Dispatches from San Francisco, from Baruti M. Kamau at Barutiwa Media

Nigeria, Cincinnati, Atlanta, San Francisco – citizen journalist and entrepreneur Baruti M. Kamau has brought a unique perspective in covering his travels. Writing at Barutiwa.com. these are some of his latest dispatches from San Francisco, exploring its politics, and socioeconomic layout. I hope to share some of his photographs soon on the epidemic of homelessness in San Francisco.

Baruti’s on-going series is titled San Francisco, California: An Island Unto Itself and will explore the truly unique and amazing position this city has. These are three pieces from his on-going project, in which he aims to illustrate from the ground, on the street, the seeming contradictions that define this city of massive wealth, massive poverty, and massive intellectual and technical creativity.

An Interview with Irma Bajar of GABRIELA USA
http://www.barutiwa.com/news/publish/article_886.shtml
“..Irma Bajar is the Chairperson of GABRIELA USA, the overseas chapter of the Philippine-based GABRIELA Philippines. She was born in Hawaii to Filipino parents who migrated to the United States in search of employment. Irma is college educated, and after 10 years of community organizing, she was elected Chairperson of GABRIELA USA in March 2016. In a face-to-face interview with Irma, last month, I asked her what happened in her life that impelled her to become politically active. She said that she was inspired by a film about the 2004 Hacienda Luisita Massacre in which 14 people were killed and more than 120 injured when the Philippine’s military and police units attempted to disperse protesters. The Hacienda Luisita plantation workers were agitating for increased wages, better benefits and land reform…”

 

Exhibit 1: Interview with Violet Vasquez (Video)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzZHuE7rO5A
“…This video interview with Violet Vasquez is an exhibit to my report “San Francisco: An Island Unto Itself”. Ms. Vasquez is a young activist attending City College in San Francisco, California. Her major is sociology and political science. In this 22 minute video, Vasquez discuss her opinions on poverty, homelessness and destitution in the San Francisco Bay area….”

 

Minimum Wage Boss Face Vociferous Opposition (Video)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMnZWdj2jSg
“..This video news release documents the Friday morning protest in front of City Hall calling for the resignation of San Francisco’s mayor, Ed Lee. Members from AsianAmericanVoters.org staged a counter protest which resulted in more than 300 Chinese Americans participating to show their support for Mayor Ed Lee. On the other side, viewers will see the vociferous opposition to Mayor Ed Lee with the highlight of Oscar Salinas discussing the criminalization of homelessness. The video was written and narrated by Baruti M. Kamau (aka BMK). Furthermore, “Minimum Wage Boss Faces Vociferous Opposition” is an exhibit to the report “San Francisco: An Island Unto Itself” written by Baruti M. Kamau. Visit www.barutiwa.com to see additional photos and video clips concerning the protest and counter protest…”

EOF

You don’t need to understand poetry to be moved by it.

pen-fountain-pen-ink-gold-39065I think that many people are not alone in thinking that they can’t understand poetry. I believe lots of people feel that way. There are many people who truly feel and believe that they don’t understand poetry, further that they can’t understand poetry, and that poetry is something best understood by particularly intellectual people.

I believe that nothing can be further from the truth.

Ignoring for a moment the distinction between high poetry and low poetry, it is important to realize that verse and versification have long been part of many cultures and language communities. I think that is also important to realize that poetry, or rather the idea of poetry, is very much a mental construction on top of the bare naked reality of verse itself.

What do I mean by this? Well simply put, verse is part of language. Verse is a way of arranging words. Versification and prosody, rhyme and meter, to whatever degrees they can be found in modern poetry, they are matters of language. Essentially matters of language itself. Prosody evokes things that can be felt, a beat. This can be perceived and felt without any sort of sophisticated intellectual training.

Here’s a proof; ‘Mary had a little lamb it’s fleece was white as snow, and everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.

That line of text was metered and it had rhyme to it. I trust that no great heights of intellectual speculation were necessary to understand. It was about a little girl, named Mary, of whom a lamb was quite infatuated. Dig it?

Good.

All things in this world are characterized by heights and lows, and stuff in the middle. So too with poetry. Poetry can ring bells on monasteries on top of Mount Parnassus, rake the coals at the bottom of the valley of Jahannam, and sell breakfast cereal on the telly.

I think that poetry is often presented as something intellectually high, refined and sophisticated. But poetry can really be as simple as ‘Mary had a Little Lamb‘.

While verse and poetry can be separated, and typically are nowadays, the two share a close, more ambiguous relationship which, aforetime, was tighter.

For poetry to have a significant cultural role, it must be authentically part of the culture. High cultures are almost by definition matters of elite, often imperial, patronage and support. This means high cultures obey standards that are artificially maintained; typically reified standards drawn from the basis of some old hoary thing dug out of the closet, quite mummified, and stuffed in full regalia in front of the people.

