The Mystery and Awe Of This World




I don’t ride the train too often anymore, but when I do, it tends to be the G. A few quick stops connect home and the shop, and the Metropolitan Avenue side of the trip is often host to buskers. Some good, some not so good, but the effort they put into coloring these in-between moments of city life are always appreciated.

And every once in a while, the wait for the train is mesmerizing; soulful. Last night was one — Zack Orion and his partner were the magic to hurry me home.

If I’m heading somewhere and the train hasn’t arrived then my banjo case, heart and mouth open up and I try to bring myself and others back to the mystery and awe of this world. No one truly knows what is right or wrong or good or bad or gorgeous or gross but there is always that feeling of warmth and fuzziness that comes from spontaneous human interaction, especially when harmony and melody is involved. I mentally dedicate a lot of my sounds to all the performers that inspired me—there always might be someone around the corner in any given town or city that will rip you open, fill you up with love and sew you shut with dental floss. This be why I busk.
Z.O., in an email to Vijith Assar

I’ve been passively working on reasons to introduce live performance to Art From the Heart for a little while. Though we’ve traditionally done DJs — I know too many great ones not to — I love keeping options open for as long as I can, before production wheels hit the road.

And the evening of the day that I confirm the project space for AFTH2012, the case is made. It lands on my lap, like a leaf. Such is the mystery and awe of this world.

22 February 2012, 15:21

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Connection is Why We’re Here











When you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. When you ask them about belonging, they’ll tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded. And when I asked people about connection, the stories they told me were about disconnection.Brené Brown

21 February 2012, 16:06

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The Posse+ Retreat, A Picture Story

“My Pen & Pad” by Blackalicious, from The Craft (2006).
For more about the Posse+ Retreat, see The Posse Foundation.

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Large and heartfelt thanks to the ~100 retreatants that allowed me to access this remarkably large-scale-and-intimate experience — despite the clackety-clack of 53,000 shutter snaps. I’ve done my best & hope it suffices.

These Posse-run retreats are powerful experiences; it’s little wonder that Posse has grown to become the juggernaut it is. Thanks to Rico Blancaflor, I’ve covered three retreats as storyteller, and the space they occupy is rarified, intoxicating. The facilitators are luminous beings, and by way of group activities, thought exercises, and subtle conductions of energy a mass of individuals are brought to higher ground.

It’s a marvel to witness… But particularly intense. Everyone works with heart wide open for 18 hours/day; I swim through the last night to create a live slideshow presentation of what I’ve seen. Meaning: I edit tens of thousands of images down to a few thousand and manually advance the frames to a soundtrack of my choice, live on a large-scale projection. No matter how often I rehearse the performance through the night, the live presentation is unique, flawed, and oh-so-nerve-jangling.

The next one I’m booked to cover for Posse will be in DC this June — OSSE’s Breakpoint.

I can’t wait.

18 February 2012, 18:10

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The Parable of Apartness/My Funny Valentine

Ben Más recently turned 6, and when I was asked what he likes best by the parents planning to come to his birthday party with a gift, I offered that their company was the gift. But if that’s too far-out, then a book would be lovely, thank you very much.

And what wonderful books came. A beautiful tome of gorgeously illustrated Indian lore that might take us ‘til 7 to get through, a superhero coloring book that’s got it all, a really sweet Michael Chabon story, and more — he did well.

Ben and I read together frequently, and I do my part to get into the readings with as much fun and performance as I can. It’s helped him get into words from an early age, and it is an ancient practice, to entertain one’s child with stories. It frames their relationship to the world in terms as deep as the stories we apply to our adult lives.

I took the time this past Saturday to preview the stack of new books and consider how I’ll read them to him. One in particular had gotten a bit lost in the mix, despite the lovely illustration style. It seemed, at a glance, to be for smaller children. The words were simple, the sentences short, and the characters engaged the viewer’s attention with the basic mechanism of reader-facing eye contact. You see this mechanic at work in books for babies.

The book is Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back. He’s an accomplished illustrator, and this is the first book he’s written and illustrated. It can be found in the children’s section of bookstores and is marketed to parents as appropriate to children ages 4 through 8.

I will not read this book to my son.

It was given with the very best intentions, and at some point down the line I’ll use it to help illustrate the programming at work in Western culture – when Ben and I get to discussing that (FUN!). But he’ll have to read it for himself.

I did a bit of research around the book, and found something particularly interesting. It turns out that Candlewick Press, Jon’s publisher, had created a trailer to promote the book. Definitely a novel concept for a children’s book, but hey, it’s the future.



The trailer embedded above, and watched on YouTube 48,483 times as of this typing, did not describe the book in my hands. What I’d read was a story of materialism, deceit, revenge, murder, and apartness. All played out in the animal kingdom — a sphere that includes none of these properties by design.

Told and sold to adults, this could be a great parable with much value. But this is packaged as fare for the minds of children. Has childhood really changed so much since Ezra Jack Keats?

No, of course not. But our expectations have been dragged into the mud with pervasive, ruthless efficiency. One good exercise is to count the representations of guns embedded in the landscape around you the next time you venture out. There weren’t so many before; a sick society excretes. (Hat tip: Dania.)

We can make a new story – for ourselves, for our society – the moment we choose to. The world around us will gladly conspire to assist. That’s what the fabric of reality does. So let’s start with something simple, and see where it goes from there.

Below, my response to the trailer.



Bears need hats as much as you need flowers, dear world; know that my love will take other forms. Be my Valentine.

14 February 2012, 13:10

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Searching



Searching by Blackalicious.

13 February 2012, 11:05

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