365

I did a 365 this year. One photo a day, every day. Almost every day – I took February 29th off.

3. Sunset

A few thoughts:

  1. I don’t feel I’m any better at photography. I’m still a decent photoshopper. I still have a lousy eye for a shot. I still need to take a hundred or more exposures and luck into a good one.
  2. Discipline. A project like this sounds fun as hell. The first dozen fly by. The first thirty. First ninety even. You’re doing it every day. You’re organized and you feel organized and on top of things. Then life strikes. You get sick. You get busy. You get busier than busy. You fall behind. It gets tedious. You’re embarassed how lousy some of your photos are. It becomes something to get through.
  3. Love for the seasons. I didn’t discover this but it did deepen in me. The photos I like best out of my 365 are ones that articulate the time, even more so than the ones that show the place I was in.

194. The Summer Field

And here’s the rough experience, month by month, just in case you’re thinking of trying it yourself. YMMV, of course. 😉

January: This is so awesome, I’m going to become such a good photographer!
February: I am so organized in my 365. I take a photo every day. Woot!
March: Almost 100 down. This is going to be SOOOOO easy.
April: A lot of my photos aren’t very good, but that’s ok.
May: Wow. Some of my photos just straight suck.
June: It’s so hard to get inspired.
July: OMG I got super busy and missed a day. Dang it!
August: OMG I got super busy and missed a week. Dang it!
September: I’m so behind in my 365. I had to take 13 photos this week. Damn!
October: ____ this ____ing 365! It’s SOOOOO hard!
November: I’m thankful for almost being done with my GD 365.
December: This is so awesome, I’m DONE with my 365!

Ska

Tooled around SOMA and the Lower Mission today. Coffee at Sightglass, lunch at Bar Tartine, coffee at Four Barrel. Thinking how I wish my Grandmother had lived long enough to see all this change. And thinking how it was twenty years ago, when I first started coming up to The City with friends and we made our own explorations.

There wasn’t a thing down here back then. Warehouses, shuttered shops, bum-frastructure. And a handful of clubs. Like Slim’s.

SkaDanceParty

Slim’s. More important, ska shows at Slim’s. We were 17. 18. One of us had a car and we’d park in some damn alley and hope the car would be there and then we’d have our tickets and go in, and Hey who’s playing tonight? Maybe Hepcat, Dance Hall Crashers, the Specials, the Skatalites. Maybe all four.

I’d been going to shows for a few years. Pop, rock, punk, industrial, whatever, if it was music I wanted to go and mosh and stage dive and exert my teenage spirit or something like that. Ska shows were different though. Ska shows weren’t about rebellion, not to me anyway. They were about going to see a band that played music we actually enjoyed, for its own sake, let alone dancing to it which was fun beyond fun. (And it still is)

And then there were girls. Girls! Real girls we were actually attracted to. God help me and I don’t know what was wrong with me, but except for as friends I didn’t like hardly any of the girls I went to school with. At least not the ones in my grade. Which is bad when you’re a shy teenager in a small town with no car. But one of my friends had made friends with girls from another class, and they were nice, and smart, and interesting, and cute, and they’d come along with us to those ska shows in skirts and knit tops and they’d dance, and we’d dance, and it was amazing to find for the first time in my life those feelings of wanting to impress someone just because.

In the rearview of memory, which admittedly tends to distill the sweet until syrup is achieved, the DJ is playing Blondie’s hit The Tide Is High between sets and there is a kaleidescope before me: Brass horns, pork pie hats, and on both sides of me these cubistic, two-tone skirts stretching towards strange heavens, an amalgamation of Georges Braque and Frida Kahlo, horny as Picasso yet mathematical as Mondrian.

And it doesn’t matter that those strange heavens are just the ceiling, and those horns are just there to make music. Because music is music and memory is memory, and nothing can’t take neither away, not never.

Burrito

December day arriving in the Bay Area. Blue sky over City, silver clouds over the penninsula, sun glistening gold off the wet 101. First thing’s first: A fat burrito at Pancho Villa, San Mateo CA.

351. Pancho

This was a formative thing for me. These Bay Area burrito places. You order at the counter. Then you find a table. They bring it out to you. It’s table service kind-of. There’s something really nice about this style of service, especially when you’re 19. You don’t want to deal with a waiter at 19. But everyone likes having a hot plate of food brought out to them after a hard day’s work.

