Mike Watt on Life, Death and Art

16 05 2012
Mike Watt – The man in the van with a bass in his hand.  For quite awhile now, Watt has been a lighthouse in the midst of my creative ocean – not steering me to the safety of the shore, but steering me away from it to untapped regions of the unknown where beautiful things can be born if you are brave enough to plant and water the seeds.  I’ve spoken about him in other posts so I won’t beat the same old stories to death here.  Suffice to say, he’s one very creative individual who has a beautiful mind and I’ve considered myself extremely fortunate to be able to interact with him now and again.  The world would benefit from more Mike Watts…I’ll leave it at that and move on to this recent interview with him:
Pic I took from the most recent missingmen 3rd opera tour in Philly
JS: Back in September I came down with a serious infection that took me about 5 months to fight off.  It changed my outlook on a lot of things and really spurred  me to make some long overdue lifestyle changes.  You had your own experience with a seriousness illness back in 2000.  Can you talk a little about that and how that experience spurred change in you?
WATT:  yes, the experience twelve years ago with that illness provided both the inspiration for my second opera and helped make me even more earnest to make as much work as I can with the time I’ve got left.  it was very profound feelings of mortality that shook me to my core. I was only fortytwo and still had so much more I wanted to do.  it was intense for me, big time.
JS:  I’ve come to realize from being sick that I’ve been terrified of pain all of my life and will go to great lengths to avoid it.  What do you think pain teaches us?
WATT:  I was born with bad knees and had much much pain there, surgeries in my twenties.  I think it even helped make me feel more paranoid, waiting for the next “incident” hell and shit like that.  pain can mold us into trippy shapes if we let it dominate us.  it is a tough struggle but seems like a part of the journey.   damn.   probably being born without pain is a challenge also, believe or not.   life is not easy but can be interesting if you put your heart into it.   the physical hells are struggles though, that’s for sure.
JS: We all have our own insecurities and fears.  I often am afraid of opening myself up to strangers in such a public way (as I’ve been doing on this website).  When you have pushed through your own fears in the past what have you found waiting for you on the other side?
WATT:  I got into music to be with my buddy d. boon and he definitely was not so fearful.  this helped me much and I borrowed from him on this, he inspired me to try and be brave but not conceited – he was like that: a very humble man who would try his hardest with expression.  I find when I push some fears away, there’s others waiting so the “fear problem” is never “solved” but rather constantly wrestled.  that’s a trip.
JS:  One of my favorite lyrics from your third opera “hyphenated-man” comes from the song  pinned-to-the-table-man.  “Loss and liberation, forever the connection, forever the question”.  There is so much in that one little sentence.  Can you expand upon the relationship between loss and liberation?  What is the connection and what is the question as you see it?
WATT:  I wrote that in saint petersburg (russia) way after all the other stuff.  in fact I recorded the spiel at my pedro pad when I got back cuz everything had done been done at tony maimone’s studio g in brooklyn already.  the problem was I was “ending” (I say that cuz in theory it’s supposed to be circular and unending) with the “man-shitting-man” part and I realized that folks might take that as the bottom line or some kind of summation/summary of the whole piece.  so what I did was the move the middle (hub) song to the end and instead of having one instrumental as originally planned, I wrote that spiel you refer to and put that part in the middle.  the spiel itself refers to middle years and the idea of reconciliation.  of course not everything can be reconciled and I had to acknowledge that w/a part like that “man-shitting-man” one but in other places, that can happen – even it can be very painful and be a tough lesson to learn.  man treating fellow man inhumanely can’t ever be reconciled in my thinking though, it is huge problem.
angels gate lightouse – April 22, 2008
 Mike Watt 

JS: I’ve really enjoyed your photography over the years.  Some of my favorites like the angels gate lighthouse pics can be found in your new book: mike watt  on and off bass (published by Three Rooms Press).   Have you found any intrinsic similarities between snapping pictures and making music?
WATT:  snapping pictures means trying to capture something you can’t really set up, the way I do it at the crack of dawn on the bicycle or in the kayak.  with composition, you’re more in charge of preparing the situation. there’s more chance involved I think with the pictures and more personal effort with the song stuff.  there are similarities with the idea of refining an expression in a way though, I agree with you there.
