Hit Back: Dispatch from the Farm, or Once You Stop You Start to Rot

By Adam Gnade

adam gnade hay bales

Tonight at dusk a big, grey owl swooped down and grabbed one of my favorite chickens–a young Barred Rock I call “Dodo Conway”–and five of Dodo’s sisters raced over and tackled the owl and drummed the hell out of it then chased it off, screeching. Ten minutes later I saw one of those same chickens strutting through the field clutching a snake she’d just killed. This is a rescue farm, a “sanctuary,” but that doesn’t mean the animals play by our rules. They hustle. All day.

The news has been bad from all fronts. There’s no turning away from that, and it’s taken its toll on me. No amount of Mexican beer or social isolation or denial will blot it out. You stay away from the newspapers. You ignore the Internet. Still, planes are shot out of the sky and bombs fall on houses. People are dying everywhere–real people, nice people, people you might’ve been friends with had you been born elsewhere.

It’s getting to me–to say the very least. One of the many burdens of human consciousness and memory is that an idea, a sentence overheard, a bit of news seen on someone’s Facebook feed can latch onto you and burn you up from inside. There are certain things you will never unhear. I remember that from Sandy Hook; some things stick with you forever and sometimes they’re the things you’d rather forget.

Quiet night on the farm with everyone on the road except me. Today two of the local farmers pitched in and hayed our field without even waiting for a thanks. Twenty-five hundred pounds of good brome hay; two and a half round bales, five feet tall by five feet wide, a few months of food for the sheep and goats (and my new place to sit and write). Tonight I’m going to go to town and get some Dos Equis and limes then come back and listen to Castanets’ new song “Out for the West” on repeat and try to write as many letters as I can until I pass out. It’s a way to stop thinking of awful things but it’s also a way to find some easiness of mind and fellowship and joy. These past eight months have been radio silence from me. I’m getting worse and worse at returning correspondence but tonight I’m vowing to keep in touch. People call out to you and you call back to them–if you’re worth a damn. Lately I’ve not been worth much, but I’m trying.

Does it matter? Does anything matter? Sometimes life feels like endless buckets of shit dumped off a cliff onto your head in slow motion while cheesy, porny saxophone music plays. Futile. Empty. Silly. Action without payoff. Ambition without the promise of acknowledgement.

There are no answers but you keep trying. You keep dreaming. You keep writing letters even when you’re a year behind and you keep fighting winged things that want to carry you off into the sky and you keep pushing forward with your dreams held tight. You pay attention but you also give yourself time to breathe.

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My motto right now is an old cheerleader chant Jessie Duke turned into a button for Pioneers Press: Go, fight, win. I wear the button too; right here on my lucky baseball cap.

I know what the inverse of action is and I don’t want anything to do with that. And I know this: Once you stop you start to rot. And by “stop” I don’t mean “relax.” By all means relax every single chance you get. The ability to relax and look inward in the midst of struggle is part of what makes us who we are. But you have to keep believing in your path and in a future where your life will be better than it is now. Belief counts for a lot. So does planning big and shoving yourself into the nasty thick of life. That’s what you need to do: believe, push, pay attention, know when to step back and heal, and don’t mess around with dreamlessness. Go, fight, win.

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Aesop

Aesop is a high-end skin care company based in Melbourne, Australia. Their products range from hydrating cream, to detergent, to animal companion care. The product range is definitively unisex with non-overpowering scents that make an excellent base for colognes/perfumes. It’s an extremely luxurious self-care line with an aesthetic to match.

Aesop products are on PETA’s list of cruelty free companies. In addition, aside from their shaving brush that is made with badger bristles, “No other product in the Aesop range contains animal-derived ingredients (beeswax or honey) at this time”.

“No Aesop product contains colourants, artificial fragrances, mineral oils, silicones, parabens or pearlising agents.”

Some of their body cleansers and shampoos do use Sodium Laureth Sulphate, not to be confused with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, but their levels are far less than the normally used safe levels. They also offer formulations without it.

Aesop products are a mix of biodynamic, organic, conventional and synthetic. They look for the best possible ingredients, but organic is not always available, practical, or when importing would cause an environmental concern of its own.

“All Aesop cleansing products use surfactants which comply with the ‘ultimate biodegradability’ status of the EU Detergents Directive and therefore are compatible with septic tank waste systems. Our products are also phosphate-free and are therefore suitable for use in water-recycling systems.”

