Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kicking Away the Line in the Sand...

"If civilization is to survive, 
we must cultivate the science of human relationships - 
the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, 
to live together, in the same world at peace."
- F.D.R

I want to live in a place with strong workers unions, legal weed, gay marriage and overly strict gun laws.  I want to pay higher taxes so my parks and roads and schools and hospitals and social programs are well funded and work.  I want food that's not grown in a chemical process and I want some pony-tailed transplant from Iowa to make me a coffee with an option of almond milk.  I want politicians to run clean without big money financing. I want my country, which was colonized and then built by immigrants, to have a sensible, non-nationalistic approach to immigration.  

Uhhhh….I just erased the rest of this.  It sounded like a 14 year old kid reading the back of a Bob Marley record.  I'll re-think this one…hopefully from the perspective of an adult male.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Humans (Part One)

"Seven to eleven is a huge chunk of life, full of dulling and forgetting.  It is fabled that we slowly lose the gift of speech with animals, that birds no longer visit our windowsills to converse.  As our eyes grow accustomed to sight they armor themselves against wonder."  - Leonard Cohen  

The fact that a person has the ability to get accustomed to anything might be the largest reason the concepts of heaven and hell do not make much sense to me.  This thought coming from a logical standpoint over a theological standpoint, since the two are often at odds.  

I imagine a billowy cloud with everything I could want on it…endless cheese, peanut butter, weed, baseball games and scottie dogs.   But eventually, I'd get used to it.  I'd want more or less of what I have, it's simply human nature.  And begrudgingly, I still have to be honest and check homo sapien on my census report. 

Not to mention hell.  Masochism, I figure…has to be a learned and nurtured trait in most humans.  Because of this, eventually you might grow fond of the steady heat of fire and brimstone…and according to the film 'Little Nicky', pineapples up your asshole.  

I've recently watched doctors and nurses work a lot, which brought up this thought in the first place.  Though they can come off forbidding and cavalier on the prognosis of a human you love dearly, I can understand how they become accustomed.  Eventually numb, maybe bored.  They still need to come home after work and manage to compartmentalize what they saw all day.  Not bringing that pain and agony you see back home with you.

I can relate in a similar sort of way.  I have a job that's incredible and unique.  What I get to do is special and rare and fueled by drastic physical and emotional responses on each side of the stage.  But, through the years,  I've eventually grown accustomed to it.  I can't lie and say that at times, my mind hasn't wandered.  I'm usually tied to every note in a very cathartic way.  But...maybe once or twice, on the 486th show during Great Expectations, I thought about the standings of the NBA Eastern Conference…or, will Ian eat all the pizza before I'm done showering later?   

In a former reality I used to beg people to book and enjoy my bands.  I was ecstatic if someone who wasn't my friend bought a demo or a t-shirt.  Trying to accrue fans one by one by one.  Now it's possible to walk into an undersold House of Blues somewhere and manage to muster up a feeling of regrettable disappointment.  How that happened?  I don't know…but it happened.  A particular example of how a human can view themselves in dangerous ways without the appropriate checks and balances in their life.  

Life is funny like that.  Humans are some adaptable motherfuckers.  One of the reasons I still have hope in my species is our ability to adapt and grow accustomed and move on.  But, if there is a heaven or hell…I imagine it HAS to be something so far beyond human perception, because anything inside of the human paradox can get old.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

East London Insomnia…(Fear of the Dark)

"I am a man who walks alone
And when I'm walking a dark road
At night or strolling through the park

When the light begins to change 
I sometimes feel a little strange
A little anxious when it's dark"

- Iron Maiden 

Do we choose to be afraid?  

It's 3:30 AM, I'm in a posh East London hotel watching World Cup replays and deciding whether to shower or exercise, or both.  Stomach hurts from the flight and coffee and beer and shitty finger foods I've been eating all day.  The air is thick in here, and for some reason hotels don't trust me to not throw myself or large objects out the window, so it's sealed.  I could go outside, but then I'd have to put on clothes, and who knows what variable could throw itself at me at this time of night in a neighborhood I don't know.  These difficult choices that muddle my mind from the real gray area of my life I should be paying attention to.   

Part of my long and tenuous battle with the night is clearly based on fear.  When I was a child it was of death, basic….I knew my greatest fear and met it head on every night.  Now I just lay anxious, my fears so muddled through time and thought that they lay in an unrecognizable pile.  A pile that should get sorted through, piece by piece…cleaned and then re-assembled, like an engine.  But instead, at 33, I meet it with a begrudging inevitability.  Digging through that pile sounds exhausting and painful and the idea of letting it sit is so much easier.  Maintained happiness feels like a full-time job. 

