Tuesday, May 29, 2012

misadventures in dinosaur land

Last Saturday Kris and I took a day trip out towards the Shenandoah Valley to visit the Blandy experimental Farm/State Arboretum, Dinosaur Land, and Old Town Winchester, Virginia. Our visit to the Arboretum was cut short unfortunately, after Kris, who has an incredible phobia of snakes, saw a warning sign about snakes possibly hiding behind the (many) rocks in the park. That's OK, 'cause I've been there before and spent lots of time drawing and taking photos. Old Town was great too, as I used to live out that way for a couple of years, and we discovered an amazing little book store and Thai restaurant, both of which didn't exist when I lived there eight or so years ago. While the highlight for Kris was probably meeting up with her friend at the Potomac Bead Company, mine was without a doubt, Dinosaur Land. This place is Americana at its best, a massive collection of those big old, sometimes awkward prehistoric beast sculptures you'd find scattered along Route 66. What I love about this place is that you have to enter through the gift shop to get into the actual park itself, which is a giant T-Rex mouth! The gifts are very cool too, as many of them are toys I saw when I was just a boy, and some of which were around when my parents were kids as well. The park itself was really nice too, full of many trees providing lots of cool shade on an otherwise hot, sunny day. The statues were set up well throughout the park , most of them being the classic, disproportionate old-school replicas, while others were more current, anatomically correct models. While the park claims to be an educational experience, I'm sure most people, kids and adults alike go there for pure fun more than anything. There are no motorized parts on the beasts, some of which aren't even dinosaurs, and don't expect any fancy sounds.  That's the very charm and appeal of this place, which takes you back to a time when no humans walked the earth, as well as to a time when folks had a chance to use their own imaginations. This was my second visit to Dinosaur Land, and it was well worth the five dollar admission ticket to be a kid again. 

And of course, I simply had to include the opening song to my favorite childhood show of all time, the original Land of the Lost brought to you by Syd and Marty Krofft. Enjoy!

Friday, May 25, 2012

nite jewel: "in the dark", "let's go the two of us together" (live), & "one second of love"

After listening to and later buying Nite Jewel's two full-length albums (to date), I now know why esteemed music sites like Bleep.com were making such a big stink back when her first release "Good Evening" dropped in 2009. Good Evening was a synth-heavy, lo-fi production, DIY to the core and more honest-sounding (though some would say ironic) than most stuff being released at the time. Citing Autechre (surprisingly) as a major musical influence, though much more akin to the late seventies/early eighties electronic pop sounds of Gary Numan, Soft Cell and Suicide, many of Nite Jewel's (real name Ramona Gonzalez) music videos are works of art as well, sometimes employing a sense of humor and irony lost on viewers far too quick to judge, as seen (sadly) in the comments accompanying shorts such as "Artificial Intelligence" which all too obviously pokes fun at vapid "hipsterdom" in the music and fashion industry. While "Good Evening" gets better with each listen, her second release "One Second of Love" from 2012, which includes the beautifully sung "In The Dark" (above) has a far more polished and immediate sound. The title track for that album is better than anything playing on pop radio by a mile, and the video, with the goofy, funky goat guy and great dance choreography, featuring Ramona and band members, is both hilarious and truly bizarre. Try staying still to this one, I dare you. I also included a favorite from her first one called "Let's Go the Two of Us Together", performed live with a band, who sound pretty darn good. Now if only I could find a way to magically transport myself to LA on June first to hear her perform my all-time favorite Kraftwerk album, 1981's "Computer World" live in its entirety! Who said girls don't know/make good music?!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

moog on!


