The Guilty Party

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sunday at the Museum With a Camera

I really like the Phoenix Art Museum. It is just a cool place to spend some time. We became members a few years back because it was actually the most economical way to ensure we could get into see one of those monster, super popular traveling shows that museums like to host, and we've just kept the membership going because we love the place and it pays for itself a couple times over every year.

This Sunday we went in order to check out the Ansel Adams "Discoveries" exhibit and the other photography exhibit which is called "Exposing Time". Both were fascinating. The Adams exhibit has about 140 images, many of them familiar, but just as many quite new to most viewers. For instance, there were color images he had done late in his career as well as snapshots he had taken as a young teen while on vacation with his family. Great stuff. The Exposing Time exhibit used a "time passes" format to showcase photography's ability to capture not only a moment in time but also the passage of time or even the effects of time. Before and after shots of a midwest town immediately after a tornado hit and a year later. An extensive series of pictures of four sisters, taken every year for over twenty years. All tightly composed and all amazing in what they showed us of each sister's character.

But one of the things I most enjoy about visiting any museum is seeking out photo opportunities for myself. Great museums are usually interesting buildings themselves, containing wonderful spaces with eye catching details all over the place, if you are inclined to have your eye caught, that is. Here are a few of the shots I took yesterday.

Looking out of a window pane that, if we were all remembered correctly, has been in need of replacing since last time we visited.

 I have been fascinated by this sculpture that has these liquidy silver shapes on a flat silver surface for some time. Now it is even more interesting because of the wall of graduated color paper that shares the room.

 A projected rectangle of light. Normally I'm not a big fan of this sort of modern art, but in this setting I think it works.

My wife and daughter caught checking out the other side of the graduated colored paper wall. 

Here's the thing about a visit to the museum. If you do it right, it helps open your eyes to the beautiful, mystifying, scary, freakish, captivating, stunning, wondrous sights all around you every day. And it would be a shame to miss those.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dances With Words

Dances With Words

Yesterday evening we watched the 1989 movie “Tap”, starring Gregory Hines. The story is predictable, the pace a bit slow, and the bad guys are not all that scary. But the performances, especially by Hines and Suzzanne Douglas, are excellent and, most importantly, the dancing is not only fantastic but it gets a lot of screen time. And thankfully it isn’t spoiled by the sort of editing that makes you wonder if any of those feet you get momentary glimpses of actually belong to the faces that flash by in separate shots. Like a Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers movie, you can actually watch the dancers dance. The movie opens with a powerful, steadily built solo piece by Hines in a tiny prison cell, and manages to fit in at least a few steps by Hines or some other member of the cast, which also includes a young Savion Glover as well as veteran Sammy Davis Jr. who was near the end of his amazing life and career when the movie was made.

There is something about dance, especially the percussive style of tap, that makes me smile. No, it goes deeper than that, it lifts me up in a way that only one other thing can do. That one other thing is reading a particularly well written passage, whether from a novel, poem, play or any other form of writing. And I think the reason these otherwise dissimilar art forms touch me in much the same way is because they both involve rhythm, they have a heartbeat. A good tap routine, no matter how complex or dazzling, has to come from a beat, a pulse, it has to know how and when to lay back, when to create tension and when to strike. The same applies to fine writing. Whether an Ogden Nash short poem, a tragic play by Shakespeare or a novel by Jane Austen, all good writing has a rhythm, all good writers know that it isn’t just what they say, but how they say it, using just the right words in just the right order with just the right punctuation that makes all the difference in the world.

When it comes to my own dancing I’ve got a pretty good sense of rhythm and movement, but I’m not very well schooled and I’m certainly not a natural. It’s just that, much like Darin Baer, the main character in my WIP, when I’m happy I just can’t keep my feet from moving. And when I need a lift, the right music and a bit of empty floor space works wonders. But nobody is going to mistake me for Gregory Hines or Astaire, and that’s okay with me.

But writing is a different story altogether. I am reaching for that same sense of rhythm, that sure handle on the pulse of the words that is one of the defining characteristics of all the writers I admire. The stories told by Twain, Wodehouse, Pratchett, Westlake, Dickens and so many other writers are great not simply because of their subject matter or plotlines (yes, ridiculously intricate plotlines are part of the Wodehouse charm, but Twain couldn’t sustain a through storyline to save his life, Huckleberry Finn meanders like crazy) but because of the way they present their truths, our truths, the shared rhythm of our lives. I may be late in  life to be reaching that high, but I'm still going for it.

As I sat in the bathtub, soaping a meditative foot and singing, if I remember correctly, “Pale Hands I Loved Beside the Shalimar” it would be deceiving my public to say that I was feeling boomps-a-daisy. ---Bertie Wooster Sees it Through by P.G. Wodehouse

“Where a man does his best with only moderate powers, he will have the advantage over negligent superiority.” Emma by Jane Austen

A Bit About Me

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I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.