Thursday, July 12, 2007

What's Your Learning Edge? And, "Come Hell and High Water"

More group stuff, of a different--but no less vital--kind:

I was just tagged by Bill at Integral Options Cafe with a challenge to think about this topic that's making the rounds in the blogosphere. I don't know. Maybe I need a new one. The big one for me recently has been a change in media. For more years than I care to remember, I have thought of myself--and practiced--as a writer. For this, I have actually needed no more than a ballpoint pen and a yellow pad--though I've discovered that a computer actually does come in quite handy. Then my friend Bill Lasarow at Artscene magazine in Los Angeles threw me a curve with an invitation to contribute to a new venture of his, Artscene Visual Radio. He came around to my house a few months ago and set me up with a sound studio in my office: the "learning edge" has been getting comfortable enough with the new technology to use it. And discovering the difference between language-as-writing and language-as-sound, and how to put together a respectable radio piece that's at once interesting and as glitch-free as possible.

My contribution is called "The Art of Outrage." It started at a time when I was still writing in my first blog, The Bush Diaries, and was waking up pretty much outraged every day. The Bush Diaries morphed a few months back into The Buddha Diaries when it dawned on me that the Buddha was far better company than Bush, and consequently I don't feel the outrage quite so often any more--though maybe I should! Anyway, "The Art of Outrage" has been a huge learning curve, and I have to confess that I would still be much more of a dunce with the technology without the able help of my assistant, Cardozo, who also posts to The Buddha Diaries on occasion. The experience served to put me on edge in the kind of way I think is being talked about here: there needs to be that bit of discomfort, that sense that some significant change needs to be made, in order to be on the "learning edge."

I'm still there, to a certain extent, with the technology and the new medium, but the edge has begun to dull. This curious and unexpected challenge has reminded me that I could use a new one. I'm not in any hurry, with the summer arriving, and with a travel schedule that keeps me from rooting into the ground. But, yes... thanks for the reminder!

Who to tag? How about some engaged younger bloggers? Eli, Mark, and Lindsey.


I’ve been meaning to put in a few words about this photography show, and I hope I’ve managed to do so before it closed. (The website says July 7, but I’m hoping its run might have been extended: any reader in the Orange County, California area would do well to see it…) “Come Hell and High Water” brings together three photographers from New Orleans, and the show is about the Katrina disaster.

Jackson Hill took pictures of the area close to his house only hours before Katrina struck.

The light in these pictures, I understand, is not manipulated—its eerie quality due perhaps to the approaching storm, or perhaps in part to the artist's apprehension of the event. Their strange colors and deserted scenes convey an unsettling sense of tragic inevitability, of a city awaiting its destruction.

Brian Gauvin's poignant pictures document the aftermath of the storm and its immeasurable cost to the city and its inhabitants. This picture

shows the mark of the high water, in a scene that oddly mimics the aesthetics of minimalist art and at the same time manages to highlight the breathtaking enormity of nature's assault. Gauvin captures the surreal incongruities that result from a single act of nature that was able to make a mockery of humanity's attempts to tame it. In his pictures, houses are reduced to matchsticks, cars become toys discarded in disarray by a childish tantrum.

Tom Neff's lens turns on the human cost of the tragedy. His images and the accompanying texts reveal at once the best and the worst of human nature in extremis. Here

he captures in a single image the proud defiance of the vulerable individual and the shame of a nation that so signally failed its own people at a time of need. Neff tells stories. His people--mostly poor, mostly deprived of all but the last shreds of their wordly possessions and their dignity--have been through the hell that's referred to in the exhibition's title and have come out the other side with their humanity intact, even deepened by the experience. Or, in some dreadful cases, destroyed.

While Tom Neff's images and texts are the most absorbing part of "Come Hell and High Water," the whole exhibit constitutes a gripping documentation of this landmark event in our history and and the place of its occurence; and, finally, a powerful indictment of our national failure to meet the challenge it presented, our abandonment of a magical city--one of our great, irreplaceable cultural jewels--at a time when, elsewhere in the world, we persist in pursuing an unnecessary and hopeless war.
(Thanks and apologies to BC Space's website for the purloined--"borrowed?"--images. After wrting the above, I received an email to let me know that the run of this show has, indteed, been extended. If any of my readers live within reasonable travel distance of Laguna Beach, check in with the gallery for information about dates and times.)


robin andrea said...

Hello Peter-- I wanted to stop by to thank you for leaving a comment on our our blog today. It's always so good to find a new comment from someone we've not "met" before. I've had grand time perusing your Buddha Diaries blog, and even went over and listened to your "The Art of Outrage." From there I checked Mark Strickland's website and tried to get a look at his mural. A fine journey it has been.

Yes, I agree Buddha is much better company than Bush.

Adam Kayce, Monk at Work said...

Hi Peter — thanks for jumping in on the Learning Edge meme... I'm posting an update post today, linking to your blog and this post, so others can find it.

I hear you on the technology piece; I'm pretty tech-savvy, and yet things are growing so quickly, it makes even me feel a bit like a dinosaur from time to time.

Thanks again!