Growing up Angeleno – illusions, race and all

When I first learned that what we commonly refer to as the “ghetto” was born out of unfair economic practices, it all made so much sense to me. When the modern mortgage system was spreading in the early 20th century most of the lenders were racist and didn’t want to lend money to people of color. The result of that was that many concentrated communities sprung up in typically undesirable parts of town that no one else wanted to live in. The buildings were shoddy, the available work in that area was sub-par, and so began a system of creating a socioeconomic loop that was nearly impossible to get out of.

At that time the aftershock of the Civil War was still very palpable; it was not ancient history nor was it a distant memory. Many people alive at the time were just one step away from living through the ramifications of what happened then, and simply did not want to deal with integration. Instead it was easier to create an institutional form of racism that allowed the white individual to say “oh, but I’m not racist” but then turn around and create an economic wall that kept colored folks segregated, isolated, angry, afraid, and highly disadvantaged. This created a culture of white privilege which is borne out of a sense of more options being available to white folks because colored opposition wasn’t even around to be felt or heard.

I know this experience well, from growing up in a white, affluent part of Los Angeles in the 80’s and 90’s. Embarrassingly the only time I ever experienced the tiniest glimpse of black LA was when I attended Raiders games in the 80’s, or when my parents would get lost in Inglewood after a Lakers game. Back then Inglewood was much grittier than it is now. Other than that, I was raised to think that my entire Los Angeles was north of Wilshire and west of Vine St. – anything else might as well have been Mars. It wasn’t until I started going to public schools in the 8th grade did my world view change. LAUSD was famous for implementing “bussing” programs which allowed for kids from the inner city to be “bussed” into different schools because the schools in their neighborhoods were overcrowded. It was built to alleviate a specific problem but also helped to integrate kids who normally wouldn’t cross paths. While I’ve never experienced what it’s like to have to go back home to an apartment on Florence and Normandy in 1990 (pre LA riots), or felt what it’s like to not have a parent home when I returned from school because they were out working a second job, I was introduced to people that did live in that reality. I was exposed to something that was outside of my white bubble. I am also thankful that my parents did not introduce me to the concept of a difference in skin color or racism. That thought was never taught to me personally, but because of the segregated nature of Los Angeles in a physical sense, I can see why people who were brought up that with those values feel so much tension in and around LA. There are generations of millions of white people who are brought up to see a black person in Los Angeles and immediately think that “they” are far from home if a colored couple is walking down the street in Beverly Hills. And if that black person is wearing saggy jeans they must be a banger, right? This horrific view of the world is still so apparent within the hearts and minds of so many white people that it’s become second nature. It’s an embarrassing reality that most “liberal” white people from the Westside don’t want to admit. Adding to that is the very fabric of the way that our city is laid out physically. Sure there are some hipster neighborhoods that borderline-classify as melting pots but let’s be real – LA is a sectioned off and segregated melting pot. It so happens that many of the white people who are brought up to think like the horrific cliché when they see a colored person outside of their “zone” are now cops. That’s just math. Sure there are black and Hispanic cops in LA too, but there are also many white ones.

I understand that this week’s shootings of two black men by white police officers, and then the insane retaliation in Dallas, were not in Los Angeles. The point Aim making is that I understand how our cities were initially built to be fucked up failures, with the deck stacked against the chance of success. Until we start truly living in integrated communities, or at least integrated mind sets, the road will be long. This endless bullshit Illusion of Separation is do deeply integrated into the Maya of white America that it will take bold action to course correct the trends we are experiencing. America is not that old; only 50 years ago the peak of the modern Civil Rights movement was in full bloom. Just 50 years. That means my parents were growing up before that – they were brought up in a segregationist America. That’s just one generation away.

We need to fix our cities, address the power struggle with cops, possibly not let cops with less than 5 years on the force have guns at all, and most of all offer across the board economic equality for all. As long as our inner cities stay in the disadvantaged column, things will remain tough. These problems are systemic and ingrained in our minds, but also into the visual landscape. Breaking these molds are a necessary step so we stop viewing the city and the world as separate or that of “us and them.” I wish there was some way to wave a magic wand that erased the innate ignorance of white America, but the reality is that there is not. That’s why I think we need to combat that ignorance with systemic fixes that will force change from the inside out.

“LOVE EVERYONE” author Parvati Markus!

