Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Not in My Name

Of course, right after that last post, he went right back on the air and fulfilled all our lowest expectations.  Supposedly speaking for America.

Nope.  Not in my name.

But some 30% of the population still seems to think this is all a-ok?

I guess that isn't (or shouldn't be) as much of a surprise as people are reacting like it is, because it's been part of the program all along.  Not the "line 'em up and shoot 'em" part, but the "everybody just keep feeding all the wealth and power this way and no one gets hurt" part.  This piece by Lindy West in the Times does a good job of calling it out to the Republicans who are responding, rightly, if only out of self-interest, to denounce the words of a president gone off the rails:

It is easy to denounce Nazis. Republican lawmakers, if you truly repudiate this march and this violence, then repudiate voter-ID laws. Repudiate gerrymandering. Repudiate police brutality. Repudiate mass incarceration and private prisons. Repudiate the war on drugs. Repudiate the fact that black Americans have still not been compensated for the unpaid forced labor that was foundational to white financial stability. Repudiate gun control obstructionism. Repudiate the Muslim ban. Repudiate the wall. Repudiate anti-abortion legislation. Repudiate abstinence-only education. Repudiate environmental deregulation. Repudiate birtherism. Repudiate homophobia and transphobia. Repudiate your own health care bill, which would have led to the deaths of thousands more people than a Dodge Challenger driven into a crowd. Repudiate your president.

Everyone else, wherever you are on the spectrum of humanity, this is a good moment for us to confront our own assumptions and biases, figure out what we need to work on to change and the best ways to do it. This is hard work, but it’s worth doing. Oh, and it goes on forever. 

One more quote – you’ve probably seen this one, but it bears repeating. It's Angela Davis, from a talk in Carbondale, IL in 2014.

You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. 
And you have to do it all the time.  

Photo: Scott Olson

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Fighting Mass Incarceration

So this weekend sucked something fierce. Literal Nazis figuratively trolling the nation, at the cost of at least three lives and putting at risk whatever dignity America has left. Taking ideals of justice and equality and pissing on them in the glow of burning crosses and tiki torches picked up in the garden supply department on their way to the white hood convention.

Not that anyone paying attention has a tremendous amount of faith left in the ‘justice’ system in this great land of ours.

My response [other than to tumble in to the Fbook rabbit hole for a minute and do some howling at the TV and at the walls of the apartment] was to go to Secret Project Robot on Saturday afternoon-into-evening for their benefit for JustLeadershipUSA under the name “Music Against Mass Incarceration.”

Think of it as a blow against the empire. Or at least the prison industrial complex.

Amazing set from Sunwatchers

My new favorite band, 75 Dollar Bill.  

Incredible performance from Brandon Lopez Trio (Nate Wooley on trumpet, Gerald Cleaver percussion)

Chris Forsythe & Solar Motel Band

Gold Dime

You don't need me to rattle off the stats - the prison system is out of control and in danger of spiraling even worse; it targets the poor and people of color, arguably by design.  That day, rather than get sucked in and take the bait of the King of the Trolls and his Address to the Nation - absolutely enraging though it was - I showed up, paid my admission, and engaged with some actual, living, positive creation.  For what it's worth, I recommend it.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Oh, Canada

We went to Toronto for the first time on Canada Day Weekend (which intersects with 4th of July weekend, as it happens).  Charmed as hell to see this guy as the plane flew into the city airport.  

This year celebrates Canada's 150th birthday, so recognitions of that were all over the place.

Not content to have one night of parties for such a big milestone, there were concerts and fireworks several days in a row - we caught one incarnation.

Our first stop after checking in was the SkyDome (which is now named after a cell service company, I guess) for a Blue Jays/Red Sox game.  We missed the first inning and change because, well, we were coming to the game from Newark, but that did not spoil our day. The dome was open when we got there, but some rain started a few innings in so they closed it mid-game.

Our next stop was a brewery/restaurant, where we grabbed seats at the bar and got as much info from the fantastic bartender as we could about places to go.  

We walked our asses off, like you do when you're in a city you don't (yet) know well. Great city, many fab neighborhoods, super friendly people, really good food and drink, good public transportation, great street art, robust art & performance scene all around.

On multiple recommendations, we went to the AGO and caught, among other things, a show focusing on Canadian artists, with a particular eye on indigenous artists [as you can imagine, the whole "this nation was formed 150 years ago! Woo hoo!" story plays pretty differently among the indigenous population and allies].  Also caught a retrospective of Rita Letendre, whom I hadn't heard of; the show was an excellent, necessary corrective to that.

So yes, Oh, Canada - you're not perfect, and your dreamboat of a Prime Minister has made some sketchy compromises and gets off super easy because of his disastrous counterpart to the south, but you are a (relatively) open society with an eye on human rights, and what appears to be an open mind about truth and reconciliation with the people who have lived on this continent for millennia.

