Thursday, August 30, 2007


Hola Everybody,
It's weird living with other human beings. I'm so accustomed to living alone and not having to account for my whereabouts or "talk." I love the luxury of coming home and being quiet if I desire. I love it that I don't have to listen to someone's day and how it went. After a full day of work, I appreciate the pleasure in not having to talk or listen to another human being.

So, it's Thursday and it's time to pontificate about -- yup, you guessed it -- relationships! LOL

* * *

-=[ Self-Worth ]=-

Mention relationships and people immediately stop whatever they're doing and listen. We all want to relate -- to love and be loved. At least that's my observation. The thing is that relationship has many forms and meanings. I usually write about romantic relationships because they seem to be the most important to us. However, the most important relationship is our relationship to our selves.

In actuality, you already have met your soulmate, this all so elusive "the One," your "soulmate"

It's you.

I know that's a fucked up thing to say. I know you all watched Jerry Maguire and creamed your pannies when he tells the girl, "You complete me"

That's some sick shit, people. LOL!

To live your life firmly convinced that you are incomplete, that somehow you don't matter until someone gives you something that completes you, is to condemn yourself to a lifetime of needless suffering. If you have no self-worth, then who will find you worthy?

"The One"?

I don't think so. You're still looking, right? I will tell you this: if you feel incomplete, you will always feel that way, no one can complete you. You are a fully functioning human being -- a majority of one -- as my good friend and poet, Piri Thomas, likes to say.

Self-worth is a concept, an attitude, a feeling, an image; and it is manifested through behavior. People often have a hard time expressing how they might be feeling at any particular moment. They struggle to find the right words. Every person has a feeling of worth, positive or negative. The question remains if your self-worth is negative or positive, and how much of it is there?

Self-worth is the ability to value one's self and to treat oneself with dignity and love while in touch with reality. This last part is key. I hear people say all the time, "I love myself" but if their self-worth is flawed, then what exactly are they loving? If prop up and support a structure that's faulty isn't it still faulty? Therefore, true self-worth has an aspect of reality testing to it, in addition to love and dignity.

Anyone who is loved is open to change. Our bodies are no different. I am firmly convinced that the crucial factor most important in what happens both inside people and between people is one's self-worth.

Integrity, honesty, responsibility, compassion, love, and competence -- all these traits flow easily from people whose self-worth is high. We feel that we matter, that the world is a better place because we have a place in it. We have confidence and faith in our own competence. We are able to ask others for help, yet are secure that we can make our own decisions and are our own best resource. In appreciating our own self-worth, we are ready to receive and respect the worth of others. We radiate trust, hope, and in that way attract those who possess those qualities to us. Intelligence directs our actions and we accept all of ourselves as human.

People of high self-worth are people of vitality. It is true that all of us experience times when we become full of doubt, when it all gets too tiring and the problems of life seem more than we can manage. But people of vitality treat these momentary times of low self-worth as just what they are: a crisis of the moment. The two major components of crisis are danger and opportunity. The former is obvious, the latter is not so obvious but crucial.

The reality is that crisis is oftentimes the birth pains of a new possibility -- a way to reinvent ourselves. We may feel a sense of uncomfortability initially, but we know we can emerge from this crisis whole.

People who feel they have little worth expect to be cheated, stepped on, and unappreciated by others. This thinking leads the way to living as a victim. The sad fact is that in expecting the worst, these people actually attract it and usually get it. Then, as a defense strategy, they build a fortress of distrust around their hearts and sink into a terrible feeling of loneliness and isolation. Separated from other people, they become indifferent toward themselves and those they come into contact. It's hard for them to hear, see, or think clearly, and therefore they tend to step on others. People of low self-worth build huge walls that they use to hide and then deny they are doing this.

Fear then permeates their lives because it's a natural consequence of distrust and isolation. Love is a quality marked by a feeling of openness, while fear constrains us and leaves us blind. It keeps us from taking the risk of finding a new way to solve a problem. Instead, we turn to the same old tried behaviors that are in reality self-defeating.

When persons with constant feelings of low self-worth experience defeat, they often see themselves as failures. I must be worthless or all these things wouldn't be happening to me, is often the inner talk. After enough of these reactions, we're likely to turn to drugs, food, sex, or other escapes from coping.

It's important to understand that persons of high self-worth can feel low. The difference is that people who are feeling low don't label themselves as worthless or pretend that their low feelings don't exist. It takes a lot of high self-worth to admit your feelings honestly. Feeling low and not admitting it is a form of lying to yourself and others. It's a defense mechanism called denial. Devaluing your feelings leads directly to devaluing yourself and making the whole situation that much less tenable.

The thing is that much of what happens to is us is a result of attitude and since it's an attitude, we can change it. In terms of relationships, until you can develop a respectful relationship with yourself, please stop praying for one and do the fucking work! Your soulmate is getting old.

Take a moment to relax right now. close your eyes and feel your condition now. How are you feeling about yourself? What has happened or is happening in the moment? How are you responding to what is happening? How are you feeling about how you are responding? If you are feeling tight, give yourself a message of love, physically relax yourself, and consciously be in touch with your breathing. open your eyes.

Believe it or not, this simple exercise can help rebuild your sense of worth. In any moment in which you can change your state of feeling, you can then meet any event with a clearer mind and firmer personal foundation.



Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Philosophy of Change

Hola Everybody,
Geez, how things have regressed: I slept with my moms last night! I kidded her -- told her to watch out and sleep with her butt to the wall -- and she got pissed! LMAO!

Hey! I'll hump on anything in my sleep!

Wednesdays are for things philosophical...

* * *

-=[ A Philosophy of Change ]=-

Only one thing has to change for us to know happiness in our lives: where we focus our attention.
-- Greg Anderson former NBA forward/center

When people ask me what I do, I have a hard time answering because I do many things. The term, engaged Latino scholar might sound good, but what the fuck does an engaged Latino scholar actually do? LOL!

I "do" many things, but most of all I like to think I am an agent of change. I can say that I specialize in change. More specifically, my interest and work -- my passion, you might say -- lies in discovering and using the mechanisms of change. The essential question in my professional personal life is, "How do people and organizations change."

What has to be in place (the mechanisms) in order for positive change to come about?

People change all the time. You -- you're changing right this moment. The point here is not so much about change, but positive change -- as you perceive that change. I think we all have assumptions about change and how people change, or don't change. The reason why I love the work I do is not so much because of how often I come face-to-face with the power of the human spirit, but because of the creative process of that spirit. I'm part of an exquisite, intimate dance everyday of my life. A dance that requires connection, innovation, thought, passion, and -- yes -- love.

People change all the time; I see it all the time. And they often do it under the most extreme and difficult situations. I think we tend to concentrate on those that don't change and we get cynical. I'm not a cynic, nor am I blind to reality, but I am a skeptic and a skeptic's job is primarily to question.

To question everything.

I have my own assumptions about change and I can't prove them because they are beliefs. While they are beliefs, they are beliefs cultivated from years of practice and research. While my assumptions may not be more privileged then others, I can say that they have been put to the question many, many times. I can also say that change has been easier when these assumptions are held to be true.

Change, real change is the most difficult thing in the world. If you're trying to lose weight, or be free of a habit, believe me it will be very difficult. Very few humans actually change much in their lives, in fact. But I can tell you that change is possible for anyone who truly desires it. My first assumption is connected to this statement in that I believe we all want to be happy and fulfilled. Many of us have come to the realization that we have a healthy self that for years has buried under piles of psychic garbage. All the abuse, criticism, neglect -- all the destructive forces in our lives -- has buried our true original self. Real change is first about awakening this aspect o ourselves and nurturing it, giving it hope.

My second assumption is easy: we all have basic needs: the need to relate and feel connected; the need for independence and autonomy; the need to feel desirable, successful, and attractive; the need to be considered with dignity amongst our peers; the need for pleasure, fun, and creativity รข€“ to pursue interests that gratify us; and the need to help others, to show concern and love

My third assumption is that people can change in very basic ways. I know this personally. I was that person everyone pointed to said, he's hopeless -- too many people are cynical bout this. Too many people believe that our basic personality is fixed by the end of our childhood.


