Tuesday, January 24, 2012

God in the Ghetto

I'm not a huge Phil Collins fan even though he was extremely popular during my high-school years. I actually liked In the Air Tonight but only because Risky Business was one of my all time favorite movies.

In 1989, Phil would record Another Day in Paradise which I believe strikes a shameful chord within all of us. The specific lyrics that pertain to how uncomfortable we feel around homeless people are:

He walks on, doesn't look back
He pretends he can't hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there

I decided to dive into this uncomfortable space in 2007 when I would turn forty years of age. My wife asked me what I wanted for this monumental birthday and I told her I would be most obliged if we were to do something together as a couple but to leave me to my vices for one day out in Dallas.

Now this is a story that I've never told anyone before simply because it's an uncomfortable story and it's one of those tales that's quite personal. And until now has been between me and God as I mentioned before, the stories from the ghettos I have romped around in are my stories and they are extremely close to my heart. However, this is one time I feel compelled to share of myself so listen carefully.

To look for God in this world is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. And given most of us live in fairly nice conditions, I would say you're probably not going to find God at the Gap which leads me to the most memorable birthday celebration of my life.

On a Saturday in January of 2007, I hitched my barbecue pit to my truck and headed to the corner of Meadow and Grand in Sunny South Dallas. It is the roughest corner in the city as described by the Dallas Police Department. On this corner is a blues club while across the street is a liquor store that sits on what is known as The Used to Have Corner. Meaning, I used to have money. I used to have a house. I used to have a Cadillac, etc. Teaming with winos and crack addicts, The Used to Have Corner serves as headquarters for those homeless people in search of loose change or a buck here and there to catch their next fix.

My theme party for the day would be to simply set up on this corner and cook 40 lbs of ribs and drink bottles of 40 oz malt liquor with the winos all day in celebration of my now forty years of age. I got there at 7 a.m. and as crazy as it sounds, the corner was full. I guess a wino gets to rolling pretty early in the morning.

I had told a number of blues musicians that I was coming and they began showing up around ten or so to check on me. Most of them would stop and visit, swig back a forty and smoke a cigar while we laughed about old times watching the smoke pour out of my barbecue pit. It was a beautiful winter day and the warmth of the pit was enough for us to huddle around and not get too cold.

Now I'm going to have to give you some education on black culture as I'm sure most of you reading this are white. On your birthday, it's customary to pin dollar bills on one's clothes to recognize this special day. At this time in the morning, no one had pinned any money on me as of yet.

We were all sitting around and I got up to baste the ribs while noticing a homeless man about a block away. He was dressed in a one piece camouflage jump suit with a weightlifters belt around his middle and white worn out high top tennis shoes. He was shuffling around in a hypnotic dance like state that had an air of insanity mixed with it. Sort of a Michael Jackson does miming thing if you can imagine that. One of the guys looked up and said, "Look at the damn fool over there. You think he's had his weekly bath?"

I didn't say anything and kept to my ribs as they were getting a bit dry on the top. As I closed the lid, I looked up and saw the homeless man coming straight for me. Now he was a good 50 yards away but he was bee-lining right in my direction and moving really quickly. The guys that were with me watched him cross the parking lot as he headed straight for me and as he did, a couple of them stood up just to hold my back in case something might be going down.

It's important to note that I have never seen this man in my life. Yes it's true I go down to South Dallas a lot but this was not someone I had ever met or even seen before.

Walking straight up to me, he stopped short and looked me dead in the eyes. He reached deep in his jumpsuit pocket and pulled out a dollar. Pinning it on my shirt he said, "Happy Birthday Edwin." Then without any hint of recognition as if he found himself to be suddenly lost, the man did an about face and walked away. 

I suppose some of you will chalk this up to some strange coincidence but since you weren't there, I can tell you it was beyond any experience I've ever had. He put a hole right through me with those eyes and the whisper of his voice seemed to cut through the sounds that resonate within the ghettos of South Dallas. You could have heard a pin drop when he fastened that dollar on my shirt.

