Being An Artist

May 9, 2021

Starting to catch up on texts now. Feeling better after Wednesday’s peocedure 👍. Last night i read one where someone, younger, had texted me asking me “how do you know if you want to be an artist? How do you know if you’re good?” I must have replied right before falling asleep, because I didn’t remember any of this until I saw it this morning. But I did indeed reply.

“Well to begin with, those are two totally different things. Im not even sure they’re related. And secondly, an artist never questions those things. An artist knows they’re an artist from early on. You know this, right? (Not to say it’s not a valid or interesting question… as a contemplation maybe…) but it’s not something an artist thinks about or asks… because it implies art as some sort of vocation one chooses. Like choosing a college to choose a major to choose a career….

“But art doesn’t work that way. There’s no choosing going on. Artists already know they’re an artist. Because every waking moment of their entire life since they can remember has been spent thinking about, planning and creating art. See? You either know because you KNOW, because you’ve always known, as any artist does, or you don’t know.

“Pretty much the same thing with being “good” as you called it. (Assume and see quotes around the word “good” from now on; because we can’t use that term without having it in quotes. It’s just too subjective and insignificant to the subject to not have in quotes.) Not sure being good is related to art to be honest.

“Craftsman are good. People can have good skillsets. But that doesn’t make them artists. And vice versa. We all know people who are really skilled at something, heck even like playing the piano or something “in the arts” but they’re not artists. And vice versa. Some of the greatest artists of all time were never very skilled at anything. You know? Because art transcends all that.

“That’s an important point. The other, perhaps more important here, is that being good is such a subjective idea, it’s so momentary and fleeting, completely dependent on the viewer the audience the culture and geography and time they’re from, their mood… artists know this… and trust me, artists are never wondering if they’re good. Number one, they’re way beyond that. They KNOW they’re good. Always have. What they’re focused on is getting better and being fucking great. On transcending the art form itself.

“You mentioned earlier that you’re “still working on your technique”. But remember, technique has very little to do with being an artist. It can’t hurt. Unless it does. Then you need to be prepared to scrap it entirely. If it ever threatens your art.”

“If I’m not focusing on technique what am i focusing on?”

“On creating incredible art! Silly. Look, technique is just one of those things along for the ride for a while. Until it’s no longer useful. Then you ditch it to create better art. Because you’re an artist. Not a technician. You wanna become a radiologist? Master a technique. You’ll do a lot of good in the world and you’ll make a lot of money. Both of which are awesome.

“So you didn’t practice a lot when you were a kid?”

“Hell yeah I practiced. Obsessively. From the moment I got my first guitar I did nothing but play guitar. And years before that it was the piano. Every day all day long. But once I got that guitar man all i did was practice guitar. First thing I did when I woke up, before getting dressed for school. First thing I did when I got home from school till dinner. And then all night till I fell asleep. Obsessively.

“And very soon after it turned into being more about songwriting. The guitar itself became secondary to the real art-form, writing songs. Creating. I realized pretty early on that there were a lot of people out there who were very “skilled” at playing the guitar, or any instrument, and they could practice twenty hours a day and may become great at it or not, but they weren’t creating anything new. They weren’t pulling new creations of artistic divinity out of thin air. They were just getting really good on the guitar. Or piano. Or violin. More power to them.

“But I recognized early on that wasn’t art. That was technical skill. I was about ten when that hit me. And if there’s one thing an artist doesn’t have its patience to develop technical skill. Too busy trying to create something out of thin air. That’s what artists do.

“Think of Einstein and his theory of relativity. Pulled that thing out of thin air. Or that John Lennon quote where he said “give me a tuba and I’ll create art with it… because that’s what we do.” See? His playing the guitar was totally secondary to his art form. Really just a tool. But he could have had any tool. It wouldn’t have mattered.

“How do you ever reach the point where you think you’re as good as the artists you really love and admire? Who inspired you?”

“Well again, with that “good” idea again. Look, an artist knows they’re the shit from the day they’re born. It’s a knowing. You’re not comparing yourself to anyone. You KNOW you’re incredible. You know you’re the future. You know you’re creating magic. And it’s got nothing to do with other people. You just know that what you’re doing, who you are, is important. Really important.

“And trust me, you need to KNOW this. Because artists sacrifice their entire lives for their art. They sacrifice fitting in, friendships, being a part of the gang, relationships, feeling a part of society, marriages and kids, feeling “normal”, having money…. on and on. Because you’re so completely obsessed with and committed to creating art, creating the next big thing, besting yourself, transcending art and life itself, you end up sacrificing almost everything else in life because of this obsession and commitment to being a great artist. So you HAVE to KNOW.

“And it’s not arrogance. It’s a confident knowing. People who accuse you of arrogance don’t feel that way about themselves. So they don’t know. To them it may actually seem like arrogance, because they’ve never felt that way about themselves. They don’t wake up living 24 hours a day thinking they’re one of the greatest artists in human history. Great artists do. It’s just part of their nature. No one is going to talk them out of it.

“Do art from that space. From that place of being. Like Mozart. Or Van Gogh. Or Eddie Van Halen. But as YOU. One of the greatest most important artists of all time. You know already if you’re that or not. You always have. Now just go be it and do it.”

