September 30, 2011

Sayonara to Setsuden

Setsuden, meaning actions to reduce energy use at the office and at home, was the buzzword that set our lifestyle parameters for summer 2011. The aftermath of this spring’s Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactor imbroglio left residents around Tokyo and in northern Japan no choice but to power down or face potential blackouts during the summer. Government-mandated setsuden policies implemented for the July-September period resulted in remarkable efforts to cull electricity consumption during peak use hours and leave a cushion in the aggregate power supply. Lights were shut off; average room temperatures rose to uncomfortable levels; dress became downright Panamanian, wrapped around Japanglish terms such as Super Cool Biz; slightly Orwellian graphics of aggregate electricity use were omnipresent on TV and in public spaces. The buzz in the air wasn’t coming from busy transformers, it was the constant, collective anxiety over potential power shortages.

The Rising Family did its part: I worked Saturdays and Sundays this summer, which shifted Thursdays and Fridays to being my “weekends” –but not Lady E’s – and we only flicked on the air conditioner when absolutely necessary, among other changes. I didn’t much like the childcare implications of the changed working days…but I did think that having to really consider my energy use patterns was a philosophical challenge that resulted in behavioral changes for the better.

However, I am not sad to see it end. To celebrate its demise, I am going to offer a Bukowski-esque take on post-setsuden:

the further away I am from the summer setsuden reality, the better I feel
even though I write about the great power down, the further away I am from it, the better I feel
two more megawatts is beautiful, as long as more ice cubes appear without retribution
I like being better lit and cooler
daylight’s getting shorter, but that allows more juice for life
no more piercing LEDs on my desk, no more half-lit drug stores, sticky store clerks
I do not like the harvest of night’s neon glory
I don’t like the reduced hum of machines
I don’t like lanolin-like sweat covering every surface of my cubicle
I don’t like rescheduling three months
I don’t like the fear of future progress curtailed
I don’t like the idea of trimmed capacity, in its every meaning
Summer’s heat is behind us, pushing us forward to a brighter end to 2011
And so it should be.

September 16, 2011

Feeling Grungy

Today, the New York Times published a retrospective on “Seattle, Post Grunge,” some 20 years after Nirvana became a household name in North America. A multimedia recounting of the early 1990s Seattle sound was part of this look back at grunge rock’s stripped-down, high-energy aesthetic.

Courtesy of NY Times online
Key words: “retrospective”, “look back”…as I write this, I am reluctantly feeling my 40s. I even did the obligatory quiz to test my knowledge of grunge rock and passed with flying colors. Still, being a fan of the music that was popular during my university days no more made me a hardcore member of the grunge movement than it made anyone who bought LP records in the 1960s “real” hippies. I’m far too callow to commit to an artistic format that deeply; I just liked the raw intensity of the genre. (Still do.) I was in Seattle for a weekend adventure in mid-August 1990, although to my eternal regret it was to see a Mariners game at the Kingdome...arggh, what was I thinking?

The Times article on grunge was charming and I suspect it will resonate with my peers for the same reason I’m writing this post: it’s neat to see how one type of music ties a group of diverse people of similar age together at a point in their lives and, now, how the same music triggers 20-year-old-memories.  

For the record: the best grunge CD of all time is Pearl Jam’s “Yield” even though it was released in 1998, long after grunge music and the Seattle sound had lost its allure with the media.

I am truly looking forward to the day when the Rising Daughters are old enough to be subjected to the likes Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley on our car stereo. To the day when they scream from the back seat, “Turn that old crap music off, Dad.” I promise you, I will smile.