Wednesday, December 29, 2004
THE GHOST OF ALEX HALEY IS CALLING
Its been a hell of a month for me in discovering my ROOTS. First there was the amazing experience of traveling to the small mountain village of my ancestors outside of Naples, Italy at the end of November. Seeing the place where my ancestors lived from the 1550s to the 1890s was moving beyond description.
Now comes another lifting of the genealogical curtain. My father just returned from a trip to the Eastern Mediterranean where the other half of my family came from.
That's me, a full blooded Mediterranean boy. Half my family from the center of the sea and the other half from its eastern shore.
Well, he brought back quite an interesting piece of news. It turns out that in the late 1700s, among the many Native Americans who were taken back to Europe, a number of them migrated to Lebanon (I am half Italian and half Lebanese).
Along the way some of these men settled into families with Maronite Christians (who make up 50% of Lebanon's population). Many generations later, my grandfather removed the part of our family name that identified us as having "red indian" blood in us.
In 1960, at 18, with nothing in his pockets my father came to the US and put himself through college, got a degree and moved to New York. There he met my mother, the descendant of Italians who came through Ellis Island in 1896. And here I am today.
Italian, Lebanese, Native American, proud New Jersey native and fierce resident of New York City.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Reading the headlines this week has made my last post even more poignant for me. To be grateful for just the simplest things; food, shelter, clothing, a job, loved ones, is really the key to my happiness.
My heart is absolutely breaking over what has happened in Asia. Reading the stories of death, destruction, missing loved ones, mothers and fathers watching children disapear, what a horror. Its a great reminder of how small we really are and how nature is all powerful, despite our hubris. Not only are the native inhabitants and their countries devastated, but the death and suffering of the tourists is awful as well.
As a frequent traveler, I know it is always far from the top of your thoughts that a thing like this could happen, but in the back of your mind it is what you most fear. A disaster or sickness far from home.
Then I turn the page and read about innocent men, women, children and soldiers losing limbs and dying in Iraq everyday. And finally closer to home, people being shot, run over, made jobles and homelss right here in NYC.
To read this and dare not be thankful for what I have, to dare to wish for more than I do have and to not know that I must accept life on life's terms would be criminal and immoral and would be spiritual suicide.
Friday, December 24, 2004
My attitude is often directly linked to my gratitude. And this Christmas I have so much to be grateful for that it is humbling.
My health, friends, job, clothing, food, shelter. I have all that I need and so many of the things that I want. I am truly blessed and truly grateful for it all. The things I have seen and done this year are more than some see and do in 3 lifetimes, none of which I am entitled to, I am just very lucky.
I hope you all find happiness, serenity, health and prosperity this holiday week and in the year ahead.
With love, much love.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
I'm back. And in great spirits and full of Christmas cheer.
London was awesome. Its still one of my favorite cities in the world. Flew out Friday night, arrived 7:30 a.m. in London. Stayed at the London Hilton at Euston, one block from the station, very convenient, very comfy hotel.
I went for three primary purposes, The Pogues, Charles Dickens and the British Museum.
The signs were eerie from the start.
The first song to come on the MUZAK on the plane before takeoff was a cover version of the Pogues' "Fairytale of New York." The hotel was across the street from a later Dickens home called Tavistock House (no longer there).
I spent the equivalent of an entire day of over two days in the British Museum. In my opinion it is still the BEST antiquities museum in the world. The Egyptian/Sudan, Roman and Greek collections are unsurpassed in their beauty, completeness, presentation and documentation anywhere in the world.
I also found a great row of antiquities shops across the way and added a 55 A.D. Claudian Silver Coin to my collection. Another strange sign, their newsletter was called THE PHOENIX.
I went to the Dickens House and Museum and had a great study session with some people there. I also and took a Dickens walking tour. Also visited St. Pauls, Westminster and the Victoria and Albert.
THE POGUES show was absolutely amazing. Shane looked, sounded and acted great. He was on top of his game and it was amazing to see the entire original band together again. Of course I was up front in the pit dancing, bouncing, jumping and singing. I met some great people who flew in from all over Europe for the show and we had a great night out after the show.
