Friday, September 17, 2010

Essay of the Day

The following essay was written by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.


Mis estimados: Do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world right now... Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement...

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able crafts in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind... Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

We have been in training for a dark time such as this, since the day we assented to come to Earth. For many decades, worldwide, souls just like us have been felled and left for dead in so many ways over and over brought down by naivete, by lack of love, by being ambushed and assaulted by various cultural and personal shocks in the extreme. We have a history of being gutted, and yet remember this especially - we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection. Over and over again we have been the living proof that that which has been exiled, lost, or foundered can be restored to life again.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency too to fall into being weakened by perseverating on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails. We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?...

Understand the paradox: If you study the physics of a waterspout, you will see that the outer vortex whirls far more quickly than the inner one. To calm the storm means to quiet the outer layer, to cause it to swirl much less, to more evenly match the velocity of the inner core - 'til whatever has been lifted into such a vicious funnel falls back to Earth, lays down, is peaceable again. One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or desperation thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl.

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take "everyone on Earth" to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both, are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

This comes with much love and prayer that you remember who you came from, and why you came to this beautiful, needful Earth.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Well and Often...

War Diaries

      I won't bore you with all the reasons I've been lax at updating the blog over the last several (several, cubed) months, but one is that I was working with my fantastic co-editor Tisa Bryant on War Diaries, a literary anthology being published by APLA and MSMGF. It's a collection of poems, short stories, essays, experimental writing, and photos that takes the collective pulse of Black SGL/gay/queer men around the globe; it deals with issues ranging from homophobia to HIV/AIDS to the struggles inherent in forging healthy relationships (with lovers, family, self...) and we were able to  pull together extraordinary writers, men and women, from all over the world to contribute. WD made its debut a short while ago in Vienna at this year's International AIDS Conference and from what I've been told, it was a huge hit. Over 1,000 copies were distributed and feedback was extremely enthusiastic, from diverse segments of the African diaspora as well as delegates from India, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, France, Eastern Europe and beyond. Included in the volume are two of my own short stories, culled from a project I'm working on of my own creative writing. Below is one of those stories.

Cold & Wet, Tired You Bet

He gets so sad sometimes. Often, actually. It just wells up in him and breaks messily through the surface. Like in those science-fiction movies where the alien who’s been hiding out in human form suddenly rips through its host body, shredding skin and cracking bones. Tentacles and strange limbs protruding from the places where back, legs and arms used to be. Poisonous saliva dripping from massive, double-set fangs that glisten. That’s the way his sadness is. Except it’s quiet. And it doesn’t distort him so dramatically. If anything, it makes him smaller. He shrinks into it as it consumes him. He smiles (no fangs, no gnashing of teeth) and softly wills himself to disappear. He barely makes a sound.

“It’s okay,” he’ll say, unable to look you in the eye. Smiling. “It’s okay.” His hands clench tightly and thrust deep into pants pockets, straining against the seams as his head bends slightly. He shrugs almost imperceptibly. “I’m cool.”

I tremble when this happens. Like a terrified extra in a horror film. But I’ve learned not to make a sound. I’ve learned to swallow my own screams. Any reaction from me only twists his anguish, adds garnish of guilt to his psychic platter. My fear is that the transformation, as with the creature on the big screen, reveals the true being lurking beneath skin – in his case a man so possessed by his demons that they permanently own him. A man made small by history and memory and flight-not-fight reflexes that uncoil at phantom triggers. He believes he’s going to hell.

Every kiss is resignation; every fuck is condemnation. He cannot take pleasure in his pleasure. He cannot find the joy in love. Cannot receive it and battles himself when he feels it. He’s constantly at odds with his body and with mine. Late at night, I hold him while he flinches within the embrace. I whisper to him, “I would give you the world but I don’t believe in the world. But I do believe in you.”

He won’t let himself feel joy because it fades, so he can’t let himself trust it. Sadness and despair have been more faithful. They stay in place. They dig deep. You can turn your back on them and trust that they will still be there when you turn back around. Waiting. They hang around as long as you feed them and they don’t need much to flourish. He hasn’t yet learned that joy has to be fed too. It’s not self-sustaining. You have to clear a place for it. Make it feel welcome. Let it know that you want it. He hasn’t learned that while sadness might seem to subsist solely on cigarettes and coffee, it’s constantly snacking behind his back, cleaning out pantry and fridge. It’s voracious.

We often lie in this fashion in bed at night: I am on my side, facing him. He lies on his back. One of my arms is folded beneath my head while the other safety-belts across his chest. I throw a protective thigh over his thigh. He rests his head on a pillow that is so old, so flat and limp, that it’s folded twice to give it heft. His eyes are cast downward, looking absently at his chest and stomach. His arms are akimbo, angled slightly so that each hand nervously flutters a fingertip tap-dance on his lower belly. I stroke his chest. He swallows nervously. We’ve been together well over a year now and he still has an ingénue’s stage fright. No, he has the terror of someone stranded in a completely foreign land sans map or knowledge of the culture or native language. Just before he falls asleep, he turns to his side and softly slides back against me, his bare ass against my hard-on. I kiss his shoulder, buckling arm and thigh around him.

How it works: You draw up a list of what you want, what you need. Then from that master list you sub-head items that you absolutely must have, things on which you will not compromise. And then you meet someone and fall in love and the list is thrown out a window.

This is the part you may not understand. I lean on him. On the Germanic sturdiness of his insecurities and fears; they’re constants in our days, act as guideposts through our nights. They’re dependable guardrails. I want to dismantle them so that he – so that we – can be free, but I’m nervous about what that freedom might mean, what might lie beyond it. Will he need me then? Who will he be? And have I come to romanticize the very thing from which I claim to want to free him?

