Thursday, August 29, 2013

Not All Hurricanes Are Bad

When I see films like THE HURRICANE which remind us of stories about the likes of people like the boxer Rubin "The Hurricane" Carter, I feel uplifted and inspired. My belief in justice and moral integrity are renewed. This is no easy task. Not in this day and age. Not in any prior. One could say in fact that as a whole we human beings are living in an age where there is more justice, more integrity, more liberty and more reasons to believe in the possibility of these ideals than any other time in our recorded history.

Perched high above the history of humanity peering down with a bird's eye view of its last last ten thousand years, it appears that it's never been easy for humankind to be honest just truthful or fair-minded. Darker temptations in some have always managed to challenge and displace the higher ideals that others are able to so easily envision.

And such was the nearly unbelievable case of Hurricane Carter, a man wrongfully and fraudulently convicted of not one but three murders he didn't commit, had no opportunity even to commit, nor a motive. He was set up; and he served 22 years in a state prison for doing nothing but being black. His wasn't a case of faulty DNA tests or being in the wrong place at the wrong time or mistakes made at the crime scene. It was a flat out deliberate mission of lies deceit and fraud to bring one man down by the State of New Jersey, police officers, state prosecutors and judges; all because of racial bigotry and hatred (and some would say envy) against one man because of the color of his skin and the level of success he achieved in his life.

Yes, ours is a history of such stories. Millions of them. Most untold. Will never be told. But occasionally justice does prevail. In Carter's case it did; after having to serve 22 years in prison. How he managed we can only imagine. In today's world we hear of more and more cases such as this, moments of transcendence and enlightenment, bad turning good. There is do-gooding going on all around us. We just have to keep our eyes open for it. And in times of doubt, we can look to stories like this one to remind us that anything is possible when and if you set your mind to it.

Perhaps the greatest lesson of this true story which captivated the hearts and minds of America so vividly, the most touching for sure, is the aspect of the three white Canadians and the young black Brooklyn boy who lived in Toronto being so moved by Carter's unfair predicament MOVNG to the same town where Carter was being imprisoned to dedicate their every waking days to helping reopen and research his case which is what inevitably got his conviction overturned and led to his regaining his freedom.

They were strangers. They weren't his family nor his friends. And yet they committed 110% of themselves and their resources to help him. For no other reason it appears than the kindness of their hearts. This is humanity at its best. In each of us this potential exists. To take these noble actions of selfless service and dedication to help another for no reward except the good feeling that comes from it. Evolutionarily speaking I believe we are only seeing the very beginning of this trend in ourselves. We are at the cusp of it. Spinning towards the center of becoming a truly noble honest just and fair species. I believe this.

- Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why Persevere and Not Just Give Up?

"Problems are not problems—they are lessons to be learned. Growth waiting to happen. Cutting yourself off from the growth is regression, isolation. You must embrace your difficulty and rejoice in it. Because it will catapult you to greater victories to come."
- Solomon (Ch. 13)

Oh how many times through the years have we heard variations of this same sentiment? "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" etc. Definitely inspiring ideas. Encouraging in times of those inevitable challenges of life that even the best and brightest among us cannot escape. Ive been fabulously rich and I've been dirt poor and I can guarantee with certainty that life is much better, more enjoyable and easier when you are rich. But it's no less challenging. The problems of life just manifest in different ways.
My wife and I have suffered(?) / experienced four miscarriages in the last five years, two of them with twins. That is a pain a trauma a tragedy that no amount of money can make any more enjoyable less painful or palatable. Only time and a willingness to integrate fully can help ease that pain.

Sure having money would and will make this particular problem easier, because it opens more potential doors of opportunity for us to still be able to birth our children into this world eventually. Whether adoption or surrogate mother, both are wildly surprisingly and cost prohibitively expensive. Options only people who are wealthy would ever be able to consider or afford. The average adoption costs $60,000. Don't get me started on how much I loath this commonly known fact. A surrogate mother will come in at $50,000 easily; and that's regardless of whether you get a baby out of the deal of not.

Life it seems, at least if you're fully living it, comes with a cornucopia of what any of us would label challenges crises tragedies problems and difficulties. Rich or poor. Black brown red yellow or white. But it's the "how we deal with them" that seems of most import.

The quote above rings true, FEELS true. Not just from an intellectual viewpoint but from the experience of living life perspective as well. The question of course is "why? How?" Why must we embrace life's challenges? Rejoice? Seriously? And how does it help or do us any good? Why not mourn bitch moan complain whine kick and stomp our feet? Allow cynicism to set in and strengthen our inner and outer armor to better shield us from the next inevitable incoming heartbreak? In fact why not just give up entirely? Stop believing in miracles and trying so hard? Certainly less disappointment lies ahead if we aim low and don't allow ourselves to dream up such lofty ideals about what is possible.

For some this IS the path. Whether deliberate or unconscious, life begins to slowly wear us down. We stop believing in the ridiculous the absurd the miraculous. We stop expecting things to be easy or anticipating great moments of bliss and victory. Instead we just hang on as best we can an hope for the best. But overall we stop trying. We stop shooting for the stars. Fuck drops of Jupiter. We're not even going to fly me to the moon.

And yet every now and then we read simple platitudinous quotes like the above and feel that spark of hope inside once more. We hear stories of others who overcome incredible odds to achieve tremendous things. They never say they accomplished these things from giving up or from coasting or from losing hope or strapping on a cynical suit of armor.

The story seems to be always the same. They fully embrace the pain the agony the trauma. They mourn and ache. Deeply. They scream and cry and ask "why me?!". And then they dust themselves off get back in their horse and ride on. Beaten up but not bested. Stronger healthier and usually even more willful to succeed, even if success simply means to enjoy life again.

What is it about this method that works for us? What about this piece about embracing and rejoicing? I would submit that, as opposed to Solomon's view stated above, difficulties are indeed still often times "problems", at least to the perceiver; though the "embracing and rejoicing" of these perceived difficulties seems to lessen the emotional charge and resistance we feel towards them. Once fully experienced, fully integrated, WE take control of them, as opposed to feeling controlled by them or feeling victim to them.

This process make us feel stronger, more capable of overcoming them and others that may come our way in the future. Once overcome we become feel and appear bigger stronger more powerful. More adept at facing whatever life throws at us. We feel more confident. Through deliberate and thoughtful acceptance and yes even rejoicing of the worst of it all we create new ceilings, higher, stronger. Wisdom ensues. A grace of wisdom and confidence. Newfound power and inner strength is found. Not the kind that's put on or asserted. But something much deeper stronger and more substantial.

We've grown beyond what we previously thought impossible. Surviving is the least of it. Damn right we survived. But we did more than that. After that, my God we just might be able to do anything. We begin to believe we can do more than just survive; we can thrive. Because we've faced the worst and made it through. We didn't allow it to break us down but instead we compelled it to build us up. And that is growth. An inner power beyond the limits of explanation with words.

- Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone

Why Facebook is Used but Not Liked

Facebook is relentless in their endless solicitations to attempt to get people who download their Pages Management app for Mobil to post a review in the App Store. I usually don't bother. Unless I love an app. Then Ill take the time to write a quick one up to help support that app.

One too many requests by the busy bees at FB finally compelled me to write such a review. But not because I love it. On the contrary. The app is almost useless for anything one might wish to accomplish on their own FB page. More a toy than an app. So I decided to share these thoughts with them via the App Store before I delete it altogether.

What I discovered is that many other users feel the same way. In a world where most apps out there have a plethora of five star glowing reviews, FB Pages Manager app is surprisingly unloved. Hovering just above 2.5 stars out of 5. Certainly not a five star app so far. I found one or two things NOT mentioned by previous reviewers to add and did. Pasted below.

"It would appear that none of the programers who design this app actually use it as a FB page admin themselves. They're programmers not business owners or commodities unto themselves so that makes sense. But they NEED to get someone in there w them full time who IS a regular FB Page admin or else this app is never going to be much use to those who could benefit from it. 1. Users need to be able to log in AS their page and then visit OTHER PEOPLE's pages and post there AS THEIR page. As we r able to on FB desktop version. Right now it is impossible. If you leave your page you r right back as YOU personal (or another one of YOUR OWN pages) -- as opposed to being the page you want to be. In other words we cannot even post or share on one of our own pages from /as one of our other pages. Thats crazy. 2. We need to be able to peruse and tag our own and other people's personal profiles when logged into and acting as one of our pages. That requires either going back to desktop or switching back to our personal profile etc. too much hassle -- which DISCOURAGES users from even bothering. Hence they forget and never bother. 3. This may not be the place for it but FB makes it so damn impossible to contact human beings that this is the best format users have: Businesses companies artists anyone / anything that has a FB page that people have voluntarily Liked (because they like that product person or service) should NOT be charged extra for their own fans/followers to see their posts. This is WHY people LIKE a page, i.e. to see what that product / person is up to on a regular basis. Why on earth would FB deliberately block the majority of a Page's fans from being able to see that pages posts? It's bad-greedy. Not good-greedy. Downright retarded business. What they don't realize is that in the Personal Expression Age people are not willing to be played with like that and they show it through word of mouth and taking actions. thus they just flat out refuse to pay for sponsored posts let alone advertise a page once they find out that they'll be forced to pay for their own followers to read their posts. Too many other options exist as work arounds. So people choose those instead -- just out of principle. This is the single biggest obstacle FB faces currently in being Liked themselves. People may use the site but they don't like the company. Google and Apple on the other are beloved. FB can hop aboard that love train any time. Best of all they'll make MORE money from pages. More people will be encouraged to USE pages instead of personal profiles and thus they'll then pay to advertise their page. It's common sense. Fix these things and the other suggestions in these reviews above and below and FB may just start being Liked and respected and admired as opposed to just being used."

