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Don't Give Up The Fight!

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”

Calvin Coolidge

I recently had the honor of jurying a selection of work from art school students for inclusion in a major exhibition.

These students, by the very nature of their chosen major -and inherently in their particular choice of college, have benefited from the financial support of parents and emotional encouragement of high school art teachers who made it possible for them to enroll in art school as a stepping stone to a career in the arts.

I was tremendously impressed by the quality of the art presented, and accepted twenty of those students as part of a show composed of 150 artists total. Suffice to say that this was the first exhibition for these students, and hazard a guess that it won't be the last for any of them. Twenty percent of them saw their paintings sell on the opening night of that show. There is no greater encouragement than a public purchase, and the exposure alone will likely be enough to validate the rest of them.

Regardless of medium, be it musical, visual, or otherwise, for every artist who receives encouragement or guidance, there must be a hundred or more who do not. And among those who succeed, there is one common thread:


When I finally watched the Oscars a day after the live telecast, the moment that really hit home and triggered a truly emotional reaction was Michael Giacchino's acceptance speech for Best Original Score. The young composer of Pixar's Up did more to enrich the future of the film industry in forty-seven seconds than most film school professors can do in decades. He told an audience of millions that being creative is not a waste of time. For his entire, unexpurgated speech, you can skip to the bottom of this column. Read it and forward it to everyone you know. With a little luck it may find its way and strike a chord in a parent who doubts the unconventional aptitude of their "artsy" child. Perhaps it will even spark the light of understanding and remind them just how difficult it is to follow a dream, and how important it is to do so while still young.

I find it unconscionable that the expectations of middle age are cast with such accelerated frequency upon young people. Youth is a time of taking chances, making mistakes and learning from them. It's a time for accumulating experience to better shape goals, before those goals limit our experience. As we get older, the luxury of trial and error is denied, as marriages, children and house payments pile up around us in a blinding heap of disheveled desires and unfulfilled aspirations.

Lest this sound like the ethereal ravings of a festival-dancing delusional, I should stress that I am (for the most part) a realist; I am well grounded, responsible and professional, and encourage common sense over folly, but I have always measured my own merits against what was expected of me -and was by no means coddled.

When I decided to forgo my scholarship and drop out of college to move out to California, I'm sure my parents were disappointed, but I didn't let that deter my decision to follow my muse. I didn't have a singular, specific goal, but I knew at the age of seventeen that life at that point was no make-it-or-break-it affair. Failure was an option, and I tried not to burn bridges in the event that my atypical choice revealed itself to be ill-advised. Twenty years later, I'm still here. I think my father finally stopped thinking that I had been wasting my time when he spotted me in my second straight Superbowl commercial back in 2007, at the end of which (my mother later told me) he was still smiling even though his beloved Patriots lost to the Green Bay Packers. The fact that my hair was cut and not colored purple or green probably made him happy, too. Some kids never get that kind of parental approval, and I'm glad I got mine before my old man died.

I have certainly made my share of not-great decisions, and I've definitely paid my dues for them. Luckily none of them ever involved venereal disease or unplanned pregnancy, and there weren't any bright ideas involving felonies or confidence scams either. I once got Michael Eisner to pay my check at La Cachette just by waving to him, but for the most part, the path I've followed in taking the road less traveled has involved whole-heart dedication, and such determination is more abundant in the young-at-heart than in a seasoned veteran. I seriously doubt that I could do the things now that I did back then. That courage and fearlessness have made the younger me a hero for the older me, and when I see kids now-a-days adopting a D.I.Y. aesthetic for their own projects with honest-to-goodness motivation, I'm god damn proud of them. If that makes me sound magnanimous, then so be it. The youth are the future, and it would be intelligent to give them more resources rather than limit them.

Maybe because I'm in Hollywood, I get phone calls from relatives and have conversations with acquaintances while traveling about how so-and-so is writing a screenplay or a book. I tell them all the same thing: Whatever they're starting to write, finish it.

