Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bear Witnes

Bonjourno!

Hello, again, my imaginary readers!

I'm going to do a little writing exercise, just for laughs.
Since I'm not working from a plan here, I'm going to look around my room for a moment and pick an object to write about.
You may be asking yourself, "Why is he doing this? Why am I reading this? Is this what my life has become?"
I, honestly, don't have a good answer for any of those... especially the bit about your life. What do i look like, some sort of person that gets it?
You haven't been paying attention.

OK. Here we go. Let's see....
hmmm.... something to write about....
give me a minute...
um....
(By the way, all I can hear right now is the TV in the other room BLASTING Kardashians at me. This is scarier than living in a haunted house.)

Eureka!

     I'm not a fan of bears, perse. Now, bear with me here.
Bears do their thing, I do mine. I shit in a bathroom, and from what I hear, they shit in the woods... or is it in the Pope's hat? Either way, bears and I are just on different paths. One could say we are polar opposites. get it?

     It started in high school.
     I moved, with my family, to West Bearington in the summer between 8th and 9th grade.
I wasn't happy to be moving and leaving my life behind; all of my friends, all of the things I knew.
West Bearington was 3 hours from my old hometown of Failings Falls, and when you are 14 years old, that may as well be 3 light years. I was forced to be "The New Kid", and it was something I never really stopped being.
     West Bearington was a town, literally, full of bears. Not everyone, but predominantly. I thought it was strange, but diversity and all that.
     The bears in high school were really into sports and school spirit, while I was more introspective and into music.
     I never fit in with them, though I tried. I would bring boxed lunches of salmon, and try to be up on bear culture, hoping that one of these tactics would bear fruit and I would be accepted by my classmates. However, nothing I did made a difference. I was the new kid and I wasn't a bear, I would never be a bear, and they would never let me forget it.

I would bear the brunt of this without giving away how I really felt, but as time went by my attitude and behavior took a turn for the worse.
I got a reputation quickly as a troubled kid. I skipped school, got into fights, and caused trouble for anyone and everyone around me.

     They eventually sent me to the school therapist, Mr. Treadwell, but all he had to say to me was, "
Don't go out in the prime cut of big green...", that was where all the bears hung out, "... and stay away from Ed and Rowdy. You don't want to cross paths with members of an up-and-coming sub-adult gang. And  yet, you are challenging everything, including me. It goes with the territory. If you show weakness, if you retreat, you may be hurt, or you may be killed. You must hold your own if you're going to stay within this school. For once you show weakness they will exploit it, they will take you out, they will decapitate you, they will chop you up into bits and pieces. you're dead. But so far, you persevere." but I listened, and I stayed away from Ed and Rowdy. I was a loner.
     I had no friends. None of the bears would give me the time of day, and the few people in town stayed clear of me.
     I lashed out at my family at every turn. I wouldn't listen to my parents. I'd stay out late, biking around town. I'd go out to the lake and think about getting out of West Bearington for good. no more rules, no more family, and no more bears.
My mother would say to me, "Why can't you be more like those bears? They aren't a disappointment to their parents. You need to bear down on your studies, stop this fooling around, and get your act together, mister!" she was oblivious to their true character.
     Dad, on the other hand, had always been distant with me, and worked nights at the mail processing facility in East Bearington, I didn't see him much. when I did he would say things like "You aren't trying beary hard to make friends. Maybe we should have signed you up for cub scouts!" He thought it was all a big joke.
I think Dad was in denial... about everything. He and my mother had been fighting, viciously, for years. It was more than either of them could bear. My problems only exasperated things.
     It wasn't long after graduation that Dad left us and moved to another state with his new girlfriend. I haven't spoken to him since, but mom told me I have a half-brother.
     I think my folks only stayed together as long as they did for the sake of us kids. My older sisters were lucky enough to have been out of the house by the time we moved. Once I became an adult the could go their separate ways. I don't blame them.

     High School came and went, and while I barely graduated.
     The bears were all making plans for college. Most going on to good colleges, with only a handful going to State Schools.
Many were headed to Ivy league educations, while my hopes lay in taking classes at the community college, if I could afford it.
     The few bear trouble makers had gotten their acts together, managing to stay out of serious trouble because of who they were related to,  I wasn't so lucky.
I got brought in a few times for public drunkenness, graffiti, trespassing, and destruction of property. I was now the town troublemaker, and I did my best to live up to the name.
     I would drink cheap vodka and spray paint "I hate bears" and other anti-bear slurs on walls all over town. One night I went out and started kicking in den windows and keying cars. I was reckless. It didn't take them long to track me down and bring me in.
Mom had to come bail me out.

I was given community service and had to get a job. Part of my probation was having a full-time job.
     I found employment at McCreary's House of Irish Tacos. Minimum wage, but all the potato quesadillas I could eat. The job had it's perks but had it's drawbacks as well. McCreary's was the local hangout.
     I got self-conscious about my life and station therein. I was in the service industry, and I was serving bears.
I had no one to blame, I had brought this on myself through the choices I had made. this meant it was my own cross to bear, no one else's.
    Every day, bears I knew would come in to order or pick up food. I would serve them, politely, but I couldn't bear to look them in the eye. They seemed to enjoy it though. Here was the little rebel, serving food to his betters. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
     Holiday breaks were especially embarrassing times for me. This was when all of the bears at college would come home to spend their breaks with family and high school friends. Inevitably, some of the bears would come in to the restaurant, order a party box of fish tacos. they'd then sit and use the free wi-fi with their iPads or Mac books and I could feel them judging me. I knew what they were thinking.
"OF course he works here.", "Looks like we were right. He is a townie, serving fast food.", "What a loser! And he smells like chipotle."
     I won't lie, I felt inferior. I envied the bears, but would never admit it to myself. Those feelings came out as hatred. I hated bears. Bear in mind, the truth if the matter was I hated myself.
 The bears were everything I wanted to, but never would, be; Successful, popular, worldly.
They spent their days bettering themselves, and I spent mine dicing tomato and watching Judge Judy on the break room television.
     One night, after working the late shift and having had a bad day, I hopped on my Schwinn and pedaled for home. The plan was to go home and relax. First I'd hit up the redbox outside of the gas station, hopefully get something watchable, and spend the night with some popcorn and my dog .
     Bear in kind, I had long since given up on being a rebel. The reality of my world had finally extinguished that fire. I just wanted to be alone. i didn't want trouble, but I didn't want to deal with anyone either. not friends, not family. no one.
My plan was a quiet night, but the best laid plans of mice and men...
     I had just picked up my DVDs and was putting them into my backpack when I saw a car load of young bears drive by - These weren't cubs, but adolescent bears, the sort that look for a fight. But also the sort that never get into any serious trouble, even if they do something that would have serious consequences for anyone other than a bear. They were in a brand new Ford Expedition. Obviously someones dad had money.
     As they sped by, one of them yelled out at me, "Nice bike, loser!" and threw a soda on me.
Being in an already foul mood because of the shitty day I had had at work, and now covered in Dr. Thunder, I yelled back, "Fuck you, bear jerk!" and flipped them off - a bad idea. I should have just grinned and beared it, but that rebel spoke up.
     As soon as the words were out of my mouth and that digit was in the air I knew I was in serious shit.
Their brakes squealed and the driver made a U-turn, peeled out and was bearing down on me. I skid to a halt, trying to avoid the bumper.
The car stopped short and four young, but still scarily large bears jumped out of the expedition. It looked like I was going to have to fight them with my bear hands...





Ok, so that was ridiculous.

Why did I do that?

The object was a teddy bear beanie baby someone once gave me as a gift.
i had no idea where that was going or even what it was about. It wasn't autobiographical.

I just started writing, and then stopped. Whatever came out is what came out.
wow. I need to get a life.

Until next time.
Mr. S.P.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

OBSESSIONS Part 1: Please Please Me

Howdy folks!

How are my imaginary readers this afternoon?

In an effort to be more proactive - at least as far as my blog is concerned - I am here to update.
Ready....
Steady....
GO!

    In keeping with my theme of "ego-maniacal self-obsession", I thought I'd tell you all about the things I've been doing and been "into" as of late.

    In case you don't know me - which is, obviously, the case - I am one of those people that gets really into things. However, my "obsessions" - other than with myself - tend to last only a short amount of time.
(I have the attention span of a goldfish.)
    Usually these "obsessions" last anywhere from 2 weeks to a few months and inevitably peter out well before I do anything embarrassing.

(Thankfully I did NOT buy a Star Trek uniform.)
Won't Live So Long and Perspire.
Because, you know being fat is unhealthy... and fat people... we sweat.... a LOT


None-the-less, it's a trait which often leads to ridicule from friends, especially the girlfriend.
    She can usually put up with my nonsense for about 3 days before the eye-rolling begins and, at the week mark. will often times say, "Oh my god! shut up about it, you weirdo.".
I don't blame her.

    The list of things I have become obsessed with over the years is too long - and much too embarrassing - to give here. Let's just say it's a wonder that I'm not still a virgin.

That about sums it up.


Without further ado
(Drum-roll, please)
budda-budda-budda-budda-budda-budda
BAH!

The Beatles

You have to be a bastard to make it, and that's a fact. And the Beatles are the biggest bastards on Earth..
-John Lennon


Yes, folks... the "Fab Four";
John, Paul, George, and Ringo!

It's seems I was inoculated against "Bieber-fever", but caught myself a raging case of "Beatlemania".

I do love George.



    Now, before I continue, I'd like to point something out.
I have always been a fan of The Beatles and the respective members of the group. However, this is a renewed interest that goes beyond the norm. For whatever reason I just got really into them again... all of a sudden.

    The genesis of these obsessions is always interesting - to me.
In this case it was an accidental click of a mouse.
    I was looking around the net tubes for guitar tablature (because I can't read music. That would take entirely too much effort) and trying to learn to play some Elliott Smith songs.
(My guitar does, in fact, gently weep. Well, no... it cries like a torture victim.)

    I stumbled across Rawkblog.com and their collection Elliott smith covers. Listed there were a number of Beatles songs.
(side note: If you haven't heard Elliott Smith covering the Beatles then you should...uh.... go do that now. Here's a link!
http://www.rawkblog.net/2009/02/elliott-smith-the-complete-live-covers/ )

    After listening to Elliott's cover of "I'm So tired", I decided to check out the tablature for the song and see if I could learn to play it...in, at least, a somewhat serviceable manner. (Is this where the kids say "Epic Fail?")

I then checked out a few more Beatles tabs and it struck me, once again, that I really loved their music.

    I put the guitar down and picked up the mouse and clicked over to YouTube...
(Shameless plug time! : www.youtube.com/user/misterstephenpike   Now go watch old movies on my channel, nerds! )
... and started watching Beatles videos (interviews, songs, etc).
    I came across "The Beatles Anthology" and remembered watching the accompanying documentary back in 1995 (A.K.A. the good old days. Back when 14 year old Steve Thought he was cool, wearing nail polish and all black clothes because what's cooler than a 14 year old fat goth kid?).