Dealing With Back Pain & Spine Issues

April 27, 2021

So if you haven’t noticed, it’s been a while. You know a lot of times if someone is absent for a while it’s simply due to the fact that they’re really busy and having a blast living life. Other times it might be something more challenging. Truth is, we don’t know unless they tell us.
For the last few months Princess little tree and I have been unfortunately going through something more on the challenging side, while strangely also being really busy and (attempting to at least) having a blast enjoying living life.
It honestly didn’t even occur to me until the last day or two to even share this with anyone. Not kidding. Even my closest friends who I communicate with on a daily basis via text will find this news entirely new.
I’ve thought about this strange fact a little today. Part of it is just black and white practical: I’ve been in so much pain for the last few months that I haven’t thought about or done anything except just trying to get thru the next minute. (Pain is an incredible phenomenon. One of the reasons I finally decided to let this loose is because I’ve discovered some fascinating things about consciousness from being in excruciating pain, and over the next few weeks and months will most likely make note of them as they occur to me. So step one would be to let everyone know what’s going on so we have some context.)
I can hear you now… “Ambassador get to the freaking point man, Jesus!” Yeah I know. That’s the thing about not telling anyone something for a long time… You’re way ahead of them in your thoughts about it. Meantime, they don’t even know what you’re talking about.
Long story short, we’re facing a challenge with my spine. Yep. I know. Sounds crazy. Waited too long to tell anyone. It’s been a few months now. We’re already through the chiro, X-rays, cat-scans, orthopedic doctors, MRIs, radiologists, physical therapy, second and third opinions etc.
We’re also already well into the denial shock trauma anger sadness and fear phases as a family. I wish I could tell you “it’s this one thing and this is the game-plan”. Truth is, it’s a multiple of different issues. We’re as shocked as anyone else would be. The doctors have prioritized which are the most pressing in importance and we’ll be dealing with them in that order. If you’re into that kind of thing or interested, we can break down the details in a separate message.
It’s three pages of insanely technical medical-speak that features the word “severe” a lot. We are still in a state of mild shock about it, just typing it here, contemplating it, and we’ve been dealing with this for a few months now. Still doesn’t sound real to me, even though I’m experiencing it on a daily minute to minute basis. Just seems like we’re talking about someone else’s life. (I really believe now that the human mind does tend to warden off certain things when they seem “too big or horrible” to us. It puts up a metaphorical hand and says “Nah, not me.” It’s fascinating.)
Unfortunately pain is a major factor in this particular issue. So it’s hard to stay in denial. When you picture that “pain-chart” at the doctors office, the one with the faces on it from level 0 pain to level 10, I always figured level 10 pain would be akin to getting shot or stabbed or tortured or having a limb cut off… level 10 is the highest number on the chart.
Again, for context, so as a human community we can effectively communicate with one another. Charts are a great thing. So you have to go to the worst possible things you can imagine to get your head around level 10 pain. For about two months now I’ve been in level 7-9 pain. Excruciating is the most appropriate word I have found for it.
Yes, to answer your next logical question, i am on a lot of medications for it. 4-7 different ones, depending on the hour, all day long. My mind is a dark murky slow-churning swamp most of the time. But better than being in excruciating pain.
Re the denial, part of the reason I’m in this situation is because I just “ignored it” for so long. We’ve been told by the doctors that men have this unfortunate supernatural predilection for doing this compared to women, thinking if they ignore it it’ll go away or that they can “tough it out” or “power through it”. Because they’re “a man”. They’re strong. Tough. That’s what I did. I know a lot of guys that tend to do that. With a lot of different things.
I actually worked out more over the last year thinking “I just need to get stronger and I’ll beat this pain whatever it is”. It’s funny looking back now. But in a really sad way, because I ended up doing a lot more damage.
Yes my wife is really really mad. But her fear presently outweighs her anger thank God. Or not. Depends on how you look at it. The hardest part of this I’ll tell you flat out is #1, dealing with the pain. Because it’s a constant. It’s chronic. Your mind plays tricks on you. It fantasizes about “ending things so you can just get out of pain”. You have to be hyper-vigilant to defeat those thoughts. That’s the second hardest thing: trying to keep your sanity, remember who you are and remind yourself that you freaking love being alive.
The third hardest thing, for me, hands down, is watching what it’s doing to my wife and not being able to help her as i normally do with everything. Seeing her sadness, watching her break down and cry out of fear or feeling sorry for us. It’s heart breaking. It crushes my soul. For obvious reasons.
Bottomline, and here’s where it gets juicy from a widened-back philosophical human perspective, we’re at that point in the journey where we’re done examining researching exploring and talking to different experts in their field etc. The bottomline according to the doctors is I “need at least two separate surgeries or there’s a good chance I will be non-ambulatory in less than a year.” Yes we also had to ask what does “non-ambulatory” mean? We had no idea. Who does?
So yeah. We are as can be expected still in complete shock. But we’re also positive and ploughing ahead. It seems like it happened overnight. But they say it’s been progressing for a good ten years and that I “evidently just have a high tolerance for pain”.
This Wednesday I’m going in for spinal injections to reduce the inflammation, which should help reduce the pain and help us get to the next phase where we can schedule the first surgery. They will either do one long surgery to address three different issues or two separate smaller ones.
I know a lot of us in the world of art entertainment and intellect are not religious by nature, which i think is totally logical and understandable; and yet ironically most are “spiritual” in one sense or another. Especially if you’re friends with me or PLT.
As I told a mentor of mine, who happens to be a pastor, a few weeks back, I “would never ask anyone to pray for me for healing or to miraculously take this away, because there’s just way too much suffering in the world. Why on earth would I ever presume to request that I get a miracle when other people are suffering so much worse than I am?” Thats kind of where I land when it comes to this. My wife and my mom are not happy that I feel that way. But man I just don’t feel like I need it compared to other folks who have it much worse.
What I will ask and am asking for is that whatever cool magical beautiful spiritual thing you do in your day to day practice, put in a good word for me that I am able to deal with and integrate the mental and emotional challenges of this kind of thing. I’m having a tough time with anger, becoming easily annoyed and impatient. If you know me personally, you know that’s not like me. I’m a little perplexed by it. If anything, the Ambassador is a happy go lucky guy. But not lately.
I will say though that this experience has radically transformed my relationship with music, playing the guitar — honestly it’s more like bonding and becoming one with the guitar, and with songwriting and composition. I cannot adequately express with words how much joy playing the guitar and exploring different guitars has provided me with in the last few months since we got this news. It’s been a life saver.
More than anything, I’d like to ask you to send positive vibes to and for my wife. You know princess little tree is the sweetest person in the world. She’s like an angel on earth in human form. This has been hard for her. More than hard. And she’s had to pick up a lot of slack for both of us. Besides dealing with all the emotional challenges of this kind of event, which she doesn’t have much time to do because of the practical logistics of doing everything we need to to get through the process to fix this.
I honestly cannot imagine it — I freak OUT if she even gets a migraine! I go into a freaking panic inside. But she’s been dealing with this now for a few months. And so far she’s really hanging in there. Trying to integrate it emotionally in the mornings with friends and family before I wake up so she has a brave face during the day.
But it’s going to get more real starting this week. So I’d like to ask us all to lift her up and send her positive vibes and strength and courage, remembering the Divine’s infinite love and power. Keep her in your thoughts and prayers if that’s your thing.
As for me, to be perfectly honest I am not afraid. I am not worried. I’m strangely calm and confident about the path forward. The pain is unbearable and I’d like it to stop. We’re working on that. We have a good team. And a good plan. I get that life is an awesome adventure of ups AND downs. And that’s what makes it super fun and exciting. Way better than not being alive. Obviously I’m very hopeful and determined for the best possible outcome. We will keep you posted.

