Tuesday, May 15, 2007


If you didn't know, I'm moving on to www.hyperwest.net.

Half the battle, won.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Take A Look Over My Shoulder, As I Get Older

Books Bought:
The Ender's Game Series
Tao Te Ching
Bible (King James)
Time of the Twins
The Golden Compass
The Prophet
Letters to A Young Poet
Over the past two weeks, I've been storming into bookstores and purchasing blocks of books. I usually refrain from buying books because they're prohibitively expensive. But now that money's no object, I had books that I needed to re-read; books I needed to give to other people; books I needed to explore. All the books listed above I've pored over -- more than once usually -- with the exception of The Golden Compass. Two weeks ago, I was convinced that Pullman's book would explain the concept of Heaven to me; even though I never read it -- I'm going read it and find out.

See, during the height of my paranoia/manic/whatever, I was sure that I was re-enacting Ender's Game. Clearly, I'm not. I'm no child general on the path to geno- or xeno-cide. By the way, this was after I was convinced the Bible was speaking directly to me; for me. Anyway. I read the second Ender's book today, "Speaker for the Dead," and that solidified my position. I may not be in Ender's Game but I'm learning a hell of a lot from it.

Note that I didn't once consider buying any of Rand's books, Carl Sagan's books, Kundera, or anything by Nick Hornby; the books I tend to re-read over and over again the most.

Sometimes I think it's weird that I love re-reading so much. But the reason I re-read is not only because each new reading reveals additional layers of depth but because I forget the ending. How did Fountainhead end? How did Ender's end? How did the Bible end? Well, that one I know. But the thing is: I know how all these end (I've read them tons of times) but for some reason I choose to forget. So I re-read to see if I can glean something new and then shuttle forward to the last few climactic chapters. I like the suspense of not knowing the ending; I choose to forget the purpose of a particular trail of bread crumbs so that when I'm hungry, I can follow them again.

Now I'm doing this with these few books listed above; which I've been carrying around with me in a small shoebox. I've always read fast but maybe not deep. Now I'm doing both. Any normal sized book I touch is easily finished within a few hours. I used to worry that I wasn't understanding enough by reading this way. Now I think I wasn't understanding enough because I was avoiding the answers presented to me.

I have tons of questions nowadays, as well as a ton of answers; but not enough of either. Reading "Speaker for the Dead" made me think that maybe, maybe, this is now my favorite book of all time. To replace Rand, Carl, and whatever else holds that lofty title.

I'm reading The Golden Compass next; then I'll move on to the Bible and the Tao. In the meantime, I was distributing books for people to read; because I felt the book I gave to them said something about me or the connection I felt with them (Test of the Twins to George; Prophet to BB and L; Letters to L). Now I'm realizing that even with information laid bare; not everyone will read. I hope people do, and if they do, start with Ender's and End with Speaker.

It's said we may all be living a lie; but maybe I'm just living a book(s).
"A complex man drawn off of simplicity
Reality is frisking me
This industry will make you lose intensity
The Common Sense in me remembers the basement
I'm Morpheus in this hip-hop Matrix, exposing fake shit
Somedays I take the L to gel with the real world"
-Common, The Sixth Sense-

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Grilled Cheese Maradona

A few years ago, a woman claimed her grilled cheese sandwich bore the image of the Virgin Mary. To her credit, the preserved sandwich does look a lot like the traditional pictures of Mary. She sold her sandwich for $28,000 on eBay and then disappeared from the public eye. She re-entered my life when she got a tattoo on her breast area of her infamous sandwich by the staff at Miami Ink. If you're interested in the whole story, check out this book "The Grilled Cheese Madonna and 99 Other of the Weirdest, Wackiest, Most Famous eBay Auctions Ever." It's a great read; I know because L represents and sold the book.

Now, Benjamin (I wrote about his many talents a few days ago) happens to be the #7 ranked grilled cheese sandwich maker in all of Los Angeles. After tasting his salsa, hummus, vegetables, macaroni & cheese, chick pea salad, and of course, his grilled cheese; I can say unequivacably and without hesitation that he should have been top three. I leave him some room to improve so that he'll feel motivated to make more grilled cheese sandwiches and allow the rest of us to taste test.

While the party was great, the realization that people are giving up their steady lifestyles for the great unknown was even better. Four of the party goers were lawyers; or ex-lawyers. They all had quit within the past year, and now they were pursuing their passions -- whether it be comedy, art, or anything that wasn't lawyer-related. Impressive right? They were trying to harangue a budding law school prospect into not going. It wasn't worth it if your heart wasn't into it.

