new pix just because

new pix

For various reasons, I rarely do 'my own' creative design work. I'm usually pretty content to teach, which is just a different creative outlet, and demands every ounce of visual, verbal, analytical and psychological gumption I can muster, not to mention a dash of patience. And even when I occasionally stumble my way into making an image I like, I'm almost always immediately confronted with something one of my students has done that just blows it out of the water, and slaps me back to the reality that, yes, I'm somewhat artistic, but not terribly edgy compared to what's going on in the here and now. And oddly, this doesn't bother me, because I like seeing good work so much, I don't really care who produced it, it's just exciting and makes me feel more alive and teaches me new ways to look at the world. But recently I found myself playing, and came up with some new images that I like enough to post. I added some leaf photos from a couple of years ago, and voila.


50 years of swimming

It's one of those family stories that gets retold so many times you start to think you remember it firsthand. I was two years old, and we were at my grandparent's house, at the huge pool. I announced that I could swim, marched to the end of the pool where there was a submerged flight of steps from the edge into the shallow end, and began to make my way into the water. My father took off his watch while someone yelled at me to stop. I took the next step, and my father took off his shoes. Another step, more clothing. They thought I would get scared and come out, but no, I walked right in over my head and Dad had to jump in and rescue me. I don't even want to ponder how perfect a psychological snapshot it was, so let's just say it was rather typical behavior on my part.

I learned to swim shortly thereafter, and spent most weekends in that pool playing with cousins, diving for pennies, trying to swim the whole 60' length underwater without a breath, emerging hours later, shriveled and waterlogged. We had races, and I beat my male cousins until we were well into our teens. It was one of the few areas where I felt any competitiveness, and I was proud of being fast.

Now, fifty years later, I swim laps for exercise, and I don't hate it, but it's a chore nonetheless. I'm always struggling against my natural tendency to want to just sit on the couch and eat bonbons, and swimming is part of my arsenal in the war to be healthy and lead a well-balanced life. I've been losing this war for months now, but this week I got back in the pool at the sports center and began dutifully plodding away.

Yesterday I shared a lane with an extremely pregnant woman wearing a two-piece suit, so that her immense belly jutted out into the water as if it were a new form of marine mammal attached to an otherwise normal swimmer. And the really discouraging thing was, that as we swam, Ms. Whale-belly passed me! One of those subtle, invisibly private events that signals yet again that time has passed and taken the glories of my youth, such as they were, with it.

I can still picture my grandmother, well into her eighties, swimming a steady breaststroke, sporting a shower cap on her head so she wouldn't ruin her hairdo. So maybe instead of speed, that can be my new benchmark; to bring things full circle by keeping it up long enough to be infamous once again for my sheer tenacity of spirit.


Fellini's Picnic

At the high school where I teach, seniors are required to take Economics, and there is a tradition in the class. Students are divided into four groups, and each group forms a corporation, complete with logo and letterhead. Then, for two days, they compete to see who can make the most money, and for various reasons this comes down to selling food at lunch and break time. They produce TV ads aired on the daily bulletin and festoon the campus with banners advertising themselves. They often have hats and shirts printed with their logos, although this year one team just bought red T-shirts and used duct tape to spell out Mr. M on the back. Their name is Mr. Mediocre, and their logo looks suspiciously like the golden arches, only made out of duct tape.

The night before, whole families are mobilized to cook, pick up food from local restaurants, and transport huge amounts of equipment (Oh yeah, Mom, I forgot, we need five blenders to make smoothies tomorrow and I said we could get them..."). It's a massive undertaking, and I get the feeling that there will be some very grumpy parents out there by the end of the week.

So today and Friday are the big days. The bell for break just sounded, and now dozens of students are vying desperately for business, hawking food as if their very lives depended on it, like carnival barkers on speed. They're wearing corporate T-shirts and hats, shouting at and cajoling their fellow students, flinging food in all directions, grabbing fistfuls of cash. Huge barbeque pits have been rolled into place and the smell of roasting meat fills the air.

One team has chosen the name 'The Donner Party' and has such slogans as, 'Where all the people are sweet!', 'Finger food never tasted so good!' and 'Where it won't cost you an arm and a leg!' One student, Carmel High's answer to Robin Williams, is walking around with a clown hat on and a powered megaphone, urging people to eat there in his own inimitable fashion. One team has even rented a bounce house and scheduled local bands to play during lunch. Today's band looks about how you'd expect, pierced, hair dyed black, tight mismatched clothing. The lead singer has adopted a certain style of screaming directly into the mic that makes Bryan, the music teacher, cringe and roll his eyes as he walks by eating his mystery burrito purchased from a nearby team. The same team has talked an Indian restaurant into setting up a booth, and an older man in a turban is serving scantily-clad little teeny-boppers curry and probably wishing he was elsewhere. It's one part Dante's Inferno, one part Fellini movie, one part Beverly Hills 90210. Somehow I don't remember high school being like this back in the day.


3hive - sharing the sharing

3hive: Experimental Archives

Just stumbled into this site via the blog of one of its creators, and got swept up listening. Try 'To Make Manifest' by Thavius Beck. Not for everyone, to be sure, but I'm quickly becoming obsessed, playing it over and over again. One of the great things about living alone is that I can indulge in my maddening propensity to listen to the same CD or even individual song exclusively for months on end without getting tired of it. Even my dogs start giving me looks after a while, or maybe it's just my imagination...


Live TV Sitcom

Today was the big day. I schlepped seventeen overly-energetic teenagers to the local TV station and herded them through the basics of TV production. And despite massive amounts of chaos, when we emerged five hours later, we had a half-hour tape ready, with only a few nips and tucks, to be shown on local cable.

