This is my submission for the Why Not?!? 2018 Performer Registration Form
You can find out more about Why Not Fest, and how to register, on their tumblr.
Performer Name: Nora and the Janitors
Contact Name: it me, Nora aka Graham aka trashgirl
Phone Number: (701) SPUTNIK
Website (if available): prairiegoth.com
City of Residence: Bismarck (trashtown)
Genre of Art (please be serious so folks have a rough idea; you can be goofy below): trash punk
Performer Bio (you can be goofy here if you want):
hiiiiiiiiiii hewwo i’m Nora, i sing the songs (yell the yells) for the Janitors. i wanna thank Why Not Fest and all of the people behind the scenes for doing all of the hard work they do to create this beautiful sanctuary for art & friendship in Minot every August. We’re all so lucky to have them i can’t even believe it <3 <3
the Janitors have released something like 10 to 15 — depending on how you count it — singles/mixtapes/EPs/LPs since 2008, mostly punk and rock & roll kinda stuff. August 8th, 2018, was the ten-year anniversary of the first Nora and the Janitors release, a noise cassette titled Frank. Since February 2017, I’ve been releasing music every Friday as Citizen Scientist — instrumental music that ranges from ambient & noise to improvisational rock or lo-fi house I guess. I ‘maintain’ a ‘netlabel’ called Little Sisyphus, which has existed since 2015 I suppose. In 2016, I started the Prairie Goth podcast, which is where I interview artists & musicians & other neat people. I also read my poetry there, and take phone calls. You should call in sometime! You can find everything I do — interviews, poetry, music, etc. — by visiting the Prairie Goth website.
As individuals, we have an extremely limited time on this Earth. As a species, our collective lifespan in this universe is minuscule relative to the cold abyss of cosmological time. Everything we know will soon be gone in the blink of an eye. Will the world end in our lifetimes? No. Somehow, we will find a way to survive at least a few thousand more years. But we will never upload our consciousnesses to the supercomputer, we will never colonize the universe, technology will never accelerate fast enough to save us, we will never meet face to face with intelligent extraterrestrial life — (aren’t the animals here enough?) — we will never know whether God exists or not, we’ll never know the truth about what ghosts are, and we’ll never discover what actually happens when you die. I have my own hunches about these things. But in our struggle towards these impossible goals, in our endless search for the answers to questions like these, there’s a more important question that gets avoided: How do we deal with the fact that this is all we’re ever going to have? I’m not saying that scientific study is a bad thing. Science is worth much more cash & effort than it’s currently afforded. But when your rent eats the majority of your paycheck every month, or when you feel like your body is your enemy, or when you come to know, in your bones, that life isn’t a story with a beginning, middle and end — that it’s just a series of random events that you have very little free will in determining — when the trajectory of your life is clearly out of your hands, the important questions don’t have to do with the future of our species. The important questions become something like, Why does anything matter?
I have to remind myself that there are things in this world that matter. I don’t believe that there’s a “reason” or “purpose” or “meaning” to this life. I’m also skeptical of the idea that “purpose” is something that we can create for ourselves. Any purpose that isn’t inherent or self-evident is doomed to eventually come up short. There has to be something more.
The United States enforces policies that have, directly or indirectly, caused people to die, and have ruined the lives of many others — whether it’s the thousands of people who have been murdered by police, or the thousands of people who have died in the desert while trying to cross the border from Mexico. People, places, and animals all around the world are being harmed in ways that are preventable. In ways that are simply a choice. We could open our hearts to refugees from all around the world, but we — our lawmakers and our neighbors — choose not to, and so more people die. Is it on you and I to fix this? Maybe not. Are you and I complicit? Probably, but I don’t know. But if you, like me, are privileged, it’s your responsibility to do your part.
If I have a fundamental political vision, it’s this: Reduce Suffering.
And I’m not talking about the suffering you experience from challenges, from self-growth, from climbing a mountain and feeling like your muscles are going to give out. Working hard and pushing yourself is a different category of suffering. Challenging myself to meet goals, to accomplish something, to create something is one of the primary reasons I’m here. Challenge gives my life the illusion of purpose, which is really the best any of us can do. I’m the little sister of Sisyphus.
What I’m talking about is alleviating needless suffering. For me, the way I try to do this includes being vegan and, since I paid off my student loans in 2016, donating a portion of my income every month to organizations that help protect people, places, and animals. In a more personal way, this goal means honoring my sadness or depression, and trying to take care of myself when I’m hurting. It also means recognizing the patterns of my behavior that hurt other people, and doing my best to be kind to those around me, while trying to make amends for the pain I’ve caused in the past.
I’m not going to prescribe a list of things to you that I think you should do. We each have our own strengths, beliefs, and privileges. What I’m asking is that you recognize that the personal is the political: that every choice you make affects the whole. That every choice to act or to not act affects not just you, the individual, but the collective. Again, not everything is a choice, and not everyone has the privilege to be able to choose. Free will isn’t free. But I encourage you to honor your beliefs by living your values. I encourage you to periodically check in with yourself and to consider what your life means for the politics of your social group, your town, your state, your country, the world. You are more consequential than you might think. I encourage you to get involved politically in this personal way — perhaps in small, daily acts. To dance is to rebel. To sing is to rebel. Happiness is an act of resistance. Maybe your resistance is like mine: eating plants and carrying spiders back outside instead of smashing them. Or maybe you’re caring for an elderly parent, or reminding a friend going through hard times that you love them, or making a painting that will brighten a wall, and help all who see it to remember what this time in our lives was like.
