Posted August 28, 2007, 6:13 pm.

Everything Is New

Cooking and eating and sleeping and learning and reading and writing and playing and riding in Chico again. I want to dissect the experience.

I live in an apartment.

This feels more like the kind of living-on-your-own I was originally promised. There is a kitchen, and my head is comfortably wrapping around the preparation all of my own meals. I have three roommates who are all friendly and ancillary. There is also a kitten, her name is Lola the lolcat. She makes the place much nicer to come home to after classes.

I’m taking four classes.

So far, the most interesting is Anthropology 116: Power and Scarcity. The biggest concepts at play so far are the kinds of power people have (ideological, economic, military/political), and how this power is organized in different areas (kinship, rulers, owners/managers). This is the Professor’s first semester at CSU Chico, and I feel like he’s going to be one of my best. I might be able to establish an independent study with him, focusing on the anthropological side of the green movement. He’s given me books to read. I have a smiling sneaking suspicion that my interests over the next three+ years will expand through philosophy and environmental science and into many more disparate and interesting fields. “The beauty in the world is growing.”

I’m taking another class titled Philosophical Methods, the intent of which is to teach me how to correctly read and write philosophically. The professor seeks to accomplish this through the repeated analysis of a small set of philosophical articles. Coincidentally these articles are all centered on personal identity. Lucky me! The professor also promised to psychologically damage all of us. Lucky me! I want to write more about identity considering the temproal, the inanimate, and the mess of the conscious.

Bisected into lecture and lab, Geo Science 130: Intro to Environmental Science leaves me feeling cold. The lecturing professor has invested a great deal of energy into a lesson plan that seems to assume no student would willingly read the text. The first 5 weeks of lab have been scheduled to familiarize us with the metric system and the scientific method. Kill me now. I’m actually quite torn. Part of me wishes there was a required freshman science class for this kind of hand-holding; a class to refresh all the Earth science, physics, and chemistry that I thought we had all learned in high school. Let me test out of this hypothetical Science 101. And at the same time though, a lot of students passing through these hallowed halls of higher education only satisfy the most minimum science requirements. If in doing so they learn something about a field I consider most vital, can it really be all that bad?

The last and least class I’m taking is one of my few remaining General Education requirements. Group Communication Studies really disappoints me. So far we’ve played a few painful name-games and defined all of two terms: ‘group’ and ‘communication’. Two cheers for mediocrity! C+’s all around!

I’m learning to play guitar.

I haven’t played guitar for a couple months. It feels like it’s been over a year since I’ve played a show. My fingertips have softened and any technique seems to have drained from my limbs. But the accoustic guitar has new strings on it, as does the electric. We’ll see what happens, though I still feel detached from what was Meat Machine.

I need to get back into shape.

Prior to the summer, I really did feel like I was the fittest I’ve ever been. Weekly century rides will do that I guess. One of the things I’ve noticed about “the best shape of your life” is that it disappears under cover of darkness. Where did these soft legs come from? I thought I could sprint crosstown in 44x15 and not break a sweat? Why have I lost weight? Commuting to class and a reformed bike gang ought to do me good. I also need to build a new rear wheel, and a bike with gears. Goddamn.

Posted August 14, 2007, 8:17 pm.

Identify 5

Here’s hoping you’re not sick of the lyrics+headspace format just yet. Oh Mandy by The Spinto Band:

I got a gnome in the backyard
I put him right on the X mark
he?s supposed to show me where the money is
hey wont you show me where the money is
I got it all on the back of my hand
I want your answer so I won’t forget
then show me right where your heart is
oh right now tell me where your heart is

Oh Mandy, Oh Mandy
So Dreamy, So Killing

Sure I had trouble from the onset
I tried to chase things I couldn’t get
Show me a rerun on the W
Show me a rerun on the WB
So What’s it like to be in it
and move away to the Midwest
I gotta message for your auntie

Oh Mandy, Oh Mandy
Can read me, and has me
Oh Mandy, Oh Mandy’?s
Completely out of reach

And now I know I?m at the end of my wits
don’t gotta tell me where this is going
cus I know nothing ever falls apart
yeah I know nothing ever falls apart
remind me once more where this is going
before I fling it out into the ocean
it?s kind of level but its wavy
Its looking more blue than it is green
it?s looking quiet as I jump in
so I can finally hear you scream
You got a gnome in the backyard
you put him right on the X mark
you?re eating brains out the back of my head
oh yeah, that’s where the money is


I’d like to a break from the self to consider the way we view the identity of another, the 3rd person. In order of availability this is what we can see, and upon which all impressions are based. First the external identity; the manifestation of their identity outside of their own mind. Granted it is all but impossible for one person to witness or understand all manifestations of the external identity of another. Some external manifestations we won’t be around to witness, and others will pass so far above or below our radar we don’t even know they’re there, body language for example.