The maintainers and advocates of ‘high culture’ may seem to over-protest. High culture typically has some sort of basis in the broader culture it is found in. Often, however, the connection is extraneous and non-essential connection. Someone somewhere has to maintain it like a difficult and moody orchid, sensitive and needing constant tending lest the delicate thing keels over pouting and rolling its eyes.

I won’t assert that all high culture is just extraneous to a people’s realities. Far from it. But at a certain point you sometimes seem to have at hand something that was once a bit more living and spunky, but long since extremely refined to the point of the life being sucked out of it.

Do remember, much classical music was at one time pop music. This is something older than the ‘Pops orchestras’ that are part of urban higher cultural establishments in the Anglosphere today. Mozart in his age was a bit of a rock star. So too, Ballet once had copulation as a theme. I’d use the F- word but someone reading this would have a hissy-fit. Ballet, or rather the theatrical dances that eventually became ballet, really could be almost pornographic in theme, once upon a time.

In a word, if you go back two or three hundred years ago, you would see that – in the West anyway – quite a bit of what people believe today to be high culture was part of the lower middle culture of that age.

Let’s leave alone the theme of decadence – and there was a time not so long ago in which many critics believed Tchaikovsky and Wagner were decadent composers, and avoiding an observation I once heard Seyyed Hossein Nasr make, in which he asserted in the middle of class that classical music after Bach had essentially lost a good deal of its higher intellectual grounding, there is a simple fact that humans have a tendency to over-romanticize the past. How we view the arts, poetry included, is part of this.

I’m sympathetic here; being a guy who rarely felt at home in his century much less than his decade. But part of trying to develop a historical consciousness, a feeling for history, is developing the ability to see things of a past age as they were in there mundane glory. Chamber pots, iron and flint fire-starters, plagues, child whores, summary executions in the middle of the street, and all.

That was all a tangent. The question is how did that tangent relate to the question at hand? Well, let’s tie it to the point. In order for poetry to be something alive and vibrant, part a living culture, it has to be something that is not in museums. It has to be something that is inside of people’s hearts and on the tongues. For this to be the case poetry must be understandable by people broadly speaking, not just a recondite erudite few sitting around patting each others’ backs..

This does not mean there is no room for high and difficult poetry. Take Geoffrey Hill, the Oxford poet laureate, or T.S. Eliot, of whom Hill is a contemporary heir. Or take Frederick Seidel. These three people, among others, are certainly near the height of the twentieth century’s formalist and aristocratic poetic establishment. Throw in Ezra Pound as well. Each of these poets is somewhat difficult, challenging, and formalistic. In a word, marked by a type of difficulty that requires some intellectual aptitude to tackle with.

So what. Each of those poets wrote a large amount of verse that simply requires the type of active imaginative faculty that your average teenager has, to navigate. In other words, you don’t have to be an intellectual to read T.S. Eliot, and be struck by his imagery.

I think this is a sign of successful poetry. Even if it seems to be over your head on some level, mainly because everyone around you keeps saying that it is, it can still move you as long as you understand the words.

I think these things can be overcomplicated. If you can understand ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ then you have the tools necessary to apprehend poetry, to feel poetry if you hear it or read it. This is because you have the linguistic tools to viscerally feel poetry, which is what we’re talking about if we use words like ‘move’. Something that moves you does something kinetic to you, like push, shove, punch, caress, engage in frottage with, or kiss you. It’s a matter of the type of movement, and its intensity.

Verse, and most good poetry even ‘free verse’ ends up to some degree using verse-like elements even unconsciously on the poet’s part, uses rhythm and timing in speech. Verse makes you feel things, ‘beats,’ and this is powerful. Rhythm is powerful.

Verse is not equivalent to poetry. But verse and poetry spring from the same mother’s loins, and were probably wrapped around each others’ umbilical cords en utero. If you can feel the effects of verse, then you have the tools to get poetry. Just relax and don’t psych yourself out, thinking that you can’t get it.

End.

Non-Fiction versus fiction in an apocalypse culture, Adam Parfrey, the essay, and the novel.

In the Introduction to the second edition of his anthology, Apocalypse Culture, Adam Parfrey muses as follows;

“..reality has taken on such a dire and phantasmagoric cast that fictionalizing has become superfluous. The essay form has superseded the novel as the vehicle that best suggests the prevailing apocalyptic gestalt, and as the talisman that is most able to repel the onset of paralyzing dread.””
-Adam Parfrey, 1990.

The form of written language best able to convey a sense of, and indeed help make sense of, this age along these lines, would be the non-fiction essay. Some may disagree, it’s a perspective worth considering however. Truly paradigm shattering novels along dystopic lines are rare; 1984, A Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, the crop of current dystopian narratives seem to simply deepen the mood and spit it back at us while we, un-reflexively, watch and scratch our heads over The Hunger Games.

