3.23.2014

Moving On


I just finished my Picture A Day For A Year blog and there is something rewarding and nourishing about being DONE with something.  You look at it and you think: I set out to achieve something and I accomplished it.  So much of life (particularly life at middle age) is defined by wading through perpetually unfinished (and seemingly unfinishable) work.  I assume that's why people become consumed with lawn-mowing, gardening and home-improvement projects -- these things are uniquely unlike the nourishment and attention they lavish on their jobs, their families and their self-development -- because they are finished.  (Thus, too the proliferation of 26.2, 13.1, 3.1 stickers on the backs of cars?  Finish lines everywhere to help us manage the unfinishability.)

So the last post I wrote was about a feature film I was hoping to make and part of me wants to take the post down and pretend like it never happened.  It would be easier to imagine that NOT FINISHING wasn't a part of my life, that I have never failed at anything and that my life, like most of the lives represented on the internet is NOT disappointing.

But the truth is that I'm not going to make that movie.  And while I can imagine that sometime I would change my mind about this?  I'm actually not planning on making movies any more at all.  Depending on who you are and how you know me -- this may seem like a big shock or a massive contradiction of my essence.  But it's not, I assure you.  These kinds of transitions (like the structures of scientific revolutions in Kuhn's wonderful extended essay about the nature of academic thinking and the history of human thought) happen gradually and slowly and probably even? Inevitably.  And when they do reach the tipping point or the day that they must be announced?  They *seem* monumental, but upon further and deeper examination? They've been a long time coming.

This isn't really supposed to be a post about movie-making or goodbyes though.  It's actually a post about what's next.  Well, it's ACTUALLY actually a post about the fact that there might *be* a next.  I'm not going to say exactly what the *next* is right now and right here, I'm just going to allude to it and then probably say more about it later.

This blog has been called the inbetween for a long time and for a lot of reasons.

I studied Van Gennep's ideas about limin and liminality when I was writing about Garage Sales in graduate school.  I have always loved the fluctuation, potential and magic that can emerge because of inbetween-ness.  And as I entered middle aged adulthood with this blog the frame "inbetween" seemed uniquely helpful for capturing my life as I understood it.  I could write several books about how and why I came to appreciate inbetween-ness, but the truth is:  I'm a little bit tired of being inbetween.

I'm a strong "P" on the Meiers Briggs test which means I have an almost indefinite ability to persist without closure or definition, but there is a bit of a cost that comes with deferring so long.  I know that because I've spent 44 years being okay with "inbetween" -- that it will always be a part of me, but I think I'm going to create another online space to chronicle this new chapter in my life. The part of me that is no longer trying to straddle two professions (higher education and filmmaking) but the part who is instead committing to something new.  Something that I want.

Here's the plan: in order to avoid another public accountability debacle like that of my last (and now officially inaccurate) post, I'm going to write there for about two months before I start inviting everybody to read.  If you happen to find it?  Of course you can read it, but it'll take me a while to get my bearings and find my voice.  If you're still interested in two months -- I'll announce my new blog here and you can unsubscribe from this chronicle and sign up for the next one.

I'm glad to have had this outlet and I'm particularly grateful to the readers who mean more to me than I can probably express in the thinness that this medium affords.


1.14.2014

Location Location Location



I have a goal this year that I want to make a movie.  I actually have a short documentary halfway finished and maybe I'm going to just finally finish it.  It's a project that has been gestating for almost ten years and I'd love to give birth to it.  But I have this other project that has grown up in the meantime. This project is a feature film that I'm pretty excited about.

I finished a draft of the script during Christmas Break, and the truth is I want every week of the year to feel tethered in some way to the project, whether or not the project is going work or not.  I'm not letting myself give into the kinds of worry and doubt that threaten any artistic project whose scale is ambitious.  I'm going to keep going forward to this project until:

A.)  I shoot it, edit it, ship it to festivals and find some distribution.

or

B.) realize on the journey of pre-production that I can't make it work at this time in my life.

