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Surgery

I performed major surgery on a painting last night. It was hard, you never know how it’s going to go and to top it off, this was the ‘non reversible’ kind. It is so easy to ruin a piece if you are not careful, but you get to the point where it isn’t working and impossible to do nothing.

This wasn’t as hard as what came next.

I have a small pile of canvases that have initial compositions sketched on them; the ideas are well formed, but not 100% ‘there’. I have to force myself on a (semi) regular basis to do housekeeping and go through said pile.

Last night I pulled out a piece that I started years ago and really thought would evolve into a great work. As I studied it for the millionth time, I realized I had to say goodbye to this old friend. It was very painful but I knew it had to be done. Artists are made from ideas and our work is an extension of them. When a piece doesn’t work and needs to be put down, there is this weird feeling of loss that you have to come to terms with.

So as Depeche Mode (classic, right?) rang out at ear splitting volume I white washed the idea I had so many years ago and tried so many times to make work. I really thought this one would ‘go somewhere’ but now it is apparent where that somewhere is — a 180 from where it was.

Rose

I was in Miranda Hobbes‘ (yes of Sex in the City) house and there was this big party going down. Paintings of my friend Mark were up on this high shelf and people were inquiring about them. Before long we all were sitting having cocktails and suddenly, Rose, this girl I dated in high school (yes, I dated a girl!), sits down beside me and says hi. I kept poking her in the shoulder to see if she was real; it was so vivid. She started talking about where life had taken her, and I started to point out the successes I have had, but thought better of it and just kept poking her shoulder. I just kept thinking, ‘How can you be sitting here? You died years ago in a car crash’.

Just as that thought bounced around my mind, a large brigade of fire dancers walked through the crowd, not unlike when I saw Pigface perform in San Jose years ago. And before I knew it, I was in a parking lot with Rose, on a mission to secure cookies from Wegman’s (a Rochester based supermarket chain). She mentioned that she still had her discount from working there so we hoofed it to the door past a pissy security guard, who was surprisingly rather young.

Once in the store, she pocketed a cookie as her ‘discount’ allowed her to have a free one, and we took the other up to the register, which we were to have a small discount on as well. We paid for it and the girl at the cash register nonchalantly says ‘Here’s your cookie, and now I have to arrest you’. We were dumbfounded and Rose immediately started in with ‘why?’ The cashier responded that they have been through this several times, and just like last time, she had to arrest her (presumably for the pocketed freebie).

I poked Rose again and said, “You know, dead people can’t be arrested.” She looked down in that way she always did when she realized a truth that would rather stay unknown. The cashier then turns to me and says ‘Well, then, you would be responsible.’

My eyes caught with Rose’s and it was clear that we had to run. Out of Wegman’s in a blur the security guard screamed at us. I recall he had a gun, though no shots were fired. As sirens wailed in the distance coming for us, we just about made it to the car and stopped for a pause. Thinking of what to do next it was suddenly clear: Wake up.

– – –

Rose was one of the few friends I had in High School. We went on a couple of those dates that you go on when you are fifteen or so and trying to figure out how the game works. I pretty much knew I was gay at the time, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. Even though we hung out a bit in college, we soon lost contact when I went to to California, Rose to Arizona or New Mexico (I don’t recall which). She had this fun ‘alternative’ spunk to her and while we weren’t really close, we had a commonality in music as well as alternative lifestyles (she dated girls for a spell, though it’s unknown to me of her exact orientation). I remember she shaved her head once and as it was growing back, she dyed it bright green. My mom forever associated her with ‘the girl that showed up with green hair’ at my front door, though she liked her.

It is almost eight years since Rose was in a fatal car crash. I don’t really know the specifics, but I remember my friend Colleen contacting me with the news. I felt weird reminiscing about days of adolescence with my friend. It’s not that I had any regrets of not staying in contact or the like, I mean, people often come and go throughout your life, but you just get this weird feeling. I may be wrong, but I think Rose was studying to be a psychiatrist, and I think she would have been successful at that.

