Friday, February 27, 2009

paris on my mind...

I suddenly remember that it's already been 8 months since I've been to the City of Love, Paris and I'm really missing my memorable experiences there. The mini-cruise on the
Seine, my "nelson time" sitting on
Les Champs du Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Church, the Louvre Museum, Arch of Triumph. Am sure it will all come back to me next time I am walking past Place de la Concorde or walking up rue de RivoliThe smells, the shops, the gruff Parisian nonchalance – it will feel as if I had never been away. Rue Cler next to the Eiffel Tower, which sell the most beautiful arrangements of roses I have ever seen in my life or Place de Clignancourt, where I tasted one of the best wines in my life from Britagne for the price of 2€.

Of course I am older now, perhaps even slightly wiser (a touch of grey in the beard these days), but walking through the streets I am sure I will feel the same excitement that I did back then. My sense of nostalgia will be only heightened by where I will stay– off on rue de Rivoli, a strip of real estate that has provided me happiness, enlightment, and sorrow– times of stress, water leaks, falling in love – probably the most defining moments of my life on many levels. The shops and the ambiance hopefully will be exactly how I remembered them. In a city of millions, where nearly all are strangers I can always count on Mona Lisa's smile... 

"An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris"

~Friedrich Nietzsche

Thursday, February 26, 2009

the invisible hand...

The disparate racial composition of the American penal system has drastically altered the life trajectory of many minority groups, in particular young black males. Just as college and the military, prison has become a leading potential life course for young men in urban societies. Since a large number of those in the penal system are minorities, particularly African-American, it is estimated that felon disenfranchisement has provided a small but distinct advantage to Republican candidates in every presidential and senatorial elections from 1972 to 2000. Education, as the great equalizing mechanism in society, the social space fought over so passionately during historic legislative battles such as Brown v. Education, is rendered innocuous in part by the discriminate treatment of children based on cultural and ethnic identifiers.

Many segregated schools struggle to attract highly qualified teachers and administrators, do not prepare students well for college, and fail to graduate more than half their students.

The United States risks becoming a nation in which a new majority of non-white young people will attend "separate and inferior" schools.

Latinos are the fastest growing minority in U.S. schools. Researches noted that "often Latino students face triple segregation by race, class and language."

A shift in the control of representation by those denied access to media decision-making and product distribution would help to lessen the muted forms of stereotypes that continue to proliferate American mass media. Over 50 years after Ralph Waldo Ellison and Louis Armstrong asked, “What did I do to be so Black and Blue?”, America still lacks a wide arrays of state educational systems that celebrates and embracing the national ideals of equality and, in its stead, perpetuates systems of institutionalized prejudices and racism. Only when this glaring chasm is addressed will more than 100 years of overt, covert, and mass mediated injustice, violence, and prejudice begin to recede in the collective social conscious. Maybe then we will finally be able to bid Jim Crow and Plessy v. Ferguson a proper adieu.

“Racism is man's gravest threat to man - the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason”

~Abraham J. Heschel

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

high hopes...

Tonight Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress and an even more important audience — the American people. Since it was technically not a "state of the union" address, I think it's safe to call the speech the "state of the economy" address. Hoping to turn the page on tough economic times, the president read the country a litany of reasons for the crisis. Gutted regulations, irresponsible home purchases, predatory lending, tax cuts to the wealthy, and a lack of investment in America's future have brought us all to a day of reckoning, he said.

After laying the blame, Obama explained his plan. Making it hard to believe he's only been in office for a month, Obama touted the specifics of the aggressive stimulus package. The president played professor for a bit too, spelling out why it's important to keep credit flowing and help banks.
"It's not about helping banks, it's about helping people," he said frankly.
Perhaps most crucially, Obama called out the "neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford." Assuring skeptics, Obama said his housing plan won't bail out that irresponsible person, but it will help responsible Americans maintain the value of or refinance their homes.

Obama also took time to discuss his upcoming budget. His priorities? Energy, health care, and education. His voice filled with emotion when he asserted that health care reform will not wait another year. Touching on foreign policy, Obama broke sharply from the man who last spoke to a joint session of Congress. He reannounced the closing of Guantanamo Bay prison and proclaimed that "America does not torture."

While speaking of dire troubles, Obama exuded energy and optimism. Regardless of the merit of his policies, all in all, Obama performed like a true leader tonight.