Their soap slab and Sage and Zinc facial hydrating cream contain Palm Oil for those that are concerned with Palm Oil ingredients. However, their Palm Oil is sourced from RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) certified suppliers. “RSPO is an internationally recognised, not-for-profit organisation formed in 2004 to promote the growth and use of sustainable Palm Oil products by creating and monitoring global standards.” They have also purchased GreenPalm Certificates in order to offset the annual usage of any of their products that use Palm Oil. “This includes all ingredients of mixed origin, for example Cetearyl Alcohol, where the fatty acid chain may be obtained from either Coconut or Palm sources. These certificates give money back to growers who are producing sustainable Palm Oil to reward and encourage their efforts.”

More information can be found here.

Check out their kit for a man’s bathroom essentials.

Hit Back: How to Build a Castle

by Adam Gnade

Last night we sat up late talking about sleep anxiety. We were in Muncie en route to New York City for the first date of the book-tour, a three-week run across the Midwest and up through the East Coast–readings in house-parties and motel rooms and vegan diners, farm shows, last-minute booking and a full cut and run from the old system.

Our host sat in her easy chair and lit a cigarette and told us she needed to smoke before bed to calm her nerves. I guess it’s a whatever works thing–drink wine, smoke a cigarette, read until the book hits your face.

Some people fall asleep easy but a lot of us lie in bed running through cycles of fatalism, disaster scenarios, work stress. It’s like the X song goes, “I must not think bad thoughts.” But sometimes you do, and sometimes you can’t push them away. Then you obsess and you don’t sleep at all. Or you lie in bed and stew and feel psychotic until you pass out an hour before your alarm goes off.

What I’ve found is you can build a safe place and block out the darkness. And my shit gets DARK. I try to stay away from unwanted thoughts but the more I try to think of other things the worse my thoughts get until I’m sure the world is over and everything I see is a slasher flick starring the people I love the best.

Here’s how I get past it: As soon as you lie down you come up with a setting. Say, an island off the map, a blip on the screen, the kind of place no one will ever find you. Then you start with the structure. In your mind you build the walls–stonewalls, high and thick and topped with the battlements of a castle. You imagine the brick-work and the creation of the gate. Then you go inside. Pull up the drawbridge and bar it tight. Establish a water source. (A stream that runs through it? A well?)
Dylan Garrett Smith A House For Agatha framed

A House for Agatha by Dylan Garret Smith

Next you map out the crop rows. Plant quinoa for protein. An herb garden with cilantro and rosemary and sage. Tomato plants. Summer squash. Lots of greens. Kale. A mushroom log beneath the trees. Fruit trees? Avocado trees? A peach orchard? A winery? Anything goes.

Then you build your house. A cabin or a cottage tucked back in the sunny tangle of weeds and honeysuckle vine. Nothing fancy. One bedroom, sturdy walls, a simple front-room with a good chair and big windows and bookcases. (Inventory the books … what makes you feel safe? Who do you read to keep in contact with who you are? There are no phones here. No TV. No Internet and no electricity. Live simple. Have simple tastes.) Cooking happens outside in the garden–a fire-pit, or a wood-burning stove in the front-room. Put a rough-cut Adirondack chair on the porch you made with your own hands. A cord of wood if your island has winters. The important part is that it’s safe–a self-sufficient, contained, quiet place where no one can get to you.

Or you bring people in once it’s done; people you love and trust. Sometimes I imagine a small community of my favorite people. Sometimes I’m alone. What matters is you make it secure and benevolent and you leave all the shitty elements outside–and an ocean away. The end of all worries. A disconnect from unwanted deadlines and mean bastards and all forms of negative responsibility.

You build your safe space and pretty soon you’re out. Most of the time I don’t make it past planting my crops before I’m asleep. On bad days I build the fucker five or six times. Of course it’s healthy (and essential) to confront and come to terms with your dark thoughts but there’s a time for that. Do it in the daytime. Don’t keep yourself up and spiral off into a shitty next day. (Life is hard enough without being ill-equipped to handle the minor battles of the day.)

Don’t let the dark stuff in your head eat you up–because it will. It’ll fester and you’ll re-think everything good you’ve ever done and you’ll lose perspective. Get some rest and face it when you’re awake and ready. Don’t get taken. Don’t let dark thoughts take you. Build yourself an island. Build yourself a castle.

