It is music that pushes the edge…

8XT88

Now Music. Movies are great and books essential but for social change, it is music that pushes the edge. The cultural explosion known as the 60’s was led and trumpeted by a creative musical detonation that both mirrored and contributed social change. What’s remembered from that era is the drugs (and there is plenty of interesting information about who/where those drugs actually came from) and other negative aspects, but there was a moment when things felt quite hopeful. A fact of Woodstock was that despite few amenities and not enough food, not one fistfight broke out, people. Hundreds of thousands of people actually came together and cooperated. What a concept. I’m a big fan of human attributes like discipline, hard work, initiative and self-reliance. You know, the ones Limbaughites seem to think they somehow invented, but now is the time for less competition and more cooperation. True cooperation and collaboration are the virtues we seek.

gil-scott-heron-1Gil Scott Heron is the artist for today. Gil came out of the 60’s and shined like a beacon through the 70’s but was ultimately side-lined by the disease of addiction and passed in 2011. As a promoter I was able to bring him to Ann Arbor, MI in the early 80’s and despite setbacks, his power was evident and his humor had me rolling in the aisle. Poetic, soulful, musical, very funny, with a great band, his artistry led him to be dubbed the Godfather of Rap. He and a few others (James Brown, The Last Poets) were the true progenitors of Hip-Hop, as younger artists will tell you today. His song/poetry, sometimes spoken, sometime sung, filled with social observation and heart, became the conscience of a generation. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is a classic but I am showcasing The Bottle here, a song that focuses on addiction, which he ultimately succumbed to.

The New Yorker did one of their inimitable articles on Gil a year or so before his death and the New York Times obituary is worth reading.

From his day to now, the music industry has deeply changed, and in the shifts, the fact that there are many newer artists of great creativity, may be unknown to people. One area this applies to is the aforementioned worlds of Rap/Hip-Hop. Some current artists include:

A shift that has occurred is the vast concentration of music and all media into smaller and smaller hands, with 6 global conglomerates controlling virtually 95% of all US media. And they are still merging with predictions that it will end up as three.

Aside from our own concerns with these corporate mergers, it’s important to note that media is one of the few export and growth industries that America still retains. Its global influence is epic and the potential for damage or healing is equally epic. A sobering thought when you look at the rap/hip-hop world. We older-mostly white- folks love to bemoan the current state of popular music with rap’s cursing, drugs and ho’s talk. Gil said it this way.

Yet, I have been shown many soulful, poetic, creative, socially aware, hip-hop poets you never see promoted by any of these 6 corporations. They, some the largest corporations in America, are the ones selling us all this violence-prone, worship of money, glamorization of drugs, women-are- ho’s imagery. Shouldn’t these vast corporations be the ones to take to task for all this, instead of A) picking on the artists who are just trying to survive and B) allowing it to drive a wedge between the races?

Btw, I got to say, speaking of great local bookstores, as we did last time, I dropped in Circle Books in Pittsboro and they are a great used/new book and music store with plenty of other cool stuff, including collectors’ items. When it’s Christmas shopping time, or anytime, I highly recommend them.

Of Football and Abuse

football-helmet-psd42322It is a horror to witness women and children abused. The stories of abusive football players on TV; to see the stronger preying on those smaller is painful. The film we have seen of the player punching his wife is ugly. The children are the most vulnerable, being dependent on their abusers and the damage to the kids is frequently never repaired or healed. It affects their life for decades to come. In my work, I regularly saw enough of this to realize I needed to alter my spirituality if I was going to not be damaged by it myself. Which leads me to the current spate of NFL events and the topic of football and abuse.

The first writings of this blog are an attempt to develop a foundation of ideas, to build the base of understanding upon which to build solutions. Once we have a snapshot of our basic concepts then we can build solutions upon such a groundwork. For example, an operating principal I love comes from recovery. Which is; the recognition and acceptance of anything, any problem is half-way to the solution. And; the holographic nature of the universe means that the solution is within the problem. What, you ask, am I talking about?