But I would prefer "A.)" please.

So I'm going to blog here (since most of my readers are generally friends invested in my life journey) about this particular bend in the road.

I went scouting last week on a lark because I couldn't find the time or the energy to sit down and really push those revisions into reality.  I thought for sure that I would find my perfect neighborhood on 16th Street or 17th Street.  Canton is the kind of city where income level and class stratification generally can be mapped in gradients that get gradually darker or lighter as you move North and South up and down Cleveland Avenue.

I almost gave up after a few streets and alleys of not finding what I was looking for.  Then I found the street above.  It's really perfect.

So if you recognize those houses?  If you're the president of this neighborhood association?  You're my new Most Favored Person.  Please call.  Soon.  I have a pitch for you.

1.07.2014

Leaves.


When the car backs out the driveway,
the tires crunching across the frigid, unshoveled driveway,
and the squeaking rattling gears and rollers of the electric garage door,
are muted by the steady churning of the dishwasher here in the kitchen.

The puppy at the window, watching,
manages to top off the noise with pathetic whines dueting
with a gutteral growl that sounds too old and bitter for his young body,
so i lean down and pet him and say, it's all right. everything is all right.

Now you know, don't you?  I am
a grownup, a really socially graceful, nuanced and delicate
grownup who knows how to say its all right in a way that sounds
deliciously convincing. in other words i am an expert liar.

the funny thing about becoming a
self-aware grownup? is that there are these whispers in your
head that tell the truth even when you're perfectly managing the
delicate art of telling the lie that proves you to be nothing close to what you hope to be.

12.08.2013

Beautiful Accidents and Contemporary Aesthetics

This is another capture from my camera-phone and the fortuitous moment of coming upon a fleet of buses WHILE one is poised enough to snap a photo seems, well, something akin to newsworthy.

It's funny how the television news has come to be, for many, the definitive mode of staying connected to the ideas and places and issues of our time.  Postman's argument that television is a terrible place to get news goes as unheeded as most of the other great prophets of history -- but that doesn't diminish the viability of his claims.

Television is a terrible place to get news for many reasons - the first is that news worth knowing is not easily articulated in pictures.  There's two reasons why that idea is true: the first is that articulating the connections between important ISSUES and current EVENTS in ways that are EVEN-HANDED is terribly hard to do with pictures.  Words and abstractions much more quickly make these kinds of connections for us. It's not impossible to do this, just very difficult and very unlikely.

And that brings me to the second reason that idea is true -- it's very rare that anyone takes the right picture at the right time.  Even if you're a whiz and crafting story from pictures and videos (which you'd need to be in order to make those important connections), who *ever* has the right pictures from the right moment?  As much as the news is well-served by photographic and video documentation, it is equally ill-served by second hand reports of the events.  The result is that television news is primarily made up of images from stock photo files, video news reels provided by those who have money to make video news reels (government bureaus, public relations wings of corporations), after-the-event footage from "the scene of the crime," and loads of polished anchors and reporters with carefully crafted lights, audio, wardrobe, makeup and hair.  The news becomes an advertisement for a number of things that remain unstated and over-articulated; and barely about the issues & events in even-handed, concrete, immediate terms.

So I found it "newsworthy" that I happened upon these buses emerging the school simply because my quick phone-snap gave voice to the dreariness of overly bureaucratized, institutionalized, homogenizing contemporary school.  The buses are so even and uniform and predictable in their decline across the face of the photograph. Their continuity and the way they grow as they tumble toward us and our point of view?  Seems vaguely ominous to me.  They're COMING!  (For you?)  The weather provides tonal detail too.  The melting snow, the falling rain, the bleak grey sky.  Even the stop sign (another bit of evidence of our highly routenized daily grind) doesn't offer us a patch of red; governing the emergence of the buses, it shows us only it's backside.  It too is grey.   Finally the photo offers some incipient sense of tragedy.  Since the front bus has already stopped and may be turning toward us, there may be a collision about to happen.  The lens flare at the bottom of the frame only heightens the imminence of a flame, an explosion, or a collision.

