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Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Go Crazy for Your Dreams. It’s All You, Baby.

December 3rd, 2009 2 comments

Love this song by Brett Dennen. Love the video, too. Having spent plenty of time dancing to the tune of the consumer organ grinder and countless hours that inexorably turn into days and weeks and so on and so forth–I can say that his song and video are deliciously poignant and gratifying. And heck, I even sold shoes once upon a time, so yes; in a crazy way, it makes complete sense. When you’re doing your dog and pony show, absurdity knows no boundaries.

René Magritte - Die Grosse Familie, 1947 (?)

René Magritte - Die Grosse Familie, 1947 (?)

One time at work, I had a customer ask me if we had ‘something for making pancakes,’ which, of course; we did. We had cute, animal-shaped pancake molds along with griddles, skillets, pancake mixes, syrup, recipe books and even pancake pens, which are these new, large, squeezy plastic bottle-thingies that you put your batter into, and it is cleverly designed to carefully squeeze the batter out into your cute, animal-shaped pancake mold so that it turns out adorably perfect and makes the job easy and fun. I showed him all of these things, but evidently he was looking for something like a circular-shaped mold. I tried to explain to him that when you put your batter in your skillet or on your griddle, it more or less naturally takes on that shape. For some reason, though, he wasn’t buying it. Perhaps he hadn’t yet tried making pancakes. At any rate, sometimes it just feels like you can’t win no matter what you say or do. But you can. You choose your battles, and live to dance another day.

Now, I do not condone or approve of bullying as a tactic or means to an end in any way shape or form, but it’s hard not to admire Vicky Pollard‘s unshakable self-confidence here, despite the hard evidence pointing to the notion that she is out of her league in this competition:

…Then again, there is the fact that once she has clearly lost the game, she resorts to bullying. *Sigh* Ahh, well.

GOT DREAMS? I do. Here’s one of mine: This site is going to become a show. How ’bout them apples? Interviews with great Creative Beasts from all over, and from all walks of life… and other wonderful stuff of an inspiring and mysterious nature.

I’m going to need a few things… eventually, a bigger staff, for example… maybe some cameras… and a film crew… and definitely some angels. That’s my tip of the iceberg list, which is actually a big tip to an even bigger iceberg. There will be much more to say to the right set of ears.

“Why are you sharing this, T-Haus?” you may ask. Well, I’ll tell you. Because I feel it’s important to state your mission and share your vision. And I aim to prove some things for the sake of all CreativeBeasts: 1) I am not entirely crazy. Slightly, yes. Entirely, no. 2) You can be from anywhere at all and still make your dreams come true. Even Milwaukee, WI (though I am originally from Seattle, WA… but that’s beside the point). 3) Cool and amazing things are happening all over the world. All around us, in fact. Today, in Milwaukee, for example, we had our first snow of the year. Pretty cool. 4) –This is the most important thing–it is not only OK to have dreams and to believe in them, it is GOOD! Go crazy for them, and may it serve you well. And hey–this is, after all, the season in which dreams (supposedly) come true. Keep right on dreaming, and all the best to you all.

I stumbled across this article, “Yes, I Can” Seven inspiring stories of people who proved the naysayers wrong. http://tinyurl.com/y96t5hv . Not bad.

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Keep Moving. The World Won’t Stop.

November 12th, 2009 No comments

Curve balls. We all get them from time to time. It could be the loss of a job, an important possession or asset, a partner, a friend or a loved one. Or a cancer diagnosis. Such things aren’t easy to take, and they can certainly take us by surprise. We are suddenly struck by an unforgiving and unfeeling force, and sometimes we are given no explanation or reason as to why it occurs. When it happens, it’s as though the rug has been swept out from under us, and that instability can be frightening. But it doesn’t always have to be. The tides ebb and flow, and so must we ride with them, or be pulled in. It’s times such as these, when the truly creative show their true and brilliant colors. It’s about getting lemons and making lemonade. And yes, that is one heck of a “Pollyanna” cliche, but so what? Playing “The Glad Game” not only energizes the spirit; it builds strength and stamina, and in the end, it makes you smarter and stronger… it makes you a better problem solver… and hopefully, a more loving human being.

Adversity creates pressure, and a couple things can happen from there. Pressure has the ability to crush or overwhelm, but depending on the individual and how he or she responds to a particular situation, there are infinite possibilities in terms of outcomes. Again, faith comes into play, and the ability to see things in ways that provide opportunities… and solutions.

At this time, I would like to share with you an amazing story about an amazing little boy whose time here on Earth was short (he was with us for only six years), but whose light was so bright, it will be remembered and carried on for many years to come, and in fact; will likely grow brighter and brighter. His name was Pablo Castelaz.

PabloHair1

Pablove Across America – When Out of Loss Comes Love.

He was the son of Jo Ann Thrailkill and Jeff Castelaz, and the little brother of Grady Gallagher. On May 17, 2008, Pablo was diagnosed with bilateral Wilms’ Tumor, a rare form of children’s cancer. The cancer appeared out of nowhere, with no warning signs in Pablo’s general demeanor or health. He underwent treatment at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. On June 27, 2009, Pablo’s individual fight with cancer ended. But we fight on in his name, with the spirit of love that Pablo embodied and inspired.

Needless to say, Pablo’s passing was a tremendous blow to his family and beloved friends. When someone so young, bright, beautiful and full of life is suddenly taken from us, we are left wondering how and why the greater powers of the universe can manifest something so seemingly senseless. This sort of loss is just the kind that either wields the power to destroy or transform. Everyone who knew Pablo was touched by his loving spirit, and the same is true even for those who didn’t know him–and this continues to be the case. That being said, destruction and despair were not options for Pablo’s family and friends. The love is too great; and therefore, can only result in a transformation that results in something more meaningful: a passionate race to save the lives of others, and to make the world a better place; also known as Pablove Across America. The mission is simple: 3000 Miles. 30 Days. 1 Fight. A salute to Pablo, Jeff and Jo Ann, Lance Armstrong, the cyclists, and everyone else who fights to keep dreams, hope and happiness alive. May love forever reign. To see how you can join in the race and fight against childhood cancer please visit http://www.pablove.org/donate/ .

The last day of the ride is Saturday, November 21st (of ’09). Any and all cyclists who wish to join in are encouraged to do so. Visit http://www.Pablove.org/news/ for details.

This goes out to the cyclists on their journey–inspiring tunes help!

Mike Snow – Animal

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Music As Creative Juice: What’s Your Pleasure?

September 9th, 2009 2 comments
Jackson Pollock - Autumn Rhythm (number 30), 1950

Jackson Pollock - Autumn Rhythm (number 30), 1950

When I was a teenager, my father once punished me by taking my stereo away because I wasn’t meeting certain academic expectations. I think it was by far, the worst punishment I received. I could be grounded or anything else, but to be without music was like being without light… or water. Thank God for music. I don’t mean to sound trite or to make an inane remark, but I think it’s worth noting what an effect and impact music has on the creativity of others. Now that we have passed another Labor Day, so marks the unofficial end of summer, and with fall comes different flavors and smells, somber colors, different pastimes, and a different spin on creativity. And while even the music we listen to might change somewhat with the seasons, our need for the inspiration and comfort it lends, does not. From Jackson Pollock to Paul Thomas Anderson, Creative Beasts of all kinds have been and will continue to be driven and influenced by the power of music.

I would also like to once again note the cyclical nature of creativity, and in turn; pause for a moment to consider how Creative Beasts need and affect one another. Art in any form and at any level is something that stimulates us and inspires us–an idea–a spark–a birth… created by an individual. It seems that many artists and/or scientists are multi-talented and explore their creativity in multiple facets; for example, a singer-songwriter who also paints, such as John Mellencamp, or a scientist who draws and paints, like Leonardo Da Vinci–or is it the other way around? You get my point. Creative minds are excited by ideas, by freshness, by wonderment and discovery, and by the ability to bring something that encompasses these things to fruition–and to experience the creations of others. That said, it makes sense that many creative types have multiple areas of focus, and multiple passions in their lives. Music makes order out of chaos–even chaotic music. It combines sound and rhythm with thought and puts it in a frame to create a structure. I know that music has a tremendous impact on me and my creativity. I can’t imagine my life without it.

Jackson Pollock was heralded as the leader of the Abstract Expressionist movement in art and pioneered what became known as “action painting.” It’s a well known fact that his art was largely influence by the modern jazz music of his day, which seems to make perfect sense when you view his work; especially in person. He was particularly a big fan of Charlie Parker’s and Dizzie Gillespie’s, but in general, loved rocking–and painting to bebop. Listen to this gorgeous piece titled Autumn in New York by The Bird, himself; Mr. Charlie Parker. Perhaps it had a hand in the outcome of Pollock’s piece shown above.

Additionally, and throughout the history of cinema, great directors are naturally influenced by music, and are keenly aware of just how intrinsically it becomes part of the art which is film. A few of my favorites include Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, and last but definitely not least, Paul Thomas Anderson, who states that he indeed, “writes to music.” He freely admits that the screenplay for Magnolia could be called “an adaptation of Aimee Mann songs.” The film is among my favorites, dark as it may be; and is absolutely brilliantly crafted–and so, might I add–is the music. The following quote from Anderson is taken from the introduction of the shooting script for Magnolia.

The connection of writing “from the gut” and “writing to music” cannot be found any clearer than in the “Wise Up” section of the screenplay. I had reached the end of Earl’s monologue and was searching for a little vibe–I wrote as I listened–and the most natural course of action was that everyone should sing– sing how they feel. In the most good old-fashioned Hollywood Musical Way, each character, and the writer, began singing how they felt. This is one of those things that just happens, and I was either too stupid or not scared enough to hit “delete” once done. Next thing you know, you’re filming it. And I’m Really Happy That It Happened.

Here’s that amazing scene [WARNING: This scene contains adult situations]:

Here, Scorsese takes a very different approach by using the cheery 60s sound of The Crystals, followed by Scottish artist, Donovan’s trippy Atlantis, and juxtaposes the music with a disturbingly violent portrayal of Tommy, played by Joe Pesci [WARNING: This scene contains adult language and graphic violence]:

David Lynch writes in his book, Catching the Big Fish,

The music has to marry with the picture and enhance it. You can’t just lob something in and think it’s going to work, even if it’s one of your all-time favorite songs. That piece of music may have nothing to do with the scene. When it marries, you can feel it. The thing jumps; a “whole is greater than the sum of the parts” kind of thing can happen.

Here is a shining example of how David Lynch “marries” music with cinema:

So. How does music affect you? And your creativity? What are your influences? Where do you get turned on to new music? Do you have a theme song (And yes, I stole that notion from a scene from the cheesy old show, Ally McBeal, in which Dr. Tracy Clark demands that Ally choose a theme song for herself. What can I say? It stuck with me, and I must give credit where it is due)? My theme song changes, but I think for now, it is Passion Pit‘s Moth’s Wings (is it just me, or does Michael Angelakos remind you of Peter Gabriel?), which I first heard on 88.9 Radio Milwaukee. I can’t think of a better song to lead us into fall.

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Sleepwalking In Racine.

August 19th, 2009 No comments
View from the driver's seat... looking forward.

View from the driver's seat... looking forward.

View from the rear.

View from the rear.

The Glamour of Being a P.A. and Salvation Via Hugh MacLeod.

The truth is, I didn’t sleep. Not one wink. I was a very good P.A. My ultra-cool and glamorous job was to section off street parking spaces on Main Street in Racine, Wisconsin at 3rd and Main, and then see to it that no one parked in them. Now. Before we go further, let it be said that Any. Idiot. Can. Do. This. Job. But it takes a very special kind of idiot to want to do this job. That would be me.

My shift began at midnight last week, Thursday; August 13th. “P.A.,” for those of you who are unfamiliar, stands for “Production Assistant.” In the caste system of the film world, “P.A.” is the equivalent to “Untouchable.” No one who is above you wants to be you. And “Parking P.A.” is below “P.A.” When you work as a regular P.A., you generally and at least get to see a little action. You may even get to bring water to someone “important.” Such is not the case when you are a parking P.A. You get to set up and guard parking spots. That’s it.

When I got the phone call at 11:30 a.m. for P.A. work, I said, “Yes!” Almost instantly. Then Mindy told me what my job for the night would be.

“Are you okay with that? I mean, are you comfortable with telling people they can’t park in our spots?”

“Sure,” I said. “…Wait… am I going to be the only one there?”

“Um, yeah.” She replied.

“Because you know, this is Racine.” I added.

“Yeah, I don’t really know the area.”

“Oh, well. Yeah, sure. I can do it.”

“Great!” She then gave me the information and asked me to meet her and the production crew at 10 p.m. at the Radisson in Racine. I left Milwaukee at 9 p.m., without having slept at all during the day. Having packed a bag that included toiletries, saline solution, a contact lens case, extra clothes, my Coleman lantern/flashlight and some reading material, I felt prepared and up to the task. I stopped at Walgreens for a couple of Starbucks Doubleshots and some beef jerky for my long night ahead.

When I got into Racine just before ten o’clock, I overshot my turn and went over the bridge on Main Street, which evidently serves as a bit of a borderline between “good” Racine, and “not-so-good” Racine. Seems like nearly every town has these unspoken borders, but in the Midwest they are often–and unfortunately–fairly noticeable.

After crossing the bridge, I stopped across the street from a bar where I saw a group of college boys about to enter. As I got out of my car, a blue van buzzed by the group of boys, and suddenly, there was a “POP-POP-POP-POP!” sound, hysterical laughter, and a heart-stopping yell that only comes of injury. The van sped away, leaving the boys with bewildered, scared and angry faces; varying in color from red to ghostly-white. One of the boys had been shot in the thigh with a paint ball gun. After a moment’s pause, I swallowed and followed them into the bar.

I asked the boy who had been shot if he was okay, to which he proudly responded, “Yeah, I’m fine! I’m f***ing pissed, but I’m fine.”

“You need to call the police.”

“What are they gonna do?”

“I don’t know, but they need to know that someone is driving around town shooting people with a paint ball gun.”

“That’s true,” he said.

I then turned to one of the uninjured boys, and explained that I had missed my turn, and was looking for the Radisson Hotel. He told me to go back over the bridge and take a left at the stop light. He added that our current location was, “Not a place you want to be.” I smiled and thanked him, and made my way back to my car. Welcome to Racine.

When I got to the hotel, I entered the room to find a pretty typical-looking production camp that included several young guys and two women, and the Production Supervisor. They all had the cool and hip film crew renegade look; the supervisor being the hippest of all; complete with shaved head–save the pointy dart sideburns and soul patch–muscles, grey jeans, t-shirt, olive skin, and khaki converse all-stars with the shoelaces removed for easy access. He reminded me a little of Nero in Star Trek, except not as tall. Everyone was busy at either a laptop or a cell phone or both, except for the three P.A. guys. They were completing odd tasks such as making signs… and awaiting more instructions. I shook hands with everyone, and sat down to await my own instructions. I talked with one of the other P.A.s–a nice guy who was also from Milwaukee, but originally from Racine. He’s also in a band. After sitting around for about twenty minutes, Nero asked me to follow him and Nice Guy out to the van. “So it’s an interesting job, eh?” Nero said to me in the elevator. He spoke with what seemed to be an Eastern European accent… I couldn’t quite place it.

“Yeah? What’s interesting about it?” I asked. I thought he was referring to the project. I should have known it was strictly small talk.

“Well, you’re the parking P.A.”

“Oh.” I chuckled. “You mean my task. Well, it has to get done, right?” That was more or less the end of that conversation.

We rode several blocks to 3rd and Main, where I would be working. Nero pointed out where on Main Street he wanted the crew, as well as a small section of 3rd Street. He assured me that if I ran into any trouble, I could call them and they would come to help. I figured what that really meant was, “If you’re being held at gunpoint, call us after you dial 9-1-1.” He added, “The police station is right around the corner.”

Nice Guy and I dropped Nero back at the hotel, and then to where I was parked to transfer the cones from the van to my little Subaru Impreza Sport, which was soon chock full of cones. We walked back to the hotel together, to find a stack of full pizza boxes in the room when we reentered. I reluctantly had two pieces, only because I felt like it was the polite thing to do. I had already eaten dinner and was not much in the mood for mozz and sausage, and anyway, it was about 11 p.m.

I hung out for about another half hour, and since I wasn’t feeling too useful there, I announced that I was heading out to set up my own camp.

“Okay,” the assistant supervisor (I will call her ‘Joanne’) said. “You sure you don’t want some more pizza? Take it with you for later?”

“No, really. Thanks,” I said with a smile. “I’m all set with my Starbucks Doubleshots.”

“Good call. Okay, well, we’ll call you later to check in and see how you’re doing.”

“Thanks,” I said, and headed off to begin my adventure.

I parked in the middle of Main Street across from a place called Evelyn’s Club Main. The street seemed busy for a Wednesday night, but then I guess I don’t really know what a busy night in Racine looks like. Maybe it just seemed noisier than I thought it would be. A group of drunk kids–guys and girls–walked down the street yelling things to each other. I couldn’t really figure out what, nor did I care. At one point, two of the scantily clad girls plopped themselves down in the middle of the sidewalk and just yelled a blue streak. I think they were upset at the bartender at Evelyn’s. I think he kicked them out. Could you blame him? I was glad they were on the other side of the street. It was early for me to start setting up, but I was antsy, so I figured I would start with spots that were empty and then wait until more people cleared out. Evelyn’s was jumpin’. It sounded like screamo was their music of choice, and I say “sounded” like, because I don’t really know that much about screamo, except that I think it’s the kind of “music” in which people pretty much just scream the entire time. I have to think that somewhere along the line, it stops being cathartic for the screamer… if catharsis was ever even a goal… It’s difficult to say. Personally, I think I’d rather listen to dreamo music. Stuff that will lull me to sleep and provide me with sweet dreams. Stuff like Enya. The weird side of that, though, is that even Enya can drive people to want to hurt themselves after a while. That’s why you can never go wrong with Lynyrd Skynyrd. But I digress.

As I was setting up my cones (notice how they are now my cones), a bartender from Evelyn’s asked me what I was doing, and if it was okay for people to stay in their spots. I explained that everyone was just fine, and the spots were needed for the morning. The goal was to not upset the townies. I went about my business of setting up cones where I could, and then returning to my car to read my book. I was about eighty pages into it. It’s a short, quick read called, Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity. It may have saved my life that night–or if not mine; somebody else’s. The book was a gift from my friend, Anthony (thanks, Anthony–truly–great book. You rock). Hugh MacLeod is a copywriter, but moreover, he is a CreativeBeast. Let me just say that if you dig my blog at all, and you get what it is that I’m after (the answers to life’s deepest mysteries… such as the alchemy used in the making of the world’s most perfect chocolates), then you will completely and utterly adore Hugh MacLeod. Have you ever met someone (or come across someone) who had such a way of saying things, that it made you say,”I wish I could have said it like that.” That’s how I feel about Hugh MacLeod. I once heard Bruce Springstein speak wistfully about how he wished that he could sing like Roy Orbison. I get that. Hugh, for the most part, says what I feel, and he says it with such style and grace, wit and grit. He’s highly original, and I’d like to think that part of that comes from being Scottish… Anyway, chapter 11 is called, The more talented somebody is, the less they need the props. It’s a couple of pages long, but really, the title says it all. And Chapter 9 is called, Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity… that’s what I was getting at with my previous post, called, So you don’t fit in. Good (thanks for the affirmation, Hugh!). This guy makes you think. He makes you ask yourself, “What is it that you really want out of your creativity?” His book will crack you up, but it will really get you thinking, too. Read it. I finished it before daylight. And check out his website: http:www.gapingvoid.com.

Outside of reading my book, I waited for the remaining Ghoulies to drag–I mean drive–themselves off of Main Street, so I could put up the rest of the cones, and hopefully spend what remained of my watch, peacefully. At around 2 a.m., the last Ghoulies stumbled out of Evelyn’s and other places (Ivanhoe’s, maybe?), and back to their cars. One group of drunk’ins made up of a couple of guys and several girls saw that there were cones around their car when they got to it, which upset them, evidently. I don’t know why; it wasn’t as though anyone was blocked in… Anyway, one of the guys picked up a cone and hurled it across the street. I got out of my car, and stomped over to them. “Hey!” I said. “Did you just throw that cone across the street?” They said nothing and the girl behind the wheel simply drove off. “Yeah, you better get out of here!” I yelled after them as I picked up the cone from the other side of the road and carried it back to its proper spot. Then about half an hour later, another guy from across the street decided to just remove four of my cones and take them to the other side of the street. “Hey, what are you doing?” I barked.

“I’m moving cones. What are you doing?” He answered.

“Put those down right now!” I chased after him, and he just casually dropped them on the sidewalk and went up to his apartment. I grabbed the cones and put them back where they belonged, and flipped off the window on the second floor. Fuming, I got back into my car and returned to my book. I made sure all the windows were down slightly, so I could hear if someone was coming. With the recent activity, I was wide awake and feeling rather like a target. I tried to read with one eye, while keeping the other on the street. The clock ticked away, and not much later, I heard footsteps coming from behind on the sidewalk next to my car. It was a woman carrying some bags. She seemed pretty harmless. Then I heard a “crunch” sound, like something had been tossed and hit the ground. She walked on by like nothing happened, so I figured that nothing did. After a while when the street had finally become silent, I got out and walked around to help myself stay awake. Then I noticed it. Next to my car on the driver’s side was a splattered egg. Some of it had reached my tire, but I didn’t spot any on the actual body of my car, which was good. I heard that raw eggs can take the paint right off, so if you do get bombed, you have to get your car washed immediately. I got back in once again, and this time I laughed out loud. “Unreal,” I thought. “This is the lowest I have felt on any job–maybe ever.” I recounted the chain of events in my head. I pictured myself chasing after young men roughly twice my size, and yelling at them about cones, and wondered if they didn’t argue with me simply out of not wanting to have to deal with a crazy lady. I pictured a rotten little prick-college twerp heaving an egg at my car from his apartment window. “There are better ways to get ahead,” I thought. Just then, a strange, bedraggled, very tall man with long hair and a knit cap walked past me on the sidewalk. “Please don’t notice me. Please don’t notice me,” I silently prayed. He noticed me. He stopped in his tracks, and stared at me. I stared back like a deer in the headlights. He just smiled, and gently waved the “wax-on” wave to me. I waved back with a half-smile… “wax-off.” He smiled again, and walked on by, and I sighed in relief. I think he was the most normal person I encountered the entire night… er, morning.

At about 3:30 a.m. I drank my second Doubleshot, and finished my book within the hour. Just before the first signs of daybreak, a huge, noisy truck drove up behind me–and–you guessed it–rolled right over my cones. It was a water truck, coming to give the city’s flowers that hung from the lamp posts their morning drink with a giant sprayer that was rigged to the back to match the height of the posts. I jumped out of my car and waved up at the driver with both arms. “Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” he replied. “I need to water the flowers,” he said with a friendly smile.

“Okay, no problem. Let me just get the cones out of your way.”

“I’ll help you,” he said.

“Thanks!” I raced up the street and made room for him to move through without destroying my setup. Just as quickly as he watered the plants, he set most of the cones back in place before I could even get to them. He was like Santa Claus. And before I could say “Jack Robinson,” he was on down the lane, and I watched him fade into the distance; a happy truck for happy flowers. In a couple of hours, the sun would be up. Joggers were starting to surface. That was weird. Joggers in and of themselves are not so strange. Joggers at 4:30 and 5 a.m. are very strange. “Yeah, there’s nothing I would rather do at 4:30 a.m., than get up and jog!” Nothing except maybe sleep.

Speaking of sleep, it was starting to hit me. I walked up and down Main Street to avoid the sandman. I peeked into the shop windows, and snap a few photos. “What a cute street,” I thought. “What cute shops.” If I didn’t know better, I would think that the cutest, smartest people lived right in Racine, from the look of Main Street during daylight hours. I wondered if I would actually get to see any of them. It occurred to me that downtown Racine might be a good setting for a horror movie: Swellsville by day, Hellsville by night.

Cute-looking Italian restaurant.

Cute-looking Italian restaurant.

Cute hair weave shop.

Cute hair weave shop.

Jo-Jo's Toy Shop: cute, cute, cute.

Jo-Jo's Toy Shop: cute, cute, cute.

As the day became brighter, traffic picked up considerably. Then Mindy called. “How’s everything going?” She asked.

“Oh, fine,” I said, feeling rather drunk from lack of sleep. “I could use a bathroom break, though.”

“Oh. I didn’t even think of that,” She said. “Well, why don’t you just shoot over to the hotel for a few minutes? Do things seem pretty secure?”

“Yep. I’ll do that.”

“Okay. Joanne said she thinks I can relieve you at about 8:30. Is that cool?”

“Sounds good.”

After my potty break, I decided I could probably use another caffeinated beverage. There was a fake Starbucks in the hotel lobby, and I ordered a grande mocha from the boy barista. He didn’t know what it was, and explained that he had only started three days ago. “Do I use the white chocolate or the dark chocolate?”

“How cruel,” I thought to myself. I explained to the kid what a mocha was, and that I was once in his shoes (except I left out the part that I had been consuming espresso since he was a spark in his dad’s eye, and that he at least ought to try it to get an idea of how it should taste). I gave him a couple of quick tips on the fine art of barista-ing, since it was evident he had only been given the two minute crash course, and crash, he would. Oh, well. Not everything is meant to be.

After about seven minutes he handed me a cup. “Well, here you go. I hope it tastes like it should.”

“I’m sure it’ll be great,” I said, smiling. It tasted like Swiss Miss instant cocoa. I hustled back to my car, and back to my post. Everything was fine. No ghoulies.

EXT. 3rd AND MAIN - DAY

EXT. 3rd AND MAIN - EARLY MORNING

Suddenly, Nero called, and he was yelling–telling me do something. “I’m thinking we’ll need more parking spaces… like another block’s worth,” Was what I could make out. The traffic was terrible and very loud, so that combined with his accent… and then there was the fact that I hadn’t slept in twenty four hours… “I want you to block off more spaces on the north side of Main Street.”

“The north side of Main Street…” I looked around. There was an east and west side of Main, but there was definitely not a north side.

“Hon-ey, Hon-ey,” that was what he called me. “Do you know where Milwaukee is?”

“Yes. Look, it’s very difficult to hear. Traffic is bad.” I was getting a little irked. First he calls me ‘Honey,’ and then he insults me. And we’re not even sleeping together.

“Okay, so NORTH of where we set up on Main–north of 3rd Street, on the west side of Main.” Now he was making sense.

“Okay.”

“Got it?”

“Got it.”

“Thank you, Honey.” He hung up.

“Oh no, thank YOU, Honey,” I thought, as I hung up.

I set up my new row of cones, sans problems.

The Main Street General Store. So cute I almost puked.

The Main Street General Store. So cute I almost puked.

Then Mindy called. “Hey, I’m running about twenty minutes late. I have to run an errand, so I’ll see you around 9:30, okay? If you see a cafe or something, feel free to grab yourself something to eat.”

“Okay.” What else could I say? But I was hitting my wall. Sleep was coming whether or not I wanted it to. I sat on a bench and pretended to read my copy of The New Yorker. Who was I kidding?

I felt like crap. I needed a shower. I spotted a Dunn’s Coffee across from my new row of cones. I went in and got a Pom Wonderful and a pre-made breakfast sandwich from their cooler. I took my warmed up sandwich and juice, and went back to my car to eat. I don’t even remember what kind of sandwich it was. A bacon-egg-with-cheese paste ball, I think. I could barely swallow it. Yuck. I got out and sat on the bench again. I did my best to keep my head up. Then I spotted Mindy walking towards me from across the street. She looked like a tall angel wearing jeans, a t-shirt and sunglasses–the sun shrouding her like a halo. “Hey!” She said, smiling. “How’d it go?”

“Great!” I said. I gave her the 30 second version of my graveyard shift, and the receipt from my meal at Dunn’s, which she traded me cash for.

She said, “Well, I know you probably want to get some sleep.”

“Yes,” was all I could say with a weak smile.

“Drive safely.”

“Thanks. Let’s keep in touch.”

It was hot and perfectly sunny as I drove back to Milwaukee, and I made it all the way home without crashing into anyone. Or anything.

I’ll sign off with a quote from Hugh MacLeod… Chapter 38: Meaning scales, people don’t.

“Anything worth doing takes a lot practice. Adventures included.” — H.M.

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Keep Going. There is beauty yet to come.

July 8th, 2009 1 comment


This blog goes out to my very dear friend, whom I will simply refer to as “Super-T,” who moves and grooves with the dexterity of a lizard, and who sometimes forgets, but he is also the most tater-bob dude that ever existed.

A few days ago, I had the privilege to spend time with another dear friend of mine, Adam–a brilliant artist and graphic designer, and a true Creative Beast. Talking with him inspired me and gave me encouragement.

I begin this post by saying that some friendships are real gifts. And I suppose it is ironic, but I now know it to be true that sometimes what can seem to be the toughest, most challenging friendships of our lives are also sometimes some of the deepest and richest ones–in addition to being the ones that teach us the most valuable lessons. It hearkens the saying that it isn’t the destinations that make us who we are, but the journeys that we make to reach them. Certain journeys–and life changing events–can sometimes crush us… and sometimes they can save us.

I love my friends. I don’t always get to tell them how much the things they do and say–whether they are big or small–matter to me. Sometimes simply possessing the ability to make someone laugh or smile… the ability to evoke–can have a tremendously earth shaking effect. I have said this before, but I’ll say it again: Creative Beasts are powerful, brilliant souls. They tend to be very intense, even if it’s in a very quiet sort of way, but they can also be extremely fragile. This knowledge can be heavy. In our creative circles, we all likely know someone, or perhaps even several people whose intensity is at times, a great joy to come into contact with, and at other times, it’s saddening or maddening. For me, it seems like it’s just about everyone I know. Why? Just lucky, I guess (and if you are one of these people, do me a favor–relax. I’m kidding… sort of. Try not to take yourself so seriously). It’s the agony and the ecstasy. Three of my creative friends have committed suicide, all within the last ten years. First was Dave; a brilliant filmmaker/director who taught me that animators are among the most patient people on the planet… usually. Then there was Jen; a great, beautiful, quiet and quick-witted writer whose wonderful sense of humor was matched by her generous and gracious spirit. Just one year later in November of 2008, I lost my friend, Brian, who was an amazingly gifted photographer, a fantastic cook, and just wickedly sharp in countless ways. Each and every one them had an energy–an intensity–that could fill any room. That said, you can imagine how the loss of each person reverberated. I wish there was something I could have done or said that would have kept each one from doing what they did. I think maybe this is what I would have said: “You have truly lived. You have done great things, and you have experienced great things. And you have touched a lot of lives. Do you really believe that this is it? That there is no more beauty yet to come? If so, you are wrong. Stick around a while. Keep at it. See what happens.”

Creativity doesn’t always flow the way we want it to. Sometimes we feel stuck, and it’s frustrating. Roadblocks are common. David Lynch addresses this issue in his book, Catching The Big Fish. He writes, “If you want to catch the little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.” I agree with him. Another factor in the concept of catching these big fish is having creative circles–pools, if you will, in which you may freely express yourself, bounce ideas off of others, and then build on your concepts. No one person is an island, and as it is with anything else, thoughts and expressions that are exchanged freely can exist harmoniously and in a symbiotic manner, like the ebb and flow of the tides. The sharing of ideas allows creativity, itself, to become larger and richer, like a beautiful tapestry. When there is a greater opportunity to draw from a more vibrant lexicon, creative thinkers naturally put that knowledge into everything they do. When we keep things to ourselves out of fear of loss or perhaps rejection, we risk stagnation and even collapse. Even when times are difficult, and perhaps especially when times are difficult, it is better to share and connect with others. We see this example again and again made by successful people throughout history. One example that comes to mind is advertising great, David Ogilvy. He went against the grain and leapt ahead of his competitors by insisting that indeed; you must literally give away your trade secrets to win clients. His peers thought he was crazy, and maybe he was… crazy, like a fox. He was right. His ideas worked, and he made history.

Now David Ogilvy is dead and gone, and some of today’s ad geeks giggle and scoff at his ideas, but I think there isn’t one among them who wouldn’t give their eye teeth to reach the peaks that he did. Genius, as it turns out, is pretty timeless. And it takes bravery–and faith–to be creative. Some people might tell you you’re great, and some might tell you you suck… or that you are crazy. It’s not always easy to push forward, and for whatever reason, it’s sometimes easier to accept defeat or criticism, than it is to accept success and praise. If you have any desire to create, or to see an idea come to fruition, keep going with it. If it’s a passion within you, keep that fire burning. There is a reason for it. You must believe that.

Do you realize that time goes fast?
It’s hard to make the good things last
Do you realize the sun doesn’t go down?
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.

–The Flaming Lips

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Who needs a net when you’ve got balls?

June 11th, 2009 2 comments
"Yes, I can."

"Yes, I can."

Faith. You can’t hold it in your hands, but it can fill your soul. You don’t know where it comes from, but it sure can take you places.

You may have heard the saying, “Leap and the net shall appear,” once or twice, or maybe a hundred times. It has taken me a while to learn what this means, and for that matter, I’m still learning, but I’m getting closer. Some people learn at an early age, and I wonder if it’s because they don’t know that “leaping” is supposed to be scary. This lack of fear can have its pluses and minuses, but no matter how you slice it, it all boils down to one thing: faith. And it isn’t leaping part of the way. It’s not about standing close to the edge of the cliff, and jumping to edge; it’s about jumping. off. the. cliff. This is what it means to be a Creative Beast. Creativity is faith.

Now; before I go further, I am, of course, speaking figuratively, and in no way am I suggesting to readers that they ought to find the nearest cliff or bridge to leap from, and yes; I am writing this disclaimer so that no one comes after me threatening to sue. That said, figuratively “jumping off the cliff,” means going for your dream–all the way–with everything you can muster, and without looking back. This is not an easy thing to do, even if you are fearless, but if you are willing to make the leap, I suspect that you will begin a journey on which you will discover things that will amaze you, and make you a richer human being. There will be stops along the way. Sometimes the car breaks down, and you find yourself walking a ways. Remember to stay aware, because there is value in the stops, too, and if you’re too busy grumbling about the car breaking down, you might miss something. Pay attention, keep your eye on the prize–and most of all, keep going. Here’s a tune for the road… or sea:

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Steak and Eggs. The T-Haus Way.

June 4th, 2009 No comments
Lunch.

Lunch.

Steak and eggs. Lunch. Sustenance. Creative Beasts gotta eat, too. Whatever you want to call it, this is one my favorite ways to eat steak and eggs. I started with a porterhouse steak cooked on the grill the night before, which had been marinated in a garlic-pepper-balsamic vinaigrette. I sliced the steak (strip side, as I had eaten the tenderloin side the previous night), and set it aside. I diced half of a vidalia onion, and a good handful of wild onions freshly picked from the woods of Wisconsin (thanks, Robin, for teaching me about wild onions).

wild onions of Wisconsin

wild onions of Wisconsin

I caramelized the onions with a very nice balsamic vinegar (basalmico aceto)–Giuseppe Giusti of Modena— which might be considered a bit blasphemous, since this type of balsamic is generally used for finishing… I dunno. The onions were delicious. And as far as the vinegar goes, there’s more where that came from. Thanks, Williams-Sonoma… and thank you, Giuseppe. Next, I gently and quickly sauteed some fresh baby spinach and radicchio in a little butter, a pinch of sea salt and squeeze of lemon juice. Meanwhile, I had boiled some DeLallo linguine (al dente with butter), and last but definitely not least, I gently fried an egg, sunny side up. Then, to serve, I tossed the steak with the caramelized onions. Layed the pasta into a bowl, added the caramelized onions followed by the spinach and radicchio, then the steak, then the egg. I added a little more of everything on top, then fresh ground pepper. As you can see, I also added a quartered campari tomato with a little lemon juice and salt and pepper. The best part is breaking the egg so that the yolk runs over the rest of the plate. Yum.

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So you don’t fit in. Good.

June 2nd, 2009 6 comments
If only I were short and brownish-grey.

"If only I were short and brownish-grey."

Hooray for coffee. I know I’m not the first to say it, nor will I be the last. But still… yay.

Hooray for Starbucks as well. It’s clean, friendly, smoke-free and comfortable. And I don’t care what anybody says; I even like the coffee. And they play good tunes. I like writing at the cafe sometimes. It helps to get out of the house, and have a change of scenery. You could say that it’s office away from office–home office, that is.

That said, let’s talk about environments for a moment, shall we? More specifically, work environments. How many times in your life has someone said to you, “Have you seen Office Space?” I think it’s been about a hundred times for me. And yes, I’ve seen it. It isn’t my favorite movie, or even in my top 20, but I appreciate and thoroughly understand why this flick is loved and revered by so many. Offices and corporate life can really suck, and when I say “suck,” I mean they can really and truly suck the life right out of you, and especially if you happen to be a Creative Beast. The makers of the film got that–big-time. They saluted the office stereo-types, and said “Up yours,” to the corporate assholes (and may it be noted here, that I do not feel that all corporate people are assholes. There are assholes everywhere you go, and corporate outfits are no exception. There just may be a higher percentage of them in “the office.” It seems to be par for the course. At this point you might be saying, “It takes one to know one.” And you might be right). The movie became a cult classic and a big release for everyone who has had to work in such an environment. Here’s a clip:

Now. That said, drudgerous corporate hell is not a necessity. Yeah, that’s right; it doesn’t have to be so. There are workplaces that nurture and foster creativity, and–surprise, surprise–very often, these places are considered to be the best places to work, according to surveys taken. So my question is, why don’t more companies work on creating better environments for their employees? Do all the HR text book studies really indicate that putting people in cubes with ugly brown-grey walls makes workers more productive? Because here’s the thing: Fast food restaurants have a history of using the same ugly colors in their restaurants–so that people will eat quickly and get the hell out.

I believe most companies aren’t really looking for people that think for themselves too much, and most companies do not care about the spirit of the individual. But what about the ones that do? What if more places really cared to learn about the people that they hire, and find ways to put their greatest skills and talents to use? What if more places offered work environments that encouraged individual growth in addition to the growth of the bottom line? What if more schools and educational programs were designed in the same way? I think companies with real vision do function thusly. I think the ones that prefer drab cubes and don’t want to invest in creativity are really rather old-school and backwards, and eventually, they will lose out. Basically, here’s the deal: everybody has dreams of something greater… something better… something more inspiring. That’s why shows like American Idol are wildly successful, and movies like Office Space make people LTAO, and think things like “Hell, yeah!” with fires in their bellies. Life is not about the 9-5 grind, the twenty minutes on the treadmill or the mowing of the lawn. Not that these things are evil or wrong in any way–it’s just that there is so much more to look forward to, and when people fail to recognize that, it’s sad. It makes me think that “The American Dream” in some cases has mutated into “The American Nightmare,” and that’s a shame.

Creative Beasts need each other, and they need creativity. They feed off of one another. They are wired to be inspired. They make each other laugh, and they brighten each others’ lives. They are wild, passionate, beautiful creatures that aren’t afraid to believe in things that aren’t in front of their noses. Magical things like airplanes and spaceships; aliens and Santa Claus–or Jesus, if you prefer. The point is that to be creative takes faith. More on that later. Creative Beasts are sometimes reckless, sometimes crazy and sometimes they make each other crazy–and everybody else, for that matter. But they need each other, and everybody else needs them. So if you’re a Creative Beast, and you feel like you’re somewhere that you don’t belong, chances are, you don’t. Take heart, hold your head high and keep on doin’ what you’re doin’. And ask yourself… what would the world be like without people like Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein or Leonardo daVinci or the Wright Brothers? Beethoven, Mozart, Muddy Waters, John Coltrane or The Beatles? Madame Curie or Gertrude Ederle? Jane Austen, Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, and Gilda Radner? Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson? Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr? Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, Ellen DeGeneres or David Letterman? Oprah? Julia Child and Jacques Pepin? Alice Waters, Lydia Bastianich, Charlie Trotter, David Chang and Michel Bras? Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott, Woody Allen, and David Lynch? You get the idea. I could fill a book with names of people that without whose light, the world would not be nearly so bright a place. Think about it… And then give this a listen:

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Creative Moments, Shiny Baubles and Mushroom Hunting.

May 21st, 2009 4 comments
<i>Marcel in ecstasy... or something like it.</i>

Marcel (a beast) in ecstasy... or something like it.

Creative moments are fleeting. They come in glimpses like fireflies on a warm summer’s night. They are beautiful, magical and fragile. When you hold them too closely, the light goes out, and the magic is gone.

<i>Fireflies.</i>

Fireflies.

I think creative types sometimes spend so much time searching for the shiniest bauble that they fail to see the ones that roll right up to their toes. Many artists are addicted to extremes… to the edges of things, because indeed; these are the places to which others seldom venture, and therefore they abound with splendid secrets and answers to questions most dare not even ask–or so it would seem. However. Extreme existences can be extremely exhausting, going from agony to ecstasy to agony, and very little in between. Furthermore, it may very well be a waste of creative energy.

By paying closer attention to the subtleties and nuances of daily life, it may be possible to experience an even greater level of awareness and overall personal fulfillment. It requires patience, discipline, focus, openness and concentration. These are things I’m working on wrapping my head around in order to achieve a greater sense of passion and fulfillment.

Recently, I parted ways with a job that as it turned out, wasn’t a great fit for either party. I was looking for a role that offered more creativity as a copywriter, and eventually it became like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. And this square peg is here to say that when you keep trying to wear down your own edges to fit into a particular mold, not only is it counter productive; it’s downright painful. The lesson here for Creative Beasts is A) try to avoid these situations whenever possible, and B) if people aren’t buying your brand of honey, find somebody else who gets and appreciates its value. Artists get paid when they meet/find their market. That is appreciation, and from that comes gratification.

While the initial parting of ways was a bit sad for me at first, I soon realized that it may have been the best thing that could have happened. Now I have the chance to leap headlong into new creative endeavors, and see where they lead… writing, painting and filmmaking projects await. Passions are reborn.

Aside from that, I have since discovered a new passion which is morel hunting. For those who are unfamiliar, morels are exquisite mushrooms that grow only in the wild, and only in the spring for a period of 2-3 weeks. They look a bit like a piece of coral on a stalk, and they are perfectly delicious and altogether magical. They grow in the woods when everything is just coming back to life. Perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of seeking out this magnificent edible is the chance to witness nature in all its splendorous glory. Then there is finding the morels, which, incidentally, has turned out to be a wonderful metaphor for my current place in my creative path. Sometimes you look and look and you find little or nothing. Then, you cross a road or a stream, and there they are. You may not see them at first. They are elusive and well-camouflaged. But as you squat down, and look hard and close to the ground, suddenly, they start to appear right in front of you. And it is amazing.

Morel magic.

Morel magic.

If concepts like synchronicity, syncrodestiny and pursuit of passion ring true with you, I recommend checking out the following books/authors:

Deepak Chopra

The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire

Malcomb Gladwell

Outliers

Blink

The Tipping Point

Sally Hogshead

Radical Careering

David Lynch

Catching the Big Fish

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