Thursday, April 28, 2016

It Snows In April

    I'm almost done with having listened through my entire Prince collection (in chronological order) in my state of mourning. It's taken nearly a week (Prince's discography is enormous, fyi all those casual Prince fans, of which I'm obviously not), and I have not once gotten tired of hearing his voice, rhythms, infatuations, alterations, and audible imagery of his stage funk presence. Thinking it would fun to compose a list of his best work turned out to be an incredible challenge seeing that I believe him to have only one bad album: Crystal Ball, which was a recomposition of bootleg tracks that I imagine he never wanted to be released (and for good reason). Crystal Ball is a 4 disc set, the fourth of which is a sub-album, The Truth, a very harmonious acoustic set that is highly recommended, and worth obtaining the set for. Near to getting new tattoo work done, soon after his passing, I instantly knew I wanted to get a Symbol tattoo as a form of remembrance and admiration, something that I plan to do after the already planned work. The better half of my instincts immediately sought the artistic talents of my best friend, Ryan Straub, to draw up a design for me. Being the devoted critic that she is, much similar to me, she questioned whether I really wanted to commit to having a musical artist symbol etched into my flesh, for all time to see. Having come across so many Black Flag tattoos in Orange County, I understood her reservation. I'm indecisive about most things, but without coming anywhere close to brushing shoulders with hesitation, I responded with "yes!". This is due to Prince having been such a powerful influential presence in my life from the age of four, in both his musical dominance and fashion expertise (purple quickly became my favorite color). My father was a casino lobby musician in Las Vegas. He mostly performed covers of popular songs at the time, and often left his albums, from which he practiced, scattered across our living room carpet. Coming across Prince's image and energy as a child was like finding a purple diamond in a desert; he glimmered even in darkness and none of my six senses* could tear away. Prince was my gateway into music, to the idea that you can control sound.
    Currently thirty-four, I've been in an extremely awe-stricken relationship with the Artist for 30 years. I can say this about no other musician I'm a fan of. I know of no other musical talent that is so dynamically versatile, and is also so visually energetic that to be engaged with his sound is to be engulfed by a euphorically sensual parade. Constructing a best-of list then seemed impossible given the sheer diversity of sound and concept pertaining to each individual album. No album is better than the next because they're each doing such different things. Take Rainbow Children, his most jazz-driven album in his collection, to the degree it sounds very near to being completely foreign to his more popular albums. It should come as no surprise that Purple Rain is on the top of most lists by fellow Prince aficionados. This isn't to say that he didn't have brilliant stuff going on elsewhere, which he very much did, but most people aren't familiar with any of his other albums (The Hits 1 & 2 don't count you lazy bums) due to them not being complemented by a movie. This is unfortunate given that his style expands over so many different genres that he defies them all. To add to the impact of Purple Rain, each track is so enticing and impossible to deny due to having very welcoming vibes, that many of his following works would feel challenging in comparison. He continues to carry these vibes throughout his career, but the rest of his albums take very bold leaps that, more often than not, pay off, but can be very much off the familiar path of PR. Being able to engage in risks, with those few artists that take them, is what makes partaking in their work exciting, and has those of us that can appreciate breaking the ground we though we were standing on, coming back for more.
    My mother passed away two years ago. I received the call at work, shrugged, and continued with my shift. News of Prince's death reached me at work as well, and it was a struggle to finish the day. I gave everyone within eye-shot the cold shoulder as I desired nothing more than to mourn in private. When you're the child of persons who are ultimately more your foes than anything else, artists of any age, towards which you find a target for your affections, become your caretakers. The moment I got home, I started on what I had planned to do from minute one of the grim news: listen to every Prince album I own (which is many). In the mean time, I hated every moment that the store radio played a Prince single, mostly due to it catering to the casual fan, the ones that didn't realize that up until this April, he was still recording and touring, that he's now back to "Prince", that he once went by an unpronounceable symbol; those dirtbags that can't even name a single New Power Generation album. I didn't want to attend any one of the many club/bars that were having a Prince tribute night seeing as most in attendance will be those very same assholes, and as such, will be treating his death as some sort of pop culture souvenir to wear around simulating the sensation that one is in touch with what real dedication is like. I took to being in my room with the kitty (Paige), and listen to Prince speak in ways that I will never understand, but will always feel in touch with. From this listening I thought to compose a top 10 list that is simply a way to mix it up with the works of the Artist who is lord of mixing it up.

