Tag Archives: Creative Writing

Artist Feature: Stella van Lieshout

Stella van Lieshout

Sometimes writing is a way of making sense of the world as I experience it. But my writing is also meant as a ‘conversation’. Meaning is created partly through the eyes of the reader or the audience and my work doesn’t try to show the truth, but can contain many.

– Stella van Lieshout

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

SvL: My name is Stella van Lieshout. I grew up in a small town near the coast in the Netherlands, lived in London for a year in 2012/2013, spent 3 months living in Kathmandu and currently I’m preparing to go to Malta for two months as a writer-in-residence.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

 SvL: To me, reflection and response are extremely important during the writing process and even after the play is finished. I write alone and preferably night after night, but there are always several moments where I discuss the play or story with different people from different backgrounds to sharpen my thoughts and get valuable feedback to make it even better. The best ideas are often created with more than one mind.

Staging the play after writing is continuously reflecting and responding as new ideas and thoughts emerge from the minds of the director, actors and designers and through working with the material itself. And these connections are extremely valuable and can teach you a lot of new things.

Reflection also means hiking. I’ve walked a couple of long-distance paths and for me it is a way of processing experiences and reflecting upon them, while discussing with myself along the way.

 How does your work fit in with that definition?

 SvL: I write a lot about people who feel stuck and lost or are trying to find a sense of belonging. My characters usually have strong beliefs and dare to question. Through these characters I can reflect on life and respond to issues that are important to me from different points of view. Sometimes writing is a way of making sense of the world as I experience it.

But my writing is also meant as a ‘conversation’. Meaning is created partly through the eyes of the reader or the audience and my work doesn’t try to show the truth, but can contain many.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

SvL: The last play I wrote (and directed) was a play for a group of young actors (19-24) in Kathmandu, titled “+2, The School of Life”. In the play, a group of friends forms ‘The School of Life’. It’s a secret society where they learn everything they find important to life, but don’t learn in school. The play was written in English and then translated and performed in Nepali, an amazing experience.

Fragment from “+2, The School of Life”, 2014

SCENE 8. WHEN THE GIRL WANTS IN.

The Narrator walks up on stage and comes really close to the audience. In the back, THE BOY and THE GIRL dance, without touching each other.

NARRATOR:

In the last few months there were so many cups of tea
That even I lost track of time
She had been afraid to let him know
that she had been following him
He was afraid to tell her what he was doing
And so they spoke about all and more,
but never about the School of Life.
It was something that slept between their dreams
So they could never be close enough
Until today…

THE GIRL AND THE BOY have stopped dancing. She looks very serious.

THE GIRL:                   I want in
THE BOY:                   You can’t
THE GIRL:                   Do you want people to find out?
THE BOY:                   You wouldn’t
THE GIRL:                   Wouldn’t I?
THE BOY:                   You don’t even know what it is we are doing
THE GIRL:                   I know nobody is allowed to know.
That should be enough

THE BOY:                   You have nothing. No proof.
Besides, It’s not like we’re doing anything illegal
THE GIRL:                   You call it the School of Life
And you really believe nobody will be mad?
That they just allow you to think, dance and speak out loud?
And in the middle of the night…You must be joking!
THE BOY:                   Can’t you just leave it?
THE GIRL:                   I want in
THE BOY:                   No girls allowed
THE GIRL:                   Girls are also a part of life
THE BOY:                   You got me there
THE GIRL:                   You have no reason not to let me in
THE BOY:                   Can you dance?
THE GIRL:                   I think so
THE BOY:                   Where is Paris?
THE GIRL:                   In Europe. France. Too far away.
THE BOY:                   What do you dream of?
THE GIRL                    Doing the impossible
THE BOY:                   All right. Can’t say no to that.
Guess you’re in.
THE GIRL:                   Guess I am
THE BOY:                   See you tonight
Bring your dancing shoes
THE GIRL:                   I will.

Girl turns around, ready to walk away.

THE BOY:                   Wait! You need to go to…

The girl turns back again and looks at him

THE GIRL:                   I know where you’re hiding

Currently I’m working on a play about six people surviving death after ‘the others’ burned down their town. In June and July I’ll write a new play as a writer-in-residence for a theater – Teatru Salesjan – in Malta, where we’re looking beyond the borders of culture and writing. I’m very excited to see what comes out of that project.

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Allison Spence

Allison Spence

What interested me most in those frames was how the video–the digital eye–reproduced them. A machine doesn’t have the same preconceived notions of what a body looks like. It doesn’t see it the same way we do, where in a confusion of limbs we always pick out what is intelligible to us.

– Allison Spence

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

AS: I grew up in South Florida, but I very recently moved to Los Angeles, via San Diego where I attended graduate school. I swung from palm tree to palm tree.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

AS: To me, Reflection refers to a kind of information processing; whether it is a mental reflection (memory) or the reflection on a surface of an image or group of images, say with a mirror. Either way, Reflection is affected by its medium—by the perception of that medium. One’s memory of an event, for instance, is influenced by their position (physical/emotional/political/etc.) within that event. Or, if you think of fun-house mirrors, the same applies. We laugh at the reflections in a fun-house mirror, or they disturb us, because they do not conform to the views we already hold of our own bodies. But I think all of these reflections hold a kind of truth, even if they are sometimes considered just pale imitations of what they reference. Who is to really say for sure, though?

I think Response fits snugly into Reflection in that it is born out of a similar type of processing. But Response comes from the sum of a number of reflections, or experiences. In other words, there’s math involved. But because of all the different variables, it is easier to think of Response as a closer measure of the subject than Reflection. Like this interview versus the picture of me it starts out with.

Allison Spence - mass 6

Allison Spence – mass 6

How does your work fit in with that definition?

