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!


Monday, April 12, 2010

Soon I'll Be In One Of Those Retirement Communities

I feel like I'm getting old.

Well, not physically old but mentally old. People say that in this day and age everything moves faster: Kids grow up faster, technology advances faster, cultures and subcultures appear and disappear faster. Does that also mean that people get old faster? "Get old" is probably not the term I'm looking for. "Lose touch" is better. Do we lose touch faster? Will we see 18 year-olds say, "When I was 14 things were way better."

The reason I feel like I am losing touch is the following: I listen to Punk and Ska music primarily. There are other genres that creep in there but I am far more prone to getting into something in those two genres than any others. So, I go to the site to try to keep up with the newest bands. Even though I love listening to it, constantly spinning The Broadways' "Broken Star" is going turn me into one of those "Nuthin's better than Zeppelin" guys. Gotta stay fresh. Problem is I find most of what is mentioned on Punknews to be shit. I feel like I am falling victim to what the culture has deemed is worth a mention instead of discovering music on my own.

Remember when the only way you would hear about a new band was in the "thank yous" page in a CD or Vinyl booklet? Then you not only knew of bands that may have a similar sound but you knew who the dickheads were. If someone's a prick on tour they probably won't get a thank you in someone else's album.

To get back on topic... Since I am guided in my new music discovery by a site that's output is directed by the input of it's culture, I am being guided by 15 year-olds. That's just kind of how it goes. There are fewer old punks out there than there are old folky-types (what are folk listeners called?) and there are even fewer old moonstompers than there are old rockers. The genre kind of caters to a younger audience. Guess what? I'm not really into what a 15 year-old is into. Not because I want to hate on their stuff but because a 15 year-old is at a different place in their life than a 28 year-old. I see flat-ironed hair and ironic band names (seriously though... enough band names that are just run-on sentences) and I cringe. Is there a connection between flat-ironing your hair and being ironic? Ironing... Ironic... Iron....

So, how do I find things I like? Pray that someone from a band I like makes a side-project? That does happen from time to time but I get jealous of the kids out there that can reach out and grab some random music and it's totally tailored to them. They're still in the pocket. Lately I've been hearing the term "90's Fat-Wreck style punk" obviously referring to what Fat Wreck Chords was putting out in the mid-late 90's. It's weird to have your likes suddenly thrown into an era. But that era didn't pass long ago. It was just... Oh, shit... that was 15 years ago. Nevermind.

So, I'm 28 and I feel like a large portion of the music scene has left me behind. I see things like Fallout Boy and Brokencyde and I am utterly confused. If I feel left behind now, what's it going to be like in another 20 years? I going to be telling my kids about the days of Skankin' Pickle and MU330 and how we've never had music like that since. Hell, I already say things like that. It'll be OK, though, because if my kids grow up faster and become out of touch faster they'll probably be bitching about their own stuff going the way of the Buffalo.

I'm definitely not gonna change. I don't think I'm capable of it. But I'm hoping for every 10 A Alexisonfires theres a Heartsounds or a Lawrence Arms or a NOFX to hold shit down. That'll have to do for now.

To end this on a note that makes me feel less old I'm gonna plug a brand new album. The Menzinger's new album "Chamberlain Waits" is awesome. Definitely go pick it up. It sounds a bit like late 90's Fat----- aw, shit!



What the hell has been going on around here?

Well, after feeling that this blog was redundant and a bit useless when compared to Deviant Art, I decided to abandon it for a while. Now, I have decided to fire it back up again as more of a rant outlet. "But Mike," you say, "Don't you rant on a weekly podcast and in tweets and on DeviantArt and in normal conversation? Why do you need another outlet?" Basically because I want to keep those avenues to what their focus is. DA is for my art and such, 10th Muse Podcast is for games, Tweets are too short, and normal conversation is too convenient. So, this will now be re-purposed into an expanded journal of sorts.

I'll get my first post up a little later. For now, I am going to continue to clean up around here a bit.

Peace and Carrots!