I ASSURE YOU; WE’RE OPEN!

Quite an existential feat this furniture store has managed to pull off! It is closed, as evidenced by the security gate across its entrance. It is open, as evidenced by the lit-up sign in the window. And it is timeless, as evidenced by the name above the storefront.

Actually, I shouldn’t joke about this little shop. The street in front is all torn up and undergoing a massive repaving project. I assume the store’s sales have dropped dramatically in the project’s wake.

It’s so hard for small businesses to hang on when a city does some thing like this. In my own inner-ring suburb of Milwaukee, a beloved, decades-old, family-run dime store closed when a similar but larger project commenced without the business’s owners even being informed that it was coming. Of course, part of me suspects that my city-suburb did this deliberately. Our local government officials are greatly enamored of bike lanes, pocket parks, rental bikes and scooters, restaurants with plenty of cafe-style seating on the sidewalks, and other rather “hipster” redevelopment along with the myriad new apartment buildings required to house an influx of people to patronize such amenities. That creaky old dime store with its tiny “departments” (board games, party decorations, cards, housewares, fabric and notions, hamsters and goldfish, and seasonal needs like hibachi grills and Christmas tree tinsel) did not jibe well with the desired demographic to be pursued for our city council’s vision of the future (my opinion😀).

In any case, the title of today’s post was inspired by a comment my daughter made when I showed her my photo after work on the day I snapped it. (I frequently take pictures of stuff and share with my family at night. Like hey, do you wanna see a picture I took today of X? My family is very kind and humors me by saying, “Yes.” ❤️) My daughter laughed and said it reminded her of the movie Clerks, the (very!) low-budget 1993 indie film that proved so successful it was followed by two sequels. In that film, when the Quick Stop convenience store clerk arrives at work one morning to discover that the security screen is jammed shut, he hangs a large sign that reads “I ASSURE YOU; WE’RE OPEN!” to counteract any false impression that the store is closed.

What do you think in the case of Milwaukee’s Timeless Furniture store? Open? Closed?

Or maybe something else?

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A rainy start to May

Which is OK with me! The alternative for those of us who live in Wisconsin is 1-3 inches of snow, which the poor unfortunates who live about an hour north and west of Milwaukee are experiencing today. Additionally, today’s rain has a nice gentle, misty quality. It’s a gray, wet day, but there is softness in the light and even in the air.

My film studies class at Milwaukee School of Engineering is starting Sunset Boulevard this afternoon. I took the photo below when I went to our department office to print out copies of the film’s cast list, background info, and discussion questions.

I just really liked the pattern of all these little beaded droplets of rain on the glass. If it were windy, as it usually is on rainy spring days, there would’ve been streaks instead of drops. I liked the mix of large and small droplets, and I also liked the varying placement and streaming patterns of the differently sized drops.

That’s all.

I know this is a really boring post today. Sorry! But it’s about all I’ve got left in me at this point in the academic year. Any teacher out there knows what I mean. Like, I can still bring what I need to the classroom, but when it comes to generating anything interesting to say outside of class (including making small talk in social situations with people I don’t know well), I’m pretty much out of gas.

C’est la vie. At least I’m prepped for my upcoming advising appointment and for this afternoon’s class. So now, back to my grading! 😀

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Abstractions: On a load of dirty dishes, ready to run

Or, the mundane and the sublime, lol.

I had just finished loading the dishwasher today, placed the little Cascade detergent pod in the tray, but then right as I was about to snap the tray lid shut, raise the door, and press the start buy, I noticed what a striking image I was looking at.

Bear with me while I explain. This was the first thing I noticed.

More specifically, the intricate “rivulet” patterns that had formed as cocoa dripped from a mug to the door from the pulled-out top rack when it was loaded after breakfast and then slowly drained downward when the dishwasher door was raised and shut until later in the day.

And an even closer look at those little “rivers.”

This actually reminds me a lot of the ink-drawn hills/dunes in the opening credits of The English Patient.

I shared the bigger image of the cocoa drips/rivers with my daughter, and she thought it looked like people. I agreed that it did in a weird kind of way, so I rotated the picture and cropped it to isolate the “humans.”

Cool, right?

So then just one final shot, with the detergent pod. I liked the tiny, tiny, tiny sliver of light at the upper left and the hint of color (blue and green) from the Cascade.

I don’t know; it looked cooler in my camera roll. Oh wait, maybe the problem is, it’s missing the black bars of the camera roll in my phone. You can’t see the little sliver of white in the upper left without that “frame of contrast at the top.

That’s better. I need to work with it a bit more, maybe put the whole thing inside a black frame. Which may not make it a better photograph, of course. I mean, after all, we’re looking at a dirty dishwasher door!

But still, it somehow speaks to me. I kinda like it, this squarish machine composition with its Rorschach blot!😄

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After a March snowstorm, late afternoon

I just liked the overall mix of lines and light and color.😀

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A man on the street

WAY far away . . .

I was walking down the hill to go into the back door entrance of my parking garage when I saw the man walking ahead of me in the distance. I liked the composition of what I suddenly saw as a photo. Pulled out my phone, took two pictures, stuck my phone back in my purse pocket.

