11/11 GHR Check-In

This is the final month of the Groundhog Day Resolution system for 2019. This was the 11th annual attempt at creating life-long habits for myself. I’ve discovered that because of the after the end-of-year holidays I am not mentally or physically capable of sticking with resolutions for the upcoming new year. I need a break so I take the whole month of January off to reflect
and plan. The idea here was to check in every month from 2/2, 3/3, etc to 11/11- today!

So how’d I do this year?

Physical

  • The immediate goal is to drop 25 pounds quick. Besides the typical
    motto of  “Eat clean, train mean, get lean”, I’m throwing in some activities that should help. This was a fail. In fact, I have gained unhealthy weight.
  • Kickboxing/sparring with Tracy. Not one much thrown.
  • Dance lessons. Something fun like Swing? Sexy, like Bachata? We’ll figure it out. Not one lesson. We dance around the house and at the pub but that’s it.
  • Disc Golf. Time to get back into it. Less expensive than golf and I don’t have to wear baggy, plaid pants. We tossed the disk around a bit but nothing consistent. I made a brilliant 1/1000 shot though so yeah.
  • Yoga/Meditation. I had some moderate usage last year but not enough to form a habit. I did appreciate the quiet time to breathe, relax and focus on nothing. Again, not habit forming but I enjoy the process. Why can’t I make time for simple things?

Technical

  • Learn Python. Only one tech goal this year because I get scattered and end up not learning anything. No more. Time to learn and apply data science and machine learning applications. I wrote a few lines of code and then realized I don’t need to. I wasn’t interested. What was I going to do with it? Next year I may write Swift instead but only for the hell of it.

Artistical

  • Sketch/Draw/Doodle. I bought an iPad and pencil last year and I want to be more creative. Nope.
  • Learn Spanish with Tracy. Nope.
  • Learn Chinese. For myself. Nope.
  • Learn to play the ukulele. I grabbed one late last year but with the holidays in the way it took a back seat. Nope.
  • DAM- Digital Asset Management, or, where the hell are my photos from that shoot last month? They are all (almost) on to a new 10TB hard drive waiting on me. Progress.
  • Write short stories. I have a ton of ideas for these. Progress, but only this month of NANOWRIMO.
  • Write micro fiction. One hundred word stories. Nope. Change this for NANOWRIMO?
  • Work on that novel. Its been ten plus years and I still can’t get all of this out of my head. Progress, but only this month of NANOWRIMO.
  • 52 week photo challenge . 52 weeks in a year = 52 photos I think this died around week 9.

Financial

  • Order a credit report and start settling some debts for less. 2017 was not a good year and it hurt me financially so I am slowly recovering. This year will be dedicated to resolving this and restoring my good name. Progress! My credit scores dropped a bit at first but are slowly going up. Not fast enough for me though.
  • Build credit with a secured credit card. Doing this now.
  • Automate savings and track investments. Yes, there is an app for that and it is called Acorns. Nope.
  • Cryptocurrency. This year I will dip a toe into these unknown waters. Bitcoin? Ethereum? Research is crucial here. Nope. Not interested anymore.

Overall, I’d rate this year’s GHD Resolutions as failure. In fact, I am thinking of scrapping the whole concept in favor of focusing on one thing a month and practice. That should be habit forming, no? But knowing me, I tend to bounce from thing to thing randomly or as I get bored.

The portrait photography was big this year but as I’ve stated previously I am slowly pulling away from these types of shoots and want to try photographing something else with different methods. Still working these out. But the takeaway is that portrait photography was the culprit that a majority of these resolutions failed.

Photography: A New Hope

A constant comment I hear among my photographer peers is that they feel like they’re in a creative pit. They’re bored and uninspired. And yes, let’s be honest, I have as well. Who hasn’t?
I’ve found a few cures for the ailing inspiration in the past and am looking forward to implementing new ones as well.

I’ve been too comfortable and lazy. In the past I would eliminate technical setbacks with gear and software. So, I’ve sold all of my equipment. And then I changed to a new system to see how the other half did it. But over time I was still unsatisfied. Lesson learned: equipment doesn’t matter.

For now, I am exploring and re-learning analog. Don’t misunderstand, I still enjoy my DSLR but I’ll be using it less and may even sell that as well eventually. But when I allow my brain to go manual and take control over automatic this or that is when I like it best. I get creative. I have to think and plan. It isn’t easy. I don’t want it easy anymore. There are constraints and limitations with film photography that are different from digital. If going analog gets too complacent then I’ll try an instant camera or a toy camera.