Borough Furnace: Possibly the Most Environmentally Friendly Skillet

 

Borough Furnace is a metal casting workshop in Syracuse, New York that was started through Kickstarter. They create small batches of hand made products using a traditional process that has been updated to be more environmentally friendly.

Their business centers around the Skilletron, a furnace that burns Waste Vegetable Oil to melt scrap iron at 3000ºF. Using old fryer grease as fuel helps to greatly eliminate the energy consumption typically associated with metal casting. In order to keep with their mission of consuming as little as possible, they only use recycled metal.

 

Balloon

ThomasMaderTheDiscerningBrute.com is excited to welcome guest writer Thomas Mader, a multidisciplinary artist based in Berlin. Mader has shown internationally and written for publications like Dossier Journal, Underscore Magazine, and Curbs & Stoops. For his recent public intervention “Balloon”, he handed out 1000 helium balloon drones in Salzburg/Austria and New York. “Balloon” will be shown in a different format, as a collaboration with video artist Christopher Michael, at ÑEWMERICA’s show “Birth of a nation” at Exit room Gallery NY, opening on the 3rd of April.

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by Thomas Mader

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In the early 2000’s, when camouflage patterns came back into fashion, some concerned voices could be heard talking about the dangers of introducing military symbols into a civilian context, and thus normalizing the otherwise aggressive connotations these patterns represent.

The people speaking out against this phenomenon were labeled ‘overanxious’, insofar as their arguments being dismissed by the mainstream as irrelevant or conspiracy theory babbling.

The discussion, however, made me recall my first trip to South America and how shocked I was then, not only for seeing armed solders pretty much wherever I went, but also because of how much of a mundane sight they were to the civilians of their respective countries.

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I understand that the military is much more present in an everyday context in the US than it is in many European countries, that it has a different status and a different appreciation, but I also think that it is important to not simply ignore the topics that surfaced in this camouflage fashion discussion. Because not only have I seen how literally camouflage had camouflaged itself, but also how quickly these hidden aggressive potentials can snap back into action and cause extensive damage.

…these hidden aggressive potentials can snap back into action and cause extensive damage.

The downplaying of violent symbols and control mechanisms by introducing them into a mainstream context is a very powerful tactic and we can witness its effects every day.

When Street Art was still relatively underground, the image of the surveillance camera was a warning symbol speaking out against the massive introduction of surveillance mechanisms in public spaces. As the medium got more mainstream attention, its symbols gradually lost their meaning.

A stylized stencil of a surveillance camera now no longer functions as a warning, it just means that Street Art, at least in its most widely recognized form, has become an easily consumable product.

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The medium’s symbols have become so iconic that they no longer contain any significant meaning. They merely serve as a business card for the medium itself.

This development was not necessarily propagated in a conscious way by the creators of the medium, but rather by those who recognized its potential for mainstream appeal and marketability.

In my opinion, a similar phenomenon can now be observed when it comes to drone technology. Almost every other week various YouTube videos show the advances in miniature drone flight and control capability. Companies like Amazon and DHL use drone parcel delivery as publicity stunts and remote control drones have long found their way into toy stores, allowing people to steer them using their iPhones or PSPs.

The technology seems democratic and there for all to use but how much the powers that be really feel the need to control said technology became clear once again when the whole extent of the NSA surveillance program in Germany was uncovered.

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The spying post the NSA had used to spy on top level German politicians, including chancellor Merkel herself, was, and to my knowledge still is, situated right on top of the US embassy in Berlin, smack in the political center of Germany, a mere stones throw away where the chancellor resides and the parliament assembles.

When the Sueddeutsche newspaper and NDR, a regional German TV channel, included drone technology in the research of their joint venture titled “A secret war”, their use of camera drones immediately resulted in police presence where reporters were forbidden to use the drones and had their personal data taken down.

…reporters were forbidden to use the drones and had their personal data taken down.

This discrepancy between seemingly democratic technologies and symbols and their inherent exclusiveness pertaining to a more or less invisible elites works as a sort of Trojan horse.

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People are being offered to use and enjoy certain symbols but they always incorporate the potential that an elite will take them away from the general public whenever they deem fit, or use them to ensure their own safety and status.

Of course, the same goes for certain online services and in their case almost always the well-known Internet rule applies: If it is for free, you are the product.

On that note: Here is your free balloon. Enjoy!

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*”Balloon” was made possible by “Basics” festival in Salzburg/Austria. http://www.basics-festival.net/