The first I ever learned of Myanmar was on the hand of a Myanma Man who worked in the produce section of my grocery store. He was a happy guy that seemed impressed with my regular travels. When I asked where he was from, he demonstrated on his hand, the same kind of demo a person from Michigan might give when describing the location of their hometown. If your wrist is Thailand, and your thumb is Bangladesh, then the fatty heel of the palm is essentially Myanmar, known to many by its former name, Burma. The rest of your hand pretty much belongs to China.
Myanmar has been in the news a lot recently, especially since the 2010 release of democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners, showcasing the military’s move toward openness and domestic reform. Decade long sanctions against Myanmar have essentially cut-off the country from the developing world. A read of the sad second paragraph on Wikipedia about Burma sums it up.
My visit to Myanmar won’t be for government business however. Nor will it be a business venture. I’m not there to promote an album or sell ringtones to a burgeoning market. Nor am I there as an activist or even a tourist. As a guest and performer of MTV Exit, Live From Myanmar, my role is simple: Engage, Educate, & Empower the youth in an effort to End Exploitation and Human Trafficking. In a country whose windows were recently opened to download new information, I am going there to serve as a pop-up window; an ambassador of awareness; to share music and information that could potentially save lives.
Yesterday I discovered more than 50,000 tickets have been claimed for the free concert in People’s Square where the stage will be positioned near Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. While I am confident our music will provide some familiarity, I assume a good portion of the tickets have been reserved by the curious. MTV Exit, Live In Myanmar will be the first open air concert in the history of the new country to feature an international artist. Am I nervous? Absolutely. But it takes a little fear to understand how strong you are and what you’re capable of.
MTV Exit is a long-running program in Asia. The 10 year old foundation has hosted more than 30 concerts across the region, with television specials, documentaries and regular broadcasts educating a new generation of viewers on the issues of trafficking and sexual exploitation. Audiences far and wide are aware of MTV’s presence. And with a line up of Myanmar’s top acts, the event is sure to make a noise. It excites me to know a concert addressing the realities and horrors of human trafficking has garnered this much attention and I am honored to be invited to sing as well as stand as an ally in the fight to end modern day slavery. I know my grocer will be proud.
Check out http://mtvexit.org/liveinmyanmar/ and take action to help me spread the message and save lives. And check back to this blog soon for more updates and observations. And thanks for reading! – Jason
I have a long running tradition for bringing in a New Year. I can’t remember where I heard it, but I was a much younger man when someone told me to set a clear intention at 12 o’clock. For instance, if you wish to travel in the new year, have your bags packed ready to go when the ball drops. If you wish to write songs or be a musician, have a jam that ushers in the new digit. If you wanna be an artist, then for Seacrest’s sake, throw some paint around. If you do your part, the universe will do Its. At the flip of ‘98 to ‘99, I was traveling across country with a friend of mine. We were somewhere in Oklahoma zooming west. That year I drove across the country 5 more times. Coincidence?
Last year my household and I created F***Yeah 2012. With legend suggesting the world would end as we know it, we wanted to create a year of firsts, filled with radical doings, and all around awesomeness. We brought the year in with a bang, having a F’Yeah party theme. We spray painted the words Fuck Yeah on the side of the house and welcomed the community to join us for a firey night of spray paint, roller skating, costumes and tomfoolery. A spray painted unicorn still drips on the wall of the living room reminding us of our pledge to be awesome. In the succeeding months I traveled to Antarctica and grew my hair out, neither of which I’d ever done before. I upgraded my Vespa to a motorcycle. We produced our first ever full scale world tour, bravely changing up the band, giving my decade long sidekick Toca Rivera a break from touring, welcoming Mona Tavakoli to the ensemble. We rallied and re-elected Obama and continued to speak out for Gay Rights, and within one year saw a HUGE shift in national public opinion. Fuck Yeah 2012!
Those decisions and creations weren’t easy, but remembering the theme, a year of being awesome, without compromising one’s integrity, I knew I had to soldier on and trust everything would work out. And it has. Last month my friends and family gathered in the tolerant city of Amsterdam for Thanksgiving, which in my opinion is the only place to spend Thanksgiving on a year dubbed F*** Yeah 2012.
