My first full-length album Heliotropism
was released last year on September 15; yet it was another nine months before I completed the packaging for physical copies of the album, this past Friday night.
Why did it take so long?
Please see the slideshow and captions below to follow me on my creative journey these past nine months.
Before I headed to Sleepaway Camp (Burlington, NC) for the Heliotropism
sessions, I recorded several of the album's would-be songs on my phone. I also used my phone as a recording device during parts of the actual sessions and even afterward to capture the sounds of New York City.
Shortly after I released Heliotropism,
I decided that I would also love to release these raw recordings as a companion album, which I later titled The Pulvinar Movements
But they would have to wait; first I had to complete the packaging!
As you can see in the slideshow above, I put a lot of work into the packaging of these CDs and the creation of Heliotropism & The Pulvinar Movements.
They have been a labor of love and I'm very proud of how everything has turned out.
Saturday I announced on my GioSafari blog
that these CDs will become available in mid-September (in the mean time, you can download the tracks for free or leave a tip at my bandcamp page!
). I plan to hold an album release show at that time (exact date TBD), at Word Up Books, and to unveil these beautiful CD packages.But please be encouraged to pre-order these CDs now!
Indeed, these packaged copies of Heliotropism & The Pulvinar Movements
will not be available until the release show in September. But if the digital release
doesn't quite cut it for you - if you're the kind of person that likes to feel the packaging and the physical CD in your hand - then please consider pre-ordering the album now!
They cost $20 and the package includes the double-disc CD, The People's Hymnal pamphlet, a packet of sunflower seeds, and a sticker of the cover art. This is an extremely limited edition, as only 99 copies have been made. So please e-mail me
to reserve your copy while supplies last!
Thank you all for your love and support, I can't wait to share this work with you come September!
I first learned of the Occupy Gezi protests a day or two after they began, at the end of May. It was a peaceful demonstration then, maybe a few dozen people camping to save a park from being replaced by a shopping mall. But the police in Istanbul were already engaging excessive force to quell the protest and video evidence of their brutality was going viral on the Internet (of course the mainstream media in Turkey were not yet paying attention).
But just as the Arab Spring protests and the Occupy movement in the US grew exponentially via online social networks, so too did the protest in Turkey. People watching at home became upset about the police tactics and repression and took to the streets to join the embattled protesters.
I have only been following this story cursorily since. But it appears that now protesters have many grievances against their government, just as Occupiers in the US had (have). They seem to be concerned about impending war with Syria, government repression, and who knows what else. So the Occupy title certainly befits them (and kudos, we're with you in solidarity!).
Since I don't live there and can't join the protest or otherwise affect its outcome, my intent is not so much to comment on the grievances or tactics of the demonstrators. Rather, I simply wish to reflect a bit about my own experiences in the Occupy movement, as compared to the powerful images and videos coming out of #OccupyGezi.
OWS saw several needless arrests during the first week at Zuccotti
Park - for nude dancing, chalk-writing on the sidewalk, wearing masks,
and/or using a megaphone. The arrests were often captured in videos or
photos, many of which quickly went viral; with each arrest, the crowds
But NYPD showed their true colors when, exactly one week into the occupation of Zuccotti Park, a lieutenant pepper sprayed several penned up women in the face.
This was only the first of countless examples of police brutality and repression
against OWS, but perhaps more importantly, it marked the instant that mainstream national media began to pay attention
. Occupations sprang up across the country and around the world. And in NYC we saw that we had only scratched the surface of the police state. Over the fall season we saw peaceful demonstrators at UC Davis pepper sprayed at point blank range as they sat calmly in a row; gas canisters and rubber bullets and Occupy medics attacked by police in Oakland; camps across the country violently broken up and people's personal possessions confiscated and/or destroyed. Many of these incidents were well publicized, both online and in the mainstream media.
Yet while these kinds of images have led to full-on revolution in Turkey, the Occupy movement in the US has almost completely fizzled out. It comes back to life in the wake of disasters like Sandy or even now, at Zuccotti Park again, in solidarity with the protests in Turkey. But really - where there once was a bright burning fire, there is now only smoldering embers.
The fire was too well contained. The government and police kept the rest of the people too afraid; too blind, ignorant, apathetic; sitting at home watching so-called reality TV. And the Occupy movement never quite reached the critical mass that was needed to affect real change in this country or in the world.
Here's hoping we haven't missed our chance!
Thankfully, brave men and women in Istanbul have taken up the mantle. Apparently, they will not tolerate the same kind of government abuse that Americans only complacently turned their eyes away from.
Will the Occupy movement ever return to the US with the kind of support that it really needs to thrive? Will it be a long journey of small steps of reform? Or will revolution be the only solution to our societal woes? Perhaps only time will tell.
