Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Kern - 8/24/11

Kern is a Spartans fan. So, naturally, when they lost a close conference game a few weeks ago to the Ohio State Buckeyes, I thought of him. He was at the game and tweeted images from his seat. It was a bummer, and I remember thinking that a guy like Kern doesn't deserve to be bummed out.

That's because Kern isn't the kind of guy who'll bum you out. Ever. He's the guy that everyone is friends with. I learned that the instant I stepped into his apartment during the early stages of my whirlwind photo project trip. He offered to help me carry equipment, he offered me something to drink, he introduced me to his roommate, and he asked me what I wanted to watch on TV. (Since it was August, it ended up being the Tigers game.)

Kern knows everyone on the message board. A native Michigander, he attended Michigan State University with no less than four other board members. They're buddies. They go to baseball games, they go to Slow's for barbecue. They hang out. It's what buds do.

Kern boards from his phone. "With Tapatalk [a message board app], there's no need to even board from a computer any more," he told me. He was the first person I had talked to who mentioned boarding entirely from a mobile device. The scope of the social network within - and the Internet in general - changes quite a bit when folks aren't tethered to a computer that's connected to a wall. Kern's jovial and welcoming nature was almost evidence of that; as one of the board members who seemed most plugged-in to the other people on the board, it seems appropriate that his mobile device connects him to the rest of us he can't grab a bite or see a ballgame with.

The Spartans bounced back - defying the "kern curse," so to speak - and won last weekend's Big Ten Tournament en route to a number one seed in the upcoming men's NCAA national tournament. I know Kern will be following them along the way, with his friends, and probably posting what he thinks from his phone the entire time.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Super Tuesday! Wacky Wednesday!

And there it is. Super Tuesday has come and gone. As far as the eye-dropper selecting, paint swatch making, and Adobe program switching is concerned, it was a little slice of heaven. Ten states held primaries yesterday, and, because I've been slacking, I've tacked on Washington to this image, showing 11 glorious swatches from which to select colors for whatever you might need paint, fabric, or tattoo ink.

For the sake of brevity, I'll just list the states and where the colors come from, since we're getting into the bulk of the project, and I've run out of flesh tone source images. Trust me, stranger colors are coming soon, so long as all four candidates continue to stay in the race, as they've promised.

Washington - flesh tones from a photo of each candidate's oldest child
Alaska - flesh tones from New York lead photos from 2/28/12
Georgia - blues from candidates' website logos
Idaho - reds from candidates' website logos
Massachusetts - color samples from photos of each candidates' house's roof
North Dakota - flesh tones (and greys) from photographs of the candidates' parents
Ohio - colors from Time magazine cover images
Oklahoma - New York candidate profile images
Tennessee - candidates' website background color samples
Vermont - blues from each candidate's undergraduate institution's logo
Virginia - flesh tones from candidate wedding photos

As an aside, I was having a hard time with what to do with the colors from the photos of the candidates' weddings. Newt Gingrich has had three, and I couldn't find an image of Santorum getting married no matter how hard I scoured the web. Since only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul were on the ballot in Virginia, the situation sort of just worked itself out.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sing-Along: Laura Gibson in La Grande

It was supposed to all be a big deal. Laura Gibson, a Portland-based musician released a new album. The album's name? La Grande, called so after the town in Oregon of the same name. The local Art Center happened to have connections to Laura and planned to showcase the musician and her band in a unique, CD release event.

I live in La Grande. There are few big deals that happen around here, save for the recent fiasco surrounding the dolt-ish mayor and his anti-gay comments from his Facebook page.

Slurs and pigheadedness aside, The Laura Gibson show, through its initial planning stages, was shaping up to be a big deal. Nay, it was becoming a huge deal. The Art Center has grown in popularity in recent months, with growing childrens' art class enrollments, well-attended gallery events, and the occasional fundraiser. The success of a show like this could make the Art Center into something even bigger.

But on the eve of the concert, doubts lingered. Was it going to be a big deal? The presale tickets numbered in the dozens. As in, one dozen. Laura and her bandmates were posting images of their travels on Twitter leading up to the show. Well-traveled by the time they would arrive in La Grande, any snags could potentially sour a relationship between the musician and town she came to love and eventually name an album after.

The band barely made it over the pass on the way from Pendleton. Sound check took longer than expected. Feedback from the microphones was awful. The opening band, local favorites Correspondence School, had their equipment off to the side of the stage while folks started wandering in. There wasn't enough wine. There weren't wristbands to mark of-age patrons, there weren't enough volunteers to take tickets.

With everything seemingly going wrong, with patrons arriving late, with the show starting late, with the feedback, the, well, everything going the way it was, what happened once Correspondence School took the stage was truly magical.

Outside the Art Center, the snow fell. The town stopped. By eight or so, more people stood to watch Correspondence school than had ever stood in the Art Center at one time. The feedback stopped. The wine showed up. The crowd quieted. All of the setbacks didn't matter in the face of the music.

Laura Gibson and her band took the stage a little after nine and, in a way only an acoustic ensemble can, blew the roof off the place. Her birdlike voice and welcoming banter between songs helped the crowd welcome her as an honorary La Grandian for the night. At times, the crowd grew loud amidst the quiet songs from Gibson and her band, but by the end of the night, one of those rare, transcendent moments happened that people have a hard time recollecting, but never forget.

The snow fell and the set wound down.  Laura pulled the microphone  from its stand and addressed the crowd. "We've got one more song for you," she said. "It's a sing-along song. And there aren't even any words to sing." She sang through the "oh oh oh ohhh" twice for the audience and everyone chimed in for another bar.

And the song started. There was no break, no advice when to sing that part and when to stay silent. It just happened. And with "The Rushing Dark," with everyone singing, the chatter subsiding, the eyes focused on the performers, the collective voices of much of La Grande combined to create this one artistic event that, in my humble opinion, seemed very unlike La Grande. This concert ceased to be that, a concert, and instead transformed into an event.

Laura Gibson, her band, "The Rushing Dark," and the rest of the set that night showed people what can be accomplished through true artistry, understanding, and ambition. She didn't have to name her album after our town. Many–the uninitiated, mostly–would wonder what someone from Portland would even find interesting about our quiet mountain town.

But with this show, we all figured it out. We're special. Our town is special. This music is special, like a gift that only an artist can give to a place, because it's not really a thing. Now, for those of us who were at the Art Center (yet another truly special part of our town), that gift only exists in our minds and in whatever grainy photos or videos might remain in the years to come.

So, thanks to Laura and her band for being sweet and friendly, the Art Center for its ambiance, and thanks to this town for making at least one person, Laura–an outsider, no less–come to realize what we've got. Through that, we were all able to realize it ourselves when that one person came to town to show us what it is that we've all got. And we get it every day.