Damn I Love the Internet

March 21, 2021
1968 Hofner

There are a myriad of reasons why someone might exclaim “damn I love the internet!” Even in this age where there’s so much internet bashing going on.
I have this ‘68 Hofner acoustic guitar that I bought used by auction years ago. It’s in rough shape, but it sounds amazing! The guys in the band already know this. But out of the 20-25 acoustics I have, even over Gibson, Taylor, Martin, Fender, Epiphone, this just might be favorite. It has this rich full body punchy sound that just gets you way down deep.
I wanted to find out what model it is, look for others in similar years, and see if there were other models that might be even better to try. NOBODY talks about Hofner acoustic guitars. It’s just not a thing. The violin bass, sure. Mccartney made sure of that. But guitar players don’t rave or even talk about Hofner.
Last night I found this guy in the UK who created a whole website dedicated to vintage Hofner acoustic guitars. He’s been maintaining it since 1987! He’s more obsessed than I am.

So I emailed him, sent him a donation to maintain his site. And he just replied back saying if i sent him some pix of my German handcrafted beauty he’d check it out and fill me in on the model and history of it.
Damn I love the internet.

Taking Up The Cross

February 28, 2021

Lent has officially begun for those who celebrate it. For non-Christians, look at it as a very long red carpet that takes 40 days to walk down and eventually leads to and ends at the death and alleged Reserection of the Jewish rebel Jesus of Nazareth, what in the commercial world is known as Easter.
Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, events most people have heard of, are all related to this holiday of the Christian faith tradition.
[For historical clarification, “Easter” is a much older pagan holiday that predates Christianity by hundreds of years that was annexed by the Romans. For hundreds of years prior to Jesus it celebrated the spring equinox and the rebirth of the goddess from winter’s crone to spring’s beautiful young goddess of the harvest. Persians still celebrate the original intention of the holiday in Norooz. (The Romans also pulled the same switcharoo when they turned the centuries old holiday of Yule, which celebrated the winter equinox and the goddess Mithras, into “Christmas”, not having any idea of the actual birth day of Jesus, a fact we are still in the dark about. But don’t shoot the messenger. These are just important points of fact for context.)]
Over the past week we have once again started to personally participate in different small groups and forums with spiritually like minded folk to more deeply explore Lent and the Lenten practice.
[Note: Despite my more extreme cynical skeptical and agnostic views of the christian faith tradition from knowing far too well the questionable origins of it, I still find the opportunity to gain deeply needed spiritual fulfillment and social engagement from the practice helpful. And helpful is always good. So rather than let the gross imperial nature of Christianity as a whole (and lest we forget, Christianity, especially as it relates to the wicked and nefarious Holy Roman Empire, Vatican and Catholic Church, has been one of the most destructive and harmful institutions in human history, full stop) darken my heart and bar me from something that might do me some good, I embrace the more noble paths it has to offer, just as I do with Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Hinduism, Krishnaism, and even Islam. All heinously brutal and deadly power structures, but each offering their own moments of sublimely poetic spiritual nuggets.
If you got through that last paragraph head intact, gold star for you!
This last week the discussion subject has been about “what does it mean to take up the cross” as Jesus advised? We’ve heard a variety of answers from people.
One point of note we encountered was interesting: there’s a real distinction between the common phrases “to take up the cross” and “your cross to bear”, even though many people use the phrases interchangeably. “To take up the cross” implies more of a mission. Something you proactively do. “Your cross to bear” has a more passive implication, implying a burden you must carry whether you want to or not. Very different indeed.
The one thing I heard from others more than anything that stuck my attention was how people in today’s modern world have shifted in their own minds the meaning of Jesus’s admonition to “take up the cross” into a more new age call to “get more active and ambitious in achieving their own goals.” As if he was some metaphysical self-help guru or success coach helping people become wealthier or more successful.
That’s a rather peculiar take on a message that came from a man who encouraged his followers to abandon their jobs, money, homes and worldly possessions to more wholeheartedly go out and serve people. I copied and pasted some comments I made this week to various friends in some group chats below…
I believe it’s obvious what taking up the cross means in this context of following Jesus and what he advised. “Loving God with all your heart and serving your neighbor as yourself”. I.E. helping others. Serving those in need. Helping your community.
It’s not really about the self at all, and certainly not about ones personal ambitions. Volunteer. Serve others. Help wherever there is a need. Forget the self and reach out to and for other peoples. Give everything you have and more.
Jesus wasn’t talking about our personal goals or primaries. That’s just the new age materialistic view modern people turn it into because they’re so afraid of giving up their materialistic way of life so they can’t even consider what it really means. We’ve turned Jesus into a new age motivational speaker ala Joel Osteen because that better suits our mentality and desires in this day and age. But it couldn’t be more removed from his actual teachings.
What did Jesus ask Simon / peter to do? Get primary about catching more fish?!?! Hell no. He said quit fishing altogether and come follow me and help me HELP PEOPLE.
What about Saul/PAUL? Did he ask Saul to get more ambitious about working for the Romans and Jews to go kill even more Christians? Heck no. He blinded him for three days to get his attention and told him to join him in helping people get closer to God, become better people, and spread the good word of love and forgiveness and charity and giving.
Did he ask Matthew to get more primary about collecting even more taxes and make even more money for himself to rise up higher in his career? No. He said quit collecting taxes, forget your career and come follow me and let’s help some people.
Personal success and collecting money ONLY helps in so far as it permits us more time to be of service to others and make the world a better place. Collecting houses and material possessions is the exact opposite of taking up the cross. It’s a burden that distracts us from taking up the cross and helping make a positive difference in the world around us.
Think of the TV show Billions. These are the exact people Jesus would be going after if he were alive today.
Someone replied to me: “well Jesus taking the up the cross was HIS mission. My taking up the cross may be different. He didn’t say “go feed people.”” But of course, yes he did. That’s exactly what he said. And he certainly didn’t say “hey go create your own mission and if that’s becoming super successful and rich so you can live in a giant house ten times bigger than your own needs, so be it, that’s your cross.”
The cross just represents his moving forward with his ministry despite the fact that he knew he was going to be killed (on the cross). And he encouraged and sometimes pleaded for others to join him. So we have to ask “what was his ministry?”
His ministry was helping people.
He could have quit. Started playing by the rules. To avoid getting killed. But he didn’t. He went forward toward the cross. Kept on with his ministry.
Of course it wasn’t just about feeding people… it was also…

