Apologies

Holy shit. What the hell happened to this year? As soon as I promised myself I’d post at least once a month I slip into oblivion and don’t post for over three months! The longest gap I’ve had in years. My apologies to myself (and anyone reading this). Geez, I could’ve at least wrote about music or posted a quote or two. I plan to do better.

It’s not that things haven’t been happening. It’s been a busy time. So what’s going on?

I just completed another semester teaching at Kennesaw State University. Had a lot of amazing student work too. Might post some highlights at a later date.

I’m also teaching classes at Mountain Laurel Academy, Fulton County Arts & Culture, and the Callanwolde Center for Fine Arts.

I’m involved in a street art war. My paste-up work vs. some graffiti artist(s). Lots of details and opinions coming on that. Stay tuned.

I’m fully vaccinated. Looking forward to a little travel this summer.

I still have a girlfriend. Happy about it too. Haha.

The Chicago Bears did exactly what I wanted them to do. I’m definitely not used to that. I’m a draft geek, they traded up to select quarterback from Ohio State (and Kennesaw, GA native), Justin Fields. Optimistic, for a change.

Later today, I’m having dinner with a woman I briefly dated about 25 years ago. You can’t say that happens every day. Looking forward to the reunion. Should actually be a fantastic conversation.

Finally, I adopted two kittens from a rescue pet adoption agency. I named them Omar and Leroy and they have instantly bonded with me and each other. I’ve probably been more preoccupied with that then anything else. They’re so much fun.

That’s a quick list of what’s good and interesting. Life continues to be interesting.

More to come… I mean it this time.

Score One for Uncle Brett

Good ideas don’t come on time. Every artist knows that.

My good idea was to make custom-designed t-shirts for each of my eleven nieces and nephews. I designed logos for fictional businesses/places (all but one used their name in the design). The designs were inspired by their interests and the color schemes incorporated their favorite hues.

The good idea arrived too late to make it to Christmas on time. Since, COVID prevented me from going home to Chicago for the holidays, I decided to take my time and do it right. Therefore, they became belated Christmas gifts from Uncle Brett.

I’m already thinking about new ideas. Perhaps I started a new tradition.

Celebration Day – Led Zeppelin

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 24

I’ve always loved this song. As a kid, I was sold within the first five seconds. It’s one of Led Zeppelin’s best and remains a favorite. I’d tell you where it ranks on my all-time Led Zeppelin list (yes, I did that) but unfortunately, I can’t locate my list at the moment.

This post is more about why this song came to mind, today. Today is the last day of the Trump Administration. That alone is a reason for celebration. This is the beginning of the end for him. Trump for jail. Beyond the title, the lyrics of the song came to mind. The third verse reminded me of what the future holds for Trump and the Trump brand.

This song was written in 1970, but like many lyrics of that time, they speak about our world today. Serving as another reminder that the more things change the more they stay the same. Real progress and true changes come at a glacial pace.

“Her face is cracked from smiling, all the fears that she’s been hiding, 
And it seems pretty soon everybody’s gonna know. 
And her voice is sore from shouting, cheering winners who are losing, 
And she worries if their days are few and soon they’ll have to go.
 

My, my, my, I’m so happy, I’m gonna join the band, 
We are gonna dance and sing in celebration, We are in the promised land.
 

She hears them talk of new ways to protect the home she lives in, 
Then she wonders what it’s all about when they break down the door.
Her name is Brown or White or Black, you know her very well, 
You hear her cries of mercy as the winners toll the bell. 

My, my, my, I’m so happy, I’m gonna join the band, 
We are gonna dance and sing in celebration, We are in the promised land. 

There is a train that leaves the station heading for your destination, 
But the price you pay to nowhere has increased a dollar more. 
Yes, it has! 
And if you walk you’re gonna get there though it takes a little longer, 
And when you see it in the distance you will wring your hands and moan.”

Kennesaw State University Special 2020 Foundations Exhibiton

As an educator, this is considered a proud papa moment. Eight of my submissions we selected for inclusion in our virtual exhibition. I am thrilled to have some of my student’s classwork included among the strongest made at the Kennesaw State University foundation arts program this semester.

