Archive for category: Artistic Tendencies

Moving Forward on a Number of Fronts

10 Dec 2001
December 10, 2001

If you remember, I was consumed by preparations for our annual Leaf Blowing Festival. While the weather has been incredibly mild for a DC fall and it seemed more like May than November, the festival was a smashing success! We had a bumper crop this year and the dry weather made it a breeze to blow (it didn’t make my allergies any easier, though)!

The Closing Ceremony was attended by thousands. The roar of the crowd was deafening. It took a lot of work but it was worth all the hours of planning, raking, blowing, and showering off leaf dust. This year’s festivities were worth the sacrifice. Amazingly, a Hollywood-bred film crew documented the finale (Quicktime 2.2 MB).

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horoscopeOn another note, as an artist, I revel in the time I have to myself to work on my own projects. But with a full time job and a family it’s not easy finding the time. After 9/11 I realized how important being creative was to me. It was one of the few things that truly gave me some control in my life. With the attacks and the anthrax scares, diving into new ideas was incredibly life affirming. And this has been a rich last two weeks for me.

I’ve just upgraded Dichotomy: It Was a Matter of Time and Place, my site about 9/11. My first idea was to have both Witness and Participant accounts come up randomly next to each other. However, as I got submissions of stories about that day, relationships between entries began to surface. And I wanted to be able to connect some of these stories. So, thanks to the incredible help I got from my programmer, Sharon Denning, I am now able to connect entries in a number of ways: either between categories or within the same category. The stories people are submitting are pretty amazing.

I’ve also made some major changes to Life Outtacontext. Basically, it looks the same but the backend is now being powered by Movabletype. I’ve tried other weblog management tools but this really fits! And, I’m really appreciative for all the help Ben and Mena have provided, both in their application as well as in our dialogue.

On the frontend, you might notice two new buttons at the top of each month’s page. These allow you to change the font style and size of the text. Those of us who need slightly larger type might want to choose the “Larger Serif” font. Check it out. Paul Sowden, a 17 year old wiz from London is responsible for developing this javascript solution (thanks to Jeffrey Zeldman from A List Apart for turning me on to Paul’s work!)

In addition, you can now leave comments about the stories you read here. At the end of each piece is a link to the comments section. The number in parentheses is the number of people who have left their mark about that story. Since I’ve just added this feature (again, part of Movabletype), it’s a little quiet around here. But I’m hopeful that will change. You can still sign up to be notified via email when I’ve posted a new entry [try to fix a bug in the notification interface —hold on]. That, too, is a link after each story.

Thanks to everyone who helped. I could not have completed these projects with their help. This, too, is life affirming.

Maintaining Creative Control

08 Oct 2001
October 8, 2001

horoscopeI’ve been working on a web project about 9/11 and have been totally consumed. You know that feeling? Total commitment to an idea and its realization. It’s like the sports equivalent of the zone: you look up and five hours have passed since you last realized, well, reality. What a rush and mixture of emotions. I haven’t felt this way in quite a while. But, with the sharp awareness that I lack the power to control the uncontrollable these days, this is my only alternative.

All I’ve got is my creativity. It’s the one thing in life where no compromises are foisted upon me. No one is looking over my shoulder. And no one is evaluating my performance. I get the undiluted power to consider: listen to advice, think about the alternatives, and make the ultimate decisions. It makes me feel good. And it gives me a sense of control in my life.

Speaking of of which, I’ve been acutely aware of my daughter’s inaugural indoctrination into the societal rules of order since entering kindergarten a few weeks back. I am simultaneously sad and relieved.

The unbridled energy of toddlers is exciting to watch but oh-so-tiring (especially for us “older” parents). It’s hard to believe I ever had that amount of stamina (especially as I sit in my PJs at midday writing this). It’s fun and amazing to view the world through your child’s inexperienced and uncontrolled eyes.

On the other hand, I am an ordered person. Fear of chaos has often been my guide. In college I never pulled an all-nighter. Not once (I realize I’m the odd man out here). I always made sure I had finished the readings a week before each exam. This made me feel like I had enough time to study. It also allowed me to concentrate on the content of the course and not my reoccurring nightmare where I’m handed the exam only to realize I can’t tell which class it’s for! The upside of all of this is that I’ve grown to be good at organization. I can handle multiple tasks simultaneously with an eye at what has to be done up ahead. Egads. I’ve just described what it takes to be a, uh, Project Manager!

So, you can see why I have mixed emotions about watching my children learn to control themselves. It started on my daughter’s first day of school. After the first week she could recite the school’s five steps of conflict resolution: 1. Ignore. 2. Move away. 3. Talk friendly. 4. Talk firmly. 5. Get adult help.

And she can now say the Pledge of Allegiance with strength and the conviction of a five year old. We’ve explained to her just what she’s pledging allegiance to. She has homework, usually a fun art-based activity, every day (in an effort, we were told, to prepare them for the rigors of “real” homework to come in the 1st grade).

I’m pondering, though, where the fine line between teaching adherence to rules and teaching independent thinking resides. I’m a child of —I almost said “the 60s.” Well, I’m a child of my father actually. Through him I learned to question authority, usually his.

My hope is to work with both my daughters rather than try and control them when it comes to learning these lessons. And I’m just a little relieved to remember what I learned in my early days of art school: you’ve got to know the rules before you can learn how to break them!

© 2001-2015 Jeff Gates ISSN 1544-4074