virtualDavis

\ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs\ Blogger, storyteller, flâneur. G.G. Davis, Jr's alter ego…
Twitter
@virtualDavis
Facebook
virtualDavis

Mark Strand: What I Have to Say

Mark Strand

Mark Strand (Credit: The New Yorker)

I usually have no idea what I will say before I begin to write. This is especially true with poems, and only slightly less so with lectures or essays. I write to find out what I have to say—not what I have to say about a given subject, but simply what I have to say. ~ Mark Strand, Poetry in the World

Mark Strand died on Saturday. There are many tributes to recommend including the following:

What I Have to Say

That opening passage above says much for me, though I’m often overly confident about what I think I want to say before I start. I’m almost always mistaken. Overconfident. It takes me some struggling to admit it. Several revisions. Sometimes years. Often humbled, but still stubborn. At best I write through the hubris, break into uncertainty, risk, discovery, perhaps find what I have to say by revising, redacting, rewriting,…

And yet the lesson takes relearning. Again and again.

A Kind of Wonderment

Strand’s entire lecture/essay is worth reading. It’s a clever “inside out” way of wrestling with the challenge he’s been asked to tackle. It’s also a brave and honest reflection on the what and why of poems. A search for what the poet has to say. A search that never quite ends, never quite reaches its quarry.

It is a selfperpetuating search like chasing a mirage that deepens the poet’s (and the reader’s) appetite for, and receptivity to, wonder. It offers the possibility of feeling more alive.

When I read poetry, I want to feel myself suddenly larger … in touch with—or at least close to—what I deem magical, astonishing. I want to experience a kind of wonderment. And when you report back to your own daily world after experiencing the strangeness of a world sort of recombined and reordered in the depths of a poet’s soul, the world looks fresher somehow. Your daily world has been taken out of context. It has the voice of the poet written all over it, for one thing, but it also seems suddenly more alive… ~ Mark Strand, The Art of Poetry No. 77, 1998 (The Paris Review)

Thank you, Mark Strand, for searching for what you had to say. You have deepened our wonder and encouraged us to search for our own Holy Grails.

3D Chalk Art Revisited

3D Chalk Art by Leon Keer (via streetpainting3d.com)

3D Chalk Art by Leon Keer (via buzzfeed.com)

A recent trip to Paris rekindled my fascination with 3D chalk art. Half performance art, half epic mural… Witnessing a completed image is amazing, but watching the process of creating something like that snake charmer scene above is spellbinding. Before diving in, here’s a micro-intro for newbies:

3d Street Art, often known as 3d chalk art is 2-dimensional artwork drawn on the street itself that gives you a 3-dimensional optical illusion from a certain perspective. (hongkiat.com)

Sidewalk Art Flashback

I first posted about 3D chalk art that will blow your mind a few years ago. I saw it as a form of street art, or street performance art since observing the creation of 3D sidewalk art can be so enthralling. I even acknowledged the crossover with another form of public art that is often decried.

3D sidewalk art makes the best graffiti ever! ~ virtualDavis

I even wondered if a great gaping 3D chalk art chasm or some similar dramatic scene sprawling across the road in front of our house might slow speeding cars and trucks. Maybe an arresting scene of a police barricade with armored swat team? Or Champ, the friendly Lake Champlain monster, rearing up and pretending to be super unfriendly. Am I pushing too far? Yes. But I’m not being flip. I’m trying to remember that there’s an exciting alternative on the flip side of most coins.

In a subsequent post I revisited the graffiti question but inevitably slipped into a reflection the 3D chalk art as a form of storytelling. Not that I’m obsessed with storytelling or anything… ;-)

[3D chalk art] transcends mere graffiti and many other art forms in its capacity for interactive storytelling. 3D art on sidewalks introduces a narrative possibility that engages viewers. Pedestrians and drivers stop and look. Perhaps they reorient themselves to better appreciate the optical illusion. They pause and let their eyes wander over the mural, actively suspending disbelief in order to engage with the image. In many cases the audience/viewer even choose to step into the image, playing along with the illusion, often posing for friends with cameras to memorialize the encounter. ~ virtualDavis

Maybe you’ve had the is experience. If not, make time for it the next time you come across 3D chalk art. It could very well change your day. (Your mileage may vary.)

