Three amigos

While waiting for a table Friday night at the Carolina Brewing Company I spotted these three Adirondack chairs.  There was a huge crowd of people waiting, overflowing out the door and standing in knots on the sidewalk, in the street, but nobody sat in these.  I can see why, they are so uncomfortable, and you lean back so far you are staring at the sky.  I didn’t sit in them either, but they are a perfect photographic subject, if a little obvious and easy, so I added a Silverlight photo effect.


Animal cafe

Two different treat to of a scene recently at the Weaver Street Market in Carrboro, NC. It’s a hip place in general: an independently owned grocery with a huge salad bar and cafeteria-style hot bar and local produce and baked goods, artisan cheeses and two full aisles of high-quality supplements. You get the idea. Outside the stor is a mulched-over lawn with picnic tables to camp out at, washing down your kale and green bean salad with organic coffe, while tapping away at your late-model MacBook. A jazz band will play a few sets, contributing to the hipness and inspiring beat poetry.

So it’s not only friendly to hipsters and vegans, but also animals. Lots of people bring dogs but this was the first time I have seen anyone bring a macaw. It was in a cage, but still. Lots of children wanted to look at it, pat it, feed it mulch, whatever it is kids want to do to exotic animals.  If you have any experience with macaws, you how both SMART and STRONG they are.  If a macaw wants to bite your finger off, or rip a chunk of flesh off your arm, it can do so easily.  So I was very glad it was in a cage, when it probably would have happily ridden on his person’s shoulder.

Also at the same table was a sheep dog, obviously pure-bred, a magnificent animal.  Although it was huge, and overflowing with a cascading energy and impatience, this was a  specimen to make dogs everywhere proud to be canine.  If dogs were cars, this guy would be a Cadillac Escalade.  The dog had been getting quite a bit of attention but as soon as the guy with the bird sat down, everyone scattered in that direction, leaving the poor sheepdog barking helplessly and furiously.  Where’d everyone go?  Where are all my friends NOW?

You might gather from all this that I think Weaver Street Market is a silly place but actually I love it there.  My husband asked me first thing this morning, before I’d even had coffee yet, did I want to go to Weaver Street for breakfast.  Huh?  There are very few questions of any sort that I could, or would, answer when I first wake up, I can’t even answer “How did you sleep?” until at least 9:45 am, but I knew enough to say “YES!!!” to an invitation to go to Weaver Street.  Not only is the breakfast bar  worth the trip (Eggs Migas to make you drool), the coffee strong and dark and healthful, but there is always a terrific cross-section of society there.  There are the crunchy-granola types with yoga mats, and lots of students, and professionals of all ages and stripes.  On  your left will be a narcissistic college sophomore going on like this: “and she said blah blah blah and I was like oh my god, you are SO insensitive, you know what I mean? Like, my mother was in the like next room and then my father started flipping out …”.  Then on the other side will be a couple planning how to conduct a double-blind neurological experiment and the difficulties of interpreting the result data.  Or there was the Ladies Book Club who I wanted to ignore but then I realized they were talking about Christian Mystics in the traditional monasteries in the US and it was actually a fascinating discussion.

I usually don’t talk when I go there, I’m one of those people tappety-tapping away on a MacBook, in fact that’s what I’m doing right now.  Oh, and another fun thing to do at WSM is to sign into iTunes and see who-all around you is sharing their music library, and start playing their music on your own laptop.  I’ve done this several times and never been caught.

I would really like to write about the music and dancing at WSM but it will have to wait for another post.  To whet your appetite, a couple of years ago I posted a picture of Bruce, here:

An appreciation: Jean-Michel Basquiat

basquiat1As I have often mentioned here, and even talked about in the “About” page on this website, art is about how we interact with our world.  Or, it should be.  Otherwise, it’s a completely mechanical endeavor.  You can tell when that’s the case, e.g. stock photos which are technically competent but lifeless.

So real art is about the artist.  How the artist sees the world.  To me, that means not the way it is “seen” by someone, but how it affects them.  Not how they choose to shape their art, but how they are themselves shaped by the world.  So let’s talk about Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Born in 1960 to Haitian immigrant parents, Jean-Michel grew up on the streets, tough, but not really so tough as all that.  He spent TIME on the streets, and his father denied that he beat the child, or that they were disadvantaged or that they lived in an inner-city ghetto.  “I drove a Mercedes”, he explained.

But Jean-Michel ran wild, and from a young age wanted to be a cartoonist.  (Who knows that about themselves when they are 6 years old?).  Once when ill, he got his hands on a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, and was deeply affected by it.  If you look at his art, it often featured skeletal creatures, and this is surely where that inspiration came from.

basquiat2Basquiat’s brief life has been documented many places:  a film (reference here); a biography (reference here); a coffee table book of his work (reference here). His influences were such renowned artists as Picasso, Pollack, (others).  But it was when he was befriended by Andy Warhol that he moved from being a street artists, who essentially drew cartoon figures and quotes that were signed “SAMO”, to being “famous”.  Famous for being famous, as so many of the denizens of Warhol’s Factory.  For most, their art consisted of living as famous people.  It was all experimental and for the most part it’s hard for me to believe that even THEY took it seriously.

But this was the milieu that Basquiat found himself in, and Warhol actually had spotted something unique and valuable in the young black man.  His creativity was utterly new, and fearless, and unselfconscious.  He had the world in front of him, at his feet, he was the toast of the town.  Dealers snapped up his increasingly daring and provocative works, which became both more profound and more dramatic.  You look at one of these paintings, and you are drawn into a world of half-fantastical creatures — wolves wearing crowns, huge skulls with dogs in their mouths, slogans brutalizing a society of rich privilege (ironically, these were his patrons).  Each painting was a glimpse into a mind both tortured and unbridled.  Utterly original.

