Kicking Off 2014 With ‘Kung Fury’

At An Inland Voyage, I’m kicking off my new year with KUNG FURY.

I hope you do the same.

That’s right, I’m a renegade kung fu cop out kill the worst criminal of all time — Kung Fuhrer aka Adolf Hitler.

In 2014, I’ll be hacking back in time. I’m gonna ride Sue the T. Rex, summon Thor and get me a Viking girlfriend. Living up to your potential — THAT’S what An Inland Voyage is all about, luvs. I’m totally going to own 2014 and so are you.

Indulge the renegade in yourself this next year and make the world a better place while you’re at it.

(And learn more about this awesome slice of 1980s throwback cinema here.)

An Inland Voyage’s Top 10 Albums Of 2013

Suede released the album "Bloodsports" in 2013.

Suede released their impressive return album “Bloodsports” in 2013.

As promised, I’m here to personally deliver a podcast counting down my top 10 albums of 2013.

If you’ve have any thoughts (or bones to pick), please share them in the comment section.

You can download the podcast by clicking HERE.

I’ve also made a Spotify playlist of the songs featured in the episode, which will allow you to easily link to the full albums.

Lastly, if you want to cheat and look at the list of albums, here it is:

10. Neko Case — The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

9. Lustmord — The Word As Power

8. The Knife — Shaking the Habitual

7. Depeche Mode — Delta Machine

6. Placebo — Loud Like Love

5. Daft Punk — Random Access Memories

4. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds — Push the Sky Away

3. Blood Orange — Cupid Deluxe

2. Chvrches — The Bones of What You Believe

1. Suede — Bloodsports

Remember, you can download/listen to the podcast version featuring my thoughts on these albums HERE.

Yankton Makes ‘The Year In Cats Getting Stuck In Ridiculous Places’

Lists  of all kinds are being made at this time of year.

Matthew J. X. Malady at The Awl has compiled “The Year in Cats Getting Stuck in Ridiculous Places.”

Larry Nickles/Yankton Fire Department The Yankton Fire Department, as well as Yankton Search and Rescue, saved a cat that had frozen to the ice on a pond Friday morning.

Larry Nickles/Yankton Fire Department
The Yankton Fire Department, as well as Yankton Search and Rescue, saved a cat that had frozen to the ice on a pond Friday morning.

A Yankton cat rescue early on in 2013 made his list. You may remember this post I did about it back in February.

Malady writes:

Cats that decided to go outside ran into some especially hairy situations in 2013. This is not to suggest that cats that stayed inside were less likely to become stuck in ridiculous places—we’ll get there, don’t worry—but it really is the case that if you are a cat that hopes not to get stuck in or on something, going outside is probably not the best idea.

This is doubly the case if it’s winter and the place where you are going outside is named South Dakota. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that it’s no fun being a cat in South Dakota. Just ask the cat that froze to a damn pond this past February in the town of Yankton.

I’m sure some of my cat-loving friends will disagree with that assessment of South Dakota cat life, but I’ll let them fight that battle. Cats and I rarely see eye to eye — because I refuse to stoop to the level cats will go to in order to get their way. Ha.

To get caught up on the entire year in cat rescues, click here. It’s an entertaining read.

Confronting ‘The Selfish Giant’

And the Giant’s heart melted as he looked out. “How selfish I have been!” he said; “now I know why the Spring would not come here. I will put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children’s playground for ever and ever.”

— from “The Selfish Giant” by Oscar Wilde

In recent years, British directors such as Shane Meadows, Lynne Ramsay, Andrea Arnold and Ken Loach have given audiences some brilliant, heart-wrenching films about characters who live in poverty.

Now, we can add Clio Barnard to that list.

This week, I watched her first narrative film. It’s called “The Selfish Giant.” (It’s available on VOD.)

It absolutely pummeled my heart.

The film was inspired by Oscar Wilde’s short story of the same name. In this case, the movie is definitely better than the source material.

Here’s the synopsis:

THE SELFISH GIANT is a contemporary fable about 13 year old Arbor (Conner Chapman) and his best friend Swifty (Shaun Thomas). Excluded from school and outsiders in their own neighborhood, the two boys meet Kitten (Sean Gilder), a local scrapdealer – the Selfish Giant. They begin collecting scrap metal for him using a horse and cart. Swifty has a natural gift with horses while Arbor emulates Kitten – keen to impress him and make some money. However, Kitten favors Swifty, leaving Arbor feeling hurt and excluded, driving a wedge between the boys. Arbor becomes increasingly greedy and exploitative, becoming more like Kitten.

After watching the film (and reading the story), I feel compelled to ask: Is our society a selfish giant, and has a permanent winter taken residence in our garden?

Read the story. Watch the film.

See what you think.

I’m convinced we (whether we’re talking about England or the United States) can do better. (Remember this from yesterday’s post?)

Where Does Yankton’s Heart Lie? Thinking About A Community’s Future

Where does your heart lie?

Is it here?

drowning-in-bags

Or here?

Portrait of Smiling Family on Steps

It’s a good time of year to contemplate this question, given the competing interests pulling at our heartstrings.

Materialism.

Family and good will toward man.

Sometimes the two can go together. Sometimes they cannot.

The first photo you see above is taken from “Rich Kids of Instagram.” It is a celebration of much of what our society has become to recognize as success — the mindless consumption of goods.

