Me & Zuki At Raptor Ridge

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Video Fridays: Patti Smith

pattiI’m on a real women-in-music kick these days.

Last week’s Video Fridays installment was on the late-great Nina Simone, inspired by having watched the wonderful documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?.

This week, I’m inspired to feature Patti Smith after having read her amazing autobiography Just Kids.

If you go into reading the book having only heard of Patti the musician, you will either experience disappointment or revelation; disappointment, because music, while woven throughout the story, is by no means the primary focus; revelation, because Patti the poet, Patti the visual artist, Patti the muse of her longtime companion-then-friend, the groundbreaking artist/photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, comes to vivid life in the reading, along with the explosive New York City art scene of the late 1960s and 1970s.

Patti, being a poet and musician, writes her autobiography with such lyricism, such raw emotional presence, and there were many times when I’d re-read lines, and sometimes whole paragraphs, because they were rendered so beautifully, so movingly. She has an incredible eye and ear for small details that add so much depth to the story, peppering her narrative with mention of items collected or exchanged, often cheap trinkets or handmade gestures, brief interactions with legends like Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin, things that, out of context, would be seemingly trivial, and yet in the very mentioning and describing of these things you learn how meaningful these smallest of details were to Patti.

I was particularly touched by her relationship with Mapplethorpe, a relationship that weathered the extreme poverty and struggle of their early years together, the emerging awareness of his homosexuality, the transition to a radically accepting, loving, loyal friendship, and through it all the powerful support they gave each other in the pursuit of their art. A relationship Patti describes thusly:

We were as Hansel and Gretel and we ventured out into the black forest of the world. There were temptations and witches and demons we never dreamed of and there was splendor we only partially imagined. No one could speak for these two young people nor tell with any truth of their days and nights together.

It wasn’t easy choosing a video to include with this post, because, as Patti has endured, losing none of her potency as an artist and performer over the years, I could have selected some of her more recent work, such as the amazing 2005 Live at Montreux concert, available, at least for now, in it’s entirety on YouTube, rather than what I have here for you now, a precious document from her 1976 European tour, featuring songs from her classic debut, Horses, as well as cuts that would soon appear on her sophomore album, Radio Ethiopia.

Observe her total, unapologetic commitment, as she bravely claims her place in Rock&Roll, despite how male-dominated it has always been. Observe and enjoy and check out Just Kids when you have a chance. You won’t regret it.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Stuff We Need: The Evolution Of The Backpack

mindshiftI haven’t posted an installment in my Stuff We Need series in quite a while, and I’d like to think it’s because I’ve made progress in my effort to curtail my overall need or perceived need for stuff.

However, I LOVE hiking and traveling and other activities where I’m on the go and need to comfortably carry stuff that I legitimately need on outings — e.g. layers, water, food, guide book, wallet, keys, camera, etc. — and a backpack is still the best solution.

Yet, backpack design has remained remarkably static for many years. Oh, they’ve become lighter, more comfortable, and able to carry a wider assortment of items, but as anyone who has used one knows, for all of their convenience, they’ve always had one serious convenience flaw: In order to access the contents of the backpack you must take the pack off in order to access all of the good stuff inside.

Well, thanks to a post over at Gizmodo, I found evidence that backpack designers are finally trying to solve this problem, via three packs that address this access-to-stuff issue in three different, interesting ways.

First up, the Paxis, which has a compartment attached to a swingarm:

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Very cool idea, I’m sure it uses aluminum to keep the weight down, but I’d worry about the hinge and/or the swingarm getting bent or broken. Accidents certainly do happen, and backpacks are usually tossed around a lot in transit and at camp.

Next up, a commenter at Gizmodo linked to a similar concept by MindShift Gear called the rotation180° Panorama:

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Definitely seems like a simpler take on the same basic idea, with less bulk, less added weight, and no big aluminum parts to bend. It’s made specifically for photographers, but I don’t see why you couldn’t store things other than photo gear in the movable compartment.

Finally, Gizmodo found the Paxis at Gizmag, and the Gizmag post links to a very different concept, the Wolffepack:

wolffepack

I’d worry about the cord that the pack is lowered by, that it could get snagged, tangled, or cut, but the advantage of the Wolffepack is that you gain access to the whole pack, not just one small compartment.

Overall, these are promising out-of-the box ideas and evidence that backpacks are indeed evolving.

Video Fridays: Nina Simone

nina simoneIf you, dear readers, have not yet seen the wonderful documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?, available on Netflix, I encourage you to check it out.

You must be prepared, however, as Nina Simone‘s story is a very, very sad tale. Even if you already know her story, the film will still be gut wrenching.

And yet, it’s the least we can do, to be witness to how racism and sexism pounded Nina, for despite those horrendous forces, she blessed us with the gift of her music, generations to come get to enjoy her music, all thanks to her monumental courage and perseverance.

