Arkells Rock! And so do you!


Arkells perform at JBTV Music Television on January 23, 2017

Last Monday, I photographed a portrait and part of the performance with the band Arkells at JBTV Music Studio.

From Wiki:

Arkells are a Canadian rock band, formed in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2006, they signed with Dine Alone Records,[1] and have since signed with Universal Records Canada.[2] They have released four albums, two EPs and a number of singles that have charted in Canada. The band has won multiple Juno Awards, including one for their album High Noon in 2015.

As I photographed their sound check, I could tell these guys were super cool, very talented and definitely entertaining on stage. They were cool to meet in our quick photo session backstage and were complimentary of my camera gear.

They did not disappoint the crowd that showed up on their lunch breaks to catch the intimate show.

If you happened to miss them, check out anything you can find online and grab tickets next time they pass through Chicago or your town!

Arkells perform at JBTV Music Television on January 23, 2017

Arkells perform at JBTV Music Television on January 23, 2017

 

Arkells perform at JBTV Music Television on January 23, 2017

Whelp, there’s always a New Year to magically change into something you weren’t last year


I saw this quote at Kottke.org:

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.

Attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald, but was actually written by screenwriter Eric Roth for the film adaptation of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

If it’s any consolation or a pinch on your tuchis, Mr. President Elect Donald J. Trump probably read the same quote a year or two ago when he decided to run for office. It’s never too late to become president, an entrepreneur, a nurse, a doctor, a professor … or merely a better person.

The quote is a little long for a bumper sticker; but it’s about the same thing. “It’s never too late to be the You you always wanted to be!” These kinds of quotes definitely start hitting harder at the beginning of New Years. As if a New Year is when a person will magically change all there is about themselves and blossom into the person they just couldn’t quite become in 2016, or 2015, or 2014 … et al.

I have found myself ruminating on the idea that I can become someone I wasn’t last year or the year before. I don’t fall for it. It took a long time to get here, and I’m still forward moving … at least I hope anyway.

In my case, the person I want to become is a successful photographer with big budget projects, hot clients, and to let go of any shitty clients or work that doesn’t make me happy or satiate my creative spirit the way I supposedly think it should be.

I can’t help but be a bit cynical about success. I struggle with jealousy of other creatives, and often get angry rather than happy for other people’s successes.

I saw a quote attributed to photographer Chase Jarvis that said, “Play the long game. Be patient and know it takes time [to fulfill your ambition].” I saw it at fstoppers with other advice like:

The people you follow have been doing the above for years, and that’s why they have huge followings.

Don’t get me wrong. I have heard of people — and watched other creatives or photographers — do Lamborghini 0 to 150,000 MPH in what seems like a couple nano seconds. And I seem to examine my own path and it seems like I’m accelerating on the back of a turtle riding a snail, whose been cooked and served at a cheap French restaurant.

I have this conversation with our studio partner and one of my best friends Bill who shares that sort of cynicism about other photographers who seem to go from being an accountant to holding classes on how successful they are as a fashion photographer in less than six months.

There seems to be nothing more annoying than watching photographers post their asses off on social media hoping to garner respect, accolades, attention and new jobs. In its defense, social media is an amazing vehicle for artists. And like everything, it’s up to the artist to determine his or her involvement on social media.

I always keep in mind that social media is a deceptive front. I was at a dinner recently with seven other creative people, and the one person at the table I thought was the most successful and most creative talked about how difficult running her business is and how creativity plays such a minor role in her day-to-day life.

I’ve found that for years. Creativity is not a day-to-day luxury, and maybe … just maybe … anybody trying to tell you otherwise is fucking with you like an evangelical telling you that “the good news Gospel” is actually “good news”.

I lust over creative expression, but the time to do it is devoured by running my business. New Year’s only mean it’s time to get my paperwork together to send to my accountant. And start a new year of wondering if another client will commission me for my talent.

This last year, I failed at a few things. One was a themed monthly photo project. I stopped after six images. I also failed to continue vLogging, which I did several. Just didn’t keep it up weekly like I had hoped. I also feel that I failed to pick myself up after falling down and wiping myself off. Perhaps I got caught in the thought that, “I’ll start another creative side project again next year.” I’m not sure.

There are several keys to creativity. The main difference between a creative and, let’s say, everyone else is: ideating concepts and then executing them. It’s the follow through that sets folks apart. For me, the process of creating art is as important as the result. Quite possibly the hardest part is chipping away at the process that could take five or ten minutes or several long arduous weeks.

Fortunately, last year wasn’t all failures. My business has grown year over year since the economy tanked back in 2007-08. We worked with new and old clients that are certainly hiring us for the quality of our work. Also, I made great strides with pushing myself to a healthy equilibrium through diet and exercise. It’s not quite where I want to be, but it’s one of those on-going projects. Exercise is an investment. It’s playing the long game. I’ve also spent more time meditating than before. I do mind-calming exercises. I repeat mantras and concentrate on my breathing more. When I run long distance, I try to let my mind go blank. Or I repeat “Creativity” or “Calm” with every other step.

Twenty seventeen is a continuation of the long game, but I hope to introduce concrete creative experiences that help me grow and to keep chipping away at the same old same old that I was doing last year and hope to continue to do going forward.

Let’s do this!

 

The Ghost of Christmas Future: “HOW TO TALK TO A TRUMP EVANGELICAL AT CHRISTMAS”


A guy I grew up with, Stephen Mucher, wrote a piece published at Religious Dispatches titled, “HOW TO TALK TO A TRUMP EVANGELICAL AT CHRISTMAS.”

He posted the article on Facebook, and I saved it to read later.

A bit of background, Stephen’s older than me by a few years, but we went to the same evangelical high school in High Point, N.C. His family was somewhat known as being a bit more liberal. And I’ve valued his posts on Facebook discussing politics and world affairs.

He has a Ph.D. his work has appeared in the LA Times, Washington Post, among other publications.

I’ll let you read the essay yourself. But his primary point is to encourage discussion between disagreeing parties regarding President-elect Donald Trump and some advice on how to do so.

I’m petrified to discuss this topic at my home over the Christmas holiday. But I am desperate for certain answers to questions I have about how any Jesus-loving believer could vote for someone like Trump. I can only identify one way that Trump resembles anything Christian, and that’s if you don’t agree with either of them, either will make your life hell. Jesus in the afterlife. Trump, via Twitter and taking your ass to court and suing the hell out of you.

This fear not discuss Trump with my family comes from a history of discussions gone awry. The result of the conversations going south are usually my fault. I am not as good of a talker as I am a writer (and even that is up for grabs). Number two: I’m a hot head and when I’m flustered, I communicate even worse than I do when I’m of sober mind and spirit.

Take this example: my Mom and Dad were visiting Tina and me this past summer. I was cooking them breakfast the day they were to leave. All things were going fine. There were no issues during their few days staying in our little two-bedroom condo in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.

At one point, we all started talking about the economy and my back was to everyone as I cooked. We discussed how it seemed more money was in our pockets thanks to low gas prices and other elements of economic betterment especially since it was so bad in 2007 to 2009. We seemed to agree that the weight of the depression was alleviated and getting better all the time.

Within a few minutes of talking about something else, my Dad made a comment about how bad the economy is under Obama and started going on and on about the dismal state of the Obama’s flaccid attempts to make it better. I slammed down the pan I was cooking in. “This is patently untrue! That’s not what the record shows” I erupted. Not only had we just talked about it, everyone from my conservative, republican friends and colleagues in the banking and insurance industries continue to reflect a perspective of growth.

My Mom defended my Dad by saying, “I guess it depends on where you get your information from.”

But … but … but … we ALL just talked about the bettered economy!!!

I think the last point that was made was that there are Americans who are still suffering from a depressed economy.

Yes, there are economic ruins in this country in pockets that are still feeling the burden of the depression, but isn’t that the problem with trickle-down economics … if you’re in lower socio economic regions, trickles take a helluva lot more time. That’s Reagan Economics in a nutshell. We can all agree to that. It was the dig against Obama that drove me nuts especially when everyone was just singing Kum-bay-fucking-ya about the improved economy.

