50 years ago at Altamont

I realize I didn’t grow up during the 60’s but I think it was the greatest decade for music and set the stage of rock music for the next 30 years. So when the Stone’s decided to have a free concert in California and hired the Hell’s Angels as security ( paying them in beer) and the crowd got rowdy all hell broke loose. A man rushed the stage with a gun aimed at Mick Jagger and he was stabbed by several Hell’s Angels, killing him as the Stone’s played “Under my Thumb” And as someone is obsessed with the history of this period the killing of Meredith Hunter by the Hell’s Angels was the end of the 60s music and all the peace and love that went with it. And to think it was all filmed for a documentary about the Stone’s US tour. That was 50 years ago

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beaver trilogy ( A movie review)

Sometimes I like to take a break from my usual posts and write about anything else unrelated. I have a passion for film and art and just plain weirdness. In fact when it comes to art, the weirder the better.  A few years back I downloaded this video from Youtube and it was entitled “Lost and found video night”   It is a VHS rip of compilation of various clips taken from tv and movies, a lot of cable access shows, random bollywood clips, everyday people’s home video recordings, even funny edited content like NWA playing over an episode of Fat Albert, just wild stuff.  Anyways the video featured some stuff from the actor Crispin Glover, he played George Mcfly in Back to the future.  On the video was from some random movie where Crispin Glover is dressed in drag as Olivia Newton John and singing in a cheesy talent show.  The clip was just him singing and it was grainy and was in bad quality, I had no idea what this was but it was fascinating to me. It was like a train wreck and without context, it left me wondering what the hell this was.

I did a quick online search to find the clip on Youtube and it turned out it was something called the “Beaver trilogy”   I was intrigued and needed to see it but of course, it was unavailable except in short clips.   Over the years I forgot about it, until I watched the lost and found video again with the Crispin Glover clips.  Yesterday I managed to track it down and finally watch it. it was one the most interesting pieces of film I had seen in a long time.

The Beaver trilogy starts off as a documentary short in 1979.  The director Trent Harris was working at a television studio in Utah. He was outside packing up and he sees this kid taking pictures of the news helicopter.  The kid walks up to him and introduces himself and says he is 20 years old.  The movie dubs him “Groovin Gary: although that wasn’t his real name. He looks like a typical stoner of the 70’s he has the Jeff Spicoli laugh and feathered hair and bell bottoms, he seems excited to be on tv, like it’s his big break. He comes from a small town called Beaver, Utah ( Hence the name “The Beaver Trilogy”)   He claims he’s the Rich Little ( Google it) of Beaver and proceeds to do impressions of John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone, Barry Manilow and mentions he also does an Olivia Newton John impression which he dubs “Olivia Newton Don”.  It’s obvious this guy loves being on camera and talks about the town of Beaver and shows the camera man his car which is a 1964 camaro with red upholstered seats and an 8 track tape deck with an Olivia Newton John tape stuck inside and photos of Farrah Fhacet and Olivia Newton John ingrained in the car, clearly the guy was a fan of Olivia Newton John.  Groovin Gary and Trent part ways for the moment.

In the next scene, Trent is reading a letter that Gary had sent to him explaining that he was organizing a talent show in Beaver where he would do impressions and perform as Olivia Newton John. Gary begged them to come film the show and the director seemed to take some humor in this and agreed.   They arrive at the local mortuary where apparently this is the only woman in town that agreed to do Gary’s makeup. I’m sure some of it also had to do with fear on Gary’s part.  So it’s a scene of her applying make up on Gary while he explains  he’s not a “Girl”.  He’s just a guy who dresses up like Olivia for kicks, to make people laugh. he doesn’t want to people to think he’s gone “totally nuts”  He eventually puts his wig on leather boots and he is dressed as Olivia.

The last scene is the talent itself.  It looks like it was Gary”s old high school auditorium. The directed managed to film some of the preceding acts which gives a clue of how conservative and boring this town is. There is a number where two sisters are singing some old song from the 50’s, another number where it some kind of choreographed dance routine  with cheerleaders twirling batons. Just really awful, even by talent show standards. It’s hard to be believe this was a documentary and not scripted.  So after that Olivia Newton Don ( Groovin Gary) enters the stage and it just gets really uncomfortable.   People were expecting Gary to do a Barry Manilow impression or something and instead he comes out in drag. You have to realize this is a small conservative town in 70’s, I don’t think anyone was prepared for his. He sings the song “Please don’t keep me waiting” by Olivia Newton John, in a terrible singing voice but he seems so emotional, really owning the song, to the point where he’s almost in tears, maybe from feeling humiliated.  After the song, he is carried off of stage by a masked man ( a skit) and that was the end of the talent show.

