2020 reading list

My list of books I read in 2020 (mostly in order) and learned about from friends, fam, heroes, podcasts, the library, and some that just kind of showed up in my path.

Prolly the reading spot of the year… indoor hot spring tub in TX

I’d love to learn about anything you think belongs here. Send me an email to let me know!


seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees – Lawrence Weshler

30+ years of conversation with artist Robert Irwin. This book has been a total life-changer for me. How he looks at art, the questions he hopes to answer with his art, and his unapologetic use of styles and willingness to completely change gears are all so dang inspiring! I’m already applying it to the work I do.

My friend Barzan aka Billy Frey told me he thought of me while reading this and recommended it. After reading I’m even more humbled and so grateful he shared it! Here’s a post I wrote about how dope HE is a while back… <3

The Water Dancer – Ta-Nehisi Coates

Such a trip and like a lot of my books this year, I know you don’t need to hear it from me as you probably already get it. The type of book that builds on itself so beautifully. I learned the most about life as a slave in this time period I ever have, especially when compared to any schooling, college included.

White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo

My wife had been asking me to read this for a bit as she’s doing a lot of DEI work in the community and at her organization. Another one I hope becomes required reading. Happy to see it in the zeitgeist and hope it stays there. We sent it to my Mom and she read it and sent it back with notes. Pretty cool that talking about white fragility is getting a bit more normalized – long way to go but, hope.

Usurper 6 – Sweesh

My dudes 6th trippy, funny, and forever coded art book. Mad inspo from one of my main art buddies. 

No Mud, No Lotus – Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich being Thich and re-articulating one of his favorite metaphors, we can’t have the lotus without the mud. A community college addiction prof recommended this one while we were working on a partnership for one of the films I help distribute. I went for one of my fav moves: book gets recommended, order it, put it on hold, or go buy it locally – thank them and report back next time y’all speak. Feels like that’s a great way to ‘pay attention.’ 

Theft by Finding – David Sedaris

Fucking thank you. I think this may have been an Austin Kleon rec from his book Keep Going. I’m totally hooked. So refreshing to read his fun and even his tragic tales of “regular” life. Lets us know there’s so much more to every moment and reminds me of my friend Alex (ABT!), who could go to the grocery store and come back with epic stories. 

The Word Pretty – Elisa Gabbert

I think I found this on an Austin Kleon list too and it turns out I love literary nonfiction (yeah I said it!) – at least when written by Elisa. Such a fun read digging into how we interpret what we read and how the style things are written and read affects what we gain from the text. A type of book I never knew existed but felt like it was written just for me. Abso love. 

PS: Read this on an epic bike campout so that might have helped a bit too 🙂

The Best Way to Catch a Snake – Karma Yeshe Rabgye

A self-published and pretty widely distributed Buddhist text by the writer and host of the Buddhism Guide podcast. I like his frankness with Buddhism. Not a lot of handholding. A very direct look at this stuff, and a great accompaniment to the more Thich Naht Han and Pema Chodron-style stuff I usually read. 

We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders – Linda Sarsour

I love Linda and think she’s the god damn coolest since seeing her on Democracy NOW! as a part of a panel about the 2016 election. This is a really inspiring read. She goes into detail about the drama she faces for being who she is – a Palestinian Muslim America – and the challenges that brings up even in the activist community. 

The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Alex Haley and Malcolm X

I was inspired by my co-worker who mentioned buying a used copy online and did the same. Totally loved this and highly recommend it, as if you need to hear that from me. Wish this was required reading growing up or even in college but that’s kinda the catch 22 of the whole system. We need to learn this stuff on our own. The final bit from Alex Haley is so remarkable too I’m glad my copy included that. It was almost a deeper look into who Malcolm X really was, from a trusted source.

I followed this up with the series on Netflix after hearing the soundtrack was produced by Prince Paul. It’s incredible to think about where Malcolm X was heading and what a leader he IS + could have been today.  

Dune – Frank Herbert

Needed to go somewhere else. Life feeling heavy. This was def the right route to take, and dig all the mindfulness involved here. Thank you Joe for lending me your copy that I returned dismantled in a rubber band (and for being OK with that). And thanks to Sweesh for recommending Jodorowsky’s Dune, which inspired me to finally read this.

Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist – Franchesca Ramsey

Thanks to my friend Heidi (Swiss Web Miss!) for the rec here. I LOVED this. Franchesca does such a great job of making conversations about white supremacy relatable. She gives really specific examples that we all probably see and writes about what we can do right now. Super highly recommend this even though it’s a few years old, especially for folks who do any sort of online creative work as a big part of the book is about her unexpected YouTube success.

