Wednesday, January 07, 2009

101 Things To Do In 1001 Days

Take 2

copyright Gordon Stettinius, Terry Brown

Because I feel like I could use a little self-improvement. I have put togther a list of goals for the next 1001 days. Originally, this idea comes from triplux, who has started a movement of sorts, it would seem, as there are a lot of these lists out there.

For the record, this is my second attempt at making such a list. My first attempt was fairly successful in that I knocked off about half the list and managed a few things that I may not have without the ongoing reminder. And before you castigate me for my blatant pandering to my own self-interest, I would like you to take a long look in the mirror and then, give yourself a big hug because you are truly o.k.. I mean that.

Anyway, this is not simply a list. This is big picture stuff. This is man-making, life-fulfilling, by-the-balls-grabbing stuff. And I am commencing directly. Living at the behest of a pure and unadulterated mania.

Completion Date: October 4th, 2011

The Criteria: Tasks are ideally specific (i.e. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks should also be realistic and a bit off-task from the regular routine (i.e. represent some amount of work which must be done).

1. Write Something Meaningful (2/3)
~ 2. Go to a Drive In
~ 3. Each Room, Five things to Charity
4. Go to a Comedy Club (1/2)
5. Picnic Three Times (2/3)
6. Scuba Dive
7. Two Day Fast (1/3)
8. Get Myself Set Up to Weld
9. Get Rejected 24 times (11/24)
~ 10. Finish Book About Gita Lenz
~ 11. Exhibition for Gita Lenz
~ 12. Give Blood
13. Travel Somewhere by Train
14. Make Short Film
~ 15. Clean Garage
16. Get Photo Book Published
~ 17. Training for a Certain Dog (…and she knows she is. )
~ 18. Go to the theatre five times (5/5)
19. Visit Mexico City
20. Visit Spain
~ 21. Visit Boston
~ 22. Visit Fallingwater
23. Take Dance lessons
24. Paint a portrait
~ 25. Show Work in Three New Cities (3/3)
~ 26. Frame five Photos Collected from Other Photographers (8/5)
27. Frame a new drawing
~ 28. Buy Art (5/3)
29. Barter/Trade Artwork (3/5)
30. Submit Images to Blind Spot
31. Submit Images to Aperture
~ 32. Read five Books Recommended by five Friends
~ 33. Get a physical / G.I. exam or whatever you call it
34. New Volunteer Gig ( Habitat 4 Humanity or new / different )
~ 35. Go Snowboarding
36. Return to Bonnaroo
~ 37. Organize My Old Writings
38. Write / Record a song
39. Begin Family interviews
~ 40. Spend the day walking
41. Spend the day biking
42. Go to Southside Speedway
43. Attend services / visit a Mosque
~ 44. Support the Farmer’s Market
45. Make Homemade Beer / Wine
~ 46. Re-establish Garden
47. Public Karaoke
48. Run a half marathon (or better)
~ 49. Photograph/Interview a Psychic
50. Go Horseback Riding
~ 51. Go to a Vikings game
52. Burning Man
53. Spend Day with Dad
54. Spend Day with Mom
55. Spend day with Brother
56. Spend Day with Sister
~ 57. Get House Painted
58. Cook for Eight people (2/3)
59. Write a Children's Book
60. Collaborate with Another Artist (2/3)
~ 61. Go Ice Skating
62. Walker's Mix #7, #8, #9
63. Firefly
64. Paint or Buy Vintage or Vintage Style Backdrops (0/2)
65. Throw a Party (1/2)
66. Crash a Party (0/2)
~ 67. Get Together a Promotional Something (4/3)
68. Bake Yeasted Bread (0/3)
69. Go Camping (1/3)
70. Make Sushi
71. Don't Speak for an Entire Day
~ 72. Celebrate Solstice
73. Write Thank You Note to Former Teacher
~ 74. Locate an Old Friend (Actually, Real World) (3/3)
~ 75. Find / Use one of those Deodorant Stones
76. Hot Springs, Somewhere
77. Host a Mystery Dinner
~ 78. Take Yoga Classes
79. Make an Artist’s Book
~ 80. Go Naked
81. Sunday Roadtrip (14/25)
82. Get Photos to Someone Who Has Given up on Them (2/3)
83. Read Five Books I Already Own (3/5)
~ 84. Design / Produce a Small Run of T-shirts
85. Make Pesto (1/3)
86. Sky Dive
87. Take a Class in Ceramics
88. Curate a Toy Camera Show
89. Cirque du Soleil
~ 90. Finish Infinite Jest
~ 91. Find/Make a Quality Lamb or Bear Costume
~ 92. Get some Photo Swag Going (…via CafePress or similar. )
93. Swim in a Lake
94. Organize Family Photos
95. Earth Art or Plan for Empty Field
~ 96. Website Redesign
97. Massage / Accupuncture (2/5)
98. Go to Cuba
99. Go White Water Rafting
~ 100. Re-certify for CPR
101. Make Chile Relleno

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Where Trouble Melts Like Lemon Drops...

Earlier this past year, I did a podcast with the good folks over at I have done a couple of these recorded sessions actually, but will gloss over my debut appearance, because in my ignominious first podcast, I drank a couple of tumblers of Bushmills during the ninety minute episode and by the end of the broadcast it was all I could do not to belt out sea shanties. Anyway, during the second podcast, I referenced something that I still think about a lot… Mary Ellen Mark’s work photographing various Senior Proms. I saw this work last summer at the LOOK Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virginia. There were a number of featured exhibitions in the festival and some great photography in various venues in town.