We see even less of their environment. If we are limited in our ability to observe someone else’s external identity, then we are next to blind when it comes to observing the specific effects an environment has on them. If an environment can effect an individual in such a subtle way that even they’re not aware of the change, how likely is an outside observer to notice? For example, there are no good ways of judging how strong an effect a commercial had on someone you know, or how much their sense of aesthetics has been shaped by the kinds of trees that grow in their watershed.

Who’s to say? And of their internal, we see nothing. All is balanced though; as I said before, we spend an inordinate amount of time in our own headspace and spare little for the shared.

Posted August 14, 2007, 1:26 pm.

Identify 4

As is the daily dose, here are some quasi-related lyrics. Seemingly, apparently, but not. From the latest Modest Mouse album,

We’ve got everything down to a science
So I guess we know everything
We know everything was built to expire
So I guess we’ve done everything

If we carried it out to sea pushed it over the edge we’d have all been through,
Well first off Gary got drunk fell asleep in his car ‘til about noon
Flat Top Tony got all messed up split his lip chasing cheap perfume
Well look at our boat in the bay it looks like some sad ass little canoe

We’ve done everything like trial by fire
So I guess we’ll stop trying now
We’ve tried everything half assed and as liars
And that’s how we’ve got everything

If we carried it out to sea pushed it over the edge we could have all been through
Well no one even bothered showin’ up but we still did what we should have thought through

We crashed in like waves into the stars
Didn’t want it didn’t need it but we knew that we could see it so we opened up the door
We receded like waves out of the stars
Didn’t want it didn’t need it but we knew that we could steal it left it dying on the floor

We’ve got everything down to a science
So I guess we know everything
We’ve got everything
We’ve done everything
We’ve tried everything
We’ve got everything


I’m worried that my zealous diction might render points I’d make obscure. What I mean to say is, does any of this follow?

What I’ve been trying to get at is an argument about personal awareness of identity. While it may seem unintuitive, I believe we are each the least qualified person to judge our own identities. At the same time, ironically, understanding of an identity matters more to its owner than it ever could to anyone else.

If we turn our gaze introspectively, then we are undoubtedly biased. I believe the objective introspective view is an impossibility and a contradiction. Looking to the lives we lead outside our heads, all determinations we can make about ourselves are influenced in one way or another by the environment that surrounds us. These are the problems I come across when I try to find a satisfactory answer to the question “Who am I?”

I think that growing up, increasing independence, moving across the country, and having a much stronger role in my own education have all been very helpful in terms of that age old question (where value “age” = 19.6 years). It’s been just over a year since I moved, and it’s still very near the surface of my mind. As previously mentioned, a drastic change in environment can challenge environmentally based claims about one’s identity. A new environment may require that these claims (eg I enjoy Fall, school is boring, eating meat might be bad, I am social) be re-evaluated. Once the new environment has settled new claims can be made. Many old claims may continue to ring true, others may need to be discarded. Your mileage may vary.

Coming back to the East Coast for a month after spending nearly a year on the Left has given me a unique opportunity. A comparison of Environment East and Environment West had been running in my mind ever since I left, but this summer was the first time I held side-by-side the two sets of claims I had made about my identity. Triangulation with two sets of inferences.

Reunions are awesome and reunions are awkward. Looking around it is no surprise or secret that my peers have changed as well; some for the better and most more than I know. Would it be better to fall back into line with my previous understanding of self, and fill the role that most easily fits into the relationships I remember? Should I stand by my new judgments of identity and stick it out to all these people I don’t even live near anymore? I prefer accumulation.

Posted August 12, 2007, 8:51 pm.