A highlight was original bass player (and wife of Elvis Costello) Cait O'Riordan singing the duet on "Fairytale of New York" for the penultimate song.
A great weekend. I am so glad I made the impulsive move to go only two weeks back from Italy.
Monday, December 20, 2004
I wasn't going to post until I got back, but since winks/gg asked, here is a report from London.
Shockingly the sun has been shining almost nonstop for 3 days. But, that is tempered by the fact that its 38 degrees out. Still, better cold and sunny than cold and rainy.
As many of you know the main purpose of my visit is to see the THE POGUES play at Brixton Academy tonight. I found out about the show a week ago and here I am. Showtime is four hours away and I am super energized and psyched.
I have spent the last three days wandering around some of my favorite places in London.
Charles Dickens is my favorite author and I am a minor scholar on his works as well as an avid collector of 1st editions of his. I made the pilgrimage to his house and museum on Doughty Street and today I visited his grave at Westminster Abbey.
Speaking of the Abbey, it might be one of the most intense and relic filled churches in all the world. Kings, Generals and Poets fill the abbey that took 200 years to complete. It is huge and it is magnificent.
I also visited St. Pauls Cathedral, which is lovely, if much more understated. But I am always amazed how much of the old Catholic Church they let Sir Christopher Wren incorporate into this, the church that replaced the original after the fire of 1666.
I also spent almost a day and a half at the British Museum, in my opinion the finest Antiquities Museum on Earth. Their Egyptian, Roman and Greek collections are unparalleled. I spent a great deal of time with all my friends and treasured relics of the past.
Well, I'm off the rest a bit before the focus of my trip, tonight's show. Of course a report will follow. Cheers.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Things I think I think Part V
-I Think H.L. Mencken was a prophet. Read this and be astounded.
"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
--H.L. Mencken (July 26, 1920)
-I think that if Bernard Kerik didn't know he had an illegal alien working in his house and caring for his children he wasn't really qualified to protect our borders.
"You're from where Miranda?" Ecuador? Sheesh and all this time I thought you were from Brooklyn."
-I think that the Washington D.C. City Council should be applauded for passing legislation that would require private funding for half of the $520 million dollars to build a stadium for the baseball team that wants to play there. Its disgusting that the taxpayers be expected to pay half a billion dollars for a team who will reap all the benefits (as in charging $60 per seat, luxury box licenses etc).
I have a great need to move my business into a new facility and want, neigh, EXPECT the taxpayers to pay for it because "eventually the benefits in taxes will go back to the city" SIGN ME UP!!!!!!
-I think I am incredibly psyched to be going back to London for the first time in 5 years and to be seeing the Pogues at Brixton Academy is a lifelong dream come true.
I will also be taking a Dicken's London tour. I am a bit of a Dicken's scholar and am looking forward to it.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
It seems that everyone from Buddha, Moses, and Plato to the boys of Monty Python have looked to answer the question: WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Well, for the longest time I was clueless about what the meaning of life was. I really had no idea. Which was frustrating because I looked everywhere, read everything, talked and listened and still I couldn't find it. Theology, philosophy, the arts, sciences, all led me down what seemed the right path(s), and I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge along the way, but I still always felt as if it hadn't all linked up and revealed the meaning of life. And then, it happened.
The MEANING OF LIFE found me.
It didn't happen overnight or in a single flash of divine/emotional/rational/scientific revelation, but it did have a start.
That start came in the form of the apex of a severe mental, physical and spiritual trauma. That trauma worsened over two years until it came to a head and I was facing the most clearly marked crossroad of my life. I knew that the time had come to choose a path. Further destruction or a new beginning and I chose the latter.
It took a lot of hard work, dedication, learning and searching, but over two years the meaning of life was revealed to me. What made it especially sweet was that all of the philosophy, theology, myth, science, history, art, books and conversations I had over the previous 15 years finally coalesced. It was as if they were no longer ideas to be studied but markers and talismans on the true path.
It also made me realize you can't (not that I ever did) tell someone what the meaning of life is. You can only hope you are one of the very lucky few who have it revealed to them.
In short, the meaning of life according to the phoenix.
