Don’t be a Starving Artist in the Rust Belt: Starve Somewhere Else–But Is There Anywhere Else?

Ah, the rusty belt. A belt so rusty that when you tighten it (which you’ll need to do if you’re truly a starving artist) it falls apart, letting your big, round stomach protrude out while your pants fall straight to the floor.

Ha ha! The emperor’s got no clothes! Well, no pants anyway. You didn’t lose your shirt at least. But how’d you get that big belly when you’re a starving artist anyhow?

“But I am a starving artist! I am I am! (Sam, I am!) And I do need to tighten that belt!” you say.

Well, tighten away, my friend, but don’t do it in the rust belt. Sure, cost of living is cheaper, but it’s cheap for a reason. Unfortunately, in today’s world we often get what we pay for.

Here are some reasons why, in spite of the high cost of living, creative people should remain in or at least near a major city and stay flat out of the rust belt–especially when they’re first starting out:

— Emotional support: We creative artist types are a sensitive lot. We need encouragement and feedback from others. Surrounding ourselves with artists who are equally or better talented than ourselves inspires us to create  more and to create better. It pushes us out of our comfort zone when we realize that someone else did something we thought was impossible. Hmm… What’s impossible? Could it be that I too could create something much greater than I thought possible? Yeah, I can do better than that guy/gal/animal/mineral/vegetable…

— Like-minded peeps: Creative people are treated like a minority group in our society. Like women, people of color, immigrants and other minority groups, we’re viewed as the other, frequently misunderstood and unappreciated. “Why don’t you get a REAL job?!” is what we hear from friends and family.  We get plenty of discouraging words as it is.

It’s ironic, I think, that artists are typically more sensitive to criticism than the average person yet we also receive more of it. We put ourselves out there. We take the risk of showing people our work–our babies, reflections of our inner selves, our secret desires, hopes and dreams written about in poetry, painted in painting, danced away, performed away, sung as a song.

We seem confident and often people envy us, but we need support and encouragement desperately. We need to surround ourselves with other artists, talented and brilliant artists and be supportive of each other so that we can learn from each other, so that we can grow.

— Affluence: For better or worse, art receives most of its appreciation from affluent communities. Art requires a higher way of thinking about the world. Creativity and imagination take time, and leisure time is something most blue-collar, working-class folks don’t have. Often they work at back-breaking jobs and while they may appreciate a song or two after work, their concern is with escaping reality, so they want a beer; they want to watch the game; and if they want to hear music it needs to be the tried and true–the same songs they’ve already heard over and over again throughout their lives. It’s comforting to someone who works incredibly hard and for low wages to just hear the same songs, watch the same TV shows, and not be pushed out of his/her comfort zone.

But we creatives like moving out of our comfort zone, and we need to be around others who also are open to new ideas, else we won’t get support for our work.

— Education: There’s been a brain drain in the rust belt. The “best and brightest” typically leave for better paying jobs elsewhere. In the rust belt city where I currently live, only a tiny percentage of the population has above a BA degree—and there are many colleges in this town!

Since education is outrageously expensive here in the United States, most people hailing from blue-collar backgrounds can’t afford to attend college anymore, and they don’t want to accumulate debt. Working at miserable jobs, they settle for a simple life and prefer to keep it that way. Obtaining an education and spending time in the arts is just not practical.

For better or worse, educated people are more likely to appreciate good art. Creativity and imagination are not necessarily straightforward endeavors. We see what’s in front of us. Animals can also see what’s in front of them. But we humans are unique in that we are capable of seeing what could be and what could have been. We can also take the initiative, even if it’s out of character and not instinctive, to create change based on what we imagine could exist.

Intelligent people also inspire us by feeding us with new ideas and developments.

— A shortage of youth and youthful ideals: Look, I myself am no millennial, yet I think of myself as a fairly open-minded person, so this is a generalization, of course. But the reality is that young people are more likely to be open to new ideas, this means new music, original songs, artists who are not yet established. Young people need to move where the money is. Far from retirement age, they leave the rust belt seeking better job opportunities and a better future.

I’m sure not all rust belt cities are the same. I’m also sure that some creative artist types enjoy living in the rust belt, but… Hmm…

But overall, if you’re a talented artist living in NYC or another major city and you’re thinking of moving back to the rust belt in order to save money, well, think again. Think twice. And thrice. True, cities like NYC are becoming unlivable for the average person, and I would like to see that change. This is something I’ll need to write about in a future blog.

