Wednesday, June 24, 2015

In One Week...

...a week that was barely noticed by many, I took myself off of Facebook. Well, my realname account, anyway. I maintained my BearMaiden account, the one that only posts pictures.

I took my self off of Facebook right as the debate over Rachel Dolezal's betrayal of whiteness had crescendoed, and right before Dylan Roof let America know--beyond a shadow of a doubt--that America is not a safe place for brown people.

Also in that week, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States in one of the most amazingly racist speeches I've ever heard. The comedians are all salivating over the many Trump jokes they forsee in their career... but the joke is on all of us, as apparently, Trump is ahead in the polls in New Hampshire. The mere fact that he's ahead ANY WHERE in this country is profoundly disturbing.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fearing for our safety...

I wanted to say something about the video I posted on Facebook and that I'm pasting here JUST in case you don't happen to know me. Those who do know me know I try to be constructive. I hate jumping on random bashing bandwagons and since the police are being called out for being trigger-happy with brown men--and rightly so--there's a couple things going on in that video that bear pointing out.

Firstly... if you, Mister "I don't understand "white privilege" because I've always been poor and don't feel privileged" or you Miss "But he had a record/was probably doing something wrong/shouldn't have been there" never understood what we as Brown people are telling you about our everyday interactions with the police, the video is a perfect example. A.) Dude had NO WAY OF KNOWING a ticket-writing exercise was still in process B.) He approached a car AFTER the cops had walked away and C.) he was WELL within his rights to ask what the ticket was for. If he had a car parked on that street for instance, and went to find out WHY there were tickets being issued so perhaps he could move his own car, I don't understand why that is a problem to the officer.

Secondly, you see how quickly a situation like that can escalate. If you ask a question of someone and they answer you belligerently for no apparent reason, your first response is usually to get pissed off pretty quickly because you feel you have been wronged. It's a natural human reaction (National Geographic TV has a show called "Brain Games". Episode 18, entitled "Anger" explains this very clearly. Go google it.)

Thirdly... these sorts of interactions are NOT ISOLATED INCIDENTS. I've had TWO such incidents in my life, and I'm a 5'3" female who doesn't think I'm threatening, at least not initially. In both cases I had to be dragged and silenced by a friend because I flared up and the friend didn't want the situation to escalate. Also, there was a long period of time in which I had to sit in the 49th precinct in the Bronx every other weekend, and the whole time that was happening there had been a few occasions I needed help, and the officers were assholes. For no good reason.

Fourthly... the gentleman recording backed off because he was more interested in documenting the encounter than standing up for himself, thereby de-escalating the encounter. But in another video circulating FB where a Euro skater dude was attacked by security guards (or policemen--it's unclear) and the Euro dude fought back and ran... any brown man watching that knows that if that were him things were very likely to go VERY differently.

Fifth: The video delivers a bonus at about the 7:00 minute mark, when a man who has double-parked his car returns... he is frisked, and the car is searched. The driver is extremely careful and quiet to avoid a confrontation, but truthfully there is no cause for the police to do this... no other police activity in the area, and earlier the police did not indicate that there was any ongoing investigation.

Lastly,  the gentleman making the video notes that the police are in the Bronx. He comments that the cops are a Latino and a "European" (nice touch, bro) and says that we should be policed by our own community. But I'm not sure that's the answer either, because in one of my experiences with police in my own community, it was the brown cop that was the nastiest. Growing up on 125th street, where we looked forward to the springtime rookie copdrop, we stayed clear of the brown cops because we always felt they had more to prove. They didn't want to appear as being "soft" on the locals just because we were all brown. So while race is a factor in how brown people are treated by the police, in my opinion I don't think that race is a factor with the policeperson themselves. In other words... it seems like the minute you become an officer, you become indoctrinated to think that all brown people are threats regardless of your own color.

And while I don't think that policewomen are inherently nicer and more polite than policeMEN, most certainly the more pleasant of my experiences tend to be with women. So I do know it's possible for the police to be polite, courteous and calm.

