30 May 2013

David Foster Wallace, tagger extraordinaire

david foster wallace
Photomontage: Heidi Utz

For this series, I'm taking some of my favorite artists and setting them against murals and street art I've shot in NM and OR that seem to most suit them.

28 May 2013

Trayvon Martin is Not the One on Trial!

Trayvon Martin, Shepard Fairey, George Zimmerman trial
Trayvon Martin - Shepard Fairey
It must be tough to be a pro-gun conservative these days. It involves so many breathtaking lapses in logic and so much vaguely veiled hatred that it's gotta hurt the brain.

Take Trayvon Martin. This just in: surprise, surprise—Trayvon was a teenage boy who smoked weed, sometimes got into fights, and had been suspended from school for tagging. How utterly unusual, right? Next thing we'll hear, he owned a skateboard. Drank Red Bull. Had 2Pac on his iPod. 

Now the right is having a hard time because they desperately want George Zimmerman exonerated on the ridiculous "Stand Your Ground" defense, which emboldens people who used to just go home with a black eye after a fight to buy a gun and take a human life when the going gets tough. Because Trayvon was a black teenager, the pro-gun lobby has  no qualms about someone killing him for walking down a street. Unarmed. While, at the same time, they're outraged at the fact that he was "interested" in guns. What, because “nice” kids don't think about the weapons we're constantly parading before their eyes? Because guns should be reserved for racist vigilantes with chips on their shoulders?
Trayvon Martin, Shepard Fairey, George Zimmerman trial
Venice Beach. Photo: Rickerlr.

So because he is, basically, your normal teenager, it's OK to kill him for walking down a street looking...what? black? For wearing a hoodie, like 95% of all teens? For smoking pot, like the vast majority of them?
Trayvon Martin, Justin Nether, George Zimmerman trial
Baltimore mural by Justin Nether

It's hard not to think back to 1994, when Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelly, aka the West Memphis Three, were sent to Death Row merely because they looked like “the type” who could kill 3 kids. They wore black, read about witchcraft, listened to metal. Enough evidence for the judge and jury in an uptight Bible Belt town in Arkansas. 

Is this really how we “try” people in the 21st 
century? By what we think they're capable of?

And so what? So what if Trayvon was the biggest thug on the block? So what if he was baked 24/7 and pulled straight F's and was the most terrifying badass to hit the streets of Sanford, Florida? The fact remains that walking through a subdivision with a pack of Skittles and an Arizona tea isn't, as far as I know, a crime in any state. If being a 17-year-old with an attitude were a crime, high schools would be empty.
Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman trial, skittles
Artist: Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski

Let's remember one thing: Trayvon Martin--the person in this situation who did NOT have a criminal record--is not the guy on trial. Trayvon Martin is the one who got 60 years lopped off his life because some paranoid Neighborhood Watch guy with a record of assaulting a police officer and domestic violence simply didn't like his looks. Didn't stop to think that maybe he was just a teenager walking home to watch a basketball game. Picked a fight, then couldn't handle it when Trayvon gave his bullshit right back to him.

Kudos to Judge Debra Nelson for tossing out the defense's lame attempts to malign based on text messages a teenager sent to his friends. Zimmerman's case has dragged on long enough--far longer than the lynch mob he would have faced had he killed a white boy. While Zimmerman is out on bail, sitting around making websites asking conservatives to support his defense. I'm sick of his attempts to portray his victim in a negative light. And I'm sick of our justice system dragging its feet and buying into Zimmerman's pack of lies.

Let's do this already. 

Trayvon Martin, Carmelo Sigona, Mr. Mustart, Ray Lopez, George Zimmerman trial
Trayvon mural in Elmwood Park, NJ. Artists Carmelo "Snow" Sigona, 
"Mr. Mustart," and Ray "Demer" Lopez. 

19 May 2013

Buddhist Street Art, Part 5

It's been a long time since I've updated this series, and there seems to be some great new stuff out there. For Parts 1-4, please check my archives for Jan. 2010, Mar. 2010, and Feb. 2011. If not otherwise noted, the location is Los Angeles. The first one is my favorite, a Steve Jobs sticker on Melrose and Fairfax. Let's hope he's really in this place!