And so, inevitably, the story gets both predictable and deeply sad.  Such a common story — a young person with huge talents gets exploited, is made the toast of the town, has power and money and hangers-on for the first time, and is too young to have any way of dealing with it all, except extravagance and dissolution.  So he became a heroin addict.  Of course lots of people become addicts, it’s not reserved for exceptionally talented people.  But, a young and beautiful boy like Basquiat, hanging around with the infinitely more siphsticated Warholians, never had a chance.  The details aren’t important here, but he died of an overdose, and left behind paintings which in the space of an hour became priceless and were snatched out of his studio before many of them could even be cataloged.  Carried off by collectors and speculators.

basquiat3Why is it that living artists, those of amazing talents who continually reinvent themselves and demonstrate a bottomless creativity, do not command high prices for their work while they are still alive?  Sure, when an artist dies, the supply is suddenly finite.  But when the artist still lives, they still evolve and grow, and what they might produce next week or next year, from that prodigious talent, isn’t that something that would be deeply interesting to invest in?  Instead, it seems that “investors” of these young talents are NOT interested in how they develop, and it the fodder of fiction that such vultures passively allow young talents to drink themselves to death, or shoot up or hang with the wrong crowd … rather than fearing that their protege will meet his demise, they will rejoice that their vision has paid off.

But this is not a new story, is it?  What was new was Samo’s work, and Basquiat’s work, and a young man whose lifestyle became the art form.   Again, not new.  So commonplace that it might barely register as tragic.  But if you look at those paintings, they draw your breath out of you.  The complexity, the sheer inventiveness, the manic quality, the social commentary … I never tire of probing them, seeing new symbolism, new iron, and a humor, and a love of the physical battle which is life.

To see more of Basquiat’s work:

Vanity Fair article  by Anthony Haydon-Guest

Basquiat’s bitterly ironic cliché of a death—the young black on dope belongs with the drunken Indian, the thrifty Scot—will surely focus attention where it actually belongs, on his work, some of the best of which was never hung in his relatively few shows. “They were taken straight out of his studio,” says Jeffrey Deitch. “They were never catalogued. Some of the most incredible work went straight to Europe. The art world never got a chance to see them.” Much of this can now be expected to change. “I suppose he’ll get a Whitney show at last,” says Fred Brathwaite. “And all that shit he never got when he was alive. Motherfuckers!”

Not your average graffiti

View from the Haw River bridge in Bynum, NC at dusk.  

 The river view was beautiful, as most scenes are at the few moments before the sun goes down, but this snapshot was an afterthought. What drew my eye on this old concrete foot bridge were the many spray-painted graffiti. Upon examination I thought it would be the usual: self-conscious cuss words or gang sign.   But no! I was treated to an amazing array of animals, fantastical creatures, poetry, philosophical musings and social commentary. Here are a few of my favorites:   


Stop action

I recently had the honor and privilege of flying with the inimitable Capt. John Shearer in his Piper Aztec for a trip to Ocracoke Island off the coast of North Carolina. I called shotgun and it turned into a training flight. First time at the controls for me and I loved it, it was both technical, physical, important to do right, and tons of fun.  I want to write more about that experience in another post, but had to share this pic of the prop on the right engine.  With the iPhone’s shutter speed, I caught the prop in a sort of stop-action shot, but at you can see, this two-bladed prop looks as though it has six or eight curved whisker-like props.  Very cool.  Everything about the experience of this airplane was cool, stay tuned.

Papaya Henge

I gave Jazz a chance to improvise the color, and added some scratches and a few light leaks.  I liked how the cut papaya looked like a calving glacier. To me. 

Photography, as I’ve said before, is my way of seeing the world in new ways. It is easy to sleepwalk through life and never really look. Taking pictures of quotidian details, the stuff of daily life, really delving into its properties, makes me feel alive and aware that I’m alive. 

Life is short and precious. Practicing a simple awareness in each moment prepares me for whatever might be next.  I am grateful for the good and the difficult. 

Satan’s teddy bear


This is Albert, a kinkajou at the Carolina Tiger Rescue. Albert looks cute, doesn’t he? Like a little plush huggable teddy bear. Well, don’t be fooled. Kinkajous are rated as Level 4, which is the most aggressive and dangerous animals. Lions and tigers are Level 4. If you were unfortunate enough to be in the same space with a kinkajou, it would launch itself at your head before you ever saw it coming. It would attach itself to your face, which it would pull off while ripping your throat open with its hind claws. They are as pitiless as any animal you can imagine. 

Now here is an amazing thing:  people buy these animals because they want them for pets. 


Yes. They pay upwards of $2000 for a kinkajou, get it home, and it promptly terrorizes their entire household, if not actually putting someone in the hospital straightaway. 

These are wild untamable animals. They look cute, but they’re not.

Do not ever think of wild animals as pets. Leave them wild, and do not support the breeders who are as pitiless as the animals themselves.  Maybe worse, because they don’t care who gets hurt as long as they walk away with a big pile of money. 

It takes a thief 

You’re not going to catch hackers and “bad actors”, as they’re known in the biz, by playing by nice-guy rules. There are some bad people out there. Maybe they think that hacking doesn’t count as stealing because it happens in the impersonal new reality of cyberspace. I am arming myself to do battle.