new gig–dj haven m gonna play some rock n roll

English: Historical maker near the Rock and Ro...

Historical maker near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After laying low for awhile, I have a new DJ name–DJ Haven M–and a new gig set up at the at the High Noon Saloon on Sunday, September 8.  This is for the Rock n Roll Party  from 1-4 pm. which is a fundraiser for Dane County TimeBank.  I’m DJing roughly the first hour of the event.

As for the DJ name, I’ve been changing DJ names like underwear and finally decided on something simple that would identify me and that I could stick to. An internet search revealed that there was already a DJ Haven out there someplace, so I decided to take my first name and add my last name initial to it to make it my DJ name. (Actually, it’s my middle name initial too). DJ Haven M is easy to remember, sounds modern and is totally me.

In preparation for the fundraiser at the High Noon on September 8, I decided that it’s time for me to start dusting off some of my old rock ‘n’ roll records and getting ready to rock out. I’ve been meaning to incorporate more rock into my sets and now is the perfect opportunity to do so.

The next few posts between now and September 8 are going to highlight some of my favorite rock ‘n’ roll artists. Watch this space, learn, and enjoy.

 

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in defense of hip hop

Greenhouse (Blueprint +Illogic)

Greenhouse (Blueprint +Illogic) (Photo credit: Enrico Fuente)

When I did DJ work for the Barefoot Boogie, we sought to get feedback from our sets from attendees.  We had a form that people could fill out so that people could provide constructive criticism.  One night, I was surprised to discover two forms sharply critical of the hip hop songs that were in my set.  One person, when asked whether I played music s/he could dance to, checked “strongly disagree” and in the comment section wrote “Hip f-ing hop.”  Another person said they didn’t think hip-hop should be played at all.

The funny thing is that I played only two hip-hop songs the entire night.  While each DJ at the Barefoot Boogie had their own style, we all knew that variety was what our crowd sought.  The two hip-hop songs, which I played back to back, were T-L.A. Rock and Jazzy J’s “It’s Yours,” and Neneh Cherry’s “Sassy.”  “It’s Yours,” is an 80′s old-school anthem that talks about what was then a relatively new hip-hop phenomenon.  I carefully selected it because it was tasteful and positive, even if it wasn’t necessarily socially concious.  I did sense that some people weren’t connecting with it, so I selected the Neneh Cherry selection because it was still hip-hop, but it included a lot of jazz samples which made it feel like a smooth selection.  I have her CD “Homebrew,” and I think she has a very positive message.  I probably couldn’t have gotten much more “Rated G” in the hip hop genre than those two selections.

But it’s also true that a lot of people have a visceral reaction to hip-hop, particularly here in Madison, and I feel like I need to say something about that.  A lot of people view hip-hop as a negative force in our society–as if all of it celebrated misogyny, violence, gang life, and the like.

I’m no expert on hip-hop, but one thing I do know is that there are as many definitions of hip-hop as there are hip-hop fans.  A lot of fans define hip-hop not only by its music, but also certain fashions and attitudes.  But since there are so many definitions out there, I think that it’s best to just focus on the music itself, so my definition of hip-hop is simply this:  spoken-word rhyming lyrics over a beat, frequently consisting of music sampled from other records.  That’s all.

As for what people do with hip-hop, the message that people deliver, yes, criticism can be called for.  People should always speak out against lyrics that celebrate misogyny and violence.  Frankly, I think people should speak out more about these things.  I also agree that such things are too prominent in the hip-hop genre.  But stick to the issues–criticize the artists and lyrics, not the whole genre.  If you condemn a whole genre, you also condemn the people who are doing positive things with the genre.

