Fake Zappa vs. the World
This is the first article in a series of writings (rantings) that are a followup to a piece I did a few years ago about how art therapy can actually suck sometimes – especially for low functioning career artists who are told to do art but with no vocational support. In this series, I go in depth about all the things that I wish I heard when it comes to mainstream mental health jargon as well as things that have to do directly with disabled artists who are stuck in professional obscurity. In addition to tens of thousands of words (some of those words are impressively big) I’m also posting multi-media, trans-media, social-media, and even some anti-media mayhem to accompany this attempt to overthrow the globe.
Part I: The Other Article You Are Not Supposed To Read
Caution: the following article is not written to mental health professionals nor any other highly educated and highly powerful people. This article isn’t even written to those who try to help the mentally ill. If you are someone who thinks they support mental health, chances are I will scare you off. Therefore, by the next paragraph, hopefully I’ll weed out all the polite people and talk to fucked up people who are curious and bored enough to get into my head for a bit. Hi. My Name is Jason T. Ingram and I often go by my stage name, Fake Zappa. It’s currently May of 2020, and the world has never been such a mess, especially my country. For a lot of us, this pandemic is bad timing, and has made life very different. For me, it coincides with some very strange timing in my business and activism projects. February of this year, I had all the core footage for a big political satire media blast and I had to wait on someone who missed deadlines. Although it was nice to get a little more footage, it was indeed late, and I had to wait until April to get it finished. Oddly, it was when a lot of people were stuck at home. In fact, for over two years, I decided it was more productive to stop making regular public appearances. I mainly do it just to get footage, audio clips, and photos to post online. The strain on my mental, emotional, and even physical health were not at all worth it trying to perform regularly. I admit, all this web material and marketing at this time probably makes me look bad, because so many businesses are taking advantage of this crisis. Other things that make this time in history kinda unfair (and I am talking about the good kind of unfair, compared to the bad kind that I rant about) for me, is that I have a very lucky living arrangement at the moment, and the fact that I am already crazy. My craziness actually makes me feel like this crisis is more normal for me than it is for non-crazy people who are going crazy. Most of my life has been a lot about being paranoid about authority figures and government, overly germ-conscious, and isolating socially. Ironically, I have actually been doing a handful of small (and sort-of illegal) gatherings doing various kinds of music. Most of all, after I recovered from my exhaustion and hurt I experienced in some business ventures that led me back to California for a while, this has been a great time to catch up on some projects, and finally launch some of my big marketing campaigns that I have been putting off for a while. For some of us, it has given us time to get focused on what our priorities are, and even some good old fashioned soul searching. I’m already pretty obsessed with that, and I have to be in a lot of ways. Even if I do get the opportunity to seek the wisdom of elders and those who are more experienced than I am, I always come to the same conclusion: why should I get advice from people when everyone thinks guys like me just need to stick with a “hobby” and occupy our time so we don’t harm ourselves or others? Basically, when it comes to following my dream to the degree that I need to make things actually work, I am, indeed, alone. When people believe in you, they don’t just say encouraging words, they actually do something – something substantial, or at least a realistic acknowledgment of what my current reality is.
Quarantine From Dream-Killers
My self care includes actually having a reason to live. This is a concept that is rare in mental health circles. I hate to write about this because although it is as simple as 2+2, I have yet to meet anyone who will actually do the math with me, and it disgusts me to have to mention this. My dependance on others to survive, in addition to a lifetime of suffering, stigma, and abuse as a result, makes my life not worth living. I hate my dream because it is basically impossible. At the same time, I am grateful that I have a dream, because the only other things most people like me find that make them feel like life is a little bit worth living are things that cause a lot of self-harm, and put us and those around us at risk. As a fucked-up young boy growing up, my life would have been full of substance abuse and violence if it had not been my obsession with creativity. That’s the first part of the equation. The second part has to do with the typical shitty questions I’ve been asked for the last several years about why I keep suffering with a failing career that is causing me so much stress and loss, and how harmful all of this is to my mental, emotional, and physical health. Fuck you caring people. Fuck you worried and concerned people. Seriously, fuck you. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I will tell you what you should have been asking me all these years: (most importantly) what happens to you when you run from your dream? The other questions should be about how they can help, simply because anyone can help me. This simply doesn’t happen. Dream killers are everywhere I go, and when they kill my dreams, they are actually undermining my very will to live. I lose control of my will, and I can no longer make choices of my own and I daily degrade into a downhill momentum that I can’t stop unless something brings me out of it. I had a major one a year ago when I was constantly denied the right to hire the help I needed. It happened most recently a few weeks ago when I hit another wall concerning marketing outlets treating me unfairly.
