Friday, April 3, 2009

Getting My FUNK Back and Catching a Virus... Thoughts in the aftermath of Cornel West's Visit

Greetings to my friends and bloggers around the world. I'm taking a break from my academic writing otherwise known as my dissertation for some Gonzo 2.0. In case you're still wondering why I call this Gonzo 2.0, this is my tribute to the great Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, creater of Gonzo journalism and, to me, the godfather of the blog. Before I get into the heart and matter of this posting, a few shout-outs are de rigueur...

First, thanks to all my friends who showed me some love over my mom's surgery this week. Mom had a procedure to fix a hernia; she did quite well and right now she's recovering at home, taken care of by the one man I really want to be like when I grow up: My DAD! Thanks, gracias, merci, spasibo, muito obrigado, for your thoughts and prayers. I know they did make a difference and you'll get the same from me if either you or yours needs some moral support from me. Don't hesitate to ask! Any good you do to my family, I give it back a trillionfold, no hyperbole there!

Second, thanks to good friend Juan José and his laborious efforts, I'll be going to see U2 at Soldier Field in September! It's awesome and I look forward to that concert! Third, a big shout-out to my sister, who's turning Three-Zero at the end of the month! That's pretty awesome and I hope your shindig, whatever it is that you do as a shindig, goes effin'-A great! You deserve that! 

That's it for the time being. Now, on to the main event...

Thoughts After Listening to Cornel West: Bringing Funky Back, Inspoken/Outspoken, and Spreading a New "Pandemic"

Yesterday, a few of us, never mind, a few were that small horde of what I think were frat boys and sorority girls in shorts and swimsuits running on Wright and Daniel Streets to catch a bus to go to the random big party of the month sponsored by the (insert random Greek letters here) frasorterority on campus. There were a lot of us flocking to Foellinger to hear one of the greatest minds of the last 50 years: Dr. Cornel West (no relation to Kanye, so don't go there!), of The Matrix Trilogy fame and a professor at Princeton... one of the truest and most illustrious provocateurs of our modern day. His talk was about how the Dream, à la Martin Luther King, Jr., was still in process of realization and how the Obama administration gave all of us, regardless of creed, color, orientation, or nationality, a chance to really build a society where justice, equity, and being your brother's keeper would mean something again. Those were strong words from a strong mind. I will summarize three salient points right now...

1. Brinking FUNKY Back - Or why the FUNK is actually a good thing?

One thing that Dr. West said, and which I had the chance to share with my friend Abel aka Terco Chicanogradstudent on Facebook was how Dr. West talked about the mainstream efforts to "deodorize the FUNK." It made me realize how even the dictionaries have a negative connotation for funk. A quick look at the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary offered these entries: 
1. a strong offensive smell; 
2. 1 a: a state of paralyzing fear b: a depressed state of mind; 2: one that funks : coward; 3: slump 1 funk> funk>

As you can see, no wonder we need to "deodorize the funk!" That actually made me realize that we need to start listening to James Brown A LOT more often. You see, JB is one of the masters of Funk, along with the great George Clinton and his Parliament Funkadelic. JB really showed the world what the Funk was about when he proclaimed, in the heat of the Civil Rights movement, "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!" (he also acknowledged that even if this is a man's world, we're nothing without a good woman, but that's for another day!). In this sense, one can argue that this Funk is a counternarrative to those negative connotations. That maybe it is NOW that I'm into a Funk, that my mind is in the right place and right time, that my thoughts are flowing more clearly than ever and that I'm getting my sting and my voice back in my writing. 

It also means that having the Funk, as Dr. West said, was all about not losing one's identity, one's flavor, one's style, and one's joie de vivre, if you will. That maybe there's method to the madness in the rhythmic works of the Funk and that we need to start hearing the music more often to actually leave that provoked funk and get into a real Funk, where ideas flow and feelings are real... that's also part of the "Pandemic" I'll talk about later...

