and focus on reality and the present and doing my best. But life is finite and I have no clue what comes after it. Strangely enough, this very moment is finite, and what comes after it is quite frequently the next moment. I don’t really know everything about the moment I am currently in, much like any given moment in the past, or in the future. So it doesn’t really pay to be afraid of any of it, because I’m only going to know what I’m going to know, experience what I’m going to experience, control what I can control, which ain’t much and probably is less than I think.

This blog entry seems to be about overcoming fears: of the future and of the past, of failure and of success, of life and of death. Fears I have successfully conquered were my fear of falling in love with someone who would love me back, and relatedly my fear of being truly emotionally vulnerable (that is, admitting my human foibles to myself and others). I did this in part by working to understand (and/or convince myself) that it would be worth it. But I also did it by just jumping in and trying, and after surprisingly few hilarious and confusing failures, I found someone who was so right for me. So I guess those could inform how I approach my new life, the one that starts right this moment, the one that I have had all along, the one that I will have as long as it will have me.

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2/26/16

An Evening with Sloan

One Chord to Another 20th Anniversary tour promo image (small) I am very excited for An Evening with SLOAN: the One Chord to Another 20th Anniversary Tour, coming up April 26th at the Rickshaw Stop here in San Francisco. [This was AWESOME, by the way. – JLG, 5/9/16] Most of my past Sloan concert experiences, with a couple notable exceptions, have been solo affairs; this time, happily, I will share it with my friend Chris (to whom I introduced the music of Sloan about 8 years ago by now). Tickets are on sale now for all you Canucks and Canuckophiles out there.

According to Exclaim.ca, your best source for the Canadian music news you crave, “Sloan will play two sets a night, with a full-album performance of One Chord to Another preceding a more general set of ‘hits and fan favourites.'” They played two sets behind their latest album, Commonwealth (a double album), at Rickshaw Stop a little over a year ago, and it was amazing.

As for One Chord to Another (a.k.a. “OCTA”), it has a special place in my heart for many reasons. It was my first Sloan CD, acquired at a record store on St. Mark’s Place over spring break 1997, visiting my childhood best friend Will during his sweet gig as an RA at NYU. I remember listening to it on my Discman on the Gray Line bus on the way back from NYC to Ithaca. In a classic college thing, I’d gotten a ride from Madison to Ithaca and back from some girls I knew from Model UN, and the bus from Ithaca was super cheap.

Discmans, the Gray Line from NYC to Ithaca, record stores on St. Mark’s — they are all gone, but Sloan is still together, and at that moment that was unthinkable. Sloan had reportedly recorded OCTA separately and broken up. That was it. Sloan, 1991-1996. Then in 1998 I saw Navy Blues on the shelf at Best Buy or something and I was floored, happy, excited. Thus began an obsession.

In 2001 I made a long-weekend pilgrimage to, well, the other side of the Midwest to see Sloan with Will in both Detroit and Cleveland, the aforementioned notable exceptions. (I made a subdomain for it, for goodness sake.) For that walk down memory lane, read my review.

Ever since, as Dawn and others know quite well, I have followed them faithfully. (If it feels good, do it. So far, so good.) I have seen them in five states, at the Metro in Chicago, the 500 Bar in Minneapolis, Peabody’s Down Under in Cleveland, the then-called State Theater in Detroit, and the Independent, Cafe du Nord, Slim’s, and the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco. I have missed a show here and there in the Bay Area, but I think that can be excused.

Filed under Life, Music (and tagged with ) on February 26, 2016 at 8:13 am
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3/31/15

I’m no longer that kind of concertgoer

When I came up with the idea for writing this blog post, I never dreamed it would take nearly a decade to whip into shape. I also didn’t think I would go nuts at the Fillmore one spring Wednesday in 2008.