Not to mention, my family directly benefits from socialized, government infrastructures that protect and provide for them on different levels. There are no better poster-children for government-loving, democratic-loving secularists like people in my immediate family. But a vote for Hillary was disgusting as hell compared to a Christ-hating, orange buffoon because “He tells it like it is,” and “The supreme court will get stacked against ‘Republican values’ if we don’t vote for him!”

Republican values. What the hell does that mean anymore with a leader like Trump?

It’s the hypocritical disproportion of approach that is an unfair conversation approach. One cannot talk about improved economy and follow it with a disparaging illogical comment about it within minutes.

This hypocrisy is what we anticipate as an unfair approach to dinner-time political banter among disagreeing parties.

This is a guy who has yet to give props to the almighty for anything. Even atheists have claimed him for his lack of belief-affirming behaviors.

This is a guy who is as America-first as any tax-evading gangster can be.

This is a self-defined womanizer. Pussy grabbing aside. His three-wife, I wouldn’t have hit on that ugly woman who claims I assaulted her bullshit.

A man who criticizes our veterans and POWs.

A man who makes fun of handicapped citizens.

A man who calls for violence against his opposition.

A man who is the poster child for xenophobia.

Trump  would certainly deport a brown man born of a middle eastern woman who isn’t married to the father of her child. He would balk at giving them a lease in one of his opulent buildings. Giving up his wealth for the sake of tradition as president … NOT going to happen. Camels walk through needles more easily. We know he wouldn’t hang with Zacchaeus; the man doesn’t pay taxes. Jesus didn’t command to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, unless there’s a loophole or two.

Trump has run out of cheeks to turn. His track record of caring for his enemies, in the below zeroes.

Although, welcoming home a prodigal son, like Rick Perry or Ben Carson … I guess you can’t get more Jesus-y than that.

All hail Trump.

I would love to hear a rational approach to supporting Trump. Rational in terms of a coherent message that supports the convictions of Christ-loving, life-loving, decent human beings and how they rationalize and align their love of Jesus and his message with a guy like Trump.

But this request for coherence is coming from a guy like me who thinks that the bar for the Good News Gospel is set way too low. That even if proven to be real, I’d still not support belief and allegiance to Jesus or God. But that’s my fault. Or Satan’s. Or whatever the hell.

Oh bother.

The Ghost of Christmas past always shows Ebenezer where he came from and the Ghost of the Future shows him how dismal it’s going to be … I’m afraid I don’t know the script well enough to change life’s trajectory and Make the Christmas Dinner Table Discussion Great again.

But there’s always hope that Jesus will hear anyone’s prayers. So let him hear mine.

Amen.

The power of equality, sex magik, twenty five year olds and you


Twenty five years ago, the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) released Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which included the popular, radio-played tracks “Under the Bridge” and “Give It Away.”

I recently added a couple of songs from the album to my workout playlist, and glory day memories are flooding back into my mind each time one of those songs comes on.

At the time the album came out, I was a sophomore in high school. The same year my brother Jon asked me learn the bass guitar and start playing in his band Creamy Velour.

As I learned, I naturally drifted toward inspiration from those who are doing it better. And bassist Flea quickly became one of heroes when I was learning bass.

I listened to Blood Sugar Sex Magik on repeat for days if not months. I loved every song on the album, and would finger the bass rhythms on my knees, or steering wheel, or wherever. I wanted to learn to slap and pop. I practiced for hours on ideas that I thought were very similar to Flea’s abilities.

Back then, however, I was also astoundingly in love with Jesus and my faith, and many of the lyrics challenged my faith, especially those sexual in nature.

The mention or topic of Sex — especially from a secular source — could single handedly twist my psyche into a guilty sweaty mess. Where I come from Jesus was literally everywhere. Teachers, parents, leaders told me he was “omnipresent” (everywhere at the same time) which supposedly should cause calm and security. It meant you’re always protected.

Omnipresence also became a large reason I dumped the faith.

If God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit is everywhere, that means when a child is dying of leukemia on a hospital gurney, those three fuckers are standing there watching him or her suffer.