2. MJ - Great Highlights... and that's it (With Apologies to any and all MJ's fans)

One of the students who was fortunate enough to raise a question asked Dr. West about his thoughts on the dearth of outspoken [black] athletes. Dr. West was quick to point what have become Exhibits A and B of the inspoken (yes, I just made up a word... I found a blog that's named "inspoken" but that's more like this dude intend to remain anonymous... in case you're wondering, Inspoken would be the polar opposite of Outspoken, especially in a socio-political context) [black] athlete: Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Tiger's case, well, he's still got time to go on the lofty goals his father had to be a changer. Sure, Tiger may have done a lot of charity work that may go untold and uncredited, and it should be kept that way. If anything, that's the Christian way of doing charity! But, as Tiger has realized in the aftermath of Obama, this is not a time to remain silent or on the sidelines. He, as much as or even more than Barack, can be a voice that shows us that this is supposed to be a multicultural millennium (especially since his children will be even more multiracial than he was!) and I got this feeling that he's starting to react...

Which brings us to MJ...

You see, I'm an admirer of MJ's game. He was one of the seven legitimate revolutions in the NBA (another blog that I owe you all!!!!), he changed the game, for better and worse, in ways that we're yet to even appreciate. He was as clutch as there'll ever be; he was ultracompetitive, a passionate athlete, and his tenure is not just a chapter, but a whole tome in the lore of the NBA. He's earned every accolade he's been bestowed upon, and his inclusion in the Naismith Hall of Fame deserves not even its own wing, it deserves building another floor just for His Airness alone. So, you see, I'm not a hater of MJ the player... I'm still more fond of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar though.

However, we cannot deny that right after the highlights, the dunks, the jams, the clutch shots, and the Flu Game, a lot of people will always remember this next to MJ:

"Republicans buy shoes too!"

Yup, that was his response when asked once about Jesse Helms, that controversial senator from North Carolina. Forgive me if I sound sacrilegous, but one man cannot come and step up on the rich tradition of athletes who were not afraid to fight the good fight from the arena of the arena. "Republicans buy shoes too" is a slap in the face to the struggles of Jackie Robinson and the ball players in the Negro Leagues, the ostracism that Tommie Smith and John Carlos faced after Mexico '68, the death threats and letters filled with racial slurs and the N word that Hank Aaron received on a daily basis as he was pursuing Babe Ruth's home run record. It's disregarding the statements, on and off the field, of people like Jim Brown or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It's ignoring the scrutiny that Muhammad Ali faced once he refused to go to Vietnam. Do you realize how different it would have been if Smith and Carlos hadn't stood up for what they believed and have gone "Republicans buy shoes too" in Mexico '68? Or if Ali had gone RBST and chosen to go to Vietnam and fight? 

Would we still respect Ali as a man as much as we do today? Would Smith and Carlos be revered and given their due as history so rightfully has today? Would we remember the plights of Jackie Robinson on Hank Aaron with the same passion and utmost respect? Probably not. 

And that's why MJ deserves to be in the Basketball Hall of Fame... and that's it!

3. There's a new Pandemic, a new Virus in town... and you'd be better off catching it! 

One thing that Dr. West said and that resonated highly in me was, 

"You see too many echoes and not enough voices."

It made me recall pretty quickly the lines from Violeta Parra, "si se calla el cantor, calla la vida" (if the singer's silent, life is silent). We need more voices out there, we need to reclaim what's rightfully ours, that was the rallying cry that Cornel West was bringing us. In a way, think of him as another Morpheus, one of several out there, that's inviting us, intriguing us, challenging us, to take the RED PILL and avoid the BLUE PILL at all costs.

You see, that's where the Virus I'm telling you about comes in. There's a new virus going on, it's airborne and it's socially, enviromentally, and even sexually transmitted! It's called INFORMATION! It's called KNOWLEDGE! It's called CRITICAL THINKING! It's called OPINION! It has many strains and varieties. The trick is, unlike other viruses, it's easier to get innoculated from it...

All you have to do is just keep watching what you usually do. Yes, I mean your Tila Tequila, your Hannah Montana, your reality shows on VH1, the Real World (MTV, one day history will remember you at the same level as the Spanish Inquisition and the III Reich for the damage you did to the world, MARK MY WORDS!!!!!), Lost (very adequate name, wouldn't you think?), etc. Don't get me wrong, I like watching TV and I have my guilty pleasures, like Law and Order. But I actually like my life better since I had to cancel cable because I couldn't afford it a few years ago. I watched enough television in my childhood to last me 4 lifetimes... I learned a lot of English and useless facts in the process, and I ended up doing some of my research about how to better use it in EFL classrooms... but I digressed...