It is the toughest advice to take, apparently, because even when I offer to read these magnum opuses, they don't send them to me. For most people, it's all about talking about writing. If they could finish a first draft, they would be ahead of 98% of the other would-be writers. A word of advice to the perfectionists: the polish comes after the first draft. Way after the first draft. Finish the damn thing, and don't talk about it until you do. I'm not the first person to suggest this, and I'm pretty sure everyone from Sinclair Lewis to Stephen King would tell you the same thing. Unfinished works don't get published by unknown writers.

Regardless of your chosen profession, these rules remain true. If you are in a band, you need to play live. Practice is fine, but real world experience will make you better than playing only for yourselves, so send out demos to clubs. Gigs that bomb will make you better performers. This is true of musicians, comics, and performance artists, too. Painters and sculptors? You need to submit to galleries. Even if you suck, if you follow the submission policy of the gallery to which you submit, you will probably get feedback, and that feedback will make you better, or at least motivate you out of anger. Writers: when you've finished that spec script or book or movie review, submit it to a publisher, agent or website. Being pushy is a necessity in getting noticed, so don't be afraid to pester that promoter, director or whoever until they tell you to bugger off. This is a well guarded trade secret, and in revealing it, I fully expect professional scorn if not outright death threats. You're welcome.

Hang in there, but only if you really mean it, because there are a bunch of people out there with a genuine need to be creative, and a passive fancy is an insult to those who live and die for their art.

"Thank you, guys. When I was... I was nine and I asked my dad, "Can I have your movie camera? That old, wind-up 8 millimeter camera that was in your drawer?" And he goes, "Sure, take it." And I took it and I started making movies with it and I started being as creative as I could, and never once in my life did my parents ever say, "What you're doing is a waste of time." Never. And I grew up, I had teachers, I had colleagues, I had people that I worked with all through my life who always told me what you're doing is not a waste of time. So that was normal to me that it was OK to do that. I know there are kids out there that don't have that support system so if you're out there and you're listening, listen to me:
If you want to be creative, get out there and do it. It's not a waste of time. Do it. OK? Thank you. Thank you." - Michael Giacchino


iPod Shuffle Experiment

I got this from novadrome </lj>.

1. Put your iTunes/iPod on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

"Helvetestoner" Armagedda (I'm totally using this from now on!)

"Innoculate the Innocuous" The Unicorns (Guilty as charged!)

"Only the Good Die Young" Billy Joel (Freaky!)

"Taxicab" Bunky And Jake (Really glad it wasn't something by Coil)

"Sweetness And Light" Lush (Not Bad!)

"Rhinocerous" Smashing Pumpkins (I must need to hit the gym!)

"How To Fake It" No Wait Wait (As if!)

"Shine On You Crazy Diamond" Pink Floyd (Whoah!)

"Right On Target" Electric Frankenstein (I wish!)

"Don't Tell Me" Madonna (How very Peter Pan of me!)

"Commercial" House Of Pain (Quite the opposite, actually!)

"Little Boxes" Teenage Head (How apt!)

"Novelty" Joy Division (Scary accurate!)

"Montego Bay Spleen" St. Germain (What am I? A Serial Killer?)

"The Greenless Wreath" Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (Speechless...)

"Terry's Song" Bruce Springsteen (Just Who is this Terry?)

"Strangelove" Depeche Mode (Hallelujah! Bring it!)

"MiddayYusuf (Or at least Midday on morning after my 21st birthday)

"Immigrant Song" The Sword (It is pretty funny!)

"Janitor" Toad the Wet Sprocket (He must have taken me into the magic room and touched me in my bathingsuit area...)

"Syndir Guðs" Sigur Ros (Maybe not most, but I'd have to reassess if I were chemically influenced)

"Valentina Galaxina" Astrobrite (Cool!)

"On Falling" Stina Nordenstam (Ouch!)

"(Blank)" Malfunkshun (Prophetic!)


Heavy Mental... I mean Metal...

Finally! All the mysteries revealed. Had I known, I might have dedicated my adolescence to jazz...

