Archive for arts

Smack Those Political Campaigns

Eyes unopened, tangled in sheets and the morning light, the sound invades my waking mind. “Smack that, all on the floor, smack that, give me some more, smack that, until you get sore, smack that, oh oh oooh . . . “ It can’t be inside the room, and it isn’t coming from the window. Synapses slowly begin to fire in order and I realize it’s coming from another sector of my brain where the absent DJ left a record spinning. Smack that, la la la laaa, smack that, la la la laaa. I flop out of bed and step into the shower, but the song continues…

All day, I caught myself whistling, humming, and strutting to “Smack That.” See, I have this unconscious musical recorder that’s something like muscle memory. I hear music through the window of a passing car, and 10 minutes later, I’m whistling it. But waking up with a song in my head is rare. I imagine the political ads that pummeled me the night before while watching Law & Order SVU could have knocked something loose. No commercials for iPods, movies, or shampoo. Just wall to wall political propaganda. Just thinking of all the money that goes into convincing voters makes me ill.

A troubling trend in the campaign wars has to do with “family values.” I picked up this pamphlet at a church in Escondido. It’s from FamilyVoterInfo.org and at first glance, appears to list candidates and their opinions on the issues. But several things are a little off kilter. The only Democratic candidate whose responses appear is Phil Angelides, and every Republican candidate agrees on the issues, making this anything but a comparative study. It’s real purpose becomes clearer when you notice that drivers licenses for illegal immigrants (against), oil tax for alternative energy research (against), political campaign reform (against), and raising property taxes (against) are all now apparently family values issues. The only issues that seem remotely related to families are parental notification for abortion (supporting a YES vote), limiting marriage to one man and one woman (supporting a YES vote), and paid preschool for all children (supporting a NO vote).

If this wasn’t odd enough, the issues for congressional candidates include school choice vouchers (YES), voting against raising taxes (YES), registering firearms (NO), legislating to limit abortion (YES), parental consent for abortion (YES, note that this time they used the term “consent” not “notification”), gay marriage (NO), censoring libraries (YES), and amnesty for illegal immigrants (NO). Ok, since when did immigration status start threatening family values? And how does NOT requiring gun owners to register and license weapons protect families? The whole idea is absurd. A shameless attempt to influence conservative Christians into voting Republican or family values in this country will be lost.

Didn’t Jesus teach loving your neighbor as yourself, giving to the needy, and nonviolence? Christianity would be a lot more attractive if Christians worked a little harder to practice the fundamental principles rather than promoting political agendas that include military action, eliminating services for the poor, and selfish tax laws.

América

One of my favorite songs about América (yes, that accent means I’m refering to the continent) is a song by Chilean hip hop group Tiro de Gracia called “América” from their album Retorno De Misericordia. Listen here and read along:

Tiro de Gracia

The song begins by describing América as a place of corruption, colonization, corporate exploitation, dictators, murderers.

América tierra vendida, explotada y herida,
América con corrupción, malos trabajos,
explotación, educación, racista, clasista,
hay muchos blancos elitistas
América con dictadores, asesinos
traficantes, mal nacidos
América mi tierra en pie de guerra
América con genocidios
por colonos no bienvenidos
América con Colón igual
muerte destrucción
América con héroes aunque el gobierno los niegue
América con mucha gente inconciente
América con muy pocos inteligentes
América con deforestación
que es igual a la tierra, muerte destrucción

The chorus then states “This is América. When God made Eden, he thought of América.”

América América esto es América
América América esto es América
cuando Dios hizo el edén pensé en América
cuando Dios hizo el edén pensé en América
América América esto es América
América América esto es América
cuando Dios hizo el edén pensé en América
cuando Dios hizo el edén pensé en América

The music and lyrics shift to describe the beauty of América, the people and rich culture.

América tierra de sabor
rimas salchis amador amor
mi tierra y cultura yo Lengua Dura
dura mi gente morena, pelo negro
yo te respeto te amo
América India JAH te bendiga
mi América Pacha Mama esta es mi cama
recuerda que el Perú es igual que tí
who are you bu umbudú guerito explotador
mama la pinga por favor

The song is scattered with references to the white racist colonizer and exploiter (You know that’s why I like it). It’s an ode to the good and the bad, a realistic portrait of a truly complicated landmass.

Dedico esto para tí
porque soy de aquí
con todo el corazón
soy tu caparazón acción
que pocos toman
porque mucho alcohol toman
recuerda que eso a los mapuches hundió
la falsa religión también la muerte apoyó
yo hablo de Historia y Geografía de tierra
y aunque a los maricas les duela
como un dolor de muelas
América suelo y tierra, sudor y escuela

This is the song I often think of when I hear people talk about being “American” in the U.S. I know a lot of people think of themselves as “Americans” but are unaware that others who drink Coca Cola but will never visit Disneyland also consider themselves “Americanos” in the continental sense. The saddest part is that many U.S. Americans mistake the country’s economic power for cultural superiority to the Spanish-speaking Américas, making them unworthy of seeing eye-to-eye as neighbors.

