"Speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again."
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.
-Alan Watts

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Places of NYC: Nussbaum & Wu

Today I traveled up from East Midtown to 'Morningside Heights' which is basically West Harlem and met with a friend whom I have not seen in about two years.  We sat down and had a marathon of a chat at Nussbaum & Wu a small bustling cafe of sorts that serves Stumptown Coffee Roasters coffee.  Actually, I'm still confused as to what I should refer to it as because it serves panini, pizza, coffee and tea, and contains a bakery section for which it is apaprantly well known for.  The website suggests that I did myself a disservice by neglecting to order one of their black and white cookies to which they've devoted an entire page to on their website. Now I've never been a big fan of the Black and White cookie but it's ability to conjure images of tuxedos and jazz clubs are beginning to entice me all too much. I'm a sucker for anything that reminds me of the Jazz Era regardless of if black and white cookies existed back then. Let's take a look at the origins of the infamous New York Black and White cookie... and as always I enjoy using Wikipedia as a catalyst in which to spider-web off of.  ... Folks I've just read something rather disturbing... look where it says "On 19 October 2008, Barack Obama dubbed them Unity Cookies at a deli in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida."1 Really? Unity Cookies? Oh please. I really don't think that's going to catch on here in NYC.
Anyway back to the eating establishment... It's a cute little place where the likes of students of the prestigious Columbia University to the elderly of Morningside Heights congregate to get their caffeine fix and apparently appease their insatiable desire for Black and White cookies. As far as the food goes I ordered a Russian Paninu as well as a cappuccino and enjoyed both of them. Neither was anything special and quite frankly the sandwich was dressed up too much. The presented it literally on a bed of lettuce within a plastic box, a nice sentiment but honestly when there is a line of fifteen people (and there was) presentation shouldn't be of the utmost concern. Regardless the food was good, as was the coffee and although I had a fair share to say about the interior design and stylings of the place to my friend I won't list them all here. They didn't detract from the experience to the extent that I feel would require that I talk about them.

One thing I learned today was that midtown Manhattan subway stations are relatively boring in contrast to their more Northern cousins. I took the N train up to forty-second street/Time's Square and transferred onto the One till I hit one hundred sixteenth street/ Columbia University which literally drops you off at the gates of Columbia's campus. I found a new appreciation for the NYC subway system while in the west side forty-second street/ Times Square. Walking around there, underground, you get to see a much more open and structurally visible layout. It's just a little something that a cell phone picture can't express so I didn't even attempt to take a picture. These are some of the scenes that passed my way and drove me to take a picture. Please forgive the resolution, it's a cell phone in a relatively low light situation.

Anyway, if you find yourself up in West Harlem or, excuse me, Morningside Heights I suggest you stop by Nussbaum & Wu's for a good cup of coffee.  It's the kind of place that you can meet a friend in and have a good conversation but at the same time it'd also be a good place to go alone and just listen to the conversations of others... call it rude and eavesdropping but here in New York where everyone makes their business everyone else's it's near impossible to NOT listen in unless you plug in and reject society.



 1Clark, Lesley (21 October 2008). "Barack Obama and the black and white cookie". The Miami Herald. http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2008/10/barack-obama-an.html.

A Post to Fill Some Space

I've gotten into the habit of always carrying a camera on me and today I spent about seven hours scanning negatives. All are 35mm scanned images of only naturally lit images.
Here are a few of the favorites I've selected to display until I actually have something worth posting about.
Later today I'll be sitting down enjoying tea with an old friend of mine so I'm sure I'll have something to blog about. Till then...



©Steve Shilling

©Steve Shilling

©Steve Shilling

©Steve Shilling

©Steve Shilling

©Steve Shilling

Steve Shilling

Friday, February 25, 2011

Diner Review: Tick Tock Diner

New York City, home to some of the busiest thoroughfares in the nation and arguably, the world.  On the small island of Manhattan we find the beautiful Grand Central Station to the East and the no longer so illustrious Pennsylvania (Penn) Station on the West.  Not more than 3 blocks away underneath the beautiful Art Deco architectural stylings of Sugarman and Berger's Hotel, New Yorker.  With all the hustle and bustle going on in New York City there has to be places to feed the masses and so near every old hotel you can always find a diner.  The two closest to the Hotel, New Yorker are Tick Tock Diner located on the ground-floor conjoined to the hotel and Skylight Diner located merely one block away.

