What was the breaking point? At what point did you decide to paint a basketball player?
I began drawing in sketchbooks (with soft pencils) (and shading with my fingers) and copying images the same year I fell in young love with the Jordan/Rodman era-Bulls (1997ish). I was 13 or 14 at the time, I believe. These were never paintings, though a color pencil was used to determine Rodman’s hair. Then it wasn’t until my last year at RISD (2005) that I made my first MS Paint basketball image. (I know I have the wrong number on Shaq!) This lead to a few other NBA MS Paints including NAKED NBA. In 2010, I was commissioned to paint Charles Barkley for the poet Michele Taransky, and slowly in the months that followed, other poets and writers stepped forward and requested paintings for themselves and their loved ones.
Do you think that MS Paint will continue to flourish into the next mid-century? I kinda hope it does. I wonder if it will become like Polaroid cameras.
I think some version of MS Paint will flourish indefinitely. As we speak, people are pioneering into iPad paint-lands. Those programs are more advanced than MS Paint, but I see basic versions surviving too. It might end up in places we’d never expect it. However, the official MS Paint is endangered. There is no easy way to use it on a Mac. All my digital paintings post Magic Johnson are made on Photoshop instead.
Do you think that MS Paint will outlast Clip Art?
I think Clip Art will continue on through the ages too, depending on how loosely we are defining it.The popularity of emoticons and emojis are redefining how we communicate, along with animated GIFs of seemingly unrelated things.
Are there basketball players or teams you will not paint because they make you angry? What team or player makes you the least angry?
I will paint any player. Times when I have been asked to paint (or assigned myself to paint) a player that I don’t care for, I learn to care for the player by staring at their face forever. Afterwards, I feel as if I know them. The Grizzlies make me the least angry of any team. Tony Allen has never made me feel one negative emotion thus far.
What is the essence of hoops? Is it the memory of that first peach basket glued to a hickory backboard by Dr. James Naismith? Or just the thought, or the possibility of a thought of owning, or seeing a pair of Kamikazes?
The essence of basketball is a wayward tradition that has its starts in the basic human game “catch,” and the easy joy and skill that comes with that, combined with the dynamics of dance, the love of a team, an instinct to win, and the otherness of games.The materials, the ball and hoop, there is an obviousness to the pair. How could there be an Earth without these? Satisfaction comes with the net. A history happens from the entirety of the game. Not just statistics from the official leagues, but from the trials and successes of the amateur player on their local or personal court.
How does that compare with your favorite moment playing hoops w/ friends or co-workers?
My favorite moments playing basketball are just somehow scoring a basket in a casual pick-up game with friends. I don’t shoot well against any defense, so a basket feels like a light miracle. There is that feeling from a basket—a lightness. The sound the net makes is light, but also the motion of the arm is light, light like you can’t fully recall or feel the motion. The memory of the motion is positive and ephemeral.
Have you ever heard of the Azteca ballgame? It’s like a form of basketball where you use your butt...
I had heard that there was an ancient version of basketball played by the Aztecs, but never read such a detailed history of it. This is my favorite line from the description: ” Courts were considered portals to the underworld.” It makes one wonder about the future of basketball, the distant future…
Let’s say you are a supremely talented NBA basketball star but in the Non-Shaq echelon of stardom. Let’s talk sponsorship. It’s your first year in the league, do you settle for getting your name attached to a few local car dealerships or do you hold out in hopes that you might land a deal with Doritos?
I spurn any sort of advertisement.
John doesn’t subscribe to chaos, particularly what is has to say about his little science project.
I am a lineman for the county
What is this music crap? Jk I love music!
Amelia Gray was awesome enough to answer a few questions about a very serious matter.
Would you consider yourself an adventurous or a picky eater?
I’m adventurous with a caveat that if some unpleasant element of the food sneaks into my mind, I have to immediately stop. For example: my partner and I, dining on a plate of whole baby squid at our local Thai place, ink squirting, all of it fine, until he says, This tastes like Corpus Christi, which is his hometown and not a compliment. I think it put me off all ink-based foods, maybe forever.
