steev's blog

Thoughts On Our Country

Today, still grieving. Still in the stages. Of course the fundamental stage to every modern human's existence these days is always denial.


And so this may be full of various instances of rationalization, cognitive dissonance, and the like.

Nevertheless I will try to make this one concise point about my take on things, which was not my first or second take, but it's inching toward some kind of truth, I think.

At first my thought was, fuck all those racist, misogynist, ignorant, stupid morons. Fuck them and I'm done with them. 

But then, looking at the numbers, it's staggering. How can there be that many of those hateful fucks?  Well, obviously there are a lot of different kinds of people out there and a lot of different reasons that millions of them voted for a sociopathic rapist to lead their nation.  But from stuff I've been reading and seeing, it seems like the number one reason is:  A big middle finger to how things have been, to the status quo. And people were so upset at "the establishment" that they were willing to throw minorities, women, refugees, the environment, etc, under the bus to raise that big middle finger, to "the establishment". 

So for the most part, I have to believe, it wasn't a conscious referendum on bigotry and hate and intolerance.  It's just that those things, when given a binary choice, those things took a lower priority.  White people that don't know any Muslims, gays, refugees, polar bears, sagegrouse, or who've never seen a river that's not already full of toxic waste, they just don't care enough about those things when compared with the grievance they feel for how Washington has been working, or how the media has told them Washington has been working.    How it has, in their view, made their lives worse. 

What this has to mean is that people are suffering, and they're suffering enough that they can't bring themselves to be bothered much by other suffering.   Everyone suffers, as Buddhism teaches us.  The trick, for the enlightened, or even those who are slightly more wise, is to see that fact, accept it, and have compassion for others who are suffering, despite your own pain.  But most of us, alas, are not that wise, or at least not very often.

When I get home from work with a splitting headache that makes me feel like a railroad spike has been driven through my head, from temple to temple, and  my wife is cooking, cleaning, and taking care of a screaming toddler all by herself because i have decided it's impossible to do anything but pop some ibuprofen and lay down in a dark room for a while,  I'm thinking in one part of my brain, "this is unfair. This is kinda sexist. I should be out there helping."  But the rest of my brain wants to stick a pistol in my mouth and end it because I'm in so much pain

Now, pain is relative. I'm pretty sure that when I have a headache like that, it's not the very worst thing that anyone in the world has ever felt.  It's not worse than being raped. It's not worse than a drone blowing up your house.  Or some ISIS fanatics beheading your family. Or a cop shooting you dead because your skin is the wrong color (I'm pretty sure, though, that it is worse than the government telling you that you can't graze your cows on land that's not yours, for free.)

And yet, in that moment, the pain I feel is real, and valid.  Somehow, if I can, some days, I rise to the occasion, and get up and go help feed the kid and make dinner and do dishes, because I know that's the right thing to do.  But often, that's really really hard.  It's the fair thing, it's the compassionate thing. And I've been taught to be fair and compassionate.

But some people didn't get that teaching. Or they've forgotten it, or had it been drummed out of them.  It's not that they explicitly all  hate women and gays and polar bears. They just can't get past their own pain to see others' pain.  They never learned that that was a virtue that mattered.

And that's why we have this problem now.

And somehow despite our pain that we have this problem, those of us who see a President Drumpf as a huge huge problem, we need to look past it and recognize the others' pain.  We should have done it before. We were blind to it, blind to how many people felt that pain and what they were willing to do about it.  Now there's maybe a little time left. Maybe. But the pistol just got put in Amerikkka's mouth.

Ten Years In Tucson

On Halloween night, 10 years ago, I pulled into Tucson in a rented SUV packed full of as much of my belongings as I could get into it. The few possessions of mine that wouldn’t fit were in a friend’s basement in Portland, Oregon, where’d lived for the last 3 years and where I’d eventually, reluctantly realized I couldn’t stay. The rainy winters had gotten to be too much, and I decided the desert was where I needed to be instead.

It’s symbolic, or indicative, of how much my life has changed since then that I spent most of my anniversary day, October 31, at the hospital, taking care of my sick daughter (It's not serious, don't worry). Ten years ago I wouldn't have been able to imagine such a scenario, and in fact would have found it inconceivable that I would have a life in which I wouldn't have time to write a blog post on a Saturday about living in a town for 10 years. I wouldn't have even imagined being here that long. The longest I'd lived anywhere before, as an adult, was 6 years.

