“It is vain to do with more what can be done with less.” Thank you, Mr. Ockham


When it comes to gear envy, the struggle is real. I’m a photographer, and if it’s shiny, and someone’s gushing over it, or it’s $200 off retail, or its promise is to make my life easier, better, more productive, I want it.

Want.It.

Crave it.

Obsess over it.

Some people look at porn like I look at new gear.

Just yesterday, there was an ad on my favorite camera store’s web site, B&H Photo & Video. It was for a light. A hot light. One that stays on all the time. And I wanted it. It was LED. New. Brand new tech. I stared at it for 15 minutes. Twenty minutes. There were no reviews, so I googled it to see if anyone on the internet had one and was reviewing them.

No luck.

So I googled comparable lights. When there’s one company making a light, that means someone else started it first. I found all kinds of information, but said and done, I don’t really need this light. It’s not going to make me go out and shoot more. Although, I want to believe that having more tools in my arsenal would somehow make my life soooooo much easier.

Said and done, keep it simple, stupid. Take it easy, Azizi.

That quote above from Mr. William Ockham (Occam) is a good reminder. For a long time, I use to reference Ockham and his razor when discussing religion. His razor is a problem-solving principle that, when presented with competing hypothetical answers to a problem, one should select the one that makes the fewest assumptions.

Because you know what happens when you assume. 

There’s also a quote that I found in Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors with a similar tone:

“Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace.” –Robert J. Sawyer Hugo

Lately, I’ve had to eschew some news, even NPR, for the sake of peace. Like you and you, but not you, I’ve been Trumped to bits. Trump trump trump trump trump. Trump.

There’s not a corner you can turn in this media diet market when his name isn’t the focus or mentioned. In stories ranging from world markets to kitties stuck in trees, Trump. In stories about flu to venereal disease, Trump. Not even porn is safe anymore.

“The world is a vampire.” Thanks Billy Corgan. 

On top of my Whole30 diet, I’ve had to really take stock of the media I’m consuming lately. I needed to just take a step back and review what I’m reading, and how it’s affecting me.

This conversation I had a while back keeps playing in my head. It was about reading “both sides” of the issues. It was about balancing “liberal” web sites with “conservative” ones.

This person I was talking to said that Matt Drudge was left-leaning, and I almost spit out my turkey and stuffing. “Drudge is as conservative as it gets.”

“No,” sayest my friend, “He links to New York Times and other liberal sites.”

“Linking to those sites does not make the liberal.”

Clearly, it takes very little effort to see the bias of Matt Drudge, or any blog or website. His slant is clearly pro Trump, pro Republican, and anti Liberal.

If you don’t take my word for it (I’m not talking about you, because the whole world knows except this one fella), but take his word: “I am a conservative. I’m very much pro-life. If you go down the list of what makes up a conservative, I’m there almost all the way.”[38]

My point is: if you (or I) do not recognize something simple, how can we work from a level playing field. How can we discuss, say Politics, if we don’t recognize resources as what they are or are not?

If we’re sitting around celebrating NPR as the most fair and balanced news source in the world, because they’re neither conservative or liberal, but straight down the middle of excellent journalism, then we both suffer from the worst case of the Delusions that the world has seen.

That’s like reading Breitbart or WND and thinking, “I’m doing myself a favor!”

As I near the 30 day mark on my Whole30 diet — or reset — I’ve also had to revisit and diet from my media consumption. The stuff/words/food we put in our body is clearly going to affect how we view the world, our place in it, how we feel about it.

I’m going to do my part to encourage others, but I’m starting with me. And little old me feels fucking GREAT right now. Better than I’ve ever felt.

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Amanda Palmer sings the hits


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A portrait I took of Amanda Palmer in 2016. 

“In both the art and the business worlds, the difference between the amateurs and the professionals is simple: The professionals know they’re winging it. The amateurs pretend they’re not.”
Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help

I’ve been reading Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking” thanks to a recommendation by my new little adopted sister Aynsley. She’s the daughter of my college mentor and she recently moved here from Michigan to pursue a career in esthetics.

When recommending the book, I told Aynsley I photographed Palmer a few years back. She was all, “NO WAY! I am one degree away from Amanda Palmer. I think I’m going to throw up.”

She wrote that if she had a religion it would be Amanda Palmer. And now after reading a good bit of her book, I get it. Amanda Palmer is rich with a good honest kick in the teeth. She reminds us that vulnerability and honesty is key to creative exploration and execution. Secrecy and shame are the Devils that suppress art and kill self exploration.