My body can’t contain its history. It gives everything away. In repose I sit slightly hunched forward due to hereditary scoliosis. I cannot bend my right arm properly because I broke it when I was a child; it was set badly but we were too poor to get it corrected after it had healed. When I get flustered I stutter, my eyes blink rapidly and I swallow after every word – hair-trigger heirlooms from constant confrontations with a father embittered because he’d sired a faggot, and he missed no chance to hector, belittle and voice his disgust. Faint scars line my left wrist: Sixteen, without hope, unable to see a future. Death wasn’t really the goal but it was an acceptable risk for the reprieve sought. Molecular memory of my own distress is the root of my empathy for him. My man.

We speak the language of romance novels and 5-hankie weepies with utmost sincerity.

“If I save you, will you save me?” I ask him with a smile, sans irony but with ulterior motive. His ego is fragile. I geisha myself three feet behind him to make him feel strong, to mask the strenuous work required to nurture and carry him. He knows but if he knew it would shatter him. And sometimes I coast on the surface of my whispered nocturnal queries, staying above subtext or flipped meaning, letting the words that are spoken do all the heavy lifting. I volley the role of hero into his court. To be truthful, sometimes I do want to be the imperiled Pauline yanked from the rails with only seconds to spare before the steam engine crushes me, confident that the cavalry is on its way and that my life is worth Herculean effort. That it’s worth saving. Trembling, endangered captive is a cakewalk compared to 24-hour savior.

“I don’t know,” he smiles back. “All the magazines and Oprah say you gotta save yourself.” (Sans irony.)

“Fuck Oprah. I don’t give a fuck about myself. I really don’t. I don’t care if I live or die except for you. I get it up for you. I would do anything to take care of you, to make you feel safe. Would you do the same for me?”

He thinks a long time. I wait. “Okay,” he says finally. “I’ll take care of you. I’ll protect you.” He grins sheepishly.

If you'd like a comp copy of War Diaries, you can contact the great Pato Hebert at and he'll hook you up. Include your name and current maling address, and put War Diaries
in the subject line. Domestic distribution begins later this month, and PDFs will also appear on the sites of both sponsoring organizations: and MSMGF.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Very Different Oral Experience...

Early this AM as I lost the battle with insomnia, I stumbled over these Youtube clips of Neneh Cherry's cooking show with her friend Andi, and immediately fell in love. The two women are earthy, bawdy, funny, sexy, and the food looks amazing. And despite the British accents, they tap into a cool Universal Black Woman vibe in their exchanges with each other and their dinner guests. The second clip in the "Comfort Food" segment seems to freeze up (at least on my computer) so I had to give up and move on to the third/final clip of that episode. I've also included two other episodes, also in three parts each. Enjoy. Oh, heads up: These women are not vegetarians.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Great Analysis of the Oscar Grant Verdict and Its Larger Messages

From blogger Adam Serwer

"Times change, but the radioactive fear of black people, black men in particular, has proven to have a longer half-life than any science could have discerned. This is not a fear white people possess of black people--it is a fear all Americans possess. It makes white cops kill black cops, it makes black cops kill black men, and it whispers in the ears of white and nonwhite jurors alike that fear of an unarmed black man lying face down in the ground is not "unreasonable." All of which is to say, while it infects all of us, a few of us bear the brunt of the suffering it causes."


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Words of the Day

Woke up this morning
feeling excellent,
picked up the telephone
dialed the number of my
equal opportunity employer
to inform him i will not
be in to work today.
“are you feeling sick?”
the boss asked me
“no sir,” i replied:
“i am feeling too good
to report to work today.
if i feel sick tomorrow
i will come in early!”

From "Telephone Booth" by Pedro Pietri

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sheer Fucking Brilliance

Whitney Houston + Linda Blair in The Exorcist + George Romero = Sheer fucking brilliance...

Quote of the Day (and Visual Aid)

“Lying is done with words, and also with silence… The unconscious wants truth. It ceases to speak to those who want something else more than [they want] truth… There is no “the truth” or “a truth” – truth is not one thing, or even a system. It is an increasing complexity… The unconscious wants truth, as the body does. The complexity and fecundity of dreams come from the complexity and fecundity of the unconscious struggling to fulfill that desire. The complexity and fecundity of poetry come from that same struggle.” – Adrienne Rich, from her 1979 essay “Women and Honor; Notes on Lying

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Malcolm X (May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965)

“While there is the annual temptation to ask, “What would Malcolm say or do in response to today’s conditions,” it is best to remember at least of couple of things: First, today’s conditions and a living, breathing Malcolm X are absolutely mutually exclusive. One could not exist with the other. There is not one trace of evidence to suggest that Malcolm X would have, over the last 40 years, found ways to accept or rationalize the loss of a movement and a momentum that was designed to rid us of the conditions faced here and abroad, so we have to conclude, based on all existing evidence, that what exists today is in part the willful result of his assassination. This is, of course, the purpose of political assassinations, to stunt or end movements represented by the target. What do we think those in power killed him to achieve?”  (From this link.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Quote of the Day

It's fitting that I came across this quote on the same day I began reading June Jordan's "Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint." The quote opens a really wonderful documentary, The Philosopher Kings, that I am reviewing for the LA Weekly.

"Do you think the porter and the cook have no anecdotes, no experiences, no wonders for you? The walls of their minds are scrawled all over with thoughts. They shall one day bring a lantern and read the inscriptions." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Monica Will Aways Love You

I'm not a huge fan of diva attitude unless you grew up in the Brewster Housing Projects, your father was named Rev. C.L. Franklin, or your last name is Streisand; the emphasis on divadom is one of the things that's seriously maimed modern pop and r&b music. That said, this clip of Monica in diva-mode is fantastic -- the break for her to sip tea; the neck roll and exaggeratedly fluttered lashes; the hand on the hip... all delivered deadpan but all wonderfully tongue-in-cheek. And unlike the case with so many of her contemporaries, the diva shtick employed here is not a mask for vocal deficiencies. Monica can blow.

