Friday, December 31, 2010

Generational Evolution

I recently had an epiphany.

It didn’t take much to have this grand thought pop up in my head. As a matter of fact, it was something fairly trivial. Much like how epiphanies tend to come about.

A good friend of mine whom I have known for years started showing a strong interest in science, specifically theoretical physics. When I asked him why he had the sudden interest in a subject that was off his beaten path, he simply stated that he had always been a fan of scientific studies and theories. The only difference is that now, he is tired of hiding his inner nerd.

The new essay on The Motion of Hydrogen Atoms in an Excited State is out!  I must tell the WORLD!!!

Is it that nerdy to be interested in the vast unknown? Hardly. The subject has always been fascinating to me, as well as anyone that has taken the time to learn about it. I’ve found that when they do, it turns into a slippery slope and they completely immerse themselves in it. So why would such an interesting topic also have such a stigma attached to it? I think it’s simply a question of how we were raised. “Raised?!” you ask, “Parents almost always want their children to learn!” I’m not talking about parents. In my personal opinion, the average child is only half raised by their parents. The rest is done by their peers as they grow up.

Let me give you an example. I've always been (more or less) an oddball as I was growing up. Because of this, I stood on the edge of the social norms from kindergarten though sophomore year in high school. Then after a while, I found myself gravitating towards the majority of the kids I went to school with. My speech, actions, even my personality became somewhat parallel with theirs. At the time it seemed like I was “naturally converging” with them. In actuality, it was something a lot more obvious. I wanted to be a part of the group.

One of my college courses dealing with psychology in a social setting demonstrated this very well. We were shown scientific studies in which a group of people in different age groups were asked multiple choice questions. These questions were extremely easy; with the correct answer being borderline common sense. The twist to this specific experiment was that four out of the five people being quizzed were actors, purposely and uniformly answering the questions wrong. Consistently, younger test subjects (13-16) would agree with the actors and answer the questions incorrectly. Whereas the older subjects (21-27) would disagree with the others and choose the correct answer. The purpose was to demonstrate that younger people have a tendency to want to go along with the group, rather than being right… even if the group is comprised of total strangers.

Yes, many people grow up never following this path and stay their true, odd, beautiful selves, and I honestly applaud them for doing so. They are ahead of the curve, and they seem to live more happy and fulfilling lives once they grow up. Me? I had to learn that fact the hard way.

On my hour-long drive to work this morning, I kept dwelling on this subject, and I noticed something.

Every generation evolves from “little shits” to “old farts” without really noticing it until they start comparing themselves to the younger crowd. Furthermore, the thirst for knowledge may get lost in the majority of teenagers’ years, but it comes back when their maturity grows. With a vengeance.

I myself had only rekindled my lost love for The Written Word a few years ago. When I was right around the age of twenty-three, one of my best friends suffered a horrific motorcycle accident in Elkhart Lake during the AMA races. In the following weeks, many of us spent our days in a hospital waiting room, hounding the doctors and nurses for status updates, waiting for him to wake up. So much so, that we were becoming idiot savants in the medical field. After spending every waking moment learning what instruments indicated what, how to judge was a good reading was, and learning everything there was to know about the process that one goes through as they're waking up from a coma. We even found ourselves advising total strangers that were dealing with the same dilemma. Soon after that point I became desperate for some sort of distraction. A distraction to keep me from a haunting thought, following me around like a mariachi band that I refused to tip. It was the idea that someone I considered family may not be waking up, ever.

When I drove back home to pick up some clean clothes and provisions for the following week I would be spending in a hotel room, I decided to do something I haven’t done in about seven or eight years. I stopped by a bookstore and looked around. After about an hour of not knowing where to begin, I stumbled across an author that I had heard of before. Sitting down and reading that book when I got back to the hospital helped a lot. From then on, I was always reading something. (In case you were wondering… he eventually woke up, and will be attending law school next year. He’s the toughest mofo I know.)


I will admit what caused my transition from playing video games to reading was not a normal one by any standards. However, that’s not to say that the majority of my peers didn’t go through that same transition in their own way. Something subconsciously or consciously changes in them, or maybe something internally or externally happens to them. Whatever the reason may be, it definitely has a profound effect on a person becoming an adult. A vaguely familiar quote comes to mind, “As I was a child, I thought like a child and understood as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things.” I’m almost certain it was a Bible verse, which is why I'm almost certain I quoted it wrong. However, don’t bother correcting me; you should be almost certain I couldn’t care less.

Now that I'm actually paying attention to my generation, its underlying maturity becomes more and more apparent. Global issues, literature, science, the arts, and a general need for further knowledge fill the void that is created by spending less time on things like glittering vampires and The Hills.

Lately I have been catching myself having “old fart” thoughts. “Those little punk kids.” “Have some damn manners.” “Turn that damn music down, you're driving through a neighborhood” “I need a nap.” “Shit, my oxygen tank is running low.” This has caused my view of society in terms of age and attitude to shift. I originally thought I was supposed to be at least thirty-five to think that “those kids are nothing but punks”, but not when I was one of them just a few years ago.

Self portrait.

I really hope that I'm right. While I do notice my generation growing, I also notice our younger counterparts, and they seem to be worse than ever. Maybe it really is the fault of the parents. Being the digital age of SMS and MMS, blogging, Wikipedia and WebMD, apathy and complacency might have set into the older folk. They find everything that they were taught becoming available online, thus they see less of a need to drive their kids nuts by butting into their lives, to teach them right from wrong. Ethical from unethical. Manners from deserving a kick in the ass. These newly middle-aged people may be becoming pussies more and more. They seem to be getting skittish about actually disciplining their kids, for fear of them calling the cops and reporting child abuse for something as diminutive as grounding them. Which I'm sad to say, has happened.

Now when I say “discipline” I'm not talking about grabbing a belt, or even spanking for that matter. I'm talking about simply letting the kid know who the boss really is. Scold them with some fucking authority for once. Look angry, stand high and tower over them, deepen your voice and let your fists rest on your hips. Put the fear of god into those little pricks. Then maybe, just maybe they will realize that they don't wear the pants in the family. After that, they might not turn into cocky teenagers and young adults who think they're better than everyone around them. Many of which have learned to write and speak in what I call “Suburban Ebonics”. Constantly using terms such as “TTYL, BRB, ROFL”, and writing in the dumbest way I’ve ever had the displeasure of seeing… “u need 2 gt w me, need 2 gt sum azz. Plz?”. I must clarify, did not receive this message myself… though I’d be willing to bet that someone, somewhere has received it within the last hour.
And she sent it.

While it may be satisfying to bitch about this sort of thing, at the end of the day I really hope that I’m mistaken. I've always held people to a higher regard than I probably should, but somehow, I'm rarely disappointed in the outcome. So from now on, I won’t be so worried about the younger kids I see, because I am now starting believe that every generation grows out of that immaturity and takes an interest in bettering themselves through knowledge and substance.

Every generation may have been worse than the one before it, but so far, they’ve always found their way back...

Like what you read?  Check these out:
Full Disclosure
Voice of Others


Published, 4/2010. Self Expression Magazine

I'll admit, I had only started hearing about Jayk about a year ago through rumors and mutual friends. Being a bit of an apathetic person, I took the route that required minimal effort, and decided to do a little research on the guy via the internet. Following a link or two, I made it to his MySpace page, where I was able to sample the music that many of my friends were so jazzed about. Also being a cynical person, I had it in my head that Jayk was just above average, nothing too special.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. After listening to every song, I couldn’t help but wonder why he didn’t already have a multi album deal and two or three music videos in heavy rotation. It didn't make any real sense to me. The maturity and range of his voice was nothing short of staggering. Couple that with his immense talent as a guitarist, and you have the makings of a future rock star. Thoughts began popping up. "I need to tell someone about this! Write to a newspaper, call TMJ4... tell my congressman to sponsor a tour! Something!"
Sadly, the reality of it was, I didn't have any pull with the local news media. Even worse, I did not have any politicians in my pocket, as I was not a high ranking mafia member... a bitter reality I have been struggling with for years. So not having much of an outlet to get the word out, I simply became a fan. Periodically checking up on his page, or catching a show at MiKeys, I did what many other people have done and simply enjoyed the music.

Then an opportunity arose. I first approached Jayk in the middle of a crowded bar with an idea to do an article on him. Despite the fact having never met me before, he perked up and had no problem showing that he was excited about my idea. Knowing at the moment we were both busy entertaining the people we were with, I asked if I could send him more information about where and when we could sit down and discuss it further. Following an enthusiastic "Yes!”, we shook hands and parted ways.

