Music and Art Monday, Jan 21,2019: El Clásico

Putting a giant rooster head on your album cover? I’m sold!

“El Clásico” is the only album by the St. Augustine band The Young Steps.

Even though it’s two years old, it’s new to me in my browse through local music. I must say, it’s a trip!

The album starts out strong with Baby You Know, a raucous and repetitive tune perfect for blazing down the interstate. Gonna add that one to my driving music list.

Nature Man will have you dancing in the kitchen, and that little whistle will be stuck in your head for days.

Dire Straits is channeled in The Weather, another back beat driven song for the road. It’s subtle, but when you listen you’ll know what I mean.

After this is where the album starts to slip. The songs aren’t bad, but you begin to realize the repetitive nature of the lyrics. I needed a bit of a palette cleanse at this point. Might I suggest the “This is Christina Perri” playlist?

Ahhhhhh, refreshing!

Now that you have stepped away and been refreshed, “El Clásico” comes roaring back to life with Yoga, When I Was Young, Will-O’-The-Wisp, Of Your Love, and the exceptionally fun Dark Side of Town.

It’s a short album, and great for when you need something musically interesting, but I can’t listen to it over and over again. To me it required a break, even in the middle, to quiet my highly alerted neurons.

Perhaps it’s a little too exciting?

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Toxic Stupidity

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I was going to write about the Gillette commercial. I was going to write about what a real man is and what good people are. But you know what? There is enough of that out there.

There are enough voices shouting at us, telling us what we should be, how we should act, and even what we should look like. The world shoulds all over us every minute of every day giving us impossible standards to live up to. Even if they aren’t impossible to attain, it gets old to be reminded day in and day out how horrible we are.

“Suck it up, buttercup” is a phrase frequently intended to toughen up the weak. But the concept that the world is rough and the best way to survive is to develop an equally tough skin is lacking. Numbing yourself to the world’s awful is not a way to make the world better.

We don’t make the world a better place with “righteous aggression” either. Carrying signs, shouting slogans, yelling at people online, and living our life in outrage at the crap does not make the crap better. Attacks merely result in equal and opposite attacks, and the peacemakers are caught in the middle eating all of it.

I might still write about the Gillette ad next week. Because the discussion is a needed one. But for now I just need to go cool off and let go of my righteous aggression.

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Music and Art Monday, Jan 14, 2019: Loretto

After last week’s post, I decided it might be fun to run down the Spotify rabbit trail of local Jacksonville bands and review one each week. Lest you think I’m going to start pining over local bands, here’s a review that’s not so positive. Loretto is a self described “rock n’ roll band”, as such I expected some more classic type rock. What I got on their only album so far, Sleeping In The Pines, was a mixed bag of experimentation and indie noise with a few gems hidden here and there.

Honestly I didn’t like it at all at first. But when I turned it on at 5 am this morning I realized that it’s “mood music” meaning you have to be in the mood. This album is perfect for my 5 am mood. It is messy and disheveled, slightly grumpy, but optimistic about the future.

Ordinarily rejecting commercial appeal results in complete garbage, garbage that hipsters will lap up and pretend to like, because “they are not part of the system!”. Kinda like IPA’s. But this album is more a sour than an IPA.

Once you have more than one you begin to like it. Once you listen to this album a few times the intricacies begin to come out, and your palette is pleased to find a bit of depth, not just bitter hoppy nonsense. Wait. This is an album review, not a critique of beer flavors. Best tracks?

“Alaska” is by far the best song on this album. If you download one song on Spotify it should be this one.

“Things We Said Today” and “Pick Me Up” are also pretty decent.
The rest. Well, the rest is “mood music”. Give it a go, and if you don’t like it immediately, try again later.


