Friday, December 16, 2005

Bali or Bust

Growing up in New York most of my life, I was severely affected by the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center, both in 1991 when it first occurred, and again in 2001- the latter's fruition obliterating both towers into smoldering rubble.

But I've resisted the urge to dwell on how "9/11 affected me." I find it solipsistic and rather aggravating when people drone on about how they "knew someone who knew someone," or the fact that everyone, regardless of their involvement in the incident, wants to capitalize on the grief and pity involved. The poet Ai captured the essence of this malign spirit of needing to be a part of the grief for selfish reasons. Her poem about 9/11 dealt with a women who lost her brother years ago, but fell in with a crowd of mourners who had all lost loved one's in the devastation. This woman, for whatever psychologically self-serving purposes, attached her brother's death with the 9/11 incident, and found support amongst the myriad mourners.

This is to simply illustrate the self-aggrandizing people indulge in when it comes to horrific events, such as 9/11, or wars, natural disasters and the like.

Living in Saipan, deep in the Pacific Ocean for the last three years, I find little to complain about; especially in regards to personal safety against atrocity or natural disaster. My first brush with disaster came last Christmas holiday, when my girlfriend Jennifer and I planned a trip to Bali, Indonesia as a chance to explore more of Asia and to break the monotony that comes with small island living.

We flew out on a relatively uneventful flight, with little complication or intrigue. Landing in Denpasar, Bali, we quietly found a cab and sacked out in our small hotel in the heart of Bali's tourist and commerce district, Kuta.

Evidently missing the memo telling us not to eat ice or fruit juices, we were in the throws of 'Bali Belly' or in medical terms, Shigella, by 8am the next morning. Spending little time outside the toilet, we largely missed the ubiquitous news and media coverage of the largest natural disaster in terms of loss of lives in the past 100 years. Not hours after we touched down in Indonesia, the infamous tsunami struck just 500 miles west of us in the Aceh province, on Sumatra.

Little did we know, our families and friends were having minor conniptions trying to get in touch with us. Memory being vague, our families didn't remember just where in Indonesia we were traveling to, so the fear of our untimely death to a tsunami was foremost in their mind.

Luckily the next day in an Internet cafe, we were able to assuage their fears and check in, letting them know we were hundreds of miles from the affected area.

Though, this event actually threw me. We were not very far away from where 35,000 to 70,000 people were feared dead. My thoughts and feelings of 9/11 paled in comparison to this canastrophic loss of life.

While the news of more and more dead in Aceh flooded the Indonesian news on Bali, we somehow managed to enjoy ourselves, spending time hiking, swimming, and observing the almost spiritual aura that rests like a cloud over all of Bali's on goings. The synergy between people of all races and national origins seemed magical. The interaction between everyone was respectful and inspiring.

Fast forward to this Christmas Holiday. We plan another trip to Bali, this time longer and flush with antibiotics to quell any nasty bugs that my try to ruin our trip. There are no known reports of natural disasters going to rip through the region. Seismologists are monitoring the whole of the Indian ocean for the least blip of an earthquake. I have no fears in the world something natural, but after October's renewed bombings, Bali's Zen-like atmosphere is now one of tension and dismay.

Compare the two events: the 2004 tsunami killed upwards of 60,000 people in less than one day. This past bombing killed 25. Yet the fear created by the latter is enough to drive thousands of tourists from traveling to the region. This is unfortunate when the local economy depends heavily and in some cases exclusively on foreign tourism.

Immediately following the October bombing, Australia-the largest single contingency of tourists to Bali-issued a warning against traveling to the region. The U.S. State department announced that further bombings on the predominantly Hindu island are imminent, and terrorists will be looking for 'American targets."

Keeping all this in mind, I boldly and possibly foolishly go through with our plans to travel to the island again. I cannot imagine completely changing my plan for a vague threat of a repeat performance by terrorists linked to Asia's Jemaah Islamiyah. On an island just over 3 million inhabitants, I am reluctant to think I am a target. Furthermore, the sheer odds of being involved in another bombing plot seem preposterously low.

Yet, I have my doubts. The insidious effect of terrorism is to instill the feeling that the New York Lottery wants you to feel also: "It could happen to you." While unrealistic, the seed of fear is planted in your psyche, to grow into a fecund plant, growing quickly and voraciously.