*no picture needed

    I looked for the episodes from "Anthology" on YouTube but couldn't find them. (Maybe I didn't look terribly hard. Sue me! Wait.... I take that back! Don't sue me!).
    Stymied, I decided to look for them through another site (The site which shall not be named! - there you go, nerds. a half-assed Harry Potter reference.) and found them neatly packaged and just begging to be dow... I mean watched... legally.
Totally legally.

Lord Voldemort  - from his YouTube show - showing his viewers how to use torrent sites because he is evil *wink*



    After watching the 7 episodes of "The Beatles Anthology" documentary I was a born-again, full-fledged "Beatlemaniac" (Beatle-ite? Beatle-ist? Orthodox Beatle-ian? eh.)
Yes, folks. I was swept up in a 50 year old phenomenon like a pimply jr. high school girl.
(Ringo for President!)

    Of course, over the next couple of weeks and being the obsessive type, I watched and listened to every last bit of Beatles media I could find.
I got the entire discography (including demos, outtakes, etc - again, all done totally legally), a couple of books, and even started perusing the Beatles memorabilia sites (This has precedent... I bought a signed George Takei 8x10 glossy once. Oh my!)... you know, the usual nonsense of fandom.



    I, also, began telling my girlfriend about the Beatles (which she had absolutely no interest in hearing about. In fact, I think it made her hate me a little...more.  Come on, baby...Love me do, you know I love you. So please... love me do.)
I learned every Beatles song I could on the guitar (which wasn't many, and all poorly.) and generally being a fanatic in every sense of the word.
    This is all still on-going, though I can tell I am at the tail-end of my obsession. The last piece is the painting of John Lennon I am working on.
    That's correct, sir... a painting... of John Lennon.
Imagine that! (*ding*!)
No, it's not a small painting.
Why, yes. It is pretty rad.
He is holding a Siamese cat.
Give (this) Piece a chance.
(see what I did there?)

    Here is one interesting fact about my obsessions (and by interesting I mean not interesting at all... to anyone other than me... ever.)
I paint what I like.
It seems that whenever I get into something with that sort of passion, I inevitably end up doing a piece of artwork related to it.
    I don't find this strange considering I am an artist (or, at least, I think I'm an artist. I tell myself I'm an artist. I am an artist, right? right?!)
    I paint, therefore I am. ( My very own existentialist nightmare.)

    In my life (ha!) I have always expressed myself through my artwork. This painting of John Lennon is a prime example.
    All of this information goes into my brain (plenty of room in there), get's mixed up with my passion, and comes spewing out as artwork.
Yes... spewing.
    I promise, when the painting is done, I will post it.
(Fair warning: I often start paintings and then abandon them, so there is no guarantee you will ever see it.)

    So, that's my Beatles obsession in a nutshell
(A giant, house-sized nutshell because I write like I'm trying to outdo 'War & Peace'.)
(Isn't it funny that people always reference that book when talking about boring or overly long writing? What does that tell you? Suck a fat one, Tolstoy!)

A fat one, you say?


    After some contemplation (and while trying to remember that people don't want to read a book when the go to a blog), I've decided to split this whole thing up into parts. I wouldn't want to over-burden you. I'm what they call "long-winded".
    This is part one, and this is also the end of part one.
So long, folks!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

MOVIES, MOVIES, MOVIES!!!!



How are my favorite imaginary readers this evening?

I believe I may be the worst "blogger" in the entirety of the Western Civilization.
But I'm back and I'm going to try to make a concerted effort to blog more often.

With that out of the way...

What's new?

Well. I'm, as we speak, uploading stuff to YouTube!

Don't get too excited.

Since I have no camera, no editing software, and very little to say to the World I am, instead, uploading movies!
"Which movies?", you ask... these ones!

So far I have uploaded:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) -silent- -Germany-




  This is one of my favorite films of all-time.

Directed by Robert Wiene
Written by Carl Mayer and Hans Janowitz
Starring -
Werner Krauss as Dr. Caligari
and the amazing Conrad Veidt as Cesare

German expressionist films pushed the boundaries of the medium and influenced generations of filmmakers. This film is one of the prime examples.
   The film's plot is given through the recollections of a man - Francis - and his experiences with  a carnival sideshow "Doctor" - the titular Caligari - and his fortune-telling somnambulist "Cesare".
   The sets are "expressionist" in their design. Everything in this World seems slightly "off" in some way, lending a dream-like - or rather nightmare-like - tone and sense of anxiety. It is this very quality which makes the film so visually interesting. These sets are as integral to the film as any of the characters.
    I've watched "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" many times over and still find it to be a stunning in it's design and execution as i did the very first time I saw it.

next up we have....

The Golem (1920) -silent- -Germany-




 Another German "Expressionist" film that marries arresting visuals with solid story-telling.

Directed by Carl Boese and Paul Wegener
Written by Henrik Galeen and Paul Wegener
Starring -
Paul Wegener as 'The Golem'

From IMDB: "In 16th-century Prague, a Jewish rabbi creates a giant creature from clay, called the Golem, and using sorcery, brings the creature to life in order to protect the Jews of Prague from persecution."

I enjoy this film on a number of levels. Visually it is fantastic. The sets, character design, wardrobe... I enjoyed every facet of this film. Boese and Wegener created an enduring cinematic experience and one that any fan of film should see.


Ah.... this next one is a gem.

The Lodger: A story of the London Fog (1927) -silent- -England-




Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Based on the novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes
Scenario by Eliot Stannard
Starring -
Ivor Novello - "The Lodger"
Malcolm Keen - "Joe Chandler- Police Detective"
June - "Daisy Bunting"
Marie Ault - "Mrs. Bunting"
Arthur Chesney - "Mr. Bunting"


An early example of Hitchcock's genius. This is in my top ten favorites of all-time.