Click on the link to see the Special 2020 Foundations Exhibiton.

https://arts.kennesaw.edu/visual-arts/student-artwork.php

Breaking the Cycle

The reality is this. Last week, I was sprung from the social media clink. I received a 30-day ban from Facebook for calling out a stranger’s ugly misogyny in a manner deemed too colorful by the all-knowing algorithm. Guess I got a month’s ban because I was a repeat offender.

I’m back but in the technical sense only. Getting kicked out of that joint was exactly what I needed. Couldn’t do it on my own. I’ll be the first to admit I am too compulsive and excitable as a whole. Therefore, I am far too susceptible to social media addictions and the subset of problems that arise from them. I realized long ago that Facebook was a time-sucking place that preys on my weaknesses and chews me up and spits me out in ways I don’t like. Finally gonna try to do something about it.

I’m always going to be an opinionated observer. You can count on that. Moving forward, my efforts will be focused on posting right here. I’ll continue to post promotional messages for my art and merchandise on Facebook. Since I primarily use it as an extension of my artist’s eye, I’ll continue to post on Instagram too. I am also still going to be active on Messenger.

Overall, I am happy to say, the cycle is broken and I’m not checking Facebook with any regularity anymore.

I highly recommend getting banned from Facebook for a month. It’ll do you some good.

Peace Sells – Megadeth

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 23

This year is coming to an end and it’s gonna feel good to turn the page on 2020. Was 2020 our lowest point? Could we reach the nadir in 2021? Will the United States of America begin to rebound in 2021 and beyond? All of this passes through my mind at some point each and every day.

On more than one occasion, a particular song will come to mind too. “Peace Sells” by Megadeth. This thrash metal song was released way back in 1986. I’ll still hear it on the radio and it still cranks out of my stereo from time to time as well. It comes to mind because the lyrics are even more relevant now than they were when they were written by Dave Mustaine a few decades ago.

Its relevance is infinite.

I’ve been working from home today and I’ve been cranking the tunes all damn day. Alright, that’s true most days for me but today it all sounded so invigorating. The relevance of this song had a role in that. There’s more work to do, let’s do it.

On Fire – Van Halen

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 22

Seems to me, I have a backlog of music-related posts to make. The recent passing of Eddie Van Halen moves the band that takes his name to the top of that list of posts.

I’m not going to wax poetic about how brilliant a guitarist Eddie Van Halen was. Everyone knows he was a virtuoso that reinvented the instrument in ways unlike anyone else before or since. All rock fans have anecdotal moments centered around the virtuosity of Eddie Van Halen. My personal favorite is how the song “Eruption” instantly became the ultimate test for any aspiring guitarist. If you could play that you weren’t just good you were awesome. My mind goes back to that college dorm room with that guitar guy playing his attempt at that solo for the other dudes in the hall. It happened a lot. Usually followed by “Wish You Were Here” on acoustic, you know, to chill things out after the heat coming from that semi-blistering version of “Eruption.”

Instead, I want to reflect on my life at the time Eddie Van Halen came into my world. It was 1978 and I was nine years old. I was already starting to get into music. I had a record player of my own. I owned a few full-length albums. Bought them when going to neighborhood garage sales with my Mom. I had a few singles of my own too. Ultimately, Van Halen’s first releases were some of my very first albums on cassette tape.

When Van Halen’s debut came out, I heard it everywhere and like everyone else, it caught my ear. Never before had I heard any guitar like that. It was crunchy and fast but strangely smooth and slippery too. I have vivid memories of hearing that band in those days. Didn’t matter where I was, Van Halen was there too; the local recreation center, the swimming pool, the playground, the backseat of my Mom’s car, even coming from someone else’s car at a red light. Eventually, from my Walkman.

The gestalt present in their sound is unique. It’s simultaneously a cohesive unit and a single dominant force (Eddie Van Halen). Van Halen, Van Halen II and Fair Warning are my favorites. I could have chosen any song from the debut album. The album is that good. I decided to feature the song “On Fire” in my post for a few reasons. “On Fire” is the closing track and it’s a barnburner. It comes as advertised, three minutes of fire. It has remained one of my absolute favorite Van Halen tracks over all these years. Unlike many Van Halen songs, this song means business. It has a speed metal intensity and its purpose is to kick your ass. It’s not messing around. (“Mean Street” on Fair Warning is my all-time favorite Van Halen song for a similar reason). “On Fire” is good enough to close out their debut AND be an opening track in concert (see attached video).