Bottom line, does Zuckerberg want to be like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs one day or does he want to forever be known as that obnoxious guy who nobody wants to like as he is now? Sure there's a certain amount of mainstream riffraff-envy involved in being that successful that just comes with the territory and thus you're never going to win a popularity contest. But Jobs and Gates were as beloved as they were despised because they were rockstars.

The jury is still out on Zuck already due to the dubious questions revolving around the origins of Facebook to begin with regarding how much was his and how much was just ripped off from what was already out there? Friendster and MySpace anyone? Not to mention the three other business partners and co-creators he screwed over in the process of usurping total control of the idea. His bedside manner leaves something to be desired. Rather than a mad genius ala Steve Jobs one gets a feeling instead that Zuck may instead just be a pompous ass and greedy opportunist. Not the greatest legacy one would wish to leave trailing behind them.

Zuck def needs some good PR fix it help. Especially as he ages into full on adulthood. Facebook is a fun and functional tool to be sure. But it is easily replaced as we've seen countless times before. Tumblr? Now there's a pop culture company founder one can easily get behind success-envy and all. The key is that you want people to respect you so much that they want to be like you, not resent you for your success. They have to believe that you are deserving of your success and are a generally nice and trustworthy person. Right now Zuckerberg has neither going for him. But there's always hope. Either that or we may be thinking about Facebook in the same terms as we do Yahoo as a search engine two years from now.

- Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Little Known Myths About Christopher Columbus

1. Christopher Columbus wasn't his name and he wasn't Spanish. His actual name is Christof Colombo or Cologne.
2. The world didn't believe the earth was flat. In fact by 1492 everyone had already known the earth was round for 1700 years. In 240 BC Greek mathematician Arotothanese proved it by using sticks stuck into the ground and measuring the shadows they produced based on light from the sun.
3. The "Columbus was an underdog who was out to prove to the whole world they were wrong about the earth being flat" was a fiction created by American author Washington Irving in the late 1800s in a biography he wrote about Columbus to "make the story more exciting.
4. Columbus' original intention was to get to Asia. He was horrible at math but kept it secret, being an explorer and all; he falsely believed he could get there by sailing west because he was using Italian math rather than the more accurate (at the time) Arabic math. He calculated that the earth's circumference was 15,000 miles, when in fact it is more like 25,000 miles.
5. He miscalculated the distance of the Atlantic Ocean believing it to be 2500 miles across when in reality it is actually 10,000 miles.
6. Without the Americas being where they were the ships' entire crew would have long starved to death had they actually sailed to Asia.
7. Queen Isabella of Spain did not approve of Columbus' scheme as is repeated in the common theme. She didn't actually believe he was accurate in his measurements. It was her husband King Ferdinand who finally caved and funded the voyage. The Queen Isabella just sounded more romantic through the years and was added hundreds of years later.
8. Spain did not have the money themselves. They actually had to borrow the money from wealthier citizens of the royal court.
9. On the voyage Columbus kept two log books the whole time. In one he charted the actual number of nautical miles they were sailing but kept it private. In the other he shortened those numbers by half each day because he knew that his crew would commit mutiny if they knew how far off his calculations were.
10. The Santa Maria was in fact the name of one of the ships. The Nina was not. That one was owned by a man named Juanino De Santo Clara. Over the years it's been shortened to The NiƱo. And then eventually just The Nina. The Pinta we still don't know the actual name of that ship. But the word in spanish means "the painted one" which was a euphemism for "prostitute" in that period. The word sounded appropriate to the crew and as the history was told and retold over the centuries this little known fact was deliberately left out to clean the story up.
11. Columbus was not the first man on board to spot land as is reported. That honor goes to one of the crew members named Rodrigo Deltriana. Columbus didn't give Deltriana the credit because he wanted the reward.
12. Columbus was not the first European to set foot on North America. He never actually even set foot on North America. Ever. The closest he came was some islands in the Caribbean and the northern coast of Central America.
13. Leif Erickson and his crew of Vikings were actually the first Europeans to set foot on North America 500 years earlier in Newfoundland.
14. We have no clue where Columbus actually landed still to this day. It is believed it is "somewhere on one of the islands in the Bahamas.
15. Columbus refused to believe he hadn't found Asia. Because of the indigenous peoples he encountered on his little island he decided he'd landed in India. Which is why still to this day Native Americans are mistakenly called Indians.
16. Upon his return to Europe Columbus unfortunately was unable to report that he had discovered any treasures for his his eager bankers and investors. A small bag of gold is disputed. But we know for sure that he brought back a hammock, a turkey, a pineapple and some tobacco.

The one fact that is not disputed is that Christopher Columbus's voyage did start a cavalcade of future voyages by Europeans to the Americas where at the time there were 50 to 100 million Native Americans living. There are only 2 million now. These voyages are also responsible for starting the North African slave trade to help work the land and mine it for its natural resources and of course to build what would eventually be called the Colonies.

- Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rethinking The Classics

Someone recently brought up in conversation a request for some suggestions on what "classics" she should read this summer, referring to her high school and college years and alluding to not necessarily having read every book that was required of her as perhaps some other students might have. That's one area of college that I actually excelled in and enjoyed, literature, especially the classics, but really just about anything that had to do with the written word regardless of the subject matter or the time period.
Reading learning studying writing, these are all endeavors that appealed to me since I can remember; nearly equal to my love of art or music or all things creative. There's a reason why these Diaries exist, and why, much to the horror of my ever faithful programming and design team, the number of entries and posts is so damn copious. Truth be told, though most people outside of the day to day project don't realize it -- managing the Transcendence Diaries is a full time project in and of itself with several people in its employ for almost thirteen years now, we've only begun to scratch the surface of translating them into digital form, editing them and getting them up online. It's one of the biggest and longest running projects I've ever been involved in.
When I heard Anne's question about catching up on the classics, it reminded me that I recently found the booklet that accompanied "the 100 greatest books of all time" series I bought years ago. Hardcover leather-bound with gold leaf, each of them, at exorbitant prices that conveniently ignore the fact that one could easily buy them on eBay for one-tenth the price, they are beautiful and make a valuable contribution to the library. With the advent of digital everything now, especially images and the written word, I occasionally question the practical nature of owning such a mammoth book collection at this time. But after a few minutes in their presence, perusing the books themselves, their covers, jackets, sleeves bindings, copyright pages and numerous other aspects of books only available to us in non-digital form, I am always left feeling more than content and relieved that I never abandoned collecting. They may not be as portable as a kindle or iPad -- not that I'm not a huge fan of those as well, I am -- there is just something inexplicably and palpably enjoyable about a real live book in the flesh; especially an old one.
After perusing this list of "the 100 greatest books of all time" though -- some great books in there for sure -- I was left with a feeling that we will be soon rethinking and updating it, collectively, as a society. We must remember that these kinds of lists are purely from a Western Viewpoint. Those whose lives are born and bred in other parts of the world, who's education is not from a traditionally Western background, would not necessarily agree with what we consider "the classics". But from a purely Western Civ perspective something really bothered me about looking at this list. I was familiar with every book on there, having had to or wanting to read all of them in either high school or college, but it just seemed stale to me. Seeing Canterbury Tales yet again but nothing by Kurt Vonnegut for example. A decade or two ago one would never dare utter such a sentence, at least not in the vicinity of certain company. But today the idea seems almost downright quaint.
I know it may seem hard to fathom, but I feel we're in for a big shift w/ certain long thought of "classics" being taken off the list and some newer ones being added. Either that or we need to create another list entirely. That may be a more feasible approach. Regardless of which list one references, The Harvard Classics is a fine example, the top 100 always looks very much the same. Perhaps it is time we create a new list, call it something like "The NEW 100 Greatest Books of All Time". That way we don't begin dismissing heretofore classics and deny the pleasure of their acquaintance to younger up and coming intellectuals.
I have always maintained, to the chagrin of my peers, that there is a difference between literature and great fiction. Where that proverbial line in the sand is I would assert is impossible to determine. Many books now long considered classics were once nothing but best selling works of fiction; for those that are fictional that is. Some classics are not fiction at all lest we forget. Take the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche or Marcus Aurilieus(sp?) for example. But for those that are, not all of them started out as "literature".
For all its flowery pomp, brilliant wit and poetic wordplay, Shakespeare -- (whatever we eventually decide about his true name and personhood) -- wrote plays for both the royal court AND the throngs of unwashed masses of his day. Not exactly the most learned of the world of academia. Soap operas really some have said. Moby Dick most will remember is a book that was thoroughly panned upon its release. Now its taken for granted as literature in some circles. Baccacio's Decameron was and still is soft porn, poetic or not. It may be a classic but is it literature?
Much of what has been released over the last fifty years has not entered the realm of "the 100 greatest books of all time". But many are great works of art, some have sold in the millions, and some have huge cult followings. No one is going to argue with Catcher in the Rye being called a classic now. But what about Stranger in a Strange Land or 2001 A Space Odyssey? I honestly am not half as familiar with the best selling works of fiction from the past fifty years than I am with the traditional classic. That's just where my heart happened to land when I began my love affair with reading. But that's just one of the reasons why it may be a good idea to start a new list of classics. For people like myself who aren't as aware of the newer classics as most contemporary readers are.
I still feel like a rethinking, a retooling, of the top 100 is bound to transpire imminently. It's a hunch and my intuition almost never fails. But in the end I'd prefer a newer secondary list, whereby we could keep the old standards in place as they are, stale or not, just to make sure that nothing of great import falls out of place and out of reach to newcomers to the glorious joy of getting caught up and enthralled with a truly life-changing great read.
- Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Creating A Truly Noble America