However, moving to a poor city in the rust belt is not a solution for saving money.  Again, rent is cheaper there for a reason. Jobs are scarce, salaries are low and the atmosphere is uninspiring, to say the least. The rust belt will demoralize, deflate and discourage you. Don’t do it. Your art and inspiration will suffer, maybe disappear completely. Find a suburb or a city that is commutable to and from NYC (or wherever.) Share space with another person, if you need to. Find a way to be near what you love and whom you love.

Creative people need to start helping each other instead of competing with each other, but with fewer opportunities for creatives it’s understandable that some artists become self-centered. Overall, the United States itself is becoming an undesirable place for creative people.  Again, I’ll need to write more about this in a future blog.

Until then, I’m stuck here in the rust belt. Gotta suck in that belly!

Don’t let this happen to you!!!

Fake Liberals, Fake Journalists, Fake News… It’s All One Big Fake!!!

Heck, maybe this blog is “fake” too…


In any case, there’s been a lot of discussion in the media about so-called “fake” news, i.e., some people are saying things that some other people just don’t like, don’t agree with, and so those things they say must be “fake.”

It was disappointing, though not so surprising, to hear political comedian, Stephen Colbert, rant about so-called “fake news” on the Late Show recently. In full disclosure, I am a rather bleeding-heart liberal, and Stephen Colbert is one of my favorite comedians. He’s talented and may very well be a nice person, generally speaking. But he’s also a millionaire who is, like most entertainment  industry  higher ups, completely out of touch with the average person’s daily experience. As a wealthy, white male, Colbert is what many of us would call a “limousine liberal.” He cares a lot about climate change. He expresses concern about racism. He wants to save the trees and probably the whales too. But does he want to save the average American? Most likely, he doesn’t even know that a cry for help has been screamed loudly in the form of a presidential election–and the empowerment of Donald Trump…

But in the end, our current system benefits millionaires like Colbert, so he can’t condone any radical changes to it because radical changes to our system will not benefit him at all. Knowing this, I suppose it is not that surprising that Colbert has actually resorted to condoning censorship on his show:

In typical limousine-liberal, condescending fashion, Colbert instructs his audience:
“…I really hope you don’t get your news from me because–news flash!–this isn’t news…”

No sh*t, Sherlock. You mean to tell me that the Late Show isn’t a news show? Oh dear, how will I ever carry on? So I can’t learn about current events from watching your show, dear Stephen? Oh, you heartbreaker, you!

But if I watch your show and hear you joke about a current event, Monsieur Colbert, that may be the first time I’ve learned of that event, so you have informed me of something and, in essence, I’ve gotten the news from you. Now, if our mainstream media wants to hire real journalists and allow them to thoroughly investigate current events uncensored by large-big-money corporations or by government interests, I’m all for it. I’d love to be able to watch the news and to actually learn something new–the raw, unbiased, uncensored truth!

Whew! Is it possible for journalists to report the news accurately in the mainstream media anymore?

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Time and again, we are exposed to propaganda more often than we are informed of current events by our mainstream media sources. This is why so many of us turn to social media, to the Internet, to alternative sources for information. Do you have a problem with that, Stephen Colbert?

Uh yes, apparently you do. Because, you see, many Americans voted for Donald Trump, and he is not the person Stephen Colbert wanted Americans to vote for, so now he’s preaching to his viewers that they’d better pay attention to his propaganda…er… I mean, “news” sources ’cause the ones they’ve been listening to have lead them in the “wrong” direction.

Look, I am not–and never will be–a Donald Trump supporter. But then again, I’m not a Hillary supporter either. (It’s disappointing because there was a time when I was a HUGE admirer of the Clintons until I found out that they were wealthy, priviliged people whose goal is just to maintain the status quo because–news flash!–the status quo benefits them.

(See, Stephen, I have my own news flashes too. Oh, I’ll bet you think I’m writing out “fake” news here, but I’m not. I’m writing an opinionated blog, a political rant, if you will. I’m exercising my right to write because I know I may not have that freedom for much longer.)

