art, music, YouTube

*Sigh*… don’t they know it’s the end of the world?

Welcome to Friday, y’all. Ordinarily, I’d be delighted that it’s Friday, but this week it means that Bill will be gone in 48 hours. He has to go on another business trip to Bavaria. But the good news is, next week, we’re outta here for a little over a week. Granted, part of that trip will involve seeing our dentist, and that’s not always a good time. I suspect the dentist will give Bill a ration of shit because he’s got one less tooth than the last time they saw each other. Bill is going to have to explain to our regular dentist that a more local dentist will be installing an implant. But– hey– our dentist wasn’t available when the molar bit the dust. Something had to be done immediately.

I also got a message from the first hotel we’re going to. They said they don’t have enough staff to be open during the second and third nights of our three night stays. However, because I booked an apartment, it’s still possible to stay there. We’ll just be “self catering” guests. They said they’d be giving us a 20 percent discount for the inconvenience. That’s cool. We know the town pretty well, anyway, because when we lived near Stuttgart, we used to visit there all the time. Plus, during our first Germany stint, we lived very close.

I know I could be writing about the state of the world today. There’s actually a lot going on right now that is worthy of commentary… but I just don’t feel like going there right now. As much as I’d like to speculate about what’s going to happen to Donald Trump and his merry band of buffoons, I’m just not in the mood. Ditto to pontificating about Ex, complaining about people on the Internet with extreme cognitive dissonance, or upbraiding religious people. Today, I want to write about something I did on a whim yesterday.

As some of you know, I’ve been learning to play guitar. Because I’m using the Internet instead of a live teacher, it’s been kind of slow going. But I have gotten competent enough to play somewhat decent rhythm guitar on simple songs with open chords. I’m slowly getting the hang of barre chords, and I’ve been learning some less frequently used chords. My exploration has led to learning new songs and exploring different artists.

This week, I discovered Skeeter Davis. Actually, I didn’t really “discover” her per se. I had heard of her before. She had a hit song called “The End of the World”, which she didn’t write. However, she was also a good songwriter in her own right, and wrote a lot of hits in the 60s and 70s. That was a bit before my time.

I’ve been using Chordify to learn new songs, and one of the songs Chordify suggested was Skeeter Davis’s version of the old classic, “Smile”.

I’ve gotten somewhat good at playing this song.

As I’ve been learning this song on guitar, I’ve also been watching a lot of YouTube videos. The other day, I was bored and found myself watching the 1989 made for TV movie, The Karen Carpenter Story, for the umpteenth time. It’s kind of a lame movie, but I actually watched it the day it premiered on television on January 1, 1989. I like The Carpenters’ music, sure– but I was also a fan of Cynthia Gibb’s. She played Karen, albeit while wearing really horrible and unconvincing wigs. But the wardrobe was legit. She actually wore Karen’s clothes and lost a lot of weight to be able to fit into them!

In that movie, Cynthia Gibb– who also played Holly Laird on the Fame TV show– sang “The End of the World”. It was one of the few songs she didn’t lip sync in that movie. Karen Carpenter was evidently a fan of Skeeter Davis’s version of that song, and her rendition of “The End of the World”, so Gibb was singing the song as teenaged Karen Carpenter.

I guess the combination of playing Skeeter Davis’s version of “Smile” on guitar, and watching The Karen Carpenter Story, complete with a rendition of a song Skeeter Davis made famous, made me feel like trying “The End of the World” myself. I did so yesterday, completely on a whim. I hadn’t expected to record anything yesterday and just tried the song to see what it would sound like. Before I knew it, I was committed to making a video… and below is the end result.

No makeup… and I had just gotten out of the shower, hence the wet look.

