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Posts Tagged ‘John Prine’

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Some humans ain’t human
Some people ain’t kind
They lie through their teeth
With their head up their behind

You open up their hearts
And here’s what you’ll find
Some humans ain’t human
Some people ain’t kind

John Prine, Some Humans Ain’t Human

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Maybe it’s just being tired from wrestling with a foot of fallen snow or maybe it’s just being sick of being sick about the state of affairs taking place here in this country. I can’t say for sure but whatever the case, it has made me a little misanthropic as of late.

It bothers me and it’s not something I embrace lightly. I’ve always resolved to follow the Will Rogers maxim of I never met a man I didn’t like, believing that I could always find common ground with anyone I came across, could find something that we could agree on. And that was generally the case for the better part of my life.

But the last three or so years have put that resolution to the test as so many of my fellow citizens have been suddenly liberated to openly express their prejudices, their hatreds, their conspiracy based beliefs, their petty spitefulness and a whole litany of stupid behaviors that would crush my spirit completely if I were forced to list them all.

This morning, I just want to give up and embrace my angry misanthropy. Maybe walk to the end of my driveway and give the finger to the first passing car.

That’ll teach ’em, won’t it?

Oh, I know. That won’t happen. I will still try to find good in people, try to find things we have in common.

But be warned: my patience ain’t what it used to be.

So, for this Sunday morning music I have selected what I consider a fitting choice for this mood. It’s Some Humans Ain’t Human from John Prine. He wrote it in 2005 as political commentary on George W. Bush‘s decision to put into the war with Iraq, that one we still can’t seem to shake free from. He said he didn’t want to die with people not being sure where he stood on Bush.

Give a listen and if you want to sing along, go to this link for the lyrics. Then have yourself a good day. No, I really mean it. I want you to have a good day. So steer clear of me, okay?

 

 

 

 

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Came across this old piece, an early attempt from 1994 before I was showing my work in public. It’s painted in way, a direction I never followed much further but it is a piece that always makes me stop.  Don’t know where it came from or why I painted it. Don’t know why I gave him some sort of seaman’s cap and striped shirt. I loosely refer to this as the Sea Dog.

I don’t think there was a narrative at all. It just came. But after 24 years or so, it has developed a story, of a sort, for me. I see him as sailor in an exotic South Seas port city on a misty and mysterious night. A scuffle, a knife fight and a man falls down dead on the dark, wet streets. He flees the port and begins on building a new life with a new identity.

For a minute this morning, I saw him as a young Santa.

Maybe that’s Santa’s backstory? A murderous sailor redeemed?

I don’t know about that. But, hey, you never know.

That brings me to a Christmas song. Well, kind of a Christmas song, one that’s keeping in the spirit of a Killer Kringle. It’s from  John Prine, and it’s Christmas in Prison. It’s been a favorite of mine for decades so I was surprised that I haven’t played it here yet, after ten years of this blog.

Well, today’s the day. Give a listen and don’t mind the subject or title too much. It’s actually a beautiful song. It could be Santa singing, in different circumstances.

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It has become a tradition for my Gallery Talks at the West End Gallery to have a very portion– a pretty popular one– that involves a drawing for those on hand to win one of my paintings. I have written in the past about how I take this very serious and try to find pieces that have meaning for me and which are, I believe, somehow overlooked. The painting I have chosen for this year’s Talk ( next Saturday, August 4 at 1 PM) definitely fits in that category.

Shown below, it is called Pipedream. I have watched with consternation as it traveled around the country, always coming back to me. You see, it was a favorite of mine from the minute it was done. It just felt right with a warmth and clarity that appealed to me and with its Red Tree and Red Roof, it is very much a signature piece. I wracked  my brain figuring out why this piece hadn’t found a home and all I could think was that this might be one of those cases where the title might be confusing if the viewer wasn’t aware of its origin. And if you knew what it meant, given the opioid crisis in this country, you might find it distasteful.

But I saw it in the best sense of the word, as a perfect dream with solitude, rich fields, clear sunlight and calm blue skies. A perfect retreat from a crazy world. So, to clear things up I am running the post about this painting from a few years back.

Hope you can make it to the Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery on August 4th to have a chance at winning this favorite of mine. Plus, as always, there is a little more at these talks. Put it on your calendar and come grab a seat. It could be fun.

GC Myers- Pipedream sm

Blow up your TV , throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try and find Jesus on your own

–John Prine, Spanish Pipedream

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This is a small new painting that is about 6″ by 11″ on paper. I call it Pipedream after the old John Prine song, Spanish Pipedream. I say old but it ‘s one of those songs that never feels old to me despite the fact that it came out back in 1971, forty three years [47 now] ago. It is old. One hint of its age is at the beginning of the song when he says he was a soldier on the way to Montreal, referring to fleeing north into Canada to avoid the Viet Nam war and the draft. But it’s still such an infectious chorus with a message that so hits the point that I still find myself humming this song quite often.

