Memory of a picture not taken
Every morning I get up early so I can get in some gym time before work. During my 20 minute commute I pass through one small town and a lot of countryside. During my commute I try to practice seeing things without thinking about what they mean, only seeing them as they are. It helps me distance myself from the voice that insists that visual images have to have meaning. It’s a problem I’ve been working through my entire life.
Doing this simple exercise allows me to see things I might not normally notice and also conjures strong emotional reactions to the ephemeral beauty of it all. My camera may be close at hand, but I tell myself I have to keep to my daily exercise routien. Seeing is enough for now, I can come back another day.
But there are conflicting thoughts and feelings that argue with my logical objectivity. This is the time for this opportunity. What I’m seeing here and now will be different next time. Maybe this revelatory moment will not reoccur. I can feel a lustful, avaricious, acquisitive desire to possess and hold the passing scene of faint pillars of mist rising from a small watering hole in the shadow of a verdant hill. This time of year, early in the morning, the grass appears unnaturally green in contrast to the trees that are only beginning to bud. It’s happening now and tomorrow it will be different.
To the west, outside my window, I can see a stagnant marsh dotted with dead trees. Beyond, the surrounding woods are shrouded in mist. In-between the sun is shining on the river, brightly contrasting the black mirror-like reflection of the water against the yellow grassy sandbars that have forced the river’s current into the path of least resistance.
I continue to drive, steady and slow, like a carriage car in a train, passing gray, weathered barns, sheep and cattle grazing next to ruinous stone walls and the light streaming through woods and passing clouds. I wonder at the heart break I feel from seeing all this. I feel a desperate need to capture these images, to somehow possess the moment, to turn a fleeting, transitory vision into solid, permanence. At the very least, to possess each moment of beauty and authenticity.
This is how I feel, how I’ve always felt and I know its something I can’t change, only curb. I’m pretty confident that this is an essential part of being us, being human. Is this what causes teenagers to drink recklessly and drive carelessly at 2am, or what makes a grown man crawl into a metal box so he can visit vacuum and touch the stars? Is this what drives us to make things like cities, super colliders, coffee makers and photographs?
All this useless beauty, within reach, but impossible to touch.
Authenticity and Voice
A recent conversation about creativity prompted these thoughts.
Don’t tie yourself to other people’s successes (the voices)
Find your own voice
How do you find your own voice?
What is VOICE?
• a particular interest or theme?
• a slant or bias?
• a grinding ax?
• WHO you ARE!
Who are you?
What makes finding your voice hard
• trusting and believing in yourself
• not listening to the noise of others
• not knowing what the end goal is
⁃ or the path to take you there
How do you find your voice?
• look at your work
• look at your interests
• look into your past and find the common thread that runs from the beginning of your memory to the present
⁃ what have you always liked to do, to be, to think about
⁃ get below the superficial, the appearance of what you like
⁃ bunch all the things you like and then find a commonality
A voice is what you personally find persistently compelling
• that brings you back again and again to review, explore, test
• sometimes it’s not the thing itself, but it’s opposite that you explore
⁃ i.e. space – agoraphobic vs claustrophobic
⁃ what is the best thing about the worst thing
⁃ what can you discover from that?
It’s unfortunate that we all associate learning with school. I’m not saying that people don’t have positive learning experiences through public education. But certainly it’s failure to serve the needs of a large minority is evident. In many specific locations it fails the majority.
Here we are at the end of 2012. We are in the midst of the information age and lifelong learning is a necessary tool for living in, at least, Western Culture (and it is believed, Western Culture has won the day). Government run education facilities don’t serve individuals as well as groups, or rather, the majority of a given group and since we’ll never see another group learning experience on the scale of grade school (that is, anything prior to University or College), then as a society we’re not serving the needs of most people. Not in regard to life long learning.
And if you can make a case for public school teaching students how to learn on their own, I know that was not my own experience in school, nor of my peers. And for those who fall through the cracks, or gaping holes, I would imagine they didn’t learn the ethic of learning how to learn, but instead a suspicion of education and a resentment that can block potential growth opportunities. Among others, I’m talking about resentment of authority, suspicion of structure, organization and hierarchy and limited faith in change.
Despite this omission from my formal education, I had embraced the concept as soon as I heard about it, what, in the late 80′s, early 90′s? But then, I was an over achiever who at a very early age had chosen teaching as a career. An outlier, not the median.
But getting back to those who bailed out somewhere on the flight to a High School diploma. If they didn’t understand that learning comes in many different packages and that learning presents itself at every point in life and that failure to learn is not necessarily a failure, and that the learning model of elementary and high school education is the exception to the rule of life long learning, then how are they every going to embrace change? Doomed to be driven by it, instead of navigating through it.