George Monbiot wrote an insightful essay about “Rich Kids of Instagram” that I encourage you to read in full. But here is an excerpt that gets to the point:

Perhaps I am projecting my prejudices. But an impressive body of psychological research appears to support these feelings. It suggests that materialism, a trait that can afflict both rich and poor, which the researchers define as “a value system that is preoccupied with possessions and the social image they project”(5), is both socially destructive and self-destructive. It smashes the happiness and peace of mind of those who succumb to it. It’s associated with anxiety, depression and broken relationships.

There has long been a correlation observed between materialism, a lack of empathy and engagement with others, and unhappiness(6,7,8). But research conducted over the past few years appears to show causation.

At times, I have difficulties not succumbing to the temptations of materialism. I want to fit in with my peers. I want at least an outward appearance of success.

But this is usually tempered by a distaste for focusing too much on money — especially in light of the fact that the things that bring me happiness are not likely to bring me much cash. I could, after all, make more money in this town as a high-school drop-out than I could with my four-year degree and job as a journalist.

It’s a fact that frustrates me. But at the end of the day, it’s hard to put a price tag on happiness, as they say.

It’s this contemplation of materialism that has made me think recently that we in the Yankton area put far too much emphasis on retail development.

I understand its power: We need to be able to buy the things that people in other, larger communities can buy in order to feel satisfied and successful.

But I think that, ultimately, this is an empty promise.

Retail development won’t address the things we — and so many other communities in the United States — lack. It won’t bring higher wages. It won’t bring job protections. It won’t bring an inclusive community that looks out for its members no matter their race, creed, sexual orientation, etc. It won’t bring new and exciting ideas that can help our city grow not just physically but, in a sense, spiritually.

You see, if Yankton is content to play the traditional economic development game, I am convinced it will lose. Demographics in the heart of the United States are certainly not in our favor.

More retail options or more jobs that can be found anywhere in the Midwest are not likely to change these demographics in any significant way. (And does anyone want to argue that North Dakota will hold on to its new-found population once the oil runs out?)

Rather, Yankton would be better off if it were to become known as a place where we value people and community above all.

What am I getting at?

I’m getting at something Benjamin Radcliff, a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, recently talked about in an interview with The Washington Post. He has done research on how public policy affects human happiness.

I have organized my research around two dimensions of policy. The first is the size of government, i.e. of what it is government does, from the tax burden to the generosity of the welfare state to the total impact of the government in terms of its overall consumption on GDP. The second involves institutions that protect people in labor markets, which means labor unions and economic regulations (the minimum wage, mandated vacation time, etc.), which provide  a degree of sovereignty and power for workers in their employment relationships. Two sides of the coin: the general scope of what government does to make life more secure for people and the stuff that works specifically in terms of peoples’ work conditions.

Both types of policies contribute to what social theorists call “decommodification,” meaning limiting the degree to which in a capitalist economy people have to act as commodities in order to survive. You have to sell your labor power on the market. Decommodification measures how much people can opt out of the labor market, whatever the reason, and provides a way of judging to what extent have we made them free of market commodification.

More decommodification makes people happier, and it does so for rich and poor people, men and women, and controlling for just about any other thing. Similar empirical results obtain when considering total social spending on education, health care, total government consumption, the tax burden, a well-known OECD measure of employee protection legislation, even indices on the size of government and labor market regulation from the conservative Fraser Institute. The smaller the government, the less happy people are.

Another variable I find of interest is labor union membership and density, i.e. do you belong, and the percentage of all workers who belong the unions. People who belong to unions are happier, and, more importantly, union density is strongly related to levels of happiness for union members and non-members.

Let’s set aside the fact that many of the issues Radcliff discusses seem better suited for state or federal government policy.

What can the local government do to encourage this kind of community, where its people are decommodified and thus happier?

It is that question I think we should contemplate if we want Yankton to grow. It’s a kind of happiness that not many communities are selling, but for which a lot of people are looking.

What do you really want? More retail options and low-paying jobs or to feel more autonomous and spend more time with friends and family?

If the latter goals are pursued, I think more cultural and entertainment offerings will follow — which would make me pretty darn happy.

I realize I’m not offering much in the way for solutions here, but this it meant more to get the conversation started with you. This shift in thinking doesn’t necessarily have to start with local government. It starts in our homes and workplaces.

Let’s figure out where our hearts lie …

An Inland Voyage’s Top 10 Songs Of 2013

PrimalScream

Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream. The band made one of An Inland Voyage’s favorite songs of 2013.

The close of 2013 is approaching, which means it’s one of my favorite seasons of any year — the season of creating best-of lists.

At An Inland Voyage, I’m starting off with my top 10 songs of the year.

As a new challenge to myself, I made a podcast version of the countdown so you can hear me in all my awkward, but earnest, glory. I’m no Casey Kasem or Rick Dees just yet, but give it time. Download the podcast here:

https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/aninlandvoyage/InlandVoyageTop10Albums2013.mp3

I plan on doing some more podcasting for the blog, so I hope you enjoy the first installment.

This way, An Inland Voyage can accompany you on your nightly voyage into the world of sleep or wherever else you may want it to go with you.

I’ve also made a Spotify playlist that collects a bunch of my favorite songs for the year — way beyond the top 10.

Check that out here: