It's been great to watch how well Barack Obama has been holding up on this campaign. His defusing of the Reverend Wright controversy this week was a masterstroke; what's more, the speech he delivered on race and racism in America was probably the most nuanced thing ever said on the subject by any politician. The fact that he was able to perform like that in such a state of campaign fatigue is all the more astonishing. During the 40-minute speech, I don't think he looked down at his notes more than five times. Imagine Bush trying to pull something like that off. No way. After eight years of Bush, watching someone who can actually hold his own behind a podium is a revelation. Oh yeah....that's what it's supposed to be like.
And of course, neocons have been trying desperately to discredit Obama. Amazing, isn't it, the people that are trying to bring him down? The same people who've tirelessly made excuses for George Bush and his all-time-low of a presidency these last eight years. In the face of logic, decency and common sense, the die-hards continue to defend Bush's (dis)honor with the tenacity of the dog who won't let go of its chew toy.
After forgiving nearly a decade of atrocity, incompetence, bridge-burning, wastefulness and embarrassment, suddenly the conservatives have set sky-high expectations for Obama. They'll try anything to sully his name. The propogandists at Faux News have saturated the airwaves with dozens and dozens of completely unnecessary utterances of his middle name (Hussein....Hussein....Hussein....terrorist!). It blows my mind that people actually get their "news" from a joke network like Fox, but then I believe that alot of people just like being told what they already believe.
MUSIC IS DEAD (?)
I've been thinking about where music is today and where it's going. Any full time musician is thinking about it, and hard. On one hand, it's great that the record labels are crumbling to dust. It's a fine day when corporate bureaucrats are no longer buying yachts on the the blood of musicians. Buuuuut....
It's a very sad day when music is literally considered to be worth nothing. Kids growing up today think that paying for music is like paying for a glass of water at the kitchen tap -- absurd! It's now generally taken for granted that music is f-r-e-e. A very unhealthy attitude; and it's devastating to artists.
A TROPICAL RESPITE
I paid my third visit to Dominical, Costa Rica in mid February with two friends and had a kick-ass time. It was great to see my sister and my niece as usual and my parents happened to be there at the same time so that was cool too. Went on some intense hikes and came face to face with poisonous snakes, tarantulas and best of all, monkeys. We slept in the jungle in a tent one night as rain poured down hard. That was one of the coolest things I've done.
Alot of adult locals there have never ventured out of their home turf. I was thinking what a trip it would be for one of those ticos to deal with a place like New York City for the first time. For that matter, any American suburb would be brutal. The beauty that they're accustomed to in CR is pretty staggering. Imagine going from lush, tropical mountainsides, gorgeous, unpeopled beaches for miles and a panoply of wildlife packed into every square inch to the blight of endless stripmalls, Starbucks and McMansions as far as the eye can see.
I personally would never be able to live in a place like Costa Rica. It's almost too fantastic, to the point of seeming unreal. It's a paradise. But where's the edge? The beauty, the constant warmth and the perpetually laid-back pace are great -- but I need alot more grit and aggression in my life. What does that say about me?
CHALK ONE UP FOR THE U.S. JUSTICE SYSTEM
It was intense to be charging through the rainforest in a tank top one minute and then find myself freezing on the A train platform in Brooklyn at 3:00 am just hours later. I love extremes like that. It was great to come back to the severe winter of New York.
But I wasn't so tickled about having to show up to jury duty a day after returning from my idyllic getaway. Like anyone, my stomach sank when I got the summons in the mail. I foresaw great inconvenience, boredom and, worst of all, having to wake up early. Oh, the dreary reality of adult life!
I set my rarely-used alarm clock and reported to the King's County courthouse at 8:00 a.m. just the same, feeling smugly confident I would get booted during the jury selection process, either because of my testimony or my haircut or both.
Turns out it was a criminal case involving an assault and robbery. During the screening process, the judge and lawyers ask each of the potential jurors one-by-one if they or anyone close to them have been victim of a violent crime. It was amazing how almost everyone there had some kind of story to tell. Muggings, burglary, assault. The girl next to me said that her fiance had been murdered just two years ago on the street. Damn.
I told my story of getting attacked on the subway a couple weeks prior and mentioned that someone I knew had been murdered. Still, I got picked to be on that jury! Scary stories, mohawk and all.
I groaned at the news and cursed my fate, but I have to say that, once the case got rolling, I quickly warmed up to the whole thing. It was a reasonably interesting trial and the other jurors were very cool. We were a real cultural cross-section of Brooklyn: old black grandmothers, a Russian massage therapist, a queeny Williamsburg hairdresser, a bling-ed out father from the projects, a punk-ass honky musician (me). Immigrants, transients and born-and-raised lifers were all represented. And hanging out together for four days. That kind of thing doesn't happen often enough.
The trial lasted four days, which was not long enough to be a major inconvenience and short enough to stay interesting. There was alot of waiting around in the deliberation room. Hours of waiting. The guy next to me had a portable DVD player with headphones and he watched three or four movies in their entirety during the time we spent in that room. I killed time writing songs (they came out really good, btw!).
The cool thing about jury duty was finding out that every one of the jurors cared very much about delivering a fair verdict and paid close attention to the entire trial. I think the American justice system is fatally flawed but I think it worked this time, for whatever that's worth.
I won't go into details about the case, but we unanimously voted to acquit the accused. The 22-yr-old broke down in tears at the verdict.
Recently a friend of mine committed suicide. He wasn't a close friend and I'd only hung out with him a handful of times but he was best friends and the roomate of someone close to me and I'd been over to their place for dinner several times. This guy was an incredible cook. He was a really impressive guy overall -- super talented, radiant, and unbelievably well-adjusted to things considering he was physically disabled.
To be respectful, I don't want to get into his life or his death in this blog. But one of the things that hit me after I heard about his passing was just....how fucking brutal life is. I know that is a cliche. But it's true -- it is so damn hard to get to a point where you feel like you're pulling your weight and living up to expectations. There is so much pressure on a person from above, below and all sides -- pressure to excel, to impress, "do the right thing", to "meet the right person," to be "successful." It's so easy to feel like you've dropped the ball. Everybody from your family, friends, the media and the government -- not to mention yourself -- expects all kinds of unreasonable things from you in this life. Just being happy is certainly not enough.
When I heard about my friend's passing, all I could think of was how far this guy had already come, how much heavy stuff he'd already gotten through and with all the potential, talent and charisma he possessed, it seemed like he could tackle anything. Yet deep down in his heart, he still didn't feel like it was good enough.
Rest in peace, P. I'm sure wherever you are is better than where you were.