The documentary ends with Gary summing ti up as really going well.  He says people enjoyed  it and got a laugh but it’s unconvincing. He looks defeated, it was probably one of the most humiliating moments in his life and I am sure the whole town judged him.  A strong part of me thinks that he was struggling with homosexuality in a small judgemental town in the late 70’s and how alone he felt. And this talent show was him coming out, although he didn’t plan it that way. I think he was passionate about singing and having fun and thought others would enjoy it too.  He thought this would be his big break to be on television and I think he may have felt like a fool and that everyone was going to see it. It was just a look of regret.   The very last footage we have of Gary is him standing by his car as the director is in his car, driving in the distance. And it I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to that guy. How did the town react? It just left so many questions.

Now if it had just been the short documentary, it would have been interesting enough but the director decided to make 2 more short fictionalized dramatizations about the story of Groovin Gary, one short played by Sean Penn in 1981, right after filming “Fast times at Ridgemont High”  the other short starred Crispin Glover in 1985, around the filming of Back to the future.    The Sean Penn short was in black and white and he sounded just like Jeff Spicoli, with his stoner laugh. Trent Harris hires an actor to play himself. In both dramatized shorts, the tape in the camera breaks and Gary’s segment is never recorded.   Sean Penn pretty much acts most of the dialogue from the documentary including the scene at the mortuary and the talent show. Trent Harris portrays himself as a smug jerk who exploits Gary for laughs and uses it to propel his television career. When Trent and his friend are driving to Beaver, Utah. They are smoking a joint and laughing at the prospect of this kid singing in drag.

The talent show is pretty much the same as in the documentary although it pans to the audience to see their shocked reactions and gasps as Gary walks out as Olivia Newton John.  After the number Gary is confronted by the Emcee who tells him he is a disgrace and humiliated himself and the whole town on television. He calls him a “Fruit” and tells him to wash his face, as if he is his father.  Gary is clearly humiliated because he thought everyone would laugh with him and not at him. He didn’t create this talent show to make a spectacle of himself. In fact, he is the one that organized all so it so he could show off his Olivia Newton Don persona, he really thought people would enjoy it.

The rest of the movie is drama.  Gary is in his room with a large picture of Olivia Newton John behind him.  He makes a phone a call to Trent and begs him not to put the talent show on television. Trent says that it was great and he has a deadline, he worked really hard to film it and he wasn’t going to remove it.  Gary hangs up the phone while Trent is talking. He goes to the closet and pulls out a shotgun.  He places the gun his mouth and tries to pull the trigger but is interrupted by a phone call.  It’s one of his female friends who says that she loved the show and could he do his Olivia impression at party of hers.   He says nothing and the movies ends with just the image of the post of Olivia Newton John.

The third and final short with is with Crispin Glover, the short creates more of a cohesive backstory. This time everything takes place in Idaho and his name has been changed to “Larry”  It is also filmed in color and is of better quality.  Larry is an outcast in this small town is bullied and mocked by some of the townspeople. He is in his room, wearing a blonde wig and his mother wants to know whats bothering him, he tells her some story and she goes back downstairs. He goes to a local dinner and when he asks for coffee, the waitress just ignores him. He meets an older man and he offers Larry a job the next week.  These guys bully him and put a tack on his chair and everyone laughs except for the old man who kicks them out. Apparently this old guy is fond of Larry and protects him.  There is also another scene in the diner where Larry is meeting his friend and he is getting hassled again by the same guys. It sort of reminds me of the scene in the diner in “Back to the future” where George Mcfly is getting bullied, maybe that’s where they got it from.

There is way more drama in the last short.  They show Larry getting ready before the talent in the boys room at the old high school. While he’s changing, two guys walk into the bathroom and Larry walks out. They have a look of disbelief and laugh at him, Gary looks humiliated, he is already regretting this.  He goes backstage and his friend ( the one in the diner) who was supposed to help him with the music, sees Larry in drag and asks him what the hell he’s doing. He refuses to take part in it and calls him sick and you could tell Larry is really hurt by this, mostly likely because this may have been his only friend and he was abandoning him when he thought that he’d be there to help. Just like the other short, it painful to watch.

When Larry finally walks on the stage as Olivia Newton Don, the crowd gasps in horror. And his mother who is in the audience has a shocked look on her face and walks out the auditorium.  He play the number as the audience sniggers but he continues until the end.   He excitedly runs backstage to see the old man from the diner.  The man calls him a “fuckin disgrace” and that he humiliated himself and the whole town. He alludes to Larry being gay and regrets that his daughters took part in the talent show. Larry is left looking defeated and humiliated, He truly thought that everyone would enjoy the show and clearly it became a spectacle, one he didn’t plan.

The last scene, Larry drives up to the diner. And sees everyone inside.  He puts on his blonde wig, walks in, orders a coffee to go and promptly leaves town, smiling and laughing. All while Olvia Newton John;s song “Please don’t keep me waiting” plays in the background.  He could finally leave this judgemental town and be himself, he was free. And the film ends there.

