Long Awaited Christmas Disaster?


My ever-loving aunt, who has paunch in all the right places and is generally the figure of growing old in the most beautiful, maternal way, while still not gaining the social insight into to people and life in generally that allegedly comes with age, got very ill today. Not in the way that prompts a Lifetime special or violins, but in the way that cancels Christmas dinner at her house and causes her to, round-a-boutly, break her ankle. Characteristically, she's angry, and can't get a brace until tomorrow when the bone-doc is on call. My sympathy goes to her, but I'm upset that Christmas was summarily stricken from the book of holidays this year - I actually wanted to see the extended tribe. This year, for the first time in Rudinski family history, I was slated to be treated like an adult. This chance is all but shot to hell, and now I'll have to start over at Easter.

Damn my selfish desires.

But also, the promised photos from my Color final. The series is titled "Happy Birthday to Me" and I'm not going to make an artist's statement.

Hiatus: Over!

I saw a Hummer wrapped in Christmas lights on the Parkway today. They blinked. I felt as though I was caught in some surreal time-warp back to last year, when driving a Hummer was a sign of asshattery, rather than just being out of step with the times.

But this has been the general theme of New Jersey. It feels like another universe, a complete separate culture. How is it that the space of a river changes the way people behave so drastically? Perhaps the world is more community driven than I've realized. Or maybe it's just the quirks.

Shot a whole roll of 120 VC backwards today. I actually managed to load it into the camera the wrong way round. The combination of disappointment and aggravation always makes me laugh.

ALSO! On the way to Morristown, there was a State Trooper casually weaving back and forth across 287 for about a mile, busting out all of 35 mph. He was the drunken shepard, and we were his flock, curiously following and wondering if on this serpentine swipe he just might, maybe, careen into the gaurd rail. And how magical would that be. Yet, when he finally stopped swerving at an arbitrary point, but did not accelerate, we all stayed behind him, wondering if passing him would incur his municpal wrath. Who knows, with Staties. They've got some superiority complex that only comes from years of being treated badly.

I heard Santa Baby three times today, by accident. I'm really praying it doesn't happen again.

Photos from my Color final tomorrow.

Week of Food!

Whoever is tagging "Pony Boy" gets two hundred points.

Thanksgiving was somewhat mundane, as it always is. The family is flat, not of us really want to see each other, we all get a bit tipped and eat way to much. It's a strange, very American sort of holiday, I think.

But more to the point: I threw my own pre-Thanksgiving, yet again, and it was one of the greatest successes it's ever been. Almost everyone I cared about was there. No one did anything hurtful. Despite the turkey, which was covered in bacon, setting off a minor smoke bomb in the kitchen that lead to temporary blindness and my drunken conviction that I had, much to my mother's chagrin, finally set the house on fire. However, it turned out perfectly, despite all odds against it.

And I actually felt wonderful, to see us all there, surrounding a table. It was the most Norman Rockwell of moments, the actual purpose of a holiday like this, made real rather than obligatory. And for once it felt satisfying to participate in a holiday, a tradition, because we had made it our own and made it mean something.

And there, over the turkey, we sang "Day Man." Completely spontaneously.

We are all together in this, I realized, as much as we are apart. We cannot escape each other if we wanted to, and though we may not be holding hands and facing the world, we are cheek to jowl, glaring into the distance and wondering what the hell is up ahead.

From the Department of Jumping the Gun Like Whoa, We Present Christmas!

This has been a strange week.

1. It is not Christmas. Lets stop kidding ourselves. I do not want your holiday music, flyers, or manufactured cheer. Thank you.

2. Why is it so hard to find a decent pair of gloves in this city? My fingers are freezing off.

3. Someone punched me in the face last night without provication while I was walking down 13th street. I was outside the Last Drop! Jeez, right there?! They didn't even do anything - just walked away while I swore at them. I'm still totally perplexed, although a friend of mine thinks someone was filming it for kicks. Odd hobby. At least the dude at the LD gave me a hot chocolate - very motherly.

4. Stairs, apparently, are not a valid method of transportation, according to security at Daffy's. I'm not a fan 0f elevators - they make me feel like a lazy, dumb American. I take the stairs when possible. Problem is, they're not always so easy to find. So, at Daffy's, I asked the security gaurd where I might find a flight. Her response was telling.

"Stairs?" she asked, furrowing her eyebrows like I had just asked her to produce a kiwi from her pocket.
"Yes," I said, afraid I would have to explain the concept of a rising system of boxes that could be ascended.
"You wanna take the stairs?"
"Well, yes."
"I thought it might be easier." Elevators are also very annoying, in my opinion.
"Oh, I dunno. It's kinda hard."

Hard? Hard to take the stairs, right, gotcha, lemme wait in line for five minutes so I can take an elevator one flight up. How can you not have a flight of stairs? Has no one ever asked where they are, or desired to take them? Does no one else feel accomplished after they take the stairs instead of the elevator? I must be looney, I must be loosing it.

It's God Bless America Day!

Today I walked a six-block circle around center city and saw fifteen American flags and one bus with "GOD BLESS AMERICA" blinking in the front. I also spied a flag at least thirty feet high hanging in the lobby of a downtown high rise.

What, praytell, is the point of hanging an American flag in an office building?

Hanging Old Glory in an office building is the equivalent of hanging a poorly done abstract painting in the same place. It says nothing about your organization whatsoever. It says, "We'll, we wanted to say something, but god forbid we put up something that might offend people, so let's go for the most generic, worn-out banner that we can find. Who can disagree with that?"

Well, on one hand, no one. Because it says nothing anymore, and how can you get offended by nothing? On the other hand:

Me. It's generic. It's stupid. It's repetitive and meaningless, like the word "freedom." Things loose their meaning when they're too often repeated, and I'm bored with all of it. If you want to hang something up, hang something interesting. Stop parading garbage in front of my eyes.

Salt of the Earth

Last night, Sen. Barack Obama defeated Sen. John McCain in the climax to the most epic and meaningful election in modern times. Tallying over 330 electoral votes, Sen. Obama won nearly two-thirds of the electoral college's vote for a landslide victory for the first African-American president elect. Here in Philly, we hit Broad St. We do this every time something exciting happens, you see.

This wasn't the Phillies rush-and-riot, but it was so much happier. The joy was tangible, thick in the air, an incredible feeling of lightness circling my head. I was consumed with observation, checking the Obama signs, the chants of "USA!", the spontaneous signing of the Star-Spangled Banner. Patriotism was hot in the air. For the first time in my political life, I could be proud of the man who would be leading the country, and I'm sure that feeling extended outside of me.

I saw Obama speak on the news, give his victory speech, and I nearly cried. This man, this man is capable, intelligent, passionate and understanding. We need massive upheaval in this country, a near revolution, and the only thing strong enough to change the current system is the system itself. Hopefully, Obama will give us that. Hopefully, this man will bring us change, bring us home, bring us back to what we're supposed to be.

When I woke up this morning, I couldn't believe it still. I laid in bed and looked up at my glow-in-the-dark-star covered ceiling, half-grinning and half shaking my head. My mother called me so we could shout over the phone, and told me there was a party in every room at her office. "You've never seen so many happy social sciences people," she told me. I've never seen so many happy Philadelphians. As one woman yelled last night, "This was the best seven days in the history of Philadelphia!"

I don't want to believe this will be good because I'm afraid of being let down again, because I know the government in s a class tool, but like I said before, this feels good. Tomorrow, America just might fall apart, but for once I hope it doesn't.


I am so excited. Obama is leading the pre-count and looks like the winner for tonight.

The winner? God, it's almost as unbelievable as the Phillies winning the Series. Almost. Maybe some more riots for this big win?

But really, I shouldn't be so excited. I know representational democracy is a sham. I know that government is just a tool for the upper-class to impose its will on the lower class. But something about this election, something about Obama, has me wrapped up in the fool's hope that something could actually change. My life could get better, our lives as Americans could get better. We might finally stop the injustices we commit, as a nation, on a daily basis. Maybe someone can finally get the elite in line, maybe someone will start considering the needs of the other classes.

But it's all just dreaming. Even in the best of times, I'm not sure that could ever happen. But it won't quell the oil greasing my stomach telling me that this, for some reason, is a good thing.

SPORTS and Head Injuries.

Riots on Broad Street tonight? I hope so. Photo update tomorrow from last nights tom-foolery.


I walked into an iron towel hook on Saturday afternoon and split my head open. I had my roommate look at my head - it was bleeding. Being the queasy man he was, he couldn't tell if it needed stitches. Being Red Cross trained by also concussed, I assumed it was didn't. I then went for a photo walk in the rain with a vintage briefcase, setting up the attaché in front of various scenery and snapping photographs. I should have known then that I needed some hospital attention, but first I went to CVS and spent upwards of $30 on crap I didn't need, including an $11.59 moisturizing cream (they make that?) and 9 volt batteries.

Then I went to Jefferson Hospital after mistakenly walking to a rehab clinic down the street from my house, which looked curiously like a hospital. I got there and went to check it, and was greeted at the Registration desk with, "Hello, thank you for choosing Jefferson. How can I help you today."

"My head's bleeding."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Can I have you social security number?"

Well, yeah, I guess you can. I've never had such a corporate experience at a medical facility, nor been treated with such incompetence. Three different medical professionals looked at me before a charming but rather condescending doctor who identified himself as a Senior Doctor on the Emergency Care Ware locked eyes with me and held his face about three inches of mine to tell me "everything would be okay." I had a hard time not laughing in his face. On someone elses body, I can tell if something needs stiches no problem. Yet, Jefferson Hospital needs a senior doc to tell me my boo-boo is gonna be just fine. Cripes.

Capitalism + Medical Care = Wierd.
Today I saw a tour-bus commandeered for use as a t-shirt delivery vehicle. A man with a microphone shouted the praises of the 76ers (seriously? Heard of the World Series?) and volunteers on top threw t-shirts overboard. Grown men and women - professionals, from their dress, pushed each other out of the way, jostling to get what ended up being a pretty disappointing shirt. This is what our culture has come to - a made grab to get whatever we can? I would hope not, but the mob mentality was out in force today, and it pains me to see that our efforts at civilization may not be as iron clad as we pretend they are.

Missed Connections = Art

Craigslist is either a font of wisdom or a presentation of the magical farce that can often be human existence.

A simple scroll through any of the dating sections - missed connections, especially - reveals such a strange medley of facts about human nature that one could take it for a life lesson. Yet, it also reveals that life is such a strange and mostly absurd wander that you can't help but chuckle. It's funny, it's enlightening - it might even be a masterpiece.

There's something about the way people quest for each other, the strange mix of hope and helplessness that missed connections evokes, that inspires and cracks up. On one hand, you've got anonymous love-struck birds with nothing to do to soothe themselves but twitter their song into the ether of the internet. On the other hand, you've got seriously distraught posts about ex-loves, the ache of existence, etc. It's true in it's depth and realism but absurd it's public forum. But then, also, is life, as we strut about the stage toward a unhurried yet never timely death.


Oh also, this:

1. Amazing center-fielder. How many outs did he make? At least four in the last two innings.
2. WOLRD SERIES WOW. Never thought that'd happen.
3. Philly was a very loud, happy city last night, and that was heart-warming.
4. It feels really good to see the Phillies do this. It makes me feel proud to be part of this city.
5. I'm sitting outside of the games with a radio and waiting for the riots, camera in hand. Expect photographs.

See, proving my own point. Distractions, kids.

p.s. Journalists keep calling Victorino a Hawaiian-American. Are they unaware that we annexed Hawaii in '59? I can imagine that conversation with the editor.

Go Go Gadget Existentialism

Define the American Dream.

A house in the suburbs for all your hard work, perhaps, or the chance to make dinero hand over the fists of your subordinates, or the opportunity to follow one's heart into the great wilderness and be praised as a hero? It's a strange combination of individualistic Puritanism, but it has one glaring - epic, even - flaw.

Nothing is or ever will be perfect. You can do all the pushing, all the inventing and all the sojourning you'd like, but for all your work, chances are that you'll still feel all roiled up inside. No amount of American Dreamer-ism can free us from the human condition, from the constant to-and-fro in our guts. It cannot free us from strife, worry, pain, neurosis, or fear. We are bound by these things as we are bound by our skin. Selling ten thousand cars won't cure this, exploring the Rockies won't cure this, rearing two less-screwed-up-than-usual children won't cure this. It may be trite, but we cannot escape who we are.

So why do we bother, then? Why do we do the things we do, why do we feel ambition, hope, ecstasy? Because we are and always will be dreamers, as a people, race, and species. We have the stars in our eyes and our feet on the ground, and are forever trying to bring the great chasm between them to a close.

And it's right that we should do this, because we need something to distract us from our watery insides or we will surely drown in them. Without the quest, without even the surface meaning of trying, we would be paralyzed, forever doom and gloom. We need to move forward even if that movement is illusionary, even if the great existential crises will never be resolved.

Do not mistake this as hopelessness. Without our daily tasks, we would have almost no meaning to our existence. Am I saying all of human history is one great diversion, one great trick to try and keep the stomach settled and the mind at ease? Well, yes. And why not? What other reason motivates us? God is just as absurd, as is some innate need to create and provide. We are always driven by desire, says the 8 Fold Path, and we are always in pain because of it. Our desire is motivated by our pain, I say - we do things to block out what we don't want to feel, to distract.

But this does mean that, because we cannot reach inner peace, we should stop trying. It's all about the pursuit. But when one accepts the final truth that things will never be perfect, that enlightenment is a myth and nothing will make you feel complete for longer than a few months, that is when the final freedom is reached. If you are no longer questing for perfection, no longer hunting for the right woman, man, job, or mission, you may find that the things around you take on a greater significance, a larger importance and a higher beauty. The small things may now be satisfying, and the things that grated on you before may now be bearable.

So what then, lower your standards to keep yourself happy? No. Or only sort of. Lower you standards to quell some of the internal sloshing and make it easier to do, create, and live. Otherwise, we simply might die as frustrated as we were born, crying out for anything to save us.

Now for something completely different: the Dow rising!

Despite my spiffy Obama pin/shirt combo, I will not be voting for Barack. No, despite the fact that it is Baracktober, despite the fact that I would love to Barack the vote, and despite the fact that I do, absolutely, smell what Barack is cooking, I will not be voting for him.

But I will still be voting NoCain. But with the Libertarian party instead.

Wha?! But you live in Phiwwie!

I know, quell your riotous impulses. But Barack has a 14 point lead in this state, and a bajillion point lead in Philadelphia. Did you see the maddness on Broad Street, or hear the boos at the flyers game as Sarah Sixpack Palin dropped the puck? No, I will not gild this political lily. Instead, I'm going to cast my vote to support a third party.

But why? And what animal will they be?

They will be a giraffe, because its proportions are pleasing yet ridiculous, much like the Libertarians. As to the why: there is so little difference between the two major parties, and variety is the spice of life as well as the political process. It's good for your country, young patriot, as well as your mental health; I am so sick of hearing about only two major parties. I demand more interesting news!

So I encourage a limited number of Philadelphians to do the same. But only a few! Or I'll spoil the election.

Probama Rally

I'm fresh from the trenches, as it might be, on Broad Street today. Hundreds of Senator Obama's supporters turned out today to rally against Sara Palin, who was staying at the Bellvue Hotel in Center City. Despite the fact that she was not seen by or heard from, the crowd kept a high level of energy all afternoon, chanting slogans and encouraging passing motorists to honk. In attendance was a 82-year-old woman giving the "peace" sign, a couple in shirts that read "Sara Palin is a Cunt," (get yours here), the Veterans Against McCain, who waved an American Flag with the three-pronged symbol for "peace" on the field, and a pair of teenagers who held hockey sticks reading, together, "Fuck Palin." Although at first I just thought they said "Fuck." Which was amusing and confusing.

It dawned on me, as I stood in the massive crowd on the Broad Street median, that this could be one of the more signifigantly historical moments of my life. Will I tell my brother's children about this election? Will I show off my aged Obama button, or my tattered Palin is a Cunt shirt? I would hope so. Out there on the median, it felt significant, meaningful, like we were all part of something bigger than ourselves. And while I'm less prObama and more NoCain, I still couldn't resist yelling along with the crowd. It's hard not to protest Palin's idiocy.

Here's hoping that we won't have four more years of the same, though I wish I could do more than hope. With a government in power that's this corrupt, it's hard to tell if voting will matter at all.

(No fly list?)

Non-Representative Democracy

Last night, I filmed a debate between two surrogates of Obama and McCain. The showdown was hosted by the Philadelphia Architectural Committee, and the subject was how the presidential candidates would treat urban areas during their prospective terms.

It's an extremely relevant topic, but also an extremely dry one. Most infrastructure issues, I learned, involve complex negotiations over federal funding, allocation, and pork-barrel lobbying. It's not as if someone says, "We need a railroad here," and the railroad will soon be. Rather, the idea passes through dozens of committees and revisions. By the time it emerges, it's usually voted down. And while I would love someone to say, "We need a national rail system that's affordable and functional," projects like that are generally viewed as money holes by the current administration and face tidal waves of opposition, especially given the currently financial state of our country. Yet, I can't help but think, if we have enough money to bail out banks, why can't we update our country's crumbling infrastructure?

Furthermore, the debate was attended almost exclusively by rich, white UPenn students. The debate focused on mass transit and infrastructure, issues that affect those who are bound to the city for life and don't make a lot of money. In a minority-majority city, there were two African-Americans in the attendance, and one was serving drinks.

This seems to send a pretty clear image of our country's political climate. It's no secret that white males still have almost all the power in the country, but it's so disheartening to see that even the democratic tradition of debate is still restricted to members of one race. Those in attendance were likely to never be affected by the issues presented: most will move to the suburbs, and I cannot imagine that any of them will be forced to rely on public transportation as their only means to get around the city. Yet those who are forced to rely and those who are deeply affected by the issues were not in attendance. It's virtually maddening.

When I went to argue my case before SEPTA last year during the possible budget collapse, I was one of the few white people in the audience, and that made sense to me; I'm usually one of the few white people on the subway. The audience reflected the ridership, and the community that was affected. But yesterday, there was no sort of representation like that. Instead, we all chatted over white wine and catered edibles. It was as if we were putting on a show for ourselves to show that we were concerned public citizens who cared about the well-being of the poor riff-raff beneath, and it made me vaguely ill.

Something is rotten in Denmark when those who are the most affected are not even invited to the table.

The Self is a Land Mine

Creating a self-portrait is deceptively complicated. While putting your own face in a photograph is a simple enough task - timer, tripod, go - there are so many underlying issues to creating meaningful self portraits that it seems like more a philosophical exercise than a physiological one.

The problem is this: if a self-portrait is an expression of the self, you need to know yourself very well in order to create a meaningful image. Otherwise, its simply your face in a photograph. As a college student working on creating a self-portrait that plunges to the depths of the self, I've realized that my definition of who I am is not that tightly bound. At times, it seems defined simply by whom I'm around. At other times, it seems so deeply buried that ten shovels and and earth moving equipment couldn't shake a clear image from my skull. Then, at other times, it seems so vast and complex that it could never be represented in a single image, or a series of images.

So what have I done? A lot of soul searching, obviously. Big questions come up frequently, like what it means to know the self and have a consciousness. Another problem is the naturally flawed glass one looks through when plumbing one's own depths. It common to distort or misrepresent, or to project an image of what you want to see rather than what you are. Such projection reduces an honest, powerful image to a somewhat embarrassing and fellatious fake.

My musings here are uninteresting and vague, but I've discovered that its a fools game to think that something so inherently ambiguous as the concept of the "self" could be represented succinctly and sufficiently in a photograph. The best one can do is capture an element of it in and hope that that element is true enough to be meaningful. If enough of these elements are collected, they begin to come together to form a meaningful whole.

That said, here a few images I've been working on over the last week. Hopefully I've connected to myself on a deep enough level that the viewer can see some of what makes me in them. After all, we're all made of the same fuzzy atoms. Click for full resolution.

(This is my back, which is riddled with acne scars.)

MVC Dance Party?

Sitting in the plastic bucket seat at the MVC (the hell-hole previously known as the DMV), something odd struck me. In the middle of a over-landscaped office park, surrounded by men in suits and old folks from the suburbs, hearing the lazy call from the public address system for number 54, I realized that this would be a great place for a dance party.

But not just any dance party. A strange, unexpected event of a dance party. What I'm imagining is this. A man, myself, dressed non descriptly, walks in to the agency. He is carrying, predictably, a boombox. He waits for a few minutes for his number to be called, and then presses play on the machine. There, in the middle on of the sacred halls of banality that dot modern existence, where no fun is ever allowed under any circumstances, he will beginning dancing. Horribly, joyously. And he will try to dance with everyone else. And if it goes well, everyone will have a fairly decent time getting their boating license renewed, and a good story to tell.

My favorite part about this performance art/social experiment is its ability to point out that there is no reason for certain places to be what I'm going to call "dead zones." In this world, we have places where nothing good can happen, where tacit rules prohibit enjoyment: banks, offices, government agencies, hotel lobbies, subways. These faceless places exist everywhere, and no one wants to go to them. Yet, we fulfil our tasks to be good citizens of this society by refusing to do anything to make it more enjoyable. Essentially, we choose to live in the dead zones when we need to. The sad thing is we don't have to do this, and no one seems to realize it.

It's the same principle as a flash mob - a group of people appear out of nowhere to create a momentary event, like a silly string fight on an escalator, and then disappear into the crowd. It's beautiful, spontaneous fun that everyone likes but few people are willing to participate in. But why stand around and let the fun parts of life walk by when you can actually participate in them, temorarily changing the mostly unspoken rules and regulations that govern our lives? Why live a hollow life?

So if you see a man with a stereo sit down in the MVC, get ready to boogie.

The Bastard in the Bottle

Today I saw a print in a shop window. It was the outline of a whiskey jug, with words written on the side: "sad, happy, horny, sad." The words were stacked on the bottle, and it was about one quarter full, right before the treacherous fall back into sadness that drunkenness makes inevitable.

For me, it was the first time to see this truth acknowledged so openly. As a society, we have a nearly devotional respect for alcohol. It's a fixture at nearly every gathering, it's consumed in great quantities, and it's thought to be the cure for what ails us. Yet this last part is nothing but a myth. We all know no amount of beers can cure any problems. We're all sharply aware of the way an intoxicated person acts and the buffoonery that results. Yet we keep going around drinking our beers and expecting, somehow, that a "good buzz" will some how, this time, fix everything. Yet it enhances our malaise and strips us of our ability to deal with our problems rationally. Worse, it robs us of time better used some other way.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

So the question is, why have we locked ourselves in this pattern? Why do we continue to spend our whole weekend getting drunk? Why do we pretend that alcohol has magical properties it will never possess? Really, why are we so dishonest with ourselves about booze, and why can no one talk about this? Our tacit refusal to recognize the obvious is hurting us all, at least in my small, art-school corner of the world.

But still, I will raise my glass with all my friends tonight at another meaningless house party. What else can I do?

WOAH New Blog Time!

Everyone! No One! Whoever! Thanks for reading, and welcome to the Sunset Crash and Burn Medley Blog, a collection of topical discourse mixed with the emotional reality of living in the modern world. What this actually means: I'm the kind of person who sees things, gets an opinion, and wants to tell the world.

But why am I different than the average blogger? Its all about the lens. And let me explain that.

My lens focuses differently than the rest of the world, I believe. I have lived my life attempting to extract meaning from the world as fully as I can, to wring as much out of it as possible; this is how I believe I will live a full life. The only goal I have to experience everything as deeply as possible. In living this way, I see things differently than most people I know. This unique viewpoint is interesting to you, and I can be your new friend. See, it can be like a friendship without dealing with the odd parts. I'll give you the low-down on how I see the world, as intimately and meaningfully as possible, and you can soak it up, think about it, and do what you will. Maybe you'll ignore it. Or maybe you'll ask questions. Or maybe you'll think I'm on to something.

And I promise you right now that I will always be honest with you.

But I'm not the only one with a lens that focuses differently, of course. In some way, we all are. Which is why I want the people who read this to tell me what they think, to comment and chime in as part of a discourse. If I'm a jackass, say it, please. But also tell me if I just got you really deep.

I won't pretend to know it all, but I do think I've got an interesting way of seeing things. I hope you see it that way too.

All the Best,
Alex Rudinski
An Explorer of the Ever-Expanding Realm of Consciousness