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    Thursday
    Jun212018

    The Magic of Questions

    “We thought we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong."  -  Bono

    Long before I ever heard the song, 11 O’Clock Tick Tock, by U2, I was seeking answers, but sometimes asking the wrong questions. No matter. What was important was that I was damn fucking curious.

    We’ve all heard that “Curiosity killed the cat”. Bullshit. I would rather be a cat killed by curiosity than a cat so asleep at the wheel of life that he never ventured deep into the unknown; never questioning, never looking, never seeking, never bothering to go beyond the limits of his own metaphysical peripheral vision. 

    Ultimately, the questions we ask are more important than the answers. Because we may never get the answers. But at least we can be clear about the questions. Answers are more ethereal, more subjective, and more determinant based on their source. Questions are actually more concrete, more definitive. Paradoxical, but true. 

    You can tell a lot more about a person based on the questions they ask, or don’t ask, rather than the answers they give. When you have a conversation with someone, pay attention to the questions you ask, and pay attention to the questions they ask. What are you curious about? What are they curious about? The breadth and the depth of the questions define the conversation, not the answers. 

    Even today, I’m as insatiably curious as a child. Curiosity is one of the cornerstones of my personality, one of my definitive traits. I love being surrounded by curious people. They feed me, and I feed them, with the questions we ask. Looking for the answers is often more satisfying than actually getting them. When I am immersed in the process of discovery with another person, I feel a deep sense of connection. At its best, the experience is spiritual.

    My father was incredibly curious, and he planted that seed in me. I recall a very poignant moment with him one day about 25 years ago. We were sitting in his office, where we had many great discussions together. On this day, we were talking about success, and how we define it. I asked my dad what the word “success” meant to him. He told me that it wasn’t about how much money you make. For my dad, it was about how much one is loved, and how much one loves. He rattled off a slew of adjectives that defined the parameters of success for him: respect, kindness, integrity, generosity, being the best friend, husband, father, uncle, you could be. He basically, without knowing it, described himself.

    But when I then asked him if he considered himself a success, my father shocked me with his reply: “Not really” he said. I came back with “Dad, do you realize that you just described yourself?”. 

    Then, my dad paused, and did what he always did when he was deeply pondering something. He squinted his eyes, stared off into space, leaned back in his office chair, and gently picked his lip. My dad was, for a moment, speechless. I had nailed him, and he knew it. After a few moments, he said, “Yeah, you’re right. Let me get back to about that.” I loved it when I asked my dad a question he couldn’t answer. He respected and valued my curiosity, and my intelligence, and this was vindication of that.

    Dad never did get back to me on that one. If he came back to life, that is where my first discussion with him would begin. Right after I hugged and kissed him like there was no tomorrow. 

    When I was in school, During tests, I would routinely make up the answers to questions when I didn’t have a clue. My philosophy was, if I couldn’t make an educated guess, I might as well have some fun. 

    Join me for part two when I delve into the creative mayhem of that.

     

    ©2018 Clint Piatelli, MuscleHeart LLC, and Red F Publishing. All rights reserved. 

    Tuesday
    May152018

    The Phantom Of The Opera (Me & My Monsters - part 2)

     

     

    One Saturday night, when I was about ten, my folks left my twin brother and I alone in the house to go get the pizzas they had ordered for dinner. It’s the first time I ever remember my folks leaving us alone at night. 

    They picked a doozy of a night to leave Mike and I alone. Because, on that night, for the first time in my limited lifespan, the original silent version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Lon Chaney, was airing on Channel 2, one of the two local Public Television stations in Boston.

    I was familiar with the story of The Hunchback, and had heard so much about the movie, but had never seen it. That was back during a period when even iconic cinematic creations were not readily available. This may shock some of you younger readers, but if you wanted to see a movie that wasn't in the theatres, you had to wait until it aired on television. And you may have to wait for that for years. This was at a time when there were only a total of maybe eight stations you could get (three major networks, three UHF channels, and two public television stations. And even that lofty number was only available in major markets). This was the true age of PC: the archaic time of “Pre-Cable”. 