Nina was not a perfect person, she was not a perfect mother, but she was a phenomenally talented musician and she pushed the boundaries of music and of what it means to be a musician, what it means to be a female musician, what it means to be a black female musician, and pushing the boundaries is rarely easy.

For today’s installment of Video Fridays, then, here’s a performance I’d not seen until I saw What Happened, Miss Simone?, and it completely blew me away. Nina’s Ain’t Got No, I Got Life, a medley of two songs from the musical Hair, is a powerful expression of the adversity Nina faced and the longing for freedom from that adversity.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

GOP Debate In A Rightwingnutshell

TPM-logoThis morning I awoke with deep wells of gratitude in my heart for having not been kidnapped last night and forced to watch the first GOP debate.

At the same time, not wanting my head to be completely and permanently planted in the sand, this morning I masochistically read some of the reactions online, and listened to some audio clips on NPR, and hats off to Josh Marshall at TPM for publishing the best.debate.summary.ever, a simple 3-line affair:

Foxbots to Trump: Are you not a fraud, a cretin and a scoundrel.

Trump: I’m very rich. Fuck yourself. I have no time for your nonsense.

Crowd: Cheers wildly.

LOL!

Headline of the Day: Christian Freakishness?

jesusThere’s an utterly fascinating article right now at The Atlantic, that also happens to be worthy of a Headline of the Day installment…

….for this headline certainly caught my attention:

The Freakishness of Christianity

The Atlantic

It’s a thought-provoking introduction to ideas put forth by Christian evangelical theologian Russell D. Moore in his new book Onward, ideas that I find encouraging, however skeptical I might remain.

First, a quick detour: My earliest memory of the use of the term “freak” as a non-pejorative noun was when I heard David Crosby‘s CSN&Y song Almost Cut My Hair, from the 1970 album Déjà Vu.

Crosby sings:

I feel like letting my freak flag fly

…and I didn’t really understand it at first.

But, as I became more and more interested in hippie culture, listening to more music, reading books, and watching films on the subject, I eventually got it, and I LOVED it.

While I never felt the need to label myself a freak or hippie or overtly dress the part, I certainly related to the 1960s & 1970s counterculture’s rejection of conservatism’s sense of superiority, its judgement of others, and its capacity for hatred. As result, I’ve always had a very healthy inner-hippie.

Back to the Atlantic article, it’s interesting to discover that there’s a prominent evangelical Christian leader who seems to have come to some of the same conclusions, proposing the idea that Christianity’s marriage with American conservatism is ready for a divorce.

This is not an assimilated, salable Christianity. If anything, it troubles the anodyne, dog-whistle-y “values” rhetoric that Moore rejects. It calls for politicians to be committed to living out Christianity beyond the breath it takes to utter “God bless America.”…

And inevitably, it undermines Bible Belt identity, which has long depended on pairing God with guns and Republican politics. Not to worry, Moore says: “The Bible Belt was no Promised Land.”

Right on!

I’m still troubled by the whole idea of evangelism, and I’d much rather all religions evolved away from doctrines of proselytization.

And, while this sounds incredibly exciting:

Moore is making an argument for embracing Christian strangeness. “Our message will be seen as increasingly freakish to American culture,” he writes. “Let’s embrace the freakishness, knowing that such freakishness is the power of God unto salvation.”

…it’s decidedly odd language coming from a guy who looks like this:

russell-moore

Still, to judge Moore by his appearance is shallow and utter hypocrisy on my part.

So, I’ll let that go, and I’ll hold out hope that some good may come from his ideas.

Eyecatchers: Matthias Brown

matthias-brownAs anyone who spends a fair amount of time surfing the interwebs knows, GIF animations are quite a thing.

And while, in my experience, the vast majority of GIFs out there range from the trivial to the annoying, many amounting to nothing more than a short, looped video clip stolen from some movie or TV show, thanks to the always reliable Colossal, this morning I’ve discovered the work of Matthias Brown.

Brown’s minimalist drawings are set in motion using rotoscoping technique, which dates back to 1915.

I’ve always loved the simplicity of drawing, how it serves as the foundation for so much visual art, from sketch studies that evolve into fully-realized paintings or sculptures, or even storyboarding for movies. I remember, years ago, a friend who, having loved the early Pixar films, was inspired to become a computer animator. He was quite proficient with computers, but in order to get into a college computer animation program he was surprised to learn that he first had to take a number of classes in drawing, because he had no experience in it whatsoever.

Matthias Brown’s GIFs have an ephemeral informality that, paradoxically, makes them at once enjoyable as playful, standalone pieces, while also suggesting that they could be preliminary ideas for bigger works.

For this installment in my Eyecatchers series, here are some of my favorites:

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