Man, I wish I would have seen this earlier, but I'm kind of glad I didn't or I'd have wasted much of my evening away on it.  To my pleasant surprise, Google celebrated Robert Moog, creator of the legendary Moog synthesizer, by having the "Moog Doodle" as their header yesterday. Yesterday would have been his 78th birthday. Mr. Moog passed away several years ago, but his memory and great legacy lives on in the music he's had such a huge influence on.  Above, I posted a quick little song I made before bed on the "Doodle", which you can hear at the link. It's nothing great but I like it, and (thankfully) you could only record for about a minute.  To read more about the Doodle and Moog's legacy, check out this great post, featuring some classic songs utilizing the Moog keyboard. Rest in peace Bob Moog!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

kickstarter fundraiser for magic bullet 5/four splotch monsters looking for a good home

Magic Bullet is an awesome newspaper jam-packed with some amazing comics and cartoon-based work from mostly DC artists. Currently, issue number 5 is in the works, and I'll have some art in it this time around. The publication is free, however it costs some money to get this paper made and out to the public. Today, the publication just began its Kickstarter fundraising campaign, and there are a lot of great items for sale from M.B. artists. I decided to donate a set of four Splotch Monsters (seen here) for a donation of $30 or more. Each piece measures 9" x 6", made on watercolor paper with India ink and Pigma Micron pen, from my black & white series. Normally, I sell these for about thirty-to-fifty dollars each, so I'm practically giving these four originals (not prints) away for free! Why, because this publication is something I can definitely get behind, and I'd like to raise some money to get it out there to the public. None of the money will go to me, it all goes to funding the publishing of Magic Bullet 5. So, if you like Splotch Monsters, want to help a great independent newspaper launch and want some inexpensive original art to call your own, don't hesitate to make a purchase.  It's rare I'll ever sell these (from this series at least) at such a low price again.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

greetings from the american visionary art museum, baltimore, maryland

Yesterday Kris and I visited the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.  The last time I was here was probably about five years ago, and one of my first blog posts (for the first incarnation of this particular blog), from 2005, was about this very place.  What is Visionary Art you ask? Here's what the AVAM has to say:  "Like love, you know it when you see it. But here's the longer definition, straight out of our Mission Statement: "Visionary art as defined for the purposes of the American Visionary Art Museum refers to art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself." In short, visionary art begins by listening to the inner voices of the soul, and often may not even be thought of as 'art' by its creator."

The current main exhibit "All Things Round: Galaxies, Eyeballs & Karma",  goes on until September 2, 2012. One of my favorite living artists and fellow Virginians, JJ Cromer has some work in the show, which is also part of the museum's permanent collection. On a side note, he has a great blog which he regularly updates called Old Old Old Virginia.  There are too many other amazing artists whose work is in both the current show and permanent collection to list here, and indoor photography is strictly prohibited. So, definitely make a trip out to see this place, which consists of three buildings and some fantastic surrounding outdoor sculptures. It's both fun and thought-provoking, with something for everyone, from the serious art aficionado to the casual observer, and is certainly a feast for the eyes with lots of visual (and a few audio) surprises. There is very affordable paid parking (which takes credit cards) right behind the museum, and I highly recommend eating at the Mr. Rain's Funhouse museum restaurant, located on the third floor of the main building. Kris and I both got the excellent roasted veggie sandwich , and I opted for a Hawaiian beer (both pictured below).  Looking forward to visiting again someday soon!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

infiniti: "game one", cybotron: "clear", model 500: "the passage", "universal techno part 1" excerpt