It is ironic to think that an event like this past bombing, which in terms of human loss is insignificant when compared to the previous year's tsunami, could still cause this much fear in travelers. What this very succinctly does, is illustrate the effectiveness terrorism has on creating fear, xenophobia, and mistrust of others.

Like the many people who write about their trauma in 9/11, whether significant or insignificant, I must agree with a very basic principal: to not let my life be changed because of fear of terrorism. It is with a very self-conscious mind that I say I will continue my trip, so I do not let terrorists dictate what I can and cannot do. And while that may sound frivolous, self-aggrandizing, or even insipid, I must say it because I have found, after all these challenges to our world and our life, that this may be the only way to live.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Is Dance Music going back to the Underground?

A recent article in Urb Magazine quoted North American House DJ Kaskade as saying "It seems everything related with dance music is becoming not cool. Let it go underground again. That's fine, that's why we got into it in the first place."

It is sad to think with unbelievable proliferation of dance and electronic music on the Internet and large cities that the music form is going back underground. But in a way, it could be a blessing for the music format that once fueled a generation of youth looking for a counterculture other than punk.

Logging onto the Internet, music is now an on-demand business. Everyone from Yahoo! to Apple offer a plethora of cheap music for download or for Internet radio listening. Can it be that with a world glutted with too much music, that somewhere the essence of dance music is being lost to corporate cut rate music hocking?

Dvorak once said in an interview that he wants people to listen to less music. Music, he thought, became paltry and meaningless when people gorged themselves on it. He would gasp to think the absolute flood of music that constantly bombards our ears in contemporary society. From malls to cars, cell phone ring tones to MP3 players touting thousand-song capacity. There is no time when we can escape the cacophony of sound that plagues us.

So fine I say. If dance music wants to tuck itself back into a world of back-alley warehouse raves and grassroots DJ's, I welcome it also. There was a period where one could not escape dance music in commercials for cell phones, beer, and clothing. Now the time of dance-music related exploitation is subsiding. Kylie Manogue is busy recovering from cancer. Moby's hasn't licensed every single track from his new album to advertisers, yet.

The question is what form will dance and electronic music evolve into if it recoils from the trend-consuming voraciousness of mainstream music? Will it further develop as a form of urban expression, the way hip-hop used to before they became as mainstream as McDonald's? Will the music form flourish in an inter-continental sense- given its world-wide appeal, and barrier breaking beats and melodies? Will it return to its origins of raves, psychedelics and social rebellion?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Insight, Foresight, more site, the clock on the wall reads a quarter past midnight

We have found the following wrong with your logic:

Lack of evidence,

Precipitation in your evaporator,

Pennies melted to your Medulla Oblongata,

The smell of daffodils in your hallway,

The percussion of rocks falling from your ears,

The memory of celery sticks, died blue in that twelve-year-old-you kitchen.

Memory is a scantily clad Elm tree:

I smell bacon on the breath of mourners.

Dogs in the alleys and valleys of always and Elysium. Smile, cause you’re alive this fine time of mine is, so let’s dine on wine and fricasseed porcupine.

Because beauty is beautiful. The time is fast and the molasses is slow.

My world’s a sneeze with open eyes.

I smell the numbers on a grill, deep in a money pit. Friday putting the thoughts away until seasoned in brewed hops and barley.

Tiny worlds of Tuesday lodged in memory banks like loose change. Forever in a box of puffed wheat; the time you loved the sky and bragged about it.

Licking the sunset on a coin, and only tasting metal.

We were white windowless warriors wearing whatever we wanted. Saipan is your dreaming suntan bottle, the time in actual moments. The inevitable silence following a dying typhoon's ebullient rustling.

I love in thick white packets of paint, covering dust on the settled metal. The blue manatees, settling for nothing on that cool pale Friday Florida inlet. The jet propulsion of tangerines, the urgency of orange.

Life is floating in the air, getting ionized by white noise fans for fun. Letting out belches from the earth, flying tubas to the moon. Sitting gauntlets in the snow. Dining tigers writing pulp fiction on a rainy summer’s day. The window to your soul is being covered with a canister of fake Christmas snow.