Kes: What Makes Him High, Trap Beats, and the Element of Surprise

Kes is not trying to placate the masses or swim in a pool of hundred dollar bills floating in expensive champagne. It’s not about music videos with rare cars or bikini clad platinum blondes happily twerking by a pool. Kes is simply after the best version of himself.

A version of himself that he’s been chasing since he was in high school and realized that he was a lyricist. His realization grew to an unending passion. He turned passion into poise and dedication and now his dreams are coming to fruition.

Inspiration Comes in Many Forms

When the mic is in his hand and he’s performing he feels at ease. The sense of satisfaction of reciting his lyrics to a crowd is cathartic at worst and inspirational at best. Kes’s lyrics are not damning or insensitive; in fact they are just the opposite, even though when he wrote him he wasn’t feeling his personal best.

“It’s stuff I made by myself. Not feeling great about myself. I made it on my own time. It’s the best high.”

His lyrics sum the feeling up even better:

The sound of a crowd loud shouting out at once

Is the equivalent of the high of a 1,000 blunts

Kes has battled depression for most of his teenage and adult life. In his lyrics you will find hope, inspiration, and strength as if every time he puts pen to pad it’s an effort to drive away the depression and head him back on the right track.

Some of his favorite artists have done that for him. He brings up Joe Budden during our conversation, explaining that it’s OK to need help and to express your true emotion.

“I’m doing what other have done for me. But it’s reality. For better or worse.”

Kes and His Producer

Like so much that happens in Rochester, NY the relationship between Kes and his first producer started at Wegmans. Kes met Volatile there years back and their shared affinity towards the world of hip hop started a relationship.

Volatile already had his career started with his own productions that he had posted to Youtube. Kes looked him up and was impressed. Volatile produced Kes’s first official album “The Prelude” available wherever music can be found.

He is already working on a follow up that should be out sooner than later “Creature of Habit” although no official release date has been set yet.

The producers and rappers that Kes has worked with over the years had a profound effect on him. He has learned from them and taken their knowledge of industry and beats and turned it into his routine, it has made him a creature of habit, writing, recording, learning, and evolving.

The Element of Surprise

I had the opportunity recently to sit down with Kes and share some scotch with him. He’s extremely approachable, quite affable, and humble. His clean cut look and deftly quaffed red hair don’t scream hip hop. But he doesn’t mind that. It’s not about looks it’s about lyrics.

“You can’t take yourself too seriously. I love it. I walk in (to the studio) with my button up and slacks and people are looking at me like ‘You rap?’ and then they hear me and they go ‘Oh shit, you rap’.”

Kes puts a hard line in the sand with new pop rappers and what he’s trying to accomplish. Pop rappers are flashes in the pan, radio wave sycophants who want money and fame. Real MC’s are lyricists, their writers with a craft; it’s about poetry, not bitches.

“Trap beats are the music version of reality TV.”

Simple to make, little production, and the use of very little lyrics slings trap beats into our mainstream. It’s super simple, fun, and goofy; almost as if anyone can make it. And maybe that’s the idea of it and that’s why people gravitate towards it.

But Kes is not impressed. He’s impressed with art, beauty, and challenging yourself. The new pop rap is not made like this and for this reason. He believes that a well-rounded instrumental is much more difficult to make, takes more time, and should be considered just as important as the lyrics.

He goes back to the 1990’s for inspiration, to listen to interwoven samples, the complexity of good production. The music is just as inspiring as they lyrics. The element of surprise isn’t just in looks, it’s embedded in every aspect of his music.

You can follow Kes on:

Twitter @Kessteele

Instagram @Kessteele

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/Kes585/

The Prelude is available wherever you usually get your music.

A Poem About Basil For My Wife

Poetry shouldn’t have to be so serious all the time.  Poems are a quick glimpse into a part of life that we have all lived, a moment in time that could be described to just about anyone from any culture or any language and they would understand.  Too often poetry is very serious tackling dire topics like death and love.  Sometimes poetry can be funny, goofy, lovable, or even slightly amusing.  It’s a pass at elevator conversation, a thirty second impression that can be pleasant and charming.

I wrote this one for my wife.   For ten years I’ve been writing little poems for her, then I leave them up on the computer or leave them on a piece of paper, or they get published somewhere and she happens on them.  And she knows they’re for her and she knows more about the poem than anyone else and it’s supposed to be amusing, fun, and charming.

 

About An Herb

Fresh basil after a rain tastes better.

Sure it does.

Have you ever been staring at your basil plant all day?

And it’s drooping and tired

And it looks sweaty

And you think,

‘Christ if we had some damn water and a breeze this thing’d be all right’

And then thick clouds roll up and the breeze kicks in and the trees start complaining all over the place

So you go inside, bemused.

But then you notice the damn basil kicked up.  And now it’s time for fucking pizza?

And there you are up against the wind, trimming away with kitchen shears at something you grew!

And it tastes so good.

Oh.

You just buy your basil at the grocery store?

Like, in that little plastic sheath?

Huh.  That’s cool, bro.

Never mind then.

 

(The photo was borrowed from: http://wahagarden.com/)

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

Ruminating On a Mountain

Bekka Burton takes great pictures.  But it’s not just her eye for a great shot, or the color contrast, or the rule of thirds that makes it so special.  It’s that the spot in which she stands to take the picture is the same spot that nestles her into deep thought.  It’s the same reason she goes out on these hikes in the first place; to get away, to hear the silence, to get lost in the beauty that is the world.  Some of us prefer to get lost in binge watching Netflix or in the heat of your favorite team competing.  But not Bekka and sometimes, not me either.

Bekka Burton is my friend.  She and I used to work together and my goofiness and predictability to spin a long pointless yarn always entertained her.  We used to laugh and the dumbest things; like my dad drinking Mountain Dew, sometimes for weeks at a time.  But then I stopped working there, or she did, or we both left I can’t remember; we lost touch, only once in a while running into each other at a random farmers market.  Somehow she turned back up on my radar, living in Spain and teaching.  She is a true outdoorsman trapped inside a farmer, trapped inside a teacher, trapped inside a philosopher, trapped inside a photographer, trapped inside a writer.  Most of her future plans include wearing straw hats and owning bees.  But she truly has an Ansel Adams side and I mostly thought it was just for fun.

Turns out she uses the outdoors as her meditation and to reconnect herself to nature.  To Bekka, it’s like an art form to find a good hike and take a great picture.  I thought her photography spoke to me like art and I wanted to copy a project that Lawrence Ferlinghetti accomplished in 1990. “When I Look at Pictures” takes famous paintings and combines them with original poems about each one, all written by Ferlinghetti.  I love that book and I was mesmerized at the simplicity of the concept and the complexity of each individual poem.  It forever made me look at a few famous paintings differently.  I wanted to do that with Bekka’s photos.  I wanted to tell a little story about each one.

IMG_0463
Photo by Bekka Burton

I tried and tried.  But I just kept falling short of anything that I would want to publish and I didn’t want to use these photos for something that I didn’t truly believe in.  So I wrote Bekka and asked for her help.  I wanted to at least come up with a title so that maybe I could be spurred into action.  She used the word ‘ruminate’ and said “That’s what I do when I’m in nature. I could sit and watch a babbling brook for hours and never get bored”.  And suddenly I remembered something that I had completely forgotten about.  And it has to do with Milk.

My freshman year I made a friend named Mike Sood.  He was a naïve and goofy guy with a big heart and a lovable disposition.  He was a big, body building type, with square shoulders and a tiny round waist and he spoke like the stereotypical jock from a John Hughes movie.  But once you got past the outer shell, he was incredibly deep and intelligent and really liked to talk at length about humanity, religion, and emotion.  I liked Mike a great deal, even though the first couple of time we met we didn’t really care for each other.  One time we even got into a fight.  I lost.  His nickname was Milk and that’s what everyone called him.  At times I forgot his real name.

But one time we were out drinking and were talking about the nearby Shawangunk Mountains. We decided that in the morning we were going to drive up there and hike around.  It was still winter, but there wasn’t much snow on the ground.  Of course we failed to realize there would be waist deep snow on the mountain. The next morning we went up there, froze half to death, thought about coming back, decided to stay, and continued on our hike.  There wasn’t anybody else up on the mountain that day.  It felt like ours.  It felt natural to be up there, walking along in silence, the crunch of the snow underneath our boots the only music, the wind whispering through the trees the only traffic, the noises of nature became the silence of our minds.  We sat on a ledge and had a snack, barely talking, taking it all in, and ruminating on a mountain, completely at ease.

IMG_0577
Photo by Bekka Burton

For this post, I thought for sure I had my poems ready, one for each of the three pictures used in this post.  But I couldn’t write them.  I didn’t know where to start or where to end with each piece.  I was growing frustrated again.  That is not how these pictures made me feel the first time I saw them.  And then I realized I was missing the point.  I wasn’t staring at the babbling brook, I was trying to imitate it.  And you can’t.  You can’t imitate nature.  That’s why these pictures are so great; they are real.  And the thoughts that come out are real and shouldn’t be imitated.   And I sat right down and scrawled this out.

If anybody out there reads this and knows how to contact Mike Sood, send him this piece.  And thanks Bek for the inspiration.

Moun tan DEWWW.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

 

Rochester Newspaper Sells Segregation

An article was recently released by Democrat and Chronicle that articulated the issues that Rochester is facing.   It defines exactly what’s wrong with this city in a simple and supposedly innocuous comment that probably shouldn’t have made the cut in the story.  It’s a line that does nothing for the story itself, yet was left in, as if on accident.  It was something I’m positive that most people read and passed over without a second thought, or simply accepted as a truth.  It is, in my opinion, the perfect quote to highlight why Rochester, NY has deeply rooted problems that will probably never go away.  These problems are not talked about, and are seldom brought up in public forums as far as I know.  If they are being talked about candidly and openly I would love for the residents of Rochester to write me and tell me I’m wrong.

The article was written by a group of staff writers at the Democrat and Chronicle; Victoria E. Freile, Patti Singer, and Todd Clausen.  Democrat and Chronicle’s Executive Editor and Vice President of News is Karen Magnusun.  The article is mostly concerned with the terrible tragedy of two burned bodies that were recently discovered.  The newest body was found near La Grange Park, which is nestled almost in the middle of a triangle with Ridgeway Ave, Mount Read Blvd, and Driving Park Ave.  The article was hard enough to get through due to the violent nature of the deaths, but a simple comment made by a local resident illuminates the odd segregation and tension that is simply accepted in this city.

The comment was made by Michael Bell.  It was the only comment in the article.  The entire quote read as follows:

“You don’t expect for activity like that to be around here.  It is normally pretty safe around here.  I am not saying this is like Mendon, Pittsford, or whatever, but it’s a secluded area here.  It’s quiet.  You don’t expect for activity like that to be around here.  God didn’t put us here to hurt and harm each other.  He put us here to love each other and we have to grasp that.  If there is something going on, there are people to talk to.   There is nothing that bad. “

What Mr. Bell said is direct and honest.  I especially like the part where he says we were not put here to harm each other.  I have always believed in tolerance, acceptance, peace, love, and understanding, but what bothers me about Mr. Bell’s comment was that he assumes Pittsford and Mendon are the safest areas.  That might actually be true.  The misconception that crime is only happening in certain parts of a city seems to be a common thread in news across the nation.  I don’t take umbrage with what Mr. Bell said, although the fact that he felt the need to say it at all made me cringe, but I am thoroughly disgusted that Democrat and Chronicle would print that part of the comment.  It is not part of the story.  It does not need to be part of the story, but it was left in as some sort of gauge, a bright orange cone that will remind the citizens of Mendon and Pittsford that they are somehow safer.

I wonder if the residents of Mendon and Pittsford read that line and somehow held their heads a little higher knowing that they don’t have to worry about such violence in their “part of town.”  I wonder if Karen Magnusun lives in Pittsford or Mendon, or if any of the staff writers do, and this was their strange way of making themselves feel a little safer, a little more at ease, subconsciously rationalizing their higher taxes.  I wonder if they still lock their doors at night, setting their security alarms and praying that the disgruntled riffraff that lives only a few miles away doesn’t figure out how to get in.  I wonder if they still fear the boogey man.

I moved to Rochester about a decade ago, chasing a girl and a dream of being a college graduate.  I stayed for this reason or that, getting wrapped up in jobs and life, but leaving has never left my mind.  I was only here for a month or so when I realized that this is a massively segregated city filled with elitists, extreme xenophobes, racists, and an overall unrelenting attitude that none of this is happening.  Rochester has some amazing people in it.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of them.  The food in this city is amazing.  There is an amazing blend of culture and people that live just under the radar on these streets, but there is an odd and noticeable wall that separates all things East and the rest of the God forsaken city.  It’s why the city is crumbling.  The hate is felt and is passed around so freely that it creates more hate.  The separatists are unapologetic and operate openly; so openly that a comment that was supposed to be innocuous splayed open the bubbling green bile of separation and hatred in a city that seems damned.

I’m embarrassed for Democrat and Chronicle.  They obviously don’t see the larger picture that Rochester and much of America are suffering from; poor brotherhood.  The comment was left in the article, a subconscious slip that tells a larger story, one that the news isn’t telling, but obviously selling.

Here’s the original article.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

 

A Fake Horror Movie and Randy White

On a quiet mountainside far away from the noise of any major city, tucked away on four pristine acres of woodland, I should have died.  I should have been hacked to bits by an ax wielding madman, his thin white t-shirt sprayed with blood and gruesome chunks of my skin and bone.  His teeth should have ripped into the soft of my stomach, emerging with entrails gripped viciously, desperately feeding on my small intestines.  Most of my friends would have died too.  All but one.  And of course no one believes his story.  He stumbles from the woods dirty, covered in his comrades blood, confused and dehydrated.  His post traumatic stress leaving him mumbling about Randy White and snuffing Andes Mints.

Over the weekend four of my best friends and I rented a cabin in the Catskill Mountains.  We were celebrating a recent engagement and using that engagement as an excuse to get together to over drink beer and whiskey, grill meats, and make fun of each other relentlessly.  It was really the perfect spot.  The cabin faced west and the sunsets were delightful, the afternoons warm, and the beer was plentiful and cold.  We even brought our guitars and drums with us, staying up late at night to jam some Neil Young, make up hip hop songs about fire safety, and of course, yell into a microphone about anything and everything.  It was amazing, remote, and a much needed break from our regularly hectic and, at the same time, mundane lives.

I arrived first to find the small cabin waiting patiently for me, the deck chairs neatly arranged in a half circle near a small table and the grill.  I pulled up and sent a text to my wife that I had made the trip and was still alive.  I was referring to traffic and the tough weather I had encountered coming up into the mountains.  Had I known more about the next two and half hours ahead of time, and then the next 2 days, I would have asked her to send help.

The cabin owner came out and met me on the deck.  At first I thought he was really old but his hand shake was overpowering, he could have easily crushed my dainty hand into dust.  I looked him in the eyes and noticed there was a child like blue hue that ran through them, his face much younger than his body.  He excused himself for his appearance at first, a thin white t-shirt and stained jeans, and had to sit down on account of his war injury.  He was a Vietnam Veteran and quaintly joked about being in the only war that wasn’t really a war.  He made the joke again later, much later.

He began showing me around the property.  In order to keep the tour short he would just show me around the outside of the cabin and a few things inside. I wanted to crack a beer immediately, after all I was on vacation.  But I refrained, thinking it rude to slug away at my turkey leg of Pabst Blue Ribbon while he was trying to leave me the keys to his cabin. I should have anyway.

He began by taking me around the side of the cabin and meticulously discussing the fire pit, the hose area, the back door, the garbage area, the new windows he put it, what the old windows looked like that he removed, how difficult getting the old windows out was,the lattice on the side of the front deck and why there was no lattice on the side of the back deck, the trees in the back, the bird houses, the bird nests, which types of birds can and can’t fit in the bird houses, Bernie Sanders, how the back door sticks a little, how the window on the back door works, the light switch that controls the motion sensor light on the outside of the house near the garbage area because you wouldn’t want a critter getting into the garbage while you were sleeping.  And then we went inside the cabin.

An hour had passed.  I was glad to have not gotten the full tour.  Inside is where it really struck me; that I was with a old man, who has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from a terrible battle in a fucked up war.  He had settled into a strange little life that he split between the mountains and Washington Heights.  He was a lonely man who was very worried that someone may not have a pleasant stay in his cabin, that someone would get hurt, that someone could die up there, maybe on account of his explanations not being thorough enough.  I started to feel real bad for him, but I wanted that beer and so I tried to hurry him along through his soliloquy.  Meanwhile I was texting my buddies to get there quick, which they did, and I was thankful for it.

Everything is the cabin was dutifully labeled.  Every light switch had a note on it, the mirror in the bathroom had a note that explained how to stagger your showers to maintain hot water.  The note also suggested multiple person showers.  The kitchen had many notes in it, describing where to use certain cleaning agents, some of the bottles themselves had notes taped to them.  The spiral staircase was well cared for with rubber bumpers on each of the sharp corners, and orange flags to mark the spots where past residents may have bonked their heads.  He had thought of everything and I was starting to admire this about him actually when I realized yet another hour had passed.  I wanted to fire up a cigar and listen to the familiar sound of a tab piercing the seal on a cold can of beer.

My friends showed up.  We passed him back and forth for another half an hour to tire him out, then gently explained to him that we had enough information, that we were grateful for his lengthy explanations and for his service.  He did his best to leave, which is a struggle for him, not only to leave the company of others, but just to walk.  He was a nice enough old man, who finally eased himself into an old Ford four door with no plates or registration.  He started the vehicle and slowly put it in drive.  We all watched as it trickled down the gravel driveway and finally out of sight.

randy sotry photo
Catskill Mountain View

The party had started.  Beers were opened and dumped down necks, whiskey was drunk heartily while chunks of animal were thrown on the grill, cigars glowed, guitars twinkled, and before we knew it the stars were out, the camp fire lighting our grinning faces with reds, oranges, and yellows.  We were happy, together, laughing, and well as ever.

The next day in between bouts of nausea we joked about the cabin owner.  We joked about his notes, his loquaciousness, his overall goofiness.  We made up stories about other cabin renters, the issues they must have had to have a note posted, the complaints collecting in dusty piles in the cabin owner’s brain until he made another note, another sign, all for our amusement.  We certainly had our fun.

That next night we were at it again.  Beer and whiskey were abundant as was the smoke from the grill.  We started in about the quirky cabin owner again.  I offered up the fact that the sign on the mirror suggested that people shower together and that maybe the place was bugged with cameras and microphones and that maybe he’s heard us the whole weekend poke fun at his notes and signs.  We started coming up with scenarios about how the lights would flicker and the ice cubes would sink into the bottom of your cup, how the water would stop working and the air would suddenly become real cold.  We joked about how you would hear the snapping and crackling of small branches deep in the woods, getting louder as the foot steps got closer.  Just then the fire would suddenly go out along with the power.  We would be left in total darkness on top of a mountain we were unfamiliar with with a crazed killer on the loose.  That’s when the real horror starts.

Suddenly glimpses of a shiny ax would appear, first under the light of the moon in the distance, next swinging by your shoulder.  Screams of your friends being tortured to death in the distance would haunt your brain as you tried to run through the thick brush and trees.  You would run until your lungs burned and your legs ached emerging into a clearing only to realize you ran in a circle and came back out at the cabin. The incredulous look on your face interrupted by the lights coming back on in the cabin.  You run inside to get your cell phone, to call for help.  Inside there is carnage, you realize you are the only friend remaining, all have perished.  Their limp and lifeless bodies carelessly thrown into Gorey piles around the cabin.  And there is the killer, between you and the only door.  He is brandishing an ax covered in your closest friends blood, a muddled bloody hand print on his chest, his teeth coated in entrails.  You narrowly escape, getting back to town at day break to explain what happened.  But you can’t make sense of it and the locals just think you did it, your own shirt covered in blood.

We joked about all this.  All of us being horror movie fans the jokes flowed way too easy and with the help of whiskey, they were all too funny.  All too funny until the power went out.

We didn’t go into immediate freak out mode.  Although if I were alone I would have hidden somewhere, or jumped in my car and drove to a hotel to wait out the night.  But we were all together and rationalized the coincidence of it.  But it was darker than Hell up there with nothing but the campfire.  The wolves started howling and sounded more like a cartoon than real life. It was certainly scary, but when you are with all your friends it is somehow less scary.  And the power did come back on around 10 pm or so.  We texted the owner of the cabin.  Seems that the whole side of the mountain had a brown out.  Happens up there when it gets really windy, which it had earlier in the day.  Those horror movies tend to really mess with your head.  Good thing real life isn’t much like a horror film, or else I probably would have died up there that night.

But for all the jokes about the one guy who makes it out alive, the guy who dies the coolest, and the guy who dies first, I started thinking about the seriousness of it all.  The guy who really did make it out alive was the Vietnam War Veteran.   And his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder didn’t leave him as an ax wielding killer who ate the flesh and blood of people at his cabin.  It manifested itself in a goofy overabundance of notes about the general dangers of everything.  And he knows this about himself.  That’s why he told us that he was a vet.  That’s why he reminded us of his own struggle.  It wasn’t a referendum on war, or America or the type of person he was.  It was an apology, out front, with a cane, limping in your face.  He is who he is and he actually had to rationalize that and come up with an apology.  All we had to rationalize is how much steak we ate.

I guess that’s not something we really know about, we’re all too young to remember that war.  And we didn’t get chased through the woods by an ax wielding madman.  Not this time anyway.  Then again, maybe we’re just the lucky ones, and he decided not to kill us.  I guess we’ll never know.  But, I know after that weekend I certainly feel lucky.  I’ve got some good friends.  Friends that I really consider family.  I would hate to lose any of them.  Especially if it were a gruesome story.  Plus, there’s only four other guys that know why Randy White is so funny.  And why you should snuff Andes Mints.  And why it’s not weird to shout, “Oh, I love watering plants!”

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

 

 

Accepting Escape: An Interview with Anh Duc Nguyen

The cultural significance of hip hop is not bound to the streets of New York or Los Angeles.  It’s not bound to the output of MTV or New York’s Hot 97.  In fact it’s never been tethered to anything at all.  It seems to seek out those most willing to accept it, to embrace it, to make it something that is their own.  But it is not easily described and that’s what draws such special appreciation for it.  “It’s about doing something together and being creative”, says Hamburg, Germany based visual artist Anh Duc Nguyen of Hip Hop Culture.  “It’s a way of being together no matter where you are from and loving music and art among each other and expressing yourself.”  Duc speaks of inclusion, togetherness, and acceptance with great passion and careful grace.  He currently resides in Hamburg, Germany although his life was very close to be being much different.  “My parents fled the Vietnam War and settled in Bavaria.  I can speak with a Bavarian accent which I’m really proud of!”

Duc’s father was a soldier in the war and fled when things got unbearable.  His family was lucky and got picked up quickly on the sea.  Duc’s father still tells stories about the turmoil that brings tears to his eyes.  Duc grew up with no other Vietnamese children around him and his parents tried very hard to maintain their culture in a land that was not their own.  “Education was very important to them”, says Duc.  “They were strict at home.  Whenever they caught me drawing they would make me go do homework.”  Art beamed from him anyway.  He couldn’t stop even if he wanted to.  He grew up to love art and went on to study graphic design.  

Duc drew inspiration from meeting new people in a bigger city, with a more diverse crowd who carried different attitudes and embodied something bigger.  His humble beginnings in hip hop were not unlike most of ours, rap cassettes from somebody’s older brother. But it wasn’t until college that Duc really appreciated what the culture meant to him.  He gathered inspiration from the graffiti he saw near the train tunnels and buildings.  “It is such a visual part of CD covers and magazines.  I grew up in an area where you wouldn’t do things like that.  Friends of mine that have done graffiti in the past are much better artists now.  They have great understanding of form and composition.  I was so blown away by it.”  Duc still takes inspiration from graffiti artists today, although he himself has never done it.  He says of graffiti artists,“I have much respect for all the graffiti artist(s) who are going out at night and make great piece in such a short time and having the fear of getting caught.  It needs a lot of passion, willingness and crazyiness [sic] to do such things.  Sometimes I wished I would have done stuff like them when I was younger. Today I still look at graffiti as an inspiration.”

Duc’s art is a wonderful conglomeration of graffiti, pop culture, and music.  In short, his art could be best described as Hip Hop and it’s hard to look away.  He has managed to make intricate art look simple, with a clear message that differs by the individual, a brand of art that looks so much like Hip Hop, but looks so much like the intricate life that has been Duc’s.  He has sense of humor about it when asked about his Hamburger Head piece.  “I live in Hamburg and so many burger places opened up.  I turned a person into a burger head.”

hamburger head

Duc recently joined a contest where teams of 3 artists have 90 minutes to paint a plain white wall with nothing but black magic markers.  The teams are awarded points by judges, audience cheers, and the highest priced bid through an auction.  The money is then donated to Viva Con Agua, a company that is “committed to establishing access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation for all humans worldwide.”  Duc’s team won, a fact he’s humble about but equally as proud.

When asked why he is an artists he replied,  

Drawing and painting is a place for me to escape to my own world. In this world everything is allowed; making mistakes, exploration, being imperfect, playing like a kid.  To learn about what is really important to me and not what is said to be important by other people and put by them into my head.  It is like a therapy for me from the strict upbringing by my parents and society. It is a honest place.  Most Asian parents never tell you that they are proud or make compliments.  They always try to make you feel bad and keep you down. They are very scared that if they do you would not work hard enough.  They always compare you with other kids and always make them better than you. So in my head there was always a voice telling me that I wasn’t good enough.  My art is a place where I’m able to shut this voice down.

