Thursday, February 26, 2009

On Death & Dying (Revisited)

I recently lost my grandfather. I had no idea how I would actually feel...seeing him there, or rather, seeing his body there laying in repose. Instead of weeping to the empty shell that lay in such an ornate box, I remembered the little things he did that made him our "Grandchester". As we pulled up to the church, I looked at all my beautiful relatives, dressed in black and silver. We all tried to keep our faces clear because we wanted to be strong for each other, but we HAD to cry... Our family's monarch was no longer with us anymore. This man was great, not one of those "funeral greats": You know how people who attend funerals and speak about the great things that the deceased was, and that person was actually a hellion?

My grandfather was great. He loved God, and he served his Church and his community daily. The events leading up to and happening in the actual funeral were quite interesting. I'll say this and only this about a former minister: It's amazing how someone so closely linked to another man through a church can stand up and speak on a man as if he had no soul. Big words and letters behind your name does not qualify you to treat or mistreat anyone. Those same letters behind your name does not afford you a certain right to be smug with anyone. And the overuse of the word "protocol" does not make you look or seem of more intelligence that anyone else. You ever meet people who learn a few words out of the English dictionary that are larger than two syllables and they begin using it like it's going out of style? (Ahem, I digress...)

But about crying...I watched people, and I learned to sense what their 'hearts' were sensing. People weep and cry out as a way of expressing themselves. There's a time for everything. Funerals excite and aggravate me, because as I've said before, sometimes people like to feel that they're mourning more than the other person. But, I think Ministers try to offer the bereaved family some hope in saying, "don't waste your tears, He (She) is in a better place." That may be so, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt. There is time for us to weep and mourn.

I'm sorry, this is my blog, and I have to express this. So, when you love someone, it's expressed in so many ways, but never have I seen a man who seemed to have lacked love than my former Pastor. He stood up at the pulpit and delivered directions from the order of service with this uninterested, uninspired, unmoved look on his face, and I thought to myself, "Wow, is this the man of God that I followed for 8 years?" I tried not to focus on him so much, but I thought about my grandfather's fight, spiritually and physically, and now I'm reminded of my great-grandmother's journey of 101 years, and during both funerals, this "Man'd of God" (I don't know why Southern Preachers put the D on the end of Man...) But this "Man'd of God" stood up there, same church, same time of day, different year, with the same stank look on his face, speaking curtly about protocol and procedures and following the program as follows...

I understand the significance of following an order of service, and being mindful of the bereaved family, but in times of sorrow, I understand these are the reasons we rely and lean upon the Lord, because man, namely this preacher man, did not show even the slightest interest in loving on the family, offering support, or thinking back on the memory of his beloved brother, my grandfather, Chester Kemp, Sr.

Incompetence all around...

It rained as we approached the cemetery. After we gather, and my Uncle prayed, and people said their last goodbyes after pulling flowers from the sprays that were giving in my grandfather's memory, a few of us stayed behind to watch the funeral directors put Grandchester's remains into the ground. This was unique because I'd never seen the process of fitting a casket into a vault. As the workers, who I assume worked grave to grave, as they were lowering my grandfather into the ground by an electric crank, the crank gave out and the casket was stuck in the middle of the hole. A worker decided to manually help the casket down, by leaning over the hole and pulling the straps down, exposing his "CRACK" and almost falling into the hole with the casket. If my uncles had not been there, He would've been in that hole with my Grandchester. After my uncles helped him out, the funeral directors were like, "Why are you folks even here?" He stated that us being there watching made his workers nervous. I thought to myself, they're just shame because they can't do their jobs correctly. Grown men, being nervous... They were nervous that if they made any mistakes they probably might've been buried on that same day as well.

People, sometimes, we just don't realize that the respect and love we should have for each other does not end when we die. After walking into the church to see some more family members, I walked back out to the cemetery to just talk to my grandpa. As I was walking, I saw a man briefly out of the corner of my eye looking at something on the wall... It was Grandchester...and then I looked at him again, and it was actually my father... NEVER have I thought I'd seen anyone who has passed away, but that day, my daddy's posture and position made him look like my grandfather.

I went back out the grave, and I just stood there. The wind and rain had bullied some of the floral sprays to the ground and I began picking them up and rearranging them so that they'd stay standing. My grandfather's brother, "Uncle Party" came out where I was standing. We just stood there in silence for a while. He slowly walked up to the fresh mound of dirt piled up over his brother's grave, pulled a red rose out of one of the floral sprays, looked at me and said, "Well", and then walked toward his car, and then he began to weep.

