Saturday, January 25, 2014

avuncular advice

avuncular advice

When you can figure out how to fit in by standing out, then you've completed the picture, you unique piece of the puzzle, you.

Friday, January 24, 2014

M.I.A's Mudra

The best reappropriation I've ever heard of is M.I.A's mudra.

M.I.A.'s fourth album, Matangi, is out today. The title, she explains, derives from her birth name, Mathangi Arulpragasam.
"It's what's on the passport but I haven't used it since I was very young," she says. "When I came to England, people had a hard time pronouncing it at school. So my auntie told me to call myself Maya, after her Yugoslavian skiing instructor."
What M.I.A. didn't know about her real name until recently is that she shares it with a Hindu goddess — and, as she tells NPR's David Greene, it's one with whom she's grown to feel a particular kinship. Greene recently spoke with M.I.A. about talking her way into art school, collaborating on Matangi with Julian Assange and why a raised middle finger isn't necessarily obscene to her. Hear the radio version at the audio link, and read more of their conversation below.
Matangi is, as you've come to learn, the name of a Hindu goddess of music. Did you feel a deeper connection with this goddess when you learned more about her?
She's basically a goddess of inner thoughts — the outward expression or the outward articulation of inner thoughts. She was really interesting because she lived in the slums; she lived with the untouchables and represented them. So it was really cool to find a goddess that was not considered clean and pure, and was not on a pedestal.
Remind us who the untouchables were.
The untouchables were basically the lowest caste in India. They were considered so dirty, they even weren't allowed to go inside the temples to pray. The Brahmans were the highest class and they controlled knowledge, spirituality, the temples. They were sort of considered the sacred, clean people. And the untouchables were the opposite of that. They were considered the dirty people that did the dirty jobs: They cleaned the streets, hunted, did things that were considered unclean.
Matangi's dad was called Matanga, and he was the first person to gain enlightenment as an untouchable, without being reincarnated as a Brahman. So he was given the gift of the goddess of music — who then had this part-time job of representing the untouchables, because her father was one.
I want to ask you about the Super Bowl halftime show in 2012. This was a huge audience, an American audience, a world audience. And on camera, you gave us all the middle finger. Why did you do that?
It's the Matangi mudra.
What is that? Why does that explain it?
Well, you know gang signs — in America you have gang signs, and people throw up initials and stuff like that. Well, 5,000 years ago, there was thing called a mudra, which is your sitting position when you do yoga or you're meditating or praying or whatever. And you have different ones based on what you're meditating over. There's not a lot of them that are named after gods and goddesses, but the middle finger is specifically named Matangi — the Matangi mudra.
So you were not giving America the middle finger? This was the Matangi symbol?
Yes. Do you like that? (Laughing) It's good, isn't it?
Something tells me that there might have been another meaning in that.
It's cultural! In my country, it's godly. OK?
Is the NFL believing that? I know they're suing you.
Of course the NFL is not believing that, because the NFL does not believe in any other culture outside of the NFL. But it's true; you can Wikipedia it. You can just say "Matangi" and "mudra," and you'll see it's the middle finger.

love life

there was this thing floating around on FaceBook that said take the nearest book to you and open it to page 45. The first paragraph would tell you about your love life. I tried it and came up with

Assign'd am I to be the English scourge.
This night the siege assuredly I'll raise:
Expect Saint Martin's summer, halcyon days,
Since I have entered into these wars.

This is a speech by Joan La Pucelle in Shakespeare's Henry VI.

Hmm, what does this have to do with my love life? It does feel like there is, strangely, some warring in love. The work that it takes to get to halcyon days. And scourge to the English is sometime like, -antidote to victorian mores, to properness. And I do bring some of that to my relationship.

To add to this I'm currently reading Keith Richards' LIFE. And talk about a scourge to the English. But also one that brought music and dance and revelry.

It was like a war he fought with the English.

Seen through that lens the dynamic is pretty revealing. Keef is pretty despicable at times. And yet I'm still glad for the dirty dangerous joy he brings to the table.

Which all makes me feel better about my own down and dirty contribution to my own family.

Thanks silly FB game. (See what I did there?)

Addendum, days later. Listening to early stones albums and thinking about the crazy rabid, fierce fans, the young girls, who Richards says in his memoir are the scariest force he's ever encountered.

Wondering what causes that. But listening to the music I begin to understand. It is a release of the demons from the strictures of the Victorian era. It was pure Dionisian voo doo of music, released through African records into young brave punks and then unbottled into the world through pop music. finally understood as absolutely necessary.

How much better is the African or south American values, where the music is  introduced early and control is learned by the dancer. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Email to a bro

earing vegan at Bhakti Cafe listening to record release of terrasonic (remember?), mc yogi type named Dj drez. Chill and copacetic. Meanwhile tried minor to be an idiot at the poetry reading I just came from while flying on MD Spacecakes. (u shld get in the mrkt w those MD. Use that name. Make a mint.  Give me free cakes for life.)

Friday, January 3, 2014


                         Art Crimes

My job over the last six years has been to curate art and music for a unique venue in Arvada Colorado called the D Note.
I've been thinking lately about a certain work of art stolen from the D Note. We've had a few pieces of art stolen from the D Note over the years. This is the story of that stolen art, and a theory about what all this thievery might mean, metaphysically speaking.

The first piece that was stolen, about five years ago, was an original oil painting created by commission in the early eighties as a cover of a Harlequin romance. The painting was kitschy, in a good way, and was superbly executed. It depicted two 19th century ghosts dancing in a lavish ballroom at the foot of a double set of chamber stairs. Walking through the room and lighting it up with a candle was a girl with a frightened look on her face and a finger to her lips. I loved this eerie goth painting for way it depicted a haunted nostalgia for a romantic past.

When the painting was stolen we narrowed down the suspects by deduction. The main suspect was a local, a Colonel Klink type who used to hang around the D Note and sometimes man the door. The guy was a bit scary (he once tried to bring a cattle prod into work a punk show) but he still seemed like a trustworthy guy. We had a real life art crime caper on our hands, and the gothic romantic theme of the painting gave the case a literary charge.

Adding to the tension was the fact that the painting was expensive. It looked like I would have to shell out 3k of my own money, a heart-sinking sum. But the case, thank goodness, was solved. A local Arvada police detective followed our lead and was able to somehow find the painting behind the culprit's couch and get it back to us safely, a big sigh of relief and a small lesson in faith.

A few other stolen works have made their way back to the D Note in various uncanny ways. I'm always glad for the return of the piece. Stolen art is just bad juju. It is not the same as stealing a mass produced material possession. It is more like stealing spirit. In my calculations stolen art carries about twice as much bad karma as stealing money. I sometimes wince a little when I think of the fate the thief has unknowingly brought on his own head.

One of the first major stolen pieces that we didn't get back was a brilliant acid-hued portrait of Nixon. I placed this painting directly across from the men's restroom door so that Tricky Dick was smiling at you in that creepy way whenever you left the john, a good subtle joke. When the painting was stolen I was pissed off, but I still had to laugh. A crook stole a portrait of a crook. It seemed too good, like the way a double negative is a positive.

The most recent art to be stolen, the one on my mind, was an unbelievably beautiful painting by Danny (D Pity) Phillips which he had given me as a gift. I had that one up next to the women's restroom door. When Danny gave me that painting, after a successful show of his we mounted at the D Note, I was floored. So much do I love Danny's work that it felt like receiving a masterpiece by a modern Michelangelo. Danny said he didn't know why the piece was for me, but that he just felt it was. Danny is a very intuitive and poetic painter. His paintings depict a world that is completely his, but they are full of all kinds of symbols and ideas that can be interpreted in ways entirely personal to the viewer.

The name of this painting was The Silver Sea. Above the silver sea was a night-time sky full of subtle changes, an aurora borealis of color. At the bottom of the painting a red king was standing shin deep in silver water and staring out at a silver sea. Behind the king was a woman laying on a blanket on the beach, with wine, a picnic lunch and a book by her side. Behind her was a lush and orderly garden. The king seemed to be looking the wrong way, out to sea instead of back at the utopia behind him. I was reminded of the ur-myth of the Odyssey; Odysseus exploring the world while Penelope patiently waits at home.

That myth is about all of us, but it seemed especially poignant to me at the time. I had a terrific girlfriend, food and wine, books, everything I needed on the shore, but was still unsatisfied, still looking for something out at sea. What else was I looking for? The painting made everything obvious to me. Like the red king in the painting I was looking the wrong way.

Now, three years later, I'm married and settling deeper and deeper into the ring of the relationship. Therefore when this great painting by D Pity was stolen it only broke my heart for a second. I didn't really need it anymore. The painting had done its work on me. Now it was destined to do double duty to the thief who stole it.

But there's poetic justice to this story. My wife and I bought another painting by D Pity. We originally bought it for a friend, but it ended up for the time being on our living room wall. That friend may get it yet, but for now the painting is speaking to me. The loss of the first D Pity Silver Sea painting helped to underscore and highlight the second D Pity piece in our living room, almost as if the new piece could not truly be seen until the other was gone.

The painting depicts an Indian boy riding a pink elephant.

In the morning I often try to meditate and do yoga. Sometimes when I meditate, to quiet the monkey chatter of my mind, I chant "Ga Na", the seed syllables behind Ganesh, the elephant God, Hindu patron of the arts, remover of obstacles. Ga here means mind and speech, as in "gaga", and Na means no, negative, beyond, other, so that when I chant "Ga Na" I am bringing my mind into focus with "Ga" and then letting it go with "Na", a trick I learned from a poem by Joanne Kyger in the 1971 Paris Review, to which I'm eternally grateful. This chant quickly takes me out of my own head, removes the great obstacle, helps get me out of my own way.

The story goes that Ganesh was born with a human head and body, but Shiva beheaded him when Ganesha came between Shiva and Parvati. Shiva then replaced Ganesha's original head with that of an elephant. The beheading represents the offing of the ego, and the head of the elephant represents Shiva, pure being in place of ego.

So the boy riding the pink elephant in D Pity's painting is transformed in my imagination to the boy/elephant of Ganesha. I can feel this transformation every time I chant "Ga Na" and my head pops off. The more I let go, the further the pink elephant takes me.

I also want to point out that a pink elephant is traditionally the vision a drunk sees. To be drunk on wine, or, metaphorically, to be intoxicated by the spirit, leads one, inevitably, to a the pink elephant. Let us raise a glass to Ganesh.

When I look at D Pity's painting of the primitive boy riding the beautiful pink elephant I instantly become that boy, thrilled to be riding the elephant, gamely letting the elephant guide me because the elephant obviously knows best. This is the mysterious power in the art.

Shake a spear

So musical a discord, such sweet thunder.