Archive for September, 2010

Walking Backwards

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
Dark as Night

Dark as Night

When growth really isn’t.

This was inspired by a conversation with my oldest son Joshua, as he and I were looking at what defines our paths forward.

“I think a life for music is a well-spent one.”
-Luciano Pavoratti

Light Dance

Light Dance

What I have learned, is that the  things which I embrace and implement into my life, act as filters. They color my perceptions and growth, or lack thereof.

Peace

Peace

Did you know that sometimes growth is not such a great thing?

I have found that often the most remarkable creative moments are happened upon by walking in place, or even backwards so that your perception is in step with a reality that growth would have taken you away from.

This is why, within the context of an artist’s life you will see periods of work, that history will later describe as being great, definitive of that person’s ability to do whatever it is, he or she does.

Warhol would not have become Warhol, or Monet become synonymous with such a definition of a style, were it not for this.

Seth Godin had this to say about taste and fashion today.

Sapphire Surreality

Sapphire Surreality

This week I had multiple big projects to assess. Work with civic action groups endeavoring to fix some things in my town, designing a shoot and campaign for a prestigious ocean lifestyle marque, looking at how growth should go for a very promising Corporation, and designing an Art show on the “Gaviota Coast”, which is under assault by developers due to it’s pristine nature.

Gaviota Local

Gaviota Local

I saw something being repeated to me in each project. Sometimes the way forward, is really found in walking backwards a bit.

You are never really sure how the variables will be forward. But looking back, you will know. Because it happened.

Want a good future?

Watch where you step. It will determine the view.

Change

Change

The Big Nevermind

Sunday, September 19th, 2010
Pay Up

Pay Up

The City of Ventura is my home. I have owned a house and various other properties and leases here for 30 years.

Communities are pretty simple really. Generally they are composed of diverse components, all assembled in a willingness to live and work in a place that they find desirable. The willingness to contribute, is directly proportional to establishing a  sense of forward motion. Effect must equal cause. Benefit is weighed against cost.

So onward the ship sails with all of us aboard, planning, building, laughing, crying, fighting, healing, birthing, living, dying: together.

For any of this to occur, the members of the community must feel that they each, by their contribution, have a positive affect.  They must believe in the product. Otherwise it all just stops.

That is why everybody matters.

Seth Godin, a marketing genius, and the brain behind the Global network called Triiibes of which I am a member, has this to say regarding products we put ourselves behind.

Being someone who must establish benefit in my product and taking my relationship with the people who I serve very personally, I spent a few days looking around at the latest thing the City of Ventura has implemented in it’s little Downtown:¬† Big Blue Parking Pay Stations. Police are swarming the streets. That is new as well.¬† A somewhat beleaguered group of downtown merchants, and what appears to be an oppressive choice by the City of Ventura, done in a manner that is confusing, insulting, and restrictionist, no matter how one looks at it, was a high profile tone where ever I walked, listened and shot.

With the exception of a few abject apologies and explanations to six distraught visitors, I said NOTHING. I just watched, and listened.

I have never seen a population so ticked off by what, in a couple months, as the affect settles in as a fact of daily life, is really a small thing: pay parking downtown. But if I am silent, or put money in the meter, or place myself in an environment swirling with Law enforcement, I am endorsing what City leaders have done. I do not agree,  nor will I accept the aggravation and thereby let it change who or what I am.

I know how retail works. (I was in it for almost twenty years. Think about what one can learn by opening a door to the public for twenty years) This could possibly kill Downtown Ventura again (This is the third endeavor to meter downtown and by far the most onerous and expensive).

I suspect that City Hall has engaged in an attack on the citizenry of Ventura that will eventually see Federal investigation.(Parking meters are only one of multiple things which the City is doing to-for the people of Ventura)  I do not need the headache, nightmare or further association with the City of Ventura. No one does. Not really. Not at this cost.

So rather than bitch, rant and moan about the meters, engage continually on Facebook, or in Community meetings, I am simply going to share what I witnessed this week and list several avenues available as a means of remediation, then move on to more productive endeavors.

This is bigger than what one would suspect. The proverbial tip of the iceberg, it just lets you know how city leadership is, and what they are.¬† Entitlement does this. Disconnectedness and disrespect are it’s fruits. Most of our City management are not from here, so they are applying rules and methods learned somewhere else, to a community that in the past five years seemed to be reaching an appropriate stride.

But our capitally leveraged economy has collapsed in the past five years. Big change. Everyone has been left in the lurch. Including the City. It is tough out there.

The Ventura Star. Our local newspaper, explains the meters here.

A Pasadena blogger explains our City Manager, Rick Cole, here. They are from one of his prior projects-towns. I was stunned by what I read, but seeing what has been going on here, it made sense. Read it and decide for yourself.

The Ventura Star looks at Mr. Cole and other City leaders here.

A look at a recent recall effort (and it’s failure) of our appointed Mayor, Bill Fulton, here.

What the Federal Government seems to be discovering, as it continues in it’s investigations of corruption in California City Governance, is that frequently, common threads link issues and people across county and city limits. It is true about birds of a feather.

YOU can report corruption and your personal experiences right here at the FBI website. If you feel your Civil Rights have been or are being violated, you can try there. More information here.

If you have an issue with City Governance, you can also try to file a complaint at the county level, which is an overseer of the City. The DA’s office website link is here.

The Brown Act, a State Statute which among other things, gives you a right to be in on every City meeting and input the process, is defined here. Cities need to know about this act, especially if a citizen suspects  that backroom deals are being cut, to facilitate the existence of onerous local code. The law is pretty clear. But you need to know that it exists.

The County Sheriff’s office which maintains legal authority and control¬† has an excellent list of resources where you can speak with a higher elected official. Do not mistake the local Police Department with the Sheriff’s office. PD is under City authority. The Sheriff is County. Just like in the Wild West, the Sheriff will ultimately uphold your Constitutional rights. They are tutored in them. In fact my film partner, Rob Dafoe’s dad, was a career Deputy Sheriff in Santa Barbara. Those guys know a lot.

I will not be a part of this. There is an entire world and life outside of where my house is, that I continue to explore and share. Being downtown and seeing the affect of all of this, just saddens and angers me. I do not need that.  Being responsible for my own life, tone and family, the act of being awash in dirty negatives, will shortly devalue my soul,  Art and Craft. We become who and what we are in bed with. I want no part of an entity that hurts people or environment to survive. It is the ultimate in destructive unsustainability.

I must believe and have trust in the place I market, and expose to the world. Because by endorsing it, I am putting my own self behind the invitation to experience this place.

This is an image of a trash and recycle station. The former head of the Downtown Ventura Organization Rob Edwards’ brainchild, which serves as a billboard and refuse collection device. When these went in, Rob asked me if he could get usage of some of my Ventura imagery to be placed on the bins so that they would encourage, inspire, and market the strong points of this town. The City had no money to license the images. So I loaned them free of charge, a large collection, roughly equating in usage value to about 10,000 dollars. Rob was on point. The message was flawless.”Look at our town and ocean: preserve and protect it.

The City fired Rob Edwards shortly after that. Rob now heads the San Mateo DVO. Rob is one talented and smart man. A former cop, he understands cities, and community. This is what is on the bins today.

Recycling a Town's Dreams

Recycling a Town's Dreams

In the course of a year, hundreds of magazines and commercial entities use my work. I even lend usage to financially beleaguered City Departments for nominal or no charge promotion of this place. I engage a Global community of media professionals in Film, Editorial and Commercial work with Ventura as my home base. I believe in the people of this place enough to have somewhat recently, branded myself as a Ventura Photographer and Film Maker rather than a Santa Barbara one, in spite of my roots in and library of, SB related work and community.

What that does basically, via metadata embedding, captioning and basic marketing tools, is create a small fortune in high credibility marketing for the City of Ventura. At no expense to the City, beyond offering an inviting, ethically run, safe place for the world to visit. I put myself on the line in doing this. My colleagues trust me to be ethical and true in what I portray.

Below is an image which I shot yesterday. It is of Kathleen Fitzgerald, the former Director of Sales for the City of Ventura Tourism Department. She is moving back to the City of Longbeach after being let go of here. Like Rob Edwards, she believed in this place and marketed it Nationally and beyond for almost 5 years. She was a huge service benefit to Ventura. No one will probably ever know the number of hats she wore and the massive victories she accomplished while an employee of the City of Ventura. A few of us helped her sell off and pack her belongings. Venturans do  stuff like that. We tend to stick up for those who stick their necks out for us.

I Tried: Kathleen Fitzgerald

I Tried: Kathleen Fitzgerald

So after seeing (actions are everything) what the City really thinks of this beautiful place and its wonderful people, by my own sense of  ethics I must make a choice, as I am eminently responsible for what I market and will not be a party to what I perceive as being harmful, degrading or  illegal and in violation of Civil Rights.

I have one ethical choice, as our actions, define our self and community.

So: nevermind.

“If a man does not have an ideal and try to live up to it, then he becomes a mean, base and sordid creature, no matter how successful.” Theodore Roosevelt

Below is a gallery of images and how Ventura looks to me right now. If you come here. the people of this place will appreciate you, endeavor to help you, show you beautiful things, and our City may screw with, and threaten and charge you for things which you may be able to acquire for free in other communities.  Being warned, I hope that you still come. (Forewarned is forearmed.) Our town is truly the Real California. Though that can be a scary thing these days.

Ventura’s Zuri Allen Star, wrote a song called Walk With Me. It says a lot.

Speaking of nevermind, Saturday Night Live often develops cultural commentary that transcends generations. They did it again here. A conversation between City and Citizen. I doubt that Nevermind is now an option for them, but it is for us.

Ventura is what it is: a pretty, and remarkable patch of historic land and ocean with a culturally engaging populace. We just seem to have a lot of vultures here at the moment. Must be the dead bodies.

Ventura Groans

Friday, September 10th, 2010
Ventura

Ventura

The following was written to me by Dr Ed Brenegar, who heads up the Community of Leaders

It was written in reference to a close look I am taking at the Ventura City Council’s decision to implement pay parking in my town. What at first glance, was described to be a rather benign plan to regulate business traffic in downtown, quickly became rather apparent, to instead be a near Draconian attempt, based on poor business decisions and supposition, to change my town forever.

I have people I am accountable to, and advised by. Ed is one of those advisors. This is what he said to me regarding my town.

We are at a point in time that is historic. So much of what comes across my screen are attempts to understand, and to promote a particular view that is intended to be the final answer or resolution to the complexity of life. What I see in a lot of this is the attempt to simplify the issues to one thing. I don’t think things are simple at all, and attempts to make them so end up trivializing the issues and some really good ideas. People are searching for meaning and fulfillment, and all the traditional forms, but ideological and institutional are at best inadequate, if not failing to provide a way forward. If there ever was a time where faith mattered, it is now. Not a blind faith of hoping against hope in the dark, but a faith that searches and creates a path of living that is able to manage the ambiguities of life. It isn’t simplistic, or sentimental, or ideological or divisive. It is clear, focused and action oriented. From my perspective, the issues aren’t ideas and relationships, but systems, structures, infrastructures and the mechanism for how we will work together in the future. Power based systems, like our current system of government, are failing because they are providing no check on individual greed, because there is no real accountability. I don’t have the answers to these big questions, but I do know that we are on an unsustainable course.

I learned a little while ago that it appears the pay parking plan starts in Downtown Ventura on Sept 14th, and will eventually be implemented elsewhere here as well. So what is the big deal, you may ask, doesn’t somebody have to pay?

You already do, with taxes on basic commodities and in your property taxes, if you own a home. Your local merchants pay as well.

Where is the projected income from the pay parking supposed to go? Two thirds goes to support the meter system which is based on a three year contract. The remaining third is slated to go for maintenance of downtown City bathrooms etc. Downtown has a city bathroom. Yep. Two that I know of. If you want to be robbed, stabbed or otherwise accosted, one is located right behind our new Ventura County Museum.

In other words, the meters are potentially fiscally pointless. In fact, if they follow some of the other poor choices, like our City traffic light camera program, they could potentially cost the taxpayer a fortune. Then there is also the reality of the infringement on personal freedoms the enforcement of paid parking will place on the public. Also the unfair strain and ill will it will bestow on an already over burdened enforcement and legal structure. I won’t go into the affect regulation has on free market economies. Suffice it to say, retail traffic goes on the path of least resistance and cost.

Seth Godin speaks on the affects of something being broken here.

So now civic responsibility and obligation to future generations, requires me to question those that govern me. I do not take this lightly. I am not happy about it either. With business and personal pressures, and creative projects, demanding more of my life’s remaining moments than ever before, this was not something I needed, asked for, or wanted. I did not run for City Govt. I voted for it.

When someone holds political office they engage a sworn duty to protect the public trust and interest. It is so important, this tenet, that we actually have laws regarding conduct of elected officials. Here is a look at one aspect of violation of the public trust.

Ventura and many California towns have an unpublished history of passing into law (Municipal Code) things that are sometimes possibly in violation of State and Federal laws. They do this,( in the same manner that PRIVATE business entities do), to satisfy basic income needs, in order to provide for the continued existence of City infrastructure. Typically, these local ordinances stay in place till someone mounts a legal challenge. The fait acomplis in this, is that the City is in service to it’s Citizens. So if they do something to hurt that legal relationship, there are severe consequences.

When a challenge occurs, the City has several courses of action that it may take. Here are some:

Ignore the entity which will either go away, possibly having been marginalized, and convinced the action is imprudent.

Change the law.

Settle the claim out of court and file on the City liability insurance coverage, which may require the claimant to agree to not speak about the settlement (law stays in place generally, as the legal claim disappears).

Take the claim to trial in court where it will be examined for compliance with State law first and ultimately Federal. If the city is found to have violated those laws, defense is very difficult, as the City has in it’s employ, litigators, also known as City Attorneys. So if found to be in violation of the law, the blame game comes to a halt pretty quickly, as you see exactly where the buck stops.

The last choice, is what Cities do not want to ever occur. Here is why. If a City Government, which is an incorporated entity, has been found guilty of violation of State or Federal law in the writing of and enforcement of it’s municipal codes, and on examination, it turns out that they have been making claims on their insurance for errors and omissions, the Insurance provider will generally be required to cancel that Corporation’s policy, as legally as you cannot insure crime. Why was it a crime? Because the City has in house legal counsel. They know the law. This demonstrates intent.

Then, as the corporate structure evaporates, the officers of that city which wrote the municipal code, become potentially individually liable for crime, and in turn are open to civil litigation for the damage wrought by that code.

What can occur, as now the City has in effect, killed its ability to govern, is that the duty of Governance may be turned over to the county. What this does is completely eliminate a layer of government (and expense to taxpayers). This is not as implausible or positive, as it appears to be at first.

Fiscal viability of an entity is based on the simple law of cause and effect. Public inability to pay for Government creates pressure on Government to survive. If that Government collapses, the obligation to Govern goes to the next highest authority. With a City collapsing, the burden of governance can fall on the County. This has been seen lately. So the fiscal system is intertwined. The public must thrive for Government to exist. If it falters, and the cost of Governance stays rigid, it all collapses in on itself eventually.

Ventura is in trouble financially, because California is in trouble, and State budget funded income streams are fast disappearing. What the disappearance of State and in some cases Federal funds does, is place extreme pressure on the City to survive. So the City makes fiscal choices based on increasing income. And Ventura has made some possibly poor legal and business choices as Government typically does not run their business according to benefit being equal to or in excess of cost. This is due to the historic existence of external capitalization via State and Federal funding and tax revenues etc.  Need I elaborate?

Time for my town to do something. It starts with me. I hate battle. Someone always has to die. But I have little choice in this one. That makes me angry. It may do the same to you as well if you take a CLOSE look at what has been happening to the people and your town itself.

A parable. Author unknown.

TWO WOLVES~

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people….
He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

“One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

“The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

On Saturday, Sept 11 (YEP) at 11 am at Cabrillo Middle School at 1426 East Santa Clara St.  Camille Harris and a group of deeply invested Venturans, will meet with the City of Ventura over what are purported to be onerous violations of Civil Rights and breech of law by various Ventura City department employees and contractors in the area of Code and Permit enforcement.

Her website is Grandfather Ventura.

Over the past year I have watched Camille and other concerned citizens stand before City Council (You can watch it on local Cable access television) and be marginalized, talked down to, and ignored by some people in City Govt. If you own property, a business, have family history or intend to raise a family in the City of Ventura in the future, it would be in your and this town’s best interest to show up.

If you do, marginalizing your concerns and sweeping municipal code under the carpet as being legal, because the City says it is, may become a rather imprudent choice for your City Government.

I believe in this town. I know many of the folks in and from here, from the streets, on up to high ranking levels of Government and finance. It is one of the reasons I live in, work, and promote Ventura globally through my work and network of colleagues. I have a vested interest in protecting this place, because of those close personal relationships. I am accountable for what I do, or neglect to do, that goes beyond a salary. I think that we all do.

It is not ABOUT parking meters. It is about how Ventura wants the future to appear after current City management and leadership have moved on, and we are all just a memory. What will remain is what we did.

So do it. Input and affect YOUR Government. You voted your Government in to office. They get paid, by you. Better make sure that it is YOUR interests being protected, and the laws of your Country being abided by. You can either do it together and stand as a community where everyone will benefit, or fall, one by one. This is it for our country today. Just as it was when our Ancestors came here. Time to choose.

Time to help Camille and your neighbors

Time to support our teetering Country.

It starts at home. Pretty song, by Carina. It says a lot.

On a lighter, but still serious note: Bill Mahr in an American commentary.

Your home.


What Matters

Thursday, September 9th, 2010
Shawn Alladio, Astoria

Shawn Alladio, Astoria

Cost of Leadership.

We matter. How we keep our heart, hold rein over our emotions, the manner in which one moves forward with the myriad number of little choices made in the course of  a day, adds up to the direction a life takes.

Who we have around ourselves, who would follow us into a burning building if we asked, says everything about us.

Seth Godin writes about loyalty today, in his blog.

Life Process

Life Process

A few years back, as a hurricane destroyed the Gulf Coast, Shawn Alladio shared with me in intimate detail over the course of her ordeal, a series of choices she made and the process, of rendering aid in a situation so vast, and apparently impossible, that of the two of us, only she with her depth of experience, resolve and compassion, was qualified, to make the series of choices that would allow K38 to render effective aid. Our calls and e mails served to educate me well on the cost of being the person on point, the one leading the charge.

Here is a short look at what went down in New Orleans. It really tells nothing of the vastness of what one person may navigate, unless you look very closely. Then you will see: everything costs. When we lead, where we lead, one must be willing to weigh and give up something for the result, the attainment of that goal.

So as we head down the road of struggle in this country today, maybe think a little about that. Because you matter. So maybe pay close attention to what you raise your hand for. Results are everything and all change may be temporary. Consider your cost. Then go.

The image below is of our friend and colleague, USCG Petty Officer 1st Class and Stan team member Scott Rady, on the line of a Jayhawk during training. The USCG lost a Jayhawk recently, and more.

Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Rady

Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Rady

On her paddle through my coast this week, Margo Pellegrino told me what it was like, unwittingly paddling the crash site of the Jayhawk, and looking down to realize a diver was down, and searching the wreckage below. The next day she saw death again. That is how it works. Everything costs. Nothing is permanent. Not even our hearts.

June and Margo, Seattle2SanDiego. Ventura Landing

June and Margo, Seattle2SanDiego. Ventura Landing

Coastal Classics Are No Accidents

Monday, September 6th, 2010
Pierpont Bay, Ventura, Ca.

Pierpont Bay, Ventura, Ca.

A lot goes on in the creation of a commercial production shoot. This one developed over a relatively long period of time. Recently, almost by chance I had reconnected with an old colleague and friend, Glenn Gravett, who I had met when we both worked designing my own company apparel and surfboard art, decades ago.

Glenn and I share much in common, having been raised on the same stretch of coastline, and share similar passions for the Ocean and Art.

Over a period of months, I had been invited to sit in and contribute to a series of product development meetings, where I discovered that Glenn was at the helm of a fantastic crew of artists, all of whom I had admired for quite some time. People like Meegan Fiori, Ron Croci, Wade Koniakowski, Rietveld, etc….

One day Glenn casually asked me if I would like to be the featured Artist for the company he worked for, Coastal Classics, which is headed up by Thom Hill.¬† Not thinking anything other than I really like Glenn, and that we would get to be around each other, I said sure yea, in a very nonchalant fashion. I was so casual about it, (and somewhat clueless) that Glenn knew to take me aside and explained : “Dave, this is¬† sort of a Big Deal. People look and wait for years for this. Look at who we have in our lineup.”¬† I did. Gulp. “Wow and you guys want ME?”

I laughed. But inside, it was game on. I had a close look at the company and artists. A chat with my colleague and friend Robb Havassy, confirmed it all. Better pay attention. I would be engaging and creating imagery with some of the cream of popular culture’s Art crop.

Great artists are funny. I have found that frequently, they are so understated, that human nature causes them to be overlooked. Havassy is like that. So much so, that I almost did not get my work to him in time for his remarkable book, Surf Story.

Glenn is like that. So is Thom Hill. So are ALL of the Coastal Classics people. It seems that somehow, I was being drawn right back into the vortex from which my photography had arisen decades ago, that of drawing, painting and the traditional craft of the working Artist.

So when Thom casually asked if I would be interested in doing a little catalog work for them, I agreed with a simple: “Yeah that would be nice”, and began doing my homework. In a down economy Coastal Classics is growing. As a company grows, it has certain requirements to embrace it’s historic modus, (those things that created forward momentum in the first place), yet morph into what it needs to become, in order to compete in the marketplace.

This week, in a commercial space that is to be the Coastal Classics art production location in Ventura, California, I loaded in my production equipment, assembled a group of my own creatives under the direction of Thom, and Glenn, and Sarah Lubeck, the Coastal Classics artist director, and went at it. The shoot was originally scheduled to be for two days with an additional day safety if needed.

We completed principal photography in twelve hours. I did¬† 16 different set ups.¬† We shot in three locations, and produced both catalog and branding imagery that featured many of the artist’s work, I had admired for so long.

Primarily using continuous lighting, and Canon’s 5D Mark 2 system, I was able to created a rich tableau of work in 1854 shutter actuations. We drove nowhere. This was shot in my home town. We walked from our studio (I jogged) to the beach and Thom, Donna, Glenn and I simply just had a nice little casual golden hour evening down on the pier and at Surfer’s Point, much as all of us do on any given day here in Ventura.

There is no place like home, and the charm and allure of a small town. Ventura has been wonderful that way. In spite of what appear to be some onerous changes to the nature of this place on the horizon, this shoot was all home town charm.

This once again illustrated the importance of planning, connection, friendship, trust and vision to me.

That is how forward occurs.

My fabulous crew were:

Chris Jensen, Photographer and first assistant, Donna Von Hoesslin, Stylist, Angela Izzo second assistant and production assistant with the super quiet and uber efficient, Rachel Evans doing principal hair and makeup.

Models were Gabe Witmer, Marie Avery, Jeanette Ortiz, Hailey Partridge, and the Hill kids. (Yep, Thom’s kids rock.)

Well, since it is Labor day and I am actually ( as is the tradition with many of us)¬† laboring,¬† I reckon that I should share Seth Godin’s take on the meaning of modern craftsmanship with you all.

The following image gallery is a small, unfinalized sample cull from the 360 image final file. Art defines culture. It is a privilege to be able to engage in that as a craft.

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.

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