James Nachtwey’s exhibition was the most compelling to me as a human. Nachtwey is a photojournalist and war photographer and his website will do more to explain the power of his work than I can ever get across in a quickly crafted internet treatment… his work encompasses the larger issues facing this world: Afganistan, Kosovo, Aids, addiction, life in american prisons, Rwanda and that is all that I can remember off the top of my head of what was a essentially a survey of his work over the years. So, to spin this the right way, let me say that this work blew me away. Choked me up. The images are beautiful and saddening and frightening and worth checking out if you are somehow as yet unfamiliar with his work.

Joel Peter Witken’s exhibition at 2nd Street Gallery was also very compelling in its own right. I must say that I have seen better collections of his work but as a craftsman and as a conceptual artist, Witken is also an amazing personality. The work in here was significant in that there were some digital creations alongside his earlier style of in-camera compositions. Which is really neither here nor there w/r/t what I want to think out loud about, but I thought it interesting to see what Witken was doing with contemporary tools. And the inner cynical adolescent in me was pretty amused by his digital work.

But the work that was most affecting for me was a bit of a dark horse really. I have enjoyed many of Mary Ellen Mark's books and essays over the years. I have a great respect for her as a photographer. And like Nachtwey, she is a renowned photojournalist that has explored very challenging subjects and given us indelible images from all over the world. But what the Prom Portraits did for me was to renew some tired aspect of my own dedication to photography. Because these images came from such a ‘normal’ place… a high school dance… I could imagine myself or any number of my photographer friends being given a similar assignment to photograph. Namely, to make images at some random institutional function. And I can further imagine that prospect , at bottom dollar, would sound about as appealing as a mason jar full of monkey urine. I am not always so jaded but I find that I don’t always approach commercial work with the same enthusiasm as I do personal artwork. And that is my problem. And a problem that this show of prom images is actually helping me with.

The images were not incredibly innovative by most measures… very large prints, probably from 4x5 polaroid pos/neg film, very sharp, studio lighting, simple backdrop… BUT the kids are amazing. There is a modicum of editorial manipulation going on by the artist in that the kids seem a little more toward the margins of ‘average’, what with the gay couple, the mixed race couple, the physically mismatched couple, the dateless kids, etc. And there were other stereotypes that also played nicely, the good looking kids with questionable skin, the oddly fitting clothes like the kids have been stuffed into misshapen adult suits, the awkwardness of standing next to one’s date and forever being associated with that person even though you hardly know them, its all in there… nervousness, lust, tough shit brio, bored indulgence of a photographer that these kids must probably have assumed was a hack straight out ofWalmart. There is a lot going on in these photographs. And so, even though Mark’s photography feels a bit like a humble sequel to Richard Avedon’s In The American West, damn if I didn’t get all excited by the work. These photos make me actually excited to shoot the next boring ass event that comes my way... Can you say weddings! Or maybe bar mitzvahs or kids’ portraits or pet portraits or insurance claim documentation. It just doesn’t fucking matter! It is not what you shoot but how you shoot. It matters what you bring to any given subject. It matters who you are as a photographer. It matters where you are. And it matters that you pay attention. In the moment.

So, to Ms. Mark, thanks for that. I am somewhat renewed even just thinking about it.

A friend once gave me a whole CD of musical covers of Over the Rainbow. And that, too, was really sort of a lesson for me about interpretation. Originality is so often inside the voice and not so much in the concept. Freshness can be tone, color, inflection, cadence, tempo, attitude, character… Traditionals. Covers. There is, of course, no shortage of uninspired interpretations of old standards. If I never hear Mustang Sally played by a bar band ever again, it will be too soon. But with a little insight into how we approach our life and work, we might be able to avoid the tired and commonplace and embrace the crystalline brilliance of the close at hand.

Write what you know.
Photograph what you know.

There is saftey in numbers but it is hard to dance that way without looking like the cast from Thriller.

Charles Traub wrote in a series of maxims on photography:

"Do something new in an old way.
Do something old in a new way.
Do something new in a new way
Whatever works… works."

Just maybe.

A Soupçon of Winter Relief

What to write… Somali pirates, Gaza rockets, Israeli reprisals, new year’s resolutions, vanity projects, Bonesy the dog, magical powders, unfinished screenplays, upcoming shows, my life of soup… Soup! I have made the following recipe a couple of times in my efforts to knock back the winter months…

A soup recipe from my friend, Kirsten:

Autumn harvest stew

1 medium sized onion, chopped
about 4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 cups vegetable broth, plus water if too thick
one can diced stewed tomatoes
one butternut squash, peeled and cubed
about 3 cups shredded greens (I use combo of kale and chard, etc., etc.)
about 1/3 cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 pkgs baked savory tofu, cubed
about 2 TBSP maple syrup
salt and pepper

in large saucepan, heat olive oil and sauté onions and garlic until softened and fragrant. Add remaining ingredients except salt and pepper. Bring to a slow simmer, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until squash is cooked through and flavors blended, about 45 minutes to an hour. add salt and pepper.

Serve with unsweetened yogurt or sour cream on top; pine nuts or roasted pumpkin seeds; raisins or chopped dried apricots.