Musicians Riff on White Woman Who Called Cops on Black BBQ

Despite the increasing depth and breadth of 21st Century American Racism, you gotta love the comedic cruelty of the Internet when it actually manages to do some equalizing.

The woman identified as Dr. Jennifer Shulte had a positively schizophrenic affect when she called the cops on some African American folks who were barbequing, going from the voice of authority to weeping victim as soon as the cops arrived.

Many of us wanted to give this lady a knuckle sandwich but thankfully, the Internet did that for us.

Thank God for Photoshop!  I’m particularly enjoying the memes that Bay Area musicians are passing around at her expense:

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A Great Day in Harlem, 1958: “hello officer, people are playing flatted fifths.”

MonoNeon turns her voice into a smokin’ riff:

 

The snorkel is a nice touch:

 

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Trigger Warning: Trump is Your President

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When the map went red, it bled.  That uniform block of frustration and alienation is as visible as an open wound.  

For me, this election is personal.  I haven’t spoken publicly about it until now, but last summer, I was ensnared by a romantic sociopath and when I discovered the depth of this person’s lies, I had a mental health crisis complete with panic, anxiety/depression, PTSD, insomnia, the whole shebang.

At the time, I was working at a mental health facility teaching yoga to acute patients.  These vulnerable people had often sustained ongoing childhood abuse.  I could not teach anymore because I was now a patient and I couldn’t separate myself from my students; I was lost in empathy, my own pain mixing with their’s.

When the map went that red last night, it was like watching a dear friend willingly return to the home of her abusive husband. Our nation voted for a sociopath because it has Stockholm Syndrome.  Our red states feel powerless and so they reach for and identify with power, even if that power is their oppressor.

We have to wonder about free will in this moment and how much we are actually exercising it if we put the tax-evading bully in the driver’s seat.

I’m grieving a future that is not fraught with draconian repeals and abusive cycles that grind up our best and brightest.

I’m in the second phase of grief: denial.

Followed closely by bargaining: your mind just keeps trying to peel back time and rewrite the event, bending it another way. It happens repeatedly throughout your day, your mind doing impossible gymnastics to make that one moment of shock disappear. I’m going to let myself feel it, so I can move onto guilty, anger and eventually hope.
I am already tired from the work that must be done.  I see with fresh awareness that my privilege has afforded me the ability to opt out of activism.  The Obama years were a piece of cake I ate daily without realizing it.  But none of us, not one American, will have that luxury anymore.
I have one perspective I learned through my experience with the sociopath that is both disheartening and hopeful as it applies to Trump: sociopaths usually self-destruct.  because they are not conscience-bound at all, they do not apply loyalty to their interactions.  His loose cannon antics will continue once he gets into the White House and while we can count on him disposing of Obamacare, overturning Roe v. Wade, and setting up shop for his billionaire friends, he will also be bored, cruel, and destructive with the wrong people.
Malcolm Gladwell predicts Trump will be hip-deep in a lawyer huddle, if not in jail within the first year. I sort of hope he is right; I’d be really surprised if Trump makes it through a first term.
In the meantime, we need to bind together tighter, we need to reach back out to the middle, and bravely carry the torch of love, inclusion, forgiveness.  We need to see this as it is, a wound that needs healing.
Let’s be ready, friends, neighbors, families, communities, cities and allies.  Let’s start to build a model of what we do want so when this thing comes crashing down, we can create again.
May we eradicate hate.  One world, one people, one love.

Give Those Nymphs Some Hooters: Donald Trump vs. Bernie Sanders and What it Means to Art

When his blustery, mean-spirited dismissive, caustic pinched, nasal voice started coming back out through the public airwaves, I had to draw back and remember, when was I first aware of Donald Trump?