What’s Next?

I’m questioning everything lately. Do I need my photography website? Do I need a place to show galleries and portfolios? Who will see it?
I’m not offering anything unique then the next photographer. I may have some great work displayed there but so will she and he. What can I do that will set my website apart from them? Why should you follow me in the future?

I’ve been enjoying the idea of real, honest to God, tangible products that you can touch. I’ve embraced the physical portfolios and it all started with the art show in September when I offered prints for sale. I had prints leftover and so they went into an album and it thrills me in a way that photography hasn’t in such a long time. I had prints made from some of my recent road trips and those too went into an album. Magical. Now that I’m shooting 35mm and instant, they have their own albums/journals.

When I get my shit together and organized, I’ll even self-publish photo books and zines. I had. A few printed off in the past but that was back when the self-publishing industry was getting started. The offerings have improved and I’m honestly looking forward to this. Again, if I can get it together.

Perhaps these ideas will help distinguish myself from the bored, uninspired photographer. Perhaps these ideas will help me get out of those negative, bored places as well. The visitors to my website may appreciate the distinction from a bored photographer shooting the same thing as the other 12 million people fighting for attention. By making tangible products, I’ll be happier. Even if it is for myself.

Waiting for a muse is just not realistic. She isn’t real. I’ve realized that inspiration rarely comes to you but instead it is something to pursue. Doing the work itself can be inspiring. Planning the projects, cultivating my ideas, projects and products can be very beneficial.

Creativity is difficult to obtain and maybe this is why so many people are bored and uninspired.

This Or That

I do life in varying ways to keep from going stale.

I’ll input as much as I can for a while by agreeing to everything, meet everyone, go everywhere. Then I’ll output for a while by saying no to everything, and just focus on what I want to do like shoot, read or write.

I’ve done the domestic life for a long time. You know, with a house, car, dog, furniture, stocked kitchen, and everything else that comes with them. Then I’ll give it all away, or lose it until I’m back to the essentials.

And I’ll do them both to their extremes.

It’s fun to push the boundaries and explore the edges to see what I can do. For a time, I was interested in pursuing a normal life. But there are enough people doing that. More growth and discovery seems to happen when I’m uncomfortable and challenged.

People think it’s strange and ask why I feel the need to be so all-or-nothing. They ask why I don’t just find the middle ground. But I am not most people.

There is something fun and fulfilling about experiencing these extremes. Knowing I can live in these different scenarios is more honest and relaxing to me.

Priority Shift

It is fast approaching that time of year again. November is designated as National Novel Writing Month with their stated goal being 50,000 words a month into a novel. I love the concept but it isn’t practical for me so of course I’ll be hacking this.

Now that I am pivoting focus from photography to writing these next few months, it’ll probably go extreme. The intent is to crank out a couple of short stories, while finish plotting out the bigger ones. There may even be more frequent content here and in my personal journal as well.

I thought about the importance of my commitment to post here daily but nope, enjoying the process is more important than a stringent schedule. 

But then too I get frustrated with being a single-focused individual. I also want to grab the camera or write code but what has priority for me? What has more value?

Once I realize that one value is more important to me than another, I have to ask if I am living accordingly.  

What’s more important to me? Learning or creating? Expand or focus?

Once I work that out I may yet go extreme with it. “All in” as they say and optimize my life around it and let go of almost everything else. And then change it up after that.

Hibernation

2019 was a great year for my portrait photography. There are so many creative, beautiful people out there and it was great to work with them but I need a break.

I’m hanging up the camera for portrait photography to focus on personal photography and reorganizing organizing my archives and portfolio.

I’m really looking forward to focus on writing. The days will be getting shorter and colder but I’ll be inside cranking out those words.

Un-Linked

This past week I had an email from LinkedIn, the online professional networking website about a position I held. Someone was disputing my tenure there. Well, that prompted me to correct the mistake. Oops, I failed to update my last day there.

Well, that prompted me to say that after thirteen years of LinkedIn it was time to delete that account. Poof. Gone, just like that.

Ahh.

Balance

I don’t know why I have this rebellious side of me, I really don’t. I don’t mean to be so contrarian but it happens. I want to be opposite of my surroundings some times.

The strong-willed, overachievers bring out the lazy side of me. People I know who are slackers bring out the best in me. If people prefer colors, I tend to go with black or grey.

I’ll root for the underdog, seek a balance to offset the other side and swim upstream. We’re taught to not be this way. We aren’t to react that way. I’m supposed to be the same but I form my own opinions thank you very much.

What motivates me is knowing that there is something out there that is the opposite of what I want.

If I see selfishness it tends to make me more generous. If someone is freaking out, I choose to remain calm. If I observe someone who is wasting their talent it motivates me to keep practicing. Competition makes me better after all. Knowing a friend who doesn’t take care of themselves encourages me to get healthier. and so on and so on.

It’s been a balance of better to worse so far. Why fight it?

Test My Theories

I need to make personal growth a priority. This means I plan a life away from the safe zone and do it. And when I decide that creativity is a priority than I need to plan a peaceful place without obstacles so I can just create.

But I need to get these ideas of personal growth and creativity out of my head and into the real world.

There is a big difference between theory and application.

If it turns out to be a mistake so be it. I’ll know it was a mistake instead of just a theory.

In Appreciation Of Web 1.0

I used to enjoy the internet. There was a time when it was something to be explored (Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser was aptly named but poorly executed, by the way.) Back then there were standards and protocols but still the wild frontier. The www was creative, decentralized from corporate greed and educational. Now? I cannot stand most of what’s out there.

Corporate greed has taken over news sources turning them into deceptive ways to make money by selling your information. Good luck trying to find an article. The advertising is so pervasive it actually hinders the website performance.

Very rarely do I visit web sites, preferring the information come to me instead thanks to the old RSS feed protocols. Currently I am using Feedly, a service that aggregates my desired websites and sends them to my feed reader. Topics I care about, nothing else. Do you know how refreshing this is? Try it.

I don’t care for social media anymore, either. There is way too much noise, hype, and drama.

Bloggers have fancied themselves as unpaid journalists and come up with all sorts of marketing schemes. Usually involving gaudy advertising, e-mail newsletters and “buy my e-books!” It makes me want to avoid the internet completely.

There is so much noise and not enough signal out there.

And then I thought about what I do like.

My website is really nice. It is my own little corner of the web that is out there for anyone to see. But honestly it is probably only two people right now, myself and my child. Hopefully they will look back and gain some perspective from Dad.

I highly recommend setting up your own website. You control everything with no restrictions and no censorship.

I also highly recommend setting up your own private email address. Only family and chosen friends use it. It is very rarely used, sure, thanks to video and text messaging but it is available when all else fails.

I never give this private email to anyone except family and friends.

I don’t use Gmail, preferring to use MS Outlook instead and I let it collect my e-bills, news and the junk. The people you really care about will use the new one, so you won’t need to check the throwaway mail much anymore.

It feels good to have a notification mean something again. When you get a few emails and know that they are really for you. Or, if you don’t get any notifications, then nothing you really care about has arrived so no need to check.

Most days I don’t look at the web. I just go photograph something, write, text friends, call friends, and check email. That’s enough.

Khmer Empire Antiquities Part II

In May 2019 I had the opportunity to explore the Art Institute of Chicago and Field Museum to research and analyze the ancient Khmer empire artifacts from Cambodia as research for an upcoming book. It was my delight to explore similar artifacts from this Labor Day in Kansas City at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

There are a few similarities but also unique findings as well. As in Chicago it was in Kansas City that the description of these artifacts are incorrect. Minor points to help the general public understand but my way of thinking says that breeds ignorance. Let’s accept them for what they are instead of pandering, shall we?

As always though, I am grateful for the chance to explore more about this culture that has intrigued me since 1993 when I first discovered a book tucked away in the archives of a university library.

A partial bas-relief describing the Churning of the Ocean of Milk.
Sugriva the monkey king (end) leads smaller gods in this work.
Seated Buddha meditating for seven weeks. The serpent king lifts him up to prevent him drowning during a flooding storm. The artifact hosted in Chicago is more complete with the serpent’s head raised above and covering Buddha from the rains.
A pillar fragment with a heavenly maiden or devata in sandstone.
The crown on her head resembles the towers of the Angor Wat temple.
Except for the docents, we had the Nelson Atkins museum to ourselves.