Friday, September 30, 2011

september splotch monsters

September has come and gone by way too swiftly. Things are in full swing at work/school and the extra-curricular duties and demands seem to be piling up lately. Still, I've been making the time to work on art, as I continue to pursue work on a comic book story, a grad-level painting class, and of course the daily Splotch Monster.  This is simply a need I refuse to ignore, as much as I feel I neglect my creative side more often than not. I'm more exited than ever with the Splotch Monsters and they seem to have taken somewhat of a different turn since I started working in strictly black and white for over a week now. I've tried to keep things fresh this month, trying out some slightly different approaches, angles and formats, always balancing spontaneity and chance with some control and precision. I like to call it serious fun, and while many of these could very well hold their own, I like to view this ongoing project as the sum being greater than the parts - an ever-growing, constantly mutating work in progress . I've been greatly inspired by reading "Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life" by Dr. Wayne Dyer, as well as some various translations of Lao-tzu's Tao Te Ching. Two, in particular stood out to me from the S. Mitchell translation,  including verse 41 which says "The greatest wisdom seems childish" and "The greatest art seems unsophisticated" (it accidentally said "are" instead of "art", which most other translations say in 41),  and verse 45 stating how "True art seems artless".  When making these monsters, I try not to think too much at all. I just do them. Still, some are born far easier than others. When I'm having trouble or if a shadow of doubt sets in, I've found verses 41 and 45 to be of great help. I think I might explore this black and white approach a little bit more, going into October now.

Monday, September 26, 2011

echo & the bunnymen: "bring on the dancing horses", roxy music: "more than this", siouxsie & the banshees : "cities in dust"

OK, so I need to confess I've got somewhat of a bad habit of eating out at the California Tortilla for dinner, when Kris is still at work. Blame it on laziness, but they also have decent vegetarian options. Plus, they play awesome music from the 1980s, which is probably half the reason I eat there so much. I was even thinking of doing regular blog posts listing songs I heard at C.T., which is basically what this post is, in music video format.

 What's great is that the California Tortilla I go to doesn't just play your typical 80s stuff. They actually play the good stuff, the more odd and obscure bands having a heavy influence on some of the excellent underground music being made today. The three songs featured here were all heard at my last visit to C.T., and I knew I had to blog this up before I forgot about it. I do have some Echo & the Bunnymen CDs, and saw them live in DC several years back, however, none of the bands here were bands I was much into in the 80s, though I fondly remember all of these songs from back in my skateboarding days, played in heavy rotation on a great Pittsburgh FM station known as Double X (or WXXP).

I've got to admit, the songs are a zillion times better than any of their accompanying vids, despite one of them being made by Anton Corbijn, though they are kind of interesting in their own way. The Siouxsie one is actually a bit disturbing even, reminding me of something that Dieter from Saturday Night Live's "Sprockets" would thoroughly enjoy, haha! At least they were shooting for some kind of artistic integrity rather than a lot of the stuff aired on MTV at the time. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

wolf eyes

It's always good to see when someone is inspired a little by something you do, and end up creating something of their own. Such is the case with "moondustwriter", who wrote a poem loosely based on a photo I took about five years ago at the now newly relocated Smithsonian Naturalist Center. It was also for a writing prompt at With Real Toads. Here it is, reblogged below for you.  Nice work!

"the eyes of the wolf" by moondustwriter

Peering in deep golden eyes

something there behind the glow

What’s he thinking

does he know?

Feeling heat rise from his fur

resonating deadly grrr

seething from deep within

will I lose this fight or win?

Crouching low as if to spring

steady now keep your head

lest he realize my fear

In his eyes am I dead???