Identify 3

Concluding this triad of metaphysical ramblings, I’ll begin with the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, Going to Georgia by The Mountain Goats,

The most remarkable thing about coming home to you is the feeling of being in motion again: its the most extraordinary thing in the world.

I have two big hands and a heart pumping blood and a 1967 Colt .45 with the busted safety catch.

The world shines as I cross the Macon county line going to Georgia.

The most remarkable thing about you standing in the doorway is that it’s you and that you are standing in the doorway and you smile as you ease the gun from my hand, I am frozen with joy right where I stand.

The world throws its light underneath your hair, forty miles from Atlanta, this is nowhere, going to Georgia.

The world shines as I cross the Macon county line going to Georgia.


Recalibration, no? I left off exploring the increasingly transformative effects that an unstable or unfamiliar environment can have upon a developing identity. Allow me to clarify that by no means do I believe a consistent environment hinders development of the identity. I merely posit that within a stable context it becomes easier for the internal to project the external reliably, and that the external may in turn reinforce the internal more often than not.

Finding one’s self in a new location, a new set of circumstances, amongst new peers, in a new context, and in a resulting new frame of mind encourages the development of identity. Beginning with the understanding that the interior identity may not be translated accurately through the new syntax, it becomes apparent that the external identity may no longer serve as a clear reflecting pool for the interior.

When neither the inherently biased mind’s eye view of the internal (by the internal) or the reflective view of the external (by the internal) can provide a reliable perspective of the internal identity, I dearly hope it leads to a reassessment of values.

One of the few pieces of advice I’ll attempt to live by comes from the inextinguishable Henry Rollins. (That’s point #2 towards my punk-rock-cliché merit badge, for those at home keeping score.) The quote follows as such,

“Go without a coat when it’s cold; find out what cold is. Go hungry; keep your existence lean. Wear away the fat, get down to the lean tissue and see what it’s all about. The only time you define your character is when you go without. In times of hardship, you find out what you’re made of and what you’re capable of. If you’re never tested, you’ll never define your character.

Where I may wax garrulously, Mr. Rollins drops some concise knowledge. I can get behind that.

So I’ve adjusted some.

Posted August 11, 2007, 4:59 pm.

Identify 2

Part deux of the self redux, in which the narrator considers location, location, location. In addition, lyrics of Sweetbreads by Andrew Bird:

When I was a little boy I threw away my action toys
I became obsessed with operation
with Hearts and minds and certain glands
You learn to keep a steady hand
And thus began a morbid fascination with

sweetbreads, I could taste what you were thinking
sweetbreads, that’s the taste of neurons thinking

Do you wonder where the self resides
Is it in your head or between your sides
And who’s going to decide its true location?
cause it’s a question for the centuries
from communion to mad cow disease
but is it worthy of a song - all life’s location?
oh and the sweetest sweetbread of them all within the kingdom of afar
call them thoughts and metaphor-inations
they call them

sweetbreads, I could taste what you were thinking
sweetbreads, that’s the taste of neurons thinking

does the thought of bowels red and black
the thought of tongues that taste you back fill you with a nauseous elation
where a simple trip to the grocery store could fill you with an abject horror
can you taste the misery of those crustaceans?
oh and the sweetest sweetbread of them all
within the kingdom of afar should’ve caused some silent machinations
they call them

sweetbreads, I could taste what you were thinking
sweetbreads, that’s the taste of neurons thinking
aw, I could taste what you were thinking
oh, give me your thoughts about sweetbread


Location, context, circumstance, environment. As the Identity is cycled from internal to external and back again, it is perturbed by countless influences. Many of these influences can be categorized as environmental factors. Friends, annual rainfall, GDP, local edible fauna, workplace stresses, availability of campy horror film, these are but a few of the unlimited identifiable environmental influences. In most cases, these influences and their net effects as an environment are relatively stable. Friends may come and go and the weather changes, but on the scale of the developing identity these shifts average out. As long as an individual remains in the same place, environmental influences will remain stable.

