Meeting up with Danny Trejo

Great honor to run into actor and restauranteur Danny Trejo while hanging out with mom at the UCLA Medical Center last week in Westwood.

Trejo had his life flipped upside down during the Cinco de Mayo riots at San Quentin when he found himself in solitary confinement facing three gas-chamber penalties. In an interview with Risen, a San Diego-based magazine I used to edit, Trejo explains why he has dedicated his life to speaking to at-risk young people about avoiding drugs and alcohol.

“So we went to the hole. I was in the hole, and someone had written in feces ‘God sucks’ on the wall. And I thought, ‘This is what my life has come to.’ I knew in my heart that I wasn’t a bad person, but something’s wrong here. I mean, ‘God sucks’ is written in s-t. So I remember saying, ‘God if you’re there, everything is going to be okay. If you’re not, I’m screwed.’ That was it. That was my prayer.

“From that day forward, I took alcohol and drugs out of my life. I think that is one of the biggest things for our youth. It’s hard to do right when you are drinking and using. If you get up in the morning and you’re planning on going over to a friend’s house and drinking, you’re already wrong. Alcohol and drugs are the biggest deterrent from doing right.”

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With ‘Lowriders,’ peek into East L.A.’s custom-car culture

Mister Cartoon, center, is flanked by Estevan Oriol, right, and Ricardo de Montreuill, of “Lowriders.” (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

By Tre’vell Anderson, Los Angeles Times

On any given day, Angelenos can be treated to traveling art galleries rich with uniquely American culture and California-grown talent — if only they viewed lowriders, the custom old-school cars tricked out with candy-colored paint, the shiniest chrome and hydraulics, as the artistry in motion they are. That’s all that Estevan Oriol and Mister Cartoon really want.

“I want people to realize that these cars are a work of art and our expression,” says Cartoon, a.k.a. Mark Machado.

“To us,” Oriol adds, “it’s an art piece with an engine and wheels.”

But when many people see lowriders cruising through the city, thoughts of gangs, drugs and violence come to mind. Such expectations, often rooted in stereotypes about the men and women found in the driver’s and passenger seats, rob the long-standing tradition from the familial roots at its core. There truly is more to lowriding than meets the eye.

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Born Again: With help from friends, Mavis Staples takes us there again

Sixty-five years into her recording career, Mavis Staples’ incomparable voice and infectious spirit are truly wonders to behold.

Born in 1939 to Oceola and Roebuck “Pops” Staples, Mavis got her start early, singing in church and at home in Chicago. Pops put together a family band, and Mavis, the youngest, soon became the star of the Staple Singers. With them, she lit up the world with songs like “I’ll Take You There,” “Let’s Do It Again,” “Respect Yourself,” and so many others.

Over the decades since, both the Gospel and the song have stayed intrinsically linked in her heart, even as she has spread her musical wings wide, working with an eclectic group of collaborators, from Jeff Tweedy to Joan Osborne, Prince to Patty Griffin. Though she has long released her own albums, it was 2011 before she won her first Grammy Award — Best Americana Album for the soul-stirring, Tweedy-produced You Are Not Alone.

But acclaim was never her game. Staples’ pull to the music seems unattached to anything other than the pure pleasure and emotional expression of the music itself. If she weren’t “Mavis Staples, the much-lauded gospel singer,” no doubt she’d still be “Mavis, that lady with the amazing voice in the church choir.” That unadulterated joy is why M. Ward, Ben Harper, Valerie June, Aloe Blacc, Justin Vernon, Neko Case, and others carved out time to write the songs for her new album, Livin’ on a High Note. The set is funky and spunky and raring to go … just like Staples herself.

To read complete No Depression interview, click HERE.

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This woman preacher is schooling the Christian boys club on the crucifixion

“Fleming Rutledge, 79, is a theologian and one of the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church. Her book, ‘The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ,’ is a magisterial 669-page tome that has garnered the attention and respect of some unlikely religious leaders,” writes Jonathan Merritt, columnist for Religion News Service.

Below are a few excerpts from Merritt’s interview with Rutledge.

RNS: I know churches that feel uncomfortable about discussing the cross in all its bloody violence. Why do you think churches avoid preaching about the cross?

FR: One significant reason, as I explain in my book, is reaction against overemphasis on a particular version of “penal substitution,” which became an idée fixe in some Protestant circles. Other reasons may be cultural, since many mainline Protestant churches have associated the preaching of the cross with supposedly less-educated, right-wing Christians — and also, a bloody corpus on the cross was more typical of Spanish and Latino Roman Catholic imagery. A third factor is American optimism, a preference for what makes us feel good, and an unwillingness to talk about the power of Sin — in spite of the persistence of Sin throughout the world.

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A Muslim cook wanted to stop the hate. So she started inviting strangers to dinner.

Amanda Saab shares her point of view on religion during the “Dinner With Your Muslim Neighbor” she co-hosted in Seattle. (Meryl Schenker /For The Washington Post)

Was struck by this story from Rebekah Denn in the Washington Post because of the tenacity, vulnerability, and hospitality of Amanda Saab and her husband Hussein. One need not agree with Islam (or Buddhism or Hinduism or Atheism) to know that respectful conversations over dinner are a possible first step in promoting a generous pluralism and neighborliness.

Here is an excerpt:

Her face framed by a delicate floral-print headscarf, Amanda Saab stepped into a Safeway. Ninety minutes later, the cashier rang up her groceries: $218.45 between Amanda’s brimming cart and the one steered by her husband, Hussein. The couple called an Uber and loaded the bags into the trunk. The driver asked their plans.

A dinner party, Amanda replied: “Would you like to come?”