Photograph of the New Yorker Hotel:

So, Tick Tock Diner... I probably won't go there again.  I knew it was going to be loud because due to it's location underneath a historical landmark it's become a tourist attraction.  It's a tacky 50's diner and not in a good way. Sure it's got some decent neon signs (how can you go wrong with a neon sign?) but it's got an overbearingly cluttered atmosphere, disconnected waiters, and flies in the cheesecake. Yes, you heard me FLIES in the the cheesecake. Well, there was only one, but one is one too many for me.

I haven't ordered cheesecake in eight years because I find it too rich tasting for me but last night I decided to order the three items that any New York diner should offer: New York Cheesecake, Chocolate Egg Cream, and a cup of coffee.  I first ordered the Cheesecake and egg cream and once they were brought out I decided I might want to stay just a bit longer since I had my camera with me and figured I'd need something to keep me there, like a coffee.  Now, I don't know how as a waiter you don't first look at the food you're bringing the customer as it's leaving the kitchen or even as you're placing it on the counter but somehow I managed to get  slice of cheesecake with a fly embedded in the top layer.

Final critique: I cannot speak on behalf of the taste of the cheesecake but the egg cream was delicious.  It came in a glass larger than most other diners and it certainly tasted better than the others I've had.  The only hang-up... it'll cost you nearly four dollars!  The coffee was, in all seriousness, the most watered down, bland cup of coffee I've ever suffered through.  Now this isn't the coffee snob that's visited a plantation in Costa Rica talking. One should expect the coffee one orders in a diner to be sub par...it's diner coffee for Pete's sake, it's a tier of it's own.  However, this was ridiculous, and at $1.75 no less!

Here's a photograph of the receipt at the end of the night:

They received a forty cent tip from me just cause I didn't want to hang around waiting for my change from twelve.

You may find yourself itching for a late night spent at a diner next time you roll into Penn Station but please, I urge you to stay away from Tick-Tock for your own good.  If you can make it just one block further you'll much more enjoy the atmosphere, quality, and prices of Skylight Diner.



P.S. Next time I'm up around 34th street on the west side I"ll stop by Skylight Diner, snap some photo's, and order some food just for a review.

P.P.S.  Fun Fact: Nikola Tesla spent his last years in the Hotel, New Yorker which I find to be ironic since the hotel's power plant at the time was the nation's largest private power plant...by the way it ran on direct current. It wasn't changed over to alternating current until the late nineteen sixties.

The Mystery Fragrance

I cannot for the life of me find any online reference to this cologne anywhere.  It's sold by International Parfums and as you can see comes in a lovely Art Deco styled glass bottle.  It's my current favorite cologne that I own in line with Geoffrey Beene's Grey Flanel (1975) and those who are familiar will probably laugh at me, Halston's Z-14 (1976). Okay so apparently my nose is stuck living in the mid-seventies.  It doesn't bother me that my nose leans towards the smells of the past; they sure beat the crap out of the majority of the fragrances made today.

©Steve Shilling

I'll upload my own shots of the other two colognes when I get the chance to shoot them. Till then any assistance on discovering the name of this unknown, mysterious fragrance is greatly appreciated.



As I said, here are my two other favorite fragrances. I found an hour of tonight free so I set up a makeshift micro studio and here's what I got.

All Time Favorite - 'Grey Flannel' by André Fromentin for Geoffrey Beene
©Steve Shilling

Honorable Mention - 'Halston Z-14' by Vincent Marcello / Max Gavary for Halston
©Steve Shilling

And here is a newly shot image of the Mystery Fragrance:
©Steve Shilling
I like the reflection of this one better but I had to fabricate over half of the cap rotated to the side. The cap is plastic and had a load of scratches on it.

P.S. Yes, I added the Halston Z-14 to make it look more like an add... it makes me chuckle.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sometimes I Love New York...

Shot earlier today just North of Union Square.
©Steve Shilling

Take some time and devote it to a good walk today. Who knows what you might come across.
I don't even know how one would get to sitting on that thing let alone initiating movement.  Your guess is as good as mine.