The guru system conjures up a lot of different ideas, some good and some bad, for different people. However, I encourage anyone reading this post to forget anything you think you know and dive into the love portal that is Neem Karoli Baba. Check out this podcast but also get the book “Love Everyone” and go beyond dogma and straight into a map of consciousness that may pry you wide open.

The podcast can be found here

Get the book here


Saul David Raye on the podcast

This podcast episode was maybe my favorite one yet. As I learn how to do this podcasting thing a little better with each episode I can see how some episodes get in a better flow than others. This one was like that. Give it a listen.


Yogi, mystic, healer and explorer of the sacred multi-verse, Saul David Raye stops by IAH to open our hearts and blow our minds. Quite literally. This episode will challenge everything you thought you knew about yoga and hopefully inspire you to dig even deeper within your own soul.


On Tony Scott

In the mid 1980’s, how I’m not exactly sure, my parents began befriending the film maker Tony Scott. During that era it was no surprise really as they were on the A list of the Hollywood Social Elite. But Tony was different – he was into fast cars and fast women, was fresh off the heels of the uber blockbuster Top Gun and had an overall tough guy demeanor that at first made him an odd fit to be friends with my parents. Stranger things have happened I guess. At that time, Tony lived on Angelo Dr about one mile up from our house in Benedict Canyon. Thus began a neighborly and family based friendship that lasted many many years.

As the years went on it became really noticeable that Tony’s tough guy englishman bulldog exterior was really an act. It was a device he used to craft a persona that allowed him to direct movies that has his unique stamp of action, intrigue and thrills. But that wasn’t really him on the inside. Once you got to know him he was a soft, sweet and gentle as any man you’d ever know. He also was the hardest worker you’d ever seen. No matter how late the night went he’d always get up at 6 am for his morning jog and then to the office or studio to either plan his next film or to make his current one.

In 1988 my parents clearly (and wisely) noticed that I could use a stable person in my life to be there no matter what happened so they made Tony and his then girlfriend Tania my godparents. It was incredibly sweet. Upon the night of the celebration of that event Tony gave me a VHS camcorder in hopes of my one day becoming a film maker. That didn’t happen obviously but I’ll never forget it. And on my sixteenth birthday Tony gave me the money to buy my first car – the beloved ’72 VW Bus. By the time I was seventeen the bus was such a disaster of a lemon that he went out and got me a super cool ’81 Jeep CJ7. It wasn’t so much about material things as it was about him doing things that my parents could not do and about unsurpassed generosity. Looking back on it, the car thing was funny. He knew my VW Bus was going to be a disaster, the Jeep was his tongue in cheek way of saying “i told you so.”

When I was about sixteen I took an interest in Tony’s films and became mesmerized that my godfather was this gigantic Hollywood movie director. Over the years I was so thrilled to get to visit the sets of The Last Boy Scout, Crimson Tide and others. It was such a thrill to see how it all worked. While I eventually became pretty far away from Hollywood in my adult life those days left an indelible mark on me that reinforced how great Hollywood could be when someone focussed on their craft and not trying to be famous. Tony was a craftsman through and through. His attention to detail was impeccable. So much so that he even did his own story boards for his films. Unheard of.

In the middle of all of this Tony and Tania really became our family. During Tony’s morning runs, he would venture a mile down to our house and drop off his dog “Little T” to play with our dog “Bo” for the day. This was a regular routine that went on for years until Tony moved from Angelo Drive. Eventually, Tony and Tania split and Tony met his soon to be wife Donna. Donna was a sizzling hot blonde hair blue eyed Southern Girl from North Carolina who pretty much became my teenage friends wet dream. She was sweet, down home, funny and did I mention hot? As close as we were with Tania the transition into Tony and Donna was rather seamless. The family continued. For years my parents and I hung out with them in Benedict Canyon and also down at the Scott’s beach house in Malibu. As I got older, I took notice that Tony wasn’t a counter-culture guy and Timmy wasn’t an action film guy. It was an odd couple relationship. Yet the friendship between them was genuine and pure.

In the summer of 1992 my mom and my dad split which left me in shock and my dad to fend for himself. I don’t think many people are aware of how much Tony Scott actually helped Timmy. From ’93 to ’96 Tony and Donna really became our go to friends that could help take care of Timmy as he was getting sicker. To make a long story short – Timmy’s death would have been a very very different situation if it weren’t for the kindness and generosity that Tony gave to us. He allowed Timmy to die at home with grace and dignity.