My dreams are always vivid, and as such, I woke up rather spooked today. It is comical at times, I can wake up furious at someone because of what they did in a dream and the emotion can linger hours afterward. I know it’s totally irrational, and I’ve learned to control these feelings, but I’m sure Rose will be haunting me today; just like the day I heard of her passing. It seems rather fitting heading to Deathguild tonight to dance as she wanders through my mind.

endless nameless

It is estimated on this day, 18 years ago, Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain took his life with a shotgun.
(Note: any comments on this post that go on about conspiracy/murder theories will be deleted)

Like many other generation X’ers, I felt a certain kinship when listening to his music. He was our enigmatic musical demigod; sensitive, angry, and full of angst at the same time. He was our Morrison, our Hendrix, our Elvis. More importantly, he was the first public figure that spoke to us in our language.

Musically, we were fed manufactured corporate rock, further disillusioned by the political and social climate as we ventured into the mid and late 80’s. We knew something was amiss as our parents were getting divorced and sprawling suburbia’s we were raised in became playgrounds of boredom and mediocrity. The happy days of the 60’s and 70’s had worn thin and if you were anything like me, you grew up within a stronghold of angst and alienation. Nirvana, fueled by Kurt’s lyrics was an outlet to voice our frustration beyond our bedrooms.

So I downloaded Nirvana’s “From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah” recently.  Yeah, I know I’m late on this one, but I’m usually not a fan of live albums. The levels are always askew and they do a bad job of capturing the true energy of a group. Any one who knows me, knows I love going to live shows and do so often. That’s where I’d rather spend my money. I actually had the privilege of seeing Nirvana live when I was teenager. I remember an enthralling concert that left me buzzing for days later.

So, yeah, I finally got it. Some performances are a bit uninspired such as Breed and Smells like Teen Spirit (You know they HAD to play that).  But the tunes SchoolAneurysm, along with Drain You and Sliver blew me away! Absolute classics in the Nirvana catalog.

It is amazing to hear these guys again. I’m in a whirl when I hear “Grandma take me home.. I wanna be alooooooooone…..”

I am actually very happy that I waited so long to grab this one. It just would not have rang as true if I bought it right away. Good to know that years later I can put this on and magically be transported back to when I was listening to these tunes for the first time, so long ago, with all the love and hate and angst. True genius stands the test of time, and nothing sums up how we felt (and still do) than this line: “you’re in high school again“.

Aren’t we all? Brilliant.

Conversations with Tonka ..::2::..

Better than a rowboat to China:

The perpetual problem of producing

Recently I’ve tried to cement a few ideas into some semblance of creative expression, though nothing has come to fruition. Now at the tail end of my second solo show, I feel depleted. At first when the show went up, I had incredible ideas and energy: new compositions were still coming and I was working towards finishing several pieces I started while preparing for the show.

Now I spend hours in my studio into the late night, with half finished canvases staring at me in mockery. The mouths of half formed figures laugh at my impotence; fingers from disembodied hands point accusations of fraudulence. Is it over?

In times like this, I honestly feel like I may never finish another painting again. How can I have nothing left to do with so much to say?

While I recognize this has happened before, I cannot escape the finality of this feeling. I remember when it happened last and being on the phone with Tonka outside of the office building where I was working. He suggested meditation as a method of clearing/centering my mind. It helped a bit, but sometimes nothing seems to kick start the creative engine.

Contention breeds creativity, but this is ridiculous.

I continue to sketch during the day, working out possibilities over coffee, milkshakes, and sammiches. Some ideas have potential, yet they soon dissolve into ambivalence when I consider them mere minutes later. Now it seems as I am trying too hard, which never works…

Manson vs. Rammstein

I was really looking forward to this when I heard about it. I think it was Trent Reznor who said Manson has become a a parody of himself, and I couldn’t agree more. Either drugs have taken their toll, or he’s just really bored. Either way this uninspired performace is just awful.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Puscifer – Palace of fine arts, March 16th

I will start with the second category here…

The bad.