P.S. No, the low quality is not me adding fake grain through an inadequate grain filter run by some magical algorithm. he above image looks the way it does because it was a close up image shot with my Blackberry  using the LCD screen of my computer as a makeshift light table.  since the average aperture of most cell phone cameras comes out to roughly f/11 it caught the pixels produced by my screen behind my negative.  I'll post a scan of the actual image later on this week.

Here's the scanned image:
©Steve Shilling

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Take A Step Back, Relax, Enjoy Life

A few days ago I posted this on my Facebook page.  It's a clip from the movie The Cotton Club that I've been watching a lot lately, mainly for the music.  Another great aspect of the movie are the performances.  There are a collection of great Jazz performances involving the late great tap dancer Gregory Hines and his older brother Maurice.  Here's one of my favorite clips from the film. Slow down, sit back and enjoy the clip. Who knows, maybe it'll get you back up on your feet and dancing a bit yourself.



P.S. Interested in making your own tap shoes? We've all done it once in our lives... Comment with a link to your tack diagram if you'd like. Of course I'll upload mine as well.

500 and Counting... Let's Take a Look Backwards

Hello everyone, we've hit another milestone, the passing of 500 page views!  Since my last milestone post had 'legitimate' photography of mine I'll keep in step with that and again include some in this post.  Also, I thought it fitting that since my last post dealt with some golden oldies I'd show two images that have recently surfaced from the depths of my archives.

©Steve Shilling
This first image was shot the day I received, in short, an entire darkroom from a very generous family down in Maryland who was no longer using it.  I had a stack of what I knew to be expired black and white printing paper and a location in mind that I wanted to shoot so I picked up my tripod and the only 35mm I had at the time and headed towards a nearby abandoned dairy farm.  I shot to my hearts content and since I was new to this world called photography my heart thought it was fulfilled quite quickly and only two rolls later I headed home.  Down to my basement I went, literally cracked open the expired 'Royal' brand printing paper, and I threw a pice on for an initial test print.  What I was expecting was the paper to work poorly or not at all...I wasn't expecting this gorgeous result.  Granted the image is nothing special (give me a break, I hadn't even held a camera for more than a year) but the cloudiness and tonal quality of the print astounded me.  Looking at it now makes me wish I had some of that paper up here with me in New York.

©Steve Shilling
This next image came about a few years later after I purchased my first large format, 4x5 monorail camera from a photographer named Reginald Wickam.  He shared with me his long history with that camera and I cannot express how honored I am to have that camera passed down to me.  The image is of an illuminated incandescent light bulb exposed for approximately four minutes at f/64 and if you look closely you can actually see the illuminated filament suspended on the left hand side.  The image is a scan of a direct negative image captured on Ilford fibre based paper rated at an ISO of 5 (tho some places it says 3).  Maybe a smarter man than I can explain the smokey phenomenon that is occurring in the image but I cannot. It may have to do with the way the glass was manufactured but I can assure you that is was not the paper.

Both of these opportunities, the darkroom as well as the camera, would not have come my way had it not been for my connection to Julie Basello-Holt owner of Creative Genius Art Gallery and Studio located in South Jersey.  Julie and I have known each other for a while both professionally and as friends. She's a strong woman truly devoted to the arts and the creative spirit.

Tonight I hope to have yet another still life to post but at the same time I also wish to catch up on some sleep I've let slip by.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stayin Up Screamin'

Since I slept horribly last night (a mere forty-five minutes) I came home and passed out this afternoon causing my current experience of that '2nd wave' of energy. I don't expect I'll be falling asleep for another say, hour and a half or so.  Regardless one must make the most of their conscious life... This evening I took out one of my Lowel Pro lights and started playing around with some abstract still life work.  It was surprisingly quiet outside my room for a typical Manhattan night and so I opened up Itunes and searched for what to flood my room with.  Instinctually I always stop by Tom Waits first and tonight made the decision to pass him up moving next onto mister Cab Calloway.  I played a few tracks, maybe seven or eight and skipped over to Youtube to watch my favorite filmed version of his infamous "Minnie The Moocher" which I'll embed a bit further down this post for you all to enjoy.  After gettin my Calloway Boogie on and skippin into the swing of things I was really getting into my lighting experimentation but with all my other lights off save for my Pro light  the mood was very heavy an called for something of a bit darker flavor.  I returned to trusty old iTunes and who should I come to rest upon but the one and only, original Shock Rocker and master of the Blues, Screamin' Jay Hawkins.  I turned up the volume and let "I Put A Spell On You" ring throughout my walls.  After a few more tracks by the eccentric singer again I returned to Youtube in order to watch my favorite recording of the aforementioned song.
I'd love to see some of your favorite recorded performances from way back when. Just post the link in the comments section below and I'll be sure to check them put and respond.