It was the late 80s, when everyday I found the funny pages of the LA Times (well almost everyday, after my Dad had done the crossword) and I read Doonsbury, a decades long satire by Gary Trudeau .  I was transfixed by the romance happening between Mike and J.J.  Mike’s long-suffering commercial career as an illustrator was punctuated by campaigns that would come to life like Mr. Butts, the Cigarette Lobby Spokesman, and J.J. was a performance artist who donned a bucket on her head and dashed the wedding china on the floor to make a comment about the fragile artifice of American marriage.  Now this was real love.

At some point, despite their rocky and often bewildering relationship, Mike and J.J have a child, Alex.  This is when (momentarily)  J.J sobers up and realizes, shit, I have to get a job.  J.J’s first commission?  To paint a replica of the Cistine Chapel inside Donald Trump’s yacht.  The Don was married to Ivana and had just purchased the Trump Princess (I guess he  didn’t care that renaming a boat is bad luck).  He was a fixture on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. “Give Those Nymphs Some Hooters” is the feedback J.J receives from her new boss as she clambers back up the scaffold, chanting to herself “I have a family, I have a family…” In the end of the sequence, she makes Adam look a little more Donaldy.

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What Gary Trudeau points out here with his usual wry humor, is that Trump is the distillation of the crass disregard for real beauty that comes with profound excess and a lack of profound feeling. Despite the way the rich toss their blue chips onto the table to obtain a Picasso or more recently, a Banksy, they are the same people who have no idea what Picasso or Banksy are attempting to do with their work, why great art is ownerless. It’s not the painting; it’s the invisible magic that takes place between the viewer and the painting.

It’s this ability, to envision, to imagine, to play, that has sustained us and pushed us forward as a species. In this way, The Donald is The Opposite of Civilization. He is closed, you are fired. There isn’t a single original thought happening. He is the ultimate reduction to lowest common denominator. All things are objects to him, even his own daughter.

I’ve read all the articles that talk about how strategic he’s being, using simple fourth grade words, shredding right through the GOP operating manual, and in some ways, yes, this is clever salesmanship.  But no matter what the talking heads say, he is not a rebel.  Trump is allied with another far less morally bound party that play by their own set of rules: the Robber Barons.  It would not surprise me if he lit his cigars with $100 bills.

Even if we try to make the businessman pitch to The Donald: art’s central role in the latest science about brain development, sociological studies on happiness, mental illness, and general quality of life. The Donald isn’t interested in abstractions.  He’s not interested in the enlightenment project. He’s interested in power and he has no plan. Trump is a nihilist sociopath.  He’s artless.

When I was in college at a tiny, now defunct liberal arts school, I attended an event held every summer called Bread and Puppet.  It started in the 60s as guerrilla street theatre in New York City, where young people made puppets and costumes out of garbage and found items, acting out local or national politics on the street.  Over time, the show got so big that it moved to Glover, VT where the production has several barn-sized workshops and a big amphitheater.

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The main event began with what looked like an old timey carnival taking the big outdoor stage, complete with clowns, stilt walkers, and an old school bus painted in rainbows.  The actors put on a series of skits, becoming teachers, politicians, farmers, school kids, using mostly body language and simple props. The audience cheered and booed accordingly as if they already knew what to do.  At one point, a clown who had been present since the beginning stepped forward and with a dramatic gesture, tore off his mask.  You guessed: Senator Bernie Sanders. The audience went mad.  That was 1998.

Art is as various and sundry as anything else humans do, but no matter the shape of the expression, creating comes from an essential urge toward truth, beauty and love.  Even the most savage sentiment expressed creatively opens up a conversational space for catharsis. I make the argument that art on some level is activism.

When asked about his religion, Bernie states that his idea of God is everyone together.  I don’t want to get too Vermont hippy here, but in his way, Bernie is an artist because he sees the systemic failures clearly and he calls it like he sees it . He demands that we question the vicious nature of our system and in doing so, he envisions a radical alternative.  And in 1998, he was willing to put on a costume and express that idealism.

Trump is a buyer, a seller, a bored patron in the box seat.  He doesn’t speak the language of idealism.

