Category Archives: philosophy

“The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” is the yearbook of the revolution

The Black Power Mixtape 1965-1975 is one of the most spectacularly moving documentaries of radical American history released in 2011, and is sure to be like nothing you’ve seen before. The documentary is composed of film shot by a Swedish news crew following the Black Power movement through the socially explosive era of the 60’s and 70’s. The news reels sat forgotten in a basement archival storage for over 30 years until Swedish documentary filmmaker Göran Olsson brushed off the dust. His resulting work won a Sundance Film Festival award for editing.

What I enjoyed about this documentary was the style. Man, was it cool. It takes the revolutionary spirit of those times and makes it contagious. You can’t help but feel yourself get caught up in the sense of urgency. I do admit, I was tempted several times to throw up my fist. The original Swedish crew takes the viewer deep into the Black Power movement by visiting the Black Panther headquarters in Oakland, the liberation rallies, Harlem ghettos, and prisons, to show the period in its rawest and most unapologetic form. The interviews are charged with the turmoil of a society divided by racial violence. Some of the un-politically correct statements are sure offend some viewers.  We get to hear directly from leaders in the revolution speak out for themselves in their manner that is so iconic to the 60’s and 70’s. There are appearances by civil rights giants such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver, and Stokely Charmichael.  Angela Davis’s interview is undeterred despite being conducted while incarcerated. Her fierce intellect still has the passion and power to move even the newest generation.

Don’t expect a concise depiction of the Black Power movement. As the name implies, it is more of a mixtape highlighting the movement’s greatest hits. The soundtrack itself is a mixtape of the soul, funk, and jazz that embodied the era. While many critiques dwell on the lack of historical cohesion, they miss the point that this documentary is supposed to function similar to a time capsule. Either way, the Black Power movement is far too vast and complex of an American phenomenon to ever be explained in 100 minutes. Even the interviewees towards the end urge people to read because “Knowledge is king.” The only problem I had with the film was that the modern commentators were almost exclusively recording artist rather than political activist, social scientist, or university professors. Yet the film is never lacking in message.

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is a super stylish film that makes it fashionable to be intelligent again. It’s a motion picture scrapbook put together by this generation from the memories and history of another. This history is a troubled history, it will engage you directly. You can’t help but feel activated to continue the struggle for a more equal world. I hope you watch and enjoy this great documentary. Let me end this review by honoring all those in the fighting against fascism everywhere. Power to the people.

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Don’t Wait for Permission

It’s been several weeks since I released my book and entered the indie writing world. Discovering the indie writing community has been a beautiful thing. It gave me a feeling similar to when I first found out about Hip-hop, Rock, and counter culture. “What! This has been here all this time?” When I first heard about indie writers I imagined a bunch of turtleneck wearing intellectuals drinking overpriced/undersized cappuccinos, yammering on about irrelevant topics, and snapping their fingers whenever somebody delivered an extra steamy pile of verbal bullshit. Once again, stereotypes had failed me. The indie crowd isn’t just a bunch of beatniks hanging around Starbucks. It’s a diverse community which sort of reminds me of a college campus. There are the different camps, nerds, jocks, hipsters, punks, loud minorities, sitting at their spots.

I knew I had to network if I wanted to get my book out there. At first, Facebook sounded like an obvious route. I created a page and badgered all my friends to join. Their words of encouragement we’re greatly appreciated but after a while I began to notice that most people don’t read books. “I’m happy for you, but reading isn’t really my thing.” Although I’ve suspected this much, it was shocking to me nonetheless. I can understand if somebody doesn’t like reading a sort of genre, but all of them? In America this type of attitude doesn’t turn heads. Which is funny because if you tell someone you don’t watch TV, they look at you as if you’re Amish. They say the average person watches 2-3 solid months worth of television a year. Considering there’s only 12 of them in a set, I rather do something else.

Let’s see what else is on.

