Clawing Back Beauty – from Consumption to Sustainability

The phrase “clawing back” surfaced during the congressional hearings about Wells Fargo bank account manipulations.  It refers to taking back a portion of the golden parachute entitled CEOs receive once they leave a company, trailing a raft of shady deals behind, made at their employees’ expense.

Clawing back because men have set the standards, defined the form, the value and their desire to possess beauty for centuries. In this “men’s world”, beauty is visually focused and sexualized. It’s about having your cake and eating it too. Beauty, defined as:

an object that portrays a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.

It’s the shiny skin, the package, but mostly the wrapper.  We see it, we want it, we will have it.

From 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman:

Dominant culture directs men to access beauty through the other, in sexual union with women.  Even inner beauty is largely portrayed as feminine. Those stereotypes are changing, but the current state of political discourse has shined a spotlight on men’s fears that electing a woman President will put the brakes on grabbing what you want.  It’s a threat to beauty as a commodity, which is used and then discarded like any old  wrapper. Their entitlement is waning and an increase in misogyny and violence against women reflects their resentment.

Beauty is different for women. Women are encouraged to embody beauty and have a more nuanced and relational visual representation, as portrayed in Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc‘s Atlas of Beauty.

We come closer to being in rather than consuming beauty as:

the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).

In our current culture,  beauty’s spiritual qualities are largely ignored, save the occasional nature scene or an emotionally tender moment that evokes the union of love and beauty.  Again, the visual element predominates but the feelings sparked by love or awe bring us to the threshold of another kind of union, less tangible but powerfully moving. Being in beauty calls us to experience the connection we have to life in all its forms.  Less object oriented and individualistic and more part of the greater whole.  In a world that seems more fragmented and conflicted every day, wholeness seems out of reach.  This has not always been so.  This Navajo prayer reflects life rooted in wholeness and in beauty, a more sustainable approach:

Walking In Beauty (Blessing)
Today I will walk out, today everything unnecessary will leave me,
I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body.
I will have a light body, I will be happy forever,
nothing will hinder me.
I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.
In beauty all day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With dew about my feet, may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty below me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
My words will be beautiful.

How healing would this life in beauty be? I will follow the beautiful words of this blessing for a month and let my words tell the tale. May your words and your walk be beautiful as well.

B3 Summit @ Antones – snaps from Austin music nerds

Click on photo for snaps

The B3 Summit at Antone’s this Saturday reminded me of why I love this city.  Where else will four internationally renowned jazz, rock, soul and funk influenced organists share a bill designed for music nerds and musicians? I predict we will not see the likes of a groove this deep for some time.

The Hammond B3 is part of the soundtrack of our lives, from its heyday in the 50’s and 60’s in jazz or rock. From Ray Manzarek of the Doors to the incomparable Jimmy Smith, it’s the “take me out to the ballgame” sound of classic Americana.

Ike Stubblefield has played with Motown legends like the Four Tops, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves, Stevie Wonder and Rare Earth. His soulful R&B style helped forge the sound of Al Green, Ike & Tina Turner, Curtis Mayfield, B.B. King, The Pointer Sisters and George Benson and more recently, Cee Lo Green. Ike’s band is the first featured in the video highlights below.

Luckily, three of these four B3 masters live in Austin. Red Young has played with musicians ranging in style from: Eric Burdon, Linda Ronstadt, Dan Hicks, Joan Armatrading and  George Clinton to Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker with time in between on the Sonny and Cher show. More entrepreneurial than most, he has owned nightclubs and performs throughout the world in many different formats – both piano, organ, on vocals, conducting, producing and arranging his own and others’ compositions.  See upcoming gigs for the many flavors of Red. Brannen Temple, the drummer featured in the video has worked with Eric Burdon, Lizz Wright, The Dixie Chicks, Sheena Easton, Chaka Kahn and too many Austin acts to name. Look for him at the One 2 One, Elephant Room and Antone’s with Red Young and many others. Mike Malone, the saxophonist featured in the video, plays with NuJazzSwing and often with Brannen Temple and other jazz musicians in town.

