Yes, I am late (again, as usual). I have been rearranging my place. It has been a mess (messier than usual). My desk fell apart while I was moving it. I had to put the top onto a dresser, instead. It turned out not to actually fit into the corner where I wanted it. So, I sawed a 1/3 of the desk off to make it fit. I attempted to cannibalize three broken computers into one workable one for the studio. But, ah, well….that didn’t work out. Some of my other gear needs repairing as well. So, I’ve fallen behind really bad (again, as usual).
I did finally hooked up my old WIN 98 computer that I’ve had lying around for ages. I intend to use it mainly as a glorified jukebox, to play mp3s in the living room. It will also be handy for MIDI applications with some of my gear in the studio. There are some old obsolete programs I want to try on that, too. MarshaKat & I had a pretty decent MOTU setup with one of these at our place in Westland, before we sold everything and moved a couple of years ago. I had some pretty rad gear back then, including a sampler & monitor system exactly like DEVO used way back when. At least we still have the keyboards and a few of our other instruments.
I’m gradually catching up to where I was, before. But, everything I am doing is hindered without the necessary equipment hooked up or repaired. That is how that goes. I’m trying not to let it bring me down. I have lots of stuff that needs to be done. But, I’m terrible at multi-tasking. I need to focus and prioritize. I just don’t know what to do next, without my studio set-up. Planned videos need to be made… can’t. Partial song tracks need completion… can’t. An inspection is coming next week. So, the apartment has to be cleaned. I’m working on that.
Some of the unfinished music currently in progress is really simple and accessible. Some of it is whacked-out Frank Zappa / Mr. Bungle kind of shit. Some of it is an awful noisy racket to clear out the room with.
Almost a dozen Spacecat zines are 90% done. But, need recorded music to be finished.
Harry Cloud has requested for me to make a music video for him. That should have been done months ago. I dunno if I will make another video for this year’s Planet 9 Film Festival. I didn’t last year. I’ve gotta clear out some space and get everything up and running again before I work on videos again, though.
I had to relocate my junk from a storage locker in the building back to a storage unit that I had rented a few years ago. It is more expensive. But, the new building manager pissed me off by cutting off the padlock on my locker, then claiming that I hadn’t paid my rental fees. What?! Excuse me? So, I cannot trust her to not violate my property.
I started a bullet journal a few months ago, for keeping all my notes in one place. It is described by it’s creator, Ryder Carroll, as a “mindfulness exercise disguised as a productivity planner system”. It has helped me quite a lot to be more organized, get my thoughts out on paper, keep better track of things, and focus my mind. I’m less likely to forget important things, like my medications. It’s not a be-all-end-all panacea. But, because it is such a flexible system, I can experiment and try out different things until I find what works best for me. There are thousands of bullet journaling examples online. So, I won’t run out of ideas anytime soon.
Aside from housework, there is not much time for making art. I’m mostly writing and drawing, for now. I will attempt to release SOMETHING, anything, at least weekly. No one cares about excuses. They want results.
Damn! I wish that this coronavirus pandemic were just an elaborate prank. That would have been awesome. Self-isolation hasn’t changed my life one iota. It does mean that some friends are now unemployed, bored, with nothing to do. So, they want to collaborate with me, again, playing rock and noise. At least that motivates me to get more stuff done. So, I’m actually a little happier with that aspect of this. The empty streets and parking lots are a bit of apocalyptic fantasy fulfillment for me, too, without the zombies or vampires.
I am spending some time taking stock of the progress in my various projects. It helps me to re-evaluate and refine my workflow, from time to time. The changing landscape caused by COVID-19 is a pretty good reason to plan out a new approach to everything, right now. Many venues, comic book shops, book stores, art galleries, etc. are not going to make it through the effects of this pandemic. The economy, and everything it touches, are going to be drastically transformed. The old models of doing everyday activities, of making and performing our art, are not going back to business-as-usual. The next couple of months are going to be VERY interesting.
People are stuck at home, with nothing to do. So, I hope to produce more completed work to post online. That is where the audience is going to be, for awhile. Maybe when this plague blows over we will be out playing house parties or something, until regular venues can make a comeback.
Anyway, I will share some music from my collection with you. This is Local H and Britney Spears, each doing Toxic. I have been in a Britney Spears mood lately. Dunno why.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m late again. What else is new? It has been a LONG time since my last original post. I will summarize a bit.
Planet 9 Film Fest went well in October. Got to meet up with friends I haven’t seen in awhile. Saw some creative movies and great bands again.
Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve all went well. Mostly, it was dinner with family at my grandmother’s house.
Unfortunately, there was a death in my family, my great aunt. Shortly afterward, a friend of twenty years also died. I’m getting older. Everybody is dying.
There have been very few mechanical problems with my car during the past year, thank god. I’ve managed to stay on top of things like that. Thankfully, I don’t have to commute every day to a shitty job I hate, anymore, with little time or energy left to work on music & art. So, it turned out, disability was a blessing in disguise.
For me, creativity is how I keep my sanity. It is more of a compulsion than a hobby. Gotta get the demons out of my head, somehow. Trouble is, it is easier to get started than to finish anything. Distractions and mental instability are frequent problems. Then, I get upset at myself for not meeting my own self-imposed expectations and deadlines. I have to figure out how I can get out of my own way. Occasionally, I’ll try different things I’ve discovered that seem to work, temporarily, until I backslide again. This usually happens when I forget my meds and don’t get enough sleep. Then, I struggle to get back on track with everything again. It is very hard to focus when this happens. Maybe there isn’t a permanent fix to this.
I’ve had many projects partially completed for a long time now. Most of the work is already done. But, to get things finished I have had to learn (the hard way) to slow down and just do one thing at a time, instead of piling on everything at once. I’m terrible at multi-tasking.
One positive thing to come from all these delays is that I have gone back to some things I’ve done and made improvements. So, Theee Urban Spacecat #3 looks a lot better than it did before. There still isn’t enough completed music to go with it, though. Same goes for issues #4, 5, 6, and 7.
With the next cassette-zine issue being recorded, I am working on more material that I can perform live by myself. I would like to prepare my car to travel a lot in the next couple of months, play some local shows, and eventually go on a mini-tour to New York and back. I HATE booking venues, though. It is not something that I look forward to. Bottom line, I want to insure that everything goes smoothly and I, at least, don’t lose any money or kill my car in the process. If it is just me and one other person coming along, that should keep the overhead low.
I have been making some neato t-shirts & stuff. So, that has been a nice creative outlet, for me. If it can also generate a little revenue that would be pretty awesome. I had hoped that YouTube could be a viable source of income. But, all the policy and algorithm changes they’ve made makes that feel very unlikely. The FTC COPPAcolypse is approaching, too. So, many content creators may be forced out. Who knows? I’m watching to see how this fiasco plays out.
I’m just gonna keep doing what I do, in my little corner. I’ll put some of it out there somehow, eventually.
YouTube finally have announced that they’re changing their terms and conditions on December 10, 2019. They will begin deleting accounts for extremely vague reasons of “profitability”, including all accounts connected to Google and YouTube. It is unclear what they even mean by the term profitability. The way it is written it could mean anything. If we don’t make enough of a profit for them? If we’re too small? If our videos take up too much memory space on their servers? WTF?
YouTube got hit with a huge fine a couple of months ago by the FTC for violating COPPA. They were told to get their house in order. So, they have also implemented changes for the new COPPA law, requiring you to mark whether your videos are made for kids. If they are made for kids and if you don’t label your videos accordingly, you could be fined to the value of $42,530 PER VIDEO. YouTube’s algorithm and AI software is changing AGAIN. The site will identify whatever THEY deem is for kids, regardless. So, you may not have it accurately labelled to their liking even if you try.
YouTube has ALWAYS fucked with content creators, from day one. Every once in a while they’d get a bug up their ass about one thing or another and start purging videos and closing channels. I have been harassed by lawyers and had several YouTube accounts deleted before. It is a pain in the ass starting over again and again. I resigned myself, long ago, to the fact that they were never going to allow me to build up my channel into anything profitable. Very few YouTubers are able to turn making videos into their day job. But, that was always the way YouTube ran their business. So, we just dealt with all the bullshit as best as we could. Now, the government is involved. They could fine us thousands of dollars. It is an automated system that decides against you, not a person. So, you’ll eventually have to take each case to court for appeal. FUCK THAT!
By next year, we will see what kind of fiasco this is going to become. I’m pretty sure that a LOT of people are going to have their lives ruined during this mess. The FTC have said that YouTube is their main target, “like fish in a barrel”…and WE ARE THE FISH. I’m pretty sick of this shit. I’ve set almost everything I have on there to private. I’m backing up all of my videos onto Dailymotion, for now. When the smoke clears I will see if I want to post anything on YouTube again. I dunno.