"It is not so much that man is a herd animal but that he is a horde animal led by a chief"

~Sigmund Freud

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

n.y. state of mind...

Unfortunately, The New York Post is standing behind a cartoon that some have interpreted as comparing President Barack Obama to a violent chimpanzee gunned down by police. The cartoon in Wednesday's Post by Sean Delonas shows two police officers standing over the body of a bullet-riddled chimp. One of the officers says the other, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

Civil rights activist Al Sharpton called the cartoon "troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys."

But Sharpton said the Post should clarify the point it was trying to make with the cartoon, which was playing off Monday's rampage by a pet chimpanzee in Stamford, Conn., that left a woman severely mauled. Police ended up killing the chimp.

In a statement, Post Editor-in-Chief Col Allan said:
"The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist."

A story about the cartoon on the liberal-leaning Huffington Post Web site drew hundreds of reader responses, many calling the cartoon racist and insensitive.

Sam Stein, a columnist for the site, wrote that "at its most benign, the cartoon suggests that the stimulus bill was so bad, monkeys may as well have written it. Most provocatively, it compares the president to a rabid chimp. Either way, the incorporation of violence and (on a darker level) race into politics is bound to be controversial."

Not only is this NY Post cartoon obviously Racist, but it seems to be PRO-Police Brutality as well. Showing the blatant racial depiction combined with the excessive force of the Police department make this a very DANGEROUS cartoon which is bound to have some very bad effects on the not-so-smart people out there (those are the people whom I would assume read the NY Post to begin with). Yea, bad taste, bad judgement and just plain BAD! The NY Post needs to atone for this,
I hope people boycott this "newspaper" and start reading real news.

"A gentleman will not insult me, and no man not a gentleman can insult me"

~Frederick Douglass

Monday, February 23, 2009


It begins when a platform is rolled into the center of the crowd, forcing the audience to make space. A man in a suit, who could be an office worker, is going against the flow on a moving walkway. This is the defining image of "Fuerzabruta": the ordinary man facing life's daily challenges, pushing himself forward.

It's an image we see repeatedly through the performance with a number of variations. Twice he is shot yet returns to his feet like some angelic survivor, blood dripping from his shirt. Sometimes he walks past people on this imaginary sidewalk -- each of them dropping like statues when they reach the end of the platform. Other times he is confronted by a wall of cardboard, a blast of wind or a haze of rain and still he soldiers on, casting debris into the audience as he goes.

At one point, attention is directed suddenly to a place on the ceiling where a man appears to hang unaided from the underside of a small acrylic pool of water. Above him is a writhing swimmer whose every movement he mirrors as if she were magnetic.

Already, by looking skywards, we're starting to lose our sense of balance and orientation. When a huge curtain of silver wraps itself around the room and two acrobats on ropes chase each other across the walls of the tent, it even becomes hard to tell up from down. We are weightless in the darkened space, laughing in the face of Newton's laws even as we're sprayed with water or set upon by actors smashing powdery Styrofoam blocks over our heads.

In effect, the director and his troupe present a series of images of obstacles and liberation, complemented by sequences of sheer sensuality, such as when a massive curtain flaps across the space swinging closer to our outstretched arms with each movement. Most stunning of all, in a feat of technical daring, a full-size swimming pool is floated over our heads, its transparent base allowing the diving dancers to be seen as they create mesmerizing ripple effects in the water. Their supple, semi-naked bodies add a sexual fricton to the images of freedom as they glide across the surface, unbound and unrestrained.

I would need too much good poetry to be able to describe all the extraordinary things that happen in Fuerzabruta, especially when we discover ourselves beneath the swirling tides of an enormous body of water descending until it is only inches above our heads. Sliding in the waves of the water are aquatic beings staring at us, trying to understand us, as we try to understand them. The sole thread linking the show's many disparate segments, the resilience of the human spirit in the face of outright catastrophe, is so light that it's all but blown away by the wind machines that blast several thousand pieces of tissue-paper confetti through the audience at key points AND perhaps the BEST PART...getting to dance in the water afterwards!?!!

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being"

~Oscar Wilde

another day in paradise...