Dr. James Polk & Centerpeace may keep a more relaxed pace than his counterparts, but he is no lightweight on the national music scene. Polk is best-known for his work with Ray Charles, touring as an organist, pianist, writer, arranger and conductor from 1978 to 1985. He’s Texas born and bred, with roots in Deep Elum, along with Ornette Coleman. He moved to Austin in the 1970’s, forming James Polk and the Brothers, featuring Angela Strehli, with WC Clark on bass and John X Reed on guitar. These days, his main focus is on the Dr. James Polk Academy of Arts and Technology and helping to hold down the jazz scene in Austin.

Mike Flanigin is the fourth B3 player in the video. His latest project, The Drifter, was described as “the perfect record for late-night parties or all-day drives through the desert” by Rolling Stone. Billy Gibbons, Alejandro Escovedo and Kat Edmondson are among the supporting artists. Mike has regular gigs at the Continental Club Gallery, C-Boys Heart and Soul and Antone’s.

While this was a truly exceptional show, there is fine music happening every night in this town. Go out and support our incredible local talent!

Final homage to the B3 from Jimmy Smith, enjoy.

Inside Out

Willow Seeds
Inside the soft fluff of the black willow blooms lie the seeds, little black dots that might become a whole new tree

Why do we live life on the surface,
reaching for the next shiny thing
forgetting the fruit that lies within?

The juicy sweetness obscured
by the color of our skin
and the place we call home

So, we starve for love
and hope is scarce,
because you are a banana
and I am a pear

The fruits of our thoughts
the kindness of our deeds
can heal the wounds of hate
and fear

If we embrace both many and one
our hearts will grow enough
for all the love we have to share

P1030625Turn down the noise,
go outside – listen
Make neighbors friends
and smile at the old
for many are alone

The world is our teacher
she is the source of every
gift we give and get

So treat her gently and
thank the stars for all we
are and all that we might be

The Hidden World of the Maya @ the Witte Museum

I continue to be a fan of San Antonio’s art museums. The Witte has been on Broadway since 1926; I remember going there on field trips as a child and every few decades since. After hearing about the new  Mays Family Center exhibit  Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed I decided to see how much it had changed. I was impressed.

Many of the stations were interactive, fun for all ages. And in the fine tradition of Curly, the maitre d butler at Earl Able’s restaurant, the Witte has a robot who greets you with “Como etas.”

Entering the world of the Maya means opening your imagination to a remarkable culture that knew as much about the stars as it did the Earth and built pyramids and cities in the jungles of Mexico and Central America. Like Atlantis, it vanished mysteriously, leaving behind monumental cities, sign and numeric alphabets with sound and picture hieroglyphics and an ongoing farming tradition featuring corn, squash and beans called the three sisters. Mathematically and astronomically, they established epochal calendars without a telescope, based on centuries of recorded observations.  The model city and pyramid below are from the city of Caracol, thought to have had a population of around 150,000.

There were hundreds of villages and cities, trading, warring and forming alliances, with a peak population of more than 2 million.  Rulers were Gods, they gave their blood to ensure continuing prosperity while priests observed and recorded the movements of Venus, the moon, sun and stars using a 13 month calendar crafted over hundreds of years. Caves and other sacred portals to the underworld conveyed the God of Maize from death to rebirth in an ongoing cycle of resurrection, a theme common to cultures the world over.

Mayan folk paid taxes in woven textiles, an artisanal  tradition alive and well  today. They mined jade, used for making beautiful jewelry and as adornments embedded in teeth by dentists, whose practices flourished alongside other healers and surgeons.  Advanced mathematical, architectural and astronomical insights are preserved in the few remaining codices, rescued from destruction by conquistadores and Catholic priests, who considered them the devil’s handiwork. Like the Library of Alexandria, the loss is incalculable.

Some credit the Maya with inventing the game of basketball. While there are some similarities, the stakes were much higher for the warriors at their ball courts. Ball Court The ball was made of rubber, drained from trees and layered until it was an 8-10 pound missile. The players strapped on 20 pound stone waist guards and used their amazing core strength to keep the ball in play.  Losers were often sacrificed and winners were richly rewarded with the losers’ wealth.  The game changed over centuries of play, with some suggestion that it served as a ritual substitute for warfare.  Hero Twin myths point to the origin of the game as a transitional space between the underworld and the land above.  The court was a place to work out the disputes and manage competition that allowed for alliances and trade to flourish.

