Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where do I even begin?

This morning I was reading "The Onion" and was curious about a link I saw entitled "Whopper Virgins". So, I clicked and was unpleasantly surprised when I found a short film (which my brother told me has also been made into TV commercials) about a crew of people (probably at least 20, by my own estimates) who travel to very remote, rural areas of the world in order to have people in these small 3rd-world villages taste test a Whopper and a Big Mac.

Here are my issues:
1. Do we as Americans really need the information of what a goat farmer is Turkmanistan thinks about the Whopper and the Big Mac? I mean, is that going to change our opinion of either corporation? Is this going to move us forward as a world community?

2. Do we, as Americans, really need to impose ourselves on EVERYONE?

3. Imagine if we used the same amount of money (my estimate at least $500,000) that was spent on this short film to make another short film about the way of life for people in these rural villages. To ask them about what issues they face in the world, how they view war, peace, poverty, spirituality, life in general. I'm not saying that the people in these villages are somehow savants and in some way more knowledgeable about the mysteries of the universe because they live humble, rural lives, but they do have something we all have and something that is important that we listen to: a perspective. And to only use this money and these resources to find out which fast food burger tastes the same is truly an insult to not only our own intelligence, but to theirs' as well.


This is why art in our culture is suffering, because we use our talents for trite, unimportant issues. Sadly, one of the filmmakers of this piece is Stacey Peralta, the director of "Dogtown and Z-boys" and "Riding Giants". As artists, this is what happens. We must use our talents for corporate greed rather than using our artistic abilities to truly help further 2 of the most important issues to mankind- Peace on Earth and Dignity for all humans.

I have said this before on my blog and I will say it again, the downfall of a society is when we allow the voices of corporations become more powerful than the voices of the people of the world.

Imagine if half of the money spent on this film was given to 1 village to create a school, clean drinking water, a medical clinic. All things that would be way more important to any of these people than Whoppers or Big Macs.

I am not going to post the link to this video. I don't want it to get more hits. I don't want it to become an Internet sensation. I want it to stop. I want artists to be paid for art, which at the heart of all great art, gives us insight into not only the world, but ourselves.

Art can give us so much more than a novelty film that shows us not much more than how ugly we Americans can be.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wednesday Morning

I’ve been having this dream that when I wake up on Wednesday morning the world will have changed.

It will be different from the Tuesday morning I woke up to. When I wake up on Wednesday morning, a mother can tell her child that he can be whatever it is he wants to be, and it will be true.

It will be true, regardless of the child or his mother’s race, religion, gender, sexuality.

On Wednesday morning, when I wake up the world will have changed.

It will no longer be the world of that one summer, when Jess and J. and I were coming back from a party and we got in an accident. The cop showed up and was so nice to us. He even let Jess have her expired license back. But to the men in the car behind us it was, “Stand right there. Don’t Move. Where are you coming from? Where are you going? You just wait right there.” My dog was barking ferociously and I was in a bathing suit. J. was shirtless. Those 4 gentlemen were perfectly dressed. Kind. Respectful. Black.

On Wednesday morning, when I wake, I dream that the world will have changed.

The dream that defined a nation over 200 years ago will once again be true. The dream that had been defined by those who felt persecuted and refused to stand for it, those who felt unheard, those who felt misunderstood and not treated fairly because of it.

The dream will be returned. The dream will be owned by us all, not just those that live on the hills with big cars and big lawns and big dreams. We will all once again own the big dreams. All the dreams are now big because all the dreams dreamed are now capable of being true.

When I wake up on Wednesday morning I know the world will be changed.

When I and you and all your neighbors step outside, we will own the sidewalk. We will hold our heads high and realize that we can see what it is we desire in the clouds. We can live it true.

The dream will once again belong to those whose souls beat with promise. Whose souls beat with hope. Whose souls refuse to give up beating until peace is achieved by all.

On Wednesday morning when I awake, I know the World will have changed, because for once the entire world will believe that dreams can become a reality. It is no longer just a notion. It is a Truth.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

a thought...

The holy grail is to spend less time making the picture than it takes people to look at it.

Don’t ask to be put on the list.

The most hated phrase, the worse thing any performer, musician, filmmaker, etc. will hear, worse than “I didn’t understand that whole middle part thing” and “Was that on purpose?” is “Can you put me on the list?” Yes, that most hated of questions. “Can you put me on the list?” Unless your friend is Sting, you really should pay the $10 cover out of respect for what your friend is bringing to your community.

What you think you are asking:
Can you get me on the list for your screening? Show? Play? Performance? Etc?

What it feels likes for the artist to hear it?

I’ll definitely come, if it doesn’t put me out.

I’ve heard enough of what you’ve said that I don’t feel I need to pay to hear it.

I’d rather pay for an extra drink I probably shouldn’t have.

I’ll be honest. It hurts.

Here are the people artists want to and should put on the list, in no particular order:
(and you should not be hurt if you are not included. You should just pay the $5.)

Fellow artists they want to work with
People who may pay them money in the future for their work
People they owe money to
Parents and Siblings
Spouses / Partners, Children

If you don’t have the money to get in, but are dying to see your friends perform, help them. Carry the Kick Drum. Get them their drinks while they play. Operate the video camera for them. Whatever. Lend a hand.

Paying $5 at the door to see your friend perform says more about how much you support art and the exchange of ideas and dialogue in your community, than it says about how you feel about your friend’s art in particular.

If the show is free, buy something at the bar—a drink, a soda, a brownie.

That is how you tell the patron of the establishment you appreciate their efforts in bringing culture to your community. That’s how you show that you appreciate a place to go where Paris Hilton is not involved.

These places—coffee houses, bars, festivals-- are very needed. They are needed by the artists, they are needed by art appreciators, they are needed by individuals who have no idea who the hell they are or how they fit into any of it.

You see, without these places, we don’t get to hear the Mary Lou Lord’s of the world. You never see the films of Stan Brackhage.

I know you think that it is not a big deal—what difference is $5? It is precisely that I-don’t-want-to-pay-attitude that brings things down. There is not a bar or club or theater that is not struggling. FOR CRYING OUT LOUD-- EVEN CBGB’s CLOSED DOWN!

The only bar in the world where someone was getting rich off of owning a bar was Cheers! (Trust me, I worked there. The gift shop made 3 times the amount of the bar). Do we want “Cheers!” to dictate our culture? My vote is hell, no!

If you don’t want to live in a world where your favorite bar has a TV above every table with each channel set to either hockey or Big Brother, then support the events that happen in your community by paying the cover charge.

You must do more than just vote for art initiatives in school or say how much you like the Coen Bros. flick. Instead support art by paying the $5 at the door. Support Art by putting your money where your mouth is.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Daisy: So, you’re an artist, what is the medium you work in?

Brian: Anger…Pain… Fear… Aggression.

Daisy: So, is that like, watercolor, then or…

From “Spaced” A British sitcom from the creators of “Shawn of The Dead”

In college, I had a friend who was an amazing painter, Ben. He told me that when he was home for Christmas one year, his family was having a gathering and many people from the neighborhood had come by. One of the guests that evening asked Ben what he was studying in college. He replied he was studying to be an artist. His father jumped on that and said “Which means he’s working really hard at learning how to at take people’s orders for their lunch.”

He is not the first artist misunderstood by his parents. And he will not be the last. While in Film school, my father continually would tell me when the local news station where I grew up was hiring. When I would tell him that was not what I wanted to do, he would ask me what the heck I was in school for. Sigh.

Now, I know that my parents are proud of my accomplishments in art. What I can’t determine is whether or not my accomplishments are more important to them than if I have a good dental plan.

I’m proud that I have never swayed from my artistic vision and got stuck using my creativity packing groceries or getting the perfect angle for the interview with the local winner of the prettiest dog contest. I don’t have a lot of money. I don’t live in a fancy place. I don’t have good credit, because it is hard to pay bills on time when jobs can be sporadic. AND, I also don’t have regrets.

It seems that we, as artists, live in either 2 worlds. We live scraping by, working in spirit-breaking “day” jobs, waiting, hoping, praying that one day someone will notice that we are more than the desk we sit behind, the phone we answer, the dishes we wash. Or we sell our work, but in the process also ourselves.

We are poets and musicians and dancers and actors and directors and painters and illustrators and more. We are desperate to just live off our art. To survive from our imagination. So we strive with our creativity guiding us, hoping we do the right thing.

There is no such thing as a lazy artist.

Artists wake up everyday knowing that they will most probably accomplish 3 things during the day; eat, poop and make art. If those 3 things get accomplished then things will be okay. However, no artist you have ever admired settled for okay. No artist you have ever admired was lazy. Hell, Pollack would ride his bike for the booze when he didn’t have a car. You get it done, because speaking what needs to be said is important.

Some days you will create good art. Some days you will create blah art. Some days you will create art that transforms you a little bit. But if you are not lazy, meaning you create in any way you can, you will always create something that helps you see a little bit more next time. That makes all the difference.

What many people don’t realize is that artists are working in every single moment they are conscious. Even when it appears they are doing nothing, they are actually listening to the birds and watching the sky and observing how the two interact.

When you receive a piece of art in your life, you are not just receiving a selection of words or square canvas with paint on it. You are receiving ideas. You are receiving a message that comes from a deep and profound place. You are receiving knowledge based on time and experience. You are receiving a new perspective on a shared history.

If an artist were lazy, he would show you nothing. He would have no work for you to see. Artists are not lazy, because they can’t be. Speaking what needs to be said is too important.

Monday, August 18, 2008

why i make art... why i teach art

I make art when I can not speak.

I make art when I feel alone and I do not want to be.

I make art when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am in love and when I do not know how I am feeling at all.

I make art to feel safe about who I am.

I teach art so others may learn how to speak when they feel they can't.

I teach art so those who feel alone, will no longer feel that way.

I teach art so that ART and the word and knowledge of all the artists that have come before me and that will come after me will be heard and understood.

As I am writing this entry, I am at Caldera, teaching film to middle school students. It is freeing to be working in a beautiful, natural environment and be teaching a digital, modern art. I watch my students light up when they see their ideas come to life in the form of a movie. I feel my heart light up when I hear a 12-year old say "Camera Rolling!" and another reply "ACTION!".

As artists, we must also be teachers. We must allow ourselves to understand our crafts fully-- that is our responsibility to the world. We must then pass our knowledge on to the future artists so that ART does not die. That is our responsibility to our ART.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A thought for today...

“Love of beauty is Taste. The creation of beauty is Art.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson