underground since'89

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Best of 2008 by Jean Smith

The things that make 2008 significant

1. David and I Spontaneously creating artwork to auction off for Books to Prisoners when we heard we'd be playing in the $1 Books to Prisoners clothing bin at Dumpster Values in Olympia, Washington.

2. Getting out the bike I bought years ago at an opera society rummage sale. Riding to work and the gym -- not far, not fast, but fun and sometimes scary. A bike guy in spandex and helmet coming up the hill near the WISE Hall telling me "Go fast. Go fast. Just let go." Me, hands clenched, brakes squealing, saying. "No! No! No!" Pulling over at the baseball diamond, using my kickstand, and eating Chinese dumplings out of a Tupperware container, thinking -- life doesn't get any better than this.

3. The Silver Party's kudos on http://www.myspace.com/jeansmith blog where, to me, a kudo is an acknowledgement of the writer / reader dynamic. A kudo (don't like this word any more than blog or hiatus) doesn't interfere the way a comment can. A kudo is a mug of warm milk to the comment's dropped carton of skim pooling at my feet.

4. Playing guitar with Duane and having Singapore noodles, bbq pork and won ton soup at Happy King. http://www.myspace.com/jeanduane

5. Maintaining my blog as a place to put work -- in fact, creating and completing work because I have a place to put it -- stories, films, songs, paintings, poems and the work behind booking a tour, which I decided to make transparent, to demystify, by posting itineraries and communication with booking people and helpful D-I-Y enthusiasts. Posting the details of the booking process also created a sense of accountability for me. There are lots of good reasons not to go on tour, but they just don't wash in the big picture. Appreciating very helpful responses from clubs who have booked us for our April tour in the USA.

6. Becoming pen pals with Lenny Kaye who commented -- "I have not been able to get beyond your solo album, play it over and over again... truly mesmerizing".

7. Mecca Normal -- my ongoing music, art, political and literary adventure with my excellent creative partner David Lester. Twenty-five years intending to inspire, instigate, inform, amuse and agitate in the underground.

8, New Mecca Normal songs about war protester Malachi Richter and One Man's Anger -- understanding that sometimes anger is pain and the fear of pain. http://www.myspace.com/meccanormal

9. J Free of Sonic Archives -- recorded two Mecca Normal shows, made CDs and sent them to us along with many collected recordings including a live version of I Walk Alone from SF in 1994. Turning this and many other songs into short films.

10. Walking and running to work at The Store where good conversations happen with customers and co-workers. Learning about eco-friendly clothing -- bamboo, hemp, organic cotton and soy. The Store is closing at the end of February due to the economy. I will be unemployed, focusing on Mecca Normal -- recording and touring with "How Art & Music Can Change the World" http://howartandmusiccanchangetheworld.blogspot.com which we've been presenting for about five years in classrooms (university, art school and high school), art galleries and book stores. We intend inspire audiences towards self-expression, encouraging them to consider political content in their work as opposed to the concerns of status and money. Basically we set up an art show -- or use PowerPoint -- and we start by introducing ourselves, explaining why we maintain our creative partnership in its many forms -- what motivates us. David talks about the long history of art in social protest. We speak about each others artwork -- David's use of text in his poster series Inspired Agitators and my abstract expressionism -- a balance to the word-based lyric and novel content I create. At about the twenty minute mark we do three or four songs pertaining to what we have been discussing. We continue discussing the various political ideas we bring into our work -- women's rights, poverty, war protest -- relating the issues to our own experiences. We wrap it up with a few more songs. The updated version of the event includes a vision to convince the populace that it is necessary to protest and create conditions that are favourable to support the work Obama is faced with -- otherwise, without support in the form of popular protest and activism, the right wing will rip him to shreds. People must, state by state, community by community be ready to participate as activists rather than sitting back to see what Obama does.

11. Christmas morning -- 4 a.m. -- I started booking the April 2009 tour and got responses right away, including a confirmation for "How Art & Music Can Change the World" at Bluestockings Books -- a feminist book store in NYC,

12. December 30, 2008 -- dinner and a fine conversation with an old friend about world affairs, inspiration, Howard Zinn, political and cultural activism and how to take the opportunity to encourage progressive social change. http://howardzinn.org/

"Why would I believe a politician?" -- Howard Zinn

"We must not have war any more." -- Howard Zinn

"The American people want health care, more like Canada's." -- Howard Zinn

13. Noticing how natural acoustics of rooms impact energy, thinking, mood and willingness to converse. The Store creaks and clomps, all wooden and warm. Understanding more about memory and history -- wild things that resist being captured.

14. August. Deciding to not go forward with a man who met my requirements as stated in my online profile. Handsome guy, my age, six feet tall. Thin, muscular body -- nice hair. A non-drinking condo-dweller with a car. No pets, no roommates. He was into weirdo-music and punk rock -- he'd heard of Mecca Normal !!!! He was a hiker, a painter, a short story writer, a filmmaker learning to play guitar. He wanted to find a partner, but he projected all his wanting and finding stuff onto me. We were, as far as he was concerned, in a relationship from the moment we set eyes on each other. I kept telling him to slow down, but he didn't see why. Week three he said we'd been together a month and I had to tell him it had only been three weeks -- it was a relentless escalation of relationship. When I said I needed to stop, I was accused of destroying his fantasy -- he got angry with me for ruining everything, but he apologized and said all the right things and promised to slow down and off we went again, but, soon enough, the end arrived. Why didn't I jump at the chance to be with a good looking guy who was into what I'm into? He listened to me talk about writing, offered ideas. He was super attentive, regularly dropping to his knees to profess his adoration, telling me how much he appreciated my body and my mind and my sense of humour and my clothes -- telling me how beautiful I am. He couldn't stop kissing me. But he represented someone willfully misunderstanding me, actively refusing to know me, in favour of pounding into my life with a box called 'relationship' for me to climb into. Which, as a way to approach life, is the essence of the insanity.

15. David donating royalties from his book The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism, in my name, to the Centre for Victims of Torture in Toronto.

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