Friday, December 25, 2009

"When Atheism Becomes Religion" by Chris Hedges

(The Greek word "atheoi" αθεοι ("[those who are] without god") as it appears in the Epistle to the Ephesians 2:12, on the early 3rd-century Papyrus 46.)

"Religion is our finite, flawed and imperfect expression of the infinite." - Chris Hedges


I do not believe in god and resent fundamentalism. My "faith" is with the human will, I "believe" in art. Agreed, the human will has not always expressed the best, bravest, or kindest of human intentions, nor has art always been beautiful or thought provoking. Nevertheless, the human will (expressed through art) is how I give order and meaning to this uncertain frightening world. I suppose you could say - atheism is my religion.


As an atheists I've felt angry and frustrated by those pushing religion onto me or others. At my lowest, I'm insulting to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. Unjustly, I've even cynically joked about wars to "wipe religion off the map." I'm not proud of my sarcasm; but, thankfully (like any atheist worth my will), I question such "sinful" thoughts and actions. In fact, a great way to reflect on such things is with a good book. Fortunately, Chris Hedges' "When Atheism Becomes Religion: America's New Fundamentalists" is a timely read for anyone of any or no faith. Hedges compellingly argues against all fundamentalisms. He has not only made me more confident in my own "religion" but has forced me to also honestly admit atheism could just as easily become as totalizing and fascists as any other conviction. Thus, we must remain vigilant against all theisms.


Sure, I wish to be done with religion and perhaps this resentment stems from my years in Christian boarding school? Or, maybe it's living through this violent post-9/11 decade? Whatever the case, I'm not alone in my belief humanity would be more tolerant and enlightened if not so foolishly guided by religious illusions. There is real power in religion and like Hedges I find myself "disgusted with the chauvinism, intolerance, anti-intellectualism and self-righteousness of religious fundamentalists." And also like Mr. Hedges, I "dislike the same people" as the new Atheists (i.e. Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris). "But we do not dislike them for the same reasons."


Although I enjoy reading the new atheists Hedges criticizes in his book, I suppose I do so with the same reason I listen to George Carlin or Marilyn Manson. For me, all represent a much-needed middle finger at organized religion. However, unlike Carlin or Manson (entertainers), Harris and Hitchens' audience is academia, the cable news cycle, and print media; thus, the jingoism and fear in some of their writing and lectures could stir-up some frightening totalitarian possibilities. Sam Harris is the most extreme with Hitchens right behind him; both justify the war in the Middle East as "just" and in support of rationalism against an inhuman fundamentalism. Although I'm an atheist, like Harris and Hitchens, I do not support empirical aggressions in the Middle East.


Hedges is also critical of evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins. I'm very interested in Dawkins' writing, am glad he refuses to entertain discussions on "creationism", and am fascinated by his theories on memetics. Thus, when Hedges criticizes someone I really respect, I pay close attention. Hedges primary concern with Dawkins is with the way he describes science as utopian and capable of making great change; however, Hedges says this is unrealistic. He comments, many "are comforted by the thought that we progress morally as a species. We want things to get better. We want to believe we are moving forward. This hope is more reassuring than reality. [However,] all the signs in our current world point to a coming anarchy."


Hedges bleakly writes, "We drift toward disaster with the comforting thought that the god of science will intervene on our behalf. We prefer to think we are the culmination of a process, the result of centuries of human advancement, rather than creatures unable to escape from the irrevocable follies and blunders of human nature." Indeed, "We are bound by our animal natures…Volcanic emotions are buried like land mines within us…These hidden realms of visceral, irrational emotions drive us as powerfully, perhaps more powerfully, than the rational constructs we build around them. They shatter our meticulously constructed self, plunging us into the chaos of existence."


Hedges is a realist, so his writing doesn't comfort. Subsequently, his work will hopefully wake some from lazily explaining this complex world through a simple prism of "memes". Agreed, memetic theory can be helpful in explaining certain ideas and thoughts, but Hedges is correct, "The attempt to equate patterns of human society with the behavior of genes…is part of the cult of science. The genetic coding that permits the transfer of DNA-encoded units…is fairly precise. But this model fails to work for the transfer of cultural, social, ethical, and political behavior. Patterns of morality are easily reversed or erased, especially in ages of revolutionary fervor, war, anarchy, fear, social decline and despotism."


Hedges writes, "A desire for moral advancement has repeatedly corrupted religious and secular ideologies. We want to believe that human suffering and deprivation is meaningful, that it has a purpose and that our lives make sense. This yearning for telos creates imaginary narratives of moral and historical progress…It is a way to ward off the awful fact that things often do not get better, that they often get worse, and that the irrational urges of human nature will never be conquered."


What Hedges may share with religious fundamentalists is his "end time" descriptions, which are grim. Of course, Hedges has seen the human will at its worst in Yugoslavia and the Middle East as a war correspondent. Hedges, informed by his experience, writes "When we are desperately afraid, when chaos and disorder envelop life, when the world is reduced to a bitter struggle to get enough to eat and stay alive, the fragile 'civilized' veneer that coats our existence in times of prosperity, order and safety vanishes. The coherent, rational self disintegrates, we sink swiftly into the depravity the atheists see as the result of religious fanaticism. Few of us are immune."


Ultimately, Hedges concludes, "The labels we attach to ourselves are a way to tell stories about ourselves, to create coherent narratives. The danger we face does not come from religion. It comes from a growing intellectual bankruptcy that is one of the symptoms of a dying culture."


"Happy Holidays..."

…peace and cheers to finding zen in '10.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Religion in the Military

Christopher Hitchen's recent column in Vanity Fair is a frightening look at how entrenched the Church is within the State. Hitchens asks...

"Is there a clique within the United States military that is seeking to use the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as an opportunity to mount a new crusade and to Christianize the 'heathen'? And does this clique also attempt to impose its beliefs on young Americans in uniform, many of whom may even be Christian already? If the answer to either question is 'yes,' then we are directly financing the subversion of our own Constitution and inviting a 'holy war' where we will not be able to say that only the other side is dogmatic and fanatical."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chris Hedges at The New School

This past week, I had the honor of introducing veteran war correspondent, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and writer, Chris Hedges, to The New School. Hedges spoke on his recent book "Empire of Illusion: the End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle".

Hedges' lecture was a sobering and, admitedly, grim assessment of the current American empire. The premise of his book is that we are a culture in decline that only values illusion, which is seen in our addiction to psuedo-events, trivial gossip, and celebrity culture. As things get increasingly worse, people seek-out comfort in entertainment and/or religous extremism. The decline of a literate society makes understanding the complexities or potential solutions of this crisis nearly impossible.

To view the lecture click here.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Change?

