Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Christine Ristaino's new book, the Italian Virtual Classroom, and Quacknulack

My older sister Christine is perhaps the nicest human in the universe, aside from perhaps my Mom. Some people don't like to be called 'nice,' but hell, I calls em likes I sees em. Every once in a while she's been kind enough to throw me a gig. Christine is an Italian professor at the University of Emory in Atlanta, GA, and she's been co-developing a virtual classroom through which Italian students can study the language from any location on the planet! Modern tech is wild, man, wiiiiiiiiiiillld! For a full explanation of how this virtual classroom works, please go here. When the classroom was first launched, I was asked to do a cover for the study booklet. Here it is:

Christine asked me to create an image that covered the various stages of Italian art. That's the statue of David and the painting of Venus as IVC students. I tried my best to draw and color each figure or object in a different style. Is it successful?

Christine has co-authored a just-released book entitled
Lucrezia Marinella and the "Querelle des Femmes" in Seventeenth-Century Italy
You can follow the link to buy the book from Amazon.

Years ago she used to teach at the University of North Carolina, and I was asked to draw a t-shirt design for the graduate romance association, which was affiliated with the school's romance language department. Not sure why, to be honest. Needless to say, the idea I came up with was a little too weird for the department and they chose not to use it. Oh well. "Too weird for college" is definitely a complement. The advantage of having my own blawg on the intrewebs is that I can actually show the design to you:

I personally thought "Quacknulack, a humanoid duck from Zubenelgenubi" was a cool idea. I mean, come on! He's wearing a flower pot for a hat! They do that on other planets, you know.
Why is my genius so misunderstood?

Start Trekkin NY on the Radio

Just wanted to post a couple Start Trekkin images.

The first is the new logo I designed with our producer Lauren Hunt:

It was actually her idea, I just re-drew it. We passed it back and forth over the net until it turned into what you see.

Next you can check out a radio interview of the STNY crew with Joey Reynolds, late night talk show host on WOR am radio in NYC:

In the summer of 2007 we were on for about an hour and 1/2, broadcasting nationwide, and got to share the mic with Joey and the Amazing Kreskin! Kreskin was cool and did a few tricks on the air. The guy is legit! He told a funny story about how he used to get confused for Leonard Nimoy back in the day. If you look closely at the photos, you can see the resemblance...

Kate, Frank, Kreskin, Joey, Me, Karie, Casey and Cap'n Ben

Mediocre New York

Phil Armand and Rob Albrecht are hard working guys. They are always digging into a new project. I've been lucky to work on a few of them over the past few years. Did you see Battle of the Band earlier in this blawg? Its one of theirs. Well folks, here's another one.

Mediocre New York is a crackpot idea about making an interview show where the hosts hunt New York City for the average, the mundane, and the crappy, and make a big deal about it. I look at it as shedding light on the cobwebs and toilet bowls of the unknown, the mysterious, and the cheap. I was brought in as one of the hosts. My job was to wrangle the funny out of the guy that let you play World of Warcraft on his dirty computers. I was the guy who would ask a tenant why he so prominently featured his SuperMario Bros soundtrack tape collection. I was the guy who kicked rust off your car. I was the guy that made fun of your toilet. Ahhh, dreams.

Check it out:
This one is a review of a mediocre coffee shop

this is an interview with a mediocre apartment renter

a mediocre spotlight on that NYC fixture, the New York Inn

and here's a interview with a mediocre car owner

This last video is featured on cashtomato.com. If you go there and give it 5 tomatoes, the filmmakers and I might actually win some dough. Clams. Uh, money.

Izzy's blog

My brother Carl has the greatest little daughter Izzy. She provides hours of entertainment. She was just showing us how well she dances the other day. Check her out here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Interview on Associated Press

My wonderful friend Rebecca Geary has published an interview she did with me this summer on Associated Press. Please check it out here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Tales of the TWE

Ladies and Gentleman! Children of several ages! I'm sorry? Which ages? Go away son, ya botherin' me. Ehem, 'scuze me folks. (muttering with advisers) Let's say those ages are 7, 13, and 16 & 1/2, (those are the kids ages, that is).

Haaah? Heh, don't mind me, folks, but a tiny, bald, gnome-like transient is whispering in my robot ear. (more muttering, more advisers) All right, I'll let kids who are 14 and born on a leap year in, too.

But those bastiches is gonna hafta pay duble.

Aaahhhhh, yeeeeeesss! (Puts on W. C. Fields hat and nose, holds cigar to side of face, cane in right hand, third hand intermittently waving wildly behind ears and held limply akimbo, elbows apparently twisting into dodecahedron-shaped rifts in time space and reappearing out of anthills.) I was just about to tell a tale of the late, great Troy Westfield Experience!

Who is Troy Westfield, you ask?

This, my friends, is Troy Westfield:

Don't worry, he won't eat you. He's actually a very nice man. Trust me, I've known him for most of my life. Hell, I probably owe him money.

Troy Westfield was born Mike Gordon, (though his birth record mysteriously professes his name to be "Swartzwalder Keirchtort") hailing from my hometown of Franklin, MA. Upon our first meeting in kindergarten, I knew immediately I had met my own personal musical guru, as Gordon poured his Ovaltine into my hushpuppies and declared "Its like a fudge tabernacle."

I promptly displayed my admiration for Mike by avoiding him until junior high, where we had both signed up to play snare drum in the school orchestra. Mike's approach to drumming was unusual, to say the least. One evening, during a performance, as he strove to play the theme to "Hogan's Heroes" with a chicken leg, double stick tape, and a melted copy of "Helen Reddy, the Los Vegas Years," I had an inexplicable vision of times to come. With the rumble of a single rat-a-ma-cue, Mike was transformed before my eyes into a perfect gold pyramid, spinning off kilter on its ruddy axis, its apex spewing forth rivulets of sparkly particles and fatty tissue. Just as suddenly as the vision started, it came to a quick halt. "Nuthin' but net," Mike winked, wiggling his kettle drum's spit valve. I immediately blanched, vomiting horrible, deranged slogans and running 15 miles in approximately 8 minutes. Days later, when I was found scratching the phrase "Viva El Gordo" into the side of a water tower with my own fingernails, the policeman who brought me back to my family told my mother I was "paler than goose shit" and smelled "country." Luckily, Mike soon moved on from drums to guitar. But I was hooked.

Gordon/Westfield wrote his first song, "The Road Leads to Nowhere," a poignant ditty about the hardships of Frodo Baggins traversing the badlands of Mordor. Not only did the songwriting betray a startling maturity, but the young genius performed the ballad by vibrating the strings of his guitar with the rushing air of the pan flute. By high school we were making rock n roll.

Our first band had a few names: Guys with Ties, Gaza Strip, and Contrary To Popular Belief, the last name still holding its place in the Ruprick's Book of Rock Legend as "#1 band name to invoke malaise in the entire 1988 US Olympic Luge Team." The band would practice rock covers in our friend Denis' basement, cutting our teeth on perfecting alternating versions of the theme to the 70's cult classic "Convoy" and that perennial favorite of 80's hair metal, Dokken's "Honey, Smell This To See If It's Still Good." And lots of other crap. But it was fun. We also wrote a few originals. All of them gambling songs.

Denis was originally the lead singer for the band, but when he left town for a few weeks on an exchange program in the subcontinent, I seized my chance at rock-god-dom by weeping on the microphone during a particularly jaunty, reggae tinged version of "Smell This." Mike/Troy saw in me perhaps a kindred and/or easily exploitable spirit and allowed me to front the band. Soon Denis returned, and after a brief bout of confusion and dork toggling, we eventually both became lead singers in the band, which apexed at a talent show in the Franklin High School Ruth Buzzy Memorial Auditorium and Storage (a spectacle fellow students would describe in their yearbook memories as "if the phoenix bird fucked a stop sign") and then fell like a bubble gum juggernaut to the gnarley drag of the tide of maturity and horrible metaphors.