In-between eating everything in sight and talking to people at the wine and grilled cheese party, I realized that anything you do, you have to love. Trite but true. The money will always come; the passion will not. The adage of don't expect to love work? That might still hold true -- for some people. I'm pretty damn sure I've been freed of that convention. Because now I see purpose to everything I've done, even if it was being a total smooching slacker and sitting in front of the Internet all day long. The simple act of uncomprehendingly surfing all day long made me what I am today.

The question now isn't "was it worth it?" but rather "what did that turn me into?" The what, the where, the how are always going to be ever-shifting concerns. The who and the why? I think I'm okay with those two.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Quantum Leap Over the Rainbow

In another sign that this might be the most meaningful week(s) of my life, I was introduced to Honey's Kettle Fried Chicken. It's pretty damn good; beats out other fried chicken chains for damn sure.

That wasn't the meaningful thing however, as much as I love fried chicken. While walking with Benjamin down to Trader Joe's, he pointed out that this exact area of Culver City was where The Wizard of Oz was filmed.


I love Wizard of Oz. The movie, the books, the philosophies, the intrigue, the history, the music, everything. Anything Wizard of Oz related I consume. And now, randomly, I was standing in front of a Cowardly Lion statue. He wasn't cowering in fear. He was dressed in Wizard robes and looked like he had just taken flight. Courage-less? Didn't look like it. That's exactly how I've felt recently. I once doubted I had a heart, like the Tin Man; I have one. I didn't even realize I was missing courage; I think I got a lock on that. Now here is this Cowardly Lion in an uplifting, peaceful, pose I'd never seen -- or even considered -- before.

Coincidence or just too much thinking? You tell me.

Ben F.R. (pronounced "Bennifer") then took me around the corner to show me a little diorama of the Wizard of Oz movie with some historical information on placards. The film lot behind the hotel was where the movie was filmed. Most of the stars stayed in this area during the shoot. Judy Garland was here. Repeat, Judy Garland was here.

More amazingly, the Culver Hotel was where the millions of Munchkins stayed during the shooting. Legend tells us that they slept three to a bed. Legend tells us that it was the biggest congregation of mini-people ever.

This was Grauman's Chinese Theatre for me. All the stars I'd have wanted to see exist here (albeit in 1938-ish), three blocks from where I'm staying. I need to explore some more. If I find a poppy field, an emerald diner, or a yellow brick house, I'm going to die from excitment. Culver City equals Oz? Dig it.
"Once I'm with the Wizard
My whole life will change
'Cuz once you're with the Wizard
No one thinks you're strange!
No father is not proud of you,
No sister acts ashamed
And all of Oz has to love you
When by the Wizard you're acclaimed
And this gift - or this curse -
I have inside
Maybe at last, I'll know why
When we are hand and hand -
The Wizard and I!"

The Sign in the Stone

v.t. mark the skin in patterns, etc., by pricking and filling the skin with coloring matter. -n.
mark so made. [Polynesian]


How happy am I that tattoos have gone from symbols of rebellion to mere decorations? I am no rebel and once tattoos went mainstream (and way over that hump) I wanted one badly. Of course, the question facing all potential tattooees is "What do I get?" I didn't figure it out until way later and even when I was 99% ready to be tattooed, it took a cosmic congruence of events to settle on a design. I'm the type of guy that has to research the hell out of something before I do it; unless I've decided that there's just too much to know and that I should just jump. With tattoos, I just jumped. And got lucky.

It's certainly an addiction. After my first one, I had dreams that it would rub off during the night. I'd wake up thinking it had melted off. After getting used to the idea of having permanent on my body -- and hiding it from my mom for a year or so -- I needed more. Thank goodness I'm perpetually broke; otherwise I would probably have any number of god awful tattoos on my body. My mind is always like "Oh, this is cool/memorable, maybe this should be a tattoo." We need a Brady Law for tattoos.

It turns out, after a few tattoos that have gone all sorts of wrong on me (pussing, itchy, infected) that I'm allergic to Neosporin. Guess what is recommended to put on fresh tattoos to protect them? Neosporin. Whoops. I put a temporary hold on tattoo getting since three of my last four gave me disgusting post-tattoo issues. With my latest set, I was fortunate enough to figure out that Neosporin was the problem. Now I think the best way for me to heal is just to let my body do it. No lotion, no anti-bacterial crap. Just air, water, and moisturizer. The body heals itself; even when you decorate it.