Plus, Toronto has an airport you can get to via a 90 second ferry ride, which is pretty bitchin.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tales from Three Cities

Not that I have necessarily been seeking them out, but stories about gentrification (and hyper-gentrification, which appears to be where we are now) have been increasingly crossing my field of vision.

Los Angeles (Boyle Heights specifically) - a group of tenant activists claim that an influx of artists and shops perceived to be art-adjacent (and arguably investment properties disguised as art spaces) are harbingers of community-eviscerating gentrification already in the works.

Photo: Timo Saarelma

San Francisco - a much less nuanced tale of landlords literally (allegedly) burning down dwellings in order to get rid of protected tenants. Appalling.

Closer to home, an event at the great Housing Works bookstore cafe in New York - drawn to that while hunting down information about the announced closing of the Sunshine Cinema.  It's a launch for the book version of the fabulous-while-infuriating Vanishing New York, complete with a performance by friend and fellow-traveler Penny Arcade.  This is happening next Thursday, July 27 - see you there.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Keep Your Eye on the Bali

SO much going on.

Covfefe distracts, while the Climate Agreement may actually be abandoned in a few minutes.  I mean, it's not a surprise, it's what he's said all along, and his policies - such as they are - have eroded environmental protections and will continue to no matter what momentary lip service the president ends up paying to international scientific rigor.  And the noise is such, that people seem not to be noticing that department after life-saving department is atrophying from neglect (or crumbling under abuse).  Not least - lest we forget - millions of our Fellow Americans continue to view such things as worthy of very slight consideration, if not cause for celebration.

This state of affairs has been, is, and continues to be intolerable, and I condemn it.  So there.

In other news, we lost a giant of world music this week.  David Lewiston, whose name might not be at the front of your mind, but if you are have listened to indigenous music of Asia, Africa, or South America, to Gamelan, Tibetan chants, sacred song from around the world, there's a good chance he recorded it, or inspired the person who did.

Photo: NY Times/Nonesuch Records

Monday, May 08, 2017

Censorship and Speech

I had composed a pretty good (if I may say so myself; at any rate it took some effort) entry for my first post after what I think has been my longest hiatus from this platform since I began, in recognition of Day 101 of the current presidential administration.  It covered some of the events since the election, including national and international reactions, and wrapped with a parallel to Orwell’s Room 101.   But that batch of writing and linking was lost to the vagaries of the internets.  And so it goes.

Rather than try to recreate that, what I’m posting today is a set of two different perspectives on free speech and restrictions to speech published recently in the Times. 

From the first piece, by insistent dissident Ai Weiwei
The most elegant way to adjust to censorship is to engage in self-censorship. It is the perfect method for allying with power and setting the stage for the mutual exchange of benefit. The act of kowtowing to power in order to receive small pleasures may seem minor; but without it, the brutal assault of the censorship system would not be possible. 
For people who accept this passive position toward authority, “getting by” becomes the supreme value. They smile, bow and nod their heads, and such behavior usually leads to lifestyles that are comfortable, trouble free and even cushy. This attitude is essentially defensive on their part. It is obvious that in any dispute, if one side is silenced, the words of the other side will go unquestioned.

And from the second, by Ulrich Baer, vice provost at New York University. 
What is under severe attack, in the name of an absolute notion of free speech, are the rights, both legal and cultural, of minorities to participate in public discourse. The snowflakes sensed, a good year before the election of (the president), that insults and direct threats could once again become sanctioned by the most powerful office in the land. They grasped that racial and sexual equality is not so deep in the DNA of the American public that even some of its legal safeguards could not be undone. 
The issues to which the students are so sensitive might be benign when they occur within the ivory tower. Coming from the campaign trail and now the White House, the threats are not meant to merely offend. Like (the president's) attacks on the liberal media as the “enemies of the American people,” his insults are meant to discredit and delegitimize whole groups as less worthy of participation in the public exchange of ideas.

Both are worth a full read.  I have tended to be something of a free speech absolutist, though maybe not exactly the variety branded by Baer; however, Baer's points (or more accurately, points he distills from decades’ worth of writing and public discussion on the topic) are valid, and essential to consider when forming opinions - and policies - concerning, for example, speaking events on campuses. Baer hosted a fascinating panel at the NYU Law School “In Defense of Truth” a couple weeks ago, concerning the concept of truth - not least, the durability of ideas that feel true, across any spectrum you care to name - as seen through the lenses of art, journalism, and the law. 

For now, I'll leave you with a few more images touching on surveillance, education, infrastructure, and public protections from the Ai Weiwei show we saw at the Tate Modern a while back.