And, I hate to write it, but in a world where women don’t have nearly the presence in the art world as they should, Amanda Palmer is a tour de force of originality and motivating presence!

I watched Palmer’s TedTalk back when I photographed her. She’s an inspiration for sure. She’s super creative and tends to fly under radars while having the biggest following you never knew about.

That quote above. That shit about knowing and not knowing. That shit is true. And it’s not until I embraced the insecurity that I started feeling like there was art in winging it, art in chaos, art in vulnerability, art in acceptance.

Yesterday, I was on set with an amazing crew photographing a lovely model for a new mattress company. I had my gear out everywhere. I setup lights and mods, and my equipment was spread out from the bedroom to the bathroom, down a hall and into a bedroom. I leave lenses all over the place, all uncapped and exposed.

And when we walk away, we magically get beautiful photos. But in the act, damn, I feel like the world is a chaotic as it can be.

And you know what, I love it and hate it. I’d much rather know exactly what gear I need. Not leave gear out to be stepped on or knocked over. But I love it at the same time. It’s a weird presence that I bring. It’s me. And I accept that.

Over the last few years, I’ve suffered from mental challenges of fear and creativity paralyzation like no other time in my life. I amplified levels of shame and dishonesty in ways that I’m discovering don’t make any sense.

There tends to be an ebb and flow within most people for a time of negativity and a time for positivity. I’m enjoying the flow of positivity at the moment. I only hope I can keep it up.

There’s this model I know who has discovered her own, let’s say, religion. I’m really not sure if that’s accurate. Her name is Nasreen Ameri, and she calls her idea Carrorism, an extension of the made-up word “Carror” which she defines as the opposite of “Terror.”

On Facebook, she’s been posting positive quotes and pictures of what appear to be hearts she finds everywhere in the world, in cracks in the pavement, in oil spots on the road, in the way food is shaped on her plate.

How cool is it to look for love in everything, even things we find as inanimate as pavement.

I’m not necessarily going to call myself a Carrorist. But I love when positive people influence me with thoughts of wonder and intrigue. When the build while destroying. Isn’t that what it’s about? Creating one thing while eschewing something else? You can’t be both lazy and productive. So when you concentrate on art, you are also demolishing zombism, paralytic fear, shame, doubt, dishonesty and war.

Or maybe I’m missing the point all together. I need to go think on this a while.

Keep it Simple, Stupid!


Around our house, Keep It Simple Stupid has become a repeated phrase.

I tend to complicate things. Or my mind does, anyway. I try to document our experiences on camera, and often I try to say too too much. Or if I tell a story, I dip into no man’s land when it’s completely superfluous.

When simplicity is best, I’ll hear Tina call out from an adjoining room, “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”

This morning I thought I would come up with and start using its acronym, “KISS!”

Come to find out, lots of people follow a variation of this rule.

I just read in Tribe of Mentors that one of my favorite directors Robert Rodriguez has a saying “Fácil!” when things get too muddied with dumb, self-imposed (or otherwise) complication.

Another writer named Elen Ghulam likes to quote her father for saying, “Take it easy, ya azizi!” Azizi is arabic for “dear.” And it rhymes with Easy!

In other words, take the complications out. Lose the stress. If something is super tough, look at it as easy and go after it like a cowboy on the back of a horse wrangling a calf. If you’re like me, you’ve been doing your art for years and years. So you’ve completed the act of execution a zillion times. Don’t forget that because your facing some new project.

And even if you’re a young, budding artist, remember to KISS all things complicated.

For example, Tina and I had an art date the other night. She found a drawing tutorial on a horse head. The first time she drew it, she looked at it and thought, this sucks. I said, “Draw it again. You’ll do much better.”

She did, and she was much happier with the second attempt. Had she tried a third, it would have been better still.

The first time you do something, it’s tough and has to turn out shitty.” The second time and every subsequent time, that’s art. Art is repetition of the same (or very fucking similar) act of creating.

I’ve grilled hundred and hundreds of steaks. I get close to really good, but it’s only because I keep trying to perfect the process.

I’ve taken zillions of pictures and portraits, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still rethinking execution. So many ingredients stay the same (lights, camera, light modifiers), but things change (people, place, placement of camera/lights, etc).

Do your art or arts over and over and over and over and over. And then do them over again. It’s time + experience + repetition = Keeping It Simple, Stupid!

Ha.