Watching (and loving) Miami Ink, you start to realize how trite the reasons people get tattoos are. But then again, who cares? Of course a permanent thing like a tattoo would have spiritual, memory, or personal resonance. What else is there? Nobody gets a tattoo on a stupid whim. Well actually, lots of people do; but they end up with horrific tattoos. The thing is, once you have a tattoo, you love it and you'll look for any reason in the world to justify having it.

The only thing I caution against is going to a bad tattoist. Not knowing about tattoos can make the selection process intimidating but price really isn't an object. The difference between a top tier tattooist and a bad one is huge. You can save $20 now but have a shitty looking tattoo for life. Don't do it. Get a good designer, someone who can make clean lines and will leave your tattoo with room to degrade and close up a little. I can't stress this enough. I've been lucky with my tattoos (even my "bad" ones aren't bad) but I've seen some horrible work. Pay for quality, it's worth it.

Or better yet, befriend a tattooist and let them work on you for free. That's what I need, a tattoo friend. I can do little favors for them and they can tattoo me. Perfect.
"We live in a disposable society and tattoos are decidedly permanent. That's what makes them scary, and that's what makes them powerful. Making an irrevocable choice is good for the soul."

Ghost World Whisperer

Last night, after Cuban food and during worlds colliding at the Little Temple in (North) Hollywood, I saw a major celebrity. Thing is, I'm not sure if anyone else knew. Slam poets I'd love to meet: Saul Williams, Beau Sia, Staceyann Chin, maybe Taylor Mali, definitely Dennis Kim, Ishle Park, a few handful of others. High up on that list? Mayda Del Valle. I met her yesterday -- sort of.

The poets I've interacted with on a personal level? PeaceBeFree and Shammy Dee. That's about it. I've stood next to Beau Sia (like right next to him) as he prepared to go on-stage. I didn't even realize it was him and when I did, I internally freaked out with excitement. I've had the chance to meet Beau through some friends of friends but I'm scared so I always refuse. Some people stalk Hollywood celebrities; I stalk slam poets. What of it? I don't judge you; we judge slam.

I freeze up in the prescence of wordsmiths. I mean,these people have been on tour, on TV (I saw Mayda on Def Poetry Slam just a few weeks ago wearing the exact dress in the picture), won slam championships, come up with amazingly resonant pieces of art. What could I possibly say to them?
Try this on for size (based on a true story):
Loud blaring music blares loudly in the background
"Hi, are you Maya?"
"No, Mayda."
"Oh, hi, you're a poet right? Def Poetry Jam and all that?"
"Yes I am (and I'm just trying to enjoy the music and dance)."
"I love your work! It's amazing!...insert some platitudes."
*Cut scene*
Jon walks away. Not sure why he did that but really glad he did. I mean, I'm the new fearless me. I can talk to my celebrity heroes now right? On a human level right? And um, mispronounce their name. Crap. I hate myself. But then again, why not say hi? People like that right? To be recognized for their gifts?

What I hate more than being a weirdo in front of celebrities is how many people don't even recognize who they're interacting with -- who they're blessed to stand next to. I have no idea if Mayda came to Little Temple to chill out, promote, party, meet friends, whatever. I saw her come in alone, sit around at the bar for a sec, and then eventually wind up at the front of the stage for the performance -- sadly, for me, not her performance.

In my mind I'm like "Wow, does nobody know who she is? She's an amazing poet/person! She's the youngest National Poetry Slam individual champion ever. She's breaking ground for Latinas. Someone (please) break out the red carpet!" I have no idea if Mayda or anyone wants that type of acclaim but it kills me that those who deserve it don't get it.

Check it out, if LC or Heidi walked in last night, the place would have been buzzing. The damn Hills girls! They don't do shit. If Asia, Chelsea, and Melissa R. walk in, people might have gone bananas (or at least, me and Jmz would have; mainly due to the injustice of the judging). So what happens? Mayda, someone amazing and phenomenonally talented walks in and nobody notices -- or knows. Isn't that wrong?
In a related story (I already posted this once but it seems fitting here): Joshua Bell, violin virtuoso brings his 1713 Stradivarius -- worth $3.5 million -- to the subways, playing for the early morning commuters. Do people stop to admire this priceless gift? Or do they toss a few nickels his way out of pity?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Number 8 - 11

Four Elements
[ April 19 & 20, 2007 ] - Back

It seems like every year or so, around the New Year, I itch to get a new tattoo. My last one was in February 2006 and since then I've been plotting to get sleeves. Of course, if you're going to get (half-)sleeves, you better be able to pay for it, you better have a good design, and you better make sure your future jobs won't require you to hide anything. Well, due to the events and realizations of last week, all those barriers are gone. I'm ready to get tatted up; stylishly, of course.