Around 10pm on a Monday night, I was on the East Side at a bar I frequent called Cans. Looking more serious than I actually was, I was jotting down some notes in preparation.
“I'll be there in ten minutes", he texted me.
"Cool, I'll be the one sitting off to the side looking more serious than I actually am"
Suddenly I got a tap on the hand, surprising me and making me drop my pen. “Hey! I’ll be right back, I'm gonna grab a drink.” Sweet Jesus, he really snuck up on me. I picked up my pen and made another note.

“Possible fall-back career: ninja.”


Two minutes later he came back and sat down. Drinks in hand, we started chatting. Little did I know, the person I was sitting across the table from was not just any other guitarist from Milwaukee, he’s already been across the country on multiple tours, appearing on TV spots and landing sponsorship deals.

At the age of 21, Jayk met a man by the name of Alan Cook, who happened to be in town with The Mountain Dew Action Sports Tour, a nationwide tour that features athletes in BMX, motocross, and skating to name a few. After seeing Jayk play, he decided to add him to the roster. Playing in the “House of Dew” venue, Jayk was able to gain fans all over the country, even people on tour with him, like professional BMX biker Dave Mirra and his wife Lauren. They liked him so much, when the tour was in Orlando Dave grabbed Jayk from his hotel room and took him out for a night of partying at a local bar. Jayk was barely into his twenties, but he was he was in Orlando, hanging out with a world famous BMX star, on a nationwide tour with his own sponsorship by DC Shoes, surrounded my women. “It was the first moment in my life I was like… holy fuck.”

While on that same tour, Jayk was the feature on a show called “The Daily Habit” on Fuel TV. Playing his song, “Day of Reckoning” he played a flawless set, not letting the idea of national television phase him. That song had been played many times, but this time it seemed like the lyrics had a special meaning. Lyrics like, “Someday you’ll be coming to L.A. to see me…” and “He’s finally had his day of reckoning” seemed they were starting to become validated and sound like less of a story and more of a reality. The guest host Paul Roberts seemed to be so impressed with the performance, he walked up and asked “You gonna remember me when you’re famous?” as soon as he got a chance to be candid.

Though, the tour had to end sometime. Armed with some worthwhile experience in the music industry, and a realization that big things really can happen, he came back home to Milwaukee. Sending out emails, talking to other bands & bar owners and handing out demos, he continued his grassroots campaign. Even though the last five years of doing just that haven’t been easy, but they have been getting him somewhere. He currently has management based out of a strong and well known firm in Los Angeles, newly recorded tracks out of that same city that are due to be released very soon, a large fan base in Milwaukee and a following on the internet that exceeds 17,000 people. With all of that, there is one prevailing aspect that he always has going for him, he can always play a damn good show.

Recently, I was able to catch another one of Jayk’s shows at Cans and I have to say, every time I do I’m somehow surprised of his sheer talent. That night he played a half hour set, obviously consisting of his own music, but a couple covers as well… including a very amazing version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”. I stood off to the side, people watching. After surveying everyone once or twice, I noticed something that made me a little disappointed. Not everyone was paying attention to the show. Maybe they would if they all knew how he felt about playing those songs for them.

About a week before the show, we were sitting in that very same bar, getting buzzed. At one point he paused then made a remark that stuck with me, “I love to perform”. I believe it, and so would you if you were to check out one of his shows. The minute he starts playing, it’s easy to see. I couldn’t help but wonder what he thought about Milwaukee’s music scene and being a part of it. Once I asked, I was happy to find out he had quite a lot to say on the subject.

“The scene here is just lacking in togetherness; bands seem more willing to work AGAINST one another than WITH one another. I'm just as guilty as the next guy to be honest with you. We all look out for the better interests of ourselves and our bands before considering how we can reach out and help other talented bands find their way around here, you know? It’s pretty laughable when you really think about it, but it’s been that way as long as I can remember. ‘MY Milwaukee band is better than YOUR Milwaukee band.’(laughs)
It took me five years to gain the bit of attention and notoriety I've been able to accumulate, and I've worked damn hard for it, so I guess I get it when bands turn cold toward one another… Everybody needs to push themselves, there are no free handouts in life and the rejection made me push way harder than I ever thought I could, or would.”

