Tuesday, 30 June 2015

How I’m Learning to Stop Obsessing Over My Follower Count

by Bunmi Hazzan

I’ve struggled with being myself for a long time. Growing up, anytime I’ve said or done something from a unique place it’s been met with “don’t be silly” or something along those lines; on some level I’ve associated being myself with being unaccepted. We all yearn for acceptance, so I learned to conform, learned to be what was expected of me.

Fast forward to the internet age, I’m constantly second guessing what I put on the internet. Not just stuff like, “Is it offensive?” “Have I used correct grammar and spelling?” I mean, that happens, too, but more, “What would they think of me after this?” “Would they still like me after this?” “Would I still be accepted after this?”

Most would agree that isn’t healthy. I am learning to be myself. I’ve become less restrictive about posting things that I’m interested in, no matter how silly it may seem to others. As I changed, I noticed my follower count going down, and down, and down, and, oh wait it’s gone up, oh no, false alarm - it was a cached page - it’s gone down again.

I know I shouldn’t be obsessing over follow numbers, after all, what does it really mean? But if people follow what they’re interested in, and they’re not following me, then that means, I’m not interesting. I think I’m interesting, but who else would corroborate that? What if I’m just deluding myself? Why can’t people just tell you, they don’t find you interesting, instead of this, sly, stop following cowardly nonsense? But then, if they told me, then I’d know I have to change for them to like me, and I’m back to not being able to be myself anymore.

Learning to be myself is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. So far, it has challenged most, if not all, things I believe about society and the value in other people’s perceptions of me. One of the things I feel helps is spending time alone. For example, when some event or news takes place, I avoid the opinions of others, so I can be sure my thoughts are completely my own.

But that’s an extreme tactic, the problem with only listening to your own thoughts is that it is a good way to become very narrow minded. You can convince yourself of anything (and I do mean ANYTHING) because every thought conforms to your own internal logic and reasoning.

Thus, the next step after formulating my own thoughts is to read/listen to what other people are saying, and consider their view points, especially those opposing to mine. This isn’t to change my mind, it’s to expand it.

I’ve learned that being myself isn’t just about “I.” It is about understanding that all opinions exist for a valid reason, even those I don’t agree with. Before, I looked at things like, it’s either my opinion, or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, then I’m not being myself. The truth is, no one person is ever just one thing, including your own thoughts. They need the input of other in order to mature properly. Finding that balance isn’t easy, but it is worthwhile.

Along the way, you may lose some followers, people may stop liking your page, or unfriend you, they may even post videos online talking about how stupid you are (but that’s only if you’re really lucky). I once read a blog by our dear editor E Amato, it said “Everyone has an audience.” I believe that to be true, and it seems I’m still searching for mine, come across a few so far, but there’s more out there, just gotta find them.

BH the Uncivilised, some call me Bunmi Hazzan, but a time traveller has many names. I've existed for over 10,000 years and lived over 9000 lives. Travelling through time, space and multiple dimensions and writing about my experiences and observations. Or, in other words, I analyse art, and create art. The driving license I hold in this realm claims I have residence in London, England. The truth is I spend most of my time in upper regions of my cerebral cortex. I am, that poet.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Quote of the Week - Rodriguez

"Find a cause bigger than yourself. Personal trauma has sources in society, family, community. A full circle has to be completed: All personal healing and growth are to help you become an impactful, positive and meaningful person in relation to others." 
~ Luis J. Rodriguez
 I wanted to quote this whole wonderful post called "From Trauma to Transformation" by Los Angeles Poet Laureated Luis J. Rodriguez. It's a gift - don't leave it unopened!

If anyone knows the journey from trauma to transformation, it's Luis Rodrigues. He's made this journey himself, and he has helped countless others do it, through his poetry, his community center, Tia Chucha's, workshops, and public speaking. He is a blessing to all his communities and we are grateful for his presence and his wisdom.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Quote of the Week - Brown

"anger takes so much of the world personally. it is an egotistical emotion. i am not convinced negative passion is useful to the world. not until it can create, generate. i am impressed when anger yields more life, more beauty. i am learning that usually that only happens when it is thoroughly indulged and can give way to the hurt, vulnerability, to what lies beneath." 
~ Adrienne Maree Brown

I loved this post on Zora. I love the expression "negative passion."