-Overcoming fear and desire. When I overcame fear and desire everything else that is positive flowed from it. Fear and desire are the roots of anger, dissasfaction, envy and resentment. In turn those are the things that kill ones soul thatleave a person ENDURING LIFE rather than LIVING IT.
-When I accepted that I had everything I needed in my own body, mind and soul, desire for anything else became irrelevant.
-And the fear of death. Especially the fear of death. When I accepted that death is the same as life, that they are inseparable and that every death has new life in it I became more attuned to the world around me.
-Acceptance. When I accepted life on life's terms and treated all actions, thoughts, people and events as being exactly as what they should be and what they are I was then fully in tune with the natural, spiritual, scientific and artistic worlds of the human spirit.
-Love and compassion. When I realized that by trying (trying being the key word s as I am not perfect) to live each moment with love and compassion (com-passion literally means to share the passion or pain of living of others) would bring me back (without seeking it) whatever it was I gave, I found the meaning of life.
In short the meaning of life to me is overcoming fear and desire, accepting life on life's terms and projecting love and compassion. By doing these things I come into complete harmony with man, animal, spirit, the scientific, the artistic, the earth and the universe. Finding serenity and peace is the meaning of life and the above is the path to it for me.
The last 5 years have been the best of my life. And I could die happy tomorrow knowing that before I died I found the meaning of life and some serenity.
Friday, December 10, 2004
Inspired by the lovely Ms. Arethusa.
Music has been a central part of my life since I was 8 years old. My parent's were big music lovers and our family, household and extended family was/is multinational, so I grew up listening to music from around the world. Brasilian, American 50s and 60s rock and pop, Sinatra, Italian, Irish. Without being too longwinded about it, music has been very important to me.
Not just as entertainment, but as the art form that speaks to the very deepest part of my soul. The art form I expressed myself through. Music as the integral part of human life and history. It gave me my first social and political consciousness, my soundtrack, it has been and is a part of every important rite of passage and ritual in my life and is the poetry I revel in. Here are 25 songs from the rock/reggae category that reach me at the deepest levels. I would need separate lists for blues, jazz, classical and world. Keeping it to one song from each artists was absolutely brutal.
1. Zombie - The Cranberries
2. Perfect Day - Lou Reed
3. Bad - U2
4. Celluloid Heroes - The Kinks
5. And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda - The Pogues
6. Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
7. Bertha - The Grateful Dead
8. White Man in Hammersmith Palais - The Clash
9. Redemption Song - Bob Marley and the Wailers
10. This is the Modern World - The Jam
11. She Sells Sanctuary - The Cult
12. Talk About the Passion - R.E.M.
13. Baba O'Reilly - The Who
14. Sympathy for the Devil - The Rolling Stones
15. 100 Years - Blues Traveler
16. Blitzkrieg Bop - The Ramones
17. God Save the Queen - The Sex Pistols
18. 5446 That's My Number - Toots and the Maytals
19. Alive - Pearl Jam
20. Lithium - Nirvana
21. I alone - Live
22. What I Got - Sublime
23. Dear Mr. Fantasy - Traffic
24. Heroes - David Bowie
25. Wish you Were Here - Pink Floyd
-bonus track 1 Spirit of the Radio - Rush
-bonus track 2 Celebrity Skin - Hole
-bonus track 3 Bittersweet - hoodoo Gurus
-bonus track 4 Germ Free Adolescents - X Ray Specs
-bonus track 5 Fields of Gold - Sting
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Things I think I think Part III
-I think I have rarely seen a more disgraceful thing in my life than Donald Rumsfeld telling the troops "that you go to war with the army you have and not the one you want." Translation: Reminder you are $20,000 a year cannon fodder. Our Jeeps cost $200,000 you are not worth a jeep. If you have to dig in Kuwaiti trash heaps to "armour up" tough shit. Remember you wartards voted these criminals back in. Reap what you sow.
-I think that the sheer number of rich, spoiled, nasty, omnipresent "celebrity" ingenues, heiresses and talentless actresses being shoved in my face everywhere I go has reached the point of making me want to vomit, a lot. Paris, Tara, Brittany, Lindsay, I really can't take it anymore. Sure, this types were always around, but TV, the Net, mags and Newspapers have made them inescapable.
