I say things with words and sometimes photographs. As you do.

The Birkenstock Point →

John: Scrap booking!

Merlin: Well, that’s just hoarding with a trip to Michaels.

John: You know what, my whole house is a scrap book.

Roderick on the Line episode 102 at minute 14:07

In the days to come they would ride up through a country where the rocks would cook the flesh from your hand and where other than rock nothing was. They rode in a narrow enfilade along a trail strewn with the dry round turds of goats and they rode with their faces averted from the rock wall and the bakeoven air which it rebated, the slant black shapes of the mounted men stenciled across the stone with a definition austere and implacable like shapes capable of violating their covenant with the flesh that authored them and continuing autonomous across the naked rock without reference to sun or man or god.

— Cormac McCarthy in Blood Meridian, describing a shadow.

Thoughts About Having Thoughts About Generation Y

My name is Kyle Sacks. I’m 25 years old and I’m an early member of Generation Y. And what a crazy generation we are, so unhappy and entitled. Oh wait, that’s not right. We’re actually idealistic, full of desire for justice and social change! Eh, that’s not it either… Gen Y, we just want to have fun and enjoy youth… right?

Every day, someone is making a sweeping statement about my generation and it’s comical how contradictory they are. No one can decide if we’re going to save the world or if we’re totally screwed. Though I have my opinions on the topic, I think the whole Gen Y discussion is indicative of a bigger disconnect between the generations. Take this quote:

They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb a corporate ladder. They have few heroes, no anthems, no style to call their own. They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial. They hate yuppies, hippies and druggies. They postpone marriage because they dread divorce. They sneer at Range Rovers, Rolexes and red suspenders. What they hold dear are family life, local activism, national parks, penny loafers and mountain bikes. They possess only a hazy sense of their own identity…

Seems to nail down Gen Y pretty good, huh? Except it’s an excerpt from a 1990 Time magazine article about the slackers of Generation X written by a Baby Boomer. And the G.I. Generation said the same thing about the Boomers and the Depression Generation said the same thing about the G.I. kids. The truth is, not much has changed about being young. Look at this awesome picture. Any idea when it was taken?

California Girls

Aside from the fashion this could be almost any year in the last century. Shoes thrown off, big smiles… all they want is a tan. Youth is youth. Sometimes the environment around it changes, but mostly it doesn’t. We young’uns are dumb sometimes, it’s part of life. Yes, we need to get our heads out of our asses, but everyone had a time when they needed to get their heads out of their asses. The problem is adults can forget that.

My point is that the kids are neither alright nor are they doomed. We’re just young—writing about us on the internet isn’t helping anyone. What will help is to be in our lives and get to know us. We want people with life experience to take an interest in us. We want mentors and bosses who see us as more than lost idiots who need to get off Instagram.

I’ve had the opportunity to mentor a group of boys for the last five years (through their middle school and now high school careers). It’s been nothing if not eye opening. Sure, a lot of their problems seems silly compared to adulthood issues. So what? Those problems matter to them just like they mattered to me when I was their age. Realizing that has softened my judgement toward the yoots and helped me relate to people from many stages of life. Perspective. I always need more perspective.

So instead of writing another post about ‘21 Things Millenials Can Do to Be Less Entitled in the Work Place,’ take an entitled kid from your work to lunch and ask her questions. Remember that youth, while often great, is also terrible. It’s scary and confusing and that matters to us. If you care about helping us grow up, care about that first, then try to guide and teach. We’re going to grow up either way. The question is, are you going to wag your finger or are you going to be a part of it?

Make Your Coffee

Ah Kuerig, what kind of black magic are you? With one touch of a button, you send liquid salvation pouring forth into my mug. You’re some straight-up Star Trek nonsense.

And yet I find you a bit… unsatisfying, Kuerig. Where’s the fun? The closer we get the 50’s dream of an automated house, the more I see how boring it would be. I’m not the only one either; the do-it-yourself mantra has exploded in my social circle.

My friends are making their own furniture, creating decorations for their weddings, raising chickens, growing vegetables, and brewing beer. These aren’t shocking tasks for some people, but for us suburban-raised kids, it’s enlightening to get dirty and have something to show for it.

Personally, I find the act of ‘making things’ a great mental space to occupy. I can’t live without it. All the daily input of our crazy world leaves my psyche feeling fractured. Creating helps me pick of the pieces and make sense of my thoughts and feelings. Not everything I make is artistic or useful or deep. Just the act of doing it helps clear my mind.

Now, let’s come all the way back to the Kuerig. It’s so quick and easy that I started wondering why people still make coffee other, more time-consuming ways? Press, pour over, espresso… why not just drop the pod in, hit brew and check Twitter?