Or perhaps we're now looking to Istanbul to lead the way.
Scattered & Unorganized
I work really well with deadlines. Probably because 1) I'm a procrastinator and 2) I work well under pressure.
I once wrote a twenty page paper the night before it was due!
Conversely, when I don't
have a deadline, my mind and activities tend to be scattered, unorganized. Perhaps this explains why I've not finished packaging hard copies of my not-so-new album Heliotropism.
So about a week ago, I set a deadline for myself. June 15. Exactly three months from the anniversary of the digital release in September.
And only two weeks away.
Over the fortnight I plan to complete the task that I've meant to do for nearly nine months! And it's no easy one. I've been busy at it the past week and there's still plenty left to be done.
I'll soon post more updates about the process and what to expect when I release it all in September. Until then, check out some new posts on the privilege blog
Today is Memorial Day, on which we commemorate the soldiers who have died in service to the US. It probably goes without saying that I observe this day in a slightly different manner than most. For several years now I have posted the following list of people that I've remembered in addition to our fallen. I remember them again today with a somber and solemn spirit.
Please note that this post is not anti-US or anti-servicepeople. Rather it is pro-life and pro-peace. I don't mean to minimize the sacrifice of US soldiers, nor to defame them for the work they have done as servicepeople; but I do take serious issue with this "holiday" (holy day?) for two primary reasons:
1) "History exalts only the pornography of force, that of murderers and psychopaths (the rest of us, of course, stricken from the narrative wholesale, a backdrop to the tale)." -Propagandhi
This is a great quote but let me be clear: I'm not saying that US soldiers are murderers and psychopaths, necessarily; I'm referring to callous institutions that employ soldiers and police to exact great injustice and violence around the world and even here in the US.
2) There are millions upon millions of "others" who have also suffered due to US military aggression and all other kinds of glorified institutional violence. Here is an abbreviated list that grows larger each year, more and more people whose lives and deaths I count and regard this Memorial Day:
- More than 1,700 indigenous Ixil Mayans targeted for genocidal extermination under SOA-trained Guatemalan ex-president Efraín Ríos Montt.
- Targets of US drones missiles in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen and the countless innocent casualties that are too often hit instead.
- Kimani Gray.
- Marine Kenneth Chamberlain, murdered in his own home by police in White Plains, NY.
- Trayvon Martin, Ramarley Graham, and Alan Bluford.
- All other victims of police brutality, aggression, and racism.
- Troy Davis.
- And other victims of our twisted and unjust penal system.
- Citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan, where the US military is *still* actively engaged.
- The people of Libya and Syria.
- Freedom-seeking people in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain (etc) with whose dictatorial governments we've had happy alliance for decades.
- Those who've been killed and tortured by graduates of the School of the Americas.
- Others around the world who have been denied democracy by US military intervention.
- The Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisoners who were tortured by US servicepeople.
- The citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasake who were incinerated by nuclear radiation.
- The US soldiers who continue to fight in unpopular and unconstitutional wars.
- The people who died on 9/11 as a result of US military blowback.
- All other victims of US-CIA-trained Osama Bin Laden.
- Osama Bin Laden.
- The Native Americans from whom colonial Europeans first stole this land.
- The Africans who were brought in shackles to work the land and who were kept in shackles (of some form or another) for 400 years.
- The Mexicans from whom we annexed Texas and much of southwest US.
- The black folks and college students that were hosed down during 60's protests.
- The many men and women who were black-listed and imprisoned during WW1 and Vietnam, simply for their peaceful and principled opposition to US involvement in the war.
- People who have objected to military service and have been imprisoned for doing so.
- People accused of sedition for following their conscience.
- Children ripped to shreds by US landmines in foreign countries.
- People affected by US racism, sexism, hetero-sexism, and general xenophobia.
- Any US-ian drafted against his or her will to fight a war they did not agree with.
- The thousands of US servicepeople who can't get decent medical or psychiatric treatment.
- Victims of the Oklahoma City bombings, killed by military-trained Timothy Mcveigh.
- Timothy Mcveigh.
- The thousands of the same who live on the streets and can't get a job due to their social, mental, and physical handicaps.
- The indigenous people of Central and South America, who continue to suffer for the interests of US corporations and consumers.
- Others in developing countries who slave to provide us food and clothes though they can hardly afford to feed or clothe themselves or their families.
- The immigrants who desperately leave their home countries seeking refuge in the US only to have their families ripped apart, their mothers and fathers, husbands and wives deported.
- And all others who have suffered for our Pax Americana, built on violent and xenophobic US policies, both domestic and foreign.
As you can see, I remember a lot of people.
I pray that you would too.