Now, finally I got time to sit with my grandfather's remains, and kinda just talk to him as if he were there. I said, "Thank you Grandchester. Thank you for teaching me how to be a man. Thank you for your Vacation Bible School Class in the summer time. Thank you for raising my Daddy. Thank you for the $20 every weekend when I was in High School. Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for loving me." Even as I type this, tears well up in my eyes. I stood there and I cried. I was saying goodbye to the only grandfather I'd ever known...and I KNEW him. He wasn't a distant relative living in Tuscaloosa. I lived, breathed, ate with, talked to, laughed with, prayed with, prayed for, smiled at, loved on, hugged, worried about, cried for, cried with, watched, and sang with him...Memories of walking around the church at the beginning of Sunday School will dance in my head forever.

It's okay to cry. It's okay to mourn.

"You shouldn't be ashamed of mourning"-Ross Falcon, The Ars Supernova

I love my grandfather. God, I know you're holding him. I know. Hold me too.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Death, Dying, and Family...

I find death so fascinating. Not the actual "Death" itself, but the events that occur after one, a loved one, has left this life. Whenever a loved one passes away, it seems as if people begin to manifest their cynicism. There are even some who'd like to feel as if they're mourning the loss more than others, and proceed to weep or moan harder than their co-grievers.

It would seem to me, that death brings out the worst in some people. Sometimes, accidents can be so tragic that the grief seems unbearable. Over the years, I think I've grown a little more understanding that death is a part of life. I'm fighting to understand that some people cannot control their emotions, and I do not want to seem insensitive toward my family and friends. I remember when I was seven, and a loved one passed away. A family member was carried out of the church, kicking and screaming and as I stood to the side as other family members ushered her out, she unknowingly kicked me in the head with her high-heels. *That hurt pretty nicely*

But I've often wondered...If we, (my family) as spiritual believers, understand where our loved one is going, why do we grieve so hard? She loses her husband, he loses his father, they lose their grandfather... We shed tears...Crying and grieving is necessary, but at what point are we free to act out of place and become unruly because we want people to feel the pain we feel?

The older I get, I understand that as much as I love all races, there are just some differences in how we handle things, especially funerals, and I'll leave it at that. If you'd like me to expound, inquire within.

This past weekend, my loving grandfather passed away. My eyes begin to water even now, as I think of his gentle eyes, and his cool way of saying things. I think about the memorable quotes that used to come out of his mouth. I think about his life and how he pressed forth to be a better man and a better Christian man every day. I think about the stories that I was told over the phone about his "ornery" behavior in the hospital just recently.

So, I leave Austin to travel to Lake Jackson to be with my family. A lot of people haven't seen me since my Big Mama's funeral. I began to brace myself for the comments, as I was coming back with some obvious changes in appearance... LOL, nothing plastic really, but I'm a little thinner and I've got these seven inch vines hanging from my scalp. I like to call them locs, but you KNOW my family gon' call them something else. *SIDENOTE* When I get around my family, my vernacular changes...

I spent the night with my cousin who didn't want to sleep alone after having stayed there at the hospital with my "Grandchester" after he died. My cousin watched me grow up, but for some reason I feel like she still sees me as little "Dut-Dut". It was good sleeping in her big ol' bed. We're family. We stayed up and could not sleep; thinking about "Chester Kemp" and his life and we began to think about how much we couldn't believe that the day had come... that he was actually gone away from us.

After getting about 2 hours of sleep, we traveled to my grandmother's house. I took a lot of deep breaths because this was my GRANDPA... It's still odd knowing that he's not going to be there, standing in front of the space heater or perpetual flame as I'd like to call it. He'd stand in front of the space heater to get himself warmed up whenever he felt cold. Now, that space heater stayed on 368 days a year. Really, 368 days. It was always on. I walked in the door and I was met by the laughs of my great-aunt and others, "Law'd have mercy, look at that boy's hair. What them is, "DEAD"locs?" I 'bout died of laughter. They were pulling on my hair and asking me if it was fake. We just sat and reminisced on a lot of things. We fried fish and talked about folks. It was grand. I showed them the Study Breaks Magazine that we were featured in, as well as a copy of The Ars Supenova's new album. They were like, "That's good baby", but they didn't seem all that impressed. See, I may be "JIROD GREENE" whenever I'm home here in Austin, but when I'm HOME HOME, I'm "Lil' Dustrag" or "KOOL POP" or "DUT-DUT"... Those are a few of my nicknames. They didn't care that I was a Semi-Lebrity...

