Sunday, September 30, 2007

And The Beat Goes On

As a kid in the ‘70s, I lived for Saturdays. No school. Bugs Bunny. The Superfriends. Valley of the Dinosaurs. And record shopping. Every Saturday, after the weekly blitz of cartoons and Kenner, Milton Bradley and Hasbro ads, mom and I would head to the shopping center, and every Saturday excursion involved a tour of Murphy Mart. She would search the aisles for Saturday bargains on household essentials and ladies’ polyester pant suits, and I would get completely lost in the record section. While all the other kids panhandled their parents for Hot Wheels racetracks, Stretch Armstrong dolls and Battlestar Galactica spaceships, I was obsessively scouring the 45s and the K-Tel collections for new disco songs.

Looking back, I’m really not sure how, or why, I developed my deep, deep passion for dance and electronic music. It’s just always been there. In my small part of the world – far, far from anyone who’d ever been to a discotheque – I was surrounded by Hank Williams, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Eagles. But, my first favorite song, was KC and the Sunshine Band’s “That’s the Way (I Like It),” and by the time Chic released “Le Freak,” I was already a self-proclaimed 8-year-old disco authority. I would spend hours in my room escaping into a Casablanca and Salsoul world.

In 1979, when disco collapsed under the weight of corporate mainstreaming, “Saturday Night Fever” and a racist, anti-gay backlash, I was still dancing along with the Soul Train regulars in the living room. I learned pretty quickly not to advertise my love of disco, and as I neared my teenage years I had moved on to soul and new wave. Yes, I knew that I was still listening to disco, but it had become a word that could get you beat up.

Almost 30 years later, I’m still taken away by well-composed dance tracks, and I love researching and analyzing and sharing the history of dance music. I particularly admire the die-hard dance artists who kept the beat going between disco and house music. So, here are a few of, what I consider, the most important tracks of the post-disco, pre-house era of dance music. Enjoy, and get down.

"Let The Music Play" - Shannon - 1983

"The Look Of Love" - ABC - 1982

"Planet Rock" - Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force - 1982

"Blue Monday" - New Order - 1983

"Let It Whip" - The Dazz Band - 1982

"Relax" - Frankie Goes To Hollywood - 1983

"Jam On It" - Newcleus - 1984

"Don't Make Me Wait" - The NYC Peech Boys - 1982

"Don't Go" - Yazoo - 1982

Monday, September 24, 2007

And Iran So Far Away

Seriously, what is wrong with the people of this country? When did we become a nation of hypocritical, war-mongering, angry little sheep? So, Columbia University invited the current leader of Iran to speak. So, the fuck what? It's a university. A center of intellectual thought and discourse. A place where diverse ideas and perspectives are shared, and a community of scholars who seek to understand this world we live in. And, man could we use a little more understanding in this world.

I'm pretty sure that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a relatively unsavory character on the world stage....but so is George Dubya, and he's invited to speak at universities all the time. Actually, the two have an awful lot in common - they both proudly display a revolting mix of arrogance and ignorance with a smirk, and they both claim to act on God's behalf when they kill and destroy.

Every news "reporter" this evening, felt the need to introduce the story of Ahmadinejad's speech at Columbia using the words radical and extreme and the film footage showed thousands of protesters holding signs referring to Ahmadinejad the next Hitler and a terrorist. And, I had read a few days ago that the Iranian leader had been denied his request to lay a wreath at Ground Zero.

So, damn was I disappointed with, what I thought was going to be a shocking and rabid diatribe by the latest personification of evil. With the national hysteria over this man, I expected fire and demon dogs. What I got was a snoozy propaganda-filled speech peppered with inaccuracies and blatant homophobia. Not unlike Dubya's State of the Union address.

Let's briefly examine some of the main points, that according to even our local news "correspondent," were most delirious and offensive to our American hearts.

1. Regarding reports that he denies the reality of the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad said "Granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?" And, while I'm not particularly anti-Isreal, and certainly not anti-Jewish, I have to admit it's a valid question. He pointed out that the Holocaust was committed by Europeans and happened in Europe, and that European nations apologized by giving the Jews the land that the Palestineans had been living on for 100 generations.

2. Speaking about the 9/11 attacks, he asked "Why did this happen? What caused it? What conditions led to it? Who truly was involved? Who was really involved and put it all together?" More valid questions. I'm pretty sure that Osama Bin-Laden masterminded the attack, and extremist fundamentalism caused it. But, we certainly do have to ask what conditions led to it. How can we ever expect to lead the world towards peace if we are so blinded by our thirst for revenge that we refuse to examine the causes of such deep hatred.