Sunday | October 20 | Ant Hall
A day dedicated to Indie Films & Live Music!
Artists & Vendor submissions open.
e-mail your work to planet9filmz@gmail
Judging determined by audience & local “celebrity” judges (TBA)
Shana R Oros
+ Prizes, Local Art & More!
Hosted by Count Cat & Gamma-Ray
doors 2p | films 2:30p | awards 11p | music 12a
live music by
Nosferatu (classic silent film with
live score by An Angel Submerged & Jessi McAnelly)
New Year’s Kiss
The Conformity Pimp Slap
Telepathic Telephones (feature)
Questions for a Dinosaur
Lake Michigan Monster (feature)
Professor Mexico Moose Monster (silent film with live score by Aleph Om )
Stare Way to Heaven
The Nervous Breakdown Hotdog
Food of the Gods
Fucked Up Point Blank
Drawn Together:Comics, Diversity & Stereotypes(feature)
The French Chef with Julia
Presented by Planet Ant | a 501(c)(3) non-profit
This was originally intended for a compilation. But, I missed the deadline. So, I reworked it into something different, a bit longer, for an upcoming issue of “Theee Urban SpaceCat” #3 cassette-zine. I’m working on more material that I can perform live. But, this plunderphonics style track is still pretty good and I didn’t want to waste it.
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Last year was the 30th anniversary of the British comic book Tank Girl. There wasn’t much mention of it in the press, that I remember. It is a classic cult comic. So, why not? Admittedly, the 1995 movie stunk.
It only made $6 million against a $25 million budget. That is an apt metaphor for the post-Nirvanamania alternative craze of the 1990’s. Mega-corporations foolishly believed that they could reproduce “the next Nirvana” by slapping “grunge” or “alternative” on everything. They bought up hundreds of independent labels and signed artists left and right, regardless of any talent or experience they may possess. It doesn’t work like that. Mostly, they failed spectacularly.
But, nonetheless, I liked the idea of adapting this comic into a movie. Comic book movies are HUGE now, compared to the 1990’s. Can’t somebody else give it ago? Hey Hollywood, throw some money my way! I’ll do it!
One thing that I actually LIKED about the original movie was the animated sequences. So, firstly, animate the entire thing. Co-creator Jamie Hewlett went on to form the virtual band Gorillaz. It would be a natural fit for him to direct. And don’t wimp out with a PG version. Go for a solid R-rating. It could be badass as Heavy Metal (1981).
Second, it needs better casting. Lori Petty? Blecchh! Stay true to the source material and get an Australian cast. This takes place in a post-apocalyptic Australia. Maybe include a few Brits or Americans in certain roles. But, c’mon, Ice-T as a kangaroo? Are you shitting me? Eddie Izzard plays a great villain. Get him. I kinda liked that the fascist water company ruled everything in the original. Keep that. Put Eddie in charge. Make him a middle management Darth Vader for a multi-national monopoly.
The original soundtrack had a few good tunes. I could see staying with that sort of tone; punk rock, hip-hop, metal, indie pop, etc. Courtney Love chose songs for the original. Get Quentin Tarantino’s music supervisor to do the reboot.
If Hollywood insists on bombarding us with reboots, don’t ruin perfectly good movies PLEASE! Reboot movies that had a good premise, but were shit produced, and fix them. There is no shortage of them. Comic book movies are BIG now. So, it isn’t even much of a gamble anymore. I bet that any independent studio could do a decent job of it with a small budget. Jamie Hewlett’s success with the Gorillaz could almost guarantee a bigger budget with a few well-known actors. Someone make this happen!
I was going to shoot a video for this. But, my painting isn’t finished and I’m waiting for proofs of the zine to come back from the printer. So, I can’t show a finished copy. But, I do want a vlog to be a regular part of these blogs. I have a pretty good setup for it now. Maybe later, eh?
Anyway, I have been in constant pain for the past two months, with acute tendonitis in my right hand. Been wearing a wrist brace and gobbling ibuprofen all day. From what I have read online it can take six weeks to six months to heal. Shit.
Nonetheless, I’ve made incremental progress on my work. The seasons move faster than I do, though. I’ve been stuck on one song for awhile. Keeping a friend’s advice in mind, to do ONE THING at a time, I haven’t abandoned it or moved on to anything else, yet. I haven’t thrown out anything in awhile, so maybe that is a little improvement? Lots of things are 1/2 done or 1/3 done. Not enough is totally DONE done, though. Motivational videos and encouragement from friends helps. I try not to be so negative all of the time. Devi Ever once called me “Negative Mike”.
Having some organization keeps everything going. The less you have to think about it, the better. Planning a schedule of some sort at least tells me when something SHOULD be done (not that I can always stick to it). I don’t want to say what I am GOING to do, though. It is better to just show whatever I do when it is done.
“Have more than you show, speak less than you know.” –
The first issue of Theee Urban SpaceCat cassette-zine is FINALLY done! Is it worth the long wait? I rearranged some pieces that I had spread out over other projects to get it finished. “Done is BETTER than perfect, because perfect never gets done”, I guess. So, it really isn’t turning out like what I originally had in mind. The zine has been pathetically overdue, on a Chinese Democracy level, intended to be released every 3-4 months, not 4-5 YEARS! This is largely my own fault, not entirely, but mostly – it is. Financial and personal obstacles have contributed to endless delays and setbacks. I also keep procrastinating and shooting myself in the foot. Such as you do with mental heath problems. Theee Urban SpaceCat #2 won’t take as long to finish because the next several issues are at least partially completed already.
Because money is always tight I am publishing all issues digitally first, and will get physical copies ready to go when I have money for printing & duplication. I’m making stickers, cards, buttons, and other goodies to go inside the zines. These are also available to my supporters on Patreon.
Ideally, I would like to have X amount of material completed by each week / month / quarter. A certain percentage goes to Patreon supporters. Another percentage goes to Theee Urban SpaceCat, Island of Misfit Noise, and whatever other projects. I don’t have the money to produce a full album in a studio. But, maybe I could periodically release 7″ vinyl singles. Gradually, I could do that until there is enough recorded for an album! Now that I have my tax ID and a business account at the bank, I am setting aside a tiny budget for all of my projects. It isn’t enough to do everything at once. But, at least I can get a little bit done while I build up my resources. If I’m lucky, I can attract the interest of some small labels to front me enough money to get more stuff done sooner.
Some folks over at Electronic Cottage have shown interest in collaborating with me on the next Island of Misfit Noise album. Time permitting, I will have made enough progress on the IOMN movie to get it out this Fall. I have lots of other ideas still cooking on the back-burner. Hopefully, I can get them going a lot faster than I have been doing so far.
Here is some music from my collection. MarshaKat got me into this when we were together. So, blame her.
Time still flies when you aren’t having any fun. I am absolutely certain that time speeds up as you age. That is why old people wear clothes that are out of style. It was still in fashion just a minute ago, for them.
I was planning to include a vlog today, since vlogging is meant to be half of these posts. But, honestly, I don’t have anything worth videotaping right now. I also don’t have any new paintings to show.
2019 is speeding by, just like the past few years have. WTF is wrong with me? Besides the usual shit? Things actually are going pretty okay right now. I had a few rough months between December and February. That mess is finally settled, notwithstanding my growing piles of debt.
I have a list of folks waiting for Theee Urban SpaceCat cassette-zine. I have been digging through stacks of demo tapes and gigabytes of incomplete data trying to finish it. I have enough material already done for a complete issue or two… or three. But, I have spread it out over several zines. I didn’t like the way it was when I compiled it all together. So, I am filling each issue, finishing each song, one-at-a-time. A friend suggested that I do this to get myself focused, instead of hopping all over the place like I usually do. Get one thing done. Then, move on to the next thing. This approach seems to be pushing the process along, I suppose. Creating the equivalent of two double albums every few months is kinda hard when doing it all alone and you keep shooting yourself in the foot. Everything is absurdly late getting it out.
I asked around about getting my mixes mastered. But, I cannot afford to do it, not entire albums anyway. I might have one or two singles mastered for radio… maybe. The rest will just have to be a raw mix.
I am waiting for the government to process some of my tax shit, so I can finish setting up the business side of things. They’re still catching up from the Trumptard shutdown a few weeks ago. It has delayed everything. I’m never happy dealing with that sort of stuff. But, I anxiously want to get it done and out of the way.
