Saturday, April 30, 2011

Paint These Weary Dreams In Oil Based Paints (Blog)

I like to consider myself a pretty creative person. Some may argue this and that's okay. But, there's always been a jealousy I've held for people who can create visual art. I myself am not one of these people.
I remember the first real exposure to visual art was when I was very young. Sure I had seen drawings and stuff like that before, but it wasn't until I was around 6 or 7 when I decided that I wanted to be able to do that stuff too. My mom had bought me this painting of a whale, (I really liked whales back then) and it mesmerized me. The way the paint rose off the canvas, the way the painter had used what looked like 1000 different shades of blue to create the perfect colored sea. Everything about it captured my attention. It was after hanging this painting that I begun my fruitless journey into the world of art.
I tried drawing, painting, sculpting, pottery and everything else in between. But nothing I did looked good. Some of it was actually pretty laughable. Art class in school became a hell for me as I struggled with my grand clay sculpture that eventually turned into an ashtray, over and over again. I began to hate the other people around me and how easy images and shapes seemed to flow from their fingertips. This is not an exaggeration, they all made stick figures better than me.
I then made the mistake of growing close with a couple of artists. I found myself in awe of the things my friends had made and once again jealous that I could not. This jealousy actually lead me to start writing. Once I finally resigned myself to a life that would never involve a gallery showing off my work, I turned to words. I wish I could say that I started writing in order to explore the intricacies of the written word, but the truth is, I was tired of watching my friends create stuff I could not.
At this point in my life I'm comfortable with my lack of artistic talent. Perhaps it's because I've grown comfortable with my writing, or maybe it's something else like maturity, but that's probably not the case. Either way I know I'll never have a museum piece and that's just fine. But dammit if I still don't feel that green mist of jealousy flicking my ear when I see a really cool painting.

Paint These Weary Dreams In Oil Based Paint

I have envied the speckled Pollack minds
and the Guayasamin hands.
I have never tasted Warhol branded soup
nor have I tanned under Van Gogh's yellow sun.

My knees refuse to touch the dirt
in front of canvas churches.

Once I tried to hold David's pose
all moring into the Kinkade twilight,
I shook and cracked
in unattractive ways.

But my ears remain attached
and I haven't succumbed to wine.

Not yet at least.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Refresh the Howling Wolves in Digital Moonlight (blog)

I did something today that I haven't done in awhile, I picked up a Rolling Stone magazine. The fact that I bought a print copy of something itself is enough to warrant a blog post but that's not what I want to talk about. Inside this issue was an article called "The Girl Who Played With Fire". The article was about a girl who has an internet persona named Kiki Kannibal. It goes into detail about her rise to internet celebritydom and the horrific backlash she received as a result. This got me thinking about cyber bullying and the internet in general.
I myself have not viewed anything that Kiki Kannibal has done, nor do I intend to. Just simply the description the article gives doesn't really invoke any interest from me. But it sounds like typical vlog type things wrapped up in a fashionable candy shell. For this, Kiki has dealt with people who send death threats, pedophiles, stalkers, animal killers, amoral internet tycoons and essentially the entire rogues gallery of less than stellar human beings. It really is a sad story that broke my heart a little bit and left me wondering why does this stuff happen on the internet so much?
Unfortunately I really don't know for certain but I'm going to attempt to come to some sort of conclusion at the end of these thoughts.
I first started using the internet at home around 1999-2000. At this time I was 12 years old. It was a strange time indeed. The internet was still fairly young, most of its users were fairly young and it was chaos. The term "The Wild West" has often been associated to the earlier days of the internet and it's a surprisingly apt term (well, assuming you're thinking of the romanticized version of the wild west). There were little to no rules. You could essentially do whatever the hell you wanted and it'd be okay. Because at that time the internet just didn't matter. It was a fun little thing but it certainly didn't bleed into the real world. This provided a playground for everyone who wanted to release their personality flaws, pent up rage and frustration that they normally could not express in normal society. I unfortunately was one of them.
I remember pretty well some of the things I said on chatrooms. Hurtful, ignorant and at times downright evil things. I even remember being proud at times of the messed up things I'd come up with. That pride has faded away into guilt and sorriness but that doesn't change the fact that I participated in cyber bullying. Now I consider myself a fairly level headed and well rounded individual. So I have to ask myself, what drove me to be so mean? Like I said previously that the internet was (and still is) a place to be anonymous and release everything you could. But that's not the whole story. There's also this human compulsion to either want to be better or more popular than everyone else or if you can't, attack the one who is better and more popular than you. Both of these motivations seem to lead to the same course of action, bullying. You either insult, threaten or straight up act in a way to establish dominance or remove dominance from someone else. That's just how it works it seems.
This in itself is horrible. It's not how civilized humans should act. But it can get worse. We've all seen the special reports about how internet celebrities eventually get stalkers finding out who they are and coming into their life away from the internet. Let me be clear, I haven't done this. But there are many who have. At some point in their daily routine they lose track of their life. They forget that they're releasing their frustrations with life online because they can't in physical society and they let it all seep out into every facet of their life.
The internet isn't the same place as it was back then. But the same sort of people that made it wild back then are still around. Except now, the internet is almost a vital part of many peoples lives, so the access these tormentors have has increased. It's just masked well behind archaic rule sheets and promises to act properly.
So I suppose that's my conclusion. This sort of torment of other people exists because people in general want to let their anger be known. They want their dominance. They want their popularity and to get it someone has to be hurt in their minds. Then some are not satisfied with the torment they deliver via screens and broadband connections they need those things in person.
Also, I want to apologize to anyone I may have hurt with my own cyber bullying, I know this apology is useless considering the people I may have hurt probably don't read my blog, but it's an attempt. Also I want to wish Kiki Kannibal good luck with her continued presence on the internet and the sincerest hopes that the torment she received stops. That goes for anyone else who has dealt with the things she has.