I’ve seen a lot of articles and letters to the editor that complain about the hip-hop scene in Madison because there have been occasional problems at hip-hop concerts.  While problems should be addressed, I believe a double standard definitely exists.  I had UW students as my neighbors for 5 1/2 years when I lived in downtown Madison.  I lived two blocks from where they held the annual Mifflin Street Block Party–a party that never is allowed a permit, but which is tolerated, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars to the city.  I watched as Wisconsin’s “best and brightest” got hammered, urinated on our property, smashed beer bottles,  tore down our “No Parking” signs and vandalized our compost pile.  Some of this also happened during Badger football game weekends, to the point where everytime someone said “Get Your Red On,” I wanted to hold up a giant bottle of Visine (which “gets the red out.”)   Can someone in Madison seriously tell me that the same thing would be tolerated by the police in neighborhoods with large numbers of people of color?  Can someone really tell me that and keep a straight face?

Hip hop was and is a genuine grass roots movement from the streets providing a voice to people often marginalized in our society.  Sure, there are hip hop artists that will show off their mansions on MTV’s “The Crib” that they bought with the millions they made off of lyrics glorifying violence and misogyny.  But there’s also a lot of good hip hop out there.

Indeed there is a whole subgenre referred to as “underground hip hop” that is often quite intelligent and socially conscious.  Below, I have posted a couple of examples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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end of an era

Five years ago, three adults and a baby moved into an empty co-op house with a big and somewhat overwhelming mission–revive the co-op house and turn it into a thriving community.

I, as one of the adults, barely knew the other two adults–a couple that had just moved here from Chicago with their one-month old child.  We’d talked on the phone a couple of times and I met the husband in person a couple of times.  One day, about a couple of weeks before we moved into the new place, I invited the couple for dinner in at the co-op I was living in at the time.  The wife had her baby in a sling, and the baby was sleeping so quietly that I strongly suspected that none of my housemates in the co-op even realized there was a baby in the house–a suspicion that I later discovered to be true in a subsequent conversation.

Our biggest tasks at hand  in the new co-op were to clean up the property and make it habitable.  The odor of tobacco smoke in the house was very strong as the house had not been a smoke-free house.  So many cigarettes had been smoked on the porch and in the house that our next door neighbor (with whom we eventually became good friends), had set up a window shade at the end of her front porch facing our front porch to keep the tobacco smoke from drifting onto her porch.  We scrubbed every square foot of that house and even used a sage smudging stick to “purify” the house.

In addition to the cleanup, we also had to recruit new people to move into the house with us–fast.  Luckily, we were mostly full within the month and completely full by the end of the year.

Many people have been involved the co-op and have contributed a lot to the house in the intervening five years.  We developed an attic family room and installed the insulation and floor tile ourselves.  We helped design the new kitchen, which, while fairly small, is still better suited for a co-op of our size than what was there before.  We made many decisions as a house, with some of them being quite difficult, especially when we had to ask a couple of people to leave.  We made mistakes and learned from them, and refined our operations as a house which would always been a complex operation given that it has housed 7-8 adults and anywhere from 1-4 children,

The one constant through all of these five years, though, was me and the family that started the house.  And now the family–now with two kids ages 2 and 5–is moving out.

I remember five years ago telling a friend in another co-op about moving into the house with this couple and he looked at me surprised and said, “You’re WILLINGLY moving into a co-op with a baby?”  Yes, and that was one of the biggest pleasant surprises of my co-op experience here.  My five years with this child and her younger brother will always be among my most cherished memories.

I remember one of the early days in our house where the mother, baby and I went to Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace, a delightful Austin-style Southwest restaurant in the neighborhood.  The baby spent the entire time in the baby carriage and was very quiet.  When we got to the restaurant, we kept her in the baby carriage facing the wall.  The baby noticed the Christmas lights on the wall that were there for decoration and became absolutely fixated with them.  She almost seemed to be trying to communicate with them as if they were the mother ship from the planet Babyland.

As she got older, we would have crawling races up the stairs.  As she got a little bit more independent, sometimes her parents would make a decision on something she didn’t like, and she would look over at me as if to appeal, and I’d say, “Sorry kiddo, I have to defer to your parents.”