As I stated before, I see people change every day thought I cede the point that change is very hard at times. Families, friends, habitual patterns create powerful forces that act as obstacles to change. However, this does not mean change is impossible.

My fourth assumption is that we have built in resistance to change. We resist change not because we don't want to, or because we're defected, or because there's something bad about us. We resist change mostly because we don't know how to change. We cling to pain because, for many of us, staying stuck is a lot more viable than jumping off into the unknown. The patterns and situations in our lives are familiar. In order to change, we need to make a conscious, deliberate effort. If we wait for change, it will never happen and we will be doomed to the insanity of making the same actions and expecting different results.

A fifth assumption is that we have an automatic pilot approach to pain and pleasure. We spend our lives chasing pleasure and avoiding pain. The bad news is that we avoid situations that bring us pain even when doing so will bring us growth. In order to overcome our habitual pain-causing patterns, we must be willing to face painful memories that stir up trauma and difficult emotions like sadness, anxiety, guilt, and shame. Many of us would rather lose ourselves in drugs, sex, and food than to face those painful aspects of ourselves.

Another assumption of mine is that I don't believe any one technique or approach will succeed for all people. In my experience working with people and organizations, I have found that most effective approach is one that incorporates a variety of strategies. In my own work, I draw from neuro-linguistic programming, and cognitive, behavioral, experiential, inner-child, and relational techniques to help people change. I believe that the approaches should be modified to suit the individuals and not the other way around. It follows then, that if more techniques are used, then a wider range of people will benefit.

Finally, I believe that change doesn't come about unless an individual is in the process of creating a vision. Change isn't just the absence of dysfunction. We must each discover what we want to be and what we want from life. If you don't have this sense of direction in your life, then you will never change. You have to be willing to have the courage to envision a life that you want. A life in which you feel fulfilled, happy and self-actualized.

That is the first step.



Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Hola! Everybody...
A quick clarification on my blast: My intention is not to leave 360/ Multiply, or take a break from it, or whatever. The fact of the matter is that due to a miscommunication, I returned home from work to find that the city marshal had padlocked my door and put my things in storage. I thought I had a verbal agreement with management that they would allow me to stay until this coming weekend, but for some reason, and without warning, my things were taken.


Mind you, I had moved most of my things into storage, but I still had all my summer clothes (as well as all my undergarments), a computer and two laptops, and a TV still in my apartment.

Therefore, as of today I'm officially homeless, with nothing but the clothes on my back.

I'm staying with my sister temporarily, but (believe it or not) they don't a have a computer in the house! Geeez! This is the 21st century, people! LOL!

In any case, my writing will be limited.



What... IF... ?

I've had it!!! First, let me thank Rippa for getting me started on this tangent and for reminding me of the Central Park Jogger's case.

My blast asks, "What if the Duke players had been black, and their accuser white?"

I'm not looking for an opinion here, so much as a critical look at this complex question. However, I believe honest people, or those aware of the racism we live with, will already know the answer to this question.

* * *

People? Have the Black and Latino/a middle class (and wannbe-be middle class) lost their mind? We do not live in a color-blind society where equality reins and justice is blind. The recent case of Michael Vick, the tremendously talented and apparently equally stupid quarterback for the Atlanta falcons, made me think about the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of the American public.

Let's get real here: Vick was stupid on several counts not the least of then being committing a crime while being famous, rich, and black. For you people of color out there that are clinging to the delusion that we live in a color-blind society, please go out there and try to marry one of the Bush or Kennedy girls -- go ahead!

Moreover, if you think that the Vick case is clear-cut, think again: where are all the animal lovers when these athletes, both black and white, beat up on their pregnant wives? Where are these bleeding hearts when we're literally blowing up kids in Iraq? I don't see these people when (mostly white) guys shoot Bambi while ESPN blithely records it for those boring-assed hunting segments.