When people suffer with chronic illnesses, it’s hard enough to cope. When doing it alone, it is even more exhausting. What makes things even worse, is when everything and everyone puts that person in a situation where they cannot make a choice that they can live with. Currently, my choice is to give up on my dream, and risk the obvious outcome, or to pursue something that is, in many ways, also killing me. This isn’t the first time I have had to make this kind of choice. When I wanted to die years ago, there was no way out based on the way my mind was wired, and no reasonable options that I could live with. That’s part of my story about being gay in an anti-gay ideology. Being socially and emotionally unwell has also not given me choices about finding a mate who is not a user and abuser. Sometimes I can’t continue making the choice to be alone, and I end up being a creep-magnet. That is another reality of the mentally disabled.
Then, there are times where I am stuck in a situation where I witness an unfair situation and I have to make a choice whether to take some (small and sometimes enormous) risks to myself and others, because the choice of being silent can often be something I am unable to live with. Staying in RV parks in recent years has exposed me to some situations that abusive men have put minors and women in such obvious harm, and I hate it when I end up being the only one to do anything about it. (Often nomads like me are running from unbearable situations, and I have also observed that there are a lot of abusers on the run.) What I have learned over the years, is that when I am stuck in a place where it is my turn to blow the whistle, I’m never prepared for the fact that there is always going to be a “bigger whistle”. Since the Summer of 2016, when I launched out to follow my dream, I found that people liked the old me. In fact, so much that I had to leave everything and everyone behind in order to proceed in doing what I have always needed to do in my life. The downside to that is doing everything (with the exception of a few percent) alone. Being disabled and alone is scary. Traveling full time in addition to trying to run a business is also quite miserable. When it comes down to resolving a conflict, I don’t have a lot of choices. I always have to ask myself if I am prepared to live with myself if I decide to walk away from a certain situation, or if it is worth it to try and do what I need to in order to communicate what I need to and take responsibility. It is also part of my personal activism and empowerment, and although I constantly didn’t win, I often don’t have regrets about taking a stand, especially when I use the upmost tact.
This leads me to the clusterfuck that is my life at the moment: what if it’s me that is being treated unfairly? I’d like to think that I’m also standing up for all the other guys like me that need to fight for equality and undermine the stigma of mental illness, and at the same time, taking these risks can also be a key to finding sanity. There are a lot of reasons to not fight. I’m a Libra, we hate confrontation and can be obsessed with peace-making. Based on my experience, especially in recent years as my reputation has been undermined by those I have tried to fight, and that loss of support makes me unable to succeed in resolving conflicts. It’s like I am in a boxing ring, and so weakened from the last champion, I’m soon faced with another opposer, and less and less cheers for me, the epic loser. Again and again, I am beaten and the more I am beaten the weaker I get. I feel like that loud ankle-biter that’s barking at all the big dogs. Last week I was talking to a neighbor who was walking his, get this, three pound dog! I was told that this dog sometimes intimidates really big dogs. I changed my mind about little dogs. I really can’t stand them, however, I must say that having a lot of bark and very little bite can actually pay off with some of these annoying little yappers. If I was a dog right now, I bet I’d be a teacup-something-r-other, annoying the hell out of others until I get my bone.
