Ten Years In Tucson

On Halloween night, 10 years ago, I pulled into Tucson in a rented SUV packed full of as much of my belongings as I could get into it. The few possessions of mine that wouldn’t fit were in a friend’s basement in Portland, Oregon, where’d lived for the last 3 years and where I’d eventually, reluctantly realized I couldn’t stay. The rainy winters had gotten to be too much, and I decided the desert was where I needed to be instead.

It’s symbolic, or indicative, of how much my life has changed since then that I spent most of my anniversary day, October 31, at the hospital, taking care of my sick daughter (It's not serious, don't worry). Ten years ago I wouldn't have been able to imagine such a scenario, and in fact would have found it inconceivable that I would have a life in which I wouldn't have time to write a blog post on a Saturday about living in a town for 10 years. I wouldn't have even imagined being here that long. The longest I'd lived anywhere before, as an adult, was 6 years.

Do I have time to fully explain the profound changes to those who didn't know me then? Probably not. But in a nutshell, think about my first paragraph, above. Everything I was to live with, packed into a car I didn't own. My bike, the futon I slept on, my computer, some cameras and video tapes, that was pretty much it. I had no job waiting for me in Tucson. I had no assets and not even a savings account. Now I have a wife, a kid, a house, a car, two dogs, 3 chickens, 2 and a half bikes, power tools, and more.
I'll quickly just list some other differences between then and now:

  • There were only 3 or 4 people I knew in Tucson. Now I know hundreds of people and have never felt more a part of a community that I do here.
  • I was a war tax resister and as such I owed the IRS tens of thousands of dollars and had the aforementioned lack of assets and savings because of the fear that they would show up and take it at any time. I even was afraid of having a regular, non-freelance job. Now I pay my taxes and have permanent, salaried work.
  • I was single and had been for the last 3 years and in fact for my entire life I was against the idea of ever being married. Now I'm permanently linked to someone I know I want to be with for the rest of my life.
  • I had basically rejected art in favor of media activism (I sold or gave away all my guitars and other musical equipment before leaving Portland). I felt radicalized and unable to justify making art and not devoting myself, at least my free time, to social change in a direct way. Now I have returned quite a bit back to art and am trying to lead a more balanced existence between work, activism, (still socially aware) creative projects, family, and even other pasttimes like brewing beer and roasting coffee.
  • For my whole life and including my first few years in Tucson, I was totally committed to not having children. I still believe in not producing my own offspring for social and environmental reasons, but I now am the father of an adopted little girl who I love and am devoted to, to an extent I could not have even fathomed 10 years ago.
  • I enjoy gardening. I enjoy digging holes in my yard, and building things with wood and drills and saws. I live with and love 2 dogs. I see a therapist every week, run 3 miles every other day, and go to work 40 hours a week in an office. None of those things were true 10 years ago and in fact none of them I expected to ever do, some had never even occurred to me, and some of them I had been consciously opposed to.

You get the picture. And I'm happier, healthier, feel less afraid, more secure, more balanced - for the most part. Life is good.
I better wrap this up and get it put on my blog, before my familly wakes up.

Looking Back at Video Work

I don't usually do the year-end retrospective thing. But I've been meaning for a couple of months to write about my recent past as a freelance videographer

The end of this calendar year prods me into actually doing it.

Since getting back full-time into other ways of making a living, I'm spending much less time out in the world with my camera, and I sometimes feel wistful about that.  However, the fact is that if I can get myself to look at the bright side, I can look back and feel a sense of real satisfaction and pride in the number and variety of film/video projects I've been involved in over the last 18 months or so (I choose that period for 2 reasons: 1) just to buck the trend of looking back at the arbitrary unit of one year that is the habit for this season, and 2) because when I open the Raw Footage directory on my newest hard drive, the shoots I've been on stretch back about that far).

It's especially heartwarming to see, as I look back, how much of this work has been for non-profits and other good causes.