Sound of the Day: Dead Prez "The Beauty Within"

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Lena Horne: June 30, 1917 - May 9, 2010

Looking back at the age of 80, Ms. Horne said: “My identity is very clear to me now. I am a black woman. I’m free. I no longer have to be a ‘credit.’ I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody; I don’t have to be a first to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”

In Brian Lanker's book "I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America," she was quoted as saying:"I was always battling the system to try to get to be with my people. Finally, I wouldn't work for places that kept us out ... it was a damn fight everywhere I was, every place I worked, in New York, in Hollywood, all over the world."  

When I was a child her beauty grabbed me first, but there was so much more... that extraordinarily regal bearing, which never broke; the fire in her eyes that let you know there was a real fighter behind that classically gorgeous face; the earthy, frank humor which dispelled the "goddess" mystique in which her countenance and her own rich, layered history (personal and professional) shrouded her. But it was her vast reality and the courage and class with which she lived it that made me a lifelong fan, and made her relevant beyond nostalgic longing. Her struggles in Hollywood and her principled stands against racism in the entertainment  industry, in the military (she was an early challenger to the rules of segregation that were in effect when celebrities performed for the military in the '40s), and in America at large made her a heroine and cultural icon for Black folks even though her film career was a clear example of the race-based glass ceiling at work. We had great pride in her because she was talented and tenacious... But also because she was loud and clear about the pride she had in us, long before such pride was publicly fashionable. She was tough. Fearless. Legendary. My good friend, the poet/publisher Steven G. Fullwood dug up the following quotes in his tribute to her:

From Donald Bogle's book Brown Sugar:
"There was a Horne aloofness, which never unnoticed, became the hallmark of her style. Sometimes as she sang, her face went vacant. Other times she seemed condescending. But always held something back. In the middle of her career, The New Yorker commented on her unusual detachment: 'Curiously, as her style as developed, she seems to have withdrawn further and further from her audience and into herself. She never addresses her listeners directly, and her eyes are closed, a good part of the time. In acknowledging applause, she tilts her head, eyes cast down, and bends and turns with...self effacement.'"

And from the Lady herself:
"...they were too busy seeing their own preconceived image of a Negro woman. The image that I chose to give them was of a woman who they could not reach. I think this why I rarely speak to an audience. I am too proud to let them think that can have any personal contact with me. They get the singer, but they are not going to get the woman."

Those quotes capture what I most loved about Lena: that detachment while performing, that cool mask and the sparks that flint from beneath it, the way her calculated self-protectiveness (and more than a little contempt) became her glamorous shield/facade.

Her death hits hard. She was 92 years old.

NY Times obit
Washington Post obit

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Sight + Sound of the Day: Georgia Anne Muldrow

h/t Brett Collins...

You don't have to cut up no roses / please just leave them living...

I hear this as a Mother's Day anthem as sung by the dopest mom(s).

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


From the essay "We Are Not Your Weapons, We Are Women" by Amanda Kijera...

      Two weeks ago, on a Monday morning, I started to write what I thought was a very clever editorial about violence against women in Haiti. The case, I believed, was being overstated by women’s organizations in need of additional resources. Ever committed to preserving the dignity of Black men in a world which constantly stereotypes them as violent savages, I viewed this writing as yet one more opportunity to fight “the man” on behalf of my brothers. That night, before I could finish the piece, I was held on a rooftop in Haiti and raped repeatedly by one of the very men who I had spent the bulk of my life advocating for.

      It hurt. The experience was almost more than I could bear. I begged him to stop. Afraid he would kill me, I pleaded with him to honor my commitment to Haiti, to him as a brother in the mutual struggle for an end to our common oppression, but to no avail. He didn’t care that I was a Malcolm X scholar. He told me to shut up, and then slapped me in the face. Overpowered, I gave up fighting halfway through the night.
      Accepting the helplessness of my situation, I chucked aside the Haiti bracelet I had worn so proudly for over a year, along with it, my dreams of human liberation. Someone, I told myself, would always be bigger and stronger than me. As a woman, my place in life had been ascribed from birth. A Chinese proverb says that “women are like the grass, meant to be stepped on.” The thought comforted me at the same time that it made me cringe.
      A dangerous thought. Others like it have derailed movements, discouraged consciousness and retarded progress for centuries. To accept it as truth signals the beginning of the end of a person–or community’s–life and ability to self-love. Resignation means inertia, and for the past two weeks I have inhabited its innards. My neighbors here include women from all over the world, but it’s the women of African descent, and particularly Haitian women, who move me to write now.
      Truly, I have witnessed as a journalist and human rights advocate the many injustices inflicted upon Black men in this world. The pain, trauma and rage born of exploitation are terrors that I have grappled with every day of my life. They make one want to strike back, to fight rabidly for what is left of their personal dignity in the wake of such things. Black men have every right to the anger they feel in response to their position in the global hierarchy, but their anger is misdirected.
      Women are not the source of their oppression; oppressive policies and the as-yet unaddressed white patriarchy which still dominates the global stage are. Because women – and particularly women of color – are forced to bear the brunt of the Black male response to the Black male plight, the international community and those nations who have benefitted from the oppression of colonized peoples have a responsibility to provide women with the protection that they need.

Read more at the link


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Babyfather: Sade Video

I love this. Director Sophie Muller has done it again, and I put this one up there with the videos she directed for "No Ordinary Love," "By Your Side" and the sublime "King of Sorrow." Here, Sade is sensuous, playful... larger-than-life but earthy. I'm digging it.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Electron Boy

Man, just when you're about to give up on humanity...

