Friday, September 30, 2011

Owning Your Racial Lens

I'm a little late to the party, but there was a pretty nuanced article in The Stranger a few weeks back about race and racism in Seattle that is definitely worth your time. As Graves points out, race is a particularly prickly subject in a city that prides itself on progressivism yet remains deeply segregated between white and brown. 

The conversation is long overdue, as far as I am concerned. For white liberals to feel guilty, however, is counterproductive -- and besides the point. Graves quotes writer and activist Tali Hairston: "As a white person, you have to own the development of your own racial lens. Because whether you're aware of it or not, you have one."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thirsting for the Superfluous

One of the best defenses of art I've ever read is in the September/October issue of Orion Magazine. In "The Exile of the Arts," Jay Griffiths argues that, "one of the reasons for the hostility against the arts today is precisely that they are implacable witnesses against this terrible lie of our times: that money is the measure of all. Art refutes this lie, disentangles 'money' from 'values,' and argues with its deepest authority that there is another sky, intimate and boundless, open to all, where the poet can tow a star across the liquid river of night, like a child with a toy boat on a string."

This is all eloquent enough, but the genius of the article lies in Griffiths positing of art as a kind of moral alternative to consumerism. "Consumerism and the arts are both answers to the same yearning," Griffiths writes. "The human spirit thirsts for the superfluous, for overflow and abundance. Literalism wants that abundance made material, though, whereas metaphorical abundance resists any need for literal overconsumption. Metaphors of extravagant liveliness reduce a hunger for extravagant lifestyles. Stuck in literal abundance, however, a society is credulous to the monostory of money. While metaphor and the arts offer pluralities and different voices, literalism, from Plato onward, speaks in a political monotone, the one state ruling, top-down."

This is the thing that the liberal technocrats and politicos don't seem to understand: it isn't possible to convince people not to thirst. It is possible, with the right kind of education, parenting and community, perhaps, to persuade them to crave stories and photographs and poems instead of palaces.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Just Love

I am rarely compelled to write about music (last post excepting), but I do believe I have fallen in love. Charles Bradley, the "screamin' eagle of soul," is the object of my affections. 

I've known about Charles for almost a year (I organized up and down the Pacific Coast of Oregon listening to him in the car stereo), but I had the incomparable treat of watching him play live a few days ago at the Bumbershoot Music Festival. The atmosphere was electric. There was almost a religious feeling in the air. Such expansiveness in his voice, such pain and depth of feeling. We rode it into catharsis, let it wash over us like a palliating thing.

Charles Bradley makes you want to forget about history, about politics and terror, about your own pain and heartbreak. He makes you want to love. Love, love, love.

Here's a brief bio of Charles (turns out that he and I have lived in not one but two of the same places: Bushwick, Brooklyn, and Wassaic, New York). Here's a video of him doing his best song. Here's his second best. And here's him performing a fantastic rendition of Neil Young's Heart of Gold.

And, here's a picture of me, my buddy Piotrek and Charles at Bumbershoot two days ago. When I spoke to him, he seemed overwhelmed by the intensity of the crowd's response. He seemed humbled.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Drumming For a Good Cause

I had the great pleasure of seeing the Julian Lage Group play live at a Buddhist Global Relief event in Brooklyn last week. Improv jazz is not normally my thing, but these guys were great, especially drummer Tupac Mantilla. Check out the video below.