As I mentioned before, folks don't see God because they don't know where to look. I don't think God hangs around with the saints as much as he does with the sinners and since I'm a sinner, I'm in pretty good company.

Keep your eyes open my friends. You never know when God might be wearing a camouflage jumpsuit with a weightlifters belt. He's pretty sneaky sometimes.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Down Home Poke Salad

I was down in South Dallas once for New Years. I must have been around nineteen or twenty years old and was of course the only white boy in a night club of about four hundred black people.

For the big night out, they had catered the evening with the biggest buffet of Southern Soul Food you have ever seen in your life. I got through with my second set and joined another band member, Rick Caldwell, to run through the buffet.

The line to get fried chicken was too long so I opted for the chitlins instead. Only problem was I didn't know what a chitlin was but I was so hungry I had lost patience and just grabbed what I could off the line.

We sat down in a corner and Rick kept watching me out of the corner of his eye, almost sly like as I began to eat my plate of food. As I chewed the chitlins, they began to expand in my mouth and didn't seem to be breaking down like regular food. The taste was horrible and it just kept getting bigger and bigger as I kept on chewing.

I got it down to what I thought might pass through my throat and swallowed as hard as I could insuring a tremendous slam to my stomach and as I did, Rick started laughing.

"Say man...how you like them chitlins?"

I replied, "What the hell is a chitlin anyway?"

"Hog intestines white boy...hog intestines. Eatem' up before they get cold on you."

I've thought about that night for years as the idea that a human being could actually develop a taste for chitlins just floors me. You've got to be one hungry person to eat chitlins and assuming that's the only thing you've got to eat, I suppose one could develop a taste for it. I would pay top dollar, however, just to see what Kent Rathbun or Dean Fearing could do with a plate of chitlins.

The Old South can be a tough road to go down and within our current society, there are obviously fragments of this road in dishes like chitlins and what some folks call Poke Salad.

The actual name of this plant is Poke Sallet. I suppose the Sallet turned into salad as we Southerners tend to just round things off in our mouths sometimes. The plant was used in folk medicines and prepared as food when folks didn't have too much else to select from. A perennial plant, it grows wild in disturbed soil so you can find it around fences surrounding a pen or corral.

You'll want to pick the plant when it's young and tender. After it has bloomed and has berries, it's too late as the plant will contain toxins that can make you sick.

Wash the greens thoroughly and put them in a large pot with enough water to cover. Boil them for five minutes or so and then drain and replace with hot boiling water. Boil them again for an additional five minutes. Drain them again and then put them in a good cast iron skillet with about six Tablespoons of bacon drippings. Add one finely chopped onion, cover and let it simmer until the onions are tender. Beat five eggs until foamy and scramble them with the greens and onions all together.

Salt and pepper to taste and get you some Southern soul my brothers and sisters.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Creative Juvenile

I don't know what it is about the dark seeded soul that exists deep down in all of us. All I know is that it's what makes The Three Stooges funny as well as a bunch of other idiotic juvenile behavior so much fun.

One of our very early escapades occurred when my modest little company office'd in the White Swan Building before they transformed it into The House of Blues. We might as well have been five guys living in a barn with computers. It was always hot in the summer, cold in the winter and every time it rained, water would splash out of an old drain pipe onto one of our desks. It was still a very cool building and even though it was a bit rustic, we had some of the best times of our lives working there.

One of the guys that office'd with us was a film and video editor by the name of James Jeter. James had ordered a bicycle rack for his car and we were told that it would be delivered to the office so we were to watch out for it in case he wasn't there to sign for it.

It was a large box that arrived and when the delivery man dropped it off from the dolly, you could hear the parts rattle around inside. I quickly signed for it and we all came out of our offices to stare at the large brown box now sitting in the middle of our work space.

Funny thing about creative people as we have all kinds of tools that normal office folk don't have lying about. I quickly grabbed an X-ACTO blade, which we used back then for cutting out paste up and mounting comps, and carefully sliced the tape apart like a surgeon so as not to see any damage. With that, we all removed the parts and put them on the floor. "Here's my idea," I said. "I'll go down to the basement and pick up some old pipes I saw down there and we'll put those in the box. You guys remove a few parts and hide them away where James will never find them."

