Haiku Harvest: A gleaning of poems from Toronto Harbor Island, September 2016

haiku-6A single white egg
on pale blue dinner plate—
early evening moon.

Am lucky to breathe
in and out and in and out—
the dead envy me.

The smell of cider
vinegar permeates air—
small apples rot on grass.

Just a few raindrops
but I know what is coming—
forgot umbrella.

I don’t stop to smell
the roses but stop to write
rose scented haiku.

We like it when leaves
turn from green to pale orange—
dying autumn dusk.

Two bluebirds alight
on branch and just fly away
into evening.

The commuter planes
descend one by one by one—
relieved to touch ground.
The chill breeze from lake
does not warrant wool sweater
or fear of winter.

I just meditate
with both my eyes wide open—
a dreamless mindscape.

Boredom becomes art
and flows into a timeless
practice without end.

The parade of life—
so many sizes and shapes
to confound the eye.

Fumbling and fuming
I rush, then wait, for late ferry—
but didn’t miss the boat.

Haiku fills time while
waiting for a late ferry—
now we are boarding.

Geese float single file
under graceful old stone bridge—
I join ferry queue.

Smell of burning leaves
when the trees are fully leafed
is odd aroma.

The first leaves of fall
to change from green to russet—
66 autums.
Still my favorite season
buts its voice is a tad sad.

Not walking toward you
not walking away from you
just walking with you.

Can’t stuff perfect day
into a brown paper bag
like a flawless pear.

Kiddies grab the rope
as though it were a lifeline
in waves of people.
Mothers are waiting for them
after their island field trip.

Anxiety is
another name for worry
among affluent.

The sultry night air
is gently stirred by night breeze—
Toronto Island.

First chill autumn night
makes my arthritic thumbs numb-
smell of burning leaves.

Masts like leafless stems
grown from the pea green harbor—
metal marine reeds.

 


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St. Pete: Florida’s Great Encore Artist City

In 2004, I was weary of the winters and high cost of living up north.

My wife Amy Blake and I had been living and working in the Philadelphia metro area for 21 years and spending some of our summers in Portland, Maine. Three years before, I had a surprise life-saving operation. Our daughter was a freshman at Northwestern University. We were empty-nesters with a successful graphic design business and a well-established place in the community.

But we were ready and open for something new and different.

Having spent every winter holiday in Florida between the ages of 1 and 22 with grandparents, I had many happy memories of the Sunshine State. For me, it was always an inspiring place of palm trees, azure sky and sea, and place of personal reinvention. Everyone was from somewhere else.

Unfortunately, Florida also suffered from an image as a land of aimless retirees, sprawl and condo-ized mediocrity — as so hilariously captured on “Seinfeld”. But things have really changed in the last 20 years.

Florida now has over 19 million inhabitants. This makes it the third largest state. It is also one of the most diverse, with well over 20 different ethnic groups and large LGBT enclaves. Surprisingly, much of the state is on the younger side because of the large influx of immigrant families from the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere.

The median age of Florida is about 39 and downtown St. Petersburg is about 44.

What actually brought us down to St. Pete in 2004 was the birth of a baby girl to my beloved cousins. They live in one of the largest historic craftsmen-style house neighborhoods in the country. The readily accessible seven miles of gorgeous public access waterfront just blew us away. And there were wonderful museums, several good restaurants, and a small but lively downtown.

Amy and I agreed that this place is going to be discovered and we were going to be priced out by the monied minions of Manhattan and other snowbelt cities. So we bought a condo within 48 hours.

It was our intention to spend three to four months in St. Pete annually to avoid the snow, ice, and gloom of Philly and Portland. Eleven years later, we are spending over eight months a year in the Sunshine City. We sold our Portland condo and rustic Maine island studio. Presently, we have a little apartment in Swarthmore, Penn., to maintain business and personal connections to the City of Brotherly Love.

My St. Pete painting studio is in the 1926 Flori De Leon Co-op. Both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig had penthouses there during spring training. It is about a two-minute walk from our condo — a sensible and carbon-neutral commute!