Yet, the reading community has inspired me to shake my head too. The bookworms are a lot like the music listeners. Most people have horrible taste. First of all, if you’re a grown adult and the only books you’ve read are Harry Potter, Twilight, and Fifty Shades of Grey, backhand yourself now. But at least they’re reading something. There was a time when, for certain individuals, teaching and learning to read was severely punishable. Even now there are places where having a wrong type of book can cost you your life. Why is that? Because of what’s contained in books, ideas that have taken people a lifetime to arrive at. And those ideas exist in relation to other people’s philosophies, which in turn create an intellectual web that is deeply human. Some people fear this.

I understand that a lot of people are completely turned off to reading. Public schools fail greatly in turning students into avid readers. I didn’t pick up a book for almost a year after graduating high school because I thought all books were boring and useless to me. Then I was lucky enough to pick up writers such as Malcolm X, Audre Lorde, Charles Bukowski, and plenty more. Thanks to these greats minds I’m increasingly connected to the great human spirit that drives us to continually evolve. My mind is like a raging river that’s never going to stop. Without books, it would be reduced to a murky creek. If you’re reading this, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Don’t let the anti intellectual climate bring you down. Express your ideas through whatever means possible. The next time you see another friend becoming a zombie in front of the TV, hand him a book. You’d be surprised how it can change some people’s lives. 

Photo Credits in order of appearance:

http://indiewritingblog.com/

http://www.hangthebankers.com/nielsen-sued-for-billions-over-allegedly-manipulated-tv-ratings/

http://www.wpi.edu/offices/ih/diversity.html

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Bill Nye the Science Guy and the Call to Reason

William Sanford “Bill” Nye (the Science Guy) released a bold video entitled “Creationism is Not Appropriate for Children,” in which he confronts the idea of Creationism and the denial of evolution. He makes his argument that, “Evolution is the fundamental idea in all life science…” and that, “When you have a portion of the population that doesn’t believe in that, it holds everybody back, really.”

Hot off the press.

This short video hit a nerve, immediately getting millions of views. And the reason is not because the evolutionists finally had someone cool to rally around; it was for Bill’s message against the strange American social movement of anti-reason, a philosophical way of life that allows people to deny anything that contradicts their world view, no matter how reasoned or obvious. It’s a movement currently spearheaded by groups such as the Tea Party, a grassroots movement primarily for closet racists that can’t stand the fact a black man is president and see Mexicans as a problem, all the while hiding behind a brittle mask of patriotism. There is also the extreme right-wing Christians who wish to bring about a Christian world order and are so disconnected from human suffering that they’d support a man with the character of Todd Akin whose views on rape and women fit right at home in the dark ages. Their agendas are not based on sound reason or even humanitarian ideas. When you take away the rhetoric they are driven by simple ignorance, hate, fear, and intolerance.

Personally, I’m big on freedom and so I encourage people to believe whatever they choose. But this movement has gained enough momentum to cause detrimental effects at home and abroad. It is a cause of impassioned fanatics who don’t understand what’s going on because they are encouraged to dismiss information as they see fit. This jams the inner working of progress with wasteful infighting that has no end because it does not rely on basic logic. This has grown beyond a tactic of rallying people to cast their votes for a certain party. We are entering a psychological climate that is retrograding and self-destructive in terms of our intellectual and humanitarian advances.

 

I could be guilty of seeing more than Bill intended, but it was his closing statement that leads me to believe I’m not too far off, “And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future.”

The rational thinkers need to make their stand too. We can’t just sit around and watch this backwards social movement tear everything apart. The earth is flat, manifest destiny, government leaders of divine choice, racial inferiority, denial of evolution and the effects of pollution on our environment are all ideas rooted in the tradition of embracing ignorance. I encourage more people continue to take an active stance in the name of reason, and thus spark an inward revolution that will create a condition favorable for the cultivation of our minds and life.