Local boy with cancer turns into a superhero for a day
By Katherine Long
Seattle Times Eastside reporter

      Thursday was shaping up to be just another school day for 13-year-old Erik Martin, but then something extraordinary happened: Spider-Man called.
      Spider-Man happens to be one of the few people who knows that Erik, too, has a secret identity; he's Electron Boy, a superhero who fights the powers of evil with light.
      And Spider-Man needed Erik's help.

      Erik, who is living with liver cancer, has always wanted to be a superhero. On Thursday, the regional chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted him that wish with an elaborate event that involved hundreds of volunteers in Bellevue and Seattle.
      The local chapter, which serves four states, grants more than 300 wishes every year to children with life-threatening medical conditions, but only a few of them involve so many participants.
      Pulling off a wish like this one required a big story, and a lot of heart. And so, with a note of panic in his voice, Spider-Man explained the dilemma: "Dr. Dark" and "Blackout Boy" had imprisoned the Seattle Sounders in a locker room at Qwest Field. Only Electron Boy could free them.
      Erik got into his red-and-blue superhero costume, and called on the powers of Moonshine Maid, who owns a DeLorean sports car. For good measure, more than 20 motorcycle officers from the Bellevue Police Department and King County and Snohomish sheriff's offices escorted Electron Boy to Seattle.
      "They shut down 405, they shut down I-90," marveled Moonshine Maid, aka Misty Peterson. "I thought it would just be me, in the car."
      At Qwest Field, Electron Boy was directed by frantic fans to the Sounders locker room, where the entire team was shouting for help behind jammed doors. With a little help from Lightning Lad, the alter ego of local actor Rob Burgess, Erik opened the door with his lightning rod. The Sounders cheered.
      "Thank you, Electron Boy," said defender Taylor Graham.
      "You saved us!" exclaimed forward Nate Jaqua.
      "Good job, big man," said defender Tyrone Marshall. And forward Steve Zakuani mutely bowed his thanks.
      Electron Boy seemed a little dazed by his powers. Out on Qwest Field, the Sounders gave Erik a hero's congratulations, posed for pictures and gave him a jersey and autographed ball.
      Everyone was startled when, overhead, the Jumbotron crackled to life.
      "Electron Boy, I am Dr. Dark and this is Blackout Boy," sneered an evil voice, as the villain Edgar Hansen, and his sidekick Jake Anderson, both of Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch," taunted the young superhero. "We are here to take over Seattle and make it dark!"
      On the Jumbotron, a video showed a Puget Sound Electric employee Jim Hutchinson trapped in the top of his bucket truck in front of PSE's Bellevue headquarters. Only Electron Boy could save him.
      As Electron Boy's motorcade, the DeLorean, the 25 motorcycle officers and a white limo, rolled through downtown Bellevue, pedestrians stopped in their tracks and pulled out their cameras to take pictures. Clearly, somebody famous was in town. But who could it be?
      "It's Electron Boy," Erik's older sister, Charlotte Foote, shouted out the window of the limousine.
      More than 250 PSE employees gathered outside the company's headquarters and cheered as Electron Boy freed the trapped worker. "It was so loud, people in office buildings were looking out the window," said Make-A-Wish communications director Jeannette Tarcha.
      But Dr. Dark and Blackout Boy were still at large. Electron Boy got a tip that the evil duo were at the Space Needle, where they had disabled the elevator and trapped people on the observation deck. Racing back to Seattle, Electron Boy stepped out of the DeLorean to a cheering crowd of dozens of admirers, and confronted his nemesis.
      "How did you find us, Electron Boy?" Dr. Dark demanded.
      Erik wordlessly leapt at Dr. Dark with his lightning rod, freezing the villain. Then he unlocked the elevator and freed the people trapped upstairs.
      Bellevue police Officer Curtis McIvor snapped handcuffs on Dr. Dark and Blackout Boy, who couldn't resist some last words: "How can we thank you for saving our souls?"
      A tiny smile played around Electron Boy's mouth. Just for good measure, he held his lightning sword to Blackout Boy's throat again. The crowd went wild. "Hip-hip, hooray!"
      Seattle City Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw stepped forward with a key to the city and a proclamation that Thursday was Electron Boy Day. Afterward, Erik posed for the TV cameras, flexed his muscles and spent some time astride a Bellevue police motorcycle.
      "He's over the moon," said Foote. "This is definitely beyond anything we thought it would be."
      Watching her son run across the plaza in front of the Space Needle, mom Judy Martin said Erik goes to school when he's able, but is often too tired. "He hasn't had this much energy in a long time," she said. "They called it the power of the wish, and they're right."
      Like any good superhero, Electron Boy kept his innermost thoughts to himself. But he did have one important thing to say:
      "This is the best day of my life."


Quote of the Day: Morrissey

In a statement released in the wake of the April 12th death of his "super fan" Melinda Hsu, singer Morrissey said the following:

"Life's only promise is its final deadline. When Mel, and others who are dear to us, depart, we should at least realize as we shuffle along living our small and persecuted lives, how absolutely ridiculous it is to be afraid of anything or anyone on this unhappy planet."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Gay Vatos In Love

Man, I hope they make a proper video for this...

Gay Vatos In Love

Gaby and Mando walking through the park
Looking for love in protection of the dark

Club Cobra, a temple in the night,
The more I hear of Morrissey, the more I feel alright

Gay Vatos in Love

Javi and Kique with their girlfriends in the car
Fronting on Crenshaw knowing who they are
Juan Gabriel says, "amor es amor"
But Angie Zapata is lying on the dance floor


If the world can't understand / Stand by your man!


Women as Radical Traditionalists

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Joni Mitchell Never Lies


by Joni Mitchell  

Everybody looks so ill at ease
So distrustful so displeased
Running down the table
I see a borderline
Like a barbed wire fence
Strung tight strung tense
Prickling with pretense
A borderline

Why are you smirking at your friend?
Is this to be the night when
All well-wishing ends?
All credibility revoked?
Thin skin thick jokes!
Can we blame it on the smoke,
This borderline?

Every bristling shaft of pride
Church or nation
Team or tribe
Every notion we subscribe to
Is just a borderline
Good or bad we think we know
As if thinking makes things so!
All convictions grow along a borderline

Smug in your jaded expertise
You scathe the wonder world
And you praise barbarity
In this illusionary place
This scared hard-edged rat race
All liberty is laced with

Every income every age
Every fashion-plated rage
Every measure every gauge
Creates a borderline
Every stone thrown through glass
Every mean-streets-kick ass
Every swan caught on the grass
Will draw a borderline

You snipe so steady
You snub so snide
So ripe and ready
To diminish and deride!
You're so quick to condescend
My opinionated friend
All you deface all you defend
Is just a borderline
Just a borderline
Another borderline
Just a borderline

Friday, April 23, 2010

"What If The Tea Party Were Black?" By Tim Wise

From the link: 

"Imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings."

More at the link

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Facebook Suicide

From the link:

"In the end, what does all this online, arms-length self-promotion ultimately provide? Perhaps it’s merely one component of the pursuit to alleviate some of the blackness encountered in the existential vacuum of modern life. As Schopenhauer once projected, modern humans may be doomed to eternally vacillate between distress and boredom. For the vast majority of people experiencing the fragmented, fast-paced modern world of 2008, a Sunday pause at the end of a hectic week may cause them to become all too aware of the lack of content in their lives. So we update our online profiles and tell ourselves that we are reaching out."

The Link

New York's Most Livable Neighborhoods -- for White People

From the blog Knowing Coves:

New York Magazine has published a list of the city’s most “livable” neighborhoods, using a weighted index which assigns 6% importance to “diversity”. The highest ranked neighorhoods are for the most part those with the lowest diversity scores. Last place on the list? Harlem.

I’m not interested enough to actually do the math but I suspect that we could establish a negative correlation in these rankings between “diversity” and “overall ranking”. I say we drop this whole “weighted index” pretense: white people view a neighborhood as more “livable” in direct proportion to how few people of color live there. Moreover: white people especially try to avoid Black folks, followed by Brown folks, followed by Yellow folks, in determining who to flee from and who can be tolerated as “livable”. This rule of thumb underlies published “rankings” like this, which feed into real estate values, which feed social investment in those neighborhoods, which feeds back into all those other factors which have negative correlations to “diversity”. All of this convoluted numerical self-justification is also known as “racism”.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We Shall Overcome

Woke up this morning kinda in a funk, wanting to hear something that would both capture my internal but also challenge it. Went onto Facebook and saw that someone had posted this. It fit the bill. And as my friend Charles wrote on my Facebook wall, "It's beautiful and timely, particularly with the recent passing of civil rights leaders Benjamin Hooks and Dorothy Height so close together."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Uptight Religion

This is one of my all-time favorite Stevie Wonder tunes. It has enormous nostalgic powers for me, triggering a host of childhood memories as well as the emotions associated with them. But it's also an ever-potent feel-good dance track in its own right, quite aside from any throwback value. This mash-up re-imagining, set against R.E.M.'s classic brooder "Losing My Religion" underscores the plaintiveness of the song's lyrics and pushes the recording's sense of urgency in a deeper, grittier direction. The new musical bed bounces a darker subtext that complicates the cross-class differences outlined in the lovers scenario of the song, suggesting that everything may not really be "alright," and "outta sight" after all. (The sample of Michael Stipes chiming in with the line "That was just a dream..." is so perfectly deployed as a sobering Greek chorus reality check.) It's just fucking lovely.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Excerpt: Mark Bradford's "Border Crossings"

Last weekend I attended a book release party for Mark Bradford's monograph Merchant Posters at REDCAT here in LA. The highlight of the party was a conversation between Mark and Hammer Museum Chief Curator Douglas Fogle. Below is an excerpt from my essay "Border Crossings," which opens the book.

      There are no velvet ropes in Mark Bradford’s art – not within the work, not between him and the audience, and not between the multiple audiences he hopes to reach. The work itself is dense / multi-layered / staggeringly cross-referential ... Gut-bucket & refined; technically sophisticated & unabashedly mammy-made ... Dope. It’s a visual mix-tape scratched from both mainstream-familiar and underground-sub-cultural advertising slogans / from the titles, evoked ghosts and emotional truths of both vintage soul tunes and contemporary hip-hop (mainstream and indie … no snobbery allowed) / from Greek mythology, Negro folklore and modern-day Latino immigrant realities / from classic Hollywood flicks that are sampled for their viscera-strumming essences / … and from Bradford’s own autobiography: the working class / merchant class Negritude (resilience, innovation, persistence) from which he is sprung. It doesn’t exclude anyone. It refuses to erect “no entry” barriers around any neighborhoods or cultures, and doesn’t require either a degree in semiotics to make sense, or a hipster’s (or blueblood’s) art-world ID badge for access.
      The work crosses borders.
      To create his merchant posters, Mark canvasses Los Angeles, specifically the once-Whites-Only-then-primarily-Negro-now-equally-Latino part of South Los Angeles (formerly and infamously known as South Central) in which he works and still lives. It’s where he harvests the handmade advertising signs that he finds on telephone poles, on the fences and wood barricades that block off construction sites, and in the windows of mom & pop stores. Rewind and pause on a crucial point: Mark works in the same area where he lives, and where he spent the early years of his childhood. He hasn’t bounced to the hills of Hollywood or followed the trend of living in this year’s “hot” LA neighborhood; he hasn’t purchased a sprawling, overpriced Manhattan loft. His day-to-day, both personal and professional, is lived at ground-level.
      It’s fitting that the kinds of posters that Mark gathers proliferated like post-rainstorm mushrooms in the wake of the 1991 Rodney King riots. After the widespread burning and destruction of that civil unrest, the destroyed businesses that were boarded up became wide open canvases, with the wood used to seal them off providing free advertising space. Soon, those new layers of public space were fair game for anyone with a service or product to sell. To be sure, such use of fencing, telephone poles, building walls and the like is an age-old practice. But it took on a new level of intensity post-riots when the damaged and discarded remains of conventional business hubs were reclaimed, turned into the advertising foundations for new / hyper-local / (often) off-the-books entrepreneurship.

