Random ramblings.

Thursday
May022013

Dear Chi

Since Chi's death, a few magazines and stuff have asked me some questions about him. I'm grateful for the chance to think on these things and maybe give others a glimpse into what I (and lots of others) loved so much about him. One simple question in particular really stuck with me: "If you could say anything to Chi right now, what would it be?" So when the sweet folks at the Sacramento News & Review asked me to write a slightly longer piece, I explanded on that idea. Here you go. Let's live.

 

So, I was reading this big, heavy Jewish book (that sort of start always got your attention). I found this part where some minor prophet or another is ranting about how nothing is an opportunity or a challenge or a journey or a learning experience or a test or a trial—it’s all gifts. All of it. Of all the conversations I wish we’d had, just talking about that one page—that one beautiful, brazen rant—that’s the conversation I wish for most right now. I think you would have agreed. You loved a tough take on beauty. You were all about the glorious rant.

I think of what Robert Frost wrote: “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” I think of you wrestling with ideas, wrestling with people you cared for until you were tangled in their limbs and hearts. You stuck with people.

I have no stories about where you are or aren’t. I have no idea what you saw when I was there. I just know what I saw. It was just the same as before that stupid fucking car crash. Your family and friends circulating—I could never really tell who was blood and who wasn’t, and I didn’t care. I just saw the same gorgeous gathering around you, Chi, Dai, all the names. We’d all be whispering to you, telling stories, thinking maybe with just the right touch or melody or exciting new treatment we’d find you again, lead you back, refusing to let go. Your mom, sweet sentinel, reminding me where your capability for tenacious, tireless love came from.

I’m not sure we really know what to do now. You gave such a focus to things. How were you so precise and so chaotic all at once? I thought about that so often when watching you play. Through all the furious twirling and screaming, snaggletooth and sweat, dirty dreadlocks stuck to your face, pasted on until they got shaken off. In the center of all that mess, these delicate, thoughtful lines, holding together everything around you. The guttural, gorgeous screams; primal, simple words with so much room for interpretation and space. Yours was the voice to make those words mean as much as they ever would. Whether they were intelligible or not, they got in. Incantations. There’s this other really dense book, The Spell Of The Sensuous, that I know you’d love tearing into and tearing apart. It says something about how in some old language, the word for song is also the word for magic.

So, when I offer my ideas about everything being gifts and trying to have this—your death—occur as a present somehow, I think a lot of people would hate that idea. I don’t think you’d be one of them, though. I think you’d dig into it the way you loved digging into any number of difficult ideas, finding the fertile bits in the toughest terrain.

I hate that you’re gone. I hate that your son won’t get more time with you. I hated seeing how tired and embattled the faces of all the people that loved you were getting. The truth of your absence is something that will never leave and never stop hurting. But if you could just see everyone! I feel the tears coming again—if you could just see everyone talking, singing, hugging, all looking at each other, finally, like we always should be looking at each other, but it’s not until someone like you is missing that we figure out what it is to be found.

Fuck, maybe that’s just me trying to make sense of it, making up stories after all. I don’t need it to be true. I can just keep remembering how true you were. As permanent in your presence as you are in your absence. I can’t honestly say that I think that about most of us. I aspire to your effortless acceptance, without even a hint of acquiescence. You were all about the paradox.

This isn’t going to end cleanly. You used your heart as well as I’ve ever seen a heart used. Suddenly, it stopped. Sweet, smart, ferocious Chi. Goodbye.

(Onstage w/Deftones in 1997 at Irving Plaza in NYC. I ran across Manhattan and literally straight onto the stage (happens at around 2:46), just in time. I always used Chi's mic when I'd sing with them; I loved being close to him. I love seeing us smile and shake it in this blurry footage; all the energy and love.)

Sunday
Apr142013

Bye, Chi. Truly, RIP.

I have never been around the kind of faithful tenacity that I witnessed in Jeanne when I would visit Chi and sing for/with him. Of course I'm on tour, waking up and finding out he's finally, really gone. Fits, somehow. Along with the beyond-measure grief thinking of his family and loved ones, I'm feeling really deep gratitude for the people I met through this tragedy, for the song that was created from it, made with lifelong friends on a sweet and peaceful afternoon, after a dream. I still remember the feeling of recording this at Shaun's house. Never forget.