Nothing should be overlooked. Maybe your resistance is giving yourself a break, spending an evening alone with a book or movie or video game. Or walking in the woods with your dog. Or sleeping twelve hours and not feeling one bit guilty about it. Maybe your resistance is honoring your identity. For example, asking your friends to use the pronouns you feel comfortable with. Maybe also, when it’s not too exhausting, correcting strangers when they misgender you. Maybe your resistance is calling out the person who abused you. Maybe your resistance is therapy — for mental health, for helping yourself through trauma, maybe couples therapy, or maybe gender affirming hormone therapy. Did I want to have to take medicine every day for the rest of my life? No. But it is my resistance. To love yourself is to rebel. To love others is to rebel. To love strangers is to rebel. To love plants, animals, the Earth and the stars is to rebel. In the words of my favorite songwriter, Joanna Newsom, kindness prevails.
I was a teenager again, in my dream. I was in high school. After class, as everyone is leaving, I’m standing in the lobby. I’m new here. The alienation follows me everywhere I go, and I can hear them whispering, saying that I was a boy once. I don’t see it that way. I was always a girl, even if I didn’t know it. I don’t really care if I have to be alone, I’m just sick of them making fun of me. My body is starting to change, but I’m not as far along in puberty as the other girls. I’m an outcast, and they’re letting me know. So I’m standing there in the lobby, hands tight against my backpack straps, trying to feel safe, when Esme comes up to me. She’s with all her girlfriends, and the five of them stand in a half circle in front of me. It’s Friday. Esme says they’re going out to the ocean tonight, to have a fire on the beach, to watch the sun set over the water, and that they’d like me to join them. I’m sure they’ve made some kind of mistake by asking me, so I say to Esme, “You know I’m trans, right?” Like there’s no way these cool girls would let me be one of them. I’ll never forget the way they were all looking at me. They were protecting me. I’ll never forget the way Esme said, “Yeah,” so matter of fact, like it wasn’t a big deal — of course they would accept me for who I am — and I’ll never forget how good it felt, how safe it felt, when I asked her if I could have a hug. I can still feel that hug, I can still feel how much they all cared.
We watched the sun fall heavy over the ocean, reflected in the tide pools, the fire keeping us warm, sweaters tied around our waists.
I woke up with the words “kindness prevails” sung on repeat in my head, and I cried from 3 am to 4 am. It felt so real. In its way, it was real. Those girls will be in my heart forever, and the way they accepted me has made a real difference in my life.
You can change the world more than you think. Everyone at Why Not Fest ought to know that the power of art is infinite. Whether you reduce the suffering of one person or many, whether you’re healing yourself, or helping others, or both, the change you’re creating is real and shouldn’t be underestimated. I’m proud of you and I’m grateful.
Kindness prevails. Reach out if you need help.
Fight for Black Lives. Fight for Indigenous rights. Decolonize. Fight for renewable energy. Fight for wilderness preservation. Fight to end factory farming. Fight for Trans lives. Fight for healthcare for all. Fight for peace. Fight to end white supremacy. Fight to end rape culture. Fight for reparations. Fight to honor the treaties. Fight to end gun violence. Fight to end police brutality. Fight for refugees. Fight for clean water. Fight for immigrants. Fight for open borders. Fight for price controls on rent and medicine. Fight to raise the minimum wage. Fight for the rights of sex workers. Fight to end mass incarceration. Fight to abolish the death penalty & solitary confinement. Fight to legalize marijuana. Fight for voting rights. Fight for art & artists. Fight for compassionate healthcare for people who are addicted. Fight for access to abortion providers & contraception. Fight for menstrual products to be freely available for everyone. Fight for people whose bodies, minds, identities & genders are outside what has, for too long, been considered the ‘norm.’ Fight for animal welfare. Fight to prevent domestic violence. Fight to prevent child abuse. Fight for flexible, non-patriarchal policies that protect children & adults who have low incomes. Fight for scientific research. Fight for religious diversity. Fight for the present, and for the future. Fight for the children living now, and the children yet to come. Perhaps our fates will surprise us.
Do what you can, when you can, and don’t forget to love yourself. May all the queers rise up with fists.
[The following is a transcript, edited for length and clarity, of Nora speaking on episode #40 of her podcast, Prairie Goth.]
00:01:39 OK. Here's what we're going to do while we're waiting to get calls. We've got one minute until 4 PM, which is the call time for today. And we're going to go to Safari. Gonna go up here. We're going to go to whynotfest.tumblr.com
00:02:15 Scrolling over, hitting the registration button. If you're hearing this, it’s probably the last day to register. So you should probably register. I haven't registered yet and I'm gonna see if I can register in the next hour. Um, and there's the form, the link to the form. Why Not Fest is my favorite fest in North Dakota. This year it's August 17th through the 19th. And it's always the best thing in the year as far as, uh, cool music and hanging out time goes pretty much. It's pretty much the best. Alright. So I'm looking at this doc on Google, the Google doc for a form. Why Not 2018 Performer Registration Form. OK. Performer name.
