His skin is like leather as he normally flies with his shirt off. He is deaf, so when he flies people hold their hands up and wave them for applause. He flies 2 with his hands and the 3rd one is attached to his waist. He performs at the Washington State International Kite Festival every year.
rules for living
(Video link here.) While walking in a nearby park one frigid day, I noticed that a sheer wall of ice had formed on the bedrock that rises up to make Mount Morris in New York City’s Harlem. It appeared to be alive. When I looked closely I saw its shimmering movement was due to water sliding down the stone face behind the ice, a rather astonishing “found” kinetic sculpture. (It’s a whole other experience with sound than without.)
This kind of thing happens all the time in the park, a hunk of nature in New York City. Ephemeral artworks appear and disappear all the time. All you have to do is look. read more…
Ever since we moved in view of massive old trees in a New York City park, and witnessed first-hand the devastation wrought on some of them by Hurricane Sandy, we’ve been obsessed with trees. Sandy woke us up, big time. We’d always enjoyed trees, but seeing the 150 years of rings in a downed oak — the very same oak that neighborhood people had played chess and baseball, and had picnics under all spring, summer and fall— made us realize the many pleasures trees provide, how long they take to grow, and how much we need them (they provide nearly a third of the world’s oxygen…people heal better when they can see trees…among other things).
So not only have we been collecting ideas for things to do with logs and parts of downed trees, we’ve been tracking the mysteries of living ones. Below check out the world’s oldest tree, Steven Poe‘s beautiful motion control time-lapse film of giant redwood trees in northern California (Video link here.),and Elephant Journal’s 5 Simple Steps to Save Some Trees (that just take a few minutes and help A LOT). read more…
(Video link here.) The other day I was in the park across the way doing my ad-hoc workout while listening to the great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s My Heart, My Life on my iPhone. (Click to listen while you read.) There was NO WAY I couldn’t dance to that music. Suddenly skipping seemed like the rhythmically perfect move to make. I felt a fleeting moment of foolishness as I skipped around the meadow in the snow, beside-myself with joy at the music and the beautiful day and my heart beating and some kind of crazy oneness.
Skipping, h-m-m-m…haven’t done that since I was a kid. Maybe skipping is a good exercise for me, since it seems to be much lower impact than running.
Of course, a few days later, I came across this video of a guy who is just crazy about skipping read more…
We were reading a packed-full-of-revelations1992 interview with poet Gary Snyder when we came across this amazing, of-the-cuff line. What a concept! The context is his answer to the question about whether he’d work as Secretary of the Interior or other political post if asked:
I’ve never thought seriously about that question. Probably not, although I am foolish enough to think that if I did do it, I’d do it fairly well, because I’m pretty single-minded. But you don’t want to be victimized by your lesser talents. One of my lesser talents is that I am a good administrator, so I really have to resist being drawn into straightening things out. The work I see for myself remains on the mythopoetic level of understanding the interface of society, ecology, and language, and I think it is valuable to keep doing that.
The gist: Don’t let a not-terribly-important skill that you happen to be good at sidetrack the real work you need to do. How wise that guy is, always was…
In case you don’t know Snyder, here’s a couple of his poems that have much to do with how any creative work gets made. read more…
The other day we received this email from artist Siobhan Humston:
On the theme of New Year & lists, I thought you may enjoy this list from a former school mate of mine, Mark Alessio. He was killed in Africa a few years ago and on the Facebook memorial page, a friend of his posted a page from his at-the-time current resume.
I adopted it as my email signature for a long time and posted it often…the poignancy of his succinct mandate and his death is something that always seemed to touch a cord with people, even those who knew nothing of his brilliant, full but short life.
It makes us think about what list we’d make…as we come across potent principles, we’re going to make a practice of writing them down: ‘proceed with gratitude’ to start. Got any we should know about?
Thanks a million Siobhan!
(Video link here.) One of the very best things in the New York Times’ recent The Lives They Lived was a clip from Terry Gross’ last interview with Maurice Sendak; Chrisopher Niemann’ found and illustrated it. It is full of achingly tender, wise words from the 80-year-old Sendak:
There’s something I’m finding out as I’m aging — that I am in love with the world…I look right now, as we speak together, out my window in my studio, and I see my trees, my beautiful, beautiful maples that are hundreds of years old. And you see I can see how beautiful they are. I can take time to see how beautiful they are.
Our friend Maureen Rolla turned his words into a New Year’s blessing: read more…
(Video link here.) In this short, great clip from design legend George Lois‘ CreativeMornings talk, he gives what he considers to be his most essential piece of advice for creatives — for anyone — : “be courageous!“.
(Video link here.) When commercial photographer John Dugdale lost most of his sight almost twenty years ago, he did not give up photography as one would have imagined. Instead, he started photographing in a new way, using a huge view camera and employing 19th century forms and processes. Life forced him to “see in a new way” and his art photographs became highly acclaimed.
Among his many commissions was the ad campaign for a revival of William Gibson’s play The Miracle Worker. This video gives insight into his unique process and the “lesson” he took from his blindness.
“There is an alternate world out there that is as powerful as anything one might describe as normal. Whatever it is that you think is your adversity is actually your strength.” read more…
We found this to be a swell sign unto itself…
Then when we looked into it, it turns out to be part of a marketing campaign the CocoCola Company did around its soda OK Cola. Trying to market to Gen X and Y markets, Coke Cola tried to create “a counter-intuitive advertising” campaign that intentionally targeted people who did not like advertising. The campaign, and the soda, failed after a year (apparently the flavor of the soda itself was pretty bad) though its unique and varied can design and advertising have since gained something of a cult following. read more…
Sunday’s New York Times featured a wonderful interview with Bill Murray, a man who never ceases to astonish us for his very improvised ways. (He’s the guy who spontaneously said: Grab this day by the neck and kiss it.)
The first couple of pages of a 2010 GQ interview we stumbled on intimates that Murray is not all sweetness and light, but he is an acutely original and honest guy whose thought a lot about how he wants to live, and what, exactly, the point is. (If you want to reach him, you leave a message on an 800 number; if he wants to speak to you he’ll call you back!)
Here’s are a few potent life lessons we clipped from the Times piece:
Q. There seems to be so much serendipity in your life. Are you actively cultivating these moments or just hoping that they come to you?
A. Well, you have to hope that they happen to you. That’s Pandora’s box, right? She opens up the box, and all the nightmares fly out. And slams the lid shut, like, “Oops,” and opens it one more time, and hope pops out of the box. That’s the only thing we really, surely have, is hope. You hope that you can be alive, that things will happen to you that you’ll actually witness, that you’ll participate in. Rather than life just rolling over you, and you wake up and it’s Thursday, and what happened to Monday? Whatever the best part of my life has been, has been as a result of that remembering.
Q. Are there days where you wake up and think: “Nothing good has come to me in a little while. I’d better prime the pump”? read more…
We find this simple practice from Thich Nhat Hanh‘s great book Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life to be a tonic. You can do it anywhere — subway, shopping mall, supermarket…It changes everything.
It’s on a par with Bill Murray’s “Grab this day by the neck and kiss it”.
Related posts: ‘don’t give up what you want most for what you want now’
‘leap and the net will appear’…
henry miller’s eleven commandments
gandhi: ‘our beliefs become our…destiny
‘what’s not wrong?’ and other ways to start your day
(Video link here.) Several times during the past week, we heard several very creative people we know say “Sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy” meaning…crazy to be doing this…or that…or whatever uncharted path they’ve embarked upon that is not THE NORM.
In honor of them, and to antidote the feeling that “crazy” is bad, we thought we’d reprise this great 1997 Apple ad that salutes “the rebels, trouble makers, the ones who see things differently...the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
As our assistant Dese’Rae L Stage, who stumbled on the great ad summed it up: “the ones who get shit done, basically.”
We’re thinking “Here’s to the rebels, trouble makers, the ones who see things differently….” would make a great Thanksgiving toast.
Last Friday, after 5 days of living without power, ‘the improvised life’s assistant Dese’Rae L. Stage sent us this email:
I don’t think I even realized it until yesterday, when I had to jump through 10 hoops just to get ice and dinner. I was like, “god, I’m exhausted,” and it took me a second to realize why that might be. It’s amazing how adaptable we are, but there sure are limits to that.
Even having NOT been hit hard in Harlem, we feel disoriented, tired, FEEL the wound of this city, and the people who have lost so much whose reality we can’t even imagine.