Don't misunderstand me, what Vick did was criminal and cruel -- I am not excusing his behavior. However, I smell a huge hypocrisy here and I wonder where our priorities lie. I guess if we could teach wives, Bambi, and cows to fetch, then the dog lovers would make a stink about it, huh? Can we have a little consistency here, folks?

Which brings me to old news: the recent Duke Lacrosse team allegations of rape? Which brings us back to my question, "What if the Duke lacrosse team players had been black, and the stripper white?" Now before you get your shit in a twist about how justice is blind and DNA doesn't lie, let's look at the history, why don't we?

We all remember the revelations of the house the Duke players rented: booze involved as well as underage drinking. In addition, two women who, since they were referred to as "exotic dancers," we can assume were scantily clad performers from the school of rump shaking, video ho's.

Then came the rape allegations. One of the women, a student at North Carolina Central University, said three of the players dragged her into a bathroom and beat, choked and raped her.

Truth be told: one Duke player was suspended from the university after sending an e-mail in which he said he'd like to kill and skin strippers. After that, the results of DNA tests done on 46 players, which their defense lawyers stated would prove that no players were involved (eventually the charges were dropped). Then we learned that a police officer for Durham, N.C. - the location of both Duke and North Carolina Central - said the woman was passed out drunk in a car on the night of the alleged rape. We also learned she was once charged with trying to run over a cop while driving a stolen car.

No wonder this story had legs! It just got better and better! LOL!

The real kicker came when some folks of an ad hoc - and no doubt hastily formed - organization called the Committee for Fairness to Duke Families hired lawyer Bob Bennett to act as their spokesperson. Bennett was former President Clinton's lawyer in the Paula Jones' sexual harassment case.

Yeehawww! Great PR move, folks.

"It is unfortunate that members of the Duke community, players and families are being judged before all the facts are in," Bennett said, according to several news stories. "A lot of innocent young people and the families are being hurt and, unfortunately, this situation is being abused by people with separate agendas. It is grossly unfair, and cool heads must prevail."

Wait! Hold on there a second, buddy! It was almost hilarious the way the news outlets rushed into making Duke's lacrosse players victims. I will cede the point that they may or may not have been unfairly accused of rape. But it was hard for me to feel their pain.

The investigation into the alleged rape went apace. From the outset, no one had been charged. Not one Duke player had to do time in Durham's city jail while awaiting a bail hearing.

Which brings me back to my point and thought process: that's a better deal than three young men got in an incident at Mount Hebron High School in Howard County two years before the duke incident.

You see? I don't deal in opinions, I deal in critical thinking -- big fuckin' difference...

A review of that case may prove instructive regarding my question. Three Mount Hebron boys, ages 18, 16, and 15 at the time, were charged with rape. A girl said one of them held her wrists, another watched at a restroom door, and the third forced himself on her sexually. The three were charged as adults and denied bail.

As in the Duke incident, the girl's story soon began to fall apart. She later admitted the sex was consensual. What was the difference in this case? The girl was white. The three boys she accused were black. That's a complete flip-flop of the situation in Durham.

In the Duke incident, the "exotic dancer" was black. The three men she accused are white. Many folks - of all races - might ask if a double standard isn't at work in Durham. If three black football players at North Carolina Central had been accused of raping a white "exotic dancer," (and I doubt she would have been characterized that way) would local officials have waited until the results of DNA tests before charging anyone?

It's a good question, I believe. Moreover, it's a question not easily addressed through simplistic formulations derived from a naive notion that justice is either fair or color-blind.

As an aside, a more glaring example is the infamous case of the Central Park Jogger. You may remember that in that case, the men charged did time -- real time -- only to be exonerated 10-13 years later! That case also served to fuel the conservative propaganda that crack-addicted single black women on welfare were giving birth to fatherless and irredeemable predatory sociopaths. People: I am not making this shit up!

Fear of a black man is nothing new. It's fairly easy to document white fear of black dick, please don't make me do it because I'll do it in the most unpleasant manner. Objectifying black (and Latina) women as sex objects is also nothing new. In fact, for 100s of years, women of color were legally raped in the USA. All have a historical precedence and while it may (or may not) be true that even if the Duke players had been black, they would've eventually been exonerated, it would've played of very much differently then it did.