I don’t even slightly recall the incident (because why not block it out?), but here’s what I wrote back then: “There I was, minding my own business, rocking out to Death Cab for Cutie, at least 20 minutes into the show. The sound was amazing, I was pretty much able to see the band, and I knew every word to every song except for the new ones. Then some guy, a scant foot taller than me at about 6’4″, shoved past me and stopped right in front of me. I said something to him. He responded noncommittally. And then, I raged.”

That was where I left off in my description. I have no recollection of that incident, nor much else of that night, other than buying the T-shirt I still have. I’m guessing I blocked it out, as I did with much of that difficult time period. (My friend Chris almost certainly remembers, because he was there for that and other delightful interactions I’ve had with strangers. However, for some reason, I lack enthusiasm for hearing another “potentially dangerous things that depressed Jason did” story, and thus have not asked him about it in the five weeks since I rediscovered this draft blog entry.)

I do, however, remember the original idea pretty clearly.

Basically I had conceived of two or three main categories of concertgoers. If you’ve ever been to a concert, you probably can guess what I’m talking about.

You’ve got the enthusiastic early birds who line up before the doors open and camp out immediately in the closest possible spot to the stage (where you can see the musicians much better than you can hear them). One thing to note about standing somewhere for several hours, with the same people around you who got there essentially the same way you did, is that you feel a little comfortable. You may even feel a little entitled. Anyway, there is enough variation within this population that they form a few rows.

Those people who are evidently a bit less driven to absolutely maximize their visual enjoyment of a mostly auditory event (which is fine), well, they file in slowly (usually while the opening band is playing, which is also fine) to sort of loosely fill up the floor. They find a spot, drink their beverages, perhaps create occasional tendrils of smoke, and enjoy the show. Let it not go unsaid: They are cool. They are all right. They may be the ones to aspire to be.

And then. Then there is the other group of people who used to drive me crazy (though it’s fine if you want to argue that I was already crazy). Whenever these big jerks actually arrive at the venue, they use this gambit about two to four songs into the headliner’s set, when people have let down their guard and are focused on the show. (I have always assumed that these people arrive late, but now it occurs to me they may even be more diabolical than I’d suspected.) Perhaps they have never in their lives shown up to a concert early, and maybe they were taught early in life that it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and thus they assume everyone got their spot the way they do it. This is what they do: They push and shove their way to the front, physically displacing likely dozens of people on their way to those first few key rows, thus placing them directly in front of one or more of those people who had staked out a spot for, generally, hours.

To a certain very sensitive kind of person, that kind of behavior is very, very upsetting.

Naturally, I was curious tonight if anyone else had taken on this topic in the years since I came up with it, so I searched and found a few pages that (rather superficially, in my opinion) discuss “types of concertgoers” (and by “discuss” I mean make a list with at most a sentence or two per bullet). A couple of them lightly acknowledge and dismiss the kind of jerk I’m talking about here. (“I mean I only stood here for two hours to be in the front, but you, you definitely can go in front of me.”) Yet none of them really focus on what I used to allow to stoke my rage.

That’s the thing: As long as we have people, and concerts, there will always be assholes who push their way to the front of concerts. Most people, when faced with that situation, shrug and say, “glad they’re not in front of me,” or “it’s not worth getting mad.” But I have always had a strong tendency to want to right perceived injustices. (Especially when I’m the one who’s been wronged, admittedly.)

Even if I liked to imagine one in those old, naïve, idealistic days, there is nowhere near a sufficient enough sense of community among the people near the front of the show (especially after the lights go down) for it to matter too much to them when an aggressive jerk, usually tall, rarely female, shoves in front of someone else. It’s too temporary an arrangement to get involved with someone else’s problem. The initial aggressive behavior goes unpunished, and it’s the response in kind that ends up getting negative attention. Probably understandably. People came there to see a show, not to right a wrong (even if it happens to be getting in the way of someone else enjoying a show), and definitely not to see a lunatic yell at someone. (“Chill.” “Don’t trip.” Definitely good west coast advice.)