I suffered from addiction and was, to utilize the parlance of the time, in denial. I was not aware I had a substance use disorder, and then one day I was. And was immediately happy. Knowing feels better. Even if it’s “bad” news, I appreciate the clarity. We are talking about ending denial through the willingness to get an accurate assessment of the problem. Which is fundamentally different from being “negative”. And that is a fundamental belief of mine: what we need desperately in America is to end denial. Have you ever had a dental problem and, for whatever reason, not gone to the dentist as it nagged at you over time and then you finally go. A) It’s usually not as bad as we in our ignorance think it is and B) Even if it is, it still feels better to know. It’s weight off our shoulders. Hence how acceptance is half-way home. With acceptance we grow in knowledge and know what to do, what actions to take. With denial we suffer in ignorance and reap the consequences.

As to the solution being contained within the problem, recovery showed me that I suffered from addiction, and that an answer was to work in service with others who suffered from the disorder! What a concept. The solution is within the problem, who knew?!

NorthDallasFortybkcvrTo review what I see in all these NFL/abuse stories I need to go to a book from 1973, North Dallas Forty, You may know the movie, this another example of the book being better. Peter Gent wrote a great story, a semi-autobiographical account of a season for an NFL type team. He had played for Dallas in the early ‘60’s. And what he revealed was how much fear and pain is operant in the whole structure. The nature of the system means football players are filled with fear, drugs (including narcotics, amphetamines and steroids) and stress. Bear with me now, this is not to excuse abusive behavior. It’s just odd to think of large, healthy, strong warrior-athlete types being afraid. Which is why I appreciate Gent’s tale because it takes you into the mind of a sub-culture that has grown so strong in America. And it’s an ugly picture.

The reality is; it is an extremely violent game, it tends to leave players crippled in some form later in life and players have always been, and still are, expendable pieces of equipment to be replaced as soon as their utility is gone. They leave pieces of themselves across the fields of America for our entertainment and when injury or age or you-name-it has worn them out a younger version will be brought in and the player will be thrown on the trash heap. And we wonder why they are uptight? Lest you think that is hyperbole, I recommend the ESPN documentary series 30 for 30. Start with Broke. What it walks you through is quite painful. 60 percent of former NBA players are broke within five years of retirement. By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress. 78%. And that does not begin to cover the physical damage and disease they cope with.

So, as always the fact that the stress is taken out on those closest is a simple fact of a broken system. And our “surprise” at these news stories means we are in denial of the big picture. Which is why I laid down the beginnings of a foundation around the patriarchal/matrilineal discourse. The fact is that war and violence are by-products of the patriarchy. Always. And there are many other symptoms that create dis-ease. Couple that with profits as the dominant priority and we all become commodities to be thrown upon the trash heap. What happens to one, happens to all. All includes working and middle class white males. We are as chewed up by the patriarchy (even if we do have some benefits) as others. It’s a meat-grinder for most of us out there.

It is in our best interest to look at these fuller pictures because that is how broken everything is. We are only talking about bringing some balance back. We do not need to return to some kind of tribal grass-hut existence to not be at war with the Earth, each other and ourselves. But we do have to want that, to want an end to war with life itself.

At that point a game like football begins to look like what the actor Robert Downey (a man very publically in long-term recovery) spoke in the sophomoric yet fun movie Back to School. “Violent ground acquisition games such as football are in fact a crypto-fascist metaphor for nuclear war.”

I have to add, in my work with those who suffer I grew to see that the genealogical/generational aspect of addiction goes back for many generations. The gene can “skip” a generation, but study shows that even without the active addiction, abuse (of all kinds) is there, repeating the disease and keeping the cycle going. Addiction and abuse are woven together like a blanket of guilt, shame and pain. Which moves us back to the beauty of recovery because of the profound significance of breaking that cycle. To break a cycle of abuse/addiction that usually lives unbroken for 1000 years. Imagine that!