Time passed. College, girls, college girls, marijuana, mushrooms, lsd, dvds, stds, pcp, mainlining paper pulp into our tearducts, college graduation, and then straight off into trail-blazing a carefree swath of abject poverty through the velveteen jungle of modern society. Oh, and lying. Lots of lying. Mike began to record his own music under the moniker The Troy Westfield Experience, a name pastiched from the discovery of the famous "Westfield paramecium" and a thin Jewish undergarment.
Occasionally I would guest-ghost write, drum and sing during the recording sessions, Troy always tipping his hat to me in reference to a particularly inspired turn of phrase or drum fill and saying "good, but how would a visigoth see it?" and then, he'd hit me with a tipped hat. During one recording session, the date obscured in my memory due to my being "extra high," Troy dubbed me "The Post Relevant Movement" saying the name was, "pretty stupid." Thus, the Movement was born, and consequently, over.

Around the year 2000, we both ended up in New York City, and Mike/Troy told me he was ready to record a new album and he wanted me to be his representative for his overseas "Duck Sauce" label. Having a very limited reasoning capacity due to extensive barrette use, I countered his offer with a, uh, counter-offer to instead sing on the album and write all the tunes with him. Both of us virtually chomping at the bit to record a professional quality full length cd, Troy heartily agreed, using words like "kismet" and "marsipan" to describe his enthusiasm and crippling back pain. I actually jumped. Imagine me. Jumping. I know, its crazy. The egg of the twenty first century version of the Troy Westfield Experience was hatched:

Over a year's time, Mike would record single or double guitar tracks on a four track recorder and hand them to me, and in the non-privacy of my shared railroad apartment on 14th st and 1st avenue I'd froth, gibe, and froog my vocal and lyrical syrup all over those demos in an earnest effort to convince the mythic Troy Westfield I actually knew what I was talking about. For some unknown reason, even a mystery to the bastard gods of Asgard, Ohio, Dr. Trojian Westfieldberger reluctantly agreed that I did indeed have "a nut to bust."

Thusly, yeah verily, yon synthesis didst occur:
Having bribed and extorted our way into my college pal Allen Towbin's Maze Studios to record the full length, Troy Westfield and I channeled an orchestra of extra-terrestrial inspiration into a rich tapestry of hamhocks and government ordinances, wafting through the recording sessions in a process Towbin would later describe as "entirely frightening." Employing top gun session men and state of the art "electronics," The TWE would ravage the exoterica with the depth of ten bands, soon emerging from the studio in a scant 2 or 3 or perhaps 7 months with a series of songs Spin Magazine has dubbed as a "perfect doorstop," forcing Rolling Stone, on a dare, to nominate the disc "roundest." This collection has been preserved in all its astounding perfection for you, here and now.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you The Troy Westfield Experience's "Tantric Scrimshaw":

cover to 'Tantric Scrimshaw' (click images to enlarge)

Interior Art

Back cover to 'Tantric Scrimshaw'

And now, Gadies and Lentlemen, by popular demand, I present the never-before-published TWE Tantric Scrimshaw lyrical and pictorial digest (Click images to enlarge):

lyrics to trak 1: Alyssa Gordon
lyrics to trak 2: Who Designed Amanda?
Lyrics to trak 3: Pretty Nazi
Lyrics to trak 4: The Avatars Saved Her From Me
Lyrics to Trak 5: How You Could Leave
Lyrics to trak 6: Obsessed w/ the Five of Hearts/Being Worthless
Lyrics to trak 7: Bridges Burning You
Lyrics to trak 8: More Than Clouds
Lyrics to trak 9: "What?" Is Real.
Lyrics to trak 10: Hank Pym
Lyrics to trak 11: For a While
Lyrics to trak 12: Abiola Backus

Lyrics to trak 13: Two Sources

all music/ lyrics copyright 2001 Mike Gordon/ Phil Ristaino /obsteporous music/postrelevant records.
all art, lyrics and lyric booklet copyright 2001 Phil Ristaino/post relevant productions
except "Abiola Backus" Mike Gordon/ Phil Ristaino/post relevant productions
All TWE photos taken by the illustrious Sonja Stoerr.