      Stroll through South Los Angeles’s Leimert Park, the enclave (and beating heart of LA’s Black arts community) that houses Mark’s studio, and you pass blocks and blocks of barber shops and beauty salons, as well as countless outlets hawking real human hair; soul food spots abound (Phillips BBQ – a ‘hood landmark that’s jam-packed on Friday evenings as folks swoop up their end-of-the-week, celebratory itis-inducing grub – is literally around the corner from him); Project Blowed, the internationally celebrated hip-hop open-mic youth project is within walking distance; shops selling art, music, incense, and African print fabrics are nearby. Folks carved from every shade of black and brown jostle alongside one another, just getting to where they’re going. Ordinary people. Spanish and English are spoken, as is Korean behind a few store counters; all language standards are fractured and then filled in with this week’s slang. Turn off the main thoroughfares and there is also block after block of tree-lined streets with carefully tended lawns, Spanish Colonial homes, post-war bungalows and art deco apartment buildings.
      When you follow the arc of Mark’s career, certain narrative threads emerge – a keen interest in lives that are lived on the margins, in the tools of survival employed by those same margin dwellers, and in the cultural production by folks whose everyday existence is defined by struggle. Dots are connected between disparate realities that, as his work points out sans didacticism or sentimentality, are not really so dissimilar upon closer viewing. Underscore closer viewing: to observe the quotidian in a new light, to unlock the myriad details housed in that which our eyes might fall upon so often that we no longer even see it – that handmade advertising sign; the poor bodies, brown bodies, Negro bodies huddled at bus stops, going to or coming from tedious, low-paying jobs; the scores of undocumented day workers gathered in the shopping center parking lot or working in shadow at hotels, restaurants, and so on. Mark’s interest in those who live on the outskirts of society and work in subterranean economies, traveling across clearly demarcated worlds in order to survive, is an empathetic impulse clearly rooted in his own autobiographical detail – both past and present. As vested as he is in the ever-shifting dynamics of struggling-class realities in LA, he’s also an avid follower of political, cultural, and social unrest across the country and worldwide. In his travels, he observes similar stresses – but also similar responses to those stresses – in spots ranging from South Los Angeles to Brazil, for example, and underscores those similarities in his art.

Here is an interview with Mark which appeared on Huffington Post just ahead of the conversation/party.

Buy Merchant Posters here.
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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Interview With Director Neil LaBute

Two things, first:

1) I wasn't able to see Death at a Funeral before doing this interview for the LA Weekly. Not even a work-print was available before I spoke with director Neil LaBute.

2) LaBute and I briefly discuss the film Boomerang in this piece but what isn't mentioned ('cause it didn't really fit here) is that I love the film. For a host of reasons. Grace Jones being the main one.


"You know, if people just go into the theater looking to have a good time and to laugh, this film absolutely delivers," says director Neil LaBute of Death at a Funeral, the American remake of the minor-hit British film of the same name (it opens on April 16). That's not quite the sales pitch you'd expect from a man who made his name penning and directing films and plays whose brusque depictions of humanity, particularly late–20th century American maleness, made many viewers recoil. LaBute's 1997 debut film, In the Company of Men, established him as a chronicler of misanthropic, deeply damaged characters — a tag reinforced by films such as 1998's Your Friends and Neighbors, and most of his critically acclaimed theater work as well. Despite the fact that his filmography swerves from Nurse Betty to Possession, from The Wicker Man to Lake-view Terrace, news that he was directing Death raised eyebrows from almost everyone who's been paying attention to his career. In a recent phone interview, he explained why the film is not such a leap for him, offers some biting words for the mumblecore film movement, and reveals the true meaning of Lost.

How did you come to direct this remake?

I was asked by Chris Rock, who wanted to develop it into an American film. We had worked together on Nurse Betty and Chris had directed a couple of pictures [in the interim] but really wanted to just concentrate on acting for Death. At the time, he was doing a picture with Screen Gems, who I'd just done Lakeview Terrace with, so they were familiar with me. And they all knew I was looking for a comedy. I had been for a while. It's hard to get people to believe that, although I always felt that there was comedy in my stuff — whether I put it there or by accident. [LAUGHS.]

Given that you have Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan in the film, was there much improvisation during shooting?

There was. Tracy especially is someone who can riff really well on camera and stay in character. Whereas another person can do a line or two, Tracy can practically do a monologue. There's a section, in fact, where he's sort of doing just that. I'm someone who really — and I guess this comes from my writing background — I wanna make sure that we're telling a story that we actually thought through, and not just thought we can make it better in 10 minutes while standing here. But as long as it was in character and in keeping with what we were doing, and we got a take that made sense in terms of the script at hand, I was open to that.

One thing that was surprising to me, though at the time I wasn't really thinking about it, was that Chris and Martin Lawrence had never had a proper teaming together. I think they were in Boomerang together God knows how many years ago, but I don't even know if they had had scenes together. Chris was the mail guy and I don't think their paths ever crossed in the film. And Boomerang is really a fascinating movie on a lot of levels.

It's interesting that Boomerang doesn't get written about more just in terms of race and class and the ways they play out in that film. It's sort of an Afrocentric utopian paean to upward mobility, yet most of the characters are actually quite unlikable.

Yes, I know what you mean. At least the actors bring some human quality to it. On paper, the characters must have been really horrible people.

