Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Haze Has Begun

Buffalo Field Campaign exists because the country's last wild herd of bison is being hazed, slaughtered, captured and experimented on as a part of the Inter-agency Bison Management Plan (IBMP). The agencies that comprise the IBMP are the National Park Service, USDA-Forest Service, USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Montana Department of Livestock, and Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.

The buffalo have  been hazed every day this week since Tuesday (today is Saturday, and there is a high probability of hazing tomorrow). Agents shoot cracker/concussion rounds over the heads of buffalo, throw rocks and sticks, ram them with vehicles, and generally scare them away from their annual migration destinations miles back to the places from with they migrated. The vast majority of the buffalo being hazed right now are pregnant females on the cusp of birth and 1-3 year olds. These buffalo are part of the last wild herd of buffalo in the country. All other buffalo are denied their natural instincts by being fed hay and kept in enclosures, and are more often than not cross-bred with cows. Most of these buffalo are only kept for slaughter and consumption. These food-buffalo (a.k.a. "Beefalo") are counted in the population count; thus, buffalo are not on the Endangered Species List. THEY SHOULD BE. The Yellowstone herd is the last population of wild buffalo. They number 3,700 and the National Park Service has decided arbitrarily that the population should be capped at 3,000. If there were 3,000 elk or Bald Eagles or salmon, they would be protected, but they're not.

They're not protected because they compete with cattle for grazing rights of a VERY small amount of land that is only traversed and occupied up to 3 months of the year during calving season. The cattle industry in this country, and especially in Montana, is very powerful monetarily and politically. They want to make sure that the American Buffalo, a symbol of wildness and nature, is kept in low numbers quarantined inside Yellowstone National Park. It is also a double-standard since elk and deer and other herd/grazing species are protected because they are open to hunters, whereas buffalo are only open to hunting by Native American nations. The reasoning used by the Livestock Industry is that buffalo rarely but sometimes carry brucellosis, a bacterial disease that causes stillbirths in infected animals. It is a disease that was given to wildlife from a cow nursing a bison calf in the middle of the 20th Century. Elk are widespread and often carry brucellosis, but they are left alone for hunters' sport. This is a persecution, a Holocaust being committed against a magnificent animal revered throughout its existence by humans, all for the desires of a few people. And it has begun again this year.

Once again, buffalo are being hazed, and the Buffalo Field Campaign is here standing with the buffalo wherever they have left the arbitrary borders of Yellowstone National Park, documenting this abuse and holding the perpetrators responsible for their actions. Unfortunately, the law supports most of their actions, and law enforcement is almost always participating in the haze and slaughter of the buffalo. So, we must change the law and open the eyes of the public to the atrocities being carried out here. Please, spread the word, show people the abuse happening here. The BFC website, has tons of information, videos, and ways to take action to help the buffalo. I will be here this year standing with the buffalo until they are safe, and pray that somehow, unlike the last 150 years, the abuse will not continue next Spring.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Paradox

I've done a substantial amount of thinking in recent years only to realize that one of the most important questions I will have to answer in my life may be unanswerable in my lifetime. Let me be more clear. The two sources of my spiritual and emotional health are nature and music. I am a musician who wants to live autonomously and completely off the grid in a land of natural beauty and preservation. I am principally a jazz musician, and jazz has historically been dependent on urban centers for its existence. It seems as though I will have to choose between one existence or the other. My problem gets deeper, however...

Jazz originated in slave songs for work and for leisure, so it was born of a more rural setting, but it didn't progress into an art movement until it was transformed in New Orleans. Dixieland, but especially the swing era and bebop thrived on people's need for emotional and spiritual release from the cages of their apartments, their jobs, various persecutions, and social homogenization that came with the Rennaisance, Western Civilzation, and Industrialization. Indeed, I don't think that early jazz could have taken off the way it did without this manic thirst for creative release. Jazz is very much a drug for society's diseases, and I believe that it is partially the human turmoil from which jazz was conceived that led to many jazz musicians' use of hard drugs. To be fair, the part of the brain that is active during drug use has been shown to be the same part that is active during jazz improvisation. I want to see the current economic system collapse on itself; to see humanity decide: live with respect for and in harmony with the rest of life on this planet, or suffer the destruction we have wrought on each other and this planet. Will only those who have practiced the skills necessary to survive life---grow food, make tools, build a home, etc---be at all capable of listening to the music? If urban civilization is the raison d'etre for jazz, how can I reconcile the need for jazz in my life or anyone's life when for most survival is a desperate reach made by those who did not retain the skills.