    The real gem of the evening, for me, however, was not even the movie. It was the highlight real of The Career of Lon Chaney, when they showed the unmasking scene of arguably his most famous movie, The Phantom of The Opera. 

    The face of The Phantom of The Opera is possibly the most frightening face in the history of moviedom. Incredible, when you consider that it was created in 1925, in black and white, during the silent film era. There was thus no spoken dialogue to augment the visual. Although, there was music. One could argue that such a limitation as no talking, and the only sound being music, actually made what you saw on the screen all the more impactful, all the more terrifying.

    And, even more amazing, The Face of The Phantom was created by the actor himself, using nothing but makeup, greasepaint, prosthetics, and very effective lighting. No post-production special effects. No CGI. No real technology to speak of. 

    The unmasking scene had nonetheless lived inside of me ever since my Aunty You-You told me about it. 

    The Face simultaneously scared the crap out of me and drew me towards it like a moth to a flame. I had only seen The Face in still images and artist’s impressions. I had never seen the the moving image.

    In the early 1970’s, you never knew when you would actually get to see an actual movie, or even a clip of it. That created a completely unknown time frame of anticipation of when, or even if, you would see it. That anticipation created a potential impact that doesn’t exist today, when virtually any image, be it moving or still, is virtually always at our disposal. 

    When I finally saw that scene of unmasking, it burned itself so far into me that it made it’s way into my sub-conscious. For years. I remember being scared to death, seeing The Face it in all it’s glory, not turning away, and being so riveted that I literally froze. 

    I had nightmares about That Face for years. It would wake me up screaming and crying, thankful that it was only a dream. 

    But was seeing that face worth it? Fuck yeah.

    We Monster Fans are A Rare Breed.

     

    © 2018 Clint Piatelli, MuscleHeart LLC, and Red F Publishing. All rights reserved.

    Monday
    May072018

    Bully

    The scars of being bullied as a kid run deep. You move on, and it’s something you manage, like depression. Maybe it’s totally healed when you reach a certain level of enlightenment. I’m not there yet.

    Bullies are cowards by nature. Their bravado is a smoke screen. They inflate themselves with physical, verbal, and emotional aggression. I wish I had somebody to tell me that as a kid, but I didn’t. I figured that out, on my own, as I grew up. Which is why these days I eat bullies for lunch. And breakfast. And even dinner. Although they don’t usually work for dinner. Too much fat and unnecessary calories so late in the day.

    I became a target because I was a fat, quiet kid (hard to believe now, I know), and because I had bullies in my family. That’s how it works. You attract what you are surrounded by. Most of us don’t receive any coaching on how to handle bullies. When we get older, we gain the opportunity to learn how to deal with them. 

    I started to develop physically about the same time I got into psychology, which was late high school. Gaining some physical stature, along with gaining insight into the mind of the bully proved a synergistic dynamic. I gained a confidence of both body and mind. 

    The way you deal with bullies who won’t back off is to get up in their fucking face and challenge them. With all you have. Push the envelope. They will back down. Because, again, they are cowards. By Nature. 

    And, even of you are once more beaten down by the bully, you have a rare and precious feather in your cap: You stuck up for yourself. You met the demon head on. It may not feel good in the beginning, if you lost that battle, but it will give you the juice to win the war. You are parlaying that into a victory of self. 

    I’m not promoting violence. I’m promoting self care. Sometimes that means ignoring an asshole. And sometimes it means backing him or her off. In that case, a quick wit and calm demeanor will usually be enough. 

    And I have this fantasy, where I meet each one of my bullies, one at a time. Then I kick the crap out of them. I utilize any unresolved pain as fuel. This is a fantasy. It’s not something I’ll ever act on. Because the best way to heal being bullied, or any other wound, is to be happy in life. To love yourself. To be kind, loving, supportive, and generous with your feelings. I want to lift people up. Not beat them down. I live that way most of the time. And sometimes, I think about how good it would feel to nail their sorry ass. That’s just being human.

