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Josh Vanek

March 30, 2011

Josh Vanek

Josh Vanek is a dude in Missoula, Montana who in addition to running a small-time record label called Wantage USA enjoy things like hiking in the mountains, skiing (cross country) in the winter and hunting in the fall. He helps people run a college student AmeriCorps volunteer program for his day job, is married to a beautiful lady named Niki. He also helps put together Total Fest, an underground music festival going on ten years in existence. That’s it, you know. He is a homebrewer, amateur sausagemaker,  gardener, and is stoked about stuff like being able to walk to work, garage saling and Unibrioue beers.

Essentially, Josh is the kind of guy you should know and 12 Questions is happy to introduce you to him.

1. What is your hometown?

Yakima, Washington. What is it though? A mid-sized agricultural community, largely Hispanic and near the east slope of the Cascades.

2. With what fictional character do you most identify?

Hmmm, uh I don’t know.  Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Lacplesis the “bear ripper” of Latvian mythology…

3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you:

Bob Hoskins of Roger Rabbit fame, or.. maybe the British actor who plays Jimmy McNulty on HBO’s the Wire. Mostly because that dude can actually act, and I think I’d be a complex character to “get right”… you know, mood swings, a rich inner dialogue, uh.. deep misanthropic tendencies, …..

4. What work of art speaks to your soul?

Whoa, good questions! Speaks to my soul, huh? I like music, so the work of art I think that most speaks to my soul is the album Into the Vortex by 90s Minneapolis via Fargo noise rock lords, Hammerhead. It’s an insanely dense, beautiful and artfully engineered piece of art that I’ll put up against any Rembrandt, Mozart or Michelangelo.

5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?

Reading: In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin. I recommend that. I’m also reading this Junot Diaz guy’s Oscar Wao book. I like that too. Not like most stuff I read. I always, always recommend reading Blood Meridian (probably my favorite book ever) by Cormac McCarthy. Suttree (also McCarthy’s) is also good. Honestly, I like everything, even though The Road wrecked my ability to sleep at night. I like Flannery O’Connor a lot too. And The Way of All Flesh by Midas Dekkers.

6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?

16 Canciones by this cumbia guy named Andres Landero. He’s a Colombian, it’s really good, spare south American country, with African rhythms.

7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?

I actually heard this thing on This American Life last night (2/8/11) about crying at movies shown on airplanes that really, weirdly told my story. Essentially, it’s the only time I ever cry, even when I should be crying, like at a funeral. It was probably a straight to video movie that I happened to see on a plane, which is when apparently I seem to be most vulnerable, and prone to crying. Yes, in fact it was Dinner For Schmucks with Steve Carell and Jemaine from Flight of the Concords. Pretty horrible, but there were some parts that crushed me. I attribute it to the real childlike state that the environment on a plane legitimately creates.

8.  Cat person or dog person?

I’m a neither person, though I’ll take (and my wife and I have) a cat any day.

9. What is more important, truth or kindness?

Truth. Tactful, kind truth. I see them on a hierarchy, rather than a continuum so ultimately being kind is a part of being truthful. Huh? Yes.

10. How do you define sin?

I’m a pretty secular/humanistic dude, who grew up being a Catholic altar boy, going to Catholic school, and who doesn’t go to church anymore. Therefore, I define sin as a tool used by (at least Christian) religions to define their reason for being. Which interestingly is a tautological loop. Because of sin, you have a “positive” response, which is faith and religion, church and donations to keep it all, including sin around. The problem and response to the problem are so intertangled that they can’t really be separated. That said, I see some serious problems in the world that, while they may not be the result of sin, are definitely dependent of greed, theft and other bad and antisocial behavior, and I appreciate the responses by some religiously affiliated institutions like Jesuit Volunteers, Catholic Relief and Father Pat Carroll (RIP) all provide some notable exceptions to my argument. I guess the concept of sin basically says: “Because of the gravity or scale of your bad behavior you’ll ultimately be held accountable when you die,” and I think to more and more people, that’s an idle threat. People should be held accountable for bad behavior here, while they’re alive. Maybe it’s not humble of me to say, but religion can be a massively disempowering institution for people trying to better their lives and communities, and I think the concept of sin encourages passive responses to serious problems too often.

11. How do you define virtue?

Somehow virtue doesn’t stir up the same angry response in me. I guess it’s easier to get on a soapbox about religion when thinking about sin. I think that virtue is living in a way (decisions, actions, associations) you’re proud to tell other people about. Ethically, morally and so forth. What is this? A test?

12.  Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?

Something like this, minus the cross! This is from Recoleta in Buenos Aires. I just love the skull as a positive reminder of death. That’s all I want. Maybe also my last name. That’s if I go the headstone route. I also like the idea of a hippy burial. Linen cloth, no chemicals, hole near a tree or something.

Bonus Question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?

Andy Smetanka. Garth Witson.

Wantage USA
Total Fest

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 1, 2011 18:21

    Josh is a fine and well-spoken man. I’m proud to have bought some great records from him.

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