..shalom..This year's post is dedicated to the life and work of Malala Yousufzai, a young Pakistani education activist who was targeted by the Pakistani Taliban last October for fighting for young women's right to education.
Last week, I promised further thoughts about having quit my day job at Darling Coffee. I've posted some of them at the Matt 6:24 blog
. I repeat: Capitalism, eat my shorts!
I also just posted a video that a student journalist made about freeganism. She interviewed me for the piece and included a couple of my soundbites. Check it out here
Yesterday I commemorated 5 years since my devastating bicycle accident in Orlando, FL. I recognize May 21st as a re-birth day and the conception of GioSafari. Please find more updates about this major life project at this link
And as always, stay tuned for more on freeganism, community, privilege, revolution, and all the rest! I have lots more to say and lots more time to say it :)
As mentioned in the previous post, I'm going back to teaching private lessons as a source of steady income. I've been posting fliers around Washinton Heights and Inwood that read:
Hello! I teach guitar & drums for all levels of proficiency, as well as keyboard, harmonica, clarinet, mandolin for beginners. I can help with music theory, songwriting, coaching bands and more!
I work with students of all ages, individual or group settings, at your home in the Heights or mine (on Dyckman & Nagle).
Lessons are $30/Hour or $20/half-hour.
Please e-mail me
to discuss further.
And I've posted similar ads on craigslist. Please find below more info about my experience performing and teaching music. For anyone who is interested, I am currently seeking more students and am happy to provide references.
I have been singing and playing music since childhood. In high school, I started a punk band with close friends and played guitar with them for five years. I also took up the drums during that time. Later, I earned a BA in Music at the University of Central Florida (2004-2008), where I studied classical guitar, piano, humanities, punk, jazz, Irish and American folk music, and Stravinsky.
I began my career as a music instructor during these years as well, teaching private lessons on guitar and drums, to students of all ages (4 years old to adults). I also worked with A Gift For Music, as a teaching assistant for a third-grade violin class, and Camp Jam as a rock music camp counselor and band coach (students were aged 11-17). In 2008, I served as an AmeriCorps volunteer and spent a portion of my hours assisting the high school band director with his classes and teaching my own group music classes at a neighborhood community center.
The following year, I moved to New York City and began my career as a songwriter, performer, and recording artist. I have released two EPs, several singles, and a full length album of original music, as well as two cover albums. I have also taken up harmonica, bass guitar, clarinet, mandolin, banjo, djembe, and orchestral percussion. In addition to my solo music, I have performed drums and percussion with many bands (including pop, rock, and hip-hop), the Manhattan Wind Ensemble, musical theater productions, and church worship services.
I have also continued my teaching career. I worked for one year with Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation, teaching after-school rock band classes. I've also taught pay-what-you-can group lessons at Word Up Community Bookshop in Washington Heights. Currently I volunteer with the WHIN Music Project, assisting the violin teachers with their classes of young children, and I continue to teach private lessons around the city.
Exactly two weeks ago today, I put in my two-weeks notice at Darling Coffee.
I've worked diligently at this mom-n-pop coffee shop and bakery since late July (over 9 months!), working nearly-full-time hours as a bar back. The work was menial and the pay was very meager - not quite so low as the minimum wage in New York, but also nowhere near a living wage for NYC - but I enjoyed serving my neighbors and co-workers, with joy, patience, and diligence. Plus I got to enjoy gourmet pastries, cakes and cookies all day.
But over the past few months, I've run into a couple bumps in the road.
The first was the realization of just how little my wages were. Upon completing a budget, I saw that I was $300 in the red each month. And you know my expenses were already as low as I could make them, what with my freegan groceries and all. So if I was to make ends meet while staying at Darling, I would need to increase my income - either a raise of $2 per hour or an additional part-time job with a higher hourly wage.
When I told the bosses that I was not making ends meet and asked for a raise, they simply said they could not afford to pay me more. They told me that several other employees had asked for raises and were all denied. The owner-managers of Darling were also struggling to make ends meet and there was no margin to increase wages for anyone. I told them that I would continue working, but would also have to look for other jobs, that they should expect reference calls.
In the following weeks, I sought other job opportunities - responding to gigs on craigslist, leaving my resume in many different retail shops, posting up fliers for music lessons, etc. Nothing panned out.
Meanwhile, my bosses' expectations of me became increasingly stringent. They wanted me to work harder, faster, smarter; but despite my increased effort and efficiency, it seemed that I was unable to please them. They were consistently disappointed and I was increasingly frustrated, exhausted, and painfully aware of my financial reality.