I don’t why know this affected me because it left an impact on me. I’m not gay nor I want to dress in drag but this was heartbreaking in many ways. It was heartbreaking that Gary wanted to be accepted so bad by others and all they did was hate him, because he was different, I could relate in a sense; being passionate about something ( especially writing) and feeling like you can’t share with others in real life because you fear you’ll be judged.  It was sad that Gary was exploited by this director and how the media ( and it’s viewer) are entertained by laughing at the expense of others.  Gary wasn’t an actor, he was a real person and his goal wasn’t to be laughed at but he was and I am sure it destroyed him as well as unintentionally outed him in a most likely homophobic town.  I wonder if some of those fictionalized scenes were based on truth.  Did Gary really ask for Trent to not air his talent show on television? Did Gary really try to kill himself?  I couldn’t find much information. I do know that Gary died about 10 years ago from a heart attack and he was married to a woman without kids.  He even reunited with Trent Harris at the Sundance film festival where they showed the Beaver trilogy in it’s entirety.   It just an interesting piece of 80’s underground cult cinema that I wanted to share with you. Now go out there and find it because it really is an interesting film especially if you are fans of Sean Penn or Crispin Glover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank Zappa

As long as I can remember I have always had an obsession with listening to music; particularly certain artists like the Beatles and the Beach Boys; always older music.  I knew about a lot of the mainstream bands; the ones I heard on the radio and the ones my parents liked.  I didn’t have a lot of access to obscure music and you have to understand this was before the days of YouTube and even downloading MP3s. So, I had to listen to whatever music was around and I liked it.   I never knew much about Frank Zappa; well, maybe I did; I heard he was a weirdo and his music was strange; so, I didn’t pay attention; as far as I knew he was a novelty act that sang silly songs that no one cared about. I had no idea whether he was alive or dead.  And then one day I was about 20 and I was in someone’s house and I was sitting in a chair and saw this cd laying next to a discman and it was Frank Zappa’s Apostrophe album.  He was on the cover and he looked weird; like some kind of typical hippy druggy of the late 60’s/early 70’s.  I decided to listen to this strange music and boy was it strange. The first song was about an eskimo boy  that lives in the tundra and his mother warns him not to drink the “Yellow snow” and not go where the huskies wee-wee; kind of crude so I turned it off and decided that this wasn’t my kind of music; I just didn’t get it at the time.  It was like a bad comedy record from the 70’s that sounded dated to me and far from anything I had heard before. It had all these instruments that I had never heard and chord structures that were way to complicated for me to understand.

 

A few years later; I was working at Blockbuster and I spotted this documentary (I loved documentaries) called “Rock school: (the movie school of rock was based on it) It was about a school in Philadelphia where this teacher was conducting classes on teaching kids how to play various instruments; particularly those used in rock music. They played Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Beatles and a lot of other classic rock bands; I was really impressed; especially since I wish I could play an instrument; and those kids were really good. In the documentary; the teacher was pushing the kids to learn Frank Zappa songs; it was extremely difficult since his songs varied from rock to doo-wop to R/B to jazz, to classical; he was less of a rock star and more of a composer.  While watching it I had no clue how interesting Frank Zappa’s music was. Anyways the kids ended up playing some sort of Zappa festival and it was incredible; the passion of their playing; the instrumentation, how these young kids were playing such complicated music; it was truly impressive.

 