What the essay has that the novel or fictionalized narrative lacks is it’s ability to not be completely reduced to entertainment, and thus to a soporific, inducing dreams, but not waking us. Film fiction narratives, like The Matrix, being partial and useful exceptions that sort of prove the rule.

Where to find the language to express ideas? Indeed what is language in all of this? “All language is at once the ‘sensualization of the idea’ and the ‘idealization of the sensuous’. Language is, therefore, the most distinguishing characteristic of man..” notes C. Nisbet and D. Lemon in their 1892 Everybody’s Writing-Desk Book. Noting further that man can be defined, in quotations, as the speaking animal. A pity they didn’t note the origin of that quote, being the Classical Arabic definition of al-Insan, The Human, as ‘al-Hayawan al-Natiq‘ or the speaking, articulating, animal.

The theme of the Book of Eli, another fictionalized narrative, is interesting here; what obsessed Garry Oldman’s character was obtaining the word. At all costs. The overly biblical cast of the movie might distract a more skeptical viewer from the vital urgency of its core message, which is that the word, language, is all important in either controlling humanity, or saving humanity, Oldman’s character, though a villain, was in a way a flawed and tragic hero, stuck in a particular paradigm that gave him an edge, but only the sliver of an edge, in a world gone mad. It was an edge that he grasped without justice. And hence his undoing.

Words, language, are vital. And though Parfrey wrote those words something like 25 years ago, I think with the increasing popularity of Creative Nonfiction he was onto something.

One interesting quote on altruism in nanny states

I personally believe in altruism over selfishness. However if altruism is coerced or forced is it really altruism? Is it really a virtue? If a virtue is coerced is it a good or evil? This quote strikes me in this regard.

“Big Sister does not want her peasants holding values that are incompatible with the Good Society.  She will not tolerate adult behavior, or independent thought and action.  Thus she hates religion, morality, political dissent of any kind (democracy is, again, intolerant of dissent, even in dress), and in particular she hates the kind of moral abolutism that underlies most systems of honor.  As an example of how this works, Big Sister promulgates the now widespread idea that anyone who refuses welfare to which he is “entitled” is INSANE.  Thus even a debased petit-bourgeois notion of personal responsibility and independence becomes a symptom of insanity, and since insanity is, in our mythology, a disease like influenza, the insane must accept treatment. Must.  Tyrannies of the left-socialist type are characterized by their insistence on compulsory  altruism as the prime “social directive”.

Compulsory altruism is NOT a virtue, it is the behavior pattern of a slave or a mechanism.  NO compelled behavior is virtuous.  The Lizards have convinced most people that “obeying the law under pain of death” is *virtuous*.  This is useful to them, but there is no virtue in it.  It is virtuous to give alms to a worthy beggar, but it is not virtuous to pay taxes that aid the poor. This is why socialist tyrannies strive to monopolize charity: through taxation the element of private virtue is eliminated, through the perversion of meaning of virtue into “obedience”, virtue is no longer the result of honorable behavior, but is another “entitlement” dispensed by Big Sister.  Consider the travesty of “Honors Day” in the UK, when people are rewarded for making money and paying large taxes, i.e. for being good subjects.” – Marmota monax, the digital peasant, on a Def Con mailing list 30 Oct 1999

A note for anyone who gets in a tizzy over the writer’s mentioning, in a linked phrase, a nanny-state’s hatred of “religion, morality, political dissent of any kind” – the writer was an agnostic or atheist, if I recall, and certainly not religious. One does not need to be, however, to notice that when the State is effectively presented as god – or goddess as the case may be – then it obviously cannot tolerate other forms of religious expression. This is a matter of degrees of course, ranging from the gross to the subtle. In more subtle cases religion, morality, political dissent of any kind, are best assimilated to the operative logic of the state’s civil religion itself.

 

“Yet Schiller, Dante, Shakespeare I devoured.
My forehead trembled as I read their works.
As to those rakes that former tunes admired,
Virgil, and Horace, Homer, Cicero,
We know, thank God! just what to think of them.
Then quick to learn the art poetical,
My lisping muse began to plagiarize;
And then, in turn, I worshiped England, Spain,
And Italy, and, chiefly, Germany.
What would I not have done to know the dialect
The cobbler Sachs had gloried years a-gone!” – Alfred de Musset