3D Chalk Art Goes Mainstream

While I’m not yet able to report that street chalk artists and law enforcement have partnered up, it’s fair to say that 3d chalk art has entered the mainstream. I mean, any time advertising adopts a new art form, you know that it must be on its way into the mainstream. If you feed the Google monster a search string related to three dimensional chalk art, you’ll discover millions of hits, and a surprisingly high number of them are directly or indirectly related to advertising.

For example, the team at We Talk Chalk can transform your marketing campaign into crowd-stopping marketing.

Creative Visual Solutions for your event or marketing needs through the innovative use of 3D Street Painting and 3D Chalk Art. (wetalkchalk.com)

Many of the most successful street chalk artists like Manfred Stader now have slick promotional websites touting their work. And scan any of the top articles (i.e. 33 Brain-Melting Works Of 3-D Sidewalk Chalk Art), videos, etc. celebrating three dimensional sidewalk and street artwork many of the biggest dazzlers are actually promoting a product or brand. Johnnie Walker scotch and Coca Cola were among the early adopters.

But despite the migration of 3D chalk art from the margin to the mainstream, I remain intrigued. No, more than intrigued. A little obsessed. One benefit of the widespread popularity is more artists creating more inspiring projects, and celebration/recognition of top street artists. Result? 3D chalk art is improving in leaps and bounds.

Creating 3D Chalk Art

The increasingly massive, intricate, sometimes beautiful (though often grotesque) murals are often magnificent once completed. No doubt about it. But for me, the most appealing aspect is observing the process of creating the 3D chalk art murals. In public. Often under considerably less than ideal conditions. With the threat of rain, snow, wind, pedestrians, and even police or other authorities who consider the art form graffiti, etc. From soiled ground to transcendent illusion. With chalk, a straight edge or two and an unshackled imagination.

Rather than than blathering on, I’ll finish with two examples. Enjoy!

Illustrator Eric Maruscak creates a chalk mural at the 2013 Utica Music and Arts Festival, September 14th, 2013. The mural was 10 feet square and took approximately 8 hours to complete over the course of the Festival. The art is known as an anamorphic drawing, where a distorted perspective is used to create the illusion of a 3D image when viewed from the proper angle. For more illustrations, cartooning, chalk art and time lapse photography visit Eric’s site at www.pepperink.com. (YouTube)

Chalk Urban Art Festival, Sydney 2014 – Australia’s largest 3D Street Art ‘Wasting Time’ designed by Artists Jenny McCracken and Leon Keer. Support artists Rudy Kistler, Bernardo von Hessberg, Mealie Batchelor, Dom Intelisano, Brian Tisdall, Mike Walton. Creative Producer Andi Mether. (YouTube)

Illiterate: Lost Narratives

Discourse is dead. Soundbite hypnosis prevails. We’ve forgotten how to hear, watch, and read the lost narratives that swim around us, that weave us together. We’ve forgotten.

The lion's head from the side of the lost and found bin... (Photo: virtualDavis)

The lion’s head from the side of the lost and found bin…

Or we’ve chosen to forget, to be illiterate, to ignore the narratives. Chosen to muddle them, to mask them, to distort them.

This is what I see when my optimism is smudged with soot and grease. This is what I was seeing when I came across Tim Akimoff’s thoughts on lost narratives. Or narrative illiteracy.

The saddest thing in the whole world right now is that we’re illiterate.

We’ve lost our sense of narrative. We only remember a few basic things, and into these things we try to cram every thing that makes us happy or sad.