        We didn't ask to be Americans, those of us who were born here; just as we didn't ask to be named the name we go by, as if it is our fundamental identifier, when in fact it is nothing but some random idea that popped into the heads of those crazy kids who found themselves pregnant one day and eventually became our parents. Most humans turned parents, always think they're being unique and creative when naming baby humans. For the first year or two of the existence of their newborns, they'll always tell you the baby's first middle and last name, never just the first like everyone else in the world does once we get past the age of two; instead they repeat that whole baby's name over and over again, announcing it to anyone who'll ask, people just walking by at the mall "oh what a cute little baby.... what's her name?" "Ahhhh thank you. Isn't she precious? Her name is Maria Teresa Abigail Smith" or "Harley Elena Jacobs", etc...  always that damned middle name, you know, that middle name that you as an adult human will never ever ever use a day in your life, just like your parents don't and no one else you know does either.

        There's a reason why no one goes around announcing their middle names. Because no one cares; no one asks. So why do new parents always insist on telling everyone the middle name(s) of their kids? (Frankly it's a good test of the general intelligence, or at the very least the emotional stability, of people, whether or not they spend that first year announcing the middle name of their new babies' or not. The average mainstream human almost always invariably does (in Western society we're specifically talking about). It's just how it is. They don't even think about it. They're proud of themselves for coming up with those three names in a row and they want to show it off and grab some of that easy approval from whoever they can whenever they can. If you ever encounter someone who just introduces their newborn to you with just their first name then you know you're dealing with a more intelligent person who is aware of this odd tendency of most others, and who doesn't feel any inner need to show off their baby naming skills. They're comfortable with themselves. Because it's such a rare occurrence it's always refreshing.
        Regardless of how creative our parents think they were when they christened us with their idea of a killer series of names, we're still liable to meet a variety of people throughout our lives with the same name. Meeting or hearing about someone with the same first name as you have is a weird enough experience. Your name is John but you also have a coworker named John so when you're speaking to him, HE is John; but you're also John. It's weird. When we meet or hear about someone who has the same first AND last name as we have it's even weirder. It's just downright trippy. I've always said that one day I'd like to hold a big Ed Hale dinner celebration and invite every person in the world named Ed Hale. Advertise it nationally over a period of six months or more and see how many we can collect together all in the same room. Not only would it be mind blowingly strange, it would also prove a bigger point. Our names mean absolutely nothing in the bigger picture. We may "feel" something about our name or from our name, identify with it in some way, but in the end it's just a series of words in a certain order that has nothing to do with us.

        (In the Transcendence Media empire, the conglomerate of little companies I've collected over the last twenty years, my team and I have always marveled at and joked around by all the different Ed Hales there are around the world. We battle them for that ever coveted spot in the top ten of all the major search engines. There's Ed Hale the balding older business man who owns a sports team and maybe a newspaper in Baltimore. There's Ed Hale the famous dead race car driver; Ed Hale the American POW from some war in our American past. Ed Hale the dead police officer who became infamous for something. Edward Everett Hale the poet from the 1800s. And then there's the newest Ed Hale, some loony right wing conservative farmer who got his fifteen minutes of fame for spouting a variety of crazy racist conservative nonsense during the 2008 presidential election season. I've recently made "friends" with another Ed Hale, who doesn't appear to be necessarily famous for anything, on Facebook who sent me a friend request out of the blue a few months back with a message attached that simply said "Cool name man". I couldn't decline that request.) All in all the experience has taught me that there is just nothing unique about a name and certainly nothing that we have a choice in unless we take that big plunge and decide to legally change our name to something of our own choosing.

        The same can be said about our religion. None of us asked to be religious. Though many of us simply are because those crazy kids who found themselves pregnant one fine day and birthed us into this world decided that we would or wouldn't be just because they were, or weren't.. Once we become adults choosing whether or not we are religious throughout the rest of our lives is a farily easy task. Many people confront the dillemma of this decision young in life, make a decision and never look back. Some choose to maintain the religion they were born and raised within. Some choose instead to go the way of an alternate religion than the one they were raised in; they convert to Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism or even atheism. (Don't ever let an atheist fool you into thinking they aren't "religious". It takes just as much faith, zealotry and passion to be an active practicing atheist as it does being any of the other world religions of humankind, to believe without a shadow of a doubt that there is "nothing" as much as those who believe there may be "something". They've just chosen to embrace the other side of that yin and yang symbol for whatever reason, and that's their right.)

        The same can be said for our given name. Elton John invented his name. So too did Marilyn Monroe, as did Marilyn Manson, Cary Grant, John Ono Lennon, Woody Allen, David Bowie and many others. It's easy. There is nothing in the name we are given except the hopes dreams and aspirations of two young starry eyed kids in love. Once we, the children of those kids turned parents, grow up to become adults ourselves, we trade places with them. We become the young and dreamy star-crossed lovers and idealists, believing that our given name perhaps doesn't suit us as much as it could, that giving ourselveTheres s a new name portends a brighter future. We harbor the same dreams and aspirations for ourselves in that moment as our parents did when they first learned that we were becoming a reality in their lives and chose to name us. The process is a meaningful one, to change one's given name. But it's an easy one. Just a few signed contracts more effort than changing our religion.

        But the country that we call home, the country that we are born in, and are raised in, that's a different story. Legally, at least in the United States, by the simple act of being born in said country we become its citizens. Hostages one might argue. From the moment we are born we are referred to and classified as American citizens. Our names and faces go into numerous databases. A birth certificate is issued, birth records are filed in city, county, state and federal government. At an early age we are issued a number that will follow us the rest of our lives, one that we have no choice in obtaining and no option of changing. Then comes a drivers license, a passport, constant subtle demands to pledge allegiance to the country and memorize it's national anthems, mottos, myths and legends, supposed heroes and alleged villains.

        If we are smart, self educated, perceptive, confusion sets in at an early age. We begin to recognize that the so called heroes that we've been indoctrinated to revere and admire are often more villain than hero; and the alleged villains that we've been instructed to look down on are sometimes revealed to be more fallen hero than villain. The more we learn, the more we discover that as with all countries in the modern world most of what we are taught about our home country and nationality is either a flat out lie or a giant stretch of the truth. There is purpose in this well regulated system of duplicitous indoctrination.

        We are instructed that it would be best if we go to college, major in one particular field of study and then get a job for the next forty-five years of our lives which will help us pay a percentage of every penny we earn to the government we are taught that controls every aspect of our waking and sleeping hours as long as we are alive. Hell, they even make us pay, an even larger percentage of any and all money we earned, after we pass on from this world. They conveniently call it an Estate Tax, though it is commonly referred to as the Death Tax.

       There are thousands of other rules and laws that are foisted upon us from the moment we are born. There is no choice in it. It is the law of the land. Not just for us here in the United States, but for all human beings, no matter which country we are born in. This is the system. A system of control, of civility, a system to control human beings, so as not to let the natural chaos that runs rampant through the quantum universe thrive in its gorgeous madness on planet earth.