If one wishes to be subtle, and not gross, and thus in the long term to be effective One may consider adding to one’s worship by consent and not naked bare coercion.
The Muslim, the Hindu, the Jain, the Christian, the Odinist, the Mithraist, the Jew: each becomes an acolyte of the mother goddess of the state. His or her belief system and sense of morality and virtue are best re-molded in ways consistent with the dominant narrative.
How many Hindus worship India instead of Vishnu or Krshina – in actual effect. How many Israeli Jews worship Israel instead of YWEH, in effect? How many Evangelical Christians worship Old Glory, the US Flag, and the Unites States of America – instead of Jesus? How many Anglicians worship Britain (and indeed it’s How many Muslims worship – in actual effect, as in each case – the Arab State and Qawm, or Pakistan or what-like, instead of Allah? How many Mithraic soldiers worshiped (rather openly) Rome itself and her emperor instead or, or in addition to, Mithras.
What is it to worship? It is to obey and to adore. Find out whom you obey and adore with emotional fervor and then you shall know who or what it is that you really worship.
So I think that a clever Big Sister would express her underlying intolerance of her little siblings’ questioning by more subtle, than gross, coercions and cooptations. In this way the Soft Tyranny is more effective in the long term than the Hard Tyranny, for is tyranny with the consent of the tyrannized really even tyranny anymore? Irrespective of how that consent was gained?

 

4 Last Minute Gift Ideas for Her. Tips on what to get your wife, mom, or lady.

Here is your last minute gift cheat-sheet. If you’re stumped, looking for last minute gift ideas for your mom, wife, girlfriend, or significant female, here are 7 suggestions that might work out well for you.

If you feel clueless about what to get the girl or women in your life, check out these gifts below and remember:

  • When she talks take mental notes. Pay attention a few weeks before a holiday or birthday listen closely to her, and keep your ears perked if she mentions anything she’s had her eyes on. Sometimes women intentionally drop subtle hints, sometimes it’s subconscious and unintentional. Either way, pay attention to her.
  • Think about what kind of person she actually is. How does she seem to see herself? All women want to feel like you pay attention to them and things they’re into. So think about her likes and dislikes, personality and interests. Make a cheat-sheet list of traits. Again, pay attention to her.
  • If you can find some way of personalizing or customizing the gift, try to do so. If a gift’s personalized, even with just a small special message, it shows you put extra thought into it.

That said, here are some last minute gift ideas for her, whoever she happens to be.

1. Pre De Provence Assorted Shea Butter Enriched Guest Soap Gift Set in Box – Includes Nine 25 Gram Soaps – Scented Herb. by Pre de Provence.

Last-minute gift idea for her, Pre De Provence Shea Butter Enriched Soap Set.

A delicious smelling Pre de Provence Gift Box of 9 assorted Shea Butter enriched soaps, for a cleansing and fragrant treat. Each of the nine soaps is 25 Gram.

  • 9 guest soaps, 25 grams each, with your favorite Pre de Provence scents.
  • 9 different clean, herb smelling scents: including White Gardenia, Honey Almond, Lavender, Linden, Rose, Verdena,Sage, Milk, Coconut
  • Quad milled Shea Butter enriched, with pure essential oils added for aroma.
  • No animal testing – Free of Parabens, Ethyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, DEA

2. How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, And Bad Habits by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas. Hardcover it’s only $25 ($10.99 on Kindle), available at Amazon.
Last-minute gift idea for her, How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, And Bad Habits by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, and Sophie Mas. This book suggestion comes from Lauren Conrad, (of laurenconrad.com fame).

In it, four French women give humorous yet honest insights into what they feel it really means to be Parisian, from how to dress, to advice on love, dieting, vintage shopping, and family.

  • Hardcover
  • 272 pages
  • Published by Doubleday

3. Michael Calore and Christina Bonnington writing at Wired suggest the Amazon Fire TV.
Last-minute gift idea for her,  the Amazon Fire TV. This streaming 1080p media player has with voice search, is enabled for Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, games, and more.

They say it’s;

“A great gift for the streaming-curious, the Fire TV runs Netflix, HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, Twitch, PBS and dozens of other services. It’s a no-brainer for Amazon Prime members who haven’t yet embraced streaming, since their Prime membership entitles them to stream thousands of movies and shows for free.”

4. Earmuffs –

The South Beach Blog and Modernfashionblog.com both recommend Earmufs, (among other things..) In fact, if you look around this season you’ll notice women everywhere wearing fun and quirky earmuffs. These ones not only keep her ears worm and cozy, but they reflect a quirky and cute personality.

Last-minute gift idea for her, Simplicity Women's Knitted Plush Earmuffs for the winter.
You can get these Simplicity Women’s Knitted Plush Earmuffs for the winter, for around $7.90 at Amazon.

Last-minute gift idea for her, N'Ice Caps Girls and Adults Faux Mink Trimmed Adjustable Ear Muffs.
Or you can go with the furry look, with these N’Ice Caps Girls and Adults Faux Mink Trimmed Adjustable Ear Muffs, for around $9.99.