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!