Monday, August 27, 2007


Hola Everybody,
Hey! I've been exercising more consistently these days!

Little by little. It takes time and momentum to create newer, healthier habits.

It amazes me how people create unrealistic expectations. Oftentimes, I see people try something half-heartedly and then proclaim that it doesn't work and give up. Or, they think about something and decide it's of no use and give up before even trying! Then we wonder why are our children are supposedly so confused?

I dunno...

* * *

-=[ Monday Madness: The U-Turn ]=-

"Life is change, growth is optional, choose wisely."
-- Karen Kaiser Clark

I'm reading a book that asks the question, "What if you woke up one morning and realized you were living the wrong life?" LOL! I love it!

While people won't say it explicitly, I get the sense that most people feel as if they're playing a starring role in a drama they never intended to play. I get this sense from so many people that they are somehow living the wrong life

The thing is I see people do complete about faces all the time.

In fact, I'm one of those people. About 17 years ago, I was a hopelessly addicted addict in solitary confinement -- sick, malnutritioned -- it doesn't get any more hopeless than that. But something clicked right before then and many times after. My turn-around -- my about face -- happened in small increments until I evolved into the life I was meant to live.

Others change in a flash. Gandhi and the French painter, Gauguin, changed overnight and undertook causes at a great price. Gauguin was a well-to-do stockbroker leading the perfectly normal middle-class life and he just left one day. Left his wife and children and decided to become a painter. What's more, he painted in a style that was totally misunderstood by the public at the time. He lived most of the rest of his life in abject poverty and in the process condemned his wife and children to a life of destitution. Gauguin is today considered one of the greatest of the post-impressionists. I doubt that in his lifetime, Gauguin ever sold a painting for a significant sum of money. Eventually he died penniless of syphilis. But he painted until the end of his life.

That was his passion.

What's yours?

Gandhi, a chameleon if ever there was one, coined the term, "be the change you want in the world." He too was living a comfortable life until one day he came face to face with racism and it changed him forever. Whatever you might say about his inconsistencies, he was probably the single most influential pacifist in the 20th century. His work influenced people such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh and countless others.

People do about faces all the time.

People change political parties and careers, people give up their jobs as doctors and become poets, mothers quit their families to pursue careers and athletes quit their careers to spend more time with their families. There are passive people who change and become revolutionaries for a cause they didn't care about the day before.

I guess the message is that you can change at any time, no matter what your external circumstances. The people mentioned above are no different than you in many cases. We like to say, Those people were different, they were special. We're just plain folk. Well, if you look at the history of these transformers, you notice that they were just plain folk too. In fact, some had tasted failure numerous times before they found their calling.

What will you do when you get your wake-up call? Will you just turn over and fall asleep?

Or will you heed the call?

Because I can assure of this: you will be called. Perhaps you have been called already.



Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday Sermon [Opening Your Heart]

¡Hola Everybody!
A long time ago, the man in charge of ringing the bells
at a nearby church for years would play the opening notes to My Cherie Amor ("la la laaa, la la laa... ") every Sunday. I once tracked the man down and asked him why. He explained he played it because it was the song he dedicated to his now deceased wife when they first met. After returning after being away for many years, the bells no longer rang and when I investigated, I discovered that the man had passed away and no one else knew how to ring the bells...

* * *

-=[ Opening Your Heart ]=-

"You can outrun that which is running after you,
but not what is running inside you."

-- Rwandan proverb

I left off my Thursday relationship blog on a cliffhanger, promising to offer a way out of the merry-go-round. Today's blog is a preamble to that answer. Anybody who has read me knows how I feel about the majority of self-help books out there. It's not that I don't like them as much as I feel that they don't offer actual hows. Some books are good at identifying a problem and offering insights. And??? Other books deal with specific issues that are not transferable to other issues. Duh???

I feel in order for real change to come about there has to be a how: actual exercises we can implement that can bring about a change in our mental software. We follow scripts, people, some of which were written generations ago, and they often cause much pain. So today I'm going to offer you an exercise. I try to offer experiential exercises because you people think too fuckin' much! In fact, most of you are tyrannized by thinking most of the time. So I try to offer basic exercises you have to experience in order to begin moving you away from thinking.

See?!! You're already thinking! Sheeesh!

Shut up!

Okay! Ready? Breathe!

Pretend you are going to kill the next person you see. I want you to try to feel this in your body. Imagine that you are really going to kill this person. How do you feel inside?

Now, imagine that you are going to have sex with the next person you see. Again, how do you feel inside?

Bear with me for one last exercise: Pretend you are going to save the life of the next person you see, but in doing so your own life will end. Imagine you are going to die as a result of saving this person's life. How do you feel inside?

Now, answer this question: which imagined action -- killing, having sex, or saving while dying -- most feels like liberation, freedom, and unbound love?

My question to you is why would you intentionally hold anything in your mind, except that which most opens your heart and soul so that others may benefit from it?

I have just fucked up your constriction. Now you know. From now on, the choice is yours. When you find yourself imagining something that results in you feeling less open, simply imagine whatever most opens you. It is that fuckin simple, believe it or not.

This is the first step that helps you get off the merry-go-round of living those painful scripts -- those childhood imprints on your psyche. Remember the equation I wrote not too long ago:

constriction = hate/ love = openness.

This is the beginning of replacing habits that bring constriction with habits that bring openness. The other step is to hang out as awareness in space, maintaining openness without support; being openness without effort or intention. At this point, if you haven't done the exercises and just tried to think about them, you will not understand what I am attempting to communicate. so go back and do them now. Not later, but now.

Remember the feeling that most opens you? Perhaps it was saving your best friend's or your child's life. Whatever feeling most opens you, allow this feeling to dissolve into an awareness of openness, like a swirl dissolving in water. Let go of any effort to imagine anything, just be that feeling.

Another moment will come and you might find yourself once again thinking of something -- perhaps a rude driver -- that constricts you, if even a little bit. What do you do? What can you do?

First, consciously visualize or feel whatever opens your heart, softens your body, and relaxes your mind. For example, you can visualize making passionate love with a superior lover, your bodies entwined in emanations of light.

Then allow this visualization to dissolve into an authentic feeling, like an ocean of openness, alive and real as this bright moment.

This is a way to replace unloving (constricted) mind formulations with loving ones. With time and practice you will be able to allow all mind forms to relax open as love's clear light. Repeat this two step process whenever you happen to notice that you're closing up, so that openness becomes the default state in every moment that you are conscious of.

This is the practice of opening your heart and throwing away the old scripts -- of undoing the deeply ingrained childhood imprints that force you to sabotage your life. Many of you say you want to be loved, but as long as you're closed, you will wait forever to be loved.



Saturday, August 25, 2007

RIP: Max Roach

Hola Everybody,

Saturdays I dedicate to the arts and stuff like that...

* * *

En Memoriam: Max Roach
January 10, 1924 -- August 16, 2007

Most people don't know that I had wanted to be a musician early in my life. I grew up with a lot of music in my background. My uncle was a bandleader. He was an interesting man. He was a musician, an athlete, and a natural born organizer. Growing up, it wasn't uncommon for me to find my teachers hanging out in our Lower East Side living room. One of the most common visitors to our living room was Mr. White, an African-American music teacher at our elementary school. Accompanying the heated political and intellectual discussions was usually some jazz -- Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk, for example. It was here where I learned to love the music we call jazz.

Jazz is particularly difficult to define, but I can tell you what it ain't: it ain't Kenny G!

I consider the body of work known as jazz as the single most significant American contribution to the world of art. The irony being that it's an art that has as its roots the black experience in America. The other irony being that outside the US, this form of expression is held in the highest esteem.

