54 - This Is What I Listened to While Learning to Draw

54Growing up in Wisconsin, my family lived in a four bedroom home. As my brother and I never got along, I spent my junior high years sleeping in whatever bed in the house wasn't occupied. My sister was at college for part of this time and my parents, each of whom had their own room but slept together, would sleep in one room for a few months and then the other one, so there was never really a lack of an alternative place for me to lay my head down. But, I did have to toggle from one room to the next for months at a stretch. It probably taught me adaptability, but I sure was happy when the brother moved out of what used to be our bedroom. They did a remodel in my freshman year and from sophomore year onwards, it was mine, all mine.

It was a kind of golden age. I was stable. I had a cast off stereo that I could play my movie soundtracks on. I had a cast off black and white TV I could watch shows on. And, I had a drafting table that my dad gave me for Christmas. It was kind of like my own little studio apartment. Actually, I think it might have been bigger than the studio apartment I first lived in in New York in the mid 90s. :) 

The drafting table gave me no end of pleasure. I'd fire up the stereo with Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman, 1941 (I think I'm the only one who loved that movie), and Close Encounters.  I would spend entire weekends drawing comics full of characters that I made up. No one really saw them and no one was meant to. They were there for me to practice. The music inspired me to draw and write heroic deeds, cliffhangers, and narrow escapes. I know that I have had happy times in my life, but that era was among my favorites. 

Even through my father's illness, I drew and played on. Basically it was my own way of finding something to do and trying to keep life going as normal as it could be. My mother only made one request - that I keep the music from 1941 turned down as it made my father sad reminding him of his days in the War. 

My music tastes have expanded quite a bit since those days. My playlist includes a lot more than pop culture, but it is those soundtracks that form my inspiration. Some day, you might see Angie dashing from a big boulder while wearing a cape and getting into her spaceship at the top of a ferris wheel sitting on a pier. If that happens, you'll know exactly that came from. :) 



54 - Mr. Blue Sky

54Yes. I know. It's ELO. I'm supposed to hate the 'disco' sound but I can't. I don't. I love it. I truly love ELO and pretty much everything they do but MR BLUE SKY is my all time favorite. And it's the perfect launch to a year of being upbeat, positive, celebratory, and looking to the future. The Mister is in agreement with me on this and this song is, on occasion, blasted from our apartment. I am sorry, neighbors but if the guy on one side can sing opera music, and the girls on the other side can clank on the floor with their heels at 1am, we can blast MR BLUE SKY once in awhile. :) 

As a sort of side historical note, my best pal in high school, Woody, and I wrote a MEMO version of THE MUPPET MOVIE and used the last little bit, the orchestral part for a scene where we arrive in New York (ready to conquer the world of cartooning) and are in awe of the tall buildings and the fact that we are, indeed, in New York City. To be honest, I feel like that every day and I've lived here since May 2003 (happy nearly 15th anniversary to me!) and for four years in the mid 90s... so 19 years total and I am still in awe of this city. As it should be. :) 


54 - Ebony and Ivory - "Happy International Andrew Altenburg Day"

54This song selection is dedicated to my pal, AB who will get the reference of this song from our bingo days. :) And thank you, AB for the text. Yes. It IS International Andrew Altenburg Day, why thank you very much. Now, when do we celebrate your 57th or is it 58 at this point? I lose track! LOL :) <wink> 

KEYWORDS: "5 across. 5 down" 5 diagonal". 



54 - The Last Normal Year??

54Good morning all - hope you've had a GREAT week out and about in the world! As you might know, today is my 54th birthday and in honor of that, I'm posting some of my favorite music throughout the day. Enjoy!

You know, I have some friends who find it silly that a 54 year old man would make a big deal of his birthday. I understand the thoughts, but I don't agree with it. I celebrate my birthday every year because to me, it IS a big deal. 

You see, when I was in my mid/late 20s, I had a friend with whom I joked that I was approaching 30 and hadn't accomplished anything. It was a joke, really, I was only in my 20s, but, because he had been in and out of ill health due to AIDS for some years, he grimly replied 'well, some people didn't get to be 30'. And you know, he was right to be annoyed by my ridiculous notion that 30 was something to be dreaded. 

I was always a proponent for celebrating the day in style but, after that, I took an even harder line. There was one year in my 30s when I celebrated for two months with dinners, drinks and producing fundraising events around the country. That was my personal best until I approached 50 - I started celebrating in July 2013 and that lasted through to March 2015. Subsequent birthdays have been a bit quieter, of course, just to balance things out! 

But, 54 for me is abit special as it could be the last 'normal' year. Let me explain. 

In 1980 my dad was diagnosed with cancer. He was 55.  He spent a year on chemo and died at 56. This made a big impact on me, a young man of 17. So, for all these years, I've lived with the looming worry of making it through my 56th year.

So, today, I begin the ramp up to a two year cycle of celebrating 54, 55, 56, and, with God's help, 57 and beyond. Because one person I loved didn't get to be 57. 

I hope you'll join me in this journey, because it promises to be fun and interesting. 

First up, a great way to start anything: 



Saturday Morning Dance Break: Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah)

Good morning and Happy Saturday! 

Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 8.10.49 AMBest to you all reading this - hope all is well on your end! Today, a little video from singer Andy Grammer - I first heard this song a few months ago when I was officiating a wedding on Staten Island. I was there in the car with the grooms and this came on and it LIT ME UP. And you know, some days you just really need that. God knows I've been kind of in a funk for awhile so HALLELUJAH thank you Andy for this song! 

So, this morning write in the comments below here or on FB (here is preferable) why you, yes you, you sexy effer you, think it's good to be alive! And, not for anything, think about it this way (as Simon Pegg said last year) - in all the millions of years that the Earth has been around, we were honored to have had the amazing fortune to have shared a planet with David Bowie. That, in and of itself, is reason it's GOOD TO BE ALIVE. 

Now listen to the song and GET UP whereever you are and enjoy a Saturday Morning Dance Break. Not only do you DESERVE it, you NEED it! :) 

(side note: this is the kind of crazy energy this song gives me and I hope it does a little something for you, too) 




From Kickin Ass to Jumping for Joy #stephenking #ew #entertainmentweekly

Ten years ago I clipped an article from Entertainment Weekly. I actually used to do that a lot - back when I loved an essay and had it in my head that the only way to read it again later was to pull the actual article, three hole punch it and then stuff it in a three ring binder. I have had visions of sitting in an old age home pouring through three ring binders of interesting things I collected throughout my life. I can't quite wrap my head around toting dozens of three ring binders, however, but hey, you never know. 

BlogPhoto2017And then came the internet. OK so the internet was around long before 2007, but up until then, I still was taking film based pictures and stashing those in photo albums. Until then, I barely used my cell phone which, if I remember correctly, could not take pictures or do anything other than, well, make a phone call. I don't know that I was all that put out by having to (horror of horrors) carrying BOTH a phone AND a camera, but I can see where, years later, there is a convenience factor of fewer devices (especially if you also count dragging a walkman or a discman for music around with me too and yes I still own one of each of those. sigh. I mean, I do have old mix tapes that I made for myself and it never really seems like transferring them to digital is worth the time or money but I digress). 

But around 2007 / 8 Facebook and similar social media outlets popped up and then people started sharing articles. And soon, there were less articles to clip anyway because the essay went out of style around the time that printed magazines started going out of style. In truth, the essay is well and alive on the net, but we don't really read that much any more and what does pretend it's an essay, is just 200 to 300 words by a blogger hoping to score some hits if they mention certain high traffic names. I'm not knocking it. GEORGE CLOONEY. I'm sure that at some point I've done this myself. ANGELINA JOLIE. And I definitely don't have a judgement about it. KELLY CLARKSON. But it is a kind of cheap way to get traffic to ones blog. 

Anyway, I stopped collecting and my three ring binders saving things for an old rainy day became stuck in time, like a dinosaur tail in amber. 

Recently, I've been digging up a lot of things like the three ring binders and have been doing some serious pruning. It feels good to purge and whittle down to some real basics (I have a very long way to go before I get to the bare nubbins, but a little every day). You wouldn't know that I am a kind of packrat, I think, by walking through our apartment - my life clutter is in neat order, but admittedly, I have a lot of life clutter. 

Today's excavation unearthed one of my all time favorite essays - it's by Stephen King and from his regular column in Entertainment Weekly. As noted above, it's from 2007 and is called (yes, believe it), "Jumping for Joy". I'd link to it but I have tried to find it online but cannot, ironically enough, and that's what concerns me. I've (and you've) decided that everything we want to read is online in one place or another. Except. It isn't. At least not with a normal amount of searching. And who is to say that the internet will exist in its current form whenever that day is that they put me away (some days it feels like it'll be tomorrow, but realistically, that's at least two to three decades away and a lot can happen in two or three decades, technology-wise). 

So maybe I'll continue to save articles/essays, but only the very best ones. 

Here's the paragraph that changed my life in 2007: 

"It's easy - maybe too easy - to get caught up in serious discussions of good and bad, or to grade entertainment the way teachers grade school papers (as EW doe, in case you missed it). Those discussions have their place, even though we know in our hearts that all such judgements - even of the humble art produced by the pop culture - are purely subjective. And as a veteran grade-grind in my youth, I have no problem awarding A's, B's and the occasional G to movies, books, and CDs (which is not to say I don't also have reservations by such drive-by critiques). But the artsy/intellectual discussions have little to do with I how I felt when I saw Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects. This movie made no one's top 10 list except mine, but I'll never forget some exuberant (and possibly drunk) moviegoer in the front row shouting: "This movie KICKS ASS!" I felt the same way. Because it did." 

I titled this blog Jumping for Joy because of this essay because I wanted (and still want) to create something where someone will say "THIS KICKS ASS!" Don't we all? 

On that note, I'll wrap up for today, enjoy your Thursday and Peace, all.