If they fit nicely, we are comforted. If they don’t fit nicely, we re-write them or try to bury them…

The world is full of narratives. It is not ours to decide if they fit something we already understand…

It is ours to listen, to read, to watch. To look beyond the craftsmanship of story to the truths that tie us all together into one big, ugly, beautiful tribe…

And sometimes ours is to suffer in the lack of knowledge. Sometimes ours is to feel, with others, the tragedy that defies explanation. This too is story. (The Narrative, by Tim Akimoff on October 28, 2014, Medium)

Perhaps we can create a lost and found bin for narratives. Perhaps we are that bin… And we can filter through the lost narratives, listening and feeling, even suffering, the truths. And then perhaps we will wipe the smudge from our optimism with a hankie. And sally forth!

Free High-Resolution Photos

Free High-Resolution Photos

Free High-Resolution Photos

I create a lot of images. I photograph. I doodle. I collage.

But I also create a lot of blog posts for a lot of blogs, and sometimes I don’t have the time, access, resources, or skills to create the right image(s) for a post. Fortunately there are more and more ace sources for free high-resolution photos online these days. In fact, there are so many I’ve begun to lose track. So I’m going to follow the lead of Dustin Senos who’s compiling a list of his favorite sites for downloading free high-resolution photos called, “Stock photos that don’t suck“.

I’ll include some of his go-to sources below, but first I want to lead off with one of my favorites (and second on Dustin’s list), a simple but well stocked stock photo site called Unsplash. This isn’t the best site for finding ultra specific free high-resolution photos of a Canada Goose or a fresh-roasted poblano chile. But if you’re looking for evocative nature, travel, environment, residential, monumental stock photos that will arrest readers/viewers, you’ll like what you find at Unsplash. They offer the same Creative Commons licensing terms that most of these sites use, so I’ll share that to help you see what a mother load these sites can be.

Free High-Resolution Photo of Sydney Harbor Bridge

Free High-Resolution Photo of Sydney Harbor Bridge

All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission. (Unsplash)

Amazing! And super helpful for bloggers, designers and artists who have an insatiable appetite for free high-resolution photos.

Another personal favorite that serves quite well for the ultra specific scenarios I describe above is Pixabay. Userfriendly search engine, lots of options, and simple, easy-to-use interface.

Here is Dustin Senos‘s list, “Stock photos that don’t suck“. (Nota bene: This is current as of Nov. 6, 2014, but I’ve edited slightly.)

Keri Smith on Creativity (and Book Midwifery)

Who is Keri Smith?

Who is Keri Smith?

I’m long overdue with a post about Keri Smith (kerismith.com), and what better way to make up for that then by sharing some of her awesome advice on creativity. Both of the pointers I’m quoting below actually come from a post called, Seven Steps to Getting Published, but as far as I’m concerned they’re all about creativity, creativity, creativity. And maybe even more than “publishing” they read like wise tips for successful book “midwifery”!

But first, by way of introduction it’s time to meet one of the most innovative book artists currently in the game, Keri Smith. It’s not too far a stretch to say that she is reinventing the concept of bookness, silly-putty-ing it into one of the most unconventional vehicles for creativity and adventure bound up between covers.

Here’s a more official blurb from her website:

Keri Smith is a Canadian conceptual artist and author of several bestselling books and apps about creativity including Wreck This Journal (Penguin) [check out her readers’ cool creations here: @WreckThisBook], This is Not a Book (Penguin), How to be an Explorer of the World -the Portable Life/Art Museum,(Penguin), Mess: A Manual of Accidents and Mistakes (Penguin), The Guerrilla Art Kit (Princeton Architectural Press), Finish This Book (Penguin), and The Pocket Scavenger (Penguin). (KeriSmith.com)

Keri Smith on the Carpet

Keri Smith on the Carpet

I’m a little obsessed. For the last year I’ve been pouring over her work, each time feeling like I’m come across a co-conspirator. In fact, some of her books feel like they were born out of my own head. Only they weren’t. And her head’s done it better.