AS: Well, a lot of the work that is pictured here is from a recent series of paintings, which used as its subject split-second frames from highly compressed Youtube videos. They’re bodies, groups of bodies. The specifics of who they are or what they are doing don’t really matter in the long run. What interested me most in those frames was how the video–the digital eye–reproduced them. A machine doesn’t have the same preconceived notions of what a body looks like. It doesn’t see it the same way we do, where in a confusion of limbs we always pick out what is intelligible to us. We will always see the arms, the legs. Machines don’t always do this, and instead they’ll reproduce the limited information that they are given, like colors, values…there’s less separation, the boundaries blur, become masses. I like to think that maybe the machine sees something that we cannot, that this kind of collapse happens sometimes. The idea fascinates me.

Allison Spence - Big Mass

Allison Spence – Big Mass

Then, of course, I reproduce these moments in paint, and I bring with it all of my own baggage, all of those painterly considerations, color theory, all that junk. It becomes twice removed from its source. I’m responding to a reflection, in a sense.

Allison Spence - mass 4

Allison Spence – mass 4

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Artist Feature: Shawn Speakman

We met Shawn Speakman back in Seattle in 2010. At the time, I learned that he was a writer, and I’ve been eager to find out more about his work ever since. In our interview, Shawn discusses writing about subjects that are relevant to our surroundings, but placed in fantasy, and how that juxtaposition can lead to a better understanding of the present reality. In the past few years, he’s published his book THE DARK THORN and a fantasy anthology he edited, UNFETTERED – and has recently been busy responding to requests for more literary work. We’re excited to have Shawn Speakman’s voice contributing to the Collective!

Shawn Speakman

Every story that I write comes from a “what-if” seed that takes root and grows.

– Shawn Speakman

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

SS: I grew up in the wilds of Washington State, near the southern base of the volcano Mt. St. Helens. It is a heavily conservative [area] and I fled, to Seattle, as soon as I was able. I have lived in the Emerald City ever since. Although I am just flippant to the second part of your question with, “I live in denial, as all writers do.”

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

SS: I am a fiction writer. In order to write believable fiction, it takes reflection. It is important to write about subjects pertinent to our world — to put those subjects in a fantasy world, add a bit more pressure, and see what happens. In this way, I gain a better understanding of my world. It costs less than therapy, I assure you. And I hope when someone finishes one of my stories that it leaves them thinking.

How do THE DARK THORN and your other Annwn Cycle tales fit in with that definition?

SS: Every story that I write comes from a “what-if” seed that takes root and grows. For THE DARK THORN, I thought “What if the first Christian crusades were not against the Middle East but, instead, against very real Celtic fey creatures in Britain?” Most of my work is influenced by the dichotomy in my mind between religion and faith. They are very different, in my opinion, and I like to explore that in my writing. Answering the “what-if” question is my response. I took a look at the good and the evil inherent in the Catholic Church as well as the relationship between a broken man, his past, and the faith it requires to overcome such hardship.

The Dark Thorn - Shawn Speakman

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

SS: Since the publication of THE DARK THORN and my fantasy anthology UNFETTERED, I’ve received a number of other short story anthology requests from other editors. I have written a short story and a novelette in the last month for those books. THE UNLOCKED TOME is the short story and its seed grew out of: “What lengths would a 10-year-old boy who has lost his family go to in order to assert some kind of power over his life?” It was a fun short story, featuring a character I will use again in a future novel. For the moment though, I am working on THE EVERWINTER WRAITH, the sequel to THE DARK THORN.

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Matthew Potter

Matt Potter is a creative writer who grew up in Kentucky and Virginia before settling into San Diego, California. He reminds us that, as artists, we should try to avoid forcing our messages, and instead try to communicate our perspectives in clear ways. Matt also argues that reflection on both positive and negative responses is beneficial to artistic growth, and that past artistic pieces can serve as snapshots of captured Reflection and Response. Woven in throughout the interview below, Matt provides dope perspectives, scenes, and imagery in his poems ColleteCasey’s Last Bat, Night NoisesThe Day Timothy Died, and Three Thoughts on New Orleans. Check it!

Matthew Potter

It is important to reflect on both the negative and the positive responses. Both are going to drive you and hone your craft.

– Matthew Potter

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

MP: Well, I am an Army Brat, so I bounced around a little. Not as much as some, though. I was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky, but spent my formative years in Newport News, Virginia. I’ve been in San Diego, California for the last thirteen years. I was only supposed to be here a year, but California has a way of dilating time.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

MP: In writing, I take it to mean reflection in your own work, or the reflection of others on your work. Often, it takes someone else’s reflection and response to initiate your own. I think as a young writer, it is extremely hard to self-edit (for an old writer too), because you try to put a piece of yourself in that work, and when it doesn’t sync with someone then you want to dismiss them.  When I read my own, or others’ work I ask myself, “What is this trying to tell me?” Not just on the surface but on a deeper level. The point of all art forms is to communicate, so you want the message to be clear. When a poem or story doesn’t work, often the writer’s message is muddled, and the same when my work doesn’t work for others. The best advice I received was from a Creative Writing professor in college. She told us “You can’t jump out of the page and tell your reader, ‘No, you’re not getting it! I meant you to read it this way!’” So, I try to approach everything in that manner, even work e-mails. Granted, there are going to be times where you and your reader are just on different trips, and that same piece will resonate with so many others.

I think it is important to reflect on both the negative and the positive responses. Both responses are going to drive you and hone your craft. Also, I think it is important to go back to old pieces. I have come across pieces I have written years ago, that I thought were great, and came away thinking, “God, did I write this existential piece of crap?” But I won’t throw them away. It is like having a time capsule of your very specific thoughts at that moment.

On a personal level, I probably spend too much time reflecting. It is easy to get caught up in the past and believe you should have done something different. As Jack Kerouac said, “Accept loss forever.” But having said that, I think it is important to take a little time to reflect on your mistakes so you learn from them.