Below are links to relevant websites and articles for Encore Creatives:

The Arts Mecca (Key art links)

Welcome to St. Petersburg (City of St. Pete’s official website)

Moving to St. Petersburg: A Haven for Artists (Although written in 2012, it still has helpful insights)

Fort De Soto Park (has one of America’s great beaches)

Florida Symphony at the Mahaffey Theater (Astounding performances by waterfront and Dali Museum)

The Studio @ 620 (St. Pete’s premier community arts space and great place to meet other creatives)

Creative Loafing Alternative Newspaper (strong focus on Tampa Bay’s art and restaurant scene)

Chihuly Collections (RISD’s own master glass artist featured in gorgeous public gallery space)

Best neighborhood and buildings for older artists (work, live, show zoning for artists)

Kenwood (my favorite emerging creative neighborhood)

Old NorthEast (pricey but beautiful and close to downtown)

Old Southeast (amazing beach and many creatives)

Factoids:

The director of the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg was formerly director of Education at the MET; the director of the Dali Museum has a doctorate in Art History from Brown.

There was approximately 1 billion dollars of new downtown construction before the 2008 financial collapse; there is currently about 1 billion dollars of new downtown construction.

The largest international ocean film festival, BLUE, has relocated to St. Pete.

Three of St Pete’s City Council members are gay; the city is very gay-friendly.

Seniors can take college courses for free at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg; there is also the innovative ASPECT program at Eckerd College.

Florida has no state income tax, and has favorable estate inheritance laws.

St. Pete has relatively low property taxes.

Nice & easy pace of life — compared to up North.

Downsides:

Much of the electorate thinks that mass transit is unnecessary. Although the city of St. Pete itself has a decent bus system, there is terrible traffic between St. Pete, the airport and Tampa.

The summers are very hot, very humid, very long — although not that much hotter than NYC, Philly, or DC.

Because of the high cost of hurricane insurance, real estate is somewhat more expensive than you might think — but still cheaper than in big city Mid-Atlantic and New England.

Considerable homeless population during the winter months. The city of St. Pete is doing its best to manage this national problem with minimal federal and state support.

The Tampa Bay is an emerging creative economy not an established one. If you have “portable clients”, keep them. It is much easier to make a creative dollar up north than in the Sunshine City metro area.

Personal creative links:
http://www.blurb.com/books/520736-st-pete-suite-3rd-edition
http://www.creativeshare.com/exhibits/sun-cosmos.php
http://www.creativeshare.com/video/eclectic/creative-st-pete.php


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With a Little Bit of Luck!

We all have friends, relatives, and acquaintances who seem to be especially lucky.

Their lives seem to be favored by fortune and have an unquantifiable charmed quality…until now.

Two gifted authors scientifically explore the theme of the “luck factor” and draw specific and practical conclusions from their research.  One is a world class magician and Ph.D. research psychologist, and the other a distinguished  international business journalist.

In this season of continuing economic recession for many people, these two books would make potentially helpful and intriguing  gifts. They would be of special value to both 20somethings who might be having trouble jumpstarting their careers and adult lives, and older folks at loose ends as the new year is upon us.

In any event, we all could use a little more luck.

You will find useful information and links below:

The Luck Factor: The Four Essential Principles by Richard Wiseman

Amazon book description: “Is luck just fate, or can you change it?”

“A groundbreaking new scientific study of the phenomenon of luck—and the ways we can bring good luck into our lives. What is luck? A psychic gift or a question of intelligence? And what is it that lucky people have that unlucky people lack? Psychologist Dr. Richard Wiseman put luck under a scientific microscope for the very first time, examining the different ways in which lucky and unlucky people think and behave. After three years of intensive interviews and experiments with over 400 volunteers, Wiseman arrived at an astonishing conclusion: Luck is something that can be learned.”

http://www.amazon.com/Luck-Factor-Four-Essential-Principles/dp/1401359418/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1321806147&sr=1-1

 

The Luck Factor: Why Some People Are Luckier Than Others and How You Can Become One of Them by Max Gunther

Amazon book description: “Max Gunther’s classic text brought back into print.”

“Luck. We can’t see it, or touch it, but we can feel it. We all know it when we experience it. It’s an obvious description of obvious events. But does it go deeper than this? And if it goes deeper, does it do so in any way which we can harness to our own and others’ advantage?

“Taking us on a richly anecdotal ride through the more popular theories and histories of luck – from pseudoscience to paganism, through mathematicians to magicians – Max Gunther arrives at a careful set of scientific conclusions as to the nature of luck, and the possibility of managing it.”

http://www.amazon.com/Luck-Factor-People-Luckier-Others/dp/1906659494/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1321805098&sr=1-2

And I could not resist concluding  this blog entry with one of my absolute favorite songs —  “With A Little Bit of Luck “ from “My Fair Lady.”

Click on the link below and be charmed by the YouTube clip from the classic Broadway musical:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_Sj9o7DWJU


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Infinite Creative Games: Why simply playing is winning

infant_stars_in_the_small_magellanic_cloud-ps15_5x7-735263

What is an infinite game?