Cab Calloway's Minnie The Moocher:

Screamin' Jay Hawkins' I Put a Spell on You:

If you're a fan of all things prohibition era and you dug that Calloway tune click HERE to be redirected to an excerpt from Francis Ford Copolla's nineteen eighty-four film The Cotton Club where they pay homage to the great band leader.  It's a personal favorite of mine starring Richard Gere as a lowly cornet player who rises up the social ladder in a most turbulent way all the while surrounding one of Harlem's most famous Jazz clubs.  If for nothing else it's worth taking a look at for the music. I hope you take me up on that recommendation and I hope you enjoy the film.



P.S. If you're in the Manhattan area and are wondering what has happened to the once infamous Cotton Club just click HERE to see where it's still alive with jive. Later on in the month or perhaps next month I'll go a little further in depth about the Cotton Club and all the talent we probably wouldn't have without it's existence.

The image I'll take away from tonight:
©Steve Shilling

Note: As an avid supporter of Wikipedia nearly every link applied to an individual's name has and will redirect you to their corresponding Wikipedia page.  I do suggest that readers use common sense and while you can read what's on the page, always check the sources list located at the bottom. Do this for multiple reasons:
One: In order to make sure the source is credible.
Two: By utilizing those links you'll be able to expand your knowledge further through varying sources of information.
Three: In order to keep Wikipedia accurate and helpful report any phony links.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Breaking 200 With a Photoshoot of Wyeth

Today I broke 200 page views which, for me, was enough to get me excited.  I decided that in order to celebrate the coming and going of this small milestone I'd post some of the recent 'real' or 'legitimate' photography I've done.  Today I had a short and what felt like a rather impromptu shoot with my dear friend, coffee buddy, and fellow Tom Waits enthusiast Wyeth.  We met at Stumptown Coffee which I featured earlier on this month where I finally got the chance to meet his girlfriend and fellow artist miss Lilly.  We had a fun time talking about some shared experiences Wyeth and I have had over the years.  Wyeth remarked about how I seem to always have an endless supply of pockets containing interesting items and so, in the middle of the Ace Hotel lobby, I emptied the entire contents of my pockets.  It amounted to a sizable pile on the table in front of us; it even made a bystander chuckle at the amount of items endlessly ushering from my jacket and pants pockets.
After coffee we left in order to walk Lilly back to her job at New York's Museum of Sex from where he and I would depart and head to his apartment. I went into today's photoshoot with no idea how or where I wanted to shoot him. I was rather scatterbrained before the shoot but once I lifted the camera to my eye my mind settled down.  He offered up a plethora of possible shooting locations: living room, bed room, fire escape, ...neighbors fire escape..., rooftop and entrance hallway.  We decided to start with the fire escape and it was successful tho probably the least successful location shot in today. Personally I had plenty of fun shooting while performing several balancing acts reminiscent of my past career as a gymnast.  After returning indoors I decided to check out the apartment's geometrically engaging entrance hallway.  We only had to travel down three stories worth of stairs but it took us longer than expected because each window we passed flung such beautiful light onto him that I demanded he stop and pose.  (Thanks Wyeth, I know I can be a dog of a photographer at times barking orders left and right so I appreciate your patience).
After concluding with the entrance hallway of the apartment building we headed back up, paused before his door and he asked "Ya wanna go up?" He issued up the stairs where he had told me the access to the roof was located.  We never made it to the roof on account of two reasons. One of which was that the door had an alarm that we didn't much want to set off.  The second reason was because I doubt we would have found the roof more interesting than the space that precedes it.  There before us was this gem of a location with peeling paint on the wall, a broom, a shovel and a wooden sled.  It was such a great location.  The only difficulty with shooting it was that I had to balance on the interior window sill placing one foot on the banister in order to get the two shots you see below.  This again was great fun as it reminded me of my gymnastics years and I silently thanked my mother for keeping me enrolled for those fourteen years.
SO! Without further adue and presented with my gratitude for your patience with (hopefully) reading this post... here are the images.
Thank you all for your attention, your time, and your continued interest.



