well said, my dear.

Streetlight Records Blog

Dear Etta,

Well, as of this morning, you’re in the hospital being kept alive with a breathing machine while your family battles over your estate. Ouch. Probably not what you had hoped your final days would look like. I’m really sorry that you’ve been suffering and I just wanted to take a minute to thank you, from the depths of my heart, for all the music, joy and sauciness that you have brought to the world.

The first and only time I saw you perform live was many years back at the Monterey Blues Festival. I was a record store newbie of 19 who was staffing the merch booth. You were the belle of the ball; the headliner that people had come from all over to see; the inimitable, legendary Etta James.

One of the perks of having a booth at the festival was that we were given one of…

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They Can’t Take That Away From Me

Someone stole my yarn stash. I’m just gonna blurt it out like that –
during the move from old apartment to strange limbo, my yarn, my stash, my stuff, got its lid popped off and rifled through and, yeah, someone really walked off with alla my stash.

And I’m starting to realize that it hurts a little bit.

Because every knitter knows that with each skein there is the dream. The color, or the heft – the spin or the lack of it. Something in it beckons forth an almost matching shape, like the images in science class when the DNA helix is swirling clockwise up and the matching As and Cs and Gs and Ts are slipping into place. It’s a ball of yarn that you cup in your hand but the pictures that your mind is spinning are of friend’s and occasions and shapes and techniques you might try, might apply to this particular, this one and only – it’s another raw material that whispers to you – you could make someone happy with this. You could learn something new (how exciting it is, to learn something new!).

And, in a time when so many yarns tell stories of the animals and the farms and the people who gave birth to them, choosing a yarn can be like putting your hand in someone else’s, and making about a world that you want to keep living in. Maybe that’s just me.

But I mourn for the loss of those skeins – each one with a story, and two bags (one unopened) of Cascade 220 for a coat I pictured on my son (he looks so good in green), and some wonderful chunky alpaca in a velvety black, and a gifted warm reddish brown cone from a company out of my price range. I had bought a few grams of a silver-grey silk/wool blend and was waiting for a time when I had the patience for lace with the idea that it would become something like a gorgeous spiderweb…

The time to dream and my love and lust for life, right here, in this skein of yarn. They can’t take that away from me.

Ruined Lives


You have allowed a child molester, a predator of the worst, most venal kind, to work amongst you while you turned a blind eye to what he was doing to the children in his care,

I personally will call and email you as often as I can to remind you that you must do restitution to those victims of Sandusky that are known, and to all that are currently unknown but will eventually gain the courage to come forward.

You must support them emotionally, psychologically, financially, and mentally to heal. You must show them how sorry you are that you were not there for them when they were just children, but that you are there for them now.

You must applaud their bravery and courage for persevering when things must have seemed so hopeless and confusing – when an adult they trusted violated that trust savagely, promising them that their wildest dreams would come true, in exchange for their bodies.

You must take a stand. Be adults now, not cowards who are afraid of their boss. Stand up for the children you betrayed – all of them, even the ones who have not come forward yet.

You wanted to be heroes, people of the Second Mile Foundation. Now is your chance.

Alison Cecile Johns
+skype: 510-984-4832
twitter: alisoncecile

YouTube – The Monsters are Due on Maple Street 1/2

YouTube – The Monsters are Due on Maple Street 1/2.

The Ugly Truth: Today’s Psychologies of Racism and Sexism « The Crunk Feminist Collective

The Ugly Truth: Today’s Psychologies of Racism and Sexism « The Crunk Feminist Collective.

blog for Japan

I couldn’t bring myself to write a blog for Japan, even though I had already committed to, mentally.

I had thought that my blog would be just about music, not about politics. That is, I was going to try to keep the blog a space where anyone who wanted to buy my records, god bless them, could read without coming into contact with any of my peskier beliefs, without coming into contact with anything that might keep me from potentially making a fan, keeping a fan, making a dollar off what I believe is my best talent, my most useful and beautiful skill.

But I can’t be truthful and ignore that I have been changed by the disaster in Japan, energized into a kind of fearless desire to insist that the world move, that we no longer put our planet in harm’s way, that we fight for Earth and the Japanese, and in expanding concentric rings, everyone and everything, all beings, like some old Buddhist chant – that all my relations. should live on the beautiful planet free of the fear of poison from radioactivity and petroleum and toxic rainfall and senseless, brutal murder.

Honestly, I don’t think it should be that much to ask. So many of us are mothers and fathers. We are stewards, by choice (hopefully) of others – we learn, step by step, what that means, how that works.

I lived in Japan in the mid-1908’s, when gaijin were not so common, and Black ones even less so. I first sang Jazz in Japan, and, although I know that I got initially gigs because, to the Japanese, I looked the part, I believe that I kept getting them because I was so devoted to getting better. I really wanted to get better. In Japan, there were coffeehouses that were fronts for the pure delivery of sound from Vinyl. In a temperature-controlled, glass windowed room, thousands of records were housed, along with a pristine sound system, a turntable, and a person that served as your maitre’d of music. You made your request and sat, in near-silence, as your record was played in a room where no one chatted much, excess noise was frowned on, and the clientele was devoted simply to the sound of music on vinyl. American music. Jazz.

I met Abdullah Ibrahim in a crowded Tokyo train station, because we were both African and at least a head above the rest of the crowd. I made friends and lovers I couldn’t speak more than a few words to. Visiting Mount Fuji on a train, and autumn festivals, and being able to walk the feral cat-filled streets safely at 4AM, and air pollution so thick it turned your sneezes gray – even before this man-made catastrophe, I thought of Japan often, and looked at her across the ocean, wondering if I would ever go back, and bring my son. The Pacific Ocean, and the shifting Earth between us, link us all up around the ring of fire, as do our nuclear power plants. The one in my childhood backyard is Diablo Canyon. And if the ground breaks up beneath us, we should all know now that there is no plan, there is no safety, there is no intelligent design behind the soul-sucking greed that Tokyo Electric and PG&E and British Petroleum foist onto our Planet. They are parasites with no intention of playing nicely and picking up after themselves. And they seem not to have realized that they are killing their host.

So, I make music, and I believe that is what I do best. But I also believe that it is not just my job to sing of the moon in June, but to look at the world and tell the truth that I know. The voice is the first instrument, only love lasts forever, and Earth will survive, even if she has to start all over again. If it’s isn’t too late to help her stay the beautiful planet that she is now, we should do our duty, and help. My knowledge is limited – I’m open to ideas.

organic piano

after a day without piano, some invisible muscle is eager to be flexed.
i’m glad it didn’t take so long for me to notice how much
i need this out-of-tune instrument to play.

sus chords and second inversions
3-6-2-5 progressions, scales with inconvenient fingering
unknowable pedals, things that go “bump”
in the dark of my piano, wooden box and metal string

if i play it like a drummer i can almost swing
if i play it like a singer i can almost sing

following an open sound along