My never-ending obsessive soul searching is actually part of my self-care. Since I don’t have anyone to rely on for encouragement and wisdom, I’ve had to rely on ways to find guidance and courage on a regular basis. Since I no longer serve the bible-based lifestyle, I no longer rely on that for guidance like it used to help me in my twenties and thirties. It is nice to also not have all the biblical baggage that comes with that particular ideology. Being “devout unaffiliated” and someone who dislikes faith about as much as I dislike atheism; I also think that this thing so many people do who identify with the word “spiritual” is often about as repulsive as religion. Do I do spiritual stuff? Although I don’t like to call it that, many people label some of my interests that way, and that’s cool with me. I don’t even mind if people think I am into Metaphysical New Age Whatever Stuff. I just try to find things that have worked over the years, and that don’t allow me to get pulled into some kind of rulebook or guru situation. I am also open to the fact that I very well could be a bible-believer again, who knows? For now, here’s my little bag of tricks that is helping me stay on track. Movement meditation with freestyle energy work accompanied by “declarative” prayers is practiced almost daily, often throughout the day; is the most essential. A tarot reading every two to four weeks with the least-creepy tarot deck available is used not to make decisions, but to confirm and weigh various dilemmas. The insight I get from divination is weighed in the light of regular dream analysis and journaling (written, typed, audio, and video journals). Weekly and monthly astrology forecasts have been also helpful, especially about timing. These choices are made in the context of the best logical influences I can think of. I also try to be aware of other positive influences. I do occasionally get some good ideas from others, and sometimes revisit old favorite passages in the Bible that have to do with empowerment. Native American stuff, like animal “medicine” has also been very helpful; if I experience a significant visitation from a certain animal in nature or in a dream. In addition to all of this, I find myself getting a sense of things and others that are draining me of my power. Sometimes I find that I am draining the power of another. I don’t call this stuff my spirituality. I like to think of it more along the lines of taking care of myself, in order to take care of others, and doing what I need to do in life. If I start thinking of myself as spiritual, it can feed my ego, enable superiority complexes, and get me back into compartmentalized thinking when I do act like an asshole. I said all that to get on with my next point, and it has to do with taking some additional steps in my work as a mental health activist.
My dilemmas about fighting aren’t just a Libra thing. It is mostly a fear thing. Not just fear of being hurt and not having any backing, I also don’t want to be seen as being a vengeful person in addition to the fact that I am worried that I could in fact have vengeful motives. I hope that’s not the case. With all the work I do on myself to be mindful of my intentions, I also know that if we all waited for 100% pure intentions, nobody would do much of anything. So here I am, making my multimedia art projects, doing the business related stuff as well, and recently getting the message that I am focusing on the wrong things. It got so bad that I started going batty. Then I went through some of my old projects. Some of them were quite spiffy, some totally lame, and some of them seemed just too heavy, especially for a guy who doesn’t have much of a reach. I have a lot of very sensitive material documenting how I am treated by higher functioning people, especially those more powerful than me. It’s even more sad when there are so many people who believe in the same views as I do. (Right now it’s 12:30AM. I hear birds singing. I’m not used to that, maybe it’s a southwestern high desert thing this time of year.)
There are a few people out there that think that LinkedIn has significant value. For most of us, getting laid on Friendster is more reasonable than getting a career as a result of having a spiffy profile on LinkedIn. One of my recent scams where I was trying to resolve these issues with The Advocate magazine required me to find as many ways as I could to contact some of these unreachable people. So I finally was able to log into my old account, and add my business and projects I’ve been doing over the years since that profile was updated. When it came time to add my current job, I made a job-thing for Fake Zappa. Then I had to come up with what I do with my job as Fake Zappa. There simply is no other job like this, especially considering the fact it’s been years of investing a lot of time and money and not having any income – but isn’t that what LinkedIn is all about anyway? It’s stuff you are either recognized as doing or stuff you want to be recognized as doing. But how do I describe what Fake Zappa does? It would take a long time, and what’s the point because who actually reads those anyway and I’m not trying to get a job. I gave that up years ago. So not giving a shit about spending all that time trying to convince people that my job as Fake Zappa contains all of these nifty things, I just decided to simply put it this way:
“I taunt powerful people.”