Buddhist Street Art Los Angeles
Zen Steve Jobs

Buddhist Street Art Los Angeles
West Hollywood. Photo: Stephen Bay
Frankfurt Germany, street art , graffiti, tagging, Buddhist monk
Monk rendered by Zen priest Jens Jansen, Frankfurt, Germany
Buddhist Street Art Los Angeles
Western Ave. & Wilshire. Photo: Eric Skothes.
Buddhist Street Art Los Angeles
Photo: Zcommunitybuilder

Buddhist Street Art Los Angeles, tagging, graffiti, cryptik
Undeniably Cryptik!

Buddhist street art, graffiti, tagging, Buddhism art
Main St., Santa Monica. Photo: ExperiencingLA.com.
Buddhist Street Art Los Angeles
Cryptik Ganesh. Babar goes to India.

Buddhist Street Art San Franciso, tagging, graffiti
San Francisco, Mission District. Buddha House Mural by Laura Campos.
Photo: Franco Folini / Foter.com / CC BY-SA.

16 May 2013

The City of Your Final Destination: A Review

City of Your Final Destination, James Ivory, Merchant Ivory films
Omar Metwally
The City of Your Final Destination may just be my favorite recent DVD discovery. (We won't count the latest guilty pleasure, Girls.) I know that some find Merchant Ivory productions a bit cloying, and sometimes I'm just not in the mood. But, I promise, this totally absorbing 2010 film doesn't get treacly or involve British authors (just British accents and South American authors). And it's solo Ivory, no Merchant.

Simple Premise: Omar, an Iranian-American grad student in literature, hopes to write a biography of obscure author Jules Gund, who has recently offed himself. (Lord knows why—he's bedding Laura Linney and Charlotte Gainsbourg!) But young Omar (Omar Metwally) lacks the approval of Gund's remaining family, who live on an isolated estate in Uruguay. Omar's a get-along guy who's saddled with a controlling shrew of a girlfriend—the kind who has plans for his entire life and assumes he'll inevitably screw them up. When she packs him off to Uruguay to get their permission, he does a great job of looking lost. Until he meets the cultured Gunds--and specifically Jules' mistress, Arden (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Along for the ride are Gund's black widow, Caroline (Laura Linney); his gay brother, Adam (Anthony Hopkins); Adam's two-decades-younger lover (Hiroyuki Sanada); and Gund's young daughter, Portia.

city of your final destination, merchant ivory
While it's no surprise that 81-year-old James Ivory wrings stellar performances from his veteran cast, the star of the show could just be the home. With its stained glass windows, chandeliers, ubiquitous art and cascading draperies, this place positively drips finely fermented Euro bucks. (We won't mention that jewelry in the safe...) Fictionally nestled into a rural part of Montevideo, the aging estate actually sits near Punta Indio, Buenos Aires. And I've booked my flight.

In this cocoon the family enjoys the kind of existence I could easily warm to: painting, keeping bees, horseback-riding, sangria-soaked 3-hour lunching at the Parisia, and sipping Manhattans under the portal at 5. But since Jules' death, they've kept each other in a state of suspended animation, trying to preserve the life they've shared together for many years.

Thus, it appears unlikely that Omar will succeed in loosening their vice grip on the past. And indeed he must work slowly to gain their trust and prove that he can turn out a biography that will be both truthful and discreet. Treading like a cat, he manages to endear himself and prove his sincerity and affection for Jules Gund...and...well, others close to Jules.

City of your final destination, merchant ivory
Laura Linney
If it's Ice Queen you're looking for, Laura Linney as Caroline is your tigress. She of the blood-red lipstick and turned-up collars, whose only pleasure in life is saying no to everything. A painter, she spends her days copying the masters so as not to reveal her true emotions in her art. Not only does she have a wardrobe to die for, her edge is something we women could all take a lesson from. Give. Them. Nothing.