After watching the movie; I decided to research who this Zappa was and why his music was so important. I found out he had died in 1993 from Prostate cancer and during his lifetime he had made 62 albums from a span of about 1966 to 1993; that is amazing output. I mean, tell me how many other rock artists released that much music? And if you count all of the records released posthumously; it’s over hundred and if you count all of the live recordings; I am sure they are more albums that are going to be released 25 years after Zappa’s death.  Frank Zappa constantly toured even if he wasn’t a mainstream musician (he was vastly underrated).  I also found out Frank Zappa wasn’t a druggy hippy (although he looked like one); he was actually very intelligent and was anti-drug; in fact, he hated hippies. He openly was against drug use and the counterculture; most of his music parodied the rock culture of the 60’s and 70’s.  He was one of the few rock artists that owned the rights to his own songs; he had his own record label and recording studio.  Zappa was never played on the radio and was too complicated for radio airplay but he did have a strong following for those who were looking for more interesting music than the Beatles or the Stones.   So, I tried to find his music; YouTube had no Zappa so I had to listen to samples from other sites.  The first album I heard was called Joe’s Garage; made in 1979.  It was a parody rock opera about a young man who used to be involved in church activities until he discovered music; created his own rock band and was corrupted; meeting a loose girl who gave him an unpronounced disease; making it hurt when he peed.  He saw a wet t shirt contest with a creepy DJ exploiting a young innocent girl who just wanted to go home on the bus.  He then gets involved with a cult and has a one-night stand with a male robot. According to the liner notes; it’s like a cautionary bad school play.  At the very end he ends up in prison for playing imaginary guitar notes.  It is way too far out to be believed but it is an incredible musical journey with a lot of crude humor thrown in but it’s good nonetheless. I was amazed that this record was made in the late 70’s; it was pretty risqué. But I soon discovered that Zappa had a crude sense of humor and loved to challenge his listeners and was avidly against censorship; particularly in music.  Once I heard this record; I was hooked.  I got his own whole discography including an album by Wild Man Fischer (but that’s for another blog) It was almost 80 or so albums and I listened to all of them. I wasn’t sure where to start but I realized that I finally understood Zappa’s music; I was more about open about discovering music as I got older. Like I said earlier the music ranged with many styles; some would be little classical snippets mixed with jazz and the next song maybe be a doo wop tune and the next would be just a rock song; all of it amazing.  There’s even an album called “Lumpy Gravy” and it starts out with some great instrumental tracks and then all of a sudden; it screeches and you are taken inside a drum where some people are trapped; having various discussions for the rest of the record (which music playing added as a soundtrack to their musings). And this album was made in 1968; it so weird and experimental and you have to have an open mind to appreciate it; I love it. But I understand why someone wouldn’t get it; it’s an acquired taste and it’s grown on me.  I think as a music listener you have to have an open mind; if you don’t; you end listening to same old bland music and that’s just boring to me.

I went through a period where all I listened to was Frank Zappa; it sort of opened my mind to different kinds of music like jazz fusion and progressive rock.  I tried to tell people about this music I discovered by no one understood; they acted like I did when I first heard it; totally dismissive.  I am not sure why I changed my mind about his music but I’m glad I did.  The other thing I forget to mentioned is Zappa was one of the most innovative guitar players ever and is vastly underrated when compared to other greats like Hendrix and Clapton. I think people think he just made silly songs with gross out humor and figure he isn’t worth mentioning but he was more than that; he was a composer.  He challenged his listeners; he made music with odd time signatures; he wasn’t afraid to turn his listeners off with classical or jazz; and I feel he didn’t care about being a famous musician; he just made music that his fans would like and made music mostly for himself; he didn’t care about the critics and I respect him for that.

 

Frank Zappa was just interesting as a musician but as a person as well.  Unlike a lot of rock musicians he had a disdain for drugs and actually considered himself a conservative ( although maybe not in the sense we think of);  Socially he seemed pretty liberal; he was against drugs but felt the government shouldn’t make them illegal; people should be free to do what they wanted in the privacy of their homes ( which I agree)  He was conservative is the sense that he believed in being entrepreneur ( hence why he had financial control of his music)Which is interesting since he hated Reagan during the 80’s; a lot of his songs were extremely critical of Reagan policies. I guess he hated Reagan’s social policies; like building up the military and cutting programs towards the poor.

Zappa was an avid critic of censorship. In the mid 80’s Tipper Gore and the PMRC (Parent’s music resource center) went to the senate to demand that albums that were deemed “dirty” were to have warning labels.  Zappa felt that this would hurt musician’s album sales and this was a form of censorship.  He went on various talk shows and debated the issue. I think they were expecting an ignorant uninformed rock star and was met by a very well versed; intelligent musician who could hold his own. He eventually testified in front of the senate; brilliantly explaining why warning labels were censorship and that just because someone finds music objectionable doesn’t mean it should be banned or put in a brown sleeve. 30 years later; we are still dealing with the same issues. I admire the man for standing up for his convictions; sadly, the PMRC had their way and won in the end. But I also don’t like censorship; I don’t believe it has a place in a free society. So, Zappa quite an extraordinary man to say the least.  Sometime in the late 80’s (according to interviews) Zappa was having issues with his prostate.  It was determined that he was suffering from prostate cancer and that it was terminal.  Zappa’s last work was a classic music album that was performed live called the “yellow shark” and was released in 1993; shortly before he died; he was very sick at this point.  I think music lost an interesting figure when Zappa died; he added a lot of humor and intelligence to the mix and there was no one making music like he was. Certainly no one who was making as many records or touring as much as he was; he was non-stop.   I think since his death his music has become more appreciated and understood.

 

I am not sure why I am attracted to Zappa’s music; maybe because it’s different; I’m a strange dude and am turned on by odd music and a crude sense of humor, I guess.  I wish I could share his music with other people but I have yet to meet someone open minded enough to take the time to listen; to me they are missing out.  But the same thing can be said for film as well; I like older foreign films that often are often experimental in person; the majority of people would never take the time to watch some of these films; and I realize taste is subjective but I can’t help but be frustrated with people being so closed minded about art and films.  Anyways I have really been really into Zappa’s music for a long time and thought I’d make a post on it. I hope some of you take the time to discover his music and keep an open mind; you might be surprised and actually like his music.