Perhaps that’s because at this point of working this “job”, that seems to be what I think that people think of me when I try to do business with people who have the power to significantly grow my business. It has been a cat and mouse game of me getting the run-around from fat cats that are to lazy to kill me so they passively and professionally blow me off (and not the kind of being blown off that I enjoy). It’s a behavior that has become worthy of taunting. For me taunting comes naturally, and often takes the form of simply entering a room or calling someone. Just yesterday in fact, as one of my futile public relations projects actually got through to a big entertainment executive in New York City after finding his direct line – it was epic. Then I called another one in the Big Apple. I expected to get the Left Foot of Fellowship, it’s just that I invaded the life of those who have, in my opinion, too much power, and unwilling to share it. These guys represented A-List celebrities. It made me wonder if when anyone gets a job in the entertainment business that they are given a short standard rejection discourse to keep a cue card handy as the tool to fend off outsiders. Their shpeel (I like that word better than “spiel”) was about the same as all of those other mighty deified workers. Now that I am finding ways to get a hold of some of these folks, my current scam is simply to keep them on the phone as long as I can, give them my finest disabled guilt trip, and say my name as often as I can. I am so tacky that I will repetitively play the “gay card” as well as the dreaded “disabled card” because as a white male, I don’t have a lot of cards. Although I might as well scream at skunks under the porch, at this point this is one of the only things I can do to have any contact with the entertainment world. Maybe all my magic will have the ability to get in someone’s head to the point where they either dream about me, or when they are talking to Jane Fonda and she makes some random comment about mentally disabled artists who are trapped in professional obscurity, it might prompt one of these gurus to say, “there’s this annoying loser who called my direct line a few times – do a google search for ‘Fake Zappa’ and see if he’s at all worth your time”. In addition to the excitement of touching some of the untouchable people I called, yesterday I also made some talking videos, gave myself a sore throat, panic attacks, and got so overly excited I not only forgot to get myself off, I missed my dinner pills; I haven’t missed a dose in quite a while.
Unless you are born into some kind of Hollywood family, or have other privileges that enable you to be an insider, chances are that outsiders remain outsiders; and sometimes for good reason. What if every Meryl Streep fan was allowed on set during the filming of one of her epic overrated flicks? That would be chaos. Occasionally one of these needy and annoying fans might actually contribute something essential to the project, but from their perspective, those risks are not at all worth it. There are a lot of unpopular antisocial guys like me that are doing things like making home recordings, but who just want a taste of the mighty power that radiates (supposedly) around entertainers while at the same time having absolutely nothing to contribute to the entertainment industry. There are times when I catch the attention of some insecure bar-fly who enjoys my performing, even when I’m sitting behind a keyboard in the corner of the stage. Perhaps I end up with the guys who want to bug the frontman of the band but are even too insecure to do that. Or there’s a kindred spirit about the keyboard player in the band because he’s most likely to be the biggest loser in just about any rock band.
Happy to get noticed, I gladly engage with this starry-eyed fan, sometimes at the expense of needing to focus on neatly coiling all my wires and tearing down my gear (which I typically just threw everything in a big bag anyway). These guys just want to have an excuse to associate with me, and it’s typically me helping to produce one of their songs however, I find that these guys don’t have anything at all worth collaborating with, and they flake out anyway. Most people have heard about this thing called Perceived Power. I actually don’t know much about the sociological and psychological definitions of what Perceived Power means to smart people. I learned about it in bible school when I tried to be a preacher when I was young. My definition is about when someone views an authority figure, an entertainer, or an influential person has having a sort of supernatural ability to be somehow beyond human. Then there’s this desire to touch that person to get some of that “magic” on them while overlooking the fact that the person is just another fellow human being. I don’t like it and I also don’t like it when I like it. It feels good to be perceived as something beyond human. It feels empowering when someone treats you with such reverence that you’re made to feel like you are some kind of worshipped deity until you realize how utterly fucked up that is and you try to fix the situation. I also notice that people like this will soon start draining my energy, thinking I am some kind of source for them. That’s what I don’t like about this Perceived Power phenomenon. It attracts and seems to enable a lot of people who are prone to depending too much on the energy of others. It’s a different version of someone who is addicted to power and is gained by attaching themselves onto powerful people instead of putting themselves in a position of power. Sometimes I find myself in a situation where I am approached by people who have about the same amount of reach, the same amount of exposure, and a similar “social scoring”; however for some reason, they think I can give them power. I hate to say this, but I can’t think of being approached by anybody who showed me anything that basically didn’t suck. I am saddened by so many sincere people who just aren’t very creative, skilled, or gifted in any way, yet they deceive themselves to think that they have something reasonable to contribute to the world.