And the year still isn’t done! On Monday, Dec 10th we play our first ever headline show at Madison Square Garden with Fitz & The Tantrums and other special guests, and then fly to Myanmar to be the first international act to play an open air concert there, bringing attention and hopefully an end to exploitation and human trafficking. F*** Yeah 2012!
And now I invite you to consider a theme for 2013; something that will surpass your resolutions and stick with you for the entirety of the year, uplifting and inspiring you to be the person you always dreamed you’d be. I invite you to think big, play full out, and try on: Livin’ the Dream 2013!
Here’s two of my favorite performances from this past year. The first was shot by I Heart Radio back in February when I still hadn’t found the right hat or style for my voluminous hair. Mona and I were matching our wardrobe everyday to show our unity as a new duo, The Duo Decibel System. The other, a Sade cover, was recorded in Paris. At the time these were filmed we were being met with much resistance and criticism, both from fans and industry alike. People seemed confused by my change of appearance and musical approach, but Mona and I believed in what we would accomplish together. We knew the music was true and served a higher purpose than our need to simply be accepted. We didn’t compromise our integrity in the process and were able to end each day with a proud nod. F*** Yeah.
I have to be honest. I wasn’t expecting the election results to come so early and I didn’t want to worry my election day away checking emails, Google results and Instagram. So I turned my phone off and worked in the yard figuring whatever will be, will be. The yard work consisted of constructing a set of stairs into the side of a hill giving us safer access to our ripening lemon tree which stands short, a new kid in an aging avocado grove. Physical labor is still in my blood. All men above me in lineage were working types and I use it to my advantage now as exercise and zen, a way to lively-up-myself to conjure fresh lyrics, a tip from Bob Marley, learned in the latest documentary about him.
Later that evening I took a break from writing my new romances and powered my phone on. I’d heard that my roommate had a flat tire and I wanted to see not so much if he was okay, but whatever pic may be posted of him changing the tire. I hadn’t anticipated the election being concluded so soon, assuming it would be a tighter, longer race, hence my enthusiasm for the vote this year. Needless to say, and perhaps tactless to say, I was so shocked by the early reports, to turn a phrase, I about shit myself.
And so to commemorate the end of this election season, I rest my political commentary on this blog with a post about a time I actually did shit myself.
In our house, if it’s yellow, we let it mellow. And if it’s brown, we flush it down. We haven’t gotten into compostable toilets yet, but predict they’re in a not too distant future. But this isn’t an entry about being green. It’s about childhood, when I didn’t know what being green was; only that being green wasn’t easy according to my Muppet Idol.
For a short while in my strange youth, I used to be bothered with going to the bathroom. I didn’t want to stop whatever I was doing; breaking concentration, inspiration or motivation with temporary relocation. And so I would hold it until it was painful.
One summer I was playing in the waves at VA beach. Or maybe it was Nags Head. Or Myrtle. I can’t remember the geography. I just remember the east coast beaches being wide and when you’re near the water, it’s a long way back to the motel, and suffice to say at my young age, I couldn’t be trusted to go it alone and I didn’t want to bother an adult. So I suppressed my urge.
At one point I’m a little above knee deep in the whitewash trying to act casual when a large wave appeared and flipped me over. At this point I got the full realization of having the shit scared out of me.
Rather than put my tail between my legs, I put my trust in bio-remediation and released the contents of my shorts into the retreating flush of the Atlantic Ocean forgetting that waves ebb and flow. Almost as quickly as it went, it came back again, washing up on the beach seconds later. With handfuls of sand I buried what I could, all to the sand crabs dismay. I felt shitty about it. Literally and figuratively.
After that incident I began planning my time a little wiser. These days I enjoy my quiet time in the bathroom, as most men do. In fact, it’s the most common place you’ll find me tweeting, following my Instagram feed, or updating this blog.
The measure of your character is not what you do when people are looking. It’s what you do when you think no one is looking.
I’m not deaf to the comments or concern about my endorsing a presidential candidate. I understand the best role I can play may be that of musician. Through music, humanity soars higher than politics and personal problems, and when we’re united in song, we truly experience harmony. When a great song comes along, it gives us a glimpse of world peace thanks to the peace of mind we experience for the duration of the song, album, or concert.
