Friday, July 23, 2010

Pop Musings

Jennifer Lopez, a booty like pow pow pow.
You know, that last post just scratched the surface of all the rules and regulations that we artists have to live by and how this comes into conflict with our lives as parents. So I felt like I had to delve into another subject, at least a little bit. Music. The codes on musical tastes aren't quite as stringent as long as certain criteria are met. For example one doesn't have to like punk or any indie rock necessarily. They can legally listen to country music as long as it predates the 1970's, though there are exceptions. Any country singer with three names is allowed, like Jerry Jeff Walker or Robert Earl Keen. Anything just totally over the top works as well, like Charlie Daniels, though this is probably listened to in an ironic sense. But still, if its older then its better is the general rule.
Classical music is tolerated, but it should be experimental or highly obscure - Erik Satie always impresses. Funk, metal, soul, folk, electronica, r&b, jazz, hip hop and even disco (with restrictions) are all acceptable form of audio entertainment. Even Fischerspooner is allowed on your mp3 player, but why?
In general the rules are simple. Obscurity ranks very high. Band names that include animals are good: Grizzly Bear, Arctic Monkeys. Old music is preferred because it is old. Inclusiveness and diversity are also highly prized. In fact, the more genres you have on your ipod the better. But pop music is strictly forbidden.
So what happens when an artist's children pass the Yo Gabba Gabba! stage? They turn to pop music, that's what. They like the Black Eyed Peas, and they LOVE lady Gaga. At least my children do, though much to my chagrin. Now I have friends in artistic circles that claim that their children hate pop music and have a cultivated taste in music. But I know by experience that children loathe Tom Waits, so I suspect that these parents are either lying, or keeping VERY strict control over what their children hear, or simply brainwashing them - all to avoid embarrassment at mixed company, all age dinner parties. To these parents I say you're missing out. Missing out on the chance to ridicule your children when they become teens. And missing out on a lot of laughs. There are some real doozies out there. Following are a few of my musings over the last year or so of listening to my kids music choices (thankfully the lyrics seem to pass them by, at least for now, or at least all they hear are the radio edits)...

Akon - in one of his songs he notes that he's noticed a certain lady on the dance floor who has really caught his attention. He seems to be tongue tied because he is trying to find a way to describe this woman without being disrespectful. His solution? "Damn, you a sexy bitch!"

Pitbull, he's got a nice sex party anthem called Hotel Room. My favorite line... "We at the hotel, motel, Holiday Inn!" Really? A pop star can't afford something better than the Holiday Inn?

A more recent one. Usher. "Honey got a booty like pow pow pow. Honey got some boobies like wow, oh wow!" Seems he's hired a 14 year old boy to write his lyrics.

Then there's Ke$ha. "My status is gonna be affected if I keep it up like a lovesick crackhead." She's got a slef destructive obsession with a boy but she's worried about her Facebook status.

But my favorite story of all time happened last summer. I was walking with Cyrus one evening and a fire truck stormed by us. Cy asked where it was going. I said they were probably going to put out a fire.
"How do they know where the fire is Daddy?"
"Some called 911, I suppose," I replied.
"Oh," he said. "Shorty's fire must be burnin' on the dance floor."

Artwork by Deborah Cushman

Fashion Crisis

We artists are bound by certain fashion principles. Unfortunately this is generally dictated by the rules of hipsterism, especially while in grad school. There's no getting around it. Some of the reasons for this disease? I dunno, but sheer poverty is one. General self-aware nerdiness is another. And for us guys, there is one big reason for voluntarily making ourselves look ridiculous: masculinity, or lack thereof. See, artists don't seem to be perceived as very manly by the general public, so the principles of hipsterism give us a huge carte blanche to wear oversized keychains. They take on many forms - the biker, the janitorial, and the mountain climber-y carabiner styles are among the most popular. But something really big changes when one becomes a father. One becomes more responsible (hopefully) and gets a better job. Buys a better, safer car. And when said artist-father becomes father of two, the car gets upgraded again to something that can hold all the extra stuff. And usually that upgrade comes with "keyless" ignition, meaning instead of an old-fashioned key it has a little electronic thingy that starts the car. And this little electronic waste of a battery - well it looks stupid on a hipster keychain. It totally gives you away. You no longer belong in the hipster rank and file. Fashion crisis.

Monday, July 12, 2010

It's been brought to my attention...

