A Momento in Time

31 03 2007

Bebel Gilberto

By Derek Beres

It was impossible not to fall in love with Tanto Tempo. The light and deft movement of simple Brazilian chords, so reminiscent of a sonic industry her father, Joao, helped create, immediately drew you in. It was an album you knew your entire life even though it was produced in 2000. There was something familiar and comforting; even if you couldn’t speak a word of Portuguese, you knew what she was singing. Oh, there’s a broken heart. Look, a sunshine breaking the coast. But there was something new in there, and not only an update on the occasional strains of her mother’s voice. Bebel Gilberto became your best friend instantly, the one that knows all the secrets you didn’t even know you kept.

That’s how it felt last week when I stepped into her apartment to speak with her on a piece for MTV Urge. After a hug, she offered me two pieces of vinyl. She was told I was also a DJ, and wanted to break bread immediately. I was thankful. As we sat and talked, about Brazilian music, American music, more music and other topics of life – inspiration, U2 concerts and creative longings – the conversation would wrap back into its original idea: living in the moment. That is the theory and trademark of her third album, Momento (Six Degrees), as well as how she is defining herself these days.

It’s a good way to go about living, I thought and think. What attracted me most to her, as this quality does in each interviewee that obtains it, is her presence with both the person in front of her, as well as within the music she creates. When you hear a Bebel song, you know it’s her singing. That’s a special and rare trait, and why you feel so connected to the artists you love most. Apparently a few million people in this world feel the same, judging by the incredible number of albums she’s sold. There’s good reason. Her music warrants attention.

With an April 24 release date, Momento will be another moment for her. Like Tanto Tempo and Bebel Gilberto, you’ll immediately know and embrace the record. The title track is too delicious not to devour. You feel like you’re inside her heart with each breathy syllable. More importantly, you feel like you’re inside your own, and that makes you want to feel it again, and again. You’ll want to crawl inside each of the eleven tracks, the melancholic “Words,” the effervescent “Azul” and dexterous, almost Caribbean “Tranquilo.” Look for the album in a few weeks, although chances are it will find you somehow: in a coffee shop, a random bedroom window or perhaps in sleep. That’s where it seems to rise from, and the duskiness will settle, and soothe.


Here We Are Now [Pt II]

30 03 2007

by Jill Ettinger

In high school, I had a tenable relationship with punk rock. I even shaved my head.  I may (may!) have bitten a few people. But that’s what the teenage years are for. It’s cathartic. Life is absolutely absurd and once the id starts to wrestle with itself, pure insanity is usually the indicator that all is going well. In my experience, it’s much easier to recover from the ego-freakdown at a younger age, and any child of mine that doesn’t bug out to the extreme will get locked in a room with Fugazi blasting until he or she does. (They’ll thank me for it later!)

So when I found myself all wrapped up in patchouli and pad thai just a few short years after combat boots and Exploited records ad nauseaum, I knew something was off. Though the manic behavior of tenth grade no longer controlled my life, there were parts of me still drawn to the music from back then. So I kept listening to the Nirvana record. And then, something clicked. Though high school was much closer than it seemed, I was light years from it. Couldn’t even look at it yet. But I could revel in its haunt. Grunge was a flashback to a time without identity. Like the Dead-grip I was surrounded by, identity was scaring me. It is after all, just a commitment. A choice. And at that age, saying I was anything firmly one way or the other seemed to defy what being twenty-one was all about. At the same time I was discovering the Seattle sound, I was a bicycle messenger. For the first time in my life, I was working out a lot of things through my body rather than inside of it. Grunge was a perfect soundtrack. There was intensity, melody, wisdom and disdain.

Life is emotional. Complex. It rains. It rages. The dripping melancholy sounds coming out of the NW nearly fifteen years ago, echoed the diaspora of our American landscape as in, it is almost-a-country. We had landed, killed all the Indians, tore down the forests and drifted off, built cities and retreated to them without ever really identifying ourselves as a collective or a culture. We forgot about it and the American “culture” we’re pigeonholed in has become a trite and blasé one. It has no character.  It needs to be locked in a room with punk rock records.

There’s a quote that’s usually attributed to Nelson Mandela about what frightens us most being our light not our darkness. We cower in our ability to shine. There is much to gain with expressing ourselves to the fullest without fear of being accepted or understood. Sometimes that can only happen though if we go to the deepest darkest and even crankiest places first. You never know what beautiful and meaningful things might be hiding there. Introspection forces the dumpster diving into our raw core.

Grunge music was the prophetic psychogenic reaction to our lack of identity. The tragedy of Kurt Cobain’s death was as critical a sound off as the first time his wailing guitar screeched across MTV. It showed us that the process is sometimes loud and painful, but like anything else, it cycles through itself into something hopefully more rewarding. Though there were other incredible talents to emerge from the Seattle scene, Cobain and Nirvana were the extremely hard to scratch itch of a culture disconnected from its own skin.