Uncanny Valley – Anna Wiener

So f’n good, thanks to Patrick Rhone for recommending this. I had to put it down a few times when work was getting too work (hella stressful) and resembling some of the stuff she was going through in this book (not the best winddown). Overall really loved this personal tale of being a woman in tech and a person in a world more/less controlled by it.  

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Gather Together in My Name, Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas – Maya Angelou

An epic and unbelievable life story told magically. I read the first 3 books in Maya’s autobiography this year. Highly recommend and really cheap to pick up a used paperback. Can’t wait to read the rest.

The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate – N. K. Jemisin

The first 2 books in the Broken Earth trilogy. Thank you N.K. for taking me away from it all and bringing me back more creative and prepared. Really my first dive into sci-fi and I’m hooked, least on her stuff. So refreshing to get away and heavy vibes to come back with. Thanks again to my friend Amber for sharing How Long ’til Black Future Month? with me last year.

Calypso – David Sedaris

My only audiobook this year. A great collection of stories about travel, animals, and just regular life. Sedaris is now my official break from it all – almost like sci-fi but when I just need to laugh. So glad I finally realized his magic. Listening all the time now. 

Make Your Mind an Ocean: Aspects of Buddhist Psychology – Lama Thubten Yeshe

The mediation studio I used to go to pre-COVID is closing down and we’ve been helping clean it out. I grabbed a couple of books at random from their mass collection and found this a really great read. He talks about our minds being the depth of the ocean and all of the little things we experience as waves on top. Ignore the little stuff (waves), and don’t give them so much play. Focus on the ocean underneath, and find the truth in our minds. Pretty rad <3

“I PROTECT DREAMS”

I think sometimes I write attempting to preserve the magic of the serendipitous moments we catch out in the world – maybe this is the work of most writers. Kind of a trippy, not funny version of David Sedaris. Maybe I’m just hoping to remember these times of feeling like I’m in the right place…

The other morning I had a huge fire, probably the biggest yet in our woodstove. I got the dog panting inside which seemed like a win for New Year’s Day.

After cooking the house I dipped out for a jog, trying all kinds of techniques to stay out of my thoughts. One from James Altucher is staring at the skyline. For him, it’s skyscrapers, for me, mountains. It works, then you fall off, then you come back, and the cycle continues.

I cruised past a fallen tree on the path and thought, whenever we rent a chainsaw to deal with some of the bigger pieces of wood in the yard I should come back here and chop that up. Proud to imagine being the neighbor out there with a chainsaw. A nod to when my crescendo crew and I lived right on Powell Blvd. in Portland and used to chop wood out on the front sidewalk.

Right then I turned the corner to see someone pushing a shopping cart overflowing with wood. An amazing haul – so fucking impressive. Huge pieces of mesquite. I was so happy for them and their day of fire.

They had on a black hoodie, hood up, faded jeans, black vans, and were walking with a bit of a limp in their left leg. As I got closer, I saw the bottom of the back of the hoodie read, in plain white text, “I PROTECT DREAMS”

The entire pace and vibe were so Lynchian – almost in slow motion. Like the universe having your back, but different from seeing a triple rainbow in the woods while camping. More like the universe keeping you in check.

They just casually walked away and I never saw their face, only the baddest load of wood and the dreams hoodie.

We just bought a cord of wood and had it delivered in a huge truck. It took all day to stack and is kind of the centerpiece of the front of our new house. This person is earning it 100. Finding that much wood in the wash and slowing walking it to their fire.

Pretty humbling.

It reminded me of when I was bike camping and spent an hour on the side of the road collecting wood to bring back a Bangs-worthy load by bike to my Hipcamp site on a small farm after freezing my ass off the night before.

Max love to this wood carrier/dream protector. Thanks for the heavy dose of humility.

creW 🧡 💙

PS: I decided not to google “I PROTECT DREAMS” until after writing this thinking it might turn up an Incubus record. So far so good there but if you know what it means feel free to share or not at your discretion 🙂

DOOM (RIH)

Rest in hype to one of the most influential and incredible. No more words needed from me other than telling those who know that I immediately texted Manimal on the last # I had of his, since the first time I heard DOOM it was on the Mr. Hood record hitting thrifts in Manimal’s Benz.

I found DOOM’s wife’s IG post so f’n powerful. We know how prolific DOOM was as an artist – infinity lives changed. But she wrote about him as a person.