Nothing in this blog entry should be news to anyone reading it. I think we Americans all know by now that the status quo doesn’t benefit most of us but that it does benefit those who are already at the top. They want to stay on top so they need to stop us from having access to information so that we can’t take them down from way up there. Knowledge is power, people! That’s why college tuition is so outrageously expensive; they overcharge us for the books; they overcharge us for housing; many colleges are segregated from the communities within which they reside to prevent the dripping of fresh knowledge out into the local community.

But Colbert goes on:

“This is entertainment. If you want news, go to CBS’s John Dickerson or maybe the ‘Wall Street Journal,’ but don’t go to some anonymous guy on social media ’cause a lot of the news on social media is a lie…”

Yes, true that. We certainly can’t believe everything that is posted on the Internet. But Colbert conveniently doesn’t mention Fox News, probably because he doesn’t agree with much that network reports as “news.” Maybe even he agrees that Fox News is Faux News. Possibly Stephen Colbert would agree that we can’t believe what Bill O’Reilly tells us. Or what Sean Hannity reports as news.

But can we believe everything that is said on CBS? In the “Wall Street Journal”? Apparently, Stephen Colbert can. CBS is his boss and as a millionaire, I’m sure Colbert learns a lot from reading the WSJ.

“There’s so much fake news out there. The fake news is having such an influence on our lives that today–and this is true–Pope Francis said that ‘media that focus on scandals and spread fake news to smear politicians risk becoming like people who have a morbid fascination with excrement…’

Oh, I see. Maybe you want to reserve your position within the entertainment industry as political comedy guru? Maybe you want to make sure that not just anyone can report the news just like not just anyone can be on TV and not just anyone can run for President and not just anyone can go to college and not just anyone can even obtain decent, quality health care.

In fact, not just anyone can live in a safe, clean neighborhood anymore. Not just anyone can afford to eat healthy, nutritious food. Not just anyone can pursue their dreams. Most of us have to work at jobs we hate and barely make ends meet, hoping all the while that maybe someday things will get better.

In so many ways, the United States of America has become a monarchy, like the old-school British class system monarchy. We don’t call them “kings” or “queens,” but we have our celebrities and our powerful figures that we admire, and we do not like upstarts. How dare Jill Stein run for political office! Don’t you who we are?!

Don’t you know the Clinton dynasty?!

And that’s the real reason so many Americans voted for Trump. Trump is a wealthy, privileged, white male. Americans worship men who fit into that category. Americans like their billionaires. For all his liberal rhetoric, Colbert’s comedic tirade proves that he shares a similar elitist mindset. He didn’t vote for Trump, but most likely, voted for Hillary, who was simply the other side of the same coin: business as usual/status quo–keep us at war, keep taxes low for the wealthy, keep college expensive, keep quality health care expensive, keep poor people from working their way up the social ladder, keep the masses ignorant and voting against their own interests, etc.

Nothing in this country ever changes really.

Colbert goes on to talk about “Pizzagate,” which he claims is a lie. Of course, this is after he informed us that we should not get our news from him. So which is true, Stephen Colbert, do you want us to get our news from you or not? Why are you discussing current events on your show and attempting to influence public opinion while admitting that you are not a journalist and are not qualified to disseminate information? Do you know for a fact that “Pizzagate” is a lie? Who are your sources for this information?

Now, again, in full disclosure, I personally do not believe the “Pizzagate” story myself. It probably is a lie. My point is, that Colbert has admitted to not being a newscaster yet he follows that disclosure with a lecture on what we should/should not believe.

I dislike the term “white privilege.” It’s racist and drives people apart, BUT I can’t avoid calling Stephen Colbert on his own privileged status. Obviously, he believes that he is better than the rest of us, and that his opinions contain more value. He’s a millionaire, so he knows better. In that sense, he’s no different from Donald Trump (and only in that sense. I don’t believe Stephen Colbert is a bad person, just a little misguided and out of touch on this particular issue.)

No, I didn’t vote for Trump because I don’t believe that how much money a person has determines his/her worth. I voted for Jill Stein because I believe she genuinely cares about the American people. She was the only candidate who stood by her beliefs consistently.