Anger is something we all have, and very few of us know how to manage. I've meditated a long time on what the possible benefits of anger could be. I've meditated to dispel anger. I've learned that there is something I think of as righteous anger, which is usually brought on my social injustices, or infractions of personal boundaries. I've read a lot on anger from a lot of people other people respect, but I've never found anything that has given me respect for anger as a positive part of life.

Brown's exploration of anger is one of the most in-depth and well communicated ones I've encountered. It's helpful for anyone dealing with and processing anger. Which is everyone. She goes far beyond the sit down and meditate or count to ten when you're angry recommendations that seem to be the only practical options we have come up with as a civilization. In my experience, they just squelch the anger impulse over time, and dull it, rather than allowing it to instruct us toward safety and health. They neglect to teach us how to express it in situations when it does need expression, and instead,  the anger often surfaces instead in inappropriate situations and directions.

I think we're a long way from truly understanding anger, its purposes and its potential non-violent usefulness. But Brown goes a long way toward starting a conversation here.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Practivist of the Week - Zosia Jo

Adrian Lincoln, Frames Photography

Practivism = pragmatic, proactive, promotable activism

Practivist Zosia Jo

How old are you, if you don’t mind?

I am 28 years young.

What is the main focus of your practivism at this time and how does that manifest?

Right now I am finding ways to reconcile my inherent need to create work and an ever increasing urge to affect some kind of positive social change.

In my early training, that felt like a conflict, like my ‘art’ was a selfish indulgence. Since finding routes into community dance work that changed. I began creating projects that reached out into the community.

My current solo work, Herstoryis about making a statement that is socio-political. It is a collection of verbatim stories woven into one that tell the story of an abusive relationship from the happy beginning to the bitter end. My aim is to help my audiences understand how easy it is to find oneself in that situation, how it can happen to anyone. And also to lend my voice to the stories of these women- some of these stories have been secret until now.

My links to charities is vital also, because I am only raising the issue… During my previous tour I collected donations for, and offered information about, Women’s Aid. During the upcoming Edinburgh Fringe run I will be collecting for Health in Mind, and Edinburgh based charity who help survivors in practical ways and with their resulting mental health issues.

What route did you take to get here?

I had a very difficult time in dance training. I chose a school that I felt would challenge me with my weakest area - technique. Having started late, I was confident in my creative abilities, but lacked the honed classical technique of many of my peers. Unfortunately, my academic abilities and more experimental choreographic tendencies were not valued by the school, and staring daily at my leotard-clad, somewhat curvy, frame in the mirror caused a fair amount of trauma for me. I battled mild depression and some symptoms of eating disorder (though never fell full throttle into anorexia thank god) and emerged from my training unable to face auditions or further study.

So I decided to create my own work. I felt very confident working with children after an inspirational course I’d taken at college. I went to work in West Wales, a place I had friends and family, and felt safe. My success there has enabled me to build a career of mixing community work and choreography and I have found a passion for making things happen.

Project management is something I can get up and be dying to do first thing in the morning - provided the project is exciting enough. Over the years I have performed more and more in my own work and found my way back into my body. Through this, and through two years of studying psychotherapy and undertaking personal development work, I have come to reconcile with my body. Gradually I have been able to forgive her, realise the trauma came from outside of us, and settle back inside myself.

This solo, on a personal level, was about saying to the world- I can do this. I think it is the parallel between me and the survivor character I play which lends the solo its credibility. It is not just her story, it is also mine. I put my own story into it through the poems I have written over years of failed and difficult relationships, and through the movement, which I struggled to create, in an effort to re-find my physicality and rebuild confidence in my own body. That is something I share with a survivor of domestic abuse - the rebuilding, and this is shown quite literally in the final movements of the solo.

You can support practivist Zosia Jo bring  Herstory to the Festival Fringe Edinburgh via the crowdfunding campaign.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Quote of the Week - Soloway

"Guys are holding on so tightly to male protaganism because it perpetuates male privilege. From their subject seats they can POINT—”She’s old, SHE’S hot, she’s not, she’s old, she’s fat, she’s someone I want to bone, she’s past her prime, that person’s black, queer, fat.” (I’m not pointing to you guys.) That pointer is a powerful thing. That white cis male gaze is like a lifeguard chair, it’s a watchtower—”I’m way up here naming things.” And they are NOT GIVING UP THOSE LOOKOUT SPOTS EASILY. In fact, they won’t even cop to the fact that they have that privilege." 
~Jill Soloway