I am truly sorry to hear that you have, or potentially have, sworn off ink-based foods. For the sake of my (legion) readers I need you to clarify: is Corpus Christi the worst tasting town in the gulf coast region? Please tell me b/c Glen Campbell seems to think that Galveston is pretty good. I trust Glen Campbell’s taste buds.
I can’t speak to the Florida coast, and I suspect Tampa gives it a run for its money, but Corpus has this sheen of gulf oil. It would be unkind but not fully untrue to suggest it is America’s Grease Trap. I had a good hamburger in Galveston once.
I have a friend who ate a placenta and I think he’s one of the coolest guys in the world. Would you eat a placenta? If so, would you have any stipulations? I would like to say that I would eat the placenta of my first born but I think it’s tough to say because I have limited access to placenta and I am easily intimidated by placenta. Do you think a cooked placenta would taste more like an eggplant or the cheese/pepperoni scab on a cafeteria pizza?
Did your friend become one of the coolest guys in the world only after he ate the placenta? This is important to answering the question. I’ve seen powdered placenta in capsules, which I’d be fine with if the health benefits were proven or whatever. But otherwise yes, I think if it’s going to be in a moist scenario I would prefer if it came out of my own body first, and recently. I feel like it probably tastes like any organ meat, like liver, which I am also not a huge fan of, and probably won’t have an opportunity to eat my own. So kind of heavy sponge-like and gamey, pairing with a strong red wine, like a sangiovese.
He was already cool! But I think he got cooler b/c I think of most his family was mad at him on facebook. Like, “ARG, why did you do that? Why did you eat that old fetus sleeping bag?” Classic case of credentials earned via digital hardships. Would you accept a placenta that was meant to be sprinkled on a pasta?
If it was placenta mixed with parmesan and there was no other parmesan around I’d do it in a pinch. I think that says more about my relationship with cheese than it does about my thoughts on placenta. I would eat anything served to me by whoever used the phrase “fetus sleeping bag.”
If you had to go to a food store (not a restaurant) that only stocked one kind and one brand of food but you had to eat there everyday, what kind of food would you want the food to be? Hint: you are not allowed to work at the food store. Stipulation: the food store can not be a Pizza Hut!
Like, a grocery store? And it has to be a packaged thing and not a fresh thing? This is tough. It’s probably also kind of cheating to say I’d eat only the Kraft family of products, for that is a large branded family indeed, including but not limited to Jell-O, Oscar Meyer, Crystal Light, A1, Nilla, Planters, DiGiorno, okay forget it, I’m going Kraft. If I had to pick one brand among it it would probably be Lunchables, to live out my days with crackers and cheese and see how much plastic is in my body after I die.
It seems like what you just said was very powerful and timely b/c they are saying that most birds die b/c they eat Lunchables. (Not my picture. )
Would your Lunchables store offer the canonical Lunchables only or would they offer if given the opportunity, non-canonical Lunchables such as pizza, tacos or burgers?
Non-canonical Lunchables can go the way of the fetus sleeping bag; in powder form, over my cracker layered with ham and American cheese.
What would you do to attract attention to opening day at the Lunchables store? Eddie Money concert? Or just the classic balloons over the entryway?
I’m going to digress here for a second and say that, when I had to go to the dentist as a kid, my mom would take me after to the Entenmann’s Bakery Outlet. It was a fantastic treat that made up for all the teeth they had to pull out of my head—maybe five or six teeth throughout my childhood—but then I could go pick out whatever I wanted. I usually picked the cheese danish.
Let’s say: piñata full of Lunchables, Eddie Money appearing with a guy playing cassette tapes of The Platters, coupons for free Lunchables, eating contest, safety demonstrations by local law enforcement, balloon animals, cake walk, coloring contest.
Speaking of Kraft Foods, what do you think about Velveeta? Did you grow up in a Velveeta household? Are we going to see the end of the oil cheese era in our life-time? Can this be prevented?
My mom and dad, who met in Dallas, would sometimes make queso on New Year’s Eve in the Texas style, which involves half a big brick of Velveeta. As it happens I had guests in town this weekend and have a brick of Velveeta still in my fridge, along with a gelatinized bowl of queso, which I am happy to bring to the Lunchables opening on short notice. I say if there’s any worry we’re going to run low on oil cheese, we can simply scoop some up from the beach in South Texas.