My hope is those of us in love with his art will take inspo from her words describing his forgiveness, compassion, and lack of judgment.

floored 🧡 💙

We work for the world

My friend Tom and I came up with this tagline when were brainstorming magnets to make our travel van look like it might be a work truck. They turned out nice and cryptic.

We got one call in Baton Rouge, LA – but I guess they forgot to join us for our outdoor spaghetti cookout that night ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

7 years later I have the “We work for the world” part posted outside my studio as a reminder every time I step in.

It reminds me that whatever I’m doing in there, whether it’s making music or writing, or the paid work I do producing and distributing documentary films, I’m working for the world.

Sometimes the work we do is to get us paid.

Plain and simple right? But looking at this and all work as working for the world is recognizing that getting us paid means we have the ability to eat, sleep, create, interact – to be US in this world.

In Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon, who I’m mega-nerding out on right now (friends: stand by for all caps hype texts), says, “A job gives you money, a connection to the world, and a routine. Freedom from financial stress also means freedom in your art.” We can also interchange “art” with life.

Jobs get us to a next step we don’t always see coming.

I’m just wrapping up an epic position with some amazing friends and mentors launching a virtual screening platform for independent filmmakers. I work for the world – so this work meant I learned a ton of things I can apply to my personal and pro life moving forward, one being getting real techy with workflow. We use automations to streamline our work and I’m excited to try organizing my creative goals in a similar way with something like Notion.

This arts-focussed but still unavoidably startup-y gig was also stressful at times. But I work for the world, so part of it was diving into challenging work and getting paid, not knowing that the extra income would help my wife and I put a down payment on our first house.

We weren’t planning on buying a house but as life goes, we’re a couple of DINKS ( thx T) who found just the right spot around the corner from our rental and had unknowingly been saving the extra cash to make it happen, thanks in part to this job being there at the right moment. Trippy.

More on this soon, but the hustle of this job on top of my other work also lead me to a pretty major life breakthrough.

Any job counts.

I even worked for the world at Pizza Schmitza in downtown Portland. Definitely wish they had a different name when I was putting that on resumes (especially next to ‘Assistant Manager, iSOLD It on eBay’), but that and the owner being a total sleaze aside, I worked for the world.

My crew and I had a BLAST. We pushed the fun out to everyone who came in to eat some mediocre pizza with embarrassing-to-say-out-loud names like schpaghetti & meatball.

I met some rad friends from around the world, worked hard as f, made some cash, and worked on a ton of music on the side.

Last quick story: My friend Bangs worked (works?) at a hardware store in NE Portland. If you knew him you may or may not think this would be a good idea. Not the gig – he’s super handy – more the working inside a place part. He’d probably crack up and say the same thing alongside a few badass recent travel stories. But this dude works for the World (capital W). He literally changed everyone who landed at his cash register.

Pure proof we have an impact in all of the work we do, even on the old guy who can’t handle Bangs not charging him 2 cents for a screw, and that our impact isn’t always directly connected to the work itself.

Our jobs could be for the greater good, to put some money in our pockets for today or an unknown next step, or something we absolutely love doing and don’t need to read blog posts about. Either way, we work for the world y’all.

CREW🧡 💙

Stare at the sky ✔

I used to cram for tests in the hallway outside of the classroom up to the final minutes before class started instead of actually taking the time to sit down and learn the concepts.

I made it through with decent grades but in the hours, days, and for sure years later I hardly remember any of it.

Kind of a scary comparison to life as so many aspects of my days could be seen in the same way. Floating through tasks and checking stuff off the list.

But the moments of my day where I’m present, where I open myself up to listening and learning from life, are without a doubt the best parts of my day. Easy 100%.

Might sound funny to ‘realize’ this but if it was that easy we’d spend 24/7 in this zone of dopeness.

#workingonit
creW
🧡💙

Church of Hypecast #1 ft. STLB3 — Goosebump Bliss

BUDS!! ♾🐶♾ Happiest and hypest W Saturday! So excited to share episode #1 of the Church of Hypecast with yall! It features some mega-inspo from STLB3 @leadvesselskipper and the dope dope sounds of B-Hill @classicsneverheard

It’s weird not being with yall somewhere dope in the woods today. For those who don’t know – this would have been the 19th year in a row our crew came together to celebrate life sharing new art, tunes, costumes, food, laughs and hype vibes.

Biking this morning I was able to get to a place where I was there. I honestly can’t go anywhere without carrying this crew with me so it’s almost like every day is the W even though they don’t all feel so magical at first blush… It’s impossible for me to do anything without repping all I continue to learn from the dope folks I’m lucky enough to call crew.  