This baby is now a beautiful, intelligent and somewhat sassy five-year old girl, and it has been amazing to watch her grow and get to know her.  Her younger brother, now 2 1/2, was also born in this very house, and he and I are also quite close.  Up until now, both have only remembered living in this co-op house and life with me as a housemate.  That blows me away, as five years is a tiny portion of my life, but these kids’ entire lives up until now.  It’s as if I were an uncle except one who lived in the home.  I often joke that I had the luxury of “borrowing” them and then handing them back when they became difficult.

I’d known for years that the family would be committed staying here several years in this house but not for the long term. They are now living in another state and starting a new life, just in time for the little girl to start kindergarten.

I’ve never published photos of the children before per the parents’ wishes.  Now that they are in another part of the country,  I can feel comfortable doing so.  I don’t know if I’ll ever have children of my own, and the older I get, the less likely I will, but it’s been a great experience “borrowing” these kids and growing with them.  Here they are, dressed for Halloween as Elmo and a lion, respectively.

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The co-op house is still thriving and will continue to do so.  The family is being replaced by three experienced co-opers, one of whom was a housemate of mine in my previous house.  We have three other children here, who are slightly older and who will help guarantee that this house continues to be lively place.  But I will always have fond memories of the previous five years, proud of what I and this family have been able to help accomplish, and I look forward to the possibilities for his house in the future.

“the american baha’i” merges with…”automania?”

As a registered Bahá’í in the United States, I am automatically subscribed to The American Bahá’í,  a magazine that talks about continuing developments regarding the growth of the Bahá’í Faith in the U.S.

In any case, my latest issue of The American Bahá’í came in a plastic bag with a label affixed to it from the U.S. Postal Service. The label acknowledged and apologized for the damage done to the magazine

When I took it out of the plastic bag, I could see that it was a bit beat up.

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But what surprised me the most was when I opened the magazine.

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On the left side you can see the inside cover which references the election of the Universal House of Justice.  On the right side, we see–um, stock racing cars and the word “Automania?”

A few pages in, I see something that surprises me more–monster trucks in the mud!

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Apparently, somebody at the USPS must have made a mistake and put a bunch of magazines through a mail sorter not designed for magazines.  As a result, the cover of The American Bahá’í got ripped from the rest of the magazine, and somebody tried to put it back together–but instead slipped in a copy of Automania Gazette & Review.

I have a sense of humor, so I found the whole thing to be quite hilarious.

I have to confess that I don’t read The American Bahá’í very often.  The focus of it is on the growth of the Faith in the U.S., and at this point in my life I’m not sure I really see that as my role within the Faith.  Kudos to those who do, but at this stage in my spiritual development I feel like I need to focus more on other tenets of the Faith.  As such, I do read the Bahá’í Writings twice a day just about every day, and that has made a huge difference for me.  As I wrote in a previous post reading Bahá’u’lláh is not an easy reading, but a careful read of it (accompanied by pen and notebook to jot down things that stand out–something which I need to do more of) has exposed me to some amazing things.

The Bahá’í Faith feels to me like a complete religion in many ways.  While never intended as a religion to “combine” or “cherry-pick” from other religions, it nevertheless distills the wisdom from the other Abrahamic religions that preceded it, coupled with wisdom from Eastern religions, particularly Buddhism (and the notion of detachment–something that has been very helpful to me in recent years), and combined with precepts that address many issues and challenges the modern age.  This is significant given that the world was going through major changes between 1844 and 1892–the periods between when the Báb made his great declaration and the year Bahá’u’lláh passed into the spiritual world after forty years of his mission.

I have a 1,200 page volume of Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings–all of his writings that were translated into English.  For the past year or two, I’ve been reading a few pages per day as part of my daily readings.  I’m now in the 1100’s and almost done.  I’m thinking of picking up another reading project after this to deepen myself further.  I started it two years ago but haven’t been consistent–it’s to read one of the verses in The Hidden Words and write in a journal about what the implications of that verse on my life.

I should have kept a journal book on had when going through the big 1,200 page book, but the only book I did this for was the Kitáb-i-Íqán.  But that was a good first book to with which to experiment with this journaling effort, and I think The Hidden Words will be a good second book for this.