The interesting thing about this video is that originally, I was going to try to do The Carpenters’ version. But I decided I didn’t like their arrangement for myself. So I downloaded three other arrangements– Skeeter Davis’s, Vonda Shepard’s, and Susan Boyle’s! I didn’t like Skeeter’s version so much, because she talks in the song, which I don’t like doing. Vonda’s version is very lush and complex, and not really fitting in with the right mood for that song, in my opinion. “The End of the World” is a plaintive song, after all. I ended up doing Susan Boyle’s much simpler version, even though I have never heard her version with her singing it. I just have a recreated karaoke track. I thought of adding harmonies, but then pictured the singer alone and heartbroken. So I didn’t add anything other than my vocals.

I ended up changing the key, doing it in “A”, which is what Karen Carpenter did it in years ago. I was going to do it in a much higher key, but decided that it made me sound too girlish. Even though this is kind of a dramatic song that might echo the sentiments of a teenager, I’m a middle aged woman… and I think there’s something to be said for a middle aged woman singing the blues about no longer having the love she used to have. So that’s what I did… and it seems to be pretty well received.

I also did a version of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond. I am not a big Streisand fan, even though she has an incredible voice. I like her better as an actress than a singer. But her famous 1978 duet with Neil Diamond is heartbreaking… So I gave it a whirl, using the generic Ukrainian male staff singer at Karaoke Version to provide the male vocals. He did a good job, in spite of his heavy accent! I could have tried it as a solo song, too. Maybe I’ll do it that way at some point in time.

Anyway, below is my version of that song…

This video is actually running ads, which means it must be somewhat successful, even though I won’t make any money.

I picked up five new subscribers this week, too. One of them was my husband, Bill. I asked him to subscribe so I could have 150 subscribers– a nice round number, like my ass. But then I got two more when I posted yesterday’s song.

It’s recently dawned on me that I seem to be more popular as a YouTuber than as a blogger, although I can’t say I’m really that popular in either realm. But my videos seem to do significantly better– in terms of hits– than most of my blog posts. They are also less contentious. Maybe I should just stick to recording cover songs from the 70s and 80s and bag my “writing career”. Former tenant thought I was a hack, after all. ūüėČ

I think “The End of the World” turned out pretty well. It’s probably one of my better performances. I don’t actually like listening to myself sing, most of the time. I like to perform– and don’t mind hearing myself as I sing, especially on a mic. But I don’t like listening to my own recordings. I guess it’s like hearing yourself speak on a recording. It sounds weird when it’s not in your head. However, the act of singing is relaxing and helps alleviate depression. I focus on the music instead of things that are downers in the world. Some people needlepoint, take dance classes, or create paintings. I sing… and I write. I used to cook, but Bill took over that chore.

Speaking of painting… Yesterday, I stumbled across a video made by a YouTuber named Sue Sloan. She has a channel dedicated to painting Dot Mandala, something I’d never heard of until yesterday, when I found her channel and Bill explained the concept to me. Sue Sloan recently changed the name of her channel to her husband’s name, because she’s dying of cancer. Her goodbye video is the first one I’d ever seen by her.

Cancer sucks! This is her most recent video. It was posted a month ago.

I was curious about her channel, so I checked it out… and I can see why she had a lot of subscribers. I watched her video on how to paint Dot Mandala and it made me want to go buy some art supplies. But I’m really NOT good at this kind of thing. I have trouble deciding on colors, and I’m not very neat or precise. I watch her using a compass and a ruler to make precise designs and it stresses me out. My parents were both very good at this kind of thing– Mom is a master at needle crafts, and my dad framed pictures for a living after he left the Air Force. I did NOT inherit that gene at all. I’m too much of a slob.

I do admire Sue Sloan’s artistic talents, though… Wow. I’d love to have one of these hanging in my office.

Beautiful! My sister got the art gene, though. I’m terrible at this kind of thing.

Here’s another one she did.

I really like how this looks, and I’d like to think I could do one of these without completely messing it up. She makes it look pretty easy. But visual arts aren’t my thing. I am more of a musical person.

Well, I suppose that about does it for the Friday edition of my blog. It’s already 10:00 AM. I don’t have any big chores planned for today, but I have a habit of being too long-winded. So I’m going to bring today’s post to a close… maybe watch more YouTube videos and see what inspires me. Maybe I’ll do another song today… or watch another movie… or get outraged by news about Trump and the rest of the GOP idiots who don’t seem to think the rules apply to them (I’m looking at YOU, Lauren “Hoebert”, theater crotch groper…).