JS:  There are also excerpts from your tour diaries as well as some of your poetry in the book.  You have been exploring many different forms of art.  Is there a common thread or underlying drive that spurs you into these seemingly different artistic directions?
WATT:  laurie steelink at track 16 gallery picked the first thirtyfive shots, the three rooms people kat and peter picked the diary entries and the rest of the included images so I think in a way the book is a collaboration.  as for diary writing, I do that on tour to help keep focus and never reread them, so embarrassing to me! that’s the practical side to it.  I guess it is some sort of extension of some of the same stuff in the picture taking and bass plucking too.  I guess the common thread is fucking watt.
JS:  It sometimes appears that for many of us the act of “creating” is encoded into our DNA.  I don’t necessarily mean this in a religious way, but it just seems that we are wired to want to create.  Why do you think human beings find the act of creating, especially art, so important?
Watt:  john coltrane said something about musicians being after a truth and I’m thinking that could apply to the other arts as well.  it’s a search…

JS:  If your vast body of artistic work could only accomplish one thing, what would you want it to be?
Watt: to make folks feel safe to take risks with arts and expression in each of our journeys to find our inside voice and not just flop around in the very shallow pan of marsh, finding ourselves bound up in puppet strings.

~~~~~~~~~

Pic of Watt and me.  I’m over 400 pounds in this pic.  I never posted it before because I have always been ashamed at how out of whack I let my weight get around this time.  Now that I’ve lost some of this weight, it feels a little bit safer.

Mike’s book (it’s awesome, buy yourself a copy) can be purchased here: http://threeroomspress.com/

Mike’s music can be found at itunes, fine music purveyors everywhere and here at his new label: http://clenchedwrench.com/

Info on all things Mike can be found here: http://hootpage.com/

Watt’s podcast of interesting music and ideas here:  http://twfps.com/

(Thanks again Mike!)





Don’t Give Up!

16 05 2012

This one is for the people who are struggling with their weight. For the people who feel broken. For those that have given up. For those that feel they are too far gone now to make a change.

Don’t give up!

I know where you are at. I was over 400 pounds at one point not so long ago. I thought it was too late for me. My friends and family had spoken with me about their concerns regarding my weight. I would “yes” them and then go binge for days. Their criticisms seemed to validate the feelings I already had about myself – that I was not good enough. That there was something wrong with me. I stopped going to most family gatherings. I further isolated myself. My shame grew exponentially.

I had tried to lose weight in the past and always failed. I always gained it all back plus some. I felt hopeless and sometimes worthless. My future looked so bleak to me.

I got to the point where my thought process was that I would die this way. It would be easier to just eat myself to death rather than lose this weight. Until I got very sick and dying became a real possibility. It’s funny how something like that will change a person. It was a blessing that came disguised as a trauma. (Doesn’t this happen frequently in life?).

Getting sick was the best thing that could have happened to me. It forced me to see what others had been trying to say to me. Of course I had known I was in very poor health but it was in getting sick that it really crystalized for me. I knew that I needed to make a change.

There is nothing special about me. My willpower is less than most people you know. I’ve failed constantly in the past. The only difference this time is that I’m willing to continue on for the long haul – one small step at a time. If it takes me 2 years or 5 to lose 200+ pounds, I’m going to do it.

I’m not telling you that you aren’t already perfect because you are. Zen Buddhist master, Thich Nhat Hanh said, “The wave does not need to die to become the water”. We are already what we seek to become. It is already inside us, we just need to find it, tap into it and bring it out.

Before losing 65 pounds, I was unable to wear a seatbelt in some cars, I could not sit in a booth when dining out, plastic lawn furniture was my nemesis, amusement park rides were often not possible, flying required seatbelt extenders.  Even just finding the energy to play with my kids or take a walk with them was so difficult.  Life was harder and I was missing out on some of the best parts of it.

So I’m not telling you there is anything wrong with you. I’m just trying to appeal to your desire to live the life you were born to live. The life you envisioned when you were younger. The life that your weight might currently prevent you from living. Inherit the life you were born to live!