-I think that not enough is being said about the fact that in addition to 1300 dead more than 10,000 US troops have been wounded. Many horribly. In fact I think the US media is dead as we used to know it.
-I think that when I run on the treadmill at the gym and see that I need 4 miles to burn 600 calories it makes me think twice about what I eat. I hate wasting all that hard work.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Things I Think I think Part II
-I think therefore I am. What is philosophy, if nothing more than the questioning of the world and an attempt to explain some of it and put some order to it? Is it really worthless? Is the accumulated knowledge of all history's philosophers, theologians and scientists pointless because we only make our own realities (as Ms. Jane D'oh proposes)?
I tend to think not, because the great thinkers have helped shape the reality that "I make." I accept that there are 1,000 sides to every story because of the nature of the universe, but after all, the great thinkers are the people who have moved human development and knowledge forward, helping to shape my reality one thought and atom at a time.
-I think that life generally is "nasty, brutish and short" and that every day I don't have to deal first hand with hunger, violence or illness is a blessing and I am far ahead of the game in comparison with the vast majority of people who have ever lived.
-I think that I would really like to find a way to fly to London in two weeks for THE POGUES reunion shows at Brixton Academy. Continental Air wants 100,000 FF miles for the flight and I only have 89,000. The cost of buying the extra 11k would be almost equal to a full ticket buy.
-I think living in New York City is still one of the greatest thrills a person can experience. Even after growing up 15 miles from midtown and living here a long time.
-I think that in the end life is just one giant paradox, That is the true nature of humanity. The paradox.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Monday, December 06, 2004
I've always been fascinated by the battles (and truces) between secularism and religion, lately and more specifically about creationism vs. evolution. Thus my utter devotion to Joseph Campbell, Leo Tolstoy and a host of other great thinkers on the subject.
As some of you may know, there is a school district in Georgia that now puts a sticker on their biology books that states "Evolution is Just a Theory and not a fact; regarding the origin of living things and should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."
How about this?
I say we put the same sticker with a few words changed on every bible, and perhaps we will come closer to (what is in my opinion) the ideal of people considering science and reason and emotion and the divine equal parts of human nature that should be "approached with and open mind, studied carefully and critically considered." That we are in out nature both in equal parts. History and prehistory has proven this out. That man is at once industrious and scientific and also emotionally considerate of his own place in the universe (the mother and father of all philosophy and theology).
Especially here in America where 60% of those polled believe everything in the bible is literal truth this may be a good idea.
"Creationism is just a theory and not a fact. Regarding the origin of living things and should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Reality, however utopian, is something from which people feel the need of taking pretty frequent holidays. Aldous Huxley
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. Philip K. Dick
Few people have the imagination for reality. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Reality only reveals itself when it is illuminated by a ray of poetry. Georges Braque
Humankind cannot stand very much reality. T S Eliot
So they say that progressives and liberals are "OUT OF TOUCH." That is, out of touch with mainstream America, with its moral and religious mores and values, its worldview, its concerns and its deepest held beliefs.
I admit freely to this. I admit that I am indeed out of touch. Which is why I am shocked and amazed again and again with every peek into how mainstream America thinks. But, I do believe that the label "OUT OF TOUCH" can be reflected back on mainstream America. In a different, much more serious way.
Mainstream America is OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY.
There is an institutionalized mindset that embraces the rejection of reality, the concrete, the things that are proven by evidence. Instead, ideology, sound bites, and items of blind faith rule the day.
On Bill Moyer's PBS news show "NOW" (in my opinion it and PBS' FRONTLINE are the two best on TV) the world renowned zoologist and author Richard Dawkins was on to discuss his new book "THE ANCESTORS TALE." In discussing the Evolution vs. Creationism argument he made an incredible point.
Asked about the nature of the rejection of science and intellectualism by "mainstream America" and its embrace of Creationism, he made an excellent connection.
He pointed out that some 35-40% of American's polled believe that WMDs have been found in Iraq. With every newspaper, TV show and the president himself saying this isn't the case, 40% of Americans believe it to be so.