The bottom line is... while brown and Indigenous people are more likely to be killed by police than other people in this country, and while people in this country have been unconsciously ingrained with the thought that brown people are more dangerous, the real problem is the police may as well be soldiers, and we are all automatically the enemy. Which is really ironic when you consider that America is quick to send in the military to "liberate" countries that treat it's citizens the way the police treat us.

And in case you thought this is isolated, here's another video:

And this is why we're angry.

P.S. If your comment, watching either of these videos is "did the officer have a warrant? The guy should have asked if the officer had a warrant to search his vehicle" congratulations... you just learned the definition of "white privilege". Brown people know you don't EVER refuse to be searched or insist on a warrant; that's a PRIVILEGE we don't have.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Random Musings on the big Climate Change March...

...that happened in NYC yesterday, in order of the pictures I shot.

I got a gig, through my homie, to follow and photograph a decently known educational institution/think tank's participation in the climate change march. The pictures I took of the client specifically or pertaining to them I won't put up... they were paying clients.

But I veered off and snapped things that made me think, and since I happened to be at a demonstration that I would not ordinarily participate in (because I don't really believe in the validity of expending the energy) I did quite a bit of thinking.

The march wasn't hyped a whole lot prior to yesterday; at least not where I would see. Which means Facebook. Or maybe, because I DON'T participate in these things FB knows it and didn't show me that it was "trending." But in any event, a whole lot of people--some 310,000 came out. I gotta say; that's pretty impressive.

It was also pretty low-key as far as the Po-Po were concerned; personally my jaded heart thinks because yesterday's march was more "edutational" (education/entertainment); I barely saw the po-po and when I did--a white-shirt cautioned me about the moving vehicle I was following--he was down right polite and offered an explanation. Well, THAT'S never happened to me before. I hear tell today was different; but I bet any money it's because today's demonstrations were more targeted, against Wall Street. The 1% won't allow you to mess with their money.

So that brings me to my first overall impression;

  • "Nice march." Very heartening to see 310,000 people of some diversity with one unifying thought. I almost got warm and fuzzy. Except I know that it's a lost cause.... the ink is already dry on the documents that seal the doom of our planet. The Ark that will ferry the 1% to safety when the flood waters rise... that boat is already full (if you miss the reference, go watch "2012"... I'm a firm believer that if there's a movie about it, some writer got wind of some info he knows no one will ever believe so he writes a "fantasy" about it...).

But here are more random musings...
  • "Beautiful dog!" I thought he might be an Alsatian which is a breed I don't often see in America, but supposedly they are bigger than German Shepherds and this one was pretty small. He caught my eye because of his beautiful "brindle" coat, and the fact that he was alert and ready to do his job.

  • "Nice face!" He reminded me of my Sun's uncle, but then he also looked a little Hispanic and he was dressed in monk robes. It made me want to wonder a whole life story for him.

  • "Wow, that is some head of hair!" I guess what they call a "Jewfro". His hair was the biggest hair I've ever seen. He never smiled. Someone with that much hair should smile often.

  • "Big Homie." Formerly known here as BigMan... which he objects to cuz he thinks I'm making fun. I'm not, I told him, but you ARE significantly bigger than me. But I love him, I really do. He makes me smile. He makes me a nicer person. And he puts up with me, which is no small feat. And I REALLY enjoy working with him... we never take the same picture but together we cover all bases.

  • "Hmmm...." His sign read something like "Blacks, it's time to flee; you are a commodity to be traded..." or something to that effect. I didn't get him full-frontal. At first I was annoyed by his presence, messin' up the good vibe, but then again, his message was a little funny, a little ironic, and something to ponder. If the world is gonna go... maybe we SHOULD just get moving. It's not REALLY our mess..... meaning... most brown folk don't own the large climate-fucking conglomerates, now do we??? I'm just sayin'.... Plus, the guy was owning his message. Check out the shoes.

