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. ❤

How to use privilege effectively: a lesson in two parts from Hank Green

I am thrilled about these videos from Hank Green.

If you’re not already familiar with him through any of his video series (including vlogbrothers, CrashCourse, and SciShow), Hank is a very influential person within the YouTube universe. He is also a heterosexual cis white male who uses his position of power to advocate for YouTubers who don’t necessarily hold that privilege… many of whom are trying to make a living (or at least, earn some money) by sharing their videos on the platform.

Short context, which he does cover in the first video below: there are some YouTube policies that are currently affecting the LGBTQ+ community in a way that simply boggles the brain. As in: certain religious groups are paying so that their anti-gay videos will run as “ads” before videos created by and designed for the LGBTQ+ community. Meanwhile, YouTube has also changed certain policies so that it’s harder to earn money by posting content that is LGBTQ+ inclusive.

Hank’s righteous anger, condemnation of policies, and his very firm request that YouTube fix the problem — complete with suggestions for how they could do it! — give me hope that humanity might prevail, even when The Algorithm fails us.

Thanks, Hank, for showing us how to use privilege effectively!

Getting over the fear of failure (I crashed my bike)

I made this video ages ago for work and even though we decided not to publish it, it’s still one of my faves 🙂 especially as it’s all about the inevitability of crashing, which I hope can paradoxically motivate all of us to get over our fear of failure.

Thanks to my colleagues Cat and Nadim and Kylie for the motion graphics savvy — turns out it’s not easy to, say, “draw” a red circle into a video, much less one that moves! — and to Luda for moral support always, including encouraging me to share this one ❤

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.

Presentations of self

As soon as I posted my last video it occurred to me: what I said was sort of true, but not nearly a COMPLETE representation of my experience of identity growing up. I thought about deleting the whole thing, but then I realized it was actually quite interesting to think about why it bothered me so much to leave an “incomplete” presentation of myself up on YouTube.

So many questions around how we present ourselves to others, and why!

Is it even possible to fully represent ourselves, in all our complexity, to anyone? How would we do it? Would it be worth the effort?