Saturday, March 27, 2010

First Save the World, Then Watch Cartoons

Just started playing with a new cartoon-creation tool this weekend, from Xtranormal. I can make cartoons ranging from the political:

.. to the absurd...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Choosing Focal Points

I suppose there were reasons for following the health-care deliberations on C-SPAN March 21, were it not for the far more interesting results in March Madness, which kept Michigan State Spartans in the crawling distance, at least for the time being. At least the turmoil surrounding the final health debate let us see tea-party activists wearing their true colors, shouting "nigger" and "faggot" at members of Congress, and prompting RNC Chairman Michael Steele to admit that a sector of the tea party crew wore stupidity as a favored outfit.

But that's about as far as my excitement extends. How can I spend time worrying about a bill that has removed public options, ignores a woman's right to accept or turn down an abortion, and does little to really crack down on insurance companies - while driving up deficits? In short, I can't. I understand Dennis Kucinich's decision to say that the health bill may not be real change, but it starts a ball rolling. My problem is, I don't play incrementalism. I like the long bomb in football, the mid-court basket attempt, the radical risk against all possible odds. This health care stuff is tedious, and my eyes glaze over. Pixelslip is fuzzing me out.

But I had plenty of things to be perfectly focused about this week. New efforts in June and July at national conferences to prepare critiques of the Nuclear Posture Review and Quadrennial Defense Review. Further meetings on Colorado Springs' homeless encampment issues. And yet more invigorating time with the mighty mighty Flobots. Folks following this blog know how much I reiterate my respect for this Denver band for walking the walk of many, living up to commitments for social change, and making great music in the process. This past week, they gave an in-store concert of new music at Denver's Twist & Shout:

And then Flobots' viola player, Mackenzie Roberts, played the national anthem for a Nuggets game:

So forgive me for thinking these are the things that matter, and that health care as provided to us in a flawed bill is somewhere where I have no dog in the hunt. My dogs are too busy acting like toddlers in time out. My own dog, Misty the husky, was chasing mule deer in our recent snowstorm:

And my daughter's dog, Max, was visiting the homestead and establishing dominance where he could:

Incrementalists would no doubt say that lazy sods like me allow reaction to take place. And as they nitpick health care to death, I'll fall asleep. We all have to focus on what we deem important, and I'm concentrating on March Madness, Flobots, keeping dogs separated, dazzling risks, and a Loving Universe of Shiny Things. Lots of 20/20 vision for that.

Friday, March 12, 2010

In the Next World, You're On Your Own

The Firesign Theatre has just posted fragments (near complete) of its 1975 ode to extraterrestrial New Age enlightenment, Everything You Know Is Wrong!, on YouTube. A must to experience:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

They're in everybody's eggs.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Failure is not an option

Proselytizers of unconditional joy face the heavy burden of always losing the race to reach as many desperate broken souls as possible before the timer runs down, as I mentioned in my recent post about Alexander McQueen. There's always an optimistic pledge to reach the next person on the ledge, but always the letdown when someone isn't reached in time.

It was a bad weekend for goodwill hunting. No one got to Mark Linkous, the brilliant man behind Sparklehorse, and the sometime-collaborator with David Lynch and Danger Mouse. Many people expressed what I felt, particularly Venice is Sinking in their blog item, and Deral Fenderson in his open letter to Linkous:


Why did you do it?

You know I think about it everyday, and I ACTUALLY LOST WAY MORE THAN YOU DID. It wasn't even my fault. I didn't take a bunch of drugs and overdose and pass out on my legs... I was at work, and I stepped backwards into a hole.

And yeah, it fucked me up hard. But it humbled me. And besides.... I thought you had gotten way past all of that. I get sadness, Mark. I fucking get it. I'm sad every day of my life.

I feel like some beautiful flower that was planted in the middle of a field, away from the things that used to nourish it. Wanting the sunlight and the rain, but they never come. I pursue people, only to have them disappear because I'm "broken."

I THINK OF FUCKING DYING EVERYDAY, MARK. EVERY FUCKING DAY. You had it, Mark. Love, respect. You had the skills. Your skills have informed MY skills. I wanted to maybe work with you some day. You know, one weirdo getting it with another weirdo.

Guess I'll never get that chance.

I told Deral the rules are simple: 1. Keep up the hunt for the hopeless. 2. Provide those in need with a joy infusion. 3. Lather, rinse, repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Accept the paradox that there will always be a failure rate of a few percentage points or so, but that failure simply is not an option. And never let the dead extinguish the joy or the mission.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Unanticipated Renaissance

"I don't know where it came from, it certainly wasn't in the forecast," he told her. "I only feel blessed to be here at this time, in this place."

There were atmospheric disturbances through the summer of 2009, to be sure, little fronts with meta-tags such as Beth Ditto, Lee Upton, Jay Farrar & Ben Gibbard, Florence Welch. But with the jet stream in such a ragged disarray, it was hard to know if these were summer showers or harbingers of things to come.

Somewhere around Thanksgiving, the torrent of prose got serious. Richard Powers' dazzling tribute to ecstatic daily living, Generosity. Jeanette Walls' deliciously tragic Half-Broke Horses. David Byrne's trips with his bicycle. Barbara Kingsolver's best novel yet, The Lacuna. Patti Smith's beautiful memoir of life with Robert Mapplethorpe. Spring book lists show no signs of slackening.

In late January, the musicians joined in. Xiu Xiu's Dear God I Hate Myself. Joanna Newsom's triple-disc, two-hour tribute to Victorian courtesan Lola Montez. Quasi's chaotic American Gong. Shearwater's memorial to the refugees from the Bikini Atoll. Local Natives' high harmonies. Tindersticks' turn to cowboy living. Vampire Weekend's turn to covert-agent living. The triumphant return of Gil Scott-Heron to the spoken word. Vibracathedral Orchestra's massive two-hour raga dances in six parts. Robert Pollard. Magnetic Fields. Laura Veirs. Retribution Gospel Choir. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra. The last Jack Rose before his untimely death. The farewell kisses from Yellow Swans. And plenty of clouds on the horizon bearing names like Liars and Flobots.

The media hasn't paid much attention to a flowering of unprecedented proportions under the spring rain, maybe because it's difficult to discern any particular theme like punk, grunge, Latin American surrealism, whatever. The one unifying theme I see is the integrity and uncompromising position of the artist. This is not a renaissance designed for the benefit and convenience of consumer or patron. The books are complex packages not well-suited to either ADHD attention spans or electronic e-readers. The musical compositions are often an hour long or better, demanding a return to the old concept-album format, and ruthlessly denying being compressed into digital file formats. Gauntlets have been thrown down, and I will be eagerly awaiting to see if visual arts, film, dance, etc. follow the lead of prose and sound.

We can argue endlessly as to why this happened now - ongoing economic crisis? A move from below against digital homogenization? Not important. What is important is that you are present at the creation, watching one hundred flowers bloom at this moment, in this place.

Monday, March 1, 2010


At the last minute in a week of indecision, I decided to go down to Jemez Springs in New Mexico to speak along with my friend Bill at the annual meeting of the Pacific Life Community. Normally, this group follows a faith-based path of resistance to nuclear weapons, but this year's conference cast its net a little wide. Our old friend, Sister Joan Brown, was there from Albuquerque to talk about her trip to Copenhagen for the Climate Summit, and her efforts to link environmentalism and opposition to militarism. Joan was director of Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission years ago, and it was great to see her and hear about her latest work. Here's the first part of her speech, with continuations on my YouTube channel:

Another interesting aspect of this conference was the involvement of many college and high school students in a new group called Think Outside the Bomb. The group will tour the nation, stopping at locations with military bases and nuclear manufacturing sites to conduct skits, demonstrate renewable energy, and develop strategies of opposition. Exciting!

Bill spoke for half an hour on Southwestern military bases and the history of opposition to them. Here's Part 1:

I gave my usual rant on military theory, Part 1 is below and Part 2 is on my You Tube channel.

Saw many old friends and had some dazzling personal experiences. Feelings of discouragement have been banished for the year. Jemez has put me in the spirit.