...that there are some bad cooks out there. Now, one might think that if one has the gene for artistic endeavors like art, music, etc. that one would also have the gene for a little flair in the kitchen as well. Not so. I recently took my son to a play date at a friend's house. And it so happened that we were visiting a family in a similar situation as ours. The dad, who shall remain nameless, is another artist of sorts who'd been laid off from work and was now charged with taking care of the tots full time. So, at many a play date, there is usually the offer of a little snack or drink while the dad's talk and the children destroy the house. I myself keep a few nice things on hand for when the event takes place at our house. I'll make a curried chicken salad and serve it on some cranberry bread or something like that with a little hot tea or coffee. I do it, you know, to impress - and to make it seem like I've really got it together. But at Nameless' house things are apparently much more honest. Here's how it went down...

The house was a wreck when we go there and the kids were still in their pajamas. No matter. Kids don't mind these things, and I assumed this was Nameless' technique. Why clean up the house now - it was about  to get destroyed anyway? And in good form I was offered coffee as soon as I walked in the door. I accepted, so we set the boys off to play and went into the kitchen. At which point I was also offered a little something to eat. Nameless had made some toast and some scrambled eggs - dry and burnt. Now some of you might think this is perfectly acceptable even though unimaginative. But the problem was that it was 2 in the afternoon! And apparently this was going to be the kids snack as well. Well, I didn't want to be rude so I ate a little, but my curiosity was killing me. What on earth was this guy thinking? I couldn't ask him outright, so I did a little dancing around until I got to the root of the problem. Nameless couldn't cook. At all. Except for eggs, and even that he tended to do poorly. And it turns out, that his poor kids are subjected to his eggs at least two times a day, every day. I can only imagine how happy those boys are when Mom gets home.

So to all you pathetic culinarily challenged men out there, homebound artist fathers or not, I will be happy to share simple recipes with you to relieve your misery. Hopefully it will  make your wife happier and she'll finally take you to bed again...

Here's a recipe you can start with. Its easy but impressive. And a pic of an old food inspired still life of mine (above, Still Life with Watermelon/Watermelon with Life, Still. 2007).

Cannellini and Escarole Soup

4 thick slices of bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2 -inch strips
1 head of escarole, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Two 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

 In a large saucepan, cook the bacon over moderately high heat until crisp, about 6 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plat and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat and return the saucepan to moderately high heat. Add the escarole and minced garlic and season with salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring, until the escarole wilts, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and the beans and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low and cook until the escarole is tender, about 10 minutes. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Goes great with bread and some homemade herbed butter.

Broken Promises

OK, so I couldn't bring myself to post images of my work in progress. This painting just wasn't happening. Well, it was coming along, but slowly - very slowly. You know. It's like trying to get your 5 year old to get dressed, eat his breakfast, brush his teeth and GET INTO THE DAMN CAR SO WE CAN GET TO THE GROCERY STORE,  IT'S 2 O'CLOCK ALREADY!

Painting's not done yet, but i can show it to you now.

No Guarantees

Back when I was a wage earning boy I did this gig at a conference for designer perfume companies. The client I was working for threw a luncheon for one of the Ralph Lauren men’s fragrances. It must have been a safari theme because we packed all the lunches in small Pelican Cases, which are these supposedly super tough cases for sensitive gear when you’re traveling into rough places. It keeps stuff safe, like survey equipment, photography gear and, you know, manly perfumes. Anyway, when we were taking the cases out of their boxes I noticed a disclaimer on the side. It read:
Pelican Products, Inc. guarantees its products for a lifetime against breakage or defects in workmanship. Pelican™ injection molded cases are guaranteed to be watertight to a depth of 3.3 feet (1 meter) for 30 minutes (IP 67) unless otherwise stated if properly closed with undamaged o-ring in place. Pelican’s liability is limited to the case and not its contents or foam. This guarantee does not cover the lamp or batteries (rechargeable or alkaline) for lights. Any liability, either expressed or implied, is limited to replacement of the product. This guarantee is void if the Pelican product has been abused beyond normal and sensible wear and tear. This guarantee does not cover shark bite, bear attack or damage caused by children under five.
That was years ago, before I had children, and I thought it was a total joke. A joke I understood, because like many people without children of their own, I found children under five to be pretty annoying. But now I know better. Children under five aren’t really that irritating, they’re dangerous.

Watson and the Shark, 1778.
John Singleton Copley.