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Who is Harry Nilsson?

I am pretty certain that very few of my blog followers have heard of the singer Harry Nilsson. I don’t blame you for not knowing; he was never a superstar, he never played packed concert halls; in fact due to his stage fright he never played live; he only gave a few interviews.  He is best known for his only hit single “Everybody’s talking” which was on the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack; everyone knows the song but they can’t tell you who the artist was.   Harry Nilsson was an incredible songwriter who wrote hits for bands like Three Dog Night ( One) and Badfinger ( Without You) and when I listen to the covers; it’s clear me the originals were better; more soul. He was also known as John Lennon’s drunken buddy during Lennon’s lost weekend

Harry Nilsson was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1941; his father left the family at an early age ( Much like John Lennon) and it has an effect on Nilsson prompting  him to write one my favorite songs by Nilsson amply titled  “1941” In another song he called “Good old desk” which was acronym for God; I thought that said so much about his feelings about religion.  Harry Nilsson’s music is hard to describe except he was a singer-songwriter who explored different genres. What makes him so interesting is the vocals; his songs are full of soaring vocals; sometimes 4 or 5 different harmonies on 1 track; you’d think he had a whole band of backup singers;  yet he did all of the vocals and if I’m not mistaken the instrumentation as well.  During a press conference the Beatles were asked who their favorite American group was and they replied “Nilsson”.   They had no idea Harry Nilsson was just one man and not a musical group; and I think this must have the biggest compliment to Nilsson who was now known to the world; thanks to the fab four. And Nilsson repayed the compliment by beautifully covering many Beatles songs including an incredible cover of “You can do that” where he actually song 5 or 6 Beatles all at once; words can’t describe the song and how talented Nilsson was.

Nilsson should have been a superstar but due to his shyness; he didn’t tour or do much promotion of his music and I think because some of his music was old fashioned; it may have been overlooked; which is sad to me.  I think he was  much more appreciated by fellow musicians as opposed to the general public.  I want to stop and admit that I haven’t heard every Nilsson album but I have heard his first 4 or 5 albums and they are simply brilliant from start to finish.   Nilsson released an album in 1971 that was based on story about a boy that a pointed head and he was teased for being different; it was adapted into a movie voiced by former Beatle Ringo Starr and little boy was voiced by Mike Lookinland ( Bobby from the Brady Bunch) I didn’t realize it until I saw it that I had seen it as a child; I must have gotten a vhs copy from the library in the 80s; it brought back some great childhood memories. But the thing about Nilsson is that he was his own worst enemy.   Nilsson would release an album full of Randy Newman covers; not exactly the hippest music for the early 70s. Nilsson peaked with his album “Nilsson Smillson” which contained the hits “Without you”  ‘Jump into the fire” and “Coconut”. I have the album and I love it; certainly his most accessible album. After that successful record; he could have continued making similar music and attracting new fans but instead he made obscure albums that were ignored. He made an album of songs from the great American music sound book ( music from the 20’s to the 50’s) which of course couldn’t possibly appeal to the younger generation.   Nilsson was asked to make a single for his new album in 1972 which was called “You’re breakin my heart”  The lyrics contained the chorus         ” You’re breakin my heart; you’re tearin it apart so fuck you” Obviously risque for 1972     ( even now) and couldn’t possibly get radio airplay. It was if Nilsson was tired of the music industry; sticking out his middle finger and literally saying fuck you in a way of sabatoging his own career; it’s pretty sad. This was the downfall of Nilsson.

Nilsson never reached the success of his early records from the late 60’s and early 70’s; he continued to record albums throughout the 70s that were either weren’t selling well or were shelved by the record company completely. Everything changed for him on December 8th, 1980.   Nilsson was devastated to hear about the news that his dear friend John Lennon had been murdered in New York; the city he had grown up in.   After this Nilsson gave up making music for the rest of his life; with the exception of contributing to the movie soundtrack “Popeye” in 1980; the same year Lennon was shot.  By the 1990’s Nilsson has gain considerable weight and was struggling with issues of alcoholism; I also assume he was struggling financially as well. In 1994 Harry Nilsson suffered a second heart attack in 2 years and did not survive; his death went largely unnoticed since Nilsson was relatively unknown outside of music circles.  And what I find interesting that after Lennon’s died; Nilsson was so hurt that he refused to comment on Lennon’s death. Ringo Starr who was also good friends with Nilsson; refuses to this day to talk about the death of his friend Nilsson. There was a documentary made on his life a few years and Ringo refused to be a part of that.  It shows the great respect that the Beatles had for the unknown Nilsson.