  • speaking truth to power against lies, money grubbing, being greedy and materialistic instead of sharing ones money with others who are needy.
  • encouraging people to be honest, have integrity, be more virtuous, less villainous.
  • encouraging people to not be greedy with their time but using it to volunteer and help others…. and help the community around them.
  • helping people not be so self focused on personal success and fame and approval but to humble themselves to get closer to god and serve those who are more needy.
    That was his whole trip.
    It’s hard for us now because we live in a deliberately materialistically society based on consumer capitalism to keep everyone buying so the society runs smoothly. So we’re blinded by that. So that other way of living is hard for us to contemplate let alone even consider imagining for ourselves. I get it. I’m the worst.
    But I do remain hopeful that every step I take in the direction of helping others and selfless service brings me closer to at least knowing that cross is there to take up. I even look at the little things… marching for Black Lives Matter, or LGBTQ rights, donations to Feeding America, taking those few extra minutes each day to sing happy birthday to people, or calling older folks who are in lockdown and might be lonely, remembering to text friends to tell them they’re awesome and I appreciate them.
    The thing is that we live in a very public and very selfish and competitive world now. Its always been this way. But it’s gotten much much worse. Getting a lot of money and fame has become the predominate way to stand out and feel good about yourself or others. Gone are the days when good deeds make someone cool or famous or popular.
    I’m Gen X, and if there’s one primary aspect of Gen X it’s that we shunned attention. Being UNcool and UNpopular were our calling cards. We tried hard to NOT try hard. We absolutely disdained the money grubbing extreme bougiouse ambitious trying and showing off of the boomers. Hence the nickname Slackers.
    It’s not that we didn’t care. We cared. A lot. We just didn’t care about those kinds of things. We did hallucinogens to explore consciousness. Our focus was the intellect the spirit the community the climate justice and quality rights for all. The world. Our souls.
    When we think of the anti-heroes of generation x we think of Matt Dillon in The Outsiders or Judd Nelson in Breakfast Club or Tyler Durden in Fight Club. Three of my personal favs. Deliberarely shunning the materialistic societal norms of working hard to buy more stuff and climb the corporate ladder to look better in the eyes of others.
    Get that new car. Lease it if you can’t afford it. Buy that new house. Brag about your new job so you can tell your friends about it over dinner at that new place in town. Made me sick back then as a kid. Still makes me sick.
    There’s also Ferris Beuller… skip school which is what society says you’re supposed to be doing and instead go take advantage of being alive and enjoy it. The boomers were materialistic posers. Authenticity and sucking the nectar out of each minute was our thing.
    NOW it’s all changed of course. The new gens are not just focused but obsessed with proving to other people they exist and they’re relevant by showing it off publicly and from getting the approval of others. They don’t go look at mountains. They Instagram mountains. If they happen to see a mountain while they’re at it, so be it. But that’s not the goal. It’s a sad state of affairs. And we’re all to blame for letting things get this bad for them.
    The end result being that they’re so obsessed with keeping up appearances to prove their self worth through the eyes of others that service to others has all but left their cultural consciousness. If they march for some cause it’s to get a good shot for Snapchat or Insta, more like attending a rave.
    Social media celebrities and influencers have become their heroes. You ask “so what’s their cause? What’s their big mission?” And they respond “what? Being famous silly!” It’s fucked up.
    I’ll share a little anecdote with you here because it’s appropriate for where we’re at in this post. Our oldest daughter was in lockdown with us for almost a year. And one day my music career came up.
    Fast forwarding twenty minutes into the conversation she asks me “hold on now! You and your band deliberately tried to NOT have hit songs?!?! What the f*^k?!?” “Yeah dude. If I heard us skating too close to something that sounded commercial I knew we were on the wrong track and I’d change it up to make it more experimental or artistic. Our goal wasn’t to have hits. It was to be cool, smart, artistic. More like Picasso or Einstein or David Lynch.” “But You’re IN the music business! Having hits is your goal!” “Nah dude. Being known as brilliant artists is our goal little dude. Ask mom.”
    Princess Little Tree chimed in: “Honey I couldn’t believe it either. When I first met Ed and he told me about Rise and Shine and how he was singing in ten different languages and the songs were all five to ten minutes long… I asked him “how is thst ever going to be played on the radio?” And he replied “well hopefully it never will be.” I couldn’t believe it! I thought he was joking! But he wasn’t. His goals were totally different than what we normally think for musicians. He thought he was Michaelangelo! I had to BEG him to make ONE album just for me that was commercial. Just as a favor to me. Which he did thank God. Ballad On Third Avenue. But i had to produce it for them!!!! So we could eat and have a roof over our heads! Silly boy!”
    So yeah that’s a bit off topic. But it exemplifies the differences in generations. Gen X takes pride in shunning the cultural norms of fitting in, sucking the corporate teet to show off for the approval of others. Celebrity means nothing if you didn’t get there authentically and organically and on your own terms.
    And to us there has to be a big dose of being of service. Helping others. To serving the world. We take up the cross by not giving in to societal pressures that tell you that you have to show off or fit in or be somebody in the eyes of others regardless of what you’re actually doing to help people or not.
    We are committed and determined to work tirelessly till everyone enjoys equal rights, till homelessness and hunger are eradicated, till everyone is accepted and embraced for who they are, till political lobbying is outlawed, till politicians start actually working for us as they’re supposed to, till the imperialistic power structures that have dominated human society are brought to their knees. So corporations don’t pay 40% fewer taxes than hard working struggling people, and on and on and on. We’ve accomplished a lot. But we’re just getting started. Join us.