As someone interested in telling stories that resonate with viewers I found a recent article on Utne by filmmaker Sally Blake, very insightful. In Documentary Filmmaking: Truth or Fiction? she talks quite openly about the frustrating choices she faced in trying to capture an authentic personal story while at the same time balancing the pressure of reaching as broad an audience as possible.
Sally found that, as she was directing her subjects, she fell victim to the Observer Effect, where the process of observing changes the way the subject acts. In highly emotional situations, when she would prompt her subjects to respond to a situation, they in turn would ask her or her crew what to do, or how to “act” . Sometimes she would have to settle for footage that wasn’t authentic, but which would still satisfy the audience. So, there was this symbiosis and sometimes collusion between the filmmaker and the subject that would act as a distortion filter to the story. I wonder if, as filmmakers, we just aren’t patient enough to allow a story to present itself at it’s own pace. Certainly the requirements of a weekly reality TV show don’t allow for patient reveals or genuine epiphanies. Read the article and see for yourself.
Reality TV’s influence is so pervasive, not only to us as viewers but also to other media producers, that it can unknowingly skew the perspective of anyone looking to tell a story honestly. On the other hand, it’s important to recognize, as Sally’s story aptly illustrates, no matter how much you prepare, you can’t anticipate the impact that lights and camera will have on individuals and how that might blur the line between fact and fiction.
My concern is, if we can’t identify what we’re looking at, how can we tell a coherent story?
Aside from a few blog posts I’ve left the podcast in idle for the past 6 months. Work is the main reason. I’ve been immersed in my new job, which has presented more creative demands than I’ve known for many years. My time has been spread across many different media disciplines from audio, print, web and video – learning new software and hardware,s setting up a video studio and figuring out the best way to integrate all of it into the Journalism program at the university where i work.
But the whole time I’ve been considering ideas for podcast topics, changing the design for the site and producing video tutorials that cover the entire spectrum of digital media.
Transitioning from an extended period of unemployment to finding the job of my dreams has taken a lot of energy and left me in a funk regarding podcasting. At last I feel like I’ve passed out of a fog and I’m looking forward to returning to a regular schedule of podcast posts. Stay tuned.
Won the battle, lost the war
I had just finished restoring my data to my laptop following the system crash from last weekend and was completing a blog post when my computer died. Really died this time, no noises no lights, except for the charge display on the battery. However, I also chose to run a backup the night before the crash so, except for my lost post, I’m covered
This isn’t like the last crash, where I could see the drive and boot off an external drive or DVD. This time my laptop is cold dead.
So I guess I learned something after all.
I’m sure it’s just the randomness of the universe and not at all a coincidence, but my extended warranty ran out last month. So the Apple Store people looked at it, guessed it could be the motherboard and told me it would cost $310, their flat rate for service and parts. They told me the motherboard costs more than that, but the flat fee overrides it. Also if they determine there’s a different problem or other items that are damaged beyond further operation that is also covered by the flat fee. As is shipping.
As much as I might say it bites to have to fix the motherboard of my Mac just a month past the warranty, I have to admit this relatively low repair cost is balm for my spirit.
I look forward to hearing what the source of the problem was in 5 or 6 days. In the meantime I have a backup computer I can bring out of mothballs.
All of this data loss and general inaccessibility (I’m still holding out hope that my drive isn’t damaged) has caused me to reconsider my data footprint online, otherwise refered to as Cloud storage.
For many years I’ve been using Google Docs for notes and blog drafts. I have Dropbox and YouSendit accounts that I’ve used occasionally. email is gmail of course. I’ve been using Evernote for notetaking at work and Delicious for bookmarking, though less of that since it announced it was waiting to be bought out. I’m sure I must be using other Cloud based services. I haven’t looked into Apple’s iCloud yet.
I have always been suspicious of storing my data online, for the following reasons:
- Cloud storage is not long term
- and it’s easy to forget that fact
- when the business model for a cloud based service changes it will be necessary to scramble to find a new home for the data
- that kind of attention to change requires more time than I want to invest
- I prefer to have my data in one place
- I’m not always online
- sites can be offline even if I’m not
- Working on files online with a weak connection can contribute to file corruption
- That’s the reason I do all my blog drafts in Textedit instead of directly in WordPress
A Change in the wind
As Cloud based services are concerned, I like the operational model of EverNote. You can have the application on multiple computers and yet link the data, through the cloud, so that all the data is consistent on each computer. It’s here, it’s there and it’s in the air, pretty much everywhere. I wish there were a Calendar that did that.
All that said, there’s no doubt that my trust in the reliability of local storage is shattered and is, at the very, least no more reliable than the Cloud. I concede that Cloud storage is the prevailing zeitgeist right now and given enough time, it will become easier to manage data.