If urban civilization is necessary for jazz to exist, how can I live off the grid, in harmony with nature, and still play jazz? To bring my thoughts back to a more current reality, musical recording has been essential to the growth and spread of jazz. This means technology and money to record, the means to reproduce recordings on a mass scale, and most importantly, those with the technology to do this are generally interested in how it will make money. Moreover, musical instruments themselves are trapped in the same technology-money cycle, and there have been many forms of jazz that are completely reliant on technology for manipulation and even creation of sound. Fusion/funk and jazz guitar are only a couple of examples. If I have no means for or interest in making money, how could I tap into these essential elements of the art form? Additionally, music and most instruments are easily transportable, but what about the musicians themselves? Musicians of equal caliber and similar style/interest are harder and harder to come by, and urban centers are often necessary for their connection. If I had to live 30-200 miles away from an urban music venue to live where I want in the way I want---for instance, in the Rockies above Denver, or in the rainforests near Seattle in Western Washington---how could music making be made possible? Would I hike or bike 200 miles to a city for a rehearsal, gig, or recording session? In 1600s Europe, composers such as Bach would make month-long pilgrimages to music meccas like Vienna and attempt to live the musician's life the way they couldn't in their rural homelands. This is not unlike many musicians' fantacization of New York City. Musicians are made famous in these meccas, but they often do it unhappily, leaving life with their humanity and souls dangling from a string. And, if urbanity is the raison d'etre of jazz, when people are reconnected with the natural life they depend on, will jazz become irrelevant or unnecessary?

Music can be made with such a variety of people, and in so many ways that I'm certain that as a pianist, I'll have to abandon the ideal setting of a baby grand piano, acoustic bass, and drums trio playing in a dimly lit, close-quarters room, together reaching a transcendental plane of coexistence in the moment of musical communication at its highest level. Will I simply play for myself and the birds? Will I think with nostalgic pain of moments past, forgetting the suffering that buttressed singularly blissful musical experiences? Or is there somehow a silver lining, a way to reconcile these two halves of my individuality? This is my life's question; and in my opinion, it should be humanity's question. How can we reconcile the beautiful art created out of a world suffering from a disconnection with nature? How can life survive without this re-connection? I wrote a poem once, a spontaneous creation of a moment that lasted about ten minutes. It was inspired by these questions, and I didn't realize the depth of my dilemma at the time. Perhaps it will be a little clearer by lyric than by vomitous thoughts...

It's called Birds' Urbanity
          A fiery orange hue
 disturbed by boiling yellows
                              mellows to blue notes.
       Bluesy wails cute above and
               beyond a sea of faces,
                                       each letting their sufferings
                     melt into nothingness.

 Elation and creation always
                                       trump but not transcend our
                                destruction-dominated world.
           Same as neon bright lights
                   dominate our vision in color,
      so the energy boils
                         in the guts and hearts
   of people listening, yearning
               for liberation of a soul
                               imprisoned by Imperialist desires.

The saxophone's jubilant swaying breathes for lungs that no longer meld into the sound of wind rustling through trees.
The drummer's thunderstorm of sound ornaments a deeper pulse, a base line defibrillation for hearts that have been forced to forget to pulse in time with the crashing of the waves, the dripping of Spring's melt.

      Music cuts through the fog
                   of tomorrow's elusive possibilities
to revive that inner soul,
                                the power nature etched
         into our genes
         to be one with life.
   Gray cityscapes and grimy streets
               are not the pinnacle of existence,
and this realization moves Bird's audience to tears, the way heroine tears him from consciousness.

               His was the fate of a
               mockingbird trapped in a
               prison with no trees.
               No way to be alive
               no way to sing
               above the bustling noise.

               Remember to sing, BbBbird
It will give you back your life!
               Remember to siiinng......

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring Cleaning

This is the most recent photo of me:

A botched haircut, 

and some spring cleaning later...

Isn't it lovely to be living in a place where there's no fear of judgement???


These are some patches i drew, cut, and sewed onto a pair of jeans with knee holes. 

 A Peregrine Falcon on the left knee.

 Toad and Toadstool on the right knee...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Swear off technology!

Why is this radical??? I stay away from technology as much as possible, and there have been weeks to months where I haven't touched anything electronic at all. I don't think it's a coincidence that I have been more content at these times than at any other time in my life. I'm glad he's getting this message out, though... WATCH IT! : )

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

As Seen By...

The sad thing about these maps is that the stereotypes they illustrate are too commonly true. I feel that a very large part of the United States' culture and trends can be traced to New York City, and that a large part of the world's culture and trends can be traced to the U.S.. Obviously, people who live outside of the U.S. or NYC are more familiar with the geography around them, but the point is that people adopt parts of a worldview that is so ethnocentric when they are part of so many vastly different ethnoses--for example, western capitalism--this is grounds for internal conflict and clash that leaves entire peoples and lands decimated and uprooted. Just put yourself in the shoes of someone who lives outside NYC or the U.S. and you may get the smallest sense of this self-conflict and marginalization.