Come in. Sit on the couch. Tell me what you think. You’ve got an hour.


Yesterday my brother called.

We shared a text conversation earlier in the day. He sent me a quote from Sufjan Stevens.

It started like this:

America,

There really is no such thing as an illegal immigrant, for we are all immigrants and refugees in a wildly changing world that is dominated by superfluous boundaries built by blood and war. We all come from somewhere else. The truest of “Americans” have either been destroyed by the white immigrant, incarcerated, isolated, held captive, or stolen and enslaved. 

Read the rest here.

I thanked him for sharing. It was a cool quote. And it even referred to Jesus (turning the other cheek, loving enemies, etc.) and also to prayer. The quote itself embodies my own politics. Even though I don’t believe in a deified Jesus. I value my root understanding of him and who he was as a radical mind.

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The Atlantic: We’re not surprised by Trump; here’s a glimmer of hope


From the Atlantic story: “A Clarifying Moment in American History” by Eliot Cohen:

Many conservative foreign-policy and national-security experts saw the dangers last spring and summer, which is why we signed letters denouncing not Trump’s policies but his temperament; not his program but his character.

We were right. And friends who urged us to tone it down, to make our peace with him, to stop saying as loudly as we could “this is abnormal,” to accommodate him, to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong. In an epic week beginning with a dark and divisive inaugural speechextraordinary attacks on a free press, a visit to the CIA that dishonored a monument to anonymous heroes who paid the ultimate price, and now an attempt to ban selected groups of Muslims (including interpreters who served with our forces in Iraq and those with green cards, though not those from countries with Trump hotels, or from really indispensable states like Saudi Arabia), he has lived down to expectations.

Snip.

It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment. The sooner Americans get used to these likelihoods, the better.

One thing I took from the article is the severity of supporters vs. non-supporters and how the rift it’s driving between loved ones, friends, family, coworkers, etc. is stupefying.

This is no normal presidency. Those opposed to Trump are not licking their wounds, cry babies throwing temper tantrums. The revulsion is steeped in utter confusion and distrust for the level of crazy this man is exhibiting and will exhibit.

And it’s mind boggling how the right is so thirsty to be in power, any damn dog will do the trick … as long as it’s not Obama or Hillary. No matter how immoral. How crazed. How abominable.

Although, there is a cynical part of me that will not allow too much hope to enter my mind. Which will surely make me suffer.

But we move forward.

See Johnny Depp run. Run, Johnny. Run!


 

I saw a meme on Facebook with Pirates of the Caribbean in which Johnny Depp’s character was being chased by an angry mob of 100 or 200 crazies, and the words on the screen read, “When you express your opinion on the internet.”

The guy who posted it is an evangelical and his Facebook posts rarely get more than a handful of likes. So it’s a head scratcher as to why he thinks his expressed opinions are so hated. I’m guessing he has a delusional victim mentality or a misplaced superiority complex. No one on social media that I can tell is oppositional to him. So maybe the lack of response causes feelings of attack.

No one ever comments on his stupid posts.

This guy was actually the principal of my Evangelical high school. He’s a guy who fed my brain so full of bullshit that I will always carry a certain level of anger that this guy was allowed at a chalkboard in front of young minds. It wasn’t that I didn’t learn anything under his tyrannical style of teaching. It’s just that the information was so far false and one-sided that once I learned about other views, and all the gray area between, I was able to determine he had little penis syndrome and wanted all young minds to never pursue a well-rounded education.

The Pirates of the Caribbean meme certainly got me thinking, though. Especially about how unwelcome his views seem to be. It’s astonishing that people bitch and moan that their views aren’t welcome in a world that has left folks like him behind. But it also is a reminder that views like his still exist. It’s astonishing.

And despite how marginalized his views are, he’ll keep posting like it’s helping his lost cause instead of learning from his failures and assimilating new ways of approach. His views are so archaic it’s like walking down the street and seeing a dinosaur, a real one. Walking, growling and munching on leaves from a tall tree.