Jayk has learned quite a lot with his experiences thus far, and is always willing to share what he’s learned. “Keep writing, keep playing, keep working. I’m a firm believer that if you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way to get it- no matter what.” From what I know now, it’s easy to tell that Jayk is an extremely determined person and I don't foresee him quitting any time soon. Now that he has music that was recently mastered in Los Angeles, I’d put money on him pushing even harder and making things happen. He put it in very simple terms to me, “This isn’t just a hobby, I really believe in what I do”.
My only hope now is that many more people discover this artist’s talent and enjoy his music as much as everyone else has already, because from where I'm sitting, I see nothing but a great musical career in the future. Become a fan now, while you're still able to stroll up to him and say “You gonna remember me when you're famous?”

Don't worry, he will.

Like what you read?  Check these out:
Full Disclosure
Voice of Others

Spontaneous Genius

Published as "Free Pour", 4/2010. Self Expression Magazine

Ask Father Time to reach over and spin the arms of the nearest clock to 1am. Once he gives you the nod, hop into your car and sputter to the nearest dive bar that doesn’t play rap or house music on a regular basis.

If you're lucky, you will witness the simple yet amazing act of barroom shenanigans. The bartenders have said goodbye to their last unknown patron, wiped down the spot that’s now open and have begun acting only as they do when their friends are around. These friends… have been there for hours. Sitting in the stools they always sit in, drinking their ninth round, the first of which was ready for them the moment they set foot inside the building. The true regulars.

Unshaven and dirty, these regulars don't care enough to change out of their work clothes before they arrive. Why would they try to impress people that know them so well? The only thing they care about is enjoying the company of individuals they have come to trust like family over the many, many nights of slurred rambling and epic battles of bar dice. The barkeeps feel the same way. They feel a certain level of comfort the second they recognize those familiar faces, the same sensation one might feel if they grab the TV remote and find an old movie they know verbatim.

Please, don't judge me.

The group, the crew, the family… they’re called many things. Just don't call them "The Wolfpack", they won’t stand for it. Drink after drink, smoke after smoke, they tell jokes and stories, they poke fun at one another, they make each other feel comfortable. So comfortable, they have no problem letting mischievous ideas become a reality. A pint glass is pulled from the dust covered shelf, filled half way and slid down the bar just like you would see in the old spaghetti westerns. It hits an ash tray and topples over, spilling beer down the rest of the newly designated “race track”. Sober? Clean that up. Drunk and mischievous? That freshly spilled nectar of the gods is now lubricant for the next try.

“Oh, I planned that… the glass didn’t go fast enough.” He says. “Round two.” He overestimates how slippery beer can be, the glass shoots by its destination like a city bus driver asleep at the wheel, and plummets to the already beer soaked floor. Round three… and four… five… eight. Turns out those old movies used trick-photography. That HAS to be the reason why. Stubbornness and pride would not allow any other explanation.

There’s a lull in the conversations. What next? One or two people have already stood up from their stools, ready to mobilize in some way. Why not take advantage of that?

A race.

Perfect! The “brainstorming” has begun. Tidal waves of ideas are spit shot out at the same time. And right now, they're all pure genius. The hard liquor causes all logic to be tossed aside… logic like: the drunker a person is, the fewer guidelines there should be. So every idea is somehow utilized, including the unwritten rule of any drinking sport is that chugging must take place, usually at the end.

“Take two shots, run outside into the parking lot, around the building, back inside, throw two darts… the second one has to be a twenty. Then run back to your chair… spin THREE times, then chug a full beer! The first one to do it between 2:00 and 2:30 gets a free drink!!!”

Everyone cheers.

The following thirty minutes are nothing short of a chaotic symphony.

Oh yeah. You can bet your sweet ass it's like this.

The shots don't get poured, outside someone sprints right into a parked car. No one can find the fucking darts.

“How many times do I have to spin? Does it have to be my chair or can it be John’s? John’s chair doesn’t wobble.”

“It wasn’t my turn to go?! Since WHEN were we taking turns???”

“Who took my watch??? Oh, there it is. You’ll have to go again, I didn’t time you.”

For one reason or another, the participants get distracted from the task at hand, forfeiting any chance of the great victorious ending they were so hoping to achieve.

Last call. It’s time to stagger home and sleep it off. The credit card receipts are signed, the final five dollar bill is set next to an empty bottle. One by one, everyone puts their coat on, grabs everything they have lying on the bar and shove it all into one pocket. Going down the line, handshakes are given out. Occasionally, a personalized version takes place that was rehearsed the night before, around 1 am.

