Journal Entry: Discourse, August 2014

How does someone really make a difference?

I honestly don’t know. At least anymore. Do one thing? Do it well and hope that others follow along? What I find challenging today is the lack of allowable discourse. If you mention something the Canadians do, or the crafty Europeans, one of the responses you get here is “Well then why don’t you go live there?” Questioning the way things are has become “anti” and frowned up.

Let us look no further than online photography. I don’t look at work online, and I’m dangerously, dangerously close to not looking at ANYTHING online outside of my immediate requirements of email and work related issues. That’s it. My departure from social has had a profound influence on me, and this influence grows stronger and stronger each day. The vast majority of online discourse is predictable and catered to the overwhelmingly positive. You know the favorite kisses, “Amazing,” “Incredible, “Awesome snap.” Etc., Etc. This isn’t discourse. The news is embarrassing. One real story buried under celebrity, the outlandish and the tricks to feed the insatiable advertising machine. We are bought, sold and traded on a daily basis.

I’m in the Texas Hill Country today, my final day here, and this trip has been a strong one. Where I sit now, looking out a picture window, I see little to no influence of modern man. Five acres. I’m sitting in one small space on five acres of land owned by my bloodline. The cabin is hand built, fortress like and yet it is under constant attack by the forces of nature. Rain, wind, relentless sun and an absolute army of the insect and animal world. Yesterday a scorpion in the shower. Brown recluse under the desk I sit at now. And just this morning, outside as the sun peaked over the Twin Sisters, I see deer, raccoon, squirrel, white wing dove, vulture, hawk, bull snake, fire ant, chickens, feral cats and an abundance of song birds. Last night mosquitos and clicker bugs bombarded my waiting carcass.

There is no chance in winning this war. It’s evident we are the visiting species. Yet a few scant miles away the Earthmovers do their best to enslave this wild beast, and they do it in the most shortsighted, ignorant, arrogant way. Just do it and do it quickly. The new road is already showing signs of fray. The traffic has already overwhelmed the “upgrades.” “Progress” is made as the horizon is painted with identical rooftops, all needed to be air conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter. The three foot wall of Earth has been replaced by the six inch wall of toxicity. (Our neighbor’s house was lined with toxic insulation. I know because I walked it as it was being built. Right there on the warning label.)

I’m not the only one. Others I know look around and ask “Why?” But none of us know what to do, what step to take. Do you take a stand? Maybe. When you take a stand you are often times labeled, pinned, accused of being “revolutionary,” a “kook,” or something worse. Anti-American? Questioning is now subversive. In Orange County a man yells at me in the parking lot of the market because I rode the 2 miles from my house on my bike to shop. “You shouldn’t be on that thing,” he says to me, shaking with rage. Why? Was he stuck in traffic on the way to the same market? Has the bike become a lightning rod? Or do we have a growing, underlying anger emerging from what is clearly a dead end street of human “evolution?”

I see many underlying issues, but the one I find most troubling is greed. Look no further than our current wars, the financial collapse, the auto industry lawsuits, real estate bubbles, etc., etc. Greed. Plain and simple. Driving the daily engine to acquire. You question this and suddenly you are “anti-progress,” or “against competition.” The cover ups, the bail outs, the leaks of atrocity. They are endless, and the media makes sure we are good and scared while being good and burned out on all things that matter.

Drugged. That is how I would describe this, or us. We are straight trippin. So we medicate with media. We medicate with television. We medicate with the internet. We seem to know everything and nothing at the same time. I’ve written a lot about attention span, something I find wildly interesting. “You should write multiple posts per day.” “You need listicles.” All words of advice about blogging. Forget the truth. Forget how you really feel. Do what you need to do to gain, to get and to promote. Man, I’m so over this mentality. How many of my photographer friends live dual lives? The online, professional life and then the real one they wake up to each day. They pretend, the clients pretend and the awkward imbalance continues while EVERYONE whispers behind closed doors.

The truth hurts, but it’s a good sting, like eating ginger, or wasabi when it goes up your nose. We don’t need much. We really don’t. I have too much. I’m guilty of some of the things I complain about, and my mind wanders like a felon on furlough at the Playboy Mansion. I’m not centered. I have no real answer. But with each passing day my mind gets closer to making a stand.

Meaning. Yes, okay, I’ll do it. “What is the meaning of all this?” Yes, I just asked that question. What is the meaning of life? Is it building another strip mall because you own a concrete company and that’s what you do? Is it covering the Gaza Conflict? Is it joining a monastery and attempting to find peace? No idea. Perhaps we aren’t supposed to know.

The Feeling

Remember that feeling you had as a kid? That feeling of being able to do anything? Nothing was outside the bounds of possibility. The world was your oyster, and then you got educated, trained, confined, conformed and molded into what society, and your family, thought you should be.

“When are you going to get serious?” “When are you going to settle down?” “When are you going to get a job?”

