Saturday, July 27, 2013

Down With The King ( Abortion and Altruism )

A discussion on Abortion prompted the following reflection, but first, I need to explain the title.  This song, it's a pretty blatant declaration of my allegiance, in a spiritual and philosophical sense.  And in this case, quite literally, I'm siding the with the King.  But more than that, this song, it's release was the moment of my adolescence where things I'd identified with, Hip Hop, and God, intermingled in a way that was generally accepted as positive.  Run-DMC, the group that broke down barriers between genres not long after it seemed there was no traversing them, was heralding a return to prominence after they'd "fallen-off" as an old school act that was irrelevant.  They were pairing up with one of the first successful yet seemingly down to earth rappers, Pete Rock and C. L. Smooth.  They had at hit in T.R.O.Y. but they weren't household names.  C. L. Smooth was  MC's MC, and Pete Rock was a go to producer at the time, but ultimately, they made music for Hip Hop heads and your parents and little kids weren't going to know who they were.  Down With The King was an elevation for them, a validation of our generation's talent and relevance in the grand scheme of Hip Hop culture at that moment.  The fact that Run DMC took the opportunity to invoke their inclusion of faith into the band identity was the sort of unprecedented coup no one could have seen coming, and they did it in the slickest way possible, by sampling themselves they used the titular phrase as a double entendre, referencing their role in the history of Hip Hop music and their religious affiliation, pretty much a taboo at that time. Ironically  Down With The King reestablished them to their ascendant role in Hip Hop from years gone by.  It was the first Jesus Walk (albeit Kanye, by way of Rhymefest's lyrics, was more direct in how it addressed the topic of faith whereas Run-DMC hit you self-referential lyrics).  That brings a whole new meaning to Watch The Throne.

As for Abortion, and all matters of life and death, and humane, righteous, or wise judgement, I am going to go deep off into Metaphysical Spiritual La la Land, and I'm cool with it, because, the ends justify the means.

About 10 years back I had dream I was in a class taught by a professor in our Comm department at Truman who was also a provocateur of many a heated conversation about the salience of many religious claims to supernatural feats.

Well like all dreams about being in class, I wasn't prepared, hadn't done the reading. He asked us to turn to Kings 3:10 and that we'd learn how to be wise or something to that affect. The class went on sans the usual pop quiz you know you're going to fail and I woke up determined to find out what was in Kings 3:10

I wasn't raised in the church, we stopped going around the time I was in Kindergarten, and after that I only went of my own volition to random churches close to where I lived for the occasional Bible study to hang with kids I knew. I'd read some of the New Testament, but never made it much past the Gospels, and never made it out of Genesis in the Old Testament. The closest I came to reading Kings was listening to the band King's X. I'd never studied it, didn't know much about what the book of Kings covered, it's significance etc. Don't recall any lessons out of it.

So I went and looked up this lauded scripture that I'd just been introduced to in this vivid dream.

"10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this."

Useless right? That's what I thought, then I decided to get context...

"1 Kings 3
New International Version (NIV)

3 Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the Lord, and the wall around Jerusalem. 2 The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the Lord. 3 Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.

4 The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.

He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court.

A Wise Ruling

16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.

19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”

22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”

But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.

23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”

24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”

But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”

27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice."

So, I was taken aback. My Professor and dream delivered on what was promised, Wisdom. In this case, it gave me a means to judge good and evil in even the most arbitrary situations by that story of the mothers and the child:

If someone has good will & love in their heart they will be willing to give up the thing they love most if it means that thing will live on.

If someone has ill will & spite in their heart they would rather see something destroyed than see someone else possess it to be vindicated.

For me those two extremes became the typification of Love and Hate, Good and Evil, Conservation and Wastefulness, as far as human interactions.

It once and for all helped me clarify my attitude on Abortion to a decidedly pro-life stance, and it also served as an indictment of so many of the partisan politicians at each other's throats.

That story, that one facet of wisdom, even Solomon's whole-hearted pursuit of wisdom, to me, was a benchmark of being Humane, empathetic and loving. It made it easier to judge this world.

It informs my attitude of everything, from Nuclear armaments to the environment, from abortion to the spread of communicable disease.

It's like the Hippocratic Oath, "First, Do no harm." 

You can explain away the genesis of my dream, but what I garnered from it has served to make me a better moral human being, and hopefully allowed me to share that with others in a positive way.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

There was a guy I used to know, that planted a seed he couldn't grow.

It's been 15 years since I came across a listing in the distributor's new release newsletter for Chocolate Genius's Black Music on V2 records.  It was the first i'd heard of V2 or Marc Anthony Thompson.  I was sold on the album by the mention of Melvin Gibbs, John Medeski, Chris Wood, and Abe Laboriel Sr. who'd all gotten credits on other records I'd been listening to.

When I sat down with the album, upon hearing this song (Life is the actual title of the track linked in the title above) as the opening track, I was a happy man.  Around that time I was off on a big kick, transitioning my tastes from Hip Hop and Alternative to Singers and Songwriters.  Chocolate Genius was one of the first unknown or obscure artists I championed.  The raw emotional content of his songs were so real, it passed indie muster, but the quality of the music was so rich, courtesy of Craig Street, who I'd eventually learn to trust as an arbiter of all things tasteful.

At that time, the only other record I would promote as vocally as Black Music was Grace.  I'm nowhere near as vocal about either at this point, but their influence informed my taste, and my songwriting at its core.  I would not have been as keen to take an interest in Andrew Bird, Chris Whitley, Joe Henry, and other artists (used in the most literal sense of the term) sans exposure to Chocolate Genius.  Many of my friends were into Tom Waits at that time, which seemed the best litmus test for liking Chocolate Genius, but I was not keen on balladeers, so I only dug 50% of Waits material.  Chocolate Genius tapped into a soulful tradition, closer to the Isley Brothers or Bobby Womack when he slowed things down, making his melancholy and longing more palatable for my tastes.  Thanks to this, I developed and affinity for artists who  have carved out paths as songwriters that serve the craft of writing more so than their book keeping.

This song still strikes a chord, more so now that I'm closer to, if not older than Marc Anthony Thompson when it was released.  You are what you eat.  All things considered, I thought of this as a rewrite of People Are Strange, given it's jazzy melody, but it stands on its own apart from that gem of a track by the Doors.  It's aged well. Fifteen years ago it marked a pivotal moment in my time in College, in Kirksville in particular.  That summer would set me on the path that shaped the next 10 years of my life.  Now, Five years on from the end of that personal  journey, I'm going through an interesting transition on my professional journey.  It's high time I worked on my gardening skills.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Straight From The Sewer

I still love that song, and Ironically...

I've been getting closer and closer to recording some straight up funky, hip hop influenced instrumentals as of late, and it's coinciding with a series of unfortunate aromas emanating from my basement in staggered succession.  First was the Deflated Maus, pun intended.  I never figured out where the poor critter had stowed itself away, but there it remained until he was effectively dehydrated.  Credit to Double JJ of KC who hipped me to just letting nature run its course and masking it with deodorizers.  That method worked.  Now I'm confronted with recurrence of the backup that occurred in August 2010.  Maybe a Roots song should be the link instead of Das EFX, cause the roots in my lateral are no doubt the source of my problem.  My main drain has had its flow reduced to a gallon or two of water etc. before backing up.  NOT GOOD.  I caught it happening before it was excessive and got past the unfinished laundry room area.  But still, to have to deal with this again, ugh.  Headache.  And WALLET ACHE.  Anyways.  Congrats, Sticky Gumball Tree, You got me.