Additionally the bond between the Scott’s and Leary’s was so strong that to this day the executors of the Timothy Leary trust are Donna Scott and Denis Berry, a beautiful soul who came to us also through Tony’s kindness.

I could go on and on with endless stories about Tony’s laughter, dinners at Mr. Chows, Hollywood mischief, his generosity, and his friendship. Early on his guidance to me was so strong and palatable. Perhaps I wasn’t the best godson but I’ll never forget Tony. While we weren’t part of each other’s day to day lives in recent years the Scott’s will always be part of my family. I really wanted to write this post to let the world know the impact that this beautiful man had on my families life. Opposites perhaps, but good souls to the end.

He leaves behind his beautiful wife Donna and their two sons Frank and Max. Tony’s legacy will be one of legend. They don’t make them like that too often. I love you Tony and godspeed. Thank you for everything you did. You changed my life for the better.

Louis CK is a cool dude

(This story is old news if you’re already a Louis CK fan. Sorry)

If you’re into Louis CK you’re likely not into sacred commerce. And if you’re into sacred commerce you’re likely not into Louis C.K.

Good news is that Louis CK may be into both. Well obviously he’s into himself, duh. But who knew that he’s set forth a model on how sacred commerce should work. Sacred commerce pretty much means that a business puts a financial model into place that is both transparent and has a conscious intention on how the flow of money should work. Doesn’t mean you can’t make money and live well, it just means that making large amounts of money has certain advantages for how to make the world a better place.

Check it out. Back in December Louis CK self-released his latest comedy film “Live at the Beacon.” He smartly realized that his fan base was big enough that he could successfully control the whole experience when putting out new material that’s for sale. He sold the movie on his website for five bucks. To date he’s made over one million dollars.

NOW check it out, see what he’s doing with the money:

hi. So it’s been about 12 days since the thing started and yesterday we hit the crazy number. One million dollars. That’s a lot of money. Really too much money. I’ve never had a million dollars all of a sudden. and since we’re all sharing this experience and since it’s really your money, I wanted to let you know what I’m doing with it. People are paying attention to what’s going on with this thing. So I guess I want to set an example of what you can do if you all of a sudden have a million dollars that people just gave to you directly because you told jokes.

So I’m breaking the million into four pieces.

the first 250k is going to pay back what the special cost to produce and the website to build.

The second 250k is going back to my staff and the people who work for me on the special and on my show. I’m giving them a big fat bonus.

The third 280k is going to a few different charities. They are listed below in case you’d like to donate to them also. Some of these i learned about through friends, some were reccomended through twitter.

The Fistula Foundation
The Pablove Foundation
charity: water
Green Chimneys
That leaves me with 220k for myself. Some of that will pay my rent and will care for my childen. The rest I will do terrible, horrible things with and none of that is any of your business. In any case, to me, 220k is enough out of a million.

I never viewed money as being “my money” I always saw it as “The money” It’s a resource. if it pools up around me then it needs to be flushed back out into the system.

That is so awesome. Not only is this guy funny and smart but he’s also aware and humble. A cool dude.

Read the original post on his website here

Shiny Objects

This past week, I like many others, relished in the news of Apple’s latest addition to it’s iPad product line. I’ve been on an iPad 1 for some time so I was comfortable and resolute in my immediate pre-order purchase of the latest iPad. Firmly into the 21st Century we are now walking hand in hand with the most mind boggling innovation cycle in the history of man combined with some very stark realities on how the demand for this innovation is met.

The death of Steve Jobs solidified one the most jarring juxtapositions of our time. On one hand, if you are a believer in Steves accomplishments (like I am), you are in awe at the way he fused the arts with science to create the worlds most valuable and influential technology company. Apple has created a product line that revolutionizes the way we communicate, create and take in information. The world will never be the same. On the other hand, there is something troubling about the make shift shrines that were erected outside of Apple retail stores upon Steves death. Here we have this counter culture acid-head rebel being worshipped outside of a store that sells products for thousands of dollars. Look up irony on the dictionary.