It’ll be thirteen years next week since Cobain died. A lot has happened since then. But in Seattle tonight, it’s still raining.

Here We Are Now [Pt 1]

29 03 2007

By Jill Ettinger

Seattle is one of those towns I’ve wanted to visit for a long time.  Like all good things worth waiting for, it finally came around on the old organic-sales-call-o-meter this month. As I stepped off the jetway yesterday evening, one of the first things I noticed was a recycling bin. Not a poorly marked can, but a clearly labeled, obvious, squat receptacle with designations for both paper and plastic! The next thing I noticed was quietude. Calmness. This definitely isn’t Newark-Liberty International. And not surprisingly, there is a lot here that reminds me of Hilo, Hawaii. Hilo is on the east side of the Big Island, extremely lush and tropical. But it rains. A lot. There is a big part of me that really resonates with this climate. The quiet, green and damp invites introspection and reflection, something I value. Though my career and passions often put me in extroverted situations, I find my internal dialogues are not just the process of working through this existence-experience, but some paradoxically humble friendship. And some of us, I suppose, just have a lot more thinking to do than others.

For all the beauty and grace Seattle seems to emanate in the thirty or so hours I’ve been here, it’s not what drew me to this city all these years. Credit for that, as cliché as it might be, goes to Kurt Cobain. I remember the first time I heard Nirvana, Jenny, my baby sister was obsessed: “YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO THIS RECORD.” So I did. I didn’t get it. (That’s because I was so overdosed on the Grateful Dead that technically, I could only hear things in the key of “Sugaree.” I was tone-Dead.) But I wanted to. There was something I knew I needed to understand. Jenny is five years younger than me, and she got the music right away. It took me months before I could hear something in Nirvana that eventually became MUCH stronger than anything I resonated with by Bob Weir or Jerry Garcia.

Nevermind dropped when I was just twenty-one, an incredibly trying age (I say now maturely in my mid-thirties). At least it was for me. I’ve had a challenging time yielding to what it means to be “grown up” and it seems, so have many others in my generation. Twenty-one came with responsibility and indignation. Like the “freedom” to drink legally, one becomes astutely aware of the meaning of the word consequence. The counter culture in the early ‘90’s was a drastic departure from that of our parents generation in the‘60’s, when Dead Heads first emerged. Not only did we have a bitter taste in our mouth from the corporate slime drenching this country, but we now also had no place to retreat to in order to ponder this egregious climate. At least half of us were products of broken up homes, shuffling from one parent to another. Two homes in which to search for answers and identity will most definitely take someone twice as long to find it.

What had drawn me to the Dead was the same thing that eventually repelled me – the community, the escape, the defiance. The music was mildly entertaining, though while there were a few great songs (“Deal”), most of them are just ok.  Though I surely never thought this back then, touring with the Dead was, well, like joining a cult. There was SO much dogma and worship. (“Jerry! Jerry!”) There was a uniform. (What do they call those poncho like pullover tie-die shirt things again?) Everyone ate the same food. (Beer and acid.) And absolutely everyone believed that this music would change the world, not because the world needed it, but because they wanted it tie-died and twirling. Deadheads are some of the most conniving, stubborn, rude and snobby people I’ve ever met. The whole peace and love thing got caught up in the movement very much in the same way my dog’s fur ends up over at my friends houses – definitely doesn’t belong there and is incredibly hard to get rid of. I had barely gotten into the “scene” and was already looking for an out. It was a lazy, motley crew of horny, wasted, poor-rich kids. The band sang other people’s songs. My dad liked them. I needed Nirvana very much in the truest sense of the word. Its Tibetan translation is the end of suffering, as in, freedom from ignorance. Like most of my friends, I was spinning wheels hoping to get some traction.

To be continued…

Conscious Life: Green Fest After Party

27 03 2007

Conscious Life Party

For more information on the party, click here.

The Truth About What Makes Sodas Pop

26 03 2007

Diet Coke

By Jill Ettinger

Truth has consequences. What we perceive as ultimate accuracy, no matter how sure we are in our own minds, will always be seen by another in at least a slightly (if not drastically) different light. It’s inescapable, and perhaps the only universally-shared truth. There’s simply no way around our isolation, in as such that we can only see what we see. We are participants in this collective as fragments coming together to form the puzzle of humanity, yet remain, in some ways, disparate. This disconnect is what drives us to those base human behaviors like anger, fear and ultimately, war. It’s those moments where we connect on passionate and compassionate levels with one another that we find calm, peace and understanding.

Based on these wavy lines of our common vision, we’ve built ourselves a world of anticipation, as if we can guarantee what is coming next. Habits form out of the pursuit of predictability and as we reap, we sow. We seek to gain some level of perfection through daily routines, becoming “ready” or prepared for the next moment, and the one after that. But, is there really some state of greatness beyond who we already are? Take this fascinating move by Coca Cola.

In an attempt to rewrite their patterns and dependency-inducing habits over the last century (that have made them richer than God), Coca Cola has boldly stepped into the good-for-you-sort-of category, adding vitamins to their ubiquitous “diet” drink with the launch of Diet Coke Plus. On a very basic level, this is progress. Not only do people deserve access to healthy options, but with Coca Cola charging forward in that direction, they acknowledge their previous edict of thoughtless consumption that ignored this precept by miles. HOWEVER, it’s really still the same blind preoccupation with creating more thoughtless consumption. Only this time, the hypnotic spin is healthy – the new meaningless driver behind the wheel of advertising mega monster truck single bottom line corporate agendas.

So how do we treat this newfound virus of feeling good and looking good? Fad diets, Botox and liposuction have ushered in unrealistic misconceptions of what it means to have a healthy body. No doubt Coca Cola and all its wake of competition will continue to infiltrate our healthy food options in epic scale. They already own Odwalla, one of the largest fresh juice makers in the healthy and natural segment. But retooling Diet Coke is another twist entirely. It’s rewriting mainstream expectation. By forcing trendy new habits onto our culture, we don’t necessarily become any more “awakened,” just reprogrammed by the shimmery illusion.

If healthy is to have meaning to our children, it’s got to be without the caution that expectations bring. Without the preparedness that corporations indoctrinate our culture with, one is free to make their own choices. Truth may have its consequences, but even more than that, so does a lie.

I’m not suggesting a boycott of an enhanced soda product. But, well, yes I am. The truth is that even though it now has vitamins added to it, osteoporosis is still a massive side effect of excess soda consumption. Artificial sweeteners are not only cancer causing, but also cause unsustainable practices. And the real truth is that until corporations like Coca-Cola rewrite their credos to incorporate a triple bottom line, they’re not doing anybody any good outside of their stockholders. Healthy or not, it’s still just fizz

Doing Their Dirty Work

25 03 2007

By Derek Beres

To further prove their interests are completely with major record labels (as well as their own company), and not the artists they are purporting to protect the interests of, the RIAA made news once again – and this time, much to their chagrin. The University of Wisconsin has refused to cooperate with them in, basically, acting as their policing unit against their own students. Essentially, they wanted the university to distribute settlement letters, which allows students to settle out of court for a large discount against what they would pay if they had to go to court.

The faultiness of the logic here, if you can call it that, is that this is implying the student is even guilty, or, exactly, what the student is guilty of. These letters would serve the RIAA well – their very premise allows them the leverage of being a toll collector without the messiness of litigation and the like. Hence, you have a system akin to the pharmaceutical industry: take free now, pay later, when the bill comes in, probably for a lot more than you expected. Thing is, the psychology is skewed – it implies the student was guilty before even being heard. And this is exactly what the RIAA wants.

If the company can psychologically belittle internet users into believing anytime they hit “download” they may be breaking a law, they’ve accomplished their mission: to make a lot of money, for their clients, and themselves. (I don’t need to bring up where the people making the music stand in this process. They’re sitting or, more importantly, making music.) I must applaud consumerist.com readers for voting the RIAA the worst company in America this year, however. There’s little humor in the fact that the few people that respect their constant and often outlandish policing tactics are them themselves, and the few label execs they work for. Most of us are too busy trying to enjoy music.

Big Surprise in Antibiotics

23 03 2007

By Derek Beres

Gotta love this study reported by the Seattle Post Intelligencer on sinus issues and antibiotics.  The basic conclusion is that too many doctors prescribe antibiotics for relief of sinus issues, when the issues are more commonly provoked by a virus, instead of bacteria. In the piece, they recommend using “saline flushing” as a form of relief and upkeep. In previous times, this was known as jala neti, an old Ayurvedic technique of cleaning the nasal passages to keep the flow of prana consistent in both nadis, channels, of the body.

A lifelong sufferer of allergies and sinus issues, I began using a neti pot one year ago. In that time I have not once suffered an allergy sickness, nor do I receive the seasonal problems that plagued me for years. The simple act of flushing the nasal passages with salt water each day has been an amazing addition to the other aspects of my overall health and pranayama practice. It’s nice to see science catching up, but once again its a restating of the obvious. People that use neti pots already know the benefits, as they experience them daily. It’s like those reports we read on yoga helping calm stress and making you more flexible. Practitioners don’t need someone to tell them that’s the case. Again, common sense prevails.

For more information on neti pots, I suggest the Himalayan Institute. At first salt may seem a bit harsh (that subsides quickly), but they also offer an excellent variety of neti wash mixes that work wonders, with or without salt.