I was really loving what Roxane Gay had to say about the Bachelor on @rgay. I really love what she has to say about a lot of subjects. I floated her a few queries and she was nice enough to answer questions about the Bachelor from an utter stranger. Success!
What do you think about this year’s Bachelor Sean? Is he the All-American dream or is he what AshLee says he is?
I am not sure what to make of Sean. I don’t know what Dez said because I was traveling during the Women Tell All episode. Is he the All American dream? That depends on who you ask but there’s no doubt he is wholesome, attractive and some women or men might enjoy having quality time with him.
Absolutely. The producers have a lot of say in the early going in terms of who stays and goes. They definitely rig the cast departures in terms of what will make the show more sensational and to increase viewership.
I wasn’t surprised. She was “too old.” No, it isn’t wrong to make that comparison
I haven’t seen the Tell All yet. No, I don’t think Dez’s brother scared Sean. He just wasn’t into her.
I’ve seen a few installments.
The idea that true love can be manufactured under such highly artificial circumstances.
Oh yes, I remember Wes. He’s very unattractive and sounds pretty generic as far as country music goes
I grew up outside of Kansas City but on both sides of my family we’ve got like hillbilly blood from both the Ozarks and West Virginia so like a big chunk of my childhood involved shuttling back and forth from family reunions and stuff. Don’t know a whole lot of people who are familiar w/ the terrain.
Have you ever heard of this guy Vance Randolph? He was kind of like the Alan Lomax of the Ozarks. He spent his entire life compiling all these rich traditions of the Ozarks of Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas. He has entire books of Ozark word lists that were unique to the dialect. He also compiled anthologies of Superstitions and folk tales. He was dedicated to this stuff way before the word scholarship had ever been attached to studies of the Ozarks or “hillbillies” in general. (At one point he was supplementing his income in the depression by anonymously writing some of the Blue Books. Blue Books were like the first generation of Dummie’s Guides. They were popular from the end of WWI to the beginning of the Cold War. They covered everything from How to Make Candy/ Homosexuality/ Agnosticism.) But one of the most depressing things about these great Randolph anthologies is that by the time they were reprinted and had become marginally successful is that a lot of the old-timers who spoke the dialect had died. A lot of Randolph’s prologues became more like eulogies than celebrations. How has Rainelle, WV changed since you were a kid?
Earlier this year the feds moved into Rainelle. There were over 200 people arrested in the period of a month and this is a town with 1,500 people in it. The family who used to take care of my grandmother blew up some police cars and set them on fire. It was wonderful. How glorious! Here is a link to the story.
These people are people who know how to celebrate life. They’re not a bunch of stepford wives in Beckley and doctors driving BMWs with vanity license plates who have a story to explain why they picked the vanity license plate they did.
It’s like the Antonioni quote. He passed this industrial wasteland and then this forest that was next to the industrial wasteland. He said he would rather be in the industrial wasteland. Someone asked him why? He said, “Because man has been there.” That’s the way I feel about it. I think I’m going to answer the rest of the questions using Captain Beefheart anecdotes.
How important/dangerous is sentimentality for a writer? Is some amount of nostalgia universal or is it something that is cultivated?
I have no idea. So here comes Beefheart anecdote #1. Beefheart and the Magic Band were all living in this house together during the recording of Trout Mask Replica. One evening the phone rang and Beefheart answered it. It was a very nice and polite woman on the other end and she wanted to speak to Beefheart’s bass player. So Beefheart called for him and gave him the phone. They talked and when he got off the phone, Beefheart said, “Listen buddy, you need to get that bitch out of your life.”
The bass player said, “But Don, she’s my Mom.”
Beefheart acted like he could care less.
“Well, you need to cut her loose. I got bad vibes off that chick. She’s hiding something.”
What was the first VHS you owned? Did you have a favorite VHS growing up? ( My first VHS was this Jesus one my parents bought us. Me and my sisters favorite VHS growing up was Wizard of Oz. We had these two VHS’ before we had a VCR so we’d take them over our Aunt’s house b/c she had a VCR.)