©Steve Shilling

©Steve Shilling

©Steve Shilling

To Make You Must Take

In order to Make pictures it helps to be able to Take pictures.

As a photographer or rather as an artist in general I feel it is important to be able to make pictures wherever you are. Often times we're told that the tools we use are important to the images we create…and to an extent this is true. For an architectural photographer to use a 35mm camera would be foolish. It's been done before using medium format rollfim cameras and the work has been successful. I try (not always do I succeed) to have a real camera on me at all times. Often, I'm in such a rush that I leave my apartment, run to the elevator and I'm out the door before I realize I forgot my camera. In today's world it's easy to have a picture taking device on you at all times, it just might not be what you want. Take out your cell phone; more than likely it's got a camera that allows it to take pictures. For a moment disregard all preconceived notions that image quality and megapixel count or negative size is everything. This mindset calls for the most important aspect to be the capturing of the image.

Here are a few examples of where having a cell phone with a camera comes in handy.

©Steve Shilling
©Steve Shilling

©Steve Shilling

Every image above was shot on my little Blackberry which boasts a mere 3.2 megapixels of optical rendering power. That's good for larger than a 4x5 inch print at 300 dpi. I'm not claiming them to be amazing photographs but hey, I wanted to make a picture and my cell phone was the only device on me at the time that met my needs. I've got my favorites though; both of the images in the middle diptych as well as the right image in the first diptych make me smile.

IF however you are still concerned with megapixels than you'll love THIS article about Sony and their release of a 16.41 megapixel CMOS camera phone sensor. When I choose to shoot digital, other than my cell phone all I've got to work with is my Canon 5D at 12.8 megapixels. I've officially been shown up by a cell phone. This is getting ridiculous.



Saturday, February 19, 2011

Luxury Living: A View from Below

©Steve Shilling

What you're looking at is 200 Eleventh Avenue located near Chelsea Piers.  While on a gallery tour the other day I snapped a photograph of the monumental building with my trusty Blackberry.  The new 'In-Style' way of living in Manhattan (for those wealthy enough to afford it) is to reject the notion of "oh it's the city I can't have my own garage for my Mazaratti (insert pointlessly expensive car of your choice)."  For the right price you are now able to park your car in your very own personal garage.  Yes you read correctly. Below I've posted a video from Youtube that explains and illustrates this outrageous new form of luxury living created by the outstanding Selldorf Architects.  Their known for their beautiful modern designs that almost always tend towards the hi-end style of living and lets be honest...if the notion of having your own personal garage in your two story apartment doesn't scream hi-end then these images certainly will.
The mastermind behind this breakthrough leap in Manhattan residential living is non other than architect Steven Kratchman. Great name if you ask me. Among other honors he holds the prestigious Full Member status of the Urban Land Institute's Mixed Use Urban Development Committee Chapter. You may read more about both Steven and the Urban Land Institute by clicking on their links.



P.S. Selldorf Architects has a beautiful book available highlighting their architecture. It features some fabulous architectural photography. It's a bit pricey so if you can find a better deal on Amazon and you're an Architecture enthusiast I seriously suggest you buy it.

Video displaying the car elevator and garage feature of 200 Eleventh Avenue.

Google Maps with Street View for those who'd like to investigate further:

View Larger Map

Places of NYC: Stumptown Coffee

Stumptown Coffee Cappuccino:
©Steve Shilling                                     

A few weeks ago my dear friend Wyeth and I went to have a cup of coffee at Stumptown Coffee over on 18 West 29th street.  It's located so that you order your coffee and pastry in the front at the bar and you then have the option of sitting in the lobby of Ace Hotel.  If you get there at the right time it's an excellent place to sit down, have a cup of coffee, people watch, or read the newspaper.  The above shot of a typical cappuccino was recorded with my Blackberry and can be exactly the quality you can expect to see with your order.  The bar has a great old city feel to it reminiscent of a New York I personally wish could come back. Not going to happen though. Grab a friend or a group of friends and head on over. Make sure you take the opportunity to find seating in the Ace Hotel lobby.



Click HERE to be redirected to a blog post about the above image displaying their beautiful multipurpose business/punch cards written by Nicole Lavelle.