For the past year, I've defended President Obama's decisions and lack of initiative on various issues. Whether from the decision to bailout Wall Street bankers, his lack of support on LGBT rights, and his compromise to remove the "public option" on health care reform - President Obama continues to disappoint. I realize the job of the President is tough, but I voted for Obama with the hope that he would be a game changer; instead, he only continues to follow the same misguided policies of former Presidents. Of course, I firmly believe that despite the bad decisions he has made, our country is in a better place than it would have been had Senator McCain been elected. But how better? ...Not much. Thus, I'm more than disappointed by President Obama's decision to send an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan.

There are far greater problems to confront than those based on the fear of terrorists. Agreed, Al-Qaeda -like all extremists- are a threat to peace, rationality, and understanding. I wish we could be done with all this ignorant backwards and mystical thinking that continues to foolishly define our human existence. God does not exist. Those who waste their short lives fighting, worshiping, or even thinking about "god" only continue to prevent humanity from honestly confronting the realistic problems and issues that remain detrimental to our collective survival. Unfortunately, Obama's plan will likely embolden the extremists (on all sides of the debate). Islamic extremists will have fresh fodder for more recruitment to Al-Qaeda and their Christian, Catholic, Jewish, and "new Atheist" counterparts will only further believe they’re killing of others is somehow justified.

If Obama really wants to change Afghanistan, he should focus specifically on building new infrastructure: education, schools, food, technology, etc. Give the people what they need, which is not more of the same bloodshed. For all the money wasted on militarism, why not invest in the country?

Obama is only sending in more destruction that will further our slide into oblivion. I am also personally surprised and frustrated that Obama did not listen to Vice President Joe Biden who argued for sending small groups of special operations forces, that would focus on the Al-Qaeda fighters instead of the 30,000 additional ground troops. Unfortunately change is nothing more than a cliche. Sure, the personality has changed, but the machinations of militarism, religion, and empire remain the same.

- - -

One week later, I read George Packer's column in The New Yorker. Packer writes,

"No Obama doctrine yet exists. What the President has is a sophisticated theology, an anti-utopian belief that human imperfection is inevitable but progress is possible if human beings remain self critical about what they can achieve. This is the philosophy of Reinhold Niebuhr, whom Obama has called 'one of my favorite philosophers."

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Pixies @ Hammerstein Ballroom NYC 11/23/09


"Dancing The Manta Ray"
"Weird At My School"
"Bailey's Walk"
"Wave of Mutilation"
"I Bleed"
"Here Comes Your Man"
"Dead"
"Crackity Jones"
"La La Love You"
"There Goes My Gun"
"Gouge Away"

encore1:
"Slow Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)"

encore 2
"Isla De Encanta"
some of "Vamos"
"Where is My Mind"
"Gigantic"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Deed of Trust

By Nicholas Allanach


One hundred years ago, on November 15th, 1909, chocolate industrialist, Milton S. Hershey visited New York with his wife, Catherine, to sign a Deed of Trust, which would soon turn the 486-acre farm of Milton’s birth into the Hershey Industrial School for orphaned boys. Unable to have children of their own, Milton and Catherine decided to do something extraordinary - provide a place where impoverished children from broken homes could be housed, clothed, fed, and educated at no costs. 100 years later, Hershey’s chocolate empire continues to fit-the-bill for over 1,700 students from various backgrounds and plans to increase this number of students to 2,100 by 2013. Since its inception when those “first boys” arrived at “the Homestead” in 1910, the Milton Hershey School has graduated over 18,000 girls and boys.

I’m honored to have graduated from this unique institution. Unfortunately, back in 1997, I did not truly appreciate the efforts of my house parents, valuable lessons from my teachers, and –most importantly- sacrifice my father made when sending my younger brother and me to this strange place so far from our home in Maine. During the spring of my graduation, I was angry at the world and hadn’t properly dealt with the pain I had experienced as a boy. In fact, there were a few times I was very close to actually being “terminated” from the school for my behavior. Understandably, like many teenagers, I felt compelled to rebel for not having a "normal" adolescence and was perhaps "forced to grow-up too quickly." But now, I realize how fortunate I was to have graduated from “the Milt”.

Admittedly, as anyone who has spent time cleaning toilets at 6am or getting ready for church every Sunday morning can attest, life was not always perfect at Milton Hershey. In fact, there was and continues to be much about the institution I disagree with. Nevertheless, I realize it is imperative to adhere to the founding document that is The Hershey Deed of Trust so that the good things about Milton Hershey School forever remain true to their intent – to raise and educate children as functional members of society. 

Of course, the things I disliked while there have likely grown worse, but nevertheless, although I disagree with the uniformed clothing policy, bigoted views against LGBT issues, and conservative religious leanings (many of the house parents, staff, and teachers are born again Christians) I’ve accepted the fact that these unsavory aspects of the school do not discredit the very real good Mr. and Mrs. Hershey’s mission creates anew everyday for the thousands of lives that may never have had the chance to grow and evolve.

It would be nice to see other philanthropic capitalists make the same commitment to “do good” and “treat others as we would like ourselves to be treated”, like Milton and Catherine Hershey did so long ago. But I will not hold my breath. Nevertheless, as a graduate of the school, I now realize the duty I have to this "Hershey legacy." Like him, I suppose I must make the world a better place than it was before I got here. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Milton Hershey and I thank him for his deed. I’m also thankful for the discipline and work-ethic taught to me by my house parents. I am thankful for the amazing teachers and most importantly thankful my father encouraged me to “stick-it-out” and “make the best” of my time.

With over six billion dollars in assets from the chocolate company, the Milton Hershey School is one of the wealthiest schools in the world. Of course, such wealth would not have been possible if it had not have been for the philanthropic vision of Milton Hershey and his wife Catherine. It would also not be thriving, as the school continues to do today, if it was not for the diligence of the MHS Alumni Association and Board of Governors who ensure the Deed of Trust is never compromised. 

The generosity of this institution is not to be taken lightly, if the Hersheys had given-in to greed (as capitalists so often do) instead of giving back, than the thousands of lives they affected by deciding to start their school would be dramatically different today. I’m inspired by their work and the fact that one good idea could proliferate so powerfully through history. Their deed is truly our inspiration.

Happy Birthday Milton S. Hershey School!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Way Life Should Be?

“All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words.” – Harvey Milk

As a native Mainer who fully supports equality and justice for all I was extremely saddened by the news this morning that my home state rejected the right for same-sex couples to marry. Of course my disappointment can never compare to the tremendous heartache and confusion the families whose lives and love are daily affected by the hurtful and hateful decision made by the majority of Maine voters yesterday. No words can console these feelings. My heart and thoughts go out to those affected by this vote.