Max love yall! Hope you dig hearing this. Holler. Stay up. Stay crescendoing life. And stay stretching the skin between the mouth and ears. 

creWLove
🧡⚡️🥊⚡️💙

Thank you Leah!

I sent an email this week about the inner-hater we all deal with and received some really inspiring responses from folks on this forever path.

My friend Leah from Chicago responded with some powerful words and this great vid that I hope shows us we all share similar fears, we’re all in this together, and getting past the voice of doubt is fully doable!

I came across this NYT Op-Doc this week, which is a really good metaphor for dealing with fear (which is, I think, fundamentally all the inner hater is).

CREW🧡 💙

Peep the newly updated Church of Hype playlist (W Edition)!

Massive thanks to all the CREW who shared jams and inspired this update.

In the order of the tracks – thanks to Dwight, Greg, Ernesto, Derek, Christian, Tom, Yoni, Becca, Julia, Abigail, Bryan, Tom, Steve, Zack, Megan, Pike, Martina, Matthew.

This update includes the Motëm anthem W that I definitely tried to wait to play until my next Dreams Twitch show on June 6th but failed in < 12hrs…

Always fun when your hero is your friend and they inherently make a song for your crew

I also created an archived playlist for all the jams from all the posts and all the buds. This one’s probably better on shuffle but CYOA (always)

creW🧡 💙

Existing

going ham on a mtn top

There’s so much happening in the world and I’m spending a lot of time with it circling in my head.

Still, the fact is I exist where I’m at. In this case, on the top of Wasson Peak, Tucson, AZ.

Earlier in the week I did an online mediation class with a group of 8 folks mostly from the south. The teacher got us thinking on these lines… asking us to really see what we were going through. How we were existing. What were we really experiencing right then and there?

Someone in the class had just lost an uncle to COVID. Heavy, sad, terrible. I was amazed by how they and the entire class were able to focus on the fact that the 8 of us were existing right there. It is really sad about his uncle, but his uncle’s pain is something we were admittedly bringing into the space.

This isn’t to say don’t process or give energy and love to these types of situations. To me, it’s just another reminder of the control we have over where our thoughts go and a great reason to practice pointing them towards our version of hype.

Also another check on the infinity list of reasons to rep for the moments we get to exist in this form. I have to believe my classmate’s uncle would rather us honor him by repping for our dopeness beyond anything.

youCREWyou🧡 💙

People’s Prayer Library

So excited to share the launch of my friend Greg’s new project People’s Prayer Library!! “Music for prayer, meditation, and body / mind relaxation created by a community of musicians and artists.”

Hours of beautiful trippy sounds and Greg’s exceptional visuals uploaded to YouTube for all the times they might feel good. Meditations, focussing on work/creativity, environment/room hype-ups, bedtime head-clearers, online yoga class soundtracks… I like to right-click and loop on YouTube to let the vibe settle in for hours.

So far this one is one of my favs.

I’ve entered the cave

And I’m grateful to be included with a track and Greg’s artwork as well!

Fully accintentional

These vibes are EXACTLY what I need right now to tap into how I’m feeling, shake off weird energies, uplift my focus, and feel the dope vibes of friends being creative.

So highly encouraged to peep and share People’s Prayer Libary on YouTube if you dig <3

Thank you Greg! Rad example of the power of CREWVIBES🧡💙

NO MORE WORDS.

My crew and label Hit+Run put out this comp last week. I’m blown away and honored Tom and I are included… but absolutely fucking floored by the words Brandy shared for why he put this out. So needed right now and pulled me out from beneath all this confusion and pain… I hope they can do the same for you – infinity.

Words from Brandy – Miyagi, Hit+Run:

Checking in with everyone to make sure YOU are doing as good as can be during these challenging times.  Being isolated for so long is proof to how much we need each other in our lives.  Hopefully you’re remaining focused, courageous and optimistic, finding clarity, spending quality time with loved ones, appreciating the slowness, catching up on personal projects, watching new & favorite movies/tv, listening to records, reading books, appreciating nature, exercising, staying active, eating right & harmonizing with your inner being.  Make sure to remind your lovely self to remain confident that we’re gonna get through this unprecedented moment in time very very soon.  We’re all rising to this occasion together and with a deeper understanding of ourselves (Who am I?), that to which we desire (What do I want in life?) and what we are truly blessed to possess (loving family, joyful friends, devoted pets, healthy bodies, unique talents, special abilities plus earthly luxuries) will emerge as stronger individuals of a new global community. 