If environmental perturbations are relatively constant, then the calibration of the internal and external identity to each other becomes much simpler. With the internal identity represented by the letter “I”, the external identity represented by the letter “E”, and environmental influences and perturbations represented by the letter “P”, consider the following equations:

In the case of the internal projecting the external;
I + P = E
or, conversely the external reshaping the internal;
E + P = I

As in simple algebra, if the value “P” is a known and constant value, it become much easier to understand the effect it has on “E”. Having a better understanding of how one’s internal identity is rendered externally allows for a more precise and congruous calibration of the internal and external. A stable environments leads to a more persistent and integrated identity.

When an environment changes sufficiently that the value for “P” is no longer constant or known, the changes that occur between the internal and external identities are no longer easily understood. What view the internal identity had of its external representation is now fogged or confused by the new modifier. The reinforcing effect of a clear external identity upon the the internal identity is now bent through an unfamiliar and opaque lens. Unfamiliar filters between the internal and external may reduce the stability of the identity as a whole, and this can lead to new developments.


My move from the East Coast to the West resulted in a massive change for all values of “P”. In a new environment, my internal identity was left without the error-checking provided by familiar filters. If I use a “perfectly cromulent word” like “embiggen” and nobody knows I’m referencing The Simpsons, then the projection of my external identity is not in line with what my internal identity would have it be. Because my internal identity cannot objectively view itself, I rely on the way my external identity bounces off of other individuals to self examine. If the filter through which this external identity is bouncing is not familiar to me, then my only glimpse at what may be my internal identity has been shifted.

What follows when filters fog instead of focus? Recalibration.

Posted August 10, 2007, 6:47 pm.

Identify 1

At the risk of committing an act easily filed under “punk rock cliché”, here are some choice Against Me! lyrics:

Please tell me why we couldn’t stay
Don’t let this feeling ever go away
Let this memory forever be inside of me
Through every hour of every day
It’s with the company of these friends
That we drove on through the night
We were carried by the wheels of Armageddon

We’re gonna force ourselves to live
Thankful it’s hurt more than we’ve ever felt
It’s just our means to an end

And honestly we were armed with our best intentions
Maybe those intentions alone
are just enough to get us anywhere but here
In the middle of America
Six cylinders will take us further than any president
The same promises that we forgot the last time
There’s no difference between staying and a bullet in the head

Maybe it’s gonna come from the radio
Or the next 8 hour day
Driving to the next town
A collect call home to your best friend
We are the company we keep
We could live off of dumpsters if we have to
Sell our blood by the pint to make rent
This kind of dignity doesn’t come easy
But you’ll never find it for sale

And that’s why we couldn’t stay
But never let that feeling ever go away
Kept to memory, inside of us
Through every hour, through every day
Until we die
It’s with the company of those friends
We drove on through the night
Behind the wheels of Armageddon


My final summer sojourn will end in less than a week, and I’m weighing the past three months mentally. If I haven’t gleaned insight into my own identity, I have at least struck upon the way I define it, the way we define it. Allow me to deconstruct.

The initial division of identity explicitly defines the roll of the divider. There is first and foremost the internal identity, and then there is the external identity. The internal identity is the Self, the I. Able to examine nothing but the external identities of others, and through reflection only estimate the external identity of the Self, the view of the internal identity is limited. Even reflection upon one’s own internal identity is colored by the mind’s eye.

The external identity is a projection of the internal identity as it is rendered by context, communication, physicality, and analysis by another autonomous self. Because the external identity is partially shaped by the observer, and at the same time never fully visible to the internal identity, integrity is impossible to assure. This does not mean it is not worth striving for, or that it is required.

That being said, the separate and yet inexorably married internal and external identities are not static portraits. The internal identity is constantly being reinforced or altered by feedback pertaining to the external. Constantly and fluidly changing, the internal projects a free-flowing and adaptive external. The internal casts the external through circumstance and presence. The external is then reflected back toward the internal and interpreted. This can elicit a response that adjusts, evaluates, and readjusts the internal. If the development of identity (both internal and external) can be considered a positive change, then a systemic analysis would consider this a positive feedback system. While this system does rest in an unstable equilibrium, it may not be fair to say that the growth or development of identity is exponential, though it is certainly cumulative, and will in all likelihood never return to its initial state.

But what does this have to do with my summer, or Against Me!, or you? I’ll write in the morrow. Now it is 2am in Pennsylvania, and I have a headache to sleep off.

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