Collete

Oh how I long for a thin-legged French girl named Collete. She would take long drags of her cigarette. Shoot a stream of smoke pushing it through the air, as she rolled her cold black eyes toward a paint-chipped ceiling–exhaling all the stupid things I just breathed into her.

And when she was mad she would huff and stammer in French as she kicked my empty wine bottles across cold wooden floors. She would always be in bed before me, and I would lie on top of the sheets beside her–staring up at our paint-chipped universe alone. Watching Paris spin around me.

And in the morning the sun would breath through pale wind-rustled curtains as shafts of light pry our eyelids open. She would roll over and bury her head in my chest, and we would lie there for an eternity as I engulfed her long dark hair.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

MP: Probably one of the hardest things I find in writing is to have a title that fits your piece, but doesn’t give so much away to your reader. This is probably why I title my pieces after I have written them. It is reflection during the creative process. Occasionally, a title will come to me and I’ll build on it, but it is not the norm. I want to set the tone or a mood with the title, without telling the reader exactly what [the piece] is about. Some of the best poems I have read, Charles Bukowski immediately comes to mind, are ones that have me go back to the title after I have finished reading the poem, and find that the titles are one-line poems themselves. The good ones always make you have that first sip of coffee reaction (the “mmmm. . .” effect). I would love it if my titles could have that response on my readers. I think it is a bit of a cop-out to have too many of your works untitled or have the title be the first line of the poem. Not only for your readers, but for yourself in not reflecting on your piece before you send it off.

Casey’s Last Bat

Every spring, in Havana, when the sugar cane stalks became thick and green

and America still held such promise,

the Dodgers would knock the red clay dust from metal spikes.

Hemingway would breath in the salt soaked air and

run rumrunners down a thick bearded sun burnt throat.

He and Casey would decide who the

Heavy Weight Champion of the World was that night.

Maniacal roar of the home team crowd,

pleading of a Hemingway’s wife,

“Life should be different than this.”

Genius soaked in alcohol and pain,

but he held her tight on warm spring nights

and told her that life was beautiful and worth fighting for.

Shared drinks would bleed into morning,

day’s tomorrow would begin again.

And when October winds had whipped

the baseballs clear of the diamond fields,

Casey’s glove, beaten and worn‐‐sad with the past,

lay stored in an unmarked box in the dark closet.

Casey gathered his strength and lifted not a bat,

but a shotgun and calmly put the barrel to his throat.

Hemingway said, “He did it like a man.”

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

MP: I have several poems that have been published here and there. I would like to get a collection published. Either a chap book or a complete collection. I’ve found it difficult to gather the ones I wish to see published in a collection and come up with a title for that collection. I would say the majority of it is making the time to make it happen. I certainly use the excuse of life’s minutia getting in the way.

Night Noises

You start to hear everything after midnight

in the middle of the week maybe,

when the summer air is thick and heavy.

The buildings are still.

Breeze pushes trees-rustle of leaves,

loud whispers in the night.

Lonely birds that sing at 2 am,

just when you thought everything was asleep.

The hurried scatter of gravel as the cat rushes through,

chasing a cricket or the moon.

 

I focus on my breathing, as if hearing it for the first time.

Thinking about every molecule rushing in and out of my mouth.

Squeaking protest of the bed as I try to get comfortable.

The refrigerator suddenly awakened-hums itself back to sleep.

The faucet that rains tepid drops–pling, pling, plop.

A stray car’s tires rolls across cool asphalt.

And somewhere in the dead streets and abandoned beaches

a barbaric yawp tears through the night,

as morning starts to awaken the rest of the world.

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Artist Feature: David Figueroa

David Figueroa estudió arquitectura y también diseña camisetas, escribe microrelatos, saca fotografías, mientras combina todo en su tienda Básic Barcelona (Carrier Portal Nou 17).  Le conocimos a David durante el viaje que hicimos en el verano de 2013.  Su arte y buenas vibras se encuentran en su tienda que representa un lugar donde también invita a otros artistas a compartir sus voces y palabras. En la entrevista, David comparte su narrativa global y nos invita a charlar sobre Reflexión y Respuesta, y varios otros temas sobre una mesa con tazas de café en Barcelona. 

Artist David Figueroa studied architecture and also designs T-shirts, writes micro-fiction stories, takes photographs and combines all of these mediums in his shop Básic Barcelona (Carrier Portal Nou 17).  We first met David during the LIFESTYLE trip to Spain in Summer 2013. His shop space is filled with his work and represents a place where other creators can also come to share their voices and words. In this interview, David shares his global narrative and invites us all to discuss Reflection and Response, and various other topics over cups of coffee straight out of Barcelona.

David Figueroa

Para empezar con algunos puntos básicos de dónde eres y dónde estás ahora?

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

DF: Soy de Colombia, soy arquitecto y llegue hace doce años y medio aquí a Barcelona. Vine con mi hijo pequeño y mi ex esposa y aquí estoy en Barcelona. Vine a Cerdanyola, luego estuve un tiempo en Estados Unidos , 6 meses. Luego vine aquí, he vivido en Gracia, en el Raval, en Sagrada Familia, en el Borne. Me gusta mucho el centro, el ambiente del centro.

DF: I’m an architect from Columbia and I came to Barcelona twelve and a half years ago with my young son and my ex-wife. I first came to Cerdanyola, then lived in the United States for six months. Finally I moved here [to Barcelona] and I’ve lived in Gracia, in Raval, Sagrada Familia, and el Borne. I really enjoy the environment of living in the center of the city.

Que quiere decir reflección y respuesta para ti y cómo se mete esta definición en tu arte?

What does Reflection and Response mean to you, and how do you locate those ideas in your artwork?