Extremely excited to catch his show, I bought VIP tickets as soon as they were on sale. Unfortunately, the experience left me feeling less than important. $100+ for a signed poster, a small canvas bag (made in china!) and a quickie two song acoustic set. Now the acoustic set was great, but overall the experience left me with a bad taste on my mouth. I work hard for my money and expect a nice return for VIP experiences. Even OHGR chatted us up and hung out a bit during his VIP event. And Puscifer being a bit of a class act, I feel could have offered us a bit more. Not even a handshake after you are so anal about no cameras/videography/cell phone use (more about those devices later). Yes, the two song performance was intimate, and your version of Fleetwood Mac‘s “The Chain” was spectacular, but for some reason I still felt a little cheated. I will not buy another VIP package for a future show.

This experience was exasperated by the venue. I cannot say if this was part Puscifer‘s fault, but we had to leave the pre-concert area while the extra special VIP wine tasting event was going on (I wasn’t quick enough to drop even MORE money on this delight). Now, if the Palace would have kept us in said area they would have easily made money. I alone would have bought two or three beers and at $6 for a draft, multiplied by the twenty or so others that would have also indulged, that is some serious dough. They could have made payroll with the VIP event alone. Do you know what the return is on a draft beer pour? It’s seriously ridiculous… but I digress. This multiplied by the rain made it worse, but luckily I came prepared. Oh, I almost forgot – we were offered to hang out in the lobby (that makes up for the rain) but, for an hour until doors officially opened? I declined and made my way to a local pub.

My foul mood only slightly numbed with two beers, I returned to catch Carina Round take the stage. This probably would have gone over a lot better, I admit I was still cranky, but her set wasn’t sitting well with me. I expected more melody, but really only heard her howling generic guitar-pop. And then she berates two guys in the audience (I could not see them, allegedly not too thrilled to sit through the opening act) by saying things like ‘it’s hard up here in high heels’ and ‘just relax, you only have ten more minutes before MJK comes out….’ in a condescending tone. Well, guess what bitch… no one forced you to wear high heels, at least in the audience, and you are the supporting act; you HAVE to deal with some people not into your music. It’s part of the game. After all, you sang a song with a chorus of ‘I really miss you, I do-do-do-da-do-do-do’

After that torture subsides, I am thinking to myself Pusifer has to pull out the major stops here for me not to go all Sinead on their ass… And well, THEY DID!

The good great

A spectacle from beginning to end, they shredded time and space, pulling out the full arsenal that is their new album, Conditions of my Parole, along with several favorites off the first. The levels were great, the musicians wailing, and the harmonizing between MJK and Carina Round was fantastic. I was loving “DoZo” (complete with ninja animation), “Momma Sed”, and a great power infused version of my personal favorite off V is for Vagina, “The Undertaker”. I enjoyed them playing modified versions of a few songs, though the heavier version of “Horizons” was a bit too much. I was really hoping to hear “Oceans”, “The Weaver”, and “The Rapture” and was lucky on all accounts, reduced to tears with “Oceans”. Also, the video inter segments of Billy D and wife/cousin Hilda were hilarious (two characters dreamed up in the mind of MJK that opened the show via video, a throwback to the V is for Vagina‘s tour).

The most impressive part of the show was the way it started. MJK came out alone pulling a tractor trailer and started setting up. He spoke about sustainability and what it means (not in the bottom of your menu kind of way) for us as humans to sustain life, how we panic when we realize our own mortality, and ultimately the point of Puscifer – “that life is too short not to create something with every breath we draw“. Brilliant.

A note about the no recording/pictures/cellphone use rule: I totally agree that they are distracting to the performers and should be turned off, but after the fifth reminder or so, I felt like I was being treated as a child. Now I know this has to be done, courtesy of the one bad apple that will ruin the bunch, but it all seems to teeter a bit on the elist edge. I understand MJK is a very private person, and I can respect that, but it just gets insulting. Ask once, say it again, and then just start kicking the assholes out. If there is one thing about MJK fans, they respect him (some to the point of obsession) and I am sure we all would have obeyed. I wanted to deck the usher when she directed her ‘child voice’ my way: “You know Maynard doesn’t like cameras or cell phone use…”

And here comes the ugly.