People trapped in a burning building. Those three are there. Laughing? Crying? Maybe. But they’re definitely impotent.
A man running down hundreds of people with a truck in Nice, France, those three were there. Watching. Arms crossed. Impotent.
A black man became our president … hey wait, those three were there. Fist bump. Wiggle fingers.

Omnipresence to an adolescent meant Jesus did everything I did.

Brushed Teeth.
Played Soccer.
Did homework.
Masturbated.
My Buddy Jesus.

He also listened to the same music I did.

One song, “Sir Psycho Sexy,” I could repeat the lyrics to … up to a point … and then I’d stop. I figuratively shoved my index fingers into each ear and hummed, “Lalalalalalala!!!”

Here are some lyrics from the second verse:

Deep inside the garden of Eden
Standing there with my hard on bleedin’
There’s a devil in my dick and some demons in my semen
Good God no that would be treason
Believe me Eve she gave good reason
Body looking too good not to be squeezin’
Creamy beaver hotter than a fever
I’m a givin’ ’cause she’s the receiver
I won’t and I don’t hang up until I please her
Makin’ her feel like an over achiever
I take it away for a minute just to tease her
Then I give it back a little bit deeper

Can you imagine me, singing “Standing there with my hard on bleedin'” arm in arm with Jesus as we swayed back and forth?

To a 16 year old Christian, that shit was a train wreck. In one moment, you’re singing along. In another, you’re hoping no one else knows how well you sing a long. Even with headphones on — and no one but Jesus could hear the lyrics — the power of guilt overwhelmed me. But Flea’s bass lines were too important not to listen to. And there was my struggle. The utilitarian thought that there was a greater good involved.

I’ve long since given up on Jesus. It’s a concept that doesn’t work for me. I’m not really sure how it works for anyone, but I get it at the same time. As an insider, I thought it was the best, and told many about it, and brought several to similar beliefs.

The transition away was largely thanks to conceding that my life was much more secular than religious. The concepts and ideas that drove most of my decisions weren’t Biblical logic or informed by Biblical ideas. Biblical ideas aren’t very clear and they certainly aren’t advisable for modern living. For example, marriage is a confusing mess in the bible. And if it weren’t for observing my grandparents grow old together, watching my gramps take care of my gram in sickness and declining health, I would have never understood the importance of marriage. I would have likely lived single my entire life.

Or race. Race in the bible is a tough one. At one end, you have one culture enslaving another. And when the Jews were enslaved, that sucked. But when the Jews enslaved others, okay! You have God’s approval of enemies made of Jews versus everyone. Or everyone versus the Jews. Slavery was okay. Bashing babies against rocks, thumbs up! And then you have Jesus, entering the world from heaven through a magikal birth canal. He commanded to embrace other races, other cultures, other ideas, the downtrodden, the assholes, the sick, the poor, everyone.

It’s those little commandments of enemy love, equality and forgiveness that also informed my decision to evaluate and evacuate the faith.

I knew the bible better than most people, I scoured it for answers to my often debilitating questions, and was surprised by others insistence that the God and the Bible were clear, not confusing, and never inconsistent.

The power of equality.

The opening track on Blood Sex is called “The Power of Equality.”

In my teenage years, I would have told you that’s what Jesus taught and thought. But if you observe the current zeitgeist among religious folks, equality isn’t for everyone. It’s only for like-minded folks with a penchant for saying, “We get on our knees for Jesus.”  You’re free — but only free to think exactly like us about the economy, race superiority, abortion, gay marriage, and whether or not to say “Merry Christmas” or not.

The lyrics from the song go:

American equality has always been sour
An attitude I would like to devour
My name is peace, this is my hour
Can I get just a little bit of power

The power of equality
Is not yet what it ought to be
It fills me up like a hollow tree
The power of equality

What was great about growing up in the Bible belt, in an above upper middle class neighborhood and attending an evangelical private school, it was a constant white out. White was everywhere. There were two black people in my my class during certain periods of my school career. But for the most part, our ability to stay away from any people of color was easy.

One time at the mall, there was a wall devoted to posters depicting history lessons created by local school children. My Dad and I were staring at the wall when he said, “Notice there are no black kid’s names on any of the work.”

I stopped and looked at him, and stared back at the posters. There were three — what I would consider obvious — black names. I pointed it out. There was silence.

I’ve never forgotten that moment. And it returns for many reasons. The names of the children weren’t even on my radar. I was probably critical of the art or materials used. Or looking for any inaccuracies. But that was the height of some of my experiences that read even remotely like racism.

I mean, I saw little bits of racism here and there. My first job was at a little sandwich and ice cream shop. My boss Hubert scheduled me four times a week; Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I was the only white guy working with another black busboy, two black waitresses, a black dishwasher and a black cook. With my Puerto Rican blood, the sun darkened me every summer to a deep brown and more than once I was asked of I was black. I have big hair and I’m cool, so I figured that played a role.

But I’d see racism at work between our boss and my coworkers. My Tuesday and Thursday coworkers weren’t treated as well as the Monday, Wednesday and Friday staff.

You also saw a bit of racism in the way customers were perceived. If a black family sat inside at a table, waitresses wouldn’t take good care of them, because they either don’t tip or don’t tip more than change. It was a stereotype, but even my black waitress friends knew it and loathed it.

Percentage wise, you saw more black customers come to the counter for takeout.

But the level of racism I experienced and observed wasn’t anything to shake a stick at. I was nonplused by it. A word here. A phrase there. I heard of racist acts and may have heard some racist locker room talk, but I was taught to raise the bar of public discourse, so I either spoke out against it or quietly moved on if it wasn’t worth my time.

I also blame my bubble, though, for not being able to perceive racism. When O.J. Simpson was on trial, my little pathetic excuse for a brain and for education was completely naive to the entirety of the race issues in the United States.

I largely thank my experience abroad in France for opening my eyes a little bit to being able to decipher racism and how it exists. I mentioned above that I tan well. In France, I looked a little bit Mediterranean and a lot Arabic. The woman who housed me called me, “un Arab” or “l’Arab.” To my face. It was the first time I witnesses nationalism on a French vs. Islam scale.

Though, it wasn’t until I moved out of the south that I saw racism and violence in this country. In my 20s, I was in a bar in Chicago one night and some construction guys started a fight with some of my black friends from work. The racist slurs these white guys were throwing broke my mind. City life was supposed to be anything but racist. 

But these white guys were punching for dear life at my friends because they thought race was a reasonable factor to start beating on strangers in public.

The long and longer of it

I could go into far greater detail about other forms of inequality. As a recovering evangelical, I had to move far to overcome thoughts against homosexuality and all kinds of diversity. I didn’t realize how much of a racist I probably was and still am thanks to an upbringing of white, male privilege. And when all you get to do is be all white and privileged, most people never realize what white privilege actually means. I can only thank summers of tans and the occasional odd look or unkind word for even a smidgen of understanding.

I’ll wrap this post up with a cut and paste of more lyrics from the “Power of Equality” song. Or listen to it above or here. This song was 25 years ago. Current public relations show that we are no further forward, if not years backwards. And it hurts my head.

Right or wrong, my song is strong
You don’t like it, get along
Say what I want, do what I can
Death to the message of the Ku Klux Klan
I don’t buy supremacy
Media chief, you menance me
The people you say cause all the crime
Wake up motherfucker and smell the slime
Blackest anger, whitest fear
Can you hear me, am I clear
My name is peace, this is my hour
Can I get just a little bit of power

A few thoughts on the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States of America


I imagine most of America, and the world, is reviewing yesterday’s election results with some sort of excitement.

Whether your excitement is emboldened or deflated, or somewhere in between, that’s certainly up for grabs.
I’m not thrilled about the results. But I get it. Hillary just wasn’t an “It” candidate. The negatives were stacked against her. Just being a female democrat, following our first black, two term democratic president, was enough to knock her out of the possible victory lap.
The fact that she never owned up to being a wealthy, elitist worked against her.
Her email scandals and the history of being railed for different “failures”. Hell, standing by her man despite all the philandering bullshit.
I wasn’t surprised last night. I wasn’t shocked or appalled.
Every time I saw polls showing Hillary’s potential win, I reminded myself that anything could happen. And until that one lady sung, I had to stay open minded to the results.
As early as last spring, I have texts to friends referring to our next President … President Trump.
When Nate Silver was posting that the Cubs had less of a chance to win the World Series as Trump, then they went on to win … that to me was a wake up that the pollsters and analysts were easily proved wrong.
Those things all created a sense of malaise and insecurity among independents, including myself. It discredited her appearance of strength. And strength and charisma are two of the greatest presidential qualities that attract sheep — I mean people.
I’m not surprised by the results of the election. Trump is going to make America great again. He’s going to disassemble the IRS. He’s going to make our economy boom.
He’s going to make us all winners.
Trump’s win is also a win for evangelicals. One, we shouldn’t disregard Trump’s running mate and his future influence.
And there’s also the idea that people “prayed” for this result and the result was positive.
Not that no one prayed for a different outcome during the last two elections.
I have an optimistic approach to what’s next, only because this election reflects historical trends, the pingpong effect of democrats in power followed by “republicans,” whatever that means.
I also hope that evangelicals bolster a “Christian” outlook of pushing Trump to elevate public discourse. To hold Trump to “Christian” values of mercy, forgiveness, acceptance of foreigners, of enemies, of those that are different and to fiscal responsibility.
I’m also realistic, and don’t have too high of hopes that that will happen.
Onward and upward, America.
Let’s do this.

D to the O to the N to the A L D, mother fucking T-RUMP


Tina and I voted today. As you might imagine, as I leaned in, dragging my pen toward the letters H I L L A R Y, my pen swerved at the last second and scratched a huge notch next to another name on the ballet.

Yes, indeed, I voted for Trump. That’s right.

D to the O to the N to the A L D, mother fucking T-RUMP.

We need change in America, and he’s obviously the only man who can bring that change.

Think about it. He’s a businessman. Not a lifelong politician. He doesn’t have lobbyists in his back pocket or on his shoulders guiding his thoughts and decisions.

Trump makes more sense. His plans to make America great again are filled with salient, concrete examples of plans to ameliorate this fucked up country of ours.

With all the violence, lackluster economic growth, and terrorism on the rise, we need a man … a man with real balls … real, hairy stones that doesn’t cower in any of the corners of the Oval Office.

We need a man with a STRONG beautiful woman on his arm. That way he can look good walking into all those presidential dinners, and international, black-tie affairs.

We need someone with beautiful hair to guide us through the next four years of cranking America’s amazingness up to the standard of life that Donald Trump is eager to establish like a towering building over the diverse landscape that is today’s dystopian UnUnited States of CrapMerica.

We need a leader backed by Evangelical Christians. Wait, white evangelical Christians … who know exactly what the leadership should look like in this country … people who can obviously figure out better than any other Christian what the bible means about morality, marriage, economics, science, and world events. People who don’t trifle over the nuances of bible verses to the point of so many confused sects that only stars outnumber differences of biblical opinion.

Frankly, we need someone pompous, conniving, manipulative and dastardly … you know … like Trump. We need someone who knows commitment only means “only until you get bored or your wife gets ugly and a new, hot option becomes available.”

We need a man who failed at as many businesses as almost all of America’s failures have experienced since she was born.

We don’t need someone like Crooked Hillary whose primary goal will be to destroy America and to make Isis GREAT … for the first time.

We can’t have a grandma in the Oval Office. All she would want to do is babysit her grandkids while sipping on Ensure, flipping through AARP magazine. This is a woman so damn near her deathbed, her gun-loving haters wouldn’t need to express their 2nd amendment rights on her … thank goodness a mild cold could take her out.

Who do we want making decisions on a Supreme Court Justice who could weigh in on women’s rights via Roe v. Wade? Definitely not a vagina-clad woman. We don’t want to take the rights away from white men who need to keep vagina’s grabbed for their pleasures.

NO.

We need a strong, baboon man guiding this country into the opulent foyer of our future great home of Great America.

This pathetic excuse of a country needs Trump. And I’m glad my pen steered me far from marking Hillary on my Illinois ballot so I could vote for making this country the Great country that only a GREAT big failure can guide us to.