Here is a Daniel Johnston song from my record collection for you. I get the same feeling myself sometimes. I am always starting my life over again… and again… and again… and again….
This is the sort of filmmaking that I aspire to. The only available information posted about this short horror movie is in the description of a YouTube video.
Many respected film historians refer to Redheaded Vengeance as “the greatest no-budget VHS horror short of all time”. Enid Sachbalm of The Des Moines Register described it as “the Rambo 3 of homemade VHS horror shorts”.
The Criterion Collection dismissed it as “a repugnant abomination, crudely fashioned by mouth breathing lunatics” – but that’s only because they’re too damn stupid to understand it.
Redheaded Vengeance was shot sporadically in and around Columbus, Ohio between 1997-1999. The original goal was a feature length film – shot entirely on VHS – for almost no money.
Much more footage exists than what’s seen in this 10 minute short.
The “budget” was probably something like $47.06. A single Memorex SM4300 VHS camera was used. Final editing was completed in 2009 using IMovie. No one involved had any movie making or acting experience.
Sean – who played Redhead a.k.a. Pigtails – did an incredible job. He was completely possessed by the character while in costume—it was true movie magic.
Craft services were provided by Milwaukee’s Best.
It has been quite awhile since I said anything about other bands that I like. So, I guess that it is overdue for me to mention Distorted Pony. They are an industrial / noise rock group that began in 1986, then disbanded in 1993. I began listening to them in the early 1990’s, but frankly knew nothing about them except that I liked their music. I looked into their background many many years later, after they had long since broken up. Surprisingly, they are very similar to my ideal group to be in; two guitarists, a bassist, and a guy banging on oil drums & metal junk. They began with just two people, bass player Dora Jahr and guitarist David Uskovich, accompanied by a drum machine. Eventually, they were joined by London May on drums, Theodore Jackson on percussion, and Robert Hammer on guitar.
I was also unaware, for a long time, that London May had played in so many other well-known groups (Samhain, Dag Nasty, Circle Jerks) and is an actor.
They have briefly reunited a few times, since 2010, and began to perform reunion shows. But, I think that their current European tour will be for the last time. So, check them out, if you can.
The old “Razor Blade In The Apple” trick? or
This is Halloween!
I forgot to mention in the video that I received a hard copy of the comic book I contributed to, finally. It is called Heartman and was written & published by David Leibe-Hart, of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! He invited 48 artists, including myself, to illustrate his story.
Further information can be found here.
I’m making a long-term creative decision, a new policy:
- Say nothing.
- Get it done, first.
- Talk about it, later
This was something that Thomas Edison learned, the hard way, after making promises about his new inventions that took longer than expected for him to bring to fruition. He eventually stopped doing that and just surprised people, after the fact.
Since I am often delayed by external forces (money, supplies, equipment, etc.), as well as personal issues, it makes me look bad. It looks to everyone else like all I that do is talk about what I’m “gonna do” and not actually get anything done. I can’t really blame anyone for having that perception. Since I don’t show everything that I do and I discard unfinished work. Stress exacerbates my mental health problems. That cuts into a lot of my productivity, too. Finding internal balance is a personal high priority, if I want to get out of my own way. Managing where I focus my attention, I have found, is much more important than when I schedule it. Although, having a schedule is important, too, or I wouldn’t get ANYTHING done.
Another new policy that I am implementing is:
- No collaborations without a deadline.
I was told that this is one of my mistakes when working with others. It is too open-ended. People require deadlines to get them off of their ass, apparently. That might be true. Unless someone says something to me, I will probably work alone and take forever doing it. There is that problem with focusing, again. I am still open to collabs. Don’t get me wrong. But, I think establishing a time frame for projects would make them go along faster. I’m usually easy to schedule because I have more free time available than everybody else. We just need to work around the other commitments of interested participants.
I am figuring out how to go about collaborations, using my new policies.
I don’t want to pressure anyone too much.
Keep it fun.
But, still have a predictable process on a schedule.
So, okay, here is what I have got:
I will keep on doing what I do, alone.
I shouldn’t say any more about that.
The less the better.
When it is done, you will know.
If someone wants to work on a track with me I will set my thing aside and work on the collab, instead.
Somehow, I will turn it into something.
I will try to take no longer than a week to finish it, more or less, and return a copy of the finished mix.
You can do whatever you want with it.
The finished track will go into the next Island of Misfit Noise video or album project.
I haven’t figured out how I’m gonna do that, yet
I guess when we have enough completed material gathered, it will just go out.
What do you think?
Does it sound like a plan?
I forgot to update everybody on this. A few months ago, the website for We Make Zines had to relocate when they lost their web hosting provider. I had been a member since 2014. So, I reopened an account at the new site. All of my previous postings have been lost. So, aside from my profile, there isn’t much of mine to look at yet. Zinesters and enthusiasts can find plenty of other information there, though. The link is above.
Taking Down the First Amendment in Post-Constitutional America
Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com
America has entered its third great era: the post-constitutional one. In the first, in the colonial years, a unitary executive, the King of England, ruled without checks and balances, allowing no freedom of speech, due process, or privacy when it came to protecting his power.
In the second, the principles of the Enlightenment and an armed rebellion were used to push back the king’s abuses. The result was a new country and a new constitution with a Bill of Rights expressly meant to check the government’s power. Now, we are wading into the shallow waters of a third era, a time when that government is abandoning the basic ideas that saw our nation through centuries of challenges far more daunting than terrorism. Those ideas — enshrined in the Bill of Rights — are disarmingly concise. Think of them as the haiku of a genuine people’s government.
Deeper, darker waters lie ahead and we seem drawn down into them. For here there be monsters.
The Powers of a Police State Denied
America in its pre-constitutional days may seem eerily familiar even to casual readers of current events. We lived then under the control of a king. (Think now: the imperial presidency.) That king was a powerful, unitary executive who ruled at a distance. His goal was simple: to use his power over “his” American colonies to draw the maximum financial gain while suppressing any dissent that might endanger his control.
In those years, protest was dangerous. Speech could indeed make you the enemy of the government. Journalism could be a crime if you didn’t write in support of those in power. A citizen needed to watch what he said, for there were spies everywhere, including fellow colonists hoping for a few crumbs from the king’s table. Laws could be brutal and punishments swift as well as extra-judicial. In extreme cases, troops shot down those simply assembling to speak out.
Among the many offenses against liberty in pre-constitutional America, one pivotal event, the Stamp Act of 1765, stands out. To enforce the taxes imposed by the Act, the king’s men used “writs of assistance“ that allowed them to burst into any home or business, with or without suspicion of wrongdoing. American privacy was violated and property ransacked, often simply as a warning of the king’s power. Some colonist was then undoubtedly the first American to mutter, “But if I have nothing to hide, why should I be afraid?” He soon learned that when a population is categorically treated as a potential enemy, everyone has something to hide if the government claims they do.
The Stamp Act and the flood of kingly offenses that followed created in those who founded the United States a profound suspicion of what an unchecked government could do, and a sense that power and freedom are not likely to coexist comfortably in a democracy. A balancing mechanism was required. In addition to the body of the Constitution outlining what the new nation’s government could do, needed was an accounting of what it could not do. The answer was the Bill of Rights.
The Bill’s preamble explained the matter this way: “…in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of [the government’s] powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added.” Thomas Jefferson commented separately, “[A] bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth.”
In other words, the Bill of Rights was written to make sure that the new government would not replicate the abuses of power of the old one. Each amendment spoke directly to a specific offense committed by the king. Their purpose collectively was to lay out what the government could never take away. Knowing first-hand the dangers of a police state and unchecked power, those who wrote the Constitution wanted to be clear: never again.
It needs to be said that those imperfect men were very much of their era. They were right about much, but desperately wrong about other things. They addressed “humanity,” but ignored the rights of women and Native Americans. Above all, they did not abolish the institution of slavery, our nation’s Original Sin. It would take many years, and much blood, to begin to rectify those mistakes.
Still, for more than two centuries, the meaning of the Bill of Rights was generally expanded, though — especially in wartime — it sometimes temporarily contracted. Yet the basic principles that guided America were sustained despite civil war, world wars, depressions, and endless challenges. Then, one September morning, our Post-Constitutional era began amid falling towers and empty skies. What have we lost since? More than we imagine. A look at the Bill of Rights, amendment by amendment, tells the tale.
