England. It’s a 15 day hike across.

be back in a few weeks.

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Krzysztof Kieslowski. Polish film director. The Decalogue is his masterwork. A series of 10 one-hour films.

The films are based on the 10 commandments. But only loosely. In the director’s words (as quoted in a film review by James Berardinelli): “The relationship between the films and the individual Commandments [is] a tentative one. The films should be influenced by the individual Commandments to the same degree that the Commandments influence our daily lives.”
Also from the director: “we concentrated more on what’s going on inside [the characters] than what’s happening on the outside.”

I know what you’re thinking after reading the above: gee, what a thrill that sounds like! watching 10 hours of introspective films about the Ten Commandments, sheesh, what does this guy think, we’re in an Alabama State Courthouse? I wonder what Adam Sandler has out at the cineplex.
You’ll be missing something.
Is all i can say.

36 years ago today we landed on the moon.

This isn’t a picture of that.
This is 4 months later.
The ALSEP (Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package) deployed on the moon.
The reason to go to the moon was for humans to make footprints there.
The experiments stayed longer than the people, though.
My father helped build the one in the picture is why i bring it up.
Sometimes apples do fall a ways from the tree.

Aelbert Cuyp. Dutch Painter. 1620 – 1691. Lived & painted in Dordrecht.

My favorite painter. For the last two years anyway.

This painting, The Maas at Dordrecht, hangs in the National Gallery in Washington D.C. ——(this is a great & easy trip if you live in Richmond. first, look where the National Gallery is (click on the map below, the National Gallery is in brown & there are two wings) …. it’s right next to the Capitol which is right next to Union Station which is where the train from Richmond lets a person off. It’s an early morning ride to D.C., a walk to the museums, lunch at Cafe Berlin behind the Capitol, and a train home) —— If you didn’t take art history in college–neither did i & i regret it–the beginning of your education could be a trip to this museum, a close reading of the paintings they have & even the slightest notice of the order in which they are arranged.
When i was younger i laughed at art history for how useless it seemed. Later, i laughed at art history majors for how unemployed they were.
I was wrong.

In the history of art you can see man’s time on earth in overview. You see ideas form, flourish, then become infected by a new idea and change into something different, not unlike how the genes of a family progress through time.
I think it’s quite a bit like God must see us. How we reach for ideas. How we urge our selves onto pages of paper, canvases, and carve what we think is us out of rock.
And all of it always in motion, leaning & straining.
Good grief, i was nearly 40 before i saw even bare outlines of thought. Don’t stay stupid as long as me.
{How did i manage to learn so little from working with art directors–besides noticing how good looking they are. How did i miss that they know so much more through their eyes seeing than i got from my eyes reading}
A knowledge of art history, especially one gained on your own from your own reactions to work will teach you more about the world & how it works than anybody in undergrad ever tried to.

The painting below is another of Cuyp’s. He was part of a family of painters who lived in Holland and painted what i–in un-art-history-educated parlance–would call ecstatic realism. He looked at the world he lived in, saw beauty in actual settings, and painted them, mostly as a mirror of what he saw but beyond that, also, way beyond, to make the image contain the wonder he felt existed in such scenes. It is difficult for the audience today to imagine the impact of having the normal become the subject of such highly charged painting. Such apprehension is not above those with an appreciation of art history, even so little as i have.

A poem about being a writer by a guy who would know.

so you want to be a writer?

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doingit
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was. ————- by Charles Bukowski

what the poem hits so well is something that gets shown to me to be truer and truer every year: it’s a gift to be a writer. it’s not something you can aspire to or work your way into becoming.
yes, the job is made up of hard work.
however, it’s not hard work that gets you the job.

Aspen Ski Company ads. 1993 to 1995

(click on photo to see in readable size)

This ad was done for Cole & Weber/Seattle.
The art director was Steve Luker.
There isn’t much work you do in advertising that you can look at 12 years later without embarrassment.
The culture catches up and turns the headline you were at the time convinced was fresh & true & insightful into a recitation of a hackneyed anachronism. Or, sometimes the product disappears, and you feel like sheesh, you must have done it all wrong.
I still like this one.
It is past the time when the effect of the ad on the public can be felt in the same way it was in 1993. Nevertheless, the aim of the ad seems clear, no? Part of a campaign done for the Aspen Ski Company, which runs two different resorts in the Aspen area–the big one, Aspen Mountain, in the town of that name, and Snowmass, which is a 15 minute drive away–the ads for Snowmass spoke of a big, mostly intermediate mountain especially suited for cruising.
The Aspen area wasn’t having any trouble attracting the rich & famous, ermine-wearing nightlifers. It seemed to us there wasn’t a corresponding sense that it was a great place to ski, which, to Luker and I, it not only seemed to be but had to be to justify the extra travel required to get to Aspen as compared to its main competitor, Vail.
So the campaign we did reads like it was written by a speed-smitten narrator who was just like you, the reader, except he was looking at things from a higher, not-involved perspective.
If i had to redo them now I guess i’d write them with a little less sure of themselves tone. A fault i would like to remove from a lot of work i’ve done.
{Talk about stupid: while we worked on the Aspen account they would give us these plastic coated passes on a lanyard, the kind ski patrolers have around their neck, that let us ski free all season. In the 3 years i worked on the account i skied at Aspen maybe 4 days. Next time you think somebody is stupid, put me on the list above them}
p.s. No focus group was consulted in the creation of the ads.
p.p.s Look up the art director in the award books. He’s a giant.

A few of the other ads in the campaign, if you’re interested:

Emily Dickinson. 1830-1886. The 1st major American poet. Didn’t publish her work. Can you imagine writing & continuing to write without an audience?

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Without experiencing it herself, she knew what publicity was made of.
This complete opposite of Britney Spears wasn’t nearly as simple as the simple words she writes with.

And the rhymes. They’re so good you hardly know they’re there.. But they’ve got sharp & genuine teeth if you read her close.

Frank Sinatra. “Come Dance with Me” is the name of the album. an education you’ll dig.

here is sinatra as an artist balancing between arrogance and humility.
he can feel the sure grasp he has of his audience’s heart–because it’s
his as well–but, at the same time, he must open his mouth and make
the air move to complete the equation, and that undone part–how small
it is for how large a part it plays–leaves him unsure.
i think the artist must be humble in order to keep his gift,
and arrogant in order to best use it.
is it any wonder all this creativity stuff is so hard to learn when
the lessons are made of such ephemeral hoo-rah as this?

this album is the place to start with sinatra. he was one of the prime inventors of the idea that a record album should have a concept to it that gave all the songs a reason to be there. it’s not hard to get that from one listen. there is more interesting sinatra to listen to. but only after you’ve dug this, the foundation.

What sinatra did so well that artists–music, painting, advertising, writers, everyone–so much more often miss today is he didn’t whine. here’s a record he did after ava gardner broke his heart (his fault or hers is not the point, the pain is). he doesn’t blame, he doesn’t give in, he maintains distance from the actual sorrow. i hear pain but i don’t hear the infliction of that pain on himself. i think it elevates the accomplishment when a fantastically successful recording artist can find himself the equal of a man drunk on a barstool and speak for that man without embarassing either of them.

The Watertown album is the Sinatra people don’t talk about. If you don’t already have a feeling for the kinds of chances he was willing to take in his work you’ll listen to this album and say what the heck is going on here, this guy sucks. It’s not how i feel about it, but i can understand the sentiment. This is not the sinatra you’ll find on a jukebox. This isn’t what your parents danced to. This is a guy who was the Beatles of the 30’s and 40’s in his sixties wondering what else he could do with the album format.