How to start? Each race won starts with a single step. So take your first step now. I started by cutting out sugar. I failed initially. Even once in a blue moon I still fail but starting is the important part. Starting and picking yourself up when you fall are the most important things. As you have successes, cut out other unhealthy things while increasing exercise.

Don’t give up!

Aim for a pound. Just one pound. Show your body and your mind that you can do it. When you reach a pound go for 2,  then 5, then 10.   Mini goals are very important.  Sometime the only way a mountain can be climbed is to climb it one step at a time.

Don’t wait for your situation to become increasingly dire like I did. If you aren’t happy, make a small change today.  Begin to come up with a plan.

I’m an email or a message away if I can help in any way. If you need to talk and are willing to put forth some effort, I’m willing to spend the time.  I know you can do this, because I am doing it too.  Millions of us are.  Come join us.  Reclaim your life.

I wish you luck. But with some determination you won’t really need it. Don’t give up!

All the best,
Johnny
johnnysized@gmail.com





65 Pounds Down in Five Months!

15 05 2012

And so begins week number 21 of my switch to a plant based diet and increased exercise regime. This week I lost an additional 4 pounds! That brings the total to 65+ pounds in just five months.

What a ride this has been so far. Emotionally its like a roller coaster. The plateaus are coming now about every 10 pounds or so and they can really be a bear at times. The last one played havoc with me for nearly three weeks. I have redoubled my efforts though and have seen a great deal of movement after cutting out wheat, stopping my late night snacking and steering away from my occasional cheat meals until I make my way under the 300 pound mark.

I’m finally getting to the point where I’m starting to feel comfortable in my own skin again. I’m not there yet but it is within reach. I can feel the physical and mental switch within the last week. I look back at when I topped 400 pounds and almost find it unfathomable. How the heck did I let things spin that far out of control? It wasn’t long ago yet in ways, it seems like a lifetime.

I continue to receive really nice words of encouragement from you and I am very thankful for that. Your words are inspiring and the information that you send is helpful. That some of you take the time to send me an email with your thoughts and reflections on what I have written means so much. Complete strangers, some from half way around the world reaching out with messages of hope. It helps to restore my faith in humanity and makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile here. Without you I am positive that this struggle would be exponentially more difficult if not abandoned alreeady.

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So this week, I’m enjoying my Vitamix juicer/blender. I’ve decided to eat RAW foods meals at least twice a day this week and the Vitamix has gotten me off to a good start. Tonight I’ll be making some soup. Last night I got a little creative and made a smoothie with broccoli rabe, apple and pineapple, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeño, scallion, tomato and cucumber. The pineapple was a last minute addition after tasting it and realizing it needed something else to lighten it up some. An interesting mix of flavors but it definitely worked.

This is a whole new world for me so if you have a Vitamix and/or enjoy juicing, post up some tips here or drop me a line at johnnysized@gmail.com.





Gettin RAW pt.2

13 05 2012

So the raw foods fair was fantastic! It’s good to get out from behind this computer and occasionally immerse myself in places where I can really learn about health and nutrition firsthand. And this was the place to be yesterday. I tried raw smoothies, “ice cream”, soups, salads, dips and lots of chips. I even enjoyed raw wine (16% alcohol content – wow)!!

In the end I walked away with a high quality juicer. Woke up this morning and made a juice straight from my brain and it was fantastic – pineapple, banana, orange, apple, carrots, spinach and kale. My 7 year old said she liked it so much that she would drink them all of the time and that’s after she found out about the “disgusting” ingredients. She said that she’s going to be the healthiest kid in school – that feels like money well spent to me. My toddler also loved it and  wanted more when she finished. Sorry kid, the rest is MINE!!! Can’t wait to make a homemade V8 later!!

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Gettin RAW!

12 05 2012

Woke up this morning while having a dream that I could noticeably feel the difference in gut size. I was literally feeling smaller in my dream. This is how I know things are moving in the right direction lately. My body and my mind know that the weight is dropping again. It feels good to be back on track. My body and mind are telling me that I’m on my way now.

