We were wandering through Saks Fifth Avenue the other day fending off smiling sales people trying to spray us with perfume, when we saw a surprising woman with a bold tattoo of the classic feminist Venus fist ; she was sitting at the Chanel counter checking out some makeup. We loved her style that was SO HER OWN and so completely the opposite of what you think Chanel person might be: she seemed totally comfortable in herself, shattering the mold, presonceived ideas, cliches… read more…
I’ve been thinking a lot about birds lately, about the mystery of their migrations; their unerring return each spring.
Our Cooper’s hawk is back from the dry barrancas of Zapotecas, its familiar kek-kek-kek vying with argumentative crows and cooing mourning doves at dawn. Improvisatory arboreal architects are at work big time.
Humingbird hangs its timid sac of cat fur and melaleuca leaves on a spike of palm.
Crows strip fresh tar paper off a neighbor’s roof with giddy joy…Hawks cart heavier loads of urban detritus to the pines, creating castles of thatched twiggery.
There’s sex and magic in the air, a synesthesia of feathers and song. Guatemalan poet Humberto Ak’abal, lauded as a “Mayan Basho”, describes it in Poems I Brought Down from the Mountain
(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…
(Video link here.) Susan Dworski alerted us to this stunning video, in an email with the subject line: “ah, the improvisational human spirit”. It’s about a remarkable orchestra from a remote village in Paraguay — a slum built on landfill — where its young musicians play with instruments made from foraged trash. The village’s inhabitants eke out a living by culling saleable items and materials in the huge dump. When a half-destroyed violin was found, Nicolas Gomez had the idea to rehabilitate it using found materials; the improvisation of other instruments followed.
It is astonishing to hear the wondrous first strains of Bach’s Suite No.1 in G major Prélude played on a cello improvised out of “an oil can, wood that was thrown away in the garbage…its pegs made out of an old tool used to tenderize beef and to make gnocchi…”
…And to hear how these kids lives have been changed by music: “When I listen to the sound of a violin, I feel butterflies in my stomach.” Says Music Director Favio Chavez, “The world sends us garbage. We send back music.” read more…
A reader recently alerted us to Bea Johnson, creator of the website Zero Waste Home, who challenged herself to wear a single man’s shirt in 50 different iterations, as part of her committment to a zero waste lifestyle:
Great inspiration, and many iterations look so wearable and comfortable. Reminds me of Audrey Hepburn and her oversize shirts with tails wrapped around her waist and tied in front. A great look and a fresh perspective at the same time.
Bea posted images of her many stylish shirt improvisations on Zero Waste Home. Unfortunately, the black-and-white photos don’t show all the detail we’re dying to see, nor does Bea describe the fabric and style of the shirt she chose: But we got a sense of it in this photo: read more…
(Video link here.) Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, we spent a couple of hours following links in Roy Arden’s ever-illuminating blog. One took us to a vertigo-inducing video of a man walking the Caminito del Rey in Spain — a narrow path in deep disrepair pinned along the steep walls of a gorge — which people mostly do as a challenge.
It got us thinking about traveling really precarious and dangerous paths, so we followed that idea and came across this video read more…
(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.
Make-up artist Valeriya Kutsan has made an inspiring series of masks using only two elements: black and white grease paint. The one is our favorite. Though this one is pretty swell: read more…
Through small deliberate interventions, I altered these vintage images, allowing light to pass through them. (After all, photographs are made possible with light.) In a literal and somewhat playful manner, I aimed to give the photographs back to the light, hence the title of the series, Dare alla Luce, an Italian phrase used to describe the moment of birth.
We are big fans of tattoos — permanent or impermanent — as a tool for living, and have posted quite a bit about them: to-do lists, uplifting signs, reminders of one sort or another. We recently tweeted about an 81 year-old woman who tattooed “Do Not Resuscitate” on her chest, so concerned was she about being kept alive against her wishes.
The Improvised Life’s remarkable assistant, Dese’Rae L. Stage, has A LOT of words and quotes tattoo’d on her body. We wondered if they were reminders or something else. So we asked her how she chose them, the story behind them, what they did.
Here’s what she said: read more…
‘the work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life’
We found this sign on French by Design last week and have been mulling it ever since. It’s a quote by graphic designer Jessica Hische, whose work if full of inventive and often very generous ideas (Check out the site, Mom, This is How Twitter Works. Also, click the heart at the top right of her website to switch modes-of-viewing. Our favorite: Teen Girl Mode.)
Hische’s quote has been making us look at the work we do when we don’t feel like writing, processing photos, taking care of paperwork, dealing with the massive amounts of ‘to-do’s on our work table…
Is the stuff we retreat into REALLY what we should be doing? It is a statement that resonates, pushing us to look farther into the idea of work and right livelihood, a question a lot of folks are dealing with these days. We’re tracking the ways we procrastinate to see if there’s a message to be heard.
Truer for us perhaps: the things we want to do when we procastinate is probably the work we should be doing…
What’s your take?
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the ten principles of burning man (and life in general?)
collective learning and teaching in brooklyn and beyond
‘leap and the net will appear’…
(Video link here.) As an artist in residence at MIT, Trevor Paglen worked with materials scientists to develop an ultra-archival disc of images, capable of lasting in space for billions of years. He meant this disc to contain a “cultural mark”, that would portray our world long after it might have disappeared altogether. He interviewed scientists, artists, anthropologists, and philosophers to consider what such a cultural mark should be, and ultimately settled on 100 photos. The disc of photos will be sent into space this month.
To be sure, they are an odd assortment. You can check out some here, and in the The Last Pictures, a book that has been made about the project. One of our favorites: read more…
(Video link here.) This stop-action video tracking 5 years of one man’s appearance makes us wonder how much how we look, and what our style is, affects our experience and identity…
…And the many choices we can make about our appearance.
Going through airport security checkpoint a couple of weeks ago, the TSA agent looked at Sally’s passport picture and said, “Why did you change your hair?” read more…
The race is breathtaking, and a big reminder of just what’s possible if you set your mind to it, and work and practice, and are willing to not have things be be perfect, until suddenly they become just that.
”I am living proof, that with enough desire and determination, any obstacle can be overcome.”
Check out more revelatory pictures from the paralympics at Big Picture.
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