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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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

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.

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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.

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.

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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

How to move to New Zealand from the US

Sometimes when people in positions of power do things I find absurd and infuriating, I get depressed, cranky, angry, and/or despondent. Other times, I’m more productive, getting all academic, or trying to draw personal connections so people might understand that these decisions will affect real people. Last Friday, I channelled my frustration into making this video guide to various visa options for Americans wanting to move to New Zealand:

To be abundantly clear: you can’t actually move away from climate change. Nor do I believe that anyone, Americans abroad or citizens from any other country, can escape the responsibility to be part of the solution to this or any other political absurdity.

But this was still a super fun opportunity to learn how to edit video on my iPhone using iMovie (I’d only ever used that program once before, four years ago, and the full version rather than the mobile version). And I can’t believe how many people have already watched it! Fun times.

I’m not planning to make any more videos any time soon. Of course, it’s entirely possible that news from the White House will drive me to new heights of creativity sooner than I expect.

On privilege, intersectionality, and how a Trump presidency could affect New Zealanders

While I chose not to join my friends and hundreds of others in Auckland who marched in solidarity today with the Women’s March on DC, I was very much there in spirit. Rather than marching, I spent the day researching this essay; consider it my contribution to the very important work that is currently happening around the world.

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Last night as my yoga class was closing, the topic of the March came up. Another student, a white woman in her early 40s, asked if it was an “anti-Trump March.” I tried my best to offer a different perspective, in the spirit of “When they go low, we go high:”

“I prefer to think of it as a march FOR women’s rights, and for the rights of people of color and immigrants and people of all sexual orientations and–”

That’s as far as I got before she interrupted, “so, it’s an anti-Trump march.”

Her interest in simplifying this for herself only started to get under my skin (consciously, at least) after my post-yoga bliss wore off.

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Today's #ActivistAday features myself, ShiShi Rose (@shishi.rose) and I am one of the admins here. . For some people, their outlook of this country deeply changed on November 9th. For the rest of us, this is how it has always looked. I want to remind you that that is a privilege. It's a privilege that white supremacy wasn't at the forefront of your reality, because you benefit from it. I want to remind you that no ally ever got very far, in any movement, without acknowledgement of their own privilege daily. You do not just get to join the efforts that people of color have been working for their entire lives to both teach and survive, without doing work, too. You don't just get to join because now you're scared, too. I was born scared. Now is the time for you to be listening more, talking less, spend time observing, taking in media and art created by people of color, researching, and unlearning the things you have been taught about this country. You should be reading our books and understanding the roots of racism and white supremacy. Listening to our speeches. You should be drowning yourselves in our poetry. Now is the time that you should be exposed to more than just the horrors of this country, but also the beauty that has always existed within communities of color. Beauty that was covered over because the need to see white faces depicted was more important. Now is the time to teach your children, to call out your family, to finally speak up. You have been silent for long enough. Now is the time to realize that you should have joined us sooner. But since you're here now, it's time to get to work. #WhyIMarch

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I’m going to give my yoga classmate, and most other Kiwis I’ve spoken with about Trump’s election, the benefit of the doubt, and assume that they are inherently good, well-intentioned people. Indeed, the average Kiwi that I have encountered thus far seems to be FAR more politically aware and progressive than the average Americans I encountered at home.

But there’s something about their flip dismissal of what the election (and now, inauguration) of Trump actually means that has really been bothering me. Continue reading

Reflections upon moving to New Zealand

We’ve now been in Auckland for two months – here’s a quick summary of some differences between life here and life in the San Francisco Bay Area that have struck me, avoiding the most obvious, in no particular order:

  • Almost all egg yolks are the gorgeous orange I associate with pastured eggs back home.
  • We’ve traded burritos for fish & chips, and approximately 1,000 options for Chinese dumplings. Though we have found one brand of halfway decent corn tortillas, we’ve yet to find any tortilla chips or salsas worth buying again.
  • Toilets don’t swirl the other way; in fact, they all seem to be low-flow, dual-flush… and what little water does go down, goes down straight.
  • Big, fluffy clouds (with and without rain) pass through on a regular basis, which makes for lots of rainbows and generally dramatic skyscapes, particularly at sunset. It is quite different from the standard coastal Bay Area options of clear, fog, or total cloud cover.
  • Pedestrians do NOT have the right-of-way.

Continue reading