There Will Be No Impeachment, But There Should Be

February 12, 2021

Well there it is. Trump defense attorneys were well prepared and just made incredibly valid points supporting their claim that he should not be impeached by the senate for the capital siege. They are in the process of presenting countless examples of extremist calls for violence and uprisings by people on the left as a means to justify and defend Trump’s words and actions.
The unfortunate result will be a stalemate that leaves America ever more prone and vulnerable to further violence as the people on both sides fight amongst themselves for some kind of middle ground.
As someone who’s been in the center of large marches and protests all over the country for the last 25 years I will freely admit that yes we were always aware that we were primarily comprised of people either on the left or staunchly independent — it never occurred to us that Republicans would take to the streets. Activism and grass roots movements seemed to always belong to the radical left. It was a given. Taken for granted.
And though we never participated in any kind of violence or vandalism we were always keenly aware those activities followed grassroots movements around. We witnessed it constantly and always tried to dissuade others from doing it.
Yes the BLM movement was often punctuated by incessant violence throughout the summer. I personally expressed concern repeatedly on social media about us having to fall asleep to the sound of bombs and gunshots all night for months in NYC, and witnessed three men gun down another in the street right in front of me. A surreal and traumatizing event. Posted it to Instagram. Didn’t feel like it helped our mission.
After two and half decades active in mass change movements I have almost come to expect and accept that a little bit of violence and vandalism is a natural part of the path towards massive sociopolitical change in our culture.
Do I feel differently now that those on the right have suddenly woken up to discover the value of activism? Let me answer it this way: mid-summer I was so frustrated by and pissed off at elected officials on both sides of the aisle for not doing anything to pass stimulus quicker for the millions of Americans who were hurting, while corporations were receiving billions of aid, that I seriousky considered promoting a campaign of mass vandalism of banks, financial institutions and governmental buildings. I would be the first to do it to inspire others.
But before I acted I reached out to several trusted friends to ask them what they thought of my plan. They all encouraged me to NOT do it. They said I could achieve the same results and help express peoples’ discontent through cooler less violent means. More aligned with The Ambassador. So I didnt proceed. Looking back I am grateful for those friends and their sage advice.
And that’s where I come down in regards to the Right’s sudden discovery of street activism. Activists are notoriously smart. Intimidatingly so usually. I can tell you that personally from experience. They’re well read on the issues and well informed.
There were and are two distinct groups active for Black Lives Matter: one was the initial emotional RE-action of the mob, highlighted by quick impulses to commit violence vandalism and mayhem, a phenomenon we often see whenever humanity encounters events that are shocking and atrocious. The other was the more subdued and rational but resolute actions in the streets by the majority who chose to peacefully march chant and carry signs for months everyday to get the basic message across: Black Lives Matter.
The problem with the Trump supporters’ sudden foray into activism were multifold: what they were protesting was a lie. There was no stolen election. There was no underlying issue they were fighting for. They had been deceived and they hadn’t taken the time to research the issue itself. Secondly, their initial response was a primitive irrational and emotional rush to violence which ultimately killed 6 people.
Behind every street protest you see there is always a compound of insanely intelligent folks in rooms working the research, the phones, communicating with the media, honing and steering the message and the ship at large. They inform how those in the street act and what they do. They give intelligent data and direction to the people in the streets so it’s not just unplugged emotion and pandemonium.
The mob that stormed the capital on January 6th had no inteligencia posted in a room guiding them or giving them direction. If they had they wouldn’t have stormed the capital. They would have understood like the majority of Americans that there was no underlying issue to protest. They also would have chosen a safer, less violent, more intelligent and compassionate and more creative manner to express their dissent (had their dissent been in any way justifiable, which it wasn’t.)
Consider for a moment the massive Women’s Marches and Anti-Trump Marches we witnessed the week after the Trump inauguration in 2017. Both Princess little tree and I were in those marches. We were millions strong. All over the United States. No one got hurt. The issue was valid. The message was clear — we support women, immigrants, Muslims, Latinos and the LGBTQ community and we object to Trump’s policies that deny their rights. The spectacle was creative. The events were peaceful.
The marches and protests and activism exhibited by pro-Trump supporters over the last four year’s have been consistently plagued by violence ugliness and an underlying xenophobic racist and homophobic tone. It’s undeniable. It doesn’t imply that all republicans share those views. But the onus is on every single Republican to shake loose the stain that Trump has left on the party by his refusal to reject or denounce the actions taken in his name by these groups of misguided thugs.
The GOP will never again garner the respect of Americans or the world if it does not take this action decisively. And until such time those of us who’ve been in the trenches of grassroots activism for years will always look upon any attempt at activism by those on the right with fear and trepidation.
The goal of activism is a noble goal. The mission is founded in purity of heart, compassion, peace, intelligence; it is well thought out and it never resorts to violence. Most importantly it has an underlying issue it supports that it believes is vital. It is not blind. It is not a mob. It is never waged behind the false and incoherent ramblings of a madman or a sore loser spewing lies.
Regarding the senate impeachment hearing of Donald Trump, at this point it doesn’t matter what we believe one way or the other. Their defense team’s arguments have been enough for senate members on the right to feel safe and justified to vote no to impeaching.
Truth is we’ve been heading down a road of more and more violence in the streets from both sides. Both sides feeling justified. And both sides are justified in feeling “horrified” by what they’ve seen by those who they perceive as being “the enemy”.
The problem America may face after these proceedings is a shared feeling of righteous justification to incite further violence and insurrection in the streets and against our elected leaders and governmental seats nationwide. This is the big risk Republican lawmakers face. Through their fear of retribution by Trump supporters in their own party and through their cowardly desire to maintain their seats of power, their no votes may be viewed as condoning the barbarous acts of January 6th, inflicting an increase of violence on American life in the months and years to come.
If you ask me I believe we just barely escaped the worst outcomes after the disturbing attempts made by radicals on the right to threaten the lives and homes of elected officials as they tried to reverse the election results. In my humble opinion things never would have veered so far astray had those on the right not been lied to repeatedly about a “stolen election” by the president, or if he hadn’t repeatedly encouraged such behavior or even if he would have just chosen at some point to talk his supporters down for the sake and safety of the country.
I am reminded of that rally in ‘08 when a McCain supporter yelled out “Obama is an Arab islamic terrorist!” and an obviously disturbed McCain nobly spoke up and reprimanded the man saying “Hey hey we don’t say those kinds of things. That’s not true. It’s not true.” I was so proud to be American in that moment.
Unfortunately for all of us Trump was never able to embody the integrity decency or nobility of John McCain. And because of that unfortunate fact his supporters and the GOP itself has lost all memory of those once cherished values. Fortunately, Joe Biden seems to be cut from the same cloth as McCain and is now displaying for us all how valuable those values are. He embodies them.
The problem is that Trump never stepped up to the role of president to decry or denounce the barbarous acts taken in his name on January 6th. Instead he looked upon them with glee and enthusiasm. He praised those who perpetrated them, going so far as saying he loved them. He never spoke up to defend the constitution or the democratic ideals that govern us by simply announcing that the results of the election appear in all manner to be legitimate and that he humbly accepts the loss and encourages his supporters to do the same. He never acknowledged that Joe Biden is now the president.
Because of these unfortunate facts we may be facing an unparalleled escalation of violence in the streets and against public officials by rightwing extremists who still believe the big lie that Trump has never taken back. I must admit I am fearful for our president, for our Speaker, for the former Vice President and for anyone on either side who doesn’t happen to side with Trump or his murderous band of extremist thugs.
It is also for the above reasons that I believe that a good case can be made for the senate to impeach Trump and be perfectly justified. Forget whether he instigated or incited the siege on our nations capital. The real crux of his unforgivable and treasonous transgressions is that he stood by and did nothing while his supporters perpetrated the crimes.