Of course the crash didn't happen.  Yet.  It's only a metaphor.  But the point of this metaphor is prophetic now that we've read the photo in such detail.  Contemporary education cannot continue to be shaped by the industrial and bureaucratic concerns that currently shape the culture of testing, assessment, standards and interventions.  It's true that with a fleet of buses this effective, no child will be left behind.  But do we really want any of these children to arrive at the destination they're being borne away toward?

11.01.2013

I Don't Know Where I Am.



I am, decadently, delightfully, finally watching Breaking Bad.  I don't watch much television, generally I prefer the story arc of a more contained text - a novel, a film - but I do understand and appreciate the pleasures of serial storytelling.  It's just that those pleasures aren't often enough exploited (in my experience) by television producers.

As I was catching up on my Twitter Feed tonight, I ran into something where someone made a claim about the character Bryan Cranston plays on the show and I realized that I didn't know what I thought about the claim because I don't even know if I'm in the middle of the show, at the beginning.  I don't have a progress bar that helps me know where I am in relation to the series.

And I realized that I liked not knowing.

Really the pleasures of being lost are really quite profound.  There's a kind of suspension of belief in being lost.  Being lost means that you no long have to be anywhere.  You no longer care about maps, manuals or ideological treatises.  You just are where are.  At the mercies of the universe, floating toward some kind of fate, but really so far from any notion of the fate that you had planned on that you can barely even remember even what you hoped your fate was.

Really and profoundly lost is a gloriously decadent nowhere that allows you to finally (!) be in the present not obsessed with the future, not imprisoned by the past.

Watching a tv show that has already aired and finished, a show that doesn't air in a world of appointment television is like a small metaphor of this decadent kind of lostness, but it does clarify what we've lost, doesn't it.

These progress bars are everywhere.

We live in a world of too much assessment.

We police our own pleasure with these bars, wondering how much longer we want to commit, wondering whether this is really the best thing we could be doing right now, wondering if we can possibly get the ending we want before the progress bar gets to the end.

I'm loving not knowing.  Getting lost.

9.29.2013

oncoming sunlight


It's a relatively recent innovation in my life (five years? maybe seven?) that I've been taking pictures in the car as I drive.

I think that this is a signifier of may things:

- that driving is an all too pervasive part of our culture?
- that driving is one of the few moments when we can just sink into aesthetic reverie?
- that the cultural revolutions of -- phones we carry, cameras in phones, photos that emit immediately from device to publication -- have, in profound ways re-constituted the possibility of living everyday lives that are braided with aesthetic endeavor?
- that I am obsessed with collecting the world in all it's immediate splendor and profound mundaneness?

But this particular photo, I chose, months and months ago, as one of my favorites from last year.  I typically choose photos based both on their formal qualities and their prima facie meanings, but as I look at this photo now, I have no idea where or when I took it.

What I do know looking at it -- is that I was going somewhere and that that has become a very frequent dimension of my middle aged life.  And then, that later, as I was looking through my endless captures of trivial moments?  I noticed how everything radiates from the sun in the picture...the wires, the truck, the double yellow line.

Driving into the sun is a terrible experience for a driver, but apparently yields poetically pleasing effects....

7.25.2013

A Moment, An Image, A Tool, and A Loss.

This is the road home for me every day when I come home from work. Because I am currently capturing my life in a picture - a - day - blog I am always thinking that I should be collecting anything that is remotely beautiful OR meaningful.  And then I sometimes think that if a moment is particularly NORMAL and doesn't seem in any way beautiful or meaningful, then I should probably capture THAT moment, too.  Which is what happened when I snapped this photograph of Northbound Market Avenue. 

Then I thought WAIT! I could ALSO take a reverse angle.


So I did.  And then I was thinking that by doing so, I had interpolated a subject space for you, dear reader.

You had BECOME my steering wheel.

