Saturday, August 27, 2011

Newfound inspiration

You must excuse my absence from the blogosphere as of late. I have not felt motivated or inspired to write a blog in the past week or two. One reason could be the copious amount of work I've had to do ; planning a tour not being the least of the time eaters - another reason, one that presses on me quite often, is that I feel so overwhelmed ; ideas dart around my mind like hummingbirds on PCP, and I in an embittered haze of lies, corruption, tired determination and hope grab after them to attempt a collective step forward.
Granted, I feel that steps forward have been made on my part - I have opened the dusty doors to political thinking in people, shaken the cage. But yet, sometimes, looking up at the gleaming spires of falsified pride, the twisted ideals of a country at odds with itself, with its true character, I feel small and insignificant. I feel helpless. Inspiration feels weakened by the dark clouds looming over progressive thinking and action in this country.
And then, something glimmers. Sometimes it's an article, other times I just wake up with a new found energy as if my mind had snuck out while I slept, gotten a massage, had some drinks and exhaled. This time I felt it necessary to share that glimmer with you.
My guitarist and I went to a local bar to play this past Monday. It was a combined open mic and networking mixer for composers and sound designers. We took the opportunity to showcase one of the band's songs - a piece called "Chains," written about the corporate chains that bind us as a people, and how if we are to break free, we must, Do Something. As with most open mics in LA, there are also comedians that perform. We had finished our song and retreated to the bar for more mingling and a margarita. The comedian who came on a few acts later was an ex-Marine. He was one of the few funny comedians there. Both my guitarist and I laughed and cheered - as his five minutes came to a close, I handed my guitarist the half empty margarita I'd been holding and went over to talk to the Marine.
The first thing he asked when I confessed I would love to discuss his time in the armed forces was, "What spin are you going for?" I immediately replied, "Yours."
I was gone for about 45 minutes. My incessantly vibrating pocket signaling a worried and tired guitarist was the only thing to break the cloud of intense conversation.
He was born in Queens (and his sense of humor loudly projected it). He enlisted, he said, as many do, because he wanted to serve his country. He said he had a lot of fun, made friends, enjoyed the work on the ship, and although he didn't always agree with choices made above him, he was a proud Marine, and he said, no one was more proud than his mother.
He was her only child and she had raised him as a single mom in Queens - to be strong, independent, proud and honest. Needless to say she meant the world to him.
During one of his tours, the Red Cross came aboard with a message for him. His mother was deathly ill and his presence was requested. He said that usually when such messages came, there was no question. The soldier was sent home immediately. He said it is exactly like Saving Private Ryan - one child, one way ticket home.
Apparently, not this time.
He stayed. He went to his commanding officer every day, sometimes multiple times, pleading, or as best he could while standing at attention. Pleading with him to allow him leave to go see his mother before she died.
Reply: "We're working on it. That will be all."
She died while he was aboard the ship. He received notice and was only then allowed to leave to attend her funeral.
The conversation turned quiet. I had nothing to say and he had nothing to add. He stared at the floor for a moment and shook his head.
"They just don't take care of their own."
My eyes welled up and I pushed them back down, only thinking to squeak out a "I'm so sorry." and "Thank You."
Not just sorry his mother died and he was forced to stay away, but sorry that is the way things are. Sorry that we, as a people, have not demanded better. Sorry that this is allowed to happen - that men are allowed to come home from service, mentally and physically maimed and not receive help or treatment. Sorry that you are sent on greed soaked missions to fill pocket books and graves. Sorry that we didn't stand up for you. Sorry that all we've done to show support is put a dumb ass sticker on the back of our cars. I'm sorry. As an American, I am truly sorry.
He fashioned a weak smile and I bought him a beer.
As the conversation sat, consistently all week, at the edge of my mind, I felt inspired. This was not a country I was prepared to accept. This was not a country I was prepared to be proud of. This was a country completely at odds with itself, with the foundations of its character. This is a country that needs help. And as this country was founded...of the people, for the people and by the people, so it is only we, the people, that can change her. I hope this inspires you as it did
Think. React. Do Something.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

London calling

The Washington Post calls 2011 the "year of rebellion by the dispossessed." I wonder if they catch the irony in that statement for the dispossessed Americans...moving along...
The riots have quieted in England but needless to say the reverberations are echoing off broken shop windows and major media outlets across the globe.
The shocking disbelief has waned and now explanations flood in, by everyone from sociologists to teenage kids. There appears to be a primary focus in the aftermath: rich vs. the poor. One teenage girl, when asked the reason behind the riots replied, "to show the rich that we can do whatever we want."
Sorry sweetheart, I don't think the rich give a shit that you're destroying mom and pop stores in North London - they're probably stoked in fact - more little guys out of the way! I doubt very many MP's or lords have convenient stores in Tottenham...

The problem with mindless violence is that it is just mindless violence. What point were you trying to prove? Oh fuck, I don't know, but you look like a bunch of uneducated, coked up, violent dumb-asses to me. Any sympathy, any hope of solidarity and a push forward becomes quickly covered by the dirtied soot of your dick stick fires. Moves forward are done by those that can think forward, beyond the sense of power at robbing an innocent person, beyond the ego trip of throwing a Molotov cocktail at a police car - it comes from those that can understand the issues and present hope and ideas for how to solve them. It comes from a people united, not in violence, but in peace and knowledge.