I dreamt that you were alive, really alive
I dreamt of your eyes, I dreamt of your eyes
They weren't just open, they were engaged

Then somebody said, or maybe I read
In the daytime we're dead, but at night we live

We were inside, sitting inside
Ready to play, there was the stage
And she wasn't brave, and you weren't away
Then somebody said, where was it I read
In the daytime we're dead, but at night we live

We're with our families, we're with our friends
We're singing and smiling, time is a secret
There is no car crash, there is no blood
I don't believe this, but maybe I should
In the daytime we're dead, but
At night we live

I'm realizing that while I had pretty well accepted that I'd never speak with Chi again, I did have this little glimmer that some impossibly long-shot miracle might happen, and it's time to mourn that. I'm also reminded (again and again) that whatever comes and goes, we actually do, so I want to keep remembering that and let the little things go with love. And yea, just about everything is pretty little in relation to this most (seemingly) permanent of transformations.

Okay. Have a beautiful day. Here's from the night before the last time I ever saw him.



And, through the strange magic of YouTube and our collected collective memories, here's from the year before, in the same gorgeous room. Hadn't remembered the interspersing that happened and all the goofiness. Sweet to hear again. Chi woulda dug it, I know it. We'll keep trying for us, up here with angels, free as birds, reigning in blood, indeed.



http://oneloveforchi.com/

 

====

 

ps - Kerrang just asked me some stuff for a tribute they're doing. I have no idea what will get used, but it was nice to write about Chi some, so here:


Q: When did you and Chi first meet? What do you remember of him from that time – first impressions, etc?


- I met Chi in 1991. I was living on a friend's floor, starting Far. The Deftones were already doing great in Sacramento. We all became fast friends. Me and Chi were definitely the two philosophical, sensitive, crazy ones. I asked him to come read some poetry at one of my very first solo shows in Sacto. He came out and blew everyone's mind, while cracking them up and freaking them out. It was perfect.


Q: What do you remember of the day of his accident? 


- At the beginning, as horrible as the accident was, everyone was just so happy that he was still alive. As the days and months wore on, though, it became real to everyone just how fucked up he was.


Q: How often did you manage to visit him in hospital? Were you ever hopeful that he might make a recovery?


- I always held a place in my heart that he might make it back. I visited him in California when he was at a hospital there, then in Jersey a couple times when he got moved there to try some different treatments. I'd sing and hold his hand, just hang out and let him know I was there.


Q: Where were you when you heard of Chi's passing? Did the timing come as a shock? 


- I woke up in Italy, on tour. I had all these notifications that people had tagged me in various posts. I noticed some of them being from people that I knew were close to Chi. I knew immediately that it must be really good news, or really bad news.


Q: What are your favourite memories of Chi? Any particular stories that stand out in your mind?


- Chi had this girlfriend. They broke up, and for some reason, he told me I should take her out. I thought that was kinda weird, in that amazing Chi way, and she was really cool and cute, so I figured, 'why not'? Then, when I slept with her, I heard Chi was furious and was going to come and beat the crap out of me. Honestly, I was never afraid, cos I knew he was just being a freak and we'd laugh about it all. And we did.


Q: What do you think Chi's legacy will be, both as a musician and a person?


- Just a big-hearted, creative wildman. I'd love to see a lot of his work be collected in one place; poems, journal entries, songs. He was an incredibly smart, complex, thoughtful person. I'd love to see that preserved well.


Q: There's been a huge outpouring of love from musicians and fans around the world. What do you think it was about Chi that made him so popular with everyone who met him?


- He was one of those rare folks that is somehow immune to all the bullshit that fame can bring. He just stayed the same freak, the whole time. He was so comforting to be around, and at the same time so exciting.


Q: If you could say anything to Chi right now, what would you say?


- I'd say, "Let's go take a walk and talk about weird, beautiful shit. Then let's go do an open mic. You can read some, I'll sing some, we'll improvise some stuff together. Let's see what happens."
Monday
Jan142013

Some Gut Thoughts On All This KickGoGoPledgeStarter Stuff

Some Gut Thoughts On All This KickGoGoPledgeStarter Stuff:

It's strange, though not entirely unexpected, for me to hear some folks hating on the crowdfunding thing. Over the last 20 years, I've lived through the same phenomenon with genres, ideologies, social networks, scenes, so much. The interwebs moves fast and crazy, eating itself irrelevant like… I don't know, I can't think of a good metaphor. You get it.