I’d imagine that these hotshots in the entertainment industry assume that all outsiders trying to approach them have nothing to contribute, and based on what they have to deal with on a regular basis, in some ways I don’t blame them. It seems like, from what I have noticed with most folks that are super motivated to get recognized, they invest most of their resources in their obsession with getting recognition than they do with their actual product. At the same time, I have agonized over so many of my peers who I can tell have so much to contribute yet they actually want to stay hidden. I have spent a lot of time trying to find ways to get these artists out of obscurity although I really don’t have the power to do so – obviously if I had the power to get myself out of obscurity, I wouldn’t be stuck now; but I still try to do what I can. I also spew out a lot of unsolicited advice and I get confused about why some very gifted people don’t want to share their gift past their close friends and family and facebook friends. I suppose there could be a lot of reasons besides fears. Fear can be one of the biggest if not the biggest roadblock to someone breaking free of an unfair life. However when it comes to most of us who live with debilitating mental disorders, especially depression and anxiety disorders, fear can literally paralyze you – and I’m one of those people who still tries to use the word literally in the literal sense. Seriously, some of us can face fears that actually make our body unable to move at times. That is another reason why I feel alone. When I meet creative professionals who are waiting for the luck to have someone recognize them to the point where they could actually work as a professional, it upsets me. I am relieved to meet someone who is just as stuck as I am who can relate with me about the constant disrespect and exploitation in addition to trying to work with a low functioning level while suffering different levels of symptoms. Then I find out that they would rather not make enough effort to turn their creative gifts into a career. What upsets me even more is when I do see artists that get exposure and recognition who are making a profession out of something (uninspired/unoriginal/amateur) that should be a hobby, while so many deserving artists are turning their vocation into a secret hobby. These are the same folks that sing at the Monday night open mic at that little dumpy cafe and blow everyone away, yet they won’t take steps to run a music business. Or the folks who enter a few paintings at a group show who end up hidden in the back with so many amateur pieces that they are just buried in the noise of so many mediocre pictures. They are also competing with a lot of non-talent that gets center stage because of who they are fucking, who they are paying, or who they are controlling. The world of arts and entertainment is a cruel environment for the mentally ill although ironically it’s the fucked up ones that are known to have the best product while those who move shitty product are the ones who are typically:
High cognitive functioning
High physical functioning
High social functioning
High business functioning
Another thing that needs to be added to this “irony of art” is how social media has been the game changer, not the internet itself, in my arrogant opinion. Thanks to the last twenty years of the iMac and free apps like GarageBand, iPhoto, and iMovie, it’s not only easier and more accessible to create digital media, it’s also easy for anyone with an old Apple, and an internet connection to put content on the web. The bottomless pit of all the noise of all the shit that people plaster all over the Information Superhighway of the World Wide Web has become something that consumers drown in unless it becomes viral. Something associated with being sick has become the thing that has been the appraiser to what is considered valuable. What makes social media the authority on what art should be seen by the masses is more significant than the fact that there’s so much out there. One example is to browse random uploads on SoundCloud, and compare them to the music that is getting featured (that has the thousands of hits) and I find it just about as shitty and most of the unoriginal unpopular stuff that’s posted. Then occasionally I’ll find a gem from a serious composer who spends all their time on their product and no time marketing it. For instance: home-producers with a dozen plays yearly on their ReverbNation and YouTube uploads who should be getting thousands of times that.
Exploiting the Vulnerable
As “whale watching” is synonymous with “water watching”, “talent scouts” are synonymous with “talent scammers”. The more I put myself out there with my creative work, the more I come in contact with fraudulent activity that either quickly changes its company’s name, or somehow flies under the radar of the law, and also often many of these businesses know how to get away with exploiting emerging artists. Based on the content these folks are trying to promote and getting paid to feature hilariously bad product, I question what is actually going on. The first time I encountered this was nearly twenty years ago after some dingbat was getting a hold of public records from the Library of Congress and soliciting songwriters to produce their music. I actually thought that letter I got in the mail was legitimate at first until I heard their music. The sad thing was that it gave me some false hope that a particular song of mine was actually discovered by some recognized producer who was seeking out obscure talent. Since things like Yelp has helped artists make better informed decisions about hiring companies that cater to outsiders, there are still are some things to consider about a lot of artists.
