Art.

So this weekend we went to the Chicago Expo at Navy Pier. I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy browsing art for the afternoon, but after gazing upon several interesting performance pieces, displays and the like, there was one piece that moved me to tears.

I never thought I would shed a tear over art.

A search on the Internet found this article about the particular piece that helped me find tears.

RAGNAR KJARTANSSON Scenes from Western Culture/Architecture and Morality/World Light

The gallery’s rear rooms contain videos on nine monitors comprising Scenes from Western Culture (2015), seemingly innocuous slices of contemporary life that range from nineteen minutes to a little over three hours. In one, jazz pianist Jason Moran and mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall Moran dine at Upstairs at 21 in Midtown. Framed by a bland mural of Grand Army Plaza and Bergdorf’s, they enjoy an uneventful dinner with barely audible conversation ranging from music to basketball players to wine. As in all but one video, the camera is stationary, and the film loops with an imperceptible edit. In The Pool, the painter Elizabeth Peyton swims laps for twenty-four minutes; the frame tracks her laterally as in Olympic coverage. Her yipping terrier doggedly follows her progress. In Dog and Clock, a Shetland Sheepdog lies on a rug before a grandfather clock in Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness’s house museum. When the clock oddly strikes at 4:05, she dutifully barks after the fourth chime. In The Boat, a man docks a vessel on a lake, helps a woman out who walks away, then unmoors the craft and putters off-screen, returning a few minutes later with another woman, repeated for over two and a half hours. It is gorgeous and monotonous, although briefly Chaplinesque when he inadvertently falls into the drink. Burning House is a ninety-two minute shot of exactly that, in a Swedish wood, the conflagration seen against dark conifers. Lovers shows the luxury of day sex in an affectionate and explicit scene between a man and woman with interchangeably long hair.

There is something about the composition that moved me.

In addition, when I glanced over there was a young man in a flannel shirt standing by himself looking at the work. He stood with his hands crossed the exact same way that I cross my hands when I am lost in contemplation. 

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While I thought the afternoon would be spent looking at things I wouldn’t really comprehend, instead I found myself thinking, pondering, and feeling motivated to be creative in my own way.  

A wonderful afternoon.

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Prunella.

There are many reasons we moved to Chicago. Listening to young, straight, white females scream at the top of their lungs while walking through Boystown is not one of them. 

I don’t like the fact that the gay community is a tourist attraction for some. I find it insulting. We are not zoo animals. We are not to be observed in some natural habitat. Honestly, Boystown is not a natural habitat for me. I feel comfortable being gay anywhere, but I don’t feel comfortable when some young woman, looking like three pounds of sausage crammed into a one pound bag, screams “look at them kissing!”  She is referring to two young men outside of a bar on N Halstead.

As I walked by, tackily clad in Army boots, and doing my best Xena look of dissatisfaction, I said “simmer down, Prunella.”  I was prepared for argument. She stopped screaming. 

I went home. 

What’s odd is about 10 minutes earlier, a drunken man staggered into me, fumbling his way toward Belmont. I said to him, “easy there, Prunella”. 

Apparently everyone is Prunella tonight. 

Connection.

A mockup of the new Apple center on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, opening in October. Photo courtesy of chicagobusiness.com
I really enjoy the way Angela Ahrendts, Senior VP of Retail at Apple, thinks. Before joining Apple, Angela spoke about the importance of human energy during a TED Talk in Hollywood. At the time she was CEO of Burberry. 

As Senior VP of Retail at Apple, Angela is leading the transformation of Apple’s Retail Space, commonly known as the “Apple Store”, into neighborhood town squares. Apple is opening such a location in Chicago next month. I look forward to being there on opening day.

The Apple Neighborhood Town Square is designed to bring people together through their common interest in technology. It’s perfectly OK to sit at the pavilion and listen to the live music. Folks are encouraged to use the locations as gathering places. If you feel inclined to shop, Apple’s team members will not only show you how great the camera on the latest iPhone is, they also have regular scheduled events where they take you out in the world and show you how to take awesome photos. Apple doesn’t want you to use technology, they want you to connect to it, but more importantly, they want to bring people together to give them the opportunity to share their interests or passions together. Angela is very committed to recognizing the importance of human connection, and using technology as a conduit to accomplish that, is an amazing thing.

Earlier today I blogged about the importance of the corner store and how a start-up company was looking to replace that human connection with a sterile vending machine box located in strategic places. Criticisms of this start-up project have been married to criticisms of “Apple’s deluded thinking” that their retail space can be the neighborhood town square.

I’m sorry, but that’s (no pun intended) comparing apples to oranges.

Yes, the primary objective of Apple’s Centers are to sell you technology.  iPhones, iPads, Macs, Watches, accessories: all of these things are found at an Apple Store. But where the automated Bodega idea is to separate you from a human connection, Apple is looking to bring people together. Their Apple Today series, a daily schedule of seminars and the like, are designed to bring people with a common interest together. Yes, you are going to learn about Apple technology at an Apple Today event, but the technology and theme of the event is a conduit to bringing people together. You may not know the person across town that decided to attend an event to learn about drawing on an iPad, but here you have a chance to interact with someone else that shares an interest with you. Apple is using their Town Square model to bring people together, not replace human interaction with an online purchase.

