Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Humanity Overload

So, a white supremacist walks into a Holocaust Museum and kills an African-American guard.

This happened today in Washington, DC, where I'm typing from at this very moment. I'm on the Bolt Bus, on my way back to New York City. I've been here for three days for the International Association of Genocide Scholars conference. I delivered a paper that I have been writing since I got back from England and I have spent THREE days listening to people talk about genocide. On the day I leave, with a brain on hyper-overload already... a white supremacist walks into a Holocaust museum and kills a black man. Kills a man for no good and goddamned reason. Unbelievable.

Oh, did I tell you that my paper was on a group of African-Americans who charged the United States government with genocide in 1951?

Let's just say, I'm having a bit of a humanity overload... but what else is new?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Paikea in Polaroid

Great "Shakeit" app from the iTunes store for iPhone. Turns your photographs into lovely simulated Polaroids. Love it, even if it's missing that chemical smell and sticky substance. Thanks to Liz for the find!

This is a teeny-tiny me...

Monday, June 01, 2009

Fuck You, Billie Joe

I'm sitting here off work and at home, with a summer cold and partial mental exhaustion, listening to "21 Guns" by Green Day while weeping.

Isn't that special?

Anyway, I'm at a crossroad with a temporary triangulation of writing a presentation on genocide (and thinking about it for over a month now with no mental headway toward completion) combined with feeling physically unwell (really, it's just a cold, I hope!) and hopped up on a wee bit of a mental hiccup. My answer to this is just to succumb and listen to this album and laugh at all of the funny Green Day antics and be creative in some sort of way. Have some fun. I have no fun thinking about genocide, as one might imagine.

Of course, I am happy that I have an opportunity to present a paper on a topic that I've written about before, it's just not going well. On top of that, I'm feeling that the world may have some glimmer of hope but it still sucks... and all I want to do is dance! I have to move at the end of July and I have no real prospects for new places. A comfortable home helps in this crazy town and I am not up for this right now. I have to stoke myself for a long two months ahead of me and it's a bit overwhelming. I do everything for myself by myself and all I really want to do is run away and remember all my youthful dreams and somehow live them and not give up on them. I want to run away on the European leg of Green Day's tour in the Fall and write about it. But I have no ways and no means of doing so that I can see available right now, and so what if I did happen to accomplish it? It's a bit of a pipedream that has no means of coming true... maybe... well, feeling this way doesn't help to get me out of this funky feeling that my life if over. I'm old. I have to stay put and surrender.

Which brings me to why I want to say a very pleasant and punk "fuck you" to Billie Joe Armstrong as well as his cohorts, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool for writing and composing this song (and album) the way they did. I have to say that combined with the lyrics (which at times are incapable of being grasped as a standalone record--the songs on this album fit together like a glove) and the emotional intensity of this recording in particular, one would think that I may as well throw myself out of the window now. I was really hoping no one would figure out the heart of much of my despair, the inner war of wanting to play horseshoes (ala "Tennessee" by Arrested Development) but ending up playing with emotional handgrenades instead.* Fuck you, Billie Joe, for pointing it out and capturing my emotional state of mind, but thanks also for strangely picking me up again and reminding me that surrender is not a losing proposition. Sometimes you have to surrender in order to save yourself.

I suppose the crux of the matter is how you ultimately surrender yourself to ending the war within. Fighting yourself all of the time, fighting your natural nature and desire, fighting the instinct to be right or wrong, fighting the line between what you have been told to be and what you want to be. Of course, life doesn't play very fair in the struggle as well.

There are two realities to this song actually... my personal one that I've stated above and that wrings out a struggle of a personal nature. In reality, this song is more about war and religion and how different sides of our current arguments fight each other all of the time, the banality of that fight, and how, in the end, it's you and I either killing each other or surrendering to each other.

And while I contemplate the song some more and wonder at how it sounds a bit like Boulevard of Broken Dreams, and I think about abortion doctors getting blown away in church, and the endless cycle of war and crap that goes on everywhere, I'll try to hold on to the plaintive prayer of hope that this song embodies in begging for the end of this horrible, human cycle... with that, I'll surrender to myself by keeping my dreams alive while writing my presentation on genocide.

Fuck you very much, Billie Joe, and thanks.

Green Day - 21 Guns Lyrics

Do you know what’s worth fighting for
When it’s not worth dying for?
Does it take your breath away
And you feel yourself suffocating?
Does the pain weight out the pride?
And you look for a place to hide?
Did someone break your heart inside?
You’re in ruins

One, 21 guns
Lay down your arms
Give up the fight
One, 21 guns
Throw up your arms into the sky
You and I

When you’re at the end of the road
And you lost all sense of control
And your thoughts have taken their toll
When your mind breaks the spirit of your soul
Your faith walks on broken glass
And the hangover doesn’t pass
Nothing’s ever built to last
You’re in ruins

One, 21 guns
Lay down your arms
Give up the fight
One, 21 guns
Throw up your arms into the sky
You and I

Did you try to live on your own
When you burned down the house and home?
Did you stand too close to the fire?
Like a liar looking for forgiveness from a stone

When it’s time to live and let die
And you can’t get another try
Something inside this heart has died
You’re in ruins

One, 21 guns
Lay down your arms
Give up the fight
One, 21 guns
Throw up your arms into the sky
You and I

*Act III of 21st Century Breakdown is called "Horseshoes and Handgrenades."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Who's There?

Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace, April 2009

One of my favorite photos from my recent trip to England.
More here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Bit Obsessed (Although That's Not the Right Word)

I'm a bit obsessed with the band Green Day at the moment, so you may see a lot of posts about them. Get over it. My blog, yay!

Anyway, this article from Billboard UK via struck me as sad and funny and made me feel really old somehow, too. Green Day and Emimen have been in a battle for the top slot on American and English charts since each album came out a week apart from each other. Well, both of them have knocked out Depeche Mode from the top English spot:
The Green Day vs. Eminem battle relegates Depeche Mode's "Sounds of the Universe" (Mute/EMI) to No. 3, after four weeks atop the composite chart. It holds at No. 2 in Wallony and Hungary, but dips 1-3 in Germany, 1-4 in Switzerland, 4-6 in Italy and 4-8 in France. The band's new tour, interrupted by singer Dave Gahan's illness, will resume in Leipzig, Germany on June 8.
I guess there is no more noise for the Universe. Anyway, the three-way band matchup sounds like a bit of a death match to me. I think all of them could do some good damage to each other in a matchup. Green Day would punk them all out while Emimem would throw some Detroit mischief in there and Depeche Mode would use ennui and insult them all to death. I should write a treatment. Haha.

Anyway, I'm going to have a write more eventually about Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown. For me, it's a bit of a purge from toxic religious roots. I think I have majorly hurt myself from dancing, however. I'll let you know if I need to head to the hospital for treatment or anything. Four thumbs up!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Non-Comedy Team of Boies and Olson on Prop 8


Hello there, people.

I want to bring you back to the year 2000. Ground zero to my soul.

You may remember a lawsuit that went to the Supreme Court. It goes by the name of Bush v. Gore.

You may remember (or maybe not remember...) who the lawyers were representing opposite sides of this case, ultimately ending in the decision that the 2000 election was over and George W. Bush thereby became the 43th President of the United States of America?

In case you don't remember, a reminder:
The oral argument in Bush v. Gore occurred on December 11.[12] Bush's oral argument was delivered by Theodore Olson, a Washington, D.C. lawyer and future Solicitor General. Gore's oral argument was delivered by New York lawyer David Boies. [From Wikipedia]
Today it was announced that these two will team up in a lawsuit on behalf of two gay married couples in California regarding the Constitutionality of Prop 8.

After Bush v. Gore, I did not like Mr. Olson to say the least. In fact, I still don't like him very much, though I do feel awfully bad that his wife passed away during the attacks of 9/11.

He's great in front of the Supreme Court, though, and Mr. Boies is no slouch either.

It's the Constitution, stupid. Defend it and tend to it and you are on the right track. The Constitution must protect the people. The idea that gay marriage is somehow going to hurt non-gay marriage is unsupportable. You can't prove an unknown. I know this tends toward religious views and Bible verses, but really? Prove to me then that the State can tell two people that can't get married (except of course in the case of siblings or children with adults... we do have laws, you know... bwak). The Constitution is a somewhat malleable document for its underlying nature of adaptability through the Courts of Law. It has nothing to do with right or wrong in the eyes of God.

I wish them the best on behalf of the married couples.

We'll see how this pans out.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Woman See Green Day To-day

Green Day, Central Park Summer Stage, ABC Good Morning America
May 22, 2009

Added: a few more pictures that I took from this show can be found here.

I woke up at a God-awful hour this morning after trotting in late last night. I had seen a production of The Who's Tommy, and afterwards consumed a couple of Czech beers at the Czech biergarden on 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn. Needless to say, I got home 'round 'bout midnight and to make sure I got to Central Park at or before the alloted time of 6:00AM, I rolled out of bed at 4:15 or 4:20 or 4:25 or 4:30 or 4:35 AM or some time or the other.

But, I did get up!

I was still thinking about the Tommy production at the Gallery Players in Brooklyn (or at least the songs were still rolling around in my head) from the night before when I finally pulled on some clean undies but the same clothes from the night before (ok, I put on a clean shirt) and stumbled out of the door into the dark.

I argued with myself about catching the 2/3 or the Q/N and since the N goes the closest to the Summer Stage site, I decided to start with the Q and move on to the N at 14th. But the stupid thing was that the Q came on a dime and I got in and instead of going all the way to 57th and 7th, the closest stop that the Q goes to CPE (which is a bit aways from the stage entrance at 69th and 5th), I actually got off the swift arriving Q at 14th and waited for a considerable length of time for the N. Just call me an idiot.

Long and boring story short cut short, I got to the line in Central Park, and had a pretty good spot in it, but if I had stayed on the Q to 7th Avenue... well, it ain't THAT far away, and I would have had a better spot and initially would have been closer to the stage. Oh. Well.

We finally started moving around 6:15AM and eventually got to Summer Stage about 7:00AM. Green Day did a soundcheck (in front of the entire audience), playing bits and pieces of songs for levels. Billie Joe mentioned that it was the best soundcheck EVAH (I bet he says that to all the soundcheck.. uh.. live audiences), and you know what? He was right.

After the soundcheck, the band went off stage for a bit and we were subjected to the backstage workings of a teevee show: the stage manager who tells an audience of thousands what to do for the next 2 hours; the stage hands and tuners who know that they are so cool to be where they are and you're not so cool where you are; the comedian who warms the audience in advance of the show and who you eventually want to punch; the endless standing around, waiting for the seconds and minutes to tick off to the next shot.

At some point, we were subjected to actually listening to the show playback being pumped through the speakers during segments. Sam Champion, the Maestro of weather prediction, blond hair, and hospitality, went into a weather spot. The PA was turned off which sent the young punks into a frenzied chorus of "Fuck the weather." The stage manager had to come on and remind the crowd that even thought this event was happening in New York, the live feed was going out to Minnesota and that they might actually care about the weather.

Ah, nihilism.

Eventually the band came back onstage around 8:30 AM and the spectacle of Green Day meets Good Morning America was in full force. The dichotomy of a mature (mostly) post/present punk-pop band against the backdrop of ABC's Good Morning American Idiot (the song redubbed as such by Billie Joe during its introduction) made for a super-crazed mindmeld at 8:30 in the way-too-early-to-be-in-Central-Park morning.

Oh, but did they rock.

I know that this was an abbreviated set from a band under pressure to work the audience and try not to laugh too much at the setting. Tré Cool was noticeably agitated about the setting (or I should probably say naturally agitated in general) but I've never felt so lovingly cared for by a band before. With all those crazy bodies flying, rock and punk shows can get a little scary. Especially if you bogart your way toward the mosh pit after the first song commences because you MUST be closer to where the dancing fools are... but I was extremely polite about it and said excuse me and thank you as I barreled through the dense audience and finally broke into the magic of that spot in a punk show that lets you get loose without getting smashed in the face a mere two to three feet to the left. Man, sometimes I wish I were a guy and I would really get in there. Some women do... but very few and far between. I get near it, but alas, my brain may feel young, but my body insists otherwise.

The real show list was (if I remember correctly) was Know Your Enemy, American Idiot, 21st Century Breakdown, East Jesus Nowhere, Longview (a snippet of it at least for a breakaway shot; I understand that the censors had trouble censoring the song during the live play out to Minnesota; please excuse the shits and fucks, our bad), and an unbroadcast rendition of Jesus of Suburbia. Special guest stars included a little girl who danced with Billie Joe during East Jesus Nowhere and a girl from the audience who helped with a refrain from Jesus of Suburbia and was in ecstasy over her good fortune. (ABC's feeds can be seen here.)

A note about the last week: I've had a smashing week of entertainment. It started last Friday with a crazed community theater production of Sweeney Todd in the far nether regional hinterlands of Brooklyn, performed in a Roman Catholic school auditorium. The production values were horrible, but the singing was tolerable and at times enjoyable, though there was a noted lack of...hmm... how shall I put this... actors. My friend, Beth Elaine Smith played the lead as Mrs. Lovett, and she was great, as usual, but that's why they cast her as Mrs. Lovett because she can sing AND act! My week continued on Wednesday with a stop at the Broadhurst Theater in NYC for a performance of Mary Stuart, written by the Father of German theater, the playwright Friedrich Schiller, complete with a full onstage rainstorm and a pair of marvelous actresses in the roles of Queen Elizabeth I and her doomed sister, Mary, Queen of Scots. My surreal and groovy stop with the deeply trouble pinball wiz, Tommy, threw me back into the world of Brooklyn musical theater with MUCH better production values, solid acting, and yet another church basement, but I didn't catch the denomination on the way in... it might also be a former school, alá P.S. 122, I can't remember. And then my last stop with Green Day, today, Friday.

What a great week it's been, despite the biopsy (more about that when I find out what's going on), and my tooth filling coming out over the weekend. Yay for the ups and downs of life.

All of my theater days are bit numbered for a while, though I have bought some theater and band tickets for shows later in the summer. I live with two roommates and they are both moving out. Our lease is up at the end of July. I have to hoard resources a bit from here on out until this yet-another-apartment move takes place. I really don't look forward to it.

Fortunately, this Happy Woman saw Green Day today and they made her bop her head, which was sorely needed. Just in time to pack in some energy for the next steps.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Detroit Metro

Detroit Metro

Green Day

I had only been nominally aware of Green Day prior to "American Idiot." Songs like "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)," "Minority," and "Longview" I had heard and always loved, but it never hit me what the band was named. When Green Day emerged, I was in the middle of graduate school, and didn't really listen to music for the next six years due to never having a damned bit of time, or money, to purchase music.

"American Idiot," my first real exposure to the band, came at an intense point of anger and gave me a channel to funnel that anger, musically. Even if the songs were upwards to 10 minutes long in some spots. I don't need to articulate the intense point of anger that I felt as it's easily traceable through the path of this blog, so no need to go there right now, eh?

I'm not sure if I've ever said this here, but I'm a bit of a mosh pit punk, albeit a lightweight one, but I have been known to throw it on occasion. I've long been attracted to bands like Nirvana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane's Addiction, the Pixies, the Pogues, you know, those 90's bands. I like dissonant music, with a deep base line and loud, crashing lyrics.

Call me crazy, what can I say?

Anyway, the new Green Day album may sound a bit like American Idiot, but the more you listen to it, the more the lyrics start to creep out and go deep. These guys are only a bit more mellow now that Obama is President, but they still have some bones to pick, mostly with the religious factors of America.

I'm going to see them at Madison Square Garden in July. I'm bummed that I'll miss them at the smaller venue of Webster Hall. I saw Jane's Addition there back in the day and most recently, The Presidents of the United States. It would have been nice to be in a good old 90s mosh pit. I guess I'll just have to find some way hurt myself at the Garden.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

London Stream

I visited my high school friend, Sharon, in London, and took this photograph of the creak outside of her house. I had a wonderful time in England, just amazing. I can't wait to travel again!

Blogger's Block

My poor blog.

I've been at it for four years now, posting intermittently, having a few faithful followers, my own personal troll... and now... whew, I have blogger's block! It'll pass. I hope. :)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Going to the Other Motherland

So, I think I have to lighten it up around here.




Going to England next month, London and some hinterlands. Can't wait. I've only been to Heathrow twice on the way to Amsterdam. It's the Other Motherland. (England as the Motherland, that is, not Holland... but Amsterdam in another way and of course, Africa in general. So many Motherlands, so little time.)

I guess it's a new cycle, so we'll 'get happy' and enjoy life, shall we? Yehsure!