DF: Reflección es lo que nos tiene que inspirar, el arte; el pensamiento crítico o no. Yo creo que el arte no es gratis si no sale porque si… nos hace como respuesta a algo en que esto es personal. Que realmente tienen que ver con algo más global. Una respuesta social. Es parte de donde has estado, el sitio, todo lo que estas viviendo.

DF: Reflection refers to what inspires us artistically, expressed critically or non-critically. I believe that art isn’t free [from experience] and comes out in response to something personal [in the artist’s life]. I believe we need to actually view art with a more global perspective and a social response. This is shaped [differently for every individual, depending on] the places you’ve seen and your unique life experiences.

David Figueroa - Cilantro

David Figueroa – Cilantro

DF: Mi arte, yo no sé si considerarlo arte. Si que es una expresión gráfica en este caso con las camisetas es diseño gráfico y si que hay respuesta a muchas cosas pero sobre todo personales lo mismo. Las cosas que me gustan y que me gustaría compartir. Por ejemplo un diseño que he gustado muchísimo y tiene muy buena respuesta es del cilantro. El Cilantro es una yerba que utilizamos para cocinar en Colombia. Es cómo el sabor de casa, algo que añoramos y que nos identifica muchos que estamos aquí que somos de fuera. Luego también sueño de infancia de tener un Mustang, pues mira es casi siempre (sueñas con) tener un Mustang, pero tienes por lo menos una camiseta.

DF: I don’t know whether to consider my work “art”. It’s true that my pieces are graphic expressions, and the [screen-printed] T-shirts certainly represent graphic design and involve response, mostly to personal issues – themes that I enjoy and that I’d like to share with others. For example, the “cilantro” t-shirt is a design that I’m passionate about and that has had a strong response from others. Cilantro is an herb that we use for cooking in Colombia. It represents the flavor of home, something that we miss, and is part of the identity of those that live here but are not from here. [Another design concept I’ve been working with involves] a childhood dream of owning a Mustang – although you can have this aspiration forever without actually owning a Mustang, at least you can have one printed on a t-shirt.

David Figueroa - Mustang

David Figueroa – Mustang

DF: Yo también hago fotografía y escribo. Escribo microrelatos y cosas cortas, y hay unas cosas que están en plan más en camisetas también. Es algo más íntimo, más mío y me gusta eso que la gente lo pueda llevar. Normalmente para los diseños utilizo fotografía, la retoco en Fotoshop y en Illustrator. Hay una que también me gusta mucha y que ya tenía muy buena respuesta que es una fotografía que hice en Marruecos en la playa. Un turista típico con sombrilla y calcetines blancos, shorts-guiri típico haciendo una foto. Queda en el sol en la playa, o sea que perfecto con eso hay que hacer algo. Luego viene lo de el concepto del turista. Por eso quise poner el texto de “I’m not a tourist.” Porque también hay una cosa de viajar: tu puedes ser un viajero pero no un turista, un turista típico. Es una especie de critica también, y por eso me gusta que ha tenido tan buena aceptación.

DF: I also take photographs and write. I write short stories, short pieces, some of which I incorporate into my t-shirt designs. These are intimate pieces that feel very much mine and I like that people can wear these pieces. For my designs, I typically work from a photograph, using Photoshop and Illustrator for retouching and editing. Another one of my favorite pieces that has had a positive reaction is a photo that I took on the beach in Morocco: an archetypical Western tourist holding an umbrella, wearing high white socks and shorts, taking a picture. The tourist is standing in the sun on the beach – an image I knew I had to do something with. Thinking of the whole concept of an archetypical “tourist,” I wanted to include the text “I’m not a tourist” to suggest that one can be a traveler without being a tourist.  This piece represents that criticism, which is one reason why I’m happy that it has had such a positive reaction.

David Figueroa - I'm Not a Tourist

David Figueroa – I’m Not a Tourist

Que más estás haciendo actualmente y que proyecto estás pensando trabajar próximamente?

What else are you doing currently and what projects are you thinking about working on next?

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Album Review: Yeezus

Not music with empty space, rather, open sound. The difference: nothing about Yeezus is “empty”. This is a synth-intense orchestration with the same meticulous composure as Dark Fantasy.  Super hero music, ripping the floor up on the mainstream pool of overly soft limp sounds and regurgitated rhythms; thus begins a new era. The only artist to even hint that hip hop/rap/whatever-the-fuck-label-you-prefer-to-use would go in this loose leaf direction is Frank Ocean with Channel Orange, which was hands down the most prolific sound of 2012. Yeezus is the forerunner of a new genre—industrial sound.

Understanding music, culture, and art is to recognize the waves and turns of expressive production. There is always a shift, inevitably; the monumental reformatting from eccentric to simplistic. This is seen in Miles Davis’ work as he transitioned Birth of Cool into Bitches Brew. Picasso as well – he built the hieroglyphic art of cubism out of his mastery of realism.  A break beyond excellence; transcendence, the master artist redefines complexity by routing simple aesthetics into a matrix of intensive minimalism.  It’s a seamless craft; each component fitted for function—comparable to Japanese joinery. Those who drive these shifts are, as Mr. West put it, the Nuclei of their respective cultures in specific moments in time. And yeah, Kanye does have that seat. He a’ready told the world to Watch the Throne.

Now for the breakdown. Let me start by saying I like this joint, A LOT. It appeals to me because it dives into the beauty of darkness. Like Milton’s Paradise Lost, Yeezus is intellectually stimulating, soulful and somehow illuminates without light. So raw and disgusting by normative standards, it can only be described as perverse. And that’s exactly the type of shit I’m into. Ugly indeed, yet the allure is in the rhythm that dares to flex beyond the confines of “beauty”. Deviation and creative confidence make these dark arts so attractive. And yeah, all you haters and naysayers I’m aiming this at your knot…so duck…duck…goose.

My overall analysis for this joint is: Epic.

“On Sight”: the new culturally relevant catch phrase…well, it is for us, and it should be for you too. This track sounds like a lazer tag battle between the Dark Side and the Jedi, a brief discovery of challenges that we all face. Unnamed yet spoken through the drums, the subaltern becomes the voice. Bridged by angelic soulsounds—a harmonic break in the battle, the content to be explored is a matter of personal reflection and response. On which side of the fight do you fall?

“Black Skinhead”: drums, Drums, and DRUMS. Black Skinhead is a direct address to the North American (US) nation building process. Revoking society’s attempts to tame and create docile, well behaved, “proper” citizens. An open rebuke of smiling faces and tap dance attempts toward assimilation, rather than creating a new world for a new America… “stop all that coon shit”, apparently Ye has dedicated himself to a pathway that is so counter to the American Identity that it inherently disrupts the tempo of everyday complacency. Black Skinhead is an anthem for villains, werewolves, and all sorts of social menaces. It’s about dedication—the true pathway to Kingdom. Like 300 Romans you gotta protect what’s yours, to fight for what you believe in, constantly pushing towards achievement. Low-lines repeating “BLACK” sampled and threaded in, this track BANGS. The ending transition is fucking stellar too…GOD, GOD, GOD…Straight into no other than…

“I Am A God”: Yo, everybody flipped cause Kanye West is back on his god shit. Honestly if you didn’t see this coming you should go take a nap now and hibernate on some “wake me when September ends” type snooze. Nobody made a fuss when Pusha-T stated that he’s the god of everything around him, nor does anyone throw tantrums about the god reference of Jay-Z’s alias Hova (Jehovah). When Yeezy does it though, all hell breaks loose…Oh No! If you listen to that blasphemy we’ll turn into a society of the likes of Sodom and Gomorrah. Whatever dude. Cats have been on their God shit since the days of Rakim. Recognize what this is really about. Ownership. Participation and order versus spectation and passivism. And if I’m wrong…Pray for us. I’ll leave it at that. The track sounds like waking up in an extremely lucid dream. The type of dreams that aren’t dreams at all, rather, experiences beyond the capacity of logic. It’s other worldly; I know some of you have been there before, I have, it’s real. Conviction; that reoccurring BuzzTypeBell-MuffledChime sounds like the something out of Sartre’s “No Exit”, the doorbell that serves as an eerie reminder…yeah, you’re in hell, don’t let the furnishing fool you.  On to the next one.

“New Slaves”: Ye really does something with this one. I have yet to see a review that recognizes or even acknowledges the fact that he speaks about the Prison Industrial Complex, one of THEE Grimiest nation building projects since Reaganomics. Be real, Kanye has never been one to let this type of shit pass by unaired. Remember Bush…yeah, that guy, enough said. Money is the number one agent of converting revolutionary peoples into pacified citizens; I’d imagine it hard to speak or act out against a society that has made your fortune. Big Bucks buy out anger. Not for Ye tho, not for Ye. Threatening to throw out Maybach keys…meanwhile some of these other artists are using Maybach as a certificate of authenticity. To Kanye it’s just another notch under his belt. Calling out what he sees as apparent social ills especially in the way of racial interaction and, specifically, black complacency. The track is mean. And don’t forget, Ye is Dead Prez. The production is super simple cause his flow and delivery are what this track is about. I mean, dude even brings back lines from one of his earlier mixtapes, “Freshman Adjustment” and finds use for it in this album. The end of the track is raw too, it’s an awesome soulsound and again the message is simple, “loss is not an option for those of us actively building upon our dreams”. Let’s Go!

“Hold My Liquor”: Aright, so this one took me a minute to latch onto. That’s a Kanye trend though, each album always has one far out track—I would equate this to “Drunk and Hot Girls” off of Graduation. The sound alone is inebriating—a sensory trail of compartmentalized memories breach on this track. This is like the equilibrium of the scale, tilting a little toward the dark, then a little back to the light… the rest of the album tells the outcome of this continuum. This album is never the same twice. It’s incredible how interactive Yeezus is.

“I’m In It”: First off, I would like to say I am 100% for this joint! Yo, its perverse, its fuckin wild, its London type Grime, Punk influenced, pornographic sound with reggae roots—shit is wickedly undeniable. Bark after bark it brings the animal out of anyone who is brave enough to bear their sexually aggressive fangs. The imagery is overly explicit, super raw, and Ye’s flow is crazy dope (especially on the third verse). As he wheelies out on the Zeitgeist, nobody can classify who Kanye is nor what this dude does. He’s mentally speeding into the future, leave peeled wheels on the promotion of homogeneous culture.

“Blood On The Leaves”: an ambitious and adventurous exploration of a male pathology, remembering the past that has led to this particular present. Strange fruits of relationship exploits—sour, over ripe, recollections of dark pasts. Badd bitches seducing their way to mad riches, and the worth of finding one good girl who’s down for you. Trust turns into treachery, loose situations careening out of control as they reproduce more fruit into this world, webs complicated by offspringing children and untrue matrimony…there’s Ye claiming nothing holy about it…

“Guilt Trip”: The Sample is so incredibly ILL on this one, “all in my wallet”—he turnt that line out! And you GOTTA feel ‘im for that! The Chewbacca line is as rock steady as when he shouts out PETA on Cold—apparently Ye’s fur game is always above and beyond. Kudi’s vocals are mad eerie, a perfect fit for this project. The Kid is wailing on some howl to the midnight moon; the wolf takes a brief pause to cry out, and then returns to his run—that’s when the music comes back in. This is one of the only tracks where I can say that the production is king over the lyrics. Don’t get it misunderstood, both are gnarly, it’s just that the production hammers super hard; I mean the string sounds next to the rocking 808 thwarps are Stupid.