I want to flip direction for a moment. Given that you're known for writing angry, fucked-up male characters, I was curious if you've seen any mumblecore films and what you make of the men in them. What sort of reading might you give them, cropping up at this moment on the American culture clock? They're sort of passive, or passive-aggressive and wan...

Yeah, you can't even call them bumbling. That'd be too much effort for them. [LAUGHS.] Talking about passive, they just kinda lay there with their shirts off. C'mon, now. But it's interesting to see that seep into the work of Noah Baumbach, who I know has done some work with these guys — guys and gals, obviously. He has Greta Gerwig in his film [Greenberg] doing really nice work, almost the kind of work where you feel like he just happened to film her. Her performance is so natural and lovely. But yeah, Andrew Bujalski and Joe Swanberg would make sure their doors are locked at night so people like [LaBute characters played by] Aaron Eckhart and Jason Patric don't come in. You know they're out there still.

It's interesting to juxtapose images of angry, red-faced tea-baggers with the males in the mumblecore stuff. It's like the latter are what the former are afraid of being reduced to — these subeffete, sexless creatures who are sort of stripped of everything remotely emblematic of conventional male power.

Yeah, that's probably very true. It hasn't really been that long since the last great movement of civil rights and women's rights and the sexual revolution, where that slice of white American male felt pushed out and put upon. It's sort of like you keep letting other people in the elevator until, "Don't get too close. I need my space. I'm used to the whole damned thing." Whether it's death throes or just a tantrum is hard to tell with the boy-men I write about. But yeah, they don't love change. They're very much used to having it their way. I think that those [mumblecore] guys and the women who are around those guys would really irritate [my male characters] to no end.

People keep saying that Death is the head-scratcher among your work, but I think that honor goes to the promotional short you directed for the game Heavy Rain. It seems the most atypical of your work not only because it's in the service of selling a video game but because there's a masculine tenderness to it.

It was a fascinating project to me because I'm not a gamer of any kind. But it was really just the idea that this was not selling anything so much as talking about the game, which has a fascinating quality to it — the idea that you're still on a quest, you're doing all the things the game asks you to do but you're making all these emotional and moral choices along the way. I certainly have been one who — no matter what the rant has been, whether it has been quiet or loud — has been interested in going back to those really basic things, as simple as good and bad, which after all the black smoke and polar bears may be all that Lost was ever about. You know, what's good and what's bad, and can they ever reconcile? And do they need to? There's always been that interest in me — how far would you go for love? I thought that was an interesting thing to ask. And just to hear Sam Jackson going, "Not very." [LAUGHS.] I thought that was funny. And very candidly true.


Friday, April 09, 2010

New post(s) coming soon... I promise.

Apologies for the slackery. I have now mailed off two new book proposals, am still working on a third, and just signed on to co-edit an anthology that won't drop for a couple of years. But I've sorta missed blogging and I want to get back into it with some meaty stuff. Working on a couple of new posts right now. In the meantime, just for shits and giggles, I'm putting up a few Youtube clips meant to make you smile. The first is the latest from Jackie Beat & Co. in their ongoing, withering takedown of Cher and Madonna; it's called "Tent Hopping," and gets in some sly digs at cultural and sexual co-option/exploitation. But that makes it sound more dry than it is. The next clip is RuPaul's "Tranny Chaser" video, which is kind of flip-side 'hood version of "We Are the World," from a trans-centric perspective. (Peep the rainbow of colors, genders and styles that are upped here.) It dropped late last year so you likley have seen it already, but I wanted to give it a little more shine. The last entry is Jody Watley's classic video for "Friends," which is one of the most underrated music clips ever. It's a fusion of b-boys (the legendary Rakim!), drag queens and just plain fierceness. Watching Ru's clip reminded me of Jody's. Be well...

Friday, February 26, 2010

A New Writing Project

I have an essay in this limited-edition monograph of Mark Bradford's merchant posters. The book will be released March 31st. Here's more info from the publisher's website:

Mark Bradford: Merchant Posters
Text by Malik Gaines, Ernest Hardy, Philippe Vergne, Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson.

This book gathers for the first time an extensive selection of American artist—or “builder and demolisher,” as he describes himself—Mark Bradford's gorgeous, searing and heavily textured “merchant posters.” The original printed posters, collected by Bradford from around his Central Los Angeles neighborhood, are brightly colored local advertisements that target the area's vulnerable lower-income residents. For Bradford, they serve as both the formal and conceptual underpinnings of his works on paper, décollages/collages that engage with the pressures of the cityscape. “The sheer density of advertising creates a psychic mass, an overlay that can sometimes be very tense or aggressive,” he notes; “If there's a 20-foot wall with one advertisement for a movie about war, then you have the repetition of the same image over and over—war, violence, explosions, things being blown apart. As a citizen, you have to participate in that every day. You have to walk by until it's changed.” Eagerly anticipated, this is the first large-scale publication by a major publisher about the work of this important and increasingly influential artist. Artist and writer Malik Gaines considers Bradford's play with signs in relation to literary and performative theories of African-American forms; writer and cultural critic Ernest Hardy addresses social issues, in Los Angeles and more broadly, raised by Bradford's source material; Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson examines the language in the work as it relates to Concrete poetry; and Dia Art Foundation Director Philippe Vergne looks at the surface of the work and Bradford's processes of mining and excavation.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Twin Soldiers: Corinne Bailey Rae and Sade