 

I watched a bit of Democratic National Convention, and when Bernie spoke, exhausted, hoarse, finally painting HRC as the only alternative to Trump, the camera caught lots of young anguished faces on film.  Yes, the movement is bigger than Bernie, but it’s hard to see this as anything other than big money winning once again.  And when big money wins, real creative change loses.

More Fiction on the Way

Dear readers, writers, artists and fellow humans,
I’m working up a second collection of short stories, firing back up on my novel and submitting some other pros and poetry in the coming months. In the meantime, I invite you to read my first collection, the Brunt on Amazon. if you like dark quirk, ghost stories, satire andThe Brunt Cover animal revenge then these 6 stories are right up your figurative alley. Thanks as always for your support, your feedback and your own imaginative contributions to the world.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Brunt-Miranda-Culp-ebook/dp/B00MN2QRTG

The illuminated Manuscript of the Body: Alex Grey’s Net of Being

Note:  I submitted this article to the Sacramento Bee but they did not pick it up.  So I’m posting it here as is.  I also include the full interview with #AlexGrey and #AllysonGrey.

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Imagine the world’s wisdom traditions combined and compressed into anatomical drawings of the body. Visionary artist and spiritual icon Alex Grey has spent more than 30 years merging esoteric religion and biology though his art.  His figures are like human light bulbs lit so brightly from within that their skin is transparent. Grey will be signing his latest book Net of Being for eager fans at Art Discovered in downtown Grass Valley on April 10th.

His appearance in a small town at a fledgling gallery may come as a surprise, but it is entirely consistent with his ideals about creative life. His advice for artists trying to make a living in a small town: “Stay as close as you can to what you love. The most important thing for an artist is to find their subject, the thing they make art about, that keeps them hooked on creation…be a strong artist community and make offerings to the greater community and they will support you.”

Grey was born and raised in Ohio where in the mid 70’s he attended #ColumbusCollegeofArtandDesign on a full scholarship but dropped out before graduating.  His work as a research technologist at #HarvardMedicalSchool and as a medical illustrator gave him unique insight into the form and function of the human body.  Combining this understanding with hallucinogenic experimentation and rigorous study of world religions, Grey embarked on a lifelong exploration of human consciousness.  He has taught at New York University, Naropa Institute and Omega Institute, among others.

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Many in the 60’s and 70’s had an awakening but few were able to define it, sustain and articulate it with Grey’s diligence. He peels back the material and energetic layers of the body to reveal the miraculous in the mundane: the phenomenon of smelling a flower or making eye contact with a loved one.  For Grey, the work is a spiritual quest to unify, to lift the delusional boundaries that separate human from human.

His images are ubiquitous, as Net of Being attests.  Tattoos, posters, album covers, clothing, all brandish Grey’s signature third eye.  While this propagation of image might make some artists queasy, Grey seems delighted that these ideas have gained such traction.

“When visions come, an artist may feel a moral obligation to share the iconography that has been personally meaningful, even sacred to them. When an artifact transmits this mystic truth, the viewer recognizes and identifies with it as an icon.”  He often refers to this principle as a #sacredmirror, a seed planted in the mind of the viewer meant to inspire enlightenment.  Grey and his wife, Allyson, have worked on an ambitious project in Wappinger, New York called the #ChapelofSacredMirrors, a temple honoring the world’s wisdom traditions and indeed, inventing a new, art-based religion.

It is brave in this cynical era to advocate universal love and world peace. “Art is the opposite of war,” Grey writes in his book.  In an interview, the Grey’s explained further: “In the future we propose everyone is an artist of their life: a creative node in a unified earth citizens brigade that saves the precious life web, sharing our gifts and emphasizing what unites people rather than what divides.”  When Grey makes bold proclamations like this, people listen and believe.  It may be because he is so studied and draws on such a wide range of sources, or because he has been so consistent in his message and in his life.  Or it may be simply because his images are breathtaking.  Alex Grey’s vision and voice will continue to energize people.  Awe at existence does not go out of style.