        Of course not all of it can be controlled. Leap year is a subtle living breathing example of how chaotic and out of control the system still is. Just ask anyone who was unlucky enough to be born on that one day that only happens to exist once every four years.... tricky that is. So too is the fact that no one in their right mind can honestly claim to know what year we are really in -- what a mysterious, elusive and arbitrary idea this is -- what year we are in..., considering that there are over one-hundred different calendars currently being used on planet earth, in addition to the fact that we are all well aware that the year that we presently ascribe to today was invented a little more than fourteen hundred years ago. Just restarted the calendar. Started at year 0 right smack dab in the middle of God only knows what year it was -- depending on what country you were in at the time the Romans made this decision. Luckily some countries resisted the Roman barbarians we call the godfathers of so-called Western Civilization and kept tracking their own traditional calendar.
         [Though it's a bit off topic, we'd be remiss if we didn't at least mention that the same can be said for what time it currently is. Depending on where YOU are at this very moment that you are reading this, I can almost guarantee that if we both answered that question at the exact same moment we would call out a series of very different numbers. That is the nature of "time" as we still know and understand it today. Most clock time via the earth's spinning on its access, based on visible light from our so-called "sun", and in a bigger way via the earth's revolutions around this so-called sun. Summer in the northern hemisphere of earth is Winter in the Southern Hemisphere. And vice versa. While some are sunning others are freezing, at the exact same "time". Certain regions assume without second thought that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Except where it doesn't. Some assume without thinking that the sun rises in the morning and lights up the sky for 8 to 16 hours a day and then slowly passes out of sight to blanket the earth in darkness for 8 to 16 hours. Of course to others, depending on where they live on this same earth, the sun doesn't rise, but rather stays up in the sky for weeks at a time, never allowing the earth to see darkness; and vice versa. These are measurements of "time" and yet without them we still need "time"; so we have to find new ways of tracking time, with a non-sunlight based method. Digits, arbitrary digits at that...
        (The sun too is an entirely random and arbitrary word/name that does not exist in any real sense of the word. Carl Sagan once remarked how mind blowing and near silly it was that if we ever do find ourselves fortunate enough to discover any other intelligent life in the known universe besides ourselves that we would have no physical way to communicate with them with words or even maps where we live. To most of us saying that we live on earth the third planet from the sun in our solar system in the Milky Way galaxy makes sense, gives us a stable reference point, a sense of stability. The problem is that these ideas are all man-made. They are not constants in the universe. We have no reason or right to believe that any other living beings in this universe would have a clue what a solar system is, or a galaxy, or a sun or an earth or even a planet. They certainly wouldn't know what "the sun" meant, nor would they know what "the Milky Way Galaxy" was. And forget about so-called constellations. These are the childish dreams of much younger humans who didn't have the benefit of telescopes... Of course even if we could eventually get these other beings to understand what it is meant by a "constellation", how would they ever understand our subjective concepts of them, being visible and viable only from our limited vantage point here on earth, and again all depending on where you happen to live on earth.)]
         For most of us, leaving the country that we are born in forever and becoming a citizen of another country entirely is not only a big decision but also a major effort. It isn't as simple as waking up one day and declaring "I'm an atheist or I'm a Christian or my name is now Lady Gaga." Not only is it involve a difficult series of actions, some of which take years to accomplish, it is also an action that has a certain taboo or stigma attached to it. Especially in heavily nationalist countries such as Russia or China or the United States or Iran. Not every nation state is as laid back as Belize or the Bahamas. The United States in particular is interesting in that it dislikes losing citizens to other nations as much as it seems to dislike accepting citizens in from other nations; ironic for a country that prides itself on being called "the world's melting pot".
        But what if we are born here, in the United States of America (don't even get us started on how confounding the actual name of this country is... that's hours of talking in circles with no proverbial chased tail ever caught, for what and where IS America....?) ... yes, what if we were born here in the United States of America and we actually like living here, lies, deceptions, duplicitous indoctrination and all. Sure it's an evil Matrix controlled by nameless banking elites who are not even from America nor live here whose rules and laws are defended by a heartless military and a faceless police state militia ready to shoot at any citizen who causes a ruckus or says the wrong thing at the wrong time. But what if we still want to live here?
       What would make us desire such a state of living? When there are so many other democratic republics around the world now doing a better job at the ideal than the United States is....? Nations who followed the ideals and principles portended by the formation of this ingenious land more accurately than we have managed, nations who are simply pulling it off better than we are presently. The days of the USA being the "best damn freedom loving democracy in the Western World" is a myth that has long since died in the hearts and minds of any living breathing soul on earth with brain power enough to register on an MRI scan. Too many other countries are doing it now, and simply put doing a much better job at it than we are.
        But what if we still want to live here? Perhaps it's our family. Perhaps it's the technology or the opportunity for capitalist gain. Many still believe the United States is the country that offers the best potential for going from zero to hero financially the fastest, the best for maximizing profits and financial gain. Perhaps it's just "home" and we don't want to leave. Perhaps some even believe that America, though not quite ever great as it's always claimed to be, and certainly not "exceptional" as some love declaring, still holds the potential to be great one day, to truly be exceptional and not just brag about being so. Though it disturbs me to admit it sometimes, I am one such individual.
        I have been lucky that in my chosen career I have had the rare opportunity to travel the world in ways that most people never get to. I have lived in more countries and called them home for months at a time than most people ever get to even visit for vacation. ANd though it usually takes me months to start missing home, hell it's no secret, it takes me weeks just to get over how much I despise about so much of America and what it stands for and does around the world, after a few months i start missing the old place. There is something about the United States that is just deeply embedded beneath my skin. It's not family. I am not that kind of person. My family could always just come visit when they wanted to and that would be fine with me. No, this is something deeper. More visceral and palpable. Something emotional AND physical, at least in the emotional and mental influence on my physicality.  
        One of the biggest challenges that we the cognizant have in our quest to make America truly great is in helping the mainstreamers among us understand that we LOVE America, though we curse its atrocious acts and refuse to grovel at its dirty blood stained feet. Though we despise its acts of war, it's corruption from within, it's unjust jurisprudence and political systems held together by lies deceit extortion and bribery, we believe in the content and the substance of it's original founding documents and ideals. And we hope and pray, just as everyone else does, that America can make continuous strides towards staying together, staying safe and secure, and coming closer to representing what it claims to stand for.
        We talk a great talk here in the United States. No other country on earth has a more adept system of nationalist propaganda and horn tooting. If we could only live up to that potential one day, even live up to half of it... What a truly great country this could be. For all our finger pointing at the mistakes and errors and even the blatant deceptive and egregious actions taken on a daily basis by a knowing elected body of civil servants, we still cling to the notion that America has the potential to become truly, for once, that shining city on a hill that all the world looks up to, rather than the biggest meanest bully in the school yard that all the world looks down on and fears.

        We must never forget for even a moment that the ONLY thing right now in present day earthly society that allows America to call itself "the greatest country on earth" is a trembling fear in the hearts and minds of everyone else who doesn't live here. With an arsenal of over 8,000 nuclear missiles stationed all over the world, along with the largest standing army with battalions stationed in over 75 countries on permanent military bases, in addition to being the only country in the history of human civilization to use nuclear weapons on another country, FEAR is the calling card for America's claim to greatness.

          We commit more military terrorist acts in a single day than some countries commit in a century. When those don't work we are also the most skilled country on earth at bringing other countries to their knees using economic terrorism. Military coups are our business. Drone strikes are our "let's do lunch". Starving millions of people to death in order to gain access to trade and military secrets or natural resources or full on control of other countries and their leaders is day to day business as usual for the United States on the world stage. It's hard to accept. It hurts to acknowledge. Its painful to contemplate. But it's the first step to true freedom, the freedom to decide deliberately whether or not we want to continue to be citizens of such a nation or not. To NOT acknowledge these things and just accept being a citizen of this country because we were born here is not freedom. It's more akin to communism or fascism. It's being trapped; perhaps out of fear of not knowing if we can succeed anywhere else. Or ignorance. True freedom is acknowledging all that we are and then still deciding that we want to make a go of it here.

        No one I know who has studied and understands the true mechanisms that drive America wants to leave. Instead they have a strong desire to help change America, to help improve it, to help assist it's growing up and growing into its stated goals for itself, liberty freedom and justice for all. And that's just the beginning. How about truth and honesty, integrity, keeping your word, being a peace maker rather than the world's war monger, being a teacher and leader and role model, a beacon of hope and a source of light. A safe haven for the displaced, discouraged, disappointed and dispossessed. These are just some of the ideals and roles that America holds the promise of growing into.

        We may complain a lot, petition a lot, march on Washington a lot, demonstrate and protest a lot, opine and editorialize and yell a lot, flag wave (or flag burn when necessary) a lot, shout and kick and scream a lot as the storm-trooper police officers drag us away yet again to jail, but there is reason for it. We are NOT the enemy. We are not hoodlums. We are not radicals. Though perhaps in our idealistic vision for a truly noble America we are radical. We are patriots. American patriots. And WE ARE EVERYWHERE.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Company You Keep

Last Screening: The Company You Keep, a film directed and starting Robert Redford. In general I liked it. Though based on its Rotten Tomatoes score of 56 and the fact that no one's ever heard of it, I was clearly in the minority. But I like where Redford's head and heart are at. Always have. Ever since he transitioned to directing he's been on a mission. Sometimes its a bit too overbearing and obvious but he means well. We don't have enough of that in contemporary film. Vampires, aliens, sexscapades and zombies still rule the box office unfortunately for those of us more intellectually inclined. Thus Redford and his ilk are few and far between; especially compared to the 1970s when it seemed the whole global art and entertainment world was on some kind of smart-drug. Still the best decade in human history for art of all kinds. Those days are obviously long gone and money now controls what's considered good or not good.

This film is like all Redford movies of the last twenty years: a better than good story, a decent script one gets the feeling could have been much better if penned by someone sharper, an ensemble cast to die for (seriously...), plenty of do-gooder idealism speak sprinkled throughout, but a slow and meandering directorial style that somehow just misses the mark.

It wouldn't be entirely fair to compare Redford to Clint Eastwood -- Redford as an actor was in some great movies; Eastwood was in Spaghetti Westerns and cheesy cop flicks; but they are contemporaries who've followed similar trajectories. The great irony being that Eastwood has generally made better films since his transition to directing. Shockingly incredible films actually when considering the kinds of films he made as an actor. It just goes to show you can't judge a man or his whole life by the company he keeps.