“Send It Up”: this is the warehouse funk, a simple sort of exposition. Bridged by bending baselines and old style simple rhyme schemes, Kanye opens the lab up. A provocative resurrection of what Yeezus is all about, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, bringing together all the odds and ends of a journey and pushing into a space never seen… memories, they never leave us; pasts, they build to the present. Own yours.

“Bound 2”: straight up Kanye West. From the soulful production and high-pitched sample sound to rhyme sets and a Charlie Wilson hook. This is a definitive track, the rebel’s sensitive side…it is still dark, no doubt, yet it’s in a sort of slap stick comical way. The sound is so domestic it almost sounds like a sitcom or commercial. From talking about his bad rep to him confessing his bind to love, this is pure Kanye West, so great.

Aright, so through and through Yeezus is excellence. This is 2 years back to back that Kanye has killed the summertime sound. This time it’s with an existential expression of black sound. Black meaning contrast, not skin color; the othered experience juxtaposed against whiteness, a dark presence in white America. With regard to black sound, ACDC’s Back to Black record has held the podium, now Kanye West is the only other artist to successfully compete against that with Yeezus. And that’s saying a lot. Ye opens it right up. He’s an artist through and through and this installation is above and beyond what anybody expected. If you still “hate” this joint it’s for one of three reasons: it scares you, your mind is comparing it to what you know as “rap” music, OR you just need one more thing to hate on in life. Either way, Kanye turned art expression out and put Sound on a whole ‘nother realm. With Rick Rubin and Daft Punk as production consiglieri, there’s no way this sound would be anything less than spectacular. Come on dude, Rubin would never cosign on any sort of bull.

And there it is folks. Once again, I’ll say it, Yeezus is EPIC.

-S

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Feature: Whitney Killian

How’s it going y’all! Hope each and every one of you is doing well out there in the world. Thanks again for tuning into another feature here at the LIFESTYLE. Today, we have a super down to earth artist who has been so kind as to share a few words. There is something so charming about the simplicity of her swing. It’s as if she has invited us to dream with her, and that’s never a bad thing. Coming out of Seattle, operating through performance and staying connected through the likes of tumblr and pinterest(be sure and look her up), her writing is very expressive. The young lady is canary yellow against a clear blue sky. With that said, it’s our pleasure to present you Whitney Killian.

Whitney Killian Feature

 

I’ve discovered that reflection is the greatest means of self-preservation; it has helped me cope and find peace. I’m emerging from my reflection phase – ready to respond, to react.

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

WK: Born and raised in the small town of Sumner, Washington – but truly bred in the great city of Seattle, my current home. Over the years, I’ve had some pretty amazing chances to grow and express myself as a vocalist. From my high school choir room, to the jam room in Delta Upsilon at UW, to the basement of the house on 55th & Brooklyn Ave, to the stages of dive bars and the balcony at the KeyArena… with some pretty talented people to help me along the way. I currently have the pleasure of singing feature and backup vocals for Ayo Dot, a respected Seattle hip hop artist, and when I’m lucky enough, I get to jam with the amazing guys of Victory Lap, a great side project cover band we started back in September. Throw in a couple reality TV show auditions over the last few years, and there you have it. Music is important to me and my general happiness, so I always try to keep fun projects on the books.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you? How do your projects fit in with that definition?

WK: Reflection has been my best friend lately. Hardships happen, things won’t always go your way. When storms come and all seems to be lost in chaos, there also comes a unique opportunity to reflect about your response to everything that’s thrown your way. The response can’t happen without the reflection, and the reflection often doesn’t happen without the storm. The best part is that in reflection, some of the greatest and most raw work is produced. I’ve discovered that reflection is the greatest means of self-preservation; it has helped me cope and find peace. I’m emerging from my reflection phase – ready to respond, to react. I’m writing every day, humming new melodies, putting the products of my storms onto paper and into song. I’m crafting my response.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

WK: My biggest focus right now is developing my own catalogue of songs and writings. Piano has always been of interest to me, so I’m working to pick up that skill so that I can really start to stand on my own as an artist. Aside from my own writing, I’m loving the super fun and fresh work I get to do with Ayo Dot & crew. Since I joined the band in November, we’ve played a few shows and have been working on some new tracks as a band. Being a part of something new and exciting is completely refreshing, and as an artist who’s looking to establish myself and grow, working with Ayo and the guys has been a great opportunity.

Who or what inspires you?

WK: Lately, the lyrics of great female singers & songwriters have been my inspiration. Ellie Goulding, Stevie Nicks, Adele, Sara Bareilles, and more. These women are powerhouses, and I’ve found their strength to be contagious. I live for the moments when a song – or just one line – can stop me in my tracks and make me feel something, help me gain clarity, or resonate so loudly and so closely that the lyrics start to feel like they’re becoming my own. Those moments make me want to write and create things that will inspire others in similar ways. Oh, and Pinterest and Tumblr, where everyone else’s very public passions inspire me to be a better writer and better human being in general.

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?

WK: On the subject of the Collective… I respect the work you guys do. So much. You’ve taken the time to reflect and respond, and to cause others to do the same. It’s people like you who inspire people like me to keep working, to keep making pretty things and putting them out into the universe. Thank you for doing what you do.

Shout out to…?

WK: To my close friends and incredible family – you’ve held me together like glue, you’ve kept me laughing (mostly at myself), you are the reasons why I’m still standing, and you are the reasons why I will not just survive, but thrive. Especially my amazing life coach, Cortney – thanks for keeping your big sis in line.

“Make You Feel My Love,” by Adele, featuring Austin Silva on keyboard and Peter Muller on guitar

Untitled By Whitney Killian

you were my sunshine

my warm summer day

but it’s been coming down hard

since the night you walked away

the storm clouds in my heart

keep me crying over you

they darken my days

they’re not just passing through

you know what they say

when it rains, it pours

and it’s drowning my heart

since i’m no longer yours

Victory Lap Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/VictoryLapSEA    

Ayo Dot website: http://ayodot.com/

Whitney’s tumblr: http://whitneykaykillian.tumblr.com/

Whitney’s pintrist: http://pinterest.com/whitkay/boards/

Whitney’s youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/whitneykay2

-Reflection and Response

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Original Mondays: Hide

First they cut off our tongues, breaking a people from native language. Next they stole our drums. Warrior hands with no rhythm to run…attempts to dissipate a captured people, the spinal column that build an economic base for the developing colonies. Thus was the birth of the nation state.