Juan Atkins, the pioneering electronic music producer out of Detroit, is one of the original three, along with school pals Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, to create the first original techno tracks, after being heavily influenced by local DJ "Electrifying Mojo's" late night radio shows. Juan would first record under the collaborative alias Cybotron, releasing the record "Enter" in 1983, setting the foundation for hip-hop's more futuristic-funk-laden sub genre, electro, along with Afrika Bambaataa from NYC, as well as The Egyptian Lover from the West Coast, to name a few. Standout track "Clear" leaned heavily in the direction Atkins wanted to take his sound, and soon he would explore deeper, more instrumental sounds as Model 500. Included here is a personal favorite from the Model 500 catalogue, "The Passage", from 1992 - a clear precursor to the Artificial Intelligence sound of early Warp Records artists from England, and a noted influence on many of those producers of "electronic listening music", better known under the IDM (intelligent dance music) genre, and what Richard D. James (Aphex Twin) tagged as "Braindance" for his Rephlex Records label. Another one of Atkin's more well-known aliases is Infiniti, who aimed to create a more "pure" form of techno, including a track that many consider a classic of the genre, "Game One" from 1994.  Game One is still as sublime, futuristic and fierce as it was when it first dropped nearly twenty years ago, a deep, hungry, driving spine-tingler of a track. For a more thorough understanding of the genre and its origins, check out a clip below from one of the best documentaries covering Detroit (and other) techno,  "Universal Techno" from 1996. Here we get some fantastic insight from both Juan Atkins and Derrick May, among others.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

three years!

Three years ago today, I married my wife Kris at Ida Lee Park in Leesburg, Virginia.  It's hard to believe three whole years have passed already, it seems just like only yesterday it happened! After about a year communicating on Skype (after unintentionally "meeting" on an art website) we decided it was time to meet in person. The Skyping was an interesting time for us, as we had each recently gotten out of a previous relationship and had no real intentions of seriously dating anyone for a while. During this time, we would get on Skype nearly every night for a couple of hours and talk, make art, and "hang out" together. At one point, Kris had even guided me in baking my first batch of muffins via Skype. Even though Kris was all the way in Trinidad while I was in northern Virginia, it felt like she was right there with me, and I over there with her. We talked so much, though sometimes, we just hung out in silence.  Kris encouraged me to step up my game with the art-making again as well, and at this point I had finally ditched watching TV and replaced it with drawing, painting and collage, and it was always fun sitting at my dining table working on something while Kris was making some art as well. Still, Skype was in it's early stages, and while it was the glue that kept us together while our relationship was also in it's early stages, it also would be a pain-in-the neck, as it would sometimes delay, or echo or simply go off in mid-conversation. Yes, it was (amazingly) free, but also very frustrating at times. At this point, it was time to meet Kris in person, if anything more was going to come out of this. I don't think I wrote much about how we initially met, so I thought I'd share some of it today, here, right now, if you care to know. So here goes!

Kris' mom was wise enough to advise her against coming out to visit and stay with me, until I went out and visited her in Trinidad first, even though I had talked to her mom numerous times on Skype. The world is full of shady weirdos, so it made perfect sense. The trouble was, I only had flown once when I was ten, from Pennsylvania to Florida, and I had a bit of an irrational fear of flying. Still, it was time to try something new and far out of my comfort zone. It was time for a new experience and it was time to be a man, smash the fear, and go meet who was to become the love of my life. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I even had second thoughts, second guessing it all, but that was my cowardice and sense of doubt talking. Finally, in October of 1997 I decided to go out and stay with Kris, who lived with her mom and brother in Trinidad, for about a week. I planned my visit to also coincide with a big solo art reception Kris was having at a local gallery/wine bar out her way as well.

