The Soap Vote

July 25, 2012

A man I know was arrested last week after demonstrating in front of the white house, locked in a steel cage with 3 industrial hemp plants. David Bronner, maker of Bronner’s Magic Soap, the best soap ever, was trying to get the attention of the US government to allow US farmers to grow industrial hemp. Hemp, a wild weed when free to grow, is one of earths most useful and renewable resources. Hemp oil can be used for soap, which Bronner’s family has been magically producing for more than 100 years. Hemp seeds can also be eaten for an excellent source of protein. I eat it everyday in fact. And newsflash, it doesn’t get you high. It is merely a relative of Mary Jane, BUT, unfotunately is still considered the same plant by the US Government. Bronner was arrested for possession of 3 industrial hemp plants. So silly.


Brief history: during the industrial revolution, new synthetic fibers and fabrics such as nylon, along with oil and gas saw hemp as a fierce competitor. Since hemp can be broken down and used for paper, fabric, food and/or ethanol, a renewable bio-fuel, the oil and chemical companies along with paper moguls lobbied Washington to take hemp off the market, passing the blame onto Mary Jane, calling hemp a dangerous drug. And they succeeded.


That’s too bad say I. “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country,” said Thomas Jefferson, U.S. President.


Alcohol was prohibited for a little while for similar reasons. Ethanol, often made of corn and distilled like moonshine by auto-racers, saw promise as a potential fuel leader in the US. Big Oil then lobbied to ban alcohol and moonshine in order to get auto makers hooked on gasoline made from crude oil. When the industry settled on oil, the alcohol ban was lifted, and people went back to being stupid in public as opposed to hiding in speakeasies.


Wouldn’t it be nice to grow our own fuel instead of drilling it out of the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, or kill for it in wars with other countries?


“Make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere.” said George Washington, U.S. President & General.


Both Washington and Jefferson were cultivators of hemp. Once used for barter and trade, hemp in history is the reason our money is green.


But alas, we are somewhat stupid. In this now era, renewable resources like wind, solar, bio-fuel, and hemp are just plain bad for business. Sustainability in general is bad for business. Because if our products, houses and cars were actually meant to last, we’d spend less and money wouldn’t be the illusory key to survival.


I’m no economist, but if David Bronner could source his hemp in the United States instead of Canada, wouldn’t portions of his 50 million annual income be invested back into US farmers and farmland, boosting local economies and creating jobs?


But I get it. Balancing the books in today’s market is tricky. We have so many more cars, homes, products and needs than ever before. We’re a nation of material girls hooked on cable TV and Carl’s Jr. And giving us our energy independence would mean no more cable bill. In fact, with energy independence, we’d be free of paying utility bills altogether. We could charge our cars at home on our solar systems and not have to buy gasoline. Billions and billions less dollars would circulate, which would be problematic for the US, a country already in debt.


But what about the water? With gas and electric utilities cleaned up, we could put more jobs and money into water conservation programs, and maybe even less pollution! The way I see it, water is gold and we’re overlooking it, assuming the wells are gonna flow forever. I’ll gladly pay a steep water bill if I know my money is going to sustain life, whereas a gas and electric bill is really just sustaining our favorite TV shows.


This election year, the two leading parties’ positions on just about everything couldn’t be any more bi-partisan. In almost every category, their siding for or against it, loud and clear. For instance, If you’re for supporting the rights of gays, lesbians, and transgender citizens, vote democratic. If you think abortion should be ILLEGAL – vote Republican. If you think that Millionaires and Billionaires should pay more taxes – vote Democratic. If you think corporations should be able to spend as much as they want on candidates and elections . . . and NOT have to disclose where the money comes from – vote Republican. If you think guns should be less freely available, vote democratic. If you’re against universal healthcare, vote republican. If you’re green at heart and want to see more renewable energy sources, vote democratic. If you’re for big oil companies receiving about $4 Billion in subsidies, vote republican. If you’re for the legalization of industrial hemp & marijuana. Vote democratic. It’s never been easier to vote.


And do vote. The 2000 Presidential Election was decided by only 537 votes out of a country of 300 million. Proof that every vote counts.


Love your world. Love your country. Vote hemp. After all, the US constitution is written on hemp paper. So go Rock the Vote!


smile. it’s good for your health.

July 14, 2012

Live it Up. Write it down.

July 12, 2012

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”  


~Ray Bradbury



I’ve been writing in my journal a lot lately, almost as if I’m writing a book for some reason. Some inner or unknown force is compelling me to write it all down. Everything. Everything as in everything I don’t say in interviews because I’m never asked. Or everything I don’t say in interviews because I don’t want to advocate that kind of behavior. I’m a popular re-run on Sesame Street and I’ve jammed with the Fresh Beat band after all, and I haven’t given up on Yo Gabba Gabba either, so it behooves me to keep it clean and wholesome in the spotlight.