    The higher road is to have compassion for the bully. Because they were most likely bullied themselves, and they choose to bully others as a way of dealing with their own pain. Sometimes, I have compassion for them. Right at this moment, I don’t. Which is why I’m writing about sticking it to them.

    And, ultimately, standing up to a bully is all about you, not them. Handling yourself in hostile situations is a life skill that needs constant honing. Being able to take care of yourself is something that children need to learn, as soon as possible. That starts with fostering self esteem and self love. The more of that the child has, the more equipped they are are to deal with hostility. I didn’t have much of either as a kid, so I was ill suited for any sort of attack. I would also teach my kid, boy or girl, how to physically defend themselves. If push comes to shove in the schoolyard, you want it to end quickly and in your favor. Don’t ever be the offender. But if you suddenly find yourself on the defense, you need to be a bad ass linebacker. Not a tackling dummy.

     

    ©2018 Clint Piatelli, MuscleHeart LLC, and Red F Publishing. All rights reserved. 

    Thursday
    May032018

    Me & My Monsters

    There were two kinds of kids growing up: kids who were into Monsters and kids who weren’t. Guess which one I was?

    Those of us who liked Monsters were obsessed with them. There was no other way to be. You either thought Monsters were the coolest thing in creation, or you thought they were the dumbest thing in the universe, besides school. And us Monster obsessed were not the “cool” kids. We were the artists: the outliers, the misfits. And we were almost exclusively boys. Girls were still the enemy at that age, and being a Monster fan not only made you the enemy, it made you exceptionally weird. 

    When I was eight years old, one Saturday morning in the heat of summer, I saw my first cover of the fan mag Famous Monsters of Filmland in the local variety store. It’s my very first indelible image of Monsters, and it forever burned itself deep into me. I vividly remember being frozen in my little tracks at the visual onslaught of that cover. And I remember positively quaking in my little sneakers at what could be inside. 

    Even today, when I look at images of those covers (most of the best painted by Basil Gogos) I get a Metaphysical Boner. A Metaphysical Boner is when everything in your being, except your loins, gets turned on. It’s an engagement of body, mind, heart, and soul, minus sexual stimulation. Why limit the magical experience of an erection just to sexual experiences? If everything else but your groin is firing at 1000 horsepower, it still counts.

    It was also my first recollection of the overwhelming sensation of “Absolutely Having To Have It”. I  was willing to steal that magazine if I had to; even though dad had admonished such behavior; even though dad himself was with me at the time, and I would somehow have to sneak it by him if he said “No”. The desire to have that magazine was so compelling that I was willing to risk whatever consequences befell me if I got bagged ripping it off. Luckily, dad said “Yes”, and the rag was Mine. Mine. All Mine.

    I devoured that magazine like a rabid wolverine on steroids. That magazine shaped me. Formed me. Molded me. And it scared the crap out of me and gave me nightmares. 

    Complicated, yes. How can something so enthrall you, so totally capture you, and still scare the crap out of you, even give you bad dreams? I don’t know. But you know what? It sure sounds a lot like what Romantic Love does to most of us. 

    Monsters were my fist love affair. They moved me in almost every way that love with a girl would do for me nine years later.

    I’ve got lots more to write about regarding Monsters. Stay tuned.

     

    © 2018 Clint Piatelli, MuscleHeart LLC, and Red F Publishing, All rights reserved.

    Sunday
    Apr152018

    Fuck Off To Corporate Rock 

     

    WARNING! X RATED RANT AHEAD!

    I am not prone to rants. Unless I am. 

    What prompted this one is something we have all run up against: The limiting of how we can use music we have already paid for.

    So here we go. I hope you can hear your own voice in this.