Long before the iPhones release in June of 2007 I lusted after the shiny objects that Apple made. The effect that these products had on my life not only entertained me but also helped me to define my own creative voice. To be honest, I’m not so sure that I’d have a career in the digital arts if it weren’t for the early inspiration that the two Steve’s brought me. However, like any good robot consumer I consumed these products without the slightest notion or curiosity as to where they came from or how they were made. It was like the magic Apple fairies just made these shiny little boxes in the North Pole. I never thought to connect the dots that oil was used to make the plastic casing or that actual people would need to be used to put these things together.

Mike Daisey, the performer and writer of the explosive New York play “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” said to Playbill:

“We live in denial about China: a relationship that so disturbs us that we pretend our devices are made in magical Willy Wonka-esque factories by space elves instead of the real human cost we all know in our hearts has been paid. This moment is an opportunity to peel back the surface and get at the secret heart of our relationship with Steve Jobs, his devices, our labor, and China itself.”

The history of supply chains and the manufacturing process that feeds them is quite complex. The industrial revolution gave birth to the America we know today and put America at the forefront of innovation. America was suddenly fused together with the ability to capitalize on that innovation by creating an assembly line that supported the massive demand for the new products. That assembly line gave way to a low cost streamlined way of making products that accomplished two things: jobs for the working class and reasonably priced goods that the same working class could afford to use or by. It was a dream scenario. Products and services were made and fed by each other in the same system of supply and demand.

Take this example (via WikiPedia) of Andrew Carnegie’s significant accomplishments:

One of his two great innovations was in the cheap and efficient mass production of steel by adopting and adapting the Bessemer process for steel making. Sir Henry Bessemer had invented the furnace which allowed the high carbon content of pig iron to be burnt away in a controlled and rapid way. The steel price dropped as a direct result, and was rapidly adopted for railway lines and girders for buildings and bridges.

If you follow the bouncing ball you can see how this single act created a domino effect that changed our lives. Cheap steel gave way to railroad expansion which gave way to freedom of movement and physical growth around the country. Steel cores gave way to skyscrapers and later on to automobile production. And so on and so on, you get the idea.

The same logic can be applied to the products that Apple products have had on the West. There are millions examples of how the personal home computer gave power back to the individual and fostered a creative revolution. Early on in Apples formative years many of the products were made in the US. It’s almost hard to imagine now given that the global manufacturing climate has changed so much.

Ok, so what changed? In the late 20th century, de-regulation grew and combined with new international free trade polices that gave companies the ability to make their products much cheaper than they had been made before. This meant outsourcing to the cheapest bidder, mainly China. This eliminated America’s ability to both create and supply products for the middle class. What rose in the background were millions of workers who made these products in what we now refer to as “sweatshops.” We now know that every single Apple product is made in an environment that overworks the employees, underpays them by American standards and stresses them out to the point that even suicide has been an option.

Who’s to blame here? Is it the player of the game or the game itself? Or both? And, we have to ask ourselves honestly: is the Apple tarnished?

In Walter Isaacson’s biography “Steve Jobs”, he conveniently skips over Apples transition from American factories to Chinese factories in favor of focussing on Steve Jobs, the person. However, in the middle chapters he does give light to Steve’s obsession with Apple’s early factory lines in Northern California. Steve was obsessed with the way they physically looked and operated drawing off the notion that if any part of the products DNA was compromised then the whole product would be compromised. I can’t imagine that Steve took the same care to aesthetic perfection in the Chinese factories.

So how do we change this? Many far left liberals are calling on Apple to stop the whole practice all together. Let’s look at some harsh realities with that notion. Apple is a publicly traded company therefore, it’s main goal is to turn a profit which then keeps the stock price high and investors happy. Using todays math under the current rules of the game, if Apple were to engage on the popular grassroots campaign that’s being called “make the iPhone 5 ethically”, profits would fall, the stock would plummet and the same people that green lit the “ethical iPhone 5” campaign would get fired. A core pillar of Apples profit center has come from a miracle supply chain story that is rooted in cheap manufacturing in China that can keep margins high while meeting the worlds obsessive product demands. Therefore, making the iPhone 5 in America under American employment standards is not option under the current model.

Next, when China opened it’s doors to the outside much of their reason for doing so came from a place of “look, we have one billion people here who are ready to work. bring us jobs.” This thinking immediately took China out of a rural migrant farm worker culture to that of pollution filled urban sprawl that has seemingly countless numbers of people who are willing to work for very little money on products that they can not afford to buy. China was desperate to jump into the modern world and this was a ticket to the party. The simultaneous deregulation of global business synced up perfectly with this new panacea of cheap labor. You had global companies, like Apple, that wanted to increase it’s profits and you have a country that has the work force and desire to become a global super power. Both set of mutually exclusive goals were accomplished. What happened in the space between was not thought through or possibly even considered.