Another thing about the book that reminded me to KISS was that so so so many of the respondents, when asked what they did to clear the mind or when they become unfocused, the two answers that stuck out to me were: 1) take a walk and 2) meditate.

These are two, relatively simple actions that I feel were flying way way way under my radar. I do both. Not for clearing the mind or regaining focus (not on purpose). But I see how being cognizant of the two as enriching activities is a very positive influencer and time spender.

So Keep It Simple, Stupids! Or scream “Fácil!” or “Take it easy, you azizi!”

Hugs. Not Dee-rugs!

 

Are you scared to death? Good!


From The War of Art by Steven Pressfield:

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

And another:

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

Every time I create something or I complete something, the fear of sharing it is so terrifying, it’s crazy.

Primarily if it weren’t for Tina’s encouragement and cheerleading, I probably wouldn’t share any of my work. I wouldn’t try to create vLogs or even blogs.

Then there are inadvertent encouragers. There are people on Facebook and other social media who put their work out, publish it, share it all the time. They have way more likes than I do. Way more followers than I do. And all these factors create a bubble of fear, indecision, paralysis, and depression.

I’m 42 years old. Until I was about 38, I vowed never to call myself an artist. Calling self an artist is either validated by some form of success or it’s hackneyed nomenclature.

And then something clicked. Calling myself an artist became a necessity. It became a battle over fear and rejection, self-doubt and self fulfillment. If I don’t call myself it, I will never be it. If I don’t accept it, despite doing art since I can remember … waiting until I’m dead won’t help.

And then there’s social media.

I’ve had a long love hate relationship with social media, this blog, Facebook, Instagram, twitter, etc. This blog used to be somewhat popular. Now it’s not. I don’t care. Now is my time to revitalize. To do, not say. To take back what was mine. To look forward. Not back.

I have to mind the cues I get that sharing work on social media is somehow going to make me a Rembrandt or Degas or Van Gogh or any other so-called successful artist. That’s not what it is. The dopamine thrill of “one more like.” Nope. The perception of success is bullshit. Success is start to finish. Success is developing an idea, executing it, and then, sharing it. Over and over and over and over and over and over.

“I finished X,” declares the artist. “Time to celebrate?” asks the artist?

“No time to celebrate,” responds the mentor. “It’s time to start Y,” says the mentor.

The likes and approvals of others aren’t the reason for sharing, it’s the process. Everything that came before sharing is what makes happiness and fulfillment. Whether people like it or not, that shouldn’t always be the goal. Although the voices in our heads often try to convince us of that.

I’ll leave you with this other quote from Pressfield:

“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.

Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”

Whole30, day 12, from a guy who never planned to join the cult …


It’s day 12 of our foray into Whole30. I never planned on doing this diet. And I’m still quite skeptical of the whole thing.

If I met me, today, and heard the bullshit that I’m cutting out for 30+ days, I’d be yawning and looking at my phone while I talked to me.

You know?

No dairy, beans, soy, peanuts, sugar, alcohol for how many days? And why?

“Everything in moderation, my dear boy.”

“Cut one thing out. Not a zillion, my dear boy.”

“Give yourself a break once in a while, my dear boy.”

I’m suspicious of anyone trying to sell anything magical, and here I am conducting the damn magic train and dictating what happens back in the caboose. And everything in between.

What have I learned so far on the Whole30 diet?

  • Cutting out all those ingredients/foods is not as hard as I thought.  Even alcohol promised to be the bombshell blonde temptress calling me back with dirty midnight text message booty calls and I’ve managed to turn her down every time.
  • As they told us in the Bible book: “Quitting heroin is hard. Fighting cancer is hard.” Eschewing a list of foods for 30+ days, not as difficult.
  • Fasting from a series of different foods and replacing them with creative new dishes with amazing flavor profiles is a fun exercise.
  • Facing the diet head-on with a partner is much more satisfying and breathes life into a successful strategy and turnout.
  • It’s day 12, and I haven’t experienced better sleep yet. It’s getting worse, really. I don’t even think I’m that stressed out. Or if I am stressed out, I don’t realize what I’m stressed over.
  • I started the diet to support Tina and her cousin, but now I’m doing the diet for me.
  • My ambition is discover how different foods that are considered inflammatory have affected me both physically and mentally.
  • Overall, I feel calmer, more productive, more concentrated on life, clearer, open-er (sic), lovelier, etc.

Would I recommend Whole30 to a friend? Yes. Would I tell them it’ll change their life? Probably. Do I speak from any kind of authority? Not really. I’m only 12 days in. I’m a hack. I’m a tourist. I’m what people refer to as the shithead in the room.

