To Zion

A few times lately, in conversation, I’ve mentioned that in my opinion Lauryn Hill is one of the greatest artists of our time.  The story of her life is complex and sad in many ways — reflecting so much personal torment, as well as the dehumanizing commodification that saturates popular commercial arts — but one thing is clear: rare is the musician who combines such virtuosic technical ability with such profound emotional expression.  For me, she’s right up there with Miles Davis, with Stevie Wonder, with the best of them.

Here’s one of my favorites.  Enjoy, and enjoy the weekend — see y’all on Monday!

Bee Stings And Gratitude

Best Google Images find ever.

Today at the beach, I got stung on the right foot by a bee.

I won’t lie: the shit hurt.

It was also marvelous.

I used to get this feeling as a kid, enthroned in a big blue plastic armchair in a small white plastic office guarded by tepid watercolor cows wearing dainty yellow ribbons around their throats. Blood test time. (I had half a lifetime’s worth of bloodwork done before the age of 10.)  Despite the creepy environs and foreboding application of the tourniquet, when the moment arrived for the big jab I would watch in fascination as they stuck in the needle and sucked out the sample, thick and luxurious, like red chocolate milk.  It was something close to magic.

It’s amazing how often we allow the sensation of pain to dominate our interpretation of rich, multi-faceted experiences.  But if we can make a little room around our discomfort, we start to notice all the wondrous or lucky aspects of uneasy incidents.

Here’s a short list from this afternoon’s hymenopteran encounter.

1. The bugger stung me and not my friend beside me, who is severely allergic and would have had to rush to the emergency room.

2. Watching your own foot turn purple is totally engrossing.

3. Opportunity to test that theory about scraping the stinger out with a credit card. (More or less successful)

4. Watching your own foot swell is totally engrossing.

5. Ideal placement of the sting on the foot (i.e. not on the sole, and free from flip-flop irritation).

6. Watching the swelling subside is totally engrossing.

7. Great conversation starter: gender and pain tolerance; the species evolution of defense mechanisms and “protective reputations;” and that time at circus camp when a counselor got stung in the mouth by yellowjackets — twice in two weeks.

8. Did I mention that observing a bee sting can be totally engrossing?

9. Impetus to learn about bee sting therapy: “A folk remedy for treating arthritis, back pain and rheumatism for 3,000 years in China.”

10. At least one of us is still living. RIP, little guy.

Happy adventures, y’all — here’s to the magic of misfortunes.

If you could keep your heart in wonder

At the daily miracles of your life,

Your pain would seem no less wondrous than your joy…

–Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

Friends, Meet “Advance The Struggle”

Advance The Struggle: Bay Area Radical Perspectives

Last night was a night of dealing with domestic abuse.  (A friend of a friend.)  So today I’m tired and needing some solitude, reading, and yoga.  But I wanted to share real quick this inspiring website, Advance The Struggle, which my friend Ryan, from San Francisco, was kind enough to introduce to me here.

Click here for pamphlet
Click here for pamphlet

The blog focuses on marxist politics — analysis and praxis — in a thoughtful, energetic, well-balanced way.  And this pamphlet they produced (worth viewing as a PDF, if you can, for all the stunning artwork), is a great place to start: an insightful commentary on the radical organizing vacuum following the police murder of Oscar Grant back in January.  Follow it up with the response article by Bring The Ruckus, super useful, in my opinion, for adding the concept of “strategic and lasting” institutions, or “dual power.”  Selma James’ 1975 essay, “Sex, Race and Class,” reprinted in full, is another good read.  And of course, don’t forget to check out the comments on the posts — there’s fruitful discussion in there, too.

I’ll share my own thoughts and responses tomorrow, or when I’m feeling up to it.  Maybe link it to Glenn Greenwald’s must-read rundown of the CIA’s 2004 Inspector General Report, recently released, on the U.S. torture of suspected terrorists. Meantime, if you’re feeling what they’re saying on A/S, click and comment allá!

Take care, y’all.



Gettin’ Her Due

From NY Daily News
From NY Daily News

Love this story. Hip-hop pioneer Roxanne Shante, the breakthrough female artist behind the hit song “Roxanne’s Revenge,” has succeeded in forcing an unwilling Warner Brothers Music company to honor its contractual agreement to fund her continuing education. Having earned a PhD in psychology from Cornell, Dr. Shante now practices therapy in urban Black communities.

From NY Daily News:

[Warner Brothers] finally agreed to honor the contract when Shante threatened to go public with the story.