And why should you, as a creative professional, care?

Let’s begin with “finite games,” because that is what our commercial culture is all about.

There are a few exalted winners and vast hordes of losers/strivers. Here are just a few obvious examples of our national finite games:

The Super Bowl, World Series, the NBA playoffs, flipping condos, stock speculation, consumer marketing, the Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, Obies, Golden Globes, Nobel Prizes, Indie 500 and Nascar, Pulitzer Prizes, Wimbledon, MacArthur Genius Grants, Sundance Indie Film Awards and Hollywood deals, Olympic gold medalists, Project Runway, American Idol, Congressional filabusters, offshore drilling, and strip development…

Conversely Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired Magazine and digital guru, defines Infinite Games this way:

“The game is to keep changing the nature of change. And that infinite game is my view of holiness. You play the game not to win, but to continue to play to make room for all expressions of truth, good, and the beautiful. You are opening up the world to possibility.”

This was slammed home to me just a few weeks ago. My longtime music guru, Dan Kleiman, unexpectedly died of a massive stroke from out of the blue. He was just 55. Dan seemed in good health and in reasonably good spirits when I saw him last October in Philly.

He composed, performed, and handled the post-production of twelve of my award-winning experimental videos over a period of a dozen years:

http://artnothate.com/friends/dan-kleiman.php
http://creativeshare.org/video/

One of the things we talked about (perhaps the one thing that we always talked about) was the apparent unfairness and arbitrary harshness of life in the creative economy. As middle-aged working creative professionals, we were both experiencing the frustration of always being on the edge of big things. As the saying goes, always a bridesmaid and never a bride. With the collapse of both the stock and housing markets, we saw a lot of our savings and net worth evaporate and the prospect of easy money disappear.

Dan was vexed by the possibility of many more years of creative struggle and the uncertainty of any financial reward. I was less worried about things and more sanguine about the future (at least at that moment) and tried to cheer him up with my usual philosophizing. In my circle of friends and colleagues, I am often the resident skeptical optimist. I adopted this cast of mind when dealing both with a serious chronic illness for nearly twenty years and a life-threatening colon lesion. For the most part, my health situation was not talked about, but was always the 800-pound gorilla in the studio. Consequently, I am genuinely grateful for the good days when there is energy and creative flow.

Recently, Dan and his longtime creative partner and singer, Phyllis Chapell, finished a magnificent CD titled “Vision of the Dry Bones.” It combined their virtuosity with Jewish, Latin, and world culture into a delicious and fully realized whole.

http://artnothate.com/friends/phyllis-chapell.php

It had a genuine artistic integrity that can only be achieved by decades of practice, experimentation, and committed creative collaboration. Here is a link to some clips from the album:

http://artnothate.com/friends/projects/dry-bones.php

One of the things that I mentioned to Dan last fall was that the web might provide artists (particularly musicians and performers) a modicum of immortality. One might yet be discovered posthumously on the Internet and find an enthusiastic audience that could span generations.

This did not give my gifted friend much succor or solace. He was still playing the finite games of the mercurial creative marketplace at our last meeting, trying to figure out how to get fame, fortune, security, and unconditional love through one’s art.

Now he is part of eternity…as we all shall be…sooner or later.

But let me leave you with images from a favorite infinite game—Nantucket Sailboats!

It was one of the very first videos that Dan and I worked on together.

http://creativeshare.org/video/mainely-creative/nantucket-sailboats.php


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Americans Work Too Much for their Own Good

Much of the great American work ethic has its roots in the grim and guilt-inducing religious creeds of seventeenth  and eighteenth century Protestant sects that found refuge and riches in the New World.

Essentially, they believed that idle hands do the devil’s bidding; a profane mind is Satan’s playground; and there is no rest for the wicked.

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, believed that an advanced civilization required that mankind’s copious sexual energies  be directed and transmuted to higher cultural purposes. This could include soaring high rise buildings, medical research, great dams and bridges, and orchestral music.

On a crasser and more contemporary note, the suave and savage  Gordon Gekko character in the movie “Wall Street” lived the mantra that “Greed is Good!”

Ironically, most Americans are working longer and harder hours than ever but making less real inflation-adjusted dollars than they (or their parents) were 30 or 40 years ago.

It is a crazy situation — especially for creative workers who need free time to incubate ideas, dally with dreams, and play with ideas.

From my point of view, the Dutch seem to have achieved a better and more productive balance between work and leisure, and career and community. I have a wonderfully musical cousin who married a delightful Dutchman over ten years ago.  Their lives in Holland seem much less stressful than what my wife and I lead.

This perception is congruent with a recent article in Bloomberg View online. Here is a web link:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-03/americans-work-too-much-for-their-own-good-de-graaf-and-batker.html

Here is a summary of article provided by The Atlantic online:

John de Graaf and David Batker on Americans working too hard—

In 1985, a Senate subcommittee predicted the computer revolution would have American working 20 hour weeks by the year 2000, “while taking seven weeks or more of vacation a year.” Instead, our average workdays have only gotten longer, write John de Graaf and David Batker in Bloomberg View.

Nor has technology made our increased work-days “energy free.” “As it happens, workers are required to get much more done and more quickly. Working hours are more draining, while the hyper-competition of today’s workplace makes them even more stressful.” It’s the reverse of a trend that saw work hours decline significantly in the 100 years after the Civil War.

After WWII, “interest in shorter work time waned, even as a buffer against unemployment,” as our consumer-driven society led us to strive for more expensive goods.

Europeans, conversely, used gains in productivity to increase their leisure time. “Today, the Netherlands, Norway and Germany have the world’s shortest working hours.” The Dutch are still productive with low unemployment. In 1982, the Dutch accepted lower wage increases in exchange for fewer working hours.

“The pact ended inflationary pressures and led to an economic turnaround that came to be called ‘the Dutch miracle.'” In 2000, they passed a law that makes it illegal for companies to deny a full-time worker the move to part-time so long as it doesn’t materially hurt the company.

“The law means a lot to working parents who wish to reduce the stresses of working and caring for children. A 2007 Unicef study ranked children’s welfare in the Netherlands as the highest in the world. The U.S. was 20th of 21 wealthy countries studied.” Europeans also take almost four times as much vacation as Americans.

When Rep. Alan Grayson introduced a bill to mandate paid vacation for larger companies, “conservative bloggers excoriated it as wildly radical. The bill was left to die.” Some worry Americans would only use their leisure time to watch more television, but we tend to watch TV when we’re too tired to do much else, so more leisure time might actually lead us to use it more productively. Nor would we become less competitive, studies show, since countries with more leisure time seem to be as competitive as we are.

Studies also show on an individual level that less over-worked employees tend report higher satisfaction and more productive output. “Many exhausted American workers might find these results refreshing.”

Are you working too hard for too little? What do you think?


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Why Believe in Others

Why Believe in Others?

The future of the world and viability of our own lives ultimately comes down to whether we can believe and trust in other human beings.

Much of world history, mass media, and politics are sad sagas of wanton cruelty and mindless inhumanity. This barrage of negativity can easily turn us into bitter cynics and misanthropes. But there are also individuals in every walk of life who provide encouragement, inspiration, and direction to our unique and often faltering journey through the world.

One such person was Victor Frankl — Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist, and author of the international bestseller “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Frankl in 1975 while a graduate student. Although he was about 70 years old at the time, the man still exuded a deep enthusiasm for the human prospect and his glider flying lessons!

Thirty-five years before, he had been both a slave laborer and Jewish doctor in Nazi extermination camps. He had lost his beloved wife and almost all of his extended family to the genocide. I kept asking myself—where did Frankl find the strength and compassion to write about these horrors and still care about other people.

At the time, I was mired in self-absorbed angst about what I was going to do in life and where would I find any paying job in an absolutely wretched Post-Viet Nam War economy. His words helped me find the strength to pursue a career as an artist and media producer.

Below is a link to a rare 1972 film of Dr. Frankl delivering a powerful message about the human search for meaning and the most important gift we can give others. It captures the feeling of my personal experience of the man from many decades ago.

http://www.ted.com/talks/viktor_frankl_youth_in_search_of_meaning.html

Below is a related link to a short article about “The Crisis of Meaning in the Millennial Workforce.”

bit.ly/nHxFAh

And here are titles of 3 relevant books. All can be readily purchased on Amazon:

• Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
• Think on These Things by J. Krishnamurti
• Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn

 


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Poetry in Mechanical Motion

Theo Jansen is the creator of the “Strand Beests.” These whimsical wind-powered robots prowl the beaches of Holland’s North Sea. They tickle, charm, amuse, and totally astound whoever sees them.

Here are links to two short online videos:

http://www.wimp.com/kineticsculpture/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcR7U2tuNoY

I had the privilege of both meeting the artist and chasing one of his magical  beasts down the streets of Camden, Maine during a PopTech conference.  The experience  took my breath away and put a smile on my face that lasted for hours. These almost-living sculptures gave me a glimpse of the life-affirming possibilities when art, engineering, and nature act in concert.