Here's a list of highlight clients and/or projects:

  • promotional film for Coaltion for Sonoran Desert Protection
  • documentation of Chico MacMurtrie's show at MOCA Tucson of Amorphic Robot Works' "Chrysalis" piece, a giant semi-intelligent kinetic sculpture.
  • documenting events for Living Streets Alliance, most notably Cyclovia Tucson
  • A promotional film about South Tucson made with Creatista for Primavera Foundation
  • A documentary about homelessness.
  • footage for some short videos about coffee, kefir, and other food things for  Edible Baja Arizona magazine.
  • Two lectures from the Institute for Applied Meditation
  • An educational video series about immigration called "Radical Hospitality" for the Mennonite USA church. 
  • documenting the SAAF Moda Provacateur fashion show
  • a wedding.
  • some bands that wanted me to film them playing live
  •  PSAs for Child and Family Resources
  •  helping a friend with a documentary about Diamond Mountain's 3-year meditation retreat.
  • Documenting the Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference at the U of Arizona 
  • instructional videos on meditation at a retreat center in Cochise Stronghold
  • fundraising videos with Creatistia for  Literacy Connects 
  • documenting the Mayor's Council on Poverty 
  • various promotional footage for the Downtown Tucson Partnership (with Creatista)
  • and finally, one of the last projects that I'm still involved with is videography for a documentary film in progress by Eva Lewis called No Man's Land, about the organizing against the Arivaca Border Patrol checkpoint. 

I was just down in Arivaca yesterday shooting stuff for the last item, so I guess I can also celebrate that I'm still doing some of this stuff. Just not trying to pay all of the bills with it.

"new" music: Plausibly Live

"Plausibly Live" was a project I began back in the early 'oughts, attempting to represent a sort of simulation of the last few years of my live musical performances. I carefully edited and condensed recordings of the best moments from the improvisational electronic gigs I'd done in 1998 through 2002, but then life got in the way and the results never saw the light of day, til now. There are plenty more details in the capacious liner notes on the Bandcamp page. I hope you enjoy them, and the sounds.

In California With Negativland

I have no explanations for why I've taken so long to blog about this, other than the super boring and tired excuse that I've been super busy, and the slightly more interesting fact that Facebook has thoroughly trained me to not blog much, which is sad.

Anyway, it's been over 6 weeks since this happened, but as February turned to March I was in California to perform with Negativland. We played in Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, and Oakland. It was extremely rewarding, fun, and largely, it seems a success, artistically.

Here is some media about the shows, written/recorded both before and after:  

Santa Cruz Weekly 2-part piece (one week and then the next) about the show there.

Vice Noisy piece written after the LA show. (this is probably the best one to read)

East Bay Express article about Negativland and the Oakland show.

episode of Jake Fogelnest's podcast in which Peter of Negativland is the guest, the day after the LA show.

episode of Jonathan Ray's podcast, Beating A Pale Horse, in which he interviews me (mostly about other things, but toward the end we talk about Negativland and my involvement).

 In short, it was a great time. And we now have 2 other little "mini-tours" booked:  June in Texas (Houston, Austin, and Dallas), and end of August in the Northwest (Seattle's Bumbershoot, Portland, and Vancouver, BC)


In the new year I'm going to finally start blogging about my daughter, who is now 8 months old. I will call her S here when a name is necessary.

Anyway, here's something that is interesting and disturbing (to me, at least):  I've spent most of my adult life focused on making things that people use/consume via screens (websites, films, videos), but now I'm trying with all my might to not expose my infant to screens. 

Screen time is known to be terrible for young kids and is linked to attention-deficit disorders. Screens of all kinds, be they movie screens, TVs, computers, phones or tablets.  It's been found, according to some studies, that even time spent in the same room where someone else is using a screen turned away from the child is harmful.

I suppose this is just one of many things we as adults do that we're not proud of that we suddenly have to either fix or hide from our kids - whether it's "bad words," or perhaps ways that we treat our partners that are less than ideal.  We all, or most of us, do "bad" things we don't get around to working on improving, for years, until our hand is forced by having a little, new, perfect being around that we don't want to pass on that stuff to.  They're info-sponges, and mirrors, and we don't want to see our shadows soaked up and reflected by them. 

Ultimately most things can't be hidden forever.  They must either be fixed, removed, or passed on in a more sane, balanced, moderated way.  The latter is the eventual strategy with screen-time, because obviously we can't, and don't wish to, keep S from all screens forever, in this modern world of digital tools and toys.  But we can try to bequeath to her an ethic of moderation and limits where she can benefit from the positive effects but hopefully avoid the most negative ones. And while most of the web sites I've built in my career will be long gone by the time she is old enough to navigate a web browser, perhaps some day we'll let her see some of my scary documentaries or wacky video art - with some explanations and helpful context, to be sure.

blog fail

Looks like my blog is broken as far as Goodreads book reviews are concerned. the text of my reviews aren't showing up, as you can see for the last few entries. Probably Goodreads changed something about their RSS feed.  I don't really  know when I'll have time to fix it. Bleh.

 The entropy of the universe extends into the digital world. Things constantly falling apart and needing repair. Sigh.

You Can Help My Next Film Get Made

For the last year or so, I've been becoming a sort of crowdfunding (and specifically Kickstarter) expert, consulting and making videos for clients who are trying to raise funds for various projects.  If you've followed me during that time you've probably seen me stumping for dollars for these various projects - a microbrewery, an organic chicken-raising collective, a couple days of carless streets in Tucson... all these things became realities thanks in part to the platform called Kickstarter, and thanks in part to my know-how in using it and social media.

Now I'm using that platform to raise funding for a project that I'm actually involved in myself: a documentary that I'm directing about homelessness, and specifically about the challenges of being homeless in Tucson, Arizona.  Check out the Kickstarter video by pressing play below:

My collaborators and I are experienced filmmakers; for years we've all been involved in enough low-budget or no-budget projects to know that it costs a certain minimum amount of money to do a film properly, in such a way that people will notice it, and watch it and respect it and recommend it to others.  This minimum amount is usually much higher than people not in the business expect, but much lower than the numbers thrown around in Hollywood circles.  You can make films cheaply, but you do need something, and the professionals who work on even low-budget films need to eat, and pay rent, and maintain their equipment. Read more>>>

Reverse Ouija

kitt peak - 17A few minutes ago, as my first cup of coffee still hadn't fully worked it's neurochemical magic, I found myself wishing my father could be around to see all the big changes happening in my life lately, and I wondered if there was a special blog or twitter-like social network i could post to that dead people can read.

Memories: Viral Communications and the Cassette Underground

I'm delving lately into boxes full of old cassette tapes I've been carefully storing. Some are over 20 years old.  So far they still sound okay.  old cassettes - 4These tapes contain some of my very early forays into making music as a self-identified "composer" and "fine art" or "experimental" musician.  Some of them I released to the public, under the aegis of a cassette label called Viral Communications, which I operated from approximately 1992 to 1996 (the name inspired by William S. Burroughs and his writings that "language is a virus from outer space"). With this label I produced seven albums, which included my work, recordings by some bands I was in, as well as a compilation of music by various fringe Ann Arbor artists and an album by an avant-jazz group some friends were in. With the founding of VirComm, I launched myself into a thriving, pre-internet long-distance community known as the zine and cassette underground.  I published a zine called Synergy (which I will be scanning and re-releasing soon), and sent that and my tapes out to dozens of other zines that reviewed them, and a handful of people ordered stuff and wrote me letters and sent me their stuff.  In this age of digital recording and instant mass distribution, those days seem like a bizarre and clunky primitive world, but there was a certain exciting, rewarding aura to those odd hand-packaged cassettes and booklets that in some ways for me has still never been matched. Read more>>>

Seven Months According to my Mobile Phone

no, not a snap from the set of 'Watchmen'.The other day I realized I had over one hundred photos on my phone that I had never downloaded (sideloaded? whatever) from it. Periodically I do that, not that often because it's a little bit of a pain, but this time I hadn't done it last since May 2012.  After the process was complete and I was looking through them all I realized that it was interesting how the things I took photos of were in some ways different than what I shoot when I have a "real" camera with me.  In a way it's a story of the last seven months of my life, told with the only device I had available, that I have with me all the time.

Since the cameras on phones are pretty low quality compared to dedicated cameras, and my phone's cam is especially bad, that means I'm usually only snapping a photo when I'm going about my regular life - I don't go out on a project to shoot cell phone photos. It's only while I'm on my way to do something else and I run into something weird or notable, or, in a few cases, i want to take a photo of the camera that i'm using to shoot something else in a more high-quality way.

It's interesting, for me at least. Just to click through them and get a different angle on last year.  See the whole set here.

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