Refresh The Howling Wolves In Digital Moonlight

The idols, false and attractive
have risen upon numbers and statisitcs
and equally attractive layouts.
They walk brittle lines
more fragile than a nail
severed from the finger.

They count their blinks
in frames per second
and when sleep draws them in
the fleshy world
filled with the hot blooded
knocks wistfully on their bedroom window.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Because The Spinning of The Earth Demanded It (blog)

I feel like the most recent poem below needs a little forward.

Recently, the state of Wisconsin has been plunged into a long debate about education. Whether the actual practice of educating or the circumstances surrounding it. The opinions on this are varied and divisive. But I don't want to go into the politics of it all, I simply wish to give my views on what education really is.
In my mind there are two types of things a person can learn: The sort of things that you learn from instruction, and the sort of things you learn from listening. Now I know that these seem like the same thing at first but let me explain.
Things you learn from instruction are things that you watch, you try and and understand the intricacies of what's around you and then you attempt to mimic them. These sorts of things teach you how to operate in the world. Whether it be social skills or instructions on how to do your chosen job. The world needs these sorts of lessons or else it would fall apart. We need people to know how to do things and how to learn to do new things.
Things you learn from listening are a little bit harder to explain. But basically, these are the things that you learn about yourself. These are the things that show you your reasoning, your motivations, your potential, your desires and personal philosophies. These sorts of lessons teach you what your role in the world is and why. But to learn these lessons I feel that we all need to listen more. Listen to other people, listen to your own thoughts, listen to the world as a whole as it moves around us, listen to a higher power if you believe in one and listen to the examples of those who have done this before you. As soon as you start actually listening to it all you start to process it in your head. You begin to make sense of it all and piece it all together and once you start to do that your opinions of everything begin to get clearer.
Both types of things are incredibly important. The things you learn from instruction are important to the society you belong to and the things you learn by listening are important to your sense of self. So with that said, it's necessary for there to be a place where people have access to both of these things. To me this place is an obvious one, schools. I'm not saying that other places don't exist because they do, what I'm saying is that schools are places that we all have access to in this country. We're instructed by our teachers on the things we need to know to operate, and we listen to everyone around us and learn how we feel about it all. In my mind, the things we learn are necessary to live, so having a place to learn these things is equally necessary. In fact, not only do these places simply need to exist, they need to thrive. They need to be constantly evolving and becoming better as the world changes. They simply cannot fall by the wayside or be sacrificed for some other purpose that may have importance today.
Okay, so I lied a bit and did go a little into the politics, I apologize for that. But in conclusion, there are things out there that we must know to live, and there's things out there we must know to understand why we survive. We can only become necessary members of the world when we attempt to learn both, and to learn both we need places that gives us our lessons.

Because The Spinning of The Earth Demanded It

I traveled East
from where I had previously traveled West
and as I made it through the thicket,
I met a company of dancers.
They twirled like the rain falls
and their feet shuffled like the tide.
They claimed they weren't angels,
or sirens, or spirits.
They said they danced
because the spinning of the earth demanded it.

They begged me to join them,
but I said i didn't know how.
So they directed me towards their fire
and said the licks of flame held the lessons.
With the dancers' urgings
I plunged my hand deep inside
and burned like a forgotten secret.

As my clothes fell away in ashes
I tried to join the dancers.
They denied me entry
and explained that I had not burned enough.
My legs hadn't learned how to bend like a storm
and my arms were unlike the moon.

I walked away cursing the willows around me,
upset that my ancestors had not been dancers.
That's when I found a company of singers
who sang like a rising mountain
and harmonized like the prairies.
Their song told me
that my forerunners had indeed been dancers
and that I would be too,
when I discovered the meaning
of a path across the world.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Life Can Be Defined In Hops, Barley and Fermentation.

The other day a good looking woman reminded me (if you get the choice of who reminds you of things, go with the good looking woman) of a Hunter S. Thompson quote. That quote was "Good people drink good beer". I dig this, even if it's not 100 percent accurate. Some of the best people I know drink absolutely horrible beer. But that's not the direction I want to take this post. Instead of listing all the good people I know and their beer of choice, I'm going to focus more on the beer itself, and maybe a little bit of the romance surrounding it.
First things first I have to tell you all that I am indeed from Wisconsin. This will be important later on trust me. Okay now that's out of the way let me start actually speaking about something. Beer is great, it's old, it's traditional, some of it tastes good, some of it tastes great, some of it tastes horrible. The images surrounding beer though are what I find truly amazing. I remember hearing a story once that J.R.R. Tolkien decided to write The Lord Of The Rings while drinking in a pub with a few other writer friends. Whether that's true or not doesn't really matter, it's that image of creative people gathered with one another sharing ideas and bouncing new schemes and plans off each other while sharing a beer. In fact it's been reported that a good number of famous authors partook in the drinking of beer with their colleagues. Is it possible to be creative with others without beer? Sure it is, but I'd like to think that it's not quite as fun.
I can speak from experience here that it's not always easy to share one's creativity with others, sometimes you just need that social lubricant.
Don't get me wrong though, I don't think that drinking beer with intellectuals is the only time to drink beer. I enjoy sports. I'm not a fanatic like a couple of my friends are, but I do enjoy watching a baseball game, a football game, a soccer match, and from time to time a basketball game. Now I prefer to watch these live in the stadiums. To me it's the ultimate sport viewing experience. You're surrounded by people who are there for the same reason you are. You're watching the modern day gladiators put on a show for you, you're screaming and hollering and you have a beer in your hands. To me that's American. I know that that sounds ridiculous and that it's just dripping with blind patriotic goodness but I like it.
But sometimes you're not surrounded by friends, there's no game on that night and your mind is completely blank of any sort of creative idea. This does not mean that you can't enjoy a beer. In fact, one of my favorite times to drink beer is when I'm by myself, in an empty house. Some guidance counselors will try and tell you that this is a sign of alcoholism, but I disagree. Some of my most cherished moments are the moments when I can tune out from all the thoughts that plague me during the day, throw on some good music, put my feet up and sip a strong bitter beer. There's something about the rhythm of bringing the bottle, glass, can up to your lips, letting the liquid flow in and then swallowing the brew down, that seems to lull me into a strange hypnotic state.
So, what is the point of me sharing with you all those images that I think of when I think of beer? Well, the point is is that beer is one of those rare things that can be enjoyed by people from all facets of life. Whether you're a contemplative poet, a real man's man, or a quiet loner. Beer is something that seems to transcend social class, status, occupation and hobby. It's taste is something that can be appreciated by most pallets. It's the great unifier.
Now, this is where I explain how I came to appreciate beer. Like I said earlier, I'm from Wisconsin, more specifically, I was born in Milwaukee. Milwaukee and Wisconsin in general are places with a ton to offer. But let's be honest here people, beer is typically one of the first things associated with the state and the city. But this isn't a bad thing. It's a part of every Wisconsinite's history and culture. This state was born in the holes of miners, but it thrived in the concoctions of brewmasters. I've always been a fan of history, so when I look back through the pages of Wisconsin lore, I find myself smiling at the role beer has in it all. So now, when I drink a beer, I get this feeling that in a small insignificant way, I'm reaching back and connecting with all those who sat by the banks of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, The Mississippi River, The Wisconsin River, The Black River, before me. All those who traveled down National Ave. I-94 and I-90 are my friends and drinking mates for just a few moments.
So, cheers to the contemplative poet, cheers to the man's man, cheers to the quiet loner, cheers to the long dead residents of Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse, Eau Claire, Bayfield, Green Bay, and everywhere in between.