I'm not saying stop watching TV, or do if you want... I'm just saying that most of today's TV is the medium and the massage (paraphrasing Marshall McLuhan) that relaxes your brain. Granted, there are efforts out there like the Daily Show and the Colbert Report that are trying to use comedy (as Edward Vizenor would argue) to tilt the mainstream discourse on its axis and show it for what it is: A sad joke at best and a fraud at worst. 

The Virus, the pandemic, is out there! People like Annie Leonard, to whom I was acquainted thanks to my good friend Andrés Salas, and her efforts to take George Carlin's idea that what I own is stuff and what others own is just shit to a whole new level with her video "The Story of Stuff." You see, the Virus has an interesting effect: It's like the sunglasses in John Carpenter's movie, "They Live": It lets you see the truth behind the curtain! It shows you that there may be one "Inconvenient Truth" (as Al Gore would say) but that there are also a lot of "inconvenient truths" that need to be unmasked and put to shame like any Mexican Luchador who loses his mask in a Máscara contra Cabellera (mask vs. hair) event. They need to be called for what they are. 

The Pandemic is getting out of control, even if they don't want you to notice! And governments are noticing! It's no surprise that some governments are trying to "shut down Skynet" (a quick ref to the Terminator movies) because they do know that Skynet is not going anywhere and that Judgment Day is not going to be about a nuclear catastrophe... but about people who are getting their FUNK back and are ready to start holding every last one of them accountable for their sins and crimes. But, you can't shut down Skynet no matter how hard you try and sooner or later, Judgment Day will be upon all of them too.

You see, the Virus is out there and THIS TIME, it can't be contained!!! I don't know if the revolution will be televised, as Gil Scott-Heron (BIG shout-out to Mr. Mertz - my favorite DJ not only because he knows how to work the turntables but because he has the intellectual soundbites to back up his mixes when the music's off - for the reference to the name!), but I know that thanks to a few mavericks out there not named lonelygirl14, the Revolution will be Blogged, Facebooked, and Twittered for and BY a lot of us... 

A lot of people like those few of us that weathered the storm to fill the seats at Foellinger nto listen to Cornel West... there are many more out there who are fighting this good fight, a lot of brothers and sisters who got tired of the lies... a lot of us who have finally decided it's time to rebuild the master's house with a new set of tools that the master thought we couldn't figure out how to use for own purposes... 

The Pandemic, the Virus, is here! The FUNK isn't going anywhere and is going to get us all infected... and the way to get infected is through RESISTANCE... you see, resistant isn't futile... it's the way to get this virus called knowledge... resisting is the way to go...

But in the end, you can still take the blue pill... sorry, I meant you can take MY blue pill if you'd like...

The red pill I took is kicking in as we speak!

That's it for now. Till my next blog, I bid farewell.

The Blogger, the Thinker, the Provocateur...

Raúl A. (El Patrón)


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Call Me an Eco-Freak if You Wish, but I'm Joining Earth Hour!

Greetings to all my friends and bloggers around the world. It's been a while since I added my print to the ongoing Gonzo 2.0 revolution. Well, I have some less Gonzo-like writing to take care of lately so that's kept me away. Before I get into the matter, some quick shout-outs and kudos...
  • Patronapalooza Christmas Extravaganza was out of this world! My girl and I had a great time, so big shout-out to my family and my friends who made it possible. Especially, I want to thank my folks for being SO FREAKING nice while we were there! Also, my good friend Oscar "David Bloodclot" García, who was an amazing host while we were in Boyacá. The meal in Sutamarchán, the afternoon in Ráquira, and the visit to Chiquinquirá with your dad will always be remembered. Another big shout-out to my Colombian brother from another mother, Carlos Rico and his lovely girl, Michelle! It was great seeing you two together... best of luck!!!
  • Seeing the girls, Isa & Manu, was out of this world! They're amazingly bright, lovely, and beautiful... and they can rest assured that for as long as I live, there'll be no hippos bothering you EVER!
  • My mind is now in Medellín more than ever ... Mom's got a surgery to fix a hernia this coming Wednesday. Whoever you believe in, please offer a prayer for her health. If you're not into the whole deity thing, your positive thoughts and wishes are also helpful. El Patrón accepts happy thoughts and get-well wishes in a non-denominational fashion.
  • One final shout-out to my former students in Early Childhood and Secondary Education at the U of I who are graduating in May. I've read in their Facebook statuses that they've passed their certification exams. CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Soon enough you'll learn the happiness one feels as a teacher when his/her students are thriving and succeeding!!!
Now, on to the main event...