Once they saw the real studio and control room it didn't take much prodding or scolding to get them down to business. I showed them the basics and let them loose, more or less, with only occasional bursts of mother-hen behavior and bossiness, because I can't help it.

We had seven of our best student videos with us, and we showed them one at a time, interspersing them with live introductions and chatter. For each of the seven segments, the kids took turns doing different jobs, so by the end they had each tried several, if not all of the skills; in-front-of-camera talent, director, cameraman, sound, switching, lighting, floor director.

It was interesting to see which students gravitated towards which jobs. Some students really wanted to be talent, some really wanted to direct, some were much more interested in the technical aspects. One was tremendously reluctant to be a cameraman. His English isn't great, and I think he was scared he'd mess up, but he finally did it. Another was scared to do the sound board, but I had his friend help him, and they got through it. My favorite part was watching as students who had just done a job showed the next student how to do it.

I'm so tired now that I'm going to immerse myself in a hot bath and get to sleep. I wouldn't be surprised to suddenly wake up at two a.m. and find myself sitting in a tub full of tepid water. I'm that tired. (switch to the voice of Arnold Swartznegger) IMMENSELY tired. UBER tired. (it's an in-joke mimicking one of the student videos.)

I'm going to have to put a few on my website, but not tonight. No. Not tonight.zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


a quick glimpse

It's like this: I just taught from 7:45 a.m. until 9:45 p.m. two days in a row, high school, then adult class, with about an hour break each day, and I'm a rumpled, stumbling disaster too tired to even stagger into bed, so I'm here at the big screen, indulging myself in a bit of reflection at the end of the marathon. But it's not over.

Thursday, two meager days hence, I'm scheduled to take eighteen teenagers, two girls and SIXTEEN BOYS to the local TV station to try to teach them to operate a TV studio and all the equipment in it.

My plan is to bumble through it and come out with a 30-minute segment ready for broadcast on our local cable channel. I have several short, hysterically funny videos they have made thus far in my class, so I'm hoping we can get a primitive set assembled and lit, manage to turn on the equipment in the control room, type some credits into the character generator and get a novice crew pointing some cameras and mics at a host who will introduce the videos. Then roll tape. Then back to the host for another intro, maybe a clownish interview with a fellow student director, roll another tape, and so on.

Might just pull it off. Despite my shortcomings as a first-year teacher of video, which are numerous, this batch of shorts is creative and funny enough to stand alone without apology. In fact, four are quite brilliant even to this urban sophisticate weaned on Fellini and Polanski and Kurosawa, and I wish I had done them.

walk on the wild side

Back now from taking the dog girls (Mrs. Beasley and Bunny Shmenkleman) to Fort Ord, a local mostly-abandoned army base, for our nice relaxing walk. There is a road that has been closed off, flanked on both sides by softly rolling hills and live oaks. I stick to the road while the girls dart in and out of the scrub in a futile hunt for the pheasants, quail, wild turkeys and deer that never quite get caught but continue to tantalize. Once we ‘saw’ a skunk, but I’m really, really hoping that won’t be the case ever again.

Only moments into it, as we ambled along the deserted stretch of road barricaded with huge OFF LIMITS TO MOTOR VEHICLES BLAH BLAH BLAH signs, sirens began to wail, accompanied by urgent honking. And continued. And continued. My shoulders started to rise to meet my earlobes. More sirens. Three huge roaring, rude SUVs defied all roadblocks to tear past us. Finally, after ten minutes or so of screaming sirens, down the hill raced a bellowing, UNMARKED fire engine followed by three more rugged uber vehicles, spewing diesel fumes and testosterone in their wake. No, the pastoral euphoria thing was not unfolding as I had hoped.

Shortly after passing us the sirens faded into silence, allowing the subtle dancing and whispering of leaves and swaying of grasses to be heard once again, mixed with my percussive footfalls and the dainty tapping of dog toenails on asphalt. Soon we were miles down the road, far from the harshness of civilization. My tension level was almost back to barcalounger mode. My shoulders had left my ears and returned to join my back. Under my bald dome, pleasant thoughts were seriously considering a return.

Mrs. Beasley and I heard it at the same time. No... Yes. Machine gun fire. Ratatatatatatatatatat Ratatatatatata Ratatatata. They must be training. Mrs. Beasley is terrified of gunshots. Her ears went up, her tail tucked and she about-faced and broke into a run. Then the mortar fire began. Kabooooom. Kabooom. Ratatatat. How delightful, our own private war movie. It was time to turn back, very, very quickly. The sounds of battle followed us for another quarter of an hour. We made it back to the camp, er, car, exhausted and overwrought. And that concluded our healthful, tension-reducing constitutional for the evening. Next time I’ll just take the holodeck to Viet Nam and get it over with.


a blog is born

i've been wanting to have a blog of my own for years, so naturally i'm starting this in the midst of a furiously busy time of the school year, when i have no time or more importantly, energy, or even more importantly, focus to indulge in such a thing. Typical.

I can already tell, a blog is a jealous mistress. The image comes to mind of the down-covered falcon chicks I saw last weekend, cheeping with all their might, beaks open and insisting to be filled, their non-stop noise demanding more and more and more...

But it's time to dash to night school, where I will teach until it's time to be taken up in front of this evening's school board meeting. Seems I'm Employee-of-the-Month, and I must go be praised, even if it means missing a big chunk of class time. One of those dubious distinctions, to be sure.

more worms later, kids, i promise...