The First Amendment
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The First Amendment was meant to make one thing indisputably clear: free speech was the basis for a government of the people. Without a free press, as well as the ability to openly gather, debate, protest, and criticize, how would the people be able to judge their government’s adherence to the other rights? How could people vote knowledgeably if they didn’t know what was being done in their name by their government? An informed citizenry, Thomas Jefferson stated, was “a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
That was how it was seen long ago. In Post-Constitutional America, however, the government strives to “control the message,” to actively thwart efforts to maintain a citizenry informed about what’s done in its name, a concept that these days seems as quaint as Jefferson’s powdered wig. There are far too many examples of the post-9/11 erosion of the First Amendment to list here. Let’s just look at a few important ones that tell the tale of what we have lost since 9/11.
(Lack of) Freedom of Information
In 1966, an idea for keeping Americans better informed on the workings of their government was hatched: the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Strengthened in 1974, it began with the premise that, except for some obvious categories (like serious national security matters and personal information), the position of the government should be: everything it does is available to the public. Like the Bill of Rights, which made specific the limits of government, FOIA began with a presumption that it was the government’s duty to make information available — and quickly — to the people, unless a convincing case could be made otherwise. The default position of the FOIA switch was set to ON.
Three decades later, the FOIA system works far differently. Agencies are generally loath to release documents of any sort and instead put their efforts into creating roadblocks to legitimate requests. Some still require signatures on paper. (The State Department notes, “Requests for personal information cannot be submitted electronically and should be submitted by mail.”) Others demand hyper-detailed information like the precise dates and titles of documents whose dates and titles may be classified and unavailable. The NSA simply denies almost all FOIA requests out of hand, absent a court order.
Most federal agencies now regard the deadline mandated for a response as the time period to send out a “request received” note. They tend to assign only a few staff members to processing requests, leading to near-endless delays. At the State Department, most FOIA work is done on a part-time basis by retirees. The CIA won’t directly release electronic versions of documents. Even when a request is fulfilled, “free” copying is often denied and reproduction costs exaggerated.
In some cases, the requested records have a way of disappearing or are simply removed. The ACLU’s experience when it filed an FOIA-style request with the Sarasota police department on its use of the cell phone surveillance tool Stingray could be considered typical. The morning the ACLU was to review the files, Federal Marshals arrived and physically took possession of them, claiming they had deputized the local cops and made the files federal property. An ACLU spokesperson noted that, in other cases, federal authorities have invoked the Homeland Security Act to prevent the release of records.
John Young, who runs the web site Cryptome and is a steadfast FOIA requester, stated, “Stonewalling, delay, brush-off, lying are normal. It is a delusion for ordinary requesters and a bitch of a challenge for professionals. Churning has become a way of life for FOIA, costly as hell for little results.”
Sealed Lips and the Whistleblower
All government agencies have regulations requiring employees to obtain permission before speaking to the representatives of the people — that is, journalists. The U.S. Intelligence Community has among the most restrictive of these policies, banning employees and contractors completely from talking with the media without prior authorization. Even speaking about unclassified information is a no-no that may cost you your job. A government ever more in lockdown mode has created what one journalist calls a “culture where censorship is the norm.”
So who does speak to Americans about their government? Growing hordes of spokespeople, communications staff, trained PR crews, and those anonymous “senior officials” who pop up so regularly in news articles in major papers.
With the government obsessively seeking to hide or spin what it does, in-the-sunlight contact barred, and those inside locked behind an iron curtain of secrecy, the whistleblower has become the paradigmatic figure of the era. Not surprisingly, anyone who blows a whistle has, in these years, come under fierce attack.
Pick a case: Tom Drake exposing early NSA efforts to turn its spy tools on Americans, Edward Snowden proving that the government has us under constant surveillance, Chelsea Manning documenting war crimes in Iraq and sleazy diplomacy everywhere, John Kiriakouacknowledging torture by his former employer the CIA, or Robert MacLean revealing Transportation Safety Administration malfeasance. In each instance, the threat of jail was quick to surface. The nuclear option against such truthtellers is the Espionage Act, a law that offended the Constitution when implemented in the midst of World War I. It has been resurrected by the Obama administration as a blunt “wartime” tool for silencing and punishing whistleblowers.
The Obama administration has already charged six people under that act for allegedly mishandling classified information. Even Richard Nixon only invoked it once, in a failed prosecution against Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.
Indeed, the very word “espionage” couldn’t be stranger in the context of these cases. None of those charged spied. None sought to aid an enemy or make money selling secrets. No matter. In Post-Constitutional America, the powers-that-be stand ready to twist language in whatever Orwellian direction is necessary to bridge the gap between reality and the king’s needs. In the Espionage Act case of State Department contractor Stephen Kim, a judge departed from previous precedent, ruling that the prosecution need not even show that the information leaked to a Fox news reporter from a CIA report on North Korea could damage U.S. national security or benefit a foreign power. It could still be a part of an “espionage” charge.
A final question might be: How could a law designed almost 100 years ago to stop German spies in wartime have become a tool to silence the few Americans willing to risk everything to exercise their First Amendment rights? When did free speech become a crime?
Self-Censorship and the Press
Each person charged under the Espionage Act in these years was primarily a source for a journalist. The writers of the Bill of Rights chose to include the term “press” in the First Amendment, specifically carving out a special place for journalists in our democracy. The press was necessary to question government officials directly, comment on their actions, and inform the citizenry about what its government was doing. Sadly, as the Obama administration is moving ever more fiercely against those who might reveal its acts or documents, the bulk of the media have acquiesced. Glenn Greenwald said it plainly: too many journalists have gone into a self-censoring mode, practicing “obsequious journalism.”
For example, a survey of reporters showed “the percentage of U.S. journalists endorsing the occasional use of ‘confidential business or government documents without authorization,’ dropped significantly from 81.8% in 1992 to 57.7% in 2013.” About 40% of American journalists would not have published documents like those Edward Snowden revealed.
And the same has been true of the management of newspapers. In mid-2004, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau uncovered George W. Bush’s illegal warrantless eavesdropping program, but the New York Times held the story for 15 months, until after Bush’s reelection. Executives at the Times were told by administration officials that if they ran the story, they’d be helping terrorists. They accepted that. In 2006, the Los Angeles Times similarly gave in to the NSA and suppressed a story on government wiretaps of Americans.
Government Efforts to Stop Journalists
Reporters need sources. Increasingly, the government is classifying just about any document it produces — 92 million documents in 2011 alone. Its intelligence agencies have even classified reports about the over-classification of documents. As a result, journalistic sources are often pressed into discussing, at great personal risk, classifiedinformation. Forcing a reporter to reveal such sources discourages future whistleblowing.
In one of the first of a series of attempts to make journalists reveal their sources, former Fox News reporter Mike Levine stated that the Justice Department persuaded a federal grand jury to subpoena him in January 2011. The demand was that he reveal his sources for a 2009 story about Somali-Americans who were secretly indicted in Minneapolis for joining an al-Qaeda-linked group in Somalia. Levine fought the order and the Department of Justice finally dropped it without comment in April 2012. Call it a failed test case.
According to Washington lawyer Abbe Lowell, who defended Stephen Kim, significant amounts of time have been spent by the Department of Justice in the search for a legal rationale for indicting journalists for their participation in exposing classified documents. A crucial test case is James Risen’s 2006 book, State of War, which had an anonymously sourced chapter on a failed CIA operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. When Risen, citing the First Amendment, refused to identify his source or testify in the trial of the former CIA officer accused of being that source, the government sought to imprison him. He responded that the “Obama administration… wants to use this case and others like it to intimidate reporters and whistleblowers. But I am appealing to the Supreme Court because it is too dangerous to allow the government to conduct national security policy completely in the dark.”
In June 2014, the Supreme Court refused to take Risen’s case on appeal, essentially ratifying a U.S. Court of Appeals decision that the First Amendment didn’t protect a reporter from being forced to testify about “criminal conduct that the reporter personally witnessed or participated in.” That decision makes clear that a reporter receiving classified information from a source is part of the crime of “leaking.”
Risen has said he will go to prison rather than testify. It is possible that, having secured the precedent-setting right to send Risen to jail, the government will bring the suspected leaker to trial without calling on him. Attorney General Eric Holder recently hinted that his Justice Department might take that path — a break for Risen himself, but not for reporters more generally who now know that they can be jailed for refusing to divulge a source without hope of recourse to the Supreme Court.
The Descent Into Post-Constitutionalism
As with the King of England once upon a time, many of the things the government now does have been approved in secret, sometimes in secret courts according to a secret body of law. Sometimes, they were even approved openly by Congress. In constitutional America, the actions of the executive and the laws passed by Congress were only legal when they did not conflict with the underlying constitutional principles of our democracy. Not any more. “Law” made in secret, including pretzeled legal interpretations by the Justice Department for the White House, opened the way, for instance, to the use of torture on prisoners and in the Obama years to the drone assassination of Americans. Because such “legalities” remain officially classified, they are, of course, doubly difficult to challenge.