So, interestingly enough - although the riots are a stupid, juvenile way of trying to make a point, the aftermath may be just the thing to sweeten the sour taste of violence and mayhem. Thousands of Londoners have taken a page from the Arab Spring and organized online meet ups to clean up after the riots and bring a peaceful solidarity to the streets of London. Activists have been marching and cleaning, waving brooms instead of guns, condemning the violence and giving some insight into the unrest they say fanned the flames of the rioters fires.
One man, walking in front of a "Stop the Cuts" banner said it's about government, and the economy. It's about how they continue to cut spending for social services and continue to spend money in wars - Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya. Another woman said that although she certainly doesn't condone the riots, she said it was only a matter of time before the people got pissed off enough to do something drastic. Unfortunately, they didn't' start with the peaceful marching.

This brings new meaning to the phrase, "two countries separated by a common language." It appears that we have far more in common with our old colonizers than we thought. It's interesting to sit and watch as facebook is flooded with group upon group, all above the 10,000 fan mark, discussing, organizing, planning and moving...forward.
I must admit, I'm jealous.
I use this blog, my band and most of my time trying to engage and educate, to think and move forward. I am happy to see the aftermath of the riots is leading towards a social understanding, a social engagement that we here in the US don't even think to dream of. As I say at the end of all of my video blogs, we have to Think. React. Do Something.
As the woman said, it is only a matter of time. However, it's not that rosy - we can not just sit around and wait for that time to come. We must create that time. In a country for the people, of the people and by the people, a step forward in our name won't be made until we demand it.
Go out there and demand it.
Do Something.

**we can start by coming together online - and of course, here. Educate yourselves - find the information they don't even bother hiding - create change by being change.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Where do we go now?

As much as I love quoting Axl Rose, it is an unfortunately serious question - I mean, really, what the fuck?!

According to a breaking news poll by CNN, 82% of Americans disapprove of how Congress is handling its job. That's horse-shit. Only 82%? I guess the other 18% is too busy talking to collectors on the phone to answer a damn poll wondering if they know who to blame.
It makes the point, as other have, that this is in fact the point. It is much more difficult to follow the intricacies of government when you are trying to survive. Congressional incompetency is not one of the fundamentals of human survival - although, lately you'd think so.
However, there is a breaking point. There comes a time when the flip is immediate. When things get to the threshold where the effects are such that the causes must be dealt with. When the people are too pissed off and too betrayed to let it go. When trying to survive is enveloped by the fight against why you are trying so hard to survive. Back in the olden days, it made no sense to curse the deer if you didn't shoot it. But you could sharpen your arrows and practice your aim. Cause and effect.
For the time being, our country is solely focused on effects. It appears that we stand in a giant shit heap, with continuous mounds being dumped daily, out of some chute somewhere. At the moment, we're too preoccupied with the shit, or even worse, ignoring it, pretending that we're standing in a bed of roses. All it takes, is for us to dare to look up, see where it's coming from and Do Something.
Sounds so elementary, but in reality, that's all it is. Wouldn't you agree? How far away would you say that threshold is? How much more shit are we going to take? How much more banter, more corporatized, partisan, extremist crap will we allow to settle on our day-to-day before we take action? 82% think Congress it's up it's own ass. And with good reason!

The fiasco that ultimately led to our AA+ rating with S&P was by far the most embarrassing display of pointless posturing I've seen since guys comparing dick size in grade school. A deal that petty, that insignificant could have been drawn up in about 15 minutes, 5 months ago.
S&P warned Congress long ago that unless the $4 trillion was agreed upon, the US rating would be at stake. Well, here we are! And what does our sub-par debt deal do?
It does nothing but push back important decisions until after the 2012 presidential election and sets aside valuable time and resources in order to form a "super" congressional committee to deal with the issues that congress can't deal with.
Sound retarded? Well, if the shoe fits.
Critics are already pointing out the obvious: if each party gets to choose who sits on that parties respective 6 seats - what are the chances that it will essentially turn out to be a microcosm of the larger congressional body? Republicans will assign hard line hawks and Democrats will most likely assign right leaning lefties to do what Democrats do best - sit down and shut up.
Meanwhile, the key issues feeding off our feeble economy remain untouched. The deal does not close loopholes, it does not discuss new taxes or raised taxes, it does not seek to reform government spending via sensible solutions - it merely throws things like health care and education on the table and suggests, "Cut 'em." It does not take issue with the hemorrhaging of funds via foreign "conflicts" and wars, or address the irony that although the Pentagon receives $100 billion more each year since before 9/11, our forces are getting older, smaller (in numbers, not in stature...I think) and less equipped and trained to do their jobs.
Take the news that came in today, of Marines in Afghanistan losing their lives due to insurgent attacks. Well, what the fuck are they doing over there? I can smell the scent of back-pedaling. Not to change the subject too abruptly, but I'm willing to bet this could prompt a renegotiation of the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Oh Obama - we had such hopes for you.
Granted, I don't envy his position. But this country needs a president with enough of a spine to stand up for forward movement, not play both sides and claim to stand in the middle. I'm not even going to continue harping on Congress. This blog could end up a book.
I will simply close with this thought - the US indeed does need a president with resolve, and the politicians under him must show the same resolve while upholding and respecting the tenets NOT of their party but of this country, of the republic for which it stands, ONE nation, not two dip stick colonies fighting over Wall Street's spoils.
At the same time however, the people going to elect these officials, the citizens of this country, must show the same resolve. I'd love to just blame Congress and call it a day. But that 82% approval rating is a reflection of our report card as well. We are not taking care of this country. As Ben Franklin said to a woman asking what type of government America would have, he replied, "A republic madam, if you can keep it." That may be a myth, but the message isn't. We are not keeping it, we are not tending to it. As we head down this steep decline, it is not outward blame we should be casting, but inward reflection. From there, Think. React. Do Something.