That night, when I traveled back to Austin, I lay on the couch and closed my eyes, and I began to imagine looking into my grandfather's eyes and wondering what he was thinking before he left. I cried as I began to think of his life and how we interacted the last time we saw each other. I began to think about other family members and how I would not let 2 months pass between seeing or hearing from people that I love...

I forgot to deliver him a message from a friend at my mother's church. I learned that his nickname was BILL. Country-Folks sure do have a way of making a nickname come up from absolutely nothing, but it means something. How did anyone manage to get the nickname "BILL" from Chester? It's beyond me.

I received word that some family members were getting emotional about the funeral arrangements and stormed out during several family meetings. After being perceived as still being a baby, (I'm 24) I wanted nothing more but to strut around proving my intelligence, and call the emotional outbursts and arguments, "unnecessary" and "unneeded". You see, I was NEVER EVER the youngest grandson, well, I was until others were born shortly after me, but I was always treated like the "delicate" one. Even today, at 24, I'm still treated as the delicate one who needs to have "thick skin when you come down here to the Country". All I can think about is, "I WISH I WAS THERE WHEN ALL THAT STUFF WENT DOWN", I'm speaking about the outbursts around the funeral arrangements. It just doesn't seem logical to throw a fit when you want something that no one else wants.

I feel as if it's our responsibility to be there for my grandmother. SURE, They've lost a father, and we've lost a grandfather...but she lost her soul-mate. She lost the man she lay beside every night. She lost the man that she STOOD beside in SICKNESS and in health... In sickness... MY grandmother stood beside my grandfather when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer almost nine years ago. She was there for his emotional break downs. She was there for his mood swings. She stood beside him, because she was and remains to be strong. Heck, she's stronger than a lot of us.

When I was little, around the age of 7, my family members just started DYING at a rapid pace, or so it seemed. My cousin and I talked, and we seemed to lose family members left and right. By the age of 20, all of the great aunts and uncles on my mothers side had passed away...All but one. Dear Ol' Aunt Sweet. But at funerals, I'd be crying my eyes out before we even entered the church...remember, I was the "delicate" one. I would look around to see who else was crying, and then I'd cry harder... I was young.

I think people still do it, it's just a bit different these days. Adults boast their pain by pressing the Emergency Unnecessary Outburt Button and pretend that they're the ONLY someone whose lost a loved one. I'd love to put a padlock on that EUB Button. We're al grieving. We all miss him.

God, tell my grandpa that we miss him. Tell him that we'll see him again soon. Tell him that I'm sitting here, about to design his obituaries and I can't find a good, manly font. Tell him "Robin" misses him so much, and that Laci misses him.

I love Chester Ray Kemp, Sr. I know he's having a good time with Chester Ray Kemp, Jr.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Come With Us

I sit up thinking almost every night about where it is we're supposed
to go in life. Where is The Ars Supernova supposed to go from here?

I watched the 51st Annual Grammy Awards Show on Sunday night. I watched
as each performer took the stage and offered up his/her/ or their best
musical gifts to an audience of fans, peers, and producers. I watched
as the winner(s) of each categorized award walked on stage to accept
their molded, gold-ish, phonograph...

And I saw us...

As it would seem to most... A silly day dream. I laughed to myself and I said, "A dream"

When I lay my head down, and I sleep...Sometimes I dream the most vivid
of dreams, and sometimes, I don't remember those dreams throughout the
course of the day...but...

There is one dream that just will not go away. This dream haunts my
thoughts throughout the day. It dances in my head throughout the

I dream of carrying our music; our message beyond 6th street. This
dream reaches beyond Austin, Houston, or Dallas. Though touching each
city with fashion and finesse, we reach out beyond this great state of
Texas toward the edges of our nation and even the corners of the Earth.

I believe the "greats" had dreams just like this dream I've been
having. I believe Quincy Jones dreamed about it. I know Michael Jackson
dreamed about it. I'll bet Bruce Springsteen dreamed about it, and
Stevie Nicks, The Beatles... They all dreamed of stepping out and
reaching forward to touch someone in another part of the world.

I've never been so close to tasting this dream. It's sweet, I can smell
it. The work, the hard work in the specialties of each player in this
band can seem bitter, and a bit sour at times.

More than being a performer, or a musician... Being a humanitarian.
Keeping our supporters on our minds daily is a major focus. Giving
back...or rather just GIVING, because that is what keeps us going.