Another side effect of watching this film is that it gets you thinking about the Weather Underground. We don't need a weatherman to know that things are much worse now in America than they were during the period that inspired this peaceful group's radical form of activism. We are lucky in that we've got a few new Weather Undergrounds of our own in this generation. They do things differently. Whistle blowers. Anarchists. Hackers and Hacktivists. And just like 40 years ago it's still easy to con the majority of the American mainstream into believing that these groups and individuals are the bad guys and the government is the good guy when it's just the opposite.

I wonder what it will take for Americans to wake up to how heinous evil cowardice and criminal their government has become. Some say that most people don't care about such things until they affect them personally. And that explains why the US government can get away with all it does. It's my sincere hope that this changes one day. That more and more people will wake up and help the few who are out there fighting the real good fight rather than honoring those killing innocent people they've mistakenly or deliberately set up to be called "enemy".

On the one hand you cannot help but feel that it's more than time for another round of Weather Underground type events to shake things up a bit in the hearts and minds of the citizens of the United States. On the other hand we leaned a lesson thru those experiences. Fighting injustice with any kind of violence doesn't earn as much respect as we would prefer. Unfortunately they leave us no option. They, the so called leaders of the free and unfree worlds, lie cheat steal and murder freely right out in the open. They earn millions of dollars and are awarded for it. So it seems more than a bit unfair that just because it is they who control the news and how history is written that they are able to label the real truth revealers and freedom fighters of society "terrorists" while branding themselves heroes.

But is blowing shit up the answer? I'm not so sure anymore. One thing is for sure: peaceful marches and demonstrations aren't cutting it. They almost never have and never do. Even en masse like the infamous Seattle WTO demonstration of '99 or the anti-Iraq invasion marches of '03. They accomplished nothing. We need to do more. Much more. And fast.

Perhaps Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, Anonymous et al. have the new answer to this troubling problem of ours of corruption from the top down. It is after all a new century. A technological century. A Personal Expression Age century. Perhaps it is best to leave the blowing things up to the governments of the world and we take a different kind of a stance to spark change and revolution. Instead of blowing actual buildings up, we blow up systems. We tear down the banking system if Congress won't prosecute. We blow up the computer systems of Big Oil and Big Pharma if Congress and the appropriate regulatory agencies are unwilling to impede their greedy self serving march towards the destruction of the planet and everyone who lives on it.

What we need is a giant wake up call. The same way that the powers that be used 9/11 as their calling card to invade the Middle East, we the people who care need a similar such wake up call. Martyrs are great for such causes. Consider Jesus or Gandhi or MLK or JFK. Great change is usually spawned from great loss. But can we create the next great change withOUT such a loss? Without a martyr? One hopes so. So... Where and what is our spark? One devastating enough in human drama to inspire millions to join us but without needless violence.

You'd think the thousands of dead American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of dead Muslims over the last ten years would have done something. Or the Great Recession, single handedly pulled off evidently with malice by a handful of American banks. And they have to a certain degree. Where did Manning and Snowden and Wikileaks stem from if not there...? But there is also a sense that the trauma of our great dilemma has drawn many of us inward towards a more selfish and shallow consumerism. This is worrisome. We need more. Something bigger. Bigger acts of courage and emotional substance. More than music. More than art. More than marches or demonstrations or sit-ins or desultory occupy movements. We need figurative explosions -- if we are going to avoid literal ones.

And this is where the company we keep comes into play. I've always said "if you aren't on the way, you're in the way." It's who we are. Its what we do. It's what we say. Who we associate with often dictates those things. Let us take stock in that. Check ourselves to make sure that we are truly on the path towards helping to make things better in the world and not just better for ourselves.

- Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone

Monday, August 12, 2013

New Album Coming Along - Stepping WAY WAY Out There Now

         Well I think we're doing it again. Princess Little Tree and I joke around about "what a challenge it is to BE Ed Hale" compared to just "dealing with him" like other people do. I'm always like "yeah yeah I know, I'm sorry about that," when she complains about how many different projects I have going at once and how unwieldy and crazy our schedule is, "but just imagine BEING the person who has to LIVE AS me!" I respond. "It's hard enough dealing with me, I know, but it's a whole different thing to keep waking up to the fact that you ARE that person and trying to figure out ways of handling being that person!" 
        I think of it like this: I'm just me. A regular Joe like anyone else. But on top of it, I was born INSIDE this totally crazy super-curious and ambitious wild man who never stops thinking and planning and taking notes and starting new things. If it were up to me, I'd just be chilling like anyone else. The usual things, picnics, TV, movies, family, the park, having drinks with friends, I don't know, whatever normal people do... But I feel like I've got this responsibility to try my best to honor this guy that I was born inside. And he's got this massive imagination and all this ambition and he really does believe he can do it all and more. So I just do my best to make that happen and hang on for the ride; and hopefully survive it all. Yep. It feels like that.
        So we started Ed Hale's new solo album in the summer of 2011. Right at the right time. The first single from the last solo album was taking off. A few months later the second single was doing even better than the first. We needed a new album and we needed it fast. Problem was that we recorded about 17 songs initially and instead of one good solid album, it sounded more like two partially completed albums. So we all flew back to New York to record more songs. Ended up with 34 new songs. So now we've been slowly making progress on them. Little by little. Drums, bass, acoustic guitars and vocals are slowly all getting done. Along with various percussion and keyboards. The crazy thing is how many hundreds of hours it takes to finish one song. At least for us. Now. On this album. Let me put it into perspective. We're in the summer of 2013 now and I'm only done with 12 songs in terms of being done with MY parts. That's insane. I know it. But it's just a lot of work. 
        This album started out as a continuation of the Ballad On Third Avenue album. Acoustic pop, or what in the business we call Adult Contemporary; that's the actual format. But what we've ended up with is three distinct sounds for three distinct different albums. One is still more organic acoustic, what you would call almost folksy. Think Bon Iver or Fleet Foxes or The Lumineers. Simple stuff. Do it in your sleep stuff. But I tire of that real quick. Whether it's mine or someone else's. I have a tough time getting through three songs in a row of that kind of material. So we branched out and made some of the songs more electric, more upbeat, more pop. I dig that. Though it takes a lot more instrumentation and production. And then there's this third style that's coming out that's more like electric folk, kind of like Dylan when he went electric... Rubber Soul perhaps? But not really cause it's more folky. 
        It's all acoustic based. None of it is "rock" per se. And that was the plan. These are Ed Hale solo albums after all, and since all the same players play on these that do the Transcendence albums, THAT'S the only difference between the two artists at this point: the solo albums are slower and softer, more acoustic, more pop, and Ed Hale and the Transcendence albums are more rock. It's just a name/style thing, rather than a change in lineup. I've been working with the same group of guys since 2002 and don't see changing that anytime soon. They're like brothers now. They know what I write and sing like. And they call me on my stuff; they know what to do and say to bring the best out in the music. 
        I've been living in Seattle for the last few months and so we're working out of a studio here. Only problem is that all the guys are in different cities and states around the country now. Most of the guys are still somewhere in South Florida. But others are in LA or Texas or Minneapolis or Atlanta. It's crazy. What we've decided to do, what I've decided to do, is keep on recording the songs here, my parts, and then we email the songs out as MP3s to all these other players -- we've got about 15 additional players now around the country, adding strings, woodwinds, horns, guitars, keyboards, drum programming, background vocals -- and have them import the MP3 into their recording studio rig. They then record their parts onto the track to their liking and then they send only their parts back to us and we then drop them into the original open track, as if they were there in the studio with us. 
         We're really tracking three albums here... We have about 13 songs done with "my parts" now... meaning the basic drums/bass/acoustic guitars, some keys and all my basic lead and background vocals. That's what these guys will be tracking to. But we have musicians all over the country adding other instruments while I am NOT there. And neither is the producer. So there is no way to monitor what they're going to be recording. I've never done ANYthing like this before... NOT being there when peeps record their parts. It could turn into a total MESS. But I'm hoping to create a totally NEW sound by doing it this way -- encouraging the dissonance that will naturally come from the musicians stepping all over each other without knowing it. Trumpet parts stepping all over sax and flute parts etc. It's a crazy idea. 
        Of course we'll mix the messy parts out and just keep the "good parts" Meaning whatever fits and sounds good. And hopefully that will provide a GIANT palette from which to choose for Zeke Zaskin who is set to mix yet again. He's mixed every one of our albums since Nothing Is Cohesive and he always does a great job. Bear in mind that we usually provide absolutely insanely confusing tracks. Usually very messy because we record A LOT. I'll lay down at least 15 different vocal tracks plus three to five guitar tracks and two to five keyboard tracks. In addition Vancouver will lay down five to ten additional guitar tracks. Now we'll be adding an additional 10 to 15 additional musicians all laying down whatever they want to however they want to... 
        It has the potential to be a royal mess. But it also has the potential to be a roaring success, something brand new and exciting sounding. the potential for the musicians to step on each other musically is VERY high. Notes that may sound good to them clashing with notes that other players have added... Cause none of us are going to hear what the other people are adding. But that's what i LOVE about the prospects of this new way of doing it. The utter randomness of it. No, it will not be the usual organic "all built up from the bottom up together as a unit" kind of recording style that we are used to. It's going to be the exact opposite. But that's what I am kind of digging about this new method. We now have the technology to record in this fashion. Of course no one in their right mind would do this on a professional commercial release. It's crazy for sure. But it just may blow us all away with how cool it could sound. 
        In any case, there's a catch up for ya. That's where we are. If you were wondering where this new album is. Yes I know we're a year behind schedule. But there's a valid reason for it. We're trying something a little different with this one. So be patient. As soon as we have something finished, IF we ever finish a song that is.... We'll post it for you all to hear. Frankly I can't wait to hear what this grand experiment produces. It's bound to be new. Good? Can't say yet. The songs are good. But I just may ruin them... LOL! We'll just have to see. Standby on that. 
       As always, more later.