  • Speaking of... my missive on this gig was to show the diversity of the crowd, so I made a point to look for it. And to point out the lack of it. My pictures reflect a variety of folk at the Climate March, which was heartening. But certain groups noticeably outnumbered other groups. Mexicans, for instance, were not apparent. It also happened to be the Mexican Day parade but I saw VERY FEW, if any, indigenous Mexicans there. Also it was the African American Day Parade in Harlem... but still. The lack of color overall was pretty apparent, and it made me wonder if, were there not a parade, are brown Americans SO disenfranchised with the American system that we would not show have shown up to a march with a universal concern? And I'm not saying we didn't; there were contingents. But a picture is worth a thousand words... look for yourself (and PS this handsome man was one of the organizers):

  • "This selfie thing is outta control...."

  • I have a theory about cultural memory. There are certain things that people instinctively retain throughout time, without ever really thinking about it. Like a blood memory. You grow up seeing someone in your family do it, and then you do it, and the kids do it but no one really talks about it because it never occurs to you that it's a "thing." Brown people wrap their heads. We did it in Africa, we brought it over with us when we were forced here, and even if we don't consciously buy a piece of cloth for a head wrap we still have all kinds of elaborate head wraps... doo-rags, hair-do savers etc. With Euros, it's the flower or tree branch head wreath. On many occasions things cross cultures, and the flower wreath is no exception but whenever I see a flower or leaf wreath on someone's head, it's someone like this:

  • Teenagers. I was struck by her serenity even though she didn't seem thrilled to be wearing her hijab. She didn't mingle, as if she were uncomfortable. But she absolutely fit with the surroundings she was in at this moment. And she had an old soul.

Everything with teenagers is a chore; a struggle; a bother. But yet, when their parents make them attend things like Climate Marches and they can't escape, they take in EVERYTHING and learn tons but they'll NEVER let you know it actually meant something to them....

unless of course they are there with their friends.....

  • By the way....

as a nation we spend FAR TOO MUCH TIME on our Smart Phones.

And that lovely lady (who was very good natured) accidentally hit me with the sign she's holding. So of COURSE I said to her "You've literally hit me over the head with your faith" to which she busted out laughing.

  • Pre-teens are a lot more fun... they still do silly things.

  • I didn't catch this brother's name, but he was awesome. And he knew it. He caught me snapping and held the pose...
  • "Yes!" To me, this was like an unexpected piece of candy. He was a driver for one of the equipment trucks. I kind of wonder what he thought of this whole thing.

  • "#Idlenomore." I had on my Native Threads T-shirt while shooting. It was my private rebellion. See, last year when everyone was ignoring #Idlenomore thinking that it was only about Indian Sovereignty and broken treaties--which is part of it--First Nations were protesting broken treaties in part because the entities trying to break these treaties are large climate-fucking conglomerates whose illegal actions on tribal lands will destroy the air and the water for ALL of us. The march was cool and all... but overall I felt about it the way I felt about OWS a few years back.... "oh NOW that it's affecting YOU.... NOW you want to do something about it??? Meantime, we've been warning you for YEARS." So... I saw this brother in my other Indian shirt. Which happens to be my favorite. I got one of the first iterations of the shirt at Schemitzun in like 2010. The bottom of the shirt reads "Fighting Terrorism since 1492."

  • I was in the interfaith area of the Climate March... several thousand people of various faiths coming to pray together and show unity for the earth. Yes, it was tremendously inspiring--even for a jaded person like myself. I scanned the faces and MOST people there were there on faith. It didn't matter what their belief system was. There were atheists and Pagans, Catholics, Muslims, Christians, Spiritualists, Quakers and Jews. I'm a Jew. I'm a practicing in-the-tradition-of-my-forefathers kind of Jew, with a pretty (and increasingly conservative) view of the ideas in Judaism but I most identify with the outlook of the Reconstructionist Jews, mostly because I'm brown and they make me feel less self-conscious. But point blank... most Jews assume by looking at me that I'm not a Jew, and I have been asked at a Temple (because they didn't want to assume I was just a visitor) "oh when did you convert?" For a brown person, that's kind of a turn-off, especially because even though I DO want to officially convert, to do things the "right" Jewish way,  I don't eat pork and know the Torah pretty well by heart. I believe that Judaism is a way of life... not a race. And as a brown girl walking into a Jewish temple I often feel like THEY think it's a race, not a way of life. I'll be honest... it pisses me off.