I also must add the whole “I was whopped with switches and it’s good for my kid, because I came out ok” is absurd. You didn’t “come out” ok, you have a psychological need to beat a 4 year old. That’s not ok! Whoopings only “work” through the instillation of fear which begins and generates the whole spiral of abuse on-and-on. To quote Frank Herbert, “Fear is the mind-killer”. It’s a separate, huge (future) topic, but kids are not “bad” and they do not need to be hit to “come out” ok. Kids do need boundaries and discipline modeled for them in life, by the adults around them, but they do not need to be struck or hurt ether physically or mentally/emotionally in any way ever. In fact the opposite.

Siddhartha

I am a film buff, but books are the thing. Books are a saving grace of humanity and we need them bad. They’re great to hold, a library is a comforting place, a room is always made better by books (cookbooks in the kitchen) and no e experience can take that away. Take most every great movie and the book is better. Except maybe The Godfather 1 & IIJ. So if this corner is going to be well-rounded I have to get past film and go to books. Man o man where do I begin?

4121749_origMy reading impulses always leans toward non-fiction. My wife kindly nudges me toward the lovelier graces of the bounteous fiction that the world offers, but eventually I slide back to the world of history. History and how we tell history, the history of history. Who really runs the world? Which is not the smartest approach because it has been abundantly shown that much more truth can be told within the freedom of the fictional form then ever told straight-out. For example Taylor Caldwell. Sigh.

So I asked myself what book should we start with? And Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse, popped into my head. The first/quick answer is always the closest to the truth, before the brain can filter. This spiritual classic is what we shall trumpet today.

If you haven’t read it there’s a free version here. But please, go over to your favorite used bookstore and get a copy, it shouldn’t be more than a few bucks. Say Hi for me. If you don’t have a favorite used bookstore, and are in Chapel Hill, The Bookshop is a great place. The tectonic plate shifts of the media and tech world have decimated the ranks of bookstores from days of yore but some hardy souls have survived and even grown and The Bookshop is one.

One of the distilled truths of studying culture is: Patriarchal vs Matrilineal. Patriarchal or Apollonian is represented by a reliance on rational, left brain, logical, practical, competitive, physical thought and action. Matrilineal or Dionysian is represented by Cosmic, right brain, abstract, intuitional, cooperative, spiritual thought and action. Patriarchy favors masculine, authority, work and control. Matrilineal favors feminine, pure democracy, nurturance, play and surrender. There is a pendulum which swings from the far side of patriarchal-say The Roman or Western/American Empire and the far side of matrilineal-say a Kalahari bushman tribe in the sub-Sahara. This can be outlined in many ways and one is West vs East. This outlines the fundamental nature of life, the duality (if dark) or polarity (if light) of life on the material plane.

We saw the pendulum begin to swing back with the 60’s. Eastern non-patriarchal concepts began to be introduced into the culture from various streams even down to the Beatles, who visited the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India and wrote songs about it. The pop ditty Hello/Goodbye is a creative essay on this polarity of life: male/female, east/west, yin/yang, expansion/contraction, hot/cold, salt/pepper- that so permeates but is a foreign concept in a patriarchal culture. The songs swings through many such polarities but ends with the lovely chorus of Aloha, repeatedly. Aloha is one of the few-maybe only- word, on Earth, which means both Hello & Goodbye, signifying from Native Hawaiian culture the understanding that one and both are the same. I must add, though eastern matrilineal concepts began to flow west in the 60’s, Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob and AA were responsible for introducing the spiritual concept of surrender to America in a not-religious form in the late 30’s. Bless their hearts. Acceptance and surrender are a key to successful living.

Whew! All that is an academic didactic that Siddhartha illuminates in a better more lovely way. This is part and parcel of the story and touches the heart. Happy reading!

Don’t forget, Durham has a Recovery Rally! September 25th!

DurhamRally1

Capital Area Rally for Recovery

Flight and Denzel Washington

11169193_800In my formative years, Paul Newman and Robert Redford were “STARS”. Cool, funny, commercially successful but able to create projects with meaning while involved in service that makes a measurable difference in this world. They were the model of *STAR* at that time.

I want to recommend an addiction-recovery movie of real power, Flight, with Denzel Washington. First, motivated by the Ferguson, Missouri eruptions, and a lifetime of witnessing such shootings I would like to digress into the topic of racism and ways we are socially manipulated. For me, the awareness was triggered by Michael Jackson’s fairly odd action, back in the day, when he legally demanded MTV begin to brand him The King of Pop. He eventually commented, in a European interview, that if he was white he would be as big as Frank Sinatra but with his race will never be “allowed” to rise that high in the firmament. And that felt deeply unfair to him and that is why he began to approach his own promotion in such a way.

Odd as it might sound, I knew he was right. My experience in the music biz, in the press world and my studies of culture and public relations/media control all added up to my understanding that he had a legitimate gripe. My Father was in advertising his whole life, working his way up to vice-president of a global ad company, and was a major part of my instruction in this. Space and time limitations do not allow for a full dissection of this idea. A disturbing implication, is that we humans out here are so thoroughly affected by think tank/Media/Govt. manipulation that our thinking can be controlled enough that how we perceive someone is not solely up to us. That’s galling to think of, but hey, put that way, is patently evident. We are not in control (totally) of what/how we think in America! Hhhmmm…

So, you say, what the heck does that have to do with Denzel? If you add up his career, which is huge, he should be our current top STAR. You have: cool, funny, commercially successful but able to create projects with meaning while involved in much service to make a difference. He is our Paul Newman today, but I would say is not ultimately seen that way. He has made epic movies, including as a director (Antwone Fisher, The Great Debaters, Remember the Titans, Malcolm X), with great social significance. He has starred in very successful movies of both a commercial and critical nature. He is a *STAR* in the fullest sense of the world, and yet……

This is not to lament for him, as if stardom is important. He’s probably quite wealthy, happy, etc. and yet…..he is a “victim”, if you will, of the same racism. That’s important to keep in mind, for we need to liberate our thinking if we are to find the light. And that includes our societal thinking of addiction & recovery, which leads us back to our movie review for this week. Flight starts out a little rough with some drug usage, etc. and turned me off a bit. A related topic, is the irresponsible, effective glamorization of drug usage by Hollywood. But that is also for another day.

In Flight your patience will be rewarded. It is a powerful walk through the life of an addict and recovery in all its painful beauty. A masterful job created by a skilled artist at his finest. For those who enjoy a fuller movie experience, and care about the rampant addiction issues plaguing our great land, Flight is a blast of truthful wind.

Page One: Inside the New York Times

This week’s Finer Things in Life pick is a documentary, Page One: Inside the New York Times.

photo_05I began my first real job at 16, as a gofer for one of the TV news shows in my hometown of Detroit (at that time the industrial center of the world). A gofer goes-for this and goes-for that, mainly meet the film crews and schlep the film back for processing. Hustle food and coffee for everyone, occasionally do sound on a story for the guy who called in sick. What an education, literally walking the halls of power, with an inside view. Lee Iacocca/Walter Reuther/UAW press conferences, crime scenes, movie premiers! Heady stuff. It began my love affair with all things journalistic especially investigative. Later, I worked in the music business in Michigan, and was at times a Press Agent which afforded me a different view. Recently, I renewed regular contact with the Fourth Estate, drumming up press for RCNC and the September Recovery Rally. This has really driven home, to me, all the changes, mostly due to economics, that our press has been through and the shifting sands of what we call the Media today.

This documentary, revolving around a respected NY Times journalist, David Carr (and man in long-term recovery) does a great job of painting a picture of all that I have seen in the last 44 years. What it was, what it is, what it may shall be.

It’s been said that the conscience of an informed group is God’s Will on Earth. A key word in this concept is informed. We need our journalists.

BTW, it’s on Netflix Instant (as is The Anonymous People) which is one of the 10 best inventions of the last twenty years. Let me know what you think is the best invention of the last twenty years. The best of the best idea will win lunch!