Do I have time to fully explain the profound changes to those who didn't know me then? Probably not. But in a nutshell, think about my first paragraph, above. Everything I was to live with, packed into a car I didn't own. My bike, the futon I slept on, my computer, some cameras and video tapes, that was pretty much it. I had no job waiting for me in Tucson. I had no assets and not even a savings account. Now I have a wife, a kid, a house, a car, two dogs, 3 chickens, 2 and a half bikes, power tools, and more.
I'll quickly just list some other differences between then and now:

  • There were only 3 or 4 people I knew in Tucson. Now I know hundreds of people and have never felt more a part of a community that I do here.
  • I was a war tax resister and as such I owed the IRS tens of thousands of dollars and had the aforementioned lack of assets and savings because of the fear that they would show up and take it at any time. I even was afraid of having a regular, non-freelance job. Now I pay my taxes and have permanent, salaried work.
  • I was single and had been for the last 3 years and in fact for my entire life I was against the idea of ever being married. Now I'm permanently linked to someone I know I want to be with for the rest of my life.
  • I had basically rejected art in favor of media activism (I sold or gave away all my guitars and other musical equipment before leaving Portland). I felt radicalized and unable to justify making art and not devoting myself, at least my free time, to social change in a direct way. Now I have returned quite a bit back to art and am trying to lead a more balanced existence between work, activism, (still socially aware) creative projects, family, and even other pasttimes like brewing beer and roasting coffee.
  • For my whole life and including my first few years in Tucson, I was totally committed to not having children. I still believe in not producing my own offspring for social and environmental reasons, but I now am the father of an adopted little girl who I love and am devoted to, to an extent I could not have even fathomed 10 years ago.
  • I enjoy gardening. I enjoy digging holes in my yard, and building things with wood and drills and saws. I live with and love 2 dogs. I see a therapist every week, run 3 miles every other day, and go to work 40 hours a week in an office. None of those things were true 10 years ago and in fact none of them I expected to ever do, some had never even occurred to me, and some of them I had been consciously opposed to.

You get the picture. And I'm happier, healthier, feel less afraid, more secure, more balanced - for the most part. Life is good.
I better wrap this up and get it put on my blog, before my familly wakes up.

Looking Back at Video Work

I don't usually do the year-end retrospective thing. But I've been meaning for a couple of months to write about my recent past as a freelance videographer

The end of this calendar year prods me into actually doing it.

Since getting back full-time into other ways of making a living, I'm spending much less time out in the world with my camera, and I sometimes feel wistful about that.  However, the fact is that if I can get myself to look at the bright side, I can look back and feel a sense of real satisfaction and pride in the number and variety of film/video projects I've been involved in over the last 18 months or so (I choose that period for 2 reasons: 1) just to buck the trend of looking back at the arbitrary unit of one year that is the habit for this season, and 2) because when I open the Raw Footage directory on my newest hard drive, the shoots I've been on stretch back about that far).

It's especially heartwarming to see, as I look back, how much of this work has been for non-profits and other good causes.

Here's a list of highlight clients and/or projects:

  • promotional film for Coaltion for Sonoran Desert Protection
  • documentation of Chico MacMurtrie's show at MOCA Tucson of Amorphic Robot Works' "Chrysalis" piece, a giant semi-intelligent kinetic sculpture.
  • documenting events for Living Streets Alliance, most notably Cyclovia Tucson
  • A promotional film about South Tucson made with Creatista for Primavera Foundation
  • A documentary about homelessness.
  • footage for some short videos about coffee, kefir, and other food things for  Edible Baja Arizona magazine.
  • Two lectures from the Institute for Applied Meditation
  • An educational video series about immigration called "Radical Hospitality" for the Mennonite USA church. 
  • documenting the SAAF Moda Provacateur fashion show
  • a wedding.
  • some bands that wanted me to film them playing live
  •  PSAs for Child and Family Resources
  •  helping a friend with a documentary about Diamond Mountain's 3-year meditation retreat.
  • Documenting the Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference at the U of Arizona 
  • instructional videos on meditation at a retreat center in Cochise Stronghold
  • fundraising videos with Creatistia for  Literacy Connects 
  • documenting the Mayor's Council on Poverty 
  • various promotional footage for the Downtown Tucson Partnership (with Creatista)
  • and finally, one of the last projects that I'm still involved with is videography for a documentary film in progress by Eva Lewis called No Man's Land, about the organizing against the Arivaca Border Patrol checkpoint. 

I was just down in Arivaca yesterday shooting stuff for the last item, so I guess I can also celebrate that I'm still doing some of this stuff. Just not trying to pay all of the bills with it.

"new" music: Plausibly Live

"Plausibly Live" was a project I began back in the early 'oughts, attempting to represent a sort of simulation of the last few years of my live musical performances. I carefully edited and condensed recordings of the best moments from the improvisational electronic gigs I'd done in 1998 through 2002, but then life got in the way and the results never saw the light of day, til now. There are plenty more details in the capacious liner notes on the Bandcamp page. I hope you enjoy them, and the sounds.