It seems like the more weight I drop, the longer the plateaus. It can be discouraging when you are in the midst of it. It’s all good though, I’m in this for the long haul. I’ve read that the more gradual the weight loss the better the chances for maintaining that loss.

Interesting day on tap today. In a few hours, I’ll be on my way to check this out:

Since I made the switch to plant based, I’ve been gaining an interest in Raw foods. It appeals to me. I’m sure at some point, I will give it a spin. It’s like the evolution of what i’m already doing. i’m not sure about how long I’ll be able to sustain it but it would definitly be good to incorporate as many raw foods into my diet as I can. This is the way our ancient ancestors ate. Our body was built to run perfectly on this stuff. I look forward to getting an education today and deepening my understanding of a Raw food diet, juicing and other health and nutrition related topics.

Later I’ll be taking my daughter to see the new Avengers movie in 3D on an IMAX screen. I’m equally looking forward to that! At nearly 37 years old, I still love my super heroes!

Enjoy your day and whatever you have planned! Even if it’s just staying put. Relaxing is important too! Sometimes I need to remind myself about the importance of relaxing. Whatever you are up to, make it a good one!





Walnut -Sweet Potato Mash!

11 05 2012

This was the best meal of the past week right here. Not sure if it’s my sweet tooth or what but I love sweet potatoes now! Before making the switch to plant based, I was never really a fan. For those who consume dairy, regular butter and milk can be substituted). This was so good I had to pass it on:

4 lbs sweet potatoes (yams)
1/2 cup coconut milk
6 tbsps vegan butter
1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup toasted walnuts (chopped)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Roast potatoes on rimmed baking sheet until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cool slightly. Scoop flesh into large bowl; discard skins. Mash hot potatoes until coarse puree forms.

Heat milk and butter in heavy small saucepan over low heat until butter melts, stirring occasionally. Gradually stir hot milk/butter mixture into hot potatoes. Gradually stir in spices. Season with salt and pepper.Sprinkle nuts over and serve.

If you want to liven it up, you could add a splash of bourbon and a drizzle of pure maple syrup. I had it without and it was fantastic!

DO AHEAD: Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm in microwave.





Perseverance Pays Off

10 05 2012

Over two days of being a lot more disciplined and it is paying off. Three nights of no snacking and trying to get more rest has definitely been helping as well. Two nights ago I hit the weights pretty good and did some of DDP’s patented 10 second pushups (DDP YOGA). I’m finally seeing some weight loss again. After three weeks of gain a pound, lose a pound, no movement, I was starting to feel like I was alone in the wilderness. Now the scale is moving again. Yet, I know that the hardest days are still to come.

I’ve been working through dinnertime some days and that can be rough. The cravings will start and lets face it, there aren’t very many healthy options when you are in the car and need to keep on moving. Luckily yesterday, I had a bunch of cauliflower packed and that was helpful in holding me over until I got home (where I had a most amazing walnut /sweet potato mash – recipe coming tomorrow). When 5pm rolls around fast food begins looking good to me. Despite the fact that I know a burger from Burger King will make me feel like a sloth the second I’m done with it, it still calls my name. Despite knowing that McDonald’s chicken nuggets are made with anti-foaming agent and really don’t taste all that good, I still crave them. Though I haven’t eaten either in nearly 5 months and am able to rationally talk to myself about why they are bad for me, they somehow still have their hooks in me.

My biggest weapon during these cravings lately though has been some Buddhist philosophy. “This is just a thought”, is what I say to myself. “It will pass. Let it pass. This is only temporary”. I often think of how many times before this that I’ve had the seem exact craving. I think of how I have given into this craving in the past and where it has gotten me. The satisfaction of surrendering to a craving never lasts very long. It is quickly followed by shame, guilt and diminished feelings of self. I know I can never be my best if I reopen the door to that world and begin traveling down that path again. Better to make a high quality burger at home once in a very blue moon. Last night I opted for three vegan chik’n nuggets. They tasted better than anything McDonald’s can come up with anyway. It was surely healthier.

So the journey continues and perseverance is beginning to pay off.

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