But in this situation and in general, the main reason not to allow anger to flame up into a full, active rage is that it simply does not pay. It is nowhere near worth it. It’s bad for your health in so many different ways (detailed elsewhere). It might also result in a fight (and I know I have friends who can’t believe I never got into one, because I can see how for a while it seemed like I was looking for one). I’m not saying I was always like that. But I was like that far more than was healthy for a relatively brief period of time.

The kind of concertgoer I have become is a different kind of enthusiastic early bird. Now I get there early enough to get a seat on the balcony (assuming the venue is large enough to have one) or a comfortable standing or sitting position in the rear of the room. Ideally, say at the Fillmore, if you get a balcony seat directly above the stage, you’re golden. If you’re in the back, sure, the performers are too far away to see, but the sound tends to be good, you can move around enough to see okay [and even so there will be a million photos of the show online afterwards], and (most importantly) no one will step directly in front of you enough to enrage you.

This all matters because my now most frequent fellow concertgoer is my wife. She has communicated quite clearly that she is in this for the long run — as long a run as possible. That matters to me. Like her, I want us both to be happy and healthy as long as possible. That matters enough for me to really have examined, and changed, my behavior.

We still like going to shows. We’re just the people who sit in the balcony or the back. And I am having more fun than ever.

Filed under Amusing (if only to me), Culture, Life, Music, Previously Unfinished Thoughts on March 31, 2015 at 10:20 pm
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2/12/15

How an art major in Madison ended up happy here

About a year and a half ago, I received a survey request from the UW-Madison Art Department and found myself writing a lot about things from 15 years prior. I pasted my response as a draft in this here blog intending to expand on it at some point; since I appear to be on a “draft post finishing” kick these days, that point is now. Here’s a significantly extended version of what I told them about my long-distant experience matriculating there.

I enjoyed being an art major at UW-Madison (from roughly 1995 to 1998), though I certainly did not intend to follow that path when I enrolled at UW in 1993. (How I decided to add the art major is in itself another story, and an important one for me.) Had I been an aspiring art major in high school, it seems unlikely that I’d have gone to UW-Madison — I’d probably have aimed for MIAD (Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design) or somewhere else, maybe more ambitious. While making art was something I enjoyed a lot, it seemed neither to be my greatest strength nor my greatest passion. I did always enjoy computers, and my first work with Photoshop and QuarkXPress was in the art classroom at my high school, so it’s not a huge surprise that I ended up doing graphic design.

Of course, those formative experiences and the subsequent ones way up in the sixth and seventh floors of the gray concrete neo-brutalist “Humanities Building” are ancient history by now. I would guess (and hope) the Department of Art is better off today.

Overall, the quality of instruction varied greatly and the facilities were often sub-par, though our access to technology was pretty good. We had limited classroom space, and it wasn’t contiguous, but given that, the sense of community on the upper floors of Humanities was about as good as it could have been. If I’d tried harder, or sooner, connections I made with my classmates definitely could have become deeper friendships. But at the time I had my co-workers, my former dorm mates, and my drinking buddies, three groups that had a small amount of overlap.

I did feel that I learned a little bit about making art, at least, even though the level of instruction was mixed. Some instructors provided little to no individualized guidance, even in smaller classes, and generally I didn’t sense an overall commitment to improving students’ ability to navigate the larger world. For a self-directed student like me, opportunities were there. (I suppose I could have gone to office hours more frequently, but I spent a huge percentage of my time just working on projects.) There are a few faculty members I’m willing to list by name because I liked them. Stan Shellabarger was helpful in instilling a questioning attitude that informs me to this day, and Daniel Smajo-Ramirez was helpful in bridging the art/technology gap. Phil Hamilton, who taught graphic design, was always incredibly encouraging and warm. He left most of the detailed questions of execution to John Rieben. We used to call them “Santa and Satan,” perhaps unfairly to John, but his relatively harsh demeanor was a shock to our coddled adolescent brains. I took Professor Hamilton’s independent study “portfolio class” and was grateful for his emphasis on the need to have a portfolio, but I was shocked at how many of my classmates ended the semester without having completed one.