At last, I had purchased the round-trip tickets, which would take me from DC to JFK/NYC, then to Trinidad. It was all so confusing and a little scary to me, this flying stuff. As I waited to board my flight in DC, on a Friday night, I started to get a bit nervous, but for a very good reason. As I watched the hours pass, I noticed my flight kept getting delayed. Then, the unthinkable happened. At about 9PM, we got the news that our flight had been cancelled. Cancelled! Did these people know that by seven the next morning I was scheduled to catch a plane to Trinidad from JFK (and had to be at bag check by about 4AM)? You had to be freakin' kidding me? I normally am not an angry, dramatic type and I normally don't have much respect for those kinds of people, but I think I swore out loud more times in a few consecutive minutes than I had in my entire life. What irked me I guess was how the folks who worked at the airline (who I won't name) acted as if they didn't care and provided no real explanation. Thankfully, there was another guy right next to me who was heading in the same direction and needed to to be in NYC just as desperately as me. So, after having to ask the airline company for a refund, we decided to rent a small car and drive. The guy lived in Brooklyn and had not seen his girlfriend in weeks. His name was Frank and he was a documentary film-maker who just spent some time filming in India. By chance, the guy also had the same exact taste in music as me, a rarity in my parts (but not so much out his way), and we had a blast, talking, joking, and playing out some awesome tunes over some strong cups of coffee. We finally arrived in NYC around 1:30 AM, and we were pretty hungry, so Frank took me to an excellent all night bagel shop in Brooklyn, before dropping me off at my crappy little 8' x 10' overpriced hotel room near the airport, where I spent not even three hours and got not a wink of sleep, though I was thoroughly exhausted at this point already. Frank and I kept in touch a little afterwards, and almost met up when he came out here to cover the Obama election festivities. Unfortunately, he was a busy guy, as was I, and I haven't seen or heard from him since. I seriously felt as if some kind of divine intervention took place that night though, despite the flight issues.

After a crazy, speedy, rocky, wild ten-minute ride in the hotel "shuttle" van, stuck in the back with a pleasant, visiting English man as terrified as me, I finally got to the airport by about 4AM. The check in process went surprisingly well however, and I found my way to the Caribbean Airlines section of JFK, where I stood out like a sore thumb, being the only white guy there. I don't remember much from the flight to Trinidad however, as I was too "over it" to even be frightened anymore at this point. It was a nice, peaceful flight if anything, and when I got there, to this charming little Trini airport, I felt a sense of calm finally. After getting through the initial check-in process, which again, went really, surprisingly well, I waited in the front lobby, watching for Kris' mom's car to arrive to pick me up. Kris was hanging work for her big reception at the gallery at the time, and I was to meet her there and help her out. So, I waited, and waited, and waited some more, until nearly an hour had passed. Of course my cell service was out and I couldn't find Kris' number. Now I began to panic all over again, and to top it off, the heat was starting to get unbearably hot and huge dark clouds were descending. I guess I still had a lack of understanding of what my wife calls "Trini-time", which reflects the laid-back carefree nature of Trini-culture, thus resulting in what could also be called a lack of punctuality (and I say this only affectionately, with no malice whatsoever). I on the other hand am big on punctuality, though more so with others and not as much when it comes to myself, which is a bit hypocritical perhaps. I've leaned to mellow some over the years though. Anyway, Kris' mom's car had finally arrived, and after nearly doing something in my pants that I had not done since I was two, I could not have been more relieved and happy. It didn't hurt that her mom is one of the coolest, kindest, funniest people I've ever met! So, it was off to the gallery to finally meet this girl I got to know over the internet for nearly a whole year, in person! Then it started to rain. I'm talking monsoon-style rain, and that got me nervous, on top of already being nervous. Despite the rain, we dropped by a little flower shop down the road from the art gallery where I got Kris some flowers, and I got completely drenched. I could only imagine what she'd think, Kris meeting this guy for the first time, looking like a sleepless, wet rat. When I walked in and Kris saw me, we hugged and kissed right away, and I had felt like I had always known this beautiful person (as I did with her mom as well).  I knew right away this wasn't a mistake, though Kris jokingly admitted to thinking I was taller in person, which she got over pretty quickly, thankfully. After meeting some of her friends, helping some with hanging the art, and picking up some pizza with her mom from none other than Pizza Hut, I passed out on a big comfy couch at the gallery. Later that night, we got some Chinese, brought it back to Kris' place where we talked and hung out a while, as well as chased out a bat and swept out water from the sideways rain, off her living-room floor. Later that night I slept hard, like a baby. I didn't feel like a stranger in a strange land at all, and I woke up the next morning to a beautiful, delicious Trini breakfast prepared by Kris' mom.