Borders militarized, ghettos red-lined, iron bars, strong backs carrying generational curses called scars.

The fight continues; a battle of body soul and mind.

BLACKOUT

Reflection and Response

-S

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The Porch Swing: Character Series

Character Series: The Adventurs of SnakeMan Jones, Vol. VI, by Samuel Bostick.

Vol. VI is the final chapter in Samuel’s intricately crafted Character Series project: The Aventurs of SnakeMan Jones. The project was delivered to the Collective in bi-weekly installments over the past couple months: Vol. I, Vol. II, Vol. III, Vol. IV, and Vol. V, and before we kick off the final volume, we’ll take it back to where it all started, in Samuel’s words:

This is a new sort of writing experience and I feel like it’s off to a good start. This project actually originated as a collaboration piece with a student of mine who was often drawing these really fantastic monsters and such. I told him that I would write a story about the monsters he drew and this is the first of that run. On this past Saturday, I showed him the monster I had reworked and gave him a brief of the beginning of The Adventurs of SnakeMan Jones. After studying the piece and seeing the development of the collaboration, he gave his 2 thumbs up approval and said he likes where the character and story are headed. This has been a really exciting adventure and experiment. Enjoy it!

SnakeMan

SnakeMan Jones

Volume VI

The Adventurs of SnakeMan Jones

As they stepped into the chamber, there was a spirit of awe that swept over each and everyone one of them. A beauty so divine it cause a silent reverence, there were no words that could express. Through time, it was told that in that moment each and every one who stepped in elevated from earth to another space.

Climbing through slim space, squeezing to find that next step, in the chamber there was so much to see. It was a dream. In the center of the space was a small island covered by the thickest lush grass any of them had ever seen. Even more amazing was the poppies that covered it, they grew in bushels; thick stems 6-8 inches out the ground each crowned with the most noble of gold petals leafed together dense and full of organic vitality. These were the fullest flowers any of them had ever seen. They must have been well nourished by the spring on the left hand side of the room. It was pouring in fresh water from the hills above; into the room spinning serenely around, filling the pool around the raised meadow.  Above it all the cave was open, the sky exposed as the rims of the chamber bit at the deep blue hue that canopied the sky. In the high of the night there she was, the moon, shinning down, pouring over into the scene.

The walls danced with the reflection of the water and the room was well lit. Unfolding of the night’s magic was soon to beginning, the poppies began to stretch out their petals and reach toward the sky. The Fallians filed in drawn by the scene; without direction they found themselves lined up alongside the water. This place was a sanctuary, hidden in the heart of the land. The combination of the moon’s white light and the gold of the petals were as rich as milk and honey. Surely there was never such a fantastic sight as this. Each one of the StaggMooreFallians had forgotten about the usual feast that would be taking place and the ceremonial processes had been removed from all thought. This was the truest Full Bloom Festival.

Along the walls under the shining from the water were carvings. Pre-modern characters that vaguely resembled the literary code that they used in the current time; it was a sign that people had been there before. Years ago long past the memories most of them had. There were two women who could read the message. They came over with the assistance of some of the younger men. With a deep focused look at the carvings, they got closer. Still not completely convinced they were really seeing what was in front of them, they read it out loud, “Footsteps will fade, and the light of day may fall away, still in the night a glorious sight guided by light, we have again found the truth inside, the wave that moves this mountain’s tide.”

Beyond the island, Jones had just arrived to his humble refuge; that small island uncharted by any cartographer. His Bike parked next to a short palm tree, white sands stretch out under the soft lapping of the sea. He climbed onto the hammock as it swayed loungely in the night’s breeze; as he sat up reflecting on the day he untied his boots, and set them to rest. No need for a fire, the moon was bright enough to light up the eve. Swaying in the cool breeze, he grabbed his jugg and took a few easy swiggs. Back to the peace of his own space, the calm way he preferred to live. Looking up the stars were shining so bright, the constellations locked into an eternal battle of glory, elegance, and might. He pondered their story. Still, the Moon was the highlight; Jones felt he had never seen a moon so radiant, such a glorious moon. As the night grew deeper and the blue darker, Jones sank further into the hammock’s swing. His eyes settled into a soft close. As he drifted into rest, the jugg dropped from his hand and slumped into the sand. The tilt was so that some of the spirit splashed out onto a lone flower. Its amber color shone refreshing as the night’s dew, running down against a tight budd of golden petals. There he was again, that little lizard; scuttling zigg zagg traces across the sand making its way to the flower. Up he crawled and lapped away at the amber dew. As quickly as he came, he was gone; running back toward his hiding spot, this time with a little more zigg to his zagg. The flower opened in that moment, unfolding magically, reaching out toward the heavens.

She smiles down upon them, pouring into the scene with a beauty so divine, serene—The night’s queen.

The End.

Samuel Bostick

@THEREALSHANTS

just.the.basics

the LIFESTYLE’s role is to create collective space for active Reflection and Response through the arts. This space is built around dialogue, expression, collaboration, and artistic (ex)change involving international craftspeople and their realities. The Porch Swing series opens up a Reflection and Response residency where we feature a Collective member’s ongoing project through weekly installations.

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The Porch Swing: Character Series

Character Series: The Adventurs of SnakeMan Jones, Vol. V, by Samuel Bostick.