So I don’t worship you either, Stephen. Love your comedy. You’re talented, for sure. You deserve your success, agreed. But don’t sit there on your televised throne and lecture to us Americans what news sources we should/should not listen to. You are, as you’ve stated, a comedian. That’s all. (And even though I know you probably worked incredibly hard to get where you are today, there are probably thousands of other comedians just as talented and hardworking as you who just never had the chances you had.) It just so happens that our society will compensate some comedians–the lucky ones–with millions of dollars. Apparently, selling out to the establishment is the first step in acquiring the millions. Possessing talent helps too, but selling out is a requirement.

“A lot of uninformed, gullible people fell for the Clinton-Podesta sex ring theory…”

A lot of uninformed, gullible people believe everything Stephen Colbert tells them too…

One thing I do know for sure is this:  a large percentage of Americans voted for Donald Trump. I didn’t. But a lot of Americans did. Many Americans agree with Trump, like it or not. This is something we need to think about. Why did so many Americans vote against their own best interest? Why do Americans listen to people like Donald Trump and, yes, Stephen Colbert? Where does this worship of the wealthy, white guy come from? Can we reach the “alternative right”?

Yes, I believe that those of us on the so-called “left” can have rational intelligent discussions with those on the so-called “right.” But certainly not by referring to them as “folks with spider eggs hatching in their brains.”

I mean, considering the fact that those “folks” comprise a large percentage of our population, we need to reconsider listening to Stephen Colbert’s propaganda. (Yes, I’m referring to his blathering as propaganda because that’s exactly what it is.)

Fact is, many Americans believe the conspiracy theories because they’re unhappy with the way things are. And the so-called “real” news journalists aren’t giving them accurate and complete information, so they don’t know where to turn for an explanation as to why the country is suffering. When limousine liberals talk about what a great country this is because, don’t ya’ know, a woman finally was considered for the presidency, many Americans saw right through it. First of all, many countries around the world have long since elected women leaders. The USA has fallen behind many other countries in terms of women having political power. Second, many Americans are struggling, so they know that the USA is not the greatest country in the world. They know that the “American Dream” is just nonsense.

People have no choice but to turn to the alternative news sources because the mainstream sources aren’t reporting the news accurately but a censored, dumbed-down version of the news that doesn’t offend large corporations and powerful political figures. Yes, alternative news sources can also be wrong. In fact, some of them might also be bought and paid for by wealthy insiders using the Internet to influence the population. Alternative news reporters make mistakes and are sometimes inaccurate, but so is CBS, and so is, apparently, Stephen Colbert…

So what’s an American to do?

What we need to do as Americans is to start listening to each other. Forget about what CBS, the WSJ or Alex Jones has to say. Listen to your neighbor, your coworker, your friends, your family, the people chatting across from you on the subway, even your enemies. Let’s listen to each other and find out from each other what’s really going on in our community. When we turn on the TV news, we’ll see someone’s version of the events, but when we talk to people in the community we’ll hear the community’s version and we’ll see that the televised version often doesn’t match up with that of the witnesses–those who were actually there and witnessed the event.

Let me inform you of a little something, Mr. Colbert (limousine liberals, et. al.) Americans voted for Donald Trump because they want change. They don’t want to maintain the status quo, i.e., Hillary. I don’t agree with that choice, but I’m better informed than most Americans when it comes to politics. I don’t read the WSJ, don’t watch CBS, stay away from TV in general. Yep, most of my “news” comes from the Internet but I’m very skeptical, very critical in my thinking. I’m lucky in that I have an education. (My life is ruined as a result since I have mortgage-sized student loan debt that’s long since defaulted.) But unlike most Americans, I value education.

And somewhere in this lengthy rant lies the point: Americans want change but aren’t educated enough on politics, history and sociology to have an idea of what exactly is happening to our country. They just know they’re unhappy, that the quality of life is deteriorating for most of us with each passing year. Some Americans blame immigrants. Some blame women–feminists. Some blame the Jews. Some blame blacks. Some blame whites and “white supremacy.” There’s always a scapegoat, right? Because when one knows little of history and political science and has very little understanding of human nature and how social systems function and are created, it’s easier for that someone to just find a scapegoat and hurl blame at it.

Solution? Stop watching TV. Start reading, thinking, meditating. Start listening and talking with others about current events. Learn more about history and current events. Study politics, sociology and human psychology. Form communities and bring people together to discuss issues DIPLOMATICALLY. Don’t assume people who think differently from you have spider eggs in their heads. Give them the benefit of a doubt. Try talking. Maybe, just maybe, YOU are the one who can learn from them about some things. Maybe those other people have some knowledge they could share with you.