So if you’ve managed to take the time to read a long article about a musician you’ve never heard of. You might be asking yourself; how did I discover Nilsson.  I’m 36 and I did not grow up in the era where his music wouldn’t been known.  It all started when I was looking for Beatles covers; remember that dark period where Youtube removed all the Beatles music?  I found some nice covers from Elliot Smith ( another underrated musician) and then I saw the “You can’t do that” cover by Nilsson and I was instantly smitten; I had to know more about this guy. I find a website totally dedicated to him and had most of his music for download.  And they also had a video of Nilsson’s only “live” performance.  It was a BBC special in 1971 that featured Nilsson’s music. Again due to his stage fright; the audience wasn’t live; they were filmed later.  It’s an incredible performance with a medley of 3 different Nilsson’s singing together at the same time; it has some animated videos and a lot of humor.  There is a part where Nilsson finishes a song; only to get silence; bows his head to the ground and the camera pans to the audience and everyone is asleep except for Nilsson who is also in the audience; where he gives a slow clap and immediately joins everyone else and falls asleep; just brilliant.  I think he brought a lot of sadness to his music but also humor as well and I appreciate that.  I have never found another person who appreciates Nilsson and I’m pretty sure this blog won’t make a difference but maybe someone can fall in love with Nillson’s music; just like I did. Music is everything

Thanks for listening,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

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Credit Google images

A new chapter

A new chapter; a fresh start; taking a slow step forward into the unknown; not knowing what lays ahead but willing to leave the past behind and focus on the future; one that seems bright and full of possibilities; hoping this could be an era of unearthing great creativity through all artistic endeavors; I approach it with honesty and compassion; and love in my heart for all; practicing patience with myself and others; slowing down to enjoy life; taking a moment to breathe; and never forgetting that every day I wake up is a new chapter; a fresh start; to do something different; reinvent myself for the better; knowing change is inevitable and I must roll with the current or drown in past mistakes. Here’s to a new year.

 

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How do I reach out to them?

I went a Christmas party last night with the disabled ministry and it was so wonderful; I talked with many of the young adults and the volunteers and it was just a great time; it’s a really loving community and everyone I talked to agreed with me. At the same time social events make me extremely nervous; it was crowded and noisy and there was so many conversations going on at once; I just felt anxious at times.  So  if someone was trying to talk to me; I had to try to focus my attention on them and not on the activity of my surroundings; which is a very difficult task.  But overall I felt like I did a very good job at working on my social anxiety and putting myself out there and getting to know the people in this ministry more.

The young adults  I help out are developmentally disabled; some have autism or down syndrome; it ranges but a lot of them are very social; very extroverted; they love to talk and be around people and they are a lot of fun; they just enjoy themselves so much and are so loved by this ministry.  I am really happy to see how well they are doing in that respect. At the same time there are some young adults that are more withdrawn and less social; some barely talk and it’s hard to have a conversation with them; they are very quiet and shy; especially those with Autism.  And I can relate to that shyness since I am on the spectrum and I couldn’t help but wonder if they were uncomfortable in this setting; if they were feeling the same kind of anxiety I was feeling; getting lost in the conversation; feeling tired by all the noise; feeling left out and wishing they could be as social as some of the other young adults.

And my question to myself is how do I and we as anyone who works with the developmentally disabled; reach out to them.  A few months ago; we went on a mountain retreat and there was a young adult and she was quiet and I tried to engage her in conversation but her responses were short and abrupt but I still liked talking to her.  I noticed that she was an excellent artist; she could really draw and I was impressed. I thought she must have all these thoughts and feelings inside of her that she can’t express verbally but it comes out in art.   Another young adult is a little more social told me that she wrote and my ears perked up; I was excited about that. I told her I wrote as well and encouraged her strongly to keep writing and every time I see her; I ask her if she’s still writing and she cares around a little mini journal; I’m so proud of her.  So maybe that’s how I can personally can reach out to them.   Maybe I can bring out that creative side in those that are a little more withdrawn; it may be their only way of expressing themselves fully.   I hope someday to be able to work with these kinds of young adults full time because it is really rewarding. I told someone’s dad at the party that they help me more than I help them and he couldn’t agree more.  It’s a never ending journey but I will continue to find ways of reaching out to each young adult that I meet.  I am just so blessed beyond belief and being a part of this ministry; which is like an extended family; this has been the best Christmas gift I could have asked for.