* * * * * * *

About a week ago, I was thinking about writing something up about the song, and on the TdG website (a web disaster, btw) I found the video for “AméricaAmérica,” which I had never seen. Unfortunately, the file took 20 minutes to download… so I figured I might as well upload it somewhere so it can get more access. Out of respect, I thought I should ask. So I did. I sent them an email asking if they didn’t have any problems with me uploading it to youtube. It took a week to get a response, but I got one (which contained the JPG I posted above). Viktor is the group’s Email Manager:

Nathan;

Vaya nuestro mas afectuoso saludo y deseos de paz y respeto para todos los seres humanos. Puedes usar el video de la forma que quieras sin uso comercial …. difundelo y todo lo que necesites …. quedamos a tu servicio.

Adjunto grafitti de la banda

Crew TDG www.tirodegracia.cl

Viktor

I immediately went to upload the video and found someone else had uploaded it while I was waiting for permission. I can’t say I’m any worse off for asking; it is nice to know they care enough to respond. Unfortunately, the video itself is a bit of a let down. From their lyrics, I expected a bit more artistic layering than what they came up with. The song still stands strong, and despite some of the rockstar cliches, they did slip in a few smart scenes and made it clear they are having a good time doing what they do.

MACSD exhibition “Strange New World” to display work from Tijuana artists

Tijuana Art Exhibition

You should definitely check out their website. Once you get past the horizontal navigation, it’s a rich experience worth a lot of exploring. The exhibition opens May 21st and runs through September 3, 2006 at both the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego Downtown and La Jolla.

Tijuana is a new cultural hot spot. Influential publications in the United States, Europe, and Mexico have recognized the city as a vibrant site of innovation in the arts. Journalists, scholars, and critics alike celebrate Tijuana’s diversity of artistic production from art made with traditional media, such as, painting and printmaking to installation and conceptual art; from photography to digitally derived images; from street-level video to ambitious feature films; from utopian architectural proposals to streamlined and economic housing design. As the city’s newest art weekly recently announced, “Tijuana moves –and it’s everywhere.”

This exhibition will document the recent explosion of artistic experimentation in Tijuana, and will also explore the subtle shift in focus from art about the border experience to art that takes advantage of a new type of accelerated urbanism being pioneered in developing cities around the world.

Here’s an interview from KPBS These Days about the exhibition.

Border Pop Art

Border Study

This image is a collage of photographs I’ve taken in the border region of Tijuana and San Diego. I put this together as a kind of rough digital sketch of urban texture. I’m interested in visualizing the tension between U.S. and Mexican cultural landscapes, the complicated relationships between people, products, and the land.

Behind the music: Editing the WBC anthems

Stadium

By now, everyone knows that Japan won the first ever World Baseball Classic. What no one knows, is that the music that graced San Diego’s Petco Park sound system as the players entered the field was being played from a CD; the San Diego Symphony Orchestra was on the field performing, but the amplified audio was pre-recorded (and edited by yours truly).

Orchestra

The day before the final game, the orchestra was recording the national anthems for Cuba and Japan (not knowing who would win), the host country (USA) as well as the entrance music for the parade of flags. After recording several takes of each theme, classical music guru Doug Dillon brought the recordings to me and we started editing at about 9pm Sunday night. He layed out the music scores and worked off his notes from the recording session. Taking a few bars from one take, a section from another, we weaved together the best pieces to create the final versions. We finished six hours later, at 3am Monday morning. Only a few hours after that, the sold-out stadium was listening to the CD I burned that morning.

You can hear the Parade of Flags theme in this video montage from the World Baseball Classic website. I’ve worked on a lot of freelance projects in recent years, but this one had by far the widest circulation yet.

When will Latin Alternative music break through?

I heard this story on NPR today about Latin Alternative music having a tough time making a real market impact:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5251735

I met Josh Norek (one of the voices in the story) about 4 years ago at a Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York. He’s done a lot of work to promote the genre, including his own band the Hip Hop Hoodios. Check out their music in iTunes.

Here’s a photo of Ely Guerra I took at LAMC in 2002:

Ely Guerra in NYC 2002

For those who don’t know, I hosted a latin alternative music show on WRPI in Troy, NY called Border Pop Radio. I could post playlists if anyone is interested. The show was started by el Vampiro Fronterizo (aka Marco Loera) who spins in the deserts of Arizona.