that’s the emptiest place in the circle

October 28, 2008 at 6:32 pm 7 comments


I’m not dead, just playing the part. I’m toying with this idea of “1998 Luddite” where I haven’t been checking my email or keeping my cellphone with me. Wouldn’t it be interesting to take this idea to a further extent? Imagine living a month without internet, only a home phone, etc. Connection and disconnection in 2008 is an interesting topic.

I bring this up because I have been rereading the “R. Crumb Handbook” that I bought a few years ago. (here is a good Terry Gross interview with Robert Crumb about the book). I’m not sure if you’ve been following this blog much, or know me, but I prefer older things to the hot new shit. Sure, I have an iPhone. But I also really enjoy records. I can’t find a modern motorcycle that gets me excited like bikes from 78 and earlier… even though they require a lot of work and I miss the hands off reliability of my Vespa LX. A lot of stuff I own is convenience vs. aesthetics, high-tech vs. low-tech. It is a fun wire to walk. I can enjoy a game on the Nintendo Wii while listening to some 45’s. (I just need to replace that needle).

I bring this up because a quote from the first paragraph of the first chapter of the “R. Crumb Handbook” sums up my conflicted idea of products and items today, so I will share it with you:

As a kid growing up in the 1950’s I became acutely aware of the changes taking place in American culture and I must say I didn’t much like it. I witnessed the debasement of architecture, and I could see a decline in the quality of things like comic books and toys, things made for kids. Old things seemed to have more life, more substance, more humanity to them.”

More humanity to them. I realize that’s what I feel about things that I own that are from a time before I was born. But I also realize that a lot of the things I own from my own lifetime have gained that humanity… that timeworn look that endears me to them. And a lot of stuff that is out today isn’t made to last that long – disposable and thin and not made to soak up those years of wear and use. Like IKEA. I have an IKEA desk. This thing is a piece of junk – easily bought for cheap and disposed of after I move. How many desks have I owned since I was a kid? Not one of them has lasted… I can’t look at the surface and see the ink stain that reminds me of a broken pen, or a ding in the leg that reminds me of moving. They are disposed of, cheap and functional, but they lack any sort of sturdiness to allow the blood and time we spend with them to mix in and endear us to their form. That humanity! I think you all can agree my red vinyl couch (which I will never get rid of) has a lot of personality.

Surrounding myself with particle board furniture and other impermanent things seems to add to an atmosphere of heartless living… if I can’t love my possessions enough to want to keep them around, then I usually replace them with one of two things: something quality or nothing at all. Purging insignificant items is always a cathartic activity! And it’s green, which is so hot right now.

Edit / Update: This post also reminds me of a piece of art in the liner notes from REM’s “Out of Time” that always struck me. The caption follows:

When, after 75 years of use, the marble steps leading into this lobby of this building become worn, they are not replaced or rebuilt, but covered for protection with plates of corrugated iron.


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“Don’t elect an old dude President” “hire me”


  • 1. Charley  |  October 28, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    [some joke about you dating a senior citizen]

    But you’re right! Let’s burn our crappy particle-board stuff.

  • 2. Robert  |  October 28, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Preferably after we take our items off/out of them.

  • 3. Michael  |  October 28, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    aww, the red vinyl couch. i remember waking up on that thing and my neck was really sore. worth it, all the way

  • 4. melissa lion  |  October 29, 2008 at 7:16 am

    I like this post.

  • 5. Robert  |  October 29, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Who hasn’t slept on the red vinyl couch! What an uncomfortable struggle it is… the sliding cushions, the vinyl sticking to your face, the love seat length. People should get a merit badge after completing such a task!

  • 6. dave  |  October 29, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    I remember sleeping on the red vinyl couch. And I was so hungry that I almost ate the gummy bear and Spree that lay eternally between the two cushions.

  • 7. Pop  |  November 2, 2008 at 7:12 am

    Was going to send you an old engine picture, but don’t know how to attach a picture on my desktop to your blog. The old man ain’t too swift with this kind of stuff.

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