My first reaction of sadness quickly turned to anger. I’m always so frustrated by the religious zealots, soccer moms, and back-wood rednecks whose bigoted vision of America is not one of equality and acceptance but instead guided by ignorance and fear. Despite my anger, I realize any struggle for freedom will not happen overnight and that resentment and rage will never help anyone on this tough journey toward a more evolved and enlightened society. That said, although we must not give-in to anger, no one should give up. The decision voters made in Maine is WRONG and history will one day show this as true.

Perhaps voters in Maine were afraid that “homosexuality would be taught in schools”? …So what? LGBT people constitute a rich part of our lives and culture. Homosexuality should not only be acknowledged but celebrated. By not acknowledging the truths of our world because they do not fit into our own purview of what is “normal” does not mean these things go away. Thus, we do a disservice to our children and our American future by not accepting the truth, which is that the love shared between people of the same sex is just as valuable and important as the love shared by heterosexuals. It is unfortunate Maine voters did not realize this truth.

Thus, the fight is never over. Admittedly, Maine’s unfortunate decision will have repercussions across the country. Politicians may begin seeing “the right to marry” as a “non-issue”. Perhaps President Obama will focus even less on LGBT rights? Accordingly, those who stand for equality must continue to press this issue and never compromise. “All men are created equal”, but it will obviously take longer for all people to be treated equal.

Until that day I remain...

In solidarity.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

myNewSchool


This year, The New School turns 90. Below is my thoughts on this anniversary.
“Within every cynic you’ll find a disappointed idealist.” – George Carlin

Life is full of clichés that define how we understand reality; ultimately, we decide which ones to accept or reject. Thus, as educated and “engaged global citizens” we must not only question clichés, but challenge those we perpetuate. I suppose, a strong cliché for me is “The system is broken.”

As an undergrad, this cliché resonated loudly in my mind. I wanted to “change the world for the better.” Although the system was “broken”, I truly believed socially conscious people could build better and more just systems. Accordingly, when I heard about The New School’s “progressive history” and founding mission “to create a place where global peace and justice were more than theoretical ideals”, I enthusiastically applied to the New School for Social Research and saved money for my move from Maine to Manhattan. But before leaving home, my friends of a “hippy”, “punk”, and “anarchist” persuasion justly asked how I planned on “changing the world by reading Hegel?” …Good question and I knew an answer wasn’t going to come easy. In fact, after years of wondering “what the hell was this all for?” I realize, they were correct – real change doesn’t come through old philosophical theories or from heady discussions about Robespierre at cocktail receptions. Sure, theory provides a foundation, but it is through practice and application that a broken system can be fixed.

My brief six years at The New School have been rewarding and challenging. I’ve made many friends and feel honored to work at an organization that educates and encourages open and free discourse. Along my academic journey, I’ve earned an MA in Liberal Studies, a Certificate in Screenwriting, and am currently earning a Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language. Thus, I continue to move (perhaps like the New School itself) away from theory and toward practice. Whatever I do, I know I still want to “change the world for the better”, but I never want to become the aloof academic, who narcissistically believes I’m making the world a “better place” by only associating with those within the safe walls of an academic institution.

Admittedly, it’d be disingenuous to assert I’ve “changed the world for the better.” Or even that I believe The New School remains true to its history. Somewhere along the line that stretches back to the day I walked into 65 Fifth Avenue as an idealistic student, to where I sit now as an administrator behind a desk—I know, I lost something. Perhaps, I’ve become a cliché? Sure I’ve tossed aside the Hegel, but for what? …Fukuyama? This may not be “the end of history” for civilization or The New School, but sometimes it feels like it and it sucks to admit - the crooks won. The good guys lost.

Indeed, “the system’s broken”. But instead of sulking lets start solving as we continue to change as individuals and as a school. Accordingly, I still expect “myNewSchool” to be one of the few places left where any repairs to this broken system can occur.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nine Inch Nails "wave goodbye" @ Terminal 5 - NYC 8/26/09

1. "Pinion"
2. "Somewhat Damaged"
3. "Wish"
4. "Last"
5. "Sin"
6. "March Of The Pigs"
7. "Something I Can Never Have"
8. "Piggy (Nothing Can Stop Me Now)"
9. "Metal"
10. "Terrible Lie"
11. "Head Down"
12. "Burn"
13. "Gave Up"
14. "La Mer"
15. "The Frail"
16. "The Wretched"
17. "Non-Entity"
18. "Gone, Still"
19. "Lights In The Sky"
20. "The Downward Spiral"
21. "1,000,000"
22. "Survivalism"
23. "The Good Soldier"
24. "Dead Souls"
25. "Hurt"

Encore
26. "Suck"
27. "Down In It"
28. "The Hand That Feeds"
29. "Head Like A Hole"
30. "Reptile" with Peter Murphy
31. "Strange Kind Of Love" with Peter Murphy
32. "Bela Lugosi's Dead" with Peter Murphy
33. "Final Solution" with Peter Murphy

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Harvest

Summer concludes early this August with school starting on the 31st. But I'm not bitter. The waning hours of this sweltering season are optimistic and exciting. The seeds sown this summer while settling-in to our new Astoria apartment, promise a wealthy crop of fresh projects and new responsibilities this fall. It’s unfortunate I won’t also be raking-in more money to do these projects, but honestly, I -as few can say - have no right to bitch. Life’s good. And if I can manage to maintain myself on this present trajectory, perhaps it can be even better?

As always, the summer past quick but there were welcome moments to reflect and relax. No doubt, I'm a lucky man: I live with an amazing girlfriend (and her two dogs), was just promoted at work (without a raise, but more responsibility and a new office), and have a comfortable new apartment.

Despite all this, two paradoxical feelings are still pumping through my being. One is guilt: I know others are not having such a good life and there must be some kind of karmic retribution to be paid for all the great things happening to me but not others. Or not, maybe this is my karmic pay off? After all, the last four years haven’t exactly been the easiest. Nevertheless, I still can’t help but feel like a common capitalists crook. Admittedly, I’m not the recipient of any ‘bailouts’, but I am privileged and am just following orders with the rest of the mindless mass. Sure, I’ve worked hard for what I’ve achieved, but I’m, still a slave to the wage and would like to be a part of building a better world than this. Nevertheless, whether I like it or not, capitalism is the name of the game and if I can’t beat it, I damn well just better enjoy it. Besides, everyone else is, so why shouldn’t I? Accordingly, feelings of guilt are wasted emotions and quickly replaced with an evil envy and greed. An insatiable urge for MORE consumes me and I see the same desperate anxiety in the panicked eyes of others. This is who we are. All of us are balancing on a knife’s edge, between oblivion and abundance. At any moment we could either help or harm the other members of our human tribe. And what makes us decide one way or the other? …Survivalism.