1. Purple Rain
2. Sign o' the Times
3. Love Symbol Album
4. Dirty Mind
5. Parade
6. Batman
7. For You
8. Diamonds and Pearls
9. Prince
10. Rainbow Children

P.S. - very much recommended #11, Lovesexy

*Yes, I have an extra sense, and it's not mystical in nature. Refer to Prince track, It.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Growing Up with Mayweather

    There are some memories that remain comfortably rested within the walls of your skull, with no chance of ever being evicted. I can recall my first sight of blood. It was not my own, but my mother's. My father had made it a hobby to use my mother as a punching bag, which, at times, seemed like a weekly practice. After a while I just accepted that our carpet was red. While all the other kids hated school I adored it, because it provided me with a few short hours of solace from the screaming and pleas of mercy at home. I dreaded the walk home so much that I often concocted reasons to stay longer: help the teacher with various tasks, take another test, become lost in the playground, etc. Any route that took me off the path home was refuge. I trembled at the sight of sidewalk just after I turned the final corner to our apartment, not knowing if my father had left a trail that would guide me to one of our living room walls that he had painted with my mother's face. I also knew that if I didn't remain silent and do as he said that I would be next. At times I was. I had seen other children spanked occasionally, at which I always felt envious of such minimum punishment. My sister and I never received spankings, we received beatings. Sometimes it would be bare handed, others a belt. It was always done in the bed room, and we were ushered in either by an arm, or by our hair. We were good kids. We did what we were told, and we did good at school. My sister didn't have as much talent as I did when it came to getting A's, but she did well enough. However, as kids we made mistakes, but nothing that provoked the reprimand we received. The same goes for my mother as well. Yes, she had quite a temper on her as well, and was selfish to the core, but there is no sufficient reason to beat a woman.
    The greatest invention of the insecure male is to embed in the psyche of a woman that she deserves it. Men have always had the easiest and most simple-minded of socially constructed maneuvers available to them to express disdain at the free spirit of a woman: that impulsive fire to embody her creative instincts and rejoice in the delinquency of her desires. I draw this idea from Nietzsche's notion of the Dionysian lifestyle, the dancer who cares nothing for control inspired by survival and practicality, and instead embodies their delights much like a child who plays outside without any thought of time or place. The male is capable of such spirit as well, and to the ordinary intellect it seems as though he expresses it constantly, but really only does so in the comfort of knowing that all other spirits have been subdued; there is hardly anything free about it as he is reactive to others. He only seems to express this false fire so long as she is abidingly supportive and available to his needs; this is to still be concerned with control, more specifically, over others. When socially available tools such as "bitch", "slut" and "whore" don't do the trick, a heroic pounding will suffice as the means to restore order regarding the way a woman should be. As a child I got an early glimpse of order, and it was red.
    As a disgruntled servant of the people, my ears are continually being accosted by voices, none of which being as interesting as my own. The sea of banal utterances I'm trudging through is that of consumer society. I can create a seemingly endless list of noises that I find troublesome, but as of late there is a particular sound that I find egregiously salient: the idle talk of boxing. I realize that there is quite of bit of shouting going on in Baltimore, a noise that is more song than any of the rest, but that hardly seems to be the talk of the town. Instead, amongst the people that frequently surround me, there is the recycled yammering regarding the turmoils and triumphs concerning men hitting each other with padded gloves in a controlled environment. What courage to subject oneself to take punches (above the waist) from someone you are free to strike back at, and at the end of which, regardless of win or lose, you get paid. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for each gladiator to have to take a break from the action so they can receive medical aid and water. How they must suffer when the referee steps in after they are knocked down and unable to take anymore. What do the women who deal with domestic abuse have to complain about? Why should we pay any regard to them over the tribulations and glory of men who compete in the squared circle? 
    This is not to undermine boxing as an athletic expression. It's clear that outside the institutional arrangements that inhabit Vegas caliber matches a great amount of training and effort goes into the practice. I'm more bothered by the sensationalism that fans are mindlessly inclined to submit to over turning a critical eye towards the venomous deeds that athletes like Mayweather partake in in everyday life, and is capable of getting away with due to the money he makes. The fans of boxing surely love the sight of someone getting punched, so why the absence of enthusiasm in turning their attention to the fights Mayweather conducts against women? The most disturbing aspect of the situation is his fans, those that have provided him with the economic means by which to dodge any sort of legitimate repercussions. Even those who are not fans of him, but pay and partake in the viewing of his matches, are posting bail for the next few times he beats women.
    The fights his in-ring opponents experience pale in comparison to the magnitude of the fights he conducts at home, believe me. The only aesthetic advantage an in-ring fight has is its variety; the home fights start and end the same: one-sided and without restraint. His fellow boxers have the convenience of bells and a referee to oversee the intensity. Even MMA fighters have the ability to free themselves from a beating by tapping out. Women who are the victims of domestic abuse are in a continual state of tapping out, but it does them no good. The bedroom arena is where the real fight happens, where the intensity levels are through Earth's atmosphere, and yet no one wants to watch it; Vegas couldn't hope to fill an amateur boxing gym that featured Mayweather's domestic beatings as the main event. I know this because his fans are unquestionably quick to turn a blind eye to where their money goes. Perhaps, the fan isn't as loyal as they think if they are so willing to miss their icon's most prolific matches in trade for the controlled scuffles.
    That alacrity that goes into supporting institutionalized sports originates from an unawareness that glory is available to all those who actively create it; the very act of the attempt, of the dance, is glory in-itself. The fan is one of many types of person who are uncreative at heart, and is reliant on the victory of others to substitute that lack of ambition in themselves. Giants fans may not have been on the field to have earned the win against the Royals, which makes the exclamation "we won" a sadly droll remark, but they make up for their absence with hooting, hollering, and vandalism. It should come as no surprise, then, that the fan should not want a ringside seat to Mayweather's real fights, for that would require courage on their part to see themselves for what they are: unquestioning puppets in which some part of them dreams of personal passion, to be the embodiment of some impractical expression. Obedience denotes this lack. Hints of these dreams were personified in the SF Giants riots, that some aspect of their spirit aspires for personal victory, for creativity, but it is so obviously out of their grasp given how unquestionably attached they are to their idols; their actions were reactive at best, dependent on the activity of another. 
    Given these thoughts I know not who I speak to. You cannot converse to the brainwashed, their ears are the most parochially set. The fan is someone who has bought into the sensationalism of a fight, it's arranged simulation: the safe guards, the rules, the glory; anyone who has not been in a household saturated in domestic violence doesn't know what a real fight is. Instead they pay for it's packaged Micky Mouse substitute. Viewership is safe, and allows them to hide from themselves. It saves the fan the trouble of tapping into the social tumult that comes with creative expression, of actively creating glory. Consumption is often the most comfortable, and practical, of lifestyles. Additionally, sensationalism is enough to obscure the manner in which viewers collaborate with the wife beating ways of Mayweather. As long as the fan willingly remains a mystery from oneself, men like Mayweather will continue to beat women and get away with it. Men like him don't stop, even when punished, because the drive in them to punish is too savage for them to ever go hungry. It's been recently brought to my attention that my father has been physically abusive towards his current wife. My mother and him separated years ago when I was still a child, which served as the catalyst to my being ostracized into the cold isolating mountains of Arizona. People often forget the state is not all a flat dessert so much so that they forget to look up. My parents did. What is clear is that my father never ceases to be hungry, and I believe the same goes for all wife beaters. Some may think that time changes us, which I believe it does, but viciousness is never starved unless it is stamped out. For fans of Mayweather it is clear that you do not want him to starve, because each of you continue to post his bail. I started off by speaking of how easy it is for men to castigate women given all the available, and acceptable, social maneuvers made possible to them through history. In this regard the fan is on bended knee handing Mayweather the tools by which to pummel any woman who crosses his path; the fan is an enabler.