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Because They Won’t Let Me Say This To You In Person: Some Advice To The Kids That Ride My Bus

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It’s been a long week. One of those weeks that have put a few more gray hairs into my beard. I started my bus route this week. Most of the kids are well behaved, they get on the bus, they sit down, they don’t yell and terrorize each other. But one school… oh… wow…

Here’s what I would say to them if I could sit them all down in a room, with no traffic or schedules to distract us:

Dear middle-schoolers:

First off, I’m not here to be a guru or to be your parent or your coach. I’m just here to drive you home safely and efficiently.

I am not mad. I am concerned, really. I care about you, and not just your safety on the bus. I care about your character, I care about your potential, I care about your future. It’s not a cliche to say you are the future of this world. You literally are the future.

To the ring leader. The Boy Scout. The one who will probably have a referral by Wednesday of next week. I was there once. I know the dirty jokes, stupid dares, and pranks that happen in camps and meetings all across the country when you think the adults aren’t paying attention. You are young and naive and you will do every thing you can to test the boundaries around you. But you are also trying to impress your friends. Don’t think I haven’t noticed your sudden quietness and semi-respectfulness when certain peers get off the bus. Here is some advice: if you have to act like an asshat to impress your friends, they are not the kind of friends you should have.

To the ones of you calling me old and “that white guy”, I’m probably younger than a lot of your parents. This gray hair is a result of stress and anxiety of raising five kids your age and younger. I’m not old, I’m learn-ed. And why does it matter one lick what color I am? I don’t look at you and take note of your skin tone, I couldn’t care less. But I do look at you and notice your behavior. Young and ignorant behavior has no color bias. Stop making a big deal out of race and I guarantee you will go further in life.

Now about your respect of others, I can’t wash your mouths out with soap. I can’t change your language in the short time I have with you every day. To be honest, I don’t care if you are loud or use “adult” words (do you kiss your mother with that mouth?). I have five kids, I know noise. I’ve learned to tune out the nonsense and key in on emergencies. Or in your case the insults, the disrespect, the meanness. You’re at a competitive age. You compete for attention, good or bad. You believe that tearing down others is the best way to climb to the top. Again, I get it. I was your age once. I said some horrible things to others.

Want to climb to the top? Have some respect for others. And yourself. You disrespect yourself when you tear down others. Be better than those around you, and bring them up with you. Out-do each other in awesomeness, not cruelty. That way you all succeed, or at least none of you are destroyed before you have a chance to get up.

Most of all, dear children, I have this advice: sit down, seatbelts on, windows up.

Safety is first on this bus.

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Music and Art Monday, Jan 7 2019: Home To Roost

Hello all, short post today. It’s been awhile since I gave a recommendation for a band, because honestly it’s rare that I should find one that I like enough to recommend.

Today’s recommendation is a new album by a local band I would have never discovered had it not been for a mother’s gushing pride. An acquaintance of mine from the life drawing sessions I attend noticed my Nirvana t-shirt and asked if I liked them. She said “you have to listen to this band, they’re like Nirvana. And my son got writing credit because he plays on this song!”

I like localism. If there’s one trendy thing I’m guilty of indulging, it’s the trend to try out all the local stuff, from breweries to restaurants to record stores and art galleries. So I said what the heck and gave Viewers Like You’s “Home to Roost” a listen on Spotify.

First impression? “This is not at all like Nirvana!”

Which is not a bad thing. Viewers Like You (look them up as “Fernway” on Facebook) sounds a lot like All-American Rejects, Phantom Planet, and another Jacksonville local band Yellowcard. It’s happy music for the most part, with a twinge of emo here and there.

Top songs? Definitely the band’s single “Anamnesis”, “Absentee”, “Back to Life”, and the track my friend’s son plays on “Worth Your Time”.

While I love the guitar riff in “Perfect” the lyrics are a bit cringey.

So give it a listen and see what you think! The band has gone from 39 monthly listeners to 68 since Wednesday, let’s see if we can get that number up!

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New Year, New Me?

Every new year people post resolutions all over social media and blogs claiming they will do something better this year. But do they really matter? How did you do on your resolutions last year? How did I do on mine? What is the plan for this year?