Isolated as many are, music remains an extraordinary way to escape the surrounding walls and find comfort in our personal audio dreamland.  We want to share another mode of imaginative departure, with a new musical compilation entitled (((VIBRATE HIGH))).  This 122-minute / 42-track compilation (!!!) includes both released & previously unreleased tracks from the ninety-five full-length albums, compilations, EPs and 7″ singles H+R has produced over the past eleven years, as well as sneak peeks at three more future classics we have planned for 2020. 

We love you all very much, plus appreciate your time & commitment to the arts.  Practicing art beautifies our planet, and human beings make the world an amazing and joyful place.  We wish you wisdom, patience, self-control & determination on our current committed individual & collective missions.  Be well, stay mindful, keep smiling and we hope to see all of you passionate souls very soon!

CREWLOVE 

C R E W 🧡 R U N S 💙 D E E P

Living in the Marta

I decided to pretty much completely unplug last weekend and live a dream I’ve been working towards for a long time: bike camping.

Fully recognizing the luxury of being able to turn off the news and go – acknowledging those who aren’t able, are sick, with loved ones, on enforced lockdowns, etc. Also thinking deep down folks in these positions would probably, and maybe more than anyone, say “Go biking into the country guy!”

I’ll spare you the pics of my bike on various nondescript hillsides but wanted to share something I learned from Marta, the women who owned the property next door to my campsite.

A most solid reminder to live in the moment

I used Hipcamp for the first time, which is basically like Airbnb for camping, and wound up on a beautiful piece of land with a water spigot, wildflowers, composting toilet, and some mesquite woods I could grab firewood from.

Unlike camping in the woods I was basically setting up in a little country neighborhood outside Mammoth, AZ. I had neighbors and one of them was Marta – a woman probably in her late 60’s or early 70’s, living on a big piece of property next door by herself.

I spent a lot of my time sitting, reading, staring at birds, the hillside, sunsets, the fire… just trying to stay there in the moment. My mind was running all over the place – thinking of people I wanted to reach out to, “I need to get a picture of [everything],” what I’ll make for dinner… Since I was without most of my usual distractions, it was a great place to realize how much work it is to try and stay present.

As I was reading and thinking I heard someone call out from behind me. It was Marta holding a chair. She said, “this will be more comfortable!” I was sitting on the ground on this new camping seat pad I got for bikepacking which is great, but not a chair with a cushion. I accepted the chair and we chatted for a bit. She said I could put it over on her side of the fence when I was done.

Sitting in Marta’s chair, in the same spot I was before, I felt this crazy sense of being in the right now. Everything else seemed to fade away – as it was completely wiped by Marta’s kindness and the fact that she existed right here – I was sitting on her chair – and everything else taking up space in my mind was miles away.

It pulled me in and I just sat there in Marta’s chair laughing and staring at the same beautiful landscape with a completely new lens. I was cracking up at how well this worked to get me really, actually, there!

I eventually moved back to the picnic table to start working on some dinner and was cutting up some of the greens Richard the landowner gave me when I heard another “Hey” from behind me. It was Marta – with a full bag of dinner. Bean soup, quesadilla, soda, an apple, and 3 dates which she called figs (so I did too).

Whamo. Right back into the moment. I was doing ok, better even, but just like in mediation, running, yoga, biking, cooking – anything you do where you try to stay focussed and your mind wanders – mine was starting to run around a bit again.

A new and even better now

Marta’s overwhelming kind gesture ripped me fully back into now – and into a new now. I left a news cycle (and world) in legitimate fear and pain. And here I was experiencing total joy from a complete stranger. Not something I’d seen on the news or thought I’d experience in the coming days through this pandemic.

Marta took me to the now – and changed it into something even better. So my question is where can we find these vibes in our day to day without needing to leave town?

I think if we look into the subtle things they are there. I’m trying to keep Marta in my heart and mind and stay on the lookout for these signs that may go against the grain of everything we’re feeling – but may make things feel way better.

Crew🧡💙

A poem from my buddha-mom, Susan

I am striving to be willing
To be flawed perfection…To accept the bells, the drums, the language of rain.                             To accept that it takes the dark clouds, the cold morning, to only briefly, perhaps, become rainbows, sparkling color, when lit by the appearance of the sun, before folding back into darkness. Recycled Beauty.

Written the day after needing to cancel her trip to visit my wife and I due to the pandemic. Crew🧡💙