I guess this painting’s simplicity and cheery feel made me think of this song. There is something very idyllic and charmingly essential in this little guy. It does look a bit like a pipedream, which is one of those words that we often use while not thinking about its origin or meaning. This word, pipedream, is from Victorian era Britain and refers to an improbable fantasy or hallucination that came while smoking opium. Maybe this is an improbable fantasy? It does have a fantasy feel about it but lets hope it is not so improbable.

Now here’s the song  from one of my favorites, John Prine.

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It’s hard to believe that we are screaming toward the end of 2017. When I was a kid that seemed like a date from some science fiction book or movie with all of us buzzing around with personal jet packs or in cars that were shaped in the fever dreams of industrial designers, all swoopy and elegantly curved. And we would all be wearing jumpsuits made from sort of shiny fabric while cooking dinner with the flick of a finger like Jane Jetson.

But somehow we slogged through the years and found ourselves here in 2017, living in a much more mundane future than we had envisioned all those many years ago. Oh, there are wonders that we didn’t foresee clearly, like the smartphone. I don’t remember seeing anything that predicted the prevalence of these devices, how we are glued to them or how any photo of a crowd seems like a sea of lit screens recording the moment.

But overall, things are very much the same with many of the same concerns,worries and joys. But sometimes when I see how people of the past envisioned this time, I would like to be living in their future if only for a short while. Maybe tool around on the futuristic motorcycles and cars from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s shown here.  Then maybe pop a meal pellet and zip off to Mars for a long weekend.

I guess this is all leading up to this week’s Sunday song. I think this calls for Living in the Future from John Prine in 1980. I’ve been singing this chorus for the past 37 years:

We are living in the future
I’ll tell you how I know
I read it in the paper
Fifteen years ago
We’re all driving rocket ships
And talking with our minds
And wearing turquoise jewelry
And standing in soup lines
We are standing in soup lines

Have a great Sunday…


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In the studio I have a big box that is overflowing with small flags that we have picked up at the local cemetery where we often walk. There are probably 300 to 400 of them jammed in this box.

Most are faded, dirty and ripped. Some have just come detached from their dowel from the wind and the rain. And some are shredded by the mowing crews who won’t take a moment to get off their machines to pick them up before running over them. I am sure these same guys are probably having a fit that some NFL players are silently protesting by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem.

I have been thinking over the years about incorporating them into a project but it hasn’t taken shape yet. But we continue to pick them up, often replacing them with new flags. I can’t fully explain why.

I don’t blindly worship the flag, don’t consider myself any more patriotic than the next person. I certainly don’t believe that we are in any way perfect as a nation.

Far from it. We are by definition a work in progress– so long as there is progress to made we are not done evolving as a nation.

There’s just something about seeing it being treated so badly that irks me a bit. But I don’t feel that same way at all when I see NFL players silently protesting in a dignified and respectful manner. In fact, their protests to me align perfectly with the symbol of the flag as I see it.

People have somehow come to believe, in the politicization of it, that it solely represents the troops and first responders. Well, while it does represent them it also flies as symbol for every citizen and their equal status in this nation.  Every single citizen is represented in those stars and bars. City folk, country folk, black, white, hispanic, Asian, etc– it doesn’t matter so far as that symbol is concerned. It represents us all under the defining concept of this country that we all are granted the same rights and opportunities and bear the same responsibilities.

It is not just a flag that reminds us of our past. It is our symbol of an aspiration to be ever better, to move far beyond the flaws of the past. That flag is a symbol that wants us to stand against injustices, to protest wrongs, to help the oppressed and to move us closer to what we hope is a perfect state of being.

It is in many ways a flag of protest. Almost all of the progress that has been made in this country– abolishment of slavery, workers rights, universal suffrage, civil rights and so many other things we take for granted on a day to day basis– came about as a result of citizens standing in protest to what they saw as a wrong. In fact, protest had a hand in saving the lives of troops by forcing the government to end the conflict in Viet Nam.

So, if the players’ protests bother you, ask yourself why you are so offended. Ask yourself what you have done to make this country a better place. Have you helped another American in in distress lately?

There are 3 and a half million American citizens living in Puerto Rico who are fighting for their survival and you are worried that these players in their silent protest are somehow ruining America?

Get over it.

If you love the flag and the country so much, make it better.  Recognize those things that wrong us all or help somebody. There are more US citizens in Puerto Rico than the the combined populations of Wyoming, Montana and North and South Dakota. Imagine if every citizen in those four states was on the edge of losing everything they held dear, including their lives.  Wouldn’t you want to reach out to them? Wouldn’t you want to give them the same kind of help you would want if such a thing ever came your way?