I am proud to be an Apple Fanboy. I believe that Apple continues to give us the best technological experience available in the consumer space. Yes, many other products can do what Apple products do, but they don’t do it to the degree of satisfaction and comfort I find in an Apple product. But what’s more important to me as an Apple Fanboy is the company’s philosophy and vision. Do great things for the world, bring great things to the world and bring people together through technology. Apple is about preserving the human equation, not eliminating it.

We all need the energy we give one another when we interactive in our daily lives. Let’s keep doing things that bring people together, not isolate them from the outside world. And if that means going to an Apple Town Square to listen to an Indie Rock band or learn to take photos, at least I’ll be with people that share a common interest.

Convenience.

New York Bodega cat as shown in New York Daily News.

My great Aunt Jenn lived in the “urban area” of Syracuse when I was a kid.  We wouldn’t visit her very often at her home outside of picking her up for family gatherings in the suburbs, but when I was in elementary school we’d visit once in a great while.  She’d give us a dollar each to head down to the corner store where we could buy candy or something of that nature.  I always liked the corner store; the owner didn’t know who we were unless we walked in with Aunt Jenn’s grandchildren. On those occasions we were greeted with a smile. The folks at the store spoke with an accent, though I don’t know the origin of it.

Growing up in the country we had two little stores about a mile from our house. Mom would venture there from time to time. One had a butcher in the back, the other store was a milk and bread kind of place. The cashiers at both stores were very friendly. There was something comfortable about having a neighborhood store, whether it was down the block or a mile away. It helped reinforce the whole neighborhood vibe. You knew these people and you wanted their establishment to thrive.

Big chains don’t do that.

Yesterday two ex-Google employees announced their new company, which is unfortunately called Bodega. Their get rich quick scheme is to place oversized vending machine boxes in strategic locations (hotels, condo and apartment building lobbies, gyms, etc) where, through a whiz bang use of cameras, phone apps, and Big Brother style monitoring, you can pick up the items you so desperately want from these impersonal boxes. App metrics will undoubtedly track your every move and someone will fling ads your way based on what you bought. It’s the way of the world, or at least the Silicon Valley.

The name Bodega comes from the convenience stores of New York and Los Angeles. These are neighborhood fixtures where you get what you need from a friendly face that you know and converse with. Chances are there will be an accent along the way somewhere. A curious fixture of New York bodegas is the Bodega cat. Probably not legal but they’re helpful in keeping mice and rats away. They are a fixture of the neighborhood Bodega. People love them.

The Bodega vending machine people went with a cat for their logo.

I briefly wrote about this on Medium in response to the blog entry from this vending machine company, but the biggest failure of this venture, outside of the misappropriation of the name, is the lack of human interaction. The lack of neighborhood.  The lack of community.

Our society can not and will not survive if we strive to be completed disconnected from one another. Internet and other technology based interactions can be a conduit to a more personal means of communication; we have several friends that we would have never met if it hadn’t been for the Internet. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Gen-Xer or what, but lately communication confined to electronic means only has felt very hollow to me. We feed off the energy of one another. Though some are hesitant to admit it, we need a human connection to thrive. We need a neighborhood. We need a community.

Any technological advances that strive to reduce human connection are not advances at all but a step in the wrong direction. We can make it shiny and beep, but there’s no energy, no life force, in the cold of glass and steel. 

We should strive to support our neighborhoods, our local businesses, our communities and most importantly, each other. 

And don’t forget to greet the cat at your local Bodega.  

Sale.

When I was in elementary school we sold candy bars. Maybe a pizza. All of this to raise money for a field trip to the zoo or something.

Our local elementary school is selling mattresses.

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Another Rant.

This could be my last post on Facebook but it probably won’t be because apparently I can be some sort of masochist.

Rant time: It’s “nice” that Facebook can barrage me with a constant stream of horrific memories of 9/11 on September 12. I mean, why be timely when you can relive the sad desperation of that horrible day over and over again, day after day, to garner more ad money for this service? 9/11/01 was a tragedy, no doubt, and some of the posts I read yesterday were quite touching and thoughtful. But today is September 12 and I strive to move forward with my life. But Facebook, in all its “infinite wisdom” wants me to wallow on sorrow, just like the barrage of Father’s Day ads I see every year, even though I have told Facebook several times that my father is deceased. Why am I still on this thing? I really have no idea other than everyone seems to be afraid of venturing outside of Facebook these days. To share is to Facebook. Most folks like echo chambers and their news fed to them by Facebook. I seek. I search. I learn. If you want to contact me, text me. Email me. Follow my idiotic tweets. Read my blog. Heck, if you’re shy and don’t want to talk to me, I’ll set up a free voicemail account and you do the same and we’ll exchange voicemails. Write me a letter. Step outside of this walled garden of growing idiocracy, there’s a beautiful world out there.

#5SecondRule. 

I watch this TED talk by Mel Robbins on a routine basis. It’s the motivation I need to keep going, keep growing and keep living life. 

Watch this. Grow with me.