Peace Mission to Israel/Palestine Officially Booked

         Posted in Facebook earlier today "Anyone know why Israel is declaring that in order to negotiate peace with Palestine that it needs to be "formally recognized as a Jewish State"? I don't get it. Aren't there Jews, Christians AND Muslims living there already? I received a ton of comments as would be expected. Israel is one of those hot button topics where people lose their cool rather quickly when it comes up. I am still trying to wade through all the comments and videos that were posted. I replied. And I might as well paste it here for posterity in the Diaries:
        "Thank you all for your comments. One of the many reasons why I love FB. In October I am going to Israel/Palestine for two weeks on a peace mission as a civilian diplomat AND for a holy land pilgrimage (as a Christian). I am studying Hebrew in order to speak it more fluently by the time I get there. I have ordered a sh*tload of books on the subject of the Israel/Arab conflict from BOTH and ALL sides of the issues. Some of them are more biased towards one side and some are purely academic (featuring every speech and letter ever published since the Zionist movement first began. Hopefully I'll have a better understanding of what the h*ll is going on over there before I get there. I have about ten very good friends who live there, both Jewish and Palestinian, who assure me that both sides in general "want peace".
        "The biggest problem I face is that everyone I know who has gone there (who is American) comes back horrified by how the Palestinian people are treated and being forced to live. These are non-biased uneducated (about Israel/Palestine) Christians who go there just "to visit the so-called Holy Land". But they come back more traumatized by the Palestinian issue than thrilled to see these supposed holy sites. That disturbs me, worries me. I am worried about my ability to keep my cool as a Civil Diplomat in the face of such horrid human rights abuses. I've done it in many countries, including Iran. (that was heartbreaking at times and I almost lost my cool on many occasions but DIDN'T).
        "But this issue particularly bothers me due to the apparent blatant treachery involved in the stranglehold Israel seems to have on the Palestinian people. Hence my initial question: Why on earth, HOW on earth can all these leaders from Israel say things like "We need the Arab world to formally recognize Israel as a Jewish State" when there are at least THREE if not more races/religions/nationalities living in that country? I mean, what next? America is officially declared a Christian State? I mean WTF? Any feedback that is non-biased would be appreciated."
As always more later...
Yours truly,
The Ambassador

Friday, August 09, 2013

Exploring Psychism, Honoring Our Intuition and a Glimpse into the Coming Global Revolution

PSYCHISM: a doctrine that there is a fluid universally diffused and equally animating all living beings

This is just more a check in or a follow up more than anything. At least it started out as that. As usual we've gone in a hundred different directions by the time it's finished. But I only know this because I am in the future. I've read this already. Hang on tight and enjoy. This week TIME Magazine published an article entitled "Prison Breakout: Netflix keeps remaking TV with its best show yet" wherein the primary message is that Netflix is transforming the way American television is watched by releasing full seasons of series all in one go as opposed to one episode at a time on a week to week to basis as is customary. A brilliant idea. Where have we heard that before?!?! Hhhhmmm...
        On Monday March 18th of this year, I published a blog entry here in the Transcendence Diaries entitled "Observations On Modern Television -- Fixes" (click here to read) where I suggested that "if contemporary TV networks want to stay current and competitive, they need to start releasing whole seasons of TV series all in one shot so people could watch them at their leisure and NOT have to wait week to week to watch them. THIS is the future. Who will jump on it first?" This was five months before the TIME Magazine article touting Netflix's new show "Orange is the New Black" and three months before Netflix was the first network in history to ever do it when they released both "House of Cards" and "Arrested Development" in the same manner. Kudos to moi!
        Now before a slew of "don't let your head get TOO big Mr. Ambassador" comments pour in, let me state for the record that I am NOT claiming that Netflix got the idea from ME. Obviously they didn't. Or did they??? Hhhhmmm... Okay so probs not. In order to pull off such a fete, Netflix would have had to have started filming House of Cards and Arrested Development months before that particular Transcendence Diaries entry was posted. Besides all the horn tooting and "who got the idea first" banter, I believe there are actually several other lessons to be gleaned from this event that are far more elucidating.
        First and foremost, I wrote that particular entry from a place of DESIRE, not fortune telling -- suggesting this change to modern television programming because that's what I WANTED, as a viewer. I felt, as I stated in the original article, that for those of us who are super busy, too busy for TV (who isn't?), it was ridiculous to assume that we have the time to pay attention to when some TV show is going to air, what day of the week or what time it's on, and then the commercials, etc etc forget about it. I mean, who has the time?
        Even in the DVR age -- I must admit that without the DVR I would not be even talking about this subject, for I would not be aware of anything on TV; as in the past, my entire life up until a year and half ago, I never watched TV -- no TIME or desire to. Then I predicted that there would be a "new American Television Renaissance" and thus went to explore TV to see if I was even close to being right; I was. The DVR had a big impact on my ability to do that research. It does make it possible for us to manage TV more effectively. BUT there are still HUGE problems for a certain demographic, the group of us who just do NOT want to (nor feel that we should have to) sit around waiting week to week to see which one of the Stark family dies next on Game of Thrones. For us, now, in this age of instant gratification, traditional TV programming has become as insulting to our intelligence and way of life as waiting for access to the internet on a dial up connection. Just not worth it.
        So what are some of those lessons Well number one, when I got the idea, It felt like a ridiculous thing to suggest. I KNEW that when I was writing it. At least I thought I did. Turns out that I was just feeling something that was already happening. But none of us had the benefit of being able to know that except the few perhaps at Netflix who were in on the discussion that led to this programming change. "Who the hell is going to take this seriously?" I thought. Readers are just going to think "Oh there goes Ed Hale and his crazy imaginings about a perfect utopian world where whole seasons of TV are available all at the same time right for the taking just because we would love for it to be that way... Crazy guy." But lo and behold, I wasn't so far off. Netflix has grabbed that gauntlet and charged ahead, surely leading other networks to now reconsider their own programming. Lesson: Just because something seems far fetched or outlandish does not mean that it's not a potential reality. Honoring our intuition is one of the most important lessons we can learn in any lifetime.... the sooner the better.
        And hear me now, believe me in six months: This is only the beginning. The big cable networks like HBO and Showtime are not far behind. Those Emmy nods that Netflix just grabbed for Arrested Development and House of Cards go far. They speak volumes, because regardless of current allocation of advertising dollars, Emmys win numbers. And numbers buy advertisers. (In another post I will outline how advertising is being very quickly transformed, how the old models are dying and the newer models are way off the mark still.)
        The other lesson that I cannot help but feel -- it actually feels like a semi-panic like pain in my chest -- is that next time I have an idea about something, anything, I need to run with it. For whatever reason, out of all the strengths and challenges that each of us come loaded with as individuals when we are born, (or develop over years in a lifetime...), being able to see what's coming next happens to be a skill I excel at. It's not even a skill. It just IS. I do it. It's not from thought. It's just a knowing. Of course the problem with being able to know ahead of time what's going to happen next is that it HASN'T HAPPENED YET. So it feels totally crazy when you write it or say it out loud to anyone. So we feel a bit intimidated to go forward with taking any action in that direction. But I'm beginning to learn that we shouldn't.
        Let me give you an example. I'll tell you right here right now that EMAIL IS DEAD. It's a ridiculously tired old boring and laborious task that offers zero pay off for the most part, number one, and furthermore there are much more effective and efficient methods for communicating in THIS age than email now. This isn't the 1990s. Email is a thing of the past. Most of the people I know get so frustrated by my refusal to use email. And when I announce this little prediction of mine they tell me that I'm crazy. But I don't let it bother me. Hell, we thought i was crazy when I said that we should be allowed to watch whole seasons of our favorite TV shows all in one day in the first week. But that's the new trend now. Before that, everyone was threatening to lock me up because I was saying that we were about to see a bunch of people's revolutions take place all over the world and see entire governments fall. Old news now.
        And that's the thing. BEFORE they happen, things that ARE going to happen DO seem ludicrous. Until they happen that is. So there's something in there about the importance of honoring our vision, or our intuition. Truth be told I've always been really good at this. So for me this might be easier said than done compared to someone who thinks this sounds like a risky idea. Most people are much more measured and calculated. They observe and sort data and wait for the signs... My gut tells me that another important lesson out of this is this: if WE are desiring something, thinking about it, wanting it, hoping it happens one day, there's a good chance that a few other people (at the least) are too. And THAT is how we can trust that the ideas that we have are viable or worthy or have potential to take off or at least transpire.
        I'm not saying we should start believing we can call where the Dow Jones is going to be on Monday; but you get the idea. Being able to see into the future and predict what's going to happen next seems to be a skill made up of several different sub-skills: an innate vibrational or energetic feel based ability to see/feel/know what's going to happen next (call it "psychic" if you must" but I believe that diminishes the ability and undermines how common it is in most of us), plus a keen sense of detailed observation AND an ability to rationally sort observed data, leading to an increased ability to see where that data will land next when uprooted -- ALL data and matter is constantly being uprooted in a chaotic universe whether we see it or not. In addition one also need recognize that the direction things are heading is in large part up to US. You + me = us. So if YOU are feeling it, wanting it, scared of it, hoping for it, so too are others; that also gives us a good idea of where things are heading. Most people don't get this. They think that they're just "them" and that "the world happens". They don't realize that THEY are part of that world and in return are part of what is making things happen. That's YOU baby. YOU'RE doing that. So too am I. And THEM. But don't cut yourself short.
        More than anything perhaps that's the key: remembering to honor our role in it all. Remembering that it is WE who call the shots. Sure there are the bigwigs at the top of the foodchain who seem to control everything. But only because we LET them. The whole idea of "bigwigs at the top controlling everything" is our creation; it's the setup that we've all agreed as a collective to structure our lives around. The primary controlling mechanism for societies in general in the moment. But it doesn't have to be that way. We just choose it to be that way. For now.
        Want another prediction? This is about to change. In a big way. The top down control structure that has governed human societies for millennia is a thing of the past. It's already starting to fall away, but we are only seeing the beginning of it now. In one fell swoop that system is going to appear to come crashing down -- but it will actually happen in incremental events, starting slowly and then spreading rapidly across the globe. One country at a time. Millions will die for this cause. It will happen in our lifetimes (for those of us who are younger than 80 probably). It will be the most brutal series of world events we've ever recorded in human history, more so than either world war, because this time rather than country against country fighting for survival and dominance, it will be people against authority structures that will be fighting. Military and police will find themselves not just killing innocent civilians in other countries as in times past; they'll be doing it in their OWN countries....
        And in those moments, depending on each individual wearing a uniform that day, that hour, THAT is what will determine which people will win the fastest in each region of the globe. In the United States we will have it the worst, more than any other country. Because we have the most solidified system of accepted deception and corruption in government anywhere on earth at the moment, with the strongest and wickedest top down leaders in place. Ours won't be an easy battle. And frankly I cannot even see how we here in the States are going to win, at least not initially, not in this moment. Remember Chechnya? Or the Native Americans who lived here first? Life isn't fair. It isn't just. It isn't honest. History is a collection of lies created by the strongest, toughest, most arrogant and greedy and the most sociopathic or lacking in human empathy.
        That's enough about that topic for now. There are other places where I am writing about this in much more detail. But suffice it to say that there are plenty of people who will read this and think it sounds preposterous. They'd be willing to bet money that "it'll never happen in our lifetimes". All that means is that they didn't do very well on the reading comprehension portion of the SAT. With them, it is important that we do three things: one, respect. They've a right to their opinion just as much as anyone else. Two, listen. There's a good chance we could learn something, regardless of how much we may disagree with them. And three, don't let their disbelief affect our beliefs even a little bit. Remember, that's one of the biggest lessons here: it's easy not to believe in things BEFORE they happen, even if we KNOW they're going to happen. I'm not talking "faith". I'm talking about experience. If you've lived a life where 9 times out of 10 you just always seem to know what's going to happen next, it's probably a good idea not to let anyone talk you out of believing in that ability. Regardless of how outlandish it may seem.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