But I digress. That’s not entirely why I’m writing a lot these days. I’m writing because it brings me back; snapping me out of downward spiraling spin outs of past failures; do-nothing daydreams and delusions of grandeur, instigated by months of interviews talking about myself which if not careful leads to megalomania and mental disorder; therefore, writing reminds me I’m not crazy and still full of ideas and savvy; full of grace and achievement.


Cursive calms the dialogue in one’s head, sentencing the voice to the page instead of asking each newborn phrase to take another lap, busying the mind and denying it its peace. Cursive is also the eloquent language and beautifully curled lips speaking on behalf of the subconscious. When writing, I live multiple lives; those of the past, those of a possible future, and all those happening now that I didn’t know were there until I literally let them go from my dominant hand.


I also write for knowing death I suppose. Knowing someday I’ll go; someday I’ll be forced leave this good life and all of its great pleasures behind. And should that happen suddenly, all the secrets I keep and situations I experience in my solitude will vanish with me, as well as all my bullshit or profound philosophies if I don’t write them down. In prose, poetry or song, I might just live a little longer. And then maybe the impact I have on the world will be just a wee bit stronger.


I started keeping a journal as a teenager for this very reason; death that is. I didn’t know if I’d live or die or run away or what – I was a teenager after all – and words sustained me. I’d write feverishly all the things I wanted to say to my parents but couldn’t; or I’d write to the assholes at school who’d call me a fag, push me into lockers or tail my car on my way home. I would imagine myself disappearing to another city, state or dimension, leaving behind my brave Jim Morrison inspired poetic rants as an F-you to all. That would show them! I thought. Yet I knew all talk and no action would be cowardly, like breaking up with someone over text rather than giving them the pleasure of calling you an asshole one more time to your face.


I was proud of the words I compiled back then, even though when I look back I read them as knock-off monologues from Pump Up the Volume.  Regardless, the words gave me power and clarity to keep living. With ink, my secrets weren’t just in my head anymore, they were on the page – which meant at any point someone else could read them and challenge them into existence; it meant that at any point I could read them into existence, and quite possibly – make them mean something.


And with this understanding of thought to word – word to action – came the realization that I could manifest whatever life i wanted. So why hide? I wanted to wanna stick around to revel in the glory of my dreaming? Rather than running away or jumping off a cliff, I chose a higher path and became a public figure, drawing lots of attention, making lots of money, seeing the world, hanging out with artists and celebrities, dating beautiful women, and in plain site for all to see – purposefully forgetting the bully assholes who pushed me in that direction, for I knew my happiness would hurt those who wished me harm. It’s like looking your best when you run into an ex. You win.


And still, I didn’t start writing out of fear nor did I keep writing just to benefit the unspoken truths. I continued to write because everyday I’d make little discoveries about myself and/or my relationship to my environment, which is always changing. The older I got, the better life was getting and the better I was getting at life. And I didn’t want to forget where I came from or what I went through to get here. Better yet, I figured I’d want to re-live these high times when I’m 90 reading my notebooks to my grandchildren. Journals are time machines after all, if not fountains of youth, giving me hope – dissipating all fears of death, encouraging me to live it up now so at the very least I’ll have some interesting stories to share as a well-lived and perhaps pervy old man. And maybe, just maybe THIS is what compels me to draw a long paragraph. I’d never have come to it had I not used the pen to ask.


It’s said the giant oak compels the acorn to grow.

So too did a young success in his 30’s compel a teen to play guitar and make this so.

And now there’s an old man somewhere compelling me to live it up and write it down.

I look forward to thanking him in person when I get there.

I may as well start here.

Thank you.

Sing Out Singapore.

June 29, 2012

From New York to Hong Kong, Richmond to Singapore, Memphis to Montreal, St Louis to San Diego, I’ve see many of the world’s most beautiful city skylines, and one thing that always amazes me about cities at night are how many lights are left on. Sometimes entire buildings are illuminated, as I’m sure elevators and escalators are still humming, though idle. I’m sure microwaves and televisions are on stand-by, sucking up more electricity and dollars from the companies who operate out of these buildings.


My hotel is often right up in there, snug between the monolithic banks and business centers, climate controlled, well lit and welcoming. But I don’t complain about my accommodations. Ever. I’ve slept on the couches. I’ve lived in my car. I toured in a van when all of us shared a room. And as competitive as this business is, I’m delighted I’m being given an opportunity to share my experiences, my truth, my failures, my feelings, and my dreams, publically, through the medium of song, blog, or as much as I loathe them, interviews. I’m grateful inspiration still reaches me. And I am grateful for the humility the path of this career teaches me.