The first movie we ever watched on VHS was Top Gun. I can remember the day we finally bought a VCR and filled out our video membership at AIDES store. It was this little store in town that rented tapes and sold firearms. And it had the unfortunate name of AIDES. And then there was this weird movie called The Richard Petty Story and Bill Cosby: Himself. I guess those were the first ones I watched, but the first one I owned was a VHS called “Go, Johnny Go.” It was an old Allen Freed tape full of all these rock acts. It was horrible but I was obsessed with Richie Valens at the time. There was something about that Valens, Holly, Big Bopper story that I couldn’t stop thinking about.
The Buddy Holly autopsy report is on-line. His scrotum was ripped and they paid for the autopsy with the money he had in his wallet. That’s what happens in this life. A dead man ends up paying for his own autopsy.
God, I wish I could be 7 years old again. I want to say it was before all the pain began, but you know what? It was as hard being 7 years old as was being 27. Nobody tells you that.
Have you always been a writer? Do you remember a sense of becoming a writer at a particular stage in your life? Was it something that was encouraged by the people around you?
I wasn’t encouraged at all. I sent off a few poems to a little magazine when I was 14 and my mom found out about it. She got mad at me. She said, “Well we don’t know who these people are you’re writing to. They could be child molesters or perverts or something. I don’t want you doing this anymore.” It made me mad at the time, but now I can see that she was completely right. I should have listened to dear old mom and she would have saved me a shit ton of pain. So anyway, I think it’s time for another Captain Beefheart anecdote. One day the Magic Band’s drummer went into the kitchen. He was standing at the sink and all of the sudden a dish levitated in the air in front of him and then flew across the room and broke against a wall. He was shocked. Then he turned around and saw Beefheart standing in the corner. The drummer said, “Holy shit. Did you just see that?” Beefheart didn’t say anything for a long time and then he finally said real calmly, “Don’t be alarmed. Sometimes I like to move shit with my mind.”
What kind of books did you read as a kid? Were you a big fan of a particular author or a particular library? What stories were told to you or read to you growing up?
When I was in the fourth grade my mother took me to the Rainelle Public Library. It’s this tiny little thrown together building full of Danielle Steel and Mary Higgins Clark novels. It wasn’t a trailer though like the library in the next town—so we had something to be thankful for.
One time I checked out Of Mice and Men because my mother said Steinbeck was “Easy to read.” Best advice I ever received about writing and writers. I played Tecmo Bowl during the weekend and read Of Mice and Men. I cried when Lenny died. I almost fought a guy in graduate school because he said Steinbeck is a poor man’s William Faulkner. I have bumper sticker for you. It should read like this: Fuck William Faulkner. William Faulkner is prog rock artist full of shitty ten minute guitar solos from Slash of Guns N Roses. Steinbeck is the perfect three minute pop song (of course, there are some real shit songs on his albums as well).
I was in Oxford, MS last year. It’s a strange gentrified town where you can’t buy cold beer. I’m serious. You can buy beer but it’s warm. What kind of damn place sells warm beer? Anyway, William Faulkner’s house is next to the gas station where I bought beer. I had to use the bathroom so I pissed in Faulkner’s front yard just to show his ghost how much I disrespect him. I pissed in his yard and it made me feel good about myself.
I stayed at a place call the Ole Miss Motel, which seemed to be a front for pimps. I’m talking about real deal P-I-M-P-S. There were all of these fat white girls in the parking lot and there was so much sex noise coming from the room next to mine that I got no sleep. I wanted these pimps to commit suicide. But, there is one rule in this life and it’s this: Pimps do not commit suicide.
I was looking at the Holler Presents. You’ve got to tell me about this album you’ve released. How would you describe it? Would you ever want to be a touring musician?
I’m going to let my friend Chris Oxley and Holler Presents partner answer this one. He’s living with me now. I just asked him the question and now he is going to answer it. Take it away, Chris.