Sidestepping the debate about taste, one surprising part of manual coffee brewing is how much the process itself is part of the charm, for all the reasons I talked about earlier. I start my day by focusing on a task, step-by-step. It’s stimulation before the chemicals even hit my blood stream. My uncle and I recently turned my Kuerig-using Dad onto the Aeropress and he said, “I have found myself enjoying the process of making it. Weird, but true.”

Exactly.

I know many of you won’t care in the slightest about making your own coffee and that’s fine. Coffee is to be enjoyed and if you enjoy your present coffee, drink and be merry! But if you’re a person who loves coffee for more than it’s caffeine, you should explore the coffee world a bit. You don’t have to learn chemistry or drop hundreds of dollars to make good home brew (the Aeropress is $25 and makes the best cup I’ve ever had). Either way, make something. Write, garden, paint, build, code, fix, capture, edit; creation is such a key part of the human experience and we all have something we’re good at. So be good at it!

Jamaican Music

Guys, I can not stand that Bob Marley Legends collection. You know this album, you’ve heard it a thousand times coming out of dorm rooms and boardwalk shops. It’s downbeat, Rasta, clouded with pot smoke and bums me out. If you’re like me, you probably grew up thinking Bob is what Jamaican music sounds like. I’ve learned that Legends-style reggae is only one slice of the fantastic music that has come out of Jamaica. Much of it is fun, breezy and exuberant. It’s a fascinating bit of music history to dig through.

In the 50’s, youths in Kingston combined calypso, jazz, and R&B heard on American radio stations with traditional island folk to form ska. Walking basslines and rhythm instruments played on the upbeat (or the skank) give it the jerky groove that is inescapably Jamaican. It grew most popular with the rude boys, Jamaican kids who wore suits with skinny ties and Tribly hats and danced and fought and watched cowboy films, all fueled by this new music. There aren’t many other examples of a musical style that grew to define a whole country and culture the way Jamaican music did.

Over two decades, ska begat rocksteady which begat reggae which begat dub, all of whom traveled across the ocean to mingle with punk in England, become to music of choice for London skinheads, help the birth of rap in New York, and even make it onto The White Album (Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da). And it all started like the best music scenes all start: young’uns using whatever crappy gear they could find to carve out a new sound all their own.1 And crappy gear it was, some of the old ska tracks sound very ‘AM-radio’ and are all the better for it. If all you know of reggae is Bob, give the playlist a shot. You might be pleasantly surprised.

The Playlist: The first four songs are all straight from Kingston circa ’67-’72. “You Can Get it if You Really Want” is a soul-tinged pop song. “56–46 Was My Number” shows off one of my favorite ska singers at his peak swagger. “Dollar in the Teeth” is a good example of a riddim. “007 (Shanty Town)” is the most classic ska songs ever written, paving the road for so many good (and really bad) bands.2 The final song, “Faster Bullet” was recorded in L.A. in 2007, but hot dang his voice is awesome. Listen to the music.


  1. Preferably a sound that annoys your parents.  ↩

  2. The artist of “007”, Desmond Dekker, is the Desmond referenced in “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and in the Rancid song “Roots Radicals”.  ↩

The Coffee Chronicler →

…People are paying attention to [coffee made in] Seoul and Tokyo and not caring at all about Madrid or Barcelona or Milan or Rome. Everyone thinks coffee is Italian or French because there’s a very powerful popular company whose identity is wrapped up with coffee being this Italian art that was perfected in Seattle and then exported in the world. That’s a corporate story; that’s not the story of coffee. Japan has a coffee culture that goes back to the 1600s—they’ve been doing coffee as long as pretty much anybody.

Listen

Dear Friends,

I have a small challenge for you. When you’re done reading this, you’re going to close your eyes, right where you are, and you’re going to listen to what’s happening around you. It might be loud, it might be quiet, but either way it’s where you are right now.

Listen.

Do you hear people? Cars? Birds? The wind? Clicking keyboards? Your own breathing? Stop thinking about what you’re doing and just be here.

This might seem silly, but I’m sure you’ve noticed that we tend to rush and rush and rush and rushrushrushrushrush. We blast music, flip on the TV, talk talk talk until we’ve lost track of the world around us.

A few years ago I made a rule for myself: I had to walk around campus without earbuds in, just to see what I’d been missing. I found that listening to my campus bustle made me feel more connected to it. It wasn’t just me doing ‘Task A’ or getting to ‘Point B’. It was me as part of everyone, living right now, together.

This is a bit silly, but I’ve grown to love hearing the world around me.

David said, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it,” but we can’t do that unless we are in the Lord’s day. I don’t know about you, but I often struggle to be present if I don’t conciously take time to slow down. So that’s my challenge. Be present for a moment.