For the most part I am a believer in the Global Village and that the more communication brings us together the more borders disappear and we become connected to each others challenges and triumphs. What happens in China is not so far away anymore that it can be ignored. The philosophical view of how humanity can operate as a collective conscious is valid and necessary as our population grows and as the challenges of the modern world become more apparent. Now, as we strive for a new world paradigm we are however caught in the grips of an old world order that we also can not ignored.

What can be done in a reasonable manner about the person who works at the sweat shop making iPads? And what can done to not judge the employer, in this case Apple, who is playing by the rules? China itself has done very little to regulate worker conditions. No one is forcing these Chinese workers to take these jobs at FoxConn, in fact these jobs are in very high demand. Potential new workers line up by the thousands to try and get a new job at FoxConn. The Chinese cultural view on stable employment is so different than ours that it’s hard for us to understand the context which immediately leads us to blaming and judging. Add to that, any CEO of a public company is burdened with turning a profit for their company so making stuff in China is a good idea for the books. The point is that the game is rigged and there’s no way to win. I’m not endorsing Apples treatment of workers. It pains me to play with my iPad knowing that these young Chinese workers were eating poor food and sleeping in these cramped dorms when assembling this beautiful device.

There aren’t too many options that could fix this but there are a couple. China would need to collapse from their highly leveraged market and the balance of manufacturing power would once again shift. Or the throngs of Chinese workers could uprise organically and demand better conditions and pay and form a union. The latter is most likely and even a hopeful outcome. Doubling Chinese worker pay is actually reasonable, probable and would keep Apple still very profitable. If you’re wondering, moving the manufacturing to US based factories is not an option. That ship sailed quite some time ago. Let it go.

This post is more about observation that solutions. To me, it’s fascinating and impossible to ignore that this very MacBookPro I’m writing this blog with is tainted with the pains of the human spirit being pushed too far.

About a month ago, Nightline was granted unprecedented exclusive access to the FoxConn Apple manufacturing plan (link below). Reporter Bill Weir drops a bomb of a soundbite at the end which is, for better or for worse, true; “In our current world you can either be the country that makes this stuff or the country that lines up to buy this stuff but you can’t be both.”

If you choose to blame Apple and to take a stand then you have to take a stand on all Chinese exports. That means you wouldn’t a single piece of electronic equipment in your home or automobile. Do any of you see yourself doing that? If you choose to single out Apple because they have brilliantly exploited a flawed rule book then you are blaming the player and not the game. Apple is experiencing what’s called “The Nike Effect.” They are not the only company making their products this way. They are merely the most iconic brand doing it. “Think Different” has been stamped in our psyche so deeply that it’s hard to make sense of the contradiction.

I will continue to live in both worlds. Simultaneously I’ll be be troubled about these worker conditions in China while I continue to purchase the devices. It is my hope that we can do both while bringing awareness to the issue that may come up with a better solution. Long term, it’s great that Apple has been singled out because the amount of global attention it brings to matter is valuable. Awareness is a good first step. For most of us, it’s too late to turn back from how these innovations have effected our lives. They are part of the fabric. I don’t see too many of us lining up to stop buying electronics. The harsh realities of how these products made are now part of the fabric and the ever growing juxtaposition of the modern world. I believe with enough exposure and openness about the issues we can find a solution that pleases all sides.

Watch Nightline get exclusive access to Apples iPad and iPhone factory, click here

On Jerry…

What can possibly said about Jerry Garcia that hasn’t been said before? Garcia and the Grateful Dead are the most well documented band in history so there’s an abundance of personal stories, bad acid trip recollections, good acid trip euphoric recalls and thousands of opinions on what the best version of “Eyes of the World” is (for me it’s 3-29-90).

16 years post Grateful Dead activity my version of Jerry’s meaning was that he was a Yogi and his practice was firmly rooted in a world that transcended definition and categorization. It’s often said that as a human being he struggled. But it’s also said that when he was deep in his version of samadhi, by pure association you could be transported to the heavens where magic, God, sound and celebration could meet. No one did it better.

Jai Sri Jerry! Happy Birthday to you.