3. When asked about the execution of homosexuals by the Iranian government, Ahmadinejad responded "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have this." I've seen the photos of public hangings of teenage boys convicted of committing homosexual acts, and my heart broke and my stomach turned. But, for this country to suddenly express its outrage at how gay people are treated in Iran is disingenuous at best. For the most part, we aren't publicly lynched, but there is a frighteningly large proportion of the population that given the chance...

More than outrage at Ahmadinejad's words, I feel fear. Fear that my country is ready and willing to go to war with any nation that Cheney, Condoleeza and Dubya decide is a "rogue nation" or "state sponsor of terrorism." I fear that America is ready to destroy itself in its quest to "get them back." I fear that the exact definition of "them" isn't important to us. I fear that the media is eager to jump back on Dubya's "we have to fight them there" wagon. I fear that it's already too late.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What's In A Name?

I was named after my father. My parents got married, and divorced young. And, when I was 2 ½ years old, my father took me to a babysitter and never came back. He left me with only the clothes I had on, and his name.

There were a few stops along the way, and I ended up being adopted by Ruth and Edward. I also ended up with their last name, and Edward as a middle name. I left Edward’s abusive home when I was a teenager, and I reluctantly took his middle and last names with me.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that most people have a deep connection to their name. Some people were named after a wise and adoring grandparent, or a beloved wacky aunt or uncle. For others, their name reflects a religious tradition or a specific era. Some people carry their parents’ hopes and dreams in their name, and most everyone keeps family history intact through last name inheritance. Most likely, you know the inspiration and the story of your name.

All of my life, I felt no connection to my own name – like I had borrowed it just because I didn’t have one. Every time I had to write it on paper, the external-ness of it reminded me of my particular aloneness in the world. I felt embarrassed every time I was asked why my birth certificate name didn’t match the name on my school records.

Six years ago, a very strange sequence of coincidences led me to meet my biological mother for the first time, since I was two years old. She shared old photo albums and family stories. I saw how much I look like my biological father, and I saw pictures of uncles and grandparents – people who shared my very first last name. She told me what a good guy my biological father really is, and she tried to explain how she “looked for me.” I know she’s lying. She answered a lot of questions for me, and in a lot of ways, I have gained a sense of closure.

Shortly after meeting my genetic past, I decided that I needed to take a conscious, symbolic step in the writing of my own story. I legally changed my name.

I wanted a name with meaning – something to remind me that I am not just a product of the disappointments of others. I needed to have a name that spoke to my experience and reminded me of my strength and depth and character.

I’ve written before of the magical experience I had in the early San Francisco rave scene. It was without a doubt one of the most defining moments of my life – a rare realization that everything in my life had led me to that moment. My first rave was Toon Town – UFOs Are Real. The lights and music swirled in my head and stirred my soul. At the peak of the party, I found myself in the middle of the dancefloor, a part of one huge pulsing, universal organism. For the first time in my life, I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see this cute kid with colorful baggy clothes and the happiest smile I’d ever seen, just standing, looking at me and smiling. He reminded me of the Cheshire Cat. I asked him if we had already met, and I can still hear him saying “no, but maybe we should!” And then, he hugged me and we sat down, on the dancefloor, in the middle of thousands of dancing and jumping bodies and we became friends. His name was Cyrus.

Cyrus was the first friend that I ever made a rave, and he quickly became my rave tour guide and peace and love buddy. I loved his need to participate in, and contribute to the group vibe, and his energy was just tremendously positive and contagious. With him, I felt welcome and special, and a bit like his rave apprentice. To me, Cyrus was a perfect personification of the joy and innocence and intensity of the early rave scene.

Not unlike a flower generation before, the sudden burst of youth culture and magic energy was like a fleeting fantasy, and after a few life-changing months, our paths diverged and I never saw Cyrus again.

So, I had my middle name legally changed to Cyrus in honor of that time in my life – that time when I began to realize my place in the universe. Because our time as friends was so momentary and ephemeral and fairy-tale like, Cyrus is to my memory, a sort of mythical character who represents the time and place that I began to grow past the circumstances of my earlier life.

I believe that we are all a complex combination of a genetic basis, environmental influences and self-determination. My name, now has meaning to me as it speaks to this belief. My first name, from my biological parents, connects me with my genetic history. My middle name reminds me of the strength of my choices. And, my last name links me to the place where I grew up, and the people who raised me.

Now, that okapi thing…..

Monday, September 10, 2007

Damned Tree Huggers!

Stimpy sent this one to me, and well, I just had to on the picture to make biggy.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Score One For The Witches!

I just love this story....

Elwood "Bunky" Bartlett says a New Age book store made it possible for him to become an overnight multimillionaire...Bartlett, an accountant from Dundalk, Maryland, said he made a bargain with the multiple gods associated with his Wiccan beliefs: "You let me win the lottery and I'll teach." Both tickets he purchased had numbers chosen randomly from the computer.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Happy Long Weekend!

Mel & Kim - "Showing Out"