The times they are a changin’ is an oft quoted song from the album by the iconic Bob Dylan. Hopefully it doesn’t appear to be hackneyed here, when I quote the very same song. The times are indeed changing, and Bob Dylan is remembered for being an artist that helped to define the social shift that was underway. What an era it was, with shootings at universities, car bombs, angry showdowns with police, megaphones blazing revolutionary messages, ineffective politics, and a civil rights struggle. It was something that was remembered with respect and admiration decades down the timeline of recent history, regardless of political implications. Are we embarking on a similar era today?
When I say today…I mean TODAY. There started in 2010 the “Arab Spring”, which was a series of protests that emerged out of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Oman, and several other locations around the Arab World. This resistant force, which is signaling a massive, consensus dissatisfaction with political/financial leadership, is now spreading globally. Uprisings have now begun in the United States, Europe and Africa. All of the protesters say that they feel the connection between their own protest and the others happening in various regions. The solidarity of the protest is instinctual instead of geographical. Most of the protests focus on the dissatisfaction of the participants, rather than making specific demands, and so far, the strategy has been gaining relevance. Those who are experienced with activism know that at first, your opponent attempts to dismiss you as a radical complainer out to dismantle the established order. You know…an “anarchist”, or a lawless and dangerous agitator. If the protest gains momentum, and includes enough people from diverse places, this strategy no longer works. If the police force cannot overcome and disperse the movement, then it has to be taken seriously, and the negotiation process begins.
Which brings us to the United States, and my personal experience with the Occupy movement. I went down to participate in the march from Pershing Square in Los Angeles to City Hall, where there is now a makeshift town assembled on the lawns north and south of the building. It is continually changing and growing, and so this article is going to serve as a snapshot of where the movement is, as of this writing. Where it will go, no one knows…we just hope that it does.
I have personally been an outwardly vocal critic of the financial setup of America, and of the hawkish, intolerant, and brutal far right wing of conservatism for a lifetime, or at least since I’ve been politically aware. My willingness to express my views and stand for them has sometimes cost me friendships at worst, and at best, it has aligned me with some very like-minded allies for discussion and enlightenment. In between, though, I have had the occasional conversation with someone who feels I’m naïve, or that I’m too interested in confronting what I don’t agree with. Am I? Whenever you stand up so you can look eye to eye with what you don’t like, you will encounter that voice…the one that tells you that it’s too much trouble to protest. Government will fix it. You should just wait and see what happens. Why do you want to do that? You’ll get arrested. You’re not doing yourself any favors. Etc.
What is understandable is its just fear talking. Fear of action, and fear of authority. Are we to fear authority? Are we to fear the people that we PAY and ELECT to govern? If there were no government tomorrow, would we architect another? Of course we would! That’s what we do. Can the power arrest and incarcerate? Yes, but submissively accepting what is silently unacceptable is enabling the very force you resent. So the obvious thing is to decide what action do you take?
Not everything has to have logic in life but some things need to be logical. I have been blessed to be born into a loving family, family who has been there for me all of my life and will always be there for as long as we are here on Earth. I hope one day to give the same love, if not more, to a child. My logic is when the time comes, and partner and I are ready to love a child, we hope to adopt. Everyone is always asking if we would adopt and Ethiopian kid from Ethiopia, because we are both ethnically Ethiopian.
My answer to that question is why would we? We all know that Hollywood has done its fair share of adoption of black African children, and so has the rest of white America. I remember walking out of the American Embassy in Ethiopia after having to register and seeing, not one, but multiple families with an Ethiopian baby. I would ask where they were from in the States and how long they have been in Ethiopia, and the answer never surprised me. They were always from a place where I knew for sure the children will grow up being the only black children in the schools, and opportunities to cultivate their Ethiopian culture and language? Forget about it.
Just to put things in perspective about how big of a problem this is I will introduce some statistics. Maybe when you read this you can help me understand why people go all the way across the world to adopt a child? Between 1971-2001, 265, 677 were adopted from places other than the U.S. During the same period, there were 581,000 foster children waiting to be adopted in the United States and only 127,000 were adopted. If those stats are not convincing, perhaps money is. The cost of an international adoption is $23,000 or more, while foster care adoption is $0-2,500.
Finally, I understand that people feel the need to help and give love to a child who isn’t loved and care for. What I do not understand is, how is one able to go to a place and live there for less than 14 days and feel comfortable in bringing a child who speaks a different language and has a completely different culture? I know many feel taking one or two or even three children out of an impoverish nation and giving them the opportunity to be the best they want to be is logically right, but if you really want to help the children living in these nations be what they can be, please first consider the following: doing adoption long distance, living in the county of origin for a year or more, learning the language, and promising to raise this child with love. This real love includes an understanding and respect for the rich culture they come from, understanding the discrimination and racism they will undoubtedly confront in the U.S., and contemplating how to support the child in their identity when they realize they were taken from the place they were born and raised without a deep connection with their own community. So if you know anyone who is looking to adopt I hope that you will take the time to ask them some questions like
Challenging people to look within the U.S. for a child before looking internationally? Tell them to ask themselves why they want to adopt? Contemplate why are they going abroad for a child? Are they seeing it as exotic??? They need to ask themselves if they have any connections to anyone from the child's community in the U.S,? Do they interact with diverse communities?
Thank you for taking the time to read this and feel free to post questions or comments I am always open to feed backs
MEET SUGAR'S VERY OWN MEN IN SHINING ARMOR OR TOOL BELTS! ;)
Today was an amazing day!!! Kellie aka the Blond Bombshell and I met in Parkland to see our trusty tour bus, Toots! We brought along some of our favorite incredibly talented men......Garret, Martin, & Tom who will be helping us get the interior of Toots in shape and fit for our Sugar Dream Team! Garret is a childhood friend of mine, my school obsession, and an incredibly talented electrician. He will be making it possible for us to use our laptops on the bus, have a refrigerator, microwave, disco ball or anything else needing power! I'm super stoked to be working with one of my favorite people on this planet! Martin and Tom are good friends of Kellie's who will be working on the carpentry and design of the bus interior! Super excited to see them at work in their craft! Below is a rough CAD illustration I made on how we'd like the interior to be set up! If you have any great design ideas or suggestions please let me know!!!!
Wanna help Pimp Our Ride? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how you can get on board and help our dream become a reality!
Sometimes hip-hop is new to me, and sometimes it's old to me. I hear new sounds, but then again, they are new sounds from way back. Everyone can tell you when they think hip-hop started, and who started it, and that makes it a personal story. Mine is, the first hip-hop song I remember hearing was "Rappers Delight" by Sugar Hill Gang. I thought it was the weirdest thing I had ever heard. It seemed like a natural extension of funk, but the lyrics are what stuck out. It was the nuttiest story being told lyrically, and it had no seriousness whatsoever. I had never heard anything like it, therefore it was new.
So then the nineties brought intellectually based hip-hop that sought to provoke social questioning about culture. Hip-hop is distinctly American. It's one of the latest in a long line of American musical innovations. Most music historians will say that it was born from East Coast DJ/club environments. The DJ kept the vinyl screaming on the turntables, and the MC kept the dialogue going, and the call and response bits made party people yell back and cue up what was next on the song list. Early hip-hop people had the "DJ", or the "MC" in front of their names, to show which side they came from. DJ's made beats happen, and MC's developed their onstage verbs and nouns into long flowing gymnastics. How organic an art form? It came right from the people. Hip-hop was a full cultural movement with it's own fashion, attitude towards everything, and all important musical style.
The eighties into the nineties turned party time into gangster rap. I could write an entire article in itself of the relevance contained in these different rap styles. The point is, though, that party time turned into seriousness, and intellectual rap gave way to the mid nineties to the 2000's version of Rap. Hip-Hop and Rap's values changed from provoking thought to thoughtless promotion of materialism. Anyone can feel free to argue this with me, but it's what I myself, observed. I got used to watching DIY (do it yourself) style rappers who created their own fashions, and scraped money together to go in a studio and cut mix tapes they sold me from the back of their car...to corporate backed superstars who toss dollar bills everywhere, and drop the names of fashion designers they are wearing. HUH? I have always compared Punk Rock to Rap, in that both movements started as a defiance of formula. Punk was thumbing it's nose at glam rock. Lambasting the rich and politically connected. Painting portraits of gritty street living and maintaining credibility. Punk Rock adopted the leather jackets and torn jeans of the counterculture and set out to LOUDLY wake audiences up to a reality based definition. Sound familiar? Hip-Hop did this too, at first. But like Punk Rock, it got purchased by corporate interests, and began to lose it's novelty. For me, at a certain point, Hip-Hop lost it all together and ended up just cycling the same boring message. Just like a commercial on TV that you tire of watching. I get it already. I began to tune a lot of it out.
Who says that rock is a male-dominated scene? Ever heard of the Riot Grrrls? Joan Jett? Debbie Harry? Pat Benatar? Stop fixating on the masculinity of it and look at all the women’s voices we have heard and continue to hear.
Above: The finest ladies of rock from way back then to the times of now....Debbie Harry, Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, the Riot Grrrls, Peaches, Beth Ditto of Gossip, & Courtney Love.
The newest project that has gotten me really excited is “Are You With the Band?”. It’s a compilation released by Paper + Plastick Records (for those of you with raised eyebrows, that is the label founded by Vinnie Fiorello of Less Than Jake Fame). The compilation was curated by Lauren Denitizio, former vocalist of The Measure, and will be available on October 4th. “The title comes from the still, unfortunately, common situation of women being asked if they're IN the band or WITH the band when trying to load in for shows,” explains Denitzio. “Being the only woman in the band, I still get asked this sometimes, whereas the other guys hardly get asked that, if at all. It's assumed you must be the roadie or merch girl or girlfriend or something, which is incredibly frustrating.”
There's something incredibly enticing that I find about rainbows. Maybe it's the fact that they're colorful, bright, fun, & whimsical! Or maybe it's the fact that I'm the biggest fag hag and they represent the gays I love. Who really knows? And who really cares? Below is a little bit of my Rainbow Inspiration! Enjoy a la Rainbow Style! ;*
Paper stilettos...oragami rainbow style!
Rainbow love. My two favorite things....love and rainbows!
Rainbow Graffiti! Nothing prettier than a rainbow splattered across a wall!
Brighten up your pad with a little rainbow furnishing! Courtesy of http://www.furnifurnish.com/furniture/iris-rainbow-furniture-by-lubo-majer/
My girl Rainbow Brite all grown up and sexified partying it up with home gurls She-Ra & Strawberry Shortcake!
Rainbow nails! Makes picking your nose a hell of lot more fun and stylish!
Texas has long been looked to for its music scene, but if you delve a bit deeper there lies art within those state-lines as well. One of my personal favorites, hailing from Houston, Texas is Claude Ruiter. Boasting a Bachelors Degree of Fine Arts in Watercolor from the University of North Texas in Denton, Ruiter has moved to Seattle to pursue his career and gain new inspirations.
His latest venture is a series of comic book characters: using a combination of transparent watercolor, tea (his speciality for skin tones), chalk pastels, conte. and gold leaf. Ruiter has placed onto canvas the melting, stretching facades of such icons as Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Batman, and Robin. It’s accessible and yet, due to the nature of the paintings, there lies a hint of the taboo; but you easily resist the urge to cover your eyes.
"One of the great things about living in LA, is the trend-set/mindset that permeates the scene here. So many of the greatest bands in the world have begun their rise to stardom here, or at least brought their act here and got recognized. Today's underground becomes tomorrows SUPERHEROES. I always enjoy hanging out with artists that overflow with passion for what they're involved in, and this interview brought all of that, and some inside views. Straight Jackitt is an LA band that combines the unique talents and specialties of all it's members. Where some groups complain of "creative differences", these guys THRIVE ON IT. In the studio, and live, they demonstrate their ability to shift musical gears and fire off the line, displaying their royal flush of influence and style. Punk, Hip-Hop, Rock, Ska, crushing guitars, FAT bass, thunder from the kit, and solid flow, all blend into a flammable boost of energy that catches you once, and makes you want to hear it again and again. A common link from one interview to the other is rapper/guitarist Chris Jones, who plays in both Straight Jackitt and Outta-Control.. Both bands are already veterans of hitting the road, playing shows, and getting busy in the studio. Chris Jones lets loose in his interview about the origins of Outta-Control's sound, and how they bring together a band's work ethic, combined with a Hip-Hop outfitting, and end up levitating their chops into your brainwaves! It's always inspiring for me to listen to people doing their thing, and daring to take it as far as they can. Both of these bands are head over heels in love with what they do. Read up on these LA greats, and then check their sites for live dates and emerging tracks. A lot of ground gets covered here, and all of it states the case on how to shred and flow in true LA style!..."