I highly recommend this great end of summer day trip for the whole family.  It will be interesting to see how the Witte integrates the programs at the Mays Center into exhibits that have kept Texans informed and entertained  for almost a century.



Independence Day Blues

Cheers- it’s Independence Day, 2016. So how do we want our freedom to ring? For a few, for the many, for me and you but not them? Truth – we’re in it together –  people, other living beings, the earth, our known universe.

I’m remembering Dr. Martin Luther King today and the practice of non-violence in pursuit of freedom for the people of his beloved community.  He speaks of both, below:

In a 1957 speech, Birth of A New Nation, Dr. King said, “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation. The aftermath of violence is emptiness and bitterness.” A year later, in his first book Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. King reiterated the importance of nonviolence in attaining The Beloved Community. In other words, our ultimate goal is integration, which is genuine inter-group and inter-personal living. Only through nonviolence can this goal be attained, for the aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of the Beloved Community.

In his 1959 Sermon on Gandhi, Dr. King elaborated on the after-effects of choosing nonviolence over violence: “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, so that when the battle’s over, a new relationship comes into being between the oppressed and the oppressor.” In the same sermon, he contrasted violent versus nonviolent resistance to oppression. “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”

The core value of the quest for Dr. King’s Beloved Community was agape love. Dr. King distinguished between three kinds of love: eros, “a sort of aesthetic or romantic love”; philia, “affection between friends” and agape, which he described as “understanding, redeeming goodwill for all,” an “overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative”…”the love of God operating in the human heart.” He said that “Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people…It begins by loving others for their sakes” and “makes no distinction between a friend and enemy; it is directed toward both…Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community.”

It’s time to earn our freedom from denial and work together to create the beloved community. What’s stopping us? Whatever does not make us free.

When my heart aches, wondering if we can actually become humane beings, I am grateful for the blues.

Happy 87th Birthday Miss Lavelle White. We love you.

Austin Music Summit – The FeedBak

Two months ago I attended one of the  Austin Music Summit meetings at Strange Brew and met Bak Zoumanigui, an Austin podcaster and blogger. A veteran of Austin’s nightlife, his website The FeedBak features videos and podcasts from 2 am interviews, stories in the night and most recently, three excellent shows highlighting the City of Austin’s process of soliciting feedback from citizens at art and music summits. The recommendations for stabilizing the Austin creative ecosystem can be found here.

I’ve been here since the 1970’s, going to school, working at UT, the Austin Public Libraries, as a waitress, gallery assistant and unpaid artist and writer.  Artists and musicians created what is a now storied entertainment scene during a time in which housing and the cost of living was kind to creatives.  The same two bedroom cottage I rented in Travis Heights for $125 a month in 1976 would sell for at least $500,000 now.  Affordability is one of the biggest challenges working artists and musicians face in 21st Century Austin.

This is an ongoing conversation, in the meantime check FeedBak podcasts to catch up:


FDBK Ep. 098 – Save Austin Music Part 1 – Work With The City. Do Not Rely On It

Interviews with Rebecca Farrell, an attorney at Austin Music Law and Tee Double, the founder of Urban Artist Alliance, helping urban artists learn about the business side of the music industry.

FDBK Ep. 099 – Save Austin Music Part 2 – Bet On Music Tech

Bak talks with Chris Bush, the CEO of TipCow, and Dan Redman, founder of Mosaic Sound Collective about how their ventures fit in Mayor Adler’s Omnibus Resolution to preserve the Austin music scene.

Yesterday, Bak talked with Music Summit organizers at City Hall in his 100th podcast for the Feedbak.  If you were not able to attend the meetings, these conversations are the next best thing.  Please give them a listen and use the link in the photo below for the last in the series.  Austin is striving to find ways to keep the city livable for artists and musicians. Thanks Bak, for getting the word out and please consider joining the fight and donating to the FeedBak!


J. Charles Jones & the Soul of Charlotte

Charlotta Janssen’s portrait of J. Charles Jones

Last week I had the great good fortune to meet the Hon. J. Charles Jones, a civil rights legend living in the Biddleville neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Bordered by historically black  Johnson C. Smith University, Biddleville struggles to keep its character while integrating young families seeking a perch close to downtown. My daughter and son-in-law are among them and were warmly welcomed by Mr. Jones on their first day in the neighborhood.  Charles lives across the street, tending to koi ponds, both indoor and in his gardens and was one of the first people in Charlotte to install a solar energy system, which provides most of his energy needs. C-Span interviewed him in 2011 about his contribution to the civil rights movement,  part of their Historic Charlotte series ( linked to the photo below).