But can’t we count on the usual pendulum swings in American life to change this? There were indeed notable moments in American history when parts of the Constitution were put aside, but none are truly comparable to our current situation. The Civil War lasted five years, with Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus limited in geography and robustly contested. The World War II Japanese internment camps closed after three years and the persecuted were a sub-set of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast. Senator McCarthy’s notorious career as a communist-hunter lasted four years and ended in shame.
Almost 13 years after the 9/11 attacks, it remains “wartime.” For the war on terror, the driver, excuse, and raison d’être for the tattering of the Bill of Rights, there is no end in sight. Recently retired NSA head Keith Alexander is typical of key figures in the national security state when he claims that despite, well, everything, the country is at greater risk today than ever before. These days, wartime is forever, which means that a government working ever more in secret has ever more latitude to decide which rights in which form applied in what manner are still inalienable.
The usual critical history of our descent into a post-constitutional state goes something like this: in the panic after the 9/11 attacks, under the leadership of Vice President Dick Cheney with the support of President George W. Bush, a cabal of top government officials pushed through legal-lite measures to (as they liked to say) “take the gloves off” and allow kidnapping, torture, illegal surveillance, and offshore imprisonment along with indefinite detention without charges or trial.
Barack Obama, elected on a series of (false) promises to roll back the worst of the Bush-era crimes, while rejecting torture and closing America’s overseas “black sites,” still pushed the process forward in his own way. He expanded executive power, emphasized drone assassinations (including against American citizens), gave amnesty to torturers, increased government secrecy, targeted whistleblowers, and heightened surveillance. In other words, two successive administrations lied, performed legal acrobatics, and bullied their way toward a kind of absolute power that hasn’t been seen since the days of King George. That’s the common narrative and, while not wrong, it is incomplete.
Missing Are the People
One key factor remains missing in such a version of post-9/11 events in America: the people. Even today, 45% of Americans, when polled on the subject, agree that torture is “sometimes necessary and acceptable to gain information that may protect the public.” Americans as a group seem unsure about whether the NSA’s global and domestic surveillance is justified, and many remain convinced that Edward Snowden and the journalists who published his material are criminals. The most common meme related to whistleblowers is still “patriot or traitor?” and toward the war on terror, “security or freedom?”
It’s not that Americans are incorrect to be fearful and feel in need of protection. The main thing we need to protect ourselves against, however, is not the modest domestic threat from terrorists, but a new king, a unitary executive that has taken the law for its own, aided and abetted by the courts, supported by a powerful national security state, and unopposed by a riven and weakened Congress. Without a strong Bill of Rights to protect us — indeed, secure us — from the dangers of our own government, we will have gone full-circle to a Post-Constitutional America that shares much in common with the pre-constitutional British colonies.
Yet there is no widespread, mainstream movement of opposition to what the government has been doing. It seems, in fact, that many Americans are willing to accept, perhaps even welcome out of fear, the death of the Bill of Rights, one amendment at a time.
We are the first to see, in however shadowy form, the outlines of what a Post-Constitutional America might look like. We could be the last who might be able to stop it.
Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. A TomDispatch regular, he writes about current events at his blog We Meant Well. His new book, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, is available now. In future pieces at TomDispatch he will consider other amendments being dismantled in the post-9/11 era.
Yeah, people think I’m weird. So, what else is new?
Nearly every kind of pop culture fandom has a dark side.
One of my biggest strengths (and weaknesses) is persistence. I have been told several times that I “don’t know when to quit.” That can be either a good thing or a bad thing, I guess, depending on the circumstances. I may have setbacks, which slow me down, change how I do things, or have to fight with my own brain, sometimes. But, I still keep trying.
A really cool drummer guy has unfriended me on FB and dropped out of our FB group. Admittedly, it is entirely my fault. I have been lost in my own headspace again, losing touch with everybody for too long. He feels like I have used and neglected him, which wasn’t my intention at all. I honestly get fixated on one thing or another and lose track of everything else. It happens to me all of the time. Does that make me a bad person or just a bad friend?
My social skills are shit and my behavior can sometimes be erratic.
So, I don’t think being in bands long-term are ever gonna work out for me.
It never does. But, the music scene is just about the only social life that I have, playing with other musicians, performing at gigs, etc. So, I guess doing short-term projects with other people is the only way I’m going to remain active in that community. I mean, I’m stubborn. I know this shit isn’t going to work out. But, I keep doing it anyway. Maybe admitting that, to myself, is the only way for me to move forward with anything.
Hello, I received a message from David Liebe Hart, from the Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job! He finally raised enough funds to publish the comic book that I and others contributed to several months ago. The text is below, if you are interested.
Hello friends of David. We are excited to announce the Kickstarter campaign for our comic book, Heartman, starring David as the superhero who, along with his sidekick Chip, must save the universe from his evil nemesis Dr. Pain. Each of the beautiful 44 pages is illustrated by a different artist including DLH himself. With about 5 days to go we’ve reached our goal to raise enough money to order 250 full-color, finely crafted copies for $1500. You can order your David-signed copy now. There are also some exclusive rewards for donating extra $. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/884844058/david-liebe-hart-of-tim-and-eric-in-heartman-comic
Short history, this was an organization founded by a handful of big names in punk to turn the tide of the political climate during the G.W. Bush era and it made a lot of waves. But Barackstar Obama won, punk got complacent and lazy and we’re here now. So the idea is to get dissatisfied you (the 18 to 20 somethings) engaged in the political process. We can do this again. You don’t need a Fat Mike or Jello Biafra to get it going. You yourself can get your local scene and others in the community engaged. The mid term elections are this fall and There’s actual Nazis running for Senate and Congress. We gotta fight this at the ballot box. Use your social media with #punkvoter to help initiate a conversation. Anti-Fascism isn’t all about putting on a mask and smashing shit. The real fight is to ensure that…
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I’m not dead, yet. Just thought I would remind everybody….who gives a shit. Family members sometimes call me every couple of months, to be sure that I haven’t passed away, unnoticed, since I keep to myself a lot. I can’t really blame them.
Anyhow, been stressing myself out to get things done and, counterintuitively, I got less actually done. I talked with a motivational coach about this, a few weeks ago. Getting an outside perspective sometimes helps. I have considered finding a new therapist, not having seen one in several years. But, this consultation was free. So, I tried him out first.
Basically, he suggested I break the problems I’m having down into more manageable pieces, working my way up to bigger chunks as I feel better. Most importantly, I just need to take my time, take my mind off what’s bothering me, and come back to what I’m doing later – when I feel like doing it. So, I’ve been spending more time with some hobbies, trying to chill the fuck out. Financially, I’m back in the hole again. That is adding some of the stress that I’m feeling, lately. I’m trying not to let it get to me, though. I’m trying to have fun… if I can remember how.
I have been rearranging my daily schedule, after I fell off of it for awhile. I missed doing a lot of things that I wanted to do. Maybe this will make it easier for me to stick to my plans and build better habits. We will see.
On a side note, I have been playing along with a FB request to list my top 10 albums. I am enjoying that. I thought about listing my favorite music videos, afterward. But, why wait? I will just list them here for you. I have different reasons for liking each one. These are chosen for being the best music videos overall, not just because I like the songs. It began as a Top 10. But, I kept adding more. Maybe I’ll do another one of these, sometime in the future.
Commander Cody – Two Triple Cheese Side Order of Fries
Barnes & Barnes – Fish Heads
The Residents – Third Reich + One-Minute Movies (Moisture, Act of Being Polite, Perfect Love, The Simple Song) It was a toss-up. They’re both good.
Billy Joel – Pressure
Cyndi Lauper – She Bop
Weird Paul & Ben Blanchard – Maybe You’ll Find Some In the Garbage
ZZ Top – TV Dinners
They Might Be Giants – Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
Voivod – Psychic Vacuum
Twisted Sister – Be Chrool To Your Scuel (ft. Alice Cooper, Brian Setzer, and Billy Joel)
Van Halen – Hot For Teacher + David Lee Roth – Just A Gigolo / I Ain’t Got Nobody (I couldn’t decide between these two, either. It was a tie)
Katy Perry – California Gurls (ft. Snoop Dogg)
Björk – Human Behaviour
I don’t remember how long I have been interested in filmmaking. I’ve always loved movies, of every kind. You can combine every other artform together into it, if you are creative. I never had ambitions to be an actor, though. I fell into that by accident.