This was the first place where I ate a meal by myself. I’d wolf my burrito and get all teary-eyed from the salsa and as I ate the burrito I’d think. Turn over the stones of my day. Decisions made, victories, disappointments. And I’d plot. The days to come. And about women. Girls I liked and girls I might like and what I was going to do about it. It was the very first public place where I had a right to be there and I could consider the world while being out amidst the world.

Also I could bear witness to kindness: People from all ethnicities walks of life eat in Bay Area taquerias, and amogst the blab of this pave would be people making way at the salsa bar, people offering to share tables with strangers, smiling women earnestly carrying plates of steamy food from the kitchen to tables full of hungry people.

And One To Measure

We think of the winter solstice as the special day. We’re close. One off. It’s the day after that’s special.

solstice_Stonehenge

Measuring Device

The day after the winter solstice is the day you can measure. And confirm. A little further north.

Meaning the days have stopped getting shorter. Meaning the sun is coming back. Meaning summer is coming back. Meaning we’ve clued into the greatest pattern in our then-known Universe. Meaning God loves us, and wants us to be happy.

Bruce Lee

I started reading Davis Miller’s The Tao Of Bruce Lee this weekend. In the opening pages he references the beginning of Enter The Dragon, and since it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movie, off to YouTube I went.

  • “One minute into the movie, Bruce Lee threw his first punch. With it, a power came roiling up from Lee’s belly…”
  • “”…he was the only genuinely lithe man I had ever seen…”
  • “”Lee used his hands and feet, knees and elbows, shoulders and head, good great God, his entire body! And he did so with just about perfect grace and balance.”

– Davis Miller, The Tao Of Bruce Lee

From Lee’s Jeet Kune Do:

  • To see a thing uncolored by one’s own personal preferences and desires is to see it in its own pristine simplicity.
  • The struggle between “for” and “against” is the mind’s worst disease.
  • Not being tense but ready.
    Not thinking but not dreaming.
    Not being set but flexible.
    Liberation from the uneasy sense of confinement.
    It is being wholly and quietly alive, aware and alert, ready for whatever may come.

To Miller, what is initially seductive about Lee is similar to what is seductive about guns to the carry-concealed crowd: Lee is a ticket to a world of mindful, situational awareness and ability. It’s the idea that you better not mess with me, cuz you never know which little dude (or chica) is Bruce Lee, has fists that fly from a core of power in his or her belly.

What’s revealed to me on further study is Lee’s commitment to his art. To his body as a work of art. Art in the traditional sense: To make a sincere attempt to represent the idea purely and truly in tangible form.

The Worn Gun

In the aftermath, my mind keeps drifting back to a fantastic article by writer Dan Baum that I read a few years back in Harpers which revealed the concealed-carry crowd’s POV:

http://harpers.org/archive/2010/08/happiness-is-a-worn-gun/

Beyond the political viewpoints (don’t dare drift into the Comments section), what caught me about the article was mindfulness.

Carry-concealed as license to live mindfully. What is Condition Yellow but a very awake and alive state?

Historically this is the value of private gardens: to give you a place to wander around lost in thought where you *didn’t* have to be in Condition Yellow and could instead allow your mind to wander and by extension to create art.

In ‘this modern world’ many of us try to make the whole world our private gardens. It’s wonderful! I love love love wandering a city with my mind banging around in every direction. Some of the best moments of my life have been doing this in San Francisco and Paris. But as a trained martial artist, I see the point of situational awareness too.

Maybe the solution is a comprimise. Having ability to oscillate between the two states. Aware and Absent-minded Running both threads in your head at the same time.

Coursera Courses Completed

Coursera courses I’ve completed:

(This post has been updated and is current)

Building an Information Risk Management Toolkit
Barbara Endicott-Popovsky
University of Washington
Completed March 2013

Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Businesses, Part I
Edward D. Hess
University Of Virginia, Darden School Of Business
Completed March 2013
Ideas inspired by this class

Gamification
Kevin Werbach
University Of Pennsylvania
Completed November 2012

Modern & Contemporary American Poetry
Al Filreis
University Of Pennsylvania
Completed December 2012