This has nothing to do with Puscifer and little to do with the venue. The fucking noisy bitches in row D about seats 26-24 that couldn’t shut the fuck up for a full song. Sometimes a response was more than valid, but seriously, if you are going to be that obnoxious, walk your dumb ass into oncoming traffic before a show.

Overall this show was awesome and redeeming of the bad initial misgivings. A solid 8 out of 10!

Embrace the dark

It is obligatory… whenever I show someone new my website or Facebook page, their response is “your work is dark”.

What the fuck does that mean? Dark as compared to what? I wonder if Tim Burton got these responses before he was big (or still does).

I don’t really think of my work as dark, but I know that it makes some people uncomfortable. It is confrontational on purpose, and if someone thinks it is dark, chances are they see something inside themselves reflected back, possibly afraid to examine further. I have sabotaged meeting people by sending a link to my site first. I have ended conversations with my work. Once Tonka had to leave the room. Mind you, I’m not complaining, it’s a great filtering tool.

It is not art without a reaction. The answer to that timeless question, ‘is it art’?

So I have made a decision. I will embrace the darkness. And if you thought my work was ‘dark’ before…

Two is better than one?

To those who know me, this won’t be a surprise at all, but I always have a tune in my head. Seriously, I wake up singing a song. It permeates all facets of my life.

I bought an iPhone not too long ago – yeah, I officially became one of those. I actually love it – now I have two ipods. Being that my phone memory is smaller that my ipod, I elected to copy the ‘greatest hits’ if you will of my music selection to my phone. But what became of all this surprised me.

When I would turn off my iPhone after getting home or out of MUNI, the song that was playing would stick with me. Even more geek-like, if that song just ended, often I would start singing the next song (in my mind – well, okay, sometimes out loud) on the album/compilation. Now this in itself isn’t too odd, but these days I listen to my ipod at work and at the gym, and most other times (read traveling) I am plugged into the iPhone, spewing out the ‘greatest hits’ collection of my repertoire.

So this has led to having two distinct music tracks going in my head. Yes, two. And at times, I will swap between them almost seamlessly. I am unsure what this is doing to my work and painting habits, though I am sure it’s a testament to multitasking.

Tornado!

I had a bad dream a few nights ago. Yes, you can call it a nightmare.

I was in a friend of the family’s new condo, and it was here in San Francisco. The family friend was sleeping, oddly enough his wife wasn’t in the picture. My mom was also there, asleep on the couch and as soon as I can remember, I see funnel clouds descending from the sky… actually a bunch of them (there were big glass windows to see out of).

Funny that in a city known for earthquakes my mind went to tornadoes.

So the place starts rocking, no, more tilting like a spinning top ready to fall over. There was this sculpture in one of the rooms that I created (not during this dream, it was just one of my pieces) with moving parts, not unlike a pendulum. I watched it swing around to show just how far the building was moving around, particularly a top piece yellow and chartreuse, that when it was perfectly horizontal meant I was in real trouble.

I recall running into an empty room and thinking ‘this feels just like being drunk’ (the bad kind) and running back out of that room. The condo was pretty sizeable, I ran around in a panic for some time, knowing at any time the foundation would give way and I would be a mingle of cement and glass soup on the street, another casualty of mother nature.

I also recall some other rooms in the condo while running around that were closed off, and for some reason I caught the notion that this is were the friend kept his porn.

I’m pretty sure my father was some where in the mix, but that might be from the (immediately?) previous dream which he and my mother were definitely in, along with the family friend as he was showing off his new deck that converts into a spa on button press. Yes, a deck that converts into a spa… kinda like one of those hidden pool things. This wasn’t in the condo though.

Then the swaying stopped and it cleared up. Soon after the son of the family friend came walking in and I said ‘Hi! Is the wife and child here too?’ He replied yes. This other three part family came in (Mother, Father, and Son) and asked about the tornadoes. I immediately launched into my panic mood again in descriptions of the ordeal and talking about the sculpture with the top piece. I was so exasperated talking about the experience I could hardly breathe.

And that was it.

My mind has drifted to sculpture on more than one occasion with several false starts. Maybe I will try my hand at it again. I seem to have this yellow and chartreuse piece in mind…