Yes, I stole that entry title from WWE.
Well, it has been almost a year since I last posted on LiveJournal.

I'm much sunnier, I promise!

Life is rad.
I'm currently free-lancing for a few entertainment companies while I contemplate my long-term career options.
The virtual Panik Gallery is up at Art Slant  and I'll be adding a new show in December (Yow! This Month) that will feature original Robert Williams signed lithographs. The current featured art is all original work -no prints or lithos- by Becca, Trevor Brown, Gea, Kryttre, Pam Roberts, XNO and others.

I've also been working on two comic book scripts.
One is very well developed; the first issue is scripted, plotted and currently resides with the penciler for an "art test". I've outlined six complete issues for when I get the pages back.
The second one is less developed, and is an ongoing work in progress.
Neither has superheroes or naked samurai girls, though I am available to write either if the price is right.

Have your people call my people, and we can discuss it. ;)
I had to miss work for a few days leading up to the weekend (to get more minor surgery). This left me on my side, mostly. Luckily my incredibly comfy couch is perfect for laptop activity, so I bought a ton of new music (at least new to me) to keep me from going bonkers. I had been getting really into Mew lately, so I used Last FM to find some like-minded artists. As a result of surfing some of my musical neighbors' set lists I also came across a great Brazilian Crunk/Mash band called Bonde Do Role. This is ironic as I attended a Brazilian Street Art group show the previous weekend where I bought 8 pieces from the show. So my interests sway back and forth between Os Brasileros and the Danish (or Danes).
When I felt up to it on Sunday (*after four days indoors and lying on my side), I drove over to Western to get some good papusas and look a the great Murals in Thai Town while I ate them; maybe washing them down with a nice agua fresca. On the way over I saw a crew doing a new wall on Melrose near Heliotrope (almost right in back of the Bike Kitchen). I've always had a healthy respect for graffiti muralists and I wasn't in a hurry to get back home, so I pulled over and kicked back and watched them for a while. After about forty five minutes I decided to hit the corner store and bought a six pack. I walked back over and continued into the vacant lot and set the brown paper bag down next to the latter one of the guys had been using. I then walked back over toward my car. As I did, one of the cats in the crew saw that I was leaving and called out to me, thanking me for the brew (these guys were all clearly in their twenties or better). I waved an acceptance of gratitude and I as I put my key into my car lock, another artist asked me if I was a writer. I knew what he meant, and I turned and walked back over.
I told him that I was much more of a tagger in my day than a writer but I had left my mark. When asked I let the beans spill that my tag was "Panik", but not the NYC "Panic". Back in the day I had hit the Angeline billboard on sunset with "Got Milk" four times in a month and left my signature in the corner -in Jungle Green, no less. One of the guys remembered that little stunt, and they all laughed. This was back when I did the radio show with Rachtman, and there had been a little war between our show and the famous hag whose billboards used to be all over town. I had hit the one on Sunset and Highland and it had made the paper, and became the talk of the town for a while.
After laughing about my little reminiscence, they invited me to hit their wall in a little black spot with some white cannister acrylic, which I did.
I was sweatin' it, too. I haven't touched a spraycan in fifteen or so years. As a matter of fact, when I brought my Panik tag to Chicago, I used paint pens and markers a couple of times but primarily used stickers, which my Filipino friends and I had all switched to back in '93. I was never a bomber, anyways. I always picked specific (and deserving) targets.
So I asked one of the guys if he had any skinnies with him, because I wanted to do something really small, so as not to mess up the dudes' background. He looked at me quizzically and handed me a flare tip instead, so I just did my thing really quick in three motions with the dot above the eye an extra.
They just sort of smiled and a gave me a series of really complicated handshakes (I fucking hate those -everybody has a different one and I feel totally awkward). One dude said, "Shit that's fucking old-school Chaka fucking writing, dude."
I smiled. I actually almost blushed. I knew he wasn't calling me a biter, he just didn't know what to make of this highly readable graffiti, but he was giving me fame props for real.
I belong to a Doom Metal newsgroup.
One of the threads on the user forum was "10 Records that Changed Your Life".
While this was a Doom Metal forum, I was somewhat flabberghasted that the only music chosen by the majority of posters to have "changed their life" was heavy metal. It didn't ring true to me, and I expressed that it was sad to see such a narrow musical corridor represented by the choices offered by the membership. Now, I love heavy metal. I always have. But I would never exclude the impact that all music has had on my life, growth and existence. And I've never let anyone narrow my choices.
So here's what I came up with:

The first time I heard The Beatles, it changed my life. It was a 45rpm 7" record with "I Shoulda Known Better" on one side and "A Hard Days Night" on the other. The rest is history.

The first time I heard Pink Floyd's The Wall in its entirety -not just the single "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2"- I was moved and amazed, and sat in silence in my sister's basement bedroom when it was over. Just sat there and thought about what I'd just heard...

Black Sabbath's debut was just the heaviest thing I'd ever heard at that point in time. In many ways, it still is.

The soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange by Walter (now) Wendy Carlos turned me on to classical music big time, and gave me a true sense of how music challenges convention.

Jeff Buckley's Grace album is right up there for me as Nirvana's Nevermind is for most people my age. A devestatingly beautiful testament to songwriting and singing underlined by virtuoso musicianship.

The Who - Who's Next is a generation defying juggernaught that rings as true to my landlady's grandson as it does to me as it did to my older brother, who just turned 50. It was one of the first CDs I ever purchased when Compact Discs were a new format. A Clockwork Orange, and AC/DC's Back in Black were the other two.

Jane's Addiction's Nothing's Shocking was the cd that made me feel unalone in my interest of dark subject matter. Faith no More's The Real Thing was another one, and The Cure's Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me was as well. The songs on these records spoke directly to my teenaged angst and confusion when they were first released, as I'm sure The Who did for the generation before me, and how Green Day has for kids nowadays.

The remaining records actually are all Heavy Metal:
Metallica - Ride the Lightning & Mercyful Fate - Don't Break the Oath:
While I had owned releases by both of these bands prior to hearing these, it was this one two punch that sent me headlong into loving heavy metal as my primary source of entertainment for most of the rest of my life. Celtic Frost's Morbid Tales was the nail in the proverbial coffin.
Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Oz and Diary of a Madman:
When I was making the transition from child to teenager, the work of Ozzy Osbourne was much a right of passage as getting my driver's license.
Moonspell -Sin/Pecado: After moving to California and watching Heavy Metal become Hair Metal I bacame disillusioned for a few years. On a trip to England I heard this playing in a record store in Camden and it renewed my interest in metal.
Immortal - Damned in Black: I had missed the initial boat on Norwegian Black Metal as most releases weren't readily available in the US. Also, for most of the late 90s I was listening almost exclusively to ambient noise or Japanese Pop music and it was this record that got me right back into the scene. It was available only as a promo at the time, but the guys at Dark Realm let me buy their only copy. The worm had turned.

In all honesty I have to include Elton John's Greatest Hits (from 1974), and Famous Monsters Speak. The former was the first record that I ever owned. It was a Christmas Present, as was the latter. I actually asked for the monster record, though. The first rock album I bought with my own money was Kiss Alive.

After I posted this, other forum members responded and broadened their selections to encompass many other genres. As a result, I was reminded of a hand full of records and CDs that probably deserved a place on my list:

Husker Du - New Day Rising. This was on a "highly recommended new releases" list posted at my favorite record store of the time, 1985 (Rockit Records on Rte 1 in Saugus, MA), and when I bought it I expected it to be a thrash record, as the other albums on that list included Metallica's Ride the Lightning and Mercyful Fate's Melissa. Well it wasn't. At first I was pissed, but as I kept listening to it, I got really into it and those Minnesota garage revivalists became one of my favorite bands. Who knew that punk and pop were so closely intertwined! Melodic rage. What a concept!

Coil - Scatology. I had never quite heard anything like them before. Their version of "Tainted Love" is not only the first post Soft Cell version of the Holland/Dozier/Holland Motown classic, but one of the most haunting songs of all time. It was a sincere cover rather than an ironic one. "ubu noir" is itself a frightening, disjointed work of beauty and power. I still throw this on every once in a while and marvel how original it still is. It scares the shit out of my neighbors.

Sigur ros - Takk.... In a word: "saeglopur". If miracles exist this is a testament to them. It builds constantly from lullaby calm to chaotic storm, all the while sounding like what I imagine the inside of cherub's head upon waking might be. It's a culmination of all the senses of wonder one experiences after emerging from the water the first time tossed into the ocean: exhilaration, joy and contentment following adrenal overload.
The record in its entirety is a voyage. Even more so than the earlier albums.

Miles Davis - Bitches Brew. Anyone who thinks that smoothly chaotic is an oxymoron has never heard this recording. The box set edition that contains vast liner notes and the entire session for Bitches Brew, Sketches of Spain and more is a genuine treasure. "Miles Runs the Old Voodoo Down" is as influential a piece of music as you're likely to find. Witness the birth of fusion and funk under a vaneer of moody psychedelia, and the death of hotel lobby jazz. Great jazz for those who don't like jazz. Awesome for those who do.

My past has caught up with me

Actually, I've caught up with my past:

When I was a teenager, I used to jam with these kids from my neighborhood. We all played either Thrash or Death Metal and were playing in many different bands but all of us eventually steered off into an early form of Grindcore now called Crust. This was way back in the late 80s, and I don't even remember the term Death Metal being used widely then. Harry was the brainchild and Kendall, Pete, Jimmy, Jerry, Scott and any number of us who were around at the time inevitable wound up jamming or playing shows in and with Disrupt. I'm kinda pissed that the Amazon listing says "Boston's Disrupt" because we all from Lynn, and we had our own scene.
I'm psyched that this is finally available.
I've got very vivid memories of playing a show in Salisbury Beach at an all ages club when Disrupt were forced to change the words to their song "Eat Shit" to "Consume Defecation". It was a song about McDonalds. I was tripping, anyhow, and almost missed the show because I was afraid to get out of Dario's car. But Helder called our friend John on a payphone (yeah, back before cell phones) and convinced me of how much fun it was going to be to walk around on the sand in my doc martens.
He was right.
Damn! Those were good times...

12 daze of christmas

This program randomly generates new lyrics to the X-mas Rhyme using words from your LiveJournal interests. It's kind of funny that it abbreviated "Trevor Brown" to a new verb, "browning".

On the twelfth day of Christmas, highlysatanic66 sent to me...
Twelve churches drumming
Eleven beatniks piping
Ten automatons a-leaping
Nine crackpots dancing
Eight tattoos a-milking
Seven catharsis a-wilding
Six cutters a-browning
Five be-e-e-ettina rheims
Four toe socks
Three hyperdimensional physics
Two man-eating plants
...and a baroque in a spirit photography.
Get your own Twelve Days:
You Are 88% Evil

You're the most evil person you know.
The devil is even a little scared of you!

Ligeti Dead

Another one of the most brilliant minds of the last century has passed away.
Apparently yesterday, but I've only just found out.

György Ligeti has left us.

More to the point he has left us with a catalog of incredible, haunting music, which has inspired generations of avant garde composers. I was first introduced via Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and his music can also be heard in The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut. I've seen chamber performances, and complete orchestral arrangements of his works and it was always a penetrating experience to feel those notes pass in the air in front of and around me, like a living breathing fog. Pieces like Melodien expanded my appreciation to seek out Carlos, Gorecki, Penderecki, Addams, and Reich –all followers of Ligeti.

"Fractals are what I want to find in my music.
...they are the most complex of ornaments in the arts, like small sea horses, like the Alhambra where the walls are decorated with geometric ornaments of great minuteness and intricacy, or like the Irish Book of Kells, those marvelously decorated borders and capitals."