And he never once had the integrity honor or even patriotism of a valid president to denounce their heinous actions on that day. We would expect no less from a president. And yet he couldn’t find within him an ounce of that courage or moral fiber to do what we all not only expect but need as a nation. That’s reason enough to impeach and convict the man. As sad as it may be for all of us, it is vital and necessary.

Death Man, Death. Death Is In, Death Is In

February 6, 2021

2 weeks ago we were down in Florida due to our dad passing away from the virus. Got home Monday and the next day we learned that our eldest cousin, my uncle’s firstborn, passed away suddenly. A few days later my buddy Stretch called me crying because he just learned his 30 year old nephew had died. A few days later our drummer Infinito learned that his mom had died from the virus down in Bolivia. We spoke this morning, both of us crying. He’s devastated. Justifiably so.
As I type all this it seems impossible that it can all be real. Denial. I’ve been sick with various maladies for a few weeks. Saw four different doctors this week. Hard to even keep track of the different things we’re talking to the doctors about. It’s occurred to me that this physical breakdown is probably due to the impossible task of trying to mentally and emotionally integrate this bombardment of tragedy and death everywhere.
One death overshadows the one before and so on. And then you come back to that prior one. And then back to the next one and the next. An endless cycle.
What I’ve been trying to do at a minimum is stay in touch with family and friends as much as possible to communicate with and support them through this hard time. Physically I’m down for the count. I think that’s part of the process. Mentally I’m in a foggy daze. Not even aure what I feel. I know what I’m supposed to feel. But it’s too much. Too heavy.
My brother texted me earlier and just wrote “horrible times man” about all of it. There’s a part of me that wants to acknowledge that. Hard to argue with it. Another part of me wants to believe that any minute we’re going to come out of it and everything is going to be great again. And admittedly things are “great” for some people; those who haven’t been touched in any way by the virus.
Though I do believe we were all traumatized if not permanently scarred by the surreal insanity and horror of the last four years we just came out of. For many of us we weren’t around for the tragedy and chaos of the 60s or vietnam or watergate etc. These were just stories we read about years later. We didn’t fully understand the deep seated trauma those years had on society or each person individually. It really wasn’t until the last few years that we had a personal experience of it ourselves.
That kind of shock and horror. A visceral experience. The way it kept builidng, each day worse than the last, going to bed each night and waking up everyday for years terrified of what we’d hear next from the White House. The way it continued to get worse and worse and culminated in a horrific tragic and terrifying ending on January 6th.
I’d like to report that the survival of the republic as evidenced by the surreal inauguration healed all the wounds inflected. Granted it was a relief. They tried hard. They did their best. We all did. But we’ll always look back at those weeks as a swirling mess of emotions. How could we not? We had just come out of the capital riots and mass deaths were still circling our day to day lives hourly.
As valiant an attempt as the inauguration tried to be — and it had many moments, it couldn’t, and shouldn’t, dispel the shock we had and have all lived through. A part of me feels that we owe it to ourselves and to those who passed to remember. To grieve. To mourn. To contemplate. Not forever perhaps. But definitely not cut it too short.
Frankly I’m not sure I’d be able to cut it short even if I wanted to. I’m trying to do what’s right. To feel what’s right. To be respectful of the near half a million of our fellow citizens who have died this past year.
And as well to honor the anger I feel toward the pansy-assed members of the GOP who didn’t have the courage or nobility to stand up for what’s right or sacred in our democracy. I miss guys like John McCain a lot. Mitt Romney comes to mind. Thank God for him. But we need more of them. It can’t just be 5 to 10 Republicans out of tens of millions who see things straight. What’s to stop it from happening again?
I can hear friends now advising me that I’m confusing and conflating the issues. This mass explosion of death all around us with the deeply divided politics destroying us from within. But it’s hard for me not to. Both events have deeply affected us. I’ll never dismissively ignore division or coups or civil wars in other countries again, as if “it’s not my business”.
Nor will I ever again take for granted the cooperative peace and unity we enjoy in the U.S. That’s something to cherish and work on maintaining. It’s a noble goal.
In my mind i keep hearing that scene from All That Jazz play… “Death man… death man… Death is in… death is in….” If we picture the Vietnam memorial in DC, as large and foreboding as it is, we’d need ten of those to honor the fallen of just the past year. None of us are getting away from that reality unscathed. Only the coldest and most heartless among us perhaps.