    The way this thing was organized was the people of a particular faith gathered under a marker and it just so happened that the Jewish section was close to where I was working. The Muslim section was directly in front of it and me. There were many denominations of the Jewish faith... and, there were a lot of Jews (New York is a pretty Jewish town).

and this right here, although much smaller, was the Muslim section....

...which is what first caught my eye. But it didn't resonate with me until 12:49 when this happened...

...and I thought to myself that once you put on a hijab, or get down on your knees to pray it doesn't really matter what color you are. Of course there are different denominations of Muslims, and obviously some go to the extreme... but there are extreme Muslims who are brown and African, or from the Philippines or Afghanistan but it has to do with outlook, not color. It didn't seem to me they looked at each other in surprise and said "Oh! You're Muslim!" Seeing these pictures through my lens in realtime brought to mind what Malcolm X wrote about during his Hajj to Mecca.

And of course there are those who will explain some thing or other in defense of or against their particular faith or their lack of faith, and I don't care. As a brown Jew, seeing the contrast here gave me something to ponder...

  • What diversity should look like...

  • I spotted these Elders making their way to the podium to speak and I was overjoyed. I heard there was a much larger Native American/Idlenomore contingent in another area of the march and had I not been paid to be where I was and maybe felt like dealing with crowds I probably would have gone to take pictures of them. Apparently, I would have scored a picture with Leonardo DiCaprio, too, dammit. But it was cool... I got to meet Ojibwe Grandmother Mary Lyons. The warmth and brightness and love coming off of her was unbelievable and I am honored I got her picture. It seems she travels with a regular posse of elders, including this lady. I have to get everyone's names. But this was a picture worth fighting crowds for.

And I didn't get her name either, but she was beautiful as well.

  • Reports say over 300,000 people attended this march, which meant the contingent I was documenting didn't get moving until about 2PM. A great cheer went up and we pushed forward, across 58th street over to Avenue of the Americas and down to 42nd Street. Along the way, I saw this guy. The float of the earth he was helping to hold up was very cool. Maybe he was somebody, I dunno. He was cute. But a little self-absorbed.

Right after these pictures he tripped over and knocked down a 6 year old. I didn't see him fuss over the kid and say "sorry."

  • This lady was lovely and full of life. She grabbed someone to give a hug, and then she danced and sang. She reminded me of what I HADN'T seen at the interfaith contingent, what was sorely needed: some good ol' Harlem Baptists. If any march needed some good ol' Gospel music and tambourines to get a crowd pumped, it was this one. But I bet they were all uptown at the African-American Day Parade. I guess there's a lot to be said for loyalty, though...

  • There were other interesting brown faces in the crowd though...
I've no idea what the sign says. I liked that he was there, though.
I wonder where these folk were from.

  • Some other random interesting things:

Who brings a tiny baby to a march with 300,000 people? And the noise mufflers... I always found that the louder it got, the heavier baby sleeps once they're outside. It's like they get overwhelmed and their little systems just shut down. But the crowds... threat of stampede... people knocking into your stroller because they're too into themselves to see your bright yellow stroller. You have these problems on any given day in NYC. On a day like yesterday, multiply that by 3. But, to each his own...

This was on 42nd street. I think we interrupted her shopping spree...

  • Times Square. Normally crowded to the gills... and even though I've lived here 30-something years I've NEVER gone to Times Square to see the ball drop because of the crowds and I probably never will. But I hear it gets real crowded. And I wonder if Times Square was New-Years-Eve-crowded yesterday.
The requisite weirdo was there....

Who REALLY owns America....

My Poppy said to me a few weeks ago, "everyone has a different rhythm", and it's true. And culturally, we have different rhythms inherent to our culture as well. A North American First Nations drum rhythm is very different from a Mayan drumbeat than an African rhythm than an Asian rhythm... When I first started going to pow wows it was the drum beats that let me know I had found part of my ancestry. They felt like home. And African rhythms make me want to dance. So it amuses me  how foreign a pagan rhythm feels to me, but how it makes Euros dance...