Two years ago I proclaimed several “birthday resolutions” because my birthday is so close to New Year’s Day it just made sense, last year I was late in my posting and went with the traditional “New Year’s Resolutions”. I won’t rehash the birthday ones, but it might do some good to examine 2018’s resolutions before I get to this year.

So how did I do?

Last year I said:

Well, in addition to continuing work on all of the above, this year is the year of focus and discipline.
Discipline because it is very closely tied to focus. Focus is part biology, part discipline. One can have discipline without focus, but one definitely cannot have focus without discipline. I want to be more clear about my purpose. I want to determine priorities and stick to them. There are things in my life that should be givens but are not. I intend to make these things absolutely critical and shape my life around them, not let my life dictate whether or not I get to them. These types of wants take discipline to achieve.

Was this year a year of focus and discipline? Since I claimed one cannot have focus without discipline I cannot make the claim that focus won out over discipline, but my description of discipline outlined above was hardly met. I disciplined myself to have focus but I seem to have forgotten to make priorities and make certain things in my life into givens.

Focus this year meant less about treating myself and more about survival. My priority shifted from making sure I was doing things to keep myself healthy to making sure we all were surviving day to day. As a result this last couple of months has been a bit of a train wreck emotionally, physically, and financially.

Lately, my anxiety has been back with a passion, I’ve gained back some of the weight I lost over the spring and summer (not a ton but I notice it), and we are falling so far behind in bills I don’t even want to acknowledge it.

You may have noticed my lack of posts recently. This is not for a lack of thoughts, I just don’t want to tell anyone about them. That’s assuming I could unwind that ball of yarn and get a coherent post out there. Even this post is driving me a bit mad to write.

“This year will also be the year of listening before I speak. No. Actually listening. Not just thinking about my response the whole time the person blabbers on. No matter how much they blabber on. It’s hard, but I know I can do it.”

I think I did OK on this one. Perhaps too well. It’s not hard to train one’s self to listen and not speak. But I may have gone too far the other way and have stopped answering when I should.

Likewise, I want to work on responding instead of reacting. Too often I get triggered and blow up. Or I sweep the feelings of others under a rug before they can fully express them. This is largely because I don’t want to have have feelings myself. It’s another offshoot of anxiety.

Ah yes, meta-emotions. Just being aware that I have them has helped me control them. I can listen to others and feel feelings without feeling feelings about those feelings. The words of others don’t have to trigger a torrent of emotional outburst or cause me to clam up and shut down.

What do I intend to do this year?

I am hesitant to make resolutions this year as I’m not completely satisfied with 2018’s results. Of course, it may just be the result of recent un-healthiness that I feel this way. I can honestly say that overall I am healthier now than I was at this point last year, just that right now my thoughts are a bid muddied from recent upheavals in my sleep, my diet, my exercise, and my environment.

I said “I’m tired” a lot this past year. And this year is starting out on that very same note. I don’t foresee that exhaustion subsiding much in the coming months, especially given a new job and a lot of stuff to do around the house. Rest is going to be a precious commodity for awhile.

Perhaps the only resolution that I will make is this: stick to the plan.

We have plans for the coming year. Hard plans. Plans that will be uncomfortable and difficult to carry out. Giving up is way too easy when circumstances are tough. This has led to many unfulfilled dreams and goals. Long-term benefits were sacrificed for short-term ease. This is something that I intend to remedy this year. I intend to stick as much as possible to our plans, even when they become unbearable to carry out.

This of course means that circumstances will have to be properly evaluated. Some things are legitimately out of one’s control. These are not usually the things that derail plans though. Most of the time what derails plans are feelings and anxiety over a perceived lack of control. You basically self-sabotage by thinking “oh no, this is not working!” when it’s actually working. It may not be exactly as you had hoped but it’s still working. Life is still progressing, just with a few detours.

So, stick to the plan?

Sounds like a plan!

Now how do I do that?

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