Music also invites us to recognize or remember a period of time, commemorating history, such as our national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a poem written in 1814 by the 35-year-old amateur poet, Francis Scott Key, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships in Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. In modern times we can refer to dozens of Bob Dylan songs that sing of social injustices, like Hurricane, the story of Rueben Carter, a boxer who was falsely tried for murder. Or Bob Marley who sang of oppression in Jamaica and Ethiopia and brought liberation and whose songs continue to enrich and inspire lives around the world.
If I chose to remain silent about the values I believe are good for my friends and family, such as love made legal for all and the expansion of Pell Grants and student loans, then I wouldn’t be the musician I dreamed I’d be when I was a kid; Musicians like Dylan, or Dave Matthews, Ani Defranco, John Lennon, Rage Against the Machine, or Willie Nelson, who’ve each delivered powerful, forward thinking messages in their actions as well as their music. Rolling Stone, America’s iconic music magazine, has voiced it’s opinion on leadership for decades, and I grew up reading that magazine; inspired.
I hope you can see my choice of using my voice for hope as a positive, and not as an annoyance or flaw in my character. Over the past decade my music and actions have brought awareness to many great charities while adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to their missions. I would be greedy to keep my lips sealed during this election when much of the country is being confused by advertisements lying about Obama.
I believe in the strong character of Barack Obama and the democratic party, whose aim it is to make the opportunity to live one’s dream fair and equal for all.
I am nervous about electing Romney due to all the negative ads, outsourcing, and lying he’s been connected to. If this is him during a campaign, what kind of character will he show in the Presidency?
Read on for more stories as to why I’m voting, and thank you for being kind in your own conclusions.
My friend Aspasia is a Columbia University undergraduate. She is 44. On brains and brawn alone she has returned to academia on scholarship, student loans, and Pell Grants. Now in her 2nd semester with sights set on a distant and achievable PHD, she, like mega-storm Sandy, is making waves. And while the extreme weather has been a major set-back this season, a greater threat to her education is Mitt Romney. If he is elected into office, her student loans and Pell Grants could vanish, leaving her incomplete and in debt. She doesn’t have parents to fall back on, which is Romney’s recommended alternative. Without loans, she would be forced to quit college, have massive debt over her head, and lack the degree she’d need to get the right job to pay it off. She and thousands of students are at risk if Romney is elected. This is yet another reason I’m casting my vote for Obama.
An amendment is being proposed to voters that will read: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota? yes or no.” I pray the people’s answer is no.
If someone is against same-sex marriage, that person shouldn’t marry someone of the same sex. It’s that simple. If you live in MN, help get the vote out. Follow @MN4allfamilies and the website to help is http://www.mnunited.org/gotv.
Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, Virginia
It doesn’t take 1 person to change America. It takes 279. One leader with vision and values in The White House. 60 men and women who share that vision and can defeat a Filibuster in The United States Senate, and a majority 218 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives who can enact the legislation that the President wants.
Yes We Can Supporters in Ohio vote for Sharrod Brown. In Missouri, vote Claire McCaskill. In Wisconsin, we love Tammy Baldwin! and In Virginia, it’s Tim Kaine. If you don’t know about the Senators in your state, now’s a great time to Google them.
San Diego, CA
As a budding organic food farmer, I encourage people to shop at their local farmer’s markets to enjoy seasonal, home grown food. Buying local & organic not only supports your neighborhood economy, it’s also better for your body and better for the planet. On our ballot we welcome Prop 37 for proper food labeling. This is the right to know what’s in our food. Major food manufacturers don’t want to label their food, and in turn that hurts us local/organic farmers. We work hard to grow delicious all-natural foods while they spray chemicals on everything and genetically modify foods to make them look perfect. I am voting YES on PROP 37 because I think it would be great for everyone to see how much genetically modified (GM) food there is on the shelf, in hopes it would shift the general interest towards healthier, all natural foods. If GM food is so safe, why is there so much resistance from the major manufacturers to label it for us? Have you noticed how many more food allergies there are these days? http://www.carighttoknow.org/facts