I love this quote and this whole address from Jill Soloway. Sadly, though, I cannot report good results from bringing my pussy to work on set. I think we still have a long way to go on that.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Groove Theories: Ice Cube's Last Great Song

by Sean Morris

If you ask me “who’s in your Top Five?” Ice Cube is the first or second name that I will blurt out. If the man ever does a “Death Certificate performed in its entirety” tour, I will be front and center. However, given the perpetual sneer plastered on his music-based promotional materials since 1995, it’s painfully obvious that Cube the vapid ignorap caricature will get more stage time than Cube the incendiary urban griot. His pioneer status and historic early output justifies the fact that he’s one of the few rappers who deserves to headline arenas (unlike, say, J. Cole). However, he hasn’t recorded a great song in twenty years. 

O’Shea Jackson is celebrating several important anniversaries this year. Landmark solo debut Amerikkka’s Most Wanted turns 25, stoner comedy classic Friday turns 20, and XXX: State of the Union turns 10. Just kidding about that last one. 

Another milestone came and went with no hoopla whatsoever: the 20th anniversary of John Singleton’s Higher Learning. While the movie began aging horribly the second time I watched it, its electric soundtrack holds up extremely well. It featured everyone from Me'Shell NdegeOcello and Zhané to Tori Amos and the girl who would be Vitamin C. It was the world’s first glimpse of OutKast’s sonic shift to the cosmos and my first exposure to Liz Phair and Rage Against the Machine. But Ice Cube’s “Higher,” the opening track, remains the weightiest of them all. 

“walkin’ through campus with my backpack
bailin’ to orientation, so I can change the nation
see many faces, but none of them mirror me
show my ID to the punk ass security”

It has always interested me that Cube decided to write not from the perspective of his supporting role, the pontificating “super duper senior” Fudge, but from Omar Epps’ quasi-idealistic protagonist Malik. Part of that stems from Malik being one of the few characters in the movie with more than one dimension, but it also helps the lyrics navigate the “empire” known as Columbus University with wonder, not to mention with worry. Or perhaps Cube secretly wished he was still young enough to play Malik. Either way, the voice of the jaded tour guide from “How to Survive in South Central” finds college as perilous as the average Bloods and Crips-populated street corner, only more perplexing. It doesn’t help that our humble narrator seems to have enrolled in the most inflammatory and intolerant college in the United States.

“white boy in the room with me
who never saw BET, what the fuck?!
he’s about to erupt and turn red
start hangin’ with the muthafuckin’ skinheads”

Remy’s tragicomic descent into neo-Nazism felt more tragic than comic thanks to the emotional investment of Michael Rapaport, but Cube’s second verse reminds us that this is a John Singleton joint, which always means no moment is without humor, be it intentional or not. It also gave the rapper a chance to rattle off every racial slur that he had used on his previous albums without having to be concerned with controversy. Cube reaffirmed the notion that his polemics were more about revealing humanity’s ugly flaws than reveling in them.

“he regrets that
his school is filled with niggas, Jews, and wetbacks
plus chinks, now he drinks, hour after hour
screamin’ ‘White Power!’”

Possibly by accident, “Higher” added gravity to Higher Learning’s B-stories by not dragging them out as the movie did. “A girl gets date raped just like that at a frat, now she chase the cat” is much more potent as two bars in a song than as too many scenes involving tertiary characters in a 127-minute movie. As much as horny teenaged me couldn’t wait to see Kristy Swanson and Jennifer Connelly make out, it had nothing to do with anything else going on at Columbus University. His writing as fluid as ever, Cube handled transitions in scene and tone better than most scripts of his era, especially the one he summarized here.

“down to kick the asses of the fascists
who wanna put me in the oven and
turn me to ashes but I’m not burnin’
world keeps turnin’, and nobody learnin'
'cause college is fulla shit
teachin’ me to memorize nothin’ but the lies”

At the time, it was a typical “Cube tells a story that also happens to be the plot synopsis for the movie he’s acting in.” It was also a bit of a return to form after Lethal Injection, which had a couple NOI-inspired tirades about separatism but mostly sounded like Doggystyle Lite. Little did we know at the time that he would never again employ this device so masterfully in his music career.

“Higher” is literally the borderline in Ice Cube’s discography. One one side, we have every noteworthy song he ever recorded, from the irresponsible to the prophetic to the crowd pleasing. The strong-willed and unjustly forgotten “You Ain’t Gonna Take My Life” should be blaring from #BlackLivesMatter protests across the country.

