“mercy mercy me (the ecology)” – marvin gaye (1971)

R-6598389-1422811063-9739.jpeg

The news coming from the Amazon has been incredibly upsetting. The massive fires sweeping across Brazil are a very real indicator about our world’s future and the negative consequences of climate change. It shows how climate change had contributed to its manifestation while also furthering the advancement of it as well.  The Amazon produces 20% of the world’s oxygen. As conditions that create massive forest fires, much like the ones California experienced last year, the effects of deforestation disrupt the oxygen balance, producing more carbon which accelerates the effects of climate change.

While many factors contribute to climate change, the most influential are industrial and populist governments.  In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, deemed Brazil’s answer to Donald Trump, openly ran on a campaign calling for the exploitation of the Amazon. Specifically, to allow farmers and ranchers to expand cattle ranches.  Ranches where large conglomerate food companies, such as fast food chains, buy meat to feed their customers. Meat that, coming from an inexpensive source, can be sold cheaply to ensure mass consumption.  Mass consumption that thrives on its appeal to consumer for it’s convenience and availability, someplace warm and welcoming where you do not have to put in time to cook healthy, nutritious food because you have so little time after work and all of your other commitments. Capitalism and climate change are lovers in this vicious cycle.

Climate change has concerned me for several years now.  Admittedly now more than ever before.  When I was in college, when Bush was finishing his second term and Obama was selling hope to a new Democratic electorate, things seemed like they were looking good. The new president cared about climate change and worked across national borders to reverse the effects of climate change, putting the onus on corporations as mass polluters.  At that time in my life, it did not seem like I needed to do anything to help.  After all, I am just one person. I don’t need to do anything because my carbon footprint is much smaller than a major company, right?

As Obama was going through his second term, I started to think more consciously about food.  Throughout college and during my early 20s, my diet was not that great.  When I moved to Chicago in 2011 at the age of 23, I ate out a lot or bought frozen meals.  I did not really know how to cook.  Plus, that was a point in my life where I was working way too much so I did not have the time to cook even if I wanted to.  I relied too heavily on convenience.

After some major life changes such as losing my job and partner, I had a lot more time on my hands. I will not say I was unhappy, but there were certain things in my life I wasn’t too happy about.  And if I could make more positive change in those areas, I could be happier.

One area I recognized that I needed to work on to be happier was to better my diet.  So, I started cooking.  Very simple, basic stuff at first. Things I could microwave, came from a box, or throw into a crockpot. Steps I needed to take to learn my way around a kitchen and establish habits.

As I continued with this and became more skilled in the kitchen, I was also working on other areas of my life that would make be happier.  I gained more friends which required time spent on them.  I also picked up a few hobbies and began volunteering at a couple of places.  I became a busy guy again, like I was when I had that overbearing job a few years back, but I was doing much better.  Not just because I was spending time doing more of the things that I wanted to do, but I was eating better.  And being too busy to cook did not dissuade me anymore because I had a routine, figured out how long things took, and started meal prepping.  I wasn’t the healthiest eater I knew, but I found solace that my diet was better than average.

A few months ago, when I was hearing reports about Alaska’s heatwave and fish dying in the streams, I started to get very depressed about the environment. I had moved here from Alaska.  Alaska was my home for several years.  I know and love people in Alaska.  I have had great adventures hiking through its natural wonder. Alaska will also be someplace that holds a special place in my heart,

Earlier that year, Chicago experienced a polar vortex where temperatures were consistently remaining below zero for a few days. While only lasting a few days, I knew that it happened because of climate change and that, in a decade or two, a few days of that could easily turn into a month.  And when summer came, the extreme heat was worrying me. A record-setting weekend will turn into a month by the time I am retirement age.

While experiencing this extreme weather in Chicago, and hearing the news from Alaska, I was also putting in considerably more thought into my diet. My cholesterol is a bit high. Not enough to warrant medical intervention or medication, but definitely not in the green.  I am also getting closer to the age when my dad was diagnosed with diabetes.  To be truthful, getting diabetes scares me so much.  In order to combat it, I had picked up a somewhat regular exercise routing the last three years, going to the gym three times a week if I am not too busy.

While thinking about lowering my cholesterol and reducing my risk of diabetes, I could not escape the news stories about the extreme weather impact Alaska, Chicago, and elsewhere in the world such as Europe.  And with the Trump administration’s reversal of several environmental laws and policies aimed at combatting climate change, things are just going to get worse.  So, I had to do some serious thinking about what I can do, on an individual level, to do my part to help the climate while also keeping myself healthy. That mindset I had in college, about how helpless one individual is, had to change.