In my teens, I decoded I wanted to pursue a life as a musician and I picked up percussion (congas and timbales, mostly) and taught myself to play by listening to master percussionists. Later, I would pick up the trombone and play with various bands. One band, called the Newbreeds (think a Black Chicago with a hard rock rhythm section), actually cut a demo. I can be heard on that demo playing congas. The Brooklyn neighborhood I grew up in spawned many popular black and Latino bands. Mandrill was right around the block from us (on Polk St.) and the Lebron brothers, a famous salsa band, was maybe three blocks down Broadway. There was also the soulful ballad band, Blue Magic. The drummer from the Newbreeds would eventually tour with Gloria Gaynor and some of the horn players would move to BT Express when we broke up.

During that time, walking down a Latino/a neighborhood in the summer sounded like the soundtrack to a Tarzan movie. There were drums everywhere. Some of the nastiest congueros I ever heard played on the streets and in Central Park every Sunday tens of thousands of people would gather around the Bethesda Fountain to listen to the musicians who congregated there. Only the best drummers would dare throw down and it was truly amazing to see that mixture of Black Jazz and Latino salsa musicians get together and crate hybrid sounds.

I loved music and it was an exciting time to be involved in the then nascent movement that would eventually explode internationally as Salsa. Salsa is an urban folklore that has its roots in the Latino/a and Black neighborhoods of NYC.

But my true love was Jazz and I hung out with older Jazz musicians who would play with salsa bands in between jazz gigs. This brings me to Max Roach, one of the great jazz drummers who passed away August 16th. If jazz is the greatest uniquely American artistic expression, then Bop (and post Bop) was jazz's greatest musical revolution and Max Roach was at the center of that revolution. He played drums for all the major innovators of this musical genre: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Clifford Brown, who was arguably the greatest jazz trumpeter ever.

But Roach was more than a musician, he was also a civil rights activist and used his art to further the rights of the oppressed and in that way for all of humanity. I understand the term Civil Rights, but in actuality the largely Black and Latino/a civil rights movements of the 50s and 60s was in actuality a fight for human rights. It's particularly troubling for me to stomach the actions of entertainers today. In the 60s, black and Latino/a athletes and artists who may have been deeply flawed human beings but who, nonetheless, fought alongside their brothers and sisters for civil rights causes. Today Black and Latino/a athletes sell sneakers manufactured in Third World sweat shops that brutalize its workers without even thinking about it.

Max Roach was a musical genius who never lost sight that a gift comes with responsibility and he committed himself fully not just to his art, but to his responsibility. I never became a real musician because I wasn't willing or able to commit to my gift in that manner. I have no regrets, I love what I do and I know that what I do is my calling. But I often say that art saved my life, because whenever I thought jumping off a bridge or putting a bullet in my skull was a good idea, it was the art created by people like Max Roach that reminded me that this world is also capable of transcendent beauty.

Thank you Max...



Thursday, August 9, 2007

Harry and Sally on my Couch

Hola Everybody!
God! I want to go to the beach! LOL

As my lovely friend, Philana, kindly reminded me , her recent blogs incited me to dust off this post I wrote about a year ago. I think Phil and I would have a great time together if we ever met -- that is if we could stop talking! LOL She's quickly become one of my fave bloggers...

I want to state clearly today that I deplore romance movies and novels. I consider them the bane of our existence because they model unrealistic notions of romance. Ladies? If you and I get married and you go senile? I will not sacrifice my life reading a freaking notebook to you. I won’t forget you, nor will I abandon you – I’ll make sure to visit your Alzheimer’s ass regularly, but I will more than likely find someone else and get on with my life. James Garner? That’s not love, it’s co-dependency. Get a fuckin life!

Ladies, I hope that if it were the other way around, you would do the same!

As adults, we need to write new fairy tales. Ladies? Men hate that shit because it is suffocating to even think of outdated and juvenile notions of shining armor and saving damsels in distress.

And you know what? I deplore popular depictions of romance because they cheapen the real thing. True romance is infinitely better than anything you will read in a book, or see on a movie screen. Just because I deplore romance novels or movies doesn’t mean I am not a romantic – in fact, I am. That crap they show on screens? I say that’s romance according to whom? Sorry, I don’t do armor, shoot me.


“Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.”
-- Harry & Aristotle

Well, actually, Harry (the character from that intolerable movie, When Harry met Sally) and Aristotle did not say the above quote, but as I hope to show, Aristotle and Harry seem to sleep in the same philosophical bed (pun intended). I write often the reason behind our cultural aversion to the body (at least in the Western sense). This aversion is grounded in a historical context. Things are the way they are not because that’s “how it’s always been,” but because we live within a cultural context. Philosophy matters, my dear friends, more than we know…

The movie When Harry met Sally, begs the question if men and women can be friends and then answers it so: “Men and women can’t be friends – because the sex part always gets in the way.” … But is this true? Are there reasons friendship between men and women isn’t possible? Or more importantly: are there reasons why friendship between men and women are more difficult to maintain than same-sex friendships?

As we shall see most of the assumptions we carry around regarding these, and other, questions are founded in ancient Greek thought and their latter day Christian interpreters. In other words, things are the way they are,m not because they are universal truths, but because of a cultural bias.

Aristotle strongly suggested that a relationship can never become the highest form of friendship. He makes a distinction between a bond like friendship, grounded in character traits and involving choice, from a bond based on an emotion. And while there can be friendship between lover and beloved, he continues, it will not be the highest form of friendship. It will be a friendship based not on character but in pleasure – and hence will likely fade. Still, Mr. Aristotle concedes, acknowledging how one form of love may grow from another, “many do remain friends if, through familiarity, they have come to love each other’s character… ”

At this point, I will note, somewhat reluctantly, that Eros and philia are indeed different forms of love, even if sometimes they come together as a package deal. In making a different point, the Christian writer, C.S. Lewis suggested the following experiment:

Suppose you… have fallen in love with and married your friend… now suppose that you were offered the choice of two futures: “Either you will cease to be lovers but remain forever joint seekers of the same God, the same beauty, the same truth, or else, losing all that, you will retain as long as you live the raptures and ardours, all the wonder and the wild desire of Eros. Choose which you please.


Mr. Lewis seems to be saying we have to recognize the reality and difficulty of a choice between the different loves. He captures this difference adequately in the following sentence: “Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.” Friends, therefore, are more likely to be happy to welcome a new friend who shares their common interest, but Eros is a jealous love which must exclude third parties.

Lewis believed that friendship and erotic love may go together, but in many respects he agrees with Harry and Aristotle that the combination is, at the very least, an unstable one. Mr. Lewis’ contention is that a friendship between a man and a woman can exist, but that it can do so only if the parties involved are not physically attracted to one another, or one of them loves another. Otherwise, the friendship will slip into the erotic realm eventually. This is not too far from Harry’s view, who after stating at the very beginning that sex (Eros) will always get in the way, adds the qualifier, “unless both are involved with other people” later in the movie. But then, in one of many convoluted pieces of dialogue that damns this movie (Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are two of my most hated of Hollywood actors, BTW), he adds, (and I paraphrase loosely here) But that doesn’t work because the person you’re involved with doesn’t understand why you need to be friends with the other person. She figures you must be secretly interested in the other person -- which you probably are.

Lewis is a little less pessimistic than Harry, Lewis suggests that lovers who are friends may learn to share their friendship with others, though not, of course [!], their Eros. Still this does not address the main point in all this: the supposed instability of friendships with members of the opposite sex.

Perhaps it is best to grant the point that friendship between men and women will be more difficult within the context of a culture that’s terribly paranoid and repressive about eros (sexual energy). There will certainly be difficulties that don’t exist in same-sex friendships. However, that faint undercurrent of eros can also be enriching. If we’re fearless – or at least trailblazers – we may find that a friendship between a man and a woman may offer a balance and sanity, and – if we throw away the fairy tales -- fulfillment through a sexual energy (Eros) that doesn’t have to be destructive.

Towards the end of Harry and Sally, Harry finally realizes that he loves Sally and wants to marry her. He lists all the cute reasons why: that shit that Meg Ryan does with her nose, the way she looks at him, blah blah blah… all reasons that a friend might not state, granted. Of all the reasons, however, I find that Harry’s observation that Sally is “the last person I want to talk to before I go to bed at night,” most compelling.




[un]Common Sense