On the other side of "Higher," well, we all know what happened. The very next song Cube released was another opening track to a soundtrack, but “Friday” is little more than an amiable listen while the credits roll. There is no plot synopsis, no Craig and/or Smokey character analysis, just a “Dre Day”-sampling “Steady Mobbin’” redux that confirmed many hip-hop heads’ suspicions that Cube was just aping The Chronic. Then, the helium-voiced lunatic from “Natural Born Killaz” calmed down just enough to piss everyone off for good.

While the original version of “What Can I Do,” Lethal Injection’s most mournful tale, ends with Cube dejectedly employed at McDonalds, its more bounce to the ounce remix provides an epilogue that is both silly and chilling. After Mack 10 barges in to rob the restaurant, Cube asks him “can I roll wit’ you?” and leaps over the counter to meet his doomed fate. I never would have expected this to be Ice Cube’s final prophecy, and of his own rap career no less.

Mack 10 may not be entirely at fault, but any time that they were on a song together, Cube did not sound like a social commentator, he sounded like a disruptive nuisance. The most commercially successful version of Cube 2.0 was of course Westside Connection’s “Bow Down,” but the unofficial first song from the so-called supergroup appeared on Mack 10’s debut album. “Westside Slaughterhouse” featured the first of many indefensible Ice Cube lines.

“'Used to Love H.E.R.', mad 'cause we fucked her
pussy whipped bitch, wit' no Common Sense”

This song, also “celebrating” its twentieth anniversary, was the moment when every remaining Ice Cube zealot’s heart sank. The man who gave us one of the greatest dis records of all time now left himself wide open to be eviscerated by one of the other greatest dis records of all time. Mid-1990s hip-hop will be forever tarnished by the East Coast-West Coast beef, and the reputations of the artists who fanned its flames have never fully recovered. Even the increasingly paranoid, incessantly combative 2Pac saw Westside Connection as a disingenuous ploy for Cube to stay in the spotlight by assuming Pac's place in it. 

From here, Cube dissolved into studio gangsta self-parody, becoming more of an actor on his albums than in any of his movies. He still could get a handful of halfway decent beats thrown his way, and WC saw his stock rise as the only Westside Connection member not saying anything facepalm-worthy, but there is not a great song in the bunch. 1998’s “Ghetto Vet,” a cautionary fable about a wounded gang war soldier, is the closest Cube ever came to his former glory, and like Snoop Dogg during this period, it only got exposure because it was featured on a No Limit record. This left plenty of time for gangsta rap’s once great author to become more known as the producer of a string of mediocre action comedies. Don’t sleep on First Sunday though.

Ice Cube is spending most of 2015 further mythologizing N.W.A. with Straight Outta Compton. The biopic could be good even though the trailer makes it look like CB4 if Chris Rock & Tamra Davis had misguidedly taken themselves seriously. Cube recently tweeted “Tell me your top 3 tracks on Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” and one of the replies was as painfully honest as it was dead on accurate. As a rapper, Cube’s influence is undeniable, but said influence stops just as “Higher” screeches to a halt.

“they wanna take me… they wanna take me…

them muthafuckas’ll never break me…”


Zestyverse's resident Music Geek Sean Morris is an SF Bay Area native with a photographic memory and encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture. He is a graduate of UCLA's School of Theater, Film, and Television, a former Los Angeles Slam Team member, part of the collective Art 4 A Democratic Society, and a music blogger for The Owl Mag. Find him on TwitterSoundCloud, and YouTube.

Quote of the Week - Doidge

"The word heal comes from the Old English haelan and means not simply “to cure” but “to make whole.” The concept is very far from the idea of “cure” in the military metaphor, with its associated ideas of divide and conquer." 
~Norman Doidge

I heard Norman Doidge on a Guardian podcast, and knew I had to read his book, The Brain's Way of Healing. As a companion, I'm also reading Bessel Van Der Kolk's The Body Keeps the Score. Taken together, they are powerful medicine in dealing with illness, trauma, and perhaps more importantly, in reintegrating our thoughts about the system that is our inextricably connected body and mind. Each book goes to great lengths to present the science that supports true healing in people; the science that intuitive healers have employed for all of human history, but which was sacrificed to more aggressive methods over the last century.

The most magical moments occur when we are at the intersection of nascent human understanding and those things we know intuitively and instinctively, but have never been able to parse or prove. As if Robert Frost's two roads come back to meet each other again, many miles on, in a concurrence of possibility.