    The film is about a family - The Buntings- who own and operate a lodging house in London. When we join the story London is in the midst of a a sensational series of murders by "The Avenger".
    His victims have all been young blonde women - which the bunting's young daughter, Daisy - just happens to be.
   One evening a man comes to their door asking for a room. They oblige and the man takes up residence in their home. It's not long before Mrs. bunting and Daisy's beau - a police detective - begin to suspect that their new lodger is, in fact, "The Avenger".

This movie was visually innovative and is an excellent example of Hitchcock's talents as a director of suspense films.
Hitchcock himself told Francois Truffaut that, although he had made several pictures prior to "The Lodger", he considered it his first true suspense film.

Up next is a film I consider to be a masterpiece of the medium

The Phantom Carriage (1921) -silent- -Sweden-




Directed by Victor Sjostrom
Based on the novel by Selma Lagerlof
Screenplay by Victor Sjostrom
Starring -
Victor Sjostrom as 'David Holm'
Hilda Borgstrom as 'Mrs. Holm'
Tore Svennberg as 'Georges'
Astrid holm as 'Sister Edit'

    I consider this film to be one of the most visually and emotionally powerful films I have ever seen - silent or talkie.
    Sjostrom showed a deft hand in directing this piece, using truly outstanding visual effects, lighting, and staging to bring to life a Dickensian plot about a man and his life's regrets.

    David Holm is an alcoholic - one that has chosen a life of drink over his wife, family.
He spends his time drinking and carousing with other drunks and bums and shows little worry or care for others.

The film opens with a woman in bed, dying. It is there she asks to see David Holm.

    David is, at that time, in a church graveyard with a couple of drinking buddies. He laughingly tells of a legend regarding New Year's Eve. This legend states that the last person to die in a year - if he is a sinner - will take over the reins of the "Korkalen" or "Phantom Carriage" for the entirety of the following year.
The "Phantom Carriage" is owned "Death" and is the sinner is charged with picking up the souls of the departed.
 "For him a single night is as long as 100 years on Earth. Night and day he must carry out his master's business."
    David was told this legend the previous New Year's Eve by Georges - another bum he had palled around with.
    On that Previous New Year's, David, and a few others were together playing cards and drinking in a bunk house when they noticed a change come over Georges. Despondent, he sits alone in a corner.
 David takes notice and attempts to engage Georges in the fun, but to no avail. He returns to the game. An argument breaks out between David and another guy over cheating. Georges quickly stops the fight and tells the others why he is acting the way he is. He solemnly tells the legend and reveals that his is afraid of anything fatal happening to himself or his buddies lest they be the one to take up the reins.
    As David tells his buddies in the graveyard about Georges and the legend, he reveals that Georges did, in fact, die on the previous New Year's Eve.
the two men he is with are spooked by the tale, quickly taking another drink each from their bottles.
David, however, laughs it all off as superstitious nonsense.
    It's near midnight when one of Sister Edit's friends finds David in the graveyard.
He is informed of Edit's request to see him and of her condition. Despite this, he refuses to go. The friend leaves and David goes back to his drinking.
    David's drinking buddies try to make him go see Edit, though he still refuses.  Fearing for his soul and with only a minute left until midnight, his friends start trying to physically make David go see Edit. The drunken David resists and they start fighting. One of the men is thrown to the ground. As the fight continues, that man grabs one of the bottles and sneaks up on David, smashing him over the head with the bottle. He collapses dead and the two bums race off.

    I won't give away the whole story. You need to watch this one.
The soundtrack - which was done much later - is eerie, stark, and fits so perfectly. The creepy vibe never let's up.
No need to say more, just go see it!


With that said, I'll continue my exploration of my YouTube channel in my next update (tomorrow), as well as telling you about a few other things I've got going on.

Thanks for stopping by

S.P.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Kindness Is Magic

Hello again, my friends.

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has sent me messages related to my artwork as posted on the 'Derek' fansite http://www.tadpolehitler.com

I, honestly, can't thank you enough. Your kind words mean everything to me.

In my artistic "career" (for lack of a better term.) I've not had much in the way of praise - at least in this fashion.
When @Tadpole_Hitler (the owner/operator of the website) announced last week that some more fan-art was going up on the site I was excited and had hoped maybe one of my pieces would be deemed "good enough" to make the cut.

About 'Derek', the fans, and art:

Over the last several months, as 'Derek' has aired, the fan community surrounding it has grown. I've met many lovely, funny, intelligent, and kind people who happen to share this common bond in the show.

It seems, of all of Mr. Gervais' work, 'Derek' has struck a chord with people.
Early on (after the pilot had aired and even before) there was a lot of negative critiquing of Ricky, the show, and especially the character of Derek.
The world in which we live is, and I think you'll agree, quick to find "offense" in things.
You'll notice that offense is in quotes. That is because I believe people are afraid of being perceived as uncaring or somehow bigoted in some fashion. It's much safer to say something is offense in a knee-jerk fashon just to hedge one's bets.
Critics and others saw Ricky playing a man best described as "Special" and immediately pounced on him and the show for being insensitive and mocking those with disabilities.
Of course, this was without actually watching the show or understanding who "Derek" is or what the show is trying to say.
The show itself has not stated directly what it is that makes Derek "special", at least not from a diagnosis standpoint. It has addressed Derek as a "Person" and shown us all that he is, in many ways, better than us.

To quote Ricky (from his blog http://www.rickygervais.com/thissideofthetruth.php )

Q: Is kindness one of the predominant ideas behind this show?

A: Absolutely. If there is a theme, it's kindness. Kindness trumps everything. And that's why the main characters have to be outsiders and losers. They all have to be deficient in everything except doing the right thing. They're still better people than you if you're not kind. Derek is so non judgmental but he sees through bullshit too. He only has one agenda- "What's the right thing to do?" And he doesn't even know it's an agenda. He's just "good" and nothing takes his eye of the ball. He sums it up in episode 6 when he says "I don't think it matters if there is a god or not. I've met people who believe in God that are good and that are bad. And I've met people who don't believe in God that are good and that are bad. So, just be good. I'm good. Not cos I think I'll go to heaven but because when I do something bad, I feel bad. And when I do something good, I feel good." 

In many ways 'Derek' has changed my life.
It's made me kinder, more empathetic, more positive, and more willing to wear my heart on my sleeve.

There was a bit in the last episdoe (ep 6 series 1) in which each of the main characters is being interviewed and asked a series of questions. Kev - the shows unwashed, unrepentent, sex-crazed greaseball with a heart of gold - speaks about his life and about Derek. he is asked, "Do you have any regrets?" his answer:

"yeah. Ive always tried the easy way out. Always... i thought it was the easy way out. Always looked for an angle... looked for a shortcut. Should've tried. Should've worked hard.... But I gambled. and I drank, I begged and I hoped. I'm a coward... a failure, I guess. I'm not a failure because I didn't succeed. I'm a failure because I didn't try. I'm just glad I met Derek, ya know? Not 'cos hes better than me - everyone's better than me - but, 'cos he makes me feel better, because he's better than everyone. Derek took the best shortcut you can, the only shortcut that's good and the only shortcut that works... and that's kindness."

That statement speaks to me on many levels. I identify with it. I have many regrets, and the blame for each lies at my own feet. I think many of us have felt this way, even just a little. I'm afraid to fail. I'm afraid of getting it wrong. I'm afraid I'm not good enough... so I haven't tried.
In that moment, hearing those words from Kev, I felt as if I had a mirror held up to my life.
And though Derek is a fictional character, and it's only a television show, I feel the same way Kev does.
I'm glad I met 'Derek'.
The show, itself, is special. It's not just another comedy. It's not 'The Office' or 'Extras'. Mr. Gervais has done something here that is greater than the sum of it's parts.
Ricky, himself, has said he has been astonished by the response he has gotten for 'Derek' from the fans. He thinks it is his best, and favorite, work.
I've been astonished as well. The fans of the show that I have interacted with are wonderful people. I think each of us has taken something from this show and, as one can see, the fans want to give back as well. Whether it be fan art, funny twitter accounts, or - and this is best - donating to charity, the fans have made 'Derek' their own.

I, for one, have tried to give back to the show and the fan community with the only thing I really have - art.
If you read my last post, you know how i feel about being an "Artist". It's something i do naturally and is my form of expression.
I know i'm not the greatest artist in the world (my opinion of myself is quite a bit lower than that!) but I recognize that people enjoy my work. The end all be all for me is in the sharing. I don't create to make money (though that isn't a bad thing, nor am I averse to it), and I don't create to BE somebody, I'm not looking for recognition or to become famous. I simply want to make art and share it with people.
'Derek' has inspired me and I've wanted to share that with every one of the 'Derek' fans out there. I get a lot of joy from people's response to my work. It's not about hearing "You're great!" or anything like that. It's about people truly enjoying it.
I've done thousands upon thousands of pieces in my life, yet own very few of them. It's not that i sell them, but i've given away pieces over the years. People will say "I like that." and i just give it to them.
So, when it came to my 'Derek' artwork, I simply wanted the fans to see it and enjoy it.

When I first saw some of my artwork on Tadpolehitler.com I was overjoyed. I had drawn a couple of quick sketches for fun and seeing them get shared with all those other fans was a great feeling.
The unsung hero of the 'Derek' fan community is @Tadpole_Hitler .
He created the site because he was a fan and wanted to share 'Derek' with the world.
He has been instrumental in making 'Derek' accessible to the masses (both in and out of the UK.) and gave we fans a "home" of sorts.
Ricky Gervais himself has supported the site both by giving exclusive interviews (himself and the cast) as well as by providing a prize (signed tadpole bedpan) and judging entries for a contest.

Tadpolehitler.com and my artwork:

Over last weekend (March 9/10/11) I got busy with the sketchbook. Knowing @Tadpole_Hitler was going to put up more work I thought I'd send some more. I had some issues with my camera (blast the damned thing!) and hadn't been able to send any in. On monday night I went back to square one with my sketchbook and finally got the camera working.
I mulled over what I wanted to draw, I did one picture of Derek, early in the episode, talking about his Father.
While i liked it, I wasn't very happy with it. I scrapped that and went back to the episode.
I, unlike Derek, was very close with my Father.
He was, as i've said before, the most influential person in my "artistic career" (boy i hate saying those words). He, himself, was an artist; a sculptor and carver. He made a few carved hiking sticks and, for a period, a number of *sandstone sculptures. (I'll tell you about that sometime).
The finale episode of Derek involved his Father coming back into his life after leaving him and his mother when he was a baby.
While I coouldn't relate to that directly, I understood it and found it held signifigance to my own life.
The moment in the episode in which Derek hops out of the car and runs up to his Father and hugs him had me in tears. It was a powerful moment about regret, kindness, and forgivness.
It was that moment i chose to draw.
I wasn't sure I'd be able to pull it off. The emotion in the scene, the power of the episode itself, came to a head in that moment between these two men - Father and Son.
All I wanted to do was echo, if possible, that moment. To freeze it in time and share it with the fans.
I did my work the best I could. I knew, when I was done, that I had done a pretty good job. It captured the moment, for me at least, and i was proud of it.
I sent it off to @Tadpole_Hitler though under the impression that i had missed the "deadline" for his update of fan-art on the site. I was excited to see what he'd put up and what other fans had done. There had been a number of really awesome and well crafted pieces already and I admired each for their skill and creativity.
I felt that my pieces were ok,, but not in league with many other i had seen. I was proud of my work, but that part of me that always says "You aren't good enough." was whispering in my ear.