Click on photo for interview

When Mr. Jones welcomed me, he told me a little about his history with the movement, his marriage of 38 years and his love of the earth and of people.  His storytelling style is poetry in motion, conducting the conversation with orchestral flair.  My imagination was already piqued by his lush garden and the mysterious greenhouse structure than runs the length of his family home.  Charles’ openness, spiritual presence and charm are a powerful reminder that there are many humane beings in the world and that a heart to heart connection will always bring a tear to my eye.  He is a wonderful goodwill ambassador, helping to build Dr. King’s “beloved community,” with  love.   The Historic West End Partners, neighbors and the city of Charlotte are working together to mitigate some of the side effects of increasing property taxes and keep the character of this historically rich black neighborhood alive. Support of long-time residents is important to both old and new neighbors.

This week, Representative Charles Lewis, a Civil Rights icon, led the sit in to protest obstruction to gun control legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.freedom_11944cjonesprofile_med  The struggle for justice and equality is real, just as hard as it was in the 1960’s.  When someone who has faced the blindness and the hatred of prejudice holds out his hand in friendship, it is both humbling and hopeful.  The relentless media focus on hatred and violence undermines opportunities for trust and mutuality.  It seems, lately, that we have taken several steps backward: in women’s rights, voting rights, civil rights, LGBT and labor rights.  Perhaps there will come a time when we can move forward again, together.  Charles Jones and John Lewis make me believe that time is now.

A summer saunter around Charlotte, Cornelius and Davidson, NC


Thornton Road – West Austin Studio Tour

ThorntonWestAustinThe collective at the Thornton Road Studios, located by ABGB at Oltorf and Thornton Road boasts an important victory for artists trying to live and work in Austin.  In February, the Austin City Council decided 10 -1 in favor of denying a request for a zoning change, which would have razed the studio complex in favor of a mixed use development (read more condos).  It seems that every available parcel of land in South Austin is being gobbled up, transforming lush, green tracts on  Del Curto Drive and Clawson Lane into crowded, condo tunnels. Mayor Steve Adler has launched  the Austin Music and  Creative Omnibus Resolution which seeks input from the creative sector on keeping Austin artist friendly, stemming the tide of increasingly unaffordable housing and venue loss. In short, a battle for the soul-y of our city and I don’t just mean our “brand.”  This is one of a series of posts about the summits, which The Austin Chronicle reported on in April.

In addition to the creation of a Cultural District downtown on Red River and the thinkEAST living and working development, I would encourage cultivating creative corridors that are already developing organically in South Austin (SOCO, SOLA and SOCHACA)  and in North Austin (BURO).  Rather than building new units, it might be wise for the city to reclaim and upgrade apartments and offer grants to venues (like Strange Brew) that share an intention to grow collaboratively with other vendors or partners like ACC.

The West and East Austin Studio Tours are a great way to get an impression of just how many artists are meeting the affordability challenge in pursuit of their passion.  I offer a few in the gallery below who have made Thornton Road Studios their creative home. Featured artists include: Creative Side Metal Works, Wyss Bronko – Drugparty Collaborative, Cindy Corkill, Rita Marie Ross, Jacob Colburn, Mindy Graber, Sandy Muckleroy, Christine Gilbert and Greg Davis.

West Austin Studio Tour – South

Took a short tour of a couple South venues on the West Austin Studio tour. I’ve been curious about the Space music rehearsal studio on Manchaca Road for awhile.  The Sound : Vision show featured work from the Austin Art Refugees, a roving band of artists I will be following, shown in the gallery below: Hannah Lee, Ann Wieding, Dave McClinton, Patrick Moran and Bart Kibbe.  I had to stop in at David Amdur’s studio to see his new stone and wood carvings and check out the latest addition to the Manchaca Road corridor, Articulture, making art out of life.  More to come next week, when we’ll have another chance to explore more Westside art.

what beauty goes unnoticed

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