Perhaps I’ll be back tomorrow with something new.

art, ideas, musings

Repost: Are art teachers “stupid”?

This post appeared on my original blog on May 16, 2016. I am reposting it because I think it’s a thought provoking essay. It’s mostly “as/is”. The featured photo was taken by me at the Uffizi Art Gallery and Museum in Florence, Italy in April 2022.

Just to be clear, I don’t think anyone who teaches art or any other humanities or creative class is stupid. ¬†I think a good art teacher can be a lifesaver to some kids. ¬†However, I know there are “practical” minded people out there who think anyone who chooses to teach art or music or any other course that isn’t an “essential subject” must be an idiot. ¬†¬†

The real question is, how stupid do you have to be to pay for a degree to teach art? Financially doesn’t add up.

This was posted in a Facebook group I used to frequent. It was full of overly pragmatic people with “military mindsets”.

Some people who read this blog may know that I am a graduate of¬†Longwood University. ¬†Longwood is well known in Virginia for turning out great teachers. ¬†I didn’t become a teacher myself, but I do have a lot of friends and one relative who earned teaching endorsements at Longwood. ¬†I’m not sure what the laws in Virginia are now, but I do remember that the year I entered Longwood, the “elementary education” major was discontinued. ¬†Everyone who wanted to be an elementary school teacher had to major in a subject and then take additional education courses. ¬†And while some of the subjects seemed fun, they were also a lot of hard work. ¬†I can’t count the number of times I watched my friends laboring over colorful projects involving contact paper. ¬†You’d think it would be fun to make teaching aids and bulletin boards, but those projects required time, patience, creativity, and most of all, money. ¬†They weren’t fun and games.¬†

I often hear people talking about how art, music, dance, and theater are “fun” majors that are ultimately useless. ¬†They have no respect for people who study the arts because they perceive those subjects to be easy. ¬†What some people don’t seem to understand is that it takes actual talent to major in those areas. ¬†Moreover, the arts make the world a better place. ¬†They stimulate creativity, which leads to innovation and discussion. ¬†Arts of all kinds get people talking and thinking and make the world more exciting. ¬†People who teach artistic subjects inspire young people and, in some cases, can actually be lifesavers.

When I was in school, the local school system employed a husband and wife who taught art. ¬†The wife taught art to 7th and 8th graders and her husband taught at the high school. ¬†Mr. and Mrs. Bergh were definitely “artsy” people. ¬†In 7th grade, I took Mrs. Bergh’s class. ¬†I had always enjoyed art and thought her class would be fun. ¬†I actually found Mrs. Bergh’s class difficult. ¬†I will never forget trying to draw a perfect sphere, my hand, or my shoe. ¬†It was really hard. ¬†I don’t think I got higher than a B in that class. ¬†But I did learn something from Mrs. Bergh. ¬†She taught me to “draw what I see”, and that changed my whole perspective. ¬†

Before I took Mrs. Bergh’s art class,¬†I would only draw what I thought I saw. ¬†I wouldn’t actually look at something and try to create it on paper. ¬†I would just create something from my thoughts, never even observing the thing I was trying to draw. ¬†While a lot of great art comes from imagination, there is a lot to be said for taking a minute to look at reality and recording it accurately, as you actually see it with your eyes. ¬†Mrs. Bergh taught me to look closely at an object and draw what my eyes were actually seeing,¬†not what I thought I was seeing. ¬†I must admit, learning to draw what I see was a difficult skill to master, but it changed my worldview. ¬†I could apply that lesson to more than just art. ¬†Mrs. Bergh taught me to look at things objectively rather than subjectively. ¬†That’s a skill that transcends all subjects.