Now, close your eyes. Listen. What do you hear?

Not Really About Being Rusty

I’m trying to write and it feels a bit like pulling teeth. I’m rusty. How does that happen? I’ve been writing since grade school. It’s my love, my gift, how do I let life get busy enough that I’m out of practice?

But that’s how it goes. Life happens and things go by the wayside. I rationalize at first, “Hey it’s just a busy season. I’ll get back to it.” But then it’s six months later and I haven’t written a single thing over 140 characters. Now I’m trying to write some idea that should come easy and it’s fighting me every step of the way.

The truth is, all of us leave things behind as we grow. It may be a hobby, a craft, a friend, a memory, a dream or a freedom. It may be ripped away painfully or drift off almost unnoticed until one day you think back and wonder, “What the hell happened?”

This is often seen as a bad thing, like losing pieces of who we are. We fight it. We take pictures to remember every moment. We promise ourselves we’ll get back into our hobby when the kids are a little older. We assure a friend we’ll get coffee when life settles.

Who are we kidding?

Life goes on and things shed off. There’s no fighting that and we know it. All the promises and regrets in the world won’t suddenly make more time for the things we used to love or wanted to do.

It’s a sad realization, but I’ve grown to appreciate the freedom of not clinging to a different life. It can be so exciting to finally let an old dream go and look forward to the next one. To put the camera down and just enjoy the moment. To stop pretending like I’ll grab coffee with my old friend and focus my time on new friends I never expected to make.

We can’t do everything. Life is compromise. The key is picking the things that are actually part of who you want to be. I’m writing again because I’m a writer and its exactly who I want to be. I’m not trying to play the guitar anymore because I’m not a musician, never will be a musician and that’s fine. I’d rather put time toward the hobbies/people/dreams that make me who I am and who I am becoming, not who I thought I wanted to be.

You’re Cooler Than You Think You Are

Jonathan Moynihan has always been one of the hippest, most down to Earth people I’ve known. In high school I looked up to him as the kind of Christian dude I wanted to be and now he’s exactly the kind of friend, husband and working man that I want to be. He’s made mistakes, learned from them and is honest about how he doesn’t always have life figured out. I doubt there will be a time when Jonathan Moynihan is not someone I hold as a role model for my life. Which is why I was floored when he said something very similar to me.

About me: I work in advertising sitting at a computer all day. On Friday nights I’d rather read Batman comics than go out. I get excited over things like mono-spaced fonts and a new album from nerdy indie bands.

I’m boring.

Yet Jmo thinks what I do is awesome. Whenever I spend time with him he makes me feel so cool. He compliments me on my taste in music and design, about my writing and my attitude. Me! Jmo compliments me! The lame kid who reads about galaxies and yells at people for touching his computer screen. (Seriously, you can point at my screen without putting your fingers on my screen. I will hit you.)

This humble brag does have a point. What I’ve been realizing through my friendship with Mr. Moynihan is that we’re all way more interesting that we think we are and people care way more about our stories than we think they do. I see myself as boring, but the truth is I have a pretty cool job. I’m good at things other people aren’t. I have ideas and opinions to contribute. And so do you.

In fact, I think you’re fascinating. I think you have unique talents, fun hobbies, and a great story. You and I might not mesh personally, but there are people out there who think you’re the “bomb-dot-com”, or whatever the kids say these days.

So go to bed tonight remembering that you’re the coolest you there is and people want to know who you really are.

<3

Desert Blues

Tinariwen

Tinariwen is one of the best bands playing music right now, no hyperbole. They’re music is all soul, filled with the history of a people who’ve knew heartache before we were even on this planet. See, Tinariwen are part of a nomadic people called the Tuareg who have lived in Saharan desert for millenia, moving as they pleased. This isn’t a life style that meshes with modern society’s governments and boarders. This lead to civil war, death in the desert leading the Tuareg people into exile. This is where Tinariwen was born.

Leader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib built his first guitar out of a tin can, a stick and bicycle brake wire. He had no formal guitar training and came up with his tunings based on feel. He met other Touareg with a passion for music and they started to play. And play they did. Tinariwen’s music is alive. It’s full of longing, frustration and companionship, all stemming from decades of oppression. Desert blues that celebrate as much as they ache. It became the music of an exiled people in desperate need of identity.

The best thing about Tinariwen is, incredible story or no, they rock. They play their guitars in a way I’ve never heard anywhere else. The notes flutter and twist. The song here, ‘Cler Achel’, locks into a loose groove that’s open as the desert sky and driving as the desert wind. Listen to it. Feel it. Dance to it. Even if you don’t like the song, you have to admit that there’s nothing on the radio right now that feels this alive.