Rather, what I mean to say, is that IF you have a 3D printer, and if you print both of these pictures together and let the machine do the interpolating, you will automatically BE in the position of the steering wheel.  In this moment (a moment that has long since passed for me.  I've since then, cooked and eaten pork chops and couscous, entertained friends on the patio, taken a two mile walk and funded and promoted a kickstarter project), you will be suspended there between me and what I see (or saw).

I wonder even if you'll be able to escape?  I hadn't really thought things through BEFORE I took the pictures, or maybe I wouldn't have tinkered so carelessly with time/space continuua.  

The other day my friend Emily who is not, generally, a selfie-picture-taking kind of person...(Not that there's anything wrong with it.)...took a "Selfie" in honor of the last day of her twenties.  I'm not sure if she plans on NOT having any photographs documenting her thirties or forties and so on?  Or if she just felt like (and justifiably so) youth and vitality are generally lost once one hits their thirtieth birthday. 

But it made me think about what it means to live in The Age of the Selfies.  What dangers lurk around the documentary urge and aesthetic ambitions that now seize most of our hearts several (or more) times a day?  Will the weight of documentation at some point outweigh the value of living?  Will people choose to not live because the evidence of who they are, how they are, is so overwhelming? 

The elevation of every moment (through the endless flow of pictures) threatens the possibility that ANY moment could offer us a precipice or a vantage point.  The flood of images threatens the likelihood that we will be able to see anything at all with fresh eyes.  

THANKFULLY, 3D printing (and technological devices in general) will surely save us from so banal a fate.  Happily, we'll find modes of escape and instruction as we discover and adapt the tools that come to us, faster than we can consider their implications.  I'm sure we're heading for a happy ending.  (After all, it's in all the movies.)



7.20.2013

Day Trip to Drummond Island



I just returned from a four(ish) day writing retreat in the Upper Peninsula.  I finished a feature length script, finished an outline for a second and completely rebooted the concept for the third.  So yes, it was productive and I spent hours and hours in the green painted wooden chair that my Grandma Linda rescued from the Islington Hotel a million years ago.  So one of the ways that I decided to celebrate the completion of the script was by taking an outing to Drummond Island.

Drummond Island is the Island where my Finnish ancestors settled during the late nineteenth century and it flourished in my childhood imagination as the Edenic source of all of my prolifically storytelling Grandmother's happiest (and most tragic) memories.  Curiously, our trips there as children were exceedingly rare and I've visited her childhood home (the ruins of the family Sauna are some of the only remaining evidence of her childhood there) many more times as an adult.

I've invented a story, rooted mostly in the stories she told, and I'm gestating the possibility of turning it into a script.  So my afternoon there was focused on asking questions, pointing my camera, gathering facts and understanding the place better.

There were all kinds of adventures that included a growling rottweiler, a little bit of trespassing, the crossing of a wide swamp, the discovery of distant cousins embattled in a bitter land dispute, the recounting of countless unknown relatives and their recent deaths in the parking lot of an excavation company and a museum director who called me by name moments after I entered the museum (five years after my first and only other visit to the museum!).

Alyssa recently posted that she finds the Rough & Tumble's Music to be a great source of creative inspiration - and not only do I agree, but just two days before I had (stolen?/) pasted a bit of one of their songs into my video recounting of the day.

7.12.2013

Please................

Well we here at the inbetween love it when a longtime listener like Alyssa Pearson, joins in the merriment of Polite Paper Commands.

And this one is a doozy.
(Is that word "doozy" real?  A regionalism?  A family-ism?)

Some of you know that I myself love...

.......LOVE......

ellipses.

If you know about the Pop Psychological Meyers Briggs instrument for procuring better mutual understanding between groups of people, then you'll understand what I say when I say that when it comes to T vs. P -- I am ALL "P".

And my fetish for ellipses, I think, illustrates that persistent ambivalence.

This sign, on the other hand, doesn't really use ellipses in that way.  I think that the author of this sign is a strong "J" and for them, the ellipses is kind of functioning more like a fermata (the musical sign) suggesting that when reading it you should actually vocally extend the "EA" in the middle of the second "please."