In the meantime, below are some more photos I took at the Naturalist Center the same day I took the wolf pic. I wonder what kind of words could be written to go along with these?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

plaid: "35 summers", "upgrade", and "african woods"

So the mighty Plaid are back with the eagerly awaited full length, "Scintilli", after about a nine-year hiatus since releasing any official albums. That's if you don't count their three soundtrack-based albums they made in between, all of which were very good in their own right. Still, as great as those albums were, there was a little bit of something missing - that dance floor edge merged with wonderfully strange rhythmic syncopation present in albums like "Not For Threes" and "Double Figure" seemed to be lacking in parts. So after some time, one has very high expectations for a project, the longer it takes to complete. The fact is, Plaid have never stopped making excellent electronic music, whether it was for the movies on the big screen or for the ones right there in your own mind, and "Scintilli" doesn't disappoint. Still, for a long time fan whose listened to the group when they were still two-thirds of The Black Dog two decades ago, the album had to grow on me, and I wasn't too impressed or sure what to make of it at first, until about the last four tracks, which were highly reminiscent of the ghosts of Plaid/Black Dog past (to my own delight). I'm reminded of how much I disliked Autechre's "Amber" after forming my own expectations following their first album, then with each successive listen, the album got better and better. This is my reaction with Plaid's latest offering, and if you initially feel the same, simply keep on listening. The three tracks featured here are from "Scintilli", including the official video for the very ambient "35 Summers" track, from Warp Recordings. Enjoy.

Monday, September 19, 2011

i can do it conference, nyc

"Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment" - Jalal ad-Din Rumi, poet

Over the weekend Kris and I headed out to NYC to catch the I Can Do It conference, hosted by Hay House publishing group. It was somewhat of a last minute decision, and Kris and I have been saying for a while that if Dr. Wayne Dyer (above photo) and Louise Hay (see below) came around within reasonable vicinity, we're there, without hesitation.  It's a good thing my wife has Facebook (which you can't pay me to join), 'cause we might not have known about this amazing event. 

Kris heard about the work of Louise Hay through a friend back in Trinidad, during a time when she was going through some rough patches in her life. Shortly after, when Kris first visited me in the states, we found Louise's groundbreaking book "You Can Heal Your Life" at a nearby yard sale for fifty cents. It turned out to be a hugely inspirational read for both of us, this manifesto on the power of positive thinking. When the book was first published, there was barely a thing out there about this kind of stuff, even remotely. While it seems like everyone is getting on the bandwagon with this kind of thing (which is not necessarily a bad thing at all), it's still very much a rare and even alien notion for most people that you can actually change your life for the better simply by the way you think about yourself and others. In the wrong hands, this can seem like total fluff or come off as incredibly corny subject matter, however, both Hay and Dyer have been through some truly hellish times and consciously made a choice and concerted effort to overcome these situations in life and experience their lives at their highest potential. These guys are the real deal, and the emphasis is on the word "choice". 

Unfortunately we weren't able to catch the event in it's entirety, but were able to see, in addition to Hay and Dyer, Marianne Williamson speak at the conference, whose work I'm looking forward to checking out more now, after her presentation, as well as the ever-fascinating Gregg Braden at a special, free screening of two new Hay House-related movies at the Director's Guild, which I'm not supposed to blog about right now (so, I certainly won't).  

Kris and I are still in awe that we got to see and hear Dyer in person, finally. We've read some of his books, seen him on film, and listen to his Monday night internet radio show, but to hear him in person took it to a whole other level. I think that was the general consensus for most in attendance that weekend as well. I found out about Dyer from some very insightful interview footage on the You Can Heal Your Life film and ended up checking out The Shift on DVD. This led me to reading his amazing book, Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life , where Dyer lived an entire year based on the ancient wisdom of Lao-tzu's texts from the poetic and deeply  profound Tao Te Ching. What I love about Dyer, without watering down what could be some potentially heavy and heady subject matter, is that he is able to bring concepts regarding spirituality, ego, and existence down to earth for everyday people to relate to and apply. And when he speaks about his life experiences, both ordinary and incredibly extraordinary, he can be damn funny! What I've only recently gleaned from Dyer's work is his writings on the destructive power of indulgence in the ego and its negative, degenerative effect on both the individual and the world when not kept in check, replacing intentions from the heart. 

It's difficult to put into words how worth the while our visit to New York was, to attend this event. At a time when so many sources, both on a personal level, and media-based bombard our collective consciousness with big, stinking heaps of doom, gloom, pessimism, social polarization and negativity,  it's good to know there are real, intelligent and positive solutions and sources of light out there willing to help and show us the alternatives, if we choose to accept them. And again, the emphasis is on choice, which is that simple.  In about a year, Kris and I will be looking forward to being in the same company, next time, in our own back yard in Washington, DC. Hope you can make it there too!