00:03:31 Oops. I can't type. Note. Nora and the Janitors. Try that again. James. Manager hat. Hannu to Whoa. No, I cannot check — Nora and the Tater Tots and the Janitors. Contact name. Ha. What is my name? I like both of my names. Email. Why is it so hard to type on the Internet phone. email@example.com. Phone number. This is how people would call me right now. (701) SPUTNIK. Mailing address. What are you guys trying to do to me? You want to mail me something? Um, I got a new neighbor, maybe we'll talk about that later. Yeah, I'll put this website. I'll put prairiegoth.com or can I be that slash? Yep. I can do that. Nora and the Janitors dot calm because they both function. I reside, I reside in Bismarck. Genre of art, trash punk.
00:05:51 A performer bio. See, OK. This is the part that's gonna goof me up ‘cause I always feel like I have to say stuff that — ‘cause it's gonna go in print — as far as I know, there will be another zine. And uh, writing words that are going to go into print always stresses me out. Bunches. Number of individuals performing. Um, I think there's going to be four of us.
00:06:57 OK. Tech needs. What? What does that. Oh, is that like microphones? Ah,
00:07:20 MMM, MMM.
00:07:43 Cool. Link to a sample recording if available. Yeah. The website is available to perform Every Dang Day. Housing needs. Uh, I'll click all of them. Sorry guys. Number of people needing housing. I'm so sorry, but I'm, but I'm putting 666. Um, performer bio. OK. That's all I have left to do. Wow. That part is the hardest part.
00:08:47 Um hmm. What would I say? Performer bio.
00:08:56 And then NPR. Did I mention this fire?
00:09:23 Why Not Fest being nice, letting people be themselves. It's pretty sweet. Um, well, what would I say in a performer bio. Ah, I hate this part. Can I — does this? — oh, it says it's required. It says it's required. Um. Oh God, what do I say? “Hi. My name's Nora. I've been making. I released my first recording when I was 12 years old.”
00:10:11 I don't know. How old was I when I did my first thing? Depends what you call first thing. ‘Cause there was stuff before Nora and the Janitors. I was probably like 11, but, I mean there's been a couple of different permutations of the name but this band has existed since 2008. But here's the thing, why does anyone need to know that? Hi, my name is Nora. I've been doing this band sometimes alone and sometimes with other people for 10 years now and I still don’t know what I'm doing and I'm just trying to have fun and rock’n’roll and stuff.
00:11:14 Can I just, can I take that little clip and like make an audio thing of it and put it on the Internet and then can my performer bio just be a QR code that no one scans? Um, this is the part that's so hard because it's like, well, I don't really care if people know, like — is this supposed to be — is this my resumé? I get very stressed out from this — then the other part is like, well, OK, should I just be like, mmm, should I just use this little space that I have in print to, um, to espouse my political beliefs and say, um, something that seems, like, meaningful? I don't know. That's the other pressure. Should I be — is this like my professional resumé or um,
00:12:26 or should I — I'll use this as like a soap box. What should I say? I could say — I have a lot of things I want to say a lot of stuff about. But then — then I have to make sure that I'm saying it pretty well. I feel like a real jerk. I really don't know
00:12:57 this predicament. It's hard. It's this hard every year. I just don't know what to do. Um, I wish I could ask for advice. Bunny, what do you think?
00:13:26 Bunny, it's good advice, but it's hard for me to take that advice, you know what I mean?
00:16:14 OK. Performer bio, “you can be goofy here if you want.” Does that mean I'm supposed to be goofy because that's even harder. OK. So my options are I fill it out like it's a resumé, um. That's number one. Number two is make some kind of joke. OK. Number three, is to use it as sort of a political soapbox. OK.
00:16:57 Well. And that's hard too because it's like, well, it's gotta be kind of, kind of a thing. If it's going to be a political thing in any way, it's gotta be something that I'm sure that's like, you know, like, like, uh, I dunno, like encouraging people to, uh, like stop eating so many animals. Um, I mean I could also just be self serving and say, you know, uh, no one, no one's calling me and you should call me. I could just say that. That could be the whole performer bio. “Nora and the Janitors. No one's calling me. Call me.” That's an option. I'm like freaked out. What do I put? I have like 24 hours to decide. I don't know if I'm going to be able to pull it off. This is why I wait ‘til the last minute to sign up.
0:16:66 The Internet Should Be Grayscale.
0:20:58 I love getting muddy and sweaty, you know, out there in undisclosed wilderness locations.
Number of Individuals Performing: 4 i think haha
Tech needs: 2 mics i guess haha
Link to Sample Recording (if available): noraandthejanitors.com
Number of People Needing Housing (Traveling Acts): 666
Food or Pet Allergies: so many!!!!!!!!!!!! hehe who cares