Over 300,000 attended a peaceful march on Sunday in Manhattan to let the world know they are concerned about the earth. Perhaps someone will care. Perhaps the number represents money lost or votes won to some politician or 1%er, and perhaps they will fight for some sort of change. But I doubt it. By the time we get to know of some climate-affecting issue to protest, the ink has already dried on the deal.

The irony of the march starting at Columbus Circle, close to the monument of the man who started this whole rape-of-a-world wasn't lost on me. I had to go into the high-end shopping mall to use the restroom (the Starbucks across the street had a bathroom that conveniently needed repair and so was locked) and there were rich Euros and foreigners shopping, not at all interested in what was going on outside. On display in the main area was a bright red Tesla, a $78,000 car that no ordinary person can afford. All along the parade route, scaffolding on buildings indicates that new, luxurious high rise apartments are being made. We passed into Times Square where the lights are on 24 hours a day. We're a bunch of hypocrites. Will we give up our smart phones? Our computers? Elevators? Do we REALLY want to live out in the country and grow what we eat? Milk cows and churn butter and dig in the dirt? Are we willing? 

I don't think so. We won't do it till we have to, and then it might be too late...

but it was nice to be with 300,000 people who hope so. And hope is contagious.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Living and Dying All In The Same Breath

...we all are.

When I was younger and hung out in karaoke spots I used to sing Bonnie Raitt's "Love In The Nick of Time." The line
"I see my folks are getting on, and I watch their bodies change.
I know they see the same in me and it makes us both feel strange..."
           always made me tear up, but even then I knew the impact of those words would only become more forceful with time.

I am, to my own surprise, almost what they call "middle age" assuming I live to be at least 100 (I do plan on making it to 120 but you know there may be something else in store for me). For a while there was this unshakeable sadness at the time passing, sadness at how fast it seems to go the older you get. I despaired for a while that I would live the rest of my life at the sadness of what I had left behind, but I forced myself to realize that if I DO make it to 100, that's an awful waste of 50 years, feeling sad. And that for as long as their is breath in me I can learn new things or do something new or go someplace I've never been... and the sadness has abated a little bit, but its still there.

This is why I love photographs so much... they freeze a moment, a glance, a gesture, one sixtieth of a second of time. No other medium freezes time that way; a painting takes time to make and so your perception of the painting changes with every stroke, your interpretation of the time makes it's mark on the painting itself. Music can invoke a period of time, and sometimes take you back to that second itself but still you are enveloped in a sensation of time. But a photograph is, and forever, that moment in time.

Yesterday was probably my Sun's last concert with Opus. As someone pointed out I said this last year... but this year felt final. They told him to turn in his violin for repair, but the look in his eye said he'd never go back to get it. I know that look... it's one of mine. I had a tendency when I was his age to do the same thing... move on and never ever look back. "Never revisit the scene of the crime" I'd say, "because that's how you get caught."

He still plays violin, the Sun. He plays in high school and he enjoys the music he's learning so I'm not sad about that. It's not even that I'm sad, really. But I was overwhelmed by the all the new faces up on the stage, all the new babies, all the new, proud, parents, jostling for pictures of their babies' first concert, new pride beaming from their faces. Overwhelmed by all the faces I already knew from two or three years back, no longer standing in the front row, steadily advancing backwards through the rows to "Variations of Twinkle on the E String" and "Andantino" and "Can Can," through "Canon in D" to "Orange Blossom Special." I remember how my little ones strove to learn "Orange Blossom Special," attempting to teach themselves and each other the fast fiddling required to play, egging each other on. And now, it's nothing; child's play. One of them has moved on to viola playing things like "Suite No. 2 for Solo Violoncello," his body swaying, transported by the music. Others, like my Sun the Reluctant Violinist, able to sight read and transpose keys or play a medley from "West Side Story."

Watching the music yesterday evening made me feel time and how much time changes things.

On the West Coast, a virtual friend fights cancer, on the East Coast loved ones fight tumors or face heart surgeries. I'm only 49 but already I've lost friends to cancer, or stroke, or heart failure. Other friends are planning weddings for their children, welcoming grandchildren. Some of the elders are passing through the veil; Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee, my "cousin Betty," my grandparents, leaving me to Become Elder, living and dying all in the same breath.

Life is good; I can't complain at all. As always, I wish I had more money, more time; my short term memory is overcome by the day to day things I must remember, my long term memory bringing my experiences into a focus that's ever sharpening... I remember my own teenage years crystal clearly as I watch my child navigate his; him swearing I don't know what it's like anymore and me knowing exactly what it's like and what the consequences can be...  But I can't tell him. I am relegated to watching, guiding...

as I live and die, all in the same breath.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

"Make It Sound Like Sawdust..."

(Good god, SEPTEMBER is when last I wrote. Far, far, FAR too much time on Facebook. In fact, I almost posted this there but I decided I am going to try to put my more lengthier "posts" here again, rather than on FB. I MUST write again. On the other hand... if you didn't know we DID start a family blog "Kelley's Magazine"... go check it out. Please. Anyhow... onward...)

 Earlier today, the very talented musician I follow on Facebook (one Mr. Pilgrim of The Soulfolk Experience*) posted a video of The Beatles' "Fixing A Hole" off the Sgt. Pepper Album. I re-posted the song noting that it was my theme song. And it really is. If you ever cared to wonder how my mind works, it very much wanders where it will go. In my old apartment on the Rock (that I do miss occasionally) I had painted my bedroom in the colors of a caribbean sea and while doing so was  happily singing that song to myself. If there's anything wrong with the apartment I live in now--aside from the fact that it's just small--it is that we hadn't ever decided whether we were staying temporarily long-term or just temporarily. Consequently I never got to paint this place pretty colors. We've decided we're probably moving come spring (we'd like to stay in Harlem of course) and best believe... the next place will be painted "in a colourful way/And when my mind is wandering/There I will go..." I hope my BigMan will agree to red.

So Mr. Pilgrim posted the Beatles song earlier today. The thing about that album, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, is that for me it is one of those audio cues that will instantly send me into reverie. As a six- or seven-year-old I spent hours with that album cover in my hands, reading the lyrics, going over the faces on the cover annoyed I only knew but a few of them, the words that John and Paul, George and Ringo sang painting pictures in my head of a man standing on a boat in a river watching newspaper taxis appear while yellow and green cellophane dripped into tangerine trees... what would a girl with kaleidoscope eyes look like and was she the same girl whose mommy came downstairs and found the note that said her baby was gone, gone to meet a man from the motor trade... the girl darting into a cobblestone alley with a big wooden door, behind which was a burly man with a moustache who swept her off her feet... of Rita the metermaid in her parlor papered with torn, floral wallpaper, her suitor uncomfortably seated between family members on a well-worn couch, the two seen later white-haired and still kissing, their grandchildren, Vera, Chuck and Dave at their knee...

Each song on that album gives me a mini-movie to watch in my head, a memory, a smell... I have listened to that album over and over and over throughout my life, and at every listen it gives me new memories, a new time marker in my own life to refer to, or something new to hear or think about.

The poster that inspired John Lennon
When I was in my twenties, I'd inherited some money from my father's half-sister, my Aunt Sinah and since I figured I should do something useful with it other than treat my friends to dancing to hiphop at the Roxy and drinking every Friday night I enrolled in one of those six-month trade schools that were supposed to teach you audio-engineering. I did learn engineering actually, but it was the early Eighties and hiphop studios weren't yet mainstream, so most of the audio engineering jobs (and prerequesite internships) were held by--and only by--long haired white boys. In other words, audio engineering did not become a career but the experience wasn't a complete waste of time... I learned about the soundmaking experiments The Beatles carried out while recording the Sgt. Pepper album. One of the greatest pieces of musical art ever recorded, in my opinion, is the song "Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite!"

As a kid in Jamaica my father once took me to a real circus, in a real tent. I remember it being dusty and smelly, and it was only one ring. "Mr Kite" brings me back to that day every time.

The story goes that John Lennon bought a vintage circus poster and was inspired to take the verbiage off the poster and string it together, pretty much word for word, into a song. And then...
John wanted to hear the sawdust in the ring. That was the brief he gave me, and it gave me a nice problem. 'What you really want,' I told him, 'is a calliope!' He said, 'A what?' I told him, 'A steam organ, you know, one of those tooty things,' and I thought that it might be possible to get hold of a steam organ and actually use that. But, that was a bit of a wild idea and too cumbersome and it would have taken much too long for it to be done. So, with not being able to get a steam organ in the studio, I got as many different recordings of steam organs I could find and we transferred them to tape and I told the engineer, Geoff Emerick, to chop them all up into one-foot lengths and throw them all up in the air and pick them up and put them all back together again. But, it wasn't quite as effective as I thought, because some of the bits came together too well! They had joined up in the way that they had started. So, I told Geoff, 'That's no good, and turn that one back to front.' Eventually, we made a background tape that was just chaos. It was just nothing at all, but, undeniably, it was the sound of a steam organ. It was just a whirly-gig sound. When Henry the Horse takes over, I got John to play the tune on one organ, while I played swirling runs on another Hammond organ, played at half speed. The Beatles' road managers Mal Evans and Neil Aspinal played mouth organs and I played a variety of electronic effects.
- George Martin, 1998

For those of you who may happen to read this and have only come into music in the digital age, Mr. Martin meant to literally cut up the one-inch wide reel-to-reel tape, throw the pieces in the air, and then tape them back together again, sometimes turning the tape upside down and backwards. It was called "splicing" and it's another useless talent of mine... I got very good at it. I held on to my splicing block for years.

...Paul would sit down and ask what I planned to do with his songs, every note virtually ... Lots of arrangements to his songs were very much his ideas which I would have to implement. But John would always be much more vague. He would talk in metaphors and I'd have to go inside his brain and find out what he wanted. For this song, he asked for 'authentic fairground sound, so I can smell the sawdust.' 
-George Martin

Stereo was just coming into existence and The Beatles made great use of it on that album, "panning" audio from one side to the other or "placing" instruments to the left or right, so that if you listen to the album in headphones their voices appear at different "places." For instance, in the song "Good Morning" you can hear the hounds and the horses gallop from left to right over your head. I still get excited about that. Every time.

On the last song off the album, "A Day In The Life" there is an explanation about the last 24 bars that's pretty funny, and can be found here. (Also poke around that site for other stories about the album's production.) What's not mentioned, oddly, is something I learned in engineering school about the last note of the song. It goes on so long because as the note faded, they kept turning up the mic on that track. Therefore you can hear the note for much longer than you would be able to with "naked" ears.

I hate that I'm becoming one of those old fogies who bemoans "music today." The thing is, I DO like a lot of current music... I think Pharrell is a genius, and as much as people argued over who "owned" the sound and the construction of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" it's an interesting technical reconstruction. My Sun makes me listen to people like Ace Hood or A$AP Ferg/Ant/Rocky, and I like them well enough and for all his crazy, I love Kanye. I also like Bruno Mars. But there has gotten to be such a separation between good, experimental music and what's played in mass media  that you NEVER hear the experimental stuff without digging for it. In 1968 The Beatles were "new" and sometimes mocked by the old folk, but you actually got to hear them on radio or TV. These days, you have to be "in the know" in order to find something good and consequently, most people only hear the mass-produced pop stuff. And that all sounds the same to me. I miss collaborations, sound explorations, odd pairings like George Harrison seeking out Jewish Klezmer fiddlers to play along with Indian Sitars on "Within You and Without You." How cool was that??

One would think, with all the musical technology that exists these days people would play around more, but technique does not seem to be something I hear a lot of. We have stereo and yet every one's voices sit right at the top of your head in headphones. You don't often hear bass on side and drums in the middle, guitars on the other side like you would if you were in a real room...
Anyway. Put some headphones on and listen to this:

*Oh, and P.S. If you're in the New York area, go catch The SoulFolk Experience in Brooklyn at BAM on February 15th, 9PM. Get there early or you'll have to stand, though it's totally worth it.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Throwback Thursday #1

The best part about writing a blog, like a diary, is that you can look back over stuff you've written.

See if you've grown any.

See if you have changed your mind about anything.

See if you still feel the same way about anything.

