The tragedy of celebration


In 2006, Tina’s dad made an announcement. Not just any announcement.

He announced he had cancer.

Not just any cancer. Stomach cancer.

Not just any stage cancer. Stage 4 borderline stage 5 cancer.

This was not just any announcement. An “I’ve got so long to live” announcement. “Let’s do things. Let’s reconnect. Let’s make up for lost time.”

The distance from the announcement to his death was short. At most, eight months. He attacked it with every ounce of strength he had. He tried keeping up his active lifestyle of rollerblading in his Florida neighborhood. He tried to keep dating a woman he’d been on and off again for a few years.

We saw him for a weekend that fall. His mom, Tina’s grandma, passed away in October. He flew up to the funeral. We talked to him. His hair was gone. But he felt okay. His feet felt heavy, like “concrete” he said, so he was buying tons of shoes to comfort the feeling.

Back in Florida, he was far from all of us Chicago relatives. While the sun and warmth were probably good for his soul and his attitude, he was alone down there. He had to drive himself to doctor’s appointments and treatments. He was a proud man, and didn’t want to bother his girlfriend. He started taking cabs to the doctor. He took cabs to chemo. He needed help.

His health nosedived toward Christmas. His brother ended up driving down to get him around the holiday with hopes he could help alleviate some of the ease of doctor visits and cancer treatments. But it was really to have him near his brothers, Tina and the rest of the family when he died.  Continue reading

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A link dump, a dumpster fire, and skating on thin ice, how nice.


When I took aim at blogging again with regularity, my goal was to reach back to what this blog used to be and that was a news aggregate of sorts. That hasn’t happened.

For the most part, I’ve been doing my best to stay away from consuming too much news. It’s like sugar, it tastes good for a few minutes and then you come crashing down after an hour or less. In this media market, there’s so much sugar that it’s causing a crash every second if I let it. So I stay away.

This video below is a metaphor for the mental state I’ve been aiming for, calm beautiful purposeful sounds that relax and encourage.

But occasionally the news of the day seeps in and disrupts my garden of tranquility. Below the fold, I’m going to throw a bunch of links to the shit that I would be posting and discussing more, but it puts me in a negative headspace.

So I’m considering this a link dump. I’m considering it a fire pit. A place where the news that sucks goes. Or news I might discuss and find some negativity about it. In this post, I douse it with gas, light a match, flick it on top and walk away.

If you descend into the link dump, come back to the top and refresh yourself by watching this video playing the sounds of skating on thin ice. Ah metaphors.

 

Continue reading

How about a quote collection?


You can say I’m milking the quotes I pulled from Tim Ferriss’ book Tribe of Mentors all you want. I’m having a great time reviewing them to see what sparked encouragement to me, and I hope that they encourage you.

There are these two from Max Levchin, a computer scientist:
“Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt.” The line is from the inimitable David Mamet, a quote from Ronin, one of my all-time favorite movies. A laconic reminder to always be decisive in battle and in business, and at a most basic level, to trust your gut.
And:
“The difference between winning and losing is most often not quitting.” This famous line from Walt Disney on willpower cannot be more true when it comes to entrepreneurship.

Having an idea and sticking it out till it’s completed became my earliest memory of how to do things. Whether it was chores my mom had for me or little art projects as a kid. This discipline has stuck with me longer and through times when my closest friends and supporters couldn’t find a way to do the same thing.

I love this next one from Dita Von Teese, a burlesque dancer:

“You can be a juicy ripe peach and there’ll still be someone who doesn’t like peaches.”

I find this quote to be true of so much, like music, religion, car purchase, diet regimen, book or movie passion, etc. You might have the juiciest, peachiest faith and belief system, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to get hungry for it. You can LOVE country music and expose me to your favorite tracks, but the likelihood is I’m not going to add it to any of my playlists. I’m sorry not sorry.

This principle works multiple ways. Some people kinda like peaches, so they don’t mind one once in a while. Others like it in their pie, maybe in a candy, but not raw. Point is, some people kinda like religion, but they don’t full on LOVE the one someone else is selling.

And that’s okay! You’re okay. They’re okay. We’re all okay.

And finally, this last 1.15 is from Neil Strauss, author and journalist.

The audiobook I’ve given away most is Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. Though “nonviolent communication” is poorly named (it’s the equivalent of calling cuddling “nonmurderous touching”), the central idea is that, unbeknownst to us, there’s a lot of violence in the way we communicate with others—and with ourselves. That violence comes in the form of blaming, judging, criticizing, insulting, demanding, comparing, labeling, diagnosing, and punishing. So when we speak in certain ways, not only do we not get heard, but we end up alienating others and ourselves. NVC has a magical way of instantly defusing potential conflicts with anyone, from a partner to a server to a friend to someone at work. One of its many great premises is that no two people’s needs are ever in conflict. It’s only the strategies for getting those needs met that are in conflict. Disambiguation: The version you want is a 5-hour, 9-minute lecture. You can recognize it by the cover, which is a close-up of a hand flashing a peace sign. It starts slow, but then gets revolutionary. Do *not* get any versions of the printed book, which has the same title.

