two women at a bus stop

A poem. By me.

“two women at a bus stop”

Strangers. One, to the other. 
“I love the guy who paid my debt.” 
“You wha?” 
“I love the guy who paid my debt.” 
“You love the guy who paid your debt?” 
“Yes?”
“Okay.” 
Cars whoosh. Tires tread. Engines combust. 
“I want to introduce you to the guy who paid my debt.” 
“You what?” 
“I want to introduce you go the guy who paid my debt.” 
“Okay.” 
“He’s right here.” 
The woman held out her open palm. 
The other looked at her empty hand.
“He lives here.” Her eyes pointing to her hand. “He’s my friend. I want him to be your friend.” 
“Um.” 
Cars whoosh. Tires tread. Engines Combust. 
“You have debt, too, you know?” 
“What?”
“You have debt, too. I have the bill right here.” 
In her other hand, she holds a line-itemed bill with a number in the billions. 
It’s addressed to “everyone, anywhere, at any time.” 
“I don’t owe anything.” 
“Yes you do.” 
“No I don’t.” 
“It says it right here.” 
“What is the bill for?” 
“Our ancestors ate a meal. They didn’t pay. With interest, inflation and tax, you must pay this bill.” 
“No. No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do. It says right here. You must pay, too.” 
“Who is billing for this debt?” 
“My friend who paid the debt.” 
Cars whoosh. Tires tread. Engines combust. 

Michael Chabon steps down from his chairmanship of the MacDowell Colony’s Board of Directors

One of my favorite authors Michael Chabon stepped down recently as chair of the MacDowell Colony’s Board of Directors, an organization that foster the growth of artists.

His take on the current state of the world is bleak, with an essence of hope. Here’s a snip:

And what is that truth, the truth of art, that freeing blade, that slaking drink in the desert of the world? It’s this: You are not alone. I am not I; you are not you. We are we. Art bridges the lonely islands. It’s the string that hums from my tin can, over here looking out of my little window, to you over there, looking out of yours. All the world’s power over us lies in its ability to persuade us that we are powerless to understand each other, to feel and see and love each other, and that therefore it is pointless for us to try. Art knows better, which is why the world tries so hard to make art impossible, to immiserate artists, to ban their work, silence their voices, and why it’s so important for all of us to, quite simply, make art possible.

Hey, maybe that would make a good slogan.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I feel a little better than I did when I started. The hell with fascism. The hell with bigotry and paranoia. The hell with fools falling for the lies of charlatans; that’s what fools do. We’re just going to keep on doing what we do: Making and consuming art. Supporting the people who remind us that we are in this together. We are each only one poem, one painting, one song away from another mind, another heart. It’s tragic that we need so much reminding. And yet we have, in art, the power to keep reminding each other.

We need words like this right now. Why? Because the world has become overwrought by people convincing the masses that politics and religion are more important than blood. That priority should be given to “belief” over family. That apathy is more important than empathy. That justice and “truth” is determined by a side of the political spectrum and not by honest to goodness hands reaching through darkness to pull friendship out of the mire caused by ignorance and shame.

When I began working as a photographer, I had an artist mentality of purity and naivety. It has evolved into different versions of cynicism and despair, followed by times of hope and joy. It’s a tough business.

I valued these words from Chabon. They gave me pause and time to reflect.

 

 

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.”

Let me waggle my microphone dong in your face

This is an entertaining piece from Dr. Ray Comfort, the single-most knowledgeable scientist living in the world today.

His approach to excellence in journalism and proving science wrong is comparable to a POV porn video in which Comfort waggles his dark, microphone dong in interviewees’ faces while he towers above them is probably one of these most chauvinistic and egotistical shows of pompous bullshit I’ve seen today.

This effort is more than a metaphor. This is why Jay Leno and David Letterman sit slightly higher than their guests. They want to subliminally tell their audience who is in control, who is the real star and who needs a little deflating sometime in the interview.

Your dreams of “believing” in evolution will be dashed if you watch this video, so proceed with caution. It’s the debunking of all debunks.