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For more on the Alex Grey book signing please visit: artdiscovered.com

Below is an email interview exchange I had with the Grey’s in its entirety:

I was noting in Net of Being your delight at the propagation of your images in the counterculture, i.e., tattoos and merchandise.  Can you tell me about the relationship between art making and commerce?  How do you, as an artist navigate that tension?
 
When visions come, an artist may feel a moral obligation to share the iconography that has been personally meaningful, even sacred to them. When an artifact transmits this mystic truth, the viewer recognizes and identifies with it as an icon. An effective icon is a sacred mirror that provides a glimpse of the viewers innermost being and imaginal experiences. When an artist gains access to the divine imagination and creates an effective icon representing that experience, the consciousness of a viewer can be transformed to a higher spiritual orientation by contemplating that art. This is the Dharmic principle of Liberation Through Seeing — to plant a seed of enlightened vision in the mindstream of the viewer.  The Orthodox Christians call it Theosis, coming closer to God by meditating on icons.
 
Right livelihood, one of the Eight-Fold Noble Paths of Buddhism, means doing a job for which you are not ashamed, a job that supports yourself and society.  People have asked for reproductions of my artwork so we make them available.  All proceeds from all sales of merchandise go toward building Entheon, a sanctuary of visionary art at CoSM, Chapel of Sacred Mirrors.  Everybody that buys stuff is a builder with us.  Buy the poster, get the world view. Get the tattoo, embody the message.  We don’t think of it as counterculture, but more as visionary and underground culture, like the mycelial web of creative intelligence alive at music festivals throughout the world.

 

In a small town with a very young art scene, making art for a living is like winning the lottery.  Do you have any advice for our local artists in finding a balance between art and making a living?
 
Stay as close as you can to what you love. The most important thing for an artist is to find their subject, the thing they make art about, that keeps them hooked on creation.  Then it doesn’t particularly matter whether you sell it or not, you are doing what needs to be done on a Soul level.  Solitude and deep reflection for years is necessary sometimes.  This is why we think of art as a spiritual calling, you don’t really get into it for the money.
 
Make art events happen and attend those organized by others. Be a strong artist community and make offerings to the greater community and they will support you.
 
Use the internet to make more friends. In any business or endeavor, make more friends and share your most inspiring work. Make art everyday if you want to make a living at it. Keep a sketch book. Read Think and Grow Rich. Zena summarized How to Be a Great Artist by creating a small book when she was five. “Do Your Best. Be Yourself. Never Give Up.” If your art is your uncompromising best work, if the work represents you authentically and without pretense and you practice art-making daily for a lifetime, continually sharing that artwork fully and inspiringly, your work will touch others and support you no matter where you live.
 
You and Allyson have traveled all over the world.  Can you tell me about other cultural approaches to art making that have made an impression on you?
 
We have been particularly drawn to the world’s holy places because we are called to build one. A sacred site puts a philosophical framework around a sacred artifact. A gallery offers a sales environment. Art in a museum offers an anthropological, archeological context, classifies and educates, giving historical perspective. A site created to honor the divine provides a protective boundary around mystic art that represents the core teaching of the faith of that sacred place.
 Excellence exists in every art form in every corner of the planet. Worldwide, we meet visionary artists depicting their experiences in a new kind of sacred art that portrays their personal visions of the divine.
 
In the book you say: “art is the opposite of war.”  I think it’s safe to say that most of us feel powerless in the face of war and that this modern era presents an increasingly efficient, global war machine. As a result humanity feels more fragmented and separate. What does the future of humanity look like to you?
 
In the future we propose everyone is an artist of their life, a creative node in a unified earth citizens brigade that saves the precious life web, share our gifts and emphasize what unites people rather than what divides. Finding unity and discovering the gift of life, no matter what the current conditions, is a sacred path.