I had seven tattoos, now I have eleven (sort of). Pretty much, all my tattoos are tiny and maybe combined they make one "real" tattoo. But I like it that way. I mean, I'm pretty skinny, I only have so much real estate. Right?

It's an addiction, tattooing. I wish I could actually tattoo but until then, I've decided that I need to just keep returning to tried and true artists. Marty from Avalon Tattoo did my first two tattoos and those were done so cleanly that I wanted him, and only him, to do these latest four. I've had a bad experience with two tattoos once (three if you count George's) and I decided that you get what you pay for. Even then, you should overpay just to make sure that you're getting exactly what you want. Most of my designs are super generic and simple; so it's about clean lines and perfect execution.

Anyway, enough of that. This time around, I jumped down to San Diego and was ready to get tattooed right away. My mind was moving super fast and I decided on what I wanted within mere moments of seeing it. It just fit. The design? Ambigrams of "Air, Earth, Fire, Water" from Dan Brown's Angels & Demons. Reading Da Vinci Code partly inspired me to get my first tattoo (the explanations of the power of symbols, not the actual book) and I thought this would be fitting. Jmz was working on turning those four words into customized ambigrams -- and his designs looked pretty awesome -- but in the end, I always go with the most generic iteration of symbol so I figured why mess with success?

What do these four elements represent? A whole bunch of things. The playing card suits we're all so familiar with are based on the Tarot's Minor Arcana. Swords(Spades) and Cups(Hearts) are associated with the Air and Water elements respectively. Wands(Clubs) and Pentacles(Diamonds) are Fire and Earth. I love Tarot, I've studied it and played around with it as a fun little diversion. The art and story behind the cards are fantastic. I just bought a (Chinese themed) Tarot deck; let's divine.

The four elements could represent The Fantastic Four, the First Family of superheroes. Mr Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, and The Thing have their powers based around the four elements. Water, Air, Fire, Earth. You see?

It could mean I like Earth, Wind & Fire's "September," which I do. Or it could be states of matter: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma.

Traditionally in Chinese ideology, there are five elements. Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. I thought about putting those somewhere, but I already have the pentagram on my back, and nothing says "5" like a star. Plus I don't want Chinese characters on my body, just Chinese art and landscapes if I can afford it.

In Western philosophy, the four elements arrayed on my back also have a fifth, aether or quintessence, of which the cosmos itself is made. In Brown's book, the four ambigrams Vultron together to form the Illuminati Diamond, which is the object of everyone's fear and lust. Throw your diamonds in the sky if you feel the vibe.

Sidenote: Dan Brown's ambigram designer, John Langdon has a book and website, it's amazing. I guess he's also the designer of my tattoos too.

Another answer? The Four Elements of Hip Hop: Graffiti, DJ-ing, MC-ing, and B-Boying. I have no idea if they correlate to the actual element words, but who cares? We see the correlation of numbers every day. If you wanted to look for instances of "213" you would see them everywhere. The brain is designed to collect, associate, and process patterns. And numbers like 2, 3, 5, 7, have powerful meanings in any culture, field of study, or three-dimensional world.

Those are all things I associate with the new tattoos I got. But here's the thing, the elements for me, are a cross. A Christian cross. Almost all of my tattoos are some sort of religious symbol and I swore that I would never put Christ's cross on my body until I was ready to be at peace with Abrahamic religions -- Christianity especially. I won't delve into my reasoning behind that but suffice to say, I have a hate/love relationship with the Holy Christ. But last week, I squashed that. I'm not a Christian, nor do I wish to be one; but I no longer fight it. Thus, I was ready to put the cross on my back. Because nobody can bear it alone, much less me.
"One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,

'You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?'

The Lord replied, 'The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.'"

"Everybody's free, everybody's free, everybody's free
Everybody's free, everybody's free, to feel good, to feel good

Brother and sister together will make it through
Someday a spirit will take you and guide you there
I know you've been hurting ,but I've been waiting to be there for you
And I'll be there, just helping you out whenever I can"
-Everybody's Free-