The last straw fell when I was asked to cut my hours nearly in half. I knew that there was no way I could make that work; and still before the new schedule was put into effect, I went to see a co-worker play with his band in Brooklyn. I was sulking on the walk home, overcome with nostalgia and depression, and Meeko finally put her foot down. "Just quit already."
She easily persuaded me as we talked all the way home.
The next day, I was approached by one of the managers, "Gio, I just want to let you know that the new schedule will go into effect on Monday."
"Ok, then I need to put in my two week's notice."
Now that those two weeks are up, I have some ideas about how I'm going to balance my budget moving forward. I've drawn up a new schedule that includes ten hours of busking and five hours of lessons each week. Supposing realistic earnings for each, I will be able to cover all of my expenses and still have plenty of time in the week to devote to both writing and GioSafari. In order to start saving, I'll be producing more music and merch for GioSafari and looking for odd jobs on craigslist.
Despite the relative unreliability of my new (old?) income sources, I'm feeling very optimistic about my current financial outlook - for the first time in a long time. Because even though my budget has been deep in the red for several months now, I have managed to save enough money - between the generosity of my friends and a hefty tax refund - to dig myself out of credit debt. Today I finally paid the full balance on the last of my credit cards, a debt that has floated over my head since I first moved to the city nearly four years ago.
My earnings from Darling played no small part in this landmark change; and back in November, I was also able to lease my apartment in Inwood with the help of my bosses. So I'm grateful for all that has resulted from my time at Darling - though still more valuable than the weekly paychecks, I'm most grateful for the many relationships and the sense of community that I've developed there. I've met and served so many neighbors, made many great new friends, and even met my ultra-cool girlfriend Meeko.
Indeed, things are looking up. And now that I've blocked out a good amount of time for writing each week, I promise you'll be hearing a lot more from me! Stay tuned in the next week or so for more of my thoughts on leaving Darling - the nitty-gritty about why I've left (Capitalism, eat my shorts!) and what the implications are for my life and community in the present and near future.
Last October, Taliban militants in Pakistan's Swat Valley targeted a young education activist, Malala Yousafzai. Though she was shot in the head and neck at point-blank range, she proved not to be easily bested. She was moved to the UK for treatment and rehabilitation and was discharged from the hospital in January, stronger than ever.
I've kept tuned in to news regarding Malala and her home region of Swat, Pakistan ever since the attack last fall. But this month especially the news has been streaming in - first that she's gone back to school in the UK and signed a book deal
for her memoirs (rumored at $3 million), then that she was initiating a scholarship fund
for girls' education in her home town.
Most recently I learned of a documentary film in the works to celebrate her life and activism. I reached out to the Canadian filmmaker with my support (and of course a link to the song
I recorded upon hearing of the attack) and he has invited me to help with the production!
Malala's story continues to inspire me and I look forward to telling the continuing saga of this courageous young girl. I also remain committed to fighting for young women around the world, for education in general, and against the policies of violence that the US is employing in Pakistan. Please check out my most recent post on the Privilege blog
, my thoughts on US exceptionalism, foreign policy, and drone warfare. I dedicate these thoughts to Malala, with whom I struggle on, in peace and solidarity.
I haven't posted much the past month and a half, as I've been on the job hunt and kindling a romance with my amazing new life partner, code-name Meeko.
I'm praying for a couple job opportunities to land, but nothing is certain. And though I've not yet found a new job, I've decided to get back on the ball with my writing and music. In the past week I've written a piece regarding the gay marriage debate for the Privilege
blog and another entry about selling my music - and the ideological contradictions inherent in this act - for Matt 6:24.
I'm busking again on the trains and I played for three hours
Saturday at the Inwood Greenmarket. I'm getting into open mic events around the city and generally looking for more opportunities to perform. Even seeking out other musicians (again), band members to busk and perform with me. I've also got back to work on the packaging for Heliotropism
There is some news about Word Up reopening, but it's still classified info.
Sufficed to say, I'm looking to finally
have my Heliotropism
album release party at Word Up in late May. On that occasion, I will be unveiling three
different physical editions of the album, including all new album art, sheet music and lyrics, hand-made packaging, a whole second disc with yet-unreleased material from the Heliotropism
recording sessions, and more!
I'll report back with more info on this in the near future. Until then...
Meeko is awesome.
I've put my writing on pause for a bit as I look for a new job. There's just not enough time in the day! I'm a little stressed and anxious about the lack of output these days, but I'm very pleased with certain other developments.
For one thing, I'm onto some great job leads. Only time will tell what - if anything - will come from them. I'm praying hard about this.
Perhaps more significantly, I've recruited a most amazing life partner - code name Meeko. She brings me unspeakable joy, peace, comfort and support. Yay!
Please be patient with me as I get the job/money stuff back in order. Many more writings soon to come.