And finally, which I’m reminded of a lot in general:

“Learn more, know less.”

We’re nearing the end of the Whole30


Tomorrow marks 30 days of not consuming alcohol, sugar, legumes, dairy and grains. Not to mention junk food, sulfites, or — as I’ve found — nothing you can’t pronounce or identify as a food product.

My first Whole30 experience has been a good one. Positive. Mind expanding. Challenging and liberating.

The diet started with a bit of a laissez faire attitude. I could care less if I lost weight. If I quit drinking beer alone, I was sure to lose seven or eight elle bees.

I started the diet to support Tina, her cousin and her husband.

Now I’m wondering if I’m ever going to quit the diet ever. Yes, it’s that good. I don’t miss any of the foods we aren’t supposed to eat. I’m not missing alcohol, and this was my BIGGEST fear on this diet. I was this close to consulting an AA sponsor before we started. On day 29, I have very little desire to have a drink, and I didn’t need AA to do it. Yay me! Continue reading

Terry Crews sings the hits


800px-Terry_Crews_by_Gage_Skidmore_5.jpgAs you may already know, I read Tim Ferriss’ book Tribe of Mentors last month and I have been sharing different quotes I highlighted throughout the book. These come from former football player and actor Terry Crews.

When asked about book recommendations, he answered (emphasis mine):

The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel. I have read hundreds of personal development books, but this is the one that clearly showed me how to visualize, contemplate, and focus on what it was I truly wanted. It revealed to me that we only get what we desire most, and to apply myself with a laserlike focus upon a goal, task, or project. That in order to “have” you must “do,” and in order to “do” you must “be”—and this process is immediate.

Focus is such a beautiful and evasive concept. I love it. And I hate it.

More below the jump Continue reading

The paths to artistry are many


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As mentioned, I’m reading Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking.

Reading the book is coinciding with lots of goings on. We’re still doing the Whole30 diet. I’m concentrating on being a positive presence in my world. Maybe just my little bubble. In that vain, I’m reaching out to more people purposefully. In turn, they’re reaching out to me.

Palmer’s book feels a little long at times. Or perhaps I want to get through it faster, and I am not directly connecting with her story at this point in my trips around the sun.

But a quote hit me yesterday that I had to share:

There’s no “correct path” to becoming a real artist. You might think you’ll gain legitimacy by going to art school, getting published, getting signed to a record label. But it’s all bullshit, and it’s all in your head. You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.

I’ve been mentioning lately that it took me forever to land on the Moon of Artistry, finally jab a flag its surface and declare, “I’m an artist!” Maybe I regret taking so fucking long.

But I got there. So that counts.

Sometimes I think the flag was already sunk in the dirt before I got there, I just pushed it a little further down.

Part of why I dragged my feet was because I thought artistry was unachievable. Musicians and famous painters are artists. Authors of multiple best sellers = artists. Weird people that dress funny are artists.

I create new work almost every day. I get paid to do it. It’s been that way for at least 16 years. Twenty years if you count my freelancing from the beginning.

One day I decided, “It’s time.” And I scribbled on a little blue and white “Hello, my name is:” sticker with the word, “Artist” and I peeled it off the little white part and slapped it on my chest.

I’m handing a “Hello, my name is sticker” to Tina. Time to sign it. Shit or get off … 

Tina and I have worked together since we first met 18 years ago here in Chicago. I pulled her onboard with my company around 2007, and her transition to freelancing with me was scary for her.

She hasn’t been able to identify exactly how she fits into the scenario of our business. Like me, she wears many different hats. In the Adam & Eve since of the word, it angers and belittles her to think of herself as Jeremy’s Support. The Bible calls it a Help Meet. Damn, that pisses her off.

Frequently, I’m seen as “the Photographer” therefore, I’m somehow superior, if only in Tina’s mind. While it’s not a competition, it creates a hierarchy when people say, “What do you do? … Oh, so you assist.”

So you assist. Period. Not question mark.

That’s some bullshit. 

In so many ways, she’s so much more talented than I am. She art directs practically every shoot we do. She also art directs my photo retouching and video editing. I don’t think she realizes how much she does that. But there’s so many times when she makes decisions on video edit or photo delivery that I would never have done personally.

If her hand is in the art, it’s hers, too. Art is, and will always be, collaborative. It’s time for Tina to recognize her role in that level of the partnership.

She’s amazing with people. That alone is an art. She manages business for our company and stuck by her guns when people tried to undercut us or attempt to negotiate lower rates.

She’s got an eye for design and fashion. She has a distinct vision. Every time I turn around, she’s studying some magazine spread, watching a documentary on fashion, or staring at interiors on the internet.  While I would spent every last dime on new gear, she would spent every last dime re-desiging our home.

She’s even more amazing with me. When she see me fighting a light on set, and the client is standing near by, she’s a magician of distraction. When I break something or, just the other day, I plugged in a cord that didn’t belong in a light and it blew my flash tube, smoke bellowed out everywhere from the face of my light, she immediately goes into rescue the situation mode. I love that.

At some point, we have to say, “Damn, Tina, you’re not the support system. You own this company. You have a vision and an artistic eye. You make it what it is. Without you, we do not exist.”

I’ve been meditating on it, and I feel like between owning our company and being a creative force on it, we are blinded by a form of ignorance. There are major roles in business and art that she’s fulfilling on a daily basis.

If I had to give her a title or titles now, I would say that first we’re equal partners in our company. Second, I would call her Art Director. She manages the look and feel of almost everything we do, from style and function of a film to the look and design of a set. And thirdly, she could own the title Producer or even Executive Producer. Producers are, quite possibly, an instrumental and integral part of any photo shoot or video production. Without them, it would be absolute chaos.

She, like me, wears many hats. At one point she is wielding a camera taking photos. Then she’s shooting behind the scenes video. Then she’s consulting the client on where to put the chair, what flowers to add or remove from a scene, what books to put in or take out, etc. etc. etc. etc.

A photography and film company is not all glitz. While we do a lot of photo shoots and film production, there’s a bunch of non-creative stuff involved. Just like I couldn’t call myself an artist for so long, we are having trouble calling ourselves, say, an agency. Or something more than a photography studio. Our talents extend only as far as the fence we build around our capabilities.

I look forward to how Tina’s search for her identity unfolds, literally right before us. I feel it’s only a matter of time before she reaches

Show your work, you big dork!


 

Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 8.22.25 AM.pngThe last couple of days, I read and finished a book by Austin Kleon called Show Your Work! 10 ways to share your creativity and get discovered.

The only thing I read when I borrowed the ebook from my local public library was “Show Your Work.” The little subtitle about getting discovered didn’t appeal to me.

But as I sit here self deprecating about borrowing a book about getting discovered, which seems very “sell-out-y” to me, I think, “So what?”

It’s a fast read. And if you read it, it’s an encouragement to basically either do what you’re already doing or to maybe do more of what you’re already doing.

It encourages you to chip away at your own art. To share something every day. To start documenting your own process and when you’re ready, share that. These are things I already try to do.

He presents the idea of hanging with like-minded people from an idea stemming from Brian Eno’s concept called, “Scenius.” It’s a derivative (in a way) of “Genius”. It’s basically the idea that if you are associating and hanging with artists, you’ll pass ideas, steal from each other, do more and essentially succeed at creation because of the ricocheting encouragement.

I should remind everyone that “genius” is comes from the Latin verb genui, genitus, “to bring into being, create, produce”, as well as to the Greek word for birth.[4]

So any time you’re creating, you’re practicing the art of genius. And, I feel at the moment, even though I scoff at people who I think are hacks and they’re creating their asses off … they are creating their asses off … so get out there and do it too!

There were two quotes or moments in the book that gave me the holy shits!

One was from the author Annie Dillard, who writes a lot of religious oriented books that my mom and sister read. One of my first production jobs ever was that I interned for this videographer who interviewed Anne Graham Lott about writer Annie Dillard.

The quote I took from this book was:

“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

BAM! POW! ZING!

Isn’t that nuts?

I completely whole heartedly agree with that quote. And it makes me want to go out and create something now. It makes me want to help someone else. It makes me want to be better. Work harder. Be more productive.

The second quote I wanted to share is a passage from the book:

People need to eat and pay the rent. “An amateur is an artist who supports himself with outside jobs which enable him to paint,” said artist Ben Shahn. “A professional is someone whose wife works to enable him to paint.” Whether an artist makes money off his work or not, money has to come from somewhere, be it a day job, a wealthy spouse, a trust fund, an arts grant, or a patron.

This quote means a lot to me. Because over the past 20 years of my career, I’ve had jobs I hate. I have had to supply my own art with capital from jobs. At first, I worked for the man. I had two “big-boy” jobs. One was for a newspaper and the other as a graphic designer for a large trade show producer.

Then I went on my own in 2002. But for the majority of my career, I’ve had to make a transition from supplying my own capital to create my own work. Fortunately, the past five years or so, I’ve made the transition to — let’s say — 80% exactly what I want to do and around 20% what I need to do to supply my passion, which is interiors and architecture as well as making cool videos.

The struggle as an artist is how much do you talk about, promote, show work from your (my) other jobs? Those jobs have contributed to my whole being?

But over the past few years, I’ve basically hid the fact that I shoot events. I shoot less and less of them per year. But I still use them as a means to an end.

Secrecy, I’ve found, is destructive behavior.

But if Tina were working to help me do my art, I’d have to admit it. If I took out a loan, to pursue my passion, I might have to admit it. But if I do work that I don’t want to do, hide it?

It’s still a conundrum, but I’m starting to think, why hide who I am? Why?

Any advice you have, I’m all ears.