While away from work this summer, my days were spent in my study/studio painting, reading, writing, or just dumb daydreaming out a large window at plush trees and a green backyard while blasting music. Other times, I was in the kitchen, cooking food and eating it alongside family and friends. I walk the dogs around the block in the morning, jog along the river under the Triborough Bridge in the afternoon, and watch films over drinks at night. Some friends have jokingly renamed me: I was "Nicky Danger" but am now "Nicky Domestic". So be it. Puking nights and hung-over mornings are over-rated.

The "power of the pack" is essential to survival. Perhaps it's true, family (however, one defines the word) “comes first.” This summer, the Allanach tribe grew by one, with the birth of my beautiful niece, McKenzie. It was also nice to have her older brother and my nephew, Ethan, spend some time with the boys and me at “Camp Astoria”. My father, from Vancouver, also stayed for a week to tour the city and meet some of our friends. Of course, my guests were welcome distractions while Ena was away visiting Osaka in July. And when she finally returned, it was like I fell in love with her all over again.

I’m content. But wonder, now that I’m happy, can I maintain my air of “Danger” without destruction? And at what costs… am I still real? Or, have I just become another illusion sustaining this empire? I certainly still feel real and I know I have a need for adventure. But now, there’s no longer a need to desperately prove, or push the limits of my existence through the failed ways I’ve been so accustomed. Maybe I’m actually breaking out of the illusion for this first time? Instead of being so hell-bent on off-setting my ego through controlled substances or self-destructive experiences, I’ve decided it’s “high” time to stabilize my life. Live my dream and “Just do it.” After all, the best way to prepare for more ambitious future adventures is with a stronger body and clearer mind.

Easier said than done. Enjoy the rest of the summer…

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Nine Inch Nails @ Jones Beach 6/7/09

Somewhat Damaged
Terrible Lie
Heresy
March of the Pigs
The Frail
Metal (Gary Numan cover)
I'm Afraid Of Americans (David Bowie cover)
The Becoming
Burn
Gave Up
The Fragile
I Do Not Want This
The Downward Spiral
Wish
Survivalism
Echoplex
The Hand That Feeds
Head Like A Hole

Encore:
Hurt

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

adios el barrio!

For the past five years, I’ve called el barrio (a.k.a. Spanish Harlem or East Harlem) home. But now, I’m moving out. Goodbye Claudio’s Barber Shop! Farewell el barrio Juice Bar! Adios Ricardo’s! Yes, this weekend, I will cross the Triborough Bridge to begin a new chapter of my life in Astoria, Queens. I’m sure this will not be my last time in el barrio (I have too many friends here to ever do that), but something about this move has got me reflecting on the old neighborhood: it’s history, it’s present, future, and how this place schooled me into the person I am today.

I shared my first apartment in el barrio with my ex-wife on the corner of East 115th Street and First Avenue. On the day I moved in, I was welcomed to the neighborhood by a circle of elderly Italian women sitting on the sidewalk (which, I soon discovered was how they spent every day). The oldest women in the group had resided in the apartment above mine her entire life. After welcoming me to the neighborhood, she asked if I "was Italian?" Of which I replied: “Nope. American.” This confused her; however, she then expressed how relieved she was that I was "at least white and not a nigger."

Her racism was ignorant, but not surprising; after all, throughout the sixties and seventies, el barrio was (as it is today) going through considerable change. Back then, the neighborhood was not “Spanish Harlem” it was “Italian Harlem”. And as the ethnic makeup of the neighborhood changed, competing gangs vied for control of their “territory”. At one point, Second Avenue was a dividing line between Italian immigrants to the East and Puerto Rican immigrants to the West. Things got even more complicated once the Italians began hiring Puerto Ricans and African Americans to run their drugs while they reaped the profit.
Like every neighborhood in New York, el barrio has an interesting and often violent history. Part of this history is rooted in organized crime or the Cosa Nostra. The first Crime Family to gain dominance of East Harlem was the Morello Crime Family, which later morphed into one of New York’s “5 families” - the Genovese Crime Family. As a big fan of mafia movies, I was so excited to see an old Genovese “social club” still in operation across the street from my apartment on East 115th Street. Everyday, I’d look out my window and watch the old timers run numbers, hand out loans, or just soak-up the sun while smoking cigars. Of course, the most organized activity I ever saw come out of that little brown social club with the green awning was surrounding the preparation and celebration of the annual Giglio feast. Each year, Italians from all over the tri-state convene in the old neighborhood to celebrate their ethnic heritage. Sadly, this last of the “social clubs” has become like many other relics in el barrio – boarded-up and vacant.

Throughout the summer, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Cubans, and Domincans also host street festivals and parades. In fact, it is not uncommon to stumble across a large stage set-up on the street for outdoor music performances. The largest of these festivals is undoubtedly the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Most Puerto Ricans migrated to New York during the 1930’s to settle in el barrio and the South Bronx; over the years they have become the largest population in the neighborhood. In my opinion, Nuyoricans are the cultural and artistic lifeblood of this ethnic enclave. In fact, the Nuyorican stronghold, Camaradas, became one of my favorite haunts in el barrio. Camaradas opened one month after I moved into the neighborhood and although much has changed since then, I will always look back fondly on those late nights (that often turned into early mornings) rambling politics, drinking beers, and dancing (badly on my part) to salsa music.

After living in any place for a period of time, one begins to acquire experiences and memories; accordingly, every corner of el barrio has a story for me. While walking up First Avenue from East 114th Street, my mind wanders back to the runs I took along the East River and cooled-down in Thomas Jefferson Park. I think back to the few years I spent on East 115th Street and to the many friends I made in Camaradas. Of course, there were many more debaucheries that took place at Orbit as well. The corner of East 116th and First Avenue would be where my heart was shattered by one girl and then healed by the embrace of another. And up the Avenue a little more would be the place I was mugged. This city makes me into who I am with every punch and kiss.

I only lived in el barrio for five years. But during that short time I made many friends and watched as the neighborhood changed. As I reach the small apartment I lived in for the past two years at 346 East 120th Street, I look West to new condos going-up and wonder how long el barrio will remain “el barrio” and not “Spa Ha” or the “Upper East Side”? How long will the corner boys be able to scare away the Starbucks?

El barrio made me into a stronger person. But it has also contributed to some of my bad habits. Although I will miss the old neighborhood, I am excited to start this next stage of my personal evolution in Astoria.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Howard Zinn

This week, Howard Zinn was at The 92nd Street Y to promote his new book "A Young People's History of the United States". The event was part of the People's Voices series which seeks to educate and inspire new generations working for social justice. Zinn was also joined by Avery Brooks, Staceyann Chin, Tim Robbins, and others.

It was an honor to not only listen to but to actually meet Mr. Zinn. His "People's History of the United States" is one of my favorite books, which recounts the story of The United States through the voices of those who are usually ignored or overlooked by more traditional history books. America has (and unfortunately continues to be) a very violent nation and unfortunately, many have difficulty acknowledging this unsavory past. American History, for many students, is often taught as a sterilized story that avoids much of the violence and injustice that built-up the current empire.

Anyone, who labels Howard Zinn "un-American" for his research would be mislabeling a man I believe to be one of the greatest and proudest American citizens. Howard Zinn grew up in the Jewish slums of Brooklyn New York, where his parents worked as factory workers. Later, Zinn would work in the Brooklyn shipyards where he was also a labor organizer. Zinn's opposition to war would result from his service in World War II, where Zinn conducted bombing missions over Europe.

Zinn's understanding of America is of a work in progress, a nation defining and redefining itself through time. President Obama seems to also understand this philosophy, during his campaign, Obama said "The strength of America is that America can change." Zinn's "People's History..." clearly shows this change in action; however, it is unfortunate Mr. Obama himself seems to be backtracking on many of his initial campaign promises of implementing this change and is instead continuing to bolster the same failed policies of the past. Zinn himself recently wrote about his hope for the People to change Mr. Obama's mindset.

Zinn's article is another one of many that does not seek to destroy the President, but to instead remind him (and those who seek social justice) that there are other alternatives to the failed ideas of capitalism and war. As our American history rolls-on, it is up to us to continue putting pressure on those in power. Otherwise, we're merely committing and are accomplices to the same crimes that have plagued America for so long. Fredrick Douglas said it best, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."

That said, I've always tried to clearly define what side of history I'm on. Thus, despite my support for Obama, it is --like America-- something I hope and want to improve but often realize I have little to no control over what decisions he and/or "my country" makes. Nevertheless, I'm someone who wants a decent society that is not guided by ignorance. I continue to dream and hope for a better world. A world without injustice, without war, and evolved and enlightened enough to imagine new possibilities.

History will show us who wins.

* * * *

In other news, I was published in the new Indy Kids Radical Coloring Book - "Coloring Outside the Lines". So, order a copy today and help make another year of Indy Kids a success! Peace.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

100 Days and "Moving forward"

Last week, Naomi Klein's column in The Nation starts, "All is not well in Obamafanland." She then introduces her "Lexicon of Dissapoinment" by stating its a "good thing...a growing number of Obama enthusiasts are starting to entertain the possibility that their man is not, in fact, going to save the world if we all just hope really hard." Agreed. It's going to take a lot more than hope to save the world - its going to take creativity, innovation, patience, cooperation, and communication from the top-down to the ground-up.

Thus, Obamafans must not only take their man to task, but must also begin implementing change in their own lives. Admittedly, it's tough to volunteer to paint a school or grow a community garden when you're unemployed. Thus, it should be the responsibility of the new Administration (working with big business) to create lasting jobs in green industries. Obviously, things are not going to immediately get better, we must make sacrifice now and develop new machinations to outlast this and future generations to come.

Although I consider myself an Obama supporter, I don't believe I've ever been intoxicated by any illusions that Obama would -gasp- be any different than any other politician. He is just as much a gangster as anyone else, but like all gangsters he must support and put the interests of "the family" first. Thus, my only "hope" has and continues to be that Barack Obama be a great and influential leader who has the interests of "the family" (our global family) in mind.

I never believed Barack Obama would be perfect. However, I do believe he has proven himself to be a great President over these first 100 Days and I count myself as someone who continues to support his efforts. There will be many recaps of the past 100 Days throughout the media, so the below is my take (and how I've decided to waste this Wednesday morning) on President Obama's progress report - thus far.

On his first day in office, President Obama issued an Executive Order reversing the "Global Gag Rule" implemented by former President Bush, which prevented federal funding to foreign establishments that allow abortions. President Obama also announced on his first day, the closing of Guantanamo Bay Detention camp, which was also a reversal of the former Administration's policies.

President Obama then requested the passage of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which will provide health care coverage for children whose family's do not make enough to pay for insurance but make a large enough income to not meet Medicaid requirements. Way to look out for the "middle class" (which your critics say you have apparently overlooked).

President Obama signed into law a $787 billion dollar Stimulus Package. Now, this "Stimulus Package" is something I've been relectant to even comment on. After all, I (like many "average" Americans) know very little about economics. However, I know enough to know it seems to have come down to the same evil greed heads ripping poor people off like always. The bankers and investment banks guided by laisez faire Neoliberalism have for the past 20 years, acted as if they could sell-off the planet and all it's valuable/limited resources (including human capital) as if they would never have to pay anything back. Now, with the current global economic downturn (alongside the surmounting environmental crisis) it has become all the rage to talk accountability. Thus, even though things are going bad (and could likely get worse), it is at least sobering to hear Obama enforcing a more frugal economic stance that is intended to better hold investors and company heads accountable for their actions.

Of course a large part of the Economic Stimulus Package is intended to create jobs through federally funded development projects. Personally, I have not seen any of these projects and I have also not seen a lot of news reports highlighting these "new jobs" or "green projects"; however, there is a really great homepage that does at least provide news, graphs, and a way to see how these funds are being spent. This is another thing I like about the Obama Presidency - transparency. Obama has now made it the norm for government to use technology to keep the public updated on its progress. Whether or not this homepage and all that it says is bullshit, is up to us to see with our own eyes, ears, and wallets.

I'm also impressed by the way Obama continues to speak about the problems with the environment. His promotion of green jobs and projects is a step in the right direction; nevertheless, I believe more needs to be done and fast. It will take more than speeches to stop the ocean levels from rising - it will take massive sacrifice, something Obama has not initiated. Likely, because he too foolishly believes other problems are more pressing. Big mistake.

I'm also glad President Obama has suggested holding Bush Administration officials accountable for their torture memos. After all, if "The United States does not torture", than anyone who initiated or approved such "enhanced interrogation techniques" should be put on trial and punished for treason. I understand Obama would like to "move forward", but he cannot do so properly until those who committed crimes in the past are dealt with properly.

Regarding National Defense, Obama has called for the reduction and elimination of nuclear proliferation; however, he also said that the total elimination of atomic bombs "may not happen in my lifetime". I read this statement as a clever cop-out; after all, if this won't happen in his lifetime, than that means Obama intends for America (and its allies) to keep its weapons while preventing others from gaining access to them. I would like Obama to be more forceful on abolishing all nuclear weapons.

In other good news, the Defense Department has been instructed to eliminate its big budget and useless defense contracts. However, I would (like all hippie liberal peaceniks) prefer to see more cut from the defense budget and given to schools instead. I'm also in support of the reduction and withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. After all, I never supported the Iraq war and hope that "moving forward" the government will recognize it is our responsibility to rebuild the sovereign nation of Iraq it, subsequently, helped destroy (i.e. "liberate").

Of course, Obama has ordered a "redeployment" of troops to Afghanistan. I do not support any escalation of troops in Afghanistan, but hope that Obama's intent is to engage enemy extremists through special operations units instead of massive amounts of wasteful ground troops. For now, to be continued... After all, lets be honest, the United States wants to see Osama Bin Laden's head on a stick.

Finally, I'm inspired by the Obama model of "direct Presidential diplomacy" with world leaders in action. Those who've criticized Obama for meeting with Hugo Chavez, Castro, etc. are foolish detractors who unfortunately suffer from a USA superiority complex. We are all citizens of this planet, it is nice to see our President understands this as well. The best way to avoid any escalation of violence is through dialogue, when dialogue breaks down, all is lost.

Phew! Well, the above rant from this liberal, elitist, New Yorker may be a rather unlettered, misinformed, vague ramble; however, I believe it shows that within the last 100 Days, Obama has done much and we should feel empowered to know our President is not only "moving forward", but confronting the many problems that have gone ignored for so long. Admittedly, there are many things I neglected to talk about in this screed: Iran, Palestine/Israel, Stem Cell research (which I'm glad to see approved), etc. etc. Thus, Obama has many issues to juggle at once; fortunately, he has done so, thus far, without pissing me off.

Keep up the good work Mr. President - the world is watching.

(Note: I admit, I've fallen for the propaganda and bought into brand Obama. Just like I'm excited about my Mac, so I am for "Our President". Chris Hedges is a smarter man than me, which is why he writes for a living and I only continue to placate the systems of power I subsequently profit from. Nevertheless, "I got my fist/I got my plan/I got survivalism.")

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Forget 4/20/1999

Happy 420!

Hopefully everyone, spent their day in an enhanced/altered state? I know I did. When I finally got home, I smoked a bowl and decided to dig into my spring cleaning. However, while sorting through my old boxes of art, writing, photographs and news clippings, I came across a paper from 4/21/1999, which made me remember - 4/20 isn't just "marijuana day" (especially in America). 4/20 is also significant since it was on 4/20/1999 that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12, wounded 23 others, and finally turned their guns on themselves in what would become known as the Columbine High School massacre.

Admittedly, the remembrance of that day had already been force-fed into my perview all afternoon while perusing the headlines and news sites. In fact, all of this "remembering" made me a little annoyed by the way we continue to find some sort of strange satisfaction with tragic incidents. Long story short: there are so many atrocities throughout history, what events we choose to "remember" or "never forget" say much about what kind of historical narrative we continue to create.

For American pot smokers, "420" is already a pretty hard day to celebrate
properly (unlike our more liberal friends to the north). It's bad enough we're not allowed to smoke in public or to even admit we smoke weed to others. (I've obviously opted otherwise). On top of all this, it's a real DRAG we have to also put down our pipes, blunts, and bongs for some silly "moment of silence". After all, if we're to define Eric and Dylan as "terrorists", than why remember them at all? Why further celebratize and glorify these killers? After all, isn't that what they wanted?

I propose we forget 4/20/1999 and return this glorious day back to it's rightful roots - smoking up! In fact, maybe if Eric and Dylan had taken up glass blowing, they never would have built all those bombs? Eric and Dylan should have smoked weed (maybe weed wasn't as easy to get a hold of as guns)? If they had, they would have been great cartoonists or shockrockers; instead they'll always be little angry white punks - shame.

For the faithful and morbid souls who opt to continue wallowing in Eric and Dylan's bloodshed, I wish you the best as you continue to vicariously "feed on tragedy".

Friday, April 17, 2009

The New School - Occupied!

Last Friday, 19 students broke into one of The New School's buildings and occupied the space for several hours. Outside, news vans, police helicopters, and an army of NYPD police gathered. Earlier that morning, New School President, Bob Kerrey called the NYPD and requested the students be removed from the building and that "we still remember 9/11 around here." By the end of the ordeal, 22 people were arrested and a rather incriminating tape made it online showing obvious NYPD brutality against students.

This is the second time students occupied 65 5th Avenue. The first time was back in December when students were demanding the same thing they're demanding now - the resignation of President Bob Kerrey and Vice President James Murtha. President Kerrey came to The New School nine years ago and has from day-one stood in direct odds with this institution's founding principles of progressive and leftist politics. His comments equating the student protesters to 9/11 terrorists is only one such example of his out-of-touch leadership. A bloody history of murdering civilians in Vietnam is another. However, the primary reason students want change at The New School (andCUNY and NYU) isn't just to change the narcissistic decision makers in power, but to change the corporatization of academia itself.

It should be noted that the building students occupied has been at the center of Univerisity contention for the past year. It was initially shutdown so as to begin construction of a new "signature building"; unfortunately, construction of this new building has been delayed (likely, because of the current global economic downturn) but not before the Administration had decided to move faculty offices, student study spaces, the library, and classrooms to scattered (less comfortable) locations around the original building's vicinity. Thus, 65 Fifth Avenue has become a symbol of the Kerrey Administration's preference to put ambitous capitalists' goals before more pragmatic academic needs. There are even rumors floating around campus that the new "signature building" will have the same amount of space as the original and that much of the ground floors will be used for retail stores and condos.

As someone who is both an alumnus of The New School and now works here as an administrator, I feel at odds with this situation. I understand the complicated decisions that must go into running an institution the size of The New School (and obviously, those decisions aren't always going to make everyone happy); however, another part of me is extremely frustrated by the heavy administrative overhead and wasteful excess I see around me everyday. I believe more resources should be directed to the students than to the administration. After all, higher education is far too expensive; thus, students are correct in demanding to know where their money is going.

Universities should be more transparent with their budgets. Academia is a unique place where students are taught to become active, educated, and democratic citizens. Thus, a higher education should not be designated for the elite alone. There are certainly larger issues these students are bringing-up, I think now is a good time to hear such issues out and discuss them as we begin charting-out our academic futures.

Keep on....

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"The Dead Weather"


Last night, The Dead Weather played their first public show to a sold out Bowery Ballroom. Alison Mosshart (The Kills), Jack White (The White Stripes), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age) and Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs) came together to not only create one of the most anticipated acts of the year, but sounded REALLY FUCKING GOOD! My good friend Kristi would even go so far as to call them "the resurrection of rock and roll!" I'm not sure I'd go so far as that (of course, I've never believed rock was dead) but I would go so far as to call last night's concert - historic.

The Dead Weather's set was amazing. Their combination of groovy keyboard riffs, grungy affected vocals, and sick guitar/bass riffs were enough to get any rock and roller or jaded hipster to bang their head and dance.  

For most of the short set, White stayed on drums singing back-up, which was smart; especially since he was sharing the stage with the super sleek and savage Mosshart. I'm a big fan of The Kills and continue to be amazed by Mosshart's intensity and evolving charismatic stage presence. When her hair is not covering her face, her eyes stare glaringly into the crowd. With one leg propped-up on an amp and the other gripping her microphone, there's no doubt Mosshart is aware of her appeal. She also doesn't shy away from her badass rockstar fashion. While security shined flashlights onto fans smoking in the crowd, Mosshart billowed clouds of smoke from stage in clear disregard of New York smoking laws.    

At one point, White came out from behind the drums to play guitar and share the microphone with Mosshart. The audience was mesmerized by their harmonic, defiant, and sexy performance. The Dead Weather's first concert was music history in the making, not only because of the talent assembled on stage, but because their set was obviously so formidable there' s no place for this band to go but up.  I wish I could find the words to properly describe the feeling of hearing their sound for the first time, but leave that to the experts at Rolling Stone. For now, I eagerly await their first album, Horehound, to hit my Ipod June 9th so that I can continue to rock and write on. 

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Praise the Word!



In an attempt to block this horrible case of writer's block, I MUST write for an hour every day. After all, I have no excuse for doing anything less, if I can somehow schedule Emailing, texting, and jerking-off
into my valuable time, then certainly I can program these rusty old wings to write more. So, write on!

My first step in curing my lazy lack of creation is to utilize my email as a sort of back-and-forth conversation with myself. ...Why not? I mean, I type ad-nasum with so many others all day, everyday, so, I should at least give a little back to my brain. Second step, break my daydreaming sessions and frozen moments of information paralysis. Instead of over-analyzing and thinking-through every utterance I must seize the moment and act. I need to write my OWN story, instead of enabling the stories of Others. I also must stop spending so much time overthinking that last sentence or word choice and trust my instincts. WORK SMARTER! NOT HARDER! Lastly, I decide to briefly "bullet-point" the thoughts I acquire through my travels instead of over-thinking these ideas and seeing each as a mammoth project, I should approach these little "notes to myself" as nothing more than that so that the real projects in life don't get bogged-down by little scattered tid-bits of accumulated mindless musings. Just spit the damn thoughts out! Stop getting so backed-up in bullshit! For instance, these thoughts go onto pieces of scrap paper, pile-up, then I toss them out. Thus, I've been treating my own thoughts like trash. No more. I can still toss the scraps away, but at least I will now make sure to keep the real beef. Now, before thowing these thoughts out I will toss/post them onto this steaming technological trash heap - the internet. I will, like La Guardia, "Make my way through these damn piles!"

My thoughts are NOT trash. They may be nonsense, gibberish musings, but no more trash than the countless others uttering thoughts onto this same collective digital Mainframe. So let us build Babel! Art is Resistance.
- My friend Rosey recently advised me to "Black Out". Not blackout as in a power failure or get so drunk you "blackout", but "Black Out", i.e "Man Up", "Step Up", "Move on Up", "Get Uppity". It was nice to be reminded of this so bluntly. I need to stop "Crying over spilt milk." Time is spilt milk.
I have grey hair. Move it. No more hesitation. I must make my own art,
before others totally manipulate it for me.

- This past weekend, while grinding my way through yet another smarmy
performance of Lyrics and Lyricists at the 92/Y, I read an article about George Carlin. In the article, he advises a young comic to "keep writing, always." Duh! Carlin also showed this comic how he organized "thousands of idea files." Smart. As if that wasn't enough motivation to get to it... Last night, while working an event with Carol Liefer and Jerry Seinfeld, Leifer reflected on Seinfeld's ability to "always write for at least an hour everyday. While everyone else was just fucking off."
Reading back over the above lines, I realize my writing is not crisp. It is
tough and gnarled, filled with savage structural errors. Should I post? ...
Damn right I should. Don't hesitate - get past this zero hour, fill the blank page. I must make this a habit. One hour a day - no excuses. My writing will get better. I can regain my focus. Failure is my own fault. This confessional rant is my immolation and salvation.

Praise the Word!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


"We come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics."


"What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply."


- Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Na Na Na Na - Na Na Na Na - Heh! Heh! Heh! - Goodbye!


Outgoing President Bush bid farewell to the Nation last night. Those who tuned-in to watch W's smirking, awkward cold grin and folksiness for one last time, saw the concluding episode of a Presidency that had become a very bad sitcom long-overdue for cancellation. In some way, it was (like these past eight years) painful to watch Bush desperately try to assure us America was "better" and "safer" from his tenure in office. Especially, since his face was unable to conceal the many lies and obvious pain buried underneath.

Bush said nothing new to the American people last night. But, why would he? After all, there's no good way to justify incompetence and outright villiany. Instead, Bush painted himself out to be the lone cowboy. The outsider. An unpopular heroic father-figure, who always knew better than his foolishly misguided children about the big "difficult" decisions of the world. But the only person Bush was still trying to fool was himself. We gave up on him long ago.

Admitedly, Bush opted-out of using his signature arrogance and swagger that had so characterized previous speeches. In fact, at one point, Bush even looked like he was going to break-down and cry. And who would blame him? After all, he fucked-up - big time. Maybe a part of him realized rhetoric will never erase his ruinous record? Sure, the decisions he made were "difficult", but perhaps they could have been a lot easier if guided by logic and reason instead of stupid fear and stubborn blind faith?

W's closing remarks stuck to the theme of his presidency - 9/11. Bush said,"This evening, my thoughts return to the first night I addressed you from this house, September 11, 2001. ...As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11. But I never did." ...No. ...No, he didn't. In fact, the biggest criticism I have of the Bush presidency is the way it fetishized 9/11 for it's own imperial gains and never tried to heal the nation's wounds. Bush instead used 9/11 every chance he could as if he was pouring lemon juice on a wound. The attacks were a tragedy, but Bush also still pretends "America did nothing to seek or deserve this conflict." ...Wrong. American foreign policy has created many enemies and Bush's decisions have likely only created more.

The propaganda Bush fed to Americans over the past eight years tried to paint America as some "innocent" bystander who has always only been here to help. Such rhetoric works for feeble minds too weak and/or scared to admit they're not perfect. But, to be fair, this attitude is only a coping mechanism; after all, a heroic explanation to account for the death of the many who served in the armed forces or who died on 9/11 is easier to process than to admit and associate such deaths with the same greedy gangsterism that has defined American foreign policy since its inception. Ultimately, isn't this the real function of propaganda? To make us believe something we know is false?