About a month ago, I began making some serious changes to my diet.  And, even as I write this, I know that these changes are just incremental and will likely develop into something larger.  I made the decision that when I cook (and I do cook quite a bit), to cook exclusively vegan.  Buy raw, unprocessed vegetables and find creative ways to make them super delicious.

I know that being vegan does not mean one is inherently healthy. So, like when I first learned to cook, I am committed to setting up patterns.  For the first two weeks of this change, I went hard on the high fiber vegetables.  I bought kale, chard, peas, broccoli, and spinach and cooked them in a variety of ways accented with bell pepper, chickpeas or even walnuts. These are wonderful things to put into your body and enjoy.

So, in the meantime, I have been focused on incremental change.  After a month, I am still cooking exclusively vegan.  While I’ve been out with friends or at a work function, places outside of my kitchen where food is available, I have been keeping the same food habits. Even now, just beginning, that this will likely change.  I am sure my vegan eating habits will start to increase when I leave my apartment.

For the most part, friends have been rather supportive of this.  They ask why I’m making these changes and I discuss with them I’m making a personal change because of health and climate change reasons. For the most part, people get it.  Some are supportive because they support me.  Others make jokes because they likely feel my personal choice is an indictment on theirs.  Vegans are viewed as a joke and even though I am not completely vegan and not condemning others for their choices, I am starting to realize that I need to develop a thicker skin and rise above the nonsense when I talk about me eating more vegetables. These people certainly would not make similar comments if I was halal or kosher, but some people view meat as a part of their identity and the emotional bond they have is so strong that it becomes personal when they meet someone with a different life choice that they view as frivolous.

As the fires rage through the Amazon, I see friends on social media saying the feel helpless and do not know what to do.  Of course, you could always give money to a pro-climate or pro-Amazon organization. But that would be them doing the work without you having to make any compromise in your own life.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Those organizations do great work, but people are no longer willing to embrace compromise if it inconveniences their lifestyle.  They’ll only make a change when they are forced to.

Beyond just giving it away, your money can also be used as a weapon in other ways.  To fight climate change, and the industrial and populist forces advancing it, you can choose to not spend your money on meat and dairy, especially those sourced from places like the Amazon.  Hit those companies where it hurts; their pocketbooks.

This requires eating less meat, or no meat at all.  Our world is dying, and we are on the verge of crossing the threshold where there’s no going back. Now is the time to find ways to find back against those in power because we cannot trust anyone but ourselves to do the right thing.  I have my plan and know the steps that I need to take. I am continuing eating vegan in my home and finding ways to get more creative with my cooking to keep my interest and have the experience be fresh and exciting.  Perhaps in a few years I will be entirely vegan. For now, I’m making incremental change.  I have not given anything up, but I feel like I’m doing my part.  For the planet and myself.

On his landmark 1971 studio album What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye addressed a lot of social and political issues.  From the war in Vietnam to heroin abuse in black communities to police brutality to poverty, Gaye was tackling serious issues in a way that Motown had never done before.  The second single from the album, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” addresses the environment and humanity’s poor treatment of our planet.  Gaye sings asking where the blue skies went and tells of the radiation underground.  Even the food we eat, fish filled with mercury, and the water we drink, oceans filled with water, are products of the same systemic issues inherent in industry and populism that also fuel racial tensions, violence, and poverty.  To Gaye, environmental and human problems are symbiotic.  One in the same, each fueling eachother in a vicious and deadly cycle.

I really hope that something good comes from the devastation in the Amazon.  I’m trying not to be cynical, but it can be hard.  It seems that the news and social media is filled with so many tragedies, but nothing changes. Climate change is real, and it will get worse.  If you’re worried about what to do and feel helpless, anything helps.  Give money, sure.  But, reduce your reliance on the products that fund the industries and populist governments that only serve their own interests at the expense of the rest of humanity.

Advertisements

“don’t look back in anger” – oasis (1995)

R-576716-1565953428-6074.jpeg

Ten years ago today, Oasis played their final gig and officially broke up.  I remember hearing about the news at the time and didn’t believe it.  Liam and Noel, one of rock’s most notorious cases of sibling rivalry, had fought throughout their entire career.  Growing up, I remember watching MTV News stories about their fights and as I got older, watching radio show clips on YouTube of one of them tearing the other down. It was shocking and strange at first, almost humorous, because I was at such a young age when Oasis hit the scene and I was so unfamiliar with other examples of rock and rock family dynamics.  By the time I hit college, new stories about their drunken brawls and childish taunts were no longer rock and roll.  They were on brand.