Robert: I've been to your shows, and I noticed that you guys transition between, and mix together different styles very easily. I also hear a very solid punk background, yet you manage to avoid the sneering negativity and angst that some bands trap themselves with. Straight Jackitt has an extremely positive vibe and energy. Is that intentional? Or is that the result of your personalities coming across?
MATT: Fortunately, the 4 of us all really like a lot of different styles of music...when we mess around, we play jazz, reggae, metal, funk, or whatever comes up with us just kind of noodling. Then we play our set. You are right about the punk backbone because that is the one genre, I think, that we all really dig...its what brought us together in the first place.
ERIC: Yeah, it just kind of comes organically...we never set out really to do anything..there's no map..it just happens.
HECTOR: One person will usually have an idea, then we all can go from there.
CHRIS: Yeah, it just comes together, and usually there is the heavy punk influence somewhere in there.
MATT: So, I guess then that it is unintentional to be positive..we just really dig playing our music and dig playing together.
Divergent streams in music are merging together in the new sounds coming from out west. This band needs no help in getting the word out, their music has been doing all the talking! There are some bands you have to pay attention to, and this is that band. There's a great deal of excitement surrounding I Capture Castle, and I was fortunate enough to land an interview with them, as they prepare to make themselves heard as never before. In between their video shoots, live dates, and rigorous rehearsals, I was given an inside view of how they put together their unique and innovative sound. Check it out!, and don't forget to peek at the schedule for upcoming shows near you at their website, icapturecastle.com. Do it now, because everyone likes to see a huge band on their way to the top!
Robert: When I listen to you guys, I tend to hear a crossroads of several musical styles and genres. i capture castle for example, seems to be just as much at home covering a danceable Kesha cover (although you guys made it your own), as it is lunging forward with a balance of force and listenablity. What influences brought the group together? How are you able to musically explore all of the styles you guys obviously are fond of?
I Capture Castle: It's really just a combination of keeping an open mind and becoming the 'art' behind the music; jumping the barrier between musician and artist. With enough dedication, anybody can become a musician, but it takes an artistic mind to really create something unique and to appreciate any (and all) art for what it is. We were just fortunate enough to end up with six artists, all of whom participate in other side-projects varying from grindcore to rap. I guess you could say that it was our general passion for music that brought us together, and since every member contributes to the writing process, we try to bring out the intensity of each style.
I first came across KC Brown on Facebook. I met him through my good friend Danny the Tranny’s page and we learned we had a few other mutual friends in common. This made total sense to me seeing how KC had an off keel sense of humor and seemed to be loud and boisterous like everyone else in my tight knit clan. Not only that, KC’s presence and energy radiated so strongly off my computer screen he took me aback. I knew he was special and a very powerful being right then and there. I could feel his smile and positive energy just by reading his posts. He always left me feeling jovial and inspired. I soon discovered that KC was HIV positive. How could a man so enthralled by life be facing such a great and challenging battle in life? KC has since decided to use his life as a sort of example for others facing the challenge of living with HIV. Read about his quest to create awareness, learn about his struggles, and be inspired by his strength and unwillingness to sit and be quiet. This is K.C. Brown founder of My HIV, a place to share and inspire.
Sugar Pie: So tell me what is your purpose for you campaign and what are you hoping to accomplish?
KC: My purpose is to spread awareness and not HIV! The more people I can reach, the better. Hopefully, through time, patience and daily dedication, I will change the stigma with HIV. That way others in the future will not have to live in shame or guilt because of their HIV diagnosis.
Sugar Pie: As of now, you’re just providing a forum for HIV infected individuals, do you plan on taking your project to a higher level?
KC: I definitely would like to! I know that the challenge to change the stigma with HIV is a great challenge to accomplish, But I’m dedicated and prepared mentally for the challenge! Once I feel that the stigma is changing or changed, I definitely want to take the awareness higher. I’m not sure exactly what that entails, but I know I have dreams and visions of having great people of power speak about my cause. As cheesy as it may sound, I’ve had thoughts about Oprah speaking about HIV and my cause to change the stigma.
Sugar Pie: How long have you been infected?
KC: I found out in August of 2003. According to my 'numbers' at that time, the doctor said I was probably infected a couple years prior (2001). Based on that, I have an idea of who infected me due to unprotected sex.