I never took any of Mr. Bergh’s art classes. ¬†I am not a particularly talented artist and I found his wife’s class to be enough of a challenge. ¬†However, many of my friends took Mr. Bergh’s classes. ¬†He was a popular teacher who managed to make a career in art even though he had one prosthetic eye. ¬†Some of my friends were struggling with adolescence. ¬†At least a couple of them were not doing so well in their academic classes, but they excelled in art. ¬†Mr. Bergh’s class gave them a place to express themselves and may have even prevented a couple of them from committing suicide. ¬†He was a good teacher, but he was also a valued friend to most of his students. ¬†He made high school more bearable for a lot of kids. ¬†

My sister majored in art. ¬†She is not a teacher (thank God), but she is a very talented artist. ¬†She’s always been employed, generally in her field. ¬†Years after she completed her art degree, she went on to earn a master’s degree in journalism. ¬†The two areas of study complement each other. ¬†Though she probably could have majored in something others would consider “practical” like accounting or nursing, my sister would have been mediocre and miserable in those fields. ¬†She’s an artist and her work has value. ¬†She got to where she is because people in her past chose to be art teachers. ¬†It’s because someone taught art that my sister isn’t torturing some poor soul in the hospital with a cold bedpan or fucking up someone’s taxes.¬†

Today’s post was inspired by a rant one of my friends posted about an art teacher calling her daughter stupid. ¬†My friend was understandably upset about the teacher’s conduct. ¬†Another friend said the music teacher had also behaved unprofessionally. ¬†There was a lot of talk about how difficult it is to be fired from the government system and that’s why these teachers were getting away with behaving so badly. ¬†As the discussion continued, someone mentioned that art teachers are usually not very good teachers because their field is not in high demand or they couldn’t hack a “real” subject like English or math. ¬†There may be some truth to that idea. ¬†It could also be that some of the people teaching art and music would rather be creating art and music. ¬†They became teachers because they thought they had to teach in order to make a living. ¬†Maybe they’re burned out or not suited for a career in teaching.¬†

I think a lot of people go into teaching because they simply want to be employable.  I almost did that myself.  Originally, I planned to get a teaching endorsement to be a high school English teacher, even though I had no desire to teach.  Having taught English as Peace Corps Volunteer, I now know that it would have been a mistake for me to be a professional teacher.  But even as an 18 year old, I knew that I wanted to be able to find a job.  Not being a particularly worldly 18 year old, I thought teaching was the obvious practical skill to fall back on should I ever find myself faced with the prospect of living in a van by the river.    

I majored in English because I love writing, but I believed it was unlikely I would be able to write for a living. ¬†So, being a somewhat practical sort, I figured I could teach. ¬†I know I’m not the only one who’s done that. ¬†Fortunately, I wised up and abandoned my plans to teach. ¬†It would have been a mistake for me to be an English teacher. ¬†I would not have been very good at the job. ¬†Had I decided to be a teacher, some poor kid would probably be complaining to their parents about me. ¬†Or maybe I would have been fired and still ended up in a van by the river. ¬†

Too many Americans have the mindset that they have to follow a set path. ¬†Yes, it’s important to have solid skills that lead to gainful employment. ¬†We do need people in fields that require a specific skill set. ¬†But the world also needs creators and dreamers and people who think outside of the proverbial box. ¬†People who mentor the world’s dreamers have an important job. ¬†Art, music, dance, and theater are very important, especially to young people who are developing their critical thinking skills and their creativity. ¬†We should have more respect for those who choose a career in the arts and those who are brave enough to teach in the arts.¬†

The world doesn’t need more mediocre scientists, nurses, accountants or teachers. ¬†I know some people think studying the arts with the intention of launching a career is a “stupid idea”, but I would submit that it’s actually stupid to expect everyone to go down the same narrow path. ¬†If you broaden your mindset, you may find that any course of study can be useful and worthwhile. ¬†Moreover, it’s often the creative types who find ways to use arts training to make the world better while they earn a living. ¬†Limited thinkers are those who believe wholesale that art teachers are inherently “stupid” or “can’t hack teaching a ‘real’ subject” simply because they choose to teach art. ¬†