“Chris: “It’s a gospel punk album inspired by Washington Phillips and Thomas Dorsey. We were going to do it with a full congregation but they had issues with our lyrical content. So it’s a gospel album but it’s a gospel album for Satan. We burned a page of the bible as a joke last year and it has come back to haunt us. I’m not talking about those pimply faced alt lit kids. We ACTUALLY met the devil. We felt his breath on our necks. We felt his man parts on our backsides. So now we’re damned to fame and immortality but we’re be exiled from the people we love. Also, we’re supposed to play a date with Jandek next year.”
Three CDs or albums or recordings you wish you had been a part of either by just standing outside the building where the recording was happening or playing the tambourine on a B-side or being the replacement of a major player.
1.) Blonde on Blonde. I would want to be the janitor hanging out during the sessions.
2.) Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square Club. I would want to be one of the women in the front row he’s sweating on.
3.)Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic during the recording of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. I would want to be Bernstein’s boy toy waiting for him to finish conducting so we could go to dinner.
4.)Louis Armstrong’s “Stardust,” and I’d want to be the marijuana they’re passing around.
Thank you for answering the questions. I am sorry that they are long winded. I am going to cut those parts out. Make no mistake by the time I am done everyone will seem very smart. At this point I am going to split the interview. If’ it possible I am going to try to harness the power of the internet and I am going to send questions to two different people in the same email. (Feel free to answer each other’s questions if you want.) The first question goes to Chris Oxley.
Chris, let’s talk about the devil. You mentioned the hot breath of the devil. Let’s talk about that some more. I imagine that the hot breath of the devil smells something like rotten horse meat or corn chips- is that accurate? Or maybe more of a pickled eggs hue?
Actually, Chris didn’t answer the question about Holler presents by talking about the devil. I just made that up. I’m the one who has smelled the devil’s balls.Chris answered this about Holler Presents:
“It started out as a way to keep our minds off winter time. We wrote and recorded a song a week for a few months and then pared down what we had for this particular album. “Secular gospel punk” was how we would describe it to people, but maybe that’s selling it short. Someone once said it sound like a “retarded Beatles.”We’ve played “Salty Girl,” “The Holy Holy Prayer” and “Satan Is A Mighty Good Leader” at a few readings in the past. I think we gave James Brown’s “Live At The Apollo” a run for its money.”
Scott, did you go to Rowan Oak? Where in his yard did you pee? You can say what you want about the prog nature of the writer but you gotta admit that man had a giant yard. I liked his English garden, the one with the giant stones and I liked the little cabin he had in the back.
In the corner of the front yard, next to the shurbs that seperated it from the gas station next door. Actually, I really love Faulkner.
Back to Chris. I am going to pretend like google doesn’t exist. What was that instrument that Wash Phillips played? Do you think his voice or that awesome instrument was what distinguished him as a songwriter?
We decided to let you answer this one.
(I thought it was a Heavenphone. It turns out it was actually a Celestaphone. I don’t think that you can extricate Washington Phillips voice from that instrument. Washington Phillips sounds like a Baptist oracle sweeping his hands over a tiny harp. I picture Washington Phillips keeping the Celestaphone in a suitcase.)
Question for both Chris and Scott. This is a question about fashion. Multiple choice. Let’s say it’s 1995 or whatever, what type of shirt were you most likely to wear for a class picture. Would it be:
a) silk shirt
b) Troy Aikman jersey
c) Big Johnson shirt
d) fill in the blank
Scott: I had a Jesus t-shirt I always wore.
Chris: Whatever was on sale at JCPenney’s at the time.
Final question for Scott, what does Beckley, WV mean to you? Is it a vortex?
Beckley is a vortex of pain and a hell in some ways. Rainelle is a giant nipple though. I’m just a man in love with a woman who doesn’t love me and it’s hard. Fuck. It’s hard.
I would like to add this to my last answer.
I even went to a shrink recently and this is what happened.
The shrink says: Do you ever hear voices?
I say: I’m a writer. That’s what I do.
The shrink says: Do you ever think about suicide?
I say: I’m an existential man. That’s what I’m always thinking about and choosing life.
The shrink says: Are you ever paranoid?
I say: William Burroughs said they always called you “paranoid” if you’re intelligent.
Life is full of bullshit artists. None more than doctors and nurses. They heal nothing. They cure nothing. People die. Surgeons take shit out of people. I want to put stuff back inside.