Clear as mud: Black Willow, Mississippi Mud, and FBI informants

LomaScott very rarely plays songs more than once in a sitting, so the fact that we’ve now listened to Loma‘s Black Willow six times in a row is no small endorsement. I agree: it’s infectiously beautiful, darkly haunting, the lyrics are provocative… definitely worth playing over and over, and there’s something about the album cover art, too.

I finally decided to look for a video and Lo, not only does one exist, it’s in a similar vein as the ones I have posted twice before:

And the plot thickens! The video’s first comment on YouTube is from (actor, producer, and writer) Daniel Martine, who points out that the song sounds eerily similar to a song called “Mississippi Mud,” a Black Blood and the Chocolate Pickles song with a grim history:

In his comment to the Black Willow video, Daniel continues:

The story is about the death of black students who protesting [sic] at Jackson State in Mississippi in ’70. Not long after Kent State shootings happened. But it didn’t get the press of Kent State, because they were black students.

I can google up no evidence that Loma may have meant Black Willow to be a straight up homage to the song and/or a rememberance of the events that took place at Jackson State, not to mention the inequality of the response thereafter compared to shootings of white students. But I could understand that the band could have gone there Continue reading

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Aimless Love: a poem by Billy Collins

Aimless Love
by Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lake shore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door—
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor—
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

Original source: Billy Collins, Nine Horses, Pan Macmillan and Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2003, accessed via Pan Macmillan on 9 August 2018. Continue reading

Dean Fidelman finally getting the kind of attention he deserves (and not only for StoneNudes)

I met photographer Dean Fidelman while living in Yosemite National Park in 1999, and for years I invested everything I had—physically, energetically, spiritually, and financially—into his StoneNudes project. This attempt to build a something that would financially support a complete immersion into art, nature, community collaboration, social activism, and a life well-lived sparked a sense of purpose I’ve been both refining and expanding ever since. Though I ultimately chose to distance myself from the always-fraught business side of StoneNudes, Dean and I have remained very close friends and artistic collaborators.

Climbing podcast Enormocast recently published not one but two entire episodes’ worth of an interview with Dean (here’s Part 1 and here’s Part 2), and they’re fantastic. As someone who came of age listening to climbers’ yarns around Yosemite campfires, and who regularly groans at the media’s lazy sensationalization of Dean’s work, I have to say that it is a rare treat to hear the man himself explain, at length and very eloquently, why he does the work he does.

All other accounts leave out what I believe are the most important elements of his story: his deep appreciation for his mentors, his community (including those who have left us), the places that inspire his work, his commitment to giving back, and the reality of what it’s like to walk in his shoes… the mismatched shoes of our deceased friend Sean, as the case happens be.

This year marks the 20th and final edition of the StoneNudes Calendar, and I’m thrilled that Dean’s Kickstarter campaign is doing so well! Continue reading

Self care and art as acts of resistance

It’s hard to deny that there’s a lot of shit going down in the world right now. As the daughter of two immigrants (into the US) and an immigrant (into NZ) myself, what’s happening at the US border hits me in a particular way, and there are so many other examples we might point to around the world.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to stay open to and present with this sort of unpleasantness, for a couple reasons. First, I believe it is important to actually SEE and GRIEVE these atrocities, rather than pretending they don’t exist or that they don’t hurt. And more importantly, I believe we must be present to what is going on if we might hope to effectively address any issues that are not in alignment with our own values.

And so I have been super inspired by a few things that my friends have shared this week. They remind me that there are so many ways to contribute to upending the status quo, and so many ways to take care of ourselves as we do that work. Continue reading

Dancing with our demons: artistic perspectives on inner struggles

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There are a lot of things that art, broadly speaking, does for me. During tough times especially, I appreciate the opportunity to get beyond words and into something deeper, vaster, and paradoxically more accessible, if less explicable.

Here are four dance performances that illuminate the challenge of staying on one’s own path, which to me often feels a lot like going against the grain. The differences, gross or subtle, between what I believe and what I value, and how I live. The various arguing inner voices, the wrestling-with-angels, the sleepless nights.

I highly recommend watching full-screen with a good headset or speakers. I have to believe the third was inspired by the second, but who knows? The last one gives me the most hope, though I reject the implication that we need to buy anything in order to liberate ourselves, as it were.

I’d love to hear how you interpret any or all of these performances, how the lyrics resonate with you (or not – honestly I’m so moved by the physical performances it’s hard for me to pay attention to the lyrics!), and/or to see any art you’ve made to represent the struggle of remaining true to yourself when it feels like you’re supposed to stay within the lines. ❤

The view from “down there”

In the last coupla weeks I’ve managed to delete my Facebook account, get sick-and-then-better, demonstrate the high-level function of our relationship by making it through a 3-day power outage with minimal food wastage (we ate well!), attend a meditation retreat, and discover dozens of beautiful, brave people who are fighting the good fight(s) with regard to identity politics on Twitter.

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I’m working up the nerve to write (but mostly still grokking how to connect the dots, and deciding how much I am actually willing to share) something that somehow weaves together the male gaze, heteronormativity, my own internalized beliefs about fashion and fitting in, representation, aging, model minority stereotypes, growing up bi-racial in a predominantly-white, very privileged community, the tension between building a platform that “scales” and staying 100% committed to my own voice, the dangers women face for expressing any sexuality, one (or more) of my #metoo stories, and what it means for me, as a woman of color who has so often reported to white men (I currently report to a Māori man), to fully step into my power.