And ah, Gainsbourg! Humble and quietly pining away over cigarettes and sweet-tempered angst. She fully embodies the young Patti Smith, making her mesmerizing in terms of sheer resemblance. [When IS that Just Kids film going to be made??] 

Two plus hours with these pretty people in their pretty estate in leafy South America under the lush cinematography of Javier Aguirresarobe and I am now a fully transformed human being. Well, not quite. But it's a terrific, transporting film, and I recommend you ask Netflix to take you to Uruguay, rapidamente!

City of Your Final Destination, James Ivory, Merchant Ivory filmsAnd just in case you came here to see Charlotte Gainsbourg (which I thoroughly endorse), here are a few shots I quite like.

City of Your Final Destination, James Ivory, Merchant Ivory films

City of Your Final Destination, James Ivory, Merchant Ivory films

Please god, in the next lifetime, make me this svelte. Capable of playing any rocker, male or female. And 100% French, certainement!

08 May 2013

Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words

Derrick Jensen, Endgame
Derrick Jensen continues to inform my thoughts and internal process on a near-daily basis.  Recently I've begun rereading his wonderful book A Language Older Than Words (2004). In case you are not yet familiar with Derrick's work, he is an environmentalist, activist, writer, philosopher, and scholar who looks very deeply into the world that we have set up and how it has perpetuated various forms of abuse and enslavement, which have become so internalized in many of us that they seem right, natural, even God-approved.

Derrick's thinking has influenced the overall matrix of the book I'm writing, which is based on a model that stems from the patriarchy and the Industrial Age, into how we as humans have lost touch with ourselves and touch with nature, leading to a culture that sanctions abuse and is inthrall to violence. Each of my stories is a stop along this route.

In A Language Older Than Words, Derrick correlates the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father and correlates it with our culture's overall acceptance of violence. He looks very deeply at our relationship with animals and how it serves as a revealing example of our seemingly boundless desire to control and dominate all life forms (especially our own).  The book is not an environmentalist screed but a very personal look at the topic framed predominantly from Jensen's own experience and consciousness.

In one of my favorite passages, Jensen is attending a debate of two people running for Manager of the WA State Dept. of Natural Resources. Both are equally matched in their oblivion, treating nature as a big-business portfolio to be managed and controlled in the best interests of only the bottom line. Their blatantly profit-centric positions greatly frustrate Jensen.

When the moderator opened the evening to the public, I raised my hand. I said, '...I have to say that if bobcats, wolves, trees, and salmon could vote, they wouldn't vote for either one of you.' Everyone gasped, as though I had pulled a gun. 'Now a question: Pretend we're children two generations hence, and defend your actions to us. Tell us why we shouldn't hate you for destroying our world.' Another gasp, as though I had fired it through their hearts....

Notwithstanding the knowledge that every creature--except for the more wounded among us--tries to move in the direction of life; and not withstanding the white-haired and wizened woman who approached me--after the politicians addressed neither comment nor question--to thank me and say she wished she would have said the same; and notwithstanding the knowledge that there can be no more important comment to make nor question to ask, I felt intensely alone. I had broken the most basic commandment of our culture: Thou shalt pretend there is nothing wrong. I had rolled a grenade across the dance floor.

I drove home alone, crying. When I got there, I walked into the frosty October night and found my feet carrying me to the coyote tree. Wrapping my arms around it, I sobbed into its cobblestone bark, feeling the grooves and rough corners with my outstretched fingers. Soon I stopped holding it, and it held me. I walked home; no longer crying yet chest heaving still. I needed more. I stepped to the huge ponderosa that stands outside this window, the ponderosa where each spring magpies add to their tumbled nest, and removed my clothes. I folded myself into the arms of this grandfather tree, this fatherly tree, and it held me as my own father never had. I cried again, into its bark, and never felt the cold. Comforted and safe now, I put on my clothes, and went inside; strengthened and emboldened by the huge beating hearts of these trees, I was ready to continue the fight, to nevermore accept only the two proffered choices, but to seek out a third, and follow it to the end.

Here's to grenades rolling across the dance floor...