These are the same people who in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary believe that Earth is 5,000 years old.
There it was in a nutshell. What I have been so frustrated with and trying so hard to express the last 5 years. America is not in touch with reality and that is why I AM OUT OF TOUCH WITH MAINSTREAM AMERICA.
In my worldview there is room for a higher spiritual, divine universal powers and for science, technology, reason, evidence and science. The two can get along just fine as countless men of science (Einstein) and religion (St. Augustine) have said over and over again.
But, America does not have a grasp on reality these days. People have chosen the easy way out on all the issues.
And in a country that rejects science, intellectualism and a balanced view of humnaity as reasonable and scientific as well as emotional and divine, I am happy to be out of touch.
Friday, December 03, 2004
And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life
(Oooh) Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow
Do they know it's Christmas time at all
(Here's to you) raise a glass for everyone
(Here's to them) underneath that burning sun
Do they know it's Christmas time at all
Feed the world, feed the world, feed the world
Let them know it's Christmas time again
Do They Know Its Christmas
Band Aid, 1984
So, its been 20 years since Bob Geldoff and his friends recorded the song that led to Live Aid and raised millions of dollars for the starving masses of Ethipoia. The memories it brings back are numerous and deep. I can, with crystal clear vision, remember hearing it the first time on a moonlit, cold, snowy night in New Jersey. Gathered with my friends in front of the TV watching the MTV premiere (when MTV was about music and videos).
The haunting opening bass notes. Hearing each early 80's superstar sing their individual parts. The cresecendo of Bono singing "Tonight thank God its them instead of you." The catchy chorus.
Its still one of my favorite Christmas songs of all time but more importantly its message rings true 20 years later. It was a blunt, sometimes unwieldy and not always smooth song but its message could not have been clearer. WE ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS WORLD. THERE IS GREAT SUFFERING IN THIS WORLD. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. BE GRATEFUL FOR ALL YOU HAVE
At that time (I was 15) I had already developed a deep sense of social, political and world awareness, perhaps far ahead of my age and time and this message really struck home with me. I was a young punk who grew up on The Clash, The Ramones, The Jam and all the rest and the message of the song was a natural extension of my growing socio-political consciousness.
In the end it inspired me top go to work for Amnesty International and as a volunteer with a major Anti-Apartheid organization. Two years later I shared a stage with and was honored by Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I have a fulfilling professional career today, but I have never slackened in helping others near and far. Much of my activism can be traced back to that song.
So, today, as we head into the heart of the Christmas season. I hope everyone reading this can remember, we are not alone, people suffer greatly here and abroad, we can make a difference every day through small actions and words, and to be grateful for all we have.
I am grateful for the roof over my head, the clothes on my back, the food in my stomach, my health, my job, my family, friends, my brains. I have everything I need and a lot of what I want. My problems are of the champagne and caviar variety.
Today I will live and act with compassion and love and I will help someone near me and someone far away. I know its Christmas time again.
Thank you Bob Geldoff and the whole Band Aid crew.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Where have all the bloggers gone? I have been checking all the blogs in my link list lately and about 75% haven't had more than 1 new post in the last 7-10 days. I also noticed my visits are way down these last 2 weeks. Was there a no blogging memo I missed? Where is everyone?
Sure, first you all get me hooked, then BAM leave me hanging like a nodding, jonesing junkie.
Okay, back to simply entertaining myself.
Things I think I think.
-I think the war is Iraq is not as bad as I warned it would be more than two years ago, its worse. Any student of ME history knew EXACTLY what the results would be. Can you say Lebanon?
-I think that as much as a sports nut as I am, the hyper commercial, selfish, criminal and anti-social nature of pro-sports is really starting to wear thin with me. The joke of it is that the least anti-social, criminal, selfish and commercial of the sports and my favorite, HOCKEY, is on strike.
-I think I am a European trapped in an American body.
-I think I am finally tired of reading and posting on Internet BBs and message boards. I prefer blogs.
-I think doing business in China is a very complicated and tricky business.
-I think that 90% of the music that is out now is shit and that for the last 10 years "new music" has meant to me going back and discovering more jazz, blues, classical, world I haven't heard before.
-I think I am done now.