When I got to my car inside the garage, I took a look at the pictures to decide which one to upload. To my surprise, there were four pictures, not two. I finally realized they were actually only two pictures, but for some reason I got a lighter and darker version of each one. I have no idea what happened, since I was trying to walk and take a picture in bright sunlight at the same time. Too much going on for me, lol. I couldn’t decide between the two versions, so I’m posting both here. Do you like one better than the other?

And can you see the man who is the subject of the picture? He’s way, way in the distance. Seemed a lot shorter in person. I think my iPhone must have a wider angle lens, which stretches out distance. In fact, I’m pretty certain it does, because 1) when I take pictures of buildings at a distance, the lines run at a slight diagonal instead of an up-and-down right-angled perpendicular and 2) if I take a photo of several people in a group shot, the people at either end of the line look much wider than they actually are. (PSA: So always stand in the middle when posing for any group shot!) Both of these are distortions that happen with wide-angle lenses.

In any case, I hope you can see the human in this photo that made this whole image worth capturing for me❤️

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A song about sunscreen from Baz Luhrmann and some thoughts on Leo DiCaprio

This “song” came on the radio when I was driving home from work the other day.

Official music video for Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” (1997)

Baz Luhrmann, of course, is the incredibly talented director of films like William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996), Moulin Rouge! (2001), The Great Gatsby (2013), and most recently the Oscar-nominated Elvis (2022).

Luhrmann produced this song; he doesn’t voice the commencement speech himself. Ironically, the speech itself never was delivered at an actual commencement. Instead it was a newspaper column by Chicago Tribune writer Mary Schmich, setting forth the commencement speech she would deliver should she ever to have an opportunity to do so. (The speech went viral via email, the “social media” of the nineties, erroneously attributed to Kurt Vonnegut in a supposed commencement address delivered at MIT; Vonnegut said he’d be proud if the words would have been his.)

The music playing in the background is “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good),” by Rozalla, which appeared in Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Which, by the way in case you haven’t seen it is an interesting film, filled with surprises of all sorts (strikingly beautiful images, hip re-imaginings of the original Shakespeare, an outstanding cast) around every corner.

Leo DiCaprio has always been so good, even in his early films. I thought he was wonderful as Romeo. Check out this introduction to his character, the first time we meet him in the film.

The shot itself is beautiful, of course. The setting, the golden late afternoon sunlight, the slow tilt up to reveal the pensive young man. There’s something about the body language here that creates character for me without any words necessary. Although elegantly dressed, he is also disheveled, his shirt open at the neck, one collar rolled under. A cigarette held casually between two fingers. He turns his head and takes a drag, profile silhouetted against the intensely saturated orange sunlight beyond. The expression on his face when he sees his parents, gets to his feet, and turns away. How much of this was DiCaprio’s acting versus Luhrmann’s direction, framing, and editing, I don’t know.

But here is one of DiCaprio’s many death scenes from over the years, this one in The Quick and the Dead (1995). It is one of my favorites. Still breaks my heart. And he was just a kid, like 20 or 21 years old. Some actors have “it” (that natural spark, charisma, star quality, “look,” or whatever you want to call it) and some actors don’t. DiCaprio does.

Posted in Movies and film, Popular culture | Tagged | 2 Comments

Creativity and good mental health go hand in hand

Here’s an interview with Hilde Østby, author of a forthcoming book (April) titled The Key to Creativity. What really resonates for me and jibes with my own feelings and intuitive understanding of creativity is the reciprocal positive relationship between creativity and strong mental health. Almost like a feedback loop or flywheel effect: the more you engage in creative activity, the stronger your mental and physical health, and the stronger your mental and physical health, the more able you are to engage in creative activity.

The key, I suppose, is understanding and believing in this relationship to begin a creative practice even when you feel exhausted and depressed—and to keep going even when “real life” intrudes. Which, why should the activity of non-creative-practices (jobs, civic duty, household chores) be considered “real” while the very creative practices essential to sustain us are relegated to less than “real” status anyway? Is what other people want/need from us more “real” and deserving of respect than what we want/need for ourselves?

You can link to the interview here:

https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/interviews/article/91330-where-does-creativity-come-from-pw-talks-with-hilde-stby.html

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Snowy branches outside my office window

Just a momentary distraction while pausing during my workday to make a cup of coffee. The snowy contrasts, including the slushy street, were striking enough to prompt a photo. Now back to my slideshow on elections and the Electoral College, which I’m trying to summarize as succinctly as possible. With good visuals. This has taken me a couple hours this afternoon. In case you ever wondered what professors do when they’re not in the classroom😀

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The Snowy Day

Is it just me, or does this Lands’ End catalog cover remind you of that beautiful childhood picture book classic by Ezra Jack Keats? Something about the bright red coat and stark, crisp, clean blocks of color contrast, I don’t know. But from the minute I saw this in my mailbox, it made me feel happy. Took me till this morning to realize why.

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Curlicue

I tossed my phone charger aside on the couch after I unplugged it the other day, and this is what I saw😄

Kind of striking, that curl of white against the two jumbled, dark red blankets. So I used the phone I’d just unplugged to grab the shot!

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