See who is still in your life/not in your life.

Facebook is great for instant gratification. "Likes" and lively discussions. It is NOT good for retrospection. Well, except for photos. Facebook holds on to photos very easily (it IS "face" book, after all) which isn't that great if you can easily spot the *cough 30 pounds or so you've put on over the last five years. But conversations go by in realtime, in much the way they do in real life. It's very transient. In some respects that's great. I do like the conversational aspect. But FB is not great for introspection. For learning about yourself.

I started this blog in anonymity. I liked that; that I could write freely about friends/family/jobs, what I was feeling, what I was dealing with. I made some blogfriends. I enjoyed it. Then I got seduced by FB. And eventually I revealed my blogself to FB because I did enjoy having people know more about me. I am, as I've said repeatedly, mildly narcissistic. However, that sort of poses a new problem, since I can't really freely write about how people affect me. I'm not into hurting people's feelings. I'll have to be even more fair and unbiased in my reporting.

But I have really missed writing.  Like I miss singing. I've let singing go, pretty much, except for in my house... but my house is too full most days for loud at-will singing, and then I fell out of the habit and my voice, like my body, is a little flabby and wobbly. But I can start making time for writing again. And then maybe I'll find the time for singing. And exercising.

Anyway... to try to jumpstart things, I'm still playing with the new look of this blog. I realize I'm a little different than I was when I started this thing. In good ways. But I needed to see a different thing when I come to this blog to visit myself. I've still some tinkering to do. In the meantime, I read over some of highlighted posts, to reacquaint myself with myself. And I came across this post in particular, this New Year's Confession in 2008. And HA! waddya know. Every goal I set for myself that year, got set in motion that year. And I didn't even know it at the time.

So... here we go. This year I resolve to love someone wholeheartedly who loves me wholeheartedly in return, and figure out how to obtain those red patent leather pumps and still keep my soul and my sanity.
I loved wholeheartedly that year, and in the process damn near lost my sanity. But out of that torment came the single greatest thing ever, and that was BigMan... even though he didn't come along until the following year. But without that Scrubthing, I never would have defined what I needed and wouldn't have recognized it when it stalked me on a darkened dance floor.

And... four years later I got those red pumps. Haven't worn them yet!! But I got 'em! Also, as of this moment I only have $30 in cash and -$30 in my bank account. But I'm in full command of my soul. And my artwork is really pretty good. AND I occasionally make real money with it, too.

Moral of the story: identify your needs. Then make them happen.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Marion Brown in 1967

Marion's son Djinji posted this today on FB... and I thought that instead of sharing on FB for likes I'd come back "home" and post it here. So here it is:

I remember Marion Brown in 1968 when he came to Paris. I was three. I remember his hands, I remember his voice and thinking that it didn't fit what I thought his voice should be like. He was brown and skinny like Poppy and somehow I thought he should sound like him. I remember Marion Brown's music. I remember that he and my Mima had a love and so he was at my house a lot. I had a huge crush on him because he was always very quiet around me. His music was not. 

This is the music of my very early childhood. It brings to mind the smell of my mother's paint, the sound of my father's typewriter, my new baby sister who was born that spring of '68 during the Paris Student Riots, the constant grey of Paris skies that pressed against the warm yellow of our little apartment on Rue Regis that my mom had filled with her paintings and African fabrics.

I remember people like John Keyes and Prince Kisa from the Congo and still others whose names I've forgotten but faces I vaguely remember, writers, thinkers, musicians, hustlers, artists. I remember Marion's musical partner Gunter Hampel who scared me because he was tall and his energy was weird, and I'd hide under the table when ever he came around.

I didn't know what racism meant, I didn't know yet that people could be mean. I knew that I was loved.

I was three, but I still remember all of that as if it were the day before yesterday.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Little Lite Housekeeping preparation for some more random musings, hopefully. I've been encouraged/prompted to pick up where I left off. I figured a clean page may inspire me to come visit myself more often.

But... now that I've done that, it's time for bed. In the meantime, an advertisement:

It should be an interesting collective. Some very talented folks. And some different pictures from me; not what I usually put up.

Till later...