What just happened should not be taken lightly my friends. It may not seem like much to these people who are now getting a ride home or stumbling through strangers’ yards looking for their house, but they displayed a state of mind that fades away with age. If taken at face value, one might consider this to be a simple case of drunken idiots encouraging drunken idiots. I beg to differ. This is a revisiting of a time in life when things were simpler. Back when they were kids and the largest worry of the day was making it home in time for dinner. That booze took away all of their worries and inhibitions, leaving nothing but a group of kids looking to have some fun. But instead of bikes and Nerf guns, they had bar stools and darts. The next step is to have this innocent fun while stone-cold sober.

Well, sober-ish.

I see no reason why this town doesn’t take that next step, in the form of a flash mob. For those of you that don't know what a flash mob is, its best described as a group of people that quickly come together in a public place, perform an odd or funny act, and quickly disperse. In its true form, a flash mob is meant as a harmless and fun way to surprise and then entertain the people who witness it, not to mention the people involved. A couple examples that have been done before are a silent disco in London, zombie walks, SantaCon, or International Pillow Fight Day.

What is stopping us from doing just that? Take a second to copy and paste this into our neck of the woods. It seems to fit nicely, doesn’t it? The reason why it does is that we’re used to creating and witnessing weird fun. It doesn’t matter if the sun is up or down. If you look in the right places, weird fun is all over. Milwaukee is filled with smart, creative and great people, who are always willing to trade a little bit of maturity for a bit of insanity, coupled with an hour-long smile.

Gingivitis optional.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe this city is the perfect setting for such an act, and I propose that flash mobs should become yet another great aspect of Milwaukee.

Like what you read?  Check these out:
Full Disclosure
Voice of Others

It's Time

Published as "Writers' Block", 4/2010. Self Expression Magazine

Hunter Thompson once emerged from a haze of drugs, booze and violence to write, “When the going gets weird, the weird get pro.” The going isn’t weird yet, but we intend to change that.

All too often, the mainstream overpowers the pioneers of creativity, pushing them to the side. Like so many before them, the lesser known people of our fair city do not get the recognition they so rightfully deserve. These artists forge on, fighting for every inch of their exposure, battling the likes of Nickelback, Beyonce and the Jersey Shore. Too many have either gone un-noticed, or were labeled “weird”. Well guess what, it’s time the weird went pro.

It’s high time the other end of Milwaukee’s spectrum, its underlying substance and culture, gained the exposure and the notoriety that is long overdue. Right now, there are musical acts preparing to play in smoke shrouded bars to no one but the other bands and the bartenders, earning only enough money to cover their tab and gas money to get home. Painters and photographers are putting the finishing touches on their works of art. When they do, they will end up using them to furnish their own living rooms. It’s time they read articles about themselves, written by people who want to see them go beyond that point.

We know for a fact that Milwaukee is so much more than a city known for drinking to excess among it’s sea of taverns , lounges and nightclubs. True, any member of the staff from Self Expression will most likely drink your Irish uncle under the table, thanks to the countless hours spent in these fine places. We will never deny that, but even in the face of Milwaukee’s nightlife, the subculture of creativity in this town is abundant. However, a problem remains. It is still underrated and underestimated.

SE was started as a simple idea, to shine a light on the underground art and music scenes. What we will strive to bring you is an in-depth look on all things creative, to not only help all of us enjoy their work, but to bring it more exposure as well. Everyone deserves a spotlight, and in a place filled with so many creative people, something great is bound to happen. Who knows where the next Janis Joplin, Andy Warhol or Kurt Vonnegut may spring up? What we hope to provide is the push they need.

What SE promises to do is much more than what has been done in the past. We will immerse ourselves in Milwaukee’s culture and praise it, rather than act superior and criticize it. We won’t write reviews, what we will write are profiles. If we go to see a musical act, we won’t listen for a half hour, write some notes, then leave. Instead we will sit down with the creators and discuss their music. What it’s about, what it’s like playing it and why the love to play it. If there’s an art showing, we’ll be ecstatic to find out the artist’s inspirations. If we hear about a bar or restaurant that’s more than a “cookie cutter” establishment, we’ll tell you what it’s like to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere.

It’s time there was a publication in Milwaukee that dove into creativity with an open mind and willingness to join it. We’ll listen to you and become fans of what you love. We will share your interests, your obsessions. Because, after all… it is about damn time someone did.

Like what you read?  Check these out:
Full Disclosure
Voice of Others