As a young child living in Detroit, I fantasized about becoming a stuntman. This could be because of the then-popularity of daredevil Evel Knievel, action films like Hooper (1978), and TV shows like The Fall Guy My favorite stuntman was the legendary Dar Robinson. His untimely death after shooting Lethal Weapon (1987) permanently put an end to that idea, for me. Though, I had become far more interested in playing music by then.
The size of a film’s budget or the skill of the actors involved were never really a big deal to me, if the script was still good. A bad actor in a great movie will still get by. But, a great actor in a bad movie is totally screwed (That philosophy can be applied to so many other things). Nonetheless, I still watch a lot of cheesy bad movies, seeking out their redeeming qualities.
I don’t remember how I got into underground independent films. It may have been through watching funky old horror, science fiction, and grindhouse movies on local UHF stations as a kid (before cable TV came along). The VHS revolution in the 1980’s also opened up a whole new universe of adventurous filmmakers, no longer restricted by studio gatekeepers. My mom would bring home all sorts of insane stuff she found at mom & pop video stores. Her taste in low-budget weird movies probably rubbed off on me a lot. I grew an increasing appreciation for DIY directors / producers making their visions a reality against all odds.
The Island of Misfit Noise has evolved from a 1990’s rock band into a 21st Century multimedia project, based around making videos and movies instead of performing live. I guess, in that way, it shares some similarities to The Banana Splits, The Archies, or Green Jellö. Not having a permanent band makes it an ideal vehicle to try new things out and bring in different collaborators. There is also less pressure figuring out how to do everything onstage, in front of an audience.
I have no idea how to do film distribution or anything technical. It is all learn-as-I-go. I have no budget or crew. I use whatever stuff I can get for free. Does it look like cheap crap? Probably. Will anybody ever see it? Maybe. Maybe not. But, it will get done and be out there for those who are curious. It may take awhile to finish without access to those things, though.
My short video “I Dream of SpaceCat” was a good learning experience, not just in producing content. But, also in presentation to an audience. I hope to do more.
I thought I would give you some GOOD news, for a change.
My van has been returned and drives better than it did before. My aunt loaned me enough money for the tire. I think they tightened something up to stop the wheel from wobbling. It helps. But, I got an estimate for repairs to the damaged tie rod and related issues that still need fixing. I do not think I can do this by myself. It looks like more than I can handle. The van still has trouble starting up. Someone said that the teeth on the starter may be worn out. I have a new one to replace it with. I couldn’t get the old one off. It is too tight and I’m not strong enough. But, it doesn’t have as much of a transmission problem as it did before. That could just be because they added enough fluid to it, finally.
My bank account balance is not in the red for the first time in months! I think I’m finally catching up, at least a little bit.
I’ve gotten a bunch of new pen pal letters, lately. I’m looking forward to replying to all of this mail. I’ve also been mentioned by some very prominent YouTubers, lately (Wow!). Maybe I’ll get more traffic on my site.
I have found and fixed my webcam problem. It was a system glitch. Not sure yet if I will include a vlog with today’s blog. Maybe I will post one after I finish this new painting I’m working on.
Today’s song from my collection is a Nirvana cover by Flipper. Enjoy!
Vehicle repair has been the bane of my existence, for decades. I can usually only afford cheap transportation. So, I get nickel-and-dimed to death keeping them running. On the rare occasions that I have had decent quality cars, they always got totalled within a year. My current ride, a 1994 Chevy Astro Van, has been with me for four years. That is a pretty long time compared to most of the others I have owned, which were replaced very frequently. I’ve made a few modifications, like taking out the rear seats and discarding some panels. But, that is an ongoing process. I had hoped to prepare it for full-time living, for extended periods of time, should I suddenly become homeless. I’m paranoid like that.
I bought it in 2014, from an aunt’s neighbor, for $700. It had been dormantly parked in her driveway, untouched, for several years. I knew it would cost me a lot more, over time. When I bought it, it already had a bent frame, oil leaks, radiator problems, and a thousand other things wrong with it. Most of those I STILL haven’t fixed. Then, there are more pieces falling apart all of the time.
A few days ago I had a flat tire, again. The same wheel keeps going flat. I have replaced that tire at least five times, by now. The rim was inspected and I was told that it was okay. So, I just kept replacing tires when the old ones gave out. This tire kept getting low every couple of days and I would air it up at a nearby Belle Tire before it went completely flat. But, this last time, I tried to inflate the tire and it was totally shredded! I had no way to get the van home without bending the holy fuck out of the wheel. So, I went inside and told them my problem. I also told them about the wheel wobbling all of the time, possibly due to a bad tie rod or ball joint. So, maybe they will look at that, too. It could cost a few hundred dollars. But, either way, I have no money… AT ALL, to pay for it. I applied for credit there, hoping to make payment arrangements. Haven’t heard back from them, yet, about the van or the credit. I’m not very optimistic.
I asked if they would check my transmission. But, they don’t do transmissions. I’m still hoping that it is something minor I can fix by myself.
Things like this keep me perpetually in a bad mood. As negative as I always am, I don’t need much to already be in one and this doesn’t help. I’m trying to take my mind off of it with music & art. I opened a Ko-Fi account online, specifically for such repairs, if anybody wants to chip in a few bucks. There are no obligations. It isn’t a monthly pledge service, like Patreon. I’m only using it for specific goals – in this case, fixing the van.
Guess I will get back to work and leave you alone. Later.
Our electricity went out three days ago. Still waiting for it to come back on. We are running on generator, with only half-power. Nothing really works, though, except the computer and dim lights. Microwave won’t work. Coffee maker won’t work. The refrigerator is barely functioning. I hope nothing gets spoiled. Even the pilot lights on the stove aren’t working. I had to use a bic lighter. It has been pretty much ramen and sandwiches with lukewarm water everyday.
The internet went out, as well. But, I got it back on a few minutes ago.
Mostly, I’ve played with my cat and watched a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic marathon. I really like the guest stars they’ve had on so far, like ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic and John de Lancie (Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation).
I did a little reading.
Sent out a few letters to friends.
Did some editing on my zine.
Worked on song ideas.
I posted a blog yesterday, immediately regretted it, then promptly went back and deleted everything. It was just too negative (more than I usually am). I know that I can be a downer, sometimes. You don’t need to be reminded of that. But, I did want to leave a few updates for this overdue blog.
I spent a couple of days trying to shoot a vlog. But, the webcam is broken. I kept fiddling with it and looking for a software solution. It has got to be the hardware, though. Everything else is fine.
The transmission on my van is going out and the wheels wobble. I don’t know why, yet. Yesterday, I aired up a flat tire, drove my decrepit van to the post office, got the mail, changed the cat’s litterbox, fed her a can of food, busted a guitar string, wrote some letters, etc. Mostly, I’ve been sleeping a lot. I think I missed taking my meds three or four times this week, including today (and I really feel it). I hate when I do that.
Tom Zarzecki, of Death Cat, is planning another film festival later this year. I think I will pass on that this time. I wasn’t very happy with how my previous contribution turned out and the festival itself last year was kind of a bust. Practically no one but the filmmakers themselves showed up. It was an insightful experience, though. Now I’m more aware about some mistakes to avoid when I’m performing live.
My homemade drum kit (aka The ShitKit) has a problem. The bass drum pedal is totally broken. I was building a wooden base for the kit when I noticed that pieces of the kick pedal were missing. Shit. I don’t have any money to replace it. Maybe someone would accept a trade? They could possibly repair it if they have the parts.
My friend Max Grean is putting together a Glam-Core group (whatever that means). Not exactly sure where he is going with that. He asked me to contribute to it. So, I guess that I am the keyboardist. I have one decent quality keyboard (on loan from my ex). The rest that I own are cheap crap. We will see what happens.
This is a mixed-media painting that I finished a few months ago. It will probably end up as a zine cover, at some point, eventually. Just to have SOME consistency here, I will continue to show you my paintings & artwork in each blog, w/ a song from my record collection included. Maybe that will help me, somehow, to remain in a better mental state.
Making mistakes are inevitable. You learn what you can from them and try not to make the same ones twice. But, as I’ve been told, I “never know when to quit.” I guess there are upsides and downsides to that. I’m persistent.
I’ve always hated the business side of art & music. There are some aspects that I don’t mind doing myself. But, most of it I’ve always left for someone else to handle (booking shows, collecting the door, etc.). I’m just really bad at it. But, as a club owner once told comedian / performance artist Andy Kaufman, “This is show-business. Show… Business! Show…Business! Without the business, there’s no show.” It took a very long time to beat that into my head. But, I still relied too much on others to get things done.