On a final note, I want to thank the kind soul who gave Kris and I, and a couple of others free passes (worth quite a bit of money), upgrading our seating to nearly the front of the auditorium. Again, huge, huge thanks, whoever you are! In the meantime, below is an interview I absolutely love with Dyer, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. It's well worth the nine minutes of your time! :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

hans-joachim roedelius: "wenn der sudwind whet", "veilchenwurzeln", & "herold"

Hans-Joachim Roedelius is considered a pioneer of ambient and electronic instrumental music, as a founding member of German Krautrock bands Cluster and Harmonia, as well as collaborating with the likes of Brian Eno. While most people think of Eno when it comes to early ambient and electronic music, Roedelius deserves just as much credit for his contribution to the genre. I had the great pleasure of witnessing  Roedelius perform live in 1999 at the now defunct Millvale Industrial Theater on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, PA.  Roedelius had been traveling the states in a van with his wife at the time, stopping by only a handful of select locations to play his music. How fortunate we were in Pittsburgh to have him visit. I remember how moving his performance was, in front of about fifty people seated in an old, former ceramics factory on a rainy, Autumn Tuesday night. Just the man, a couple of keyboards and some other various electronic gadgetry, accompanied by the gentle sound of rainfall and passing traffic through some old, slightly cracked windows overhead was all that was needed. It couldn't have been the more perfect setting for such a beautiful, resonant sound.  His set consisted of two parts that evening, the first of which was a more contemporary, experimental, sample-based approach to ambient music, reminiscent of some of Future Sound of London's work. The second portion of his performance was a more scaled-down, piano solo approach.  Both portions balanced each other out nicely that evening, displaying the versatility of this humble musical trailblazer. I even taped the entire performance to audio cassette, if only I could find this recording.  In the meantime, with many of today's up and coming electronic artists once again returning to a more hands-on, analogue approach to music-making, it only makes sense that Roedelius' music is experiencing something of a resurgence, with many of his past recordings from his vast and varied catalogue being remastered and rereleased to the listening public. For starters I highly recommend his "Selbstportrait 1", "Selbstportrait 2", and "Wenn Der Sudwind Weht" releases, which is where you'll find some of the tracks featured at this post. Also, keep an eye open for Roedelius on tour, including his current, rare stateside stops. I know I'll be seeing/hearing him perform once again, this time at DC's Velvet Lounge on Wednesday night, October 12th, 2011, nearly twelve years later, to the day.  Finally, check out the great interview with Roedelius below!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

august splotch monsters

 These are my five favorites from August, excluding the Splotch Monster Medley for the "Wish You Were Here" show in London.  Since there were fifteen monsters in that medley, monster-making has been on a two-week plus hiatus, which worked out well with getting back into the school/teacher groove, as well as taking on a few other current projects. In the meantime, once again I'll start posting new ones at the Splotch Monster blog, so stay tuned!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

gusgus: "over" and "desire"

I'm glad to see my favorite band from Iceland (and there quite a few), GusGus back, though they never really went away.  It just sounds like their new 2011 album "Arabian Horse" might be their best work to date. I've been into the group since the their 1997 album "Polydistortion" grabbed hold of the world's attention. The group began as a creative collective of musicians, actors and film makers, but by 2000 the original lineup changed and scaled down. A few members remained and the band recruited the vocal skills of singer Earth for their excellent 2002 release "Attention". The video for the song "Desire" (below), found on that album was also part of their live backdrop in 2002. I've been to many live music events, and I can't say I've ever witnessed a crowd of fans dance so hard and enthusiastically than when they played at DCs 9:30 Club in 2002, and the band even used one of the live versions from that show for their "David" single, released later that year. The energy from both the group and the fans was truly fantastic.  While all of their releases since then have been great, "Arabian Horse" sounds like a renewed energy and spirit is back, similar to that from a decade ago. This can be attributed to a fuller lineup once again, with some original key members, including Earth, who sings on a few tracks, including the outstanding "Over" (see above). Hopefully the band will once again consider returning to the states to perform this time around.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

recent instagram shots

"Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. "
Henry David Thoreau