WE Make the Difference

In 2009 I went to Cartagena Colombia for a few weeks to help build a community/health/counseling & sporting center/church in a small rural neighborhood about an hour outside of town that houses about 5000 families. It was the hardest work trip I've ever been on so far. Much worse than Africa. Mainly because of the heat. And the work itself was BRUTAL. A lot of we're used to work trips. So we plowed into that first day all hung ho with guns a blazing. Only to throw up and pass out within an hour after such hard work under the hottest sun we'd ever felt. (This is actually true. I wasn't the only one who puked my guts up and passed out.) From that first hour forward we learned to pace ourselves. We'd have to work for no more than a few minutes and then go under a tent, pour a ton of cold water all over out heads and necks and chug a ton of water or Gatorade. Hard like that kinda hard. But in the end we made great progress on this giant building that future crews from our same church in Manhattan would eventually finish.

I LOVE this kind of work. There's a very real permanent and tangible sense of accomplish that comes from it. You'd see the guy next to you in a ditch three feet deep digging his heart out, sweat pouring off every inch of him and covered in dirt and grime and these were fancy New York guys, suit wearing guys, "men" type guys. I couldn't help but feel that there was a reason they were working so hard. A conscious or subconscious attempt to dispel some kind of inner demons, perhaps a guilt that we had things so good where we live in the United States, especially those of us who live in New York. It's a privileged lifestyle for sure. And we know it. You can't help but feel a little uncomfortably guilty when you visit a place like this neighborhood we were in. So we worked our butts off till we dropped everyday. You'd pass out in the van ride home. Just fall asleep wherever you happened to sit. Brutal.

While I was working everyday various kids would come to the work site to ask what we were doing there. A bunch of fancy gringos with their floppy hats and fanny packs and coolers full of Gatorade. They'd just watch us for a while and move on. One kid though always hung out and helped me work. I don't know what it was; perhaps it was because I'm a rocker dude --kids dig that no matter where i go. Perhaps it was because I spoke decent spanish but I was still a gringo so we could communicate. The thing that impressed me the most was that everyday he would go to school in the morning and then come right to the work site and seriously pound it out with us for the rest of the day. He'd squeeze water over my head and bring me stuff. He was cool. Probs 11 years old.

Long story short one day I decided to go visit his home and meet his family. I brought Pablo our group driver and translator with me. He and I had become good friends quickly. This is one of the things I like most about the me I was born into in this lifetime. There r plenty of things I don't like that much. But I make friends easily and tend to keep them forever. I dig that.

As Pablo and I were walking there I couldn't help notice how small the buildings were that each family lived in. Except in rural Africa and of course the favelas in Brasil I had never seen places so small. We're talking 100 square feet for a family of three to five. Crazy! On the way there I heard this in my head say "I want you to take care of this kid Fishy. Ask the mom what he needs. I want you to sponsor him." I replied "God? Hey I can barely take care of myself. How am I supposed to do that?" "I'll help you. But just do it."

So I asked the mom what the little guy needed most. She gave me a list of items. Clothes medicine school supplies. And in return I gave her an envelope full of cash. But that didn't feel like enough. I understood that the voice in my head was requesting that I do more than that. Turns out that as most people already know Colombia the country has been severely decimated by the drug wars and all these crazy violent guerrillas. If a kid doesn't go to private school they'll often jus quit school at a young age and become a gun toting drug selling guerrilla themselves. She told me that the best thing that could happen to the boy (who I'm not naming deliberately) is that he attend a private military academy. He'd get a good education and be protected from getting into trouble.

I asked him the next day if that was something he'd be interested in or if it was just his moms wish for him. His eyes lot up as if I'd said "hey do you want your own basketball hoop" or something. Now the question was how. How do I pull this off? He'd need about about $1200 a year or more. And he was only ELEVEN. That was a big commitment. I'd already been sponsoring kids through World Vision and Christian Children's Fund for years. But this was going to be different. A much larger annual commitment. At a time in my life when I was having a downturn financially. Why oh why why was I making this commitment?

I was making it because in was told to. By a voice in my head which has never steered me wrong. A voice I choose to consider my intuition or higher self or even God. I learned long ago not to ever ignore or deny that voice. But instead to always trust it. So I did. Within a few weeks of returning home I sent them enough money to pay for his tuition, his books and his uniform. That was four years ago.

Just now I transferred this year's money into Pablo's PayPal account. He was so moved by being there with me when I was speaking to the boys mom that he was tearing up and he told me "hey man I want to help you anyway I can with this if you're serious. Most people from American come here and talk a lot but once they get home they forge about us and much of what they promise. You're not going to do that. I have a feeling about you parcero." He taught me that the word parcero means bro in Colombian slang.

Here we are four years later and Pablo and I are still communicating in a regular basis. He acts as the middle man between me and the boys mom and the school. He's in his fifth year at this private military school now. He loves it. He's doing great. He makes straight As. He's trim and fit. He's healthy. He's happy. It hasn't been easy. I must admit. Some years I'm really late in getting them the cash. As everyone knows the music business has taken a real dive over the last ten years. It's hard to make big money now compared to even a few years ago simply because most people have stopped buying music. When that's what you do for a living -- create music to sell-- well it ain't as easy as it once was.

But nonetheless every year I've found a way to make it happen for the little guy. We talk to each other on Facebook all the time. He wants to come visit the United States. I made him a deal that if he learns English I'll make that happen. I honestly couldn't help him every year if it weren't for the generosity of friends and family and without the assistance of Pablo. He's never wavered in his initial promise to me that he'd help me as long as I was willing to hell the kid. It's cool. We've developed a pretty cool friendship through the years. And we only spent about two weeks together in Colombia. But we've bonded over our shared commitment and joy over being able to help this kid. We can't help but contemplate the difference we are making in his life in the long term. It's a damn good feeling.

Sure it's only one human being. But I have experience with this. I know he'll go on to help other people in his life because of the advantages he had through us. And here's the real lesson from the story. At least to me. If this young boy, who couldn't speak a word of English when he keys there in that big open lot in his neighborhood, wouldn't have come by everyday and helped me and worked so hard, I probably never would have gotten to know him well enough to feel so compelled as to sponsor him through school for the rest of his life. I mean that's the truth. HE did this for himself. It was his dedication and work ethic that created this for himself. He has no one to thank but himself. I was just moved by his coolness and his willingness to help. I hope as he gets older he begins to see it that way. It's a profound lesson.

- Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone

Monday, August 05, 2013

Christianity Must Evolve or Face Inevitable Extinction

Monday morning 2:04 am

The other day I was turned onto this progressive pastor by the name of Jim Wallis who evidently has been arrested over 22 times for various activist activities -- this may not necessarily be a good thing; there are plenty of Christian activists who are on the wrong side of the activist fence lest we forget those who are active in the fight against women's right to choose or equal marriage rights for same sex couples. But seeing that he was on Bill's show I figured he just might be one of the good guys. (Bill has on occasion thrown us a few fast balls though -- he had that stubble faced right wing congress extorting weasel on his show once... can't remember his name; when I do I'll let you know. But for the most part Bill knows what's up.)
Needless to say I was impressed with the man. Mr Wallis hasn't found the holy grail of evolved spiritual intelligence or anything; don't get me wrong. But he has recently altered his views on same sex marriage equality (go figure; even the staunchest convictions can be altered when there is fear of long audience share). But I dug many of the things that were coming out of his mouth. Namely his message re "let's focus on the GOOD things Jesus preached and did rather than the more disenfranchsisng aspects of traditional literalistic Christianity." He stressed what I and my Christian friends already take for granted (and we are very aware that we are in the minority in the congregation of our faith globally), i.e. that Jesus was a very hip equal rights for all kind of guy, fighting for the poor as well as the rich, for the sick, the meek, the strong, the sinners and the saints. This is the face of Christianity that most outsiders never get to see or hear about because the ugly head of Christianity is so much more vocal than we the all inclusive types.
I sent him a message on Twitter telling him I was impressed. He messaged me back and recommended I check out this Christian activist magazine/organization called Sojourners. I didn't have time to do it until late this evening. Now in fact. U know, for a Christian organization it's definitely more open minded and progressive than you'd expect. But nonetheless it still contains enough in it's first three column inches to make most of my friends who are not religious scream and run. Still though, I was impressed with it's fresh take on Christianity needing to get more open minded to same sex couples and homosexuals in general, as Jesus surely would have.

I came across these lines which I thought were exceptionally inspiring considering the source: "Rather than a Third Great Awakening I believe we are standing in the threshold of a Great Grace Awakening. It’s a move of the Holy Spirit drawing people away from legalistic and fear-based beliefs to a place some of us would call grace. On the surface, it may seem to fly in the face of some traditional Judeo-Christian ethics. But it is aligned with a broader, more universal ethic that seems to be developing around genuine Christian love and grace — the very essence of Jesus’ ministry and what makes it so revolutionary — as guiding principles."
Good stuff right? Despite what many of my non-religious friends believe, this is pretty spot on when it comes to what I and most of my fellow Christian friends believe. We're pro-choice, anti-capital punishment, pro equal marriage rights for all humans, and generally open to live and let live and try to help out whenever you can. "Serve God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself" sums it up quite nicely.
Then I came across this strange one:  "Grace is a gift available to all of us. We can’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. But we get it anyway. Abundantly. Audaciously. Without caveat or qualification."
I lashed out in a comment on the page of the article before I gave myself a chance to think... I do that. "I'm not sure who said the above, but being new here, just checking this org out, i must admit that is one ignorant comment. The hubris of making a declarative statement about something as mysterious and slippery a concept as "grace" as if it is true when it is subjective opinion and completely unprovable either way shows a short sighted ignorance that is precisely what some of us in the Christian community are fighting so hard against in an attempt to show that true intelligence can and does exist in the heart and mind of the faith.
Besides the fact that this sentiment just isn't a positive way to view life. For anyone. Christian or not. I'm all for "Grace is a gift", though it's the kind of statement that is so entirely unprovable that it would be thrown out of any court of law except in a theocratic society that bases it's whole justice system on a set religion, which we are far far far from ever becoming. But more importantly, who says we can't earn grace? Who says that we don't deserve grace? These are just beliefs. Sure the whole set up is nothing but a series of infinite beliefs, none of them more or less provable than any of them.
But the basics, that Jesus existed and did some really groovy things that set a great example for many who want to live a more spiritually profound life would do well to follow, are more or less factual. Even your average uber-zealot atheists (the most religiously fervent group on earth save the Muslim extremists if you ask me) couldn't argue with this basic idea. Jesus was a very cool fairly hip and smart revolutionary with a big heart who showed us all a new way of being toward each other.
Once we step past that of course it all gets a little murky, especially once you start throwing the Roman's (the so called catholic's) "original sin" patriarchal misogynistic rule from the top down ideals into the mix. And this "we can't earn grace and we don't deserve grace" smells a lot like some of that old Catholic rubbish is still leftover somewhere stinking the place up around here.
I was really hoping that this org would be valuable and intelligent based on Wallis's appearance on Bill Maher's show, but my god what kind of precedent are you trying to set or example to show by declaring things like "we can't earn grace and we don't deserve it." Says who? I just wonder sometimes if you all, whoever you are, people like you, have any idea how precious and sacred the human heart and mind is, each and every one of us. They, we, come seeking solace, refuge, comfort, answers. Hope. And the idea that a kind caring unconditional loving grace is available to all humankind is a beautiful sentiment. Truly. But in the natural, in the secular world that most people live in, we get enough of "we don't deserve" to last us a life time. In fact, one could assert that feeling undeserving is one of the single most destructive feelings that a person can harbor, certainly responsible for a host of inner turmoil, heavy burden baggage, and quite possibly a good deal of some of the world's greatest tragedies.
The last thing anyone needs to hear is that they "don't deserve." You've made it this far; you're alive. You deserve a lot. It's important that you know that. And the grace of the divine, whatever that means to YOU, is just one of the many things that is available to you. Freely. It's there for the taking. If there was anyone less deserving in this world of the love and grace of God, it was I. But I let go of all that kind of thinking. It took a lot of self love, a lot of self forgiveness. A lot of atoning and making amends. Hell, I'd call that working to earn it. Earn what? God's love? God's grace? Probably not; how can we possibly answer that? We can't. It was for me. I needed to forgive me. I needed to love me. Only WE can forgive ourselves. God Goddess Source The Force The Great Spirit the Divine is far too mysterious to us all still for us to have any idea what he/she/it thinks or feels. All we can do is hope. And pray if that's your thing, (it is mine), and continue to connect and commune with our idea of this idea of God we've created.
We work hard to get to that place where we start to believe that we're capable of earning our own self forgiveness and our own grace and self love, and that eventually leads us to a place where we start believing that we just might be capable of deserving the love of God. IS it there for us all along? I'd love to believe that. But the truth is that my brain doesn't disconnect from my body without an untimely and instantaneous death; and thus I haven't the ability to say unequivocally that I know the answer to this question. But I do know this: once I felt it, I had never felt anything more exciting, more ecstatic, more wonderful or comforting before in my life. The idea that I didn't deserve it was very clearly a psychological issue, not a truth, but merely subconscious feelings of inadequacies, insecurities, caused by guilt, both real and imagined, deliberate and indoctrinated. Something that i worked hard to discreate. I earned it. I deserved it. And I got it. So too can anyone else.
I't's no wonder the majority of humanity groups all the world's major religions into one big barrel and thinks the whole lot of us are crazy when there r so many overt examples of crazy all around us claiming to be religious. It's time now. It's time for we as Christians to grow the fuck up, to evolve along with the rest of our being in all the other arenas we have been evolving in. Why continue to grow and evolve as quickly as we have -- exponentially so -- over the last few thousand years in every arena of our lives but our spiritual lives? Let us evolve our religious beliefs right along with our technology and our minds and our abilities and our social customs.
We owe it to ourselves. To future generations. We deserve it. They deserve it. The worst thing we could possibly do is keep dragging our asses on spiritual issues out of fear of reprimand or judgment from the more literalistic or vocal among us and take the risk that the many blessed and positive aspects and benefits of this fascinating and beautiful faith tradition become extinct to the point that future generations never get to know it or even bother to explore it. That would be a sin like no other. And lest we forget, Humankind has worshiped thousands of gods through the millennia. This latest one that we are all so fond of is not the first, nor will he/she/it be the last (think Islam or Mormonism). It isn't a given that Christianity will always be as large a movement or as popular as it has been in it's short life in the human psyche. Whether it continues to be is entirely up to us and how we present it, but most importantly what we say and what we do in its name.
Ambassador out. I'm exhausted. Peace Love and Blessings. As always, more later.