I’ve always known how important it is to have backup gear; strings, cords, cables, picks, etc. But, I never considered having a backup for other contingencies. A friend would set up a show for me and I’d prepare to get by at that one show. If something went wrong, though, I’d be fucked. I’ve been stood up by bandmates at booked gigs. I’ve had important pieces of equipment fail. If something CAN go wrong, it usually does.
I was, recently, reading a blog explaining the pros and cons of touring alone vs touring with a band. It got me thinking about how I can better prepare myself. I should ALWAYS have a backup plan ready for when shit goes wrong, “Always have a plan A, B, C, and D.” If an offer comes along and I don’t have a backup plan for it, then I probably shouldn’t accept it. I’m not ready. The best way to avoid this from happening is to DIY all of the work, as much as possible. If I’m bad at it, then I’ll learn how to get better. I’ve always been bad with cars, but eventually I had to learn shit or it didn’t get done…period.
If I’m setting up a show by myself, I can control the variables and take precautions. If bandmates flake out or cannot show up, I can still do it alone. If a piece of equipment fails, I can do something else instead. Whatever happens, I got this.
Part of this mindset is influenced by my “prepping hobby” or whatever you want to call it. I liked the TV show “Doomsday Preppers”, while it lasted. Sure, there were lots of nutcases on there with too much money to waste and not enough common sense. But, the general principle is a sound one, “Be prepared…for anything.” It got our grandparents through the Great Depression. The pioneers survived travelling across the wilderness because they prepared for it. Shit’s gonna happen, inevitably. What are you gonna do? Cry about it? No. If something needs to be done, get it done. No one else will do it. Think ahead, then you won’t have to worry as much.
I have repairs & replacements that need to be taken care of. But, I would like to set up a few mini-tours down the Midwest or The East Coast. Whether that is with a group or alone (or both) I’d like to somehow make that happen. If I can secure a decent-priced rental van and insurance with Roadside Assistance it would make a world of difference. Would it be a deal-breaker if I can’t? I’m not sure.
Another thing that has taken me a very long time to learn is, “If you can’t do it the way that you want to do it, find another way to do it. Then, do it anyway.” Being stubbornly perfectionist can really hold you back. I’ve had to learn that the hard way. I’ve had some great ideas which would have been fantastic to see materialize, “only if…” It’s always some details that prevented it from happening, when I could have done it in some other fashion and at least gotten SOMETHING done – instead of nothing.
This kinda goes back to my point of being more self-reliant. I’ve often needed someone around to break me out of my depression, get me motivated, and to bounce ideas off of. If I had simply recorded & performed everything myself, all along, I could have accomplished so much more! I thought that I NEEDED other people to do things. But, I really only WANTED them. That is a big difference. It is a huge mistake to wait for anyone for anything, if you can avoid it. “Don’t wait around for help, because it isn’t coming.” Otherwise, you’ll be sitting there, forever, Waiting For Godot.
One of my favorite cartoons is “Rick & Morty.” I think that the best episode, so far, has been “Pickle Rick.” In this episode, the title character (transformed into a limbless pickle) is physically helpless, trapped down a sewer drain, but manages to save his own life through sheer ingenuity and persistence. Just like one of my other favorite TV characters, MacGyver. He could have simply despaired there at the bottom of the sewer, hopelessly crying to himself, until the rats and roaches ate his lifeless corpse. But, instead, he used his environment to escape and survive. I’m a little envious that I don’t have more positive moments like that myself. It is something to strive for, though.
I’ve been kinda busy lately, helping my aunt and ex-gf move. I was also not feeling well for a week or so. Then, my van broke down. I’m behind on my projects, including providing this month’s MP3 for Patrons. I’m doing my best to catch up.
I received a small batch of comics, recently, that I contributed to. It’s called Five O’Clock Shadow. This is issue #25. I’m including them with orders and donations on my Bandcamp page, while they last.
I am recording a bunch of exclusive music for my supporters on Patreon, as well as contributions to The Residents, David Liebe Hart (“Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!”), and some new collaborators who want to put a band or something together with me. Lots of stuff going on!
Issues of “Theee Urban SpaceCat” Cassette-Zine have been held back for an absurd amount of time, mostly for financial reasons. I’m always broke. Just to get them out there in some form, , I will be releasing the first couple of issues digitally (PDF & MP3). They may get printed physically at a later time. But, look on the bright side. At least you can download them instantly instead of waiting by your mailbox.
Another project that I’m working on is a series of paintings, each including a compact disc of unique material. I will show them for you on future videos. Plus, there is all of the other art that I’m making every day. So, perhaps good things are happening.
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I’d love to get any feedback from you.
When I get stuff in the mail, it also gives me fodder for making zines and things.
I know that I need to put myself out there more if I want to accomplish my goals. My natural inclination is avoid everybody, though.
Procrastination is another big problem of mine. I “rack disiprine.”
I try REALLY hard to do better. But, I’m my own worst enemy. I self-sabotage everything.
I have put myself on a regular schedule, of sorts, to take care of everyday things, so I don’t have to think about it much. I make myself a daily to-do list. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d get anything done. But, it isn’t foolproof. I still get sidetracked with something else a lot. I tend to fixate on something, to the exclusion of everything else, and lose track of time.
I was thinking about the creative process, the thinking process. If I document it, publicly, maybe this will help to keep me motivated, creative and honest. When I write to friends or collaborate with other people I seem to get more stuff done. It helps, I guess. I might be less likely to throw everything away before I’m finished.
I’m blogging for my Patreon-supporters (the Superduper Secret SpaceCat Blog) almost every week-ish . I share things to keep it interesting.
I had a busy week or two, making a bunch of horror movie themed paintings for a show at the Phoenix Cafe’ and putting together a short movie for the Planet 9 Film Festival. Now that it’s over I’m catching up on neglected housework and van repairs.
Moving on to the next thing or so;
- Working on issues #1-3 of “Theee Urban SpaceCat” cassette-zine. It has been held up for a ridiculous length of time already. It was always my intent to publish new issues every three or four months. But, I never have any money to do so. I’m considering just posting MP3/PDF versions online until I can get enough cash together. I have a growing backlog of material to do something with or discard.
- Building new custom instruments, ShitKit 2.0 and miscellaneous noise machines. Everything was taking up space and had to be moved. My grandmother needs her garage back.
- “The Island of Misfit Noise” movie might make a little more progress. The recent experience of making and showing a short film has been educational.
- Recording new music for collaboration albums: David Liebe Hart (“Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!”) and The Residents!
- Of course, I will continue to collaborate on other things as well. I may have found a new drummer!
I doubt if I will perform alone again for awhile. Had a bad experience a few weeks ago. Was offered another gig in two months. But, I’ll pass, just stick to recording for the time being.
Recently, I showed my art and submitted a last-minute entry into the Planet 9 Film Fest, I Dream of SpaceCat. The festival is appearing in Detroit, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The Detroit date did not go as planned. Well, the event got relocated three times and was scheduled as a matinee. A few of the bar regulars and the filmmakers themselves showed up. But, I think that was about it. Oh well. Maybe it will get played in the other cities. I dunno.
If you were unable to see this short video in the full context of the festival, maybe you would like to see it here. I doubt that I will ever commercially release it, as-is. Maybe elements will resurface in other projects, someday. It’s possible. Admittedly, it’s not a cinema masterpiece by any measure. But, all things considered, for what it is it turned out pretty good, I think.
I saw these two perform at the Gold Dollar twenty years ago, today.
I could not find a single bit of information about them beyond their discography.
But, anyway, here is a link to their Discog page. Enjoy!
I was going through my hard drive, looking at designs for new guitars and custom instruments. I didn’t know if anybody would care about this sort of thing, except other musicians… maybe. Of course, lacking any money, I build these things as opportunities come along. I can probably work on the cheaper ones for awhile.
I always liked the customized design of Jimmy Page’s Les Paul Guitars, with push-pull knobs enabling coil-tapping and phase-shifting. But, I like baritone guitars a lot, too. The first draft at my version went something like this:
I kept making further refinements. Although Les Pauls have a nice tone, the original construction needs work. The headstocks are notorious for breaking easily. So, I changed it to a Zachary Guitars “samurai sword” style headstock. Also, I prefer guitar bodies with an offset waist, for comfort. So, I would keep the maple top mahogany body, just shape it more comfortably like a Fender Jazzmaster or Jaguar.
I played around with different pickup configurations, different woods, a graphite reinforced neck, etc.. I gave a Fender Bass VI style body a try.
Then, I moved on to basses. I want to combine a Fender Jazz, Precision, and Rickenbacker style tones together. Maybe a Gibson Thunderbird. Maybe not. But, I know it would not sound like any of them if I tried to do that. A close approximation would be nice, though.
It is possible that the only way around this is to build a different one for each specific tone. But, I thought about including Line 6 Variax Bass wiring hooked to a piezo pickup for variety. Not sure if it would work.
This is all out of my price range, for now. I considered having the body made, then adding parts as I go along. The neck is the most expensive piece. I don’t know to what degree solid graphite necks can be customized. Having a comfortable neck is very important. I think a “Soft V” contour is the right shape for me. But, I’m not sure. If a pro shop could work out details like that with me it would be extremely helpful.
Making experimental “noise machines” is a lot easier for me to put together on a low budget. The most common that I like making are basically stringed instruments built from scrap wood and junk.
Anything that makes a sound is fair game, though.
One thing that I thought about getting, for a long time, is a DJ rack case & table. It could store all sorts of effects, make room to operate small devices, and give me something to stand behind. But, they aren’t cheap. This is at the very bottom of my wishlist.
So, there it is. That is just some of the things I’ve been working on, for a long time. I’ll probably build the noise machines sooner than the rest. It would great if I could scrape together enough money to do the basses / guitars, though. I’ll just continue doing what I’m doing until then.
ONLINE RADIO STREAMS
TUNEIN ONLINE RADIO
PUNK ROCK STATIONS
WHATEVER 68 RADIO
UNDERGROUND SKANKING RADIO
GUTTER PUNK RADIO
CORE OF DESTRUCTION RADIO
V103 ROCK RADIO
REAL PUNK RADIO
Wiseblood #37 The Cat-Sitting Issue
Sometimes you read a zine, and all you can do is experience it. Not think too much because it’s better for you to go along for the ride.
This is definitely one of those zines.
I received Wiseblood #37 (along with another) in a trade with Fishspit himself. After such charming short messages, how could I not be curious about a zine with this cover?
The content doesn’t disappoint from the cover expectation. Inside you’ll find three stream-of-consciousness style stories with a silly sort of humour that I think most people can appreciate. They remind me a little of Billy Connolly long, winding story humour (obviously less long and winding given the format).
I must know his cat-whisperer secrets. Haha.
I was a bit shocked a little at some of the content and language. It’s been a while since I’ve read anything that’s…
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Today’s review is brought to you by an early morning run to the dental hospital for Wanderer’s emergency, followed by a very long day.
How much do you love this cover? I wish I’d had time to take a better photo, because it’s excellent.
Before I get into the content of this zine, I want to mention how cool it is to see a zine that is on issue 62. Last week I reviewed issue 37, and that was impressive in and of itself. But 62? I only just finished Don’t Call Me Cupcake 2.
The Wiseblood website says “A Zine Since 1984”. It’s strange and wonderful to think about how this zine series has been going longer than I have been alive.
Many zines on, and Fishspit still has a stream of consciousness style of writing that picks you up and carries…
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If there is anything I love about reading a perzine series for a while, it’s having my assumptions about a person challenged. This issue of Wiseblood certainly did that for me in regards to Fishspit.
I feel like Wiseblood #64 is a bit nostalgic in ways that other issues aren’t. Past mistakes, childhood memories… I like ‘reflection’ mixed in with the current stuff. Especially when it’s not all sunshine and flowers stuff.
It’s not easy to admit when you’ve wronged someone, even in the quiet of writing your own zine. Fishspit would (will?) likely brush off the statement, but I have to tip my fedora to someone who up and admits it.
“I was never mean to Jessie…I just wasn’t good for her.”
As much as I don’t like needing to hunt down details like websites and such, I do like it when I can look…
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In Wiseblood 67, Fishspit talks about his experiences with depression and using ECT – electroconvulsive therapy – for treatment.
Fishspit has a writing style that isn’t for the easily offended, but he takes a different tone in this issue. I can’t help but feel for him for a number of reasons as he talks about his experiences. Right from the start, you really get a sense of the desperation to get past the depression no matter what the cost.
I find it interesting to read people’s stories about depression and how they describe it. Fishspit describes how, for him:
…sometimes it’s a mosquito…a small pestering depression…a tiny dark spot on the soul, but then! Oh my! It can become a gorilla! Consuming me absolutely.
I was incredibly angry while reading one part of this, as the idiocies and aggravations of insurance companies run far and wide…
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I’ve been drawing & painting since I could walk. My parents even tried persuading me to turn professional and go into advertising as a career. PFFFFFFFTT! Fuck that. I cannot think of a more surefire way to suck out and destroy any enjoyment from creativity than having a boss tell you what to do, and when. Furthermore, selling your soul to marketing agencies adds insult to injury.
Usually, my artwork was given to friends or destroyed and discarded. I started selling my art locally in the 1990’s. But, not really understanding how the professional art world works, I only sold items in person at music venues or record stores (wherever I happened to be). I have been reluctant about taking it any further than that.
I don’t really have a lot of room to keep anything. I rented a storage unit for about a year, until I could no longer afford it. So, if no one wants what I make, it often goes into the garbage. Maybe the rats and seagulls at the landfill can use it for a nest.
I’m finally dipping my toe into the “real” art world. I was offered to showcase some paintings. So, I figured maybe I should sell some. I have an account online at ArtPal. There isn’t much there, yet. I’m only beginning, just now. But, I will continue to put pieces up there if it interests anybody. I thought about it for a little bit and decided to do commissions, too. If it doesn’t work out, I will stop.
I made a few updates to my Patreon account rewards, since I’m doing this. Patrons can get discounts on merchandise and original artwork. Details will be listed with items as they are posted.
We will see where this goes, then.
This is my tribute to Andy Warhol, on the 35th anniversary of his scene in the movie “66 Scenes From America” by danish filmmaker Jorgen Leth. The movie was shot in 1982 and has a total duration of 39 minutes. It consists of a series of shots (or moving postcards) that outline daily life across the USA in the 1980’s.
Jorgen Leth did not know Warhol, but he was a bit obsessed with him so he definitely wanted to have him in his movie. Friends told Leth that he “should forget about it” and that he could never even approach Warhol.
Anyways – Leth was stubborn so when he came to New York for his movie he simply went to the “factory”, the building Warhol had rented to work at and despite all other claims simply managed to get to Warhol’s studio inside where he met Andy Warhol while he was currently working.
Leth just told Warhol about his movie and the idea of having Andy being one of the 66 scenes along with the highly “symbolic” burger. Warhol immediately liked the idea and agreed to the scene. Andy liked the scene as he said because it was such a real scene, something he would like to do.
So Andy Warhol agreed to come for filming a few days later.
Jorgen leth was a bit afraid that Warhol would not come. He had invited him to a photo studio in new York at 14th street/5th avenue that belonged to a friend of him.
Leth had his assistant buy some burgers and directly advised him to buy some in halfway neutral packaging as Leth was afraid that Warhol might reject some brands (Warhol always had an obsession with some of his favorite brands).
So Andy Warhol finally did arrive at the studio, of course along with his bodyguards, and when he saw the selection of burgers the assistant had brought he asked “Where is the McDonald’s?” and Leth – slightly in panic – was immediately like “I thought you would maybe not like to identify… “ and Warhol answered “no that is the most beautiful”. Leth offered to let his assistant quickly run to McDonald’s but Warhol refused like “No, never mind, I will take the Burger King.”
Directing the video was pretty simple. Leth said to him: “You simply have to eat this hamburger. And then after you finished, you have to eat it, after you finish you should just tell the camera, to the camera, my name is Andy Warhol, I have just eaten a hamburger. “
Leth was worried during the taking as he forgot to give Warhol a glass of water and the bottle of ketchup was brand new, so it was hard to get it out. But being a real Warhol there was only one take, one try, so Warhol pulled it through in just one take, roughly 5 minutes.
So, why a whopper from burger king?
A quote from Andy Warhol:
“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it. “
Please Share, Like, and Subscribe!!!
Send me some mail (drawings, pictures, souvenirs, letters etc.):
c/o Theee Urban SpaceCat
P.O. Box 1201
Taylor, MI 48180
✓ Website https://mikenobody.com/
✓ Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MikeNobodyIsHere
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DOES MY CONTENT BRING VALUE TO YOUR LIFE?
If you want to support the channel and my other work,
you can pick up some music & merch by going to
★ Bandcamp https://mikenobody.bandcamp.com/
…become a patron
★ Patreon https://www.patreon.com/MikeNobody
…or you can make a donation:
★ PayPal https://www.paypal.me/MikeNobody
You can also support by sharing any
video you like on your social profiles.
Spread Mike Nobody far and wide!!!
Oh and if you’re a troll coming here to give me any shit…