We carefully placed the old pipes in the box as well as some of the original parts and then sealed up the box using packing tape cutting carefully so as to align with the original tape.  And now the waiting would begin.

The next day, James bounced in the office extremely excited about his brand new purchase. So much so, that he immediately tore it open and began trying to put it together. All of us kept quiet while pretending to work.

"What the hell? This doesn't even look like the same kind of metal." (Sounds of rustling directions heard while grumbling continues in the common area.) "This doesn't fit together. This is all wrong."

Phone Call: "Yea, this is James Jeter and I ordered a bike rack from you guys and there
are pieces in this box that don't even look like they're supposed to be in here. They don't fit and one of the pipes is really old and rusty."

At this point none of us could take it anymore and with one grand burst, laughter exploded from every corner of the office.

"Oh you guys. Very funny. Ha ha ha."

Over the years while officing with many creative people, I have found that I'm not the only one who has a problem with this kind of behavior. In fact, I believe the more creative you are, the more sinister you can be.

Which leads me to one of my favorite people in the whole world. His name is David Thorne and I think he just may be a creative genius. Dark...yes but a genius just the same.

Even though David is a senior level art director and designer from Australia, he has made quite a name for himself on the internet surrounding his numerous antics. With a best selling book on The New York Times List titled, The Internet is a Playground, my bicycle rack stunt is but a mere drop in his great bucket of quality shenanigans. I highly recommend the purchase but only if you read it while not drinking any type of beverages as they are likely to end up spewing from your mouth.

The below email chain is one of my favorite creations by David Thorne. It's a back and forth dialogue between he and and co-worker who has lost her cat.


Missing Missy
By David Thorne 
Copyright © David Thorne 2008-2012 All rights reserved.

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 9.15am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Poster

I opened the screen door yesterday and my cat got out and has been missing since then so I was wondering if you are not to busy you could make a poster for me. It has to be A4 and I will photocopy it and put it around my suburb this afternoon.

This is the only photo of her I have she answers to the name Missy and is black and white and about 8 months old. missing on Harper street and my phone number.
Thanks Shan.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 9.26am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,

That is shocking news. Luckily I was sitting down when I read your email and not half way up a ladder or tree. How are you holding up? I am surprised you managed to attend work at all what with thinking about Missy out there cold, frightened and alone... possibly lying on the side of the road, her back legs squashed by a vehicle, calling out "Shannon, where are you?" Although I have two clients expecting completed work this afternoon, I will, of course, drop everything and do whatever it takes to facilitate the speedy return of Missy.

Regards, David.
From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 9.37am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Poster

yeah ok thanks. I know you dont like cats but I am really worried about mine. I have to leave at 1pm today.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.17am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,

I never said I don't like cats. Once, having been invited to a party, I went clothes shopping beforehand and bought a pair of expensive G-Star boots. They were two sizes too small but I wanted them so badly I figured I could just wear them without socks and cut my toenails very short. As the party was only a few blocks from my place, I decided to walk. After the first block, I lost all feeling in my feet. Arriving at the party, I stumbled into a guy named Steven, spilling Malibu & coke onto his white Wham 'Choose Life' t-shirt, and he punched me. An hour or so after the incident, Steven sat down in a chair already occupied by a cat. The surprised cat clawed and snarled causing Steven to leap out of the chair, slip on a rug and strike his forehead onto the corner of a speaker; resulting in a two inch open gash. In its shock, the cat also defecated, leaving Steven with a wet brown stain down the back of his beige cargo pants. I liked that cat.

Attached poster as requested.

Regards, David.


From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.24am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

yeah thats not what I was looking for at all. it looks like a movie and how come the photo of Missy is so small?

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.28am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,

It's a design thing. The cat is lost in the negative space.

Regards, David.