True, we've a lot of work to do as young musicians. We've a lot to
learn, and still there are dues to pay, but to know that we've got each
other as we travel down this road with uncertainty at our heels, but
with faith in our hearts... We can share this light, this LUMINA with
the world.

Even after the first album, we're still MESSENGERS... Even after the
second album, we will still be LUMINA. We will continue to bring forth
a message of hope to any and everyone who will listen. We will still
show that light to anyone who is searching for positivity through
poetry and instrumentation.

We are not saviors. We are not perfect. We do not know ALL there is to
know. Artists are what we call ourselves; players in a band founded upon
key principles: truth, wellness, hope, love...MUSIC.
.... That's who you are to us.

We're striving... Moving at a rate that seems unreal when we think back
to how far we've come in only two years. The six of us are only PART of
The Ars Supernova. We need you to come along with us on this journey.

I love you.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Music's Sour Notes

Mainstream Music America has developed a unique pallet for its taste in Music; a pallet that I find to be comparable to that of an infant. You know, it's got to be simple, soft. It can't be too hot or too cold. It's gotta soothe the gums, and feel good on the way down. Well, maybe not the pallet, but rather, a softer appetite.

The texture and tenderness of the music that majority of today's society is willing to digest is similar to that of PEEPS. You know, the little soft, chewy, ever-so sugary little candies that are available mainly during Easter time.

Seasonal listeners... These are people who are into what's in for the time...

So, how does a musician SO far from the PEEPS ever survive in a mush mouth music society...

Well, because this is MY blog, I'll tell you the first thing that came to mind. I'm slightly embarrassed, but whatever.
There are two ways to get attention.

Now, this is tricky...Because You have to get exactly what I'm saying.

A.) Be like a silent fart... No one notices you...or they may feel you breeze past, and they're thinking, "Okay, I can handle this". But then all of a sudden, you're a presence so strong and unbearable, they've got to notice you!

B.) Be a LOUD fart...Be bold and out in the open. Unashamedly spreading your presence toward everyone within a 15 foot radius. (How exactly do I know the right radius...Kid test, mother approved? I dunno)

Education...Do people really want to know about this music stuff?
Do people really want to know why this harmony was used?
Do people really want to know the colors painted by this composer to make this sound?

Nowadays, people want instructional videos on how to listen to music, or how to dance to music; how to eat, sleep, drink, treat their significant others, and how to make money.

BIG GENERALIZATION... Yeah, sure...but they come from somewhere huh?

By sticking true to yourself and to your craft seems to be the best way, but it's not always the easiest, nor is it the most popular.

I find that whenever I write lyrics for songs, if I try to write about something I know nothing about, the song sounds empty, or if I try to write a song that's very "radio friendly" I end up with A, B, A format that is more than depressing.

Maybe I ride this artist just a bit much, but that's what I liked about Solange Knowles' second album. She kissed the industry-sewn, teeny-bopper genres goodbye and put on a colorfully brilliant new attitude.

Gnarls Barkley, heck, even Mr. West... These are a few people who've taken barriers, and blew them away like paper boats down main-STREAMs. (corny, but you get me right)

Infants scrunch up their faces whenever they taste something sour...
They really haven't developed a strong enough pallet to withstand the sharp taste...

To the music infants of the world who would rather settle for the sugary sweet innocence of easy listening...

GROW SOME.....taste buds...A little salt never hurt anyone...



About Metromint

I discovered Metromint while flipping through the channels on TV one Saturday. I started watching Food Network and usually, unless someone's eating or making something bizarre, it doesn't hold my attention. That particular day, I learned about Metromint, which was started by a husband and wife. They created a flavorful water beverage with just water and mint. Who'da thunk it?

Anyway, I was intrigued. I rushed to my local grocery store to find that there were indeed cases of Metromint on the shelves. I bought two bottles; Peppermint Water, and Spearmint Water. I sipped the Peppermint Water first and I started grinning because it was exactly what the show on Food Network said it would be; water with a cool refreshing taste of mint. It tingled.

I called my bestfriend and I told him about it. He was skeptical and wanted to try some of mine. Of course, I encouraged him to buy his own. I mean, sharing is caring, but I don't actually LIVE by that motto. (LOL... but seriously) Just kidding.

My bandmates and I are always looking for ways to connect with people making differences in the world at whatever possible capacity. I told them about Metromint and how we BOTH were doing cool things with water. Last year, my band, The Ars Supernova raised funds through shows and merchandise sales to fund the building of a well in rural Ethiopia; providing clean, potable water to a village where clean water was nonexistent. It wasn't about a pat on the back, it just seemed like something we should be doing; helping out our brothers and sisters, and spreading our love through music.