In February of this year I had the pleasure of traveling to Antarctica with Al Gore and Friends to learn about the stark realities of climate change and how humans play a huge role in the ever transforming health of our planet, for the good and the bad. Fortunately in recent years, our awareness, including my own, has expanded to embrace new green technologies that help our beautiful cities and countries flourish rather than suffocate.


At the moment I’m traveling through southeast Asia during a time when the Indonesian island of Sumatra is clearing land with fire, causing a haze over many surrounding countries, including Singapore, where I’ll play in a few short hours. For whatever reason the land needs clearing, it’s a people problem and likely an economic necessity. And it’s usually the things we really need that do us the most harm. Just look at the oil business in the gulf and the cancer cases that parallel the alley of oil and gas refineries in Louisiana as an example. The only reason oil spills and refineries continue to operate is because we all still need lots of it!


I learned a few years ago that I could travel with my own water bottle and greatly reduce my use of plastic. This also cuts down on the need to ship water across the world greatly reducing the amount energy I need to survive. Add this to the discovery of solar power, bio-fuel, local/organic food supply, and suddenly the home and heart is operating more efficiently. However, it isn’t always easy, especially flying from city to brightly lit city. Granted, most residents of major cities use public transportation and have a much smaller carbon footprint than I do, and many cities are getting on board with new technology to better serve their cities and guests. Tree planting is a good one, and one that I’ve recently become involved with. For it is trees that sequester and offset carbon while also providing wind breaks for desert areas which help soils, or provide shade for extremely paved areas that intensify the suns heat making a city feel hotter.


I bring this up today not to preach, but to applaud the hotel where I currently reside in Singapore, The Marina Bay Sands, for their extraordinary efforts in greening their business and beautiful sovereign state.


At 55 floors up my view over Singapore’s Gardens By The Bay is a hazy one, but it was refreshing to know that the elevator ride wasn’t in vain since the elevator’s motion also serves to generate energy for the hotel. Trust me. They’ve thought of everything here.


Upon entering my room I discover that nothing is plugged in, which is a totally different experience from the start. Usually when I walk into a room, every light is on, including the TV. But here at the Sands, they know they are saving energy AND money by not leaving everything on.


In fact it’s their standard operating procedure to only plug something in if the guest plans to use it.


There’s also:

- no paper check-in or check out.

- composting bowls to separate the organic waste from the rubbish.

- recycle bins.

- And even a carbon footprint report to let you know your score as a guest based on how much water, air and electricity you used during your stay.

- AND the hotel will organize the planting of a tree and/or water lilies for you to offset your carbon!


Amazing. Thank you Marina Bay Sands.


I hope these practices become a new standard for all businesses, especially those places where we live, work and play. Our hotels, our offices, and our homes.

Alysse Fischer, Silent ____ Star.

June 28, 2012

I once heard a comedian say, Silent Letters Are DumB’. Putting extra inflection on the B sound at the end of the word. I chuckled.


I like silent letters personally. I think they’re clever but must be a nightmare for people new to the English language.  Then again, I’m new to every other language on earth, and some of the combinations of letters, or worse, strokes, as is in Chinese, just don’t add up. For instance the word for love in Chinese is “I.” It sounds just like “I” at least. As in “I” am. But it takes 13 strokes of the pen to spell it/say it. How awesome is that!


In the word Lucky, do think it’s the C or the K that is silent? I’ve always assumed they just go together, but I’d say the K is doing all the heavy lifting.


Last night I got to sing Lucky in Chinese (Mandarin) with GEM, a rad young artist from Hong Kong.


I’ve performed that song many many times and in a couple different languages now; Español and Japanese to name a few, and each time I get to get to say thank you to music itself for connecting me to these beautiful words, sounds, shapes and lovely spirits with whom I sing.

Some of you may remember Alysse Fischer from the 2009 Gratitude Café Tour. She was not only a star crew member but she would get all fancy just in time to take the stage each night for a beautiful rendition of Lucky. These days you can hear Alysse’s original music on Itunes or bandcamp. Check out her beautiful song, “Safe in My Arms.”


