Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Stickin' It to the Man, Analytical-Style

Recently, a friend of mine started keeping a blog, and she has inspired me to renew my interest in my own blog. Hence, this post. (Her blog on photography and coolness is located here, and I recommend checking it out.)

But what to write about? Well, I haven't said anything about it publically yet, so I might as well use this opportunity to let everyone know that I'm changing jobs beginning February 15, 2012. On that day, I will no longer be Kenny Bledsoe, Legislative Analyst at the National Association of Realtors®. I will, for the first time in my career, transmogrify into that most efficient and results-oriented creature: the private sector employee.

The day after Valentine's day I will become Kenny Bledsoe, Litigation Law Clerk at the Employment Law Group. I'd tell you, the reader, all about it, but I'm afraid I have no idea what I'm talking about. Like most young people choosing a career, all I have to go on is some vague concepts of the profession glorified through the magic of television, mitigated by even less concrete notions that television inevitably fails to accurately depict anything bearing a tangential relationship to real life. All I know for sure is I'll do a lot of writing and research, which are things that I like to do. Perhaps I'll give updates as I discover (mmm… law pun) the world of litigation.

The biggest change I feel prepared to discuss is the shift out of the world of policy and political advocacy. I've been in that game for what feels like a long time now (roughly the beginning of 2006), and I'm having trouble wrapping my head around a world where I don't have to think about these things all the time. No longer will it be that important to consider the partisan implication of everything from legislation to breakfast cereal (seriously, could dulce de leche Cheerios be more liberal?). I'm not sure that's a switch I can turn off in my head. My hope is that it somehow becomes useful in the new job.

Indeed, already I've started placing my political brain filter on the new job. The firm is a plaintiff's firm, so in large part they fight against employers breaking the law, presumably on behalf of employees. As Marx might put it, the firm supports the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, labor against capital. Or as Kenny the former rock star might say, they stick it to the man. I like this, because it fits into my generalized political predilections.* So already in my head, I've begun placing motives on the staff working there. That is patently ridiculous, I know. Most people in DC are just doing a job; they're not on some epic political crusade. And yet, even for those people doing a job, my tendency is to place on them a political motivation of which they themselves may not even be aware.

So, as the last paragraph demonstrates, working in policy and politics molds your (or at least has molded my) brain to see everything in terms of political divides and motivations. Right now, I wonder if I'll ever be able to turn off that switch, or if I'd ever even want to. It's an interesting subtext for the world, a sort of odd language subtitle for the DVD of life.

Anyway, all of this rambling, overly analytical nonsense is simply to say that I'm undergoing a fairly major career shift next week, and I'm curious how it will affect my perceptions of myself and the world I live in. I know one thing for sure: after working for the man for the last few years, I'm pretty excited at even the faintest hint of finally getting to stick it to him for the first time since the legendary rock and roll days of my youth. Here's hoping the job has at least a little of that.

*(I should note for the uninitiated that a reference to Marx does not make one a communist revolutionary, it's simply a useful distinction for understanding the political perspectives of employers vis-à-vis employees and vice versa. And the very fact that I felt the need to put this footnote here is a testament to the phenomenon that is the subject of the post.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Albums I Like: Chatham County Line, IV

I have a bad habit of beginning my interest in an artist with a random album from the middle of their body of work. This particular album is the fourth in Chatham County Line's collection, as the name would clearly indicate to any Roman, and was released in 2008.

I first became interested in Chatham County Line thanks to the magic of Pandora. I believe my station was based on Old Crow Medicine Show or some such thing. As I'm riding the bus from home to the DC Metro, out springs this bittersweet, captivating tenor voice signing poetic lyrics atop a simple, jangly old time rhythm. The song was actually "Speed of the Whippoorwill," from the album of the same title. It's a great song, but not on the album I mean to discuss here. The point is simply that the strength of this song prompted me to investigate the band deeper.

So went to iTunes to check out some demos of the band's work, and I was impressed. Initially I thought of buying the Speed of the Whippoorwill album, but was persuaded to go with IV. Why did I do this? Well there were a few reasons, but one that stands atop the others: "Country Boy/City Boy."

I don't believe I've yet found a song that so accurately conveys the "grass is greener" mindset of someone like me whose heart is divided between the rural and urban facets of American life. In some sense, it's frustrating to hear this tension put so clearly because it emphasizes just how impossible it is to reconcile those two desires. But the song itself is musically straightforward and upbeat, which makes the message easier to hear. Others probably won't have the same reaction to this song, since the urban/rural problem is particularly pronounced for me, but surely enough people can relate to make this message broadly meaningful.

Beyond this song, though, there is a lot of good stuff on the album that makes it worthwhile. The celestial imagery of "Chip of a Star" is peaceful and poetic. "Let It Rock" is blues/old time fusion at its best, and creates an uncontrollable foot-tapping impulse in all reasonable living animals. "Birmingham Jail" even provides a healthy does of social commentary that you don't usually get with string bands. There's a pretty good chunk of really slow stuff on there that might lull a bit if you're used to more energetic styles of music. For some, this material may seem like filler, but the smooth vocal harmony and not-overly-prominent table guitar makes it more calming than boring. The instrumentals are not "look how great I am at music" sessions. They are melodic and fun to listen to, with just a little healthy dose of exhibitionism. It's almost too bad that there are instrumentals on the album though, because I just never seem to get enough of the lead singer's voice. It's rare that a singer can get me to pay attention to song lyrics, but this guy does it with a natural soulfulness that is equally at home reciting poetry, spinnin' a yarn, or slurring a traditional blues line.

Overall, the album is a great fusion of styles: folk, old time, blues, and even a little country. It's not for lovers of complex interweaving lines or energy/angst-ridden rock, but it is a nice example of how music can be both calm and interesting, and walk stylistic boundaries without hitting you in the face with too much fusion.

(Quick note that this is my first ever album review, and I do take requests and guest contributions. I also invite thoughtful commentary, even if it takes the form of disagreement.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Blogsoe is Back!

Some may have noticed the disappearance of the Blogsoe some time ago, which is crazy because I barely even noticed myself. But I've decided to open it back up for business. So welcome back!

This time around, I'm going to do things a little differently. The "Old Blogsoe" was heavily focused on politics and ranting at Washington Post op-eds. This time around I plan to broaden the focus. And yes, I'm aware what a ridiculous phrase "broaden the focus" is. You can use better phrases when you write your own blog. I mean really, did you just read this to criticize my choices of phrasing?

Okay, now that I've alienated the most refined readers with a paragraph of meta-nonsense, we're down to the pure Blogsoe crowd and I can explain more about where the blog will go this time around. 

One of the major subjects I want to tackle is music. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love music. I like playing it, writing it, listening to it, and talking about it. Now that Spotify is available and I can hear massive amounts of new music for free, I want to take suggestions from friends and readers for things I should listen to, and I want to provide a critic's perspective on those suggestions.

I would also love topic requests outside of music. I want to keep all subjects on the table. This will hopefully be a classically unfocused and rambling personal blog. While I will not have a lot of time for blogging (still working full-time and going to law school at night), I will do my best. And I would like to have guest bloggers as well, for those of you who like writing but don't want to start your own blog.

That's all for now. I, for one, will sleep better knowing that the Blogsoe is sitting stoically in the background, waiting to inform and enlighten the world with the benign and incoherent proclamations of a guy on the internet.