As simply put as possible, anything can be shitty and anything can be transcendent (hello, television). All I know is I've always wanted this (art, life, whatever) to be as personal as can be. When I look back, that's been my compass through the choices. I've had some of my most intimate, cool musical moments of connection when tons of money was flying around, and for sure when none was too. So many ways come and go. So, I can't speak for any of the other artists/businessfolks trying this way out, but here's for me:

I've been finding sensible, neat ways to get my ideas into the world for a long time, no matter who's around or not. I love that process almost as much as I love the songs themselves (it's all ideas, really). To be sure, I'm very, very not rich; I live in a little apartment in an unhip neighborhood, I've never owned a new car or anything close, I've never had a laundry machine anywhere I've lived, I don't eat out much, on and on. That said, one way or another I've made a living doing this for 20 years, which is totally fuckin nuts. Aside from the labels and various entities that have helped out along the way, the money you've chipped in at shows, stores and websites has fed me and helped me send my daughter to college, and I'm doing okay. I live sustainably and reasonably. I've heard funny rumours that I have a trust fund or something, otherwise how the fuck could I do it as weird as I have and still survive. I've also heard that I dye my hair to stay looking young, so there you go. Eeew to both (though I'm jealous of people that have inherited tons of loot, so share some with me, please). Anyway, please don't chip in out of any sort of sympathy or something. There are people in this world that need money so exponentially more than me that I can barely bear to write that sentence. Be a part of it cos you want to be a part of it; in it with me. Together.

So yea, back to fun. I think crowdsourcing is fun. I don't take fun lightly. I think it's why we're here (that's a whole 'nother essay). I've always thought that. Before these cool sites existed, I was basically doing the same thing, except without the fancy interfaces. I love the correspondence, I love the mailing of packages, I love the wrestling with technology, I love the working it out. I just think it's great for people to actually be a part of stuff getting made as it happens, to buy into the idea of it, to be along for the ride. People that want to spend a little can do that, people that want to spend a lot can do that. Being the geeky fan that I am, I also think it's cool to give early-to-the-party, enthusiastic, generous people extra-good deals and special, personal stuff that won't be sold in the more traditional ways. By the same token, I also think it's cool to give people a chance to pay a little extra if they can afford it and/or they think I deserve it. I've done that, too, and it feels really good. It does seem like some idiotic artists and scammers are abusing the medium, jumping into projects without working for it, making promises they can't keep, not handling the trust of the people wanting to support them with grace and accountability. That sucks, of course. If it needs to be said, that's just not me. I show up, over and over. If I fuck up, I say it and fix it as best I can. pretty simple. Truth be told, the confusions have always been some of my favorite parts. That's when we really get to know each other and the masks come off, if we're brave enough.

So please, be a part of this project. Blow my mind (Ian's too), make it make millions. Or not. I think it's gonna be fuckin awesome (why else would I do it, right?). Be a part of it if you think it might be awesome too, and you want to see it exist in the best way it can. Thanks for being a part of the ideas that came before. I hope you'll stick around for whatever comes next. All the methods of communication and exchange will keep changing. Through it all, breathe through the hype and hate. Look out for the stuff that just gives you a good feeling in your gut and vote for that. I'll be right there with you.

Jonah, San Francisco, Jan 14 2013

Wednesday
Nov072012

Dear GOP(T)P... Keep Speaking Up!

Dear Grand Old (Tea) Party and conservatives of all stripes; Akin, Palin, Rush, Bachmann, Chik Fil-A dude and other weirdo CEOs, Ryan, Boehner, Hannity, Coulter, McConnell, Rove, all of you... please keep speaking up.

Keep speaking up about race and immigration. This country — this world — is getting less white and more wonderfully multi-hued every day. The more you keep calling human beings 'illegals', the more you use would-be code words to demean all shades of brown people, the more you debase and disrespect unfamiliar religions and traditions... the easier it will be for people of all colors to see your bigotry and ignorance and vote accordingly.

Keep speaking up about women. The more you attempt to minimize rape, the more you try to legislate what a woman can do with her body, the more you try to outlaw abortion rather than taking a holistic approach to reproductive health and sexuality, the more your fear and hatred of the feminine becomes clear... the easier it makes it for all of us to witness your gross misogyny and vote accordingly.

Keep speaking up about gender and sexuality. The wide, wonderful spectrum of the LGBTQ community is getting more out, proud and awesome every day. The more you try to demonize and shame people for being in loving relationships, the more you try to tell people that they can't get married, the more you hang on to outdated gender roles and rules... the more you isolate yourselves, while the rest of us have fun watching our communities bloom and blend—and yes, we will all vote accordingly.

Keep speaking up and insulting people in need. Keep saying that social programs and universal health care are useless, wasteful, government dinosaurs made for lazy losers. Keep belittling the millions of us working so hard to support ourselves and our families. Keep making fun of the idea of climate change. Keep trying to kill public education. Keep talking about how free the market is. Keep talking about how great deregulation is. Keep trying to sneak weird stuff into our food. Keep trying to suppress the vote. Keep trying to scare us into thinking we can bomb our way to peace. Keep pretending that abstinence and prohibition work. Keep trying to keep secrets and tell crazy stories, as we keep exposing them more and more quickly and methodically. It all helps us to see each other as allies, even though you've tried so hard to have us see each other as adversaries. It helps us to wake up and wonder what we've been so afraid of. It helps us to band together and find common ground. Speaking of which, thanks for all the help this election cycle. You never stopped reminding us that President Obama and the rest of the Democratic candidates, while less than ideal, were such a clearly better choice. By the way, if you bother to look back at some of the awful things you've said and done that have led to this place, you might catch a glimpse of yourselves careening towards the worst side of history. If you want to take a step back from that cliff, you're always invited to a place of rational thought and debate, where science is respected, where religion and spirituality aspire to foster love and trust rather than hate and fear, where we prefer community and togetherness to selfish, cold individuality. Until then, just keep right on speaking up. As for the rest of us...

Dear Democrats and Progressives of all stripes: we need to keep working to find consensus on the environment, civil rights, education, taxation, the military, privacy, food, drugs... everything, really. We need to push for our shared dreams and ideals while being rational and responsible about the world we’ve created. We need to watch for our own extremist tendencies. We need to start at the local level and work outward, patiently. We need to hold our elected officials accountable as we honor them and appreciate their hard work on our behalf; and if we really don’t like them, we need to be elected officials we do like. Let’s move forward. Together.

Love,

Jonah Matranga

(a middle-class guy raising his daughter in the big, weird, wonderful US of A)

Tuesday
Oct302012

How To Vote On Nov 6 (And Why)

I'm sharing this to try and help ease the confusion/stress of voting, in the hopes that it'll get more people to the polls. Also, it's to encourage people to pay attention not just to the presidential race, but to all the other choices we'll be making on November 6. This mostly applies to SF and CA; I hope that you seek out something like this for wherever you are. A good place to do that is (http://theballot.org). 

Basically, if you're anywhere to the Left of the GOPTP, the choices I suggest that are the closest to being in line with mainstream progressive ideals (more on this later). Even if you're voting 3rd-party for president (I beg you not to, especially if you're in any sort of battleground state), please take the time to vote on the other races and the propositions, measures, etc. 

This list isn't necessarily about my personal opinion on these issues. I try to be transparent about any personal bias throughout. Mostly, though, I just took various sources (newspapers, smart friends, entities for and against, etc.) and cross-referenced them, then went from there.

First off, here's a really easy version first that you can take with you when you vote. Then, after the list, there are concise, plain-english explanations as to why those choices make sense. 

HOW:

PEOPLE (MOSTLY CA/BAY ONLY):

President: Barack Obama

Senate (CA): Dianne Feinstein

House, District 8 (SF-ish): Nancy Pelosi

House, District 9 (Oakland-ish): Barbara Lee

House, District 12 (Peninsula-ish): Jackie Speier

Assembly, District 13 (SF): Tom Ammiano

Assembly, District 19 (SF): Phil Ting

State Senate, District 11 (SF): Mark Leno

BART Board, District 9: Tom Radulovich

BART Board, District 7: Zachary Mallett

PROPOSITIONS:

(CA ONLY)

Prop 30: YES

Prop 31: NO

Prop 32: NO

Prop 33: NO   

Prop 34: YES   

Prop 35: NO

Prop 36: YES

Prop 37: YES   

Prop 38: NO    

Prop. 39: YES

Prop 40: YES

(SF ONLY)

Prop A (Taxes For Community Colleges): YES

Prop B (Parks): YES

Prop C (Affordable Housing): YES

Prop D (Consolidating Elections): YES

Prop E (Taxing Businesses To Help The City's General Fund): YES

Prop F (Study Water Resources): NO

Prop G (Corporations Aren't People): YES

========= 

WHY:

PEOPLE:

I don't mean to minimize the individual attributes of any of the people listed, but as I go to write about the individual races, it really is a similar story: In most cases, the only other people running in these races (that have any chance of winning) are extreme Right-wing ideologues. Their views and policies are largely based on some unholy combination of irrational biblical interpretation and/or racism and/or greed. I've never voted Republican, but it's common knowledge that Reagan, Nixon and many other conservative icons look like decadent communists compared to the current state of the GOPTP. To vote third-party at this point just doesn't make sense if you want to keep congress and the presidency sane and reasonable. I still consider 2000-2008 to be a time that we'll feel the effects of for decades. All the while, I heard people talking about how Bush and Gore were the same, then how Bush and Kerry were the same. In the meantime, extreme Right-wingnuts from Bush and Cheney on down the line did terrible damage to our schools, our environment, our Supreme Court… on and on. For a moment, President Obama was actually able to do some really great stuff, and then in 2010 we lost a bunch of seats in congress to people hellbent on blocking anything the Democrats attempted, which led to a very frustrating couple of years. It could be an absolutely disastrous bunch of years if Romney/Ryan wins and/or we lose any more seats in congress. After November 6, I'm all for doing grass-roots organizing on progressive issues and building on that momentum; getting important issues onto ballots, getting great progressives onto school boards, city councils, anything we can do. For now, though, next week, these are our choices. Most of them aren't anywhere near perfect for many of my progressive friends with regard to war, drugs, civil rights, privacy and many other very important issues. They're not perfect for me, either. I'll just say the same thing I've said a lot this election cycle: Every choice you'll ever make is inherently the choice between the lesser of two evils. Think about that. I think the Left is falling prey, ironically, to the rhetoric created and popularized by the Right (Reagan in particular) that says politicians and government are inherently bad, dishonest, etc. This irrational stereotype creates apathy. Apathy creates low voter turnout. Low voter turnout, historically speaking, leads to candidates further and further to the Right (why that is merits a whole other discussion), leaving so many of us ever more scared and hopeless. We're on the same side here. Let's keep building the future we want, together. Right now, that means voting thoughtfully and reasonably. Please do.

========

PROPOSITIONS

Prop 30 (Tax For Education): YES

This one is simple and urgent. It'll give our schools $6 billion annually for the next several years to prevent even more (and more severe) cuts to our already crowded, underfunded public schools, which in turn affects our public safety, our future… you get the idea. It's crazy that in California we have so much innovation, wealth and everything else… and our public schools are dying. We’ve got to pass this.

Prop 31 (Budget Stuff): NO

Lots of confusing money stuff here. In the face of complex, hard-to-figure things like this, I check with the folks that have really studied up. In this case, the League of Women Voters, California School Employees, the California League of Conservation Voters, half the major newspapers, the Democrats and others I respect are against it. They all say that it just creates new and more complicated bureaucracies… and that it’s not well written, which will inevitably make for tons of legal messes. Notably, some folks for it are the California Republican Party, a lot of chambers of commerce, the California Business Roundtable, and others. I generally find that entities with terms like 'business' and/or 'taxpayer' in their names are 'conservative' entities that want to further gut public education, social services and infrastructure in favor of the mega-rich getting even more mega-rich.

Prop 32 (Political Spending): NO

So many propositions are sneaky like this. They sound great until you read the fine print. If this proposition actually took the money out of politics, I’d be all for it. But it doesn’t. It says that unions and corporations can’t contribute directly to candidates, BUT this leaves a lot of businesses that aren’t corporations free to donate, and corporations free to fund SuperPacs. More importantly, this proposition also prohibits using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. This is a very important point, because only unions work this way. It leaves corporations free to throw money at candidates and PACs from their operating funds, while completely neutering unions (meaning progressive causes would lose major donors). It’s very important to defeat this. The League of Women Voters, the Democratic Party, and the California Teachers all oppose it. Fittingly, The Koch brothers (hyper-conservative zillionaires) have provided most of the financial support for this proposition. It's always smart to follow the money when figuring out what to support (and what not to).

Prop 33 (Car Insurance): NO   

Another sneaky one. It sells itself as a proposition to allow insurance discounts to drivers who have continuous insurance coverage. What that really means, though, is that it allows insurance companies to raise their rates on anyone who, for any reason, drops their coverage and then reinstates it, which just makes no sense. Interestingly, this was voted down in 2010, but they're trying it again 

Prop 34 (Death Penalty Ban): YES   

Bans the death penalty. Personally, I'm opposed to killing people in general (what a concept), especially in light of the fact that way too many people have been put to death, only to discover after they're gone that they were innocent. Beyond the heavy moral/ethical stuff, it’s also a big moneysaver. Death row is really expensive, as is the (very necessary) appeals process involved in that punishment. Current death row inmates would have their sentences converted to life in prison. That's expensive too, of course, but that's a whole other conversation. Anyway, even with that in mind, it will still save money. Those savings would go to investigate unsolved murder cases (there are more of those than you could ever imagine). This seems like a really reasonable compromise around a really tough, ugly but all-too-real issue. 

Prop 35 (Human Trafficking): NO   

This is a tough one for me; I actually switched on this one at the last minute. Of course human trafficking is horrific. We need to take it seriously. This would help to do that. What changed my mind, though, was finding out that this proposition was essentially created and paid for by one very rich person (former Facebook exec Chris Kelly) looking for a cause to advance his political futures. This isn't bad in and of itself, but it's always a reason to dig deeper. Turns out that this bill, along with doing some good to combat trafficking, would also cast really wide nets and inevitably mess with many in the sex industry that aren't evil monsters. Frankly, I'm not generally a fan of stripping, porn, prostitution, etc, but I'm even less of a fan of people with different views than mine being unnecessarily harassed and disproportionately punished. Also, there is apparently another bill in the works (by state Senator Mark Leno) that would do the good this one would without the unnecessary stuff.

Prop 36 (Three Strikes Reform): YES

This would revise the Three Strikes law to impose life in prison only when the third strike is “serious or violent.” There are an astonishing number of people serving ridiculously disproportionate sentences because of the dogmatic, one-size-fits-all nature of this truly terrible law. This would authorize the justice system to re-examine Three Strikes sentences that weren't overly serious or violent. The people who voted for Three Strikes in the first place didn’t intend life in prison for many of the people no serving those sentences. It’s time to at least begin to fix this insane law. 

Prop 37 (GMO Labeling): YES   

Labeling any food that contains GMOs (genetically modified organisms) really has no downside. We're just learning about this technology, and we deserve to have all the information we need as consumers to decide what we feed ourselves and our children. Monsanto (impossibly rich and powerful king of the GMO freaks) is very against this proposition, which is a great reason to be for it.

Prop 38 (Tax For Education): NO    

This one's confusing. It sounds a lot like Prop 30 in many ways. It also raises money for education, BUT it taxes the mega-poor as well as the mega-rich; the tax lasts for twelve years; the money it would generate doesn't get to the schools fast enough… you get the point. Also, even if both this one and 30 pass, this one could cancel out 30 if it gets more votes, which is too risky. It's not supported by the governor or any major newspapers. 

Prop. 39 (Multistate Biz Tax): YES

Through various loopholes, the law around this right now essentially encourages outsourcing of jobs. This proposition would change that and simply require multi-state businesses (hello, Amazon and other internet giants) doing business in California to pay income taxes in California, even if they’ve moved their offices, jobs, etc elsewhere… again, usually to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. With Prop 39, if you’re selling here, you’ll have to pay your taxes here. Pretty simple and sensible. 

Prop 40 (Uphold Current Redistricting): YES

Redistricting is a tough thing to figure, seems everyone does it to try to get advantages in elections, etc. A Yes vote on this just confirms that voters want to keep the redistricting that was decided already and went into effect this year. The courts have similarly ruled that the current redistricting works for now, but apparently someone with a lot of money didn't like their decision. Vote yes on this to uphold decisions that have already been made and agreed upon. 

=============

SF-ONLY STUFF

Prop A (Taxes For Community Colleges): YES

This is trying to make up for 25 million in state budget cuts. It will raise 16 million dollars by adding a small tax ($79) to every property lot. It's not perfect, but our community colleges desperately need this money.

Prop B (Parks): YES

This gives 195 million (from money raised by property taxes) to help keep our city pretty and functional for all. While the Parks & Rec dept. could do a way better job and should be pressured along those lines (serving public interests and poorer neighborhoods better), it doesn't mean we should say no to supporting our city's infrastructure.

Prop C (Affordable Housing): YES

This helps keep home ownership affordable and neighborhoods more diverse. It's not perfect (still goes pretty easy on mega-rich developers and doesn't do anything to help renters like me), but some really thoughtful people fought hard to get this on the ballot.

Prop D (Consolidating Elections): YES

This just makes it so the city attorney and the treasurer have their elections along with the mayor, the sheriff and the DA. As far as I'm concerned, the more choices we get to make every time we vote, the better.

Prop E (Taxing Businesses To Help The City's General Fund): YES

This raises 28.5 million to help out with any number of things the city needs (helping the mentally ill, community policing, so much) by taxing the gross receipts of SF businesses 1.5%. Big business, predictably, has been fighting this in every way they know how. Given how much SF's General Fund has lost in the past five years (1.5 billion, yikes), this money is desperately needed and will bring good things for all of us.