Eco-Freak? Maybe; Tree-Hugger? Not so much; Concerned about the earth? Absolutely! And that's why I'm shutting my lights off tonight!

Global warming is a fairly heated issue. Whether you adamantly believe in it and think we need to do something to save our planet before it's taken over as parking space (à la Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), that we need to do something for everybody's future, or you think "global warming" is an invention of some crazies that belong to the Church of Al Gore and there's nothing wrong with a warmer planet because you abhor the winters in the Midwest anyway, we all have an opinion on the matter. I am not here to chastise those who are against environmental efforts, nor will I be so sanctimonious to call myself the Second Coming of Captain Planet. I'm just a citizen of earth who's concerned about what your and my children will be able to call landscapes.

Since 2008, there's an ongoing global effort spearheaded by the other WWF (sorry, in the back of my mind, WWF will ALWAYS be the World Wrestling Federation... we all guilty pleasures and mine is "wraslin'") for people around the world to turn their lights off for an hour, wherever they are, in an effort for more awareness of the consequences of global warming and the lack of concrete policies in regards to the environment (more on that later). More and more people keep joining, and reports indicate that some of our greatest architectural landmarks have gone dark in celebration. Sure, critics of the event have been quick to point out that the WWF is a pseudo-fascist organization that is inspired by obscure commercial agendas that ultimately wants to drive civilization back to the Dark Ages by obliterating what made us progress in the first place: Energy and light. Some of these pundits are in fact inviting everybody and their mother to actually turn every light and appliance you have available and if necessary borrow a few from the neighbors who are celebrating Earth Hour (hey, it's not like they'll be using that stereo between 8:30 and 9:30 anyway, right?). 

As I said, my goal here is not to chastise those critics of Earth Hour per se. But, I'd be failing to the third descriptor in the name of my Gonzo 2.0 page (you know, provocateur) if I didn't lambast them somehow, right? Let's see... turning my lights off will promote a fascist society where progress isn't allowed, yada yada yada... well, the way I see it, turning my lights off and controlling my energy consumption may actually benefit my wallet too. Plus, some of those economic journals need to start thinking of other issues, like why on earth some of them were in cahoots with Wall Street and some of those conglomerates like AIG in creating the clusterf**** of epic proportions under which we are now. It's a good think that folks like Jon Stewart are already doing that for the rest of us (if you haven't seen the Daily Show interview with the Mad Money guy and how Steward owned him, look it up!). I think controlled consumption of our resources might actually benefit our economy to some degree. That's a reason why I'm endorsing Earth Hour.

I'll give some of the critiques to the event something, a little bone I'm throwing at them, if you will. We need to move past awareness  and move on to knowledge and I may add a serious praxis. Those of us into critical theories have heard of praxis: Practice based on theory and reflection. I agree that being aware of something means squat if I don't DO anything about it. It won't do me any good to be aware that gaining too much weight is going to affect the shelf life of my right knee. But I don't go to the gym and exercise, my knee is going to deteriorate faster. Being aware of that won't slow it down. Knowing what to do to and actually doing it, that's the X-factor there. Ditto for the enviroment. A lot of people are aware that the environment needs a hand, that maybe we're wasting too many resources by throwing garbage to the floor or driving trucks with 10 mpg consumption. It's what we actually DO what makes a difference. And that's why I again endorse Earth Hour. 

However, that shouldn't stop there. As I read in a time article recently, action at the political level is also required. We need to push for some change in terms of policies. Smart energy consumption policies are good for your pocket - just to give you an incentive. More energy-efficient appliances will bring lower energy bills! It's also about what we can do at an individual level. I have my own methods and I have my own plans to offset how many trees I'm killing by working on my dissertation. I only invite you to think about what you can do and if you ultimately want to borrow my laptop to watch videos on YouTube while I keep my lights off, do it beacuse you've reflected why that's a good idea. Ditto if you finally turn the lights off in an hour. Do it reflexively, not because it's a cool fad. 

One thing is for sure, I know that one of the reasons I'm doing it is because if I have children one day, I'd like to take them to their mother's homeland to visit the Siberian snows, not the Siberian prarie, or I'd love to show them the beaches of Cartagena, not the shores of Cartagena Island... if you catch my drift...

That's it for now. Till my next blog, I bid farewell.

The Blogger, the Thinker, the Provocateur...

Raúl A. (El Patrón)