    Hey, greedy-ass-uber-succesful-rock bands. I’ve paid for your music at least five times over. I bought your albums (even the “Greatest Hits” jobs that were just duplicate compilations of music I already had); I bought your CD’s when the medium changed over; I even bought some of your MP3’s when that became the way of the world. I went to your concerts, shelled out big bucks for the tickets, and paid ridiculous sums for your insanely over-priced-sweat-shop-made flimsy t-shirts. Without regret, or complaint. I did it happily and willingly. Because I’m a fan. Because I support you.

    But now you have become what you most loathed when you made your best music. You have become greedy, penny-pinching, disengaged, out of touch corporate shill fuckwads. 

    And don’t give me this shit that “You don’t understand what it’s like being this successful”, or that “We have to protect our art”. I’m not talking about taking advantage of your music that we haven’t already paid for. I’m not taking about making money off of your music. I’m talking about being free to enjoy, and create (remember that word?) from music we’ve already bought. 

    That doesn’t seem okay with you. You want to limit how we enjoy it. You want to limit how we listen to it.

    So fucking what if a guy from DeMoines, Iowa makes a video for his wife and uses your music? He’s not making a nickel off of it. He’s using it to enhance lives. And so fucking what if he even sells 25 copies of it to friends and family who were moved by it? Yeah, maybe he ends up making $100, gross, over his expenses, but your music just got more exposure. Guess what? You just sold a few more copies of that song on iTunes. Or you just made a few more CD or album sales; and you made that coin by doing absolutely nothing but allowing a true fan to honor your music. 

    And, as far as his “profit” of one-hundred beans goes, I’m not even talking about the time he put into it. That, he did out of true love. Oh, wait, you probably don't understand that four letter word. You lost that when you stopped being artists making money and became just making money. Go back to bean counting. Because that’s all you guys give a fuck about now. And, by the way, if your current music sucks, it’s precisely because of everything I just talked about.

    The same argument for “Protecting Our Music” was made in the 1970’s when it became possible to record albums on cassettes. The industry cried “This is the death of music! Nobody is going to buy albums anymore! Woe is us!”. Guess what happened? An explosion of the industry, not the death of it. Your music got more exposure. Which translated into sales, into longevity; into more albums, into more opportunities, more tours, more groupies, more money; into the birth of classics rock stations, which has given you second, third, and fourth winds. As it should. That is what you reaped because that is what you sowed. Good for you. 

    The bottom line is that, more exposure to your music means more to your bottom line. Maybe not this quarter, but certainly in the long run. And even in the not so long run. But since you one time creative musicians have now become simply corporate drones churning out passionless, half-assed elevator worthy tripe, all you give a rat’s ass about is this quarter. 

    You’ve paid your dues. You’ve bled for your music. You’ve toured non-stop, endured the hardships of the road, become addicts, recvovered, and spent your own money arduously creating your craft. We applaud thee. We supported thee. We love thee. If you don’t have it in you anymore to make it the way you made it, we don’t blame you. Thank you for all your years of creating music that enriched our lives. But for fucks sake, stop sticking it up our fucking ass in your golden years.  

    I’m not referring to up and coming bands who haven’t yet reached the status that, no matter what they put out, it’s gonna go platinum. Those new comer bands need every nickel. And I will gladly give it to them, just like I did to you. I’m talking about established, multi-million dollar acts who make money whenever they fart. Acts like, not to name names, but I will; Metallica. The Eagles. 

    Cut the shit, assholes. Your children’s children’s children are going to live fat off the hog because of what you’ve already done. And that’s great. They deserve it. You deserve it.

    And your fans deserve a break from your rapaxcious bullshit regarding music we’ve already fucking paid for.

    Please, go make some music as passionate as this writing. Or go back to bean counting. And we’ll find a way rip you off, because it's your own mindless attitude that creates that paradigm.

    Well now. That felt good. 

     

    © 2018 Clint Piatelli, MuscleHeart LLC, and Red F Publishing. All rights reserved (assholes).