Inviting strangers was one point of the feasts that Saab, 28, prepares for what she calls “Dinner With Your Muslim Neighbor.” She cooks — often in her own home and sometimes, as on this vacation trip, in a borrowed kitchen — and the couple answers any questions guests might have about their religion.

Amanda has had exposure to such questions, and the uncomfortable rise in fears about Islam, on a national stage. She’s learned that the answers — and any changes to hearts and minds — best unfold one tableful at a time.

Reality TV devotees know the cooking part would be a breeze for Amanda, a fan favorite on Season 6 of Fox’s “MasterChef” in 2015. Friends and relatives knew it, too. Advancing from an Easy-Bake Oven at age 5 to a Kitchen­Aid mixer at 16, she baked tiered cakes and piles of pastries for her extended family’s weekly gatherings in her home town near Detroit, where the Muslim population is among the nation’s largest. On weekends, she stayed up past her bedtime to watch “Iron Chef America.”

To read full story, click HERE

To check out Dinner with Your Muslim Neighbor, click HERE

 

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Danny Trejo Celebrates 48 Years of Sobriety and Recounts the Moment in Prison That Changed His Life

Danny Trejo may play one badass after another on screen, but it is all clean living in real life thanks to a promise he made 48 years ago Tuesday.

“Everybody asks me, ‘How do you stay so young?’ I consider myself 48 years old. That’s when my life started,” the 72-year-old actor tells Heat Vision.

Trejo, who has appeared in dozens and dozens of films, including Heat, Con Air, Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, Reindeer Games and Machete, got his break as an actor playing a boxer in the 1985 film Runaway Train. His decision to live sober occurred years prior.

An admitted hell-raiser in his youth, Trejo says while he was incarcerated, he and a group of others were accused of starting a massive prison riot. Guards were hurt. That was May 5, 1968.

“We went to the hole and were facing the gas chamber,” Trejo says solemnly. “And I remember asking God, ‘Let me die with dignity. Just let me say goodbye. And if you do, I will say your name every day, and I will do whatever I can for my fellow man.'”

Trejo did not get the gas chamber. In fact, he was released from prison the following year, on Aug. 3 1969. With God fulfilling that end of their agreement, it was time for Trejo to live up to his side, he says.

“I have been keeping that promise,” Trejo says. Since that time, the actor has been giving back by living clean and sober and trying to instill values into wayward youth. Becoming a movie star was a happy accident, Trejo insists. And that mind-set is how he has been able to remain sober and grounded.

“I don’t think I am a big Hollywood star,” he says. “I won’t let myself. I can’t, because I’ve seen too many actors with the feeling of entitlement, and I want to slap the shit out of them.”

However, being a household name and recognizable face has allowed Trejo to do an enormous amount of good, he says.

“I help at-risk kids. I go to high schools. I do whatever I can,” he says. “That’s what I do. In many ways, that is my job. I am still a drug counselor.” He adds, “I will get their attention before you or a doctor or a nurse or a plumber or anybody. It helps me with what I love doing.”

To read story, click HERE

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Are Dorms for Adults the Solution to the Loneliness Epidemic?

Architect Grace Kim lives and works in a cohousing community she designed in Seattle. [Photo: courtesy Schemata Workshop]

By Adele Peters

More Americans are single than ever before, and more are living alone. That fact is one of the reasons we’re also starting to die earlier: one studyfound that living alone increases mortality risk 32%. Vivek Murthy, the former U.S. surgeon general, has called isolation the most common health issue in the country.

Architect Grace Kim thinks that a solution may be differently designed housing. “Loneliness can be the result of our built environment,” she told an audience at TED 2017.

Even couples or families, she said, can be socially isolated in the typical house, and barely know neighbors (social isolation, as opposed to living alone, increases mortality risk 29%). In an apartment building, residents might be more likely to stare at their phones in the elevator than start a conversation. Kim, by contrast, lives and works in a cohousing community she designed in Seattle, where families or individuals each have their own homes, but the space was designed for interaction.

Click HERE for full article

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Rachel Rotten finds home in roller derby

The 31-year-old Rachel Johnston, aka as Rachel Rotten, who started playing derby in 2010, says it wasn’t just a thirst for competition that brought her to roller derby and kept her there. Shortly after her first practice, she discovered something.

“When I found derby, I found that ‘wake up’ moment,” she said. “Because I didn’t have to justify my presence to anyone. And the part about how playing ‘like a man’ isn’t a compliment? I feel that in my bones in this sport.”

Outside the rink, Johnston, 31, has also been one of the game’s bigger diplomats. Putting to work her background in marketing and entertainment, Johnston has helped grow the game’s public face and its business operations as the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association sponsorship chair.

To read full story, click HERE

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Inside Jack White’s Third Man Records

For those who follow the vinyl revolution, worth watching the CBS profile on Jack White’s Third Man Record empire. To watch video, click HERE

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Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell honored on the Walk of Fame

AP PHOTO: @goldiehawn #kurtrussell kiss at a ceremony honoring them with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Congratulations to Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell who first met in 1968 while shooting Disney’s “The One And Only, Genuine, Original Family Band.” The couple began dating on the set of their second film together, the 1983 comedy “Swing Shift,” and have been together ever since. This week, the charming couple had a rare double Hollywood ceremony where their stars were engraved side by side on the Walk of Fame.

“To you I owe my wonderful life,” Russell said to Hawn. “Simply put, Goldie, I cherish you and all the stars in the sky or on the boulevard can’t hold a candle to that.

“So if I am to be honoured with this sweet token of memorabilia: that is to be sunk forever in the cement of a street whereupon I will be subjected to the constant harshness of the blazing California sun, blowing winds and pouring rains. And stray dogs of both the canine and human variety perhaps in need of a little relief, and trod upon by the soles of shoes caked with earth from all corners of the globe… there’s no one else I’d rather be next to for all of that than Goldie Hawn.”

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