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.33am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Thats just stupid. Can you do it properly please? I am extremely emotional over this and was up all night in tears. you seem to think it is funny. Can you make the photo bigger please and fix the text and do it in colour please. Thanks.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.46am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,

Having worked with designers for a few years now, I would have assumed you understood, despite our vague suggestions otherwise, we do not welcome constructive criticism. I don't come downstairs and tell you how to send text messages, log onto Facebook and look out of the window. I am willing to overlook this faux pas due to you no doubt being preoccupied with thoughts of Missy attempting to make her way home across busy intersections or being trapped in a drain as it slowly fills with water. I spent three days down a well once but that was just for fun.

I have amended and attached the poster as per your instructions.

Regards, David.


From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.59am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

This is worse than the other one. can you make it so it shows the whole photo of Missy and delete the stupid text that says missing missy off it? I just want it to say lost.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.14am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster


From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.21am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

yeah can you do the poster or not? I just want a photo and the word lost and the telephone number and when and where she was lost and her name. Not like a movie poster or anything stupid. I have to leave early today. If it was your cat I would help you. Thanks. 

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.32am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Awww

Dear Shannon,

I don't have a cat. I once agreed to look after a friend's cat for a week but after he dropped it off at my apartment and explained the concept of kitty litter, I kept the cat in a closed cardboard box in the shed and forgot about it. If I wanted to feed something and clean faeces, I wouldn't have put my mother in that home after her stroke. A week later, when my friend came to collect his cat, I pretended that I was not home and mailed the box to him. Apparently I failed to put enough stamps on the package and he had to collect it from the post office and pay eighteen dollars. He still goes on about that sometimes, people need to learn to let go.

I have attached the amended version of your poster as per your detailed instructions.

Regards, David.


From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.47am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Awww

Thats not my cat. where did you get that picture from? That cat is orange. I gave you a photo of my cat.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.58am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Awww

I know, but that one is cute. As Missy has quite possibly met any one of several violent ends, it is possible you might get a better cat out of this. If anybody calls and says "I haven't seen your orange cat but I did find a black and white one with its hind legs run over by a car, do you want it?" you can politely decline and save yourself a costly veterinarian bill.

I knew someone who had a basset hound that had its hind legs removed after an accident and it had to walk around with one of those little buggies with wheels. If it had been my dog I would have asked for all its legs to be removed and replaced with wheels and had a remote control installed. I could charge neighbourhood kids for rides and enter it in races. If I did the same with a horse I could drive it to work. I would call it Steven.

Regards, David. 

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.07pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Awww

Please just use the photo I gave you.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.22pm
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww


From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.34pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

I didnt say there was a reward. I dont have $2000 dollars. What did you even put that there for? Apart from that it is perfect can you please remove the reward bit. Thanks Shan.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.42pm
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww



From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.51pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

Can you just please take the reward bit off altogether? I have to leave in ten minutes and I still have to make photocopies of it.
From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.56pm
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww


From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 1.03pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

Fine. That will have to do.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Here Dad...Listen to This

Back in December of 2011, a creative brief flew across my desk for a concert the Dallas Symphony Orchestra would be performing on the 10th of January. The image was not your typical concert musician shot nor did it resonate any sort of idea that this would be a symphony concert. In fact, the only reason I knew what the image was is simply because I have four boys who play video games. And The Legend of Zelda, a popular Nintendo video game series, would be the feature for this musical presentation.

Upon digging into the brief, I discovered that the music from The Legend of Zelda had been composed for a symphony concert which really had me a bit baffled. This was not the norm within my world as I've been helping promote classical concerts for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for the last ten years of my life and throwing a video game concept into the mix was just...well...weird.

Come to find out, this is not a new concept. Back in 2008, composer Nobuo Uematsu joined up with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for a one night only performance of Final Fantasy. According to an article in NPR, the show sold out in three days. As I mentioned previously, I've been doing this for a long time and the idea that a classical concert would sell out in three days is unheard of.

This particular concert with the DSO, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, is being produced for Nintendo by Jason Michael Paul Productions, Inc. by producer/director Jeron Moore and music director/lead arranger Chad Seiter, the guys responsible for bringing The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony Concert to London and Los Angeles back in October 2011. Working closely with Nintendo's Koji Kondo, JMP Productions, Inc. was able to bring the evidently iconic music behind the game to the symphony hall. 