First off, many artists are stuck where I am and suffer at the same low functioning level as I do. This not only makes for a depressing combination, it makes people like us vulnerable. In fact some of us are so motivated, it is in some respects, our reason to live; and that makes us even more vulnerable. We are fighting for our lives. The other thing is that there are times during mood swings where we can be taken easily more than other times. I still get taken in by situations like this. They are risky, and at the same time, I don’t have the same choices that insiders do and I get tired of working alone and I get even more tired of the silence. SBD. I learned that dreadful term in middle school. Silent But Deadly. When I grew from a kid to a middle-aged guy, I have come to realize that the SBD doesn’t just refer to flatulence. It is a reality for a lot of us who end up in a situation where in order to survive something we are faced to do it alone. Especially when it comes to following your dream. Some people just want a job they enjoy. Then there are some of us who in some indirect way are literally fighting for our lives. That’s not part of my “elevator speech”, but I might as well add stuff like that. They have already decided I’m crazy the moment I stepped into the elevator – the smart people who have advised me and educated me tell me to come up with this infamous Elevator Speech. What they don’t realize is that some people are lucky to have someone actually join them in an elevator in addition to actually giving a shit. If I do get fortunate enough to hop in an elevator with someone who looks dressed-for-success and they happen to say, “so, Fake Zappa, tell me a little about your business…” I should not even try to act all professional, positive, and bubbly; although I think I can pull that off pretty well (but than again, all that enthusiasm is not working). So, I could try this as my elevator speech:
“I’ve suffered a lifetime of isolation, abuse, and rejection based on living with debilitating mental disorders. If you don’t give a shit about my weird confusing art, I don’t care. The thing that should grant me the power to be heard is the fact that I haven’t killed myself, at least not yet. Therefore, even if my art does indeed suck, my story about what I have survived is valuable to everyone. Now, don’t give me your useless advice, your empty ‘encouraging’ words, just look me in the eye and tell me that you are going to do absolutely nothing productive for my career and that you really don’t give a fuck about the life of a disadvantaged artist. Otherwise, give me your private contact information so I can keep contacting you until you get my story to the press, or at least get me in contact with someone that is more influential than you are. If people like you keep me a secret, you are contributing to the undermining of my very will to live. When I suffer like this, I need my career just as much as I need my mental health care to survive. If I don’t have the right to do my work and be recognizes as a professional, statistically based on others like me, I will lose control of my will and disappear into self-harm and ultimately in suicide. Anyway, that’s what I do for a living, and the eighth floor is where my dentist is. Have a super day!”
It’s tough being around bullied people. I was raised in an urban progressive refuge around a lot of feminists in the 1980’s, a lot of loud angry gays, and other overly persecuted people who then got so overly empowered that you simply don’t want to fuck with them. I get it now. There are so many people that spend so long being overpowered that sometimes their only choice to find a life that is worth living is to behave in some ways that end up resembling the people that bullied them. I think I must have suffered some friendly fire as a result. I hope I don’t turn out that way, although I think it’s happening. A feminist is just someone who wants to be treated equal, however in the context of so many communities, women are viewed as objects and an object that wants to be treated like a person is some kind of heretic in some places. But what about my artsy-fartsy culture? One of the toughest roadblocks about dealing with unfair treatment when it comes to my disability status and my rights to work in my field; my culture labels themselves as being “equality” people. In fact, many of us have a “=“ symbol on the back of our Prius and superimposed on our facebook profile picture. Sometimes I feel like a declawed house-cat. Other times I feel like not only my front and back paws are declawed, they also pulled my teeth. All I can do is lick someone to death, and at this point, sticking an abrasive cat-tongue out at the Big Dogs of Big Media and even harmlessly pawing their wet noses might be all I have to defend my case, I’ll do what I can.