SexCells

It’s probably more like 12 pieces to write over the course of the rest of my life. Every other hour, I convince myself that I just need to keep meditating instead of attempting to make sense of it all, much less write it down for an audience.

In the meantime, I will share this stunning Janelle Monáe video, from which I have stolen the above screenshots:

I really don’t want to ruin it with any more commentary BUT (I can’t help it!) it gives me many of the same magical, tingly, “we got this,” “it ain’t all bad” feelings that this Bomba Estereo video also evokes:

May I one day master my craft to the point where I too can wrap the messages I’d like to convey in packages as powerful as these.

From Scratch: Heart’Heart

Last night Scott and I had the immense privilege of witnessing Heart’Heart, one of six sold-out Auckland Art Festival performances from the musical group From Scratch.

This Radio New Zealand video includes the first part of my favorite piece of the evening:

 

I really appreciate all the things that other people’s sharing of their creativity brings out in my own! Some things that have come up for me, both during and since the show:

  • What a joy it is to be part of something larger than ourselves! (I felt that vicariously through their performance.)
  • It is such a treat to witness the magic that occurs as the result of both individual mastery at a craft, and dedicated practice as a group.
  • Thank goodness there are institutions that fund exhibitions+performances such as this (egad, I can’t imagine trying to fund such a thing)!
  • While I’m excited to be putting myself out there with the vlog, I do have a sense that I need to further hone my skills so I package up my own work in a way that will make me truly proud. Working on it 🙂

From Scratch has played all over the world, though I’m not sure how much they’re touring these days? If you have a chance to see them, I hope you will!

There are many truths: on multiple perspectives and (too many?) modes of communication

Whatever it is that I’m tapped into right now reminds me a LOT of a similar period I went through back in 1998 (dropped out of University; went to Australia to chart my OWN path; “discovered” art symbols God yoga Buddhism and so many other things that remain very important in my life…)

I still have lot of questions about how to make correspondence work in an era when we have too many communication choices. And I’m still hoping you’ll interact with me via this YouTube channel!

You can read more about the Paradox of Choice and the actual details of the jam sampling study here; I didn’t quite get the details right during the recording.

What does the American flag symbol currently represent?

My friend Annie recently mentioned a grocery trip during which her daughter insisted upon wearing her American flag dress. “What does the American flag symbol currently represent?” she asked. “In my opinion, it’s ignorance and greed at best. What can we do each day to resurrect the pillars this county stands on? We’re so much better than this.”

Annie: I hear you! I don’t claim to have any answers, but I love this question, particularly as an American abroad at this moment in history. I also love that children, like your daughter, aren’t caught up in the outer OR inner turmoil.

To further the conversation, I’ve just dug up this article I wrote some years ago for the Bolinas Hearsay (then my local newspaper). If you don’t want to read the whole thing, at least scroll down to the Wendell Berry poem at the bottom!

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The Psychedelic Seniors: StuArt and friends

A bit of context for those of you unfamiliar: Bolinas is a town that takes it’s July 4th celebrations Verrrrrrry Seriously. It’s easily the biggest celebration of the year, drawing tourists from far and wide for the parade, a showcase for small-town agrarianism, creative genius, and a heavy dose of progressive politics. The day also features a tug-of-war between Bolinas and Stinson, the small town across the lagoon channel.

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Bolinas women about to win the tug-of-war against Stinson 2015

I almost used the tug-of-war metaphor to represent the place we find ourselves in today, as citizens of countries and as humans with hearts, but as Annie says, “we’re so much better than this!” What about something along the lines of… let’s forego sides and ALL take up the rope and use it as a tool to achieve some shared goal? I want to stay optimistic, as angry as I am. Tonight I’m joining a class on Buddhism, social change, and non-violent action. I am curious to see what tools present themselves, and hope to report back soon.

***

Bolinas Hearsay, July 2011

On the afternoon of July 5th 2010, I was wandering up from the beach on Wharf Road. I followed the stars and stripes painted in red, white, and blue along the road, beaming at the memory of watching them magically appear a day earlier behind the tractor during the parade, our latest gift from the always-inspiring, always-surprising Gospel Flat Farmer-artist-provocateurs.

Just then, Mickey and Sam Murch themselves drove up in the farm truck. Still grinning, I told them that they – the farmers and their art – were the highlight of my Fourth of July!

But Sam’s look was somber. “Some people complained to [name omitted]. We’re here to clean up,” he told me, nodding toward the pressure washer and lengths of hose in the back of the truck. “Apparently people aren’t necessarily mad that we painted on the road – it’s that they don’t want to look at American flags.” Continue reading

Looping back around: music, memory, and meeting Scott

Every time Scott puts Wild Nothing on:

I remember that I had invited him (via the old-and-inferior OKCupid messaging system) to check out Bombay Bicycle Club at the Warfield as a first date.

As it turned out, neither of us ended up going to that show. We did meet in person to see Zakir Hussein at SF Jazz Center the following weekend, easily one of the best dates, much less first dates, I’d ever been on…

…but it was too late. I ignored his texts for a couple days. My stomach knotted with the decision I’d been mulling over, I called to tell him I had chosen to focus my energy into a different (also brand new) relationship.

BBC

There’s much more to say, of course, about all the things that happened between then and now. But this afternoon we’re checking out the visuals from that Bombay Bicycle Club tour and trying to figure out the best way to get the album box set to our home in New Zealand.