That said, I feel like these two creativity tips might have been borrowed from my head. They sound so familiar I could have written them myself. Only, I didn’t. She did. Again. So I’ll defer to Keri Smith.

Keri Smith on the Shelf

Keri Smith on the Shelf

1. Let your idea have it’s own life. This sounds a little strange but what I mean by this is once you have the idea in your head don’t try to control it too much. Let it tell you what form it should take. It really helps at this point to go for a long walk and just LISTEN it may be several long walks. Let the words and images evolve. With my most recent book it took over a year for me to know what form it would take. I had ideas for content and had begun writing but no overall format to tie it all together. I didn’t worry about it too much but just let it “be” for a while. One day while reading a book on “intuition in business”, a concept popped into my head. This concept was “play”, and it tied the whole book together and became my focus from that moment on.

2. Really enjoy yourself and the process of creating, the best work will flow out of you. People will respond the most to things you did with passion, as opposed to things you forced. Don’t worry about whether it would sell, or what’s hot in the moment your target market, or what a family member recommends. Be honest with yourself and the process. (KeriSmith.com)

See why I think that they’re both really more about book midwifery? They address the creative process from first flickering vision through generations of revising and refocusing and wrong turns and Ah-ha moments. They are all about the creative flow state that I’ve been discovering/pursuing over the last couple of years.

Listen. Play. Be honest. The rest will take care of itself.

Thanks, Keri Smith!

You Are an Artist

You Are an Artist: digital collage

You Are an Artist: digital collage

Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about. ~ Rumi

Some days, like today days, it’s easy to forget, easy to slump downward, shoulders and spirit drifting grave-ward. The artist within cowers behind to-do lists and do too lists, hides his eyes beneath furrowed brows, and rolls his toes under in apology for being at all.

But it’s especially these days, these gloomy, confidence wilting lump in your throat days that you need to remember, need to affirm in guttural grunts or soaring anthem – shoulders back, chest extended, forehead stretched upward – that you are an artist. From that first wailing, ass smacking moment until your last triumphant gasp you are an artist. Always. Until you’re not. At all.

You are born an artist or you are not. And you stay an artist, dear, even if your voice is less of a fireworks. The artist is always there. ~ Maria Callas

Let there be fireworks. Or drifting smoke, fading booms and gunpowder perfume. Let there but art in your flash and in your fizzle. Let there be art.

Everything you do is art.

From the moment you wake up until the moment you sleep, you’re creating art…

Every single thing you do is art.

You cannot escape it…

You’re an artist. Life is your canvas…

What are you doing with your canvas? ~ Raam Dev

You are an artist. Always.

Washington Square by Andre Kertesz


Washington Square by Andre Kertesz


Washington Square by Andre Kertesz

André Kertész

Washington Square
New York, January 9, 1954
Gelatin-silver print
vintage print
12.7 x 9.2 cm
via Fotomuseum Winterthur

There are days for thoughtful ruminations and days for doodles, days for vignettes and verses, but today is a day for inspiration. And few words. This enrapturing black and white photograph of a few walkers in a snowy Washington Square park by André Kertész (Andre Kertesz)
 speaks volumes. Quietly. About meandering. Flaneurs. Winter. Voyeurism. Crisp, clean, contrast. And yearning. Wondering. Deep observation. Possibly even deep listening… Do you hear the singing underneath?

I’ll leave you with an observation borrowed from John Bailey’s February 22, 2010 post, “From My Window”: The Late Work of André Kertész and Josef Sudek.

Kertész, in Paris and New York City, and [Josef] Sudek in Prague, spent many of their most productive years in the best tradition of the street photographer cum flaneur. Yet in substantive ways both remained loners. (The ASC)

Hybrid Author: Self-Publishing Circa 2025

The term “self-publishing” may have outlived its usefulness, according to Jon Fine, director of author and publishing relations at Amazon… When asked at a recent past conference what “self-publishing” looked like in ten years, Fine… said that it probably won’t be called that anymore. In the future, authors will publish in a number of ways.”If you’re an author in ten years, you’re going to have an array of options… [it will be] possible to take a story and make it available to hundreds of millions of people around the world… and do it in multiple formats.” (Digital Book World)

2012 Publishing Predictions Revisited (image of/by virtualDavis)

2012 Publishing Predictions Revisited (doodle by virtualDavis)

Seems like more and more authors, editors, agents, publishers and retailers are adopting Amazon’s vision for the future of self-publishing as a hybrid author model. Makes so much sense. Has for several years. But it’s an uncomfortable change for big biz and entrenched authors, editors, agents, publishers and retailers. Necessity is the mother of invention. They’ll come around.

Hybrid authors and hybrid publishing platforms will be the norm, I expect. Fine foretells the end of the “self-publishing” term. I suspect the same will come for “publishing”. As storytellers of all stripes adapt to the exciting new possibilities for sharing their message, the limitations of conventional publishing loom ominous. Books are jolly, and I’ll hang on to mine so long as the moths let me. But books are only one limited, expensive, inefficient, environmentally clunky, distribution-clunky, production-clunky package for stories. I foresee platform-androgynous storytelling with more and more weight shifting to digital audio.

And the most endorphin-pumping aspect of this shift? I foresee authors and other content creators breaking free of “book think” and beginning to explore—I mean really explore—the potential of sharing a story in across diverse media. Instead of simply repackaging the same story identically in print, digital, audio, etc. (in one lump or serialized fashion), each version can be unique, developed/expanded/enhanced/etc. according to the benefits of each medium.

It. Will. Happen.

And, just like bundling, there are easy ways and reasons to dismiss the Oracle of Essex. But mark my words! ;-) Necessity may be the mother of invention, but possibility is the father of invention. Dream, experiment, explore, storytellers. And I suspect you too will grasp the wide open future. Hybrid authors will reinvent storytelling. Again. And again.

Kickstart David Berkeley’s Stories and Songs

David Berkeley, by Avery Rimer

David Berkeley, by Avery Rimer

I’m fresh back in the Adirondacks after a revitalizing Santa Fe sojourn where I discovered David Berkeley (@davidberkeley). I was invited to a concert. I was unable to attend. I found his website. I read. I listened. I discovered his Kickstarter campaign for a combination book/album.

Long story short. I’m hooked. First, his music is habit forming. Not like dark chocolate. Or base jumping. More like a timely letter (handwritten, not emailed) from a friend that arrives in your mailbox on the same day that you awoke missing him/her. Rhythmic storytelling that sounds familiar from the first listen. Hints of Cat Stevens…

There was more poetry too. A shared connection to St. John’s and even a secret stash of high desert goodness known as Chupadero. Sometimes life rhymes.

In any event, I’m psyched to be able to help him crowdsource his fifth recording project, a book-album combo that he’s crowd funding to the tune of $25k. And he’s almost there. And almost out of time. And I hope you’ll consider helping out. You can thank me (and David Berkeley) later. I’ll thank you now. Thanks. Gracias!

Hashing the En and Em Dash

N&M Dash (Doodle: virtualDavis)

If only en and em dash were melt-in-your-mouth candies…

While editing an article a couple of days ago I came across some en and em dash discrepancies that I wanted to iron out. I haven’t any cleverness to contribute to an already much hashed topic, but here’s a grab bag of grammatical (and computer) smartness to help sort out the whole dashing matter once and for all.

Dash Bashing

First let’s start with the detractors:

The problem with the dash—as you may have noticed!—is that it discourages truly efficient writing. It also—and this might be its worst sin—disrupts the flow of a sentence. ~ Noreen Malone (Slate.com)

Yes. But since banishing unpreferred punctuation to another kingdom is goofy at best, let’s quickly flow into a clarification of proper hyphen, en dash and em dash usage.

