We’re hear to see the David

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This recent New York Times article – What the Mona Lisa Tells Us About Art in the Instagram Era – struck a chord. I’ve definitely spent time wandering galleries in search of the “greatest hits” to photograph. Instead of buying the show catalog, I’ve waited patiently for the view around a painting or sculpture to clear so I could take my very own picture of it. Like the viewers in the article I suppose I’m taking pictures of art as “evidence that ‘I’ve been there’”. I definitely felt that way visiting the Uffizi a couple of summers ago. Standing in front of some of the most iconic work in Western art I had the overwhelming sense I’d never be there again so I had better take a picture to create a keepsake. But, I don’t feel guilty about taking those photos, and I don’t think the Times article was trying to create a sense of guilt either. Although we may sometimes sprint through art galleries as if we’re checking items off of a cultural experience list, I’m certain on a subliminal level just being in the presence of fine art lifts our souls and fills us with a sense of well being.

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Setting the Agenda

POTUS love Twitter, and ever since he moved into the office print and broadcast media report out his tweets as if they were quoting him directly. By publishing his tweets in the news section instead of the opinion section where most of them belong, the media elevate his missives from random ramblings to concrete policy. But tweeting about a personnel change at the State Department doesn’t mean an actual change can or should take place. It’s only an announcement of intention which may or may not be followed up by an established procedure. By printing or reading his tweets on air the media let him communicate on an issue as if he were addressing a press conference unchallenged by questioning journalists.

From the beginning of this administration I’ve had this problem with the media’s Twitter policy regarding the president, and then I heard this quote from John Dick, the founder and CEO of CivicScience which recast my thinking (emphasis mine):

One of the biggest fallacies in the world today is that Donald Trump uses Twitter to talk to the American people. The American people are not on Twitter. 24% of Americans at most are on Twitter. 11% of his voters give or take. He is using Twitter to talk to the media who carry his message to their little tribes of people who read it and so he doesn’t care–and it’s actually quite brilliant I have to tip my hat to the way he handles it. I mean he tweets at 3 o’clock in the morning because he knows he’s setting the media landscape. He’s telling the media what they’re going to talk about that day, and he doesn’t care what CNN says about him because his followers aren’t watching CNN anyway. People don’t trust information anymore they trust the distributors of that information, and so Donald Trump cedes his fairy dust into Twitter and those publications run it to their individual tribes of readers.

It seems so obvious now. Reaching out to Twitter followers and having them amplify his message isn’t the game. Setting the media agenda is, and that’s why the tweets come when they do, served up at the moment the morning show producers and news editors are readying their broadcasts and articles. Is it any surprise now when you fire up your browser or open your newspaper that there’s a fresh round of presidential tweets ready for consumption?

The quote from Dick comes from an interview from the Bob Lefsetz Podcast, a terrific forum for stories about the music industry I highly recommend.

Graphite Dreams

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You’ve no doubt heard that expression about doing at least one thing a day that scares you. Normally I avoid that advice and revel in my comfortable routine. But today was different. Today I did something I’ve never done before and took part in a drawing class. For someone like me who has trouble holding a pen and signing my own name, drawing even simple straight lines and circles in front of someone for whom that is second nature is a little unnerving. But I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking this intro class, and I ended up enjoying the experience.

Light classical music played throughout the studio filled with easels, challenging objects to draw, and stunning student artwork. We worked standing at easels holding our pencils like a conductor holds their baton, which is a style completely foreign to me. But as I kept at it I started to feel more comfortable toward the end of the session. The instruction was gentle and supportive, but not as plentiful as I had anticipated. As an absolute beginner I was hoping for some prescriptive instruction–how to hold the pencil properly; how much pressure to apply, etc.–but instead we launched into the drawing exercise straightaway. And even after almost two hours of trying to draw circles in this studio’s preferred method, I still have a lot of work to do. I also have to decide if I want to immerse myself in the classical drawing style this studio teaches. The named owner of the studio who met us and showed us around her space is passionate about her method and artistry, and, while I see the benefits of learning in the classical tradition, I’m not sure it’s the path I want to take. I do want to continue this challenge and take some type of drawing course, but I’m going to need to take some time to consider what my true goals and needs are before making a commitment.

#MarchForOurLives

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Yesterday we took part in the March For Our Lives here in San Francisco. I was a little under the weather so I wasn’t filled with as much passion and fire as usual when taking part in a protest march. But I thought it was important to be out there and honor the school children and others who put on a nation-spanning, globally inspiring event for a cause which I support.

I am personally opposed to gun ownership, and I can’t see a reason I would ever own one. But I also understand how firearms and gun ownership form a significant part of the story of America, and how important it is to protect the rights of people I may disagree with.

But how about a little common sense?

How about comprehensive background checks and reinstatement of the assault weapons ban for starters? I acknowledge legislative solutions like these won’t completely stop future gun related mass casualty events, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Hello world. Again.

So much has happened since I last posted here.

After all that training I wrote about I did finish the AIDS LifeCycle–riding all the way from here in San Francisco to sunny Los Angeles. I ran in a few more half marathons; lifted literally tons of weights; watched my son graduate from college and graduate school; visited Hawaii, New York, Minnesota, Italy, and Death Valley (in the winter) with my honey; took on new professional responsibilities at work; spent some time in hospitals; got robbed. The usual highlights that make up a life.

Why start writing notes here again?

Mainly for the exercise of writing which for me is currently limited to well-worded e-mails. But also because I got fed up with how heavy-handed Facebook, my writing platform of choice, has become. I went in all those years ago with eyes wide open knowing I would be providing Facebook (and Google, and Twitter, and Tumblr, etc.) with a trove of personal information which they would turn around and monetize. I was willing to give up a little bit of privacy for the ability to connect frictionlessly with family and friends all while posting what I hoped were funny and/or bizarre observations. I was writing fewer and fewer thoughtful pieces here on my blog and tapping out more and more pithy posts on Facebook. I enjoyed watching goat videos, watching memes spread across the web, and the endless parade of wedding, anniversary, or new baby photos. Like everyone else I poked, liked, and commented with abandon hoping for that dopamine hit from a like in return. After a while, though, I gave more thought to my privacy.

So I stopped liking things.

Then I tried to limit the barrage of ads which began to clog up my timeline.

Then the 2016 election happened.

I’m not going to get into a back and forth over Russian election hacking and Facebook’s witting or unwitting part in it, but I had had enough. I still have a Facebook account, but I no longer post there, I’ve begun to take down some material, and I will be locking down some more parts of the experience based on instructions like those found here: https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/20/17140422/facebook-personal-data-deletion-how-to-cambridge-analytica-privacy-scandal-trump-campaign.

And that’s how I find myself here now–trying to disengage from Facebook and post thoughts, notes and observations where almost no one will ever see them on this more personal platform.

And on Twitter.