Shante earned her doctorate in 2001, and launched an unconventional therapy practice focusing on urban African-Americans – a group traditionally reluctant to seek mental health help.

“People put such a taboo on therapy, they feel it means they’re going crazy,” she explained. “No, it doesn’t. It just means you need someone else to talk to.”

Shante often incorporates hip-hop music into her sessions, encouraging her clients to unleash their inner MC and shout out exactly what’s on their mind.

“They can’t really let loose and enjoy life,” she said. “So I just let them unlock those doors.”

Shante, 38, is also active in the community. She offers $5,000 college scholarships each semester to female rappers through the nonprofit Hip Hop Association.

She also dispenses advice to young women in the music business via a MySpace page.

“I call it a warning service, so their dreams don’t turn into nightmares,” she said.

Fabulous.  Now if we can just secure access to higher ed for folks without Warner Bros. contracts…

And here’s the 1984 single — a response to UTFO’s “Roxanne Roxanne” — that changed the game.

Awake? Grab A Computer.

Hey y’all, hope you enjoyed the penultimate weekend of August.  Me, I can’t believe September is almost here.  In less than 10 days, I’ll be back in the States!  Mercy.

Anyhow, to start off the week, an article about how Americans start off our days: increasingly, in front of computer screens.


July marked the first time in almost six months that I’d lived in places with 24-hour, 7-days-a-week internet access.  And it’s been both interesting and unnerving to watch my own habits morph back into cyber-centrism.  Used to be, my first morning destination was the meditation pillow — followed by breakfast, then reading a book or writing a letter.  Later in the day, I’d go somewhere outside the home to get online.  Now, my morning Vipassana practice has slipped.  The pull of the laptop is incredibly strong, and by the time I finish catching up on correspondence, reading, lurking, and mindless browsing, I’m all anxious to go do something — not sit still on the floor for an hour.

How about you?  Is checking email your first major morning activity?  Do you want it to be?  If you could design your ideal start-the-day ritual, what would it look like?  (Or if you’re already living your ideal, what does it look like?)

Personally, I think that my internet habits have a lot to do with my daily schedule — what time I go to bed, and what time I get up.  When I sleep and wake early (like 9 or 10pm to 5 or 6am), I’m less likely to spend nighttime hours wandering Facebook, and the quietude of the deep morning facilitates deliberateness.  Time before sunrise feels sacred, like every action carries the weight of real ritual.

This week I think I’ll experiment by returning to an early-to-bed, early-to-rise orientation, and seeing if it affects the browsing addictions.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Spanish Guitar

As seen here.

The clip below isn’t my favorite of the pieces he played (“he” being world-renowned arranger, composer, performer, and producer specializing in flamenco, Pedro Javier González), but it gives you a sense: the man’s got fingers that could double-knot the shoelaces on a grasshopper. His quiet confidence and steady, un-showy calm, understated yet not at all mechanical, gave both sincerity and depth to the twelve songs in the set — which lasted over an hour but seemed to finish almost as soon as it began.

It was the kind of concert that feels more like one half of a first date. Through the music, he introduces himself, shares his interests, shows his sense of humor, tells a little about his past, allows pauses for reflection, and keeps returning to the warm question, shaped by empty space: So, how about you?

Enjoy, friends, and have a glorious weekend. See you next week!

Fast Making History

Quickly, since it’s been on my mind, I just want to give a nod to two very different but equally historic and fascinating stories in world-class running.

First, of course, there’s Bolt — and his two record-breaking times, including the 9.58 seconds that blew history’s last best 100-meter run completely out of the water. Unbelievable.


But this week in running, there’s “unbelievable,” and then there’s “unbelievable.”

Hence the story of another winner, 18-year-old Caster Semenya.  An unknown who exploded to World Championship victory in the women’s 800-meter race, Semenya’s legitimacy as a competitor is now under investigation.

What sort of investigation?

“Gender testing.”

Continue reading

Friends, Meet My Folks

Hey y’all!  Hope your week’s going beautifully.  Sorry for my absence lately, but I’ve been busy with some very special visitors to Barcelona…my Mama and Pops!

Ain’t they sweet?

We’ve really been on the go — today, for instance, we’re taking the train to visit the Vipassana center; checking out an exhibit at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (“The Jazz Century,” it’s called — and it looks fabulous); rest; dinner; wandering El Born; and then a bit of classical Spanish guitar. With a pace like that, I may not have time to post much of anything these next few days, but I’ll make it up to you some way. ;) Meanwhile, enjoy the week, wherever in the world you are.

Mis padres y Don Eugenio en Park Güell
Mis padres y Don Eugenio en Park Güell