I also like (very much) Alyssa's reading which conjectured the gasping dying desperation of an author possibly having a heart attack or a stroke.  Hopefully, either one of which, might provide sufficient motivation for the reader to indeed use the Garbage.

Thank you (Alyssa) very much.

6.27.2013

After 80 Years of Service.

We were in downtown Pittsburgh for an exploratory and perambulatory retreat and we found this polite paper sign hanging in the window of the Smithfield Cafe (which had served Pittsburgh for (as you can see) 80 years prior to our arrival).  I was full of nostalgia for a past that wasn't mine.   I had a little surge of righteous indignation that probably the cafe had to close because of chain restaurants and multinational conglomerates subverting local economies. And I'll admit to a little temptation to make a jibe about how 80 years of "buisness" -- if the Smithfield Cafe regularly had such tiny errors (accounting and spelling being related?) -- could also be to blame.  But my feelings of empathy and loss eclipsed my temptation to be snarky.  On the other hand, was the sign a final futile passive aggressive attempt to make the passers by think about why they hadn't done more before it was too late?

As you may know, signs that have outlived their usefulness, along with all manner of other faded glory, are some of my favorite things.  And those faded-glory, meaningless-signifiers belong to a different category than the category of Polite Paper Commands which is also (of course) a favorite thing of mine.    This sign? Has *both* qualities!

I love polite paper commands usually because of the way that they suggest a wider distribution of power than formal and officially manufactured signs connote.  I like the ways that polite paper commands build on the conventions of signage and policy and enforcement, but in ways that are usually creative, sometimes laughable, but always a bit more improvisational.  This improvisational quality draws our attention to the impermanent and re-inventable nature of social life, to the ongoing performative requirements of sustaining any social enterprise.  People make paper signs because the official signs aren't clear enough about the new ways that behavior is emerging.  People make these signs out of paper because they don't have to go through an official legislative and bureaucratic process.  But they make the signs LOOK like signs in order to suggest: Yes.  This is Real.  And we need you to Comply. And they make these signs polite because they recognize that without the force of bureaucratic process and the material evidence of a carefully manufactured plastic or steel or wooden sign, they really do need to appeal to the goodwill and well-mannered behavior of the reader.

See how complex these signs are!?  See how performative and fragile the social life that surrounds them?  See how precariously they help channel behavior in productive ways?

Which is why this sign could read like a passive-aggressive, guilt-inducing, final rant from beyond the (Smithfield Cafe) grave.  Because polite paper commands usually signify something about the ongoing social world.  Something we should *do* now.

And here's where I actually think that this sign is particularly revelatory.  Not just about Pittsburgh, or confused passers-by, or the Smithfield Cafe, but about faded glory, drifting signifiers and the inevitable end of everything.

In some ways? Every sign comes too late.  By the time the sign is fabricated and dye-cast or by the time the sharpie marker touches the blank back of a recycled memo:  no matter what, signs refer to what we knew in the past.

And their makers hope that future behavior will benefit from our understanding of past behavior, but this is only occasionally right.  Because the world is always changing, and the past is forever "so five minutes ago" and the future is always so much more pregnant with possibility and hope.

When I think about what it is to be middle aged and disappointed, I read the sign with an even greater sense of empathy:

After eighty years of service....

There's a rich repository of memory, an incredulity about the loss, a bitterness that braids the memory and incredulity together.

We are now out of business.

This is the healthy next step of grieving that we call *acceptance*.  There's nothing we can do to change this loss.  This loss is real.  The past is unrecoverable.

Thank you.

Well here's where it gets tricky.  This could be the bitter "Thanks, but no thanks." or it could be the genuine gratefulness of someone who recognizes that ending is in the nature of everything.  Life always fades.  Glory days are always temporary.  Function always ceases.  Rituals always shift.  The world is always ending.  So thanks for sharing this particular world with us.

