Friday, July 30, 2010

Whoa! What Happened?

Sorry for the absence, peoples. Things have gotten very, very, busy. It's that good kind of busy though. I am going to keep this entry brief so I can get some sleep.

I have a lot of exciting projects in the works that are consuming my time but I can't talk about any of them right now. It's killing me, but we'll all have to wait.

I'm going to devote one paragraph to a mini-rant. Here we go.

I am sick of assholes shitting on people's concerted efforts at making something they love (I am aware of the controversy behind using the word "concerted" in this manner but I am purposefully ignoring that and moving on with my life). We have a difficulty these days with separating opinion and preference from creative rights. I see less and less objective criticism and more personal attacks on people that are just trying to put something out into the world that they believe in. For instance, I dislike Lady Gaga. I can't stand listening to her music. Does that mean she should die or she is destroying music? No. She is making music that has an audience and all her fans should be able to listen to it all day long without the peanut gallery claiming they are morons or philistines. Having an academic knowledge of how David Bowie makes better music than Lady Gaga and openly sharing it is the equivalent of having a dickhead degree and telling someone their hair looks stupid. It's just a matter of care, creativity, love, passion, energy, heartache, etc. being poured into some sort of endeavor for it to merely be reduced down to a simple statement of "That shit's dumb and so are you for liking it."

How about something like "It's not for me" instead?

Don't lose your passion, just drop the pretension. It's not worth sounding like a dick.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Fan Service

[Editor's Note: I started this blog on Monday and had one hell of a week and didn't finish it until Friday. Gahhhh!]

Let's start this blog by saying I am sick. I am sick just over a month after the last time I was sick. So far this time it seems to be a bit tamer than the last. I am thankful for that because I have a lot of work to do. It's a bit ridiculous that I am sick again. I had a long streak of healthiness and it basically got shot to shit in the last two months. The bright side is it's tied to my terrible seasonal allergies, though, not something worse.

Moving on...

I've been running into a phenomenon lately that is extremely perplexing. People who have a fan-base and are unsatisfied with who or what their fan-base is. Does that make sense? I'll explain more with an example.

Let's say there is a rapper. He raps about cars, and bitches, and Lost (he's not a total stereotype). He builds an empire with a stable of millions of fans. One day he has a signing and gets to meet a ton of these people. He's expecting that all of his fans are like him: Physically fit and charismatic, nicely dressed, drives a nice car, has a gorgeous girl at their side or is a gorgeous girl, and likes Locke while despising Kate. But they're not.

Most of the time fans aren't like the thing their are fans of. Usually that's exactly why they like what they like. Star Wars fans aren't athletic monks. Simpsons fans don't do as good of a Homer impression as they think they do. Dave Chapelle fans aren't hilarious. Yet, lately I have heard from many a mouths that have something you could call a fan-base how disappointed they are. "Wow... he was kinda of a nerd." "She's the one that loves my comic... a little too much, if you know what I mean." No, I don't know what you mean, asshole. I don't know what it means to have someone express how much they like something I do and then feel hate that they like it.

You can't pick your fans. What you can do is be happy you have them. Be happy some kid from Kansas dresses up as your character or a girl in another country writes fan-fiction about them because there are a million other things out there vying for their attention. Instead of pouring their heart and soul into something someone else made they are putting hours and hours of work into something you made. They are honoring it, advertising it, expanding on it, and (most importantly) enjoying it. The point of all this creation is that people out there enjoy the work you do whether it be making art, music, movies, videogames, crafts, books, television, and that they experience something you wish to transfer to them. There are millions of people out there that would kill to have just one person reach back to them and say "this is awesome" and this condescending attitude is just throwing shit in all of their (fans and creators) faces.

Take it from someone who is a rabid fan of a specific set of things, you don't want to lose someone like that. The people who dress up, the people who show up to meet you, and the people who write you incessantly... Those are the people who make internet petitions to get your show back on the air, or buy every last thing you do, or lend their DVDs to a friend to get more people on board. They are the warriors-- the champions for your work. You don't even pay them.... they PAY YOU for this job... and they will fight long past when you've given up.

If you are in a position to receive something that might resemble a "fan," every fan you get, make sure you give them the respect they deserve. Because they gave it to you the moment they decided they like what you do.

Peace and carrots muthafuggas,


Thursday, May 6, 2010

From the Desk of Mr. Mike Henry


I love spam. It's like the obnoxious email version of the little engine that could. It just tries so hard to get your attention how could you not grow to love it. Who out there is clicking on these emails thinking "Y'know... I am entitled to this Ugandan Prince's millions" anyway? I guess that's just what our culture has become: A bunch of reality stars and free loaders. If I had to fit into one of those categories I would pick reality star. I think that in my own warped sense of reality I am operating at star level. That and I have too little money to have not spent it on something.

That's not really what I want to talk about today. I want to chat about the past. Not so much the past exactly as much as just a vague, fleeting, but powerful feeling of the past.

Every time the seasons change I get very wistful. The littlest things will instantly give me flashes of a time long passed that I am either longing for or just perplexed by. I think it's time for an example.

I was walking home from lunch the other day, listen to the Broadways, and staring at the ground. Just as I looked up (just to see where I was going) my vision framed a portion of the city that looked just like a part of Chicago. My brain suddenly raced through my mental Rolodex and came up with a time that my friends and I were walking down Clark on the way to a show at the Metro. I was instantly longing for that time.

One more.

I was playing SSFIV and a breeze came through the window just the way it would when I played Super Street Fighter II Turbo when I was 12. It was a perfect storm of breeze and game. I heard my dad mowing the lawn, my mom making something in the kitchen, and was waiting to go to Sleep Hollow pool (Yeah, I grew up in Sleepy Hollow.. What? What?!).

I realize that smells and sounds and other sensory events (Steven Seagal in Sensory Event: The Reckoning) can do this but these things don't usually trigger memories and longing this hardcore in me unless the seasons are shifting. If it's doing the summer-fall or the fall-winter transitions then I'm REALLY bad. It's an interesting thing because I really like it and really hate it at the same time. Sometimes it brings up specific memories that I may have forgotten or just something I want to recall. Other times it leaves me wanting for something I can't have.

I in no way want my life to be the life I once had. I love what I have going on. But, I think I'd like to warp back for a day or two. I don't want to live anything differently (no fading photos or righting wrongs) I just want to enjoy that time. As I get older I find myself feeling melancholy when thinking about things I have done, experienced, or been witness to - things specifically lost to time - that can't be shared with other people. There is a song by Less Than Jake that talks about something like this. The name escapes me now but it's about all their friends and favorite places that you (the mass version of you) will never experience and how they wish you could. What I feel is sort of along those lines.

What are other people going through? What kind of stories do they have? Do they hold up to mine? Are they as good as mine?

That's obviously a very self-centered line of questioning. There are a lot of people out there that have WAY better stories than me. But, that doesn't keep me from wanting to find a way to have them experience some of the cool shit I have seen/done/danced-with/high-fived/befriended.

I think that is ultimately where this wistfulness comes from. Things that are physically lost. Things that must rely on a weakening memory. Things that you want to keep in a time capsule, safe and fresh, for your friends, your kids, and your kids' kids to experience. That's why old people tell so many stories. They are longing for people to feel what they felt and to feel what they feel now when they look back.

Feeling a bit of this at 28 is not a good sign. When I'm 80 I'll just be a wreck mumbling about blogs and Deviant Art and Family Feud and... Actually Family Feud will most likely out live us all. It will just be cockroaches and Twinkies sitting around watching "The Feud".

"We asked 100 married cockroaches ... What's your family's favorite dish you make?"

"Uhh... I'm gonna have to say Twinkie."

"Good answer... good answer!"

"Show me Twinkie!"


I'm gonna go get some lunch. I didn't have time to proof-read this so thanks for making it this far.



Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Instead of Coming Up with a Title I am Going to Walk My Dog*

Well, would you look at that...

I have some commentors! I am sure it is overflow from Deviant Art but this means since I know people are watching now I have to watch what I say.

Ok, so I'm not actually going to do that. It would take more effort than I am willing to put into this. Now... for today: What should I talk about? I got it!

Super Street Fighter IV has been on my mind A LOT lately. Why? Well, because it just came out, because it's a new installment in one of my favorite series, because my friends are playing, because I have been enjoying the fan art I have done for it, because... the list is very long. But the main thing I have been thinking about in regards to ess ess eff for is how I will never be super good at it.

In an average day you don't have the opportunity to directly compare yourself to someone else. You may do it in regards to looks, fashion, or charisma, perhaps, but that is all subjective. It's not like people walk around with a number on their chest that can be measured against other people's... chest number (chumber?). In Street Fighter, there is. Or at least there is a constant measurement: You either kick someone's ass or get your ass kicked. Right there, for all to see, your entire worth with respect to the game.

I'm not bad at the game. I've been playing the series for most of my life so I am bound to have a natural ability for it. But some of these guys? Holy shit! Have you ever had a dream where you are trying to save someone and as you run towards them you aren't going anywhere, you yell but make no sound, and your friends turn into screaming Monchichi dolls? Ok, that last one may be specific to me, but the other stuff... surely you've experienced it. That's what I feel like when playing SSFIV against some of these people. I could have shortened that explanation by just saying "I feel retarded."

This all makes me realize how little time there is in life to get really good at multiple things (after typing that sentence I got distracted by WWTDD for like 20 minutes. What the hell is wrong with me?). Most of us struggle with getting confidence in one thing (like having a strong attention span!). For me, I think art is my one thing. I'm not, to use SFIV terms, in-de-structable when it comes to art, but when I sit down to a blank page I have confidence that I can do something interesting. I used to feel that way about Street Fighter. So, what would be the art equivalent of an ass beating? What would have to happen to an artist to make the next time they sit down to a blank sheet of tree skin a stressful situation?

Critique of the honest and blunt variety has a good chance at cutting the confidence of an artist in half. But in reality, the best artists understand the value of an honest critique and this would be viewed as informational and not detrimental. If an artist saw someone out-do them in a specific skill or subject matter is pretty similar to a versus situation in a fighting game. Since the perspective of the artist is all that matters, subjectivity is moot and this could very easily be seen as a loss in a win/loss manner. But again, if the artist is skilled in self-improvement, this loss may just be viewed as another learning opportunity. However, since a gamer could technically take the high-road and say "he really kicked my ass... Live and learn!" I am going to take the self-improvement aspect out of the picture.

We now have our set up: A spiteful artist that is pissed off and demoralized by another artist's ability to do something better. The next time this artist sits down to draw he/she will over think the anatomy, composition, maybe even the style of their sketch. At least in SSFIV your self-doubt lasts only a couple minutes. A drawing/painting can go on for hours. Imagine second guessing everything you do for 5 hours. That's not healthy for the ol' gray matter and takes a long time to shake. So, should I just take these losses as a learning opportunity? Or am I more like the casual artist that just wants to draw for fun but all the Shoto-clones won't let me? Does that metaphor work?

When it comes to Street Fighter I don't think I'll ever be on the level of Daigo Umehara but at least I am better than Ryan Hall (hahaha... eat it, nerd!). And I may not be the best artist but at least I am closer to a Sam Nielson than, say, a Ryan Hall (HA! Double-burn!). Then again... it's a lot easier to be blinded by an inflated sense of accomplishment in art than SSFIV. I think I just reduced my own confidence.

I'm gonna go draw fan art of Harry Potter as Ryu to get it back.*

Quick mention: Lost is back tonight. I will finally have a restful night again.

Peace and Carrots,


*Not a euphemism
**Never in a million years

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Dog goes Art, Art!

Oh Ebert...

Ok, so I'm not going to actually talk about the Ebert thing. Not that he is a nobody but that whole stunt got him enough publicity and I don't want to get him anymore. One thing I will say is over on the 10th Muse Podcast blog a poster by the name of "TheLoudestNinja" left a great comment on the whole subject. Just go to to check it out.

What I am going to talk about is art in general because my point of view is different than the average person because I am an artist. My point of view is far from better but being on the creation end of it skews my stance a bit.

Since I spend a lot of my time on DeviantArt I am constantly confronted with the statement "It's so bad it's not even art" usually in reference to inflation art or the millionth naked chick that day and Daily Deviations don't really defend DA that well in regards to validating it (as far as the people making the accusations are concerned). A lot of people that aren't involved in DA think it's a mine field of furry porn, gay fanart, and all-around amateur art. I work in the game industry (and dabble in others) and when you mention an artist that's on DA the noses in the room go skyward quicker than you can draw a fox named "Ted" fucking a wolf named "Laser Fang". But, like a lot of sites where people can freely submit their creations, there is a lot of good with the sea of bad. No matter how bad the art is, though, it's still art.

I subscribe to the school of "If it was created with the intent to communicate an idea" then it is art. I also don't support defining a distinction between high-art and low-art. Art is art and the value of it varies from person to person. Now that I've said that, what does "Created with the intent to communicate an idea" mean?

Art-types want to hurry to validate whatever they are defending as art by reading so far into something that it becomes about flexing their own intellect and perception and not about letting art stand for itself. When I say "communicate an idea" I mean anything from "this woman in silhouette represents the struggle of the female spirit" to "this hand is draw anatomically correct". I try to put myself in the shoes of the artist and imagine what would be going through my head while I draw, paint, shoot, sing, sculpt the piece. Even an artist who is drawing a plant for a science journal is thinking about every line they lay down. They are looking at their lighting, color, accuracy and trying to convey "plant" in it's totality. That's an art. Now, think about an 11 year-old girl struggling to draw her favorite cartoon character. It's most likely going to look like shit to most of us. What about to her? It's the best work of art she has created at that point in her life. She is proud of it and proud that it conveys what she loves about that character. You cannot discredit the statement she has made and still allow Picasso to stand. The desire to get ones point across, whatever it is, is so strong the only word that can describe that passion is "Art".

Because of this fundamental definition, even the shittiest inflation art is art. Filling Cartman full of water to the point of him swelling to the size of cement truck is still art. I think it's fucking stupid, but no matter how much I dislike it, it is still valid. You want to draw Cloud making out with Sephiroth? Uhhh, go ahead I guess. Be prepared to have a lot of people tell you it's retarded and breaks the fundamental basis for those characters... just don't let them tell you it's not art.

So, Ebert thinks games aren't art. Well, he's wrong. He might not like it being included in the art club but it is. Ke$ha is everything I hate about pop music, but it remains art (Wha? I know!). Anytime someone says something isn't art, no matter what it is, my inclination is to disagree. Once you say something isn't art it becomes a slippery slope that can discredit a million other things, some once considered the highest of art. Saying "that's not art" is like an 18 year-old kid that's really into GBH this year saying "that's not punk enough". It's a trite statement that is filled to the brim with a lack of understanding and a desire to separate, categorize, and dismiss to bolster and validate oneself.

So, the next time you hear a Papa Roach song, see a lionized Harry Potter fanart, or watch a new RomCom starring JLo, remember: they are just as valid as a NOFX song, a matte painting from Avatar, and that new foreign film about that weird shit that you don't understand but are going to pretend to in an effort to impress your PBR-suckling, hipster, pseudo-friends.

Seacrest out...


Friday, April 16, 2010

LA Ink Should Commit Seppuku

Wow... what a week, eh?

Not only did taxes suck this year but it seemed to pour as soon as it started to rain. My book's deadline is essentially today (Friday) and my video card died on me. I know just enough about computers to get into trouble. The concept of something breaking on it and me just fixing it is more than foreign to me. So, I just did some quick research on my phone, ran out and bought a new card, and installed it. All better. It was quite possibly the easiest solution to what could have been a huge catastrophe. Of course, I was typing a blog when it happened so I won't consider it a win until this one is up and my PC hasn't committed seppuku.

Right now I am up burning a couple CD's for a short car ride tomorrow while talking to Sir Galloway. I've seen his next book and it looks really cool. I think people are really going to dig it. As soon as these discs finish burning I am going to try to get a painting wrapped up. When I burn a mix CD I get really into it. I make sure the whole disc has flow and has a strong opener and a good middle song for a centerpiece. I even make sure the end is strong and has just the right tone. Quite often I even consider my audience. Who will be in the car with me? How would they like this song? I can't be the only one who does this. Am I?

Anyhow, tonight was another insipid episode of LA Ink. I honestly don't know why I watch that show anymore. When it first started it was really entertaining. The format was strong and the people were likable. It seems that at some point they decided to take all the parts that people liked and get rid of them entirely. Now it's just an hour of unrealistic, forced plotlines and snazzy editing that make conversations sound like they took place over days instead of minutes. Sometimes it sounds like Stephen Hawking is have having an argument with a Mac. It also doesn't help that people do this weird thing with their clothing. You see... as the days go by... people change their clothes! Gasp, right? It's hard to follow a show when one scene someone has completely differently colored hair than the day before, but reverts back the following day. I don't think that show has anymore seasons left in it.

TV plays a pretty big role in my day to day. Even though I have a DVR I still make sure I am home for the shows I like when they come on. I say I own a DVR but it should really be called a CFALAOM which stands for "Craig Ferguson And Law And Order Machine." Lately on TNT (I think) they have been showing episodes of Law and Order from the first 4 seasons or so. It's awesome. Those are the seasons they seem to shy away from so it's awesome to see them. It should also be stated that regardless of his agenda if Sam Waterston ran for President I would vote for him.

TV has shaped a lot of who I am the more I think about it. Growing up I watch a lot of cartoons from American and Japanese creators. Later a lot of sitcoms and now a lot of everything. TV shows are one of the best conduits for people to get a message out (that goes for all things entertainment, of course) and that's why it bothers me when someone says "Oh, is that a Television show? I don't really watch TV." It's not that they don't watch TV that bothers me so much as the tone they employ. TV is not a bad thing... you just have to know where to look. In that way it's just like anything else. A great message can be communicated on something like Law and Order or 30 Rock just as well as a great novel or a newspaper article. It's up to the viewer to extract that message from the context of the show and that's something that we are getting increasingly worse at as a culture.

Alright, enough of that. Let's wrap these shenanigans up. What I'm listening to right now is the same as what I'm burning. It's a bunch of random shit and I'm too tired to list it here so I'll pick my favorite song from the list. Hmmmm... Right now I'm feeling "War Profiteering Is Killing Us All" by The Suicide Machines. What an awesome farewell album for that band.

Alright... I'm out.

Peace and Carrots, goons!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

You Have To Invite Dave In Or He Can't Enter

I had a conversation with a Dee-Bag once. I asked him if he had heard the new Green Day (21st Century Breakdown). His response was "Ha! I haven't listened to them since, like, High School." Is that some sort of badge of honor? I was just trying to have an open discussion about the follow-up album to a pretty big album. Regardless of your opinion of Green Day, American Idiot was HUUUUGE and what a band does after such a big release is something to at least keep your eye on. I didn't realize I was offering him the opportunity to assert his musical superiority over me.

The reason I'm bringing this up is because I just got my hard copy of Streetlight Manifesto's "99 Songs of Revolution: Vol 1". In the booklet Tomas Kalnoky talks about a similar thing that happened to him involving the Dead Milkmen. I don't really understand this High-horse people can get on about the music that they don't even contribute to. They simply like it and that association somehow grants them the ability to condescend those they disagree with.

In regards to my story "21st Century Breakdown" ended up being pretty flatline. A good example of a lot of passion and creativity that didn't amount to all that went into it. And, for the record, I'm not going to hate on Green Day and demand, like some sort of holier-than-thou Punknews poster, that they pack it up. I think they still put out some good music. And if they stop making good music but they are still doing their thing, then best of luck to them.

Speaking of looking down on someone's taste in music let's talk about Dave Matthew's Band. Before you start thinking I'm going to get all snarky and talk about how much I hate DMB, hold your horses. A few months ago, for some reason, I picked up Dave Matthews Band's latest album, "Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King". I heard this album was dedicated to their sax player who passed away in 2008 and that interested me. It's a tragedy but I think important moments like that and how a musician/artist deals with that pain can create the most inspired music/art. Turns out I really, really dug the album so I started picking up past albums. I am officially into DMB now. I think a lot of people want to hate on them but I find it's more accurate to hate their die-hard fans. "Now, how is that OK?" you ask.

When a band puts their music out there they are just trying to express something (let's give them the benefit of the doubt that they aren't some sort of manufactured homunculus like a Disney kid or Jason Derulo or something). It's pure in the sense that it is just pink and naked and true. Then a ton of people start to jibe with that original message but it's like a game of telephone. The original meaning gets reinterpreted over and over and over again until it has been twisted into something entirely different to serve someone else's purpose. I don't mean in the "the way I interpret this is it's about loved ones" sort of way but instead interpret it in a way that redefines the band and changes their raw meaning. I feel like I am not explaining myself well here. How about an example?!

I tell someone that I like eggs but prefer the yolk to the whites. They tell their friend who hates white eggs what I said. That friend then thinks to themselves "I like Mike because he doesn't like white eggs." They then tell a friend "Mike Henry likes brown eggs only." That friend hates brown eggs and now hates me. In reality, brown... white, it doesn't matter to me at all. I feel like that's what's happened with DMB.

Not that you can't just flat out dislike them. Lots of people do. But there are so many musicians that have had their message distorted by their fans. Some of them succumb to it while others manage to press on with or without them. An example of the first is Weezer and an example of the second is Streetlight Manifesto.

Ok... the dead horse has been thoroughly beaten. I had to type this blog over the course of two days because while I was originally writing it my video card went kablooey. Looks like I have a topic for the next blog!

I want to wrap every entry with a bit about what I am currently listening to. Right now I am uber-obsessed with 78RPMs' "Go" EP and "New World Chivalry". "Burrito Snatcherz" on Go is a great tune. I've always loved these two albums but lately they have just really jibed with me. RIP Lynette.

Later, nerds!