Anyway…the question is, do we choose to be afraid?  This topic has been taking more brain space recently because of a documentary I watched called 'Don't Look Down.'    It's about two "urban free climbers", one from the UK named James Kingston, who travels to the Ukraine to team up with acclaimed Internet sensation Mustang Wanted for a couple of tandem climbs.  Essentially, these guys climb up cranes, bridges and old or new building frames, with no roping or safety, and dangle from hundreds of feet taking pictures of themselves.  It's fucking gnarly, and kind of rad, and gives you that "too high" feeling which leaves a knot in the bottom of your stomach and top of your balls just watching it.  

Overcoming and not recognizing fear, clearly plays a role in such a task.  At one point in the film, Kingston talks about the only difference between your hands hanging on to a bar at 10 feet or 300 feet is how your brain decides to see it.  I love this.  It's the same hands, and the same piece of metal you're holding on to.  He just doesn't allow his brain to receive it as fear, knowing he's done it thousands of times and has trust in his ability.  I'm inspired by this, irrational fear comes from a place that can be conquered, not simply dealt with.  

So now I find myself in a battle of wits with different parts of my brain.  The rational and irrational meeting in a heated battle to determine the speed of my heart palpitations.   Tonight I'll choose to not be afraid, and I'll win.  Tomorrow night, well…I'll deal with that when it comes. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Racist Gun Jerks…and the laws that protect them.

"The guns and the bombs, the rockets and the warships, are all symbols of human failure." - Lyndon B. Johnson

In Oak Creek, Wisconsin, on the morning of August, 5, 2012, a degenerate, racist fuck-up by the name of Wade Michael Page took it upon himself to open fire on unarmed and vulnerable Sikh men and women who were just starting to file in to their Gurudwara (temple) to prepare food for Langar.  A Sikh communal meal that emphasizes equality and common roots, which was to take place later that day.   

As some women cooked the feast and children studied in the basement below for Sunday school, he walked up, and according to a weapons instructor who lives nearby, "ripped off", meaning shooting as fast as you can pull the trigger.  The head priest, Satwant Kaleka, bravely attempted to tackle the shooter and was shot twice and killed, along with 5 others.  There was a fire fight with police, one of which seriously injured before the gunmen shot himself. 

They had no clue, no chance...a terrifying scenario to consider.  

Something in particular really irked me while reading through the information of this story, besides for the obvious horror.  The weapon used in the shooting was, predictably, a legally purchased semi-automatic hand gun.  

On July 28th he walked into the "Shooters Shop" in a small town outside of Milwaukee looking for a handgun, particularly a 9MM.  
He filed the written background check, which as I'll explain later, miserably failed.   The other "check"  to buy this weapon is what really shocked me.  

Kevin Nugent, owner of the store, was responsible to "feel out" the vibe of the purchaser to determine whether he was dangerous or not.  He said in later interviews that his justification to sell included:
"He did not look strange and appeared calm."
"He didn't have a shaved head or 9/11 tattoo"
"He didn't talk stupid or act stupid"
"He raised no eyebrows whatsoever"

According to an LA Times article, Nugent added he's very strict, and said he reserves the right not to sell to customers who appear irate or under the influence.  The same article says Page paid $650 cash for a Springfield Armory XDM semi-automatic with three 19-round ammunition magazines.  He picked up the gun two days later, took it to the shops basement range for target practice and left.  

Obviously this is the weapon he used to murder 6 people, 7 including himself less than a week later. 

According to the NRA website detailing Wisconsin's gun laws, the owner submits a background check through the Department of Justice to check for criminal history, domestic violence, involuntary commitment and tribal restraining orders.  If those are clear and you pass the eye test, after 48 hours the deadly weapon is yours.  

As if this process wasn't arbitrary and dangerous enough.  There WERE red flags on this maniac prior to the shooting.  He served in the army for 6 years before receiving a "general discharge", which are given to service members whose performance is satisfactory but is marked by a considerable departure in duty performance and conduct expected of military members.  He was demoted and given his discharge for "patterns of misconduct" including being drunk while on duty and going absent without leave.  

On top of this, the Souther Poverty Law Center had flagged both of his bands (a singer apparently) for being "racist white-power" groups.  On top of that, the Anti-Defamation league had both his girlfriend and he tied to white power extremist groups going back years before. 

With those elements in place, leaving the judgement of a semi-automatic weapon purchase to a citizen, and private store owner whose general interest is to make money is deplorable.  I'm not blaming this man Kevin Nugent for the shooting, I'm blaming the laws in place for giving that man the authority or judgement to hand these weapons out.

Our system failed, again, and will continue to without change.    

It often blows my mind how the laws can be created and bent and mangled to protect things that don't need any damn protection.  I usually like to be optimistic and or "centric" in these articles, but the fact that I need more paperwork to get car registration than a gun and still have to hide pot from the cops, while this sort of thing happens, is plainly obscene and absurd.  Down with the NRA.