That same night I wrote about my thoughts on being an "artist" for this blog, partly inspired by that Kev quote and also by artist/musician amanda Palmer and her recent TED talk.
It was that self-doubt that led me to examine myself and my life as an "artist".
Once i finished both writing and the 'Derek' piece, I went to bed.

I woke up, Tuesday, and check Tadpolehitler.com to see if maybe I had a piece in the update.
When I did I almost fainted.

http://www.tadpolehitler.com/2013/03/the-artwork-of-stephen-pike.html

Now, i know this isn't a big deal to anyone else, nor does it merit this insufferably long blog post, but to me having my artowrk featured this way came as a complete and utter shock to me.

I never expected it, nor did I seek it.
As I said, i just wanted to give back to the show and the fan community. Never, in my wildest imaginings, did I expect there to be something like that.
I was speechless, literally. i didn't know what to say.

Reaction:

I will say this: My life doesn't often have many good things happening in it. Mostly that is my fault, though there are some extenuating circumstances. I won't go into detail, but suffice to say that there are alot more clouds than there are silver linings.
I've had some modest success in terms of art (see blog) that have made me quite happy, but generally it's a thing I do for my own amusement and catharsis.
I've always wanted to be a "true" artist, but i've come to realize that I can't achieve that from exterior means. I am an artist because that is what I want to be. I don't need anyone elses permission nor recognition.
I don't need a license to be an artist. It's up to me. If that is who i want to be then that is that.
Simply calling yourself an artist and creating is only a part of the equation. while i don't need permission or recognition, I do feel art is meant to be appreciated and seen. I don't mean for money or for praise, but for the enjoyment it gives.
When I saw that @Tadpole_hitler had recognized me and my work I was over the moon.
I was proud of this work and I wanted it to be shown to the fans of 'Derek'.
I thought that was an incredibly kind thing to do on the part of @Tadpole_Hitler.
There was no reason to showcase my work, but he did. It was the nicest thing anyone has done for me since... well, I don't remember the last time someone was that kind to me.
But it felt good to be recognized. I won't lie. I won't say I'm completely selfless and it doesn't effect me. It does. It feels good to know people like your work. Do i think that defines the work or myself as an artist? No.But it feels good and I can be proud of that.
I showed the site to a few friends and family and they were proud of me. It's not often I give them something to be proud about, but here was something tangible that they could see and understand. It gave them a glimpse at who i am on the inside (something i don't show often.) and, for that, I am thankful to @Tadpole_Hitler, the fans, Ricky Gervais, and of course 'Derek'.





Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Explanations; CREATE

And we're back...

This is becoming a regular thing, isn't it?

Anyway.

Thought I'd come back, maybe give you a little something.

I call myself an artist.
But I don't believe it - in the traditional sense.

     Sure, I can draw. I also enjoy painting quite a lot. I play (badly) the guitar, bass, and drums. I love singing... and I also enjoy writing.
I've tried short stories, novels, etc. I never get very far because I can't stay focused on any one thing for more than a few days (If I'm lucky). It's why I paint so quickly - I usually start and finish a painting in one go, but lately I've been purposefully stretching that out over a few nights and I find it incredibly difficult.
One area of "art" that I feel comfortable creating in is "poetry".

     Now, I'm not a great poet - I'm not even a good poet - but I enjoy it.
My poems aren't really "poems" per se. They don't, usually, rhyme as I find rhyming poems to be pedantic at best.
My writings are more "stream of consciousness" (which, as far as I'm concerned means "drivel written by idiots").
However,"Stream of consciousness" (SoC) isn't exactly right either. I know what I'm writing and it is very purposeful, but my "poems" read like they are "SoC", so that's what we'll call them.

     What they are, in reality, are carefully abstracted thoughts that I choose to express in much the same way I would express something visually.
Painting, in the abstract, is about seeing things in your own way, in your own context, and divorced - somewhat - from reality.
     I use words like I would use paint. It's about creating an idea or image in the mind's eye; a feeling or series of feelings meant to convey a message. I don't care if it's written "correctly" or if I follow the "rules". Art isn't about rules.

     For example, I've always felt that "photo realistic" art was boring. It's technically masterful, but boring. If i wanted a photo realistic image of something, I'd take a photo.
I could write "traditional" poems, but I don't see the point. To me, it's like someone knowing all of the rules of writing and grammar - Sure, they can write well from a technical standpoint, but that doesn't mean what they are writing is any good.
     Think of it this way: You could learn everything there is to know about playing the piano. you could study for years and years and become a master of the instrument. However, that does not mean that you automatically write great music. In fact, you might write terrible music that no one likes.
     While I appreciate the technical prowess and ability, it lacks that "spark" and that spark is something inside you. You either have it or you don't.
So, while you might be an amazing pianist, you aren't truly expressing that spark.

     In all, I'm more interested in how an artist sees the world around them and how they express that vision. I want to see that spark.

     Part of why I don't consider myself a "traditional" artist - and at the same time do -  is my lack of education.
I didn't go to art school. I didn't take art classes (other than the required high school courses - which taught me nothing.) My "talent" comes naturally from a lifetime of doing it.
I was born with a spark.

     I've been drawing since I could hold a pencil and was encouraged by my family (in particular my father). It's been my defining trait (intellectually) for the past 30 years. It's who I am.
That, however, is at odds with how I perceive myself.
Because of the way in which artists and the arts are perceived by the world, I feel like a phony - a pretender. Every time I say "I'm an artist" I feel like I'm lying. It's a sort of "Cognitive dissonance". I see myself as an artist, yet feel outside of that world; a Persona Non Grata.
I will, at best, be considered "outsider".

     I try to fight that feeling. It can easily put one off of art - and I think it does. It makes people with desire and natural talent, who happen not to have the advantage of a degree or connections, feel as if they don't belong. It can make one feel as if they aren't really an artist or that they have no business even trying.

     I don't buy into the "art world" and it's bullshit; Phony Artist statements, the self-serving critics, the "deeper meaning" of work (when there isn't one) that people discuss over champagne, the supposed monetary value of work, etc.
A wall has been built between your average person and "The Art World". It's a club with a very discerning membership.
That is the work of people.
     People like to feel special. They want to "get it" and like to keep their club exclusive. That's why you get "Real" art being priced in the thousands of dollars (or much much more). no ordinary person can afford that.
Art has been co-opted by the "elite" and if you aren't part of that world then you never will be welcomed in. - that is unless, of course, you get very very lucky and one of these people deems you worthy.
It's a world of pretension. It's a world of who you know.
     I've met my share of artists and collectors who revel in that scene. Whether they truly believe their own bullshit is up for debate, but it has caused a great divide between "Art" and art.
It's a world where one needs a degree to be taken seriously or even given a chance.

     Art has become a commodity. You can get a degree in business, computers, criminal justice... and Art.
It fails to address the truth of what art is and why we are driven to create.
It was never a means to an end. Art isn't about making a living. Art isn't about selling your work. Art isn't about being famous or rubbing elbows with the elite.

     No, I don't have a degree. Does that means I'm not an artist? Does that diminish my work? Does that, truly, make me an outsider? Or are the outsiders those people who are "technically proficient" but have no spark or can't express it? I believe art cannot be defined. Nor can art be an exclusive club. It belongs to each of us.

     People have seen my work and said "I love it! It's amazing! did you go to art school? No? you should!"
Why should I? What difference would that make? So i can get a job doing it? Maybe be a graphic designer? i can go to school and use my art to make a fortune? Is that what it's about? That is the end I'm trying to achieve? "Forget creating. Forget what art means to you... what it IS. You should be making money!" "i don't know why you aren't RICH." "You should be doing this professionally!"

     Those sort of sentiments irk me. They belittle art and the artist. It cheapens art and makes it another means to an end.

     I've been told by friends that went to art school that it "kills" their creativity.
I was told, also, that I shouldn't go to school for it.
While it teaches you how to do many things, it also creates a "prison" that one finds hard to break free of. That is a prison made of expectation, rules, and the "correct" way of doing things.
In my opinion there is no "right" way of creating art.
While I'm talking in very broad terms, I feel there is a certain core truth here.
If there were no schools, no degrees, would art be any less for it? Would there be no artists? Would we not create?

     My favorite art is always that done by people without any formal training or education, whether it be the art children make that we put on the fridge, or the adult saying "I can't do it" and creating interesting, different, and wholly natural pieces devoid of the trappings of said "formal" training and education.
These pieces are the closest to what art truly is. It's natural expression. It's how someone sees their world.

     If I choose to paint a certain way, is that wrong? Who says what is "good" or "bad"? Who gets to make that choice? Why do i have to do it a certain way? Why is that correct?

     We, as a species, have been creating art since the beginning of time in some form or another.
Look at cave paintings. Look at idolatry from 10,000 years ago (or more). This is something inherent in our make-up. If anything defines us as a species, it's our ability and desire to create art. It sets us apart from the animals. It is, in many ways, the one true human characteristic.
Art is everywhere. It's in cave paintings, in tools, in construction, clothing, food, thought, feeling...
Our existence is defined by art.

Art is natural. It's inside of all of us. Some of us choose or are able to express that art to varying degrees. That's what I feel I am doing. Art is a part of my being - I have to do it.

When one makes art "definitive" and seeks to give it boundaries and rules, it ceases to be art. It becomes another technical function of our motor skills.

     To me, art is not about money, or being technically proficient. Art is what it is; Art for Art's sake.
It exists outside of galleries and museums. It has no intrinsic monetary value. It is expression, pure and simple. That is how I choose to express myself, for better or worse.

So, i might not be the "best" artist or even an "artist" at all in the academic sense, but I have a passion and need to create that goes beyond some degree, price, or recognition.

     If i were alone on a deserted Island, I'd still be creating art.
I don't do it for anyone else - and that's probably why I find it difficult to sell my work or price it for that matter. I don't create for the World. I breathe, my heart beats, I create.

     I do get feel good knowing people enjoy it, but that is not the end all be all. I don't care if I sell my work or if anyone wants to buy it. Those things are fantastic, and I'm happy people can appreciate it, but if they didn't it wouldn't matter.
Art is my expression, my escape, my drive, my need, my want, my desire, my reality...

That is why I call myself an artist.








A poem:

"Killing Time"


Leather Jodie filters.
Weight and spring.
Wander lots; lost -
none too steady.
Salty beds traced,
ruler doubled over.
drops leaning signal,
built Roman candles


-S.P.


Monday, March 11, 2013

I made him LAUGH: Small Potatoes

'Ello again, mates!

(yes, too much English slang and such.)

Back once again (more and more frequent I am!)

Just wanted to share this bit of nonsense:

If you haven't watched Ricky Gervais' new show 'Derek' then you're an idiot.
It's brilliant work and his BEST by far.
As i tend to do, I have done a bit of fan art work for the show.

A few pieces have turned up on the 'Derek' fan-site tadpolehitler.com

But THIS made my day:

Ricky tweeted the above to his billions (check that) followers... and guess who made that?
ME.

Yes, I am tooting my own horn and patting myself on the (very large) back, but so what? Can't I have just a BIT of happiness for ONCE in my rotten life? Geez.

I'll update some more later. I've got other things i want to share. Just thought i'd share this first.

Until next time,
SP

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Death of Geek Culture

Howdy, pardners...

Back again
(what? It HASN'T been six months?)

Just wanted this bit o' writing I did to find a happy home outside of a comment section.

Now, in case you hadn't noticed, I tend to be long-winded.
With that in mind, please check this out if you have a few hours to spare.

Cracked.com - one of my favorite sites - had an article up about the awful "fast food" television programming of the CW channel.

It's was a fun little read, but it also gave me an opportunity to say something I have been thinking about for some time now.

This "comment" comes with a disclaimer, of sorts, at the boot, explaining why it's so "sloppy".

Here, first, is the link to the article in question, from writer Soren Bowie, titled "4 Shows the CW Network Should Absolutely Make Next" :

http://www.cracked.com/blog/4-shows-cw-network-should-absolutely-make-next/

and then my response to said article:


This is the fault of one series: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

And, if you hadn't considered this point, take a moment to chew on it:
This wave we've all been riding for the last couple of few years (colloquialism); The "Geeks are cool" wave, is going to first crest and then crash upon the rocks of majority culture.
For whatever reasons - and they are numerous - Geeks have finally been free to be, well, geeks.
It's celebrated. No longer are you an outcast for reading comic books, or liking star Trek.
Geeks are "cool".
Somewhere along the line popular culture shifted in favor of the geeks. What once cause one to be marginalized or ostracized has become par for the course.
"What, you HAVEN'T read 100 bullets? You don't watch The Walking Dead? You don't think wil Wheaton is the messiah?"

The problem here is, like anything else that finds itself hanging ten on the Tidal wave, at some point it all comes to an end. The tide flows back out.
Nothing lasts forever - or, to keep with the pop culture motif "Nothing gold can stay".
There will be a backlash against "Geek culture". Mark my words.
If you pay close enough attention you can see it happening even now.
Society reaches a saturation point and once it's crossed there is no going back.
This article, in a way, is it's emissary.
Now, don't get me wrong. I am not defending CW or it's terrible programming. But we have only ourselves to blame.
What they - and others - are trying to do is "strike while the iron is hot". Not only that, though, they are also trying to actively create television (and other mediums) that will appeal to this, now pseudo, geek culture.
As much as these shows are seemingly trying to cash in on the "Twilight" craze (wasn't that over a couple years ago?) I think it's more akin to the aforementioned "Buffy"series in that they are creating, what they believe to be, "cult" television shows.
This is an obvious indicator of the coming death of geek culture.
Now, it may seem a tenuous thread connecting these shows (and, the entirety of similarly themed content) but look at it from another perspective.
How we consume entertainment has changed. We "mainline: television shows in a way that used to be nearly impossible to do.
I don't have to have hundreds of blank VHS tapes to be able to watch my favorite shows. They are all available either on DVD or through the internet. I could watch "Buffy", in its entirety, in a week or two. I no longer have to wait for a show to unfold. I can miss an entire series while it's on the air and still "catch up" at my leisure. I've never watched "Breaking Bad" as aired. instead I downloaded all of the episodes and watched them in a matter of days.
the same goes for most shows i watch these days. Sure, there are some I HAVE to watch when they premiere, but generally, I can watch whatever I want, whenever i want.
You may be thinking "you're making two very unrelated points." but, really, they are a part of a larger sum.
We all, for the most part, have embraced this "Geek culture". We've all embraced , to varying degrees, being "fanboys".
Where it used to be that owning an entire series would be sort of weird or a sign of fanboy geekiness, that behavior, now, is the norm.
DVR, DVDs, Torrents, or "illegal" streaming sites, give us access into formerly geek territory.
Yes, the face of media is changing, and we along with it, but as usual, the powerful entertainment companies (and generally every other business trying to sell to the public at large) recognize the market for what it is and attempt to tailor their product to fit the demos.
As we all know (or should know), once these mega corporations have their targets ins sight, they will flood the marketplace with what they think "we" want.
"People are mainlining shows like Buffy, and they love twilight - even if ironically- Weird and geeky is HIP! Let's give it to them! more robots, more sci-fi techno-babble, more comic books, more supernatural! they LOVED batman and the Avengers, and zombies. give them MORE of that!"
And while the geek inside me is jumping up and down in excitement, I realize also that we are in dangerous territory.
There is Always a backlash. We start being force-fed what we like. It's like saying "I love Doritos" and, where you used to get a bag here and there, you are now being inundated by truckloads of the stuff and having them shoved down your throat by the shovel full."
"Geek culture" stops being weird, different, special, and eccentric when EVERYONE is doing it. It becomes just another fad.
We become uneasy with it. Start recognizing that the line between real and marketed as real becomes blurred.
When I used to watch Zombie movies, or read Star Trek novels, I was looked at like I had three heads. Now it's so commonplace and ordinary. My 62 year old Mother loves 'The Walking Dead', 'Game of Thrones', and 'True Blood'. I think that speaks for itself.
now, I'm not saying that being a geek is cool because it is "different' or that it wouldn't be cool if it's "popular". Instead i am trying to say that whenever ANYTHING becomes a part of the "machine" and hits its cultural saturation point, the backlash against it is guaranteed.
As i said before - Mark my words...

(note: This isn't a fully fleshed-out piece of writing. I am going off the top of my head, but it is something I've been thinking about... and noticing. The backlash has already begun. Whether it will be quick or take a long time is a matter of conjecture. however, I believe the point stands.)