Prop F (Study Water Resources): NO

This seems innocent enough, even really cool. It's only asking for 8 million this time, to do a study of their proposal. The thing is, they'd eventually be asking for several billion if this passes. I'd vote for something that encouraged a lot of what this bill and it's proponents eventually want: more recycling of water, more renewable energy and other sensible ideas. The thing is, one of the main stated goals of the eventual proposal would be to drain Hetch Hetchy, which is such a major water source that the whole concept leads to all sorts of trouble. Until there is a more thoughtful long-term plan, we shouldn't waste millions studying it.

Prop G (Corporations Aren't People): YES

This is a statement, not a law. It doesn't require money, nor does it change anything legally. It's just a declaration that corporations aren't people and that all this insane money isn't doing our political process any good. We have to figure out a sane, fair way to hold elections in our massive, flawed, functioning democracy. This points us in a more reasonable direction.

==========

Some information sources:

http://theballot.org

http://www.smartvoter.org/ca/sf/

http://www.easyvoterguide.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/EVG-Nov12-Eng-v5x.pdf

http://www.sfbg.com/2012/10/02/endorsements-2012-state-and-national-races

http://content.sierraclub.org/voterguide/#.UJBf_Wl25Ac

http://ca.lwv.org/ballot-recommendations

http://dccc.org/pages/redtoblue

http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

 

Sunday
Jun032012

Letter Of The Moment #16,233,241

I'm consistently amazed and humbled by the great stories I hear of the music being in people's lives. Sometimes, they're quite emotional and heavy (in great ways). This one, however, is just fuckin awesome:

--------

"About 12 years ago, a friend of mine worked at a place that had a t-shirt printer. I brought him a white under shirt and the artwork for Far's "Tin Cans with Strings To You" album. I made a shirt of the main artwork. That became and continued to be my favorite shirt for a VERY long time. 

Fast forward about ten years and it was still my favorite shirt. It had grown so many holes in it that I could no longer wear it in public. I would wear it around the house and my girlfriend at the time HATED it. Finally, we were moving and doing a lot of spring cleaning and I said fine, it's time for the shirt to go. I put it in a box and set it outside on the sidewalk (this is in Brooklyn, thats just where the trash goes). 
About a year later, that same girlfriend and I, after 6 years, go through a really nasty breakup. She did a real number on me. Shortly after, I am hanging out in Brooklyn (I don't live there anymore) and I run into an old neighbor. A neighbor I always had a thing for. Well, her and I hang out that night and wind up back at her place where I stay the night. A very successful evening, right? The next morning, I go to use her bathroom and hanging on the wall, I find my shirt. My shirt of your album. She found it in the box a year earlier and liked it (not knowing who Far was). She used it to paint in until it got too used and then framed it and hung it on her wall. A year after she does that, I break up with my girlfriend, run into her, sleepover at her place and find it the next morning. It blew me away. Still does.
 
Here's a picture:

 

Oh, and also, I owned a operated a recording studio in Brooklyn named Tin Can Lab and that artwork was the inspiration behind the name. I had a friend paint tin cans in the control room and live room and a string connecting them. Here is a picture of that…

 

Anyways, I mostly wanted to ask you for those tracks, but also wanted to add in a little positive reinforcement and let you know that what you are doing is important in many ways. Thanks man. Keep it up."

---------

See? You really do never know where your ideas will go.

Wednesday
Mar282012

The Lonesome Death Of Trayvon Martin

 

I came home from an amazing Speak Out event about Trayvon Martin's killing at Glide (the incredible church I sing at) and knew it was time to sing this. It's based on a tune by Bob Dylan called The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll, which is simply one of the greatest songs ever written, sociopolitical or otherwise. I couldn't ignore the sad symmetry between that awful tale and this one, decades later, still so similar. I kept as many of the lyrics intact as I could. As with Dylan's tune, all the details I included are based on verified news reports.

The video is verified, unedited footage of George Zimmerman arriving at the police station after stalking and killing Trayvon Martin. After he called in and told the police he was following Trayvon (and they told him not to follow him), he then shot him point-blank and admitted it, saying it was self-defense. Zimmerman claims that Trayvon had punched him in the face, bloodied his nose and slammed his head head on the ground repeatedly. Some things to think about:

- Can you see any signs of an altercation looking at these tapes? I can't. 
- Please listen to the call Zimmerman made (and bear in mind that he made over 40 911 calls in the recent past). Listen to his voice, his description of Trayvon. Does he sound rational and sober. Does his account od Trayvon heading towards him, then turning and running, make sense?
- Please listen to the 911 calls on which you can hear someone screaming for help. Does that sounds like someone beaing beaten up, or someone begging for their life because there's a gun pointed at them?
- Note that Zimmerman was arrested for assault on a police officer and cited twice for domestic violence. All of those cases were closed for some reason. 
- Note that Zimmerman's dad is a retired judge. 