New Tumblr about urban (re-)development and such

I started a new tumblr called Desarrollos ("Developments" in Spanish), which will be a place for me to stash stuff I find as I research for a new project about urban planning, re-development, gentrification, white flight, and related other sub-topics. Right now this project is at a very early stage, just starting to percolate at a slightly higher boil than the back-burner "I should do that someday" thoughts I've had for years on the subject. I hope you get something out of viewing the behind-the-scenes stack of source material that I will collect at the new tumblr. (Tumblrs, for those not aware, are a weird sort of ready-made blogging tool. They seem like a good idea but then it's easy, for me at least, to waste many hours tweaking themes and header images and whatnot. Which is not very productive.)

Negativland Shows in Texas Coming Up

I'm getting ready for another round of shows with Negativland, this time four in Texas:

June 18 at Aurora Picture Show in Houston.

June 19 at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz Theater in Austin

June 20 at Red7 in Austin

June 21 at the Texas Theater in Dallas.

It will be hot and sticky, especially in those flannel plaid shirts we wear.  But it will be fun and if you live anywhere near those places, please endeavor to come, and if you know me, please do say hi (preferably after our set when i'm not worrying about something show-related).

I've posted this before but here's a little sampler/trailer of what the shows are like if you haven't seen it already:

Negativland 2013 Trailer 4-minute cut from steev hise on Vimeo.

In California With Negativland

I have no explanations for why I've taken so long to blog about this, other than the super boring and tired excuse that I've been super busy, and the slightly more interesting fact that Facebook has thoroughly trained me to not blog much, which is sad.

Anyway, it's been over 6 weeks since this happened, but as February turned to March I was in California to perform with Negativland. We played in Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, and Oakland. It was extremely rewarding, fun, and largely, it seems a success, artistically.

Here is some media about the shows, written/recorded both before and after:  

Santa Cruz Weekly 2-part piece (one week and then the next) about the show there.

Vice Noisy piece written after the LA show. (this is probably the best one to read)

East Bay Express article about Negativland and the Oakland show.

episode of Jake Fogelnest's podcast in which Peter of Negativland is the guest, the day after the LA show.

episode of Jonathan Ray's podcast, Beating A Pale Horse, in which he interviews me (mostly about other things, but toward the end we talk about Negativland and my involvement).

 In short, it was a great time. And we now have 2 other little "mini-tours" booked:  June in Texas (Houston, Austin, and Dallas), and end of August in the Northwest (Seattle's Bumbershoot, Portland, and Vancouver, BC)


This guy made an IOS app that keeps you apprised of all (well, really just some) of the horrible shit the U.S. is doing abroad.  Pretty great. Brings up some deeper thoughts - what if you really could every moment know everything bad being done to people?  Like the enlightened bohdisatvas that can sense people suffering on the other side of the world when a tsunami happens.  except you're not enlightened if it's just your phone telling you.  you're just overwhelmed.  would you just go completely insane?  when and how would you start going something to stop some of it? or would you just work on shutting off the stream of data?


In the new year I'm going to finally start blogging about my daughter, who is now 8 months old. I will call her S here when a name is necessary.

Anyway, here's something that is interesting and disturbing (to me, at least):  I've spent most of my adult life focused on making things that people use/consume via screens (websites, films, videos), but now I'm trying with all my might to not expose my infant to screens. 

Screen time is known to be terrible for young kids and is linked to attention-deficit disorders. Screens of all kinds, be they movie screens, TVs, computers, phones or tablets.  It's been found, according to some studies, that even time spent in the same room where someone else is using a screen turned away from the child is harmful.

I suppose this is just one of many things we as adults do that we're not proud of that we suddenly have to either fix or hide from our kids - whether it's "bad words," or perhaps ways that we treat our partners that are less than ideal.  We all, or most of us, do "bad" things we don't get around to working on improving, for years, until our hand is forced by having a little, new, perfect being around that we don't want to pass on that stuff to.  They're info-sponges, and mirrors, and we don't want to see our shadows soaked up and reflected by them. 

Ultimately most things can't be hidden forever.  They must either be fixed, removed, or passed on in a more sane, balanced, moderated way.  The latter is the eventual strategy with screen-time, because obviously we can't, and don't wish to, keep S from all screens forever, in this modern world of digital tools and toys.  But we can try to bequeath to her an ethic of moderation and limits where she can benefit from the positive effects but hopefully avoid the most negative ones. And while most of the web sites I've built in my career will be long gone by the time she is old enough to navigate a web browser, perhaps some day we'll let her see some of my scary documentaries or wacky video art - with some explanations and helpful context, to be sure.

blog fail

Looks like my blog is broken as far as Goodreads book reviews are concerned. the text of my reviews aren't showing up, as you can see for the last few entries. Probably Goodreads changed something about their RSS feed.  I don't really  know when I'll have time to fix it. Bleh.

 The entropy of the universe extends into the digital world. Things constantly falling apart and needing repair. Sigh.

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