When telling my own children of this, they were already two steps ahead of me with purchased Zelda music in hand all loaded up on their iPods. "Here Dad, listen to this. It's really cool."

"Here Dad, listen to this. It's really cool."

Let me tell you why this is probably one of the most important statements I've ever heard. It's true that this is a successful show and symphony orchestras everywhere will revel in the success of selling tickets out at record speeds. Sold out is a phrase that's hard to come by these days on any venue and I don't care if you're John Mayer or Maroon Five. But the mere idea that thousands of children are listening to such wonderful music is something I don't think even Nintendo could have imagined.

As a developer or creative person, an agenda is the last thing on your mind. You just want to produce a great piece of work, whatever it is that you're creating. The innovation behind using classical music to engage animation and action is the result of an extremely driven creative brain. And the result of great creative is what we're seeing now with The Legend of Zelda. Success.

Appreciation for classical music within young people has always been a challenge. You don't ever hear of anyone giving their children classical piano lessons anymore. My wife is a bit of an endangered species as she took classical piano resulting in recitals as a young lady. She loves classical piano and still plays on occasion but gets really aggravated when I come in and listen. Apparently that makes her nervous but what I'm getting at here is a real loss of culture within our own society. Without classical music being taught to our children, where will classical music end up?

My hats off to Nintendo as well as producer Jeron Moore, executive producer Jason Michael Paul, music director Chad Seiter and all of the great musicians, composers and orchestrators that made this happen. I'll bet they had no idea that just by creating something so incredible, they would spark a classical fire within the heart of a child. 

Here's to Zelda...pointy ears and all.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Coloring Thank You for 2012

I would very much like to express my appreciation to all of you that have supported the Coloring Box. Now in it's third year, I never thought that it would have this kind of readership with almost two thousand readers per month. And the most incredible thing is that you are from all over the world which is a bit overwhelming when you think about it. I guess I'm just happy to know that someone other than my mother reads my ramblings.

I hope that you have enjoyed my musings and have left the blog with a bit more color in your heart and soul. Maybe even a little more hope. By the way, hope really does exist contrary to it being a word in a political campaign and these days, we'll need all of it we can get.

Thanks so much for an incredible 2011 and we'll keep on hitting the keys for an interesting and well read 2012.

To all Coloring Box followers in:

United States
United Kingdom
Puerto Rico


Regards and Best Wishes – 

Edwin S. Holt

Holt Creative Group
5307 E. Mockingbird Lane, 5th Floor
Dallas, Texas 75206

Sunday, January 1, 2012

One King and Queen Left on the Chess Board

Pop music has gotten so bad these days that I absolutely can't stand it. Am I alone? Who is listening to this crap and what is wrong with you? I'm really sorry but Katy Perry is not a musician nor has she any talent whatsoever and it makes me want to throw chairs across the room whenever I hear Last Friday Night. There is nothing real about this music other than the revenue I'm sure it's bringing in for Capital Records. A label that used to actually produce real music.

Over Christmas, Etta James was hospitalized and placed on a breathing machine due to her failing health. She is 73 years old and although not a lot of white people would know her by name, they would recognize her music. She crossed over with one record titled At Last but most of her other recordings were primarily popular with the black market.

Etta James was with Chess Records when Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, and Chuck Berry were inventing what was called the Chicago sound and the base for what would become rock and roll and soul music. (If you haven't seen the movie Cadillac Records, I highly recommend it.)

Etta James and Chuck Berry are the last of the main five that had such an enormous influence in creating America's music and after Etta is gone, there will obviously be only one left. And Chuck just turned 85 last October.

With Etta James in such poor health, I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to the men and women that invented America's music. They were slaves, sharecroppers, cotton farmers, Gandy dancers, ice men, butchers, meat packers, gamblers, alcoholics, drug addicts, womanizers, preachers, sinners and saints. 

They were real people and so was the music they played. Music that was created from a troubled man and last time I checked, we've been in trouble ever since Adam and Eve bit that apple.

Play on brothers and sisters.