      It wasn't the vision of grief most were expecting. Sitting on a stool holding her guitar, accompanied only by a pianist on the British TV show Later with Jools Holland, Corinne Bailey Rae was, in a word, gorgeous. Gone was the pretty, slightly nerdy English Lit major whose eponymous debut CD of confectionary confessional soul-pop was a surprise international hit.
      For Holland's show, Rae, chic in a simple black dress, her curly hair sexily brushing her shoulders, used the primary tool of modern pop-star reinvention (a fashion makeover) as armor, a device of deflection as she stepped back onto the public stage after the death of her husband in 2008. But then she launched into the single "I'd Do It All Again," written in response to her widowhood. Musically bare, the performance was mesmerizing: heartfelt love song, poetic eulogy and an emotionally complex tapestry of words delivered in a voice that cracked on one line only to soar on the next.
      If you listen to her new album, The Sea, with expectation of elegies, you'll be rewarded on tracks like "Are You Here," "I'd Do It All Again," "I Would Like to Call It Beauty" and the title tune. What makes The Sea so good, though, is the range of emotions and experiences it maps — lyrically and in the sweeping ebb and flow of arrangements and instrumentation, often all within a single song. In the videos and promotional appearances for the record, Rae's been clad in sleek designer duds, sporting subtle but sophisticated makeup. The new CD, written by Rae (co-writers appear on three songs) similarly confounds expectation. Largely but not completely shorn of its predecessor's pop hooks, Sea outlines loss by capturing something of the spectrums of life and love, juxtaposing tearjerkers with songs of sexual tension, breezy playfulness and spiritual reflection.
      Opening with the desolate indie-rock guitar lines of "Are You Here," evoking '90s female singer-songwriter guitar fare, The Sea carries you through electronica flourishes, rock blasts and faint tropical grooves. (Eclecticism comes naturally to Rae, who has impressively covered Björk, the Raconteurs, Led Zeppelin and Aretha Franklin.) "The Blackest Lily" and "Paper Dolls" nod to her rock roots, while the sultry, elastic-grooved R&B of "Closer" is a sustained wave of carnality not even hinted at on her debut. "Paris Nights/New York Mornings" is so airily effervescent it seems a missing track from the debut CD. The water imagery of "Diving for Hearts" throbs to vaguely Björkian muted beats, while the timely, hymnlike "Love's on Its Way" cedes that love is all you need but asks if it will arrive in time — and what to do while waiting: "There's so much blood on the streets/so much hope refused... I want to be able to say that I did more than pray / did more than spend my money/did more than talking and saying the right thing..."

      "I've been a solider for much too long/I'd willingly surrender all my arms..." Rae sings on The Sea's "Feels Like the First Time." In doing so, she echoes Sade's patented love-as-war lyrics, using a metaphor that has been fed steroids and flipped on the title track of Sade's Soldier of Love. Coming 10 years after Lovers Rock, Sade's last studio album, Soldier is up against a near unscalable wall of expectation. Fan reaction to the leaked title track ranged from euphoria at the harder sound to grumbling that the group had lost its way with the spaghetti Western guitar riff and drum corps beats that gird the defiantly affirmative lyrics. Nothing else on the CD is as sonically jarring, though the band continues the subtle genre-bending it has explored since 1988's Stronger Than Pride. Both Rae's and Sade's CDs flaunt genre promiscuity. Rae's more obviously slips borderlines; Sade's is part natural evolution (reggae and dub have long been staples of the band's palette) and part concerted effort to veer left of expectation. ("Be That Easy," off the new disc, wouldn't be out of place on a country-music jukebox.) Both CDs tap multiple references and sources without perpetuating the ham-fisted cultural miscegenation that now passes for visionary musicianship. Shit feels natural, unforced.
      There's a paradoxically sparse but epic feel to much of Soldier, whose lushly layered production never feels cluttered. Subject matter is vintage Sade: the brutal beating that heart and spirit can take in pursuit of and retreat from life and love; and steely determination in the face crushing defeats. Quick-draw blogosphere response dismissed the album as boring, sans hooks, sans good songs — similar to arguments made against Love Deluxe and Lovers Rock upon their initial releases. Soldier will likely similarly rise in estimation. It asks time and attention to unpeel its subtleties, but there are immediate standouts. "Baby Father" channels American urban idiom through a Brit filter for its title, resting its subversive overhaul of baby-daddy drama atop a lovely reggae foundation. "Skin" is a wonderfully brooding kiss-off whose slight "Cherish the Day" feel softens the giddy perversion of name-checking Michael Jackson in a song titled "Skin." The opening track, "The Moon and the Sky," and the piano-driven "Morning Bird" are sublime minimalist torch fare, while "In Another Time" features a warmly relaxed doo-wop groove cradling a stock Sade heroine — the misunderstood, mistreated girl longing to escape small minds and the cruelties they inflict.
      Sade is lovely with her pen. Her lyrics and the characters who inhabit them, whether named (Jezebel, Maureen, Sally, Frankie), unnamed (as in "Pearls," "Clean Heart") or conveyed through persona and myth-burnishing first person, are emotionally specific while being open-ended enough for listeners to insert or recognize themselves in the narratives. There's a generosity of spirit, evident in the tenderness with which she observes and presents the war-torn folk in her lyrics, which makes her a throwback, as both singer and songwriter. A lot of modern R&B, influenced by rap's first-person thrust, posits singers on a me-myself-and-I tip, leaving listeners the option of either connecting through over-identification with someone's journal entries set to music, or sitting stranded on the sidelines.
      It's not just the lyrics or the stellar accompaniment of the band and its longtime cohorts (co-producer Mike Pela; backing vocalists Leroy Osbourne and Tony Momrelle; music-video director Sophie Mueller, the only other woman in the camp) that pull you in. It's also that voice, an instrument of post-coital chill and mid–ganja-trip cool. Naturally grainy and husky, it's deepened with age but still flames vulnerability, sadness, longing and, yes, melancholy. It's what makes her blue-tint defiance ("Now as I begin to wash you off my skin/I'm gonna peel you away/'Cause you're not right within,") resonate so. In "The Safest Place," when she sings, "In my heart your love has found the safest place ... My heart's been a lonely warrior who's been to war/so you can be sure/your love's in a sacred place, the safest hiding place," she's speaking as someone who knows how to fight, and win. The voice tells it all.

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