It turns out, of course, that that portfolio class during my final semester of college was the link to the rest of my future. My future former co-worker John Ziperski (also coincidentally a fellow Hartford High alumnus) came to that class looking for interns. I saw a terrific opportunity, even though the (now defunct) firm, HBG New Media, was then housed at the charming former cheese factory in distant Paoli (distant at least for those of us who relied on a bike and public transit, which I did at the time).

I convinced my mom it was not merely necessary but also safe for me to take possession of the 1983 Plymouth Reliant that had been sitting, undriven, in her yard for at least a year, so that I could take the internship at HBG. In 1998, HBG (which has its own interesting and cautionary tale) had a large plot on the periphery of the frontier of the great Internet expansion of the late 1990s — meaning we were among the first companies designing and building websites for mid-sized companies with occasionally recognizable brands (Tiger Toys, McGraw-Hill, lots of others). I learned a ton there from John, and Ryan McElroy, and Jessica Edil, and Eric Smith, and others.

And then, in 1999, I started getting annoyed by at least one new bad co-worker and feeling a little wanderlust. I got on the personals on a now-defunct website called swoon.com, met a girl, and — well, head on back to the earliest archives of this site, which start not too long after that.

Three years later, I got in my (new) car (long since sold), moved to the Bay Area, and here I am now. Yay!

Filed under History, Life, Wisconsin on February 12, 2015 at 6:04 pm
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1/30/15

Another dream

In early 2013 I was apparently trolling (in the “deep sea fishing” sense) the old USENET archives on Google, because I did participate in some of the earliest Internet communities, pre-World Wide Web, especially during college. Today I was looking through my draft WordPress posts and found this one from then.

From a post by me to alt.dreams on 11/7/1994 called “Another plane crash dream.”:

“Did you perhaps consider that maybe you got into the car accidents because you were thinking about car accidents beforehand? ‘Hope I don’t get in a car accident, hope I don’t get in a car accident–whoops, I got in a car accident.’ See what I mean?”

That’s 19-year-old Jason logic for you, though there is probably a grain of truth to it. I don’t know if the original poster ever answered and can’t be bothered to look it up now (because I should be working).

Mostly I just wanted to post something to Gohlkus Maximus today because I haven’t posted anything in a long time. I had planned on doing some writing and then a month later lost a co-worker, detailed in my most recent post.

Aside from the wonderful honeymoon feeling Dawn and I still enjoyed from our 2013 wedding, 2014 was a pretty lousy year. A lot of losses for both of us in a lot of ways, and hard times for some of my close family members, made it really hard. We ended the year with an ultimately renewing experience — Dawn had microfracture surgery on her knee, which was fascinating to learn about and, more importantly, wildly successful for her.

2015 is starting out better, at least for me and Dawn specifically — we are doing the Whole Life Challenge, which is all kinds of interesting. It is a way to kick-start ourselves into restoring good habits we’ve had in the past anyway. Getting knocked out of a healthy routine isn’t all that difficult, especially with the big disturbances of 2014. So we’re working on doing better this year.

If anyone were to ask me now what the secret of life is, it’s kind of two-fold: be honest with yourself, and go easy on yourself. I think everything else kind of follows from that. I don’t know what 19-year-old Jason would have said, but it sure would have been easier if someone had told him that who he would have listened to. He’d probably have listened to 39-year-old Jason, especially given how voraciously he consumed science fiction.

This morning I had an interesting dream which included David Byrne performing onstage with a monkey. I would pay money to see that happen. I won’t spend any more time thinking about it, though.

Filed under Life on January 30, 2015 at 9:31 am
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5/14/14

Remembering Michael Hawk

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Continue reading "Remembering Michael Hawk"

Filed under Life on May 14, 2014 at 4:29 pm
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