Doug Bruns

Archive for the ‘Popular Culture’ Category

My Freak Flag

In Life, Memoir, Popular Culture on March 11, 2013 at 5:00 am

I haven’t cut my hair in a year and a half. I’ve had a couple of trims, like before my daughter’s wedding, but not a cut as in, “I got a haircut today.”

At fifty-seven this might appear immature and I admit to taking satisfaction in that. I take satisfaction in being a somewhat respectable pillar of the community and looking less respectable each day. It’s a good way to jigger with people’s expectations and that’s, frankly, fun, particularly if you’ve got nothing to lose. I was neat and orderly and filled the general conception of respectability long enough. I subscribe to the great American tradition of re-inventing yourself. Not cutting your hair, though so very superficial, is as easy a reinvention as a guy could hope for.

A few weeks ago I visited the business my wife and I founded twenty years ago and one of the company officers, a guy who’d not seen me in a long time, declared that I was, indeed, letting my freak flag fly. If you’re too young to appreciate the reference, you might want to check out Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

I missed Woodstock and the culture it ushered in by just a few years. The midwest, where I was raised, is slow on the uptake, which is probably not a bad thing, unless you’re a kid in Indiana assuming all the cool kids on the coasts are having a lot more fun than you are. But that seems a general state of adolescence no matter the geography. Regardless, I still long for that state of self-righteousness over a cause that I observed being exercised in the sixties and early seventies. God, what enthusiasm they had! Despite there being amble opportunity for cause–financial malfeasance, government malfeasance, Wall Street malfeasance, fill-in-the-blank malfeasance–despite everywhere you look, there seems little indignation. I am as guilty of lack in this department as the next person–a general malaise of indifference. But you expect that of a 57 year-old–we count on our kids to blaze the path of self-righteousness. That’s a poor excuse, now that I think on it. Maybe it is resignation, not just resignation of the mid-lifers, but abject and complete societal resignation. We have mostly rolled over.

Regardless of the cause, or lack thereof, I’m letting my freak flag fly high. Peace. Love. Hippie Beads forever.

Crosby, Stills, and Nash:

Flowing downstream.

In Popular Culture on August 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Those were days.

There was a saying in my youth: Turn on, tune in, drop out. We can thank Timothy Leary for that. He intoned it to a crowd of hippies in San Francisco in 1967. (He borrowed it from Marshal McLuhan.) Regardless, I am close to giving myself up to the sentiment. To comment beyond that is to swim against the stream in which I wish to be swept away.

Out of the woods too soon?

In Popular Culture on July 31, 2012 at 6:00 am

Street art by Banksy

I have a couple of gripes to get off my chest. One local, one international.

First, local:

I walked into the Whole Foods store here in Portland yesterday and came face-on against a streaming cloud of air conditioning that would freeze water. I was prepared. This store is always this way. I came wearing a fleece. But one thing leading to another, me gathering a head of steam, I could not contain myself any longer and approached the manager.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but how can a corporation that is supposedly so environmentally sensitive justify the air conditioning settings you use?” The young manager looked at me with a tentative smile. Behind him stood a young woman, an employee, who nodded in mute agreement.

“Unfortunately, on a day like this,” he explained, “the AC seems particularly cold.” (It was sixty-eight degrees outside. Why was the AC even on?) “Yesterday,” he continued, “it was almost eighty.” I pointed to my fleece. “I put this on knowing I was coming here. It’s always ass-cold here.” I said ass-cold. I don’t know what ass-cold means exactly, but it sounded good, giving my tirade a bit of heat.

The young manager explained that the store temperature is set regionally and that he has no control over it. I asked him to explain the logic of that and he could not.

“It seems an example,” I said, “of corporate double-speak. You say you are a good steward of the earth, but your actions do not hold up.” I thanked him for his time and left.

In all travels I have never encountered a culture so hell-bent on being uncomfortably comfortable as we are. The earth cannot sustain our pamper forever. Five percent of the world’s population–that would be us–using twenty-five percent of the world’s resources. (As an aside, I will be hard-pressed to give WF more of my money.)

Second gripe: The Olympics.

Must we count medals? Can we not enjoy competition and the accomplishments of the determined athletes without turning it into yet another venue for nationalism and chest-thumping?

I watch the games and relish in the achivements of these athletes. I grow misty-eyed over their acomplishments regardless of where they call home. They are human beings. I am a human being. That another of my species is proven so capable makes my spirits rise. It is deeply emotional to me to be reminded that I, like them, am a human being.

The spirit of the ancient games, I am given to understand, was such that differences were set aside, wars paused, arguments silenced, such that human achievement might be purely enjoyed. Is our medal counting so different from a certain dictator’s Olympic expectation that his superior breed would prevail? Did he too not preach national exceptionalism?

Metal counting as nascent patriotism is tiresome. I have seen enough of the world to know better.


Phew. Obviously I came out of the woods too soon. Pardon my rant.

And now for something completely different.

In Popular Culture on July 14, 2012 at 6:00 am

My favorite writer, Hank Moody.

A saturday quote from my favorite tv show, Californication:

“You know what they say? Whatever doesn’t kill us makes us even more annoying.”

Thanks for reading, friends. Have  a nice weekend.