Posts Tagged ‘cultural commentary’

Jam

Monday, April 4th, 2011
Art City

Art City

I have a lot of friends who are into music. They all range in experience, depth, scope, and level of monetization.

Music is one of the High Arts of course.

How a person begins in any Art germinates in a fascination with it. I remember mine. Getting to play my Hawaiian Grandfathers Zither. I must have been about 6 or 7.  Guitar lessons at 8. Then on to the Arts in school, where I took choir, learned to sing in church, band practice, learning to read and write music. It was part of the education process in America at the time.

I have been aware that my family has always been involved in several things. They were warriors, musicians, artists, or dancers. As I grew up, in touch with the various facets of selection available by virtue of my heritage, I selected my areas of interest, and followed those in my life path. It is how I wound up where I am today, for what that is worth.

But what I learned in doing so, is how pursuing an interest will open the windows of perception up to a person. That opening, in turn may shed a light upon a pathway which no one sees but the participant. As a photographer and film maker, and someone who understands and enjoys mentoring, I always appreciate getting to watch those folks find their way. It makes me smile and can make my heart sing. In a world that grows increasingly dark these days, I need that.

In any society that wants to develop a living, vital culture, we all need the Arts. “Art is life” as my friend Joe Cardella, the Publisher of Art Life magazine for over 20 years, always says.¬† It defines, encourages, prods and yes,¬† may often disturb one. I like being disturbed. The effect tends to force me examine why I feel and believe what I do.

My son Josh gets that. I think he has always enjoyed the process of surprising me, as well as disturbing the old man. Makes me laugh actually when I think about it. He is a prodigy. I became aware of it when he was quite young, seeing a charcoal he had drawn of the Mona Lisa from memory. I think he was 6 or 7 at the time. Then later, hearing him play classical music on an electric piano with no lessons, from memory. He can do things that I cannot. Different inherent tool set than I. God does that.

I enjoy seeing the tool set in each person, and how they learn to utilize it to pursue individual visions and dreams. I got to watch a little of that the other night at a local bar. It was a place which I had not visited in awhile. For a number of reasons. (another story)

“Hey Dad, Robin Ryder has gotten me a gig performing at Bombay, it is Thursday” Josh had said over the phone. “Oh cool, I am around. Donna and I will come. I can bring a camera. What are you going to do?” I had asked. “A stripped down set, maybe me and Nick, my drummer. I need to find someone to open”. ” Well, you could ask Mason (Mason Van Valin) but he may have a problem performing at a bar since he is 17″ “Yea, lemme talk to Robin and see”. And that was it.

Iconization

Iconization

Thursday rolled round and at 9 pm, Donna and I were seated towards the front stage, which is at the entrance to the bar-club. Josh was already there with Nick, and dressing the stage wearing workout shorts and a sleeveless tee. Robin Ryder, talented son of a friend of mine was at the mixing board.  People began to wander in that we knew.

It was sort of fascinating as different groups arrived. The back bar area was having an event for ladies only and women strode in, sort of arm in arm. Made us smile as we realized what that was about. Kind of cool actually, considering that we live in a cow and oil town which recently has been headed towards becoming a published center for the Arts.

At around 10:15 a thin and sort of striking looking guy came up on stage. Deftly pulling a guitar out, he launched into a smooth set of bluesy rock. Matt Zeltzer, a friend of Josh’s did his music up, dashed with a cover of a Stones song. It was pretty interesting watching the 24 year old perform. You could see where he might go with it. Jeans, denim shirt, old guitar, and an easy demeanor, he engaged us all. It seemed like only moments that Matt was on stage, and he was rapidly stuffing the old guitar back into a soft case.

Matt Zeltzer

Matt Zeltzer

Josh fronts a concept and group called Love’s Secret Domain. He has been writing and producing his own music for a few years. He has been a one man show, designing and building the electronics that synthesize his sound. He is an emerging artist. I get that. But what I was pleased to realize as his show began, is that my son’s work makes me sort of uncomfortable.

On stage, Josh becomes Josh Slavin. His demeanor changes. His look becomes different, with wardrobe and makeup, and sexy 6 inch pistol heeled boots, and he vamps. Heavily. In music you can communicate everything, anything or nothing of any real significance. Maybe just make people feel nice and warm. It all has a purpose. But Josh makes me think. I like that. And his strong musical hooks, not anchored in any sort of standard modus, can literally go anywhere he wants them to. I admire that in an artist. No matter what the medium. It can grab you, pull you in close and make you look in the mirror. That act, is an antidote for much, by the way.

Stageism

Stageism

Here is a video grab of a song from the evening at Bombay. It is called The Nightlife.

As I listened to Sam Shoemaker yesterday, belting out a song called “In The Forest” with the Shoemaker Brothers, he spied me hiding in the audience at Bernadette’s and grinned at me, between the words, which are heavily laced with strong sexual overtones. It had been a year since Sam and his brothers did their first Ventura performance at Bernie’s place. In that time we have become friends, and I have been incredibly blessed in watching this remarkable group of men grow and thrive.

But this is how it works. One step at a time, one brick at a time, you build your foundation, you invite people along to collaborate, you have fun, and a movement starts. That can change the world dramatically, or it can simply just make people feel a little bit better. But the reality is that Art (and Music) is Life.

Collaboration

Collaboration

This year, one of my favorite groups won a Grammy. Their song and this video, is sort of disturbing. Muse. Perfect name for the song: Uprising. “Green belts wrapped around our minds. Red tape to keep the truth confined.” Yea, our culture understands the why and what of that. We really need to. Or we lose. That is why Art Matters.

I have no idea how or why this occurs, but frequently Seth Godin and I wind up doing complementary subject blogs. Here is his on the same subject. But from a slightly different direction.

Seth matters. Thank God for people that determine the path, and embrace being an oracle.

The Significance of Mermaids

Saturday, March 26th, 2011
Significant

Significant

In running through an edit the other day for a magazine feature, I happened to stumble upon a file titled “Lost Mermaid” In it were some large scan images of Hannah Fraser performing as a mermaid which I had shot in the Maldives quite some time ago.

The scans had apparently been put in a  back file and forgotten. When I had run across them eventually, I had finished my post production work, sent them out into the netherworld of global editorial submission, and once again sort of forgotten them.

Flicking through thousands of images deftly , when I opened that Lost Mermaid folder I simply stopped in my tracks and went “Wow”.

 Come Hither

Come Hither

On the face of it, a pretty girl putting on a mermaid suit and floating around in the Laccadive Sea (Far side of the world, mid ocean) could be construed as a silly thing to deem of any real value or significance.

Eco Concerto

Eco Concerto

But the reality is that in process, this artist inspires each of us to don our own suit of many colors and step out into the void. The world needs that from us, especially right now as it groans under the weight of vast change and challenge.

Here is a good example, sent along by Eric Skaar. A beautiful mind.

Here is another, sent along by Dr Ed Brenegar. A TedX talk by the wonderful CEO of Random Kid,  sixteen year old Talia Leman.

Earlier this week, I got to sit in an hours long conversation with my friend George Orbelian, who among many things heads up the San Francisco Global Trade Council and Project Kaisei. As sunshine magnified by a big bay window, warmed away the chill of a wintery afternoon in Ocean Beach SF, I listened intently as we examined a number of quite vast issues, ones that would appear to be out of reach for any “normal” person in our culture.

After we had looked at “the Japan Problem” and George had presented some rather intriguing information about the Nuclear Plants and Tsunami damage and I had thrown my POV’s worth of data on the pile, George looked at me and quite earnestly said something that hit me with more force than any bitch slap ever could: “What are we going to do?”

And I thought about the mermaid.¬† There are always solutions, but often they come via something that is so lateral, “the powers that be”, due to the way socio- political organizations function, would never consider that maybe the answer was in the examination of a different process and a shift in Philosophy.

Japan changes everything. In this dire time, is presented a remarkable opportunity to change our world for the better and establish something very remarkably sustainable: clean energy, more secure nuclear power generating stations and the creation of a waste recycling system utilizing fuel with a fraction of the safety issues of Uranium and Plutonium. Ever hear about Thorium?

Here is a very simplified view of the potential of Thorium as an energy source in the generation process.

But as my friends in Japan have already pointed out, you cannot build nuclear bombs if your plants run on Thorium. Ever think about what that means strategically? To have all your fissionable material breeders spread all over the countryside generating electricity as well as material to build bombs?

So as my time with George came to an end we looked at the hard line items in Japan and our World, which due to some Geologically time based activity, is likely going to see more incidences like the quake off of Japan that killed so many.  It also created the scenario for catastrophic failure that will in all likelihood cause the reactors to need to become entombed like Chernobyl, thereby causing a loss of the land, adjacent ocean, and vast environmental  resources and health.

As I watched the video of the Tsunami coming ashore and the roiling black waters that I knew contained bodies being crushed by the weight of water and debris, I thought laterally. You could limit some of this further by  a number of actions. But the greater damage and threat to life, that of environmental nuclear disaster, energy dependence and the war expense that implies, that catastrophic flood, can be prevented entirely.

 A Far Shore

A Far Shore

You just need to understand the significance of mermaids.

 

Sea Within

Thursday, March 24th, 2011
The Sea Within

The Sea Within

I once met a man who inspired me greatly. At his encouragement, I went on to accomplish all manner of things in the ocean. Of course it was not by his urging alone, but for some reason, he was my catalyst, and the reaction which occurred as a result of his input, wed my life to the sea.

Many years later, as I sat with a writer pal of mine at the man’s home on the sand near Santa Barbara, he recounted his life before the Multiple Sclerosis morphed him into a creature who could do no exploits. “I lived my entire life in the span of 8 years” he had said. He did grand and wonderful things at the helm of a dory, a sailboat, paddleboard, and on a surfboard. He lived his ocean experience in a time when the grand and golden California burgeoned and beckoned to the world at large with a pristine ocean, replete with salty, gusto laden vitality.

Engaged

Engaged

As I knelt down, and apologized for my lens which set dead square upon him for a memorial portrait, he looked me straight in the eye and said: “Don’t you just love the feel of that cool crisp water, as it envelopes you?”

And at that point I “got it”.

What a gift.

Soul and Heart

Soul and Heart

Mason Van Valin says it well with Ghost Love

The Zuri Files: Westside Ventura

Friday, December 17th, 2010
Revolutionary Heart: Zuri Star

Revolutionary Heart: Zuri Star

I have a unique job, in that most of the time, I am drawn to subjects and they to me, not unlike a moon to a planet. I have never been able to figure out who is what in that constellation. But it probably does not matter.

This week saw a LOT of computer time as I worked on wrapping my commercial work for the year.

As I plowed the pixel fields of my hard drive borne library, I came across a project I had shot with Zuri Star as a collaboration of sorts. Zuri is a pretty remarkable recording artist and performer. But more than that, she and her family exemplify some of the very best aspects of America to me.

Zuri in Blue

Zuri in Blue

Daughter of an American activist, patriot, and pioneer in organic farming in the US, Bill Allen, Zuri understands the bigger picture of writing and communicating in music and in her life. Co- incidentally, she had also become one of the cadre of amazing women whose names, design modus and momentum are in the fashion and promotional lineup for Donna Von Hoesslin’s female driven company, Betty Belts.

One day, Zuri and I set out to walk the West Side of Ventura, where I have owned a home and raised my children. The West Side has texture. Sometimes it feels like the oil fields of Texas, or clamor and bustle of Mexico. Sometimes you think it is like the inside of a big crack house. But the reality is, that the West Side of Ventura exemplifies something every country and community needs: a place to get started.

 Self Starter

Self Starter

You either love it or hate it. Zuri has a new song released by that same title: Love or Hate.

Historic Ventura

Historic Ventura

I look at my own self and life process: the West Side was where I bought my first home. Fleeing from an unsustainable real estate market in Santa Barbara, and needing to follow the growth track of my low margin Surf Industry company of the time, the West Side of Ventura had been the logical choice. And no surprise, Dave Wallace, a long time Ventura resident, surfer, waterman and real estate agent, was the one who pointed me into the West Side. He knew what I needed.

It is a pretty unique place with a lot of History. The Chumash lived there at one point. (A good sign.)

West Ventura

West Ventura

So Zuri and I took a little walk down Ventura Avenue, and wound up in the Ag fields eventually. A farmer’s daughter with a revolutionary heart, in the land and backdrop of the families who founded Ventura.

Farmer's Daughter

Farmer's Daughter

So you can see how this works.

There is always more than meets the eye.

Our work and communities are matters of the heart.

Cherish that.

Heart Driven

Heart Driven

I shot this on film and on the Canon Rebel T1i system. The file I found had a remarkable amount of subject driven work in it. Sometimes what I have managed to create and collect surprises me. Pays to be in good company.

True West

True West

The Lineup

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
The Lineup

The Lineup

The image above is a tight shot of the crowd in the lineup at Pipeline one day a few seasons back. Pipe is located on the North Shore of the Island of Oahu.

Generally, a lineup is a pretty near perfect example of a social and cultural hierarchy, and how those tend to stratify according to ability, dominance, and-or reputation. So surf breaks in a manner of speaking, are analogous to society at large in many ways.

And just like in land based cultures, someone always seems to come along that no one gives credence to, who through persistence, talent and ability, though seemingly stuck in the middle and not going anywhere towards being at the head of the line, is actually speeding far ahead of the rest of the group.

Those are the ones to watch.

Look closely. Choose wisely. Because who we surround ourselves with, will determine our path in life.

Imminent Demise

Imminent Demise

Seth Godin describes choice in this typically succinct blogpost here.

I met Mason Van Valin at Bullfight Studio in Santa Barbara last week as Rob Dafoe and I were working. You can see what is coming right here.

Defining Moment.

Defining Moment.

My Canon 5D Mark 2 continues to outperform any other system that I have ever used for motion and stills work. In spite of having placed it repeatedly in some rather precarious locations and circumstances.

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.

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