Ghostly Golden Gate

We went to Golden Gate Park tonight, by a small lake. We were surrounded by fog, the only lights coming from distant yellow street lamps. The water rippled and clouds of cold fog blew across it. It was amazing, mystical, and creepy. I felt a mix of awe and doom.

We sat in the car, and a silhouette walked by the water, with long hair and a long coat. In its hand, an iPhone shone bright white against the night.

The Dream Catcher in Ellsworth, Maine

The Dream Catcher in Ellsworth, Maine 1

“That’s my cabinet of weird,” says shop opener Tom Sawyer, who’s owned The Dream Catcher with his wife in its Ellsworth, Maine location since April Fool’s Day 2011. “Put all my weird stuff in there,” he explains, adding a dried fish. And where’s he get it all? “Wherever I can find it.”

The building used to be a morgue, he tells me, from 1936-1950 (it was built in 1933). He says he still has the book of all the deaths — and their spirits still linger in the store. Continue reading

At SFAI, George Kuchar comes back to life

I first heard of the Kuchar brothers — George and Mike — in a class (taught by Denah Johnston) earlier this year where we watched portions of a documentary on them and saw clips from their films, and it was interesting. But that was it: just interesting. Weird, unconventional, unique, even inspiring in some parts (but invoking a feeling of pity in others). Certainly interesting — but nothing more. I wasn’t hooked. It didn’t have any obvious lasting effect on me.

Then I visited the Living in Studio Kuchar exhibit at the San Francisco Art Institute. Seeing all of George’s work carefully arranged, presented uniquely and interactively in a mesh of multimedia creativity, in the company of ardent fans and others like myself only just discovering his incredible legacy, changed everything. I “got” something more about his work. Arriving in an excellent mood, having a good time even before entering the main exhibit and the free wine and food certainly helped put me in the right place, but it was the awesome set up and the art itself that sealed the deal. I didn’t feel like I was seeing his art and films, I felt like I was experiencing them, discovering them.

The pictures spread askew across all the walls, framing projections of selected films. Brightly colored walls and huge, catchy quotes. Hanging screens with more video. Televisions with more video. A private viewing room with more video. Video tape players attached to the televisions so you could choose what to watch, and a record player where you could choose the record. Benches to sit on to watch the films, or just to take it all in. Paintings. Random curios. A stage with costumes, props and cameras.

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Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon panorama

Over millions of years, water flowed and the earth fell away, like an exquisite woman slowly undressing to reveal the naked beauty beneath. Rocks of beige and red, sinuous green water still searching, blue sky backdrop and, in winter, a white blanket of snow, all spread across the vastness of the canyon. Breathtaking in its stark magnificence, the Grand Canyon is a feat only nature could have orchestrated.

Nature, the ultimate sculptor. Tireless and persistent, she is the world’s greatest artist. And this, the Grand Canyon, is her masterpiece.

Photo Credit: Pierre Parent

San Francisco

San Francisco is a city of extremes. Today I saw a woman with red lipstick smeared on her face waving her arms while marching down the street, who turned into a man as she got closer. Moments later I passed a group of businessmen in suits complaining about the dust from construction. A homeless man dozes outside a fancy Starbucks where customers line up for the luxury of $4 coffee. Destitute beggars plead for “any change”, while I see headlines about entrepreneurs recieving million-dollar investments. Scarcity is flanked by plenty.

At 2:10 in the morning, I saw a street brawl break out, while — literally across the street — a model and camera crew stood around waiting to start shooting. “You fucking pussies!” shouted a gaunt man after his retreating assailants, who moments ago were pummeling him as he stumbled on the ground. Across the street, the model and her crew got back to work.

A 2011 survey ranked San Francisco as having the second highest quality of living in the United States. It’s also the city with the highest concentration of homeless in the country.

The weather can be warm and sunny, while across town perpetual fog hangs over grid-lined streets.

Tenderloin to Pacific Heights, luxury to dearth, rich to poor, inspiring to heartbreaking, everything to nothing. San Francisco seems to have it all.

And that seems to be part of the charm — or if not charm, at least appeal. There’s something for everyone. The panhandler living off disability checks and change, the college student eating microwave dinners and going clubbing on the weekends, the budding entrepreneur looking for investors, the business executive in a condo with a view. San Francisco, at the end of the day, is simply a great place to call home.

The Night’s Turn

(Written Thursday night, June 9, 2011, in Paulden)

What beauty — that long moment when the sky is split between day and night, the fading glow of day meeting the darkening blue of night. The moon shines bright already, a stunning alternative to its even brighter cousin.

Stars begin to appear, like scattered diamond dust, glimmering more vividly every second.

Creatures of the day are silent, the chattering of cicadas replaced by the laughter of crickets. Occasionally, some distant beast makes its presence known with a squawk, croak or squeal. Soon, all remnants of day will be gone — its heat, its light, its sounds. It is the night’s turn now.

The Sounds and Silence of Nature

(Written Thursday, June 9, 2011, in Paulden)

It’s amazing how nature can simultaneously seem so quiet and so alive. Birds chirp and sing, bees buzz, cicadas rattle and the wind gently blows. And yet it all seems so calm and tranquil, like an aura of silence around nature’s constant noise.

Natural Beauty

(Written Wednesday evening, June 8, 2011, on a rock atop a ridge in Paulden as the sun sets on the second night of a three-day retreat)

A truly beautiful sunset is difficult to adequately describe. Of course, an analogy would be best, but at its most incredible, nature is a class of its own, beauty beyond comparison. Nature lends itself graciously as a descriptor of other things, or of other facets of nature. But no unnatural thing can yet match nature’s majesty, in person or on paper.1 Whether the contours of a naked body, the smile of a happy face, or the stunning palette spread by the setting sun, natural beauty is the greatest beauty in the world.

  1. Even when a description or representation comes close, it then creates its own beauty, separate from the natural beauty of whatever is being described.