My outlook, though, is positive. I’m like Scrooge McDuck swimming in a pool of his own money and gold … only I’m swimming in a pool of excessive more time and possibilities of being more productive.

Although, at the moment, I’m so fucking tired it’s hard to concentrate. I’m worried that my fatigue will dictate evil temptations.

Yesterday, Tina went through a swamp of negative feelings and attitude. I’m not sure what was harder: when I went through them personally or being patient with her going through them.

Think about it, for the length of your life, you’ve eaten a lot of different foods. All of the sudden, you put the brakes on about 60%-70% of what you thought was fine, dandy, healthy, supportive.

Because of high blood pressure and cholesterol (and a sincere artistic thrill and so I could have a glass of wine while doing it), I started cooking almost every night of the week about 11 years ago. Nine years ago, Tina and I joined a proper gym and have maintained an exercise regimen that isn’t dictated by New Year’s Resolutions. We’ve managed to start different New Year’s style resolutions, but keep them.

Over the years, I’ve cut back (and failed to cut back) on things like salt, larger meat portions, sugar, calories, etc. There were years where I kept to the “no more than two alcoholic drinks per day (for men) maximum and not every day.” But there were many more when I have not! I blame laziness and fear for the failure of cutting out booze. Fear. Fear because when you think you love something, you think you’d be empty without it. Those thoughts are the little guy in a red suit on your left shoulder whispering in your ear.

I’ve always been intrigued by ideas of why pregnant women can’t have lots of different foods, supposedly for the health of the child. But what the fuck are we eating them for if they are bad for babies?

But the fads are so mind boggling. There’s TOO many of them. I just read in Tools of Titans that there is one guy who decided to cut out all plant-based foods from his diet and he’s never felt more healthy. We are dog-sitting for a friend’s pup who only eats raw chicken. He’s in better muscular shape than any dog I’ve ever seen. And I’ve never seen him do a crunch in my life.

Honestly, I hate the concept of “diets” and especially of the people who proselytize them as superior.

“I’m a vegetarian! I’m saving the planet because meat-based products are ruining the environment!”

“I’m vegan because I want to one-up the vegetarians! I have a superiority complex!”

“I’m a carnivore, because my body needs what evolution gave it to make it walk upright, talk, reason, and invent marketing, capitalism, Hallmark holidays and religion!”

“I’m a Whole30-er, because I’m a sucker for fad diets and creating the most awkward of scenarios in mixed company!”

Joking aside, I’m glad I’m doing it. I think I’m learning something about myself. About the world. About my place in it. I’m rejuvenated with a sense of self-worth, of self-betterment success, of elitism vs humility and of superiority and inferiority.

Self challenges are the mental gyms evacuated after the new year’s resolutions deflate like party balloons. Tina and I tend to find different fads and stick to them. We’ve drank self-made smoothies for three years, cutting out cereal from our diets. Do you realize how shitty cereals are, even the good ones, for eating breakfast?

Eating real food. I think that’s the fad diet everyone should get on. Finding out what does and doesn’t work for you, that’s even more important. Being reasoned in choices, food and otherwise, that there is advice gold.

Here I am hating on diets, and I’m advocating one at the same time. I’m a hypocrite. Just like you. Hold my hand a while, and let’s listen to this podcast on Superiority together.

You’re welcome.

 

 

Testing light solo


I recently did some light tests based on an idea I’ve been bouncing around for years with my old studio partner Bill Whitmire. We saw this one setup in the book Light: Science and Magic: in which you place a black background behind a bottle (or subject) and then a wider soft source like a silk behind that. 

Essentially the light wraps around the black and creates a thin rim around the subject.

I finally tested this recently with myself, but would love to do someone else.

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I don’t fucking care if this is some kind of advert for Burger King …


This viral video advocating standing up against bullies and for the bullied from Burger King is Gee to the R to the 8.

From Burger King:

Scrawny. Short. Ugly. Fat. Weird. 30% of school kids worldwide are bullied each year and bullying is the #1 act of violence against young people in America today (Source: nobully.org). The BURGER KING® brand is known for putting the crown on everyone’s head and allowing people to have it their way. Bullying is the exact opposite of that. So the BURGER KING® brand is speaking up against bullying during National Bullying Prevention Month.

In the BURGER KING® brand Bullying Jr. experiment, more people stood up for a bullied WHOPPER JR.® than a bullied high school Jr. Visit NoBully.org to learn how you can take a stand against bullying.