Thanks for listening,

Dave

The language of Art

Anyone who reads my blogs or has met me in person knows that I love music; it is my refuge; my escape from a chaotic world.  Ever since I was a little boy; I loved to sit alone in my room and listen to music after a tiring day; it calms me down and as an adult; it inspires me to write.  I love to escape into art; whether it be through music, film or writing; I immerse myself in it.  I have also had an eclectic taste in film and music; I like things that are unique or different; often films or songs that are much older than I am; art that makes you think and look at the world in a different way; I don’t like what everyone else is listening to or watching.   I started exploring film a few years back and realized I loved foreign films; I love hearing a new language and learning about different cultures; I appreciated other countries take on film making and how it made me see film from another perspective. I learned to enjoy reading subtitles; instead of seeing it as a chore of having to read the movie ( like many see it as).   And here was the thing what made the film beautiful was the fact that it wasn’t in English; it was the way they expressed themselves and the words seemed to flow and an almost jealously on my part that I couldn’t speak that language; English to me just sounds so boring to me ( maybe it’s because it is all I hear)  You may not know this but my father and his family are from Cuba, I remember sitting with them at lunch and hearing my father converse with my grandparents; I had no idea what they were saying but it sounded beautiful to me. In fact I felt my father had two personalities; who he was in everyday life; speaking English and this other person when speaking Spanish; it amazed to me for some reason. And maybe that where my love of foreign languages began why I seek it out in art.

A long time ago I decided  to teach myself Spanish; lamenting to myself that I never got the chance to have a conversation with my grandmother; I knew she loved me but communication was impossible with such a language barrier ( she spoke no English).   I figured that besides looking at my dad’s old books in Spanish and using a Spanish/English dictionary; I would watch the Spanish channel and listen Spanish language radio to lose myself in the language until I could learn it.   It helped that all the women on the Spanish channel were beautiful even if I had no idea what they were saying.   So I ended up teaching myself a lot of Spanish by watching and listening to Spanish language media.   I then start exploring music in different languages; a lot of it were used in some of the foreign films I watched and I realized how that the language wasn’t important; it was the music itself. In fact the inability to understand the language added mystery and intrigue and made me like it even more.   I ended up buying some bossa nova records  (  I love Portuguese sounds like a mix of Spanish and french; a really sexy language) and finding a lot of old foreign music on Youtube ( thank god for the internet)  It’s not the type of music you can play at full blast in your car with others and do car karaoke but it’s the kind music that you’d listen to after a long day to relax and unwind and escape to anywhere you want; Italy, German, France, Japan, Cuba; anywhere).  Watching foreign films and listening to world music allows me to go places that I’d never be able to go to otherwise and that is the reason why I go to it.  So I encourage anyone to go exploring and you might find English media to be a little bland and boring after discovering what the world has to offer.

Dave

 

One of the first foreign films I fell in love with “L Eclisse”.  Bellisimo

 

 

Do you have 15 1/2 hours to spare for this German masterpiece?

When art goes unappreciated

I would like to touch a little more on my Connie Converse post.  I’ve always considered myself to be someone who appreciate the arts; whether it be music, film, writing, and drawing.   Even though for a long time I didn’t consider myself an artist; I consumed art; I lived it; I immersed myself in movies; I got lost in the music I was listening to. But I always find myself gravitating towards art that was a little left of the dial; art that’s subversive, art that breaks norms; in other words if it was strange and weird; then I liked it. I clearly remember as a kid going to the library ( this was a few years before Blockbuster) and getting those big clam-shell VHS tapes; I always headed for the special interest section with documentaries about art or films like the magical mystery tour by the Beatles; I was less interested in the music ( although they were and are my favorite band) and more interested in how strange the film was; there was no cohesion; it was just random scenes sliced together and none of it made any sense; it had a dream like quality and I loved it. I especially like the scene where there is a  woman at a restaurant and John Lennon is a waiter and he keeps putting all of this spaghetti on her plate; and she gets more and more distressed as he smiles evilly with this ominous music playing in the background; it was genius and as I kid I totally got it because it was unique.  Now, I don’t remember this but my mom told me that one I brought home an Opera tape; or could have been Peter the Wolf; I have no idea why I watched this but apparently I was fascinated by it; this is not normal for a 6 or 7 year old. I also liked films that made you think in a different way; films that brought up social issues with non linear plotlines and actors you’ve never heard of; the lower the budget the better  I was also fortunate enough to live in a city with some of the best museums in the world             ( which are free by the way) and I got to experience seeing art first hand; and I was always drawn ( pun intended) to more modern art with distorted faces; twisting sculptures that most people walked by in confusion; I was amazed by. I would have much preferred to be at an art museum than at a football game.   And music; I liked oldies a lot as a kid but as I grew older; I find myself searching for artists that were were “different”; that had a unique sound and was far from commercial; it wasn’t done intentionally or to be cool ( trust me no one was impressed by my music tastes) it just what i happened to like.  I love finding obscure artists; that were relatively unknown; they struggled to find an audience but have managed to find a dedicated fan base years later. I feel like I’m part of a exclusive club that knows about these bands.  For the longest time I didn’t even realize that there was a demand for music like this.  With the advent of social media and online publications; there seems to be a growing interest in outsider music ( music that doesn’t appeal to the mainstream; oftentimes with a low fidelity sound and not on major labels)  Music is so important to me; it is my refuge and since I feel misunderstood i look for music that resonates with me; music that seems deal with issues of alienation and frustration; music with odd time signatures and sometimes upsetting lyrics; because not all of us are happy and can relate to the cheery music I hear blaring everywhere I go.  As long as art is strange and odd than I will be there.