But first an almost philosophical en and em dash rumination to fuel your cluttered ruminations.

Perhaps, in some way, the recent rise of the dash… is a reaction to our attention-deficit-disordered culture, in which we toggle between tabs and ideas and conversations all day… Why not try for clarity in our writing—if not our lives? ~ Noreen Malone (Slate.com)

En Dash vs Em Dash

Lest the above suggest a dismissive bias toward Noreen’s concerns, I’ll admit sharing some of her frustration.

I will admit that at least some of my bile comes from, as a copy editor, endlessly changing other writers’ sloppy em-dash simulacra (the double dash, the single offset dash) to the real thing. ~ Noreen Malone (Slate.com)

My reaction is less bilious, but (full disclosure) this sentiment was at the root of my recent en and em dash research. So let’s hustle on to the real thing.

I’ll pass the baton to Mark Jaquith who’s done an admirable job of laying out the whole dashing kit and caboodle. Read. Reread. Bookmark. Deploy!

  • An em-dash (—) is a wide dash — the width of the letter “m” being its guiding length. Em-dashes signify a thought break, rather like parenthesis, but with a stronger implied break.
  • An en-dash (–) is slightly shorter — the width of the letter “n” being its guiding length… The en-dash is used for:
    • Ranges of number values: (2–4 teaspoons, from 1:00–2:30pm, ages 7–10)
    • Relationships and connections: (a JFK–Atlanta flight, Bose–Einstein condensate, the Jackson–Murray fight, the Macy–Jaquith wedding)
    • Attributive compounds: (pre–Vietnam War weapons, the ex–Vice President non–New York style pizza) (via Mark on WordPress)

Nice, Mark. Thanks.

And what about spaces before and after dashes. I’ve seen this as a matter of preference (at least in the digital age), and I’ve leaned toward a space before and after both en dash and em dash punctuation, but it turns out I’m dashing on the wrong side of grammar, if not history.

Remember, though, that when using the hyphen, the en dash, or the em dash, you should put no space either before or after them. The only exception is with a hanging hyphen (see, for example, the word “nineteenth” in the phrase “nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature”). By definition, a hanging hyphen will have a space after it but not before it. (getitwriteonline.com)

Ah-ha! The en and em dash demystified. Except for deployment. How do we create these dashing distinctions with our keyboards?

How to En and Em Dash

The good news is that most of the software we use is going to make this easy for us. Which is good because producing proper dashes on our own can be a bit cumbersome.

Microsoft seems to automatically replace a double hyphen with an em dash. But maybe that’s a quirk of the Mac OS. Three consecutive hyphens just remain as three hyphens. Anybody able to help sort this out?

WordPress is pretty clever. It replaces two hyphens with en dash and three hyphens with em dash. Simple. Intuitive. Every time. I like that.

That said, I don’t actually use either of these shortcuts. Call it habit. Or muscle memory. Back to Mark for a clear explanation for how to create the proper dashes without the teamwork of Microsoft or WordPress.

If you want more control, then I suggest you do as I do, and actually start typing the correct dashes (WordPress won’t mess with them). On OS X, en-dashes are typed with Opt-{hyphen}, and em-dashes are typed with Opt-Shift-{hyphen}. In Windows, en-dashes are typed with Alt + 0150, and em-dashes are typed with Alt + 0151. (Mark on WordPress)

I’m mostly on Macs these days, and it’s become pretty much second nature. But the windows alternative is a little less intuitive for me. Not sure I’d get my fingers wrapped around that.

And for those who prefer to code directly in HTML (clever bastards!) you probably already know that the en dash is – and the em dash is —.

What did I miss?

[Special thanks to Katie for listening to me blather on ad nauseam about the en and em dash. And even make some mistakes along the way!]

%d bloggers like this: