Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Two More By Five More

After having recorded, and traded, ten comps in just less than three years, we decided that it would only be appropriate to revisit the idea of a Top Five. And why wouldn't we? All being self proclaimed music enthusiasts, the well was certainly full of at least five more bands who've sparked our interests enough to base another two song anthology around. I already had at least two bands that I had to pass up for the original 2x5.

Once again, I scoured my long history of band obsessions and came up with three more that seemed to fit quite well together: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, as well as MF Doom, were the two who were rejected from the original. Along with these two, Elvis Presley, AC/DC (the 1970's Bon Scott-era, thank you very much) and Buffalo Tom seemed to fit the profile. Each and every one of these groups or artists hold a special place in my heart and were, therefore, chosen to represent 2>x5>.

Lisa, who had chosen to sit out the first volume, had considered participating in this round. At first, she was a bit apprehensive, explaining to me that her Top Five of All Time is a bit embarrassing. Knowing exactly who the couple of artists she was referring to were, I reminded her that AC/DC isn't necessarily in the first chapter of your typical music snob's Cool Book.

So she rattled off four of them: Michael Jackson, Madonna, Uncle Tupelo and Sarah McLachlan. She stopped at four and was hard pressed to find a fifth one. I offered a few suggestions, when she suddenly remarked at how big of a Bryan Adams fan she was back in her youth. It was with this that I helped her put together her very first 2x5 playlist. I later confessed to her that, if she didn't come up with her fifth and final band, I was going to burn her selections as planned, but with Van Halen included. A move that would have surely landed me in the dog house for a day or two, but would be worth it for the humor, if not the few solid minutes of fist-pumping rock.

The group's next challenge: Songs I Like By Bands I Hate.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Two By Five

This October marks the third anniversary of the very first meeting of the Secret Mixed Tape Society. The origin of our group stems from a challenge. One day, Brandon emailed me a list of his Top Five Bands Of All Time, and dared me to follow suit. I won't post his here (as usual, I invite him to do so on his own), but the ones I came up with were: Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, Primus, the Beastie Boys and Camper Van Beethoven (in no particular order, of course). We both had come up with numerous bands who we had felt a passion for over the years, but the hardest part was having to sit down and narrow these lists down to only five. Things we took into consideration were how long we'd appreciated said band, the number of records owned, the extent at which we sought out particular items connected to said band, etc. I had my list narrowed down to seven. I ousted the final two, only, due to the extent of time I'd been listening to them in comparison to the other five. It would be accurate to point out that, within this frame of time, Brandon's line-up shifted around a bit as well.

Now that we had each devised our lists, what do we do with them? We came up with the idea of burning a CD-R which represented particular songs by each group. But how many songs each? How many songs total? I got to thinking about it and wondered how I could possibly showcase each band evenly, but without making the mix too long. One important concept to the art of the mix is to hold the listener's interest throughout. Thus, the best possible solution would be to have only ten songs, with two songs by each artist. Why two songs? The idea was to showcase more than one side of the band. On my own mix what I chose to do was have the first song be from the earlier half of the band's career, and the second song be from the latter half. Once I had all the songs selected, I would put them in chronological order.

I shared this idea with Brandon, who liked what he heard. After each of our mixes were finished, we figured we'd take it a step further and ask Jeff to participate. Jeff liked the idea and suggested we all get together and have a night-in to have dinner and drinks, and then listen to each mix individually.

We listened to, and appreciated, each of the other's comps. By night's end, we decided that we would do it again but, this time, with a different theme altogether. As I've mentioned in the past, the only stipulations of a mix are that they be ten songs and that each person try to use a band only once. As you may be able to tell from the cover of my 2x5, my mix consists of eleven songs. I had decided to cheat and put one more song by Camper Van Beethoven on my mix. It was their version of Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk," which, I didn't want to necessarily use since it's not really their song, but felt that I had to simply because of its brilliance. Of course, in true mixed tape etiquette, I didn't bother listing the song on the original cover. Thus making it a "hidden track."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Still Life With Hipster Doofus

Sometimes, when I find that I haven't written anything in this blog for a while, I look through my current sketchbook to find a drawing that might spark a story. The illustration to the left was drawn a couple of Sunday mornings ago at the Broadway Cafe. The hipster was sitting across from a friend, but the friend was much too hairy, so I opted to leave his image out for the sole reason that my pen was close to drying up.

There's not really a story involved beyond that. The reason why this particular sketch caught my attention was because of the imperfections. For one thing, the hipster's sunglasses appear to be actually part of his face, rather than an accessory. Any artist worth his salt could tell you that the sunglasses should be resting lower on his nose. Also, the perspective in which he was drawn is off. Note the angle of the chair and table in relation to the position in which the hipster is sitting. Finally, the mistake that haunts me the most, the ghostly left hand that appears to be laying flat on the table. I hadn't yet committed myself to its existence and abandoned the idea only after having began the process of drawing it. Instead, I opted to scribble it out and explain myself with a caption and an arrow.

One thing I keep having to explain to young artists is that a sketchbook is nothing more than a tool for exercise and experimenting. When drawing in a journal, one should feel comfortable taking risks, and uncomfortable with an eraser within arm's reach.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Starving In The Belly Of A Whale

I rarely post links to other artists' work, but this just floored me. For his graduation project, Israeli design student Gal Shkedi created an animated music video for "Starving in the Belly of a Whale" by Old Tom and, his wife and collaborator, Kathleen Brennan. If you have a chance, you might even peruse the rest of his website. Seeing work like this, both, depresses and inspires me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Looking Fear In The Eye

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Fairfax Bird

I was recently contacted by my adviser from KCK Schools regarding the mascot for my middle school. As it happens, in the time that Fairfax has been open, they've been known as the "Falcons," but in name only. I told Dave that I would be more than happy to design something for them.

This exchange actually came on the heels of my second interview, but before I was officially offered the position. Who knows? Maybe it was between me and some other guy. I could see Dave sitting in his office talking to Rufus, the principal.

"I don't know. It's a toss-up between Pal Wright and that Mark Teel guy. Let's have them both design mascots for us and we'll make our choice based on that."

Or maybe it was because I didn't come to the interviews reeking of alcohol. Thank God for chewing gum.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

From Sir, With Love

Many people will be happy to know that I finally found a teaching job. This fall, I will be the brand new (and only) Art teacher at Fairfax Middle School in Kansas City, Kansas. You may be familiar with the Fairfax name only by reputation, as it's a middle school/high school for kids with criminal records. I know what you're thinking--I got tired of looking and finally settled for this. Well, not entirely. After having worked for the past year in the Shawnee Mission School District, and being told constantly that I would be considered for various Art openings, I finally got fed up and called KCK directly. After having sat down with the Fine Arts coordinator, I felt confident that this district would be my new home come fall.

My timing couldn't have been better, as Fairfax is in the process of starting up a new Art department, after years of never having one. This opportunity seemed my best fit since, as many of you are aware, I worked with this very type of population for two years while I worked toward my teaching certification. I never thought that I would be going back to doing it, but couldn't be more excited about the opportunity. And the idea that I'll be developing the school's art department from scratch has me even more eager to get started.

Lisa has reminded me that, with my "tough love" attitude, I come on the heels of a long line of no nonsense, inner city school faculty members--Richard Dadier from Blackboard Jungle, "Crazy Joe" Clark from Lean On Me, Mark Thackeray from To Sir, With Love, Coach Carter, Gabe Kotter....the list goes on. Would it be pushing it to include Ralph Hinkley from The Greatest American Hero in the mix? I guess he's got the same hair as me.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Is This Thing On?

To those of you who have read "That Baby," there's been one particular illustration that has always bothered me. I recently corrected it, giving the child more hair on the back of her head, thus allowing her to resemble Audrey even more.