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Six Mistakes Mankind Keeps Making Century After Century

cicero-729021

  1. Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others;
  2. Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected;
  3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it;
  4. Refusing to set aside trivial preferences;
  5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind;
  6. Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman statesman, lawyer, philosopher, 106 BC to 43 BC

These clear-eyed and crystalline words were written over 2,000 years ago by one of ancient Rome’s most revered and influential legislators. I often muse on these six points and try to embellish his simple litany of human blindness and stupidity…to no avail. The “Art Not Hate” project is a response to point five— it attempts to refine and develop our perception of both others and ourselves in the mix and mayhem of life. But, ironically, creative people can be as prejudiced and spiteful as those who do the world’s more mundane work (think Michael Richards [aka Kramer] on African Americans, and Mel Gibson on Jews). Nonetheless, when we create with others who are different from ourselves, there are inexplicable moments of empathy when we know that the person next to us shares our feelings and fate…and we are changed for the better.


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When Art Foretells the Future…of oil spills



Iconoclastic artists and intellectuals often have their ears to the ground, nostrils sniffing the wind, and eyes scanning the horizon…or sidewalk for pennies.It is often an uncomfortable lifestyle. But it does serve a useful societal function.Image-makers in a digital age can readily communicate their unease, anxieties, speculations to a global audience through the internet. It is a truism that highly creative people often view the world through childlike eyes and are prone to state the obvious.

In the classic childhood fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” it was a little boy (not the prosperous and serious courtiers) who yelled “the emperor is naked!” Perhaps truth telling is connected to arrested social development and not knowing when to shut up.

Nearly four years ago, I was at a wonderful concert at the Palladium Theater in St. Pete featuring pianist Paul Wilborn and his sizzling songstress. Their rendition of “You Give Me Fever” just about burnt the house down.

It certainly got me to thinking about sex…and the burning of fossil fuels…and perhaps doing a slightly titillating video on the subject of global warming.

The legal complications and expenses of trying to use Peggy Lee’s hit standard of “Fever” put it out of bounds for an indie artist/producer like myself. It was easier and a lot more fun to hire my longtime music mavens Phyllis Chapell and Dan Kleiman in Philly to make some new music. I chose a hot Latin sound and name (Mundo Caliente: It’s a Hot World!) for the project.

My video-magician in Rochester Dave Puls and digital print guru Brad Erickson in St. Pete also jumped into this hot creative world.

We created an award-winning video that was screened at numerous international film festivals over the last several years, as well as a series of 30 striking digital prints.

In the print series, I never liked nine of the images and refrained from exhibiting them. They made me genuinely uncomfortable. There was a hellish quality to them.

Likewise, there is a hellish quality to our national addiction to Gulf of Mexico deepwater rigs and despotic Middle East oil. The out-of-control spills and fires, resource wars, episodes of epic corporate and governmental incompetence, and the global reality of smog-choked cities together create a devilishly depressing vision.

I look at the images at the side of this blog and am genuinely surprised what my unconscious mind painted years ago. These images are evocative warnings of today’s predicament.

As the great cartoonist, Walt Kelly, said through his alter-ego Pogo character over 40 years ago:

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Below are links to key articles and imagery about the BP gusher-oil slick:

Top Florida Marine Biologist does Q&A
(Florida Thinks website)

Controlled burn of BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico
(YouTube)

View of oil slick from low flying airplane
(YouTube)

Is Climate Change Worth Tackling? A Reply To Jim Manzi
(The Atlantic magazine)

Deepwater Explosion and key photo
(Wikipedia)

Action is the Antidote to Despair: A photographer confronts the BP oil disaster
(YES! Magazine)

 


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Mundo Caliente: It’s a hot world — and it may be getting hotter!

Some scientists believe that our planet is entering another cycle of dramatic climate change. We could be facing a protracted period of sweltering summers, raging hurricanes, and erratic weather patterns. Many people also believe that this dire situation will be intensified by the industrial world’s addiction to fossil fuels.

Whether or not the bad news about the weather is true remains to be seen. But our precious world remains a place of changing beauty. Mountains rise up and erode; islands emerge and submerge; rivers flood and go dry…

The Mundo Caliente print series and video explore the aesthetics of global warming through paint, pixel, and hot latin music. I hope that my media stimulates your thinking about this global conundrum.

We are proud to be part of the www.blogactionday.org experience.

Click on the links below for some surprising sights and sounds —

http://www.creativeshare.org/video/mundo-caliente.php

http://www.bobcreates.com/artwork/prints/


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