I wrote to Metromint to let them know how much I appreciate their product and I told them a little about our band. When I checked my inbox and saw that they'd responded...I yelled so loud! After corresponding with Michele Thorne, the Wellness and Outreach Director, I told her more about the band.

About a week later, I go to the front door, preparing to take out the trash, and at my feet was a box addressed to me. I lifted up the side and saw a sticker there. The sticker read "METROMINT". Excitedly, I lugged the box into the house, and up the stairs. I opened it and there inside were bottles of Metromint and MetroElectro. Six Flavors!!!! One of which I hadn't tried before. It made my day.

When my bandmates finally got to experience what I'd been raving about. They realized why. Even the one who only drinks Coke and Milk was like, "This is good stuff!"

So thank you again Michele, and thank you Metromint!



The video should explain the majority of this blog. But Again, Many thanks to Metromint for sharing such an awesome product with us.

Everyone in the band enjoyed drinking it. I actually had to hide a few bottles.

Yeah...It's Water...but it's cooler. (HA, I love it!)
Michele Thorne, thank you so very much!

Jirod Greene
(and the other Metromint drinkers pictured: Dietrich, David, Ross, Matt, and Alejandra)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Oh What a day it has been...

January 30-31, 2009... The Ars Supernova has been working so hard.

On Friday... We shot the second half of our music video... "Supernova: The Death of A Star" in 32 degree weather. Let me tell you, the paparazzi was out that night. We shot the red carpet scene for the video. ALL SIX of us stepped out of a limo wearing our very own custom designed vests compliments of Loves, Mariessa in Austin, Texas. She does absolutely amazing work.

The shoot was grueling, but PAPERTANK made it enjoyable. The trinity: Jeff, Jon, and Ray, again, very amazing videographers.
We had a full day of shooting and enduring the cold weather. PICS COMING SOON!

On Saturday we had an interview with the newly launched online publication called Rapt Magazine at Mozart's in Austin. The interview was a lot of fun, and we got to play with a beagle! Valerie of Rapt asked us really great questions. The real questions, you know... She didn't ask only the standard "Getting to know the band" questions. She asked us about our relationships with each other, the meaning behind our new album, each and every one of our musical influences.

Later that day, we had a photoshoot promoting Loves, Mariessa. FUN PHOTOS...Wearing our new show attire. In the beginning, we didn't know how we'd all look together, but everything came together beautifully.

Then came the time to load up gear and head to STUBB'S for our show. We'd had a long couple of days and the only thing that was driving us was...well, wanting to put on a great show. Alex, our violinist was suffering from an injured wrist. We were like, "OH NO!!!" which her friends would later conclude is the result of myspacing too much. LOL, but we wanted her to get better so we were concerned. When we got to STUBB'S there was the usual hustle and bustle of people moving gear, dropping this, and picking this up...This seems to be an ongoing thing, but EVERY show, David, our guitarist will lose a cable, or Dietrich, our keyboardist will mysteriously lose a cable, and they do the tango, back and forth with why the other person took the cable, put it in his car, drove it to Persia and boiled it in castor oil...Never to be found again... Until someone ends up finding it.

Right before the show...Alex's bow breaks...and she was just going to have to fake like she was playing. After a series of "Oh My God's" and "What are we going to do's", we decided that the show must go on.

We started with our song "Supernova" instead of the song "Cure" that we were initially supposed to start with... The lights and the fog machine set the scene...and my comrades began to sing the beginning of the song...A minute later, I make my grand entrance...I stand DEAD center...silent, with an accusing look on my face...hand on my hip...JUST AS BAD AS I WANNA BE... I approached the mic to begin the song...I open my mouth and began to sing...FIRST WORD....NO SOUND!!!!

Second and third words...NO SOUND... sound...I looked at the sound technician, he gave me the shrug as if he didn't know what was happening. In a panic...No...I'm calm...I just reached over and grabbed David's mic...I mean, he didn't need it...oh wait, he did...but I grabbed it any way...And began singing over the crowd... APPLAUSE...

Minutes into the show...the struggling Alex was saved.... a bow appeared amidst the fog and lights by a mysterious, glowing hand. Dietrich's father had come to the rescue with a working bow.

And so the show went on. Lessons learned. A triumph for The Ars Supernova... It's a live show...stuff happens...But we weren't defeated.

A big thanks to all the people who came out and showed support.