But there’s another aspect of that Pirates of the Caribbean meme that bothers me. It’s that in the event you do express that unwelcome, archaic opinion, people like my old principal are still shocked that their “opinions” aren’t welcome.

My most popular post of all time wasn’t about religion or politics. It was about that sacred institution of quality craft called Ikea (“It’s official: Ikea is hell on earth”).

In fact, the post still gets comments despite the fact that it’s eons old and that this blog is a metaphorical ghost town. Most new comments I designate spam. I tried turning off comments years ago, but somehow they still seem to show up. I’ve even deleted comments to encourage people not to respond to other people’s hateful, mob mentality rage toward me for calling Ikea the shittiest furniture store in the universe.

There was a Pirates of the Caribbean mob mentality running after not only me, but my wife, for criticizing something so many people seem to love. I read one comment degrading Tina to her, and I found her getting really emotional and maybe even shedding a tear. It was cruel.

However I do see the hypocrisy in censoring comments on that old Ikea post. So I stare at my reflection and say, “Shame on me, too, for not understanding that expressed opinions generate responses, often nasty attacks.”

Thing was, I expressed my opinion about something a lot of people seem to like and want to defend, and the tension spilled into comments that made me want to run for cover at times.

If you fuck with other people’s “sacred” prepare yourself for pejorative responses. Here I thought we lived in a world where EVERYONE agrees that Ikea = shit. But in my bubble, I wonder how any decent human being could buy a Nickleback album let alone support a guy like Donald Trump.

On the flip, there are supporters of Trump, and Nickleback, who wonder why a person would NOT support them. There are people who think it’s funny to attack the person and not the thing.

While my point at the time of writing about Ikea was to be funny and to rail against a monster of a store that essentially steals your money in exchange for “furniture” that will be in your alley dumpster and landfills in less than 2 or 3 years.

The alternative is digging deeper into your pockets and buying something that will last 10 to 20 years … or longer … by simply investing in better quality.

But that’s not my point. My point is the whole biblical notion of you reap what you sow. If I write about Ikea being chalk full of crappy products, I should anticipate backlash.

If I post stuff that criticizes one kind of people in general, I should expect backlash.

I wonder sometimes how more people don’t understand that. If I criticize a non-person like Ikea, that’s not attacking a person. But people often misconstrue an allegiance as a personal attack.

But there are people who criticize, say, Liberals or Conservatives with false information or sweeping generalizations. Then they wonder why people respond to their views and chase them down with Internet Mob mentality negativity.

I’m done with that kind of toxic bullshit in my world, and instead of allowing it or saying, “Oh that’s okay that you’re offending me or attacking me personally,” I’m protecting myself by staying far, far away from those kinds of people.

Stick my ass with a fork. I’m fucking done.

Arkells Rock! And so do you!


Arkells perform at JBTV Music Television on January 23, 2017

Last Monday, I photographed a portrait and part of the performance with the band Arkells at JBTV Music Studio.

From Wiki:

Arkells are a Canadian rock band, formed in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2006, they signed with Dine Alone Records,[1] and have since signed with Universal Records Canada.[2] They have released four albums, two EPs and a number of singles that have charted in Canada. The band has won multiple Juno Awards, including one for their album High Noon in 2015.

As I photographed their sound check, I could tell these guys were super cool, very talented and definitely entertaining on stage. They were cool to meet in our quick photo session backstage and were complimentary of my camera gear.

They did not disappoint the crowd that showed up on their lunch breaks to catch the intimate show.

If you happened to miss them, check out anything you can find online and grab tickets next time they pass through Chicago or your town!

Arkells perform at JBTV Music Television on January 23, 2017

Arkells perform at JBTV Music Television on January 23, 2017

 

Arkells perform at JBTV Music Television on January 23, 2017

Whelp, there’s always a New Year to magically change into something you weren’t last year


I saw this quote at Kottke.org:

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.

Attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald, but was actually written by screenwriter Eric Roth for the film adaptation of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

If it’s any consolation or a pinch on your tuchis, Mr. President Elect Donald J. Trump probably read the same quote a year or two ago when he decided to run for office. It’s never too late to become president, an entrepreneur, a nurse, a doctor, a professor … or merely a better person.

The quote is a little long for a bumper sticker; but it’s about the same thing. “It’s never too late to be the You you always wanted to be!” These kinds of quotes definitely start hitting harder at the beginning of New Years. As if a New Year is when a person will magically change all there is about themselves and blossom into the person they just couldn’t quite become in 2016, or 2015, or 2014 … et al.

I have found myself ruminating on the idea that I can become someone I wasn’t last year or the year before. I don’t fall for it. It took a long time to get here, and I’m still forward moving … at least I hope anyway.

In my case, the person I want to become is a successful photographer with big budget projects, hot clients, and to let go of any shitty clients or work that doesn’t make me happy or satiate my creative spirit the way I supposedly think it should be.

I can’t help but be a bit cynical about success. I struggle with jealousy of other creatives, and often get angry rather than happy for other people’s successes.

I saw a quote attributed to photographer Chase Jarvis that said, “Play the long game. Be patient and know it takes time [to fulfill your ambition].” I saw it at fstoppers with other advice like:

The people you follow have been doing the above for years, and that’s why they have huge followings.

Don’t get me wrong. I have heard of people — and watched other creatives or photographers — do Lamborghini 0 to 150,000 MPH in what seems like a couple nano seconds. And I seem to examine my own path and it seems like I’m accelerating on the back of a turtle riding a snail, whose been cooked and served at a cheap French restaurant.

I have this conversation with our studio partner and one of my best friends Bill who shares that sort of cynicism about other photographers who seem to go from being an accountant to holding classes on how successful they are as a fashion photographer in less than six months.

There seems to be nothing more annoying than watching photographers post their asses off on social media hoping to garner respect, accolades, attention and new jobs. In its defense, social media is an amazing vehicle for artists. And like everything, it’s up to the artist to determine his or her involvement on social media.

I always keep in mind that social media is a deceptive front. I was at a dinner recently with seven other creative people, and the one person at the table I thought was the most successful and most creative talked about how difficult running her business is and how creativity plays such a minor role in her day-to-day life.

I’ve found that for years. Creativity is not a day-to-day luxury, and maybe … just maybe … anybody trying to tell you otherwise is fucking with you like an evangelical telling you that “the good news Gospel” is actually “good news”.

I lust over creative expression, but the time to do it is devoured by running my business. New Year’s only mean it’s time to get my paperwork together to send to my accountant. And start a new year of wondering if another client will commission me for my talent.

This last year, I failed at a few things. One was a themed monthly photo project. I stopped after six images. I also failed to continue vLogging, which I did several. Just didn’t keep it up weekly like I had hoped. I also feel that I failed to pick myself up after falling down and wiping myself off. Perhaps I got caught in the thought that, “I’ll start another creative side project again next year.” I’m not sure.

There are several keys to creativity. The main difference between a creative and, let’s say, everyone else is: ideating concepts and then executing them. It’s the follow through that sets folks apart. For me, the process of creating art is as important as the result. Quite possibly the hardest part is chipping away at the process that could take five or ten minutes or several long arduous weeks.

Fortunately, last year wasn’t all failures. My business has grown year over year since the economy tanked back in 2007-08. We worked with new and old clients that are certainly hiring us for the quality of our work. Also, I made great strides with pushing myself to a healthy equilibrium through diet and exercise. It’s not quite where I want to be, but it’s one of those on-going projects. Exercise is an investment. It’s playing the long game. I’ve also spent more time meditating than before. I do mind-calming exercises. I repeat mantras and concentrate on my breathing more. When I run long distance, I try to let my mind go blank. Or I repeat “Creativity” or “Calm” with every other step.

Twenty seventeen is a continuation of the long game, but I hope to introduce concrete creative experiences that help me grow and to keep chipping away at the same old same old that I was doing last year and hope to continue to do going forward.

Let’s do this!