The other day I read an article in the New Yorker Magazine, that upset me. The article was called "The Ponzi State", and it was about the rise and fall of development in Florida, and specifically about Florida's foreclosure disaster. In the past several years, Florida's economy has been development-based and when the bottom fell out, everyone suffered. People who had mortgaged their homes for home-equity loans were now being foreclosed. People were selling off their family heirlooms in order to feed their families. According to the article, "People who were in their homes, were living the American dream, and then lost it. And they don't have the knowledge to navigate social services, how to get food stamps. People who were employed in the real-estate market -- people who were making a nice living, were ending up in the health and social-services department offices."

But the part of the article that affected me the most was reading about a family in Tampa -- Dan and Ronale Hartzell. They live in a modest apartment in an area of apartment complexes and motels near MacDill Air Force Base. Until a year ago, Dan had a $10.00 an hour job laminating plastic snack food bags at a small plant in Tampa. The economy had collapsed to the point where he was laid off, and he could not find work. He has been looking for work everywhere -- Home Depot, Sam's Club, Publix. According to the article, he has sent out 60 applications, with no luck. All of these companies are saturated with applications from blue-collar workers like Dan. His wife, Ronale, describes him as an excellent worker. She says, "He's a good man, he doesn't drink and he doesn't do drugs."

These folks are already classified as working-poor, they are down on their luck, they have health and dental problems which they cannot afford to have fixed, and they have two children, one in grade five and the other in grade two. As a family, they are facing homelessness. Dan says, "I apply for work, and no one will give me a chance. I'm blue-collar; I work for what I have. That's all anyone can do, and then all of a sudden the economy gets so bad and instead of 30 people looking for work, there's three-thousand. To be honest, I'm just actually starting to lose heart now."

The Hartzells didn't take out a sub-prime mortgage, they hadn't lived beyond their means. They loved each other, and Dan said of Ronale, "I thank God every day that I have her." But he felt somehow that he was to blame for their situation. The article in the New Yorker went on to say, "Dan couldn't avoid the feeling that the world had singled him out for some terrible payback, that it must have been his fault, that the failure was his alone and he had no right to anyone else's help. This was an attitude that no senior figure on Wall Street had adopted."

This is a story that must be playing out all over North America right now. Good, decent, hard-working, honest people -- losing everything. Will the Stimulus Package really help these folks? Or will it be like "trickle down" economics, where the folks at the top get the cream... Why do I have the feeling I have seen this all before? I am not an economist, so I can't begin to understand the machinations of this depression recession, but I remember Gordon Gekko's speech from the 1987 movie "Wall Street", "The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of it's forms - greed for life, for money, knowledge - has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed - you mark my words - will not only save Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you."

This was not supposed to happen again. So, how did it happen? And why is it always the folks who have nothing left to lose -- the invisible people -- who lose the most.

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed"

~Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, February 21, 2009

the thin ice...

Facebook, of late, seems to be more geared toward people at the grade eight level. It reminds me of the little drawings we used to draw on our marble journals and looseleaf paper when we were bored with class. I am always getting notifications from someone saying that have taken the "Path to Happiness" quiz, or the "Likeness Quiz" or they're sending me a teddy bear... Or I will receive an e-mail saying that someone has poked me or written on my wall. If you have my e-mail address, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. And you know I love you all, but if I want to know 25 things about you, I will probably ask you. If you want to tell me, that's great -- if not, well, that's great too. I don't want to be nosy. And I'm definitely not going to tell you 25 things about me. Only three or four of them -- tops -- would be interesting, anyway. Besides, how do you know it's really me on Facebook? Anyone can sign up, log in and post a photograph, et voila! they're on, and they're reading all the intimate details of your life.

Excuse me, I have to run. I just checked my Facebook account and I see I have "six little green patch" requests, one "play with me request", one "hotties for sale invitation", three "happy hour invitations", and one "hatching egg invitation"....

BTW, does anyone know what those are?

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity"

~Albert Einstein

Friday, February 20, 2009

breathe reprise...

...It is difficult to talk about post-modernism because nobody really understands it. It’s allusive to the point of being impossible to articulate. But what this philosophy basically says is that we’ve reached an endpoint in human history. That the modernist tradition of progress and ceaseless extension of the frontiers of innovation are now dead. Originality is dead. The avant-garde artistic tradition is dead. All religions and utopian visions are dead and resistance to the status quo is impossible because revolution too is now dead. Like it or not, we humans are stuck in a permanent crisis of meaning, a dark room from which we can never escape...

"Do not be too timid and squeamish about your reactions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better"

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, February 16, 2009

dreams of a spanish spring...

Some random thoughts from March 2007:

... As I am getting ready to leave for Madrid I feeling all sorts of things. I am happy because I am finally leaving this place (New York) and heading to my old stomping ground. Not to say that my life here has been all bad. I have made friends that I will never forget. Some enemies as well, disappointments and successes. New York was the place that I learned who I was. I learned that I was a lot stronger than I gave myself credit for. I know you might wonder what the place I have called home for the last twenty-something years could mean to me. For the last couple of years I have had total freedom. 

I am excited for all that awaits me and ready to start the next phase of my life. I can honestly say that I feel like I am where I should be. I get to live on my own terms and on my own although I have missed out on alot in order to be able to give them a good life. I have learned a lot of things along the way and carry them with me where ever I may be. It is funny how things happen when you least expect it. Although I am filled with mixed emotions I will continue forward and enjoy all the things that life has to offer...let's see how far a one-way ticket to Madrid can take me...

"In Spain, the dead are more alive than the dead of any other country in the world"

~Federico Garcia Lorca

Friday, February 13, 2009

heaven belongs to you...

Love does strange things to the mind. It provokes insane highs, crazed fantasies and reality-defying leaps of faith in hope of capturing its ephemeral emotional (and chemical) substance...but rarely do we take time to truly appreciate the ones we truly care about beyond the cheesy and cliché offerings of flowers, jewelry, dinner, and candy. How many of us truly appreciate our lovers during all days of the year? All of the intricacies? The flaws? Their eyes, their smile? The way they breathe in their sleep? The way they tie their shoes, the manner in which the moonlight reflects off of their body...the small moments of life that make the journey pleasurable. 

On this day, I am choosing to hold back on all the gifts and the overpriced flowers and reflect upon the Geography of a Woman:

Between 18 and 22, a woman is like Africa, half discovered, half wild, fertile and naturally beautiful.

Between 23 and 30, a woman is like Europe, well developed and open to trade, especially for someone with cash.

Between 31 and 35, a woman is like Spain, very hot, elegant, relaxed and convinced of her own beauty.

Between 36 and 40, a woman is like Greece, temperate in demeanor, gently aging but still a warm and desirable place to visit.

Between 41 and 50, a woman is like Great Britain, with a glorious and all-conquering past.

Between 51 and 60, a woman is like Israel, has been through war and doesn't make the same mistakes twice, takes care of business.

Between 61 and 70, a woman is like Canada, self-preserving but open to meeting new people.

After 70, she becomes Egypt, wildly beautiful, with a mysterious past and the wisdom of the ages...only those with an adventurous spirit and a thirst for spiritual knowledge visit there.

"All the reasonings of men are not worth one sentiment of women"


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

everyone's gone to the moon...


In President Obama’s town hall about the economic crisis in Fort Myers, FL today, a woman named Henrietta Hughes - facing homelesness thanks to the crisis - gave voice to the economic concerns of real Americans being dismissed by the conservative echo chamber and the mainstream media.

Ms. Hughes asked the President: “We need something more than the vehicle and parks to go to. We need our own kitchen and our own bathroom. Please help.”

The President responded that “We’re going to do everything we can to help you, but there are a lot of people like you”, then he embraced her.

Let’s do this right for Ms. Hughes and the rest of America. The downturn is feeding a growing number of unemployed, and stretching the government’s ability to cope with a rising number of claims. Unemployment may leap into the double digits at some point this year; it is already 10 per cent in Fort Meyers, where the cancer-stricken Hughes lives. In Spain, the hardest country hit in Europe, unemployment is at an astounding 14.4 per cent and projected to get worse through 2010. Worldwide, the number of working poor — those who make roughly $2 U.S. per day— is projected to increase to 1.4 billion, or 45 per cent of all of those employed. In the 21st century ‘purpose drought’ we are all clawing for a reason to exist. Void of any semblance of direction we have created the worst religious following of all - hyper-capitalism as a reason to exist. This is not sustainable, not healthy and most of all not worthy of our great potential as human beings. Please, I beg of you, take stock and re-order your ‘list of importance’. In this period of financial concern, what better time to find real self worth.

"If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions,
 great is our sin"

~Charles Darwin 

Friday, February 06, 2009

for all we know...

...Consciousness is in a state of cohabitation with its material body, but has no objective reality; it is nothing ("no thing"). Consciousness has the ability to conceptualize possibilities, and to make them appear, or to annihilate them. It is difficult to talk about post-modernism because nobody really understands it. It’s allusive to the point of being impossible to articulate. But what this philosophy basically says is that we’ve reached an endpoint in human history. 

That the modernist tradition of progress and ceaseless extension of the frontiers of innovation are now dead. Originality is dead. The avant-garde artistic tradition is dead. All religions and utopian visions are dead and resistance to the status quo is impossible because revolution too is now dead. Like it or not, we humans are stuck in a permanent crisis of meaning, a dark room from which we can never escape.

“The most complicated achievements of thought are possible without the assistance of consciousness”

~Sigmund Freud

Thursday, February 05, 2009

backlash blues...

In The Conspiracy of Art, Jean Baudrillard questions the privilege attached to art by its practitioners. Art has lost all desire for illusion: feeding back endlessly into itself, it has turned its own vanishment into an art unto itself. Postmodernity, with its signature characteristic of visual menagerie and pastiche of infinite images and symbols, appropriates any and all possibilities, irrespective and transcendent of, reality and rationality. When one contemplates how we exist constantly enveloped in weak ties of superficiality,in a constant state of liminality, desensitized to our immediate world, it is almost overwhelming.

Art is simultaneously of life, yet different, incapable of encapsulating the experience of life, while also transcending its limitation as to be almost indispensable to society and culture. Modernity is fundamentally about order: about rationality and rationalization, creating order out of chaos. The assumption is that creating more rationality is conducive to creating more order, and that the more ordered a society is, the better it will function (the more rationally it will function). Because modernity is about the pursuit of ever-increasing levels of order, modern societies constantly are on guard against anything and everything labeled as "disorder," which might disrupt order. 

Modern societies rely on continually establishing a binary opposition between "order" and "disorder," so that they can assert the superiority of "order." Books, plays, and movies becomes cultural artifacts and can be seen as snapshots of contemporaneous spectacle capable of being remembered and admired without the baggage of particular sociocultural paradigms in which they were spawned. Rather than assert absolutes, postmodern works of art elicit individual interpretations, personal stories of responsive consciousness. embrace contradiction and diversity. 

A postmodern concept to art thus totally rejects the difference between ‘high’ and ‘low’ forms. It also rejects hard genre boundaries and favors eclecticism, the integration of forms and ideas. Postmodern works also evidence the belief that there is no distinction between reality and fiction, much like there is no inherent relationship between words and the objects they are meant to signify. This presents quite a challenge, in terms of constructing original and creative ideas when objects are merely simulacrum. 

"The only absolute truth is that there are no absolute truths"

~Paul Feyerabend

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

it would be so nice...

According to the United Nations, children in 50 countries are currently growing up in the midst of war. Needless to say, war tears the childhood happiness apart. In the twentieth century, children have increasingly become the target of oppressive regimes. It is alarming to comprehend the magnitude of the phenomenon: half the world’s refugee population are children. Weakened by the effects of war and more than a decade of economic sanctions, 500,000 Iraqi children are malnourished, it says. For example, the death rate of children under five years of age is already 2.5 times greater than it was in 1990, before the Gulf War.

But war spares no children in areas it engulfs. For the refugee child, for the child who has been internally displaced, for boys and girls who have been abducted and sexually abused. Fights, terrorism and all-out conflict are based in real or imagined scenarios where each side see themselves as victims. Unlike interstate conflict, which often mobilizes national unity and strengthens social cohesiveness, violent conflict within a state weakens its social fabric. It divides the population by undermining interpersonal and communal trust, destroying the norms and values that underlie cooperation and collective action for the common good, and increasing the likelihood of communal strife. 

The successive failure of the state to safeguard basic human wellbeing undermines the trust that is critical to the development and maintenance of the social fabric. These children justified the reason for revenge. You have harmed me or those I love, so I can righteously harm you and yours which is a social context of tit-for-tat. Unwittingly, as conflicts and wars rage on in places like Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine and countries value geopolitical posturing rather than true humanitarian concern, these children are dragged into a complex network of revenge justice resulting from children having to flee their home, and who has been separated from his family, the horrors of war are as real as the child who has been involved in hostilities. So before people choose sides, choose patriotism over objectivity, blind loyalty to allies rather than facts, think about the children and consider them...just this once...

"We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends"

~Martin Luther King, Jr.