This is a strange concept, but it happens to most of us. I can still remember feeling the pressure of these questions, and I can remember watching my friends go through the same thing. Our culture demands it of most and because of this, in my opinion, we have a lot of talented people who will remain nameless, tasteless and unknown because the conformity got the best of them. A house, a car, 401k, suburbia, and the idea of spending thirty to forty of your most productive years doing something you may or may not want to do.

I’m writing about this for two reasons. First, the content of the image included here. I can’t look at this and not laugh. This is a guy named Nick, someone I haven’t seen in years. This image was made in the hills near Mono Lake in Northern California. Nick is doing something that I’m not sure has an official name. I’ll just call it “Hill Running.” The point? To eat complete and total S%$%. The premise, start at the top, start running downhill at top speed until you hit that velocity where there is no ability to stop and then….well….just see what happens. Nick ate complete and total S%$# on this run, and the runs after and people that was the point(He also had a few successful runs.) It was about doing what he wasn’t “supposed” to do. Now you might label this as “stupid,” and maybe it is, but maybe it’s genius. I can only tell you how entertaining it was to watch.

Sometimes when I look around at the creative world I wish we had a bit more hill running in our lives.
The crossroads we find ourselves at is one of success verses failure, and for whatever reason failure is rarely looked upon as a learning experience and natural part of being creative. My personal belief is that this decline in acceptance of failure is tied to technology. I really like technology, but I am also very capable of calling bullshit on most of it. Does it make our lives easier? More efficient? Maybe, maybe not. Ever notice in the spy movies how the commander calls up intel on some fugitive and some lackey hits one key and their real time criminal history pops up on forty-foot-wide screens in real time? When in reality the system would have crashed, the headset the person was wearing would be cutting out, the firmware on the mainframe wouldn’t have been updated and one of the screens would have been littered with dead pixels. In theory I love it all, and I surely love the movies. In reality I wonder if we are better off now or if we are slowly walking into proverbial quicksand. Massive plots of poorly constructed soulless houses being hastily erected, MILES from public transportation, is still labeled as “progress.” If anyone can tell me anything progressive, healthy, forward thinking or sustainable about that I’m all ears.

Several weeks ago I was with a classroom filled with second graders.
This was my second trip to this particular school. I was fortunate because I got to visit art class. I stood in a room filled with paints, glues, papers, inks, brushes, tablets, etc, and all I could think about was gathering a group of my adult friends and putting them in this room. I wanted to turn them loose and say “Don’t worry about what you were supposed to be, just create something.” I wondered what this could do for moral. I wondered how many unknown Picasso’s were in my circles. I wondered how many of my friends had hidden creative skills? And I wondered how we transfer this feeling and belief BACK into our normal lives.

I don’t know about you but the horizon seems a lot closer than it ever has.
I believe less in the traditional theories about life, capitalism and the ever growing sense of needing to have more and more and more. How about have less create more? What if we could share this collective mindset. What if your daily life FELT like hill running? Maybe yours does?

Jerry Tovo: Homeless Veterans Project

Years ago, during my time working for Eastman Kodak Company, I met a guy named Jerry Tovo. Jerry was a photographer, former Drill Sergeant and all around interesting guy. A few weeks ago I got a call out of the blue, a deep voice that sounded both unknown and familiar. Turns out it was Jerry calling me about his latest project, book and plan. Take a look at this book below and just let it sink in. This subject really chaps my ass. Homeless veterans. I feel the same about homeless Native Americans. When I even hear that description my brain stops for a minute as I ask myself, “Wait, what?” Jerry is trying to do something about it with his “They May Have Been Heroes” project, something I think is WELL WORTH the effort to support. One of the things that stung me was the idea of 12,000 homeless women veterans. I don’t know about you, but my life is about as far from sacrifice, hardship and the front line as you can get, so I have a tremendous appreciation for ANYONE who is out there putting it on the line. Could be a sniper, mine sweeper, mechanic or cook, all the same to me. They deserve more.

Last week I was at the gym and decided to hit the sauna on the way out. This should tell you about the stress level in my life. I enter the sauna and I’m alone. A few minutes later a guy walks in and I can tell by his movements he is jacked up, not in a bad way, just in an energy way. “Hey, how you doing?” he asks. “Fine, how about you?” I reply. He looks at me and says something along the lines of, “Look, I was a soldier, I just moved down here away from my wife and kids and I haven’t had a lot of interaction, so sorry about this but I need to talk.” “Go right ahead,” I said and he started talking. I felt good about being there to talk with him, but I also felt his pain. I felt, and feel, like I need to do more. What “more” is I don’t know, but this project is a great place to start, an easy place to start, so if you can, take and use this film and post it to your channels. This issue isn’t native to the United States, not by any means, so those of you reading this in the far reaches of world, I’m talking to you as well. Let’s see if we can make something happen. We walk past these folks to stand in line for the latest gadget, or to see what Hollywood has for us, so why can’t we direct more attention their way? Post, post and repost this thing.

This last photo is tied to the letter at the end. An interesting take from the man in the image(80-year-old Korean War vet) in regard to his story and the photographer.