I remember thinking, when they broke up right before I started my senior year, that this separation would never last.  They’ll patch things up, play the gigs, and suffer eachother jus enough to barely complete an album. I mean, they had done this before and made a long, lucrative career out of it.

However, that never happened and both Liam and Noel were quick to form new bands almost immediately.  Beady Eye and High Flying Birds, two separate bands both formed in 2009 by Liam and Noel respectively, rose out of the ashes of Oasis and released studio albums in 2011.  I had just moved to Chicago when those releases hit the shelves.  Having been someone who really enjoyed Oasis, though never would call myself a true fan, I was eager to hear new music from the Gallagher brothers, even if they weren’t recording together.

Both freshman releases from the veteran rockers left a lot to be desired.  The albums were fine, but there was something missing and I tuned out when it came to any subsequent releases.  I just chalked it off as two guys, secure in their musical legacy both critically and commercially, just playing music that they wanted to play and keeping busy with it without a lot of drama. There’s nothing for them prove and I can appreciate that, but just like them, I had moved onto other things.

Though, while I moved on, it seems the brothers haven’t quite done the same.  Or at least, not fully. Since their final gig on August 22nd, 2009 when they cancelled their Dig Out Your Soul tour four shows early and Noel announced that he was quitting with claims about Liam’s excessive drinking and violence with him “wielding [a guitar] like an axe, “ the two estranged brothers have never stopped taking opportunities to dig out the other’s soul on radio, television, and social media. And ten years on, it still hasn’t stopped.

While Oasis were touring and making music, these taunts and jabs were par for the course.  And, frankly, it was entertaining to me as a kid and teenager.  Now, with the band broken up and the two pursuing their own projects, it is just sad.  As an adult, I just wonder why they don’t keep themselves focused on their passion projects.  With all the continued drama, it is almost as if they never broke up.

While I don’t really listen to anything new from the Gallagher brothers, I still very much enjoy their Oasis output.  Despite all the drama, there’s a magic there in the brighter, catchier alternative to the post-grunge sound the defined part of the 90s. They were taking the timelessness of the Beatles, indulging in their Britishness, and unabashedly translating that passion and identity to usher in a new era of alternative, joined by others such as Pulp and Blur.  Growing up in a house with an English parent, I just found Oasis more relatable than the other alternative bands on the radio coming from the American musical centers that contributed to the zeitgeist.

On their final gig, Oasis opened their encore with “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” Released as a single in 1996 on their 1995 megahit studio album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, the song has endured as one of their best and most anthemic songs.  Noel describes the song as his “Hey Jude,” and while that is a bit of stretch to compare yourself that directly to the Beatles, the band did come close to doing so and it is with songs like “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”

On a radio interview, Noel said of the song “It started off as a song of defiance, about this woman: She’s metaphorically seeing the diary of her life pass by, and she’s thinking, ‘You know what? I have no regrets.’ She’s raising a glass to it.”  And I can imagine that was how he was feeling when he decided to walk away from Oasis, from the biggest thing in his life, and from his brother. He wasn’t on top of the world in 2009 like he was in 1995, but to walk away from a legacy like that is no easy thing.  Toxic people, no matter how close they are to you in blood or spirit, takes a lot of strength and courage.  And to do so on your own terms and not feel any regrets, there’s power in that.

“don’t chase me around” – robert corff (1970)

81JPfbkhsTL._SS500_

As I continue to enjoy life in my early thirties, I am increasingly aware of my own personal growth. This has been a period that, so far, allows me to reflect on life during my twenties and all the triumphs, failures, loves, and losses that come with learning on how to adjust and grow into a functioning adult.  And while I go through that introspection, it leaves me excited about the future and how much more I will grow.

Not everything is perfect.  I still have times of doubt and anxiety. I do not always get what I want.  But those kinds of failures and disappointments will always happen.  What changes, with luck and a little bit of hard work, is how you react to negative situations.

I was walking around with a friend yesterday in the Chicago sun and we were talking about how people come in and out of our lives.  We talked about our own personal developments and leaving old friends behind who did not contribute positively to our new phases in life.  Some friendships are fleeting while others are lasting. And what differentiates the two is whether or not the foundation of that friendship is supportive of growth in change.