 Following up on Vol. I, Vol. II, Vol. III, and Vol. IV, catch the fifth installment in Mr. Bostick’s intricately crafted Adventurs

Volume V

The Adventurs of SnakeMan Jones

The head hit the floor, rolling away from the body to which it once belonged. It came to a stop, eyes open in a gaze of lifeless shock, halting at Jones’ boots. Deep red fresh on the sword’s blade, he was breathing hard, heart pounding, in a rage. Locked onto the next victim, his move was swift, as large as he is in build he was incredibly explosive and the quickness of his feet showed.

In the same moment, the militia pressed the Gnomads back, heels toward to sea, there was no hope for them. A fallen captain and a boat aflame were the only things waiting for them beyond the sands of the shore. Jones finished three of them off. The way he moved in the way of the martial arts was fiercely graceful and elegant. Seeing him in that state was to watch an artist paint; the way that he proceeded to cut through enemies with such form and accuracy was truly artistic. None could match his skill or bravery. There was no place for his enemies to neither run nor hide. The Gnomads’ greed had tied down their fate to fall on that day. SLASH, a diagonal sweep of the sword left a Gnomad body in two parts, THOP. The left side fell to the ground then the right bent at the knee and thudded down soon after not far behind. Chad-sama and the troops had taken on the rest of the Gnomad forces. Finally the last body had fallen.

Upon survey, they realized that the attack was done. It was the town center again not a battle field. There was no more fighting to do; they could return to how things were before the invasion. Jones was off to the far side of the scene. The militia began to whoop and cheer and holler as they realized they had overcome the attack. Full of joy, pushed by their love for the land—their duty to their peoples, they had really done it; they won! A feeling that had not been on the island for so long was there again. The battle brought the town together; they regained the sense of camaraderie which had made this city great in its founding days. Its funny how things work out; the hardship, sacrifice and organized violence that characterized battle were the same thing that brought the people together.

Chad-sama was right in the midst of it all. He was sitting calmly, reflecting upon everything that had just happened. He admired his neighbors for the new sense of pride they had gained. “The StaggMooreFalls militia had really won, we really did it”, he told himself. A half smile pushed up his cheek as he silently laughed at the thought. Thinking about the way that everyone came together for such a cause, for what they believed in, moved him on the inside. He was touched by the scene. Just in that moment, his comrades ran frantically over to him yelling, “AAAAAHHHH!”, and in an instant without warning they jumped up and dog piled him. It was a riot to see grown men acting in such a youthful way, the magic of the full moon was exceptionally glorious that day. Even Jones had to smile seeing the way that the men acted as comrades of victory. He looked down at his sword, wiped it clean and returned it to its sheath. This sense of community he saw in the townspeople was something he never knew, in a way he did wonder what it felt like. He didn’t approach them though, he never really socialized with people and even though he fought in their benefit, he decided to keep his distance as he usually would.

Jones took in a deep breath and gathered the last memories of the battle field—the one place where he did feel fully welcomed. He turned and walked over to where he had left His Bike and jumped over giving it a wicked kick start. The thunder rumble under the engine assured him he was in his proper place. Just as he was about to put the bike in gear he felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning around he saw Chad-sama’s face with a smile spread from ear to ear. Chad spoke to Jones giving thanks for all he did and for raising the spirits of the militia in their hardest moment. Not knowing how to respond, Jones simply nodded his head with reverence yet held his peace. Chad-sama understood well that Jones was a man short of word. Jones geared his bike up and took off across the open sea. Chad-sama shook his head in amazement then ran back to his comrades. Passing by where the Gnomad ship had been anchored there was wood adrift on the surface of the sea, Jones smirked at the demise that met them by the action of his fury. He sped away toward his little island. What an eventful day.

A young boy who was swift of feet and well spoken came up to Chad-sama and the militia. He explained he had been sent by the town folk to find out the status of the battle and to inform the troops that the people were safe in the cave. The militia was relieved by this news for even in the heat of battle and the joy of victory they had not forgotten about their families. Also the messenger brought word that the Full Bloom Festival would take place still that night. The only change was that the festivities would be held in the cave. One of the men questioned the rationale of this as he didn’t understand the function of celebrating the moon and golden poppies in a cave which presumably had neither. The messenger responded calmly, reassuring the militia that they would understand in due time. So they took to their feet in that moment and began the trek. By the time that they had arrived at the cave entrance they were in amazement by the magic and mystery by which they were led there. They were astonished having lived so long on the island and never known of these places.

The first chamber of the cave was like any cave could be imagined: dark, damp and stony. Again the militia questioned, yet this time the messenger did not answer, he continued to guide them further into the caves. Poppies soon started to show up against the walls of the cave. There were the largest, fullest flower buds any of them had ever seen. First one, then a few spread in small clusters; the walls of the cave seemed to change as well. It had become a deep green, a heavy emerald almost, which replaced the damp stones that composed the mouth of the cave. As they moved into the second chamber they were met by their families and friends. They all celebrated and expressed their joy at seeing one another.

After greetings and such were exchanged they began to move down through and into the next chamber, the deeper they got into the cave, the more poppies appeared. At this point they had begun to fully cover the walls. At the end of the second chamber there was a slim passage leading to the third chamber. It was the only way to get through. They took a short rest before heading into the pathway. From the side they were standing it felt as if a breeze was coming through from the other side of the wall. The first few people made their way through and upon entering into the third chamber they each gave a sound of disbelief. The people waited in line patiently with their families and slipped in as was appropriate. Now, in the third chamber was the magic that left them all in awe.

To be continued…

Samuel Bostick

@THEREALSHANTS

just.the.basics

the LIFESTYLE’s role is to create collective space for active Reflection and Response through the arts. This space is built around dialogue, expression, collaboration, and artistic (ex)change involving international craftspeople and their realities. The Porch Swing series opens up a Reflection and Response residency where we feature a Collective member’s ongoing project through weekly installations.

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