To be fair, I started to lose interest in their music a couple of years into the Sammy Hagar era. That said, I can still listen to all the David Lee Roth albums with a smile on my face. That’s the secret ingredient and the true magic of Eddie Van Halen and the band Van Halen. They just wanted to put a smile on your face and that’s what they did best. Eddie Van Halen’s smile while playing guitar is my indelible, unforgettable memory of him.

Ain’t Got Nothing (To Go Wrong) – Dead Meadow

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 21

Today is my birthday. I’m 51. It’s the first day of my sixth decade. My day, year, and decade started with something that most would say is a minor serendipitous moment. However, I know otherwise. My higher power speaks through music. This was no accident.

I often wind down the day by listening to music in a lowly lit room. Last night was no exception. When I’m not in the mood for a specific artist or album, or a deep listening of something new to me, I’ll often hit shuffle on a vast playlist filled with hundreds of songs I know. That’s what I did last night.

At 11:59 (I looked at the clock) one of my absolute favorite songs came on. Ain’t Got Nothing (To Go Wrong) by Dead Meadow. Not only is this a favorite song, I consider it one of my theme songs. Only a handful of songs become theme songs to me. I’ve written about them before and will surely feature them again in my Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast posts. Typically for me, the music carries me through the song. That’s the case here as well. The guitar solo in this song is incredible. However, my personal relationship to the lyrics and their overall feel with the music, are for me, the elements that elevate a song to the highest level.

The moment midnight came and the calendar turned to the eleventh of September, my birthday, shuffle gave me this song. A piece of music with great personal importance to me. It wasn’t serendipity. It was meant to be. I wouldn’t have had my new sixth decade start any other way.

 

Lemon yellow sun up overhead today
What more is there that I could say then Lord, let it stay
I ain’t got nothing to go wrong today
No, not today

I’ve been up and down this street for quite some time
The gutters get filled, it takes all kind like fish on a line
The way that things go these days, I’m fine
Yeah, I’m doing fine

Good times come, they sure come slow
Why that may be I don’t know, just let it flow
All things in this world they come, they go
Yes, this much I know

If silence is golden then your words they’re lead
I can’t believe how that shit sticks in my head
The sun shines away, there’s nothing to say
People they talk anyway, they’re talking away

 

 

Idiots Rule

In a softball interview with Laura Ingraham, Trump claimed people came out of the dark shadows (racist trope) to Washington to disrupt his convention last Friday. He said people wearing black came on planes to Washington (more bigotry). Dark forces were at play.

Trump made the decision to move his speech to the White House a few weeks ago. Even though this is the same day many thousands of people were arriving for the 57th ANNUAL March on Washington.

Unless you’re a racist idiot like the president, you’ve already put two and two together. Their plans were on the calendar long before his.

Do you think he was told this might be a problem and ignored the advice? I’m wondering if anyone bothers to tell him things like this anymore. Then again, I also wonder if the dumbest of dumb shit happens because the most idiotic of loyalists are the only ones remaining in his inner circle.

No matter how you slice it, idiots rule.

September – Earth, Wind & Fire

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 20

Do you remember?

I know it’s been a shitty year all around but the best month of the year has arrived. September is my favorite month and not just because it’s my birthday month. We need this song. It’s pure joy. Celebrate!

The lesson of the song? Never let the lyric get in the way of the groove. Ba-dee-ya!

Zig Zag Wanderer – Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 19

For various reasons, I have decided that this is one of my theme songs. I have a few of them, not too many. Zig Zag Wanderer, it rings true for me on many levels. This decision comes after many years of living life and many hours of listening to music. This is a decision made through experience.

I am not even a huge fan of Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band even though I respect Don Van Vleet and his important contributions to music as an alternative rock pioneer and beyond. In fact, I had not even heard this song until I was around 35-40 years old, when I took a deep dive into early psychedelic rock.

You can jump you can holler
Never lose what I have found
Heaven’s free ‘cept for a dollar
You can zig you can zag
Whoa I’m gonna stay around gonna stay around

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