Her music, while beautiful and profound, often goes unnoticed or unheard, which is unfortunate. Acts like Alysse Fischer, Gregory Page, Carlos Olmeda, Dawn Mitschele, Parker Ainsworth, Tristan Prettyman, Matt and Avasa Love, Bushwalla, The Makepeace Brothers, Ryan Dilmore, and Luc & The Lovingtons are at times like the silent letters of the ever expanding music world. You don’t hear them, YET. But they’re there and they’re as important and brilliant as all the rest. In fact, it is from this community of musicians and songwriters that I find my strength and inspiration and if you’re ever curious to know who my greatest influences are, check out any and all of the acts mentioned above. Hear their songs; their letters to you, and help them break their silence.

Meanwhile, I’ll be practicing mnemonics attempting to improve my knowledge, building a solemn column, rhyming a lot, untying knots, and trying not to bomb yet, wondering where the O in the word people went.

AP Bank Fes ’12

June 17, 2012

For the past 3 years I’ve had the pleasure of participating in American’s most important music festival, Farm Aid; the annual concert to benefit America’s struggling family farmers. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of buying local/organic food and supporting your local farmer’s market. Organic is the highest choice for your family’s health, the health of your environment, AND the health of your local economy as buying locally helps the farmer get the fairest and most accurate price for his labor. Believe it or not, our current food system, which is centrally managed by major factory farms, doesn’t act holistically. Meaning, human health, soil health, and economic health for the whole isn’t equally considered.


Farm Aid is an enriching and educational experience and I always return home with invaluable tips and resources to improve the quality of life in my own backyard.


This year I will not be attending Farm Aid unfortunately, but do plan to be there in spirit, keeping an ear on the progress, seeing that the 30 year old concert flourishes.


However, it gives me great pleasure to announce I WILL be playing a similar concert in Japan; the AP Bank Festival. AP Bank (which stands for Artist’s Power/Alternative Power) is not an actual Bank, but a fund created by Music Producer Takeshi Kobayashi and Sakurai Kazutoshi , a singer from the band “Mr Children”. For the past 8 years, AP Bank Fes has generated millions of dollars for farmers, food futures, and green technologies. This year, the festival is taking things a step further and creating 3 festival sites in effort to help the people in the disaster area by raising money and attention, with awards given especially to farmers, for the healthy food that will heal and sustain us.


I’ve been told I will be the first western artist to play this festival in its 8 years running, and what intrigues me almost as much as sharing music is what I’m sure to learn. At the AP Bank Fes, there is zero waste. ZERO waste! ZERO WASTE among 100,000 attendees!?

This is made possible by employing and empowering people to wash and reuse their plates and cups, to bring their own wares and act responsibly; conscious of the festival environment, which is everyone’s home for the long weekend. This I HAVE to see!


Additionally, All PET (plastic) bottles are compressed on site and prior to being recycled, are displayed as giant clear plastic cubes for all to see just how much is consumed in 3 short days. The efforts Takeshi Kobayashi and his team take are what is needed by ALL concert promoters and festival goers alike. They leave the festival sight without a trace and take accountability for everything that comes and goes from the festival grounds. Even trucks that carry-in deliveries are required to haul away recyclables so not even the petrol is misused. All merchandise is pre-organic, meaning the cotton comes from villages supported to keep pesticides out of their communities entirely. And within the festival are workshops on how to live sustainably, how to grow food, and make efficient products and crafts; ways to stay involved in the cultural revolution that I believe is now happening all over the planet.


Ironically, Japan has considered restoring their nuclear reactors soon to help combat the summer heat. The concert, powered by wind turbines, solar panels, and bio-fuel generators, hopes to raise awareness about – and stress the importance of – clean green renewable energy which is now available to all if we want it.


Could you imagine? ENERGY INDEPENDENCE! No nukes. No mountaintop removal nor burning of coal. No more oil spills. NO MORE UTILITY BILLS!


Sadly one of the driving forces opposing green tech are oil, gas, and electric utilities, which is a huge source of income for a nation. As long as people are tied into a grid, money is sure to be circulated, therefore Energy Independence looks scary to some. But imagine paying zero for electricity as myself and many people who own solar systems do. It allows me save and put my money elsewhere.


*This is something to think about for upcoming the US election. Keep in mind President OBAMA has applied more money to green technology than any other president in history. And for this he gets my vote for a second term! (See that your local Congressman and Senator are supporters of green initiatives as well, for if the majority of the Senate were eco-minded, we’d be halfway to utopia already.) With Energy Independence, we could spend less money on oil, gas and electric (fighting less wars and building less nuclear products) and put more money into healthy food futures or the ARTS!


Japanese audiences have been supportive of my music for 10 years strong and I am especially honored to be considered a friend in this revolutionary time of need.


Learn more about AP Bank Fes and its initiatives.


And if in the US, check out Farm Aid and see what’s growing on right in your backyard!