But what frustrates me about having these strange tastes in art is the fact that I have no one to share it with; no one understands and it goes totally unappreciated; much like the artists themselves.  I have many times told people about films or music that I am interested in and I can tell they don’t get it; they need simple art that they can understand and relate to. They seem to be unwilling or unable to explore and appreciate something that might be a little different; if you ask me; those are some pretty boring people. And that’s the problem art goes unappreciated all the time; there are thousands of great filmmakers, musicians, painters, writers whose works get ignored by a world that refuses to understand them. Art at this point is a commodity. And I was thinking about artists who never got the recognition they deserve and it’s simply based on the fact that they were born in the wrong time or place. I was watching a documentary about artistic cities in the 1920s and Paris was one of them. Paris was a wild city in the 1920’s; it attracted artists of all sorts and included a lot of venues that broke the norms; with topless dancing every night; loud jazz; drinking; drugs; everything that was taboo at the time. And I just imagined someone coming from small town America; where their art was dismissed by an ignorant population; finally able to share their art and have it appreciated by an open audience; willing to understand good art; how incredible that must have felt.

I by no means consider my writing to be great art but I do consider it be art nonetheless; so may times I feel my art is unappreciated; especially when I share it outside of my blog.  I just feel like people don’t fully understand where I’m coming from; they may be disturbed by some of the topics i choose to discuss; they may find it depressing but it’s my art and my feelings. And like any artist it hurts when it feels like it’s unappreciated and misunderstood; it take it very personally. So I relate to the forgotten artist who isn’t looking for worldwide fame but just a little recognition.   Art is very personal to artist; it’s everything and we take it to heart when we don’t get the appreciation we’d like. I know it sounds very egoistical and it is but what can i say? It’s lonely; being into the arts. I wish I could live in a city like Paris and maybe I could flourish as a writer; meet others just like me and be inspired by others; Paris seems to be a very inspiring city. I hope someday I can find my place in the world as an artist and I no longer feel alone. Until then I will keep writing and reaching out to those who might just understand and appreciate the art I am trying to create.

Thanks for listening,

Dave

 

Image result for john lennon waiter

A conversation with a stranger

I met her at the end of the bar. First we started talking about writing; she was an English major. Then we started talking about music; she was a big Bob Dylan fan. Made sense for an English major to listen to Dylan. I of course was a Beatles fan so I understood the passion of having a favorite band. We talked about music and writing for 3 hours in that bar, I got her number; called her but nothing never ever came of it. Oh well I enjoyed the conversation; it’s a rarity to able to have an intelligent conversation ( especially music) with anyone these days. I was just happy to have to have someone listen even it if was for a short while.

 

A walk in the city

The sound of the metro bell; the train grinds to a halt and the doors open; my stop. In the underground terminal; watching the people step off the metro car and the train the whizzing past me; out of sight. The big escalator to the city above, the light of day blinds me as I make my way to the top.  I place my feet on the pavement and I’m ready to walk to my destination; just a block or so.  I have a meeting but I’m here early so I walk around the surrounding area; I walk down a busy street; filled with memories; I’ve been here before but this time I’m alone and I can’t help but feel lonely. It’s dusk; right before dark and for some reason, this is my favorite time of day; it feels peaceful and I also feel more like myself when I’m walking down city streets especially at night. I love how you can walk to everything here. There is a mall down not far so I walk the 5 or 6 blocks just to kill the time. Its summer time and I walk by restaurants with outdoor patios and lively patrons; sipping drinks and laughing loudly; there is life here.  I reach the mall and realize I hadn’t been here since I was a kid but since I’m alone it doesn’t feel the same. I see someone I used to know and I’m reminded of the time he drove me home and noted that where I lived was the sticks compared to this area and I knew he was right but I couldn’t choose where I lived it and besides it was too expensive here anyways.  For some reason that comment stuck with me when I was walking around as the light faded into the darkness of night.  I walked back to the church and realizing I was tired and feeling sick, I skipped the meeting and went back down the escalator and took the metro back home.  It seemed like a pretty insignificant event at the time but it just happened to cross my mind because I was homesick and hadn’t been back home in so long.   Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.  Here’s to homesickness.

Thanks for listening,

Dave