Duc’s parents may not have always been supportive of his choice to be an artist. But they are coming around to realize that it is not going away.  And that Duc is really good and gaining popularity.  His parents see his work and understand, maybe proudly gazing at their son as they try to comprehend what it is he is trying to accomplish.  “I think that the process of develop [sic] something out of nothing is my daily goal or the reason I’m doing it.  But I couldn’t stop doing art even if I couldn’t survive by it.”  

We are all certainly glad for that.  

 

Check out Duc’s work on Facebook and on Instagram.

Or go directly to Duc’s website: www.ismilealot.com

Or shop for some of his amazing work here: http://de.dawanda.com/shop/ismilealot

The photo for this article was taken by Phil Dy Na Mite.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

 

 

 

From Memory to Hallmark to Earmark

Today is Father’s Day.  You hopefully already know that.  It’s a day filled with barbecues, small back yard tents, and of course beer.  A day to remember the strange animal that lived in your house growing up, over worked and tired, confused, dressing for a different decade, and listening to “real music”.  The same hairy bimbo that can’t stop cursing at the lawnmower.  Papa.  Dad.  Pops. Whatever you call him.  Today is a day to remember him.  Who he is.  Or who he was.

There’s a bunch of us that have the fortunate opportunity to see their father today.  There’s some of us that have the amazing luck to talk to their father today.  There’s got to be a handful that will at least be blessed with a hallmark card to be remembered by, even if you can’t speak with your dad over the phone that particular day. But there are others still who won’t be able to  do that.  Won’t be able to get a card from them, or send a card to them.  And this hallmark holiday will serve  a different purpose.  As a reminder more than anything, just another earmark.

I’m lucky today.  I’l be able to get on Skype with my dad. We’ll talk about The NBA finals game 7 tonight, we’ll mince words about my new lawnmower, and we’ll share our pleasant exchanges, which we’ll both blow off like it’s no big deal.  But it is.  And we’ll both know that too.  And so for father’s day my dad and I every year give each other a giddy, tongue in cheek “happy dad’s day”.  It’s a pretty good gift.  And it’s one of a kind.

But I know there’s some of you out there today that don’t have dad to get a card from, or Skype, or call.  And today means something different.  And I respect that.  And I’m at least empathetic to that.  As much in reality that I can be, anyway.  So today I wan’t you to know that I’m thinking about you. And that I’ll at the very least casually bring you up in conversation today, but mostly to tell a good story.

Today is my third Father’s Day.  I’m not one for holidays.  But this one is OK with me.  A little recognition for changing poopy diapers, getting puked on, getting occasionally punched in the nuts, and ham-fistedly trying to repair various household items unsuccessfully is nice.  You get the nod from strangers, other moms, and other dad’s.  The dad’s holding up their kid like a badge of courage, as if they’ve been through war, tethered sheepishly to a trundling stroller and plodding along as the moss back mule, carrying the heavy load.

No matter what you call dad, today is the day to at the very least call upon him, for reverence, guidance, or to tell a good story that brings about a nice memory.  Happy Dad’s Day, Big T.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

Comic-Con, The World’s Largest Putt Putt Course, and Legos for Dinner

If you have never been to Comic-con then go.  Find one and go.  It is certainly more than I thought and is certainly more than just comic books. There was such a wonderful array of different people, all of them so child like excited to be there, wonder gushing from their eyes, and everyone in a great mood with smiles adorned like badges of geek-dom.  Their pride, sense of belonging, and dignity shining bright.  These are the same people who are a safe bet to get shredded in pop culture for being strange, nerdy, or too different.  But here, it’s family.  I couldn’t have felt more comfortable.

I’m used to festivals, but music festivals. There it’s more of a fight, a push, a drug induced euphoria that is supposed to mean utopia but usually brings about chaos when the hard rock headliner hits the stage.  I was at Woodstock ’99.  I saw the audiences reaction to Rage Against the Machine.  It was a scary one.  But that fake utopia at a music fest (3 days of love, peace, and happiness my ass!) actually exists at Comic-Con.  No fights or scraps or yelling.  It’s all in good fun and people are more than willing to let you walk first.  This was true of almost everyone, save the folks who cut me in line waiting to meet the great Carrol Spinney.  I then realized they were crying and thought it was best they cut me instead of cutting me. But it’s all good and I immediately forgave and forgot.  They were truly excited to meet Big Bird and who am i to discredit that.

Comic-Con is all things fantastic.  It’s comic books and video games and collectibles and Halloween all rolled into one.  There are people dressed up, masks for sale, treats around every corner, and a general feel of make believe.  I was shocked at how well this festival brought out the kid in me.  I felt twelve all over again, my fascination with the grotesque and gruesome just as vivid as it ever was, my eyes straining to see everything at once, to be everywhere at once, and petrified to miss out on anything.  I was, it seems, really happy, but on a really base level that adults don’t get to visit as often.  We as adults tend to feel this euphoria when your quarterly bonus finally comes in or when you realize you’re getting a little more back on your taxes.  This happy is true and when it is not related to money or other adult like trivial things, it’s extremely exhilarating.

I met as many people in costume as possible.  There was a Cos Play contest later in the day and I was hoping that I could meet the winner.  Turns out I did on my way in to the convention.  I commented on her ingenious idea of taking a portable fan with her to cool herself off as it was near eighty degrees that day.  The costumes were elaborate, or sometimes not elaborate, as I met wolverine dressed in jeans and a tank top.  Everyone taking part in Cos Play was more than happy to take a selfie with me, no frills or talking, just got into character as I approached with my cell phone in hand.  I’m admittedly a little out of touch so some of the costumes were beyond me, beyond what I recognized, but I couldn’t help be impressed with the detail, the effectiveness, and the way each person could get into character for photograph or otherwise.  There is a general camaraderie that exists within the walls of Comic Con that I have not experienced in many other places.  I can see why that world is so addicting and why the people who are in it feel compelled to come back.  I know I do.

We left Comic-Con and went into the world of Niagara Falls, Ontario.  I’m not sure if it was the juxtaposition of leaving a fairy tale and then walking into real life or the jarring reality that after something fun there is a usually a let down, but either way we left the doors of The Con and walked into the bright sunshine and humidity of a strange town that should be the setting of bad Stephen King novel.  We left to find an array of confused Canadians, overpriced tacos, and of course Legos on cardboard in the middle of the largest putt putt golf course in the world.

As my travel partner on this excursion and friend Chris Guy illuminated, “It’s like a life sized putt putt golf course.” He was talking about the main drag in Niagara Falls, just up from the Left Handed Hard Rock Cafe and some dumpy casino.  There was a large sign that read “The Canadian Midway”.  But it should have just read “Hell”.  I watched Chris as he stood reeling in amazement at neon lights, giant Frankenstein heads selling corn dogs, and mobs of people spilling money into arcades games,  his head fuzzy from overpriced drafts and surprisingly smooth Canadian whiskey. “This place is truly awful,” he said.  We decided to take a page from the Comic-Con play book and buy in.  Everyone is accepted we thought, and so we poured more drafts down our necks and dumped money into arcade games.

But fit in we could not.  We tried to hang with some locals and ask where people go that aren’t tourists.  They didn’t have a real answer but only vague references to bars and restaurants where some people might hang out.  We were directed to the Midway to check out “what the hockey haired douche bags are up to”.  We ended up at Boston Pizza guzzling more overpriced drafts and playing video games for tickets refundable for shitty prizes at the door.  It was here that I ended up sitting in the rain with a “doctor” from Saudi Arabia, here on vacation with his family to see one of the seven wonders of the world.  He told me he went to college in America and loved it dearly.  He continued on to say if he currently lived here he would vote for Trump, even though he was Muslim. I had stumbled into a vortex, a black hole, a nightmare and one in which I could not dig myself out of.  Chris suggested more whiskey to which I agreed.  I stopped to buy a cheap cigar to smoke should the mood strike.  The same cigars that come in two packs in your average American bodega for a dollar.  The total was nine Canadian dollars.  I bought it anyways, using it as fiery ammo to why I hated the real world.

We finally decided that this world of tourism was not for us.  That if we couldn’t have the safety of Comic-Con then we would elect the safety of our hotel room.  We stumbled into a pizza place, ordered, and waited.  We thought that at the very least, we could gorge ourselves on bad food, finish the overpriced Canadian Lagers in the room, and go to sleep happy, fat, and drunk.  Neither of us ended up paying for this pizza, so we’re not entirely sure how we got it, and I can’t remember the place, but I could find it if you put us back in Niagara Falls, but it was hands down the worst pizza I have ever had.  Best described as melted Legos on cardboard with a sauce like material creating zing, we ate it anyway.  We went to a land of make believe and had make believe pizza for dinner.

All in all the tourist trap that is Niagara Falls, Ontario was not enough to spoil what we had experienced earlier in the day.  It really just made me realize that I am still a kid inside and probably always will be.  That was not the last Comic-Con I’ll see.  That’s a safe bet.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

Dear America Part 2

Dear America,

I am wondering today why are you so angry?  Most of the people that say they are voting for the hate monger on a pedestal, angry about Muslims and angry about Mexicans, are white, middle class suburban folks who say they are very angry with the government, angry with Obama, Obama Care, and big business run government.  And so the answer is yet another big business? What are you so angry about?  I drive over 3000 miles every month through the suburbs of the North East and most of the homes and cars that I see are in pretty good shape.  People seem to be dressed in relatively nice clothes, or at least in designer sweat pants with colorful emblems displayed across their backsides.  I generally see suburbia doing pretty well.  But still you are angry, America.  I fear it is contagious.  I fear that I am turning angry, too.

Sure there’s things to be angry about.  Like top level executives making dump trucks full of money while their employees make a tiny fraction.  That maybe true, but those executives have to live and breathe their jobs, usually and statistically making their home lives suck, their life much shorter, and their social life a lie.  Nobody could possibly want that, unless you’re so shallow that money really does mean everything to you.  Maybe suburbia is steaming angry about illegal immigrants taking jobs at less than five dollars per hour cash under the table?  It seems that the anger is misguided and misplaced and should be placed squarely on the shoulders of your neighbor who owns the company who is hiring these poor folks to avoid taxes everyday while simultaneously complaining about his taxes.  I’m not sure that it does much good to be mad at the people who walked thousands of miles just to get a meal, who are only doing what they think is best to survive, and who can’t understand the language you are yelling at them in.

I guess I’m just confused as to what could make you so angry, America?  Do you think you are due more? I see you with your cable TV, new flat screens, smart phones, nice new cars, and I can’t imagine what you could be so angry about?  Where does the deep anger come from?  Are you upset because you think you deserve more?  For doing what?  What have you done lately for your country?  What have you done lately for your neighbor?  For your wife?  Your kids?  Besides complain about politics every four years and scratch your nails mindlessly down the chalkboard of life impatiently waiting for the next presidential election so you can align yourself with who you think to be the winner and then gloat.  This isn’t football you know.

I don’t vote.  Probably never will.   Where I think voting makes more of a difference is at the local level, your house seats, your mayor, your city council.  Bring your voice there, where it can directly effect the community you live in, where your voice starts small and builds as it gets closer to the nations capital.  I’m not sure that you can show up to a booth once every four years to pull a lever, guess on the other names on the ballot, proudly display your sticker like a grade school gold star, and call yourself an American for exercising your “right”.  It’s bigger than that, it’s badder than than, its more intense than that, and it is simply not that easy.  Every election year when the subject is broached and I say I don’t vote people always tell me I’m giving up my American right.  I always ask them when was the last time they voted, and the most common answer is the last presidential election.  But doesn’t this mean that you are giving up your American right too?  I knowingly give up my right to vote, but are you knowingly only voting in the presidential elections?  Making a difference in your community and your government starts at the local level.  And just not enough people participate at that level to make a difference.

Voting for Trump certainly is not the answer.  Then again, maybe voting for Hillary, or Bernie isn’t either.  You might as well vote for your cat.  “Fluffy for President!” I can see the taglines and hashtags now.  “Fluffy would make the Purr-fect President!  #FurMoreYears.  Its all the same, they are just politicians, fat cats vying for power, respect, money and attention.  It’s all big business.  Most of the Trump supporters tell me I should vote for Trump because he is not run by big business.  And I agree, he is not.  He can’t be.  Because he IS big business.  You would just be replacing multiple big business with one big business.  That’s called a monopoly and it is not supposed to be very American.

Maybe we should all vote for the guy on the monopoly game.  He seems OK.  He steadily increases rent as more homes are built.  The nicer the area, the higher the rent.  I guess that makes sense.  “One Nation, Under one Monopoly, for all!”  Is that an oxymoron?  Does that make any sense, America?  If it does, please write me back and explain. Maybe the monopoly guy is just as good at running a business as Trump.  At least we are just as familiar with him.  And no hair is better than bad hair, monocle and all.

And I hear this one a lot.  “Trump should be president because he knows how to run a business!”  That’s fantastic.  But running a country is not running a business.  Our president should be extremely compassionate to all who are living in it, wealthy, poor, immigrants, natives, healthy, sick. The people that live in this country are not assets.  They are humans.  We need to have more compassion for other humans.  We need to have someone represent us that has a lot of compassion for all.  It is difficult to run a big business and maintain compassion for people at the same time.  “You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet!”  Big business makes difficult decisions everyday that sometimes burn people, displace people, anger people, derail and deride people.  That isn’t very compassionate.  And I don’t consider that to be very presidential.  Do you America?

A democracy doesn’t mean that everybody wins all the time.  There are certainly going to be people who aren’t happy with the results.  But it shouldn’t be hate filled anger spewing violently from their guts.  It shouldn’t be Forty-nine percent on one side and Fifty-one percent on the other.  Not everything can be divided so evenly into right or wrong, win or lose.  This isn’t football, you know.  We are human beings, and that which separates us from the animals is reason.  We should be able to work together to blur the lines and find a place where everyone can live harmoniously, compassionately, and with great care for other fellow humans.  Isn’t America all about letting everyone getting a say, living in peace, and having their slice of apple pie?  Well, America?  Are you?

Maybe we should go the opposite route and stay angry.  Who is angrier?  We can let social media set the divisions.  Are angry Twitter followers angrier than angry Instagram followers?  It could be a new reality television show.  We can call it “Make America Angry Again!”  Hey, you never know. Maybe we can get Donald Trump to star in that one, too.

Sincerely,

Anthony Norman White

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.

 

 

Scott’s Soldiers

Hello Everyone.

First I would like to thank everyone for the frequent visits to this site.  Your clicks are greatly appreciated.  I hope you find the articles here entertaining  and/or informative.  I try not to be too serious but as many of you know my passion for the extraordinary sometimes brings me to brimstone and fire, humility growing shorter like a noon day shadow .

Well, tooday I come to you humble and proud.  In short, many of you have seen the devastating effects of cancer.  My family and I are no different.  To combat this we are doing what we can to affect future outcomes of individuals with this disease.  Pi, Ruthie, and I are attempting to raise $50 for the cure.  We are participating in a walk on Onondaga Lake Trail in Liverpool, NY on Saturday June 11th. By following the link below you can donate any amount to the cause.  Once you click the link, you can scroll down and find my name listed as a member of Team Scott’s Soldiers.

DONATE TO SCOTT’S SOLDIERS

My family and I appreciate all you can give.  Money isn’t everything, but support is.

Thank you.

 

Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.

He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband

Or on Facebook, of course.