 

Photo Credits

http://scienceprogressaction.org/intersection/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/fakepost3.jpg

http://other98.com/

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Gutter Surrealism and Punk culture

I want to write about Gutter Surrealism and its relation to Punk culture. The reason I want to address this is because Gutter Surrealism is heavily influenced by the madness and beauty of punk culture. First of all I want make it clear: I’m not a punk and I’m not trying to pass for one either. Gutter Surrealism is its own legitimate movement seeking to cut out its own path. But there’s a lot of similarities the two have in common; a spirit of DIY (do it yourself), liberation, anti-authority, high energy, anti-mind control, you get the picture.

I’ve always been fascinated with the underdog. It’s a personal thing of mine. Whenever I watch a youtube video of someone running away from the cops, I instinctually cheer him on. The news actors (I only use the term “reporter” when connected with real journalists. Everyone else is just an actor) can say whatever they want about the guy. In that moment he’s the hero to me. After they catch him, he goes back to being just another ordinary baby killer or whatever awful thing people tend to become. I’m not saying all underdogs are criminals because that’s obviously not true. But if you’re an underdog yourself, you’ll quickly learn the law is not on your side. You become suspicious of anyone in power.

It was while I studied Art History and Theory at SDSU, that I became convinced that throughout history, weirdos were always more interesting and imaginative than normal people. It was around this time that my younger sisters were fully immersed in the underground punk scene. They started telling me about these things called “sewer shows,” which are hardcore punk rock performances literally down in the sewers. The whole idea was surreal, I had to check it out and so I tagged along. The experience was amazing. Mosh pits, people were throwing up graffiti murals, hardcore punk rock music, booze and herb everywhere, everyone having a good time. It was a different world down there. I got smashed off a box of wine and thrashed around in the mosh pit. Some guy even had a homemade flamethrower strapped to his back. He was guiding people through the darkened tunnels with gigantic fireballs.

CA sewer show at secret location

The whole event opened my eyes. We’ve been conditioned to always ask for permission. This group of people circumvented that whole process and made it happen. What hit me the hardest about being down there was the overwhelming sense of freedom. You could do anything you wanted to and were encouraged to. But there was always a base level of respect maintained. People got stupid, but not that kind of stupid. If somebody was an anger junkie, they’d step in the mosh pit and go insane. What I’m saying is that there was a place for everyone. The only time I got negative vibes was after we returned to the city level. Some Neo Nazi mistook my shaved head for being one of him. Besides that, it was beautiful. Yet, the fact that you gotta go hide in the sewers to enjoy music and be free, said something to me about how we live. The message isn’t a 100% clear to me, but I felt there was a definite connection between that subculture and Surrealism.

It’s been said, that the only place we are ever truly free is in our dreams. We can be and have anything we want. The world is yours. As the saying goes, “In your dreams.” Yes, exactly. But what happens when we want to take that freedom that is in our head and move it into reality? That’s where things get complicated. In the world we live in, real prime freedom costs money. Not everyone can afford that pure uncut freedom, but everyone wants to get high off it. If you’re rich then you can afford the freedom to do the most bizarre things and get away with it (just look at R. Kelly). If you’re poor, then you make it happen any way you can.

It was through this shared love of real freedom, by hardcore punk and surrealism that “Gutter Surrealism” was born to me. The term “Gutter Surrealism” came to me after I finished writing Blubber Island. I did a Google search and found only scant remarks. I’m still looking for other Gutter Surrealists in all forms of art. My longtime  friend Cahnan Hickey (bassist of California Punk band Corpspazm) describes G.S as “trashy and mind bending.” I know he gets it. I’m including this bit from Blubber Island which I believes captures the poetry of G.S,

“He took the last drag and flicked his burning cigarette over the edge. At that moment, a strong wind picked up, and the smoking butt flew away like a bird set free.”

It’s about seeing beauty in the ugly things, yet they always remain ugly. Click here to read an example of Gutter Surrealism.

Photo Credits

Dali Photo from: http://tracyinthestars-tracyinthestars.blogspot.jp/2010/08/rebirth-of-salvador-dali.html

Corpspazm Photo http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/corpspazm