If you do think there is a difference helping those states than in extending all the assistance we can muster to Puerto Rico, you are most likely bothered by the NFL protests. In which case, maybe you should look at yourself in the mirror and acknowledge what kind of person you really are.

You might wave the flag, you might even worship the goddamn thing, but you are no patriot.

I have said my piece so let’s move on to this week’s Sunday morning music, one that is made to order for this blog entry. It’s John Prine’s classic protest song about flag wavers and their empty patriotism, Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore. It feels as relevant today as it did in 1972.

So have a good day and wrap yourself in the flag while you think about helping the American people of Puerto Rico in some way. It’s the American thing to do…

 

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I was going through my files, looking at some work from several years ago. It’s something I do on a pretty regular basis as a way to charge my batteries. I see things in these older pieces that reignite ideas that have been swept away to the folds of my brain. Sometimes an idea, like a new composition, comes in a flash that seems exciting, something that tells me that I need to followup on it. Then hours later it is gone or has turned hazy, replaced by the work at hand.  

Oh, sometimes I write them down, rough sketches on loose bits of paper but more often than not they go into that heap that resides somewhere deep inside me. Sometimes they come back on their own, happily for me. Other times, they need a little coaxing, a prod of my memory that sometimes takes place when I revisit older work. Seeing this earlier work in sequence, grouped together, kicks off memories and these older ideas sometimes jump forward. Old friends.

I had that feeling just this morning. I wasn’t going to write anything, was just going to get to work on some things that needed finishing and maybe start a new piece with the hope that the work would create its own inspiration. That is often the case. But I came across a piece from a group of work that I did back in 2011, sepia toned interiors with landscape seen distantly through windows. It excited me on many levels to see the whole group together and I had flashes of other ideas that had either been hiding or were newly forming. It energized me greatly.

Here’s one of those pieces from back in 2011 and what I wrote at the time:

This is a painting I recently finished, a small piece, only 4″ square on paper.  It’s a mix of landscape and very uncomplicated still life with stark but distinct elements throughout.  There’s a simplicity that runs through this scene that covers a depth of feeling, a pang from the heart.

I sat this aside for a day or two after finishing it and found myself coming back to it.  There was a familiar tone to it that reminded me of something that I couldn’t quite identify until this morning when I walked into the studio.  I looked at it as I sat down and instantly said to myself, “Far From Me.”

It was the old John Prine song from his first album which came out forty years back, in 1971. There was something in this piece that filled me the feeling of Prine’s lyrics of gradual loss:

And the sky is black and still now

On the hill where the angels sing

Ain’t it funny how an old broken bottle

Looks just like a diamond ring

But it’s far, far from me

This piece will probably always be that song now for me, a personal avatar for a song buried deep inside and often forgotten.  Funny how things work…

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Sunday morning and I just want to hear some music, something that will make me think, maybe move me a bit. I didn’t know what I was really looking for when I came across this John Prine song from his 2005 album,  Fair and Square. Even though I say it’s his song it was actually written by songwriter R. B. Morris. John Prine just sang it in that way he has that can either make you laugh or cry depending on the song.

This is one that doesn’t make you laugh. It might not make you cry but it will make you think a little bit and no doubt recognize yourself or someone you know in the lyrics of the song. The first verse dragged me in. Here’s That’s How Every Empire Falls. The lyrics are below.

Have yourself a good Sunday.

 
Caught a train from Alexandria
Just a broken man in flight
Running scared with his devils
Saying prayers all through the night
Oh but mercy can’t find him
Not in the shadows where he calls
Forsaking all his better angels
That’s how every empire falls

The bells ring out on Sunday morning
Like echoes from another time
All our innocence and yearning
and sense of wonder left behind
Oh gentle hearts remember
What was that story? Is it lost?
For when religion loses vision
That’s how every empire falls.

He toasts his wife and all his family
The providence he brought to bear
They raise their glasses in his honor
Although this union they don’t share
A man who lives among them
Was still a stranger to them all
For when the heart is never open
That’s how every empire falls

Padlock the door and board the windows
Put the people in the street
“It’s just my job,” he says “I’m sorry.”
And draws a check, goes home to eat
But at night he tells his woman
“I know I hide behind the laws.”
She says, “You’re only taking orders.”
That’s how every empire falls.

A bitter wind blows through the country
A hard rain falls on the sea
If terror comes without a warning
There must be something we don’t see
What fire begets this fire?
Like torches thrown into the straw
If no one asks, then no one answers
That’s how every empire falls.

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