I prefer that reading: that kind of mature, happy ending.  Not a "happily" that goes on in some kind of imaginary blissful "ever after" but a happily grateful goodbye.

6.06.2013

Walk Quickly Behind the Loud Teenage Crowd When You Exit the Skatepark.

One of my favorite things to experience is: Stuff That Is Not What I Know. I love (more particularly) to be able to observe, to enter, a world that is not my own and just Be There.  So last night Addison was at the skate park and, delightfully, there was a group of skater / biker / stoner / lover / haters that were there creatively riffing on all the ways that they could make "Fuck" a part of any sentence.  Really not just sentences, too.  Fragments.

VERY creative.

So I loved that.  And I loved hearing how one of them, who has, apparently been out of high school for a coupla' years, and is already in a dead-end job was talking about his life with the kind of boastful misery that was, I though, reserved for the forty-years-in-a-machine-shop guys.  I couldn't tell if he actually had a lot of credibility with the crowd or if he just talked a lot.  He did.  Talk a lot.

There was one woman.  She had no skateboard, no bike,  not even any shoes.  She was very loud and kept walking into the middle of the skatepark and yelling flirtatious insults at people until she gathered a group of admiring dudes around her.  Then she would move to another corner of the fenced in world and repeat-performance.  I knew her in high school.  You probably did too.

All around this though is this incredible kinesthetic poetry.  Bikers and skaters swooshing down the ramps, leaping and twisting into the air, veering narrowly around one another, twisting and turning their boards, their bikes, their bodies in ways you couldn't imagine if you were a CGI animator.

(Well, maybe you could, but the average CGI animator isn't as imaginative as you.)

The sun had started to slant its light across the pavement and the chain link and the big pool across the street still threw a gentle sound fabric of cheezy pop music, yelling kids and splashes.

I sat in the adjacent park next to an oak tree in the grass.  I was invisible because of the shade and because I am over forty.

And it was all very good.

6.02.2013

Resignation Is Not As Bad As It's Sometimes Made Out To Be.



Dear Self in the Past,

I haven't been writing to you for two reasons.

First of all, you're incredibly naive.

I know that when you write these letters to me, you're feeling particularly enlightened.  Like you've just Learned A Lesson.  and you're so excited to share your life lesson with me to assure us both that you Won't Make That Mistake Again.

Dear Self in the Past - You Will.

You always make mistakes again.

Over and over and over.

And I'll admit, my first inclination when I get these little letters from you?  Is to be annoyed by your short sightedness, embarrassed by your optimism, ashamed of your enthusiasm and frustrated by your ambition.

But after I think back to where you were and what you were thinking and what had just happened, and what you had to overcome, I am, ultimately filled with a kind of compassion and tenderness for you and your puppy-like enthusiasm.

I get that we had to overcome a lot.

I get it, that if we could overcome a lot then, that you might think that our capacity for accomplishment and survival and achievement in the future might grow.

I certainly understand why you would have wanted to?  Who wouldn't like to imagine that the arc of progress is the storyline of their own lives?  Who doesn't want to believe that the uphill struggle is longer and more definitive than the downhill slide?

The thing is, self in the past, I know everything you knew?  And more.

And its the "more" part that's the kicker.

See from my point of view?  Life isn't like the Great Pyramid of Freytag's Literary Form -- where the upward climb contains the majority of the story and then a quick descent in the third act resolves things neatly with not much of a slide.

From my point of view, life's journey is more like a series of undulating waves, which, when read scrolling across an oscilloscope, seem remarkably uniform and unremarkable in their ups and downs, but (remarkably) when heard with the human ear? Sound utterly even and plain: no ups, no downs, just an ongoing sound.  

And life is like the endless mountains: ups and downs - from the point of view of the traveller, over and over and over the same discouragements, the same hopes, the same disappointments, the same elations.

But when heard from the slightest distance?  (Let's say: someone else's point of view, for instance...) Our lives are just normal.  Just static.  Nothing special.  Just....life.

So, self in the past?  I feel grateful for your heroic ambition much like a father appreciates the crude drawing of his five year old child.

It's a nice bit of evidence that what happened to you (to us) -- really happened.

And it's a nice reminder that there were moments that seemed like a real Swell In The Score of our collective life.

And maybe it's helpful to me in just the opposite way that you intended: to remember that I will hear the Swell again, but this time, I won't mistake it for an epic uptick in fate this time.  I won't mistake my heartbeat for the Drum of Inevitability That Accompanies The Hero's March Toward Destiny.

So thank you. No really.  I mean it.   (Thanks, but no thanks. Really. I mean that too).

Oh and the second reason!  Right?

I don't write you because you never get my letters.  That's one of the worst parts of being human really. We can stare at the past endlessly, but we're constrained to nostalgia and regret.  We can never stare at the past with a purpose or an ambition.  We can only accept it or reject it.

I can't send you letters, because you can't get them.

I know you're going to write me back and say more.  And I don't begrudge you those moments, but really?  Maybe you could read this letter before you write?

(It won't really be you reading it though, remember that.  Only Self in the Future can read it, but that might be helpful too.)

Sincerely,

Self in The Future


5.16.2013

A Short, Quite Personal History Of Photography.

Do you love this photo as much as I do?  I doubt it.  While there's a chance that you grew up in the shadow of the spreading rust belt like I did (forever and indelibly shaping your notion of the aesthetic merits of decay), you probably didn't have the afternoon that I had leading up to this moment.

Some of you know that I've been taking pictures, one a day, for almost two months (and I plan to continue for one year).  I was following the example of my friend Alyssa, and returning to an archival jones that I've indulged before.  I love collecting things, and I love the idea of collecting ideas and experiences incrementally even more.

When I wrote my two-sentence-a-day blog, I had a hope that collecting the snapshots of my life and stringing them together on the rope of a blog would provide the tea leaves that later, I or a particularly devoted friend/reader, could interpret and unlock the mysteries of the universe.  It was almost a kind of McAnthopological Urge: I would collect and arrange the artifacts dutifully for a year, and then Presto! I'd have a ready-made dig-site that could be mined for the sort of meaning that is usually compressed and reserved for the curiously detached humans who return after five hundred or five thousand years.

(So far? No luck on my Immediate Gratification Version of The Benefits That Time And History Usually Give Us.)

But what did happen to me during that process?  Was that I started to see myself as a novitiate in the ritual of something larger than myself and my experience.  Attending to the daily and the mundane in a way that conjoined my particulars with a larger sense of Human - Being?  Felt like good work to me.

This process (a picture a day) has been different for me.  The challenges have been diverse: how to choose a single image for any given day, how to have the courage and interest and passion (on bad days) to even snap any photographs at all,  how to balance the documentary and the artistic urges, do I indulge or defy the tropes and techniques I am most easily drawn to?  Those challenges withstanding, the realizations have been gifts -- more than worth the challenges.

I have realized that I see beauty often, but am often so taken with the press of non-important-whatevers, that I often fail to bracket that moment:  to breathe it in, accept it, acknowledge it, explore it.

(and on that same point) I realize that I perceive beauty to be Divine. Not notes from the Divine intended for me and my edification, but instead? Actually manifestations of transcendance and goodness and possibility. And as much as I'm a word guy and a story guy, I am so much more viscerally and immediately transported by visual experiences of beauty.

I have recognized that my point of view, my eye, is actually unique and particular.  It's also (of course) trained by the zeitgeist of the moment, but it's drawn to some things more than others, and sometimes finds the unexpected beautiful thing that perhaps no on else will or does. 

(There's more, but the year is long, so I'll save some of my realizations for later.  I was trying to talk about the afternoon that led up to my photograph.)

I have started driving down streets that I don't usually drive down: so I know better where I live, so I see and recognize patterns more clearly, to appreciate the particularities of this place, and maybe (?) to find an unexpected picture for the day?