Don’t get me wrong. I want to. I’m beyond overwhelmed and over it like everyone else. People are now starting to talk about the coming “roaring 20s”… I find it hard to go there still being surrounded by so many passing. It feels disrespectful.
In Tenet, people from the future are willing to destroy everyone in the past in order to save themselves in the future. Part of me feels like that’s what we’re trying to do now… Sacrificially ignoring everyone who has stacked up in the afterlife in order to move on with all of us who are “still alive”.
But that may just be part of the grieving and integration process. I get that. I think it may come down to those who have lost someone and those who haven’t. At some point we do all have to move on. If we had any hard proof of an afterlife maybe we could pick and choose… But we don’t. So the only thing we do have is our innate instinct as organic life forms to keep going, here, in life. We owe it to them I suppose. Or not. I’m torn about that theory frankly. Again, probably part of the grieving process.
I guess what it comes down to for me is this deeply rooted feeling that we need to do our absolute best to honor those who passed this past 12 months.
We didn’t do a good job of it over the last year. Due to inept leadership we ignored and denied and dishonored our dead because it wasn’t “politically convenient”. It was the greatest shared national shame I’ve ever experienced since I’ve been alive.
Luckily that’s changed. But we still have work to do. We need to acknowledge our shared loss, name them in our hearts and out loud, remember them, honor them, recognize that it’s okay that we miss them and love them and mourn for them. And then eventually, hopefully, we can all heal.

It’s Not Cancel Culture. It’s Course Correction. And It’s Been a Long Time Coming

February 3, 2021

There are a lot of legends and myths being promoted at the moment in America. For a variety of different reasons. All of them selfish and none of them helpful to the greater good. We have to be careful about what we hear and how we allow it to affect us. Often times the most popular “celebrities” aren’t the most talented, the most celebrated songs shows and movies aren’t the best or highest quality. We live in age now where the most famous are not of any historic import. And the most important historical figures aren’t even famous

The popular memes and narratives propagated by the media are often temporary lobs they throw up to see if they stick, their primary goal being to get attention for themSELVES, in order to make more money for themselves. We make a fatal error when mistakenly assuming their goal is to inform or educate, or improve society in any way.

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What We Focus On Forms Who We Are

February 1, 2021
In the mid-90s just after Broken Spectacles broke up I felt a little lost for a while. We were all going to go solo from there. I wasnt quite sure what my “thing” was after being part of the “Eddie and Matt” monster for so long.
Caught a local Marilyn Manson show one night… Cant remember why. Brian was a fellow scenester, but it wasn’t our style of music. Just something to do. Turns out that show had a major impact on me and the direction I would go in over the next decade.
What I witnessed that night was similar to many other Manson shows thru the years. An onslaught of shock schtick pain hatred horror and extreme negativity. All in the name of doing something different to get attention. We were accustomed to it in the local scene, because we’d watched Brian and the guys come up since the beginning.
It was never about the music. It was more of a voyeuristic thing to see who he was going to hit or whip or torture or gag or what he was gojng to pee on or set afire. In the beginning, we were all so young, it was I suppose just another “thing” we did being part of the scene. It was a happening. Just like any other show.
But this night was a few years later. I remember standing there, as this loud pounding aggressive music raged against a backdrop of posters that read “your parents hate you” god hates you” etc. thinking to myself “well this is becoming a viable thing now, this kind of deep level negativity as an influence. Imagine the polar opposite of that. That… that could be YOUR thing man. That already IS your thing. You just need to develop it more overtly so it’s clear what it is and so it has an actual effect.
After hearing that in my head I left the venue. A song or two in. I got what I came for. I entered that show feeling a bit lost and without a mission. I left a half hour later with a very clear mission. I was the anti-Manson. The Ambassador. Ah hah! In any way i could i would use the albums and the shows as a positive influence to affirm life and joy and peace and love. It was simple.
True story. Hadn’t thought about this or even remembered it till seeing this story this weekend.

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Challenging Times

June 10, 2020

I don’t know about you. But lately I’ve been starting to break, physically beginning to feel the mental and emotional strain caused by an unshakable intuitive feeling of fear that we’re deliberately being f*^ked with by some higher power or unstoppable force from beyond. Can’t say for sure what specific event it was in the last few days….

One would think by the time we spiraled from unfathomable numbers of deaths from a global virus into 3 months of being forcibly locked in our homes into a Great Depression-level economic collapse simultaneously contrasted with a frighteningly imbalanced wicked-seeming illogically bifurcated financial market into black lives finally mattering a little but not enough revealing a disturbing innate national racism yielding masses of protests for weeks on end down into a very sudden and discomforting disappearance of national leadership into a gutter of inanely childish and crazy behavior coming out of the White House on an hourly basis with far too many stories about a deranged self-obsessed psychopath occupying the position of POTUS (once considered “the most important job on earth” but now unanimously viewed as a laughing stock by the rest of the world) much of it coming from his own fellow Republicans — with fear not logic or nobility being the only apparent impediment to the whole lot of them banding together to publicly concede they made a terrible and dangerous mistake, meanwhile the other side of the sinister corporate duopoly that controls the entire country of 360 million people are attempting to run a man who it appears may not make it to the election let alone through a presidency and they won’t budge on their pick despite the overwhelming disinterest in him — the pressing question being WHY?!? — reported simultaneously with stories of a rapidly deteriorating and corrupt justice system and “serious concerns that the current president may be the biggest threat to national security by top military brass” simulcast with eerily under-covered impending wars between China and India, China and Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, China and Japan, Europe considering banning Americans (?!?), “white power” competing with “black power” for slogan of the year in a democratic republic allegedly the most proudly culturally diverse “melting pot” on earth, statues coming down faster than can be counted, Americans with guns lots of guns, Iran (jeez, seriously guys, now?!?) and Israel (seriously guys, now?!?) global food shortages, global food supply poisonings, random fireworks and gun shots every night for hours accompanying a triple digit increase in gun deaths and a constant onslaught of pandemic deniers and conspiracy theories flooding social discourse every day by normally intelligent folks but which boggle the mind… The hope of reopening quickly fading as the deniers are fast-morphing into the walking dead claiming “there’s nothing wrong with us. Stop staring at us. We’re fine,” pulling out their shotguns and rifles as if to signal “yes we’re as stupid and crazy as you’ve always Imagined, now go on and git”

But frankly I was doing okay. In spite of it all. Just doing my thing. Trying to survive, keep my family alive healthy and happy, maybe make a difference here and there when i could. And then suddenly I start getting these random messages from various friends around the world, normal intelligent well balanced folks usually, sheepishly talking about their recent bouts with anxiousness and depression… my initial response being “yeah of course man… the world is on fire… it’s normal… just try to hang on…it’ll get better.”

And then suddenly it starts hailing at around 6 pm. Out of nowhere on a hot wet sweltering steaming summer day, frozen ice starts falling from the sky. The sound is piercing and deafening. I keep wiping my eyes, opening and closing them, assuming I’m seeing things. Maybe i took a nap and I’m dreaming. It’s 90 degrees outside. How is there ice falling from the sky?

But we’re still not talking about the insane fact that the US military quietly admitted that it’s been seeing UFOs in the skies for a few decades now a few months back.

The problem isn’t all the bad news. It’s the overwhelming quantity of it, combined with the new surreal strangeness of it all and the fact that it’s so damn alarming out of our hands and weird that most people are going numb to it. I get it. Eat sleep work eat sleep work. Invent a God because there’s no visible way out of this insanity at our level. Note to self: add prayer to eat sleep work. Maybe it’ll help.

And our kids. God our poor f*^king kids. That whole generation… All three of them really… I keep trying to underplay how bad everything is when they break down and cry and mention it… I try to play it cool, like we all had our problems. This is no different.

It occurs to me that none of this is new. What generation hasn’t felt this way since humankind first awoke to self awareness on planet earth? Frightened confused boggled overwhelmed terrified. Sumerian Babylonian Persian Greek Roman Jewish Christian Muslim Gods were all constructed from such base human feelings.

Compared to the Ice Age or the so called Dark Ages or the Plague surely we have it better… It’s become a daily meditation. But honestly… the thought though completely rational doesn’t make me feel any better. How is it for you?

The Divided States of America — The Two State Solution

November 3, 2019

Find the original essay

“Ultimately the only hopeful future I see for the United States is the end of the union. The East and West coasts should split off from the Midwest and the South and let them slide back into fascism on their own before they drag the rest of the continent down with them. You’ll have take in a lot of refugees, but at least you’ll know they’re people you want. The Civil War was a colossal waste of time. You should have cut those dropkicks loose while you had the chance.”

Duncan Kimball I summarily proposed this idea and seriously reviewed and contemplated the ramifications in an essay about 15 months ago. It is something that more people are talking about now here. I tend to agree with you on the idea in a general sense. It FEELS like a rational solution from the birds eye point of view.

A few things:

1. I don’t believe that either group would be opposed to the idea at this point as much as they might have 10-30 years ago. That gung-ho patriotism that Americans once purported to feel, 35 years ago for instance — exemplified by the tons of “yay America” songs that hit the Top 40, or even 18 years ago circa 9/11 – wrapped up in the once common idea that “we need to stay together to keep America strong” has long faded. People just argue and scream at each other now. From the comfort of their own private little niche groups of other like minded people.

2. The problem will come down to resources. Just as during the civil war these two disparate groups were really fighting over the fact that the North knew damn well it needed the agri resources of the South, the south will now argue that it needs the major industries of the Northeast and West Coast. Which is true. So both sides will be forced to have to negotiate a fair trade agreement and figure out how that’s going to work.

3. Do they separate as sovereign states but unified nationally re things like the military ala the EU?

4. Some opponents to this idea have pointed out that it wouldn’t be fair, because for example liberally leaning people would be forced to move, leave their families and jobs etc. And vice versa.

5. Wouldn’t these two already warring factions eventually wind up going to war over the various industries and resources that they both possess if they no longer have a federal mandate to stay together and get along?

6. Where do Independents like me fit in? I guess we’d be free to choose where we live….

7. Would we allow switching? If one is not happy with their chosen nation, would they be free to move a year or two or five years later?

8. How do we stop people from taking advantage of the system out of greed etc? People who will want to live in liberal America because those are “their people” but then want to live part time in “conservative America” for tax purposes etc? Or vice versa?

It’s a lot to work out. But THIS is definitely something I’d like to explore more.