And I’ll end this lengthy rant by repeating myself here. I enjoy Stephen Colbert’s comedy. Yes, yes, he’s very funny. I myself tend to be a bleeding heart liberal as well. But propaganda is propaganda. “Fake news” is just a new term created to excuse censorship and to distract the masses from the real problem–lack of access to accurate and complete news coverage and analysis. People believe the “fake news” because they want to believe it and because they’ve lost faith in the establishment. Censoring it will only add fuel to the fire. Let’s not forget the value of freedom of speech. Many people around the world cannot speak freely. We don’t want to give up one of the few remaining freedoms we still have left, the freedom to express our opinions–regardless of whether or not someone in power agrees, do we?

Do we?

Know When to Roll with the Punches–Sometimes the Best Offense is to Run Away, Regroup, Renew and Let it Roll…

Know When to Roll with the Punches–Sometimes the Best Offense is to Run Away, Regroup, Renew and Let it Roll…

The best defense is not always a good offense. In boxing, when one is attacked aggressively by an opponent, a method of defense is to avoid the punch by moving your body away from it.

Someone tries to hit you and, instead of blocking them with your arm or fist, instead of hitting back, you just move your body out of the way so that it doesn’t get hit. Yes, it may seem like a passive move but it is a necessary move in some instances because that punch is going to hurt if it hits your body.

The expression “roll with the punches” applies this strategy to real life situations.

It doesn’t mean that we need to passively just accept the attacks life throws at us but that we need to know when aggression cannot be fought with further aggression. Sometimes to best diffuse an aggressive act, we need to take a step back and just avoid being hurt by it.

This typically applies to things we cannot control, like aging, for example. I met an elderly woman of about 70 who lamented that she was no longer able to do some of the outdoor work that needed to be done around her house. Now, she had to hire someone to help her with it. Being someone who always seeks ways around obstacles, I began to think about this.

On the one hand, aging is inevitable. If we’re lucky enough to live for a long time, sooner or later we’re bound to have health problems that may create limitations for us.

On the other hand, in today’s rapidly changing society, technology is making it increasingly easier for us to overcome obstacles such as the aging process.


Sunday morning and… John Lennon, a long lost hippie, gone but not forgotten…

“Sunday morning, brings the dawning,

It’s just a restless feeling by my side…”   Velvet Underground

I don’t know why, but I woke up this past Sunday morning hearing that old Velvet Underground song playing in my head. I was thinking of John Lennon, my favorite hippie of all time and that the anniversary of his death–Dec. 8th, 1980–had just passed me by on Thursday. I usually write a little something about Lennon every year around the anniversary of his death. (Oh, but why celebrate the death and not the birth? You may well ask that very question…)

I think the day a beloved person dies is the last time we had a chance to share the world with him. So we remember that day when he shined his light upon us for one last time. It was a day when we knew we’d never have the person around us again. Ever. His last day on earth. Our last day to feel his light upon us while we continue to live here on earth.

“It’s just the wasted years so close behind…

Watch out, the world’s behind you…”   __Velvet Underground,“Sunday Morning”

So… as I often do on the anniversary of Lennon’s death, I reminisce on the kindness, the sweetness, the innocence of a people (the American people!) that’s long since past us by.

Check out this video demonstrating Lennon’s kindness and his sense of responsibility and connection to his fellow human being. (Scene begins at 4:00):

Take a good look at this video because it reflects a time that’s past us by–a time when people were not so consumed with fear, with materialism, with selfishness. A time when there was not as large of a division between the rich and the poor. A time when a millionaire (i.e., John Lennon) might start an honest conversation with a homeless person. (The dialogue with the homeless man begins just before 4:00–about four minutes into the video.)

Can we imagine (hmm… “Imagine”–What a word choice!) a famous celebrity doing any thing at all like this today? The only celebrity I can  think of might be Russell Brand. Brand has attempted dialogues with neo-nazis and the Westboro Baptist Church. Not an easy endeavor. Only someone who truly loves people could embark on such an adventure (misadventure?)

Click HERE to read the rest of this exciting blog!

Sunday morning and… John Lennon, a long lost hippie, gone but not forgotten…