So this particular afternoon, I was driving a down a little street, a post-war outcropping of tiny Cape Cods, I found myself wishing that I could capture the symmetry, historically visible homogeneity, gradual-decline-into-individuation, and the courageous battle between decay and upward mobility, playing out so poignantly on the faces of so many of these properties.   Of course I could not:  it was a cineast-ic fantasy, and trying to manage a good tracking shot as I drive (though I've done more than my share of such unsafe capture), is a terrible idea.  

And I missed my turn.  Which is almost impossible when you're already taking the long-way home.  And you're trying to get lost on purpose.  (Can a "missed turn" be anything but a "stroke of luck"?) But feeling that tug of obligation and responsibility, I turned and tried to meander back home.  

Which meant that I came to this corner that I don't remember ever sitting at before, but there was a red light and a horizon to my right that I had a moment to stare at.  The horizon is formed by an overpass that in several ways crystallizes the profound sense of delectable decay that I've been indulging more and more as I continue this project.  

If you follow that road, cross that overpass, chase that horizon? It will lead you to Walmart and the County Jail and the Crime Ridden Projects of Canton.  And beyond that?  Louisville: the charmingly preserved small-town-Ohio where we found out (just in time before we made an offer on a stunning century home, 15 years ago when we were just moving to town), that the KKK still had an active chapter in Louisville, and perhaps our racially diverse family would not find our best sense of home in that particular idyll.  

So I reached across the passenger seat: held my iphone steady and SNAPPED this photograph. 

A photograph is always full of history: in this case the history of one moment before, when the archival and cinematic urges were swelling inside me, making my eye practically burst with longing for beauty, and ALSO in this case, a longer history -- generations and generations, years and years of aspiration, division, disappointment and endlessly deferred horizons.

5.14.2013

Even Though I'm Not A Fan of the Genre of Motivational Speakers? I've Been Giving Myself This Pep Talk Quite A Bit.

Dear Self In The Future, 

I hate these days.  Such Shitty Days.  So full of despair and hopelessness.  

I know.  One Hundred of Your Facebook Friends would prefer that you not use that word.  

Well, I have to be honest with you? I’m not going to answer your concerns, because you’re really actually the problem here. 

So self in the future, this letter is NOT FOR THEM.  They are the wrong people to be listening to.

At first we all listened to them.  The wrong people, the reasonable people because, well, they’re reasonable.  Money, Power, Authority: you should listen to them, right?  They’ve been in charge of everything so far.  School.  Church.  Traffic.  Electricity.  Television Programming.  They’re very subtle, too, in the ways that they make their point.  They obscure the real point that they’re making behind a lot of other shit:  Times tables, the scientific method, salvation, heaven, orderly progress, comfort, fairness.  But ultimately those messages are just the frosting on the very hidden piece of “cake”.  Their “cake” is one word: 

Conform.

Dear self in the future, I know what you’re thinking right now.  Today is a shitty enough day to just say: Okay.  I give in.  I don’t have the energy to refuse any more.  Why am I bothering?  I’m giving in.  I’m going to conform.  

And Dear Self in the Future, that’s why I am writing this letter.  Stop it.  you’ve already given in plenty of times.  You got everything they had to give: times tables, the scientific method, salvation, heaven orderly progress, comfort and fairness.  You got it all by conforming.  It’s time to NOT conform.  Do Not Eat Their Cake. 

Today is the day to be Fierce. 

Be Fierce.  

BE FIERCE. 

And if you don’t have the capacity to be fierce today?  I want you to go take a nap.  Right now.  Go Take A Nap.  Sleep all night.  Have a good swim tomorrow morning.  And after you’ve had coffee and breathed in a quiet room while you look out the window, you’ll be ready.  

Don’t eat their cake.  

Be Fierce?


5.13.2013

Introducing Emotional Monday

I'm trying something new.  Five emotions, Every Monday, A New Actor Every Week,  I'll put the emotions up here, maybe on a separate nother blog (? if it works out?) and on the picture a day for a year blog and we'll see what emerges?