Thus ends the first tale of the TWE. Please return, gentle listener/reader/art-looker-atter, for another session of rock n roll legend and other bullshit, as more tales of these ribald bards are sure to follow. Troybless and Movementspeed.

Please check out our myspace and facebook pages, or create a soundclick account to download the entire "Tantric Skrimshaw" album for free!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

One Myth on 42nd st part 2

Did you read the beginning of this blog? Check out the story of the first dream.

Did you read the first dream? Whadayadoin? Go back and check it out why don't ya?!

Now that you've read about the first dream, you might want to check out Part 1 of the "One Myth" mural project (if you haven't already).

Okay. Good. That vision of the spiral of light from the first dream is the central image for this mural on 42nd st. It's also the middle of the eye of god, which is the larger central image for the One Myth. Joseph Campbell, the great American mythic historian, pointed to this one myth as the arrival point of all mythologies through the whole world. He believed that what separated one culture from another throughout the globe was language, and language based on the mythological creation stories each culture would tell itself to explain where it came from, what purpose its customs and rituals had, etc. He thought (and I'm paraphrasing here) that these separate language and creation tales caused much of the social unrest and warfare between cultures throughout the globe; for while each culture had its stories of its origins and an inkling of the oneness that should connect us all, the stories themselves conflicted with the next culture's creation myths, and this conflict sparked the experience of the other, the stranger, the enemy--essentially, misunderstanding. Campbell stated that in order for the humanity to know peace, we should essentially manifest a single story, One Myth, that explains origins of all life as we know it (and don't know it, says I).

The Lakota medicine man Black Elk, who survived the battle of Little Big Horn (Custer's last stand) in the 1800s, had a vision as a young boy that would define his life and marked him as a healer and shaman. As far as I can remember, Black Elk lay in a Coma for many days, while in the spirit world he spoke with many Grandfathers, spirit elders, who showed him four roads that represented the peoples of the world and fates of humanity. Black elk spent his life watching the decimation of his people while trying to find a way to heal the sacred wheel of life, which had been broken.

I once attended a Star Visions conference in Estes Park, Colorado, organized by Lakota medicine men, where they taught a series of spiritual symbols given to them by extraterrestrials. It was a far out experience, really mind blowing, people from all over came with stories of ETs, healing methods, ancient rituals. I'll talk more about this conference at another point in the blog, ( I need to do a little research through my notes so I can remember this stuff properly).
After returning from the conference to my temporary home in an anarchist's apartment in San Francisco, I had a dream of a single, Egyptian-looking eye, floating in a bed of fire. It felt distinctly different from a normal dream, more of a vision, a message from the spirit world, the single eye of the Universe.

These visions were the basis for the One Myth structure. Since I was painting on 42nd st, I figured I'd go out of my way to create a message I thought would be beneficial for people to see, being that there are so many people there from all over the globe. This would be my message to the world.

As you look at these details of the mural, you'll find Black Elk's 4 roads, as well as the grandfathers. You'll find peoples from all cultures worldwide. You'll find the duality of day and night, earth and moon, male and female, a duality which I believe is an illusory structure of the mind that represents the movement of creation itself. You'll find the eye of God, resting on matter, containing the four elements, as well as the fifth element, spirit. And you'll find spirit, creating the peoples of the world from light, something from nothing, the many from the One.

And you'll find a tree on the moon.

You'll also notice that everyone in the painting is sleeping. Their eyes are closed. They are dreaming their way into reality.

Consequently, the whole time I was painting this mural, I knew the building was going to be torn down within a year. And it was. I think they're still building a Bank of America where the One Myth once stood.