Put Buddha in the ice box and contemplate the heat.


(Photo of Buddha ice sculpture in a Ice Box at the Queens Museum of Art.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Some Thoughts on Death

The creature in the sky
Got sucked in a hole
Now there's a hole in the sky
And the ground's not cold
And if the ground's not cold
Everything is gonna burn
We'll all take turns
I'll get mine, too

This monkey's gone to heaven
This monkey's gone to heaven
This monkey's gone to heaven
This monkey's gone to heaven

Rock me, Joe!
--"Monkey Gone to Heaven," The Pixies

Oh yeah, I know it's an uplifting subject, but I have to get some thoughts out about this topic as it flows a bit from my last post on Rick Warren's appearance at the Inauguration of President Obama and the confluence of religion in my life.

Let's get one thing straight from the get-go: I am scared shitless of dying. And I'm not ashamed to say it. I know it's not something that anyone wants to think about very often, but I was forced, at a young age, to think about death all the time.

And frankly, I still haven't stopped.

I think one of the things that frightens me the most is that nobody has done this thing called death and lived to tell about it... unless of course you believe that Jesus did in effect come back to life to tell about it. I find this account unlikely but hell, what do I know?

Anyway, since there is no demonstrable proof that this one dude (or some other deities of the male and female sort) have actually made it to the other side and back, I don't know of anyone who has personally done it.

Hence the fear. What happens on the other end?


But end, it must. We're all so (or some so or I so) busy thinking about what happens after life that we ruin life thinking about the end so much. Egads. Is that all there is? Is that all there is, my friend? Then let's go dancing...

And so what if it were all that there am?... or something like that. haha.

Life is so short and so sweet. We sometimes ruin life by our inner struggles to come to grips with death. Some people face death through illness, others war, old age, accident, plague. Some face the thought of death through the mask of religion, others don't give a thought about death much at all.

Simply, it's the act of dying that terrifies me. The Buddha tells us to face and embrace it head on. Christ tells us to face it by believing in him to avoid hell; to embrace the Divine so that we don't face death alone but find comfort in 'knowing' that a better life awaits on the other end. I'm not sure if either one is particularly comforting.

My conclusion? Just call me Thomas. I've stuck my fingers in enough to know that the end may be neigh, but no one has been able to explain it to me. I can't fly by pure faith. It's too tenuous, too flimsy to hang on to.

I'm thinking about these things right now because events, on several fronts, seem on the brink of death. Or, at least, imminent collapse (which isn't the same as death because you might live through whatever catastrophe occurred; with death, it's over for you, a done deal, if you will and you don't have to worry about the wreckage afterwards). And you know what? A lot of political and economic bullcrap can be solved by a major realignment of the way we deal with each other on this planet, from the core of the beast to the reach of its oxygen. Cie la vie.

I like life too much to leave it. I think living, on the whole, is great. I've been lucky to have a relatively peaceful and art-filled life. I've had that luxury or urge even through difficult times and depression. It pains me to remember how sad I was and how many seconds of happy gratitude I could have lived if only I wasn't so blue. Luckily those days are mostly behind me, and I make great efforts to do fun things and look at the sky and smell the roses, etc., etc.

I have, however, been so programmed to fear death that often, I stop the enjoyment of life. And I think about death. It still scares the bejeesus out of me.

At this point, there's no need for, "oh you shouldn't fear it or fight it" or whatever. Listen, I'm well aware of what will happen in the end. I will die and either something or nothing will happen. I deal with it. We all have to deal with it.

Life, if you happen to make it to birth, is precious. I'm not sure if I hadn't been born, though, that I would have missed it. I'm not sure after it's done, if I'd miss it either.

But I will miss the people of my life and the newest teevee or theater season. A new show, a new smile, a new potato in the pot. Another chance to see a dog play or hear a bird sing or an aeroplane fly. I think it's so incredibly sad that there is unhappiness in the world. Particularly, since life is so short. It lasts just a moment and then it's gone. Yeah, I know it's sad that we don't get our dreams or hopes or wishes, but let's pretend that everyone can have the opportunity to be happy. After all, the Buddha said that the only thing everyone ultimately wants is happiness.

Just for a second.

And then it's gone.
Just like life.
Enjoy it while you can.
Face it as well as you possibly can.