In my twenties, I really cared about what people thought about me.  And, truthfully speaking, I still do.  Although, in a much different way. Back then, I wanted to be liked by everyone and I took it personally when I wasn’t.  I would also be upset when someone made the decision to move on without me.  Now, while the idea of people moving on is still a bit sad, I have reframed my thinking to know that not everything is about me.  People do what they do in life in order to achieve and maintain happiness.  And, sometimes, that doesn’t include you.

Now, in my thirties, I have fully appreciated the importance of cutting toxic people out of my life.  Before, in my twenties, I would reach out, try to find common ground, and make compromises in order to keep something in my life that was not working. Nowadays, nip it in the bud.  I have my own issues and worries, and I don’t need unnecessary weight dragging me down.  So, I have grown comfortable with cutting ties with people who just do not bring joy in my life.  And it doesn’t make sad as it would’ve a decade ago.  Now, I find relief.

Gas-s-s-s is a 1970 dark comedy about a post-apocalyptic world where everyone over twenty-five is killed by a toxic gas created by the military.  Produced and directed by the legendary Roger Corman, the movie follows a pair of who have escaped the gas leak and the Gestapo-like forces that pursue them in an apocalyptic Dallas.

The film’s soundtrack features psychedelic and country rock contributions from only three acts; Robert Corff, the Gourmet’s delight, and Johnny & the Tornadoes. While this piece of cinematic satire has faded into obscurity, Robert Corff’s track “Don’t Chase Me Around” recently resurfaced as part of the soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood scoring a scene in which Cliff Booth the stuntman, portrayed by Brad Pitt, leaves the historic Spahn Movie Ranch when he finds that the grounds have been occupied by cultish hippies.

Following my walk and conversation with my friend, we went to the Music Box Theatre to see Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood and I really loved Corff’s song as a commentary that enhanced our previous discussion.  In the song, Corff sings that he is running away from someone who is just trying to make him into one big fool. Corff wants to move on and leave that toxicity behind.  I totally get that.  It is hard, but your life is your own.  Don’t spend it with people who don’t make you feel good.

“1969” – the stooges (1969)

R-1630095-1233267858.jpeg

The year 1969 was a monumental year for humankind in the twentieth century.  The Woodstock music festival offered thee days of peace and music serving as the definitive cultural event for an entire generation.  Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon. The War in Vietnam represents considerable American arrogance as President Nixon withdraws a quarter of a million troops.  Midnight Cowboy becomes the first and only X-rated film to win the Academy Award for “Best Picture.”  And belying the spirit of the hippie generation, the murder of Sharon Tate orchestrated by Charles Manson and the disaster at the Rolling Stones’ Altamont concert bring an abrupt end to free-spirited love in favor of paranoia and institutional distrust.

Oh, and the landmark proto-punk debut by the Stooges is released. I remember the first time I heard the Stooges.  It was an absolute adrenaline rush that fire-charged my teenage brain. These guys may have been causing trouble decades before I was born, but their message resonated with my own sense of teenage disillusionment and malaise.

Nothing else sounded like The Stooges when it hit the shelves on August 5th, 1969.  While the flower power counterculture was slowly realizing that the party was over, the Stooges were front and center championing its demise with a gritty, down-to-earth disillusionment that were channeled through noisy, improvisational garage rock. When Iggy Pop, Dave Alexander, and Ron and Scott Asheton weren’t creative punk rock music history with John Cale at the helm, they were strung out in their house shooting dope, breaking shit, and fucking.

The opening track “1969” was the perfect anthem decrying all the fake hippie nonsense during what was lauded as a significant year for the countercultural movement. Iggy sings that 1969 is just another year with nothing to do.  He’s about to turn 22 and he’s not buying any of the bullshit seen on tv and in the magazines.  It’s all fake and he knows it.  Everything sucks and nothing is fun anymore.  It was a pioneering vision into cultural malaise the 1960s would evolve into as the 1970s started to take shape.

Despite only releasing a trio of poorly selling albums during their classic era, the Stooges have since secured their place in the annals of rock history. Their story is so remarkable in its depravity that it is hard to believe they were able to secure such a legacy let alone follow-up their classic debut with two more classics.  To hear it straight from the junkie’s mouth, you can read TOTAL CHAOS: The Story of The Stooges / As Told by Iggy Pop.

Other than that, I don’t have much else to say about the Stooges.  They’re not a band to be discussed.  They are band to be experienced. Instead of reading anything else I could say about five decades of the Stooges, let’s just stop here, put the album on using your preferred music delivery method, and get lost in the noise.