I admit, some sick part of me will miss Bush. Sure, he was a crook, bumbling fool, war crimminal, croney, and hypocrite; however, he (as Richard Nixon was for the late Dr. Thompson) - never let me down. I always knew he would fuck things up and he did. But I won't miss him that much; after all, I would rather be surprised by a President who could actually make things better than to suffer through one I know never will.

So, farewell Mr. President, looks like we "misunderestimated" you after all. Let us now hope History will tell your story and truly give it the justice it deserves!

Friday, January 02, 2009

“No time in ‘09”


By Nicholas Allanach

“If you wait too long for the perfect moment, the perfect moment will pass you by.”

There's no time to waste musing on all that might have been or all that may be – there’s only now. I recognize my only option for greater personal evolution is to work harder, be totally honest, and continue to trust my instincts are correct. 2008 flew by with an even greater intensity than the year before that; thus, I anticipate 2009 to be an even faster flash in human history and, if I still hold any hope of being heard in this great cacophony of creation, I damn well better stop all this lecherous intoxication and get to it!

"The Great '08" was indeed magnificent; admittedly, everything that happened over the past twelve months (and those that now slip into the New Year) are not perfect. Of course, who really has the time to stop, reassess, or evaluate these events that have and continue to unfold (particularly when not being paid to do so)? Accordingly, I’m animated by a frantic almost euphoric energy that tries to idealistically outpace the frustrating limitations of this body, time, and bank account. Last month, I turned 30 and, admittedly, I've spent many wasted hours, since then (and perhaps even a little bit before), staring dumb at a blank computer screen biting my nails, lost in some "mid-life" musings on dumb decisions, wasted adventures, and dreams unfulfilled.

Despite battling being broke, and working two jobs in this machine of a city to survive—my life’s adventure is far from over and I still consider myself “wealthy”. Besides, being hungry for success is the best motivation one can have to really focus on this life’s work. Regardless, I’d be a hopeless, stubborn, and overly-idealistic fool if I were to pretend this life has not already passed certain irreversible phases and moments that can not be changed. But I shall waste no time on regrets, these things made me who I am, and I must not forget - no two journeys are ever the same.

So where are we at the close of this great year? Well, as I write, an “unseasonably warm” weather front rolls through New York. Next week, Wall Street will re-open from the holiday break after a year that proved the limitation and failures of the Capitalist system. As I ate my breakfast, I read the news to see hopes for peace in Gaza are currently being shot to hell by Israeli air strikes that will likely escalate into a land war. I then read about a man who dressed-up as Santa Claus and shot-up a holiday party before setting the house on fire. Basically, nothing has really changed in this crazy, weird, war-filled world; but we still keep our eyes on the future in hopes of a better day; accordingly, this year was not all bad; however, the optimism of an Obama Administration taking-over Washington next month will confront many problems that will not be resolved by one man alone - it will take us all to solve these issues. Again, here we are, balancing on a knife’s-edge, between a sustainable future for all humanity or a bleak, violent, and scary one.

As far as things in my own life are concerned, I’m only worried about not having any money and not getting enough done during the limited free time I have. I do not need to worry about my home (even if it is a small one bedroom in East Harlem). I do not worry about a job, (despite recent developments at The New School, my position still seems to be pretty secure). And –most importantly—I’m fortunate for a host of loving friends and family who I would now like to thank separately for all they have done for me this past year…

Nate and Chrissy: Congrats to you both on the new house and much love and light for your healthy and brilliant new summer arrival! Thank you both for all the summer BBQs, bonfires, and boat trips. Dad and Ben: Even though we didn’t get to see each other this past year, I look forward to my upcoming North West adventure. It will be nice to see the Vancouver gang again! Thanks for listening Dad and being the best advisor/friend a young man could ever have. Ethan: Keep up the good fight little nephew, the road ahead is tough and fast, but there are many people who love you very much. Mom: For enduring and doing your best with what you got. I know life is tough, but I hope happiness is not so distant for you in this New Year. Denise: Thanks again for the late night rambles, lady advice, and slamming food – if it wasn’t for you, this artist would have truly starved long ago. Kristi: This may have not been the “Great ‘08”, but we’re still here, and the future is as only as free as we make it. Thanks for bailing me out when I was about to drown and for always encouraging people to be the best they can be. Jesse: Even though the war criminal is still in power; hopefully, we’ll be able to actually start getting done some real projects in ’09 to make more ripples in this already stormy sea. Nadir: It’s been a year of struggle and change. Despite this, you remain a right honorable gentleman, even with your penchant to be “a common opportunist”. Mark: Good luck teaching in Iraq, I look forward to reading about your adventures when you find the time to write about them, and to see you stateside this summer. Dan: Congrats on your recently published article and despite all the heat you faced from those who wanted to make you what you’re not this year – “don’t take any guff from those swine!” Rachael: Thanks for making the Mon. – Fri. routine as tolerable as two hippies can. Sorry for being a grouch when I am, but as the late George Carlin said,“Scratch the surface of any cynic and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.” Indeed, and at least the flag of the double-thumbed freak fist still hangs proud over West 12th Street! Jeff: Who knows what ’09 will throw at you? At least you’ve proven yourself capable of rolling with the punches and knowing when to hit back. Fuck conforming to what others want to make of you - make yourself! E.E. Cummings once said: “To be nobody-but-yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night, and day to make you somebody else –means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” Julia: for the laughs, V-man pizza, and keeping it real under the Big Top - Ha! Ha! Jim: For the long distance creative inspiration and possibility of future Baltimore artistic organizing! Aman: Great to make a new friend this past year that truly understands, appreciates, and worships the awesomeness of Batman and Nine Inch Nails as much as me. Sung: Congrats on your graduation from The French Culinary Institute – good luck in the restaurant business! Nancy: Thanks for the opportunity to work at the 92nd Street Y, for being a friend, and proving it is possible to juggle many interests at once. Rigo and Tom: for being great friends that often feel more like family. To my Maine peeps (and to those on the West Coast too): you were all in my heart and mind this past year and although we didn’t get to meet-up, I hope some day, when I’m rich enough to own my own island, we will have a raucous reunion once again! Ian: Thanks for coming down to the city “you hate” this summer - at least I know you love it enough to eat fried chicken in Harlem before dancing with punks at a Mindless Self Indulgence show. Matt: Nice rambling and partying with you at the close of the year, good luck in Paris, and keep it Johnny Mac! Ena: thank you for being so amazing and for lighting up my dark night with your brilliant Starshine! I look forward to our New Year and hope that whatever adventures we share together, our “friendship” will only continue to evolve and grow in simple happiness.

No time in ’09 gang – so, let’s get to it!