I have no interest in characterizing George Zimmerman beyond sharing information that would be pertinent to figuring out what happened that night. I don't care what race he is, nor do I care if he's a racist. I think the real story (and the real racism) here is this: Why did the Sanford police let George Zimmerman go that night, after he'd admitted to killing Travon Martin, with no drug testing, despite a story that just makes no sense given all this information? If it were a dark-skinned young man named Trayvon Martin who'd just admitted to shooting a light-skinned young man named George Zimmerman, do you think he would have been let go that easily?

Trayvon's Martin's death is an unspeakable tragedy. Imagine if that were your son, brother, friend. Feel it. Let's at least learn from this horrible situation, be honest with each other, with ourselves. Let's be honest about guns, about race and privilege, about our fear of young black men, about all the many things this tragedy brings up. Let's start by focusing on and fixing the corruption and/or incompetence of the Sanford police and justice system -- and by taking a serious look at ourselves and the racism that still hurts us all in ways we can't even comprehend.

Please feel free to share all of this in any way you like. If you want to download the tune, you can pay as much you like, safely and securely. Any money generated will go directly to Trayvon's family, of course. Mostly, just please speak up in every way you can.  

=======

The Lonesome Death Of Trayvon Martin

-----------
C          Am            Em
George Zimmerman killed poor Trayvon Martin 
With a gun that he carried as a neighborhood watchman
In a gated community in Sanford, Florida 
And the cops was called in to see what had happened
And they rode him in custody down to the station 
And asked him some questions and wrote down the answers
    F   G   C            Am           F    G        C
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take your hands away from your face. Now ain't the time for your tears.

 

George Zimmerman, who at twenty-eight years
Has a dad who's a judge who keeps speaking for him
And over the years, he's tried to protect him
With his high court relations in the politics of Florida,
Like when his son fought drunk with policemen
Or when he was noticed for concerns about safety
Ignored that and told stories, and his tongue it was snarling,
About what Trayvon did, and why he deserved it
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take your hands away from your face. Now ain't the time for your tears.


Trayvon Martin was a young man in high school
On his way from the store with a drink and some Skittles
Like so many kids, sure, he'd been in some trouble
And like so many kids, he liked to wear hoodies
And watch games with his family and learn how to grow up
In a country that fears him and still tries to enslave him
By painting a picture of an angry young black man
And then shot in the chest by a gun at point-blank range 
That echoed through the streets of the small, quiet neighborhood
Doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle
And he never did anything to George Zimmerman
And you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take your hands away from your face. Now ain't the time for your tears.


On the night of the shooting, the cops questioned Zimmerman
To show that all's equal and that the police are on the level
And that the strings in the books ain't pulled and persuaded
And that even the light-skinned get properly handled
Once that the cops have chased after and caught 'em
And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom,
Stared at the person who killed for no reason
Who just happened to be feelin' that way without warnin'
And the cops in their uniforms, most deep and distinguished,
After asking their questions most seriously decided
To let Zimmerman free on his weird, flimsy story
With no alcohol tests or arrests or, well, anything
Just let him walk free so he could keep self-defending
While poor Trayvon Martin was cold, dead and stiffening
Oh, so you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Bury your face deep in your hands, for now's the time for your tears.
======
ps - Truly weird trivia: Bob Dylan's real name is Robert Zimmerman -- the same as George Zimmerman's dad.
Thursday
Mar152012

We

I've been slacking. I've got big ideas for this place. Not this big, though. Right now, we are all touching the sun. I knew it!

Sunday
Dec252011

This-mas

Dec 25 2011

Whatever this day means or not, it has as great a chance as any other to be a time of presence, reflection and love. Maybe it has more, just for all the tradition and memory that is here with it. Whatever it has been, whatever it will be, whatever it's supposed to be; it can be just like a baby that was a mysterious surprise in arriving, bringing with it wonder, maybe even worry, so many emotions... and bringing nothing so much as a present that is is real as it gets. A gorgeous, infinitely possible present. May yours be merry and bright, silent and holy, beautiful and happy, with time for joy and time for cheer. This-mas time is here.