Saturday, June 6, 2020

(Video) Anti-Racism: Listen to Jane Elliott and Share This

Jane Elliott is an educator and anti-racism activist who has been working for more than 50 years to educate the public about the reality of racism in the United States of America and how to overcome indoctrinated racist beliefs. As her videos have been circulating around the internet a lot recently, I've been watching and learning a great deal from her. She is a captivating speaker, a passionate and fierce human being, a provocative and extremely knowledgable teacher who will crack your head open, show you what was implanted there by indoctrination, and help you to see things clearly for what they are rather than how they appear to be.

Of all the videos I have watched so far, the one I am sharing below struck me as the best because the interviewer gives her the space to speak her lessons longwindedly and she absolutely goes off. She goes off on the inherited bullshit American society indoctrinates its children with, she goes off on Trump, she describes what she witnessed as a small child seeing Hitler rise to power and World War II explode while comparing that to today, and she provides a litany of lessons for the viewer to learn from. She recommends a bunch of insightful books and even, towards the end, admonishes us about the power of television and what it does to our minds, recommending we all seek out the work of Marshall McLuhan to learn about how the medium of television can damage your perspective and sensory perception.

PLEASE WATCH THIS AND SHARE WIDELY. If you have friends or family members who express racist views or who don't understand the gravity of our moment in history, make them watch this. This woman Jane Elliott has that type of energy that will sit you down, make you shut the fuck up and LISTEN to the authority of her knowledge. She loves to bring up the etymology of the word Educator which literally means one who leads others out of ignorance. Listen and let her guide you.

Monday, June 1, 2020

"Pity the Nation" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Pity the nation whose people are sheep
   And whose shepherds mislead them
 Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
            Whose sages are silenced
  And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
 Pity the nation that raises not its voice
          Except to praise conquerers
       And acclaim the bully as hero
          And aims to rule the world
              With force and by torture
          Pity the nation that knows
        No other language but its own
      And no other culture but its own
 Pity the nation whose breath is money
 And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
      Pity the nation oh pity the people
        who allow their rights to erode
   and their freedoms to be washed away
My country, tears of thee
                   Sweet land of liberty

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Putting the Killing of George Floyd in Context

Photo of George Floyd from USA Today.

It seems as though we can hardly process the horror of one tragic murder of a black person by the police before there’s another one and another one, each more egregious than the last. The killing of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis is the main focus right now because it was all captured on video in broad daylight and inevitably strikes the viewer as an act that is heartbreakingly malicious and inhumane. A handcuffed man, face down on the ground, not posing any threat, suffering from an officer callously forcing a knee into his neck for nearly ten minutes. The officer kept that knee planted there even two minutes after they’d realized Floyd no longer had a pulse. All while other officers watched on. 

Friday, January 31, 2020

Looking Back on 2019 (Part 3)

Street art seen in Mexico City, June 2019.

A little delayed in sharing this final look back at some of the things I liked about 2019, but that gave me time to properly soak in the music that dropped later in the year. As always with this blog, my favorite new albums came out of the realm of hip hop in its purest and grimiest form.

We are now nearly a quarter century past the golden era of hip hop and the art form remains alive with a slew of newer artists arising to bring fresh blood and new approaches to a musical tradition whose forefathers they seem to not only respect but spiritually summon and pay homage to. Some established rap gods have also helped bring along the new artists. These phenomena were reflected in some of the albums and artists I dug in 2019. Here are, in no particular order, my favorite albums from last year with a few words about each.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Looking Back on 2019 (Part 2)

Books Read in 2019:

1. Harpooning Donald Trump by Tom LeClair
A short book of essays by a literary scholar arguing for the importance of literature during times of political turmoil. LeClair goes into what he calls "systems novels" here, that is, enormous novels that seek to contain everything. These can be useful guides to crazy times. He especially highlights Robert Coover's The Public Burning, a satirical novel that features a caricatured Richard Nixon as the protagonist and narrator. The book's best chapter analyzes Trump from the perspective of Moby-Dick---what LeClair calls "the only book you'll ever need"---and concludes:
And we will need literate readers---like Ishmael---to counter Trump's unscrupulous monomania. Not just literate readers but literary, which is literate on Human Growth Hormone. Literary readers do not think any more carefully than literate people, but literature trains one to care about and care for language as a sensitive instrument, not just a blunt tool for propaganda and power. I'll quote Wittgenstein again: 'The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.' The world of literature is large with possibilities of imagination and thought and feeling. The world of pre-literate Donald Trump is small, impoverished by ignorance and fear and anger. Literary responses to Trump may not bring down a president or even affect his policies, but literary artists still must continue to provide models of rigorous thought and rich expression---just as medieval monks preserved manuscripts in an earlier dark time---for great and great-minded literature is in and of itself a harpoon, a weapon against the fake 'great' and small-minded demagoguery. (p. 95)

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Looking Back on 2019 (Part 1)

Aztec Sun Stone seen at the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City.

The year 2019 will probably be one I always look back on as an important year in my life. While it was an extremely busy period where my work life expanded significantly and bled its way into my personal life, complex projects keeping me up nights and perplexing me on weekends trying to solve tech company conundrums, I also managed to make time to surf the waves of my passionate interests to new heights. The peak of the latter was an adventure in Mexico City where I delivered a lecture at an international literary conference (the fourth country and fifth university where I've got to share my work as an independent scholar) and visited the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacan. I also got to contribute to some meaningful projects, had my first piece to appear in a book (link below), made a bit of income from literary work, and opened up new avenues for 2020.

In 2019 we also got a puppy---a sweet, playful, and loyal pit-lab-retriever mix who has transformed my life. I'd never had a pet before, ever. Growing up, my parents hated animals. My dad only refers to dogs as "shit machines." But I've always loved dogs. Our little tank boy ROA (named after my lady's favorite street artist) is a rescue we got this past September when he was 5 months old. He's huge and he has been a handful but he's kept me grounded and brought me an abundance of joy. Dogs are the best. A new thing I've learned is that one of the most peaceful feelings in life comes from simply laying on the couch at night after a busy day and watching tv with a puppy sleeping by you. For anyone paying attention to the news in 2019, the world is sort of in shambles right now, and for people like me who dive headlong into the news for weeks at a time it can get depressing and heavy. A big, energetic, playful and sweet puppy is a perfect antidote to that. Now that I have a dog I feel like dogs are essential, that dogs belong with humans and vice versa. They're not just loving and loyal and protective and playful, they're funny. Our boy ROA, when he's super tired he sticks his head under the couch and passes out. Here I'm gonna share a bunch of pics of our new doggy that we adopted this year (his full name is ROA Haymitch Flynndrino, I also call him Tank Boy and Baby Kangaroo), then I will share some lists and expanded thoughts on the stuff I did in 2019.

In Part 1 here I'll discuss the things I wrote and the places I traveled to in 2019. In Part 2, I'll share the list of books I read this year and Part 3 I'll discuss my favorite new albums from 2019.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Al Pacino & Robert DeNiro in Epic Conversation

Two of the all-time greats sit down to discuss their friendship and careers. I had no idea they both grew up in Manhattan and their acting careers essentially began in the coffee shops and bars of Beat-era Greenwich Village. Incredible how much artistic talent arose from that neighborhood during that period.

Whenever I hear about Greenwich Village in those days I think of one of my favorite authors, David Markson, who was a fixture of the Village during that time. Markson shared some colorful stories about his experiences during that era in an interview here.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Hauntology of The Gold Room by Sadhugold

From the wikipedia page for Hauntology:
A derivation of Derrida's hauntology idea informs a style of 21st-century music exploring ideas related to temporal disjunction, retrofuturism, cultural memory, and the persistence of the past. Hauntology often involves the sampling of older, "spectral" sound sources to evoke deeper cultural memory. Common reference points in hauntological music include vintage analog synthesisers and cassette tapes, library music, old science-fiction and pulp horror programmes (including the soundtracks of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop), musique concrète and found sounds, dub and English psychedelia, and 1970s public informational films. A common element is the foregrounding of the recording surface noise, including the crackle and hiss of vinyl and tape, calling attention to the decaying medium itself.

According to Nature Sounds, the new instrumental album The Gold Room by Sadhugold was "conceived as the score of a prequel to Stanley Kubrick’s classic film The Shining" but it also feels like a perfect embodiment of hauntological music. An instrumental homage to a classic ghost story film that creates a spectral vibe of its own thru dusty, lo-fi analog elements and distorted, mutating melodies that feel like they're emanating out of a haunted jukebox. Or the analog dispatch radio in the office of The Overlook with the call letters KDK12.

I've been very impressed with this album, captivated by Sadhugold's chunky kicks-and-snares and the way he toys with and distorts each beat. Also interesting to me is how this is a straight instrumental record, no vocals at all, not even any kind of clips of voices from The Shining. Through the track titles and the movements of the song, though, Sadhu creates audio spectral visions of the themes of the film. One of the best examples is on "Dull Boy" where the melody, an absolute banger of resonant organ keys, gives the sense of a spiraling descent into madness and chaos, confirmed by the track title referring to that iconic scene of The Shining where Jack Torrance's wife discovers every page he's written says "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

Kubrick's 1980 film is one of the greatest cinematic puzzles ever devised, a labyrinth with a life of its own, springing forth elaborate subjective interpretations, theories, and homages from creative souls who become allured into its layers. I've gone thru my own phases of obsessing over Kubrick and The Shining and written about it in this space. That film seems inexhaustible, a classic in every respect, and while it has inspired a whole subculture of devotees (including previous attempts at hauntological musical renditions) this new project from Sadhugold was an ambitious idea that he executed with a mastery worthy of the filmmaker he's paying tribute to. The whole album is a banger that can stay on repeat, revealing new ripples and distorted spectral disturbances with each listen.

(Thank you to my friend Angelo for putting me on to that concept of Hauntology, a word combining haunting and ontology.)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Indelible Sensory Imprint of Mexico City and the Pyramids of Teotihuacán

PQ perched on the Pyramid of the Moon overlooking the Pyramid of the Sun and the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacán, Mexico.

"In this twilight age of all the disciplines, in which beliefs are dying and religions are gradually gathering dust, our sensations are the only reality left to us. The only scruple that need concern us, the only satisfactory science, is that of sensations."

That's Fernando Pessoa in The Book of Disquiet describing the sensations of living in the city of Lisbon (a place I got to visit in 2014). Pessoa's poetic detailing of the sensory world of a modern city explored throughout The Book of Disquiet rung resonantly with my experience of Mexico City on a 10-day trip this past June. Looking back on that trip, it's the sensory experience that sticks out to me. Mexico City is such a vast, bustling, densely populated, and beautiful place. The experience of being there brings so much to bear on the senses that you end up filtering so much of it out so as not to get caught up in focusing on every little thing. As I've continued to digest the experience of being there, certain things that I overlooked or forgot about come floating back up in my memory.

Little details return, like the way the sunlight comes down through the trees. Mexico City felt like a metropolis inside of a jungle while surrounded by mountains on every horizon. It's a gigantic place with variation across each neighborhood, but the parts we mostly stayed in (La Roma and La Condesa neighborhoods) were so full of lush green, tall thriving trees that there was often a canopy for the sunlight to creep through. There were so many miniature parks with jungles of trees and plants alongside old statues and fountains. Giant, lush bougainvillea vines climbed lampposts and hung on electrical wires. Palm trees clustered together. Many of the buildings had porches full of plants like this place:

Saturday, September 7, 2019

(Video) RZA Shares the Wu-Tang Secrets, Takes Us Thru the Martial Arts Film Chamber

Thank you for this, RZA. Thank you, Vanity Fair. Thank you to everyone who made this video happen. One of the coolest Wu-Tang clips you'll ever see.
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