After a wonderful week on this charming, southernmost Caribbean island, spent with my future wife and her lovely friends and family, I had to go back home to a very cold,very different Northern Virginia. I honestly did not want to leave, and I've felt that way all four times I've stayed in Trinidad.  Leaving Kris was the hardest part, but soon she would stay with me for a half year to see how "us" would pan out, and I ended up proposing  to her at Ida Lee park later that summer, where we often went to play frisbee, read, walk, talk, draw and take lots of photos.

Since getting married, I had to curb some of my bachelor ways and bad habits I had developed after a fairly independent life, doing things the way I only knew, and preferred. I had to learn to share and to make compromises, which as an adult, can still be difficult. I had to accept and even appreciate opinions and habits and tastes different from mine, and also pay attention to the many many things we've got in common - some very important things. I also had to learn to care for someone other than, and more than myself, which I don't regret for a second, after finally meeting my love and my very very best friend.  I've never met an individual with such a kind heart and generous, radiant soul, full of so much love and life. On this day, I am reminded of how truly lucky a guy I am.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

artful greetings from greece

Today I got a real nice surprise in my mailbox from my Greek artist friend Akis Karanos. If you might recall, Akis curated and organized an art exhibit called "For The Absurd Expedition" in Greece last January, which included some of my Splotch Monster art. He also put together an art 'zine as well, which again, included some more Splotch Monster works. So, after patiently waiting, his package finally arrived! I really like the way the 'zine was put together, if you even want to call it a 'zine, which operated more along the lines of a box of art prints. I also like the hand-drawn/painted art on the box as well, and Akis was kind enough to include some extra goodies, including a great, large hand-signed poster print, some exhibit fliers, a 'zine he made, as well as a couple of individual drawings he made, which he traded with me, for some of my own work. I give Akis a ton of credit for putting so much time and energy into all of this in the name of art, as he informed me, times are still tough and quite unstable economically in his homeland. Here's hoping things start looking up soon his way and I look forward to doing more shows his way again in the future. Thanks Akis!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

maria minerva: "ruff trade", "lovecool", & "once upon"

Lately I've been thoroughly enjoying the music of young electronic bedroom producer Maria Minerva, especially her Cabaret Cixous album, released in 2011 on the Not Not Fun label. There's an extremely "lo-fi", even retro element to her leftfield pop productions, which might take some getting used to at first. Listening to Cabaret Cixous initially gave me the same reaction as when I first heard Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti  material. At first you think, maybe this person could use a loan perhaps, and get into a good studio? But that would be defeating the purpose of this very human-sounding electronic music, which when given a chance, becomes highly addictive. Of course with music like this, there are some haters and skeptics who completely miss the point, but that's their loss, 'cause this girl knows exactly what she's doing, and she knows her music well, without a shadow of a doubt. Minerva's sound is refreshing in a world brimming over the top with extremely generic-sounding, overly slick studio productions, and it's so good to see more and more women making artful, yet accessible music (minus the acoustic guitars, thankfully). The songs here are all from the Cabaret Cixous album, including the beautiful, hypnotic "once upon" instrumental. In addition to Minerva, I've written about Grimes, who came from a more lo-fi, electronic music background and has since expanded her sound, as well as her fan-base big time. In the meantime, I'll be covering more women making amazing electronic sounds soon here, something that is becoming less and less of a rarity, so stay tuned.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

splotch monster talk

It's been a long time since I've posted any newer Splotch Monster art up here at the Go Flying Turtle blog, so I thought, while taking a break from some spring cleaning today, I'd do just that. It's been nice doing individual ones this past week (see above), spurred on by this month's local First Friday art night demo. The ones here in particular are all done on 8" x 10" watercolor paper, painted in watercolor and drawn using some Pigma Micron pens, Sharpee drawing pens and some colored gel pens. I'll be tackling a couple more word medleys real soon, which will probably take me up to number 1,000. After that, I won't be assigning any more numbers, as counting will no longer be relevant to me (and has always been kind of a headache anyway). From there, it will only be just the beginning with these Splotch Monsters, and I look forward to trying some new things and experimenting more with them.