Inspiration Series #1

Above are six images from my favorite architectural photographer and notably one of the most important architectural photographers to have lived, Julius Shulman.
Below are two images I myself have shot.  Both images are of the campus of the State University of New York in Purchase, New York.  No doubt I've got quite a ways to go still.

©Steve Shilling
©Steve Shilling

Today's [Feb. 18, 2011] Events

©Steve Shilling
Title: The Past Two Days I've Found Myself Looking Up More Than Usual

I spent the majority of my emotional existence for today in Moorestown New Jersey attending the beautifully arranged memorial service of one Mrs. Mary Lou Marcucci.  An extremely kind-hearted and humble woman probably scoffing at the formalness with which I just introduced her.  I wasn't lucky enough to build a lengthy report with her but I had the chance to accompany her, her husband Richard Marcucci and a handful of classmates of mine on a trip of Eastern Europe.  After listening to the accounts of this woman's beautifully lived life told by her friends, colleagues, students and family members I came away with a positive sense of the beauty of death.  Today, there amassed a group of individuals, all of whom immensely affected by the love this woman shared with the world; they gathered in order to celebrate as Mary Lou would have wanted them to.

"I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one, I’d like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done. I’d like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways, of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days. I’d like the tears of those who grieve, to dry before the sun of happy memories that I leave behind when day is done."
-Afterglow, by Helen Lowrie Marshall

The above diptych is nothing supremely executed. Both images were shot with my Blackberry quite spur of the moment actually.  I'd like to think that somewhere the energy of Mary Lou (and what energy she had!) was influencing me.  The image on the left was shot earlier today after the service during the reception just before I left.  I was discussing some personal difficulties I've been experiencing as of late with one of my closest personal friends and a truly beautiful person at that Mrs. Priscilla Taylor-Williams.  One thing I gathered from listening to the stories and the life of Mary Lou was be it a birch tree or a building there was beauty to be found in it.  Keep your eyes and your mind open to all that is beautiful in the world.

During my four years spent at Moorestown Friend's School she as well as Richard Marcucci and Konrad Richter have been enormous sources of support and wisdom. I can without a doubt say that I would not be who I was today and who I will turn into tomorrow without having them in my life. I am truly honored to have been a pupil of theirs.

Never have I come across a more apt and positive example of the Walt Whitman quote "And I will show you that nothing can happen more beautiful than death."

Excerpt taken from: Starting from Paumanok



Thursday, February 17, 2011

Aim High: How to Live Life

Life is filled with disappointments. This is an inevitable and inescapable truth.  If at the end of the day you can sit down have a discussion with yourself and decide that you are truly satisfied then you have already died. You have become stagnant. You are a cut flower. There is no longer a reason for you to live other than to witness a decline..
First off, in order to understand such bold statements we must elaborate a bit. Let's start with defining the word "satisfy"

Satisfy: one definition is a simple one - to fulfill.

If one finds themselves entirely satisfied in life then they have fulfilled all meaning and purpose of being.

Life tells us that we will or at the least SHOULD NEVER be satisfied, with anything.  This does not deem mankind be set down a path of eternal bitterness. Rather, it frees us up to feeling more accomplished through the lack of expectation.  When I take an image and I'm wholly existing in the moment once the image is revealed all feels right and I'm satisfied...until the evening when I've let the image sit and it becomes obsolete.  However, it has not failed to achieve any preconceived criteria and therefore it is not a true failure.  I can still look at it and feel a sense that everything is correct with the image but what follows is a sense that that which is present could be taken a step further.

The United States' Air Force used to have the phrase "Aim High" included in their motto.  This is an endearing sentiment towards the idea that yes, we will always fall short of our true goals. Partially because not until we arrive at an outcome do we realize it has failed and while other times it is because to reach our goal is to finish, to satisfy, to fulfill.  I'm not preaching the idea that it's alright to fail, or to be satisfied with honest failure. Rather, I'm speaking about always setting your goals higher than you think you can achieve, aiming you mark higher than you think you can hit.  More than likely you will achieve something great.

In archery the goal is to shoot an arrow at a target, landing it as near to the center as you can, and then repeating it.  Due to the laws of gravity every object is being pulled towards the Earth's center at approximately 9.81 m/s^2.  In life there are always forces working against you, demanding more from you and in the end, above all of them there must be you demanding even more.  You are the archer, the arrow, and the target determining your level of success.

American playwrite Arthur Miller wrote an essay entitled Tragedy and the Common Man published in nineteen forty-nine.  In his essay there is a brilliant line in which he discusses man's most beautiful quality which is emphasized in the writings of tragic literature and dramatic performances.  We strive till the end of our days to realize ourselves. We search for that satisfaction, that fulfillment of life and we constantly fail.  What do we do when we fail though?  We continue, having realized our failure and we continue on past it. Maybe we keep the knowledge of it present with us at times but we insatiably persist towards self realization.

Line:  "In the tragic view the need of man to wholly realize himself is the only fixed star, and whatever it is that hedges his nature and lowers it is ripe for attack and examination."



P.S.  In this post I've included several links, some of which lead to pages pertaining to the physics behind the flight of an arrow or why gravity is expressed as 9.81 m/s^2.

Suggested reading:
Shakespear's Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear  (Click here for amazon link - as low as $0.74)
Death of a Salesman By Arthur Miller

A quick 'Google' or 'Bing' search of Greek Tragedies will inundate you with suggestions.

Interesting Thought #1 and Current Obsession

My close personal friend Anthony L. has been a master puppeteer for six years now and in the last two years I've known him I've been able to witness his true passion for the craft and it's close cousin, the art of masked performance.  He's an aspiring screenwriter and among his favorite films are Jim Henson Company originals: Labyrinth (1986), Dark Crystal (1982) and Mirrormask (2005).  I've had the pleasure of sitting down and watching each of these titles with him and I believe I speak for the both of us when I say our mutual favorite is that beautiful fantasy appropriate for all ages, Mirrormask.  
I'm not here to critique any of the previously mentioned films but I am here to tell you about how Mirrormask has spawned my most recent obsession and revitalized my long time fascination with masks.  It's been a while since last I watched Mirrormask and upon my first viewing of it this week I listened to a line of the movie that sparked a simple but compelling idea.

Line:  Valentine: "How do you know if you're happy or sad without a mask[...]?"
          Helena: "I've got a face."

Idea: While faces hold the ability to lie, masks do not. 

Maybe it's a bit difficult to see the connecting lines between the line and the thought that followed.  Well, Valentine states that in the world he lives in masks control the emotions and thoughts of those who wear them.  Helena rebuts with the ever popular idea that masks are too restricting to be thought of as honest because people change throughout every moment of the day as they react to their environment and daily stressors.  I must have been in an especially contemplative mood that night because my brain snapped to attention at the conclusion of the lines delivery.  Later on in the film while Valentine and Helena are in the library Valentine says "You all sort-of look alike to me. Without a proper face you could be anybody," again Helena rebuts saying "Hang on- I've got a proper face" and continues to demonstrate how she has the ability to control and contort her expression to Valentine's disgust.  Here we see the repeated idea that Valentine has about how masks affirm truth through restriction.
Now, though this concept has many counter arguments, some stronger than others and quite valid, I'm obsessed (at the moment) with masks and how they truly grant anyone who is willing the ability to honestly become another person.  In one sense, a complete lie; but from another point of view as long as the person wearing the mask acts in accordance to the expression of the mask they cannot deceptively lie. It's obvious that if a smiling mask speaks of disappointment or there current misfortunate position they're clearly lying.  Masks force a truth, if not from within us than certainly projected onto our everyday audience.

Now, the last time I delved into the world of sculpture (additive not subtractive) was probably freshman year in high school (approx. 6 years ago).  Today I went out and bought some of the necessary tools for sculpting some masks of my very own.  I started around 1 in the afternoon (13:00) and worked for a good four or five hours before taking my first break of the day for food.  I plan on making both functional and smaller scale ornamental masks as well as learning how to properly emote through masked performance.

©Steve Shilling


Note: All film titles link to their corresponding IMDB.com page. For those interested in looking further into the films are urged to do a quick 'Google' or 'Bing' search.

I've shared a link to a Youtube video displaying death masks and I urge anyone interested in the conceptual side of masks to take a look at it.

-Masks, Transformation, and Paradox By A. David Napier

-Masked Performance: The Play of Self and other in Ritual and Theatre By John Emigh

-Balinese Masks: Spirits of an Ancient Drama By Judy Slattum and Paul Schraub

-Revealing Masks: Exotic Influences and Ritualized Performance in Modernist Music Theater By W. Anthony Sheppard